Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hey from Kansas!

Hey friends! I'm home NEW home (also sweet!) and have become a MRS since posting here last!
Welcome back! Our wedding was truly all I could've ever imagined + our honeymoon in Texas was just as amazing. We arrived "home" from our honeymoon on the 18th, and so far, "wife life" has exceeded anything I could've imagined and I am absolutely loving it!

For today, here's one of the "sneak peak" previews from our coldest + most beautiful of days. And because I know you will all ask...that is part of my bare foot sticking out from my dress! I told my photographer beforehand that I so badly wanted just one or two barefoot pics outdoors, no matter how cold it was. I got my wish. =)

Can't wait to share more with y'all soon!
-John's girl =)

Friday, December 29, 2017

My Wedding Livestream!

Tomorrow is our wedding day and I get to marry this handsome hitchhiker! =)
(great story behind this summer photo by the way---one of my favorite memories from our relationship. =)) 

Seriously seems surreal to me that the BIG day is tomorrow---the past weeks and four months have absolutely flown by!

I would like to invite each of you blog readers to join in with us as we celebrate tomorrow! Obviously I would just have loved to invite each of you on over to be here in person. But thank goodness for the world of technology! And that through livestream, some of y'all (and a number of friends who now cannot come due other commitments, the weather, or one of the other nine weddings that I currently know of that are happening the same day!) will be able to join us as we celebrate our biggest day together! It is currently "blitz cold" (as my dad says!) and snowing hard. We are going to have the biggest Iowa winter wonderland for our wedding day. Still can't believe it!

Here is the link to our YouTube channel where the livestream will be beginning at 1:50pm! Also watch our instagram stories, @bontragerfamilysingers, for behind-the-scenes snapshots that my siblings will be posting!

Me? I'm tuning out for a while now. =)

Love y'all and so blessed by your prayers for us! More than anything, I want each of our guests to feel loved, and for Jesus to be glorified. 
This has been our greatest desire and I would ask y'all to join us in praying for this!

With love,
 the soon-to-be Mrs. John Maxwell =)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hackelburg Family Portraits || September 2017

I got to know Kayla + her family about 3-4ish years ago when they attended one of our concerts in Michigan, where they live. We've stayed in touch throughout the years and I so enjoy spending time with her + her family whenever we see each other at camp, weddings, conferences, or concerts. =) 

I've mostly dropped my photography the past few years, but I still have my cameras and every now and then I do a shoot for someone. They asked me to do a quick family session for them when we were all in Lansing for family camp, and so we grabbed these few shots one evening before dinner. 
This little lady has grown up so much since I took her 6mon pictures a few years ago!
When I told her to open her eyes a little wider...=)
She lost that other front tooth right before our session! 
Sweet little sisterhood
I told the two older girls to give a little sass with their hands on their hips and little miss in the middle thought she should, too!
The whole family
Daddy + his boys
Love them!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Life Lately

Oh gracious. BLOG READERS! Confession time...I was not going to be one of those women who got engaged and forgot about their blog! Ha! Whoops!

I have so much to say and even more pictures to post. I'm dying to write out our whole story and just say so SO much cause there is just so much to it! But I did decide recently that it is more important that our wedding guests are fed well (etc etc etc) than that our story is written out before our wedding. In other words, there aren't enough hours in the day right now, and theres still a whole lot to  do before our big day in just three weeks. (Eeek!) So! Thanks for your patience-you'll get the whole scoop and allll the pictures, eventually, but for now I'm just saying that I'm alive and well and...and...well, just that. =)

I haven't done a LIFE LATELY post for ages, but figured that was as good of a title as any for this smattering of pictures, given in no particular order. We will start with the one above-no, I was not about to chop my hair, but rather to cut into some pretty special fabric.
Got to be in the tree stand with Hudson this fall when he got his first deer. It was an amazing time-watching my little brother waiting so patiently, and then seeing his precision + determination as he carefully aimed and fired. The doe ran into the brush and we got to track it together only about twenty yards til we found it dropped + dead. Seeing his joy and excitement was so priceless.
Lots and lots of sister time these days-blessed with the best!
Bittersweet last evenings this winter with my favorite Iowa babies! Such good memories of peanut butter + jelly, jammies, and story times on the big couch, Sunday + Wednesday nights. I'm gonna miss these kids!
I've spent quite a bit of time in Kansas this fall, working with John on our house. Sometimes I went by myself, sometimes I took a sibling along. My siblings are all thrilled about our house and wanted a chance to get in on the action and help out! All the help by our siblings (John's and mine) has been so appreciated. We've had some great work parties.
Above, lunch break on the back of John's truck. =)
It is a beautiful, just under five hour drive from my home to John's home. We've both made the drive so many times now and it was especially gorgeous this fall, when all the leaves were turning. I've still not been able to beat his record of 4 1/2 hours, though. Might have finally met my match on the whole heavy foot thing. (interestingly enough, our first conversation that we ever had was about speeding tickets and a certain, uh, kindred spirit we had in that arena. =))
I adore my new nieces + nephews. From the very beginning, they have been 100% supportive and loving to me and just super innocent in their awe that "Uncle John" had a girlfriend.
Getting in all these last amazing dinner + coffee dates with all "my girls" before I move away to another state! Of course I will still see them and I already have a running list of everyone who's hoping to come visit. =) But it will be different, not being in the same state and getting together on a whim whenever, and so we are soaking up the times now!
Remodeling our house together has been the wildest adventure. Living on a farm, I've grown up knowing how to do most kinds of general work, but our (my family) house remodel happened twenty years ago, when we were all just babies (smile) and we had contractors who did everything, so I knew virtually nothing about carpentry. My fiancé, on the other hand, can do basically anything, and between previously running a construction business for a couple of years and just being insanely smart, he knows everything about remodeling a house! He has taught me how to prep floors for flooring, and mud walls, and grout/clean tile, and everything in between. He was also super patient even when I shot a nail straight into our kitchen floor instead of the wall, on my first time using a nail gun. =) It has been so fun to go down weekends and work together on our house. I've loved every stage thus far, and now seeing it all begin to take shape and the hours and hours of hard work, paying off, is amazing. Picking colors and styles for decor has been SO FUN. Somedays I have to pinch myself that we are planning for our own house. It just seems pretty surreal!
 My fabulous crew of invitation envelope stuffers. 
Mailing out batch #1! Such a feeling of accomplishment when I got this project off the list!
Harvest time is still my favorite time of the year, and this fall was no exception. The smells, the sounds, the sights...it is all in my blood and I can't get enough of it. I took this picture one morning when I came to ride + chat with my dad.
Tired tired smiles because it was a very early morning. But times like this are my favorite memories from this fall. I had a life issue that seemed pretty big to me at the moment, and Dad is the wisest person I know, so to him I went, and after going up and down the rows for a while, talking everything through and watching the corn stalks go through the combines corn head, over and and over again...suddenly things were just better in the world. So blessed with the best dad. 
And speaking of blessed. Yes. How do I get ALL the best guys in my life? Best dad, best brothers, best fiancé! 
Early morning breakfast and shopping with my mom + sister.
Getting in our exercise with a long evening walk in the woods, last month.
Lunch time at grandmas, with the few of us who were available! She's still my favorite cook ever!
Bontrager Thanksgiving meal together. 
Matching accidentally at church with this dear friend, so we had to document it!
And speaking of clothes and matching and all that...I feel like I've got to borrow my sistas clothes as much as possible these days before I move and have only one wardrobe! 
Soaking in all the sibling time. Can't get enough of it these days. 
Tired smiles because late nights + hard work but happy smiles because PROGRESS! =)
I technically quit my job in October, to be more free to work on our house and get ready for the wedding, but I've managed to fit in quite a bit of extra work just the same. Amongst other things, I've taught some music lessons, done the fall window washing cleaning at the DCI, and worked with training in several of my siblings into some of the roles I previously filled.
Bless his heart---he even fixed my sewing machine. Not sure if there is anything this guy CAN'T do!
Also got to do one last dinner with Grandma. She cooks for the Kalona Historical Society and I've been working for her on and off (along with a whole group of aunts and cousins) since I was eleven. It was really fun to do it one last time before I get married. 
Lunch + wedding planning with my sister @ the DCI. She lived at the hotel and managed things while Mitchell + Bryn were working/living with their business in other parts of Iowa.
Any boyfriend who will clean out gutters and pull cattle out of the creek and fix the unloader on the silo...that kind is son in law material to any good farmer dad! John has visited our farm many times over the last year (smile) and he always seems to fix something or help with some project while he is here. 
Should've counted the gallons of mud we we through, repairing the walls. I think we could've set a record! SO MUCH!
This gem came all the way from Mexico and it was so good to see her again! 
There's just something about childhood friends.
I love it I love it I LOVE IT.
that's all. =)
Late night movie nights and messy buns with my sista. I'm going to miss her LIKE EVERYTHING but thank goodness for inventions such as voxer and instagram and FaceTime and texting because that will be our lifeline!

Okay! Well that's all for now and who knows when I might be back but wanted to pop in and say that I'm still in the land of the living! It has been such a beautiful season-enjoying so many lasts and so many firsts and just drinking it all in. Life is such a gift.

Hope y'all enjoyed this post featuring the family, the friends, and the fiancé!

Oh. And totally random. But one last random bit of information that's on my heart, and that is this: My sister did a post last week and it is just about the best thing ever. (in my opinion) I've been dying to write about this topic for several years now, but she beat me to it. =) And she did such a fabulous job that there is really nothing left for me to say. 
Except this: "the whole "stay at home daughter" term is not one that I believe girls should aspire to, nor do I believe that it is biblical. Girls should know how to handle themselves and work in public and do life in the real world, the same as men, and men AND women equally should know how to scrub toilets, cook meals, carry on intelligent conversation, and have a wide set of life knowledge + skills."
The end.

Just go read her post. =)

Sorry to end that way but I've (obviously) not gotten my own post on that written yet, and hers is SO GOOD that I just think y'all should make sure to read it. 

Have a lovely rest of your wkend, friends!
-Chels

Thursday, November 9, 2017

One Year Ago Today...

Today, November 9th, marks one year together for us! 

One year ago tonight, I returned his phone call and said "yes" to starting a relationship, 
 little dreaming that in exactly one year from that same day I would be mailing out the last of our wedding invitations, chatting with florists, and finalizing registries, 
to name a few of today's activities! 

What a year it has been. The past 365 days have absolutely flown by, 
each one leaving behind it new memories, new lessons, + new adventures.

 It has been the sweetest journey, and that journey is really just beginning!

More coming soon. =)
-Chels