Saturday, December 27, 2014

An Amish Photoshoot

Back in November I was taking a walk in our little Amish community and spotted these little munchkins playing in a nearby cornfield. As I had my camera with me, I asked if they would pose for a few shots...

Okay, okay...I'm not serious. =) Actually my father wanted some pictures of Amish people to use for wall displays at our Amish-themed hotel, and since typically Amish people don't like having their picture taken, the obvious option was to take several of my family members and dress them up Amish for a shoot. =) Hudson + Rebecca were the chosen two. We took these pictures on the last nice day of fall, in November. I was so thankful we did them then, because the very next day it snowed and has been cold ever since! #seizethemoment

There are lots of Amish in our community, and we are related to half of them + know the rest, so coming up with some genuine Amish outfits wasn't hard at all. And I must say, I think my siblings can pull off the Amish look pretty well!

Speaking of borrowing the outfits, there is a hilarious story behind that! If you care to hear, read on...

So back several months ago, my mom had borrowed clothes from an Amish friend of ours, for my siblings to wear for a themed event, and also for this shoot. When it was time for the shoot, I realized that I had everything that I needed except the broadfall Amish boys pants for Hudson. For the other event he had just worn regular black dress pants, but I wanted this shoot to be GENUINE so I wanted to have the real deal for him this time. =) 

Mom had told me which Amish lady she had borrowed the clothes from. I think I was in the middle of something when she told me, and not totally paying attention. But she had told me how this Amish family was selling the clothes in a new little store they had just set up and right away I "knew" exactly who she was talking about---some Amish friends of ours who own a little store/rummage sale next to their house. I was sure I heard her say the name "lda" but it didn't really matter since I knew exactly who she was talking about. So I sort of tuned out and didn't think anymore about it...until it was time to return the extra clothes + get broad fall pants. Then off I trekked to our Amish friend, Ida's house. 

Unfortunately Ida wasn't home, but her children were. I explained to them that my mom had borrowed some clothes from their mom a while back, and that now I was back needing a pair of pants. They didn't know anything about it but I didn't think anything of that because I knew that my mom had talked to their mom. One of the daughters said they didn't have any little boys amish pants to sell or rent, which I did think was kind of weird because my mom had told me that their little store was full of Amish children's clothes. But they said I could borrow a pair that one of their brothers had outgrown, so I was all set and didn't think anymore about it. I told them I would go ahead and return the extra clothes (that some of my other siblings had used for the other event) and then bring back the rest when we were finished. They weren't sure of the price for renting the other clothes, which was also kind of strange, since my mom had told me that they sell/rent clothes out all the time, and even though they were happy to let me borrow the pants, it didn't seem like this whole thing was a typical occurrence. So I gave them my number, and told them to have their mom call me when she got home, to tell me the amount, and then I would send a check in the mail.

I went home with the remaining clothes that we needed and we did the shoot! Yay for beautiful weather, awesome Amish outfits, and unimpressed, uncooperative, but nonetheless, photogenic siblings! =) #keepingitreal

That evening I saw that I had missed a call. I listened to the voicemail and was super confused. It was the mom of the family I had borrowed the clothes from, and SHE sounded pretty confused. She said her children had told her that I stopped by, but that she was quite sure there was a mistake, since the clothes that I had returned were not theirs. She said we had never borrowed any from them. Furthermore, she said that the dresses & covering I had returned looked like some from Ila's (another Amish friend of ours) girls. 

Now I was MAJORLY confused. What was going on? 

I came out to the kitchen and explained the whole thing to mom, telling her that Ida had called and said that she (my mom) hadn't ever borrowed the clothes from them + that the clothes I had returned weren't theirs. What was going on?? At this my mother burst out laughing. I wasn't really seeing the joke although I had figured out by now that I had obviously made a mistake. She finally quit laughing long enough to ask me why in the WORLD I had taken the clothes to Ida?! I told her it was because she had told me that Ida was who she had borrowed them from. Amidst laughter she managed to inform me that she had borrowed the clothes from ILA, not IDA.

Whaaat?! Ila? How had I managed to miss that?

Well. Thank-goodness for gracious Amish friends + a sense of humor! All involved got a good laugh out of the situation, and all turned out well. 

Pictures were taken + canvas's ordered, the respective persons had their clothes returned, and yours truly felt quite humbled + made a mental note to LISTEN a little better next time information is being given. =)

Moving on....{smile}
Here are a few of my favorites from that day!

Favorites, anyone? And don't you agree that they pull of the look so well?


Saturday, December 20, 2014

My Recent Lessons in Faith + Grace

{note: I wrote this post the middle of last week, two days before the LACP. It seems hard to believe that this was just a week ago. In the busyness of everything I didn't get it finished + stuck it in my drafts folder to be retrieved at a later date. Namely, today. =) Even though in a way it is past + irrelevant, still I thought I would go ahead + share it, as a little testimony of what God can do when we yield to Him + His plans.}

And I have a lovely picture here for y'all today! (haha, NOT)

This is what you have for lunch when its the day before the first LACP showing + you are wanting to break your record of being sick every year over the play + you woke up this morning with a sore throat, a cold, and extreme fatigue.

Ah, the joys.

So there's my big bowl of vegetable soup (with plenty of onions/garlic/chicken broth), oversized mug of peppermint tea, and dinner roll. The dinner roll is added for yumminess, since, sadly, I don't believe it has any healing properties worth mentioning. (unbleached flour healing? Nah.)

It is Christmas Play season here right now. (for those of you who haven't followed very long and don't know what this is, it is a huge, $30,000 drama that my church puts on every Christmas. It is one of the most amazing things I have ever been a part of, but there is also an unbelievable amount of work + energy that goes into making it all happen)

 And just to be 100% honest, it has been a tough past two weeks. The play this year is so dynamic in how its been written + how the gospel is weaved throughout EVERYTHING and as a result of that, the spiritual warfare has just been unbelievable. I was talking to a friend from church the other day about the amount of bizarre and crazy things that have happened just in the past week, and all of a sudden it just hit me: "This stuff is so abnormal that really the only way to explain it is that it really IS totally spiritual warfare. "

All that said. It has been ALOT. I have had my patience tested and tried in ways that I never dreamed possible. I have lost my temper so many times I'm embarrassed to even try to count. It has been a refining time for sure. I've failed and failed and failed. People that I normally love so much (and still love so much!) have just rubbed me the wrong way. There were more areas of leadership for me this year but along with leadership comes still being under other people's authority and I'm realizing again just how good that really is for me since I don't do very well with it. And working with a team of people that are just as opinionated + determined as one's self definitely makes for many moments when you just have to extend grace and hope that others will extend grace to you too! (easier said than done though) There were comments made, and things said, and decisions made, and plans changed. There were things that were going perfectly + smoothly and suddenly there were changes made and I found myself nearly frantic with how it felt like I was just losing control of everything I had worked so hard for.

Two Sundays ago my pastor preached a message on grace. I can't remember the exact title but what I do know is that it spoke to my heart. It was the perfect message for that time in my life. He talked about how God gives grace + forgiveness to us, and we need to be willing to extend that same forgiveness + grace to people who are part of a trial or difficulty in our lives.
At the time I remember thinking "I need to remember this for the craziness next week."
Haha-I had not a clue what was coming! I've been involved with the play for three years now + this was the first year I have ever experienced conflict + issues like this year. It's been almost uncanny how many things seemed to fall apart, and go wrong, and just how many stressful situations came up! One night just a few nights ago, I came home from rehearsal thinking, "If one more thing goes wrong, this whole play is just going to go up in smoke!"

One of our deacons preached the message last night (our church service was combined with the last rehearsal) and he talked about how this play can produce faith in all of us, if we let it. He talked about people who do things you don't appreciate. He talked about misunderstandings. About spiritual warfare. And about LETTING GO + LETTING GOD use it all to increase our faith and make us more like Him.

Wow, I am so thankful for men of God who are willing to preach His Word. Both times I felt myself feeling very small in my pew, feeling like God had this message just hand-picked + prepared for me. I so needed those reminders, both for this season of preparing and then also for the upcoming play this weekend. If I can just get my eyes off myself + what I am comfortable with, and keep focused on JESUS and remembering that He sees the bigger picture!

{Here's a little "teaser" shot of me and my "LACP Mother". =) More to come shortly!
It is strange to look back now and think that all this was going on just several weeks ago. To think that now it is all history + a thing of the past. The rewards live on, though. God moved in amazing ways-just amazing! The way He blesses the faithfulness + obedience of His children never ceases to awe me. He is so good. It was so incredibly worth it. I would do it all again. Can't wait to post about it all soon.}

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end, Amen."
Ephesians 3:20+21


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cream or Salt: Which are You?

Cream or Salt? I can just hear y'all: "What kind of a post title is THAT?"
Yes, it is just a touch unusual. Stay with me, though. =)

Today I want to talk a little bit about the coffee of life.

I love coffee. And I think that quite a few life applications can be found from coffee.

Two weeks ago on Sunday we had a houseful of company over for dinner. (as is often the case) During dessert, there somehow was a little mixup and a certain Bontrager individual (name not listed to protect the guilty) managed to accidentally fill the sugar bowl with salt instead of sugar. Our kind guests politely choked on their salted coffee. Eventually we caught the mistake and all had a good laugh over it. Yuck though-salted coffee is AWFUl!

The following morning, as I was pouring a cup of coffee, my sister came through the kitchen and informed me that she had just make fresh whipped cream and that there was a full canister in the refrigerator. (!!!!) What a lovely way to start out my Monday---with fresh whipped cream! I loaded up my coffee mug with a heavy layer of cream and felt like a queen as I drank that cup of coffee. =)

As I was sipping it, I pondered.
Cream and salt.
Both simple ingredients.
Two items that are small and insignificant.
And yet they both make such a completely different taste to just one cup of coffee.

Think about it. Salt? It RUINS the coffee.
Cream? Well, its just like the icing on top. Perfection!

Now. In the coffee of I salt? Or am I cream?

Am I sour + unkind? Do I frown more than I smile? Am I constantly upset about things that don't even matter? Do I leave a trail of stress + depression behind me? Is my conversation discouraging to others? Am I focused on the negative in life?

Or am I adding words of sweetness + kindness to every conversation? Am I adding joy + laughter to every experience? Am I a bearer of love + smiles wherever I go? What aura do I carry? What do I "leave" with people?

Just thinking about all this, I've was really convicted that I've been a lot more salt than cream lately. There have been so many moments when I've allowed that "salt" to creep in + ruin the coffee, so to speak. There have been so many times lately when I've been so focused on my own stress + problems that I've let it overflow onto those around me and put out a negative influence.

And I don't want that---I want to be cream. I want to be a giver, not a taker. I want to make a difference + bring beauty into my little areas of influence. I want people to be blessed by the cream, not hurt by the salt.

I'll end with a quote someone sent me in a forward the other day. This touched my heart so much.

"It's not what you gather, but what you SCATTER, that tells the kind of life that you have lived."

Let's choose to scatter cream today, shall we?

Live Animal Christmas Play this Weekend!!

Get all the details here! I would LOVE to see some of you readers at the play this weekend! I am so so SO excited about this weekend-Lord willing it will be the best drama our church has done yet, with God's help!

If you do come + I haven't met you yet, please be sure to come up and introduce yourself. Its really a bummer if someone comments and says, "I was there + I loved the play!" and you never came up + introduced yourself! Please do! I will look, um...slightly different than normal, but you should still be able to spot me. =)

And if you SURE to come early! Unfortunately our church does max out at 600people so if you aren't there early (as in, like an hour early!) there is a very good chance you will get turned away. And you don't want that to happen! So just be there early. =)

Even if you aren't able to come..please know that your prayers are very appreciated!
(Also, just a reminder that you can order last years' dvd of the play here.)

One more prayer request, on a very practical note:
I am in the middle of remaking my new costume which just arrived yesterday + it is a pretty big project. We gave the company all my measurements but I guess New Hampshire's sizing charts are waaay different than Iowa's or something?! Needless to say the costume fit me about like an elephant skin would fit a monkey. Or something like that. Yes, big problem. =) + my scissors + sewing machine are hard at work trying to make create a somewhat slimming look. =) And I definitely need all the prayer I can get on this.

Hope to see some of you this weekend!

Friday, December 5, 2014

"Seek Me" Scripture Print Giveaway Winner!

And the winner of the "Seek Me" print is entry #6, Miss Elizabeth Adams
Congratulations, Elizabeth! I already have your address (smile!) + the print will be on its way soon!=)

Thanks to all who entered! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Maidens Of the Master Review & Giveaway!

This evening I am so excited to introduce y'all to this fabulous magazine called "Maidens of the Master", compiled and edited by my sweet friend Bethany. 

I actually met Bethany and her family through my brothers and parents who got to know them first through the National Bible Bee. I finally got to meet her in person the beginning of this year and have been so blessed by her love for the Lord and His Word, and her passion to encourage other young women in their call of set-apart living for Jesus Christ.

1) Can you tell us a little about you and your family?
My name is Bethany, and I'm sixteen, with two brothers (Anthony, 22, and Joe, 14) and amazing parents. I'm so blessed to be raised in a Christian home and home-schooled all my life. :) Currently I'm in my junior year of high school, and besides school and editing MM, my days are filled to bursting with helping our family run the music ministry at church, teaching a few students in piano/violin, memorizing Scripture, practicing piano, working on recording projects, composing and arranging music, and (if I have time) craft or baking projects.

2) Why did you start Maidens of the Master magazine? What was your goal/vision?
I started Maidens of the Master in 2011 for a couple of reasons. I had a number of godly Christian young ladies as friends, and my desire was that we could each contribute in a joint effort to encourage one another as we serve God. I also loved writing and organizing, so this was a way in which I could use those hobbies to bless others and keep in touch with those who didn't live nearby. Additionally, I was inspired by other magazines published by other Christian young ladies, and thought this might be a medium we could use to encourage each other.

3) Can you give us a quick overview of some of the things each magazine includes?
Maidens of the Master is an e-magazine released quarterly. Each issue of MM usually includes a few articles written by various young ladies on a specific topic. Sometimes there will be an article written by a mom of one of the contributors, which gives a great perspective from a more experienced Christian woman. Each issue also includes a recipe section, and occasionally a craft tutorial. All these are submitted by contributors, so the magazine may be longer or shorter depending on the number of contributions submitted.

4) How have you seen God bless and work through this ministry?
I've received much encouragement from readers and contributors who have been blessed by a specific issue of MM. That makes it totally worth it for me, to know that God is using the content in the issues to encourage someone! :) My prayer is that, if God wills, many more people would be challenged and motivated to live for Christ through Maidens of the Master. It's also been a wonderful experience working with other sisters in the Lord who have such great insights to share in their articles.

5) What are some different skills/character qualities you have learned along the way?
Organizing the different issues of MM has taught me a lot; patience, perseverance, diligence, to name a few. It's so easy to get discouraged when things don't go exactly as planned, but I'm so grateful for God's strength and faithfulness. I've also learned that others (especially your family!) have lots of good ideas that you can pull from. Design skills is an area I grew in while working on the early issues of Maidens of the Master, and although my brother Joe does most of the design now, I can still help out and insert content, etc.

6) Any advice you would give other young ladies seeking to reach out + encourage others?
Go for it! I was thirteen when I started MM, and although it definitely wasn't perfect (I wasn't very organized with issue releases, and the design was...quite plain :D), God still used it in ways I'm so thankful for. Don't think you're too young (or too old) for the Lord to use you to encourage others. I'm looking for more contributors to MM as well, so if you enjoy writing, maybe God can use your gifts to bless others in that way, or in other ways!

7) Is there anything else you'd like to say in closing?
Visit our new website! On the site you can subscribe, see past issues, and find out more about contributing to MM.  
And just to say, I love reading Chelsy's blog, and have loved the chance to get to know her and the Bontragers over the past few years! :) Thanks so much Chelsy, for having me on here!
{Thank-you so much, Bethany, for your kind words + for your sweet guest post here!}

Bethany and her brother design the beautiful printed frames pictured above. Along with this post, Bethany offered to do a giveaway of one of their recent prints. 
All you need to do to enter to win the "Seek Me" print, above, is to comment in the comment box below with your name! Winner will be announced on Friday, December 5th!

I would HIGHLY encourage all my young women readers to head right over to the Maidens of the Master website and sign up for Bethany's magazine! This is a fabulous way for you to meet + get to know other young women who are seeking after the Lord and His ways. I promise you will be blessed + encouraged!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Life Lately

It's that time of year again! The time of no blogging! 
Haha, no, actually, the time of the intense preparations for our church's annual Live Animal Christmas Play.
Which...actually ends up translating to almost no blogging anyway, so I guess I might as well stick to that description. =)

The last two weeks I've been living, eating, and drinking Christmas Play. I've been cooking for all the actor recording practices, which has been super fun because first of all I love to cook, and secondly, it is super fun to be here and get the behind the scenes scoop on everyone's recording parts. There's seriously nothing quite so fun as listening while someone else tries to nail their part, because I totally know the feeling of having to do my part over and over again while a whole group of people are watching and laughing when I butcher my lines. =)

As always, acting is one of my favorite things and recording/acting opposite one of my dear friends has been a highlight. The time period for our scenes is one of my favorites (Edwardian era, like 1905-1912ish) As I type this I am listening to the soundtrack for our opening scene song, which we are all supposed to be practicing individually.

I'm also working with my Cassie friend (us above!) to pick/design/purchase all of the costumes needed for the twelve actors in the opening scene. We are having such a grand time doing it together--we went to town the other day and got a great start on the costumes. Now it is "divide and conquer", and scour every single thrift store and costume store within a sixty mile radius. =)

On Wednesday while we were shopping we gave ourselves a little treat at the end of the day by taking advantage of Caribou's awesome "buy one get one free from 4-7pm" deal. (for those of you locals, this is at the waterfront HyVee Caribou, in Iowa City) 

So that's just a little rundown on life lately. Between all of that and still balancing my job + home responsibilities, life is staying quite peppy! (and rehearsals haven't even started yet!)
It is wonderful, though-there is absolutely nothing better than being busy in the work of the Lord. 
And speaking of the Christmas Play, here is the whole rundown on the details. Would love to see some of you there! Visit the website for more info!

Have a fabulous weekend, friends! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014


-grocery shopping
-running errands
-buying chocolate and tea to send to friends to remind them I love them
-drinking peach tea at this favorite place while writing letters to my mom's uncles & aunts
-mailing packages and afore mentioned letters to the great-uncles & great-aunts
-stopping by a cousin's house to give her a carmel macchiato & chocolate & a hug
-playing games with my little siblings
-writing a note to my sister
-making supper for my family + two groups of hard-working people at our church
-playing Christmas music
-lighting pumpkin spice candles
-making hot chocolate for a brother who was out late working
-giving hugs and kisses just because I can
-being thankful for the cold weather + promise in the air of snow to come
-having plans change, and change, and then change again. #farmerdaughterslife
-getting upset over a very insignificant problem + having to apologize later
-learning lessons the hard way
-remembering my cousin, and his memory challenging me to just soak up every moment

And that was a bit of my today. 

I leave you with my current gmail status: 
"Only one life to live for Christ. Never promised tomorrow. Live like today is the last. The only thing I can take to heaven with me is relationships. That's the most important thing."


Tribute to Michael

I'll be honest, friends---I've been putting off this post. Wanting to write it, but just not ready. Sometimes grieving + pain takes awhile to work through. I'm definitely not through, but its time to come back, and write, and learn, and keep going.

Life is different, somehow. I think of everything in a new way. The word RELATIONSHIP has taken on a whole new meaning. Somehow, I just can't get enough now. People I loved before are twice as dear to me now. Things I wanted to do before with people but just didn't get to, are TOP PRIORITY now. Hugs and kisses and notes and phone calls and little kindnesses and just taking time to talk, have become so important to me. It blows me away how death changes things like this; how it makes us just stop in our tracks and re-evaluate relationships.

Michael's funeral is so hard for me to describe. Friends asked me how it went and I honestly just struggled with putting it into words. It was the most beautiful, most meaningful, and the most heart wrenching of funerals. As I sat with the huge tribe of cousins + uncles + aunts + grandparents up near the front, and listened to the soothing instrumental music playing, I kept thinking it must just all be a dream. But that casket was a very real reminder that it was not a dream. It was real. I held it all together until two of Michael's friends got up to lead worship. At that point the pain just hit so hard. And yet, the peace of God hit hard too. One of the songs we sang was a favorite of mine, "Bless the Lord, O My Soul". The second verse...I may have cried through the whole thing, but it spoke to my heart:
"And on that day when my strength is failing,
The end draws near, and my time has come,
Ten thousand years and then forever more."

So POWERFUL. Just think about that a minute. So much meaning in that verse!

Later, I stood in the line of cousins + friends waiting to take a turn shoveling dirt over his grave. The cold November wind whipped around us all and I shivered, wanting to somehow pinch myself and wake up finding that this was all a horrible dream. But it wasn't a dream.

It was such amazing comfort to have so many of our cousins there. In times like these family just pulls together and it was incredible. We hugged and cried and hugged some more. Nothing needed to be said; the bond was enough and volumes were communicated without even speaking a word. I felt it in each hug, "You are loved. I'm thankful for you".

Afterward the burial I was sitting with a group of cousins eating supper and reminiscing. We were talking about how difficult it is to explain to people the loss of one of our cousins. Most people don't have many cousins and then the ones they do have, they aren't close to.
I have talked about this before but I am one of the most blessed of girls to have the world's greatest group of cousins-on BOTH sides of my family. We have this common bond of knowing JESUS, and it is just amazing. I recognize that it is so rare, and I am so grateful for it. But when you have all this in common, and you are so close, losing a cousin is just like losing an extension of your family. You all grieve together, because that cousin was a part of all of you, and so loved.

Nights have been difficult to sleep through. It was at 2am just over two weeks ago that I got the call that Michael had died. And now multiple nights since I have suddenly woken up in the middle of the night, afraid that my phone is going to ring + it will be another call to tell of a loss. This may sound crazy, but to those of you who have been through it-you know. Death has happened to someone I loved; someone that was so dear. And when you see this, how life can be ended so quickly, how its so really just changes things.

The picture at the top of this post...ah, I remember that moment so well. (Michael is in between Denver & Allison in the picture)
It was time for our family to hit the road once again, after spending five days in one of our favorite states with some of our favorite people-the New York relatives. 
As always, I was sad to leave. We had made so many memories that week. Cookouts, work parties, countless games of prisoner's base, Dutch Blitz, & football, long conversations, sitting on the hill overlooking the lake watching the fireworks on July 4th, the morning us girl cousins cooked for the guys while the aunts + grandma all went out to breakfast....and the list went on and on. So many special moments to treasure. As usual we had waited til the last minute to load up, cause its just hard to tear yourself away from these amazing cousins, you know? 
I remember everyone starting to head for the door and I yelled out after them "just one last cousin picture...please?!" It wasn't even like we were all there or anything; it was just a random collection of some of us who had been together for supper. I guess it was just the photographer in me that had to have "just one more picture". Or maybe it was something else. 
I will never regret it. I had no way of knowing then that it would be our last picture with Michael. 
I am SO THANKFUL for this time we had with Michael & his family last Thanksgiving.  (above picture) It was a last-minute decision for them to come visit and I remember how excited we were. It had been so long since they had been out to Iowa.
Now, I am just doubly grateful for that time together.

I remember my last conversation with Michael this summer. He was leaving to work with this ministry and he gave me a couple of his prayer cards just before we left. I remember that we talked for a few minutes about the ministry he was going to be a part of, and I remember how excited he was to go and make a difference in the lives of these struggling boys. He was excited to do the hard things in life. He left a great job, a great family, and a great community, to go and MAKE A DIFFERENCE for Jesus Christ, to give his life for others.

And make a difference he did. It may have been short in our human thinking, but in his twenty-two years he made a difference. Not just in the lives of these boys he mentored and discipled, but in the lives of everyone he knew. His funeral was such a testimony of that. It seemed like relationship was just the key word. Michael was 100% into living life with passion and zeal. He was always the life of the party and pretty much ALWAYS had some child either on his lap or running after him. He was always laughing, and always up for a challenge.

He left such an amazing example. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to know him and to have him as my cousin. I think of him and his family everyday. And everyday I am challenged by his memory to love people more and live life to the fullest.

He is so sorely missed, but how thankful I am for the hope + promise of life everlasting for those that know the Lord! It is such a comfort to know that he knew and loved Jesus with all of his heart, and to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is now rejoicing in glory with the King of Kings!

Love you all.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Thanks & Apologies

As many of you have probably heard by now via my family's blog, my cousin passed away early Wednesday morning. I already had Wednesday's blogtober post scheduled the day before so that posted  on its own but I just haven't had the heart to write anything since then. There's something that losing a loved one does to your heart---makes you want to curl up in a corner and cry and just forget about everything else. Blogging is the last thing on my mind right now. I will be back eventually...just need to take a little break for now.

Thank-you SO much to everyone who has emailed, called, texted, or commented to let me and my family know that you are praying. I haven't been able to respond to everyone so just wanted to say here that we are everlastingly grateful and thank-you from the bottom of our hearts.

I also want to thank all those of you who have emailed about other things (Blogtober related questions/ideas and also personal questions) over the past several months. There has been so much going on in my life with family + work and I am so behind on emails. I just answered one the other day that was sent to me way back in April. Please accept my apologies; I do my best to respond to every email but it often takes a while. Please know that your emails are read and appreciated and that they will be responded to eventually!

Please be in prayer specifically for Michael's family right now. They are going through so much.
My family and I are heading from Orlando (the National Bible Bee) up to NY tomorrow night-we have a long drive to make it to the funeral by Sunday. Your prayers for safety and alertness for our bus drivers is so appreciated.

Love you all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Burlap & Lace Gift Wrap DIY

I thought I'd share with y'all this morning a little DIY tip for a fun gift-wrap project.

One of my favorite things to try to do is to THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX. 

Don't think of things the way you've always seen them done. Instead, take unique ingredients you may have on hand + brainstorm! 

This gift is one I wrapped for a dear friend's wedding recently. I used the following items:
-large brown paper bag
-part of an old ripped lace table cloth
-part of an XXL lace shirt I got somewhere
-burlap scraps
-a piece of sheer cream ribbon
-super glue
-And last but not least. That top part of the flower? (with the tulle and the little gems)
That I cut off of an old shirt of mine that I had to throw out because it got several holes in it. But I just couldn't throw out that flower! So I cut it off the shirt + put it in my "treasures" pile, to use at a future occasion such as this. =) 

I cut apart the brown paper bag and wrapped the gift. Then I put a band around the gift using more of the paper bag, a strip of the tablecloth, and the piece of ribbon. (you can see the ribbon strip on top of the lace one if you look closely)

Following that, I cut out lots and lots of different size circles using more of the paper bag, the sleeve of the lace shirt, and burlap scraps. I put my tee shirt flower on top, super glued the whole deal together, and tada! There you have it.
How about you? Do you have any unique ideas for fun gift-wrapping? Leave a comment!

And speaking of comments...thanks for all the sweet comments on the Vlog yesterday.
Y'all are so kind. =)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boho Blogtober VLOG!!

Yay! Today is the big day for the Vlog!!
I really still can't believe we actually did this! And to think we made it through the whole thing on the first take. I am still shocked about that. 
{Boho Blogtober Vlog from Hannah Elise on Vimeo.}

Just a little disclaimer here: Please disregard any element of ridiculousness. I am completely not used to videoing myself and it was more challenging than I thought it would be. Certain elements of what we talked about were serious, but I feel like I came across like a giddy thirteen year old. {which, hey, I am. At heart} 

So this was take one, and who knows? 
Maybe Hannah & I have discovered our true life calling producing Vlogs will be back with another one sometime?

As always..would love to hear your comments! 
(not on the outfits, either...have NO IDEA why I added that part at the end!)

- Chels

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pearl Headband Giveaway Winner!

So excited to announce tonight the winner of this beautiful Lilla Rose Pearl Headband!!

The lucky lady is.....

Miss Allison Geckler!!

Allison, please send me an email with your address and I will get the headband on its way to YOU! (

And to all the rest of you who didn't win (sorry!) head on over to Joy's Lilla Rose Store to purchase your own headband, or to check out any of their other awesome products! I just bought my own pearl hairband, and I also got the jet black bead one, which I am super excited about trying out and showing on here sometime in the near future.

Congratulations, Allison, on winning a lovely headband!
And thanks so much to everyone who entered + participated!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sponsored Giveaway||Lilla Rose Pearl Hairband!

I am super excited to introduce this fabulous hair item to y'all today! I had heard of Lilla Rose before but never really knew much about the company until a blog reader (Joy, from Artful Homemaking) emailed me about sponsoring a giveaway. I went & checked out their stuff to pick an item for the giveaway and as soon as I saw the pearl hairband, I knew that was what I wanted!

Before I tell you more about the headband, let me introduce you to Joy, the reader who is sponsoring this giveaway!
Joy (right) with her daughter, Elyse.

"Hi, I'm Joy, wife to my best friend and mom to five blessings! I love Jesus, homemaking, sewing, thrifting, creating happy family memories, and going out with my husband. I blog about family, faith, and finding beauty in the ordinary at Artful Homemaking. I'm also an independent consultant with Lilla Rose, and I love sharing this beautiful, functional, and unique hair jewelry with others! A couple of years ago I fell in love with the Flexi Clip (our best-selling item!), since it was the only product I had found that would hold my thick, naturally curly, waist-length hair up securely without a headache and without falling out! Since that time two years ago, I've also fallen in love with all of our other products. In addition to the popular Flexi Clips, we also sell beautiful hair sticks, headbands, bobby pins, and you-pins. Any of these make great gifts! If you're a new customer to Lilla Rose, you can also take advantage of my Buy 3 Get 1 Free deal! If you have any questions or you'd like to host a 30-minute Facebook party (to earn free Lilla Rose products!), please contact me for more details. {}."

{thank-you so much, Joy, for joining up with me in Blogtober to sponsor this giveaway!}

Joy sent me the pearl hairband I selected for the giveaway, and I wore it for just a few minutes while my sister shot the pictures for this post. I was instantly HOOKED!

I love the look of headbands, but 95% of the ones I've tried give me headaches, so I've almost resigned myself to the fact that I just can't wear them. Until this one. The elastic band at the back is SO COMFORTABLE! It honestly didn't even feel like I was wearing anything in my hair! The one that I am wearing in these pictures is the one I'm giving away (I only wore it for a few minutes to get the pictures so it is still basically brand new) but after wearing it for just those few minutes I knew I had to have my own so I went and ordered two more, the pearl one and then also a jet black one. I am so excited to get them + incorporate them into my outfits-they add so much! I almost always wear my hair down, and am always on the lookout for ways to dress up the "down" look. 
I think I may have found it. =)

So here are a few pictures, to give you an idea of a few of the different ways to style this item.
This was my favorite way of wearing it-boho style, with loose curls. Love love love!! Sooo comfortable!
It can also be worn typical headband-style....
 swept up in a ponytail for a more casual look...
Or you could do a more formal-looking updo, like this one.
All you need to do to enter this giveaway is just leave a comment with your first + last name!
You can enter additional times by 
1) pinning the post title picture (top of this post)
2) sharing on google +
3) sharing on facebook
4) share on twitter
5) sharing on your blog!
and then just leaving a comment for each time you share it, with the link if possible.
{You can share the post these ways by just clicking on the little tabs at the bottom of this post!}
Winner will be announced on Monday!

Also don't forget to head over to Joy's Blog and check it out! 

And now, I'm headed off to Wisconsin in just a few minutes here, for a dear friend's wedding tomorrow! This is probably my favorite way to spend a Saturday---doing bridal hair + ceremony music for an amazing wedding!

Have a beautiful weekend, friends!