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!