Friday, May 22, 2015

Currently

LISTENING to this beautiful cd. I love it, I love it, I love it. Can this be an advertisement, please? Seriously just go buy your own. My current favorite instrumental cd.

THINKING that I have been a horrible blogger lately. As in, nonexistent. (sorry, peoples! its life)

WISHING for a tan. but it seems to be successfully avoiding me. the other day I even scheduled a time to mow yard for my brother so I could get some sun whilst working + still being productive + helping him out. so much good rolled into one.
would you believe it, the mower died on me. DIED.
guess the tan was not meant to be yet. (sigh. #keepingitreal)

WATCHING our house slowly being transformed into a more clean + organized haven. we have been on a deep cleaning streak here-organizing + sorting + scrubbing + such.

DYING laughing over the marriage proposal my sister got in her email inbox.
in.her.inbox. don't even ask.
but seriously. some GUYS....

DRINKING water. and coffee. in constant rotation. =)

SMELLING farm smells. best ever.

LEARNING so much from the sermons at my church. seriously I just cannot thank God enough for giving me constant access to hearing so much truth expounded from the Word. it is such a blessing in my life.

TASTING pineapple meatballs from dinner. so yummy.

MISSING my sista love who is in the south visiting a friend.

READING Colossians. and still memorizing Philippians. love the abounding of truth. Its taking me a while but the memory is coming! slowly but surely....

DREAMING of the day when our new album will finally be finished + released and I will be able to sit back in my chair and eat chocolate bon bons and snooze (ahem) because there will be NO MORE deadlines for, um, a short while at least.

WORKING overtime so I can take off next week for my trip to Colorado! can't believe the insane amount of stuff that got accomplished this week. yay for finishing up projects + home improvement + garden work + stuff like that.
colorado, you are calling my name. #cannotwait

Happy Weekend!
-Chels

Friday, May 8, 2015

All I Need=Jesus

It is all that matters, friends. ALL THAT MATTERS.
Is that you have + KNOW Jesus. That Jesus KNOWS you. In the light of eternity, that's it. 
So simple, so profound, so true.

For a while, around the beginning of this year, I was on a role with posting my goals. Y'all may have noticed that I have discontinued that. Its not that I've stopped setting goals. I'm still a huge fan of goals and spending time wisely. 

But I've just stopped posting them. I realized (after being challenged by a dear friend/mentor) that my motive in posting my goals was to prove that I was accomplishing things. I felt the need to prove that even though I was traveling + touring with my family, I was still getting a lot done and working hard. I was feeling such a need for affirmation in my work. 

This has always been one of my weak areas. I get so driven by my work + finding my identity in what I accomplish. It is so wrong. So backwards, and so messed up. And I'm learning that you can't find affirmation in your work. In your job. In your life.

The only place that really matters for affirmation...is affirmation from Jesus. 
That's all I need; that's all you need. 

Happy Friday!
-Chels

Friday, May 1, 2015

Life Lately

Hello friends! Well, its the end of the Ten Day Tandem and I decided to leave y'all with a "Life Lately" post. For the other posts mentioned in the comments at the beginning of this series...I am still hoping to get to them. I really did make a dent in my drafts folder these past two weeks! There will be more to come eventually.
Its been a pleasure doing this with Hannah once again, + having all of you follow along our little journey. Thanks for your comments + encouragement!
So for the "Life Lately"....
*Car washing with the little bro today. Special times. 
*Lunch + shopping in town with the little sisters while mom was gone to Florida with her sisters. A sweet older gentleman whom we met on our winter tour gave us girls some money to "use for something special that girls like", he said. (so sweet!) We decided to use it to redo our room, so we picked out paint + fabrics, and now the bedroom makeover is the next project on the list!
*Herb Garden project (as mentioned here)
*AFTER! So happy with this! And excited about all those little seeds that are gonna be popping up before too long...

*Attending a family conference with my family in which I got to meet up with many dear old friends, and enjoy some good sessions + discussion time.

*Getting to hear the Benham Brothers live at the above mentioned conference. They are my current favorites---amazing speakers! Stay tuned for a giveaway here of their new book (best book EVER!) coming up soon!

*Being so blessed by the sermons at my church.

*Volunteering at my church's annual youth conference as photographer + music competition arranger/director. Made for a busy weekend but a wonderful time working hard together with others for the cause of Christ!

*Loving that our fridge is getting all covered up with wedding + grad invitations! Favorite time of year!

*The new family album is coming along! Been spending a lot of time working on this project and getting everything together. Also have to coordinate and line up all the projects that come when we get new family pictures-new displays, new promotional flyers, new prayer cards, new business cards, new everything! 

*Working on Labor Day + Family Camp details...so excited for how things are shaping up for these events as well! And along those lines, camp registration is basically full, but the single guy's cabin and also the single girl's cabin still have a few available spaces, so if you are interested in attending, please feel free to email info@bontragerfamilysingers.com and I will send you a brochure.

*Spending a day driving some missionary friends to the Chicago airport, to return to Africa after their furlough. Great conversations with them on the way to the airport, and then great conversations with my cousin + Jesus on the way home. #ilovesolitude
*And last but not least, I've been just lovin' all the time I've been spending with this precious child + her siblings. Fuzzy picture, I know, but its worth it. =) Love her.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
I will still be posting after this (maybe, haha!) so please come back next week!
Have a blessed weekend, y'all!
-Chels

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Just Be You

(photo credit HannahElisePhotography}

Today was one of those days when I was asking myself, "Hmm, and why again do I even try to blog? Ever?" 
I had a lot on my agenda, and blogging would've typically been the last thing on my brain on a day like this...except that because of this ten day tandem deal it has been one of the main things on my brain. I'm constantly thinking, "Can't forget to blog, can't forget to blog....." (smile)

Today was not a super-hero, model-status feeling type of day. At all. I had a ridiculous skin outbreak on my face. (confession: I know it was due to that bag of very very special Ritz sour cream + onion chips I treated myself to last week. Totally my fault. This happens every time I eat those.) 
So I decided to forgo makeup today and just wear this amazing coconut oil lotion my sis makes that is a natural healer. Only problem was then I felt greasy and less than beautiful and was frustrated with myself for relying so much on my outward appearance to make me feel good anyway. I also was working outdoors for several hours-weeding, edging, and cleaning my herb garden, and digging out and re-laying all the bricks that had gotten buried under the dirt over the winter. It was a big project and I overdid the hoeing..and then was mad at myself because I knew that means I will be paying for it later with some very sore arms. (this happens whenever I overstress my arms, due to an upper arm injury I had about six years ago)

So I'm sitting here now, greatly desiring above all else, a hot shower and my bed. (being honest!)
And thinking about how really, at the end of the day, its about the moments in our day that are US. Not those moments where I make myself into something I'm not. Not those perfect moments when all goes according to plan. Not those moments that are really the rare and unrealistic anyway.

But the real test, the real deal, is when I can just learn to be me. And learn to be happy in that. 
And I'm not talking about the whole "be yourself! only care about what you think and feel!" mainstream mentality. 
No, I'm talking about keeping it real, and being honest, and being okay when your day isn't all glam + glory. Calling it a happy and beautiful day even if you did spend it covered in grease and dirt. (the dirt part is actually pretty great!)

Did you know there is beauty in the real? Because it isn't about "picture perfect".
It is about joy in where God had YOU today. Whenever that was, whatever it entailed...it could have the makings of wonderful if it was His plan for YOU.
And because the wisdom of Dr. Suess is so timeless, (smile) I share this quote that I love, above.
(Isn't that great?!)

Only YOU have the ability to bless + reach the people that YOU know. 
Only YOU can make the difference where Jesus has placed YOU. 
Only YOU can be YOU.
Be happy in that! Its a pretty awesome thought to think that God has given 
JUST YOU that unique opportunity!

Just be YOU.
-Chels

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Road Life Comedy {Part One}

(photography credit StyleLife Photography)

Most of you already know this, but for those of you who don't, I am somewhat of a "transplant". Half of the year I live on a farm with my family. The other half of the year I travel the world, quite literally. Each lifestyle is full of action and I really do love them both, most of the time.
But the road life in particular seems to lend itself to some hilarious moments.
I think it's because we meet so so SO many different people, and whenever you meet that many different people, you are bound to have some, ahem, "different" situations crop up.
Now, we do have an unwritten rule that "what happens on the bus stays on the bus", meaning that there are just certain things that happen on the road that I won't ever be sharing with the general public. But, some things are appropriate to share, and since people are constantly asking me about life on the road, I thought y'all might enjoy a little "inside scoop" of sorts on some of the funny things that happen every now and then.
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
*Little boy who was talking to me at our product table after a concert,
Him: "So are any of you orphans?" (I think he meant to say "adopted"=))

*Little girl, also at the product table, a different time,
Her: "So how old are you?"
Me: "I'm twenty-four."
Her: "Wow...twenty-four and NOT MARRIED?" (in an "I can't believe my ears" tone)
Me: (trying not to laugh) "Yes, dear child, it is possible."

*Picking at a hang nail that starts bleeding profusely, and the next song up is a piano song that I am supposed to play on. I do my best to play but its hard when my finger is bleeding and blood is going all over the keyboard keys. I end up with a bloody keyboard.

*Very accidentally meeting the pastor of a particular church in my PJ's one memorable night. One of my most humbling experiences to date.
(this is what comes from deciding to set up a church at 11pm one night. We were all in our PJs but no one was "supposed" to be there so who cares, right? As we were in the middle of singing all of the crazy tunes that we sing when no one else is around, possibly complete with several crazy dance moves, all whilst setting up...in walks the pastor. I agree-what is a pastor doing in his church at 11 o'clock at night?! There was nothing to be done but introduce ourselves, PJs and wild pew dance and all.

*Getting hiccups in the middle of a song. #worstfeelingever

*Eating peanut m&m's right before going on stage and feeling bits and pieces still sticking to the inside of my mouth and corners of my lips...fifteen minutes later.

*Finally switching my purity ring from my left hand to my right hand because it was just getting really ridiculous how many people were wanting to start a conversation about my engagement. #goodgrief

*The friend that calls and tells you that they are "sending" a special "someone" to your concert. Whereupon you resolve to call in sick that night....and your family protests loudly for more reasons than one.

*Being served sloppy joes three meals in a row. it was yummy! But it was just funny too.

*Times when an anonymous Bontrager writes out the concert song list and adds different words to make us laugh, but we don't realize the change until we are in the middle of the concert.
example: "Goodnight Smooch" instead of "Goodnight Kiss".
Also there are quite a few of us right now that are more or less in "that time of life",  so recently someone wrote on the songlist "Someone You Can MEET" instead of "Someone You Can Reach"
Just for a joke. =)

*A certain individual getting so involved in their book on the front row that they don't realize it is time for their solo until another sibling comes to the mic and calls them up in front of everyone
#embarrassingforthem #funnyforus

*Backing up on stage to move out of someone's way and backing right into a mic stand that was left out. This is followed by what seemed like an agonizingly long time of arms, instrument, and legs flailing as I try to regain my balance. Thank-goodness this ended in me still being upright.
(although barely)

*A guy comes up to the cd table and says "So what's the purpose of that thing on your head?"
 (boho styled headband)
In my mind I said "Excuse me, sir? Is this still the land of the free or not?"
But in reality I was sweet and said, "Well, it's for decoration."

*I am sitting on the front row of a church. It is literally one minute before the concert is going to start and I suddenly FREAK OUT because I realize I forgot to remove my week-old red nail polish remnants! How could I have forgotten? At this stage in time my nails look like I'm still in that three yr old stage when they just let the polish wear off and don't care how bad it looks. I mentally resolve NEVER to paint my fingernails again...it's just too much upkeep.

*But then whats even worse...is we did the concert, (me with bad nails and all) and after the concert I totally forget about my nails. Until the next night when I am at a different church and on the front row once again, one minute before the concert, and I catch a glimpse of my horrible nails and barely manage to suppress a shriek, realizing that I once again forgot to remove the polish! And although I didn't think it possible last night, in reality, tonight the nails look even worse.
Brother to the rescue loaned me his pocket knife and I FRANTICALLY begin scraping those nails. I wasn't able to get it all off in the one minute I had but all through the concert, every spare minute, I was trying to pick off nail polish remnants. Never again.

*Out and about one day, at Subway, and the lady behind the counter begins a conversation with me as I'm digging in my purse trying to locate the correct amount of change.
Her: "Are you Italian?"
Me: "No."
Her: "Are you Greek?"
Me: "No."
Her:"Well then, what are you?"
Me: (counting out my change and not thinking) "Um, I'm part German. And part Indian. And...uh, part regular?"
Whereupon we all laughed-me, the lady, and the guy making my sub.
Regular? Where did that come from? No idea...

*Having an eyelash stuck inside my eyelid for the entire concert, and being unable to do anything about it. #painful

*Thinking about something else entirely, and skipping to the ending of the song while siblings continue singing the correct part...and then we all stop and laugh and I try to recollect what song we were even singing because I was seriously in another world. The audience is sitting there obviously not getting the joke and we are all just DYING laughing although trying to pull ourselves together. I tried to explain to the audience what happened but obviously it isn't possible to communicate correctly so finally I just manage to squeak out, "I think we will just move to the next song" and you do just that, while your parents are in the front row dying of mortification at their scatterbrained daughter. (Unfortunately this scenario has happened to us more than once. And I'm not always the one at fault either...)

*Thinking if I had a dollar for every grandma who told me that I needed to meet her grandson...I'd be one rich lady! (hehe)
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Ha, I'm laughing again as I finish up this post, re-living some of these moments!
By the way, I threw in "part one" with my title, thinking that I might have to do another post like this after I collect a number of stories again... 

Please leave a comment and let me know if you liked the post and would like to see more like this!
-Chels

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Julia||Baby Portraits

I got to meet this charming little lady @ a conference I was attending last week. 
Her family was camped just a few sites down from us and one day I was able to take her pictures!
What a DOLL!!
Seriously...those EYES. #heartmelt
And because I love mother/daughter pictures, we had to get a few with her beautiful mama.
What a fun stage. So precious to be able to capture a few of her baby expressions!
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Happy Tuesday, everyone!
-Chels

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cultivating Refinement in a Culture of Vulgarity

{these are the notes from a session that I gave at my sister's young women's retreat last fall. 
I thought y'all might enjoy it as well}
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

{Refinement vs Vulgarity}
Let’s first define refinement and vulgarity.

Definition of Refinement:
re-fine-ment
:the act of process of removing unwanted substances from something: the act or process of making something pure
:the act or process of improving something
:the improved version of something

Definition of Vulgarity
vul-gar-i-ty
:the quality or state of not having good taste, manners, politeness, etc
:something that is offensive or rude

Proverbs 31 is all about the refined woman. This woman was incredible! She glorified the Lord in her work, but also in her dress, conversation, and character. I think we all desire to be a woman like this; for others to look at us and say “there is a woman of God.”

Before we go on, I want to remind you that 
“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.”

1) Choosing Refinement in our ATTITUDE
Psalm 45:13-15:  “The King’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the King’s palace.”

We communicate so much through our attitudes. Choose to be joyful, to wear a smile. Be happy. After all, we have Christ! This should not be a problem! Remember to remind your face that you are happy. =) Treat others kindly; be a light. 

2. Choosing Refinement in our CONVERSATION
Proverbs 11:22: “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair women which is without discretion”.
Proverbs 31:26: “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Our culture tells us to fill our conversation with vulgarity. Young women all around us constantly use words like  like “dude, man” and an overabundance of “like, like, like”. Our culture has taught us to think and talk in a shallow and senseless fashion. 

Think of the most refined person you know and think about their conversation. How do they talk? Do they use lots of extra words and popular phrases? Or do you know when they open their mouth that what comes out will be life-giving, and something meaningful?

The first impression we give people is by what we are wearing/how people see us. The second impression is the words that come out of our mouths.

Be a women of intelligent conversation. Study about things. Be knowledgable. Know what is going on in the world around you. Make your conversation to be edifying and uplifting, instead of filled with popular words and phrases.

3) Choosing Refinement in our DEPORTMENT
Walk like a women. Walk as if you owned the world. Not in a haughty or prideful way. But carry yourself like a women of worth, like a daughter of the King! Sit up straight. Smile. Carry yourself gracefully and with confidence. 

When you meet someone, look them in the eye, give a good handshake, and speak clearly. Be a LADY. Treat everyone the same way. Don’t act nervous or shy. Be confident in who you are in CHRIST.

And along these lines, don’t be scared of men. Please. They are normal human beings, just like you are. Treat them as such---with dignity, kindness, and courtesy. 
Chilvary isn’t dead. It just followed wherever being “lady-like” went. 
Think about that!

4)  Choosing Refinement in our DRESS
How we dress communicates volumes. The first look someone has at you will be their first impression of you, good or bad. 
The first impression you will make, like it or not, will most likely be based on your dress, because that is the first thing people will see. 
Now, ultimately, the goal is to wear clothing that immediately reflects and enhances your FACE, which is where people should see the joy of Christ. But that still means starting with a beautiful and put-together outfit. This thing of fashion isn’t a worldly or unbiblical concept; quite the opposite! There are SO many verses in Scripture that talk about fashion. 
Proverbs 31:22: “She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple”. 
Pretty classy,  right? This woman knew about dressing with dignity and honor. 

“Being well-dressed is a beautiful form of politeness”  Inslee Haynes

“Feminine beauty is the natural by-product of a women who has emptied herself, given up her own life, and  allowed God’s Spirit complete access to every dimension of her inner and outer life.” 
Leslie Ludy

Women of God can never be like women of the world.

The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender.
There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind.
There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined.
We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of FAITH.
We have enough greed; we need more goodness. 
We have enough vanity; we need more virtue.
We have enough popularity; we need more purity.
-Margaret Dyteng Nadaud

And finally...
"Be the change that you wish to see in the world". -unknown

-Chels