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! 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Sale!

So excited to announce this new Christmas special going on over at my family's website!

We have just released our brand new family dvd, as well as begun selling "Christmas in the Heart", the newest dvd from our church's Live Animal Christmas Play

If you have read my blog or my family's blog for any length of time, then you know that for six months out of each year we travel the US & Canada in our bus, singing + making music wherever we go. Our new DVD is a compilation of some of our favorite songs, as well as bonus features + trailers. 

The other half of the year we spend at home sweet home, and in that time we are so blessed to be actively involved in our incredible church, Marion Avenue Baptist. Every November & December, our church pulls together to prepare + perform the annual Live Animal Christmas Play. The DVD "Christmas in the Heart" is last years' play and includes acting, staging, + effects by the people of our church, including myself + my entire family.

We have a special Christmas sale going on right now featuring these two new products!
  Head on over for some Christmas shopping! Sale lasts through December 18th!


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."