There is an old hymn by William Cowper which states the following:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour:
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain:
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
Over the past several weeks, I have been pondering the sovereignty of God in our everyday lives. His ways, His will, His kindness, His mercy…… these things have left me breathless at times, overwhelmed by the goodness of our LORD.
A Legacy: Our family has been blessed with a godly heritage. Our dear Grandpapa, Reuben Neely, was a faithful man. He was known for his intense love for the Lord and a desire to be conformed to the image of Christ. His life was saturated with the Word of God. A friend once said: “When he spoke to me, it was as if it wasn’t him at all, because the words that he spoke were straight from Scripture… the Word of God was so natural to him…”
In 2001, Grandpapa was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was told by the doctors that, at best, he would have eighteen months left to live. He lived them to the fullest, encouraged everyone he met, and met his Savior at the end of the course of his life.
A Trial: One of Dad and Mom’s goals for each of us as their children is that we learn to play the piano and an instrument we can carry for ministry purposes. In 2005, we began violin lessons with a dear lady, who has been one of the most influential role models for us, from our church. After two short years of blessing from her, this opportunity came to an end when our church underwent severe trials and change and our beloved teacher and friend moved across the country with her family. For a few years we struggled with our music, continuing on, but without clear direction for day-to-day advancement in skill and technique. Each time the Lord graciously allowed us to come into contact with our former teacher’s family, I wondered: Why? Why did this have to happen? Even after we were able to begin lessons with other teachers. Why? What was the reason the Lord had allowed this to happen? What were His purposes? What did He have in mind? I continually had to surrender myself to His will and continue on the path He had laid. And yet, I still wondered.
A Harp: Sometime several years ago, a few of us had the desire to learn harp. We had just been given a small harp for Christmas, and I wanted to begin “harping.” For four and a half years, I played off and on. I wanted to, and yet I didn’t have music, didn’t have a teacher, was discouraged and discontent with the number of strings our harp had, and was missing the perseverance I so badly needed. In 2011, my family encouraged me to pick it up again. I did so, and for a year watched the Lord open doors for me. He provided music from my harpist cousin…. He encouraged me through friends who allowed me to use their harp when I wanted to experiment with more strings…… He gave me the grace to continue even when I had no direction. In the spring of 2012, my long-time dream came true: our violin teacher in Greenville hired a harp teacher! I was finally able to begin where I had so longed to.
Most reading this are probably wondering the connection. A month or two ago, I would have told that there really wasn’t one. But then, the Lord graciously revealed His purpose, at least in part.
After an all too-short visit with our first violin teacher and her husband, I was struggling again. Why did we have to be separated? What harm was there in our studying with her? But then I followed the train of events from the past couple of years. If we had continued on as we had been, we would not have sought instruction in Greenville. If we had not been studying at the studio there, we would have missed out on the opportunities He had in store for us there. If I had not been studying harp when I was………. There would still be a missing link in the story I am now telling you.
A couple of weeks ago, we received an email from my harp teacher in response to us having given her our CD, Lest We Forget. It reads as follows:
“Okay, now for the story. I’ve been trying to catch up on a series my pastor has been preaching from Isaiah, so I’m afraid I haven’t listened to your beautiful CD until tonight.
When I was in 7th grade, my mom had back surgery. At the neurosurgeon’s office she and my dad met a dear elderly gentleman, and they spoke of him often. Mostly of what a blessing he and his wife were, and how his speech was so full of the LORD’s Word. He’d had brain surgery; after one of the surgeries the doctors had told him his memory might be gone. So when he woke up, the first thing he did to test his memory was to recite one of the letters to the Corinthians. At another time he told my mom that his brain cancer was terminal – but because our times are in God’s hands, he was no more “terminal” than my mom. And from Psalm 23, when walking through the valley of the shadow of death, there could be no shadow without a Light. This dear man’s name was Reuben Neely.
When I opened up the CD, as you can imagine, I read and heard about Reuben Neely. Can he be the same one? I think he must be, from what my parents said and from what I have seen in your family. And if he is, please know that the LORD used him as such a blessing!”(emphasis mine)
If Grandpapa had not had brain cancer….. if our violin teacher, mentor, and friend had not moved away…… if our parents had not had the commitment to making sure that we were under the instruction of music teachers….. if….. if……… if………. If.
But no! Our Lord orchestrated His plan, and then executed it. We don’t have to worry about “ifs.” When we don’t know the answer, we don’t have to be concerned with “whys.” All we have to do is rest in the plan of our all-knowing Sovereign Creator God. “What God ordains is always good…. Someday I shall see clearly, that He has loved me dearly.”
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.
Oh, my soul, praise Him for He is thy health and Salvation.
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near.
Join me in glad adoration.
Praise to the Lord, Who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth.
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth.
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth.
Praise to the Lord, Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee.
Surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do
If with His love He befriend thee.
Praise to the Lord, oh let all that is in me adore Him.
All that hath life and breath come now with praises before Him.
Let the amen sound from His people again.
Gladly for aye we adore Him.
“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.” ~ Proverbs 10:22
Praise the Lord for siblings! Each one is a special blessing from Him. It is a double blessing when He opens our eyes to see the beauty and joy in each moment spent together as siblings.
This week, we three older sisters had an evening to spend time together. It was an unusual evening, in that we don’t normally have an entire evening to spend without the rest of the family, but it was a joyous one. Everyone else had gone on a spur-of-the-moment day trip, but we stayed back this time to help fill in for Dad at work. (What a privilege to do that for him!) After work, we went home, but there was an errand to run for Mom, so we jumped in the van — making sure to take the camera — and went out for the evening. Laughter, smiles, ice cream….it was a delightful time.
The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it. – Proverbs 10:22
For a yummy breakfast treat last Saturday, Kathryn and I made Blueberry Coffeecake together! We found the recipe in No-Guesswork Cooking, one of our favorite recipe books. We mixed it up Friday night and then put it in the fridge. Early on Saturday morning, Kathryn baked it so it was warm and yummy when we were ready to eat. Everyone agreed that it was a delicious recipe and that we should make it again soon!
2 1/2 cups flour (we did 1 cup whole wheat flour; 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 cups sugar (we used evaporated cane juice instead of white sugar)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup butter, softened and cut into Tablespoon-sized pieces
- Combine first four ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture looks like crumbs.
3/4 cup milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
- Add next three ingredients slowly to above crumb mixture, mixing for 2-3 minutes. Scrape bowl and continue mixing on low speed for 2-3 minutes. Fold in blueberries. Pour batter into greased 13”x9” baking pan.
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
- Combine ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Mix with pastry blender until crumbly.
- Sprinkle topping mixture evenly over batter in pan. (Can refrigerate overnight at this point if desired.) Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Serve warm and enjoy!
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. Psalm 32:11
After far too long of a separation, the Lord blessed us with us with an opportunity to travel north to visit Matthew & Amanda and the Wilkes Team. Words fail to describe the thrill of being together once again as family, fellowshipping, making memories, and rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord.
Rejoicing… that word seems to best describe the weekend with which we were blessed. In some measure, is not this the way each of our relationships should be with Christ? Should we not yearn so much to be with Him — to commune with Him — that seasons of prayer and fellowship are our greatest delight? That spending time in His presence thrills our hearts and gives us new hope, new energy, new zeal for His work? May it ever be so in every one of our lives.
Soon after our arrival, a fantastic memory was made as … a great number of Thera-pit-ic cherry pit packs were opened!
On Friday, the whole merry band loaded up and went ice skating (the first time for many of us)! Zipping around, laughing at both successful and unsuccessful attempts to get the hang of it, falling, slipping, gliding… what special memories were made. Thank you for this special treat, Uncle Mark & Aunt Alice. Though we left the rink with one broken arm, the goodness of the Lord was evident even in that incident, and we look forward to trying this delightful sport again sometime.
Friday evening, we celebrated the birthday of a very special patriarch. We love you, Grandpa Wilkes!
On Saturday morning, the parents went to the farmer’s markets and left the rest of us at home. First on the schedule was breakfast in Matthew & Amanda’s apartment! Such a special, joyous time together; their hospitality is first-rate!
Later in the day, the Lord blessed with a chance to rid the property of a sly predator that had been sighted nearby. Several previous attempts had been made, but were all unsuccessful. At last though, the perseverance of many resulted in a dead fox and hundreds of safer, happier chickens!
As we press onward in the race, looking unto Jesus Christ, this weekend of rejoicing with our dear family will remain as a special and treasured memory. Looking forward to next time!
Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Psalm 33:20-21
In the past few months, I have been blessed immensely by slowly working through two books that I purchased at the NCFIC Worship of God Conference: Taking Hold of God, and Seasons of the Heart.
As the Lord continues to work in my heart and life regarding prayer, several insights from these two volumes have stood out to me as being particularly helpful and uplifting. Taken from men and woman both past and present, the following thoughts, I believe, spring from hearts to whom the Lord has given true wisdom regarding this necessary spiritual discipline.
“Given the rich blessings accessible to us through prayer, those who refuse to pray neglect a treasure, buried and hidden in the earth, after it had been pointed out to them… Prayerlessness is a blatant denial that God is the author of every good thing.” John Calvin
“Ceasing to pray when God does not answer us quickly is the surest mark that we have never become a believer.” Joel R. Beeke
“Christ said, ‘All power is mine, heaven and on earth.’ Oh, the mighty power of payer with God our Father in the name of His beloved Son! We must get to heaven before we know what that power has been in its fullest sense. Oh, the luxury of prayer! We have communion truly, familiar communion with God – to talk with God. To go and shut the door and tell God all – all – that is in our heart! To feel that He is listening to hear what we have to say to Him, and then to wait and see what He will say to us!
Dear friend, such, as you know, is the privilege of all the saints. It may be long before you see your prayers answered, for faith must be brought into exercise. Often, when we are ready to give all up, then the Lord comes, and, although in a very different manner to what we expected, He answers our prayers and puts our unbelief to shame.
Oh, to have such a God to deal with, and to know that He is always dealing with us in His providence and by His Spirit! Glorious is our high calling in Christ Jesus. It is He who says, ‘Ask anything in my name, and I will do it. Is anything too hard for me?’ Such is the power of the Most High, and such the fullness of Christ, and such the boundless love of God in Jesus, that I am greatly encouraged to make large demands upon Him, the dear and all-prevailing name of His Son and of my Savior. So, you see, I would try to encourage you, too, to pray on, and to expect an answer when your faith is fully tried.” Mary Winslow
“In prayer we both communicate and commune with our Father in heaven, feeling our transparency in His presence. Like Christ in Gethsemane, we cast our desires, sighs, anxieties, fears, hopes, and joys into the lap of God… We are permitted to pour into God’s bosom the difficulties which torment us, in order that He may loosen the knots which we cannot untie. Prayer is the outpouring of the soul, the deepest root of piety, the bedrock of assurance. Prayer is the most important part of the Christian life; it is the lifeblood of every true believer.” Joel R. Beeke (John Calvin)
“God, in the wonderful things He hath predestined or promised for His people, hath appointed means for the performance of them. Hence, as He converts by the Word, so He bestoweth His mercy upon a praying people.” Anthony Burgess
“Hear [God] speaking to you, and have an eye to that in everything you say to Him; as when you write an answer to a letter of business, you lay it before you. God’s Word must be the guide of your desires and the ground of your expectations in prayer.” Matthew Henry
“Let not self, carnal self, be the spring and center of your prayers, but God; let the eye of the soul be fixed upon Him as your highest end in all your applications to Him; let this be the habitual disposition of your souls, to be to your God for a name and a praise; and let this be your design in all your desires, that God may be glorified, and by this let them all be directed, determined, sanctified, and, when need is, overruled.” Matthew Henry
“O you trembling souls, let not the subtle serpent drive you from this stronghold; your God will hear and help you. He has taught you to pray; He will answer your prayers. If He long delay, He is worth waiting for. If He shut His door against you, it is only to make you knock louder. It is better to wait on God for His salvation in sackcloth and ashes than to wait on the world and the flesh clothed in scarlet, ‘for the end of those things is death.’” Ruth Bryan
We returned on Monday with Matthew & Amanda from our journey to south GA, and following their departure on Tuesday, we spent a busy two days catching up on home things and then turned around and headed back to south GA on Thursday. This time, it was for our annual hunting trip on property near Grandmama and Uncle Fudge’s house. Uncle Bill and Aunt Peggy always meet us there, making this visit one of the highlights of our year.
Though the hunting was not terribly successful (maybe next year?!), the relationships built, the time to sit near and talk with and learn from these dear, godly older people – the four mentioned above and Aunt Myrtle, and the opportunity to minister in a church on Sunday made the trip a sweet and memorable one.
We all returned immensely blessed by the time with these wise, older believers. As Dad is always encouraging us, take the time to sit down and learn from those who have walked the path of life ahead of you. Ask them questions. Learn about their lives and what the Lord has taught them through the years. Hear stories of answered prayers and divine interventions on their behalf. Seek out their wisdom and advice. They are a valuable resource of truth that the Lord has placed right in your path – what kind of steward will you be of this blessing?
I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 89:1
Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth…We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done… That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born… That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments. Psalm 78:1,4,6,7
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom…Let thy work appear unto they servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. Psalm 90: 12, 16-17
What a tremendous joy it was to be with Matthew & Amanda the week after Christmas! The Lord brought them safely down to us just before the ice and snow set in – a reminder of His mercy and goodness in our lives.Though the weekend had an unexpected turn and we ended up traveling to south GA for a funeral, the Lord blessed us with safety and a precious time together.
Friday morning, while we were waiting for details regarding our trip south to finalize, the guys left to go move a heavy piece of equipment with which the Lord recently blessed us. We ladies then gathered in Mom’s room for a sweet “girl time” together. Laughter, stories, and just sweet fellowship made the morning hours fly by. May we all learn to cherish moments like this to their fullest.
We love you, our dear, dear siblings, and look forward with great anticipation to the next time!
“O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth forever. Praise ye the LORD.” Psalm 117