Archive for August, 2010
Let me introduce you to some very special friends. The Lord brought us together for a particular purpose: so that we might glorify Him as we build our relationships with each other and seek to fulfill His purposes as a uniquely-designed team. These friends are encouraging; they inspire me. They love the Lord and make His Word a priority. I am thankful for each and every one of them! We make a lot of unusual, precious, fun, and touching memories together. They are each an incredible blessing on my life from the Lord.
To all my wonderful siblings: I LOVE YOU!!!
**Picture taken April 2010 by the Neely Team.
This last weekend we had the privilege of spending a couple days with the Sorensen family! The organizational parties on both sides had talked a few months previously, and we had all been greatly looking forward to it! The morning before they arrived, though, Amanda and Jessica left for Indianapolis for a week-long graphic design course. This left quite a new situation for me – who am comfortable and content in my role as third-born. Suddenly, I had the opportunities and responsibilities of being the first, second, and third sibling for the younger ones! As the leader for all that took place that morning, I must sing the praises of all my little helpers as we quickly got a dirty house into an organized, sparkly clean, and fragrant haven! They cheerfully helped with anything and everything that needed doing – including mopping (dirtamascrubbiewithwaterandsoaping! :)) all the tile. I am so blessed!
Around mid-afternoon, everything was ready and the Sorensen’s arrived!! They brought an additional amount of fun, brilliance, and enthusiasm to our home, as, over the next 2 days, their seven children just radiated the joy of Jesus Christ added to abundant energy! During dinner, the dining room buzzed with cheerful chatter. During a tour of Accurate Innovations, they listened attentively. I was also particularly blessed by witnessing how they interacted with each other, and with our little ones – responses were kind and loving!
Another highlight of their visit for me was listening to and talking with the adults. The various topics discussed throughout the weekend were edifying, uplifting, and educational. I enjoyed hearing the new, exciting perspectives they had on different issues facing the Church today.
Thank you, Sorensen’s, for being faithful to carry the Light of Christ to all! He truly shines brightly through you!!
We were touched and encouraged, and can’t wait until next time! :)
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
“Wow! I can’t believe this is really happening!!” I thought as I fastened the last buckle of my parachute and climbed onto the wing of the navy blue Stearman biplane. Tingles of nervous anticipation raced through me as Cousin Dave helped me buckle the seatbelts and calmly explained emergency procedures. In front of us, in his blue and yellow plane, Cousin Rick guided Dad through the same process as we prepared to make the flight from the hangar to the showgrounds of the Flying Circus. With my ear plugs in, sunglasses and flying cap on, buckles securely fastened, and the last adjustments made, I sat back to enjoy my surroundings and wave goodbye to Cousin Bill and the rest of the family on the ground while we waited for our pilots to finish their preparations. Moments later, another thrill shot through me as the engine sputtered, then came to life with a roar. We taxied over to the runway and I remember thinking, “We’re off!!”, as the planes took off in formation. At first, we just flew in big circles, gaining altitude in preparation for the aerobatics. We made a couple passes over the hangar while we were doing this and waved to those watching from below. (One time, I actually reached outside of the cockpit to wave… and about got my arm ripped off because I wasn’t prepared for the force of the wind!) My nerves continued to tingle, and suddenly the feeling intensified when we split from formation – the real fun was about to begin! Glancing in the mirror (the only method of communication in the open-topped plane), I saw Cousin Dave motion to ask me if I was ready for a loop. Shivering with a mixture of nervous suspense and intense excitement, I signaled back “thumbs up!” Suddenly, my stomach jumped as the plane dove down for a second, then began climbing up, up, up. I grabbed the rails as we reached the top of the circle, and then we were upside down! For a few seconds, I savored the exhilarating sensation of hanging upside down in the harness, and then my heart leaped into my throat as we dove back down the other side……
“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) How true we found this verse to be while we were in Virginia last weekend! We had been planning to go to the Family Encouragement Weekend for quite a while, looking forward to it with much anticipation as one of the biggest highlights of our year. This year we wanted to get there a day early to help with the preparations, so we left on Wednesday night, split the trip, and went the rest of the way on Thursday. Little did we know that the Lord would use the extra time we had planned in a way we would’ve never imagined…
While we were traveling up the Interstate on Thursday, we received a call from my aunt. When she found out where we were headed, she exclaimed, “Oh! We have cousins that live there!” As it turned out, my grandfather’s first cousin, Bill, and his wife, Marty, live just around the corner from our friends! But I’m getting ahead of myself… After another phone call or two, we got the contact information for them and tried to call, but had to leave a message. Not knowing whether they would be home or not, we decided to stop by anyway, hoping to get to meet/reconnect with them. Imagine what they must have been thinking when their house was peaceful and quiet one minute, and invaded with 12 practical strangers the next!! However, they were very gracious and invited us in, and we sat and talked for about an hour and a half. It was a great visit! Cousin Bill is a retired commercial airline pilot, and flying runs heavily in the family; in fact, Cousin Marty has written a book about flying. Their two sons are also commercial pilots, and fly on the weekends at a local airshow called the Flying Circus. Throughout the course of the visit, especially after they found out that Dad has his private pilot’s license, they repeatedly urged us to come back on Sunday to meet their boys and go to the show. We wanted to, but were unsure of whether it would work out, since Dad was supposed to be back at work in Monday, and we had a 9 hour drive between Virginia and home…
We just kept praying about it through the whole weekend, asking the Lord to work it all out if it was His will. Our friends offered their home for another night, and Dad made a few phone calls, trying to get Monday off. We were absolutely thrilled when everything worked out, but our joy then was only a prelude to blessing of that Sunday afternoon and evening. Immediately after church, we slipped away and raced back to Cousin Bill and Cousin Marty’s house. We met their “boys”, Rick and Dave, while they were getting their airplanes out and preparing to leave for the Circus. Much to our surprise, they told us that “anyone who wanted to ride was going to ride!” (I wonder if they had any idea what they were getting into before they offered that…) Dad and I were the first volunteers… the story above tells about that. 🙂 The ride over was fantastic! I’ve wanted to ride in a stunt plane for almost as long as I can remember, and I know Dad was absolutely delighted to be in the air again (Cousin Rick let him fly most of the way there)! After we had done a loop and a roll, we headed straight for the showgrounds, and as we flew over the beautiful countryside, I sat back in awe: the only thing I could think was “God is SO good!!”
When we arrived, our cousins took us to the pilot’s briefing. Cousin Dave introduced us, and mentioned that our family sings, and the moderator shocked me by asking if we would sing the “Star Spangled Banner” at the beginning of the show! Dad agreed, although I have to admit, I got far more nervous about that than I did about the plane ride! The rest of the family arrived a few minutes later, and we had a great time watching the show – it was amazing! I don’t have time to go into detail about the rest of the afternoon, but between the show, airplane and ATV rides, and visiting, we had a fantastic time! Cousin Dave’s wife, Terry, and their two girls, Rory and Elly, also came – what a delight to meet them! (We’re still waiting to meet Cousin Rick’s family… hopefully next time!) When we finished up everything at the showgrounds, we went back to the hangar, where we picked up Cousin Marty (she hadn’t been with us at the show) and went out to eat.
By the time we said our final goodbyes at 10:30 that night, we’d had an incredible day. The Lord’s hand of providence was so evident in everything that happened; we marveled at the way He worked it all out in a way that far exceeded our wildest imaginations!! But the biggest blessing we received didn’t come from the material generosity of our new-found family. As Dad said it, yes, the airplanes were cool and everything, and we had a fantastic time, but what really impressed us the most was the genuine love and tenderness that whole family showed toward one another. Honestly, we have never seen anything like it! There was never a correction or argument, a joke at another’s expense, or even the slightest suggestion of anything other than kindness and friendship. The couples acted as if they were still on their honeymoon; the brothers were obviously best friends. The loving looks, the care, and concern of parents, children, and siblings for one another was amazing to watch! We came away feeling rebuked for our own lack of affection and tenderness, and yet encouraged to show our love to each other more! “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” (Hebrews 10:24) “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” (Romans 12:10) “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)
We praise God for so clearly directing our steps; truly, “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
This past weekend, we experienced the incredible blessing of being able to help the Wilkes and Staddon families put on the 4th FEW (Family Encouragement Weekend) conference! The Lord’s blessing was evident yet again in abundant and stunning ways – to Him be the glory! The theme was Maturity in Christ. Mr. Wilkes, Mr. Staddon, Mr. Hynes, Mr. Thrash, and Dad did incredible jobs presenting what the Lord had laid on their hearts about this. Many young people were also able to give testimonies, giving additional practical application. “Day by Day” was chosen as the conference theme song, because it accurately portrays how we mature: we do not wake up one morning and find that we have “arrived,” but it is a slow, steady process that requires much pain, patience, perseverance, and dependence on the grace and strength of Christ! I appreciate a passing comment Mr. Wilkes made in his message that “kicked off” the conference: “Do not quit. Never give up. Believe in the fact that what the Lord has started in your life, He will perform. Keep seeking the Lord; He wants you to mature even more than you want to!” These simple statements have been an immense blessing to me, as I ponder the fact that it is “God which worketh in [me] both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) He will complete what He has begun!
During the course of the weekend, the 200+ attendees were able to participate in potluck meals, prayer and sharing time, singing, a children’s energy-burning discipleship game time, and one of the best aspects: glorious fellowship centered around the common bond we have in the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Wilkesteam graciously opened their home once again to us, which allowed for excellent planning/discussing among the conference leaders and their helpers. 🙂 The night before the conference began, I shared a challenge with several of the young people that the Lord had laid on my heart: to meet at least one member of every family. Now, that sounds pretty simple, but I desired to not just meet them, but to learn about them, share, and leave them encouraged from having talked with me. This was a challenge, but by God’s grace, many of us almost succeeded!! 🙂 In the process of reaching out, I’m sure all of us that accepted the project would agree that we came away with even more encouragement than we were able to give!
Thank you, Staddons and Wilkes, for blessing the Neely Team in so many ways throughout the weekend!! We are always encouraged by your love for the Lord, your joy in service, your eternal perspective on life, and your hearts for ministry! What an immense blessing to work with you to bring a God-given vision to pass! We thank our God upon every remembrance of you ALL!
So…… as we look back on the weekend full of cherished memories, we look forward to the work of maturity that our Father will continue within each one of us!
Soli Deo Gloria!!
Several years ago, Dad and Mom got us the kid’s book called “If Everybody Did.” This bit of comic accurately illustrates the impact that even our little actions have on those around us, and what would happen if everybody did things just like us. For example, if one person drops their toy on the stairs, they don’t think about it at all. But if everybody did it, just imagine the broken, bruised, and battered body parts we would have from the many crashes down the stairs!! 🙂 (If you ever want to see the picture that goes with that one, come see us! We’ll show you the book… 🙂 ) So, next time you do something careless or something that isn’t-so-bad-but-really-isn’t-wise and think it doesn’t matter much, imagine what it would be like if everybody did it too!
We were enjoying a good giggle about that book a while back, when someone suggested that we come up with a list of spiritual things that work the same way.
– If one person determined to pass out just one tract a week… how many could come to Christ if everybody did??
– If one person meditated on one verse a day and, by God’s grace, applied it… how much more godly would our responses be overall if everybody did it??
– If one person strove to give a smile to 10 people he/she saw in the store… how many hearts could be cheered in a day if everybody did??
– If one person read one good book a month… how much more knowledgeable would our society be on important issues if everybody did??
– If one person commended a godly character trait they saw displayed in someone’s life… how many would be encouraged to keep doing right if everybody did??
– If one person went out of their way to be a blessing to one other person every day… how many would be blessed if everybody did??
– If one person invested 10 minutes of their time every day into someone younger than 10 years of age… how many fewer teenagers and adults would be on drugs, alcohol, and in prison if everybody did??
– If one person spent 30 minutes a week with someone at least 15 years older than him/her… how much wiser would our society be on a whole if everybody did??
– If one person exercised for 30 minutes every night instead of watching TV… how much more brain space would people have 🙂 and how much healthier would people be if everybody did??
– If one person denied himself every week of one thing he wanted if he couldn’t pay for it in cash… how much less American debt would there be if everybody did??
Well, yes, the chances of getting everybody to do even one of these things are pretty slim… but BE ENCOURAGED!! It starts with you!! Just imagine if your entire family and only one other family did it… for us, depending on the size of the other family, 🙂 that could be over 20 people! But even if your family is smaller, it STILL starts with you!!
Would you be willing to step out of your comfort zone and do just one of these things (or an idea you come up with) today???
And just remember what would happen… if everybody did!!