Archive for 2011
In preparation for this glorious Christmas season, we were blessed with the opportunity to help two dear couples from our church with their Christmas decorations!
The first one took place at the Edward’s home – and we had the added blessing of having two of the Wilkes guys to join in the merriment. They were in town to learn blacksmithing from Mr. Edwards and, of course, added a joyful spark to the party! Pictures are often far better than words, so enjoy!
The next tree trimming adventure was at the Chapman’s house (known as Grandpa and Grandma to us). It was a fun-filled evening including delicious soup for dinner, harmonica music, and great fellowship!
Oh the joys of serving others within the body of Christ! These evenings with such dear friends were certainly highlights in our Christmas season.
Recently Victoria and I got some new hardware!
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?? Maybe you should try it too. Having it really is a blast!
Well, I guess before you make any decisions, as in all things, you should be well informed. This hardware is small… shiny (most of the time )…very productive… has many parts and important terminology… are attached to those supposed-to-be-white-and-pearly thingys in your mouth… but can cause quite a bit of pain and are usually expensive.
Anyway… we are really enjoying having braces together! Some people dread them, but we were both terrifically excited and have not been disappointed. It’s been so fun!
The morning after I got them put on, though, I was spending my time with the Lord and a thought struck me. I was still getting used to them, as you can imagine. Every time I moved my mouth, ate, drank, brushed my teeth, said anything… I was reminded of these pieces of metal now semi-permanently glued to my teeth. At that moment I thought: “These are a pretty important to me. But how can God get glory from braces????”
1 Corinthians 10:31: Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
“Everything in my life is supposed to bring God glory. Eating and drinking can… braces are a lot bigger deal than eating a meal… I know they can too…… but how??”
I started thinking and came up with several different ways that the Lord could potentially get glory from braces! It sounds strange, almost goofy, but if you really stop and ponder it, Scripture teaches that we were created for God’s glory. It follows, then, that everything we do should fulfill that purpose, including the little things!
The first reason I discovered is found in the analogies that can be drawn. Braces cause pain, but that pain produces positive results. It is the same in our hearts. In His gracious sovereignty, the Lord will take us through painful circumstances and trials to draw us closer to Himself and conform us more into His likeness.
Second, having braces together has strengthened Victoria’s and my relationship as we can discover helpful tips, go through similar feelings, and can just relate better because of having yet another thing in common. A special sort of comradery is fostered. (We recommend dual-braces within a family – Amanda and Jessica did it too!)
Third, braces can help to develop patience. You must wait. It takes time to get your teeth straight after years and years of crooked-tivity! (new word )
Fourth, braces made me realize how easy it is to get annoyed at little, insignificant things when I’m in constant pain and helped me find the right response. I realized I had to identify the root of the annoyance and seek the Lord in an “SOS” call to receive His help to respond in love and gentleness.
Fifth, we should desire the gaze of others to be drawn to our face, which should glow with the joy of the Lord. Braces help the appearance of the face to be more appealing!
Sixth, braces don’t happen by yourself. You have to come in contact with people … thus presenting another opportunity to shine the Light of Christ into the life of another!
I’m sure you could think of others; those are just the ones that came to mind. But… if we really were created for God’s glory, then why don’t we think more often about how to accomplish that end in the little things? Mr. Dan Horn once described the glory of God as “the indispensible center” of our lives. Do our thoughts, words, motives, and actions communicate that it is such?
Nineteen years ago, a young couple with two small children moved from their warm home in north Georgia, to the shockingly different territory of southern New Hampshire. During their two-winters-long stay in New England, they experienced vast differences between the sunny south and the much-colder north, not the least of which was the necessity of shoveling two feet of snow off of the car many mornings during the long winter months. They also met some new friends, including one couple who had just had their first child, but who held the unusual belief that they would accept as many children as the Lord saw fit to bless them with. Although this idea seemed a bit radical to the newcomers, the couples were soon good friends, and when their paths diverged fourteen months later and the Lord moved the first couple back south (this time to Texas!), the two families continued to keep in touch via annual Christmas letters and pictures. For several years, this was their only means of communication, and meanwhile, many changes took place in both families. The New Englanders’ family grew until they had nine children, and over the years, the Lord changed the hearts of the other couple and eventually blessed them with a total of ten young “arrows.” (See Psalm 127.) Then, early in 2010, the Lord placed in both families the strong desire to reconnect with each other and renew their friendship.
This happened around the time of the first North Carolina FEW Conference, and our excitement was unbounded when we received the news that the Wikmans would be making the 1,000+ mile trek (one-way!) to attend the event! Though our time together was short and extremely busy, we were able to reconnect to a small degree, and each of the few times we’ve seen each other since then has only increased our yearning for a longer and more personal visit.
Finally, last week we were blessed with the opportunity to have the Wikmans in our home for a few days. And what a joy it was! Besides the fun and games that went on, we Neelys were incredibly encouraged by seeing the way the Wikmans interacted with each other. Their sweet spirits and self-sacrificing love were very convicting to us as we watched them serve one another with Christ-like love. We observed in amazement as time and time again, an older sibling would drop whatever they were doing to help with a younger one, or Mr. or Mrs. Wikman would willingly give up fellowship time to care for a child, and always with a smile: there was never a word of complaint! They were also always ready to jump in and help with whatever we were doing, whether it was preparing food, washing dishes, or sweeping the floor. It was a tremendous blessing to us just to have them in our home, and we look forward to the next time we can share fellowship with them!
Thank you, Wikmans, for the blessing you were to our family! You have truly “provoked us unto love and to good works.” (Hebrews 10:24) Thank you for being such a wonderful example of Christ-like service and love!!
Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward.” You were a special gift from God, given to our home, to our family, for eight weeks this summer. Though we never got to meet you, you played a vital role in each of our lives. We are so grateful for you! But, as your name proclaims, our gracious Father called you over Jordan before us. You have gone on to glory, there to await us until His perfect timing when we will all be united forever. But during your life, the Lord used you to teach and remind us of many important truths.
Through you, we experienced yet again the indescribable joy of new life! We were delighted to find out that you were on the way. A new sibling, a new member of the Team, baby #11…
Through you, we realized just how uncomplaining and patient our darling mother is as she went through the early stages of pregnancy.
Because of you, we watched the Lord illuminate Mommy’s face with the glowing light that only a woman with child can wear.
We saw the beauty of letting God control the womb.
We were taught again to trust unconditionally in the loving, Sovereign hand of God in all circumstances.
We felt the pain of death and loss, but also felt the growth, grace, inexpressible joy, and deepened sense of God’s presence that always follows.
We understood just how blessed we are that we had never experienced miscarriage before.
We were further prepared for our futures as, Lord willing, fathers and mothers.
We tasted the sweetness of the friendship and love of other believers during a trial.
We were drawn closer together as a family, as a Team.
Our realm of ministry was broadened. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we are comforted of God.” II Cor. 1:3-4
We were given yet another reason to look forward to Heaven with great anticipation!
Our hearts, our lives, our characters, our experiences, our trust in God… all were stretched and strengthened by your life. Though the pain is still felt, the results are of eternal significance, and for this, we, your siblings, are eternally grateful. We praise the Lord for your little life. Isaiah 43: 7, “For I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Baby Jordan, you were created for the glory of God, and your life purpose has been fulfilled. Soli Deo Gloria!
We love you, Jordan!
Last Friday we had a major project day! Mom, Victoria, and Susanna worked on some of our fall sewing, Amanda and Titus tackled our ever-growing pile in the magazine basket, Jessi, Lauren, Bethany, Hannah, and I processed 5 1/2 bushels of apples, and Herman bounced between us and some jobs outside Dad had given him to do. God’s blessing on it all was evident… we had the best time of laughter, fun, and incredible production!
Well, before I tell you what it is, let me say that we have a steadily growing tradition in our house.
It is a ton of fun.
We all really like it.
It might sound a little unusual…
Here goes: After we make applesauce, we sleep outside! Normally it is on the front porch, in freezing — or below — weather (I’m not kidding!), but we did our applesauce early so our sleep outside was delightfully cool, not frigid. After a day in the steamy kitchen working with hot apples in boiling water over blue-hot flame… I think you get the picture. We all feel ever-so-slightly warm!!!! So, a night in the wonderful fall outdoors is just perfect to cool us down and, of course, make great memories! This year, though, instead of using the front porch, we tried out our 12-man tent that we’ve had for three years and never used. What a blast!
So, the moral of the story is this:
Enjoy the projects you do together! Make them fun and memorable!
Laugh over little mistakes and bumps in the production – – everything will be fine.
Keep a positive outlook even when you’re tired. Help each other finish strong!
And… after you make applesauce, sleep outside!
We arrived home from Maryland in time for three days at home, and then we were off to Virginia for our cousin’s wedding. Marshall was the first “Conn Cousin” to be married – and out of 26 cousins, 24 were present for the special occasion! What a joy to be all together again!!
After the wedding, the family met at Fuddruckers for dinner and more time together.
Just 2 1/2 weeks ago…
We were on our way to Maryland to witness the glorious union of our dear friends Joshua and Lisa!
Here are a few pictures to give you the story……
They’ll do a better job than words….
Well, once again we have hit the road, and life just never seems to stop. We praise the Lord for the safety He has given as we “wear out” the highways. From home, to Maryland, to Virginia, back home, back to Virginia, to South Carolina, and finally home…. all of this in twelve days, the Lord’s mercy has been evident. But, it is not over yet. We have more places to go, more people to see, more things to do. The Lord has prepared the way before us, and has given us many wonderful hours of road time to catch up on sleep, to do some reading, and just to enjoy being close together as a family (literally).
After being in the van for several hours, we find it necessary to release some energy and get some exercise. Frisbee and football are great ways to get these two things accomplished. We love traveling, and look forward to the next trip… which happens to be real soon.
“The horse is prepared against the day of battle, but safety is of the Lord.”
In all of the busyness life has been bringing us for the past several months, it becomes easy to perpetually live in what we Neely’s term “survival mode” – just doing the necessities and leaving out all the “extras.” Tea parties usually, at least for us, fall into the category of “extra.” But we’ve discovered that everyone has time for a tea party! Just have one instead of dinner some evening… and you are bound to love it! We have found them great for teaching manners, quieting our lively bunch, pulling out the silver and china that are normally tucked away unused, making delightful memories together, and taking time to rejoice in the blessings of the Lord.
“Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts… Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord…” Psalm 96
As our country remembers the events of September 11, 2001, we as a nation have forgotten the foundations on which our country was founded. As we remember the heroics of people who sacrificed for others, we have forgotten the God who gives us grace to remain a great nation. As we contemplate our desire for peace in the world, we have forgotten the God of peace.
In 1897, as a commemoration to Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, Rudyard Kipling wrote “Recessional” (“God of Our Fathers”) not only as a tribute to the might and power of the British Empire, but as a stark reminder that we had best heed the warnings of Scripture or suffer the fate of all nations who fall victim to their own success and fail to walk in humility before Almighty God.
Deuteronomy 8:11-14 gives another warning to the perils of prosperity: “Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God.”
As the blessings of God lead to repentance, once again we cry out, “God bless America!”