Archive for January, 2012
Have you ever experienced it when the Lord takes a relationship that you have had and gradually deepens it? You may have known this family or individual for years, and yet suddenly you realize there is a strength in the relationship that you never had before. What causes this? This blessing is the inevitable result of both sides actively seeking and growing closer to the Lord, because as we draw nearer to Him and are more conformed into His likeness, He unifies our hearts with others within His Body, the Church. Our family has seen this happen over the years… among ourselves, esp. in sibling relationships, for one thing. We have also begun to see it worked out in relationships with other families. What a joy it is!!!
A few weekends ago we were blessed to experience this again with a visit from our friends, the Barnes family. We had a load of fun, played hilarious games, made music, put together jigsaw puzzles, blew up our gingerbread houses, and laughed a ton in the process, of course, but the highlight for most of us was the discussions and times of fellowship that were shared. Things the Lord is teaching us, what we are learning from our devotions, favorite passages of Scripture, meaningful insights, prevalent and troublesome issues of today that must be combated with Scripture, and more were shared and discussed. It was a time of exhortation and encouragement, and we came away tremendously refreshed.
And, by the way, our discussions were far too interesting to take the time to jump up and get the camera – – thus the lack of pictures of the afore-mentioned activity!
So, be encouraged if you desire to see a certain relationship in your life brought to a new level. Seek Christ through His Word, pray with diligence – – and watch and see what the Lord will do.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another…” 1 John 1:7
You may be seeing this title and thinking, New Years?? That was already four weeks ago!! (Yes, I know – hard to believe, isn’t it?!!) But though there have been many other exciting things going on since then, we still couldn’t bypass that wonderful event that kicked off our 2012!
But before I get to that, I have a few thoughts I’d like to share. First of all, this year I’ve really enjoyed the idea that God has given us a new year to live and work and praise Him in! I think it’s partly because our 2011 was so crazily busy, but whenever I think of the rest of the year before us, I have this exciting feeling of freedom – and anticipation. Looking over our calendars, there are so many little squares representing our days – 366 of them, to be exact – and I wonder, How will the Lord fill these days? Many of them are already filled up, and more are being filled each day. But there’s still so much time in a whole year – time that we need to be using for God’s glory!
And yet, on the other hand, there’s really not that much time in a year. Sure, there are about 8,784 hours in 2012 (some 550 of which are already gone forever, leaving us with closer to 8,200), but compared to eternity, that is only just an infinitely tiny speck. When I think of it that way, I am reminded that I need to be spending every bit of this speck of time to advance the Kingdom of God. Some verses that I’ve thought about a good bit recently are Proverbs 3:5-6. Yes, they seem to be extremely common, and I think we often quote them without really thinking about them, just because we’ve heard them so often. But think about the richness in these words: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” So as we enter (or keep living in) 2012, let’s purpose in our hearts, by God’s grace, to acknowledge Him in every area of our lives, including the seemingly insignificant things, so that He can work in and through us, directing our paths for His own glory!
But back to the start of the new year: we were in New York the week between Christmas and New Years, and had a wonderful time up there, working, playing, and visiting with family. We were planning to leave on Saturday, get a hotel about half-way back to our home, and then finish the drive back on Sunday. But we were surprised and delighted when Dad announced that we would be able to spend that New Years Eve with the Wilkes Team instead of by ourselves: they graciously allowed us to use their home as our hotel!! We had a fabulous 24 hours together, and one of the highlights was the time that we spent “praying in” the new year. Around 11:30 pm, we gathered together and began praying – praising God, thanking Him for His many blessings, praying for our homes and for our nation. We prayed for over an hour, right over the stroke of midnight. It was such a precious time, and an incredible blessing – we would encourage everyone to do that sometime! There is something strengthening and exciting about knowing that you’ve just spent the last bit of the old year, and the first moments of the new in fellowship and communion with the Giver of time itself.
So, even though it’s a bit late, we still mean it very heartily:
Have a blessed 2012, Everyone!!
What do you do when you encounter “dry seasons” in your walk with Christ? You can’t seem to get anything out of the Word… Reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating lose their delight and almost become mundane… You need direction for a crucial decision and can’t find it… You lack the strength you need to face the obstacles along the path… You feel empty and dry and struggle with joy…
Persevere through these seasons! Reject your feelings and keep seeking Christ – -the encouragement will eventually follow, and you will once again be rejoicing. The Lord recently reminded me of the promise in Isaiah 41:17-18:
“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”
So, press on. He is sufficient for all of your needs, and He will refresh your heart! “…[B]elieve that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Heb. 11:6
“Are you humbly grateful or grumbly hateful?”
We’re back-tracking in time, because we just realized that, due to the craziness of other things going on at the same time, we never wrote anything about a very important event that occurred last fall! But, keep in mind, that the timing of this post has nothing to do with it’s importance in our lives!
This “event” was a much-anticipated Hymn Arranging Seminar, put on by our wonderful violin teacher, Mr. Pinner (with Pinner Studios). Seeing our interest in learning more about writing, composing, and arranging music, Mr. Pinner graciously put together an exciting weekend for us, complete with sessions, master class opportunities to have our pieces critiqued by guest clinicians from Bob Jones University (Dr. David Rasbach, Mr. Duane Ream, Mrs. Joan Pinkston, and Dr. Dwight Gustafson), productive Q & A, a choral concert written and directed by gifted composer/publisher Craig Courtney of Beckenhorst Press, and a whole morning in the BJU computer lab working on Finale software with Dr. David Parker! We were humbled… honored… amazed by all of the opportunities that weekend presented. The things we learned were tremendously helpful and we look forward to doing more in this field of music in the future. We also came away encouraged by the focus of the clinicians. In everything they did, they stressed our purpose in life: to glorify the Lord.
Thank you, Mr. Pinner!!
It had been too long since we’d been to NY to visit Mom’s mom and see extended family. Thankfully, even though we hadn’t been up there in a year and a half, we had still seen everyone a couple times…. it had just been south of NY. But all of us Neelys were very excited when Mom and Dad told us we were planning a trip north right after Christmas!! It is such a joy to be able to visit with family, have meaningful conversations, work together, and just enjoy being together!! We are so blessed to have family we can talk over spiritual matters with. It was a time of “iron sharpening iron” and “brethren dwelling together in unity!”
Family traditions… aren’t they wonderful?! They give the family unit yet another little bond, an extra piece of security, and over all, family traditions help to build the family’s identity and make them who they are!
I am grateful for parents who have encouraged us to enjoy our family idiosyncrasies, and out of those, have created traditions for us, as well as passed on traditions that their parents established. If you know us very well, you know that we are foody. Meal times are tremendously important… and, well, we just enjoy the variations and excitement life offers in the form of palatable delicacies. Thus, many of our traditions are in that form… food!! Here are two of our favorite recipes that have become holiday traditions over the years:
Dad’s Breakfast Casserole
1 lb. hamburger, cooked and drained
1/2 c. chopped green onions
1 can (4 oz.) mushroom stems and pieces, drained
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 c. (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c. pancake mix
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
In a greased 3-qt. baking dish, layer meat, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheese. In a large bowl, whisk the pancake mix, eggs, milk, oregano, salt, and pepper; pour over cheese.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 F for 45-50 min. or until top is set and lightly browned. Let stand for 10 min. before serving.
Neely Team opinions: Best when served with piping-hot grits and shredded cheddar cheese. Also, some prefer to delete the mushrooms.
Chef’s notes: Can be made ahead and frozen. Take out of freezer the night before, and then bake in the morning, leaving covered for all but the last 15-20 min.
Fabulous Fruit Bowl
2 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
3 oranges, peeled, sectioned, and chopped bite-size
3 kiwi, peeled and sliced
2 grapefruit, peeled, sectioned, and chopped bite-size
2 large apples, cubed
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 lb. green grapes
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained
In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar, lime juice, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Combine fruit in large bowl; add dressing and toss to coat. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
Neely Team opinions: We aren’t that fond of grapefruit, so we use one can of canned grapefruit in syrup (but drained) instead of 2 fresh ones.
Chef’s notes: The salad doesn’t have to have the extra 1 hour chill if the dressing has been refrigerated for a day or so and is cold. Can also substitute fresh pineapple for canned.
Problem: Taste buds craving oreo truffles, but no recipe was known.
Solution: Check online!!
A little while back, we were staying with a family who served us a delicious candy — oreo truffles!! Ahhh…. I can almost taste them now… they’re just so good, that is, if you like chocolate. If you’re looking for just the perfect snack, appetizer, dessert, hors d’oeuvres, or anything else, this will be sure to sooth an aching sweet tooth. They’re really easy to make, and best when shared with friends and family!! We passed them around at a family get-together around New Years, and one of our aunts suggested that we post the recipe (and insisted on a picture!). Great idea, Aunt Joanna!!
1 lb Oreo cookies (3 sleeves)
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (or 1 tsp. mint, or almond)
1 lb. chocolate (dark or milk)
1/2 lb. white chocolate
1. Grind cookies to a fine powder in food processor. With a mixer, blend cookie powder, cream cheese, and vanilla extract until thoroughly mixed (there should be no white traces of cream cheese).
2. Roll into small balls and place on waxed paper lined cookie sheets. Refrigerate for 45 min. (or freeze for 15 min.).
3. Dip balls in melted chocolate; place on lined cookie sheets.
4. Drizzle melted white chocolate over chocolate balls. Let cool.
5. Store in refrigerator.
Other thoughts on this delicious treat:
~ We like to also dip in white chocolate and drizzle with dark.
~Can also roll truffles in various mixtures: chopped nuts, chocolate sprinkles, multi-colored candy sprinkles, chocolate shavings, colored sugars, etc.
For those who would like to know the nutrition facts, it was included with the recipe. (These might fluctuate based on the size ball.)
Serving Size: 1 ball
Calories from fat: 70
Total Fat: 7.8g
Saturated Fat: 4.4g
Total Carbs: 13.1
(written by Susanna and Lauren)
When we went to Grandmama’s house for Thanksgiving, we picked up pecans at a friend’s orchard. Here are some thing’s that we learned:
The pecans grow on huge trees (about 3 feet in diameter).
They use a shaker on a tractor to shake the trees. (It has huge “arms” about 4 feet off the ground to shake it.)
We picked our pecans up by hand…and filled buckets and bags. But the man who owned the orchard did have a gatherer that would rake the pecans up and fill burlap bags.
Once gathered, the pecans are dumped on to a sorter that blew out the sticks, leaves, and empty shells.
After we got them gathered we took them to a business that cracks pecans. They set the machine to the size of our pecans and then it cracked every single pecan one at a time.
After they were cracked, we picked the nut out of the shells. A good return is 50%! If you gather 20 pounds, you’ve done well if you have 10 pounds left to eat.
When you harvest pecans, you must show diligence. It is good to remember this verse: 🙂
“…if any would not work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thess. 3:10