Life. A common word in our everyday language, but have you ever stopped to ponder exactly what it means?

Perhaps for some, thoughts about life abound in the spring, for that is when the silent, cold, harshness of winter is slowly transformed into scenes bursting with activity, warmth, and beauty. Perhaps when your birthday rolls around each year, you contemplate just how quickly your life is passing. Or maybe you think of life as, for the first time, you cuddle a precious, perfect little baby, or stand by the coffin of a loved one whose life has just been terminated by illness.

Whatever life means to you, and in whichever form you choose to think of it, all life can be traced to a particular source – a common denominator – which can be encountered with almost no effort. The greatest tragedy of the ages is that many spend their days without ever discovering this vital center, the very essence of why they exist. But the evidence is all around them!

The meaning of life is found in the Author of Life, the Almighty One Who spoke it into existence, gave His own life for the sake of those who were dying, conquered death by coming back to life, and even now sustains the life that is within every living thing! “For in him we live, and move, and have our being…” (Acts 17:28) During His life on earth, Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6) He alone holds the key to life eternal, as well the purpose for which we are here.

Have you ever thought of life from God’s perspective? For instance, when you think of human life, do you realize that, because it was created by God, it is sacred and a gift from Him? How often we violate this truth! It should make our hearts burn with anguish when we hear and witness how our wayward culture seeks to thwart life, which is so immensely precious, beautiful, and valued by our God! Do we realize that it is our pride that has caused us to devise every sort of biomedical nightmare imaginable to destroy what God has sanctified, because we view it as inconvenient, expensive, or “our right?” Life must be defended. When we try to manipulate or annihilate the blessing of life, we are unconsciously destroying ourselves and rejecting one of greatest gifts God has given to man.

Scripture is also clear that the words we speak communicate either death or life to the hearers. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21) From this verse we can clearly perceive that the words we say in everyday conversation are tremendously puissant. Can you recall a time that you have been deeply hurt by a careless comment, a cutting joke, or the slicing sarcasm in someone’s tone? The force of their spoken words is obvious from the sting you might still feel at the memory. But the best news of all is that positive, uplifting words are even more compelling, because the power of an almighty, loving, compassionate God is behind them. Some of the noblest deeds in history have been possible simply because the doer of them was inspired by a kind word of encouragement. I am sure you can testify that, in the past, when someone has paused with a thoughtful word for you in the midst of a difficult project, you returned to it with greater enthusiasm and excitement than ever before! Words like these are refreshing, more so than a cup of cool water in the scorching heat of summer. Make it your goal to use your lips to be communicator of life – a fountain of blessing and inspiration. You can never know the lasting results they might have!

The greatest aspect of life, however, can be traced to the moment when an individual decides to take Christ’s death for sin, the ultimate payment, as his own, repents of his sin, and receives the sure promise of eternal life someday in Heaven. At this point, abundant life is imparted to the new believer, meaning that he is given a purpose and a special meaning for which to devote his entire being! Now on this journey, often known as the Christian Life, this individual can and must come daily to Jesus for the renewal of this life, which He has promised to bestow when earnestly sought for. This hidden energy should then be showered upon others – a living manifestation of the love, goodness, grace, power, and working of God.

As you go about your everyday duties, take a moment to contemplate your life, and then pause to acknowledge the Giver of Life and praise Him for the blessings He so richly lavishes on you, His beloved creation.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Energy Swap

Have you ever considered that fellowship with other believers is sort-of like an energy swap? The power and joy of the Lord working in the lives of His children generates this unique, beautiful strength, and so when families get together for small periods of refreshment, and each individual has a focus first on Christ, and then on how he can bless those around him, the possibilities for the ways this energy can be exchanged are immeasurable!

What a privilege to have the Wilkes Team here for a few days!! The entire visit was truly one ginormous energy exchange (cross between ‘gigantic’ and ‘enormous’ :)), as each individual shared freely from the abundant stores God has given. Gifts of testimony, praise, song, creativity, enthusiasm, and service were unrelentingly passed from person to person, until, in the end, we all came away completely filled up and ready to press on in life’s race.

A glorious meeting!!BuddiesExploring

Sarah's camera was quite the hit :) Sweet sisters   Fun with the manger scene

Motherly conversation During a relaxing afternoon, we enjoyed reading together.Team leaders      

One particular highlight for everyone on this visit was the night when our wonderful parents took the opportunity for a “double date,” leaving the other 19 of us at home alone. 🙂 We declared it to be National Opposite Night, where we ate piping-hot soup from a cup with our least-trained hand, drank from bowls, and ate dessert on the kitchen floor. Ahhhh…. memories! 🙂

We listened as Josh explained the "rules" for dinner...... Amanda ladled soup into CUPS!

  Dessert on the floorStory time with Mr. Josh

Another important feature of our days together was all the time we spent reading the Word, discussing what we’d read and many other aspects of the Christian life, singing the praise of our God, and coming before Him in prayer. These four elements helped to keep His goodness continually before our eyes, and kept us acknowledging Him in all of our ways. (Proverbs 3)

"Here is Love" - a beautiful duetVictoria and JessiSarah and Susanna

"The Old Rugged Cross""Nearer, Still Nearer"A cello duet upon Mr. Wilkes' request :)

Part of the string ensembleSisters in the Lord

Through much perseverance and creativity...Daniel FINALLY won a friend!

Midnight madness :):)Close friends           

Thank you, once again, Wilkes Team, for being so willing to let the Lord use you to influence, encourage, and refresh us. May we all go forward with the mindset of being fountains of energy, bubbling with the joy of Jesus – so that others will be drawn to Him, and He gets the glory!

While waiting to get this picture, the whole group erupted into beautiful melody. Singing in the stairwell is now a favorite!Height order...

Age order!   It all started with you - Thank you!! We love you all!

We look forward to many more such times together!!

A Family Hunt

On the day after Thanksgiving, we had the chance to go on a family hunting trip in Georgia on some of our relatives’ land. When we got there, we sat in our 12-person, brown hunting-blind in the middle of the hay field. Daddy had a gun, and the rest of us watched for deer.  During the afternoon, we killed two deer and a pig!! When Daddy shot the gun, he was out of the van,  and for the second deer and the pig he propped his gun on one of the hay bales in the field. With the deer, he didn’t take any extra ammo, though, so he ran out! He signaled to Mommy and she went softly scooting toward him with more. The rest of us were still sitting in the van watching the whole thing, and we thought that she looked like a pioneer woman from years ago, helping her husband kill food for the family.  The deer ran away when he shot it, and it was almost dark, so we had to track it with flashlights. We had so much fun! Daddy, Mommy, and the little ones gutted it, while Amanda, Jessica, Kathryn, Victoria,and I walked in the dark back to where the pig was. We took a strap and tied it to the feet. Amanda, Kathryn, and Victoria had fun dragging it while Jessi took pictures and I guided them with the light.  When we got it there, we wrapped it in a plastic raincoat and put it in the back of the van. Smile We had to put the two deer on top of the van!

I am glad Daddy had this wonderful idea! We enjoyed the trip getting there, and LOVED hunting together. (Gutting the deer and having a science experiment was fun too! Smile) I can’t wait to get to do it again!









Fun in the “Honey Hole”

My shoulder felt like someone was sticking a knife into it. The temperature was only in the 40’s or 50’s, but sweat beaded in my hairline and ran down my back. As we neared the edge of the woods, my breath came heavily and I stumbled a few times. Ahead of me, Dad moved easily and quickly, carrying the other end of the 10-foot pole from which hung my latest kill. I grinned in triumph and excitement. Several times, Dad asked me how I was doing, but I couldn’t complain. We had a deal: I would haul anything we killed as far as we needed to get it, if he would do the gutting for me. I had the easy part. 🙂 So we marched on in the near dark, carrying our prize between us, like victorious hunters of olden days. The doe was small, not much larger than our Labrador retriever (although her dead weight (literally!) made her seem a little larger :)). We laughed as we walked: of the five deer that I’ve been able to bring down, the biggest probably didn’t weigh more than 100 pounds. But this had been a perfect shot, and we were content, in spite of the small size. This was fun!

I love this picture of my hunter dad - the way I see him whenever he takes me in the woods!This is just one story from my first visit to one of Dad’s all-time favorite hunting spots. Dad invited me to go along with him this trip, and I loved it! He even generously let me hunt his “honey hole!” 🙂 When we walked into the woods before dawn that Friday morning, we had a plan: stay in the tree until you shoot something or until it gets too dark to see anything. That day was very interesting; as I sat in my tree stand thirty feet high, I was able to observe God’s creation in a way that I had never seen it before. Some of the most memorable things were watching a hawk tantalize and then draw a whole flock of crows after it in a hubbub of hoarse squawks and shrill screams, watching another hawk light in a tree a little bit in front of me and then drop a squirrel into the creek below before taking off again, and sitting spellbound as a little deer bed down about thirty yards in front of me!! (For those of you who might be wondering, yes, I did shoot it a little later… after he stood up again. :)) I also encountered what I considered to be somewhat of a small phenomenon. Whenever we walked through the woods in the dark with only our flashlights, I could see hundreds of little green “sparks” all over the ground, but they disappeared beneath leaves and brush when we got too close. Curious about what this might be, I watched quickly, and to my amazement, I saw that the “sparks” were actually spiders’ eyes reflecting light in the dark, just like deer, cats, and dogs do! I know that probably gives some people the willies (i.e. some of my family members thought I was crazy to enjoy that), but I think it was a pretty cool discovery… as long as the spiders stay on the ground. 🙂 In the day and a half that we hunted, I probably saw 15-20 deer – beautiful! – as well as redheaded woodpeckers, hawks, squirrels, and other miscellaneous critters. Someday I want to go back – out of season, maybe when it’s a little warmer – climb the tree, and observe just for the fun of it.

Friday brought in my two small deer, and Dad’s 150-pound feral boar. Although we didn’t actually get anything on Saturday, we had a good time – outside, enjoying the stillness of the woods and the beauty of God’s creatures. I had a lot of fun with the hunting aspect of the trip (after all, one of my favorite seats is a tree stand!), but I especially loved being with Dad! We had a wonderful time, and I’m ready to go again next time my turn rolls around; although with all the stories we brought back, I now have several siblings lobbying to go!! Hmmm… too many hunters to go at once… what a great problem to have, huh? 😉

Huzzah! The first kill of the day! If you look close, you might see the "buttons" on his head. :) Dad with his boar and blond laminate Accurate Innovations stock. Drop Dead Gorgeous, Amazingly Accurate! It was dark... the flash was bright... but this little doe was too pretty not to show!

A Day of Gratitude

On this day set aside for thanksgiving, may our hearts be lifted up in deep gratitude to the Lord for all He has done!

Dad read this to us this morning at breakfast:


“When ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord, offer it at your own will.” Leviticus 22:29

One day, while paying my electric bill, I decided to thank the company for the service they were providing me. “Thanks for my electricity,” I said, “It’s really quite a bargain for all the benefits I receive.” “What!” said the lady behind the counter, in amazement, “That’s the first time anyone has ever thanked us. All I ever heard around here are complaints.”

It’s a challenge to grow up with a thankful heart. From an early age we are exposed to a culture of complainers, gripers, grumblers, and critics. We complain about the weather, traffic, food, work, neighbors, bills, the government, church, and life in general. Worst of all, we are ungrateful toward God. It would be hard to count the number of complaints and criticisms that are daily spoken before Him and against Him. How can we, who have received so much, be thankful for so little?

One of the great indicators of true spirituality is not measured by how many times we go to church, how big our Bibles are, or how long we pray, but it is measured by the level of gratitude that is in our hearts. When we are ungrateful, the heart of God is saddened, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and the joy of the Lord is quenched within us.

Being thankful sweetens you, grumbling sours you; being thankful brings sunshine to your countenance, being ungrateful casts a shadow; being thankful brings a melody to your words, criticism makes you sound like a clanging cymbal; being thankful keeps your feet on the pathway of celebration, complaint takes you down the road of despair.

When our hearts are filled with gratefulness, we may feel like our thanksgiving is always appropriate. It will gladden the heart of God to hear your heartfelt thanks being freely offered to Him today.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Neely Team!!

18 Things We’ve Learned from Our Brothers

100_3217IMG_2018 - Copy 

Ø Top-bunk beds make good diving boards into imaginary swimming pools made of excess pillows and blankets

Ø You cannot ride five stick horses at once

Ø If you splash the bath water hard enough, you can soak the one who’s bathing you

Ø Behind the phone stand in the corner is a good home for baseball bats

Ø Stuffed monkeys like to climb onto ceiling fan blades (and will stay there until they are removed by room cleaners)

Ø It’s not funny when binkies, toys, and important papers get placed in the trash can

Ø No matter how hard you try, you cannot drive away from Dad in a parked car

Ø Quarters are not edible

Ø Bungi-cords are good van toys when strung on the hanger hook with a water bottle on one end

Ø Step stools and/or rocking chairs turned up-side-down and filled with pillows make nice tree stands for hunting, just like Dad’s and Big Sister’s

Ø Supportive poles in the basement are also good places for hunters

Ø A desk lamp on the floor shining into your little sister’s mouth is very similar to the one used by the dentist

Ø Bowls of chocolate pudding are fun to play in

Ø Tractors are no longer called “tractors”; they are now called “brr brrr brrrr”

Ø If you scare your sister bad enough, she will jump three feet in the air before losing all of her limbs (in appearances at least)

Ø Sisters in deep concentration at the piano and/or violin are good targets for scaring

Ø Toy guitars have small holes which are fun to put things in

Ø Live hermit crabs are hard to get out of toy guitars

Note: if you have learned something that you want to add to this list, please do so in the comment section. Thank you!


(Of this site at least)

Smiles from Central NC

This weekend we enjoyed the blessing of having the Stelzl family here once again!! With every visit from friends, I am discovering anew the manifold beauty, richness, and delight of fellowship in Christ!

A couple highlights: practicing music as a ten-person (and three-part) ensemble and then singing two arrangements together in church on Sunday, hiking a beautiful, sometimes thornySmile trail up a mountain at Fires’ Creek, taking a tour of the gun stock plant where Dad works, listening to harmonizing pennywhistle duets and trios, and playing Football Freeze Tag. Wherever we were, though, edifying conversation flowed freely, and it was GLORIOUS! When the weekend was over, we sat down as a family and discussed the ways we had been encouraged by this dear family. A few things that particularly stood out to me were the Stelzl’s passion to share Christ with the world, their heart for discipling others, their servants hearts, and the joy that was manifested in SO many ways. Whether they were clearing the table, about to tag you for the third time in freeze tag,Smile teaching younger ones how to draw, eating chocolate caramel ice cream cake, or relating a story of how God is at work in their church and community, smiles lit the faces everywhere. Joseph Addison was right when he stated: “What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. They are but trifles, to be sure, but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.” You just can’t help but come away encouraged when you are around someone who faithfully practices this fine art!

  IMG_7461  IMG_7474  IMG_7482  IMG_7488  IMG_7492  IMG_7494  IMG_7505  IMG_7508  IMG_7513  IMG_7521  IMG_7522  IMG_7531  IMG_7530 

Thank you, Stelzl family!

“Hello” from the Neelys!

Yes, we know, it’s been way too long since we last posted anything… sorry about that. We’ll just have to blame it on the busyness of life – because it has been CRAZY here the past few weeks!! Anyway, we wanted to at least pop in and say “hi”, just so you know that we really haven’t dropped off the face of the earth… not yet, at least. 😉 We still have a good bit going on for a while, so until we have time to post something a little more interesting, here are some clips from a couple of  the songs we recorded a few weeks ago.

Turn the Tide

Patriot’s Honor

God bless you all!!!

Of Laundry and Lyrics

I stood back and eyed the washing machine, already full to capacity, and debated whether it would hold the last few items. Deciding that it probably wouldn’t complain about a little more, I picked up the last couple skirts, crammed them into the machine, and pushed the door shut. After filling the compartment of detergent and starting the wash cycle, I turned around and Sunny and Cocoa at the school desksurveyed the mountains of dirty laundry around me. (Well, at 10:00 at night after a busy week and long day of traveling, it SEEMED like mountains!) Laundry baskets were stacked high with multicolored articles of clothing. Skirts, shirts, and pants were piled on the floor, and hangers seemed to be falling out of every bag I picked up. You could hardly step into the room! I shook my head and chuckled as I calculated the cause of the  mess. Six days worth of clothing for one person is a pretty decent amount; sixHe was trying to concentrate... really... I'm sure he was! ;) days worth for twelve people… that’s seventy-two outfits (seventy-two shirts, seventy-two skirts/pairs of pants, one hundred forty-four socks, etc, etc.)!! That’s as many clothes as one person could wear in two in a half months all piled in our laundry room!!

So you’re probably thinking, “Okay, that’s really cool and everything, but…… why is all that laundry piled up in your laundry room??” Oh yeah. I was just getting to that. 😉

Victoria Sunday night, we returned from our trip to Indianapolis where we recorded our patriotic program. Kathryn tries to reorganize the messBefore I go any further, let me say on behalf of the family, thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who supported us in prayer as we worked on this project! You’ll never know what a blessing and encouragement it was to us to know that we were surrounded by friends and family who were lifting us up before the throne of grace!

Jessi We had a wonderful three days in the studio. Our engineer, Mr. Ben Vawter, was fantastic! His patience was incredible, as over and over again he would stop us to rework a rhythm or fix a pitch. His quick wit and ready humor were also great; after all, laughter is a great way to ward off those potentially stressful moments!! 🙂 We also need to giveAmanda credit to Mom, who was the behind-the-scenes manager – a huge blessing!! Our lunches were delicious, and whenever we had a quick break, she was there with snacks, water, and encouragement. Without her physical and moral support, it would’ve been a lot harder to do the project!

While the whole thing was a lot of work, we also had a lot of fun, and made a lot of memories. 🙂 Over the  course of the three days, we started writing down the Two peas in a pod... humor, anyone?? :-Dfunny little things that were said. Some things were just words that we used as part of our terminology, but which would sound a bit unusual in the “real” world, such as punch, stack, and obble-gobble (a much more fun way of saying “obbligato”). Mr. Vawter had a few oft-repeated phrases which grew to be humorous as we heard them over and over:  I love this expression!Not quite…”; “One more time!”; "Use your pretty voice."; “It’s a little pitchy.”; “I think we have a song!” (YES!! :)) And then, of course, there was the usual chat and banter: Just do it! Correct lyrics there, please. I think we should stack that part. Come on, y’all! Let’s add some sauce. Can we punch it? You’re a little under. Why don’t we just sing the song! (Wow! Imagine doing that!!) It’s a little pitchy. What’s the verdict? Oh, Something was funny...gross!! Enunciate clearly. We might need to back up and punt. What? Where? Huh?? The high part is sharp. Blend!  Your notes are chipping. Let’s punch at the beginning of the obble-gobble. WHAT?! Oops! That’s okay – we know how you meant it to sound. Put your wants aside – do what we NEED!!!

While we thoroughly enjoyed the recording  process, we are also glad to have that part of the project behind us, and now we look forward to getting it completely finished. The Lord has shown His care for so many of our little concerns already – we marvel at seeing His hand working out details in ways that we never imagined! We pray that everything will continue to come together in God’s timing and God’s way, and that everything we do will bring Him glory!

I think we wore him out. The whole team! Discipleship snare drums :) - Berty Discipleship snare drums :) - Belle Discipleship engineering! Kathryn runs the controls while Mr. Vawter "lays down" the two snare drum parts for usMr. Vawter was quite a popular person!All in a day's work! :) Mom and Berty :) Dad records one of our favorite parts!

Email Updates


  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009