A Week with the Wilkes Team!

Oftentimes we reach low points in life’s journey – the crossroads of major decisions or the valleys of trial which effect so much of our lives. It has been said that “you are either in the middle of a trial, you’ve just come out of a trial, or there’s a trial just around the corner.” But in between the seasons of tribulation and testing, our kind and gracious heavenly Father is faithful to provide the mountaintops – the uplifting and encouraging peaks which comfort the spirit and refresh the soul.  Such was the week that we recently enjoyed with the Wilkes Team: a mountaintop which allowed us a fresh glimpse of the path beyond, and filled us with renewed vision and fervor to press onward again. From watching and learning about their chickens, to eating fabulous meals, to participating in the Independence Day parade, to having family devotions, to helping weed the garden and paint the barn, every moment was filled with laughter, good conversation, and fellowship. What a joy it is to spend time with likeminded believers! Thank you, Wilkes Team, for your hospitality once again, and for your constant encouragement in our family! We consider ourselves some of the wealthiest people alive to call you our friends! May the Lord return a thousand fold the blessings we have received at your hands!

The poultry yard was quite entertaining!

Our little ones enjoyed playing with the chickens :)The ducks could be quite funny!Maybe that rooster will leave Kenan alone for a little while!Titus - ever the animal lover!IMG_2677

Music, of course, played a part in the week.

Victoria really enjoyed the grand pianoBrother/sister relationships are so precious

There was lots of fun around the various projects…

Getting ready for the paradeThey were SUPPOSED to be cooking.......... ;-)

…and fireworks on Fourth of July were a “blast!” Open-mouthed smile

Mr. Wilkes' favorite firecrackers cause movement to look robotic.... so we had a lot of fun with that. :-DMr. and Mrs. Wilkes plan their 10-second showIt didn't take long for everyone to figure out that Jessi was the queen. :-DGetting ready to pop....Lining up with sparklers for a turn at the lighter

We can’t forget the mealtimes – delightful for more than one reason!

Lots of fresh produce from the Wilkes' garden!IMG_2973ParentsKids :)IMG_3187

And some of our favorite times were helping them with their ongoing projects around the barn!

IMG_2984IMG_3178IMG_2986Some of us painted trim........while others of us painted people! :-D (No, really, they were GREAT helpers!!)IMG_3166IMG_3174

We got some miscellaneous fun shots, too. Smile

Looks like it was a good conversation! ("Babysitting" the neighbor's goats)Yes, that really IS sweat running down his face and spotting his shirt, but he didn't seem to mind.From behind, it was really hard to tell these two apart!We even got them mixed up from the front sometimes! What sweet sisters in Christ!

Family Encouragement Float for the Fourth!

A few weeks ago we were able to spend several days in Northern VA with our dear, dear friends, the Wilkes Team. One thing we have always appreciated about them is their heart for ministry, whether that be to each other, their neighbors, their community, their church family, or us! We were with them for the 4th of July, and once again they concocted an idea to reach out and minister to those around: through a Family Encouragement Float at the Culpeper Parade!

Keep in mind that none of us had ever done this before. Smile Thus, as it got down “to the wire” and we had only an hour and a half left before it was time to be lining up at the parade, we saw a very obvious manifestation of the Lord’s blessing and what team work can do when the team is of one heart and mind! Lunch had yet to be finished, signs to be made, people to be dressed, candy to be attached to flyers of encouragement, a plan for how the float would actually look to be arranged (kinda important Winking smile), and much more, but all got done in record time as each individual pitched in with their unique giftings and abilities and worked with the joy of the Lord flowing from them! Our goal was to have the float communicate a message of hope and encouragement to families, since they are the indispensible building block of society! As goes the family, so goes the nation…

Our "thinking" committee... :)The washing crew - getting the truck in ship shape!

Aunt Summer did a great job with the small postersBeautiful

Writing 15-foot banners for the sides of the floatIMG_2715

The counsel of godly grandparents is vital to the continued survival of the Christian familyMom and Daniel - getting it "just right"

Gathering for a time of prayer and heart preparation before setting out

We had a traveling orchestra :)Strong marriages are essential

Jenny and Lauren - vibrant testimonies!Another example of a marriage submitted to God, thus making it a radiant one!

Some rode on the float... others walked beside it to pass out the goodies :)Matthew - our chauffeur

Reach out to those around youSpreading encouragement through music

God save the USA!There is JOY in serving Jesus Christ!

IMG_2787Two little light-bearersBuddied up :)

Tomorrow's forefathers...The mothers of the next generation


There is nothing like working together as families to encourage other families! Praise the Lord for holding off the rain for the parade and allowing us the opportunity to reach out to the people of Culpeper! God is good! 

Thank you, Wilkes Team, Uncle Nathan and Aunt Summer, and Grandpa and Grandma Wilkes for including us in your family and letting us be a part of this wonderful occasion!


You never know what a day may bring forth. But one thing you can always count on, is the goodness and faithfulness of our Lord! It is because of His mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not; they are new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:22-23)

We found this to be particularly true just a few weeks ago. It is a very long story, so we won’t bore you with all the details. Smile

Mom and Dad were on their way out of town for a few days, and we were all enjoying a quiet afternoon studying for the Bible Bee. It started storming, with fierce thunder and lightning, then hail. Obviously, there was nothing we could do about it, so we continued studying. But one precaution we did think of was to have everyone put rubber shoes on. (This we do during lightning storms in case of electrical shock – it was recommended by a friend who was actually struck by lightning several years ago.)

Victoria went to the garage and noticed a funny smell,  but didn’t think much about it. But as she turned to come back in, the kitchen was full of smoke. About this time someone yelled, “FIRE!!” and people came from all parts of the house and gathered on the front porch. It was still storming ferociously, although thankfully the hail had stopped for a while. Amanda called Dad and Mom, who were an hour away, then dialed 9-1-1. She finally got to tell them where we live, despite the brief power outage in the middle of the call.

Soon our driveway was full of emergency vehicles and neighbors who came to check on us. We are very thankful for one neighbor in particular, who allowed us, soaking wet though we were, to sit in his leather interior Jeep during it all.

The firemen searched all over, looking for flames, but couldn’t find anything but smoke – fresh smoke. Attic, bonus room, garage, air handlers, oven… no signs of fire… just lots of smoke. It was probably fifteen minutes before the dryer was checked, and sure enough, that’s where it was.

Dad and Mom got home after everyone had left, and we all jumped into the cleanup process. Everything had to be wiped down. But through it all God’s hand of protection and sovereignty was evident!! “Small” things, like delaying Mom and Dad’s trip so that they were an hour closer to home, and “big” things, such as protecting all of us… we truly serve an all-powerful, merciful, and loving God! May He be glorified!

The damageIMG_2150The black on the wall was only soot - what a blessing!The fire burned through the baseboard, but didn't touch the sheetrock. And down in the hole, flames must have come within inches of the floor trusses and wiring, and there is no damage. Wow. The wonderful cleanup crewThe dryer was full of soot, but it all wiped right out.Hauling waterIMG_2199Bethany helped clean each hanger :-)Scrubbing and wiping....So true!

(And in case you are wondering, both the washer and dryer still work perfectly well and are back in full service.)

Happy 4th of July


We are blessed to have a great heritage handed down to us by great men like George Washington. Here are some quotes attributed to him that reflect his views on two very important subjects:

On Guns:

"Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurrences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace, security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good."

On God:

" It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

"To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian." [May 2, 1778, at Valley Forge]

Does anyone still identify with him? Leave us a comment and have a wonderful 4th of July weekend.

A Birthday Retreat at the Eagles’ Nest

From our extreme lack of posts, you can probably gather at least a little information about our schedule of late. Smile One of the many items on our plate has been doing the National Bible Bee as a family! If you aren’t familiar with this, it is an intense Scripture study/memorization program for young people that runs from June 1 to the end of August. Participants are divided by age into three categories and given their assignments based on that level. We have people in all three levels – to give you an idea of the intensity, I’ll just say that we older ones, in the Senior category, are striving for an in-depth study of 1 Peter and the mastery of 800 verses in just twelve weeks! It is such a joy to know that this endeavor will pay off – for God has promised that His Word will not return void, but will accomplish His purposes in each of our lives! But, as you might expect, this takes time. Smile Time we haven’t had much of recently – – nay, I should say rather that our time has been amazingly occupied!!

Anyway, we actually had a day this week where nothing was on the schedule – amazing!! (And, it happened to be my birthday!) Our creative, thoughtful mother had an idea for how to use this day to the fullest advantage as far as the Bible Bee is concerned, and make it special and memorable, so planned a trip to a local lake to study in the beauties of God’s creation. Then… it rained! Mom was an example of flexibility, and after some consultation we decided instead to take a trip to the Eagles’ Nest – a delightful retreat in the top of our Carriage House (our detached garage). Smile This unfinished, luxurious apartment fitted our needs exactly – – a place away where no phones, emails, mile-long to-do lists, instruments needing to be practiced, or other wonderful interruptions could reach us – – and we were delighted! After everyone got settled and cozy, we turned on some classical music and some fans and set to work. The Lord blessed us with a productive day in His Word, and we are all looking forward to another day set aside to return to our hideaway for some extra productivity in areas that, in the rush of life, can get neglected. (We’re already thinking about a day to just READ up there after the Bible Bee is over!) It was also a most excellent way to spend a birthday; we even took lunch up and had a grand time. Smile

Everyone needs a break periodically… So, if you are doing the Bible Bee or just have been experiencing a tightly-packed schedule, as soon as possible, plan a day to get away as a family or even alone and spend some quality time in the Word or with an encouraging book! You will come back immensely refreshed!

Thank you, Mommy, for planning such a relaxing, fun day for us all! This will go down in the book of extra-special occasions!

Hannah in her cozy spot - actually the cabinets that will be installed in the bathroom later on :)Above the stairs...Diligence in cleaning out his spot

Study hard!This was Lauren's original hide-out, but she discovered a bee's nest in there and cleared out fast! :)I had a perfect place by the window

The Eagles' Nest Cafe :)

Lauren moved in with Victoria after she spied the bees in her original areaWe don't only sing in the shower.... we study in the shower! ;)'Berty did very well with her verses!

Hangin' out - literally :):)Belle put up some extra boards around the closet she was sitting in for extra privacySunny Joy - under the eaves and the most organized of the bunch!

OrganizationA couple extra-special touches made it really comfortableThis CD (Eine Kleine Kaffeemusik II -- orginal compositions of piano, cello, and violin by the Mulfinger family) made the atmosphere perfect for studying!

** We just realized that we never got a picture of the dear one that started all of this fun! Sad smile We’ll have to do better next time! **

Driving, Day Lilies, Door-Hinges, and Dusting 🙂

Well,  once again blogging has been put to the side by more important priorities. But lest you think that we have forgotten all of you faithful readers, let me assure you that you are not forgotten. Blogging just doesn’t get as high of a priority as studying, visiting family members, practicing music, traveling around the country, hosting guests, gardening, working, or any of those other wonderful opportunities that the Lord brings across our path.

One of those such opportunities was just a couple weeks ago, when we found ourselves once again on a road trip traveling to see grandparents. It was such a great trip! The hand of the Lord was evident, even when the day before we were supposed to leave, the reverse went on our van. 

We thoroughly enjoyed working together on various projects while we were there. Dad and Mom worked outside in the heat on a project: fixing the barn doors, which were dragging the ground when you swung them open and  falling off their hinges. Most of the rest of us were busy inside doing domestic-type work. Winking smile We also enjoyed looking at the beautiful day lilies that Uncle Fudge (our step-grandfather) has on the border of the property. There are soooo many different types and colors and variegations…. and did you know that every part of a day lily is edible?Smile

We were also blessed to be able to minister in two churches that Sunday, one in Chattahoochee, FL, and the other in Bainbridge, GA. It was good to be able to spend time with extended family, grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, and friends.

Praise the Lord for each opportunity He gives us to serve others, whether it is by dusting a bookshelf or singing a song!  May God grant us the wisdom to know which opportunities to take, and then the joy and the grace to follow through with the Lord’s guidance!!

Daddy accidentally found the nest of a Southeastern Five-Lined Skink. The eggs looked and felt like large, soft jelly beansThis mother skink had more than ten eggs, and we watched her move and protect them from danger. Dad - diligently working... They're getting closer to getting the job done!! :-)Herman enjoyed working the trimmers. IMG_1879The new hinge -- looks great, doesn't it? :-)The blooming aloe plant. Aloe plants will live for many years, but once they bloom, they die, and leave their "offspring" to carry on. This particular plant has been alive for over 30 years!IMG_1890IMG_1896IMG_1899I think we can learn something from this cactus -- nothing seems to be growing too well around it.... maybe that is because of its appearance. How often do we turn others away by our countenance instead of reflecting the joy of the Lord?IMG_1902IMG_1905This day lily was called the "Icing on the Cake" because of the frills on the edges of the petals. IMG_1910Simply Beautiful!IMG_1914IMG_1915IMG_1920Everyone enjoyed the boiled peanuts -- a true southern tradition :-)Sunny Joy -- enjoying a climb up the windmillIMG_1924VictoriaHe that drinks of the water of Life shall never thirst!IMG_1926

Saturday Fun!

Last Saturday we walked a 5-K as a family! It was good exercise, nice family time, and a lot of fun.

Mommy and Sunny walking the 5-K - we didn't get very many pictures because we were too busy walking :)IMG_1702 (2)The path went along a river, and some ducks were there

Later that afternoon, we went to Wayah Bald. After we ate supper, Mommy, Susanna, Herman, Belle, Berty, and I played Hide-and-Seek in a section of tall grass with huge rocks in the middle on the very top of the mountain. I thought it was more fun to hide than to seek because the rocks and grass made tons of good spots. I also walked a tiny bit of the Appalachian trail with Amanda, Susanna, Herman, and Berty (it came across Wayah Bald). That was fun too!

The Neely Team - on Wayah Bald

Amanda looked for herbs :)Daddy fixing a yummy lunchA happy family

A tired sleeper :)Mommy was a good hider!!


On the way back down, we stopped at some buildings that  park rangers used back in the early 1900’s. There was a two-story cabin with two chimneys and front and back doors, a barn, and a small outhouse. In the yard in front of the cabin, we found a bird’s nest in a clump of grass! We have been learning about birds in science, so we enjoyed getting to see what we have been reading about in person.

The cabin"Knock knock!'"Dor logd" (door locked :))The boysMommy and Belle

The bird's nest

Daddy and Amanda getting some sasafrasMommy, Kathryn, and me

Two friendsAmanda picked herbs while Hannah "read" to her to make sure she got the right ones :) :)

Amanda let us help herIMG_1763 (2)

I really enjoyed having a day together as a family!

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

We love being together!

Three Mothers

Once a woman came upon three mothers at work. “What are you doing?” she asked them.

“I’m doing the weekly washing,” answered the first.

“I’m doing a bit of household drudgery,” replied the second.

“I’m mothering three young children who someday will fill important and useful spheres in life, and wash-day is part of my grand task in caring for these souls who shall live forever,” replied the third. Only she had caught the vision of the great work she was doing.

Taken from Verses of Virtue, The Poetry and Prose of Christian Womanhood.
Compiled and edited by Elizabeth Beall Phillips. Copyright 2007


A Sobering Responsibility

“The hour is fast approaching, on which the honor and success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding country depend. Remember, officers and soldiers, that you are free men, fighting for the blessings of liberty – that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men.”

George Washington – August 23, 1776

From 1776 by David McCullough

This week, I was reading through one of the books I had picked for the month of May and came across this quote. Though addressed to the soldiers and officers that were engaged in fighting for the control of New York back in 1776, a little pondering displayed it’s applicability to the day in which we are living now. I speak to the young people of my generation:

We are in a battle. We are fighting for the Christian family, for biblical femininity and noble manliness, for Christ-honoring marriages, for holiness within the Church, for the lives of individuals who are succumbing to the rampant lies of the adversary. This battle is not a game.

The choices we make in fighting this battle will influence our children, our grandchildren, the generations to come. We are writing tomorrow’s history2010 books. We are tomorrow’s forefathers (and foremothers).

And what are we leaving behind? Following the patterns that we are setting today, will the next generation know the Lord?

This is a sobering responsibility, but on us rests the spiritual safety of our bleeding country. Christ has made us free, and we must fight hard and stand fast so that our children might know these blessings of liberty that we enjoy. Spiritual slavery will be their portion if we do not rise up in the strength of the Lord and faithfully follow His commands.

But to apply this to every-day life… could it be that a small wrong choice could really have that amount of impact? Yes. Absolutely. My family and I have seen it happen… a godly family lets one “little” area slip, and in just a few short years they are miles from where they used to be, compromising even the “big” areas of doctrine and foundational beliefs.

2010Jesus Christ, our Commander, is the only One Who has the power to keep this from happening to each of us. He has promised complete victory to us if we will simply obey! Cling to Him… study His Word diligently… apply the truth to your heart and life even when it’s painful… take godly counsel you are given with deep gratitude… These are little steps that will help to keep you from slipping.

When you are tempted to give in to the ways of the world, remember your Commander, remember the next generation – and “acquit yourselves like men.” 

“That the generation to come might know them (the commandments of God), even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments…” Psalm 78:6-7


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