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 surveyed 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; six 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. 😉
Sunday night, we returned from our trip to Indianapolis where we recorded our patriotic program. Before 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!
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 give 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 funny 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: “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, 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!
Here we are, in Indianapolis… two days down and one to go…
Recording our patriotic program at Aire Born Studios has been a lot of fun, even with all the “bloopers” and sleepy sillies! 😀 Here are a few pictures for those of you who might wonder what’s been happening. (We will try to post more details later… but for now, we need some sleep. :):) Also, please keep in mind that it’s a little difficult to get good quality photos or videos through double panes of glass… :)) If you think of it, we would appreciate your prayers as we wrap up the recording tomorrow.
Jesus, my Savior, my God, my King,
I surrender everything.
Take my life, my heart, my all,
And on thee I’ll always call.
Hear me, Lord, and use me now
And before thee in heaven I’ll ever bow.
Send me always where you will
And I’ll forever follow still.
Deliver me from mine enemy swift,
And in Thine loving arms me lift.
Always, Gentle Shepherd, keep
Me ever from those waters deep.
All to Thee, my Savior, Friend,
Keep me always to the end.
And when I take my final breath,
Lead me through the vale of death.
I know the gentle life you gave
Has kept me from a wretched grave.
When hanging on that cross you died,
Your love for me was testified.
Rose of Sharon, blooming flow’r
Saved me with His matchless pow’r.
Just recently, some dear friends facetiously told us that our blog is their only entertainment! If that was really the case, we would think they were very deprived! However, for their sakes, we decided that we should post some more “entertaining” things!! 😀 🙂 This video was taken a few months ago…
End note: What a blessing it is that my younger siblings love to sing together – I love it when they play “church”!!! 🙂
This last week, at the generous invitation of a business colleague of Daddy’s (as well as a family friend!), Mr. Glen Traylor, we were able to take a trip to Charlotte, NC, for the annual dinner held by Illinois Tool Works (ITW). This year it was held in none other place than the NASCAR Hall of Fame! The whole place was amazing, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, even getting to “race” in the simulators. 🙂 The main room, where the actual dinner was held, was uniquely fringed by a short track lined with full-sized models of the numerous types of cars that have raced throughout the years. Beneath each model was a square sample of the type of pavement the tracks are/were made from, details for where that particular track was/is located, as well as the slant of that track. (We actually stood – or attempted to stand 🙂 – on the “current” slope that racers are using, which was a tilt of 36 degrees! Sounds pretty easy, but was kind-of painful on the ankles!) As I sat in that gigantic hall, though, and I contemplated the situation we were in, and tried in vain to “soak it all up,” – for, after all, it was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience – the thought fleeted across my mind that none of this, in light of eternity, really matters. How easy it is for us to lose sight of our goal and become consumed with things that are temporal! The question comes to mind: If I were faced with the choice today, would I choose to have my name remembered and glorified in this Hall of Fame because I gave my life, my very all, for a sport that’s as neat as racing, or to have my Creator’s Name magnified and exalted because, by His matchless grace, my name was among that “great cloud of witnesses,” – and present in the “Hall of Faith”?? What would YOU choose?
The opportunity to visit NASCAR is something we will probably never forget! It was a ton of FUN, and we are all incredibly grateful for the opportunity and privilege of attending. Thank you, Mr. Traylor!
But today, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God…” (Colossians 3:1-3)
“Oh no! Dad’s on his way home, and we don’t have supper started yet!!!”
Although we TRY to keep our menu planned in advance and meals prepared in plenty of time, these words do ring through our house occasionally – normally on days when we’ve been exceptionally busy with school or other projects, such as spring cleaning, produce-preserving, etc. Dad’s commute from work is only about fifteen minutes, so that doesn’t leave much time for food prep, much less checking the pantry to see if we even have all the ingredients! So when a situation like this occurs, what can we do???
For times like this, it’s always good to have a backup plan – easy meals that use staple foods from your pantry.
I’m sure that you have certain “staple” foods at your house – things that you generally always have in the pantry or freezer. Yours are probably different from ours, and ours are different from the next person’s. At our home, we almost ALWAYS have grits, sugar, eggs, cheddar cheese, salt, peanut butter, and “baby” carrots. We also keep milk and flour and pasta, green beans, salsa, and applesauce. Furthermore (for those of you who want to know what REALLY makes the Neelys panic), it is an officially declared State of Emergency when we use up the last of the chocolate chips!!! (Hmmm……maybe I shouldn’t have just admitted that……)
Anyway, back to my point…
Keep a mental (or if you’re more organized, a written) list of “backup meals” – those things that you keep the ingredients for and can efficiently pull out of your barns and storehouses for a quick and delicious repast. We have a few of those, one of which I’m going to share here. It only has three main ingredients – the sauce has a few more – and these items are all staple foods at our house, making this recipe great for a quick fix. (I think it was actually developed on one of those rushed-prep nights…)
Easy Chicken Quesadillas
10 10” flour tortillas
4 c. chopped or shredded cooked chicken*
4 c. grated cheddar cheese
Hot sauce:** (I invented this while trying to copy a restaurant sauce that I like. I was unsuccessful at duplication, but our people love it anyway!)
3/4 c. sour cream
2 T. salsa
1 t. hot sauce (like Tabasco or Texas Pete)
1/4 t. red pepper
1/4 t. salt (optional)
Lay out five tortillas on baking trays. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of chicken on each tortilla, then sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheese on top of the chicken. (Use all the chicken and cheese.) Mix together all hot sauce ingredients; spread the remaining tortillas with sauce (as much or as little as you prefer). Place each tortilla, sauce side down, on chicken tortillas. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are golden and cheese is melted. Cut and serve with sour cream, salsa, and remaining hot sauce. Enjoy!
*Anytime we are cooking chicken in any form – grilled, boiled, baked, etc. – we try to make some extra. Then we chop the leftovers and freeze them in plastic bags, ready for spur-of-the-moment meals like this one. It is also extremely handy for recipes that only call for “1/2 cup of cooked chicken” or some other small increment.
**This makes a mildly hot sauce which our whole family enjoys. You can adjust the amounts of pepper or Tabasco sauce to suit your taste. It also makes a good dip for tortilla chips.
Imagine the tantalizing, inviting aroma of down-home country cooking…
… the sweet, buttery taste of warm cinnamon rolls…
… and the cool, creamy refreshment of homemade strawberry shortcake!
Then put the delicious food together with a clean, inviting atmosphere, friendly staff, and impeccable service. There! You have it in a nutshell:
Mary Mac’s Tea Room.
Located in downtown Atlanta, GA, Mary Mac’s Tea Room was started in 1945 by Mary McKenzie in the rough days of the post-WWII era. She operated the restaurant until the early 1960’s, when a lady by the name of Margaret Lupo bought it and began to expand the business. By the time Margaret’s hand-picked successor, John Ferrell, took over in 1994, Mary Mac’s was the only one of at least sixteen other tea rooms remaining in downtown Atlanta.
We had the privilege of visiting Mary Mac’s last week, and enjoyed it immensely. The food was delicious; the pictures we took can’t possibly do it justice! One of their specialties is the sweet rolls – soft, buttery, filled with cinnamon and sugar, and hot out of the oven! We also loved the chicken’n’dumplings, pot likker and cracklin’ cornbread,* fried okra, and sweet potato souffle! Everything we were served was delicious – just like a big homemade dinner!!
The service was also wonderful. We had a great waiter who made sure we were well cared for, and several other members of the staff came around to greet us. But one of the best – and most unique! – things about Mary Mac’s is their Goodwill Ambassador – a sweet, grandmotherly lady who walks around the restaurant, chatting with customers, and giving each guest a back-rub!! What a way to enhance a meal! Of course, Dad loved it… and I think he got two or three back-rubs throughout the course of our visit. 😉
We would highly recommend if you’re ever traveling through the Atlanta area that you stop in and pay them a visit. Or if you live in the area, you have even better reason to check it out – we’re sure you won’t be sorry! 🙂 You can get on their website and take a look at the menu before-hand… which might be a smart idea. Since it’s full of mouthwatering options to choose from, you’ll be thankful if you walk in with some idea of what you want! Then you can just relax and enjoy……… 🙂
We had a fantastic evening at Mary Mac’s Tea Room! They treated us like family and gave us a true taste of genuine Southern hospitality! Thank you, Mary Mac’s!!
*Just for those of you who don’t know what pot likker is: it’s the broth off of boiled peas or greens. This was from turnip greens and was fantastic! Most of us didn’t even know what it was when we went into the restaurant, but we came out better educated and definitely looking forward to the next time we could enjoy this southern delicacy. If you’ve never had it, it is a must-try!!
*First off, you should know that even though this SAYS that it’s posted by Jessica, we (Amanda AND Jessica) are sitting here, writing this together. 🙂 Also, we MEANT to write this and get it posted the week that we got home. We’re a little late… but better late than never, right??? Anyway, on to the story…
Should we? Or shouldn’t we? Do you think it is really the best time? In a way, the details aren’t falling into place… yet, in another way, they are. How do we know what is the Lord’s will?
These questions were buzzing through our minds a few weeks ago. A friend had mentioned a Desktop Publishing class that was being held at Verity Institute in Indianapolis, IN. We had been looking around and praying for the Lord to direct us to the right course, as some of our current activities involve graphic design. This seemed like the perfect answer to prayer… except for some rather large logistical problems blocking our path. While we thought it was a wonderful opportunity, we didn’t know if it would work out. When we first heard about it, it was about a month away.
So life went on as normal, and thoughts of the class got pushed to the “back burner.” That is, until the week before, when we realized that if we were indeed considering it, we should do just that… think and pray about it. We (Amanda and Jessica) were the two that would go, and neither of us felt strong leading one way or the other. And neither did Mom and Dad. About four days before the class began, our friend contacted us again, telling us that there were only two more available slots in the class. We continued thinking, talking, and praying. Still, no one felt directed one way or the other. Three days before class began, another friend called, telling us that if we decided to go, we could ride home with her, since she was going to be in Indy that week, too. It seemed that so many details were falling into place, yet there was still so many more details to work out… and time was rapidly running out.
Thursday morning at breakfast, Dad said that if we wanted to go, it was perfectly fine with him, and that he would get Greyhound tickets for us to get there. But it wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that we had confirmation that we actually were going… and we had to leave at 4:30 Friday morning. This whole episode was a lesson in flexibility, patience, and trust while waiting on the Lord’s direction and timing.
Our wonderful family helped us with the “speed packing.” (We actually did pretty well with that; we only forgot a couple little things… like toothpaste……)On Friday, we were ready to go and pulling out of the driveway at, well… it was really early in the morning. Dad and Sunny went with us to the bus stop, which was about one and a half hours away. We were both very excited about the trip, what we would learn, and the opportunities that would arise. Little did we know what the Lord had in store!
Our first bus arrived at 7:15, the driver got out, and Dad went over to talk to him. We had heard that there would be forty extra seats… but there was negative one. In other words, the bus was full, one person was already standing, and there were four people waiting to get on. So, we stood for the first twenty minutes of the trip. That was the first of many adventures.
Throughout the day, we had a couple witnessing opportunities which were very eye-opening, and although we felt inadequate for some of the questions we were asked, the whole experience helped strengthen our faith and trust in the Lord. We also had an unexpected bus transfer, and another time almost missed our bus. More adventure…
We arrived safely in Indianapolis, and walked in on our almost-asleep roommates at 10:30pm. :/ (They were very gracious, though. :)) We had four wonderful roommates that week, and we were all there for the DTP (Desktop Publishing) class. God definitely put us there together for a reason – the fun and fellowship were wonderful!
Class began at 11:30 on Saturday, with an introduction to Adobe Photoshop. (We were very blessed to have our friend, James Staddon, there as the teacher’s assistant. His technical and moral support were a huge blessing to us all!) That was a great time, and was just the beginning of that incredible week…
But we do realize that as much as the week meant to us, you probably don’t want to hear all the nitty-gritty details and stories of what took place. We’ve probably already bored a lot of readers. So we’ll try to give a short synopsis 🙂 :
From Monday morning until Friday evening, most of us were in the computer room from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. (with meal breaks), cramming our heads as full as we could get them! Mr. Ritchie was a great teacher – he made us feel “at home” using InDesign and he gave lots of little illustrations and stories in the lessons. He also threw in several jokes for good measure, just to lighten the loads of information. 🙂 We learned lots of new words, or new meanings to old words, such as: track, kern, lead (not pencil lead), serif, CMYK and RGB, clone, mask, eyebrow, ear, and gutter. We also learned the nine steps to graphic design, the eleven design rules, the six categories of font, the six ways to build contrast with font, the difference between white and black space (we’re not talking about color here!!), the different types of page and text organizers, and SO much more!!!
By the time we all split ways at the end of the week, we had gained new information, new ideas, and best of all, new friends with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of our absolute favorite times from the week were when our group was sitting around the dinner table, fellowshipping with others of like precious faith. We count it a huge blessing and privilege that we were allowed that opportunity! May every one of us use all that we’ve learned to bring God glory!!!
Back in January, I was riding home in our cousin’s car from taking a tour with them of Accurate Innovations, the company my dad works for. Uncle Dan, Aunt Lisa, and our cousins David, Brian, Rachel, and Samantha, had come down for the first time in eight years – and what a joy to have them! As we started for home, I noticed a book tucked behind the seat, entitled Do Hard Things. With David’s permission, 🙂 I picked it up and began to read. I only got through the first two chapters or so, but was enthralled! Written by nineteen-year-old twins Alex and Brett Harris, I was amazed with the amount of convicting truth they presented in their message to today’s teen-age young people. Soon after that, I put Do Hard Things on my “hope to get” list, and my parents gave it to me for my birthday. I finished it a few weeks ago, and, though I can’t agree with everything mentioned in the book, the Lord has greatly used it to show me many areas that I have been shrinking back in fear from doing hard things.
So, what is it?
Basically, it is a call to young people to use their youth – their days of strength – for accomplishing HARD things for God’s glory. This has been the pattern throughout history, but somehow, today, we young people have fallen outrageously short, and are even being encouraged, directly or indirectly, to do so. Alex and Brett coined a term for the change they are encouraging us to make: Rebelution. Defined: a teenage rebellion against low expectations. In my opinion, the idea of a rebelution is something that all, not just those between the age of 13 and 19, should take to heart.
Our culture is flooded in low expectations.
By God’s grace, we must begin the raise those expectations. It begins here and now, in our own lives, or it will never happen. Our expectations and goals shouldn’t be based on the society around us, but on the principles and patterns of maturity and godly character found in Scripture, and then we must act upon them.
Our children will thank us someday.
Here are some categories of Hard Things the Harris twins have identified, and some of my favorite things they said about each one:
I. That first scary step: how to do hard things that take you outside your comfort zone.
God works through our weaknesses to accomplish His big plans.
Courage is not the absence of fear.
You can’t get to success without risking failure.
What could your life look like if your trust in God overcame your fears?
How could your life be different if you chose to do hard things outside of your comfort zone?
II. Raising the bar: how to do hard things that go beyond what is expected or required.
We recommend that rebelutionaries do three hard things that go above and beyond what our culture expects and take us closer to what God expects: 1. Do what’s hard for YOU. 2. Be known for what you do (more than for what you don’t do). 3. Pursue excellence, not excuses.
We can identify complacency in our lives by asking ourselves the following hard questions and then answering them honestly:
-What areas of my life do I not care about that I know I should care about?
-In what areas have I fallen short of God’s standards and my own potential?
-In what areas have I settled for just “getting by” when I know I could do better if I really tried?
-In what areas have I decided that things “will always be this way” without ever putting in the kind of effort that really changes things?
III. The Power of Collaboration: how to do hard things that are too big for you to do alone
Don’t overlook home field advantage – family is a God-designed vehicle for collaboration that most miss, even though we’re right in the middle of it.
Credit is free if you give it away. One of the common dangers we’ve come across is that pride (for example, looking for credit or taking offense when we feel overlooked) often sabotages team efforts. What to do? We recommend dealing quickly and respectfully with hurt feelings… and establishing a team code that says, “Credit is free around here, and we GIVE it away!”
Together we can accomplish great things for God, starting today… Pray and plan. Then go for it.
IV. Small Hard Things: how to do hard things that don’t pay off immediately.
Small hard things are the individual repetitions – like a single push-up. They are seemingly insignificant by themselves but guaranteed to get results over time.
Every action, no matter how small, is defining our future harvest…If we’re willing to strive for excellence, even in the boring, repetitive tasks and responsibilities that others delegate or neglect, we will reap the powerful benefits that others miss. Embracing small hard things can make a radical difference.
Your actions… can bring honor and glory to God if you are willing to throw yourself into them 100 percent just because they’re things He has given you to do… The fact that you face those unwanted tasks is not a mistake; it’s an opportunity. And, because God is good, by doing what He has put before you with all your heart, regardless of whether it appears significant or not, you will find yourself benefited and strengthened, ready for the next big thing.
V. Taking a Stand: how to do hard things that go against the crowd
… We need wisdom to understand how to properly evaluate each situation so that we can stand at the right time, for the right thing, and for the right reasons.
If a challenge comes to mind, don’t ignore it. Take a first rebelutionary step. The hard thing you’re contemplating may be the biggest, most difficult, and most rewarding hard thing you’ve ever done. Don’t miss this good thing God is inviting you to do, and don’t tell yourself it doesn’t matter.
Doing what is right always matters – and it matters now.
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.