String Pedagogy Workshop

Teaching stringed instruments has been a field of interest for many years, particularly teaching violin. For two of us, this dream became reality about a year and a half ago. Those two (Kathryn and I) have really enjoyed this area of ministry, have had bunches of fun, learned a ton, and asked lots of questions. Our wonderful violin teacher, Mr. Pinner, has told us over and over and over again that if we ever have any questions about teaching or any related topics, he is more than willing to help.

A few weeks ago I went to Mr. Pinner with quite a few teaching-related questions. What should I do in this situation? How would you handle this? How do you teach this? What should I do different? How can I help my student understand this concept better?

If you’ve ever taught an instrument, I’m sure you can relate. I’m so thankful that we have a teacher whose goal is to teach his students to teach, and who is ready, willing, and beyond capable of answering questions.

So with current teaching opportunities and the possibility of more, Mr. Pinner graciously offered to put together a String Pedagogy Workshop. He covered many topics including how to set up a string studio, how to mark and edit music, how to teach vibrato, dynamics, and bow control, string repair and maintenance, studio taxes, and much more!!!

Four of us Neelys participated, and we all came away motivated and excited about what the Lord has in store for us in this field of music. It was a fabulous time— worth every minute of it!!!

Thank you, Mr. Pinner, for letting the Lord use you in this way. You are an inspiration to many, and we look forward to learning more under your tutelage as the Lord allows!

Also, special thanks to the Wiginton family for hosting us for the weekend! What a blessing it was to us!

The younger ones enjoyed playing in a nearby room while class was in sessionFun timesSpecial moments100_7369The whole classLearning about maintenance and repairs100_7375Meal time = get-to-know-you-better time :-)Mr. and Mrs. Pinner --- Thank you for all you did to make this wonderful weekend possible!IMG_1183Hands-on learing :-) So much fun!!We went for a family walk to release some energy :-)IMG_1208

Strawberry Sweetness

On Monday, Kathryn and I had fun putting up 8 gallons of strawberries together! This is how we did it:

Step 1: Put strawberries in a large dishpan, and fill with cold water. Let them sit for a few minutes.

Yummy!Washing them 

Step 2: Drain the berries in a colander.

Step 3: Stem them. We used sharp knives. Take as little of the berry as possible.

You know that you haven't taken too much berry off when the pile is mostly green!Wow!Be sure to compost the strawberry tops! They are good for your garden!!

Step 4: Put strawberries through the food processor with a slicing blade. Or, you can quarter them.

Using the food processor is much faster than quartering them :)100_7393

Step 5: Put 4 c. of sliced berries in a glass measuring cup and stir 1/4 c. of sugar. Be sure to stir gently or they will get mushed.


Step 6: Pour strawberries into a labeled quart-sized FREEZER plastic bag and gently squeeze air out. Make sure you don’t get any juice on the zipper of the bag, or it will not seal and the berries will leak in your freezer!

Be sure to label your bags with the product and the date

Step 7: Place bags on a flat tray in a single layer and put in the freezer. When they are frozen, you can take the tray out.

If you don't lay them flat, they will freeze in an odd shape and will not stack nicely in your freezer. It will also be easier to get a hole in the bag.

The berries are now ready to be used in your favorite dessert or salad. We like to use them, along with a quart of frozen peaches, 1 cup of frozen blueberries, and 3-4 fresh bananas, to make a yummy breakfast.

The project was finished!!! :-)

“Who can find a virtuous woman? … She worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. (Proverbs 31: 10, 13, 14)

Would You Bee-lieve It??! !

The biggest event of our week so far has been an addition to the family. Or, perhaps I should say 60,000+ additions to the family! For a long time we have been interested in bee keeping, and because of the generosity of Mr. Brandon, our front yard and the surrounding area is now the home to five hives swarming with honey bees. We are just “housing” them for him, but this has been unbee-lievably educational and we may just have to get some of our own in the future!

Setting them up...There is something beautiful about this!It's level

It's such a joy to be in the country!This lid won't be going anywhere, thanks to the BIG rock Herman found in the ditch :)Herman

For all of our bee-keeping friends, none of this may surprise you, but for people like us, you might find this fascinating! Did you know:

– that male bees (drones) can’t sting? And that they are stung to death by the females after mating season? (Sounds feministic, if you ask me!! Smile)

– that the worker bees control the hive population by only giving the queen enough food to lay the number of eggs they want?

– that the workers select the largest larva, build a bigger cell around it, and feed it extra to make it a queen?

– that the new queen makes a special buzz before leaving her cell, announcing her arrival to the other queen and telling her to prepare for battle?

– that the “scout bees” use special body motion to tell the hive of the location and distance of food? (the angle of their movement implies direction; the duration of the motion communicates distance)

– that when the bees leave the hive, they either fly straight out, or they do an upward spiral and then fly straight?

– that a queen bee can live between 3 and 5 years?

– that the eggs hatch into larvae after three days, and the larvae turn into bees after an additional 6-8 days?

– that if you face the entrance to the hive toward the sun, the bees will leave the hive earlier in the morning?

– that if you have an excessively aggressive hive, you just replace the queen, and in a few weeks, the hive genetics will have changed? (Occasionally this doesn’t work though. Mr. Brandon once had to replace the queen 3 times and finally had to burn the hive! But that was only with REALLY mean bees… Smile)

– that honey bees have the ability to live for 2-3 years, but they work themselves to death in a few weeks?

– that the hive temperature has to be kept between 90 and 97 degrees F. or the larvae will die?

– that by flapping their wings, the bees have their own air conditioning system? And that by standing in certain positions, they circulate the air in one side of the hive, and out the other?

This stuff is fascinating!Trying some of last year's honeyIMG_1073

Four of the nine racks - without bees :)The bees were sent to Mr. Brandon in boxes with five racks eachWow!

If you look in the middle, you will see a larger bee with a white dot. She is the queen.IMG_1154We love it!

Thanks to Mr. Brandon, and City of the Bees – a  Moody Science film we found fascinating – for all of this information!

Thank you, Mr. Brandon! (obviously, the hives are empty at that point :))

“O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.”  Psalm 104:24

Who Can Find a Virtuous Woman?

In the past few weeks, we have had the opportunity to honor the birthdays of two special women… two women that have impacted our lives in many special ways.

The first was when Mrs. Staddon’s birthday fell on the day that the Staddon family arrived to help us with the NC FEW Conference! It was such a joy to make the cakes, pick out her favorite ice cream flavors, and decorate the house in her honor! Thank you, Mrs. Staddon, for the way that you portray the attributes of a woman who fears the Lord! Your diligence, transparency, faithfulness, joy, and perseverance have been a blessing to us! Your children rise up and call you blessed; your husband praises you. We pray that the Lord would give you fruit abundantly for your labors, and that your works will forever praise you in the gates! (Proverbs 31:28, 31)

When the birthday girl is sleeping at your house, you can do funny things to her bed. :):)IMG_0192  Her children rise up and call her blessed

A "Chocolate Fever" cake! Mrs. Staddon  Did you know that 34 people eat a lot of ice cream??!

Blow hard!Mmmmmm.....Special chalk-board message  

The second opportunity was through a surprise birthday party thrown for our friend Mrs. Tammy. We could never record all the ways that she has given of herself to bless us throughout the many years we have known her!  She is the kind of person who is always there for you. Many times she has watched our animals, brought us a meal (which she did last week when we were sick with severe head colds!), cut our hair whenever we decided we needed it, helped out with our big endeavors (like hosting FEW Conferences Smile), and once she helped us straighten up the house and get out the door when we had to go on a 14-hour emergency trip. Thank you Mrs. Tammy! You have inspired us to serve the Lord by serving others! We are often encouraged by your smile and contagious giggle. 🙂 May the Lord continue to give you strength, creativity, and wisdom to bless everyone you come in contact with.

Mrs. TammyHealthyYummy!

Gerber Daisies!!!The daisies were a gift from her nieceShe seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands

“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” Proverbs 31:10

Missionary Night – Austria/Germany

I love missions work – hearing about it, reading about it, experiencing it, and talking to those who are serving on the field where God has called them. I am very blessed to be in a family that loves people and hospitality, and to have parents who do everything they can to develop relationships with Godly people and meet those who are following the Lord whole-heartedly. Thus, I have the opportunity to know several missionary families who are serving every where from Florida, to Lithuania, to Mexico, Togo, Honduras, South Africa, Ireland, Uganda, Germany and Austria.

Several months ago, I wrote to our friends who are serving in Austria/Germany, Todd & Kim Lapato. I asked Mrs. Kim for a sample menu from over there – a common meal for the average people. My idea was to re-create that meal here for my family as well as I could, and have a special evening highlighting the Lapatos’ ministry while eating food from that country. (Since we enjoy food so much, I thought that might be a good way to make it more meaningful and memorable!) Her response was quick, mouth-watering, and far more detailed and thorough that I had even hoped for! So then came the next step: finding the perfect evening for our “missionary night.” For me,that was a little more difficult than the initial planning stage, and several months passed before we actually did it. (There were MANY nights that would’ve been great, except that we didn’t know that we’d be home or we didn’t have all the supplies or we just didn’t think about it until it was too late in the day to prepare everything!) However, the idea was “cooking” in the back of my mind all the while (pun intended Winking smile), and we finally did it – exactly five months after she sent me all the menu ideas and recipes!

It was great!! I enlisted Mom and Kathryn’s help, and we made schnitzel (a very thinly pounded filet of chicken that is dredged first in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs), fried potatoes, and gravy, as well as a big salad, German style. (Mixed greens on top of individual piles of corn, kidney beans, green beans, grated carrot, and thinly sliced cucumbers in the bottom of the bowl; it was served room temperature, and the dressing was plain oil and vinegar.) Our beverage was equal parts mixed of carbonated water/apple juice – very yummy! (Again, the beverage was room temp, since Europeans don’t usually use ice in their drinks.) Dessert was apple pie (as a substitute for apple strudel) and coffee. Dad even let all the kids have coffee since it was a special occasion, which was quite a treat! Winking smile

It was a delicious way to “experience” the Lapatos’ mission field, and everything was a smashing success! Smile I’ve heard several requests since then for “Austrian chicken” (schnitzel), so I know everyone really liked that. The potatoes turned out softer than I had expected, so I want to do those again and see if we can make them a little crispier. We put Montreal Steak Seasoning on them (which is a grilling seasoning with black and red pepper in it), and they were really good, although probably a little spicier than they would normally be in Austria. Some of the salad “toppings” (they STARTED in the bottom of the bowl Smile ) were a nice break from our norm, and I heard several votes to make salad like that again. We really enjoyed the whole menu, and I have a feeling that this won’t be the only time we have it!

After supper, we read an update letter from the Lapatos’, and we enjoyed hearing more about what life is like for them. We also got on their blog and read their list of prayer requests, and then prayed for each one specifically during our family prayer time. All in all, it was a fun (and delicious!) way to experience a little piece of missionary life, and we almost felt like we were “with” the Lapatos while we read their updates and prayed for them. Even though we couldn’t physically travel to Europe to see our friends, Missionary Night was a great way to take a mental journey there and visit them in spirit, while we also enjoyed some of the wonderful food like what we might have eaten if we did visit in person! The prayer time was very special, and we enjoyed having a whole evening devoted to just one family, so that we could pray more directly for their specific needs.

So what about you? Do you know anyone who is serving the Lord on a foreign field? Could you set up an evening devoted specifically to updating your family about their lives and ministry, learning about the culture they are living in, and praying for the needs that they have? Read their prayer letters and learn about their ministry. Find out what their needs are, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so that you know better how to pray for them. Contact them and ask any questions that you may have about their field or lives. Tell them that you are thinking about and praying for them, and if you are going to have a Missionary Night, tell them that, too. I promise, your interest in what they are doing will encourage them greatly, and will also be a blessing to you and your family!!

Schnitzel: BEFORE......and AFTER!!From the top, it looked like an ordinary bowl of greens......but it was quite different from the bottom! Only two ingredients required to make this yummy beverage!Apple pie worked as a substitute for apple strudel. :)

2011 NC Family Encouragement Weekend

Recently the Lord blessed our family with the opportunity to host the 2011 NC Family Encouragement Weekend Conference (FEW Conference) with the Wilkes and Staddon families!! As we all labored together to make this vision a reality, it was a delight to watch the Lord pull everything together according to His perfect plan!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

The Lord’s ways truly are far above ours, and His plans for the conference once again surpassed our imaginations! The “Conference Team” discovered that when we willingly offer ourselves to His service and surrender our will completely to His, that He loves to take our humble offering and turn it into something beautiful – of real value.

Throughout the weekend, attendees heard biblical teaching, fellowshipped with like-minded believers, and participated in Christ-honoring worship through song. During a game time for the young people on Saturday, older children were given the opportunity to disciple little ones. Special family prayer times allowed fathers to lead their families in a time of searching their hearts, confessing bitterness, and seeking the Lord.

We praise our Heavenly Father for the work that He was doing throughout the weekend! We pray that each family walked away from it encouraged to press on toward Christ-likeness by spending more time in His Word together and striving to build strong, lasting relationships within their homes.

Soli Deo Gloria!

A special challenge to all who attended:

“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…” Philippians 1:6

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of Whom thou hast learned them…” II Timothy 3:14

The Staddon family reunites!Jennifer and Matthew - burning the "midnight oil" with everyone else :)Titus with his "Mr. Daniel"

Games at midnight (or later :)) can be quite the riot!Friend + Fruit = FUN!!The planning continues...

Ready for the action to begin!Registration teamFellowship in Christ - what can be sweeter?

How we need the wisdom these possess!Checking in...

OrganizationJoy - HannahLittle ones are special to Jesus!

Joshua, Nathan, Curtis, and MatthewMotherly fellowshipAmber and Amanda - dear friends!

Tiffany and LezleyLove - Kendalyn and RobertDetermination - Daniel

Wonderful things happen around the dinner table!IMG_0271

One of the many excellent sound techniciansIMG_0280Hannah encouraged us in Scripture memory by quoting part of Colossians 3

Titus and SarahIMG_0301Dad and Mom were both able to share this time!


Susanna was a great help with the babies and little onesVictory!!"Follow Mr. James"

Donald presents "Teaching by Analogy"Hannah and Bethany :)Prayer shared between believers is precious

Orchestra!!The parents were able to do a few panel discussions/testimonies - such a blessing!

"Send Forth Thy Power"Bethany

Let brotherly love continueIMG_0498

IMG_0509James, Tim, and Mr. BarnesA.J., Kathryn, and Lauren

Sophie and LaurenBrotherly fellowship...Sisterly fellowship!

We needed everyone to help us consume the enormous number of cookies. Every bite counts! :) :)There is beauty in the simple things of lifeMatthew with some little guys

Be willing to learn - Discipleship guitar :)The Lord has great things in store for these two!Donavan and Jenny

We appreciated all the willing help from different members of these two familiesBethanyCompassion

More brotherly love!Feed your helpers :)IMG_0619

Even more brotherly love!IMG_0626The Sunday orchestra

Jenny and HannahSarah and Sarah :) :)Kris and Sheri

To see other reports and pictures, please visit:

The Wilkes Team

The Staddon Family

FEW Conference Team! Praise the Lord!!

Chosen Vessel

The Master was searching for a vessel to use;
Before Him were many; Which one would He choose?

“Take me,” cried the gold one, “I’m shiny and bright.
I’m of great value and I do things just right.
My beauty and luster will outshine the rest,
And for someone like you, Master, gold would be best.”

The Master passed on with no word at all,
And looked at a silver urn, narrow and tall.
”I’ll serve you, dear Master, I’ll pour out your wine
I’ll be on your table whenever you you dine.
My lines are so graceful, my carving so true,
And silver will always complement You.”

Unheeding, the Master passed on to the brass,
Wide-mouthed and shallow and polished like glass.
”Here! Here!” cried the vessel, “I know I will do,
Place me on your table for all men to view.”

“Look at me,” cried the goblet of crystal so clear,
”My transparency shows my contents so dear.
Though fragile, am I, I will serve you with pride,
And I’m sure I’ll be happy in your house to abide.”

The Master came next to a vessel of wood,
Polished and carved, it solidly stood.
”You may use me, dear Master,” the wooden bowl said,
”But I’d rather you used me for fruit, not for bread.”

Then the Master looked down and saw a vessel of clay,
Empty and broken it helplessly lay.
No hope had the vessel, that the Master might choose
To cleanse, and make whole, to fill, and to use.

“Ah! This is the vessel I’ve been hoping to find.
I’ll mend it and use it and make it all mine.
I need not the vessel with pride of itself,
Nor one that is narrow to sit on the shelf,
Nor one that displays its contents so proud
Nor the one that thinks he can do all things just right,
But this plain, earthen vessel, filled with power and might.”

Then gently He lifted the vessel of clay,
Mended and cleansed it, and filled it that day.
Spoke to it kindly — “There’s work you must do!
Just pour out to others, as I pour into you.”

–B.V. Cornwall

When Life Becomes More Than You Can Stand…

… kneel.

Every day we face trials. Some are bigger than others, but all tend to stretch our faith, cause some pain, and test whether or not we really believe that the Lord governs each little area of our lives!

I was flipping through one of my old journals this evening and “stumbled” across some excellent notes from a message from Mr. Scott Brown we listened to on one of our trips last summer. I hope these are a blessing to you seek to trust the Lord as He sends each struggle into your life today. Remember that each one is a specially-designed tool for conforming you into His image!


Trials are God’s gateway to far better things for your life.”

Suffering is often the only way to victory.”

Mighty trials, responded to in a righteous manner, will make you into a mighty individual for Christ.”

The Lord often disguises blessings as disasters.”

Your trials will either make you, or break you.”

The kind providences of God often arise out of our worst failures and disasters.”

“Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” Ecclesiastes 7:3

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Surfside Beach - 2010

Judas and the Door

Jesus said, "I am the Door."

While we know that it was God’s sovereign plan for Jesus to die for our sins, and that some will be saved while others reject Christ, we also have to recognize that we are responsible for our decisions. Although God planned every detail of the world, Judas wasn’t forced to choose to betray Christ, and his story should be a fearful warning to those who think they can live in their own strength.


A chosen few were picked by God

To walk beside His Son on Earth,

But one man of the honored twelve,

Refused to see the Savior’s worth.

What went through the schemer’s mind

When silver clanked into his hands?

How strongly Satan’s greed took hold

And tightened its enslaving bands!

The stage was set, the night was dark,

To veil the traitor’s treach’rous deed.

God withheld His mighty pow’r,

To let Satan’s plan succeed.

What searing guilt the apostate felt

When his murderous act was done!

His screaming conscience took his life;

For he’d betrayed God’s perfect Son.

He stood for three years at the brink

Of Grace’s free, o’erflowing Well;

But he who kissed the Door of Heaven

Spends eternity in Hell.


Still the Tempter lives today

Within the hearts of wicked men

Who will not turn to Christ for help,

And lack the strength to fight their sin.

It was for all that Jesus died –

He bore our punishment in full

That we might have eternal life,

Beloved by God, forgiven, whole.

We’re just as faithless as the man

Who his Lord and Friend betrayed,

If we turn from Jesus and ignore

The redemption price He paid.

The power of the Evil One

Was crushed when Jesus gave His life;

He broke the curse of sin and death —

Our vict’ry through His sacrifice!

You’re given opportunity,

And although some will still rebel,

Do not kiss the Door of Heaven,

Yet spend eternity in Hell.

Wild Savage Adventures…

… while Dad and Mom were away!!!! Ha ha ha! :):):)


This weekend Dad and Mom were gone to the Wilds for their Overnight Sweetheart Getaway! 🙂 If we had been there, we would be telling you about what a fantastic time we had, the powerful messages we heard, the delicious food, all the stairs we climbed, the thrilling ride on the famous Giant Swing… and much, much more… But since we weren’t there, you’ll have to hear about that some other time, and for now, be content with an overview of the activities that took place on the home front.

To say the least… we had a delightful time!! It seems I am continually being reminded that time with my family is immensely precious… something not to be taken for granted because it will not last forever! The message we heard on Sunday following all of the adventures (which I will recount for you in a moment) called us to remember relationships: first of all, with Jesus Christ, and second, with our families. Relationships are of upmost importance. If you think about it, that is the one thing that separates Christianity from all other “religions.” Christianity is based upon a personal relationship with the God of the universe, rather than how we can try in our own strength to be “good enough” to measure up to His righteous standards. Thus, the focus is on Him, not on us. The parallels to be drawn from this regarding the family are amazing, for the only way to have a truly good relationship with someone is to be constantly thinking of them, not ourselves. This is a conviction to me even as I write it, but may we always have this “others focus,” and look for ways to bless those the Lord has placed around us! 

With those thoughts in mind, one of the highlights of our time together was heading outdoors to be wild savages, or at least, to do our utmost to reach that lofty status. 😉 With painted faces, braided hair, ponies, a “pale face prisoner,” and some good-ole Injun grub, we made our way to our secret hideout in the woods and succeeded in building a wigwam – of sorts! Talk about memories!

The good little bearer of the Injun grub Red Fox!Squaw Red HenLittle Rainbow

Little DoveThe pitiful captive, awaiting her fate :) (not exactly... we really were nice to her :))People are always watching... even when you don't see them

"You stay put... don't try any funny business!"Indian war dance

Running Deer and SusquehannahThe trusty little Indian poniesThe little squaws made a good trail for us

This Indian's name: Mighty Oak ;)Mugshot... almost :):) This was the last pic we were able to take with our family camera because it died... just kidding!100_7231

The finished product! Huzzah!Inside the shelter

By far the best pic of the day!                 

Some other memory-making activities that took place were experimenting with our own version of Mocha Freeze drinks, reading The Island Queen by R.M. Ballentyne, making dozens and dozens and dozens and… LOTS of cookies to freeze for the upcoming FEW Conference, and sleeping in late. 🙂

Lots of cookies!!! :):)

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

So, I would challenge you to get out with your family and make some memories together… lasting ones. You won’t be sorry!

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