Well, there we were. It was Friday, and we were planning the menu for the weekend. I had volunteered to take on the responsibility of finding a good recipe and making it for Sunday dessert after the potluck with our church people. We had a very busy week, and still had other things to do, so I needed to find a recipe that would be fast and easy, and of course, yummy. I asked around if anyone had any ideas or anything in particular that just sounded really good. One said brownies, and one didn’t care, and I’m not sure what everyone else said. So I opened our cookbook cabinet and found one of our favorite cookbooks – Best-Loved Chocolate Classics put out by Taste of Home. The best part about it was that it was easy to do, and I was able to make it a couple days in advance. We served it, and almost all of it was devoured. It makes a rich, chocolate, cake with a heavier consistency than that of a cake mix.
Best-Ever Chocolate Cake
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 Tablespoons baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2/3 cup oil
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Fluffy Chocolate Frosting:
1 cup cold milk
1 package (3.9 oz) instant chocolate pudding
1 (8 oz) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
In a mixing bowl, combine first five ingredients. Add the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 1 minute. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Pour into a greased 13”x9”x2” pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
For frosting, in a mixing bowl, beat the milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Beat in whipped topping. Spread over cake. Refrigerate until serving time. Yield: 12-15 servings.
Editor’s note: This cake does not contain eggs.
The Wilds Christian Camp has been used by God in our lives for many years, via music, going to family camps and retreats, etc. Actually, it was there that Daddy, as a teenager, confirmed his salvation! How thankful we are for that ministry!
Several weeks ago Mommy was doing a little bit of reading and saw that the Wilds was having a “40 years of ministry” celebration, where they invited all former staff, campers, etc., to come for a day of fun activities, food, and most important, fellowship. After suggesting to Daddy that we do it, (and after we realized that our itinerary had an empty space in it for a change :)) she headed up the planning and packing for the event. (Thank you, Mommy!) This last Saturday morning we filled up the “Land Yacht” 🙂 with all 12 members of the Neely Team and all of their necessary luggage 🙂 and went over to Brevard, NC, and enjoyed the beautiful weather, peaceful atmosphere, godly music, tremendously thrilling and fun activities, and the side-splitting re-plays of skits done in the past. During the course of the day, many of us took part in “The Cat in the Hat” game, the land trolley, mini-golf, the rock-climbing wall, and, last but not least, the famous Giant Swing! (A glorious contraption into which two people are strapped, lying on their stomachs. They are then hiked up 65 feet above the watching audience below, and then let fall – which gives about 2 seconds of that all-amazing “free-fall” feeling, which is enough for anyone 🙂 – and into swinging back and forth! Sound scary?? Both that and exhilarating! :)) We were able to see and “catch-up” with many old friends and acquaintances, meet new people, and before leaving, take a delightful trip to the popular coffee shop at camp – “CoolBeans.” Mmmmmmm……!!!! Our day ended with a tour of the newest construction project on the camp property: a multi-purpose building planning to be used for a book and music store, souvenir shop, a conference room, and offices for many of the staff members. It was exciting to see the vision that was being carried out, enabling them to more effectively impact numerous lives!
The Lord has truly blessed the Wilds because, as their theme verse 1 Corinthians 10:31 states, all is done for the glory of God. What a blessing to be able to see the rewards of such a commitment, and what a reminder carry out that truth in our own lives – it is, in fact, the very reason we were created!
For a long time I have been widing my bike with twaining wheels. I lerned things like how to steer and how to stop and use the brakes. Then Victoria and Susanna (Sunny) ‘tarted teeching me how to wide with no twaining wheels. When I first ‘tarted learning it was just a wittle bit scary, but now it is all fun! The best place to wide is on the floor in the garage. It is nice and ‘mooth in there. I’m glad that the girls taught me how to wide with no twaining wheels.
A few weeks ago we were blessed by a visit from the Hynes family – what a joy to get to know this dear family in a deeper way! After their arrival on Friday night, we spent the evening talking, laughing, and playing some exciting games. On Saturday, after a late and scrumptious breakfast, we did a few prep things and then all loaded up and headed south – our destination: Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest mountain peak. We drove about half way up, and then enjoyed a wonderful picnic lunch. With energy restored, we began the hike. What a blessing to spend time talking, encouraging each other in the Lord, and learning more about each other while we climbed higher and higher! At last at the top, we were greeted by a gentle breeze and the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges and valleys. After a visit to the museum and many pictures, 🙂 we descended and made our way back home.
On Sunday, the Hynes allowed us to “put them on the spot” in church, and they sang “Did You Think to Pray?” – an excellent reminder to take everything to God in prayer, knowing that He cares and will answer in His perfect timing! One particular highlight of their visit was Sunday night when the kids played Team Bible Charades! We divided into two teams and then separated to form our plans. We each decided on a Bible story to act out, dressed up, gathered props, etc., and then both teams met together for a Sword Drill to determine which team went first. After arriving at a conclusion, the first team made final preparations and then presented a thrilling, though silent, tale of Samson, when he set fire to the Philistines corn. The second team did an excellent job with the story of Hannah and her prayer for a son, and then we split up again to prepare a second round. Phase two presented the stories of Paul preaching, being stoned, and thrust out of the city, and finally we ended the night with a hilarious show of the Philistines returning the Ark of the Covenant to Israel after God cast down their image of Dagon. The creativity that was displayed was unbelievable, and most of the stories ended with a burst of laughter!
Suzy added many giggles to the weekend by, one night at supper, putting her spoon up to her eye, holding it there, and then staring at all of us through it. Well, the power in influence was quickly realized, because once one or two people followed her example, almost the whole group was doing it! Absolutely hilarious!! (Maybe a little weird, too??? :))
One particular blessing we received from the Hynes was their spirit of initiative. Whether is was in clearing the table, washing dishes, slicing fruit, carrying things from place to place, or Mr. Hynes decision to help us out tremendously by weed-eating our creek banks, there was always many willing hands extended to help share the load, which did indeed make light work!
Thank you, Hynes family! May God bless you as you continue to live for Him and shine His light to the world!
A few days ago, feeling the “need” for something sweet, I picked up a milk chocolate candy and proceeded to open it. The candy itself was good; however, the message printed inside the foil wrapper was even better and struck me with it’s truth. The message was this: “The most enjoyable experiences are often free.” Think about it. What do you enjoy? I don’t mean the big, exciting, adrenaline-rushers of life, but the simple pleasures and joys that make life meaningful and enrich our days. What about the brilliant color of a flower, the smooth feel of a baby’s soft skin, the sound of the birds in their early-morning joy, or the encouraging smile of a friend or family member? Some people delight in witnessing the magnificent glories of a sunset or experiencing the stunning power of a thunderstorm. Others enjoy different things, such as the smell of a freshly-baked apple pie, the sound of a well-played instrument, the taste of a juicy peach, or the sight of a child doing their best to complete a task. And everyone can appreciate the caress of a cool breeze on a hot day, the satisfaction of a job well done, the relief of a clear conscience, and the gentle touch of a child’s hand placed confidingly in yours. All of these the things that I just mentioned are fairly common, everyday-type experiences, and you can enjoy them just as much as, and sometimes more than the bigger, more glamorous experiences. You do not have to go somewhere special or pay a lot of money to enjoy these things, and yet they are the things that God can use to lift your spirit, turn your thoughts to Him, and make life beautiful. Regardless of what you do or see every day, you can find things to be thankful for. God places beautiful sensations and experiences all around us, and if we will only take the time to see them, they will enhance our days and help us to appreciate each moment that He has given us to live. When your day seems to be going wrong and it seems difficult to “rejoice in the Lord” or to “give thanks in all things”, make it a point to look for something to rejoice in. God is the Creator of beauty, and we have only to look around us to see the pleasures that He has lovingly given us to enjoy. Take the time to notice and thank Him for some of those things today!
For all of you that read my previous post, Of Birds and Their Baby’s…Maybe, here is the result. After three weeks of waiting, the eggs didn’t hatch. Talk about anti-climatic! We still don’t know if we have two females or a mated pair, but we will have to wait and see. We have read that sometimes the first brood doesn’t hatch, but the rest do. Even right now the doves are starting to prepare the nest …
Recently in our area, there have been some robberies and one lady has disappeared. It has put us “on edge” and has caused us to take some extra precautions.
Yesterday, we had the privilege of going to Greenville, SC (about three hours one way) for violin lessons. While we were there, we also stopped by Brightwater Digital, the studio where we have recorded two CD’s, to check on the progress of our Christmas CD. We had a couple things we wanted to change, so we decided we’d go ahead and do it while we were there instead of having to do it over the phone. Gary Emory, our engineer, also known as “Uncle Gary” to us, worked very hard to get the project finished. We were there for about two and a half hours, so some members of the team that weren’t involved in the “mixing and fixing” rested on one of the three particularly comfortable couches. 🙂
We got done with what we needed to do, told everyone goodbye, loaded up, and were just about ready to leave when we realized that Kathryn wasn’t in the van. We thought for a minute, and realized that no one had seen her for quite a while. Amanda and I jumped out of the van and ran in to get her. We couldn’t find her, so we asked Uncle Gary and Mr. Glen Christianson (another man at the studio) if they had seen her. They hadn’t. They joined in the search and we frantically hunted everywhere – even in the area surrounding the studio. All the while, we were calling (actually, we were yelling). Thoughts were going through our heads a hundred miles a second, wondering where in the world Kitty could be and what could’ve happened to her! She was missing!! Everyone was frantic. Praying that she would be O.K. and that we would find her, we ran back into the building and started opening doors and searching again. Finally, after what seemed like forever, we heard Uncle Gary yell, “She’s in here!” We all ran to see where she was. I was met in the hallway by a drowsy, still half asleep Kitty, who had gone to one of the back rooms to lay down and had only been awakened by that last call when he caught sight of her. Uncle Gary had already called in that room once, and the door had even been open during the whole procedure, but she didn’t “revive” until the second time! The relief we felt at the sight of her was unbelievable! Her face was flushed and she was extremely shocked at the manner in which she had just been awakened. (Not to mention, a little embarrassed, as she confessed to me later on. :)) Since she normally isn’t a hard sleeper, she was either just really tired and very sound asleep, or had possibly been unconscious. We don’t know. But it’s amazing that she slept right through three of us girls and two men (none of which are known for being extremely quiet!) yelling for her!
We said goodbye once again and then we escorted Kathryn to the van to make sure that nothing would happen to her on the way there. We breathed a sigh of relief and stopped to praise and thank the Lord for His protection and goodness. It probably took fifteen minutes for our blood pressure and heart rate to get back to normal and for us to stop shaking.
We are still rejoicing and praising God for His protection over us. He uses situations like these to turn our eyes back to Him and to build our faith and trust. Oh, that we would learn to trust Him more as we go through our lives! Take a moment today to thank God for the situations He brings to our lives to draw us closer to Him. And don’t forget to cherish every moment with your family! You never know what the next minute will bring!
A couple weeks ago, we had the opportunity to take a day-trip down to Dahlonega, GA, to get some much-needed bunk beds. After getting them home, set up, and then organized into a semi-workable position, we then faced our next household project. With four extra beds, we suddenly didn’t have enough bedding, and the odds-n-ends that we DID have just didn’t quite agree with the eyes of the beauty-conscious young ladies of the house. 🙂 With the help of our favorite store and Mommy’s knack for sewing, we set about to collect and make sheets, pillowcases, pillows, comforters, curtains, etc. Then came the fun part – painting the rooms! First, we moved the couch from one of the rooms down one flight of stairs and up another for excellent muscle building :). Next we pulled all of the furniture to the center of the room, (thus creating an almost ceiling-high junk pile!!), and spread out the necessary supplies. After deciding on a lively stem green for one room, and a softer, elegant gray for the other, we spent a couple days priming, painting, and then re-painting. Mommy (the patient veteran of the process), Amanda, and Jessica got an excellent system going, while the rest of us tried to keep the house running smoothly. 🙂 When the paint was dry, Jessi and I got assigned to a delightful, tedious duty that we enjoyed tremendously! Soon, rings and dots were rapidly taking formation over the green walls, and, a little later, geometric squares were “thrown” like confetti all over the gray! This detailed painting experience helped me become more comfortable with home decoration and Jessi and I loved working together, creating beauty and having meaningful conversations. At last, the major part of the project was complete, and we enthusiastically set into (even though it was 9:00 p.m. :)) organizing the furniture, making up the beds, and getting the rooms looking decent again! It’s a good thing no one rang our doorbell at that time – the upstairs hallway, which can be seen from the front door, was the convenient spot for DUMPING anything we didn’t need in our rooms! STUFF was piled SO high that one literally had to HOP over six piles to get from one room to the next, trying all the while not to break anything valuable, including arms, legs, and other appendages! (I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but, frighteningly, it’s NOT!!!!!) What a joy it was when, the next day, all of the junk was gone, either to the thrift store or simply put where it belonged!!! 🙂 The whole process was fun, educational, and exciting, and I was blessed by the joy and originality that was portrayed while we cleaned up the official, glorified pig-sty that we’d created!! :)
One of the joys of living in a large family is all of the responsibility and diligence that must take place in order to function. Anyway, most of you could probably tell me right away what this picture is. Well, at our house, when anyone sees (or especially helps to create 🙂 ) one of these, they always refer to it as the same thing – a “MOUNTAIN” of laundry!! For you to see why we have this “mountain”, let’s have a little math lesson. There are twelve people at our house. Every day, then, there are 12 shirts, 12 skirts/pants/shorts, 24 socks, usually at least 6 pr. of pajamas, and if we all decide to wash our towels the same day, well… I’ll let you figure that out! Okay, now multiply that by 3 because we hadn’t done laundry over the weekend, and throw in several kitchen towels, numerous wash clothes, 2 dishwashing sponges, 3 more outfits for Titus, 3 bibs, 6 burp clothes, 2 baby blankets, 5 more pr. of socks because some people had stepped in water, and any other miscellaneous items that people happened to find. There. You know about how much laundry we were doing. It just so happened that that day, Amanda, who is usually our laundry lady, was off duty (in other words, at work with Dad 🙂 ). What a problem! Our personal laundry service was gone. So, I had the privilege of getting to fold these three king-sized loads, all by myself (boy, do I like working with other people!! 🙂 ), while everyone else was busy about their own duties. My first thought could be, “Great! I get to do all of this, by myself, and I even have to have it done in a certain amount of time! It’s not fair!! Why do I always get the hard jobs???” By God’s grace, however, I actually enjoyed it, got it done fairly quickly, received many “oohs” and “aahs” from the passers by at the gargantuan stacks that were rapidly piling up 🙂 , and along the way was reminded by the Lord of an important truth.
There are many times in life that it seems that there are huge mountains of things to accomplish. When we try to attack and demolish them on our own, we will quickly discover our weaknesses and find out that we, in and of ourselves, cannot do anything good. When we depend on the Lord, however, He triumphs over the situation and works through us in a way that surpasses anything we could have ever dreamed of! Jesus Christ alone must be our source of joy, strength, and power. So, even when the task seems impossible, life unfair, and the joy departed from your heart, step out in faith, trust God, and do the next thing.