Are You Ready for a Trip to the Galapagos Islands??

47850_s[1] A few weeks ago, we received a package enclosing a new DVD released from Vision Forum, called “The Mysterious Islands.” The film centers on the present-day war between Darwinism and the biblical Creation account. To do this, it takes you on a journey to the Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin first did his research that later resulted in his book, The Origin of the Species. As we got it right before leaving for our trip to GA for Thanksgiving, we took it with us and decided to watch it with our cousins. We did and it was a refreshing look at how good God is and filled us again with awe for His intense creativity!

One thing the video covered that particularly stood out to me was a story they told about Darwin’s trip. He was taken by ship, and during the course of the five-year voyage, became close friends with the captain. They were both seeking answers, but though they studied the same things, they arrived at vastly different conclusions. Darwin, because he had already determined in his heart that the Bible was only good for moral issues, not science, became convinced that the world and all therein was a result of random chance, mutations, natural selection, etc. The captain, on the other hand, found striking evidence for the Creator and later became a strong Christian. This reminded me of the importance that we interpret everything through the truth of Scripture, God’s infallible Word, and that our hearts must be tender toward that truth. These two men witnessed the same sights, walked the same shores, and studied the same creatures and processes, but because one carried with him that baggage of worldly philosophies, he was blinded and led to draw up some of the most ridiculous theories imaginable. The other found God’s Light, grace, and Almighty hand to guide and direct his life and help him see his true origin and the reason for his existence.

Because of this fierce battle between these two vastly different worldviews, I was also reminded that we, as Christians, must be seeking God and studying His creation so that we may be equipped to pass on the truth to the coming generations. The Lord used this film to renew my excitement in these things and my awe for Him and His matchless ways! He truly is amazing!! If you have not seen this, we highly encourage you get it. You will be inspired! Our whole family is now ready for a trip to the Galapagos! 

O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good… The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works… I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 104) 

O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens… When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Psalm 8)

White Christmas Party Mix

Several years ago another one of our wonderful aunts gave us the recipe to this mix. 🙂 (There must be something about the word “aunt” that implies that they have delicious recipes for you to try!) It’s super easy, and believe us, you won’t be able to stay out of it! 98% of the people that have tried it say it is addictive! Mmmmmm!!!!!!! Can I have some??? We recommend that when you make it, you keep a clean spatula or wooden spoon nearby to chase away those little (or big 🙂 ) fingers that are constantly arriving and grabbing for a taste! (Well, I guess that’s not very loving or kind, so at least post the definition for “Self Control” right over your work area! 🙂 Ha!) It makes a great Christmas gift for friends or neighbors when tied into a pretty plastic bag or wrapped in a tin Christmas box. Enjoy!!!!!

White Christmas Party Mix:

1 lb. white chocolate

3 cups rice Chex cereal

3 cups corn Chex cereal

3 cups Cheerios

2 cups pretzels

2 cups dry roasted or salted peanuts

12 oz. package M&M’s plain candy

Melt chocolate; combine other ingredients and stir. Add chocolate and stir well. Spread (or rather DUMP! 🙂 ) on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container and refrigerator to keep fresh.  

Cook’s notes: This recipe is perfect for any season or occasion! Change the color of the M&M’s to suite what you are using it for. (In the spring, use pastel colors, for Christmas, use red and green, etc.)

Cook’s notes #2: We usually make 1.5x the recipe, using a 12oz. box of Crispex instead of the corn and rice Chex, and still only use 12 oz. of M&M’s (it’s sweet enough already :)).

Peer Pressure Drives Cousins to Pig Pen!

While in Bainbridge for Thanksgiving, we decided to go to the annual “Swine Time” held in Climax, Georgia. This being my first Swine Time, I didn’t really know what to expect. This massive celebration of the pig included contests such as hog calling, chittlin’ eatin, a parade, and even a beauty pageant. (I wouldn’t want the dubious distinction of being “Miss Piggy.”) Really, it is just a gargantumous country festival and craft fair. Grandmama said that it was first started to bring the community together and to help raise money. Nowadays, about 35,000 flatlanders converge on a town of about 400 people for the annual event.

I suppose the whole thing began when our adventurous cousin, Taylor (age 15), told everyone that he wanted to enter the greased pig chase contest. I began to envision a big The line up getting ready stadium-like place withoutPoor inocent little critter! any grass – just mud—where there would be a well greased, rather large oinker, running terrified from dozens- maybe hundreds- of kids that were chasing him. Then I thought about how much fun and excitement it would bring to chase the greased pig with Taylor. I don’t know what got into me that day, but the more I thought about it, the better the escapade sounded. I asked another cousin,Just beginning... Austin (age 17), if he had been planning to do it. He hadn’t really been extremely attracted to it, but said that if I was going to do it, he had to do it. (Peer pressure.) All of a sudden, I realized what was rapidly happening. As soon as I said I wanted to do it, Neali (age 19) said she would do it if Austin and I did. (Peer pressure.) Then Kathryn joined, then Amanda, Victoria, and everybody else. Before IAh Ha!! NOW I'll get ya!! could say “lickety-split,” all of us wanted to go to the pig pen. (Peer pressure.)

A few hours later we finally arrived at Swine Time. We soon learned that the contest was for kids ages 5-12. We older cousins not-so-graciously accepted the fact that we were too old. Well, I personally wasn’t that disappointed, and after watching all the little piglets in the trailer, I determined that I was glad that it wasn’t going to work out. All those stinky, grunting, noisy, smelly, dirty, snorting, squealing Go! pigs… it really would be very gross to try to catch one, especially a greasy one. A man told us that they grease theAlmost got 'im... pigs with hydraulic oil so that the pigs wouldn’t so feel bad about getting rubbed down with Uncle Porky’s lard. We got to watch them cover each pig in hydraulic...ALMOST GOT 'IM...!!! oil, and boy, did those pigs squeal! Thirteen to one?? Now that's not quite fair!

We thoroughly enjoyed watching the younger kids chase the first little greasy animal. The poor thing was running frantically back and forth, squealing the whole time. It was hysterical! The kids were divided into groups of 10 kids, according to age, and each division was assigned an even larger pig. When they would catch it, sometimes you could see it panting, while it was squealing. (By the way, I had never heard a pig squeal in real life… it is quite a horrendous noise! It puts a whole new meaning to the term “squealing like a stuck pig!”)

Go get him, Herman!! Well, it was over, and the large crowd encircling the pen quickly diminished. Aunt Miriam wasn’t going to give up yet, though. Taylor still wanted to have a chance at catching the squirmy little pig. Aunt Miriam asked one oGo Taylor! You almost have him!f the men that was helping if we could have an unofficial contest. At first, I think he said no, but she persisted. He was quite friendly, and she told him that we had about thirteen cousins who wanted to chase the little oinker. He agreed, and we happily entered the pig pen and Ahh!! Man!! He got away again!waited while they re-greased the pig.

The incredible moment had arrived. We had looked forward to it, but thought that it wasn’t going to work out. Before we knew it, there we were, standing in the pig pen, and by the way, it wasn’t all mud. Actually, it was mostly grass, thankfully. I heard several people say in amazement, “They’re all cousins?!” Finally, someone said, “On your mark, get set…” and everyone was off. The pig started running and squealing. I personally didn’t want to touch it, so I just chased it to keep it moving. Picture it and get I've got 'im... I'VE GOT 'IM...!! your imagination going. There are thirteen different sized people, ranging in age from five to nineteen and in height from 3’6” to about 6’ 1”, chasing a pig in a circular pen that is probably about fifty feet in diameter. Several people slipped and landed on their face on the ground. Others only landed on their knees, some fell on their backs, but it was a lot of fun, and the intense action continued. Arms and legs were flying every direction. Everyone was racing to try to catch the little ham. Kathryn was one of the  ones who landed on their face, and when she landed, she lunged for the pig, grabbed it, and was able to slow it down, despite a minor injury that occurred in the process. Austin came to her rescue and grabbed the legs of the pig, and everyone cheered! It was lots of fun, and the memories that were made are irreplaceable. Some of the parents are scheming about next time we get together. It has been mentioned that it would be fun to get our own pig and chase it around Grandmama’s house… we’ll see about that. (And to think that it all began with a small amount of peer pressure.)

The dive!!All right, You! You won't get away this time!! Get back here!!!!Humph! We'll get you yet - HERE WE COME!!Come 'ere, Stinky!!

Let's cornor him!The grand finale!!!!!!!! 

  

Playing in the Leaves

When the leaves started falling, Cocoa, Belle, ‘Berty, and I made a pile of leaves Having fun! and jumped in it! We buried each other, rolled around in  them, and just had lots of fun together! I am glad that I have suchWhere did they go?? Can you find them? sweet sisters that I can have fun with!

 

Loving Lauren Beaming Bethany

Sweet Susanna Happy Hannah

Christmas Joys – a Little Early!

One of the Neely Team idiosyncrasies is that we like to set up our Christmas tree before Thanksgiving every year. While some would say that this makes Setting up the tree :) them forget about the true and important reason for Thanksgiving, it has quite the opposite effect on us! The soft lights, homey smell, and peaceful atmosphere make us slow our busy life and enjoy each other, and give praise and thanks to the Lord who has broughtHmmm... it looks suspicious... us through yet another year.

In the fall, Daddy and Herman usually go away for a hunting trip, and while they’re gone, all of the girls do very girly things. :)By the time they come There really WAS something under there!home, everyWow! What a stack, Daddy!thing is in place and very Christmas-looking. This year, however, Herman stated that he REALLY wanted  to help with the tree, much to our Welcome back to civilization!surprise, and so “the boys” helped us set everything up! What fun! Daddy headed up getting all of the decorations out the their hiding spot in the garage, while Mommy and Jessi strung the lights, and the rest of us fluffed  the brancheMommy's snack :) - ready to be enjoyed by all!s. 🙂 (By the way, we do use a fake tree, and we LOVE it!! :)) After those things were done and the tree  was standing strLights on... ready for the decorationsaight, tall and beautiful, Mommy took an excursion into the kitchen and made warm, ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies for all of the decorators while they put the  ribbons, flowers, and bows on. It got late, so after enjoying ourAhhhhhhh... cozy! luscious snack, we went to bed and then put the ornaments the next afternoon. Now everything is up and in order: the lit garland above the cabinets, the front porch décor, etc, etc.All finished

One thing I particularly enjoyed about putting   everything up was the  cheerfulness and joy everyone displayed. Even when one of the strands of lights wouldn’t work and Amanda, Kathryn and Amanda Jessi, and I had to run to the store, delaying the progress a tad, the little ones made the best of it and played a game while we wereHannah and Lauren - sweet sister time gone. Many hands did indeed make light work (only this was rather fun work :)) and in snip  -snap- lickety-split, everything was complete! As the Christmas season approaches, remember to thank the Lord for the unique and special family He has given you!

“… but a vapor…”

“Live as if you’ll die tomorrow.” This phrase caught my attention a couple weeks ago, and I can’t get it off my mind. It reminds me of James 4:14 – “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” I really started thinking about that verse, and realized just how true it really is. Over the past twelve months, we have attended several funerals, a couple of them being unexpected at this point in time. It makes one stop and consider, Life is very short. People are dying unexpectedly every day. Will I be the next to go? I don’t want to be morbid or sad; that’s not the point I’m trying to make. But I do want people to consider this: What if you knew that you would die tomorrow? What if you received a special message from God and He told you that, tomorrow at this time, your time on earth would be over? How would you respond???100_9419

For some people, that kind of a revelation would throw them into despair and desperate fear. If you are one of those people who are terrified at the thought of dying, have you ever considered that you don’t have to be afraid? Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of GOD (John 20:31; I Peter 2:22), came to earth to be born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18, 23), lived His life caring for others (I John 3:16), died to pay for our sins (I Corinthians 15:3), rose again on the third day (I Corinthians 15:4), and ascended to Heaven(John 20:17; Ephesians 4:8-10), where He now sits on the right hand of God to intercede for His children (Romans 8:34)! Of course, no sin is allowed into Heaven, but He paid the debt for our sins by His death on the cross (I Peter 2:24), and if we will repent of our sins and accept His free gift of salvation(Luke 13:5; Romans 6:23), we can have eternal life with Him (John 3:15-16)! 

For Christians, the idea of physical death can only mean one thing: eternal life in Heaven with our Savior Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:21 says that for the believer, “to die is gain.” Psalm 116:15 tells us that “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Other references include: Titus 3:7; John 3:16, 36; John 5:24; John 6:47; Romans 3:23.) Those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and have placed their full trust in Christ for salvation have nothing to fear in death, but everything to gain (I Corinthians 15:54-57)! However, on a more earthly, immediate scale, I would ask you to consider this question. If you knew that you would die tomorrow, what would you change? Is there anything that you would do differently, knowing that this would be your last day to lay up eternal rewards? Would you change anything in your relationships, knowing that whatever you did today would be the last memories that your friends and loved ones would have of you? Would you spend more time in the Scripture so that you might know a little more about the One you will see face to face so soon?? 100_9154

As the phrase “Live as if you’ll die tomorrow” has rolled over and over in my mind, I can’t help but think of things that I would do differently. I would try to encourage my siblings more in the way of the Lord, using every opportunity I could find to instruct and explain life’s issues in relation to eternity. I would spend the sixty seconds it took to help my little brother make his bed. I would be more respectful and responsive to my parents and try to help them more. I would take the five minutes to read a story-book to my little sister when she brings it to me in the middle of my big project. I would let the little irritations go, because those really don’t have any bearing on eternity anyway. I would take every opportunity to tell my family, “I love you.”

The list goes on, but I have another thought to share. Most of us won’t die tomorrow. But someday we will, as it says in Hebrews 9:27a, “…it is appointed unto men once to die…” That’s coming faster than we might realize. As I was pondering this one night, I wrote these thoughts in my journal: “…If I live to be 75, I am already 25% of the way through my life!! That’s ONE QUARTER of all the time God has given me!!!!! Already spent, gone, never to return, I can never take it back, never redo or relive anything. And what if I only live to age 50? I’m almost 40% through – almost a whole two fifths!!! Or what if God takes me home younger still, say, twenty-five? That only leaves me six yearssix SHORT years – to accomplish what God would have me to do and to lay up reward for eternity!!!! … I feel such a tremendous urgency to be busy about “my Father’s business,” for even if I lived to be 100, my years are 20% gone!…”

Again, I don’t say all this to be discouraging, pessimistic, or morbid. I simply want to share what I have been thinking about this subject and encourage others to be constantly evaluating their thoughts, motives, and actions in view of eternity. If there is something in your life that you would change if you knew that today was your last day, why not go ahead and change it?? Go ahead: forgive that offense; do that kind deed; say that encouraging word. Truly, our lives are but a vapor; we never know when our last breath will be. (I Thessalonians 5:2; Matthew 6:20) We must be busy!!

101_0088

Family Fun Night 2009 – A Time to Celebrate the Joy of Family Life

Several ySuch willing little helpers!ears ago, on October 31, Daddy and Mommy surprised all of us kids with a special evening, where we bobbed for apples,Jessi - her allergies couldn't tolerate the dust, so she helped with the planning :) ate  donuts off of strings (with no hands :)) hanging from the ceiling, had a candy hunt, played “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” and a few other fun things. Little did they know that they had thus began the yearly tradition of Family Fun Yay! Job complete!!!! Night! Slowly F.F.N. expanded until we had a few friends over, then several families, and then this year and last year, over sixty people! WhatThe custom-made banner :) a wonderful way to make hilarious,  special memories!!

This year our preparations began the week before, when we were tryiKirsi - enjoying all the funng to decide where to have most of the games, the food tabl"Pin the Leaf on the Pumpkin"es, etc. Last year, we had done  most of it in our garage, but as it was cramped  then, and we had invited over forty more people this year, 🙂 we decided we wanted to be prepared for as many as the Lord would bring our way. At Daddy explaining the rules to the whole gang Mommy’s suggestion, we decided to try to get the unfinished Part of the relay race - hold a plastic spoon in your mouth, find a piece of candy hidden in the sugar, and scoop it out and into a cup - all with no hands!!upstairs of our detached  garage, which we call the “Carriage House,” ready and use that for the games. Just to fill you in on a few details, we have this awful habit of, when we don’t know where In the midst of all the fun, our angel baby was taking his beauty rest on Daddy's back! to put something, we say “Oh, just put it in theTossing the bean bags into the hole upstairs of the Carriage House!” Maybe this gives you an idea of the unnecessary junk that was piled up there. 🙂 Finally, a few days Awaiting the beginning of the donut game! before F.F.N., the whole Team arrived up there and  put it in order. 🙂 (Sadly, we didn’t get any “before” pictures, so you’ll have to be contentSome people chose chocolate donuts... Hmmmm... what kind of a mess will that create??? with the “after” pictures. :)) We had a lot of fun, and finally got it all in “ship  shape.”

Next began the process of doing all of the planning.  After decidinQuite a few of the adults participated as well :)g on the games, we started planning what supplies we needed and in what way we would organize the evening. There was a lot of  “changing of plans,” but we finally got everything straightened out.

Before we knew it,Does this answer your question about the mess??? :):) it was 5:30 on Friday,  October 30, and everyone was arriAhhhh, good! I finally got a hold of it with my mouth!ving. What followed is very difficult to describe in the exact   details and excitement in which it occurred – maybe the pictures will help! 🙂 The games included Pin the Leaf on the Pumpkin, a relay race, donuts hanging from the ceilingSunny - receiving a little bit of help with the tedious task of keeping her donut from swinging all over creation!, “Leaf, Leaf, Pumpkin” (the same as “Duck, Duck, Goose” :)) a candy hunt  in theWhat a brave girl!! Eating the donut off of the FLOOR after it fell from the string. dark, 🙂 tractor rides, a time for munching on delicious snacks, and then, as the evening drew to a close, a bonfire, jumping on the  trampoline and playing on the swing set. As we all celebrated the joy of family life, there was a lot of laughter and talking that followed each actiMmmm! This is so good - I think I'll stuff my mouth with it!vity. The evening ended close to midnight, but thSweet sisters enjoying the snacks e memories of the evening will last for a long time!!

Thank you, Dad and Mom, for taking the time to  start such an exciting, family-centered tradition in our home! A few of the 60 people :)

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

Our Journey to Bainbridge

We had just arrived at Grandmama’s house. Everything had been unloaded, and  people were getting ready for bed. We had spent the whole morning gathering, packing, and loading. Pillows, violins, music, suitcases… everything was in and we were ready to go… maybe.

It was almost midnight, and we were all tired from traveling the eight hours to get there. That’s when someone came out of the bathroom and looked at me. SomethDaddy, Mommy, and Herman working on the tree standing was said like, “Did you forget to pack something?” I looked at her, confused. What could I have missed in the packing process? She answered my question when she said, “Maybe the toothbrushes?!”

Well, despite forgetting everyone’s toothbrushes, we had a great trip. We had been planning this for quite a while and had spent many hours gathered around the piano, practicing. We were in Bainbridge, GA fromUncle Fudge and Hannah Grace - picking up sticks Friday, October 23 through Monday, October 26.

On Saturday, we just “hung out” at the house. Dad and Mom worked on setting up the new tree stand. 🙂 The younger ones played outside quite a bit, and Amanda and Kathryn were able to do Two of the three (unsuccessful :)) hunters sent forth that day :) some hunting. We got to see Allison, our cousin, while we were down there, too. She came over to the house and spent most of Saturday with us. Uncle Blaine and Aunt Melinda came for dinner that night. We also had the privilege of meetingOne of Uncle Fudge's beautiful roses! Maria, a friend of theirs.

Sunday was the big day. We had spent many hours preparing. Our prayer was that God would get glory A magnificent sunset from what we did. We went to Grace Community  Baptist Church for the morning service, which went very well. We sang several songs and Herman quoted Psalm 101 during a thirty minuteUncle Fudge with five of the younger ones - what a full swing!! time span. Sunday night found us at First Baptist Church. We had the whole service to sing. We did a mixture of songs, Those south GA skies are gorgeous! including songs with the whole family, violin solos, piano solos and duets, and Kathryn even quoted the whole book of Titus!

After the service, there was a time of fellowship. Some of our extended familyJessi and Grandmama were there, too. We enjoyed talking to many people that had been impacted by either Eight of the nine children that sang that evening (Amanda was the faithful piano player :)) Grandmama or Grandpapa, who were both school teachers for several years. Who knows how many lives they influenced for the Lord. Several people came and t"Help!!!!!! I'm being smothered with love and kisses!"    Well, in reality, she didn't mind!old us how they enjoyed having them as teachers or what they Grandmama and Kathryn had learned through them. It reminded us of how blessed we are to have such a godly heritage and  grandparents who stood for what was right and made choices that have affected many generations.

A picture of a picture of Daddy and his sister, Aunt Miriam, when they were little. Does anyone notice a resemblance between Daddy and Herman? Our mighty man of valor! We left on Monday and drove all eight hours back home. We also stopped in the Atlanta, GA area to do some shopping. We didn’t get home ‘til 11:00 that night.

It was a wonderful trip. And (in case you were wondering), we didn’t have to go all weekend without brushing our teeth. 🙂 🙂

Get Outside and Take a Walk!

Recently I have seen the importance of getting a few minutes of fresh air and Daddy and Mommy - enjoying time together!exercise every day. We live on a private road that is a perfect walking trail, and one of our favorite things to do in the evenings is take a family walk . After just a little while outside, we all feel refreshed, exhilarated, and just all together much, much better! 🙂 If there is sickness going around our area, a daily dose of fresh air always helps keep us from “getting it.” Exercise stimulates healthy blood flow; thus, it helps keep blood pressure and blood sugar at appropriate levels, and helGo Herman! Burn that energy! :)ps maintain a good weight. Here are a few examples from our own experience recently:

About a week ago, we had just finished up school, spent our normal amount of time getting the house looking decent again, and were waiting for Daddy to get home from work. Only one problem: chaos was reigning! Many of the younger ones were bursting with uncontrollable energy, and, consequently, the stress-o-meter of Happy Hannah and Cheerful Cocoa :):)the home was rising rapidly. I was in the kitchen working on something, when I heard Mommy call out “All right, everyone get your shoes on! Family walk!” Immediately everyone was pulling out shoes, socks, jackets, the stroller, and other necessary collectables, and in a few moments we were out on the road getting some much-needed fresh air. The cool, crisp, fall breeze was simply refreshing, and we all came back in a little calmerKathryn and Victoria and with much clearer minds! 🙂

Last night, after a calm, quiet, relaxing afternoon, Mommy again had the great idea to go to a new local Jessica and Amandawalking track we have just found out about and get a few minutes of exercise before dark. This time, Daddy was with us and we enjoyed the time immensely! Divided up into pairs of two or three, we spent valuable time talking and laughing while expending some energy! The moon was out early and there were many gorgeous sights to behold.

Ideas for how to make a walk even more enjoyable and profitable:

– make it a family affair, and TALK!!

– sing a song

– take along a football or Frisbee and play catch (this is a favorite with us!)

– take a little card with a Scripture verse written on it and memorize it

– use a jump rope

– take note and thank God for the beauty of His creation

So… today, tomorrow, and as often as possible, even if you are busy, take a few minutes and GET OUTSIDE AND TAKE A WALK!!

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