“… 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!!

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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!!

Chicken Caesar Tetrazzini

A few weeks ago, while visiting some family in SC, our aunt served us this delicious dish and upon request gave us the recipe. 🙂 Last night we didn’t have any supper plans, so after consulting with Mommy and Amanda, we decided thatA work in progress... it would be an excellent choice for dinner. I volunteered to make it, and Titus, The topping -always a willing helper, decided he would assist me (or rather ride on my back and attempt to eat my hair :)). After mixing it up and throwing it into the oven to bake, and after enduring the hunger pains that came from such a delicious smell, 🙂 we all sat down and enjoyed the mea l together. So, here’s the recipe:

16 oz. spaghetti

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups Caesar dressing (we used store bought this time, but homemade would work just a well and be just as tasty, besides better for you :))

1 cup Parmesean cheese

4 Tbsp. dry bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350. Cook and drain spaghetti. Combine noodles with shredded chicken, chicken broth, and dressing – pour into a 15×10” baking pan. Mix together cheese and bread crumbs, sprinkle over top. Bake for 25 min. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Yum!! All ready to eat!!

Notes: Though not quite a dieters delight, 🙂 this is a great and extremely simple treat for unexpected company or busy days. Can be made ahead and frozen. Great when accompanied by a fresh tossed salad. 

Results of the Photo Caption Contest

The dining room was quiet. Used supper dishes were pushed to the center of the table, while eleven heads bent in concentration over the papers in front of them. An occasional giggle or comment broke the silence, but for the most part, all was still. Then, someone asked, “Do I have to pick just THREE? These are ALL so good!”

We were finally judging the captions for the photo caption contest of a few weeks ago! Each person was handed a piece of paper which had all the entries typed on it (without the names of the submitters), and we were to mark our three favorites. When we finally managed to narrow down the list to our top three (or four 🙂 ) favorites, we tallied the votes to find out which captions seemed to fit the picture the best. After seeing some very interesting results, we took the four finalists, and voted again. Then, when it was obvious which one had won the contest, there was a moment of breathless anticipation as we waited to hear who had submitted the winning caption! A drum-roll was called for, the winner was announced, and the room instantly burst into cheers! So, for those of you who submitted captions and are just dying to know who won :), here are the results. The winning caption was:

074Hynes Vacation 09

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue with baby toys?” , submitted by Michael S.

 

The other three finalists were:

“Where are all the boys???” by Uncle Jim

“Oh my! The Bb in measure seven was a bit sharp again – one more time girls…” by Joshua

“Did you see what I just did?? … Sometimes I even amaze myself!” by Aunt Lisa

 

One that we really liked when we had our personal family contest a few weeks ago was the one that Mom came up with: “Where’s my binki?” Another favorite was Dad’s “Why wouldn’t my sisters adore me??”

So a great big THANK YOU to all who participated!! We GREATLY enjoyed receiving and reviewing all the comments – please visit again soon!!!!! 🙂

Lots of “Nelzl” Fun!!!

It was dark. It was loud – at times. There was lots of activity. We had to carry water fromSarah and Kathryn - sisters and friends in the Lord the spring. Washing dishes (of which there were not a few!) became a very interesting experience. There were nine children ages 10 and underA picnic in Andrews, NC . Eight young adults. Four adults. But most of all, there was abundant joy and enthusiasm in every heart!

Where were we and what was happening??? ThisThe smaller pyramid... last weekend, we had the joy to host the Stelzl family at our house! After their arrival on Thursday evening,Hannah was having some fun with her camera :) we had an absolute blast getting to know this dear family better, even though we did go over 30 The Great "Nelzl" Pyramid :) (Just in case you haven't figured it out, "Nelzl" is short for a time when the Stelzls and the Neelys are together :)) hours without electricity (caused by a rain storm :))! We filled the precious time with playing games, talking, doing electrical work, 🙂 talking, having aHannah - the famous photographer and photography instructor of the weekend few picnics,  making music, talking, carrying water from the spring up to the house, enjoying delicious meals together (some of which were in the dark :)), talking,  Just a few of the many names on the Moving Vietnam Veterans Wall taking hundreds of pictures, talking, breathing deeply of the beautiful, crisp fall  air, fellowshipping around a bonfire, talking, and many other things. (Do you get the picture of  wJonathan was getting ready to feast on a roasted skinny beast :)hat we did the most of anything?? :))

The glorious symbol of our country - oh that she would return to her God! On Saturday morning, we left our without -electricity house 🙂 and went to view the moving Vietnam Veterans Wall, which was passing  through our area at Hannah Grace and Hannah Grace with Victoria :):)the time. How precious to see list after list of all the soldiers  that willingly gave up  home, family, and future to go to another world and fight so that we, a few generations later, could have those things that they sacrificeThe tower at the top of Brasstown Baldd!! It was an excellent reminder that freedom is not free – Bethany many have fought and died for it on our behalf!

On Sunday evening, we loaded up and drove to Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in GA, forHiking up - Hannah captured the priceless moment beautifully! a refreshing hike and time of fellowship around a picnic supper. When we got to We serve an amazing God!the top, we were greeted by an exhilarating breeze and a clear view of the surrounding mountain ranges. At the excellenWow!!!!!!!!!t suggestion of Mrs. Stelzl, we did something we have never thought to do up there: The team helpmeets - Tina and Darlenewe lifted our voices in one accord in  many a song of praise to our Creator! Songs like “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” “It Is Well Josiah showing us where we had just been With My Soul,” “Trust and Obey,” and many others filled the air and reminded us of the Almighty, Unchangeable, Loving God that we serve! That will stand outJessi in the memories of all who participated for years! Thank you, Mrs. Stelzl, for  the great idea!!

After their departure, we were left with a too empty, too quiet house (though by then the lights were working again :)) but we treaA whole army of young livessure the memories of all that was said and done! We praise thKathryn and Sarah - bundled to match! :)e Lord for opportunities, like this, to be encouraged by sweet fellowship with like-minded believers!

Memory Making – Taking Family Pictures

We recently spent some time taking family pictures. It made me think about all the many different things people say when its “picture time.” Sometimes the process is harder than other times, especially if you don’t have anyone to take Oops... we weren't quite ready.the picture for you. It teaches some good character qualities, including patience, perseverance, and cooperation. Most of the time we take our own family pictures… you know: the “Quick! Push the button and run into the picture!” routine. This time we were  blessed to have a neighbor who offered to take them “professionally” for us. Amazing!! We got done in less than an hour! 🙂 A quick break :)Last time we tried, it took us probably two or three hours! Having an extra person to push the little button helped a lot!

So anyway, what does your family say when its picture time and you’re trying to get everyone to not only look at the camera, but with a pleasant expression (like, you know, a smile or something nice like that?!)? I’ll be honest… you have to be creative. Think about what your family likes the most. The thing that makes them smile to think Quick... it's going... it's going... it's gone.about. Then make them say it out loud to produce the smile. That’s what we want, isn’t it? 🙂

The “normal” picture-taking sayings are, “Smile!” “Say, ‘Cheese!’”, and other stuff like that. But… wait a minute… what is the standard for “normal” if everyone is different?! Hmmmmm…

Well, I have to admit that sometimes it’s a real struggle to get a good family picture. It takes an extra amount of cooperation and patience. This past March, we were trying to get a really good one for the cover photo on our new CD.Hurry up and get over here! Ummm… well…. we all got dressed up in our “Sunday clothes” and headed  out to the garage where we set up our portrait studio. Titus was only about a week old, so Mommy was coming off bed rest to do this. Remember, it was March, so we had a heater going in the garage, which we ended up shutting off, because when you have twelve people squished into an approximately 5’x5’ area, no one gets Oops - we forgot to set the timer so Dad could get in the picture!extremely cold. (Actually, you’re more likely to get extremely hot.) About  two hours and eighty pictures later, we concluded that we probably had one picture that would work, so we went inside and got little ones ready for bed. Most of us had ice cream (to help us cool down 🙂 ) while Daddy was browsing through the pictures.  We then realized that we didn’t have one picture that we could even “cut and paste.” Back to the garage… side note: we had to redress six people and redo hair. It was now about 10:30 pm. We were all getting kind-of tired. After about twenty or thirty more, finally, we got one that we could “cut Something was WAY too funny!this and paste that,” and it would work. That night, we tried several different ways to try to get the effect we wanted, which included laughing uncontrollably, instead of just smiling at the camera.

Oh, I guess this post is supposed to be about what people say when they are  waiting for that little clicking sound, which confirms in our mind that the picture has been captured by the incredible device known as a camera. We use the common words like “Smile!”, “Say, ‘Cheese!’”, and “Look at the camera!”. But we also say probably not-so-common things, too. “Laugh uncontrollably!” “Pretend like you’re comfortable!” “Relax… just be yourself.” “Smile anyway!” “Be happy!” “Don’t wrinkle your nose when you smile.” “Umm… it just took…. my eyes were Trying to make a stressful moment humorousshut.” “Let me take it! You always ‘cut off’ your head!!” “Make your eyes smile.” “Ooops… I wasn’t looking.” “Well, let’s try that again.” “Open your eyes a little wider.” “Are we having fun yet?” “Just one more.” “Take off the sunglasses – we want to see your eyes.” “Hurry… I can’t stand like this much longer!” “Don’t pick your nose!” “Hundreds of people will see this.” “You sit right there.” “The sun is in my eyes.” “Run… the timer’s going!” “Everyone hold still.” “Ouch… you stepped on my foot!” “_________ was looking the other way.” “Watch out! Don’t fall off!” “My legs are falling asleep.” “Call the dog.” “Everybody open your eyes.” “Put your hand down.” “Nobody move until after the ‘click’.” “Quick! Run into the picture before the time is up!” “Hopefully there will be one good one out of all these.”Uhhhh...Hurry! Get in place!

So, go take some family pictures. Enjoy time together. Cooperate. Work together as a team to get it done. And, most importantly, laugh. It adds “spice” and will help to make the process more enjoyable. 🙂

 Finally!!!! A good one!! :)

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