Wonderland of Lights & Family

Last Friday afternoon our children and grand children joined us in Marshall, Texas for a weekend of sharing meals, laughter, and the sights and sounds of the “Wonderland of Lights” in downtown Marshall.

The citizens of Marshall are to be commended for the great job they do in preparing the city with tens of thousands of lights, for the chance for kids to slide down a snow covered incline in a tube, for ice skating on the square by the Harrison County Court House, and the smiling, friendly Texans everywhere greeting visitors from far and near.

One of the highlights of our trip was eating at Neely’s. For over 80 years they have been serving up the “Brown Pig Sandwich” and I can say first hand, it was scrumptious! The “Brown Pig” is a Carolina style chopped BBQ sandwich with a bit of lettuce, BBQ sauce,  and mayonnaise. Everyone who tried it love it. Neely’s is a Marshall landmark. Next time you’re there stop by and you will be glad you did.

I enjoyed seeing the wares of many interesting shops, a great art gallery, and did I mention good food? Our whole crew ate our Friday night meal at the Jalapeño Tree Mexican Restaurant on Hwy 59. Carol and I have been Jalapeño Tree fans for sometime now. Their place on Eastman Rd in Longview has become a regular stop on our many trips to the DFW area. They only serve up the absolute best Mexican food on planet earth! I promise!

On Saturday night we drove out Hwy 31 to a Presbyterian church and experienced “The Walk to Bethlehem”. As we waiting for our group to take the tour we were treated to wonderful hospitality. Friendly folks offered cookies of all sorts, coffee, hot coco,  and my favorite, hot apple cider.

Soon it was our turn and a lady led us with a lantern down a steep trail dotted with candles in paper bags outlining the sides of the path. One after another we came to stations where someone would read a portion of the Christmas story from the Bible (holding a scroll) and we would see an angel in the edge of the woods, Mary and Joseph, wise men, and shepherds with real sheep. The winter cold was forgotten as all of us listened intently to the story of God coming to us and being “God with us” and for us. Even the children didn’t miss a word. Then at the end there was a petting zoo where the children could touch and pet donkeys, cows, sheep, etc. The church folks were awesome hosts and their hard work to give such a gift to the community is much appreciated.

This fun packed weekend was the perfect way for us to share Christmas with our kids and grand kids. The little ones enjoyed the indoor pool, computers, and cookies that never ran out at the hotel. The staff at the Farimont there right off I-20 were perfect hosts and we are thankful for them.

I am so very thankful for my family. My wife is a devoted mom and grand mother and the best wife a man could have. She is a leader of women, great singer, speaker, and all around wonderful Christian lady. Our children and their spouses are all committed believers and are training our six grand children to love and obey the Lord Jesus.

Below is a sample of the fun we experienced together.

An Internet Fast.

No, I’m not talking about making your internet experience faster, I’m talking about internet fasting, no internet for 7 days.

Exactly one week ago I put a vacation message on my email auto-responder, shut off my computer and drove away. I made the conscious decision that for one week I would not read email, blogs, write a blog, or an any way use the internet.

Why? Good question. My simple answer is My life needed a reboot. I wanted a technical cleansing. The idea was to flush my mind of gmail, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and my real estate website. So I did it. I shut it off and drove to Texas.

I enjoyed the company of old friends over good food, remarkable sunsets, and catching a few fish. When my friend offered “Do you need to check your email?” my reply was simply “No“. I didn’t elaborate. And when told “You can use the computer anytime you want” I replied with only “Thanks“.

I found wonderful satisfaction in simple conversation. Talking about old times, fishing experiences, receipts, grand kids, life and the joys and sorrows of living. The hours passed at a slower pace it seemed. I stood in awe one early morning staring at brilliant stars hanging low against the blackness of the night sky, felling the cool wind tease the goose bumps on my arms and legs while listening to the steady cadence of gentle waves splash against the shore. I was keenly aware of God’s presence and pervasiveness in the glory of His creation.

I found time to admire cattle munching on green grass in the Red River Valley, admired some rusty antique trucks now resting from their labor at the entrance of a farm yard, and photographed an old Methodist church where services are now only two or three times a month. I wondered about the scores of people who had worshiped there, were married there, were memorialized there, and were introduced to God there.

Only a few short miles East is was Interstate 35 and the third largest casino in the world. People going fast and living faster, many never finding the secret of living at peace. I mean the kind that is present and up front when your head hits the pillow and you know that you know that you are at peace with man and God.

I had wonderful fellowship with my wife’s family, both the Cheek’s and the Samsill’s, and appreciated the happy faces of children, parents, and grand parents. We ate good food, laughed, and cheered the Dallas Cowboys to a win. I admire the legacy of generations of lives well lived.

I took my wife to a movie (The Blind Side), we shopped, we drove along holding hands, we laughed and enjoyed being one. I napped while watching food themed shows on the Travel Channel and I enjoyed being me. And, I really, really enjoyed being internet free for a week.

I have promised myself that from now on I will use the internet and all that entails, I will not let it use me. There’s a life to be lived in the other room, outside, down the road, in the woods, on a lake, or in the pages of a good book.

When I worshiped God this morning I felt more alive, cleaner, and my inner man had new crispness that I want more of.

What is the moral of this story? I’ll let you decide that one.