Merry Christmas from Midland!
Category: Stanglin Family (Page 1 of 20)
When the kids get married and move away, you do what you can to celebrate the holidays together. If that means combining and cramming all your Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions into one weekend, you do it. If that means softening your hard lines on the order and timing of those traditions, you do it. If it means listening to the Chipmunks Christmas album at full volume two mornings in a row – back to back – instead of relaxing with a month in between, you do it. If it means setting up and decorating the tree and pretending it’s Christmas Eve the day after Thanksgiving, you do it. If it means waking up today and feeling like it’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so be it.
Valerie and David made the trip in from Tulsa and Carley and Collin came in from Nashville for a wonderfully truncated holiday season here in Midland. Thursday: turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie, a disappointing Cowboys win, ping-pong and pool and 99, and It’s a Wonderful Life. Friday: pancakes for breakfast, decorating the tree and the house, going out to eat, popcorn and egg nog and Dr Pepper while watching Scrooge, Christmas PJs, the Stanglin family dance and the clicking of the heels (sorry, Collin; I know Carley didn’t tell you about that), and the official reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Saturday: Carrie-Anne’s cinnamon rolls, followed by stockings and presents (put it on!) and the house empty by the time Michigan turned out the lights on Ohio State.
Carrie-Anne called it Thanksmas. I’m calling it good.
I’m not sure how we did it but, with just eleven days notice, we managed to get Carley and Collin married in a beautiful ceremony Wednesday night in Rockwall. The wedding chapel was perfect, the restaurant was incredibly accommodating, the food was terrific, and the cheesecakes were over-the-top marvelous. The families from both sides all made it in time to witness and participate in Collin and Carley tying the knot. And now we’ve got two daughters married and living outside the Republic.
The ceremony was surprisingly emotional – they’re both crybabies. And funny – Carley dropped Collin’s ring and it bounced and rolled all over the hardwood floor as I was making my opening remarks. The families made promises to the bride and groom before Carley and Collin made their solemn vows to each other. And the newly married couple walked out of the chapel to Aerosmith’s “Under My Skin.”
Carley and Collin, you two do love each other. That’s very clear. You both put the other first. You protect each other and care for each other. You both have a strong sense of purpose together and you’re focused.
Carley, you make Collin’s life more organized. And cleaner. And everyone who knows him thanks you. You encourage him and support him in the exact times and places he needs it most. You build him up and give him strength. You make him better.
Collin, you call Carley out when she’s being dramatic. And that’s a full-time job. You take care of her and serve her selflessly. You are carefully sensitive to her and to her circumstances. You’ve learned how to compromise with Carley and you’ve figured out how to resolve issues with her – by buying her ice cream at night. Almost every night. You make her better.
You’re both very passionate, active, and driven. Together, you’re going to be an unstoppable force.
May the love of God guide your marriage relationship and all your relationships. May the blessings of heaven crown your marriage with increasing joy and peace. And may your hearts and your lives be forever united by the grace and love of our Lord.
My Uncle Gerald finished his race in the wee hours of yesterday morning. And he ran well. He ran very well.
It was unexpected. A complete shock. He and his wife Bev of 20 months had just completed a vacation in the Texas Hill Country on Friday. I had told him about the bed and breakfast built into the old train cars on Inks Lake and reminded him about the coconut cream pie at the Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls. He attended a reunion at Dallas Christian on Saturday. He stayed home from church on Sunday because of some chest pains, got checked out by paramedics, and took it easy the rest of the day. He went to sleep Sunday night in his recliner and that’s where Bev found him yesterday morning. I’m still trying to wrap my brain and my soul around the news that my Uncle Gerald is no longer among the living on earth. I keep thinking I’m going to show up at the funeral this weekend and we’re going to laugh together about how weird it was when we all got those phone calls telling us he had died.
It’s hard to think of Uncle Gerald as dead because Uncle Gerald so ferociously represents life in its fullest form. He commands every room he enters with his warmth and his joy. He genuinely loves all people. He goes out of his way to pay careful attention to folks in their 90s and to play with and be silly with little kids and babies. He encourages the awkward teenagers. He brings an inexhaustible joy to every occasion. He accepts everybody. He engages everybody. He connects everything to a song and is not bashful about singing it. He loves to joke and laugh. He has a memory like a steel trap, so he has all the stories, all the history. He is the keeper of the family traditions and the 1930 Model A pickup. He is deeply sentimental about people and things. He remembers all the birthdays. He makes up games to play and goes at it with wild abandon. All sock monkeys are named “Whooping Cough” because of Uncle Gerald.
Some of my most vivid memories of Uncle Gerald are as a kid with the whole family at Bo-Bo’s house and, of course, at their place on Foxwood. But some of my favorites are as an adult, more recently, over the past twenty years, as our relationship changed into more of a friendship. I cherish the couple of times I spent several hours with Uncle Gerald in his office at Kilgore College, listening to his stories, sharing his love for our hometown of Dallas, reminiscing about all the siblings and cousins and our shared history. Walking with him around the downtown Kilgore square, eating lunch together at that sandwich place, being introduced to his friends and co-workers with such love and pride. The phone conversations about ecumenical worship and service to others between churches, the strange relationship between church elders and preachers, and the beauty of our God’s matchless grace.
Uncle Gerald has always been my favorite uncle. Hands down. Not even close. His geographic and social proximity to us is a big part of that – we all lived in the Pleasant Grove neighborhood of southeast Dallas, we all went to the same church, we all went to Dallas Christian School, we were with Uncle Gerald and Aunt Alice all the time. But, much more than that, Uncle Gerald always knows exactly how to make you feel like you are special, that you are important, that he really loves you, and loves being with you. He demonstrates an effortless love and a relaxed grace that isn’t so easily expressed in my clan. He really stands out that way. Every single trip to East Texas to see my parents is dominated by the question: Are we going to see Uncle Gerald? When is Uncle Gerald coming over? Are we going to Uncle Gerald’s house?
You want to be in the same room with Uncle Gerald because of his love and grace. He is very much like our Lord that way.
May all of us who know Uncle Gerald remember that his love and grace and joy come from our God and reflect his eternal glory. May the Lord bless Suzanne, Jeff, Chris, Bev, my dad and mom, and our whole family with his divine comfort and peace. And may God receive his faithful servant Gerald into his loving arms.
We celebrated the grand opening of the Midland Chuy’s last night and it was fabulous! Yes, every person in the world will tell you never to go to a restaurant during their opening month, much less their very first day. But we ignore that advice when it’s the opening of our very own Chuy’s. Yes, we waited in line for a solid hour to get our table, and it took another ten minutes before we saw a tortilla chip. But we love the excitement and the anxiety, the thrill and the nerves of that first day. We love the surprise of exploring all the unique art work and decorations. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth in a sequined, high-collared, Elvis jumpsuit? Of course!
The place was packed with a mix of curious folks who had never eaten at Chuy’s before and more seasoned folks, like us, who’ve been eating at Chuy’s for decades and have been anticipating this Midland store with great joy since it was announced during the winter. There were managers from Lubbock and Amarillo there to oversee a service crew that was still trying to get everything figured out. How do you close these blinds to block out the west sun? Do we charge for tortillas or not? Our poor server was raw and maybe a little overwhelmed. She brought us five drinks for our party of four and admitted she’s never eaten at a Chuy’s before. But it was all part of the fun. It’s a blast to be in the middle of a crew trying to do something together for the first time. They’re running around like chickens with their heads cut off and we’re trying to encourage them and keep them going.
C-A got her tacos. I got my Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom, the most perfect chicken enchilada in Texas. The girls got their cheese enchiladas. And we were extremely complimentary to the servers and the managers and wished everybody great luck as we left.
If I think about it honestly, Chuy’s is probably more nostalgic for me than anything else. When we lived in Marble Falls during the early years of our marriage, driving to Austin and eating at the original Chuy’s on Barton Springs Road was a real treat for Carrie-Anne and me. My Austin Grad seminary running buddies Charlie, Brooke, and Cynthia and I would open each new semester together with a fun lunch at the newer location on Lamar. Annual sermon seminars in Austin always include at least one loud dinner at Chuy’s with people I love but don’t see very often. And it’s always been our go-to Tex-Mex when we visit my brother Keith and his family in the capital city.
Now, finally, we have a location here in Midland. If we can only write enough letters and sign enough petitions to force them to bring back the green chili rice, it’ll be perfect.
I’m unbelievably honored to be delivering the keynote this evening for LCU’s Encounter. And a little terrified. Teenagers don’t fake it with a speaker.
Old people? They’ll fake it. If they’re bored out of their minds, if they’re not getting anything out of the lesson, older people will still sit there and pretend like it’s fine. God’s watching. Somebody’s watching. Older people act like they’re listening.
But not teenagers. If they don’t like it, I’m going to know and everybody in the whole room is going to know. Teenagers will lay down in the floor and go to sleep – they don’t care! They’ll start scrolling through their phones. They’ll start talking to each other, they’ll get up and start walking around the room, ordering cheese fries. I’ll know. It’s so scary.