Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Blessed is this day for the time of our visitation has begun.
The Lord Almighty has arrived as an infant born in a manger.

He came not to judge
But to save us from our sins and iniquities,
Give us life in abundance,
Fill us with joy beyond measure,
And grant peace of soul beyond understanding
For all who choose to believe and know Him.

Happy Birthday, Jesus Christ, our Messiah!
Merry Christmas to one and all.

From all of us at Roseland Plantation:

Steve, Christina, Jennifer, Martha, Alejandro, and Donna

May you enjoy a Happy and Prosperous New Year!


I had been trying to post just our Christmas card for everyone to see, but insisted on rotating it, as you can see below.  This has happened to me many times before; I finally gave up in frustration.  If anyone can help, please write me.  Thanks,


Friday, December 10, 2010

The Recipe

Our guests at Roseland frequently compliment us on our breakfast.  We serve a proprietary fresh fruit cup, unique juice, and heavenly scrambled eggs among other menus.  Our guests love it.
“It’s perfect,” they say. 
Sometimes our guests also ask, “What do you do that makes your breakfast so good?  What is your recipe?  What special ingredients do you use to make it so delicious?”

Clearly, our guests can perceive the love we pour into our work.  They can see the attention we pay to presentation, and they can taste the care we take during preparation.  The love shines through the end result.
“It’s the love we pour into it,” we respond. 

But our guests have difficulty accepting that’s all there is to it, so they often probe further, “What’s your secret?  Are you using special farm fresh eggs?”
“We use regular eggs from the store, mix it with milk, whip it, and then cook it in the pan.  We add no seasonings,” we reply.
“That’s all?” they ask in amazement.
“Yes, that plus a lot of attention to detail and love,” we reiterate.

Learning the simplicity of our recipe actually enhances their appreciation of the breakfast; it doesn’t diminish it.  Knowing how carefully we prepare the food emphasizes to them how important they are in our lives.  In short, it shows how much we care, appreciate, and love them.

It is the same with God and His creation.  He created everything in this Universe with great care for our pleasure.  He made everything beautiful and perfect before we ruined it.  But we can still see the attention, love, and care He poured into it for our benefit.  Isn’t it incredible that the Creator of this Universe would be so concerned with our needs?  Isn’t it overwhelming how important we are to Him?

Many have difficulty accepting that God did what He did because they can’t understand how He accomplished it.  But just as it is unnecessary for Roseland guests’ enjoyment of the breakfast to know our recipes, it is unnecessary for us to know how God made the Universe.  We all can enjoy a Roseland breakfast or marvel at God’s superlative creation without knowing the details of its preparation. 

Sometimes we are fortunate and do learn the recipe.  It seems so simple as to be impossible.  So we ask, “Is that all?  That’s it?” 

If our guests are impressed by the simple elegance of Roseland’s recipes, how much more should we be awed at the simple elegance of God’s creative genius when we do get glimpses of how He created the Universe!  In both cases knowing the recipe only enhances the experience rather than detracts from it. 

You see what’s important is WHAT God did, not HOW He did it.  And this is what He did and is continuing to do:
1.    He created a perfect world for us
2.    He gave us free will to enjoy that world with Him and to love Him
3.    He made us managers of his perfect Creation so we, too, could be creators like Him
4.    When we messed up and totally destroyed His perfect creation, He didn’t just erase everything and start all over again, but He chose to fix it and pay a price we cannot comprehend
5.    Though it may be difficult to perceive at times, He is constantly at work in each of our lives to perfect us so we can participate in his perfect Creation once it’s been restored to perfection.

What an amazing, awesome God worthy of all our praise!  So let us praise God and thank Him for His incredible skill, love, and attention to detail.  Let us accept Him and His Creation for what it is, even if we don’t know the recipe.   And let us never forget how important we are to Him!  Merry Christmas to all and may the peace of the Lord be with you.

And please do come to enjoy our delicious Roseland breakfasts…

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Free State of Van Zandt

We meet the greatest and interesting people here at Roseland!  The other day a group of long-time college friends – I must use the word “old” with great caution at my age - decided to join us for their periodic retreat.  Though they have scattered, they continue to get together once or twice each year and enjoy each others’ company.  They rotate the location, first in one person’s home town, then the next, and so on.  That way the burdens of hosting and travel are shared equally among the participants. 

One of the guests, Mike, is a history buff.  He asked me, “Do you know about the Free State of Van Zandt?”
History was never my favorite subject in school.  I can’t remember where I put the car keys five minutes ago, let alone the names and dates associated with people long gone.
“The Free State of Van Zandt?  No, I’ve never heard of it.”
“Yes.  Roseland is located in what was once called The Free State of Van Zandt. You should look into it.”  With that we changed the topic of conversation, but clearly the gauntlet had been laid down.

That was obviously a challenge no self-respecting man could reject, and I decided to check out the Free State of Van Zandt.  I figured it had something to do with the Civil War (here in Texas it’s also called the un-Civil War, War between the States, Second War of Independence, War of Northern Aggression, or War of States Rights).  I started researching. 

Information is not hard to come by, but the truth is.  Tall tales and colorful local history competed for my attention.  Early history is preserved through oral tradition and tales of questionable authenticity learned from personal friends.  Newspapers and such were non-existent in those days, but even if they were, can we ever be truly sure that they are accurate? 

Names familiar from the names of local towns come to life as influential families, courageous settlers, and perhaps scoundrels.  Stories resound with undertones of pride and success mixed with pragmatism and individual determination.  This is a brief summary of what I’ve learned about the Free State of Van Zandt:

Van Zandt County was originally carved out of Henderson County by the Texas State legislature in 1848; its boundaries were re-drawn in 1850 leaving its present boundaries.  The county had acquired the moniker “free territory” shortly after its formation.  The term however had nothing to do with the matter of slavery, but resulted from a fortuitous situation that allowed Van Zandt County and its residents to inherit none of the excessive debt burden carried by its parent Henderson County.  Hence the term “free territory” originally meant “free of debt”, not necessarily “free of slaves.”  In fact, the institution of slavery plays a significant and interesting role in Roseland Plantation’s pre Civil War history.  Furthermore Texas, as well as the owner of the plantation at the time, had joined the Confederate side.

President Lincoln abolished slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, but the order did not reach Texas until June 19, 1865.  This date is commonly celebrated as “Juneteenth,” the day of Texan emancipation by descendants of the slaves.  But back to Van Zandt County… 

In 1867 Texans decided to formally re-join the Union, but this did not sit well with many local residents in Van Zandt County.  The citizens of the county held a convention and declared themselves free and independent of the State of Texas, of the Southern Confederacy, and of the United States of America.  Subsequently they formed an army to fight for their liberty. 

In response General Sheridan, the Union officer in charge of reconstruction in the territory, sent a troop of cavalry to put an end to the rebellion.  The county, being heavily wooded, made it possible for the army of the Free State of Van Zandt to apparently repulse the invasion in short order with no casualties simply by sniper fire alone – using tactics similar to those the American militiamen had used to defeat the British during the Revolutionary War. 

Victory appeared quick, painless, and sweet to the residents of the Free State of Van Zandt.  The army proceeded to celebrate their victory in Canton.  It was a hearty celebration and most were overcome by the effects of excessive liquor consumption during the celebration.

However, Sheridan’s troops had not been defeated; they had merely regrouped.  At the height of the celebration by the army of the Free State of Van Zandt, Sheridan’s troops surrounded Canton and captured the entire army.  The Federal soldiers built a several acre stockade prison walled by logs rammed vertically into the ground.  This prison held the entire rebellious army. 

The prisoners were model captives and showed no inclination of causing trouble for Union.  Therefore as time passed the number of Federal guards on duty was reduced until there was just one guard to patrol the entire perimeter. 

When the rainy season came, the ground became soft, and the prisoners took advantage of the situation.  They loosened some of the surrounding posts, created a hole in the fence, and escaped to neighboring territories. 

Thus ended the saga of the Free State of Van Zandt, but the spirit of the community lives on.   Though the county may be subject to external authority, citizens still cherish their independence and resent external intervention.  County citizens still proudly remember their heritage of freedom from authority, and proudly resist any encroachment on their liberty – especially from Washington. 

More detailed histories are available at  (for Van Zandt County) and (for Texas).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas Teas

Every year Roseland Plantation hosts a special Christmas Tea.  These Teas are truly memorable:
•    We delight the taste buds with our home made scones, sandwiches, and desserts.
•    We satisfy the eye with the royal elegance of our table settings.
•    We capture the imagination with beautiful seasonal flowers and decorations. 
•    And we top all this off with Roseland’s famous historic plantation tour.

Come join us for one of our 2010 Christmas Teas on December 5, 6, 7, or 8.  Get into the holiday mood without the rush and pressure of the season. 

Christmas is about Peace and Joy.  Experience both at our Christmas Tea. 

We have already received many reservations and space is limited.  Come, be our guest.  One, two, four, or more; no minimum group size requirements.  More information is available at under “Special Seasonal Festival Teas.”   …or you can simply call us at 903-849-5553.

God bless and happy holidays.


What Happened?

Wow!  It’s November already!  What happened to September and October?  Where did it go?

October is our busiest season of the year, and this year it has been busier than ever:
  • We hosted weddings every weekend.  
  • We held the annual Rose Festival Teas – a very successful event this year.  
  • We hosted many reunions, weekend getaways, silver and gold anniversaries, and other special events.  
There was not a moment to catch our breath. 

This October was the best month Roseland has ever experienced, and here it is the middle of November already!  We’re looking forward to Thanksgiving celebrations at Roseland, then the Christmas Teas, then Christmas and New Year celebrations and weddings.  I bet in a couple of months we’ll look back and ask “What happened to November and December?”

So come to Roseland and join the festivities, renew old friendships and family ties.  After all ‘tis the season to be jolly!  …and Roseland is the place to experience it best.


Note:  I started to write this mid-September; then life happened…

Seasons come, and seasons go.  My favorite seasons are summer and spring.  Summer brings sailing, swimming, long days, warm weather, and lots of outdoor activities.  Spring is beautiful, heralds the coming of summer, and symbolizes rebirth after trials. 

My least favorite seasons are winter and fall.  Winter is simply bitter and cold with much darkness and short daylight - more so up North than at Roseland, thank God. Colors fade into drab browns and grays with momentary splashes of brilliant white when snow falls. 

East Texas winters are not nearly as depressing as the winters up North.  Winter for the most part is actually a very pleasant time of the year with relatively mild temperatures, a fair number of sunny days, with just enough greenery to tease the eye and provide a fleeting reminder that all is not dead. 

To me fall is the saddest of the four seasons.  It signals the end of summer, my favorite time of year, and the coming of winter, my least favorite time of year.  As with fireworks, nature seems to provide us with a grand finale of colors after the long summer show, then the stage closes. 

Fall represents a time of closure, a time of re-grouping, of preparation for the trials of winter.  Summer toys are put away, winter clothes are brought out in anticipation.  “Button down, store up, prepare,” we are taught. 

September has been such a month, and last week in particular has been such a week:
•    We closed to pool – the water is too cold for swimming now.
•    Some leaves began to turn.
•    Illnesses of elderly family members foreshadowed a tough winter coming.

…those were the bitter parts of fall, but then there were sweet parts, too:

•    The roses we planted this year burst forth in colors and fragrance beyond imagination.
•    Jennifer and Johnathan were married in early October.  What a joyful occasion that was!
•    Brayden continues to grow.  He is such a joy!
•    I visited our church family in Denver and recalled the delightful days Debbie and I had spent with them.
•    The gang from Houston came to visit us for a family celebration.
•    God continues to send us guests who leave as family we have known all our lives.  We share experiences, whether that be sorrow, illness, joy, or memories.

We keep receiving blessing after blessing after blessing.  The Lord is good.  The Lord if faithful and true.  Life is bitter yet sweet:  Bittersweet.  So let the winter come, it’s only a few months until the rich sweetness of spring engulfs us once again.

Praise God!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Flying Armadillo

Who has driven through Texas and not seen armadillo road kill?  Because of this I’ve always pictured armadillos as blind, dumb, lumbering tanks too stupid to avoid vehicles.  Not necessarily so!

Armadillos are an amazing group of mammals from South America.  There are twenty different species of armadillos, all closely related to sloths and anteaters.  They have a hard bone shell and short strong legs well suited to digging.  They eat insects such as ants, beetles, and grubs.  Their tongues are sticky, like an ant-eater’s to better catch the insects.  Armadillos do dig little annoying holes in the yard to get at these delicacies, but the holes are not particularly destructive. 

Texas is populated by the nine-banded armadillo, a cute little creature.  We have a locally resident armadillo family at Roseland.  I’ve seen it many times in the evening and at night slowly crawling along the ground, digging for insects.  Usually it ignores me; it has poor eyesight.  But it does have good hearing and sense of smell.

One afternoon, as I was taking wedding pictures, I noticed an armadillo in the yard next to the rose garden.  I sneaked up on it, and clicked a picture.  The shutter’s small clicking noise must have alarmed it because it took off into the air and quickly disappeared.  It literally flew about 15 ft!  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the following pictures.

Here are some interesting facts about the nine-banded armadillos of Texas:
•    Contrary to popular belief, the nine-banded armadillo cannot roll into a ball to escape predators.  It must rely on its armor, speed, and agility to survive. 
•    The female always gives birth to four identical young from the same egg.
•    Some females have been known to delay birth for up to two years after fertilization to compensate for stressful situations.
•    Armadillos are excellent swimmers (they do the armadillo paddle which is similar to dog paddle).
•    Armadillos can go a long distance underwater, typically walking on the bottom; they can hold their breath for up to six minutes at a time.
•    Armadillos have been known to float long distances by gulping air into their intestines, essentially creating a balloon inside a shell.
•    The nine-banded armadillo is not a threatened species (its population is actually growing), but its ownership in the U.S. is regulated.  For example it’s illegal to own one in Maine, and Montana classifies it as livestock with the same requirements and restrictions as cattle.
•    Armadillos are edible (must be cooked thoroughly as they can carry leprosy); can be substituted for pork, chicken, or beef; and is part of the local diet in many parts of South America.
•    Armadillos have been used for research into leprosy, multiple births and other reproductive issues, HIV studies, skin and organ transplants, cancer, and more.

Armadillos are cute.  And yes, they can fly!  Come to Roseland Plantation in Ben Wheeler, TX, and see our flying armadillo.  You can learn more about armadillos at
One day, perhaps, I’ll tell you about flying pigs, too…


I’ve been quiet of late because I’ve been consumed by that favorite activity all of us face periodically:  Taxes.  I can no longer bear it, and must work on something else just to maintain sanity.  So I thought I’d work on the blog a bit.

I received a forward particularly applicable to Roseland Plantation the other day and thought I’d share it with y’all.  Hey, I’m allowed to say that – we’re in Ben Wheeler, Texas!

Please don't stop reading till you reach the end...

As you know, we have a wild pig problem here at Roseland Plantation.  In fact we have a wild pig problem in Texas.  For example, half of all U.S. ferile pigs reside here in Texas.  Yes, we have the largest population of ferile pigs in the entire country because
1.    They are prolific reproducers
2.    They are extremely canny, wary, crafty, and “street-wise”
3.    They are migrant and totally unpredictable.

Tough it may sound like I’m talking about people, I’m not.  I really am talking about wild pigs.  Let me give you an example.

Last year we created a beautiful wild flower garden at Roseland Plantation.  The idea was to make a terrific photo op for our brides.  And it was just beautiful – a sea of flowers.  Well, the pigs decided they liked it, too, and proceeded to make themselves at home.  They began by tilling a small, barely visible spot in the middle of the wild flowers.  Slowly, however, they got more comfortable with the situation, continued to enlarge their territory and destroy more and more of the wild flowers. 

They were tricky and unpredictable.  They would do some damage, then disappear for a while.  Sometime later they would come back unexpectedly to continue the process. 

We could sit out there all night every night for weeks and not see a pig.  Then one night, when we weren’t watching, they would show up and do their dirty work.  Ultimately they destroyed well over half of our wild flower field.

After about a month or two of this cat and mouse game (perhaps more appropriately called “man and pig game”), they were clearly winning.  One could now actually see the damage from a distance because they had destroyed the wild flower field to its edge, and it’s not fixable this year.

It’s too late to fix the mess they made.  The wild flower field looks horrible now and the season for planting is past.  The pigs destroyed something special and precious.  Perhaps we’ll be unable to recover for two years if they destroyed the seeds for next year’s crop of flowers.  We won’t know until next year, but as a minimum they cost us a lot of unnecessary work and money.
Roseland's Wild Flower Field Before the Pigs (June)
Same Wild Flower Field After the Pigs (August)

The whole process reminds me of Debbie’s battle with cancer.  At first it ate her internally; everything looked fine on the outside.  When the symptoms finally became visible, it was too late.  Irreparable damage had already been done; the outcome was determined long beforehand.  But let’s get back to the story about wild pigs.

Now we’re on the hunt for wild pigs, but we have been mostly unsuccessful.  They are well hidden and crafty. 

Then I received the following email.  (It has been modified slightly from the original.)  I thought it was most helpful for us hunting pigs at Roseland and will follow its instructions.  But it also holds a significant lesson for every American: 


There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the Prof noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter.  The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country's government and install a new communist regime.  In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked:

"Do you know how to catch wild pigs?"  The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said that it was no joke.

"You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn.

“When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming.

“When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence.

“They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side.

 “The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat the free corn again.

 “One day unexpectedly you slam the gate shut on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom.

“They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught.  Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.  Then you kill them and eat them."

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America. The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax cuts, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc. while we continually give up our freedoms, just a little at a time.

Think about it.  The Bible says the debtor is slave to the lender:
•    Who owns your house?  The Government agency which ultimately holds the mortgage note.
•    Who owns the bank where you keep your money?  The Government which bailed it out and insures its contents.
•    Who owns the company that makes your vehicle?  The Government that owns its stock for bailing it out.
•    Who owns your health?  The Government who now mandates every detail of your health insurance – including prescriptions on how your illness is to be treated.
•    Who is responsible for your livelihood?  The Government who pays your unemployment, retirement, and most likely job through tax benefits, incentives, etc.
•    Who is responsible for your physical and financial well-being and safety (think regulations)?  The Government who regulates every aspect of our daily lives.
•    Who funds and defines the details of your children’s education?  The Government.
•    Where were most of the few stimulus package jobs created?  In the Government.
•    Who defines what you can and must say to be politically correct and acceptable?  The Government.  (By the way, our “politically correct” is functionally equivalent to Communism’s “party line.”)
•    Who owns you?  You guessed it - the Government… 

Little by little, in imperceptible steps based on good intentions and human logic, during the past century we have turned the Constitution upside down:  We have willingly become servants of the Government, not the other way around!  And we have none to blame but ourselves.  We have built our own trap and willingly entered it seeking free corn.  Like wild pigs in a trap, we are milling about gobbling up free corn blissfully unaware of the danger.

One should always remember two truths:
1.    There is no such thing as free corn.
2.    God created each of us with free will and made each of us responsible for ourselves, our family, and our nation - not a nation responsible for our family and us.

So God help you, me, and America the Beautiful when the trap’s gate slams shut because we’ve ignored these truths!  God help the Home of the Free, the Light to the World, the Dream of all oppressed peoples everywhere when the trap’s gate slams shut!  Because the trap’s gate is closing, closing, closing quickly – unless we Americans wake up. 

Vote, but think before you vote!  Change is not always good, nor is it always for the better.  In fact, history has demonstrated repeatedly that unplanned, impulsive, mindless, careless, rushed, or forced change almost invariably results in disaster. 

What looks so good today will be our children’s and grandchildren’s nightmare.  It’s kind of like sin…  Looks great tonight; but tomorrow morning the pain begins; will continue for a long, long time; and will hurt many loved ones.  It’s a Biblical lesson we need to remember every day. 

Beware and think.  Don’t be fooled.  Don’t be lulled into complacency by free corn.  Sometimes – usually in fact - the correct path is not quick, easy, or painless.  Our history and The Bible teach that.  Do we?

How many great Americans from our illustrious past would stand in line to accept a handout?  Whatever happened to the great American icon – the self-sufficient cowboy?  Have we buried him and replaced him with a beggar for scraps from Uncle Sam?  In fact, have we willingly transformed Uncle Sam into our personal Sugar Daddy?  It’s hard to say “No, thank you!” to free corn, but that’s the only way to stay out of the trap. 

Most importantly, have we betrayed the faith of our founders, the faith of Adams’ invisible hand (the hand of the Almighty) that guided our nation from its youth to greatness – and replaced it with faith in the mirage of our human perfection and power?  Have we abandoned our founding principles and been conformed to this world, rather than conforming the world to the image of our creator, Christ Jesus?  Have we, in the heat of worldly passion, sinned and betrayed The One who loves us more than anything, the very source of our existence?  The only one willing to die for us?

Having been born in Hungary, lived under Communist rule, and experienced the failed 1957 Hungarian revolution, my heart bleeds for our children and grandchildren.  The trend is crystal clear.  I see, understand, and pray that enough Americans will remember and cherish what made America so unique and special in all the world - before it’s too late.  I pray that enough will understand well enough to avoid all of us being caught like wild pigs in a trap. 

The end result of a trap is never pretty or pleasant for the victim.  Wild pigs caught in a trap make a most tasty meal!

Please, please don’t saddle our children and grandchildren with the cost and consequences of our sins!  We have replaced faith in the one true Creator, The One and Only.  We have made laws we create our King, the Government we choose our God.  Just like the Israelites of Biblical times, who ultimately ended up in captivity because of their sin, we too have become captives because we want free corn.  But the Government does not allow us to teach that to our children in school…

Khrushchev once boasted that one day America will become Communist without anyone firing a single bullet – and we are about to prove him right.  It may already be too late.

Lord, please don’t let it be so!  Lord, please don’t let this cancer eat up our wonderful nation the way cancer consumed my beautiful wife!  I recall how the pigs destroyed the field from the inside out, how the cancer destroyed Debbie from the inside out, and now I see a similar process of destruction in our nation.  By the time the symptoms became visible with the pigs and with Debbie, it was too late to recover.  May it not be so with America, Lord I pray, though the walls and the gate of the trap are solidly in place!

The pigs at Roseland taught us another important lesson:  We have built a beautiful garden that others will appropriate, use for their own purposes, and destroy if we're not vigilant every single day and guard it zealously.  But we must rest sometime, and the enemy always comes to destroy when we're resting, distracted, or inattentive.  It's the same with America.  Only the Lord can protect us always, without rest and ceasing.

We can pretend to be gods ourselves and end up ensnared in the trap of our making, or we can freely confess our sin, repent, and turn to The LORD our maker who alone can graciously save us from ourselves.  It’s our choice as individuals.  It’s also our choice as a family and a nation.

...and now it's time to put out free corn and trap the Roseland pigs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Roseland is truly special.  We have some amazing experiences.  We have felt the hand of God; we have seen His miracles.  But sometimes it’s the quiet moments when we sit down with our guests and just converse that make Roseland unforgettable.
Since those talks are private conversations, we cannot blog about their content, which may freely range from the weather to politics to religion to health matters and then to whatever else seems to be of interest.  One of the things I’ve noticed here at Roseland is that God seems to bring guests into our lives who are experiencing difficulties like ours; inevitably by the end of the conversation and visit we both feel blessed to be part of the same family – the family of the Lord.  In fact, many times saying good-bye to our guests reminds me of saying good-bye to our distant relatives after a Thanksgiving holiday.  We’re overflowing with joy because they came, sad they’re leaving, but peaceful in the knowledge that we will meet again and resume our relationship right where we left off.

So what does all this have to do with blueberries?  Actually, quite a bit.  The blueberry season is June and July and we have two nearby blueberry farms where guests can pick fresh blueberries right off the bush.  As a result we’ve had several couples come specifically to pick blueberries.  In the evening we struck up conversations that blossomed into friendships during the visit.  All because of blueberries.

What’s so good about blueberries?  Actually quite a bit.  Blueberries look good on the plate and taste good; they also have some incredible medicinal value.  Blueberries are high in anti-oxidants and vitamins that help prevent heart problems and other severe illnesses, including cancer. 

Furthermore, this last season I learned from our guests that blueberries can help ease the pain of arthritis:  Their arthritis pains have lessened since they started eating a cup of blueberries a day.  Consequently they’ve cut back on traditional drugs. 

Other guests have told me of yet another benefit:  The blueberries keep them regular.  So not only do blueberries help relieve arthritic pain (we need fewer pain pills), but they help relieve the cramps caused by any pain pills we may choose to take.  That’s so God:  Two for the price of one!

So for all you readers out there:  Start eating blueberries.  They look good, taste good, and are healthy for you.  And then come back visit us at Roseland next June or July so we can talk about blueberries and anything else that comes to your mind.  After all, we’re family…

The Great Texas Balloon Race

Tyler and its environs are one of those well kept secrets of Texas.  We are frequently surprised by some unanticipated thrill that you would expect only in a much larger metropolis.  Recently our daughter, Christina, told us about The Great Texas Balloon Race.  Bryce and I decided to join Christina, Dale, and Brayden at the event. 

This event, now in its 32nd year, rivals the largest ballooning festivals in the nation and lasts three days.  Over 50 balloons came to the festival this year.  They participated in a variety of ballooning contests and races (with a $10,000 cash prize), and provided an opportunity for visitors to get “up close and personal” with a hot air balloon. 

It’s hard to believe that hot air balloons, those majestic floating flowers of the sky, are the size of a house!  It’s even more difficult to imagine wandering in a forest of these behemoths.  Standing in the middle of a field of half inflated balloons was like standing at the bottom of a well.  One’s entire field of vision was totally obscured in every direction by the bevy of balloons.  Besides balloons all around, only the sky overhead was visible.  Curious people were dwarfed by the reclining half-inflated balloons. 

In addition to balloons, the festival featured an impressive air show with classic fighter aircraft, parachutists, and other aerobatics.  Of course no Texas event is complete without food.  There was plenty, including the Texas fair classics:  BBQ and Fried Twinkies.  Other booths offered traditional fair goodies, such as glo-lites, toy balloon sculptures, pony rides, bounce houses, and much more for the children.

There is something special about music outdoors.  It always brings a sense of special enjoyment for our weddings at Roseland, and did so at The Great Texas Balloon Race as well.  Rock’n’roll and country songs resounded throughout the grounds compliments of a local radio station, emphasizing the festive evening mood.

Though this is the hottest part of the year, it cools down by nightfall when the real action occurs:  The balloon light-up.  We all had a terrific time watching the show, and Bryce had a memorable day on the pony ride and in the bounce houses.  Brayden, who is only four months old, was oblivious to all the action.  All in all, it was one of those unanticipated thrills associated with living near Tyler.  It was certainly a “Do again,” as Debbie used to say.

The Great Texas Balloon Race is held every year at the East Texas Regional Airport in Longview.  For additional information visit, and do plan on coming to next year’s Great Texas Balloon Race.

The Big Silence

There is so much to do and say, yet so little time – especially when business is brisk.  So please pardon our silence for the past several weeks.

There is yet another reason for the silence.  It is painful - no it's paaaain-ful !!! - to actually post a blog, especially one with pictures.  It's worse than pulling teeth without anesthesia. 

Any given blog, even if all materials are ready, will inevitably take at least 45 minutes of fiddling to post and look acceptable.  I'm considering switching to a different blog engine, but that takes experimentation (= more wasted time) and there is so little time. 

...and after that, it will take money to actually implement the transition seamlessly.  So please bear with our periodic silence.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Faulty Towers? - A True Story

Many years ago I used to watch a British sitcom, Faulty Towers, about an incompetent hotel keeper in England and the difficulties he had with his guests.  It was a very funny show; the plot normally involved the hero’s incompetence as he was being overwhelmed by events, some of which were out of his control, some his own doing. 

A couple of Fridays ago it felt as if we were filming Faulty Towers at Roseland Plantation.  Fortunately our guests didn’t think so.  But I thought I’d share the experience with you anyway.

The day started out as a normal, fairly busy Roseland day.  Our guests needed an early breakfast.  It normally takes two people to serve breakfast.  Phone calls and other distractions can easily result in burnt food, so we have to pay attention.  All was going well because this morning Martha was helping in the kitchen, and she could provide “backup” in case of distractions. 

The first distraction came shortly after we started.  The time had come for us to connect the irrigation systems for the roses, and Alejandro was having difficulty with the trencher.  “I need help.  The trencher doesn’t start!” 

I went out to check.  I examined the trencher.  Alejandro yanked and yanked on the pull-cord.  I checked all the switches and wires.  Everything seemed OK, but it just wouldn’t start.  “I don’t know,” I told Alejandro, “This makes no sense.  It worked last night!” 

I was beginning to have visions of smoke in the kitchen from burnt biscuits while I fiddle with the machine. 

As a last valiant attempt we checked the engine oil level; it was too low.  “Aha, that’s the problem!” I thought, knowing that the engine has a low oil level interlock.  I suggested that Alejandro top off the oil and try again, then went back to the kitchen.  A few minutes later I heard the engine kick over.  Fortunately Martha had kept things safe in the kitchen during my absence.

The most critical and demanding time is the process of actually serving the breakfast to our guests.  This process requires two people:  One to prepare the table, and another to prepare the main course on the plates.  Just as we began the process, the phone rang.  It was Jennifer, “Dad, the air conditioner man is here.  Can you come down to the house?” 
“No, not really, we’re plating.  Can you handle it?  He’s here to replace the drain pan in the air handler.  He should know what to do.  Call me if he needs help.”
“OK, dad, let me ask him.”  A few moments later, she confirmed that I’m not needed.
“I’ll come down to see what he’s doing soon as I can,” I reassured her, not too confidently. 

Back to breakfast…

Serving the guests went fairly smoothly, with only one or two phone calls interrupting us for information about Roseland.  At least these calls were manageable.  Everything was on track.  When we finished serving our guests, I sat down to eat breakfast – I was quite hungry by now.  I took my first bite and heard a knock on the kitchen door, “Hello, Mr. Steve!”

It was Isidro, our electrician, ready to work on the electrical for the island of roses out front.  I had totally forgotten our appointment.  I quickly swallowed and stuffed the food into the warming oven.  Isidro and I then went out to analyze the task at hand.
“I have a lot of stuff for you, but it’s not going to be enough,” I told him, “I need you to lay everything out and give me a list of items to buy.”
“OK, Mr. Steve.  Do you want to hear Marco play the guitar before we start?  He’s very good.”  Marco works for Isidro, plays classical guitar, and is interested in providing live music for our weddings.
“Not right now, Isidro.  How about when you’re finished today?”
“OK, Mr. Steve.”

By this time the guests were finishing the breakfast and it was time to discuss their plans for the day and take care of any left-over business.  So I went into the dining room to make arrangements for tours and checkout.  A short time later Martha informed me that Isidro is waiting for me. I excused myself. 

My breakfast is still in the oven…

“Mr. Steve,” Isidro said, “I have that list for you.  I can start, but I need the conduit as quickly as possible.”
“Can you start on the plugs until I get the conduit after I eat?” I suggested.
“I guess so,” he replied, not too happy. 
I sat down at the table and took a bite.  I was about to swallow when I heard the front doorbell. 

All of a sudden I’m beginning to sense that breakfast will morph into lunch today… 

I stuffed the food back into the oven and went to greet the visitor.
“Do you want some power tools for free?”  our visitor asked.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is definitely no such thing as a bunch of free power tools.  “What’s the catch?” I asked.
“Nothing.  Do you want some commercial grade power tools for free?  They’re new and come with a factory warranty.  See, here’s the paperwork,” he repeated as he shoved the paperwork into my hands as he led me to his pickup truck filled with a diesel generator, gas generator, gas powered air compressor, power washer, and trash pump.  Each piece was obviously shrink wrapped in its original factory packaging.

“No way!  Can’t believe it.  Nothing’s for free.  What’s the catch?  It’s not stolen?” I reiterated in disbelief.
“We have some left over equipment from a show.  The factory won’t accept returns, and it costs too much to ship it back to Alabama.  So my boss told me to get rid of it here in Texas because I have more equipment to pick up in Mississippi on the way home.  I was driving by and thought you might be interested.  My boss just wants to cover his investment.”

“It makes no sense.  Are you legit?  How much do you want?” I probed.  We do need the generators and the trash pump, and we’ve received some pretty unbelievable gifts from God here at Roseland.  Perhaps this is just another one of God’s miracles; it’s hard to believe, but that’s what makes it a miracle.  Hmmm...  As I was pondering, Isidro came again, “Mr. Steve!” …

I left the man with the truckload of equipment standing in the driveway.
Then Jennifer called from the house …
Then Alejandro had a question ….
Then I said good-bye to our guests …
Then I remembered Isidro…
Finally, about 20 minutes later a moment of peace!  I turned and saw the man with the equipment still patiently standing there, waiting for me…  No, this can’t be real.

Well, to make a long story short, Christina, Jennifer and I conferred.  And conferred again.  Then we conducted some comparative pricing for competitive equipment, checked out his references, made a copy of his driver’s license, talked to the manufacturer, and talked to his boss.  Everything corroborated his story, so we made an offer we couldn’t refuse. After some minimal negotiation, we had unexpectedly bought a truckload of equipment.  I asked Alejandro to get the tractor and offload the equipment while I started out for Isidro’s materials.

…breakfast still in the oven, getting dry…

Another phone call!  Oh, no!  Finally after answering the questions I rushed out to Dealer’s Electric.

When I returned, Alejandro was waiting for me.  “Come see!” he said and led me out to the field in front.  He took me to a spot where the ground was unusually soggy; I noticed a small bubble coming up through the grass.  This was not good.

“We have a break in the water main.  Start digging here, please,” I told Alejandro.  He didn’t believe me but complied.  Soon we reached what seemed to be the source of our spring.  It was obscured by mud.  “Let’s turn off the water.  Then see if you can pump out the water.  Then we’ll turn it back on and see where it’s coming from.”  Alejandro dug while I observed.  Wrong spot.  “Let’s try here,” I suggested.  Same result.  “How about this way.”  Success at last.  We located the break!  Fortunately it was on one of the branch lines and could be easily shut off without affecting the house or the guests.  We turned it off and left it like that for days…

By this time it was getting to be late afternoon; Alejandro had long overstayed his hours and finally went home.  I still haven’t eaten the breakfast.  Just about that time Isidro came back.

“Hello, Mr. Steve.  I’m done but I couldn’t fix your parking lot light.  You need to get more parts.”
“It’s too late.  What if I get them tomorrow and you come back next week?”
“OK, Mr. Steve.”
“Let’s see what you did.”  We inspected Isidro’s work.  It was just what I had envisioned.  “Very good,” I told him.

“Now that we’re done, can Marco play for you?”  I had noticed Marco practicing in Isidro’s truck earlier in the day, so there was no way getting out of this one.
“Let me round up Christina and Jennifer, and we’ll meet him in the library.”
Marco played three or four selections of our choosing.  We asked him to provide us with an audition disc for our brides.  Marco and Isidro left happy and tired at the end of the day.  I slumped down in the chair in the office. Over at last, I thought. 

Then I heard some cows mooing.  “That’s strange, we have no cows,” I said to myself and went to investigate.   There were three large, adult black angus cows and a calf peacefully munching our grass next to the rose garden.  “No, this can’t be.  What next?”

I called Tim, our neighbor, who probably knows the owner of the cows.  Not home.  Called his cell phone but reached his voice mail. 

The cows continued to meander toward the highway.  Bryce and Johnathan had been watching, so I asked Johnathan to take Bryce and the truck and herd the cows back into the woods.  Maybe they’ll go home.  Johnathan and Bryce took off, careening all over the lawn, horn blaring.  They were successful.
“What a day!  I’m tired and hungry.”  I slumped back in my chair.

We went down to our house, didn’t see any cows, but did see the presents they left by the front door.  We ate an uneventful meal, and I took off to run some errands.  On the way out the gate I see the cows once again, right in the middle of our new island of roses. 

“Oh, no!”  I rushed over there, honking the horn.  The cows looked at me and leisurely began to meander toward the highway.  They ended up in the middle of the highway, holding up traffic in both directions. 

I didn’t know what to do so I called 911.  They informed me that I have to call the Sherriff’s office.  They agreed to make the call for me this one time however.  I waited.  The cows waited, too.  After about 15 minutes they got bored and meandered back into our yard, leaving presents in the parking lot and on the driveway. 

About 40 minutes later the Sherriff arrived.  We discussed the situation and I informed him I don’t know the name of the owner.  “Guess I’ll have to get a posse to round ‘em up,” he said. 

“Fine.  I have to go run some errands before the stores close,” I told him and left him there.  As I pulled out the gate, I glimpsed back and saw the police car racing around the property with lights on and horn blaring - trying to herd the cows back into the woods.

“He’ll take care of it,” I thought and relaxed a bit as my car picked up speed on the highway, Roseland shrinking into nothingness in the rear view mirror.  “What a day!” 

The errands were uneventful but time consuming.  I arrived back to Roseland around 9:30 pm, exhausted.  The day had started at 7 am and it was finally time to lie down and relax .

As I drove into Roseland I noticed a creature in the field next to the Hambrick Chapel.  “It’s a wild pig!”  It was the largest pig I’ve ever seen – about half the size of the car.  They’d been visiting us recently and have destroyed about 50% of our wild flower garden, in addition to causing terrific damage.  Unlike our human guests, a pig is not welcome at Roseland. 

“I’m gonna get him!” I said to myself, adrenaline rushing.  Without thinking I floored the car, aimed for the pig and raced across the grass.  He noticed me and started for the woods.  But the Subaru was faster and I was gaining quickly.  I was already relishing the kill.  I was now within 10 feet of him.  He was big, gray, and hairy.  He had tusks about 10 inches long.  Oh, what a prize! 

Then suddenly I remembered.  Several months ago Johnathan had run into three baby pigs on the road and totally demolished the front end of his car.  “This is stupid!  I’m gonna destroy the car!” I jammed on the brakes and stood on the horn.  The pig picked up speed and the car slowed down.  The distance between us grew; in a moment he was in the woods.  “How I wish I had a gun.  I could’ve gotten him.”  Maybe next time.  Maybe next time.

I went home and lay down in bed exhausted.  “Who says God has no sense of humor?  He directs all our days.  He must have laughed all day watching the Roseland Plantation episode of Faulty Towers.” 

In a short while I was at peace and sound asleep.  …just another typical day at Roseland.  Never a dull moment.  Thank you, Lord, for making life so full of surprises, laughter, and joy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Oh, no! I've Become my Dad!

Actually I’m very proud of my Dad and love him dearly – though he is in Heaven.  I’ll leave that part to another blog entry, however.

When I was a child Dad used to love taking photographs.  When he passed, he left us with a collection of about 28,000 slides.  As I said, he loved taking photos!

He had a number of 35mm cameras, but his favorite that I recall as a child was a German “Exacta.”  He had a light meter, flash, lenses, and all the accessories.  He would scientifically size up the situation, measure the lighting, position us, set the f-stop and exposure, position himself for the best angle, carefully focus the camera, and finally snap the shot.  By the time he pressed the shutter button for that “perfect” picture, we were exhausted!  Have you ever tried to hold a smile without flinching for 10 minutes?  How I remember when the clouds dared to cover the sun just as he was about to snap the picture – oh, the pain!

Well, needless to say, I vowed never to become a photographer like Dad and make everybody endure the same torture.  In fact I was pretty good at keeping my word because the most complex camera I ever had was a Kodak Brownie which I used primarily to take “candid”, unposed shots.  I hated to waste that film, so I took very few pictures – until the digital revolution.

With my first digital camera I went around snapping pictures of anything that seemed interesting – after all I could delete it.  Of course I rarely did.  But still I didn’t make anyone pose, and took only pretty good, interesting, candid shots.  Then came Roseland Plantation…

You see, Roseland Plantation offers a number of wedding packages to accommodate any size wedding from an elopement to elaborate 350 person sit-down affairs.  We use professional photographers for the big events, but the cost is too high for the smaller events so we began offering reasonably priced Roseland Plantation photography as an option for the smaller weddings. 

And yes, I caved!  We bought a very expensive professional grade Canon SLR camera equipped with flash, lenses, etc.  You guessed it:  just like Dad.  I can take gorgeous pictures with it.  I still favor the “candid” shots, and I shoot a couple of hundred photos, which we provide unedited on CD, for the small weddings.  But we also take some formal, posed shots of the bride, groom, and family. 

Yes, you guessed it:  Just like Dad, I now scientifically size up the situation, measure the lighting, position us, position myself for the best angle and snap the shot.  But thanks to modern technology, the camera does all the time consuming work of measuring the light, focusing, setting the exposure, and so forth in an instant.  Some cameras actually have a smile detector for that perfect shot! 

Therefore in a way I’m still true to my word:  The bride and groom don’t have hold that smile for ten minutes, and it doesn’t matter if a cloud interferes with the lighting – the camera can take care of it instantly and still deliver perfect pictures.

At several hundred shots per wedding, it won’t take very long to surpass Dad’s record of 28,000 photographs!  I’ll let you know when we start posting some on the web under Wedding & Receptions > Roseland Plantation Brides.


It’s been a while since the last blog entry.  Blame it on the roses.  Yes, it’s all the roses’ fault.  Let me explain:
Roseland Plantation received its current name from Mrs. Gertrude Windsor around the mid 1950s.  Prior to being named Roseland, the property experienced a series of owners; each no doubt had their own name for the property.  Although Mrs. Windsor named the property “Roseland”, she never planted roses here.  She left that to us.

“How can you have ‘Roseland’ if there are no roses?  When our guests enter our gates, they should gasp at the beautiful rose gardens, and they should be immersed in rose fragrance when they step out of their cars!” we thought.  So we decided to rectify the situation.

We selected the island in the middle of the circular drive in front of the Windsor House as a starting point.  The island has three beautiful, large crepe myrtles that are begging for complimentary colors.  We opted for four carpets of color:  white, yellow, apricot, and deep pink to match the crepe myrtles.  We selected international award winning English roses from David Austin famous for their beauty and fragrance.

Then came the first surprise:  We were told that we’ll need 80 – 100 rosebushes per patch for maximum impact, with a total of 320 just in that small island.  I nearly fainted!  But we’ve gotten used to such surprises at Roseland because everything is bigger, everything is more difficult, everything is more beautiful when finished.  So we simply said, “OK,” and Alejandro and I started planting about five weeks ago.
We drilled holes, and more holes, until our arms and backs were sore.  We brought truckload after truckload of planter’s mix and mulch.  And still we didn’t have enough.  It took a solid month of work to plant the roses – then we realized they need to be watered and hand watering just isn’t practical.

Under Construction

So we started installing drip irrigation systems throughout the property.  This is a huge project, more like irrigating an entire subdivision, because we not only have to install the drip system (which is simple and quick), but we have to distribute water, power, and zone controls throughout the property.  We also have to ensure that whatever we install can be easily expanded to water the grass and any new gardens we build in the future.  So far we’ve completed all the drip zones but none of the feeder lines, power grids, or control systems.  So if we want to water our new roses, we attach a hose to each zone.  Well, it works…

That’s why there haven’t been any blogs during the past month:  We’ve been working on roses.  But it will be worth it when the flowers come in full bloom – and that should be soon since we already have roses from our new plants!  So come see Roseland and experience the fragrance of hundreds of roses in the near future.

Blooming rose garden

The picture above was rotated automatically by Google, our blog provider.  I tried 5 different times, but was unable to make it come out right.  After wasting over an hour, I gave up.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Peace, Joy, and Rest

There is something very special about Roseland. You can literally feel a change in atmosphere as you drive through the brick gates. Time stops. There is a peace beyond understanding and explanation. While it is very real and tangible, it’s hard to pinpoint. We feel it every day, and our guests often remark about it. Such comments are not uncommon from our guests; let me recount just two recent incidents and propose an explanation:

     The Couple

One couple came to stay at Roseland a few weeks ago. This was to be their first stay in a B&B. They searched the internet; they looked at B&B after B&B, but something kept drawing them back to Roseland each time. Finally they decided to come. They were looking for a quiet place to get away and rejuvenate. One had recently lost a parent.

When they came, we ended up talking for hours about family, relationships, and loved ones. We talked about loss, grieving, and joy. We talked about The Lord, how good and loving He is, in spite of our shortcomings. We discussed how He walks us through our trials, and shared thoughts to some tough question such as, “How can a loving God allow pain and suffering?” It was a most delightful and refreshing visit for our guests and for us.

Next morning when our guests left, they mentioned that they had known the presence of the Lord at Roseland; that they felt His peace and joy in the midst of all their travails; that He must have drawn their attention to Roseland’s web site whenever they looked at other options because He wanted them to come here.

We parted not just friends, but family. They look forward to returning and I look forward to continuing our conversations…

     The Family Gathering

A group of sisters came to spend the night. One of the sisters was battling cancer and had just completed a course of chemo. They sat on the porch, had a wonderful picnic dinner, and reminisced. Then they walked and enjoyed the serenity of Roseland’s pristine forest.

After their walk I happened to bump into them talking on the porch, and we struck up a conversation. In the course of that conversation they remarked, “It is so peaceful here. We felt the Lord’s presence the moment we arrived. Most places we visit aren’t like that. We have to call on Him repeatedly, because He is not there.”

“My wife and I purchased Roseland mostly because we felt the Lord calling us to be there,” I replied. “So, when we opened the business, we dedicated Roseland to the Lord’s glory. Since then we’ve had missionaries and prayer warriors unexpectedly visit us several times – saying they were called to come and pray over Roseland, to come and bless it.”

When asked if we own Roseland, we replied, “No. The Lord owns Roseland. We are the caretakers.”

One sister's comment in our guest book says it all:

“Thank you for a beautiful and peaceful retreat for my sisters and I. We were blessed with the joy and rest of the Lord in this place.”

Clearly, based on our guests’ and our personal experiences, the Lord is not an absentee landlord. We have witnessed too many miracles at Roseland for it to be otherwise. We have felt His healing touch too many times for it to be otherwise. And clearly, our guests feel and remark about that special peace beyond understanding, that quiet joy which one experiences only in the presence of our glorious God.

So now, finally, it’s clear why The Lord brought Debbie and me to Roseland: He needed a special place where His people, His warriors, can go for R&R from the daily spiritual warfare of this world – just as our soldiers need a place for R&R away from the travails of the battlefield.

It is The Lord’s presence that makes Roseland so special. His presence is the source of that change in atmosphere our guests feel as they drive through those brick gates. It is the peace of the Lord, a peace beyond all understanding. Praise God!

And thank You, Lord, for allowing us to be Your servants and the caretakers of Your property, Roseland.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Family Reunion

We had one of the most wonderful B&B experiences this past week. We hosted a delightful family reunion from all over the world. Four couples converged on Roseland Plantation from Australia and New Zealand for an extended holiday. They were on their way to a wedding in Boston and decided to make a three day stopover here in Tyler to visit an elderly aunt they haven’t seen for years. They had arrived via different routes; some had just visited Las Vegas, others came via the Grand Canyon, and so on.

The family rented the entire house for three days and had a lovely time. The ladies treated the aunt to a beautiful Roseland Tea Party while the gentlemen went golfing at Holly Tree, a local golf course. They all visited nearby attractions and sampled authentic Texas country cooking at The Shed.

After each active day of excursions, they would sit on the porch, drink lemonade, and share family stories with each other and with us. It seemed a magical time, indeed! This short visit has forged some lifetime memories, reinforced family ties, and formed new friendships. How wonderful!

This is the Roseland Plantation experience that Debbie and I had envisioned for all our guests. Their comment in our guest book summarizes it so well:

“So enjoyed our visit. We leave with regret and lovely memories. Many thanks for the care you took on our behalf.”

Thank you, all, for visiting with us at Roseland. We are honored for the opportunity to meet you and share a bit of Heaven with you. May God bless you all and give you a safe journey home.

Steve [for Debbie]


I’m tired of writing about disasters, so here’s some fun news:

The water temperature in the swimming pool is now 82 F. That’s reasonably comfortable, so Bryce and I went swimming today. Let the Roseland swim season begin!

Steve, Bryce, Christina, and Brayden swimming

Sunday, May 16, 2010

FIRE !!!

First rain, then wind, and now fire. Life is never dull at Roseland Plantation.
Looks like we’re working our way through all possible natural disasters. I really am not excited about experiencing earthquakes and tsunamis; fortunately we’re not in California or on the Gulf Coast, so we should be spared those calamities. In the meantime let me recount our latest adventures.

A few weeks ago we had the tornadoes and they did quite a bit of damage in the woods, although the buildings were spared any damage. However, one should not tempt fate, so we called Erasmo, our tree guy, to trim some of the trees that were already dead, almost dead, or severely threatening some of the buildings. He cut down or trimmed about a dozen trees; about half of them were red oak, the remainder mostly pine.

Alejandro at work

Since we have a fire pit for burning dead brush and limbs, we told him to leave everything and we would burn it. All winter Alejandro has been diligently cleaning up the unsightly fallen trees and limbs and we have been burning them in our fire pit without problems.
Making progress

At first we used to stretch a water hose to the fire pit and Alejandro would monitor the progress of the fire. Little by little we gained confidence and became less and less diligent. By the time we started burning Erasmo’s debris, Alejandro just threw the wood on the fire and went about collecting more. After all, there was no reason to expect any problems based on all our experience to date.
Firefighters arrive (truck too big to get near fire)

I had just arrived home from errands on Tuesday when Alejandro came running, “Fire! Fire!”
“Of course there is a fire. We’re burning brush,” I thought to myself.
But he insisted, “We need shovels and rakes.”
Finally, after much cajoling I decided to humor him, get the shovels and rakes, and go look at the fire.
Fire truck on the scene
“The worst it could be is just a little blaze from an ember,” I thought.

When we arrived to the fire pit, we were engulfed in smoke everywhere. Then we saw flames next to the driveway. “Oh, that’s not too bad,” I said. Then Alejandro pointed about 50 yards farther in the woods. More flames. Hmmm. Not promising.

Fire fighters at work
A quick survey of the area showed we had a fire about the size of half a football field on our hands. The fire was quickly spreading amongst the dead leaves and pine needles.

We ran back to the Windsor House, grabbed every garden hose we could find on the property, hooked them up and started hosing the fire. It continued to spread. “This is not good,” Alejandro said to me. What an understatement!

We asked Christina to call the fire department. The Midway fire house is less than two miles down the road. Surely they’ll be here soon. So we hosed and waited.

Out in the country we only have a volunteer fire department, so they had to page everybody, then the fire team had to assemble at the fire house, and finally they could make the run to Roseland. The entire process took about 30 minutes. We were delighted to have their assistance and expertise; about 5 hours later we declared victory at last, and everybody went home.
Going home!

Later in the evening I checked the scene, and found that several small fires had reignited. I doused them with the hose and went to sleep. Next morning, first thing I found several more small fires burning, and doused them. Total victory, at last!

As I thought about the events of the past several days, it occurred to me how this whole experience mirrors sin in our lives: We live every day and get into a routine. Pretty soon we go on autopilot and start taking shortcuts. Then we get so comfortable we think everything is under control, and let down our guard.
The End

All of sudden something unusual happens in our life, something sinful, that starts a small fire.
“No problem,” we think, “I can control it. Always have.”
But soon we find that little fire spreading out of control until we are burning up in the middle of a huge forest fire which consumes us. Worse yet, even if we are successful in controlling it at first, it will return again and again.

Furthermore, the past is no guarantee of the future. Just because something bad didn’t happen when we last took that little detour off the straight and narrow doesn’t mean it won’t happen next time. (Just because we didn’t get caught at that speed trap two weeks ago is no guarantee that we won’t get caught tomorrow or the day after. In fact, sooner or later we are certain to get caught!)

Therefore, dear friends, don’t run on autopilot and take no shortcuts - not even once, else the fire of sin consume you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Just a simple, short message to all those wonderful Moms who have enriched our lives through the years:

We couldn't have done it without you! Many thanks for your love, for your courage, your strength, your steadfastness and faithfulness. Happy Mother's Day!

Much love and many blessings,


Friday, May 7, 2010


How often have you not found that red box of cookies in the pantry
The cookies were right in front of your nose in a green box?

How often have you not found that green box of cookies you thought were in the back of the pantry
The box was right in front of your nose?

How many miracles have you not seen
You’ve been looking in the wrong place,
For the wrong thing,
At the wrong time,
Or not looking at all?

I tell you the truth, you will never see a miracle until you believe that miracles exist.

© Istvan es Carmela, September 2005 (166)

Last blog I wrote about the fireworks and then the rain. Some would say that was just coincidence, but I don’t believe that. Just in case there be about any doubts about the possibility of miracles, let me recount what happened the following week:

We had a big wedding scheduled for Saturday. It was a 100 person outdoor package, complete with food, tent, dancing, and more. Jennifer was coordinating the entire event.

The wedding party had rented the Windsor House for the night before the wedding and the night of the wedding. The wedding party went to a rehearsal dinner at Mercado’s, a well known Mexican restaurant in Tyler, the night before the event and returned to the Windsor House about midnight to sleep. We had retired to our house in the woods earlier, for we had a big day ahead of us.

At about 2 am Jennifer, Bryce, and Johnathan were awakened in our house by much thunder and lightning, and the sound of heavy winds whipping the trees. Jennifer described it as “strobe lights in the window.” Johnathan described it as “a freight train” – although there are no train tracks within miles of Roseland. I slept through it all. I can sleep through anything.

Then, at about 2:30 the power went out. Utter blackness; you couldn’t even see the tip of your nose! When I awoke at 7 the next morning, the power was still off. I recalled hearing some thunder the night before, and didn’t pay much attention to the power outage; it’s not an uncommon experience, and power usually comes on in an hour or two. Well, by 8 am the power still hadn’t come on; we had a full house; and the wedding day activities were about to begin with a big breakfast. Unfortunately the entire house, including the oven, stove, water heater, and air conditioner, run on electricity. The electric company promised to restore service by noon. What to do? What to do?

We quickly called Edom Bakery and Grill who was able to provide an excellent breakfast of eggs, sausage, and biscuits – apparently their power was still on. Then we immediately cornered the portable generator rentals market in Tyler, just in case. By the time we were done, we had 5 portable generators in stock, ready to go.

First Hit
In the meantime, the wedding party was preparing for a 5 pm wedding, setting up the Chapel and ballroom. The bride and bridesmaid wanted to take baths and get ready, but there was no hot water. Clearly it was time to put the generators into operation, which should have been a simple proposition. Not so!

I will not bore you with the technical details, but suffice it to say that I spent most of the day trying to find the proper plugs and connectors. We finally succeeded by about 3 pm, but that was too late for the bridal party, who had to prepare for the wedding without hot water. Although we had been running the main water heater off a dedicated generator since noon – the largest one with plenty of capacity - something was wrong: There was still no hot water.

“This makes no sense,” I thought to myself. “What’s going on?”
It turns out the generator was faulty and would power the water heater for about 5 minutes then trip (without any indicator of failure). After fiddling around with this for about an hour or so I figured out the problem; substituted a smaller generator; and soon we had hot water. Too bad it was already 4 pm!

Second Hit
Noon had come and gone with still no power, so we decided to conduct the entire wedding on generators. While I was messing with the hot water heater, Johnathan strung extension cords everywhere: The Chapel, tent, ball room, video projector, and DJ stand. We actually had to augment our inventory with four new, long, extra heavy duty extension cords. Ultimately everything was set and ready to go, and the wedding proceeded beautifully. Katie, Aaron, and our guests all complimented Jennifer and told us it was the most beautiful wedding they had experienced. A miracle? Perhaps…
Third Hit

By 9 pm the wedding party began to wind down, but there was still no power! The Windsor House was completely dark; we provided flashlights so our guests could find their stuff. So once more we reconfigured the generators and strung extension cords throughout the Windsor House, providing light in every room. Most of our guests chose to go home, but several brave souls stayed overnight.
Next morning, we still had no power so we provided a full breakfast using the portable generators. Our guests finally left Roseland Sunday morning at 11 am. And literally just as they were driving out the front gate, the power came back on. We had experienced a 36 hour outage and not only survived, but succeeded in providing our guests with an outstanding, unforgettable memory for life. But that wasn’t the real miracle.

After the guests left, we surveyed the property and found that the entire power outage was caused by a tornado passing through. The power outage was caused by lots of huge oak trees toppled throughout the area all up and down 64. The real miracle, however, was that the tornado spared Roseland and all who were here:

Last Hit
When it hit, it ripped out and toppled a large, 2 ft diameter oak tree within 200 feet of our house in the woods, hopped over the house where we were sleeping and touched down again about 200 feet on the other side of our house - also about 200 feet from the Chapel. At that point it toppled two pines and another huge oak tree – this one with a trunk about 4 feet in diameter. Then it hopped over Roseland entirely and completely destroyed our neighbor’s equipment shed which is less than 300 feet from the Windsor House. Not one penny of damage was sustained by any building on Roseland property. Now that is truly a miracle! As in many times past – most recently the previous week - God blessed and protected Roseland and all who were there. Thank you, Lord!

The events of the weekend prove that miracles do indeed exist all around us all the time, if you look for them and recognize them. The biggest miracle of all, however, is you and I – that we exist at all and that our Creator loves us so much that He was willing to die on the Cross just so we could spend eternity with Him. Wow! What a miracle!
Johnathan on Forklift Clearing Fallen Tree