Remain in my love.

In December of 2009, I heard an amazing message at church on that particular Sunday morning. Jon Jenz preached on John 15:9 which says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”  

I even blogged about it here.

I distinctly remember leaving church that day with that verse permeating every bit of my being. Oh how much Jesus loves me! To die for me. To pay for all of my many sins. To love me inspite of me, just like the Father. Unconditional, sacrificial, undeniable love. I remember thinking how I wanted to be reminded daily to REMAIN in that love. To walk in that love. To show that love. Each and every day. We went to lunch at my parents house right after church, just as we had done on many Sundays. I told my Dad how cool I thought it would be to tattoo the word “remain” on my wrist as a reminder of this sweet verse. He agreed…my Dad was cool like that. He himself even talked about getting a tat!

Fast forward to June 4, 2010. The absolute hardest and most tragic day of my life. My Dad, the man who taught us so much about living life to the fullest and making the most of each opportunity, suddenly passed away that morning from a heart attack.  He went for a run early that morning, came home and that was it. He went to heaven and is now running the streets of gold. Through much grief, pain, reliving many good memories, and a ton of prayers, my family made it through that dark time. We still miss him like crazy, quote him often, still laugh at his jokes, and strive to live MORE because of all he taught us.

So, back to the verse. After he passed away, I still had not gotten that “remain” tattoo. But this verse had now become two-fold for me. Now, I wanted to remain in Christ’s love and also hold on to the love of my earthly father as well. I felt that my Mom & Dad both rooted my life in love from the moment I was born. I told Ryan that I wanted to get a tattoo about that verse and all that it now meant to me and asked him to draw something up for me. Since my love knows my heart more than anyone else, I trusted him with this endeavor. He came back with the absolute perfect tattoo…

Print

Rooted in love. 30 heart leaves for the 30 years I had my Dad in my life. 2 pink hearts that represent my children. I absolutely LOVED it. Remain and grow. Live more, give more. It was perfect.

I held on to this drawing for the past 3 1/2 years knowing one day I would actually have the courage to go and get it tattooed on my body. I wanted it. I knew it would happen. I just never did it. Until this week in San Diego!!!

Next week marks 4 years since my Dad passed away. I thought what better way to remember and celebrate his life and all he taught me than to go on my birthday trip to finally get this marked on my inner calf. So we went & we did it! It was an amazing experience.

photo copy

We added 2 connected hearts on the tree itself to represent Ryan & I’s love for one another. The tattoo artist nailed it. I absolutely love it. I love what it means to me. I love that it gives me an opportunity to share my story. I love that I can tell others about Christ’s love, about what I learned from my 30 years with my Dad and about how our family currently strives to live more and give more.

Oh and Ryan got one too! ;) He blogged about his inevitable tattoo a few years ago. He finally got it…we are always better together. The shirt on his “running man” is orange, which is significant because my Dad’s favorite shirt was orange. He wore it all the time. Here is Ryan’s, I love it too!

photo

Train Trip

The last email I got from my Dad was on a Thursday. He passed away that Friday. Here’s the last part of his email…

If we ever get the chance to do the train ride to Dallas thing – it is great!  I am pretty sure your girls would be bored to death with the 6th Floor Museum though, so something else would have to be done to entertain them for the 4 hours in downtown.  You and Ryan would love the trip, the museum.  Of course, you would need me to go so you would have a tour guide.  :)

Have a great Thursday.  I love you much.

This email has remained in my Inbox for nearly two years. I can’t delete it. I know I never will. It’s a great reminder to me to make the most of each day we are blessed with. Because we may never get the chance to _____ fill in the blank. Today is a gift the Lord has given, make the most of every opportunity. I love & miss my Dad greatly & cherish all he taught me.

Tomorrow, we are taking that train ride. In honor of my Mom’s birthday, the whole fam is taking a train from Mineola to Dallas. It will be a special day & I’m excited to celebrate with my Mom who I am so thankful for. We’ll go visit that 6th Floor Museum. Then we’ll head on to eat lunch in the West End & spend the afternoon in downtown Dallas before hopping back on the train back home. I am pumped about this memory maker. Although, it makes my heart sad that Dad won’t be there as our tour guide…it makes me SO happy to know that one day when we all get to heaven, he’ll be waiting. And he will give us one heck of a tour up there, no doubt.

Pics to come!

Our chopping block is a “beautiful thing.”

One of Ryan & I’s favorite shows on the Food Network is called Chopped. The premise of the show is that four competitors are given a basket full of odd ingredients (i.e. baby octopus, bok choy, animal crackers, etc.) & they have to create quality & tasty dishes which, as you can imagine, is very tough. First round is to create an appetizer dish within a certain time limit. Then, each dish is judged by a panel of experienced & knowledgable chefs lined up on a chopping block looking table. One dish is “chopped” and that competitor is out of the game. The next round is the entree dish. Same thing…given another basket of weird ingredients to make an entree dish within 30 minutes. Judged. One dish is chopped and on to the final round. Dessert. Two competitors are left and fight to win this kitchen battle. There is always sweat, sometimes blood, and often times tears. The unchopped winner gets $10,000 and usually has a neat story as to what their plans are with the money. Is it weird to cry while watching Food Network? This show gets me every time!

Watching this show the other night got me thinking about my Dad. He taught me a lot during his life here but I continue to learn from him even through his death, his legacy. You see, he made Ryan & I this chopping block a few years ago. He wanted to make us something when we moved into our house in Tyler as a “house warming gift.” He knew we loved cooking & this made for the perfect gift. My Dad was a master craftsman. God blessed him so much in this way, he was a true talent. He could take an old, plain piece of wood and make it beautiful. In fact, he used to say that one of his favorite things to do was “making beautiful things for people he loved.” He was giddy about it anytime he had the opportunity to use this gift of his to give to others. This chopping block has sat on our kitchen counter and has been used almost daily for the past several years. And every single time I use it or look at it, I think of Dad and brings a smile to my face, sometimes tears to my eyes. I love that we have this gift that is so much more than just a piece of wood – it holds so many sweet memories and reminds me of my Dad’s love.

I want to/need to give more to those that I love. I can’t build a darn thing, I’m not talking about wood here. I am not a crafty person! But what I can do is give more freely of quality time, more love, more support, more memory makers, more laughter, more shared meals, more of a shoulder to cry on, more help to those in need. These can be “beautiful things.” I pray that what God blesses me with, I can in turn be a blessing to others. I want to live with my hands and arms wide open. This was actually one of my New Year’s resoultions: Give more. Any selfishness of mine needs to be chopped.

News Story.

A few weeks ago, a sports reporter from the Dallas Morning News emailed me and asked if we could set up a time for her to interview me regarding our Turkey Trot family tradition. She had read the story I submitted in the “Why we Trot” contest (which you can read about here) and said it intrigued her. I love that she wrote this article for 3 reasons:

1. My Dad’s legacy remains and he still continues to impact others with his valuable influence.

2. Dad loved reading the newspaper, collecting memorable days’ papers, and being in the paper. He would have thought this was just too neat!

3. I love my family and I love our memory makers. I love sharing our experiences with others.

You can read the story here.

Our Trip to New England

We had a great time in New Hampshire & Boston last week. It’s beautiful there in the Fall – the display of oranges, reds, and yellows on the trees, snow on the ground, the hills and mountains, the coast, the history…it’s amazing. If you are new to reading this blog & don’t know the history of why this trip began, you can read all about last year’s special trip here and here.

The vacation was filled with much laughter, some sweet reminiscent tears, and good memory making. It’s always great to see my family that lives there. My Aunt & Uncle are great hosts and we always have a blast with them and my cousins. We did a lot of different things this time around, which was cool. And my brother Jeff and Ryan’s brother Ross (from Minnesota) came this year too, which was awesome! We ate a ton of food, tried some tasty New England brews, toured Fenway Park & Sam Adams, drove down the coast, walked on the beach (even stuck our feet in the ocean, even though it was frigid!), shopped a bit, ran the Manchester Half, and just enjoyed all being together.

The race was truly great experience for me. My little brother, Jeff, decided months back that he wanted to run his first half marathon in Manchester. In honor of Dad. So we put together a training schedule & he prepped for months. I decided that I would pace myself to run with him for this race. I wanted to absorb and enjoy the experience together as we trotted through the streets of this beautiful town in a race that my Dad did. Special. Jeff did great, tackled the tough hills, and finished. Quite the accomplishment & I was a proud big sis! Ryan and Ross together too, which was neat for them. Ross & my cousin Mary achieved their best time ever for a half. High five to the sky!

Why we trot.

A few weeks ago, the YMCA Dallas Turkey Trot posted this contest on their Facebook page…

So, I entered. I sent in this story on the day of the deadline (which was my Dad’s birthday)…

Hello, my name is Traci. My family participates in the Turkey Trot each year. Why you ask? Well here goes.

My dad, my sister, my brother, my husband and I have ran it for many years. It’s truly a family affair! We live in East Texas about 2 hours from Dallas. We have made it a tradition to wake up very early on Thanksgiving morning, pack up the car with Gu packets, water bottles, iPods, etc. and head to the Big D in anticipation of the big race! This was initially my Dad’s idea and he LOVED it. His excitement was contagious. Anytime he could plan something for his kids to do with him to make a memory, he was all over it. We would go and run the 8 miler and then head back to feast on the awesome Thanksgiving meal my mom had stayed home to prepare. The 8 miles at the Trot always feels great with such awesome views of the city and an overall holiday joyfulness in the air. Plus, running that far leaves you guilt-free to pig out the rest of the day!

This race has become even more special since my Dad passed away suddenly in June of last year at the age of 62, after a run ironically. He inspired us in so many ways- to live life to the fullest, making the most of every opportunity, cherishing time with family and friends, and making memories. This race was a “memory maker” for our family, as he used to call it. So, my siblings, husband and myself continue to run this race every year in his honor. The tradition will continue for years to come, no doubt. We end each race now with a high five to the sky. We are thankful for the memories we have with my Dad at the Turkey Trot.

And this is why we trot.

And I won!!! Got an email this morning letting me know & they posted this on FB today…

WOOHOO! High five to the sky!

That’s just what He does.

I woke up this morning with a case of the mommy blues. This is the final day before the big day. Tomorrow is Kindergarten! I know this is not a sad thing, I really do. It’s a great thing in fact. Maybe I’m just being silly. I’m a worry wart by nature, so I have that working against me. Honestly, I was feeling quite sad today. My mommy friends tell me this is normal which makes me feel better and less like a cry baby.

But baby, I got the blues.

This morning during church, our worship leader started the service by praying that we could focus & put aside whatever we brought with us today. I prayed along with him but my mind was consumed. My focus was elsewhere, at least at first. I was standing there during worship feeling very weepy as we sang, “all of my life, in every season – you are still God, I have a reason to sing…” Thoughts of my baby girl starting Kindergarten in the morning flooded my mind. I wondered if we have taught her everything she needs to know for this. I was figuring out what I should send her for lunch and if she would stop talking long enough to have time to actually eat it…or would she starve all day? I was thinking about how hard it was to believe that I was even old enough to have a Kindergartener! (Not to mention the gray hairs that are sneaking up a little too fast for my liking.) I imagined what it will look like as she walks into her classroom in the morning in her cute new outfit & pink princess backpack. Will she cry when I leave? Probably not. Will I be able to stop crying when I leave? I have to, I have a meeting to get to. One chapter of life ends and another one begins. Tears.

Then out of the blue, I started thinking of and missing my Dad terribly. I thought to myself how proud he would be of Addi & how he would have given her a pep talk just like Grandma did yesterday. How he would like her school- the old building with such character, he would think it’s neat. I thought about how this was yet another milestone that he will not be here for. And friends, I felt downright sad. But the song kept on going, “I will rejoice, I will declare, God is my victory and He is here.” Dad would tell me to do the next right thing, I told myself. Chin up, Traci. Keep on keepin’ on. Then, I’m not even kidding, the very next song started….”turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face…” My Dad’s favorite hymn!!! While pastoring, he would have the church sing this song at the end of the service before leaving as a reminder of where our focus should be. This song was even sung at his funeral. More tears.

In that moment, it felt like the song selections were just for me. Maybe Dad put in a special request for me? :) I felt God’s presence so real – He was listening to the cries of my heart. He doesn’t think I’m being silly. He loves me. He knows how much I adore my Addi and how much I daily miss my Dad. When I’m sad or worried, He provides comfort. He held me in His arms this morning and let me cry. He reminded me to focus by turning my eyes toward him and “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory & grace.”

He saw my heart and gave me that song, I just know it. That’s just what He does.

Katy Trail

While we were in Dallas for our Girls Weekend, I had determined I would take advantage of the close proximity from our hotel to the Katy Trail and go run! Although my friends thought I was crazy, I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. – even though it was close to 1 a.m. before we got to sleep! I strategically put my running clothes, Garmin watch, & iPod all in the bathroom close to my keys the night before so that I could quietly get ready and head out the door without waking up my friends whose main goal was to sleep in as much as possible while away! I grabbed a cup of coffee and a bar and headed out. Making a customary stop on the closest gas station to go potty one more time before heading out for a long run. I drove right to the trail, parked behind Lamps Plus and was all set. Returning to the beautiful Katy Trail was bittersweet. The last time I was there was at the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon of 2009 – my Dad’s final half marathon. That year, the last 3 miles of the race finished on the trail. I remember standing w/Ryan at the finish line waiting anxiously for Dad to cross over & as always, feeling my heart swell with pride as he did. So, as I stepped out of my car, memories began to flood my mind. I turned on my watch and waited for the satellites to find me and sync. Hit start and was off – my goal was to run the entirety of the trail, down & back a total of 7 miles. I was feeling good which was honestly surprising after a late dinner and gorge fest at Simply Fondue and a late night of talking with friends. I thought about running with Dad, my sister Jen and Ryan on this trail. Thought about the time, I slowed down a bit just so I could run side by side with Dad and chat. Thought about how much he loved this place. Thought about the time Ryan and I went there just to walk & talk while away on his surprise birthday getaway while I was pregnant with Kamryn. I thought about how I am so thankful to share the love of running with family.Thought about how thankful I am to have so many good, cherished memories because of this love. Before I knew it, I was approaching the American Airlines Center – halfway done. I turned around and turned up my music. The final 3 miles continued to be a reflective and reminiscent time. I prayed and thanked God for the blessing of family, friends, and running. 7 miles complete and I had actually run faster than normal. It was a good run. Good for me on many levels. As Kristen Armstrong puts it, I felt like it was my “reset run.” As if someone had pushed the reset button – to start over fresh and renewed, inspired & motivated. Now, I could go back to the hotel and enjoy the rest of the day with sweet friends. Return home later that evening to my amazing husband and beautiful daughters and continue to strive to make sweet new memories with them.

High Five!

This past weekend was the High 5 to the Sky 5K and it was amazing! Amazing for these reasons:

1. We have the best friends and family in the world. Overwhelmed by the amount of support & love shown during this event! Thank you all again for everything, we feel truly blessed.

2. It was such a special memory maker and tribute to Dad as we celebrated his life. I just know he was smiling down on us that morning as we joined together at one of his favorite places.

3. Enough money was raised to help provide about 50 children with clean water for one full year through Project 7’s Quench the Thirsty charity. Dad would LOVE this – he had a huge heart for kids. For every t-shirt sold and race entry registered- all the proceeds went to this awesome organization.THANK YOU for helping to “change the score” for these kids!

4. Addi & Kam had an absolute blast. Addi ran/walked the entire 3.1 miles. That is a lot, especially for a 4 year old! Of course, she thought the whole race was for her and expected everyone to cheer for her at the end. She ran her little heart out and had tears in her eyes when she finished! Yesterday, she asked me, “Was Poppy proud of me for running the race?” Yep, no doubt he was, sweet girl.

Special thanks goes out to the following people/businesses:

Sarah Hardin- race day photographer

Clay & Lauren Hightower- managing the registration table & getting bananas from Brookshire’s

Brookshire’s – donating bananas for post-race

Trinity Mother Frances Hospital: donating bags and pens for the race packets

Project 7: donating stickers and bracelets

To view all pics from the race, click here. High 5 to the sky!

Busy Overdose

Sorry we’ve been slacking on the blog front! Apparently life took  an extra dose of busy over the last few weeks and forgot to tell us. So, we’ve been running around like mad trying to catch up to it! As of today, we are just now getting back into a somewhat normal routine. Here are some updates from the last few weeks…

*I entered my mom into a Facebook contest that Sterling Grace, a local jewelry store, was doing in honor of Mother’s Day. They were asking people to submit a vintage photo of their mom along with a story of something “old school” she still does. The winner would get a $300 jewelry makeover. We looked through, found the perfect photo, wrote an entry with the help of my siblings, and submitted it! And…SHE WON! She had a blast picking out her new jewelry. Such a neat store with beautiful stuff! Here was the entry:

*We got to go to the Chuy’s VIP Sneak Preview Event! Remember when this happened? I kept hearing rumors about Chuy’s opening here in Tyler so I decided to email someone and get to the bottom of it. I found the email address for the VP of Real Estate & Development on the Chuy’s website and sent him a little email (what? you gotta do what you gotta do when it comes to creamy jalapeno!). Well, he confirmed it right away and then because of that very email (and my friend Joe Terrell) it made the news! Anyways, my new BFF Michael Hatcher invited me to this VIP Sneak Preview night – how fun! I was totally giddy about the whole thing and impressed that he remembered me. We got to order whatever we wanted off the menu – it was all free and delicious! First time being a VIP & I felt like all that & a bag of chips w/creamy jalapeno, of course.

*Ryan has been working so hard for hours & hours on finishing up the mixing & mastering of our church’s live recording and it sounds amazing! I am SO proud of him. His talent truly blows me away. Our friend & worship pastor, Jon Jenz, just sent off the final disk today to be duplicated & hopefully it will be up for sale close to mid-month. So exciting! We are blessed to have such talent in our church to lead us as we worship our creator each week. Can’t wait to see the final art & have an album in hand! Proud of Jon, his team & my audio engineer hubs!

*I turned 31. Wow. I’m officially beyond 30 – like actually IN my 30’s now. How did that happen? This year’s birthday was bittersweet. Sweet because I got to hang out with dear friends, enjoy good food & wine, and felt massive amounts of love for which I am beyond thankful. Bitter because all I could think about was last year’s birthday and what happened exactly one week later. Realization that this was the first birthday without my dad brought sadness and tears, but at the same time, it brought even more determination and motivation to make this next year count. I’ll strive to “keep on keepin’ on” as a 31 year old to make memories, hopefully make a difference, and live each day to the fullest.

*We went on a fabulous canoe trip with friends on Buffalo River in Arkansas. It was, in one word: amazing. We drove up to the river, literally unpacked our cars into the canoe and took off for 3 days. Canoeing during the day & camping on the rocky shore at night. The river was gorgeous and very clear! Who knew bathing in a river could be so refreshing?! The river had a steady flow to it, so canoeing was relaxing and peaceful- minus the sporadic splash fight ambushes. :) Oh, and there was this one incident of me crashing into a tree, getting scraped & bruised up and almost flipping our canoe, but other than that it was peaceful! At least now I have a story to tell. This trip was seriously just what we needed at this time in our lives. God, as usual, couldn’t have coordinated the timing any better really. With June 4th approaching, this gave us time to breathe, reflect, cry, set new goals, and just be still.

*The High 5 to the Sky 5K is coming up this Saturday, so we are working on final details for that. We ordered 80 shirts for all those who preregistered and each day, more come trickling in! The charity that we are donating all proceeds to, Project 7, is just thrilled and are providing water and other items for all race participants. So great & overwhelming to have such support as we celebrate the life of my dad in this way. This event will be such a special tribute and we appreciate all of you who are helping us make it special!

*Addi & Kam are LOVING summer. All throughout April, Addi would ask, “is it summer yet?” They have been waiting patiently for swimming weather. This year we have several options of places to swim and they are absolutely eating it up. Our neighbors have a pool, my little brother Jeff has a pool at his apartment, and several other friends have pools too! Bonus. So we’ve been swimming a lot since the weather turned warmer and the girls couldn’t be happier. I think they might be part fish! Or as they would tell you, mermaids.

High 5 To The Sky 5K.

Dear family & friends,

We would like to invite you all to join us on June 11th for the High 5 to the Sky 5K. This Fun Run/Walk is in memory of my dad, Kip Clark, who passed away June of last year. He was a runner, a lover of life, a true friend, and an inspiration to many. He loved the Mineola Nature Trail, so we felt this would be a proper setting for this 5K. The race is a special tribute and celebration of his life!

All proceeds from the event will be donated to Project 7: Quench the Thirsty, a charity that works to provide clean water for children all over the globe to help prevent sickness and disease. You can read more about this awesome organization and the work they do at www.project7.com.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

What: High 5 To The Sky 5K. Fun run & walk. All ages.

When: 06/11/11. Packet pickup and race day registration from 8:00-8:20 am. Race begins @ 8:30 am.

Where: Mineola Nature Trail.

Why: To celebrate the life of Kip Clark and raise $ for Project 7.

Cost: $15 includes t-shirt and donation to Project 7.

Registration: Registration form and entry fee must be received by mail before 05/28/11 in order to be guaranteed a shirt. Late registration available race day during packet pickup time. No shirt guaranteed for late registration.

Questions: Email tracidixon@mac.com

Up in the sky.

One day last week, the girls are I were out running errands. We were driving down the road and Addi asked me why the sun was “being lazy bones and not waking up?” I told her that it was just cloudy and might rain. She kept looking in the sky and proceeds to take the conversation to a much deeper level…

Addi: “Mommy, I’m trying to see Jesus and Poppy up in the sky, but I can’t.”

Me: “Oh honey, we won’t be able to see them until the day we get to go to heaven.”

Addi: (with tears in her eyes): “But Poppy’s not gonna see me as a little girl. He won’t remember what I look like. Maybe I should go ahead and go to heaven now and grow up there?”

Me: (trying not to cry): “Mommy doesn’t want you to go to heaven yet, I want you to stay here with me. But one day, hopefully far far from now when you are old, you will go. Poppy will remember you, baby. And he’ll be so excited to see you.”

Addi: “Well, maybe I should send him a picture of me as a little girl. I think he misses me.”

Me: “I bet God gives Poppy a window out of heaven every now & then so he can look down and see you growing up and I’m sure he smiles really big when he sees you!”

Addi: “I miss Poppy.”

Me: “I know sweetheart, me too.”

It seriously blows me away how much this girl understands and how her heart is still grieving the loss of her Poppy. She talks about him almost daily. I heard recently on the radio that usually the first experience kids have with death is the loss of a pet. Nope, not in our case – is what I muttered under my breath when I heard that. It’s so very hard to lose a parent. It’s also hard to see your children’s hearts breaking because of that loss, even close to a year later. I can only imagine how my own mom feels. But, gosh how thankful I am that I can say with absolute confidence to my children that one day we will see him again. Thanks to Jesus, we have that hope! One day, we will look up in the sky and see Dad/Poppy and Jesus very clearly. And no matter how old we are when that day comes, he will recognize us and welcome us in to paradise with arms wide open. Then, there will be no more heartache, no more pain, no more tears.

But in the mean time, here’s a pic…

Grandpa Elliot by Kip Clark

My Dad posted this under “Notes” on his Facebook page on February 15, 2010. I’ve read and reread this over and over and still can’t get past the last line he wrote. So true, Dad. You just never know what tomorrow might bring.

I am a fan of Grandpa Eliott……….

Grandpa Elliott (aka Elliott Small) was born in New Orleans in 1945 and began playing a harmonica he got from his uncle at the age of six. Elliott’s mother liked classical music and listened to it on the radio, so he learned to play along with Mozart, later moving on to pop, jazz, and blues tunes. Elliott also claims to have taught himself to dance by watching Fred Astaire movies on television, and appeared in a stage production of Showboat when his family moved to New York City. However, Elliott’s father had a violent streak, and the boy soon struck out on his own in his teens, eventually ending up back in New Orleans. Unhappy with the business side of music, Elliott became a street singer, and was a fixture in the French Quarter for decades. After producer Mark Johnson saw Elliott perform in New Orleans, he invited him to take part in a performance of “Stand by Me” that was created as part of Playing for Change, an organization dedicated to international understanding through music. The clip of Elliott and others performing the Ben E. King favorite became a YouTube hit, and after touring with the Playing for Change band, Grandpa Elliott has made his recording debut at the age of 64 with the album Sugar Sweet. (copied from Pandora radio)

“made his recording debut at the age of 64” – inspiring words to those of us who still wonder what tomorrow might bring to us.

Picture for Jesus

Addi, “Mommy, when can I go to heaven?”

Me, “Hopefully not for a while, why?”

Addi, “I drew a picture for Jesus and want to give it to him.”

Me, “That is so sweet, baby. Jesus can see your picture from here.”

Addi, “Well then, can I break open the window and let the picture fly up to the sky to him?”

This little girl has such a tender heart and is so very intellectual – she’s always thinking. Ever since my Dad died, Addi has constantly asked questions about or made references to heaven and Jesus. It’s so neat to hear what’s going on in that little head of hers and to see how God is already at work on her heart. I hope she always shares as openly with me as she does now. Often times when I answer her questions she will say, “Oh, I was wondering about that.” I love how she wonders. I also love how much she clearly misses her Poppy.

“Are the streets hard in heaven or are they made of clouds?”

“I don’t know what Jesus face looks like, but I bet Poppy does.”

“Did Poppy die on a cross like Jesus?”

“Can I wear a princess dress in heaven?”

“Can we have dance parties in heaven?”

“Before I was born was I with Jesus?”

Truck full.

Thoughts of my Dad are with me daily. Memories are cherished and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him. I imagine it will be like this until I join him in heaven. Sometimes it’s consuming. Sometimes it makes me cry. Sometimes it makes me smile. Last night was a time that made me smile.

Ryan and I went on a date. We met some friends to check out the new BJ’s Brewhouse for dinner and had a fabulous time. Great food and great conversation, it was a good night. When Ryan and I left the house to go out, we loaded up in my Dad’s old truck. We are borrowing it for a while as we are trying to sell our car and attack some old business debt. As we got in, I was overcome with emotion and a huge smile covered my face. This was the first time I’ve ridden in it since June 4th. The truck smelled like Dad. Saw dust formed a thin layer on the seat and in the floor boards crevices. Memories flooded my mind of riding in an even older blue truck with my Dad when I was a little girl. He used to take me “deer hunting” on the old country back roads in Quitman. We would sing songs like “Doe a deer, a female deer. Ray, a drop of golden sun…” and see how many deer we could see. We would just count them, not kill them. That was our deer hunting. We’d get back home and report to Mom how many deer were found. Silly, but fun for a little girl. Even then, making memories was important in our house.

I loved being in the truck last night. My Dad would have liked that we were driving it as we went on a date and making new memories. He loved Ryan like a son – and this fills my heart and makes me even more thankful for my husband. It’s amazing how something like a truck can be filled with so much.

“Beautiful things for the people I love”

Ryan built a shelf last week. The cabinet above our stove is very tall. Like most everyone, it’s where we store Pam, oils, sugar, flour, cocoa, vanilla, etc. We have always had a hard time organizing everything up there. And some of us who are shorter than others, I won’t name names, would always knock stuff out while trying to reach for other stuff. One time, the vinegar took a flying leap out of the cabinet and all over the kitchen floor. That smelled lovely for a while! Good day to mop the floor, vinegar makes for a very good cleaner! Anyways, my clever husband decided it was time to build a shelf.

Ryan had some extra wood pieces in the garage. So he went out and used a small circular saw from his cordless tool kit (cute) and cut it to fit. After he got it installed and everything arranged, both of us looked at each other with tear-filled eyes and one thought in mind – Dad would have been proud.

Dad used to take care of this kind of stuff for us and was always happy to do so. In fact, we had a cabinet door that fell off in our bathroom, right before he passed away. He was going to fix it for us. That cabinet door sat on the floor of our bathroom for months after June 4th. Not because Ryan didn’t know how to fix it, but because both of us were sad that Dad wasn’t here to fix it. We finally got around to fixing that just a couple of weeks ago, which was a big step for us. Ryan also hung the door to his studio this week, which was another “Dad project.” Ryan always enjoyed doing these kinds of little projects with Dad for many reasons way beyond the task at hand.

Dad was a talented carpenter. One of his favorite things to do was to take old, random pieces of wood (what most people would consider trash) and turn it into something beautiful. It was amazing actually. “Beautiful things for people that I love” is what he would say. Sort of reminds me of what Jesus does in each of our lives.

The shelf in our kitchen, although small & insignificant to most, was meaningful and special to us. We miss Dad so much and the pain in our hearts of losing him will always be there. But with each “shelf” that comes up in our lives, we just smile, shed a few tears, and remind ourselves of everything beautiful he taught us and how he loved us. And we strive to continue the legacy of “leaving a place better than the way you found it.”

Summer of 2006- Dad with the crib he built for Addison.

I stand amazed.

Last Sunday, we sang this old hymn at church and it hit me in a way that it had never hit me. “Oh how marvelous, oh how wonderful” meant more to me as I sang the words than they ever have before.

Here are the lyrics (the last paragraph in particular)…

When you’ve lost a loved one that you know is now in the presence of Jesus and sing/hear songs that make reference to the day when you join them in heaven – it is quite an overwhelming feeling. Tons of emotions flooded my mind, heart & soul on Sunday morning as tears streamed down my face. Similar emotions that I’ve felt over the past 7 1/2 months.

Sadness – of our incredible loss. I miss my Dad every day and know that this pain will never cease.

Happiness – knowing he is in heaven as happy as ever and wouldn’t want to come back to this broken world even if he could.

Anger – as I looked around to see men comparable in age to him. He was healthy – he should still be here with us.

Peace – acknowledging that God is in control of ALL things and everything happens for a reason.

Joy – realizing that “when with the ransomed in glory, His face I at last shall see.” The face of Jesus AND my Dad. It’s gonna happen one day. Because of our Savior’s love, we have amazing hope.

How marvelous, indeed!

Saturday’s Emotional 8 Miles in Quitman.

One of our favorite things about the 2 years we lived in Quitman was the running. The scenery there and the “slower” traffic is a nice combination. As with most places we live, (have lived) we have a few set routes for whatever milage you are wanting to accomplish. From just a few to 10 or more. Country roads with horses and cows, open fields seeded with grains, decreped barns and it’s vacant downtown adorn this East Texas route. Hilly at times, thankfully flat at others. Here is an old post showing some pics of these hot spots.

Deciding to run there on Saturday, Traci and I wanted to revisit some of our favorite scenes. In effort to plan out our 8 mile quota, I stumbled upon a great resource called  mapmyrun.com. This site allows you to mark your start then draw the route you want to run on a Google Map. When you design your route, it automatically displays mile markers. Once you are finished making the route, editing and tweaking, it shows the elevation and you have the option to see a 3D fly through thanks to Google Earth. Super cool! Here is the route we planned.

We arrived at the much adored “grandma’s house!” around 10 am, said hello and as the girls began to play, Traci and I walked out the door to start at the back of the property. The sun was shining and our muscles were shivering. My playlist included a Matt Carter message on the God’s ability to do the impossible followed by some old school hip-hop. 45 degrees and breezy we pressed start and began our tour.

This place invokes so many emotions. Most may not know of our “Quitman life” and the ups and downs we faced. Joy with the birth of Kamryn, depression with job struggles, thankfulness in the hospitality of Traci’s family and desperation as I struggled with the guilt of feeling unsuccessful. We passed 2 houses we lived in for brief times. One we miraculously and quickly sold in a flat market shortly after a layoff, and then another we lived in for only 3 days. We ran past houses of friends, former colleagues and family who care about our little family and still reminisce of our little coffee shop.

At mile 2.5 we continued past the funeral home that we were forced to enter last June. Seems only yesterday we were running these very roads with Kip. He and I often spoke of how it was motivational for us to run past the town’s cemetery, nursing homes and ironically that same funeral home.

Mile 3 started our ascension of “Cate’s Mountain” to be visited by a familiar big dog that Traci often speaks of. Then we crossed HWY 154 close to dad’s wood shop where he created and felt “alive”. Addi’s beautiful baby bed was born there. Artfully cut and chipped away from large ruff planks of cherry and walnut woods. I was able to “work” there on occasion building studio acoustic panels for fun, and when I was between jobs, building cabinets for money he generously paid.

Mile 4 and onto a great country road with cows and naked trees; the sun shinning on them almost picture like. A major road and some Saturday traffic forced us to dodge a few cars, all the while with my beautiful bride right beside me. An exchange of thumbs up tells me she’s feeling ok.

We winded our way around the corner past the basketball gym where Traci’s sister Jen became a local hero and brother Jeff just graduated high school (2 years ago!). The graduation ceremony where the valedictorian’s speech included a reference to the “great times at the coffee shop after football games.”

Mile 6.5 and past 2 local churches and I thought of a blogsite I designed for a youth group. How that paid invoice and the one for designing the “Experience Quitman” light-pole banners provided yet another month of food and fuel in a time of unemployed and uncertain struggles. He has always provided. He promises He always will.

We continued through the lifeless downtown with thoughts of unreached potential. Past a building Kip and I dreamed of having for my studio reminded me to never back down from a challenge. This road took us into the park that was a part of a charity run our running group put together to raise money for a local 4 year old girl named Sophie with a stubborn brain tumor. How proud I was for the efforts there and how grateful we are for God’s mercy on her healthy life today.

As we passed the “fried food air” of Dairy Queen, 8 miles were complete. Success. With the milage complete we began our cool down walk; just a bit further to grandma’s. As we walked, we talked about the emotional roller-coaster-of-a-run we both just separately experienced.

“His fingerprints are all over this town. You know?” Traci said in reference to her dad with a tear induced, broken voice.

Indeed. Floods of emotions and stories swallowed us as we passed each significant and personal landmark. This town resonates from his influence. We discussed the buildings, the efforts, the struggles, the triumps and ultimately the memories that were just shaken awake on this hour long jaunt.

We turned left onto Meadowbrook Lane to view yet another house we lived in for nearly a year. Number 115, the red brick Clark house on the hill. The weight of that site still heavy with all its memories. The sacrifices that were made for us to feel at home there are still echoing. Lives were rearranged to get us there, rooms rearranged to make it “home”. Footsteps down the long hallway of this house along with voices were lightend to keep our babies from waking when they slept in their cribs. Awesome meals were provided when we had nothing to contribute and rooms and closets were built when we had to return after moving to an unknowingly unfit duplex.

Up the driveway and into the house we were cheerfully greeted by our precious girls hiding under blankets, eager to surprise. Happiness overwhelms my heart with the site of these crazy little women. When we made our decision to move East from Lubbock, we unanimously agree that it would be for the good of our children. Despite the struggles we faced, we are so thankful they brought us here.

Life has been drastically changed by our time in Quitman Texas. So hard. So good. So emotional. Thank you God. It’s been said that “life is a sum of our experiences.” That chapter has added no less than total trust for us. What an incredible route on this path of life. What an incredible 8 miles.

So now we continue on. Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Remain faithful.

2010 Recap Through Pictures

I am VERY excited about 2011. A brand new year. A fresh start with renewed motivation.

This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least. Over the past few days, I’ve been reflecting back on 2010 and everything that happened. By far, the hardest year of my life. The hardest year in my family’s lives. Looking back on 2010 for the rest of my life, I know it will always be known as “the year Dad passed”…however, I also know that some great things happened this year and some awesome memories were made. I started looking back through pictures reminiscing on the good things and thought I’d scrapbook in one post a recap of the year. I am thankful for the blessings of 2010. Even through the tragedy and darkness, the Lord provided rays of sunshine to give us hope and make us smile. A little over a month before my Dad died he sent me this email. I re-read his emails often and have shared some on this blog. But this one, although short & simple, means so much to me and I think of it often…

2010 was definitely hard, but I WILL keep smiling! I have so much to be thankful for. And even though 2011 will no doubt bring its own set of hardships, I know that THIS WORLD IS NOT MY HOME! The joy that only comes from the Lord is my strength.

I’m hoping to jam pack a bunch of new memories for the Dixon clan in 2011 and live life to the fullest. Cheers to making each day count!

Us at Kiepersol Winery on New Year's Eve.

With love,

Traci

2010 Recap Through Pictures

January

Ryan & I celebrated 7 years of marriage & went to Shreveport for a little getaway.

I hosted a Recipe Exchange party at our house.
Read this book with our community book and it knocked our socks off. Good stuff.

February

It snowed! The girls got to build their first snowman.

Went to the Extreme Home Makeover Kickoff here in East Texas!

Some friends gave us a jogging stroller and have used it non-stop ever since.

Got to see Singing in the Rain at TJC – Ryan ran sound for the show.

March

The weather turned beautiful and we started playing outside again!
We ran in the Azalea 10k right here in Tyler.

April

We started a Date Night Co-op with some friends.

Went to see Switchfoot at TJC!
Hunted easter eggs with cousins.
Ran in the Capitol 10k in Austin.
Went to a Texas Rangers game with Poppy & Grandma & Uncle Jeff!

May

We walked the Tyler Race for the Cure 5k with Poppy. This was the girls very first race to participate in!
We celebrated Mother's Day in Quitman with Grandma.
We had our family pictures made at one of our favorite places in Tyler - the trails.
Had a blast celebrating my 30th birthday!

June

Aunt Debbie came to visit from New Hampshire.
June 4th. My dear Dad passed away suddenly after his morning run. Now he is running and living it up in Heaven!

We enjoyed swimming in the evenings at our friends' pool.

Aunt Jen treated the girls to the Tumble Bus!

July

Addi played in her very first t-ball game at school.
We escaped for a family vacation to Fairfield Bay, Arkansas.

August

Addi started Pre-K. Kindergarten days will be here before we know it, oh my!
Addi turned 4!
Kamryn had a blast at Jumping Jacks.

September

We made a trip to Lubbock to visit old friends.
We "adopted an Apache" through the TJC Tennis program.
Ryan did a live recording at KE Cellars.
We had a night away in Dallas to see a friend get married.
Got together with friends to give Robyn a baby shower. Mayleigh was born in November!

October

Got a new job working for Brown's Landing as their Marketing Director!
The girls started a new school on Tues/Thurs.
Went to Georgetown for Kelly's ordination service.
Started going to Story Time at the public library regularly with friends.
Ran in the inaugural Tyler Rose Half Marathon.
Ross came to visit from Minnesota and we went camping in Beavers Bend.
Andy's brought back Pumpkin Pie concrete for the season!

November

We flew to Boston to run in the New Hampshire Half Marathon in honor of my Dad. High five to the sky!
Ryan built our fire pit.
Another baby shower! Brunch with friends to celebrate Jennifer's baby boy on the way. He'll be arriving in the next few weeks!
I ran in the Bambi 5k Run while Ryan was at home sick.
Ran in the Dallas Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.
My mom cooked a feast for our Thanksgiving meal and Ryan carved the turkey.

December

Went on a Caribbean Cruise with cousins & made new friends.
Ran in the White Rock Half Marathon in Dallas. 3 halfs in 3 months achieved!
Kamryn turned 3! And I made my first decorative birthday cake.
We celebrated Christmas in Georgetown with family.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS!

His First Christmas in Heaven

Christmas 2009

There is obviously a HUGE hole this year in our family Christmas. A big void in our family. The void that was once filled by the man who made us all laugh while opening presents. The guy who woke up earlier than everyone else and while trying to be “quiet” at 5 a.m. made all kinds of clanking and banging noises in the kitchen. The man that waited until Christmas Eve and went shopping to buy us all special gifts just “from Dad.”

I miss my Dad terribly. Especially during this holiday season. But here is what I’m clinging to…he’s spending Christmas with Jesus this year! As we are here celebrating the birth of our Savior, Dad is there WITH our Savior seeing him face to face. A dear friend of mine (who also lost her father a few years ago) gave me this poem along with a sweet Christmas card. I shared it with my family. Thanks Robyn. It made me bawl like a baby, but also made me smile. This poem meant a lot to me and gives me hope and peace. I’m trying to remind myself of the words to this poem through the sadness…and I thought I would share it with you.

Much love,

Traci

My First Christmas in Heaven

I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below
With tiny lights like heaven’s stars reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular please wipe away that tear
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear
But the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you of the joy their voices bring
For it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart

But I am not so far away, we really aren’t apart.
So be happy for me, dear ones, you now I hold you dear
And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above.

I sent you each a memory of my undying love.
After all, love is a gift more precious than pure gold
It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do
For I can’t count the blessings or love he has for each of you

So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear
Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.