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…

Easter Weekend

This past weekend was jam-packed full of stuff and busy, but it was very, very good! Seems like the older I get, life just keeps getting busier and time goes quicker and quicker.

Friday, Ryan had the day off for Good Friday. So, we took advantage of that and got a lot of stuff moved into the new house. We are about 98.5% moved in now. The only things left are mattresses, a tv, and some random junk drawer items. We can’t wait to be in the new casa and get settled in! I don’t like being disorganized, makes me feel nervous. This coming week will be a lot of unpacking, sorting through, and settling in.

Friday night, we headed to Arlington for the annual Clark Family Rangers Game! This is our third year to do this and we LOVE it. My little brother Jeff is the hugest Ranger’s fan ever. He wrote this post last year about how much baseball means to him. If you haven’t read this, you should – it’s an awesome and very special post. Going to the Rangers games was a big deal and a very common occurrence for Jeff and my Dad…memory makers. Back in 2009, they decided it would be fun to invite the whole fam to a game. Dad was so excited to take the girls and they absolutely loved it. Addi didn’t stop talking about the Ozarka dots and cotton candy for weeks. After that game, it was decided we should make it an annual tradition, and I’m so glad we did. Friday was a beautiful night, great temps and a nice breeze. Our seats were high up, felt like we were sitting in the sky. Rangers won with five home runs and I consumed my weight in shelled peanuts, sunflower seeds, and cotton candy. Good times. We all missed Dad a great deal, but felt like he was looking down from heaven smiling. Here are pics from the past three years:

April 2009
April 2010
April 2011

Saturday, we slept in (praise God!). After getting home around 1:30 a.m. from the game & having moved all day prior, we were beat. We continued to move stuff all day on Saturday and even cooked our first dinner in our new house that night! For those of you interested in and looking for a new recipe: here is what I made. It was yummy!

Sunday…EASTER! I love Easter. What more could we have to celebrate than the resurrection of our Lord?! This truly means everything to us and because of it, we have HOPE. I love the words to this song below. It captures the message of Easter perfectly and has been stuck in my head for a week now…

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

Awesome. My mom and two grandmothers drove up from Quitman to go to church with us, along with Jeff. Then, we all headed over to our new house for lunch and to give them a tour! Ryan smoked pork, which was amazing as usual. We had pulled pork sandwiches on biscuits, homemade bbq sauce, beans, roasted potatoes, brownies, and sweet tea…pure Texan food right there! It was delicious and we enjoyed visiting w/the fam. My heart was bursting with thankfulness on this day. For my church, freedom to worship, my family, our home, good food, our friends, but most of all – Jesus! And look at these two sweet lil punkins in their new Easter dresses that Grandma bought them…

Another Amazing Provision.

I am always amazed at how God does His thing. Seriously amazed. Here’s the latest.

  • Last September we are invited to an open house for our friend Sarah which coincided with a welcome home party for her next door neighbor who returning from mission in the Air Force.
  • We toured the neighbors house and fell in love with it. We LOVE older houses with character. This one even had a great space for a studio. A dream. Twice the size of the one we are in now. Unfortunately it was occupied and way too much $ for us. No biggie. We are thankful.
  • Last year we were blessed to be able to pay off our Honda Accord and lighten our financial out-go significantly. We are SO thankful to get our head above water.
  • In March and in effort to pay off additional debt we acquire Kip’s old truck and list the Accord on craigslist. Within 1 week it sells for what we were hoping for. Super easy deal and transaction. Our plan was to pay off 1 former business credit card with the money from the Accord. Last minute Traci had an intuition that we should pay off our mini van instead and put the leftover $ into savings. We did just that.
  • This year we have been growing concerned and unsettled about our current house and the length of the time we can live there. Early April we received word that the owners might possibly be moving back into it this fall so we immediately start looking for a life raft. We determined not to stress over this as we know we are in His hands.
  • We noticed that the house we toured and fell in love with last fall was now vacant and offered for less money than before. Also the deposit was 1/3 the price than was originally stated. We looked into the house and met with the owners. They felt led to give us a price lower than listed.
  • We sought the guidance of the Counselor and sealed the deal with a deposit equal to the extra money saved after paying off our mini van.
  • Today we are starting to clean the house and tomorrow we will begin moving one truck load at a time into our new 1927 house and studio with Kip’s old truck.

Better yet, as I’m sure you’ve noticed in keeping up with us, we feel more and more lead to live a life of purposeful adventure. This downtown house provides just that. Ministry opportunity abounds to the surrounding neighborhoods. A legit studio with outside access and guest suite will be better to serve. I am already acquiring projects that were non-existant 2 weeks ago. And with our friend Sarah living next-door, we even have a built in neighbor-nanny! The list goes on.

I told Traci this is yet another too good to be true happenstance that He has provide. There is something WAY bigger than ourselves developing here. He has pointed us directly to this specific space for something very specific. Now I ponder in excitement, “What’s next“? Many may discredit even this chain of events as just luck or coincidence. I arguably disagree and am humbled by His leading.

To God be the glory. Great things He hath done. Again, and again, and again…

This Week’s Quiet Miles.

Running in the Spring is amazing. Despite the air filled with breath-restricting pollen that is. This week’s running has been exceptionally good for me on so many levels.

For about a month now, Traci and I have been on a mission to get up earlier than normal with the intention to have about 1 hour each morning to seek our Creator. We roll out of bed, tip-toe our way to the coffee, separate and do some light stretching, push-ups and sit-ups to wake-up. From there it’s time to engage with the His written words. I do this routine specifically on the days I am not scheduled to run.

For a long time now I have enjoyed listening to podcasts during my miles. In talking to my ‘boys’, I often speak of how valuable these messages are to me, especially in combination with the milage that accompanies them. It really is an extension of my quiet time. Usually a Carter/Chandler message lasts about 45-55 minutes. Perfect for my new 7 mile route. Podcasts allow me to focus on the message and grow numb to the steps. A quiet time listening and absorbing His words.

This week I decided to pick up the miles and run consecutively, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Each morning, I laced up and headed out the door with my usual must haves. For some reason though, my iPod was not happy and would not play. Now I know why.

Tuesday, adorning my new kicks, I was set to do my customary “out to Rose Rudmen park and back” route. I walked out the door, sunk my watch with the orbiting satellites and pressed play. Nothing. No lights on the shuffle, nothing. I walked back inside my quite house and put in on my desk. Without any message or music to keep me entertained, I decided to spend the time in focused conversation with God. Usually He does all the talking but in lieu of the temperamental iPod I decided it’d be my goal to pray as long as possible. WOW! What an amazingly intense 54 minute conversation with the One who knows the deepest part of me, and still loves me.

Wednesday, our Azalea 5K route was the goal. An easy 3. I decided to forego the iPod. There has been a lot in our minds recently with our current housing situation. That and mission have created excess brain activity for me lately. I settled into my pace and began to just let go. Quiet, restful, dark and peaceful are words that would describe my run. Refreshing and exactly what I needed.

This morning I picked up my shuffle that had been resting on the charger next to my bed since Tuesday. With every intention to finally hear part 3 of Chandler’s Authority series, I walked out the door, sunk my watch with the orbiting satellites and pressed play. No message. Just 2 songs. Bummer. I wrapped up the cables, tucked them into the clip and clipped it to my shorts. Bummer. “Ok, well apparently I’m suppose to have a quiet week!” I thought to myself. I walked to my starting point, turned on my blinky red light, pressed start on my watch and was off. Off to another great 7 miles of quiet contemplation and conversation.

Running is SO INCREDIBLY therapeutic to my soul. Ask any long time runner and they’d agree. Days that I set a goal to get out at run, and for whatever reason do not end up running, I’m a cranky mess. I NEED to have this time. This week’s miles, however quiet they were physically, were louder than my earbuds can scream. At the end of each day’s quiet, hour-ish run laced with prayer and processing, I am ready to take on the world. In that hour I have thought through multiple angles of many circumstances, dreamed big dreams and warded off my cranky tendencies. Most importantly though, I spent solid time seeking the wisdom of my heavenly Father and sharing my desperate need of Him.

Thank you God for ensuring this week’s “quiet” miles.

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?”

A weekend in Spring.

This weather has been amazing! Spring is like a breath of fresh air. It just feels good. Things start to come alive again. Flowers are blooming, grass and trees are turning green, more people are out and about in our neighborhood…it’s refreshing and good for the soul!

After being cooped up all winter, the girls are loving all of the outdoor time we’ve been having. And so are we. This past weekend was great. The weather was perfect. We ran, we spent an evening lakeside at Brown’s Landing with friends, we swung on the swings that Poppy built, we grilled, we sat by the fire pit under the huge moon, the girls rode their bikes a ton (they are getting so good at it!), we played with frizbees and some other random made-up games. It was so nice!

I’m thankful to our Creator for creating Spring and all of it’s beauty. Just more evidence of how He loves us!

Into The Woods.

This weekend me and 4 of my church buddies ventured into the woods. Destination: Lincoln Park Parrish. Ruston Louisiana.

There is just something about being out in nature staring at a campfire for hours on end. It’s relaxing. It’s good for my soul. It’s therapeutic. I really think that I am going to have to increase my time out in God’s creation this year. We enjoyed gourmet campfire food and endless coffee thanks to my buddy’s generous and never-ending supply of Keurig k-cups. What? You don’t have a Keurig coffee machine with you when you go camping?

We left Friday afternoon for the 2.5 hours drive East, setup camp in the headlights of our vehicles and started the fire. When the coals were hot, we grilled some steaks and fire-baked some potatoes. Some late night coffee and caramel yummies from a gracious wife topped off our evening. Conversations grew until our sleeping bags’ calls grew louder.

First night was a bit louder than expected. I am a light sleeper since the birth of Addison. That daddy sense coupled with my audio “ear” wakes to just about any out-of-the-ordinary noise. Like my tent-mates SNORNING! Around 7 am, our camp was awakened by a crazy loon outside our tent squawking with the joy of the Lord. The new day was thankfully dry, for now at least. I was able to get the fire revived with a little “breath air” and then our breakfast burrito factory cranked up. Ashed bacon and eggs are bomb! Really though anything with cheese in a tortilla is just fantastic.

After breakfast and a devotional which encouraged a “day of prayer” we broke off into some solitary times with our Creator. After about 15 minutes of walking around in exploration mode, the rain that we had been hoping was only speculation showed up on the scene, and in full force. Thankfully I was able to take refuge under a random RV awning to wait out the storm which I monitored with my iPhone’s Weather Channel Ap. What? You don’t have 3G service when you go camping?This allowed me to be still and read John 13-15. Great stuff.

A few hours later the clouds broke, the skies opened and we were able to proceed with our day and lunch. My buddy in charge of lunch for the day had a grip of ingredients available for us to make our own campfire stew. Burger meat, onions, peppers, potatoes, spices and BBQ sauce wrapped into individual aluminum foil packets created to cook on the hot coals of our fire. Bomb. Some delish cookies his kind wife sent along followed the lunch. I love cookies!

Shortly after lunch 1/2 of our crew had to head back to the real world. Temps dropped in response to the day’s rainfall. Dinner Saturday was some great chili doused with more great meaningful conversation. Ear-plugged this time, I snuggled into my mummy sleeping bag, pulled the draw string tight around my chest and fell fast asleep.

Sunday morning brought more coffee, more breakfast burritos and a 5 mile run around the park’s lake…4 laps. Not a huge fan of laps no matter how scenic the surroundings. My mental state just becomes dull as my inner ear invokes dizziness. The temps were perfect. The companionship with God on my run was just what I needed. Some comfort from my heavenly Father. The other 2 guys that remained got some valued time in too. One fished in the picturesque lake. Another biked on the famous mountain bike trails. Camp was broken down, the SUV was loaded and before we knew it we were on the road home.

I LOVE CAMPING! The smells, the foods, the sounds, the smoke in my eyes, all of it. They seem to awaken memories of great camping experiences in the past. One in particular with my brother-in-laws and my father-in-law in the mountains of Ruidoso New Mexico many years ago. Still though my favorite part of this trip was that it was knitted with conversational thread of God from the moment we met, ’til we parted ways. From how we can serve Him to what He’s been teaching us recently. How we can work to be better men and servants in our families and how important it is to sometimes just sit at our Savior’s feet and listen. It is so great to have other men from different backgrounds unified in Christ to gain from and share with. Everyone has something to contribute. This weekend was exactly what I needed. A great time with my brothers in Christ strengthening relationships only deepened through adventures like this. A great time to feel alive again. A great time to think, refocus and return with motivation. A fantastic journey into the woods. It does make sense though why trips like this are so valuable. We are in fact, Wild at Heart.

Come Home.

Sunday at church Addi and Kam were taught the story of the prodigal son. For those who are not familiar with this parable of Christ in Luke 15, Jesus, by way of His story, teaches us of the never-ending mercy and welcome from our Heavenly Father.

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

This story relates to my life in so many way as I’m sure it may yours too. Often we choose to “do it our own way” and quickly find out that way leads to being lost and in shambles. My reality has lead me to my asking for help, receiving that help and me then feeling shame, guilt and defeat in my actions. Even in receiving His mercy and love I tend to drown myself in pity.

When we picked Addi up from her class Sunday morning she exclaimed “We had a party!!! The prodigal son came home!!!” She continued to tell the people we ran into that day this thing. “We had a party!!! The prodigal son came home!!!”

Growing up listening to the story and even participating in my own version of it, it’s easy to gravitate to the details of the trouble. He took all his money and wasted it. He lost sight of his way and didn’t have focus. He struggled through this period of his life in shame which grew into disaster. He realized he was wrong and was ashamed. He hoped his dad would still welcome him and accept him, even as a servant doing grunt work. Surprisingly to the son, he came home to a steak dinner party and plate full of caring, nurturing, forgiving, and merciful goodness. A party! A celebration!

It’s sad how I often tend to look at the negative side of situations. For me it’s easy to recall the bad in the story of the prodigal son. The squandering for “wild” living, the pigs, the shame, the ruin. I quickly glance through the part of the return and open armed embrace the son and Father share upon their reunion and don’t relish in that positive side of the story. Why is it like this? Am I just so tuned in to trajedy and negative drama that I often overlook the positive successes?

It’s amazing what you can learn from your children. They reveal the simple truths time and time again. “We had a party!!! The prodical son came home!!!” needs to be our attitude. Joy and thankfulness. Positive and jubuliant attitude. Maybe this is part of sanctification (growing to become more like Christ) as I know it is not natural for me to be this way. I really do want to be thought of as a positive person. I truly am grateful for all the mercy that has been extended to me and all the steak parties the Father has thrown in my honor.

Friday night we had the opportunity to attend a concert here in Tyler. Traci and I love concerts and have since the beginnings of our relationship. The band we went to see has a popular song on Christian radio now called “Come Home”. The band is Luminate and they live on our street. :) [Side note: I really want to take them cookies and introduce myself but I think that might be considered creepy.] Anyways, I wanted to share this video and song with you from Friday’s concert (thanks to the camera phone videographer) to maybe encourage you that that Father is always forgiving, always compassionate, always pleading with us to “come home”.  No matter where you’ve been or where you are now, He is right there waiting patiently for us to reach out to Him. Waiting to throw a party! Rejoice!

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.

I will follow you.

The girls love listening to music when we ride in the car. They mostly prefer Mickey Mouse, but we’ve been trying (for our own sanity) to introduce them to some other artists other than animated ones, no offense Mickey. Over the Christmas holidays, we got the new Chris Tomlin CD and have been listening to that a lot this past week. I think its very good by the way, if you haven’t bought it – you should! Addi picks up words to songs so quickly and after several times of listening to the songs on this CD, she knows most of the lyrics. Its pretty incredible really. Of course, I think the child is a genius, but I am a little bias. There is just something so sweet about hearing your children sing worship songs. Especially when they have thrown many fits, aggravated their sister a lot, and refused to eat their dinner that day. When their sweet voices lift up words to the Lord, it melts your heart & makes all of the frustration fade away. It reminds me that these children really belong to God. I just am blessed enough to care for them, teach them, lead them, love them and be called “Mommy.”

Today, on the way home after spending some time at Grandma’s, this song came on & Add sang right along with Chris…

As she sang, all I could think about was the fact that she would be starting Kindergarden this Fall and how THIS was my prayer for her. That she would choose to follow Him. I’m not gonna lie, I get so nervous when I drive by the big, huge building they call “elementary school” – its overwhelming to this momma to think that my baby girl will be there in a few short months! I’ve talked to several friends lately about this very subject. I have some friends that choose private school, some that are considering home schooling, and others that choose public. Its interesting to hear people’s stories and reasons for making the choice they made. I honestly believe that God presses upon parents’ hearts what is best for their particular child – He gives us the knowledge we need to do what’s right for them. We just have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit guiding us in our decisions.

Even though it scares me to death to think of my child entering into this new phase of life come this Fall, I have to trust and have faith. Knowing that God will be there with Addi and that He loves her even more than I do, helps ease my fears and nervousness tremendously. Our prayer for both of our little girls is that they will always choose to follow Him in every area of their life! Not only that, but that Ryan & I can be that kind of example for them.

Are you scared?

Is there something you are scared of? It could be something silly or something big. It could be something that probably would never happen, but you still worry about it regardless.

If I’m being completely honest, which I always try to do on this blog, I have to say that I’ve always sort of been chicken when it comes to running, or at least where and when I run. Don’t laugh, but my two biggest fears are the following:

1. A big ferocious dog will chase me down and attack me. Yes, I’m 30 and scared of big dogs.

2. A big scary man will jump out and attack me.

Sounds somewhat silly, I know. But this is why I never would run alone on the back country roads in Quitman. This is also why I never ever run in the dark. Ever. I always run in the daylight, in neighborhoods or trails where I know/hope dogs will not be on the prowl, and usually in a place where people are constantly around.

So, needless to say, to hear that earlier this week in OUR own neighborhood and around a popular park here in Tyler, a runner was attacked while running along a street that I run on often…it shook me up. At 5 a.m. in the morning, a man jumped out and tried to attack her. She was very prepared though, kicked his butt and escaped. She had mace and a foghorn. I want to meet this runner! I am so relieved to hear she got away. A friend of mine that lives right next to the park actually heard the fog horn and her scream. Wow, how scary. I bet she won’t run in the dark anymore after that!

As I ran yesterday at the trails (at 9:30 a.m., in the broad daylight, with many people around), I found myself being a little afraid. Instead of admiring the trees and thanking God for his creation, I found myself peering into the trees looking for a man with a ski mask and holding my keys in a way so that they could be used as a weapon if need be all while planning my defense.

Then, I heard my thoughts and told myself, “STOP IT!” God did not give me a spirit of fear. It was seriously ruining my run. A time when I usually have the best worship and quiet time was being overcome with fear. I was stressed and worried. I told myself I was not going to let the evil in this broken world ruin a time during my day that I look forward to, always thoroughly enjoy, and feel is very beneficial to me in so many ways. I said a little prayer and continued on, trying to change my focus back to where it should be. I’m thankful to know that God is in control and right there with me with each step I take. That calms my nerves and fears!

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”

The Search for God and Guinness.

I recently  finished a great book titled The Search for God and Guinness. It was recommended (thanks Jordan!) to me as a great look into the history of beer and the faith and generosity of the Guinness family. I love both topics (obviously God more than beer) and to find them both in the same title, I had to check it out.

Stephen Mansfield’s (author) primary objective was to explore Arthur Guinness, the Guinness family tree and what motivated their philanthropic tendencies. With 3 main branches of this family, broken down by profession, brewing, banking, and ministry, he expands on how they made such significant impacts on their world and circle of influence. In a nutshell, the Guinness family were faith driven, very giving and sensitive to the needs that they saw in their peers, their country (Ireland), and ultimately their world. Doers of the Word, not just hearers. Really it’s an amazing story of overcoming overwhelming adversity by going above and beyond to selflessly help those in need for now over two and one-half centuries. Read it! Be inspired.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the book, and the point of this post, was the history of beer and it’s support by the church.

Hold on, WHAT?!

Yes, beer, it’s brewing and social celebration was supported throughout history by Christian people! I don’t remember any flannel-graph beer mugs in my Sunday school lessons! Mind you, drunkenness was not nor has been supported in scripture, but the responsible consumption of fermented goodness, yes. Really, not until the 1920’s and America’s short vindication of all alcohol with the act of prohibition, did the church begin it’s no tolerance mission. Much changed in the church during this and the preceding decades in the way of legalism and is still suffering through this sickness today. Not enough room to go there in this post.

From it’s beginnings in ancient Egypt, to the early church, the reformation and beyond, beer has been an integral part of the social scene for God’s people. Jesus’ first miracle was in creating 180 gallons (900 bottles) of the best wine ever, out of water, for the attendees of a wedding TO ENJOY. Um, hello?

Many famous godly men including the legendary Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and other spiritual giants of the past were advocates for beer. In fact, they constantly thanked God for the provision of the frothy brew and likened it to one of His richest blessings. Pints were shared in taverns while discussing theology and the mercy of God. Kegs of beer were sent as gifts and stipends to preachers of the Word.

When questioned for his freedom in Christ displayed in his acceptance of beer and wine by the strict rulers in the Roman Catholic faith, Martin Luther (who by-the-way is one of the sole reasons you and I have a Bible today) responded, “Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then abolish and prohibit women?” Love it! Christ did not save us for a life of religious regulations, He saved us from a life of religious regulations.

So much more to the book than this, so much. Get it already! Read it! Be inspired.

The Spirit of God, some end-of-year self-motivation and this book have inspired me in so many ways; here are three.

1. One of our goals this year is to be more philanthropic (giving) of our time and resources. It’s a shame to fathom the amount of time and money we waste on ourselves and I’m burdened by this reality in our own lives. The Guinness brewery was the highest paying employer in Dublin in times of the countries greatest depressions. Their company benefits out-weighed what Google, Microsoft, and Apple can provide to their employees today without doubt. With the generous support of the Guinness board and the vision of the brewery’s doctor to eradicate sub-par living conditions, they were successful in providing healthy dwellings, education, and quality social activities for not only the thousands of Guinness workers but changed the whole city for the good. All with the heart of a servant for the betterment of humanity. As Jesus states in Luke 12, “To whom much has been given, much is required.” I have been given TONS (not financially per se) and it’s my turn.

2. I am impressed by how Arthur’s family was so missional minded. He began, his children followed, many lives were changed as a result. Modeled behavior at its finest. One of the greatest evangelists in history was Henry Guinness (a grandson of Arthur), who influenced more great men like Charles Spurgeon, Dwight Moody and William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army). I have been blessed with great Christian legacies and intend to pass that on as far as my influence goes. Both Traci and I come from grandfathers then fathers in ministry. Radically, I want to fan this flame and inspire others for Christ. I am blessed to lead my family in this quest. Now more than ever, radical is right.

3. I enjoy great beer and wine and am saddened by the dark stigma that surrounds the topic. To be grouped into the “drinkers” category in reference to those who abuse it, saddens me. I am free in Christ and am so thankful for ALL of His blessings. All things God creates are sacred. I love Dr. Pepper but only drink it on occasion, mainly because as they have so many empty calories. Likewise, beer is a special and restricted treat. [Side-note, dark beer has been proven over and over again that it’s actually great for your health “Guinness is good for you.” when consumed in moderation, Dr. Pepper however isn’t.] From this point forward, “Ryan drinks beer and wine.” is not a secret. By the way, I homebrew and am looking into hosting fellowship opportunities involving deep Bible studies and brewing. ;) To God be the glory.

In celebration of finishing the book and the revelations gained, there was only one thing that had to be done to properly finalize the impartation. I got out a tall glass. Rinsed it with cold water. Pried open a Guinness Extra Stout. Poured the beautiful, rich, dark-stout-goodness into the glass and let the micro-bubble carbonation rise while forming the tan colored, cream-textured head at the top. I brought the glass of Guinness to my mouth, parted my lips, tilted it and partook. Yum! Espresso and dark chocolate flavors accompanied by berry like bitterness from the English hops surround my tongue with a touch of dust-like dryness that developed through the swallow [smile]. All in honor my great Creator, his man, his faith, his likeminded family and their amazing influence.

Cheers to my God and to Guinness!

The Last 2 Weeks.

My 2 week Christmas break is officially over and man has it been great. Not due to any fabulous vacation or life changing events but just because. The time I’ve had to just chill and read and tickle and love have been fantastic. I look forward to this time of year and huge benefit to working in education since last years break. It always seems to go so fast. Fortunately I still have the weekend before Monday’s return to the workforce.

The first week flew by with mostly loafing. I really can’t remember anything significant about the week other than some great loafing. Then a trip to Georgetown for Christmas with my bro-in-law and his kind family last Thursday thru Sunday. The girls had a blast spending time with their cousin Kendrick and are still enjoying the fruits of giving friends and family. Christmas was great as usual minus the giant vacant spot at this years festivities. Makes me feel more mortal and family like.

This week has been different than the previous. My miles have picked back up and soreness has returned to my legs. Reading has taken a huge emphasis this week. I am about to finish a book that I started last Friday. More on this in future posts. We have cleaned house and rearranged. Early Spring cleaning? I have had a list of self declared projects that I have been wanting to accomplish during this year’s break. On the list were: leaves, oil change, replace bathroom cabinet door hinges and replace garage security light. Of these, all of them were accomplished. I’ve been working on the vast and overwhelming leaf removal project for about 2 months now. My West Texas friends have no idea what this even means. Man it feels great scratching even the littlest tasks off a to-do list. Makes me feel more handy and man like.

Most of all though, the time with my little family has been priceless. It really is amazing how the consecutive days with this much interaction with them makes me want to be around them even more. I am so blessed with this gift. Sure there are days when bed time cannot come any quicker but for the most part it was a great as my mom-in-law’s chocolate cake. The hugs and giggles are golden as I try to pause the moments in hope of somehow slowing down time. Time that’s quickly escaping like an opening handful of dry sand. A few nights this week at the close of our night time routine, Addi has asked with her eyebrows slightly raised in her face’s expression of excitement, “Daddy, is tomorrow another family day?” With much joy my answer has been a pause-less “YES!”. Questions of, “Can you tickle me?”, “Can we dance?” have been answered likewise. Moments like this make the whole break of great value. Makes me feel more fulfilled and daddy like.

It’s neat to see how they are developing physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. Traci and I are really working on leading our precious girls by example. Teaching as we go and acting how we are wanting our kids to act. Fortunately we are about to start a parenting series in our Grace Community group as we could use so much help on aisle 10. We have began implementing a small “for girls” devotional with a story, verses, application and some questions. Still yet to see if it’s doing much at this age but really it’s about establishing a good habit/routine. One thing I want to impress on my family this upcoming year is to be more philanthropic. More giving of time and resources. More on this in future posts. Really when life comes down to final weight of worth, that’s what it’s all about. Adding value to others. Extending the grace that’s been so freely given to me. Fulfilling purpose. Makes me feel more humble and servant like.

Story time.

On the flight home from Boston, I finished the book A Millions Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. It was GREAT, I loved it. The book is simply a collection of stories in Donald’s life. He is a writer and realizes through the course of turning one of his books into a movie, that he had spent a big majority of his life writing stories – but not actually living them which made him incredibly sad and feel empty. So, he decides to get off the couch, turn the TV off, and start making his own stories – start experiencing life for himself. Stop taking the easy road and creating moments that matter. He ends up with some awesome, very inspirational stories to share. The book is eye-opening on many levels.

For me, it challenged me to really live in the moment. In one section of the book, he talks about how he and some friends were driving down a road as the sun was setting on some open fields. One of the girls said she loved running across fields like that when she was a child. He pulled the car over and they all got out and high-tailed it, running into the sunset. Such a beautiful picture of experiencing life and taking time to fully engage in the moments God gives us.

Yesterday, the girls and I had to drive out to the lake to take care of a few work-related things at Brown’s Landing. On the drive home, Kamryn rolled her window down a smidge on accident when her foot hit the button. I instantly rolled it up and turned on the child safety locks, without even thinking. I caught myself…this is an opportunity. I quickly pushed the safetly lock off, rolled down not only Kam’s window but all four windows in the car. It was then I noticed how beautiful the day was! The laughter that came from the backseat was like music to my ears. The girls loved how their hair flew crazily around them and they smiled and giggled the rest of the way home. We created a story. A small, short, but sweet little story and I loved it.

When I come to the end of life, I want my life to be overflowing with stories. As a child of God, I desire to have stories of how He worked in my life and used me in ways that only He could make possible. As a spouse, I want to have adventures to share about living life with my love. As a mom, I want to have “memory makers” galore with my children. The ups and downs of life can all be part of a story. Even the hard, sad, or difficult times can create a good story, if you let them. After all, God is the author. And He is perfect. You just have to submit and embrace each moment He gives you!

I Want To Be A Warrior.

From Wild at Heart. Author John Eldredge. Chapter 9. Page 169.

The most dangerous man on this earth is the man who reckoned with his own death. All men die; few ever live. Sure you can create a safe life for yourself… and end your days in a rest home babbling on about some forgotten misfortune. I’d rather go down swinging. Besides, the less we are trying to “save ourselves,” the more effective a warrior we will be. Listen to G.K. Chesterton on courage:

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saint and heros. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill box. The paradox is the whole principle of courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice (a very steep rock or cliff). He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to live, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.

Awesome. A fresh perspective on the famous verse from Philippians 1:21 which reads, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”

Manchester 1/2 Marathon.

Just got back to reality from our great trip in Manchester New Hampshire. We stayed with Kip’s sister Debbie and her precious family at their cozy 1920’s house. We had a great time exploring Manchester’s great landscape and establishments. Ate some great food including breakfast at the famous Red Arrow Diner and drank some great New England stouts, porters and pumpkin ales. We even made it into Boston for a brief time for a walk thru the park, frosty beverage at Cheers and dinner at the 2nd oldest restaurant in Boston. The East coast is full of rich history! I can’t wait to go back! Next time more Boston for sure.

We woke up race day (Sunday) to temps right above freezing. Some coffee and a Cliff bar as ritual for breakfast as we warmed our bones by the fire in anticipation for the run. The colors in the trees are beautiful this time of year. It really is a site to see. The leaves began falling last week which helped set the Fall setting for our story. Traci, her brother Kelly and I each had some clothing article of dad’s. I wore his shirt, Traci wore a pullover he gave her and Kelly wore Kip’s race bib and even the same outfit that Kip wore the day he left this world. We headed out the door into the brisk – crisp New England air and to the starting point. Kelly and Traci’s cousin Mary and her Dad had trained to run in this one too. 5 runners in all. Mary, Traci, Kelly and I had all predetermined that we were going to run this one together as a team. After the National anthem was sung and as the starting commands were given, we were off.

Despite the cold I kept to my sleeveless shirt and shorts. Beanie and gloves a must when it’s that cold. As long as my head and hands are warm I’m ready to go. My left ankle seemed to be super weak and sore from about mile 3 on. Not sure why. Never-the-less, I endured. I usually keep my iPod in reserve for races as I like to hear the sounds of people around me, especially in a new place. I did try to push play on it once to which I discovered my battery was dead. Good thing I don’t rely on that. Fortunately Traci sung key phrases and chorus’s of her music to me every once in a while. Made me smile. She’s cute.

What a beautiful route! Old cotton mill buildings lined the water fronts. Adorable hundred plus year old houses. Hills, more hills and then a few more. Kip hated hills. As usual there was diversity from point A to B. Wide, tree filled and stone walled yards to tiny, worn yards with chain link. The community support was nice and scattered throughout the 13.1 mile course.

Mile 13 down and with the finish area in site, we lined up side by side as we approached the end. As I approached the finish line I got a bit choked up thinking of the man we all wished was running in line with us. It’s practically impossible to breathe and run when your throat is in your nose. As we took our last step across the finish, each eye of our team was a bit more moist than the thousand steps prior. We did it. We did it for Kip.

Herded thru the metal barrier path out of the chute everyone was being handed the customary finishing metal strung with gold colored ribbon. As I reached out for this Chinese, assembly-line-produced trinket, I couldn’t help but feel a bit lame. Everyone gets this. The guy who finished an hour before I did and the one who will finish an hour later. Maybe the lady passing these out at the end of the day ends up with an extra box of a hundred and takes them home for her kids to play with and destroy. Sure I know it’s part of race schwag, but this time it felt emptier than before. Empty because it’s never been about trinkets and empty tokens. From the moment we said we were going to do this for Kip, nothing else mattered. He was often quick to remind us that stuff was just stuff. It’s all about the memories and the story. The following verses reinforced these thoughts.

1st Corinthians 9: 24-26a

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!

All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

So I run with purpose in every step.

While the run was enjoyable and all of the touristy stuff was fun, the most value was found in the time we spent reminiscing, laughing, and crying. Accomplishing the purpose. Kip signed up for the Manchester 1/2 marathon race but couldn’t make the trip this year in person. Our purpose was to finished it for him. Curiously, I am honored to have finished it with him. High 5 to the sky!

Now, our story continues. Running with purpose in every step. Lord, hold me to it!

A recent conversation…

Addi, “Mommy, I want Grandma to pick me up from school one day, so she can see my new school.”

Kamryn, “Yeah and I want Poppy to pick me up so he can see my new school too.”

Addi, “Poppy can’t pick you up because he’s going to be in heaven for 100 years. Right mom, 100 years?”

Me, “He’ll be in heaven forever baby, but one day we’ll see him again when we go there.”

Addi, “I don’t want to heaven, I want to stay with Daddy!”

Me, “Oh, heaven is awesome, there’s nothing to be scared of there. It’s perfect! And we can all be there together with Poppy.”

Kamryn, “Well, I do. I want to go there. Mommy, I can hold your hand and we can fly to the sky to Jesus.”

Addi, “Maybe Daddy, Mommy, Kamryn, and Addi can all get in our car and have wings on it and fly there together.”

I love that my girls still talk about Poppy and they miss him so. He was a big part of their little, innocent lives. Addi recently had a bag of jelly beans and picked out all the black ones for Poppy, like she used to. He was the only one that liked licorice. She gets very sad when she talks about him and even tears up sometimes. They obviously don’t understand the whole concept of heaven and death at this young age, but they have surprisingly understood more than what I thought they would. So sweet and tender-hearted. I love my precious babies!

It’s not about how I feel.

Ever have one of those days where you just aren’t in the best of moods and you let the whole day slip away being cranky? Um, I have. Guilty as charged. Maybe you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, your kids were extra whiney as you got them ready, your coffee got cold, your hair was frizzy, or whatever the case may be. I’ve been there many a day. Its hard to shake. Today was one of those days for me. I woke up and still felt tired. Life has been busy this week. I feel like I’ve only seen Ryan in passing and our calendar is filled to the brim. Something every single night and extremely busy days. So, I was just not really feeling up to…well, being happy today. So, I dropped the girls off at school and drove out to the lake, to check in on things at work. I’m driving along, content in my poutiness and I hear this song by Seven Places…

Um, hello? Wake up Traci!!! Stop having a pity party and get with the program. Duh. Its not about me. Why oh why do I continually have to remind myself of this? I thanked the Lord for this reminder and prayed for a better attitude the rest of the day. Got some work done and headed back to Tyler, threw on my running clothes and hit the trails for 5 miles before picking the girls back up. I needed the swift kick in the pants! Gosh, we humans can be so selfish at times. We are so blessed to have each and every day and to simply let it slip away because of silly things – what a waste! Each day is an opportunity, an adventure…God has something planned for today. Embrace it! After all, it’s not about how I feel – I exist for HIM.


I’m feeling good. Not too hot, gentle breeze, endorphins pumping…it’s race day. My iPod is filled with a wide array of awesome tunes courtesy of my husband working on the “ultimate running mix” for hours the night before. I had an awesome pasta dinner and a great night’s sleep. I was sporting my Garmin watch, my favorite shorts, my Saucony’s, and my Dad’s yellow “Livestrong” bracelet that he wore at races (see below). Things are looking good for these 13.1 miles I was about to log. I was ready.

As I made my way along the course of the Tyler Rose Half, I was pleasantly surprised to hear “Go Traci!” a few times and see some familiar faces along the side of the roads waving and cheering us on. At about mile 8, a point where my legs usually start feeling tired, there were two cute little girls standing outside of their house on the curb giving out high fives to those who ran by, so I gladly took them up on their offer. They looked to be about my girls’ age, and I needed that sweet encouragement at the time! It’s amazing how much of an impact the smiles and cheers from the spectators makes on runners. It’s most definitely appreciated! Then, as I turned the final corner downtown and headed towards the finish line, I see my cute husband standing there smiling at me. I love, love, love this part of the run. Knowing he’s there waiting for me always pushes me to finish strong! Of course, I ended the run with a huge high five to the sky – my Dad’s life will always be an encouragement to me.

Ever since this race, I’ve been pondering on the word, encouragement. It’s so simple really. Webster defines encourage as follows:

The spectators along the course were an encouragement to me that day. My race was definitely made better because of them! My family and friends are an encouragement to me every day. I feel truly blessed to have people in my life who spur me on. They inspire me with courage and for that, I am so grateful.

On the course of life, it’s made so much easier & definitely more motivating to continue on when you have people like that around you. People who will cheer you on when you are down. People who will attempt to persuade you to stay on course. People who will walk beside you to help give you hope. Jesus was the ultimate example of this. We should strive to encourage those around us daily, we are a team after all. And there are so many ways you can do this! I genuinely hope that you have people that surround you that provide this source of strength for you! Again, it’s so very simple – but so very important.

I’ve set a goal, starting this week, to do something intentional to encourage someone else at least once each day. Whether it be my husband, my children, a friend, or a stranger. Because you just never know who might be ready to give up, and just a simple smile and a wave might be just the encouragement they need to keep going. Will you join me in this?