Monday. And it’s a GREAT day.

Its a beautiful Monday. I have spent all morning with two adorable munchkins and have constantly thanked God for this new opportunity he has given our family. I don’t actually begin work until tomorrow. I’m excited to get started, but am thankful to have a day off to recover from our fast and furious weekend to Austin. The girls just went down for a nap and I’m getting caught up on emails, FB, and laundry.

This weekend, we headed down to central Texas, one of our favorite places to be. Saturday after our last long run before this weekend’s half marathon, we drove into Georgetown. We had a relaxing evening hanging with my brother and his family as we chowed down on Cheryl’s chicken & dumplings. My girls LOVE their cousin Kendrick. It’s a bonus too, because when Kendrick is around, she plays with and watches the girls for us, so it gives Mommy & Daddy a break!

Sunday morning, we went to the 11:15 service of the Austin Stone and it was, as always, amazing. After church, we enjoyed a great lunch at a tasty pizza place with Ryan’s cousin, Aaron. We also went over the Ivey’s new house and recording studio. Ryan and Aaron spoke in audio language for a little while. You know…where to put this acoustic panel, how to position the monitors, how to trap bass, what sound absorption material should be on this wall, etc. All that stuff is way over my head! It’s so neat to see how God is using the Ivey’s as they intentionally live a life of mission there in Austin. Inspiring! We look forward to hanging out with them for a full week next month on our cruise…7 weeks and counting.

Sunday evening, we headed back to Georgetown. My brother Kelly is the Minister of Adults at his church there and was having an ordination service that night. It was a special service and I’m glad we were there. I am so very proud of Kelly and feel blessed to be his sister! My favorite part of the service was when he gave a high five to the sky from the stage. Dad will certainly be missed in everything we do, but never, ever forgotten. Love you Kelly!

Weak?

The moment I saw this statue at the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, I hated it. Do you really think this depicts Christ? I figured I’d share my disgust with you. Thoughts?

So Thankful…

… that I am not the conductor of my own life. It’d be sloppy and ear-plugging at best. I am forever grateful for Divine and mercy drenched orchestration. Life’s circumstances, whether characterized as either good or bad by outside observation; doesn’t matter. My heart beats to His cadence and His symphony is soothing to my soul.

Our Training Schedule, Routes and Todays 13.1.

Traci and I alternate days for running as our girls (obviously) cannot be left alone for hours at a time. If I have Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Traci will have Tuesday and Thursday. The next week we swap. Running in this town is amazing. We have some favorite routes for sure. We have mentally engrained maps for 3, 4, 6.25 and 10 mile jaunts though the beautiful Azalea district and to the South Tyler Trails. Morning is best for both of us as this is the coolest time of the day and I love the feeling of getting the miles out of the way. A great feeling for both work days and weekend relaxation. Usually we set aside the weekends for our longest runs though I have managed to get a few in during the week. With three 1/2 marathons right around the corner, it’s time to consistently surpass double digits for long runs.

Occasionally if the girls are spending the night at Grandma’s on the weekend, Traci and I will run the same weekend day and which allows us to start at the same time. Today was that day for us. With our princesses off in Quitman last night and their sweet uncle Jeff volunteering to bring them to us in Tyler this morning, we were set for our longest run this training season, 13.1 miles.

We had talked through how to add 3 more miles to our 10 mile course last night on the way home after dropping off our babies (romantic kidless conversation huh?) and had it set. We came home watched a movie, passed on our usual weekend wine and were in bed by 11. It is interesting how that even with our girls in good hands both last night and all morning we still ended up going to bed at a reasonable time and getting up to run early this morning instead of sleeping late. Sacrifices of a runner I guess.

Laced up and ready, we walked out the door at 6:30, sunk our Garmin GPS watches, untangles our earbuds and began our warmup walk. We start about 1/10 of a mile down the street which is typically enough steps to stretch, get the blood flowing and wake up those deeply essential joints and muscles that are still upset that I’m up and ready to strain out every bit of their stored up energy. After a kiss from my beautiful bride and at our starting line position it was time to press start and play and get going.

You can listen to a lot in about 2 hours. I am a fan of the Austin Stone and Village Church podcasts as I believe that both of those Matts are awesome teachers. I often use my running time to feed on the Word as that is one of may favorite ways to absorb it. I listened to part 2 and 3 of Matt Chandler’s (Village Church) series on the book of Colossians and then some good ol’ Jack’s Mannequin. Our path took us through the rich folks neighborhoods, down Sunnybrook, across Broadway, down Donnybrook, across the Loop, 5 miles on the trails and then back the way we came.

The temperatures were fine, not great; About 75-80. My ankle joints start yelling at me around mile 11. After enduring the full milage I popped some ibuprofen, drank a cold water and 2 small glasses of chocolate milk. Uncle Jeff was soon to arrive with my 2-still-in-pajamas cuties. Traci finished a few minutes after sporting her “I was successful and made it” smile which I  always hope to see and am so proud of. This chick is good!

From there we had breakfast, got cleaned up, cuddled with our girls and were off to Grace to worship our great God. So thankful that Christ is who He is! What a freeing and captivating truth. Rarely do tears flow from my dried-up eyes while proclaiming my thankfulness in song, but today was an exception. If you were in front of me I apologize for my tone deficiencies as it is tuff for me to be on pitch when I’m choked up. Some days I just get overwhelmed by His love. The greatest days are the ones when you can praise Him at the top of your lungs when your world continues to crumble.

Now the girls are napping and ribs are on the grill. Onions, tomatoes, garlic and peppers are roasting in the oven for homemade salsa. Octoberfest in hand, Redskins vs. Cowboys at 7 and Traci is making homemade Butterfinger ice cream. Family day at its finest.

How great is our God? How great is our God indeed!

What's God Up To?

If I built a spreadsheet and noted every detail of each overwhelming trial the past few years of my life and then in the next column followed up each crazy struggle with the specific way that God came through and did something great (as only He could), you would be amazed. [Maybe I should… might be a great book!… or EXCEL workbook.] The most powerful lesson that we have learned is to ALWAYS TRUST OUR CREATOR. He knows every detail of our life beginning to end. Think about that. Like really think about it. I truly believe that He is always working to refine and strengthen me and for that I am humbly grateful.

With the recent tragedy of Traci’s dad, both Traci and I have felt a deep motivation for living a life with eternal significance. Recently, Traci received news from her job that she would be making about a 1/3 less due to “hard financial times for the company” which begins a new set of questioning. I have finally began to really soak in the brutal reality that this world is truly broken. I have also been contemplating the question “What’s God up too?”.

When I look around I see lots of specific struggles with friends and family. Seriously tuff stuff. However, it does seem that we have really been hit hard on all sides for a few years now. Is it just me? Am I delusional? Is my observation selfish? I really don’t know the answer to these. Really, I don’t know. In my spreadsheet equation of the struggles + God’s provision = ALWAYS TRUST OUR CREATOR, I have learned not to stress and therefore I will not this time either. However; with this reoccurring theme in our life I do question “What’s God up too?”.

My inevitable tattoo.

Yes it is Jake from the Life Is Good brand but so much more than that. Motivation in so many ways. 2nd Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have remained faithful.” This is definitely a phrase and lifestyle that I want to be evident in my “run” throughout this short journey. Equally deep for me right now, every time I see this I reflect on the great influence of my recently departed father in law. I miss him dearly and he’d get one with me.

Next questions: where and when?

Happy Birthday Addison.

4 years ago on August 31st our beautiful daughter Addison was born. That day as I held her tiny self in my hands and fixated my focus on her sleeping face, I really was in shock. Shock I guess to the weighty reality- that this was MY BABY GIRL. Fast forward 4 years and I hold her little girlie body in my arms and gaze into her little girlie face and I am in shock. Shock I know to the weighty reality- that this is GOD’S BABY GIRL.

No Place Like Home.

It is really weird how the older I get the more and more I realize how temporal and disappointing this life can be.

We can be in great physical shape one day and crippled the next. The places we live throughout our short life and the decaying structures we live in. Our jobs. Our cars. The ups and downs of markets and values. The money we make just to send back out on bills or spend it on stuff that breaks. Life of the people we love. All of it temporal and all of it seems to increasingly cause grief.

I don’t know about you but man I have ups and downs, highs and lows and in-betweens. I struggle with consistency even when surrounded by the great things that I have been blessed with. An awesome family, good job, comfortable house, more than enough, yet my desires to achieve and push harder to grow are typically weak and insufficient. Mentally crushing at times. I think that maybe I struggle in this area because I focus too much on the physical. My moods are temporary and increasingly cause grief.

As I grow older I am learning. Actually, I am practicing what I’ve heard, learned and known for a long, long time. That these things ARE temporary and CAN NOT satisfy the itch of everlasting peace and contentment. It’s all way beyond physical and mental. We are spiritual beings. We are much deeper than a physical body and a mind that processes decisions. We have to pour into the Eternal One. GOSH why can’t I grasp and hold tight to this! It is like I know it and embrace it and go to bed with a heart focused on this truth and then wake up with some sort of amnesia!

In a Philippians study that we are doing in community group, Matt Chandler made a statement that these temporal (and therefore disappointing) things are gifts. Gifts to remind us that this world is not our home. What a great reminder. So, if this world is not my home, why do I continue to be troubled and misguided by it? Why do I waste some much time and stress on these things that we know are empty and temporary? One of my buddies Justin gave an example about a fresh scratch on a new van that he and his wife Kate have. He said that it is easy to move into frustration with it being marred or even spend lots of time and money trying to get it fixed, but what does it matter? He then finished his thoughts with the profound and eye opening statement of “Why should I care? It’s all gonna burn!”

The truth that this world is not our home brings a huge sigh of relief and comfort to all of the instibility that surrounds me. Disaster, dispair, depression, all soon to be banished. I am so thankful for His provision. It also helps me to focus my eyes on the author and perfecter of my faith. There’s no place like home. It’s eternal and causes joy.

Philippians 3:20

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.

Fruity

Ryan has been working on painting the girls pictures for their room. I love them so much! A few weeks back, he added the fruits of the spirit – how neat is that? Here is a pic of what they are looking like thus far…I think he’s just about done.

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-control

Fruits of the Spirit. I’ve been pondering on these words the last few days. Do I exhibit gentleness when someone cuts me off in traffic? Do I really have self-control? Do I show love to those around me? Even to those that don’t show it in return? Am I patient when my kids are throwing fits at Target?

Wow, I so want & desire to be/have all of these things. But alone, I just can’t. I’m a human, what can I say? But thankfully, because of the SPIRIT that resides within me, I can be kind when I want to yell. I can have joy, when my heart is breaking. I can have peace in times of turmoil. God is awesome like that. The older I get the more I realize how much I truly need the Lord. Daily. In every single area of my life. And the more I press into and focus on Him, the more fruit I will bear. More of Him, less of me.

I am thankful for the fruits of the Spirit and I want to be more fruity!

The Uphill Battle

Yesterday, I went out for my long run for the week. I was actually really looking forward to this run. Sometimes you dread it, sometimes you are pumped up. This particular morning, I was pumped & ready to attack the 8 miles ahead of me. I woke up before my alarm clock (rare), threw on my running clothes, pulled my hair back, grabbed a bottle of water and headed out while my husband and kids were snuggly and sleeping away in bed. I walked up the road, stretched, took a sip of water, hit play on the ipod, start on my garmin and took off.

Nice and slow, I had determined I was going to enjoy this run. And I did. There are hardly any cars on the road at 6:30 on a Sunday morning. Very peaceful. I did pass an occasional person walking their dog or other runners here and there. Tyler really is a beautiful place. I love running here. There was a slight breeze and it really wasn’t unbearably hot yet. Great run.

It wasn’t hard until the very end – when I got to the big…no, make that the HUGE hill. We like to name hills on our running routes. Usually if someone we know lives near the hill, we dub it with that person’s name. In Quitman, there is Wilson Hill and Cates Mountain. Here in Tyler, we have Death Mountain- 1/4 mile uphill by a cemetery. Well, Death Mountain was in the last stretch of my 8 miler. And it inspired this blog post.

As I approached this hill (or what really feels like a mountain after 7 1/2 miles), I took a few deep breaths before I started uphill. I focused my eyes, leaned my body forward and went for it. I have found that if I keep looking up ahead, I see how far I still have to go uphill and it discourages me. However, if I focus on a just few feet ahead of me the whole time, before I know it, I’ve made it all the way. The hills tend to slow my pace down some, but that’s OK. After I get up to the top, I regulate my breathing again, take a drink and finish out the run strong…all the while thinking, I just killed that mountain! And I’m going to be stronger because of it.

Isn’t this how life is really? We have mountains to climb and they are absolutely tiring, and hard to get over. Life is hard. There are many ups and downs, no doubt.  The older I get, the more I realize this. But the good news for us is that God promises to never give us anything we can’t bear…and He gives us the strength to get uphill. We don’t have to go at it alone. If we stay focused on Him and not look at how far we have left to climb, we will be over the hill before we know it. He is using the mountains to mold us and grow us…making us better runners in this race of life.

I have experienced many hills in life. But the death of my Dad has been the hugest mountain by far for my family and I. One that we are still climbing and stumbling on. It’s hard, I’m not gonna lie. There are times we are out of breath, don’t know how to go on, and want to quit. But through prayers, encouragement, and love, we press on. And I know, because we press on and press into God, we will be stronger because of it.

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

He’s part of that great cloud.

Several of my friends have told me recently that they think of my Dad often while they are out running & it encourages them and motivates them. I know that me, Ryan, my sister & brother don’t take one stride without thinking of him. Lauren, Jessica, Katie – Dad would tell you to run on and to keep on keepin’ on!

I continue to be so proud of him and the impact he has made & continues to make on the lives of people all over the place. As I was thinking about this tonight, this verse came to my mind…

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” – Hebrews 12:1

How neat to think that my Dad – Kip Clark – is now part of that GREAT cloud of witnesses. Wow. He’s cheering us on as we run this race called life. I have to run with perseverance!  I miss him like crazy, but I know he’ll be waiting for me at the finish line with a huge smile on his face and the biggest high five ever.

I am special because Jesus loves me.

Check out these mad coloring skills! Addi is learning to stay within the lines. I love her because she is mine! I have this posted at my desk to remind me that the reason my Father loves me, is because I’m His. He loves me not because I have mad skills worthy of His love or acceptance. He doesn’t love me because I am great at staying within the lines (sin management). He loves me because I’m His. What a simple and awesome relief!

Imitations are a Waste.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a Dixon favorite. I have loved this cereal since I was a kid and still enjoy it to this day. Recently on a trip to Wal-mart, I decided to give their Great Value brand a try. I am usually a stickler to the name brand as I know that they use the better quality ingredients and therefor produce the best end product.

Yesterday I opened the box, poured my bowl and took a bite. Processed the flavor, texture, similarities and contrasts to the real version and then proceeded to dump my bowl in the trash. Nasty!

This morning Kamryn wanted cereal. I poured her a bowl and she took a bite. Processed the flavor, texture, similarities and contrasts to the real version and then proceeded to dump her bowl in the trash. Nasty! She knew, just as I did that something wasn’t right. It just was not what we knew. The 90% full-box was quick to make the trash can too.

Sometimes we fall into the lure of the imitations, the cheaper brand, the seemingly better deal. However; when you find the best most fulfilling things in life, there is no substitute to the Real Deal. Funny how this seems to be an ongoing life lesson for us (and the rest of humanity since the beginning of time). Not funny is the truth that most people tend to waste their life, time, focuses and hope on the imitations.

Beautiful One, I Love You.

Last night, we were at some friends’ house for the 4th and this conversation came up…”What do you guys do as parents to introduce your kids to the gospel?” Great question! It really made me think – what do we do?

Ryan & I shared that we try to read stories out of their Children’s Bible at night before bed. We pray with them often and bring Jesus into our conversations whenever possible…especially in those very trying & patience-building teaching moments. Also, we sometimes listen to worship music in the car when we are out and about. Either that or Micky Mouse Clubhouse or Owl City – their other faves. Lately, the girls’ have loved listening to Beautiful One by Jeremy Camp and Glory to God Forever by Fee – both awesome songs. It fills my heart with joy to hear their sweet little voices singing…especially when its a song to the Lord. Even when they don’t get the words right and are off key – its beautiful.

After some conversation, we determined that really…the hugest and most impactful way you can introduce them to the gospel is with your own life. Its not all about what you tell your kids, its about what you ARE in front of them. Challenging for sure. Something I need to work on daily & remind myself often…and honestly fail at frequently. Teaching my kids to live a life of worship and devotion to their creator can be done most successfully when I live a life of worship and devotion to my creator.

God has entrusted me & Ryan with these two little cuties and we certainly want to do whatever we can as their parents to assist them along their spiritual journey. We can’t wait to see how God uses each of their lives in great ways!

Thankful Board

This morning, I went out for a run. With tear filled eyes and a heavy heart, I logged 6 miles in the rain. Physically, it was a great run. Emotionally, it was hard. A lot went through my mind this morning. Today marks one month since my Dad passed. Crazy that its been that long already when it still feels so very fresh to me. The past few weeks have been the hardest of my life and those in my family’s lives. But through this tragedy, I have also seen some very neat things taking place. Blessings.

My friend (and co-worker) Sarah had the idea to make the huge chalkboard wall in our office our “Thankful Board.” Every day we try to write five things we are thankful for on the board to keep our minds focused on positive things and give God glory that is due for everything He has blessed us with daily. From small things to big things. Its been helpful to see some rays of sunshine during a dark time. So as I ran this morning, I tried to focus on things that I have to be thankful for & here are five, out of probably twenty, that I came up with.

So pretend the following is on a chalkboard that has “Thankful Board” written in huge pink letters at the top…

1. The friends and family that have completely wrapped their arms around us and loved & prayed us through this painful time, provided food for us for weeks, have allowed us to cry on their shoulders, and sometimes just came and sat with us – your presence means the world. We are thankful for each of you & the sense of genuine community we have here.

2. The way my Dad’s life is motivating us to make the most of our own lives. Ryan posted an awesome blog about this very thing, you can read it here. Dad used to tell us to always leave a place better than the way you found it. That’s inspirational to me on so many levels! It is overwhelmingly obvious to us that Dad definitely left this world a better place than the way he found it. Now its our turn. I am thankful for my Dad’s LIFE.

3. My Mom, brothers and sister. We are in constant contact throughout each day – phone calls, texts, emails, dinners, etc. Its much needed and somehow produces strength. My grandmother, mostly known as Memaw, told me just the other day that there is strength in numbers & gosh, that is so very true!

4. Ryan, Addi & Kam. There are no words. I LOVE my family with all that I am.

5. The song “Blessed Be Your Name” & the memory that goes with it. For those of you that were with us on the Mexico Mission Trip when my Dad’s truck got stolen – you know the depth & meaning behind this. And now during this time…even though the road is marked with suffering & there is definitely so much pain in the offering, we still continue to say – blessed be your name.

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

… I fear an empty and eternally insignificant life.

The past month has been filled with death and it’s been a tough one. From the loss of my dear father-in-law, to my Uncle John, 2 co-workers and a close friend of one of my work buddies, this has been the most and closest dealings with death that I have ever had. I am ready for it to be over. The wounds are deep. This valley has really made me think. I mean really think. It’s been quite a reality check. It has been influencial physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Physically it has started the process of increased life insurance and beginning considerations of wills. Preparations for my family is not my favorite thing to research. If you saw my google search history you’d think I was morbid and depressed. I have been using fewer words in my spoken sentences. My eyes feel heavier than before. My running pace, heck; every day movement has been hindered as it’s all hard with shortness of breath and a heavy heart.

Mentally it has been difficult to care about a lot of the petty and mundane crap that is such an emphasis for the masses. Thankful for my employment at my job, but not how I want to be known. Grateful for my stuff, but not how I want to be defined. My perspective on “important” things of life has been taken to a new, and an uncharted depth for me. I often struggle with self worth and esteem. “Who are you?” and “What good are you?” are phrases that the enemy regularly and successfully darkens my days with. This past month has been no different, the shadows are darker than I have known.

Spiritually these hits have been supressing. Many people question God. Many just get mad and fall further away. This has not been the case for me. I don’t question because I know the answers. I don’t get mad because really, why should I be? I just get more anxious. I have however struggled with in communicating with my LORD. God is sovereign which is a big church word for awesome, extravagant, mighty, bigger and wiser than the lump sum of all of humanities claimed knowledge. Traci and I have had a multi-month long conversation threaded by the concept of intentional and significant eternal purpose. In light of the recent events has become more intense. Obviously we were created for a purpose, but how crazy is it that our real and only purpose has always been to have a connection with the one who created us? I feel as though I have really missed this. It’s been mostly head knowledge backed with a baby-girl-strength amount of action. Starving and weak my spiritual muscles are hungry and unsatisfied. Anorexia cause by fear or complacency?

I have begun to read a book that was a favorite of Kip’s titled WILD at HEART. I heard him speak of this often and refer to it on a camping trip that he, Jeff, Kelly and myself took a handful of yeas ago in New Mexico. A trip that was previously and now forever will be treasured. This book [this one actually belonged to him and is highlighted by him… typical Kip if you really knew him] is directed to believing men and to inspire us to “get it together” in our pursuit of knowing God, leading our family, and actually fulfilling our purpose. The author references guy movies throughout and one quote has really echoed in my mind the past few days. Really, this is it. So inspirational on so many levels. Please think about the depth of it and how it applies to you personally.

“All men die; few ever live.” – Braveheart.

The maturing of my grief and ripening motivation will inevitably produce fruit. The credits are rolling of an epic movie, I drown in sorrow but now absorb the lessons, attributes and actions of my fallen hero; trying to somehow find the strength and pick up the challenge in my own adventure, the sequel. My mission: Live to glorify the King. Really, what else matters?

One Right, One Left

Turkey Trot - November, 2009

Me with the two greatest men in my life. The one to the left – my husband, my best friend, my children’s daddy, my heart. The one to the right – my dad, my friend, my mentor, and now more than ever, my motivation.

This Father’s Day is hard, I’m not going to lie. It hurts. Our hearts are still and will continue to be broken about this huge and very sudden loss. In honor of my dad this morning, we went and did this. It was very special. Gosh, I love my siblings and my mom – their presence gives me strength. Something about each of them makes me feel closer to my dad even though he’s gone.

After this walk of remembrance of one great man, I went for a 5 mile run with the other great man. Ryan and I ran through the town that with every turn reminds me of my dad. While running, I thought a lot. A lot about my dad and a lot about Ryan. This song by Sanctus Real came on about mile 2, and I thought it was so very timely and fitting for the day…

Today, as we continue to mourn, we also celebrate the life that my dad lived. Even though it hurts to push forward, I am motivated to make the most of this one life I have. My dad’s legacy will definitely be remembered and the memories we have with him will be treasured.

Today, I will celebrate my husband – who is such an amazing daddy himself and I love more and more each day. Addi and Kamryn adore their daddy and they have every reason too. He pours himself into them each day. He strives hard to be the best he can be in his role as a father…as he does with any role he takes on in his life. He is a lot like my dad in this way.

I love my dad. I love my husband. Happy Father’s Day to the two greatest men in my life!

Kip, Family and Friends Video.

We knew that we wanted to make a video presentation to be a part of the funeral services in honor of Kip. Some favorite songs of his and the pictures with people he loved. At the funeral home when making final arrangements, the director asked if we wanted them to do a slide show to which quickly and almost viciously stated that it was my project and would not be left to someone who didn’t know him. I took the challenge head on to create this. That’s what he would have wanted. What a therapeutic blessing it was to do this video. I was honored to be able do this and wanted to share it with those who wanted to see it again or for the first time. God creates in us desires, skills and abilities for His purpose in His time. I feel like this was one of those times. We love our Kip Clark!

For those interested in how this was accomplished, all of it was created on my MacBook Pro with iMovie, Garage Band, Illustrator CS3 and Photoshop CS3… all away from my studio and choice environment. The voice over dialog was recorded by the iPhone App by McDSP called Retro Recorder, imported into Garage Band. Edited and mixed with the 2 songs.

My Sweet Wife.

Even through the recent tragedy with Traci’s dad’s passing, my wife is a rock. Tender, tear-filled eyes, broken-hearted, sad, and even breathless at times, yet she is a rock. I am so thankful for the blessing of such a strong and beautiful woman to hold when the ground beneath seems to be crumbling. “My best friend” does not even accurately portray the connection that we share and build upon through time. I am actually sad for all of my male friends who may read this. Your wife, no matter how beautiful, mother-liness, giving, Godly, successful, funny, sweet, and strong as she may be, does not even begin to compare to this. Thank you LORD!

He’s got Poppy with Jesus in his hands.

Many of you have asked how Addi and Kam are doing through all of this. As you know, our kids LOVE Grandma & Poppy. We have been blessed to live near them the last few years and spend a lot of time with them on a regular basis…definitely a God thing.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to handle telling them or what exactly to do. Heck, I still don’t even know how I’m supposed to handle it myself. We figured Addi was old enough and smart enough to understand, so Ryan & I wanted to make sure we did the right thing and approached her tender heart carefully. So after seeking advice from my mother and my grandmother, we determined to tell the girls that Poppy is living with Jesus now and that he’s so happy and will always be in our hearts. We didn’t let them see him at the funeral home, because that would have been too confusing.

They both seemed pretty unaffected for several days. They both loved going to Grandma’s house every day and playing with their cousin Kendrick…pretty distracted during the days of the viewing, funeral, etc. Every now and then, they would ask, “Where’s Poppy?” or “Where’s Hoppy?” – depending on the which child was asking – and we would remind them that he’s with Jesus. They would accept that answer. Sometimes they would ask why we were crying and we would tell them that we’re sad about Poppy and Addi even said, “well I’m not going to cry about that!”

But a few nights ago, I think it finally hit Addi. We were putting her to bed like we normally do – sing a song, say a prayer, etc. She started crying…big tears and a sad sob. When Ryan asked her what was wrong she said, “I just love Poppy and don’t want him to live with Jesus…that makes me sad.” She continued to cry for about ten minutes – saying “Poppy…Poppy” and finally Ryan calmed her down to pray. I obviously had to leave the room because my crying would have only made it worse. She said she wanted to pray for Poppy. In her little three year old way, she mourned my Dad that night. She got it and was sad. The next day, without being prompted, she went and found her little pink scrapbook that had pics from when Poppy was building her crib…she carried it around all morning and told me it was her special book. So sweet.

Then, in the car the next day, the girls were singing the song, as they do often, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” They like to make up their own verses like “He’s got Addi and Kamryn in his hands” or “He’s got Mommy & Daddy in his hands”, etc. So they were singing along and Addi busted out with, “He’s got Poppy with Jesus in his hands.” Wow. How much truth is in that sweet innocent statement?

It struck me that – all of this IS in God’s hands. My heart is breaking wide open, but knowing that truth helps and gives hope. And seeing how even in Dad’s death, God is using him in mighty ways – I continue to be so very proud of him.

Addi and Kamryn will no doubt miss their Poppy/Hoppy. I certainly do…terribly. I am thankful they had the last two years to spend so much time with him and get to know him and love him. His face lit up when we pulled into their driveway, and he was always the first out the door to greet us. This new reality will be hard. Please pray for their precious hearts. I am thankful that they still have their Grandma Clark and Grandaddy & Grandma Dixon to love on them and make memories with them for hopefully many years to come.

I love you all and am truly thankful for our friends and family who have wrapped their arms around us and loved us through this time. Your prayers, calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, flowers, food, and most of all – your presence, will never be forgotten and mean more than you’ll ever know. We genuinely thank you.