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.

Paintings for my girlies (updated)

I have had some time today to work on the longest painting project I’ve ever embarked on. Sheech! Not sure why it’s taking so long. I have finally put the fruits of the Spirit in which I have been meaning to do for some time now. I’m hoping it will be a great reminder to my princesses as they grow up as the attitude and character of Christ is absolutely what we should model and I know I need this constant visual reminder when raising these filthy sinners! Here is the version I posted a while back. It’s about 90% now. Have I ever said that I love to get lost in music and painting before? Man! Love it!

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?

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!

Kip Clark. September 30, 1947 – June 4, 2010

To many, I was your son-in-law. To you, I was your son.

I am so grateful for all that you taught me. Wisdom that I am honored to pass on.

Your leadership was out of the box and inspirational.

Your life has redefined my definition of the word “determination”.

Despite your many roles and successes, you were a humble servant.

Your encouragement had a way of strengthening those who needed it most.

You only gave me advice when I asked for it.

You embraced my dreams and extended both hands to help me achieve them.

You left this world, this state, this town and family better than it was before you found it.

You will be missed. Your life will be celebrated. I am so proud of you.

“Sonny Boy”

Weekend Overload.

This has been one jam-packed, fun-filled weekend for sure! Prepare yourself for tons of pics & weekend details that may cause exhaustion.

Starting on Friday with the 30th birthday of yours truly. What an amazing day it was! My family, friends & coworkers made this birthday the best one yet. From a mocha brought to my desk first thing that morning, to cupcakes & Bruno’s pizza for lunch, to flowers delivered from my sweet cousin, to an edible arrangement from my brother-in-law, to a romantic date night with Ryan, and then a last minute party at KE Cellars with friends to top off the evening- wow, it was fabulous day! I appreciate all the FB posts, phone calls, texts and cards – I feel so blessed to have you all in my life. 30 isn’t so bad! Here are some pics from the day…

Saturday, I took the girls to the cutest little tea party ever! One of their little friend’s was turning 5 and had a tea party birthday party – so stinkin adorable! The girls loved it…Addi was in heaven with all of the dress up stuff and Kam was happy because they served ice cream at ten in the morning.

Saturday evening, we had dinner at our friends, the Lee’s house and enjoyed some tasty burgers and an intense game of Balderdash – so much fun. Our girls have a blast playing with their two girls…its cute to listen to them all giggle & squeal!

Then, Sunday after church, we headed to Quitman. It was the 2nd annual Skinner Cousin get-together on the lake. Tubing, sunbathing, swimming with all my cousins…great times were had. Then, that evening my mom cooked some yummy comfort foods for my bday dinner…meatloaf, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, rolls, chocolate cake – was soooo good, especially after spending the afternoon on the lake! My Aunt Debbie from New Hampshire was also in town…its always so good to see her & her smiling face.

And that brings us to Monday. A day of rest & relaxation! We had plans for the day, but overslept & honestly didn’t even care. After all of the events of the weekend, we were all exhausted! We left the house once to go run on the trails, then cooked out and had popsicles. Ryan smoked ribs to go with our baked beans and grilled corn… love days like this!

Happy Memorial Day friends & family!

Family Photo Shoot

A couple of weekends ago, my sweet friend Cyndi took pictures for us. It was a beautiful day & the girls were surprisingly cooperative! By the end of the shoot, Addi was directing us all…”right here is a good spot” or “stand in front of that tree!” My girls are definitely used to being in front of the camera…the little hams! Cyndi did a great job & got almost 200 shots. I won’t post all 200, but here are a few of my faves. I am so thankful for my family!

Dixon Van Back in Action!

yes i was chubbier then

When Kamryn was born we quickly decided that we needed a vehicle with a 3rd row for transporting our little family and a couple friends as well. (Yes I was chubbier then) Traci and I bought a used Honda Odyssey with the intention of driving it till it was no longer drivable. Little did we know, the 2002 Honda Odyssey line was notorious for having major transmission issues and became “no longer drivable this Spring! We have had issues with it slipping on occasion for about a year but kept putting off doing anything about it due to the repair bill being around 3 grand to rebuild it.

Well, it got bad. Scary and unsafe. It sat in our driveway for 2 months till we secured a loan to rebuild the tranny. We ended up having to refinance the van adding the $2500 repair cost to what we still owed on the previous loan. Today we picked up the repaired van with a renewed sense of owner’s pride. Not fancy at all but once again, a provision that we are thankful for. We have plans for cleaning it this weekend and maybe even rolling the windows down and cruising through the neighborhood blaring some old school Snoop.

Lead Me

I love great music. I can get lost for hours in a new or favorite album. Yesterday was one of those days where music seriously played a big part of my day. “Lead Me” by Sanctus Real really spoke to me. I have loved Sanctus for about 10 years now. This song on their latest album is an anthem to believing husbands and fathers. Deeply motivating. I had to share. Beautiful and inspiring.

Click here to listen > Sanctus Real: Lead Me


Addison the obsessive.

We really think that Addi is obsessive. She get’s something in her head and will not let it go till it has been accomplished or gained. This is sometimes very hard to deal with and can result in the need of our correction. Sometimes it’s adorable, super sweet and loving and deserves unrestrained hugs and kisses. All depending on which side the coin lands. None-the-less, this girl is awesome! Here is a pic of her the other night at bath time. She was obsessed with making the “covers” perfect while putting her “babies to bed”.

Mommy's Day

A great mommy is a great treasure. I have been blessed with a great mother who has set a high standard of which I sought out in a wife. When I began to look at Traci as “girlfriend material” (about 10 years ago!), one of the many qualities that led me to ask her to be my woman was that I saw gentle and compassionate mother characteristics in her. I knew I wanted my future children to grow up around that type of mother. She has fulfilled and far surpassed that initial perception.

I am very proud of my decision for my baby girl’s mommy. Often I ask them, “Did I pick a good mommy for you?” to which they unanimously reply “Yeah!”. I am so thankful for the love she shows to our precious girls. Traci is gentle, kind, patient, joyful, peaceful, self controlled and all around awesome. I love my mommy and the mommy of my beautiful girls. Happy Mommy’s Day!

This weekend in Austin.

Friday we left town to head down South to the great land of Austin. We stayed with Traci’s brother Kelly and his family in Georgetown. While there we enjoyed pit fires and conversations in their backyard and laying in the sun Saturday on their trampoline. Very relaxing. The weather was perfect! Our main purpose for going there this weekend was to run in the Austin Capitol 10K which was this morning (Sunday) at 8:45am. Traci’s dad Kip and brother Jeff strolled Addi and Kam around the race start and finish as Traci and I ran the route. Up to the capitol, around the down town area and back around by Town Lake trails. 6.2 miles. Traci and I ran together through the drizzle and mist, finishing at a 9 min per mile pace. We quickly changed clothes and made it to the 11:15 service at the Austin Stone for yet another incredible message and worship session. This evening we were able to hear Kelly speak at this church in Georgetown at TXT3 and then a 4 hour trip back to Tyler. We had a great time this weekend despite Addi being sick with a cold and fever. I love Austin!

Wow.

I live my life surrounded by beautiful women!

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. (Part 2)

I finished! I actually finished a whole book! For those who know me, this is an amazing acheivement that I even doubted mid way thru. I began this book in November. Sure it took a while but I made it. I would highly recommend it to fathers surrounded by pink, princesses and ponies.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters has been really good for me and I am sure I will end up reading it again in the future. It never hurts to review these kind of topics as times and seasons of life will change for me and my babies and I know I will need to recap. The things that I have picked up on the most from this book is that my responsibility as a father is grand and overwhelming. I influence so many things that I really have never thought about. Eating disorders, sexual behavior, drinking, drugs, depression, and other scary issues that I don’t even want to begin to think about are often results of weak and distant fathers.

But, the good news is that most of the complex problems that plague girls, tweens, teens and young adults is often subdued and even diverted by the presence of a strong father with a strong moral code and the courage and strength to protect his little girls. This is who I want to be and will become. My influence can teach them integrity and to make quality, hormone free decisions, that is if they are modeled in my life. The closing paragraph sums it up well by stating the following:

One day, when she is grown, something between the two of you will shift. If you have done your job well, she will choose another good man to love her, fight for her, and be intimately connect to her. But he will never replace you in her heart, because you were there first. And that’s the ultimate reward for being a good dad.

– Meg Meeker; M.D. & Author.

This has been a great year for me personally and more important, spiritually. My quiet time receives actual time. My prayer life actually lives. I am motivated now more than ever in my role as a father and disciple of Christ. I am feeling new callings on my life and leadership that I have nonchalantly missed for years. I am excited for what is to come with this renewed vigor I feel in my soul.

Spring Break 2010… in review.

I loved the break! So great in so many ways. Rest, reading, movies, studio fun, art and time with my lovely family. Last night date night with my beautiful bride at Cibo Vino Italian in Winnsboro. Fantastic! To top it off, a great “family day” today for the Dixon’s. Great message at church, leftover spaghetti with homemade sauce for lunch, a walk to Brookshires for groceries in our mammoth jogging stroller, sitting in the sun with my wife while my girls napped, homemade chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and a grilled dinner of Mediterranean kabobs with rice and an additional walk down the street in this beautiful weather. This pic was taken tonight during bubble time while dinner was grilling. How blessed am I to have such a beautiful family? So thankful!

Paintings for my girlies (unfinished)

I began these paintings around the beginning of the year and am yet to finish them. I have had some time to concentrate on them this week and wanted to share. Lots of girlie-ness and a stray from my norm.  I am always adding and changing but as of now I would say that I’m about 80% finished. I traced their hands to form the big pink flowers. Addi’s is the bigger, Kam’s is the little one. I will upload the final product when I get it finished.

Spring Break 2010… Mid week synopsis.

It’s Wednesday and I’m loving this week! At home we have been doing some rearranging and switching some accounts around of services such as DirecTV and Suddenlink high speed so we have actually been in the dark since last Friday or so. No satalite till this morning and no high speed till tomorrow afternoon. Retrospectively, It actually has been nice, relaxing and seems to slow down time when you are not always checking sites or having TV on all evening. Refreshing. I actually had to come up to my studio just to get on-line to surf for a few and make this post.

Already this week I have seen Alice in Wonderland (Ok if you ask me… a bit underwhelming), did some yard work, took Traci to Dallas for a meeting with a client, ran, took care of some around the house chores, painted, read, and journaled a bit. I still have some more things on my list but for the most part I’m on track. I still plan to take my beautiful girls our of school early this week for some fun times (hopefully and totally up to the emotional coin flip of my oldest) with daddy.

I am feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and relaxed. I have lived a good percentage of the weekend and week inside of my thoughts and earbuds, listening to podcasts and music galore while reflecting of how fantastic our God really is. I am learning that time to my self for “rest” is a much needed thing for me personally. I love to paint, run, listen to music and just drive around which all in some mysterious way have a sense of healing my inner “up-tightness”. I am enjoying the time and feel that as a result I am able to spend more valuable and engaging time with my family. Now I need to focus on how to get this my needed “Ryan Time” in the midst of a normal crazy week. ?

One thing that I began this week and I would highly encourage you to do is journal. Seriously. I really want to gain form my quiet times. I want to learn, to grow and to make significant steps to put those thing that I gain into practice. I have a hard-bound sketch book that I bought from Hobby Lobby a few months ago that is perfect for jotting down thoughts as I read. I am currently reading the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. I really enjoy the writings of Paul. Hardcore for sure. If a verse or passage sticks out to me I write it down, word for word, and then the thoughts and prayers that these verses stir in me. It has been really good… already! I would encourage you to do the same, but only if you want help and motivation in reading and memorizing scripture, retaining what you have read and growing in your relationship with Christ.

Peace!

Spring Break 2010… the planning.

Everyone that works in the education field knows that one of the best benefits to the job is all the time off. The pay is mediocre and the health benefits are nice, but the time off is exceptional. 2 weeks off for Christmas break, a handful of holidays like the 4th of July and a week for Spring break comes to 4 weeks a year paid leave. Yippie!

Next week is my Spring break and I am pumped. I’m going with some old friends down to South Beach for a week of unrestrained craziness. LOL. Actually, I plan to run, read, catch up on some sleep, cook more complex dinners than usual, go see the new Alice in Wonderland, have my usual lunch with my beautiful woman and spend some extra time with my babies. I don’t know yet what I going to do specifically, but I am planning to rescue each of them from school and take them to do something fun. Just daddy and Addi one day, and daddy and Kam another. It’s interesting to think of what would be fun for a 2 and 3 year old girl in the middle of the day. The only subjects they talk about these days are ballerinas and snacks. Any suggestions?

Singing in the Pain in my neck!

I’m beat. This week and last I am running audio for a Singing in the Rain musical at school. Rehearsals began last Monday (15th) and the final of the four performances will be this Saturday (27th) evening. This is a side project for me which is great because we always need extra income to balance our budget. I am super thankful for the provision but am physically and emotionally drained, and it’s not over yet! Each tech rehearsal begins at 6 and usually lasts till 10:30-11pm (last night was 11:30) each and EVERY evening. No breaks, no weekends off and this is on top of my normal weekday 8-5. Geech!

I am a wuss for sure. I’m usually in bed by 10:30 every evening so being out past then just isn’t good for me. Being out that late in in a social environment is not a great thing for me because I turn into a pumpkin; cloudy and  babbely especially when trying to talk tech. Running audio for this has been a cool challenge as this is the first “musical” that I have engineered. 15 wireless headsets, countryman B3s taped to each actors face, 20 speaking actors, and 3 hours of script following scene changes has been fun to process. I’m so thankful for digital consoles with recall! We rock the Yamaha M7 up here at TJC.

Even more taxing on me is the distance from my family. I really miss them. We are in close proximity (1mile) from each other but it’s not enough. Each evening I shove dinner down my face then rush out for a night without hearing sweet giggles and participating in bath times, bed jumping, singing and prayers before bed that I have grown so in love with in our family routine. Traci and I text often each evening with short snippets of conversation. Updates, ETAs, etc.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, I would say that we are like a 10 on how close our little family is with each other. It amazes me that so many people seem unaffected by being away from their families for extended periods of time. I have an amazing family! All I want to do is spend time with each of them, and it hurts when I cannot. I actually yearn for having lunch with my beautiful wife daily. Seriously. Is this normal? Do other husbands feel this way or am I just a weirdo? Maybe it’s like this for me because I consider Traci as my best friend? Maybe it’s the connections we have with each other? I don’t know really. However, I do know that I love that I crave the presence on the other 3/4 of my fam. I crave doing even silly things or what most might consider monotonous or mundane. I love my family and am so ready for this Saturday to be over so I can get back to them.