High 5 To The Sky 5K.

Dear family & friends,

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

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

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

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

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

Where: Mineola Nature Trail.

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

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

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

Questions: Email tracidixon@mac.com

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…

The Simple Things.

I love coming home from work. Like most (all) of us peasant workers it’s one of the best times of the day. Time to “clock out”, drive home and begin my favorite part of the day, “family time”.

With the onset of better weather, life is awakened. The birds sing more frequently. The trees turn from that drab brown hue to the colors of active life. Then comes the ability to spend extended time outside. Yard work however cumbersome and mundane is enjoyable just by being out. Cooking on the grill is a must and can be accomplished without bundling up. The breaths that you take have some kind of mystical molecule that…. anywho, back to the subject.

The other day when coming home I pulled into the driveway to see this.

I’ve heard it said recently that God has given us so many things in this life for our enjoyment. Sex, food, good wine, and the company of friends are just a few of the things He created for us to enjoy. These sacred things should never be the focus of our attention, time and passion but point us to the One who created them. That’s all by design. To lead us into worship. I worship and praise Him for those simple things that make life so awesome. To God be the glory for the simple things. What simple things urge you to praise Him?

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.

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!

2010 Recap Through Pictures

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

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

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

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

Us at Kiepersol Winery on New Year's Eve.

With love,

Traci

2010 Recap Through Pictures

January

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

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

February

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

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

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

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

March

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

April

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

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

May

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

June

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

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

Aunt Jen treated the girls to the Tumble Bus!

July

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

August

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

September

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

October

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

November

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

December

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

HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS!

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!

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.

en-cour-age


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?

Beavers Bend 2010

We had a great camping trip! Ryan, Ross and I headed to Beavers Bend, Oklahoma yesterday morning. We enjoyed canoeing down the river, cooking on the campfire, hiking some trails and I’m fairly certain we ate our weight in tortillas. Tort Fest 2010 baby! Very fun and very relaxing. We love going out into nature, away from everything else, and just taking a deep breath…it’s good for your soul.

Pardon my laziness, but I think I’ll just let the pictures do the talking for me on this post…

Night away in the big D.

Ryan & I left the kids and escaped away to Dallas this weekend! My friend Loretta was getting married Saturday night, so we decided to go see her & enjoy a night away. We headed out and drove straight to Chuy’s for lunch. Obviously we couldn’t focus on getting anything else done in Dallas without going there first and consuming massive amounts of creamy jalapeno dip. YUM. I couldn’t be more excited that we are getting one here in Tyler!!! That rumor better be true or else I will be highly upset.

Anyways, after lunch we went to the Apple store to check out the new shuffles, which are very cool. Didn’t get one, don’t need one…just went to admire. Then, we headed over to Luke’s Locker. Such a cool place. There is something inspiring about going to running stores! Got some shoe recommendations and Ryan got a flashy light to wear when he runs in the dark. Next on the list…Central Market. The grocery store of all grocery stores. This place amazes me. The produce aisle is unbelievable. They also have a great wine selection. And a whole aisle dedicated to granola, are you kidding me? Are we weird that we love going to grocery stores while out of town? We are foodie dweebs.

Saturday night was the wedding and it was much fun. It was at the Biblical Museum of Art, which was interesting. Great to see Loretta and meet her man! We stayed the night with my cousin Danny & his wife Kelly at their new place in Las Colinas. Always good to see them…I love my cousins!

Then, Sunday morning, Ryan and I got up and ran at White Rock Lake. My Dad always tried to go run ten miles around White Rock every year for his birthday. Since his birthday is this coming Thursday, we decided we’d run around the lake while we were there in his honor. Perfect weather for our run. It was overcast and cool, with a slight breeze. When we started the run, I looked across the beautiful lake as the sun was rising and my emotions overcame me. I burst into tears. I so longed for Dad to be running his birthday run with us. I miss him so bad. I thought of him the entire time. I prayed that my life would be meaningful, like his was. I prayed that I would make a difference and make my life count, like he did. I imagined God calling Dad over and saying, “Kip, I want you to see something” as he pushed back a cloud to show him us running. That made me smile to think of Dad watching me. It was a great run physically, but tough emotionally. We finished with a high five to the sky and a few more tears.

We headed back, stinky & sweaty, for our normal Sunday lunch in Quitman and to pick up our babies. Great night away with my love!

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

If we ever get the chance…

On Thursday morning June 3rd, the day before he passed, I received an email from my Dad. He used to send early morning emails a lot to his kids. I think he liked to start our days with a note of encouragement, to tell us he loved us, or just to simply say how proud he was of us. These emails always made me smile. Little did I know when I read it that particular day, it would be the last one I would ever receive from him. The last words from my Dad to me. Ever. I have not deleted this from my inbox & I doubt I ever will.

Here are the last lines from that email…

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

This email is a constant reminder to me that we have no clue what tomorrow may bring, so we have to make the most of each & every day!

The "Anger" Phase.

I’m mad. There, I said it.

I guess over the past week, I have officially stepped into the anger phase of grief. I have to say, I don’t like this phase one bit. In fact, I hate it. The angry phase itself makes me angry. Denial is much easier. And I’m the type that cries when I get mad, so I’ve cried more this week than I have in a while. Its exhausting.

What am I mad at? Well, the grief books will tell you that typically people are angry at God or at the deceased. I am not mad at anyone – just mad at everything…not at Dad or at God, I guess just more at the circumstance. I am mad that Dad is considered “the deceased.”

What started these feelings? On our way back home from vacation last Sunday, I began to think about Addi’s 4th birthday coming up next month. Which led me to think about the fact that Poppy won’t be there. Then, I started thinking about all of the happenings that take place over the Fall/Winter timeframe that he wouldn’t be at…his 10 mile birthday run, all of my siblings birthdays, Thanksgiving, the Turkey Trot, White Rock Half, Christmas, football season, etc. Thinking about this as we drove down the road made me burst into tears and then…anger arrived. He physically won’t be at anything ever again. Ugh. It just all feels very unfair and very unbalanced.

Why am I telling you this? The grief books also say that you shouldn’t suppress your anger, because it could be worse in the long run if you do. Hence the reason I’m blogging about it now & telling friends about it.  For one – I don’t want anyone to ever think I’m being rude or cranky or short. Second, I am trying to be open and honest about this, like I strive hard to do in everything, because I don’t do fake. I am truly thankful for friends that allow me to be transparent and continue to love me.

Gosh, I just realized how selfish this post sounds. Looking back I see there are a ton of “I’s”. There are so many people grieving my Dad, not just ME. See, even this post makes me mad. But, let me go ahead and continue to be selfish and ask you….please pray for me right now. I don’t like to be angry.

How are you doing?

How are you doing? This is the question I get a lot recently & honestly don’t know how to answer most days. The grieving process is very strange. I don’t know exactly how I’m supposed to feel really. Some days I cry a lot, some days I feel as though I can’t squeeze out one single tear. Some days, I somehow am able to push the thought out of my mind for short periods of time to fully focus on work, my girls, my husband, etc. Other days, I can’t focus on anything but the fact that he’s gone. Running has become more of a necessity than just a fun hobby. I yearn to go out for a run. It helps me to release the tension and anxiety I feel…however, I hardly can run without crying because my heart hurts continuously. Ending each run with a high five to the sky, I know there will never be a run that I don’t think about my Dad. Some days, I feel as though my sadness has turned into motivation – motivation to make the most of the day, be a good parent, and strive to be a difference maker. Other days, I feel like I’m drowning in my sadness and can hardly breathe. Strange, this whole death thing.

Today has actually been a decent day. I haven’t cried, until now at least, and I got a lot accomplished. I felt OK today. Got a lot done at work, enjoyed seeing my sister play with the new toys she bought the girls, had a nice dinner provided by good friends. Now, as I sit here and type my thoughts, I’m thinking tons about my Dad. Memories flood my mind. Thankful that I have over 10,000 photos (literally) in my iPhoto to look back on and remember all of the good times. Thinking it is so strange that he’s not here.

I gave this frame below to my Dad a few years ago as a gift and recently took it back home. It has two pictures of us on from one of our six Mexico Mission Trips. I love these two pictures and how they really express so much about our relationship. My Dad loved these pictures too…I remember how neat he thought this gift was when I gave it to him. The first pic is of him showing me how to hammer in the roof nails correctly, as we built a house for a family in need. He was always willing to help – whatever it was. Big or small, I was his little girl and he always took care of me. The second pic is of us when the job was done. My Dad used to always get teary eyed when we completed another house together, he was always so proud. And I was too. I love that we have these memories, along with so many others. I am missing him tonight and so very sad that there won’t be any more memory makers. But, I am so incredibly thankful for the ones we have made. Now, more than ever, I understand why they were so important to Dad to make them.

Happy Father’s Day

I feel like a very blessed girl today!  Not only do I have a great dad whom has taught me so much & loves me no matter what….I also have a great husband who is a great dad!  Ryan goes above & beyond…he gets up in the night w/the babies, he changes diapers just as much as I do, he takes time out to play & read to them, he tickles them & makes them laugh harder than anyone else.  I am proud of him for the daddy he is & it only makes me love him even more!  Happy Father’s Day baby!  And Happy Father’s Day Dad!  I love you both.  You guys rock.