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

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.

Manchester 1/2 Marathon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st Corinthians 9: 24-26a

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

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

So I run with purpose in every step.

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

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

Headed East. Boston & Manchester, NH.

We are off ! Headed for the East coast. Our second of the three fall 1/2 marathons will be Sunday morning in Manchester with Boston site-seeing to follow. We are excited and nervous at the same time as this one’s for Kip.

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”