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

Monday, January 30, 2012

22 Miles on the Little Rock Marathon Course

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

Yes. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Even run 22 miles on a Saturday morning.

Until now, the longest training run I'd made was 20 miles. That was the longest I did for the Marine Corps Marathon, and I did two more since while training for Little Rock. But yesterday, a friend who is also running Little Rock had a 22 mile run planned on the Little Rock course. Several of us from the Cabot Country Cruisers made the short trip to make the run.

We met here in Cabot and traveled in a sort of caravan to Riverfront Park in North Little Rock. We parked inside the flood wall of the Arkansas River, right in front of the WWII submarine that now serves as a maritime museum for central Arkansas. Just a few steps took us to Riverfront Drive at almost mile 4 on the marathon course.

There was a strong wind out of the west as we stepped off, a biting cold wind that made me wonder why I had not brought more clothes. When I stepped out the front door earlier that morning the wind wasn't blowing and the temperature felt mild. I knew I'd be plenty warm once we got into the run, so I only wore shorts and my TEAM 413 t-shirt. When we left Riverfront Park to begin the run, I was wishing I had on gloves, a hat, and long pants! I was colder than I can ever remember being on a run.

The brutal cold didn't last long though. In fact, by the time we reached the I-30 frontage road, a little more than 2 miles in, I had completely forgotten the cold. Weatherwise, the rest of the run couldn't have gone much better. I really don't know what the temperature finally reached, but I never got too hot and never got cold again until after we finished the run.

Four of us left the others pretty early, led by a lady in our group who left out at a quick clip. The others planned to do a walk-run routine, running 40 seconds then walking 20, for the entire route. I've never tried it, but I just don't think it would be my style. Toward the end of a long run I may resort to a walk-run method just to try and survive the last few miles, but I don't think I'd like it from beginning to end. Lucky for me, there were 3 others in our group who felt the same.

We ran by lots of people who asked us if we were running the marathon and most everyone we encountered was courteous. People who lived along the route were quite pleasant and acted as if they were accustomed to seeing runners out getting ready for the upcoming race. Most motorists were courteous too. But not all of them.

Though traffic is fairly light early on a Saturday morning, it's still present. On race day, of course, the route is closed to traffic for runners' safety, but we runners have to share the road while training. Most drivers move over whenever possible to give those of us on foot a little more room. Sometimes though, someone has to act downright stupid. Such was the case about 5 miles into our run.

We'd turned onto Chester St. headed toward the governor's mansion and were nearing the bridge to cross I-630. A block or so ahead we saw traffic in both oncoming lanes stopped at a light. The road was plenty wide there and gave us no reason to worry when the light turned and the vehicles began moving toward us. But the guy driving the car in our lane decided to be a jerk.

He might have thought he was being funny or cute, or he might have been just plain mean. Either way, his actions were inexcusable. Looking right at us as he approached, he intentionally turned his wheel to force us off the road. The ladies were up front and leaped onto the curb while we guys moved as far to the edge of the road as possible. He came so close I instinctively reached out and hit his car while yelling to tell him how stupid he was. He never looked back and never slowed down.

One might expect such idiocy out of a young kid, thinking he was being funny without recognizing the danger, but this was an older guy, probably in his 60's. Unfortunately, jerks like this are going to be encountered from time to time if you put in a lot of miles on the road.

But just like always, God kept us safe and protected us from this imbecilic idiot.

After that encounter, we began the long incline leading to the governor's mansion. At this point, we were about 5 miles into our run but about the 9 mile marker on the marathon course. This is a part of the half marathon course too, a part that I thought I remembered well from two years ago when I did my first half. But this didn't seem to be the hill I remembered from that race.

It hardly resembled a hill at all. That's funny because one of the most memorable moments of that first half marathon came at the base of that hill. I remember seeing a guy holding a sign there that said, "It's all downhill from here." I saw his sign and looked up the hill just past him thinking the guy was a total jerk. I walked up most of it two years ago and felt like I was climbing Mt. Everest. This time I hardly noticed it as we just kept running.

Things were a little different a little farther along the course. Not far past the state capitol, the hill at the Arkansas School for the Deaf seemed much bigger than I remembered! This is just past the halfway point on the marathon course so I never ran it two years ago, but I did run it a couple months ago. It was my first run with the Little Rock Marathon Training Group, a 10 mile run that started in front of the capitol. That day, we weren't even a mile in and still had fresh legs as I climbed the hill. Saturday was different.

It seemed steeper and longer than last time. Here our little group of four began to spread out. Our friend who had stepped off so quickly at the start began to leave us behind and another of our group was falling back. That left two of us in between. We walked a pretty good way up the hill.

When we got to the top, our leader was about a quarter of a mile ahead and I told my friend I was going to try to keep her in sight. Gravity pulled me down the hill and it looked like I might be able to catch up. Until I reached the bottom that is.

The next two miles were uphill on Kavanaugh, the largest and longest climb on the route. It took everything I had just to stay close enough to catch a glimpse of her every once in a while. I didn't catch her until she stopped after making the turn off Kavanaugh onto Lookout at the top. I was lucky she stopped because I had already decided I was giving up on the idea of catching her if I couldn't see her when I reached that point.

But then we were rewarded with the two mile downhill stretch down Lookout. It was pretty uneventful but traffic was unexpectedly heavy along the narrow, twisting road. We reached the bottom and found out why. A police officer was detouring traffic off Cantrell onto Lookout due to utility work. No worries though because we were now past the worst hills on the course.

Next came the dreaded out and back portion along the river. It's not steep and traffic's plenty light. It's just long, flat, and boring. About two and half miles out and three and a half miles back on the same long, flat, boring road. Lucky we were running in a group or the boredom might have gotten to me.

On the out and back we met up with the last of our group and managed to all get back together for a minute. Then we split again with me following my friend I'd chased up the big hill earlier. The miles ticked agonizingly by until we finally reached the turn back onto Cantrell.

We crossed the large bridge over the railroad tracks in front of Cajun's Wharf, facing heavy traffic with no shoulder and pinned against the guardrail. I took the lead here and waved my white paper with the route on it at every oncoming vehicle. My small, makeshift flag did the trick as most moved into the left lane and the others gave us as wide a berth as possible.

We were less than two miles from the end of our route at that time and the last big hill loomed. Dillard's Hill we call it. So named because on the left sits the corporate headquarters of the department store. We ran about halfway up the hill and walked the rest of the way to the top. On the way up we passed the 25 mile marker for the marathon. We were less than one mile from the end of our 22 mile run when we topped that last big hill.

That last mile on Cantrell saw me again waving my little flag to make sure oncoming cars saw us. Then we finally cruised into Riverfront Park where the finish line will be on race day.

The longest training run I'd ever done, over 22 miles, was finished and I can now say I've run on every inch of the Little Rock Marathon course. I'm not sure exactly how long it took us to finish, but I was quite pleased that I didn't have to lay down and roll around in cramps afterward.

All in all it was a great run with some great people and an all around great time. Less than 5 weeks now before race day and I'm feeling more and more ready with each run. I feel better prepared, mentally and physically, than I was for my first marathon.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

Like always, I have to give thanks to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for giving me the strength, desire, and motivation to keep training and racing. It's an awesome feeling to know that He is looking after me.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Training Week: 1/23--1/29

Only 5 weeks left before the Little Rock Marathon! It was this time two years ago I was training for the Little Rock Half, my first 13.1 mile race, when I injured my foot. Not this time! Yesterday I went with the Cabot Country Cruisers to Little Rock and we did 22 miles on the Little Rock course. Look for another, more detailed post soon on that run, but I'll tell you now that it went great!

I feel like I'm prepared for my 2nd marathon, mentally and physically.

The rest of the week went according to plan. This was my last week running only 5 days before the marathon. Monday through Wednesday, then again on Friday I did 5 miles. Tack on the 22 miler from Saturday and that gave me 42 miles for the week. You may recall that through the month of January my plan was to run 5 days per week and average 35 miles. Now it's time to increase that to 5 days and 40 miles.

Training Week: Jan 23 - Jan 29

Monday5 miles
Tuesday5 miles
Wednesday5 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday5 miles
Saturday22 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total42 miles

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

Jesus has kept me going this far, and I'm sure I can get through the Little Rock Marathon because He continues to strengthen me! Even after that 22 miler, my longest training run ever, I felt great. I was stiff and a little stove up for a while, but still I felt great. Only Christ can make that possible, run 22 miles as an old fat man and still feel great!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

I feel truly blessed to be able to run and operate this ministry, to honor God and to honor Amanda. If you don't have the peace and joy that comes from knowing Jesus, please read on below. Take the steps outlined in the Bible and you will find it. It doesn't guarantee you riches. It doesn't guarantee you an easy life. It doesn't even spare you from tragedy here on Earth. But Jesus Christ will give you the strength and hope needed to make it through all the tough times.

It's because of Him that I run. He is the One who showed me the path that would keep me going after the death of my daughter. He's the reason I'll keep running, as long as I possibly can. He'll show you His will for your life too if you only invite Him in.

Happy running until next week!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Training Week: 1/16--1/22

This was a pretty tough week. Amanda was killed on the 15th of January last year and I lost a good friend on the 14th this year. Amanda's birthday was on the 19th and we held her funeral last year on the 21st. This year on the 20th was my friend's wake, then his funeral on the 21st. All these made for an emotional week, full of ups and downs.

But I managed to get in my 35 miles, even though I had to split my long run into a 10 and a 5 miler on Saturday. I rose early and got in 10 before I had to get home and get ready for the funeral. That afternoon, after the service, I squeezed in the last 5 I needed to meet my goal.

Training Week: Jan 16 - Jan 22

Monday5 miles
Tuesday5 miles
Wednesday5 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday5 miles
Saturday15 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total35 miles

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

It's still hard to believe it's been more than a year since we last saw Amanda. A year ago today, I had only two half marathons under my belt and had not run more than 13.1 miles in almost two decades. God has certainly made me a stronger runner through all this tragedy. One year later, I can claim He has helped me through two more two more half-marathons and a full! Truly, all things are possible with God!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

I can't bring Amanda back. Believe me, if I could I'd do anything that would make that happen, right now. But I am so grateful that Jesus has seen fit to put this mission before me, to use my running to demonstrate His glory. Until the day I'm called home, I'll keep running to try and glorify Him.

It's now less than six weeks until the Little Rock Marathon. This Saturday, I'm planning on joining some of the Cabot Country Cruisers to do 22 miles on the LR Marathon course. That should be interesting. It will be my longest training run ever, and the longest run I've made since the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30.

Happy running until next week!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

RIP Vance "Pig" Dotson: 1968-2012

A year ago today we held Amanda's funeral. It was a Friday last year and we scheduled the visitation and the service back-to-back starting at 5:00 that evening. The church was packed, more than 800 people stopped by. We were overwhelmed to see the number of lives her life and her death impacted.

Today we attended another funeral, on the anniversary of Amanda's. This one was for a dear friend, Vance Edward "Pig" Dotson. Vance graduated with me from North Little Rock Northeast High School in 1986. He played football with us, a real leader on the team. He worked as a guard in the state prison for a while, then began working security at North Little Rock High School-East Campus. He made a real difference everywhere he went.

Last night at his wake, a lady who worked with him at the prison stood up to tell how Vance used to sing gospel songs and spread the Good News of Jesus to the inmates. His brother Lamont, in Vance's eulogy, told about hearing Vance preach a sermon once. He said he asked Vance some time later, "When are you going to preach again?" Pig replied, "I tell those inmates about Jesus everyday. I don't need a pulpit to preach."

A young girl also spoke up at his wake to tell how important Vance was in her life. She was a member of the Positive Results Production Step Team he founded in an effort to impact kids' lives. This young lady told how "Mr. Dotson was always there" for her. She said, "When my Momma was on drugs and couldn't take care of me, Mr. Dotson was there." Vance had told me several times, when we'd get together or were just talking on the phone, about his step team and his other efforts to keep kids off the street. He did more than just take them off the streets though. He used the time he had with them to teach them how to succeed, how to escape the seemingly endless cycle of poverty and violence so many get trapped in. He was a real difference maker.

Jesus said God's greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all your heart. The second was to love your neighbor. Vance was a living example of how to demonstrate a true love of God by loving others. Lamont said that Vance didn't seem to care to have the best things in life. Instead, he spent his money and his time serving people.

Even today, at his funeral, he made another big impact on me. This time it was through a song performed by his nephews, a song they said he sang often. I'd never heard it before, but now it's going to be a sort of theme song for me. The message in the lyrics of "Running for My Life" felt like they came straight from God today. It felt like He was telling me, "You're right where I want you to be, doing exactly what I want you to do." Here's the song:

So I have to say thank you to my old friend, Vance Dotson. Thank you for the life you lived, for the friend you were, and for the difference you made. You lived your life making a difference and you will never be forgotten.

Rest easy my dear friend. You will be greatly missed down here, but we'll join you again one day.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It should have been a happy birthday...

Today is Amanda's 19th birthday, but she's not here to celebrate. Instead, she's gone to Heaven and will forever be 17 years old, taken four days before her 18th. A day we celebrated for so many years has now become a day of mourning the loss of our oldest daughter. It's a fate nobody should ever endure, the loss of a child.

A day of celebration
Today should have been.
But instead of happy laughter,
Grief was in the wind.

Nineteen years ago today
Into this world you came.
Four days and a year ago
You left the very same.

So instead of cake and presents,
This day was filled with tears,
Thinking that you should have been
With all of us right here.

We know you have it better,
In far more grand a place,
There is no pain or sorrow,
Only happiness and grace.

One day we'll come and join you.
For that day we cannot wait.
The next time that we'll see you
Will be at Heaven's gate.

But until then every year,
On this month's nineteenth day,
Our hearts will be quite heavy
As apart from you we stay.

You'll never be forgotten.
You're still very much alive.
Though you're not here with us,
In our hearts you still abide.

So though you live in Heaven now,
A happy birthday we wish you.
From all of us still left behind
Who love and miss you too.

So many times, the loss of a child is preventable. In our case it was. Amanda was a victim of teen substance abuse. A 19-year-old man was drunk and stoned when he pulled out a sawed-off shotgun, pointed it at Amanda, and loosed the deadly round that took her life. I have no doubt that Amanda would still be alive if that man had stayed sober that night.

We warned Amanda of the dangers of drinking and driving. We never warned her that drunken, stoned idiots might gun her down. It's just unheard of here in rural Arkansas. Or it was unheard of. But that's exactly what happened.

The National Institutes of Health estimates 5,000 young people under age 21 die each year because of underage drinking. It's probably won't surprise you to hear that 1,900 of those perish in car crashes. What came as a surprise to me is that 1,600 of them die by homicide and another 300 from suicide. That means just as many die intentionally due to underage drinking as do from automobile accidents!

Those 5,000 die from underage drinking and don't include kids dying from those abusing other drugs.

If anyone ever tells you it's okay for kids to drink and do drugs, set them straight! It's not okay. It's never okay. Even if a kid thinks she or he can control himself under the influence, they can't control those around them. Amanda thought she was in control of her situation. She probably was in control of herself. But she couldn't control the fool who pulled a gun and shot her.

Our daughter died one year and four days ago, a victim of teen substance abuse. Don't stand by and let it happen to another. Don't stand by and let someone spread the lie that it's not dangerous. Anyone under the age of 21 and under the influence of mind altering substances is a danger to himself or others.

Spread the word and help keep someone else from suffering our family's fate. Teen substance abuse is deadly!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Haley Barbour, by the Father of a Murdered Child

I try to stay as positive as possible with everything I post, but sometimes things happen that leave little room for positive commentary. Such is the case today.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I know the Bible tells me that forgiveness is an essential part of living as a Christian. Throughout my life, I've always found it relatively easy to let bygones be bygones and not hold grudges.

It's been different in the case of Amanda's murderer. One day I know, I'll have to find a way to forgive him for what he did. That's what I'm called to do. It's just that it hasn't happened yet. Honestly, I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive him. I hope I can, for my sake and for those I love. But so far, I've been unable to generate any feeling of forgiveness for the man who killed my little girl.

I hope that he will be convicted and locked away for a very long time and I hope that will bring the peace I need to forgive him. But make no mistake about it, I don't believe that forgiveness means to relieve him from suffering the consequences of his actions that stole Amanda's life.

No, there must be consequences. I honestly don't believe I would ever be able to forgive him if there were none, or if consequences imposed were stricken by the stroke of a governor's pen.

But today, families of murder victims in Mississippi are suffering at the hands of their former governor, Haley Barbour. In his last hours in office, Barbour issued more than 200 pardons, including several to violent murderers. Then he had the nerve to go on Fox News and proclaim that he "understands" how the families of their victims feel!

It may be obvious that I'm more than a little angry over the governor's callous disregard for these families. The following are comments I posted in every place I thought appropriate on Facebook after hearing this story.

In case there are those who have not heard, MS governor Haley Barbour recently issued more than 200 pardons to convicted felons in his last hours in office. Several of these went to convicted murderers. As you might imagine, an uproar has followed from victims' rights advocates, including families of the victims of the killers he released.

Barbour excused his inexcusable actions claiming his Christian belief in forgiveness justified said pardons. He even went so far as to claim he "understands" how the victims' families feel.

First, I want to point out that the concept of forgiveness does not imply absolving the forgiven of consequences for their actions! A public servant, especially an executive of any governing body has a responsibility to protect the public from those who would commit such acts. Consequences for the murder of innocents do more than protect the public from the particular offender incarcerated. Confinement and especially the death penalty serve also as a deterrent to other would be killers. Barbour's pardons nullify any such deterrent value confinement of the killers would have provided as well as turned the public into prey for those who would kill again.

Second, to claim he knows how victims' families feel is a slap in the face to all whose loved ones have fallen to murderers such as those he has released. With absolutely no respect whatsoever, because none is due in the face of Barbour's actions, I challenge the governor to look me in the eye and tell me he knows how I feel. Or how my wife and daughter feel! You, governor, do not know real pain, regardless what you've suffered until you have lost a child. I can tell you I would suffer anything to bring my beautiful daughter back. I doubt your pompous self will miss so much as a meal or lose an hour's sleep over your heartless remarks and actions.

Don't you dare say you know how we, the family members of those who have fallen under the sword of a murderer, feel. If your release of convicted killers somehow clears your conscience as an act of Christian kindness, then proclaim it as such and wear your self-righteous halo with misguided pride. But don't you dare, you self-righteous scum, say you know how I or my brethren who've lost loved ones to murderers feel. Don't you ever claim that.

Know that the blood of any future victims of these killers, and the blood of any future murderers who would have otherwise been deterred from committing such crimes, shall cover your hands. I hope its flow keeps you awake at night and haunts your dreams. I hope you never have another moment's peace until the day you face our God and He judges you for your heartless crimes against those you were elected to serve!

I hope and pray that one day I'll be able to forgive the man who murdered my daughter, but I'm under no illusions. I cannot foresee that ever happening unless he is held accountable for his crime. And accountability does not mean a conviction that's wiped clean by some self-serving governor looking to create a legacy that gives him a reputation for compassion for convicted criminals.

I know that I must forgive him as Jesus Christ has forgiven me. I pray daily that someday I'll find the strength to do so, but I haven't found it yet. Still, criminals must be held accountable for their crimes, even if they're forgiven for their sins.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Training Week: 1/9--1/15

Old man winter rushed in with a vengeance this week, temperaturewise anyway. I'm sure to many who read these posts high 20s and low 30s don't seem too cold to run in, but here those are pretty cold temps. Add a stiff wind and it's even worse.

I toughed it out Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but wimped out Thursday thinking I could still do the next 5 miles on Friday. Well, Friday morning when the alarm sounded I failed to get up again. Sort of. I did get up and let the dogs out. Saw the wind whipping and felt the cold draft when I opened the door and climbed back into bed until it was time to get up for work.

Fortunately, I had a 20 miler planned for Saturday and could still meet my goal of 35 miles for the week. So I guess I didn't wimp out too bad.

Training Week: Jan 9 - Jan 15

Monday5 miles
Tuesday5 miles
Wednesday5 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday0 miles
Saturday20 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total35 miles

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

It was still cold when Saturday morning rolled around. Several of the Cabot Country Cruisers had a 15 mile run scheduled to kick off at 7:00 AM that morning. I was looking to make 20 so I arrived an hour early and managed 5 before stepping off with them.

That run went really well for the most part. The last couple of miles were pretty tough but I managed to get through them. I'm pretty sure it got tough because I pushed myself too early.

When I woke that morning, I checked my phone and found a text that a dear friend, an old high school classmate and football teammate, had passed away only an hour or so earlier. Thinking about my good friend and brother Vance Dotson, I pushed myself hard up a pretty good hill and a few other spots early in the run.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

This was also the weekend that marked the one-year anniversary of Amanda's murder. That made it tough too. But for her sake I had to push on. That 20 mile run on Saturday was dedicated to Amanda and to my good friend Vance. I hoped that Amanda was showing him around the streets of gold, the gates of pearl, the jeweled walls, and everything within as they looked down and smiled while I was knocking out the miles.

Just like always, every step and every breath and every mile is only possible because of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Without Him, there's no telling where I would be right now. I could have been wrapped around a bottle or under the spell of mind numbing drugs. I could have run from the pain and the horror of losing Amanda. But I didn't and I won't because Jesus Christ made it possible to choose another path.

He showed me a path that allows me to channel my energy in productive pursuits rather than the destructive behaviors so many turn to in times like these. He makes every mile possible, on every training run and in every race. I hope and pray that He receives the glory from every step I take.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A year ago we lost her...

One year ago today, at about 5:00 am, was the last time I ever saw my oldest daughter alive. We were up early to get to race about two hours away and she woke up for no particular reason. She came in to tell me what she had planned for that day. She was gone that afternoon when we returned and planned to stay the night with friends. Turns out she was at a party where there were several 18 to 19-year-olds drinking and smoking pot.

We learned that when we received a phone call from one of her friends telling us that something had happened. She gave us a phone number and told us it was a sheriff's deputy. This was about midnight. I called and the deputy would give me no details over the phone. It didn't dawn on me until later why he asked me for my address.

When I got off the phone with the deputy, I called all the hospitals in the area and none of them had admitted her as a patient. Worse yet, none of them were aware of an incoming emergency. I told my wife I was going up there. Quickly, I showered and dressed.

As I was about to walk out the front door, a police car was pulling into our driveway. This was why the deputy wanted our address. I met the officer outside and asked, "You have some bad news for us I guess?" He asked me to step inside.

There in our living room, he told us that Amanda was gone. He didn't know details. He just had the unenviable job of coming to inform a family they had lost their 17-year-old daughter.

One year ago today, our world was rocked. We were stunned and paralyzed for days, still in shock for weeks. Then just numb. Now, here we are one year later.

You've heard it said that time heals all wounds. Not this one. The loss of a child is one that will never heal. It's just not part of the natural order of things and, as such, it's not something we expect or get over. I realized early on that this pain we feel will never stop nor subside. It's just a pain we'll get used to over time. It will always be there, we'll just learn to tolerate it.

We're not moving on, we're moving forward.

"13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words." -- 1 Thessalonians 18:13-18

That would not be possible except for the knowledge we have that we will be reunited with Amanda in Heaven one day. The hope that Jesus Christ offers is the reason we can keep going. Without that hope, I don't know where we would be right now, but I know it wouldn't be here.

We've been so blessed with the love and support of family, friends, and so many in our community. All of the prayers, love, calls, and visits have given us strength when we were weak. There is no doubt in my mind that all of them were sent by our Lord and Savior, each one a messenger to remind us that we are not alone.

A year has passed since we lost Amanda, and likely we'll pass through many more before we see her again in Heaven. But the fact that gives us hope and that keeps us going, is that we will certainly spend many more years with her there than we'll spend apart here.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The day the Garmin died...

The Garmin I'm talking about is the GPS sports watch I bought about a month ago on Ebay. It was brand new in the box and I got it for a significant discount over what I would have paid for it at a store. I thought I was doing good!

Until I bought this watch, Garmin's 405 CX, I had never run with a GPS watch before. The closest I had come before was running with groups where others had them. Several people had been telling me for quite some time that I needed to get one. I resisted for a long time, but finally decided I needed to take the plunge if I'm going be serious about running marathons.

So I went where I always go when I'm looking for deals, Ebay!

I found this one, new in the box, and placed a bid about $50 cheaper than what it would cost to buy a new one. When I placed the bid, I really didn't expect to win the auction. I thought a previous bidder would step in at the last minute and swoop it up for a dollar or so more than my max bid.

But I won it.

When it arrived, I opened the box and set it up, anxious to try it out. After the first run with it, I was hooked. I mean, this thing tells you your pace at any given time along your route, it tracks how far you've gone, and keeps up with how long you've been running! It was really awesome to be able to have all of that data available as I ran.

I was even more surprised when I got home and hooked up the antenna to connect the watch to the computer. The 405 CX automatically connects to the computer wirelessly and starts sending data to the computer whenever it comes within three feet after each workout. It goes straight to a Garmin website and makes all your data available with a couple of clicks of the mouse.

Not only does it show you the data mentioned earlier, but much more than you can view during your run. The website breaks down your pace per mile for each mile you ran. It tracks and charts the elevation over the course of your run and even calculates the number of calories burned on the run!

There's so much data to look at. It's really, really neat. Addicting in fact. So addicting that it makes you wonder how you ever got by with access to so much information on every run you make. It makes you wonder how you'd ever survive without all that data.

Well, today was the day I found out the answer to the latter of those two questions. Just after I started my run, no more than 20 yards after I'd hit the start button on my Garmin, it started beeping. When I hit the bezel to turn the light on, the screen told me it had lost its connection with the satellite.

I stopped and fiddled with it for a couple of minutes trying to find a way to encourage it to reconnect with no luck. The clock was still working so all I'd get for data on this run would be time. No distance, no pace, no elevation, just time. Back to the old way of doing things.

I chose one of my old routes, marked out at 5 miles so I'd at least know how far I ran, but it really stunk not having access to all the rest. It was a great run too! Even though all I had was the time, I felt great and kept pushing hard all the way through.

I would have loved to see that data, but alas, it wasn't to be. I called tech support at Garmin and the guy there was really helpful. He told me how to get a software update for the watch and sent me an email telling me how to do a "master reset." He said if the update doesn't work, try the reset.

The update didn't get it to reestablish contact, so I just finished the reset. Right now the watch is hanging on a chair outside so that it can have a clear view of the sky. Hopefully, when I go to bed in a few minutes, it will have located satellites.

Hopefully. Because for all the miles I ran without a Garmin before, I really miss it when it's gone.

I'll let you know if it comes back to life, if I get a new one, or if I determine it's just too expensive to take a chance on another one quitting like this.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Training Week: 1/2--1/8

The first training week of 2012 is in the books and I'm pretty happy with the results. You might recall that I've been trying to run four days per week and average 30 miles since October when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. On March 4, I'll run my second marathon in Little Rock, Arkansas. My plan has been to increase to five days and average 35 miles per week during January, then increase again to six and 40 for February.

This first week of January, I surpassed that goal! Even though we made the 1000 mile drive back from North Carolina in the middle of the week, I was still able to work in 5 runs between Monday and Saturday! I also managed to beat my target mileage, logging 37 for the first week of the year.

Training Week: Jan 2 - Jan 8

Monday6 miles
Tuesday0 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday5 miles
Friday5 miles
Saturday15 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total37 miles

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

The week was capped with a 15 mile run back here at home. Starting at 6 AM, I ran the first five miles by myself. The last ten were run with several member of the Cabot Country Cruisers. At the end of my first five mile loop, I found several members gathered in the parking lot at Southside Elementary and joined them to finish my run.

For quite some time I avoided joining the Cruisers. I had never run with a group except when serving in the Marine Corps. I always thought these would all be serious runners who would be way too fast for me, that I would hold them up if I tried to join their runs.

My first run with them was on Memorial Day, 2011. We ran to the Cabot Veterans Memorial and I learned that some members were much faster than I was, but others weren't. Conversing with several members as we pounded the pavement, I learned they were really nice people and thought, "I could enjoy running with these folks."

After that, I started joining the Cruisers most Saturdays for long runs. It didn't take long for me to start looking forward to putting in miles with my new friends. Several of them played a significant part in helping me train and be ready for my first marathon last October. I never officially joined their running club in 2011, but had a great time running with them.

It wasn't that I didn't want to join. In fact, it didn't take long after I started joining them on Saturdays that I did feel compelled to join. But I put it off, forgot, etc. until it was late enough in the year that it seemed a little pointless to join. That was then.

I finally downloaded the membership application a couple of weeks ago and paid our family's 2012 dues. I'm now an official member of the Cabot Country Cruisers!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

Saturday was my first run with the club that I was officially one of them. Then today Janice and I joined them in a little community service project, clearing litter along a one mile stretch of highway in Cabot. They are really a great bunch of folks and I'm grateful that Jesus led me to cross paths and join their ranks.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

On a dark, desolate road... never know what you might encounter when you're running.

Sometimes it's amazing how God blesses us and intervenes in our daily walk. Yesterday was one of those days when I certainly received a blessing. A near disastrous encounter with a little local wildlife was averted only by the grace of God.

My work schedule, and the fact that I'm much more of a morning person than any other kind of person, makes it so that most of my running is done early, early in the morning. I mean before daylight early. In fact, my weekday runs are usually started and completed long before the sun comes up.

That puts me on the road with all sorts of nature's nocturnal creatures. Today I met one of those furry fiends on a cold, dark, and otherwise lonely road. My five-mile run carried me through several such areas and a few brighter neighborhoods. But just short of the four-mile mark, near the top of a long but not too steep incline, things got quite interesting for a second.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" -- Jeremiah 29:11

Interesting because the Good Lord stepped in and kept a little furry fellow from deploying his natural defense system.

After nearly four-miles running in the cold and dark, near the top of a somewhat long hill and in one of darkest spots along my route, I spotted the silhouette of something small and black in the middle of the road. On these desolate stretches, I usually run along the center line of the road to take advantage of the most level part of the pavement. So, the unidentified small dark object was located right smack dab in the middle of my path.

It resembled a dark colored piece of lifeless trash, not something that sparked fear or even the slightest hint of alarm. I resolved to steer myself around it. More of a sidestep than a detour was my plan.

As I came to within about three feet of the unmoving dark mass, I stepped to the left. That's when the black bundle came to life, taking flight in a sprint to the right side of the road. My eyes locked onto the dark creature that just caused my heart to skip a beat and what I saw revealed just how fortunate I was.

Even though it was quite dark, I could make out the profile of the animal against distant lights. Tail raised, back slightly arched, and seeming to hobble more than run, I quickly recognized the four-legged fiend that had occupied my path only a moment before. One of the most dreaded of all animals to encounter, not because it's vicious, not because of the sharpness of its teeth or claws, but because of the natural defense system God blessed it with.

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." -- Psalm 23:4

It chose to take flight rather than use what God gave it to defend against its adversaries. The only explanation I can come up with is that Jesus Christ intervened, stopping the skunk from using its natural defense, stopping it from turning me into a smelly, stinking victim of its spray.

Thank you Jesus!

If I had been dosed with the skunk's perfume, the last mile and more may have been the most miserable I've ever run. I'm certain my wife would have awakened and run me out of the house on my return. My daughter would definitely not have enjoyed riding to school with me. And I doubt my students would have learned much math while they held their noses and found any reason they could think of to leave my class.

Luckily, neither I nor any of them had to endure the stench of skunk today because Jesus intervened and saved me from what could have been, maybe even should have been, disaster!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Facing the New Year

It's 2012. The hardest, and I hope the hardest ever, year of our lives is now behind us. Amanda's murder on January 15, 2011 made for a long, difficult year, one full of challenges we never expected to face, challenges nobody should ever have to face. I wish there was a way to make it so nobody else would ever have to.

Though we still have the first anniversary of her murder to face, we've made it through most of the dreaded "firsts" that come after the loss of a child. Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now New Year's are all holidays Amanda loved to celebrate and they all brought their own particular memories to the fore. We approached each of these days, and a few others, with a sense of dread that usually was worse than the actual day itself. Don't get me wrong, each brought tears with the memories and the realization that we'd never again have the opportunity to celebrate with Amanda. But they really weren't so different than every other day.

That's because Amanda's on our minds every day. Every day some special memory of the time we shared with her comes to mind. Every day we miss her, and every day we wish she was here to live it with us. The only real difference is the holidays bring back memories specifically related to them. We don't miss her any more, or any less on holidays than we do every other day of the year.

Every day we wish she was here. Every day we wonder what would be different if she was here. And every day memories of the time we shared come to mind.

"in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." -- Proverbs 3:6

One of my biggest fears when Amanda was killed was that enough time will one day pass so that I can't remember her--her voice, her smile, her laugh, her touch. Even though I'm nowhere close to reaching that point now, it still terrifies me. I think that's what makes entering a new year really frightening. It makes clear that nothing can stop the ever-widening gulf in time that separates us from the last time we saw her, spoke to her, or hugged her.

Time never stops, and each passing day takes us farther and farther away from the Amanda that we knew, that we could speak to, that we could hold. That's what is scary about coming of the New Year.

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:31

But we enter this New Year full of hope too. This year our surviving daughter, Courtney, will turn 18. She will actually graduate from high school two weeks before her 18th birthday. She suffered the loss of her only sister, her closest friend at such an early age, but she kept going. It's been tough, but Courtney has faced the challenges and persevered. We are so very proud of her, and full of hope for her future.

We have high hopes for Running with Amanda in 2012 also. Jesus Christ has tasked us with a mission that we are working to accomplish through this venue. We want to run more miles, more races, reach more people with our messages on the dangers of teen substance abuse and the hope to be found in our Savior, and to raise more money for St. Jude Children's Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch, all for the glory of Jesus and to honor Amanda's memory.

We hope and pray that God will continue to use us in 2012 for His glory and to further His kingdom, that readers and followers of Running with Amanda are encouraged and strengthened to grow in their faith and walk with the Lord, and that our story will encourage teens to avoid alcohol and drugs in 2012.

"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. " --2 Corinthians 9:7

Thanks so much to all our readers, followers, and supporters. Without you, our reach would be constrained to only a small part of the small geographic area where we live and work. Because of you our footprint is much larger, and even spread as far as the other side of the globe.

Thank you also to New Balance, Inc. The last company that continues to manufacture running shoes in the United States of America graciously provides us with footwear to train and race in. New Balance saves us approximately $1000 each year, freeing up our capital to enter and travel to more races each year, which allows us to reach even more people. We are truly blessed to have the support of this great American company!

"If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" -- Ecclesiastes 4:10

Thanks also to the friends, family and community who have been there for us throughout a very tough 2011. From all who brought food, money, and gift cards in the weeks following Amanda's death to those who have prayed for us since the day she was killed, you are each and every one a blessing to us.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." -- Romans 8:28

Though we'll always wish we didn't have to travel this road, God is certainly taking our tragedy and making good things come from it. Readers have told us of the impact Running with Amanda has had on their lives. Some have become motivated to get out and exercise. Others have been encouraged in their faith. Still others have seen hope that they too can survive tragedy similar to ours. More than $4800 were donated through our fundraising pages to St. Jude, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Christian Home and Rance. And finally, God has revealed to us how great Amanda's impact was in her too short life.

Our beautiful daughter showed kindness and love to many who desperately needed it. She encouraged others when they were down, or just said something that brightened their day. She was loved by many and she loved many. God has made clear to us that we were blessed to have the years we did with her.

So thank you Jesus and thanks to everyone else who did so much to help us through the roughest year of our lives. We hope and pray that we can serve our Lord, our friends, and our followers in 2012.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Training Week: 12/26--1/1

The New Year is here. It's Sunday and I didn't run today, but finished the year with a 31 mile week. I capped the week off with a 13.1 mile run on the morning of New Year's Eve. And it was a special run for several reasons.

Some of those reasons I'll cover in a special New Year's post that will be up later today or sometime tomorrow. But right now I'll reveal one reason yesterday's run was special.

We've been spending this last week of the year in Jacksonville, NC, my wife's hometown and home of Camp Lejeune, headquarters the United States Marine Corps' 2nd Division. Jacksonville was my home for the better part of three and a half years, my permanent duty station, and where I met and married Janice. So 25 of those 31 miles this week, including yesterday's 13.1 were run here.

The city of Jacksonville has constructed a bicycle path in the years since we've been gone. It runs from the old part of town all the way to the main gate of Camp Lejeune. Yesterday's long run carried me out and back over the entire length of the path, including the main gate.

Though this run was entirely outside the base, it brought back memories of a main gate run I was part of some 19 years earlier. That one was run completely within the boundaries of Camp Lejeune with my platoon at the time, a platoon I would soon deploy with to spend 6 months aboard the USS Gunston Hall. I'd love to have the opportunity to do the run inside the base again, but that's not likely to happen since security has gotten so tight after 9/11.

So this was the next best thing! Almost 20 years later, the chance to make a long run to the same gate.

Training Week: Dec 26 - Jan 1

Monday6 miles
Tuesday0 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday0 miles
Saturday13.1 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total31.1 miles

You might recall that we had a reunion in Washington when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. Those same guys were with me on that Main Gate run all those years ago. So this was a pretty cool run to end the year with.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

I'm not sure how many miles I ran this year, but I know it was a lot more than I ever did before. I didn't start logging miles until a couple of months prior to the MCM. But one thing's for sure, I could never have run so much on my own strength, especially in the wake of Amanda's death.

Jesus Christ gave me the desire, the motivation, and the strength to hit the road in the heat and cold, rain and wind, and every other imaginable weather condition. He's the reason I could climb out of bed at 4 in the morning day after day. I could not and would not be where I am, or running as well or as far, with the grace and mercy of my Lord and Savior.

Tomorrow starts a new year of training and an increase in my training regimen. Since MCM, I've been running four days a week and averaging about 30 miles a week. Now we're right at two months from the Little Rock Marathon and I'm planning to bump that up to five days and 35 miles a week. When February arrives, I'll bump up again to six days and 40 miles. Then, March 4 will be my second full marathon.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

I hope and pray that God will continue to use me to bring glory to Him through 2012 and beyond.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.