Pure Awesomeness

Emi’s Words of Wisdom #17

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My daughter is a pranking genius.

Rarely am I pranked really good, and I admit, I was wonderfully pranked by my 11 year old, Emi.

One day, while coming out of a restaurant, we got in the suburban and started it up.  I noticed that on the bluetooth audio settings it said, “Alexandra’s iPhone 5S”.

Photo Sep 07, 12 59 07 PMI was so confused.  Seeing me mess with the controls, Emi asked what was wrong.

I told her that someone’s phone was connected to our bluetooth.

I figured it was just a glitch and that it somehow picked up a nearby person’s iPhone who just so happened to be named Alexandra.

As the week went on, the suburban kept linking to the Alexandra person’s iPhone.

I was getting really frustrated and about “this close” to calling GM to find out what the heck was going on and report a faulty bluetooth system, when Emi started laughing at me and let me in on the fact that she changed the name of her iPhone to mess with me.

We both almost died from laughter because it was the funniest thing!  And because I was so relieved that we didn’t have a stalker named Alexandra.

The genius of it thought is that 1) she went as far as to name it a iPhone 5S because her’s is not and she figured that would throw me off the trail and 2) she never let on ….for a week….and sat back and enjoyed my confusion build each day.


Emi Jackson, that’s who.

Quite brilliant, I must admit.

But if she’s doing this at 11, I am very afraid for what the future holds.



Memories of Mom #27

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

Before we get too far past the Independence Day holiday and our Disney trip, I wanted to share another little tidbit with you about your mom.

What do these two things have in common you ask?

Fireworks! Big ones! And lots of them!

Your mom loved watching fireworks shows!

Interestingly, we were never really good at our own fireworks displays. I would buy them each year and they were fun for what they were, but when we were done we both felt it was a little anti-climactic.

Last year (2013), I remember us lighting them off in the lower yard. I had carefully picked out what I thought were some bigger more exciting ones. But upon setting them off, your mom gave them an initial “ooooooo” of excitement and intrigue followed by a “that’s it?” when the firework was short lived.

So, I guess I will have to continue to work on that one. In fact, we can do that together. 🙂

What really got her excited though were big orchestrated shows! Her favorites were the Disney fireworks over Cinderella’s castle and the Fireworks at the Crosses at Cross Church.

Your mom was always looking for “optimal viewing” of the fireworks and in 2013, when we went to Disneyworld your mom researched and found the perfect spot! Right behind Cinderella’s castle and the carousel you can position yourself to be in between the launching points of the fireworks, which means the show goes on all around you.


I remember the first time you all saw this – your heads just kept craning around as they were everywhere. The look on your faces when they came from a new direction was priceless! Your mom and I would just smile at each other because we knew you were so excited! Plus we were kind of excited too! 😉

20140731-220128-79288942.jpg20140731-220128-79288613.jpgThis was the same place we stood this year when we went to Disneyworld. And you all were just as much fun to watch.

Fireworks at the Crosses is a completely different and equally awesome experience!! The show is absolutely amazing because we see it very up close and personal and it seems to go on forever. There is no “that’s it?” question when it’s done – ever. You leave in shock and awe of what you just saw.

Your mom loved this show and I loved just holding her hand and watching it with her. I loved watching her reaction to the show! Her smiles at pretty fireworks or flinch from a loud boom followed by a giggle. We would exchange ooooos and aaahhhhhs over different combinations of fireworks. So much fun!!

It didn’t hurt that Fireworks at the Crosses was at our church so we were also surrounded by our awesome church family which made the atmosphere that much more fun!

I’m sure that for the rest of my life I will always think of your mom when I see an awesome fireworks display. Luckily, it seems that you two have the fireworks bug like your mom, which I am very thankful for!

I hope that when you have your families one day you will pass this fireworks bug on to them and tell your kids how much your mom loved them!

I love you both dearly!!





Memories of Mom #19

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Dearest Emi and Ava,

As I’m thinking about our upcoming vacation, I’m reminded how much your mom loved a good adventure.

IMG_0313One of my (and her) absolute favorites was on our 10th wedding anniversary, when we took a cruise along the western coast of Mexico.  Touristy, but fun, places like Cabo San Lucas and Puerta Vallarta.

On this particular trip, we signed up for an excursion to go zip-lining through the treetops in the jungle.  Your mom was soooo excited to be able to do this.

Although, I will admit that neither of us were expecting the journey we’d take to get there in the first place.  If I remember right, we had to take a speed boat to a little inlet 30 mins from our port, then boarded some military looking transports for a very rocky climb up the mountainside, followed by a ride on the back of a mule up some narrow passages, and finally a hike to the top.  It was quite an ordeal.

Your mom really didn’t like her mule, but I don’t think it liked her either.  It was kind of stubborn and gave her a heck of a time.  I guess they were made for each other.  🙂  Actually she probably handled it better than I would have.

IMG_0263Once we were at the top though…..that’s when the fun began!

Right off the bat we were zipping through the treetops 400′ above the ground.  It was totally insane!  BUT SO MUCH FUN!

Line after line, she was all about flying through the treetops.

The smile and look on your mom’s face was priceless and unforgettable!

The part though that I’m so proud of her for was when she had to rappel a couple times straight off of a platform in the trees without touching anything else.  She had never done that before and totally handled it like a pro.

In fact, she was such a pro, she talked the guy holding the safety rope to go ahead and let me drop my last 20′ in to the water when it was my turn.  I had quite a shock!  And she laughed so hard!  I laughed too, but only after I caught my breath.  Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad about the problems she was having with her mule anymore.

DocImage000000058I hope that we get the opportunity to do this when you’re older and that you have the same drive for adventure that she did!  It certainly makes life much more dynamic and interesting.  I loved this part of your mom!  And kissing her under a waterfall wasn’t too bad either.  😉  You’ll understand that when you’re older.  Much older.

But just remember, if you try to have the safety guy drop your future husband (or dad) in to the water while rappelling, turnabout will totally be fair play.  😉

I love you!  ~Dad

Ava’s Awesome Antics #23

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While working out tonight, Ava (6) comes over and starts to work out along side of me.  Cute, right?

As I’m struggling through Shawn T yelling at me to get my lunges and squats lower, I look over and Ava is knocking out some burpees.

Pretty soon, it’s not Shawn T yelling at me anymore, Ava is yelling, “C’mon Dad!”

Then to make it worse, while sweat was pouring off my face and I was groaning, I hear her loudly yell “100! I did 100 burpees Dad!” and then she joined back into my routine.

If I ever had an ego before, it was completely gone when my 6-year old finished the workout with me and said, “That was easy.”

A True Blessing for the Ages

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Photo Apr 24, 5 42 45 PMWhat an amazing group of people I work with.

Throughout this journey that April, I and the girls have gone on we have been simply amazed at the kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity of so many people.  Today, proved this to the Nth degree.

One of my friends and colleagues, Matt Martin, invited me to meet him at my church tonight.   Honestly, I didn’t think much of it. I thought he had something to drop off or give me.  So, I loaded up the girls, ran a few errands and showed up to meet him.

As I drove in to the church drive, I saw a small gathering of people.

As we got closer, I realized it was not just Matt, but several of my colleagues and friends from work.

After we parked and got out in the blustery and rainy weather, Matt started to speak.

He said that we were gathered to pay tribute and honor to April and our family.  They had purchased a Willow Oak and were planting it on our church property to honor and remember April and the impact that she’s had on our lives.

I didn’t know what to say.  I could feel the tears welling up as he was talking, but managed to keep them at bay.

What an amazing group of people I work with that would do something so meaningful and thoughtful.  Something that not just blesses us in the moment, but that will bless us for years and decades to come.  A true blessing for the ages.

Photo Apr 24, 5 54 22 PMWe all watched as the crew planted the tree then took some pictures to commemorate.  And followed that with some hugs for each one.

As we thanked them and drove away, Ava said, “They planted a tree to celebrate our mom’s life.  That’s awesome!”  That was it!  The tipping point.  And the tears fell freely.

Quite frankly, I think I’m still in shock a little even as I write, because this wasn’t expected at all.  I (we) are so appreciative of my Walmart Family.

So that we don’t forget who was in attendance, I will simply thank Matt Martin, Mike Turner, Ami Spivey, Annie Fuentes, Jeff Neria, Allen Bates, Mike Swatsworth, Shauna Bowen, Kit Nowin, Missy Schubert, and Mike Keller.  And a special thanks to Pastor Jamie Lantzsch for making it happen on the church’s side.  I did make sure to ask if someone had talked to the church first! 🙂

What an amazing group of people I work with.  Thank you.

Why I Love My Church #8

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April’s Celebration of Life.

I only have one word – SPECTACULAR!

I have never been to a celebration of life (funeral) service like this one before.  I hope that all I attend in the future are just like it.

In fact, you can watch the service on the video at the bottom of this post.

My church family pulled out all the stops and went so above and beyond that I am sure I will be thanking them for the rest of my life.

Pastors Jamie and Johann headed up the planning process with several others in support.

We held the main service at Cross Church – Pinnacle Hills where April, I and the girls attended.

Celebration of Life 1Think about this – the service was on a late Monday morning, yet there was a full 40+ person choir, full worship band, A/V staff, and building support staff there to bless us.  Most of these people were volunteers that had to take time off of work or away from other activities.

Who does this?  Our Cross Church Family – that’s who!

Every person that was asked to do something special, did it.  Without hesitation.  Without question. They honored us with their time and talents in an amazing way.

Before the service officially started:

  • Pastor Johann Acuna soloed Cornerstone on violin along with the band.
  • Nikki Randall soloed Healing is in Your Hands along with the band.  This was one of April’s favorites.
  • Beth Gagliano soloed Arise and Be Comforted along with the band.

Once the service started, Pastor Julio Arriola delivered an amazing “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy” with the choir and band.  Later in the service they also blessed us by leading the attendees in worship with 10,000 Reasons and Amazing Grace, which is what April wanted – Jesus to be worshiped!

Celebration of Life 4My worship bandmates were there and provided incredible instrumentation.  I love these guys and am so grateful to have them in my life.

Pastor Perry Gagliano (who is also my small group leader) did a fantastic job opening and closing the services for us.  What a blessing he and his wife have been to us.

Pastor Tim Hill (our very own cousin that we are so proud of) represented our family by reading the 23rd Psalm.

Mollie Duddleston, Director of Women’s Ministries and April’s Bible Study leader, delivered amazing words of encouragement and talked about April’s life.  She has been an incredible witness and mentor to April and blessed us tremendously with her beautiful words and support.

Then came the crown of the service.  April wanted to ensure that the Gospel was preached at her service and it was her hope and desire that her life would be a testimony and inspiration to others.  Pastor Jamie Lantzsch delivered on that request with full force and GOD showed up!  As a result there were several salvations both at the service and post the service.  Glory be to God!

Celebration of Life 3Then, one of my favorite moments at about an hour in at the close of the celebration.  The Cross Church choir and band played “Thou O Lord”, one of April’s favorites and requests.  OH MY!  It was simply incredible and breath-taking.

Following the conclusion of the service and a time for attendees to pay their respects to April and the family, we had a brief private grave site service for the family and close friends.  Pastors Jamie and Tim provided words of encouragement and prayer at the site.  Then we returned to the church and they fed our family.

Again, I have one word – SPECTACULAR!  But not just about the celebration this time.  I use this word to describe my church family.

They have blessed us beyond measure and have lifted us up.  And rather than this be a time of despair and sorrow, they helped turn this in to a time of celebration and joy!

I miss my wife every moment, but I will always look back with fondness on this celebration.  The salvations gave it purpose.  Our church, family and friends rallied with love.  What a great day!

Who does this?  Our Cross Church Family – that’s who!

This is just another reason Why I Love My Church!

Why I Love My Church #7

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Pastoral Care.

As I said in #6, several pastors visited us when we took April to the hospital and then on to hospice – each more than once.  They prayed over us, encouraged us, hugged on us, and lifted us up.

Once April passed at 4:30am, Pastor Jamie Lantzsch (Why I Love My Church #2) was there immediately to console the family and offer support.  He then went with us to the house and stood right behind me when I told our girls that their mom had gone to Heaven.  While I think we had done a great job preparing our girls for this moment, uttering those words was nearly impossible for me.

But as I glanced back, I was reassured to see Pastor Jamie standing there with me.  Then he also prayed with the girls, family and I.  A moment like that will never be forgotten.

Photo Mar 20, 10 48 20 AMHe then stayed for the rest of the morning until about noon, hanging out in the background, talking with family, and most importantly talking with and playing with the girls and their cousin.

Who does this?  Our Cross Church pastors – that’s who.

Pastor Jamie (as well as other pastors and their wives) stayed in constant communication with us over the coming days and helped me tremendously in planning April’s Celebration of Life (along with Pastor Johann).  But I’ll cover the actual celebration in another post.

This is just another reason Why I Love My Church!