Saturday, April 27, 2013

Courtney's College Decision


I am very cognizant of the many, many blessings God has bestowed on my life even though I am not very expressive of that publically.  Yesterday was a moment in our lives when I was so aware and thankful yet could not find the words to express my feelings. Not for not wanting, but because of the overwhelming emotions of the day. 

For the last 8 years a large part of our lives have revolved around volleyball. It started with Megan in junior high. Megan was playing club volleyball. Courtney was interested in gymnastics. As we watched Megan practice with her team, Courtney would bounce a ball around the gym uninterested in playing.  In fact, she was opposed to joining a team. Then a person who would change our lives forever entered the scene, Ali Oliver. Courtney’s journey with the sport began as a fluke.

Ali, our club director and frequent coach for the last 8 years, befriended Courtney and got her to join in at practice.  After all, if Courtney was going to hang around week after week, she might as well hang around with a purpose and help out the team and club as well.  She was not on a team.  She did have reluctant fun practicing with the girls.  The team was made up of a group of 14 year olds. Courtney was 10. The day came for Megan’s first tournament.  We only had 7 players.  One had to leave midway through the first set for a family event.  As the second game got underway with our remaining 6 players, an injury happened.  Facing the possibility of forfeiting, Ali turned to Courtney and asked her to play for the rest of the tournament.  Ali quickly found spandex shorts, an extra jersey, kneepads and volleyball shoes for Courtney. Courtney has played volleyball ever since. We owe so much thanks to Ali for her role and development of our daughters.  She is a blessing sent by God to our family.  Our gratitude can never be fully expressed.

The two sisters played alongside of one another until the age differential made it impractical and then reuniting again in high school at Fullerton.  It was a joy to watch them play together over the years.  They are the best of friends and shine together on the court. While Megan chose to end her volleyball career as high school ended. Courtney’s passion for the sport continued to grow. With each new success or challenge on the sport, Courtney grew to love the game even more.  Her desire to continue her volleyball career post high school also grew. 

The college recruiting process has been a blessing and a challenge.  Out of state visits, new experiences, doors open, doors closed. Places and colleges we have never heard of.  It places incredible pressure on a 17 year old with hopes and dreams.  It takes resolve, a great deal of encouragement and support.  Mostly, it takes a great deal of prayer!  Thanks to each of you for your part in this.  There are too many of you to name.  We are hoping you know who you are and how important each of you are to us. 

Over the last few weeks, God has been leading in the process.  Not that He wasn’t with us all the way along but it has certainly seemed even more so over the last month.  A door opened at a school in Angwin, California (we just call it Napa, since nobody knows where Angwin is, St. Helena then turn right and go up the hill).  We had never heard of it.  Nobody had.  Then odd things happened.  An odd article we saw on Facebook from Business Insider Magazine titled “25 Colleges Where Students Are Both Hot And Smart” listed the school as number 2 in the country. It was weird and the timing was strange.  We researched and found that the campus is almost always listed among the most beautiful college campuses in the country.  The academic reputation was strong.  It was the right division to allow for scholarships.  It had the right majors.  We even found out that we are friends with someone who knows and played volleyball with the coach. Best of all, they wanted Courtney to visit, meet the team, talk to the coach and department heads and see if this was the right direction for her. 

The trip was great and it helped her narrow the choices to 3 colleges. The coach was very encouraging and complimentary of Courtney as were the team members.  The financial offer is outstanding and a huge blessing! Another trip yesterday made the path even clearer.  At the end of the day, Courtney verbally committed to play volleyball for and attend Pacific Union College in Napa. 
This week a formal signing ceremony will take place so watch for a very quick invitation to come.  Praise God!

It is still very difficult to put into words what we are feeling.  We are joyous and so very thankful.  Today, we are even giddy in our new P.U.C. sweatshirts.  Our pride towards both of our daughters is as high as ever but today is Courtney’s time.  I am so proud of her!  Her extremely hard work, sacrifice and God’s grace and hand in her life give me so much pause to be thankful today. She is an absolutely beautiful, smart, grounded and Godly young woman.  We are also experiencing surreal feelings of sadness knowing that August 1st, when she will leave for college is not very far away. 

So again, our sincerest thanks to all of you who have been a part of this walk with us.  Please continue to pray for Courtney!  We are excited to see how this journey continues into the future. 


Maybe it was destined!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Graduation Day



It was great to celebrate with family and friends on December 16, 2011 as I graduated (again) from Biola University with Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership with highest honors. It was a surreal experience to end my academic career and walk through a day knowing it is finished. I will greatly miss the weekly interaction with my many friends and professors! It sounds odd to be finished and yet wishing it could somehow continue but it is a very true sentiment. video

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Graduation Thanks




Today I am reflecting on the men and women who have poured into my life since 2002 when I decided to re-enter the college world at Biola University. First from my undergrad era from 2002-2006 and then during grad school from 2009-through Friday, February 16, 2011. These would include many, many professors, university staff, my cohort groups (Bamboo and Coffee) as well as many other classmates. Then to my North African teammates and hosts who not only were incredible ambassadors but also became the study group for my final project. I have also been blessed with wonderful colleagues at Ev. Free and so many friends the world over who have prayed for, supported and encouraged me. Mostly I am thinking about the love and support of my family who is always a blessing but have also sacrificed both husband and dad to allow this dream to finally come to fruition! Wow! This could not have been accomplished without each of you.

I don’t know if I can tag each of you in Facebook with this note or e-mail those not on FB. So please forgive me for those I miss.

Thank you everyone for your role! M.O.L. Graduation is Friday, December 16, 2011 at Biola University in the gym at 2:00pm. I hope to see many of you then and there. With the busyness of the holiday season, we are delaying a graduation party until January so watch for more info later.

God bless!
Jim

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Surgery August 2011



Friends,

Word has been getting out about this so it’s time to share… We have not meant to be secretive but until everything was firmed up we just weren’t ready to share. After months of trials, tests, poking, drugs and even being shocked with a taser, it seems we finally have some answers on the health issue front. The good news is that there is no MS. The not so good news is that the MRI of my neck is not so positive.

My MRI shows multiple levels of significant disc protrusion. At C6/7 it is so severe that it is compressing the spinal cord and is the main cause of all of my symptoms (muscles spasms, weakness, balance issues). At the level above, the C5/6 disc has a right side herniation that is substantial. The level above at C4/5 has a smaller protrusion and herniation. At this point the plan is surgery on August 18th at 8:30am at Kaiser Lakeview.

The goal of surgery is to remove the herniated disc away from the spinal cord so that it is not continually harming the cord. The surgery recommend is a C5/6 and C6/7 anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. They remove the discs, put in a spacer that will graft to the spinal vertebrae, drill down my spinal column and give a little more room for my cord to heal and move and add a titanium plate as well. There is a chance that I’ll need the same treatment at the C4/5 disc as well in the future. The surgery is expected to take 5-6 hours and most patients go home in one to two days. The doctor will give me 6 weeks off but is hopeful I can come back much sooner even in a limited capacity possibly within a few weeks. It's great that I can do a lot from home. The only limitations are no lifting and repetitive movement. At this point, surgery is the only option and is urgent before further damage to the spinal cord becomes permanent and I lose the use of limbs.

Thanks for praying and for continuing to be in prayer!

Prayer requests:


That the neuro-surgeon (Dr. Lin) and hospital staff are wonderful and skilled.

The medication I am on is also making it very difficult to function mentally and dosages are increasing, so for strength, mental focus and stamina over the next month is critical as well as is quick healing, post-surgery.

Sandy and I leave for Europe for 11 days on October 20th. This will be about 9 weeks after surgery. I’m hoping to be healed enough to be pretty active so that we can enjoy this trip of a lifetime. Hopefully I’ll be able to look up when we are in the Sistine Chapel. :)

Thanks for praying!

Jim & Sandy

Monday, June 13, 2011

Megan's Graduating


In February of 2008 I posted comments about the fact that I am getting older and not liking it. With that BLOG was a photo of my oldest daughter Megan with her friend Ashley Chang as they headed off to their first high school dance. It was a bittersweet moment then and even more so today. Today is Megan's last day of high school. She is ready to graduate. I am not ready.

Over the last four years we have watched her grow into a beautiful young woman. We have been absolutely blessed as God has watched over our family and kept us from many of the pitfalls high school students face these days. She has done well academically earning cords from the National Merit Honor Society and the California Scholastic Federation and the "Golden Tassel" award. She has been a 3 year varsity letter-person and co-captain of the Tribe volleyball team advancing to CIF in all three of those years. She has made many lasting friendships with kids we have come to love, appreciate and hope to continue to see for years to come. She has served the community both at her school and locally in many service projects from Grace Works, to the Walk for Life, the Special Olympics & many more. She has served globally, traveling to the Ukraine to teach English at a summer camp. And, she attended her last high school dance with a dear friend and looked beautiful as she drove away.

So, Cal-Poly Pomona her she comes. You are getting some of my best efforts at parenting and certainly loving another. I hope we have done well.

So today I am feeling just a little bit older than four years ago. Not much, but definitely more melancholy. My daughter has grown up. She is now a Godly young woman ready to launch into the world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CLARK FAMILY CHRISTMAS LETTER 2009




She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

We ushered in 2009 in 28 degree weather in the snow in Victoria, B.C. Canada, the close of our first family vacation over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday. Victoria may be beautiful but we missed most while it was covered in snow or raining. We enjoyed high tea, outdoor ice skating and fun restful time together.

The spring brought the usual club volleyball for us with our girls continuing to play for Smack Volleyball Club on the 14’s and 16’s team. Megan had the privilege of playing in Colorado in March, while tournaments almost every weekend were the norm all over Southern California. Club brought the opportunity to meet and spend time with both Keri Walsh & Misty May, our volleyball idols. Sandy became the key fundraiser and supporter for the club and did an awesome job.

The spring also brought a return to Biola University for Jim. He has entered a grad school program in organizational leadership. All is going well and he is both enjoying and being challenged by his studies. Maybe he will be done with school by the time Courtney graduates from high school.

Two major milestones were reached as summer approached. Megan earned her driver’s license and the freedom for our whole family that that brings. Courtney graduated the eighth grade and left Calvary Chapel Christian School behind for the challenges of high school.

The summer sent us in many different directions. Jim headed to Morocco for ten days with some of our friends to help observe and encourage new friends there. Megan and Courtney headed to camp at Hume Lake and also to various missions service teams from our church. While the girls were at camp, Jim and Sandy were able to enjoy a week together, reconnecting and enjoying just spending time together. We also enjoyed a family trip to Sedona with a day jaunt to the Grand Canyon. Then a quick trip to the family farm in Iowa by Jim ended the summer.

Early November, Jim and Sandy went on a five-day cruise to Catalina and Ensenada. We had a great time on the cruise with Sandy’s sister, Susan and brother-in-law, Dave and our friends, the Nicholls.

The fall brought new challenges. Back to school for Megan with a very rigorous schedule as a junior. High School as a freshman for Courtney. High School volleyball—both on the varsity team! Their team went to the second round of CIF. Then came the “great flood of ‘09.” On October 15th, we were flooded out of our home for the next six weeks. We are now back in our “new” home with fresh paint, tile, carpet, a new washer and dryer and TV. We are very thankful for friends and family who helped in the process. Sandy is working hard at putting it all back together just right as time permits between work, USC football, volleyball and helping Jim in ministry. It is good to be home.
We are very blessed!

We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Love Jim, Sandy, Megan and Courtney

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Coffee & Fellowship





Coffee seems to be one thing that unites friends. In my case, it is no difference. I started drinking coffee when I would go to breakfast with my grandfather. It was bad coffee filled with sugar to make it palatable. But then my friend J.C. moved to Seattle in the early 90's. Soon after my love of Starbucks and coffee was born.

I now meet with two groups of friends every week over coffee. I treasure these times! Add to that the countless times we grab a coffee on a break during the middle of the day and there you have it. Coffee addiction? No, usually I drink decaf.

While on vacation this past week, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Mecca of coffee; the first Starbucks store at Pike Place Market in Seattle, twice! No pastries. They still have bean bins. Just good coffee. It is still the way it was years ago, and is not the new corporate starbucks. Yeah!