WHEN LITTLE EYES MUST PEEK By Lori A Alicea

It’s hard to wait for God’s reveal,
His answers when we pray.
God seems to take His precious time,
In years, in weeks or day.

We feel the urge to check on Him,
For answers that we seek.
Unable to withstand the wait,
Our little eyes must peek.
ethan looking in screenThe corner’s bend we dare to see,
The Lord at work this week.
Instead of resting in His time,
Our little eyes must peek.

We bat our eyes, we blow a kiss,
To tug the heart of God.
He gently gives a sweet reply,
My child “I’ve got this” nod.

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God loves when children ask of Him,
He listens when they pray.
Requests, he answers every one,
Keeps secret though the day.

His faithfulness should fuel our faith,
Our doubts they make us weak.
Believe in Him and calm the need,
For little eyes to peek.
brodie and brystol peeking inRemind me Lord, your precious child,
With answers that I seek.
To trust in you when silence screams,
When little eyes must peek.

The answers to our prayers will come,
Take heart He’s never late.
Be confident we’re not alone,
He’s with us while we wait.

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I call on you, my God,
for you will answer me,
turn your ear to me
and hear my prayer.
Psalm 17:6

TREASURES IN THE TRASH By Lori A Alicea

They say that
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Trash by one man’s account has lost its usefulness and worth, yet another man sees re-purpose and a great find.

Most of us have dumpster dived a few times in our life. That “something” catching our eye on Trash Day we quickly throw into the back seat of our car, speeding off before the neighbor catches you and changes their mind.

Trash or treasure?
It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Mile one of our bicycle journey begins on a country stretch of pavement surrounded by acres of cornfields not too far from home. Desiring to enjoy the back roads of a beautiful summer together, my husband and I purchased two bikes and a child’s seat mounted in the back so our small grandchildren could take their turns coming along for the ride.

We had no idea at the time the bicycle miles our journey would take us.
2013 david and ethan on bike rideThat summer all of our grandchildren were small and just learning to ride their tricycles. Not a care in the world had Papa’s babies.  Easy to please on the slide at the park.  They loved riding their bikes in front of our house.  They savored the simple pleasure of eating an ice cream cone in the afternoon shade.

But it doesn’t take long for your grandchildren to outgrow their summer wheels. Saddened for Papa to realize his baby’s legs were too long for their tricycles.  He fought the reminder his babies were growing up way too fast.  If only Papa’s heart could keep up with their bike size.

Passing their trikes to the cousins next in line and ready for training wheels or going solo on bikes sized just right, our grandchildren’s new summer ride would catch Papa’s eye from the curb on Monday’s Trash Day pickup, bicycles no longer loved by one child yet in good enough shape to ride around the block with their Papa and Gaga and loved by another.

Papa would have to buy a new bike for our older grandchild but the others didn’t seem to notice the shiny ride their sister / cousin was sporting. All they knew was how happy they were riding together around the block with their Papa and Gaga, sometimes still wearing their pajamas, most of the time stopping at the park or their grandmother’s house for chips and pop who lived one street over.

The bicycle miles were adding up and so were the memories.

Year after year, no matter the season and as long as the roads were dry, our grandchildren continued to ride these same bicycles rescued from the trash, or bikes they outgrew from home and added to the collection to share.

The many miles we rode together.  With Papa or our oldest grandchild leading the way, so many neighbors waving as our caravan of single-file bicycle riders passed them by.

All those flat tires Papa fixed through the years. The tears and scrapes and band-aid kisses from those bicycle falls.  Adjusting their seats higher when the grandchildren grew.  Gaga freaking out when the kids rode too fast or not looking both ways when passing an intersection.  Though never showing it, it always saddened Papa each time a child ditched their training wheels for freedom without them.

Papa never had the heart to throw out a single bike even when their better days were behind them. How it delighted Papa to see the next child in line to inherit this treasure.

A few weeks ago our four grandchildren from DC enjoyed an extended summer visit with us. Preparing in advance for our evening bike rides with now ten grandchildren, we bought a bike trailer for the two youngest to ride behind my bike.
IMG_9822A smaller Spider Man bike not being used was available for our grandson.
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Yet realizing we were still one bike short for our sweet DC granddaughter.

Our wonderful God was fully aware of this need, and like a good daddy he his, allowed for us to find a beautiful pink bike just for her in the trash to ride this summer, looking as sweet as she did so many years before when our bicycle journey began.

Where have the summer years gone?

Seems like yesterday they needed training wheels. Now they are popping wheelies.

I’d give anything to hear the sound of those clunky training wheels coming down the road.

So many of these babies have loved the view and special time with their Papa from the back seat of his bike.

No matter the wear and tear on these old hand-me-downs, the grandchildren continue to make their memories at Papa’s house while riding their bikes.

Living in farm country now, bike rides find you visiting the local cows to feed them.

I often wonder what people think when hearing the voices of children laughing with each other and begging their Papa to turn on the next street over by the park, as a trail of bicycles pass them by while sitting outside.

As a grandmother, I think of how blessed Papa and I are to have this small window of time with these grandchildren, creating memories with them through the miles we ride together.

Sometimes Papa and I take a break and watch them ride their bicycles in front of the house while we grandparents drink our coffee.

It delights us to watch the street races. To witness the older cousin teaching the younger how to ride a two-wheeler.  To enjoy cousins enjoying each other.

One man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure.

Ask ten grandchildren whose visits with their Papa and Gaga have them travelling the map making a lifetime of memories.

Ask their Papa who knows in the back of his mind that these bikes will one day be ditched for a real set of wheels driving them off for college, but wouldn’t trade a moment or mile with them for a million dollars.

Never parting with any of these trash treasures thus far, as parting with the memories of our babies small is too great, Papa and I did make an exception this summer.

Our four DC babies left our house to visit their other grandparents, and we wanted to make sure they had something to ride with their cousins.

These bikes leaving were a sad reminder of our DC grandchildren saying good-by for a very long time, leaving a trail of tears in their Papa and Gaga’s heart.
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Yet remembering that if our good God saw fit to provide a pink bike for our granddaughter in her time of need, He will make a way for us to be reunited with them for another summer bicycle ride.

ONCE UPON A TIME By Lori A Alicea

Dedicated to every little girl, young or young at heart, who has always wanted to be that beautiful little princess, but needed someone to remind them that
a princess, they’ve always been.

Dedicated especially to the little girls in this grandmother’s life:
Brooke, Bristol, Ayva, Aubrey, Cova, Rosalee, and Kizzie Mae.
May they always know.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 18

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there hides a place too beautiful for words, a place where everything sparkles in all the rainbow colors, especially butterflies that leave behind a diamond mist of fairy dust wherever it waves its wings.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 19The gates of this far away land only open when little girls sleep, where dreams of becoming a princess really do come true.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 31Dreams grant every wish that little girls have; dreams of that grand entrance through the gates of a royal ball, where every eye is fixed on her loveliness, facing the crowd in a dress befitting a princess, full of glitter and sparkle.

Prior to this grand entrance every princess enjoys a day of pampering at a Princess Boutique, where her highness is surrounded by many hands privileged to open up her exquisite beauty as the sun does to the petals of a rose.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 2Designed to compliment the glow of her royal eyes and innocent smile, the hair of a princess is styled and fashioned accordingly.

 

Lipstick, cheek color and eye shadows together create the stunning look that royal watchers wait hours for with cameras ready when princesses take their stately walk on the red carpet.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 9Nails painted perfectly, a princess’ delicate way about her is evident even in the simplest of tasks.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 12A princess smiles while receiving an exquisite rose, a flower given only to royalty, a gift that also matches her dress.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 14Never truly believing her royal status until a blue diamond crown with her name attached lay waiting to be worn when a princess takes that special place at her reserved seat.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 28Nothing is more befitting than when you wear the crown of who you were born to be; a princess of the royal ball hidden in your heart, lived out in your dreams.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 20Every fairy tale has a special someone who is part of your “happily ever after”. Little princesses have fairy godmothers who love them their whole life, teaching, showing and reminding them every day how special they are.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 22Even when a fairy godmother kisses her little princess at the ball,
2019 cumbee ayva princess 30The princess doesn’t awake from her dream, as the ball was never a dream after all.
2019 cumbee ayva princess 31You see, Once Upon A Time in a land far, far away, there hides a princess too beautiful for words, a little girl who sparkles in every color of the rainbow, who has to believe in her princess status that rests in a faraway place of her heart, though maybe having to open the gates to this faraway place in her dreams to remember.
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ANOTHER MILITARY MOVE By Lori A Alicea

It’s only been three years this time.

Three years to meet the neighbors and become a block of friends and family.
Three years for the kids to find their group of friends in

Soccer

Gymnastics
rosalee 12
Church
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Dance
2017 england summer 18 cova ballet
Girl Scouts
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Three years to become part of the children’s school as room mother.

Three years to find all the hideaway running and bicycle trails to adventure on.
2019 england fathers day adventure 7Three years to add another baby to the family portrait.

Three years to remodel a fixer-upper to make a house a home.
IMG_8538It’s been only three short years and it is time to pull the tent-spikes from their temporary home as the Army orders for our son and family have been served and it’s now time for another military move.

Home is your safe place, your place of refuge.
IMG_8537Home is where you hang your hat.
Home is where you can be yourself.
Home is that door post where you keep a record of your children’s growth chart.
Home is that table of family dinners and conversation.
Home is that bed of sweet dreams where only your pillow and blanket will do.
Home is your address where memories are made.

Home is that backyard created for children in mind.

To swing.

To sit by the campfire.

Home is a set of front steps that welcome you with open arms after being gone all day, or a seat where children eat their morning breakfast of donuts.
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But duty calls and now it’s time to say goodbye.
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It’s time to pack up the house and forward the mail. It’s a time to say goodbye to the friends, the familiar, your favorite coffee shop, the usual route to work.  It’s a time to hug that faithful babysitter you entrusted with your children.  It’s time to find a new home for the outside cat that welcomed you in the neighborhood three years ago and never left.
USE THIS CATBeing a member of the military you accept their core values, and one of them is honor.

Regarding honor, the Army states that:

Honor is the one that embodies all the others. Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything you do.”

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It’s that selfless service putting America first that makes serving in the military so hard. But you embrace the call and grace to serve your country well with pride and great courage.

Serving your country requires great sacrifice, especially family ties that must endure the heart’s tug of war of those frequent goodbyes. As grandparents we must be willing to let our grandchildren go with love and joy as the call to serve is a family affair.

This past weekend my husband and I spent many hours driving to bring our four babies home so we could reunite the cousins who haven’t been together for over three years. We wanted this special time together as a family before our military babies leave again for another three year journey, much farther than ever before.  They won’t be within driving reach anymore and we will rely on technology to watch them grow.

How the faces of our little loves have changed since the last sleepover three years ago. A few of our grandchildren weren’t even born yet.

We had to get one last bike ride in for the memory books. And so much more.
IMG_0181These four faces will be unrecognizable in three years from the smiles we see today. Letting go is bittersweet.  We can’t be selfish to hold them back, but a grandparent’s heart tells us to scoop them in our arms and never let go.
IMG_0184In times of sadness we lean on our faith in God, as he has mapped out our lives, he’s ordered our steps. God has a great big wonderful plan if we’d trust him and embrace it.

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.   Psalm 37:23 (KJV)
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If our steps are ordered; and God loves us more than we could imagine, then who are we to argue with God in this military move.
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SUMMER MEMORIES WITH MOM By Lori A Alicea

Mother celebrated her 79th birthday over the 4th of July weekend.  Surrounded by her life-long friend and beloved family decorated in the trimmings of the holiday, we honored the beginning of another year with our mother.

When you get to be 79 years of age and have blown out a few more candles than you dare to count and try to recollect if all your wishes have come true, at the end of the day you are just so thankful to God for life and its abundance.

With mother seated in front of her homemade birthday cake, I remember all the years as a child I sat before the cake mother made for me.

 As those gathered around mother began to sing in unison the chorus of Happy Birthday, mother’s eyes went “to and fro” looking into those faces that sang to her. For a brief few seconds, mother’s countenance seemed to fade into the moment and I wondered where she went in her thoughts, I wondered what was she thinking?

Was she remembering birthdays past where life was different for her, where she could still walk unassisted, leave the house and drive, make her own decisions, frequent her favorite restaurant for a cup of coffee, sleep under the covers of her own bed or enjoy her life outside the four walls of the nursing home?

Watching mother during her birthday song, it’s hard not to want her birthday wish to be free from her wheel chair and oxygen. While always believing for miracles and change, the desire of God for all of us is to be thankful and content in the current chair we sit in.

Every year celebrating another birthday with mother, I always stop and give thanks for that treasure trove of remembrances I’ve shared with her, especially our summer ones that still remain packed in the picnic basket of my memory.

Fourteen years ago I wrote about one of those summer memories with mom. Every now and then it’s refreshing to dig out the old picture albums and recall those life moments you remembered, though not in its detail.

Like the stories my mamaw and papaw used to repeat to me over and over yet I joyfully listened as if for the first time, this might be the same for you as some of my favorite “stories” probably have been repeated a few times over, at least in its essence.

In honor of the woman that gave me life, I dust off an old album from my summer past with mother and read in detail and childhood delight, hoping it sparks a childhood memory of your own.

SUMMER IN A JAR
By Lori A. Alicea

With family vacations, summer sports and fairs coming to town, you might not have noticed that Christmas has snuck in the back door of some stores, sounding the alarm that winter is around the corner.  By the time most of us are snuggling up in that first fall sweater, we might be asking ourselves, “Where did the summer go?”  For those who’d like to hold onto summer a little longer, did you know it’s possible to capture the essence of this season in a bottle, labeling it “summer in a jar?”

Growing up, backyard gardens, cornfields and fruit markets were common neighborhood sights.
corn field along roadWith breezes carrying them in, the smells of summer welcomed itself through open windows, evident in the slight waves of the curtains.
open windowStrawberries, peaches, apples and grapes, all waiting for someone to take them home from the fruit market down the street.  As a little girl the aroma of this seasonal shop was so delicious, fruit juices could be tasted just by breathing.
IMG_1845Mother would buy these farmer spoils by the flat, bushel and bucket, bringing them home to create jams, jellies and frozen fruit for future homemade pies.
IMG_1846The pantry off from the kitchen displayed my mother’s mid-year labors, as I fantasized over them in the winter pretending they were “summer in a jar”.
strawberry jamFrom June through August, we five sisters helped mother prepare fruit for her signature jams, giving into temptation to eat more fruit than we prepared.  Though our mouths revealed the sticky evidence of our crime, mother didn’t scold us, rather kept focused as she boiled fruit on her Magic Chef stove.  Still boiling hot, blue Mason jars were filled then sealed with melted paraffin wax.  Mother’s creations eventually lined the pantry shelves when they cooled, waiting for winter to come.

It’s hard to appreciate kitchen art when the thermostat reads above 90 degrees.  But light the fireplace one frosty December morning, and top a fresh baked biscuit smothered in butter with homemade jam, those early hours might usher in a smell of summer with fruit so fresh you’d think they were recently picked.

As an adult, I am saddened that subdivisions have taken over the neighborhood, leaving farmer fields a figment of my imagination.  Kitchen curtains don’t fly in the wind of open windows as air conditioners keep them closed.  Fruit markets are a novelty now, canning isn’t a way of life, and out of five sisters, I’m the only one that cans, bakes bread and finds pleasure in homemade anything.

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But for me, my homemade effort’s brings back time with mom and memories of yesterday, when I go the extra mile to see my shelves full of “summer in a jar”.

SUMMER DAYS OF OLD By Lori A Alicea

Flipping through the old vintage calendars of the late sixties, early seventies, I can still recall bits and pieces of those hot summer days of my childhood that lasted from June until Labor Day, a holiday signaling summers end and the first day of school.

When June 1st came though and the school bell rang for the very last time after a half-day of kids cleaning out their desks, a mass exodus of screaming and jubilant students burst through the doorways in celebration, starting the clock of their long anticipated three month vacation from studying and tests. Labor Day might as well been a year from then as it seemed so far away on the eve of summer vacation.  The calendar weeks that followed were scheduled fun around family, kids and so much more.  But first on the minds of many kids, including myself, is that tomorrow morning, we’re all sleeping in.

Remembering the summer days of old replays my 8 mm memories of a simpler life void of distractions.  Technology wasn’t common place back then.  Communication between loved ones was intimate and face to face, or sentiments handwritten in a letter to those living a distance away.  Microwaves weren’t common place either back in the day and we didn’t miss it as we weren’t in a hurry, and the meals weren’t hurried either because the dinner table was an oasis where families spent time reconnecting with one another after the hours of the day spent apart.  Most houses in our neighborhood didn’t boast of central air, but box fans in the open windows and thru the unlocked screen front door circulated a cool breeze throughout the rooms most days.

Born into a family of six children, we didn’t have much, but we didn’t know it either. We shared our hand-me-down clothes and shared three bedrooms between the six of us.  I don’t ever recall feeling crowded sleeping in a room with two other sisters.  What we lacked in material things we made up for it in love; love for God and love for one other.

Summer season always kicked off with a community little league parade of baseball players loaded up in the backs of a caravan of pickup trucks with the town fire station leading the way in a blaze of sirens. Ball players threw candy into the crowds lined along the streets while the parade made its way through town ending its route at the little league field, welcoming folks of all ages excited for opening day with the first smells of hot buttered popcorn.

For as long as I remember, my brother played baseball during our summer break. His wool-blend uniform appeared stifling in the scorching June heat but the true  love of baseball overshadowed any irritations.  I loved watching the crowded concession stands of Babe Ruth wannabes  buying and stuffing their mouths with wads of bubble gum that came wrapped with a baseball card, all hoping for that desirable rookie of their favorite team.

Mother always made sure we kids attended a week of vacation bible school. Back in the day when mothers didn’t work, scores of children lined the church steps at 9:00 am where selected boys and girls carrying the American Flag, the Christian Flag and the Bible led the way into the sanctuary for a few songs before class.

Vacation bible school was about getting kids excited to learn and watch those famous bible stories come to life on flannel graphs, following up with related crafts, and snacks. Walking single file for a brief recess outside, I loved being a kid passing the church kitchen table reaching for a Styrofoam cup of Kool-Aid and cookies stacked in twos.  Best of all, the five days of vacation bible school ended with a Friday night celebration where parents enjoyed a program presented from each class, then traveled room to room to see their child’s work from the week on display.

In addition to vacation bible school, mother diligently saved through the year so we girls could attend a week of church camp located a few hours away. Girls from all over the state enjoyed cabin living, swimming, hiking, boating, crafts, bible lessons and the best food ever served in the mess hall.  Mornings began around the flag pole where prayers welcomed the day.  In the evening seated in an outdoors theatre type setting in full view of the lake and a campfire, we enjoyed Vespers together, a time of singing and preaching.  I gave my heart to Jesus at church camp one summer, remembering the moment like it happened an hour ago.

The summer days of old is a scrapbook of many moments; planned and spontaneous.  As a child I never took for granted the lifetime memories my mother planned during our years of summer vacation.  But those spontaneous “out of the blue” summer surprises delighted me also.  Like the unexpected times when dad told mother to load up the station wagon with us kids for a short trip to town, where carhops served and perched a tray of frosty mugs of root beer on your “partially rolled down” window.  I also treasured those unplanned Sunday family nights at the outdoor Drive-In where the latest G-Rated movie for kids was being shown.  During those hot summer days, dad would every now and then spring for seven soft-serve cones from the mint green ice-cream truck travelling the neighborhood; one for each of us six kids and one for the dog.

Summer wouldn’t be complete without our July 4th celebration.  That particular day Dad was busy in the backyard grilling BBQ ribs and mother could be found in the kitchen preparing corn on the cob, watermelon and her famous sweet tea.  We always thanked God for freedom amid our family seated around the dinner table.  At night the neighborhood gathered together, setting up their blankets and lawn chairs on an open lot of our town square to enjoy the firework festivities.  We kids delighted to share a few boxes of sparklers, as many other kids that 4th of July.  Neighbors and old friends conversed from blanket to blanket catching up on summer news and plans for back-to-school shopping.  Though privately the light display saddened me as the mid-air explosions of fireworks reminded me of war and “bombs bursting in air”, I still found room to relish my siblings and firework show.

In the sixties and early seventies of my younger childhood summers, these memories remain as a sweet slice of watermelon, retaining their taste in my mouth as those simple pleasures of a simple summer, staying the times and hidden in the heart of a simple little girl as her
summer days of old.

IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH By Lori A Alicea

… I take thee,
To have and to hold from this day forward,
For better or for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
From this day forward,
Until….

Our wedding vows;

Our sacred promises we speak from the deepest well of our soul, vowing to one another for life and before God on our wedding day.

Our heart’s oath spoken at a holy altar, promising to love and to cherish thee thru whatever comes our way, from this day forward, until…

Weddings are an exquisite “painting of a thousand words.”

Details too many for a single sentence, fill up a bride’s journal as she displays her heart in the volumes of pages.

Wedding couples experience a whirl wind of excitement in the months prior of  planning and preparation. They are overcome by euphoria when a fairy tale comes to life on their wedding day.  Sometimes though the wedding hype overshadows the sacredness and life-long commitment they are making during their marriage ceremony that a couple’s wedding vows might be glossed over as mere words mirrored back when the minister states, “Repeat after me”.

Long after the wedding dress is dry-cleaned and the thank-you cards have all been mailed, reality returns and life begins for two people who promised to

Have and to hold each other, from this day forward,
Until….

Life begins and life happens.

Real life isn’t the picture perfect moments posed and portrayed in your wedding album. Yes, married life is beautiful, wonderful and worth it all.  Speaking from a marriage kissed by God, we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this October.

But in real life you can’t photo shop the disagreements, the misunderstandings, the unexpected bills, the attitudes and the mundane weeks.

The hardships of real life tests your heart’s commitment to those wedding vows
For better or for worse,
Until…

It’s easy to stay married
In the better,
In the richer,
In the health,
And in the love.

Baring the extreme and justifiable circumstances, many couples give up on marriage because they have created a back door called “Until…”

They stay until
The better becomes worse,
The rich becomes poor,
The health becomes sickness,
The love becomes unlovely.

 Yet marriages surviving a lifetime are committed in the “until…”

Lasting marriages dig their heels in the tough times until
They lock arms in the “drought seasons of not enough” until
They wage war and fight thru battles of sickness, loving and holding on to each other until…
They love without condition no matter how unlovely until…
A man and woman committed in the until…
Stand as one
until….
death they do part.

Forty-plus years ago my brother married his high school sweetheart. They met and fell in love at a youth sponsored roller skating event and have been together ever since.

Forty-plus years ago my brother and his high school sweetheart stood at an old fashioned altar and vowed:

To have and to hold each other from this day forward,
For better or for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
From this day forward,
Until….

 My brother and his wife have enjoyed true love in marriage, though encountering their share of ups and downs.
They have rejoiced in the good times as well as the bad.
They have known plenty. They have known lack.
But through it all, I’ve never seen them more committed.

The back door of escape called until doesn’t exist in their house.
Especially when you witness them honoring their vows of

 In sickness and in health.

 Both have known serious sickness.
Sadly, sickness still wages war on their health yet they remain standing firm on the front lines, fighting for life today.
Both rejoice and hold tight to their unshakeable faith that God still heals and keeps his promises.
2019 houle mark and connie rainbowTo speak with them by telephone or by text, you leave the conversation more uplifted as they are the ones encouraging you.
2019 houle mark and connieA true testimony of love and courage in the until…

The hardships of real life tests your heart’s commitment to those wedding vows
For better or for worse.

 That bride and groom who remain in the trenches and fight those battles which wage war for their marriage,

Together will always see the better in the worse,
Will feel richer in the poor,
Will experience health in the sickness,
Will know true love to cherish,
From this day forward,
While staying committed in the
until….