DESTINATION ADVENTURE By Lori A Alicea

There it was…

Catching me off guard…
Stopping me in my tracks…
So strangely out of place…

Getting my complete attention the minute
I opened the doors to this church I was visiting.

An old Volkswagen towing a surfboard parked inside the foyer for reasons I was intrigued to know why.

A mystery God wouldn’t reveal until months later, but revolved around the reason I was speaking at a ladies conference that Saturday morning in the first place.

USE VW Surfboard leigh

The story began months prior and finding me minding my own business and perfectly content, serving God behind the scenes as a writer and blogger.

But then over coffee with a longtime friend, God was about rustle my comfortable nest and thrust me into the winds of the unknowing, testing my wings of faith when my trusted sister inquired if I’d be willing to speak at a conference she was hosting.

My answer is found in an excerpt of a former blog of mine…

When Opportunity Comes
By Lori A Alicea

Among the lively conversations shared around each table that morning at this local eatery, privately I was having a Moses moment with God, reluctantly responding as Moses did when God presented an opportunity long ago,

Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent (of speech)…”
Exodus 4:10 NIV

It’s easy to hide behind these written words of mine, a wall of personal security.

Though, while I’m not afraid of testifying God’s Word before others, I tried to justify “my lack of eloquence” to my friend.

In my scarcity of confidence, I questioned if I had anything worthwhile to offer, yet I am encouraged by Author and speaker Lisa Bevere’s words…

Offer God whatever He has placed in your hand – whatever is in your care or control. Offer it up for heavenly purposes and see what God will do. As we release what is in our hands, He releases what is in His.

Then I am reminded in the quiet time of my prayers…

God hath need of thee, to multiply my life’s message and feed a room full of hungry people; if only I’d be willing to offer my ordinary lunch to Him in my “yes”.

_________________________________

I SAID YES.

One Saturday morning the alabaster jar of my testimony was broke open and poured out over a room full of ladies and men; a hillside of wild flowers and fragrance wafted to the heavens as an offering of praise to our Lord.

The healing waters gently flowed through those hearts and tears of ones hurting during a conference titled, “Beloved.”

All glory to an almighty God.

Then I returned back home to my comfortable nest…

Or so I thought.

I couldn’t shake that old Volkswagen and surfboard waiting for me when I arrived at the Beloved conference.

I continuously inquired of God its meaning.

This scene was personal and gripped my emotions upon first glance.

As a child, our driveway was a parking lot full of Volkswagen’s awaiting my father’s mechanic hands to fix them.

Our military son and family living in Hawaii, all love to surf.

This personal scene is an illustration to the story God is about to unveil and read from the next chapter written for my life…

Destination Adventure.

From one who always played it safe…

Pastor and Author Richard Foth reminds…

We were meant for more than a safe ride when God placed us here. Any part of this life that offers more, requires more, or asks more of us than we are used to is an opportunity to grow more, dream more, and be more than we are now.USE VW Surfboard leigh

This personal scene was a setup from God, who knows me intimately and sees those hidden heart strings tied to His daughters emotions.

God was asking more of me.

To dream more, to risk more, to stop playing it safe.

But what would I offer Him this time?”

Pastor Erwin Lutzer said, “A faithful God does not expect you to do what you cannot. He supplies the needed strength.” As we faithfully serve God, He gives us the strength we need for the tasks He has placed in front of us.

So go in the strength you have…
Judges 6:14 NIV

God wasn’t asking me to barrel the big waves.8FE32792-4914-4AFE-BEE5-BF1FFE563235

No, He was only asking a child to take those first few steps in the shallow, finding herself in the deep waters one day in the future.

Looking close inside this Volkswagen is a silent greeting of aloha, a lei welcoming me to this adventure.

Looking even closer, you notice the Jesus license plate, our faithful Lord who goes before us, leading the way.

Life is a wilderness, but when we invite Jesus to be our Guide, all bets are off.

Any way you slice it, those things spell adventure.
Pastor and Author Richard FothJESUS license plate

It’s time to stop playing it safe and jump into the unknowing; whatever the unknowing looks like.

Destination Adventure is God’s personal book for me I recently opened, where Chapter One only instructs me to take the first step, to jump and take a risk.

If you don’t take the risk, you forfeit the miracle.
Pastor and Author Mark Batterson

USE Jump off

And to get excited for the unknowns of Chapter Two and beyond…

Another excerpt from…

When Opportunity Comes
By Lori A Alicea

My friend stirred up the excitement in me through a song written by Pastor Mike Jr; excitement I stir up in your opportunities as well; that God’s getting ready to move…and it’s going to be BIG…

Song BIG
By Pastor Mike Jr.
.

You ought to declare that over your own life

That it’s my time
And I can feel it.
Breakthrough is in the room.

God’s getting ready to move.

Listen, you ought to declare this over your own life, say it
For I know my God is working miracles just for me

And it’s going to be BIG…

INTENTIONAL FRIENDS  By Lori A Alicea

Her name is Betty.

My next door-neighbor of many years and twenty years my senior, and yet our relationship celebrated differing views and perspectives; not competing generations.

Across the street where whistle blowing trains rattled our windows all hours of the day, was an old country street of five houses nestled under the acreage of trees they were built on, where barns, horses, gardens and chickens running loose added to the old fashion charm of a picturesque postcard.Jake 1

Betty and I began borrowing cups of sugar from each other when she was a young grandmother and I a young mother myself.

As neighbors, we smiled and witnessed from our porches and swing sets the passing of time in the growing faces of Betty’s grandchildren and my children between the two houses.

Betty’s twin granddaughters and two grandsons always seemed to sport a glove and bat for a family baseball game of endless innings in their backyard where parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, each took their position on the field.

My two year old son watched these games from the dugout of his sandbox, waiting his turn to be big enough for the team; my baby girl and I rooted Betty’s grand-kids from the window or lawn chair nearby.

Betty and I loved being home with our children and grandchildren, both sharing the arts of sewing, canning and crafts.

More than anything, we neighbors shared the same pew at heart when our love for God overflowed those morning cups of conversation.

USE church

As time passed by, my young children and I would leave the neighborhood in tears and brokenhearted due to an unwanted divorce, but would return years later as Betty’s next-door neighbor, newly married to the man of my dreams.

Sadly, moving back to this old country neighborhood of five houses where whistle blowing trains from across the street would fascinate my future grandchildren, Betty has said good-by in sickness to the love of her life; a marriage of thirty-five glorious years.

In her husband’s honor, Betty planted a backyard tree to celebrate his life and life going on thru nature in its magnificence towards the skies and God; a widow’s place of remembrance for someone she deeply loved.

Albeit divorce, sickness or death, Betty and I continued to share sugar and heartache over tears, conversations, hugs and sometimes sitting in silence as true friends and neighbors feel comfortable to do.

For years I felt guilty for all the celebrations of open houses, baby showers and parties that took place on the front acreage of our property, where life and laughter…

IMG_6070

Could be heard and seen from Betty’s house and open windows a few steps away.IMG_6069

Through our intentional friendship though, Betty continued to be encouraged and lifted up, reminding her through scriptures that God promised to be a husband to the widow, a father to the orphan, a redeemer for another day.

Fifteen years later God redeems Betty’s vacant heart at a high school reunion with the re-introduction of an old friend. Betty’s eyes illuminated with joy and happiness unspeakable once again as a little girl, and the two were married in the fall of that year; eventually moving out of the neighborhood to begin their newly married life in another state.

Distance didn’t change our friendship as the miles were bridged with Betty’s cards sent in the mail and my telephone calls to her.

Betty and her new husband would come into town every so often to visit family or attend their favorite quartet concerts, for which they stopped into the old neighborhood for a visit with us.

Not making excuses, but life started happening in those one by one good-byes to parents, grandparents and loved ones and moving two more times for us, somehow losing touch with Betty.

Interestingly, Betty’s cards stopped coming although I didn’t question it, assuming life was happening for her.

Sadly and heartbreaking enough, it was.

I decided to look Betty up on social media after three and a half years from our last conversation, when an arrow plunged my heart in despair after realizing Betty’s account had been moved to legacy status.

Not wanting to assume the worse, I searched the internet for an obituary, yet never finding one in my quest.

Remembering in former conversations of Betty’s wishes to be buried by her husband of thirty-five years, David and I drove to the old country cemetery a short distance from where Betty and I used to be neighbors, only to find that indeed, Betty had passed away mere months after our last conversation.USE cemetery

With only one dirt road winding through this final resting place of a few hundred loved ones, it didn’t take us long to find the headstone of Betty’s last name she once shared with the love of her life.USE dirt roads

To my surprise, Betty left behind a love story of a different kind, choosing to be remembered beside both men who stole this woman’s heart in life.

Not knowing for sure, I imagine Betty’s thoughts…

God didn’t forget Betty and she wanted to thank Him by telling the world her beautiful story beyond her absence.USE headstone

I’m so sorry for the conversations we didn’t have those final months of Betty’s life.  I regret not bidding good-by to my intentional friend.

I didn’t attend Betty’s celebration of life and convey to her family how much their mother and grandmother meant to a next door neighbor; only because I didn’t know.

But may these words be the flowers I send to Betty on her life’s Graduation day to heaven, albeit three and a half years after she received her diploma.USE flowers

Thank you Betty for decades of friendship, for cards, for sharing cups of sugar as next door neighbors do.

I will never forget you.

Remembering…

One day we will once again share a front row pew with God who will tip His heart’s tea-pot and overflow our morning cups of conversation.USE church

WELCOME HOME…By Lori A Alicea

Seasons are changing.

Maybe it’s just me, but once those July 4th finale of fireworks burst thru the air and the remaining sparklers illuminate its own show from our children’s hands, do you slightly sense the season’s changing of the guard.

While the hot days of summer remain as house guests thru August, fall is sneaking up the back steps though most are unaware, preparing to welcome itself to the neighborhood.WELCOME BUNNY

Principals everywhere are ringing the school bell for students to begin filling their backpacks full of paper, pencils and crayons, while bells of another kind are ringing down the Christmas isles of my favorite craft store; all in the summer month of July.

Ready or not, the season’s here; the changing of the guard for weather, time and calendar events.

In life, we’re also facing seasons unique to our address.

The weaving of seasons from one into the other, with winter, spring, summer or fall choreographing the dance of personal seasons we’re about to enter, experience, or exit, then weave and dance into another season before us.

While we’d all like to predict a forecast of blue skies and sunny days, the weather might report an overcast of clouds or showers for a season.

Regardless of the season, we’re encouraged to take our seat, stay awhile, and welcome the purpose and meaning for the season we’re in.WELCOME BENCH

On first impression when entering our doors, is a wooden sign with hooks for coats, sweaters or even purses for guests to hang their belongings and receive a heartfelt welcome into our home.

The same is true for entering a new season where we are encouraged to cast and hang our cares on Jesus, a place to feel safe, a place to call home, where the couch is comfy and ambiance speaks welcome.WELCOME HOME SIGN

The front door is a traffic jam of little boys and little girls taking off their shoes and placing them beneath the welcome sign of hanging cares and coats, where side by side their crocs, flips, sandals and gym shoes for little feet remain until they leave; a reminder that seasons are meant to be shared with others.shoes Kizzy

For twelve anguishing months beginning two years ago, our family experienced an unexpected and overwhelming winter season of ten, tearful good-byes.

At morning’s dawn, the waters slept and rested peacefully near the shores of our family’s heart.

Then, without notice or alarm, a family reaches once again for life vests as the waters wake and rise in swells and attempts to drown our hearts upon receiving another call.

We gasped and couldn’t catch our breath for long periods of time during this winter season of so many good-byes.

But God was good to us, near to us, sensing His presence, never leaving our side for a moment.CHURCH

The summer season thankfully returned as promised and wafted in the air a fragrance of peace and joy and remained a bit longer than the calendar noted its departure, hovering over as a healing balm for our family.

Running along the shores of our hearts this refreshing summer season were little feet and laughter of our ten grandchildren, who somehow without us looking, outgrew the shoes of our memory.

We grandparents celebrate the many seasons we’ve shared with these ten beautiful heirs of our legacy.

Their growing continues into the seasons and choreographed dances of their individual lives.

When fishing began and there were only six of them.

So many years ago…

Our ten grand-babies today.

The seasons are changing guard once again, handing off the summer baton to the season of fall.

It’s time to pack up the sand toys and sandals these children will sadly outgrow and walk into a new season of their own before summer next year.

FISHING 7

Seasons are changing.

While we’d all like to predict a forecast of blue skies and sunny days, the weather might report an overcast of clouds or showers for a season.

Regardless of the season, we’re encouraged to take our seat, stay awhile, and welcome the purpose and meaning for the season we’re in.

WELCOME BENCH

FABtastic!!!  By Lori A Alicea

To be or not to be…
That is the question.
William Shakespeare

Yes, those are my fight’n words,
My rally cry,
My personal anthem,

My decision to wake up every morning and decide…

To be fabulous…
To be fantastic

You know, FABtastic…

Or, at least feel that way by putting in my time at the gym alongside my friend Sandra, who has her own personal anthem each morning when the alarm sounds off.

We’re all a “work in progress”, aren’t we?

I’d do myself a world of good if I’d break up with my boyfriend bread…

My abs could pass a military inspection with one bounce of a quarter;
Instead, I have to hit the dirt and give the Drill Sergeant fifty of everything.

But it’s all FABtastic…

I still feel fabulous…
I still feel fantastic

I’m not afraid to sweat.

Ab and leg machines, you don’t scare me.

To date, I haven’t set off the lunk alarm and this judgement free zone
embraces my FABtastic… self; head band and leg warmers alike.

24DDB3AE-EDA1-4B3E-86FC-D6A2C12D7363

Kidding aside,

Might we all look in the mirror and see a FABtastic reflection.

Might we see the FABtastic people right in front of us.

The fabulous, the fantastic, those
beautiful people planted everywhere in the garden of our lives;

Thoughtfully remembering…

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
Margaret Wolfe Hungerford

Inside and out…

My arms are full from the bouquet of wild flowers I’ve gathered during the membership years at my favorite gym.

You don’t have to walk too many miles on the treadmill to recognize familiar faces over time.

You begin to notice their good days, their bad days, before you’ve even shared a single word with them.

Crossing paths in the locker room, you sometimes find yourself in small talk with those who occasionally let their guard down and allow my workout friend and me to pray over their circumstance.

One woman having surgery, cried right there in the open gym, who longed for her mother during those recovery weeks which followed; who sadly passed away a few years prior.

My friend and I along with another woman exercising joined in our circle of comfort and prayer.

I silently pray for the couple we befriended a few months back, whose husband appears to be battling something with the recent loss of his hair.

I rejoiced in the beautiful person I ran into the other day, but hadn’t seen in months after the amputation of his foot, who acknowledged me with a wave and a smile going from one machine to the next, still continuing to exercise albeit a new normal.

I once was in awe of the beautiful mother who led around and taught her adult son; one visually impaired the mechanics of the machines.

I’ve enjoyed watching young fathers and their Little League sons build strength for the summer game as well as their relationship.

An adult son touched our heart recently as we watch him day after day share an exercise regimen and quality time alongside his older father, whose dad could have been a former politician, waving and making conversation with anyone who engages him.

The son just smiles and follows his father throughout the gym, then meets him at home for a cup of coffee.

These two became a member of our FABtastic circle of friends.

God created every one of us…

To be fabulous…
To be fantastic

And yes, FABtastic…

We need to know ourselves as FABtastic, to see ourselves beautiful in the eyes of God who fashioned us in His reflection and image.

I might have a little bit of work to do with my FABtastic inner self, as my twelve year old grandson thinks I’m allergic to fun, since I’m reluctant to swim or go down the water-slide in a bathing suit.

My grandson is probably right.

Actually though, in an attempt to encourage my FABtastic self, I did purchase two different bathing suits for my debut to the water-park, but sighed in relief when a calendar conflict put those suits on hold for next year.

Sorry Bubs.

Might we see the FABtastic in ourselves and in people before us.

The fabulous, the fantastic, those
beautiful people planted everywhere in the garden of our lives;

Always remembering…

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
Margaret Wolfe Hungerford

Inside and out…

FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES…By Lori A Alicea

Do you have a picture of grandma?”

Preoccupied while frying bacon and measuring flour for a batch of homemade breakfast biscuits for three of my grandchildren who spent the night previous, my curious granddaughter asks the question again,

Gaga, do you have a picture of grandma?”party 2

A quick glance at the clock whose hands stretched out to wake and announce the sleepy hour of 5:30 in the morning, quite early for a little girl to be thinking about grandma still tightly wrapped in her blankie.

But, from the innocent mouths of babes, a child was asking.clock

Looking up at Aubrey with my full attention now, though still kneading biscuit dough from memory, this Gaga handled a granddaughter’s heart with delicate hands,

Are you missing grandma?”

Secretly, I had also been missing my mother terribly these early weeks of summer; longing to share a glass of lemonade and the day’s nothings under the shade tree of our back yard together.

Now, here is a five year old, whose birthday was recently shared and celebrated with her sister Ayva turning seven, who also is missing her grandma.

Not having too many pictures framed and displayed in the house, I did remember a 5 x 7 keepsake hidden between the pages of my Bible for this sweet child to reminisce over; a moment taken at our 25th Wedding Anniversary three years ago.

I wanted my mother close whenever the waves of emotions for her rushed and reached the shore of my heart, usually during the quiet hours of my morning devotions with God.bible MOMS PICTURE

In just a few short months this September, an ocean of memories will flood the vacancy our mother left behind when she waved good-by for heaven only two years ago.mom's headstone

With Aubrey recently blowing out the candles of her fifth birthday cake,

Only highlights the impact her grandmother had made during the three short years these two shared together.halloween 1

My mother’s hand-print remains on Aubrey’s life and an entire legacy of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well.

(Aubrey with her grandmother on the left and attending grandma’s funeral on the right; just three short years and yet a little girl still asks for a picture.)

Aubrey isn’t alone in her longing for pictures of grandma, as six months ago at Christmas, her cousin Gracie was yearning the same.

In the spirit of Christmas and found beneath the tree, an album filled and full of grandma’s pictures for Gracie, a gift to comfort a little girl who also missed her grandmother.

My mother would have been eighty-two years young this July 21st, yet our family is forever thankful for the final picture we gathered together outside her window for…

An 80th Princess Gala Event in mother’s honor…

A perfect afternoon for the remaining birthday we’d ever celebrate with our mother, grandmother and great-grandmother this side of heaven.
moms 80th birthday

Recently, Aubrey was watering the flowers of my tiny garden, not realizing many of the decorations of angels, wind chimes, birds and flower pots were once placed outside her grandmother’s window of her own garden;

A summer’s delight to lift a mother’s spirit during those lonely afternoons when family wasn’t visiting.

Mother’s love for the Lord is a families great inheritance she passed on down thru her legacy.

Recently, during a day I ached for my mother, God unearthed a treasure written in my mother’s handwriting, a gift of encouragement I have no idea how it was buried and hidden on my computer after all these years.MOMS WRITING

Your family loves and misses you mother.

Two years is but a blink of the eye for us, yet once you stepped into eternity with God, there was no looking back for you.

In your absence, I’ve had to take your place at the card table.

You’d be disappointed in the whiners and poor sports you used to play with, but actually be proud of the daughter who holds her own and plays in your honor for a game of Phase 10.

From the innocent mouths of babes, her heart was asking.

Gaga, do you have a picture of grandma?”party 2

Aubrey held her grandmother’s hand for only three short years, a matriarch who left her hand-print on the heart of a grandchild for a lifetime.halloween mom and aubrey 2019

Aubrey Ann, your picture of grandma remains between the family bible pages where she loved her Lord from, the great inheritance your grandmother passed on down to you and her legacy of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

bible MOMS PICTURE

 

CLOSER THAN A BROTHER  By Lori A Alicea

It is written…

there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 NIV

Those friends who are brothers from different mothers, yet love the other’s family as their own.

They eat from each other’s refrigerators; they sleep on the other’s floor.

They argue as brothers yet remain and love as true friends,

as friends stick closer than a brother.

college buds

Friendships elevate one another with their belief in the other’s success;

Going low that they be lifted high.sand dune buds 2006 Jake and Rob on sand dunes jake jumping

Friendships rev the throttle of encouragement to push their brother further and faster down the pathway of life.

They are a ride for help when friends find themselves stranded along a dark and lonely road.

Friends are runners in each other’s races.

They train together for those triathlons which test the limits of a brother’s endurance of spirit when he’s forced to…

Swim against the tide of struggles…

Bicycle though the wind of adversity blows in your face…

And run a full marathon while you are weak.

Friends keep pace beside their brother’s race especially when the runner’s wall is before them,

as friends stick closer than a brother.

Friendships are those speeches of love and truth at your wedding, those crumbs in the forest to help you find your way when your compass has failed.

A brotherhood of words to remind you…

I’ve got your back…

I’m here for you…

You’ve got a friend in me.wedding - best man speech

True friends talk and think like the other; albeit to a grandmother’s anxiety.

Friends stroll thru and share the sights of fatherhood together; they are those fun uncles to their brother’s children.vacation dads together 2019 england hattabaughs in town hollis eli holding hands

Friends see the good, the beautiful, the noteworthy attributes of his brother, overlooking the imperfect weeds of his brother’s garden.

A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence,
And admires the flowers in your garden.
Author Unknown

The sun sets in the eyes of friends who share the other’s dreams, successes, failures and hope thru the lens of their God who loved them first as friend.vacation together

Friends stand at attention to the priorities and values of true success, holding the line to fight and protect their richest blessings …

God…
Family…
Country…
Flag…

Friends go to the ends of the world for the other, following them and risking it all up those treacherous mountains where it’s most difficult to breathe if need be.

Because friends don’t allow friends to climb thru life alone,

as friends stick closer than a brother.

A friend loves at all times.

A friend is always loyal,
A brother is born to help in time of need.
Proverbs 17:17 NLTmt ranier 1

A brotherhood of words to remind you…

I’ve got your back…
I’m here for you…

You’ve got a friend in me.

MEMORIES OF SUMMER  By Lori A Alicea

Graduations from pre-school thru high school all set off confetti cannons to celebrate the end of another academic year.

Antsy students fidgeting at their desks on the last day of school will burst through the classroom doors as a mass exodus of summer excitement with the final ring of the bell.

From the beginning of June through the middle of August, parents have penciled in their children’s summer break on the pages of their calendars, signing them up and planning in advance for what will become in years down the road, their memories of summer.

Summer fun for me as a child rewinds a simpler life of baseball, camping, strawberry jelly and the county fair; a scrapbook of delightful memories the little girl in me loves to revisit each June.

Watching our grandchildren take their turn at the baseball plate,

Reminds me of those summers back fifty plus years ago with the smell of concession stand hot dogs and popcorn, boys trading baseball cards with a wad of bubble gum in their mouths and my brother riding his bicycle to the Little League field for baseball practice and games.

baseball marks baseball

(my brother sits in front of the baseball bats)

Spring training for Little League announces a brand new season of baseball memories, while a little girl still reminiscences when her brother, a star pitcher back then, leads his team to a first place win two years in a row.

Summer memories are also made roughing it in the squelching heat of a tent or camper, sharing the experience with mosquitoes and raccoons in the back woods or back yard of a camping trip.

In exchange for hotel air conditioning and fine dining, the smell of sizzling bacon and scrambled eggs waft among the trees at breakfast.camping cooking

Camping trips fill up a childhood album of time spent fishing with dad, swimming with siblings, and making s’mores around a crackling campfire before bed.

Making the highlight reel from my memories of summer take me back to an old fashioned tradition of strawberry picking and watching mother at her Magic Chef stove, preserving summer in a jar for those winter biscuits only months away.

Now, mother watches me from her kitchen stove in heaven, still wearing her apron, still sharing a summer memory as her recipe and an old fashioned tradition is being passed to the next generation.

Summer wouldn’t be complete without those memories of elephant ears, cotton candy, butter drenched ears of corn, cooling down with a bowl of Dippin’ Dots, being squished on the Scrambler while enjoying it all as a fun filled evening at the county fair with your dad.

fair jake little girls The county fair reminds you to thank your Aunt for the years she filled up the pages of childhood memories for two generations of nieces and nephews at the fair, giving no thought of the money she spent on tickets, food and game prizes, all because she wanted to make a summer memory with you.

Lastly, after growing up, the sweetest memories of summer is the intentional pursuit of the little things

Quality time spent with lifelong friends over coffee and breakfast.

Remembering to celebrate the generations and gifts of family around the dinner table.

Letting kids be kids at the beach, kids racing and acting crazy down the Slip ‘n Slide of your own backyard, or kids even spending a spontaneous moment in Papa’s sprinkler while only wearing their underwear.

swimming kids little

Or, for those quiet moments spent alone with God in prayer during those early morning walks around the neighborhood track.

From the beginning of June thru the middle of August, the memories of summer are filling up scrapbooks of our children and grandchildren’s childhood.

I don’t know why I’m drawn to these albums during Little League season, when strawberries are ready, or when the county fair has made its way back into town.

Maybe becoming a grandmother, I remember the good ol’ days through the lives of my grandchildren.

Maybe I miss mom more when I see a batch of homemade jelly line the shelves of my kitchen pantry.

Maybe summer reminds me that the little things really are the big things, and to be more intentional about my pursuit of them.

Maybe I’m so thankful to God for my memories of summer, my scrapbook of delightful memories the little girl in me loves to revisit each June.

 

THE GOD WHO SEES  By Lori A Alicea

As a first grader I remember it all too well.

Maybe a bit dramatic for a little girl that young, but my emotions were real and tucked away in the jewelry box of a child’s heart for years.

I’ve never looked at myself through the lens of vanity, but I noticed early on that girls with more friends than me were blonde, blue eyed with flawless skin.

I faced the mirror with red hair, green eyes and a face full of freckles; and as a student in the first grade, I also wept at the sight of a few missing teeth.
Lori little 3
Kids are cruel to each other, especially when your hair is red, or strawberry blonde as they called it back then, with green eyes and freckles to match.

As a young girl I sobbed an ocean many times before the Lord,

Why did you make me this way?”

But God is a God who sees.
(Genesis 16:13)

I didn’t understand at this early age how God made me fearfully and wonderfully, formed and created in the perfect image of God; who kept a nine month vigil while being knitted in my mother’s womb.
(Psalm 139)

Yet, God is a God who sees; whose fatherly love dried the eyes of His daughter one unlikely day around the dinner table.

With six siblings seated in their same exact seat throughout our growing up, eating and talking as we always did at the table, our brother said something out of the ordinary and to be honest, I don’t believe any of my siblings heard the conversation but me.

With five sisters seated next to each other, my brother proposed the question, “Guess who I think will be the prettiest girl when she’s all grown up?”

Lowering my head as the emotions tucked inside the jewelry box I saved were sadly stirred, believing my brother was talking about our oldest sister instead of me; yet to my astonishment, I heard my name from across the table.

I truly believe God muted this childhood scene among my other sisters, as they were created as equally fearfully and wonderfully.

But God longed to use my older brother to affirm a little girl like me, whose first grade smile now lit up her face.

Words are vessels for life or for death.

That evening at dinner, my brother’s words spoke life and volumes I’ve never forgotten; they remain hidden in my keepsake jewelry box to remind this daughter of her Father’s opinion when at times, I think otherwise.

Since that day of affirmation, I’ve grown into a woman fully aware of the love God has for me.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3

So, what about that red hair, green eyes and face full of freckles?
ALICEA David Lori
I asked the question years later in my life; and oh, how amazingly God answered.

Our good Father whispered and pointed to the mirror of my reflection:

Oh daughter, your red hair is a gift from me; only 2% of little girls are strawberry blonde; red hair with green eyes are even more uncommon.

And those freckles…God leans in close to tell me a secret…

Your mother told you those freckles were kisses
From the S U N.

Well actually, your freckles are sweet kisses
From my S O N.

I celebrate the God who sees.

All grown up when I could have changed my hair to any color in the rainbow, I kept the gift God gave me…
David and Lori together 3
Yes, God is so good to me.

God is so good to you.

I want my daughters and granddaughters, girls and women alike to rejoice in the God who made them fearfully and wonderfully…

Missing teeth and all…
Rosalee praising Jesus

He is a God who sees…

THE GOD WHO SEES
By Lori A Alicea

You knit me in my mother’s womb,
And wonderfully I’m made.
Created me so fearfully,
The days you watched, you stayed.

Not hidden in this secret place,
Your works, I praise for these.
Your eyes they saw my unformed self,
You are the God who sees.

How precious are your thoughts of me,
More than the grains of sand.
My days are written in your book,
One mind can’t understand.

You see me when I sleep at night,
You see when I’m awake.
You are the God who sees it all,
You see each breath I take.

Yes, I am yours and you are mine,
My heart, you have the keys.
You’ve drawn me Oh Beloved One,
You are the God who sees.

Psalms 139
Genesis 16:13
Solomon 6:3

IN SHOWING UP  By Lori A Alicea

We’re all showing up somewhere each day for the fulfillment of our dreams, our passions, our gifting, our destinies, our hopes, our callings…to bring God glory for His Kingdom success…

Showing up…To hit a home-run with our dreams…USE Ethan bat 2022

Showing up…To aim into the hoops of our passions…USE Free throw line

Showing up…To master the moves of our gifting…england juzitu 4

Showing up…To soar into our destinies…USE Hollis Skateboarding arms in air

Showing up…To scale the pyramids of our hopes…IMG_4428IMG_4424

Showing up…To take up our towel and serve…Brookes Cookies 004

Showing up…To conquer what stands in the way of our calling…USE THIS Brystol on mat

Showing up…to ride the waves towards a Kingdom success…Rosalee Kizzie on surfboard

Showing up requires and demands of us years of faithfulness to steward the gift God has given to bring Him glory.

Showing up faithfully when the spotlight on your years of dedication takes place when no one is sitting in the stands to applaud your efforts.

Showing up faithfully even when the confidence of others looks the other way from the inexperience they see in you.

Showing up faithfully and facing fearlessly into the waves of a dream bigger than first imagined.

Showing up faithfully as a child in their lack of training, but willing to grow and glean the excellence from their Master.

Showing up faithfully when you wonder if this is your dream after all, but showing up anyways, confident in the steps God directs; trusting that one dream might give birth to another.

Showing up faithfully year after year, fainting not in the wins, the losses, the strikeouts and home-runs of your spirit.

Showing up faithfully in the risk and dangers of those falls and failures; turning a deaf ear to the voice of quitting.

Showing up faithfully and celebrating the small wins and successes of a bigger dream.

Showing up remembering it’s never been about our gifts after all, but about the giver who bestows to us our gift.

Because there will be those days and seasons of drought when you inspect and question the fruits of your labors, the yields of your harvest, the strength of your spirit to continue sowing into the dry fields of these dreams.USE Hollis skateboarding spill

But we are reminded to call on Him and be encouraged in these thirsty seasons…

And let us not grow weary while doing good,
For in due season we shall reap
If we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

USE Brodie prayer

As we show ourselves faithful, God will kiss back and show off even more faithful.

To the faithful, you show yourself faithful…
Psalm 18:25 (NIV)

Just this past Sunday, our Pastor had a prophetic word of encouragement for those faithful laborers who show up…

SUCCESS IN THE KINGDOM
By Pastor Ron Johnson

Success in the Kingdom is about our faithfulness, it’s about showing up, it’s about making good choices, God honoring choices and repeating that over and over again…

You just keep showing up, keep being faithful, and keep improving every year.
Then you’ll step into a season of exceptional favor from the Lord.

Yes, God really rewards and hands out medals to those found faithful…

If we faint not;
If we do not lose heart.

Until our race is over…

We must remember…

Continue to show up at the plate…
Show up at the free throw line.
Show up the mat…
The park…
The gym…
The stove…

Show up…to ride the waves towards a Kingdom success…IMG_4385

Wherever God has called you to show up at, show up and jump as a fearless child into your calling.IMG_E4347

Though much is required and demanded of us during these faithful years of showing up.

We joyfully steward the gift God has given us to bring Him much deserved glory.

 

BEHIND YOUR BACK!  By Lori A Alicea

Today was an ordinary day, no different than most yesterdays of my life.

While walking thru the parking lot of my favorite store, I always pray these same words as I do before entering any other shopping center;

Lord, if there’s a person I need to see in this store, let our paths cross.”

Most days while shopping, it’s just me, myself and I in the store.

Yet occasionally, God orchestrates those chance meetings and encounters down the aisles as we shop, a God who loves an available heart, and willingness to be used…

Ministering to…

An old friend I hadn’t seen in years, sharing her intimate details of a journey with cancer.

Lending an arm of comfort…

To a woman I recognized from high school, who sadly shared her husband had recently passed away.

Bringing joy to myself…

While hearing my granddaughters laughing one isle over, as my daughter shops for Christmas.

The people are there, pushing grocery carts of burdens or cares of this life down the aisles of Walmart or Hobby Lobby, all needing a touch from God’s heart if we are willing to notice them.

Sometimes though, we are meant to see others for our good…

That’s why I remember in all things to pray before taking one step into the store or especially when caught in a time crunch to get in and get out…

Lord, if there’s a person I need to see in this store, let our paths cross.”

She didn’t see me as I passed her browsing the seasonal isle that morning.

I could have continued to shop, unsure if this woman remembered me from thirty-nine years ago, recalling I’ve embarrassed myself (and my husband) in many instances when others couldn’t recollect.

But I remembered Marilyn and the memories we shared, both brand new mothers in the hospital after giving birth to our newborn sons.

Over the years, our lives had intersected thru church, in the fabric and canning departments, as she loved God and life the old fashioned way thru sewing and preparing food from scratch as I did.

We made a connection thirty-nine years ago; so I made a U-Turn in the seasonal aisle of Hobby Lobby to greet a familiar face.

Taking a chance, I said hello to Marilyn as dear friends do, whose bright smile remembered and took us back to those hospital rooms where we embraced motherhood for the very first time.

After almost four decades ago and both of us now in our sixties, we questioned in Hobby Lobby the years gone by since our sons entered our world.

Where did the time go?

Her John and my Jake; now grown men with families of their own.

Going backwards as two first time mothers, both now grandmothers, capturing and sharing snapshots of each other’s lives these last thirty-nine years; the secret passage of time while unaware; behind your back.IMG_4791

You don’t notice quite frankly, at least I didn’t; how time passes by so quickly when half asleep with young children and their midnight feedings, diapers, teething and caring for the demands of the others in the house.1 USE

Even when the children are growing out of their pull-ups and coming into their personalities, giving us hints of who God made them to be, time is sneaking out behind our backs and into the history books of our family.3 USE

Welcoming new days and bright beginnings, we seldom look behind our backs at the distance those paths have taken us from the maiden steps where our journey began.4 USE

You kiss each day with thankfulness for what God has entrusted into your care.5 USE

You lead those into their destinies with God as your tour guide.6 USE

When you inventory what God has given and sense the rustling of the family nest…

You look behind your back and wonder…

Where has all the time gone?”IMG_3702

You pray the family ties of love are strong and tight enough to weather the fiercest storms when they come…and they will.IMG_3700

Yet are confident as you determine…

Family is a circle of strength…
Founded on faith…IMG_3706

Joined in love…

Kept forever by God…
Together forever.

IMG_3708

Yes, time is a ship whose itinerary stops for no one and quickly passes in the night.

Grandchildren are sprouting taller than a field of corn at harvest.  Hardworking family members retire and enjoy the fruits of their labors while some are too busy to notice.

Chairs around the table which seat your favorite faces today, will find themselves empty before you had a chance to really enjoy who they were in your life.

Funerals of good-byes have been overwhelming this past year.  Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day many bring.
Proverbs 27:1 NIV

Today is all we have to celebrate; to enjoy; embracing and taking nothing for granted.

Doing so as a family…

Joined in love…
Kept forever by God…

Together forever.IMG_3708