THE REST OF THE STORY By Lori A Alicea

God has written your story.

Wall to wall in Heaven’s library are love letters Our Almighty Father has authored, gushed over in intimate thought and detail in a personally bound book for each of us titled,
“My Story for You”.

From the beginning of time, God knew you.
Not of you.
God knew you by name.

With great excitement;
Before you were formed in the womb,
Before you were ever born,
He ordered your steps;
He planned for your life.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
Before you were born I set you apart…”
Jeremiah 1:5       

In His own handwriting, God has captured the mysteries, the surprises, the ups, the downs, the great beginnings and sad chapters of your life, redeeming every tear that pours from your eyes into the great hope He will be glorified in the pages and Kingdom history making bestseller of,
“My Story for You”.

As with us all though, we’re in a hurry.
Living life in the drive-through lane.
Microwaving moments.
Speeding through memories.

Missing the sweet breadcrumbs in the seconds God has dropped for us along the back roads of the scenic route.

With clocks always ticking, we leave reading for the bookworm, the nerd wearing the pocket protector and one who doesn’t go anywhere without his library card.

Back in the day you learned to “speed-read” the meat of a book forgoing the surprises and delights of the sides, the buttered bread, and delectable dessert.

Having the ability to carry a library in our back pocket with the technologies of today, volumes can be consumed in an afternoon. Preferring to let our fingers swipe and fast forward through an electronic book, we sadly miss the writer’s heartbeat, his love and sweat poured onto the pages, thoughts of us written in the words and in the sentences.

God has written our story.
2019 cumbee aubrey reading books

Page after page and chapter after chapter, written between the lines of our birthdays, graduations, weddings, jobs and relationships, we can trust the author in the question marks, the cliffhangers, the unanswered questions, the whys and why-nots.

Because remember,
He’s ordered our steps,
He’s planned out our life,
He knows us from cover to The End.

God has written our story.
2012 cova little reading bookSometimes though if we find ourselves stuck in a failing marriage, the stress of a job, the mountain of bills, the financial drought, the pain of a wayward child, the dead-end relationships, we might give up and give in or escape to something better, losing faith in the author altogether because we couldn’t handle life in this Chapter of Despair.

When the book of our life reads nothing but difficulty,
God begs us to keep turning the pages.
God urges us to find strength in the sentences.

God reminds us to remember his faithfulness in the former chapters for hope in our future chapters yet to come.

God reminds us our best days and his most amazing plans remain ahead of us
If we keep reading,
The Rest of the Story.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God
has prepared for those who love Him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

2019 england rosalee reading a book

As a parent myself, I can’t imagine God’s heartbreak when the one whose love story he authored stops reading the pages he wrote especially for them.

As a parent, I can’t even touch the grief of our Heavenly Father who weeps for the one who becomes lost and astray in their pain, paralyzed to turn the page and find relief in God’s love in
The Rest of the Story.

The pain is still fresh.
The “Whys” will overwhelm.
The questions will remain unanswered.

If only she had kept reading,
She would have found her hope in
The Rest of the Story.

God weeps behind the closed doors of heaven for the one who needed someone to turn the pages of hopelessness for them, to read to them when they were unable to read for themselves the blurred lines of
The Rest of the Story.

There is a great hope in
The Rest of the Story.

We don’t have to give up.
We don’t have to give in.
There is no need to escape.

The hope of our tomorrow is trusting in the author of our today,
No matter how painful today is.

Sadly, just a few years ago,
Our great niece Ashley stopped reading her story.
Ashley gave up hope for tomorrow because of her deep pain of today.

There was a great hope for our niece in
The Rest of her Story.

Yet sadly and tragically, our twelve year-old Ashley ended her life, unable to escape the pages and chapters of her despair.
ashleighs picture 1If only Ashley kept turning the pages.
If only Ashley could have trusted her pain into the hands of the one who authored her life.

If only Ashley could have believed in the pages written for her tomorrows.  That her tomorrows had joy waiting for her.

…weeping may endure for a night,
but joy cometh in the morning.
Psalm 30:5 KJV

The wedding dress she was meant to wear will remain on the rack.
The children she was meant to carry will never cry or call her mama.
Ashley’s grandchildren will never find sweet dreams, asleep in her arms.

All the years in between of Ashley’s life will remain a mystery,

Because her book was closed way too soon.
The Rest of Her Story will never be known, will never be read.

The last page of her story was never read by her,
But heartbreakingly and painstakingly though, was read by us,

The End.

HER CROWN OF SPLENDOR By Lori A Alicea

“Grandma! You dyed your hair!”

Words I had the audacity to say to my grandmother while pointing a ten year old’s finger at her in disbelief.

Correcting a lack of manners, mother yanked my shirt and me aside to say that grandmother stopped dying her hair dark to allow the grey to come in.

A bit of a shock and some getting used to for a ten year old;
Realizing my grandmother wasn’t the brunette I thought she was.
1999 Grandma Bertie and Grandpa DanIt’s funny how times haven’t changed.

Just last week after arriving for Friday Night Cousin Camp and still seated in the car, my three grandchildren staring through the window and figuring out my new look gasped to their mother with pointed fingers,
“Gaga dyed her hair!”

Being a red-head, I get a lot of “deer in the headlight” stares that first week after visiting the salon. Some keeping their opinions to themselves although their “wide eyed look” at my “head on fire” speaks loud and clear.

But then are my grandchildren who have no filter;
whose words spill out like a dumped glass of milk.
“Gaga! Why is your hair orange?”

Red-heads are tough though and can take it.
The rolled eyes of my grandkids observing
my “crazy hair” as they say it always makes me laugh.
I remind everyone else the red will fade and calm down in a week; and it always does.

Besides, my husband loves the “fire”.
That’s all that matters. Right my love!
IMG_1763Hey, they say that only two percent of the population has red hair, so I guess that makes me unique and special; even if my “gingerness” comes from a box, although in my younger days I did have red tresses and freckles.

Interestingly, I visited my mother the other day and to my surprise, changed her grey hair color to a smokin’ red just like mine.

No wonder I scare people with this bold and dramatic Crayola choice. “A deer in the headlight” froze for a second before greeting this woman I almost didn’t recognize.
“Mother! You dyed your hair!”

Oh, the generations.

In thinking about my grandmother all those years ago, confident in her older season of life, revealing her true self and full head of grey hair, proudly wearing what God has called and lovingly deemed,
her Crown of Splendor.

Grey hair is a crown of splendor, it is attained in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31 NIV

 With the vanity of our mirror today, I doubt that most women consider their old grey hair as a Crown of Splendor, but God looks upon his seasoned and vintage ladies as royalty wearing their

Crown of:

magnificence, grandeur, impressiveness, opulence, luxuriousness, richness, fineness, lavishness, glory, gloriousness, gorgeousness, splendidness, beauty, elegance, majesty, stateliness, nobility, pageantry…

(synonyms for splendor)
IMG_2283
 Almost sixty years of age, edging ever so close and about to dip my foot into the waters of these golden years, I need to rehearse the script and commit to memory and heart the words a Heavenly Father has written about me in this chapter of my life.

Yet gazing into the mirror’s reflection each morning, it’s easy to reconcile the fact that under all this red is a full head of grey hair, believing the lie that the woman I once was left town years ago; that all my successes are a thing of the past.

But God says, “Not so daughter.”

For in your presence they will still overflow and be anointed. Even in their old age they will stay fresh, bearing luscious fruit and abiding faithfully.  Psalm 92:14 TPT

 I love that God reminds me while wading and testing the waters of my golden years:

There are still dreams to be dreamt.
There are lives still meant to be touched.
There are words still waiting their turn to be written.
There are days still meant to be lived.
There is still love yet to be shared.
There are finish lines still meant to be crossed.

 There are thoughts God still wants
to share so personally and intimately with me.

I love that God reminds me
these grey hairs are not about color,
but an accounting for my:

Strength found in the valleys.
Believing God in the silent years of waiting.
Experiencing God’s provision though the cupboards were bare.

Feeling God’s presence in my aloneness,
when the company I kept was just me, myself and I.

Wisdom gained from life experience.
Experiencing redemption from my stolen years.

Yes ladies, God has reserved for every vintage woman her
Royal Crown of Splendor.

May she hold dear to her heart the knowledge that when wearing this crown, she in God’s eyes embodies:

magnificence, grandeur, impressiveness, opulence, luxuriousness, richness, fineness, lavishness, glory, gloriousness, gorgeousness, splendidness, beauty, elegance, majesty, stateliness, nobility, pageantry…
IMG_2285
She’s all of this and more!

WHOM SHALL I SEND? By Lori A Alicea

“…I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  John 4:25 NIV

 Living in a small farming community, my husband and I have a front row seat to the fields across the street, and yes, the fields are ripe for harvest.
use this 7Staged in front of our house, this outdoor theater puts on a silent show all summer long for the town’s enjoyment.

OPENING DAY begins in the early spring of May when the farmers cultivate and prepare their acres to receive its season of seeds followed by the summer months of rain and sunshine to foster its growth.

The show ends during the FINAL CURTAIN fall days of September when these crops now fully grown, standing gloriously tall and at attention, wait their turn for harvesting.

While there are no speaking parts in this show, if a “picture paints a thousand words” during the spectacular script of waiting and watching these small seeds nurtured to towering heights, the script writer deserves our affection for his creative attention to detail.
IMG_2104“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Luke 10:2 NIV

 During this fall season of gathering, the Lord reminds us of the “acres of souls” waiting in the “fields of decision”, whose hearts are ripe and ready to say “yes” to Jesus, yet wait for those willing workers to meet them in the fields with a great hope and new life in Christ.

Souls that have been bruised, battered, rejected and discarded to the curb of despair.

Souls lost in search of someone to show them the way.

Souls who are ready to say “yes” to Jesus, a “fields of souls” ready for harvest, yet workers to reach them are few.

“…I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  John 4:25 NIV
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Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8 NIV

Oh, that our ears be sensitive to hear the voice of the Lord calling for workers,
“Whom shall I send?”

Oh, that our hearts be prepared and ready to drop everything on a moment’s notice.
“And who will go for us?”

Oh, that we ever be drawn and willing to head for the fields towards the desperate in need of hope and a new beginning.

May we be compelled with our answer,
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
USE THIS 4
The fields of hurting people are everywhere.

A co-worker in the cubicle next to yours.
A smiling person sitting beside you at church.
That troublemaker living next door in your neighborhood.
Someone waiting behind you in the check-out line of the grocery store.
A family member.
That spouse sleeping beside you at night.

The fields are ripe with hurting people everywhere whose heart is ready to receive a new hope in Christ.

But we must open our eyes and look at the fields to see them.

Our hearts must be ready to heed the voice of the Lord when he calls,
“Whom shall I send?”

We must be willing to be inconvenienced, leave our comfort zone, swallow our pride and insecurities, trust in our abilities, consider someone more important than ourselves with a life-changing reply to the call,
“Here am I Lord, send me.”

THE HELLO OF OUR GOOD-BYE By Lori A Alicea

So many good-byes so close together this summer.

The “changing of the guard” is simultaneously taking place in multiple homes of our family, causing hearts to short-circuit from the emotional overload of joy, happiness and yes, sadness.

As the season of summer is about to place the baton in the hand of its running partner called fall, closing up swimming pools and beaches in exchange for cozy sweaters and campfires, our family in its relay-race are in our lane and in position for the handoff of many good-byes.

Good-bye is our bookend to hello.

A shelf of memories stacked between each bookend, keeping each scrapbook firmly placed between so many years of good-byes and hellos.

While our good-byes can stir up a whirlwind of joy as does its partner of hello, it’s just embracing the vision of the hello when “letting go” in our good-bye causes so much emotion.

This summer our family has embraced so many good-byes so close together.

While the shades of good-bye vary as the colors in the rainbow, good-bye nevertheless requires an exchange of the baton in our heart.

Just yesterday, our niece and her family said their last tearful good-bye in exchange for a three year hello to the mission field located across the world. Selling their house, packing a fraction of their belongings and mustering up a few smiles in the kids to make a difference for Christ in the lives of many less fortunate.  Leaving behind grandparents who had to freeze frame five smiles to their memory, keeping that picture close to comfort them as a security blanket when their empty arms ached to hold them on a lonely day.

Yet the hello of good-by is a beautiful picture framed in God’s smile, when you sacrifice everything for a place and people about to be invaded with God’s love upon your arrival, taking on a role of servant, proudly wearing those aprons to serve them for the next three years.

While it seems that we as a family have been saying good-bye all summer long to our military children and grandchildren as they pack for the next duty station across the ocean and far away from here, the clock is finally ticking and their plane is scheduled to leave the runway in four short weeks. While our grandchildren have never lived in a neighborhood or state in arms reach of us, the drive or flight has always been feasible for grandparents desperate to hold and squeeze four adorable children that call us Gaga and Papa.

But now as our children and grandchildren bid their good-bye and close the door of life as they know it, they say hello to a three year adventure in the unknown. Yes, our son has his military orders that detail his commitment.  Yet the hello of surprises that God has planned for them excite us, as a good God always has good plans.  Plans that grandparents who have no earthly idea how they will be included, but trust that God hasn’t forgotten them either.

A grandparent’s heart wants to dig in their heels and stall the inevitable good-bye, but knows it would rob their children and grandchildren from those wonderful new beginnings secretly planned for them in God’s hello.

While the plane still in the air with our five missionaries the other day, another good-bye was taking place at the same time on the ground between two people in love. After a long courageous battle of cancer, papa looked at the “love of his life” for the very last time.  You never saw one without the other.  Always seen sitting on her man’s lap as high school sweethearts though in their golden years, the glow of their faces while looking into each other’s eyes alone could fill up the pages of a romance novel.

For the first day in their marriage lifetime, papa woke up to the sunrise of sadness, sensing the vacancy on her side of the bed, drinking that first cup of coffee with an empty seat in front of him, void of her beautiful bright smile that didn’t greet him good-morning.

Yet in the pain of their good-bye on this side of earth, papa’s wife said hello to the other love of her life, the one she gave her heart to and waited a lifetime to spend eternity with, her Lord and Savior.

Our nana still retains her bright smile she was known for, yet she brightens up our hearts now, while leaving the world a bit dimmer.

Good-bye is our bookend to hello.

One sad good-bye is a glorious hello to someone else.

We were never meant to hold on to anything;
the moments, life as we know it, each other.

Life is a daily letting go so that in our letting go
we can
“Let God”
have His way in us.

Good-bye might not be the hello we want to embrace.

But be willing to stay in your lane.

Get in position for the handoff of the good-by baton for God’s glorious Hello.

And continue to run the race set before you.

As good-bye is always our hello to the next step, the new beginning
of something wonderful God wants to do thru us.

CHOOSE JOY By Lori A Alicea

Can you hear it?
Close your eyes and see if you hear it now.

It’s a quiet morning on a crisp “end of the summer” day and outside the open windows of this country home of mine I hear it.

A soothing serenade, a chorus softly humming in the calm of the day, for anyone
still
enough to listen.
seat treesI captured a small stanza of the choir singing.
(CLICK on the arrow; it takes a few seconds to start)

With eyes closed, I envision the distinct sections of the symphony.

Birds of many kinds, they whistle and sing a melody echoing beautifully through the rustling of the trees.

A slight breeze stirs up the stream with its index finger into a whirlpool gentle enough for a child, lapping cupped-hands of water up against the smooth rocks of its bank.

Crickets and frogs join in if you listen close enough.

Together in unison, and hearts full of joy, they rejoice in song….

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the LORD…
Psalm 96 (NIV)
brook and weeds

I must imagine if our God who delights in the songs of all creation, how much more would he stand to his feet in applause to hear the hearts of his children singing in the fullness of their joy.

Be glad.
Resound.
Be jubilant.
Burst into song.
Sing for joy.
Rejoice before the Lord.
Choose Joy.

The conductor is cuing your heart.
He’s signaling your section.
He longs, he beckons your song.
Open your heart.
Open your mouth.
It’s time to sing.
Choose Joy.

Sing of His goodness.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:3 (NIV)

Sing in your weakness.

1 Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Psalm 81:1 (NIV)

No matter the season.
Whether…

Thru the new life and beginnings of spring.
Or childlike play of summer.
Thru the harvest and season’s change of fall.
Or the chill and bareness of winter.
Choose Joy.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
Psalm 98:4 (NIV)

Sing.
Rejoice in song.

Don’t be outdone by the rocks that cry out.
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:40
water fallSing your song before the Lord.

Choose Joy!

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.
IMG_0807
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.
IMG_1502

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.