A PEN, YOUR STORY WROTE By Lori A Alicea

… Sometimes we need to be reminded
about the love story God has written
about our life before our days were even one.

Before I ever breathed my first,
Before I knew my name.
You knit me in my mother’s womb,
You formed my tiny frame.

You marveled in my secret place,
A poem of words could quote.
The pages of your thoughts of me,
A pen, your story wrote.

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 The details of my life you penned,
Page one unto The End.
You wrote before my days were one,
So much to comprehend.

I marvel at this book you write,
Such dreams you have for me.
And touchable the moon and stars,
If I would reach for Thee.

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Your pen which captures every word,
Your heart, each page conceal.
A Father bid’s me to Himself,
With secrets to reveal.

The many chapters of this book,
You write that others see.
That through the windows of my days,
Your love reflects through me.

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Forgive me when I take your pen,
Your perfect words despite.
And choose to change the narrative,
And pages dare re-write.

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But yet the story does remain,
A Father’s love through me.
Who waits until I turn the page,
And take the hand of Thee.

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To live the life He wrote for me,
With dreams among the moon.
Which wait their turn to be revealed,
In chapters coming soon.

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A diary you kept for me,
Inspired words, devote.
This love you want to live through me,
A pen, your story wrote.

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15My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16Your eyes saw my unformed body;
the days ordained for me were written
your book before one of them came to be.

17How precious to me are your thoughts,
Oh, How vast is the sum of them!
Psalm 139:15-17 (NIV)

WHAT WE HAVE ON HAND  By Lori A Alicea

Back in the old days when I was a kid growing up, neighbors borrowing sugar from one another was quite the norm; as I was one of those neighbors.

Neighbors didn’t think twice about asking for milk, eggs, flour or anything else missing from the grocery list either, as cooking from scratch was as common as a Betty Crocker cookbook, a staple in most households back then; the old days as my grandchildren remind me.

With measuring utensils in tote for a “cup of this” and a “cup of that”, those persons living next door or across the street shared from what they had on hand with pleasure, always beckoning you inside if you had a moment to spare.

Around the kitchen table these simple ingredients from the cupboard would find themselves stirred into a bowl of conversation, sending next door neighbors back home with leftovers of friendship packed to the full line in Tupperware containers.

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While borrowing a “cup of sugar” from your next door neighbor is a memory from the old days, God is still doing ministry around the kitchen table, using what we have on hand to touch the hearts of those seated before us.

God longs to take the ordinary and perform the extraordinary with what we have on hand.

God called Moses to lead the children of Israel into the Land of Promise.

Doubting his inadequacies Moses questioned the Lord’s call as many do today, yet God proposes the same question to us as He did to Moses,

What is that in your hand?”…
Exodus 4:2 NIV

The staff in Moses’ hand was transformed into a snake then back into a staff as a sign to others that Moses indeed was called to lead the Israelite’s from their bondage’s.
(Exodus 4:3-5)

Jesus multiplied a little boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish to feed the multitude of five thousand.
(Matthew 14:13-21)

A woman’s jar of oil was multiplied into many containers and sold to settle her debt.
(2 Kings 4:1-7)

This same God wants to perform miracles with…

What is that in your hand?”…

Exodus 4:2 NIV

A simple cup of coffee might minister to a lonely person through
Available time you have on hand.

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A cup of sugar might be a spoken word in due season that is…

Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Proverbs 16:24 NIV

Soothing and comforting…

As a mother comforts her child…
Isaiah 66:13 NIV

mother son USEA measure of flour might serve those dying inside,

A meal of sustenance and great hope that Jesus,

He is “… the bread of life.”…
John 6:48 NIV

Day 15 Bread

What do you have on hand that God longs to multiply for the hurting?

What do you have on hand that can be shared with someone else in need?

Our pantries have plenty enough for those neighbors who unexpectedly knock on our heart for “a cup full”.

Forgetting not the lost, those desperate for Christ’s life-giving love, whose measure for them overflows at the cross.

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God wants to take the ordinary we have on hand and do the extraordinary.

God wants to use our weak inadequacies to demonstrate how strong He is.

When He simply asks the question…

What is that in your hand?”… Exodus 4:2 NIV

TRAVEL LIGHT  By Lori A Alicea

The final pages of December, 2020 are being written as we speak, concluding the chapter and volume of another year of my life, as well as yours.

In two short days, accounting will close out the books of these last twelve months we’ve lived, tallying the debits and credits, the giving and taking we have experienced from January thru December of 2020.

Regardless if your annual report shows you in the negative financially, emotionally, relationally or spiritually, you’ll always find a faithful word of encouragement from our Lord in the questions,

You can trust Me.”

Returning to the table of contents from this particular volume of my family library, I recall and remember, revisit and remind myself, rekindle and reminiscence the goodness of God in the pages of joy, the pages of laughter; still trusting His goodness in the chapters of trial and yes, the chapters of tears.

But you can trust Me”, says the Lord.

Regardless of the findings from the most recent three hundred and sixty-five days of your life, God entreats you to follow and trace a father’s heart with His sight, as eyes in the natural might miss those holy hand-prints left behind as evidence of Him

Never leaving us nor forsaking us

In the sentences of good and not-so good;

Whatever is true,
Whatever is noble,
Whatever is right,
Whatever is pure,
Whatever is lovely,
Whatever is admirable—
If anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
Think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 NIV

God has been a faithful God to David and I and our family this year.

God has celebrated with us at the summit of our magnificent mountaintop experiences.

That same God was found as a tender father comforting and resting with us in the valley.

From whatever posture we found ourselves reaching for God this past year, whether looking down from the glorious view of the mountain or eyes gazing up from the valley below, God has been a faithful God wherever our circumstances plotted our foot’s position.

In leaving this year of 2020, I inquired the Lord for anything learned of our journey these past twelve months; a word of wisdom for 2021.

God’s word and lesson was rooted from our address change four months ago:

Travel Light.

After three long years of praying and seeking God’s perfect will for our next address, dreams and expectations were caught off guard with God’s reveal, a 960 sq. ft. single wide manufactured home.

IMG_5896 IMG_5900We sought Him and found Him.
We trusted God with His eyes until we could see with our own.
Finally, David and I were home.

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Interestingly, this home checked off every box on our wish list:

A brand new place to accommodate David’s allergies; ability to pay off quickly as retirement is approaching; close to David’s work; close to the kids; and closer to church.

Prayer that God’s perfect will in a house for us would stay hidden in the hot housing market until we stumbled upon it.  That He did, as this address we now call home, was up for sale four longs months before we ever purchased it.

Moving in though, you realize quickly with only two small closets for storage, and neither being the walk-in version,

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That everything we own will remain in our two storage units, except the bare essentials.

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Travel light”, God says.

It’s amazing to realize the peace in living this truth,

Travel light

As

Less is so much more.

Less to maintain.
Less to store.
Less to look at.

Getting rid of all these boxes is a completely different story; another blog and episode to share.

Beyond boxes, I believe God wants us to

Travel light financially, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

Travel light financially.

Keep finances from the entanglements of debt.
Embrace generosity; be a giver.
Find the poor and feed them, clothe them, and love them as Jesus did.

Travel light emotionally.

Love yourself.
See yourself as God created you; fearfully and wonderfully.
Hand out mirrors for those who see their reflection “less than” wonderful.

Travel light relationally.

Forgive others quickly.
Fight for restoration.
Be a peacemaker.
Love to the moon and back.

Travel light spiritually.

You’re never lost; the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-and-nine to find the one who strayed.
There is room at the cross for you.
God’s heart weeps for the broken.
Look for the light in the window; the Father waits for your return.

Travel light in 2021.

Give your burdens to the Lord
And He will take care of you.
Psalm 55:22 NIV

Cast all your anxiety on Him
Because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Let God do all of the heavy lifting.

“Travel light”, thus saith the Lord.
As less is so much more.

GOD WITH US  By Lori A Alicea

Two thousand years ago a prophecy fulfills in a humble stable at Christmas:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,
And they will call him Immanuel.
(“God with us”)
Matthew 1:23 NIV

An angel proclaimed this birth announcement of good news and great joy to shepherds tending their flocks nearby:

“Today in the town of David
A Savior has been born to you;
He is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in
Cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:11-12 NIV

Just as the angel said, these shepherds found the Christ child sleeping on a bed of straw with his parents Mary and Joseph in wonder and awe beside.

The shepherd and all who heard of this miraculous birth were in amazement.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19 NIV

Mary gave birth to her son named Immanuel, “God with us.”

I’m wondering in the still and quiet moments of December do we find these gifts that Mary treasured. Do we ponder the joy from the simple song of a mother’s heart,
“God with us.”

A baby who was born
To die for us;
To save us;
To live in our hearts and yes;
Be with us.

In the busy throws of shopping, celebrating and preoccupation with the holidays, is the “great joy of our Savior’s birth” being treasured and pondered? Are we in amazement as the shepherds were and spreading this good news?

This Christ child born at Christmas is the same to us yesterday, today and forever, He is always with us. (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)

Looking back at the most unpredictable year of 2020, a year that caught the world off guard and stripped so much, I’m questioning in the nakedness of the year leading to December, were we reminded of the treasures hidden in our hearts? Were we comforted in the pondering, “God is with us.”

Queuing up the video of my own life these past twelve months, inquiries into the emptiness and loss question did I open and hold onto the gift of “God is with us?”

Did I embrace these gifts that God was enough when church doors closed and saints they gathered online?

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church at homeDid I allow you God to be enough during those painful weeks of lock down which didn’t allow us lonely grandparents to embrace our grandchildren?

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screen CumbeeDid we sense you “with us” and did we bloom when the reality of our next “address” caught our expectations off guard?
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Did we sense you enough when children’s smiles were hidden beneath these coverings?
mask school - Ayva first day of kindergartenmaskLord, I had a difficult time watching our beloved mother celebrate her 80th birthday from her bedroom window. Did I sense you “with us then?”
party window - momparty guests - moms familyLord, our family had more of a difficult time saying good-by from the cold window panes peering into our mother and grandmother’s room, unable to express our love when heaven’s angels came for her.

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goodby cova saying goodbygoodby grandkids saying goodby from windowOur final good-by remains a chapter unable to articulate, but yes God,
you were with us.
Yet, still a painful “letting go” for three generations beyond our mother’s life.

funeral a goodby ayva looking at grandma (2)funeral a goodby neese jake david looking at casketI sensed you enough God, though still wanting my mother to fill her empty chair this first Thanksgiving without her.

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I admit I’m asking for a cup of contentment during a smaller Christmas gathering this year; the first time in my life that extra tables won’t be set up to accommodate our family guests.
“God be with us.”

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I’m asking for an ocean full of contentment God to mask the loneliness without our Hawaiian grand-babies these last ten months.

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Lord, do we need a special pair of glasses to see that you are enough?
Do we need to bring into clarity your presence in spite of what our natural eyes can or cannot see?

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Forgive us God when we didn’t see you “enough” or “with us” in 2020.

Regardless of empty arms, empty hearts or empty anything, God you will always be enough.

All that’s needed in the still and quiet moments of December is for us to find those gifts that Mary treasured. To ponder and celebrate the simple song of a mother’s heart, “God with us.”

A baby who was born
To die for us;
To save us;
To live in our hearts and yes;
Be with us.
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Merry Christmas and Peace Be to Everyone!

A TEN YEAR BELATED SURPRISE AT CHRISTMAS  By Lori A Alicea

Surprises are hidden in boxes of every size.
Surprises are one’s heart on display for the affections of another.

Surprises might be planned or impromptu.
Surprises are wrapped and tied with a bow in the unexpected.

Surprises are a kiss from God to say “I’m thinking of you.”
Surprises take the breath away of one fully unaware.

Surprises might appear late though arriving on time decades later delivered as a soldier’s love letter to his bride during the war.

True surprises are marked in time, never to be forgotten.

Turning back the pages of my life, I can only recall a few complete surprises that waited for me on the other side of the door; surprises I truly had no idea were planned.

Not liking to be the center of attention, this is probably a good thing.

But God delights in giving to us through others.
It is in our receiving where God and those He partners with is honored back.

With eyes always noticing the details, it’s difficult to catch me off guard. Although, one winter morning thirty-one years ago and eight months pregnant, a dear friend did just that with an unexpected celebration waiting for me and my baby girl as I entered the workspace. I couldn’t have been more surprised.

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I love the reveal of the “not knowing”; our post-it-note from God to expect the unexpected.

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God loves us immensely through others. I have never forgotten this endearing surprise.

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Surprises are often late, years in the making for some.

This particular surprise came ten years after the fact, a surprise some would question its unusual timing.

It was Christmas the year of 2004 when we as a family gathered for the holidays.

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These pictures frozen in time from ten years ago warm my heart as our parents and grandparents were still with us. To have them seated at our Christmas table again would be the best gift ever.

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IMG_5468Nothing was out of place this particular Christmas except that our Texas family came and our son was home from college.

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We honored our Lord and Savior’s birth in song as we always did in years prior.

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One detail blatantly off though that Christmas was David wearing a suit in my mother’s apartment, a small place known to be unusually hot with a large family gathering together.  He never wore a suit before at our holiday events.

But celebrating our ten year anniversary two months prior that year of 2004 and still crazy in love with one another as we still are today, I really didn’t question it much.

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Yes, surprises are often late in their arrival, even ten years after your wedding day.

You see, ten years prior I received a telephone call from my Pastor while working, asking the question if I wanted to marry a handsome man named David seated in his office during our conversation.

I screamed on my end of the telephone, “Please tell David I said yes!!!”

Interestingly, being clouded by love, David failed to bend a knee and ask me himself; a gesture of honor every girl dreams about, even the second time down the isle.

Taken back by a Christmas surprise and ten years after the fact, David redeemed a holy moment and asked me on one knee to marry him in his own words.

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I never saw this coming.
If I did, I would have worn something better than those “bad mom jeans.”

That Christmas of 2004 was a year to remember.
My husband blessed me with a gift I have hidden and treasured in my heart since.

It’s never too late for a surprise.
You can never go wrong with the unexpected.

Life needs to be full of giving and receiving.
May our arms be full of surprises, planned and impromptu.

Might we take the breath of those unaware often.
May we remember to expect things from God in the unexpected.

May the kisses of God be expressed in our surprises,
whether timely or belated years after the fact.

Countdown To A Christmas Miracle By Lori A. Alicea

It’s the day after Thanksgiving in the year of 2000, and the holiday spirit couldn’t be any more exciting. The stores are bursting with shoppers and the smell of Christmas is in the air. Bell ringers are everywhere and Santa is taking orders from all the good little boys and girls. Holiday music is playing on the radio, and everyone seems to agree that Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Looking through the fantasy eyes of a child at Christmas is so amazing. They still believe the unbelievable. They hold out hope for the impossible. They just know that somehow when Christmas morning arrives, all their dreams will come true. Of course when they wake up to their presents under the tree, they scream because they know that Santa didn’t forget them.

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How priceless to have a childlike faith at Christmas. Why does growing up cause us to lose the faith of a child? If only we as big kids could still believe the unbelievable. If only our hearts could hold out hope for the impossible. God has never forgotten us. He showed up on that first Christmas morning with His Son lying in a manger. And with every magnificent sun rising in the morning, God displays his unending faithfulness to show up. But why do we still doubt the Faithful one?

This particular Christmas I was having the most marvelous holiday season. For the first time in fifteen years, I wasn’t working and now enjoying my new professional title, “stay at home” mom. If dreams really do come true, I was living the dream of a lifetime. My wonderful life felt richly full, like a well springing up, spilling over and over. I couldn’t contain my happiness.
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Though Christmas for me was tremendously ecstatic, I couldn’t ignore the sad faces of the others in the family. Minus my income this year, Christmas would arrive without us being able to afford presents for the children. What mother couldn’t feel sad about that? For just a moment I wallowed in guilt, wondering if I made a mistake about my job. But I decided that choosing my family was the best choice and that God would have to take over during this holiday season.

As a child I remember watching the Charlie Brown Christmas show. While all his friends thought that Christmas had to be great lights and fancy ornaments, Charlie knew the true meaning of this holiday. That a baby boy was born in a humble stable; that three wise men traveled far following a bright star leading to this child lying in a manger. How this little boy was born with nothing, but would soon grow up to give everything. This is what Christmas meant to Charlie. This is what Christmas should mean to us all.

I decided that baby Jesus in the manger would be all that mattered this Christmas. I would count my blessings and name them one by one. I would begin to celebrate the joy of my family. And I would allow God to give us back our childlike faith by believing in the impossible. Whatever happened this year, Christmas was going to be the best ever.
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Though nobody was in the mood, I prodded that Christmas should continue and we should do all that we could to make this season special. So, with holiday music playing, hot chocolate simmering, it was time to trim the Christmas tree. Though we didn’t have money for a fresh tree, we did have a small artificial one to place in the bay window. I brought out all the ornaments that the children made during their early years of school. I loved looking at these works of art when my children’s hands were small. We hung lights around the window and lights around the tree. We decorated this miniature spruce with love as if it was real and when we plugged in this magical display, it looked as magnificent as a store front in Chicago on Michigan Avenue.

The advent calendar says it is now four weeks until Christmas. It seems strange not to be participating in all the holiday stress of planning and shopping. I really didn’t know what to do with myself during this time. But I do know the birth of Jesus was constantly on my mind. As Christian radio stations played Christmas music around the clock, a celebration of true Christmas resonated in my heart.

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One morning, my husband David and I were having coffee, talking about Christmas. He said he was so sad that he didn’t have any gift to give me this year. But a smile beamed from my face as I shared that he gave me the best gift ever, he gave me back my home. I meant this if I ever meant anything. Of course then we talked about gifts for the children. What would we do for them? I remember the Lord entering our conversation at that moment as he said, “Ask of me”. At that moment David and I looked above our dinner table as a plaque hung there for our reminder, “With God, all things are possible”. We stared at each other, got excited and begun to have the most childlike conversation. If we could give anything to the children, what would it be? Dreaming big, I declared I wanted to give the gift of memories this year. For my girls, I would give the gift of hope in the form of a hope chest. For my son, I would give the gift of promise with a diamond ring. And if God had any money left, I wanted to sew a quilt for each of my kids.

I always wanted my daughters to have a cedar-lined hope chest with the upholstery seat to pack away special things for their future. I thought it would bond my girls and me as we shopped for dishes and silverware, planning for their marriage someday. This chest would represent hope for a husband, dreams for a woman and a heritage passed from a mother to her daughter.

Our son was turning seventeen two months after Christmas. I wanted him to wear a gift of promise for this pivotal birthday. For the past year, our son had been on dating review, proving to us that he would honor and respect the girl he wanted to date. I tried to explain that this girl was somebody’s daughter and more importantly, God’s daughter. If he didn’t honor her during dating, a mother and two fathers would be hurt. Not to mention that he could emotionally wound this girl for life. But come his seventeenth birthday, if actions established trust, our son was free to date with our blessing. So, for this Christmas, I wanted to present our son with a diamond ring, representing his promise to God to honor him during his dating years until marriage.

After that morning of “ask and receive” revelation, David and I waited with bated breath to see what God would do. Sitting with our hands folded as Christmas inched closer, tested a husband and wife’s faith tremendously, but God has never failed in the past. Why start believing otherwise now. The advent calendar says it is just three weeks until December 24th.

Going to the mailbox has always been exciting to me. You just never know what surprise might be waiting. That Christmas, so many holiday cards of thoughtfulness arrived. If presents didn’t decorate the bottom of the tree, we at least had glittered cards to ring in the Christmas cheer into our home.

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I remember one particular afternoon, unusual excitement built as I made that walk up the hill to the mailbox. What did the mailman bring to us today? As I pulled down the door from the bright red mailbox, I reached my hand to grab what was inside. As I began to walk back down the hill, I sifted through the mail. Bills and junk make its way to the pile as usual, but oh, something different, a card from the Ladies Ministry at my church. Those ladies are so sweet to think of me. I couldn’t wait to open the letter, so I just ripped it apart like a little kid. Inside I found inspiring words of peace and good will. But as I finished reading the card, my eyes soon watered while my shaky hands held the faithfulness of God, a check for $150.00.

What three powerful words to live by, “God never forgets”. When the road gets rough with no place to go, when the night is so dark you wonder if you’ll ever find your way, when life becomes a puzzle that you just can’t put back together, remember, God never forgets. That Christmas afternoon, God’s promises became alive in my heart. God showed he cared enough to be there for me even in the small things.

I held that seed offering in my hand and marveled at God’s provision. While $150 in the natural surely wouldn’t cover the cost of two hope chests and a diamond ring. But I thought if Jesus could feed the multitude of five thousand with one small lunch and still have twelve baskets left over, what do I need to worry about? Who had time to worry anyway, the Christmas clock was ticking and power shopping was calling my name.

With two weeks left until Christmas, I had to move quickly. First on the list was finding two Lane hope chests lined with cedar wood, topped with an upholstery seat. I looked everywhere. I scanned the newspapers, checked out antique and resale shops, looked at naked furniture and even searched through bargain basement stores. But finding a hope chest within my price range became a futile effort.

With the hope chest search halted for the moment, I decided to shop for my son’s diamond ring. Like before, I searched the newspapers, visited resale shops and all the local jewelry stores. But as with the hope chests, I couldn’t find a diamond ring affordable.

At this moment, I had to admit that despair began to overwhelm me. I remember praying to the Lord while coming home from my last effort of shopping, “What am I to do?” I know the Lord didn’t put all of this on my heart for nothing, but it is now one week until Christmas and I still didn’t have two hope chests and a diamond ring.

While stopped at the light, waiting to make a final turn to my house, I’m thinking about the diamond ring I wanted to find for my son. While starring at the oncoming traffic, I couldn’t believe my ears when God began to speak as clear and audible as if he was sitting next to me in the flesh. God answers the question in my mind, “Where is this ring?” He said to me in His kind and gentle voice, “Don’t you remember? You always wanted to give the wedding band from the hand of your son’s father (my first husband), to him whenever he started dating”. With these words, tears overtook my eyes, because the voice of God just spoke. He shows up just like He always said he would. God never forgets.

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Since I had packed away this wedding ring many years ago, I had forgotten what it looked like. Finding the box was even more of a challenge, as I had moved three times since, but once the treasure hunt was over, I was excited to see this hidden surprise. When I slowly opened the box, sparkling on its velvet lining was a beautiful ring encircled in small diamonds. Who could have ever imagined such a priceless gift? Only God could have ever imagined. Immediately I took this ring to the jewelers to have it sized and cleaned and then wrapped for Christmas Eve. One gift down and two remained. The advent calendar says it is now four days until December 24.

By this time the tension is mounting, but my kitchen plaque still reminded me that “With God, all things are possible”. Miracles are always a moment away, even four days before Christmas. I was sitting back at the table where my husband and I made our original Christmas requests. In my heart I knew God was sending me a miracle, and that miracle came when the telephone unexpectedly rang. On the other end was a woman from my care group. She said she overheard me talking about my gifts of memories. She said that in her house was an old hope chest that wasn’t being used anymore. With a little bit of sanding and staining, it could look good as new she said. So, with this she wondered if I would be interested. Just as with the diamond ring, God overwhelmed me once again. If God pours His blessings from the sky, flood season was in high gear. In response to this generous woman, I said I would be honored to receive this gift.

As my husband and I were driving over to pick up the hope chest, my husband reminded me that we needed two hope chests instead of one. By this time my faith had swelled, ready to burst that doubt just could not enter in my mind. So I slowly looked over at my husband and simply said, “God doesn’t forget”.

I was so excited to arrive at this generous woman’s house to see the gift that God wanted one of my daughters to have. When we got there she first offered me some tea to share with her. As I am sitting at her table, I noticed many baskets hanging from her kitchen ceiling. At that moment I was reminded of the twelve baskets left over from the multitudes meal, all starting from a little boy’s lunch. Then I thought of the seed offering given to me in the afternoon mail; how it was yielding more than one mind could conceive.

After drinking tea with this friend of mine, she took me to the room where the hope chest sat. Just as she said, it needed the touch of a loving hand. But if love rested in the eye of the beholder, surely, I could see the love God wanted to give through this chest. After seeing my gift, I gave my friend a hug, coming from a truly grateful heart. Words couldn’t express my joy.

Just when I think it’s time to pack the chest and leave, my friend stops me and takes me to one more room in her house. Just as God says he is our God of the unexpected, I was not expected to see what I was about to see. Way in the corner of this room, underneath the many boxes that lie above it, sits another gift of my request, hope chest number two. But this time I felt I needed to go to heaven and give God a hug in person. How could one person take in all of this generous love from the Father? But that is how loved our Father wants us to feel all the time.

With four days until Christmas, two hope chests need to be sanded and 3 nosy kids at home, how could my husband be able to refinish this furniture without anyone suspecting. Of course God steps in once again as my sister calls to ask if the kids could spend the next 3 days with her as she has been missing them. What a mighty God we serve. He even organizes the babysitting.
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With the kids taken care of at my sisters, my husband and I rush to the store to buy sandpaper, stain, upholstery fabric and lots of coffee. Surely the next few days will be all nighters. After we pay for the needed items for the hope chests, I realize one final miracle has occurred. God had money left over to purchase material for the quilts I wanted to sew for the children.

With Christmas approaching in just hours, our house sounds like Santa’s elves working at the North Pole. The sander is blasting in the garage, the sewing machine is zooming in the kitchen and the cat is wondering what in the world is going on. If David and I ever bonded in our marriage, it was during this holiday season when Christmas was on God. How could love ever be more evident?

Christmas Eve has finally arrived and what joy is to be. I look at these Lane hope chests and can touch the love of the father’s hands that refinished them. I hold the quilts that will wrap around my children’s arms on a cold morning and can touch the love of the mother’s hands that made them. I hold the diamond ring that my son will wear and can feel the love of the father’s hands that once wore it. Christmas Eve has finally arrived and I can feel the love of my Father who went out of His way to show His unending love for me.

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HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS  By Lori A Alicea

The Alicea house is officially decorated for Christmas.

Every corner of every room has been kissed by Christmas, and the warmth and love of our hearts for friends and family is on display, welcoming everyone into our new home for the holidays.

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I can’t wait to pour that first cup of coffee served with homemade cookies baked from my mother and mother ‘n laws recipes, while seated around the table with those we have cherished throughout the years.

KTEA SET

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I must confess though, the grand-kids have scarfed every last cookie I keep for them in the freezer, so I’d best get baking again before that unexpected caroler or shopper shows up during our Alicea Holiday Open House.

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Yes, our sweet elves get to enjoy a decorated tree set up just for them to enjoy in their room when they visit. Although I secretly enjoy these ornaments more as the mother they were crafted for from the hands of my children when they were small.

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And yes, our grandchildren’s stockings have all been hung with their excitement in mind, knowing their socks will be filled and full by Christmas morning.

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But make no mistake, the little girl in me is overcome with excitement from the festivities of lights, music, decorations and all the wonderful things she is blessed to do for her family.

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This little Christmas girl finds joy in the smallest of details.

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While peering through the windows of each other’s homes during the holidays can stir the same delight as a child flipping through the pages of a Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalog, the December merriment’s of 2020 though for most have been diluted in the cups of our holiday cheer.

Holiday travel to our loved ones has been curtailed or cancelled.

Traditions we have come to look forward to have been removed from December calendars.

Family gatherings will be smaller around the holiday table.

Loved ones have gone on to be with Jesus this year.

Isolation from family, especially during the holidays, stirs up deep loneliness.

The list goes on and on.

But even in our aloneness, God is always awake to hear our prayers.

He never leaves us alone.

Never will never I leave you; never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5 NIV

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Thankfully, we can gather in his presence to pray, to call on His name and be still and know that He is God, in all situations; especially the lonely ones.

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I’m always encouraged remembering that first holiday home of our Lord Jesus, a humble beginning in a barn, a bed of straw for our Savior, a birth met in the loneliness of the night, yet a glorious “missed opportunity “ for those who looked for the Christ Child in the grand, a royal place instead.

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Lord, keep me from “missed opportunities” of witnessing your hand in my life and those that I love during this holiday season.

Lord, for those who walk through the doors of our home during days of December, may they feel at home because you are at home here also.

Lord, take me back to humble beginnings, to remind me that even if you are our only gift this Christmas, if you are the only one seated at the dinner table with us, our hearts are full because you are more than enough today and every day, especially during our home for the holiday.

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THE EMPTY CHAIR By Lori A Alicea

Honoring those families,
those loved ones not taking their seat at the holiday table this year.
We celebrate you, we miss you, we honor you this season of change,
The Empty Chair.

We welcome in the holidays,
Festivities begin.
November to December end,
These days are penciled in.

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The list of things to do is long,
With many meals prepare.
And tables set to celebrate,
Those seated in each chair.

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The holidays, they dare to change,
In subtle ways appear.
When looking back the portrait of,
The family then last year.

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Emotions indescribable,
Without you seated there.
Your smile and sweater worn remains,
Our mother’s empty chair.

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So many tables set for us,
Remember all you do.
Our mom who gave us memories,
In turn, we gave to you.

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When gather for a family meal,
Remember what we share.
And treasure those we’re seated by,
Who occupy each chair.

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Because the portrait might just change,
From what we’ve always known.
The table set this holiday,
Could find one all alone.

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Forgive us if we tend to stare,
Our mother’s empty chair.

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And see her with a deck of cards,

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Or love her grand-kids there.

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Another table has been set,
Another home reside.
Though missing you this holiday,
With Christ you sit beside.

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Mere words or thoughts could dare convince,
Her absence us prepare.
How much we miss our mother’s chair,
And see her sitting there.

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OUR ANGEL TREE Angel  By Lori A Alicea

Thanksgiving is still a week away yet Christmas made its debut appearance weeks ago unveiling its new holiday line on store shelves of businesses everywhere.

Strands of Christmas lights, wreathes and decorations of all kinds usher an early season’s greeting to the small town we live near, where many in the community have given themselves permission to break rank with the holiday calendar order and take part in these “tree trimming” festivities inside their own homes.

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For this “kid at heart” who secretly embraces a Christmas spirit year ‘round and can be caught red-handed playing holiday music in July, the kickoff of December albeit before Thanksgiving, delights the little Christmas girl in me who refuses to ever grow up.

As magical and undeniable that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year to many, there are others facing great challenges, hardships, and pain where Christmas can’t leave soon enough; many of their stories depicted as angels on Angel Trees everywhere, presenting an opportunity to bless mere strangers disguised as a chosen angel.

Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.
Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.

In the hustle and bustle of shopping on strapped wallets for most, it’s easy to walk by and pretend we didn’t notice the Christmas needs of strangers hanging as angel ornaments on an Angel Tree strategically placed in store entrances to inspire a heart-felt connection of generosity. I confess to be that passerby of numerous Angel Trees over the years.

But this particular December, an Angel Tree stands in the corner of our family living room decorated with only one angel to select from. Our Angel Tree angel keeps us up at night in our thoughts and prayers. I dare not be a passerby this year.

Our angel’s Christmas list is short, one item to be precise; a list requiring a miracle from the hand of God; a Christmas miracle we can still believe in as all things are possible with Him.

Our Angel Tree angel isn’t asking for much.

Our brother just wants

To Live.

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Like a bad dream we wished we could wake up from this terrible nightmare; no doubt our brother wishes the same.

Every next breath for my brother is a dear gift yet an agonizing struggle for him as well.

Our brother’s health crisis is beyond our understanding as growing up, we’ve only known and loved our “big brother” as one watching over us five sisters with eagle eyes, protecting us with strong arms and yes, even scamming us from time to time over chores and allowances as brothers do.

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Nothing ever changed in our relationship with our brother moving into adulthood.

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Whenever the family faced a challenge, albeit financial, health or an emotional kind with our parents or one of us, Our Angel Tree angel could always be seen walking through the door with answers.

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Regardless that a thousand miles and months between his visits stood in the way of a mother embracing her son, a mother never took for granted an Angel Tree angel’s love whenever he came into town.

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Our Angel Tree angel was honored in the final act of his military father, who bequeathed a son back the gift a father’s country bestowed upon him for his military service.

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Our Angel Tree angel has been more than an angel to two little girls who grew up in the arms of their uncle; a man who loved them more as the children he never fathered, and gave them everything a daddy’s heart could pour out into their lives.

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This Angel Tree angel was more than a bright light in our sister’s eyes during their final year this side of heaven, as they struggled with their own Angel Tree angel request

To Live.

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A “big brother” driving a thousand miles to pick up our sister for one last homecoming with us, then taking her fishing before dropping her off on the journey back, remained a sister’s dearest memory of her Angel Tree angel.

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Our baby sister never felt more loved and safe when she was rescued and brought into the home of her Angel Tree angel where her daughters and siblings never left her side until heaven came for its newest angel that day.

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Our Angel Tree angel has loved only one woman since their holy day of matrimony decades ago.

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Still to this day, you never see one without the other.

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When the minister declared on their wedding day that “these two have become one”, Our Angel Tree angel’s wife remains in this battle with him, fighting and helping her angel

To Live.

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Our Angel Tree angel’s wife fights in hope, fights with God’s Word, fights to help him breath with all the love she has for her Angel Tree angel; to help him Live as he has requested.

Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.
Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.

These thousand miles between us are bridged by a sibling’s love for their Angel Tree angel only a close knit family can understand.

We pray that Jesus will be the best gift, the only gift you’ll need this Christmas morning.

We pray that one shake of a holiday snow globe brings back irreplaceable memories of Christmas mornings we shared together as children, never forgetting you’ll always be
Our Angel Tree angel,

with us now wanting to be the same for you.

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A HILL WORTH FIGHTING FOR  By Lori A Alicea

It once was quoted that:

Those who stand for nothing,
Fall for anything.
Alexander Hamilton
A Founding Father of this United States

There’s a hill worth fighting for in each of us; a hill worth defending, worth our passion, worth our heart, maybe even worth our life.

So what’s your hill?
Where’s your post?
Where do you stand guard?
What persuades your midnight watch?
What battlefield finds you laced up with “boots on the ground?”

We must be willing to stand for something, lest we fall for anything warns our Founding Father.

Yes Lord!
I hear you calling.
I hear your heart…
I hear your Truth…
I hear your Word…

I hear Your everything…

That’s my hill worth fighting for.

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So much is at stake.

Freedom is on the altar of sacrifice.

We’re just one generation away from the godlessness that dares to silence the Spirit of the Lord in us in its attempt to conquer, to seize, to overthrow the hill.

Holding high our spear in this fight we must shout out our battle cry to a generation about to wave their white flag of surrender to an enemy who mocks the heart of God:

. And where the Spirit of the Lord is,
THERE IS FREEDOM.
2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV

Our children must inherit the knowledge we’ve gained, the experiences and miracles seen with our own eyes concerning the heart of God, that our seed, that the next generation going forward doesn’t forget the battles fought for them on this hill worth fighting for.

How will they know?
We must tell them so they don’t forget.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV

Before one generation is relieved from its post, we must raise up an army to replenish the troops for this glorious hill worth fighting for.

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But teach them first as young recruits to experience the heart of God; when we take our recruits into the presence of God.

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An army must rise up from this next generation as we train them to take up your weapon of Truth. As Truth exposes the lies and schemes of the enemy that avenge them and bring them into the light.

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An army must rise up from the ranks of this next generation as they are trained to bear arms with Your Word. They must experience the sword of the Spirit powerful enough to resist the enemy and send it fleeing.

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An army must rise up from this next generation to fight for everything You stand for. Because a generation of godlessness is marching up from all sides of the hill to take back the land; to take with them prisoners; to silence their voices.

This army of the next generation must stand their ground.

They must stay in the battle.
They must be the resistance.
Their life of freedom demands it.

This hill is worth fighting for.

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The older generation must be willing to lead the next wave of soldiers into battle, to instill into them a fighting spirit and hunger for the heart of God in its defense of the hill, to hold back the enemy from possessing the land of their inheritance.

Every recruit must be confident in the strategic purpose and strategy on his life already assigned by the General himself.

In the crossfires of battle each soldier will earn their badge of honor, they will earn their stripes of courage for such dedication and sacrifice to take this hill worth fighting for.


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Oh…

We must tell them so they don’t forget…
Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV

We must resist our silence.
We must lift up our voice.

Our battle cries must be a bugle call compelling others to enlist and lace up with “boots on the ground” engaged for war that is waged against this hill worth fighting for.

We must remember the war stories from battles past.

We dare not forget the battle won on another hill when Christ waged war for our life on the old rugged cross.

We must stand up for something lest we fall for anything.

We must not forget.

The heart of our Almighty God will always be a hill worth fighting for.

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