OUR LONG GOOD-BY By Lori A Alicea

Four years ago this October God blessed David and I with an anniversary gift, yet didn’t realize it at the time.

Four years ago we were planning our romantic anniversary getaway to our quiet honeymoon place on the lake, only to find there were no vacancies for the full month of October.

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This had never happened to us after celebrating most of our wedding anniversaries here at our quaint bed and breakfast hideaway for two.  We opted for an earlier stay in September, but thought it quite odd after twenty-two years of October reservations, there were no weekends available during this off-season for us.

Gifts come wrapped in paper that don’t always appear as gifts on first glance.

God’s anniversary gift to us that October weekend amazingly was keeping us home, though our hearts longed our special stay overlooking the lake.

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David and I felt out of place being home that October weekend, and eerily, we both felt like something was terribly wrong, yet didn’t know what.

We went thru our day as usual but kept asking each other, “Do you sense God trying to get our attention but can’t figure out why?”  We both nodded our yes.

By the end of the evening, God’s voice became too loud to ignore and panic immediately struck.  David grabbed his keys and yelled, “Somethings wrong with mom, let’s go.”

Living one street over from our mother made getting to her in seconds.  But she wasn’t answering our calls; the loud pounding on the front door or bedroom window either.  Our fear level was rising.

Busting down the door should have been our next response, but we drove to my sister’s house for the keys instead, quite possibly wasting precious time.

Bombarding heaven in prayer while driving back to our mothers, we believed for the best while preparing our hearts for the absolute worst.

I couldn’t go in.

David stormed mother’s room to find her barely alive, but alive she still was.

An anniversary gift we didn’t expect.

God knew in advance our mother’s plight and His love for her kept us home that October when in years past, we would have been away celebrating our love and life together.

That weekend doctors confirmed our mother wouldn’t be coming home to the home she once knew, and hence, mother’s life would become a million packed boxes and an hourglass of descending grains of sands slowly keeping time for Our Long Good-by.

Good-by as a family with their mother began four years ago during the holiday season I journaled in the following blog.

After that first holiday season, my journal finds its place and returns to the final months of Our Long Good-by with mom.

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ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU 
By Lori A Alicea

Another holiday season is greeting front doors everywhere and gathering around Thanksgiving tables as done in Thanksgiving pasts will be families, friends and loved ones giving their heart-filled thanks for those seated beside them.

Families will share a meal over turkey, stuffing, candied yams, pumpkin pies and all the trimmings, and the bustle of life stops for a brief few hours when personal inventories are taken when you look around the crowded holiday room and remind yourself how blessed you truly are.

While a Hallmark Christmas card doesn’t quite paint the picture perfect family behind most front doors, mine included.  The sentiment of the season though rises in the hearts of most who treasure family and its gatherings.

Holidays are also viewed though thru windows that peek into our family sadness when traditions change or grief and loss that overcomes with that empty seat at the dinner table for the first time this year.

For adults who remain “kids at heart” holding onto those family members who gave them their Norman Rockwell memories, it’s hard to turn the page to a new chapter of holiday traditions, when they cling to the old ones like a favorite teddy bear.

Holiday change is inevitable as our grandparents and parents age before us, passing the holiday torch to the next generation in their inability to keep the traditions going.

While this year isn’t a holiday first for our family, after finally disbursing the treasures of mother’s home though after being in storage for a year, the reality has finally sunk in that we as a family won’t be going “home” for Thanksgiving and Christmas anymore.

The face and heart behind our family Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions has had an address change needing twenty-four hour medical care, ending her reign as the author of our holiday picture albums.
face of our holidays

As ‘tis the season of being thankful, this “kid at heart” takes ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of  “home” during her Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations past.

At mother’s house you are always welcome.
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Whether friend, family or stranger; announced or unannounced, mother lit up when the door bell rang.

Her humble home, a single wide trailer shared with her husband Roger until he passed away a few years before she closed the doors for good, was “home” nevertheless.
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Every room spelled m-o-m as her touch was in the details of her things.
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Family meant everything to mother, whose love had no bounds.

She adopted her daughter’s best friend as her own who in turn called her mom.
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This friend with small children through their years into adulthood, referred to our mother as grandma.

We adopted into our hearts this friend’s parents who we loved deeply and embraced as nanny and papa.
Because of love, our family tree bloomed and thrived enlarging hearts and family ties.
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Mother raised her children to love and serve God, the foundation that gave our family hope during those storms of hard times.
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But it was during the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas when going “home” re-opened the storybook of our childhood memories each year.

I still see dad watching the Macy’s Parade on TV in his recliner while mom prepared the turkey and all the fixins in the kitchen.

Like yesterday, I imagine the dinner table decorated and set in dad’s garage, seating all of us and our grandparents on both sides.
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Growing up our Christmas tree wasn’t filled with expensive toys wrapped beneath it.  With six children there wasn’t money enough for that; but there was so much more.
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The traditions of a kitchen full of elves making various batches of homemade cookies with sprinkles landing everywhere.

There were those fifty-plus glittered Christmas cards we received in the mail and hung on a red chain down the railing of the stairs.

Sure can’t forget our church Christmas plays and getting that brown sack of miscellaneous nuts, fruits and holiday candy as you left the sanctuary.

Mother’s homemade coffee cake served warm on Christmas morning became a holiday favorite memory, a tradition I passed to my family.

The gift of Christmas around the tree with my four sisters, brother and parents was the best gift wrapped that day.
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Thanksgiving and Christmas past replay in the back of my mind as this grown up kid enjoys the seasons of holidays when her children were small.
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Holidays that replay in my mind with my adult children who now have children of their own.

Hearing the electric knife carving our holiday ham and turkey is the dinner bell reminder that a feast is about to be served.

For a family our size in a small single wide trailer, tables are set up in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. There’s the senior table, the kid’s table and the table for everyone else.  A bit crowded but you’re “home” and that’s all that matters.

So many faces to see during the holidays, some arriving when the military allows, or sadly arriving on Skype instead.
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On Christmas Day there are all those presents to unwrap.

Then there are those hilarious relatives who never pay attention during gifts.

Can’t forget about that game of cards for anyone who dares to sit opposite a card-shark grandmother after dinner.
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Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas though without that angel found sitting in her Lazyboy;
the centerpiece of our holidays.

Mother taught us how to make the holidays magical, and now our children are making the seasons bright in their own homes, all because our family matriarch had a special heart for Christmas.

Two years ago at this time, mother’s address changed as so did our holidays and traditions.

Holidays are now shared between the sisters with this year being at my house, and while we decorate, bake, serve the best feasts and still shuffle those cards after dinner, nothing comes close or compares to going “home” for the holidays.

Before handing over the keys of “home”, my heart needed ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of mother’s house.

Walking through the halls you were deafened by its silence.  The walls were eerie quiet with nothing to say, when before the decibel level was joyfully loud.

Aching over the empty rooms I couldn’t imagine life without our family there to enjoy them.

How I wanted to set out mother’s Christmas decorations just one more time.

We as a family grieve over the empty chairs of loved ones we once shared the holidays with, whose health or life with Christ keeps them away.  We miss them so  terribly.

Sadly, mother’s “home” is all packed up now and the front door has closed for the very last time.
boxes of moms stuff

Something shifts when the tradition torch is passed to the next generation.

The magic and the memories remain in your heart, but a shift takes place and has to make room for the new traditions beyond the Christmas present.

My heart overflows with thankfulness nevertheless this Thanksgiving season with the joy of the Lord, as He is the source of all my true hope and love.

I am thankful for my memories.

I look forward to new traditions and memories also.

I am a blessed woman.

This Thanksgiving I will once again take inventory of all my blessings and rejoice for the riches of heaven in my home.

I pray that my mother’s holiday legacy lives on in my brother and sister’s lives as well as mine passed to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren and beyond.

May we all be thankful for what God has done and is still doing in our life.

May we remember and hold close to our heart the true

REASON FOR THE SEASON

Which is Christ Jesus our Lord


Four years later…

The hourglass sands are still keeping time with Our Long Good-bye.

Mother is still with us four years later, but our days with mother changes as her health does, though she never complains.

Through these last four years mother has been able to attend our family events, which lit up a little girl’s day like a Christmas tree.  The nursing home hairdresser has been overly kind to fix mother’s hair on his days off and the salon coordinated her nail polish with mother’s red hair and lipstick.  Mother’s joy to “bust out” of those four walls for the day was evident in her smile, but we sensed the silence in bringing her back.  Just recently mother was planning her health comeback to attend our Thanksgiving festivities.  Yes, mom was all about the holidays.

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Mother turned eighty years young this past July.

Mother wanted a party and a party she got.

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A Princess for A Day Event

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With the unusual circumstances of the year, mother had to enjoy watching her 80th celebration from the nursing home window.  But mother didn’t care. Our Princess seated regally on her throne, watched from her front row seat the royal carpet rolled out before her.

It was a day like no other.

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God gave us an unforgettable gift in Our Long Good-by;  A Perfect Day.

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Amazing how a few months can change from a perfect day to weeks of uncertainty.

Our Long Good-by finds us now keeping vigil by mother’s window.

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IMG_2437The hourglass has nearly emptied its sands, signaling a close to Our Long Good-by.

Mother struggled to hear and carry on a faint conversation with us for as many days as she could.  In the end we continued to hold our end of the conversation, trusting in some way she was keeping up on hers.

With this year of restrictions, we children and grandchildren felt cheated and robbed of holding our beloved’s hand during these last remaining moments with her on this earth while heaven prepared to receive their newest angel.

But we count it all joy and rejoice for her eighty years of a wonderful life well lived before us, not lamenting for what we wish her last days could be; instead remembering the perfect day we recently spent together on her birthday.

Our Long Good-by has been a gift many don’t receive before their loved one enters eternity.

We have been given four extra years to enjoy our mother, to appreciate and value her and tell her so while she was alive to receive our gratitude; not at a memorial service where our words come too late.

A year ago mother looked so beautiful at our 25th Wedding Anniversary; probably the best I’d ever seen.

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On this anniversary day, God was still handing out anniversary gifts for Our Long Good-by.

Of all the pictures I have with mom, this has to be my favorite.

The gift of family is all mother ever wanted.

25th anniversary family table

Thank you God for 80 wonderful years with our mother.  She gave us life, our memories, and an introduction to your son Jesus for which we are most grateful, because we will spend eternity together in our saying “yes” to Him.

Yes, we will see her again.

Our Long Good-by is just a pause until Our Grand Hello in Heaven.

Until then, keep watch over us mother if there is a window to look thru in heaven.

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I kinda doubt it as you will be much too busy walking the streets of gold with Jesus.

Give our sisters Belinda and Mary a hug.  Tell them they only have you to themselves for a short time.  Make sure you’re nice to Roger too.

Welcome Home Mom!
Welcome Home!

In your absence, this light I once planted under your nursing home window so you could think of us in your loneliness, is now planted in my small garden so I might think of you in mine.

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No one knows when their hour will come… Ecclesiastes 9:12 NIV

Enjoy today filled to the rim with pure joy, without regrets and keeping short accounts with others, as the sun setting at dusk might be goodbye.

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WE’RE BLOOMING AGAIN  By Lori A Alicea

We’re blooming again!

Though it’s the beginning of fall,
We’re blooming again.

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After uprooting from a three year stay in a nearby town,
The first of many handfuls of seeds have been sown into the fields of our new beginning and yes, it delights us to see we’re blooming.

Moving is terribly difficult on the roots of a family.

Moving disrupts what has been deeply planted and watered in love of living life together; memories deep in the rich soil of neighbors, surroundings and the familiar.

Disturbing the gardens of family tempts the chance your fields won’t thrive and bloom as beautiful when re-potted into a new address.

Uprooting is always a risk.

Yet yielded to the Master Gardner tending your fields though,
You discover you bloom again,
You bloom where you are planted.
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A new address stirs the morning cup of loneliness.

You sit outside and notice a neighborhood of unnamed faces.

People aren’t as friendly and passerby’s don’t notice your gesture of waving hello as the town we recently left.

Neighbors haven’t stopped to introduce themselves or sit for a momentary cup of coffee. Unless you can include that cute cat who hung around for a few days meowing for something to eat then vanished when your “meanie” husband banned you from feeding the stray.
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I get over myself quickly though because after multiple seasons of uprooting in my life, I’ve discovered God always has his eyes on someone hurting and replants us next door to water their pain with His love;

To be His lamppost in a dark night, a bright light leading their lost way back to Him.
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My heart already goes out to the single mom I noticed seated the other day on her front steps alone, the lonely mother I used to be so many decades ago.

The elderly mother living across the street from her young adult daughter with a child of her own already caught my attention; a scene played out in mine and my mother’s life two addresses ago.

Then there’s the recently widowed woman about my age quite possibly needing a friend.

Maybe the young married couple within view of our living room window could glean from our twenty-six years of marriage.

I have a feeling that the empty seats in my life won’t be empty for long.
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The wisdom of God just tells us to
Bloom where we are planted.

We’re re-potted there for His purposes;

A mission trip of sorts without leaving the country, just the bountiful fields of your neighborhood.

We bloom to the cultivating hands of the Master Gardner.

Gardens grow when hearts are willing to die as seeds planted in the ground, surrendered to the Gardner’s weeding, watering and being given away for others.

In these gardens of replanting,

Consider it an opportunity, a privilege.

Consider it a given,
You’ll always bloom again.
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THROUGH MOTHER’S EYES  By Lori A Alicea

What ya thinking about mother?

Silently I’ve noticed the sun setting in your eyes ever so slightly these past few months over time spent with you.

The overflow of your heart speaks deep appreciation for our visits and our calls. A mother’s smile welcomes us no matter her prognosis of the moment.

My unannounced visits faithfully find you wearing that red lipstick you’ve been famous for my whole life.

But yet, for the words you’ve held back to keep a family from worrying or thoughts too afraid to articulate, your eyes speak volumes from the pages of uncertainty that prompt a daughter to wonder,

What ya thinking about mother?

Sometimes in life the negative reports need to be shoved into a drawer for the moment.

Every now and then we all need a good day; maybe even a perfect day.

Perfect days you plan for; you pencil them in your calendar and make the day happen.

From the heart you unearth treasures of every kind that arms can’t contain them. Much like the windows of heaven that God pours abundantly from onto His children.

Mother, it’s your eightieth birthday and gold glittered balloons and everything else gold will punctuate this perfect day from start to finish.

With sadness, your milestone birthday will be an outside event with you watching from a nursing home window due to the current circumstances that mandate.

But you bloom where you’re planted.

You create and decorate
For a mother most deserving…

Announcing your

Princess for a Day Event.

Honoring that little girl in our mother who quite possibly never thought of herself or was celebrated as the princess God sees in her.

I decided that every girl, young or old attending this Princess for a Day event,
Be celebrated also as a princess with their own crown and scepter.

The little princes will also be celebrated as royal heirs to the throne with a sword in their own honor.

(Excerpt from my blog Whose I am)

It’s your day mom.

Introducing your perfect day.
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Through mother’s eyes, her front row seat to a perfect day.

So many guests came to honor this Princess for a Day.

Your daughters, your sons present and afar they came.
Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended also.

That best friend you’ve shared years of every kind wouldn’t miss your day.
barb guests - barb by tableCousins came and took their spot just like the old days of family reunions.
guests - old family reunionOut of town great-grandchildren enjoyed the festivities through technology via Facetime.
guests englandsUnattended but princesses still in thought took royal selfies for their great-grandmother to enjoy.

From your window and phone, I hope the evidence bore witness to the impact and meaning of your life.
window - mom - CopyOne by one, the avalanche of tributes from those touched by your life well lived before them.

Beyond precious were tender words from the mouths of babes. Even little ones notice the love of a grandmother.

One great-grandson full of wisdom beyond his years when he spoke,
“Today grandmother, you are a vision of loveliness.”
speaking guests - david speakingForming a line in front of your window, each family member added silk roses for the vase bouquet you’d enjoy days after your perfect day was a memory.

Though not the princess banquet we would have prepared had we celebrated you at home, but a princess meal nevertheless to enjoy around family tables at home.

What ya thinking about mother?

I’m overwhelmed myself re-visiting this royal day weeks after the event.

So many details planned for the short time we were given.

Over-looking the party from your front row seat, the staff overwhelmed as well, soaking in the love from a family giving back honor due to their matriarch turning eighty.

But I think most impacting were those close and intimate moments at your window, sharing one on one through the phone with those needing a moment alone with you, even if for a minute never noticing the separation of glass.

On display the emotion from your faithful friend of decades.

Then were the kisses from your window, with you looking back at your great-grandchildren to receive their childlike affection.

Even you and I were able to pose for a mother-daughter picture, capturing and blending two generations together.
window - mom and LoriHeard from our mother’s window was the chorus of Happy Birthday sang twice. Princesses get an encore you know.
happy birthdayGathered for a family portrait are lives that have been changed because of a Godly life well lived from one birthday girl blowing out eighty candles on her cake.
guests - moms familyYou are many things to many people; mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, cousin and friend.

But you are simply mother to me.

Through your eyes I hope the impact of your life was in full view of your window.

You were beautiful wearing your princess crown.

Through mother’s eyes, my heart believes you saw and thoroughly enjoyed a perfect day; the best birthday gift a family could have ever wanted for you.

You are loved mom beyond words.

When that stuffed negative report does emerge from that drawer as it will, always remember God’s love letter to you,

“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.
Phillippians 4:8 NIV

Even through a mother’s eyes on her perfect day.

THE SCHOOL BELL RINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME…AGAIN! By Lori A Alicea

My baby’s baby starts kindergarten this year.
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How can it be that just twenty-six years ago the school bus picked up my baby for her first day of kindergarten?
school - Candace first day of kindergartenBackpacks are heavier than ever with the weight of all that school stuff… pencils, paper, tissues, crayons, glue, scissors and a brand new item on the school list…sanitizer.
IMG_1861I wish it wasn’t so sweet Ayva, but school will be a bit different for you than for your mother twenty-six years ago.
school - Candace kindergarten pictureschool - Ayva first day of kindergartenThe school bell rings for five years olds everywhere…for the first time.

The school bell rings louder when that five year old is yours.

School bell stop ringing…
We’re not ready…at least I wasn’t.

Just yesterday our baby’s newborn smell overwhelmed while snuggling them quietly near our heart.
mom and Candacebaby - ayva newbornWe close our eyes for a second and the school bells rings for the first time for my baby’s baby.

For this grandmother, the school bell rings for the first time…again.
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No matter how old a mother becomes, she never forgets those milestones, her children’s right of passages that mark in time their growing up.

I share with you Kindergarten Day for my baby twenty-six years ago.

Kindergarten Day!
The Start of New Beginnings
By Lori A. Alicea

The end of August is fast approaching.  The school bell is ready for the principal to ring.  Backpacks are stuffed, new sneakers are laced and moms everywhere are preparing their children for the first day of school, some for the very first year.

Though I registered my daughter this August for her senior year in high school and my son his senior year in college, this mother never forgot that bittersweet kindergarten day when the apron strings of her heart were cut.

Maybe it was in our maiden walk to school, lamenting my return alone.  Maybe it was their reluctance to leave my side as I brought them to their desk.  Maybe it was seeing their moistened eyes when I turned to check on them one last time.  Maybe it was noticing them looking for me outside their window.  Maybe it was hearing the school bell ring, wanting them desperately to be four again.  Whenever it was, this first day of school painfully required me to release them to their new beginning, severing ties that intertwined our lives before kindergarten.

Before this mom had time to dry her tears, the kids bounced back in new energy with field trips planned to the apple orchard and zoo.  Holiday parties and snack days were scheduled and backpacks daily emptied of schoolwork they were anxious to share.

Soon the refrigerator was papered with reading, writing and arithmetic.  Little friends started to call, inviting them over to play.  Where once we were cocooned in our own world of Sesame Street and adventures to the park, now my children were slowly becoming aware of their wings, spreading them ever so slightly at the edge of our nest.

As ironic that it may seem, I truly believed the best lesson I could teach my children, was to teach them to leave.  In order to pass the test, I had to be willing to open the doors of opportunity along their way, never blocking the entrance to future beginnings, yet keeping exit doors closed off from early escapes of hard times.

When once they scribbled in print, they now they communicate their feelings.  Where once they counted on their fingers, they now calculate life’s problems.  Where once they clung to me and dominated our conversation.  Now one lives six hours away and telephones when he can.  The other, a few steps behind.

Looking back, that first day of school was elementary compared to the final exam of their first day on their own.

Though new beginnings should be exciting, it’s the leaving something old that makes it so difficult.  Thankfully that first day of school I was teacher’s pet, when I allowed my kids to be five.
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Discovering More in the “Less Than.” By Lori A Alicea

It’s all about perspective…

Cup half-empty…
Cup half-full…

It’s a choice we each make when measuring
The abundance or lack in our lives
By the full line of our cup.

Photo by NIKOLAY OSMACHKO on Pexels.com

A conversation we’ve engaged in,
Or at a minimum, harbored the thoughts where…

More money, bigger house, fancier car,
Designer clothes, high profile career…
Speaks to a cup half-full…

Where less than speaks to a cup half-empty.

I confess those difficult seasons where I’ve viewed my cup half-empty.
My clouded cup held up to God for clarity becomes clear
When I allow Him to lead me to the place of…

Discovering More in the “Less than.”

…remember, it’s all about perspective.

The last three years have been quite the journey for my husband David and I.

Traveling the road of uncertainty while following God’s direction one step at a time for our next address, we found ourselves earnestly praying these words together at night…

Fill our cup Lord,
With wisdom and understanding,
That we might be overcome by it all.

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Fill our cup Lord
With faith,

Because…

Faith Sees Farther beyond what eyes can see.

Faith hopes.
Faith believes.

Faith Sees Farther because:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for,
The evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 KJV

(words from my blog… Faith Sees Farther)

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Fill our cup Lord,
With complete contentment,
As our cup overflows with
Your love and abundance.

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Fill our cup Lord.
Amen.

 I write after three years of us on the road of looking and seeking, we announce our new address with much excitement and with equal parts of reservation.

Seated and dining with God as He lovingly serves us our cups of answered prayer,
I’m embarrassed to admit we both faked a smile at first glance of a cup half-empty…
Or so it appeared.

Not at all the house we waited for, imagined for or had faith for.

A house we’d have to appreciate looking through the lens of His eyes to
Discover the more in the “less than”.

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Sometimes the less than is the cup half-full.

Less debt, less time driving to work, less maintenance,
Less years of employment until retirement,
Less distance from our kids and grandkids,
Less health problems for David because the home is brand new.

Lord, help us all to see our cup as you fill it.

May we notice the extravagance, your generosity, and be overwhelmed by the splashes of your love because your pouring never stops.

Cup half-empty???
Cup half-full???

Photo by NIKOLAY OSMACHKO on Pexels.com

With God…

…My cup runneth over.
Psalms 23:5 KJV

Because….

 …I have come to give you everything in abundance,
more than you expect,
life in its fullness until you overflow.
John 10:10 (TPT)

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Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

 

FRONT PORCH NEIGHBORS  By Lori A Alicea

Call me an old fashioned girl.
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Call me a keeper of memories,
Fondly looking back to remember my blessings.

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Call me someone cherishing life back in the day, my day;
holding tight to the treasures and things of old.
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Call me a morning person, retreating to the porch of my dreams to savor that first cup of hot coffee.
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Call me out for my love of the simple,
The wild heart of God displayed through his creations.

USE - flowersCall me a Front Porch Neighbor,
Watching from the lawn chair outside my house,
Longing for you to leave your yard and enjoy a cup of coffee beside me.

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Call me back from my memories of neighborhoods gone by.

I recalled such a neighborhood in a former piece of mine titled
WHERE’S THE WELCOME WAGON.
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WHERE‘S THE WELCOME WAGON
By Lori A Alicea

As the curtains of summer begin to draw to a close, it’s been a lifelong comfort when the scattering of summer draws the neighbors back home by fall.

Maybe the piling up of newspapers next door or overgrown grass at the house down the road reminds me that someone in my life is missing, even if it’s a neighbor I’ve probably never met.

Neighbors are a part of your everyday routine, whether you choose them to be or not.  You begin to notice their “comings and goings” by the coincidence of sharing a street.

Once upon a town in places just like Mayberry, neighbors knew their neighbors well.  So well that wives borrowed sugar and milk and watched each other’s kids, while men lent their tools and a hand.

Neighbors introduced themselves to new comers before the U-Haul ever got unloaded, with welcome mats rolled out and homemade soup delivered before nightfall.

Houses back then were never locked and neighbors spontaneously gathered at the loudest porch.

Driving to grandmas in the hills of Kentucky, you’d bet money to catch her shelling peas in her everyday apron, singing hymns on her favorite porch.

Passerby’s” would honk at grandma as she gestured back with a wave, some stopping for conversation and a piece of pie to go with.

House’s today though have pristine landscaping in front with lawns meticulously manicured, no friend would dare walk on his neighbor’s grass, much less invite himself to the deck secluded in back.

Long gone is morning coffee on the porch joined by “cup-toting-neighbors” needing a refill; now it’s coffee served for a few behind the lonely walls of a privacy fence.

Thinking back to a block party a few summers ago, I’m embarrassed to admit meeting some of my neighbors after living there twenty years.  Oh, I’d wave when driving by, but to know the ticking of my neighbor’s clock, I’d need to leave my own yard to hear their alarms; but I didn’t.

That summer afternoon the breeze of winter day chilled my bones for the opportunities I missed to be a good neighbor.

Meals I could have made, lawns we could have cut and snow we should have shoveled when I learned one neighbor became a widow.

Then another family I met that would have benefited from long distance encouragement, while they risked their lives on the mission field overseas.

Stories told.  Details revealed.  Information I should have known and acted on, had I been neighborly.

Addresses are not an accident.  Neither are our neighbors.  As big as the earth is, it’s really a small world of neighborhoods, people needing to get mixed up in each other’s lives, as the mail does in their mailboxes.

FAITH SEES FARTHER By Lori A Alicea

Faith is the substance of things hoped for,
The evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 KJV

Faith sees farther than the natural end of the road.

man walking in the forest
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Faith hopes.
Faith believes.

Faith doesn’t get discouraged when the “end of the road” is a mirage to the “bend in the path” ahead,

A traveler’s bread crumb in the forest reminder that the “substance of things they hoped for” is still a journey away; when the evidence remains to be seen.

photo of an empty dirt road between trees
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Faith sees farther beyond the sun’s lamppost illuminating our slow travels of “one foot in front of the other”.

green leaf tree surrounded by green grass field
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Because Faith Hopes in God’s gifts and promises.
Faith Believes in His perfect timing.

Faith doesn’t grow weary when the seasons change guard with the other, seasons handing over the spring months of peace and tranquility, to the fall barrenness exposed to those unexpected bumps in the road and delays.

autumn autumn colours brown countryside
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Faith doesn’t give up when our travel burdens become seemingly too much to carry.

road walking cute young
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Because Faith Sees Farther ahead to the still waters where God is waiting, to quench our thirst for another drink of His love, to refresh our souls for the miles which remain.

clear body of water between yellow and green leaved trees
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Faith Sees Farther to those mountains of adversity, and travels with pockets full of mustard seeds.

When your mountain refuses to step aside, double-dog-daring you to stand up and fight,
A childlike faith clinches one small seed in his raised fist of defiance,

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain,
“Move from here to there, and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20 NIV

Faith believes God sees us and trusts He hasn’t forgotten us.
Faith remembers God knows us each by name,
Just as He does for every bright star shinning in the midnight sky.

silhouette photo of trees during night time
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Faith Sees Farther beyond what eyes can see because nothing is too hard for God.

Faith sees answered prayers even when the trails of our journey detour through the roughest terrain.  Faith hears the knock of the prodigal’s return.  Faith testifies the dry bones of a dead marriage come back to life.  Faith rejoices over sick bodies healed.

Faith sees provision for lack.
Faith sees a way out of a difficult situation.
Faith leads us to those lush green pastures of peace.

Faith hopes.
Faith believes when God doesn’t make sense.

Faith Sees Farther because:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for,
The evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 KJV

agriculture clouds country countryside
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WHOSE I AM By Lori A Alicea

Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.
Billy Graham

 Insightful words I thought told my heart’s story revealed in the boxes of our house all packed up as the property we have rented for the last three years has been sold.

SOLD SIGN

One doesn’t usually take inventory or keep a ledger of “things” accumulating on the shelves of our homes from week to week.

But when that SOLD sign reminds you from the kitchen window while doing dishes it’s time to move, you realize and feel the weight of all the “stuff” when the closets are emptied into those cardboard boxes headed for storage, each telling a story of Who I am.

A friend of my girlfriends we jokingly referred to as Madame Blueberry, a Veggie Tales character who kept accumulating “stuff” from the Stuff-Mart became me after realizing our boxes filled up two storage units when only three years ago we filled up one. Yep, words do come back.

But it was in the mundane process of item after item passing through my hands to be bubble wrapped or trashed, each getting my attention for a second or two, prodding the question as how these things fit in the story of

Who I am.

It’s easy to answer when the treasures I pause to hold and remember date back to the earlier years of my children’s lives.

Like those special outfits I couldn’t part with or their precious milestones they reflect; first day in church, baby dedication, Christmas and Easter dresses or suits. This list goes on for days.

Special toys, school day mementoes, sports memorabilia.

Don’t even get me started on the pictures.

Multiply all of this when the grandchildren came.

Why can’t I part with their bottles or pacifiers or their old bikes still sporting training wheels they outgrew years ago?

I dare not part with my grandchildren’s crib I stood beside many nights in the midnight hour tending to their needs while they spent the night at Gaga’s house.

I lost an afternoon reliving the best day ever, getting lost in those beloved boxes of our 25th Wedding Anniversary just one year ago.  Remembering a day I’ll never forget, surrounded by our dearest friends and family at the altar of our thankfulness for 25 years of marriage.

Of course, my Hobby Lobby finds took up most of the bubble wrap and storage, always begging the question, “What in the world was I thinking and whose party was I decorating for when I bought all this stuff?”

Would I do it again…..uh, laughingly, David knows I would.

I’m a mother.
I’m a grandmother.
I’m a wife.
I’m a crafter and party decorator.

This is Who I am.

 The facets of my life are written on the pages and chapters that tell a story of
Who I am.

At least, they tell a story of who I think I am.

 It’s interesting that God decides to add his own chapter to my story one week before we close the door and lock up behind us at this house for the very last time.

I haven’t been able to pack one remaining closet as the decorations to my mother’s 80th birthday celebration are waiting their reveal tomorrow afternoon.

With sadness, our mother’s milestone birthday will be an outside event with her watching from a nursing home window due to the current circumstances that mandate.

But you bloom where you’re planted.

You create and decorate
For a mother most deserving…

Announcing her

Princess for a Day Event.
CARRIAGE CROWN WAND SWORD

Honoring that little girl in our mother who quite possibly never thought of herself or was celebrated as the princess God has always seen in her these last 80 years.
CROWN 1

I decided that along with our mother, every girl, young or old attending this Princess for a Day event,

Be celebrated also as the princess she is with their own crown and scepter.

The little princes will also be celebrated as royal heirs with swords in their own honor.
CROWN WAND SWORD

Sometimes I forget the conversations I’ve had with my daughters when they see their mirrored reflection not as God sees them.

I remind my girls when their eyes deceive them,

“This circumstance doesn’t reflect who you are.”
“Because your true self is reflected from the face of
Whose You Are.”

You are a child of God, created in His image, in His likeness, fearfully and wonderfully, an heir to the throne with His Son, Jesus.
CARRIAGE WAND

Yes God, thank you for reminding me that it’s not
Who I think I am.

It’s

WHOSE I AM.

I’m yours.
Forever and ever,
I’m yours.
CROWN 1

JUST A SMALL WINDOW OF TIME By Lori A. Alicea

My Pastor Sr. used to say there’s just a small window of time when your children long to be in their parent’s world. After that window closes, you’ll spend the rest of your life longing and pursuing to be in theirs.

This small sermonette etched and framed itself first in this mother’s heart now grandmother when my Pastor spoke them so many years ago.

I experienced this truth as a mother, and when I became a grandmother, I determined to wrap my arms around as many moments possible with those who me Gaga.

Because one tomorrow not too far in the distance, these grandparent moments will find themselves beyond my reach when that small window of time closes with their growing up.

This small sermonette came to life with the birth of my first child Jake.
jake as a babyThe words from the pulpit wouldn’t be preached by me, but lived through the life and love of Jake’s grandparents, Grandma Cova and Papa Les and their summer Kentucky visits together with their grandchildren over the next twelve years.

My grown children have questioned each other if they as parents would send their small children for summer grandparent visits six hours away for weeks at a time as I did with them. Ok, ok, six weeks; my bad.

I laughed with my son and daughter’s reply to each other, “That would be a big negative.”

Looking back I also questioned those long summer adventures away from my kids.

But remembering as their father spent so many memorable summers on the farm with his maternal grandmother, I wanted the pages of the family grandparent scrapbook to continue and pass this special tradition on to Grandma Cova and Papa Les.

So the spoiling begins in Cave City and Horse Cave, Kentucky where a huge family of grandparents, aunts and uncles smother their love like honey on a hot homemade biscuit to this next generation of little ones.

The legacy of Great-Uncle Condie, a hardworking carpet layer by day and bee-keeper at night, is passed through his love for bees down two generations beyond him and counting, all because Uncle Condie chose to enlarge his circle of influence and love to include a little boy.

This little boy carried into adulthood an uncle’s devotion honored in his middle name, abbreviated as a C.

Let’s not forget Uncle Condie’s wife Aunt Alley and her fabulous meals prepared each morning, noon and night by scratch when you visited.

Her second-floor country kitchen where those signature biscuits baked inside a wood-burning stove is still a fond memory even of mine.

Aunt Alley also left behind a piece of herself amid the squares and stitches she quilted by hand for each child upon their birth.
family jake, uncle codie and aunt alleyThe summer highlights always included excitement alongside a country flavored grandfather.

Papa Les made sure that summer in Kentucky included horses, chickens, goats and rummage sale bicycles. Years later that country memory of chickens lives on in the next generation through Jake’s children.

What would summer vacation be without time spent with your aunts, uncles and cousins?

Uncle Bob and Aunt Carrie made sure a visit to amusement park Guntown Mountain happened; the bowling alley too and so much more. I still laugh remembering the stories that came home packed in the suitcases of my kids after time spent with their crazy aunt and uncle.

Aunt Sue Sue, when she flew into town, spoiled her nieces and nephews beyond expectation. Grown up now, these kids shan’t ever forget an aunt who loved them so well.

Standing out more than any summer memory in Kentucky revolved around cousins being with cousins. No telling what (Eric, Nick, Amanda, Alexis, Candace and Jake) did at their grandparent’s house.  I’m sure those secrets are still baked into the walls of grandma’s house in Horse Cave, Kentucky.

For some reason my son was especially fond of his Grandma Cova.  So much so he named his first daughter after her.

Their deep bond is evident in this intimate moment captured at Jake’s wedding.
grandma Cova and JakeLooking at these two together, I can rewind many conversations with Grandma Cova and her summer visits with Jake.

“Oh Grandma, just one more book please,” a small boy’s request before bed after many other stories before.

Hands of rummy at the kitchen table, preparing all his favorite foods, and her buying a sweet boy candy at the Dollar General where she worked down the street.

The most difficult day though of every summer visit with Grandma Cova ended with Jake waving good-by to her from the back seat of the car, with him having to hold it together without her for the six hour ride home and the remainder of the summer.

Grief for his grandmother overwhelmed my son for weeks. Most days he held it in as best as a little boy could, but eventually the dam of his tears painfully burst.

Every year at summer’s end amid the sadness, Grandma Cova and her grandson dreamed of their next summer together. Jake assured his grandmother he’d be sharing summers with her his whole life; he was all of ten at this time.

As much as Grandma Cova treasured their coveted visits, she painted a picture of Jake for him at the age of twelve, a painting when boys began growing up and enjoying sports and friends over time spent at their grandparents.

Never imagining that twelve year old boy would be him, Jake did grow into a twelve year old whose visits to Kentucky faded into the scrapbook memories.

Grandma Cova loved her grandson Jake as much as he loved her.  I am forever grateful they shared this amazing relationship.

I lamented for Grandma Cova when her grandson’s summer visits stopped, unable to imagine how it affected a grandmother’s heart.

I tried though in a poem I wrote and dedicated my words to the two of them.

Thank you Grandma Cova and Papa Les for the intentional love you displayed to your grandchildren in the summer ways that you did.

Those summer visits in Kentucky were the blueprint for the Friday night cousin camps with my grandchildren.

The age of twelve has been on my mind since our first grandchild celebrated that pivotal year in her life three years ago and now two grandchildren blew out the candles on their tenth birthday cake this year.

Just the other day, one grandson rode his bike from next store just to say hello to his papa; he was spending the night with his aunt and uncle the evening before.

What will twelve look like for this little boy with his Papa and Gaga?
cars 2020 7 04 David working on car Ethan watching
Here is that summer poem I promised.

grandma Cova and Jake

His Summer Time With You
By Lori A. Alicea

How great the day when eyes laid on,
Your grandson’s precious face.
A secret home inside your heart,
He found a special place.

No other child could love you more,
A grandma’s treasured joy.
All wrapped and held within your arms,
One happy little boy.

No other day could not compare,
With things he’d want to do.
What greater moments when he spent,
His summer time with you.

The books you read before his nap,
Adventures were in store.
The nap delayed because he begged,
“Oh grandma read one more”.

The neighbor boy looked forward too,
When June would come around.
A childhood friendship that he shared,
And mischief that they found.

Though Batman was a hero then,
His grandma number one.
No wonder all the time you spent,
To make his summer fun.

Then one day as you sat with him,
The porch, these words you told.
That soon he wouldn’t come in June,
His age, past twelve years old.

No other reason would you give,
Than growing does occur.
But how the memories spent in June,
Would never fade or blur.

Then one year grandma’s words came true,
No books to read at noon.
Her grandson chose to stay at home,
This summer month of June.

With baseball in the little league,
With swimming at the beach.
And riding bikes took grandson far,
Away from grandma’s reach.

She said this day would come at last,
What does a grandma do?
Though growing up will not replace,
His summer time with you.

How great the day when eyes laid on,
Your grandson’s precious face.
A secret home inside your heart,
He found a special place.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS By Lori A Alicea

I’m listening Lord.

You said for your children to ask so I’ve been asking.

I know you haven’t forgotten me.

I’m confident you’re working on my behalf.

I’ve been walking this familiar stretch of road for miles heading in the same direction from the last time you spoke.

I’ve lost track of time along this silent path of my unanswered questions, bending my ear for course correction or direction with one word from you.

I’m waiting.
I’m watching while walking.

As rustling leaves from the breeze of my heart it echoes,
“I’m listening Lord.”
england journey walking on pathMany of us have lost the ability to wait, myself included on occasion.

We find ourselves stuck in the quagmire of trust what we don’t understand or see, caught up in the entanglements of our feelings instead of the safety net of God’s faithfulness.

God would have us leave the path of our unanswered questions and wade into the cool waters beside for refreshment and unearth the treasures of Him we have yet to discover.

God is enough for our lives.
He longs for us to…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on our own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

The answers to our unanswered questions are deeply rooted in Knowing God.
england journey tree rootsHe is faithful.
He keeps his Word.
He honors his promises.

When roots go deep in God, we can trust Him beyond our understanding, anchoring a wavering faith against the gusts of unanswered questions.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes, its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

But one does grow weary on the path of unanswered questions at times.

Prolonged delays can tempt us to follow the dead-end road signs of our impatience, re-calculating the GPS coordinates of God’s best for us.
england journey walking on path 1Always remember that God hasn’t forgotten us with His silence.

Prior to the birth of Jesus, God didn’t speak for four-hundred years.

His back wasn’t turned to them.
Quite the contrary.

In this dark night of eerie silence spanning four centuries, God was preparing the perfect time and place for the arrival of His beloved son.

In his silence, God was in great preparation.
I suppose though a Save the Date would have been appropriate for this grand entrance.

For our encouragement,
Brian Simmons wrote about God’s delays in his devotional…

I Hear His Whisper; Encounter God’s Heart for You
Brian Simmons

What you call delay, I call preparation. Many times I am at work behind the scenes, yet you cannot discern it. I am preparing others so that your destiny may be fulfilled, and I am preparing you even as I prepared Joseph for his season of promotion. Never judge My works by what your eyes see but by the promises I have made to you.

 Hold tightly to those promises.

Instead of lamenting our unanswered questions, may we rest in His promise that the wait will be worth it.
May the overflow of our heart sustain us while we rejoice in the goodness of God.

Goodness of God
Written by Ed Cash, Ben Fielding, Jason Ingram,
Brian Johnson, Jenn Johnson, Bethel Music

All my life You have been faithful,
All my life you have been so so good.
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God.