DARE TO DREAM, DARE TO BELIEVE By Lori A Alicea

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived,
the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

“Your dreams are free, it doesn’t cost,
So dream the brightest star.
Believe for it¸ you reach for it,
Forget the distance far.
brook and brystol blowing glitter no logoYour dream is not defined by age,
So dare to dream, believe.
ayva no logoThe young, the old, you’re capable,
Don’t run from it or leave.
The Princess Within Rosalee with shoesThere is a dream for every girl,
A dream for every boy.
Group pictureYour dream does not discriminate,
You’re made for this, enjoy.
cova hollis rosalee THIS ONEFor every twinkle in the night,
You name and find your star.
cova hand under chin no logoAnd if your dream you cannot see,
Your dream knows who you are.
brook and brystol no logoWhile though it seems impossible,
This dream that stirs your heart.
Oh dare believe, begin to walk,
Your steps await, just start.
The Princess Within Rosalee with shoes 1The world awaits your star to shine,
To waken up the night.
Be not surprised your dream displayed,
Your shooting stars so bright.
cova standing tall no logoOh dare to dream, oh dare believe,
The world’s your stage they say.
It is your time, stand up for it,
Reach out your dream bouquet.
ayva 5Don’t let your star extinguish out,
Forever shine your light.
If dare to dream your starry sky,
For others, burns at night.
rosalee-2.jpgThere is no dream too big or small,
Believe, I dare you to.
Bring forth the dream that burns inside,
The one God breathed in you.
brook and brystol blowing glitter no logo

A LESSON IN LOVE By Lori A Alicea

In any given day;

We are teachers.
We are students.

With our lives, we are teaching a class, most likely never realizing the students who are observing, listening and taking notes.

People are watching us.
We are watching them.

There are classrooms assembled everywhere we go.
Sometimes we’re the student.
Sometimes we’re the teacher.

Our lives take center stage and people are wondering, studying and silently asking questions.

The question is though:
What lessons are we teaching?

On October 15, 2019 David and I will be celebrating 25 years of marriage. So hard to believe that this wonderful man comes home every night and parks his car next to mine in the driveway where we live.  He chooses to sit beside me at the dinner table.  He chooses to hold my hand whenever we are close enough to do so.  He chooses to call me periodically throughout the day.  He chooses to love me and call me his wife.  After twenty five years, I choose him and all of this and more.

I am a blessed woman.
My husband tells me every day what a blessed man he is.

Our marriage is a gift from God.

To celebrate this milestone, we have decided to live out this amazing legacy before our grandchildren, displaying the faithfulness of God through our twenty five years together in a Wedding Vow Renewal Event. Sparing no sparkle, we have gathered our children, grandchildren, family and dear friends around the dinner table for an evening to remember.

With both of us being once divorced, we desperately wanted the generations going forward to inherit a glorious picture of marriage, framed in Godly love.

Though our twenty five years together have encountered its share of misgivings, David and I celebrate a deep affection and unbreakable bond for one another, and desire that our marriage live beyond us as:

a testimony,
a vision of hope rooted in God,
a lesson in love.

…a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12

Interestingly, when David and I were just newlyweds all those years ago, still learning about each other, still learning how to blend our families. I remember a man I met on the job who had no idea when he punched in the time clock that morning, he’d be teaching me an impressionable  Lesson in Love,

teaching a student watching, observing, listening and taking notes.

Ironically, I punched the time clock that morning to be the teacher, to instruct him and the crew how to use a newly installed system.

Yes, the classroom doors are always open.
Some days we’re the teacher.
Some days we’re the student.

This particular day twenty five years ago I was the student, getting a valuable

LESSON IN LOVE
By Lori A. Alicea    

After celebrating Valentine’s Day just a few weeks ago and June fast approaching with summer weddings, surely love is in the air for many.  Though a romantic that I believed myself to be, it was after being hired to teach a class where a lesson in true love was unsuspectingly being prepared for me.

I was working the grueling midnight shift in the steel mill one year, teaching workers how to use a newly installed system, when I was introduced to “Frank”.

Initially after meeting “Frank”, I questioned whether our personalities would click.  “Frank” was often cranky when things went wrong, yet lightened up later with an offering from his candy dish.  “Frank” was tall and full of energy, though humorously odd when answering the phone.

It was quiet that night, as work had halted earlier, leaving “Frank” and I alone to keep watch.  To pass the hour, “Frank” had brewed some coffee, inviting me to join.

“Frank” looked comfortable around this makeshift kitchen, finding comforts of home behind a locked cabinet of his.  “Frank” must have been a waiter in an earlier day, as he displayed this natural ability to serve.

It’s sad thinking you know a person by believing what you see, instead of what you’ve learned.  You wonder how many friendships never bloom, when opposites sometimes fail to give it a chance, even over something simple as a cup of coffee.

As “Frank” began to unwind that evening, I slowly noticed him different.  Maybe he made a good impression with the table he set.  Or maybe I just realized how easy “Frank” was to talk to.

In the beginning, conversation between “Frank” and I was small talk.  Before long though, “Frank” was sharing about the love of his life.

“14 years ago everything changed”, “Frank” said, when the woman he married got sick; she’s been sick every since.  Over coffee “Frank” took me down the streets of memory lane, visiting sites of pain and sorrow, yet stopping by to smell their roses of happiness.   That night “Frank” exposed the scars of their travels, yet vowed he’d marry her all over again.

Yes “Frank” believed everything changed 14 years ago, but I believe “Frank” forgot what didn’t change, his wedding vows, “in sickness and in health”.

That night I met a man who didn’t change, when everything around him did.  “Frank” didn’t leave when his wife needed him most.  “Frank” continued to serve, when eyes often didn’t see.  That night I met a man who honored “I Take Thee, in spite of sickness.”  That night over coffee I met a new found friend; that night I met man.

THE REST OF THE STORY By Lori A Alicea

God has written your story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God has written our story.
2019 cumbee aubrey reading books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 england rosalee reading a book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End.

HER CROWN OF SPLENDOR By Lori A Alicea

“Grandma! You dyed your hair!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, the generations.

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

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

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

Crown of:

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

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

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

But God says, “Not so daughter.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHOM SHALL I SEND? By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE HELLO OF OUR GOOD-BYE By Lori A Alicea

So many good-byes so close together this summer.

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

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

Good-bye is our bookend to hello.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good-bye is our bookend to hello.

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

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

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

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

But be willing to stay in your lane.

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

And continue to run the race set before you.

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

CHOOSE JOY By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crickets and frogs join in if you listen close enough.

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

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

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

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

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

Sing of His goodness.

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

Sing in your weakness.

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

No matter the season.
Whether…

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

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

Sing.
Rejoice in song.

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

Choose Joy!