BE NOT EMPTY HANDED By Lori A Alicea

We all have something to give.

From the palm of our hand rests the prospect of making a big difference from our small “somethings” if we are willing to open our hand and release that which we hold; an opportunity, a word of encouragement, our available time, our available resources, even a cup of cold water on a hot thirsty day.
USE THIS WHITE VASE 2While the value of what our hand holds might not add up to much in our opinion, the potential impact of meeting another man’s need could be life changing if you’re willing to give first what is caught in your grip.

I remember as if it were yesterday. I was young and embarking a new career path when an opportunity came my way, a gift that could alter my personal and professional life if I chose to accept it.  Opportunities sometimes though place us at a fork in the road, standing on the steps of indecision forcing the perplexing question, “Go north, south, east or west?” Remembering that opportunities come with a price tag, a cost to pay regardless the direction.

I was in my late twenties and waiting for my “big professional break” as a computer programmer analyst. Paying my dues as an operator consultant while competing in the race of runners whose resumes of education and experience was a far distance ahead of mine, leaving me behind and exhausted in my personal confidence.

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But life as an operator consultant wasn’t so bad. I found a simple pleasure in the manager’s morning routine whose rounds to every work station expressed sincere appreciation with his kind words and smile, “How’s your day going?”  It was his way of saying, “I see you.  I acknowledge you.  I’m here for you.”

Unknowingly to him, this manager’s small gesture to visit those under his leadership made an indelible difference during the days I felt barely alive and unimportant, secretly trying to survive a painful divorce.  Day after day, I looked forward to this man’s unassuming presence, more than I ever told him, more than he ever knew.

It was this same manager who called me into his office one afternoon unexpectedly with a career proposition; my big professional break. This opportunity presented itself as a black cloud with a silver lining.  The silver lining reveals a programming project automating the manual efforts of one’s position, thus eliminating the need for that employee; the black cloud unfortunately names that eliminated position as mine.

This newly acquired experience could open the door to my future consulting career, yet a gamble this single mother with two small children living in subsidized-housing didn’t know if she could afford. Barely meeting the bills I had to be willing to walk the high wire of uncertainty without the safety net of another job waiting for me when the project completed.
CANDY JAKE 007With only this moment to make up my mind, I had to lean quickly into God for his ultimate wisdom. I had to trust that the steps asked of me to take were truly ordered from Him.  I had to trust the provision of God to be there in tomorrow’s rations for me and my small children. I had to feel safe in the hands of my God who said he’d be there as my husband, taking care of me while I lived life as a single mother.
Taking a blind step with the eyes of my faith,
I said, “Yes.”

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Following the project, the promises of God unveiled a consulting career developing software for most of the steel mills along Lake Michigan and other corporations.

God proved his faithfulness to a mother
wanting to take care of and provide for her children.

God proved that the answer standing on the steps of indecision is “Trust Me.”

God reminded me he moves and works through those and ways you least expect.

One man’s open hand of opportunity before me gave new meaning to the song,
“What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life.”

I wrote and told him so in a letter.

LET IT BE SAID OF ME By Lori A Alicea

In just two short years there will be sixty candles decorating my birthday cake. Sixty lit candles, an assortment of blue, pink, yellow, green and white ones dug deep beneath the frosting, each representing a year of my life.  Sixty years of candles burning and flickering its flame waiting for me to make a wish.  Sixty lit candles whose wax slowly drips down its sides as the birthday song is sung in family unison before all sixty candles are blown out.  Sixty candles for sixty years, celebrated with cake, ice cream, gifts and coffee.

Sixty candles reflecting sixty 365-calendar days of opportunity to touch lives, give love, receive love, notice someone, matter to someone, make a difference, through God be the difference, make the day count, show up when you’re counted on, a birthday wish this sixty “365-calendar days” reads like an adventure novel.

Let it be said of me one day when there are no more lit candles to blow out on my birthday cake I at least attempted a fraction of this kind of life.
Lori little Birthday cakeEven though I’m still believing for decades to hug and embarrass my children, holding on for years of sweet good-morning kisses with my husband, and anticipating a lifetime of love to give to my grandchildren, sometimes we need to take a serious pause and ask God if our lives embody the dreams and plans he set aside specifically for us.

With jam packed calendars that have no lane to slow down in. When ignoring the clock rarely enjoying the 24 hours we’ve been blessed with because frankly, our lives are over booked.  Sometimes we need to fasten our seatbelts and slam on the brakes of our busyness because we need to have a conversation with God and ask him, “Are we measuring up to that “good and faithful servant?”

God reminds us to number our days.
God holds out that yardstick of our life to remind us it measures a mere breath.
We are a mist, we are a vapor.

The calendar years pass by so quickly.

Let it be said of me I numbered my days.
Let it be said of me I measured my time here on earth.
Let it be said of me I recognized that tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed but treasured the moments I could hold onto in the now.
Let it be said of me at least most of the time, I didn’t waste the seconds, minutes and hours God had given me.

Looking back over my sixty years, I wish there was a “do over” card I could throw down on the hands I played unwisely in the past. I wish life allowed me to “white out” those mistakes and rewrite the pages of that legacy I will one day leave as an inheritance.

I wish I could go back in time and have a few conversations with my younger self. I’d love to share with her the discoveries of my heart, those realizations I’ve found to be true.  I wish I could leave for her “crumbs in the forest” so she wouldn’t lose her way in the midst when life flips upside down.   Even though I can’t turn back the clock for that little girl of my younger self, I can drop for my children and grandchildren my “crumbs in the forest” that one day it would be said of me my life mattered at least for them.
Lori little 1I’d tell my younger self that your walk with God will be worth it. That while the road shared with Him will take you down hidden paths of despair and doubt all for His glory for which you can trust Him, the hops and skips through the wild flower fields of bliss and happiness will be many, and God will hold tight to your hand through them all.

Yes younger self, your walk with God will be worth it.
Church directory picture(Church directory with the family)

 I’d tell my younger self that God fashioned you beautifully and the mirror doesn’t lie as you were designed in the image of the Creator.  Down the road during  those heart-wrenching seasons of abandonment when you want to believe something must be terribly wrong with the mirror you sadly look into, God will turn all this for His good.  Hold tight your reflection into the mirror of God, as He will use those emotions of “shattered glass” to help other girls and women value their worth during a time of brokenness.
Lori little 3I’d tell my younger self there’s always a reason to smile, even when you hate that patriotic dress your grandmother gave you to wear or when you’ve lost so many of your baby teeth at the same time. Smiling doesn’t mean your life is perfect, without worry or free from pain.  But smiling displays a strong confidence that your God’s got “this”, whatever “this is”, a deep belief you’re God’s got you.  Don’t ever lose your confidence when your report card has a few A- and not straight A+.  We all have room to improve.  Keep smiling when you’ve lost your confidence to try out for cheerleading.  Keep smiling when your best friend (and only friend) is your sister who lets you pal around at school.  Keep smiling when lunch time in the library gets lonely.  Keep smiling because throughout life you’ll never be alone with God clinging to your side.
Lori little 2I’d tell my younger self to keep from comparing yourself to others, especially to your four other sisters. So you’re the middle girl and feel like an imaginary child.  So your baby sister gets all the attention as well as the oldest.  God will always see you and pick you out in the crowd.  He will notice you and smile with every look of your face.  Don’t compare, but celebrate the individual you.
Lori little 4Lastly younger self, I’d tell you that God has great need of thee. God has wonderful gifts he wants to use through you for reasons beyond your imagination.  Don’t begrudge or belittle your gifts.  Take hold your gifts.  Hone your gifts.  Be generous with these gifts God wants to use to touch the lonely, the broken, the lost and the weary.  Your life will matter to more than you know.  Your influence will reach generations beyond your life.  Live today with passion, with purity, with purpose.  Live like you matter because you matter to God, you matter to others, you matter to the life you have been given.
Lori little 5Because sixty years and beyond will pass you by faster than the time it takes to blink your eyes.

When my days here on earth are done, may it have been counted for my family, counted for others, counted for Christ.  When heaven welcomes me at the gate,

Let all this be said of me.

BEFORE YOU WERE EVER BORN By Lori A Alicea

Who knew?

Who knew that before your days were even one, the impact your small little life would have on all those arms that wait anxiously to hold you for the very first time.

Who knew you’d take our breath away when the song of your heartbeat played ever so quietly before our ears just weeks after learning of your arrival.

Who knew the miracle of watching you sleep during your debut to the world would stir an amazing love in our hearts before you were ever born.

Children are a gift from God.
He knew them before they were ever born.
He planned for them at the beginning of time.
In the beginning their steps have been ordered, the plans for their lives are in place.

Children have a destiny, they’ve been called for a purpose yet to be revealed.
In their mother’s womb, God knits them and keeps a viligent watch. He doesn’t slumber nor take his eyes off of them not even for a moment.

Before you were ever born, your siblings were fighting over you, deciding for themselves where you will sleep and who will hold you first. Your room has been ready for weeks.  Your blankie has been bought and can’t wait to keep you warm.  The diapers are stacked.  A fluffy bear keeps his post on the dresser overlooking your crib.  A nightlight burns softly in the corner across the room from where you will sleep.

Your birth can’t come soon enough. Nine months of siblings repeating “is baby here yet” wears thin on a mother’s patience.  But the hour finally comes and those that have waited an eternity welcome you with open arms.

Before you were ever born you were loved to the moon and back.

Before you were ever born you had a big sister and big brother who couldn’t wait their turn to introduce themselves.

Before you were ever born, the kisses your siblings couldn’t wait to give you.

The gifts, the moments, the preparations made way before you were ever born.

It’s a wonder you are ever able to sleep with an audience who just can’t take their eyes off of you. The innocence of you sweet child, soft and delicate, taking small breaths one after the other, while you rest and grow in your dreams.

Safe and sound in your daddies arms, he vows to protect you from all harm. Witnessing a miracle snuggled up close, your daddies in such awe that the one he holds is really his.
birth ayva 3Sometimes daddy’s first kiss will also be his last for many months until he returns for you after deployment. During that summer to fall season, you will grow into such a big girl that daddy will have to reacquaint himself to you.

Before you were ever born, no one could have imagined how fast you’d grow and change before our baby could count her fingers to one year old. Posing for pictures month after month that first year, capturing your beautiful self for a “time capsule of moments” we’d give anything to relive.  Looking back over the twelve months before us reveals the wonderful holidays, your health challenges, your growth and smiles for days.  You’re loved even more now than before you were ever born.

Before you were ever born, God’s calendar has already marked and reserved your life’s celebrations.

From your first birthday.

Your first haircut.
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Your first day of school.

Your first attempts at stretching your wings.

All those graduations. Your first job.  Your wedding.  Your first child.
So many surprises that wait to celebrate you in years to come.

But for today, we celebrate you.

Two innocent girls who came into this world just weeks apart, cousins who live states apart, yet share a bond and ask for each other when their mommies talk on the phone.

No one could have imagined girls that would steal your heart before they were ever born. Now a family can’t imagine life without them.

You little girls are beautiful.
You little girls have captured our world with your smiles.
We know you both will attempt great feats and achieve your hearts desire.
There are big plans for your life.

I know that because God has prepared for them in fine detail
Before you were ever born.
sprinkle both faries

 

 

WHILE ON MY KNEES IN PRAYER By Lori A Alicea

        By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me…a prayer to the God of my life.
Psalm 42:8 NIV

Dear God, I kneel before you now,
My heart is prostrate too.
I yield my thoughts, I cast my cares,
That I may hear from you.

A moment just the two of us,
A conversation share.
Reveal a Father’s love for me,
While on my knees in prayer.

lito and theia praying

In silence I will wait for you,
But yet, you beat me here.
A Daddy longs his children close,
Delights to have them near.

It’s not my eloquence of words,
Or list my tears prepare.
But heaven stops to hear a child,
Who comes to him in prayer.

Praying at altar 2

A child’s faith can tug his heart,
A father hears their need.
See mountains move with faith the size,
As small a mustard seed.

You know my words before I speak,
My needs you’re so aware.
But yet you beckon me to ask,
While on my knees in prayer.

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I thank you for my daily bread,
Each meal you’ve given me.
No lack, but full my cupboards are,
Though empty I might see.

Oh stir my appetite for you,
Dear Lord, I tarry there.
That place to hunger for your love,
Please satisfy my prayer.
2019 cumbee ayva praying
Where two are gathered in your name,
You’re here for us, for me.
Oh Lord we listen for your voice,
In patience wait for Thee.

My simple words this child speaks,
For more of you I dare.
A Father runs to hear his child,
Who folds their hands in prayer.

ethan kollin praying prayer

No matter what the age we are,
A child to God are we.
Such gifts a Father wants to give,
If wait for Him to see.

Present to You a child’s heart,
Sweet hands I cast my care.
So loved I feel in your embrace,
While on my knees in prayer.

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…but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Psalm 66:19 NIV

love is…..By Lori A Alicea

Twenty-five years ago this October while vowing love and commitment to one another at our wedding altar, my husband and I received mined gold pieces of wisdom spoken by our Pastor, a compass he gave us to discovering love for a lifetime.

Our Pastor encouraged us as “bride and groom” embarking on a lifetime journey together to love, respect, honor, enjoy and revere the other with our eyes. To see goodness, uniqueness, virtue, value, future, beauty and wonderment in the other,

A mining for love in the noticing.

The eyes see it all; the good, the bad, the ugly.
We have a choice.

Each and every day we have a choice; to see the bad, to see the ugly.
Or notice the good hidden in the corner of your eye.
The good is always there.

Don’t look away. You’ll miss it.
Take a second look if you have to.
Don’t miss an opportunity to
mine for love in the noticing.

True love isn’t riches measured in dollars and cents.
True love is captured in the pause of a long stare, between blinks in a given moment. True love is in the eye of the beholder.

True love is mined in the noticing.

Life is full of beauty.
NOTICE IT.
Notice the bumble bee,
the small child,
and the smiling faces.
Smell the rain and feel the wind.
Life your life to the fullest potential,
and fight for your dreams.
Ashley Smith

Love is in the simple.
Love is in the day to day.
Love looks for it.
Love searches for it.

Love is always there.
Love is mining in the noticing.

Love is eyes lighting up.
Love is falling in love with my husband over and over when I notice him:

Making the bed in the morning or turning the covers at night.

Deciding it is his responsibility to tackle the sink full of dishes after meals.

Ironing better than any dry cleaners in town.

Unashamed to fall to his knees in prayer.

Calling my mother or visiting her on his own without me.

Endearing my mother by referring to her as mom.

Hauling the basket of dirty laundry to the basement then bringing up the clean and folded clothes unassumingly.

Wearing cologne at all times; after showers, before bed or for no reason at all.

Lathering our little grandsons with cologne so they can smell like Papa too.

Smiling because every Facetime call from our grandchildren begins with,
“Where’s Papa?”

Always treating and referring to my children as “our children” from day one.

Full of grease after working on the car in all the weather elements regardless of having no garage.

Reaching the heavens and hearts with his voice in song.

Revealing his gorgeous smile.

Laughing for every little thing.

Revisiting a conversation when customers have inquired about his no-show whereabouts after making such a lasting impression of courtesies and promptness.

Setting the dinner table standard of eating whatever my hands have prepared; even during the early years when my attempts at Porter Rican rice resembled oatmeal to our children’s gag-reflexing dismay.

Revealing his heart through sensitive tears; especially when they fall regarding his kids and grandkids.

Holding my hand throughout our 25 years of life together;
while in the car,
while watching TV,
while drinking coffee together,
while lying in bed at night.

Love isn’t a feeling.
Love isn’t a fairy tale.
Love is a choice.
Love chooses to see the good in a bad day.

Love can be for a lifetime.

Love remembers that:

Love never fails…..
1 Corinthians 13: 8 NIV

When
Love is mining in the noticing.

Love just is.

Rock-A-BYE BYE the Years By Lori A Alicea

You don’t think about it during the bedtime hour while rocking your grandchild to a peaceful sleep. That gentle back-and-forth sway of the chair accompanied by a grandmother’s quiet whisper of Rock-A-Bye-Baby, together circling the moon and starry skies along the way to a child’s land of sweet dreams.
Me kissing Kizzie head USE THISYou don’t think about it while staring in the stillness of a child’s face, whose long eyelashes flutter between rest and slumber resembling butterfly wings flittering in a grassy field of wild flowers.
Kizzie no thumb USE THISYou don’t think about it when a child’s pacifier, security blanket and lullaby of a grandmother’s heartbeat calms their innocent worries.
Kizzie in chair sucking thumb USE THISYou don’t think about it when a child’s piggies and a child’s sweet toes have all been counted like sheep to be whisked away to sleep.

It’s in this moment when a grandmother stares into the innocent face of her sleeping grandchild, slightly grazing those rosy cheeks and ears with her fingertips and gently kissing the top of this precious child’s head when she realizes that all her grandbabies are no longer babies anymore.
Kizzie asleep USE THISIt happens just that fast.
It happens when you least expect it;
It happens when you close your eyes for just a second;
It happens when you look the other way momentarily;
It happens though you think that day is years from now.
Yet that bittersweet day finally comes and it has happened to us.
We bid Rock-A-BYE BYE the Years.

Our ten grandbabies are no longer babies anymore.
Kizzie by rose bush USE THIS 1Though our youngest grandchild hasn’t let go of the comforts she enjoyed as a baby just yet, her pretty pink boots tells the story of the steps she’s beginning to take into a little girl’s life.
Kizzie by rocks 10Climbing new heights and discovering her world revealed in the smallest of details, this child is growing up, no longer a baby anymore.

She’ll steal the hearts of many as she already has this grandmother.
Kizzie dressHow I wish Our Rock-A-Bye memories made together could somehow remain in pause, at least for a few extra unexpected trips around the moon.
Kizzie asleep USE THISHow I wish I wouldn’t have been caught up in the chaos of bottles, dirty diapers and sleeplessness during the midnight feedings when the other nine grandbabies had their time with me in the rocking chair. I know I cradled and adored them as they all slept in my arms.

Yet I wish my lullaby playlist would have had a few more selections.
I wish I wouldn’t have been so concerned about the kitchen sink full of dishes or the laundry billowing over to the floor.
I just wish I had believed when others told me that time with them as babies escapes as quickly as the spoken words from our mouth.

May the memo get passed around to enjoy the moments, however big or small, of every day with them.
Savor the little things with them.
Capture their world in a time capsule and bury it in your heart.
RSVP as their favorite invited guest to a child’s tea party.
Remembering it doesn’t take much to make them smile.
Another trip to the park; a walk to the ice cream store.
It won’t cost you anything but being present in their life.

Because one day, a day closer than imagined.
One day where swings and slides will no longer interest them.
One day on the other side of the park, where a new field of their life awaits them to discover.
kizzie walking with sisters USE THISA day you’ll bid Rock-A-BYE BYE the Years.

MEASURED IN SMILES By Lori A Alicea

Sticks and stones
May break my bones.

But words ????
 Will never cause me pain???
Will never break my heart???
Will never break me????
Will never hurt me???

One afternoon my husband and I were out riding our bicycles together when we stopped to look at this rock garden school children had personally grown. Hand painted stones with word-messages from a child’s imagination and decorated in their own colorful flair, a spring concert of sorts, where the music and song is played to your own interpretation.

Observing this garden of rocks, I was sadly reminded of the stones we all have thrown on occasion in a heated moment of hurt, hurling our words of opinions, words in defense against accusation or words to protect ourselves from pain. Our “volley of words” resembles a bully’s way of taking control by casting stones.

Sassy kids have all said it. Myself as a child included.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

How far from the truth this is.

At our child’s middle school graduation, I remember the commencement message like it was yesterday as it left an indelible mark. The speaker spoke on the power of words and the handprint they leave on a child’s heart.  Reminding us that words are “containers for life or death” and their lifetime impact over our children could be
“measured in smiles.”

The Commencement Speaker rewinds the movie of this graduation class to their first day of kindergarten when smiles were bright and endless. A simple world of cartoons and playgrounds, their joy was written all over their face in smiles.  Happiness abounds in their land of balloons and fireflies.  But sadly, it doesn’t take long when a child’s garden clutters from the sticks and stones of another’s negative words, crowding out their innocence and smiles.  Over the years of neglect and not weeding out the clutter, sticks and stones can overtake the garden of a middle school graduate and possibly an adult.
IMG_3159But hope is not lost.
hopeGardens grow and blossom with seeds sown in joy and kindness.
hope joy love be kindLove can thrive and brighten smiles in any garden, especially a garden of hurt and overgrown in sticks and stones.
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We are reminded that our words be gracious and sweet as honeycomb and pleasing in our Lord’s sight.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Proverbs 16:24

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:24

Just the other day I received a text message, words sweetened in a child’s love causing a bright smile on this grandmother’s face. My seven year old granddaughter spelled out her itinerary for our weeks visit together, a list of ways she wanted to spend time with me.

This is my itinerary when you are here. I want us to make pancakes, biscuits and gravy, roast, chicken noodle soup.  I want to go to the park and on walks.  I want to cuddle with you.  Make books and read books.  I want to sleep with you and do make up together.  I love you.  Also, there’s one more thing.  I want to stay up with you and make cookies.
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 Next time you see a child whose smile is dimmed; his smile might be measured from the sticks and stones of his garden.

Come along side this child and speak words of peace, joy and kindness to him.
bee kindGenerously water his garden in love.

This child’s smile will shine bright again.
His garden will surely grow.

The season of spring has come upon us.
It’s time to weed out our garden’s clutter.

It’s time to clear our land of sticks and stones, those words that have kept our gardens from blooming.

3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heaven…

    a time to scatter stones… Ecclesiastes 3

It’s time to prepare our heart’s soil to receive good seeds, those words full of love, peace, joy and kindness to help our garden grow.
hope joy love be kindOh, that our joy be evident from the overflow of our heart.

Oh, that our peace, love and joy be
measured in smiles.
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