LAUGHTER IS ALWAYS KING By Lori A Alicea

(Spoiler Alert:  There is an Elvis sighting.
Don’t leave this blog until Elvis has left the building)

When was the last time you really laughed?  No really laughed?

You know, that laughter which has you rolling on the floor with tears in your eyes?

Hilarious laughter where everyone within earshot is laughing for no other reason than your joyful outburst is contagious?

Davids picture

Life is delightful and meant to be enjoyed.

God gave us eyes to see the silly and ability to react to it.

If there was an eleventh commandment it would surely read:
THOU SHALT ALWAYS LAUGH.

Adam picture

I wish I could say I laughed daily.  I wish I could say I had a sense of humor.  I wish my heart had a “funny button” easily pushed, but I guess mine is on back order.

When I say things I believe are funny causing a laugh in my own gut, my kids give me these confused blank stares as if to say, “Alriiiiiiiiiighty.”

Nathan's picture
Jakes picture

But thankfully my life is far from bland as I married into a family full of laughter.  With five brothers, a mother, a crazy sister ‘n law and nieces and nephews who can’t contain themselves when together, such joy and memories created all because a family loves to laugh.

David and his brothers
Adrianna picture

These five brothers together have no shame.  Nothing is off limits.

I relish the stories of them portraying Roman soldiers for years in an annual Easter production, stepping into each other’s scenes to stir a silent laugh.

This family begs to laugh whenever they can.  A faucet gets turned on and out pours the giggles; the knee slapping; the out of control.  Jokes are only told in Spanish as for some reason they sound funnier that way; at least to them.

These sons delighted their mother more than anyone with their zest for life.  My mother ‘n laws laughter rolled in huge waves when her boys stirred the “pot of the hilarious.”

If mama is laughing, you can just about bet one of her sons is nearby.

barbara laughing cropped

Our hearts can still sense her laughter though she’s been gone the past few years.

My husband David brings an “off the charts” joy to our marriage, kids and especially the grand-kids.  These ten little lives light up when Papa enters the room and their world.  Unfortunately when Papa’s around sword fighting, blowing bubbles, making crazy voices and totally preoccupied while chasing them, I am a “Debbie Downer” worrying about their safety.  While Papa is a blast to our babies, I, the safety police am told to return to my squad car until I have learned to laugh.

NOW GIT.

candace elvis

Oh that we all would learn to laugh.

The Bible reminds us to laugh:
Let your heart be merry.  Judges 19:6 KJV

One of the most wasted of all days is one without laughter.  E E Cummings

If laughing doesn’t come easy, at least
Be the first to laugh at yourself. — Benjamin Franklin

I remember leaving the house once for work in my business suit and fuzzy house slippers, thankfully being stopped at the mailbox by my husband and daughter.

I remember taking an hour train ride for a job interview only to be mortified after the interview realizing I had red lipstick at the end of my nose, for who knows how long.

I remember mall walking during the Christmas holidays questioning the snickers and stares, only to freak at the red thong hanging from my crocheted scarf I must have caught while shopping the stores.

At least the stolen item was Christmas red.  Right?

I know kids, I know:

Nathan's picture
Jakes picture

Be the first to laugh at yourself.

Be the first to laugh and take delight like a little child whose innocence is on full display at anything silly.  With ten grandchildren, they have all taught this grown up grandmother to find her inner child and enjoy life at the smallest of levels, even swinging at the park with their Papa.

 

 

 

As I stated earlier, this family I married into is one big circus of laughter.  People want to sit at their table at weddings.  People want to hang out with the “brothers” as they own the corner market of fun.

The joke at our family gatherings is wondering when Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, will make his appearance next.  My husband David sang an Elvis song at our wedding altar.  This same Elvis shows up unannounced throughout the years, and when he does, Elvis’ groupies let loose and stir up the crowd and excitement.

Though Elvis and his lead guitarist are usually having a bad hair day, Elvis’ golden voice and fingers sporting his signature “ring pops” have the ladies and kids all drooling for his attention.

 

 

(VIDEO COURTESY OF BRAD EBERT)

DON’T FORGET THAT LAUGHTER IS ALWAYS KING.

Elvis 1

elvis 2

ELVIS HAS NOW LEFT THE BUILDING.

 

 

BURIED DREAMS By Lori A Alicea

I sometimes think we go through life believing we’ll live forever, with dreams on our “to-do-lists” continuing to be put off for another day, as if Father Time has guaranteed us tomorrow.

You know what I am talking about; those dreams God conceived in your belly years ago that have long surpassed its nine month gestational period and is desperate for you to give birth.  Those dreams that are your marching orders from the Commander in Chief in Heaven, whose Kingdom army will be forced to recruit other willing soldiers if we fail to fulfill the dream He has dared us to dream.

Somehow we count the price to pay as minimal to leave our post and go AWOL.  But I believe if the Commander turned up the volume to the cries of the lost and hurting, we would sit heartbroken in our idle condition.

I’ve often heard that the saddest place to visit are the grounds where all our loved ones lay, a cemetery littered with markers from one headstone to the other:  “Here lies another dream, once bursting with unimaginable promise, now dead to eternity, never realizing what could have been.”
Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
We all have a song to sing.
We know the words.
We hear the music.
Someone in pain waits for our song of comfort.
We long to sing.
We want to sing.
Yet we remain silent.
Romans 7:16 reminds us of this heart condition,
For what I want to do, I do not do…”
Sadly, if we don’t wake up to our dreams, we will:
Die with the music still in us.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Remembering the years, my sister Belinda and I loved to write.  Our affection for words and the impact they have on others led to many conversations about the books we wanted to write.

Belinda being sick most of her life, her biggest dream was to write of her Lupus journey, detailing the highways and byways, dead-ends and disappointments, and signs and wonders during her time in the trenches, battling the disease.

Without question, Belinda knew God wanted to use her story to encourage others whose hourglass of hope seemed to be running out of sand.  Belinda had a story to write; she had a song to sing.  Yet she put it off for tomorrow, though sadly, tomorrow didn’t come when God called her home on August 3, 2004; she was only 44 years old.

Her untimely departure is our wake up call to “Number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalms 90:12

None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

“You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes.”  James 4:13-14

Months after her death, I honored our promise to each other to write with a bi-monthly column in the local newspaper titled “Little Things”.  The hope of my opportunity would be to encourage others to look at the Little Things before them; God’s reminder how full the baskets of our lives truly are.

Sadly, that opportunity ended after eight short months and the newspapers rejection letter had me questioning if I really had anything to say after all.

Fourteen years later and the pages of my book remain blank.  I immersed myself in event decorating to detour my creativity from the pen.  I avoided conversations that might question my writing status, yet God’s voice and whispers can’t be silenced and his “pricks of my heart” for those waiting for my words keeps me uncomfortable.

This past year we moved to a town with its own country cemetery.  Day after day passing this small plot of buried loved ones, I thought of my sister often and her unfinished book as well as mine.  Becoming more evident as I near retirement age, I would also die with the “music still in me” if I refuse to answer the call on my life.

other country grave

I had to come to the end of myself and wave the white flag of surrender to God.  No more idling.   I put my car of writing into gear and engaged the GPS wherever my call would lead.

I desperately prayed the cry of my heart:
“Lord, forgive me for the years I have squandered and redeem what has been lost.  Breathe new life into the dream you dreamed for me before I was ever born.”

No one is ever too young; no one ever too old to be used by God.

There isn’t a dream too dusty to be taken off the shelf and watch it explode in “fireworks finale fashion” before your eyes.

It just takes a burning desire to want what God wants for us, which is our passion and surrendered heart to enlist back into His army to win the Kingdom war using our dreams.  In the end when our tour of duty is finished, we can proudly stand before our General and say,

“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” John 17:4

Lord, burn a flame in me.  I’m saying YES TO MY CALL.

 Hence, the birth of this weekly blog.

Reflecting back in 2004 as I arrived in Tennessee a few days before my sister’s funeral, I inquired my niece if her mother left anything behind she would want me to see.  My niece remembering her mother and our love for words gave me the Acknowledgements and only page of the book my sister began to give birth to.

My sister kept her promise to write.

Being asked to speak at my sister’s Home Going Celebration, I thought it fitting and proved to be powerful, to read the Acknowledgements, those loved ones she gave thanks to while journeying those grueling miles battling Lupus.

A paragraph of her Acknowledgements:

Thank you Mom, my sisters and brother, for always being with me in your deepest support of prayers, your love and for all the times you soothed that breaking heart of mine with the Word of God.  You all have been a leaning post for me.  All of you should be commended for every effort that you have sacrificed in me, when you needed to do other things.  I will always cherish and remember every moment of truth that all of you thought would help me.  I love you all.  Thank you.

 Belinda's grave

After all these years, the title of my former column Little Things reminded me just that:  the biggest splash in the ocean is caused by Little Things.

My sister couldn’t have known fourteen years later her one page book would impact her own family; a brother and brother ‘n law battling their own diseases.  Her words from long ago stir encouragement to keep on going.  Imagine had she written the complete book.

Mark's pic

Brad

A portion of the only page she wrote:

…When certain life’s tragedy’s come to us, sometimes it’s out of our control.  But what we can change is how we respond to it.  You can be bitter or angry or turn your thinking around to the point where you can help other people with what happened to you.  It gives them hope and it also gives to them an expectation of seeds of faith that you have left them.

It’s so important that you choose to live.

“Long life will I satisfy Him.”Psalm 91:16

 “I shall live and not die.”Psalms 118:17

Your trials may be a physical situation or a mental situation.  But whatever the case, choose to live and not die from it.  Fight the good fight of faith.

“I have set before you life and death.  Therefore, choose life that thy seed may live.”  Deuteronomy 30:19

 In her own words she couldn’t say it enough:

Continue to Hope.
Continue to Believe.
Continue to be Encouraged.
Continue to Remember that no matter what,
You’ll always have God.

In my column Little Things after her first anniversary in Heaven I wrote,

“At her graveside service as Heaven comforted us with a sunny day and serenading birds, its own recipe of chicken soup for the sick at heart.  I couldn’t have comprehended that first year without her, as we fought to get through our first week.”

After all these years, I still miss my sister.

John Maxwell would ask of us all:
“What do you sing about?
What do you cry about?
What do you dream about?”

Dust off those old dreams.  They are still there waiting on you.  As long as there is breath in your body, it’s never too late.

My last column during that journey of words I wrote:

“Look around.  Never take your eyes off of the next opportunity that comes your way.  Remember it’s not about you, but about making a difference in the lives of others.”

Sing your song today.

Don’t die with the music still in you.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

I end this tribute with a song for my sister I wrote during that first year of my sister’s home going when God hovered extra close to our grieving hearts.  Inspired by a little butterfly that circled my sister during her graveside service, as if to tell us a secret.  Fluttering free as a child, its interpretative dance reminded us my sister was free from the body that held her hostage.  “Cry no more she’s free.”  Since then, I’ve attended a few dance recitals held outside my kitchen window.  A gift from Heaven who enjoys her now, I draw joy again from the well of my soul.

Butterfly’s Are Free to Fly
By Lori A Alicea
It’s just a little butterfly,
Outside that I can see.
Performing solo with new wings,
A special dance for me.
No music plays that I can hear,
A song there has to be.
A ballerina on her stage,
The audience, just me.

This butterfly is free to fly,
Wherever it may go.
But chose outside my window pane,
That I would somehow know.
Each dance this butterfly performs,
Within my simple view.
To celebrate your freedom wings,
Each time I think of you.

FOR EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON By Lori A Alicea

There is a time for everything.

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1
NLT

…A time to plant, and a time to harvest.  Ecclesiastes 3:2 NLT

We are all in a season, whether being planted into the field of a new season, being plowed out of an old season or daily growing in your field of a current season, wondering when this season of your life will be harvested.

There is a time for everything.

Apostle John Testola defines seasons as “pockets of time God introduces when He wants to do a new thing in our life.

Tetsola also reminds us that we “need to be able to understand and discern the season so we are able to receive what God wants to do.”

 New seasons can be joyful as you welcome the birth of a new child and celebrate the early months with them that follow of all their new “firsts”.

New seasons can be painful with the loss of a loved one while you grieve the early months that follow of all the new “firsts” without them.

Old seasons being plowed can be a relief after overcoming the drought of a job loss.

A long and overwhelming current season of illness can have you begging for harvest during the relentless baking in the hot sun of uncertainty.

We are all living life in this “pocket of time” called season.

 Your neighbor’s field may look differently than your field and their “grass may even appear greener”, but be not deceived.
Rejoice in your season, as God wants to do a new
thing in your life.

There is a time for everything.

Corn bean field - neighbors field

A few years ago my husband and I entered a new season called “empty-nesters”.  With four children now being planted into new fields of their own, David and I faced a season without them while we learned to bloom in the fields sized “just for the two of us.”

In the beginning of our empty-nesting season, the silence was deafening.  The walls still echoed the laughter, the squabbling and the voice of their presence.  The children’s bedrooms now museums when you wanted desperately to see their spaces a mess and alive.

Out of habit, sleep didn’t come easy until you knew your kids returned home safely from a night out with friends.

You didn’t know how to cook anymore.  Dinner for two was more work than it was worth and a bowl of cereal seemed to suffice at times.

Thankfully David and I love to be together, we just needed to learn to love being together without kids.

The fields of our empty-nesting season followed a road of discovery that went on for miles and miles.

Discovering a deeper trust in God for our children’s care.

Discovering you can still reach your children in prayer when they always seem to have their phones on silent.

Discovering that your children were always God’s in the first place, and now it was His time to parent them in their new season without us.

corn field along road

I love everything about the four seasons of spring, summer, winter and fall.  Each season brings out the best in us.

Children come out to play in the summer.  Apples are picked in the season of fall.  Christmas brings out the kid in all of us during winter.  In spring though:

The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.  Song of Solomon 2:12 NLT

The season of spring caught us off guard just when we learned to love being “the two of us”.  Spring meant our lives would not be our own again, the bedrooms would be lived in and laughter would echo throughout the speakers of the house when David and I got the news we were going to be grand-parents.

flowers by water

Spring time came and ten years later we enjoy ten grand-children who color our world in sparkles.  These sweet lives that call us Papa and Gaga, we can’t imagine a season of fall when harvest takes them to high school then on their own to college.  Though a few years away, there’s a slight chill in the air urging us to slowly prepare for that fall sweater season of “just the two of us” again.

There is a time for everything.

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1
NLT

A time to plant and a time to harvest.  Ecclesiastes 3:2 NLT

God is wanting to do a new thing in our life in these pockets of time called seasons.
We need to be able to understand the season so we are able to receive what God wants to do.”

Apostle John Testola

THEIR SACRIFICE FOR THE FLAG By Lori A Alicea

Freedom isn’t free.

Our blessed America is the “land of the free because of the brave.”
Men and women proudly wear the uniform for God, country, and the flag.

Freedom is a family affair.
Husband, wife, mother, father, son and daughter all make great sacrifices for the flag.
When mommy or daddy deploys, the family deploys with them, even if their battles are fought at the Home-front.

Salute a soldier today.  Your freedom isn’t free.

USE THIS COVA AND JAKE

Their sacrifice for the flag 6

Most soldiers receive their orders to deploy at least once in their career; usually more.  Deployments take mommy or daddy to the other side of the world for nine to twelve long and difficult months; separating parents from their children, husbands from their wives.  Deployment is a secret battle civilians can’t identify unless you fight with them in the Home-front trenches during their long and painful separation.

Children of deployed soldiers learn to be brave when children their age are learning to sleep without their security blankets.  These brave children want to be good soldiers while mommy or daddy is gone.  But they’re just kids, making their sacrifice for the flag; albeit not by their choice.

cova with flags

cova helmet

A few years ago, our daughter ‘n law and two grand-children (with one on the way) came to live with us for six of the nine months our son was deployed.  Not wanting them to face deployment alone as they lived a three days journey away from us, they packed up their belongings and found a corner of our house to call home.

How do you say good-by for nine months to the love of your life?  Your rock, your anchor, your mooring is leaving and taking a piece of your heart to a foreign land, a place of strangers and dangers; how do you say good-by?

deploy jake hugging crystal

kuwait 3

kuwait 1

As painful as separation is, life has to go on.  Light and hope can be found in every remote city and town on the map, in every situation the day presents.  With the advancements of technology, deployment isn’t waiting for weeks to get a letter like our great grandparents and their families had to in the wars of the past.  Our grandchildren could usually see their daddies face or hear his voice sometime during the day.  Daddy was always silly, making them laugh with his antics, lessening the heaviness of their hearts that wanted him near.

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As wonderful as daddies phone calls were to his children, nothing ever takes the place of being in his arms during those moments kids just need their daddy.  Big sister made sure her baby brother had those arms to comfort him with when he appeared quiet and lonely; being that brave soldier girl she promised she would be.

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During deployment, there’s no place like home in a box.  Care packages are the oxygen that sustains life when the drought of time together takes the living out of you.  Signed Father’s Day cards from Daddy’s Boy and Girl sealed in stickers is just what the doctor ordered.  Monthly boxes of candies, favorite foods and hidden surprises traveled the air miles to their daddy solider arriving just in time when he need that pick me up.

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But the highway of air miles went both ways.  Trips to the mailbox brought more excitement than the toy store, because daddy sent a piece of himself in his special surprises to them also.

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Before bedtime children always request a story.  What better story to select than those found inside those packages sent from their daddy, books handpicked to follow along with as daddy read page after page to them beside their bed, even if their bedrooms were a million miles apart.

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Flowers do bloom during deployment, especially during your two week trip home for the birth of your third child and birthday parties of your other two.

Flags everywhere welcomed our soldier home, and a surprise trip to the airport would be the best birthday gift ever to daddy’s little girl and boy.

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While two weeks felt like forever after landing state side from hours in the air, the days would go quick and every second would be celebrated.

Daddy couldn’t go anywhere without his “tag-alongs”.  Making up for moments missed, they held on and kissed on their daddy every chance they could.

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Baby number three made her debut and big sisters nails and bow created a perfect first impression thanks to daddy.  Big brother had his hair combed special for his little sister too.

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What better time to celebrate your mermaid / fish birthday party than when you haven’t seen your daddy for a long, long time.

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birthday 20

Daddy even made sure to buy his daughter a princess dress for her birthday, a request she made when daddy was overseas.  It melted my heart to see he really honored her request.

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Two weeks flew by and this family captured every moment while in the moment.

They went fishing together.

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A families first portrait together after baby number three arrived and one day before returning to deployment.

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As far away as the end of a two week visit seemed in the beginning, that sad trip back to the airport is now here.  The silence of their last moments together spoke volumes to this grieving mother watching from behind.  The children still holding onto daddy as they had been the last fourteen days and now taking their last steps to the plane before that painful good-by was almost too much.

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Their sacrifice for the flag is great and deserves a medal for bravery and honor like every other soldier is decorated for.

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But deployment and life goes on again at grandma’s house.  Thankfully there are lots of cousins to share your days with.  They are a source of fun and laughter, that bouquet of balloons to brighten up your day.

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Hard to believe but grandma’s calendar reminds her that six months with her daughter ‘n law and babies are coming to an end.  Their corner of the house will find its way back into their boxes for the next grandparent’s house to visit; the last stop before home and end of deployment.

Never celebrating the holidays together as the military life keeps families so far away from each other, we celebrated three holidays in one in the hot, steamy month of August that year.  Stockings were filled with Halloween candy; a turkey dinner was prepared and enjoyed after we took pictures by the Christmas tree.  Seeing all grandma’s babies together for the first time by her tree was the best gift ever though December was still months away.

thanksgiving 18

Six months has now passed and our house echoed quiet as a museum minus my military kids and their presence in their rooms across the hall.  It didn’t take but a second without them that my heart cried out a river of tears; which didn’t dry up for weeks.

Deployment is close to the finish line, but Christmas without daddy was still a given.  Daddy under the tree would have been their best gift ever, but their sweet family reunion day is so close they can taste it.

Daddy sent his seasons’ greetings in a photo Christmas card to those he loves back in the states, a reminder and glimpse of what deployment looks like.

Their sacrifice for the flag 3

Deployment is so much more than families being separated.  Deployment is fighting for our freedom, and the freedom for others.

As families of the military, we cling to our American Motto:
In God We Trust.
Without Him, we couldn’t handle the unimaginable.

We find great comfort that God follows our soldiers onto the battlefield as we are reminded in Deuteronomy 20:4:

 ‘For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’

DEPLOYMENT IS FINALLY OVER.

All that remains is the million mile flight home in the air and back to American soil called home.

Returning home is a sobering reminder that some soldiers return to their families after paying the ultimate price for the flag.  These are our TRUE HEROES whose bravery should be etched in our memories; that their sacrifice never be forgotten.

Thank a soldier today.  Your freedom isn’t free.

Their sacrifice for the flag 2

The bookend of every painful good-by is that firework celebration of hello, especially when your soldier daughter has been brave as long as she possible could.
Now, she just needs to see her daddy.

welcome home 1

Nine months long and finally back together again.  Baby number three a bit bigger than her daddy remembers, and soldier daddy is finally home at last.  Everyone has a bit of catching up to do.

welcome home 9

WELCOME HOME DADDY!  WELCOME HOME!
 welcome home 10

AMERICA, WE CELEBRATE YOU TODAY!
YOU ARE OUR GREAT COUNTRY.
WE LOVE THIS GREAT LAND.

Their sacrifice for the flag 4

 

 

Song sung by my husband David Alicea
S
ong God Bless America – Written by Irving Berlin
Staub Media Productions

But Such As I Have, GIVE I THEE! By: Lori A Alicea

Leo Buscaglia once quoted: “Your talent is God’s gift to you.
What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

We’ve all been blessed with a gift to serve others.  (1 Peter 4:10)

Singing.  Dancing.  Writing.  Preaching.  Building.  Creating.  Serving.
Running.  Painting.  Teaching.  Caring.  Praying.
Believing.  Defending.  Administrating.  Cleaning.

The list is as long as the imagination.

Our talents are special, unique, and perfectly fitted for the call on our life.  Our toolbox of talent is packed complete, well thought out by God when he prepared the plans for us in the beginning before we were ever born.

Upon inspection and in comparison to other toolboxes of talent though, some might believe their gifts were shortchanged or “not good enough” to be used to by God to make a difference; myself included at times.

Moses didn’t feel eloquent of speech or able to lead the enslaved children of Israel out of Egypt when God confronted him at the burning bush.  (Exodus 4:10)

The disciples panicked when Jesus asked them to feed the multitude of five thousand people.  (Matthew 14:16)

The widowed woman lacked in her faith fearing the loss of her sons to pay her deceased husband’s debts.  (2 Kings 4:1)

Jesus’ own mother feared hospitality embarrassment as they ran out of wine at the wedding they attended.  (John 2:3)

Though at times the glasses we see our gifts and talents through as inadequate, we are reminded that all gifts from above are good and perfect, therefore, we are without excuse to leave our talents dormant.  (James 1:17)

As far as eyes can see to the east and the west, lost and hurting people are everywhere.  We are the hands and feet God puts into place to reach a world in need of love and a Savior.

To make a difference, we need to invite God to be the difference in our talents.  He always asks the question like he did with Moses,

“What’s in your hand?”

We all have something in our hand to offer.

Like Peter said to the crippled beggar:
“Silver and gold have I none;
but such as I have give I thee:
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.  Acts 3:6 (KJV)

Peter didn’t have money in his hand, yet gave his faith in the name of Jesus so the beggar could walk.

Moses performed miraculous signs with the staff in his hand and his brother Aaron would be the mouthpiece God spoke through as they led the Israelite’s to the Promised Land.  (Exodus 4:14-17)

Jesus multiplied the small lunch of five loaves and two fish from the disciple’s hands to feed the crowd with, having twelve baskets left over.  (Matthew 14:17-21)

The widowed woman’s small amount of oil was multiplied into the many jars she gathered from her neighbors, enough to pay her creditors and live the remainder of her life with.  (2 Kings 4:2-7)

Jesus’ own mother had her servant’s present six stone water jars of water as Jesus miraculously turned this water into wine for the wedding.  (John 2:5-10)

GOD WANTS TO USE US.
He has equipped us with gifts and talents
that will make room for us before great men.
(Proverbs 18:16)

To make a difference, Jesus must be the difference.

When we present our talents, our pitchers of water,

USE THIS WHITE VASE 1

Be amazed what God does through us,
as Jesus longs to do a miracle,

turning our water into wine.

USE THIS PINK VASE 3

The song of our heart should be as the words
written by Dewitt Jones and Ron Kenoly:

If You can use anything Lord
You can use me
If You can use anything Lord
You can use me
Take my hands, Lord
And my feet
Touch my heart, Lord
And speak through me
If You can use anything Lord
You can use me.

USE THIS PINK VASE ALONE

JESUS WILL POUR YOU OUT A MIRACLE
By Lori A Alicea

Is there a song you wish to sing?
Or instrument to play?
Is there a dance you long perform?
Or race to run today?

Is there a canvas blank to paint?
Or sermon page to preach?
A kitchen recipe prepare?
Or classroom lesson teach?

If so, but hesitate because,
Your gift it seems too small.
And insignificant to make,
A difference at all.

Present your gift, a waters cup,
The gift that first was Mine.
With God a miracle occurs,
He’ll pour you out as wine.

MEMORY QUILT OF RECIPES By Lori A Alicea

Call me old fashioned, but I love everything homemade, especially food.  Nothing speaks home to me than a meal prepared by the hands and hearts of those gathering around the table.  Maybe it’s because my mother always cooked from scratch and that’s all I’ve ever known.  Or maybe that tie between a loved one and their signature dish keeps them seated at the table, even if in a memory.  Recipes aren’t just a bunch of 4 x 6 cards alphabetized in a decorated box on the kitchen counter.  Recipes are comfort, tradition, and legacy passed down the generations; a memory quilt that takes you back to events and family, a reminder of where you came from and those who have touched your life.

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Growing up in a family of six kids, we didn’t have the fancy life of our friends.  There were hand-me-downs, sharing bedrooms and being satisfied with meals cooked at home instead of going out to restaurants, with the bi-monthly Tuesday exception to the local Ponderosa when dad got paid.  Quite honestly though, I always remember being happy surrounded by my four sisters and brother, especially at the dinner table together eating mother’s food.

Mother had a variety of signature dishes that made her famous in our eyes, and each of our six had their personal favorites.  It’s funny to look in my sister’s refrigerators to see the same Imperial margarine that mother cooked with.  I choose Land O Lakes Unsalted butter thank you very much.  There are other ingredients we followed mother with and others we ventured on our own.  But mother’s meals are still being served albeit at her children’s table now, our home cooked memories of mom because she passed on her recipes to us.

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Pulling out the recipes I call my “favorites of mom”, I can still hit the play button and visually see mother in meal preparation.  Mother made a mess as she rolled out her own noodles and dried them covered on the gas dryer overnight.  I hated when it was my week to do dishes, cleaning up the flour that went airborne to every inch of the kitchen.  But now my kitchen is just as messy after I make noodles of my own.  I don’t have the patience to dry noodles overnight, but my chicken noodles dish is just as tasty as mothers, and now a favorite with my children and grandchildren.

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Summer wouldn’t be complete without a batch of strawberry / rhubarb jam set aside for winter.  So many summers slaving over strawberries with my sisters, seated at a hot table air-conditioned by box fans.  Like yesterday I see mother at the stove pouring boiling jam into hot jars as we girls whined that each was doing more work than the other, a memory etched in my mind.  I’d love to go back and take my grand-kids with me.  But still I keep the memory alive with my own batch of jam for those hot morning biscuits at breakfast.

strawberry jam

As a mother with grown children and now grandchildren of my own, my meals are still prepared from scratch and I am passing my recipes to the generations beyond me.  You can’t come to Gaga’s house (my grandma name) without homemade chocolate chip cookies in the freezer to help yourself to when you visit.  I also keep cookie dough balls in the freezer ready to bake for the unexpected guest you want to serve warm with a cup of coffee.  I love when the grandchildren pull up a chair to stand on or sit beside me on the counter to help hold the mixer when we make their favorite cookie dough.  They love stirring and of course licking the beaters after we’re done.

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I can’t look at a container of sprinkles and not recall a childhood of Christmas cookie baking with mom and her storing those decorated gifts in the freezer.  Those Tupperware containers bound with tape to keep us six kids from eating its contents before the holiday is a square on my memory quilt I remember like yesterday every time I store a batch of cookies in the freezer for my grand-kids.  I’m so grateful for these small but amazing memories still alive two generations later.

Married once before, I treasure the southern recipes from the mother n law I still harbor as mom in my heart.  Her biscuits and gravy are being attempted weekly with my children and grandchildren, and she is thought of every time we serve this memory from her kitchen years before.  Grandma Cova’s kitchen was a treasure trove of recipes passed on through the generations after her and still celebrated.

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In a family that treasures keeping homemade memories alive, my daughter n law Crystal blessed me immensely when she asked for a copy of my recipes one Christmas.  I also love that my sisters are sharing the memory quilt with their nieces and nephews, expanding the squares for the next generation by teaching the younger ones their skills around the stove.  This is a blessing of great magnitude and honors God in so many ways.  TITUS 2:3-5 (AMP)

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debbie candy cooking
denise and david cooking

denise pie

As I stated earlier, I am a mother with grown children and grandchildren, so it saddens me that the kitchen of my mother and second mother n law are now closed.  Packing up both of their domains of heaven and seeing their cookbooks, pots and pans, measuring cups and spoons lying in a box never to make another meal breaks my heart.  The years these two servants prepared with their hands and joy they served on our plates surely earned them both a crown of jewels.

Mother’s potato salad will always be a hit even though my sister prepares it now.

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Angel food cake decorated with cooked frosting will always take me back to the years of birthdays mother celebrated me with.

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Being blessed with a second mother n law, a Sunday after church doesn’t go by that I wish we could stop by for lunch.  Barbara always had a stove full of rice and beans and all its fixins, waiting for anyone who stopped by her house.  Barbara loved her kitchen, truly loved to cook and it brightened her face to see others loving her meals.

Saying good-by to Barbara took a long time for our family to adjust to.  I remember the first holiday meal without my mother n law and the emotional silence as her red rice and Watergate salad was being passed around the table; it left not a dry eye in the room.

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But Barbara’s recipes are still being duplicated, of course never coming close to her standard.  My mother n law made the best sugar cookies and when she made them, she secretly hid a package of un-frosted ones just for me.  I loved her for that and I try and keep her recipe alive in my kitchen by continuing to roll out that sugar dough in her honor.

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Saying good-by to our patriarchs and matriarchs, we honored and paid tribute to them by serving the food we remember them by.  At my step-dads funeral we served his three favorites, while two not necessarily falling into any food group: pop, candy and deviled eggs.

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At my mother n law Barbara’s funeral, I displayed my heart for her with a tray of sugar cookies she was known by, served on my grandmother’s tray who displayed holiday cookies on for us at our Christmas Eve dinners with her.

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With the busyness of life, many families forgo home cooked dinners and opt out for fast food due to convenience and exhaustion from their day.  Ovens are lit less often and freezers aren’t hiding homemade treats for the grand-kids.  While times change and force you to adjust with them, it is my hope and legacy I leave for my family that our memory quilt of recipes stay displayed for generations to come.  That squares continue to be added reminding them of time spent together as family.  That they continue to gather around the table without distraction, remembering the heart of the home is each other, enjoying the meals prepared for them by the mothers, grandmothers, grandchildren and beyond.

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            I pass onto you a square from our family memory quilt.

Oh that you would keep your family recipes alive by passing on a square of your own.

A “CHIPS AND POP” KIND OF DAD By Lori A Alicea

Daddy’s are one of a kind.  Not a cookie cutter in the bunch.  Their personalities outnumber the thirty-one flavors at the ice cream parlor.  Dads come in all sizes and shapes.  Dads get up every morning to jobs that are as night and day from the other.  In my family alone we have a control room operator, mill guy, custodian, truck driver, dentist and a funeral director; all million dollar hard workers, dedicated at providing the best care for their families.

Daddies are the centerpiece of the home.  The table set isn’t complete without their presence centered in the hearts of their children.  The impact they have follows through the generations.  The hand-print they leave doesn’t involve money or lavished gifts.  Their legacy will be written in memories broken down in moments, small pockets of time spent for no other reason than “just because.”

A few months ago at their papa’s 60th birthday party, the grandchildren were asked to recall their fondest memory spent with their grandfather.  Having ten grandchildren with eight that could talk and two babies unable, all gave vivid memories framed in the “little things”.  Our seven year old Ethan said it best, “What I love about my papa is that he comes to my games and buys me chips and pop at the Dollar General.”

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While there is nothing wrong about being that hero in your child’s eyes, they really just want you to be that “chips and pop” kind of dad, making memories with them framed in the “little things”.

I can’t imagine any child not treasuring the time their dad spent helping them conquer the two-wheeler without those training wheels.  Dad passing on his confidence in them that the world is their stage; they can do anything; they can do this!

Father's Day Picture 2 Kyle helping Ethan Ride a Bike

Boys sure watch their daddy’s with eyes following them everywhere.  They want to be like daddy morning, noon and night.  It’s these moments that write the pages and chapters of a “father – son” best seller.

Father's Day 3 Ethan Shaving

Daughters are smitten with their daddies also.  Daddies are their only boyfriend before that man one day sweeps her off her feet.  Until then, little girls love simple time with their daddy; like time spent together on her rope swing, a swing daddy made especially for her and moments for them.

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Daughters love to tag along, having daddy all to herself.  Hand in hand she follows daddy’s footsteps, trusting his lead along the way.  These walks around the block will follow her the days of her life, never tiring a stolen moment with dad.

ayva and daddy walking

Blossoming into a princess, daddy is her prince charming when he serves his “lady in waiting” in the glamour she delights in.  A precious few minutes together, to be remembered a lifetime by daddy’s little girl.

Father's Day Picture 1 Nathan painting Brystols Nails

Memories don’t cost anything but time and your heart.  Memories are dividing up your collection of rods and walking to the pond with your grandchildren a few streets a way to see what fish are biting.

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Memories are made with your eyes beholding the child God gave to a daddy.

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Memories that children remember will not revolve around daddy’s money or the lavish, but the moments he framed in the “little things”; their hero dressed as a “chips and pop” kind of dad.

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Daddy’s, your little girls will only be little for a short period of time.  They are Cinderella’s wanting you to teach them to dance for her ball. One day you’ll blink and realize she’s all grown up.  The days pass by so quickly.

Frame a moment with her and teach your Cinderella to dance.

Below is an impromptu moment between a papa and his granddaughter,

Their Cinderella Moment Together.

Video Courtesy of Debbie Hritz
Song:  CINDERELLA, By Steven Curtis Chapman