OUR LONG GOOD-BY By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t go in.

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

An anniversary gift we didn’t expect.

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

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

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

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

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ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU 
By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The face and heart behind our family Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions has had an address change needing twenty-four hour medical care, ending her reign as the author of our holiday picture albums.
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As ‘tis the season of being thankful, this “kid at heart” takes ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of  “home” during her Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadly, mother’s “home” is all packed up now and the front door has closed for the very last time.
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Something shifts when the tradition torch is passed to the next generation.

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

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

I am thankful for my memories.

I look forward to new traditions and memories also.

I am a blessed woman.

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

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

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

May we remember and hold close to our heart the true

REASON FOR THE SEASON

Which is Christ Jesus our Lord


Four years later…

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

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

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

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Mother turned eighty years young this past July.

Mother wanted a party and a party she got.

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A Princess for A Day Event

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

It was a day like no other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gift of family is all mother ever wanted.

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

Yes, we will see her again.

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

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

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

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

Welcome Home Mom!
Welcome Home!

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

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

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

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SUMMER MEMORIES WITH MOM By Lori A Alicea

Mother celebrated her 79th birthday over the 4th of July weekend.  Surrounded by her life-long friend and beloved family decorated in the trimmings of the holiday, we honored the beginning of another year with our mother.

When you get to be 79 years of age and have blown out a few more candles than you dare to count and try to recollect if all your wishes have come true, at the end of the day you are just so thankful to God for life and its abundance.

With mother seated in front of her homemade birthday cake, I remember all the years as a child I sat before the cake mother made for me.

 As those gathered around mother began to sing in unison the chorus of Happy Birthday, mother’s eyes went “to and fro” looking into those faces that sang to her. For a brief few seconds, mother’s countenance seemed to fade into the moment and I wondered where she went in her thoughts, I wondered what was she thinking?

Was she remembering birthdays past where life was different for her, where she could still walk unassisted, leave the house and drive, make her own decisions, frequent her favorite restaurant for a cup of coffee, sleep under the covers of her own bed or enjoy her life outside the four walls of the nursing home?

Watching mother during her birthday song, it’s hard not to want her birthday wish to be free from her wheel chair and oxygen. While always believing for miracles and change, the desire of God for all of us is to be thankful and content in the current chair we sit in.

Every year celebrating another birthday with mother, I always stop and give thanks for that treasure trove of remembrances I’ve shared with her, especially our summer ones that still remain packed in the picnic basket of my memory.

Fourteen years ago I wrote about one of those summer memories with mom. Every now and then it’s refreshing to dig out the old picture albums and recall those life moments you remembered, though not in its detail.

Like the stories my mamaw and papaw used to repeat to me over and over yet I joyfully listened as if for the first time, this might be the same for you as some of my favorite “stories” probably have been repeated a few times over, at least in its essence.

In honor of the woman that gave me life, I dust off an old album from my summer past with mother and read in detail and childhood delight, hoping it sparks a childhood memory of your own.

SUMMER IN A JAR
By Lori A. Alicea

With family vacations, summer sports and fairs coming to town, you might not have noticed that Christmas has snuck in the back door of some stores, sounding the alarm that winter is around the corner.  By the time most of us are snuggling up in that first fall sweater, we might be asking ourselves, “Where did the summer go?”  For those who’d like to hold onto summer a little longer, did you know it’s possible to capture the essence of this season in a bottle, labeling it “summer in a jar?”

Growing up, backyard gardens, cornfields and fruit markets were common neighborhood sights.
corn field along roadWith breezes carrying them in, the smells of summer welcomed itself through open windows, evident in the slight waves of the curtains.
open windowStrawberries, peaches, apples and grapes, all waiting for someone to take them home from the fruit market down the street.  As a little girl the aroma of this seasonal shop was so delicious, fruit juices could be tasted just by breathing.
IMG_1845Mother would buy these farmer spoils by the flat, bushel and bucket, bringing them home to create jams, jellies and frozen fruit for future homemade pies.
IMG_1846The pantry off from the kitchen displayed my mother’s mid-year labors, as I fantasized over them in the winter pretending they were “summer in a jar”.
strawberry jamFrom June through August, we five sisters helped mother prepare fruit for her signature jams, giving into temptation to eat more fruit than we prepared.  Though our mouths revealed the sticky evidence of our crime, mother didn’t scold us, rather kept focused as she boiled fruit on her Magic Chef stove.  Still boiling hot, blue Mason jars were filled then sealed with melted paraffin wax.  Mother’s creations eventually lined the pantry shelves when they cooled, waiting for winter to come.

It’s hard to appreciate kitchen art when the thermostat reads above 90 degrees.  But light the fireplace one frosty December morning, and top a fresh baked biscuit smothered in butter with homemade jam, those early hours might usher in a smell of summer with fruit so fresh you’d think they were recently picked.

As an adult, I am saddened that subdivisions have taken over the neighborhood, leaving farmer fields a figment of my imagination.  Kitchen curtains don’t fly in the wind of open windows as air conditioners keep them closed.  Fruit markets are a novelty now, canning isn’t a way of life, and out of five sisters, I’m the only one that cans, bakes bread and finds pleasure in homemade anything.

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But for me, my homemade effort’s brings back time with mom and memories of yesterday, when I go the extra mile to see my shelves full of “summer in a jar”.

STEPPING INTO YOUR FULL BLOOM By Lori A Alicea

“What do you dream about?”
“What do you sing about?”
“What do you cry about?”
Author John Maxwell

 What dreams keep you up at night thinking, imagining, rehearsing,
“I was born for this?”

What have you been called to do?
We’ve all been called.
We’ve all been called to make a difference, to be a difference.

We’ve sensed God’s voice in our calling.
In quiet whispers He calls.
His gentle wooing speaks of a special plan on our life.
A Father’s love bids us not to fear; He’s gifted us perfectly.

God has a dream for us.
God has a dream for you.
God has a dream for me.

Yet we allow the years to pass us by.
The journey to our destiny takes unnecessary detours.
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We justify our delays with the “if only”.
If only I were smarter….
If only I had gone to college…
If only I had more money….
If only I were a bit younger….
If only I hadn’t let them talk me out of it…
If only I would have believed in myself….
If only I hadn’t waited so long…
If only I could go back in time…

If only….If only…

The dream, the call, the “if only” are relentless and follow everywhere you go.

You feel alone in your call.
USE THIS BENCHYet God has joined me on the journey every step of the way.
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We just haven’t trusted the God in us, the dream in us, the call in us.

Whatever your dream, whatever your call, you were born for it, and you know it.

God longs to see us step into our destiny, our dream, our calling.
Our Heavenly Father delights to host our “stepping out” party.

He anxiously waits to see us Step Into Our Full Bloom.
USE THIS FLOWERS STEPSI’ve had a love affair with words my whole life.

From an elementary age I began authoring short stories, poetry and creating homemade cards for my mother on her birthday and Mother’s Day.

Teachers honored my early writing efforts with epic fails on my assignments believing I had copied my work. As a child I didn’t understand it nor did they understand the tears of a young girl attempting to bloom.  But now as an adult I realize God was validating a writer’s call through the blind eyes of my teachers.

As an author, the artist inside paints detailed pictures without a single brush stroke. Blank canvas’ come to life with the spoken word.  Ears see what eyes cannot, when recited words bring the painting into full view.

Sadly for most of my life, I delayed in God’s call with the “if only”.

If only I wrote as good as “that person”.
I didn’t believe in myself.
I didn’t believe God’s gift in me bloomed as beautiful as those on the other side of the fence.
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Blind eyes couldn’t see the garden God wanted to bloom in me was beyond beautiful, more than I could ever imagine for myself.
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A day didn’t go by that God’s whispers didn’t prompt me with words he wanted me to say.

A week didn’t go by that God’s wooing didn’t nudge me with a picture He wanted me to paint with my words.

A year didn’t go by when I was desperate inside to say to the gift giver,
“I have finished the work you have called me to do.”

Here I am almost sixty and the call on my life still waits.
Six decades of dreaming, imagining, rehearsing what God gave me life for.

We all are born for greatness.
But greatness for the Kingdom doesn’t happen until we step into our destiny,
Step into Our Full Bloom.
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Almost sixty and the “if only” haunts me.
If only I hadn’t wasted so many years.
If only I had kept the faith when my garden wasn’t blooming.
USE THIS WOODSIf only I had trusted in the gift giver I would really bloom in my calling.
USE THIS PINK AND WHITE FLOWERSBut our Heavenly Father is forever good, forever patient, forever encouraging.

He reminded me that His Son’s ministry, His greatest years were in his last three years of life.

If God could speak the world into existence in six days and rest on the seventh, then God’s dream in me could still make an amazing impact.

God’s call on my life could still cause a great splash for his purposes.

It’s never too late.

As long as you have breath in your lungs it’s never too late.

I just had to believe in His dream for my life.
I needed to embrace the call on my life.

I needed to
Step into the Full Bloom of my life.
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STARTS WITH A DREAM By Lori A Alicea

You were born with a gift.

A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.
Proverbs 18:16 ESV

You were born with a dream.

You were born to do what only you can do.

Your audience anxiously waits for you to take your stage and give them the “performance of a lifetime.”

Olympians began with a dream.
Pulitzer Prize winners began with a dream.
Presidents began with a dream.

Famous chefs, dancers, athletes, climbers, singers, writers, etc. all began by believing in themselves that God has great purpose for the talent he blessed them with.

Those with dreams don’t step on their stage in a day.

Hard work, sweat and sacrifice are dreamer’s heavy weights they bench-press for years.

Dreamers push away “easy” clutching “for dear life”
The difficult;
The “what could be”;
The impossible;
The belief God created them for greatness.

What’s your dream?

YOUR DREAM COUNTS!
Pastor Victoria Raftery
Founder of Dream Chic at Laurel Church

No dream too small to impact the world.

Dreams aren’t measured in size.  Dreams are measured by heart, passion and vision, ingredients of a tried and true Recipe for Success.

Brookie’s Cookies
A Bakery coming soon to your neighborhood!

Dreamers aren’t measured in age either.

Young dreamers are inspirational with their willingness to try.
Young dreamers have seeds of greatness waiting their time to bloom.
Cultivation unearths a young dreamers talent.
May grown up eyes notice the dreams of the young and pave the way for them as…

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…James 1:17

Cova Grace,
A Heart Full of Music and Dance Expression

Dreams aren’t for the weak, the faint of heart.
Dreams require your grueling hours of training and practice.

Dreams require muscles of strength to “hold on” when dream naysayers taunt you unmercifully to “let your dream go”.

 Bristol,
An Award Winner of Dedication and Discipline to her Dream

Dreams require you to kick around ideas whose answers might require a grueling mountain climb.

Author John Maxwell says it best, “Everything worth doing is uphill.”

To reach the top requires a climb to the top, yet remind yourself along the agonizing way to your dream, you were born for this.

Hollis and Rosalee
A Picture Painted in Tenacity and Spirit of Adventure

Dreamers are risk takers.
Dreamers shoot the ball risk missing the shot, yet confidently take their shot anyway.
Dreamers stay in the game, they are aggressive not fearing a foul.

Brodie Allen
Our Determined Dreamer

Dreamers keep taking their swing at the plate. 

Dreamers are keenly aware that in their persistent swinging, one day contact is made with their dream. It’s inevitable and the stats are in your favor if you just keep on swinging.

You might even surprise yourself and hit your dream out of the park.

Ethan
A Dream Slugger to Reckon With

Young dreamers eventually grow up.
Young dreamers realize in time that not all storybook dreams end with:
“They lived happily ever after”.

Some dreams die.
For the first few years of our marriage my husband grieved during the spring training season of professional baseball.
Reliving his glory days as a varsity baseball catcher in his freshman year each spring training season, unable to let go of his dashed dreams of becoming a professional baseball player until my husband made finally made peace with his failed dream.

Facing the fence of failure some dreamers stop dreaming for fear of failure again.

But we are reminded:

Failure is not fatal.
Only failure to get back up is.
Author / Motivational Speaker John Maxwell

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Father and Son Dreamers
Both Singers, Our Son a Tower of Strength

Every day is a good reason to line up for a new race.
Every day is a fresh start to believe for a new dream.

May we never lose sight or great hope of the unbelievable things God wants to do through the dreams he gave us.

20 Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.
Ephesians 3:20 TPT

For those who’ve stopped dreaming, close your eyes and begin dreaming again.
Don’t believe the lie you’ve convinced yourself of that you’re too old.
Life hasn’t passed you by.
You can be fruitful even in the second half of life.

14 ….. Even in their old age they will stay fresh,
bearing luscious fruit and abiding faithfully.  Psalm 92:14 TPT

God wants to show off through you to the next generation.

18 God, now that I’m old and gray, don’t walk away.
Give me grace to demonstrate to the next generation
all your mighty miracles and your excitement,
to show them your magnificent power!  Psalm 71:18 TPT

IT STARTS WITH A DREAM.

YOUR STAGE IS WAITING.
DON’T BE AN ONLOOKER.
TAKE YOUR STAGE.

YOU WERE BORN FOR THIS.

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Sweet Ayva
Born for her Stage

YOUR DREAM COUNTS!
Pastor Victoria Raftery
Founder of Dream Chic at Laurel Church

DARE TO BE DIFFERENT By Lori A Alicea

It takes courage to stand up and stand out in a crowd.
It takes courage to be that color in a black and white world.
It takes courage not to blend in with everyone else.
It takes courage to speak when the world is listening.
It takes courage to draw attention when all eyes are watching.
It takes courage to be who you are called to be.

Dare to be different.
Dare to be you.

Being grandparents, our grandchildren have been a class that’s always in session, teaching us so many lessons through the books of their individual lives, one read especially about the celebration of being different.

Our granddaughter Brystol, a star of her own Vlog whether she has a YouTube channel or not, showcases “being different” in her “bright and neon lights fashion”.  We are her audience and as a family, delight in her wild and crazy show.

Brystol is her own person.

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She loves wigs; colorful wigs and wears them proudly; everywhere.
Seriously!

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Brystol’s wig collection is the centerpiece for whatever mood she might be in that day.

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Brystol has sass.
She is audacious.
Brystol speaks her mind.

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Brystol talks to the hand.  Brystol is hilarious. Brystol has wardrobe changes multiple times a day.  She has conversations with friends only she can see.

Brystol wears pearls for any occasion.

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Brystol brings the party wherever she is.

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Brystol is crazy about her daddy.

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Brystol is crazy about God.

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Brystol sees life through a different pair of Glasses.

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Brystol
Dares to be Different

Brystol’s Vlog Message is
Dare to be you.

God has created us different.
“Just as no two faces are exactly alike, so every heart is different.”  Proverbs 27:19

God has gifted us different.
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them….”  Romans 12:6 ESV

God has called us each to a different plan.
“…we have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

If we are created, gifted and called differently, let us be different so we can make and be the difference for the purpose we were all called to.

An Unknown Author is quoted:
Don’t be afraid of being different, be afraid of being the same as everyone else. 

With the peer pressures of today, it takes great courage to be different.
But Joyce Myers would encourage, “If you have to, do it afraid.”

When God called Noah to build an ark in his back yard the length of one and a half football fields and as high as a four-story building, (Genesis 6:14-15)  I wonder if Noah contemplated the scoffs and ridicules of his neighbors during the years of the ark construction and during a time when rain had ever never been seen before.  (Hebrews 11:7)

Noahs Ark

Yet Noah was called and
Dared to be different

“Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.”  Genesis 6:17 NLT

Celebrate being different as you were created by God this way.
You are ONE OF A KIND.
Nobody can do what God created you to do.
You’re uniquely gifted and qualified for a purpose and on purpose.
Stand up.  Rise up.
Pick up the mantel of your calling and run with it.

Face the world with a bad hair day if you have to.

brystol wild hair

Wear those boots if it’s 100 degrees outside.

Brystol in boots
Be a Cubs fan in a White Sox crowd….well, let’s not get carried away.

Dare to be different.
I DARE YOU!

brystol glasses

THE SECRET PLACE By Lori A Alicea

There is a Secret Place my husband David and I retreat to every year during the fall colors of October, setting aside a weekend to honor another wedding anniversary God has so abundantly blessed us with.

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Our Secret Place has a front row seat to this beautiful lake, a living portrait of waves slow dancing to its own music, a private reception of splashing and swimming to the sandy shores like young love on their honeymoon.

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The hours David and I spend reflecting together the love we share so deeply rooted in our hearts, fully alive because of the well in God we draw from.

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David and I celebrate the pearls in our marriage, as to create such a pearl of great price are those irritant’s that force you to your knees in surrender to God; the author who scripts the pages of true love.

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It’s during this getaway a candle burns as a remembrance of the continual love that shines through the eyes of two people who can’t see one without the other.

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Our weekend is a patchwork quilt of small moments of just “the two of us” stitched together with memory threads by the fire over coffee and a new book we read every anniversary as an investment into our lives as husband and wife.

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Our Secret Place is a treasure chest we open every October to hold close and remember the gifts of time already shared together, adding another weekend of Newlywed love and laughter until those anniversary leaves begin to fall again next year.

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Just as young love desires a Secret Place to express itself, God desires that Secret Place to share as just “the two of us.”

Pondering the heart of God in the Garden he masterfully created in the beginning, eyes are blind and inadequate to imagine the grandeur and beauty of such a Secret Place he designed to share such intimate time with us.  Even though the Garden closed its gates forever due to our fall, God still longs to inhabit that Secret Place of our heart.

gazeebo seats

Walking with God the paths of this Secret Place, I hear a symphony of birds singing in unison while being led to the hidden places for two.

path in woods

Waters lapping the rocks during its swim downstream echoes as a rain forest through the trees while walking the fields of wild flowers blooming for our amazement.

flowers by brook

God’s Secret Place longs to overwhelm our hearts in His love.  Sitting together at this intimate spot for two, one might be nervous for an appropriate response for Him.

But do not fear:

We have come into an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love he has for us.  God is love!….” 1 John 4:16 The Passion Translation (TPT)

flowers by fence

With God encompassing all love, communicating our love in return could reflect itself through many mirrors as in “The Five Love Languages”, Written by Gary Chapman.  While Mr. Chapman’s book is written for persons communicating love to one another, since GOD IS LOVE, surely he responds though the five love languages of “words of affirmation, gifts, meaningful touch, acts of service and quality time”.

I imagine the heart of God swelling when we speak our WORDS OF AFFIRMATION to Him as spoken in Psalm 22:10 TPT:

“Since the day I was born, I’ve been placed in your custody. You’ve cradled me throughout my days. I’ve trusted in you and you’ve always been my God.”

Surely God joyfully receives the GIFTS of our praises as in Psalm 69:31 (TPT):

 “For I know, Yahweh, that my praises mean more to you
than all my gifts and sacrifices.”

 We express MEANINGFUL TOUCH to God in our prayers:

“Protect me from harm; keep an eye on me like you would a child reflected in the twinkling of your eye. Yes, hide me within the shelter of your embrace, under your outstretched wings.  Psalm 17:8

Our ACTS OF SERVICE speak loudly to the ears of God when we pray:

Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”
Romans 12:11 (TPT)                   

And more than anything, our QUALITY TIME delights a loving God as spoken in James 4:8 (TPT):

Move your heart closer and closer to God, and he will come even closer to you….”

God also delights in our time when we:

….wake the dawn with my song.
I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
I will sing your praises among the nations.
10 For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Psalm 57:9-10 (NLT)

God desires to share that Secret Place of your heart.

God desires that moment in your Secret Place as “just the two of us”.

May we without hesitation make room for Him in our Secret Place.

May we like young newlywed’s run barefoot through the wild fields of love to that Secret Place to be with our God.

wild flowers

 

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.”

granchildren at birthday party

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.

daddy child love

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