A GRANDPARENT’S MILESTONE!  By Lori A Alicea

“Where have twelve wonderful years gone?”

In the blink of an eye and ten grandchildren later, a milestone is months away from the intersection of “Letting Go” and “What’s Next Lord?” for this grandmother.

I do this to myself regarding most upcoming milestones in my life; reminiscing, savoring the memories, and rehearsing my approach to the milestone which waits for me this fall.

My kids might roll their eyes to my sentiment, and maybe consider this overly dramatic.

But that’s fine by me.

They haven’t walked this stretch of years in the shoes of a grandparent yet.

They haven’t witnessed the births of the next generation from the other side of the delivery door.

They haven’t soothed and rocked their grandchildren in the wee hours of the night, whose bond with them follows as they crawl, run, scrape their knees, participate in sports and sit with us during Grandparent’s Day at school.

They haven’t sewed a Godly heritage and family traditions into the fabric of those lives who call you Gaga and Papa.

So, when this grandmother is a bit sad approaching the intersection of “Letting Go” and “What’s Next Lord”, the milestone this fall where her two remaining grandchildren catch the bus for kindergarten, our adult children might want to take notes for their future reference.

Yes, I can barely comprehend how the pages of these past twelve years of school days have been the quick read they’ve been.

Outgrowing pull-ups and pacifiers for lunch boxes and backpacks, these world changers of ours have been overly excited to take their assigned seat on the school bus and in the classroom, where they’ll learn to write their name and absorb whatever the world opens up to them.

As our little students graduate from preschool, kindergarten and beyond, so must a grandparent graduate to the next step in God’s plan for her, where those Friday mornings spent at the park and Gaga’s house with her grandchildren not attending school yet are no longer needed.

Letting go of those smiles showing up for biscuits and gravy and sharing a cup of coffee with their parents after the school bus left already with the older children earlier is difficult.

Letting go of the idea of working so I might enjoy this small window of time as a stay-at-home grandparent was well worth the moments and memories never to be retrieved after all these boys and girls have taken their seat in the classroom.

So many firsts await our grandchildren when they’re old enough for school.

Parents and grandparents document these firsts as best they can through pictures and scrapbooks, hoping these milestones are seared into the memories of this next generation, reliving the details captured in time through stories and pictures.

Letting Go of the hands which used to hold on tight while walking across the street, now run without looking back as they once did before.

Though enjoying their grandchildren from the sidelines while parents take their rightful place on center stage, this “letting go so kids can grow” must happen.

Gone are the naps they begged to share with you, while watching Peppa Pig from the phone as they clutched their favorite blanket until we both fell fast asleep.

Nap time at one o’clock pm took place a bit longer than your mother approved, as I wasn’t ready to let go of our afternoon time together, even if you were.

But sadly, kindergarten signups came and off to school you went.

This stay-at-home grandmother even spent weeks away from home each year to share afternoons with her Hawaiian babies before they turned five, taking our special trips to the park and walks around the neighborhood.

Naps weren’t your thing but our afternoon time rocking to the moon and stars were the best.

Yes, this grandmother is a bit sad as she approaches the intersection of “Letting Go” and “What’s Next Lord”, the milestone this fall where her two remaining grandchildren pack their lunchboxes for school.

These two adorable faces that have grown up just as fast as the other eight, yet I savor the minutes and seconds I have left with them before the alarm clock rings for school.

“What’s next Lord?”

“How can anything be more fulfilling than time spent with your grandchildren?”

BENCH SCHOOLL 1 cousins on benchBut these gifts of ours are growing up.

BENCH SCHOOLL 2 bench of all grandchildren

They don’t need us like before, though this is God’s plan.

In letting go, they now have room to test their wings to fly.

BENCH SCHOOLL 3 All kids bikeriding

Papa and Gaga celebrate these treasured ten called our grandchildren.

They walked down the aisle and stood with us at the altar as we celebrated twenty-five years together in our Wedding Anniversary Renewal. The little ones thought we were getting married.

The best day ever spent with them.BENCH SCHOOLL Aniversary England kidsBENCH SCHOOLL Anniversary Cumbee Alicea kids

The weight of fall is heavy on this grandmother’s heart.

Kindergarten is coming for our two youngest granddaughters.

One will take her assigned seat on the yellow bus as well as the class room; the other will ride her bike with her siblings; and we couldn’t be more excited for them both.

The intersection of Letting Go and What’s Next Lord will be crossed with great joy as God’s plan continues to unfold in these children’s lives.

What’s next for this grandmother?

I’ll see the sign when I approach the intersection in a few short months.

God has a great plan for me too as I graduate from this season of stay-at-home grandmother.

Until then, I’ll savor every minute and second with these remaining two until the alarm clocks rings for school.

OUR CUP RUNNETH OVER By Lori A Alicea

Can you hear it?

Close your eyes and quietly listen for the pitter-patter of tiny rain drops dancing in the puddles with one another.

rain puddle

Imagine a small child abandoned in the kisses of a delicate spring shower against her face.

rain girl running in field

Can you hear it?

Bask in the soothing song of a gentle waterfall which flows into a peaceful stream below.

waterfall

Rain drops dancing in puddles.
A small child kissed from the spring shower against her face.
The music of a waterfall cascading over the river banks into the stream below.

With eyes still closed, imagine your cup full of God’s blessings, cascading over the rim into the puddles and quiet stream of your cup’s saucer.

It is written…

…my cup overflows with blessings.
Psalms 23:5 (NLT)

Our life is a cup.
Oh, that our eyes see the overflow of our cups as God’s abundance, His “more than enough” for us, heaven’s wealth in our life.

Looking back in the rear-view mirror of the past 365 days, it’d be easy to believe we’ve been drinking from the bitter cup throughout this year of 2021.

Navigating the “firsts” of our maiden year without mother would have been a cup full for our family these last twelve months.

goodby mom

But then the calm cascade over the rim of our cup caught us gasping for breath when the peaceful stream became a rip-current of ten more good-byes.

A Final Call for our military brother Joe.

One final lap for our Indy 500 enthusiast brother Mark.

Another brother Ruben.

goodby ruben

Two Papa’s.

Three cousins.

Two friends.

Yes, so many good-byes;
So many home-going celebrations;
So many tears;

Yet, a cup of rejoicing as all our loved ones took their seat around the Father’s Banqueting Table in heaven.

Sometimes we need to trace God’s hand to understand his heart.

God is a good Father, even when our eyes are blinded to his ways.

Regardless of so many good-byes, God was ever present in the joys of all our hellos in each new day.

Life presses forward with or without our consent. The sun continues to shine amid a cloudy day. You must be intentional to witness God’s hand upon our days, the mini miracles of a cup overflowing.

2021 has been a cup of mini miracles in the Alicea family.

Papa and I have enjoyed our ten grandchildren embrace their gifting and special places in our lives.

We’ve smiled and thanked God for sons who watered their daughter’s hearts at a Daddy Daughter Dance.

We’ve rejoiced over our oldest granddaughter’s Sweet Sixteen, taking her first steps into womanhood.

A husband and wife thanked God for another glorious year of marriage celebrated at their honeymoon cottage.

We are forever grateful for our furry family.

We give God all the glory for the wonderful parents our children have become.

This father is overwhelmed by his daughter who has blossomed into her own.

papa david audra xmas 2021

We’ve cherished the quality time spent with our grandchildren; especially when it meant travelling to Hawaii to hug them.

With eyes still closed, our cup is full of God’s blessings, cascading over the rim into the puddles and quiet stream of our cup’s saucer.

Yes it is written…

…my cup overflows with blessings.
Psalms 23:5 (NLT)

We see our cup running over even though a husband and wife spent the 2021 Christmas and New Year’s holidays alone, from each other and from family.  Although, we were never truly alone.
As another name for Jesus is Immanuel,
God with us.

Christmas was never about us, but about a baby born in a manger, a Savior who would one day grow up and bear the cross for our salvation; a Christmas gift of eternity if we’d receive Him.
manger scene

For this alone,
Our Cup Runneth Over!

GROWING OLD TOGETHER  By Lori A Alicea

When head-over-heels in love with wedding bells anxious to toll, you’ve most likely dreamed of sharing life bordered by a white picket fence, with a fairy tale story waiting to be told of two people growing old together.

Little girls keep their happily-ever-after secrets locked under key in the diaries of their innocent hearts, these starry eyed dreamers living life to THE END with her handsome prince on a white horse.

In reality though, when you’re thirty-three and thirty-six years of age and wake up to your long awaited wedding day dream, newly married minds aren’t imagining life and age in their parent’s shoes, much less growing old together, as growing old is a chapter found at the back of your fairy-tale storybook.

Fairy-tale pages which never reveal though how quickly time passes when you blink.

wedding parents

Then we blinked.

A bride and her groom have been turning the pages of their fairy-tale love story for twenty-seven years, and the unread volumes have found these two on the mountain edge of suspense, holding their breath as giddy children at Christmas for the next chapter to unfold.

Here we are,

Growing old together,

Though not a reflection of getting old together and sharing a rocking chair into the sunset.

No, a beautiful reflection of growing closer together while we age, a celebration of all the years and chapters God has breathed and written with his own hands into our one-of-a-kind love story.

Growing old together

Is a place a gratitude not longing for the “big things” of your neighbors, but realizing the “little things” are the “big things” in the one who holds the key to the front door of your heart.

Growing old together

Sees and enjoys the simple pleasures as a front row seat to the best life, not bought but lovingly prepared and given with the other in mind.

Growing old together

Mines for hidden treasures of wisdom, the rubies and diamonds of legacy and love to live by example, a trail of breadcrumbs in the forest for their children and grandchildren to follow and receive as their direction and inheritance from parents and grandparents who discovered these truths while growing old together.

Growing old together

Has learned to embrace and appreciate the color changes of winter, spring, summer or fall of their life, as every curtain call from one season to the next introduces a new landscape, a new day and opportunity to begin again.

Growing old together

Is being fully present, fully aware that we stand in the presence of a Holy God through every faithful sunset kissing goodnight our evening, in the unfathomable number of grains He alone has counted on our sandy dunes, to taking comfort in our Creator who knows the galaxy of stars each by name, and how much more intimately aware and present he is in the lives of us.

Growing old together

Remembers the time and place, the church, the isle and altar a bride and groom received each other through vows and rings of committed love, opening their wedding album of pictures to rekindle the magic of their storybook marriage every anniversary spent among the memories of their honeymoon cottage.

Growing old together

Is blind to the outward beauty which fades in the afternoon sun of time, yet has eyes to enjoy the inner loveliness which satisfies every longing of the heart.

Growing old together

Holds onto one another, never letting go, giving not a thought to giving up.
Because with God,
Love never fails.

…love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:7-8 (NIV)

Growing old together

Buries in the past those trespasses we’ve forgiven each other for, a final good-by of yesterday’s hurts as we open the gate of freedom as Jesus does, where our trespasses are remembered no more.

Growing old together

Remembers in our saying “I Do” at the wedding altar,
yours and mine became ours,
a miracle called oneness of spirit, soul, and body occurred;
a three stranded cord not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Your family became my family.
My people became your people.

We broke bread together among each other’s tables,
Giving birth to memories at celebrations of all kinds; birthdays, graduations, weddings and yes, even funerals.

Families still celebrate and live life together, while some of its members now live in eternity.

This, the most difficult of growing old together lies in those family ships set sailing for the harbor shores of heaven, leaving those left behind comforted of a great reunion already planned.family ship sail

Growing old together
Is at its best, when surrounded by family, 
Those with us and those with us, inside…

Thank you for the best twenty-seven years of my life.
I’d grow old all over again with you.

wedding kiss 27 years later

SO MANY GOOD-BYES By Lori A Alicea

A quiet morning sitting along the shoreline beach of Hawaii, a picturesque view where my six-year old granddaughter feeds the waves with sand food served from a menu of her imagination; an hour of calm for me as the ocean soothes the soles of my weary feet with every wave that crashes up against them.
IMG_2917

Sometimes the weight of heavy burdens takes its toll on our feet which does its best to keep us standing strong, as burdens though were never meant to be carried.  But every now and then God sits his children down beside the shores of cool water and allows the singing and washing of the waves minister gently to our tired spirit.

It’s been a year like no other; adding the weight of the recent month just passed of so many good-byes, so many tears poured out remembering another loved one.  A mother…a brother ‘n law and now a brother. Navigating grief that maiden year of so many “firsts” presents itself without a map which adds to the pain.   Magnify that voyage times three and your shoulders buckle under weight of heartache.  

I once read that…

Grief never ends…but it changes.
It’s a passage not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith..
It is the price of love.
Author Unknown.

Better to love than never love at all;
Remembering the price of love will one day be paid in our parting good-bye.

The price of love recently expressed from my brother’s wife…
IMG_0624

How I miss you baby.
The flesh in me just wants you back for one more kiss, 
One more hug and one more I love you.

I feel so empty, but after 46 years with this beautiful man, how else could I feel.
Until we meet again baby, I will carry you in my heart forever.

You made my life complete.
Love you and miss you so much.

Your wife…

This trip to Hawaii was an unexpected one for me; a trip actually scheduled for someone else.  But plans changed; life’s wisdom to always have a bag packed when God’s calendar reveals a secret.

Accompanying my granddaughter home after a three week stay with family came as I gift God knew I needed; while His reasons have yet to be unveiled.  
IMG_2918

Though a ten hour flight and a five hour time difference, all these good-byes can’t be abandoned in baggage claim.

The luggage of our heavy hearts must be unpacked.

We must be willing to open the luggage of our good-bye, hold what’s inside, savor the moments and in time unique to each, be willing to put away our bags, and leave the intersection of Holding On and step into the street of Moving Forward.

But as my Father sits beside the shores of cool water with me and allows the singing and washing of waves to minister to my tired spirit.

I hear Him gently reminding me…

Be willing with…

One moment at a time… 
One breath at a time…
One step at a time…
One memory at a time…

and 

Let Him shoulder the rest.

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

ethan praying

ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU 
By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At mother’s house you are always welcome.
welcome

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.
IMG_5245

Every room spelled m-o-m as her touch was in the details of her things.
I love mom

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.
IMG_5269

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.
IMG_5257

Mother raised her children to love and serve God, the foundation that gave our family hope during those storms of hard times.
hope

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.
thanksgiving pic when I was a kid USE

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.
my christmas with matching jammies

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.
IMG_5271

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.
IMG_5236

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.
IMG_5276

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.
IMG_5035

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas though without that angel found sitting in her Lazyboy;
the centerpiece of our holidays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am thankful for my memories.

I look forward to new traditions and memories also.

I am a blessed woman.

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

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

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

May we remember and hold close to our heart the true

REASON FOR THE SEASON

Which is Christ Jesus our Lord


Four years later…

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

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

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

78227FD9-466F-4B2F-9805-9176DC4961B5

E2CCB7B0-AC9A-4B40-8FEA-BFBA375247AF
Mother turned eighty years young this past July.

Mother wanted a party and a party she got.

decoration - sign

A Princess for A Day Event

decorations crown 1

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.

window - mom

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

guests - moms family

5070B68B-AF7E-4FC2-9F0D-94F3EEBC9E72
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.

88505FFE-385D-4906-8991-0FA09D204F77

460C51B2-D7A9-4636-88A2-4BA2C33E5F0F

1B0FCD96-53C4-4232-B139-B9FE852C20E3

2E4DAC7F-6DEF-4EB1-84D4-2B2E98E1E479

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.

IMG_4265

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

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

The gift of family is all mother ever wanted.

25th anniversary family table

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

Yes, we will see her again.

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

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

window - mom

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.

ABB39CA7-19A1-4694-872D-7580CB3B6D5D

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.

6137B8C6-EEA8-4E00-84A2-78CA17079D4F

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.
USE THIS PATH

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.
USE THIS TABLE FOR TWO
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.
USE THIS OVER THE FENCE LIKE THIS

Blind eyes couldn’t see the garden God wanted to bloom in me was beyond beautiful, more than I could ever imagine for myself.
USE THIS PINK AND LITE PINK FLOWERS

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.
USE THIS FLOWERS STEPS
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.
USE THIS FLOWERS STEPS

 

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

David baseball 001
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.

Ayva tap

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.

IMG_1684

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

brystol wild hair 2

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

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

halloween brystol

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

IMG_1685

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.

brystol and brodie in dirt (2)

Brystol brings the party wherever she is.

birthday picture

Brystol is crazy about her daddy.

IMG_1688

Brystol is crazy about God.

IMG_1667

Brystol sees life through a different pair of Glasses.

brystol in glasses

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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