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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their Cinderella Moment Together.

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

BORN OF MY HEART By Lori A Alicea

I CHOOSE YOU!
For no other reason than it was always meant to be;
I choose you!
Loving a child as your own is yes, a choice, but never seems like one.  Love is powerful.  Love allows you to expand the borders of your family without ever noticing.  Love is color blind.  It has no need for a DNA test.  Love is reason enough and rewards a double blessing when you choose to love those born of the heart.

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Ten years ago a beautiful little girl named Brooklyn captured the heart of our son Nathan, a three year old daughter of his future wife.  An adorable child so sweet you’d think she was born in a candy shop, wrapping herself around our son’s pinky as a ring pop.  Not a father yet, though you’d never know. Instantly Nathan and Brooklyn went together like peanut-butter and jelly; a relationship that seemed to have always been since the beginning of Brooklyn’s life.

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As quickly as Brooklyn’s love invaded the life of our son, the arms of a huge family embraced her also.  Brooklyn’s name was now on the Christmas list of all the aunts and uncles and her birth-date was duly noted on the calendar to celebrate.

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With cousins too many to count, Brooklyn found her place without effort as love always makes room for more.  She fit in like she’s always had that reserved chair at the dinner table.

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In addition to aunts, uncles and cousins, Brooklyn would become the very first grandchild to David and I, whom she would refer as Papa and Gaga.  David and I are crazy about her and vice versa.  We don’t need a piece a paper to say she is ours.  Love is a deep well that never dries up.  We joyfully draw from this well and shower Brooklyn the blessings rightfully hers.

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From day one ten years ago, Brooklyn has proudly worn the name tag “daddy’s girl.”  Brooklyn just loves her daddy.  She has never outgrown her daddy’s lap. Her arms are always around him and daddy’s smile says it all about her.

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But there did come a day when Brooklyn’s siblings arrived that Brooklyn wanted to write her last name the same as they did.  Not that she felt different or was different, but there’s something powerful about a name, their last name she wanted for her own.

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Brooklyn finally got her heart’s wish and celebrated that wish on her Adoption Day.  No greater picture, though albums have been taken prior, than when it’s official.

Brooklyn, you were chosen for no other reason than it was always meant to be.

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At your birthday party two years ago, your daddy celebrated you and your one-of-a-kind relationship:

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“What can I say!  I am a proud father of two beautiful girls that I love so much.

Brooklyn, my first.  What a great opportunity for me to learn what it was to be a dad and how to love unconditionally.  Since the first time I met you at three years old until now, has been an amazing journey.  You have been through a lot, but I am glad that I was there to help you get through those difficult times.

I want you to know that you have given me a gift that no one could ever take from me, and that was adopting you as my daughter.  The crazy thing is, nothing has changed for me because you have always been my girl from the moment I met you.

I’m proud to see God working in your life, and I hope your mom and I are doing a good job showing you how to live a Christ centered life.  I’m proud of who you are and most of all, I’m proud to be your dad!
I Love You.
Daddy”

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Brooklyn is soon to celebrate her thirteenth birthday this month of June, 2018.  Crowds of family and friends will be gathering to honor her milestone event and I know she is ecstatic.

On that day after she opens her arm loads of gifts, it is our prayer for her as grandparents that she remembers she is a gift also.

Psalm 127:3 reminds us that “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”

May she remember that just as her daddy chose her to be his own, God had chosen her also as it is written:

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  Psalm 50:15

And to know we are all adopted into the Kingdom of God, a glorious family of all.

 Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 1:3-6 MSG

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Happy 13th Birthday Brooklyn

You are a child of destiny with great promise.

We rejoice over your life.

Surely the angels danced the day you were born.

You are loved beyond words.

ONE STEP AT A TIME By Lori A Alicea

One step at a time.  That’s as fast as you can walk in this life; one step at a time.  There are no fast passes to jump in front of the line.  There are no short cuts to bypass a few miles.  There are no time machines to launch into the future.  We are required to experience every detail of life’s itinerary by putting one foot in front of the other, at a pace of one step at a time.

Four years ago the itinerary of my married life to David found us walking one step at a time through a housing journey.  Not by choice as we believed we were living in our forever home.  Distressed is an understatement as we raised our children for much of their life in this home.  But nevertheless, the map we were following said MOVE, and the journey to find HOME again started us on a million mile walk, one step at a time. 

 Our housing journey actually began twenty-two years ago when David and I began our third year of marriage living in a humble home on a two acre lot in the country.  We called it God’s country.  The peace and tranquility of having nature as neighbors felt like heaven on earth.  The morning sun of the east welcomed us while we sat at our kitchen table drinking coffee.  Then its rays from the west bid us goodnight during our last conversation in the “music room”.  The land by itself was postcard worthy, at least to us.  As an event decorator I could spread out my crafting wings as far as eyes could see.  Oh, the albums of all our parties on this land; birthday parties; graduation parties; baby showers; for-no-reason parties.  Seeds of love and laughter fertilized the acreage from the many years of our family memories.

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Then four years ago this happened.

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With medical issues over the years due to our home, the doctor ordered a 4-Sale sign to consider the future health of my beloved David.

The news of this decision hit our children harder than it did us; although we as a family grieved in the loss of our home.  I always told David that “home is the address of my heart.”  Wherever he is, that is Home Sweet Home for me.  But for them, saying good-by to the only place they knew as home was life changing.

Where to next?  From day one our dream home has always been a log cabin.  Just a cabin in the woods would echo home to us.  Not that we could afford such a dream, but it was the only house that took our breath away.

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Selling our house would consume a summer, a long three months as David had to relocate to my sister and brother ‘n laws house without me to consider his health.  Staying behind to pack up the house, David visited me before work so we could enjoy our morning coffee together, in the van.  Yes that’s right; like we were dating again.  But you just adjust with a house that doesn’t agree with you.

One step at a time.  That’s all that is required.  But I’m sure I have company with those that strive to control the outcomes of life.  While David and I were trying to decipher the map of our journey, we realized we weren’t the only ones facing health challenges; my mother and step-father also.  We came to the fork in the road where the next step could be about us, or about our parents.  We chose to move one street over from mom and Roger to assist in their care.  No, we didn’t move to the home of our dreams, but we did move to the place of honor according to God in Exodus 20:12,

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

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 Living so close to mom and Roger proved to be a delight.  Roger was a hoot and the grand-kids loved to ride their bikes to grandma’s house to raid her cupboards of those chips and pop she made sure to have for them.  Our meals were stretched a bit further so two plates of homemade love filled their tummies each night.  David stopped by daily after work for a short chat and chips himself which earned him the medal of “favorite one”.

I even learned to “bloom where I was planted” from the standpoint of a decorator.  The parties still continued though smaller in scale, albeit to the aggravation of a few of the real neighbors we now had.

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One step at a time and now three years later, David and I are packing again; my mother’s home as well as ours.  Bittersweet are the years as just when you are getting used to the idea of your surroundings, life changes again.  Roger went home to be with Jesus and mother’s health forced an address change to a nursing home.  The reality of our age is setting in as good-byes to loved ones become an unwelcome guest in your life that never leaves.

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mom nursing home

Without a place to call home after our current abode sold so quickly, we began putting that one foot in front of the other again and asking the question, “Where to next?”  “Home, where are you?”   We still carried the log cabin dream in our hearts,

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but the exit sign of our destination put us right next door to my sister and brother ‘n law, Brad and Denise; the same house where David stayed that fateful summer three years ago.  Still almost newlyweds themselves, we were blessed to occupy Brad’s mother’s recently vacated house until we found a home of our own.

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 Step by step.  The pace appears “turtle-slow” when the miles you’ve accumulated doesn’t equate to the place on the map you expected to be.  Oh the roads David and I have traveled since we left God’s country.  How we miss our nature neighbors.  We long to be overlooking our two acre plot of heaven.  Though the roads over the last three years thus far appear to be marked as detours, David and I trust God when he reminds us,

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.”  Psalm 37:23 (NKJV)

These detours seemingly are actually God’s ordered steps on the map for us; we just need to trust Him in the GPS set for our way.

As one year later, this happened:

brad chemo

While still in our housing search at this time, we give thanks to God for closed doors in our quest after realizing our next door neighbors received a diagnosis of Stage 3 cancer.  The providential disguised itself as a detour.  God knew in advance and positioned us as next door neighbors, to assist a brother in the fight of his life.

Our steps are ordered, one step at a time.  There is comfort in “not knowing the big picture” if you submit to the unknown.  The unknown causes us to trust God who knows the big picture, illuminating our path, yet only one step at a time.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”.  Psalm 119:105

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As for our log cabin dream, well the birds are enjoying our cabin in the woods FOR NOW; until the itinerary of our travels tell us to start walking again, one step at a time.

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Until then, as I have said for the last twenty-four years of our marriage, home is not a building.  Home is not brick and mortar that decay over the years.

HOME IS THE ADDRESS OF THE HEART.  MY HEART!

HOME IS WHEREVER THIS MAN IS.

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WEDDING DREAMS DO COME TRUE, Though Not Always As You Dreamed By Lori A Alicea

Days ago the Royal Wedding was attended by the world.  I too got up early to witness a fairy tale come to life.  Every little girl dreams of her carriage ride to the church where her prince awaits her arrival.  Anticipation for the dress reveal kept millions of eyes watching in suspense, and as every bride is, simply breathtaking.

I have never met a single bride who didn’t have the same wish on her wedding day, for their special moment to be a Dream Come True.  Every bride does get her Dream Come True, though not always As They Dreamed.  Some weddings are perfect without a single mishap.  But most Cinderella stories depict real life, where the unexpected happens beyond your control.

Eight years ago my son and his new bride had the wedding of the year; their Wedding Dream Come True, Though Not As They Dreamed.  With June about to launch a season of summer betroths , I decided to dust off my children’s storybook wedding in hopes to encourage brides of past, present and future that though the movie of your day might not end as scripted, it’s a one of a kind, it’s your story, it’s your DREAM COME TRUE.

When the Lights Went Out in New Harmony
By Lori A. Alicea

Wedding gifts come in all sizes and shapes.  They arrive as handpicked cards with money inside its sealed envelope.  They are decorated packages selected from the leftover wedding shower gift registry.  Wedding gifts are even an offering of talent to sing, design the event invitations or create the reception centerpieces.  Sometimes wedding gifts remain at home as an offering of prayer by a guest who won’t be in attendance.  But whatever presents found their place at the England-Stock table one summer day August 28, 2010, not a single guest could have ever imagined that wedding gift waiting to be unwrapped when the lights went out in New Harmony.

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 This wedding celebration began days before its appointed time of 5:30 pm that Saturday evening in August, as guests made their personal journeys from all over the atlas to arrive in New Harmony, Indiana.

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From the windy city of Chicago to the ten thousand lakes of Minnesota they traveled.  From the bluegrass state of Kentucky to the honeymoon island of Hawaii they traveled also.  Adding the state of Michigan, Virginia, New Mexico and all four corners of Indiana, sacrifices of finances and vacations were made by generous friends and family to honor a beautiful bride and her groom.

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One by one the guests of the England-Stock wedding arrived to check into their charming rooms located at the Riverbend Inn.  Screams of joy and hugs of elation exchanged from those reuniting after the many years they saw each other last.  From excited “across the hall” conversations, impromptu gatherings were planned with invitations of “I’ll meet you in room so-and-so.”

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jake at buffet

That weekend a gracious bride and groom walked the streets of this wedding community to greet each traveler with deep appreciation for their sacrifices, while continuing to pour over the details of their storybook day.

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The amenities of this quaint town mirrored a reflection of that fictional place called Mayberry.

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The convenient streets all within walking distance of each other, though most found great enjoyment with the alternative rental of golf carts to mosey around.

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The antique shops, the mom and pop restaurants, the pool surrounded by greenhouse-like windows, and everything else conveniently located nearby, leaving the impression that New Harmony was your home away from home.

What a picturesque place New Harmony is to be married with its various ceremony locations catering to the desires of each wedding couple.  By the intimate lake with a romantic ambience at sunset,

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to the formal church with its stain glass windows and front porch steps,

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or at the outdoor Roofless Church with its royal aisle feel of Westminster Abbey in England.

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Wherever the bride and groom choose to exchange their marital vows, an album capturing their day would reflect nothing less than a “dream come true.”

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As the afternoon sun began to fade into evening that 28th day in August, anticipation swirled the air as wedding guests in their seats and bridal court positioned, all fixed their eyes back to the Roofless Church entrance, anxiously waiting for the horse drawn carriage to deliver the bride.

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Upon first sighting of Cinderella arriving in her royal coach, gasps could be heard among the crowd as an unspoken agreement of this beautiful bride.

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Waiting a brief moment before stepping off her carriage, this bride paused to cast her eyes onward to her groom standing a distance away, a man who was visibly overcome by this woman’s loveliness.

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With a father’s hand reaching for his daughter once last time as his own, these two took steps in unison down the long aisle kissed with rose petals, only to let her go at the altar and release her into the hands she had been betrothed to.

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After a long engagement,

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the wedding finally begins with a man and woman who fell in love four years prior, standing side by side before God and family to seal their hearts in marriage.  Holding hands as a symbolic gesture to “never let go”, this bride and groom displayed the abundance of their hearts through the smiles on their faces.

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Trying hard to leave the eyes of the other, this couple did declare their love in holy matrimony during the service that was chronicled in the wedding program.  A service of prayer; a song to prepare;

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a scripture about love; a song of communion; an exchange of vows and exchange of rings; then a kiss to declare them husband and wife.

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Cheers echoed the crowd as they stood to honor the new Mr. and Mrs.,

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yet unbeknownst to a single soul at the wedding was that secret gift slowly being unwrapped, with its silver bow already untied.

As one final exchange in the wedding, guests lined up on both sides of the Roofless Church walkway to greet the bride and groom with kisses of bubbles, as these two made their way down their royal aisle one last time.

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Following, the bridal party would take their remaining wedding photographs

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while the guests began their short journey to the reception hall, a two story converted granary, until those seated at the head table arrived.

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The guests walking from the church to the reception was a picture of life for us all;

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those steps we take

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from one street to the next in our day, never knowing what waits for us around the corner.

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We live and breathe each moment with great expectation, and as we should, because life in itself is a gift.     But it’s those mini presents that accompany life that when revealed, we sometimes don’t see the gift; at least not at first glance.

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Arriving at the front door of the reception hall, guests would enter a place especially decorated for them.

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Candle lit tables set with great detail for loved ones sitting at every seat.

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With floral centerpieces accentuating the colors of the day,

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hand-crafted favors were part of each place setting for guests to take home as their personal gift from the bride and groom.

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A banquet meal was prepared from the selections of the wedding couple, and an evening celebration of dance and music still waited its turn.

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The hour is now evening, the time approximately 7:30 pm.  As scripted per the wedding invitation, dinner is about to be served.

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Still awaiting the arrival of the newly married couple,

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the clock is ticking in seconds, as its hand will soon change the minute.

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They always say “never close your eyes, because when you do, life can turn in an instant.”

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How wise was that person, because when each guest opened their eyes from the blink of the last, the lights went out in New Harmony.

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Initially in the darkness, most thought this was the signal for the bride and groom to make their grand entrance at the reception.

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Others believed this mishap was only momentary.  But soon enough, the delay caused an undue stir among the crowd.  Though panic didn’t set in, a question of “what do we do next?” was on everybody’s mind.

To continue with the reception yet without the traditional announcement of the bridal party, the wedding couple and their court did take their seats at the head table and dinner was soon served thereafter.

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Amid an evening without lights, the feeling of romance continued to permeate the darkness as votive candles still lit the place like small stars on a clear summer night.

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While looking at my son and his new wife though as they halfheartedly ate their first meal together, my heart sank for the special attention that wasn’t being paid to them due to the chaos.

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Young girls didn’t get to dream of their wedding while admiring the “Princess of the day” as the room was too dark.

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Glasses weren’t being clanked to encourage the new couple to kiss.

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and those long awaited speeches from the best man and maid of honor were put on hold.

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Celebrations, especially weddings, are meant to be savored detail by detail.  It is during those planned or unplanned times where the wedding memories are birthed.  But to consider the safety of everyone, dinner was rushed to its completion so that the party could be moved, literally to another venue; an old, dusty gymnasium a few streets over.

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In the hour that life is happening,

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whether the water is calm at your feet or hurling waves at your face, one usually doesn’t stop to take inventory of the little gifts that you have been given until the hour you just lived has passed.

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How much more of our existence would we enjoy and not take for granted if we would only learn to live in the appointed moment.

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As the mass exodus of this wedding party began its journey from a hall decorated with ambience to a gym where its grandest recorded dance was a 50’s Sock Hop, gifts had already begun to be passed out from the guests unknowingly as if Christmas had come early.

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While still in the hall, gifts of great concern was displayed for anyone trapped in the elevator when the power went out.  The room went silent to verify any guests unaccounted for.

Presents of makeshift lighting over the buffet table was created by the videographer’s camera light, as the cameraman stood there himself holding the light until every guest made their way thru the dinner line.

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Bridesmaids displayed their gifts of compassion as they joyfully carried the wedding cakes to the other hall, regardless that frosting decorated their party dresses while fumbling the streets at night.

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Cases of beverages and anything else party-worthy somehow found their way to hall number two,

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as guests,  though suffering from the intense heat of a gym void of air-conditioning, displayed vast gifts of love to a bride and groom to help salvage their wedding day.

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From my point of view, the party finally got started when the tuxedo jackets came off and high heels were exchanged for bare feet.  Tradition went out the window with the transformer that night, and the checklist of wedding things to do was scrapped.

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The bridal party was finally introduced simultaneously as a guest dressed in a large canine costume high-fived and body slammed each member to the music, “Who let the dogs out?”

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Little boys went bare-chested though still sporting their ties,

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and that crazy guest whom we all love went solo on the dance floor, flopping around like a fish out of water as he rode the pretend waves.

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From the bride’s point of view though, I can only imagine her heartache that the wedding she had planned up until the last song the band would play, only happened on paper.

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Brides are still little girls with the dreams they have held onto their whole life.  That evening when the lights went out, I wondered if my new daughter was truly living her dream.

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As a mother watching her children struggle on their wedding day, I must say it was a proud moment for me and a gift I received from them when I didn’t see their anger or disappointment taken out on the hall coordinator or more importantly, each other.

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All I saw was two people greatly concerned for their guests and their enjoyment that night, spreading a heart full of patience, kindness and love.

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That night it wasn’t the handsome tailored tuxedo or vintage couture wedding dress that revealed the true beauty of a couple, but the unexpected turn of wedding events instead.

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As with every wedding, the night must come to an end and the chapter of a couple’s wedding day closes, only to turn to the pages of a new chapter where real beginnings take place.

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For this wedding though, one final visit to the granary was in order as the hall needed to be packed up from the power outage the night before.

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Upon my return, I was caught off guard by the visual of a wedding put in pause, as the tables still retained the remains of the centerpieces and favors that many guests had left behind.

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Brief waves of sadness took my breath as I gazed at the head table where the bridal court’s flowers continued to be displayed in their individual vases of water.

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I could still see the bride and groom seated in their special seats, wanting desperately to turn back the clock to an evening for them with electricity, where the events they planned really happened.

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I lamented when I turned to the dance floor where that mother-son dance never took place.

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I was grieved for the stolen moment I didn’t get to have with my new daughter, welcoming her into that reserved place of my heart I had been saving since my son was born.

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jake little boy

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But as I said before, gifts come in all sizes and shapes.  Those gifts I wanted the day of, actually came before the wedding, though I didn’t recognize them until after that evening in August.

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That weekend before New Harmony, my son came into town so I could make him breakfast one last time.  We shared a silly conversation over coffee and I am thankful that my son chose to steal an innocent moment with me, even if it was at the kitchen table and not dancing to “our special song”.

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As with my new daughter, how it would have been nice to have our first moment together on her wedding day.

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But I realized we had spent the last six months of stealing moments during the endless texts and conversations regarding the planning of this wedding; moments I had because she invited me into the planning of her special day.

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Leaving the hall for the last time, I noticed a lone votive candle left behind by some guest walking the streets among the other guests the night before, sitting by a tree facing the granary.

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A light that once illuminated the path of someone walking in darkness, it reminded me of a verse that brings light to a dark place we might all find ourselves in:

Ephesians 5: 20 …always give thanks to God the Father for everything.

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Give thanks to God for everything?  Yes everything.  Even the writer of that verse, Apostle Paul, was giving thanks as he was chained in jail, falsely accused.

While we may never know the reasons why hard things happen,  the fact remains that light always comes forth from a dark situation,

even at a wedding when the all the lights go out.

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A DIFFERENCE MAKER By Lori A Alicea

What you do matters.  You might not hear how it matters for years to come or maybe live your life never knowing, but be assured, you are making a difference.

  With the season of planting upon us, a farmer diligently sows seeds with the expectation of a fall harvest.  He labors the acres of fields “sun up – sun down”, his brow dripping in sweat from the summer’s heat, preparing, planting, watering and weeding for the bushels and truckloads a farmer reaps so we can eat.

Being a Difference Maker is that farmer of seeds sown into another life.  The fall harvest comes, but maybe decades after you’ve planted the fields.

Years ago my husband David and I were asked to be Difference Makers in the boys and girls 1st and 2nd grade Sunday school class at our church.  Being honest that we didn’t have a “want to” spirit didn’t keep us from saying “yes” to those adorable little faces that showed up Sunday after Sunday to be taught the things of Jesus.

Though David and I shared a Sunday school class together, we taught in separate corners of the room; the boys on one side, the girls on the other.  This season of teaching was perfect for the “empty-nesters” we had recently become; the void of children in our hearts suddenly burst at the seam from those that called us Mr. Dave and Miss Lori.

Our sweet class had kids from every family background seated at the table; church leadership families, divorced families, single parent families, neighbors of families.

These children had high energy and busy minds which kept us old teachers on our toes.  Coming prepared meant they weren’t taking over the class.  There were lessons, crafts and special treats of course.  Our Sunday mornings together brought much laughter and belief we created an atmosphere for learning about God.  A teacher’s heartache though were from those tearful prayer requests of six, seven and eight year olds spanning comfort over the loss of a dog to real fears believing their fighting parents were getting a divorce.

Nurturing and shepherding these little lives that Jesus loved and beckoned to himself (Mark 10:14) was a privilege David and I almost forfeited, yet in saying “yes”, we reaped more in joy for these kids than from our teaching seeds ever sown.

Though stepping down from that position of Difference Makers so many years ago, David and I haven’t forgotten those children that called us Mr. Dave and Miss Lori.  Most attend other churches now yet some I have had a front row seat to their growth on Facebook.  Your love for them doesn’t change when they move on; albeit another class or church.  Seeds were deposited into the fields of their life.  They took a part of us with them; yet you wonder if they remember; were you a Difference Maker?

Recently David and I noticed a high school boy we hadn’t seen before at church.  He stood out with eyes appearing sad and empty, never looking our way.  We watched him from afar the first couple of weeks, doing nothing yet still watching and wondering what that stare wanted to tell us.  Then one Sunday David remembered those eyes; a student from his class many years before.  Looking more closely I remembered him also; elated to see him all grown up.

David approached this six foot young man and inquired, “Do you remember me?  You used to attend my Sunday school class as a 2nd grader.”  Bridging the years through small talk, this young lad recollected and said, “I do remember your class.”  He paused, then wrapped his arms around David’s heart with these words, “I wish I was still in your class.”

Talk about tugging a man’s emotions.  David being the sensitive one held back tears as this “little boy in a grown up body” just handed him a bushel of appreciation.  Someone’s son honored a teacher for being a Difference Maker.  Years beyond the planting, David’s fields reaped a fall harvest.

What you do matters.  Whatever you do, regardless if you think goes unnoticed, God always sees.  Matthew 10:42 NKJV reminds us, “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”   That’s right, even giving a cup of cold water will reap a harvest, as in your giving, you have done it unto the Lord.

DO IT!
I DARE YOU!
BE A DIFFERENCE MAKER!
YOU WON’T REGRET IT!

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THE DIFFERENCE PASSES ON
By Lori A Alicea

You sow your life with many seeds,
You sow in other’s field.
Yet unaware the difference made,
The harvest that you yield.

For every fruit grown from your seed,
Within, the seeds are much.
The Difference sown repeats itself,
And passes on its touch.

THE FACE OF MOTHERHOOD By Lori A Alicea

Dear Mom,

For Mother’s Day this year I thought I’d give you something money can’t buy; a letter of words, a page of my heart, a tribute to the mother God blessed me with.

They say it’s always good to start at the beginning, our beginning.

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THE FACE OF A LIFE GIVER

Our story began nine months prior to ever meeting face to face.  Before my existence revealed itself in your radiance and glow, I was your hidden little secret.  You thought of me and pondered me, embracing me with a mother’s touch of your belly.  The hours spent wondering whose eyes and nose I’d take after, praying you’d count ten fingers and ten toes upon my birth.

I know I was there but can’t recall the agony of you giving me life.  The night of endless pain you swore would never end, but it did when I finally made my debut appearance.

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It was love at first sight for both of us.

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THE FACE OF A WARRIOR

Then there were all my firsts.  My first car ride home from the hospital, my first bath, my first night spent in the crib, first steps, first birthday.  All those Hallmark firsts you celebrated in pictures and jotted memories; a recording of my life to remember.

What doesn’t make the scrapbook should make the evening news.  You fought fatigue and sleeplessness from my midnight feedings and every other reason I woke you up.  When we both should have been napping, you stayed up to make sense of the house, cook dinner, maybe fit in a bath for yourself; only to do it all over again the very next day.

As I began to grow you fought my fevers, bandaged by scrapes and kissed whatever hurt as somehow that made if all feel better.  Your day’s work included mounds of laundry, toys finding their way back to the toy box, the fight to keep the scattered messes from taking over the house.

You do all this without awards or accolades, you do it for me.

When eyes fail to notice the hard work of a mother, be sure it’s seen by the eyes of God.

cova school (2)   ethan first day of school (2) brooke brodie brystol first day of school

THE FACE OF LETTING GO

 All you have to do is blink and realize how fast motherhood goes by.  I am sure you didn’t believe it in the beginning when you hadn’t slept in days and thought you never would again.  But when the kindergarten bell rang for the first day of school with me carrying my backpack and lunch box and found my assigned seat, mere sadness begged the question “Where did the time go?”  The walk back to the car without me surely stirred a few tears, as I am certain you left behind a crying child.

Kindergarten, whether she is ready or not, starts a mother’s heart-clock of “letting go”.  With every milestone from that day at the classroom, echoes of that ticking clock ring in your ear; a reminder that a final “letting go” is nearing when I take those first steps without you or your hand into my destiny.

It’s supposed to be this way.  Life is a series of letting go.  Like baby birds gradually being forced from the nest to test their wings, it’s a loving mother who prepares their young to fly solo.

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All grown up now with kids and grand-kids of my own, it’s my turn to wear the FACE OF LETTING GO.  Like that mother you were at my first day of school I ask the same question, “Where did the time go?”   Clocks are always ticking.  Time never stands still.  The years have weathered your face.  Hard work has depleted your strength.  The investment of your life has paid dividends in mine and all the others that came before and after me.  You are mother, grandmother and great-mother.  You took us to church, introduced us to Jesus, taught us to be mothers and did your job well.

You are LIFE GIVER, WARRIOR, and in many instances, LET GO so we could have.

Your children rise and call you blessed.  Proverbs 31:28

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WHERE DID THE TIME GO?
By Lori A Alicea

Like yesterday the doctor cheered,
A girl! Or it’s a boy!
So worth it all to have you both,
This mother’s greatest joy.

But all grown up the both of you,
My daughter and my son.
So proud of whom you have become,
A mother’s love undone.

BEST BUDS FOR LIFE By Lori A Alicea

Ever had a best bud?
Ever been two peas in a pod?
Ever been stuck together like glue?

First they were cousins, now more like brothers.
Yes that’s Ethan and Brodie, Best Buds for Life.

It all began years ago at “cousin camp”; a weekly Friday night tradition where all the grandkids spend the night with Papa and Gaga.  When David and I became grandparents we wanted to create a library full of scrapbook memories during that small window of opportunity where the grandchildren still wanted to hang out with us.  When friends and sports become a part of their life, it will be our turn to pursue them for available time.

Ethan and Brodie became partners in crime the minute cousin camp opened its doors.  You never saw one without the other and quite the tears when half the duo couldn’t attend our Friday night sleepover.

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At cousin camp there is no minimum age requirement to join the club.  These boys have had their diapers and pull ups changed together.  They’ve learned to crawl and walk as a team.  From tricycles to training wheels to full freedom on two tires , they have shared so much life together on Friday night.  Brodie and Ethan lay their sleeping bags side by side so they can wrestle and laugh and whatever boys do when nobody is looking.  Oh the times Papa would have to end the midnight crazies so everyone else could sleep.

Little boys don’t require much.  Give them a ball and bat and the movie Sandlot comes to life where an old fashioned neighborhood of kids get together for the love of baseball.  The laughs and cheers as these two swat the ball and round the bases like miniature Babe Ruth’s.

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The boys are sprouting faster than a field of weeds.  They’ve outgrown their bikes again and Papa will have to hit the garage sales for summer replacements.  The parents can’t keep them in shoes and Papa and Gaga sense the Friday night window with them closing ever so slightly.

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To date, cousin camp takes in six of our ten grandchildren, as four live out of town.  Our DC babies join our Friday night traditions whenever they come for a visit.  Our oldest grandchild is thirteen soon so our first cousin-camp graduation might be this year.  Just don’t tell Papa.

When cousin-camp closes its doors for good, it is our prayer as grandparents that our grandchildren enjoy turning the pages of their cousin camp scrapbooks every now and then.  That the intentional time we’ve sowed into these “gifts from God” reap relationships with each other into their adult lives.

May their cell phones always have cousin camp members on speed-dial.

May all ten of them be Best of Buds For Life.

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OFF YOU GO
By Lori A Alicea

And off you go a cousin pair,
The miles in your car.
Remember where your Papa lives,
He’ll wonder where you are.

Don’t get too far or dare forget,
He’s crazy for you two.
So pick him up when think of it,
He’d love a car ride too.