LEAVING A LEGACY By Lori A Alicea

Legacy is never understood until a true legacy has lived before you and passes on their godly heritage for the generations that continue.

True legacy is what lives on beyond your life.
Legacy is those seeds you’ve sown into others that reproduce a harvest of life.

Legacy is your life’s open book that:

We will not hide from our descendants;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
Psalm 78:4 NIV

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…..
Proverbs 13:22 NKJV

Our family received a great inheritance like none other, bequeathed from the legacy of our matriarch, our beloved mother, our grandmother, great grandmother, wife, aunt, sister, friend and child of God.

It was this woman who bestowed to a generation of heirs a rich treasure from her life’s
Will and Testament:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV

 HER LEGACY
As seen through the eyes of her family.

Barbara’s legacy story began long before she left us on May 16, 2012.  Our mother lived a simple life with her husband Flor and five handsome sons.  Barbara loved God more than life itself and His reflection mirrored in her humming, music and “toil on her knees in prayer” that her sons grew up to serve Jesus.

Barbara’s mission field was her humble home and kitchen.  Her tireless message of service was preached from the pulpit of her stove.  Barbara’s affection for God and family was baked in the walls of every room she called home.  You never left empty handed after a meal at Barbara’s table, as every guest went home carrying a take-out container full of peace, love and joy.

Barbara always shined a bright light on the faithfulness of God in His pursuit of those five boys that called her mom.  Barbara introduced five boys to a loving God, but five boys had to make their own decision to serve Him individually with a surrendered heart.

Attributed most to Barbara’s legacy were her calloused knees caused from those long suffering hours spent in fervent prayer for her sons.

Today, Barbara’s five sons faithfully serve Jesus and are now married to wives with the same passion for God.

TODAY

Her children rise up and call her blessed…Proverbs 31:28

While every mother smiles at the mere mention of her children’s name, nothing brings out the delight of a woman than being in the presence of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Barbara broke every rule when it came to those little feet running around her house, and she loved it.

She brought out her hidden cookies when parents weren’t looking.
She kept a bottle handy just in case your toddler still wanted to be a baby.
Overfeeding began at your child’s birth.
A mystery Kool-Aid concoction was a favorite among the grandchildren.  A red ring around their mouths was evidence that grandma brought out her sugary drink again.

Going to grandma Barbara’s meant going home with a tummy ache, but every Sunday after church the families were back for more.

Barbara’s Grandchildren and their families

Barbara’s Great-Grandchildren

Though not catching us off guard due to our mother’s illness, May 16, 2012 buckled a family to their knees in heartache when Jesus called his daughter home to Himself.

While rejoicing as our mother takes residence in her new heavenly home, we grieve that the door of our mother’s earthly casa goes unanswered when we knock on Sunday afternoons for lunch.

funeral service barbara bulletin

Love from many who called her mom like Aaron Washington, “God’s grace be with our family at this trying hour…we will miss our beloved ….and we look to the Lord and his ever abiding presence to comfort our hearts as we celebrate your home going.”  I will always love you…”mom”.

graveside aaron

Barbara’s Home Going Celebration was attended by Pastor’s from multitudes of neighboring churches and the pews for the service were occupied to full capacity.  Barbara’s life impacted a community beyond her knowledge or understanding.

gavin christian jeweliz steven

Barbara’s legacy continues from those that she touched in her simple service to God.

Barbara would have been thrilled and in charge of the kitchen to cook her own celebration dinner.

Being a woman whose “fountain of worship” quenched those parched and thirsty for Jesus, Barbara would have loved to assume her seat at the drums during the music service of her celebration.

funeral service musicians

In Barbara’s honor, a drum roll played to commemorate the life that simply loved Jesus, whose love for a Savior spilled onto the laps of so many seated at her kitchen table.

cousins drummer

Nothing stirred the hearts of those in celebration attendance than during the song your son and granddaughter sang imagining your intimate time postured before Jesus, laying your crown at his lovely feet as written about:

….They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things…..”
Revelation 4:10-11 NIV

 

 Video Courtesy of Brad Ebert
Song:  The King of Who I Am by Lulu Roman and Russ Taff

Taking a silent seat in the service and listening to her children and grandchildren speak, Barbara would have been so proud.

Her son Michael preached about his mother’s trust in Jesus, as she always thanked Him for the mountains and the valleys, for the problems only God could solve as revealed in her favorite song:

Through it All
Sang by Andrae Crouch

I thank God for the mountains,
And I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms
He brought me through;
For if I’d never had a problem
I wouldn’t know that He could solve them,
I’d never know what faith in God could do.

Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God;
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

funeral service michael speaking

 Granddaughter Angie celebrated the last conversation Barbara ever shared on this earth, putting her grandmother’s legacy on display through her last moments this side of heaven.

As I stand here before you, grandpa, sons, daughters, grandchildren, great grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and friends.  All I see is the legacy and inheritance my grandmother left behind.  For without her obedience to serve the Lord, none of us would be here today.  Look to your right.  Look to your left.  Know that right now, there is a glimpse of grandma in each one of us.

In your sadness, we are truly blessed.  For God blessed us with a “woman of God” that knew how to be a servant.  Don’t get me wrong, grandma was from Brooklyn, NY, so if she really wanted to, she could take you out!!  But thank God he gave her wisdom in knowing how to keep the servant’s heart front and center.

“Grandma, are you thirsty?  Can I get you a drink of water?”  She replied, “Yes”, as she nodded her head.  As she began to drink, something began to take place in her spirit that brought her a breath and a sigh of peace.

That night, I went to the Word of God for comfort and found, Revelation 21:6-7 AMP..And He [further] said to me, “It is finished!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To the thirsty, I [Myself] will give water without price from the fountain (springs) of the Water of Life.  He who is victorious, shall inherit all of these things, and I will be God to her and she shall be My daughter.”

 My heart was so grieved when I came to realize this was my last conversation with my grandma.

funeral service angie speaking

 Barbara’s earthly body was honored with reverence and carried to her final resting place by sons and grandsons that were once carried by her.

Saying one final good-by until we all meet again in the presence of Jesus, hearts still gush from the overflow of loss from such a beautiful woman we all knew as mother in our own way.

Many tributes were left on Facebook to re-tell the life of one who left this life for one better in heaven.  These are just a few:

…My 4 year old Christian saw me and said, “Mommy why are you so sad? (with a concern look in his eyes)”  I replied, ” I miss my grandma.”   He shook his head, “Yes” and said, “But we will see her again.”  Smiled, gave me a kiss and said, “You’re the best mommy in the world!” Thank you Jesus for comforting me through this time even through my little boy.  Raquel Alicea

 Truly she left a legacy in her walk with God. She truly mirrored what it means to look like a Child of God. A true servant’s heart, wonderful mother, grandmother, and friend. We lost someone great today but Heaven gained a wonderful person today. How do we honor her?  We honor her by knowing that this will not be the last time that we see her and if we do not have a relationship with God and don’t walk in that assurance of having God as our personal Lord and Savior then Family, Friends, WAKE UP make that choice to follow in her footsteps and carry on her legacy and know that you will see her one day in Heaven. Buela thank you for adopting me into your family and looking past all of my mistakes and showing me unconditional love.  Raquel Alicea

The legacy that you have left behind was AMAZING. Now it is our job to keep that continuing. We are at peace because we know you are in a much better place but most importantly you’re with our Father – The Lord. I hope that you are proud of us as you look down. We have some big shoes to fill. The drum-line will continue in your Honor. We love you so much! Until we meet again….Nathan/Kristie Alicea

ALICEA CELEBRATION…Nothing brings God more delight than receiving His Honor thru the honor of those that call Him Lord.  Mother n Law, we honor you today for the being that WITNESS of Christ in our family. Your knees were hardened for the hours you spent prostrate before God, lifting your praise and needs of your children before Him…We honor you this day and consider it great pain to say good-by, yet pure joy knowing you have already seen Jesus.  Lori A. Alicea

The Mother’s Rose
By Lori A. Alicea

When God created all the earth,
And all the flowers he chose.
I wonder if a mother’s love,
Inspired a perfect rose.

The beauty of its royal red,
It’s color, meaning love.
The thought expressing God’s intent,
What mother’s are made of.

The friendship of the yellow rose,
When shared between just two.
The bond created when her love,
Is recognized by you.

Though beauty comes with thistle thorns,
A price of mother’s call.
The times that hurt a mother’s heart,
She says it’s worth it all.

When crushed a rose it will not die,
Forget what eyes might see.
A mother’s fragrance still remains,
A rose of potpourri.

But sad the day when mother leaves,
Without, your garden grows.
Yet God delights to welcome in,
His newest, sweetest rose.

A message Barbara preached with her life:

funeral service live happily ever after sign

Barbara, if you could see us now.

Life goes on, and we think of you daily.
We rejoice where you are, but just in case you were wondering about us:

Hold onto your halo mom.  Your Cubbies finally won the World Series.
We all cheered in the stands to honor your lifetime commitment and belief in your favorite baseball team the Cubs.

world series pennant cropped

There have been two weddings since May 16, 2012, one being your beloved son who waited a lifetime for his beautiful bride.

And just look at all your new heirs, your great-grandchildren that have been born and share in your legacy.

Wishing even more,
IF WE COULD SEE YOU NOW

WALKING THE STREETS OF GOLD WITH JESUS!

SEE ME KNOW feet gold glitter

Barbara, your legacy lives on in your family.

You left your hand-print behind,
And we sense your impact in the lives who
CALL YOU MOM

In whatever manner that is.
We love and miss you dearly.

WORD HANDPRINT THAT YOU LEAVE PICTURE

THE HAND-PRINT THAT YOU LEAVE
by Lori A. Alicea

We live our lives from year to year,
The moments that we share.
Yet give no thought to what we leave,
We most, are unaware.

We touch each other with our love,
And time, though can’t conceive.
There is a lasting memory,
That hand-print that you leave.

LETTING GO By Lori A Alicea

As long as the hour and minute hand of your life’s clock keeps ticking in perfect time advancing those seconds, minutes and hours into days, weeks and years, change is ongoing requiring without permission slips,
our “letting go.”

Change can be hard.
New beginnings are framed in change.
Why must “today” require change when “yesterday” was so wonderful?

Nothing stays the same no matter how hard we want them to remain.
“Letting go” is opening our hand to receive the unknown.

God is the author of change when He reminds us:
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
…now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?…Isaiah 43:19 ESV

 The school bell has finally rung this steamy month of August, some mothers painfully deafened by its ring as it signals the heart wrenching debut of a lifetime of “letting go” events of their children.

Though that “first day of school” for my son and daughter took place twenty-five and thirty years ago, a mother can still recall in tears when her heart was left at the classroom door as teaching began without her.

 

“Letting Go” during that orientation of change called Kindergarten requires you to face the mirror’s reflection that your children are growing up.

With twelve years of school and college possibly down the road, a mother will be in shock the speed of her life’s clock until she relives another “first day of school” through her children’ eyes, as this grandmother’s seventh and eighth of ten grandchildren have filled their backpacks for Preschool.

 

“Letting Go” when you’re two remaining grandchildren have appointments with Preschool in two short years, is a sad reminder that the crib and high chair will soon be packed away for good, no longer needed when visiting their grandparents.

Growing up is supposed to happen, but you always want them to stay small and fit into your lap just a little bit longer.

Looking into your newborn’s face for the very first time, you can’t imagine “Letting them Go”.

You concede they won’t always need your hand to cross the street.
You concede they won’t always call for you in the middle of a night’s storm.
You concede they won’t always be daddy’s little girl or mommies best bud.
You just concede it will happen sometime tomorrow, in another life.

Tomorrow comes though and you find yourself “Letting Go” again when your children walk their isles of matrimony.

Growing up and getting married is supposed to happen.

We’ve prayed for their spouses since birth and couldn’t be more exuberant with what God “has joined together”, but “Letting Go” this time means “Letting Go” for good.

But mom and dad rejoice in the new beginnings of their children’s lives.

 

While our daughter Audra still waits for God’s perfect plan relating to her future spouse, Daddy continues to be that special man in her life until then.

David and Audra 60th birthday

“Letting Go” when Audra’s wedding day arrives might require daddy’s grown sons to walk along side him as he escorts his little girl down her isle, just in case an overcome father falls apart.

When a daughter leaves her father for another man in marriage, sometimes she takes with her a little boy who brought life to the home of two grandparents who helped raise him the last 3 1/2 years.

Ethan on wedding day

A little boy who learned to walk in your kitchen.
A little boy who helped you make coffee every night before bed.
A little boy who sat in your lap while eating dinner.
A little boy who called your name in the baby monitor.
A little boy who followed you everywhere in the house.

How do you smile at your daughter’s wedding and say good-by to a little boy who stole your heart on the very same day?

 

“Letting Go” the night before our grandson moved his blanket and pillow to another bed would be like no other.  Over a few scoops of ice-cream shared between a grandfather and a little boy, the weight of the moment fell when “Letting Go” meant”Letting Go” for good, and papa’s tears fell like rain that evening, flooding their bowls.

“Letting Go” is happening all around us.  Sometimes we need to take our eyes off our own lives and help someone else “Let Go” when they want so bad to “hold on”.

A year and a half ago we found our mother in a near death health crisis, forcing an address change to a nursing home while packing up her life.

You never think that day will come, and realize how unprepared emotionally you are when it does.  Mother raised six children, served us and gave us the best life she was capable of.  Now her seventy-eight years of life is reduced to sixty boxes of memories, memories we finally have the heart to go through to divide.

 

“Letting Go” a year and a half ago didn’t involve us letting go of mother, although did involve “Letting Go” of mother as we once enjoyed.

mom nursing home

Mother is many things to all of us.  Her tributes could fill a library of books.

In the “Letting Go”, God is so faithful to give us something to “hold on” to.  While unpacking the remains of our mother’s house, I found this Time Capsule of mother memorialized as seen through the eyes of her family, possibly written fifteen years ago.  Inside this simple jar are words to honor one woman who tirelessly gave and loved her family first, in an assortment of messages both funny and heartfelt titled:

“I Remember When”.

A few of the many messages, written from her grandchildren 15 years ago:

grandmas grandkids

I remember when you came pretty close to getting evicted from your apartment, thanks to your rowdy grand-kids.  Granddaughter Julie

 I remember when me and Candace spent the night one time, we were cooking with the Easy Bake oven and used your Tupperware stuff and melted it.  Sorry!  Granddaughter Amanda

 I remember how I always sat by you in church.  Grandson Phillip

 I remember when we would always play SKIPPO.  (Of course I would always win.)  Well, of course a couple of times I would let grandma win.  If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have learned how to play all those card games.  Granddaughter Candace

 I don’t remember when I started calling you Grandma, but I do remember you always making me feel like your grandson.  Grandson JT

A few of the messages written by her children 15 years ago:

I remember when we went to pick out my wedding dress and you cried.  Daughter Debbie

I remember going through my “hard times”, how you took me under your wing, loved me like your own daughter, and made me feel like a part of the family.  Daughter Jill

I remember the past eight years of our Tuesday night rituals.  You made me dinner and I washed and set your hair.  A time for us to share, laugh and become close as mom and daughter; as friends as well.  Daughter Denise

 I remember all the times when I would call you in the middle of the night just to hear your voice.  Of all the hard times I went through, you were always there to listen.  Never once did you make mention of what time it was.  Daughter Belinda

 “Letting Go” is different for every situation.  Give yourself grace if “Letting Go” is more painful than you thought and coming to terms is even harder.

We all want to hold on when God wants us to “Let Go”.
We want to understand when God doesn’t make sense.

But God’s ways and thoughts are not ours.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
Isaiah 55:8

But in our “Letting Go” God promises:

…I will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace
;..
Isaiah 55:11-12

After closing up the Time Capsule of my mother’s life and savoring the honor greatly due her, I am reminded of a tribute, a gift to “hold on to” also while aching through the “Letting Go” when my first born left me for college.

A free spirit as depicted in his body art,

jakes tatoo

our son continues to run the race of his life through the many races beyond high school and never looked back, going from one finish line to the next.

jake finish line

The race of college.
The race of dental school.
The race of the military.

 

The finish line is somehow the starting line up for another race, with the miles between us getting further from the race before.

jake motorcycle

But after the gun went off to signal the race of college, God allowed me to find a letter buried in a bag of discarded stuff.  In this bag located in the garage filled from the bedroom our son vacated for good, I discovered a letter that would hug me from time to time in the moments I terribly missed him.

Dear Mom,

Now that I am graduating and getting ready to leave for college, I’ve been thinking about all the fun things I’ve done and the great things I’ve achieved.  When I think about them, you always are apart of them somehow.

We have had so many great memories together.  A few that come to mind are camping trips, baseball games and track meets.  Even though I never show it, I always loved you being there.  You have had such a huge impact on my life.  You have helped me to become the runner and man that I am today.

I just wanted to say thank you for always being there for me, and guiding me down the right path.  You have been a great mother and have done your job well.  I know being a single mother all those years weren’t easy, but you kept the family together and I’ll always love you for that. 

Love forever, Your Son

Embracing this honor allowed an exchange of the baton of my sorrow that year, for faith in the hands I entrusted my son to.

Letting Go” means letting God, and I think I can handle that.

STOP COUNTING By Lori A Alicea

We all have a message to speak.

Through our individual gifts and talents
we long to convey what God has put on our hearts to say,
in the manner which we are gifted.

I believe I share a seat with many who consider the opinions of others thru their comments, Likes and Shares.

facebook likefacebook share

 I believe I share a crowded stage with many who hear the applause as an evaluation of their performance.

applause o meter

 Whether it’s sales, blog views, followers, customers, attendance, YouTube views, Likes, comments or Shares, etc., we could celebrate empty success or face crushing defeat if we hinged our efforts and validation from the opinions of others.

I wonder how many give up based on a negative tally of these opinions?

Listening to Christian Author and Speaker Joyce Meyers,  she stated a profound message from God regarding opinions:

“Stop Counting”

God told Joyce to “Stop counting the meeting attendance, the emails, the telephone calls, etc.”

 These tallies are just opinions of others.

Our gifts, our talents, our callings are to glorify the one who gifted and called.
We are to please Him and Him alone.

….. I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.  John 5:30 NIV

It is in this posture of humility where true promotion comes.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:10, ESV

My Pastor of twenty-eight years exemplified:

….. I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.  John 5:30 NIV

When he reminded us many times through the years that he:
“Preached to an audience of One.”

Being called to preach, our General remained faithful to his post until the end, giving no regard to the pews and their occupancy.

My Pastor preached to an audience of One.

As my Pastor preached to the Holy One, he also went after the “one” like the shepherd Jesus talks about who left the ninety-nine for the “one” who went astray.  Luke 15:1-7.

This beloved man “went low” and went to great lengths to find the “one”, so he could love, serve and wash the feet of the “one”.  It wasn’t the crowd, the masses, the ninety-nine, but the “one”.

Pastor Ron Foot washing cropped

At our General’s funeral just a few weeks ago, not surprising the church was packed beyond capacity with just as many viewers online from around the world.

All because a man preached to an audience of One while in pursuit of the “one”.

His daughter said it best of her father:

“Over and over again I kept hearing how you loved the ONE.. the marginalized ONE, the neglected ONE, the Fatherless ONE the hurting ONE and the list goes on.”
Beth Jacobus

God moves mountains to show his love for you, the “one”.
God sent His Son to die for you, the “one”.
God will work through complete strangers to reach you, the “one”.

This message of the “one” came to light a few hot summer years ago at this historical mansion where I hosted a table for six of dear family and friends over a Victorian Tea and Luncheon.

Daisy lady gloria marge linda at table

Daisy lady candy lori at table

With one seat unspoken for to be filled by the Victorian Tea organizers and believing God wanted to use five tea ladies to bless a complete stranger, we prepared a gift bag full of thoughtfulness with her in mind; a present for the “one”.

A week prior to the Tea, God impressed a vision of this “one”, letting our eyes know in advance to be looking for a woman “dressed in daisies”.

Seated outside on the manicured lawns of the mansion, the Victorian Gala began, and hand-painted cups for each Victorian lady were filled with their chosen flavored tea.  Formally dressed waiters and waitresses placed silver trays of crumpets, delicately filled croissants and other luncheon foods on our table of china place settings and white linen.

Though the details of this elegant day were breathtaking, we five tea ladies couldn’t take our eyes off the chair still unspoken for.  Had we heard from God correctly?  Were we really supposed to meet a lady “dressed in daisies?”  We reminded God of the empty seat while letting go of our expectations, though still holding onto hope that the day was still not over.

Somewhat sad we still savored our time together, enjoying a bright and sunny afternoon over tea, seated side by side next to those that we loved.  Caught off guard when the skies darkened and released a torrential rain, the Victorian crowd made a dash towards the open doors of the mansion for the remainder of the event.

With the mansion unprepared to receive our Victorian ladies, you sat or stood in whatever corner you could find.

Daisy lady candy by herself

We Victorian ladies now soaking wet couldn’t help but laugh.

The itinerary resumed itself making the best of the unforeseen chaos.

It’s in these moments when you least expect that God’s plan comes into full view;
our lady “dressed in daisies.”

We tea ladies gasped when we saw her.
Head to toe in daisies.

We five weren’t so refined when we surrounded our daisy lady following the Tea, presenting God’s heart and a gift bag prepared with her, the “one” in mind.

Overwhelmed that God met her heart in the darkest of hours through complete strangers, our daisy lady shared she almost didn’t attend the event as her husband was hospitalized in a health crisis.  Deciding to divert her troubled heart and attention for a few hours over tea, throwing on whatever she could find, not Victorian clothes, but an outfit donned of daisies.

Such an impact God made when He loved the “one” through five willing strangers.

With God, it isn’t about the crowd, the masses, the ninety-nine, but the “one”.

When using our gifts, talents and calling for the Kingdom, it’s not about the opinions of others or pleasing of others, but about pleasing God.

….. I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.  John 5:30 NIV

But in this posture of humility true promotion comes.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:10, ESV

And besides,
“Don’t worry about other people’s opinions of you.
God never told you to impress people; only to love them.”
David Willis.org

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

LAUGHTER IS ALWAYS KING By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

Davids picture

Life is delightful and meant to be enjoyed.

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

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

Adam picture

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

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

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Jakes picture

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

David and his brothers
Adrianna picture

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

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

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

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

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

barbara laughing cropped

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

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

NOW GIT.

candace elvis

Oh that we all would learn to laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least the stolen item was Christmas red.  Right?

I know kids, I know:

Nathan's picture
Jakes picture

Be the first to laugh at yourself.

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

(VIDEO COURTESY OF BRAD EBERT)

DON’T FORGET THAT LAUGHTER IS ALWAYS KING.

Elvis 1

elvis 2

ELVIS HAS NOW LEFT THE BUILDING.

 

 

THE SECRET PLACE By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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BURIED DREAMS By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Hence, the birth of this weekly blog.

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

My sister kept her promise to write.

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

A paragraph of her Acknowledgements:

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

 Belinda's grave

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

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

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Brad

A portion of the only page she wrote:

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

It’s so important that you choose to live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all these years, I still miss my sister.

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

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

My last column during that journey of words I wrote:

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

Sing your song today.

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

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

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

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

FOR EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON By Lori A Alicea

There is a time for everything.

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

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

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

There is a time for everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a time for everything.

Corn bean field - neighbors field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

flowers by water

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

There is a time for everything.

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

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

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

Apostle John Testola

THEIR SACRIFICE FOR THE FLAG By Lori A Alicea

Freedom isn’t free.

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

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

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

USE THIS COVA AND JAKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They went fishing together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEPLOYMENT IS FINALLY OVER.

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

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

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

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

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

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WELCOME HOME DADDY!  WELCOME HOME!
 welcome home 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

The list is as long as the imagination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s in your hand?”

We all have something in our hand to offer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To make a difference, Jesus must be the difference.

When we present our talents, our pitchers of water,

USE THIS WHITE VASE 1

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

turning our water into wine.

USE THIS PINK VASE 3

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

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

USE THIS PINK VASE ALONE

JESUS WILL POUR YOU OUT A MIRACLE
By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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