THE LONG WAY HOME By Lori A Alicea

It’s just something we love to do.

Our adult daughter laughs and says it borderlines “lame”.

Our grandchildren whine if they happen to be tagging along.

Maybe the slow lane of the back roads isn’t for those in a hurry.

But taking the long way home is a mini-date however far the drive, when you’re filling the love tank of the one sitting next to you with your gallons of quality time.

photography of leaves on ground
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some may call it the cheap seats, but the best seats in the house get a private tour of God’s country most eyes will never go out of their way to see.

You must be willing to escape reception and disconnect from the busy grid of life. Willing to lose your way along the winding paths where most GPS’ are unable to find the dropped breadcrumbs of your location. Willing to drown out the voices of your to-do-list, and enjoy the simple pleasures together of the long way home.

The calendar has recently ushered in the first week of November and the fashion show of leaves and their brilliant wardrobe color changes down the runway of fall is almost drawing its curtains to a close.

But an encore performance is reserved for season ticket holders willing to slow down or even stop for fall’s final show.

red leaf trees near the road
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

With December just a month away, you can almost smell the pine trees of Christmas with the wind gently blowing from your rolled down window and the heat cranked up on high.

pine trees in the forest
Photo by Olga Shenderova on Pexels.com

Taking the long way home this time of year, it’s never too early to bring out of hiding those holiday CD’s we’ve been secretly playing anyway since the summer heat of July.

Yes, we are those people who praise God around the Thanksgiving table for his baskets full of blessings, but celebrate also with a Christmas tree perfectly placed in the living room corner, trimmed and beautifully lit as a night sky of twinkling stars.

green christmas tree with string lights
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

Still holding hands and allowing the overflow of our hearts water a conversation for two along the miles of the long way home, it’s no surprise we’re still married and in love after all these years.

The long way home gives you time to reacquaint yourselves with one another, as life changes from day to day like the four seasons do, and one must dress appropriately for the weather escorted in.

Are we there yet?”

Usually not, when the compass of our travels is a constant turn to the east or west down roads where the scenery isn’t familiar and stirs your curiosity for any hidden log cabins to discover.

brown cabin in the woods on daytime
Photo by Eneida Nieves on Pexels.com

Then is the map you follow for those log cabins you long to see for the umpteenth time, stopping at the edge of their driveway and dreaming together over a few sips of our coffee, adding a childlike gift to our Christmas list once again this year.

selective focus photography of ceramic mug near candy cane
Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com
cabin near trees
Photo by Marcus Murphy on Pexels.com

The best seats in the house can be purchased for the price of a few gallons of gas and uninterrupted moments of time except to enjoy and take in the view of nature’s carefree children chasing each other around the trees and deep into the woods of their private playground.

brown deer surrounded with snow covered trees
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Money can’t buy me love.”

But quality time together taking the long way home will always fashion two hearts for love.

Love is never about the what, the where, the when, the why, and the how.

True love is about “the who” you’re with; that special someone seated next to you alongside the long way home.

close up photography of red rose
Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

Discovering this, you’ll realize the counterfeits of romance pales in comparison.

GROWING OLD TOGETHER  By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

wedding parents

Then we blinked.

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

Here we are,

Growing old together,

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

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

Growing old together

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

Growing old together

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

Growing old together

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

Growing old together

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

Growing old together

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

Growing old together

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

Growing old together

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

Growing old together

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

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

Growing old together

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

Growing old together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wedding kiss 27 years later

SHALL WE DANCE  By Lori A Alicea

Marriage is a beautiful dance.

Marriage is two people lost in the moment whose inseparable hearts beat to the rhythm of life while dancing cheek-to-cheek.

Marriage is an invitation to journey together, a hand reaching from across the table for the other as music plays their song to say, “Shall we dance?”valentines dayOUr first date

Young love says nothing about age, as the awakening of one’s heart is a miracle from God whose hand can touch you at any stage of your life.

Young married love, a play-list and series of songs, a dance card which keeps you close during those new beginnings as man and wife.david and lori wedding dance

Twenty-seven years ago on our wedding day, I never realized we’d unwrap a jute-box of albums I had never heard before, yet music we’d need to learn the words and attempt to line-dance to during our early years of marriage.married DAVID AND LORI AND FAMILY

That unfamiliar genre and play-list for blended marriages, blended love, parenting, siblings, culture, finances, and all those contemporary songs we’d learn along the way when driving, dating, college, and then their marriages were the in music for our family.

Year after year following our first day of marriage, the family dance moves became more complex to choreograph.

Yet echoing from the “surround sound” of two hearts head-over-heels in love after twenty-seven years together, are the lyrics to our song still playing as when his hand first reached across the table for mine to ask, “Shall we dance?”david singing25th anniversary - dance david and lori dancing

Young married love says nothing about age as the awakening of one’s heart is a miracle from God whose hand can touch you and keep you deeply in love for every stage of your life.

The old songs that rewind the music video of our love story never go out of style.

They are the anthems we’ve been singing and dancing to for years with our children and now grandchildren as part of their inheritance to sear into their remembrance what true love looks like and sounds like long after their parents and grandparent’s lives become a memory.25th anniversary - dance family dance 5

When our hearts awakened over the births of our ten grandchildren, the genre of music we danced to repeated once again from the play-list of our young love, renewed and head-over-heels with these angelic faces that call us Papa and Gaga.IMG_4264england kids sitting down

Marriage is a beautiful dance and every grandchild of ours has grown up to know they have a special place in our circle of love.

These ten lives are part of our song; they are the lyrics that give us joy to sing to; to dance to.

The music never stops whenever they are with us.25th anniversary - dance first dance with ayva 40

Our grown sons are now fathers reaching for the innocent hands of their daughters to dance.

Both cheek to cheek, they sway to the music of their song, while writing new lyrics and memories to call their own, the inheritance they’ll pass on to their future generation.25th anniversary - dance kyle ayva

The years, they come and go so quickly.

A revolving door of days and weeks you beg the pace to slow, yet music whose turntable only plays at one speed.

Our marriage, we never weary of our song.

We never tire of our dance.25th anniversary - david singing truly 4dance David and Lori

Our young love is still the same age these twenty-seven years after we said, “I do.”

A dance for the history books, a hit song for the generations beyond our lives.

This journey of marriage he invited me on all those years ago is a once in a lifetime adventure I’d say “yes” to all over again.

The gleam in his eye that sparkled like a shooting star from across the table so many years ago still catches my attention today.

I look for him from around the room whenever the band is playing our song, waiting restlessly as a little girl until he reaches for my hand to say,

Shall we dance?”

25th anniversary - dance david and lori dancing

ONE WORD FROM YOU  By Lori A Alicea

…A dedication to an all powerful God, whose spoken word filled the earth.  (Genesis 1)  An all powerful God who calms the storms (Mark 4:39 KJV), heals the sick (Matthew 9:35 KJV), straightens the crooked legs to walk (John 5:8 KJV), gives sight to the blind and unstops deaf ears.  (Isaiah 35:5 KJV)  Everything changes with one word from you…

One word from you, one simple word,
Is all you need to speak.
One word and everything can change,
Amazed if eyes will seek.

One word, like brushstrokes in your hand,
A canvas blank before.
A symphony of syllables,
You paint the skies and shore.

music notes
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

shallow focus photography of paintbrush
Photo by Daian Gan on Pexels.com

The birds they spread their wings to fly,
They soar the canvas blue.
The artist’s hand he fills the sky,
One simple word from you.

seabirds flying over calm rippling sea
Photo by David Yu on Pexels.com

The water’s dance you choreographed,
At shore they bow a knee.
Applause from gentle waves is heard,
These brushstrokes “Let there be.”

scenic view of ocean during sunset
Photo by Travis Rupert on Pexels.com

The window of the night we see,
The moon, its watch begun.
You kept the light on in the dark,
Until the waking sun.

brown wooden dock
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

One word, the sun it warms our day,
And smiles while we’re awake.
These rays that shine upon our face,
One word is all it takes.

frozen wave against sunlight
Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

One word, bouquets of fragrant blooms,
Perfume ascends the air.
The colors of the rainbow sky,
He paints the gardens there.

purple and pink flowers under white clouds during day time
Photo by pattama choomsree on Pexels.com

One word, he sees these towers tall,
The trees that give us shade.
And baskets full of fruit they bear,
His words, thy hand hath made.

branches of tree with fruits
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

One word, we see the seasons change,
The summer, spring and fall.
When nature sleeps in winter cold,
Your words, designed them all.

orange and blue and white snow forest
Photo by aj povey on Pexels.com

One word from you, one simple word,
Is all you need to speak.
One word and everything can change,
Amazed if eyes will seek.

music notes
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

You calm the storms that toss our boat,
Commands the waves, “Be still.”
That we might rest in you alone,
And trust the words you will.

a wooden boat on the beach
Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

The lame obey one word from you,
And listen when you talk.
Their crooked limbs go straight to hear,
Rise up. Rise up and walk.”

One word and mountains move from here,
Blind eyes, again they see.
Deaf ears unstop to hear the words,
The Master speaks to thee.

man standing in mountains
Photo by Dmitriy Ganin on Pexels.com

The brushstrokes of the artist’s hand,
Unique, each canvas one.
A symphony of syllables,
A Masterpiece is done.

shallow focus photography of paintbrush
Photo by Daian Gan on Pexels.com

TRAVELING THRU A JOURNAL OF CONTENTMENT  By Lori A Alicea

He never changes.

He is just, faithful, loving and we can count on him to be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
(Hebrews 13:6-8)

Yes, God never changes.

God is always faithful.

He is our security blanket to curl up in when the winds of change are unrelenting.

God’s unchanging promises is a place of contentment I have drawn peace from my entire life.

I discovered this contentment in my own words, a dusty old journal unearthed from a box of books taken from the storage unit we have begun to purge.david storage

Over the course of my life, I regret not keeping a journal from the joy and sadness of my sixty years. You think you’ll remember but how quickly you forget the details, the emotions, the everyday thankfulness that begs to be remembered in our written words.

So you could imagine what a joyful discovery, an old dusty journal from fifteen years ago; a thirty day time capsule I barely recall writing. Yet, in opening to the first page of my journal, I began travelling down the road of my contentment, my life’s movie replaying while I sat with a cup of coffee to re-live.

Lord, thank you for allowing me to discover these memories I took the time to remember.

Just thirty days of writing and then I stopped, but a month of memories highlighting the faithfulness and contentment of God in my heart.

A few days from April, 2009…

Thursday, April 9, 2009
I woke up at 2:30 am to catch a 4:30 am train into the city to care for my future daughter ‘n law who was having surgery.

Being away for three days was a sacrifice in itself as being away from my husband causes me great sadness. Our love for each other swells our hearts so that to be apart is like breathing without air.

The sweet blessing came later that evening after arriving to the apartment following a long day at the hospital.

My son decided I needed some Christian music to listen to while I cooked in the kitchen. This was such a reminder how God touches hearts.

Later that night, my son bought me a fancy coffee and took me out to see the sights and lights of the city.

Saturday, April 11, 2009
My favorite moment of the day came when the train rolled back into the station at 3:00 pm sharp, only to see my handsome husband waiting to pick me up.

After fifteen years of marriage, I’ve never grown tired of seeing David’s face. He gets more handsome with time.

Our reunion hug was worth the time apart.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Today is tax day and though our taxes were filed early February, this is a day to reflect on God’s faithfulness. May 30, 2008 David lost his job of thirty-one faithful years. Starting over as an older man would prove to be a mountain David faced to climb, but nothing impossible for God.

Emotionally, having David home this last year has been the honeymoon we were unable to have as a newly blended family. While immensely thankful for a full house, returning home from a three day honeymoon to four kids after getting married didn’t afford us the time alone to be newlyweds.

This year together has been an unexpected gift to our marriage. Early morning walks and sipping coffee under the tree. Afternoon bicycle rides through our country neighborhood and savoring David’s famous BBQ’s.

Financially, I am amazed at what God has done to provide. The world views provision through a man’s job. Yet, it’s God’s provision thru a man’s hardworking hands that gives us hope to rest in when your earthly provision is gone. God’s comforting reminder a good father doesn’t allow his children to beg bread.

God has used so many circumstances to show his faithfulness.

Shortly after David lost his job of 31 years, he received a small inheritance. What to do with this inheritance? While unemployed, spending this money on needs sounded logical, though investing in the Kingdom which pays the best dividends was wisdom.

This outpouring came at just the right time and David’s inheritance was sown for God’s purposes.

God is so good.

Though unemployed, our bills have been paid and on time, with enough food to eat.

We do need a new vehicle though. Our van has 390,000 miles and looks like it. The kids want us to pull the plug and get the poor thing out of hospice. But God has a beautiful truck with a big red bow waiting for my most deserving husband when the time is perfect.

We thank you God for reminding others thru our finances that you are in complete control.

Friday, April 17, 2009
Today God, the weather is breathtaking and all consuming. Who could deny your existence?

I love when I can open the windows and hear the birds singing. This is music I can listen to all day long.

Pulling the curtains back to reveal the breathtaking view of country living, we take in the quiet and crisp fresh air thru open windows; although not so fresh when the pigs are out.

But today God, it was all about you. You stopped me with this beautiful day.

Saturday, April 18, 2009
I’ve never boasted a green thumb in my life and with two acres of land; one might imagine a flower or two blooming around the trees or fence line. So last fall I decided to plant pink tulips in honor of my two sisters living in heaven and much to my amazement, beautiful tulips opened up in full bloom today.

What a miracle to me. You plant a seed from which new life comes. How dare we ever think our efforts go in vain?

My sisters would be proud of their tulips.
IMG_7836
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Today, I stayed home from church with a bad cold. Something I don’t do often.

Having a personal worship service at home with God, I was taken back to the pews of my Southern Baptist roots when gospel greats were sung from the old fashioned hymnals.

The days of my youth when mom and her six kids sat together worshiping God. Though I wonder how much worship took place in the passing of notes back and forth.

But surely God moved on our pew row of kids as mother raised us six to serve Him. A few of mother’s kids have deeper testimonies than others as they took the road more traveled than less. But a road we all met again down the journeys of our lives.use Church directory picture

Saturday, April 25, 2009
Been home all day alone and while this isn’t my favorite plan for a Saturday, I’ve been left behind with my coffee and thoughts and a time of reflection of how blessed I am for the “noises of the house” and for those that make them.

I’m reminded when the house is quiet, how life could change in an instant, leaving the house forever in silence. This gives me pause to appreciate those who make my life complete.house wheeler

Monday, April 27, 2009
There are a few jars to fill; a few bags of frozen strawberries from the summer before. Together they will be a jelly gift from my hands to the table of those who have blessed me.

I’m giving a jar of my childhood memories when mother and her five daughters gathered in the kitchen to put away fruit for a cold winter’s day.

While kitchen art might be a thing of the past, it’s the best part of my summer and couldn’t imagine skipping this mid-year tradition I’ve enjoyed my whole life.

Great is Thy Faithfulness
By Thomas Obadiah Chisolm

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Closing the journal I am reminded from its cover,

It is never too late to be what you might have been.
George EliotIMG_7832

Thank you Mr. Eliot for your encouragement, your words of inspiration for me to begin keeping a journal, even in this autumn season of my life;

To keep in pursuit of my writer’s dream while keeping in perspective of time,

Day one or one day.
Michelle Parlos

 

MOMENTS THAT MAKE YOU LAUGH  By Lori A Alicea

Sometimes we just need to laugh.laugh

Sometimes taking a coffee break from our circumstances and laugh until the tears come does the body good.

Laughter makes a merry heart.LAUGHTER

Laughter is a good medicine.

Always find a reason to laugh.
It may not add years to your life,
But will surely add life to your years.
Author Anonymous

Laughter washes over us as a gentle wave and downstream our worries take, even if for a moment while we pause to catch our breath.england journey kizzie in water 1

Yes, sometimes we just need to laugh,

Even moments that make you laugh at yourself and wonder,
What in the world?

These last few weeks I found myself laughing when…

I panicked thinking we were robbed after an hour’s search of our two bedroom home for a missing vacuum, only to discover the vacuum in plain view and misplaced behind the bathroom closet door.IMG_7473

Twice, I discovered my clothes inside out after attending the gym.

My husband couldn’t contain his laughter at my mismatched shoes while sitting in church.IMG_9749

I chuckled to find a gallon of milk incognito among the dishes of the kitchen cupboard.

My eye glasses went missing only to realize I’d been wearing them all along during my frustrating search.

Yes, all these moments that made me laugh,

Though I’ve been told my funny bone’s been hiding in some “lost and found” box my entire life.

My daughter races to telephone her Davy (my husband) and vice versa every time they believe I’ve misplaced my mind.

Oh the moments that make them laugh.

Laughter is an impromptu party of balloon bouquets, catching you off guard to celebrate life.

pastel colored balloons
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

A few days ago, a handful of confetti was shot thru a small cannon one ordinary morning that erupted into a surprise of laughter.

heart shaped confetti on wooden floor
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Seated at the kitchen island with all the gadgets handy to “pretty myself” for that thirty-five minute ritual I’d rather skip most days; hair dryer, curling iron, comb, brush, makeup, make-up mirror, cell phone, a cup of coffee, and my day begins.IMG_7469

This beauty regimen occurs with the same boring fanfare as days before.

Blow drying, curling and applying makeup is usually interrupted with a much anticipated telephone call from my husband who’s already been at work for hours.

Seeing his name displayed on the cellphone screen brightens my day more than he knows.IMG_7380

Nothing unusual about this morning ritual and conversation for two, accept to realize I’d forgotten the hairspray.

With cellphone in hand to continue our conversation, I walked down the hall to retrieve the missing item from the bathroom drawer.

Noticing my husband’s voice fade into the background as it sometimes does depending on the area he is driving through, I spoke into the phone for my handsome truck driver to repeat himself.

Frustrated after multiple attempts to converse with one another, I leaned over my hand held device to end the aggravating call, only to burst into laughter after discovering I’d been walking and talking into my make-up mirror all this time instead of my phone.IMG_7472

Unable to breathe from this hilarious scene for which I played the leading role, David couldn’t wait to share this comedy act with our daughter and laugh until the tears fell, rewinding and adding to this latest story about her mother.Davids picture

God created us each to laugh as our encouragement to enjoy the journey.3CA8EC1F-06BC-4061-9E19-181EA16BCC10

Some laugh more than others, and it’s quite the party to celebrate life around those whose hearts are full of balloons and confetti.

Laughter is a gift.

Celebrate the moments that make you laugh.747E61A7-ACC3-4B0E-B687-BEAD8B84D082

Laughter is a miracle
Where eyes and ears
Can see and hear the joy of God,
Our handfuls of confetti for a merry heart.

heart shaped baking tin with small confetti on surface for valentine day
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

GOING HOME  By Lori A Alicea

Love…peace…and joy.

Three beautiful sentiments written into a greeting card.

Three captivating emotions of a well scripted movie.

While sentiments are ribbons which wrap around our hearts in a Valentine bow, emotions aren’t the final approval of our (love, peace and joy), as emotions change on a moment’s notice with the direction of the wind.

Love…peace…and joy are our choice.

We choose to love when the forecast is nothing but bad attitudes.

We choose peace when waters around us are anything but calm.

We choose joy on a rainy day of tears.

We choose to remember that (love, peace and joy) are attributes of God, so when we choose to love, when we choose peace, when we choose joy, we are looking into the face of God.

I didn’t realize I’d have to choose one fall Saturday afternoon, a greeting card day where the weather was crisp and perfect for sweaters and apple picking.

A backdrop of trees in full bloom of nature’s glory and framed around a lake of tranquility, a silent movie re-playing in my memory of Saturdays here at this same lake with my parents and siblings, and now all grown up as grandparents making new ones with grandchildren around a fishing pole and their love for each other.

Unfortunately for us, the fish weren’t biting as they must have eaten a late lunch.

So, we packed up our tackle boxes and left for an old fishing spot from years ago, a pond nestled in the center of an old neighborhood Papa and Gaga used to live, a pond where Papa first taught his small grandchildren to fish.

Worried we’d be cited for trespassing at a community we didn’t live at anymore, we cast our rods anyway in pursuit of scaly trophies and began recording again our Saturday memories.

The new fishing spot didn’t disappoint three eager children who wanted to catch and take home a string of fish.

 

As Papa and our grandchildren were catching fish, God was catching my attention in this picture I took of my grandson, my mother’s house down the road in full view; one street over from where we used to live.  A place I’ve longed to return to and a mother I’ve been missing terribly with her first anniversary in heaven coming up on the calendar in just two short days.

USE fishing 5

It was surprising that Ayva, our six year old and on her own recalled this neighborhood, even though she was a toddler wearing her first pair of glasses during our three year stay as residents.

Ayva shouted gleefully as we entered the park, “Gaga, remember we used to ride our bicycles to grandma’s house.”

Ayva was right.

Early on many Saturday mornings a parade of pajama wearers rode their bicycles first to grandma’s house for a short while before continuing their parade to the park.

True joy was captured in many of our bicycle riding memories in a neighborhood where we lived one street over from grandma.

Such were the fishing memories too.

Ayva and Aubrey didn’t have the fishing and bicycle memories the older grandchildren had when we lived at Lot 311 as they were much to young to enjoy.

It saddens a Papa and Gaga to see with their own eyes the passage of time in pictures taken so long ago, yet feels like yesterday; a place we long so desperately for too.

Packing up our tackle boxes for the second time that day, we rode our bicycles to grandmas house before leaving, even if seated in car seats instead.

Stopping at Lot 232 a few days before my mother’s one year anniversary in heaven was an unplanned surprise by God.

I had plans to visit the cemetery; God had me going home.

Stopped by the shell of a place we once called home, takes me back to a crowded place of love, peace and joy, where seated around tables set up in every room of a single-wide trailer were family members enjoying each other and a feast at mother’s house.

Inside and outside of Lot 232, the undeniable joy of guests welcoming each other, a parking lot full of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins gathering together albeit virtual or in person and around the centerpiece of home, our mother.

But now, one year later after mother bid us good-by for heaven, the home which gathered us under one roof is now a family tree which has branched out into new traditions of their own homes.

The senior table is surrounded by empty chairs now and the joyful laughter once heard and piped into the neighborhood through the surround sound of the walls is eerily silent.

And from her car seat our six year old Ayva sadly noted, “Gaga, I don’t see the bicycles.”

“Yes Ayva, I don’t see bicycles either.”

Two days before my mother’s one year anniversary,
I still choose to see the love of my mother’s house and memories she gave us, even though Lot 232 is empty.

I still choose to feel the peace from God whom mother introduced us to, even though the waves of my heart is calmed one ripple at a time.

I still choose joy though I weep for the neighbor I once lived close enough to ride my bike to.

Because when I choose love, peace and joy, I’m choosing God.

Leaving the park that day, the kids spilled the beans of Papa’s secret; a trip to the ice cream place.

Ayva asked me so innocently, “Gaga, what are you having?”

I replied just as innocently, “Sweet girl, whatever you are having.”

Instead of going to the cemetery to remember my mother’s one year anniversary, I went home instead, even if it meant visiting an old neighborhood.

Papa and Gaga and three great grandchildren of moms celebrated her life over a cup of vanilla ice cream and sprinkles.

Choose love.
Choose peace.
Choose joy.

Even choose sprinkles.

Because when you do,

You choose God.

A MAN NAMED BOB  By Lori A Alicea

His name is Bob.

You know him.

That person who cannonballs into the pool of your life, a super soaker whose name you carry a towel around most days to dry off from the splashes of their love.

We have a lot to learn from these men named Bob.

World changers and difference makers and probably unaware of the bright light they are shining.

A man named Bob in our life is the Welcome Mat of a small housing community, whose contagious smile has become the face of our neighborhood, a close knit place to hang your hat, to call this home.

Nestled among the towering trees that shade our neighborhood of sixty-plus manufactured houses, you might just blink and miss the entrance off the road leading into the small town ahead.

But one short drive through this community and odds are you’ll run into a one-man parade, our maintenance man smiling and waving from his (work van, truck or golf cart), to passerby’s or porch sitters returning their love to Bob.

The main attraction of this neighborhood, I find it symbolic that Bob’s home shared with his sweetheart, rests on the lot located in the center and heart of our community.

While fulfilling his job description as maintenance man with excellence, it isn’t these qualifications that catch our attention, yet are the initial reasons Bob finds his way into our homes and into our lives.

It’s that reflection of the many vintage homes once fashionable in the fifties and sixties, which now mirror the weathered looks of our resident fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers who hold hostage the heartstrings of a loving maintenance man who finds himself sometimes filling the shoes as son or grandson where there used to be one or painfully cries out for one.USE Vintage House

While we’ve all been taught to never judge a book by its cover, the same holds true for homes overgrown with weeds, and a Welcome sign dangling by a few remaining links in the chain.USE Overgrown Weeds Because near these front doors are recliners of isolated people longing for a knock, wishing to welcome anyone to share a cup of coffee, or spare them a minute when hours of loneliness is all they have to look forward to.

Bob knows these people by name.

He honors them by being that knock on the door.

He shares in their pain and like a good son or grandson,

Bob hovers with a close eye over them.

I’ve never noticed these vintage homes hidden off the path of a familiar road until David and I needed a home.

To be honest, the very first time I assessed the neighborhood, I drove out as fast as driving in. Not for me, or so I thought.

A few weeks passed when I decided to pay another unannounced visit and walk thru a home I saw on the realtor website.

Getting out of my car, this park’s Welcome Mat greeted me with his signature smile and became our neighbor weeks later.USE Full Front House

The neighborhood hadn’t changed from my initial drive thru, but I soon sensed its country feel of Home Sweet Home after meeting a man named Bob.USE Home Sweet Home

This peace no doubt is related to one man deputizing himself as son or grandson and honoring a generation of weathered matriarchs and patriarchs without judgment, without strings, yet given from a heart of family.

While a log cabin settled on a piece of land in the woods could have been a dream come true for us, yet God chose an address where the park’s Golden Rule is lived through a man named Bob.

Love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than this.
Mark 12:31 NIV

Oh, the lessons we’ve learned from Bob, whose classroom ignites a deep passion to pay it forward.

On winter days he shows up on a secret mission to plow driveways impassible with snow.  Why?  Because that’s what good neighbors and a man named Bob does.

He displays a willingness to serve whether on the clock or not.

He ensures the neighborhood safety by weeding out trouble.

He promotes community by joining conversations David and I are having with other neighbors we meet on our evening walks together. Reminds me of the old days growing up when neighbors brought out their lawn chairs and congregated after dinner.

The little kids are crazy about Bob; and so are we.

Next Employee Appreciation Day, we’re nominating Bob for a raise; a wonderful thought for your Bob too.

Until then, we’ll keep appreciating and waving when our one-man parade passes by the house.

Here’s to the best neighbor ever.

Here’s to your man and our man named Bob.

PURSUIT OF A PERSONAL BEST  By Lori A Alicea

I once read…

When you find your why,
You’ll find your way.
John C. Maxwell

You’ll find your way in the why of your purpose…
Your why in the fine print of your birth certificate…
Your why in the reasons to get up in the morning…

These whys are God’s plans to conquer the ground of our purpose; while armed with our gifts and our talents.

Gifts and talents perfectly fitted for each purpose.

Gifts and talents perfectly fitted for you.FINAL POSE

But how often when we face the mirror of comparison do we feel God packed the other guy’s tool box of gifts and talents more generously than ours; overwhelmed in our inadequacies for His plans.

Facing that same mirror with my writing and event decorating skills, I stand here just as guilty.

Lost in the words of other authors I question my own words.

The allure and breathtaking decorations of other events play with my mind of measuring up.

Yet, God did not call us to compare our talents.
God called us to trust Him in our gifting;

That a pursuit of a personal best in our gifting;
Will find us prepared to find our way in the why of our purpose.

We must strive for gold in pursuit of our personal best.

We’ll find our way in God’s word for our personal best.

Study to show thyself approved…
2 Timothy 2:15FINAL PLAN 2

Oh, that our falls and our fails be those lessons which teach us and keep us from giving in to giving up.

Sometimes you win,
Sometimes you learn.
John C. Maxwell

When the challenges are over our head,
Just close your eyes and do it afraid.

Do it afraid.
Joyce Meyers

Be your own person.
Improve your personal gifts.
Improve your personal talents.

Pursue a personal best.

You never know who’s watching?FINAL INFLUENCE

Keep your aim towards that pursuit of God’s purpose.

Eventually, you’ll hit the mark.

Remembering…

If you aim at nothing,
You’ll hit it every time.
Zig Ziglar

If God was giving out medals for personal bests,

He’d slip them in the purses of grandmothers,
And hand them out through her.

Such was the awards ceremony between me and my grandson Hollis.IMG_3502

Moving into a neighborhood where little boys learned to ride a skateboard first before learning to walk on two feet; my grandson took to the sport at a great disadvantage.

But it never showed in Hollis’ confidence.

Though awkward and unbalanced at times,

Hollis’ unrelenting tenacity to “try again” around the local boys his age who mastered their jumps and moves already, found this grandmother digging in her purse for medals of best attitude, best spirit, best attempts, and all-round personal best.

If this grandmother directed movies instead of decorating tables and authoring blogs,

I promise you a cartoon of neighborhood skateboarders would be encouraging other little boys and girls on Saturday mornings.

There’s a stage for every gift.

A man’s gift makes room for him…
Proverbs 18:16 NKJV

You don’t need big talent to make room for you,

When you have a big God who has talented you perfectly for the stage He sees you taking.

But before that moment catches you unaware,
We must be in pursuit of our personal best,

To be prepared and ready for that day,

When your name is called to take the stage.

Yes, if God awarded medals through grandmothers,

This neighborhood boy,

Would take the platform and be highly decorated for

Personal heart,
Personal courage,
Personal joy and,
Pursuit of his personal best.

The world is his stage.

God can always do what we on our own cannot.

We just have to see ourselves in the mirror this way.

FINAL STAGE 1

LETTING GOD  By Lori A Alicea

Everybody grieves.

Yes, everybody grieves.

But everybody grieves differently, and in their own way.

Some grieve outwardly, visible through the rainfall of their tears.ayva crying with blanket

Some grieve inwardly, as if a dam holds back the streams of their pain, yet breaks through in the flow of their written words or song.

There is no measuring stick to gauge one’s grief,

But you grieve nevertheless.

Grief is a painting of a thousand words.

We find ourselves consoled in the brushstrokes from those who understand.
5164EEED-DA8A-4BD5-BD69-528D5A4C880D
We take comfort in the sunsets that calm our weariness.D20E4C50-9289-4D13-A92F-9C91272E4D79

As the morning dew weeps over the spring flowers,
we also are given permission to weep.

water dew on dandelions
Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

Jesus himself wept in grief over a dear friend who died.

Jesus wept.
John 11:35 NIV

This portrait of grief is an open book of our heart where its pages are stained from runaway tears, yet caught by the hands of a loving God who notices and stores them in a bottle, recording these raindrops of pain in His Book of Remembrance.

You’ve stored my many tears in your bottle
not one will be lost.
For they are all recorded
In your book of remembrance.
Psalms 56:8 (TPT)

high angle shot of an open book
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

This portrait of a thousand words has been hanging in our personal gallery over the last eleven months as a tribute to us in our season of showers titled,

A Family’s Ten Good-byes.”

On September 20, 2020 the angels of heaven came for our mother, our pillar, matriarch and heart of the family.
funeral a goodby neese jake david looking at casket
Her loss on our plate would have been a full plate to grieve over this past year. But there would be nine more good-byes added to an already full plate.

On my side, we lost my mother, brother and papa.

On my husband’s side, we lost two brothers, a papa and two cousins.

Together, we lost two dear friends from church.

Yes, ten good-byes in eleven months, each farewell unique, each remembering a life well lived.

This season of showers,

Whether flowing outward from the windows of our soul or inward from the depths of our heart,
Our tears watered a great reminder of a family reunion one day, in heaven.

From each shower,
A “rainbow in full view” nestled in the open sky whispering the nearness of God.2019 houle mark and connie rainbow

These April showers brought forth May flowers of joy, because in God:

Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy cometh in the morning.
Psalm 30:5 (KJV)E82E7320-64BF-44A8-8420-0A8D90AC827A

The season of grief most difficult,
The season which wrestles and fights to hold onto your heartstrings,
Yet a season you must find His perfect peace in,
Our season of healing,
Our season of letting go.

In our letting go,
We are letting God…

Sit with us beside the empty chair.
empty chair TABLE Mom Picture Sweater
Be that telephone call when we long for theirs.
2018 ayva on phone
Be a song when we miss their voice.
Be an arm of comfort in the middle of the night.USE older younger rosalee kizzie 2

Give us eyes to see our family portrait still complete, while their picture now hangs in our heart.party guests - moms family

Be a father to the fatherless.
Be a husband to the widow.
Be a friend to the friendless.

Lead us beside still waters.

KIZZIE ROSALEE holding hands water keep

Be our everything;
Whatever everything needs to be.

September 20, 2021 will mark a family’s one year anniversary of their mother’s good-bye.
debbie casket
Her first birthday, first holidays, first anniversary and first Mother’s Day without our matriarch has been honored and grieved differently by each who loved her, though grieved nevertheless.

God has wiped our tears when they’ve fallen outwardly.

God has been those words or song when we wept from the inside.

For the nine farewells which followed our mother’s, God has been a faithful post to lean on when the weight of our heartache was far too great a burden to shoulder and stand alone.25th anniversary - worship song

In our letting go,
We’ve been letting God.

We’ll get there when we get there.

In time…in time.

round silver colored pocket watch and eyeglasses on opened book
Photo by Wallace Chuck on Pexels.com