THE CHAMPION WITHIN By Lori A Alicea

In all of us is a Champion Within.

A champion aspiring gold, setting their sights to receive the prize.

We are all born a champion.
No matter our age;
the young, the old,
and middle age,
we are born a champion and retain champion status for a lifetime.
USE Brystol baby on barsYour champion is in there.

You know what I’m talking about. That gnawing on the inside keeping you up at night, nagging and bothering you to unveil those gifts and talents you were given upon your birth announcement.

A quiet confidence that dares to tell the world from the highest mountain,

“I was born for this!”

And you were.

We are all born for greatness, born to do great things for a big God who has a great big plan for our life.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
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While talents are a gift from God, God does demand a response from our talents.

Leo Buscaglia is quoted as saying:

“Your talent is God’s gift to you.
What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

 Along the highways and byways of our life’s tour, God is booking opportunities and preparing stages for our performances. We must diligently study and practice over and over to show ourselves approved during rehearsal.  But when that curtain rises and the audience applause begs for our appearance, we must be ready when God calls us to take our stage.

As John Wooden warns us:
“When opportunity comes, it is too late to prepare.”

As an athlete trains, we too must work the muscles of our talents, submitting our bodies to discipline and self-control, toiling in the gym for hours so the athlete emerges a Champion Within.

Day in and day out, wherever we are, we enlist our talents to the bootcamps of training.

God looks and watches for those esteemed as His faithful in secret.

God rewards and increases those talents we display and frame in our excellence.

When the day finally comes and God calls us to take our stage for His glory,
USE THIS Brystol on matAll of those hours of discipline and diligence will reward a prize
to the
Champion Within.

Our talents and gifts are given to us by God, to be used for God in the plan he has prepared for our lives.

As parents teaching their children, we are to:

Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6 AMP

A word of wisdom for ourselves and our children using their abilities and talents for God’s Kingdom Stage,

 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:14 NIV

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A FATHER’S DAY GIFT of Family By Lori A Alicea

Have you ever had one of those nostalgic days, reminiscing thru a box of old photographs, reliving and getting lost in the “good-old days”?

We’ve all taken those unexpected trips down memory lane. Those private family reunions that trigger pieces and fragments of memories you thought were forgotten though discovered while sifting through the stacks of 4” x 6” snapshots cluttered in your lap.

Handfuls after handfuls of years shuffled through your fingers like a deck of cards, laughing at the old hair and clothes styles worn “back in the day”, and drooling over those vintage cars parked in the driveway.

Where did the time go?

You don’t want to live in the past, but sometimes revisiting former addresses of your life will turn back the clock of wonderful reminders, especially when you stumble on that one picture which catches you off guard and stirs an unexpected pause and thought, “Take me back.”

“Now this was a perfect day”, you mumble under your breath while holding a moment “frozen in time” thru an old photograph.   With a sigh you stare into the details, the people, the faces, the surroundings, savoring and longing to return to what you remember so clearly as a perfect day.

Pictures can do this. They are time capsules that help you remember what we so easily forget, our treasures in relationships, traditions and celebrations unearthed thru the pixels of a family photograph.

I have one of those pictures. A family gathering of a summer BBQ, an unassuming day I didn’t truly appreciate until I stumbled upon it years later, yet in my opinion could be remembered as one of those perfect days.

Gosh, if old photographs could come back to life, I’d love it to be this one. Though our portrait doesn’t paint a complete family gathering as some members couldn’t attend or live out of state, a few marriages hadn’t made their trip to the altar and a few children still waited their turn to be born or adopted.  Yet a day enjoyed on the lush green acreage of our home where every smile has a story written in the book of our family history, smiles that warm our hearts as eyes peruse each face posing for the camera.

Our snapshot of mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, grandchildren and canine friends; though not all blood related, family nevertheless, doing life and sharing life together on a beautiful summer afternoon.

Family is a priceless gift to open and be thankful for this Father’s Day.

Gazing this sunny day picture, I am thankful that our parent’s didn’t stop having children until there were six of us, even though the expenses and responsibilities piled up quickly with each child taking their place in the family.

I cherish those four sisters I grew up with, sisters I fought with, shared clothes, bedrooms and secrets with. As adults we shared our hopes and dreams and passed our children around to be spoiled.

Not pictured but I can’t forget about our big brother who cried every time mother brought home another baby sister, but learned to love us, scam us out of our allowance and protect all five of us when a big brother needed to.

Seated in this picture I celebrate the extended borders of our family that include our nanny and papa, their children and grandchildren we adopted as our own, to share holidays, birthdays and everyday moments with, even seeing a “family resemblance” as that’s what love can do when you open your hearts to others not rooted in your family tree. My heart swells hearing both families honoring each other as aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, grandma, nanny, papa, or cousin though not a drop of blood connects us.

Standing in the back row holding our sweet granddaughter I find my handsome husband whom I love beyond words. A man I have chosen to do “life with” as long as I have breath.  A man who has loved me in ways I never imagined possible, someone who holds the key to my heart forever and someone I am growing old together with.

Seated are three of our adorable grandchildren. I delight the thought of those grandchildren not pictured just yet as their births are still a well-kept secret with God.  I love that pictures keep your grandchildren small, yet a sad reminder of how fast they grow right out of your arms and lap.

My beautiful daughter holding her first born son sits right up front where she loves to be center of attention; a young woman and Toys R Us Kid whose little girl inside refuses to grow up, a gift for which I love her most for.

Don’t think you can hide from me son. Your gorgeous smile stands out like your “big guns”.  You’re as handsome as your father and have become like him in the sweetest of ways.  Thank you for marrying and adding your wife to the family portrait.  She is a gift wrapped as a daughter, our daughter.

Two sisters and their families have a special place in this picture and we can’t imagine life and family events without them.

Marley, our daughter’s annoying yappy dog stands in the photograph’s center. I promise you Marley I had nothing to do with your lost whereabouts.  Papa swears he doesn’t know how you wound up missing and we hope you found a loving new family since we last seen you barking in the busy road of cars.

Yes, if old photographs could come back to life, I’d love it to be this one on Father’s Day.

Marley would still be barking in the road and driving Papa crazy.

Bon Bon would still be here humming and working her word puzzles (our sister’s mother ‘n law Bonnie).

Papa would still have his beloved wife nanny.
Mother would still have her hilarious husband Roger.
We kids would still have you dad.

But life doesn’t stand still; it was never meant to stand still.

An Australian Proverb is quoted:
We are all visitors to this time, this place.
We are just passing through.
Our purpose here is
to observe,
to learn,
to grow,
to love…
And then we return home.

But while we are here living on this earth, in the moment, for the only moment we have in the now. May cameras be always flashing, recording pictures for a permanent remembrance of those faces called family, those loved ones seated next to us around the dinner table breaking bread.

Keep your family ties knotted tight.
Capture your family doing life together; in the planned and spontaneous.
As:
Pictures can capture celebrations.
Pictures can capture a day in great detail.
Pictures can capture our moments in time.
But pictures can’t hold back time from passing through.

This Father’s Day and every day, I honor and open the gift of family God has blessed me with.  I pray you share the same sentiment.

I reminisce and will always be grateful for life depicted in pictures taken of my family past.
I will enjoy today and not take for granted life depicted in pictures taken of my family present.
And will always be willing to extend my borders to include my family future.

Count your blessings and notice them all in your todays,
as tomorrow your “todays” will take its place in a time capsule buried as an old photograph.

ON WHOSE SHOULDERS WE STAND By Lori A Alicea

A tap on the shoulder changed everything.

Our son was struggling in middle school. But all it took was a tap on the shoulder and a few encouraging words by his running coach to chart a new course for his life’s direction. “Find a new group of friends and watch your running career take off.”

That same son, who was failing in his grades as a freshman, graduated high-school with a GPA this mother could smile about. All because a friend patiently tutored him to success.

jake high school

Fast forward seventeen years as Walter Reed Hospital is about to graduate another class of Army prosthodontists. It’s with a parent’s humility that we applaud not only the dedication and perseverance of our son to achieve such accolades, but we stand in humble appreciation and gratitude at the tower of shoulders upon which he stands– those friends, family, coaches, mentors and pastors who poured into our son’s life along the way.
Article Jake and MajorSir Isaac Newton was once quoted as saying, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

Remembering a parent’s apprehension as our high-school graduate left home for college with a partial running scholarship then the military to climb this Mt. Everest dream of changing smiles as a dentist, a parent always wonders–while never saying it out loud–, “Did our nineteen-year-old dream too big?”

Yet we continued to cheer him on from the sidelines with our ongoing support for our dreamer, while he ran another race and climbed the next difficult mountain of his ambitions.

We can all look over our shoulders and realize the destinies we have arrived at are because of those who ran alongside us, sacrificing their time, patience, finances, wisdom, and the belief that they could make a difference in our life.

May we never stand on graduation day and think we stand alone. In deep humility, may we step aside so that the many shoulders we stand on come into full view and receive the applause and honor so due them.

Before our son adds a new credential to his name, I have reminded him to never forget those that sent care packages, guided, prayed or mentored him through those arduous years in college or deployment.  That their seeds sown into his field become the driving force of his Life’s Mission Statement to forever pay it forward as a seed sower, so that others might be blessed as he has been blessed.
Article Jake and KuwaitAnd to sear into his memory the years of sacrifice his wife and kids have paid to serve with him in the military.  That the medals he received serving on foreign soil be shared as their medals for serving on the front lines of home without him, keeping a light burning in the window until his safe return.

To never take for granted when “country came first” the lonely stretches of time his platoon “holding down the fort” gave while serving with smiles and support, yet with the cost of many nights crying themselves to sleep missing their daddy and husband so terribly.

To never forget and be indebted for a lifetime, to that tower of shoulders upon which he stands, with a bit of wisdom to guide him,

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”-Albert Einstein
cova and Daddy

BE NOT AFRAID By Lori A Alicea

It was one of those days.

Kids were just being kids.
Pushing beyond their boundaries;
Testing their limits;
Double-dog daring themselves.

Kids catching their panicked Gaga off guard.

I look up into the tall tree expecting birds and see my granddaughters having casual girl-time wedged between the branches.
USE THIS 1I sit down to enjoy my coffee outside on a quiet morning only to find our grandsons attempting bicycle wheelies and feats after lifting “off” from Papa’s ramps.

Kids playing tag at the playground with the person tagged as “it” is blindfolded.

Hello little people!   What’s happening here?
Gaga’s Book of Safety Rules is being violated cover to cover.

Obviously Gaga is a kill-joy, a Debbie-downer.
But I would like to return these babies back to their parents without needless bumps and bruises.

But as expected, our oldest tree climber slipped on a low branch which she held onto for life until her feet touched the ground.

Tagged person “It” left the playground with a bloody lip and a trip to Urgent Care.

Ramp-daredevil hit the ground going mid-air, at least as measured on his scale of interpretation.
USE THIS 6All non-threatening injuries and thank you Jesus for that.

Thank you ministering angels for keeping watch over us in situations we have no idea we face.

Help us Jesus to “Be Not Afraid” when we want to try again, when we want to face our fears after falling once before.

Looking back at the little girl I once was, I remember enjoying the toy-box of childhood as my grandchildren do. I loved the swings at the school playground, riding my bike around the neighborhood, and not necessarily climbing trees, but pushing beyond the limits in front of me.  I loved life as a young girl.  Creativity found me early and became a lifelong friend.  I savored the smell of books and far-away places that these bound travel agents took me to.  I treasured a stack of blank paper that begged for my written words.  I had no idea what the “real world” looked like hidden in the cocoon of my mother’s arms.

Why does life though have to become “real” to innocent children when their childhood is meant to be carefree and full of sweet memories? Why does fear have to creep through the cracks of the doors of our being like the unwanted thief it is and steal a child’s security from their tiny hands?  It happens.  It’s life.

But God is there to remind us,
“Be not afraid.
Do not fear.
You are not alone.
For I am with you.”

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10 NIV

One night as a young girl I awoke to my brother franticly re-creating a tragic scene to our mother that took place a few streets over. A nightmare painted in detail, a horror story told in my brother’s own words.  A girlfriend of mine from our 4th grade class and her family lay covered under the midnight sky on the front lawn, succumbing to a house fire while they slept.

Gripped from the devastating image my brother portrayed of a classmate I ate lunch with and after seeing for myself the charred remains of their house they sought security in, fear found its way to the front steps of a 4th grader’s heart and I hadn’t a clue I opened the door to let this stranger in.

Years would go by and the details of a tragic house fire that took my friend faded over time. I didn’t forget her though through the years of middle school and high school and even thought of her on graduation day, wondering what passport and flight her dreams would have taken her.

But make no mistake, fear may fade and hide in the closets of our heart, but will always come knocking in time and keep knocking until we learn to face our fears against the strength of our Heavenly Father, our security blanket we can embrace in the most troubling of times, whose arms will protect and embed in our being to

Be Not Afraid.

But that wasn’t me as a teenager taking a telephone call from my stoic uncle in Tacoma, Washington, a man normally bringing laughter to our conversation. Putting mother on the phone and witnessing her countenance turn to fear and tears, something was terribly wrong. Her mother, our grandmother, was found staggering in and out of her coherence, going door to door in the neighborhood for life-saving aid as her pajamas (not flame-retardant back then) caught fire, after getting too close to the stove.

Fear became so real again. How could something so horrific happen to our grandmother?  With Tacoma and all the miles between us, we couldn’t help our grandmother.  We grandchildren couldn’t stand by her side in her most dire need.  Teenagers don’t always know the right words to say to their parents as their mother lay dying, at least I didn’t.  Mother left for Washington to love and say good-by to a woman called mom, who lost her life a week later.
USE THIS GRANDMAI wish I could write the words THE END to the book called Tragedy in our family. Yet Life and Death are book-ends to the years we have been given on this earth and you don’t get a say what is written on the pages between.  Sadly, our great-grandfather met Jesus after taking his last breath in a house fire, a few years after my grandmother passed.
USE THIS GREAT GRANDPAWHY? WHY?  WHY?

You don’t blame God but you still ask the questions?
WHY?
Yet He still answers our broken hearts the same,

BE NOT AFRAID.

My confidence in God as a loving Father would be tested in a way that touched what was most precious to me, my heartstrings. Once and for all there’d be a showdown between fear and I and God wanted to win over my heart.  God, a loving Father, longs for his children to call on Him when they are afraid, so He could BE (in them) when fear had the audacity to knock on a Kings kid’s door.

It was a normal Friday night with me as a single mother and my two children, my sister, pseudo sister and her two children hung out together as a family. Our pseudo sister made her famous cheeseburgers and fries for dinner then after eating, we sent the kids into the back bedroom to play leaving us girls chatting the evening away.  With neither of us sisters dating at that time, we spent many Friday evenings together laughing and sharing each other’s children.

This particular night the youngest child barely talking with clarity kept trying to get our attention regarding a “fly” in the back bedroom where all four children played. Not wanting to be bothered, his mother kept sending him back repeatedly to the room.  Yet he persisted, pointing to the room where the “fly” was.  Soon enough the intensity of the moment escalated when we adults jumped up at the first smell of smoke, and ran to our children to see the bed on fire!

Jesus! Jesus!  My heart pounded while calling on the name of Jesus, rushing the children to safety.  The fire department came within minutes and doused the flames started by a child playing with a lighter, whose fire chief gave all four of them a lesson in fire safety.  Of course the nosey senior sister ladies living downstairs gave my then smoking sisters a what-to, “Those “bleeping” cigarettes.”

Emotionally collapsing from the weight of the moment, I held all four children close and thanked God for his protection, His ministering angels who hovered close that Friday evening after dinner.

Replaying over and over in my mind what could have happened but didn’t, I continued to praise God for keeping us close, especially four small children, in the safety of his arms during what could have been deemed another family tragedy.

A few days later at a Wednesday night prayer meeting God lovingly met me, that 4th grade girl on those front steps from so long ago, and revealed himself mighty regarding my fear.

Pastor always encouraged a few testimonies first before the meeting began and up walked a young couple.  This couple stated their position on the prayer team who was slotted to pray on Saturdays for the people of the church in their area, which turned out to be where I lived with my children.  But this past Friday night, the same night of the mattress fire, this couple felt a heavy urgency to pray Friday night for those living in their area instead of waiting until Saturday.

These two people hadn’t heard the about our tragic “close call” and had no earthly idea that God had used them to beat on Heaven’s door regarding a situation that they were unaware of with the exception of an urgency to pray.

WHEN GOD’S PEOPLE PRAY?

Heaven turns its ears to earth and listens close when GOD’S PEOPLE PRAY.

In the midst of our fires of life, God is there with us. He is our rope to cling to when we’re barely holding on. We can find confidence in every situation to

BE NOT AFRAID.

But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. John 6:20  KJV

We are reminded in the Bible when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown in the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s gods, when the King himself was quoted as saying as he looked into the furnace:

“I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:25 NIV

God was in the fire with these three men who vowed to only bow their knee to the one true God himself. God will also be there with us in our fires of life, whatever they may be.

Thank you God for protection.

Thank you God for sending your ministering angels to hover over us as we sleep or go about our day.

Thank you God that in the midst of the fires that are meant to consume us, you are there with us, that fourth man in the furnace.

Thank you God for being there to remind us,
“Be not afraid.
Do not fear.
You are not alone.
For I am with you.”

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10 NIV

BE NOT EMPTY HANDED By Lori A Alicea

We all have something to give.

From the palm of our hand rests the prospect of making a big difference from our small “somethings” if we are willing to open our hand and release that which we hold; an opportunity, a word of encouragement, our available time, our available resources, even a cup of cold water on a hot thirsty day.
USE THIS WHITE VASE 2While the value of what our hand holds might not add up to much in our opinion, the potential impact of meeting another man’s need could be life changing if you’re willing to give first what is caught in your grip.

I remember as if it were yesterday. I was young and embarking a new career path when an opportunity came my way, a gift that could alter my personal and professional life if I chose to accept it.  Opportunities sometimes though place us at a fork in the road, standing on the steps of indecision forcing the perplexing question, “Go north, south, east or west?” Remembering that opportunities come with a price tag, a cost to pay regardless the direction.

I was in my late twenties and waiting for my “big professional break” as a computer programmer analyst. Paying my dues as an operator consultant while competing in the race of runners whose resumes of education and experience was a far distance ahead of mine, leaving me behind and exhausted in my personal confidence.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

But life as an operator consultant wasn’t so bad. I found a simple pleasure in the manager’s morning routine whose rounds to every work station expressed sincere appreciation with his kind words and smile, “How’s your day going?”  It was his way of saying, “I see you.  I acknowledge you.  I’m here for you.”

Unknowingly to him, this manager’s small gesture to visit those under his leadership made an indelible difference during the days I felt barely alive and unimportant, secretly trying to survive a painful divorce.  Day after day, I looked forward to this man’s unassuming presence, more than I ever told him, more than he ever knew.

It was this same manager who called me into his office one afternoon unexpectedly with a career proposition; my big professional break. This opportunity presented itself as a black cloud with a silver lining.  The silver lining reveals a programming project automating the manual efforts of one’s position, thus eliminating the need for that employee; the black cloud unfortunately names that eliminated position as mine.

This newly acquired experience could open the door to my future consulting career, yet a gamble this single mother with two small children living in subsidized-housing didn’t know if she could afford. Barely meeting the bills I had to be willing to walk the high wire of uncertainty without the safety net of another job waiting for me when the project completed.
CANDY JAKE 007With only this moment to make up my mind, I had to lean quickly into God for his ultimate wisdom. I had to trust that the steps asked of me to take were truly ordered from Him.  I had to trust the provision of God to be there in tomorrow’s rations for me and my small children. I had to feel safe in the hands of my God who said he’d be there as my husband, taking care of me while I lived life as a single mother.
Taking a blind step with the eyes of my faith,
I said, “Yes.”

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Following the project, the promises of God unveiled a consulting career developing software for most of the steel mills along Lake Michigan and other corporations.

God proved his faithfulness to a mother
wanting to take care of and provide for her children.

God proved that the answer standing on the steps of indecision is “Trust Me.”

God reminded me he moves and works through those and ways you least expect.

One man’s open hand of opportunity before me gave new meaning to the song,
“What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life.”

I wrote and told him so in a letter.

LET IT BE SAID OF ME By Lori A Alicea

In just two short years there will be sixty candles decorating my birthday cake. Sixty lit candles, an assortment of blue, pink, yellow, green and white ones dug deep beneath the frosting, each representing a year of my life.  Sixty years of candles burning and flickering its flame waiting for me to make a wish.  Sixty lit candles whose wax slowly drips down its sides as the birthday song is sung in family unison before all sixty candles are blown out.  Sixty candles for sixty years, celebrated with cake, ice cream, gifts and coffee.

Sixty candles reflecting sixty 365-calendar days of opportunity to touch lives, give love, receive love, notice someone, matter to someone, make a difference, through God be the difference, make the day count, show up when you’re counted on, a birthday wish this sixty “365-calendar days” reads like an adventure novel.

Let it be said of me one day when there are no more lit candles to blow out on my birthday cake I at least attempted a fraction of this kind of life.
Lori little Birthday cakeEven though I’m still believing for decades to hug and embarrass my children, holding on for years of sweet good-morning kisses with my husband, and anticipating a lifetime of love to give to my grandchildren, sometimes we need to take a serious pause and ask God if our lives embody the dreams and plans he set aside specifically for us.

With jam packed calendars that have no lane to slow down in. When ignoring the clock rarely enjoying the 24 hours we’ve been blessed with because frankly, our lives are over booked.  Sometimes we need to fasten our seatbelts and slam on the brakes of our busyness because we need to have a conversation with God and ask him, “Are we measuring up to that “good and faithful servant?”

God reminds us to number our days.
God holds out that yardstick of our life to remind us it measures a mere breath.
We are a mist, we are a vapor.

The calendar years pass by so quickly.

Let it be said of me I numbered my days.
Let it be said of me I measured my time here on earth.
Let it be said of me I recognized that tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed but treasured the moments I could hold onto in the now.
Let it be said of me at least most of the time, I didn’t waste the seconds, minutes and hours God had given me.

Looking back over my sixty years, I wish there was a “do over” card I could throw down on the hands I played unwisely in the past. I wish life allowed me to “white out” those mistakes and rewrite the pages of that legacy I will one day leave as an inheritance.

I wish I could go back in time and have a few conversations with my younger self. I’d love to share with her the discoveries of my heart, those realizations I’ve found to be true.  I wish I could leave for her “crumbs in the forest” so she wouldn’t lose her way in the midst when life flips upside down.   Even though I can’t turn back the clock for that little girl of my younger self, I can drop for my children and grandchildren my “crumbs in the forest” that one day it would be said of me my life mattered at least for them.
Lori little 1I’d tell my younger self that your walk with God will be worth it. That while the road shared with Him will take you down hidden paths of despair and doubt all for His glory for which you can trust Him, the hops and skips through the wild flower fields of bliss and happiness will be many, and God will hold tight to your hand through them all.

Yes younger self, your walk with God will be worth it.
Church directory picture(Church directory with the family)

 I’d tell my younger self that God fashioned you beautifully and the mirror doesn’t lie as you were designed in the image of the Creator.  Down the road during  those heart-wrenching seasons of abandonment when you want to believe something must be terribly wrong with the mirror you sadly look into, God will turn all this for His good.  Hold tight your reflection into the mirror of God, as He will use those emotions of “shattered glass” to help other girls and women value their worth during a time of brokenness.
Lori little 3I’d tell my younger self there’s always a reason to smile, even when you hate that patriotic dress your grandmother gave you to wear or when you’ve lost so many of your baby teeth at the same time. Smiling doesn’t mean your life is perfect, without worry or free from pain.  But smiling displays a strong confidence that your God’s got “this”, whatever “this is”, a deep belief you’re God’s got you.  Don’t ever lose your confidence when your report card has a few A- and not straight A+.  We all have room to improve.  Keep smiling when you’ve lost your confidence to try out for cheerleading.  Keep smiling when your best friend (and only friend) is your sister who lets you pal around at school.  Keep smiling when lunch time in the library gets lonely.  Keep smiling because throughout life you’ll never be alone with God clinging to your side.
Lori little 2I’d tell my younger self to keep from comparing yourself to others, especially to your four other sisters. So you’re the middle girl and feel like an imaginary child.  So your baby sister gets all the attention as well as the oldest.  God will always see you and pick you out in the crowd.  He will notice you and smile with every look of your face.  Don’t compare, but celebrate the individual you.
Lori little 4Lastly younger self, I’d tell you that God has great need of thee. God has wonderful gifts he wants to use through you for reasons beyond your imagination.  Don’t begrudge or belittle your gifts.  Take hold your gifts.  Hone your gifts.  Be generous with these gifts God wants to use to touch the lonely, the broken, the lost and the weary.  Your life will matter to more than you know.  Your influence will reach generations beyond your life.  Live today with passion, with purity, with purpose.  Live like you matter because you matter to God, you matter to others, you matter to the life you have been given.
Lori little 5Because sixty years and beyond will pass you by faster than the time it takes to blink your eyes.

When my days here on earth are done, may it have been counted for my family, counted for others, counted for Christ.  When heaven welcomes me at the gate,

Let all this be said of me.

BEFORE YOU WERE EVER BORN By Lori A Alicea

Who knew?

Who knew that before your days were even one, the impact your small little life would have on all those arms that wait anxiously to hold you for the very first time.

Who knew you’d take our breath away when the song of your heartbeat played ever so quietly before our ears just weeks after learning of your arrival.

Who knew the miracle of watching you sleep during your debut to the world would stir an amazing love in our hearts before you were ever born.

Children are a gift from God.
He knew them before they were ever born.
He planned for them at the beginning of time.
In the beginning their steps have been ordered, the plans for their lives are in place.

Children have a destiny, they’ve been called for a purpose yet to be revealed.
In their mother’s womb, God knits them and keeps a viligent watch. He doesn’t slumber nor take his eyes off of them not even for a moment.

Before you were ever born, your siblings were fighting over you, deciding for themselves where you will sleep and who will hold you first. Your room has been ready for weeks.  Your blankie has been bought and can’t wait to keep you warm.  The diapers are stacked.  A fluffy bear keeps his post on the dresser overlooking your crib.  A nightlight burns softly in the corner across the room from where you will sleep.

Your birth can’t come soon enough. Nine months of siblings repeating “is baby here yet” wears thin on a mother’s patience.  But the hour finally comes and those that have waited an eternity welcome you with open arms.

Before you were ever born you were loved to the moon and back.

Before you were ever born you had a big sister and big brother who couldn’t wait their turn to introduce themselves.

Before you were ever born, the kisses your siblings couldn’t wait to give you.

The gifts, the moments, the preparations made way before you were ever born.

It’s a wonder you are ever able to sleep with an audience who just can’t take their eyes off of you. The innocence of you sweet child, soft and delicate, taking small breaths one after the other, while you rest and grow in your dreams.

Safe and sound in your daddies arms, he vows to protect you from all harm. Witnessing a miracle snuggled up close, your daddies in such awe that the one he holds is really his.
birth ayva 3Sometimes daddy’s first kiss will also be his last for many months until he returns for you after deployment. During that summer to fall season, you will grow into such a big girl that daddy will have to reacquaint himself to you.

Before you were ever born, no one could have imagined how fast you’d grow and change before our baby could count her fingers to one year old. Posing for pictures month after month that first year, capturing your beautiful self for a “time capsule of moments” we’d give anything to relive.  Looking back over the twelve months before us reveals the wonderful holidays, your health challenges, your growth and smiles for days.  You’re loved even more now than before you were ever born.

Before you were ever born, God’s calendar has already marked and reserved your life’s celebrations.

From your first birthday.

Your first haircut.
first haircut ayva haircut 4
Your first day of school.

Your first attempts at stretching your wings.

All those graduations. Your first job.  Your wedding.  Your first child.
So many surprises that wait to celebrate you in years to come.

But for today, we celebrate you.

Two innocent girls who came into this world just weeks apart, cousins who live states apart, yet share a bond and ask for each other when their mommies talk on the phone.

No one could have imagined girls that would steal your heart before they were ever born. Now a family can’t imagine life without them.

You little girls are beautiful.
You little girls have captured our world with your smiles.
We know you both will attempt great feats and achieve your hearts desire.
There are big plans for your life.

I know that because God has prepared for them in fine detail
Before you were ever born.
sprinkle both faries