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.

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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.

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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.

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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!
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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,

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

turning our water into wine.

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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.

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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.

MEMORY QUILT OF RECIPES By Lori A Alicea

Call me old fashioned, but I love everything homemade, especially food.  Nothing speaks home to me than a meal prepared by the hands and hearts of those gathering around the table.  Maybe it’s because my mother always cooked from scratch and that’s all I’ve ever known.  Or maybe that tie between a loved one and their signature dish keeps them seated at the table, even if in a memory.  Recipes aren’t just a bunch of 4 x 6 cards alphabetized in a decorated box on the kitchen counter.  Recipes are comfort, tradition, and legacy passed down the generations; a memory quilt that takes you back to events and family, a reminder of where you came from and those who have touched your life.

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Growing up in a family of six kids, we didn’t have the fancy life of our friends.  There were hand-me-downs, sharing bedrooms and being satisfied with meals cooked at home instead of going out to restaurants, with the bi-monthly Tuesday exception to the local Ponderosa when dad got paid.  Quite honestly though, I always remember being happy surrounded by my four sisters and brother, especially at the dinner table together eating mother’s food.

Mother had a variety of signature dishes that made her famous in our eyes, and each of our six had their personal favorites.  It’s funny to look in my sister’s refrigerators to see the same Imperial margarine that mother cooked with.  I choose Land O Lakes Unsalted butter thank you very much.  There are other ingredients we followed mother with and others we ventured on our own.  But mother’s meals are still being served albeit at her children’s table now, our home cooked memories of mom because she passed on her recipes to us.

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Pulling out the recipes I call my “favorites of mom”, I can still hit the play button and visually see mother in meal preparation.  Mother made a mess as she rolled out her own noodles and dried them covered on the gas dryer overnight.  I hated when it was my week to do dishes, cleaning up the flour that went airborne to every inch of the kitchen.  But now my kitchen is just as messy after I make noodles of my own.  I don’t have the patience to dry noodles overnight, but my chicken noodles dish is just as tasty as mothers, and now a favorite with my children and grandchildren.

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Summer wouldn’t be complete without a batch of strawberry / rhubarb jam set aside for winter.  So many summers slaving over strawberries with my sisters, seated at a hot table air-conditioned by box fans.  Like yesterday I see mother at the stove pouring boiling jam into hot jars as we girls whined that each was doing more work than the other, a memory etched in my mind.  I’d love to go back and take my grand-kids with me.  But still I keep the memory alive with my own batch of jam for those hot morning biscuits at breakfast.

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As a mother with grown children and now grandchildren of my own, my meals are still prepared from scratch and I am passing my recipes to the generations beyond me.  You can’t come to Gaga’s house (my grandma name) without homemade chocolate chip cookies in the freezer to help yourself to when you visit.  I also keep cookie dough balls in the freezer ready to bake for the unexpected guest you want to serve warm with a cup of coffee.  I love when the grandchildren pull up a chair to stand on or sit beside me on the counter to help hold the mixer when we make their favorite cookie dough.  They love stirring and of course licking the beaters after we’re done.

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I can’t look at a container of sprinkles and not recall a childhood of Christmas cookie baking with mom and her storing those decorated gifts in the freezer.  Those Tupperware containers bound with tape to keep us six kids from eating its contents before the holiday is a square on my memory quilt I remember like yesterday every time I store a batch of cookies in the freezer for my grand-kids.  I’m so grateful for these small but amazing memories still alive two generations later.

Married once before, I treasure the southern recipes from the mother n law I still harbor as mom in my heart.  Her biscuits and gravy are being attempted weekly with my children and grandchildren, and she is thought of every time we serve this memory from her kitchen years before.  Grandma Cova’s kitchen was a treasure trove of recipes passed on through the generations after her and still celebrated.

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In a family that treasures keeping homemade memories alive, my daughter n law Crystal blessed me immensely when she asked for a copy of my recipes one Christmas.  I also love that my sisters are sharing the memory quilt with their nieces and nephews, expanding the squares for the next generation by teaching the younger ones their skills around the stove.  This is a blessing of great magnitude and honors God in so many ways.  TITUS 2:3-5 (AMP)

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denise and david cooking

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As I stated earlier, I am a mother with grown children and grandchildren, so it saddens me that the kitchen of my mother and second mother n law are now closed.  Packing up both of their domains of heaven and seeing their cookbooks, pots and pans, measuring cups and spoons lying in a box never to make another meal breaks my heart.  The years these two servants prepared with their hands and joy they served on our plates surely earned them both a crown of jewels.

Mother’s potato salad will always be a hit even though my sister prepares it now.

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Angel food cake decorated with cooked frosting will always take me back to the years of birthdays mother celebrated me with.

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Being blessed with a second mother n law, a Sunday after church doesn’t go by that I wish we could stop by for lunch.  Barbara always had a stove full of rice and beans and all its fixins, waiting for anyone who stopped by her house.  Barbara loved her kitchen, truly loved to cook and it brightened her face to see others loving her meals.

Saying good-by to Barbara took a long time for our family to adjust to.  I remember the first holiday meal without my mother n law and the emotional silence as her red rice and Watergate salad was being passed around the table; it left not a dry eye in the room.

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But Barbara’s recipes are still being duplicated, of course never coming close to her standard.  My mother n law made the best sugar cookies and when she made them, she secretly hid a package of un-frosted ones just for me.  I loved her for that and I try and keep her recipe alive in my kitchen by continuing to roll out that sugar dough in her honor.

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Saying good-by to our patriarchs and matriarchs, we honored and paid tribute to them by serving the food we remember them by.  At my step-dads funeral we served his three favorites, while two not necessarily falling into any food group: pop, candy and deviled eggs.

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At my mother n law Barbara’s funeral, I displayed my heart for her with a tray of sugar cookies she was known by, served on my grandmother’s tray who displayed holiday cookies on for us at our Christmas Eve dinners with her.

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With the busyness of life, many families forgo home cooked dinners and opt out for fast food due to convenience and exhaustion from their day.  Ovens are lit less often and freezers aren’t hiding homemade treats for the grand-kids.  While times change and force you to adjust with them, it is my hope and legacy I leave for my family that our memory quilt of recipes stay displayed for generations to come.  That squares continue to be added reminding them of time spent together as family.  That they continue to gather around the table without distraction, remembering the heart of the home is each other, enjoying the meals prepared for them by the mothers, grandmothers, grandchildren and beyond.

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            I pass onto you a square from our family memory quilt.

Oh that you would keep your family recipes alive by passing on a square of your own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boys sure watch their daddy’s with eyes following them everywhere.  They want to be like daddy morning, noon and night.  It’s these moments that write the pages and chapters of a “father – son” best seller.

Father's Day 3 Ethan Shaving

Daughters are smitten with their daddies also.  Daddies are their only boyfriend before that man one day sweeps her off her feet.  Until then, little girls love simple time with their daddy; like time spent together on her rope swing, a swing daddy made especially for her and moments for them.

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Daughters love to tag along, having daddy all to herself.  Hand in hand she follows daddy’s footsteps, trusting his lead along the way.  These walks around the block will follow her the days of her life, never tiring a stolen moment with dad.

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Blossoming into a princess, daddy is her prince charming when he serves his “lady in waiting” in the glamour she delights in.  A precious few minutes together, to be remembered a lifetime by daddy’s little girl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their Cinderella Moment Together.

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

BORN OF MY HEART By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 brooke on nathans back

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

wedding pic

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

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

13 nathan and brooke at judge chamber

21 whole family at judge

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

19 nathan speaking use this one

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

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

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

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

                                                                         10 brooke praising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 brooke at diva party no glasses

Happy 13th Birthday Brooklyn

You are a child of destiny with great promise.

We rejoice over your life.

Surely the angels danced the day you were born.

You are loved beyond words.

ONE STEP AT A TIME By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

Step by step 1

Step by step 4

Then four years ago this happened.

Step by step 6

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

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

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

log cabin

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

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

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

mom alone

roger alone

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

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

Step by step 3

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

roger funeral

mom nursing home

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

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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

brad and bonnies house

denise and brad wedding

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

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

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

As one year later, this happened:

brad chemo

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

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

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

Step by step 5

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

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

HOME IS THE ADDRESS OF THE HEART.  MY HEART!

HOME IS WHEREVER THIS MAN IS.

david sign