SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE  By Lori A Alicea

It’s just been the three of them for so long.

Living, loving, and smiling together even though the final page from their previous storybook ending was minus their much deserved happily ever after.

But the morning sun of God’s love is faithful to wake from a night’s sleep and rise into the eastern windows of these hearts and shine its brilliance of hope for new beginnings.2 bride kids

God is the author who redeems those pages and chapters written and scripted with a pen not His own; continuing to tell your story from a journal He’s titled, Second Chance at Love.3 bride groom kids

Love is God’s idea.

Acknowledging the loneliness of man, God fashioned a woman from man’s rib then presented this helper back to him.  (Genesis 2:18-22)

At last! The man exclaimed.
This is bone from my bone,
And flesh from my flesh.
She will be called woman,
Because she was taken from man.”
Genesis 2:23 NIV

A woman of great virtue;
A wedding gift of beauty to behold;
A daughter of her heavenly Father’s;

May the man about to receive this treasure keep the sparkle in this woman’s eyes radiant as he loves and serves her thru the pages of their happily ever after.

May those big brown eyes quietly watching you love her mother be the story she secretly longs for in her personal fairy tale in waiting.

8 emma only

A second chance of love sings from the mountain tops and shares with the world and those not close by of the joy she is unable to contain.8.5 bride calling home

A second chance at love honors those memories close at heart; a dear mother, aunt, uncle and grandparents who have taken their front row seats in heaven to witness this most splendid day.9 memory pictures

A second chance at love is a garden of roses carried down the isle to meet the one who has tended her delicate heart about to be given to him in holy matrimony.10 flowers

Who gives this woman away?”

Her mother and I.”

4Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

5It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

13These things will last forever – faith, hope, and love –
And the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13 NIV

12 court bridal family

You may now kiss your bride”

May you always remember to kiss me goodnight.”13 bride groom kissing

Introducing for the very first time!”

The New Mr. and Mrs.”14 bride groom close up

Celebrating with you are those honored guests whose role is to replay those words you vowed to each other before God; your road-map for any unforeseen moments when giving up seems more tempting than fighting thru.

Remembering always…

Love never fails…

We rejoice with you on your Wedding Day…

And many glorious anniversaries to come…18 wedding cake19 wedding cake bride groom emma

And now…

A wedding gift for the newly married couple; a keepsake we’ve packed for your journey ahead; our wisdom gleaned from our twenty-eight years of venturing the calm and treacherous waters of life together, with you just leaving the harbor.

When God gave us our second chance at love.

We were never meant to take this marriage journey alone. We were meant to inquire and take with us those seasoned tour guides who have traveled and experienced the marriage terrain well; tour guides who have tasted and desire to highlight the best of where we are going in our relationship; warning and protecting us also from the dead-ends, the pitfalls, the danger zones.

Enjoy the journey.

14 bride groom close up

A few words I shared at our 25th Wedding Vow Renewal, in hopes you both will tuck them into the pockets of your hearts and treasure the deep meaning they are meant to impart and travel with you thru the pages of your happily ever after.christmas tree

THE GIFT OF MARRIAGE
WRAPPED UP IN THE LITTLE THINGS
By Lori A Alicea

Marriage is a wonderful gift.

Under the Christmas Tree of Love, marriage is the prettiest package lying among all the others.

Marriage is that gift wrapped up in the memories of the little things.

A gift bound with a three-strand ribbon cord of commitment, complete with a legacy bow, and card signed by Two People Forever in Love.

Long standing marriages are rare and a beautiful gift in its presentation for others to witness, but also a road map for true love, a gift of heritage to give and pass on to the next generation.

Every couple, whether thinking about marriage, newly married or married for some time, would benefit in wisdom by sitting, gleaning and gathering truth under the teachings of those still professing their love after crossing those marriage milestones; their 25th Wedding Anniversary, their 50th Wedding Anniversary and anniversaries beyond.

So much to learn from that bride and groom still honeymooning, still smiling at each other, and holding hands after all these years. A couple whose favorite romantic song composed by Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin is,
“I only have eyes for you.”

A couple’s eyes whose sparkle hasn’t dulled for the other when the “going got tough” or when “life revealed its thorns in their bed of roses.” A couple’s eyes that still illuminate the sky when the other walks into the room, a starry night’s reflection of their deep rooted love.

The Gift of Marriage, Wrapped Up in the Little Things, unwraps the present of a twenty-five year marriage spoken by the bride on her Wedding Vow Renewal Day, her vows of honor to her Groom and praise to her God for the blessings of all their years together as man and wife, adding a small bit of wisdom for others to glean in their own relationship of marriage.

May whoever attends this Wedding Vow Renewal Day as our secret guest in these pages find gold in the little things that are spoken here. That these secret guests receive each word as our wedding renewal present, our personal encouragement to begin mining the gold in your own marriage, a gift that God has also abundantly given.

With Much Love,

The Bride and Groom
David and Lori A Alicea, Married October 15, 1994
Renewed their Wedding Vows Twenty-five Years Later

Our Wedding Vow Renewal Begins…

On a beautiful crisp October afternoon and surrounded by our close friends and family, my husband David and I recently celebrated twenty-five years together in a Wedding Vow Renewal. While we could have taken a lavish vacation instead, or bought a diamond ring or anything else spent on just the two of us, we chose to celebrate our twenty-five years together honoring all that God has blessed us with.

In my wedding vows to David, I opened up our album of life together and played a montage of twenty-five years of love and happiness with him through my words. Words are containers for encouragement, inspiration, edification, and for life. For anyone who was listening, especially our children and grandchildren, may my vows and words of honor to David, be also a testament to God and his faithfulness to us, and a takeaway for someone needing a special word for themselves.

Following are the complete vows and words of honor written from my heart to my groom David for our Wedding Vow Renewal, although condensed in length when speaking to my beloved at the altar.

This “album of my words” will come packaged as a variety of gifts wrapped for my groom on our wedding day, gifts presented to him and opened with much excitement as a little child on Christmas morning; our gift also presented back to you, our secret guest.

My Vows and Words of Honor from a Bride of Twenty-Five Years

Twenty five years ago, I married the man of my dreams. Little did I know how my dreams would unfold, spending every minute, hour, day and year of these twenty five years with you.

If I could say anything, at least for us, marriage is wrapped up in the little things.

The reason our twenty five years together have been so magical, is because we have embraced and mined the love and gold in the little things. Here are just a few of the highlights.

GIFT OF CONTENTMENT

We aren’t rich, live in a fancy house or drive a fancy car. In fact, the two biggest rust buckets are parked in this parking lot. But our rust buckets, or Johnny Junks as our kids called them, embarrassed our kids when we picked them up for school, or loaded them full of bikes and camping equipment for vacation.

Contentment is the best gift you could ever give yourself and your marriage.

The celebrations of Christmas will ring its bells every morning in a heart that is thankful for the provisions of God, for what you can afford, even driving a rust bucket called Johnny Junk.

Contentment doesn’t overspend, guarding those margins of peace in your budget and life.

Contentment is happiness with the “fixer-upper” you call home, not daydreaming for the house beyond your means in the gated-community across town. As home will always be the permanent address of your loved ones, not a structure of bricks and mortar that will one day rot and burn.

Our teenagers would learn a valuable lesson in contentment while growing up in a community where the railroad tracks doubled as an invisible division line between the rich and well-to-do with the average and blue-collar families like ours.

With their friend’s parent’s working in the demanding medical, law and other high profile professions, and whose houses could easily be featured in a Homes and Garden magazine, our teenage children embarrassed of their own home and me a “stay at home mother”, didn’t bring their friends over for dinner the first couple of years we lived this side of the tracks.

Interestingly though, our house would be invaded by the hungry friends of our kids years later, who looked for their new homemade favorites in my freezer: chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins and meat pockets to name a few, as their busy parents didn’t always have time to cook. Sadly, a few of these families who lived a life of extravagance, faced divorce and emptiness as many of us, an eye-opener for our teenagers that things can always fill a room, but never fill a heart with happiness and joy.

GIFT OF SMALL MOMENTS

When our girls were little, you would blow dry their hair after baths on Saturday before church on Sunday. I can still see them in your long white tea shirts. One with a big A written on the back with a marker standing for Audra, one for C standing for Candace.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
But by the moments that take our breath away.
Anonymous

They were so cute, adorable and innocent in their six years of life. They were daddy’s girls who fought for his lap, to be the first to hug his neck, to proudly show off their papers at school. Two sweet angels who share their daddies love and heart, though one not his name, a reality that never occurred to either of them.

It was just a Saturday evening ritual of blow drying the hair of two little girls, a father and daughter moment spent together after baths, an event that didn’t cost a dad anything but his time, yet would be remembered as a beautiful gift of small moments.

At the end of one’s life you won’t be thankful for the over-commitments at work or whatever constricted the breath of your available time. What will bring a smile to one’s face at life’s end is going through the scrapbook pages of the “sweet nothings”, recalling and recounting the memories made being present in the lives of your loved ones.

Like those Saturday’s when dad made his famous pancakes, giving mom a break in the kitchen.

When dad packed the tackle box, the fishing rods, his kids, including the girls, their cousins, and took them all fishing.

When dad made those annual summer dates to the amusement park with his kids and their cousins, upset that his sweet little girls showed up bigger every year against his wishes.

Small moments made today become those gifts your kids remember tomorrow. These gifts barely cost much but an available you. Make sure Christmas is every day for them.

GIFT OF HELP

Two months after marriage, you began bailing me out of my craft jams and learned to use a glue gun, sew, or help me engineer any craft problem I was having. You were even helping me fix these homemade centerpieces just yesterday.

When I used to clean houses, you never batted an eye to go with me and help on your days off. All my lady clients wanted to hire you and fire me as you noticed and fixed all their broken “whatever’s”, though you were never asked.

When the kids got older, you’d fix their cars, help paint their houses; whatever they needed. Only payment required was that they fed you lunch so you wouldn’t throw up as you have such a sensitive stomach.

Kindness

One of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another.

If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand. Do not wait for a thank you.

True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.

Anonymous

In marriage, “teamwork makes the dream work” when two people lend a helping hand to another in need; a wife helping her husband bleed the brakes; a husband assisting in his wife’s crafts, a father fixing his kid’s car for the hundredth time and still counting.

As an event decorator, there is always one component I need help with; every time, every event. I need rescuing in engineering, woodworking, cutting, painting, ironing, staining, gluing, the list is endless, and without complaining, my husband helps by lending a hand.

Love grows when love helps.

He “chooses me” when I need him to plug in the power tools, stand for hours at the ironing board, or paint and stain for days. I have loved my husband more these twenty-five years because of it. Nothing says I love you more than when true love helps.

GIFT OF FUN

Fun could always be found in your back pocket. You were never too tired to take the girls to the park when they were little, and now we live at the park with the grandchildren.

Once, I turned my back only to find Audra and Candace in a water fountain splashing around. Hello people, do you want to get arrested. I was always the Debbie downer. But you, kept the fun alive and hence, all our memories.

You and Candace thought you were funny when you dropped me off for one of Jake’s track meets only to go to the movies instead. Not realizing the race would get over before your movie, leaving me stranded in the dead of winter in a corn field.

You would secretly take the boys to the movies when you were supposed to be going to men’s class.

They say couples balance themselves.

In our marriage, that might not be necessarily true.

If it wasn’t for David, we would never laugh. If it wasn’t for me, we’d never have a serious moment. Couples balance themselves, but for us, David tips the scales with his hilarious look on life, for which I am eternally thankful. Life is too short, so why not live it smiling and laughing.

He sees the funny; he’s a man of a million Disney voices. David should have been in theater. The grand-kids love his pretending, his natural ability to stir up giggles in these little ones by bringing cartoon characters to life in their play together.

Find the “funny” in marriage. Do some “heavy lifting” of the mundane by lifting ones spirits using the Gift of Fun, the gift in laughter.

GIFT OF HONOR

Though my kids have a dad and we will always honor that, you have been the best version of a dad that any mother could have wanted for her kids. You have been the Best dad to your son. You call him every day while you both are driving. You are dad to our son ‘n love Kyle and daughter’s ‘n love Kristy and Crystal.

Though we are a blended marriage, there are no “steps” in our family. The only “steps” in our house are those that lead to the heart.

Nothing speaks more of honor than loving someone else’s children as your own; loving your son ‘n law as your son, or loving your daughter ‘n laws as your daughters. With blended families more common than ever, it’s more important than ever, that love not require a blood test to be genuine, but test the genuineness of a heart instead.

In our twenty-five years as a bi-racial couple, love has been blind to our color.

Eight of our ten grandchildren have never questioned why their papa’s skin is brown while theirs is white.

Our love has crossed genealogy lines to create new family ties that bind, ties that don’t require DNA to say we are related, because love just says we are. Love says not “who” you are, but “whose” you are; as a son, a daughter, a grandson or granddaughter.

Love says you are family when the boundaries of one’s heart expand its borders to include those you have chosen to adopt into your life, those you have chosen to add to the family tree.

GIFT OF TRADITION

When we first got married, you told the kids we would all eat whatever I served at the table, even if the rice in my earlier days looked like oatmeal.

Combining ethnic backgrounds, you learned to like biscuits and gravy. I learned to like rice that wasn’t Uncle Ben’s style. You’d even eat bologna if I served it.

Mark 10:8 NIV
And two will become one flesh…

In marriage, two become one in spirit, in soul and in body.

Two also become one in family, in backgrounds, in traditions.

Ruth 1:16 NIV
… your people will be my people..

Marriage reveals the true love of family relationships or lack-there-of.

Marriage magnifies the love of food both tied to family memories and family members.

Marriage requires embracing both families as your own, but in most cases, easier said than done. Families rarely like change to tradition, change to the holiday menu, change that requires sharing with other families, “a give and take” that many times results in a “tug of war” of emotions instead.

In marriage, couples need to find room for new traditions of their own, still keeping alive old traditions without allowing the “tug of war” of one’s heartstrings from families. Holidays will have to be shared or alternated. New foods and new traditions will need to find a new place in a couple’s life.

Marriage initiates a dance of “leaving and cleaving”; a leaving of family so the cleaving of two can become one. Families are a close second, but lost their place to first. Protect the boundaries of your marriage with Godly love; keeping in step with the marriage dance.

GIFT OF TIME

You learned to speak my love language of quality time by sitting for long periods of time over coffee.

In marriage, we both communicate in what author Gary Chapman calls a “love language”.

In marriage, we both give and receive love, hoping to communicate in the love language our partner understands.

In our marriage, my husband is bi-lingual, speaking and understanding both English and Spanish, while I only understand and speak just English. If David spoke only Spanish to me, there would be a communication failure in our relationship, leaving me feeling left out, feeling unloved, as speaking my language of English could have prevented this breakdown.

Author Gary Chapman writes in his book, The Five Love Languages, that relationships could thrive if we recognize the love language of our partner, and speak it to them fluently, filling their “love tanks” to the full line. Chapman writes there are five ways to express and experience love, in five ways called love languages.

Love language of Receiving gifts – as a way to say he was thinking of me.

Love language of Quality time – in giving of our undivided attention.

Love Language in our Words of affirmation – using our words to build the other up.

Love language in our Acts of service (devotion) – in doing something our spouse would like.

Love language in our Physical touch – our physical expressions of love.

Chapman encourages us to observe the way our partner expresses love to others, and analyze what they complain about most often, both indicators of what their receiving love language might be. He says people tend to give love in the way they prefer to receive love. We are to communicate in the way they understand.

To truly love someone, we must be willing to discover our partner’s love language and speak it regularly to keep your love alive. We must care for them enough to fill their “love tank” to the full line on a daily basis.

GIFT OF IDEAS

You opened a small store at work when Jake was going to college so you could take your spare change and fill up his tank with gas and ashtray full of quarters before he left each time for school. Your spare change helped pay a small portion of his college.

Marriage thrives in creativity, the intentional, the thinking of new ways and new ideas to keep your love alive.

If not careful, marriage can become a nine-to-five, a mundane day of coming and going, getting stuck in the rut of the predictable.

But it doesn’t take much.

A small idea bursting in a big love of fireworks will set the heart aflame.

You’d surprise yourself by opening that art box of creativity to inspire exciting ways to remain honeymooner’s decades after you said “I do.”

Years ago, it was more than a father’s spare change he saved for his son.

Years ago, it was more than a blue-collar worker thinking of a way to send his son to college.

Just because you don’t come from much, or have much, doesn’t mean you’re running on empty with nothing to give.

This father’s heart was full, brimmed with an overflowing theme of giving all he had, even if it amounted to and accounted for as spare change made from the store idea he had as a small way of helping his son go to college.

A prosthodontist son looking back now at the investment made from his” blue-collar” father, will pay back in dividends of appreciation and impact the hearts for future generations.

Don’t discount the spare change of your intentions, when your spare change equates to giving all you have. Your spare change might be worth your “happily ever after.”

GIFT OF REALIZATION

It was hard when our kids began to grow up feeling the nest wrestle as they left one after the other, and it became just you and me. We drowned in the silence and loneliness as we missed them so much; funny though, in time we learned to love just being the two of us.

But then the grand-kids started coming. And there we were again, going crazy over these babies that God entrusted us to love and tell them about him.

Now life started having real meaning.

Enjoy the little things in life…
For one day you’ll look back
And realize they were the big things..
Author Kurt Vonnegut

Life changes in an instant. You blink and your kids are grown.

You turn your back and your grand-babies aren’t babies anymore.

Savor the moments of every day…
…. waking up to the one that you love.
… taking in another deep breath.
… savoring the smell of your first cup of coffee.
… inhaling the fragrance of your loved one’s cologne.

Don’t be in such a rush…Soak in the morning sunrises. Stop for the evening sunsets.

Don’t wait for a special occasion to set out the china.

Eat by candlelight; every night.

Live in the minute you have right now.

Don’t waste today by setting it aside for tomorrow.

Wrap up the “gift of life” you hold in your hand and treasure it. Realizing and remembering:

…you do not know what tomorrow will bring.

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a

little time and then vanishes.

James 4:14

GIFT OF “YES”

Nothing was ever a “no” with you when it came to our children.

When the military moved our son Jake to Washington State and he needed his car driven to him requiring a three day journey, you said, “Let’s go.”

When our heartbroken daughter Candace living in Georgia needed her father to scoop her and her baby in his arms and tuck her back into her childhood bed so that God could restore and heal her heart, you and your brother said, “Let’s go.”

When the military moved Jake again to Washington DC and many times over the next three years…

Leaving Crystal beyond stressed with Jake working day and night at the hospital…

With the grass out of control…

With the boxes of Jake’s to-do-list not getting checked off…

When Crystal needs a break from the household chores and your lonely grandchildren say that all they want for Christmas is their grandparents…

You say, at least for Thanksgiving that year, “Let’s go.”

Your “yes’ could impact someone’s world.

Live to be the change agent in someone’s life.

Say “yes” to being inconvenienced.

Say “yes’ to brightening someone’s dark day.

Say “yes”, and be willing to get out of your comfort zone, your comfy chair or favorite slippers.

Roll up your sleeves. Get your hands dirty.

Come along side someone who needs you to throw them a rope, a lifeline to rescue them from their mess.

Sowing into another man’s field will always reap a harvest into your own field, but you must first say “yes” to the sowing.

You can’t out give yourself.

Sow your time, your talents, and your resources.

Sow yourself. Give of yourself; to others, to your family, to your mate.

You must sow seed to reap a harvest of a bountiful marriage.

Your barns will always be full with your “yes”.

GIFT OF BEING THEIR HERO

In the grand-kids eyes, you are famous.

The grand-kids favorite drink is named after you called Papa’s juice,
also known as Crystal light.

The Grand-kids favorite store that you take them to is called Papa’s store,
also known as Dollar General.

At the end of the day,
It won’t be the money you’ve spent on them that they will remember;
But the moments you’ve spent with them instead.

Papa’s allowance has never been spent on himself.

Every Friday night during Cousin Camp, Papa divvies out $2.00 to each grandchild and a bike ride shopping trip “to and from” the Dollar General. The grand-kids come home with their own shopping bag of goodies and a memory in their bike basket. Papa comes home with a bag of moments in his, costing him “next to nothing” but his time.

Memories make you a hero.

I have never forgotten when my uncle took us nieces and nephews to the dime store back in my day as a little girl. When these grandchildren grow up they will never be able to look at a Dollar General without remembering their Papa.

Be the hero in your marriage.

Come home from work every now and then with their favorite “something” bagged in your bike basket. You don’t have to look any further than the Dollar General to make a memory.

Every so often my husband brings me a small box of Junior Mints, which always stirs a smile and reminder of the candy I ate as a child while going to the movies with my parents.

It’s never much; a thought, a gesture, still a thought of them nevertheless. Don’t miss the opportunities available to us all. You might be their hero and not even know it.

GIFT OF ADVENTURE

Years ago, we bought two bikes for ourselves, one with a car seat in the back.

Our Journey of a million miles with our grand-kids began. Living in the country, we rode our bikes everywhere. We’d find bikes set out for trash and brought them home for each of them.

All the grand-kids have a bike and pass them down to their cousins when they outgrow them.

You don’t have to drive far to reach the town of “adventure”.

Look no further than your own back yard for a camping trip of tent sleeping, campfires and s’mores. A few streets over is a winter morning of thrills and screams down a snow packed sledding hill. “Trick or Treating” can be enjoyed as a family in the living room and bicycle rides can be taken in your jammies anytime you want.

Don’t let that little boy or girl in you ever grow up. Always want to be a “Toys R Us Kid”. You don’t have to take a plane ride to Disney to experience Magic Kingdom. Find adventure in the nooks and crannies of your back yard, your neighborhood, or down the street. Adventure is read from the Tom Sawyer books of your mind. Live out the pages with your children, your grandchildren, and your spouse. People watching will want to know the secret to your happiness, the recipe of your joy. Tell them look no further than their own back yard.

GIFT OF MEMORIES

We host Cousin Camp every Friday where our grown kids have date night over night without their children. I am in charge of cooking and taking care of the little ones. You are in charge of the fun. There is no minimum age requirement for Cousin Camp, usually getting them at six weeks. Hardest part is when they won’t want to come to cousin camp anymore.

Saturday mornings, you could always hear the giggles and little feet of babies scurrying to get to papa’s side of the bed to wake you up. Sure made you sad when they stopped. Now Ayva and Aubrey look for you under the covers.

Whenever we Face-time the grand-kids, they always want to talk to their papa. Hello, what about Gaga. Where’s my papa? Papa, Papa, Papa.

After twenty five years of marriage, now the grandchildren tell us, Papa and Gaga, “Your feet are old.” I guess I have earned that title after wearing flip flops year round.

In the midnight hour of Cousin Camp, I always find myself making rounds, counting the faces of our sleeping beauties, making sure they are safe in their dreams, only to silently laugh at what looks like the aftermath of a JR Frat party.

Every now and then I find that the three little ones have raided the closet¸ nestled and swallowed up in their papa’s winter coats. Maybe it’s the soothing, lingering smell of papa’s cologne on the collar. Maybe it’s the comfort of sleeping in papa’s arms, even if it’s in the sleeves of your winter coat.

No amount of money could ever afford to buy a memory.
Being too busy or working too hard will bankrupt a marriage of its scrapbook of memories.

Memories have a small price tag of time, of heart, of availability. A currency every marriage can afford and must be willing to pay to see their wedding albums full of moments captured on the pages of their years together.

Memories are our quilt squares of stories, our blanket of “warm fuzzies” we snuggle with in our remembering, our history passed and sometimes relived thru the generations.

GIFT OF AWARENESS

It’s funny how we can sense the slight wrestling of the nest again. Grand-kids are growing up. Brooke is in high school. Aubrey will be losing her papal, aka pacifier and don’t know when Kizzey will lose her thumb. Even though it is still a few years away, we sense the wrestling of the nest nevertheless.

Then it will be back to you and me again. But God has great plans for the gray hairs of our world. He never wants us to get comfortable, because he will be unfolding dreams for our lives to the very end.

Wise is the man who recognizes the seasons of life.
Seasons he must prepare his heart in advance for.
So you’re not taken off guard when the seasons change guard.

The season of time is on the move and gives no regard to whoever is in its lane.

Kids grow up. We grow old. This season happens so fast. You want to slow down time, but remember, time doesn’t slow down for those wanting to go under the speed limit.

Grandparents lament watching their grandchildren not need their “blankies” anymore.

Grandchildren are saddened when their Grandparents hair turns grey.

Kids turn into teenagers who then become adults. Parents and Grandparents must let them go so they can grow. Aware though in this season of time, we ourselves must continue to grow.

An empty nest should never find an empty heart, but discover a heart wanting more.

The end of one season bumps into the beginning of another. A season we should have been anticipating for, preparing for and dreaming for, even in our old age.

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit…your old men will dream dreams.”
Acts 2:17 NIV

GIFT OF A SON

You are the best son. Your mother taught her five sons how to love their wives. She taught her boys how to cook, clean and iron. You get A’s in all those areas.

You are a wonderful son to my mother. When mother lived a street over, you’d stop by her house after work to raid her refrigerator and spend a few minutes with her. You even learned to enjoy her game shows.

Whenever our teenage kids were entering the dating stage, we always told them to observe how their potential date treated their mother and father. This potential date was a keeper if they honored, revered, respected and loved their parents, a possible indicator how they would be treated. Someone who honors their parents are rewarded by God with a long and blessed life, blessings to share if those dating ever married.

Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right.

“Honor your father and mother” is the first
commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have along life.”Ephesians 6:1-3 (MSG)

My husband’s dearest quality is framed in his love for his mother and mother ‘n law, although he calls her mother too. His gentleness in speaking with them, kindness in serving them, and heart in loving them overflows into the river of our relationship in even greater waves of gentleness, kindness and love.

Marriages experience the fullness of God’s blessing when we deeply honor those that have given us life. This is God’s first Commandment of Promise.

When my mother became a widow, my husband became that extra pair of hands around my mother’s house to mow her grass, fix her car, take care of any household repairs, and be her coffee companion on a lonely day. What wife couldn’t fall even more in love with a man who serves her mother as my husband does?

Now that my mother resides in a nursing home facility, mom is still loved by her son ‘n law with his phone calls and visits, enriching our marriage because of a son’s generous heart.

GIFT OF NOTICING

The senior ladies at mom’s nursing home are crazy about you. They are always blowing you kisses. This is after you have held their hand and told them how beautiful they look.

One of the five love languages my husband speaks so well and fluently is “meaningful touch. There’s a calming in his hands, his embrace, his touch. Grand-babies fall asleep in his arms. Grandchildren melt in his embrace. Senior ladies in the nursing home blow him kisses after he has held their hand, telling them how beautiful they look.

Walking the halls of my mother’s nursing home and passing the wheelchairs that line the isles; my husband touches shoulders of those representing someone’s mother, grandmother, father, grandfather, friend or spouse, stirring life in them even if for a spontaneous moment. He notices them when some have been that unnoticed wallpaper most of the day.

My husband and I hold hands everywhere we are, everywhere we go; in the car, side by side watching TV, walking through the store, drinking coffee together. With my love language of quality time, my husband notices this need and speaks to my love language of time with his meaningful touch.

In marriage, noticing the seemingly insignificant as important, noticing what others fail to see, breathes oxygen into the life of your relationship. Noticing and tending to the tiniest of details in the fields of marriage keeps out those unwanted weeds from choking its fruitfulness.

Be an arm of comfort. Be a hand to hold. Be everything in your embrace.

Notice the loneliness.
Notice the need.
Keep watch over your marriage.
Keep a vigil over the one that you love.

Notice and speak in the love language your spouse understands and responds to.

Be to them whatever gives them life.
You’ll find that special someone blowing you kisses because you took the time to notice.

GIFT OF DOING

You always put toothpaste on my toothbrush at night and pull back my side of the covers before bed.

When I think of doing, I think of serving. When I think of serving, I think of towels.

My husband David throws a towel over his shoulder each time he serves me at a sink full of dishes. Maybe his shoulder is a convenient place for towels when dishes are ready to be dried. Maybe it’s my reminder that great leaders are servant leaders; that no task is beneath them.

I could write a book filling the pages of dedication that have earned my husband his stripes for a lifetime service to our family. He proudly wears the uniform reserved only for servants, a high position for those willing to answer the call to go low.

Laundry, cooking, housework, yard work and car repairs make the short list. My husband delighted in shining patent leather shoes to a sparkle for his little girls before church. Neighbors could hear the laughter of “catch” in the backyard between a father and his sons. Little league games stole the base of a father’s heart in the summer, yet gave away his heart through date nights and time over coffee with his wife.

Throughout the decades the pages of our marriage boasts a best seller because one man understood the power of the towel; an attitude of his heart. To lead you must serve. In going low you will go high. To answer the call of a servant, you take up your towel.

(Excerpt from my blog, It’s More Than A Towel)

“Out-serve” your spouse.

There is nothing that screams “I love you” louder than one who lays down his life for another in serving them and their needs. Without ever asking, David washes the dishes whenever the sink is full; many times after arriving home from work. No task too big, too menial or inconvenient for my husband. Albeit toilets, floors, cleaning the aftermath of a child up at night with the flu; no matter the task, David and his towel expresses love for me and our family in the “doing”.doing

GIFT OF A NEIGHBOR

You are the best neighbor, especially when that neighbor is our landlord and brother n law. Always serving and doing though never asked, just mowing and plowing for him when he is working or especially this past year suffering with cancer.

There’s always that one neighbor on the block who wished you’d move. There’s always that one neighbor who has declares himself the town mayor. There’s always that one neighbor who you believe wakes up every day to make your life miserable.

The house God blesses us with is never an accident. We are his chess pieces, strategically placed near those neighbors who need a touch of God thru us. You don’t get to choose your neighbors, but you can choose to love them. 

“Hurting people hurt people”, Author Joyce Meyers says.

But we as “representatives for Christ” are called to love those hurting neighbors God has chosen for us to live by.

In loving your neighbor, you have loved yourself. Love your neighbor as yourself. 1 John 4:21

In loving your neighbor, you are following Christ’s example.

Love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

Three years was all we could take living next to a self-appointed town major; a neighbor who shouted his disapproval of every detail of our lives from the rooftop.

Our lifestyle of frequent family gatherings and celebrations were complained about in his sharp-edged tongue. Sadly, he taught his adult children and young grandchildren to disrespect to us from across the street.

The night before our moving van pulled away for good, this neighbor and family of adults and grandchildren hosted a good-bye party in our honor with fireworks and hand clapping from their front lawn, rejoicing in our leaving. Their unfounded disdain for us, my family and grandchildren, stabbed a dagger of sadness and tears into my heart.

From three years on our side of the street though, we tried to reach this man with our love. Our innocent grandchildren waved at him who reciprocated by running over their toys that lay in the street while they played. My husband knocked on this neighbor’s door each December with Christmas cookies, a man who never answered the door. For three years we waved, we smiled, we prayed for our neighbor in God’s love, and then we moved.

Choose to be an ambassador for Christ by loving those unlovely.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 1 Peter 4:8neighbor

GIFT OF LOVE

You have loved me by loving our kids.

You have loved me by loving our parents.

You have loved me by being the hero of our grandchildren.

You have loved me by loving God.

You love so well. You forgive so well.

Love is not a feeling. Feelings are fickle, feelings can change based on circumstances.

Love is a verb.

Love is action.

Love says I’m committed no matter what.

Love is not a feel good Hallmark movie.

Love is real life, overlooking the difficult, the excruciating, the painful.

Love digs deep and celebrates the highs, the lows and vows unto death with our vows:

I take you, To have and to hold, From this day forward, For better, for worse,
For richer, for poorer, In sickness and in health, To love and to cherish,
Till death us to part.

Marriage doesn’t have a back door.
Marriage locks arms, an outward message of an inner truth: we will get thru this.

Marriage is committed in sickness and in health.

Marriage is committed for richer or poorer

Love is a choice. Love is a heart in action.

True love is unconditional. True love love’s regardless, no matter what.

God, our author of Love, tells us how to love by following his example.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV

GIFT OF WISDOM

And to think that twenty-five years ago I almost missed all of this when I almost had the arrogance and audacity to say no to God’s best in you, believing His best didn’t fit to what I had envisioned for myself.

Thankfully, our Pastor at the time, the man who had shepherded and fathered my heart for the last five years before we began dating, imparted wisdom in my confusion, “Just believe with your heart, and God will allow you to see with your eyes.”

When you knocked on my door that very first time to pick me up for a Valentine’s Dance, still nervous about surrendering my will to God, how Pastor’s words still whispered to me, “Just believe and God will allow you to see.”

When I opened the door, darkness became day and finally saw God’s best in you with my own eyes. God just wanted first my surrendered heart, my trust, my yes. I haven’t taken my eyes off of you ever since.

Love isn’t always going to make sense. Love trusts the author, the one who knows all things.

Love trusts the one whose ways are higher than our ways, whose thoughts are not our thoughts.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

It’s great wisdom when you allow those long-standing marriages; those couples who bear a bright light for God’s love in their relationship, speak love and wisdom into yours.

We were never meant to take this marriage journey alone. We were meant to inquire and take with us those seasoned tour guides who have traveled and experienced the marriage terrain well; tour guides who have tasted and desire to highlight the best of where we are going in our relationship; warning and protecting us also from the dead-ends, the pitfalls, the danger zones.

Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord…Proverbs 3:7 AKJV

Allow God to speak to you through those veterans who have fought the battle, bear the scars and bear up one another in love. You will never win the war that is waged against your marriage unless you are led by those who have earned the stripes of a general.

GIFT OF THANKFULNESS

I thank God every day that I headed Pastor’s counsel and said yes to God and said yes to you.

From the bedroom window, I always seem to wake up at two in the morning, when you are leaving the driveway for work. You faithfully get up every day and work 12-14 hours. I always pray for you when you leave. I thank God for you and ask him to bring you home safely as I can’t fathom life being me without you.

Marriage requires us to be:

Thankful for the good times.

Thankful for the bad.

Thankful for the rain as it waters the flowers.

Thankful for the night as we need rest, the earth must slumber.

Being thankful is sometimes thankful for the “Hello of our Good-by”

Good-by to our babies entering the classroom on the first day of school.

Good-by to our twenties, our thirties, good-by to our youth.

Good-by to our hair color and hello to the grey hairs of wisdom.

Good-by is our bookend to hello.

A shelf of memories stacked between each bookend, keeping each scrapbook firmly placed between so many years of good-byes and hellos.

While our good-byes can stir up a whirlwind of joy as does its partner of hello, it’s just embracing the vision of the hello when “letting go” in our good-bye causes so much emotion.

One sad good-bye is a glorious hello to someone else.
We were never meant to hold on to anything;
The moments, life as we know it, each other.

Life is a daily letting go so that in our letting go we can “Let God”
Have His way in us.
Good-by might not be the hello we want to embrace.
But be willing to stay in your lane.
Get in position for the hand-off of the good-bye baton for God’s glorious Hello.

Continue to run the race set before you.
As good-bye is always our hello to the next step, the new beginning of something wonderful God wants to do thru us.

(Excerpt from my Blog, “The Hello of Our Good-by”)

GIFT OF WARMTH

A man sets the temperature of the house. It is always toasty warm by the fire of our love.

It’s just the simple truth.

The success of our twenty-five years of marriage is because the temperature my husband sets in our house is never a cold shoulder to the needs of his wife, his children, extended family and friends.

My husband stokes the fire of our love when he senses a chill in the air to my sadness, to me wanting more or needing more.

Something simple as “dialing” up the thermostat of one’s love could be your spouse’s “winter coat” of protection from a heart’s slow death of frostbite.

A few logs on the fire keeps a room toasty warm.
The “flames of one’s heart” for the other requires just a few logs, minimal stoking and blowing life on the embers to keep their fire from going out.

Love requires small efforts, though constant attention to keep the “flames of one’s heart” aglow. Love realizes that when winter blasts a marriage with the deep drifts of problems, warm hearts will always keep them alive until spring.

Wives respond to the temperature their man sets in the house; a warm smile, their cozy words, a “blanket of love” to snuggle together with.

Be vigilant to the temperature of your spouse’s heart.
Love “going cold” is a slow death; a death nevertheless. Being too busy, too stressed, financially overwhelmed, or falling under the weight of exhaustion dials down the temperature of one’s heart and marriage.

Beware of old man winter. Stockpile the logs of your love so those unexpected seasons of marital winter finds you prepared to face whatever tries to douse the flames of your heart.warmth

GIFT OF CHRISTMAS

You say you wish you could have given me the fancy house, the fancy car and diamond ring. I say it’s been like Christmas every day for the last twenty-five years.

You have given me gifts wrapped in glittered paper topped with sparkled bows. You have given me gifts that money could never afford to buy. Gifts that have made me feel loved from the moon and back.  Gifts that are wrapped up in the little things.

For twenty-five glorious years, our marriage has been those gifts wrapped up in the memories of the little things. Gifts bound with a three-strand ribbon cord of commitment, complete with a legacy bow, and card signed by Two People Forever in Love.

As wonderful and magical as these gifts in our marriage have been, it’s been that three-strand ribbon cord of commitment that has bound us together in love all these years.

I read once that a three-strand ribbon cord is:
“God’s Knot symbolizing the joining of two people, and God himself into a marriage relationship. By keeping God at the center of your marriage, His love will continue to bind you together throughout your marriage.”

A cord of three strands is not easily broken. A lasting marriage finds two people holding onto one another, while both holding onto God for dear life.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

Marriage isn’t easy. Marriage is effort. Marriage requires something from you every day.
But marriage is beautiful. Marriage is worth it.

Marriage is a gift.christmas tree

GIFT OF VOWS

I will love you forever.

I will dream with you forever.

I will be by your side forever.

Thank you for the most amazing twenty-five years.

I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25. I love you.

Vows are solemn promises before God, meant to be serious and sacred. Vowing and promising to love forever.  Means loving: For all time, at all times, from this moment on.

Vowing to love forever: Is promising your heart until death doth part their ways.

From that beautiful day at our wedding altar to another beautiful anniversary altar twenty-five years later, our forever has been tried and tested as the forever in all marriages. But I stand here before the man of my dreams and God that we share, fully in love, unwavering and convinced that forever will follow us unto death.

Our twenty-fifth anniversary event was a gift to ourselves birthed in our desire to glorify and celebrate who God has been through us, the lives of two people sharing their hearts and love in marriage. But deeper still, in celebrating our anniversary, we longed to deposit a legacy gift in the hearts of our grandchildren and generations beyond, reminding them that marriage can last and thrive for a lifetime if God is allowed to be the center of and third person in a three-strand ribbon cord of commitment.

Thank you for attending our 25th Wedding Vow Renewal as our secret guests.

We joyfully pray that while rejoicing with us during our milestone anniversary, you have mined a basket full of gold and gifts wrapped up in the little things of your own relationship.

May something we have said or done be of encouragement to you through our:

Gift of Marriage, Wrapped Up in the Little Things
A gift bound with a three-strand ribbon cord of commitment,
Complete with a legacy bow and card signed by:
Two People Forever in Love

The Body of Christ at Christmas By Lori A Alicea

You never realize how much you need the body of Christ until you find yourself quarantined behind the front door at Christmas.

Holiday festivities came to a halt two weeks ago and the Christmas rush ended before I even had time to pick up the last minute push.

Thankfully, all my decorating and shopping were done two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, but due to the circumstances behind the front door of December, the remnants of the holiday will be salvaged early January, though minus a bit of Christmas magic.

Hardships are put into perspective against the backdrop of those recent tornadoes which decimated complete towns, dreams, lives and any hope of Christmas.

So when I start to feel sorry for myself for the grandchildren and family I won’t be gathering around the dinner table with on December 25, I have to remember Christmas is an attitude of the heart, a child like faith that can be celebrated every day of the year.

‘Tis the season to count it all joy; the body of Christ has been the hands and feet of God these last two weeks outside our front door at Christmas.

You realize how grown-up your daughter has become over the years, showing up with grocery pick ups, video calls and bringing the grandchildren to smile at me through the front door window. Kissing their faces smeared against the glass, both begging me to open the door and let them in is almost too much to bear. DE7ED407-628C-4661-86AA-547266555F2A

Even Santa took the time to lift our spirits, as grandson Ethan sat in his Texas lap while visiting his father. F45729BF-C480-432B-9A32-69FD44E0B805

I’m sending Mrs. Claus a thank you note for this one.

 Our son ‘n love goes above and beyond by bringing us comfort things not on the list, things he believes might bring us joy during these hard times. 2A8305E3-E91E-4DD7-B4A4-9BD8B7A5D577

Our other children have been just as attentive with their gifts of chili, consistent calls of concern and care. We parents stand back and praise an almighty God for their maturity in honoring their parents when we need them most.

Such are the friends we’ve worshiped together with over the last thirty years who have stood outside our door as ambassadors of Christ, handing out hope during our hours most bleak.

You realize how blessed you are to have a Pastor who calls along side his wife who drips of true love in her encouragement.

How do I say thank you to the intercessory team who answers every text message with a powerful word of prayer.

Our life group leaders have stood closer than any brother; they are an extension of family and we can’t imagine not having them in our life.

David’s buddies have taken turns checking in on their friend; passing on the word to the other friends in their circle of influence.

My sisters have been an extension of our mother, reaching out in her simple ways had mom still walked this earth.

My older sister sends her heartfelt life verses taken from the trouble waters she’s navigated through the years, for which I find great comfort.

The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth and delivers us out of our troubles. Psalms 34:17. B6AA8B3F-BD0D-4DC0-B049-BA3FE801100A

My younger sister’s compassion gift lines the bottom of our tree with all her heart can unload. Her generosity will never find her lacking in life with the seeds she has sown throughout the years.

Standing behind the front door at Christmas I look back and remember mother never complaining when the holidays found her behind closed doors herself.

 Whatever God allowed and provided, mother seemed to capture the spirit of the season with her daughters looking on. But I only imagine when we left, a mother longed for Christmas in her own home, around her own tree with her kids and grandkids nearby.

Mother is my inspiration to harness the joy of Christ this Christmas, even with the remote possibility of David and me spending the holiday apart.

 Then are the late night text messages dear friends send because they can’t sleep and want to inquire of us no matter the hour. Lord, thank you for friends who shoulder the burdens, lighten our load too heavy to carry alone.

My youngest granddaughter Cova appeared in my dream singing about the power of Jesus, for which I woke up thanking God for this small gift through her.

I opened the dearest Christmas gift just yesterday when the telephone rang. A dear friend hosting a holiday gathering called as a group to encourage me after I unknowingly encouraged them thru an old blog of mine, “Countdown to Christmas Miracle”, for which was read at their table.

Only you Lord could orchestrate this moment of surprise. You never realize the power of words, even words spoken years ago. God’s words through us never go out void.

Without rush these beautiful ladies spoke a Christmas prayer over us through the phone, a gift I treasure more than they know.

David and I have been caught and swept away in the waves of the body of Christ; their hands and feet of generosity have brought a deeper meaning to our front door at Christmas.

Even after all of this, my heart keeps returning to those Kentucky towns minus so much this Christmas.

The news captured a man in the midst of his personal devastation, sitting at the remains of his piano giving God his Christmas gift of song:

There’s Something About That Name

By Gloria Gaither and Bill Gaither

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name. Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim.  Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.

Yes, there’s something about that name.

Countless times over these last two weeks I’ve called on the name of Jesus to intervene on my husband’s behalf while praying in the hospital parking lot for him. B8FE7E9E-E7A7-4FFA-9DB0-D11A9D78E05A

 I must tell you the peace that passes all understanding when you call on the name of Jesus.

Jesus was born this Christmas; for you and for me.

Might we all find a moment to personalize this powerful song at Christmas.

As Jesus came to give us hope in whatever circumstance December finds us in.

COMEDY TO THE CAR LINE  By Lori A Alicea

We’ve all been there.

Overworked.
Overly exhausted.
Sleep walking thru life.

With looming questions amid the days fog,
How did I get home today?”
Did I feed my kids?”

But after a day’s rest and sanity returns,
You pull up a chair and laugh at the comedy act
Your life has been the previous shift.

Thirty-six years ago as a shift-working mother of two small children, I’d love to re-play the comedy series of getting to work before midnight in the blistering snow storms of winter, with wind gusts at my face and hair blowing in all directions, barely holding on to a crying baby wrapped in swaddling clothes (maybe a snowsuit) and a five year old up the two acre driveway in knee deep drifts to the car.ALICEA David Lori

Half asleep, I’ve signed my share of permission slips in crayon.

No doubt I’ve been reported to the Department of Transportation many December mornings back then after a midnight shift. For them to be on the lookout for a crazy woman with the window down, driving and smashing her face with handfuls of snow; when in reality, waking up a mother’s tired eyes both fast asleep.

Yes, life can be a comedy act and it does a body good to laugh.

I’m a grandmother now, reliving a once young life and humor through her adult daughter and family with small children in what could be promoted as a hilarious series, “Comedy to the Car Line.”

It’s true, I am the most unlikely critic for humor after being told over the years my “funny bone” was left behind as a child in a lost and found box, yet I still find this seriously funny.

While names and images have been changed to protect these parents both sleep deprived and frazzled, I introduce to you the cast; a mom and dad of Big Sis, Lil’ Sis, and older brother Buddy.

What started out as an early morning pick up of Lil’ Sis before her two other siblings left for school, turned into a forty-five minute comedy act of laughter I kept to myself, as sleep-walking parents don’t find much funny when their pillows and covers cry out for them.CUMBEE Aubrey

Returning home from a stretch of twelve hour evenings still wearing his work clothes and coat, half-awake at the kitchen counter, dad packs lunch boxes and book bags for three young children, while mounds of unfolded laundry stare back.CUMBEE Kyle

In constant motion, I keep my eye on mom who wears the carpet thin from the miles she puts in from the living room to the bedrooms located in the back, exhausted from the weeks of packing their home for the upcoming move.

Big Sis is performing a circus of continuous cartwheels next to Lil’ Sis, who watches Monsters Inc. for the umpteenth time while eating her breakfast of cinnamon rolls.

As Buddy body slams the bedroom door while dunking basket after basket, Lil’ Sis’ with her scarry school in session insists on sharing her mother’s delicious homemade recipe of cinnamon rolls with me…first you pop it out of the can…

Big Sis lands a final cartwheel into her signature splits, arms up, eyes facing judge grandmother who watches, “Your turn Gaga”, Big Sis commands, “for the splits.”

This young girl who once did flips, back-walkovers, back handsprings and everything else gymnastics in school, dared to demonstrate to Big Sis the splits as a grandmother a year ago, still able to walk to the car after my performance; a feat Big Sis and big brother Buddy beg me to repeat against my insisted “no.”

Mom, whose messy hair half-secured in a barrette with hands gesturing dad’s slow pace of making lunches, passes the kitchen to the give Lil’ Sis a wardrobe change from her breakfast spills in the bedroom.

Body slamming the bedroom door continues as Big Sis reminds her sandwich making dad she has gym today; yet Buddy dunks another basket and corrects Big Sis simultaneously that she has library, while echoed from the back of the house mom reminds dad it’s his turn in the car line, for which he counters back with the roll of his eyes.

Forty-five minutes of constant motion, a hurried morning of sleep walking parents in desperate straits for the school bell to ring, so they can refuel under the covers of sweet dreams.

Remembering my days as an exhausted parent, I offered to drive to the car line, for which mom and dad both blurted out the hallelujah chorus, sending their kids to the van thirty minutes early.

Arriving to the elementary school for the first time, I questioned Big Buddy if I park behind the van in front of me, for which he retorted, “You mean the Cadillac?” “Well”, I huffed in silence, “the emblem says it’s an Escalade.” “Gaga!”, I hear from the backseat of my car. “No wonder Papa says he’ll never use you as a game show phone-a-friend.”

School is in session and now it’s just Gaga and Lil’ Sis for a quiet ride home for a few hours together before I drop her off at preschool.

I spent the day laughing over and over, re-telling the hilarious story to my husband, replaying the Comedy to the Car Line series to my well-rested daughter a few days later.

Yes, life is brief; it’s a vapor the Bible reminds.

The years of raising young children pass by as a fast moving train; the tracks of your heart left barely traveled in the midst of a blink of an eye.

Yes, life can be a comedy act and it does a body good to laugh.

So…

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

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS…Name them one by one! By Lori A Alicea

I can close my eyes and still remember as if it was yesterday.

A lighthouse known for its glorious steeple lifting its countenance upwards towards the heavens in praise, whose doors swing open into a haven of peace and refuge, an old fashioned church of my childhood.

DREAMS church home
Christmas through the eyes of this little girl is back at rehearsal for the Children’s play, whose classes all crowd together on the front row pews and wait their turn for the stage.

Nervous of performing before a church full of smiling parents, blinded by the camera flashes of these proud paparazzi, hoping the words of the songs she rehearsed won’t escape a child’s remembrance.

Dancing and sparkling through the stain glass windows is a private light show of its own, whose brilliance takes this child by her innocent hand to an evening where a star of wonder guides three wise men to a little town of Bethlehem to greet their Savior, our baby Jesus who lay in a manger.

So much to be thankful for during this holiday season.
Scripture reminds and instructs us how to be a little child of thanksgiving:

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
Psalms 100:4 (KJV)

Counting our blessings…
naming them one by one.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS sheet music
There are certain snapshots of my childhood recalled from the albums of my memory which take me back to the potter’s wheel, a place of molding, making and fashioning a little girl who would one day surrender her heart to Jesus.

An old fashioned church with an old fashioned pastor, a congregation of sheep who God sent to lead, to preach and sing often his signature song I still hear today in my memory, when Jesus left the ninety-and-nine for the one who strayed away.

PASTOR reverend nickel

This little girl grew up and continues to count her blessings for the pastors whom God sent her way after moving forward from those steps of an old fashioned church.

Pastors who fathered and loved a little girl back to life, whose marriage demonstrated true love “in sickness and in health.”

Pastors who led the way and took us with him to the mission field to pour into the orphans and widows; to also fight from the front porch steps of our country, whose precious jewel in his wife he shares with us as the first lady of our hearts.

Pastors whose love extends to sheep not from the flock of his own, who shepherds our children, our mother and family, who also performed the dedication of three of our grandchildren and remains a Pastor’s Pastor to us.

I count my blessings in the decades of quality time with friends who gather over breakfast once a month, who flood my cell phone with text messages of encouragement, who meet me at the gym while dawn still sleeps, and friends who take my call every Monday evening for an hour of “our time” together.

I name my blessings one by one through friends who met, worked, got into trouble together and are infamous as partners in crime. Friends who walked with each other up the mountain tops of love, glitter and marriage and held on tight through the valleys of divorce and death. True friends ringing my doorbell no matter the time of day.

I count my blessings in church friends who are more like sisters and gifts under my Christmas tree. They celebrate and grieve with you, my warriors in prayer who petition before God on my behalf. Love for them overflows from the cup of my heart.

How do I write that thank you card for this friend of over three decades. A former boss who remained my friend throughout life. A writing companion whose completed books have inspired my efforts to persevere for my first on the book shelf.

A true friend who lives states and hours away, yet attends your daughter’s wedding because I asked.

FRIENDS Mary Ellen

This little girl could stay in prayer for hours counting blessings, thanking God for a basket full of friendships in her sisters, daughters and Best Friend in Jesus.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS praying

Growing older and sadly watching the leaves of our life change and fall to the ground from traditions that used to be when mother was still with us.  Yet, I count my blessings for those new traditions which clothe my barren tree with new life and memories, celebrating with three generations of family.

A grandmother’s knees are worn from the hours of praise for those ten Christmas grandchildren who call her Gaga.

Never forgetting those children now grown, those born of my womb or born of my heart.

Remembering where it all began in God’s plan, gathered around the Christmas tree among my five sisters, brother and parents.

Sometimes being thankful isn’t wrapped around a lap full of gifts you can open.

This holiday season I am a child of great thanksgiving…

Counting my blessings…naming them one by one…

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS sheet music
As I…

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
Psalms 100:4 (KJV)

As Christmas came early at the Alicea house, when I unwrapped the gift of another day with David, my soulmate of 27 years, when God intervened in a life threatening situation.ANOTHER DAY use

I don’t have enough hands to count my blessings this Christmas.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS praying

I would be re-miss not mentioning the summits this family stood together on many times over this year, facing the bitter cold, barrenness and eerie silence of life without the loved ones left behind on those frozen mountains of memories we’ll visit from time to time.

But yet, we still continue to count our blessings and name them one by one, celebrating the overflow of their lives spilled onto ours.

The holidays will never be the same without Joe’s homemade sweet potato pies, Reuben’s Christmas cards filled with a brother’s gush of handwritten sentiment, and me sharing mother’s homemade coffee cake with my brother thru the US Mail.

If nothing else this holiday season though, I am thankful for life, I am thankful for home.

XMAS HOME

While sugarplums still dance in my dreams for a long cabin or an old fashioned renovated church to live in…

I’ll keep saying it for the rest of my days,

Wherever David is, I’ll always be home.XMAS DAVID AUBREY

May this be a season of thankfulness for all of you…

Many thanks for your faithfulness to share in these weekly words of my heart.

I appreciate you more than you know.  A tree of ornaments in my heart has your names written all over them.xmas ornament

 

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

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.
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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

 

Countdown To A Christmas Miracle By Lori A. Alicea

It’s the day after Thanksgiving in the year of 2000, and the holiday spirit couldn’t be any more exciting. The stores are bursting with shoppers and the smell of Christmas is in the air. Bell ringers are everywhere and Santa is taking orders from all the good little boys and girls. Holiday music is playing on the radio, and everyone seems to agree that Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Looking through the fantasy eyes of a child at Christmas is so amazing. They still believe the unbelievable. They hold out hope for the impossible. They just know that somehow when Christmas morning arrives, all their dreams will come true. Of course when they wake up to their presents under the tree, they scream because they know that Santa didn’t forget them.

vintage-christmas-cards-for-family-and-kids

How priceless to have a childlike faith at Christmas. Why does growing up cause us to lose the faith of a child? If only we as big kids could still believe the unbelievable. If only our hearts could hold out hope for the impossible. God has never forgotten us. He showed up on that first Christmas morning with His Son lying in a manger. And with every magnificent sun rising in the morning, God displays his unending faithfulness to show up. But why do we still doubt the Faithful one?

This particular Christmas I was having the most marvelous holiday season. For the first time in fifteen years, I wasn’t working and now enjoying my new professional title, “stay at home” mom. If dreams really do come true, I was living the dream of a lifetime. My wonderful life felt richly full, like a well springing up, spilling over and over. I couldn’t contain my happiness.
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Though Christmas for me was tremendously ecstatic, I couldn’t ignore the sad faces of the others in the family. Minus my income this year, Christmas would arrive without us being able to afford presents for the children. What mother couldn’t feel sad about that? For just a moment I wallowed in guilt, wondering if I made a mistake about my job. But I decided that choosing my family was the best choice and that God would have to take over during this holiday season.

As a child I remember watching the Charlie Brown Christmas show. While all his friends thought that Christmas had to be great lights and fancy ornaments, Charlie knew the true meaning of this holiday. That a baby boy was born in a humble stable; that three wise men traveled far following a bright star leading to this child lying in a manger. How this little boy was born with nothing, but would soon grow up to give everything. This is what Christmas meant to Charlie. This is what Christmas should mean to us all.

I decided that baby Jesus in the manger would be all that mattered this Christmas. I would count my blessings and name them one by one. I would begin to celebrate the joy of my family. And I would allow God to give us back our childlike faith by believing in the impossible. Whatever happened this year, Christmas was going to be the best ever.
MANGER USE

Though nobody was in the mood, I prodded that Christmas should continue and we should do all that we could to make this season special. So, with holiday music playing, hot chocolate simmering, it was time to trim the Christmas tree. Though we didn’t have money for a fresh tree, we did have a small artificial one to place in the bay window. I brought out all the ornaments that the children made during their early years of school. I loved looking at these works of art when my children’s hands were small. We hung lights around the window and lights around the tree. We decorated this miniature spruce with love as if it was real and when we plugged in this magical display, it looked as magnificent as a store front in Chicago on Michigan Avenue.

The advent calendar says it is now four weeks until Christmas. It seems strange not to be participating in all the holiday stress of planning and shopping. I really didn’t know what to do with myself during this time. But I do know the birth of Jesus was constantly on my mind. As Christian radio stations played Christmas music around the clock, a celebration of true Christmas resonated in my heart.

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One morning, my husband David and I were having coffee, talking about Christmas. He said he was so sad that he didn’t have any gift to give me this year. But a smile beamed from my face as I shared that he gave me the best gift ever, he gave me back my home. I meant this if I ever meant anything. Of course then we talked about gifts for the children. What would we do for them? I remember the Lord entering our conversation at that moment as he said, “Ask of me”. At that moment David and I looked above our dinner table as a plaque hung there for our reminder, “With God, all things are possible”. We stared at each other, got excited and begun to have the most childlike conversation. If we could give anything to the children, what would it be? Dreaming big, I declared I wanted to give the gift of memories this year. For my girls, I would give the gift of hope in the form of a hope chest. For my son, I would give the gift of promise with a diamond ring. And if God had any money left, I wanted to sew a quilt for each of my kids.

I always wanted my daughters to have a cedar-lined hope chest with the upholstery seat to pack away special things for their future. I thought it would bond my girls and me as we shopped for dishes and silverware, planning for their marriage someday. This chest would represent hope for a husband, dreams for a woman and a heritage passed from a mother to her daughter.

Our son was turning seventeen two months after Christmas. I wanted him to wear a gift of promise for this pivotal birthday. For the past year, our son had been on dating review, proving to us that he would honor and respect the girl he wanted to date. I tried to explain that this girl was somebody’s daughter and more importantly, God’s daughter. If he didn’t honor her during dating, a mother and two fathers would be hurt. Not to mention that he could emotionally wound this girl for life. But come his seventeenth birthday, if actions established trust, our son was free to date with our blessing. So, for this Christmas, I wanted to present our son with a diamond ring, representing his promise to God to honor him during his dating years until marriage.

After that morning of “ask and receive” revelation, David and I waited with bated breath to see what God would do. Sitting with our hands folded as Christmas inched closer, tested a husband and wife’s faith tremendously, but God has never failed in the past. Why start believing otherwise now. The advent calendar says it is just three weeks until December 24th.

Going to the mailbox has always been exciting to me. You just never know what surprise might be waiting. That Christmas, so many holiday cards of thoughtfulness arrived. If presents didn’t decorate the bottom of the tree, we at least had glittered cards to ring in the Christmas cheer into our home.

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I remember one particular afternoon, unusual excitement built as I made that walk up the hill to the mailbox. What did the mailman bring to us today? As I pulled down the door from the bright red mailbox, I reached my hand to grab what was inside. As I began to walk back down the hill, I sifted through the mail. Bills and junk make its way to the pile as usual, but oh, something different, a card from the Ladies Ministry at my church. Those ladies are so sweet to think of me. I couldn’t wait to open the letter, so I just ripped it apart like a little kid. Inside I found inspiring words of peace and good will. But as I finished reading the card, my eyes soon watered while my shaky hands held the faithfulness of God, a check for $150.00.

What three powerful words to live by, “God never forgets”. When the road gets rough with no place to go, when the night is so dark you wonder if you’ll ever find your way, when life becomes a puzzle that you just can’t put back together, remember, God never forgets. That Christmas afternoon, God’s promises became alive in my heart. God showed he cared enough to be there for me even in the small things.

I held that seed offering in my hand and marveled at God’s provision. While $150 in the natural surely wouldn’t cover the cost of two hope chests and a diamond ring. But I thought if Jesus could feed the multitude of five thousand with one small lunch and still have twelve baskets left over, what do I need to worry about? Who had time to worry anyway, the Christmas clock was ticking and power shopping was calling my name.

With two weeks left until Christmas, I had to move quickly. First on the list was finding two Lane hope chests lined with cedar wood, topped with an upholstery seat. I looked everywhere. I scanned the newspapers, checked out antique and resale shops, looked at naked furniture and even searched through bargain basement stores. But finding a hope chest within my price range became a futile effort.

With the hope chest search halted for the moment, I decided to shop for my son’s diamond ring. Like before, I searched the newspapers, visited resale shops and all the local jewelry stores. But as with the hope chests, I couldn’t find a diamond ring affordable.

At this moment, I had to admit that despair began to overwhelm me. I remember praying to the Lord while coming home from my last effort of shopping, “What am I to do?” I know the Lord didn’t put all of this on my heart for nothing, but it is now one week until Christmas and I still didn’t have two hope chests and a diamond ring.

While stopped at the light, waiting to make a final turn to my house, I’m thinking about the diamond ring I wanted to find for my son. While starring at the oncoming traffic, I couldn’t believe my ears when God began to speak as clear and audible as if he was sitting next to me in the flesh. God answers the question in my mind, “Where is this ring?” He said to me in His kind and gentle voice, “Don’t you remember? You always wanted to give the wedding band from the hand of your son’s father (my first husband), to him whenever he started dating”. With these words, tears overtook my eyes, because the voice of God just spoke. He shows up just like He always said he would. God never forgets.

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Since I had packed away this wedding ring many years ago, I had forgotten what it looked like. Finding the box was even more of a challenge, as I had moved three times since, but once the treasure hunt was over, I was excited to see this hidden surprise. When I slowly opened the box, sparkling on its velvet lining was a beautiful ring encircled in small diamonds. Who could have ever imagined such a priceless gift? Only God could have ever imagined. Immediately I took this ring to the jewelers to have it sized and cleaned and then wrapped for Christmas Eve. One gift down and two remained. The advent calendar says it is now four days until December 24.

By this time the tension is mounting, but my kitchen plaque still reminded me that “With God, all things are possible”. Miracles are always a moment away, even four days before Christmas. I was sitting back at the table where my husband and I made our original Christmas requests. In my heart I knew God was sending me a miracle, and that miracle came when the telephone unexpectedly rang. On the other end was a woman from my care group. She said she overheard me talking about my gifts of memories. She said that in her house was an old hope chest that wasn’t being used anymore. With a little bit of sanding and staining, it could look good as new she said. So, with this she wondered if I would be interested. Just as with the diamond ring, God overwhelmed me once again. If God pours His blessings from the sky, flood season was in high gear. In response to this generous woman, I said I would be honored to receive this gift.

As my husband and I were driving over to pick up the hope chest, my husband reminded me that we needed two hope chests instead of one. By this time my faith had swelled, ready to burst that doubt just could not enter in my mind. So I slowly looked over at my husband and simply said, “God doesn’t forget”.

I was so excited to arrive at this generous woman’s house to see the gift that God wanted one of my daughters to have. When we got there she first offered me some tea to share with her. As I am sitting at her table, I noticed many baskets hanging from her kitchen ceiling. At that moment I was reminded of the twelve baskets left over from the multitudes meal, all starting from a little boy’s lunch. Then I thought of the seed offering given to me in the afternoon mail; how it was yielding more than one mind could conceive.

After drinking tea with this friend of mine, she took me to the room where the hope chest sat. Just as she said, it needed the touch of a loving hand. But if love rested in the eye of the beholder, surely, I could see the love God wanted to give through this chest. After seeing my gift, I gave my friend a hug, coming from a truly grateful heart. Words couldn’t express my joy.

Just when I think it’s time to pack the chest and leave, my friend stops me and takes me to one more room in her house. Just as God says he is our God of the unexpected, I was not expected to see what I was about to see. Way in the corner of this room, underneath the many boxes that lie above it, sits another gift of my request, hope chest number two. But this time I felt I needed to go to heaven and give God a hug in person. How could one person take in all of this generous love from the Father? But that is how loved our Father wants us to feel all the time.

With four days until Christmas, two hope chests need to be sanded and 3 nosy kids at home, how could my husband be able to refinish this furniture without anyone suspecting. Of course God steps in once again as my sister calls to ask if the kids could spend the next 3 days with her as she has been missing them. What a mighty God we serve. He even organizes the babysitting.
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With the kids taken care of at my sisters, my husband and I rush to the store to buy sandpaper, stain, upholstery fabric and lots of coffee. Surely the next few days will be all nighters. After we pay for the needed items for the hope chests, I realize one final miracle has occurred. God had money left over to purchase material for the quilts I wanted to sew for the children.

With Christmas approaching in just hours, our house sounds like Santa’s elves working at the North Pole. The sander is blasting in the garage, the sewing machine is zooming in the kitchen and the cat is wondering what in the world is going on. If David and I ever bonded in our marriage, it was during this holiday season when Christmas was on God. How could love ever be more evident?

Christmas Eve has finally arrived and what joy is to be. I look at these Lane hope chests and can touch the love of the father’s hands that refinished them. I hold the quilts that will wrap around my children’s arms on a cold morning and can touch the love of the mother’s hands that made them. I hold the diamond ring that my son will wear and can feel the love of the father’s hands that once wore it. Christmas Eve has finally arrived and I can feel the love of my Father who went out of His way to show His unending love for me.

audras chest outsidecandaces outsidedownload

THROUGH MOTHER’S EYES  By Lori A Alicea

What ya thinking about mother?

Silently I’ve noticed the sun setting in your eyes ever so slightly these past few months over time spent with you.

The overflow of your heart speaks deep appreciation for our visits and our calls. A mother’s smile welcomes us no matter her prognosis of the moment.

My unannounced visits faithfully find you wearing that red lipstick you’ve been famous for my whole life.

But yet, for the words you’ve held back to keep a family from worrying or thoughts too afraid to articulate, your eyes speak volumes from the pages of uncertainty that prompt a daughter to wonder,

What ya thinking about mother?

Sometimes in life the negative reports need to be shoved into a drawer for the moment.

Every now and then we all need a good day; maybe even a perfect day.

Perfect days you plan for; you pencil them in your calendar and make the day happen.

From the heart you unearth treasures of every kind that arms can’t contain them. Much like the windows of heaven that God pours abundantly from onto His children.

Mother, it’s your eightieth birthday and gold glittered balloons and everything else gold will punctuate this perfect day from start to finish.

With sadness, your milestone birthday will be an outside event with you watching from a nursing home window due to the current circumstances that mandate.

But you bloom where you’re planted.

You create and decorate
For a mother most deserving…

Announcing your

Princess for a Day Event.

Honoring that little girl in our mother who quite possibly never thought of herself or was celebrated as the princess God sees in her.

I decided that every girl, young or old attending this Princess for a Day event,
Be celebrated also as a princess with their own crown and scepter.

The little princes will also be celebrated as royal heirs to the throne with a sword in their own honor.

(Excerpt from my blog Whose I am)

It’s your day mom.

Introducing your perfect day.
decorations crown 1

Through mother’s eyes, her front row seat to a perfect day.

So many guests came to honor this Princess for a Day.

Your daughters, your sons present and afar they came.
Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended also.

That best friend you’ve shared years of every kind wouldn’t miss your day.
barb guests - barb by tableCousins came and took their spot just like the old days of family reunions.
guests - old family reunionOut of town great-grandchildren enjoyed the festivities through technology via Facetime.
guests englandsUnattended but princesses still in thought took royal selfies for their great-grandmother to enjoy.

From your window and phone, I hope the evidence bore witness to the impact and meaning of your life.
window - mom - CopyOne by one, the avalanche of tributes from those touched by your life well lived before them.

Beyond precious were tender words from the mouths of babes. Even little ones notice the love of a grandmother.

One great-grandson full of wisdom beyond his years when he spoke,
“Today grandmother, you are a vision of loveliness.”
speaking guests - david speakingForming a line in front of your window, each family member added silk roses for the vase bouquet you’d enjoy days after your perfect day was a memory.

Though not the princess banquet we would have prepared had we celebrated you at home, but a princess meal nevertheless to enjoy around family tables at home.

What ya thinking about mother?

I’m overwhelmed myself re-visiting this royal day weeks after the event.

So many details planned for the short time we were given.

Over-looking the party from your front row seat, the staff overwhelmed as well, soaking in the love from a family giving back honor due to their matriarch turning eighty.

But I think most impacting were those close and intimate moments at your window, sharing one on one through the phone with those needing a moment alone with you, even if for a minute never noticing the separation of glass.

On display the emotion from your faithful friend of decades.

Then were the kisses from your window, with you looking back at your great-grandchildren to receive their childlike affection.

Even you and I were able to pose for a mother-daughter picture, capturing and blending two generations together.
window - mom and LoriHeard from our mother’s window was the chorus of Happy Birthday sang twice. Princesses get an encore you know.
happy birthdayGathered for a family portrait are lives that have been changed because of a Godly life well lived from one birthday girl blowing out eighty candles on her cake.
guests - moms familyYou are many things to many people; mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, cousin and friend.

But you are simply mother to me.

Through your eyes I hope the impact of your life was in full view of your window.

You were beautiful wearing your princess crown.

Through mother’s eyes, my heart believes you saw and thoroughly enjoyed a perfect day; the best birthday gift a family could have ever wanted for you.

You are loved mom beyond words.

When that stuffed negative report does emerge from that drawer as it will, always remember God’s love letter to you,

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.
Phillippians 4:8 NIV

Even through a mother’s eyes on her perfect day.

THE SCHOOL BELL RINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME…AGAIN! By Lori A Alicea

My baby’s baby starts kindergarten this year.
school - Ayva first day of kindergarten 1

How can it be that just twenty-six years ago the school bus picked up my baby for her first day of kindergarten?
school - Candace first day of kindergartenBackpacks are heavier than ever with the weight of all that school stuff… pencils, paper, tissues, crayons, glue, scissors and a brand new item on the school list…sanitizer.
IMG_1861I wish it wasn’t so sweet Ayva, but school will be a bit different for you than for your mother twenty-six years ago.
school - Candace kindergarten pictureschool - Ayva first day of kindergartenThe school bell rings for five years olds everywhere…for the first time.

The school bell rings louder when that five year old is yours.

School bell stop ringing…
We’re not ready…at least I wasn’t.

Just yesterday our baby’s newborn smell overwhelmed while snuggling them quietly near our heart.
mom and Candacebaby - ayva newbornWe close our eyes for a second and the school bells rings for the first time for my baby’s baby.

For this grandmother, the school bell rings for the first time…again.
mom and daughter - Candace going to kindergartenmom and daughter - Candace and Ayva going to kindergarten

No matter how old a mother becomes, she never forgets those milestones, her children’s right of passages that mark in time their growing up.

I share with you Kindergarten Day for my baby twenty-six years ago.

Kindergarten Day!
The Start of New Beginnings
By Lori A. Alicea

The end of August is fast approaching.  The school bell is ready for the principal to ring.  Backpacks are stuffed, new sneakers are laced and moms everywhere are preparing their children for the first day of school, some for the very first year.

Though I registered my daughter this August for her senior year in high school and my son his senior year in college, this mother never forgot that bittersweet kindergarten day when the apron strings of her heart were cut.

Maybe it was in our maiden walk to school, lamenting my return alone.  Maybe it was their reluctance to leave my side as I brought them to their desk.  Maybe it was seeing their moistened eyes when I turned to check on them one last time.  Maybe it was noticing them looking for me outside their window.  Maybe it was hearing the school bell ring, wanting them desperately to be four again.  Whenever it was, this first day of school painfully required me to release them to their new beginning, severing ties that intertwined our lives before kindergarten.

Before this mom had time to dry her tears, the kids bounced back in new energy with field trips planned to the apple orchard and zoo.  Holiday parties and snack days were scheduled and backpacks daily emptied of schoolwork they were anxious to share.

Soon the refrigerator was papered with reading, writing and arithmetic.  Little friends started to call, inviting them over to play.  Where once we were cocooned in our own world of Sesame Street and adventures to the park, now my children were slowly becoming aware of their wings, spreading them ever so slightly at the edge of our nest.

As ironic that it may seem, I truly believed the best lesson I could teach my children, was to teach them to leave.  In order to pass the test, I had to be willing to open the doors of opportunity along their way, never blocking the entrance to future beginnings, yet keeping exit doors closed off from early escapes of hard times.

When once they scribbled in print, they now they communicate their feelings.  Where once they counted on their fingers, they now calculate life’s problems.  Where once they clung to me and dominated our conversation.  Now one lives six hours away and telephones when he can.  The other, a few steps behind.

Looking back, that first day of school was elementary compared to the final exam of their first day on their own.

Though new beginnings should be exciting, it’s the leaving something old that makes it so difficult.  Thankfully that first day of school I was teacher’s pet, when I allowed my kids to be five.
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JUST A SMALL WINDOW OF TIME By Lori A. Alicea

My Pastor Sr. used to say there’s just a small window of time when your children long to be in their parent’s world. After that window closes, you’ll spend the rest of your life longing and pursuing to be in theirs.

This small sermonette etched and framed itself first in this mother’s heart now grandmother when my Pastor spoke them so many years ago.

I experienced this truth as a mother, and when I became a grandmother, I determined to wrap my arms around as many moments possible with those who me Gaga.

Because one tomorrow not too far in the distance, these grandparent moments will find themselves beyond my reach when that small window of time closes with their growing up.

This small sermonette came to life with the birth of my first child Jake.
jake as a babyThe words from the pulpit wouldn’t be preached by me, but lived through the life and love of Jake’s grandparents, Grandma Cova and Papa Les and their summer Kentucky visits together with their grandchildren over the next twelve years.

My grown children have questioned each other if they as parents would send their small children for summer grandparent visits six hours away for weeks at a time as I did with them. Ok, ok, six weeks; my bad.

I laughed with my son and daughter’s reply to each other, “That would be a big negative.”

Looking back I also questioned those long summer adventures away from my kids.

But remembering as their father spent so many memorable summers on the farm with his maternal grandmother, I wanted the pages of the family grandparent scrapbook to continue and pass this special tradition on to Grandma Cova and Papa Les.

So the spoiling begins in Cave City and Horse Cave, Kentucky where a huge family of grandparents, aunts and uncles smother their love like honey on a hot homemade biscuit to this next generation of little ones.

The legacy of Great-Uncle Condie, a hardworking carpet layer by day and bee-keeper at night, is passed through his love for bees down two generations beyond him and counting, all because Uncle Condie chose to enlarge his circle of influence and love to include a little boy.

This little boy carried into adulthood an uncle’s devotion honored in his middle name, abbreviated as a C.

Let’s not forget Uncle Condie’s wife Aunt Alley and her fabulous meals prepared each morning, noon and night by scratch when you visited.

Her second-floor country kitchen where those signature biscuits baked inside a wood-burning stove is still a fond memory even of mine.

Aunt Alley also left behind a piece of herself amid the squares and stitches she quilted by hand for each child upon their birth.
family jake, uncle codie and aunt alleyThe summer highlights always included excitement alongside a country flavored grandfather.

Papa Les made sure that summer in Kentucky included horses, chickens, goats and rummage sale bicycles. Years later that country memory of chickens lives on in the next generation through Jake’s children.

What would summer vacation be without time spent with your aunts, uncles and cousins?

Uncle Bob and Aunt Carrie made sure a visit to amusement park Guntown Mountain happened; the bowling alley too and so much more. I still laugh remembering the stories that came home packed in the suitcases of my kids after time spent with their crazy aunt and uncle.

Aunt Sue Sue, when she flew into town, spoiled her nieces and nephews beyond expectation. Grown up now, these kids shan’t ever forget an aunt who loved them so well.

Standing out more than any summer memory in Kentucky revolved around cousins being with cousins. No telling what (Eric, Nick, Amanda, Alexis, Candace and Jake) did at their grandparent’s house.  I’m sure those secrets are still baked into the walls of grandma’s house in Horse Cave, Kentucky.

For some reason my son was especially fond of his Grandma Cova.  So much so he named his first daughter after her.

Their deep bond is evident in this intimate moment captured at Jake’s wedding.
grandma Cova and JakeLooking at these two together, I can rewind many conversations with Grandma Cova and her summer visits with Jake.

“Oh Grandma, just one more book please,” a small boy’s request before bed after many other stories before.

Hands of rummy at the kitchen table, preparing all his favorite foods, and her buying a sweet boy candy at the Dollar General where she worked down the street.

The most difficult day though of every summer visit with Grandma Cova ended with Jake waving good-by to her from the back seat of the car, with him having to hold it together without her for the six hour ride home and the remainder of the summer.

Grief for his grandmother overwhelmed my son for weeks. Most days he held it in as best as a little boy could, but eventually the dam of his tears painfully burst.

Every year at summer’s end amid the sadness, Grandma Cova and her grandson dreamed of their next summer together. Jake assured his grandmother he’d be sharing summers with her his whole life; he was all of ten at this time.

As much as Grandma Cova treasured their coveted visits, she painted a picture of Jake for him at the age of twelve, a painting when boys began growing up and enjoying sports and friends over time spent at their grandparents.

Never imagining that twelve year old boy would be him, Jake did grow into a twelve year old whose visits to Kentucky faded into the scrapbook memories.

Grandma Cova loved her grandson Jake as much as he loved her.  I am forever grateful they shared this amazing relationship.

I lamented for Grandma Cova when her grandson’s summer visits stopped, unable to imagine how it affected a grandmother’s heart.

I tried though in a poem I wrote and dedicated my words to the two of them.

Thank you Grandma Cova and Papa Les for the intentional love you displayed to your grandchildren in the summer ways that you did.

Those summer visits in Kentucky were the blueprint for the Friday night cousin camps with my grandchildren.

The age of twelve has been on my mind since our first grandchild celebrated that pivotal year in her life three years ago and now two grandchildren blew out the candles on their tenth birthday cake this year.

Just the other day, one grandson rode his bike from next store just to say hello to his papa; he was spending the night with his aunt and uncle the evening before.

What will twelve look like for this little boy with his Papa and Gaga?
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Here is that summer poem I promised.

grandma Cova and Jake

His Summer Time With You
By Lori A. Alicea

How great the day when eyes laid on,
Your grandson’s precious face.
A secret home inside your heart,
He found a special place.

No other child could love you more,
A grandma’s treasured joy.
All wrapped and held within your arms,
One happy little boy.

No other day could not compare,
With things he’d want to do.
What greater moments when he spent,
His summer time with you.

The books you read before his nap,
Adventures were in store.
The nap delayed because he begged,
“Oh grandma read one more”.

The neighbor boy looked forward too,
When June would come around.
A childhood friendship that he shared,
And mischief that they found.

Though Batman was a hero then,
His grandma number one.
No wonder all the time you spent,
To make his summer fun.

Then one day as you sat with him,
The porch, these words you told.
That soon he wouldn’t come in June,
His age, past twelve years old.

No other reason would you give,
Than growing does occur.
But how the memories spent in June,
Would never fade or blur.

Then one year grandma’s words came true,
No books to read at noon.
Her grandson chose to stay at home,
This summer month of June.

With baseball in the little league,
With swimming at the beach.
And riding bikes took grandson far,
Away from grandma’s reach.

She said this day would come at last,
What does a grandma do?
Though growing up will not replace,
His summer time with you.

How great the day when eyes laid on,
Your grandson’s precious face.
A secret home inside your heart,
He found a special place.