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.

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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.
IMG_1691IMG_1738

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?
cars 2020 7 04 David working on car Ethan watching
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.

A GRANDMA TOO IS BORN By Lori A Alicea

Every now and then I am taken aback with the surprise of the unexpected; especially if the unexpected are unearthed words I had forgotten I once wrote.

While I’m not one to fill up journals with my personal thoughts and prayers, I do dream through my words penned to paper on occasion.

This particular afternoon twelve years ago and prior to having grandchildren, I remember daydreaming about what it might mean to be grandmother.

That day I wondered if my heart was full of enough love to overflow into another generation, unaware then how many grandchildren would fill my lap.

I wanted to pass on memories of all kinds; holidays, special foods, traditions our grandchildren could remember their whole life, special time at their grandparent’s house and a legacy rich in Jesus.

Papa and I were overwhelmed at the thought of our children having children. We were nervous and excited all wrapped into one package of joy we hadn’t opened before.

How do you prepare to be a grandmother?

I imagined their faces taking our breath at first glance, catching us off guard with the miracle of life we held; faces already seen and watched by God as they grew in the secret place of their mother, already known to God before the beginning of time.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!

Psalm 139:15-17 NIV

One afternoon I imagined the wonders of being a grandmother.

My dreams were caught on paper, but mere words were beyond inadequate to what God was preparing in advance for this grandmother.

If I only knew then what I have experienced now.
Children are a gift from God, and it has been Christmas ever since that first little grandchild called me Gaga.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably
More than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us.
Ephesians 3:20 NIV

My heart before becoming a grandmother.

A GRANDMA TOO IS BORN
By Lori A Alicea

A baby comes into your life,
A family, mom and dad.
Their life gives birth to all their dreams,
For nine months, that they’ve had.

Kizzie Mae Pearl

Ten fingers, toes, they count them all,
Their hearts in two, are torn.
And yet, another miracle behold,
A grandma too is born.

Aubrey Ann

A woman who had raised her kids,
And thought her job was done.
Yet God had other plans for her,
Another race to run.

Rosalee Ann

An early morning feeding time,
Reserved for us to share.
The trips we take up to the stars,
While rocking in our chair.

Ayva Presley

The lullabies I’ll sing to you,
Lay kisses on your head.
You’ll snuggle back in peaceful rest,
My arms become your bed.

Hollis Blake C.

I think about you night and day,
Your life, my heart adorn.
How unprepared and overwhelmed,
When grandmas too are born.

Cova Grace Marie

The Friday nights we’ll spend with you,
When mom and dad go out.
Where rules stay in the diaper bag,
We’ll laugh, and scream no doubt.

Bristol Nicole

The play dates that we’ll get to take,
Can’t wait, a shear delight.
And stories that your gramps will tell,
He’ll rock you in the night.

Leon Ethan 

My prayers each day, the will of God,
His perfect plan for you.
Your steps already figured out,
His voice will speak to you.

Brodie Allen

But you must learn to listen close,
His Word will guide your way.
And grandmas here to share with you,
The things of God each day.

Brooklyn Nicole

Rich blessings for you little one,
My heart in two is torn.
It can’t contain the love I feel,
This grandma has been born.

Ethan candace pregnant with mom USE

CONSIDER HOW… By Lori A Alicea

A Greeting Card for Faith…

 Consider how the wild flowers grow.
They do not labor or spin.
Yet I tell you,
Not even Solomon
In all his splendor
Was dressed like one of these.

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field,
Which is here today,
And tomorrow is thrown into the fire,
How much more will he clothe you—
You of little faith!
Luke 12:27-28 NIV

Consider How…

 Consider how the flowers grow,
Among these meadow fields.
Consider that they labor not,
Or toil their fragrant yields.

USE Wildflowers 1

Consider how and where they came,
Each wild bloom bouquet.

USE Wildflowers 2

As Heaven’s Gardener paints for us,
A masterpiece display.

USE Wildflowers 4

Consider how the eyes they please,
This secret garden place.

USE Wildflowers 3
All burst forth from the heart of God,
No earthly hands replace.

USE cova jake flowers

Consider how the grassy fields,
God clothes with blooms born wild.

USE ayva smelling flowers

Much more desires to do for you,
With faith, a little child.

ayva at flower park (2)

They toil nor spin beneath the sun,
The splendor of this view.

USE Wildflowers 5

Though God He tends these garden fields,
Much more He cares for you.

USE audra smelling flowers

Consider how we doubt His heart,
No song of faith or choir.
Consider how the flowers grow,
A child’s faith require.

USE flower pictures with kids (2)

IT’S MORE THAN A TOWEL By Lori A Alicea

Towels.

More than a wrap after a hot steamy shower.

More than a stack of fluffy color coordinated terry cloth to complete the bathroom ensemble.

The delight of squirming wet babies scooped from their baths resembling zoo babies in their animal decorated towel hoods to keep them warm.

It’s more than a towel we dry off with after our bath.
It’s more than just a towel.

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.

More than a Towel Picture

I could write a book filling the pages of dedication that have earned my husband his stripes for 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.

Blow drying their hair after baths was “special time” he believed all daddies enjoyed.

Neighbors could hear the laughter of “catch” in the backyard between a father and his sons.  Little league games stole the base a father’s heart in the summer,  yet gave away his heart through date nights and time over coffee with his wife.

Jesus answered the call of servant leadership

When as Lord, he bowed and washed his disciple’s feet, then dried them with his towel.
John 13:1-17 (NIV)

Though his disciples not understanding, Jesus urged these twelve to also take up their towel and wash another man’s feet.

Stating that “16no servant is greater than his master…”,
17that you will be blessed if you do…”
John 13:1-17 (NIV)

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 wash another man’s feet you will be blessed.

To answer the call, you take up your towel.