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

 

GOING HOME  By Lori A Alicea

Love…peace…and joy.

Three beautiful sentiments written into a greeting card.

Three captivating emotions of a well scripted movie.

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

Love…peace…and joy are our choice.

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

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

We choose joy on a rainy day of tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

USE fishing 5

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

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

Ayva was right.

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

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

Such were the fishing memories too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose love.
Choose peace.
Choose joy.

Even choose sprinkles.

Because when you do,

You choose God.

LETTING GOD  By Lori A Alicea

Everybody grieves.

Yes, everybody grieves.

But everybody grieves differently, and in their own way.

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

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

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

But you grieve nevertheless.

Grief is a painting of a thousand words.

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

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

water dew on dandelions
Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

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

Jesus wept.
John 11:35 NIV

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

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

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

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

A Family’s Ten Good-byes.”

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

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

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

Together, we lost two dear friends from church.

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

This season of showers,

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

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

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

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

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

In our letting go,
We are letting God…

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

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

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

Lead us beside still waters.

KIZZIE ROSALEE holding hands water keep

Be our everything;
Whatever everything needs to be.

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll get there when we get there.

In time…in time.

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

THE FINAL CALL By Lori A Alicea

We are all called by God to give honor,
Where honor is due.
(Romans 13:7)

The military also gives such honor,
To its deceased soldiers in a final roll call
At their life’s celebration.
SOLDIER STANDING ALONE use
As a family, we recently said good-bye to one of our own,
A proud marine who faithfully lived and died by these three simple words:

God, Country, Flag.
JOE MILITARY Flag half mast
Presenting to our fine marine,
The honor now due him.

THE FINAL CALL
By Lori A Alicea

Before our eyes a sea of blue,
Attention straight and tall.
A roll call of our fine Marines,
Who took the clarion call.

Defend our Lady Liberty,
Protect our countries shore.
A roll call of each faithful name,
Who proudly stands before.
SOLDIER STANDING GUARD

Where one by one Marines are called,
The flag is flying near.
FLAG FLYING NEARAnd down the list, those dressed in blue,
Acknowledge that they’re here.

But heaviness of silence felt,
The roll call stops the same.
When one Marine does not respond,
Or answer to his name.

But try again this soldier’s name,
ACKNOWLEDGE Sergeant Joe!
The roll call waits for his response,
But each Marine they know.

The faithful never leave their post,
Their heart and soul give all.
This brotherhood of tears concede,
Must be his final call.

The dog tag worn around his neck,
The names of our Marine.
Identify the man he was,
The hidden and the seen.
BROTHERS
A dad to four and papa six,
A brother and a friend.
An armor bearer, uncle too,
A hand of hope to lend.

A child of God, beloved son,
A warrior on his knees.
Who lived to give his life away,
Embraced the least of these.

A husband of one bride he loved,
No name could dare compare.
And at the feet of Jesus lay,
The crown he used to wear.

Then arms are raised, three volley rounds,
Bombs bursting in the air.
A gun salute which bursts a heart,
Without her soldier there.
HAT AND SWORD
Resounds, a bugle call of TAPS,
The words, A day is done.
His faithful years they fade into,
The drawing of the sun.
BUGLE PLAYERBUGLE AMRS

The flag is folded end to end,
For which he gave his life.

FLAG FOLDINGFLAG FOLDING 1

The service of a proud marine,
Presents a soldier’s wife.
DIANE RECEIVING FLAG
His country held against her chest,
Down flowing from her cheek.
The years of love she shared with him,
Her tears begin to speak.

Her heaviness of silence felt,
MY GOD! MY GOD! My heart!
This soldier’s wife, God grant her peace,
The years they are apart.
DIANE SAYING GOODBY
A name now stricken from the roll,
Though etched in memories set.
A name who loved those stars and stripes,
His country won’t forget.
SOLDIER SALUTING JOE 1CEMETERY
Our fine Marine he took up arms,
Defend our countries shore.
A roll call now of faithful ones,
His Savior, stands before.
GUNNERY SERGEANT JOSEPH ALICEA
Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Alicea
September 23, 1955 – July 30, 2021

A country thanks you for your service.

TOGETHER…and always…By Lori Alicea

You know her…

That girl you grew up with and led inseparable lives from morning ‘till night, until the dinner bell rang her home.

That girl whose shadow followed you from the swings to the monkey bars of the playground, where one was never seen without the other.

KIZZIE ROSALEE same seat

That girl who shared a pea in your pod; and everything glitter from your imaginations.

That fun loving girl whose zest was that added ingredient from the spice rack of your friendship.

That Together…and always

You both…

Lived well,
Laughed often,
and loved much;
By Bessie Anderson Stanley

KIZZIE ROSALEE holding hands walking

You know her…

That sister…
That daughter…
That neighbor…
That confidant…
That co-worker…
That neighbor…
That pen-pal…
That cousin…

That one person completely opposite and day-and-night from you;

Yet that one person who filled in the chapter blanks of your once in a lifetime friendship.

A relationship written and framed around these words…

Friends are kisses blown to us by angels.
Anonymous

Eleanor Roosevelt
Said it even better…

Many people will walk in and out of your life,
But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

Together…and always…

Friends are a treasure trove of unopened surprises.
Rosalee Kizzie on boat 1
Friends see the world through each others eyes…
Rosalee Kizzie on boat 2
Friends hear their song played in a different key.
Friends interpret life in a dance all their own.

Friendship is an adventure willing to take an uncharted journey to an unknown destination; as the travels of friendship finds you…

Together…and always…

That girl who smiles in the calm and still found by your side when the swells overtake is a friend…

who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 NIV

As seasons take their turn to keep watch during winter…spring…summer and fall…

Friendships must keep watch during those seasons which hand over the baton and changing of the guard.
Mountain view
The unexpected visitor of good-bye shows up unannounced and without warning sometimes…

Summer camp is over…
Leaving for college…
A job change…
Moving…
Marriage…

Death…of a friendship…
Death…of one of us…
Rosalee Kizzie hugging
The sun may go down on the friendship between you and that girl, but friendships are never forgotten in the night…as morning always remembers.

The distance of miles may separate but the longing for one another keeps you close at heart.

Friends are worth the adventure, worth the risk of the swell.
KIZZIE ROSALEE waves
While the picture of my friendships might not resemble a class reunion.

I have been blessed with a few snapshots handpicked by God for me to share life and death with, marriage and divorce with, kids and college with, and so much more.

These Godly friendships pour into the cups of each other’s lives while sitting across the table from one another over coffee.

These God-like friendships are sometimes infrequent calls, yet pick up right where we left off from the last conversation.

Friendships that remember me every Monday evening after dinner for years just to say hello and end with an “I love you.”

Million dollar friendships I can’t wait to re-kindle when we cross paths again on the golden streets of heaven.

Friendships that know when my refrigerator and finances are unexpectedly low, and unload their overflowing trunks to restock me once again.

True friends whose hands refuse to let me go in my pain and emptiness.

true friends that leave their footprints in your heart.
Eleanor Roosevelt
KIZZIE ROSALEE holding hands water keep
God continues to fill my basket with friends who need me and they in return.

Who…

Together…and always

Lived well,
Laughed often,
and loved much;
By Bessie Anderson Stanley

SO MANY GOOD-BYES By Lori A Alicea

A quiet morning sitting along the shoreline beach of Hawaii, a picturesque view where my six-year old granddaughter feeds the waves with sand food served from a menu of her imagination; an hour of calm for me as the ocean soothes the soles of my weary feet with every wave that crashes up against them.
IMG_2917

Sometimes the weight of heavy burdens takes its toll on our feet which does its best to keep us standing strong, as burdens though were never meant to be carried.  But every now and then God sits his children down beside the shores of cool water and allows the singing and washing of the waves minister gently to our tired spirit.

It’s been a year like no other; adding the weight of the recent month just passed of so many good-byes, so many tears poured out remembering another loved one.  A mother…a brother ‘n law and now a brother. Navigating grief that maiden year of so many “firsts” presents itself without a map which adds to the pain.   Magnify that voyage times three and your shoulders buckle under weight of heartache.  

I once read that…

Grief never ends…but it changes.
It’s a passage not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith..
It is the price of love.
Author Unknown.

Better to love than never love at all;
Remembering the price of love will one day be paid in our parting good-bye.

The price of love recently expressed from my brother’s wife…
IMG_0624

How I miss you baby.
The flesh in me just wants you back for one more kiss, 
One more hug and one more I love you.

I feel so empty, but after 46 years with this beautiful man, how else could I feel.
Until we meet again baby, I will carry you in my heart forever.

You made my life complete.
Love you and miss you so much.

Your wife…

This trip to Hawaii was an unexpected one for me; a trip actually scheduled for someone else.  But plans changed; life’s wisdom to always have a bag packed when God’s calendar reveals a secret.

Accompanying my granddaughter home after a three week stay with family came as I gift God knew I needed; while His reasons have yet to be unveiled.  
IMG_2918

Though a ten hour flight and a five hour time difference, all these good-byes can’t be abandoned in baggage claim.

The luggage of our heavy hearts must be unpacked.

We must be willing to open the luggage of our good-bye, hold what’s inside, savor the moments and in time unique to each, be willing to put away our bags, and leave the intersection of Holding On and step into the street of Moving Forward.

But as my Father sits beside the shores of cool water with me and allows the singing and washing of waves to minister to my tired spirit.

I hear Him gently reminding me…

Be willing with…

One moment at a time… 
One breath at a time…
One step at a time…
One memory at a time…

and 

Let Him shoulder the rest.

THE RACE MUST CONTINUE!  By Lori A Alicea

My brother has loved the races all his life; in particular,
The Indianapolis 500.

Maybe the raceway takes him back
To the driveway playing with Matchbox cars as a young boy.

Maybe my brother never outgrew the need for speed.

Maybe the thrill for fast and furious was in his blood.

Maybe he kept those engines running in his model car collection.

Maybe the Indianapolis 500 replays those old 8 millimeter movies of Dad taking his son to the Indy Time Trials, and then sharing race day together come Memorial Weekend.

The Indy Time Trials was an annual getaway for dad and my brother.

Mother would always send a cooler full of food, making sure a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken accompanied the trip.

Packed air mattresses were a mystery since dad drove a Volkswagen Beetle, but they were packed nevertheless.

We five sisters never felt slighted when dad left us behind for a man’s weekend with our brother. Maybe all it took was dad loading up the station wagon one Saturday night with us young girls carrying packed lunch boxes to the noisy drag strip to scar us for the races.

But the Indianapolis 500 was always their day, and we celebrated that memory for them.

Even after the passage of time when dad and my brother watched the race from the comfort of their own state and La-Z-Boy, the telephone kept their annual getaway alive for 500 miles each Memorial Day, until dad passed away a few years ago, and my brother, a few days ago, as a kiss from God, on race day.

mark connie at indy 500

This past Memorial Day, the crowds were on their feet cheering in a deafening decibel as the checkered flag is waved with great enthusiasm as my brother crosses his own finish line with this announcement blaring in the stands,

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7 NIV19CAA216-6F52-4490-99DB-185DA7EA55D9

Sporting a giant flowered wreath after the win and keeping with tradition a swallow of ice-cold milk, our brother holds the milk bottle to that great cloud of witnesses of his life in declaration,

THE RACE MUST CONTINUE!

My brother was never a quitter.

He fought with every lap around the racetrack.

He honored those fans that fought for him in prayer
During the most difficult race of his life in a personal text message to me,

It’s all because of the prayer warriors
I have like you.
So Christ-like.
I love you.
Mark Houle

My brother’s memory is now waving the flags to encourage us
As we continue our race.

The green flag is waved for the start or restart of our individual races.
Start your engines.”
Start your race with prayer.”

My brother was never shy about prayer.

Brother’s prayers were War and Peace in length which meant our holiday meal was blessed but also cold as ice when mother without question, called on him to pray over dinner.

While pregnant with my first child and attending a tent revival complete with straw beneath our feet in 1983. My brother led me to an old fashioned altar to pray over his sister before she journeyed this new race of motherhood, speaking the sweetest blessings over me and my unborn son.

Stay in your lane.”
Stay in prayer.”

As the yellow flag of caution and hazardous conditions
Will eventually be waved and find you leaving the race for a pit-stop.

Six years later after my brother’s tent revival prayers,

The yellow flag goes up as the engine of my heart overheats during a car failure of my life. In the pit-stop with no place to go and having never been on my own before, I remember lamenting with my brother among the pit crew asking if my small children and I could live with him in Texas.

After an inspection under the hood, my brother and pit crew sent me back into the race, knowing Jesus had taken the wheel long ago when I said “yes” to him as a teenager, who would never steer me into the wall as long as I continued to stay in the race, stay in my lane.

Regardless if our race has unnumbered miles ahead, my brother waves the white flag to remind every driver to brace the wheel as if your race’s final lap is before you, as no one knows when the angel of death will come.

Lord, teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 NIV

The reality of eternity weighed heavy on my brother for lost souls and his deep compassion for their eternal destination presented itself in a play at the church he attended,

Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames
By Reality Outreach Ministries.

In this play the ache of my brother’s heart cried out to those he desperately wanted to share heaven with.

Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”
Where will you spend eternity?”
The fiery flames of Hell are real!”
Is your name written in Book of Life?”
Being a good person won’t save you.”
Don’t worry about what your friends will say.”
You are only guaranteed this moment in front of you.”

Choose you this day whom you will serve…
Joshua 24:15 KJV

My brother finished his race.

My brother kept his faith.

Just a week ago my brother was waved the white flag signifying the final lap of his race.

But his life’s message lives on in our races when he,

Sported a giant flowered wreath after his win and kept with tradition a swallow of ice-cold milk, and held the milk bottle to that great cloud of witnesses of his life in declaration,

THE RACE MUST CONTINUE!
IMG_0411
Your memory will forever hang from the rear view mirror of my life
As I continue the race before me.

Your sister,
Lori A Alicea

MOTHERS LOVE, When it Hurts  By Lori A Alicea

Buried in the fine print of loving others,
Spells out the risks we take when giving our hearts away…

In parenting…
In friendships…
In families…
In marriage…

That to be a parent, a friend, a family member, or spouse,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

While playing my hand safe in most areas of my life, I’ve always taken the risk and jumped off the deep end into relationships, giving the best of me while learning to swim when I found myself in waters way over my head.

Looking for a lifeline when a twenty-one year old version of myself, rocks her first child in the middle of the night. A newborn helpless and dependent on me for everything, I had to get this mothering thing right for his sake and for my daughter who is born to us five years later.

21 CANDY JAKE 010

In over my head I’d risk it all for two children who’d be waving me good-by in eighteen years for a life of their own.
a family cumbee family2019 england jake graduation 20

Mother’s don’t read the fine print of parenting; she willingly risks the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving because:

Mothers love when it hurts.

My mother loved this way six times over through the lives of her son and five beautiful daughters.

In over her head and floundering for a lifeline, a sixteen year old mother pacifies her newborn son in the midnight hour.

A mother, in some ways still a child herself; starts swimming the best way she knows how to stay afloat, risking it all by giving all of herself to a child surviving in the life preserver of his mother’s arms.

Back in the lonely days of early child-rearing, there wasn’t a village to assist my mother and her young son and soon to be five daughters who’d be born within a year or two between themselves.

Easter with siblings and outfits

Diapers weren’t disposable, and babysitters weren’t affordable. Mother leaned on God for inner strength while she flailed in the deep waters of parenting. Without sisters or the helping arms of an overworked and young husband himself, mother sowed the remains of her teenage years into the garden of her children, cultivating them in the admonition of the Lord.

A woman who gave all didn’t read the fine print of mothering; she willingly risked the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving for lives of their own because:
siblings family photo (2)Mothers love when it hurts.

Buried in the fine print of loving others,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

Mother faced
The risk,
The “what if”

My child leaves me for Jesus,
While I’m still alive to face this painful good-by.

Mother attended the funeral for two of her young adult daughters,

siblings belinda mary

Mary's Headstonedavid at gravesideWho left behind children of their own in their leaving.
funeral 2siblings mary christina brittany
“Mother’s should never have to bury their children”,
My mother lamented.

Grief hovered as a dark cloud over my mother’s life for years until sunshine broke through in her daughter’s memories.

My mother gave her heart away because;

Mothers love when it hurts.

Sunday, May 9, 2021 this daughter will celebrate the first Mother’s Day without her mother.

Mother’s Day crosses another milestone of firsts that we as her remaining family, navigate life through the maiden year without our matriarch.

Love hurts in good-by.
a flowersa family alicea family
Love hurts in the empty seat.

empty chair TABLE Mom Picture Sweater

Love hurts in the conversations you long to have.

IMG_7107

Love hurts in the empty arms.
mom and grandkids USE
Love hurts at her graveside.

mom's headstone

But grief which lingers as a dark cloud will one day be clear skies when sunshine breaks in our mother’s memories.
IMG_9345Always finding comfort, peace and joy in our loving God,

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Yes, love hurts.

But…

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson

YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU  By Lori A Alicea

Judgment Day has finally come for our stuff.

The day we liberate ourselves from the village of boxes taking residence into two storage units whose contents we have no idea of anymore.

Boxes we can’t get to, walk between or even reach if we had a need.

Boxes filled with stuff we once loved I’m sure.

Where multiple reunions of memories will certainly take place on the lawn of our hearts once the purging begins.

But the battle cry of the General shakes the walls of our home,

BE GONE you unnamed faces of clutter”.

Who takes his post on the front line to wage war against the soldiers of stuff, to win back our peace and freedom from life’s accumulation behind door #1 and door #2; handing out eviction notices to over one hundred boxes of squatters, giving them thirty days to vacate the premise.
You don’t notice it happening when the boxes of your life start taking their place on the garage shelf.

But when you move into a smaller house and those boxes of stuff find a new home in storage, you realize you’ve taken on the identify of Madam Blueberry, a child’s cartoon character that accumulates all her stuff,

Who reasons with her excuses:

I’ll need this stuff again someday.”
I just can’t part with my stuff.”
Surely, my grown kids or grandchildren will want my stuff when I’m gone.”

At the end of the day our boxes are just stuff.

Stuff that costs us financially, spiritually and emotionally.

When the reality is at the end of our life,
You can’t take it with you.

A bell ringing loud and clear when the hearse came for our father on
August 7, 2016.

While appreciating the wonderful provider my father was, a high price was paid as he toiled over two jobs during my entire childhood, working arduous days, nights and weekends to give his family a better life than he had, at least in the material things.

But I remember watching him slave over Volkswagen’s needing repairs through the kitchen window into the garage as a young girl, longing he’d take a day off and spend it with me. With the driveway converted to a parking lot always filled with cars waiting their turn to be fixed, a daddy-daughter day never happened.

Once the hearse left with our father in 2016, I turned around to the house filled with stuff of the ”better life” my father left behind for us kids, yet embracing the empty reminders of the emotional price we paid for stuff, when all we ever wanted growing up was time spent with him.

“Where my money goes, my heart follows.”
Randy Alcorn

If we could realize before we waste our lives working to collect wealth and stuff:

God has not given us all this wealth simply to increase our standard of living,
But to increase our standard of giving.
Randy Alcorn

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV

Life is best spent in the currency of time on those who call us mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend.

Discovering together those hidden gardens of wild flowers which open up themselves and our eyes to the “little things”, a place that requires no admission but a heart of contentment.

A place to remind us that a life of loving and forgiving, serving and giving to our Lord and others, will lay up treasures for us in heaven instead of stuff here on earth.

20 Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
Where neither moth nor rust destroys
And where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is,
There your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:20-21

Might we have eyes to see the end of our life while we are still living our life?
Might we toil less at the job and enjoy our children more before they take their maiden flight away from home.
Might we simplify and purge the stuff which burdens and live the best life God has prepared for us.
At the moment I am writing these words, my brother’s life is waiting for Jesus to receive him or give him a miracle.  Who I promise at this dire hour is re-visiting the family ledger, adding the deposits he made into the lives of those he loved, wasting not one minute on the credits of purchases he made for meaningless stuff.

Might our best life be spent in the currency of time on those who call us mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend and not wasted of stuff,

Because when the hearse arrives one day,
And it will,
You can’t take your stuff with you.

LOT 232  By Lori A Alicea

Hard to believe six months have already passed us by.

During this short season the landscape of our life has been painfully pruned back by the gardener, fertilized and re-seeded for new and beautiful growth; but yet, that most sacred ground and scenery of our heart has remained untouched, unchanged.

Time does not discriminate and show favor to the weary, the broken, and those resisting the shears of the gardener’s pruning.

But life goes on as it should.

There’s wonder and beauty to be unwrapped and unveiled to those willing to continue their passage through the steep hills and rough terrain of change.

Remembering there are no shortcuts or detours, just one-way signs of “going thru” that difficult process of mining the heartache to discover those diamonds of new beginnings.

Lot 232 remains just as I remember.

LOT 232 SIGN

The furniture hasn’t moved nor any picture or book out of place since I cleaned it last.

coffee table

Contagious laughter of small children still echoes from the walls that captured their innocence seated around the table, each eating the spoils from the scavenger hunts of their grandmother’s cupboards.

moms table

The smells of the kitchen still retain their aromatic flavor and the recipes and memories remain that once framed the holiday dinner portraits at moms; the legacy gift I cherish most from her.

salt and pepper shakers

 Evident from the unwrinkled comforter, mother’s bed hasn’t been slept in; although the soft music she used to play continuously from the small radio on her nightstand can be slightly heard if I lean in ever so closely.

moms room

Lot 232 hasn’t changed a bit in my heart, but of all the details I wish I could change, it would be that my key to Lot 232 still opened the front door to my mother’s life.

So much has changed these last six months and yet, that most sacred ground and scenery of our heart has remained untouched, unchanged.

Daughters are little girls who never outgrow the need to share those heart gushes with her mother.

Grandchildren need those rocking chair moments with their grandmother too.

grandma in chair

The merry-go-round of living keeps spinning and changing, and how I desperately want off this ride.

But life must go on as it should;
Walking in the peace,
The calm and
Serenity of God’s love;

A journey that allows the Father to carry our troubles while carrying us when we need Him to.

Going on” mandates the “letting go” of what our heart strings desperately cling to. It’s giving to God what has been His from the beginning.

There’s no looking back in the rear view mirror when your life is moving forward.

We must allow God to pack our suitcase of memories; a loving tour guide who encourages traveling light, not weighted down from the cares of what “used to be”.

I sure love you mom.

I love mom

I keep your beautiful smile in my heart of remembrances.

face of our holidays

Your prayers for the three generations you petitioned God for were not in vain.

moms prayers

Your prayers have taught us to place our hope in God.

hope

And accept the things we cannot change.

Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can and
Wisdom to know the difference.

I drove by Lot 232 just the other day; an address one street over from when we used to be neighbors.  Seems like yesterday we were sharing an early morning cup of coffee together on your porch.

They say you can take the neighbor out of the neighborhood, but never the neighborhood from the neighbor.

We’ll always be neighbor’s mom.

Addresses may change.
But keys to the front door of our memories will never need a locksmith.

Thank you God for Lot 232.

I have no doubt my mother didn’t need a change of address in heaven.

I’ll know exactly where to find her.
LOT 232 SIGN