RENEWAL VOWS AND HONOR TO MY BELOVED HUSBAND By Lori A Alicea

On a beautiful crisp October afternoon and surrounded by our close friends and family, my husband David and I recently celebrated 25 years together in a Wedding Vow Renewal. While we could have taken a lavish vacation instead, or bought a diamond ring or anything else spent on just the two of us, we chose to celebrate our 25 years together honoring all that God has blessed us with.

In my wedding vows to David, I opened up our album of life together and played a montage of 25 years of love and happiness with him portrayed through my words. Words are containers for encouragement, inspiration, edification, and life.  For anyone who was listening, especially our children and grandchildren, it was a deep desire that my vows and words honor David, to also be a testament to God for the marriage he has so richly blessed us with, and also be a takeaway for anyone secretly needing a special word of encouragement for themselves.

RENEWAL VOWS AND HONOR TO MY BELOVED HUSBAND
(Complete version from the condensed version spoken at our
Wedding Vow Renewal)
By Lori A Alicea

Twenty five years ago, I married the man of my dreams. Little did I know how my dreams would unfold, spending every minute, hour, day and year of these twenty five years with you.
wedding married DAVID AND LORIIf I could say anything, at least for us, marriage is wrapped up in the little things. We aren’t rich, live in a fancy house or drive a fancy car.  In fact, the two biggest rust buckets are parked outside as we speak.

But our rust buckets, or Johnny Junks as our kids called them back in the day, embarrassed them when we picked them up for school, or loaded them full of bikes and camping equipment for vacation.

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

When our girls were little, you’d blow dry their hair after baths on Saturday before church on Sunday. I can still see them in your long white tea shirts.  Written on the backs of both shirts with a marker was a big “A” standing for Audra, one with a “C” standing for Candace.  I guess the girls were worried we’d mix up their jammies.

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

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

Fun could always be found in your back pocket.

You were never too tired to take the girls to the park when they were little.

Now we live at the park with the grandchildren.

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

Though my kids have a dad and we will always honor that, you have been the best version of a dad that any mother could have ever wanted for her kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the kids got older, you’d fix their cars, help paint their houses; whatever they needed. Only payment required was that they fed you lunch so you wouldn’t throw up as you have such a sensitive stomach.
nate and david fixing carYou have been the Best dad to your son. You call him every day while you both are driving among many other things.

You are a wonderful and loving dad to our “son ‘n love” Kyle and “daughters ‘n love” Kristy and Crystal.

Though we are a blended marriage, there have never been any “steps” in our family. The only “steps” in our house are those that lead to the heart.
wedding married DAVID AND LORI AND FAMILYIt was so hard when our kids began to grow up feeling the nest wrestle as they left one after the other, and it became just you and me. We drowned in the silence and loneliness as we missed them so much; funny though, in time we learned to love just being the two of us.

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

Now life started having real meaning.

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

When the military moved Jake and his family to Washington State and he needed his car driven to him requiring a three day journey through the crazy mountains that freaked me out, you said, “Let’s go.”

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

candace ethan bigger

When the military moved Jake and the family again to Washington DC and many times over the next three years, when Crystal was beyond stressed with Jake working day and night at the hospital, with the grass out of control, when the boxes of Jake’s to-do-list aren’t getting checked off, and Crystal needs a break from the household chores, you always said, “Let’s go.”

When your lonely DC grandbabies say that the only thing they want for Christmas is their grandparents, and though we couldn’t make it for Christmas, you did say “Let’s go” for an early Thanksgiving.

In the eyes of our grandkids, you are famous – the grandkids favorite drink is named after you called Papa’s juice, also known as Crystal light. The Grandkid’s favorite store that you take them to is called Papa’s store, also known as Dollar General.

Years ago, we bought two bikes for ourselves, one with a car seat in the back. Our journey of a million miles with our grandkids began.  Living in the country, we rode our bikes everywhere.  We’d find bikes set out for trash and brought them home for each of them.  All the grandkids have a bike and pass them down to their cousins when they outgrow them.

We host Cousin Camp every Friday while our grown kids have an overnight date night without their children. I am in charge of cooking and taking care of the little ones.  You are in charge of the fun.  There is no minimum age requirement for Cousin Camp, usually getting them at six weeks.  The hardest part will be when these babies won’t want to come to cousin camp anymore, closing our infamous cousin camp doors for good.

During the midnight hour of Cousin Camp, I always find myself making rounds, counting the faces of our sleeping beauties, making sure they are safe in their dreams, only to silently laugh at what looks like the aftermath of a JR Frat party. Every now and then I find that the three little ones have raided the closet¸ nestled and swallowed up in their papa’s winter coats.  Maybe it’s the soothing, lingering smell of papa’s cologne on the collar.  Maybe it’s the comfort of sleeping in papa’s arms, even if it’s in the sleeves of your winter coat.
papas coatSaturday mornings, you could always hear the giggles and little feet of babies scurrying to get to papa’s side of the bed to wake you up. Sure made you sad when they stopped.  Now Ayva and Aubrey look for you under the covers.

Whenever we facetime the grandkids, they always want to talk to their papa. Hello, what about Gaga.  Where’s my papa?  Papa, Papa, Papa.

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

It’s funny how we can sense the slight wrestling of the nest again. Grandkids are growing up.  Brooke is in high school.  Aubrey will be losing her “papal” (pacifier) soon and I don’t know when Kizzy will lose her thumb sucking.

Even though it is still a few years away, we sense the wrestling of the nest nevertheless.  Then it will be back to you and me again.  But God has great plans for the gray hairs of our world.  He never wants us to get comfortable, because he will be unfolding dreams for our lives to the very end.

You Love so well. You forgive so well.

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

You are a wonderful son to my mother. When mother lived a street over, you would stop by her house after work to raid her refrigerator and spend a few minutes with her.  You even learned to enjoy her game shows.
mom kitchenThe senior ladies at mom’s nursing home are crazy about you. They are always blowing you kisses.  This is after you have held their hand and told them how beautiful they look.

Every night you put toothpaste on my toothbrush and pull back my side of the covers before bed.

You are the best neighbor, especially when he is our landlord and brother n law. Always serving and doing though never asked, just mowing and plowing for him when he is working or especially this past year suffering with cancer.
IMG_3099You have loved me by loving our kids.
You have loved me by loving our parents.
You have loved me by being the hero of our grandchildren.
You have loved me by loving God.

And to think that 25 years ago I almost missed all of this when I had the arrogance and audacity to contemplating on saying no to God’s best in you, believing his best didn’t fit or conform to what I had envisioned for myself. Thankfully, our Pastor at the time, the man who had shepherded and fathered my heart for the last five years imparted wisdom in my confusion, “Just believe with your heart, and God will allow you to see with your eyes.”
Pastor preaching at weddingWhen you knocked on my door that very first time to pick me up for a Valentine’s Dance, still nervous about surrendering my will to God, how Pastor’s words still whispered to me, “Just believe and God will allow you to see.” When I opened the door, darkness became day and finally saw God’s best in you with my own eyes.  God just wanted first my surrendered heart, my trust, my yes.

I haven’t taken my eyes off of you ever since.
valentines dayI thank God every day that I headed Pastor’s counsel and said yes to God and said yes to you.

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

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

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You hit a homerun every time you step up to the plate in our marriage and everyday life.
Baseball familyYou say you wish you could have given me the fancy house, the fancy car and diamond ring. I say it’s been like Christmas every day for the last 25 years.  You have given me gifts wrapped in glittered paper topped with sparkled bows.  You have given me gifts that money could never afford to buy.  Gifts that have made me feel loved from the moon and back, gifts that are wrapped in the little things.
xmas tree presentsI will love you forever.
wedding, video kissingI will dream with you forever.

I will be by your side forever.
wedding, david and loriThank you for the most amazing 25 years.

I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25.  I love you.
Your wife, Lori
wedding funny faces

TAKE YOUR PLACE AT THE TABLE By Lori A Alicea

Reserved at the “table of opportunity” is a seat specifically set aside with your name assigned, waiting for you to take your place at the table.

“Tables of opportunity” are set up everywhere.

Board rooms, war rooms, living rooms.

Tables set where conversations of like-minded others are casting vision, forming strategies or dreaming big dreams together.

You’ve been invited.
The invitations have all been mailed.
The guest list has you in attendance.
You’ve been seated with others on purpose and for a reason.

All that waits now is for you to take your place at the table.
England wedding table

As an event decorator for over a decade, I’ve set and decorated tables for a multitude of events.

WEDDINGS.

 

SHOWERS.

 

BIRTHDAYS.

 

HOLIDAYS.

 

Regardless the gathering, tables are set and prepared with guests seated together on purpose, for reasons only the Host would know.

From the beginning of time, God, the Host of our life had a plan.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

God’s plan for us includes prosperity, hope and a future.

God’s plan involves a lifetime of events, setting tables and pouring over guest lists, putting people together at “tables of opportunity” that they might discover another piece of their life’s puzzle.

We must keep watch with constant awareness of where we’re seated, and whom we’re seated by as they might hold in their pocket the keys for those locked doors of your future.

For every guest list baring our name, be willing to take your place at the table.

Sometimes God asks you to set the table for someone else’s dream.Hall pic
A dream bigger than himself.

A dream of tsunami proportion that had the potential to impact a great population as a statesman.

Years ago, my pastor said yes to run for office; my husband and I said yes to setting the table for a fundraiser in his honor.

 

Dreams were never meant to be dreamt alone.
The vision was cast before us.
The strategies were laid ahead of us.

God’s plan at this “table of opportunity” would give everyone the honor to lock arms with the call on our Pastor’s life.

Understanding that what you make happen for someone else, God will make happen for you.  Apostle Tetsola

 

Seated at the table were many eager to hear a statesman’s message.
pastor picSeated also at the table were his wife, children and parents who supported him unconditionally and had his back when the campaign arrows of lies and deceit were launched.

 

A statesman fully aware of the consequence of saying “yes” to the call, yet empowered and encouraged by the Founding Father’s bravery when they signed the Declaration of Independence:

Written in the Declaration of Independence and DECLARED by our Founding Father’s with their signatures…”And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

 It is written in “The Americans Who Risked Everything”, not one defected or went back on his pledged word.  Their honor and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

Of all the tables I’ve set over the past decade, this “table of opportunity” inspired me to dream bigger, risk more, and want more of what God has for me.

As a military mom, I loved my country more because of this opportunity.

 

I know my pastor’s wife saw stars too in her statesman also.
Marion STars pic

Pull your chair up to the table seated in the honor of an invited guest.

You don’t belong at the kid’s table.

Take your assigned seat at the “table of opportunity” as that is where God’s plan in you belongs.
place cardsEmbrace the call on your life.

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  Philippians 3:14

Believe that God is laying out his finest linens, priceless china and exquisite meal before you.
Keep vigil of those you dine with.

You will be seated at many “tables of opportunity” until you dine with Jesus at his banquet table in heaven.

While you dine this side of heaven, never doubt God’s plan for your life.

“Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself.”  -John Bingham, running speaker and writer

Whatever the event set before you,

BE BOLD AND TAKE YOUR PLACE AT THE TABLE.

STARTS WITH A DREAM By Lori A Alicea

You were born with a gift.

A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.
Proverbs 18:16 ESV

You were born with a dream.

You were born to do what only you can do.

Your audience anxiously waits for you to take your stage and give them the “performance of a lifetime.”

Olympians began with a dream.
Pulitzer Prize winners began with a dream.
Presidents began with a dream.

Famous chefs, dancers, athletes, climbers, singers, writers, etc. all began by believing in themselves that God has great purpose for the talent he blessed them with.

Those with dreams don’t step on their stage in a day.

Hard work, sweat and sacrifice are dreamer’s heavy weights they bench-press for years.

Dreamers push away “easy” clutching “for dear life”
The difficult;
The “what could be”;
The impossible;
The belief God created them for greatness.

What’s your dream?

YOUR DREAM COUNTS!
Pastor Victoria Raftery
Founder of Dream Chic at Laurel Church

No dream too small to impact the world.

Dreams aren’t measured in size.  Dreams are measured by heart, passion and vision, ingredients of a tried and true Recipe for Success.

Brookie’s Cookies
A Bakery coming soon to your neighborhood!

Dreamers aren’t measured in age either.

Young dreamers are inspirational with their willingness to try.
Young dreamers have seeds of greatness waiting their time to bloom.
Cultivation unearths a young dreamers talent.
May grown up eyes notice the dreams of the young and pave the way for them as…

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…James 1:17

Cova Grace,
A Heart Full of Music and Dance Expression

Dreams aren’t for the weak, the faint of heart.
Dreams require your grueling hours of training and practice.

Dreams require muscles of strength to “hold on” when dream naysayers taunt you unmercifully to “let your dream go”.

 Bristol,
An Award Winner of Dedication and Discipline to her Dream

Dreams require you to kick around ideas whose answers might require a grueling mountain climb.

Author John Maxwell says it best, “Everything worth doing is uphill.”

To reach the top requires a climb to the top, yet remind yourself along the agonizing way to your dream, you were born for this.

Hollis and Rosalee
A Picture Painted in Tenacity and Spirit of Adventure

Dreamers are risk takers.
Dreamers shoot the ball risk missing the shot, yet confidently take their shot anyway.
Dreamers stay in the game, they are aggressive not fearing a foul.

Brodie Allen
Our Determined Dreamer

Dreamers keep taking their swing at the plate. 

Dreamers are keenly aware that in their persistent swinging, one day contact is made with their dream. It’s inevitable and the stats are in your favor if you just keep on swinging.

You might even surprise yourself and hit your dream out of the park.

Ethan
A Dream Slugger to Reckon With

Young dreamers eventually grow up.
Young dreamers realize in time that not all storybook dreams end with:
“They lived happily ever after”.

Some dreams die.
For the first few years of our marriage my husband grieved during the spring training season of professional baseball.
Reliving his glory days as a varsity baseball catcher in his freshman year each spring training season, unable to let go of his dashed dreams of becoming a professional baseball player until my husband made finally made peace with his failed dream.

Facing the fence of failure some dreamers stop dreaming for fear of failure again.

But we are reminded:

Failure is not fatal.
Only failure to get back up is.
Author / Motivational Speaker John Maxwell

David baseball 001
Father and Son Dreamers
Both Singers, Our Son a Tower of Strength

Every day is a good reason to line up for a new race.
Every day is a fresh start to believe for a new dream.

May we never lose sight or great hope of the unbelievable things God wants to do through the dreams he gave us.

20 Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.
Ephesians 3:20 TPT

For those who’ve stopped dreaming, close your eyes and begin dreaming again.
Don’t believe the lie you’ve convinced yourself of that you’re too old.
Life hasn’t passed you by.
You can be fruitful even in the second half of life.

14 ….. Even in their old age they will stay fresh,
bearing luscious fruit and abiding faithfully.  Psalm 92:14 TPT

God wants to show off through you to the next generation.

18 God, now that I’m old and gray, don’t walk away.
Give me grace to demonstrate to the next generation
all your mighty miracles and your excitement,
to show them your magnificent power!  Psalm 71:18 TPT

IT STARTS WITH A DREAM.

YOUR STAGE IS WAITING.
DON’T BE AN ONLOOKER.
TAKE YOUR STAGE.

YOU WERE BORN FOR THIS.

Ayva tap

Sweet Ayva
Born for her Stage

YOUR DREAM COUNTS!
Pastor Victoria Raftery
Founder of Dream Chic at Laurel Church