PURSUIT OF A PERSONAL BEST  By Lori A Alicea

I once read…

When you find your why,
You’ll find your way.
John C. Maxwell

You’ll find your way in the why of your purpose…
Your why in the fine print of your birth certificate…
Your why in the reasons to get up in the morning…

These whys are God’s plans to conquer the ground of our purpose; while armed with our gifts and our talents.

Gifts and talents perfectly fitted for each purpose.

Gifts and talents perfectly fitted for you.FINAL POSE

But how often when we face the mirror of comparison do we feel God packed the other guy’s tool box of gifts and talents more generously than ours; overwhelmed in our inadequacies for His plans.

Facing that same mirror with my writing and event decorating skills, I stand here just as guilty.

Lost in the words of other authors I question my own words.

The allure and breathtaking decorations of other events play with my mind of measuring up.

Yet, God did not call us to compare our talents.
God called us to trust Him in our gifting;

That a pursuit of a personal best in our gifting;
Will find us prepared to find our way in the why of our purpose.

We must strive for gold in pursuit of our personal best.

We’ll find our way in God’s word for our personal best.

Study to show thyself approved…
2 Timothy 2:15FINAL PLAN 2

Oh, that our falls and our fails be those lessons which teach us and keep us from giving in to giving up.

Sometimes you win,
Sometimes you learn.
John C. Maxwell

When the challenges are over our head,
Just close your eyes and do it afraid.

Do it afraid.
Joyce Meyers

Be your own person.
Improve your personal gifts.
Improve your personal talents.

Pursue a personal best.

You never know who’s watching?FINAL INFLUENCE

Keep your aim towards that pursuit of God’s purpose.

Eventually, you’ll hit the mark.

Remembering…

If you aim at nothing,
You’ll hit it every time.
Zig Ziglar

If God was giving out medals for personal bests,

He’d slip them in the purses of grandmothers,
And hand them out through her.

Such was the awards ceremony between me and my grandson Hollis.IMG_3502

Moving into a neighborhood where little boys learned to ride a skateboard first before learning to walk on two feet; my grandson took to the sport at a great disadvantage.

But it never showed in Hollis’ confidence.

Though awkward and unbalanced at times,

Hollis’ unrelenting tenacity to “try again” around the local boys his age who mastered their jumps and moves already, found this grandmother digging in her purse for medals of best attitude, best spirit, best attempts, and all-round personal best.

If this grandmother directed movies instead of decorating tables and authoring blogs,

I promise you a cartoon of neighborhood skateboarders would be encouraging other little boys and girls on Saturday mornings.

There’s a stage for every gift.

A man’s gift makes room for him…
Proverbs 18:16 NKJV

You don’t need big talent to make room for you,

When you have a big God who has talented you perfectly for the stage He sees you taking.

But before that moment catches you unaware,
We must be in pursuit of our personal best,

To be prepared and ready for that day,

When your name is called to take the stage.

Yes, if God awarded medals through grandmothers,

This neighborhood boy,

Would take the platform and be highly decorated for

Personal heart,
Personal courage,
Personal joy and,
Pursuit of his personal best.

The world is his stage.

God can always do what we on our own cannot.

We just have to see ourselves in the mirror this way.

FINAL STAGE 1

IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS By Lori A Alicea

With the Christmas holidays finally here, most of us have completed our shopping and gifts of all sizes and shapes have been wrapped and placed under the tree to honor our longstanding tradition and spirit of giving.

So many gifts have been purchased from wish lists, ideas, hunches, or desperate last minute resorts when a person is too difficult to buy for.

When the long-awaited mystery inside the wrapping paper is finally revealed, gifts have a way of sparking a range of our emotions.

From tears, screaming and jumping for joy for the gift idea that you nailed.

To the eye-roll and half-smile of the present you’re confident will be returned or re-gifted.

Or the recipient who laughs or stops mid-sentence in their remarks of their newly unwrapped gift, “Ohhhhh…you shouldn’t have”.
Translation….you shouldn’t have.

There are those gifts from an elderly grandparent or person of “limited means” you appreciate because it’s their thought that counts.

Sometimes though Christmas pauses with a moment you least expect, catching you and your heart unaware and off guard when you receive that present you first have to wonder about for a few minutes, then breathe out a bit of Christmas “awe” as you realize that what you hold isn’t the gift,

But the priceless THOUGHT is the GIFT.

This was Christmas for me years ago, but I remember the details like yesterday.

Gathered around the table after Thanksgiving dinner that year, my husband’s family and I rummaged the Black Friday newspaper ads for ideas to clip out and share between each other for our secret Christmas gift exchange.

All night long we laughed, passed newspaper pages around and clipped out three ideas for our personal wish list.

One idea out of character for me as I am not a “girly girl” who primps and pampers herself for hours, was this sweet manicure set complete with polishes and lotions that caught my attention. Prior to this gift exchange, I wasn’t one to paint my nails, but this adorable manicure set had me thinking that maybe I should start.

When the evening finally drew the curtains to a close at this family Thanksgiving dinner, with most members ready to share their wish lists with a secret Santa, decisions were made at the last minute to nix the gift exchange idea, citing no plausible reason than “just because”, maybe next year.

With my wish list in hand sighing one last time at the manicure set I could have easily bought for myself, crumpled and threw the paper of ideas into the trash, walking away never discussing my Christmas desire nor giving any thought of it the rest of the Christmas season.

While Christmas is a time of secret Santa gift exchanges in many relational circles, Christmas is also a sentimental time to remember your neighbors.

On our country rural street of 350 North where we lived at the time, there were only five houses with five mailboxes at the end of each our neighbors two acre plot of land. Old wooden fences divided most of our properties, and neighbors talked to each other from time to time at the fence, getting to know one another in small talk.

Old man Chester lived with his wife on the east side of our property, and widowed Betty on the west. In our twenty year stay living on 350 North, we became close friends with Betty who took an interest in our blended family and collie.  Chester on the other hand, we occasionally waved to while mowing the grass, plowing the snow, or drinking coffee outside on a sunny day.  We learned of him through his habits and ways, as neighbors usually do living so close in proximity to one another.

This particular Christmas something seemed “off” at Chester’s house. His driveway hadn’t been plowed for weeks.  Newspapers piled up on the front porch.  We rarely saw an evening light burning through Chester’s windows.  We hadn’t seen any sighting of Chester or his wife during the month of December that year.  So, with a tin of homemade Christmas cookies and a worried look, my husband David walked over to Chester’s front door in neighborly concern and softly knocked.  Not expecting an answer with the windows completely dark, David still knocked a few times and to his surprise, a weary neighbor greeted my husband and opened his home for a Christmas visit.

For over an hour, I waited anxiously for my husband’s return. Off and on while busy making cookies, I looked up at our two-acre driveway through the kitchen window for a sighting of my husband David.  Finally, catching a glimpse of him in the moonlit night walking back down the driveway and into the house, he somberly took a seat at the dinner table where I joined him.

Re-telling his visit with Chester, my heart broke to learn that our neighbor had been holding a faithful vigil near his dying wife’s hospital bed these last December weeks, who sadly entered into eternity a few days prior, leaving behind her grieving husband of over fifty years.

Receiving news like this the “lists of Christmas” begin to pale in its relevance; the baking, the shopping, the caroling, the tree lighting, etc. are irrelevant when someone loses a loved one. In the hurt of someone else’s deep wounds and pain, Christmas could do all of us a favor and exit early until another December next year.

But to my surprise, Chester’s sorrow hadn’t quenched his spirit of giving, and sent an unexpected Christmas present home to me, a neighbor he mostly knew in passing.  Taken from the hospital box of his wife’s belongings that still sat on the living room floor when he first arrived home without her, Chester reached inside and handed David a small tin that bore the name of the hospital where Chester’s wife had lived her remaining weeks.
this one 1A small hospital gift to his wife was now a gift to me. Removing the top portion of the tin, it revealed an early desire of my Christmas heart I had forgotten about but God hadn’t; a manicure nail set, albeit miniature.
this oneAt first glance, Chester overwhelmed me when during the darkest hours of his life; he was emotionally willing and able to think of somebody other than himself, by giving me a gift that embodies the sentiment:

“It’s the thought that counts.”

Moments later, God overwhelms my heart realizing when no one knew about this gift but Him, God reveals Himself in a hospital manicure set meant for somebody else, yet through a grieving man, prompted the spirit of giving to me.

So often at Christmas we look for the biggest present, or the most expensive, even the prettiest, wrapped gift under the tree.

Sometimes at Christmas, the best gifts are the least expected.

When I least expected, a gift of a different kind was waiting for me under my Christmas tree so many years ago.

What I had forgotten my Heavenly Father remembered.

The Father who knows every detail of my life that …the very hairs of your head are numbered… Luke 12:17 NIV

He Remembered.  

The Father’s THOUGHT of me that Christmas was His GIFT.

MY CHRISTMAS GIFT OF OLD By Lori A Alicea

Christmas as a grandmother of ten changed everything for me.

Remembering how my grandparents put so much thought and festivity into Christmas Eve for us six kids and our cousins, an evening we looked forward to every year, stirs me to be a memory maker as my grandfather and grandmother were, to intentionally leave behind indelible Christmas card moments in the minds of our grandchildren.

Maybe our grandchildren watching a Hallmark movie might remind them of the lovely decoration creations that Gaga breathed holiday life into her house with.
USE as main pictureMaybe the old fashioned Christmas tree and specially wrapped gifts all stacked by the warm fireplace, waiting for anxious good little boys and girls to open might re-create a Norman Rockwell painting in their memories.
USE xmas tree presentsMaybe the Christmas table’s wintery themed centerpieces and place settings for everyone might remind them to always give thanks for those family members and friends sitting beside them for dinner.
2018 alicea xmas 2For me as a grandparent, it’s my inner child’s delight to unwrap the gift of our grandchildren’s excitement through every planned and unplanned moment of our Christmas gathering. I pray the next generation of grandparent’s experience the same holiday joy with their grandchildren as that last two generations have.  I pray I am honoring my grandparent’s legacy as I pass onto my grandchildren those Christmas memories they so generously gave to me.

Christmas Eve at my grandparents wasn’t the themed Christmas’ of today, yet holidays with them was every bit as memorable.

My grandparent’s tree was simple with its homemade ornaments and star, yet lacking in luster minus the sparkle of twinkling lights we use today, as the heavier miniature bulbs were popular in their day. I lavish though the ornaments that were passed to me from my grandmother’s tree, thinking of her just the other day when I decorated my own tree with a few of her treasures.

My grandparent’s cardboard fireplace set up in the basement corner looked authentic to a young girl as the plastic Santa sleigh and his reindeer did. I never told grandma, but I looked forward to seeing that fireplace every year, as we didn’t have one at home.

Grandma’s tables were accentuated and lit with holiday candles, which permeated the air with a Christmas fragrance of evergreen.
USE AS MAIN PICTURE 1Stacked by the fake fireplace were all of grandma’s gifts, each wrapped and topped with a pretty bow. Every grandchild snooped and found the package that bore their name in the stack.  With “ants in their pants” they counted the seconds until present time.
USE bowChristmas at my grandparent’s house was not the extravaganza of Christmas’ today. But Christmas at my grandparents nevertheless etched in my heart these framed moments I can see with clarity and enjoy today.

I remember all those rounds of pool with my cousins using the “kiddy pool table” that grandpa let us destroy over the years, while keeping the adult one hidden and covered.

Grandpa wowed and impressed us every year with the unveiling of his newest inventions awaiting a patent. Grandpa was super ingenious and had an infectious laugh.

Grandma kept our appetites satisfied before dinner with appetizers of meatballs and assortments of cheeses and crackers.

Once the dinner bell rang, I can still see Grandma Bertie going up and down the stairs to set the table with her famous roast and side items that completed our dinner. I sure missed her meals when Christmas Eve dinner became too much for grandma to prepare.

But my sweetest memory of Christmas at my grandmothers, was finding the table of her homemade Christmas cookies and peanut butter balls. I stuffed my mouth all night long full of her confections. The plate of cookies was as round as the table.  Grandma had to have baked for days to fill that plate.

When my grandparents passed away, we adult kids were allowed to go through their house and take whatever items remained of their life. I was blessed to inherit my grandmother’s cookbook full of holiday cookie recipes.  That sad day I secretly asked my aunt if anyone had taken grandma’s beaded two-layered table cloth sewn by my great aunt and crystal plate, both which decorated my grandmother’s cookie table every Christmas Eve.

Aunt Bonnie took me to a closet where this “Christmas Gift of Old” hung in quiet silence, hidden probably for years from that final Christmas Eve my grandmother hosted. My aunt was more than proud to say I could have this coveted memory.

Oh the years as I child I admired the intricate time consuming detail of this table cloth while eating my grandmother’s cookies. Now, as an adult, I still admire the time my great aunt gave to making this tablecloth, the inheritance that now covers a table during my holidays. I even serve my Christmas cookies on the same plate my grandmother did, taking me back to the days when Christmas was simpler, yet whose wonderful memories have stood the test of time.

I miss my grandparents and times spent with them as a child at their house on Christmas Eve.

It’s funny how so much energy and money is spent on Christmas gifts that most, including myself, can’t remember what we give or get from year to year.

But I’ve never forgotten my grandmother’s ornaments or cookie table cloth
USE TABLECLOTH FINAL
and plate inherited all those years ago,
USE cookie platter
invaluable gifts from a woman who has no idea how much I appreciate, the holiday gifts given in her honor,

My Christmas Gift of Old.

 

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