A DANCE INTO FOREVER  By Lori A Alicea

The wedding DJ has called for all the married couples to the dance floor for the next selection of the night.

Husbands and wives of every age began leaving their seats as the music to “their song” welcomed and gestured them to center stage.

Crowded on the dance floor were couples swaying back and forth in the arms with the one they said “I Do” to, however many years ago their altar moment was.

Minutes into their wedding waltz, the DJ announced that anyone married twenty-four hours or less must leave the dance floor.

The bride and groom both smiled and laughed as they took their position on the side lines.

The wedding waltz continues and dancing resumes once again.

The second stanza of the song began when the DJ stopped the music and ushered couples married five years or less to join the bride and groom along the outer circle of the stage.

The crowd on the dance floor began thinning out and it remained to be seen which twosome still dancing has been married the longest.

Couples married ten years or less were asked to join the others on the side lines.

Fifteen years or less…
Twenty-five years or less…
Thirty-five years or less…

By this time in the lyrics only a handful of marriages remain on the dance floor.

The children of parents and grandparents still dancing celebrate the rare treasure before them…

A gift and covenant of…

For richer or poorer…
In sickness and in health…
Until death…

Will we part…

The DJ’s announcement intensifies with excitement…

Forty-five years or less…

The waltz still plays as those couples on the sidelines began circling as a wedding ring around the final marriage of fifty golden years.

USE DANCE 2

This wedding ring of marriages circling the rare commitment of fifty golden years; a symbol of infinity which has neither beginning nor end; a display of love eternal and endless, and worn on the wedding finger closest to their heart.

This ring made of precious metal; an image depicting the sacredness of marriage, given to their betrothed with deep emotion and sentiment during the most sacred event of their life.USE then and nowUSE fifty sign

Fifty golden years is a testimony to the eyes who witness this miracle of dedication, two people trusting God during the valleys and mountain tops before them, persevering the journey together with Him in marriage.

USE DANCE 3

Those words of affirmation throughout the years seal and swell their abiding hearts of true love.CARDS 2A novel of words detailing the pursuit of rare pearls and treasure hunt of each other, passing on down thru the generations living beyond them a marriage’s lasting legacy.
CARDS 1Their kisses of thankfulness for another day thru the decades together.CARDS 3

Oh, the laughter which feeds their souls as a good medicine; stoking the fire of great joy which warms as a blanket around their arms on a cold winter day.
USE newleywood game

Holding close their gift of friendship…
Celebrating their nearest and dearest confidant…
Feeling safe with the one who holds the secret keys to their heart.USE cake

USE gifts

The wedding waltz continues and serenades the anniversary couple as they

Dance into forever.

Embraced in each other’s arms they’ll waltz from anniversary to anniversary, keeping in time with their covenant of forever until the music ceases to play.USE DANCE 1

Fifty golden years marks the marathon of miles two people in love have traveled together in marriage.

They are a covenant gift and testimony to their children and grandchildren and eyes of those who have witnessed their rare love for each other…

For richer or poorer…
In sickness and in health…
Until death…

Will we part…

USE couple sitting down

INTENTIONAL FRIENDS  By Lori A Alicea

Her name is Betty.

My next door-neighbor of many years and twenty years my senior, and yet our relationship celebrated differing views and perspectives; not competing generations.

Across the street where whistle blowing trains rattled our windows all hours of the day, was an old country street of five houses nestled under the acreage of trees they were built on, where barns, horses, gardens and chickens running loose added to the old fashion charm of a picturesque postcard.Jake 1

Betty and I began borrowing cups of sugar from each other when she was a young grandmother and I a young mother myself.

As neighbors, we smiled and witnessed from our porches and swing sets the passing of time in the growing faces of Betty’s grandchildren and my children between the two houses.

Betty’s twin granddaughters and two grandsons always seemed to sport a glove and bat for a family baseball game of endless innings in their backyard where parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, each took their position on the field.

My two year old son watched these games from the dugout of his sandbox, waiting his turn to be big enough for the team; my baby girl and I rooted Betty’s grand-kids from the window or lawn chair nearby.

Betty and I loved being home with our children and grandchildren, both sharing the arts of sewing, canning and crafts.

More than anything, we neighbors shared the same pew at heart when our love for God overflowed those morning cups of conversation.

USE church

As time passed by, my young children and I would leave the neighborhood in tears and brokenhearted due to an unwanted divorce, but would return years later as Betty’s next-door neighbor, newly married to the man of my dreams.

Sadly, moving back to this old country neighborhood of five houses where whistle blowing trains from across the street would fascinate my future grandchildren, Betty has said good-by in sickness to the love of her life; a marriage of thirty-five glorious years.

In her husband’s honor, Betty planted a backyard tree to celebrate his life and life going on thru nature in its magnificence towards the skies and God; a widow’s place of remembrance for someone she deeply loved.

Albeit divorce, sickness or death, Betty and I continued to share sugar and heartache over tears, conversations, hugs and sometimes sitting in silence as true friends and neighbors feel comfortable to do.

For years I felt guilty for all the celebrations of open houses, baby showers and parties that took place on the front acreage of our property, where life and laughter…

IMG_6070

Could be heard and seen from Betty’s house and open windows a few steps away.IMG_6069

Through our intentional friendship though, Betty continued to be encouraged and lifted up, reminding her through scriptures that God promised to be a husband to the widow, a father to the orphan, a redeemer for another day.

Fifteen years later God redeems Betty’s vacant heart at a high school reunion with the re-introduction of an old friend. Betty’s eyes illuminated with joy and happiness unspeakable once again as a little girl, and the two were married in the fall of that year; eventually moving out of the neighborhood to begin their newly married life in another state.

Distance didn’t change our friendship as the miles were bridged with Betty’s cards sent in the mail and my telephone calls to her.

Betty and her new husband would come into town every so often to visit family or attend their favorite quartet concerts, for which they stopped into the old neighborhood for a visit with us.

Not making excuses, but life started happening in those one by one good-byes to parents, grandparents and loved ones and moving two more times for us, somehow losing touch with Betty.

Interestingly, Betty’s cards stopped coming although I didn’t question it, assuming life was happening for her.

Sadly and heartbreaking enough, it was.

I decided to look Betty up on social media after three and a half years from our last conversation, when an arrow plunged my heart in despair after realizing Betty’s account had been moved to legacy status.

Not wanting to assume the worse, I searched the internet for an obituary, yet never finding one in my quest.

Remembering in former conversations of Betty’s wishes to be buried by her husband of thirty-five years, David and I drove to the old country cemetery a short distance from where Betty and I used to be neighbors, only to find that indeed, Betty had passed away mere months after our last conversation.USE cemetery

With only one dirt road winding through this final resting place of a few hundred loved ones, it didn’t take us long to find the headstone of Betty’s last name she once shared with the love of her life.USE dirt roads

To my surprise, Betty left behind a love story of a different kind, choosing to be remembered beside both men who stole this woman’s heart in life.

Not knowing for sure, I imagine Betty’s thoughts…

God didn’t forget Betty and she wanted to thank Him by telling the world her beautiful story beyond her absence.USE headstone

I’m so sorry for the conversations we didn’t have those final months of Betty’s life.  I regret not bidding good-by to my intentional friend.

I didn’t attend Betty’s celebration of life and convey to her family how much their mother and grandmother meant to a next door neighbor; only because I didn’t know.

But may these words be the flowers I send to Betty on her life’s Graduation day to heaven, albeit three and a half years after she received her diploma.USE flowers

Thank you Betty for decades of friendship, for cards, for sharing cups of sugar as next door neighbors do.

I will never forget you.

Remembering…

One day we will once again share a front row pew with God who will tip His heart’s tea-pot and overflow our morning cups of conversation.USE church

WELCOME HOME…By Lori A Alicea

Seasons are changing.

Maybe it’s just me, but once those July 4th finale of fireworks burst thru the air and the remaining sparklers illuminate its own show from our children’s hands, do you slightly sense the season’s changing of the guard.

While the hot days of summer remain as house guests thru August, fall is sneaking up the back steps though most are unaware, preparing to welcome itself to the neighborhood.WELCOME BUNNY

Principals everywhere are ringing the school bell for students to begin filling their backpacks full of paper, pencils and crayons, while bells of another kind are ringing down the Christmas isles of my favorite craft store; all in the summer month of July.

Ready or not, the season’s here; the changing of the guard for weather, time and calendar events.

In life, we’re also facing seasons unique to our address.

The weaving of seasons from one into the other, with winter, spring, summer or fall choreographing the dance of personal seasons we’re about to enter, experience, or exit, then weave and dance into another season before us.

While we’d all like to predict a forecast of blue skies and sunny days, the weather might report an overcast of clouds or showers for a season.

Regardless of the season, we’re encouraged to take our seat, stay awhile, and welcome the purpose and meaning for the season we’re in.WELCOME BENCH

On first impression when entering our doors, is a wooden sign with hooks for coats, sweaters or even purses for guests to hang their belongings and receive a heartfelt welcome into our home.

The same is true for entering a new season where we are encouraged to cast and hang our cares on Jesus, a place to feel safe, a place to call home, where the couch is comfy and ambiance speaks welcome.WELCOME HOME SIGN

The front door is a traffic jam of little boys and little girls taking off their shoes and placing them beneath the welcome sign of hanging cares and coats, where side by side their crocs, flips, sandals and gym shoes for little feet remain until they leave; a reminder that seasons are meant to be shared with others.shoes Kizzy

For twelve anguishing months beginning two years ago, our family experienced an unexpected and overwhelming winter season of ten, tearful good-byes.

At morning’s dawn, the waters slept and rested peacefully near the shores of our family’s heart.

Then, without notice or alarm, a family reaches once again for life vests as the waters wake and rise in swells and attempts to drown our hearts upon receiving another call.

We gasped and couldn’t catch our breath for long periods of time during this winter season of so many good-byes.

But God was good to us, near to us, sensing His presence, never leaving our side for a moment.CHURCH

The summer season thankfully returned as promised and wafted in the air a fragrance of peace and joy and remained a bit longer than the calendar noted its departure, hovering over as a healing balm for our family.

Running along the shores of our hearts this refreshing summer season were little feet and laughter of our ten grandchildren, who somehow without us looking, outgrew the shoes of our memory.

We grandparents celebrate the many seasons we’ve shared with these ten beautiful heirs of our legacy.

Their growing continues into the seasons and choreographed dances of their individual lives.

When fishing began and there were only six of them.

So many years ago…

Our ten grand-babies today.

The seasons are changing guard once again, handing off the summer baton to the season of fall.

It’s time to pack up the sand toys and sandals these children will sadly outgrow and walk into a new season of their own before summer next year.

FISHING 7

Seasons are changing.

While we’d all like to predict a forecast of blue skies and sunny days, the weather might report an overcast of clouds or showers for a season.

Regardless of the season, we’re encouraged to take our seat, stay awhile, and welcome the purpose and meaning for the season we’re in.

WELCOME BENCH

A GRANDPARENT’S MILESTONE!  By Lori A Alicea

“Where have twelve wonderful years gone?”

In the blink of an eye and ten grandchildren later, a milestone is months away from the intersection of “Letting Go” and “What’s Next Lord?” for this grandmother.

I do this to myself regarding most upcoming milestones in my life; reminiscing, savoring the memories, and rehearsing my approach to the milestone which waits for me this fall.

My kids might roll their eyes to my sentiment, and maybe consider this overly dramatic.

But that’s fine by me.

They haven’t walked this stretch of years in the shoes of a grandparent yet.

They haven’t witnessed the births of the next generation from the other side of the delivery door.

They haven’t soothed and rocked their grandchildren in the wee hours of the night, whose bond with them follows as they crawl, run, scrape their knees, participate in sports and sit with us during Grandparent’s Day at school.

They haven’t sewed a Godly heritage and family traditions into the fabric of those lives who call you Gaga and Papa.

So, when this grandmother is a bit sad approaching the intersection of “Letting Go” and “What’s Next Lord”, the milestone this fall where her two remaining grandchildren catch the bus for kindergarten, our adult children might want to take notes for their future reference.

Yes, I can barely comprehend how the pages of these past twelve years of school days have been the quick read they’ve been.

Outgrowing pull-ups and pacifiers for lunch boxes and backpacks, these world changers of ours have been overly excited to take their assigned seat on the school bus and in the classroom, where they’ll learn to write their name and absorb whatever the world opens up to them.

As our little students graduate from preschool, kindergarten and beyond, so must a grandparent graduate to the next step in God’s plan for her, where those Friday mornings spent at the park and Gaga’s house with her grandchildren not attending school yet are no longer needed.

Letting go of those smiles showing up for biscuits and gravy and sharing a cup of coffee with their parents after the school bus left already with the older children earlier is difficult.

Letting go of the idea of working so I might enjoy this small window of time as a stay-at-home grandparent was well worth the moments and memories never to be retrieved after all these boys and girls have taken their seat in the classroom.

So many firsts await our grandchildren when they’re old enough for school.

Parents and grandparents document these firsts as best they can through pictures and scrapbooks, hoping these milestones are seared into the memories of this next generation, reliving the details captured in time through stories and pictures.

Letting Go of the hands which used to hold on tight while walking across the street, now run without looking back as they once did before.

Though enjoying their grandchildren from the sidelines while parents take their rightful place on center stage, this “letting go so kids can grow” must happen.

Gone are the naps they begged to share with you, while watching Peppa Pig from the phone as they clutched their favorite blanket until we both fell fast asleep.

Nap time at one o’clock pm took place a bit longer than your mother approved, as I wasn’t ready to let go of our afternoon time together, even if you were.

But sadly, kindergarten signups came and off to school you went.

This stay-at-home grandmother even spent weeks away from home each year to share afternoons with her Hawaiian babies before they turned five, taking our special trips to the park and walks around the neighborhood.

Naps weren’t your thing but our afternoon time rocking to the moon and stars were the best.

Yes, this grandmother is a bit sad as she approaches the intersection of “Letting Go” and “What’s Next Lord”, the milestone this fall where her two remaining grandchildren pack their lunchboxes for school.

These two adorable faces that have grown up just as fast as the other eight, yet I savor the minutes and seconds I have left with them before the alarm clock rings for school.

“What’s next Lord?”

“How can anything be more fulfilling than time spent with your grandchildren?”

BENCH SCHOOLL 1 cousins on benchBut these gifts of ours are growing up.

BENCH SCHOOLL 2 bench of all grandchildren

They don’t need us like before, though this is God’s plan.

In letting go, they now have room to test their wings to fly.

BENCH SCHOOLL 3 All kids bikeriding

Papa and Gaga celebrate these treasured ten called our grandchildren.

They walked down the aisle and stood with us at the altar as we celebrated twenty-five years together in our Wedding Anniversary Renewal. The little ones thought we were getting married.

The best day ever spent with them.BENCH SCHOOLL Aniversary England kidsBENCH SCHOOLL Anniversary Cumbee Alicea kids

The weight of fall is heavy on this grandmother’s heart.

Kindergarten is coming for our two youngest granddaughters.

One will take her assigned seat on the yellow bus as well as the class room; the other will ride her bike with her siblings; and we couldn’t be more excited for them both.

The intersection of Letting Go and What’s Next Lord will be crossed with great joy as God’s plan continues to unfold in these children’s lives.

What’s next for this grandmother?

I’ll see the sign when I approach the intersection in a few short months.

God has a great plan for me too as I graduate from this season of stay-at-home grandmother.

Until then, I’ll savor every minute and second with these remaining two until the alarm clocks rings for school.

MORE THAN A COOKBOOK OF RECIPES  By Lori A Alicea

It was once quoted:

Most of us will be remembered, in work and in life, for just a few words or deeds that made a difference to others. The way we choose to say good-by is likely to be one of the ways we are remembered.
Frances Hesselbein

How true this was for my grandmother.

Who knew a large, table size crystal plate of homemade holiday cookies served on Christmas Eve each year of my childhood would be the memory I treasured most of my grandmother.

A small deed gaining no fame or recognition on the evening news; nor article in a Good Housekeeping magazine either.

But congregating around a basement table draped with a holiday scene of felt and sequins each December 24th, were her grandchildren ruining their dinner appetites gobbling their grandmother’s famous peanut butter balls, fudge and an assortment of decorated cookies; all full of homemade love.

Carrying this memory with me my whole life kept this little girl inside smiling around a table of cookies; so much so that all I wanted when my grandmother passed away was her cookbook of holiday recipes, her crystal plate and felt tablecloth of sequins.

Grandma’s memory was kept alive through the years when I’d set out her crystal cookie plate and fill it full of confections I remembered and loved as a child.

Recently, her cookbook found its way back into my cupboard after re-discovering this treasure while emptying a storage-unit full of boxes.

Never opening my grandmother’s heirloom after all these years until today, did I realize her valuable gift was more than a cookbook of recipes but also a time capsule of family mementos she saved.

Wedding invitations of my sister’s and mine from year 1978 and 1980.Belinda's wedding invite

Lori Wedding invite to Mike

A Christmas poem I authored and sent in the year 2004, only to be converted to my grandmother’s Christmas card list on the back. So many names I smiled to see on my grandmother’s circle of influence, though sad to remember a few good-byes since her Christmas list was written.2004 xmas poem

Bertie 2004 xmas list

A wedding anniversary card from my grandfather to his sweetheart, signing it ever so sweetly,

From Little Old Me,
DanGrandpa Houle anniversary card front

Grandpa Houle anniversary card inside

But what caught my attention most were a few prayers written by my grandmother, hidden between the pages of her cookbook of recipes.

Randomly written on the backs of other pages as was her Christmas list, my grandmother poured out her heart before God, unknowingly blessing her adult granddaughter decades later.

I never knew Grandma Bertie in this private and intimate way, so to unearth the overflow of my grandmother’s heart framed in two small prayers are the few words I’ll also remember and cherish her by as Frances Hesselbein once quoted:

Most of us will be remembered, in work and in life, for just a few words or deeds that made a difference to others. The way we choose to say good-by is likely to be one of the ways we are remembered.
Frances Hesselbein

Prayer By My Grandmother
Alberta (Bertie) Houle

Heavenly Father, as we begin each day, let our thoughts turn to you and ask your help in guiding us in everything we do and trust that you will see we receive what we need daily.

Give us courage to face life’s trials and let us keep in mind, “Your will”, not “mine” be done, and help us understand you know what’s best for us.
Amen

Grandma Bertie prayer 1

Another Prayer By My Grandmother
Alberta (Bertie) Houle

Heavenly Father, we thank thee for all the love that has been given us.

For the love of family and friends and above all for your own love poured out upon us every moment of our lives.

Forgive our unworthiness.
Forgive the many times we have disappointed those who love us.

Teach us your own consistency in love, your humility, selflessness, and generosity in everything we do.

In your name we pray.
AmenGrandma Bertie prayer 2

My grandmother took with her to heaven the reasons she memorialized these prayers instead of secretly lifting them to God’s ears only.

But finding my grandmother’s hidden words between the pages of a cookbook and sealed with a kiss for a granddaughter decades after they were written is one priceless gift.

For some reason I was supposed to discover them today when all I aspired to do was hold a grandmother’s cookbook of my childhood memories.

God is full of surprises when you least expect, when you’re not even looking.

Today, was one of those days.

OUR CUP RUNNETH OVER By Lori A Alicea

Can you hear it?

Close your eyes and quietly listen for the pitter-patter of tiny rain drops dancing in the puddles with one another.

rain puddle

Imagine a small child abandoned in the kisses of a delicate spring shower against her face.

rain girl running in field

Can you hear it?

Bask in the soothing song of a gentle waterfall which flows into a peaceful stream below.

waterfall

Rain drops dancing in puddles.
A small child kissed from the spring shower against her face.
The music of a waterfall cascading over the river banks into the stream below.

With eyes still closed, imagine your cup full of God’s blessings, cascading over the rim into the puddles and quiet stream of your cup’s saucer.

It is written…

…my cup overflows with blessings.
Psalms 23:5 (NLT)

Our life is a cup.
Oh, that our eyes see the overflow of our cups as God’s abundance, His “more than enough” for us, heaven’s wealth in our life.

Looking back in the rear-view mirror of the past 365 days, it’d be easy to believe we’ve been drinking from the bitter cup throughout this year of 2021.

Navigating the “firsts” of our maiden year without mother would have been a cup full for our family these last twelve months.

goodby mom

But then the calm cascade over the rim of our cup caught us gasping for breath when the peaceful stream became a rip-current of ten more good-byes.

A Final Call for our military brother Joe.

One final lap for our Indy 500 enthusiast brother Mark.

Another brother Ruben.

goodby ruben

Two Papa’s.

Three cousins.

Two friends.

Yes, so many good-byes;
So many home-going celebrations;
So many tears;

Yet, a cup of rejoicing as all our loved ones took their seat around the Father’s Banqueting Table in heaven.

Sometimes we need to trace God’s hand to understand his heart.

God is a good Father, even when our eyes are blinded to his ways.

Regardless of so many good-byes, God was ever present in the joys of all our hellos in each new day.

Life presses forward with or without our consent. The sun continues to shine amid a cloudy day. You must be intentional to witness God’s hand upon our days, the mini miracles of a cup overflowing.

2021 has been a cup of mini miracles in the Alicea family.

Papa and I have enjoyed our ten grandchildren embrace their gifting and special places in our lives.

We’ve smiled and thanked God for sons who watered their daughter’s hearts at a Daddy Daughter Dance.

We’ve rejoiced over our oldest granddaughter’s Sweet Sixteen, taking her first steps into womanhood.

A husband and wife thanked God for another glorious year of marriage celebrated at their honeymoon cottage.

We are forever grateful for our furry family.

We give God all the glory for the wonderful parents our children have become.

This father is overwhelmed by his daughter who has blossomed into her own.

papa david audra xmas 2021

We’ve cherished the quality time spent with our grandchildren; especially when it meant travelling to Hawaii to hug them.

With eyes still closed, our cup is full of God’s blessings, cascading over the rim into the puddles and quiet stream of our cup’s saucer.

Yes it is written…

…my cup overflows with blessings.
Psalms 23:5 (NLT)

We see our cup running over even though a husband and wife spent the 2021 Christmas and New Year’s holidays alone, from each other and from family.  Although, we were never truly alone.
As another name for Jesus is Immanuel,
God with us.

Christmas was never about us, but about a baby born in a manger, a Savior who would one day grow up and bear the cross for our salvation; a Christmas gift of eternity if we’d receive Him.
manger scene

For this alone,
Our Cup Runneth Over!

The Body of Christ at Christmas By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s Something About That Name

By Gloria Gaither and Bill Gaither

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

Yes, there’s something about that name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAKE TIME TO TELL YOUR STORY  By Lori A Alicea

We all have stories to tell, don’t we?

Whether you have lived a day or a hundred years, there’s a story about your life worth telling.

Your dreams…
Your successes…
Your failures…
Your heartaches…
Days you wish you could get back and do over…
Days you longed for but never happened…
School days…
College days…
Work days…
Marriage…
Divorce…
Friendships…
Death…

At our birth, a diary of blank pages awaits the journaling, chronicling, scrap-booking and jotting down for our remembrance those events when we rejoiced in the successes, gathered our tears in the losses, and traced God’s heart though it all while traveling the valleys up to the mountain tops of our lives; a library of hope passed on down to the next generation.

We must remember the goodness and faithfulness of God in all things; as He is a husband to the widow.  A father to the fatherless.  Our defense in the face of injustice.  He is freedom in our surrender.  He is provision in our lack.  He is an open door in a neighborhood of closed.  He is a light in the darkness.  He is the answer to our questions.  He is a stream in the dry desert.  He is our way when there seems to be no way.  GOD IS!  HE JUST IS!

Yes, document the days that had you dancing, laughing and smiling.

But difficult stories are also worth mining beneath the surface to discover the treasure buried in those hard times we’d rather forget. As those gold nuggets of God “bringing us through” what we thought would bring us death is wealth we must share among our heirs;

When we take the time to tell our story.

We must tell our stories to the world, as well as to the generations of our legacy, because all it takes is one generation to forget about God, and there goes their hope here on earth and a future with Him in eternity.

We must take time to tell our story.

Parents have been charged by God to obey His commandments; to love Him and serve Him with all their heart and soul so their days are multiplied and their land is blessed.

Parents have also been charged to teach these same truths to their children, reminding them day and night, that they might receive the same inheritance of blessing promised to their parents.

13”And if you will indeed obey my commandments
That I command you today,
To love the Lord your God,
And to serve Him
With all your heart
And with all your soul,
.

19You shall teach them to your children,

20You shall write them on them
On the doorposts of your house
And on your gates…

21That your days and days of your children
May be multiplied in the land
That the Lord swore to your fathers
To give them,
As long as the heavens
Are above the earth.”
Deuteronomy 11:13, 19, 20, 21 (ESV)

Such is this hidden wealth to bequeath our children and children’s children, our life lived for God through our stories.

Everything changed for my husband David and I when grandchildren began filling our laps and stealing our hearts.

Overcome by their sweet faces and our love that overflowed an ocean for all ten of these gifts, we grandparents longed to give them each the moon, but knew giving them God meant riches beyond counting.

Hearing the amplified voice of God speak in a grandparent’s ear to leave an inheritance we listened, we followed.

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…
Proverbs 13:22 (ESV)

Though still living these truths before our grandchildren, we began telling about the goodness and faithfulness of God through our stories, transferring the baton of our legacy and inheritance into the grips of the next generation, that they might run their race loving and serving God with all their heart, soul and mind.

Going through the journals of our own lives as young and adult children, we recall and remember the Godly inheritance passed down to us from the generation previous through their stories, albeit just as imperfect as ours, yet the rich legacy we received in their saying “yes” to Jesus.

God’s “more than enough” provision through our hard working fathers.

God’s unrelenting hope through our mother’s who never gave up on us when “giving up” seemed to be our only option.

God’s amazing love through grandparents to our children and their great grandchildren, an example we watched and learned from along the sidelines, whose footsteps we’d follow when becoming grandparents ourselves.

I lament the questions I never asked the generation previous.

I wished I would have sat at the feet of our legacy more often and allowed them to impart the wisdom they gleaned from the fields they sown and reaped from; possibly avoiding a few of their mistakes instead of repeating them.

In the busyness of my younger self,
I didn’t take the time to hear their stories
While they were still with us to hear.

One by one we buried stories when we buried them, journals never to be opened or read again; for that, I am deeply saddened.

But yet, we are still a rich family for the Godly inheritance and legacy they left in our hands and the hands of their “children’s children.”

Reminding us of God’s charge to tell the next generation of His goodness and faithfulness through our lives and through our stories;

In keeping His commandments; to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind.