OUR CHRISTMAS PHOTOGRAPH By Lori A Alicea

A Christmas Greeting Card
From Our House to Yours…

Our Christmas past, though long ago,
And Christmas almost here.
The magic of this day the same,
Ring in, Oh Christmas Year.

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The guests are soon to all arrive,
The hustle’s always there.xmas 2017 4

The tree is decorated grand,
The gifts are picked with care.

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The music plays around the clock,
Those Christmas tunes of cheer.
The cookies baked and cards sent out,
Just like we do each year.

Such secrets kept inside each gift,
And placed beneath the tree.
Our snooping kids who try and guess,
Just what’s inside for me?

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Such fantasy this Christmas day,
Alive, the kid in us.

KEEP KIDS XMAS GROWN CHILDREN

So worth the wait throughout the year,
So worth the added fuss.

And though we think that Christmas ends,
December twenty-five.
There is a place where joy remains,
And Christmas stays alive.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

It’s after all the lights unplugged,
And tinsel put away.
And everyone returns back home,
No greetings left to say.

KEEP HOME

The place where Christmas stays alive,
You hear each other laugh.
You see what truly matters most,
That Christmas photograph.

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From Christmas many years ago,
It seems like yesterday.

The faces of the ones we love,
All froze in time this way.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Our kids beside the Christmas tree,
We parents gaze awhile.
And long the days of Christmas past,
Their little hands and smile.

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And best of all the pictures ‘round,
The table that we sit.
Together as a family,
And candles specially lit.

From year to Christmas year is best,
When gather ‘round to eat.
To give our thanks to God above,
For those in every seat.

Though looking back in Christmas time,
Some faces not aware.
Though how our lives were richly blessed,
The year we saw them there.

For those who live away from us,
We celebrate apart.XMAS MY KIDS DAVID AND AUDRA XMAS 2020KEEP KIDS 2014 jake cova xmas treeCD44F88E-A7DA-485B-88ED-03703C754B73When eyes we see an empty chair,
They’re seated in our heart.

This Christmas family photograph,
Is more than family strings.
From friends and neighbors more beside,
What gift their presence brings.

KEEP KIDS SANTA

Though Christmas comes but once a year,
May every day we laugh.

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And celebrate the ones we see,
Our Christmas Photograph.

KEEP papa and gaga with kids

Be blessed this season our friends,
Neighbors, relatives,
The family of God we were born into.

A Christmas poem I sent in our greeting cards
The year of 2004…

A message still true today…

LEAVING THE ISLAND By Lori A Alicea

All I had was twenty-one days to unpack those stowaway hugs and kisses with not a moment to spare.  The pendulum of a grandmother’s clock would sway and tick in perfect harmony with the seconds I had remaining with those four precious grandchildren I flew ten hours over the ocean to see.

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Such has been the the life while visiting my military children and grandchildren, where an hourglass of sifting sands measures our borrowed time together; a constant vigil in plain sight from the mantle of a grandmother’s heart.

The mirror of our portraits taken reflects the passage of more than a decade, yet fails to reveal the months we’ve sadly missed and spent apart due to the long and winding miles which separate.

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But following your military family from “move to move” has given me a Tom Sawyer adventure I wouldn’t have sought out on my own.  The orders of our officer son has taken him from the mountains to the islands, with the nation’s capital in between; and this grandmother has been blessed to go along for the ride.world jake and baby cova with mountains behind 1

england jake surfingThe islands have been a page torn and written from a place so different than my own.  Most kids ride their bicycles to school; or walk the twenty minute stretch each way as I did with my grandchildren.  Shoes are optional (seriously); at church, at school, even at Starbucks and chickens run freely and are an unassuming part of the landscape as squirrels are where I live.

The breathtaking view of our son’s back yard is the once-in-a-lifetime sandbox for our grandchildren.  The memories they’ve made with a pail, a shovel and an afternoon in the sun.

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The islands haven’t been my favorite place to visit, but now as the moving boxes are being packed once again, I’m almost sad for myself that I failed to see the beauty of this tropical place.

My private moments along the sandy shores of the ocean will be terribly missed as the music of the waves comforted my lonely soul when I longed for those missing me on the mainland.  This song will forever play in my mind.The final sands of the hourglass have all sifted into a mound of borrowed time and the pendulum of this grandmother’s clock has struck midnight for the final evening with my military babies.
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In a few short hours they will walk far from my view and even further from the reach of my hugs.  The thought is almost unbearable at times.
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I went to each of my babies rooms to have one final moment before kissing them good-night. 

How do you keep it together when your little boy begs you to stay for five more weeks? 

My oldest granddaughter had no words but her moistened eyes spoke volumes.

Then there’s those little girls who didn’t really understand I was leaving until they woke up crying when they couldn’t find me that following morning.

The dam of my heart almost burst at the airport when my son inquired how the kids did during our final good-by.  But the floods overtook me as I gazed out the window during an early morning phone call with my husband, wishing for a return flight into my grandchildren’s arms.
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With layovers and connecting flights, I arrived back home on the mainland almost a complete day later (at least it seemed), with a bit of my husband’s heart waiting for me upon my return.  I wouldn’t see him until later that afternoon when our reunion took place in the parking lot of his work.
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The void of my heavy heart will linger for days until I reacquaint myself with the daily steps of my routine. 

I long though for the island where my Hawaiian babies continue to live at their new address until next summer.  The thoughts of my grandchildren will consume me until I release them back to God and reach for His peace until we are back together once again for an hourglass of borrowed time.

My son’s new orders will relocate his family in a few short months and the Tom Sawyer adventure of this grandmother continues, wherever the military ride will take me.7CAA05CD-0A2B-4F87-A44A-82BF525E163C

MAYBE NOT A PERFECT LIFE…By Lori A Alicea

Seems like a lifetime ago when you consider all the growing, the milestones and memories I’ve missed.

Such is the heart of this long distance grandmother who yearns for more than summer visits with those heartstrings; her military grandchildren who each share something special with her; a middle name, green eyes, writing giftedness, or even a sassy attitude to laugh about.

I’m beyond thrilled to be back on this island after a year away from my military son, daughter, and four grandchildren, hoping to fill up as many photo albums as possible in the short three weeks I’m here.

Upon my arrival, I’ll pull out the bookmark from the last chapter of time we shared together as a family. But it almost makes more sense to start fresh from the blank pages of a brand new book, as my grandchildren continued to write their story chapter after chapter beyond the paragraph I boarded the plane for home one year ago, while a grandmother kept her place in the book with those four sweet faces she sadly kissed goodbye to.E23DB298-C57F-4A9A-9A98-C6A6FFF05DA4There are rules when Gaga comes to visit.

My daughter is off the clock from cooking, laundry, driving to practices, only to fill her schedule with hair and nail appointments, coffee dates and whatever else she desires.

For three weeks, every question my grandchildren ask ends with a yes.

“Gaga, can you make homemade chocolate chip cookies for my soccer team’s snack day?”  “Of course I can!”

“Can you watch me practice for soccer even though it’s raining?”  “I wouldn’t miss it.”

”Gaga, Watch me climb this tree.”  “Just long enough until I get a picture.” D6D6CD0C-0FDB-4DC1-884C-CFD3F1B1A4DE

The two little girls would rather me pick them up from school and us three walk together all the way home in Hawaii heat, with me trusting a five-year-old and seven-year-old to lead the way, including short cuts through a shady alley…. It’s comedy hour every afternoon on our walks home together. Oh, the stories they tell.

Not knowing the island, my nine-year-old navigates the way home from soccer practice, in the dark.

There are swim lessons.

There is Sunday service at church sitting side-by-side with my children.

There’s jujitsu practice for all four kids, multiple nights a week. FC0F402B-0269-4205-B480-D0D212426E75

There is quality time around the table eating dinner; the hour I treasure most, especially conversations with my son whom I miss so much throughout the year. 8E2FA8AB-98C1-44B0-99EB-5681BEC91011And all those favorite homemade meals I pack the freezer with, so my daughter continues her staycation for at least a week after I depart.

Something I do for myself and by myself, are those quiet moments with God, sitting along the shoreline, listening and relaxing to the soothing music of waves that crash and wash against my feet. 954EC818-7517-48D6-8575-F329306523E5My mind wanders back to the mainland where my handsome love is patiently waiting my return; missing me as much as I am missing him. We are so thankful for technology during these separations, as FaceTime bridges the lonely miles. 36945941-3F3D-4A67-811E-1192E2F91CD0Long distance grandparenting has a steep cost, and this is one of them.

You don’t get to pick and choose a perfect life; yet we are given the opportunity to mine the gold of blessings God has hidden for each of us to find.

A journey of contentment leads to the blessed life, not necessarily the best life the world says you deserve.

My military grandchildren don’t have access to my cookie jar of homemade treats, but I sure load up the suitcase each time I visit.

I wish my military family sat around the kitchen table for Sunday dinner with their siblings and cousins, but I can leave the freezer full of homemade love before the airplane takes me “home away from their home” once again.

While it’s true, you don’t get to pick and choose a perfect life, but I choose to find the peace, love and joy in a long distance life I have as a grandmother.E23DB298-C57F-4A9A-9A98-C6A6FFF05DA4

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.

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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.

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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.
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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

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.