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.

I AM A LIFE, THAT WAS CHANGED By Lori A Alicea

I once read:

Never underestimate the valuable and
Important difference you make in every life you touch.
For the impact you make today
Has a powerful rippling effect on every tomorrow.
Anonymous

This rippling effect of one man’s life would touch me down stream years after he and his wife jumped head first into those deep waters on search and rescue missions for those marriages drowning in the rip currents of their choices.

A Godly couple living the example

“‘till death do we part”.

Two ordinary people who taught on marriages every Sunday afternoon for decades; who spent the remainder of the week throwing out life preservers and life-lines for those willing and not willing to grab hold for another chance to live.

The cries of those hurting kept these two up at night searching the desperate waters for marriages about to be lost at sea; with some marriages ditching the radar altogether of being found.

Such was the man in this marriage.

A man who wanted to charter his own boat, navigate life his own way, regardless of the distress flares and signals from his drowning wife.

JOE AND DIANE Wedding Picture

But an ordinary man with an extraordinary call for marriages kept throwing out life-lines for this husband to stop swimming against the current of God and jump into His boat of surrender and freedom.

Life-line after life-line the search and rescue continues, never losing sight of this couple at sea.

When one day a worn out man takes hold of the one unwilling to give up the rescue.

A surrendered heart and a marriage restored.

Joe and Diane 1

His legacy continues.

Never underestimate the valuable and
Important difference you make in every life you touch.
For the impact you make today
Has a powerful rippling effect on every tomorrow.
Anonymous

Yes, never underestimate the difference you make in the lives of those you touch.

Two ordinary people intersecting the path of two others needing life preservers, now jump head first into those deep waters on search and rescue missions of their own, for those needing resuscitation of a new beginning.

This impact of one man’s life now touches me down stream years later through my future brother ‘n law with an introduction to his brother, who later became my husband.

One man’s life changed my heartache and single life of raising two young children without a male influence into joy forever.

THANK YOU
By Ray Boltz

…….
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave.

Surrendering and saying “yes” to God changes everything.

The love between my brother ‘n law and wife re-ignited the flames of their heart which could only be attributed to the Author of Love Himself.

Their passion for one another is evident in his wife’s smile and smiles of their grandchildren.

Their commitment
‘till death do they part
Is celebrated on their 40th wedding anniversary renewal, a day almost lost at sea had it not been for a search and rescue mission of two called by God to marriages.

My husband and I for years sent an anniversary card to our brother and wife who kept in covenant to their wedding vows, because we wouldn’t be celebrating anniversaries of our own had they not grabbed hold of that life preserver.

Remembering that love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful or proud, never dishonoring, not self-seeking or easily angered, keeping no record of wrongs, rejoicing in truth, protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering.

Holding on to the life preserver of love which never fails.

A love my husband and I shared with others at our 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration, all because two people decided to stay married, who officiated our renewal, whose rippling effect on our lives is now splashing down stream to our legacy.

I am a life, that’s been changed,

My brother ‘n law Joe has affected many other lives as well; I would greatly underestimate the impact that flowed down stream from his life.

A devoted marine and love for his country, Joe honors the veterans who sacrificed everything to serve.

Joe alongside his daughter serves during the holidays, preparing a banquet before our soldiers, our country’s finest.

Joe ministers in the trenches of the hurting, the forgotten, the addicted; a band of brothers leaving no man behind.

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Joe is a dreamer; a diligent servant and provider for his family.

JOE MILITARY Truck

Joe’s love for laughter and heart for God ministers in huge waves to his family.

More than anything else, Joe’s ability to connect with children is his biggest splash.

A marine to the core, Joe passes on his military passion to rise up in young soldiers a heart for Christ.

Joe is our Toys ‘R Us kid at Christmas.

Well, maybe not.

S

Joe’s house has been a house of hospitality, a hospital for hurting these past twenty seven years, open for anyone who knocks or needs a soft pillow to lie on.

JOE MILITARY Home

Joe who is no stranger to the mission field,
Recently graduating from a program in missions, believing one day to hand out life preservers on the other side of the world again.

Joe’s life has been poured out on many with others still waiting their turn down stream.

Sadly for us, a celebration and graduation of a different kind has taken place for our dear Joe as he stands before the sea of lives he’s touched, those waiting for him as he enters the gates of heaven.

Flags fly at half-mast in the hearts who loved him dearly.
JOE MILITARY Flag half mastA country says good-by to one of its finest soldiers; a void visibly seen.

JOE MILITARY flag empty chair

A choir of angels sing as our brother takes his first steps on those golden streets of heaven.

THANK YOU
By Ray Boltz

….
As Jesus took your hand
As you stood before the Lord
He said, my child look around you
For great is your reward.

Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave.
…..

Bishop used to remind us that good seeds sown in death always produce an abundance of fruit.

JOE MILITARY Fruit of your life

A basket overflows at harvest because Joe lived to give his life away.

Just days ago our Joe walked thru the front door of heaven when we earnestly prayed for this door to open.

JOE MILITARY Home

But God had a different plan.

Our hearts grieve yet rejoice as Joe has already seen Jesus.

This family couldn’t be any happier.
We stand and salute a soldier for his life well lived.

Welcome Home Papa Joe.

JOE MILITARY Welcome Home Sign

Welcome Home.

JOE MILITARY Welcome Home

LONG DISTANCE LOVE  By Lori A Alicea

The odometer mileage reads nine lonely years without you and still counting.

hawaii 4

hawaii 9

hollis 21

hawaii 1
The map of this long distance road trip has charted volumes of days and years of celebrations, milestones and everyday “nothings” whose travels intersect each other’s lives from time to time; the most recent reunion being nine long months ago; a lifetime if you’re asking.

This road trip of itineraries finds us on opposite sides of one-way streets most of the time with posted signs prohibiting U-Turns to re-wind the moments that have slipped through the grasp of our fingers.

2018 england summer 85 reaching for balloon

U-turns not allowing us to re-trace the steps we’ve missed with one another while following the map of our long distance love.

hawaii 7

hawaii 6
It’s difficult to enjoy this long distance road trip when the scenery we’re meant to enjoy with you is viewed from the rear view mirror. This constant looking back and remembering, recalling and longing for those sacred occasions we spent together as a family weighs heavy on the heart over time.

A Papa’s lap feels lonesome for hungry babies to share his food while sitting together around the kitchen table.

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A Papa wishes he was crowded again on the couch with you to watch the same movie for the hundredth time.

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One can’t listen to the engines roar of an airplane soaring overhead without re-living our baggage claim hellos, reacquainting ourselves with you and your sweet smell we have yearned for over the months.

airplane

airport David and Rosalee at airport

Only to be saddened by our tearful good-byes and empty arms days and weeks later.

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airport
But happiness is always a choice.

We don’t want to be sad because our arms can’t reach you from the other side of the world. We choose to be excited watching you experience life in these amazing places most will never see.

world jake and baby cova with mountains behind 3

Your passport is full of stamped adventures and we choose to encourage you to squeeze every drop of them while enjoying the ride.

cova riding horsey

We choose not to cry for every address change that takes you further and further away from us; well, at least not in front of you. Your steps are ordered by God and we can’t be selfish when God has other plans; a great plan for you.

house 1 in chicago

house 2 in Washington State

house 3 in DC 1
house 3 in DC
house 4 in Hawaii

Thankfully Papa and Gaga can enjoy their long distance love for you through pictures, Facetime and warmed from your laughter over the telephone.

Our hearts do feel the pang though watching you blow out your birthday candles every year without us being there; hurt even more with us unable to relish your birthday excitement as you open your gifts.

birthday 2018 englands in evansville kizzy eating cake

birthday hollis cova rosalee bd 18
birthday hollis cova rosalee bd 11
birthday 2018 england summer 77
So many “first day of school” milestones we’ve had to enjoy from our side of the camera lens.

school 2018 cova first day of school 7
school hollis first day of preschool 7
school 2018 rosalee hollis picture day

You know the little kid in Papa would brave the cold to share your December days sledding, creating snowmen, and sipping on hot chocolate topped with marshmallows (lukewarm for you) to warm ourselves when back inside the house.

winter 2014 cova winter 3 snow men
winter

Our hearts break every Christmas when the only request on your gift list is a visit from your grandparents. Keeping tradition though, we gather around the family tree each Christmas morning to see what Santa brought you, albeit by Facetime.

xmas 2017 england xmas 1

xmas cova hollis face baby
Nothing says bedtime better than a trip to the moon and stars and back before getting warm under the covers. The places we unfortunately are unable to visit together between the chapters and pages of your library books, but we tuck you faithfully in at night in our prayers, believing for sweet dreams and angels watching until morning.

reading book

reading book 1
Long distance love
is terribly hard on a grandparent. Witnessing your life through our side of the window when arms are desperate to reach into your life where a fresh breeze of our love can freely hold you without the separation of glass.

No doubt the pain is equally great on a grandchild feeling left behind of all the family celebrations, holidays at Papa and Gaga’s house, missing out on weekend sleepovers, cousin time, Sunday dinners and cookie jar sneaks at their grandparents.

But a grandparent’s long distance love flies on angel wings to wherever their grand-babies live.

A grandparent’s love is left at their baby’s doorstep, their chair at the kitchen table, the toy room, under their pillow and can find them wherever their little feet will take them.

heart - leave behind

Yes, Papa and Gaga choose to be happy for the few opportunities we are blessed to spend together in person each year, and celebrate the intentional and unexpected surprises the remainder of the calendar with you through the looking glass of the phone.

It’s just your eyes reaching for us through the rear view mirror that rips one’s heart apart and makes our long distance love undeniably painful; sometimes agonizing. 

hawaii 4

hawaii 9

hollis 21
hawaii 1

You change by the minute and grow even faster.

But remember our long distance love will never change for you.

We are a phone call away, and sometimes a plane trip when we can.

Happiness is a choice.

We choose to keep our tears at a minimum.

We choose to love you,
No matter the miles,
No matter the cost,
No matter if the road-trip ever runs out of road,

Because our long distance love
will never fail to find you any place on the map.

heart - leave behind

THROUGH MOTHER’S EYES  By Lori A Alicea

What ya thinking about mother?

Silently I’ve noticed the sun setting in your eyes ever so slightly these past few months over time spent with you.

The overflow of your heart speaks deep appreciation for our visits and our calls. A mother’s smile welcomes us no matter her prognosis of the moment.

My unannounced visits faithfully find you wearing that red lipstick you’ve been famous for my whole life.

But yet, for the words you’ve held back to keep a family from worrying or thoughts too afraid to articulate, your eyes speak volumes from the pages of uncertainty that prompt a daughter to wonder,

What ya thinking about mother?

Sometimes in life the negative reports need to be shoved into a drawer for the moment.

Every now and then we all need a good day; maybe even a perfect day.

Perfect days you plan for; you pencil them in your calendar and make the day happen.

From the heart you unearth treasures of every kind that arms can’t contain them. Much like the windows of heaven that God pours abundantly from onto His children.

Mother, it’s your eightieth birthday and gold glittered balloons and everything else gold will punctuate this perfect day from start to finish.

With sadness, your milestone birthday will be an outside event with you watching from a nursing home window due to the current circumstances that mandate.

But you bloom where you’re planted.

You create and decorate
For a mother most deserving…

Announcing your

Princess for a Day Event.

Honoring that little girl in our mother who quite possibly never thought of herself or was celebrated as the princess God sees in her.

I decided that every girl, young or old attending this Princess for a Day event,
Be celebrated also as a princess with their own crown and scepter.

The little princes will also be celebrated as royal heirs to the throne with a sword in their own honor.

(Excerpt from my blog Whose I am)

It’s your day mom.

Introducing your perfect day.
decorations crown 1

Through mother’s eyes, her front row seat to a perfect day.

So many guests came to honor this Princess for a Day.

Your daughters, your sons present and afar they came.
Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended also.

That best friend you’ve shared years of every kind wouldn’t miss your day.
barb guests - barb by tableCousins came and took their spot just like the old days of family reunions.
guests - old family reunionOut of town great-grandchildren enjoyed the festivities through technology via Facetime.
guests englandsUnattended but princesses still in thought took royal selfies for their great-grandmother to enjoy.

From your window and phone, I hope the evidence bore witness to the impact and meaning of your life.
window - mom - CopyOne by one, the avalanche of tributes from those touched by your life well lived before them.

Beyond precious were tender words from the mouths of babes. Even little ones notice the love of a grandmother.

One great-grandson full of wisdom beyond his years when he spoke,
“Today grandmother, you are a vision of loveliness.”
speaking guests - david speakingForming a line in front of your window, each family member added silk roses for the vase bouquet you’d enjoy days after your perfect day was a memory.

Though not the princess banquet we would have prepared had we celebrated you at home, but a princess meal nevertheless to enjoy around family tables at home.

What ya thinking about mother?

I’m overwhelmed myself re-visiting this royal day weeks after the event.

So many details planned for the short time we were given.

Over-looking the party from your front row seat, the staff overwhelmed as well, soaking in the love from a family giving back honor due to their matriarch turning eighty.

But I think most impacting were those close and intimate moments at your window, sharing one on one through the phone with those needing a moment alone with you, even if for a minute never noticing the separation of glass.

On display the emotion from your faithful friend of decades.

Then were the kisses from your window, with you looking back at your great-grandchildren to receive their childlike affection.

Even you and I were able to pose for a mother-daughter picture, capturing and blending two generations together.
window - mom and LoriHeard from our mother’s window was the chorus of Happy Birthday sang twice. Princesses get an encore you know.
happy birthdayGathered for a family portrait are lives that have been changed because of a Godly life well lived from one birthday girl blowing out eighty candles on her cake.
guests - moms familyYou are many things to many people; mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, cousin and friend.

But you are simply mother to me.

Through your eyes I hope the impact of your life was in full view of your window.

You were beautiful wearing your princess crown.

Through mother’s eyes, my heart believes you saw and thoroughly enjoyed a perfect day; the best birthday gift a family could have ever wanted for you.

You are loved mom beyond words.

When that stuffed negative report does emerge from that drawer as it will, always remember God’s love letter to you,

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.
Phillippians 4:8 NIV

Even through a mother’s eyes on her perfect day.

THE SCHOOL BELL RINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME…AGAIN! By Lori A Alicea

My baby’s baby starts kindergarten this year.
school - Ayva first day of kindergarten 1

How can it be that just twenty-six years ago the school bus picked up my baby for her first day of kindergarten?
school - Candace first day of kindergartenBackpacks are heavier than ever with the weight of all that school stuff… pencils, paper, tissues, crayons, glue, scissors and a brand new item on the school list…sanitizer.
IMG_1861I wish it wasn’t so sweet Ayva, but school will be a bit different for you than for your mother twenty-six years ago.
school - Candace kindergarten pictureschool - Ayva first day of kindergartenThe school bell rings for five years olds everywhere…for the first time.

The school bell rings louder when that five year old is yours.

School bell stop ringing…
We’re not ready…at least I wasn’t.

Just yesterday our baby’s newborn smell overwhelmed while snuggling them quietly near our heart.
mom and Candacebaby - ayva newbornWe close our eyes for a second and the school bells rings for the first time for my baby’s baby.

For this grandmother, the school bell rings for the first time…again.
mom and daughter - Candace going to kindergartenmom and daughter - Candace and Ayva going to kindergarten

No matter how old a mother becomes, she never forgets those milestones, her children’s right of passages that mark in time their growing up.

I share with you Kindergarten Day for my baby twenty-six years ago.

Kindergarten Day!
The Start of New Beginnings
By Lori A. Alicea

The end of August is fast approaching.  The school bell is ready for the principal to ring.  Backpacks are stuffed, new sneakers are laced and moms everywhere are preparing their children for the first day of school, some for the very first year.

Though I registered my daughter this August for her senior year in high school and my son his senior year in college, this mother never forgot that bittersweet kindergarten day when the apron strings of her heart were cut.

Maybe it was in our maiden walk to school, lamenting my return alone.  Maybe it was their reluctance to leave my side as I brought them to their desk.  Maybe it was seeing their moistened eyes when I turned to check on them one last time.  Maybe it was noticing them looking for me outside their window.  Maybe it was hearing the school bell ring, wanting them desperately to be four again.  Whenever it was, this first day of school painfully required me to release them to their new beginning, severing ties that intertwined our lives before kindergarten.

Before this mom had time to dry her tears, the kids bounced back in new energy with field trips planned to the apple orchard and zoo.  Holiday parties and snack days were scheduled and backpacks daily emptied of schoolwork they were anxious to share.

Soon the refrigerator was papered with reading, writing and arithmetic.  Little friends started to call, inviting them over to play.  Where once we were cocooned in our own world of Sesame Street and adventures to the park, now my children were slowly becoming aware of their wings, spreading them ever so slightly at the edge of our nest.

As ironic that it may seem, I truly believed the best lesson I could teach my children, was to teach them to leave.  In order to pass the test, I had to be willing to open the doors of opportunity along their way, never blocking the entrance to future beginnings, yet keeping exit doors closed off from early escapes of hard times.

When once they scribbled in print, they now they communicate their feelings.  Where once they counted on their fingers, they now calculate life’s problems.  Where once they clung to me and dominated our conversation.  Now one lives six hours away and telephones when he can.  The other, a few steps behind.

Looking back, that first day of school was elementary compared to the final exam of their first day on their own.

Though new beginnings should be exciting, it’s the leaving something old that makes it so difficult.  Thankfully that first day of school I was teacher’s pet, when I allowed my kids to be five.
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JUST A SMALL WINDOW OF TIME By Lori A. Alicea

My Pastor Sr. used to say there’s just a small window of time when your children long to be in their parent’s world. After that window closes, you’ll spend the rest of your life longing and pursuing to be in theirs.

This small sermonette etched and framed itself first in this mother’s heart now grandmother when my Pastor spoke them so many years ago.

I experienced this truth as a mother, and when I became a grandmother, I determined to wrap my arms around as many moments possible with those who me Gaga.

Because one tomorrow not too far in the distance, these grandparent moments will find themselves beyond my reach when that small window of time closes with their growing up.

This small sermonette came to life with the birth of my first child Jake.
jake as a babyThe words from the pulpit wouldn’t be preached by me, but lived through the life and love of Jake’s grandparents, Grandma Cova and Papa Les and their summer Kentucky visits together with their grandchildren over the next twelve years.

My grown children have questioned each other if they as parents would send their small children for summer grandparent visits six hours away for weeks at a time as I did with them. Ok, ok, six weeks; my bad.

I laughed with my son and daughter’s reply to each other, “That would be a big negative.”

Looking back I also questioned those long summer adventures away from my kids.

But remembering as their father spent so many memorable summers on the farm with his maternal grandmother, I wanted the pages of the family grandparent scrapbook to continue and pass this special tradition on to Grandma Cova and Papa Les.

So the spoiling begins in Cave City and Horse Cave, Kentucky where a huge family of grandparents, aunts and uncles smother their love like honey on a hot homemade biscuit to this next generation of little ones.

The legacy of Great-Uncle Condie, a hardworking carpet layer by day and bee-keeper at night, is passed through his love for bees down two generations beyond him and counting, all because Uncle Condie chose to enlarge his circle of influence and love to include a little boy.

This little boy carried into adulthood an uncle’s devotion honored in his middle name, abbreviated as a C.

Let’s not forget Uncle Condie’s wife Aunt Alley and her fabulous meals prepared each morning, noon and night by scratch when you visited.

Her second-floor country kitchen where those signature biscuits baked inside a wood-burning stove is still a fond memory even of mine.

Aunt Alley also left behind a piece of herself amid the squares and stitches she quilted by hand for each child upon their birth.
family jake, uncle codie and aunt alleyThe summer highlights always included excitement alongside a country flavored grandfather.

Papa Les made sure that summer in Kentucky included horses, chickens, goats and rummage sale bicycles. Years later that country memory of chickens lives on in the next generation through Jake’s children.

What would summer vacation be without time spent with your aunts, uncles and cousins?

Uncle Bob and Aunt Carrie made sure a visit to amusement park Guntown Mountain happened; the bowling alley too and so much more. I still laugh remembering the stories that came home packed in the suitcases of my kids after time spent with their crazy aunt and uncle.

Aunt Sue Sue, when she flew into town, spoiled her nieces and nephews beyond expectation. Grown up now, these kids shan’t ever forget an aunt who loved them so well.

Standing out more than any summer memory in Kentucky revolved around cousins being with cousins. No telling what (Eric, Nick, Amanda, Alexis, Candace and Jake) did at their grandparent’s house.  I’m sure those secrets are still baked into the walls of grandma’s house in Horse Cave, Kentucky.

For some reason my son was especially fond of his Grandma Cova.  So much so he named his first daughter after her.

Their deep bond is evident in this intimate moment captured at Jake’s wedding.
grandma Cova and JakeLooking at these two together, I can rewind many conversations with Grandma Cova and her summer visits with Jake.

“Oh Grandma, just one more book please,” a small boy’s request before bed after many other stories before.

Hands of rummy at the kitchen table, preparing all his favorite foods, and her buying a sweet boy candy at the Dollar General where she worked down the street.

The most difficult day though of every summer visit with Grandma Cova ended with Jake waving good-by to her from the back seat of the car, with him having to hold it together without her for the six hour ride home and the remainder of the summer.

Grief for his grandmother overwhelmed my son for weeks. Most days he held it in as best as a little boy could, but eventually the dam of his tears painfully burst.

Every year at summer’s end amid the sadness, Grandma Cova and her grandson dreamed of their next summer together. Jake assured his grandmother he’d be sharing summers with her his whole life; he was all of ten at this time.

As much as Grandma Cova treasured their coveted visits, she painted a picture of Jake for him at the age of twelve, a painting when boys began growing up and enjoying sports and friends over time spent at their grandparents.

Never imagining that twelve year old boy would be him, Jake did grow into a twelve year old whose visits to Kentucky faded into the scrapbook memories.

Grandma Cova loved her grandson Jake as much as he loved her.  I am forever grateful they shared this amazing relationship.

I lamented for Grandma Cova when her grandson’s summer visits stopped, unable to imagine how it affected a grandmother’s heart.

I tried though in a poem I wrote and dedicated my words to the two of them.

Thank you Grandma Cova and Papa Les for the intentional love you displayed to your grandchildren in the summer ways that you did.

Those summer visits in Kentucky were the blueprint for the Friday night cousin camps with my grandchildren.

The age of twelve has been on my mind since our first grandchild celebrated that pivotal year in her life three years ago and now two grandchildren blew out the candles on their tenth birthday cake this year.

Just the other day, one grandson rode his bike from next store just to say hello to his papa; he was spending the night with his aunt and uncle the evening before.

What will twelve look like for this little boy with his Papa and Gaga?
cars 2020 7 04 David working on car Ethan watching
Here is that summer poem I promised.

grandma Cova and Jake

His Summer Time With You
By Lori A. Alicea

How great the day when eyes laid on,
Your grandson’s precious face.
A secret home inside your heart,
He found a special place.

No other child could love you more,
A grandma’s treasured joy.
All wrapped and held within your arms,
One happy little boy.

No other day could not compare,
With things he’d want to do.
What greater moments when he spent,
His summer time with you.

The books you read before his nap,
Adventures were in store.
The nap delayed because he begged,
“Oh grandma read one more”.

The neighbor boy looked forward too,
When June would come around.
A childhood friendship that he shared,
And mischief that they found.

Though Batman was a hero then,
His grandma number one.
No wonder all the time you spent,
To make his summer fun.

Then one day as you sat with him,
The porch, these words you told.
That soon he wouldn’t come in June,
His age, past twelve years old.

No other reason would you give,
Than growing does occur.
But how the memories spent in June,
Would never fade or blur.

Then one year grandma’s words came true,
No books to read at noon.
Her grandson chose to stay at home,
This summer month of June.

With baseball in the little league,
With swimming at the beach.
And riding bikes took grandson far,
Away from grandma’s reach.

She said this day would come at last,
What does a grandma do?
Though growing up will not replace,
His summer time with you.

How great the day when eyes laid on,
Your grandson’s precious face.
A secret home inside your heart,
He found a special place.

A GRANDMA TOO IS BORN By Lori A Alicea

Every now and then I am taken aback with the surprise of the unexpected; especially if the unexpected are unearthed words I had forgotten I once wrote.

While I’m not one to fill up journals with my personal thoughts and prayers, I do dream through my words penned to paper on occasion.

This particular afternoon twelve years ago and prior to having grandchildren, I remember daydreaming about what it might mean to be grandmother.

That day I wondered if my heart was full of enough love to overflow into another generation, unaware then how many grandchildren would fill my lap.

I wanted to pass on memories of all kinds; holidays, special foods, traditions our grandchildren could remember their whole life, special time at their grandparent’s house and a legacy rich in Jesus.

Papa and I were overwhelmed at the thought of our children having children. We were nervous and excited all wrapped into one package of joy we hadn’t opened before.

How do you prepare to be a grandmother?

I imagined their faces taking our breath at first glance, catching us off guard with the miracle of life we held; faces already seen and watched by God as they grew in the secret place of their mother, already known to God before the beginning of time.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!

Psalm 139:15-17 NIV

One afternoon I imagined the wonders of being a grandmother.

My dreams were caught on paper, but mere words were beyond inadequate to what God was preparing in advance for this grandmother.

If I only knew then what I have experienced now.
Children are a gift from God, and it has been Christmas ever since that first little grandchild called me Gaga.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably
More than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us.
Ephesians 3:20 NIV

My heart before becoming a grandmother.

A GRANDMA TOO IS BORN
By Lori A Alicea

A baby comes into your life,
A family, mom and dad.
Their life gives birth to all their dreams,
For nine months, that they’ve had.

Kizzie Mae Pearl

Ten fingers, toes, they count them all,
Their hearts in two, are torn.
And yet, another miracle behold,
A grandma too is born.

Aubrey Ann

A woman who had raised her kids,
And thought her job was done.
Yet God had other plans for her,
Another race to run.

Rosalee Ann

An early morning feeding time,
Reserved for us to share.
The trips we take up to the stars,
While rocking in our chair.

Ayva Presley

The lullabies I’ll sing to you,
Lay kisses on your head.
You’ll snuggle back in peaceful rest,
My arms become your bed.

Hollis Blake C.

I think about you night and day,
Your life, my heart adorn.
How unprepared and overwhelmed,
When grandmas too are born.

Cova Grace Marie

The Friday nights we’ll spend with you,
When mom and dad go out.
Where rules stay in the diaper bag,
We’ll laugh, and scream no doubt.

Bristol Nicole

The play dates that we’ll get to take,
Can’t wait, a shear delight.
And stories that your gramps will tell,
He’ll rock you in the night.

Leon Ethan 

My prayers each day, the will of God,
His perfect plan for you.
Your steps already figured out,
His voice will speak to you.

Brodie Allen

But you must learn to listen close,
His Word will guide your way.
And grandmas here to share with you,
The things of God each day.

Brooklyn Nicole

Rich blessings for you little one,
My heart in two is torn.
It can’t contain the love I feel,
This grandma has been born.

Ethan candace pregnant with mom USE

LEGACY; It is for Them That I Write. By Lori A Alicea

The benevolent man leaves an inheritance
That endures to his children’s children…
Proverbs 13:22 TPT

What parent doesn’t want to leave an inheritance to his children and children’s children?

I imagine most do.

My husband and I have considered for years the inheritance of our heirs.

At the end of life this side of heaven, two hearts long to bless their family with monetary gifts.

But money pales in significance to the true inheritance of legacy David and I endeavor to leave behind in generous portions for our children and children’s children.

Unless money is sowed into fields of eternal value, once it’s spent, it’s gone.

But a legacy rich and full of Godly principles can remain alive for future generations.

Regarding legacy,

David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby wrote in his book
A Generous Life
10 Steps to Living a Life Money Can’t Buy:

A legacy of true value is a legacy made of more than money.
….
To invest in eternal things is the most important thing we can do with our lives, our energies, and our resources.

 Becoming a grandparent changed everything for us.

When our second generation came forth, we took notice the hour glass and its sands of seconds gathering into the mounds of hours, months and years more quickly than before in our youth.

Time revealed its true identity as mere moments of breaths.

The weight of passing on to our grandchildren a lasting heritage weighed heavy on our heart.

We risked the next generation growing up without God if our lives didn’t reflect His image; if we failed to tell the generation in front of us the marvelous works and heavenly truths about their Creator.

 One generation commends your works to another, they tell of your mighty acts.. Psalm 145:4 NIV

 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done….Judges 2:10 NIV

Ten beautiful children created in the image of God.
USE BABY ENGLAND 3Those kissed and smothered with love inside the womb and out.

Hands already gifted.
Feet with steps already ordained.
Their life already planned and prepared to serve Him.

To know the way they must be shown the way, but who will tell them?
Along with their parents, we grandparents want to do our part in living and leaving a life of legacy before them.

Their legacy began when we were once children ourselves.

As a child with five other siblings, our mother introduced us to Jesus; she faithfully took us to church. Her prayers to keep Jesus alive at home found six children growing up to serve Him the same.
use Church directory pictureMy husband and four other brothers are also God fearing men because of a praying mother.

Parents recognize that children, the “fruit of their womb”, are a gift from God.

Children that are dedicated back to Him, to be raised, loved, nurtured in the way that they should go.

“I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for.
And now I have dedicated him to God.
He’s dedicated to God for life.”
1 Samuel 1:26        

BABY DEDICATIONS OF OUR CHILDREN – GENERATION ONE

BABY DEDICATIONS OF OUR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN – GENERATION TWO

Children and grandchildren are our arrows; arrows that leave the bow of a praying parent and launched for a Kingdom pursuit that they might pierce the hearts of others for Jesus.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. Psalm 127:3-5 NIV

Hence, we grandparents are intent to do our part in living and leaving a life of legacy before them.

It is for inheritance;
It is for legacy.
It is for them that I write.

Part of their legacy are stories, their stories, memorializing the past; their history of a faithful God. That they not forget and lean on these truths when facing familiar mountains of hard times again.

It is for them that I write.

The other day I had a long distance Face-time conversation with my six year old grandson who asks about my blogs most times when we talk; blessing this grandmother with his inquiries. Such big questions for a little boy who has no idea he is mining his own inheritance, his legacy.

It is for him that I write.
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On October of 2019, David and I invited our ten grandchildren to be our witnesses at our 25th Wedding Anniversary.  Their young minds thought we were getting married, which delighted us both.

Written as a true love story that it was, I documented the faithfulness and goodness of God in our twenty-five years together, words shouted and celebrated from every detail of our special day.

So that in years and decades to come, our children’s children will be reminded of God’s reflection of marriage as an encouragement for their own.

Yes, David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby, you said it perfectly regarding legacy:

A legacy of true value is a legacy made of more than money.
….
To invest in eternal things is the most important thing we can do with our lives, our energies, and our resources.

It is because of an overflowing love for our ten beautiful grandchildren:
Brooke, Brodie, Ethan, Bristol, Cova, Hollis, Ayva, Rosalee, Aubrey and Kizzy Mae
USEWe leave you a legacy, rich and full of Godly principles, that you might know and experience for yourself the marvelous works and heavenly truths of your Creator; that as arrows, you desire to be launched for a Kingdom pursuit, to pierce the hearts of others for Jesus.

All because of Inheritance;
All because of LEGACY;
All because of you I write.