A GRANDPARENT’S MILESTONE!  By Lori A Alicea

“Where have twelve wonderful years gone?”

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

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

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

But that’s fine by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s next Lord?”

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

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

BENCH SCHOOLL 2 bench of all grandchildren

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

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

BENCH SCHOOLL 3 All kids bikeriding

Papa and Gaga celebrate these treasured ten called our grandchildren.

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

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

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

Kindergarten is coming for our two youngest granddaughters.

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

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

What’s next for this grandmother?

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

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

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

MORE THAN A COOKBOOK OF RECIPES  By Lori A Alicea

It was once quoted:

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

How true this was for my grandmother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lori Wedding invite to Mike

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

Bertie 2004 xmas list

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

From Little Old Me,
DanGrandpa Houle anniversary card front

Grandpa Houle anniversary card inside

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

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

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

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

Prayer By My Grandmother
Alberta (Bertie) Houle

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

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

Grandma Bertie prayer 1

Another Prayer By My Grandmother
Alberta (Bertie) Houle

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

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

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

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

In your name we pray.
AmenGrandma Bertie prayer 2

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

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

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

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

Today, was one of those days.

OUR CUP RUNNETH OVER By Lori A Alicea

Can you hear it?

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

rain puddle

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

rain girl running in field

Can you hear it?

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

waterfall

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

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

It is written…

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

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

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

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

goodby mom

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

A Final Call for our military brother Joe.

One final lap for our Indy 500 enthusiast brother Mark.

Another brother Ruben.

goodby ruben

Two Papa’s.

Three cousins.

Two friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are forever grateful for our furry family.

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

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

papa david audra xmas 2021

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

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

Yes it is written…

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

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

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

For this alone,
Our Cup Runneth Over!

The Body of Christ at Christmas By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s Something About That Name

By Gloria Gaither and Bill Gaither

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

Yes, there’s something about that name.

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

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

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

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

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

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS…Name them one by one! By Lori A Alicea

I can close my eyes and still remember as if it was yesterday.

A lighthouse known for its glorious steeple lifting its countenance upwards towards the heavens in praise, whose doors swing open into a haven of peace and refuge, an old fashioned church of my childhood.

DREAMS church home
Christmas through the eyes of this little girl is back at rehearsal for the Children’s play, whose classes all crowd together on the front row pews and wait their turn for the stage.

Nervous of performing before a church full of smiling parents, blinded by the camera flashes of these proud paparazzi, hoping the words of the songs she rehearsed won’t escape a child’s remembrance.

Dancing and sparkling through the stain glass windows is a private light show of its own, whose brilliance takes this child by her innocent hand to an evening where a star of wonder guides three wise men to a little town of Bethlehem to greet their Savior, our baby Jesus who lay in a manger.

So much to be thankful for during this holiday season.
Scripture reminds and instructs us how to be a little child of thanksgiving:

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
Psalms 100:4 (KJV)

Counting our blessings…
naming them one by one.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS sheet music
There are certain snapshots of my childhood recalled from the albums of my memory which take me back to the potter’s wheel, a place of molding, making and fashioning a little girl who would one day surrender her heart to Jesus.

An old fashioned church with an old fashioned pastor, a congregation of sheep who God sent to lead, to preach and sing often his signature song I still hear today in my memory, when Jesus left the ninety-and-nine for the one who strayed away.

PASTOR reverend nickel

This little girl grew up and continues to count her blessings for the pastors whom God sent her way after moving forward from those steps of an old fashioned church.

Pastors who fathered and loved a little girl back to life, whose marriage demonstrated true love “in sickness and in health.”

Pastors who led the way and took us with him to the mission field to pour into the orphans and widows; to also fight from the front porch steps of our country, whose precious jewel in his wife he shares with us as the first lady of our hearts.

Pastors whose love extends to sheep not from the flock of his own, who shepherds our children, our mother and family, who also performed the dedication of three of our grandchildren and remains a Pastor’s Pastor to us.

I count my blessings in the decades of quality time with friends who gather over breakfast once a month, who flood my cell phone with text messages of encouragement, who meet me at the gym while dawn still sleeps, and friends who take my call every Monday evening for an hour of “our time” together.

I name my blessings one by one through friends who met, worked, got into trouble together and are infamous as partners in crime. Friends who walked with each other up the mountain tops of love, glitter and marriage and held on tight through the valleys of divorce and death. True friends ringing my doorbell no matter the time of day.

I count my blessings in church friends who are more like sisters and gifts under my Christmas tree. They celebrate and grieve with you, my warriors in prayer who petition before God on my behalf. Love for them overflows from the cup of my heart.

How do I write that thank you card for this friend of over three decades. A former boss who remained my friend throughout life. A writing companion whose completed books have inspired my efforts to persevere for my first on the book shelf.

A true friend who lives states and hours away, yet attends your daughter’s wedding because I asked.

FRIENDS Mary Ellen

This little girl could stay in prayer for hours counting blessings, thanking God for a basket full of friendships in her sisters, daughters and Best Friend in Jesus.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS praying

Growing older and sadly watching the leaves of our life change and fall to the ground from traditions that used to be when mother was still with us.  Yet, I count my blessings for those new traditions which clothe my barren tree with new life and memories, celebrating with three generations of family.

A grandmother’s knees are worn from the hours of praise for those ten Christmas grandchildren who call her Gaga.

Never forgetting those children now grown, those born of my womb or born of my heart.

Remembering where it all began in God’s plan, gathered around the Christmas tree among my five sisters, brother and parents.

Sometimes being thankful isn’t wrapped around a lap full of gifts you can open.

This holiday season I am a child of great thanksgiving…

Counting my blessings…naming them one by one…

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS sheet music
As I…

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
Psalms 100:4 (KJV)

As Christmas came early at the Alicea house, when I unwrapped the gift of another day with David, my soulmate of 27 years, when God intervened in a life threatening situation.ANOTHER DAY use

I don’t have enough hands to count my blessings this Christmas.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS praying

I would be re-miss not mentioning the summits this family stood together on many times over this year, facing the bitter cold, barrenness and eerie silence of life without the loved ones left behind on those frozen mountains of memories we’ll visit from time to time.

But yet, we still continue to count our blessings and name them one by one, celebrating the overflow of their lives spilled onto ours.

The holidays will never be the same without Joe’s homemade sweet potato pies, Reuben’s Christmas cards filled with a brother’s gush of handwritten sentiment, and me sharing mother’s homemade coffee cake with my brother thru the US Mail.

If nothing else this holiday season though, I am thankful for life, I am thankful for home.

XMAS HOME

While sugarplums still dance in my dreams for a long cabin or an old fashioned renovated church to live in…

I’ll keep saying it for the rest of my days,

Wherever David is, I’ll always be home.XMAS DAVID AUBREY

May this be a season of thankfulness for all of you…

Many thanks for your faithfulness to share in these weekly words of my heart.

I appreciate you more than you know.  A tree of ornaments in my heart has your names written all over them.xmas ornament

 

SHALL WE DANCE  By Lori A Alicea

Marriage is a beautiful dance.

Marriage is two people lost in the moment whose inseparable hearts beat to the rhythm of life while dancing cheek-to-cheek.

Marriage is an invitation to journey together, a hand reaching from across the table for the other as music plays their song to say, “Shall we dance?”valentines dayOUr first date

Young love says nothing about age, as the awakening of one’s heart is a miracle from God whose hand can touch you at any stage of your life.

Young married love, a play-list and series of songs, a dance card which keeps you close during those new beginnings as man and wife.david and lori wedding dance

Twenty-seven years ago on our wedding day, I never realized we’d unwrap a jute-box of albums I had never heard before, yet music we’d need to learn the words and attempt to line-dance to during our early years of marriage.married DAVID AND LORI AND FAMILY

That unfamiliar genre and play-list for blended marriages, blended love, parenting, siblings, culture, finances, and all those contemporary songs we’d learn along the way when driving, dating, college, and then their marriages were the in music for our family.

Year after year following our first day of marriage, the family dance moves became more complex to choreograph.

Yet echoing from the “surround sound” of two hearts head-over-heels in love after twenty-seven years together, are the lyrics to our song still playing as when his hand first reached across the table for mine to ask, “Shall we dance?”david singing25th anniversary - dance david and lori dancing

Young married love says nothing about age as the awakening of one’s heart is a miracle from God whose hand can touch you and keep you deeply in love for every stage of your life.

The old songs that rewind the music video of our love story never go out of style.

They are the anthems we’ve been singing and dancing to for years with our children and now grandchildren as part of their inheritance to sear into their remembrance what true love looks like and sounds like long after their parents and grandparent’s lives become a memory.25th anniversary - dance family dance 5

When our hearts awakened over the births of our ten grandchildren, the genre of music we danced to repeated once again from the play-list of our young love, renewed and head-over-heels with these angelic faces that call us Papa and Gaga.IMG_4264england kids sitting down

Marriage is a beautiful dance and every grandchild of ours has grown up to know they have a special place in our circle of love.

These ten lives are part of our song; they are the lyrics that give us joy to sing to; to dance to.

The music never stops whenever they are with us.25th anniversary - dance first dance with ayva 40

Our grown sons are now fathers reaching for the innocent hands of their daughters to dance.

Both cheek to cheek, they sway to the music of their song, while writing new lyrics and memories to call their own, the inheritance they’ll pass on to their future generation.25th anniversary - dance kyle ayva

The years, they come and go so quickly.

A revolving door of days and weeks you beg the pace to slow, yet music whose turntable only plays at one speed.

Our marriage, we never weary of our song.

We never tire of our dance.25th anniversary - david singing truly 4dance David and Lori

Our young love is still the same age these twenty-seven years after we said, “I do.”

A dance for the history books, a hit song for the generations beyond our lives.

This journey of marriage he invited me on all those years ago is a once in a lifetime adventure I’d say “yes” to all over again.

The gleam in his eye that sparkled like a shooting star from across the table so many years ago still catches my attention today.

I look for him from around the room whenever the band is playing our song, waiting restlessly as a little girl until he reaches for my hand to say,

Shall we dance?”

25th anniversary - dance david and lori dancing

TAKE TIME TO TELL YOUR STORY  By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When we take the time to tell our story.

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

We must take time to tell our story.

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

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

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

19You shall teach them to your children,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I lament the questions I never asked the generation previous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.