PASSED ON DOWN THRU THE APRON  By Lori A Alicea

Their Kentucky kitchens are only a short walk across the neighborhood yard from the front door of my memory, and every now and then I show up unannounced in the early morning for a plate of homemade love from their oven.

Back in the day during a long weekend when we visited Horse Cave, Ma-maw started breakfast before the roosters were barely awake, and the smells of her kitchen labors wafted where I slept, as a silent alarm to find my place at the breakfast table.

Dressed in her ruffled apron which wrapped around her grandmotherly self and tied into a beautiful bow in the back, I always smiled when I noticed her flour dusted pinafore because that meant recently rolled out biscuits were baking in a cured skillet.

Kentucky jake papa and mama

A Kentucky visit wouldn’t be complete without spending the night at Aunt Alley and Uncle Condie’s Cave City home, a place capturing the character and ambiance of a bed and breakfast.

Mistaken as a few birds singing outside an opened kitchen window, was humming heard from my aunt dressed in an apron, frying up a skillet of country ham and eggs at her cast iron stove, and serving breakfast at a table already set and clothed in red gingham.

Homemade biscuits were a staple in the south, and Aunt Alleys by far, were the best. Maybe dipping both sides in hot bacon grease and baking them to a golden brown had something to do with it.

Although Uncle Condie, a carpet layer by day and bee-keeper at night, enhanced the flavor by teaching us to whip a small bowl of soft butter and his signature honey together and lather up a plate of Aunt Alley’s southern love.

Our uncles affection for bees was passed on down thru the generations.

It’s quite possible most modern kitchens don’t have a hidden drawer of aprons to pull out and wear while preparing meals.

Maybe the apron has lost its relevance as many busy lives now feed their families on-the-go.

Maybe I’m showing my age or love for crafts and matching hand sewn aprons worn in the kitchen.

Or maybe I still treasure what was passed on down thru the apron to me, the generations teaching the younger the art of cooking, and the bonds of community women find they desperately need by serving side by side.

There’s something about those handwritten recipes still retaining the greased fingerprints of our mothers, who found true joy making her families favorites while clothed in her apron.

One by one when our mother’s passed, we shared their recipes and choked at times our attempts to re-create her kitchen love, although somehow coming up short.

Nobody has ever made my mother ‘n laws potato salad like she did.

Our Nanny’s broccoli salad never tasted the same when we tried.

I’d give anything to have Bonnie’s Raspberry Pretzel dessert prepared from her hands.

My sisters and I have our personal version of mother’s holiday sweet potatoes, but none like moms.

But what we do have is what they passed on down thru their apron, those family memories from the stove to the table, with our mother’s as the centerpiece of it all.

Dads and brothers have also left their indelible hand-print around the BBQ grill and an apron. Father’s Day and summer events are picture perfect when the smell of ribs, chicken or burgers is barbecuing in the backyard, celebrating those wearing an apron.

Savor these moments while we have our grillers, and passed on down thru their apron is the reminder to intentionally find a reason to keep the charcoals hot.

My daughters have filled their scrapbooks full of memories and moments around the apron with the next generation in her children.

Passing onto their daughters and sons, they keep the spirit of Christmas alive through homemade cookies, and yes, wearing an apron.

As a grandmother I’ve stood and taught along side my grandchildren the art of making homemade biscuits and cookies also. Maybe not wearing an apron, but still passing on down thru the spirit of the apron, the love of being together in the kitchen, hoping they are retaining the smells of breakfast and all their favorites for future comfort and reminiscing.

Probably, the most profound memory passed on down thru the apron is that of a praying mother or grandmother.

There are those days I’m sure we all fall short, but God hovers close to hear the prayers of a mother or grandmother.

I find myself stirring up the heart of God as I stir the ingredients for dinner. I’m guilty of finding a corner for stillness in the presence of Jesus, but I pray for my family often while standing at my kitchen stove.

Susanna Wesley, a mother of ten and mother of evangelists John and Charles Wesley, also struggled to find a secret place with God among the busy life of so many children under foot.

But desperate for a time of prayer, Susanna Wesley found a quiet place by lifting the skirt of her apron over her head, a sacred time Susanna’s children knew not to bother their mother.

Hidden in the pockets of family aprons are encouragement, wisdom, God’s truth and a mother’s love left behind for the next generation.

Whether it’s an apron, Bible, or anything unique from a mother to her daughters, sons and grandchildren, might it be passed on down so the families traditions continue.debbie candy apron 2013 debbie and candy in aprons

BACK IN THE DAY  By Lori A Alicea

Call me old fashioned, but I love sitting with those from generations before me and hear their stories of back in the day.

Stories of life as they knew it, recreated from the keepsakes of their memory.

I capture their smiles as they step back in the day; noting the details which rewind an old fashioned movie.

I regret not inquiring more of the family history when both sets of my grandparents still took their seat around the holiday dinner table.

All those questions I regret not asking, whose answers went with them sadly unanswered to the grave.

Tell me about life as a child and teenager back in the day?”

What were your dreams and hopes back in the day?”

“What can we learn from your life back in the day?”

Did you really walk a mile to school in knee deep snow? Mom said you did.”

Tell me about your morning chores before school.”

Who milked the cow, who gathered the eggs, who helped mother in the kitchen?”

Of course, the “event decorator I am” sits on the edge of anticipation to hear about their wedding back in the day; hoping for pictures collecting dust in an old closet box.

These conversations paint a portrait of life changing from generation to generation.

The intimacy of handwritten letters sent back and forth between two hearts in love.

Grandmother’s old fashioned recipes with grease and flour still remaining from hands which once referred to them in the kitchen.

Both now a novelty replaced with technology.

The simpler life of family togetherness now stuck in the traffic jams of busyness.

During these times when you long for quiet, when you wish for a few minutes of the good old days; you reminisce the stories which take you back to life with your grandparents and great-grandparents and even your mother and father.

It’s so important to glean in the fields of their stories, to be a witness to their life and gather the fruit of history and legacy, your inheritance worth more and valued higher than earthly dollars.

Lean in close to the simplest of details from the generations of family as these pages written from their life will become those memories you save into the keepsakes of your memory, the legacy you pass to your children one day.IMG_1915

Walk a mile in their shoes, their steps back in the day. Those history lessons which hold the generations together, if we dare to protect these stories from the sun of time which dares to fade them.

IMG_1919

We have so much to learn from each other.

We need not be stuck in our own ways, unteachable to learn “what’s already been” from the past or “what is possible” in the present; or hope for the future.

Be willing to take your basket and start gathering.IMG_1920IMG_1921

Reach for the abundance of wisdom, their Godly influence, and hidden fruit of their lives which still waits to be picked.

You must be intentional to do your part and gather.

The next generation depends on you entering the fields of back in their day.IMG_1923

IMG_1922

Yes, call me old fashioned, but I love sitting with those from generations before me and hear their stories of back in the day, especially when they’re stories about my mother.

Talking about her, reminiscing and re-living these stories keep her alive in my heart, even though she left her earthly home a year and a half ago.

Now that I am the living grandmother, I get the privilege of repeating my stories you’ve heard once or twice before as my grandparents once did.

Stories which journey back when all my siblings still lived at the same address on Fox River Rd.

Stories which refresh my life while stuck in the traffic jam of busyness.
A story about my mother.

2018 mothers day brunch

SUMMER IN A JAR
By Lori A. Alicea

With family vacations, summer sports and fairs coming to town, you might not have noticed that Christmas has snuck in the back door of some stores, sounding the alarm that winter is around the corner.  By the time most of us are snuggling up in that first sweater, we might be asking ourselves, “Where did the summer go?”  For those who’d like to hold onto summer a little longer, did you know it’s possible to capture the essence of this season in a bottle, labeling it “summer in a jar?”

Growing up, backyard gardens, cornfields and fruit markets were common neighborhood sights. corn field along road

With breezes carrying them in, the smells of summer welcomed itself through open windows, evident in the slight waves of the curtains.open window

Strawberries, peaches, apples and grapes, all waiting for someone to take them home from the fruit market down the street.  As a little girl the aroma of this seasonal shop was so delicious, fruit juices could be tasted just by breathing.IMG_1845

Mother would buy these farmer spoils by the flat, bushel and bucket, bringing them home to create jams, jellies and frozen fruit for future homemade pies. IMG_1846

The pantry off from the kitchen displayed my mother’s mid-year labors, as I fantasized over them in the winter pretending they were “summer in a jar”.strawberry jam

From June through August, we five sisters helped mother prepare fruit for her signature jams, giving into temptation to eat more fruit than we prepared.  Though our mouths revealed the sticky evidence of our crime, mother didn’t scold us, rather kept focused as she boiled fruit on her Magic Chef stove.  Still boiling hot, blue Mason jars were filled then sealed with melted paraffin wax.  Mother’s creations eventually lined the pantry shelves when they cooled, waiting for winter to come.

It’s hard to appreciate kitchen art when the thermostat reads above 90 degrees.  But light the fireplace one frosty December morning, and top a fresh baked biscuit smothered in butter with homemade jam, those early hours might usher in a smell of summer with fruit so fresh you’d think they were recently picked.

As an adult, I am saddened that subdivisions have taken over the neighborhood, leaving farmer fields a figment of my imagination.  Kitchen curtains don’t fly in the wind of open windows as air conditioners keep them closed.  Fruit markets are a novelty now, canning isn’t a way of life, and out of five sisters, I’m the only one that cans, bakes bread and finds pleasure in homemade anything.

But as for me, my homemade effort’s brings back time with mom and memories of yesterday, when I go the extra mile to see my shelves full of “summer in a jar”.

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.

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!

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.

MOTHERS LOVE, When it Hurts  By Lori A Alicea

Buried in the fine print of loving others,
Spells out the risks we take when giving our hearts away…

In parenting…
In friendships…
In families…
In marriage…

That to be a parent, a friend, a family member, or spouse,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

While playing my hand safe in most areas of my life, I’ve always taken the risk and jumped off the deep end into relationships, giving the best of me while learning to swim when I found myself in waters way over my head.

Looking for a lifeline when a twenty-one year old version of myself, rocks her first child in the middle of the night. A newborn helpless and dependent on me for everything, I had to get this mothering thing right for his sake and for my daughter who is born to us five years later.

21 CANDY JAKE 010

In over my head I’d risk it all for two children who’d be waving me good-by in eighteen years for a life of their own.
a family cumbee family2019 england jake graduation 20

Mother’s don’t read the fine print of parenting; she willingly risks the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving because:

Mothers love when it hurts.

My mother loved this way six times over through the lives of her son and five beautiful daughters.

In over her head and floundering for a lifeline, a sixteen year old mother pacifies her newborn son in the midnight hour.

A mother, in some ways still a child herself; starts swimming the best way she knows how to stay afloat, risking it all by giving all of herself to a child surviving in the life preserver of his mother’s arms.

Back in the lonely days of early child-rearing, there wasn’t a village to assist my mother and her young son and soon to be five daughters who’d be born within a year or two between themselves.

Easter with siblings and outfits

Diapers weren’t disposable, and babysitters weren’t affordable. Mother leaned on God for inner strength while she flailed in the deep waters of parenting. Without sisters or the helping arms of an overworked and young husband himself, mother sowed the remains of her teenage years into the garden of her children, cultivating them in the admonition of the Lord.

A woman who gave all didn’t read the fine print of mothering; she willingly risked the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving for lives of their own because:
siblings family photo (2)Mothers love when it hurts.

Buried in the fine print of loving others,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

Mother faced
The risk,
The “what if”

My child leaves me for Jesus,
While I’m still alive to face this painful good-by.

Mother attended the funeral for two of her young adult daughters,

siblings belinda mary

Mary's Headstonedavid at gravesideWho left behind children of their own in their leaving.
funeral 2siblings mary christina brittany
“Mother’s should never have to bury their children”,
My mother lamented.

Grief hovered as a dark cloud over my mother’s life for years until sunshine broke through in her daughter’s memories.

My mother gave her heart away because;

Mothers love when it hurts.

Sunday, May 9, 2021 this daughter will celebrate the first Mother’s Day without her mother.

Mother’s Day crosses another milestone of firsts that we as her remaining family, navigate life through the maiden year without our matriarch.

Love hurts in good-by.
a flowersa family alicea family
Love hurts in the empty seat.

empty chair TABLE Mom Picture Sweater

Love hurts in the conversations you long to have.

IMG_7107

Love hurts in the empty arms.
mom and grandkids USE
Love hurts at her graveside.

mom's headstone

But grief which lingers as a dark cloud will one day be clear skies when sunshine breaks in our mother’s memories.
IMG_9345Always finding comfort, peace and joy in our loving God,

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Yes, love hurts.

But…

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson

SHOWERS OF BLESSING  By Lori A Alicea

Ahhh…

Crisp fresh air wafts through the kitchen window slightly opened this early morning while I drink my first cup of coffee.

Serenading my soul is a choir of birds rehearsing a new selection of songs in a neighboring tree.

Waiting to debut their spring collection of May flowers, are blossoms that hold out their cups thirsty for a drink of April showers.

Here I am before the Lord, rejoicing under the umbrella of His showers of blessings, humbled and thankful for a generous God whose blessings are a continual rain poured from the windows of heaven.

We are taught as little children to…

Count your many blessings
Name them one by one.
And it will surprise you
What the Lord has done.
By Johnson Oatman Jr.

How revealing these simple words of encouragement;
Just begin to count your blessings.

You’ll be surprised and soaked in His showers of blessings,
Before blessing number two is even uttered.

Outside the window from where I sit, I eavesdrop on a music session practicing thru a personal playlist I imagine God selected just for me.

From their innate being, this choir was created to sing for their Creator.

Surely, we were created to sing a joyful song for our Creator also…

“Every blessing you pour out I’ll turn back to praise.”
By Matt Redman

Yes, just start counting and it begins to rain.

We are a blessed people to call each other family.
We are rich in treasures not weighed from the scales of the world.

We are an imperfect people yet rich in love
Because of a perfect God who loved us first.

Look no further than the front door of home to find daddies who love their daughters.

And mothers who love their sons; and vice versa.

Cousins are writing their legacy chapters watching movies together past their bedtime, riding bicycles in their pajamas, swimming in their underwear, and making breakfast memories at their weekend sleepovers with their grandparents.

Cousins are learning to serve and serve one another in the smallest acts of kindness. A Godly trait that will find them one day serving a lost people desperate to find their way to Jesus.

Cousins and even sisters are forming friendships that will follow them down the by-ways and interstates of their life.

In the sisterhood of cousins there are celebrations of your sassy self, your princess self and fancy self; a safe place where dreams are encouraged and let you find your voice.

Families that play together, stay together.

There is never a shortage of kisses in family.

The family portrait is framed in their parents love for each other that lives on in the generations beyond them.

Families are not without challenges.
Some challenges only God can fix.

Our families biggest hurdle to cross over are the miles that separate our addresses. As the years keep climbing, so does the painful miles and mountain of our hurdle.

Cousins on one side of the hurdle don’t get to grow up together, share clothes or make milestone memories on weekend sleepovers; they only hear about these Friday nights together over the internet; braving the best smile they can in their watching.

The miles are never your friend, but somehow you make peace with the pain of distance, embracing the light left on in the window of home for each other.

That the miles and smiles of those homes who keep the candle burning for you in the midnight hour are always worth the journey, however you have to get there.

The birthdays are getting away from us and there’s no time to waste a single minute of the family clock that God has given.

God is about the unexpected, and families are to be on the continual lookout for the next rainfall from heaven, His showers of blessing for us.

Life is brief.
Life is but a mere breath of opportunities
We are either embracing them or bidding them a sad good-by.

April Showers are bringing forth May flowers all year round in our lives.

Sometimes we must be still to hear the choir playing “your song” outside the kitchen window.  We only need to count to one before God surprises you for all that He has already done.

The inner child must never forget getting wet at those grandparent sleepovers.

To remember being a child of God during those April Showers which spring forth our May flowers of blessings;

Rejoice under the umbrella of His showers of blessings,
Humbled and thankful for a generous God
Whose blessings are a continual rain poured from the windows of heaven.

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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

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.

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.
USE screen hollis
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.