LEAVING THE ISLAND By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

growing up dc kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAYBE NOT A PERFECT LIFE…By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are swim lessons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAND IN HAND Thru the Years!  By Lori A Alicea

In two short days we’ll celebrate twenty-eight years of wedded love between us.

We married on Sweetest Day one crisp afternoon in October when our lives and the seasons were changing harmoniously together with the brushstrokes of fall color as our portrait background.

Ever since our wedding day on October 15, 1994, each day as husband and wife has tasted sweeter than the day before.USE 1 a wedding 3

HAND IN HAND thru the years, we’ve faced whatever came our way while holding onto each other; as two are better than one.

Locking arms with God, we’ve completed our three stranded cord not easily broken against the fiercest winds life can hurl across your bare face.

Two are better than one…
Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIV

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
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HAND IN HAND as we cross the threshold of marriage milestones, we look to our left and once again to our right and give thanks for the cloud of witnesses who’ve walked alongside, cheering and encouraging us in the Lord thru the years, while the third strand of our three-stranded cord has been faithfully holding us close to Himself.USE 1 walk

HAND IN HAND thru the years at the altar, we’ve stood in agreement for the power of God in our lives; clinging to desperate prayers that the curious eyes of our grandchildren are watching and grabbing hold of the marriage example their Papa and Gaga are setting before them, however imperfect we are.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Matthew 18:30 NIV

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HAND IN HAND in marriage we laugh and enjoy the lightheartedness of those unexpected moments one didn’t see coming.

God gave us the ability to smile, to grin, to find humor in the “nothings” and enjoy an abundance of laughter which takes your breath away ‘till it hurts.USE 3 laughter

HAND IN HAND thru the years you’ll find yourself dancing to the silent music played from the phonograph of your love story, swaying back and forth to the heartbeat of two people crazy about the other.

The teacup of what we share together spills over and splashes into the cups and saucers of others close enough and wanting what you have.

HAND IN HAND with family, we pray our children and grandchildren hold onto each other and continue the traditions we’ve built with them beyond the presence of our lives.USE 6 family dance

May each and every one of our grandchildren hold tight to the love we’ve poured into them…USE 7 england kids

May they be the biggest cheerleaders for each other as we have sitting in the grandstands of their lives…USE 8 girls

May they walk HAND IN HAND along the pathways to their God-given purpose, because…

Two are better than one…
Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIVUSE 9 girls 1

Thru the years, may the bridge between those miles which separate addresses always be a two-way street, leaving the light on in the window as a welcome mat for every unsuspecting knock on the door.USE 10 kids in Hawaii Twenty-eight years ago we walked down a wedding isle into a dream come true.

A fairy-tale we didn’t expect to be ours, yet still thanking God for the sleeping one we smile and gaze upon in the middle of the night after all these years.

Marriage will always be for keeps when you refuse to let go of the hand you promised to hold for a lifetime.

In looking behind us, I thank you David for twenty-eight glorious wedding anniversaries we’ve shared together.

With the world before us, there’s still much to be discovered as husband and wife.

I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather share my life with,

Than HAND IN HAND thru the years

With You…

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WELCOME HOME…By Lori A Alicea

Seasons are changing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When fishing began and there were only six of them.

So many years ago…

Our ten grand-babies today.

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

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

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Seasons are changing.

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

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

WELCOME BENCH

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.

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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.

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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

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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