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.

FISHING 7

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

IN THE NOTICING By Lori A. Alicea

When you least expect it, God reveals himself
in the noticing.

In the obvious, in the subtle, when we’re not looking, and sadly,
When we fail to notice at all,
God is always faithful to
reveal Himself
in the noticing.

In these trying times the world is experiencing together, God is still a personal God and intimately aware of us individually in the smallest of our details, those too minute for even the strongest magnification; yet God sees it all and wants to reveal Himself
in the noticing.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways.
Psalms 139:1-3 NIV

Which is why I shouldn’t have been taken off guard by the surprise of God, as I am fully aware that he knows me, perceives my thoughts and is familiar with all my ways, continuing to find me in the back roads, the hidden intersections of my life, and even down the aisles of the grocery store,

revealing Himself in the noticing.

Recently I found myself walking a bit slower than usual down the aisles of the grocery store, a gaper in a fog I suppose, stunned and close to tears at the barrenness of the shelves.

Shelves usually full of food unless a holiday is approaching.
A scarcity I’ve never seen in my lifetime.

Panic didn’t set in, yet I could see the unsettledness written on so many faces of the other shoppers.

As a mother I wanted to reach out and hug each passerby, especially the young parents with children in their cart, parents I imagined were fretting about “tomorrow”.

As a grandmother who has rocked ten grandchildren through their endless sleepless nights, I longed to comfort these moms and dads and remind them that everything is going to be alright.

Yet quite honestly, the barren shelves that afternoon were bothering me too.

In the noticing though,

God scattered “words of encouragement” throughout the store by someone thoughtful, words painted on rocks and left behind on shelves for shoppers to find, a word God knew
I needed in the noticing.

While rock hunting is not a new idea, as I have personally stumbled upon these decorated stones in the town park and rocks our grandchildren have found hidden by next door neighbors.

But this particular day God gave me a “now word”, a “word in due season” on a shelf at the grocery store, just waiting beside the few boxes of mac-n-cheese left behind for me to discover.

A word God gave me in the noticing was BELIEVE.
IMG_7231Lord, in the noticing

You know me….
You perceive my thoughts….
You are familiar with all my ways….
Psalms 139:1-3 NIV

Lord, in the noticing you saw a weak moment of doubt in me, and now you were encouraging me to remember what I BELIEVE.

In this new pandemic storm unlike no other, boats all over the world seem tossed against the rage of the ocean, taking in and overwhelmed by the “waters of the unexpected”, whose compasses seem to have lost direction, leaving some to feel abandoned, stranded and lost at sea.

But in my boat and in the noticing,
God, you are encouraging me to remember what
I BELIEVE.

When boats are calm, it’s easy to say what we BELIEVE when
sailing waters that are sound asleep.

But when the tides wake up with a fierce headache and vessels everywhere are tossed in the sea of its anger, we have to firmly know what we BELIEVE, as our lives depend on it.

What I BELIEVE is God controls the storm.

The disciples experienced this first hand as Jesus calmed the fierce storm that held their boat captive and stirred their fears of drowning.
Witnessing this miracle the disciples in their amazement replied,

“Who is this?
He commands even the winds and the waters,
and they obey him.”
Luke 8:25 NIV

What I BELIEVE during these unexpected times when so many have lost their jobs or successes, the world will come to realize when provisions miraculously continue, that God has been their provider all this time.

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
Psalm 37:25 NIV

What I BELIEVE in this great time of sickness, God still heals. God longs for our faith to arise, to reach out for the “hem of Jesus’ garment” as the woman with the issue of blood did for her healing.

“Who touched me? Jesus asked….
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me;
I know that power has gone out from me.”
…..
Then he (Jesus) said to her,
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
Luke 8:45-48 NIV

What I BELIEVE in this great time of lack,
People have revealed themselves full of generosity.

What I BELIEVE during these times mandated to our homes is a gift,
As families preoccupied and disconnected from the distractions of work, school, sports and play, needed to find their way back home and reconnect with those that they love.

What I BELIEVE is prayer is powerful, that prayer is bringing neighborhoods to their balcony’s, prayer is filling hospital parking lots of cars filled with people, all humbling themselves and calling on God to have mercy on them, seeking his face to heal their lands.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV      

What I BELIEVE that however painful during this great time of grief and sad goodbyes, we still have great HOPE of eternal life with the Lord for those who know Him as Lord, for those who:

…declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10 NIV

 In the noticing

God knows us….
He perceives our thoughts….
God is familiar with all our ways….
Psalms 139:1-3 NIV

If you feel abandoned,
If you are feeling alone,
If you are worried about tomorrow,

God is noticing.

You are not abandoned,
You are not alone,
God has tomorrow already prepared.

Find calm in the storm,
As the winds and waters obey Him.
(Luke 8:25 NIV)

Determine to BELIEVE.

Find calm
In a loving God
Who Notices.