GOING HOME  By Lori A Alicea

Love…peace…and joy.

Three beautiful sentiments written into a greeting card.

Three captivating emotions of a well scripted movie.

While sentiments are ribbons which wrap around our hearts in a Valentine bow, emotions aren’t the final approval of our (love, peace and joy), as emotions change on a moment’s notice with the direction of the wind.

Love…peace…and joy are our choice.

We choose to love when the forecast is nothing but bad attitudes.

We choose peace when waters around us are anything but calm.

We choose joy on a rainy day of tears.

We choose to remember that (love, peace and joy) are attributes of God, so when we choose to love, when we choose peace, when we choose joy, we are looking into the face of God.

I didn’t realize I’d have to choose one fall Saturday afternoon, a greeting card day where the weather was crisp and perfect for sweaters and apple picking.

A backdrop of trees in full bloom of nature’s glory and framed around a lake of tranquility, a silent movie re-playing in my memory of Saturdays here at this same lake with my parents and siblings, and now all grown up as grandparents making new ones with grandchildren around a fishing pole and their love for each other.

Unfortunately for us, the fish weren’t biting as they must have eaten a late lunch.

So, we packed up our tackle boxes and left for an old fishing spot from years ago, a pond nestled in the center of an old neighborhood Papa and Gaga used to live, a pond where Papa first taught his small grandchildren to fish.

Worried we’d be cited for trespassing at a community we didn’t live at anymore, we cast our rods anyway in pursuit of scaly trophies and began recording again our Saturday memories.

The new fishing spot didn’t disappoint three eager children who wanted to catch and take home a string of fish.

 

As Papa and our grandchildren were catching fish, God was catching my attention in this picture I took of my grandson, my mother’s house down the road in full view; one street over from where we used to live.  A place I’ve longed to return to and a mother I’ve been missing terribly with her first anniversary in heaven coming up on the calendar in just two short days.

USE fishing 5

It was surprising that Ayva, our six year old and on her own recalled this neighborhood, even though she was a toddler wearing her first pair of glasses during our three year stay as residents.

Ayva shouted gleefully as we entered the park, “Gaga, remember we used to ride our bicycles to grandma’s house.”

Ayva was right.

Early on many Saturday mornings a parade of pajama wearers rode their bicycles first to grandma’s house for a short while before continuing their parade to the park.

True joy was captured in many of our bicycle riding memories in a neighborhood where we lived one street over from grandma.

Such were the fishing memories too.

Ayva and Aubrey didn’t have the fishing and bicycle memories the older grandchildren had when we lived at Lot 311 as they were much to young to enjoy.

It saddens a Papa and Gaga to see with their own eyes the passage of time in pictures taken so long ago, yet feels like yesterday; a place we long so desperately for too.

Packing up our tackle boxes for the second time that day, we rode our bicycles to grandmas house before leaving, even if seated in car seats instead.

Stopping at Lot 232 a few days before my mother’s one year anniversary in heaven was an unplanned surprise by God.

I had plans to visit the cemetery; God had me going home.

Stopped by the shell of a place we once called home, takes me back to a crowded place of love, peace and joy, where seated around tables set up in every room of a single-wide trailer were family members enjoying each other and a feast at mother’s house.

Inside and outside of Lot 232, the undeniable joy of guests welcoming each other, a parking lot full of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins gathering together albeit virtual or in person and around the centerpiece of home, our mother.

But now, one year later after mother bid us good-by for heaven, the home which gathered us under one roof is now a family tree which has branched out into new traditions of their own homes.

The senior table is surrounded by empty chairs now and the joyful laughter once heard and piped into the neighborhood through the surround sound of the walls is eerily silent.

And from her car seat our six year old Ayva sadly noted, “Gaga, I don’t see the bicycles.”

“Yes Ayva, I don’t see bicycles either.”

Two days before my mother’s one year anniversary,
I still choose to see the love of my mother’s house and memories she gave us, even though Lot 232 is empty.

I still choose to feel the peace from God whom mother introduced us to, even though the waves of my heart is calmed one ripple at a time.

I still choose joy though I weep for the neighbor I once lived close enough to ride my bike to.

Because when I choose love, peace and joy, I’m choosing God.

Leaving the park that day, the kids spilled the beans of Papa’s secret; a trip to the ice cream place.

Ayva asked me so innocently, “Gaga, what are you having?”

I replied just as innocently, “Sweet girl, whatever you are having.”

Instead of going to the cemetery to remember my mother’s one year anniversary, I went home instead, even if it meant visiting an old neighborhood.

Papa and Gaga and three great grandchildren of moms celebrated her life over a cup of vanilla ice cream and sprinkles.

Choose love.
Choose peace.
Choose joy.

Even choose sprinkles.

Because when you do,

You choose God.

CHOOSE JOY By Lori A Alicea

Can you hear it?
Close your eyes and see if you hear it now.

It’s a quiet morning on a crisp “end of the summer” day and outside the open windows of this country home of mine I hear it.

A soothing serenade, a chorus softly humming in the calm of the day, for anyone
still
enough to listen.
seat treesI captured a small stanza of the choir singing.
(CLICK on the arrow; it takes a few seconds to start)

With eyes closed, I envision the distinct sections of the symphony.

Birds of many kinds, they whistle and sing a melody echoing beautifully through the rustling of the trees.

A slight breeze stirs up the stream with its index finger into a whirlpool gentle enough for a child, lapping cupped-hands of water up against the smooth rocks of its bank.

Crickets and frogs join in if you listen close enough.

Together in unison, and hearts full of joy, they rejoice in song….

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the LORD…
Psalm 96 (NIV)
brook and weeds

I must imagine if our God who delights in the songs of all creation, how much more would he stand to his feet in applause to hear the hearts of his children singing in the fullness of their joy.

Be glad.
Resound.
Be jubilant.
Burst into song.
Sing for joy.
Rejoice before the Lord.
Choose Joy.

The conductor is cuing your heart.
He’s signaling your section.
He longs, he beckons your song.
Open your heart.
Open your mouth.
It’s time to sing.
Choose Joy.

Sing of His goodness.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:3 (NIV)

Sing in your weakness.

1 Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Psalm 81:1 (NIV)

No matter the season.
Whether…

Thru the new life and beginnings of spring.
Or childlike play of summer.
Thru the harvest and season’s change of fall.
Or the chill and bareness of winter.
Choose Joy.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
Psalm 98:4 (NIV)

Sing.
Rejoice in song.

Don’t be outdone by the rocks that cry out.
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:40
water fallSing your song before the Lord.

Choose Joy!