THE GOD WHO SEES  By Lori A Alicea

As a first grader I remember it all too well.

Maybe a bit dramatic for a little girl that young, but my emotions were real and tucked away in the jewelry box of a child’s heart for years.

I’ve never looked at myself through the lens of vanity, but I noticed early on that girls with more friends than me were blonde, blue eyed with flawless skin.

I faced the mirror with red hair, green eyes and a face full of freckles; and as a student in the first grade, I also wept at the sight of a few missing teeth.
Lori little 3
Kids are cruel to each other, especially when your hair is red, or strawberry blonde as they called it back then, with green eyes and freckles to match.

As a young girl I sobbed an ocean many times before the Lord,

Why did you make me this way?”

But God is a God who sees.
(Genesis 16:13)

I didn’t understand at this early age how God made me fearfully and wonderfully, formed and created in the perfect image of God; who kept a nine month vigil while being knitted in my mother’s womb.
(Psalm 139)

Yet, God is a God who sees; whose fatherly love dried the eyes of His daughter one unlikely day around the dinner table.

With six siblings seated in their same exact seat throughout our growing up, eating and talking as we always did at the table, our brother said something out of the ordinary and to be honest, I don’t believe any of my siblings heard the conversation but me.

With five sisters seated next to each other, my brother proposed the question, “Guess who I think will be the prettiest girl when she’s all grown up?”

Lowering my head as the emotions tucked inside the jewelry box I saved were sadly stirred, believing my brother was talking about our oldest sister instead of me; yet to my astonishment, I heard my name from across the table.

I truly believe God muted this childhood scene among my other sisters, as they were created as equally fearfully and wonderfully.

But God longed to use my older brother to affirm a little girl like me, whose first grade smile now lit up her face.

Words are vessels for life or for death.

That evening at dinner, my brother’s words spoke life and volumes I’ve never forgotten; they remain hidden in my keepsake jewelry box to remind this daughter of her Father’s opinion when at times, I think otherwise.

Since that day of affirmation, I’ve grown into a woman fully aware of the love God has for me.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3

So, what about that red hair, green eyes and face full of freckles?
ALICEA David Lori
I asked the question years later in my life; and oh, how amazingly God answered.

Our good Father whispered and pointed to the mirror of my reflection:

Oh daughter, your red hair is a gift from me; only 2% of little girls are strawberry blonde; red hair with green eyes are even more uncommon.

And those freckles…God leans in close to tell me a secret…

Your mother told you those freckles were kisses
From the S U N.

Well actually, your freckles are sweet kisses
From my S O N.

I celebrate the God who sees.

All grown up when I could have changed my hair to any color in the rainbow, I kept the gift God gave me…
David and Lori together 3
Yes, God is so good to me.

God is so good to you.

I want my daughters and granddaughters, girls and women alike to rejoice in the God who made them fearfully and wonderfully…

Missing teeth and all…
Rosalee praising Jesus

He is a God who sees…

THE GOD WHO SEES
By Lori A Alicea

You knit me in my mother’s womb,
And wonderfully I’m made.
Created me so fearfully,
The days you watched, you stayed.

Not hidden in this secret place,
Your works, I praise for these.
Your eyes they saw my unformed self,
You are the God who sees.

How precious are your thoughts of me,
More than the grains of sand.
My days are written in your book,
One mind can’t understand.

You see me when I sleep at night,
You see when I’m awake.
You are the God who sees it all,
You see each breath I take.

Yes, I am yours and you are mine,
My heart, you have the keys.
You’ve drawn me Oh Beloved One,
You are the God who sees.

Psalms 139
Genesis 16:13
Solomon 6:3

WEDDINGS PUT ON PAUSE By Lori A. Alicea

I’ve been thinking about you these last few weeks in spite of the fact that we have never met.

I wish I could check in on you every so often and be a small light of encouragement through this window of uncertainty.

Businesses have temporarily closed their doors.
Families have been ordered to take refuge at home.
Tomorrow is a big question mark for the world.

Yes and a resounding Amen as our hearts grieve for those whose lives have been touched or worse yet, taken during this terrible storm.

Lately, face masks are the new fashion “have to” to protect one’s self from harm, yet no mask is invincible enough to shield us from loss or hope deferred.

Yet the silver lining from these dark ominous clouds reveal that compassion is rising to the surface, strangers and neighbors alike are reaching out and sharing with one another, and the glorious rainbow emerging from these world-wide storms remind us that love is winning.

Through it all, life continues with or without our permission.

Life’s footsteps march onward, it doesn’t pause or stand in place for anything.
Babies continue to be born.
We continue to eat and we continue to sleep.

The sun still wakes the world up in the east and tucks us back into bed from the west.

The earth revolves around the sun as it’s done from the beginning of time.

Seasons change guard with each other, and just a few days ago, the season of winter handed over its baton to spring.

While the news we’ve been intently listening to has been focused on health and finance, as it should be, but as a mother of three brides and as an event decorator, my heart has also been grieving for those brides whose
weddings have been put on pause.
1 Crystal's Dress Before 006
Weddings these brides have been dreaming about their whole life.

Weddings, whose details consume a bride’s thoughts for months leading up to her special day.

Yet airline tickets for wedding guests planning to attend these events have been refunded.

Wedding dates are now cancelled or future weddings in limbo as venues have temporarily closed their doors.

Services for florists, bakers, videographers, photographers, event coordinators, wedding singers, DJ’s and event decorators are no longer needed for the weddings they were booked for during this wedding season of spring.

Brides all over the world aren’t blushing.

Brides weep over their “dreams of a lifetime” put on pause.

While there is nothing I can do to change the situation, I can sit with these brides and hold their hand through my words to say,
“I’m thinking of you.”

Weddings put on pause
Don’t equate to a missed doctor’s appointment.

Women begin dreaming of their wedding day decades earlier as little girls playing dress up in their mother’s heels and makeup.

Weddings are a volume of thoughtful details that take months and years sometimes to prepare for; emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

I’d love to be invited to these bride’s houses and take an emotional tour of her wedding day as she planned, a tour to keep the momentum of her excitement going, a tour to remind these blushing brides that her dreams haven’t been cancelled, just a wedding put on pause.

I’d smile to hold your color coordinated wedding invitation that started it all,

Announcing to the world of two hearts about to be joined as one, an announcement inviting those selected guests to witness your day.
2 invitations

I’d quite possibly hear about your grandmother’s wedding day through her jewelry you’d be wearing, honoring her memory of “something borrowed.”

I have no doubt that mothers or mothers-stepping-in will accompany this tour, crying already as she envisions her daughter stepping into her wedding dress.

Becoming this vision of loveliness she imagined in her dreams as a little girl.
8 Cumbee-164The bride’s tresses are described as twisted and pinned off her soft neck into intricate flowers as beautiful as the bouquet she will be carrying.

No wedding is complete without a prince waiting at the altar, telling his bride it’s time to step into her Cinderella slippers and carriage awaiting outside to take her to the ball.

Brides deserve a grand entrance with all eyes on her, as she is escorted slowly to the altar where her prince is waiting, holding on to the arm of her father or father-of-choice, as these two are kissed and greeted with a garden of flowers and lit candles on both sides of this entrance, an isle befitting a queen.

I can perfectly see the sacred communion table where this bride and groom share and pray over their first meal together.

Shared are
With these rings and vows
“I thee wed.”

A bride and grooms first steps together as man and wife.
20 IMG_7099Our wedding tour leaves the church and continues to the reception hall where the bride ponders her invited guests she couldn’t wait to see, those who committed to long travels for her special day.

What wedding wouldn’t be complete without a cake, a confection to celebrate two people just married.

Brides are saddened to see the decorated tables empty in her mind of guests, bridal party and her betrothed.
25 England_Wedding-402With eyes closed, brides imagine that first dance embraced by the love of her life, swaying as the music quietly plays from her heart.
26 Cumbee-761Sadly, midnight comes for every bride and groom, closing the wedding book of little girl’s dreams and planning,

Yet marking a new beginning of marriage.
27 England_Wedding-382The tour closes with all brides shrugging her shoulders wearing that same look of
“what now?”

I would tell each bride that God knows all things.

God has her steps ordered and nothing has taken him by surprise, though the world has been surprised for certain.

I assure each bride to take heart that her
Wedding in pause isn’t forever.
1 Crystal's Dress Before 006That however or whenever her wedding plans will unfold,
Her wedding will be as it was always supposed to be,
Even better than she imagined,

In God’s perfect plan.

 

MORE THAN DECORATED TABLES By Lori A Alicea

“Just talk about yourself.”

Those were simple words spoken from my teenage granddaughter after asking her opinion for ideas of a future blog of mine while travelling together to church.

Pondering back over two years of blogs, I wondered if I had ever done just that,

“Talk about myself.”

 I’m sure you have guessed that I am “over the moon in love” with my ten grandchildren as their pictures illustrate and bring to life the words of my many weekly blogs.

The same is also true of my husband David, the man possessing my heart in our twenty-five years of marriage this past October.
25th anniversary - corner david and lori in corner 30
A 25 Year Anniversary Vow Renewal celebration we invited you as our guest to attend in blogs,

SHE DANCED UNTIL MIDNIGHT,
RENEWAL VOWS AND HONOR TO MY BELOVED HUSBAND
and LOVE IS.

In many of my blogs, as in my previous blog to this one,
SMALL BEGINNINGS,

I have encouraged you in pursuit of your dreams, so
it is in this thought that I have questioned myself though,
“Have I ever revealed to you my dreams?”

Maybe indirectly, as written in my blog,
A TABLE SET FOR THE UNSEEN GUEST,
a piece revealing the heart and love of mine for setting and decorating tables and for whom I truly decorate for.

So, at the urging of my teenage granddaughter to
“Just talk about myself”,
I present to you my passion and dream beyond a decade
as written in this blog titled,
MORE THAN DECORATED TABLES.
table centerpiece
“Do you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking about your dream?
Are you willing to pursue it even if you can’t make a living at it?”
Author John C. Maxwell asks that question in his book,
Put Your Dream to the Test.

Allow me the privilege of introducing myself.
My name is Lori A Alicea.
I reside in a small country town.
I have been an event decorator for over a decade.
And
John C. Maxwell, whom if you follow me, is my favorite author and mentor as I quote him often, best describes my passion to a precise-T:

That decorating tables (which encompasses so much more) is what I think about when waking up in the morning and before I go to bed at night, and up to this point although believing that will change, been willing to pursue without making a living at.
IMG_1765An excerpt taken from my blog “A Table Set for the Unseen Guest” details in vivid color my passion for decorating tables:

Nobody loves a party more than I do. I light up like a Christmas tree at the mere mention of making your event dreams come true.  I hyperventilate in the candy store of Pinterest.  I savor the hunt for napkin folds, centerpiece ideas, favors, intimate lighting and linens.  Glue guns are my weapon of choice and I dream in glitter of every color in the crayon box. 

It’s a mystery that setting a beautiful table fills my tank, yet it does. But it’s also the invited list of names I want to overwhelm in the details that motivates my passion, those selected guests who have no idea of the tables prepared just for them.

If truth be told though, some guests rarely notice the trappings of the table. A tablecloth would have sufficed; even a wrinkled one.  The decoration expense might be viewed as a waste and unappreciated favor gifts are left behind by many. 

No matter the opinion though, this event decorator will continue to pour her heart onto her guests, especially the unseen guest whom she truly decorates for, the Lord.

Decorating for me began when my mother passed on her “spirit of celebration” through all our holiday dinners and events; a gift I wanted to pass on to my family.

Soon, I was privileged to decorate for our children’s wedding showers and receptions. Decorating for me is more than creating a beautiful day.  It is about preparing tables with every guest in mind by the displays of my love for them in the details.

Then the babies came and their special events.

Fairy parties

Lemonade-stand parties

Diva parties

Under the Sea parties to name a few.

Last spring, I created the centerpieces for a school auction which benefitted children attending the school. Decorations were designed in my home then mailed in a huge shipment to the school states away, where I flew in town to assist my daughter ‘n law in overseeing and setting up the decorations the day before the auction.

As a military mom, I have decorated for a military Christmas dinner to celebrate America’s finest.

I have decorated for a fundraising event for a candidate running for State Representative, while also honoring a few invited veterans that day during the service.

I was even honored to create a military scene for a men’s event my church had hosted one year.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

My most recent and cherished event was designing the decorations for our 25th Wedding Anniversary Vow Renewal.

And all these tables are just a few among many others not mentioned.

After setting and decorating tables for over a decade with great love, joy and passion, I still believed that God wanted more from the gifting He has blessed me with.

That belief was confirmed in a voice mail message from my niece, who after attending a young girl’s tea party with her daughter, could see and imagine me also hosting and decorating tea parties tables for girls.

A voice mail message heard while checking my phone at the grocery store, stirred up excitement as my prayer for the “next step” was answered through an unsuspecting family member.

Tea party celebrations for girls; this felt right, a perfect next step.

As a young girl, I remember the affirmation of being honored on my birthday.
Lori little Birthday cakeAnd after having so many granddaughters whom delighted in the decorations I created for their special events, I decided to pass on that deep love for girls, while silently honoring the little girl I once was and still am inside, by opening up my doors to help little girls believe they are special through the detailed decorations of their tea parties, birthday parties, princess parties or whatever special day they are having.

I began to put my true heart on display through the ground work of launching an event decorating business called

SHE SPARKLES,
Events for Girls We Celebrate.

Pictures for business cards were taken.

My heart through
SHE SPARKLES
Was to remind young girls:

They truly are one of a kind.
Their life has purpose.
Their life has meaning.

They deserve to be celebrated.
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A tax-id was secured.
Early preparations were made.
But sadly, preparations remain incomplete from when they began three long years ago.

What happened?

I didn’t believe enough in myself.
I froze in my confidence.
I stalled to my lack of finance.

Pride put a heavy burden on the backs of my success and gifting ability to make this dream happen, when all along it was God’s dream for me and only He could breathe life into the outcome.

I DISOBEYED.

And yet, I continued to seek another next step for this dream in prayer.
But God was silent in His answer.

I write about the silence of God when praying for the next step in an excerpt taken from my blog

SMALL BEGINNINGS.
You see, when I was speaking to you through my words of this blog, I was actually re-telling my story.

SMALL BEGINNINGS (an excerpt)

Small beginnings require faith and obedience for every step of the way that God has called us to take.

God speaks.
We listen.
We obey.
God speaks the next step.

Sometimes in the dream journey though, it seems as if God has stopped speaking and gone silent, causing us to question the next step.

Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church
Asks the same question in his “Frequency Series” on hearing God:

“Have you ever been in a place where you felt you weren’t hearing God?
Then go back to the last place God spoke to you, and ask yourself, did you obey?”

In prayer, I repented for not trusting God and surrendered to his leading, his equipping, his provision, and gifting. I went back to the last word God spoke to me and chose to obey.  Shoes were laced and I got back in my lane, took the baton for my leg of this dream race, and purposed to run with fury.

I’ve been stirred again to pursue this dream of mine, though all the unknowns and concerns still remain from three years ago. I rest in the peace though that my only responsibility for this race is to put one step in front of the other.  I rejoice in the assurance of God’s faithfulness to my every step of the way.

There is a reserved seat and decorated table befitting every sweet princess.

She’s beautiful.
She Sparkles.
She deserves to be celebrated.

May all her dreams, including mine, come true.
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