A TABLE SET BEFORE US! By Lori A Alicea

During the joyous season of the holidays, we all find ourselves sitting in a seat at a table set before us.

Taking our seat where every place setting represents a life in the family, friendship or meaningful relationship around the table.USE 2018 alicea xmas kids 14

While Hallmark movies present a picture perfect table for the holidays; in reality, the table of gathering is uniquely set from every heart of the home.USE xmas table

The simplicity of our father’s Christmas table served homemade cookies and cakes prepared from the hands of a widower of many years.

Missing my father and his modest traditions so terribly, I continue to drive by his house every December 24th in the evening, opening the greeting card of Christmas past from across the street, reminiscing through the kitchen window and listening for laughter still baked in the walls when we daughters shared a few hours with dad around his table.

In mother’s later years of life in the nursing home, we girls would join her and the other residents and their guests for a Christmas meal together.

The love of the host overflowed onto her decorated tables for those she served everyday throughout the years, regardless that many of the residents had lost their capacity to appreciate the thoughtfulness in her details.

But God sees the unnoticed and receives it all as if you had done it unto Him.

Somebody loved our mother as we sat with her around the table those remaining December’s of her life; a gift we will treasure for Christmas’ to come.

Some tables set in December have a few tears of sadness sprinkled with the faux snow spread around the winter centerpiece scene, when those seated next to them are thousands of miles away in thought with those they’re unable to be together with during the holidays.

One Christmas, our son ate his holiday meal on the other side of the world from us, actually a day in advance from us while serving his country in the military; although the miles were bridged when a homemade gift from our officer’s hands arrived in the mail the day after Christmas.

A mother’s heart was full during a long and lonely year she hadn’t hugged her son for months.

How do you set a table of Christmas for a mother you’re unable to reach when the doors aren’t opening to visitors?TABLE Ate Alone

Where do you find the magic of Christmas when mother’s seat at the table is void of her being; well, at least at her earthly table? Mother found her reserved place at heaven’s banquet table the moment she opened her eyes to Jesus.

Mother’s presence remains in the traditions she created for her children and grandchildren, and in her seat at the card table I now sit at when she left us for a better place.  

My husband and I are like little children waiting to wake up on Christmas morning together, believing God to redeem the season from one year ago when David ate his holiday meal from the tray of his hospital bed, while separated from me as I sat alone at my table that December evening because of sickness too.ava at xmas

Regardless of every table set before us…

Christmas will always be about a baby born in a manger, and the joy that filled the earth when our Savior cried for the very first time in His mother’s arms.

God is faithful to us during the holidays, and every day.

God is near to the brokenhearted whose covenant love will reach a thousand generations.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9 NIV

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18 NIVUSE church

For Christmas this year, I’m setting tables.

While I love the sparkle and twinkle of a beautifully set table, I won’t miss the unexpected opportunities to set a table of simplicity as my father once did for us daughters each Christmas Eve, serving cookies and love on a plate for those seated around his table.

USE xmas at dads

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.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIVUSE holding hands 1

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…

USE holding hands

HE SEES THE ONE! By Lori A Alicea

Lord, if there’s anyone I need to meet today,
I trust you will arrange it.”

I pray these simple words every time I enter the grocery store, craft store, gym, or wherever I’m at during my day.

People masquerade their pain with fake smiles and one might never know which person is hurting, in need of an encouraging word, a timely prayer, a simple hug or smile; but God does.

Shoulder to shoulder” among the crowds
He sees the one.

The sparrows fill the skies and yet
He sees the one which falls…
(Matthew 10)

While never losing sight over us, the one.

The conference I attended recently hosted over five thousand women who traveled from all corners of the world, gathering around a central theme that

Heaven Rules
In every situation of our lives;

A ministry I began listening to for encouragement during my lunch hour as a young, single mother raising two small children.USE nancy

In the midst of a vast multitude, I believed for divine appointments with the one.USE CROWD 1

Lord, if there’s anyone I need to meet today,
I trust you will arrange it.”USE linda

An hour before each session that weekend, I volunteered to be a greeter among the crowds.USE greeter

Believing my job description was smiling, welcoming and taking group pictures of others by the photo walls…USE TEAM 1

I was caught off guard when women began asking questions of all kinds, for which I had no answers…

Directions to sessions taking place all over the convention center…

Directions to restaurants and coffee houses located in the surrounding city…

Questions spoken in languages I didn’t understand…

It would have been more accurate if my GREETER button actually said,
DON’T ASK”…

After I sent a woman looking for a Spanish speaking prayer room to the nursing mother’s room instead…

When all I could do was smile and aimlessly point a group of hungry women to the food courts outside the front doors…

When I walked an elderly woman already out of breath down the long corridors to her next session, only to find us both in front of a dead-end section of the convention center…

You laugh over the blunders.

While being encouraged and reminded by a friend over coffee,

Sometimes our wrong ways lead us the right way to a divine appointment.”

I think she’s on to something.

I continued to pray for the one that weekend.

It was a scavenger hunt for a needle in a haystack among five thousand women; but God knew the one.

He was about to introduce the three of us and reveal how intimately He knows us as the one.

Seated beside two sisters during a breakout session, I introduced myself and inquired of their “highlight moment” thus far.IMG_7002

One sister turned to the other sister smiling and rejoicing over their time spent together after a year’s lapse since they last saw each other.

During the course of our short conversation, we realized the younger sister and I lived thirty minutes apart; with the churches we attended down the road from the other.

Only to discover the younger sister was a bus driver at the same school my husband’s brother Joe and sister ‘n law worked.

I asked if she knew them.

A moment of silence as the older sister looked into the eyes of her sibling;

A gesture I believed had deeper meaning than they conveyed.

The face of the younger sister turned my way as she quietly spoke,

I sat in awe during Joe’s three hour funeral, one year ago last summer.”

How timely our meeting; on Joe’s birthday, now celebrating in heaven.

Only God knew why three women were destined to meet from the five thousand among us.USE CROWD 1

I shared my prayer with two siblings sitting next to me three hours from home, so they could sense the divine appointment God orchestrated for us, the one,

Lord, if there’s anyone I need to meet today,
I trust you will arrange it.”

Yes, God does hear our prayers; written, spoken or hidden inside our hearts.USE prayer requests

I left a convention with question marks in my journal regarding this divine appointment with two sisters.

While being satisfied with the “need to know basis” we have with God.

I left a convention re-playing over and over my highlight reel…

Among the crowds and multitudes,
God keeps an intimate watch over me,
The one.

DADDY’S BABY IS HAVING A BABY  By Lori A Alicea

Life is full of surprises.

They arrive when you’re caught off guard by the unexpected.

They arrive as a bouquet of flowers you didn’t order.

They arrive after a lap-full of three grandsons and seven granddaughters have been calling you Papa over the last seventeen years. GRANDCHILDRENThey arrive after the baby crib set up at Papa’s house where most of his ten grandchildren have slept in, has been sadly dismantled for the last time.Ethan 2011 ethan in crib USE

They arrive after years of summer riding together on bicycles, most rescued from the side of the road on garbage day and shared among cousins, now bringing smiles to other children in need, as our grandchildren have crushed our hearts outgrowing them.USE BIKESbikes grandkids big on bikes

They arrive after a gentle rain of grandparent tears waving at their two remaining grandchildren recently graduating from Pre-k, on their first day of school.

They arrive after the resistance of a grandfather closing the chapter on diapers, pacifiers, of grandchildren teething, nighttime rocking, toddlers learning to walk, play-dates and weekends at Papa’s house.

They arrive after Papa still struggles with all these new beginnings.

Yes, life is full of unsuspecting surprises.

They arrive as an explosion of joyful confetti…

When daddy’s little girl,
Who always thought she’d only be a cool aunt in her lifetime,

Has called her father to announce she’s having a baby.

A little girl who wrapped her tiny fingers around a daddy’s heart from the moment he laid eyes on her, is about to experience this same miracle in a few short months.use AUDRA baby

A little girl whose smile and curls started the world around her smiling, will witness the same through her son.

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A little girl who loved to go fishing, who risked a handful of blisters for the monkey bars, will one day enjoy these afternoons of fun with her baby boy whose name we have yet to learn.

While time refused to stand still in her growing up,

She remained her daddy’s little girl.

A father affirming his beautiful daughters in song on their thirtieth birthdays while celebrating his sixtieth; a well of emotion a brand new mother is about to draw from for the rest of her child’s life.

You are so Beautiful
Song Made Famous By Joe Cocker

(lyrics excerpt)

You’re everything I hoped for…
You’re everything I need…
You are so beautiful, to me..

Click on the movie ABOVE to hear a father sing to his daughters.

She always thought she’d be the cool aunt to her nieces and nephews, never imagining holding a child of her own.audra johnny dedication

But God knew…

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…
Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)

From the beginning of time, God already knew and wrote about the days of this child’s life; a precious gift from the Lord.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
All the days ordained for me where written in your book,
Before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:16 (NIV)

Children are a gift from the Lord,
They are a reward from Him.
Psalm 127:3 (NLT)

Daddy’s baby is having a baby.
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Papa was overwhelmed with great joy when he revealed the news to me one evening after work.

While she’ll always remain daddy’s little girl;

As some things can never change.
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But oh, what an explosion of confetti…

And a life full of surprises…

When daddy’s baby holds the baby of her own.

INTENTIONAL FRIENDS  By Lori A Alicea

Her name is Betty.

My next door-neighbor of many years and twenty years my senior, and yet our relationship celebrated differing views and perspectives; not competing generations.

Across the street where whistle blowing trains rattled our windows all hours of the day, was an old country street of five houses nestled under the acreage of trees they were built on, where barns, horses, gardens and chickens running loose added to the old fashion charm of a picturesque postcard.Jake 1

Betty and I began borrowing cups of sugar from each other when she was a young grandmother and I a young mother myself.

As neighbors, we smiled and witnessed from our porches and swing sets the passing of time in the growing faces of Betty’s grandchildren and my children between the two houses.

Betty’s twin granddaughters and two grandsons always seemed to sport a glove and bat for a family baseball game of endless innings in their backyard where parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, each took their position on the field.

My two year old son watched these games from the dugout of his sandbox, waiting his turn to be big enough for the team; my baby girl and I rooted Betty’s grand-kids from the window or lawn chair nearby.

Betty and I loved being home with our children and grandchildren, both sharing the arts of sewing, canning and crafts.

More than anything, we neighbors shared the same pew at heart when our love for God overflowed those morning cups of conversation.

USE church

As time passed by, my young children and I would leave the neighborhood in tears and brokenhearted due to an unwanted divorce, but would return years later as Betty’s next-door neighbor, newly married to the man of my dreams.

Sadly, moving back to this old country neighborhood of five houses where whistle blowing trains from across the street would fascinate my future grandchildren, Betty has said good-by in sickness to the love of her life; a marriage of thirty-five glorious years.

In her husband’s honor, Betty planted a backyard tree to celebrate his life and life going on thru nature in its magnificence towards the skies and God; a widow’s place of remembrance for someone she deeply loved.

Albeit divorce, sickness or death, Betty and I continued to share sugar and heartache over tears, conversations, hugs and sometimes sitting in silence as true friends and neighbors feel comfortable to do.

For years I felt guilty for all the celebrations of open houses, baby showers and parties that took place on the front acreage of our property, where life and laughter…

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Could be heard and seen from Betty’s house and open windows a few steps away.IMG_6069

Through our intentional friendship though, Betty continued to be encouraged and lifted up, reminding her through scriptures that God promised to be a husband to the widow, a father to the orphan, a redeemer for another day.

Fifteen years later God redeems Betty’s vacant heart at a high school reunion with the re-introduction of an old friend. Betty’s eyes illuminated with joy and happiness unspeakable once again as a little girl, and the two were married in the fall of that year; eventually moving out of the neighborhood to begin their newly married life in another state.

Distance didn’t change our friendship as the miles were bridged with Betty’s cards sent in the mail and my telephone calls to her.

Betty and her new husband would come into town every so often to visit family or attend their favorite quartet concerts, for which they stopped into the old neighborhood for a visit with us.

Not making excuses, but life started happening in those one by one good-byes to parents, grandparents and loved ones and moving two more times for us, somehow losing touch with Betty.

Interestingly, Betty’s cards stopped coming although I didn’t question it, assuming life was happening for her.

Sadly and heartbreaking enough, it was.

I decided to look Betty up on social media after three and a half years from our last conversation, when an arrow plunged my heart in despair after realizing Betty’s account had been moved to legacy status.

Not wanting to assume the worse, I searched the internet for an obituary, yet never finding one in my quest.

Remembering in former conversations of Betty’s wishes to be buried by her husband of thirty-five years, David and I drove to the old country cemetery a short distance from where Betty and I used to be neighbors, only to find that indeed, Betty had passed away mere months after our last conversation.USE cemetery

With only one dirt road winding through this final resting place of a few hundred loved ones, it didn’t take us long to find the headstone of Betty’s last name she once shared with the love of her life.USE dirt roads

To my surprise, Betty left behind a love story of a different kind, choosing to be remembered beside both men who stole this woman’s heart in life.

Not knowing for sure, I imagine Betty’s thoughts…

God didn’t forget Betty and she wanted to thank Him by telling the world her beautiful story beyond her absence.USE headstone

I’m so sorry for the conversations we didn’t have those final months of Betty’s life.  I regret not bidding good-by to my intentional friend.

I didn’t attend Betty’s celebration of life and convey to her family how much their mother and grandmother meant to a next door neighbor; only because I didn’t know.

But may these words be the flowers I send to Betty on her life’s Graduation day to heaven, albeit three and a half years after she received her diploma.USE flowers

Thank you Betty for decades of friendship, for cards, for sharing cups of sugar as next door neighbors do.

I will never forget you.

Remembering…

One day we will once again share a front row pew with God who will tip His heart’s tea-pot and overflow our morning cups of conversation.USE church

FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES…By Lori A Alicea

Do you have a picture of grandma?”

Preoccupied while frying bacon and measuring flour for a batch of homemade breakfast biscuits for three of my grandchildren who spent the night previous, my curious granddaughter asks the question again,

Gaga, do you have a picture of grandma?”party 2

A quick glance at the clock whose hands stretched out to wake and announce the sleepy hour of 5:30 in the morning, quite early for a little girl to be thinking about grandma still tightly wrapped in her blankie.

But, from the innocent mouths of babes, a child was asking.clock

Looking up at Aubrey with my full attention now, though still kneading biscuit dough from memory, this Gaga handled a granddaughter’s heart with delicate hands,

Are you missing grandma?”

Secretly, I had also been missing my mother terribly these early weeks of summer; longing to share a glass of lemonade and the day’s nothings under the shade tree of our back yard together.

Now, here is a five year old, whose birthday was recently shared and celebrated with her sister Ayva turning seven, who also is missing her grandma.

Not having too many pictures framed and displayed in the house, I did remember a 5 x 7 keepsake hidden between the pages of my Bible for this sweet child to reminisce over; a moment taken at our 25th Wedding Anniversary three years ago.

I wanted my mother close whenever the waves of emotions for her rushed and reached the shore of my heart, usually during the quiet hours of my morning devotions with God.bible MOMS PICTURE

In just a few short months this September, an ocean of memories will flood the vacancy our mother left behind when she waved good-by for heaven only two years ago.mom's headstone

With Aubrey recently blowing out the candles of her fifth birthday cake,

Only highlights the impact her grandmother had made during the three short years these two shared together.halloween 1

My mother’s hand-print remains on Aubrey’s life and an entire legacy of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well.

(Aubrey with her grandmother on the left and attending grandma’s funeral on the right; just three short years and yet a little girl still asks for a picture.)

Aubrey isn’t alone in her longing for pictures of grandma, as six months ago at Christmas, her cousin Gracie was yearning the same.

In the spirit of Christmas and found beneath the tree, an album filled and full of grandma’s pictures for Gracie, a gift to comfort a little girl who also missed her grandmother.

My mother would have been eighty-two years young this July 21st, yet our family is forever thankful for the final picture we gathered together outside her window for…

An 80th Princess Gala Event in mother’s honor…

A perfect afternoon for the remaining birthday we’d ever celebrate with our mother, grandmother and great-grandmother this side of heaven.
moms 80th birthday

Recently, Aubrey was watering the flowers of my tiny garden, not realizing many of the decorations of angels, wind chimes, birds and flower pots were once placed outside her grandmother’s window of her own garden;

A summer’s delight to lift a mother’s spirit during those lonely afternoons when family wasn’t visiting.

Mother’s love for the Lord is a families great inheritance she passed on down thru her legacy.

Recently, during a day I ached for my mother, God unearthed a treasure written in my mother’s handwriting, a gift of encouragement I have no idea how it was buried and hidden on my computer after all these years.MOMS WRITING

Your family loves and misses you mother.

Two years is but a blink of the eye for us, yet once you stepped into eternity with God, there was no looking back for you.

In your absence, I’ve had to take your place at the card table.

You’d be disappointed in the whiners and poor sports you used to play with, but actually be proud of the daughter who holds her own and plays in your honor for a game of Phase 10.

From the innocent mouths of babes, her heart was asking.

Gaga, do you have a picture of grandma?”party 2

Aubrey held her grandmother’s hand for only three short years, a matriarch who left her hand-print on the heart of a grandchild for a lifetime.halloween mom and aubrey 2019

Aubrey Ann, your picture of grandma remains between the family bible pages where she loved her Lord from, the great inheritance your grandmother passed on down to you and her legacy of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

bible MOMS PICTURE

 

CLOSER THAN A BROTHER  By Lori A Alicea

It is written…

there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 NIV

Those friends who are brothers from different mothers, yet love the other’s family as their own.

They eat from each other’s refrigerators; they sleep on the other’s floor.

They argue as brothers yet remain and love as true friends,

as friends stick closer than a brother.

college buds

Friendships elevate one another with their belief in the other’s success;

Going low that they be lifted high.sand dune buds 2006 Jake and Rob on sand dunes jake jumping

Friendships rev the throttle of encouragement to push their brother further and faster down the pathway of life.

They are a ride for help when friends find themselves stranded along a dark and lonely road.

Friends are runners in each other’s races.

They train together for those triathlons which test the limits of a brother’s endurance of spirit when he’s forced to…

Swim against the tide of struggles…

Bicycle though the wind of adversity blows in your face…

And run a full marathon while you are weak.

Friends keep pace beside their brother’s race especially when the runner’s wall is before them,

as friends stick closer than a brother.

Friendships are those speeches of love and truth at your wedding, those crumbs in the forest to help you find your way when your compass has failed.

A brotherhood of words to remind you…

I’ve got your back…

I’m here for you…

You’ve got a friend in me.wedding - best man speech

True friends talk and think like the other; albeit to a grandmother’s anxiety.

Friends stroll thru and share the sights of fatherhood together; they are those fun uncles to their brother’s children.vacation dads together 2019 england hattabaughs in town hollis eli holding hands

Friends see the good, the beautiful, the noteworthy attributes of his brother, overlooking the imperfect weeds of his brother’s garden.

A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence,
And admires the flowers in your garden.
Author Unknown

The sun sets in the eyes of friends who share the other’s dreams, successes, failures and hope thru the lens of their God who loved them first as friend.vacation together

Friends stand at attention to the priorities and values of true success, holding the line to fight and protect their richest blessings …

God…
Family…
Country…
Flag…

Friends go to the ends of the world for the other, following them and risking it all up those treacherous mountains where it’s most difficult to breathe if need be.

Because friends don’t allow friends to climb thru life alone,

as friends stick closer than a brother.

A friend loves at all times.

A friend is always loyal,
A brother is born to help in time of need.
Proverbs 17:17 NLTmt ranier 1

A brotherhood of words to remind you…

I’ve got your back…
I’m here for you…

You’ve got a friend in me.

BEHIND YOUR BACK!  By Lori A Alicea

Today was an ordinary day, no different than most yesterdays of my life.

While walking thru the parking lot of my favorite store, I always pray these same words as I do before entering any other shopping center;

Lord, if there’s a person I need to see in this store, let our paths cross.”

Most days while shopping, it’s just me, myself and I in the store.

Yet occasionally, God orchestrates those chance meetings and encounters down the aisles as we shop, a God who loves an available heart, and willingness to be used…

Ministering to…

An old friend I hadn’t seen in years, sharing her intimate details of a journey with cancer.

Lending an arm of comfort…

To a woman I recognized from high school, who sadly shared her husband had recently passed away.

Bringing joy to myself…

While hearing my granddaughters laughing one isle over, as my daughter shops for Christmas.

The people are there, pushing grocery carts of burdens or cares of this life down the aisles of Walmart or Hobby Lobby, all needing a touch from God’s heart if we are willing to notice them.

Sometimes though, we are meant to see others for our good…

That’s why I remember in all things to pray before taking one step into the store or especially when caught in a time crunch to get in and get out…

Lord, if there’s a person I need to see in this store, let our paths cross.”

She didn’t see me as I passed her browsing the seasonal isle that morning.

I could have continued to shop, unsure if this woman remembered me from thirty-nine years ago, recalling I’ve embarrassed myself (and my husband) in many instances when others couldn’t recollect.

But I remembered Marilyn and the memories we shared, both brand new mothers in the hospital after giving birth to our newborn sons.

Over the years, our lives had intersected thru church, in the fabric and canning departments, as she loved God and life the old fashioned way thru sewing and preparing food from scratch as I did.

We made a connection thirty-nine years ago; so I made a U-Turn in the seasonal aisle of Hobby Lobby to greet a familiar face.

Taking a chance, I said hello to Marilyn as dear friends do, whose bright smile remembered and took us back to those hospital rooms where we embraced motherhood for the very first time.

After almost four decades ago and both of us now in our sixties, we questioned in Hobby Lobby the years gone by since our sons entered our world.

Where did the time go?

Her John and my Jake; now grown men with families of their own.

Going backwards as two first time mothers, both now grandmothers, capturing and sharing snapshots of each other’s lives these last thirty-nine years; the secret passage of time while unaware; behind your back.IMG_4791

You don’t notice quite frankly, at least I didn’t; how time passes by so quickly when half asleep with young children and their midnight feedings, diapers, teething and caring for the demands of the others in the house.1 USE

Even when the children are growing out of their pull-ups and coming into their personalities, giving us hints of who God made them to be, time is sneaking out behind our backs and into the history books of our family.3 USE

Welcoming new days and bright beginnings, we seldom look behind our backs at the distance those paths have taken us from the maiden steps where our journey began.4 USE

You kiss each day with thankfulness for what God has entrusted into your care.5 USE

You lead those into their destinies with God as your tour guide.6 USE

When you inventory what God has given and sense the rustling of the family nest…

You look behind your back and wonder…

Where has all the time gone?”IMG_3702

You pray the family ties of love are strong and tight enough to weather the fiercest storms when they come…and they will.IMG_3700

Yet are confident as you determine…

Family is a circle of strength…
Founded on faith…IMG_3706

Joined in love…

Kept forever by God…
Together forever.

IMG_3708

Yes, time is a ship whose itinerary stops for no one and quickly passes in the night.

Grandchildren are sprouting taller than a field of corn at harvest.  Hardworking family members retire and enjoy the fruits of their labors while some are too busy to notice.

Chairs around the table which seat your favorite faces today, will find themselves empty before you had a chance to really enjoy who they were in your life.

Funerals of good-byes have been overwhelming this past year.  Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day many bring.
Proverbs 27:1 NIV

Today is all we have to celebrate; to enjoy; embracing and taking nothing for granted.

Doing so as a family…

Joined in love…
Kept forever by God…

Together forever.IMG_3708