The pages of my Christmas Past are written from the overflow of my thankfulness for what God has given in wrapped gifts of family and friends, of neighbors and acquaintances, of good times and yes, even hard times.
God is the bow and ribbon which ties up every good and perfect gift He has allowed and added to enlarge the borders of my heart for His glory.
I am a blessed woman because of a good and generous God, who has given me sixty-two Christmas’ thus far to celebrate, sixty-two Christmas trees to decorate with ornaments which tell the stories, the longings written from the pages of my Christmas past.
Years of history is on display at our house during the holiday season, yet one might not notice among the bright lights and fancy decorations set out in each room for a child’s delight during Christmas.
Sometimes it takes the little girl still living inside her adult self who remembers and re-counts the stories written so long ago, to give you the grand and wonderful tour of her Christmas pasts.
The centerpiece of our home growing up was always our mother, who gave her five daughters and one son the happiest and most memorable holidays a child could ever ask for.
We didn’t have much although we didn’t know it, because mother stretched Christmas and our memories for weeks with a freezer full of homemade cookies baked in our mother’s kitchen, greeting cards in the mail, tree decorating, children’s plays at church, visiting Santa, her homemade coffee cake served on Christmas morning and those few but specially picked presents we six kids couldn’t wait to open gathered around the tree.
As an adult now longing for her mother at Christmas, I set out her nativity scene and holiday lights every year to have a small reminder of the centerpiece who gave six children the best December’s to write about.
At the age of twenty-one and twenty-six I became a mother of two, and strived to create those Christmas’ my children would one day write about among the pages of their Christmas pasts.
A small tree is reserved for those ornaments my elementary age son and daughter created with their young hands to give as gifts and hide beneath the tree for this mother until Christmas morning.
There’s even a Santa ornament I made with my own elementary hands hanging on this miniature tree.
I delicately wrap each of these treasures individually to persevere the history of their childhood and will one day pass these ornaments on to them in their Christmas future.
Passed on to this adult granddaughter were a set of my grandmother’s vintage angel ornaments.
I was beyond grateful to have a piece of history I remember enjoying on my grandmother’s tree when we celebrated Christmas Eve for years at her house.
I long for those evenings with her and our grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins celebrating the holidays together, though sadly, December 24th has never been the same since our grandparents stopped hosting our family tradition.
Then David and I became grandparents of eleven, with one getting ready to experience the joys of the holiday for the very first time this December, adding his picture to our grandchildren’s memory wall and all the trimmings of Christmas for him.
The longing for our ten grandchildren to be little again is an understatement, as somehow these ten have outgrown their holiday pajamas almost as quickly as they put them on.
The Christmas faces smiling at their grandparents are no longer babies, toddlers or young children.
They grew up behind our backs and in a hurry.
Our two youngest are six years of age now, our oldest is an adult and driving, there are two teenagers and two close enough: all grown up from those cherubs posing in their Christmas pajamas.
For a few years, my sisters and I added to the holiday stress of exchanging homemade Christmas crafts with each other.
There was a season when the cousins even began their homemade ornament exchange.
This tradition ended as all good things do, but these crafts from my sister’s hands are a treasure on my tree, although stirs a longing when sisters couldn’t wait for this wonderful reveal from Christmas pasts.
Displayed is a holiday tea set given to me by a dear friend as God’s reminder of friendships and the gift they are meant to be received.
Once every month, breakfast served with coffee and tea is scheduled among friends, my friends, in an intentional way to keep our love and friendship in full bloom with one another.
Time Spent Over Tea By Lori A Alicea
A cup of tea among dear friends, A place where memories start. An afternoon of words exchanged, Refreshment for the heart.
The music of the spoken word, Could listen all day long. When played, sweet life it does impart, Creates a special song.
It may be just an afternoon, Of time spent over tea. But conversation shared with you, Means all the world to me.
As much as the pages of my Christmas pasts are filled with great joy, there are those chapters stained with our tears from broken hearts over those we have loved in our good-byes to them.
Our family has become the intimate few from the crowded houseful we once knew and terribly miss when mother was still with us.
So many vacant seats now around the holiday table to remind us of those memorable Christmas’ we once knew as a family in mother’s home.
An ornament mother gave me hangs on my tree to remember her by.
Another ornament reminder from my stepmother Joyce.
The longings from Christmas pasts are stirred every year in these memory ornaments of my father, mother, sister Mary and Belinda and brother Mark.
I look at my sister Debbie’s ornament and am saddened of the pain which is still fresh from this summer good-bye of her husband Andy.
The emptiness and agony have been unbearable at times for our sister and their children and grandchildren. We grieve for them in our prayers, text messages, telephone calls and time spent together.
Navigating Christmas is an hour-by-hour array of emotions this year.
My sister Debbie shares the same heart ache and pain with our niece Amy Lynn who has shed an ocean of tears over the most recent good-by of her husband Buzzy.
Amy Lynn and their son David are numb and without joy to decorate for Christmas this year.
As best as we can, our family wraps their arms around these two to bridge the miles which separate our long-distance lives.
This homemade nativity scene was created from Buzzy’s woodshed and now decorates my tree for which I’m beyond thankful to have a tangible piece of his heart.
Christmas present would not be complete without creating new traditions to fill in the voids and longings from Christmas past.
Giving our sister Debbie something to fill an empty heart with as well as sister and niece time for us, dinner is now being served once a month with each taking a turn to host a meal around their table.
I hosted dinner just the other day with comfort food our mother used to make.
This tradition of getting together has been a beautiful gift to open, especially during the holidays.
The past twenty-nine Christmas’s has been spent and shared with the love of my life, David.
He has been the gift I treasure most around the Christmas tree of my heart.
David is a gift I open every day we wake up together, and him coming home to me is the only gift on my Christmas list each day of the year.
I am most thankful to God for him.
The pages and chapters of my Christmas pasts are filled with an abundance of joy, of laughter, and even sorrow with many tears.
Yet, God is the bow and ribbon which ties up every good and perfect gift He has allowed and added to enlarge the borders of my heart for His glory.
The November Door of Thankfulness has been unlocked and opened for just a few days, yet Mother Winter surprised us with our first snow before those fall leaves could take our breath one final time during their encore burst and presentation of color, foregoing some leaves their chance to perform before we raked them into fall’s good-bye.
Things happen which catch us off guard and unaware and make it easy to miss an opportunity to be grateful. I must confess though, my husband and I had hoped for a few more sweater wearing afternoons seated together for a stolen moment on our couple’s bench listening quietly to music the wind was playing while running its fingertips through the chimes.
Sadly, the theater of fall has had its final curtain call a few days ahead of schedule, closing its doors until opening day next year, with a reminder to be grateful no matter the season.
November weather may be crisp from the kitchen window I allow to be open throughout the winter season to usher in the sounds of life outside to keep me company. No need to worry though; a space heater warms me during my tasks at the kitchen counter, much to the raised eyebrows from my husband paying the bills.
Nothing stokes the embers of gratefulness in me more than the songs of Christmas and holiday baking.
I’ve never been one who celebrates the holidays according to their order placement on the calendar.
Whenever I am missing my mother terribly and that little girl inside longs for the Norman Rockwell greeting card ambience mother presented for her five daughters and one son every year during the month of December, I recreate mother’s Christmas kitchen to bring me a bit closer to her.
Oh, if I could go back into Mother’s boxes and set aside an apron or two for holiday baking before we sadly packed up her house. While I’ve never worn the old-fashioned aprons while baking, I wish mother would have dressed us in aprons during those memory making moments while teaching her children to cook.
Mother needed her aprons as in her excitement, she stirred up a windstorm of flour while rolling out sugar cookies and pie crusts and leaving her indelible handprint of grease onto the recipes she followed. I was always grateful for this hilarious visual of mother; even more grateful when it wasn’t my week to do dishes during holiday baking.
My sister Denise inherited mother’s cookbook of traditions she gave us during the holidays. The Thanksgiving meal and memories of stuffing, sweet potatoes, turkey and gravy and all those pies remain in mother’s recipe box, albeit some were handwritten on lunch bags or the back of envelopes. Yet no matter how we followed each menu item to the final tablespoon, there was always one special ingredient missing: our mother.
The invitations of holiday’s past remind us that mother’s name has been absent from the guest list going back three long years, with our Thanksgiving table being the first to sadden our hearts with mother’s empty chair.
As the years have passed us by, so has a few of the traditions mother instilled into our family scrapbooks.
Mother would be mortified to witness her son ‘n law Brad baptize Brother Tom into a deep fryer instead of her method of roasting the turkey throughout the day beginning at the start of Macy’s parade. Thankfully, mother’s daughter Denise kept the tradition in place and another turkey was prepared for those family members who liked their memories just as they were.
Though we loved mother’s stuffing recipe when she prepared it, a new stuffing has made the holiday table; a recipe I learned from my children’s southern grandmother in Kentucky. This will be our family secret.
The card table has a new shark to take mother’s place, albeit by force and coercion. Turns out I proved to be a great competitor in mother’s chair; oh, she would be proud.
We laugh, and still cry at times for our mother during the holidays when we remember the angel on the Christmas tree she was to our family. She lit up our lives and our memories, and neither has been the same since her untimely good-by.
So, whenever I am missing my mother terribly as I was just the other day, and that little girl inside longs to reminisce her Norman Rockwell greeting card presented every year during the month of December, I recreate my mother’s Christmas kitchen to bring me a bit closer to her.
My efforts might fall short to mother’s homemade pies I recall as a child, which is probably the reason I am never assigned the pies for holiday dinners.
But I’m forever grateful for the kitchen memories she gave us during the holidays.
Dedicated to a family’s collection of memories which become their square in a patchwork quilt of the life of their daddy, their papa, their brother, friend or husband, an heirloom to wrap themselves up in and glance at their square of remembrance, to warm their heart on those cold winter days when they just miss him so terribly.
So I begin.
It is written in Jeremiah 1:6 NIV
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Before you were ever born, I set you apart….
It is also written in Psalm 139:15-16 NIV
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
None of us is here by accident.
Every one of us is part of God’s plan.
He knew us in the beginning and wrote about us in His book before we were every born.
God thought about you.
He planned for you.
He had a purpose for you in mind.
God also had a purpose and a plan for our beloved Buzzy.
With pen in his hand, God has been writing and lining the shelfs of heaven’s private library with our stories.
Today, we are going to pull from our Father’s finest collection, a personal favorite of His titled
“The Life of Gilbert Walker Jr.”
On January 11, 1950, Gilbert and Mary Alice Wiles Walker gave birth to a beautiful boy and named him Gilbert Love, a junior to his father.
This child of bright promise, whose name and meaning revealed what would be truth about their son during the 73 years he’d live.
A Cherokee Indian whose ancestors could be traced through the trails of the Appalachian Mountains, yet born and raised in Paris, TN his entire life, Gilbert would share the love of his parents with two older sisters, Evelyn Smith and Dorothy (Larry) Connell.
Through the years after realizing both Gilbert Sr. and Jr. would answer to the hollers from the cook in the kitchen, Gilbert Jr’s mother solved this confusion by nicknaming her son Buzzy after the Buzzy Bee toys he loved to play with, dressed in his homemade cowboy clothes as boys do on the floor.
Gilbert’s nickname followed him all the days of his life. I have to imagine this mother smiled and continued to see her adult child still playing with Buzzy Bee toys every time his nickname was called. Children have a way of never growing up in their mother’s eyes.
Earlier in his working life, Buzzy earned a living employed at the local sawmill and raising tobacco. He even wore the badge of a police officer as did his father for a brief few years together.
An older Buzzy drove big rigs and also fixed them as a mechanic for Denton Trucking, usually working 2 or 3 jobs to support his family.
Buzzy’s passion included riding motorcycles, his endless projects in his woodworking shed, playing guitar for his daughter Charity while she sang for the church, spending quality time with his loved ones and best buddies, Frank Beecham and Wesley Hill.
But his proudest achievements came from those who called him daddy or called him papa…
Buzzy’s daughter and two sons are…
Charity (Jayson) Pierce, Timothy James (Dana Rae) Walker and David Timothy Walker.
His five grandchildren are Walker, Olivia, Keith, Courtney and Katie.
Buzzy’s legacy continues in those great-grandchildren of his named Presley, Brent, Rylee, and Alayna.
All who held and pulled on their daddy or papa’s heart strings with a smile and a kiss.
On March 22, 2013, a secret was kept from us Northerners when Buzzy and our sweet niece Amy Lynn decided to get married, or hitched as they say in the south.
As a wedding event decorator and had I known in advance, a large package would have been sent overnight to Amy’s front door containing all the trimmings for such an event called, Wedding in a Box.
Oh, there’d be a wedding dress full of lace, centerpieces, and linens, reservations to a fine hotel for dinner and compliments for the night at their honeymoon suite. I’d locate a few volunteers to throw rice on the newly married couple. I’d even pack a few doves if I thought they’d survive.
But Amy knew all of this about me and kept her nuptials a secret. A box like this would have quickly been returned to sender. As Amy and Buzzy were boots and cowboy hats kind of people, mere simple folk whose greatest joy was only to become Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Walker Jr., to live happily ever and they did, who exchanged their wedding vows before a judge at the local courthouse, wearing uniforms they had on that day from work.
The story of Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Walker Jr. became a ten-chapter book as man and wife, a chapter for every year they lived, loved and laughed together; with a few pages stained from their tears.
She was his sweetheart; he was her babe.
They colored each other’s black and white world into a dream come true; adding their son David, the abundant joy between them.
Date nights always included the three of them, dining at their favorite Pattie’s 1880 Settlement restaurant, a magical evening known for its decorations during the Christmas season, a tradition for the Walker family who enjoyed the holiday lights throughout the month of December.
The Walker scrapbooks at Christmas documents Amy Lynn trimming and decorating the tree, leaving the star for Buzzy and David, as well as setting up the Polar Express and village as father and son.
Each year during the holiday season, the Walkers would take the day to find a new and unique ornament for the tree, closing out another chapter in their book.
As extended families often do when gathering together during the holidays, they rummage through their grandmothers’ drawers and pull out those old family photo albums and reminisce the night away.
Seated around the dinner table and laughter captured from every family member in their seat, one would speculate if that famous story revolving around a cow named Ol Jersey, a rodeo with Ol Jersey and a cowboy shirt Buzzy’s mother made him that went missing for thirty years was resurrected, adding a few details in the telling.
The evening gets quiet for a moment to relive that black and white photo of Buzzy and his sisters Evelyn and Dorothy all grown up, making those intentional Monday night telephone calls to each other, bridging the miles between themselves over coffee and conversation.
With Buzzy being the baby, one would speculate which sister was boss over the other two. As a sister among five sisters myself, there’s always a ringleader in the bunch.
I sure would have loved to join the party line back in those days and eavesdrop their Monday nights together over the telephone. It is in our intentions of showing up where memories never fade through the years.
A handful of moments frozen in time were found of Buzzy and his son Timmy seen at the races, those proud father and son moments entering the derby cars they created together in the woodshed Buzzy was known for.
Timmy was photographed behind the wheel with Buzzy as part of the pit crew between heats. Those were the days between father and son.
Found between the old pages of the family albums, were not pictures but words from Buzzy’s daughter Charity, who shared her father’s middle name Love albeit a different version of the word, making Charity the fourth generation to sign a portion of her name as did her father, her grandfather Gilbert Sr., and as her great-grandfather Eunice Love Walker did.
Here is Charity in her own words… When I was asked to write down my favorite story and memory about Daddy, I thought no problem. That will be easy, but it turned out to be anything but.
I have a lifetime of incredibly touching, loving and the most hilarious stories involving Daddy.
To pick just one has been impossible. However, that is the point after all. He lived a life that left so many memories behind that can’t be numbered or valued one over the other because there are so many and, so precious.
The memories we leave behind are the only legacy that really matters after we’re gone and Daddy’s life left a truly amazing legacy in the hearts of everyone who knew him.
Thank you Daddy for all the precious memories you have given me and everyone who knew you. I love you Daddy.
Then there was Buzzy and his youngest son David, two peas in a pod with a son walking behind in his father’s shadow, following in those famous footsteps he one day longed to fill.
Back in the woodshed were those teachable moments being passed from a father to his son, a woodshed appearing to be in total chaos, a disaster Amy Lynn chides who attempted to organize but was sent back to organize the kitchen cupboards instead.
A woodshed where I feared for David’s ten fingers staying attached to his hands, yet a woodshed where the love of a father and son was baked into the walls from the laughter of these two, the teaching, and time spent together that David and his father will hold onto when he’s missing his daddy so terribly.
This woodshed was also a place of generosity where gifts from their labors were presented to their family up North; a biscuit cutter, a bowl, and a rolling pin from their kitchen to mine, and Christmas ornaments for the others to name a few.
A memory I’ll treasure a lifetime was a gift Buzzy made for my husband and I celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary, with two wedding rings encircling and intertwined around a cross on a stand, and beautifully carved above, Two Become One.
As lovely as this gift was to us, the signature of the craftsman scribbled underneath the stand was priceless, Gilbert Walker, 2019.
Buzzy isn’t signing his name anymore, and I’ll never forget the love from his hands presented to us in person only four years ago.
Memories we pull from our grandmother’s drawer from up North are all the visits Amy, Buzzy and David sacrificed to see us.
They truly demonstrated keeping the family-ties knotted tight, by showing up and making the eight-hour journey for all our gatherings, albeit joyful or sad.
I do have to admit, they do things differently in Tennessee though.
Arriving at our doorstop many times unannounced or at least a surprise to some of us, wearing cowboy boots and a hat with jeans and a buckled belt to match their southern drawl, sometimes took our Northern breath away with us in flips and a pair of shorts, causing us to wonder if their arrival was a throwback from the old TV show Bonanza, minus the horse.
I often wondered what the minimum age of first-time drivers is in Tennessee. David is seen behind the wheel on social media and appearing to be flirting with someone in the other seat not shown. I asked Amy Lynn if David is driving now; she doesn’t answer, just laughs.
David’s uncle Michael tried to take the wheel when I picked him and Amy Lynn up for a camping trip decades ago along with their four other cousins up North, all under the age of twelve. What was I thinking? For five straight days my nephew, who hadn’t even shaved yet, would laugh and beg to drive. Trying not to crack a smile during these hilarious moments with four determined hands on the wheel, this aunt had to tell him to stand down a few times.
It was always a hoot celebrating with the Walkers, and I’m so glad Buzzy never denied or said “no” to Amy and David in their traveling the miles up North.
It was only three months ago that we here up North saw Buzzy for the very last time.
The sacrifice for a man visibly sick yet determined to once again make the journey up North with his family and honor an uncle who passed away did not go unnoticed.
His final year didn’t go unnoticed either.
For Buzzy’s birthday earlier in the year 2023, the Walkers shared a hearty laugh as a family.
With Buzzy lamenting his age through the years and claiming he was old, to which Amy and David always replied, “Nah, you aren’t old.”
A topic that led them to search Google, wondering at what age is one considered old? Google replied to the answer as 73.
So, for Buzzy’s 73rd birthday this year, printed on his birthday cake was the saying,
“Google says you are old.”
They laughed for days.
Their last vacation together as a family was centered and celebrated around Buzzy’s Indian heritage, traveling the history of his life thru those trails of the Appalachian Mountains.
During Buzzy’s final year, he and his son Timmy were working on their last derby car together as father and son, with Buzzy longing to share this moment watching him race one final time from the pit crew, but never got the chance as this father’s heath held him back.
Buzzy honored his wedding vows in sickness and in health to the very end, by making and bringing Amy’s lunch to her every day at work.
On October 11, 2023, Amy would hold her husband’s hand as she did many times throughout the ten years of their marriage.
That same evening Amy would lean over and kiss her Buzzy goodnight as she did every night always knowing she’d wake up the following morning beside him.
But that evening on October 11, 2023, Amy and their son David left Gilbert Love Walker Jr., aka daddy, papa, brother, husband and friend, the man who held all their memories in his hand behind at TriStar Skyline Hospital in Nashville, TN, pulling into the driveway of their home that first night on E L Walker Rd without him.
Unable to sleep with such heaviness of heart, Amy Lynn covered up under the blanket of loneliness onto the couch, while David fell into the comforting arms of his father’s chair.
I can’t imagine their first morning realizing the things Buzzy used to do didn’t get done on October 12th, one day after their unimaginable good-by on October 11.
Did Buzzy make the coffee? Did he make the bed? We know he made the lunches. We know he made their day special.
How quiet the world of the Gilbert Walker’s family has become without him.
But then the questions start coming.
Why God Why?
We each drink from the cup of unanswered questions, and long for clarity and comfort from God to quench our thirst.
Nancy Lee DeMoss Wolgemuth writes from her book titled Heaven Rules…
God is sovereign over the events and happenings and the details in our individual lives. It’s true even when the script turns out far different than what we would have written if the pen had been in our hands.
The answers to our whys might not be revealed until we meet our Lord face to face.
All God asks of us is…
To have peace…
To take heart…
To find rest in Who He Is…
The One who overcame the world.
The one who has been writing our story from beginning to end, from the introduction to the very last page.
The family begins arriving at Ridgeway Funeral Home to celebrate the life of Gilbert Walker Jr.
One can’t help but notice all those honoring Buzzy in their wearing red, his favorite color. With Buzzy’s middle name being LOVE, I look out among the crowd today and have the sense of Valentine’s Day in our midst.
It’s almost as if the connection of these two were a Valentine message from Buzzy to us.
To honor such a connection, I’m enclosing a small excerpt from a Valentine blog I wrote years ago that I believe might convey Buzzy’s heart.
LIFE IS SWEET, LIFE IS SHORT
By Lori A Alicea
I sure do love the smell of roses.
Bending over a bouquet of flowers like my sweet granddaughter who also enjoys the simple pleasure of drinking in its fragrance is too beautiful for words, I’m convinced roses came to us as heaven’s perfume.
Placed in a vase of water with a small kiss from the afternoon sun,
Roses wake in a gentle yawn and slowly stretch as a newborn baby, revealing a hidden loveliness for our eyes to see.
As beautiful as a bouquet of roses are,
The lifespan of cut flowers taken from the vine is measured in breaths.
To frame and capture a vase of loveliness where every bloom retains its perfect softness, vibrant color and perfumed fragrance as a lifetime keepsake is a wonderful sentiment, but the passing of a few sunrises will reveal a roses destiny.
As beautiful as these roses were when they left their garden home,
A few days away from the vine that sustained its life, finds these blooms weeping slightly over, letting go and saying that first good-by to leaves that once provided it shade.
Such is the life we live.
Born into a mother’s arms perfect in every way, soft whose petals of life haven’t opened yet, until morning after morning a mother’s kiss stirs a yawn and a child’s stretch, opening and revealing a hidden destiny before our eyes.
Just as the lifespan of cut flowers taken from the vine is measured in breaths,
So are the days accounted to us; a mere breath.
Life is short.
14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14 (NIV)
Life is sweet.
In life we’re given a “heart box of chocolates” filled with family to enjoy.
God, our Valentine says “I love you” with those special someone’s given as our Valentine gift, a present of your favorites to satisfy the longings of our heart.
Life is sweet, but the thought remains that life is short,
Both measured in breaths.
May everyday find us bending over like that small child captured by the lure of a flower’s smell; drinking in the moment of every moment she’s blessed with.
Life is too sweet not to smell the roses.
Life is too short to be taking anything for granted.
Because the lifespan of cut flowers taken from the vine is measured in breaths.
To my beloved niece Amy Lynn, I have a personal word of encouragement for her.
Only being 43 years of age, you are a very young woman to shoulder such a loss. At times like these a daughter more than anything else needs her mother.
While I wish I had a private telephone line to heaven so you could find some comfort in hearing her voice.
I do have a portion of the only page in her book that she began to write, and I believe its encouragement was written all those years ago for her daughter today.
Here is that word of encouragement from your mother…
…When certain life’s tragedies come to us, sometimes it’s out of our control. But what we can change is how we respond to it. You can be bitter or angry or turn your thinking around to the point where you can help other people with what happened to you. It gives them hope and it also gives to them an expectation of seeds of faith that you have left them.
It’s so important that you choose to live.
“Long life will I satisfy Him.” Psalm 91:16
“I shall live and not die.” Psalms 118:17
Your trials may be a physical situation or a mental situation. But whatever the case, choose to live and not die from it. Fight the good fight of faith.
“I have set before you life and death. Therefore, choose life that thy seed may live” Deuteronomy 30:19
In your mother’s own words she couldn’t say it enough:
Continue to Hope. Continue to Believe. Continue to be encouraged.
Continue to remember that no matter what, You’ll always have God.
One final square sewn to the family quilt, one remaining sentiment from son David to his father, written in his own words… You are supposed to be able to sum up one’s life in a few simple words, but this man you just can’t because the words to fill that box have not been invented.
If I had to say, there would be the four things he was… A hard worker, A fighter, A loving husband for my mom,
And a loving father for my brother, sister and I. He always said he would work to the end, and he did. The very weekend before his passing he was with his two sons doing what he did best, working on trucks. He fought until the very end.
He did not stop while he was in the hospital.
He did not give up on his family.
Finally, he was the best father or husband one could ask for because he had the biggest heart, willing to do anything for anyone, especially his family.
He always kept his promises, except his final one of seeing me graduate from school.
We loved you Pop through the good, the bad and the ugly.
There is a Secret Place my husband David and I retreat to every year during the fall colors of October, setting aside a weekend to honor another wedding anniversary God has so abundantly blessed us with.
Our Secret Place has a front row seat to this beautiful lake, a living portrait of waves slow dancing to its own music, a private reception of splashing and swimming to the sandy shores like young love on their honeymoon.
The hours David and I spend reflecting together the love we share so deeply rooted in our hearts, fully alive because of the well in God we draw from.
David and I celebrate the pearls in our marriage, as to create such a pearl of great price are those irritant’s that force you to your knees in surrender to God; the author who scripts the pages of true love.
It’s during this getaway a candle burns as a remembrance of the continual love that shines through the eyes of two people who can’t see one without the other.
Our weekend is a patchwork quilt of small moments of just “the two of us” stitched together with memory threads by the fire over coffee and a new book we read every anniversary as an investment into our lives as husband and wife.
Our Secret Place is a treasure chest we open every October to hold close and remember the gifts of time already shared together, adding another weekend of Newlywed love and laughter until those anniversary leaves begin to fall again next year.
Just as young love desires a Secret Place to express itself, God desires that Secret Place to share as just “the two of us.”
Pondering the heart of God in the Garden he masterfully created in the beginning, eyes are blind and inadequate to imagine the grandeur and beauty of such a Secret Place he designed to share such intimate time with us. Even though the Garden closed its gates forever due to our fall, God still longs to inhabit that Secret Place of our heart.
Walking with God the paths of this Secret Place, I hear a symphony of birds singing in unison while being led to the hidden places for two.
Waters lapping the rocks during its swim downstream echoes as a rain forest through the trees while walking the fields of wild flowers blooming for our amazement.
God’s Secret Place longs to overwhelm our hearts in His love. Sitting together at this intimate spot for two, one might be nervous for an appropriate response for Him.
But do not fear:
“We have come into an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love he has for us. God is love!….” 1 John 4:16 The Passion Translation (TPT)
With God encompassing all love, communicating our love in return could reflect itself through many mirrors as in “The Five Love Languages”, Written by Gary Chapman. While Mr. Chapman’s book is written for persons communicating love to one another, since GOD IS LOVE, surely he responds though the five love languages of “words of affirmation, gifts, meaningful touch, acts of service and quality time”.
I imagine the heart of God swelling when we speak our WORDS OF AFFIRMATION to Him as spoken in Psalm 22:10 TPT:
“Since the day I was born, I’ve been placed in your custody. You’ve cradled me throughout my days. I’ve trusted in you and you’ve always been my God.”
Surely God joyfully receives the GIFTS of our praises as in Psalm 69:31 (TPT):
“For I know, Yahweh, that my praises mean more to you
than all my gifts and sacrifices.”
We express MEANINGFUL TOUCH to God in our prayers:
“Protect me from harm; keep an eye on me like you would a child reflected in the twinkling of your eye. Yes, hide me within the shelter of your embrace, under your outstretched wings. Psalm 17:8
Our ACTS OF SERVICE speak loudly to the ears of God when we pray:
“Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.” Romans 12:11 (TPT)
And more than anything, our QUALITY TIME delights a loving God as spoken in James 4:8 (TPT):
“Move your heart closer and closer to God, and he will come even closer to you….”
God also delights in our time when we:
….wake the dawn with my song. 9 I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
I will sing your praises among the nations. 10 For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Psalm 57:9-10 (NLT)
God desires to share that Secret Place of your heart.
God desires that moment in your Secret Place as “just the two of us”.
May we without hesitation make room for Him in our Secret Place.
May we like young newlywed’s run barefoot through the wild fields of love to that Secret Place to be with our God.
Only three weeks and counting, yet my husband and I have been longing and aching this day for months.
From the calendar of our hearts a save the date has been sent to reserve a couple’s corner of heaven every year for the past twenty-nine.
Twenty-nine years ago this weekend was celebrated as Sweetest Day.
Twenty-nine years ago this weekend was also celebrated as our Wedding Day. Every year following, our anniversary has been cherished and honored as the sweetest day the Lord has blessed two people head over heels in love with.
Love is a gift we never want to take for granted.
Hence, we return to the place where our love began and plan this homecoming year after to year, watching the delicate bud of our lives together become a rose of splendor in our watering with time, patience, intentional acts of kindness and prayer.
A few minutes ago, my husband sent me these roses of words regarding our anniversary, not knowing I was also gathering a basket full of roses for him in my words. There’s just something special about this quaint little town whose hospitality wraps their arms around us as old friends.
It’s the gift we give to ourselves.
It’s what we do for us. An old fashion cottage overlooking the lake and the center of attention throughout our anniversary weekend, whose waves and playlist of music will lull to sleep or serenade us honeymooners for life.
Hand in hand wherever we go, though barefoot along the shore in wait for the tide to rush our feet, or side by side we sit in quiet as the sun nods off for sleep.
Time has been good to us.
Though time has aged and refined itself thru our mirrored reflections, our love has stood the test of time and anchored us during the most turbulent of times, remaining strong as the three-stranded cord not easily broken.
Every year our anniversary hearts leave behind a sand message written for those passing by after us, inspiring hope to those who may have given up on true love for themselves. Such is the power of the written word.
Much like the arrows which pierced my heart through the words from a Valentine card my husband gave me early on in our relationship.
When I think about our future, I just have to smile because I know We still have so much more to look forward to In our real life dream come true.
With David’s handwritten sentiment…
To love you is to live. I love you forever.
Wedding anniversaries are a couple’s homecoming to remember when God set aflame His love in two hearts intertwined as one.
Every anniversary we unwrap the gift of marriage we were blessed to have been given by our Almighty God and thank Him for another year together.
Anniversaries take us back to our wedding day at the altar, remembering the words a bride and groom vowed to each other as a lifelong covenant between these two.
Enclosed is an excerpt of my wedding vows to my husband David from twenty-nine years ago to remind myself…
You fit the mold He made for me, He found the perfect choice. How my heart does skip a beat, Just hearing your sweet voice.
So tender are the words you speak, The meaning they impart. Your eyes illuminate my soul, And ravish through my heart.
Because of this I want to give, To you my everything. I want to live my life with you, From summer though the spring.
I count it all but blessed joy, A privilege for me. To know and serve your every need, Though times you may not see.
For you I’ll burn a lasting flame, It’s warmth will be my love. If you would ever feel a chill, These words remind me of.
We’ve been celebrating all summer long in great anticipation for our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary getaway to Our Place.
Nothing delights a Papa more than when his grandchildren call and ask to spend a few hours together around a fishing pole and retention pond you have no idea finds bluegill, bass, and crappies waiting for lunch, with a few turtles taking a bite from your hook when you least expect.
The tackle box is carried by our fishing girls in pink, who each will pick the prettiest lure for their Papa. Gummy worms, spinner-bait, and spoons are irrelevant to them, picking only the ones which sparkle and dazzle their eyes, the lures deemed perfect for the catch of the day. There’s a quick visit to the Country Bait Shop for minnows, night crawlers, and behemoths for whatever the fish might be biting that day.
A short stop off the road, the Country Bait Shop no larger than a glorified shed has been in business for years. Pickup trucks and boats are parked throughout the day before tournaments, camping trips, or a day spent with your Papa, where fishing stories are shared among strangers parked alongside the other before going about their adventure.
After finally finding our spot around the retention pond, it doesn’t take long before those bored faces and crocodile tears express their disapproval for those fish appearing to be taking a nap.
Class is always in session learning patience and contentment for the beautiful surroundings until the catch of the day is tugging on the fishing pole in your hand.
There are those quiet moments though when sitting next to their Papa is more than enough for them.
But it doesn’t take long before the slides and swings nearby have taken his place. Then are those serious fishermen of ours who enter into a self-organized tournament each time they are together to determine if their catch of the day earns the trophy for biggest fish, most fish caught, or unofficial ones who got away, each trying to out-match the other, especially their Papa, for the tournament win.
Papa has learned to show no mercy to those dimples and smiles and guard his pole from those thick-as-thieves grandsons trying to add to their tournament haul by reeling in Papa’s fish from his unattended rod, who’s busy fixing their rods for whatever reason they had.
Such is the patience of Papa who’s been baiting hooks and untangling lines since the days those fishing poles his grandchildren in training held were longer than they were tall; who rarely was seen with a rod in his hand back then after paying so much attention to them.
A Papa realized in those early years that the catch of the day had nothing to do with fish, but had everything to do with those moments you caught during an afternoon spent together around a fishing pole and a bucket of bait.
Yes, the catch of the day are those camping trips your daughters and niece and nephew will never forget, those memories you caught around evening campfires, swimming, bicycling trails, bacon cooked on an open stove, s’mores and yes, fishing with them.
Worms and minnows are a small price to pay in exchange for the time spent with your Papa; whose value continually compounds in the tackle box of memories you’ll carry of him throughout your life.
All those fish a Papa and grandchildren have caught return to the pond they are released to.
You’ve been told it happens in the blink of an eye.
The mirage of those miles of years not-yet-traveled reveals to be a quick walk around the block.
The hands of time unable to be held against their will, no matter the hearts who beg them.
Because Just like that…
When you least expect…
When you turn your back for a mere minute…
The first of your eleven grandchildren is all grown up.
A beautiful four-year old brimming in joy, she wraps her finger around the heart-strings of our son with no children of his own at the time; yet falls in love with this child and her mother during their first hug around his neck. Only to find her place at the family table which had been hers all along, we just didn’t know it at the time. Brooklyn’s journey into our lives is a love story written only by God and one I pray she shares with the world.
A book of pages and chapters still being written by the Author of her life, who holds the pen and keeps in suspense the secrets He’ll one day unveil in their appointed time.
An excerpt when four-year old Brooklyn finds her place in our hearts.
BORN OF MY HEART By Lori A Alicea
I choose you! For no other reason than it was always meant to be; I choose you! Loving a child as your own is yes, a choice, but never seems like one.
Love is powerful. Love allows you to expand the borders of your family without ever noticing. Love is color blind. It has no need for a DNA test. Love is reason enough and rewards a double blessing when you choose to love those born of the heart.
But at his home-going celebration, My brother ‘n law Andy wore a baseball hat, blue jeans and a flannel shirt, All befitting the simple man he embodied in life.
There’s always another story. There’s more than meets the eye. W.H. Auden
Unbeknownst to me who didn’t get the memo, family members young and old, prepared in advance and arrived at Andy’s Celebration of Life to honor their father, papa, uncle and friend, each dressed as Andy was dressed, sporting a flannel shirt. A family honored the man behind the shirt. Their outward expression for an inward love they each had known in the individual ways Andy shared his life with them. Author and Speaker Dr. John A. Tetsola said it best from his book titled… The Power of Honor
Honor means to value. To value means to hold something or someone In high regard and esteem in your heart and in your sight. Family and flannel were mirrored reflections of the other through our tears, our smiles, our laughter and our joy in remembering Andy that day.