GOING HOME  By Lori A Alicea

Love…peace…and joy.

Three beautiful sentiments written into a greeting card.

Three captivating emotions of a well scripted movie.

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

Love…peace…and joy are our choice.

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

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

We choose joy on a rainy day of tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

USE fishing 5

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

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

Ayva was right.

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

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

Such were the fishing memories too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose love.
Choose peace.
Choose joy.

Even choose sprinkles.

Because when you do,

You choose God.

TAKE TIME TO TELL YOUR STORY  By Lori A Alicea

We all have stories to tell, don’t we?

Whether you have lived a day or a hundred years, there’s a story about your life worth telling.

Your dreams…
Your successes…
Your failures…
Your heartaches…
Days you wish you could get back and do over…
Days you longed for but never happened…
School days…
College days…
Work days…
Marriage…
Divorce…
Friendships…
Death…

At our birth, a diary of blank pages awaits the journaling, chronicling, scrap-booking and jotting down for our remembrance those events when we rejoiced in the successes, gathered our tears in the losses, and traced God’s heart though it all while traveling the valleys up to the mountain tops of our lives; a library of hope passed on down to the next generation.

We must remember the goodness and faithfulness of God in all things; as He is a husband to the widow.  A father to the fatherless.  Our defense in the face of injustice.  He is freedom in our surrender.  He is provision in our lack.  He is an open door in a neighborhood of closed.  He is a light in the darkness.  He is the answer to our questions.  He is a stream in the dry desert.  He is our way when there seems to be no way.  GOD IS!  HE JUST IS!

Yes, document the days that had you dancing, laughing and smiling.

But difficult stories are also worth mining beneath the surface to discover the treasure buried in those hard times we’d rather forget. As those gold nuggets of God “bringing us through” what we thought would bring us death is wealth we must share among our heirs;

When we take the time to tell our story.

We must tell our stories to the world, as well as to the generations of our legacy, because all it takes is one generation to forget about God, and there goes their hope here on earth and a future with Him in eternity.

We must take time to tell our story.

Parents have been charged by God to obey His commandments; to love Him and serve Him with all their heart and soul so their days are multiplied and their land is blessed.

Parents have also been charged to teach these same truths to their children, reminding them day and night, that they might receive the same inheritance of blessing promised to their parents.

13”And if you will indeed obey my commandments
That I command you today,
To love the Lord your God,
And to serve Him
With all your heart
And with all your soul,
.

19You shall teach them to your children,

20You shall write them on them
On the doorposts of your house
And on your gates…

21That your days and days of your children
May be multiplied in the land
That the Lord swore to your fathers
To give them,
As long as the heavens
Are above the earth.”
Deuteronomy 11:13, 19, 20, 21 (ESV)

Such is this hidden wealth to bequeath our children and children’s children, our life lived for God through our stories.

Everything changed for my husband David and I when grandchildren began filling our laps and stealing our hearts.

Overcome by their sweet faces and our love that overflowed an ocean for all ten of these gifts, we grandparents longed to give them each the moon, but knew giving them God meant riches beyond counting.

Hearing the amplified voice of God speak in a grandparent’s ear to leave an inheritance we listened, we followed.

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…
Proverbs 13:22 (ESV)

Though still living these truths before our grandchildren, we began telling about the goodness and faithfulness of God through our stories, transferring the baton of our legacy and inheritance into the grips of the next generation, that they might run their race loving and serving God with all their heart, soul and mind.

Going through the journals of our own lives as young and adult children, we recall and remember the Godly inheritance passed down to us from the generation previous through their stories, albeit just as imperfect as ours, yet the rich legacy we received in their saying “yes” to Jesus.

God’s “more than enough” provision through our hard working fathers.

God’s unrelenting hope through our mother’s who never gave up on us when “giving up” seemed to be our only option.

God’s amazing love through grandparents to our children and their great grandchildren, an example we watched and learned from along the sidelines, whose footsteps we’d follow when becoming grandparents ourselves.

I lament the questions I never asked the generation previous.

I wished I would have sat at the feet of our legacy more often and allowed them to impart the wisdom they gleaned from the fields they sown and reaped from; possibly avoiding a few of their mistakes instead of repeating them.

In the busyness of my younger self,
I didn’t take the time to hear their stories
While they were still with us to hear.

One by one we buried stories when we buried them, journals never to be opened or read again; for that, I am deeply saddened.

But yet, we are still a rich family for the Godly inheritance and legacy they left in our hands and the hands of their “children’s children.”

Reminding us of God’s charge to tell the next generation of His goodness and faithfulness through our lives and through our stories;

In keeping His commandments; to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind.

27 REASONS FOR 27 YEARS! By Lori A Alicea

How do I love thee?
Let me count thy ways.
Elizabeth Barret Browning

For twenty-seven years, we’ve been counting, appreciating, and naming our blessings each and every one that David and I have shared together as husband and wife.

Not taking for granted what God has joined together in holy matrimony twenty-seven years ago this October.

But when the “unexpected” attacks from the back door of your heart, you run and retreat to the arms of Jesus in Thanksgiving for another day, appreciating and counting our blessings,

How do I love thee?
Let me count thy ways.
Elizabeth Barret Browning

HOSPITAL

David and I are simple people.

We don’t require much but don’t mind telling the world how much we need each other; especially if the reasons we love each other in the simple ways that we do are the reasons we’re still together twenty-seven years later from our wedding day.

David and I can be seen wherever we go, still holding hands after all these years.


We take the long way home whenever we can to enjoy the beauty of God’s country and the company we keep together.

DRIVING sighseeing
So easy to please yet full of adventure, we’ve discovered God’s hidden treasures in each other over a cup of coffee,


And a bicycle ride around the block.

Gifts are rarely purchased as the only present we unwrap each year is a secluded anniversary getaway to our honeymoon cottage by the lake; a weekend of remembering, celebrating, and dreaming most responsible for our genuine love for one another.

All because two people fell in love and blended their lives as one family, our love is celebrated in the marriages of our children, with one still waiting her turn to walk the wedding isle, rejoicing over the son and two daughters we’ve added to the family Bible in these Godly unions.

Ten beautiful grandchildren call us Papa and Gaga and our joy explodes on the pages of our legacy we pass down to them.

Our most memorable summer highlights are best made at the little field, with sluggers and cheerleaders emptying Papa’s pockets at the concession stand for bags of buttered popcorn, hot dogs and sticky ring pops.

David puts no limit on tulle, glitter or glam in our house; shrugging off being teased for the sparkle that follows him to work.

On weekends David makes up our bed of a million pillows without any sign of an eye roll.

BEDROOM 1
David is no stranger to dishes or laundry either.

He seriously serves me without being asked;
David is celebrated man of the year, every day of the year in our house.

For twenty-seven years David has been my personal mechanic. He has taken engines down to the bare nothing and put them back together again like a magician. We have never driven fancy cars or new cars either. David has traded in his Chevelle SS dreams for older wheels and freedom without payments and complaints.

Our best dates are spent driving the back roads in search of our dream house, a log cabin wrapped with a big red bow and a gift tag reminding us, “With God, all things are possible.”

David has served my mother and husband Roger in the best of times, and when death darkened their door for years; earned every Boy Scout badge imaginable.

mom and roger
I am reminded on a daily basis how beautiful I am in David’s eyes, regardless of all the extras I see in my mirrors reflection.

David encourages my dreams and we could never imagine one without the other.

Our only wish would have been to meet each other years ago, but remain eternally thankful for the twenty-seven years we’ve enjoyed together and counting.

marry gifts tree

While our international passport is empty of any travel stamps,
David and I have taken incredible adventures with God around the world, each requiring great leaps of faith.

While our bank account balance might say otherwise, David and I are rich in ways and love money could never afford.

wedding family david and lori
Home is wherever we are together.

HOME wanatah goodyby 9

We live each day believing in the power of prayer.

PRAYER 2019 cumbee ayva praying
Our love for Christ is the rich legacy we pass to the next generation; the same legacy river which flowed down to us.

David and I are simple people.

We don’t require much but don’t mind telling the world how much we need each other; especially if the reasons we love each other in the simple ways that we do are the reasons we’re still together twenty-seven years later from our wedding day.

A day we’d do over and over again.

MOTHERS LOVE, When it Hurts  By Lori A Alicea

Buried in the fine print of loving others,
Spells out the risks we take when giving our hearts away…

In parenting…
In friendships…
In families…
In marriage…

That to be a parent, a friend, a family member, or spouse,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

While playing my hand safe in most areas of my life, I’ve always taken the risk and jumped off the deep end into relationships, giving the best of me while learning to swim when I found myself in waters way over my head.

Looking for a lifeline when a twenty-one year old version of myself, rocks her first child in the middle of the night. A newborn helpless and dependent on me for everything, I had to get this mothering thing right for his sake and for my daughter who is born to us five years later.

21 CANDY JAKE 010

In over my head I’d risk it all for two children who’d be waving me good-by in eighteen years for a life of their own.
a family cumbee family2019 england jake graduation 20

Mother’s don’t read the fine print of parenting; she willingly risks the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving because:

Mothers love when it hurts.

My mother loved this way six times over through the lives of her son and five beautiful daughters.

In over her head and floundering for a lifeline, a sixteen year old mother pacifies her newborn son in the midnight hour.

A mother, in some ways still a child herself; starts swimming the best way she knows how to stay afloat, risking it all by giving all of herself to a child surviving in the life preserver of his mother’s arms.

Back in the lonely days of early child-rearing, there wasn’t a village to assist my mother and her young son and soon to be five daughters who’d be born within a year or two between themselves.

Easter with siblings and outfits

Diapers weren’t disposable, and babysitters weren’t affordable. Mother leaned on God for inner strength while she flailed in the deep waters of parenting. Without sisters or the helping arms of an overworked and young husband himself, mother sowed the remains of her teenage years into the garden of her children, cultivating them in the admonition of the Lord.

A woman who gave all didn’t read the fine print of mothering; she willingly risked the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving for lives of their own because:
siblings family photo (2)Mothers love when it hurts.

Buried in the fine print of loving others,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

Mother faced
The risk,
The “what if”

My child leaves me for Jesus,
While I’m still alive to face this painful good-by.

Mother attended the funeral for two of her young adult daughters,

siblings belinda mary

Mary's Headstonedavid at gravesideWho left behind children of their own in their leaving.
funeral 2siblings mary christina brittany
“Mother’s should never have to bury their children”,
My mother lamented.

Grief hovered as a dark cloud over my mother’s life for years until sunshine broke through in her daughter’s memories.

My mother gave her heart away because;

Mothers love when it hurts.

Sunday, May 9, 2021 this daughter will celebrate the first Mother’s Day without her mother.

Mother’s Day crosses another milestone of firsts that we as her remaining family, navigate life through the maiden year without our matriarch.

Love hurts in good-by.
a flowersa family alicea family
Love hurts in the empty seat.

empty chair TABLE Mom Picture Sweater

Love hurts in the conversations you long to have.

IMG_7107

Love hurts in the empty arms.
mom and grandkids USE
Love hurts at her graveside.

mom's headstone

But grief which lingers as a dark cloud will one day be clear skies when sunshine breaks in our mother’s memories.
IMG_9345Always finding comfort, peace and joy in our loving God,

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Yes, love hurts.

But…

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson

HIS STORY, Written Thru Me and You!  By Lori A Alicea

The most beautiful love story ever written was inspired 

In the beginning…

When a personal God who had no need;

Yet chose to draw from the deep waters of his love and pour onto those whose names he already knew before the beginning.

A love story whose pages drip from the continual drawing of His heart

As He prepares a place of paradise for them spoken during the beginning five days with
Let there be!”

Which culminates on the sixth day when God’s reflection mirrors back to Himself, when His personal hands mold and create and breathe life into the first marriage made in His own image;

A union He blessed and told to be fruitful and multiply.

Standing back to look at Himself through the eyes of His likeness, God saw what He made was very good.

God thought of me in the beginning.
God thought of you in the beginning.

God, who had no need, yet chose to create us and express a love for us in His image we’ve shared from the beginning.

A most beautiful love story titled,
HIS STORY, Written thru Me and You.”

We were created to commune with God.

We were created in His likeness to reflect our Father’s character, to re-tell His story through our lives when we love others in our patience, forgiveness, faithfulness and kindness as our Heavenly Father generously does with us.

HIS STORY engraves in so many chapters our invaluable worth which comes not from our earthly possessions earned in this life, but in God choosing to give us the miraculous gift of life itself.

The days of our lives are to be lived out through the sentences and paragraphs of HIS STORY, Written Thru Me and You.

Because in HIS STORY you’ll read how God in the beginning, intimately knew us before our mother ever did; before He knitted us inside her womb.

In HIS STORY you’ll discover the secret plans God has prepared for our lives which can only be unearthed in the mining of our Father’s heart.

In HIS STORY, you’ll be reminded of a personal God who knows us each by name as he also does the incalculable number of stars in the midnight sky.

The details of our life are buried in the chapters where God still draws from the deep waters of his love, pages drenched in the writing as He continues to count the hairs on our head, keeps vigil of us with every second and minute hand of the clock, gathers our tears in a bottle, and delights to give us the desires of our heart.

As the mirror is a constant reminder of the likeness we share of our Heavenly Father, might we also reflect His kindness, patience, forgiveness and love we read from the soaked pages of HIS STORY, written from under the faucet of His love.

God thought of me in the beginning.
God thought of you in the beginning.

God, who had no need, yet chose to create us and express a love for us in His image we’ve shared from the beginning.

We were created in His likeness to reflect the heart of our Heavenly Father.

The pages of our life are written in a beautiful love story titled,
HIS STORY, Written thru Me and You.”

Words to capture your heart for a lifetime.

floral ceramic cup and saucer above open book
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

 

SHOWERS OF BLESSING  By Lori A Alicea

Ahhh…

Crisp fresh air wafts through the kitchen window slightly opened this early morning while I drink my first cup of coffee.

Serenading my soul is a choir of birds rehearsing a new selection of songs in a neighboring tree.

Waiting to debut their spring collection of May flowers, are blossoms that hold out their cups thirsty for a drink of April showers.

Here I am before the Lord, rejoicing under the umbrella of His showers of blessings, humbled and thankful for a generous God whose blessings are a continual rain poured from the windows of heaven.

We are taught as little children to…

Count your many blessings
Name them one by one.
And it will surprise you
What the Lord has done.
By Johnson Oatman Jr.

How revealing these simple words of encouragement;
Just begin to count your blessings.

You’ll be surprised and soaked in His showers of blessings,
Before blessing number two is even uttered.

Outside the window from where I sit, I eavesdrop on a music session practicing thru a personal playlist I imagine God selected just for me.

From their innate being, this choir was created to sing for their Creator.

Surely, we were created to sing a joyful song for our Creator also…

“Every blessing you pour out I’ll turn back to praise.”
By Matt Redman

Yes, just start counting and it begins to rain.

We are a blessed people to call each other family.
We are rich in treasures not weighed from the scales of the world.

We are an imperfect people yet rich in love
Because of a perfect God who loved us first.

Look no further than the front door of home to find daddies who love their daughters.

And mothers who love their sons; and vice versa.

Cousins are writing their legacy chapters watching movies together past their bedtime, riding bicycles in their pajamas, swimming in their underwear, and making breakfast memories at their weekend sleepovers with their grandparents.

Cousins are learning to serve and serve one another in the smallest acts of kindness. A Godly trait that will find them one day serving a lost people desperate to find their way to Jesus.

Cousins and even sisters are forming friendships that will follow them down the by-ways and interstates of their life.

In the sisterhood of cousins there are celebrations of your sassy self, your princess self and fancy self; a safe place where dreams are encouraged and let you find your voice.

Families that play together, stay together.

There is never a shortage of kisses in family.

The family portrait is framed in their parents love for each other that lives on in the generations beyond them.

Families are not without challenges.
Some challenges only God can fix.

Our families biggest hurdle to cross over are the miles that separate our addresses. As the years keep climbing, so does the painful miles and mountain of our hurdle.

Cousins on one side of the hurdle don’t get to grow up together, share clothes or make milestone memories on weekend sleepovers; they only hear about these Friday nights together over the internet; braving the best smile they can in their watching.

The miles are never your friend, but somehow you make peace with the pain of distance, embracing the light left on in the window of home for each other.

That the miles and smiles of those homes who keep the candle burning for you in the midnight hour are always worth the journey, however you have to get there.

The birthdays are getting away from us and there’s no time to waste a single minute of the family clock that God has given.

God is about the unexpected, and families are to be on the continual lookout for the next rainfall from heaven, His showers of blessing for us.

Life is brief.
Life is but a mere breath of opportunities
We are either embracing them or bidding them a sad good-by.

April Showers are bringing forth May flowers all year round in our lives.

Sometimes we must be still to hear the choir playing “your song” outside the kitchen window.  We only need to count to one before God surprises you for all that He has already done.

The inner child must never forget getting wet at those grandparent sleepovers.

To remember being a child of God during those April Showers which spring forth our May flowers of blessings;

Rejoice under the umbrella of His showers of blessings,
Humbled and thankful for a generous God
Whose blessings are a continual rain poured from the windows of heaven.

NOW THEY ARE FOUR…By Lori A Alicea

A week and a childhood into adulthood of memories ago they were five;

Five chairs and five dinner plates around the table;
Five pair of muddy Converse’s piled at the front door.
Five twin bed’s half-hardheartedly made some of the time.
Five wrestling opponents; one or two champions at best.
Bicycles to fight over; possibly never five.
Five hungry appetites;

Five sharing telephone numbers.
Five believing in God;
Five believing in each other.
Five attending five weddings.

Five brothers never imagining one without the other.

IMG_7601

But now they are four.

A team of five brothers they were.

IMG_7617

Maybe not on the same baseball team together, as one loved the WWF more while the other preferred his cars.

But five brothers shared a passion for life, for living on the edge of laughter, for having your back, for locking arms on your behalf.

david and alicea brothers dancing at raquels weddings

A team of soldiers “leaving no man behind” when he’s down.  A team of five hearts loving one mother and father.

DAVID BROTHERS NATE JAKE 025

A kitchen full of boys fighting for the last helping of rice.

A stove big enough for every son on the team to learn from a living cookbook the family recipes.

To learn beside their mother’s apron the magic of family meals and memories.

To remember to pass her legacy and love for the kitchen down through the generations.

DAVID BROTHERS NATE JAKE 015

Five brothers who value family; five godly men who honor the blessings of those seated next to them on Sunday afternoons at their mother’s table following church.

To share a meal and a cup of coffee together.

To enjoy a conversation about music, the White Sox and maybe their mother’s Cubbies; well maybe.

A team of seekers hungry for a mighty move of God.

DAVID BROTHERS NATE JAKE 016Then they were five.

The team witnessed Number Five marry a woman living in Puerto Rico with him in Indiana; a love story whose pages could only be written by the hand of God.

A handsome man all dressed up would be introduced to a woman visiting her uncle in Chicago, both attending the same gathering which God had secretly orchestrated.

An old fashioned relationship of hand-written letters began and continued for over two years. Authored from the heart and penned onto paper, the words of Ruben and Carmen’s love story were intimately being written by God.USE HAND WRITTEN LETTER

Significant of this long-distance romance, Ruben crafted a miniature red mailbox for Carmen, with a letter equally as small addressed to the love of his life in Puerto Rico.

Ruben’s heart poured out to Carmen as a sonnet,

When I give my heart, I give it completely.
If I fall for you, will you catch me?

After seeking a father’s blessing for his daughter’s hand in marriage, Ruben proposed to the love of his life with Niagara Falls as the backdrop to their picture perfect moment.

A smile that beamed from an overflowing heart thru the windows of her eyes,
Carmen said yes and they were married in Puerto Rico on a beautiful day,
June 19, 1988.

An old fashioned relationship of hand-written letters
Brought them to the steps of a holy altar;

Sacred marriage vows to:
Love and to cherish
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
Unto death.

Ruben and Carmen loved each other for a lifetime.
Ruben and Carmen were committed to their vows of promises for thirty-two glorious years.

Their vows of
In sickness and in health
Unto death

Was their living testimony, a God centered example of marriage to that difficult fork in the road called Unto.

Woven into the remaining moments and days Carmen shared with her beloved, she reminded him how forever grateful she was of the Godly man that had faithfully served her, a servant whose greatness was witnessed in the little things; grocery shopping, meal preparation, finances.

Carmen reminisced Ruben’s Hallmark store of greeting cards he sent her, being mindful of the man she loved so dearly, mindful of a husband’s details that remains hidden in a place recessed in her heart, reserved only for him.

Carmen celebrated the songs Ruben dedicated to her, music which always takes her back to their place, their life; their scrapbook of memories.

Carmen thanked her romantic husband for that hidden garden he must have been secretly tending to, that special place just for her where he picked the prettiest bouquets of flowers for his wife most deserving.

Even in Ruben’s darkest hour, he was still found loving his wife; still keeping his God ordained post to inquire of any concerns, to encourage his beloved wife in the Lord, leading her to stand on the word.

The steps of a righteous man enters into praise as his teammates sang over him, keeping a soldier’s promise, “leaving no man behind.”

Pushing through excruciating pain, Ruben’s groaning’s of praise wafted to heaven a sweet fragrance to God,

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…

4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalms 23:1, 4, 6 (KJV)

Ruben sent one last letter, hand-written from the pen of his heart-felt love and addressed to his siblings,
“Please tell all my brother’s I love them.”

On February 27, 2021 that morning, the brother’s shared a “last call”, a final moment on the field honoring team member No. 5, a text message at six-thirty am that morning rejoicing as Ruben finally received his eternal reward.

Moments of silence flowed into rivers of tears.

Tributes to Ruben’s life were noted in part on social media…

Pastor and Nephew Jeremias Alicea – Ruben was a godly man, a pioneer in his church, and a devout follower of Jesus Christ. He always had a heart for people and I think it was, in part, because he understood the struggles of those who were marginalized. I am so glad he is no longer suffering and that he is rejoicing in heaven with many who have gone on before.

Niece Raquel Clay – Death is a beautiful thing when suffering is on the other side! I am grateful that my uncle is no longer suffering, but is fully healed and with his mother again in heaven! I rejoice in the memories of my uncle and hold onto the truth of what’s to come. Death is only the beginning, not the end!

Over the last two weeks a team has been planning to honor one of their own.

But the singing has already begun.
When We All Get to Heaven
By Alan Jackson
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be.
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory.

The family rejoices for the streets of gold their brother walks.

The team rejoices for the heavenly reunions already taking place.

The celebration of five brothers 

Now becoming four 
In letting go their brother who has just seen Jesus.

No. 5 has been retired to the Brothers Hall of Fame.

Around the dinner table there still remains five chairs and five plates;

The emptiness of one chair and one plate speaks loudly to a family’s loss and void.

Five brothers never imagined one without the other.

Memories never leave or abandon the heart.

But embracing the loss of being five is most difficult.

Niece Raquel Clay said it best,
Death is only the beginning, not the end!

We rejoice for you, our brother Ruben.
We promise to take care of your beloved Carmen.

The team will never be the same without you.
We find comfort and hold near your last words on earth,
“Stand on the Word.”
And
“All I know is that He redeemed my soul.”IMG_8128

Where once they were five, Now they are four.

But we will all see Ruben again one day.
Who knows when that one day will be?

But there’s comfort for all of us to think about that one day we will see Ruben again.

It’s like that reassurance Carmen had for thirty-two years when Ruben kissed her good night before sleep and a husband’s voice could be heard in the dark,
I’ll see you in the morning.

 

LOVE FOR A LIFETIME  By Lori A Alicea

Consider it simply amazing.

Consider it an unearthed treasure.

Consider it a lighthouse to guide the generations beyond their life.

Consider it another Wonder of the World.

Consider love for a lifetime.

That’s what Bill and Gloria considered their first day of marriage throughout their sixty-six wonderful years together;

Love for a lifetime.

bill and gloria on valentines

To have and to hold,
From this day forward.
For better, for worse.
For richer, for poorer.
In sickness and in health.
To love and to cherish.
Till death us do part,

According to God’s holy matrimony,
In the presence of God we make this vow.

And that they did, for sixty-six years.

Never wavering their commitment when times were lean.
Never considering giving up in worse.
Holding tight to each other in sickness.

Bill and Gloria,
According to God’s holy matrimony,
Cherished one another before their children.
Cleaved to each other in the eyes of their grandchildren.
They preferred one another in the presence of God.

They embraced a love for a lifetime.

A legacy to leave;

Something God would have us all to consider.

Bill and Gloria

Gloria Ann left her Bill for heaven on November 30, 2015;
a sad day for us; a glorious day for Christ and Gloria.

The first time I ever saw them apart.

Even though a vacant seat remains at the breakfast table where Bill and Gloria once shared a few pieces of toast and coffee prepared by Bill each morning;

I never see one without the other,
As the love Bill still carries for Gloria illuminates his eyes.

bill and gloria by river

The love this couple shared together has been passed down four generations thus far; a love story to be told and recounted over and over during bedtime stories to the grandchildren present and beyond.

jill and kids

Gloria’s love spilled over as a teapot being poured into the cups of her daughter’s and granddaughter’s life.

bill and gloria's girls

bill and gloria tea setThere is always enough love and room at the table in Bill’s heart for his special girls also.

neese wedding

Bill and Gloria passed their legacy of love for a lifetime to their children, their grandchildren and those beyond their natural eyes to see.

Their love for a lifetime,
A love only known in Christ,
Stands as a lighthouse to guide through the darkest days,
The roughest and uncharted waters,
Reaching and safely continuing another day as man and wife.

bill and gloria family

Adopted into our hearts, Gloria held the honor of matriarch alongside the other pillars in our family. We only knew her as nanny, as love will do that.

bill and gloria mom bonnie

bill and gloria and david
Bill carries the torch of patriarch and is only known to us as papa; whose family added new branches to reach our family tree, by sharing themselves with those not sharing their DNA;

bill and brad

Being nanny and papa to so many not related by blood, but knitted together in true love.

bill and gloria picnic all our family

The sun is going down in papa’s eyes as his longing for that one he
Loved for a lifetime is winning.

Sitting side by side along the water’s edge will forever be “their place”.

The cool and calm of the river still ripples between two hearts, whose devotion to the other never parted them, even unto death.

bill and gloria by river

Bill and Gloria’s sixty-six years together is an unearthed treasure, a treasure map, an adventure to discover true love in your wedding vows.

Consider it simply amazing.

Consider sixty-six years together another Wonder of the World.

Consider love for a lifetime.

Bill and Gloria did.

LONG DISTANCE LOVE  By Lori A Alicea

The odometer mileage reads nine lonely years without you and still counting.

hawaii 4

hawaii 9

hollis 21

hawaii 1
The map of this long distance road trip has charted volumes of days and years of celebrations, milestones and everyday “nothings” whose travels intersect each other’s lives from time to time; the most recent reunion being nine long months ago; a lifetime if you’re asking.

This road trip of itineraries finds us on opposite sides of one-way streets most of the time with posted signs prohibiting U-Turns to re-wind the moments that have slipped through the grasp of our fingers.

2018 england summer 85 reaching for balloon

U-turns not allowing us to re-trace the steps we’ve missed with one another while following the map of our long distance love.

hawaii 7

hawaii 6
It’s difficult to enjoy this long distance road trip when the scenery we’re meant to enjoy with you is viewed from the rear view mirror. This constant looking back and remembering, recalling and longing for those sacred occasions we spent together as a family weighs heavy on the heart over time.

A Papa’s lap feels lonesome for hungry babies to share his food while sitting together around the kitchen table.

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A Papa wishes he was crowded again on the couch with you to watch the same movie for the hundredth time.

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One can’t listen to the engines roar of an airplane soaring overhead without re-living our baggage claim hellos, reacquainting ourselves with you and your sweet smell we have yearned for over the months.

airplane

airport David and Rosalee at airport

Only to be saddened by our tearful good-byes and empty arms days and weeks later.

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airport
But happiness is always a choice.

We don’t want to be sad because our arms can’t reach you from the other side of the world. We choose to be excited watching you experience life in these amazing places most will never see.

world jake and baby cova with mountains behind 3

Your passport is full of stamped adventures and we choose to encourage you to squeeze every drop of them while enjoying the ride.

cova riding horsey

We choose not to cry for every address change that takes you further and further away from us; well, at least not in front of you. Your steps are ordered by God and we can’t be selfish when God has other plans; a great plan for you.

house 1 in chicago

house 2 in Washington State

house 3 in DC 1
house 3 in DC
house 4 in Hawaii

Thankfully Papa and Gaga can enjoy their long distance love for you through pictures, Facetime and warmed from your laughter over the telephone.

Our hearts do feel the pang though watching you blow out your birthday candles every year without us being there; hurt even more with us unable to relish your birthday excitement as you open your gifts.

birthday 2018 englands in evansville kizzy eating cake

birthday hollis cova rosalee bd 18
birthday hollis cova rosalee bd 11
birthday 2018 england summer 77
So many “first day of school” milestones we’ve had to enjoy from our side of the camera lens.

school 2018 cova first day of school 7
school hollis first day of preschool 7
school 2018 rosalee hollis picture day

You know the little kid in Papa would brave the cold to share your December days sledding, creating snowmen, and sipping on hot chocolate topped with marshmallows (lukewarm for you) to warm ourselves when back inside the house.

winter 2014 cova winter 3 snow men
winter

Our hearts break every Christmas when the only request on your gift list is a visit from your grandparents. Keeping tradition though, we gather around the family tree each Christmas morning to see what Santa brought you, albeit by Facetime.

xmas 2017 england xmas 1

xmas cova hollis face baby
Nothing says bedtime better than a trip to the moon and stars and back before getting warm under the covers. The places we unfortunately are unable to visit together between the chapters and pages of your library books, but we tuck you faithfully in at night in our prayers, believing for sweet dreams and angels watching until morning.

reading book

reading book 1
Long distance love
is terribly hard on a grandparent. Witnessing your life through our side of the window when arms are desperate to reach into your life where a fresh breeze of our love can freely hold you without the separation of glass.

No doubt the pain is equally great on a grandchild feeling left behind of all the family celebrations, holidays at Papa and Gaga’s house, missing out on weekend sleepovers, cousin time, Sunday dinners and cookie jar sneaks at their grandparents.

But a grandparent’s long distance love flies on angel wings to wherever their grand-babies live.

A grandparent’s love is left at their baby’s doorstep, their chair at the kitchen table, the toy room, under their pillow and can find them wherever their little feet will take them.

heart - leave behind

Yes, Papa and Gaga choose to be happy for the few opportunities we are blessed to spend together in person each year, and celebrate the intentional and unexpected surprises the remainder of the calendar with you through the looking glass of the phone.

It’s just your eyes reaching for us through the rear view mirror that rips one’s heart apart and makes our long distance love undeniably painful; sometimes agonizing. 

hawaii 4

hawaii 9

hollis 21
hawaii 1

You change by the minute and grow even faster.

But remember our long distance love will never change for you.

We are a phone call away, and sometimes a plane trip when we can.

Happiness is a choice.

We choose to keep our tears at a minimum.

We choose to love you,
No matter the miles,
No matter the cost,
No matter if the road-trip ever runs out of road,

Because our long distance love
will never fail to find you any place on the map.

heart - leave behind

A PLACE OF REMEMBRANCE  By Lori A Alicea

What is your place of remembrance?

Is it a wall of remembrance…Of framed prayers soaked in your tears
With the Father’s love woven into their answers giving cause to remember a faithful God as you stand in hope for future framed prayers at your wall of remembrance.

Is it a book of remembrance…
Of pages written from life on your knees from those painful heartaches that only a God up at midnight could understand; a loving Father who exchanges your mourning for dancing in songs of encouragement throughout your book of remembrance.

Is it a heart of remembrance…
Recorded in the secret places hidden and known only to the one who knitted you in your mother’s womb, those endless petitions poured out onto the lap of a merciful God, who sees it all from beginning to glorious end, a triumph One who answers before a single word ever leaves the lips of those who have a heart of remembrance.

Is it an altar of remembrance…
An altar of stones gathered and piled to remember a God of deliverance, the one whom saved you from despair and destruction, an almighty deliverer who made a way when there seemed to be no way. Those altars left behind along the pathway for your children and grandchildren to discover and question you to remember, all the while leaving a road map of great hope and direction for future deliverance’s of their own while gathering around your altar of remembrance.

What is your place of remembrance?

What is that place you run towards to remember a faithful God?

What is that place you dare not forget a generous Father in the midst of your own prosperity, remembering the great warning God gave the Israelite’s before entering their inheritance of the Promised Land.

11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flows grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
(Deuteronomy 9:11-13 NIV)

Interestingly, as God entreats his children to remember,

He himself remembers.

God remembers his promises and covenant with Abraham for a thousand generations.
(Psalms 105:8-10 NIV)

God remembers that never again will he destroy and flood the earth, giving us rainbows after every rain to remember his promise.
(Genesis 9:11, 13 NIV)

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God keeps his promises, God stays in covenant, God remembers.

Twenty-six years ago David and I entered into a covenant relationship of marriage when we promised to love each other for life, to love each other in the good as well as the desperate throes forever this side of eternity.

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For twenty-six years of wedded bliss, from our first anniversary and every milestone anniversary thereafter, two people return to their heart of remembrance, recalling a loving Father who gave two broken people a second chance at love.

Hand in hand we have chosen to remember the gift of the other, to dare not forget when God didn’t forget us either, to open our book of remembrances and celebrate the valleys as well as the mountains and name our blessings “one by one” in our remembering.

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Along the pathways of our life together, a husband and wife have intentionally built an altar of remembrance for every difficult season that God delivered us from, as part of the inheritance and legacy of hope and encouragement David and I desire to leave behind for our children and grandchildren and generations beyond our lives.

More than anything else, our wall of remembrance, those framed faces that God began with us, are pictures of a million words and thoughts unable to articulate our “love story” of twenty-six years because we dared not forget, we chose to remember God’s faithfulness through the valleys as well as the mountaintops, never entertaining the thought of “letting go” because we knew too much in the

remembering.

wedding david and lori

wedding cumbee alicea kids
wedding englands

I will love him forever, because in the remembering, I dare not forget God loved me first.