TRAVELING THRU A JOURNAL OF CONTENTMENT  By Lori A Alicea

He never changes.

He is just, faithful, loving and we can count on him to be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
(Hebrews 13:6-8)

Yes, God never changes.

God is always faithful.

He is our security blanket to curl up in when the winds of change are unrelenting.

God’s unchanging promises is a place of contentment I have drawn peace from my entire life.

I discovered this contentment in my own words, a dusty old journal unearthed from a box of books taken from the storage unit we have begun to purge.david storage

Over the course of my life, I regret not keeping a journal from the joy and sadness of my sixty years. You think you’ll remember but how quickly you forget the details, the emotions, the everyday thankfulness that begs to be remembered in our written words.

So you could imagine what a joyful discovery, an old dusty journal from fifteen years ago; a thirty day time capsule I barely recall writing. Yet, in opening to the first page of my journal, I began travelling down the road of my contentment, my life’s movie replaying while I sat with a cup of coffee to re-live.

Lord, thank you for allowing me to discover these memories I took the time to remember.

Just thirty days of writing and then I stopped, but a month of memories highlighting the faithfulness and contentment of God in my heart.

A few days from April, 2009…

Thursday, April 9, 2009
I woke up at 2:30 am to catch a 4:30 am train into the city to care for my future daughter ‘n law who was having surgery.

Being away for three days was a sacrifice in itself as being away from my husband causes me great sadness. Our love for each other swells our hearts so that to be apart is like breathing without air.

The sweet blessing came later that evening after arriving to the apartment following a long day at the hospital.

My son decided I needed some Christian music to listen to while I cooked in the kitchen. This was such a reminder how God touches hearts.

Later that night, my son bought me a fancy coffee and took me out to see the sights and lights of the city.

Saturday, April 11, 2009
My favorite moment of the day came when the train rolled back into the station at 3:00 pm sharp, only to see my handsome husband waiting to pick me up.

After fifteen years of marriage, I’ve never grown tired of seeing David’s face. He gets more handsome with time.

Our reunion hug was worth the time apart.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Today is tax day and though our taxes were filed early February, this is a day to reflect on God’s faithfulness. May 30, 2008 David lost his job of thirty-one faithful years. Starting over as an older man would prove to be a mountain David faced to climb, but nothing impossible for God.

Emotionally, having David home this last year has been the honeymoon we were unable to have as a newly blended family. While immensely thankful for a full house, returning home from a three day honeymoon to four kids after getting married didn’t afford us the time alone to be newlyweds.

This year together has been an unexpected gift to our marriage. Early morning walks and sipping coffee under the tree. Afternoon bicycle rides through our country neighborhood and savoring David’s famous BBQ’s.

Financially, I am amazed at what God has done to provide. The world views provision through a man’s job. Yet, it’s God’s provision thru a man’s hardworking hands that gives us hope to rest in when your earthly provision is gone. God’s comforting reminder a good father doesn’t allow his children to beg bread.

God has used so many circumstances to show his faithfulness.

Shortly after David lost his job of 31 years, he received a small inheritance. What to do with this inheritance? While unemployed, spending this money on needs sounded logical, though investing in the Kingdom which pays the best dividends was wisdom.

This outpouring came at just the right time and David’s inheritance was sown for God’s purposes.

God is so good.

Though unemployed, our bills have been paid and on time, with enough food to eat.

We do need a new vehicle though. Our van has 390,000 miles and looks like it. The kids want us to pull the plug and get the poor thing out of hospice. But God has a beautiful truck with a big red bow waiting for my most deserving husband when the time is perfect.

We thank you God for reminding others thru our finances that you are in complete control.

Friday, April 17, 2009
Today God, the weather is breathtaking and all consuming. Who could deny your existence?

I love when I can open the windows and hear the birds singing. This is music I can listen to all day long.

Pulling the curtains back to reveal the breathtaking view of country living, we take in the quiet and crisp fresh air thru open windows; although not so fresh when the pigs are out.

But today God, it was all about you. You stopped me with this beautiful day.

Saturday, April 18, 2009
I’ve never boasted a green thumb in my life and with two acres of land; one might imagine a flower or two blooming around the trees or fence line. So last fall I decided to plant pink tulips in honor of my two sisters living in heaven and much to my amazement, beautiful tulips opened up in full bloom today.

What a miracle to me. You plant a seed from which new life comes. How dare we ever think our efforts go in vain?

My sisters would be proud of their tulips.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009
Today, I stayed home from church with a bad cold. Something I don’t do often.

Having a personal worship service at home with God, I was taken back to the pews of my Southern Baptist roots when gospel greats were sung from the old fashioned hymnals.

The days of my youth when mom and her six kids sat together worshiping God. Though I wonder how much worship took place in the passing of notes back and forth.

But surely God moved on our pew row of kids as mother raised us six to serve Him. A few of mother’s kids have deeper testimonies than others as they took the road more traveled than less. But a road we all met again down the journeys of our lives.use Church directory picture

Saturday, April 25, 2009
Been home all day alone and while this isn’t my favorite plan for a Saturday, I’ve been left behind with my coffee and thoughts and a time of reflection of how blessed I am for the “noises of the house” and for those that make them.

I’m reminded when the house is quiet, how life could change in an instant, leaving the house forever in silence. This gives me pause to appreciate those who make my life complete.house wheeler

Monday, April 27, 2009
There are a few jars to fill; a few bags of frozen strawberries from the summer before. Together they will be a jelly gift from my hands to the table of those who have blessed me.

I’m giving a jar of my childhood memories when mother and her five daughters gathered in the kitchen to put away fruit for a cold winter’s day.

While kitchen art might be a thing of the past, it’s the best part of my summer and couldn’t imagine skipping this mid-year tradition I’ve enjoyed my whole life.

Great is Thy Faithfulness
By Thomas Obadiah Chisolm

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Closing the journal I am reminded from its cover,

It is never too late to be what you might have been.
George EliotIMG_7832

Thank you Mr. Eliot for your encouragement, your words of inspiration for me to begin keeping a journal, even in this autumn season of my life;

To keep in pursuit of my writer’s dream while keeping in perspective of time,

Day one or one day.
Michelle Parlos

 

I AM A LIFE, THAT WAS CHANGED By Lori A Alicea

I once read:

Never underestimate the valuable and
Important difference you make in every life you touch.
For the impact you make today
Has a powerful rippling effect on every tomorrow.
Anonymous

This rippling effect of one man’s life would touch me down stream years after he and his wife jumped head first into those deep waters on search and rescue missions for those marriages drowning in the rip currents of their choices.

A Godly couple living the example

“‘till death do we part”.

Two ordinary people who taught on marriages every Sunday afternoon for decades; who spent the remainder of the week throwing out life preservers and life-lines for those willing and not willing to grab hold for another chance to live.

The cries of those hurting kept these two up at night searching the desperate waters for marriages about to be lost at sea; with some marriages ditching the radar altogether of being found.

Such was the man in this marriage.

A man who wanted to charter his own boat, navigate life his own way, regardless of the distress flares and signals from his drowning wife.

JOE AND DIANE Wedding Picture

But an ordinary man with an extraordinary call for marriages kept throwing out life-lines for this husband to stop swimming against the current of God and jump into His boat of surrender and freedom.

Life-line after life-line the search and rescue continues, never losing sight of this couple at sea.

When one day a worn out man takes hold of the one unwilling to give up the rescue.

A surrendered heart and a marriage restored.

Joe and Diane 1

His legacy continues.

Never underestimate the valuable and
Important difference you make in every life you touch.
For the impact you make today
Has a powerful rippling effect on every tomorrow.
Anonymous

Yes, never underestimate the difference you make in the lives of those you touch.

Two ordinary people intersecting the path of two others needing life preservers, now jump head first into those deep waters on search and rescue missions of their own, for those needing resuscitation of a new beginning.

This impact of one man’s life now touches me down stream years later through my future brother ‘n law with an introduction to his brother, who later became my husband.

One man’s life changed my heartache and single life of raising two young children without a male influence into joy forever.

THANK YOU
By Ray Boltz

…….
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave.

Surrendering and saying “yes” to God changes everything.

The love between my brother ‘n law and wife re-ignited the flames of their heart which could only be attributed to the Author of Love Himself.

Their passion for one another is evident in his wife’s smile and smiles of their grandchildren.

Their commitment
‘till death do they part
Is celebrated on their 40th wedding anniversary renewal, a day almost lost at sea had it not been for a search and rescue mission of two called by God to marriages.

My husband and I for years sent an anniversary card to our brother and wife who kept in covenant to their wedding vows, because we wouldn’t be celebrating anniversaries of our own had they not grabbed hold of that life preserver.

Remembering that love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful or proud, never dishonoring, not self-seeking or easily angered, keeping no record of wrongs, rejoicing in truth, protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering.

Holding on to the life preserver of love which never fails.

A love my husband and I shared with others at our 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration, all because two people decided to stay married, who officiated our renewal, whose rippling effect on our lives is now splashing down stream to our legacy.

I am a life, that’s been changed,

My brother ‘n law Joe has affected many other lives as well; I would greatly underestimate the impact that flowed down stream from his life.

A devoted marine and love for his country, Joe honors the veterans who sacrificed everything to serve.

Joe alongside his daughter serves during the holidays, preparing a banquet before our soldiers, our country’s finest.

Joe ministers in the trenches of the hurting, the forgotten, the addicted; a band of brothers leaving no man behind.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Joe is a dreamer; a diligent servant and provider for his family.

JOE MILITARY Truck

Joe’s love for laughter and heart for God ministers in huge waves to his family.

More than anything else, Joe’s ability to connect with children is his biggest splash.

A marine to the core, Joe passes on his military passion to rise up in young soldiers a heart for Christ.

Joe is our Toys ‘R Us kid at Christmas.

Well, maybe not.

S

Joe’s house has been a house of hospitality, a hospital for hurting these past twenty seven years, open for anyone who knocks or needs a soft pillow to lie on.

JOE MILITARY Home

Joe who is no stranger to the mission field,
Recently graduating from a program in missions, believing one day to hand out life preservers on the other side of the world again.

Joe’s life has been poured out on many with others still waiting their turn down stream.

Sadly for us, a celebration and graduation of a different kind has taken place for our dear Joe as he stands before the sea of lives he’s touched, those waiting for him as he enters the gates of heaven.

Flags fly at half-mast in the hearts who loved him dearly.
JOE MILITARY Flag half mastA country says good-by to one of its finest soldiers; a void visibly seen.

JOE MILITARY flag empty chair

A choir of angels sing as our brother takes his first steps on those golden streets of heaven.

THANK YOU
By Ray Boltz

….
As Jesus took your hand
As you stood before the Lord
He said, my child look around you
For great is your reward.

Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave.
…..

Bishop used to remind us that good seeds sown in death always produce an abundance of fruit.

JOE MILITARY Fruit of your life

A basket overflows at harvest because Joe lived to give his life away.

Just days ago our Joe walked thru the front door of heaven when we earnestly prayed for this door to open.

JOE MILITARY Home

But God had a different plan.

Our hearts grieve yet rejoice as Joe has already seen Jesus.

This family couldn’t be any happier.
We stand and salute a soldier for his life well lived.

Welcome Home Papa Joe.

JOE MILITARY Welcome Home Sign

Welcome Home.

JOE MILITARY Welcome Home

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

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.

OUR ANGEL TREE Angel  By Lori A Alicea

Thanksgiving is still a week away yet Christmas made its debut appearance weeks ago unveiling its new holiday line on store shelves of businesses everywhere.

Strands of Christmas lights, wreathes and decorations of all kinds usher an early season’s greeting to the small town we live near, where many in the community have given themselves permission to break rank with the holiday calendar order and take part in these “tree trimming” festivities inside their own homes.

xmas tree

For this “kid at heart” who secretly embraces a Christmas spirit year ‘round and can be caught red-handed playing holiday music in July, the kickoff of December albeit before Thanksgiving, delights the little Christmas girl in me who refuses to ever grow up.

As magical and undeniable that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year to many, there are others facing great challenges, hardships, and pain where Christmas can’t leave soon enough; many of their stories depicted as angels on Angel Trees everywhere, presenting an opportunity to bless mere strangers disguised as a chosen angel.

Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.
Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.

In the hustle and bustle of shopping on strapped wallets for most, it’s easy to walk by and pretend we didn’t notice the Christmas needs of strangers hanging as angel ornaments on an Angel Tree strategically placed in store entrances to inspire a heart-felt connection of generosity. I confess to be that passerby of numerous Angel Trees over the years.

But this particular December, an Angel Tree stands in the corner of our family living room decorated with only one angel to select from. Our Angel Tree angel keeps us up at night in our thoughts and prayers. I dare not be a passerby this year.

Our angel’s Christmas list is short, one item to be precise; a list requiring a miracle from the hand of God; a Christmas miracle we can still believe in as all things are possible with Him.

Our Angel Tree angel isn’t asking for much.

Our brother just wants

To Live.

mark connie hospital

Like a bad dream we wished we could wake up from this terrible nightmare; no doubt our brother wishes the same.

Every next breath for my brother is a dear gift yet an agonizing struggle for him as well.

Our brother’s health crisis is beyond our understanding as growing up, we’ve only known and loved our “big brother” as one watching over us five sisters with eagle eyes, protecting us with strong arms and yes, even scamming us from time to time over chores and allowances as brothers do.

siblings church directory

Nothing ever changed in our relationship with our brother moving into adulthood.

siblings family photo

Whenever the family faced a challenge, albeit financial, health or an emotional kind with our parents or one of us, Our Angel Tree angel could always be seen walking through the door with answers.

mark coming home from work

Regardless that a thousand miles and months between his visits stood in the way of a mother embracing her son, a mother never took for granted an Angel Tree angel’s love whenever he came into town.

mark with mom

Our Angel Tree angel was honored in the final act of his military father, who bequeathed a son back the gift a father’s country bestowed upon him for his military service.

mark receiving flag at dads funeral

Our Angel Tree angel has been more than an angel to two little girls who grew up in the arms of their uncle; a man who loved them more as the children he never fathered, and gave them everything a daddy’s heart could pour out into their lives.

siblings mark christina brittany

This Angel Tree angel was more than a bright light in our sister’s eyes during their final year this side of heaven, as they struggled with their own Angel Tree angel request

To Live.

siblings belinda mary

A “big brother” driving a thousand miles to pick up our sister for one last homecoming with us, then taking her fishing before dropping her off on the journey back, remained a sister’s dearest memory of her Angel Tree angel.

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Our baby sister never felt more loved and safe when she was rescued and brought into the home of her Angel Tree angel where her daughters and siblings never left her side until heaven came for its newest angel that day.

siblings mary picture

Our Angel Tree angel has loved only one woman since their holy day of matrimony decades ago.

mark connie wedding

Still to this day, you never see one without the other.

mark connie by tree

When the minister declared on their wedding day that “these two have become one”, Our Angel Tree angel’s wife remains in this battle with him, fighting and helping her angel

To Live.

mark connie hospital

Our Angel Tree angel’s wife fights in hope, fights with God’s Word, fights to help him breath with all the love she has for her Angel Tree angel; to help him Live as he has requested.

Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.
Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.

These thousand miles between us are bridged by a sibling’s love for their Angel Tree angel only a close knit family can understand.

We pray that Jesus will be the best gift, the only gift you’ll need this Christmas morning.

We pray that one shake of a holiday snow globe brings back irreplaceable memories of Christmas mornings we shared together as children, never forgetting you’ll always be
Our Angel Tree angel,

with us now wanting to be the same for you.

Lori sibling xmas

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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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

 

SHE DANCED UNTIL MIDNIGHT By Lori A Alicea

She danced until midnight.

In the arms of her prince, she danced and she danced.

In the crowded ballroom, no one seemed to notice two young loves swaying in slow circles, as seen from the inside of a little girl’s music box.

When midnight came and interrupted though the story of this fairytale,
She still married her prince and
They lived happily ever after.

Once upon a time and twenty-five years ago, two lonely people found each other and fell in love.
gifts treeAfter eight short months of dating, and thanking God for remembering their empty arms after a five year wait for her and three year wait for him, they married and lived happily ever after
as a blended family of six.

Twenty-five years later and like written on the pages of a fairytale, this married couple decided to celebrate their milestone anniversary in grand fashion, surrounded by their closest friends and family in a 25th Wedding Anniversary Vow Renewal.

Dreaming began immediately.

Coming to life were their visions written on paper.

The humming of busy bees circled around the preparations.

Colors decided. Linens, silk wildflowers, lace and ribbon ordered.  Centerpieces designed.   Caterers and venue reserved.  Detailed lists of all kinds documented.

Save the Dates” are mailed six months in advance of this gala event, to give their special guests enough time to reserve this anniversary date on their calendar.

The music box has been wound and now opened.

Though many months stand between today and their anniversary celebration, in their hearts this sweet couple steps onto the dance floor and “cheek to cheek” they sway together in slow circles as the music box quietly plays.

They dance and they dance. Two people in love and overwhelmed in estatic anticipation for their anniversary dream to unfold.

The stroke of midnight is months and hours away.

Excitement is beyond euphoric.
The preparations continue.
The months quickly pass by.

The stroke of midnight is ever closer, yet still are many songs on this couple’s dance card to enjoy.

The calender reminds that six weeks remain before the church doors open for this Wedding Vow Renewal, a reminder for the beautiful invitations both color and theme coordinated with the save-the-dates are to be mailed.

This anxious couple will wait with bated breath for the return of the RSVP’s found in the invitation, confirming each guest who will be in attendance of their anniversary event.

Soon after the invitations were mailed, RSVP’s began secretly waiting in the mailbox for this couple’s discovery. Joy is filling the air as the unfolding of this Wedding Vow Renewal is finally a dream coming true.

Twenty-five years ago, this couples four young children walked down the wedding isle together with them, sharing this life-changing day as a family on stage.

Now their four young children are grown and three of them are married with children of their own.

Walking the Wedding Vow Renewal isle with this couple will now be their ten adorable grandchildren, though their four military youngin’s will walk the isle being carried as a picture by their cousin, as they recently moved to their next duty station located in Hawaii.
IMG_3115It is this couple’s prayer during this milestone anniversary event, that their love for each other, their pursuit to live and have a God centered marriage, be depositied in the hearts of their children and grandchildren as part of their inheritance.

That they will leave behind a legacy,
their breadcrumbs in the forest to follow
when seeking the way to go.

The prayer of this two is that their children and grandchildren always see the signs to follow Jesus,
as He is the only way,
He is the way.

This music box continues to play for this anniversary couple still deeply in love.  The ballroom floor remains open, though no one seems to notice these two still swaying to the songs playing from the inside of a little girl’s music box.

A wedding vow renewal picture is framed perfectly on every guest table, painted with its color choice linens, tableware, and wildflowers appearing freshly picked and arranged on lattice work and wisteria vines, mid-air atop two Eiffel tower vases. The isle lined on both sides with wildflowers winding up the height of the standing lattice work affixed on shepherd hooks, completing the portrait of stepping into a secret garden.

Canvasing the details of her vision displayed throughout the room, this bride making a renewal walk down the isle with her groom of 25 years is pleased to the moon and back.
rehearsal lori overlooking roomAll that waits in this ceremony and dinner reception room are its guests and wedding couple.

This music box still plays ever so faintly in the background.

In each other’s arms these young loves continue to dance while the music plays in their joyous hearts.

While this glowing woman is having her flowing red hair curled and arranged to cascade to one side of her neck.

Patiently waiting to complete the look of this bride is an exquisite dress to match her handsome groom she is so in love with. Sparkled jewelry and heels with its glittered rhinestone strap, with a bunch of wildflowers appearing recently picked to hold await also.

Unseen is a fountain overflowing from a heart spilling and splashing her happiness, this bride is marrying her man all over again in a Wedding Vow Renewal twenty-five years from their original wedding day.

It’s a windy fall day in October at noon, and the church doors have finally opened to receive the guests of two people about to say “I Do” again.
churchThe ceremony sanctuary doubling as a reception hall, a remodeled version of the same reception hall that held their wedding reception twenty-fives years ago, is bustling with conversation between arriving guests greeting those they haven’t seen for awhile. Guests are finding their tables and seats specifically assigned and chosen with those sitting next to them in mind.

Secluded in another room, the bride and groom and bridal party of grandchildren with their parents present for the family portraits are photographed for their wedding album to come, a lovely gift given by the generosity of their children.

Taking mental pictures of her own, this bride is soaking in the moments that are passing by so quickly. Her groom.  Her children.  Her grandchildren.  All dressed to match the secret garden theme of the reception hall.  All beautiful and taking the breath of a woman so thankful to God, her husband, her children and others for giving her this spectacular day.

Thirty minutes away and while the pre-arranged music plays for the guests leading up to the ceremony and is in earshot of this bride a room away, this bride is whisked to Hawaii in a sentimental text message from her daughter ‘n love who recently moved there with our son and grandchildren.

Happy 25th Anniversary.

Today is the big day.

Everyone is gathering together to celebrate the love of two amazing people.

 You both have accomplished in 25 years of marriage what most hope to accomplish in a lifetime – raised 4 amazing children, always put those around you first, serve others with unconditional love and are creating a lifetime of memories for your grandchildren.

Because of you both, everyone around you knows true love and happiness does exist. You have set high standards for how a marriage should be and held yourselves accountable.

I love that you both are still so in love with each other after 25 years. We appreciate you and everything you have done for our family.  We know no matter what is going on, we could call on you both day or night and you would drop anything to help us – having that security is one of the most amazing things.

 We are so thankful for God’s perfect planning and timing in bringing you two together. When you look around today take a moment to soak it in and enjoy the fact that everyone is there because two people fell in love 25 years ago.

 Happy Anniversary.

Wish we could be there to celebrate with you and honor your marriage.

All my love, Crystal.

Like a kiss from God in heaven, Crystal’s words played a mother / daughter song quietly for the two of them, stirring a few tears and emotions of a mother’s heart.  Crystal’s thoughtful timing was perfect and overwhelming, all because a daughter chose to hug and share a moment with her mother, even though the ocean and its million miles stood in the way between them.

The music box still plays ever so quietly.
The clock will still strike at the midnight hour.

Until then, a princess and her prince will soak every memory on their dance floor ‘till the very end.

The clock though signals the start of the three o’clock ceremony.

An instrumental rendition of Endless Love plays in the background, and a wedding album is opened from twenty-five years ago in a video montage displayed on a full screen in front of the room, for guests to enjoy a glimpse of when the love of two people began.

Click on the arrow button
to revisit when two people fell in love, when two people said “I Do” for the first time on their wedding day twenty-five years ago.

 Walking once again to the version of Endless Love featuring Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross, who serenaded a bride and groom twenty-five years ago, ten grandchildren catching the smiles of so many guests in their cuteness, walk the wedding isle and take their place on the church pew, with four from Hawaii who walked the isle carried in a picture by their cousin, is placed on an easel so others can see them on stage.

Guests stand to their feet in their cheers for the bride and groom making their second walk down the isle in great celebration of this 25th wedding anniversary milestone, a moment unexpected and taking a bride and groom emotionally off guard.

Side by side again at the altar, holding hands as they’ve done all these years.
Love so evident in their smiles could write a romance novel with many sequels.
david and lori at altarGiving God first the praise that is due Him, this couple and guests are led in worship with the song, “The Goodness of God”. A song that tells the true story of why and how two people have stay married for twenty-five years, through the good and the not-so-good, all because of the faithfulness and goodness of God.
worship-song.jpgNext, their oldest granddaughter Brooke reads from 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter. The Love Chapter scriptures depict the theme of all marriages, the theme of this wedding day, depicting the character of God in love as He is all love.
IMG_3104 The Love Chapter

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails…..

13 And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.

 But the greatest of these is love.

Interestingly, the “man of God” officiating the ceremony, is their brother, an elder of their church, the one who introduced this man and woman twenty-five years ago. He knew their story and revisited in great and hilarious detail the journey of how their love came to be.

Twenty-five years ago these two were married by their beloved Pastor, who had shephered them and their church flock those five years prior to that day, and leading up to one year ago when God called him to his Heavenly home.

Missing their Pastor terribly and would have wanted him to officiate the renewing of their vows, was still present in the suit coat that our brother had worn standing on this wedding altar, a coat of many given to him when our Pastor continued his journey in heaven.
Pastor preaching at weddingGod cares so deeply about the details.

As a writer, the vows of this bride embodied great honor of the man who has shared life with her through the last quarter of a century. Before God and her guests, she wanted everyone to hear and visually see through her words, a true picture of what a husband, father, grandfather and man looks like in marriage.

HER VOWS

(An excerpt from the original five pages,
condensed to three,
when a bride spoke her Vows to her groom)

Twenty five years ago, I married the man of my dreams.

Little did I know how my dreams would unfold,
spending every minute,
every hour,
every day
and every year
of these twenty five years with you.

 If I could say anything, at least for us, marriage is wrapped up in the little things.

We aren’t rich, live in a fancy house or drive a fancy car.

 The reason our twenty five years together have been so magical, is because
we have embraced and mined
the love and gold
in the little things…
……….

 It’s been like Christmas every day for the last 25 years.

You have given me gifts wrapped in glittered paper topped with sparkled bows.
You have given me gifts that money could never afford to buy.
You have given me gifts that have made me feel loved from the moon and back.

 You have given me gifts that are
wrapped in the little things.

 I will love you forever.
I will dream with you forever.
I will be by your side forever.
Thank you for the most amazing 25 years.
I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25.

I love you.
lori reading vows
As the groom takes his turn to share his vows in word and in song, the crowd leans in to hear the greatly anticipated voice of an angel singing to his bride, “Truly” by Lionel Richie of Warner Chappel Music.

A few lyrics of the song “Truly”, echoing from a husband’s heart in love:

Girl, tell me only this,
That I’ll have your heart for always
And you want me by your side
Whispering the words, “I’ll always love you.”
……..

Because I’m truly,
Truly in love with you girl.
I’m truly, head over heels with your love,
I need you, and with your love I’m free,
And truly, you know you’re all right
With me.

Having a thankful heart for God giving us Jesus, they celebrated communion together.
communionLooking on, grandchildren blush in their innocent smiles and giggles,
as a man kisses his bride, for the second time in their Wedding Vow Renewal.
kiss the bride Mr. and Mrs. again, they take their remaining photographs as re-newly married husband and wife.

The details that were planned so many months ago, are now displayed in every corner of the reception hall.

So much to celebrate.
So much to give God honor and glory for.

A guest sign-in-book and memory picture of those who left this couple too soon. Pictures of those not forgotten, a reminder of those who sat and watched this day from their view in heaven.
memory sign in

A vintage legacy window displayed the story of two people who fell in love. Their wedding picture from twenty-five years ago, their grown children and their weddings and all of their ten adorable grandchildren wearing their wedding clothes for their Papa and Gaga.
legacy wall 1The guest table seating cards individually affixed a small book of poems written from the love of a bride she has known with her Lord, wanting to share them with those who decided to share this most magical day with her.
guest 1

(a small excerpt)

Love is…..

Dedicated and written
for the one…

Who knows us best…
Who sees the best in us…
Who believes the best in us..
Who wants the best for us…
Who gives His best to us…
To the one who loves us most..

To You Our God…

That we might know you more..

Your Devoted Daughter,
Lori A Alicea

Dear God,

Before the stars had filled the sky,
Before the land and sea.
Before the days were one of them,
Your thoughts, they knew of me.

A dream, a detailed plan my life,
Revealed, my heart would burst.
I long to give away this love,
Because you loved me first.

Your only son you gave to us,
Your sacrifice and his.
To trace your heart, I’d find my name,
Since you are love, Love is.

In knowing you,
Might we know true love…

 1 John 4:8 NIV …God is love.

 Psalm 139:16 NIV
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book before one of
them came to be.

 For the next eight pages, this bride inspired by God penned small poems depicting the love of God,

Written and based from the
Love Chapter
1 Corinthians 13

Since He is Love, Our Model for Love,
That we might know and give love.
Following His lead,

 Because,
He is patient, He is kind.
He does not envy, He does not boast.
He is not proud, He does not dishonor.
He is not self-seeking.
He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs.
He does not delight in evil, He rejoices in truth.
He protects, He trusts.
He hopes, He perseveres.
He never fails.

The reception room boasted a hidden secret garden, a place to retreat where God’s handiwork is on full display.
flowers centerpieceThe desert tables beckoned the attention and sweet tooth’s of their guests.

Off limits though was a specially made wedding cake top for the bride and groom to share on their getaway.
honeymoon cabinGod still showing off in the details, provided a heart cake topper when the bride was unable to find one. This gift came in the mail unexpectedly from two guests unable to attend, who had no idea of this bride’s desire, a gift significant of two hearts with God in the center of their lives.
cakeThe desert menu included professionally decorated filled cupcakes with wildflowers and butterflies, homemade heart-shaped sugar cookies, homemade chocolate chip cookies for the kids at heart, and homemade candy coated pretzels. All of this served with hot coffee and love from a bride thinking of her guests from the oven of her kitchen, assisted by her daughter who helped decorate these confections and all the other craft items needed by her mother.  Lasting memories created when a mother and daughter shared a few moments over sprinkles and glitter.

Though it was a brisk wedding fall day in October, a bride and groom were showered by the generosity of their guests represented in gifts and in cards.
card boxThough a bride and groom, yet still parents and grandparents, both had requested speeches from the hearts of their children and grandchildren, especially their Hawaiian family unable to attend.

Believing no videos were sent, a pre-dinner surprise of speeches from their grown children, including the Hawaiians desperately missed yet wanted to be included on this special anniversary day.

Here’s a small glimpse and view of those amazing guests who paused their day to celebrate the marriage twenty-five years in the making.

 The sacrifice of those family members who spent their money and miles on the road or in the air to share a few moments together with family.

All that delicious food, more than enough for seconds.

 The tables that gathered together as friends and family, over dinner and conversation. The best part of the day were those faces who know you by name, that are part of your story, those faces that have shared years of life with you.

The bride looks up at the clock and midnight is closer than it has ever been.

She wants to dance until midnight.

She wants to soak up the moments which will become memories after a few short hours that remain.

She wants to stay enveloped in the arms of her groom for as long as the night continues, and to live happily ever after with him again when the last song is played.
kids Cova 1This bride is so thankful for the DJ, her brother ‘n law, her next door neighbor and landlord, who gave so much of his time, gifting and patience, to sit with her over the hours putting the reception playlist and entertainment together; even managing to save their relationship in the process.
IMG_3099And then this happened.

A couple’s first dance as a re-married couple, dancing cheek-to-cheek to the song, “Look at Us” by Vince Gill, when a little girl named Ayva Presley, their sweet granddaughter innocently took hold of their hands and decided to join them. They both held back a few tears when a little angel wanted to share this moment with them.  This princess of ours followed us throughout the night.
dance David and Lori and AyvaSelecting a song with their Hawaiian son in mind who loves Vince Gill for their first dance, and wanted a piece of him to be in their service, they thought of him when the country music played in an excerpt of the lyrics:

Look at us,
After all these years together.
Look at us,
After all that we’ve been through.

Look at us,
Still leaning on each other.
If you want to see,
How true loved should be,

Then just look at us.

The children and grandchildren joined the bride and groom on the dance floor to dance as a family to the song, “Forever Mine”. Part of the legacy this couple wanted to leave for them is a promise that marriage can be forever, that the seeds of these words be planted in their lives as a reminder that marriage can be for a lifetime.
family dance A bit of fun for the children under fourteen, dancing to the song “Twist” while using their Skip-its, or Footsies, as they were called when this couple were their ages. Such a highlight.
kids skipitsEven had a gift card raffle for one child and one adult.
IMG_3102 Couples and line dances for those willing to take a step onto the dance floor.

Elvis even made an appearance to everyone’s delight and request. Moved with curosity, the kitchen help stopped what they were doing to enjoy a few songs from this icon before he left the building.

This long-distance guest made these most thoughtful woodworking gifts for the family. He will never know the impact of these treasures.
IMG_3103The clock is about to strike midnight.

A bride and groom’s day is about to become a memory.

The months of dreaming, planning and preparing have been fulfilled and it is time to close this chapter in their story.

She danced until midnight.

In the arms of her prince, she danced and she danced.

In the crowded ballroom, no one seemed to notice two young loves swaying in slow circles, as seen from the inside of a little girl’s music box.

When midnight came and interrupted though the story of this fairytale,
She still married her prince and
They lived happily ever after.
dance David and Lori
To Her Beloved Husband,
as spoken in her wedding renewal vows:

 I will love you forever.
I will dream with you forever.
I will be by your side forever.
Thank you for the most amazing 25 years.
I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25.

I love you.

13 And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13: 13        

A LESSON IN LOVE By Lori A Alicea

In any given day;

We are teachers.
We are students.

With our lives, we are teaching a class, most likely never realizing the students who are observing, listening and taking notes.

People are watching us.
We are watching them.

There are classrooms assembled everywhere we go.
Sometimes we’re the student.
Sometimes we’re the teacher.

Our lives take center stage and people are wondering, studying and silently asking questions.

The question is though:
What lessons are we teaching?

On October 15, 2019 David and I will be celebrating 25 years of marriage. So hard to believe that this wonderful man comes home every night and parks his car next to mine in the driveway where we live.  He chooses to sit beside me at the dinner table.  He chooses to hold my hand whenever we are close enough to do so.  He chooses to call me periodically throughout the day.  He chooses to love me and call me his wife.  After twenty five years, I choose him and all of this and more.

I am a blessed woman.
My husband tells me every day what a blessed man he is.

Our marriage is a gift from God.

To celebrate this milestone, we have decided to live out this amazing legacy before our grandchildren, displaying the faithfulness of God through our twenty five years together in a Wedding Vow Renewal Event. Sparing no sparkle, we have gathered our children, grandchildren, family and dear friends around the dinner table for an evening to remember.

With both of us being once divorced, we desperately wanted the generations going forward to inherit a glorious picture of marriage, framed in Godly love.

Though our twenty five years together have encountered its share of misgivings, David and I celebrate a deep affection and unbreakable bond for one another, and desire that our marriage live beyond us as:

a testimony,
a vision of hope rooted in God,
a lesson in love.

…a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12

Interestingly, when David and I were just newlyweds all those years ago, still learning about each other, still learning how to blend our families. I remember a man I met on the job who had no idea when he punched in the time clock that morning, he’d be teaching me an impressionable  Lesson in Love,

teaching a student watching, observing, listening and taking notes.

Ironically, I punched the time clock that morning to be the teacher, to instruct him and the crew how to use a newly installed system.

Yes, the classroom doors are always open.
Some days we’re the teacher.
Some days we’re the student.

This particular day twenty five years ago I was the student, getting a valuable

LESSON IN LOVE
By Lori A. Alicea    

After celebrating Valentine’s Day just a few weeks ago and June fast approaching with summer weddings, surely love is in the air for many.  Though a romantic that I believed myself to be, it was after being hired to teach a class where a lesson in true love was unsuspectingly being prepared for me.

I was working the grueling midnight shift in the steel mill one year, teaching workers how to use a newly installed system, when I was introduced to “Frank”.

Initially after meeting “Frank”, I questioned whether our personalities would click.  “Frank” was often cranky when things went wrong, yet lightened up later with an offering from his candy dish.  “Frank” was tall and full of energy, though humorously odd when answering the phone.

It was quiet that night, as work had halted earlier, leaving “Frank” and I alone to keep watch.  To pass the hour, “Frank” had brewed some coffee, inviting me to join.

“Frank” looked comfortable around this makeshift kitchen, finding comforts of home behind a locked cabinet of his.  “Frank” must have been a waiter in an earlier day, as he displayed this natural ability to serve.

It’s sad thinking you know a person by believing what you see, instead of what you’ve learned.  You wonder how many friendships never bloom, when opposites sometimes fail to give it a chance, even over something simple as a cup of coffee.

As “Frank” began to unwind that evening, I slowly noticed him different.  Maybe he made a good impression with the table he set.  Or maybe I just realized how easy “Frank” was to talk to.

In the beginning, conversation between “Frank” and I was small talk.  Before long though, “Frank” was sharing about the love of his life.

“14 years ago everything changed”, “Frank” said, when the woman he married got sick; she’s been sick every since.  Over coffee “Frank” took me down the streets of memory lane, visiting sites of pain and sorrow, yet stopping by to smell their roses of happiness.   That night “Frank” exposed the scars of their travels, yet vowed he’d marry her all over again.

Yes “Frank” believed everything changed 14 years ago, but I believe “Frank” forgot what didn’t change, his wedding vows, “in sickness and in health”.

That night I met a man who didn’t change, when everything around him did.  “Frank” didn’t leave when his wife needed him most.  “Frank” continued to serve, when eyes often didn’t see.  That night I met a man who honored “I Take Thee, in spite of sickness.”  That night over coffee I met a new found friend; that night I met man.