HAND IN HAND Thru the Years!  By Lori A Alicea

In two short days we’ll celebrate twenty-eight years of wedded love between us.

We married on Sweetest Day one crisp afternoon in October when our lives and the seasons were changing harmoniously together with the brushstrokes of fall color as our portrait background.

Ever since our wedding day on October 15, 1994, each day as husband and wife has tasted sweeter than the day before.USE 1 a wedding 3

HAND IN HAND thru the years, we’ve faced whatever came our way while holding onto each other; as two are better than one.

Locking arms with God, we’ve completed our three stranded cord not easily broken against the fiercest winds life can hurl across your bare face.

Two are better than one…
Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIV

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIVUSE holding hands 1

HAND IN HAND as we cross the threshold of marriage milestones, we look to our left and once again to our right and give thanks for the cloud of witnesses who’ve walked alongside, cheering and encouraging us in the Lord thru the years, while the third strand of our three-stranded cord has been faithfully holding us close to Himself.USE 1 walk

HAND IN HAND thru the years at the altar, we’ve stood in agreement for the power of God in our lives; clinging to desperate prayers that the curious eyes of our grandchildren are watching and grabbing hold of the marriage example their Papa and Gaga are setting before them, however imperfect we are.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Matthew 18:30 NIV

USE 2 altar

HAND IN HAND in marriage we laugh and enjoy the lightheartedness of those unexpected moments one didn’t see coming.

God gave us the ability to smile, to grin, to find humor in the “nothings” and enjoy an abundance of laughter which takes your breath away ‘till it hurts.USE 3 laughter

HAND IN HAND thru the years you’ll find yourself dancing to the silent music played from the phonograph of your love story, swaying back and forth to the heartbeat of two people crazy about the other.

The teacup of what we share together spills over and splashes into the cups and saucers of others close enough and wanting what you have.

HAND IN HAND with family, we pray our children and grandchildren hold onto each other and continue the traditions we’ve built with them beyond the presence of our lives.USE 6 family dance

May each and every one of our grandchildren hold tight to the love we’ve poured into them…USE 7 england kids

May they be the biggest cheerleaders for each other as we have sitting in the grandstands of their lives…USE 8 girls

May they walk HAND IN HAND along the pathways to their God-given purpose, because…

Two are better than one…
Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIVUSE 9 girls 1

Thru the years, may the bridge between those miles which separate addresses always be a two-way street, leaving the light on in the window as a welcome mat for every unsuspecting knock on the door.USE 10 kids in Hawaii Twenty-eight years ago we walked down a wedding isle into a dream come true.

A fairy-tale we didn’t expect to be ours, yet still thanking God for the sleeping one we smile and gaze upon in the middle of the night after all these years.

Marriage will always be for keeps when you refuse to let go of the hand you promised to hold for a lifetime.

In looking behind us, I thank you David for twenty-eight glorious wedding anniversaries we’ve shared together.

With the world before us, there’s still much to be discovered as husband and wife.

I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather share my life with,

Than HAND IN HAND thru the years

With You…

USE holding hands

A DANCE INTO FOREVER  By Lori A Alicea

The wedding DJ has called for all the married couples to the dance floor for the next selection of the night.

Husbands and wives of every age began leaving their seats as the music to “their song” welcomed and gestured them to center stage.

Crowded on the dance floor were couples swaying back and forth in the arms with the one they said “I Do” to, however many years ago their altar moment was.

Minutes into their wedding waltz, the DJ announced that anyone married twenty-four hours or less must leave the dance floor.

The bride and groom both smiled and laughed as they took their position on the side lines.

The wedding waltz continues and dancing resumes once again.

The second stanza of the song began when the DJ stopped the music and ushered couples married five years or less to join the bride and groom along the outer circle of the stage.

The crowd on the dance floor began thinning out and it remained to be seen which twosome still dancing has been married the longest.

Couples married ten years or less were asked to join the others on the side lines.

Fifteen years or less…
Twenty-five years or less…
Thirty-five years or less…

By this time in the lyrics only a handful of marriages remain on the dance floor.

The children of parents and grandparents still dancing celebrate the rare treasure before them…

A gift and covenant of…

For richer or poorer…
In sickness and in health…
Until death…

Will we part…

The DJ’s announcement intensifies with excitement…

Forty-five years or less…

The waltz still plays as those couples on the sidelines began circling as a wedding ring around the final marriage of fifty golden years.

USE DANCE 2

This wedding ring of marriages circling the rare commitment of fifty golden years; a symbol of infinity which has neither beginning nor end; a display of love eternal and endless, and worn on the wedding finger closest to their heart.

This ring made of precious metal; an image depicting the sacredness of marriage, given to their betrothed with deep emotion and sentiment during the most sacred event of their life.USE then and nowUSE fifty sign

Fifty golden years is a testimony to the eyes who witness this miracle of dedication, two people trusting God during the valleys and mountain tops before them, persevering the journey together with Him in marriage.

USE DANCE 3

Those words of affirmation throughout the years seal and swell their abiding hearts of true love.CARDS 2A novel of words detailing the pursuit of rare pearls and treasure hunt of each other, passing on down thru the generations living beyond them a marriage’s lasting legacy.
CARDS 1Their kisses of thankfulness for another day thru the decades together.CARDS 3

Oh, the laughter which feeds their souls as a good medicine; stoking the fire of great joy which warms as a blanket around their arms on a cold winter day.
USE newleywood game

Holding close their gift of friendship…
Celebrating their nearest and dearest confidant…
Feeling safe with the one who holds the secret keys to their heart.USE cake

USE gifts

The wedding waltz continues and serenades the anniversary couple as they

Dance into forever.

Embraced in each other’s arms they’ll waltz from anniversary to anniversary, keeping in time with their covenant of forever until the music ceases to play.USE DANCE 1

Fifty golden years marks the marathon of miles two people in love have traveled together in marriage.

They are a covenant gift and testimony to their children and grandchildren and eyes of those who have witnessed their rare love for each other…

For richer or poorer…
In sickness and in health…
Until death…

Will we part…

USE couple sitting down

INTENTIONAL FRIENDS  By Lori A Alicea

Her name is Betty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USE church

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_6070

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadly and heartbreaking enough, it was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will never forget you.

Remembering…

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

CLOSER THAN A BROTHER  By Lori A Alicea

It is written…

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

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

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

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

as friends stick closer than a brother.

college buds

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

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

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

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

Friends are runners in each other’s races.

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

Swim against the tide of struggles…

Bicycle though the wind of adversity blows in your face…

And run a full marathon while you are weak.

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

as friends stick closer than a brother.

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

A brotherhood of words to remind you…

I’ve got your back…

I’m here for you…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God…
Family…
Country…
Flag…

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

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

as friends stick closer than a brother.

A friend loves at all times.

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

A brotherhood of words to remind you…

I’ve got your back…
I’m here for you…

You’ve got a friend in me.

BEHIND YOUR BACK!  By Lori A Alicea

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

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

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

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

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

Ministering to…

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

Lending an arm of comfort…

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

Bringing joy to myself…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where did the time go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You look behind your back and wonder…

Where has all the time gone?”IMG_3702

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

Yet are confident as you determine…

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

Joined in love…

Kept forever by God…
Together forever.

IMG_3708

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing so as a family…

Joined in love…
Kept forever by God…

Together forever.IMG_3708

SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE  By Lori A Alicea

It’s just been the three of them for so long.

Living, loving, and smiling together even though the final page from their previous storybook ending was minus their much deserved happily ever after.

But the morning sun of God’s love is faithful to wake from a night’s sleep and rise into the eastern windows of these hearts and shine its brilliance of hope for new beginnings.2 bride kids

God is the author who redeems those pages and chapters written and scripted with a pen not His own; continuing to tell your story from a journal He’s titled, Second Chance at Love.3 bride groom kids

Love is God’s idea.

Acknowledging the loneliness of man, God fashioned a woman from man’s rib then presented this helper back to him.  (Genesis 2:18-22)

At last! The man exclaimed.
This is bone from my bone,
And flesh from my flesh.
She will be called woman,
Because she was taken from man.”
Genesis 2:23 NIV

A woman of great virtue;
A wedding gift of beauty to behold;
A daughter of her heavenly Father’s;

May the man about to receive this treasure keep the sparkle in this woman’s eyes radiant as he loves and serves her thru the pages of their happily ever after.

May those big brown eyes quietly watching you love her mother be the story she secretly longs for in her personal fairy tale in waiting.

8 emma only

A second chance of love sings from the mountain tops and shares with the world and those not close by of the joy she is unable to contain.8.5 bride calling home

A second chance at love honors those memories close at heart; a dear mother, aunt, uncle and grandparents who have taken their front row seats in heaven to witness this most splendid day.9 memory pictures

A second chance at love is a garden of roses carried down the isle to meet the one who has tended her delicate heart about to be given to him in holy matrimony.10 flowers

Who gives this woman away?”

Her mother and I.”

4Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

5It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

13These things will last forever – faith, hope, and love –
And the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13 NIV

12 court bridal family

You may now kiss your bride”

May you always remember to kiss me goodnight.”13 bride groom kissing

Introducing for the very first time!”

The New Mr. and Mrs.”14 bride groom close up

Celebrating with you are those honored guests whose role is to replay those words you vowed to each other before God; your road-map for any unforeseen moments when giving up seems more tempting than fighting thru.

Remembering always…

Love never fails…

We rejoice with you on your Wedding Day…

And many glorious anniversaries to come…18 wedding cake19 wedding cake bride groom emma

And now…

A wedding gift for the newly married couple; a keepsake we’ve packed for your journey ahead; our wisdom gleaned from our twenty-eight years of venturing the calm and treacherous waters of life together, with you just leaving the harbor.

When God gave us our second chance at love.

We were never meant to take this marriage journey alone. We were meant to inquire and take with us those seasoned tour guides who have traveled and experienced the marriage terrain well; tour guides who have tasted and desire to highlight the best of where we are going in our relationship; warning and protecting us also from the dead-ends, the pitfalls, the danger zones.

Enjoy the journey.

14 bride groom close up

A few words I shared at our 25th Wedding Vow Renewal, in hopes you both will tuck them into the pockets of your hearts and treasure the deep meaning they are meant to impart and travel with you thru the pages of your happily ever after.christmas tree

THE GIFT OF MARRIAGE
WRAPPED UP IN THE LITTLE THINGS
By Lori A Alicea

Marriage is a wonderful gift.

Under the Christmas Tree of Love, marriage is the prettiest package lying among all the others.

Marriage is that gift wrapped up in the memories of the little things.

A gift bound with a three-strand ribbon cord of commitment, complete with a legacy bow, and card signed by Two People Forever in Love.

Long standing marriages are rare and a beautiful gift in its presentation for others to witness, but also a road map for true love, a gift of heritage to give and pass on to the next generation.

Every couple, whether thinking about marriage, newly married or married for some time, would benefit in wisdom by sitting, gleaning and gathering truth under the teachings of those still professing their love after crossing those marriage milestones; their 25th Wedding Anniversary, their 50th Wedding Anniversary and anniversaries beyond.

So much to learn from that bride and groom still honeymooning, still smiling at each other, and holding hands after all these years. A couple whose favorite romantic song composed by Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin is,
“I only have eyes for you.”

A couple’s eyes whose sparkle hasn’t dulled for the other when the “going got tough” or when “life revealed its thorns in their bed of roses.” A couple’s eyes that still illuminate the sky when the other walks into the room, a starry night’s reflection of their deep rooted love.

The Gift of Marriage, Wrapped Up in the Little Things, unwraps the present of a twenty-five year marriage spoken by the bride on her Wedding Vow Renewal Day, her vows of honor to her Groom and praise to her God for the blessings of all their years together as man and wife, adding a small bit of wisdom for others to glean in their own relationship of marriage.

May whoever attends this Wedding Vow Renewal Day as our secret guest in these pages find gold in the little things that are spoken here. That these secret guests receive each word as our wedding renewal present, our personal encouragement to begin mining the gold in your own marriage, a gift that God has also abundantly given.

With Much Love,

The Bride and Groom
David and Lori A Alicea, Married October 15, 1994
Renewed their Wedding Vows Twenty-five Years Later

Our Wedding Vow Renewal Begins…

On a beautiful crisp October afternoon and surrounded by our close friends and family, my husband David and I recently celebrated twenty-five years together in a Wedding Vow Renewal. While we could have taken a lavish vacation instead, or bought a diamond ring or anything else spent on just the two of us, we chose to celebrate our twenty-five years together honoring all that God has blessed us with.

In my wedding vows to David, I opened up our album of life together and played a montage of twenty-five years of love and happiness with him through my words. Words are containers for encouragement, inspiration, edification, and for life. For anyone who was listening, especially our children and grandchildren, may my vows and words of honor to David, be also a testament to God and his faithfulness to us, and a takeaway for someone needing a special word for themselves.

Following are the complete vows and words of honor written from my heart to my groom David for our Wedding Vow Renewal, although condensed in length when speaking to my beloved at the altar.

This “album of my words” will come packaged as a variety of gifts wrapped for my groom on our wedding day, gifts presented to him and opened with much excitement as a little child on Christmas morning; our gift also presented back to you, our secret guest.

My Vows and Words of Honor from a Bride of Twenty-Five Years

Twenty five years ago, I married the man of my dreams. Little did I know how my dreams would unfold, spending every minute, hour, day and 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.

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. Here are just a few of the highlights.

GIFT OF CONTENTMENT

We aren’t rich, live in a fancy house or drive a fancy car. In fact, the two biggest rust buckets are parked in this parking lot. But our rust buckets, or Johnny Junks as our kids called them, embarrassed our kids when we picked them up for school, or loaded them full of bikes and camping equipment for vacation.

Contentment is the best gift you could ever give yourself and your marriage.

The celebrations of Christmas will ring its bells every morning in a heart that is thankful for the provisions of God, for what you can afford, even driving a rust bucket called Johnny Junk.

Contentment doesn’t overspend, guarding those margins of peace in your budget and life.

Contentment is happiness with the “fixer-upper” you call home, not daydreaming for the house beyond your means in the gated-community across town. As home will always be the permanent address of your loved ones, not a structure of bricks and mortar that will one day rot and burn.

Our teenagers would learn a valuable lesson in contentment while growing up in a community where the railroad tracks doubled as an invisible division line between the rich and well-to-do with the average and blue-collar families like ours.

With their friend’s parent’s working in the demanding medical, law and other high profile professions, and whose houses could easily be featured in a Homes and Garden magazine, our teenage children embarrassed of their own home and me a “stay at home mother”, didn’t bring their friends over for dinner the first couple of years we lived this side of the tracks.

Interestingly though, our house would be invaded by the hungry friends of our kids years later, who looked for their new homemade favorites in my freezer: chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins and meat pockets to name a few, as their busy parents didn’t always have time to cook. Sadly, a few of these families who lived a life of extravagance, faced divorce and emptiness as many of us, an eye-opener for our teenagers that things can always fill a room, but never fill a heart with happiness and joy.

GIFT OF SMALL MOMENTS

When our girls were little, you would blow dry their hair after baths on Saturday before church on Sunday. I can still see them in your long white tea shirts. One with a big A written on the back with a marker standing for Audra, one for C standing for Candace.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
But by the moments that take our breath away.
Anonymous

They were so cute, adorable and innocent in their six years of life. They were daddy’s girls who fought for his lap, to be the first to hug his neck, to proudly show off their papers at school. Two sweet angels who share their daddies love and heart, though one not his name, a reality that never occurred to either of them.

It was just a Saturday evening ritual of blow drying the hair of two little girls, a father and daughter moment spent together after baths, an event that didn’t cost a dad anything but his time, yet would be remembered as a beautiful gift of small moments.

At the end of one’s life you won’t be thankful for the over-commitments at work or whatever constricted the breath of your available time. What will bring a smile to one’s face at life’s end is going through the scrapbook pages of the “sweet nothings”, recalling and recounting the memories made being present in the lives of your loved ones.

Like those Saturday’s when dad made his famous pancakes, giving mom a break in the kitchen.

When dad packed the tackle box, the fishing rods, his kids, including the girls, their cousins, and took them all fishing.

When dad made those annual summer dates to the amusement park with his kids and their cousins, upset that his sweet little girls showed up bigger every year against his wishes.

Small moments made today become those gifts your kids remember tomorrow. These gifts barely cost much but an available you. Make sure Christmas is every day for them.

GIFT OF HELP

Two months after marriage, you began bailing me out of my craft jams and learned to use a glue gun, sew, or help me engineer any craft problem I was having. You were even helping me fix these homemade centerpieces just yesterday.

When I used to clean houses, you never batted an eye to go with me and help on your days off. All my lady clients wanted to hire you and fire me as you noticed and fixed all their broken “whatever’s”, though you were never asked.

When the kids got older, you’d fix their cars, help paint their houses; whatever they needed. Only payment required was that they fed you lunch so you wouldn’t throw up as you have such a sensitive stomach.

Kindness

One of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another.

If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand. Do not wait for a thank you.

True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.

Anonymous

In marriage, “teamwork makes the dream work” when two people lend a helping hand to another in need; a wife helping her husband bleed the brakes; a husband assisting in his wife’s crafts, a father fixing his kid’s car for the hundredth time and still counting.

As an event decorator, there is always one component I need help with; every time, every event. I need rescuing in engineering, woodworking, cutting, painting, ironing, staining, gluing, the list is endless, and without complaining, my husband helps by lending a hand.

Love grows when love helps.

He “chooses me” when I need him to plug in the power tools, stand for hours at the ironing board, or paint and stain for days. I have loved my husband more these twenty-five years because of it. Nothing says I love you more than when true love helps.

GIFT OF FUN

Fun could always be found in your back pocket. You were never too tired to take the girls to the park when they were little, and now we live at the park with the grandchildren.

Once, I turned my back only to find Audra and Candace in a water fountain splashing around. Hello people, do you want to get arrested. I was always the Debbie downer. But you, kept the fun alive and hence, all our memories.

You and Candace thought you were funny when you dropped me off for one of Jake’s track meets only to go to the movies instead. Not realizing the race would get over before your movie, leaving me stranded in the dead of winter in a corn field.

You would secretly take the boys to the movies when you were supposed to be going to men’s class.

They say couples balance themselves.

In our marriage, that might not be necessarily true.

If it wasn’t for David, we would never laugh. If it wasn’t for me, we’d never have a serious moment. Couples balance themselves, but for us, David tips the scales with his hilarious look on life, for which I am eternally thankful. Life is too short, so why not live it smiling and laughing.

He sees the funny; he’s a man of a million Disney voices. David should have been in theater. The grand-kids love his pretending, his natural ability to stir up giggles in these little ones by bringing cartoon characters to life in their play together.

Find the “funny” in marriage. Do some “heavy lifting” of the mundane by lifting ones spirits using the Gift of Fun, the gift in laughter.

GIFT OF HONOR

Though my kids have a dad and we will always honor that, you have been the best version of a dad that any mother could have wanted for her kids. You have been the Best dad to your son. You call him every day while you both are driving. You are dad to our son ‘n love Kyle and daughter’s ‘n love Kristy and Crystal.

Though we are a blended marriage, there are no “steps” in our family. The only “steps” in our house are those that lead to the heart.

Nothing speaks more of honor than loving someone else’s children as your own; loving your son ‘n law as your son, or loving your daughter ‘n laws as your daughters. With blended families more common than ever, it’s more important than ever, that love not require a blood test to be genuine, but test the genuineness of a heart instead.

In our twenty-five years as a bi-racial couple, love has been blind to our color.

Eight of our ten grandchildren have never questioned why their papa’s skin is brown while theirs is white.

Our love has crossed genealogy lines to create new family ties that bind, ties that don’t require DNA to say we are related, because love just says we are. Love says not “who” you are, but “whose” you are; as a son, a daughter, a grandson or granddaughter.

Love says you are family when the boundaries of one’s heart expand its borders to include those you have chosen to adopt into your life, those you have chosen to add to the family tree.

GIFT OF TRADITION

When we first got married, you told the kids we would all eat whatever I served at the table, even if the rice in my earlier days looked like oatmeal.

Combining ethnic backgrounds, you learned to like biscuits and gravy. I learned to like rice that wasn’t Uncle Ben’s style. You’d even eat bologna if I served it.

Mark 10:8 NIV
And two will become one flesh…

In marriage, two become one in spirit, in soul and in body.

Two also become one in family, in backgrounds, in traditions.

Ruth 1:16 NIV
… your people will be my people..

Marriage reveals the true love of family relationships or lack-there-of.

Marriage magnifies the love of food both tied to family memories and family members.

Marriage requires embracing both families as your own, but in most cases, easier said than done. Families rarely like change to tradition, change to the holiday menu, change that requires sharing with other families, “a give and take” that many times results in a “tug of war” of emotions instead.

In marriage, couples need to find room for new traditions of their own, still keeping alive old traditions without allowing the “tug of war” of one’s heartstrings from families. Holidays will have to be shared or alternated. New foods and new traditions will need to find a new place in a couple’s life.

Marriage initiates a dance of “leaving and cleaving”; a leaving of family so the cleaving of two can become one. Families are a close second, but lost their place to first. Protect the boundaries of your marriage with Godly love; keeping in step with the marriage dance.

GIFT OF TIME

You learned to speak my love language of quality time by sitting for long periods of time over coffee.

In marriage, we both communicate in what author Gary Chapman calls a “love language”.

In marriage, we both give and receive love, hoping to communicate in the love language our partner understands.

In our marriage, my husband is bi-lingual, speaking and understanding both English and Spanish, while I only understand and speak just English. If David spoke only Spanish to me, there would be a communication failure in our relationship, leaving me feeling left out, feeling unloved, as speaking my language of English could have prevented this breakdown.

Author Gary Chapman writes in his book, The Five Love Languages, that relationships could thrive if we recognize the love language of our partner, and speak it to them fluently, filling their “love tanks” to the full line. Chapman writes there are five ways to express and experience love, in five ways called love languages.

Love language of Receiving gifts – as a way to say he was thinking of me.

Love language of Quality time – in giving of our undivided attention.

Love Language in our Words of affirmation – using our words to build the other up.

Love language in our Acts of service (devotion) – in doing something our spouse would like.

Love language in our Physical touch – our physical expressions of love.

Chapman encourages us to observe the way our partner expresses love to others, and analyze what they complain about most often, both indicators of what their receiving love language might be. He says people tend to give love in the way they prefer to receive love. We are to communicate in the way they understand.

To truly love someone, we must be willing to discover our partner’s love language and speak it regularly to keep your love alive. We must care for them enough to fill their “love tank” to the full line on a daily basis.

GIFT OF IDEAS

You opened a small store at work when Jake was going to college so you could take your spare change and fill up his tank with gas and ashtray full of quarters before he left each time for school. Your spare change helped pay a small portion of his college.

Marriage thrives in creativity, the intentional, the thinking of new ways and new ideas to keep your love alive.

If not careful, marriage can become a nine-to-five, a mundane day of coming and going, getting stuck in the rut of the predictable.

But it doesn’t take much.

A small idea bursting in a big love of fireworks will set the heart aflame.

You’d surprise yourself by opening that art box of creativity to inspire exciting ways to remain honeymooner’s decades after you said “I do.”

Years ago, it was more than a father’s spare change he saved for his son.

Years ago, it was more than a blue-collar worker thinking of a way to send his son to college.

Just because you don’t come from much, or have much, doesn’t mean you’re running on empty with nothing to give.

This father’s heart was full, brimmed with an overflowing theme of giving all he had, even if it amounted to and accounted for as spare change made from the store idea he had as a small way of helping his son go to college.

A prosthodontist son looking back now at the investment made from his” blue-collar” father, will pay back in dividends of appreciation and impact the hearts for future generations.

Don’t discount the spare change of your intentions, when your spare change equates to giving all you have. Your spare change might be worth your “happily ever after.”

GIFT OF REALIZATION

It was hard when our kids began to grow up feeling the nest wrestle as they left one after the other, and it became just you and me. We drowned in the silence and loneliness as we missed them so much; funny though, in time we learned to love just being the two of us.

But then the grand-kids started coming. And there we were again, going crazy over these babies that God entrusted us to love and tell them about him.

Now life started having real meaning.

Enjoy the little things in life…
For one day you’ll look back
And realize they were the big things..
Author Kurt Vonnegut

Life changes in an instant. You blink and your kids are grown.

You turn your back and your grand-babies aren’t babies anymore.

Savor the moments of every day…
…. waking up to the one that you love.
… taking in another deep breath.
… savoring the smell of your first cup of coffee.
… inhaling the fragrance of your loved one’s cologne.

Don’t be in such a rush…Soak in the morning sunrises. Stop for the evening sunsets.

Don’t wait for a special occasion to set out the china.

Eat by candlelight; every night.

Live in the minute you have right now.

Don’t waste today by setting it aside for tomorrow.

Wrap up the “gift of life” you hold in your hand and treasure it. Realizing and remembering:

…you do not know what tomorrow will bring.

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a

little time and then vanishes.

James 4:14

GIFT OF “YES”

Nothing was ever a “no” with you when it came to our children.

When the military moved our son Jake to Washington State and he needed his car driven to him requiring a three day journey, you said, “Let’s go.”

When our heartbroken daughter Candace living in Georgia needed her father to scoop her and her baby in his arms and tuck her back into her childhood bed so that God could restore and heal her heart, you and your brother said, “Let’s go.”

When the military moved Jake again to Washington DC and many times over the next three years…

Leaving Crystal beyond stressed with Jake working day and night at the hospital…

With the grass out of control…

With the boxes of Jake’s to-do-list not getting checked off…

When Crystal needs a break from the household chores and your lonely grandchildren say that all they want for Christmas is their grandparents…

You say, at least for Thanksgiving that year, “Let’s go.”

Your “yes’ could impact someone’s world.

Live to be the change agent in someone’s life.

Say “yes” to being inconvenienced.

Say “yes’ to brightening someone’s dark day.

Say “yes”, and be willing to get out of your comfort zone, your comfy chair or favorite slippers.

Roll up your sleeves. Get your hands dirty.

Come along side someone who needs you to throw them a rope, a lifeline to rescue them from their mess.

Sowing into another man’s field will always reap a harvest into your own field, but you must first say “yes” to the sowing.

You can’t out give yourself.

Sow your time, your talents, and your resources.

Sow yourself. Give of yourself; to others, to your family, to your mate.

You must sow seed to reap a harvest of a bountiful marriage.

Your barns will always be full with your “yes”.

GIFT OF BEING THEIR HERO

In the grand-kids eyes, you are famous.

The grand-kids favorite drink is named after you called Papa’s juice,
also known as Crystal light.

The Grand-kids favorite store that you take them to is called Papa’s store,
also known as Dollar General.

At the end of the day,
It won’t be the money you’ve spent on them that they will remember;
But the moments you’ve spent with them instead.

Papa’s allowance has never been spent on himself.

Every Friday night during Cousin Camp, Papa divvies out $2.00 to each grandchild and a bike ride shopping trip “to and from” the Dollar General. The grand-kids come home with their own shopping bag of goodies and a memory in their bike basket. Papa comes home with a bag of moments in his, costing him “next to nothing” but his time.

Memories make you a hero.

I have never forgotten when my uncle took us nieces and nephews to the dime store back in my day as a little girl. When these grandchildren grow up they will never be able to look at a Dollar General without remembering their Papa.

Be the hero in your marriage.

Come home from work every now and then with their favorite “something” bagged in your bike basket. You don’t have to look any further than the Dollar General to make a memory.

Every so often my husband brings me a small box of Junior Mints, which always stirs a smile and reminder of the candy I ate as a child while going to the movies with my parents.

It’s never much; a thought, a gesture, still a thought of them nevertheless. Don’t miss the opportunities available to us all. You might be their hero and not even know it.

GIFT OF ADVENTURE

Years ago, we bought two bikes for ourselves, one with a car seat in the back.

Our Journey of a million miles with our grand-kids began. Living in the country, we rode our bikes everywhere. We’d find bikes set out for trash and brought them home for each of them.

All the grand-kids have a bike and pass them down to their cousins when they outgrow them.

You don’t have to drive far to reach the town of “adventure”.

Look no further than your own back yard for a camping trip of tent sleeping, campfires and s’mores. A few streets over is a winter morning of thrills and screams down a snow packed sledding hill. “Trick or Treating” can be enjoyed as a family in the living room and bicycle rides can be taken in your jammies anytime you want.

Don’t let that little boy or girl in you ever grow up. Always want to be a “Toys R Us Kid”. You don’t have to take a plane ride to Disney to experience Magic Kingdom. Find adventure in the nooks and crannies of your back yard, your neighborhood, or down the street. Adventure is read from the Tom Sawyer books of your mind. Live out the pages with your children, your grandchildren, and your spouse. People watching will want to know the secret to your happiness, the recipe of your joy. Tell them look no further than their own back yard.

GIFT OF MEMORIES

We host Cousin Camp every Friday where our grown kids have date night over night without their children. I am in charge of cooking and taking care of the little ones. You are in charge of the fun. There is no minimum age requirement for Cousin Camp, usually getting them at six weeks. Hardest part is when they won’t want to come to cousin camp anymore.

Saturday mornings, you could always hear the giggles and little feet of babies scurrying to get to papa’s side of the bed to wake you up. Sure made you sad when they stopped. Now Ayva and Aubrey look for you under the covers.

Whenever we Face-time the grand-kids, they always want to talk to their papa. Hello, what about Gaga. Where’s my papa? Papa, Papa, Papa.

After twenty five years of marriage, now the grandchildren tell us, Papa and Gaga, “Your feet are old.” I guess I have earned that title after wearing flip flops year round.

In the midnight hour of Cousin Camp, I always find myself making rounds, counting the faces of our sleeping beauties, making sure they are safe in their dreams, only to silently laugh at what looks like the aftermath of a JR Frat party.

Every now and then I find that the three little ones have raided the closet¸ nestled and swallowed up in their papa’s winter coats. Maybe it’s the soothing, lingering smell of papa’s cologne on the collar. Maybe it’s the comfort of sleeping in papa’s arms, even if it’s in the sleeves of your winter coat.

No amount of money could ever afford to buy a memory.
Being too busy or working too hard will bankrupt a marriage of its scrapbook of memories.

Memories have a small price tag of time, of heart, of availability. A currency every marriage can afford and must be willing to pay to see their wedding albums full of moments captured on the pages of their years together.

Memories are our quilt squares of stories, our blanket of “warm fuzzies” we snuggle with in our remembering, our history passed and sometimes relived thru the generations.

GIFT OF AWARENESS

It’s funny how we can sense the slight wrestling of the nest again. Grand-kids are growing up. Brooke is in high school. Aubrey will be losing her papal, aka pacifier and don’t know when Kizzey will lose her thumb. Even though it is still a few years away, we sense the wrestling of the nest nevertheless.

Then it will be back to you and me again. But God has great plans for the gray hairs of our world. He never wants us to get comfortable, because he will be unfolding dreams for our lives to the very end.

Wise is the man who recognizes the seasons of life.
Seasons he must prepare his heart in advance for.
So you’re not taken off guard when the seasons change guard.

The season of time is on the move and gives no regard to whoever is in its lane.

Kids grow up. We grow old. This season happens so fast. You want to slow down time, but remember, time doesn’t slow down for those wanting to go under the speed limit.

Grandparents lament watching their grandchildren not need their “blankies” anymore.

Grandchildren are saddened when their Grandparents hair turns grey.

Kids turn into teenagers who then become adults. Parents and Grandparents must let them go so they can grow. Aware though in this season of time, we ourselves must continue to grow.

An empty nest should never find an empty heart, but discover a heart wanting more.

The end of one season bumps into the beginning of another. A season we should have been anticipating for, preparing for and dreaming for, even in our old age.

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit…your old men will dream dreams.”
Acts 2:17 NIV

GIFT OF A SON

You are the best son. Your mother taught her five sons how to love their wives. She taught her boys how to cook, clean and iron. You get A’s in all those areas.

You are a wonderful son to my mother. When mother lived a street over, you’d stop by her house after work to raid her refrigerator and spend a few minutes with her. You even learned to enjoy her game shows.

Whenever our teenage kids were entering the dating stage, we always told them to observe how their potential date treated their mother and father. This potential date was a keeper if they honored, revered, respected and loved their parents, a possible indicator how they would be treated. Someone who honors their parents are rewarded by God with a long and blessed life, blessings to share if those dating ever married.

Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right.

“Honor your father and mother” is the first
commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have along life.”Ephesians 6:1-3 (MSG)

My husband’s dearest quality is framed in his love for his mother and mother ‘n law, although he calls her mother too. His gentleness in speaking with them, kindness in serving them, and heart in loving them overflows into the river of our relationship in even greater waves of gentleness, kindness and love.

Marriages experience the fullness of God’s blessing when we deeply honor those that have given us life. This is God’s first Commandment of Promise.

When my mother became a widow, my husband became that extra pair of hands around my mother’s house to mow her grass, fix her car, take care of any household repairs, and be her coffee companion on a lonely day. What wife couldn’t fall even more in love with a man who serves her mother as my husband does?

Now that my mother resides in a nursing home facility, mom is still loved by her son ‘n law with his phone calls and visits, enriching our marriage because of a son’s generous heart.

GIFT OF NOTICING

One of the five love languages my husband speaks so well and fluently is “meaningful touch. There’s a calming in his hands, his embrace, his touch. Grand-babies fall asleep in his arms. Grandchildren melt in his embrace. Senior ladies in the nursing home blow him kisses after he has held their hand, telling them how beautiful they look.

Walking the halls of my mother’s nursing home and passing the wheelchairs that line the isles; my husband touches shoulders of those representing someone’s mother, grandmother, father, grandfather, friend or spouse, stirring life in them even if for a spontaneous moment. He notices them when some have been that unnoticed wallpaper most of the day.

My husband and I hold hands everywhere we are, everywhere we go; in the car, side by side watching TV, walking through the store, drinking coffee together. With my love language of quality time, my husband notices this need and speaks to my love language of time with his meaningful touch.

In marriage, noticing the seemingly insignificant as important, noticing what others fail to see, breathes oxygen into the life of your relationship. Noticing and tending to the tiniest of details in the fields of marriage keeps out those unwanted weeds from choking its fruitfulness.

Be an arm of comfort. Be a hand to hold. Be everything in your embrace.

Notice the loneliness.
Notice the need.
Keep watch over your marriage.
Keep a vigil over the one that you love.

Notice and speak in the love language your spouse understands and responds to.

Be to them whatever gives them life.
You’ll find that special someone blowing you kisses because you took the time to notice.

GIFT OF DOING

When I think of doing, I think of serving. When I think of serving, I think of towels.

My husband David throws a towel over his shoulder each time he serves me at a sink full of dishes. Maybe his shoulder is a convenient place for towels when dishes are ready to be dried. Maybe it’s my reminder that great leaders are servant leaders; that no task is beneath them.

I could write a book filling the pages of dedication that have earned my husband his stripes for a lifetime service to our family. He proudly wears the uniform reserved only for servants, a high position for those willing to answer the call to go low.

Laundry, cooking, housework, yard work and car repairs make the short list. My husband delighted in shining patent leather shoes to a sparkle for his little girls before church. Neighbors could hear the laughter of “catch” in the backyard between a father and his sons. Little league games stole the base of a father’s heart in the summer, yet gave away his heart through date nights and time over coffee with his wife.

Throughout the decades the pages of our marriage boasts a best seller because one man understood the power of the towel; an attitude of his heart. To lead you must serve. In going low you will go high. To answer the call of a servant, you take up your towel.

(Excerpt from my blog, It’s More Than A Towel)

“Out-serve” your spouse.

There is nothing that screams “I love you” louder than one who lays down his life for another in serving them and their needs. Without ever asking, David washes the dishes whenever the sink is full; many times after arriving home from work. No task too big, too menial or inconvenient for my husband. Albeit toilets, floors, cleaning the aftermath of a child up at night with the flu; no matter the task, David and his towel expresses love for me and our family in the “doing”.doing

GIFT OF A NEIGHBOR

You are the best neighbor, especially when that neighbor is our landlord and brother n law. Always serving and doing though never asked, just mowing and plowing for him when he is working or especially this past year suffering with cancer.

There’s always that one neighbor on the block who wished you’d move. There’s always that one neighbor who has declares himself the town mayor. There’s always that one neighbor who you believe wakes up every day to make your life miserable.

The house God blesses us with is never an accident. We are his chess pieces, strategically placed near those neighbors who need a touch of God thru us. You don’t get to choose your neighbors, but you can choose to love them. 

“Hurting people hurt people”, Author Joyce Meyers says.

But we as “representatives for Christ” are called to love those hurting neighbors God has chosen for us to live by.

In loving your neighbor, you have loved yourself. Love your neighbor as yourself. 1 John 4:21

In loving your neighbor, you are following Christ’s example.

Love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

Three years was all we could take living next to a self-appointed town major; a neighbor who shouted his disapproval of every detail of our lives from the rooftop.

Our lifestyle of frequent family gatherings and celebrations were complained about in his sharp-edged tongue. Sadly, he taught his adult children and young grandchildren to disrespect to us from across the street.

The night before our moving van pulled away for good, this neighbor and family of adults and grandchildren hosted a good-bye party in our honor with fireworks and hand clapping from their front lawn, rejoicing in our leaving. Their unfounded disdain for us, my family and grandchildren, stabbed a dagger of sadness and tears into my heart.

From three years on our side of the street though, we tried to reach this man with our love. Our innocent grandchildren waved at him who reciprocated by running over their toys that lay in the street while they played. My husband knocked on this neighbor’s door each December with Christmas cookies, a man who never answered the door. For three years we waved, we smiled, we prayed for our neighbor in God’s love, and then we moved.

Choose to be an ambassador for Christ by loving those unlovely.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 1 Peter 4:8neighbor

GIFT OF LOVE

You have loved me by loving our kids.

You have loved me by loving our parents.

You have loved me by being the hero of our grandchildren.

You have loved me by loving God.

You love so well. You forgive so well.

Love is not a feeling. Feelings are fickle, feelings can change based on circumstances.

Love is a verb.

Love is action.

Love says I’m committed no matter what.

Love is not a feel good Hallmark movie.

Love is real life, overlooking the difficult, the excruciating, the painful.

Love digs deep and celebrates the highs, the lows and vows unto death with our vows:

I take you, 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 to part.

Marriage doesn’t have a back door.
Marriage locks arms, an outward message of an inner truth: we will get thru this.

Marriage is committed in sickness and in health.

Marriage is committed for richer or poorer

Love is a choice. Love is a heart in action.

True love is unconditional. True love love’s regardless, no matter what.

God, our author of Love, tells us how to love by following his example.

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.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV

GIFT OF WISDOM

And to think that twenty-five years ago I almost missed all of this when I almost had the arrogance and audacity to say no to God’s best in you, believing His best didn’t fit to what I had envisioned for myself.

Thankfully, our Pastor at the time, the man who had shepherded and fathered my heart for the last five years before we began dating, imparted wisdom in my confusion, “Just believe with your heart, and God will allow you to see with your eyes.”

When you knocked on my door that very first time to pick me up for a Valentine’s Dance, still nervous about surrendering my will to God, how Pastor’s words still whispered to me, “Just believe and God will allow you to see.”

When I opened the door, darkness became day and finally saw God’s best in you with my own eyes. God just wanted first my surrendered heart, my trust, my yes. I haven’t taken my eyes off of you ever since.

Love isn’t always going to make sense. Love trusts the author, the one who knows all things.

Love trusts the one whose ways are higher than our ways, whose thoughts are not our thoughts.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

It’s great wisdom when you allow those long-standing marriages; those couples who bear a bright light for God’s love in their relationship, speak love and wisdom into yours.

We were never meant to take this marriage journey alone. We were meant to inquire and take with us those seasoned tour guides who have traveled and experienced the marriage terrain well; tour guides who have tasted and desire to highlight the best of where we are going in our relationship; warning and protecting us also from the dead-ends, the pitfalls, the danger zones.

Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord…Proverbs 3:7 AKJV

Allow God to speak to you through those veterans who have fought the battle, bear the scars and bear up one another in love. You will never win the war that is waged against your marriage unless you are led by those who have earned the stripes of a general.

GIFT OF THANKFULNESS

I thank God every day that I headed Pastor’s counsel and said yes to God and said yes to you.

From the bedroom window, I always seem to wake up at two in the morning, when you are leaving the driveway for work. You faithfully get up every day and work 12-14 hours. I always pray for you when you leave. I thank God for you and ask him to bring you home safely as I can’t fathom life being me without you.

Marriage requires us to be:

Thankful for the good times.

Thankful for the bad.

Thankful for the rain as it waters the flowers.

Thankful for the night as we need rest, the earth must slumber.

Being thankful is sometimes thankful for the “Hello of our Good-by”

Good-by to our babies entering the classroom on the first day of school.

Good-by to our twenties, our thirties, good-by to our youth.

Good-by to our hair color and hello to the grey hairs of wisdom.

Good-by is our bookend to hello.

A shelf of memories stacked between each bookend, keeping each scrapbook firmly placed between so many years of good-byes and hellos.

While our good-byes can stir up a whirlwind of joy as does its partner of hello, it’s just embracing the vision of the hello when “letting go” in our good-bye causes so much emotion.

One sad good-bye is a glorious hello to someone else.
We were never meant to hold on to anything;
The moments, life as we know it, each other.

Life is a daily letting go so that in our letting go we can “Let God”
Have His way in us.
Good-by might not be the hello we want to embrace.
But be willing to stay in your lane.
Get in position for the hand-off of the good-bye baton for God’s glorious Hello.

Continue to run the race set before you.
As good-bye is always our hello to the next step, the new beginning of something wonderful God wants to do thru us.

(Excerpt from my Blog, “The Hello of Our Good-by”)

GIFT OF WARMTH

A man sets the temperature of the house. It is always toasty warm by the fire of our love.

It’s just the simple truth.

The success of our twenty-five years of marriage is because the temperature my husband sets in our house is never a cold shoulder to the needs of his wife, his children, extended family and friends.

My husband stokes the fire of our love when he senses a chill in the air to my sadness, to me wanting more or needing more.

Something simple as “dialing” up the thermostat of one’s love could be your spouse’s “winter coat” of protection from a heart’s slow death of frostbite.

A few logs on the fire keeps a room toasty warm.
The “flames of one’s heart” for the other requires just a few logs, minimal stoking and blowing life on the embers to keep their fire from going out.

Love requires small efforts, though constant attention to keep the “flames of one’s heart” aglow. Love realizes that when winter blasts a marriage with the deep drifts of problems, warm hearts will always keep them alive until spring.

Wives respond to the temperature their man sets in the house; a warm smile, their cozy words, a “blanket of love” to snuggle together with.

Be vigilant to the temperature of your spouse’s heart.
Love “going cold” is a slow death; a death nevertheless. Being too busy, too stressed, financially overwhelmed, or falling under the weight of exhaustion dials down the temperature of one’s heart and marriage.

Beware of old man winter. Stockpile the logs of your love so those unexpected seasons of marital winter finds you prepared to face whatever tries to douse the flames of your heart.warmth

GIFT OF CHRISTMAS

You say you wish you could have given me the fancy house, the fancy car and diamond ring. I say it’s been like Christmas every day for the last twenty-five 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. Gifts that have made me feel loved from the moon and back.  Gifts that are wrapped up in the little things.

For twenty-five glorious years, our marriage has been those gifts wrapped up in the memories of the little things. Gifts bound with a three-strand ribbon cord of commitment, complete with a legacy bow, and card signed by Two People Forever in Love.

As wonderful and magical as these gifts in our marriage have been, it’s been that three-strand ribbon cord of commitment that has bound us together in love all these years.

I read once that a three-strand ribbon cord is:
“God’s Knot symbolizing the joining of two people, and God himself into a marriage relationship. By keeping God at the center of your marriage, His love will continue to bind you together throughout your marriage.”

A cord of three strands is not easily broken. A lasting marriage finds two people holding onto one another, while both holding onto God for dear life.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

Marriage isn’t easy. Marriage is effort. Marriage requires something from you every day.
But marriage is beautiful. Marriage is worth it.

Marriage is a gift.christmas tree

GIFT OF 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 twenty-five years.

I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25. I love you.

Vows are solemn promises before God, meant to be serious and sacred. Vowing and promising to love forever.  Means loving: For all time, at all times, from this moment on.

Vowing to love forever: Is promising your heart until death doth part their ways.

From that beautiful day at our wedding altar to another beautiful anniversary altar twenty-five years later, our forever has been tried and tested as the forever in all marriages. But I stand here before the man of my dreams and God that we share, fully in love, unwavering and convinced that forever will follow us unto death.

Our twenty-fifth anniversary event was a gift to ourselves birthed in our desire to glorify and celebrate who God has been through us, the lives of two people sharing their hearts and love in marriage. But deeper still, in celebrating our anniversary, we longed to deposit a legacy gift in the hearts of our grandchildren and generations beyond, reminding them that marriage can last and thrive for a lifetime if God is allowed to be the center of and third person in a three-strand ribbon cord of commitment.

Thank you for attending our 25th Wedding Vow Renewal as our secret guests.

We joyfully pray that while rejoicing with us during our milestone anniversary, you have mined a basket full of gold and gifts wrapped up in the little things of your own relationship.

May something we have said or done be of encouragement to you through our:

Gift of Marriage, Wrapped Up in the Little Things
A gift bound with a three-strand ribbon cord of commitment,
Complete with a legacy bow and card signed by:
Two People Forever in Love

WE STILL DO!  By Lori A Alicea

Looking over my shoulder and into the distance of these last twenty-eight years of marriage together, I find myself stepping into the pages of a fairy-tale beyond one’s imagination, catching my breath to the unbelievable reality of a dream come true.

In slow motion, I gaze around this fairy-tale room in a soft spin as a princess atop her music box, taking in my life from the eyes of wonder and thanking God for a dream I never imagined would be mine.

Although, He’s always promised the desires and petitions of our hearts from the very beginning, if only we’d delight in Him first.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires
And petitions of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 AMP

Side by side at the altar before God and all of our witnesses, we stood together in a place of simplicity, having no earthly idea what the pages of our happily ever after would read.

david and lori listening to pastor

But yet, there were clues when the abundance and overflow of two hearts began speaking their vows of covenant and earthly commitment; their life’s map guiding them through the highways and byways of marriage (amid a few tears) if they stayed the course being led by the compass of their vows.

Two hearts become one in their “I Do.”

Then a kiss and their journey begins…kiss the bride

heading out into sunsetWhat gift of words did a “bride and groom” unwrap for each other at the altar of holy matrimony?

What hidden treasures of the heart were promised to each other before God, their parents and guests of honor?

Not wanting to walk away from our promises, we kept them written for our remembrance, “to have and to hold from this day forward”.first steps together

Her Wedding Vows to Him!
By Lori A Alicea

I stand right here before you now,
So happy and so proud.
I want to offer up my thanks,
For all that He’s allowed.

I look at you and beam within,
The love that fills my heart.
I never thought I’d see this day,
A new refreshing start.

There was a time not long ago,
No joy was to be found.
A fallen sparrow I’d become,
So lonely on the ground.

Each day would come with dragging time,
No sunlight I could see.
I soon began to tell myself,
There was no life for me.

But somehow He revived my life,
My heart He did renew,
And when I least expected it,
The Father gave me you.

You fit the mold He made for me,
He found the perfect choice.
How my heart does skip a beat,
Just hearing your sweet voice.

So tender are the words you speak,
The meaning they impart.
Your eyes illuminate my soul,
And ravish through my heart.

Because of this I want to give,
To you my everything.
I want to live my life with you,
From summer though the spring.

I count it all but blessed joy,
A privilege for me.
To know and serve your every need,
Though times you may not see.

But most of all I won’t hold tight,
My grip I will let go.
You must be free to do His work,
To squeeze would quench the flow.

For you I’ll burn a lasting flame,
Its warmth will be my love.
If you would ever feel a chill,
These words remind me of.

His Wedding Vows to Her!
By David Alicea

My love, my words can’t express how much you mean to me.
From the first time I met you,
My love for you is immense.
I thank the Lord, he heard my prayers.
You are so special to me.

I promise to love you with all my heart.
And lift you up when you are down.
I’ll fill your life with happiness as much as I can.
I will never leave you.

I’ll always be by your side.
You are the joy of my life.
From the first time I met you, I will always love you.

Lori my love, take me as I am.
I give you all of me.
I thank the Lord for you.

Their vows to each other would carry them through life’s most difficult challenges.

carried into happily ever after

Their vows would be a joyful gift when they stayed the course.

Their commitment to each other would be a warm security blanket on a cold winters day.

Her words…

Would give and be to him her everything…
Would live each spring and summer together…
Would serve his needs no matter if eyes ever see…
Would burn for him an everlasting flame of love.

His words…

Would love her with all his heart…
Would lift her up when she is down…
Would fill her life with happiness and never leave…
Would promise to give her all of him.

and twenty-eight years later….

you still see these truths continuing to bloom from the seeds they planted so many years ago in their vows.

God was a witness to our covenant exchange all those years ago.

Our Heavenly Father leaned in close and committed to memory each word unwrapped on our wedding day.

During the tough times of struggle we hear Him reflecting back our hearts from twenty-eight years ago…

Our answer to Him remains the same…

We still do.

25th anniversary - corner david and lori in corner 30

THE LONG WAY HOME By Lori A Alicea

It’s just something we love to do.

Our adult daughter laughs and says it borderlines “lame”.

Our grandchildren whine if they happen to be tagging along.

Maybe the slow lane of the back roads isn’t for those in a hurry.

But taking the long way home is a mini-date however far the drive, when you’re filling the love tank of the one sitting next to you with your gallons of quality time.

photography of leaves on ground
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some may call it the cheap seats, but the best seats in the house get a private tour of God’s country most eyes will never go out of their way to see.

You must be willing to escape reception and disconnect from the busy grid of life. Willing to lose your way along the winding paths where most GPS’ are unable to find the dropped breadcrumbs of your location. Willing to drown out the voices of your to-do-list, and enjoy the simple pleasures together of the long way home.

The calendar has recently ushered in the first week of November and the fashion show of leaves and their brilliant wardrobe color changes down the runway of fall is almost drawing its curtains to a close.

But an encore performance is reserved for season ticket holders willing to slow down or even stop for fall’s final show.

red leaf trees near the road
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

With December just a month away, you can almost smell the pine trees of Christmas with the wind gently blowing from your rolled down window and the heat cranked up on high.

pine trees in the forest
Photo by Olga Shenderova on Pexels.com

Taking the long way home this time of year, it’s never too early to bring out of hiding those holiday CD’s we’ve been secretly playing anyway since the summer heat of July.

Yes, we are those people who praise God around the Thanksgiving table for his baskets full of blessings, but celebrate also with a Christmas tree perfectly placed in the living room corner, trimmed and beautifully lit as a night sky of twinkling stars.

green christmas tree with string lights
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

Still holding hands and allowing the overflow of our hearts water a conversation for two along the miles of the long way home, it’s no surprise we’re still married and in love after all these years.

The long way home gives you time to reacquaint yourselves with one another, as life changes from day to day like the four seasons do, and one must dress appropriately for the weather escorted in.

Are we there yet?”

Usually not, when the compass of our travels is a constant turn to the east or west down roads where the scenery isn’t familiar and stirs your curiosity for any hidden log cabins to discover.

brown cabin in the woods on daytime
Photo by Eneida Nieves on Pexels.com

Then is the map you follow for those log cabins you long to see for the umpteenth time, stopping at the edge of their driveway and dreaming together over a few sips of our coffee, adding a childlike gift to our Christmas list once again this year.

selective focus photography of ceramic mug near candy cane
Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com
cabin near trees
Photo by Marcus Murphy on Pexels.com

The best seats in the house can be purchased for the price of a few gallons of gas and uninterrupted moments of time except to enjoy and take in the view of nature’s carefree children chasing each other around the trees and deep into the woods of their private playground.

brown deer surrounded with snow covered trees
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Money can’t buy me love.”

But quality time together taking the long way home will always fashion two hearts for love.

Love is never about the what, the where, the when, the why, and the how.

True love is about “the who” you’re with; that special someone seated next to you alongside the long way home.

close up photography of red rose
Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

Discovering this, you’ll realize the counterfeits of romance pales in comparison.

GROWING OLD TOGETHER  By Lori A Alicea

When head-over-heels in love with wedding bells anxious to toll, you’ve most likely dreamed of sharing life bordered by a white picket fence, with a fairy tale story waiting to be told of two people growing old together.

Little girls keep their happily-ever-after secrets locked under key in the diaries of their innocent hearts, these starry eyed dreamers living life to THE END with her handsome prince on a white horse.

In reality though, when you’re thirty-three and thirty-six years of age and wake up to your long awaited wedding day dream, newly married minds aren’t imagining life and age in their parent’s shoes, much less growing old together, as growing old is a chapter found at the back of your fairy-tale storybook.

Fairy-tale pages which never reveal though how quickly time passes when you blink.

wedding parents

Then we blinked.

A bride and her groom have been turning the pages of their fairy-tale love story for twenty-seven years, and the unread volumes have found these two on the mountain edge of suspense, holding their breath as giddy children at Christmas for the next chapter to unfold.

Here we are,

Growing old together,

Though not a reflection of getting old together and sharing a rocking chair into the sunset.

No, a beautiful reflection of growing closer together while we age, a celebration of all the years and chapters God has breathed and written with his own hands into our one-of-a-kind love story.

Growing old together

Is a place a gratitude not longing for the “big things” of your neighbors, but realizing the “little things” are the “big things” in the one who holds the key to the front door of your heart.

Growing old together

Sees and enjoys the simple pleasures as a front row seat to the best life, not bought but lovingly prepared and given with the other in mind.

Growing old together

Mines for hidden treasures of wisdom, the rubies and diamonds of legacy and love to live by example, a trail of breadcrumbs in the forest for their children and grandchildren to follow and receive as their direction and inheritance from parents and grandparents who discovered these truths while growing old together.

Growing old together

Has learned to embrace and appreciate the color changes of winter, spring, summer or fall of their life, as every curtain call from one season to the next introduces a new landscape, a new day and opportunity to begin again.

Growing old together

Is being fully present, fully aware that we stand in the presence of a Holy God through every faithful sunset kissing goodnight our evening, in the unfathomable number of grains He alone has counted on our sandy dunes, to taking comfort in our Creator who knows the galaxy of stars each by name, and how much more intimately aware and present he is in the lives of us.

Growing old together

Remembers the time and place, the church, the isle and altar a bride and groom received each other through vows and rings of committed love, opening their wedding album of pictures to rekindle the magic of their storybook marriage every anniversary spent among the memories of their honeymoon cottage.

Growing old together

Is blind to the outward beauty which fades in the afternoon sun of time, yet has eyes to enjoy the inner loveliness which satisfies every longing of the heart.

Growing old together

Holds onto one another, never letting go, giving not a thought to giving up.
Because with God,
Love never fails.

…love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:7-8 (NIV)

Growing old together

Buries in the past those trespasses we’ve forgiven each other for, a final good-by of yesterday’s hurts as we open the gate of freedom as Jesus does, where our trespasses are remembered no more.

Growing old together

Remembers in our saying “I Do” at the wedding altar,
yours and mine became ours,
a miracle called oneness of spirit, soul, and body occurred;
a three stranded cord not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Your family became my family.
My people became your people.

We broke bread together among each other’s tables,
Giving birth to memories at celebrations of all kinds; birthdays, graduations, weddings and yes, even funerals.

Families still celebrate and live life together, while some of its members now live in eternity.

This, the most difficult of growing old together lies in those family ships set sailing for the harbor shores of heaven, leaving those left behind comforted of a great reunion already planned.family ship sail

Growing old together
Is at its best, when surrounded by family, 
Those with us and those with us, inside…

Thank you for the best twenty-seven years of my life.
I’d grow old all over again with you.

wedding kiss 27 years later

SHALL WE DANCE  By Lori A Alicea

Marriage is a beautiful dance.

Marriage is two people lost in the moment whose inseparable hearts beat to the rhythm of life while dancing cheek-to-cheek.

Marriage is an invitation to journey together, a hand reaching from across the table for the other as music plays their song to say, “Shall we dance?”valentines dayOUr first date

Young love says nothing about age, as the awakening of one’s heart is a miracle from God whose hand can touch you at any stage of your life.

Young married love, a play-list and series of songs, a dance card which keeps you close during those new beginnings as man and wife.david and lori wedding dance

Twenty-seven years ago on our wedding day, I never realized we’d unwrap a jute-box of albums I had never heard before, yet music we’d need to learn the words and attempt to line-dance to during our early years of marriage.married DAVID AND LORI AND FAMILY

That unfamiliar genre and play-list for blended marriages, blended love, parenting, siblings, culture, finances, and all those contemporary songs we’d learn along the way when driving, dating, college, and then their marriages were the in music for our family.

Year after year following our first day of marriage, the family dance moves became more complex to choreograph.

Yet echoing from the “surround sound” of two hearts head-over-heels in love after twenty-seven years together, are the lyrics to our song still playing as when his hand first reached across the table for mine to ask, “Shall we dance?”david singing25th anniversary - dance david and lori dancing

Young married love says nothing about age as the awakening of one’s heart is a miracle from God whose hand can touch you and keep you deeply in love for every stage of your life.

The old songs that rewind the music video of our love story never go out of style.

They are the anthems we’ve been singing and dancing to for years with our children and now grandchildren as part of their inheritance to sear into their remembrance what true love looks like and sounds like long after their parents and grandparent’s lives become a memory.25th anniversary - dance family dance 5

When our hearts awakened over the births of our ten grandchildren, the genre of music we danced to repeated once again from the play-list of our young love, renewed and head-over-heels with these angelic faces that call us Papa and Gaga.IMG_4264england kids sitting down

Marriage is a beautiful dance and every grandchild of ours has grown up to know they have a special place in our circle of love.

These ten lives are part of our song; they are the lyrics that give us joy to sing to; to dance to.

The music never stops whenever they are with us.25th anniversary - dance first dance with ayva 40

Our grown sons are now fathers reaching for the innocent hands of their daughters to dance.

Both cheek to cheek, they sway to the music of their song, while writing new lyrics and memories to call their own, the inheritance they’ll pass on to their future generation.25th anniversary - dance kyle ayva

The years, they come and go so quickly.

A revolving door of days and weeks you beg the pace to slow, yet music whose turntable only plays at one speed.

Our marriage, we never weary of our song.

We never tire of our dance.25th anniversary - david singing truly 4dance David and Lori

Our young love is still the same age these twenty-seven years after we said, “I do.”

A dance for the history books, a hit song for the generations beyond our lives.

This journey of marriage he invited me on all those years ago is a once in a lifetime adventure I’d say “yes” to all over again.

The gleam in his eye that sparkled like a shooting star from across the table so many years ago still catches my attention today.

I look for him from around the room whenever the band is playing our song, waiting restlessly as a little girl until he reaches for my hand to say,

Shall we dance?”

25th anniversary - dance david and lori dancing