GOING HOME  By Lori A Alicea

Love…peace…and joy.

Three beautiful sentiments written into a greeting card.

Three captivating emotions of a well scripted movie.

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

Love…peace…and joy are our choice.

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

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

We choose joy on a rainy day of tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

USE fishing 5

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

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

Ayva was right.

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

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

Such were the fishing memories too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose love.
Choose peace.
Choose joy.

Even choose sprinkles.

Because when you do,

You choose God.

LOT 232  By Lori A Alicea

Hard to believe six months have already passed us by.

During this short season the landscape of our life has been painfully pruned back by the gardener, fertilized and re-seeded for new and beautiful growth; but yet, that most sacred ground and scenery of our heart has remained untouched, unchanged.

Time does not discriminate and show favor to the weary, the broken, and those resisting the shears of the gardener’s pruning.

But life goes on as it should.

There’s wonder and beauty to be unwrapped and unveiled to those willing to continue their passage through the steep hills and rough terrain of change.

Remembering there are no shortcuts or detours, just one-way signs of “going thru” that difficult process of mining the heartache to discover those diamonds of new beginnings.

Lot 232 remains just as I remember.

LOT 232 SIGN

The furniture hasn’t moved nor any picture or book out of place since I cleaned it last.

coffee table

Contagious laughter of small children still echoes from the walls that captured their innocence seated around the table, each eating the spoils from the scavenger hunts of their grandmother’s cupboards.

moms table

The smells of the kitchen still retain their aromatic flavor and the recipes and memories remain that once framed the holiday dinner portraits at moms; the legacy gift I cherish most from her.

salt and pepper shakers

 Evident from the unwrinkled comforter, mother’s bed hasn’t been slept in; although the soft music she used to play continuously from the small radio on her nightstand can be slightly heard if I lean in ever so closely.

moms room

Lot 232 hasn’t changed a bit in my heart, but of all the details I wish I could change, it would be that my key to Lot 232 still opened the front door to my mother’s life.

So much has changed these last six months and yet, that most sacred ground and scenery of our heart has remained untouched, unchanged.

Daughters are little girls who never outgrow the need to share those heart gushes with her mother.

Grandchildren need those rocking chair moments with their grandmother too.

grandma in chair

The merry-go-round of living keeps spinning and changing, and how I desperately want off this ride.

But life must go on as it should;
Walking in the peace,
The calm and
Serenity of God’s love;

A journey that allows the Father to carry our troubles while carrying us when we need Him to.

Going on” mandates the “letting go” of what our heart strings desperately cling to. It’s giving to God what has been His from the beginning.

There’s no looking back in the rear view mirror when your life is moving forward.

We must allow God to pack our suitcase of memories; a loving tour guide who encourages traveling light, not weighted down from the cares of what “used to be”.

I sure love you mom.

I love mom

I keep your beautiful smile in my heart of remembrances.

face of our holidays

Your prayers for the three generations you petitioned God for were not in vain.

moms prayers

Your prayers have taught us to place our hope in God.

hope

And accept the things we cannot change.

Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can and
Wisdom to know the difference.

I drove by Lot 232 just the other day; an address one street over from when we used to be neighbors.  Seems like yesterday we were sharing an early morning cup of coffee together on your porch.

They say you can take the neighbor out of the neighborhood, but never the neighborhood from the neighbor.

We’ll always be neighbor’s mom.

Addresses may change.
But keys to the front door of our memories will never need a locksmith.

Thank you God for Lot 232.

I have no doubt my mother didn’t need a change of address in heaven.

I’ll know exactly where to find her.
LOT 232 SIGN

LIFE’S AMAZING RACE By Lori A Alicea

Sometimes life takes you back a few years and it’s always worth looking over your shoulder to remember the overflow of one’s heart.

On February 24, 2017
A few pages from the diary of my heart for our son on his birthday….

Your Life’s Amazing Race began on
February 24, 1983 at 5:55 PM
When you became our son;

Jacob James C. England

jake as a baby at xmas

God has had a great plan on your life before you were ever born.
That plan has been unfolding with every mile you complete in your race; a race that has been charted from the very beginning.

There are those who have greatly influenced you along the way.
Now, it’s your turn to lead the next generation of runners in their race;
Those adorable children of yours.

2015 hollis jake cova at race

I am forever thankful for those lives that have loved you greatly for so many years, but sadly were last seen at the fork in the road called “Heaven Bound.”

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Jake and Cova

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barbara

Gloria Gloria

grandma brendaFC74F153-9566-420B-8596-BB2F712E5C0F
David and I love you son.

david and lori copy

May God continue to reveal amazing surprises for you around every lap of the race you take.

Your Life’s Amazing Race
By Lori A Alicea

A charted course, your race is set,
Specific map assign.

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A plan prepared before your birth,
To reach the finish line.

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Your map it details every step,
Your path God charts them all.

IMG_7433He guides your way and sets the pace,
The prize, fulfill your call.

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A marathon of hills to climb,
Yet miles where watchers cheer.

The Climb of Your Life - Do not Fear picture or Conquer 2Encouragement when loss of strength,
Demands you persevere.

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Beware the turns that lead astray,
The detours that seem right.

IMG_7439Keep firm your faith and feet before,
The prize that’s in your sight.

jake running your raceYou’ve journeyed far, we’re proud of you,
Yet many miles you face.

IMG_7437Faint not, your God he runs beside,
Your life’s amazing race.

IMG_7434Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easy entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1

Blessings on another year older son.
IMG_7405You are all grown up; but that little boy still holds a special place in my heart.

mother son USESpoken from the pages of David’s heart …

Dear Son,

You may not be my blood.
You may not share my name.
But love goes deeper than any human understanding.
If I never told you,
I’ve always believed it.
I’m proud of you as any dad would be.
You are my Beloved Son.
Love David

jakes cross stitch

Thirty-eight years ago
You left the starting line to begin your
Life’s Amazing Race.

As the laps in your life begin to take their grueling toll; Don’t give up or give into the pain.  Stay in your lane. Persevere and complete your race.  As a prize awaits your finish.  Love Mom. 25040237-B6C2-4839-B6C7-053054DD4669

ME AND MOTHER’S BOXES By Lori A Alicea

It was just a small question I needed answers to, although I hadn’t a clue how God would reply.

Was I searching for a “needle in a haystack?”
Did I even know what I was looking for?

I kept my question secret between God and me.

The diary of my longings under “lock and key” and for His eyes only, as He alone understood more than any the personal matters of the heart.

Using mother’s spare key, I entered her house that spring morning without my usual knocking or calling out her name. I didn’t come toting a cup of coffee to join her for breakfast as I usually did.

In the early hours, a light show burst thru the living room windows, warming me and bidding me “good morning”.

Yet while this sunshine tried its best to cheer me up, I couldn’t push past that seared memory of mother taken away days prior by ambulance, forcing a family to reconcile their mother wasn’t ever coming home; at least not to this address.

Clumsily under both arms I clutched boxes, both big and small, with a van parked in the driveway full to the roof of more boxes, scads of bubble wrap, shipping tape and sheets of wrapping paper by the hundreds.

Living one street over, my hands were empty, not carrying those homemade meals prepared and delivered to mother’s kitchen table I had been known to do these last few years.

No, this visit was a first for me, a hard reality. I showed up unannounced on mother’s vacant doorstep to pack, to take and empty from her shelves, drawers, closets and cupboards, and place into boxes the wrapped treasures and belongings of mother’s home now headed for storage.

As siblings we shared in the great responsibilities of mother’s care.

As a stay-at-home-wife I took on the task of closing up this haven we as children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, extended friends and family all called home.

Packing during this difficult time was a gift.

Packing was my quiet way of saying good-by, to reminisce and remember home for the last time in “my way”, comforted in the company of mother’s things, even if this farewell was a first farewell of many yet to come.

Overwhelmed before the first box was ever filled, I paused in silence and reached for mother’s Bible found in its usual place beside her chair. Opening the pages at random I read:

The Lord our God is near whenever we pray to him.
Deuteronomy 4:7 NIV
grandma in chair
Yes, the Lord is near, especially near to the brokenhearted.
He was as close as I allowed Him to be,
Ready to listen; ready to answer.

Surrounded by the memories of mom, that question surfaced again, a question impatiently waiting its turn to be asked.

We all have questions, don’t we?

Questions tied to our past; questions that need to step forward and be heard.

But you have to be bold, find your inner strength, muster the courage and blurt out the question.

“Lord, is there anything in this house you want me to have?”

It wasn’t a question of inheritance.
I wasn’t interested in things or earthly treasures.

What I was interested in though was God’s heart filling in a few blanks of my heart, Him finishing a few sentences from the script of my life I had no idea might be incomplete.

I had no clue how God would reply.

I was searching for a “needle in a haystack”; an answer that could possibly be found among mother’s things.

What I was looking for?
I honestly had no idea.

As the middle child of five girls with an older brother, there were no lingering questions of love and acceptance. Yes, together we were a big family and we had to find and sometimes fight for our individual voice and place.  We didn’t grow up with riches, but we were rich in ways money could never afford.  Any loose ends from the fray of my memory have been tied in a bow, leaving only good thoughts under the cloak of my childhood.

Maybe what I wanted though but didn’t realize growing up, was God needing to complete the sentence relationship of mother and me with not a “period”, but possibly a heart emoji, a kiss of the heart, or a gift of affection.
25th anniversary me mom and davidA gift I wanted to believe could be found hidden among mother’s boxes.

The week long packing began.

Room after room my silent farewells to mother and who she was in this home.

Mother was the heart of our holidays and her kitchen.

Mother was one of a table full of honored pillars seated at the royal place we named the “senior table.”

Family to mom was remembering there was always room for one more person.

Mother’s fervent prayers, throughout the day and midnight hour, kept our family together.

Mother’s things and treasures filled a total of sixty-five boxes. I held the accumulation of mother’s life in my hands piece by piece and released them each with a personal good-bye to the bottom of another box.

Now these boxes would find a new home in storage until mother was able to let them go herself; boxes hiding a piece of our mother’s heart in these closed and stored chapters of her life.

All of mother’s rooms; in all of mother’s belongings and I never found that “needle in the haystack”; what didn’t I see among mother’s boxes, what did I miss?

That “knowing” in me kept pressing and pulling those heartstrings of mine as a prompting to keep looking, keep asking the questions.

Two years later with mother’s blessing, her sixty-five boxes found their way out of storage and into my house to be emptied, contents individually pictured and itemized on a spreadsheet for these belongings to be chosen and disbursed to family.
boxes of moms stuffHere we go again; the hello’s and good-byes of mother’s things.

Once again I pray,

“Lord, is there anything in these boxes you want me to have?”

Two years hadn’t faded my memory of mother’s boxes.
Like old friends I knew them well, by name, by history.

“Lord, is there anything?”

 One by one, box after box, finding their way to the front of the line to be emptied.

Bittersweet as the last remaining chapter of mother’s life in box sixty-five is about to become a new book on somebody else’s shelf.

 “Lord, open my eyes to see.”
 “Is there anything here for me?”

 Held in my hands was the last remaining treasure among mother’s boxes.

An old jewelry box filled with mother’s mismatched pieces of costume necklaces, earrings, rings and broaches, jewelry I remember mother wearing vividly when I was growing up. A jewelry box displayed on her bedroom dresser, a familiar piece I cleaned for decades as mother’s housekeeper.  I knew it well.

The hidden finds inside this jewelry box rewind the 8mm collections of me as a child playing dress up with mother’s baubles and beads.

For the final time I prayed,

“Lord, is there anything here you want me to have?”
 “If so, open my eyes to see.”

 I sigh…I take a breath…There it was.

Like an old photograph buried in the dust of time prompting a double-take and closer view, I stopped in the moment to remember.

Held in my hands a gift from God, bewildered I hadn’t noticed it during my years as mother’s housekeeper, even more bewildered this gift was in plain sight during the packing.

A sweet sixteen present from her mother and father,
A birthday celebration for my mother,
A beautiful watch with the inscription and sentiment I had never read before,

“To Our Loving Daughter”.

Beholding this gift up close I knew without question,
God didn’t want to give me treasures,
God wanted to give me words,
God longed to breathe these words of affirmation upon my life,

“To Our Loving Daughter.”

Most endearing of all was the phrase,

 “To Our”.

Our, received as two people, my mother and father; my heavenly Father.

To be loved, to be known and referred as daughter.
To celebrate her life.
Lori little Birthday cakeAfter talking with mother about the watch I discovered and its significance in her life, she expressed a desire to share its sentiment and pass this gift onto me.

“Lord, I am forever grateful you knew what I needed even while I was unaware.”

“You completed this “mother-daughter” sentence with a heart emoji, a kiss of the heart, a gift of affection, an inscription and sentiment, a love letter simply written for which I cherish more than you know,”

“To Our Loving Daughter”.
25th anniversary me mom and david