Discovering those beautiful diamonds of God’s goodness and faithfulness while mining my rejection!
PART 3 OF 3
God has taken his seat on the bus and the VICTORY LAP begins with our new Tour Guide ready to reveal the bigger picture of my life with every site we re-visit.
The old hymn we six siblings sang in harmony together while seated side by side on the wooden pew of the old country church our mother walked us to begged to burst forth from my soul, “OH VICTORY IN JESUS!”
There is about to be an exchange of…
BEAUTY FOR MY ASHES.
…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.
The oil of joy instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair….
Isaiah 61:3 NIV
With shovels and pick axes in hand, we are entering the mine of my rejection, about to discover those beautiful and precious diamonds of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
As we think on those things which are…
Of a good report…
And are praiseworthy.
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of a good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Scripture Philippians 4:8 KJV
Mining for answers of all my questions, our Senior Pastor counsels his flock to turn around and look back a generation or more to understand the “whys” in our life, because the…
Iniquities of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Without God, history repeats itself as fathers bequeath to their children and children’s children the tainted wells of their life as an inheritance for the generations beyond them to drink from. Pastor also encourages us to “stop up and close off” for good those old wells of bitter water and dig anew that we might leave a (spiritual) inheritance to his children’s children to draw from instead.
Sadly, I found the answers to my “whys” while digging three generations back.
Not wanting to face this part of the tour alone, I found it comforting to share my seat of VICTORY with the (memory) of two other innocent girls whose pages of their childhood story were drenched and stained from those tears of sorrow similar to mine; my sisters Belinda and Mary.
Together, we will hold each other’s hands from across the seat and look through the “windows of our past” without being afraid anymore, because God is about to reveal the scenes and details He was fully present in, though we were unaware.
I take this VICTORY LAP for my daughters and granddaughters and also for my two sisters who suffered this part of their life in silence, that their legacy gain their wings for their daughters and granddaughter who continue the journey beyond their mother’s and grandmother’s life.
Reading our story, one might ask themselves, “Why does a loving God allow such heartache on innocent girls?” Our good daddy replies to His daughters,
“It rains on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
While God never promised a life without us “getting wet” from the tragedy’s of the world, He did promise to hold the umbrella and weather the storm with us.
THE SIGHTS OF GROWING UP Revisited…
Re-visiting our childhood home, I soon discover God’s hand of protection on our life when mother asked us girls to find another place to live following the assault from my step-dad, as our family home caught fire some time later and the flames began and ignited from my childhood room.
I was also heartbroken to discover my mother’s parents drank from the well of abandonment when as a baby, my grandmother left my mother in the crib to cry for hours without comfort as my grandmother left her alone during the evenings of dating.
My mother’s unrelenting cries of hunger and desperation for her mother’s arms could be heard and felt from the open windows of the neighbors, who offered no assistance to a child left alone.
Wanting also to hold and protect my mother close when I realize there were relatives in her life who drank from the well of sexual abuse.
The iniquities of the parents visit the third and fourth generations.
After forty-plus-years I was finally brave enough to dig for answers regarding the man who assaulted an innocent girl while she slept.
A faithful Father protected and spared His daughter that night from the evils of my step-father when I discovered he left a party a few years later and raped two women at knife point; although the charges were never upheld in court.
My Pastor always reminded us,
“Without God, we are all capable of the unthinkable.”
Though divorced by this time from my mother and decades since we last saw our step-father, he now lay in the hospital bed and within days of his death, my mother worried of his salvation.
As it is not God’s will that any should perish, but have everlasting life, my mother made a difficult request of us adult children to visit and say our final good-byes to him at his hospital bedside.
Believing love never fails, we trusted our kindness might stir man’s heart for eternity.
Not forgetting our roots and heritage to a child’s promise of blessing in honoring their parents, even the office of mother and father when the emotions are too painful; we adult children visited our step-father with a pure heart to honor him in our final farewell.
Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 5:16 NIV
Taking in the final days of this man I once knew as step-dad, who now struggled and gasped to breathe for a single sip of coffee, the difficult memories I carried for decades in my heart’s pocket became a mere blur to this unknown person bloated at the abdomen, dying from emphysema.
Noticing the well wishes on the night stand for my step-father caught me off guard and took my breath to realize they were greeting cards the grandchildren gave him years ago when they were little.
We were the only family this broken man had ever known.
Born as an innocent boy with a story being written from the same God and pen in His hand who was also writing mine, yet still a boy on the inside who was never loved to life; as his own father drew from the well of alcoholism and child abuse.
We children honored this man and our mother by attending his funeral.
The blessings were ours for the taking in our honoring.
Regarding my mother, I grew up without ought or an unforgiving heart towards her; how could I? She was a woman who introduced me to Jesus by taking me to church, sending me to camp, joining us at Vacation Bible School and so much more.
The same Jesus who forgives me of my trespasses when we forgive those who trespass against us. (Matthew 6:12)
Yet sadly, I don’t believe my Mother ever forgave herself or moved beyond the ash heap of ground zero from the spiritual fires her choices cost her family.
I grieve for mom and my sisters Mary and Belinda who left this earth suffering in the silences of their past when God longed to touch their brokenness with the healing salve of a Fathers’s love.
We each hold keys to the gates which unlock those secret places we dare not allow any to trespass; but we must be willing to relinquish and surrender these entrances of our lives for freedom’s sake.
Mother looked at me for the remainder of my life without her glasses, never noticing how God turned my mourning into dancing, gave me beauty for my ashes, how God made something beautiful out of my life.
I QUESTIONED MY MOTHER’S LOVE FOR ME revisited.
Four years before my mother died, her address changed to a nursing home and I offered to pack up her house. Before the details of my mother’s life was photographed and chronicled on a spreadsheet for future gifting to her heirs, I asked the Lord a question while sitting in my mother’s chair.
ME AND MOTHER’S BOXES (excerpt)
By Lori A Alicea
Lord, is there anything among my mother’s things that you want to give me?
We didn’t grow up with riches, but we were rich in ways money could never afford. Any lose ends from the fray of my memory have been tied in a bow, leaving only good thoughts under the cloak of my childhood.
I needed God 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.
Sixty-five boxes in total. I held in my hands the last remaining treasure among mother’s sixty-five 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 rewinds the 8mm collections of me as a child playing dress up with mother’s baubles and beads.
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”, received as two people, my mother and father, my heavenly Father.
God redeemed our relationship symbolically with a watch (gift of time, my love language) that was given on my mother’s sweet 16 (about age I was when the incident with my step-father happened. The watch face was broken, but God redeemed my sweet 16 with the inscription on the other side.
ME AND MOTHER’S BOXES (excerpt ends)
I QUESTIONED MY FATHER’S LOVE FOR ME… (revisited)
Mining my life of rejection through the relationship with my father, God revealed to me how dad drew from a dry well and couldn’t quench my thirst for love and affirmation.
As an adult, I found enough grace for dad and his “lack to see me”. I soon questioned in secret, “What affirmations failed to be poured into that little boy’s life who one day became my dad?”
COMING TO TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (excerpt)
By Lori A Alicea
Aware through a cancer scare years prior to his actual graduation to heaven, I feared the uncertainty of his days and losing dad without him hearing how I felt. So, after Thanksgiving one year, I decided to surrender in an advent calendar, titling it “Twenty Five Things My Dad Did Right”.
As a parent myself I strive to give my kids the best of me, though acknowledging I’ve made my share of mistakes. Having grace for his, I decided for every day leading up to December 25, I’d give dad a gift of my appreciation.
Opening up a daughters treasure chest, I wondered if there were 25 memories tucked away. But in turning the key to my heart, I marveled at what I had saved.
Like running into the kitchen each Sunday afternoon from church, faithfully finding that one piece of toast dad hadn’t eaten for breakfast. I always believed he left it for me.
Or realizing after graduating from high school and college just how smart dad really was, though never receiving either diploma. Dad could fix anything, and I truly admired that.
How could I forget dad adoring me in my wedding dress, setting aside his pain as we had buried grandma earlier that morning.
Christmas, when it came, dad declared he’d received the best gift of his life, presenting the advent calendar to us all. “Tis the season” as dad seemed to stand a little taller, dad seemed to come to life.
The bells of Christmas rang a new message for me that year. Maybe dad was never daddies little boy and couldn’t give me a love he hadn’t known. When dad came to life that holiday season, I believe this little girl did the same.
COMING TO TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (excerpt end)
Weeks leading up to my father’s passing, I kept thinking of Jacob’s story from the Bible who gathered his sons around the death bed where he blessed them individually.
I also longed a father’s blessing.
A FATHER’S BLESSING (excerpt)
By Lori A Alicea
“Bless me father.”
“Oh, that you would bless me.”
Visiting dad for what would be my last day to see him alive and heartbroken over dad’s visible frailty and sagging T-shirt hanging over his protruding bones, I began to lose hope of a Father’s Blessing. But unbeknownst to me, a blessing awaits its reveal.
There’s one fact I’m certain about God my heavenly father, he loves his little girls. No matter her age, weight, social status, marital status, degrees or lack thereof, etc., God is smitten with his girls.
God smitten with “this little girl” heard my prayer that summer and answered me days before my father’s death in a small but impactful way; not at my father’s bedside, but kitchen table instead.
God’s choice of the kitchen table for a Father’s Blessing tied years of my fondest memories, as at this table dad handed out our Christmas gifts each December. I loved that my heavenly father chose this memory backdrop and used the same chair dad sat in for years during our Christmas exchanges to bless me.
Seated around the table were me and my dad, my step-sister and dad’s caregiver. Just having small talk, dad asked his caregiver to help him up and assist dad to his room. Back in his seat, dad handed me a framed letter and asked, “Would you please read this to me?”
Not a crier by nature, I fought to compose myself when dad asked me to read a Father’s Day gift I gave him a year ago. Always drawing a blank when buying dad’s gifts, that Father’s Day I felt led from God to honor my dad’s military service; a conversation we never had; but I never asked either.
Accompanied with a flag that Father’s Day, I never seen dad so emotional.
We are told by God to give Honor to whom honor is due. (Romans 13:7)
Honor was due my father; an accumulation of years due.
These same framed words dad gave back to me and asked me to read at his funeral.
For 54 years I have celebrated you as my dad and all that you have sacrificed and contributed to my life. You have been a great provider. You have protected me when I have needed you to. You are always a phone call away. And you have been a friend throughout the years.
But the one attribute of my father that I have not celebrated until today is your service in the military. Until I became a mom with a son serving in the military, did I fully appreciate the sacrifices of a member in the military.
I am sad to say I know nothing about your time in the navy, but that’s because I never asked. But I do know you actively served, and for that, I salute you today and thank you for
SERVING YOUR COUNTRY FOR OUR FREEDOM.
I am giving you this gift as my way of saying thank you for your service.
Happy Father’s Day
Love, Lori and David
You may be wondering, “Is that it! Is that your Father’s Blessing?”
The true Father’s Blessing revealed itself during the packing up of dad’s house.
Sadly dad “said a lot again” when we kids realized there wasn’t a single picture, card or memento saved and left behind of dad’s six kids, or crowd of grand-kids and great-grand-kids. Not one.
Except the letter of mine that dad framed and hung in the entrance of his room.
I won’t add to dad’s heart as his heart was a locked door for most of our relationship. But a Father’s Day present became a Father’s Day Blessing that summer of 2016.
An added bonus discovered deep in my father’s attic was his old fashioned lunch pail, a true treasure I kept to remind myself what a “standard of excellence” looks like.
Dad was buried with Military Honors. In death our father received the military honor due him in life.
During the years that an earthly father “didn’t see” her, a little girl;
A heavenly father couldn’t take His eyes off of her.
A Father’s Blessing I am truly aware of when I sleep and when I slumber.
If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? Luke 12:28 Message
A FATHER’S BLESSING (excerpt end)
WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?
I’ve been asking this question most of my life to myself, but sadly, I never inquired of the Lord.
The Father answers a daughter’s question, though not with rebuke, but with love and gentleness as a good daddy does.
“Daughter, you been asking the wrong question all these years. Instead, I long you to ask of your Father, WHO AM I IN CHRIST? And then He answers…
THE GOD WHO SEES (excerpt)
By Lori A Alicea
You knit me in my mother’s womb,
And wonderfully I’m made.
Created me so fearfully,
The days you watched, you stayed.
Not hidden in this secret place,
Your works, I praise for these.
Your eyes they saw my unformed self,
You are the God who sees.
How precious are your thoughts of me,
More than the grains of sand.
My days are written in your book,
One mind can’t understand.
You see me when I sleep at night,
You see when I’m awake.
You are the God who sees it all,
You see each breath I take.
Yes, I am yours and you are mine,
My heart, you have the keys.
You’ve drawn me Oh Beloved One,
You are the God who sees.
Psalms 139; Genesis 16:13; Solomon 6:3
I have grown into a woman fully aware of the love God has for me.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving kindness. Jeremiah 31:3
So, what about that red hair, green eyes and face full of freckles?
I asked the question years later in my life, and it’s amazing when you ask the simple questions God longs to hear, the answers He generously gives.
Our good Father whispered and pointed to the mirror of my reflection:
Oh daughter, your red hair is a gift from me; only 2% of little girls are strawberry blonde; red hair with green eyes are even more uncommon.
And those freckles…God leans in close to tell me a secret…
Your mother told you those freckles were kisses from the S U N.
Well actually, your freckles are sweet kisses from my S O N.
All grown up when I could have changed my hair to any color in the rainbow, I kept the gift God gave me…
Yes, God is so good to me. As a child I sang in Sunday School those exact words:
GOD IS SO GOOD By Paul Makai
God is so good. God is so good. God is so good. He’s so good to me.
God is a good Father to all His children. He longs for His sons and daughters to climb on His lap and lean into His love.
He even blessed me with a Cinderella love story in marriage nearly twenty-nine years ago.
At our 25th Anniversary Wedding Vow Renewal we sang the words of a good and faithful God:
The faithfulness and goodness of God has followed me my whole life. The faithfulness and goodness of God has followed you too.
I want my daughters and granddaughters and girls and women alike to rejoice in the God who made them fearfully and wonderfully…
Missing teeth and all…
THE GOD WHO SEES (excerpt ends)
Thank you to everyone who found a seat on this tour and “lifted me up” with your presence as my honored guest.
It was in the turning and sharing of these tear stained pages of my story that I might give hope to someone else who suffers in silence.
What was intended for my harm, God turned it around and used it for my good. (Genesis 50:20)