A YEAR TO REMEMBER By Lori A Alicea

Senior Year is a milestone year to remember.

A student’s final lap around the track, prepared to cross the finish line and begin a brand new race outside of high school in nine memorable months.

A senior’s calendar should be managed by an event coordinator, as one event will kick off another, an ongoing firework display of moments, milestones and lifelong memories until Graduation Day.

Senior pictures, Homecoming, College visits, Winter Break;
Spring Break, Prom, Sports, Finals, Senior Ditch Day;
Graduation Day, and all those open houses to name a few.

The Class of 2020 would begin their Senior Year with full exciting calendar events just as classes of previous years.

That first semester of 2020 fall sports, homecoming, classes, finals and winter break were all checked off the calendar as planned.

But come the second semester for the Class of 2020, an unforeseen pandemic cold-front would freeze all school events for the remainder of the calendar year.

The numbing effect was chilling.

When the reality of the senior year milestone cancellations began to unthaw in minds of the Class of 2020, hearts sank for what was supposed to be
Their year to remember.

Eighteen years ago my son was entering his senior year of high school, the same year when parents had given birth to the Class of 2020.

The milestone calendar for my son burst of checklists ’till graduation as all the other students of his senior Class of 2002.

The final year of cross country for my son began.
The books were now opened for the first semester classes.
Fall weather that year was beautiful.

That fall my senior high school son began to test his wings to fly.
This final year of school for me was a painful countdown of letting go.

The Class of 2020 was unaware; so was the Class of 2002.
The pandemic affects the Class of 2020;
The Twin Tower attacks the fall year 2001; affects the Class of 2002.

Each was a year to remember.

The ominous clouds of fear, loss, hopelessness, and all the unknowns paralyzed the country and Class of 2002 for months to come.

Unlike the Class of 2020, the Class of 2002 was able to continue with their senior year festivities, albeit with sadness and guilt of going on.

As a mother, I grieve for every student of the Class of 2020
Who were robbed of their
Year to remember.

You’ve waited eighteen years for your final lap around the track of high school memories.

You deserved your Cinderella evening at prom.
You earned your right to compete at state.
You know you could have been valedictorian or salutatorian.

Your mother’s heart is ripped in her inability to witness your walk across the graduation stage.

The “what if’s” and “if only” events of your senior calendar will forever remain unchecked;

Except the
CELEBRATION OF YOU!

Celebrate your accomplishments.
Celebrate your milestones.
CELEBRATE YOU!

The year 2020 wasn’t the end, but the beginning of a brand new race for your senior class.

You are celebrated, Class of 2020.

When my son graduated high school in 2002, I celebrated him that year and his sister five years later with a video montage of their life as a graduation gift to them.

At the end of the video, I, their mother, narrated this mother-to-graduate poem,
Honoring their life and Year to Remember.

I pray that every life, every graduated student of the Class of 2020 walks away just as honored.

THOSE HANDS
By Lori A Alicea

The moment that I saw you first,
I marveled at your hand.
So small you were, God’s miracle,
Too great to understand.

Amazing that your little hand,
It knew just what to do.
Your tiny finger wrapped itself,
Around my finger too.

And as the days began to pass,
You held your building blocks.
Your hands would grab onto my hair,
Your hands would pull your socks.

And oh the games that babies love,
The best was peek a boo.
You’d hide behind your little hands,
And laugh the way you do.

You’d smile for joy with patty cake,
Your happiness it shows.
And better when Miss Piggy counts,
Your fingers and your toes.

Your hands would spill your glass of milk,
What handprints on the wall.
Your hands could not resist the mud,
The trails I cleaned them all.
18 Jake 1You’d hold my hand for everything,
When walking down the street.
You’d hold my hand while in the car,
I’d reach back to your seat.

But as the days began to pass,
You grew into yourself.
I’d try to help, your hand would say,
Oh mom, I do myself.

You soon would want to dress and change,
You struggled with your sleeve.
Though mixed and matched I saw you were,
The door I’d let you leave.

Instead of holding mother’s hand,
You carried your backpack.
Adventure in those books you held,
And lunch inside your sack.

And as the days began to pass,
You’d want to write your name.
You’d want to hold your bike alone,
And sleep alone the same.
CANDY bike

From catching fire flies at night,
From swinging your first bat.
Your hands behold this mother’s love,
Where memories are at.

And as the days began to pass,
What trials then and now.
Your hands, together in a prayer,
Those times would pass somehow.

I wish this day would never pass,
It has to be, won’t cry.
Those hands I hardly recognize,
Are waving me good-by.
31 IMG_20200520_0045The plan, the journey, all prepared,
One season we would share.
The path has forked, you have to take,
One brand new road out there.

Though empty might this mother’s hand,
She truly knows no fear.
While on that path, you’re not alone,
The Father’s hand is near.

30 Graduation Jake Candy

ALTAR OF REMEMBRANCE. By Lori A. Alicea

For most of us facing these unprecedented times that descended upon the world as a dark cloud when she wasn’t looking or prepared, we find ourselves leaving the onramp and navigating unsettling new territory down the interstate of I-Uncertainty for the very first time.

Just a month ago, high school seniors were anticipating senior prom, graduation and college. Summer brides were counting the days to the wedding they had dreamed about their entire life.  Family gatherings of all kinds were waiting their turn to happen; milestone birthday parties, anniversaries, retirements, etc.  Now these well planned events will remain as unfinished stories, as the calendars of our lives have been cleared and we find ourselves wondering, searching for answers, some panicking and worrying down the interstate of I-Uncertainty.

Decades ago when my country grandmother (MaMaw) was alive, every so often she’d take me down to the dark and musty cellar, her stretch of I-Uncertainty to unveil those hundreds of old and outdated preserved canned jars of every kind of food,  layered in years of dust and cobwebs remaining from the Great Depression. Her voice still echoing that deep rooted fear from those uncertain times when work, food and money was scarce, my grandmother reminded me while looking at her preserved food from a time in history I never experienced,
“At least we wouldn’t go hungry.”

My grandmother’s canned goods exceeded their shelf life months after the Great Depression became a memory, yet she kept them for reasons unbeknownst to me, yet maybe as her security blanket, a personal reminder of God’s faithfulness or quite possibly as her personal altar of remembrance that God didn’t allow his children to go hungry or beg bread.

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
Psalm 37:25 NIV

 These uncertain times find the grocery shelves scarce and in many places empty of needed food. This scarcity is a new experience and has panicked many and somewhat frightened my daughter of three children, who like all parents wants to provide food for their babies.

While it’s a first for even a grandmother my age listening to the cries of the world in panic, a similar story of emotion my grandmother used to share regarding the Great Depression.

It’s during these uncertain times that God calls us to re-visit our altars of remembrance, those altar of stones we erect to remind us of those hard places God has called us out and rescued from, just as our good daddy promised that He would, to build our faith and lift our downcast hearts when driving again down those new and unfamiliar miles of I-Uncertainty in the future.

During these uncertain times we as parents are to take our children and grandchildren to our altars of remembrances, to remind them of the faithfulness of the God they serve; that these stories of our yesterday’s remain alive in their re-telling time and again throughout the generations, to build their faith in times of uncertainty.

The living, the living – they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness.
Isaiah 38:19
promise 3 (2) keep
To my children,
to my grandchildren,
to my grandchildren beyond,
and to whomever chooses to follow,
I take you to my

Altar of Remembrance,

A place I visit often whenever I need to have my faith built up, when my heart needs to catch its breath, an altar of stones where I worship my God who was faithful to me and my small children when my personal world came to a halt.

These altars of remembrances remind us to be encouraged that the God of our yesterday is the same God of today, and we can rest that He will be our God of forever.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

(A blog I wrote a year ago.)

workout 5
BE STRONG.  BE COURAGEOUS.  BE NOT AFRAID.
By Lori A. Alicea

Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid or terrified …..
for the Lord your God goes with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

For so many of us, this song plays from the radio of our heart while driving the interstate of I-Uncertainty, not able to see the miles of road and what waits ahead of us, with blind spots from every angle.

While tempted to change the station and take the first off-ramp of a detour, our God, our navigator, soothes our fears to keep on traveling and singing,

 BE STRONG.
BE COURAGEOUS,
BE NOT AFRAID.
workout 5
We’ve all traveled that road of I-Uncertainty at least once in our lives.  Chances are the longer we live, the scenery this “stretch of miles” might begin to look familiar.  You remember that billboard passing the first mile-marker to greet you in bold neon letters:

BE STRONG.
BE COURAGEOUS.
BE NOT AFRAID.
workout 6

You questioned the bold statement so quickly after crossing state lines onto I-Uncertainty.  But it doesn’t take long when you begin to question your surroundings, the unfamiliar you didn’t see on the map or remember last time you were passing through.  But another billboard stands in the distance from the winding roads of bareness you just passed to ease your fears of feeling alone,

 FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD GOES WITH YOU.

I remember driving down the interstate of I-Uncertainty almost twenty-nine years ago.  I never thought the map of my life would have me driving down this “neck of the woods”, a single mom with two small children in the back seat of the car, yet here we were, passing that first mile-marker greeted by a bright billboard of neon letters,

BE STRONG.
BE COURAGEOUS.
BE NOT AFRAID.
work out 5

I’ve never driven this far away from home before, alone.
I’ve never been on my own before, alone.
What if the car breaks down while I’m alone?

Alone is that “winding stretch of bareness” I saw on the map, though didn’t think much of it until it was me behind the wheel.

Yet to ease that unsettled ache of being alone the many miles ahead was the second billboard with its bright message no one could miss,

FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD GOES WITH YOU.

While packing up the car for our new life down I-Uncertainty, so much of what we loved would have to stay behind with the limited room in the trunk.

The most difficult to leave behind was that beautiful two acre lot of heaven we as a family treasured making memories celebrating all our events.  Such peace and tranquility of so many mornings sitting outside basking in the beauty of our land while drinking that first cup of coffee.  So many afternoons the imaginations that ran wild with the children’s feet up and down the acres they called home.
wheeler houseNow, their back yard is just a bench that two siblings share and a back yard seat where I drink my morning coffee alone on the weekends.candy jake 007Gone was our peace and tranquility as a looming cloud of suffocation hovered as neighbors crowded our personal space, deafened by the noise of city life with emergency vehicles blaring their sirens at all hours of the day and night.

Feeling terribly alone and abandoned yet that song from the radio of my heart continues to comfort in its quiet hum,

God will never leave you nor forsake you.

Those words rang loudly true once as our car broke down during a dark night when money was scarce because of a job loss and lunch and dinner for the next few days was a pan of leftovers from dinner the night before.  After those leftovers were eaten, our next meal was an agonizing question mark.  My worst fears of being alone came true with the horrible thought of my children going hungry alongside of the byway, with no sight of roadside assistance.

For a mother to look at her children’s face then be reminded of the barren cupboards and refrigerator was beyond painful.

BUT I HAD TO BE STRONG.
I HAD TO BE COURAGEOUS.
I COULDN’T BE AFRAID.

Another billboard caught my attention when that fretful night became morning,

…I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.  Psalm 37:25 NIV

GOD DIDN’T LEAVE US.
GOD DIDN’T FORSAKE US.

God showed up unannounced and just in time alongside of the road through my grandparents bringing grocery money worth a two weeks supply.
grandma and grandpa houle

I never gave my grandparents my new address; nor did anyone else.
I never revealed to anyone my empty refrigerator.
I never cried to anyone but God my fears.

Yet God got kept his promise to go with me down that lonely interstate of I-Uncertainty.  God kept his promise to never leave me broken down or forsake me as I traveled I-Uncertainty.  God kept his promise that my children would never beg bread the miles of I-Uncertainty.

God kept his promise through a grandfather who months later was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Since that five year journey down the lonely road of I-Uncertainty, I found that in my weakness of being alone and being without, I could be secure and strong in the faithful shoulders of God.  I didn’t need to carry the weights of my burdens for he would do the heavy lifting for me.

I could be STRONG in Him.
I could be COURAGEOUS in Him.
I didn’t have to be AFRAID because of Him.
I wouldn’t travel the streets ALONE because of Him.

My UNCERTAIN days were safe in the hands of a CERTAIN God,
As he is the faithful same yesterday, today and forever.

If the map of my itinerary found me again journeying the interstate of I-Uncertainty, I’d be at peace in my traveling companion who erected a billboard for my confidence,

FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD GOES WITH YOU.