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

The senior ladies at mom’s nursing home are crazy about you. They are always blowing you kisses. This is after you have held their hand and told them how beautiful they look.

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

You always put toothpaste on my toothbrush at night and pull back my side of the covers before bed.

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

BACK IN THE DAY  By Lori A Alicea

Call me old fashioned, but I love sitting with those from generations before me and hear their stories of back in the day.

Stories of life as they knew it, recreated from the keepsakes of their memory.

I capture their smiles as they step back in the day; noting the details which rewind an old fashioned movie.

I regret not inquiring more of the family history when both sets of my grandparents still took their seat around the holiday dinner table.

All those questions I regret not asking, whose answers went with them sadly unanswered to the grave.

Tell me about life as a child and teenager back in the day?”

What were your dreams and hopes back in the day?”

“What can we learn from your life back in the day?”

Did you really walk a mile to school in knee deep snow? Mom said you did.”

Tell me about your morning chores before school.”

Who milked the cow, who gathered the eggs, who helped mother in the kitchen?”

Of course, the “event decorator I am” sits on the edge of anticipation to hear about their wedding back in the day; hoping for pictures collecting dust in an old closet box.

These conversations paint a portrait of life changing from generation to generation.

The intimacy of handwritten letters sent back and forth between two hearts in love.

Grandmother’s old fashioned recipes with grease and flour still remaining from hands which once referred to them in the kitchen.

Both now a novelty replaced with technology.

The simpler life of family togetherness now stuck in the traffic jams of busyness.

During these times when you long for quiet, when you wish for a few minutes of the good old days; you reminisce the stories which take you back to life with your grandparents and great-grandparents and even your mother and father.

It’s so important to glean in the fields of their stories, to be a witness to their life and gather the fruit of history and legacy, your inheritance worth more and valued higher than earthly dollars.

Lean in close to the simplest of details from the generations of family as these pages written from their life will become those memories you save into the keepsakes of your memory, the legacy you pass to your children one day.IMG_1915

Walk a mile in their shoes, their steps back in the day. Those history lessons which hold the generations together, if we dare to protect these stories from the sun of time which dares to fade them.

IMG_1919

We have so much to learn from each other.

We need not be stuck in our own ways, unteachable to learn “what’s already been” from the past or “what is possible” in the present; or hope for the future.

Be willing to take your basket and start gathering.IMG_1920IMG_1921

Reach for the abundance of wisdom, their Godly influence, and hidden fruit of their lives which still waits to be picked.

You must be intentional to do your part and gather.

The next generation depends on you entering the fields of back in their day.IMG_1923

IMG_1922

Yes, call me old fashioned, but I love sitting with those from generations before me and hear their stories of back in the day, especially when they’re stories about my mother.

Talking about her, reminiscing and re-living these stories keep her alive in my heart, even though she left her earthly home a year and a half ago.

Now that I am the living grandmother, I get the privilege of repeating my stories you’ve heard once or twice before as my grandparents once did.

Stories which journey back when all my siblings still lived at the same address on Fox River Rd.

Stories which refresh my life while stuck in the traffic jam of busyness.
A story about my mother.

2018 mothers day brunch

SUMMER IN A JAR
By Lori A. Alicea

With family vacations, summer sports and fairs coming to town, you might not have noticed that Christmas has snuck in the back door of some stores, sounding the alarm that winter is around the corner.  By the time most of us are snuggling up in that first sweater, we might be asking ourselves, “Where did the summer go?”  For those who’d like to hold onto summer a little longer, did you know it’s possible to capture the essence of this season in a bottle, labeling it “summer in a jar?”

Growing up, backyard gardens, cornfields and fruit markets were common neighborhood sights. corn field along road

With breezes carrying them in, the smells of summer welcomed itself through open windows, evident in the slight waves of the curtains.open window

Strawberries, peaches, apples and grapes, all waiting for someone to take them home from the fruit market down the street.  As a little girl the aroma of this seasonal shop was so delicious, fruit juices could be tasted just by breathing.IMG_1845

Mother would buy these farmer spoils by the flat, bushel and bucket, bringing them home to create jams, jellies and frozen fruit for future homemade pies. IMG_1846

The pantry off from the kitchen displayed my mother’s mid-year labors, as I fantasized over them in the winter pretending they were “summer in a jar”.strawberry jam

From June through August, we five sisters helped mother prepare fruit for her signature jams, giving into temptation to eat more fruit than we prepared.  Though our mouths revealed the sticky evidence of our crime, mother didn’t scold us, rather kept focused as she boiled fruit on her Magic Chef stove.  Still boiling hot, blue Mason jars were filled then sealed with melted paraffin wax.  Mother’s creations eventually lined the pantry shelves when they cooled, waiting for winter to come.

It’s hard to appreciate kitchen art when the thermostat reads above 90 degrees.  But light the fireplace one frosty December morning, and top a fresh baked biscuit smothered in butter with homemade jam, those early hours might usher in a smell of summer with fruit so fresh you’d think they were recently picked.

As an adult, I am saddened that subdivisions have taken over the neighborhood, leaving farmer fields a figment of my imagination.  Kitchen curtains don’t fly in the wind of open windows as air conditioners keep them closed.  Fruit markets are a novelty now, canning isn’t a way of life, and out of five sisters, I’m the only one that cans, bakes bread and finds pleasure in homemade anything.

But as for me, my homemade effort’s brings back time with mom and memories of yesterday, when I go the extra mile to see my shelves full of “summer in a jar”.

COMEDY TO THE CAR LINE  By Lori A Alicea

We’ve all been there.

Overworked.
Overly exhausted.
Sleep walking thru life.

With looming questions amid the days fog,
How did I get home today?”
Did I feed my kids?”

But after a day’s rest and sanity returns,
You pull up a chair and laugh at the comedy act
Your life has been the previous shift.

Thirty-six years ago as a shift-working mother of two small children, I’d love to re-play the comedy series of getting to work before midnight in the blistering snow storms of winter, with wind gusts at my face and hair blowing in all directions, barely holding on to a crying baby wrapped in swaddling clothes (maybe a snowsuit) and a five year old up the two acre driveway in knee deep drifts to the car.ALICEA David Lori

Half asleep, I’ve signed my share of permission slips in crayon.

No doubt I’ve been reported to the Department of Transportation many December mornings back then after a midnight shift. For them to be on the lookout for a crazy woman with the window down, driving and smashing her face with handfuls of snow; when in reality, waking up a mother’s tired eyes both fast asleep.

Yes, life can be a comedy act and it does a body good to laugh.

I’m a grandmother now, reliving a once young life and humor through her adult daughter and family with small children in what could be promoted as a hilarious series, “Comedy to the Car Line.”

It’s true, I am the most unlikely critic for humor after being told over the years my “funny bone” was left behind as a child in a lost and found box, yet I still find this seriously funny.

While names and images have been changed to protect these parents both sleep deprived and frazzled, I introduce to you the cast; a mom and dad of Big Sis, Lil’ Sis, and older brother Buddy.

What started out as an early morning pick up of Lil’ Sis before her two other siblings left for school, turned into a forty-five minute comedy act of laughter I kept to myself, as sleep-walking parents don’t find much funny when their pillows and covers cry out for them.CUMBEE Aubrey

Returning home from a stretch of twelve hour evenings still wearing his work clothes and coat, half-awake at the kitchen counter, dad packs lunch boxes and book bags for three young children, while mounds of unfolded laundry stare back.CUMBEE Kyle

In constant motion, I keep my eye on mom who wears the carpet thin from the miles she puts in from the living room to the bedrooms located in the back, exhausted from the weeks of packing their home for the upcoming move.

Big Sis is performing a circus of continuous cartwheels next to Lil’ Sis, who watches Monsters Inc. for the umpteenth time while eating her breakfast of cinnamon rolls.

As Buddy body slams the bedroom door while dunking basket after basket, Lil’ Sis’ with her scarry school in session insists on sharing her mother’s delicious homemade recipe of cinnamon rolls with me…first you pop it out of the can…

Big Sis lands a final cartwheel into her signature splits, arms up, eyes facing judge grandmother who watches, “Your turn Gaga”, Big Sis commands, “for the splits.”

This young girl who once did flips, back-walkovers, back handsprings and everything else gymnastics in school, dared to demonstrate to Big Sis the splits as a grandmother a year ago, still able to walk to the car after my performance; a feat Big Sis and big brother Buddy beg me to repeat against my insisted “no.”

Mom, whose messy hair half-secured in a barrette with hands gesturing dad’s slow pace of making lunches, passes the kitchen to the give Lil’ Sis a wardrobe change from her breakfast spills in the bedroom.

Body slamming the bedroom door continues as Big Sis reminds her sandwich making dad she has gym today; yet Buddy dunks another basket and corrects Big Sis simultaneously that she has library, while echoed from the back of the house mom reminds dad it’s his turn in the car line, for which he counters back with the roll of his eyes.

Forty-five minutes of constant motion, a hurried morning of sleep walking parents in desperate straits for the school bell to ring, so they can refuel under the covers of sweet dreams.

Remembering my days as an exhausted parent, I offered to drive to the car line, for which mom and dad both blurted out the hallelujah chorus, sending their kids to the van thirty minutes early.

Arriving to the elementary school for the first time, I questioned Big Buddy if I park behind the van in front of me, for which he retorted, “You mean the Cadillac?” “Well”, I huffed in silence, “the emblem says it’s an Escalade.” “Gaga!”, I hear from the backseat of my car. “No wonder Papa says he’ll never use you as a game show phone-a-friend.”

School is in session and now it’s just Gaga and Lil’ Sis for a quiet ride home for a few hours together before I drop her off at preschool.

I spent the day laughing over and over, re-telling the hilarious story to my husband, replaying the Comedy to the Car Line series to my well-rested daughter a few days later.

Yes, life is brief; it’s a vapor the Bible reminds.

The years of raising young children pass by as a fast moving train; the tracks of your heart left barely traveled in the midst of a blink of an eye.

Yes, life can be a comedy act and it does a body good to laugh.

So…

Always find a reason to laugh.
It may not add years to your life.
But will surely add life to your years.
Author Anonymous

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

TAKE TIME TO TELL YOUR STORY  By Lori A Alicea

We all have stories to tell, don’t we?

Whether you have lived a day or a hundred years, there’s a story about your life worth telling.

Your dreams…
Your successes…
Your failures…
Your heartaches…
Days you wish you could get back and do over…
Days you longed for but never happened…
School days…
College days…
Work days…
Marriage…
Divorce…
Friendships…
Death…

At our birth, a diary of blank pages awaits the journaling, chronicling, scrap-booking and jotting down for our remembrance those events when we rejoiced in the successes, gathered our tears in the losses, and traced God’s heart though it all while traveling the valleys up to the mountain tops of our lives; a library of hope passed on down to the next generation.

We must remember the goodness and faithfulness of God in all things; as He is a husband to the widow.  A father to the fatherless.  Our defense in the face of injustice.  He is freedom in our surrender.  He is provision in our lack.  He is an open door in a neighborhood of closed.  He is a light in the darkness.  He is the answer to our questions.  He is a stream in the dry desert.  He is our way when there seems to be no way.  GOD IS!  HE JUST IS!

Yes, document the days that had you dancing, laughing and smiling.

But difficult stories are also worth mining beneath the surface to discover the treasure buried in those hard times we’d rather forget. As those gold nuggets of God “bringing us through” what we thought would bring us death is wealth we must share among our heirs;

When we take the time to tell our story.

We must tell our stories to the world, as well as to the generations of our legacy, because all it takes is one generation to forget about God, and there goes their hope here on earth and a future with Him in eternity.

We must take time to tell our story.

Parents have been charged by God to obey His commandments; to love Him and serve Him with all their heart and soul so their days are multiplied and their land is blessed.

Parents have also been charged to teach these same truths to their children, reminding them day and night, that they might receive the same inheritance of blessing promised to their parents.

13”And if you will indeed obey my commandments
That I command you today,
To love the Lord your God,
And to serve Him
With all your heart
And with all your soul,
.

19You shall teach them to your children,

20You shall write them on them
On the doorposts of your house
And on your gates…

21That your days and days of your children
May be multiplied in the land
That the Lord swore to your fathers
To give them,
As long as the heavens
Are above the earth.”
Deuteronomy 11:13, 19, 20, 21 (ESV)

Such is this hidden wealth to bequeath our children and children’s children, our life lived for God through our stories.

Everything changed for my husband David and I when grandchildren began filling our laps and stealing our hearts.

Overcome by their sweet faces and our love that overflowed an ocean for all ten of these gifts, we grandparents longed to give them each the moon, but knew giving them God meant riches beyond counting.

Hearing the amplified voice of God speak in a grandparent’s ear to leave an inheritance we listened, we followed.

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…
Proverbs 13:22 (ESV)

Though still living these truths before our grandchildren, we began telling about the goodness and faithfulness of God through our stories, transferring the baton of our legacy and inheritance into the grips of the next generation, that they might run their race loving and serving God with all their heart, soul and mind.

Going through the journals of our own lives as young and adult children, we recall and remember the Godly inheritance passed down to us from the generation previous through their stories, albeit just as imperfect as ours, yet the rich legacy we received in their saying “yes” to Jesus.

God’s “more than enough” provision through our hard working fathers.

God’s unrelenting hope through our mother’s who never gave up on us when “giving up” seemed to be our only option.

God’s amazing love through grandparents to our children and their great grandchildren, an example we watched and learned from along the sidelines, whose footsteps we’d follow when becoming grandparents ourselves.

I lament the questions I never asked the generation previous.

I wished I would have sat at the feet of our legacy more often and allowed them to impart the wisdom they gleaned from the fields they sown and reaped from; possibly avoiding a few of their mistakes instead of repeating them.

In the busyness of my younger self,
I didn’t take the time to hear their stories
While they were still with us to hear.

One by one we buried stories when we buried them, journals never to be opened or read again; for that, I am deeply saddened.

But yet, we are still a rich family for the Godly inheritance and legacy they left in our hands and the hands of their “children’s children.”

Reminding us of God’s charge to tell the next generation of His goodness and faithfulness through our lives and through our stories;

In keeping His commandments; to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind.

MOTHERS LOVE, When it Hurts  By Lori A Alicea

Buried in the fine print of loving others,
Spells out the risks we take when giving our hearts away…

In parenting…
In friendships…
In families…
In marriage…

That to be a parent, a friend, a family member, or spouse,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

While playing my hand safe in most areas of my life, I’ve always taken the risk and jumped off the deep end into relationships, giving the best of me while learning to swim when I found myself in waters way over my head.

Looking for a lifeline when a twenty-one year old version of myself, rocks her first child in the middle of the night. A newborn helpless and dependent on me for everything, I had to get this mothering thing right for his sake and for my daughter who is born to us five years later.

21 CANDY JAKE 010

In over my head I’d risk it all for two children who’d be waving me good-by in eighteen years for a life of their own.
a family cumbee family2019 england jake graduation 20

Mother’s don’t read the fine print of parenting; she willingly risks the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving because:

Mothers love when it hurts.

My mother loved this way six times over through the lives of her son and five beautiful daughters.

In over her head and floundering for a lifeline, a sixteen year old mother pacifies her newborn son in the midnight hour.

A mother, in some ways still a child herself; starts swimming the best way she knows how to stay afloat, risking it all by giving all of herself to a child surviving in the life preserver of his mother’s arms.

Back in the lonely days of early child-rearing, there wasn’t a village to assist my mother and her young son and soon to be five daughters who’d be born within a year or two between themselves.

Easter with siblings and outfits

Diapers weren’t disposable, and babysitters weren’t affordable. Mother leaned on God for inner strength while she flailed in the deep waters of parenting. Without sisters or the helping arms of an overworked and young husband himself, mother sowed the remains of her teenage years into the garden of her children, cultivating them in the admonition of the Lord.

A woman who gave all didn’t read the fine print of mothering; she willingly risked the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving for lives of their own because:
siblings family photo (2)Mothers love when it hurts.

Buried in the fine print of loving others,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

Mother faced
The risk,
The “what if”

My child leaves me for Jesus,
While I’m still alive to face this painful good-by.

Mother attended the funeral for two of her young adult daughters,

siblings belinda mary

Mary's Headstonedavid at gravesideWho left behind children of their own in their leaving.
funeral 2siblings mary christina brittany
“Mother’s should never have to bury their children”,
My mother lamented.

Grief hovered as a dark cloud over my mother’s life for years until sunshine broke through in her daughter’s memories.

My mother gave her heart away because;

Mothers love when it hurts.

Sunday, May 9, 2021 this daughter will celebrate the first Mother’s Day without her mother.

Mother’s Day crosses another milestone of firsts that we as her remaining family, navigate life through the maiden year without our matriarch.

Love hurts in good-by.
a flowersa family alicea family
Love hurts in the empty seat.

empty chair TABLE Mom Picture Sweater

Love hurts in the conversations you long to have.

IMG_7107

Love hurts in the empty arms.
mom and grandkids USE
Love hurts at her graveside.

mom's headstone

But grief which lingers as a dark cloud will one day be clear skies when sunshine breaks in our mother’s memories.
IMG_9345Always finding comfort, peace and joy in our loving God,

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Yes, love hurts.

But…

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson

IT’S MORE THAN A TOWEL By Lori A Alicea

Towels.

More than a wrap after a hot steamy shower.

More than a stack of fluffy color coordinated terry cloth to complete the bathroom ensemble.

The delight of squirming wet babies scooped from their baths resembling zoo babies in their animal decorated towel hoods to keep them warm.

It’s more than a towel we dry off with after our bath.
It’s more than just a towel.

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.

More than a Towel Picture

I could write a book filling the pages of dedication that have earned my husband his stripes for 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.

Blow drying their hair after baths was “special time” he believed all daddies enjoyed.

Neighbors could hear the laughter of “catch” in the backyard between a father and his sons.  Little league games stole the base a father’s heart in the summer,  yet gave away his heart through date nights and time over coffee with his wife.

Jesus answered the call of servant leadership

When as Lord, he bowed and washed his disciple’s feet, then dried them with his towel.
John 13:1-17 (NIV)

Though his disciples not understanding, Jesus urged these twelve to also take up their towel and wash another man’s feet.

Stating that “16no servant is greater than his master…”,
17that you will be blessed if you do…”
John 13:1-17 (NIV)

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 wash another man’s feet you will be blessed.

To answer the call, you take up your towel.