BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED…By Lori Alicea

We’re all planted somewhere.

A friendship…
A marriage…
A job…
A community…
Our personal dreams…

Yes, we’re all planted somewhere, but are we blooming?USE Aubrey smell flower 1

Looking back over the last two years when my husband and I planted our lives in this small community, I question our blooming while watering our gardens at sunset.HOUSE VALPOUSE both girls looking back

Gardens grow with love and attention where breathtaking flowers of every bouquet are birthed.

Paintings of wonder are framed in the gardener’s mind at spring, imagining their strokes of color and beauty bursting off the canvas at summer’s end.USE flowers 2

I’ve asked myself…

Have our gardens of neighbors grown and flourished from those seeds of love and attention we’ve planted in them?

Are there bouquets of relationship flowers bursting in color up and down the street because we’ve imagined them at spring?

Have we bloomed in contentment from the address we are planted?USE Ayva smell flower 3

With a brand new house next door (like ours) which has been up for sale these past few months, we’ve intentionally greeted those peeking through the windows with a verbal tour of the neighborhood, occasionally hosting a tour of our home when these prospective neighbors wondered what the inside and size looked like with furniture.

David and I have enjoyed promoting our home sweet home community, sowing seeds of kindness to whom God might be sending to live one house over from us.

F4D79D00-BEBC-45FC-B0CE-1956067563E0

That neighbor finally moved in a few weeks ago, an older woman living on her own with her only daughter residing in Texas; an opportunity to love on somebody’s mother in her absence.

Do unto others

As I would have wanted done for my mother in the same situation.

We’ve made a few friends over the last two years, helping the “older than us” when we can.

David went missing for a few hours last summer when I found him fixing another man’s roof; keeping the homeowner safe in his lawn chair after my husband stopped him from wobbling up the ladder.

You wave at passerby’s in the community, rolling our window down every now and then for a few moments of conversation at the mailbox hub.

We’ve introduced ourselves to those congregating outside
during our evening walks around the park.

You never know what kind of day your neighbors are having; who’ve also reciprocated the love when the weather report on our faces reads cloudy skies.

Kindness is always the cherry on top for a smile waiting to happen.

But the question remains…

Have we bloomed in contentment these last two years we’ve planted ourselves at this address?D9DBC329-22EC-4CDD-BCB0-399F1897C8FE

While we love this charming home God gave us, we desperately long the country life we enjoyed during our early years of marriage.

Every night in the evening, David and I intentionally get lost in back-roads, driving towards the desperate longing that calls our hearts, an excerpt I once wrote about in a former blog…
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THE LONG WAY HOME
By Lori A Alicea

(excerpt…)

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

Are we there yet?”

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

cabin near trees
Photo by Marcus Murphy on Pexels.com

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

snowy brown house near tree
Photo by Evelyn Chong on Pexels.com

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

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


(excerpt end…)
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For our young granddaughter’s delight, I’ve sown a few rocks in my garden for their discovery…

Rocks of peace, laughter, believing, friends and hope…each glittered to catch their attention.

Maybe I’ve sown these rocks of encouragement for this little girl in me unknowingly.

Sometimes we question why and where we’re planted when you’d rather be re-potted elsewhere.

But we are reminded to find contentment in all things…

…for I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in.
Philippians 4:11 NIV

I’ve also learned these last sixty-one summers, it’s best to trust and be in awe of those…

Paintings of wonder framed with us in the gardener’s mind at spring, imagining those strokes of color and beauty of our lives bursting off the canvas at summer’s end.

Because…

God has all things blooming no matter where we’re planted.

USE Ayva smell flowers 3

WELCOME HOME…By Lori A Alicea

Seasons are changing.

Maybe it’s just me, but once those July 4th finale of fireworks burst thru the air and the remaining sparklers illuminate its own show from our children’s hands, do you slightly sense the season’s changing of the guard.

While the hot days of summer remain as house guests thru August, fall is sneaking up the back steps though most are unaware, preparing to welcome itself to the neighborhood.WELCOME BUNNY

Principals everywhere are ringing the school bell for students to begin filling their backpacks full of paper, pencils and crayons, while bells of another kind are ringing down the Christmas isles of my favorite craft store; all in the summer month of July.

Ready or not, the season’s here; the changing of the guard for weather, time and calendar events.

In life, we’re also facing seasons unique to our address.

The weaving of seasons from one into the other, with winter, spring, summer or fall choreographing the dance of personal seasons we’re about to enter, experience, or exit, then weave and dance into another season before us.

While we’d all like to predict a forecast of blue skies and sunny days, the weather might report an overcast of clouds or showers for a season.

Regardless of the season, we’re encouraged to take our seat, stay awhile, and welcome the purpose and meaning for the season we’re in.WELCOME BENCH

On first impression when entering our doors, is a wooden sign with hooks for coats, sweaters or even purses for guests to hang their belongings and receive a heartfelt welcome into our home.

The same is true for entering a new season where we are encouraged to cast and hang our cares on Jesus, a place to feel safe, a place to call home, where the couch is comfy and ambiance speaks welcome.WELCOME HOME SIGN

The front door is a traffic jam of little boys and little girls taking off their shoes and placing them beneath the welcome sign of hanging cares and coats, where side by side their crocs, flips, sandals and gym shoes for little feet remain until they leave; a reminder that seasons are meant to be shared with others.shoes Kizzy

For twelve anguishing months beginning two years ago, our family experienced an unexpected and overwhelming winter season of ten, tearful good-byes.

At morning’s dawn, the waters slept and rested peacefully near the shores of our family’s heart.

Then, without notice or alarm, a family reaches once again for life vests as the waters wake and rise in swells and attempts to drown our hearts upon receiving another call.

We gasped and couldn’t catch our breath for long periods of time during this winter season of so many good-byes.

But God was good to us, near to us, sensing His presence, never leaving our side for a moment.CHURCH

The summer season thankfully returned as promised and wafted in the air a fragrance of peace and joy and remained a bit longer than the calendar noted its departure, hovering over as a healing balm for our family.

Running along the shores of our hearts this refreshing summer season were little feet and laughter of our ten grandchildren, who somehow without us looking, outgrew the shoes of our memory.

We grandparents celebrate the many seasons we’ve shared with these ten beautiful heirs of our legacy.

Their growing continues into the seasons and choreographed dances of their individual lives.

When fishing began and there were only six of them.

So many years ago…

Our ten grand-babies today.

The seasons are changing guard once again, handing off the summer baton to the season of fall.

It’s time to pack up the sand toys and sandals these children will sadly outgrow and walk into a new season of their own before summer next year.

FISHING 7

Seasons are changing.

While we’d all like to predict a forecast of blue skies and sunny days, the weather might report an overcast of clouds or showers for a season.

Regardless of the season, we’re encouraged to take our seat, stay awhile, and welcome the purpose and meaning for the season we’re in.

WELCOME BENCH

MEMORIES OF SUMMER  By Lori A Alicea

Graduations from pre-school thru high school all set off confetti cannons to celebrate the end of another academic year.

Antsy students fidgeting at their desks on the last day of school will burst through the classroom doors as a mass exodus of summer excitement with the final ring of the bell.

From the beginning of June through the middle of August, parents have penciled in their children’s summer break on the pages of their calendars, signing them up and planning in advance for what will become in years down the road, their memories of summer.

Summer fun for me as a child rewinds a simpler life of baseball, camping, strawberry jelly and the county fair; a scrapbook of delightful memories the little girl in me loves to revisit each June.

Watching our grandchildren take their turn at the baseball plate,

Reminds me of those summers back fifty plus years ago with the smell of concession stand hot dogs and popcorn, boys trading baseball cards with a wad of bubble gum in their mouths and my brother riding his bicycle to the Little League field for baseball practice and games.

baseball marks baseball

(my brother sits in front of the baseball bats)

Spring training for Little League announces a brand new season of baseball memories, while a little girl still reminiscences when her brother, a star pitcher back then, leads his team to a first place win two years in a row.

Summer memories are also made roughing it in the squelching heat of a tent or camper, sharing the experience with mosquitoes and raccoons in the back woods or back yard of a camping trip.

In exchange for hotel air conditioning and fine dining, the smell of sizzling bacon and scrambled eggs waft among the trees at breakfast.camping cooking

Camping trips fill up a childhood album of time spent fishing with dad, swimming with siblings, and making s’mores around a crackling campfire before bed.

Making the highlight reel from my memories of summer take me back to an old fashioned tradition of strawberry picking and watching mother at her Magic Chef stove, preserving summer in a jar for those winter biscuits only months away.

Now, mother watches me from her kitchen stove in heaven, still wearing her apron, still sharing a summer memory as her recipe and an old fashioned tradition is being passed to the next generation.

Summer wouldn’t be complete without those memories of elephant ears, cotton candy, butter drenched ears of corn, cooling down with a bowl of Dippin’ Dots, being squished on the Scrambler while enjoying it all as a fun filled evening at the county fair with your dad.

fair jake little girls The county fair reminds you to thank your Aunt for the years she filled up the pages of childhood memories for two generations of nieces and nephews at the fair, giving no thought of the money she spent on tickets, food and game prizes, all because she wanted to make a summer memory with you.

Lastly, after growing up, the sweetest memories of summer is the intentional pursuit of the little things

Quality time spent with lifelong friends over coffee and breakfast.

Remembering to celebrate the generations and gifts of family around the dinner table.

Letting kids be kids at the beach, kids racing and acting crazy down the Slip ‘n Slide of your own backyard, or kids even spending a spontaneous moment in Papa’s sprinkler while only wearing their underwear.

swimming kids little

Or, for those quiet moments spent alone with God in prayer during those early morning walks around the neighborhood track.

From the beginning of June thru the middle of August, the memories of summer are filling up scrapbooks of our children and grandchildren’s childhood.

I don’t know why I’m drawn to these albums during Little League season, when strawberries are ready, or when the county fair has made its way back into town.

Maybe becoming a grandmother, I remember the good ol’ days through the lives of my grandchildren.

Maybe I miss mom more when I see a batch of homemade jelly line the shelves of my kitchen pantry.

Maybe summer reminds me that the little things really are the big things, and to be more intentional about my pursuit of them.

Maybe I’m so thankful to God for my memories of summer, my scrapbook of delightful memories the little girl in me loves to revisit each June.

 

SUMMER DAYS OF OLD By Lori A Alicea

Flipping through the old vintage calendars of the late sixties, early seventies, I can still recall bits and pieces of those hot summer days of my childhood that lasted from June until Labor Day, a holiday signaling summers end and the first day of school.

When June 1st came though and the school bell rang for the very last time after a half-day of kids cleaning out their desks, a mass exodus of screaming and jubilant students burst through the doorways in celebration, starting the clock of their long anticipated three month vacation from studying and tests. Labor Day might as well been a year from then as it seemed so far away on the eve of summer vacation.  The calendar weeks that followed were scheduled fun around family, kids and so much more.  But first on the minds of many kids, including myself, is that tomorrow morning, we’re all sleeping in.

Remembering the summer days of old replays my 8 mm memories of a simpler life void of distractions.  Technology wasn’t common place back then.  Communication between loved ones was intimate and face to face, or sentiments handwritten in a letter to those living a distance away.  Microwaves weren’t common place either back in the day and we didn’t miss it as we weren’t in a hurry, and the meals weren’t hurried either because the dinner table was an oasis where families spent time reconnecting with one another after the hours of the day spent apart.  Most houses in our neighborhood didn’t boast of central air, but box fans in the open windows and thru the unlocked screen front door circulated a cool breeze throughout the rooms most days.

Born into a family of six children, we didn’t have much, but we didn’t know it either. We shared our hand-me-down clothes and shared three bedrooms between the six of us.  I don’t ever recall feeling crowded sleeping in a room with two other sisters.  What we lacked in material things we made up for it in love; love for God and love for one other.

Summer season always kicked off with a community little league parade of baseball players loaded up in the backs of a caravan of pickup trucks with the town fire station leading the way in a blaze of sirens. Ball players threw candy into the crowds lined along the streets while the parade made its way through town ending its route at the little league field, welcoming folks of all ages excited for opening day with the first smells of hot buttered popcorn.

For as long as I remember, my brother played baseball during our summer break. His wool-blend uniform appeared stifling in the scorching June heat but the true  love of baseball overshadowed any irritations.  I loved watching the crowded concession stands of Babe Ruth wannabes  buying and stuffing their mouths with wads of bubble gum that came wrapped with a baseball card, all hoping for that desirable rookie of their favorite team.

Mother always made sure we kids attended a week of vacation bible school. Back in the day when mothers didn’t work, scores of children lined the church steps at 9:00 am where selected boys and girls carrying the American Flag, the Christian Flag and the Bible led the way into the sanctuary for a few songs before class.

Vacation bible school was about getting kids excited to learn and watch those famous bible stories come to life on flannel graphs, following up with related crafts, and snacks. Walking single file for a brief recess outside, I loved being a kid passing the church kitchen table reaching for a Styrofoam cup of Kool-Aid and cookies stacked in twos.  Best of all, the five days of vacation bible school ended with a Friday night celebration where parents enjoyed a program presented from each class, then traveled room to room to see their child’s work from the week on display.

In addition to vacation bible school, mother diligently saved through the year so we girls could attend a week of church camp located a few hours away. Girls from all over the state enjoyed cabin living, swimming, hiking, boating, crafts, bible lessons and the best food ever served in the mess hall.  Mornings began around the flag pole where prayers welcomed the day.  In the evening seated in an outdoors theatre type setting in full view of the lake and a campfire, we enjoyed Vespers together, a time of singing and preaching.  I gave my heart to Jesus at church camp one summer, remembering the moment like it happened an hour ago.

The summer days of old is a scrapbook of many moments; planned and spontaneous.  As a child I never took for granted the lifetime memories my mother planned during our years of summer vacation.  But those spontaneous “out of the blue” summer surprises delighted me also.  Like the unexpected times when dad told mother to load up the station wagon with us kids for a short trip to town, where carhops served and perched a tray of frosty mugs of root beer on your “partially rolled down” window.  I also treasured those unplanned Sunday family nights at the outdoor Drive-In where the latest G-Rated movie for kids was being shown.  During those hot summer days, dad would every now and then spring for seven soft-serve cones from the mint green ice-cream truck travelling the neighborhood; one for each of us six kids and one for the dog.

Summer wouldn’t be complete without our July 4th celebration.  That particular day Dad was busy in the backyard grilling BBQ ribs and mother could be found in the kitchen preparing corn on the cob, watermelon and her famous sweet tea.  We always thanked God for freedom amid our family seated around the dinner table.  At night the neighborhood gathered together, setting up their blankets and lawn chairs on an open lot of our town square to enjoy the firework festivities.  We kids delighted to share a few boxes of sparklers, as many other kids that 4th of July.  Neighbors and old friends conversed from blanket to blanket catching up on summer news and plans for back-to-school shopping.  Though privately the light display saddened me as the mid-air explosions of fireworks reminded me of war and “bombs bursting in air”, I still found room to relish my siblings and firework show.

In the sixties and early seventies of my younger childhood summers, these memories remain as a sweet slice of watermelon, retaining their taste in my mouth as those simple pleasures of a simple summer, staying the times and hidden in the heart of a simple little girl as her
summer days of old.