A TABLE SET BEFORE US! By Lori A Alicea

During the joyous season of the holidays, we all find ourselves sitting in a seat at a table set before us.

Taking our seat where every place setting represents a life in the family, friendship or meaningful relationship around the table.USE 2018 alicea xmas kids 14

While Hallmark movies present a picture perfect table for the holidays; in reality, the table of gathering is uniquely set from every heart of the home.USE xmas table

The simplicity of our father’s Christmas table served homemade cookies and cakes prepared from the hands of a widower of many years.

Missing my father and his modest traditions so terribly, I continue to drive by his house every December 24th in the evening, opening the greeting card of Christmas past from across the street, reminiscing through the kitchen window and listening for laughter still baked in the walls when we daughters shared a few hours with dad around his table.

In mother’s later years of life in the nursing home, we girls would join her and the other residents and their guests for a Christmas meal together.

The love of the host overflowed onto her decorated tables for those she served everyday throughout the years, regardless that many of the residents had lost their capacity to appreciate the thoughtfulness in her details.

But God sees the unnoticed and receives it all as if you had done it unto Him.

Somebody loved our mother as we sat with her around the table those remaining December’s of her life; a gift we will treasure for Christmas’ to come.

Some tables set in December have a few tears of sadness sprinkled with the faux snow spread around the winter centerpiece scene, when those seated next to them are thousands of miles away in thought with those they’re unable to be together with during the holidays.

One Christmas, our son ate his holiday meal on the other side of the world from us, actually a day in advance from us while serving his country in the military; although the miles were bridged when a homemade gift from our officer’s hands arrived in the mail the day after Christmas.

A mother’s heart was full during a long and lonely year she hadn’t hugged her son for months.

How do you set a table of Christmas for a mother you’re unable to reach when the doors aren’t opening to visitors?TABLE Ate Alone

Where do you find the magic of Christmas when mother’s seat at the table is void of her being; well, at least at her earthly table? Mother found her reserved place at heaven’s banquet table the moment she opened her eyes to Jesus.

Mother’s presence remains in the traditions she created for her children and grandchildren, and in her seat at the card table I now sit at when she left us for a better place.  

My husband and I are like little children waiting to wake up on Christmas morning together, believing God to redeem the season from one year ago when David ate his holiday meal from the tray of his hospital bed, while separated from me as I sat alone at my table that December evening because of sickness too.ava at xmas

Regardless of every table set before us…

Christmas will always be about a baby born in a manger, and the joy that filled the earth when our Savior cried for the very first time in His mother’s arms.

God is faithful to us during the holidays, and every day.

God is near to the brokenhearted whose covenant love will reach a thousand generations.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9 NIV

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18 NIVUSE church

For Christmas this year, I’m setting tables.

While I love the sparkle and twinkle of a beautifully set table, I won’t miss the unexpected opportunities to set a table of simplicity as my father once did for us daughters each Christmas Eve, serving cookies and love on a plate for those seated around his table.

USE xmas at dads

HAND IN HAND Thru the Years!  By Lori A Alicea

In two short days we’ll celebrate twenty-eight years of wedded love between us.

We married on Sweetest Day one crisp afternoon in October when our lives and the seasons were changing harmoniously together with the brushstrokes of fall color as our portrait background.

Ever since our wedding day on October 15, 1994, each day as husband and wife has tasted sweeter than the day before.USE 1 a wedding 3

HAND IN HAND thru the years, we’ve faced whatever came our way while holding onto each other; as two are better than one.

Locking arms with God, we’ve completed our three stranded cord not easily broken against the fiercest winds life can hurl across your bare face.

Two are better than one…
Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIV

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIVUSE holding hands 1

HAND IN HAND as we cross the threshold of marriage milestones, we look to our left and once again to our right and give thanks for the cloud of witnesses who’ve walked alongside, cheering and encouraging us in the Lord thru the years, while the third strand of our three-stranded cord has been faithfully holding us close to Himself.USE 1 walk

HAND IN HAND thru the years at the altar, we’ve stood in agreement for the power of God in our lives; clinging to desperate prayers that the curious eyes of our grandchildren are watching and grabbing hold of the marriage example their Papa and Gaga are setting before them, however imperfect we are.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Matthew 18:30 NIV

USE 2 altar

HAND IN HAND in marriage we laugh and enjoy the lightheartedness of those unexpected moments one didn’t see coming.

God gave us the ability to smile, to grin, to find humor in the “nothings” and enjoy an abundance of laughter which takes your breath away ‘till it hurts.USE 3 laughter

HAND IN HAND thru the years you’ll find yourself dancing to the silent music played from the phonograph of your love story, swaying back and forth to the heartbeat of two people crazy about the other.

The teacup of what we share together spills over and splashes into the cups and saucers of others close enough and wanting what you have.

HAND IN HAND with family, we pray our children and grandchildren hold onto each other and continue the traditions we’ve built with them beyond the presence of our lives.USE 6 family dance

May each and every one of our grandchildren hold tight to the love we’ve poured into them…USE 7 england kids

May they be the biggest cheerleaders for each other as we have sitting in the grandstands of their lives…USE 8 girls

May they walk HAND IN HAND along the pathways to their God-given purpose, because…

Two are better than one…
Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIVUSE 9 girls 1

Thru the years, may the bridge between those miles which separate addresses always be a two-way street, leaving the light on in the window as a welcome mat for every unsuspecting knock on the door.USE 10 kids in Hawaii Twenty-eight years ago we walked down a wedding isle into a dream come true.

A fairy-tale we didn’t expect to be ours, yet still thanking God for the sleeping one we smile and gaze upon in the middle of the night after all these years.

Marriage will always be for keeps when you refuse to let go of the hand you promised to hold for a lifetime.

In looking behind us, I thank you David for twenty-eight glorious wedding anniversaries we’ve shared together.

With the world before us, there’s still much to be discovered as husband and wife.

I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather share my life with,

Than HAND IN HAND thru the years

With You…

USE holding hands

ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU By Lori A Alicea

Another holiday season is greeting front doors everywhere and gathering around Thanksgiving tables as done in Thanksgiving pasts will be families, friends and loved ones giving their heart-filled thanks for those seated beside them.

Families will share a meal over turkey, stuffing, candied yams, pumpkin pies and all the trimmings, and the bustle of life stops for a brief few hours when personal inventories are taken when you look around the crowded holiday room and remind yourself how blessed you truly are.

While a Hallmark Christmas card doesn’t quite paint the picture perfect family behind most front doors, mine included.  The sentiment of the season though rises in the hearts of most who treasure family and its gatherings.

Holidays are also viewed though thru windows that peek into our family sadness when traditions change or grief and loss that overcomes with that empty seat at the dinner table for the first time this year.

For adults who remain “kids at heart” holding onto those family members who gave them their Norman Rockwell memories, it’s hard to turn the page to a new chapter of holiday traditions, when they cling to the old ones like a favorite teddy bear.

Holiday change is inevitable as our grandparents and parents age before us, passing the holiday torch to the next generation in their inability to keep the traditions going.

While this year isn’t a holiday first for our family, after finally disbursing the treasures of mother’s home though after being in storage for a year, the reality has finally sunk in that we as a family won’t be going “home” for Thanksgiving and Christmas anymore.

The face and heart behind our family Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions has had an address change needing twenty-four hour medical care, ending her reign as the author of our holiday picture albums.
face of our holidays

As ‘tis the season of being thankful, this “kid at heart” takes ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of  “home” during her Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations past.

At mother’s house you are always welcome.
welcome

Whether friend, family or stranger; announced or unannounced, mother lit up when the door bell rang.

Her humble home, a single wide trailer shared with her husband Roger until he passed away a few years before she closed the doors for good, was “home” nevertheless.
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Every room spelled m-o-m as her touch was in the details of her things.
I love mom

Family meant everything to mother, whose love had no bounds.

She adopted her daughter’s best friend as her own who in turn called her mom.
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This friend with small children through their years into adulthood, referred to our mother as grandma.

We adopted into our hearts this friend’s parents who we loved deeply and embraced as nanny and papa.
Because of love, our family tree bloomed and thrived enlarging hearts and family ties.
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Mother raised her children to love and serve God, the foundation that gave our family hope during those storms of hard times.
hope

But it was during the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas when going “home” re-opened the storybook of our childhood memories each year.

I still see dad watching the Macy’s Parade on TV in his recliner while mom prepared the turkey and all the fixins in the kitchen.

Like yesterday, I imagine the dinner table decorated and set in dad’s garage, seating all of us and our grandparents on both sides.
thanksgiving pic when I was a kid USE

Growing up our Christmas tree wasn’t filled with expensive toys wrapped beneath it.  With six children there wasn’t money enough for that; but there was so much more.
my christmas with matching jammies

The traditions of a kitchen full of elves making various batches of homemade cookies with sprinkles landing everywhere.

There were those fifty-plus glittered Christmas cards we received in the mail and hung on a red chain down the railing of the stairs.

Sure can’t forget our church Christmas plays and getting that brown sack of miscellaneous nuts, fruits and holiday candy as you left the sanctuary.

Mother’s homemade coffee cake served warm on Christmas morning became a holiday favorite memory, a tradition I passed to my family.

The gift of Christmas around the tree with my four sisters, brother and parents was the best gift wrapped that day.
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Thanksgiving and Christmas past replay in the back of my mind as this grown up kid enjoys the seasons of holidays when her children were small.
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Holidays that replay in my mind with my adult children who now have children of their own.

Hearing the electric knife carving our holiday ham and turkey is the dinner bell reminder that a feast is about to be served.

For a family our size in a small single wide trailer, tables are set up in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. There’s the senior table, the kid’s table and the table for everyone else.  A bit crowded but you’re “home” and that’s all that matters.

So many faces to see during the holidays, some arriving when the military allows, or sadly arriving on Skype instead.
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On Christmas Day there are all those presents to unwrap.

Then there are those hilarious relatives who never pay attention during gifts.

Can’t forget about that game of cards for anyone who dares to sit opposite a card-shark grandmother after dinner.
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Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas though without that angel found sitting in her Lazyboy;
the centerpiece of our holidays.

Mother taught us how to make the holidays magical, and now our children are making the seasons bright in their own homes, all because our family matriarch had a special heart for Christmas.

Two years ago at this time, mother’s address changed as so did our holidays and traditions.

Holidays are now shared between the sisters with this year being at my house, and while we decorate, bake, serve the best feasts and still shuffle those cards after dinner, nothing comes close or compares to going “home” for the holidays.

Before handing over the keys of “home”, my heart needed ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of mother’s house.

Walking through the halls you were deafened by its silence.  The walls were eerie quiet with nothing to say, when before the decibel level was joyfully loud.

Aching over the empty rooms I couldn’t imagine life without our family there to enjoy them.

How I wanted to set out mother’s Christmas decorations just one more time.

We as a family grieve over the empty chairs of loved ones we once shared the holidays with, whose health or life with Christ keeps them away.  We miss them so  terribly.

Sadly, mother’s “home” is all packed up now and the front door has closed for the very last time.
boxes of moms stuff

Something shifts when the tradition torch is passed to the next generation.

The magic and the memories remain in your heart, but a shift takes place and has to make room for the new traditions beyond the Christmas present.

My heart overflows with thankfulness nevertheless this Thanksgiving season with the joy of the Lord, as He is the source of all my true hope and love.

I am thankful for my memories.

I look forward to new traditions and memories also.

I am a blessed woman.

This Thanksgiving I will once again take inventory of all my blessings and rejoice for the riches of heaven in my home.

I pray that my mother’s holiday legacy lives on in my brother and sister’s lives as well as mine passed to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren and beyond.

May we all be thankful for what God has done and is still doing in our life.

May we remember and hold close to our heart the true

REASON FOR THE SEASON

Which is Christ Jesus our Lord.