MEASURED IN SMILES By Lori A Alicea

Sticks and stones
May break my bones.

But words ????
 Will never cause me pain???
Will never break my heart???
Will never break me????
Will never hurt me???

One afternoon my husband and I were out riding our bicycles together when we stopped to look at this rock garden school children had personally grown. Hand painted stones with word-messages from a child’s imagination and decorated in their own colorful flair, a spring concert of sorts, where the music and song is played to your own interpretation.

Observing this garden of rocks, I was sadly reminded of the stones we all have thrown on occasion in a heated moment of hurt, hurling our words of opinions, words in defense against accusation or words to protect ourselves from pain. Our “volley of words” resembles a bully’s way of taking control by casting stones.

Sassy kids have all said it. Myself as a child included.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

How far from the truth this is.

At our child’s middle school graduation, I remember the commencement message like it was yesterday as it left an indelible mark. The speaker spoke on the power of words and the handprint they leave on a child’s heart.  Reminding us that words are “containers for life or death” and their lifetime impact over our children could be
“measured in smiles.”

The Commencement Speaker rewinds the movie of this graduation class to their first day of kindergarten when smiles were bright and endless. A simple world of cartoons and playgrounds, their joy was written all over their face in smiles.  Happiness abounds in their land of balloons and fireflies.  But sadly, it doesn’t take long when a child’s garden clutters from the sticks and stones of another’s negative words, crowding out their innocence and smiles.  Over the years of neglect and not weeding out the clutter, sticks and stones can overtake the garden of a middle school graduate and possibly an adult.
IMG_3159But hope is not lost.
hopeGardens grow and blossom with seeds sown in joy and kindness.
hope joy love be kindLove can thrive and brighten smiles in any garden, especially a garden of hurt and overgrown in sticks and stones.
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We are reminded that our words be gracious and sweet as honeycomb and pleasing in our Lord’s sight.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Proverbs 16:24

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:24

Just the other day I received a text message, words sweetened in a child’s love causing a bright smile on this grandmother’s face. My seven year old granddaughter spelled out her itinerary for our weeks visit together, a list of ways she wanted to spend time with me.

This is my itinerary when you are here. I want us to make pancakes, biscuits and gravy, roast, chicken noodle soup.  I want to go to the park and on walks.  I want to cuddle with you.  Make books and read books.  I want to sleep with you and do make up together.  I love you.  Also, there’s one more thing.  I want to stay up with you and make cookies.
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 Next time you see a child whose smile is dimmed; his smile might be measured from the sticks and stones of his garden.

Come along side this child and speak words of peace, joy and kindness to him.
bee kindGenerously water his garden in love.

This child’s smile will shine bright again.
His garden will surely grow.

The season of spring has come upon us.
It’s time to weed out our garden’s clutter.

It’s time to clear our land of sticks and stones, those words that have kept our gardens from blooming.

3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heaven…

    a time to scatter stones… Ecclesiastes 3

It’s time to prepare our heart’s soil to receive good seeds, those words full of love, peace, joy and kindness to help our garden grow.
hope joy love be kindOh, that our joy be evident from the overflow of our heart.

Oh, that our peace, love and joy be
measured in smiles.
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ARROWS OF WORDS By Lori A Alicea

How do you escape their arrows of words?  Where can you hide from the fiery darts launched specifically at you?  Those arrows whose flight mission is ordered by everything else but love.  Arrows whose flight pattern is aimed for the heart and rarely miss.  How do you escape?

You never think it will happen to you.  Growing up sheltered among the love of five other siblings, you can’t imagine a world any different; that is, until the class bell rings for school.

Cruelty is packed in many lunch boxes where everything is fair game.  My long red hair didn’t fit in with the blond haired girls.  Seat kicking and hair pulling was common.  Jokes about my overbite and non-fashionista clothes didn’t relent.  Freckles never came in style.  I couldn’t escape humiliation of “wolves singing” during attendance when my last name was frequently mispronounced as “Howl”.  Walking the halls incited others to grab my books and litter the floors.  Although with nobody to share lunch there was one hour of escape to the library; my sanctuary of friends among the isle of books, with hitchhikers allowed to come for the ride of reading.

You never think it will happen to you but it did.  Their arrows of words targeted me for years.  I was able to fight back and knock them down with my grades, yet their fiery darts left an indelible sting in my confidence and self-worth for years.

Being alone in school didn’t keep me from having a true friend though; an author of one of those books in my secret place at lunch; one whose love for me is in the details of its pages:

Psalm 139

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways…
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because
I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

17 How precious to me are your thoughts!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

 When I began to understand and receive the love of my Creator, I soon felt sorry for the archers of the arrows when I realized hurting people hurt people.  Matthew 12:34 NKJV says it best, …for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Compassion for those launching their arrows grieved me as I imagined the missions of arrows that still may be painfully lodged in them.

In this lonely world we live in, hug your kids tighter today.  Then hug them again.  Give somebody else’s kid a hug.  Give yourself a hug.

Tell them that Jesus DIED that they might LIVE.

Don’t let an opportunity pass you by because you never know who might be dying a slow death from the arrows of words.

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Ashleigh’s Arrows
By Great Aunt Lori Alicea

I wish I could have seen your eyes,
The emptiness display.
I wish I could have heard that cry,
For help to come your way.

I wish I could have touched your heart,
Remove the arrows there.
Remind you that you weren’t alone,
Your Father God did care.

I grieve the clock I can’t turn back,
The past I can’t undo.
In honor I keep vigil watch,
For Ashleigh’s just like you.