BENCHED!  By Lori A Alicea

We’ve all served time on the bench.

Whether we’d like to admit it or not,
We’ve taken our place at some point in our life on the bench…

When we didn’t get the promotion…

When somebody else got the job…

When we didn’t make the team…

When we didn’t get the part in the play…

When we were overlooked…

When we were miscalculated…

When we were misunderstood…

Each sending us to the bench with unanswered questions of why?IMG_2582

The bench became a familiar place on the field of my writing career very early in life.

I shared a few innings with the crowd in the stands back then…

By Lori A Alicea

I’ve had a love affair with words my whole life.

From an elementary age I began authoring short stories, poetry, and creating homemade cards for my mother on her birthday and Mother’s Day.

Teachers honored my early writing efforts with epic FAILS on my assignments believing I had copied my work. As a child I didn’t understand it nor did they understand the tears of a young girl attempting to bloom.USE THIS FLOWERS

The defeating words and bad calls from my childhood teachers benched my spirit before I was ever drafted to the team.USE THIS BENCH

But now as an adult I realized God was validating a writer’s call through the blind eyes of my teachers.

(end excerpt…)

Thankfully, God brought someone in my life who shared a love and passion for the game of writing; my older sister Belinda.

We spurred and encouraged one another for years to take our step of faith and try out for the team.

Sitting the bench before the draft ever took place; we dreamed about our books and promised to each other with an oath that we would write.

The innings continue in the game of my writing career…

By Lori Alicea

My sister Belinda and I loved to write.

Our affection for words and the impact they had on others led to many conversations about the books we wanted to write.

Belinda being sick most of her life, her biggest dream was to write of her Lupus journey, detailing the highways and byways, dead-ends and disappointments, and signs and wonders during her time in the trenches, battling the disease.

Without question, Belinda knew God wanted to use her story to encourage others whose hourglass of hope seemed to be running out of sand. Belinda had a story to write; she had a song to sing. Yet she put it off for tomorrow, though sadly, tomorrow didn’t come when God called her home on August 3, 2004; she was only 44 years old.Belinda's grave

Her untimely departure is our wake up call to:

Number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalms 90:12 NIV

None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes.
James 4:14 NIV

Months after her death, I honored our promise to each other to write a bi-monthly column in the local newspaper titled “Little Things.” The hope of my opportunity would be to encourage others to look at the little things before them; God’s reminder how full the baskets of our lives truly are.

A column also written to draw attention to the roses, our garden of the simple, the seemingly insignificant, yet the wonderment to discover if you allow its beauty to entice your curiosity to stop and smell them.

A column is born,
Little Things.”

(excerpt from

By Lori A AliceaColumn pictures

Sadly, that opportunity ended after eight short months and the newspapers rejection letter had me questioning if I really had anything to say after all.

(excerpt is paused…)

Being taken out of the game with so few attempts at the plate, and now warming the bench for however many unknown innings crushed my spirit as the game continued to play out in front of me.

But yet, you endure to trust God; you give Him glory in our lack of understanding.

You warm the bench as unto the Lord.

However difficult, you encourage from the bench.

You smile until your heart catches up with your face from the bench.

You remind yourself from a quote taken from the movie:

Facing the Giants
By Alex and Stephen Kendrick

If we win, we praise Him.
If we lose, we praise Him.
Either way,
We honor Him with our actions and our attitudes.

Even while you’re benched.IMG_2582

Sadly, I quit the team from the bench; even though God did not give me permission to remove myself from the roster.

(excerpt continues…)

Fourteen years later and the pages of my book remained blank. I immersed myself in event decorating to detour my creativity from the pen. I avoided conversations that might question my writing status, yet God’s voice and whispers can’t be silenced and His “pricks of my heart” for those waiting for my words kept me uncomfortable.

Six years ago we moved to a town with its own country cemetery. Day after day passing this small plot of buried loved ones, I thought of my sister often and her unfinished book as well as mine. Becoming more evident as I neared retirement age, I would also:

Die with the music still in me…
Oliver Wendell Holmes

If I refused to tell my story.

CROPPED ONEIf I refused to answer the call on my life.

I had to come to the end of myself and wave the white flag of surrender to God. No more idling. I put my car of writing into gear and engaged the GPS wherever my call would lead.

I desperately prayed the cry of my heart:

Lord, forgive me for the years I have squandered and redeem what has been lost. Breathe new life into the dream you dreamed for me before I was ever born.”

No one is ever too young; no one ever too old to be used by God.

There isn’t a dream too dusty to be taken off the shelf and watch it explode in “fireworks finale fashion” before your eyes.

It just takes a burning desire to want what God wants for us, which is our passion and surrendered heart to enlist back into His army to win the Kingdom war using our dreams. In the end when our tour of duty is finished, we can proudly stand before our General and say,

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”
John 17:4 NIV

Lord, burn a flame in me.”

I’m leaving the bench…”

I’m warming up to take my rightful place at the plate.”

I’m saying YES TO MY CALL.”IMG_2583

Hence, the birth of this weekly blog titled Apples of Gold Encouragement.

I’m getting back in the game.IMG_2584

Reflecting back in 2004 as I arrived in Tennessee a few days before my sister’s funeral, I inquired of my niece if her mother left anything behind she wanted me to see. My niece remembering her mother and our love for words gave me the Acknowledgements and the only page of the book my sister began to give birth to.

My sister kept her promise to write.

Being asked to speak at my sister’s Home Going Celebration, I thought it fitting and proved to be powerful, to read the Acknowledgements, those loved ones she gave thanks to while journeying those grueling miles battling Lupus.

(excerpt ends…)

As I face the mirror as a sixty-two year old writer with oceans of words yet to be spoken; the waves which dance to remind me of the paragraphs, the stories, and poetic songs still making their way to shore.

While my name hasn’t taken its place on the New York Times best seller list as of yet, I am reminded though…

A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.
Proverbs 18:16 AMP

If my gift makes room for me on the field or on the bench, it is irrelevant where I play when God is the coach, as He knows what’s best for the team.

From the Will and Testament of my life I have bequeathed my family heirs an inheritance of words inspired by the Lord and lived out in my earthly years as an encouragement in their glove to hold onto in the innings of their own personal game.

I pray the generations beyond my life find their position on the field wherever God has placed and called them.

Even during the times of trusting while sitting on the bench.USE THIS BENCH


  We all have a story to tell.
Your story, my story, they need to be told.

Buried deep in yesterday is our history, our milestones, our wisdom gained and learned from our wins, our losses.  These truths of our lives must be unearthed, brought to the surface and passed on down into the hands of our children, our grandchildren and generations beyond.

What’s your story?
Might you be willing to open up the pages and tell your story?

blur book candle close up
Photo by Pixabay on

Oh that we would dip our quills into the inkwell of our heart and form onto paper those sentences and chapters that define our past, so our stories can give understanding, fill in the blanks and answer the questions our family in the present are asking, and questions of future family in generations to come.

We must find courage to remember, to fill our passports with stamps that take us places we swore we’d never return to. We must go back and reclaim what was left behind; because it’s your story, it’s a second chance to redeem your memories and realize there are gold nuggets to be mined, but you must be willing to dig and sift and pan out the beauty you never thought was there.             

A loyal traveling companion down the streets of our past, our present and has already walked into our future, God has been a lamppost along our way, lighting our path and writing our story through those peaks, those valleys and every high and low in the journey.

God has been faithful. He alone is a story worth retelling.  Might we be willing to unfold the map of yesterday, re-trace the steps of an almighty Father and give him glory in our story?

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you… Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

“Your Story Matters”, a book poured out from the heart of Leslie Leyland Fields, words I have devoured, or possibly devoured me, from the very first page.

Leslie Leyland Fields tells her story that we would tell our story.

You don’t have to be a writer to tell your story, because your “words are your story”.

Your story matters.
My story matters.

Take my hand and follow me back into my beginning, the introduction and first few pages of my writing story.

I tell my story that you might be encouraged to tell yours.

rewrite edit text on a typewriter
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

By Lori A Alicea

In my “thirties” living in a generation where women found great fulfilment in the workplace, many leaned though into the belief “you can have it all at the same time”; where one could “fry up the bacon inside the home while earning it from outside your white picket fence.”  I was one of those women.

As a computer programmer analyst consultant for fifteen years, there’s no denying that gleaned from plowing into projects and sowing opportunity after opportunity into my professional fields, I yielded bushels full of a bountiful increase.

But in my arduous climb up that Mt. Everest of success, I found it difficult to breathe from the demands of higher elevations. Closer to the summit its view didn’t render the majestic glamour I imagined.

Prior to one step up that mountain I should have considered the price; I should have counted the cost of my earthly pursuits.

I wish the wisdom of our Women’s Ministry Pastor would have whispered in my ear years earlier, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.”

Worldly gains came at a great price, it cost me big:

Cost me time and memories at home.

Cost those treasured “firsts” with my young children; first steps, first words, first day of school, that first day of baseball, and sadly, the scrapbooks are empty from so many more.

Cost my strength in exchange for weariness.

Costs my family and I paid dearly for.

These missed moments are now fallen leaves caught up in the updrafts of those autumn winds, forever lost and unable to be reclaimed or retrieved.

Eventually a tug-of-war ensued, a duel from both sides of my heart challenging each other to the death, career vs. my love for home.

The voice of my career screamed, “Keep climbing.”
The voice of my love for family begged louder, “Come home.”

In search for answers, a Heavenly Father reminded me:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

…A time to plant and a time to uproot. Ecclesiastes 3:2

I could have it all, just not all at the same time.

Encouraged and blessed by my husband, I uprooted myself from the acres of career and plowed up and re-planted my life into a brand new field called home.

Home felt so right.
Home fit like my favorite slippers on a cold day.
Home was the warmth of an angora sweater in a cool breeze.
Home was an afternoon smell of cookies baking in the oven.
Home was sharing pancakes over breakfast with my children before school.
Home was kneading bread dough on my kitchen counter.
Home was those walls that kept my family safe at night.

I was home and living the dream.

It didn’t take long before a gentle pursuit of me occurred in the still and quiet mornings; “words of home” began silently whispering.

The pitter, patter feet of (the simple thoughts, the little phrases, the innocent images of children and love…), began sneaking up on me from around the corner hallway, at the breakfast table as I sipped on my morning coffee, while gazing at the outside beauty from my kitchen window, all pulling on my apron strings and vying for my attention to be written.

There was no denying the stirring. I couldn’t push them away if I tried; words, those beautiful words.

Beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem about the king, for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet.  Psalms 45:1 NLT

Born from this sacred place of my heart called home,

A birth announcement,

A debut column from years ago, the birthplace and baby’s first steps of a writing career,

Written to draw attention to the roses, our garden of the simple, the seemingly insignificant, yet the wonderment to discover if you allow its beauty to entice your curiosity to stop and smell them.

A Column is born,
Little Things.”
Column pictures