Dear Auntie

Dear Auntie,

Ate Lina and Ate Cristi told me how much you enjoyed reading the letters we wrote to you on your cards. So, I thought I’d write you one last time.

I remember when you first came from the Philippines to live with us. We didn’t have aunties or uncles to dote on us like the other kids. So, I was so excited to finally have “Auntie Puring” for our own.

Soon after you arrived, you gave me your black slip-on shoes because I liked them so much. It was my first pair of grownup shoes. I’m glad I was able to return the favor by giving you some of my gently-used shoes. Whenever you would wear a pair I had given you to church, you would point to your feet to make sure I saw them.

You are such a giving Auntie and Mama. You always gave Zechariah a birthday gift. And if you ever forgot, which was rare, you felt so badly. But then you would give him something the following week. To your grownup pamangkin, you would apologize for not giving us anything for our birthdays. But, Auntie, you have given us so much. Getting a warm greeting from you with your smile and hug were all we needed.

It’s hard to believe we won’t see your beautiful smiling face or hear your laughter again. Your family held your memorial and funeral services this past weekend. Oh, Auntie, you would have been so very proud of them all. Your apo gave wonderful tributes to you. Each and every one of them had their special memories to share.

They shared your humorous side. Their stories of how your quick-witted responses often caught them off guard brought laughter to the service. I know you would have wanted us to remember the happy times.

But your apo had another common theme — how very spiritual you are. Most of them recounted how you had morning and evening worship with them and how you always reminded them to pray. Your faith runs deep and strong. And your witness, through your words and actions, is far-reaching. This past weekend, we heard how your love for and faithfulness to Yahweh have made a strong impression on your grandchildren.

You have touched so many lives, Auntie. You know all the members of The Assembly of Yah love you. You are their Mama Puring, too. And because of how important you are to them, your Luna pamangkin traveled to show their love for you. They brought your beloved sister, Auntie Ising, to be here. When Auntie Ising held the program with your picture, she kept staring at you and saying how “maganda” and “matalino” you are. Her precious memories of you made her so very proud.

Auntie, there are so many qualities about you that make you special. Every one of your children have those qualities, but each has a particular one that stands out.

Ate Aida has taken on the leadership role of being the eldest. Even though she might be taking a step back, she has your decision-making quality and firmness to make sure things were as they should be. She and Kuya Vic opened their home to family and friends on so many occasions to demonstrate your hospitality.

Kuya Rey had your humor. We had the great privilege of having him live with us. He brought so much laughter and enjoyment to our lives. Whenever we visited their home, he and Ate Wennie made sure to make us feel welcomed.

Kuya Dante demonstrates your generosity. He opened up his apartment to us and treated us out when we visited the Philippines in 1972. He could be counted on to provide financial help where there was need. And like you, he is the protector.

Ate Cristi shows your sense for decorum. She always wants to make sure everyone is treated well and with respect. All the events she and Kuya Remo hosted through the years, including my bridal shower, were well-planned and so enjoyable. Ate Cristi always goes above and beyond, just like you.

Ate Lina has your quality of service to and appreciation for others. When Kuya Rey was in the hospital, she would massage his feet. And with you, she adjusted your pillows to make sure you were comfortable. She and Kuya Yousef always point out the good qualities of others and make us feel appreciated.

Kuya Nelson always is willing to help, just like you. Whether with our cars, at the church, or any of our other personal needs, he is “on call.” He and Liza are devoted to family. We all know we can count on both of them whenever needed. And they are such an important part of our Assembly, too.

Your children have incorporated into their lives the lessons and advice you and Uncle Ato have given them. They will continue to pass on your legacy of upright living to their children. You can already see it in how the next generation has already kept your teachings in their hearts.

Auntie, I wish I had visited you more. I loved when I could see you in your reserved seat on Sabbaths. When you were strong enough to come back to church for a few weeks, I took it for granted that I would continue to have the joy of seeing you each Sabbath. What comforts me is that you would tell me not to feel bad. I know that you would tell me that you know how much I love you. Because I do.

You are a precious gift, Auntie Puring. Your strength and grace through adversity is a quality to acquire. Your faithfulness to Yahweh is something to strive toward. And your tireless instruction to the next generation to commit their lives to Yahweh is a challenge for all of us to do the same.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix on our eyes no on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Corinthians 4:17-18, NIV).

You know what Paul said to the Corinthians was true. That’s why you did not fear death. And that is why your final words to us were to remain faithful to Yahweh and to take care of and love each other.

I love you Auntie Puring. If my nephews and nieces would love me even half as much as I love you, I will be blessed. But I know that I have to prove worthy of that love. You, my Auntie, are priceless. Nothing that has any worth or value in this world can compare to you.

Until we see each other again, I will be forever grateful to you for accepting me into your life. And I am forever grateful to Yahweh for giving me such a strong and loving Auntie.

Forever your loving niece, Dorcas

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From End to Beginning

“Cornerstone.” “First Class Guy.” “Integrity.”

As I sat and listened to speech after speech, my emotions got the best of me. That was my brother Luis they were talking about. And all those words the speakers used to describe him at his retirement ceremony were absolutely true.

I didn’t always think so. Growing up, Luis—Louie—was somewhat of a thorn-in-the-side.

When I was in third grade, I had this huge crush on Davey Jones of the Monkees. One day, Louie called me to the phone. He told me it was Davey Jones. I didn’t believe him. But he insisted. So, I nervously took the phone and said, “Hello?” Sure enough, the guy on the other line said he was “Davey Jones.” I was beyond excited. Later, I found out that “Davey” was actually Louie’s classmate. Yes. My dear brother had orchestrated this little prank. I didn’t want to go to school the next day because “Davey Jones’” brother was in my class.

Perhaps he outgrew it. Or perhaps his true nature was trying to burst through this stereotypical “big brother” persona. But Louie became, well, a great guy.

When I was in elementary school, he trained me for a race and came on field day to cheer me on when my legs were too tired to continue. At my high school graduation, he took pictures of me with the cutest guys in my class, including the boy I had a crush on since fifth grade, so that I would have memories of being popular, at least for one day. When I started medical school, he and Sally bought me a doctor’s bag and medical equipment—I’m still using the ophthalmoscope.

And Louie helped set the foundation for my writing career. He coached me on grammar while I was in grade school. More recently he edited my devotion that was awarded third place at a Christian writers’ conference I attended.

The list on how Louie has made a positive impact on my life is long. And as I listened to tribute after tribute, it was apparent that he had also enriched the lives of all these people with whom he worked side by side throughout the years.

Supervisors spoke of Louie’s dedication and professionalism. Person after person thanked him for his advice and encouragement—for both their professional and personal lives. They spoke of how he balanced work and family but that family was of the utmost importance to him. His younger co-workers thanked him for his mentorship. Of course, there were stories of his pranks. (I guess he will always be a prankster at heart.)

In his 41.6 years working for the City of Virginia Beach, as a budget analyst in the Department of Budget and Management Services, Louie received many awards and recognitions—of which I found out only now. And while he worked many long hours and had many almost sleepless nights to meet budget deadlines, he never once was asked to work on Yahweh’s Sabbath. Louie was dedicated to his work but always put Yahweh first. His supervisors honored him for that.

And Yahweh has blessed him.

As Louie said in his farewell speech, he started working for the City as a bachelor and retires as a grandfather. During the 41.6 years, Yahweh blessed him with the perfect partner in marriage, Sally. Her love and support allowed Louie to dedicate the time needed at work but also to lead the Assembly of Yah as our pastor. Yahweh blessed him with their son and daughter, Jeremy and Jayna, and with another “son” and “daughter”—Stephen and  Cora—through marriage. He blessed Louie and Sally with grandchildren, Jonah and Indiana, and another grandchild on the way.

“Blessed are those who keep His statutes and seek him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2, NIV).

“Blessed are all who fear Yahweh, who walk in obedience to him” (Psalm 128:1, NIV).

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines “cornerstone” as “something of great importance on which everything else depends.” Louie is not the first member of the Budget Department, but he has definitely proven himself to be of “great importance” and on whom his fellow staff members could depend.

In the words of the Proclamation set forth by Louis R. Jones, Mayor of the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia: “Luis will be remembered for his dedication to serving the employees and citizens of the City of Virginia Beach.” It stated that he “has met deadlines with professionalism and courtesy, always displaying a cheerful and ‘can-do’ attitude, earning him the ‘Class Act Award.’” Mayor Jones went on to proclaim September 27, 2018 as “Luis C. Asercion Day.”

“First Class Guy”—Yes. “Integrity”—Most certainly. “Cornerstone”—Absolutely.

The City of Virginia Beach has lost a “Class Act” public servant. For 41.6 years Luis C. Asercion has served our city well—tirelessly and with integrity. Our city is better because of him. And because of those he has mentored, our city will continue to grow successfully. As a citizen of Virginia Beach, I thank him for his service.

As his sister, I thank him for his encouragement, mentorship and support throughout my life. And, I am even appreciative for his antics during our growing up years. Those days make for fun memories to share with our kids.

I hope Louie’s retirement won’t be the end to his emails. Throughout the years he has sent jokes and funny stories. More recently he wrote about the antics of Indie and her brother Jonah. But I treasure his letters of encouragement and support for whatever event or experience I was going through. Now that he has other obligations in his retirement, those emails may not be as free-flowing. (As the frame from Miriam states, Louie is under new management—the grandkids.) I’m pretty sure we’ll still get emails, but I’m being a bit sentimental because lasercio@vbgov.com is now offline.

A few days before Louie’s retirement ceremony, I visited Mom and Dad’s earthly resting place. I wondered what they might think about how our lives were turning out. I recounted out loud how Ruthie had retired and is now taking care of her grandson. And that Louie would soon be retiring and taking on a bigger role as a grandfather. I “told” them that they would be very proud of the two – that Ruthie and Louie were continuing their legacy of bringing up the next generation in the ways of Yahweh. Before I left, I looked back through the gate at Mom and Dad’s smiling faces. Yes. They would be proud.

As Louie ends one chapter and begins the next chapter in his life, there is no doubt that his tireless and generous service will continue.

And we’ll all be the better for it.

Final Chapter

As I sat among family and friends in the Phi Beta Kappa Hall auditorium on that sunny May afternoon, I couldn’t help but think this would probably be the last time we would be on the campus of The College of William & Mary.

But it wasn’t about us. It was about Julie.

After four years of hard work and study, Julia Carmen Rodil walked across the stage and received her diploma for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychological Sciences, with a minor in Public Health. Thanks to Uncle Dem, her name was heard throughout the entire auditorium.

Julie is a “middle” child. And though there are a lot of thoughts about the effects of being in the middle of birth order, those of us who are “middles,” or middle-like, have similar experiences. Our milestones are usually not the firsts to be experienced by our families, nor will they be the last. Some might be tempted to view the accomplishments of the “middles” as less exciting. But those who think that way are totally wrong.

There’s nothing “less exciting” about Julie. Most of us have our “Julie-moments” that we can share. Like Auntie Reetie’s (what Julie called “Auntie Ruthie”) account of how Julie told them, “Don’t bother me” when she was eating. And how tickled Uncle Zee was when Julie stuck to him at church to make sure he didn’t forget to take her home with us. Or Auntie Sally’s recollection of how, after she playfully kissed Julie, Julie surprised her with an emotional outburst. And Kuya John John’s, and especially Kuya Jeremy’s, favorite story of how Julie dipped her pigtails in chicken soup to try to straighten her hair. (I confirmed the details of that last story with Miriam. And, I need to add that these stories were about the preschooler Julie – just to be clear.)

No. There’s no overlooking Julie.

In the fall after her successful completion of the International Baccalaureate program at Princess Anne High School, Julie started college life at William & Mary. That first semester was not easy. We had lost our beloved Mama Fe, Julie’s buddy, earlier that year. And “life” brought on some difficult experiences. But Kristin was there, and the sisters had each other for support for the next two years.

After a rough start, Julie dug in and began to flourish. One year she was involved in the college’s TED talks – a lecture series used to share ideas on topics involving Technology, Entertainment and Design. She also joined the campus Christian group and gave of her time to the Pineapple Kids program, a tutoring and mentoring program for kids in the community.

As she entered her third year, she was on her own. But she continued to expand her horizon. She became a research assistant (I believe for two professors). And she continued to volunteer her time for community service. But most importantly, she grew in her spiritual life as well. At one AOY retreat she gave a general-sessions talk based on a book that truly inspired her, Love Does.Then she volunteered to be the main organizer for the next AOY retreat.

One of the traditions at William & Mary is for the senior students to ring the bell at the Wren Building after their final class. When Julie rang the bell, it marked the ending of four years of studies. But what Julie learned was far beyond any school text book. The beginning of her instructions started in her home with the Biblical and moral values taught by her mom and dad. It continued with her lunches with her beloved Mama Fe during her senior year in high school. And, because of the prompting of Yahweh’s Spirit, Julie sought after avenues to increase her knowledge through those Yahweh placed in her path. Julie learned her lessons well.

Yahweh used Julie’s time at William & Mary, the good times as well as the bad, to help her develop a stronger relationship with Him and to give her a heart of service to those in need. Then He made the way for her to use the academic knowledge she acquired to further her education in the master’s program in the Psychology Department at Old Dominion University. It is quite apparent that He has great plans for the newest alumni of William &Mary.

Six years ago, the Rodil family started their story at William & Mary. They were able to stroll through the Sunken Gardens and embrace the history of the time-honored college. Miriam and Donald beamed with pride as their firstborn received her diploma at the historic Wren Building two years ago. We were privileged to witness that milestone for their family.

As I watched the ceremony in the Phi Beta Kappa Hall, I knew that we were witnesses to another milestone—the final chapter of the Rodils’ story at this institute of education that took such great care of this wonderful family. William & Mary did right by them.

Thank you, Miriam and Donald, for allowing all of us to be a part of your journey through the honored grounds of William & Mary for the past six years. Those days of moving in and packing out are now part of your history. Congratulations on the success of “Julie A’Carmen.”

Julie, you’ve made us all proud. Your perseverance is truly inspiring. ODU is blessed to have a student of your caliber. May Yahweh continue to lift you up higher and higher.

To the Rodil family, we all look forward to your sequel.

From Generation to Generation

People join clubs for many reasons. Status. Community. Obligation.

Some clubs invite you to join — risk-free. If you don’t think it’s a right fit for you, you can quit. Other clubs require commitment. You need to think long and hard before becoming a member.

Ruthie and David, became members of an elite club last month. Among the privileges of membership—the right to be called “Grandparents.” At the same moment, their daughter, Stephanie, and her husband Raymond become members of a new club of their own – the Honor Society of Parenthood.

The induction ceremonies took place on March 20, 2018 and was made possible because of a baby boy named Joseph Lorenzo Espino.

The journey to this momentous day was not always smooth. The excitement that usually accompanies a much-awaited pregnancy was tempered by caution. Complicating circumstances delayed the joyful announcement, with the news limited at first to family members. Ruthie would share the progress of the expectant mom and the yet-to-be born “Buddy,” as well as the loving preparations made at home by the industrious dad-to-be. We all hoped and prayed amongst ourselves, petitioning the Master Creator for a good outcome.

When “Buddy” reached the point in the pregnancy where Stephanie and Ray felt it was a good time to spread the blessed news, a “sound of great joy” broke out in the Assembly.

In the early morning of March 19, 2018, we got the text that Stephanie and Ray were headed for the hospital. Then, in the early moments of March 20, the text we all were waiting for finally arrived. The “expectants” made the transition into their new roles. Stephanie and Ray became “Mommy” and “Daddy,” and Ruthie and David became “Grandma” and “Grandpa,” to a perfect baby boy.

Eager to welcome the new inductees into the Brother- and Sister-hood of Grandparents were Luis and Sally. They couldn’t wait for Ruthie and David to experience the joys of their new roles. And Jayna and Stephen, welcomed their cousins to parenthood. They could finally share the joys of being parents with the new members, and Jonah and Indie now had an “Asercion” baby cousin to play with.

Just as excited as our side of the family was at the arrival of Baby Joseph, so too were the Espino family. This little guy is the first grandchild on both sides. And he happens to look like “Lolo” Espino.

This past Sabbath, April 14, Stephanie and Ray made one of the most important decisions they would make as parents. They dedicated their baby boy to Yahweh. Surrounded by both sets of new grandparents, Stephanie and Ray “placed” Baby Joseph into the Hands of the Giver of all good things. The proud Great-Uncle Luis prayed for Yahweh to bless both the baby and new parents.

Baby Joseph is a truly blessed little boy. He is surrounded by love from both sides of the family. He is blessed by a heritage of two sets of experiences and values that make the Lorenzo and Espino families special and unique.

If I may speak from my point of view, as a proud sister, aunt, and great-aunt, Joseph’s blessings also come from two very special people—Mama Fe and Papa Paul. It was because of them that his Grandma Ruthie was able to stay strong for his Mommy during the rough patches in the journey to his birth. It was because of them that his Mommy was able to weather the “storms” that threatened to discourage her and his Daddy. It was because of them that his parents would bring him before Yahweh and praise His Holy Name. It was because of them—their faith.

In the Old Testament, Yahweh is known as the “the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac and the Elohim of Jacob” (Exodus 3:15, NIV). For Baby Joseph, Yahweh is the Elohim of Paul and Fe, the Elohim of Ruthie and David, the Elohim of Stephanie and Raymond. And Yahweh is his Elohim, too.

To Ruthie and David: You have taken the faith of Mom and Dad, and Auntie Bay and Uncle Along, as your own and have passed that to the generation after you. Because of your faithfulness, Yahweh has blessed you and your children. And now you will see a new generation grow and flourish under Yahweh’s guidance and care. Congratulations as you relish in your new roles as Grandparents.

To Stephanie and Raymond: Your faithfulness to Yahweh during your journey to parenthood has been an inspiration to us all. Baby Joseph is so very blessed to have such a devoted and loving father who will care and protect him with all that he has, and a mother who will cherish and devote herself to him with all her heart. Thank you for inviting us to join you in your journey as a new family. Congratulations, and may Yahweh bless you and guide you always. Enjoy your new names – “Mommy” and “Daddy.”

To Baby Joseph: Welcome, welcome to our family! You are such a cute little guy! And you are so very blessed to have two families who love you very much. May Yahweh send His angels to guard and protect you. You are a precious gift from above and we love you so very much!

From Mama Fe and Papa Paul to Ruthie and David to Stephanie and Raymond to Joseph and to his future children. The heritage of faith in Yahweh will continue from generation to generation.

“But from everlasting to everlasting Yahweh’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts” (Psalm 103:17-18, NIV).

Yet Another Milestone

As I type this, I’m thinking forward to tomorrow – the first day of the 2017-2018 school year.

We did our practice run in the Zuniga household, as we do every year. After a whole summer of getting to bed late and waking up the next day by noon, sometimes later, Zechariah got in bed by 10 PM last night for a wake up at 7 AM. He’ll actually have to wake up an hour earlier starting tomorrow.

When I went to check on him last night and told him he needed to get to sleep, he said it was still early. I reminded him that he needed to get used to the school schedule. But I so much wanted to let him stay up one more night, his last night of summer vacation.

Morning came very quickly today. I went to wake up my sleeping child. He greeted me with a smile. As planned, I made him his healthy breakfast and let him eat in bed, our day-before-school tradition for the past 3-4 years.

After getting him settled, I sat down for my morning devotion. Then it hit me. Hit me hard.

Zechariah will be starting high school tomorrow.

High School. It sounds so grown up. I got used to his being fourteen. But I’m not ready for my son to become a high schooler. I’m not ready to see him staying up late to finish his homework and stressing over tests and projects. I remember my school years, and I’m not ready to have my son go through the hardships of the rigorous program he will face.

The stress of the last year of middle school broke Zechariah down. It hurt him. And, as a result, it hardened him. The restful, unstructured days of summer brought healing and restoration. But not just to Zechariah. To me. To my relationship with my son.

The struggle Zechariah went through in school was compounded by my desire for him to excel. I pushed him to work harder – to “reach his potential.” I was looking to the future and college. But in looking too far forward, I missed what was going on in the present. I missed the fact that I had placed a heavy burden on my son’s shoulders.

This past summer, Yahweh made a schedule for Zechariah. It involved time with family and friends. Those special people in Zechariah’s life brought back the joy he was missing. And while Yahweh healed Zechariah, He changed me. Yahweh showed me how to encourage and support my son without tearing him down. Yahweh taught me how to SHOW my love to Zechariah – through the words I spoke, through the time I gave, through the willingness to just sit and listen.

These last two weeks of summer have been filled with a peace in our home that we haven’t experienced in a long time. Our family vacation was conflict-free and filled with enjoyment and fun. That’s probably why I’m not ready for summer to end. But end it must.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV).

This school year is another milestone year for the youngest of Mom and Dad’s grandkids. Kristin moved into her first apartment away from home, in Georgetown. Julie is in her senior year at William & Mary. Lindsey starts her senior year at Princess Anne High school. And Zechariah starts ninth grade at Bayside High School.

Perhaps it’s just me, but sometimes I just want time to stand still. Or maybe go back to where the only thing on the children’s minds were what game to play next. But time goes on. And it’s time for a new year to start, filled with new knowledge and new experiences.

Yesterday, Zechariah told me that he was actually looking forward to school. He said he always liked learning. He is ready. He’s ready for school and ready to grow up. I hope I’m ready – to help him grow up.

Tomorrow I release my son into a new world. He has left the burden of middle school behind him and is ready for a fresh start. And he will have the love and re-vamped support from his dad and me.

To my precious Zechariah, my lovely Rodil nieces, and to all my family and friends, I pray over you the promise from Psalm 121:7-8 (NIV):

Yahweh will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life. Yahweh will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

At Last…Happily Ever After

Sunday evening, May 28, 2017 – the much-anticipated wedding.

The setting: the Chrysler Museum of Art.

Tall pillars align the sides of the grand room. At the far end of the room, angled stairwells, artfully decorated with floral arrangements and draping white fabric, frame a beautiful wall of flowers. The scene is reminiscent of the ballroom in the Disney animated movie “Beauty and the Beast.”

The string ensemble begins to play. The grandmothers are escorted to their seats of honor.

Then the groom enters with his mother – he, tall and handsome in his tuxedo and she, radiant and beautiful in her pink gown.

Next to enter – the mother of the bride, regal and matronly, escorted by the bride’s stalwart brother.

From the side enter the pastor-father, the groom and the best man. As the strings fill the grand room with the music of the ages, the groom is overcome with emotion. Could this really be what he has pictured in his mind and rehearsed day after day, year after year, waiting for the perfect moment – the perfect girl?

Pair by pair the wedding party enter. The groom’s men looking sharp in their tailor-made tuxedos. The bride’s maids lovely in their individually-chosen pink gowns. Then, as if to remind everyone of the joy and wonderment of the occasion, the flower girls and Bible bearers make their way to the waiting groom.

Finally, the moment has arrived – the bride enters with the protective hands of her brothers on each of her arms. The maiden, whose quiet and gentle spirit stole the Prince’s heart and the hearts of his family. Elegant and beautiful in her wedding gown, she is met by her Prince.

The marriage is sealed. The Prince and his Princess are married – Jeremiah and Corazon are ONE.

Those of us who were blessed to witness the wonderful wedding ceremony and celebrate at the reception that followed felt like the guests at Cinderella’s ball. We had the opportunity to dress up and walk through the halls of the Chrysler – the venue that meant so much to Jeremy and Cora during their courtship. The couple allowed us into their world and let us participate in their dream.

The beautiful flowers and decorations, imagined and designed by Sally, were lovingly assembled by loyal family and friends as a show of appreciation for the tireless efforts of Sally to make everything beautiful for the weddings of others. The well-planned and executed programs for the wedding ceremony and reception were orchestrated by the loving efforts of Jayna and co-coordinator Aiden.

To those who devoted many months of their time in preparation for the grand event, you transformed the grand room into a palace. And for those of us who were able to play even a small role, what an honor to be part of that day.

I remember when Jeremy was younger he used to like the movie “Ever After,” a reimagining of the classic Cinderella. Like Prince Charming, he searched. But as I watched my nephew and listened to his vows, I realized what he had been searching for. And it appeared that he found what he was looking for – certainty within himself that he could provide for and love and respect and protect and remain devoted to the love of his life. That there is a Creator, and that his Creator had smiled on him that day. Jeremy has always wanted everything to be just right. And from where I sat, I could see that he found within his heart a readiness to receive the treasure from Heaven and be the husband Cora truly deserved.

The authors of fairytales create splendor, elegance, happy endings. But those stories aren’t really true to life. Not the case for Jeremy and Cora.

Yahweh is the Creator of true grace and generosity and a beautiful spirit. All these wonderful qualities in Cora that Jeremy adores and treasures are from Yahweh alone. The gentleness, integrity, and devotion that fills Jeremy’s heart are also from Yahweh. Yahweh chose Jeremy for Cora and Cora for Jeremy before the beginning of time. And since He wrote their story, everything about their lives is true and real.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, and coming down from the Father….” James 1:17 NIV.

To Jayna:     It was so good to hear the gratitude and admiration Jeremy expressed when he and Cora thanked you for all you did for them. You are truly gifted. And Stephen – your love and support for Jayna is always appreciated because you play a big role in the success of all her ventures.

Louie and Sally:     You both have such open and generous hearts. So many of us have been blessed by your willing and giving spirits. It was a grand celebration of the love that flows from your marriage to your children. Because of you, your son’s dream has come true.

To the entire Mesia family:     I know that I speak for the entire Asercion family when I say “Welcome!” We are so happy to be a part of your family and you ours.

To Cora and Jeremy:     Thank you for allowing us to be part of your fairytale wedding. What a wonderful day! And thank you for honoring Mama by requesting that her Bible be part of the ceremony. I visited Mama and Papa’s resting place the day after your wedding.  They would have been so proud of both of you. As I looked at the picture of their smiling faces, I couldn’t help but say, “It was a good day.”

My prayer for you:    “May the grace of [Sovereign Yeshua Messiah], and the love of [Yahweh], and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you….” 2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV

With Yahweh as the Author and Center of your marriage, you will live “Happily Ever After.”

Grand Opening

Allegra’s Gallery had its grand opening yesterday. Aiden and Andrew’s Bridal and Formal Wear salon has been open for business since last month, but yesterday was a celebration of the birth of their new venture.

Despite the cold and wind, the ribbon-cutting ceremony was the start of a warm invitation for family and friends to experience the excitement of the day.

When customers walked through the doors, they were greeted by, well, “Bright and Happy.”

Newly arrived gowns sparkled under the light cascading down from the chandeliers. Upbeat music flowed from DJ Raymond’s sound system. The open floor plan welcomed exploration.

But most importantly, each newcomer was greeted with hospitality and a smile. Even window-shoppers couldn’t help but get caught up in the happy, energetic atmosphere.

Let’s face it. Most women, regardless of our age, love to play dress-up. A beautiful gown and glittering shoes let us become princesses for even a moment. So, it was extra fun to watch the ladies step onto the platform and view themselves for the first time in the mirror.

A little girl, the daughter of a bride-to-be, jumped up and clapped her hands when she saw herself in her junior bridesmaid dress. A young lady shimmied to the music in the blue prom dress. A wife paraded and posed in her gown as her appreciative husband became her paparazzi.

The most touching moment for me was when a young lady, who serves our country, finally found her wedding dress. She had tried five dresses the day before. But when she put on her first pick in Allegra’s, a new arrival, that was it. The dress was perfect. No alterations needed. Her excitement was so contagious! She twirled and danced as her mother snapped picture after picture.

At one point, there were two to three customers waiting to check out with their purchases. Over the course of a couple of hours, several gowns and shoes were sold. It obviously was a successful Grand Opening.

As a doting Aunt, I couldn’t have been more excited for Andrew and Aiden. But I also couldn’t have been more proud. They used the launching of their store to help advertise other small businesses as well. Makeup specialists, custom decorators, a photographer and a videographer were all able to showcase their talents and receive inquiries that hopefully will lead to clients. They wanted to spread the “wealth” with those vendors and not keep the blessings just to themselves. And Andrew and Aiden wanted to make sure to include those who matter most to them – their family and friends.

Just before they cut the ribbon, Andrew offered a prayer and asked Yahweh to oversee their new business. Even with all their preparation – networking, advertising, purchasing – he and Aiden placed their hopes and dreams in Yahweh’s hands.

In his Sabbath message, Uncle Louie shared a message about Joshua. In Joshua 1:7-8 (NIV), Yahweh encourages the new leader of His chosen people: “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Louie then pointed out that “success” in Yahweh’s eyes is very different from the world’s view. Doing the will of Yahweh, walking in His path, glorying His Name, and finding and doing what Yahweh has purposed for our lives – these are what make us successful.

We all want Aiden and Andrew and Allegra’s Gallery to succeed. If the Grand Opening Day is an indication of the days, months, and years to come—a day filled with bringing happiness to people, helping others with their own business dreams, including family and loved ones in the blessings, honoring Yahweh and keeping Him the focus of every thought and decision—then Andrew and Aiden have already succeeded.

Psalms 90:17 (Jerusalem Bible): May the sweetness of Yahweh be on us! Make all we do succeed.

To Aiden and Andrew – May the sweetness of Yahweh be with you on your new journey.