WHERE TO NEXT LORD? By Lori A Alicea

Where to next Lord?

The tent stakes of our life have been pulled up and packed with all our earthly possessions, waiting on God with an answer to our question,

 Where to next Lord?

 When God asked Abraham to pull up the tent stakes of his family, Abraham asked the same question, and by faith, left without knowing, yet confident that God would show him along the way.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home… He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. Hebrews 11:8-9

I read once by Oswald Chambers that we should:

Let the attitude of life be a continual “going out” in dependence upon God and your life will have a charm about it satisfactory to Jesus. You have to learn to “go out” of convictions, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between you and God.

Looking back over the last seven years, God has had David and I on this Abraham journey, calling us out three times over to
leave without knowing
the where to which we were going.

Life has been a storybook adventure for us.
We follow a map without coordinates to guide us.
Yet the voice of our God says “go” and we trust Him for direction.

Echoing from the church pews of my childhood, this young girl sings the words to which by faith and dependence on God we walk:

WHERE HE LEADS ME
By Ernest W. Blandy

 Where He leads me I will follow.
Where He leads me I will follow.
Where He leads me I will follow.
I’ll go with Him, with Him,
All the way.

God has been abundantly faithful to David and me these twenty-five years together, highlighting the last seven years and three moves most noteworthy.

We haven’t lacked.
Our cup overflows.
Our cup is brimming of memories and grandchildren.

But sadly, moving is especially difficult on grandchildren, as young ones don’t understand the “going out” when God calls.

Children are tied to their memories as much as we grownups.

Leaving our country home of two acres was probably the most painful as our grown children bid good-by to their childhood home, and grandchildren walked away from all that room for parties, to run, play, get dirty and tractor rides with Papa.

This move was unexpected and tore the heartstrings of many to say the least.

You ask the questions “why”, but trust that wherever God is sending you, somebody needs the God companion you’re traveling with.

For three long summer months that year, David lived separately from me while I packed up and sold the house, as his allergies to our surroundings forced him away.

The emptiness of life without your soulmate was almost more than we could handle, adding the heavy burden to shoulder a wait for closure with one house and new beginnings with another.

But God is never late for an appointment even while we stare at the clock, tapping our foot in our impatience of His seemingly untimeliness.

Late that summer God welcomes us through the front door to our new address, handing the keys to an unsuspecting place called home.

Then you bloom again wherever you are planted.

Though, not the perfect place to pitch our tent according to our adult children, yet God said “go” to honoring and serving your ailing parents one street over from where we now live.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe all hold tight and carry our dreams wherever we go.

But trust that God’s dreams for us are bigger and greater than we could ever imagine.

And yes, bloom wherever you’re planted until then.

You sprout by figuring out the main things as grandparents; parks and fishing ponds, bubbles and breakfast, bike rides and snack shacks.

You bloom when you celebrate God’s gifts in family, in birthdays, in new births, in the “no reasons”, making it work wherever you’re planted, because that’s how garden’s grow.

You bloom when
HOME IS WHEREVER I’M WITH YOU.
wanatah goodyby 9Three years later, your parents no longer live one street over from yours.
Three years later God says “It’s time to go”.
Three years later we ask, “Where to next Lord?

The Abraham journey continues following the map without coordinates.

“We trust you Lord with our lives.”

Use us.
Mold us.
Make us.
Send us wherever you will.

We trust the path we were walking.

We hold the lamp to our feet that illuminates that “one step at a time” of our journey.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:105

Three weeks of walking when we pitch our tent again, next to neighbors God already knows will need us.
backyard wanatahFunny that God always knows.
Yet our peace tends to wrestle with the opponent of unanswered questions.

Home looks different once again.
Not the home of our dreams.
But dreams are what you make them.
house Bonnie's houseYou discover the silver linings and pots of gold hiding behind the curtain of contentment.

Contentment in our continual satisfaction of being together, wherever home happens to be today.
wanatah goodyby 9

Page after page of our story keeps changing in narrative.

The face of home has changed.

The faces of our grandchildren have changed in their growing up.

But gardens grow whenever you choose to plant new memories, new traditions and still reap from the “oldies but goldies.”

There are new country roads to discover peddling our fleet of bicycles that have grown from two bikes to twelve, with a place for every child no matter the age.

This is one tradition that writes the best stories of our grand-parenting history together, especially when Papa and Gaga take their spills.

There are those baseball tournaments where every child and adult must take their turn at bat. No couch potatoes in this family garden.

A new snack shack and park to ride our bikes during those open doors of cousin camp.

Yes, our cup overflows, brimming of memories and grandchildren.

Through the years we see the changes and rejoice as this next generation thrives, sprouts, blooms and flourishes in the garden they’ve been planted in.

So hard to believe that three years have gone by so quickly.

Our storybook adventure has added a few more exciting chapters to our family novel.

Three years and God is now calling us “out” again.

The tent stakes have been pulled up and all our possessions have found their temporary home in storage.

We ask the question again, “Where to next Lord?”

In two and a half weeks our Abraham journey continues unless God answers the question before we start venturing out.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home… He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. Hebrews 11:8-9

In “going out” God wants more than anything from his children their deep dependence on Him as Father.

These Abraham journeys over the last seven years have caused David and I to lean into God more, trust in Him and take Him at every word, bringing forth such growth in our garden.

Adventures don’t come without risk though.

Those last looks back, good-byes and hugs of fond farewells run the risk of heartache you try to protect yourself from, but almost unavoidable after sharing life with those who call you neighbor.

Sitting outside together most evenings, the border of your life enlarges from the investment of being neighborly.

You discover in conversation how small the world is to find one neighbor works in the same department as you did years ago.

You appreciate the simple gesture of those secret painted rocks hidden for your grandchildren placed by the neighbor across the street.

You’ll miss those conversations one neighbor was always willing to share with you, putting her walk around the block on pause to do so.

How do you say good-by to the pool people who give you the combination code to access their backyard waterpark?

You know that next door neighbor whose doorbell your grandchildren want to ring whenever that red truck is parked in the driveway, to see if they want to come out and play.

That aunt and uncle our grandchildren are crazy about, whose house they ran back and forth to from ours.  Those neighbors who you also call family, and landlord.

Good-by with these neighbors finds a WARNING sign posted in both yards; enter at your own risk.

The Town of Wanatah has rolled out the red carpet for us out-of-towners these last three years.
wanatah goodby 4Wanatah and its country charm could be the 21st century of Mayberry.

This small town is famous for its Wanatah Wave.
Whether on foot, seated in your lawn chair or driving behind the wheel, everybody waves to the other while passing by.

They don’t know you. You certainly don’t know them.  No introductions needed though as it’s the love of this community to welcome you with their Wanatah Wave.

In a few short weeks David and I bid good-by to the Wanatah corn who has proven to be “knee-high” each year in July.
wanatah goodbyWe will shut down the weekly Friday night block parties of cousin camp and give you back your peaceful Saturday mornings to sleep in.

Be praying for the neighbors unaware of our bicycle club invasion coming to their town real soon.

One final Wanatah Wave as this town bids us good-by.
wanatah goodby 3David and I have no idea where our next address will be.

We wonder about the house God has already picked out for us, confidently trust for our heart’s desire.
wanatah goodby 10

The welcome committee is ready for us.
sign 2We’ve planned.
We’ve prepared.
We’ve prayed.

We open up our map without coordinates to guide us.
We listen for God’s voice who says “go” and we trust Him for direction.

The music is queued and we sing the words to which by faith and dependence on God we walk:

Where He leads me I will follow.
I’ll go with Him, with Him,
All the way.

Where to next Lord?

We ask the questions “why”, but trust that wherever God is sending us, somebody might need the God companion we’re traveling with.

We keep a heavenly perspective as one Facebook post once quoted because:

Our lives this side of eternity are meant to be lived in “tents.”
So travel lightly and enjoy the ride.
You’re not home yet.
backyard wanatah

 

NO PLACE LIKE HOME By Lori A Alicea

“What did you want to be when you were a kid?”

A great question asked of me the other day by a twelve year old desiring to study astrophysics or something close reserved for the genius club when he grew up.

His inquisitive young mind intrigued me and drew me back into my childhood when I too dreamed of my “grown up” self.

I began with “back in the old days” referring to a TV series titled The Walton’s airing in the 1970’s, a century this “youngin” wasn’t even born in.  The Walton family depicted in the depression era whose home was built in rural Virginia overlooking Walton’s Mountain, featured an aspiring novelist named John Boy, whose life and ambitions to author books stirred that gift already in me to write.

mountains
Each episode ended at night in front of a darkened house while the family slept, panning to an open window whose curtains slightly danced to the evening breeze.
Walton House John Boy's light on in window
John Boy still awake at his dimly lit desk penning in his journal, entries narrated and accompanied by the music of Virginia’s mountains, for which I hung onto every word.

John boy writing

The answer to this twelve year old’s question,
“What did you want to be when you were a kid?”

I replied to his question, “I longed to be an author like John Boy Walton.”

Remembering I was conversing with Einstein’s distant relative, I made a feeble attempt to paint myself somewhat smart with my former career as a software developer for steel mills and gas companies and a second limited career as a paralegal in my grown up life.

Not that anyone needs to defend their careers, or dreams and desires of their younger self, I found myself doing so with a twelve year old soon-to-be scientist, already successful in his robotic endeavors.

Our conversation ended as quickly as it started, with him joining a game of tag with his cousins.

This lad reminded me our dreams can be evident early in life.  We’re born with a map pointing to our destiny, detailed and revealed by God with us taking “one step at a time”.

God is a big God.
God is a generous God who gives us multiple dreams.

Growing up, my love for home in the country celebrating the old-fashioned ways of the Walton’s, cooking, canning and sewing from scratch delighted me from a very young age, teaching myself the trades of the kitchen.  Homemade bread dough rises in a covered bowl on my kitchen counter, while cookies bake in the oven.  Breakfast biscuits are rolled out and smothered with a fresh batch of summer jam immediately after hot and golden brown.  Creations wait their turn on the sewing machine.  Scented candles permeate a country-coziness to welcome guests and that handsome husband of mine returning home from work.

A picture painted from the heart of this housewife,
“There’s no place like home.”

As much as I longed to be an author, I coveted wearing the apron of a housewife and stay-at-home mom as well.

Unfortunately my true career dreams came years after chasing what the world viewed as success, leaving my children and heart behind at the babysitter while pursuing the almighty dollar.

Did I achieve success as a computer programmer analyst?  The corporate ladder would agree but came with a steep price tag of lost time and memories never to be recouped with my children.

I wanted to be the one home making their breakfast and kissing their bruised knees.  I wanted to be the one standing outside when the school bus came before and after class with my precious cargo.  I didn’t want to be too tired and cranky during homework time.  I wanted a clean house with beds made and dishes washed.

I just wanted to be home because truly,
There’s no place like home.”

Once quoted from our Ladies Minister, Pastor Sue Zbell
“You can have it all, just not all at the same time.”

Thankfully I left the corporate ladder being able to enjoy the many years that still remained with my children living at home.

The best decision I ever made.

 Proverbs 31 describes my heart for the home…

…. She delights in the work of her hands.  Proverbs 31:13

… She watches over the ways of her household.  Proverbs 31:27

God affirms and reminds those “keepers of home”….

She will be praised throughout eternity.  Proverbs 31:30

So go ahead and give her the credit that is due,
for she has become a radiant woman,
and all her loving works of righteousness deserve to be admired
at the gateways of every city!  Proverbs 31:31

Our kids have long since left the nest of their home, creating a corner of heaven for their own sweet families for which Papa and Gaga are so proud.

I made a second attempt at another career when the children married, but realized the first day on the job…

“There’s no place like home.”

I’m back home again still savoring the job description of stay at home mom, albeit a grandmother now to ten grandchildren who need me and ask all the time to visit their Gaga and Papa.

Will I return to work one day?

I have to remind myself and daughters who have also chosen careers at home, we do work.  Our pay lasts beyond a weekly check cashed at the bank, whose dividends compound in the lives of our children and grandchildren and beyond.

Interestingly during this year of wanting more in my life, I dusted off that childhood dream and began this million mile walk of becoming an author with the first step penning encouragement entries in my journal called a “blog”.

John boy writing

While I write as a lasting legacy for my children and grandchildren, I get the privilege and overwhelming joy of taking you faithful readers with me during this journey, hopefully encouraging and inspiring your lives and dreams along the way.

My heart will always be that lighthouse illuminating the way home.

Home is where you lay your head at night.
Home is your safe place.
Home is a place of refuge.
Home is where your framed picture hangs on the wall.
Home has your name on the mailbox.
Home has its memories baked into the walls.
Home misses you when you turn the page and leave for the next chapter in life.

May my words I type capture this love of mine for home.

May my children and grandchildren treasure their legacy of words I have written especially for them.

May they read between the sentences and paragraphs that their greatest wealth in life is family and each other.

As an author inspired by a fictional character named John Boy who valued and wrote about family as I do, may my words continue to flow until the last page titled
“The End”.

May my children and grandchildren experience God’s truth that you don’t have to look any farther than your own back yard for fame and fortune.

May our prayers be full of gratitude for those that God has blessed us with to share our lives.

The light has been left on in the window in case you need to find your way back home.

The world can’t offer what home has to give.
You’re safe and sound in the four walls of your address.

Keep that framed picture close to your heart,
“There’s no place like home.”