A MAN NAMED BOB  By Lori A Alicea

His name is Bob.

You know him.

That person who cannonballs into the pool of your life, a super soaker whose name you carry a towel around most days to dry off from the splashes of their love.

We have a lot to learn from these men named Bob.

World changers and difference makers and probably unaware of the bright light they are shining.

A man named Bob in our life is the Welcome Mat of a small housing community, whose contagious smile has become the face of our neighborhood, a close knit place to hang your hat, to call this home.

Nestled among the towering trees that shade our neighborhood of sixty-plus manufactured houses, you might just blink and miss the entrance off the road leading into the small town ahead.

But one short drive through this community and odds are you’ll run into a one-man parade, our maintenance man smiling and waving from his (work van, truck or golf cart), to passerby’s or porch sitters returning their love to Bob.

The main attraction of this neighborhood, I find it symbolic that Bob’s home shared with his sweetheart, rests on the lot located in the center and heart of our community.

While fulfilling his job description as maintenance man with excellence, it isn’t these qualifications that catch our attention, yet are the initial reasons Bob finds his way into our homes and into our lives.

It’s that reflection of the many vintage homes once fashionable in the fifties and sixties, which now mirror the weathered looks of our resident fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers who hold hostage the heartstrings of a loving maintenance man who finds himself sometimes filling the shoes as son or grandson where there used to be one or painfully cries out for one.USE Vintage House

While we’ve all been taught to never judge a book by its cover, the same holds true for homes overgrown with weeds, and a Welcome sign dangling by a few remaining links in the chain.USE Overgrown Weeds Because near these front doors are recliners of isolated people longing for a knock, wishing to welcome anyone to share a cup of coffee, or spare them a minute when hours of loneliness is all they have to look forward to.

Bob knows these people by name.

He honors them by being that knock on the door.

He shares in their pain and like a good son or grandson,

Bob hovers with a close eye over them.

I’ve never noticed these vintage homes hidden off the path of a familiar road until David and I needed a home.

To be honest, the very first time I assessed the neighborhood, I drove out as fast as driving in. Not for me, or so I thought.

A few weeks passed when I decided to pay another unannounced visit and walk thru a home I saw on the realtor website.

Getting out of my car, this park’s Welcome Mat greeted me with his signature smile and became our neighbor weeks later.USE Full Front House

The neighborhood hadn’t changed from my initial drive thru, but I soon sensed its country feel of Home Sweet Home after meeting a man named Bob.USE Home Sweet Home

This peace no doubt is related to one man deputizing himself as son or grandson and honoring a generation of weathered matriarchs and patriarchs without judgment, without strings, yet given from a heart of family.

While a log cabin settled on a piece of land in the woods could have been a dream come true for us, yet God chose an address where the park’s Gold Rule is lived through a man named Bob.

Love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than this.
Mark 12:31 NIV

Oh, the lessons we’ve learned from Bob, whose classroom ignites a deep passion to pay it forward.

On winter days he shows up on a secret mission to plow driveways impassible with snow.  Why?  Because that’s what good neighbors and a man named Bob does.

He displays a willingness to serve whether on the clock or not.

He ensures the neighborhood safety by weeding out trouble.

He promotes community by joining conversations David and I are having with other neighbors we meet on our evening walks together. Reminds me of the old days growing up when neighbors brought out their lawn chairs and congregated after dinner.

The little kids are crazy about Bob; and so are we.

Next Employee Appreciation Day, we’re nominating Bob for a raise; a wonderful thought for your Bob too.

Until then, we’ll keep appreciating and waving when our one-man parade passes by the house.

Here’s to the best neighbor ever.

Here’s to your man and our man named Bob.

TOGETHER…and always…By Lori Alicea

You know her…

That girl you grew up with and led inseparable lives from morning ‘till night, until the dinner bell rang her home.

That girl whose shadow followed you from the swings to the monkey bars of the playground, where one was never seen without the other.

KIZZIE ROSALEE same seat

That girl who shared a pea in your pod; and everything glitter from your imaginations.

That fun loving girl whose zest was that added ingredient from the spice rack of your friendship.

That Together…and always

You both…

Lived well,
Laughed often,
and loved much;
By Bessie Anderson Stanley

KIZZIE ROSALEE holding hands walking

You know her…

That sister…
That daughter…
That neighbor…
That confidant…
That co-worker…
That neighbor…
That pen-pal…
That cousin…

That one person completely opposite and day-and-night from you;

Yet that one person who filled in the chapter blanks of your once in a lifetime friendship.

A relationship written and framed around these words…

Friends are kisses blown to us by angels.
Anonymous

Eleanor Roosevelt
Said it even better…

Many people will walk in and out of your life,
But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

Together…and always…

Friends are a treasure trove of unopened surprises.
Rosalee Kizzie on boat 1
Friends see the world through each others eyes…
Rosalee Kizzie on boat 2
Friends hear their song played in a different key.
Friends interpret life in a dance all their own.

Friendship is an adventure willing to take an uncharted journey to an unknown destination; as the travels of friendship finds you…

Together…and always…

That girl who smiles in the calm and still found by your side when the swells overtake is a friend…

who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 NIV

As seasons take their turn to keep watch during winter…spring…summer and fall…

Friendships must keep watch during those seasons which hand over the baton and changing of the guard.
Mountain view
The unexpected visitor of good-bye shows up unannounced and without warning sometimes…

Summer camp is over…
Leaving for college…
A job change…
Moving…
Marriage…

Death…of a friendship…
Death…of one of us…
Rosalee Kizzie hugging
The sun may go down on the friendship between you and that girl, but friendships are never forgotten in the night…as morning always remembers.

The distance of miles may separate but the longing for one another keeps you close at heart.

Friends are worth the adventure, worth the risk of the swell.
KIZZIE ROSALEE waves
While the picture of my friendships might not resemble a class reunion.

I have been blessed with a few snapshots handpicked by God for me to share life and death with, marriage and divorce with, kids and college with, and so much more.

These Godly friendships pour into the cups of each other’s lives while sitting across the table from one another over coffee.

These God-like friendships are sometimes infrequent calls, yet pick up right where we left off from the last conversation.

Friendships that remember me every Monday evening after dinner for years just to say hello and end with an “I love you.”

Million dollar friendships I can’t wait to re-kindle when we cross paths again on the golden streets of heaven.

Friendships that know when my refrigerator and finances are unexpectedly low, and unload their overflowing trunks to restock me once again.

True friends whose hands refuse to let me go in my pain and emptiness.

true friends that leave their footprints in your heart.
Eleanor Roosevelt
KIZZIE ROSALEE holding hands water keep
God continues to fill my basket with friends who need me and they in return.

Who…

Together…and always

Lived well,
Laughed often,
and loved much;
By Bessie Anderson Stanley

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