Tag Archives: Nebraska

A Haze of Purple Glory

It’s amazing to me how quickly my boys have caught on the local scene. The common thread that unites every Nebraskan from the lights of Omaha to the powder of the sand dunes to the trees at Arbor Lodge. The pastime that defies seasons and almost showed up on the state quarter. Don’t know yet? Let me help you out:

Football.

A couple of weeks ago we took the boys to see the local high school football team–the Milford Eagles–in their first home game. I should tell you that football is not a new thing for us. We have taken the boys to see at least one high school football game every year since they were toddlers–Orlando always felt it was his duty as a teacher to show up to such events, plus the football coach in Lititz was his friend and we enjoyed going out to support him. And we’ve always been Nebraska Huskers fans, so it’s not like the boys have never seen a football game or watched us cheer on our teams. So why now, all of a sudden, have we been struck with football fever?

It all began a few Friday’s ago when the boys got in the van after school. Everyone filing out of the school building was wearing purple and my socially savvy Anthony had taken note. “Mom,” he said,” We should get Milford Eagles shirts. We are Milford Eagles now, you know.”  “I’ll work on it.” was all I said, but it dawned on me that this is their first experience actually going to school in the town they live in and they were wanting to be a part of the community of Milford Eagles fans. I took that as a good sign and logged into my memory the need to find some purple shirts.

Later that evening we were sitting in the stands behind the band. We were all jazzed up by the inflatable Eagle Man and the boom of the snare drums.  Then came the kickoff and the Milford Eagles lined up along the sidelines in front of us. It was Nicholas who noticed it first. “Hey Mom, there’s a guy down there wearing a shirt that says ‘N Roth.’ That’s just like me! I’m ‘N Roth,’ too!”  And before you knew it, we had identified an N Roth, T Roth, B Roth, and Z Roth on the field in front of us.

As the game went on, it became obvious to all of us that Z Roth was quite a football player. It seemed like on every other play “The ball was carried by Z Roth for a total of umpteen yards.” My in-laws and their friends started murmuring, “That Z is some player.” “Is he only a junior? Really?” “Wow, he can kick the ball, too?” His dad must be proud.”

His dad? Finally it dawned on me to ask Orlando about Z Roth and his teammates, and as it turns out, Z’s dad is Orlando’s cousin. Our closest neighbor. His roosters wake us up every morning. And N Roth is his brother, also our neighbor. And T and B Roth are also cousins.

“Z. Roth is our second cousin? And he’s our neighbor?” They boys were shocked, amazed. Could not believe their good fortune at being related to not only one, but a whole line of football players.” Anthony immediately declared the news to the second grader sitting in the stands in front of us. “What?” said the boy. “Didn’t you just move here? That’s so cool!”  And in that moment  Z Roth and his teammates were elevated to rock-star-status. Cooler than cool. Milford Eagles–the thing to be.

And now my boys want to be football players. All of them. Not that they would ever abandon their love of baseball, instead they have added this to the repertoire of things they want to do. “You know, Mom, in Milford third graders can play flag football.” “You know, Mom, we’re allowed to play football on the playground.” “You know, Mom, they make football helmets for kids–maybe I could get one for Christmas?” And of course Anthony, with his theological summary of the situation: “You know, Mom, I’m a big guy. We’re all big guys. Maybe God made us big to play football.”

“Maybe.” I said.

But I can see it. The Milford Eagles lining up on the sidelines with B Roth, A Roth, N Roth, and D Roth standing in a row. A band of brothers all carrying the ball in a haze of purple, football glory. It’s the stuff little boy dreams are made of.

And who knows? It could happen.

Maybe.

Proud fans

 

The Inflatable Eagle

 

Sidelines

 

Navigating the New Ordinary

For the most part–most of the day, most of time–the daily reality of life is a constant that defies geography. It has a rhythm that does not change, even for those of us who are making a home 1400 miles away from the last one. We get up, get dressed, make breakfast, lunch, and dinner, clean up, go to work, go to school, go the church, wash the clothes, take out the trash. The work is similar. The rhythm is consistent. What changes is the scenery. The people. The differing customs and cultures of American life so slight you could miss them if you aren’t careful and will certainly step on them if you’re too clumsy.

Case and point, back in Pennsylvania when I took out the trash, I put the glass and cans in a bin that was carted away somewhere by one truck and everything else in a can that was carted away to an unknown landfill by another truck. I did my ecological duty by sorting it out, but had no idea what ever became of it. Here in Nebraska when I take out the trash, I take the recyclable material and sort it into separate bins: aluminum, tin, glass, plastic, and paper. (Minus the egg cartons which we save to give to the local second hand shop to sell farmers who can use them.) Later we take them into town to be recycled, but they have different destinations. I give the food scraps to the animals. I compost the remaining organic leftovers for the garden. I put the “junk metals” in a separate container that almost never gets full that will eventually go for scrap. And then finally,  I take everything that is left, throw it in this enormous barrel, and I burn it. Nothing goes down the garbage disposal. Little goes to the landfill.  So even though the end is the same–I get rid of the trash–the process is lengthier. Here, through the lack of convenience, people not only know what happens to their trash, they have to deal with it themselves. And that dealing has the effect of making them more mindful, more conscious, and less wasteful. So I’m still doing the ordinary and taking out the trash, but you could say that it’s a “new ordinary.”

Other new ordinary activities are equally different. I still have to grocery shop, but am back to square one in deciding what the cheapest and most efficient way is to get this done. I’m used to having a variety of grocery stores within five minutes of my home.That is not the case here.  There is one in town, but it is more of convenience store than a grocery store. The big ones in Lincoln have more variety and are cheaper. So this means I have to think way ahead and plan better, otherwise I’m paying ten bucks for a pack of hot dog rolls or driving an hour there and back for a gallon of milk. No more figuring out what to make for dinner on the way home after school unless I simply deal with what I’ve got in the cupboard. And if I have a last minute craving for Chinese food because I’m too late to cook, you can just about forget about that and put on some mac and cheese for the kids. There is no last minute. There is no “could you run and get me some….” There is no “convenience.”

Don’t get me wrong I don’t find all this bad, it’s just different. And it does occasionally trip me up. I can’t buy a cup of coffee from the local coffeeshop after 2pm. That same grocery store is closed on Sundays. And we are at the way far end of the line for internet–the technician thought it was a miracle we could hook up at all.

So here I sit, typing away on my slower-than–I’m-used-to computer, working at adjusting my thinking away from a world full of “quick and easy.”

And trying hard not to tap my foot while I wait.

Hitting the Water

Today is July 21, 2011.  It is Nicholas’s seventh birthday. And as much as we are thrilled for our little boy and his seven candles, it was what happened yesterday that has us truly rejoicing.

Orlando was hired to teach in Lincoln. Finally.

Okay, so it took a bit longer than we expected, but he was offered two jobs and took the one at the school that he really, really wanted to be part of this entire time. The school he had worked for previously in Nebraska. A school that had just one job opening this year. A position they were happy to give him and he was honored to accept.  God truly had his hand in this because believe it or not, the timing was just about perfect.  I think our entire family heaved a collective sigh of relief upon hearing the news.

Through the whole adventure I’ll admit not allowing myself the luxury of considering a Plan B. I didn’t want to even begin to think of how we would restore the  life in Pennsylvania we so neatly dismantled to come here. But when the word finally came and the reality of our move was finalized, I had to take a moment to catch my breath. Wow, I thought, we’re really not going back. And for just a second I was struck with all those mixed feelings of loss and joy that have so marked the journey here. It felt like we jumped to take the plunge so long ago, but even after the long way down, the shock of hitting the water was still, well, a shock.

So here we are. Residents of Milford, Nebraska. Population 2052. So on our first day of being real residents, the boys and I went to town and did the right thing: we applied for a library card. And tomorrow, the search for an internet connection on the farm begins. Can’t do the blog from the library forever!

And tomorrow we figure out how to get our stuff from there to here in the next week. Orlando begins his new job on August 2!

More later friends. Thanks for your patience with the sporatic blogging. I promise to catch you when I’m connected.

Sweet, Sweet Home

It’s amazing how days just roll by here. So much, and so little, has happened it’s hard to know where to begin. Suffice it to say the farm in the summertime is a hopping place.

Really.

Last Monday morning we woke up to our first Nebraska morning. Cooler than I thought it would be but far from actually being cool, our first day was spent primarily in the sour cherry trees out in the orchard. Completely full of ripe fruit and not able to wait another day, the six of us stood on ladders and large buckets picking and picking and picking until we were all soaking wet and sticky with juice. With so many buckets of newly picked cherries, the only thing to do next was to pit them all. Sitting on the deck getting stickier still, I was once again captured by the quiet of the place. Peaceful. Tranquil. The breeze stirring the trees. A far-off tractor. The boys laughing off in the barn. It was enough peace to silence even the clamor that occurs in my own head.  Usually, when faced with a mundane chore like pitting cherries, I plug in my iPod to create rhythm and a quicker pace. Not here. I wouldn’t dream of interrupting the soothing sound of the place itself. And the clock isn’t running either so there’s nothing to be gained by rushing.

And so we spent our first days: picking from the garden, mowing the yards, planning what to do next. The boys were thrilled to catch a glimpse of the only kitten to be born this year on the farm. “Sparky,” as Milt named her, is just a tiny fuzzy, black thing with huge eyes. It only took us a day of hand feeding her to get her to a place where we could pet her. And now, almost a week later, she’s tame enough to pick up, cuddles up against us when we sit outside, follows us when we walk away from her. The boys are smitten with her. The fish we carted from Pennsylvania largely forgotten–except by Nicholas who still checks in on them daily.

On Saturday Orlando’s family began to arrive. It’s a tradition for he and his sisters to gather at the farm for the Fourth of July. As his sisters and their families trickled in, the house filled with kids and dogs and general chaos. Of course I’m used to it—we do this every year. And of course we all visited the local fireworks trailer to pick out rockets and sparklers for the holiday. And of course we made meals for twenty plus people and tried to squeeze them all around a single table. And of course we went to the pool to cool off from the heat that crested 100 degrees on the garage thermometer. And of course, when the day came, we went into Seward, the neighboring town and self-proclaimed “Fourth of July City” for all the festivities. We watched local pilots turn their tricks in the airshow, run by local crop dusters and pilots who love to wow the hometown crowd with their courage. We browsed the quilts and art at the huge craft show, complete with any kind of Go Big Red ware you could possibly want. We waved to the horsemen and antique tractor riders and clowns and politicians and Czech queens in the local parade, standing with the crowd as the flag passed and giving a standing ovation to every single serviceman who walked by. Patriotism in its most honest, purest form. And of course we enjoyed a cookout complete with watermelon and homemade ice cream.

But the best part came later. We gathered the boys in the van and drove back into Seward for the fireworks display. Of course it’s a busy place so we had to leave the van several blocks away from the park where they blast the things. As we walked through the neighborhood, true to Nebraska tradition, every home was shooting off fireworks of their own. And they weren’t little either. The boys’ eyes were as wide as saucers and we walked through a veritable war zone of sky rockets and roman candles and artillery. The boomers clashing and spraying sparks overhead, it was both exhilarating and frightening. And beautiful. Even in my adult knowing that shooting fireworks from the middle of the street while cars drive by isn’t a smart thing, I must admit that it was cooler than cool to walk through the canopy of colored sparks and sprays.

But then, sitting on a blanket in the beautiful evening air, we sat together with the boys as the “real” fireworks burst overhead with every color and fizzle imaginable. They “ooohed” and “aahhed” with the crowd, snuggled closer for the really loud booms, and came away sleepy and content, feeling like they’d just lived through the “best day ever.”

And as we drove down the country road and the lights of the farm came into view, it was Dominick in the back seat, sleepy-eyed but watchful, who declared, “There it is! I can see it! Sweet, sweet home!”

And Orlando turned to me and smiled.

So we’re off to a good start. And even with the uncertainty of Orlando’s job and whether or not we get to stay or go, the sweetness of our new home and faith in the One who sent us is building within us. And for now, that’s enough.

Picking cherries

Nicholas and Dominick watching the tractors go by

The Midwest's smallest airport--in other words, that plane landed on top of that Suburban

Sparky

The Storm–The Trip, Part Two

We arrived at Dawn’s house in northwest Ohio at about 2:30am on Saturday, June 24. I don’t think Orlando or I had ever been more tired.

We knew the moment we stopped that we would not be getting up early to leave. We decided instead to take a day off. We decided to spend the entire day at Dawn’s house, lay low all of Saturday and leave early on Sunday morning. And that is exactly what we did. Sunday morning at 6:30 our vans departed again. Our goal: make it to the farm by sundown. The only chink in my armor—my left headlight was blown out. No problem. It doesn’t get dark in Nebraska until well after 9pm.

Refreshed from the day of rest, I was absolutely ready to be on the way. We breezed through Indiana, didn’t slow a bit in Chicago—a minor miracle if you’ve ever driven that way—and rolled through the hills of Iowa with only the minor slow downs that come with the regular construction zones that occur on those roads. Crossing through that way, the unusual sights were all the water standing in the fields, the rivers that were running over their banks, and the small bridges that had been washed out. The effects of sudden storms so full of water that even the dry, Midwestern earth couldn’t contain it. I wondered, as I crossed what seemed to be just minor waterways, what kind of rainfall has to occur to get little runs like these so high they knock out a bridge?

It didn’t take me long to find out.

As we hit the familiar territory of the Omaha area and crossed the Missouri River, ominous clouds were gathering in the west. “Look at those cumulonimbus!” the budding weather geeks in the back seats declared. The sky grew dark, glowing strangely as we circled Omaha and headed toward Lincoln. My weather meters were pegged—this could be very bad. And then I remembered that my headlight was out.

The rain hit us halfway to Lincoln. The sky just opened up and poured. I could barely see right in front of me. Growing up in Florida, I’m used to these kinds of deluges so it wasn’t a big deal at first beyond worrying that I was going to get pulled over for that headlight. But then the lightening started to bang, and the rain began to mix with hail, hammering the car topper above us and the windshield in front of me. And my weather self was well aware that I should be looking for tornadoes in these parts. As my van started to shimmy on the swamped roads, I noted that cars were pulling off the road all over the place. The underpasses were now parking lots on either side. But we needed to get there before dark because my headlight was out. And it was so dark already. I couldn’t see Orlando’s van any longer.

I would have been okay if it had gone on for five minutes like these storms do in Florida, but instead it just went on and on. Fifteen minutes of rain and hail. Now twenty minutes of feeling the van lose grip on the road. Not only couldn’t I see the road, but I couldn’t see the familiar sights of Lincoln either. The skyline. The capitol building with the Sower welcoming us to The Good Life. And it was at that point that I began to be terrified.

Orlando called me on the On-star phone. “I can’t drive in this anymore!” I declared, my terror evident in my voice. “I can’t see! The van is shimmying across the road!”

“Calm down,” he said. “The sky is getting lighter in the west. It’s almost over.”

Generally speaking, I try to remain calm in such situations so that my children remain calm. But this time, I knew they were as afraid as I was. So I decided the best course of action for all of us was to recruit the members in the back seat for more than weather watching. “Boys!” I said to them. “Pray for us! Pray that mom can drive through this and we all get there safely!”

“I’m already praying, Mom.” said Anthony. “Me, too, Mom.” said Benjamin. “We’ll pray!” said Nicholas and Dominick.

Orlando pulled us over the side of the road under the last overpass around Lincoln and let me calm down. He held my hand. He pointed out that the sky was bright ahead, that the storm was about over, and that we were almost home. And knowing I had an army of little warriors behind me, a godly man ahead of me, and a great God to protect me, I found the courage to continue.

And sure enough, as we headed out on the road again, the clouds broke apart and the beautiful, Nebraska sunset came into view. The furious storm, now to the east of us, was slowly floating away. And suddenly, we were exiting the interstate, bounding over country roads, and pulling into the lane.

We made it. We were home.

The farm lane

You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me!

It’s June–finally. The month the Lincoln Public School District promised to call Orlando for an interview. So of course he’s been staring at the phone. Wondering, waiting, holding his breath.

On Tuesday, he tried to log on to their website to see if they had posted any jobs, but the website was down. This worried him a bit. He tried to get on many times in the next few days but to no avail. Should he call, he wondered?  Should he wait it out? And then tonight, not ten minutes ago, he finally got onto the website. The site was still down, but there was a message. “We’re still trying to recover from the fire of May 31. Please log onto our Twitter or Facebook account.”

I’m sorry. FIRE?

And so we quickly logged onto the local media page and saw a tremendous video of the entire district office burning to the ground. The office that employed 250 people–one of whom is supposed to call this week and hire my husband this month. They are working on finding places for these people to return to work. They are working on recovering their data which, thankfully, was backed up off site. But their computers are gone, bulldozed under. And if Orlando had a paper file anywhere in that building, if they jotted down a note on a sticky reminding themselves to call him,  it’s toast. Literally.

I must admit, my first reaction to hearing all this was to laugh. It’s a funny thing sometimes, this faith business. Our lives are in His hands, but how easy is it for us to trust in things other than Him. Things like numbers and odds, computers, sticky notes, and even people. Sometimes it takes a fire to remind us who’s in charge. Sometimes it takes a “You’ve got to be kidding me!” moment to bring us back to a place of trust in the right One.

So here we go. Trusting in the fiery furnace.

Not Shards…Seeds.

On Sunday evening Orlando and I attended the memorial service for our dear friend Julie. It was lovely and touching and profound and anointed just like I knew it would be. She was so well loved, and is already so incredibly missed. Even so,  her service was joyous and full of the hope that comes when one moves past the veil and into glory.

And still, with so much to see and hear about the hope to come, I was struck by something completely different yet equally meaningful in the room. For the first time in years, I was in the presence of many, many old friends all at the same time. Friends who knew Julie and Gary well. Friends that had been part of my church family for years and years. Since Orlando and I joined Petra over five years ago, I had seen most of them but never all together in the same place as I did on Sunday. Lititz Christian Church, the church we attended together, had undergone some changes and many of those faithful saints had moved on to other church bodies as we had. But it wasn’t without a significant tearing for those of us who had called each other family for so long. In some ways, it was like leaving a piece of ourselves behind.

Our church move to Petra had been a healthy one, but when I encountered many of my friends from LCC in the grocery store or in the park, it always seemed to me that I was randomly running into a soul mate. Someone with whom I had shared many years of deep fellowship and communion. It didn’t really matter which person I ran into, because after so many years I had come to know almost everybody on a close and meaningful level. But somehow despite the closeness I felt with these dear saints, I could always sense the brokenness that the church “scattering” had caused. Almost as if a mirror had been shattered and we were the shards. Worrying that perhaps we would not reflect as much of Jesus separately as we did together. That we were not smooth pieces that fit in perfectly, but a sharp edges of a break that remained jagged.

I quickly learned at Petra that a lover of Jesus always has a place amongst His people. I learned that there is deep fellowship, anointed teaching, devoted friends in the house of God, wherever it may be.  Even so,  I missed my old LCC friends. And like I said, I had never seen them all together in the same place again until this past Sunday. And for the brief time we were together I could sense the presence of God with them as I have done many times before. The pastor who was leading the service told us that we were a “New Testament” crowd, and I knew exactly what he meant when he said that, but his words also triggered a hint of some understanding in my head. There were several instances when those from the “New Testament” or “early” church were scattered (often as a result of persecution.) Some went this way and some went that way. Some north and some south. Some to Rome, some to Greece, some to Jerusalem. And wherever they went, the gospel went with them and the church as a whole was strengthened and grew.

After the service as I chatted with the LCC crowd, I realized that so many of them had gone out from that place and had much to give. They’d grown and changed. They are living and thriving. They’d taken the gospel with them, into every church and town they went, and the Kingdom is richer for their efforts. And it occurred to me that when the members of the early church ran into each other years later, in whatever country they were in, they must have felt like they were running into soul mates, too. They had so much background together. So many stories to share. So many lessons they learned in the presence of each other. Trees of righteousness with common roots, but now spread out and growing just about everywhere. And it wouldn’t have happened if they had never scattered.

So we’re not really shards at all; we’re just seeds. His seeds.  Scattered, planted, growing, bearing fruit.

Atop the Nebraska State Capitol building is a beautiful statue called “The Sower.” I have always found its presence there incredibly comforting, although up to this point I would not have been able to tell you why. But as our family takes on the wind and travels to a new land, I am not afraid, but know I will forever miss all my old and new friends. But I also know that the hand that is planting us in Nebraska is the same hand that is planting each of them. Making homes for the homeless. Giving hope to the hopeless. Breathing life to the lifeless. He is the greatest Giver. He is the greatest Healer. He is the greatest Sower.

And that’s a reality I know I can live with. For myself. For all of us.

The Sower overlooks Lincoln. Photo from the Nebraska State Historical Society