Plunging into a gold mine and scaling Pikes Peak — were just two of the adventures at our family reunion in Colorado two years ago. My uncle booked the same camp for our 2020 reunion because we loved the area so much.
But I only had to read a handful of missionary prayer letters to know 2020 plans were seismically shifting to the ends of the earth. So it wasn’t a huge shock when our camp location had to change last minute.
The reunion was moved to … “no place like home” … Kansas.
I opened my mouth to complain big. But then I remembered this orchestration isn’t an accident. God has not wasted a single (what we would call) Plan B.
Time to pull out the big guns, so I’ve gathered my data and experiences to hopefully remind me (and any of my cousins reading this) of the charm of the heart of the US where I grew up. It’s true — the location alone is worth the price of 5 days of accrued vacation.
In fact, here are six reasons why you might consider booking a Kansas vacation as your backup plan.
1. The History
Wouldn’t you like to trace where Lewis and Clark, the pioneers, Buffalo Bill, the pony express, and Laura Ingalls Wilder all left their wagon ruts and hoof prints?
One of my first field trips was to the Seeley Mansion built in 1905, furnished by the St Louis World’s Fair. Elsewhere I’ve also heard you can see the world’s largest ball of twine and the oldest pipe organ (who wouldn’t want to see such THRILLING objects?). You can visit train depots and barns that still contain your great grandma’s butter churn in a dusty corner.
2. The Beauty
I’ve heard Kansas called the “fly over state.” People glaze over when I ask if they’ve been there. “Oh yeah. We drove straight through Kansas. Meh.”
But it’s more than the fly over state. It’s the sunflower state. The prairie state. The razor-flat wheat field state. Full of thunderstorms and wind farms.
I’m proud of the rich heritage I have there.
As a friend put it well, “Kansas is a wonderful place to be from.”
Another KS buddy gave me an accurate sticker, “The Mild Midwest: A flat out ok place.” You see, it’s perfectly fine for us natives to make fun of the Midwest. Just not other people. Make sense?
Kansans know if you hold still and root yourself in the wonder of the prairie, you’ll find the unique beauty in this harsh but fruitful state.
Yes, often the plains are extremely windy, extremely hot and humid, or extremely buggy. But the stage is always set for a sunset on an uninterrupted horizon.
The openness reminds me that I am small and God is big.
3. The Romance
I’m quite biased since I met Luke in Kansas. For our first few dates we did things like explore our grandpas’ farms, visit famous Braum’s for ice cream, and climb the grain elevator.
We even hiked to the train boxcar parked in the middle of my grandpa’s pasture (allegedly used for storage). Grandpa would picnic with the cousins here and tell us boxcar children stories.
You can even see the initials of my parents etched in its wooden wall from once upon a time. See? Romantic.
4. The Adventure
The state song speaks for itself —
“Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not cloudy all day.”
There are all kinds of adventures on the range. You could get stuck in the mud driving home from your best friend’s house. You could camp by the creek or attempt to buck bales. You could ride a barn-sour pony or hand-crank ice cream.
You could get caught in a thunderstorm where lightening cracks the sky, causing a dome-like effect. But, never fear, the skies won’t be cloudy all day.
5. The Harvest
Ever since we last visited in December, Luke and I hold a vivid reminder of the spiritual barrenness of many rural communities in our country. Off-the-beaten-trail places, not where you think of sending out missionaries or starting a Costco.
We’re very grateful for our family and friends who are shining lights in these rural towns, through schools, churches, and communities.
Would you pray, too, that God would spread His gospel in places like these?
If you are living out your faith in Christ in a Midwest town, thank you for your courage and your willingness to plant where there is deep need.
And to everyone else — a vacation in Kansas may give you new eyes for the fields ripe for harvest.
6. The Nostalgia
If you’re from a tiny town, you’ll feel as if you’re returning to the Shire. Since Luke and I both grew up in the Midwest (KS and NE), we can speak to the joy of a small-town parade. We recall plunking our books on the library counter without a word; the librarians knew who our mom was. A softball game on a Friday night. The tornado siren belting out in practice at noon each day.
People wave at each other even on the highway. Fireflies twinkle across open fields. The humidity smells like memories of mud pies and gravel roads. Even the deep hum of an AC unit can bring us back to the sizzling summer days. Hay bales, machine sheds, creek banks, corn rows, grain bins, and hog sheds. Playing dress up on a parked tractor and hoping the turkey doesn’t chase you down. Piles of hedge apples under trees and the howls of coyotes at night.
In all honesty, the true reason we call Kansas a candidate for vacation is the relational piece. When mid-westerners invest in you for the better part of your childhood, you’re bound to have some deep-seated loyalty and probably an accent, too.
Keep calm and vacation in Kansas!
*NOTE: I actually deeply favor and am most-of-all in love with the state I currently reside in, but that’s for another time.