The sky was blue. Not a tornado in sight.

    Yet as Natalie Pasternak sped through central Nebraska on her way to her new life in Lincoln, she could think of
    nothing but tornadoes.

    Tornadoes had changed her life.

    Two years earlier, she had received an anonymous invitation that had sent her on a pilgrimage to a town very
    close to her present location: Haven, Nebraska. That's where God had shown his power... .

    The four funnels were close, their teeming tails hidden by the vastness of their upper clouds' greedy inventory
    of fractured houses, dismembered trees, and mangled cars.

    Natalie buried her head in her knees and put a protective hand over the baby growing inside her. "I don't want
    to die! I don't want to—"

    Natalie blinked the memory away and jerked the car onto an exit ramp as if one motion fueled the next. At the
    bottom of the ramp she stopped the car. The drop in the decibel level had the same effect as a shot. Her
    senses snapped to attention.

    "I've got to see Haven," she said aloud, as if in answer to an inner argument. She looked to the right, where an
    impromptu parking lot sat on the edge of the highway. There was the burl oak tree where she had first met
    the others . . . Julia, Walter, Kathy, Del . . . they'd each, in one way or another, received invitations with the
    same, simple message:

                                                       You are invited to Haven, Nebraska.
                                                                   Please arrive August 1.
                                                   "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed,
                                                               you can say to this mountain,
                                                    'Move from here to there' and it will move.
                                                           Nothing will be impossible to you."

    They had traveled to Haven on faith--some skeptically, some reluctantly, but all hopefully. Circumstances had
    convinced them these nondescript invitations were not to be ignored--even if they didn't know who'd sent
    them. But even if they had known the truth, would they have believed God sent the invitations?

    Natalie smiled at the memories of their hesitation. It was natural to question such a thing, but God had not
    given up on them. He had persisted until they were ready to listen. Who'd have thought God would want to
    use such ordinary people for his important work?

    His work. Her work.

    But want them he did. And so he'd led them to the small town of Haven, supplied each with a special mentor,
    and given them two event-filled days to get ready for their calling.

    Now it was August first. Two years later. And Haven was on Natalie's mind.

    She checked for cars coming up behind her on the ramp, then took a moment to close her eyes. "I hope you're
    not disappointed in me, Lord. I've tried to do what I promised ... but I've failed." It's all Sam's fault skipped
    through her mind. She hoped God hadn't noticed-but she knew he had. For her own satisfaction, she rephrased
    her excuse. "I couldn't concentrate on writing my novel back in Colorado with Sam so close. He doesn't
    understand what I'm trying to do. He doesn't understand you. That's why I'm moving to Lincoln. I have to get
    away, be by myself."

    But first, she had to see Haven again. Maybe just being there would give her the inspiration she seemed to
    have misplaced amid the day-to-day living of her life. She turned south onto the highway.

    After twenty minutes, she looked at her odometer. She'd traveled a good fifteen miles. She didn't remember
    Haven being that far off the interstate. She looked around, hoping to recognize some landmark, but the lush
    fields of corn were interchangeable.

    "Haven? Oh, Haven." Natalie sang. "Come out, come out wherever you are." Three more miles went by. Natalie
    turned onto a tractor pull-off. She shut off the engine and stepped out of the car. Grasshoppers jumped around
    her ankles, upset by her intrusion. She arched her back and did a three-sixty, scanning the horizon. "Okay
    Haven. I give up. Where'd you go?"

    A sleek, blue pickup approached from the north and pulled onto the shoulder. A farmer wearing a John Deere
    cap got out of the cab. "Problems, little lady?"

    "No--" Natalie paused, then changed her mind. "Actually, yes. I seem to have lost a town."

    The farmer rubbed his cheek. "That's mighty careless of you. Are we talking a small town or a city?"

    "A small town. Haven's the name."

    "Haven?" He waved at another pickup as it drove by. "Where'd you last see this Haven?"

    Natalie opened her arms. "Out here somewhere. It was just a few miles south of the Platte River. On this
    highway."

    The farmer peered up and down the road. "This highway?"

    "This highway. I'm sure of it."

    "You sure you're in the right state?" The farmer glanced at Natalie's Colorado license plate.

    "Of course I'm in the right state. There are other Havens, but the one I'm looking for is in Nebraska. Haven,
    Nebraska. There's a Pump 'n Eat gas station that was robbed by a kid who kidnapped Julia. There's a school,
    a cafe, a church, and a bell tower we climbed when the four tornadoes came at us from four different
    directions. There's a--"

    He cocked his head as if he hadn't heard right. "Four tornadoes from four different directions."

    "Yes." Natalie fingered the mustard seed pin that had been her parting gift from Haven. "I know it sounds
    impossible, but God did it to show us his power."

    "God . . . did it?"

    Natalie swallowed. She knew how odd it sounded. She wouldn't have believed it herself if she hadn't lived
    through it.

    The farmer took off his cap, ran a hand over his thinning hair, and put the cap back on. "I've lived in this
    county for sixty-seven years and I've never seen four tornadoes, much less four coming from different
    directions . . . at once, you say?"

    "At once."

    "Mother Nature doesn't work that way."

    But God does.

    "And you were up in a tower during all this?" Now the farmer was squinting at her.

    Natalie nodded.

    "That's not very smart, little lady. When tornadoes come calling you're supposed to go below ground. Going
    into a tower makes you twister bait."

    Natalie raised her chin. "Well, that's what we did and I'm not going to argue with you about it. Now, if you'll
    tell me where Haven is, I'll be on my-"

    He shook his head, cutting her off. "There is no Haven. Never has been. No Haven, Nebraska. Not 'round
    these parts anyways."

    Natalie shooed a fly away from her face. "But . . . but there has to be. I was there."

    The farmer headed back to his truck, talking over his shoulder. "Sorry. There is no place called Haven, and
    you and I can't change that fact no matter how many amazing stories you have to tell." He got in and pulled
    onto the highway, tooting his horn as he passed her heading south.

    As the sound of his truck faded, the loneliness of the fields inched closer, covering her arms with goose
    bumps. The cadence of cicadas pulsed with her heartbeat. She glanced down the highway one way, then the
    other. No one. She heard herself swallow, felt the sun beating down. She shivered.

    She got in the car and locked the doors. She turned the ignition and swung onto the highway, gravel and grass
    spurting from beneath her tires. She headed north toward the interstate, traveling faster than the speed limit.

    Stop me, Mr. Highway Patrol. I dare you! Stop me. Prove to me this is just a dream.

    No patrol car pulled her over. She crossed the Platte, ignored the burl oak, and sped onto the interstate. Haven
    had to be real.

    Either that, or she was crazy...(continued)



                                                                 Copyright 2016 Nancy Moser
                                                                      Mustard Seed Press




Excerpt from The Quest