Archives for posts with tag: Oklahoma

IMG_9027IMG_9014For almost two years I talked to the boys about the Great Salt Plains in Oklahoma — how we would leave the trees and hills of Tulsa and trade them for the red dirt and flat, fertile plains to the west.

I described to them how you can watch a thunder storm careen across the sky for miles without buildings and lights spoiling the view and how, when we got to the salt plains, we would see the white stretch out all the way to the horizon.

Still, when the dirt road ended and we passed through the gate, they weren’t sure what to make if all that salt. It was overwhelming.

We brought out our borrowed shovel and began to dig shallow holes. We poured water down the sides and caught glimpses of sparkling crystals. The boys filled one plastic cup with treasures and started on another while I looked at their smudged faces and their shoes caked with mud and salt. Our tires were white. The knees of Jessie’s black jeans were white.

Everything was white because there was an abundance of salt. Not a salt shaker full, acres and acres full.

The Christian scriptures tell us that people of faith are to be light and salt in this world, and in all these years that I’ve been reading that verse, I’ve pictured salt on my dinner table. I’ve thought about salt’s importance in preserving and seasoning, but I’ve visualized it as small and scarce. I forgot that it fills oceans and seas and mines — even a portion of the plains in my home state.

I forgot that there is plenty of salt for purity, for sharing the flavor of compassion and grace. If we want, the salt that was once used to bind people in an unbreakable covenant of friendship could overflow on our tables and in our lives.

And the light that shines in darkness? The symbol of God’s love and hope? It’s plentiful, too, year after year after year.

That changes things for me. It shifts my thinking and my fears.

Unlimited love. Hope. Purity. Healing. Grace.

And suddenly, like the boys, I’m overwhelmed.

It was quick visit at home – just an extra two days in Oklahoma tacked on to a busy business trip – but it was long enough for me to start hearing that accent, that drawl in my head.

When I moved to Rochester in 1998, they tell me I talked like that, too.

One friend likes to joke that when he got on the elevator with me, it took me three floors to say, “Hi, my name is Marketta.”

But there were other aspects of having an accent that weren’t so funny.

I could be in the middle of a business meeting and have someone tell me, “Oh, that’s so cute the way you say that. Say it again.” Even worse was the time someone I supervised told me she just assumed that people who spoke slowly also thought slowly.

It became so frustrating that after a couple of years I started trying to hide it. I removed phrases like “fixin’ to” and “going into town.” I stopped saying ornery and cement and other words I knew I pronounced differently.

It was exhausting. And, if I’m honest, it still is. It is so much work to sand off the edges that make you different, so much effort to be like everyone else.

But when I return home to the place where my story began, to the people who loved me first, I exhale. I turn off the filter, and I fall into a comfortable cadence. I am simply myself.

I suspect it’s that way for all us who wander and get distracted by what others think, those of us who grow up and leave the spiritual nest and forget just how much we – and our accents and quirks – are loved and cherished by God. We feel all alone and out of place but we have a place at the table, a place where we all belong.

Sometimes we need to go back there to be reminded, to be grounded in truth and confidence. Then, we can bring the accent of home back with us in our heads and in our hearts.


IMG_3798That almost-man of mine, the one who turns 15 this month, he has a generous and helpful heart.

I’ve seen him bus tables for people in need of a Thanksgiving meal and bend down low to take his brother’s hand and check a skinned knee. I’ve watched him spend his last dime to buy candy for someone else and take part of his vacation and feed animals that other people had given up on, animals that needed refuge.

The woman, the one who runs the refuge, she showed him how she prepares the food for the 250 exotic animals that were once pets. The tiger that was a Christmas gift for a 5-year-old. The peacock that previous owners found to be too loud.  The turtle that grew too big.



We humans did this to them, she said as she doled out blueberries and chopped up melon. We captured them. We made it so they don’t know how to live in the wild. And now it’s up to us to fix it.

She patted a horse, greeted an iguana and fed two lemurs. When the gate closed behind us, I slipped in the question I’d been wanting to ask since I first heard about Safari’s Sanctuary – the one where I ask how she takes care of the dangerous animals. The bears. The majestic lions. The alligators. The snakes.


How do you care for an animal like that, one that terrifies you?

Fear is often learned, she said. And anytime I’ve been scratched or hurt, it has been my fault. She misread the animal. She missed a cue.

She and Jessie walked ahead. I followed along but my mind was still processing how much of my own fear was natural and necessary – and how much fear I had simply taught myself.


I choose to fear failure. I agree to worry about what people will think of my messy house, my rowdy boys and my written words. I use fear as an excuse for not helping more and that truth cuts as deep as a cougar’s claw.

Fear is easier than faith. It makes it OK to pass on that rewarding job or that amazing volunteer opportunity. It stops us from pulling out the guitar or the paints or the running shoes.

Fear requires less but it also makes us less of who we were made to be.

We walked to the animals with the high fences and fierce teeth and all the while she talked about safety precautions and about love and responsibility. But no more talk of fear.



Ready for some fun assignments? Add these to your weekend to-do list:

1. Give yourself permission to try something new, even if it is as small as a new drink. Pops, near Edmond, Okla., has more than 500 kinds of soda. Maybe crack open a bottle of apple pie or a specialty root beer?




2. Build a fort. Even if there aren’t any children around, forts make great places to escape and read. (If building forts becomes a regular thing you might consider sewing strings to the ends of a sheet. The strings make it much easier to attach to dining room chairs.)


3. Bring nature inside. You’ll feel yourself relax every time it catches your eye.



4. Water down some glue and then use it to paint the inside of a jar. Sprinkle glitter. Add a tea light candle and a prayer.


5.  When you start to feel the pressure of your neighbor’s green lawn, your sister’s new car and your friend’s skyrocketing career, read this. Maybe memorize it. This is from Jeff Manion’s book, “Satisfied.” You can buy it in January.

“Comparison is a thief and a killer. Comparison robs you of gratitude and contentment. Comparison massacres joy…. Comparison is the enemy of the satisfied, generous life.”


In Oklahoma, the Trail of Tears seems so recent, so close, that you can almost see the dust on walk-weary feet.

Our history books share the dates and explain the political reasoning but more powerful are the stories the grandparents tell, stories of how their aunts and uncles and cousins left tribal homes in the East and walked 1,200 miles to what was then Indian Territory.


They talk of sores, of typhus and cholera, of starvation, of homesickness and of death after death after death. Historians estimate the Cherokees alone lost 4,000 – more than 25 percent of the tribe – during the forced removals.

It’s no wonder the trail became known for its tears.

But those stories passed down from Cherokee generation to Cherokee generation? They also tell of a legend of love, one that starts where the Trail of Tears ended.


As the story goes, God saw the suffering of the Cherokees and took note of each painful drop of blood and each heartbroken tear. And every time one fell, he took sandy crystals of barite and arranged them to look like a rose – a rose rock that blooms forever.

IMG_3666Nowhere else in the world is there a larger collection of these rose rocks than near Noble, Okla., what was once the heart of Indian Territory. They are still easily found in ditches and fields. Some are the size of your smallest fingernail while others are larger than your palm or have clusters of blooms, clusters of troubles.

When I search the red soil for them, they seem so fresh, so close to the surface. It’s as if the legend continues, as if God never stopped marking and transforming the pain of his children – as if my tears over hurt feelings and your tears over past due bills and a sick loved one have been counted and captured, too.


I keep a small bowl full of rose rocks by my desk, a constant reminder of a constant God. They help me see that my God isn’t some floating deity watching me from high above, but a God who walks with me step by step on my journey and turns my struggles into strength.

Those red-brown petals are symbols for me, a visual lesson of God’s attentiveness. And when I grow weary or feel forgotten I try to remember that already the beautiful barite crystals are forming. Already God and his love are present.



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