Archives for posts with tag: Oklahoma

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.)

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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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photo2We told the boys on a Saturday night, just as we sat down for dinner.

We’re going to Oklahoma for vacation, I began to explain, but by the time I had finished my sentence, Benjamin was out of his seat and headed for his backpack.

Sit down. Finish dinner, we told him, and then we counted to 14 together so he’d understand how many days we’d need to wait.

There will be time to pack your toys.

It worked for the 5-year-old, but the 2-year-old was already asking for help with his shoes so he could get in the car and go see Grandma Marie.

We tried everything we could think of to explain the concept of waiting two weeks, but Colt was inconsolable. He wanted grandma and her Diet Pepsi. He wanted to wave at the trains that run by her house. He wanted to hug his aunts, see the sharks at the aquarium and blow bubbles in the backyard.

And he wanted all of that now.

photo3He didn’t remember the 22-hour car ride or comprehend the need to wait until my scheduled weeks off. No, the only thing on Colt’s mind was the fun he’d have there.

That’s OK at his age, but it’s not OK that I act the same way with God.

I fuss and whine when I don’t get what I want right away. I complain that the good stuff is taking too long — and I tell that to a God who sees eternity.

I’m ready, I think. But I gloss over the hard work I will need to do to get me where I want to be, the hours of preparation and practice.

I don’t want to wait to put on my shoes.

Maybe that 2-year-old is a lot like his mama, and maybe it’s time for me to grow up.

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It’s fair to say that I have some connections in Oklahoma, and I’d like to use them for a good cause.

IMG_1498If you’d like to send a little note — perhaps a picture drawn by your child or a scripture — to cheer the people who survived the recent tornadoes, I can make sure it arrives safely in their hands.

Would you like to reach out in that way, offer an encouraging hug via pen and paper?

Just mail it to me at P.O. Box 12923, Rochester, NY 14612 and mark “Oklahoma” on the envelope so I know to leave it sealed. I’ll need your notes by Monday, June 17.

(Please, don’t send any money. Just love!)

If you’d like, here’s a quick little design you can download and print. Enjoy!

Oklahoma stationery

OklaLetter

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