i love oklahoma. my state is beautiful, rugged, simple, tranquil, and richly diverse. condensing all it possesses into just 30 places to go/things to do in the sooner state wasn’t easy, y’all – but it gave me a chance to reflect on the people, sites, and activities that make our land grand. [disclaimer: none of these photographs are my own, but have been used from various state tourism sites.]
- moutain view free fair: okay people – if you’ve known me for two seconds, you’ve likely heard me rant and rave about my hometown’s biggest yearly event. the first weekend of august marks oklahoma’s only running free fair, complete with one of the oldest ferris wheels still operating in the united states. the fair is the pride of our town, and is a time to return home and visit with old classmates who have left the simple life for the big city. this august 5th-7th, you’ll find me chowin’ down on calf fries and homemade ice cream from the junior and senior stands, operating the kiddie cars with my mom, and taking part in a phillips family showdown at the basketball shootout booth. oh man. i’m already getting excited. :O
- medicine park: if i could choose in advance where i will retire too, this would be it. this tiny town (not far from my own) is nestled in the wichita mountains, with a creek that runs right through town and buildings made from gorgeous native rock. it’s home to two of my favorite restaurants – the old plantation and riverside cafe – and boasts an annual red dirt ball. sitting on the benches and bridges by the creek to people watch is one of my absolute favorite things to do.
- meers: i guaruntee you that meers, oklahoma, is the only place on earth where you can see an operating seismograph, order a massive burger, and check your mail. it’s a tasty restaurant, a post office, a general store, and a state landmark. i’ve never been there when it wasn’t completely full of hungry patrons. and heck, i even met former governor george pataki of new york there once. it’s just down the highway from medicine park, and is a regular stop of ours on the way to the wichita mountains.
- wichita mountains: these are the beauties i can easily see from my front porch when at home in mountain view. a wildlife refuge exists within their valleys, and is another popular destination for our family.
- oklahoma city national memorial & museum: fifteen years ago, our state was changed forever by a senseless act of violence. today, this gorgeous memorial and moving museum serve as a celebration of 168 of our neighbors. visit. sit & be still. soak it in and walk away with an appreciation of their lives.
- POPS: one of my favorite route 66 landmarks, POPS restaurant and soda ranch boasts over 500 flavors of soda pop – complete in their cute, multi-golored glass bottles – inside of an iconic gas station. it isn’t just an eaterie, y’all. it’s an experience.
- wormy dog saloon: since i’ve turned 21, this hotspot for live red dirt music in oklahoma city has become my most frequented concert venue. :)
- oklahoma city festival of the arts: each april, downtown okc is taken over by vendors and their amazing works, and it’s such an ecclectic and fun atmosphere. and the food rocks.
- p-bar farms corn maze: i grew up visiting this maize maze (see what i did right there?) in the fall, and even braved it’s haunted version one halloween – for all of about five minutes. in addition to their amazing designs in the corn fields (which change each year), the farm hosts pumpkin picking at the patch, hayrides through their fields, and agricultural education for school groups. in high school, i attended a local leadership camp with the owners’ youngest daughter. they’re a sweet, down-to-earth family who genuinely love what they get to do!
- festival of light: each winter, the town of chickasha decorates its park with amazing christmas lights displays. walking through or taking a carriage ride inside the park makes it really feel like christmastime. i can’t even convey to you how beautiful it is, so i’ll just show you!
- eskimo joe’s: this famous bar & restuarant in stillwater, oklahoma, will celebrate it’s 35th year in july! besides being one of america’s top college sports bars, joe’s has it’s own line of merchandise, ranging from t-shirts (which i’ve grown up wearing in every color imaginable) to their signature tumblers (which are all my family drinks from!). the environment at joe’s is just as good as its food – oh, and some of my favorite local red dirt bands play live there weekly. :)
- chuck wagon gathering: there are few events that probably make me look more country, but i don’t care: the chuck wagon event at the cowboy hall of fame in oklahoma city is one of the best things since sliced bread. my uncle and his travelling roping troop even performed here once. yeah, it’s a big deal. the best part about this? authentic chuck wagon crews prepare amazing cowboy favorites for the crowd to sample – cobbler, stew, and biscuits, anyone?
- oklahoma city museum of art: gorgeous exhibits live here. and our permenent collection of dale chihuly’s blown glass is my absolute favorite. visiting the museum makes me feel sophisticated and big-city.
- uco jazz lab: i’d never heard live blues or jazz music before going to the lab, but found a new appreciation for it very quickly.
- bricktown: bricktown is the entertainment district of downtown oklahoma city, and is essentially the hub of the city. i love the feel of this area and all of the events and attractions it offers, such as…
- opening night: opening night is a huge new year’s eve celebration that takes place in bricktown, with live bands, theatrical performances, and fireworks at midnight. several venues downtown host rotating events that opening night attendees can check out – heck, this is even where i saw my first roller derby match. the evening has something for all ages, interests and interests!
- falls creek: generations of oklahomans have been raised on going to this camp each summer with their church youth groups, and i’m no exception! tucked away in the arbuckle mountains of southeastern oklahoma, falls creek is the world’s largest youth encampment. it honestly feels like its own town, and hosts over 45,000 campers each summer. to get to my grandparents’ farm in dougherty, oklahoma, one must drive through part of the camp. it’s a beautiful setting, where lives have been changed for over 90 years, and it will always have a prized place in my memory.
- two frogs grill: i clearly have a thing for restaurants that double as concert venues. two frogs grill in ardmore, oklahoma, is good eatin’ and good listenin’.
- rose hill school: one summer, while attending history camp at a museum in guthrie, our whole group visited this one-room school house (with its original furnishings) for a day. we dressed in period clothing, carried our old-fashioned lunches in syrup buckets, and wrote with a quill and ink. it was wild, y’all.
- oklahoma history center: this museum, located near our state capitol building, truly brings to live the heritage of our land. it’s truly one of the best museums this side of washington, d.c., that i’ve had the pleasure of walking through.
- calf fry: oh heavens. how does one begin to describe the annual testicle festival that takes place each summer at the tumbleweed dancehall in stillwater? if you don’t know what a calf fry (in the culinary sense) is, here’s a blunt explaination. it also refers to the cook-out event itself, and this one includes four nights of red dirt concerts. it’s a rough and rowdy event, but it’s also a blast.
- red earth festival: this is one event on the list that i haven’t been able to attend, but i’ld love to the next summer i’m available. the festival features native american artists and dancers from throughout the nation.
- jake’s rib: i’m sorry, i love to eat. this is one of the best bbq joints known to man – and i’ve been to quite a few. located in chickasha, it’s the perfect spot to stop for supper before hitting up the festival of light! i mean, just look at those curly fries. and you get to keep the cups!
- quartz mountain resort: driving through and camping next to the quartz mountains in southwest oklahoma was a regular occurance in my first 18 years of life, and their beauty still take me by surprise. several years ago, this gorgeous lodge and arts and conference center was constructed next to the lake that sits in the mountains’ valley. this just might be on my list of possible places to get married one day – it’s just that purdy.
- scenic highway 115: this route twists through my hometown to the countryside of southwest oklahoma, and is one of my favorite drives. this’ll get ya to some of the lovely places i mentioned above – medicine park, meers, and the wichitas.
- hideaway pizza: since 1957, hideaway‘s beein serving up the best pizza (and fried mushrooms) in oklahoma. their location in stillwater is my favorite!
- illinois river float trips: the lower illinois river that runs through the northeastern portion of our state is the best canoe stream we have. i’ve only taken a 12-mile float trip on the river once, but it was one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities i’ve gotten to do in oklahoma!
- oklahoma sports teams: we’ve been fortunate to have talented semi-professional sports programs in the state for awhile, and now have our own successful nba team! i love going to redhawks baseball games, yard dawgz arena football matches, and even roller derby throwdowns. i’ve yet to go to a thunder basketball game, but i have high hopes of accomplishing that soon. :D
this year, i’ve decided to focus on the word servitude. it’s a concept that entails sacrifice and selflessness, two of many things that i desire to improve upon daily. this week, i quickly jotted down 30 ways to act out servitude in my everyday experiences – and i was amazed at how swiftly they entered my mind and flowed out of the pen! i’m hoping to do each of these things several times over in the coming months and years.
- volunteer to organize donations at a local charity’s headquarters: places such as goodwill, the salvation army, and various food banks receive numerous contributions daily. all of these items – clothing, canned goods, books, ect. – must be sorted through and organized by someone. their staff are likely swamped as it is, so why not take a few hours to do something for them? the next time you take your own used items to donate, offer to help the person on duty with getting things where they need to be.
- stay late after an event to clean up: setting up for and tearing down for an event can be such an arduous task. we often never even see those responsible for this job at get-togethers, special church events, or shows. set aside time to stay after other guests have left to help clean or move equipment/furniture back to their respective spots. you’ll bless someone immensely!
- open doors for strangers: whether they acknowledge your simple gesture or not, it will make an impact on their day.
- give up something for a period of time, & use the money you would have spent on it for a cause you’re passionate about: blood:water mission promotes a fast of sorts called forty days of water, in which one can give up purchasing drinks other than H20 – and, in turn, donate the money they would have spent to providing wells to communities in africa. clever, huh? you can do this with almost any luxury, and make a huge difference to the cause of your choice.
- make ‘chemo kits’ for patients: just last night at church, one of my sweet friends asked if she could assemple a chemo kit for my mom’s upcoming treatments. her sorority made one for one of their sister’s battling cancer several years back, and it did wonders for her experience. you can compile kits with some of these ‘ingredients’ and give them to a loved one in treatment, or even provide them for patients across the nation.
- pay for the car behind you at the drive-thru: many of us have heard of this random act of kindness being performed, but have you ever considered doing it yourself? i rarely use fast food drive-thru’s, but it wouldn’t hurt to make an out-of-character stop every once in awhile. :)
- cook for the homeless: free this saturday morning? contact your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen to see if they need volunteers to cook and serve breakfast to the homeless and needy families in the area. i betchya they would love your help!
- get involved with a behind-the-scenes ministry at your church: it takes an army to run my church’s experiences each week, and there are so many areas that require volunteers’ skills and time that i’m probably not even aware of. i serve in two such realms, and it’s a blessing to do things from a step back. try it.
- keep granola bars, bottles of water, pocket-sized Bibles with cash inside, & toiletry kits in your car to give to the homeless: we’ve all undoubtedly pulled up to a red light where someone is asking for money, or passed someone who we know is in need of the most basic things. by keeping these practical items in your car at all times, you’ll never have an excuse to look away and drive on.
- sponsor a child through compassion: my mom and i have been involved with compassion international for many years now, and have watched our sponsored child – vilma, from guatemala – blossom into a beautiful young woman. for $38 per month, a life can be changed forever. compassion serves children worldwide, releasing them from their spiritual, economic, and physical poverty, while also enabling them to become responsible and fulfilled adults – all the while sharing the love of Christ.
- take meals to families during an illness/hospital stint, after a new baby has arrived, or after a death has occurred: i cannot tell you how vital this practical service is during such a chaotic and often difficult time. having one less thing to worry about, like preparing a meal, can be such a relief.
- send a care package: do you know someone who’s away from the comforts of home – whether they’re in college, serving overseas with the military, or working at a summer camp? compile a care package with their favorite things or other goodies they’ll need, and send that baby on.
- organize a baby shower for a single mom: an unexpected or crisis pregnancy can be a breeding ground for shame, worry, and even sadness – but it doesn’t have to be that way. find a crisis pregnancy center in your city (such as all things baby in the edmond/oklahoma city area) and get involved with throwing baby showers for these new mama’s. show them love and joy.
- give that good parking spot to someone else
- write a note to someone: words of affirmation are such a precious gift.
- let someone go first: again, this is such a simple gesture, but it can speak volumes for itself.
- start a small group & feed His flock: feel gifted in the area of small-group or devotional leadership? put those gifts to use! feed others spiritually, and allow yourself to be refreshed in the process.
- clean someone’s house while you’re already there to babysit or housesit: this extra act of service will make the parents’/owners’ life a little easier when they return home – even if they never realize what you’ve done!
- prayerwalk: take a walk through your neighborhood or around your town and prayerwalk for needs you sense. bring your small group or friends along too!
- ding dong ditch: around the holidays, assemble gift baskets of food and cookware to leave on the doorsteps of homes you know are in need of some help. ding dong ditch, and have a getaway car waiting. :)
- clean up a public area regularly: take care of our environment, and one another.
- take clothes to your kids’ school: your school counselor will likely know of some students who are in need of new clothes, and would love to have gently used outfits to discreetly give to them.
- use your talents to bless those living in a retirement home: can you sing? do you enjoy doing crafts or playing games? can you do hair or nails? use whatever skills you have at a retirement home, and spend time with folks who need attention.
- ask your kids’ teachers what supplies they need for their classrooms: if you have the means, inquire from your children’s teachers what they need most and provide that for them. it will be such a huge help to these everyday heroes.
- take extra helpings from a meal to one of your neighbors
- run errands for a sick co-worker: after one of my sister’s sweet colleagues was diagnosed with breast cancer, all of the ladies at the office rallied around april to provide for her most basic needs during recovery and treatment. clean a friend’s house, or run to the store, bank, or pharmacy for someone when they’re in need.
- pick up the slack for someone
- surprise someone with a drink or snack: who doesn’t love a happy hour drink from sonic?! find out what your friends’ or co-workers’ favorite drinks/snacks are, and bring them something for no reason.
- tip generously
- just take care of someone: we need each other.
i smiled so widely as i wrote this week’s edition. i’m lucky enough to have four nieces, thanks to my two older siblings. i’m convinced genetics were completely on our side too, for our girls are some of the most gorgeous faces to ever appear on this planet. my brother, who is one of the world’s best fathers, and his wife have sydni kate and zoey grace, who turned four this summer.
eleven days before the twins were given to us in 2005, my phenomenal sister & her hubby had kaitlyn belle – and this may, i drove her to the hospital to have sweet ari jade.
so much potential and endless joy is found in their tiny faces. anything can happen for them. they’re brave and they’re adventurous and they’re kind. among many others, here are 30 things i want for my nieces.
- to fully grasp the height & width & depth of the Father’s love
- the opportunity to travel
- an absence of bullying during their most tender years, from those with hardened & destructive hearts
- to pursue passionately what they’re called to do
- to learn to drive a stick shift
- an ethic of hard work
- to grow into influential leaders
- a love for reading
- for nothing to be simply handed to them, but instead to hunger so much for something that they make it happen
- a holy burden
- to remember & preserve their heritage
- a man who is compassionate & good-hearted – if they choose to have one :)
- responsibility with money & a desire to act with good stewardship
- an awareness that they can always go home
- to release perfectionism, worry, & negativity
- to recognize their own beauty & that of others
- a willingness to risk
- to parent their children as lovingly & brilliantly as their own parents have
- to surround themselves with diverse people whom they can love & learn from
- the ability to forgive themselves
- to learn & thirst for knowledge
- a mentor
- to forgive others who hurt them
- to appreciate all of life’s little pleasures
- to learn how to mourn with those who mourn, & rejoice with those who rejoice
- dreams & visions for their futures
i’ve served in the phenomenal youth ministry at my church since i began college, a little over two years ago. last night, the adult leaders at switch were treated to a special night with just one another at a gorgeous location out in the country. we sang together by candlelight in a barn (more glamorous than it sounds, people), took communion together, and talked about the visions we have for our students this year. continuing with this theme, here are 30 ways to connect with students in your ministry.
- call or text them: this generation has their phones attached at the hip! reach them through the means they use the most.
- post comments on their facebook
- create identity: give your small group a special name, verse from Scripture, ect.
- contact your students’ parents: this step is huge! gain the trust of your students’ parents and demonstrate your committment to their kids.
- create excitement!
- challenge them with the resources you send with them after group time: find time to communicate with them throughout the week about Scriptures and teachings from the experience.
- food: students. love. to eat.
- make your contact information available
- lead by example: sounds simple, right? model for them what you want them to do for others.
- connect outside of church
- discuss relevant topics in small-group time
- send them handwritten birthday cards
- send praise letters for spiritual growth
- serve together: help someone or an organization as a group.
- attend their school functions when invited
- eat lunch at school with your students if possible
- call students by name: students love to hear their own name.
- strike up continual conversations with every member of your group
- find cliques in your group and connect with them: influence the influencers!
- encourage their talents
- care for your students equally
- send flowers or something special during a time of tragedy
- bring gum or candy to share with your students
- acknowledge positive physical change: comment on a student’s new haircut, their cute shoes, ect.
- apologize when you mess up: transparency begins with us.
- discreetly meet a student’s need when you recognize one
- play games together
- don’t feel bound by small-group questions: these are excellent guides, but be sensitive to where students want to take discussion as well.
- educate yourself to answer questions: your students are going to have questions about the bible, faith, and life in general. be biblically literate, and point students to others who can answer questions with which you need help.
- pray together
in honor of our final day here at oklahoma baptist university for the fall semester (yes, finals are finally OVER!), i decided to dedicate this week’s thursday thirty to 30 of obu’s biggest fashion trends – whether hits or misses, they’re quintessentially obu, y’all. my fellow bison will likely nod their heads as they scroll through the list. :)
- booty shorts and ugg boots: can someone please explain this one to me? :-/
- no toenail polish: i noticed this one more prominently during my freshman year. it’s cool if you don’t wanna wear hooker red polish, but if you’re nails have a yellow tint.. it may be beneficial?
- toms shoes: a trend i’m pleased to partake in! i’ve noticed, though, that most toms-wearing boys on campus wear them even after holes appear and their toes begin to protrude from said holes. slightly disturbing, but frugal too.
- chaco sandals
- bare feet: you read that right. when not wearing toms or chacos, our resident hippies prefer to trek around campus with nothin’ on their soles. looks painful.
- long skirts
- shorts with cardigans
- caps: apparently a girl’s go-to item for bad hair days?
- bows: they’re coming back in style, girls, thanks to our school’s own ‘bows for hos’ business. :D
- bump-its: can’t lie, i’ve tried ’em. :O
- vera bradley: we chickees are crazy about her patterns. them little wallet things with key rings on ’em are quite popular.
- tights with gym shorts: again, a style which puzzles me.
- tank tops with strapless dresses/blouses: ’cause we’re all about modesty here. ahem.
- beige slip-on shoes
- white v-neck shirts
- nalgene water bottles: we’re all about living green, if there are cute colors and patterns involved.
- carrying coffee mugs to class
- north face: meh.
- t-shirts with skirts: apparently it’s all the rage.
- hammocks: if i wasn’t terrified of rolling out of one the second i try to hop on, i might try it. ’til then, i’ll just watch the hippies tie some up between the trees by the library. :)
- skateboards: ride ’em, carry ’em to class, prop ’em up by the door of your civ room.
- skinny jeans & flats: obviously, the word preceeding ‘jeans’ sorta eliminates me from participating in this particular fashion trend.
- bikes: i wish i still knew how to ride one.
- sperry’s: if only i could afford some.
- nose rings
- rainboots: with jeans tucked in, of course.
- the obu claw: my roomie coined this term, referring to the excessive use of one’s hands in conversation that obu students – girls, especially – tend to employ. it can get outta hand.
- an engagement ring: that’s right! you too can achieve a ‘ring by spring.’ unless you’re too busy cramming greek words and historical facts into your brain like some of the rest of us. :D
i love live music, whether or not it sounds as good as an album cut in the studio. there’s something about seeing a band or artist you’ve spent hours with across the radio waves or through an ipod, perform in the flesh. whether it’s a worshipful atmosphere or a honky tonk-esque red dirt show, i love a good concert. this week’s thursday thirty contains my favorite concerts (maybe a few less than thirty…) in the past two decades!
- sugarland: in september, my favorite country duo came to okc – so of course, i went with my girls! i think the 6,000 other rednecks present would agree that they put on a dang good show.
- hillsong united: this show in tulsa in august was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. hands down one of the most intense three hours of worship i’ve ever experienced. if you’re familiar with them at all, you’ll know exactly what i mean. :)
randy rogers band: this red dirt night with my childhood friends lindsey and ryan was one of the funnest shows. yeah yeah, it was at a casino, and yeah yeah, i later watched the band blow $1,000 at the blackjack table. it was basically a scene right out of almost famous, y’all.
cross canadian ragweed/stoney larue/asleep at the wheel: another red dirt night, in which an old racetrack out in the country housed the stage. we trekked through mud and endured another herd of crazy rednecks for this’n. seeing my high school art teacher there was a trip.
hanson: listen y’all, these blonde boys were my first true love(s). i’ve seen ’em twice with my best friend from childhood, and they never disappoint. *sigh*
reba mcentire: bahahaha. reba was my first concert, around the tender age of 6 or 7. i recall two things most clearly: reba coming onto the stage in a plane (yeah, baby, you read that right.) and stuffing torn up pieces of a maxi pad to use as impromptu ear plugs. (yeah, you also read that right.) that’s how we roll.
nickel creek/amy grant/vince gill
: this was a gorgeous christmas concert my mom and i went to, and it was also where we signed up to sponsor our child from compassion international
lifehouse/jars of clay: these two bands are constantly rolling across my ipod, and their show one week after september 11th was such a glorious one.
cheap trick: mmhmm, i’m hip to the oldies.
chris tomlin: one of my favorite worship leaders… and my worship leader crush. listen, i kept myself under control during both concerts of his i’ve attended. you should be proud.
charlie hall: my friends and i had the privilege to attend his latest cd release concert. i love worshipping to this guy’s tunes.
nichole nordeman: she’s. my. hero.
dierks bentley: i got to see this little hearthrob live after his first cd was released, while at fan fair in nashville. he was just as cute then, take my word for it.
robbie seay band: here at obu, we put on a concert each august before the fall semester begins, called ‘saturday in the park.’ this year, robbie seay and his boys performed for us and were sublime.
jami smith: jami’s a worship leader i’ve had the privilege of meeting several times, but her christmas concert for teachers in 2007 was by far my favorite. it was such a pleasure to share the evening with my mother (a fifth grade teacher), sister, and niece.
fan fair: in high school, my best friend and i spent a week in nashville for fan fair (thanks to my sweet mama!), seeing every country music star imaginable. hollerrr.
what’s the best concert you’ve ever attended?
yeah yeah, i know it’s a full week after thanksgiving – and it’s almost the end of this thursday as it is. nevertheless, this thursday thirty only feels appropriate if it outlines 30 things for which i’m thankful – part of a much longer list in itself. :)
- having a relationship with the Father & Son.
- inheriting one-half of each of my parents’ qualities.
- having siblings to admire & count on.
- bearing the title of ‘peanut’ to my four fantastic nieces!
- having been raised in a small town.
- having teachers throught elementary/high school who genuinely cared for me, and still being overjoyed to see them when i return to my hometown.
- the opportunities i have had to travel & experience so many cultures at such a young age.
- the other opportunities i have had to excel in academics, & for those who believed in me along the way
- getting accepted to my dream college, receiving scholarships to make that dream a reality, and for having professors here who are committed to our success and growth.
- the mentors who have carried me through some of my darkest days, & who have been there to rejoice with me in my sweetest ones.
- never having to go without what i need.
- having access to loads of information at my fingertips – i mean, can you imagine having to write college term papers withOUT internet databases?!
- sweet tea. :D
- a passion for frugality & stewardship.
- a closet full of clothes.
- a pantry & fridge full of good food.
- the blessed assurance that His plan for me is perfect, even when i try and nudge Him to move things along a little more quickly. :)
- the home i have found at lifechurch.tv, & the multiple ministries i have gotten to serve in there.
- the switch small group of 8th-grade girls that i get to lead!
- the beauty of my state.
- how He has worked through my mom’s recent diagnosis. we have so much to be thankful for during this season.
- the lifelong circle of friends God’s given to me, both in high school & at obu.
- the time i spent in mexico & turkey on mission.
- red dirt music… if i can say that? :)
- my esl students in the intensive english program.
- southern cookin’.
- the feeling i get when i drive in the country.
- the friendships twittering has fostered!
- that everyone in my immediate family lives within two hours or so of campus. this has literally been a lifeline for me while in college.
- every heartbreak & lesson learned, as much as i try to deny it sometimes. i couldn’t very well be me without ’em, right?