It's very easy to judge the surroundings of a place by the people, politics or your perceptions of the people or politics.

It's easy to say "this place is ugly" or "this place is so inviting" based on the welcome you receive.

And it's easy to fly through life with such a speed that you don't even notice the night sky.

Such was my story with Oklahoma.

I pouted when our car first crossed the state line about how flat it was. I begged my husband often, "How soon can go back to a place with trees?" I used descriptive words like God's wasteland.

Simply put: I could not see. I could not see at all. Though there was so much raw, natural and inhibited beauty, I walked around with my eyes shut. I imposed my frustrations with human things unfairly on the things of nature.

It took a trip last year to Africa and a hard conversation with a friend stopped me from complaining anymore by saying, "Why are you hating this land? It belongs to God. It's God's land, not anyone else's."

As these words started to seep in, I saw anew! My long drives to work were no longer dreaded but treasured time for contemplation of beauty. I saw for the very first time that Oklahoma is truly a gorgeous state. Who cared what the politics were? Who cared that so and so just said this horrible thing? I had an appointment to keep with the sunrises, the clouds and the stars.

Oklahoma is a state full of brilliant night skies. It's a place where the horizon goes on and on and you think you might be able to walk to the end of the earth. It's a place that brings Psalm 19:1 to mind: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands"

Once I began to take more moments in my days to pause and to look up, I saw views like this.

IMG_5640IMG_1475 11156405_10153253637774168_7604563101475887746_nIMG_6475image1And as I took each one of these moments in, I saw God.

I saw God in new colors and shades.

I saw God in the fierce moments of winds.

I saw God in the expansive views from east to west.

And all I could say in response was "Thank you."

So, on this earth day, what are you seeing? Even if you are in a place that might not be your favorite, remember the words of my wise friend, "The earth belongs to God." And for this, we can be grateful.