I haven’t been back since I left.
And there I was, face-deep in a Turkey Bacon Pickleman’s sandwich in Norman, Oklahoma. I was with two of Luke’s best friends from high school and we were making the drive up from Dallas.
The New York Knicks vs. The Oklahoma City Thunder
I had to go.
I had to go so badly that I initially got to the airport on the wrong day, missed my original flight, and ended up in Dallas with a $150 change fee!
Thank you, Frontier Airlines!
My new job at UCLA consists of, you guessed it, blogging. So I figured what better way to start the new gig than to accompany my brother on his first day??
In Oklahoma City.
Luke’s friends wanted to get to the game an hour early to watch warm-ups. I never get anywhere early, so this was a tall task. With hours to spare, we made it to will-call.
The lady handed me an envelope with Luke’s chicken-scratch handwriting scribbled on the front.
And just like that – it hit me.
My little brother is in the NBA.
I walked into Chesapeake Energy Arena for what had been the dozenth time. From watching KD, Russ and Harden battle together as teammates, to fighting for our lives in the Big XII Tournament, to playing in my first Sweet Sixteen back on our home turf.
I walked through the double doors amongst the sea of OKC fans, and I couldn’t stop thinking—
I have to go to the bathroom.
All of these people are coming to watch this basketball game.
The basketball game with a certain basketball player that sticks out from the rest.
(I'm talking about Luke).
I was smiling so big I looked like my mother.
As we found our seats as the warm-up clock dwindled down, I texted Luke where we were sitting. I stood up for the National Anthem and tears started falling down my face. There he stood, linked arms with Doug McDermott and Coach Hornacek.
After introductions, he looked up at section 111, Row M, seat 9 and smiled back.
After the game Luke came out and chatted it up with the guys. It felt like we were back in high school at Liberty Christian. After about 15 minutes or so, we had to let him get back to the locker room. We said our goodbyes, but I wasn’t done yet.
We were in Oklahoma City.
I had to say hi to my boy.
The security guards were on to us, but security guards can’t stop a girl in love.
“Russ! It’s your girl!”
He looked over, smiled, and asked how Luke & I were. Mission accomplished.
As we piled back into the car, I set the navigation back home. And by home I mean Pickleman’s. Pickleman’s for lunch. And Pickleman’s for dinner. Just like I never left.
Oklahoma’s campus had a ton of new, beautiful buildings. Owen Field’s renovations looked spectacular and the new Dairy Queen was a wonderful addition. An addition that would have saved me many tanks of gas, because the previous location I used to frequent was a good 30 miles away in Moore.
So much change.
But with all the change, the feeling felt the same.
I couldn’t help but get a quick word in with God.
“Lord, thank you for unanswered prayers.”
I know that sounds silly, but that was the theme of the day. I used go to bed each night praying to God that Oklahoma would get better for me. That the heartache and longing to be somewhere else would go away.
God didn’t answer that prayer.
It never got better for me.
I remember praying that Luke would get drafted. That it would be an easy road ahead for him.
God didn’t answer that prayer.
It’s not going to be easy for him.
But because He didn’t answer those prayers, He was able to show us His own.
Instead, God led me to UCLA.
Instead, God led Luke to the New York Knicks.
Instead, I got to bite deep down into a warm, toasted turkey sandwich that was 3 years overdue.
Instead, Luke gets to blaze a trail, affect millions more, and appreciate each and every opportunity that comes his way.
So much had changed. So many prayers gone “unanswered.”
And I couldn’t stop smiling.
After Pickleman’s round 2, we finally hit the road. I-35 South.
I could make this drive with my eyes closed. When I was at Oklahoma my parents still lived in Dallas. Pop a few CDs in and the 3hr drive whizzes by. Although my parents no longer live in Dallas, several other wonderful parents do. I texted one of the Liberty Christian moms at midnight and crashed in their guest room just after 3am.
After I transferred from Oklahoma, the 3hr drive to Dallas no longer existed, which meant for the time being, Liberty Christian didn't either.
My parents moved. My dad was no longer the Varsity Boys Head Coach, and I no longer had that Texas connection.
Or so I thought.
My mom bought the whole family flights for Luke’s home opener in Madison Square Garden the following day, so I had another game to catch. I was flying out of Dallas, but before it was time to go to the airport, I had to make a pit stop.
Liberty Christian School.
I hadn’t been back since I transferred.
So much change.
So much change, but the feeling felt the same.
I was home.
After an hour of catching up with the best teachers, coaches, and legendary Big Mike the security guard, who would have to unarm the school alarm after the Kornet family constantly broke into the gym for late night shooting sprees, my mind came alive with more flashes of unanswered prayer.
My senior year I was in all AP classes and had SAT tutoring every other night, while my best friends did as seniors do—nothing.
I wanted to go to Stanford.
But God didn’t answer that prayer.
You might feel stuck right now. Like how I felt at Oklahoma.
You might feel hurt for someone. Like how I felt for Luke after the draft.
You might feel utter rejection. Like how I felt after Coach Tara Vanderveer told me I didn’t get in to Stanford.
But I promise you that your unanswered prayers will turn into answered ones. Answered ones that you never even thought were possible.
Lord, thank you for unanswered prayers. Your way is perfect; my way is flawed. What I asked for was temporary happiness, but instead, you gave me a lifetime of happiness.
A lifetime of change.
That changed my life.