Most say I’m crazy. I love to swim in my pond. “Aren’t you afraid of snakes?” “Isn’t the water dirty?” “Aren’t you scared swimming by yourself?”
To prepare, I make sure to wear a shirt over swimsuit. Fish think my moles are food from the fish feeder. I slip on my comfy flip-flops and take off with my little dog, Foxy, trailing behind. Foxy, like me, enjoys a good swim. We stroll down the hill, past the barn, towards the hay fields. Already, I’m hot. The road branches…right towards the fields…straight to the creek. I take the creek path. Foxy and I come to the bridge. Trickling sounds. The creek runs most of the time. Black walnut trees shade me for a while.
Sparkling, not dirty, water waits for me. The birds are fighting overhead. As I pass the lush reeds, a red-winged blackbird runs off some swallows from his home. Is he protecting his nest? I’d love to get closer and find out, but I fear I’ll scare him. Mustn’t do that. Might not see him again and he is so lovely.
On past bright, shiny windmills…standing still…to the dock. There the water is deep enough to dive. I put on my swim belt and hesitate only a moment. I’m hot…water’s cool. There’s a school of fish. Better get out of my way! I’m coming in. Jump! Just like a kid. Just like a kid!
Oh the water! The sky! Nothing and no one around. Just me, swimming in God’s glory. To feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. The perfect sky photographed by the lens of my eye. Satiny, slippery fluid slipping through my fingers. I’m weightless. Nothing hurts. I’m perfect.
Turtles pop their heads above the surface to spy on this creature flopping around in their home, but I never see a snake. I think they are as scared of me as I am of them. They stay hidden, even though I know they are there.
Think. Just days ago, I was in such a state of panic. Fear. God. He created all this. Beauty. Everywhere…His Glory. I behold it. I am in awe. I swim in it. Paradise.
Some day, Beauty Himself will call me home. What a trip that will be. I imagine swimming through sky, past birds, clouds and angels. Beauty, Glory, My Father will wait for me. He has the best accommodations.
But, for now, I’ll swim in the waters of His blessings and be thankful for a pond.
Note: I, Holly Y. Smith, wrote this as a “Note” on Facebook on June 24, 2011. Since the writing of this, I am no longer able to swim in my pond because it simply is no longer my pond. Also, I no longer have my little swimming buddy, Foxy. She left this earth and me…but not without many memories and blessings…like swimming together in the middle of a pond in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’m swimming in new blessings…for blessings are everywhere. We only have to look for them. Praise be to God!
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” James 1:17 KJV
Introduction: It has been six years since I wrote this poem. I have held on to it as I have held on to the pain that caused me to write it. It is my hope that as I release these words that it will help someone who is going through similar anguish…and that it will release me too. Much love, Holly.
vacu-um (vak’yoom) n. 1 a space with nothing at all in it; completely empty space… 3 a space left empty by the removal or absence of something usually found in it; void: often used figuratively~Webster’s New World College DictionaryFourth Edition
“Nature abhors a vacuum”~Aristotle
There have been times in my life when I felt like my soul was caught in a vacuum. Ahead, I could see God’s light, His hand reaching for me, waiting for me to latch on so He could pull me out. Behind me, there seemed a force that should not be stronger, but somehow was…pulling and tugging at my legs with a strength that was constant and persistent. It only felt stronger because it was so near. A household vacuum works much better at sucking up the dirt when it is placed close to the surface it is cleaning. I believe Satan understands this well.
That tugging and pulling came from the world, my world: the people I surrounded myself with, the movies I watched, the stories I read, the activities that took up my day that in-and-of-themselves were not evil, if I had not let them crowd out God’s whispered pleas.
My daddy once said that he felt that for years he had been “playing” at being a Christian. He felt like he was riding a fence between two worlds, dabbling at his spiritual life while keeping a hold on worldly things. Once he believed that he had become more “serious” in his attempts to follow Christ, his world was turned upside down. He became obsessed with Jesus like he had become infatuated with the many hobbies that took up his time.
I feel not just a physical kinship with my father, but also a spiritual one. I love having fun, being entertained, visiting with family, learning a new skill, reading and obsessing about the next shining star that gets dangled in front of me. This is what I imagine John was talking about in I John 2:15-17 (NKJV):
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
None of these things are wrong. I’m not saying that having fun has to be a sin. But when we let the world pull and tug at us…when we let it suck up all of our time and fill every available space in our hearts…I think we are setting ourselves up for letting it completely consume us to the detriment of our spiritual life with our Father.
Am I too busy to help out a neighbor?
Am I too busy to take a dish of food to the ill?
Do I walk a little faster by someone who looks like they might want to talk?
Do I spend hours reading a good mystery while my bible gathers dust by my bed?
Do I speed-dial my Lord, instead of having a good conversation with Him?
Do I let myself get too tired with daily activities that I feel I have an excuse not to attend a worship service?
Do I not practice hospitality because I don’t feel good enough about my life to share it with others?
Do I have time to just be still and know that He is God?
These are questions I constantly ask myself and I’m too often ashamed of my answers. I am not perfect. There is no way I can be! This constant self inventory can backfire on me if I look only at myself and my lack and not at what our Lord has done for me, which is more powerful than any “Hoover” Satan can put at my heels.
John 1:16 (NKJV) tells us:
“And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.”
Ephesians 3:19 (NKJV):
“to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
We all possess a hope, if we hope in Christ…if we allow His love to fill us to overflowing, taking up all residence, leaving no room for hate and sin.
If I stop looking at myself and my every weakness and if I lean on His mercy and grace while I try to follow Him, I can rest at night knowing that I have been covered in His blood and that evil will pass over me. I can rejoice in the fact that I have been buried with Him through baptism.
Romans 6:3-9 (NKJV):
“or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.”
What kind of a sucking, pulling sensation does that have on me…on you? After reading that and letting it fill every empty space, knowing that God has provided the way and even the vehicle to take us there, how can we ever again be caught in Satan’s vacuum? We are free, unchained, and carried on the wings of faith and hope. Thanks be to God!!!
I’ve done many things in this life that I’m ashamed of. I seriously doubt I will ever have the courage to do a tell-all, baring my every iniquity so that you can relate to me. I have a feeling that you already do. We are all human and if it were not for Jesus, none of us would have a fighting chance to make it out of this world with our souls intact. We must hold tight to Jesus…He won’t let us get sucked in.
The houses sat across from each other, a Texas farm-to-market road dividing their lonely skeletons. My great-grandmother living with Aunt Ruby. My great-grandfather gone to his home above. Both grandparents gone to meet him. Each house still possessed an expanse of lawn – grass growing despite the loss of tenants to mow. It became my mother’s job to periodically shave the wild mane of Johnson grass and trim the bushes of my grandparents’ homestead and it was my chore to tag along and help. It was a sad job because we still mourned their loss and the decay of their Victorian gingerbread house was an added sore spot.
Often, we ventured to the great-grandparents’ simple farmhouse across the way. We peered in the windows and checked in the smokehouse as well as the outhouse and sheds. It was not our job to care for this lawn, but it was our responsibility to check for vandalism. I always went out to the carport because it was here that the old 1946 Chevy truck sat neglected. I had fallen in love with its gentle curves, large round headlights, and grinning chrome grill. I coveted this truck. I wanted it for my own even though I was not yet of driving age. Mother informed me that it belonged to her cousin. That was that.
After the passing of my great-grandmother, my father asked Momma’s cousin if he wanted the old truck. My ears perked. I couldn’t believe that it could be that easy. By the end of my father’s bold conversation, he was the owner of my truck! Well! I didn’t even know he was interested in it!
Daddy’s love must have run as deep as mine – deeper, really. He spent his last living days pumping money, energy, and precious time into bringing the old jewel back to shine. You see, he was dying and I think he knew it before the cancer was even found out. Friends, old and new, came together to help him get it running. And he did, he got it going, bumping along in it’s ancient gears. He tried to take me for a ride in it, pride oozing from his pores. I was pregnant with my youngest daughter and all the jostling up and down on the old spring-cushion seat caused my stomach to cramp in pain, forcing us to return home.
Daddy died not long after. I walked to his open casket one last time and my knees went weak. Caught by my husband and my daddy’s best friend, I made it to lay my hand on his. I sobbed like I knew how bad I was going to miss this man, though I didn’t really have a clue.
I watched for years as the old Chevy sat outside, neglected. All my father’s hard work was going to waste. It was like watching Daddy die another slow death. I finally asked Momma if I could buy it from her. She told me it belonged to me as well as my siblings. It was part of our inheritance. If I wanted it for my own, I would have to buy my brother and sister’s share from them with their permission. I made the calls, got permission, sent the checks, and picked up the truck. It was finally mine! It took many hours and lots more money to get her purring again. I got to drive her twice when death hit again…the death of my marriage.
It is sad when a thing you love becomes the symbol of pain. It sat again, unused. I gave it to my daughter as a part of my inheritance to her – the same daughter I was pregnant with on that first ride. She had no way to store and keep it so it sat once again at my mother’s house. It is hard for me to describe what I felt every time I saw what was happening to the old girl.
Maybe it was not my responsibility any more, but I still felt the guilt. I discussed it with my daughter. Really, I told her. “I’m going to take back the truck, get it running again, and you can have it when I die.” What could she say?
Armed with Daddy’s manuals, all the tools I possessed, and all the products recommended by the auto parts store, I headed to Momma’s. Momma hadn’t been feeling well, but she couldn’t help herself. She came out and helped me. She instructed me how to hook the towing chain to the truck and her tractor. She pulled and I steered. Once out in the open, we took out the seat so that we could remove the gas tank that sat beneath it. (Yes, that’s where they put the gas tank! Right under your bottom!) I crawled underneath and removed all bolts holding down the brackets. We cleaned out the tank and hung it upside down to dry out. The next day, we put it back in the truck, filled it up, put in a new key switch because the original keys had been lost, and began our efforts to get it started.
Momma was in her element – glowing. She told me how she used to watch her daddy work on the tractors; how she loved to help him. She said this old truck wasn’t much different from those tractors. It amazed me all that she could recall.
Finally, with her behind the wheel and me, spraying starter spray straight into the carburetor, the old girl coughed back to life! I jumped up and down, shouting and clapping like a little girl. Momma whooped and hollered as she gunned it with more gas. I looked under the hood and a fountain of gas was shooting up. “Kill it, Mom!” I yelled. “We’re spraying gas!”
Ok. So we had to call in some professional help. We still got it running and took if for a quick spin around the pasture and down the dirt road. What a memory! The old ’46 is still with the mechanic who is kind of old himself and taking his time. I’m hoping it will be ready by spring when I can take it for a real drive…when everything will be coming back to life and not dying.
She places nimble fingers in her mouth to moisten before pinching the string of her bow.
Quick as a flash of her wink, the crimson-hot arrow flies.
Tinkling bells of laughter escape her as she watches the arrow finds its mark.
The mortal flesh feels not the pain of infliction.
Only heart, soul, and pure emotion burn.
Valentine’s Day, that one day we as mortals celebrate a feeling so profound that words don’t seem able to describe. For as far back as I can remember, it has been my favorite holiday – a day full of romance and the chance to feel special.
I recall as a young girl spending long parts of classroom afternoons crafting a special box. This box could take on any appearance I chose, covered with construction paper hearts and my name printed plainly on its top. It held a bit of magic to me. Inside it, I might find my “true love’s” feelings written on the back of a pre-printed card labeled, “MY SPECIAL VALENTINE”.
For my own part, I carefully selected a box of these valentines. Once I made it home with them, I spread them out before me on our multi-purpose kitchen table and began my sorting process. These were suited for my friends. These were marginal and noncommittal and could be assigned to classmates to whom I had no real connection. And this one, well it was unique and was carefully set aside to label for that special someone. And yes, I had a special someone (in my mind) every year. It might be a different special someone every year, but I was young and didn’t see anything wrong with that.
Then, oh that special day! Finally, cookies shaped like hearts, candy with sentiments stamped on their sugary surface, red punch or kool-aid, and the colors of Valentine’s Day splashed on every wall of our classroom. Moms watched from the edges to see the smiles their planning had evoked. Teacher stood at her post, making sure the festivities moved to the ticking of the clock.
When the time came, I took my brown paper bag and began delivering my little white envelopes. My face burned with nervousness. Would he see me place my envelope in his box as I paused by his desk?
I waited until I arrived at home to begin pulling one valentine out at a time, searching for the handwriting that I knew so well. When I held it in my hand, hope surged in my heart. Would I be special?
Most of those moments ended in disappointment as I realized I had been given one of those noncommittal cards, the funny ones that made light of my feelings; and yet, I still looked excitedly towards February 14th with the hope that cupid would strike his heart next year, as well as mine.
With all of the division in our country today, I thought it might be nice to take a pause and look at our flag like I did yesterday. I was out for my walk on a beautiful spring-like day – the last day of January. The sun spread out its blanket of warmth while the winds blew as if practicing for March. I headed down the sidewalk and looked ahead and above. This flag was not still for a second. It twisted and turned as if to say, “Look at me!” I did. Then, I pulled out my camera and clicked the shutter several times.
When I got home and started editing my photo, I noticed that the stars had become obscured – barely noticeable. Well, I thought, they represent the states, our division, and I don’t really want to focus on that, anyway. The stripes stood out in the forefront where they belonged.
According to USFlag.org, “The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valor,…”. This information reminds me of how our country looked to Jesus when it was still in “knee-pants”…before it became “educated” and in my opinion, too big for its britches! I don’t go around shouting my political views, but today, I want to shout out my patriotism – my love for a country that allows me to follow my first love, Christ.
Think of the color white. Think of how it was put in our flag to remind us of purity and innocence. Jesus was pure. He was without sin, also and therefore, innocent; yet he bore the stripes on the fabric of his flesh. Those stripes ran red with blood.
Red. Hardiness and valor. Strength. Think of the strength it would take to restrain yourself and your inborn human instinct to fight for your innocence; to allow yourself to be willingly nailed to a rough board like you were a human sign to all who passed by – a sign that you deserved this. Webster’s Dictionary (yes, I still use the paper kind!) says valor is: to be strong. Courageous. Worthy of Honor. This also reminds me of my Saviour.
You see, once (I believe) our country, our patriots and forefathers looked to Jesus as a guide and for inspiration. I also believe that if we would stop, reflect, and remember our history and our heritage, using Jesus and His Holy Word as our inspiration, our country might come together again…each star shining in its field of blue.
Three months. Maybe, a little more. No pen to paper. No journaling. No additional chapters to my current novel. Nothing. Empty.
It’s not that my life has been boring. It’s not even that I didn’t have ideas or material to work with. The thing is: I’ve been frozen. Shut up deep inside myself. My world spinning around me, faster, faster. I became so dizzy with all that I kept inside that I became literally unbalanced. Sitting in the passenger side of my husband’s pickup, I would feel myself falling and would jerk myself upright. The sensation was so real. The panic I felt scared me. Days later, after sitting through a class, I rose to walk but my legs felt numb from the waist down. The gravity of my world was pulling me to it and I had to grab hold of James’ arm to stay upright. I was tired. So tired.
I got out my tablet and began my research. Using clues as search words, I found one article after another that pointed towards vitamin deficiencies. Monday, I made a call to my physician. I walked through her door with my list in my hand. “Here. These are my symptoms.” Dr. Mulupuri looked at me with concern in her dark, exotic eyes. She agreed that some of my symptoms pointed toward my diagnosis, but she concluded that together, they didn’t make complete sense. “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?” She asked. “Yes.” I nodded to affirm my answer. “Is it something that will go away anytime soon?” I wanted to simply say, “No”, but instead burst into a flood of tears.
I left with a prescription in my hand and shame in my heart.
All this time, I had felt my world spinning out of control. I prayed. I read book, after book, after book, trying to free myself from my own drama by getting lost in someone else’s. I pushed myself. Made my body go against its inclination to remain still. I filled my days, my time.
Poor James. The only stable thing in my unbalanced home. He watched me yo-yo. He must have been scared to call me, and yet he still did. He must have dreaded getting out of his truck to come inside, but he came. He let me storm around him with a look of sad desperation in his eyes, and yet there was love as well.
All those feelings are still within me. The storms are still raging around me… Mom’s cancer and loneliness. My business failure. Two dear friends with breast cancer. A grandson with Autism. Secrets shared that weigh heavy on my heart. Illness in James’ family. World devastation in the form of earthly storms with people I love affected. The child who lives the closest to me is now moving further away. My father’s last surviving brother’s unexpected death…And through all this, no tears. I can’t cry. The hurricane is just off the shore but the waves are just playfully lapping at my feet.
My energy returned. I made lists and gloried in marking through each entry. I even felt a little happy. I knew that storm was still out there but the sky above me remained lit by an eternal sun.
I spoke to one of my daughters. I told her, “I feel like everything is just falling apart around me…all these terrible things…and yet, the worst is still out there. It hasn’t hit yet. I don’t know what it is.” “Mom!” She said. “That’s terrible!” I nodded and looked down. “I know it is. But that’s how I feel.”
And then, it hit. That storm that could bring me to tears…at least just a little. I sat in a waiting room with my mother and my sister. It was my mother’s birthday. My brother came out with his wife. Both shaky like they had walked away from a wreck. “It’s throat cancer.” He said.
My little brother. The one that I spent so many childhood days playing with, fighting with. The one who was Tarzan to my Jane. The one who was Batman to my Batgirl. The one who took me aside and told me his darkest fears and secrets. The one who was a storm in and of himself. Who spent his life bouncing off one rocky cliff to another, never quite able to stay in between the lines on life’s curvy road.
I’ve been down this road. This cancer nightmare. I can’t help him, though. I love him. I pray for him. I listen to him. The choices are his.
Now, I still take that little pill every night even though it doesn’t numb me quite enough. I wish I was stronger.
A dream comes to me. One that I dreamed so long ago. I was in my mother’s back yard. We all were there, the living and the dead. A tornado came. I grabbed hold of a nearby pecan tree. Just a sapling, really. I held on to it while the wind blew me like a flag. If I could just hold on. If we could all just hold on.
Those first golden moments of the day – you know, right after you wake up and the possibilities are endless. God has just granted you a fresh start. Now, what to do with those early morning hours!
It used to seem so simple. What I remember most about my early childhood mornings was crawling out of bed and making my way to the hub of our home: the kitchen. Curiosity was what got me going. I wanted to see what was going on in the world and everyone in my world was in the kitchen. I can remember lying in bed trying to eavesdrop on conversations already taking place and then, padding bare feet across linoleum floors to get to the heart of it all.
As I grew old enough to attend public school, my morning routines changed. Instead of being woken by my inner stirrings, I was blasted out of dreamland by my father’s version of Reveille. The bedroom door would bust open and if you opened your eyes quick enough, you would see his eyes twinkle with mischief as he sang, “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up this mornin’……You better get up, you better get up, you better get up right now…..!” Then, he would raise his fake bugle to his lips (his hand) and play the melody in his best, most irritating, bugle voice until we waved the white flag and tumbled out from under the covers.
Then, ahhh, my teen years! I was growing up and I was all modern because my brother, Brady had gotten me a flip alarm clock for Christmas. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a clock that has little plastic numbers on a rotating rod. Each minute would “flip” the number to reveal the next highest number. It made a nice whirring sound as well as the sequential flipping of plastic plates. The slumbering soul would hear that final heavy click that signaled the pre-set alarm to sound. I would slap the button; stare at the ceiling wishing I could finish that dream; and then head down the stairs to find Daddy sitting alone at the table drinking his coffee.
“Why do you get up so early, Daddy?” I would ask.
“It’s my alone time. I like to sit here and drink my coffee while everything is quiet.” He would say.
I wondered what was so great about that? I would rather be dreaming about that boy at school! I didn’t say that to him, though. I just went to the cabinet and poured myself a bowl of cereal before joining him at our round kitchen table. (In case you are wondering where my mother was, by this time in my life, she had learned to stay in bed as long as Daddy would let her. We were old enough to fend for ourselves.)
We make it to my senior year: the year I actually started caring how I looked. It took all these years to persuade my tomboy self that boys don’t appreciate you for being able to throw a football or ride a horse. Before the sun could even start flushing the sky, my alarm would sound and I went straight to the bathroom to plug in my hot curlers. Then, I descended the stairs, ate breakfast, went back up, put in the curlers, took a shower, dressed, put on make-up, and finally took out the cooled curlers and fixed my hair.
I married right out of high school. (I guess the hot curlers did their job!) Ten months later, I had my first child. A year and a half later, my second. My third, after about the same span. My morning routines changed along with my fast-expanding family. This is when I discovered the magic of coffee. This is when I began to understand my father’s ritual. Alone time, I learned, was something precious, something stolen if needed. The golden hours swung between getting children fed and dressed; wiping chubby cheeks; and brushing out tangled, tousled hair. My attire didn’t seem to matter. My own hair could be pulled back in a ponytail or hang in a mangled mess until time permitted a better arrangement.
Looking back, mornings may have been busy, but they were simple. Now, these hours are riddled with decisions and guilt over whether or not I am making the right decision. I blame a lot of this on Pinterest. Ever since this app was introduced to me, I feel like Martha Stuart has invaded my every morning insisting that I am not making the best use of my time!
Want to lose weight? You should get straight out of bed and do 20 push-ups, 50 jumping jacks, 20 crunches, 20 mountain climbers, and a 30 second plank. Excuse me! Is this before or after I have had my first-thing-in-the-morning glass of hot lemon water? Or, wait, was I supposed to drink that full bottle of water that I’m supposed to leave on my night stand?
Do you want to be a writer? You should get up while you are still in your “dream state” and get all that good creative juice on some paper!
Want to be more spiritual? Spend this quiet time reflecting on how grateful you are for all the good things in your life. Try to sit in a cross-legged position (oh, sure!) with your spine straight, eyes closed, and hands on knees while you keep your mind quiet. Try not to think. (This, my people, is near impossible if you are in pain from sitting in this position!)
I did read a book once that told how a lady got up straight out of bed and fell to her knees, thanking the Lord for letting her wake up. The older I get, this seems like the best way to start the day for each day is a blessing. Maybe, that’s why I feel such guilt. I’m scared I’ll be like the servant Jesus talked about that wasted his talents, or the virgins that didn’t have oil for their lamps. I seem to wake up so torn and confused. By the time I’ve finished my coffee, I’m jumpy from nerves and caffeine. My list is long, but half my morning may be gone before I’ve got my plan in place. I think to myself that I should have done this before I went to bed, then I would have already known what to do. Or, maybe I should have slept in my workout clothes so I would have been ready to workout like that article suggested. Or….maybe….I’ll just roll over and go back to sleep!
It seems that in order to know the best way to start your day, it is imperative that you prioritize what is most important to you. If doing it first, instead of putting it off, is what makes you successful in that endeavor, then you need to know what you want; because it is a fact of life that if you procrastinate and say to yourself that you will do it later, chances are that fate will hand you something else to fill your time.
So, sweet dreams or productive mornings, whatever you choose, I hope those golden hours are blessed.