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Shirley Valencia

Honorable Mention: 2017 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $100

About this Christian Poet:
Shirley Valencia, a native Kentuckian who has now been a long-time resident of Ohio, has written poems and stories since childhood.  Her works have appeared in Canada, England and several U.S. publications throughout the years, including Mad Poets Review, Storyteller, Appalachian Heritage and others. Poems are also forthcoming in The Stray Branch.  She is currently working on a book of children’s poems, admittedly inspired by last year’s new addition to the family, her granddaughter Damaris.

About this Poem:
My own childhood was much like that of the character in my poem.  My sister and I were blessed to have both the guidance of two wonderful parents and the added influence of church and Sunday School in our lives as we grew up. After finishing the poem and re-reading it, I now think many of us may spot glimpses of ourselves here and there, but hopefully all will agree with its conclusion.

Prayers and Perspectives

Her earliest church memories
were of tent revivals, footwashing meetings,
Easter Sundays with egg hunts and new Easter
dresses that often had to be hidden by winter coats
because spring on the calendar didn’t always
feel like spring.  She loved it all, though,
and knew she was a good little girl
because everyone told her so.
She said her prayers every night at bedtime.
 
Later there was Sunday School,
where the weekly gathering with teenage friends
actually became more a social event than a
religious experience.  Like the others, she never
guessed that lessons learned from that gray haired,
soft-spoken Sunday School teacher would surface at
random occasions to guide their choices throughout
their lives. She hoped she was a good person
and she still remembered to say her prayers at night.
Most of the time.
 
Then for a number of years, she lost herself
rushing headlong into her future, chasing
opportunities, grabbing for success,
turning over stones to look for happiness.
She prayed for help when times were difficult.
Prayed for mercy while waiting for
test results from her doctor.  Prayed for her father
when he almost didn’t survive an accident.
But most nights she was just too tired and sleepy
to pray and figured God was probably disappointed
in the way her life had turned out anyway.
 
But when her first child was born,
she held him close to her breast and trembled
at the love radiating from the tiny bundle
staring up at her. Later, it was the same with the others.
She prays a lot now as she watches them grow,
thanking God for every blessing in her life, knowing
she could never count them all. Thanks Him
for not giving up on her during those years when
she pushed Him into the background of her life.
Prays for His help in being the person
He wants her to be. But most of all, she gives thanks
when she holds her children close, because
she can’t even begin to imagine how much God had
to love us all to give up His only child to save us.  

Copyright ©2017 by Shirley Valencia