“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord Himself, is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).
After contemplating and measuring up the emergency from the murky crown cove shoreline in the San Diego Bay, I jumped into the water to swim towards my second daughter, Piper, using the freestyle stroke in the beginning. I had some momentum going until I got some salt water from the west coast into my lungs. My body started weighing me down as my lungs felt as if a hundred pounds were crowding out everything and my ability to use oxygen. I was focused and determined to swim and help rescue my daughter from the waters. She has a broken arm and found herself adrift on a family sized paddle board. Questions and concerns bogged down my circuits—how did we get here? Her playing turned quickly south from a playful moment to true horror.
My emotions were messing with me as the stress sabotaged my muscles and restricted my swimming abilities and progress to my target. I couldn’t shake all the questions and what ifs. I changed it up with a breast stroke, but the salt water felt like I was swimming through a tub of wet cement. Not only that, but I turned my limp body over and took a shot at the backstroke, but my calves were destroyed with my fight-or-flight mode depleting my progress. I found myself in a panic attack as I peered towards my target of saving my little girl. Though she was safe on the oversized family paddle board and seemed still, the “what ifs” took their best shot at me.
The tears were starting to form as the disappointing realizations hit hard with facts that I couldn’t save her and I might drown. I had judged too swiftly when I saw a younger person struggling to reach her. He was a little over an arm’s length from her, but something shut him down stone-cold. Processing days later, I had an epiphany. From my original shoreline viewpoint, the water looked harmless. He was young. I couldn’t understand how someone couldn’t move just a little more to hold on to her board.
This is like life. We only see what we see. Our abilities in truly understand someone’s situation or circumstance is limited. We have no idea what each other is going through. Not only that, but we choose to see what we want to see while disregarding the truth. I know the world tends to show the edited versions of life, but none of it takes away the truth in what each of us is dealing with on a daily basis. Life is not easy. We can have fantastic moments, but the nightmares and brokenness come without notice. Our journey and circumstances can drastically and dramatically change after the perfect snapshot is snapped. It was a needed wake-up call for me—for all of us!
I did have a rare peace amongst the chaos, knowing Piper and I were not alone out in the waters. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7) rang true during our trial. In the midst of the panic and unknown, I knew God was with us. A song I’ve had on repeat by Elevation and Maverick City Music came to mind—Jireh, He provides!
As I listen to the words over and over while typing up this entry, tears swell up. It was a horrible place to be in. Life and situations can change in seconds. A fun beach day could have ended with a deeper grief I couldn’t handle. I don’t take things for granted or assume nothing can happen. If I could go back to Saturday, I would have done over a dozen things differently. I’m thankful God provided me with a selected tribe to survive this scenario.
I appreciate God not needing us to be anything else, but who we are right now. There’s no trophy, finish line, or match to get us higher. We just have to be us. I need to make sure I’m present and take care of my current state. There’s a time for everything. Feeling so helpless has been a state of mind for me in several circumstances. It wasn’t my first rodeo. I needed to remember God’s abilities to do anything and everything. He has a plan. He doesn’t bring us to something without getting us through it every time.
Being human at that moment of crises was humiliating and debilitating at a level I’ve only felt when Lilian Grace was dying. I couldn’t save or fix her. Lily’s fate of dying was happening without my permission or say. I felt the trauma from eleven years ago swallowing me whole in the depths of the water. I could almost see my expression with bug eyes, gaping mouth, and cringed forehead, highlighting pure horror, panic, and weakness. Furthermore, I was fighting to do anything and everything. I kept coming up short. At the time, I wasn’t sure how the San Diego Bay looked as a whole. I just kept picturing Piper finally losing it and somehow getting into the water where she was not only limited with a broken arm, but I was holding her swimming abilities to my failures of not being able to swim to her.
Before I had jumped into the unknown waters, I had solicited a group of people on a boat for help. They gave me excuses about her location being too shallow for the boat. I wanted to be angry when they didn’t feel the life or death urgency, but I couldn’t feel. Somehow, their lack of reaction actually calmed me. I didn’t need to overreact. Though my mind, body, and heart found me at war, I remembered whose I am and what He can do.
I had hesitated for an extended time, because I knew a dad tried to swim out to his daughter earlier and found himself needing to be saved. When time seemed to be going at a snail’s pace, I found myself in the water. I wasn’t sure how long I had tried to swim out to her, then found myself struggling to head back. Time seemed to be at a sloth pace.
Another memory came rushing back to me where I was going through a firefighter training simulation years ago. I was fully suited with oxygen and could feel the space caving in as I crawled through a small space shrinking smaller and smaller. I’m claustrophobic and could feel the panic attack coming on as the walls narrowed. When my feet hit a wall and I couldn’t progress, my mind, emotions, and shock went into full drive. I have never kicked with such force, knowing I didn’t want to die in the dark space. I broke through that wall in one kick.
When I was making my way back to the shoreline in the opposite direction I wanted to go, I could feel the familiar panic from my training exercise over twenty years ago. I needed to keep kicking and get myself where I could try something else. The waters weren’t going to be my ending. On a side note, there was a trained Navy SEAL paddling out to rescue her. I just couldn’t stand there in the sand waiting for something else to go wrong. There were many things against me. I felt like the devil was throwing everything at us like he has so many times before. The area she had drifted to happened so quickly. She was outside the lifeguards’ territory. Everyone near me seemed frozen or stunned. I was running out of options.
Thankfully, the people on the boat finally recognized and acknowledged my emergency as I reached the shoreline. I can only imagine I looked like I was straight out of a Jaws movie, terrified and helpless. They immediately headed out towards my daughter and her rescuer. Thank God they didn’t stay where they were with a turned cheek. It would have taken her rescuer at least an hour or two to get her and himself back to safety. I still don’t understand the level of difficulty and how quickly things progressed. I just know God is so good.
He showed me just how essential and needed His trainings are in this life once again. My daughter stayed so calm. Later, she thanked me for making her finish a program she wanted to quit, because it taught her how to balance and breathe. To top it all off, she went into great detail about pulling out a bee with the stinger from under her arm while floating on the board surrounded by water—of all the places for her to get her first bee sting. I saw God’s strength in her—a beautiful warrior princess. It matters what we consume and equip ourselves in life. When tested, the skills and His strength will be revealed.
My grieving journey has been challenging and exhausting over a decade. I’m constantly working through the flaming arrows and shortcomings. I’m thankful God gives me rest, as it states in Exodus 33:14, “the Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” Without Him, I could not do this life. Even in the horrific thoughts of losing another child, I was not willing to find out. Though I have limitations, I’m reassured that He is strong in my weakness. Praise Him on High!
God provided again and again. My hope is that you remember He is always here, round the clock. He can do anything. When you find yourself in another battle where you feel helpless and hopeless, remember whose you are and what He can do. I leave you with Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Always be available and open to learn from God. He prepares us as He provides for what is coming. Let’s get past our helplessness and hand it all over to Him as we live and breathe His plan. He loves us! Even when we can’t see Him, He is working.