Overcoming Fear

When I was a child I hated swimming lessons.  Hate really isn’t a strong enough word for the memories I have.  My first swimming teacher was strict, hard, and had exacting standards.  Everything I needed really.  But I could never overcome my water phobias enough to meet her standard and pass.  I have no idea how many summers I spent in Beginners.   It seems like about 5, but I know that’s not mathematically possible.

So when our girls started to come of age for swimming instruction I wanted something completely different.  The high school daughter of a fellow church family and a client of Matt’s was teaching lessons in their back yard.  She was sweet, mild, and wonderfully encouraging.  Perfect!  The first two girls did wonderfully under her instruction!  And then there was Chandler.

Chandler has issues with the water, and unfortunately, I often forget the reason for them.  I don’t know why, but the memory of Chandler bobbbing, struggling, clawing for the top of the water in a friend’s pool where she climbed in without her floaties is not burned into my mommy brain like so many other parts of her life.  Maybe it’s because she’s caused so many scares that part of my brain is full.  Maybe it’s because she was fine once we got her arm and pulled her out.  Maybe it’s because I’m a terrible mother.  She couldn’t have been much over one when it happened.  But apparently she was old enough that it left a permanent impression because she is terrified of water.  She’s fine with it on her own terms.  But take her to the deep end and it.is.over.  This is an important thing to remember when enrolling her in swimming lessons.

She threw a fit when our friends’ sweet daughter attempted to take her to the deep end a few years ago.  She threw a hideous fit last summer when we pressured her to jump off the diving board at another friend’s pool.  (In our defense, we knew she was able to swim; she did not believe it herself.)  I knew we needed someone tougher than that third born child to teach her to swim.

Enter my running buddy, Nikki.  She has been helping kids learn to swim for years.  I had heard legendary stories of how tough (but great) she is.  Totally not what I wanted for my kids.  Oh, and to get a spot in her classes, you have to stay up until midnight on some arbitrary night in March to sign up.  Otherwise all the slots will be full.  Definitely not ever doing that!  Until this year.  Because I knew she was exactly the type of teacher I wanted for these last two kids.

The first day the four year old cried and screamed and refused to do anything she was told.  I was slightly surprised as she normally loves the water, but she’s four and that’s the way she operates sometimes.  We talked all that Monday about how the next day would be different and when she could go a whole lesson without any screaming or crying, we would get ice cream.  (I am not above bribery when necessary.)  Tuesday was some wimpering, but it was only about 75 degrees outside, so the pool was considerably warmer than the side she spent most of the lesson sitting on!  She got a cherry limeade for not screaming.  Wednesday she went through her lessons with a smile and was rewarded with a yummy McDonald’s ice cream cone.  Ellie made it through the remaining eight lessons without a tear or complaint.  There were moments I could tell she was working hard to overcome her natural fears, but she did it and I was so proud of her.

The first two days Chandler did fabulously.  I couldn’t have been prouder.  She did everything she was asked and I thought her lessons were going to be a breeze.  Enter Wednesday when something possessed her to behave like a stuck pig and scream and squeal and RUN from Nikki and the diving board until she found herself cornered on the deck and had no choice but to submit.  I found myself wanting to crawl under said deck and die from shame.  I don’t know what happened and I do know what happened.  She was tired.  I hate that excuse, especially for any child past the stage of daily naps.  But it’s true.  Chandler falls apart if she doesn’t have enough sleep and the night before she didn’t.  I’m really not much better, so I sympathize.  And, for one reason or another, that fear in her welled up and could not be contained.

We talked long that day about right behavior and wrong behavior and how the next day would go.  Thursday was an improvement.  Friday was altogether wonderful.

I watched over ten days as my girls wrestled with their fears and their emotions and learned to control them. I could see on their faces the exhaustion or the panic and the internal wrestling to do the right thing.  I teared up many times as I saw their courage.  I watched as Chandler overcame her intense fear of deep water and learned to jump off the board and swim two lengths of the pool and then swim two more shortly after.  I watched her learn to control her fear as she learned to tread water and keep her head up.  I watched her swim farther at the public pools and the lake with her new confidence.  And I watched with great motherly pride as she passed her class the first time through.

Over the past two weeks, Chandler has not only learned how to swim better.  She has learned that she can control her emotions and that she can overcome her fears.  That alone was worth any amount of money.

On a different note, I was so impressed by my friend and her ability to handle those children.  She is tough.  And she doesn’t put up with any nonsense.  But she clearly cared about each child there and the smile on her face when they accomplished something was almost as amazing and joyful as the child’s.  So thanks, Nikki.  I know the past two summers have been hard but I am so thankful my girls had the chance to learn from you.

Ellie waiting her turn

Ready for a kneeling dive

Ready for some really uncoordinated swimming moves 🙂

On the board

This was a big accomplishment!

Back stroke - sort of

Chandler waiting her turn

Swimming the length of the pool unaided

And swimming back

Chandler's turn off the board

Back stroke

Back stroke again

Ellies "Grade Card"

Chandler's "Grade Card" - Still so proud of both of them

On Burdens and Blessings

From Streams in the Desert, July 8:

There is a fable about the way birds first got their wings.  The story goes that initially they were made without them.  Then God made the wings, set them down before the wingless birds, and said to them, “Take up these burdens and carry them.”

The birds had sweet voices for singing, and lovely feathers that glistened in the sunshine, but they could not soar in the air.  When asked ot pick up the burdens that lay at their feet, they hesitated at first.  Yet soon they obeyed, picked up the wings with their beaks, and set them on their shoulders to carry them.

For a short time the load seemed heavy and difficult to bear, but soon, as they continued to carry the burden and to fold the wings over their hearts, the wings grew attached to their little bodies.  They quickly discovered how to use them and were lifted by the wings high into the air.  The weights had become wings.

The past two weeks have been mixed with blessings and burdens, victories and disappointments.  But I am reminded that our weights can become our wings if we choose to see them as such.

0622.  the first day of swim lessons

0623.  knowing that the second day will be better

0624.  rising early to serve Jesus breakfast

0625.  looking forward to doing it again

0626.  the second day of swim lessons

0627.  friend good news and praises

0628.  reversed charges

0629.  feeling unproductive

0630.  being broken

0631.  words of grace

0632.  enchiladas left in the oven over night

0633.  chicken casserole, without the chicken

0634.  God’s grace to handle a bad day well

0635.  clean fridge and freezer

0636.  peanut butter play doh

0637.  baby goats

0638.  a pond

0639.  Mahner-time

0640.  seven year old waking tired sisters up

0641.  swimming and monokini’s 😦

0642.   clean house and kitchen and floors

0643.  late dinner

0644.  project disasters

0645.  date night and good conversation

0646.  God’s hand

0647.  dog’s birthday

0648.  running with my love

0649.  impromptu naps

0650.  blonde “baby” so tan

0651. doggy gift of a dead mouse

0652.  early service

0653.  4th of July parade

0654.  changes in plans and coming over for lunch anyway

0655.  home made ice cream and apple pie

0656.  rainy fourth

0657.  letting tired ones go to bed on time

0658.  New York City fire works on television

0659.  dry swim session

0660.  day trip to KC with Matt on a Monday

0661.  flashing lights and slips of paper that remind us to slow down

0662.  talking late about the school year, budgets, and how to make it all work

0663.  how early 5:15 feels

0664.  swimming progress

0665.  fears overcome

0666.  next year’s Shark and Minnow

0667.  Cows Eat Free Day

0668.  celebratory cones at Dairy Queen

0669.  Ruthie

0670.  make your own pizza night

0671.  friend words that sting

0672.  practicing what I preach

0673.  Sunday afternoon snuggles with the youngest

I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.  ~ Isaiah 48:10

They will soar on wings like eagles.  ~ Isaiah 40:31

Your burdens are your blessing.  May they carry you to the throne of the Most High this week.

A Brief Hiatus and Some Links Worth Clicking

Due to the girls’ swimming every morning during the time that I normally do my computer work and due to the fact that I need to spend some time here getting ready for the upcoming school year, I am taking this week off from posting. I’ll be back next week to count the blessings and to share life with each of you. In the meantime, check out some of these posts that I loved last week.  They are definitely worth a click and a few minutes of your time.

I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful week!

Ann’s post from last Thursday on living your best life.

Kristen’s excellent thoughts on Why Is America Blessed.  The comments are worth a read, too.

Friday’s devotion over at A Disciple’s Notebook.  Take time.  Slow down.  Find those moments with God.

Intriguing photo post on a week’s worth of groceries for families around the world.  What would your picture look like?

Independence Day and Why It Matters To Me

It’s July 4th weekend!  A weekend filled with fun and celebration and some of the most wonderful parts of summer.  It’s also a time to think about our freedom – granted by God and outlined so eloquently by our Founding Fathers.  It’s a time to think about where our nation is and where it is going.  It’s a time for knowing that my allegiance is to a King and a Kingdom, but also that this is where God has placed me for my life so far in this world.

He has placed me here to have an impact and to influence others for Him.  He has placed me in a land of abundance that I may be a blessing to others.  He has placed me here “for such a time as this”.  And I am thankful to live here now, in this time.

I’m thankful for those that risked everything to sail across the ocean and follow a dream.  Thankful for those that have fought to protect our freedom.  Thankful for the freedom and ingenuity that have made this nation great.  And thankful for the privilege and responsibility of passing freedom and liberty on to my children.

(Photos from last year’s celebrations.  And, yes, I take a lot of pictures of Ellie.   🙂 )

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.  ~Anonymous

We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.

~Robert J. McCracken

Have a wonderful weekend celebrating with your families!