The Winds and Waves Surround Me - My Open Water Swim Across Boy Lake

by Jodi

Those of you who have read our blog for any amount of time know my battle with fear in the water.  When I was a kid, I got trapped between a rock and a fallen log in strong rapids on a raging river.  I've been terrified of drowning ever since.

I spent most of 2009 learning how to swim with my face in the water.  It took me weeks to link more than two laps together consecutively.  Putting my face in the water induced panic.  Watching the bottom of the pool drop out induced panic.  Another swimmer creating a wake or accidentally smacking me induced panic. The only thing that kept me swimming was my desire to not let fear win.  

The panic is irrational and unpredictable.  Even when I'm freaking out, the logical side of my brain speaks truth to the lies.  I've learned some tools to calm myself down and have great compassion for people who struggle with anxiety and panic on a daily basis.
trying to work up the courage to get in the water last summer

I completed my first olympic-distance triathlon in 2010 and then did another one last summer.  Both times, I had a panic attack in the water and almost quit.  Even though I was equipped as a swimmer to cover the distance all I could think about was getting out of the water.  I was an emotional wreck the second my feet touched the sand.
finishing the swim of my first triathlon with my best friend by my side
This spring the Sole Sisters started talking about training for a tri.  I bought a pool pass and timidly got back in the water.  I never like putting my face in the water.  Ever.  But once I got in, the first two training swims were fine.  Hooray for progress.

Then I had a terrible swim. Kurt, the lifeguard who has helped me a ton, could tell I was struggling.  He offered me some tips, but I never pulled it together.  I quit after 20 minutes.  It was the first time I've let fear get the best of me when I was swimming.  It rattled me.

I was so upset about quitting that I went back to the pool a few hours later and tried again.  I equipped myself mentally to kick some swimming butt, but instead fought the same battle. I couldn't find a rhythm.  Freaked out about everything.  And basically flailed around in the water for thirty more minutes.  The afternoon lifeguard actually asked me if I was okay after I got out.  Apparently my anxiety was etched all over my face and my erratic form.

Tanya and Carissa picked a triathlon, but it didn't work for my schedule.  I thought I was off the hook for an open water swim, but my husband wanted to do an open water swim on summer vacation.

His parents have a cabin in Northern Minnesota on Boy Lake.  To swim across it would be .75 miles, less than an olympic-distance triathlon but still a long distance.  I agreed to swim with him, but only if his brother drove a boat next to us so I could quit when I started freaking out. How's that for self-defeating thinking?

We got to the cabin and I saw how far it was to the other side. The water underneath the surface was murky and weedy and the kids were catching fish right off the dock.  I mentally checked out of doing the swim.  I figured I'd swim a few lengths, get in the boat, and cheer Curt on.

the cabin when we arrived.  We swam to the land on the other side.
The morning of our swim I ran ten miles.  It was hot, humid, and the mosquitos and deer flies were relentless in their pursuit of my blood.  I was a sweaty mess by the time I got back to the cabin.  Within minutes Curt asked me if I was ready to go for our swim and my stomach instantly balled up with anxiety.

SIDENOTE:  by finishing first at the Keizer Marathon in May, I won $50.  I used my marathon winnings to buy myself a real "swimming suit" hoping it made me faster in the water.  Talk about from first to worst...

I put on my new swimming suit, goggles, and swim cap and gingerly walked down to the end of the dock. The wind was whipping the water into a churning mess.  I have never gone swimming in such choppy water and had no desire to try.  I almost didn't.

But my sister-in-law Lara rode along in the boat and she encouraged me as I stood tentatively looking at the water.

"You've got this Jods.  It's going to be okay.  I'm praying for you.  We'll be right here if you need help.  Just try."

When I was running, a song called I Can Feel You by Jenn Johnson came on my iPod that has meant a lot to me.  It talks about Jesus bringing calm to the storms of life.  Of course it's metaphorical, but I was looking at literal water that was choppy and stormy and about to immerse myself in it.  I prayed.  Then jumped in the water.

Curt and I started slow.  Stroke, stroke, breathe.  Stroke, stroke, breathe.  Chad and Lara drove next to us in the boat.

Lake weeds grow from the bottom of the lake up.  Even though Boy Lake is deep, it took a LONG time of swimming to get out of the weeds.  They were just inches below me and I kept thinking I was going to get my feet tangled in them.  And I was worried about the fish and the leeches and everything else that lives and grow in the lake.

Once we swam out of the weeds, the water got super choppy. The waves enveloped us and pushed us up and down.  It was tough to swim.

I kept up the slow and steady rhythm.  When I stopped to spot myself, I was actually swimming straight.  I never do that.  The little white house on the other side slowly got larger and larger.  I was actually swimming across this lake.
making progress in my "swimming suit."
I kept waiting to panic - to wave the white flag and jump in the boat.  But praise Jesus - it never came.  For the first time ever, I swam in open water without a panic attack! 

Stroke, stroke, breathe.  "The winds and waves surround me. I'm tossed, feel like I'm drowning. I am tired I am weak.  I need you here with me. "

Stroke, stroke, breathe.  "Cause I can feel the rising tide.  And I don't have the strength to fight.  I feel clouded and confused.  I need you here with me."

Stroke, stroke, breathe.  "In the chaos of the storm I have drifted far, far away.  But I call out your name cause you are just a breath, a breath away."

Stroke, stroke, breathe.  "Then through the shadows, your Light appears.  I've known you're with me but now it is clear.  I can feel you Jesus all around."

Stroke, stroke, breathe.  "Like sun on my skin, warm to the touch.  Here you surround me and I am held by love.  I can feel you, Jesus, all around."

Stroke, stroke, breathe.  "Now hope is rushing through my veins, with everything you've rearranged.  I am peaceful I am brave when you're here with me."

All the way to the other side of the lake.

On July 18th, 2014, I physically lived out this metaphorical picture of how intimately and beautifully Jesus loves me and I am so grateful.

Sole Sister, if you are struggling - drowning in the chaos of the storm - may I encourage you to find rest in the arms of The One who loves you deeply and intimately?  Let Him rescue you and bring hope, peace and courage to your darkness.

With all my love,


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