By JENNY SEYLAR

Lifeguarding at indoor and outdoor swimming pools was the way I earned money in my late teens and early twenties. As each summer season at the outdoor pool began, we participated in a refresher course of rescue training. One summer, while treading water in the deep end, waiting for my turn to retrieve a rubber brick from the bottom of the 13 foot section, I nearly drowned. A fellow lifeguard thought it would be funny to grab my foot and pull me down as I was making my way to the surface of the pool.

If you know anything about swimming then you might know that a deep water dive ends with a swift push off from the bottom, followed by rapid kicking and arm pulls to the surface. On the ascent upward, I blew all the remaining air from lungs, anticipating breaking the surface. When my foot was grabbed 2 things happened: I lost my momentum to the surface and was momentarily suspend about 3 feet down, AND I had no reserve of air in my lungs to make it those remaining 3 feet. As I clawed and kicked my way to the surface I panicked and barely made it. When I did burst through to the open air, I was both relieved and angered.

There are times when my grief feels like I am suspended just below the surface. I struggle to claw my way out of darkness and back into the light and the air. Learning to swim in the turbulent waters of my life is no simple task. Yet each time my grief starts to pull me under, I discover that I have became just a bit stronger…. stronger in my faith…. stronger in my independence…. stronger in the relationships that matter most. I discover that I can do single life, after all.

Judges 18: 9-10 reads, “Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over…. God has put into [my] hands a land that lacks nothing, whatever.” Grief and faith have taught me that I need only reach out and take hold of the life God has given, just as a drowning person reaches for a life buoy. God always offers us a lifeline. Unfortunately there are many times that we fail to reach out and grab the abundant life the God has for us. Still, it is there for the taking, and we are all invited to do so.

In this season I am choosing to take hold of my life, my vocation, my faith, my home, my relationships, and to claim them for my own. I no longer live in a house for two, and so I have painted with a color that speaks to me, and have replaced some furniture that reflects MY tastes, and not OUR tastes as a couple. The same goes for my vocation and day-to-day decisions: they are mine to make without regard to my partnered life. I do not make these choices lightly. On the contrary, they are made through prayer and quiet contemplation, which I seek in the stillness of my daily morning time with God. Without that time, I would still be bobbing in the storm-tossed water, hoping for someone to throw a lifeline.

Now that I have proven to myself that I am able to go from day-to-day with God’s help and my own volition, I shall once again swim in the sea of my life, participating in all that comes my way. Instead of treading water and riding the waves, I plan to explore the coves and inlets, to traverse into unknown seas, and to swim through the rapids and calm waters of my life. I know not what I will find in these new places, but I am certain I do not go alone, for God is my lifeline.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:  Dear one, what are the difficult things in your life that leave you feeling like you are sinking in despair? Who is it in your life that you can count on to throw you a lifeline? Do you trust that God offers you an abundant life, and all you must do is reach out and grab ahold? I pray you will learn to swim with God in the calm and turbulent waters of your life.

PRAYER:  God of All Creation, even when I am sinking in despair, You reach out to me and offer Your hand. I will strive every day to hold on to You as I journey in the waves and calm waters of my life, remembering that I am never alone.  Thank You that Your abundance is always right there waiting for me.  Amen.

ABOUT JENNY SEYLAR  Jenny Seylar is a woman with a deep faith in Jesus Christ who serves in ministry at a United Methodist Church in Iowa. As a pastor and youth director, she is passionate about walking with all ages as they journey in their faith. She believes in creating authentic relationships in order to walk alongside folks wherever they are in their faith journey.

In 2017, Jenny’s husband of 28 years unexpectedly died while on a training bicycle ride. In the aftermath, Jenny and her 3 grown kids, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, have sought ways to find joy in the everyday miracles that make up this life. You can read more about Jenny Seylar and her ministry at www.lovelylane.org or her blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at https://journeyandstrength.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/through-the-lens-of-grief/