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Swim With Her

August 23, 2022

And just like that, she started swimming.

Our beloved white, scruffy dog, Harper, had always backtracked immediately at the pond or the lake when it got deep and she sensed that her feet were about to leave the ground. Don’t get me wrong, she loves the water, but only for splashing and leaping and running in. Not swimming.

We’ve had this sweetheart, this treasure of a dog, for 2 1/2 years now. I never thought we could love another dog the way we loved our Golden Retriever Abby, but this darling Golden doodle/Husky mix has filled our home with joy and laughter! She healed the broken places that were created when Abby passed. We. Adore. Harper.

But she didn’t want to swim. Nope. Not her thing. Which was disappointing because Abby loved the heck out of swimming! Abby could not get enough. And it delighted us.

But Harper didn’t want to swim. Clearly it was too risky. Paws on the sand was definitely the way to go.

Until we went camping in Coos Bay, Oregon earlier this month, and we went to one of our favorite swimming spots: Hall Lake. It was a gorgeous day!

I had to keep Harper on the leash since there were some other families enjoying the lake and I knew she would run over and be too friendly (a.k.a. annoy them). So I kept her on the leash and stepped into the water with her.

The sand was smooth and sloped down quickly. Harper’s body dipped into the water and I was right beside her, easing deeper. Her front paws left the ground. I could see her try to turn back, so I quickly lowered myself into the water right by her face and said, “Good dog, Harper! Here we go…”

And just like that, she started swimming. All four feet left the ground and she knew exactly what to do. My feet left the ground quickly and I continued to coax her. “Good girl…Look at you!… Good dog….”

Seth and the kids were exclaiming with delight. “Harper! Good girl! You’re swimming!”

I let her turn back towards the shore pretty quickly so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Her feet met sand and she got out to shake. We praised her and petted her. I was so proud of my baby. She did something new! She was brave!

And the reason it happened was because I swam beside her.

We went right back in after that, several times, farther and farther out with each of our many ventures. Because I had to keep her on the leash, I swam right beside her, talking to her and gently keeping the leash out of the way of her busy, swimming paws.

There’s a log that has been in that lake for years, since the first time we went there. Harper spotted it and went for it! I could hardly keep up because my girl is a natural swimmer! Day One and she was a champ.

When we reached the log I managed to prop her on it to rest. Bit of an awkward task since it was sloped and slippery, but we stayed there for a couple of minutes, catching our breath and basking in the sun.

I will never forget that day. I was so proud of her. So thrilled. She did it!

It made me realize that we all need someone to swim with us sometimes. If we’re trying something new, sometimes it’s too scary to venture out alone. We need that friend right beside us, lowering herself into the water, calmly saying, “You can do this….Good girl…I’m here too…There you go…” Or if we are going through a difficult time, sometimes we need someone to share in it with us, saying, "It's Ok...I'm with you...we can do this together..."

I’m beyond thankful for the friends that have gotten in the water with me and slowly gone deeper, right beside me, so our feet would leave the ground together and I wouldn’t have to go it alone.

Two years ago I started Arise Women’s Ministry, knowing it was something God told me to do, but I would not have had the courage to start this thing, and set out swimming, without my three fellow leaders swimming right along with me. They have kept me going so many times by sharing the job responsibilities, praying for God's guidance for the ministry, and encouraging me. I've had some personal struggles since we launched Arise, and they have been right beside me through it. And I love how they share the vision with me! They can look ahead with me and believe that God is going to do amazing things with Arise, and we all keep swimming towards whatever He has in store! I love them for this!

And I have to mention my mama. She's always supporting me, loving me, willing to listen and pray with me. She attends Arise Bible study with me and she loves on all the younger ladies there, not just me. Recently some big changes happened with my job, and when I heard the news, I drove to my mom's house without telling her I was coming, and when she opened the door I told her I was so sad and I then I cried in her embrace. She let me talk and cry, then she prayed with me. That's what moms are for. She is always ready to swim right alongside me, whether it's in my sadness or my joy.

Ok, here's a tough one to talk about. Sometimes when you recognize you are having trouble swimming, you need to ask for help. I chose to go to Biblical counseling last year because I was struggling with some thought patterns that I knew related to my past. My counselor is a beautiful soul who always listened, guided me back to what the Bible says, and prayed for me faithfully. (She still does!) When we decided it was time for me to stop attending counseling sessions, we both wanted to keep up our friendship! Now we can talk about how I'm doing and how she's doing, instead of always talking about me. One of the cool things about being friends with her is that she already knows my struggles, because that's how counseling begins, so I don't have to fear that being honest with her will scare her away. She already knows the real me! What a gift to start a friendship that way, by talking about the hard topics first. My prayer is that as our friendship continues, I can help her the way she has helped me, and swim alongside her when the time comes.

You don't even have to be in the same state to swim with someone. My best friend lives in Colorado while I'm in Oregon. I met her my first week of college, and it's been almost 30 years since then. She has always been the one I trust the most, the one who points me to the truth of God's Word, the one I can reveal all my struggles and weaknesses to, without facing any judgement. She loves me like family. These days we talk via FaceTime every other week, not just to stay in touch, but so that she can help me continue to work through those personal heart issues I have, picking up where my counselor left off. (She was the one who recommended I get counseling in the first place). When counseling was wrapping up, my counselor asked me to choose someone to meet with regularly for "check-ins" to see how I'm doing, and there was no one else but her that I could imagine being that honest with. She's the one. This week I told her of my failures, and she spoke the truth to me in love, then prayed for me as I cried. I don't know where I would be right now without her. She's been swimming with me my entire adult life, and I don't know how I got so lucky. I think God knew I needed her, so He brought her into my life when I was 18 years old, and has kept us close all these years.

If you are in a season of life where you feel like you don't have anyone to swim alongside you, maybe you need to look for someone else who needs you swimming alongside her. Four years ago, when I was a preschool teacher, a mom of one of my students decided she wanted to be friends with me. I liked her right away because she was super kind, thoughtful, and fun. I didn't really think I needed more friends, but we made a coffee date anyway. She liked asking for my advice and I liked helping people so...we got along great. Little did I know how much I would need her right during that season, and ever since! My husband and I left our church at that time since he got hired at a different church, and I had to reinvent all my relationships and start a new job and basically just start over. It was tough, and confusing, and for a long time I didn't know what I was supposed to do with my life. And this friend swam right alongside me. Her family started attending our new church. She let me love on her little kids, since mine are too old to like snuggles anymore. She makes me laugh. When I went on a business trip and I was nervous about it, she left a little note in my purse that said, "Code word: chicken." She had told me if I got in an awkward situation, I could text her the code word and she would call to get me out of it! Can you see why I adore her?! And she's trustworthy. She asks for my advice but she gives me good advice as well. When I worked in an office, she used to stop by my work just to say hi and bring me coffee. Sometimes I ask her to send me videos just so I can see her and all her kids hanging out at home. She makes me feel like part of the family. Not long after we became friends, I told her she felt like home, because she was part of my new life after I left the old chapter behind. She's fiercely loyal. We pretend to be jealous of all our outside friendships, but in reality we don't control each other. Just love, support, and togetherness. I know this one will always be there if I need her.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I have others that swim with me that I didn't even mention in this post. I have been incredibly blessed. My intention with writing this post is to remind myself, and anyone reading this, that we need each other! Look around in your life. Is there someone you know who needs you? Maybe she wants to do something brave, but she doesn't know how to do it on her own. Swim with her! Maybe there is someone who is going through a painful season and feels alone, and just needs someone to love on her as she navigates the grief. Swim with her! Maybe someone just needs your prayer support and words of encouragement. Swim with her!

Just like my darling white pup didn't know she could swim until I coaxed her to go in deeper with me and let her feet leave the sand, someone you know might be able to do something amazing if you will just swim with her.


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