Caution: Drifting Can be Dangerous

Just thinking about the word “drifting” makes me feel relaxed…at first.

Picture by National Geographic

One of the many new experiences I’ve had since moving to Florida is going to nearby springs. My favorite so far is Blue Springs, a place Benny and I have visited on several occasions. We blow up our little yellow inflatable boat, just big enough for two, and take the short, pretty walk to the spring entrance. Because the water is in the low 70’s year round, I quickly jump into the boat while Benny chivalrously braves chest-deep water to guide us to the beginning of the springs. He then climbs aboard and we lazily float in crystal clear water, surrounded by natural Florida beauty, to a dock — then get out to take the path up to start all over.

There’s another kind of drift, though, that’s really dangerous.

I still get a chill down my spine when I think of the summer of 1997. Our Janelle, then age eleven, was playing in the ocean with a friend in front of our family’s favorite vacation getaway. Adults were nearby watching, playing, sunning and glancing to make sure Janelle and Peter weren’t going out too far. Suddenly, Janelle started yelling for help. Because she wasn’t very far from the shore, Benny ran into the waves to grab her and her young friend to get them moving back toward the shore. What he didn’t know was they were caught in a rip current.

Within seconds, the current took he and Janelle further into the ocean. The waves and undertow were strong and Benny was losing strength as Janelle clung to his back. Onlookers headed out as far as they could safely get, and several called 911.

“Daddy,” she asked as wave after wave pulled him under, “are you ok? Are we gonna die?”

Fighting for strength and breath, Benny told his little girl to just hold on. “Honey, no matter what happens, don’t let go of my shoulders. Just keep pushing yourself up with your hands and hold your head up.”

“No, Daddy! I don’t want you to die!”

Benny was certain that when he went down under the next wave, it would be his last. But God had mercy. Rather than pull him helplessly under, the wave must have thrust he and Janelle toward the shore. He suddenly felt hands grabbing his arms and pulling him forward.

I arrived on the beach as Benny was being laid face up onto the sand. His limp body, gray skin and blue lips frightened me. Paramedics were arriving to care of him, and one opened a metal case with the paddles used to get stopped hearts beating again. Gratefully, they weren’t needed and Benny began to shake, cough and choke up water. They loaded him into the ambulance to transport him to an emergency clinic nearby.

It was there we learned that even though he seemed to be improving, there was a serious chance of “secondary drowning.” As the name implies, when fluid gets into the lungs the patient can actually improve at first but get worse later. If left unchecked, fluid damage can cause a hardening in the lungs which further reduces the ability to exchange air and patients can die of asphyxiation or heart attack, even hours or days later.

By God’s grace and in answer to many prayers, Benny improved quickly. In fact, he’s sitting nearby as I type watching a basketball game. 🙂 His heroics also protected our daughter from ingesting much water and she was able to visit Daddy at the clinic soon after we arrived there on that July day.

All this happened because two kids didn’t realize they were drifting.

Drift can be a really dangerous thing. And at my retreat two weeks ago my Father rescued me from three areas of drift in my life. Unlike my young daughter, I wasn’t yelling for help because I wasn’t aware that I had drifted. How kind of Him to notice and help me anyway.

I look forward to telling you about it.

Oh, and by the way: you might be wondering what happened to Janelle’s friend, Peter, who was in the ocean with her back in 1997. That morning, he noticed a framed explanation of rip currents on the wall of our beach house and read it. He learned that rather than fight the waves onto the shore, he should turn onto his back and float until the current ended, then swim in. Lots of lessons for us there, huh?

P.S. I know this post is long. I’m trying to heed the advice of my kids and shorten them. Even considered breaking this up into two posts.  Should I have done that?  Would love to hear your thoughts on post length!

22 thoughts on “Caution: Drifting Can be Dangerous

  1. I thought the length was perfect, and the reminder timely. Thank you for your words and sharing your heart with us in such humility.

  2. This post wasn’t too long because you were telling a story. These kinds of posts can always be longer IMHO. I love hearing this story no matter how many times it’s been told. It’s a great reminder to avoid drift and not panic when life isn’t taking us where we thought we’d be. God is faithful and won’t let us get too far out of his out-stretched hands.

    • I love staying connected through our blogs. 🙂 Do you think that stories are more acceptable and helpful when they’re longer and other posts are best to keep shorter?

      I love your point about God not letting us drift too long. He’s faithful!

      • I think writing posts is much like receiving words from the Lord. You write until you hear Him say it’s finished. Then, stop. 🙂 Don’t over think it, Sheree. You’re doing a great job. Write on…

        • It’s interesting. The online info I am reading and feedback from some of my kids agree: blog posts need to be short. I’m wondering, though, if young people are so accustomed to texting, FB, twitter and other “sound bite” ways of communicating that they prefer shortness?

  3. Definitely not too long! Thank you for your transparency, and for always pointing us to our Savior. Your posts are such an encouragement to me.

  4. Its not too long at all. I loved it. I am looking forward to you making the connection of “drifting” in the spiritual sense in your next post. Should be a good one.

  5. I am enjoying your blog. You’re an engaging writer which means you can write longer posts without losing your readers. When it comes to narrative, I think longer is fine. Maybe if it is deep and spiritual, keep it shorter – that’s not a suggestion based on your writing, it’s just a random thought. That said, I write longer than is recommended on my blog. You may be able to tell by this comment 🙂 .

  6. Sheree, I don’t think your posts are long enough! I am sad when they are over =) As always so so good!

  7. Sheree, I love your posts. I often think, I wish there was more. I am so blessed by the work God is doing in you and I am able to better recognize the gentle nudges I am receiving.

  8. I too do not think they are too long. I love the ones like this which show your heart & share with us what the Lord is doing in your life. I have heard this story many times, but I didn’t miss a word of it again & so appreciated the new application which certainly applies to me. Please keep writing like this, it lets me stay connected to you. I think the goal is to share what the Lord asks you to share, regardless of length. Maybe some will skim or not read it all, but for me it has nothing to do with length. If something is speaking to me personally, I will read it, if not I will skip, no matter how long. Love you!

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  10. Sheree,

    I enjoy your blog no matter the length!. . . a little peak into your spiritual journey that you so humbly and willingly share. Just remember to back it up somehow so these wonderful pictures and memories can be preserved for your grandkids . . maybe a Blurb book?

  11. I have been drifting for weeks in a “busy current”, so much so, that I am just reading this now on May 3. I think the length was just right as I was able to read it in one quick sitting but the content and reminder is what I loved best. It is good to reflect on past experiences where the Lord’s still small voice has present lessons for us to still gleen from. Thank you for sharing this.

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