October 31, 2019

the river, and there must be angels

The river has been a place of peace for me this summer.
It was my first summer experiencing the salt river and I went at least a half dozen times. It was the beauty of the desert, the water, the wild horses, the sunshine, the sunset, swimming, relaxing...I couldn't get enough.

By the end of the summer I had become familiar and comfortable on the salt river and we were excited to take all of our children one last time.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as expected. Rivers change.

At first we just noticed how low the water was--much lower than normal--and how slow it was flowing. We had dinner plans that night so I was getting anxious to get us moving so I spent a lot of time pulling us along trying to get us to go faster and forcing the teenagers to help to get us going, but we were relaxed and having a good time.

Everyone had connected their tubes together except for me. I prefer the freedom and control of being on my own a little bit, with the group but free to move around.

It was my turn to take Brinna in my arms. She reached for me and I snuggled her in my lap as we pointed together at all of the different birds and trees we were floating by. I knew we were nearing the last section of rapids, but, I've done it so many times, I was comfortable and knew we'd be just fine. We floated ahead of the group.

The thing about the last section of rapids is that you come around a bend in the river and then there they are. There's not a lot of warning. Once you see them you are ready to go through them. When Brinna and I turned that bend, my mind was racing and confused--this did not look familiar at all! The water was flowing differently, there were rocks I had never seen before, and there was a HUGE tree fallen over right in the middle of the water. I was trying to figure out what happened and where we were and how in the world to get through this safely. The way the tree had fallen, there was a narrow path to the right of the branches and if you got through it in just the right spot you could probably safely maneuver through the section, it seemed. To the left of the branches there was also some space to get by the tree, but then there were bushes and reeds and more trees sticking out just ahead of that so you would get hit one way or the other. 

I clutched Brinna in one arm and with the other arm and my legs I tried to maneuver us safely. But the rapids had picked up and the water was moving swiftly and it was difficult to control where we were going, especially with one arm in the water and my baby in the other arm. I realized we were gong to the left of the tree and did my best to get us close to the bank and tried to grab on to a branch or something to stop us so we wouldn't hit the trees and pop our tube or scrap our heads off by a branch because that water was moving quickly I tell you! When I got close to the bank I reached for a reed and that is when my tube came out from under us and we went in and under the water. I got us onto our backs and was able to grasp a reed and hold on for dear life. I reassured Brinna trying to tell her how nice it was to be in the water. She was crying and I was extremely grateful that she had her life jacket on to keep her floating on her back with my left arm around her as I floated underneath her.

It was in that moment that I was clutching to that reed with my sweet little girl in my arms and I looked down the river at what was ahead of us and I had two seconds of panic. Because I knew the severity of the situation. If my right arm slipped from this branch that I was clinging on to, if Brinna was pulled from my arms...there was no way she would make it out safely. There were too many rocks and low branches, the rapids were too swift and too long...I didn't want to even imagine. But then immediately following that moment of panic the word peace popped into my head. And I felt the strongest sense of peace and strength wash over me. Stronger than I ever felt in my life. And I knew if I ever needed angels there with me, I needed them now. I was surprised at the ease that I felt as I held on and floated, surprised by my feelings of calm. I knew there had to be angels there with me. No doubt about it. Watching over and strengthening me and my baby.

I looked back at the rest of the group worried about how they were going to get through. I saw Eric and Kyler jump out of their tubes and try to make it over to me and Brinna. I told myself to hold on tight until Eric got to us. And prayed that the other children would make it through safely.

I tried to put my legs down to stand up at one point, but when I tried to do that the current made it harder to hold on and with Brinna in my arms I felt like I just needed to stay how I was on top of the water and wait until Eric got closer to us.

Eric and Kyler were being pulled by the current, too, but were able to manage near to me. Eric was able to get to a small little bank just a little ahead of me. When he got his feet on dry ground I worked my way to him and handed off Brinna. Oh the relief knowing that my baby was safe!

I struggled in the water for a minute, but was able to stand up and hold onto a branch. Just then the rest of the kids had reached the tree and I looked over to see how I could help them. The teenagers were all out of their tubes trying to protect the younger kids and to move the tubes that were stuck under the branches and surely about to pop! Everyone was being hit and scraped and slipping on rocks and that panic washed over me again as I realized the severity of this situation.

Perry floated closest to me all alone in a double tube. I tried to pull him away from the worst of the branches and as my legs wacked against the rocks I realized the only thing I could do was climb in with Perry and make sure he got through the rapids safely. The other kids were too far away from me and we were all being pulled in different directions.

Once we got through the worst of the rapids, I pulled our double tube to the side of the river (banging and scraping my legs again). I tried to keep Perry calm and told him to wait there while I ran back on the side of the river to see how everyone else was doing. Thankfully, Perry was extremely brave and though he was scared and worried and didn't like what had just happened, he listened and waited. I ran back a ways until I could see the teenagers had pulled the two little girls over to safety and Eric was making his way walking on the other side of the river with Brinna. Thank goodness everyone was accounted for!!

We regrouped back at the river side by Perry. We were all shaken up, scraped, bruised, and had lost shoes, jewelry, sunglasses, a paddle, and a tube...but we were all alive!!! My heart was filled with gratitude for a God that surely sent angels to protect and watch over all of us and allowed us to feel the Spirit and its promptings and comfort to stay calm and to know what to do on the river that day. It could've ended so much worse.

I was probably shaken up the most out of everyone. Maybe because I'm still suffering from ptsd from cancer, but being in a situation like that with my beautiful baby girl was scary stuff!! You could see the road from where we were so I put Brinna in my arms and walked my bruised, cut, goose-egged legs the rest of the way. Everyone else got back on the river until they got to the exit point at the bridge. And Kyler was able to recover my run away tube that was stuck in a tree along the way.

We were over an hour late for our dinner plans that night. But I was glad to be alive so I didn't feel bad about that. Then Eric looked up online to see if there were any warnings or anything about the river. He found this:

Historic and massive flooding indeed! It changed the river. I think we learned to check online before heading out to the river, always wear life jackets, and never get too comfortable when it comes to water.

And hug your loved ones tight because you never know when something could happen.