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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Encouragement (02/23/12)

TITLE: This I Know
By Wilma Schlegel


Jesus loves me this I know, breathe.

For the Bi ble, no - I need breath now! She brought her head up to the side, circled her chin way up in front gulping in air. I’m never going to get this, Deana chided herself.

“Head down, Deana, you’re doing fine,” Sandy reminded and encouraged her from the end of the lane.

Okay, Deana’s chin was back against her chest. She focused on the black arrow on the bottom of the pool. Jesus loves me this I know, breathe. Sandy had suggested that singing a song in her mind might help her relax and regulate her breathing. Deana had chosen this most familiar and comforting one. It did help, usually. She made it to ‘Little ones to,’ and then panic clasped at her lungs and tingled through her core.

Grabbing another breath, Deana forced herself to be calm and stroked to the end of the lane.

“Good, Deana. Catch your breath, reset and come back,” Sandy encouraged.

The return wasn’t quite as hard as the trip out, but she wished she could be graceful in the water. The other swimmers were beautiful to watch. Her own efforts were stunted because she was freaked out.

“This is hard!” she sputtered at Sandy.

“Yes, it is, but you’re doing it. Look how far you’ve come! Now, I want you to do two more laps, back stroke this time,” Sandy instructed.

Deana gave an inward sigh of relief. Backstroke was no problem.

The next two laps were done with a kick board. Deana determined to keep her head down. It went well - the kick board gave her added buoyance.

“Two more freestyle,” Sandy said.

Deana complied and concentrated hard. She was more relaxed with each lap, but somewhere around twenty lengths of the pool, she started to get tired.

Sandy continued to alternate the stroke style even throwing in a ‘wiggle’ (Sandy’s word for the body movement that went with the butterfly stroke.) Deana felt silly moving her hips like that but she could see the value in learning it.

“Now lets finish off with one more freestyle and one whatever you want, but Deana?” Sandy held out her hand. “Time to give up those flippers.”

“Oh, I was hoping you’d forget. I do so much worse without them.” Deana laughed.

“Nice try. You don’t do worse. Your mind will remember what your feet did with the flippers and it will make your feet do the same thing without them. You’ll see.” Sandy assured her.
Deana pulled off the big red flippers and psyched herself for the last two laps.

Jesus loves me this I know. Breathe. For the Bi ble tells, sputter, gasp.

Head down Deana, she scolded herself. There’s the end. She touched with her fingers, and pushed off with her feet.

Sandy called. “Come on, girl, you’ve got it.”

Deana finished the lesson disappointed. “I don’t know why this is so hard for me.”

“Oh Deana, I wish you could see yourself. You are doing so well.”

“Thanks, Sandy.” She hugged her, but didn’t really believe she was doing anything close to ‘well’.

Back in the locker room Deana was listening to a conversation between two very accomplished swimmers.

“Yeah, I think I’m going to sign up for the ‘tri’, how about you?”

“Absolutely, I wouldn’t miss..”

But Deana didn’t hear the rest because another woman came around the wall of lockers to join the three of them. As her eyes lit on Deana she reached out to her.

“Let me shake you hand,” she said warmly, sincerely.

“For what?” Deana had no idea.

“You have so much endurance!” the woman said.

“Oh, I think you mean her.” Deana pointed at one of the other swimmers, the one who resembled her in body build.

“No, I mean you. You were amazing. I could see the determination on you face. You are an inspiration to any of us trying to make a come-back.”

“Thank you, you don’t know how much that means to me,” Deana felt tears well up. What a wonderful encouragement.

On the way to the shower, she felt the warmth that she always felt when she knew God cared about her. Thank you Lord, she prayed, for sending that woman to me today. I really needed that. And Lord? Help me to also be one who lifts people up. Amen.

And in the shower she just couldn’t help but sing. ‘Jesus loves me, this I know.’

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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/01/12
I love this. It brought tears to my eyes. All of my kids were on the swim team. My son was a natural but my oldest struggled. She worked very hard to come in last place. But I was proud of her. Often times, when she swam the 500 (20 laps) on her co-ed team, she would be in the pool for up to two minutes by herself. That pool echoed with cheers for those two minutes. Parents of the superstars came up and told me how impressive she was to keep swimming through all of those years of losing. In college she swam too and went to Nationals on a relay team. Your story could be my daughter's story. It takes far more guts to swim like your MC did then it does to have that natural talent.
Amanda Brogan03/01/12
This is a sweet story and fits the topic well! You really made her stuggle and determination with the swimming lessons come alive. I like how the character kept coming back to the encouragement of the "Jesus Loves Me" song and how you used it at the end. Powerful descriptions too.

I did notice a few places where the use of commas would have improved the flow. Also, using italics for the character's thoughts would have added extra "umph" to this already powerful piece. Things like that really catch the reader's eye.
C D Swanson 03/01/12
Beautiful, simply beautiful piece. This lovely entry was so powerful, and provided a crucial message.

Encouragement comes in all forms for all types of individuals...This young MC demonstrated the core of encouragement, and endurance.

Nice job with this.

God Bless you~
Edmond Ng 03/05/12
An enjoyable and encouraging read. Just as we know how it feels like to receive words of encouragement, let us be the ones to also encourage others.
Leola Ogle 03/07/12
A delightful story about how much words of praise do encourage us. Well written! God bless!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/08/12
Congratulations for ranking 6th in level 3!