best life

Swimming with Sharks+ Choosing Our True Best Life


I just wanted to swim out and touch the anchor chain on the Russian ship, but I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I wasn’t sure my friend Ollie was going to make it either. It was his idea to begin with. There were 20 of us traveling across the Middle East and Asia together. We stopped our bump –and-grind travel in a dilapidated double decker bus to rest for a couple of days at Aqaba, Jordan’s port on the Red Sea.  The Iran-Iraq War had just broken out. We sat wearily in the shade gazing at the Russian ships there to supply arms to their allies. Out of boredom, Ollie had jumped up with a challenge: “Who wants to swim out and touch that first Russian ship in the harbor?”  I was the only taker.


I had no business being out there. I wasn’t a good swimmer and I had been sick for days. But I was bored as well and always up for an adventure. I hadn’t counted on the fish, though. I was slightly ahead of Ollie, almost halfway there, doing a weary crawl when Ollie called out, scared,“Hey! We’re surrounded by fish!”             
“They’re just harmless. Nothing to worry about, ” I reassured him as the water stirred and fish began leaping out of the water beside me.
“Yes but what makes little fish jump? Big fish!” he said, panic in his voice.
I turned slightly to see his face. He was white, panting hard. I was panting as well.  We still had a ways to go. My stomach ached, my heart fluttered, and my skin crawled from the skittering fish around me, but I couldn’t let him see me scared.
“Ollie, look, we’re almost there! We’ll hold onto the anchor chain and rest for a few minutes until we’re ready to go back. The fish will be gone by then. We’re doing great!” I said with false cheer between languishing strokes.
Ollie didn’t answer. I knew we couldn’t make it back without resting. We had to go on. In that long wet silence I heard a boat. Louder and louder and there it was before us, a wooden skiff  and a grim Jordanian man in cut off shorts at the tiller. He looked at us like we were idiots---and waved us into the boat with a disgusted flip of his hand. He didn’t have to wave twice. With the energy of relief, we pulled ourselves up and onto the wood floor feeling rescued. As indeed we were.
We thought then we were rescued from a long risky slog back to the beach, but we found out when we got ashore that we had actually been rescued from the sharks. The waters were shark infested. No one was supposed to go in the water.


That’s not the first time I’ve done something stupid. But I don’t want to be stupid. I want to be wise. I want to choose well.

These last two weeks, I faced two major decisions.  One with lifelong consequences for my entire family. The other, a lesser choice, but one that would cut deeply into my heart.

How to choose? How to discern the best path? How to avoid the worst path? 

Fatigued with worry, hope and fear, Duncan and I spent the day driving and walking. 

There aren’t many roads on Kodiak, just 100 miles' worth, but one of those roads take me to a place I almost lived.  To a piece of land where Duncan’s family raised cattle. When we were newly married, just landed in Kodiak, Duncan drove me out here to show me its beauty. His dream, to raise cattle as his father did on this land.

We drove there this day. We walked. I might have lived here. I might have been a rancher’s wife, living out on this long switchback road over a  mountain pass, a road not maintained in the winter, where we would have been stuck for days, even weeks at a time in the winter. We would have begun our life in this little shed. 

We would have homeschooled our children. We would have struggled to make a living.

But we ended up choosing something else. Choosing to backpack around the world for a year, then choosing something else after that. Our paths over the years have wound and crossed and divided and trailed off into the woods …. We’ve lost our way, jumped streams, got stuck in mud. . . We’ve had children, changed jobs, moved . .. lost jobs,  and in between it all, fished. And fished. Changing islands, building houses, all the time not know how any of it would turn out.

None of us know. None of us know what the end will be. We only know that crossroads come, that we’re called upon to make decisions …. and we’re scared.

 But I know something else now, after these years. That the light that we had at each divergent path----somehow was enough.  That even the mistakes and the fights and the lostness---that even that is not beyond redemption.

And I have learned something more. That the most essential decisions we’ll make in life are not where we live or who we marry or where we go to church or what job we take or what house we buy or what school we send our children to or who our next pastor will be or who will carry on the family business …   The most important decision we’ll make is not when or where or how we'll be, but----who we’ll be. The kind of people we’re going to be.  We get to decide this. No one else decides it for us.

Who will we be?

“This is the one I esteem,” says God. “One who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”

Who will we be?

“As I (Jesus) have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Who will we be?

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

I don't know what's going to happen in these matters on my heart, but no matter what is chosen, I will be well. You will be well, too, as you face split roads and hard choices.

 Let this, then, be the prayer we speak:

No matter the winding of our paths,

 at every choice, every divide,

may our hearts, O Lord,

be whole, humble, pure, undivided---


Thank you, friends, always, for your presence here. It is a joy to serve you.  How may I pray for you this week?