Baird Point, New York
« Jenna…Jenna…Jenna! Come on honey, wake up! » Each call of my name was punctuated by a tug on my sleeping bag. I pulled the blankets up and over my head sighing as the intruder’s voice became muffled and her nagging quieted. » Jenna, » Mom sounded smug, « You’re swimming today. » She explained that we would be taking off at ten a.m. I soon realized how quickly departure time was approaching. I hopped in the shower singing, `In Christ Alone’, with only 45 minutes to go. Dazed, I soon stepped outside to the awaiting crowd, praying fervently for wisdom and courage.
After a quick chat with my friends, the Penguins, it was time for a – gazillion hugs and a prayer said by my Mom, that petitioned God to protect me and keep me from harm, thanking Him for my crew and the opportunity that He had given me, asking Him to fulfill His purpose for me in all of this.
Once in the water I speculated on my reasoning behind doing all of this, the Penguins. Each one is so special; we form a competitive swim team for kids with disabilities and their siblings. About three years previous to the marathon I realized that we seriously needed a new pool for training. Six years ago, when I started swimming competitively I discovered a passion to see all of the Penguins reach the full potential that God has for them. I knew I couldn’t help get them a new pool on my own, so I prayed. God stirred within me a love for long distance swimming and it became evident that with the help of my coach, Vicki Keith, who is also a world record holder in marathon swimming, I was supposed to swim a marathon.
So now here I was, still swimming. I had hit my first mental struggle; it was night, The wind had not died down as expected, it was throwing waves at me from two different directions, into my face and my sides and they were about 6 feet in height. My right shoulder muscles were torn and incredibly sore, to the point where I could only breathe to my left side, I was requiring Advil every 4 hours. At this point Coach stated, « Jenna, your God must have an awful lot of confidence in you. » I was overjoyed. “Isn’t that what every believer wants to hear? That God has confidence in them? So I prayed, « Father, you won’t leave me or forsake me, you love me and give me strength, this is your marathon, have at’er! » God sent me a jewel because I was willing to trust Him. Not five minutes later, a boat of my friends from our church came to cheer me on.
On into the morning of July 19th, these « faith strokes » carried me without difficultly, although there was still much pain. My next struggle came after about 22 hours of swimming. Again my heart sang as the Lord answered my prayers. My sister Natalie got in the water with me and the Penguins came out on a large boat, cheering me on, reminding me that I had to do this. As we rounded Simcoe Island, I was exhausted and sore, not wanting to go on, when the Lord gave me the biggest `kick in the butt’ yet. Vicki turned to me and said, « You know Jenna, you could just touch here at Simcoe Island. » I gave her a `you’ve got to be joking’ look and kept on swimming. That thought went back to where it came from and fast. The Lord knew a challenge was what I needed, because I then proceeded to swim the fastest two kilometers of my entire marathon. I know that Jesus was right there with me, making my arms go round because His name was the beat that kept repeating over and over in my head, keeping my arms at a steady pace, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, breath, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, breath.” The rest of my marathon was swum by His strength alone, one painful faith stroke at a time.
As I stepped out on shore to the awaiting crowd I knew He was smiling down on me and I was only too happy to smile back.
By God’s grace I have now become the first female athlete with a disability to swim across Lake Ontario and have raised over $140,000 towards building a new pool at the Kingston Family YMCA for the Penguins to train in.
Nothing is impossible when you put your faith in Christ.
Written by Jenna Lambert, who attends Harrowsmith FMC, in Ontario