A Canoe Challenge: Am I Willing? Part I of II



I passed.

I am now Canoe Level 1 certified.

It took a long 18 months to understand how strong the mind is. How powerful fear can be and how good God IS.

This past weekend a group of Girl Scout leaders gathered at a nearby campsite with the instructor (Mike, who was awesome and incredibly patient by the way) and one of the first questions he asked us was our motivation for having signed up. I had a TON of reasons:

I love the water and being out on it.

I wanted to know “I could” do it (take the course and PASS it)

I wanted to meet new people.

I like to learn.

I am a co-leader of a girl scout group and while girl scouts do lots of camping activities,

going out to Canoe on the water is not something the girls get to do a lot of because the number of leaders (Level 1) is a bit harder to find.

Canoeing is a fantastic activity. It gets you out in open air. Gets you out into nature. Gets you away from ANYthing electronic.

Reconnects you to creation.


12 months ago (March 2013)

I *WAS* signed up for this exact class last year. I “hmm’ed” and “hawwed” myself from end to end about whether or not I was going to commit to the trip last year, right up until the last minute. I ended up canceling out, not that I’d registered. I felt a profound sense of defeat and frustration.

Quite frankly, the feeling that I had let myself down – it never went away.

Something inside caused me to hesitate though. When I heard the Oklahoma weather was likely not going to cooperate, I backed out. Needless to say, the whole weekend I thought of nothing else but the group that was up at the Lake, going through the motions: I figured they were facing adverse weather where conditions were at best, sustainable. I wasn’t sure, I just had a ‘gut” feeling.


Fast forward to May 2014

My opportunity resurfaced to register for Level 1 Certification. I really struggled with going through with this; but not for the reasons you might think.

  1. I was nervous about how cold the lake water might be.
  2. I was nervous about how much I might “bruise” (hey, you have to “heave” your body out of the water into an aluminum boat – you do the math)
  3. I was terrified I’d fail.

I WAS told I was crazy for even wanting to try. Then I had others telling me there was no reason I would fail – it might be hard, but trying doesn’t always lead to failure.

And THAT was the key……The past tense, “I WAS.”

There was no reason I could fail if I tried or would fail if I didn’t give up. But, there was a WAR going on in my mind.


One side fighting for the chance and craving success – needing to know if I COULD


The other side beating me down…WHISPERING at me that it was futile.

WHY bother?

It *would* be too hard,

It *might* hurt to much,

It *might* be too difficult….

The water would be C-O-L-D


A few days before the weekend, I was continuing to work on my hobby room. Cleaning up and organizing my messes.

(Nothing new when you’re trying to become organized amidst the chaos.)

And I stopped – and found myself saying this:


“Dear God:

I want to take this class.  You know my fears. You know my weaknesses but you KNOW my strengths. Please make that water warm for us out on that lake and the weather cooperate. Please keep us safe.

Please shower us with blessings and good memories. Amen.”


I really didn’t think much about it. I was sorta shocked that I’d paused to ask for something so shallow. I really didn’t think it would matter – or make a difference.


The four of us “troop leader” candidates were lined up lakeside ready to go in. We were already told that our initial “dunk” wouldn’t happen til later.

But all the same, “cold water” fear gripped each of us…in one manner or another.

It wasn’t until right before we broke for lunch; when I was feeling tired from working my arm muscles and upper torso that I looked at the water and instinctively dipped my hand and let it caress the surface – that I recognized: The water wasn’t cold.

At least it wasn’t ICE-cold, it didn’t seem to “pinch” me like ICE cold water can. It was AL-most pleasant. It may not have been “bath-water” warm like, but deep down I had a “gut-check” that said this would be doable.

One thing I learned (and the instructor was right about) is when you are Canoeing on the water, you are WORKING your body. Just being in a canoe may not seem like exercise…but I have new-found respect and admiration for canoe enthusiasts. It is not a lazy man’s sport. It is a sport that requires use of not just your body, but your mind, logic and lightning speed thinking.


Right after lunch we started the requirement for (jumping/vaulting or sliding into the water) and getting back in the canoe.

Bearing in mind that the weather on Saturday/Sunday was forecast for 70/77…I was grateful (considering OK weather can be highly volatile and unpredictable.)

Though we had a right to be nervous, the moment I “slid” into the lake’s water I briefly “gasped” and then….relaxed. Although the water was warm to cool – it was more or less refreshing (I may be the only one who felt this way – I know a couple of the ladies would likely disagree with this perspective: please forgive)

I was still nervous; I’d spent the last 18 months preparing for this day. I knew that I HAD to do it. I’d come too far not to.

But we’d all come too far not to succeed. We all came from different walks of life, from different experiences but one shared goal:


I will never forget the looks on the faces of the women who shared this “canoe” challenge with me: Amber, Sherrie, and Melissa. And of course, not to exclude the trainers who were with us: Mike, Robert and Christy. I also KNOW they will never forget the look on my face either…whether or not the memories are priceless remains to be seen but – I doubt any of us will forget.

Ultimately, each of us HAD to face something on Saturday and Sunday. Each of us having slightly different motivations all leading us to the same point.


We were scared stiff of having to jump in the water.

We were scared we weren’t strong enough to get back in!

We were scared we wouldn’t have the where-with-all to rescue another.

We were SCARED of OURSELVES….at least I was scared I couldn’t RISE to the expectations: both of myself and what I HAD to do.

The “Eye of the Tiger” had me, had us in it’s grip….

Yes, the video I picked to highlight this post is somewhat “cheesy” but fitting. So, I’ve done two things. Included the link to a lyrics ONLY page as well as a link to the original (yes, TOTALLY cheesy) video from: 1983. If nothing all, watch it for sheer entertainment value 😉

You don’t have to watch and listen unless listening to the melody would help. BUT,  “Eye of the Tiger” is fitting (albeit retro) because each of us as “candidates” for certification had an “Eye of The Tiger” moment we had to face to achieve our goal.






I almost wish I had a video of my getting back into the boat. I know it wasn’t pretty. Granted, the exercise itself wasn’t “fun” but the point was knowing HOW to do it.

The bumps and bruises I got this weekend, while uncomfortable are gentle reminders that each of us HAS to experience sorrow, pain or grief as we work our way toward joy, satisfaction and success. Taking control of that “Tiger,” not allowing ourselves to be overcome by fear (be it irrational or not) and giving ourselves the “upper hand” advantage: when you have the opportunity to challenge yourself: will you ALLOW yourself to FACE  it or shrink from it?

It turns out: knowledge and experience means POWER.

How hard are we willing to work to achieve our dream? our goal – no matter how small. How much will we sacrifice (or think we’re sacrificing to make something a reality?)

However as it turned out, my “Eye of the Tiger” wasn’t just about tipping a boat and getting back into it, rescuing someone else or even rescuing a “sunken” canoe…

My “willingness” to take and pass the canoe challenge wasn’t quite over. It got way more personal….


Next post: The lesson I wasn’t expecting….







2 thoughts on “A Canoe Challenge: Am I Willing? Part I of II

    • Graeme, thank you. Like everyone else, I persevere. It’s not always easy. Never ceases to amaze me that HIS grace and mercy are right there for the taking, I just have to remember to reach out for it (or listen for HIS voice) when I can.


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