The Swim Upstream

by Laura on January 26, 2011

From highschool student to young single, from tired parent to even-more tired empty-nester, our days can often be defined as a fight for the things that matter.  This article is about that struggle, and following the post, I’ve added some questions my husband asked me after I told him what I wrote about this afternoon  . . .

Life lately is a swim upstream.

It’s a battle against the current, a struggle against the oncoming tide.

It’s a season where so much seems like a fight–

in fostering my spiritual life and romancing my husband and pursuing Community.

It’s a hard swim against the oncoming waters–

in exercising routinely and disciplining my kids and stepping out to serve.

And I so often want to give up, take a breather, and coast for a while– even if it means the rushing waters take me downstream.  These days I am tempted by the path of least resistance– though usually not better, it is typically easier.

And this path of least resistance for me looks like sleeping in most mornings and watching too much tv most nights.  It’s staring at the computer instead of talking to my husband after the kids are asleep. The rush downstream is ignoring that disobedience and not inviting that family to dinner in the name of convenience.  In my journey on this River, it translates into a Bible that stays closed too often and tennis shoes that don’t have enough dirt on the treads.

And when I think about what my life would look like in a month or a year or ten if I stopped the swim, if I just let the waters take me, I pause. Because the path of least resistance could lead —

to kids that resent me because I missed their hearts,

to an unhealthy body and a dry soul,

to a marriage that leaves me feeling alone,

or to an island that has become a life.

And so, and so, I set my sights upstream.

I clinch teeth, and I move the alarm clock downstairs.

I renew resolve, and I make an exercise chart.

I dig in heels, and I facebook a friend for a get-together this weekend.

And I choose to



To. Just. Keep. Swimming.

Because, if I can help it, I most definitely do not want the view from downstream.


“Rest assured, any movement towards freedom or life, towards God or others, will be opposed.”  – John Eldredge

“That which does not kill us only serves to make us stronger.”  – Winston Churchill

“Love always perseveres.”  – The Bible

What current are you fighting these days?  Where would you be if you chose to stop the fight and give up?  What is the “path of least resistance” that you find yourself often being pulled into?


Addendum:  I recapped the above post in fragmented conversation (the kind that often takes place in an old car with a loud muffler under the hood and three kids in the backseat) to my husband.  He immediately fired back with some questions that I thought worth adding, postPost.

He said (something-like), “Well, babe, yeah, life’s a fight, but you can’t fight all the time. No one can maintain a constant uphill swim.  There have to be times when the current is still or you hide behind a rock or something to give you a break from the struggle.  And what happens when you’ve lost sight of hope or joy or purpose? What happens when you can’t see the faintest glimmer of what it is so wonderful upstream that you were swimming for in the first place?  How do you keep swimming then?  And what if you swim really hard, and still end up downstream, anyway– with your marriage or kids or dreams or jobs wrecked and broken?

Dang that insightful, push-the-envelope husband-of-mine.  He asked good questions and made some valid points I thought I’d share  — even if I didn’t think of them first.

  • jan

    Ah, Laura, the enemy is prowling about like a roaring lion…but God is your strength. I know, know, know what you are going through and will pray for you this day.
    My days have been like this recently and I want to just ride the current down. My mantra has had to be “Lord have mercy on me”.

  • http://http.// logan

    i just heard a quote from a study i started last night that said “we have been freed! it is us who hold our chains, not our chains holding us!” Isnt that just a truth that i’d usually like to forget and remember at the same time! it takes practice to nswim the english channel….but it can be done! love you!

    • Laura

      Logan– like that quote! And I like the idea of PRACTICE, too. The idea that there is grace to develop maturity in how to swim, how to fight the current. I think perhaps that is one of the things I DO LIKE about getting older– I do feel like I am learning more and more the HOW of the fighting/swimming.

      Though I’m not crazy about the wrinkles around the eyes.

  • Sharon

    Laura, I so relate. Thanks for your thoughts. I prayed for you today and I appreciate your posts very much. I will grab a branch overhanging this river today, focus on Jesus’ plan for me today and maybe I’ll make it an inch or two upstream today. Hold on, look up, make a plan and you can swim upstream. Blessings. Sharon

    • Laura

      Sharon– oooh– like that image of grabbing the branch and hanging on– some days feel like that right? Just an inch or two IS victory, I think. Any movement forward is good movement right??!!

  • Suzee Lind

    I read this with an understanding weather I am in Thailand (which as you know did not last long) or even here in the states. I am so challenged by this but more importantly I want you to know Shawn and I are dedicated to praying for you guys over there. I don’t know why the struggles are so great there other then the fact the darkness hates the light! i am praying that your fire burns at the same intensity as it did before you left for Thailand. I am praying that you are filled with a second (or maybe third wind by now) and that you feel refreshed, restored, and renewed as a mother, wife and missionary to those girls. Thank you for pouring out your life! Thank you for swimming up stream. Thank you for keeping your eyes on Jesus even when it gets foggy, gray, with rough, raging waters. You are amazing Laura Parker, an unsung hero. Well, that is what I think anyway!

    • Laura

      Hey Suzee, thanks SO much for stopping by and commenting. I know you actually, really, KNOW about life over here. It IS hard– but isn’t that the truth of everywhere? Life is always a struggle– no matter where you call home. Absolutely.

      Thanks for the encouragement. Sometimes I fell bad, like maybe these posts seem like I am fishing for compliments or something? I really don’t mean that, b/c really I am screwing up daily over here. And I honestly think that what I am learning totally applies to life in the States, too– life anywhere. :)

      Anyway, congrats on baby #2! And again, thank you for the encouragement– you guys are awesome. :)

  • julie

    thanks for these words. two months ago i moved to south asia with my family, and i can relate to everything you said. it is exhausting. thanks for the timely reminder that it is worth the fight.

    • Laura

      Julie . . . welcome to asia– “Exhausting”– YES. I feel it, too.
      Where are you guys?

      Keep fighting the current, friend.

  • Jamie

    Often times I am lured by the path of least resistance. You’re right, it may seem easier but it is not better. I like the idea that we can take refuge and hide behind a big rock and take a break from the overwhelming current for awhile. I know who my rock is; today I will seek refuge in Him.

    Thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and your husband’s too). You have encouraged me today.

    • Laura

      Jamie– Oh, I didn’t even think about HIM BEING the ROCK we hide behind. Great thought and image– liking that, too!

      I obviously did not do a stellar job thinking this analogy through! ha ha .

  • kendal

    i hate to think about life from the shore….when one falls out of a raft or kayak or canoe in white water, she is to turn face-up in the water, cross her arms, and ride the rapid, trusting in the life-preserver.

    • Anne-Marie

      Perfect Kendal. I think sometimes the waves we are trying to swim or paddle against get too big and too crazy and no matter how hard we try on our own to stay in the boat – we fall and that trusting in our life-preserver is then the only option. We know that is why those waves come and push us out of the boat – so that we will…trust…in the Life Preserver! Good stuff!

      • Laura

        Anne-Marie & Kendal, Like the “life preserver” idea, too. And yes, I reckon there are some seasons where we have to trust and let go. So funny, that this little word picture I have has so many other angles I didn’t think about it– or holes in my logic.

        Love ya’lls perspective. As always.

  • Cristie

    Hey Laura!
    I love this post!!! I got teary reading it. Then later in some time with Jesus I read psalm 73. The message version was awesome! And it really seemed to answer your husband’s questions…what happens when we try our hardest and end up downstream? And when people who aren’t even TRYING to follow God seem to be prospering in all they do? if you get a chance, read it and see if it strikes your heart like it did mine. Blessings, cristie

    • Laura

      That’ll be on my “to-read” list today, Cristie. Thanks for the suggestions. And yes– the swim upstream totally doesn’t always equate to getting upstream. Life’s just not this formula I want it to be.

      Thanks so much for the suggestion– and i LOVE the MEssage, too!

  • Kim Starnes

    Oh Laura I am so with you. Because I believe what Isaiah 42:2 says …that when we pass through the waters they will not overtake us… I will hang on. But wow, wouldn’t it be great if we could just lay back and float for a bit? I know it is for our transformation into Christlikeness and that it is for our good and I want that (desperately) BUT for a time floating serenly enjoying the scenery and calm sounds so beautiful and inviting. I hope if I get that again I will appreciate it, no relish it and gather strength for the next approaching storm/wave/sunami… cause we know it’s gonna come. Praising the One Who speaks and the wind and sea obeys!

    • Laura

      I love that reminder that swimming and floating comes in seasons . . . and that the goodness of the rest is to rest up/refresh for the next season of hard swimming.

      And I love the reminder, too, that we know the One in charge of the River in the first place.

      Thanks, Kim. I know ya’ll have weathered quite the storm the last several years, so you speak as one who has swam hard herself.

  • Amy Sullivan

    First of all, I quit getting you in my email! So I subscribed again today.

    Ohhh, both you and your hubby make good points. Sometimes I worry that I’m too busy fighting my fight upstream. I often wonder if I just tried to float for a teeny, tiny bit, what would happen.

  • Stacey

    I think you are both right. Nothing about becoming like Christ is easy. His life led Him to the cross. But, along the way He made friends, He played with children, He learned to work with His hands and so on and so on. He lived a real life. He often went away to a lonely place, and sometimes He whispered to the 12 (hey guys, let’s get out of here and go over there where it is just you guys and me).

    The movement is upstream, but for sure their are places of refuge, people of encouragement, and times where we are to simply enjoy where we are.

    • Laura

      Stacey– all good points. I love the way you painted the way Jesus walked and talked– doing regular, life things. I love thinking about Him doing those kinds of things– carrying bread to the table, sidestepping a bee, laughing at a friend’s jokes.

      But, still heading UPSTREAM, too, the whole time.

  • Beverly

    We’re all swimming hard against the current at different points in our lives. Sometimes it’s very hard to find the joy. We just have to know that the Lord is really carrying us through during these difficult times. Take care.

    • Laura

      Aunt Beverly,

      As a woman who has/is facing so much upstream swimming over the past several years, your words carry special weight– the weight of speaking from experience. Thank you for being able to hold on, and to tell the rest of us to do the same.

  • Tamara

    Matt’s questions are actually easier today . . .
    1. No, I can’t fight all the time because then the joy in the other bits evaporates.
    2. When I lose sight of hope/joy/purpose, He shows them to me anew in the Word, my husband, friends, a sermon, an amazing sky-sculpture of sun and clouds and light.
    3. When I’ve ended up WAY downstream despite my great kicking and splashing, He puts His hand under my back to let me float a bit and marvel at the view FROM THERE.
    And the last is what I keep seeing/hearing you doing . . . stopping to take a look from wherever you are and get encouragement to go again.
    We’ve got to remember that we’re not LOST – He knows exactly where we are and He loves us so.
    Good night!

    • Laura

      Tamara, Um, maybe YOU should be writing blogs, my friend. Really, your comments are always so insightful and right-on and well-spoken.

      If you ever decide to start one, lady, I’ll be the first to follow you.

      • Tamara

        Nooooooooo, YOU’RE the blogger that inspires my and others’ responses!
        Hugs from here!

  • Laura Tovar Dietrick

    Laura, without the darkness we can never know the light. In darkness Christ prayed, in darkness the wise men followed the star, in darkness the shepards saw the glory of God…Your husband is wise…taking time to rest behind a rock in your uphill battle is a good thing. It’s probably pretty shady there.

    • Tamara

      As usual, I love your perspective, old-friend Laura!

  • Annie

    Thank you thank you thank you! I needed this encouragement today. Yes, we HAVE TO keep swimming. I think the “hiding behind a rock” part does make sense, but I feel we already do that all TOO often already. (at least I do!) And even if we can’t quite see the vision of what goal we were swimming up the stream for in the first place, we need to swim anyway trusting God that He did shows us that goal in the beginning, and that it is still there, whether we see it in the moment or not. We keep pressing forward toward the mark as Paul said. As moms, I think we feel that hard swim so easily. If we relax for a day, every responsibility doubles the next day and it is so easy to get overwhelmed!
    What separates us from lukewarmness or mediocrity in our lives and faith? The swim! Oh how I wish I would keep swimming and not be so mediocre!
    You just lifted my day with your encouragement!

    • Laura

      Oh, Annie– yes, there is no “rest for the weary” as moms with little people. You feel the effects of not swimming the next day or the next meal.

      I love your point about mediocrity in life and faith– and how the “fight against the current” is what keeps us from that mediocrity.

      Glad you were encouraged, friend. Keep doing the GOOD WORK/HARD SWIM of mothering. It does matter.

  • Teri Miller

    Maybe we can find some peace in just being okay with the rough patches? And learning to let go and have seasons of floating in the drift?

    Fighting the current – yes, so exhausting. Going upstream, against the norm, against the popular. It’s drowning, gasping, gulping painful. Even when we are called to – that upstream swimming doesn’t suddenly become effortless. Even in His Palm, we gasp and flail and choke. Like Noah, ridiculously building a boat in the dessert during a 100-year drought. And Moses, leading his people ‘upstream’ to be faced with the choking-whitewaters of 40-year wilderness. And Christ. Gasping, crying out, “have You forsaken me, Abba?” Nevertheless. “Your Will be done.”

    Broken dreams, lost hopes, fractured lives. Nevertheless. Swimming upstream in His Call. Trusting in the lifeline of God’s promise not to leave you or forsake you.

    Easy to type. Brutal to live.

  • melissa

    I very much understand your post! It’s interesting that we’re dealing with similar things in different countries. God is definitely bigger than our current situations and struggles upstream. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Laura

      Absolutely, Melissa. It’s amazing how the struggles are so universal, aren’t they? Whether you are in the States or the Sahara, so much of what we deal with is universal.

      Hang in there. Keep swimming.

  • Ashley

    I suppose I feel like I am treading water more than anything these days. Especially when I face what it will require of me to keep moving upstream. I don’t coast, but I do tread, paralyzed by the magnitude of what upstream means for my time, my energy, my patience, and my selfishness.

    • Laura

      Ashley, treading water. Yes, I get that, too. When the swim upstream feels too big to tackle, but you have just enough grit to not give up completely– you use energy just to “hold ground.”

      Hang in there– at least it’s not backward movement. :)

  • Mindy

    I think you did a stellar job posting this! 😉 (you can’t fit EVERYtHiNG into one post!) I really appreciate the reminder to keep swimming upstream! It matters. The everyday, sometimes mundane things, they matter! Thanks again! I love your writing.

    • Laura

      Thanks, Mindy.

      Really. :)

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