“Lord, please let us find her, alive.”
This was the plea I prayed to God this weekend standing ankle deep in an unfamiliar lake, at an unfamiliar beach, surrounded by unfamiliar woods, after realizing none of us knew where my 5 year old daughter was.
We all swore we had just seen her. We had just eaten lunch, and she was just playing by the picnic table, until she wasn’t.
After realizing she wasn’t building sand castles by the waters edge where she had been earlier, and she wasn’t in the roped off swimming area where she was told she could swim, and realizing none of us knew where she was… I handed our one year old to my mother-in-law to watch and walked to the waters edge, calmed my mind, and prayed, “Lord, please let us find her, alive.”
My husband and father-in-law started to search the water and beach while I headed to the bathrooms. The bathrooms were empty, and I remembered she had just asked me if I had brought her another swimsuit because she wanted to change. So I headed to the parking lot and checked our truck, which was empty. I called her name as I walked back towards the lake to continue my now frantic search for my baby girl.
I headed down the beach, God leading my path, because I honestly had no reason for choosing to go left instead of right. My eyes were frantically searching the water and beach, carefully examining every child I saw, making certain it wasn’t her before moving on. And down the beach a-ways, there she was, playing in the sand safely out of the water, making a sandcastle, all by herself. I stared at her a moment, taking in her long blond hair still pulled back in a pony tail so it would stay out of her face, making sure it really was her in the green and white swimsuit with the ruffles on the top. I was almost scared to be so sure it was her, the adrenaline of fear taking a minute to clear from my mind.
Releasing a deep sigh of relief, I flagged down my husband, gesturing that I had found her, and walked up to her. I asked what she was doing and why she wasn’t with us? She said she wanted to try out some ‘new sand’ and shrugged her shoulders. No big deal to this 5 year old. She had no idea the scare she had just caused us all. I told her to come back with me and talked with her about needing to stay with us and not walking off. I tried to relay to her and how badly she had scared us all.
I found out later that while my husband and father-in-law were searching, a kind couple offered to help and were looking for her too. We’ll always be thankful for their help.
We are so very fortunate that this situation turned out the way it did. She was safe. She was alive. She was back in our arms within 15 minutes of us starting our search. My prayer was answered in full.
But it wasn’t until we were on our way back home that evening that I realized my oversight in the entire situation. I had yet to give thanks to God. I had not thanked Him for keeping her safe while she wasn’t with us. I hadn’t thanked Him for guiding us to find her so quickly.
I was quick to calm my mind and beg for the Lord’s help in our search and for Him to keep her safe, but when I had her back in my arms, my mom-hat was so tight on my head that I’d forgotten to give Him thanks.
I can’t help to think that God is using this incident to teach us all lessons.
It’s given us a very real situation to use to again discuss with our children stranger-danger, to discuss the danger of walking off and possibly getting lost, to discuss the danger of open water and us not knowing if they are struggling with swimming and not being able to help and save them from drowning.
But it’s also become a time to remind us all of the importance of giving thanks to the Lord. In addition to discussing the dangers of what could have been, this has also given us another chance to talk about the importance of prayer, of how God works in our lives, and of always giving Him thanks.