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Flying Free–Lyla Swafford

By Lyla Swafford

My nine-year-old daughter repeated her question for the third time, “Mom, why do you want to go parasailing?” I could see the fear in her eyes, but I was thrilled with the opportunity. I smiled, then laughed and said, “Honey, it’ll be fun!”

Rachael was afraid because, as a result of cerebral palsy, I often have trouble getting around, can’t open my right hand, and have limited use of my left. I used to play with her so she wouldn’t be fearful, but she well knew my limitations. She envisioned disaster!

My sister, Karen, Rachael and I, and a friend, Julie, were on an outing to beautiful Flathead Lake in Glacier Park, Montana. When Karen surprised me with parasailing tickets, I squealed with delight.

Steve, the boat’s owner, explained everything that would happen. I grinned ear-to-ear as I listened to him. He told us, “When two people go tandem parasailing, it is the person in back that needs full control of their hands. So Lyla, all you need to do is enjoy your ride!”

Karen’s friend, Julie, chimed in, “I’ve wanted to parasail for a long time. May I be your partner?”

I laughed and answered “Sure!”

My heart pounded with excitement as Steve prepared us for the adventure. Because of CP my balance is terrible, so Karen and Julie took a firm grip of each of my arms and helped me walk down the dock and maneuver into Steve’s boat. After we settled into our seats, Steve surprised Rachael by asking, “Do you want to help steer?”

She jumped out of her seat and reached for the wheel. Soon they had the boat skimming over the water, circling the lake. Rachael turned and grinned at me, and I could see a look of confidence beginning to replace her fear.

While Julie wiggled into her harness, Karen put the legs of mine over my feet. As I stood and leaned on her she pulled it up to my waist. When we were ready, Steve slowed the boat down and Julie hopped over the side into the water. Karen steadied me as I stepped up for my turn.

Reaching out for Julie I let her pull me in. The icy water took my breath away! I couldn’t believe I was really doing this. Julie held onto me while I coughed and tried to catch my breath. After she made all the final adjustments to my harness, the boat picked up speed and pulled away from us. As it did, our pink and white nylon parasail began to rise, taking us with it.

My disability wasn’t holding me back! So often I was the one watching others. But now, others were watching me. I was free to glide with the wind through the blue skies above the lake. How peaceful I felt. Even though Julie was in the harness behind me, I felt alone with God and totally free. My heavenly Father knew how I’d longed for that gift. I felt as if I was flying under the shelter of His wings. I looked down at the boat and saw Rachael. The delight in her upturned face mirrored my own.

The abundant life God wants us to have is threatened by many things. When we take the risk to trust God and accept our limitations, our spirits are freed to soar with Him.

©2006 Lyla Swafford. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Lyla Swafford was born with cerebral palsy. Her determination has helped her achieve many things others thought were impossible. As a single mother she taught her daughter how to overcome life’s obstacles. She lives in Oregon where she does individual counseling and is often a group facilitator. Through her sense of humor and wisdom she encourages others to deepen their relationship with Christ.