Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Light Unto My Path

On the last night of our camping trip, Margaret had an upset stomach.

Long after everyone else was settled in tents, she and I made four long trips to the latrine in the dark. A narrow path was cut through weeds and wildflowers that stood 4 feet tall on either side of us. From dusk until bedtime, my brother lit the path with tiki torches, but in the middle of the night, there was nothing but darkness. I clutched a small camping lantern, the same one my father and stepmother had brought over the night of Jack's accident to join the flashlights and candles in our darkened house.

The path was as long as a football field, and the sounds of insects and frogs almost deafening in the absence of any other sound. I knew that snakes and other critters were not uncommon in the West Virginia wilderness, and I told myself, "Don't think about bears!"

I clutched Margaret's hand and raised the small plastic lantern toward the sky. Nothing. It couldn't make a dent in the darkness. Finally, I got the hang of shining it directly at our feet so that we wouldn't trip or stumble, even though everywhere else was nothing but black. We made our trips to the latrine and eventually settled into the front seats of our car for fitful sleep while a thunderstorm drenched the campsite.

I knew Margaret was in no shape to philosophize with me on the path that night, but I was struck that the surest way for us to get where we were going was to look no further than the one step in front of us. To keep looking any further than that (which I tried several more times) meant being engulfed by the dark, and possibly losing our footing.

In life, in writing, in grief, sometimes I want the big picture illuminated for me. I am a planner. I want to know where I'll be emotionally, spiritually, and career-wise a few years down the road. I want to ensure that my daughter will have a good adulthood despite the blows of a difficult childhood. I wonder, will our Thanksgiving table in 10 years somehow be rich in love and people despite our tiny family? But I can't see any of that yet, and I guess I don't really need to.

What I need is enough light for TODAY. For just the next right step. For me that comes in trusting that the darkness won't swallow me up, choosing hope again and again, being open to possibilities as they arise, and, of course, drinking lots of hot tea.

What light do you need today?

30 comments:

Susie - Recovering Church Lady said...

Perfect! Thank you for the reminder. I am a planner too...which mostly translate into being a worrier.

Megan said...

I'm recovering from my second 2nd trimester miscarriage in 7 months. And feeling devastated that this is how our baby years are going to end because of not wanting to try again and deal with all the risks that could bring. And feeling guilty for feeling so sad when we have three healthy children. I am hoping for light to see that our family is and will be great just as it is and hoping that will bring me and my husband comfort and peace.

Suburban Correspondent said...

I know this isn't the point of this lovely post, but stomach virus on a camping trip - poor Margaret!

Stefanie said...

Anna, this post spoke to me. I've suffered a setback recently, after feeling like I was in a good place, and I'd just like to know how it will all turn out. Thanks for reminding me to take it one step at a time, and if I do that, the path will find me. I needed this today.

Jenn said...

So beautiful, Anna. I love how you make so much sense out of something as ordinary as a walking in the dark. I'm the same way. I always want to know what the future holds. But you're so right. All we can do is focus on one step at a time. Love you! So thrilled I get to spend time with you this weekend. xoxo

Robin LeTourneau said...

I remember parts of a sermon Pastor Pete gave years ago, and what he said about "Give us this day our daily bread". Basically that we should pray to be given enough for today and that would be sufficient. Your story about the light brought my mind back to that.

Thank you for your post today.

Robin

claire plante said...

Anna,

Thank you!! Your writing is the light I needed today. xo

Love,
Claire

staceyk said...

Love this. Yah, like God provided manna to the Israelite daily. They couldn't keep it more than a day...it was renewing manna (hope and faith) on a daily basis.

Chris Carter said...

Beautifully said, Anna. What I'd give sometimes, to have the entire path lit UP. But I suppose we wouldn't lean on the one who created it as much if that were the case... Faith must come in the darkness. That's where we learn to trust in the one who lights the way.

I hope Margaret was okay!!

ella said...

I love this, it brought tears to my eyes.

xoxo

Alexandra Rosas said...

Anna, you are the light unto my feet.

Thank you.

"What I need is enough light for TODAY"

Anonymous said...

This spoke directly in to my heart today. Thank you.

Joyce said...

Beautiful! I got goosebumps!

mags said...

Chills! So beautiful!

Betsy said...

Thanks so much, this was just what I needed to hear today!

victoriawhyte said...

Beautiful and so true.

victoriawhyte said...

Beautiful and so true.

Katie said...

I needed this today. Thank you.

Kiri said...

Trying to look too far ahead. This reminds me of how I found myself flipping through the grief books to the later parts - how do I get to this part, when all this hard stuff is done? So true that all we can often do is to take the next step, sometimes it takes hitting the bottom to realise this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for speaking to my heart.

Lisa Ancona-Roach said...

I so both believe in and struggle with this...I hope it is okay that, as I feel a kindred spirit with you in many ways (I, too, am a former English teacher, for one) I share my own thoughts on such a similar idea by offering my link. If it's out of bounds, I completely understand--I don't intend it to be a shameless self-promotion of my blog, so if it smacks of it in the least way, I get it.

At any rate, here is the link on trusting in tomorrow's manna...
http://thejugglestruggle.net/2014/04/14/trusting-in-tomorrows-manna/

heather blair said...

Lovely. And right on time for me. (hugs)

Thrift Store Mama said...

Oh, this so resonated with me today. I am struggling with a couple things I am working on: a couch to 5k program and being kinder and gentler to my husband. I often remind myself to just do the next right thing, and the lantern at my feet is a great metaphor to take the next right step.

melanie said...

Really beautiful and I needed to hear this thank you Anna!!!

AndreaW831 said...

I am also a planner. A control freak is what the kids call me. Thank you for the wake up call.

Brooke said...

This is really a lovely example of taking a day at a time. I worry so much about the future, and roll my eyes when people say "It will all work out" or "Everything will be okay" because that's just not always true! But worrying about the future doesn't change it. The only day I can alter is this one--the moment right in front of me.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for this. It is a good reminder for me as I am working my way out of a difficult
emotional place. I was having a hard time accepting the loss of a very much wanted second baby
at 16 weeks of pregnancy after waiting and praying through 7 long years of infertility for him. It occurs to
me as I read this that not only is the surest way forward ONE step at a time, but the darkness
can be God's grace and blessing for us too. If I had seen the entire path lit up ahead of me - I would have wanted to run
backwards, not take a single step forward at all.

Anonymous said...

I needed this today and plan to reread as needed. My father is very ill, I am battling my own health concerns, and I can't sleep which is making all of this (and more) so much worse. A light at my feet for just the next step...a light at my feet for just the next step...a new mantra for sure.

alisonmarietc said...

I just needed to know that someone else is searching for light in the darkness. So often, Anna, you have made me feel less alone, thank you.

www.robinbotie.com said...

Yeah, that's me too, needing to see the bigger picture, the whole plan. This is beautiful. All we really need is just enough light. And maybe the promise of some ice cream when the immediate storm settles down.