There are times when you least expect it where memories come out of nowhere, tap you on the shoulder, and remind you of a time now in the past.
Some memories are fond. Others are very painful.
A recent call to my Mom brought one of the painful ones to the front of the class.
My Mom logged another birthday this week and in our family tradition, we called to sing the happiest of songs in our typical, off-key, what-did-you-do-with-the-money-for vocal-lessons fashion.
As I said my good-byes and my “I love you” to her, my mind immediately ricocheted back to the events of her last birthday in November 2014.
While traveling to my then work location some eighty miles from home, I called to sing her “Happy Birthday” and to chat as I commuted to my other galaxy work location.
Unsuspectingly, the long distance commute would be my last to report to work with my former employer.
Translated, I got the axe.
I was informed my services were no longer needed.
This year’s birthday call to Mom marked the one year point of an uncertain, momentarily dark time in my recent journey.
Although I am a firm believer in things working out for the best despite difficulties and unexpected turns in the road, I would be lying if I told you the past year has been like living on Easy Street.
It has not!
There have been adjustments to be made, changes in routine, and much disruption in our lives.
Assuming you were tapped into my posts over the past year, you shared in my journey as you allowed me the space to get the junk out of my system.
I thank you!
Those of you close to us prayed, offered words of encouragement, blessed us with gifts beyond measure, and simply were there for us when we needed an arm around our shoulders as we were the recipients of many gestures which conveyed “I understand”.
Again, thank you!
Despite the inevitable challenges, it has worked out for the better as we continue to navigate through the process of change and life on the other side.
I am happy to note there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. We may not have immediately recognized it, but it was there.
Correction, He was there.
In the midst of the darkest of times, His light flickered or shone brightly along the light spectrum.
The image which came to mind this week was that of a dark tunnel I physically walked through a couple of years ago while on a cycling adventure from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. with four of my friends.
The plans laid out for the trip advised us our epic adventure would take us through the Paw-Paw Tunnel along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Maryland.
The 3,118 foot tunnel was built to bypass the Paw-Paw Bends, a six mile stretch of the Potomac River containing five horseshoe shaped turns in the waterway.
I had intentionally purchased a LED light to clip onto my shirt to shine the way through the ebony abyss.
Without recapping the entire story, we were in Day 2 of our four day adventure.
On Day 1, we logged approximately 103 miles during a thirteen hour test of stamina and patience as we dodged downed trees and rockslides from the previous night’s storm.
Day 2 started off with no adverse events to overcome until I blew a tire an hour into the ride and had to travel twenty-three miles on a Duct tape mended piece of rolling rubber.
We found a place to get the tire repaired, continued our ride, and another member of our quintet faced the same challenge.
Needless to say our itinerary was way behind schedule, but our split team made it to the entrance of the tunnel.
I was frantically searching for my clip light and it was nowhere to be found. My companions did not bring a light.
The walkway rose above the stagnant canal waters by a good ten feet. With a wooden guard rail on our left to guide us, we inched our way, foot by foot through total darkness.
I could not see my hand directly in front of my eyes!
If the guard rail was faulty, into the “drink” we would go and I did not want to imagine what lurked in those waters!
The only visage of light we could see as we started to walk was what appeared like the size of a pinhead at the other end of the tunnel.
Still, there was only the hope of light to be seen.
In all honesty, it was daunting and the darkness felt like it was draped around me.
The blackness was totally suffocating.
My 6’5” frame had to walk at an angle so as not to whack my head on the arched ceiling.
However, with one foot in front of another we proceeded as a trio through the tunnel while our two pals dealt with the flat tire somewhere along the trail.
It took us the better part of an hour which we could not afford to spend to emerge from “dark side”.
The promise of light became a reality as the tunnel experience was now history.
At the recollection of this experience I could not help but think of some folks I know who are walking through a dark tunnel of their own.
As I noted above, I am thankful for emerging from the dark uncertainty of what my future held. I truly am grateful for where the Lord has brought me.
We have a friend who recently underwent cancer surgery. If I could sit down with her over a cup of coffee I would tell her “you are not alone” and there is a Light which shines both in and out of this tunnel.
I’ve had conversations at one point or another with a couple sets of friends who have depicted going to hell and back as they navigated very dark times in the lives of their children. Despite the difficult roads which they have traveled, I would say to them “you too, were not alone.”
I recently spoke with a friend who formerly helped me coach our daughter’s basketball team. His adult son was recently diagnosed with leukemia and they are walking this journey with their son and his family.
There is a light in the midst of this trial. My prayer for you is that you catch whatever glimmer of light which is afforded you.
We recently did a family photo shoot near Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Being near the town reminded me of the scene of the Amish schoolhouse shooting a little over nine years ago.
That series of events led a wife, a family, and a community to walk through some very dark times. In it they discovered that one light still shines.
Others are walking step-by-step as they attempt to launch a business. Each step along the path will prove to be valuable no matter the setbacks. Small flickers of light are better than none at all.
Which leaves me to you.
None of us are immune to life’s adversities. At the moment, your walk may be pleasant for which I am happy.
I’ve heard it said we most likely have just emerged from a trial, are going through one, or will at some point in time.
Like the seasons, there is a cyclical nature to it all.
If you are in the midst of a trial where the tunnel is very dark, I invite you to listen to the words and music of the following video.
It will help you to emerge from the tunnel with a sense of peace holding your hand.
My prayer is that you will echo the words, “I am not alone” until they become written deep within the fabric of your heart.
Photos Courtesy of Creative Commons and Jim Thomas