“Mamma, Mamma,” Angie whimpered in her sleep.
Beth stirred in the rumpled bed. Reaching to the other side, she realized that Evan was already up, probably having coffee on the small deck outside. Neither of them had slept much. Evan, deeply troubled, had tossed and turned.
Beth tiptoed over, patted Angie gently, then covered Zach, sleeping soundly on the sofa. She sighed and lay back on her pillows, reliving events of the past weeks.
Amy, their only daughter, had showed up months ago, bringing the children with her. It had become a pattern. After the car accident in which her husband Jeff was killed and she was badly injured, she was left with severe pain and the care of two small children. Desperately trying to help her, Beth’s mother-heart broke, as Amy’s grief became rage, drowning reality in painkillers. Daily, she was less able to cope with life and motherhood. Angry at God, she began a downward spiral, with stronger, sometimes illegal drugs, increasing depression, then week-long unexplained absences. Finally came that awful night when police knocked on the door to say there had been another accident, this one Amy’s fault, with two people killed, and drugs found, both in the vehicle and in her bloodstream. The trial last week had ended with a forced detox and rehab program, followed by a stiff prison sentence.
The nightmarish heaviness still took Beth’s breath away. She and Evan had given up trying to understand how their bright, beloved daughter had reached this point.
In the aftershock, Evan decided on this mini vacation, hoping to push away a bit of sadness from the children’s eyes . They’d spent last night in this rustic lodge cabin.
“Honey, can you come out with me?” Handing her some coffee, Evan spoke barely above a whisper.
Beth settled in the chaise, pulled her robe snugly, shivering in the cool air. It was a lovely place, nestled in the foothills of the Ouachita mountains. Golden fall leaves shimmered and glistened in the sunshine. She and Evan had come here in earlier years, always feeling a special sense of God’s presence in the quiet beauty.
“The scripture I just read blew me away, Beth. Look! I haven’t been able to see any hope, with my arthritis worse, our savings dwindling, and now two children to care for, at our age. But I’ve just read one of David’s psalms where he went through all his “how long? questions,” then prayed a prayer that sounds like my very own thoughts.”
Evan handed her his favorite devotional Bible and pointed. Beth adjusting her bifocals, read aloud:
“Consider and answer me, Oh Lord, my God; lighten the eyes [of my faith to behold Your face in the pitchlike darkness], lest I sleep the sleep of death,...” (Ps. 13:3, Amplified Bible).
“This is so where we are. I feel stunned, blinded, yet now I’m asking God to do this for us.”
Suddenly, five-year-old Zach bounced out the door and onto Evan’s lap.
“Gramps, can we go climb a mountain?” And, just like that, their day began.
The hike was good, with Angie, too somber for her eight years, not saying much. She had relaxed only a little at the amusement park they’d visited yesterday.
Returning from the hike, Zach saw a billboard showing a cave opening, and shouted excitedly, “Can we go in a cave, Gramma? Oh, can we?”
Evan groaned, and, though Beth knew his knees were hurting already, turned in at the entrance.
Once inside, the tour guide led them carefully through the clefts and trails cut into the earth. He explained the stalactites and stalagmites with their translucent glow in the dimly lit cave. As he shined his flashlight on the bats nesting above, Beth felt Angie shudder.
The defining moment, though, came when he cautioned them to be very still and switched off all the lights, displaying only blackness, utter darkness ! Zach and Angie clutched at her, and suddenly Beth felt Evan’s strong arms go around them, trembling.
With lights back on, the guide seemed alarmed, seeing the four of them bound together, grandparents softly crying. Beth assured him they were fine, and they turned, moving further on.
In a little while, they neared the exit. Light rays streamed down, forming patterns on the cave wall. Beth looked at Evan, and they knew that somehow God had answered in the darkness, and they had beheld His face of love and care.
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