I’m so encouraged to have heard from one of my monthly newsletter subscribers*, who wanted to share a “light through the cracks” story with me. I especially love the way it reveals God’s practical nature in the face of her predicament.

Her name is Penelope, and I share the story here, with her blessing.


Penelope has decided to walk the ‘Pilgrim’s Way’ from Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire to Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. It follows an old historic route that meanders through woodland and farmland, across 138 miles of southern England, and takes two weeks to complete.  

There are a couple of occasions when Penelope is joined by one or other friend for part of a day’s journey but, most of the time, she is walking solo.

On this particular day, there has been a thick grey mist hanging over the route since sunrise. Penelope is alone, wrapped up in her thoughts, as she trudges the ancient trail – when she suddenly realises she has missed an important turning.

Consulting the footpath app on her phone, she discovers that all is not lost. If she follows the edges of a few fields, just up ahead, then she can join a tiny track, which will connect her back to the main route that she is meant to be following.

All is going well, until she reaches the final field.

The app is telling her that the tiny track is on the other side of the perimeter of the field she’s in – but there is no obvious way to access it.

Tramping on through the mud, she eventually comes to a very large gate. “No problem,” she thinks, “I’ll just climb over it.”

“I assumed I’d be able to climb over it unencumbered,” she tells me, “so I threw all my belongings – my rucksack, waist pack, walking pole and guide book – over the gate.”

It is only then that Penelope realises the gate can’t actually be climbed!

The gate’s cross-struts are far too narrow to support her walking books. The top of the gate is thick with barbed wire, as is the undergrowth on each side, so she can’t get over it or wriggle around it. And a large rusty chain has clearly been holding the gate locked for a very long time.

“I was nearly in tears, desperately quelling a rising sense of panic,” she tells me. “All my belongings were on the other side of a huge impassable gate, I hadn’t seen anyone else since leaving my overnight accommodation that morning, and I was completely off the beaten track.”

Doing the only thing that she knows to do, she prays.

“Help Lord!” she breathes.


Suddenly, out of nowhere, she hears voices approaching. They are coming from the direction of the tiny footpath on the other side of the field’s perimeter.

The voices draw nearer and Penelope sees two couples, who notice her standing in the mud on the other side of the gate. Sensing that something is wrong, they pause.

“Are you OK?” they ask, and she responds by explaining the whole sorry tale.

To her utter astonishment, they make light of the situation. “We’ll soon have you over,” the two men say.  

Then both of them proceed to lean over the barbed wire that runs along the top of the gate, and they each take one of her arms. Hauling her up and lifting her high, with a strength that seems extraordinary, they set her safely down on the other side of the large impenetrable gate.

 “We knew they’d be able to get you over,” the two women say, as her feet touch the ground.

“I was shaking with fear, worry and adrenalin,” Penelope tells me, “but they asked what I was doing, and I explained that I was on a pilgrimage.”

She bids them farewell but, within seconds, she can neither see them, nor hear them.

“As I gathered up my belongings, which were scattered around the base of that gate, I couldn’t help wondering at what had just happened,” she informs me. “They honestly felt like angels in disguise, sent along that footpath at the exact moment I needed them.”

She follows the tiny track to return to the main pilgrimage route, giving thanks to God for answering her prayer and looking after her, especially when she had missed her turning and was on the wrong route.


Have you ever been in a similar situation to Penelope, where if feels like you are facing something huge and impenetrable – and you can’t get over it, under it or around it? Maybe it was something tangible, like the huge gate in this story, or maybe it was something metaphorical, like an emotional barrier that needs to be overcome? If this is you, how did you respond? Were you like Penelope, who did the only thing she knew to do, and prayed?

Or have you ever prayed in the middle of a predicament, only for the Lord to send you one or more people to provide you with practical assistance, in the precise way you need, at the precise moment you need it? Have you ever paused to consider, as Penelope did, that those people could have been angels in disguise?

As ever, all constructive comments would be welcome below.


*Please note: If you have read this blog post and, like Penelope, you would like to subscribe to receive my monthly newsletter, you can sign up here.

Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash.



  1. Thank you for sharing Penelope’s story. Something inside me led me to stop, pause and read this today. I recognised myself in Penelope’s testimony. A keen solo walker myself, I often taking unexpected detours and ask God to lead me to safety.

    Once, I was walking up a steep incline in a forest when I lost my bearings and, as I looked back, I saw a couple walking up behind me. So I paused and, when they reached me, I checked with them that I was on the right path. They went ahead and vanished but, when I got to the top, at the lookout, they were sitting on a bench and offered me rest and a drink and a snack. Then off they went again, and I followed behind, but keeping them in sight. Then, when I got to the main road, which I was familiar with, once again they had vanished. I definitely believe they were guardian angels.

    When I read Penelope’s story, the old Sunday School song came to mind, ‘Jesus love is very wonderful’. I’ve been struggling with my mental health this week, and I sincerely believe God has led me to reading this blog as an encouragement. It has really reminded me that God is in control and that he leads us on paths of righteousness because he is a good God.

    God bless you Joanna in your writing ministry.

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on Penelope’s story, Sarah Joy. I’m sure your message will encourage her, as it has me. God can (and does) definitely send people to help us in our moments of need, whether or not they are angels in disguise. I hope you’ll encounter many more, as you take your solo walks.

  2. What a wonderful story – I could do with a few angels right now!

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      I hope those angels come your way soon, Janet!

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