So these stones shall become a memorial….
I saw it sitting on my sister’s kitchen counter and it was the kind of thing I wanted to pick up and pocket:
a palm-sized rock painted by my niece.
It had been a random little surcie for my sister, born one day when the big kids’ imaginations were running wild somewhere in the North Georgia mountains.
Creating something special from nothing special.
I turned it over in my hand, its smooth surface cool and hard, its simple message insistent and important. I instantly loved everything about it.
As if further proof was needed that this rock was, indeed, extraordinary, my sister refused to let me have it. I suppose she saw beyond its surface, too.
When I asked my niece to paint one for me, she said, Okay.
When I asked my niece again to paint one for me, she said, I will Auntie, promise!
When I asked my niece for the zillionth time to paint one for me, she said, Aunt Robin, it’s not that easy to find the perfect rock!
I understood exactly what she meant when I found the perfect one.
Ute is a friend I met while living in Germany.
Our meeting was extraordinary in and of itself–she overheard me talking to a shop owner, quickly added two (I was American) plus two (I had mentioned my teenage son), pardoned her interruption and asked, “Are you possibly Tad’s wife?”
The town we lived in was the German equivalent of Mayberry–small and folksy. Because she worked with my husband, Ute had learned plenty about me and our family. To hear an American speaking, and not just talking but about a teenage son, it wasn’t that far of a stretch for Ute to know exactly who I was.
What my German-Mayberry hometown might have lacked in metropolitan, European style, it more than made up for in quaint, hospitable substance.
By the time I left that store, Ute and I were on our way to becoming fast friends, the kind that air-kiss cheeks for a greeting and hug tight for good-byes.
She was a difference-maker in our lives and not just for how kindly she treated me. In addition to introducing me to others in town, she arranged for our sons to get together. Though her own son didn’t attend the school mine would, she made sure to connect Stephen with a classmate who did attend his school. Victor (Ute’s friend’s son and son’s friend) made all the difference in the world for my son, becoming his shadow at school and inviting Stephen to play soccer outside of class.
It’s easy to understand, then, that when I traveled back to Germany recently, Ute was at the top of my list to visit. We walked and talked, meandering the Altstadt (old town) and circling the nearby lake on the lower grounds of our hometown castle.
Time flew by too fast, which means – if it were possible – we were having too much fun.
When it was time to go, we hugged our good-byes. Ute startled me when she drew back.
“Wait–I almost forgot!” she demanded and she scurried to another room in her house.
Back just as quickly, she pressed something cold and hard into my hand.
“I picked this up because it looked like a heart…” she explained, and because our spirits are kindred, I saw what she saw and I understood why she gifted it.
Out of all the expats and Germans we met, I know LeAna best; she happens to have family in our hometown and I get to see her when she’s in the States. Of course, that means when I’m in Germany, I want to see her there, too.
The evening after my visit with Ute, LeAna picked me up to meet another German friend for dinner; the weather was nice enough we were able to eat outside. At some point during our meal I remembered Ute’s heart-rock in my pocket and I pulled it out to show them. Still relishing the warmth of Ute’s gesture and wanting to share the beauty and significance of her gift, I explained the scenario under which it was given.
Vanessa smiled and nodded – I can’t decide now whether she was just being polite or fully understood – but LeAna couldn’t contain her amusement. What she saw was only a peculiar gift of an odd-shaped rock. Of course–it wasn’t intended for her! She reached down to the ground, picked up something, and with eyes twinkling, dropped a pebble in front of me.
“Here ya go,” she chuckled. “A rock shaped like a rock so you’ll remember our time together.”
And so I do, with an equally broad smile on my face, because her gift is a memory marker, too.
Last month I returned from Germany with precious cargo: three rocks
To siphon memory and draw inspiration, I stacked them on the counter when I began to write this , and that’s exactly what my husband and son saw when they walked into the house that day. Both asked me the same question, ”Why are there rocks on the counter?”
The short answer was I’m writing about them (which was plenty enough to satisfy their curiosity). You’re reading the long answer.
The rocks in and of themselves are, well, plain rocks. But attach the story of each one and they become a treasure.
Each stone embodies affections for people and places that mean something to me; they’re a storehouse for precious memory. These rocks are touchstones that point outward to something else, something special, something I don’t just want to remember, something I need to remember.
And I can’t help but think about much more precious Stones of Remembrance–the crazy, incredible Old Testament story of Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan River on dry land (Joshua 3), the second time God pulled a stunt like that! God revealed His Holy power by making a way where there was none, displaying His fierce majesty by making child’s play of the sea. Israel must have been walking through those watery walls with mouths agape, convinced that God, indeed, was with Joshua.
Then God told Joshua to choose 12 ordinary men, to go smack into the center of the Jordan where the priests had carried the ark, and each to pick up a rock and bring it back “to serve as a sign among you.”
Because they meant something special.
And the part I might love the most–
“In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them…”
When the children ask, tell them a story!!
“…tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut of. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 5:6b-7)
God wants us to remember special, significant pieces of our history; the events, people and places that point us to Him.
Stones of Remembrance don’t have to be literal stones, no, but sometimes…
I’m especially thankful they are.
Oh, I hope you’ll share your stories, the special “stones” in your life; and if you’ve written about them, please share a link so I can learn more!
Smiling in anticipation,