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,
P.S. I found a wonderful way for remembering my stories and stones; this might help you, too :).Leave a Comment
Melanie Vanlaningham says
You’re message this morning resonates with my heart. One, I’ve always loved collecting rocks just because of their shape and color. I’ve picked up so many I can’t remember where all they have come from, so I guess I can just say they come from life as I’ve lived it. The smooth rocks I’ve collected from the shores of Lake Michigan remind me that the pounding waves and constant friction can make something beautiful, just as it is in life. So I am reminded that the trials I face and the heartache that comes is all creating the most beautiful me, wearing off the rough and sharp edges.
My favorite symbol of remembrance is anything with a bird on it. It was the morning after a major battle with our teenage son, he had stormed out of the house and we didn’t know where he was. Not only was he gone, his heart was far from us and God. Through a story too long to share on here, but that only took a matter of minutes to unfold, God brought a bird in such a miraculous and amazing way to perch on a wire with a few others representing the ultimate homecoming for my son. I knew without a doubt it was a promise from God that my son would return some day. To this day, I love to decorate with birds. Remembering the promise He gave me. Wish I could tell the whole story…it is just so God. Thank you for this post!
Melanie Vanlaningham says
Wish I would have proofread my post. Your – not You’re. Too early in the morning. 🙂
Robin Dance says
First Melanie, it makes me so happy the first commenter to my post UNDERSTANDS me :). Thank you for not calling me cuckoo!! My post is already too long, what with all my storytelling up there, but I could have waxed waaaaay more poetic about the beauty of rocks; so I’m GLAD you took time to expand on them a bit more. And birds…how can a girl named “Robin” not appreciate THAT as a symbol of your “stone”? It’s precious how that came into being, a redemption of a hard thing. <3
Second….I have great affections for those who can't stand typos or grammar errors and have to go back and fix 'em :). I write phonetically sometimes and have to mop up a ton of errors like that. Cheers with my cup of coffee for too early in the morning!! 🙂
It would sometimes bother me that I couldn’t remember where I got a certain rock. I like what you said, I can just say they come from life as I’ve lived it. How blessed we are to have so many special times and rocks that we can’t keep count!
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
I love your stories…for the longest time a pile of rocks sat on my kitchen counter. That’s all they were to anyone else, but to me they were a monument and remembrance of a weekend that my 80 year old mother and I spent together in the mountains of NC. We went gem mining while we were there – and not the salted mining where they put in gems for you to find, but the real mining of sifting through the real mountain mud of NC.
What we found were some mud garnets and even a couple rubies plus some other precious stones. To the naked eye they don’t look like much, but shine a light through them and they come alive with color. I could go into all the symbolism I find in this, but the main point is that the rocks remind me of a wonderful bonding time we had…just mother – daughter time filled with laughter and early morning coffee chats on the porch as we watched the sun burn through the clouds/fog.
I could go on and on…but I love these rocks of remembrance. Thank you for letting me share my “rock story” and for allowing me to read yours!!
Robin Dance says
Bev, thank you for being such a faithful commenter to incourage writers; it really is an encouragement to us to see familiar “faces” when we write. Yes, I’m very grateful for those who comment only once in a while, but I see your words as ministry :).
And WHAT A BEAUTIFUL (literal) STONE OF REMEMBRANCE!!! I imagined myself with my own daughter (in 30 years, lol) knowing she and I would share an appreciation for what y’all did. THAT was a special time, indeed. And I *see* the symbolism in your rocky monument–the eyes of my heart see it. xo
Lori Harris says
As a collector of rocks myself and a writer of stories, I love everything about this post.
Especially all the words. ( smile)
My first ever rock came from Lancaster, SC from a childhood friend. It was given to me as a Chewing Gum Rock, as in stick your used gum on it at night to chew it again in the morning. I still have it.
I love this….I am the kind of gal that hates “stuff” yet I still have a small bear that commemorates a family reunion in 1985, a brick my sister jumped over tape to get from our favorite music venue in college as it was being demolished, and all of my prayer journals. In my mind, I treasure little markers of God’s tangible movement in my life: a woman named Theresa that the Holy Spirit literally forced me to pray over at a concert on a hot North Carolina summer’s eve, a song on a bus in Venezuela sung in many languages to one God who understood it all, a day of fasting with strangers for one prayer need and being led the same way…across one big city.These are the ways I find hope when all seems lost or my faith dwindles.
Kim J says
I love painting on rocks or stones. I painted a stone several years ago for my Grandma, who has now passed. It was a garden stone and she treasured it and the words ” Grandmas garden” written on it. I now have Her stone that I painted in my flower bed, and will plant one of her favorite flowers beside it! This is only a small reminder of many cherished memories of her. Thank you for sharing your stone story as it truly warmed my heart.
Diane Bailey says
Profound, beautiful and inspiring post, Robin. All the things that make you, you.
I collect heart shaped stones, and write on them with magic-marker, the date, place and one word of remembrance.
Thank you for sharing.
Leigh Powers says
I’ve always loved that story from Joshua–that call to build our altars and remember what the Lord has done. I don’t share my children’s (and husband’s!) fascination with rocks, but my journal becomes that pile of standing stones for me.
Holly C says
I have always loved this story, this picture of remembering. Here is something I wrote last Summer, and the funny thing is after I wrote it, a friend was visited by someone who was writing/studying about Ebenezer stones. We had a wonderful discussion about the story and the remembering. My story is more for my daughter’s remembering, but I include it with mine as well. . . Thank you! 🙂
Jane A says
I have always gathered stones that ‘catch my eye’ from various places we have journeyed both as a family and now as empty nesters. Never large, so weight is not added to the suitcase, but interesting in texture or color or both. Memories gathered to be cherished even when the ‘gathering location’ is forgotten.
Lisa Petrarca says
What an amazing reminder! I too have a heart shaped rock from one of our family beach vacations. Here’s a story about our Foster son’s first trip to Disneyland that you might enjoy. “ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE BIG DROP?” http://bowlofinspiration.blogspot.com/2014/05/are-you-afraid-of-big-drop.html?m=1
I feel like I have found a kindred spirit. I collect rocks everywhere I go so I can have something to trigger memories of the experience. I have tried to cut down to picking up one rock for each family member, because it can quickly get out of hand. When I was a child my rock collection got left behind in the move and I was devastated! If I start to think about it I get a little upset to this day, some forty years later. To my parents, it was just a bag of rocks but to me it was so much more. If you have a lot of rocks, you’ve lead a full life! I like what Melanie said, I guess I can just say they come from life as I’ve lived it.
Joanne Peterson says
I live 1/2 mile from Lake Michigan, and we have a TINY family a-frame on Lake Superior. For many years, I would walk with a friend in the early morning hours on one of the beaches of Lake Michigan. We would talk and pray, and pick up beach glass, “Jewels.” I gave the jewels to my kids, and we would watch how the jewels drifted down into the bottom of our small aquarium to decorate our
As part of our family vacation, we would pick up rocks that were agates, them running to me with the question “Is it an agate mom?” Or we would pick up interesting rocks at various stop off points while walking, or kayaking/canoeing, building towers, looking for pictures in the rocks, collecting the best ones to bring home. I have rocks that make a path from our family a-frame vacations here in Wisconsin. I look at them and remember the excursions on the sunny days with our picnic lunches brought in the canoe and kayak trading rocks for our lunches back to the a-frame and back to Wisconsin. Our car heavy-laden with our special rocks.
My husband, when he asked me to marry him gave me an interesting piece of copper from the UP instead of an engagement ring. He asked me if I wanted a ring and I didn’t, so he gave me a “worry stone”. (I am a reformed worrier…most of the time:) ) I carry my piece of copper, my worry stone with me in my coin pocket in my wallet. We have an interesting and sweet engagement story and show the stone when I tell my story.
I have a certain place where the lady slippers (a type of beautiful orchid) grow at the a-frame. I was told they don’t grow there, but I see them with my own eyes. They can’t be transplanted, and it takes years for the conditions to be just right to bloom. I can picture them when I close my eyes now and see them “where they are not supposed to be” my own lovely present that “should not be”
I have places in my bible scribbled in pencil where the Lord whispered messages to my grieving heart, when I grasping for hope for my daughter, when she left our home under horrible circumstances, when I came to know Jesus in a deeper way, when He gave new Names of Himself to me. I look through my falling apart bible and remember the messages He whispered to me. The promises are etched on my heart.
Robin, these are lovely memorials, these rocks of remembrance.
My 10-yr old son is always bringing rocks home – from the playground, from the sidewalk, from gem-mining…. and it drives me crazy! But I promise to look at them differently from now on…. that they are dear to him, and so they are dear to me. Thank you!
Chris Hicks says
I have many stones of remembearance from my granddaughter. From the time she was able to walk our 1/2 mile long driveway she has collected rocks. She had a little basket she used to use to collect them with. I can still see her little legs walking in front of me wobbling to and fro. She is 11 years old now and still finds rocks and other things in the dirt on our land. She has found little bottles and odd pieces of wood. She has also found a tile heart in the ground. I love the stories she tells when she finds these treasures. It really isn’t about the items she finds but the memories. God has given us memories to love and live by all in His book. Praise the Lord!
Susan G. says
I loved this story! Memorial stones are one of my favorite stories of the bible…and one of my favorite practices for the here and now. I have loved rocks since I was a little girl, and still have a box I collected when I was about ten years old…I am now 62. 🙂 When we just sold our ‘winter home’ in California, I made sure I packed up the few rocks I found while walking in the desert. 🙂 God made rocks special for things like ‘memorials’ and for people like me who still love rocks…
Thanks for a great story!
Leslie Carnes says
Your stone story made me smile…and remember! I was always fascinated by rocks, even when I was a little girl. But it wasn’t until I was in Germany that I learned they could actually speak. My Navy pilot husband was stationed in Spain with our whole family and I went to a spring-time conference at Bertchesgaden (forgive my unique spelling) for women associated with the American military in Europe. One of the options was a guided nature walk where the leader would stop us and read scripture about God and His attributes as we soaked in the beautiful landscapes.
One of the stops was by a wide but shallow creek. Her instructions were, “Take a few minutes. Walk around and find a rock that speaks to you.” Even though I thought this was silly and couldn’t imagine how in the world one of those rocks would ever ‘speak’ to me, I went along and looked at the thousands of smooth, round rocks arrayed through the creek bed. God stopped me in my tracks when my wandering and haphazard gazing was completely arrested by this one particular rock. It was round and smooth like all the others, but was very dark. A thick white vein ran right through the middle of it with little spidery ‘capillaries’ meandering off at odd intervals.
I just stood there, staring, while God used this mute rock to speak into my soul. “I have a plan for you throughout your life because I love you. That is the strong white line. If you stay close to Me, listen to Me, you won’t get sidetracked into the little mundane things that keep you from My best for you.” Everything else faded away as I was stunned by the intimacy of the moment and by the message I’d heard.
And I remembered that Jesus said that if we are silent, the stones will cry out. Well, this one had certainly cried out to me! I carried that stone in my pocket for a very long time, but somewhere along the way in many military moves I lost it. But its message remains, and I now am able to see and hear God speaking to me in ways that would have seemed silly before. He can use anything in all creation, not just stones, to speak to our hearts! And I am SO glad He does.
Thank you for helping me remember my special speaking rock with your story!
Leslie McCarthy says
So enjoyed your writing! 🙂
Jessica Wolstenholm says
Robin, this post and this practice echoes my heart! Our pastor spoke a word over us in our marriage counseling about keeping stones of remembrance (Joshua 3). My wedding gift to my husband was a stone with our wedding date etched into it. This truth has followed us through 13 years, years of infertility, 4 babies in heaven, 2 miracle children here on earth and the loss of both of our mothers in the past 3 years. We keep looking back to this stone, this symbol that represents the faithfulness of The Lord. It reminds us that he is good, even when it doesn’t feel like it. It reminds us that he’s called us to walk this life together, no matter what we encounter. It’s been a powerful practice in our lives.
I love that your stones represent people and connection. So precious! Thank you for sharing. I think we are kindred spirits!!
Stones of Remembrance are big in my family. Years ago, my husband picked up a heart-shaped stone on a walk one day and began to pray for his future spouse. When he asked me to marry him, he gave me that rock with all the prayers and promise fulfilled. So when I went to Israel last year for work and he couldn’t come with me, I collected stones from every place I visited. He would tell you it is the best present I have ever given him. Pieces of love, pieces of faith, pieces of me, pieces that bring “us” into remembrance.
This story is so inspiring to me. I’ve never been one to wear jewelry but my best friends both gave me small tokens from trips they’ve taken recently. They don’t match each other in the least bit but any day I need courage I wear them! They remind me of them but also carry a story, their stories, our stories, and the story I make without them by my side.
Well, you had me at “Germany” … I *am* German (well, German-American now) … but then you also had me at “stones” … rocks.
My German Opa collected weird things off the street (weird as in he’d stop to pick up a paperclip or a button – they say it was his generation, the War generation, because they could re-use it) and he’d collect weird things from nature. I have a jar of water and muddy pebbles from the Mississippi River that he packed carefully in his suitcase after visiting us in the U.S. and going back to Germany to show off his prize from the Old Man River. Anyway, rocks, feathers, shiny pieces of glass, acorns … yeh, I have lots of them from him – and I cherish every one. 🙂
Robin, thank you for this post. I love this story in Joshua, too. I love that before they camped at the Jordan for a few days, God had brought His people through the town of Shittim again (Joshua 3:1). Shittim, the very place where God’s “people began to whore with the daughters of Moab”, with pagans. (Numbers 25:1) How absolutely beautiful and redemptive that right before God taught them to build stones of remembrance, they journeyed through Shittim, through the very place of their spiritual harlotry. God is so very dramatic in His rescue and in saving us from the worst, ugliest parts of ourselves. We have many stones to heap while remembering His faithfulness to us — one upon the other and another on top of those. Thanks for the reminder. http://christanperona.com/2014/03/31/when-you-think-youre-beyond/
This is beautiful. I don’t have any actual ROCKS, but I have cards and notes from family and friends sent during hard times; pictures that capture a special person or memory; a piece of Christmas Snow Village given to me by a group of friends; a tree planted in our yard after the death of my grandmother; “Stones” that remind me of God’s faithfulness. But perhaps the biggest “stones” are written in my Bible. When God leads me to verses, or reminds me to pray for someone…I write the names and date beside the verse. As I open my Bible and see those names, all of those memories come flooding back…
Thank you for sharing this.
Sarah S says
God wants us to remember special, significant pieces of our history; the events, people and places that point us to Him.
Thank you for this little gem. It confirms what God has been speaking to my heart this spring. He has impressed upon me the importance of remembering where I came from, who I am, my heritage, my family, and the people that came before me in my life.
And this remembering has become a rock of life…teaching me how to live right now, right here, in the present.
My youngest grandson loves rocks. Just loves them. I have rocks all over my house, not only from him, but from my son, my sweet Daddy and I’ve been known to pick up a rock or two myself. A few are more precious than others. I have the first rock my boy even put in his pocket and brought in the house. He was 2. It is in my jewelry box. I have the first rock both my grandsons ever put In their pockets and brought in my house. Also in the jewelry box. I have a rock I picked up and put in my pocket the night I stopped my car on a bridge and dropped my wedding band in the river when my divorce was final. I’ve never once been sorry I did that. If someone found it and sold it for the gold value…bless them. If its buried under sand and silt…I’m good with that. That rock reminds me that all that glitters is not gold. Also reminds me about letting go and giving/receiving grace.
I also have 2 rocks Ed picked up once when he was at Kennedy Space Center and they were rolling the Space Shuttle out to the Pad. The Shuttles rolled out on a huge piece of machinery with gigantic treads and the way was filled with these rocks. They come from a river in Tennessee and are uniform in size and delicately smooth. They were so significant to him, as it was near the end of the Shuttle program. Fitting rocks for a Rocket Man.
I loved this post! Thank you, friend!
I love this so much!
Beth WIlliams says
While I don’t collect rocks, I understand completely wanting memories. I take tons of pictures at any event to help me remember things. A nice picture is of my dad & his 4 girls at the church after mom’s funeral.
I spent one Sunday after noon putting together a photo album for my aging dad (89). In it I put a lot of really old black & white photos of people long gone, but that he would remember. He loves looking at it and showing it to others.
These pictures are my rocks of remembrance.
Diana Trautwein says
Lovely, Robin. I’ve got a few of those rocks around, too. :>)
Kelley Hall says
Great post! I have a bowl of river rocks in my bedroom that we collected years ago when my children were small. We sat by a stream in the mountains, and while they waded in the shallow water, we looked for the prettiest rocks we could find. Looking at them reminds me of those innocent days.
My dear ‘rock’ of a friend,
I like many of the comments have shared, love your musing! And most often, prods me to consider the subject. Did you know that Rich ‘collects, hoards or gathers’ rocks from special places? A brick from the brick foundry where his grandfather worked in PA; a river rock from the creek near his childhood summer home; many rocks from his trip with Sam to Israel; and several from family vacations. I actually was admiring the imprint of Sam’s 3 yr old handprint in the cement foundation of this house the other day wondering, ‘how I could take this ‘rock of memory’ with us when we leave this home? ‘
And just the other day, I made a poor decision to walk Penny with the three little ones and an hour later, after stopping to investigate EVERY rock pile, gathering some for later, we made it home! I had to get sandwich baggies and write each child’s name on the back because the pebbles all looked alike!
Maybe, it is our affinity to rocks that God chose to teach us many lessons from Joshua. I am not sure, but I will never look at a rock quite the same now! Thanks again for the nugget!