By Kathy Johnston
I know this may sound weird, but I like to keep odd, little things. To someone else, they may seem meaningless; but to me, they are reminders of precious people, experiences and places that I have been.
Things like the goofy–looking, clay figurine that I made in art class in the 1970’s. It brings back memories of my art teacher, Kay Sears, who was the mother of one of my best friends in high school.
The little, green glass chicken sitting in the cabinet always makes me think of my Grandma Jantzi, who gave it to me many years ago. Seeing it brings back the memory of her face, her laugh and her huge, hearty breakfasts she cooked for us every time we came to visit. (I even remember the plates she served those mouthwatering breakfasts on!)
The worn and ragged flannel baby blanket that is now tucked away in a box, reminds me of the day I brought home my daughter– wrapped snuggly inside of it, it’s colors still bright and new.
And the wooden cradle up in the attic reminds me of my sons’ grandfather, who lovingly crafted it before my oldest was born…and how all four of my children were once carefully laid inside that cradle.
And then there’s the yellowed, tattered notebook page that’s neatly folded and tucked away in a wooden chest. On it my husband, Russ, had written out his last few words…asking about his boys, before he became too ill to communicate with us anymore. And it reminds me of the fierce love and care he had for our sons. When I look at that worn piece of paper and the fading ink… I’m reminded that he is no longer suffering as he was when he wrote those words, but instead, he is at this very moment, relishing in the glory and incredible beauty of the very presence of God in heaven!
All of these things bring back precious memories. And all of these are reminders of the journey that God has taken me on the last 60 years. Some of the memories are joyous and exciting, others bring reminders of difficulty and pain. But ultimately, they remind me that God has a purpose and a plan that is still being worked out and that I am not what I was, and I am not yet what I will be.
In Joshua 4, God tells Joshua that each tribe was to gather a stone from the middle of the Jordan River as they passed through it on dry ground. Joshua then stacked those stones together as a memorial on the other side. The intention was that every time the Israelites would pass by that pile of stones, it would remind them of the incredible mercy and provision of God as he guided his chosen people into the land he had promised them. The Israelites were not yet what they were going to be, but the stones were a reminder of where they had been and who it was that had brought them this far and who it was that would complete the work. These boulders were to be stones of remembrance that their God was merciful, strong, powerful, loving, faithful, and one who keeps his promises.
Just like those stones, my little “stones of remembrance” from my past, remind me of God’s presence throughout my life. And as I remember his faithful presence and care, I am reminded that he is always the same, he is always true, and his way is always perfect. It reminds me of his great mercy. That I was once dead but now I am made alive through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5
The years ahead are unknown, but his mercy, faithfulness, goodness, power, provision and strength I know is sure.
I love how Joshua 4 ends. “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground…so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God for ever.” Joshua 4:21-22,26.
Those 12 stones were carried out on the shoulders of men from the bottom of the Jordan River, so they couldn’t have been massive tall pillars or they wouldn’t have been able to carry them. Most likely, anyone passing by these stones would probably not look at them with much interest. But for the Israelites, they represented the importance of remembering and the danger of forgetting the extraordinary mercy of God. And so I too, must continually remind myself and others, of the incredible work of Jesus Christ at the cross no matter what season of life or circumstance I’m in.
May it be so of all of us, gazing at our own “stones of remembrance”, marveling at what He has done and then sharing the good news with the world.