A few years ago, our oldest said she felt like we didn’t have enough traditions as a family. This was coming off a hectic season of finishing my doctorate, and to be honest, she was probably right. For the next entire year, I intentionally created new “traditions” that we could look forward to each month. Fast forward six years later…the tradition that we all look forward to the most involves creating surprise individualized Shutterly photo books for each child to help them remember how they have grown and what they experienced that year. Each January, I spend 4-5 hours preparing individualized Shutterfly photo books, and the kids get to unwrap their photobooks on Valentine’s Day.
Part of the joy of unwrapping their photobooks is to slowly look at each page and storytell the memories that they think of when they see each picture. They smile, giggle, and sometimes feel a little bittersweet as they thumb through each page. Once they have carefully examined their individual books, they take turns passing their books from one sibling to the next and the cycle of remembering continues. Remembering the days that they thought they would never forget when they were in the moment, but had slipped their minds as the months went by. Reflecting on what made this past year different from the years in the past. Many times throughout the year when I tuck the kids in for bed, I see their photo books on their beds or night stands and know that they find comfort in seeing the pictures of family members and friends from each year as they drift off to sleep.
All of this remembering made me think of a dear friend and the gift she gave me on the last day of school of 2021. She brought me a white stone of remembrance, called an Ebenezar stone, to symbolize how far we had come in such an emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting year with teaching in COVID times and to be a symbol to remember God’s faithfulness in each moment. I can still picture the tears that welled up in both of our eyes as she took my hands and spoke encouragement to my heart in my roles as both an instructional coach and Mom. She spoke of the ways she saw Jesus changing me over the last year and the hope she had for my continued growth personally and professionally. This sweet friend is one in a billion, and because of the way she speaks life to me daily, I strive to be this type of life giving person to others in my life.
Knowing how much this dear friend loves the Lord, I wanted to research more about stones of remembrance, so that I could fully appreciate this precious gift she gave me. Depending on what Biblical translation you study, some versions refer to these stones as altars of remembrance, stones of remembrance, or Ebenezer stones. All of these phrases represent the same concept: we are forgetful people and find value in visual reminders that trigger our memories of what the Lord has done in our lives. Everytime the Israelites passed through a specific area with stones of remembrance, they would pause and remind their children and grandchildren of how God was fully present and came through in a mighty way for them in every season of life. Here’s a few examples if you want to explore the context of stones of remembrance further:
- Jacob/Israel stacked stones to help him remember when he encountered God in his dreams, and God confirmed His promise through the family line of Abraham, Isaac, and now Israel/Jacob in Genesis 28.
- Joshua led one member from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to place a stone to remember when God parted the Jordan river for their safe passage as they continued into the land God promised them in Joshua 4:1-8.
- Samuel stacked stones to remind the Israelites of how God helped them defeat their Philistine enemies in 1 Samuel 7:12.
We can implement this rhythm of remembrance for our children and grandchildren, too. For our family, we integrate rhythms of remembrance with yearly photo books. One of my sisters and her husband have a rhythm of selecting special ornaments they hang on the tree each year to serve as a reminder and moment to pause and reflect on God’s faithfulness. The good news is, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to remember. Whatever the Holy Spirit leads our unique families to select as a visual reminder, these images slow us down long enough to pause and reflect on God’s faithfulness and empower us to trust Him more in this next season of life. Do you have rhythms that help you pause and reflect as a family? If you haven’t started a rhythm of remembrance, what might be a good fit for your family to give you the reminder to stop and remember?