A few months ago, Americans celebrated Memorial Day and took some time to honor and remember the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. During such holidays, I find myself grateful for the service men and women who put their lives on the line every day so I can live in peace. But, sadly, during the rest of the year, my mind wanders to other cares and concerns and my thankfulness wanes (not on purpose, but simply due to the thousands of thoughts vying for my attention).
Though I do not like admitting my fault in this area, I sense I am not alone. We live in such a fast-paced society. Without something in our face to remind us, we often fail to offer the proper thanks to those who are worthy of our gratitude. However, during those times of quiet introspection, when I ponder life and my existence, I cannot help but be thankful – especially, since I would not be here if God had not seen fit to introduce two incredible soldiers.
War and Babies
If not for World War II, neither Eric nor I would be alive today. Have you ever taken the time to consider all the situations, human choices, circumstances, and “chance” meetings which led to your existence? What if I had chosen to do another semester of chorus rather than taking the psychology class where I met Eric? What if I had chosen a different college or no college at all? What if my mom’s grandmother had chosen to attend a church closer to her home? (My parents likely would have never have met.) What if my grandfather had never gone to war? (He would never have met my grandmother.) What if Eric’s grandfather, as a German Jew, had never fled to Italy, joined the Italian Partisans, and met Eric’s grandmother in Italy? (His mother would never have been born.)
Our existence is a testimony to God’s grace. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, ESV). For example, Mom and Dad were too young to choose where to go to church, but the Lord was ordering their path even then.
An adult once told my then-six-year-old father, “Jack, you are going to marry Vickie someday.” His response? “Ewwwww. I would never marry her!” (Guess again, Dad! ~smile~)
My Favorite Soldier
My grandfather was a pretty special guy, and in his younger days, he was extremely handsome. We display his Army picture in our office and I feel proud when I gaze upon it. But, Granddaddy is not my most beloved soldier. Nor is my other grandfather who also served. My favorite soldier of all time is my great uncle, Sergeant Arthur Elliot.
Uncle Arthur was my grandmother’s oldest brother and also the vessel God used to introduce my grandparents. Granddaddy was his army buddy, and after Uncle Arthur had shown him a picture of my grandmother, he was hooked. Granny and Granddaddy began exchanging letters, and a few years later, they were husband and wife. Sadly, Uncle Arthur never knew they got married because he passed away in a tragic accident. Little did he know he was responsible for the creation of our family, and for that, I am forever grateful.
See What God Has Done
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of shooting the breeze with my then-89-year-old, great Uncle Willie. It was the last conversation we had before he went home to be with the Lord. During our chat, he told me about a tent revival which came through our area in the 1940s during his deployment. He said it was during that tent revival that his wife came to Christ, his mother came to Christ (my great-grandmother who brought my mom to the New Bern Church of God where she met my dad), and other members of our family came to Christ. When he returned home from overseas, almost his entire family had trusted their lives and eternity to Jesus.
Though I am not certain, I think that tent revival might have also been the same tent revival where my dad’s parents came to Christ. If not, both revivals took place in the same timeframe – the mid-1940s. So, I can trace my spiritual heritage back to post-war, small town tent revivals. How thankful I am for these events, and how God used them to change the course of my family. When I am tempted to believe God does not love me, or that He is not directing my life, all I have to do is remember how He worked out every detail so I could simply… exist. What an amazing God we serve.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14, ESV)
If the Lord blesses us with children, I am excited to share with them how God orchestrated it all. How their great-grandfather escaped the pursuit of the Nazis and met their great-grandmother. How their other great-grandparents met and fell in love through letters while a war was raging. How their grandparents met in church when they were first-graders. How God ordered Eric’s and my steps in college so that we could meet.
Which are Your Memorial Stones?
Every one of us has a story which begins long before we are born. There are few experiences I enjoy more than sitting down with my parents, aunts, and uncles and hearing stories about their childhoods and our ancestors. It is fascinating and overwhelming to see God’s fingerprints all over my family tree.
God works miracles in our lives every day, but we seldom take the time to document them. Imagine what your home would look like if you placed a shiny stone on the floor each time the Lord answered a prayer, provided for a need, or worked a miracle in your life. Surely, we would all be wading through several feet of stones every day. It is impossible to note every blessing God has ever given us because He does not always reveal every blessing. However, it is possible to erect some memorials highlighting God’s grace in our lives – as an act of worship, as a souvenir of His goodness, and as a way to show our children all He has done. When the Lord gave us the ability to pay off our consumer debt, we bought a gazelle figurine as a reminder of that blessing (cf. Proverbs 6:1-5). It is one of many tangible objects which reminds us of God’s power, favor, and grace in our lives.
What Do Those Stones Mean to You?
Can you imagine being the child of someone who witnessed God part the waters? That is a bedtime story I would want to hear every night! “Daddy, tell me about the time you crossed the Jordan River on dry ground! Please! Tell me again!” And, what a blessing it must have been for the children to not only hear the story but see and touch the memorial stones.
When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7, ESV, emphasis mine)
Someday, should the Lord bless you with children, they will want to know your story – and the story of how they came to be. As you and your sweetheart move from dating to engagement to newlyweds, fashion memorial stones your children can see and touch; and, when they ask you “What do these items mean to you?” you can tell them stories about the amazing works God has done. (To remember a particular camping weekend with church friends at a lake, Eric actually took 12 different stones he found and glued them together and mounted them on a base and added a plaque noting the event and the Joshua passage!)
We Are Celebrating New Family!
Two days ago, I had the privilege of attending my brother-in-law’s wedding. Over the past several months, he has grown close to her children, and his children have grown close to her. With their union also comes the blending of two incredible families. As their children age, marry, and have children of their own, what will they have to remember this blessed event? When grandchildren ask, “How did our family come together?” what visual reminders will there be of God’s grace?
If I know my new sister-in-law the way I think I do, there will be pictures and memorabilia galore to remind them and their children of the journey which brought them all together. And, when her grandchildren ask to hear the story, she will have a box of memories, pictures in frames, and figurines throughout the entire house just waiting to be touched and admired by little hands and eyes. “This is the story of our family.”
It is wedding season and, with it, the hope of young love. Help your friends document God’s grace by creating some memorial stones (i.e., any physical item which reminds them of God’s providence in their lives) as wedding gifts and encourage them to record the ways God blesses their marriage and family throughout the next fifty years so they can share their story with future generations (marbles in a jar, perhaps? ~smile~).
How will you tangibly document God’s blessings so you can share them with your children?