I have never been a scrapbook kind of mom – you know the one who actually prints pictures, labels them, dates them, organizes them, and, finally, on graduation day sets out these picture-perfect (pun intended) scrapbooks documenting the graduate’s entire life. Nope, not me. I have made one scrapbook during my life as a mom in which I simply slid in printed pictures of Alayna, my oldest, and put a caption next to it to remember who I took pictures of. I did have a successful attempt at a scrapbook made online where I drug the pictures into the layout and added captions. Again, for Alayna. So, out of my four children, one of them will have two rudimentary “scrapbooks” at her graduation documenting the first year, maybe two, of her life. Who says the oldest never gets anything special?
Considering how horrible my memory is, I really should be doing a better job of documenting my kids’ lives so that later when they ask me questions, I’ll have a “cheat sheet” to rely on. Oh, but that’s just not who I am. I’d rather be living the moments than taking pictures of them. And let’s face it… I forget the camera most of the time anyway.
As I’ve been reading through the book of Joshua, I came across some verses that inspired me to think about this idea of scrapbooking – it’s given me a new perspective. Let me share…
After the death of Moses, God appointed Joshua as the new leader of his people. This was pretty important as the Israelites were drawing nearer to the day when they would move into the land the Lord had promised to Moses and his people. (Had they not disobeyed the Lord, they would have been there 40 years earlier, but that’s for another post.) So, Joshua set out to lead the people to the promised land. In Joshua 3:5, he tells the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” And he wasn’t kidding. The next morning, the people gathered up their things and headed to the bank of the Jordan River. I’m going to let Joshua tell the rest of the story; after all, he was there. “So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground” (Joshua 3:14-17). I’d consider that a pretty amazing thing! After the entire nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, Joshua pulled aside twelve men (one from each tribe) and told them to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan before the priests stepped out of the way and the waters returned. Now these were not tiny pebbles the men were after; Joshua tells them “…Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder…” (Joshua 4:5). He continues in verses 6-7, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 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 off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua asked the men to pick up stones so that a memorial or scrapbook could be made. So that, someday, when this generation had all but forgotten about the amazing thing God did that day, they could look at the twelve stones and be reminded. They could tell the story to their children who, someday, would look at the stone scrapbook and tell the story of the Jordan River to their children.
Maybe the reason that I’m bad at scrapbooking is because I struggle to keep track of all the things my kids do, trying to determine what is scrapbook worthy. Joshua has given me an idea though. What if I start scrapbooking in a different way? Gathering mementos or tokens to remind me of the amazing things God has done in my life. What if I start picking up stones? I can already think of several things to add to my collection: the tiny little wrist bracelets that each of my kids wore during their first couple of days of life, a note of encouragement attached to a gift as we stepped out in faith and became a one-income family, my first license for a business that could not have begun without God’s hand pushing it. Little stones and big stones gathered to remember the amazing things God has done in my life.
We need those reminders. There are days, weeks, or even years when it feels like God has all but disappeared, and we’re left wandering in the desert alone. Moments when no matter where we look we feel like we can’t see God’s hand in the situation. Pain, grief, anger, and confusion can fog up our vision as we search for the good in the trial we are facing. Those are the exact moments when we need to pull out our stone scrapbook and be reminded of the amazing things the Lord has done, knowing we can cling to his promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, emphasis mine). We need to look back and remember the ways that God has worked in our lives, just as the Israelites needed the stones to remind them and future generations that the Lord pushed back the waters of the Jordan so that they could move toward the promised land. “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (Joshua 4:24). As we push through our trials heading toward the promised land of eternal life, we can be reminded that the hand of the Lord is powerful and that we might always fear him.
So, I guess it’s time to start picking up stones. Gathering reminders of God’s work in your life; literally, filling a box or bag or shelf or chest with physical reminders of God’s power.
Lord, you are more powerful than we can ever even imagine. No matter our situation, we know that when we devote our lives to you and follow your will, your hand is there. Help us Lord to look for your work in our lives and to gather those memories to cherish. Forgive us for the times we forget. Send your Spirit to work in our hearts and remind us of all the ways you’ve provided when we’ve called out in the midst of struggle. Thank you for your everlasting love and the promised land awaiting us through the gift of salvation.