Collecting Stones

[I am very pleased to have Lesley Sebek Miller as a guest writer today. Lesley is a fellow Northern California blogger who writes at Barefoot on 45th, one of my regular reads.]


Collecting Stones

I close my eyes and see
A seagull in the desert,
high against unbearable blue sky.

There is hope in the past.

(From the poem, P.S. by Franz Wright)

The skies have been gray for days now, and KCRA 3 meteorologists keep saying the storm is supposed to arrive any minute. I suppose they’re right. The wind is becoming stronger and stronger—kicking up newly dropped leaves into a whirlwind of fury. Our backyard squirrels, usually playful and active at this time of day, are nowhere to be seen. Everyone has braced for the storm. I am doing so in more ways than one.

God is asking my family to trust Him again, and despite a lot of practice doing so, I still find myself struggling to surrender. Sunny seasons are so much easier than stormy seasons.

And yet this time we know what to do. Just like preparing for a literal storm—clearing our rain gutters, putting away lawn furniture, stocking up on groceries—we ready for the figurative thunderstorm ahead. We do this by re-counting the past.

When Jonathan got his cancer diagnosis a lot of people comforted us by saying that God would do great things with his story. I believed their words but found myself hopeful not because of what was to come, but what has already been done.

While his cancer diagnosis was certainly the biggest way we’ve had to trust God’s plan for our future, it wasn’t the first time. There were the months after college graduation when neither of us had jobs. There was the time we listened carefully for His direction on a months long missions trip (and eventually headed to China!) There was the summer we lived with our parents while waiting for law schools to offer their last minute admissions. There was the time I accepted a job that quickly asked me to compromise my integrity, and so I handed in my resignation without a back-up plan. There was the phone call rescinding Jonathan’s first job, when we realized he was back to square one in the job search. There were the months he struggled with anxiety waiting for Bar results, and the months I struggled with anxiety about becoming a mom.

During each of the moments I listed above, I remember feeling frustrated God was asking us to trust Him again. There was too much waiting and too much uncertainty for my taste. We are praying people with a big faith in His power—so why couldn’t He simply answer? Like, immediately?

What I understand now is that God was training us. Separately, those moments seemed like small rocks that seemed to sink in the river of life but collectively they have been big enough for us to use as stepping-stones to cross the fast moving water.

In Joshua 4 the Israelites have crossed the Jordan—a feat only made possible by God miraculously cutting off the downstream flow. After the crossing God tells Joshua to choose 12 men, and have them pick up stones from the middle of the Jordan to serve as a sign. Joshua then says to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over… 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 4:21-22, 24.)

We can only hope in eternity because of what happened in the past; at the edge of a river, in a dirty manger and on a gruesome cross.  When I see God working since the beginning of time I can find comfort in what He’ll do next in me. I do not have to wonder about the logistics. I do not have to speculate about the redemption. I do not have to ask, “Why?”

My trust muscles are continually being stretched. Sometimes I wake up with sore muscles. But some days I wake up to sweet, refreshing rain.

It is well with my soul.

(Note: As I have shared this lesson of trusting and hoping, several women in my life have told me about a tradition in some families to collect literal stones that signify ways God has been faithful in their lives. I love this idea and plan to start a stone collection in our home.)

Lesley Sebek Miller, a Westmont College graduate, lives in Sacramento, California. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and her work has appeared on the Christianity Today blog for women and Relevant Magazine. She delights in her husband and daughter, eating dessert, and meaningful time spent with friends.

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13 Responses to Collecting Stones

  1. Oh, Lesley. Everything in me resonates with this. “God was training us.” I’ve been through that, too–although it was our son who received the diagnosis. We have our stones of remembrance, too.

    (I didn’t know you were a Westmont grad. I’m a Wheaton one.)

    Thanks for hosting Lesley today, Tim 🙂

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for coming by, Anne. As you can imagine, hosting Lesley is a complete honor.

    • Lesley212 says:

      Westmont and Wheaton- the double W’s! 🙂 Both great schools. I have a lot of friends who went to Wheaton. Thanks for reading, Anne. I know I’ve read on your blog that your son went through cancer but I forgot until today. What a journey it is.

      • Tim says:

        My son toured Westmont and my daughter toured Wheaton as part of their college selection trips. Neither went to either, though. Still, I feel like we’re all related!

  2. Tim says:

    Lesley, I am so glad you wrote this for us. Stones of remembrance can be for times of hardship or times of peace, but either way it is always good to remember what God has brought us through. Thank you so much for sharing your remembrance stones with us here.

  3. PC says:

    Leslie, I am in love with the image of “seemingly sinking stones” becoming stepping stones.

    Such incredible truth of God’s goodness in the places we wonder.

  4. Cara says:

    Lesley, you know I continue to be one of your greatest fans–you as an extraordinary individual and you as an extraordinary writer. Thank you for sharing your grace with the world. And also, I wanted to share a kindred-spiritedness in that I am a total “rock” person as I believe you know. At the end of my talks I offer guests smooth stones for them to choose and take home with them. The stones are reminders of how we can emanate ripples of positivity or negativity into our lives and that of others. Just like a small stone sends out such ripples in a pool of water. We always have choices in our lives every minute and the little stones help me remember that this is so…

    • Lesley212 says:

      Cara- of course I remember (and love) your rocks. I still have my love rock you made from all those years ago. I like the imagery of how we can have a ripple effect on others. Thank you for being a cheerleader to me. Miss you!

  5. laruspress says:

    Beautifully written wisdom and awareness. I especially like: “What I understand now is that God was training us. Separately, those moments seemed like small rocks that seemed to sink in the river of life but collectively they have been big enough for us to use as stepping-stones to cross the fast moving water.” Thank you for your reflections of God’s River of Life!

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