Memorial Stones

God’s grace to us.

Four words to describe nine years and countless lives touched by one little girl. God’s grace to us. Grace is a sweet-sounding name that I chose for reasons that pale in comparison to the actual grace God has poured out on me through the privilege of being Olivia’s mom. 

The headstone Robert ordered today will be engraved with words that were carved into my heart a year ago. Etched into stone as a permanent memorial.

Miriam-Webster says that a memorial is “something that keeps remembrance alive.” I can’t help but feel that Olivia’s memory deserves more than just a grave marker. I know that her eternal life with Jesus is more beautiful, more substantial than any slab of granite, however ornate. 

I am reminded of a Bible story I learned as a young child. A new generation of Israelites stood on the banks of the Jordan River, having just crossed over into the land God had promised their fathers. For the second time in Israel’s history, a river had parted, allowing the people to cross over on dry land. Forged through rushing water, the path to the nation’s future was inextricably tied to the past. And before taking another step forward, a specific act of obedience was required. The building of a memorial.

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”–Joshua 4:1-3

Take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan …

So often this journey of being made to look more and more like Christ means being willing to pick things up before we can put them down. Crosses and stones must be shouldered for a while, though never without the help of Jesus who has gone before us, is always with us, and is waiting ahead with open arms. He took up a cross to lay down His life. His stone was rolled away to reveal an empty tomb–the symbol of our hope. The cross and the empty tomb mean that those who follow Jesus are uniquely able to bear burdens and build memorials without drowning in sorrow and despair. As we trust Him, death’s stench gives way to a life-giving perfume. Like everyone else, we must cross raging rivers. But we don’t have to emerge wet and shivering. He makes a way for us to cross over on dry ground.

From right where the priests are standing …

Jesus is our faithful High Priest forever, and we are kidding ourselves if we try to draw our strength, our hope, or our peace from any other source. Our memorials will be paltry, shoddy, and meaningless unless they are built from Him and for Him and upon Him. Christ is “a firm and tested stone … a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken (Isaiah 28:16).”

Carry them over with you and put them down …

There is a time to pick up and a time to put down. To carry a burden for a God-ordained distance is to receive His immeasurable grace. It’s a grace that is more than enough for the task. But to carry the same burden even one step further than necessary is to stumble under the unbearable weight of a load that is not ours to bear. So often, we hold on to the very thing that hurts and hinders us because we fear what will happen if we let go. 

What if I forget her? What if things change too much? Worse, what if they stay the same? To pass through troubled waters and come out on the other side unscathed–that is a miracle. But to walk through what I’ve been through and not be changed in a way that makes it all matter? What a tragedy that would be.

Yet, God’s pattern for building a memorial helps us to remember. To hold onto what is precious while letting go of the things that hold us back. Somehow, we get to walk through on dry land—undamaged and yet softened, strengthened and transformed in ways that highlight God’s faithfulness. 

And before we take another step forward, we stop to pile up memorial stones. To acknowledge how God brought us through and to thank Him for His sustaining love and grace. To worship the One who never leaves, and never forsakes us. He ever lives, and ever intercedes for us. We must take a moment to have those truths inscribed–not merely in stone–but on our hearts.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.–Isaiah 43:2 

Olivia continues to teach me about God’s incredible grace. So on this day, a year after she went to be with Jesus and days before our family steps into a new season of promise, I choose to stop and build a memorial.

I can’t fathom how people get through something like what we’ve been through if they don’t know Jesus. I have grieved deeply, and yet He has met every wave of pain with a greater measure of peace. I’ve struggled at times to deal with reality, to get through a day, or to take steps toward healing. But by His Word and His Spirit, through the actions of His people, and in every circumstance, God’s grace has been sufficient for me. His is so very good. His grace is more than enough, and that is worth remembering.

In the future, when your children ask you, “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. … “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever.”–Joshua 4:6-7; 21-23

4 comments on “Memorial Stones

  1. Charlene Sowell

    a beautiful Stone. I look at all of Olivia’s picture at least once a week
    I go by and say Hi to her at least twice a month when i go to Walmart. My heart hurts she is gone but with her,yours, and Roberts love it helps my faith is get stronger.
    Give little man and the girls big hugs and kisses from Aunt Charlene
    Love you all Dearly that includes sandy


  2. Candy Flint

    I love you and your precious Family Holly. I am privileged to have been a part of sweet Livi’s Life. I miss her so much and I know she is perfect at the hand of Jesus. You amaze me with your beautiful writing Holly ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous

    Love you Holly.

    Liked by 1 person

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