A week from today, my son finishes his first year of school. Kindergarten will be complete. Many times the days seem long, but the years truly short. When given a chance to sit back and reflect on the year that just was, it can be a shock how many emotions, events and memories were packed within. School is wrapping up for the year.
It is a time of closure. Tattered supplies are sent home. Yearbooks signed. Graduations attended. Teacher gifts purchased. Field days and field trips enjoyed. Last lessons learned or endured. Report cards loom. A chance to wrap up an experience, a year, a season and move into the next phase: Summer swim lessons? Camp? Football practices? Vacations? Visits to Grandparents? As a teacher for many years, I loved the closure the profession allowed. I could pour my heart and soul into students each year, and yet come mid-June, we finished work, shared about the times that were and locked the classroom door, and took a breather until fall.
This past week, my eldest and I both embarked on similar journeys—tasks to be completed that forced us both to slow down, reflect, remember and mark something special. For class, he was asked to create a display which showed in pictures and words the many things he learned, remembered and experienced. As we sat down and looked at each area—-reading, math, writing, science, friendships, field trips, routines and rituals of the classroom—he rattled off memory after memory. He had so many.
I was also completing a similar project—a photo scrapbook of Alex’s 5th year. Even as I struggle each year to finish the book, I am drawn in by the images. Memories of the 365 days that have passed since the last year began. I see these practices as “stones of remembrance”. A homework assignment, similar to working on a photo scrapbook, becomes a much-needed memory generator, a chance to practice gratitude and mark the ways God has met us over and over.
“What do these stones mean?
He did this so that all the people
of the earth might know that the
hand of the Lord is powerful and
so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
“God encourages us to use our capacity to remember as one of our strategies for spiritual growth. The ancient Israelites were furnished numerous object lessons, such as the Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles, all with the goal of helping them to remember. In a similar way God has provided us the Lord’s Table: ‘This do, in remembrance of me,’ said Jesus. God apparently considers it important that His people remember.
Thus it follows also that it is important for us to remind, to help one another remember. ‘Put them in remembrance,’ said the Apostle Paul to Timothy, and to Titus. We are to look back, to conjure up what God has taught us in the past, and then pass along to others what we have remembered, so that they can remember too…
God instructed His people on their journey to erect physical markers ‘along the way as aids to their memory. The idea was that they were to remember His gracious provision and protection for them in the past, so that they might be encouraged to trust Him in the present.”’”
(taken from Stones of Remembrance)
Almost thirteen years ago, dear friends used the words from “Stones of Remembrance” as their affirmation of me as an advisor to their children who had been in our youth group. The words from this book and from the accompanying scripture were such a vivid reminder of what we are called to do in ministry and as parents . . .to be one who comes alongside people to help them remember God’s love for them. This ability comes from the times you have been hurting, and have felt God’s presence soothe and protect you through the valleys.
I am grateful to have so many “tangible reminders,” forces of “memory” that lead myself and my own children into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God and with each other. Homework displays? Yearly photo scrapbooks? No matter the venue, if we take time to create tangible reminders, we will remember and help our kids to see that even on the hardest of days, God is faithful and has been working powerfully in our lives.