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Legacy of Stones

A few years ago I had the opportunity to share some of my testimony for the first time.  This part of my testimony has been running through my mind as I realized I would be returning again to the place that my heart continues to be drawn to.  So I decided it was time to share this aspect of my testimony once again.  

Joshua 4:1-9 says, “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 stood and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” 

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan.  Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. 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.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them.  They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp where they put them down.  Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.”


What an experience it must have been for the Israelites who walked through the Jordan River with feet that were not even touched by the water of the Jordan!  Then to see the city of Jericho destroyed suddenly after the blast of the trumpets. Miracles like this can only happen by God’s power. It must have been quite an experience to be a part of such miracles.  The stones were monuments that were reminders to the Israelites of God’s provision and ability to work miracles on their behalf. As I think about those large stone monuments that every tribe of Israel left from the middle of the Jordan River, I am reminded of my own Legacies of Stone.

Legacies of stone were a desire of God to help us remember what He has done for us in the past.  He wants us to hold fast to these memories because He knows that in this life we will be slammed with temptations and trials.  Trials so severe that at times we may feel we are hanging from a rocky cliff fighting for our life or trials in which we are out in a lake doggy paddling to survive.  We may be exhausted, parched, worn out and in despair but God never abandons us during these times. We need memorials to remind us of this. He is always there to intervene and help us.  These places in our life are our legacies of stone. They are our reminders that God always takes care of us just as He cared for the Israelites.

When I think of my legacy stones I travel way back in time to a small town in California, a place where I have a Legacy stone.  This little town is where the most special of my childhood years occurred.  I loved that place! We were surrounded by my great aunts, great grandmother, great grandfather, cousins and my grandparents were within driving distance of our home.  It was a very special place to me. (Although for my mom it was a difficult time. She and my father had separated and she was on her own raising my two brothers and I and earning a very meager salary as a nurse.  But despite her challenges my brothers and I flourished in that tiny town!) My aunt had horses that we frequently rode and my cousins were our playmates. We would take Sabbath afternoon walks to my great grandmother’s home with my mom and a hamster hidden in one of our pockets.  We all loved those visits. Despite my grandmother being blind and profoundly deaf she always had a smile on her face and willingly welcomed our visits. To this day my great grandmother holds a very special place in my heart. Due to her profound hearing loss she wore a body hearing aid that she wore in the pocket of her dress.  Her large hearing aids were connected to y-cords that ran from her ears to the battery pack that she carried in the pocket of her dress. Despite the hearing aids we still had to shout for her to hear us. Glaucoma stole her vision from her. Yet, the smiles of joy when she held our hamster in her hands still make me smile. She was the one person in my life that drove my dream to work with hearing-impaired individuals.  It is because of her that as a child I was instilled with the desire to work with individuals with disabilities. She was my inspiration. God I believe used her to fill my heart with the plans and desires that He had for my life. That tiny town in California although so far away continues to hold so many wonderful memories. It was a very special time for me. But that special place only lasted for a few years.    


When I was in third grade my mom remarried and we moved away to Ohio.  I’d love to say to my years in Ohio were just as special but they weren’t.  It wasn’t the special place California had been. We were isolated from all of our extended family and it was very difficult for my brothers and I.  Our close-knit family was shattered and my brothers and I struggled to regain our footing. The only bonus was that we were removed from the dysfunction and addictions of my biological father’s life.

Often in my childhood years in Ohio I would think about our happy times in California.  I missed my great aunts, great grandmother and cousins. In my saddest most lonely times I would remember those wonderful times we had in California and hold onto the memories and visions of our walks to visit my great grandmother.  The picture of her standing in front of her mauve roses sat on my dresser. The scrapbook my mom kept of that special time remained firmly etched in my mind. Those special times were the highlights of my childhood and I chose to hold onto them.  They were the memories that kept me going after our move to Ohio. Even now over thirty years later I smile as I think about those special times.

During my Freshman year in college, a desire and dream to study in Spain became a fervent desire.  My thoughtful mom listening to my desire, came to the perennial garden at the hospital where I worked during the summers and told me she had come up with a way for me to travel to Spain.  She had found a way to make my dream a possibility. When I was nineteen years old and in my sophomore year of college I flew to Spain to study Spanish.

My second legacy stone is in that small town in Spain.  That special place still brings warm memories to me. Despite those warm memories it was also a difficult time.  I was surrounded by a foreign culture and language and isolated from friends and family.  But one of my best friends, Debbie, became such a close companion of mine and she was a very positive influence in my life.  She helped keep me sane and kept me focused on God. Often that year I would sit on the mountain behind the school I was studying at and pray.  It was there that God healed the pain from the years of my childhood when I felt so isolated and alone after my mom remarried. It was a place God also healed the pain of my biological father’s lack of presence in my life.  It was also a formative place where God shaped and formed me into the adult he wanted me to become. There in the peace and quiet of that mountain overlooking the city below, I began asking God to lead and guide my life as I chose the career He wanted for me.  He taught me to rely on Him and it was there I learned to trust and lean on Him for support and guidance. It was there that God shaped the beginning of my adult life and taught me to rely on Him.  

My third and most special Legacy of Stone is in another small town in Michigan.  That special place means so much to me but to understand why I must retrace my steps. In the fall of 1990 after my year in Spain I returned to Andrews University to complete my undergraduate studies.  It was my Junior year of college but it was difficult to return that fall. All my friends were off campus or gone and I would have to make new friends and being shy and timid that was not an easy thing to consider.  My aunt who was a professor at Andrews encouraged me to return. My uncle was the administrator of the new speech and hearing clinic on campus and my aunt informed me that she felt I would enjoy the field of speech and language pathology and set up a tour and observation with the professors who worked in the clinic.  When I returned, my aunt took me to the clinic and I had the opportunity to tour the clinic and observe a speech therapy session that implemented oral motor therapy, the expertise that I would years later become known for. I loved what I saw never dreaming that someday I would be doing the very same things.

In the fall of 1990 I began studying Speech Language Pathology and loved everything that I was learning.  My professors were amazing and my classes were fun and exciting. Despite my shy, timid spirit, I made many life-long friends.  My roommate introduced me to Larry, a pre physical therapy major who also was a classmate in a Psychology class I was taking. Over the course of the next few weeks we became good friends.  He was an enthusiastic person who loved life, enjoyed fun and loved people. His sanguine personality balanced out my quieter, shy side and his phlegmatic side balanced out my choleric, driven side.  Slowly, over the course of the next few weeks we became very good friends. He began calling me on a regular basis. 


One snowy evening he phoned.  “Would you like to go sledding down Pathfinder Hill?”

I will never forget that evening.  My roommate and I dressed in our warmest and rushed over to meet Larry in front of Pathfinder Hill.  He revealed the cafeteria trays he had smuggled out of the cafeteria and showed us how he sailed down the hill on a tray.  Soon we were each taking turns riding behind him on the cafeteria trays. The entire experience was invigorating and the cold wintry flakes pelted our faces as we sailed down the hill.  We had a fabulous evening sledding as the flakes of snow swirled around us. I never dreamed that cafeteria trays could be so fun.

The weeks passed with many more wonderful adventures with Larry. He was always full of adventure and fun. Sometimes we would take long walks through campus, other times we would sit through church or classes that we shared and other times we would have long conversations on the phone.  Larry and I became very good friends. His love for life and people was contagious. He loved life at Andrews and enjoyed having fun.  

Larry was also a very kind and compassionate person.  He loved doing things for people. He would have given the shirt off his back to someone if he saw a need.  I’ll never forget the evening when we were driving back to campus from an errand in a local city. As we headed back he saw a car stopped alongside the road.  He asked me to stop the car and he got out and asked what was wrong. “They ran out of gas,” he informed me. “Let’s go get them some gas.” A few minutes later we returned with the gas they needed.  He was constantly giving to people. 

Those years at college were fabulous years with so many fond memories.  I made many friends besides Larry during that time. Those friends have become friends for life.  It was a very special time in my life with so many happy memories!

In the fall of 1992 Larry and I began dating.  It was my final quarter at Andrews. In a few short weeks I would have my undergraduate degree finished.  The long journey was almost over! Larry and I spent many wonderful evenings and afternoons strolling around the campus and studying in the library.   Friday evenings were the best as it was the end of our school week and the beginning of Sabbath.

One Friday evening we were sitting on a bridge behind the campus talking and sharing thoughts and plans for our life.  Larry was hoping he would be accepted into the Physical Therapy program on campus in the fall of 1993. I would have to open up doors to a new university to begin my master’s degree in the fall of 1993 but I knew things would work out.  We talked for hours enjoying the beauty of the evening. When we parted that evening I returned to my dorm room and my roommate and suite mate and I caught up on the events of our week and we prayed together. I headed to bed early knowing that I had an early morning working as a desk receptionist.  Soon I was in bed and asleep.  

The next morning I awoke, quickly dressed and headed down to my job at the desk.  As I sat there that Sabbath morning I read passages from the book of Isaiah. Promises flooded my mind.  But the usual call from Larry failed to come and I became concerned. An hour or so later my friend Debbie came to relieve me from my job and I informed her of my concerns.  She promised to pray.

As I ascended the stairs to my dorm room my only desire was to go to sleep but the sleep I was aching for would never come.  When I turned to head to my room the form of the Dean was seen leaving my dorm room and when she saw me she informed me that she needed to talk to me.  She led me down the stairs to one of the rooms off her office and we sat down.

This is hard for me to say.  “Larry went out to the pier with his friend last night.  A wave caught him Debbie,” she said with tears in her eyes, “and he was swept into the lake.”  She held me as tears streamed from my eyes.  

Within minutes of the news friends and family surrounded me in that tiny room and a chaplain arrived to read words of encouragement to all of us.  That afternoon we all met in the home of the men’s dean and shared stories and adventures about Larry. The entire campus mourned his death. The week following Larry’s death was week of prayer and a guest speaker was scheduled to come and speak for our chapel services.  God had planned a way for all of us to be comforted following Larry’s death.

The pain of grief consumed me. Memories surrounded me everywhere I turned on campus. Reminders plagued my mind with pain. At night unable to sleep I would amble through the campus crying, aching, hurting.  Would the pain ever stop? Would I ever find light at the end of the dark tunnel of pain that I was traveling down? I felt like my life had come to a stand still.  Everyone else was laughing, having fun and enjoying life but I felt frozen and unable to move. One late evening I backed into a pine tree as tears streamed from my eyes.  Lord, I need your help I cried out as hot tears coursed down my face. Suddenly, leaning against the pine tree branches I could feel God’s warm embrace and feel His presence and strength. I knew He would continue to carry me through.

Grief is a process.  For so many long months all I saw was a dark tunnel with no light.  I would wake up in the morning wishing that the pain I felt was simply a dream.  The pain engulfed and consumed me. Some days I didn’t think I could make it through but somehow with God’s strength I made it to the end of that quarter and finally my undergraduate degree was finished.

God opened the doors for me to be a task force dean at a boarding academy where my mind was kept busy during the daylight hours and my grieving heart unable to sleep was healed as I poured out my pain on paper in what would eventually become a book that I entitled, “Legacy of Love.”  I would write until the wee hours of the morning when I was finally too exhausted to write anymore I would eventually fall asleep. Slowly, God began to heal my aching bleeding heart. Daily God sustained and helped me and I began to find healing. Little by little as I wrote and as time passed, the memories changed from ones of pain to ones of happiness.  God also opened up doors for me to enter graduate school in the fall of 1993. The pain of Larry’s death was still difficult and some days were more difficult than others but God began to slowly restore me and guide me and open new doors for my life. Despite the pain of grief, I graduated with my masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology in the summer of 1995.  God sustained and helped me accomplish the dream He had for my life.

As I look back over that painful time in my life, I felt God’s presence.   He continually blessed me with promises from His word or people or cards that would encourage me just when I needed it most.  The tears and pain still wash over me at times but God is a continual comforter. I live with the hope of seeing Larry again in Heaven.  What keeps me going are the memories I have of that special time in Michigan. Those memories of the walks, the sledding escapades, our laughter and the life-long friends I have are what keep me going even now.  I smile as I think about that special time and the memories of the fun I had. That special place in Michigan at the pier of the lighthouse where the wave swept Larry into the lake holds my largest legacy of stone.  It is a place that I need to visit routinely to be reminded of how God sustained and carried me through the most difficult time in my life. As I look back on that Legacy Stone I am reminded that if God can carry me through the pain of grief, He will continue to carry me through the trials and difficulties that life presses me with.

Sometimes when the stress and difficulties of life press in on me I feel the need to return to Michigan and sit on the beach and feel the presence of God once again.  As the waves hit the beach and as I see the lighthouse and pier, I am reminded of how God carried me through that difficult time so long ago. As I see the lighthouse, my Legacy Stone, I am reminded again that if God could help me then and provide for my needs so long ago, He will continue to provide and care for me now.  It is my reminder to trust in God.

We all are faced with trials and struggles on this earth but I hope that all of us can learn to look back at our Legacies of stone just as the Israelites did and be reminded of how God helped us in the past.  May it be a reminder to us that He will continue to guide, help and lead us even now. If God can part the waters of the Jordan River for the Israelites think about what amazing things He can do for us now! This Legacy of Stone was reminders to the Israelites to hold onto God, to never forget what He had done for them.  Our Legacy of Stones should be our reminders to cling and hold onto God and never forget what He has done for us.

What are your Legacies of Stone?

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