a creative project for troubled times
Alabama is split by our recipes for barbecue sauce and perhaps school loyalties, but it’s also divided by rocks and seashells. My cousins from Florence were excited to find shells in Gulf Shores, but my brother and I went crazy over the mossy rocks in Hartselle.
Long before I was born, my great-grandfather cleared a small field for farming. He piled the rocks to the side for later use around their property. Usually growing cotton or corn, he left the two rows closest to the house for Granny’s flowers, which she would use in arrangements for the altar at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Many years later, I convinced my skeptical husband to load some of the rocks in our car and drive them 300 miles to our house where I put them around my flower beds, or more recently, stacked in the garage.
This may sound strange to some of you, but during this “sheltering at home” time, my family used the stones to create an Ebenezer. Not the Scrooge kind, but the “stone of help” variety. You know, in 1 Samuel chapter 7 when Samuel set a stone in place to commemorate the Israelite’s victory over the Philistines. It’s a reminder of the many times God has pulled us out of trouble and despair.
This COVID-19 crisis makes me fear for my son’s futures. What will the world look like from now on? The Ebenezer reminds us of previous victories when we felt overwhelmed and defeated. God lifted us out of the storm and placed us in a new place — often better than before. If he did it then, he can do it again.
There was plenty of good-natured resistance, but my sons and husband have learned to humor me with things like this. Once again, mom knew best, because they ended up loving it.
The boys lifted the heaviest of rocks to sit atop a slip of paper where I had written the scripture, “Thus far, the Lord has helped us.” From there, we stacked the rest of the stones which had been removed from the Alabama field by my great granddaddy’s hands — just before someone close to him stole the final payment for his farm. God helped him through that terrible time and the farm was saved.
We added a white marble stone found in an icy Italian river in the small town where my husband’s grandfather decided to leave his large family and come to America to start a business. His hometown was later destroyed in WWII.
The final addition to the Ebenezer was a small stone, perfectly shaped like a heart, which is an excellent reminder of my complete recovery from terrible heart health issues in previous years.
When the world is literally sick with viruses and worry, it’s nice to have a visual reminder of God’s steady and protective hand. “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come.”
What appears to be a random pile of stones in our yard is really a beautiful story of faithful generations who time after time have been guided and sheltered through episodes of trouble.
Drought, theft, new cultures, wars, illnesses and now pandemic. We’ll add another stone someday when we see this virus was yet another exercise in faith. “And I hope by Thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home.”
This story first appeared in AL.com newspapers in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville.