Backyard Ebenezer

April 29, 2020


a creative project for troubled times

Backyard Ebenezer - 1st Samuel:7 - story by

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. 

Backyard Ebenezer - 1st Samuel:7 - story by

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. 

Backyard Ebenezer - 1st Samuel:7 - story by

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. 

Backyard Ebenezer - 1st Samuel:7 - story by

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.  

Backyard Ebenezer - 1st Samuel:7 - story by
And then, the creative force in the family decided to rearrange everything, which I’m sure won’t be the last time. It’s okay because every time he works with it, he’s thinking about the meaning. — God’s got this under control.

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.”

Backyard Ebenezer - 1st Samuel:7 - story by

This story first appeared in newspapers in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville.

  • My husband and I recently went to Grandparents Day celebrations at our grands’ Christian School. One of the songs they sang for us was “Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing”. Your story adds so much to the meaning, and I found myself wishing I had an “Ebenezer”. Then I realized I do! I have a porch swing that was built by my parents, at least 64 years ago, and that’s where I talk to God nearly every morning. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Leslie Anne Tarabella says:

      What a beautiful way of looking at a family heirloom! So glad you get to participate with fun things with your grandchildren. They’ll remember your involvement forever — another Ebenezer of sorts!

  • Leslie Anne, this is a beautiful post and reminder of God’s faithfulness. I do love the old hymn and it quickly came to mind as you recounted the OT story. Thank you for reminding us of the peace that only God can give!

  • I needed this reminder. This week has been difficult. Oh to only have something so tangible from my grandparents.

  • Savan Wilson says:

    You are rock (no pun intended – well, maybe so) to our community and all others who are fortunate enough to read your words each week.

    • Well, aren’t you a boat of kindness?!!! Thank you so much Savan. We’ll all get through this somehow, and when we do, I think we’ll all be wiser and richer in some way. So glad you took the time to read!

  • Wow, Leslie Anne, this really touched my heart. What it represents is so beautiful. I needed this today because I had a tiny meltdown seeing idiot pictures of people on Facebook cramming themselves onto boats, not wearing masks, etc. It is just so selfish and arrogant of them. (“I am special”, NO, you really are not). Thank you for this bit of peace and beauty.

    • Roxanne, I’m so sorry you had a bad day — or at least a bad part of your day. Don’t let the others get you down. Do what you can do, and the others will sort themselves out. I’m a big “rule follower” so I know how hard it is to see others not doing their part to flatten the curve. But remember 2 things: 1. We are called to love, not judge. and . . . 2. If we’ve just had a pandemic, surely locusts and frogs will invade the houses of those who broke the rules, right????

    • Yes! And the other thing I thought of was the story about the wise man built his house upon the rock!

  • I really, really, love this. That good old hymn popped into my mind the minute I realized what the article was about! We have been stalled for more than a year selling property in Mentone to get ready to build a house in NW GA to which we will retire. Now I want to build our own Ebenezer in the secret garden we’ve planned there, for God has seen us through a couple of big trials in our lives, and we know he’ll see us through all this, too. Thank you for a wonderful article and a very meaningful idea!

    • How exciting to have plans for a new adventure in NW Georgia! It’s such a beautiful place. And I guess you know . . . there are plenty of beautiful rocks in that area just waiting for you! Thanks for your note.

  • Harriet Outlaw says:

    Thank you so much! Every trip we take away from home we raise an Ebenezer at the highest or furthest (is that even a word?) place on our journey. We sing and pray “Hither by Thy help we’ve come. And we pray by Thy good measure safely to arrive at home!” Family tradition now with our piles all over the US and the world. In Alaska it is in a human shape, the Inukshut and was the symbol of Olympics one year!! Beautiful pile of rocks!!

    • You are amazingly cool and if I do even one thing like you, I’m smiling. I love the idea of your “trail of Ebenezer!” Keep going!

  • What precious and inspiring memories the rocks hold for the building of your Ebenezer! This surely will be one of the stories handed down in generations to come of this time in history. As soon as I read your title snippets of an old hymn ran through my head…”I will raise my Ebenezer…” and the hauntingly beautiful music. I’ll have to google it next. Is it in the same hymn as “prone to wander, prone to _______”? It’s been years since I’ve heard it sung but I have a feeling it’s going to be in my mind all day. And the thought that God’s had this plan all along just like the other hard times he’s brought us through. Thank you for this!

    • Thanks Dewena. The hymn is, “Come thy fount of every blessing” and both lines you quoted are verses. It’s one of my favorites, and probably why I thought to build an Ebenezer now. At our traditional church service, we still sing it the same old way, but at the newer “blended” service, they use a newer version (that I think dumbs down) and changes “Ebenezer” to, “Here I raise my heart to heaven . . .” It doesn’t even mean the same thing. But anyway . . . that’s the way it all goes now. At least my kids will know what an Ebenezer is. Hope you are sheltering and surviving and thriving in place!

  • I simply could not love this idea more. I love the story and the fact that you did it with your boys and included the Scripture with it. They will not forget it!
    I too love shells and rocks. I don’t know if I could choose which collection to give away. There are many examples of laying those stones or using stones in the Bible. I am reminded of laying the 12 as a reminder of getting across the waters or the 5 small stones David used.
    Just such a great story. This one is now going to be in my top three of yours. The other two are the quilt and a funny sort about wearing white after Easter to mark the seasons. A little fun keeps us in check!

    • Oh Sandy, you have a good memory! So glad you liked the story, and I’m happy you mentioned David’s 5 little stones. I helped direct a children’s choir once and we sang a song about David and his slingshot, and at the end of the song, we had them pull out little slingshots and shoot marshmallows into the stained-glass window filled sanctuary!!! The look of horror on everyone’s faces was priceless, and the children will always remember that story about the stones and the giant! Happy sheltering in place to you!

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