My Stones of Remembrance


For someone with a love of simplicity and order, I own an excessive amount of trinkets. A few weeks before our departure from South Asia, I packed some of them in a suitcase to send back with a friend returning to the United States. I lovingly wrapped the items as I pondered the most important things to go first.

In went a wooden Coptic cross from the church we attended while living in Egypt. If you need church art and other religious items, you might want to visit for more info. I settled it next to an olivewood communion cup that once held juice outside the garden tomb in Jerusalem. They nestled next to the green, white, black, and red prayer beads secretly pressed into my hand by a Palestinian in Jericho when I spoke to him in broken Arabic, asking about his nation and his faith.

These items have lived on my dresser in Bangladesh, reminding me of the places that have made indelible marks on my life. They will return to a curio cabinet in America next to items that might be  worthless in the eyes of others—things like sea shells from the island we visit every year with our closest friends, stones dug out of the Red Sea, a scrap of silk hand embroidered by a friend living in the largest slum in Asia.

My kids placed the beginning of their collections inside the bag as well: a bronze tiger for my son, a little wire rickshaw for my daughter. These things will sit collecting dust on dressers for years to come, surely. But they will also serve as a reminder of the land my children called home for part of their childhood.

This place will make a mark on them they won’t be able to name for years to come. One day, though, they will want to remember. They will need to understand why the smell of ginger and garlic paste simmering in a pan stirs something deep inside their hearts, something they can’t quite place.

When my friend told me the suitcase full of “souvenirs” went missing in transit—lost somewhere in Istanbul—I held back the tears and held my breath. Thankfully, a few days later, I learned it had safely arrived. They are just things, I know, but they are irreplaceable to me, because of the places and the stories they represent.

Most days I look past all the items sitting around my house from the various places I’ve lived or visited. Most days I forget just how wide and beautiful this world really is. But on some hard days, I stop to notice.

I pick up the beads and breathe a prayer for the peace of the ancient lands from which they came. I pray for the lands that have known chaos in the name of gods since the first stories of those holy lands were told around fires outside nomads’ tents. I run my fingers over them and ask God to never let me forget the people attached to each item. These stories fuel the love I have for lands far and wide.

If you sat with me for a couple hours in front of that curio cabinet, I could tell you the story that belongs to every object. Each one is rooted to a place, to a person, to a history. And while the items themselves may be useless and one day my children will surely toss many of them out, I want to make sure they hold onto the stories attached to each of them.

We are a people of place; we are a people of story. I think they are one and the same.

When the God of a people without a place told Joshua to take twelve stones from the Jordan and set them up as a remembrance, it was always to point back to the story. God led. God delivered. Now go and tell it, God said. Stay rooted to the stories of who you are, of who I am, of where you came from, and of where you’re going.

As I leave replaceable clothes behind in favor of packing as many memories from Bangladesh as possible, I am considering how they will help me tell the story of place. Come to my house and I will cook you some hot milk tea in the pan my friend bought for me. I will tell you about the time she sat with my daughter in her lap and taught her to sew. I will tell you that the mismatched patch on my bedspread was made by using the 500-year-old kantha stitch indigenous to this land. I will tell you how God brought her into our lives and made her family.

These are my stones of remembrance. These are the stories that keep me rooted to the place I love and now leave. These are the stories that will be told over and over to remind my children of where they came from, where they are going and of the God who goes with them every step of the way.