It took place just a few days after I arrived to see the girls that had captured my heart during my year spent with them.
Joy came as she does daily to the house and the moment she began to share this idea with me I was all ears…
There’s something about Joy that is so beautiful: her ability to come up with meaningful, thoughtful, creative and overall signature activities and events for the girls.
I was sure this idea was going to be no different.
She said we would be going on an adventure, that we would go to the river, that we would go searching for rocks.
Although I am always all for adventure, and I love a great day by the riverside, you have to know that what rivers and adventures entail in little old La Vega is much different than what you would normally expect…
Because the river, well, it's usually littered with an unfortunate amount of trash and some interesting characters from time to time.
But still… I was hooked, I was ready, I was already anticipating what these rocks could mean.
Before we left, she began to explain a bit to me about the meaning these rocks would take on once we found them and brought them home with us.
She started to cast a vision of how these rocks would come to be reminders and take the shape of memories that the girls have cultivated and lived throughout the last couple years. Her hope was that we would remember together what God has done, what He has given us, and continue to dream, ask, and pray for more.
So when we loaded the littles into the van and took them closer to our old neighborhood where our mansion on the hill still sits, we huddled them together on the river bank and began to prep them before they began their search.
You could tell that the girls were already gripping onto the chance to be in a less familiar territory, exploring and searching and finding and discovering together.
We let them go free and occasionally had to reign them in from time to time, some a little more daring and prone to straying than others.
By the end of our time, girls had stones piled up on their bellies, holding them in the pouches they made from their shirts and stuffing as many as possible into their pockets and little drawstring bags they had brought.
We rounded them up into the van and began our journey back, but not without stopping for some lunch. At the table we began sharing stories at the table of all the changes each girl had gone through since coming to New Hope. It was the beginning of what these rocks would mean to the girls, mean to me, mean to us.
And it wasn’t till one of my last days with them we were able to finally gather in our upstairs living room and begin to name the stones that already felt like they held such significance. We gathered together in a circle, and Joy began sharing her heart, inspiring each of us to dig into a space with Jesus where He would tell us what it is that we have received from Him and the story behind it all.
I remember closing my eyes, but before I could even begin to ask them a word came so suddenly, so simply, so sweetly.
It was a word that seemed all too familiar, even vague and obvious to most, but I knew exactly what He was speaking to my heart, the stories behind this name He was giving to my last year and a half of chaos and beauty and trial and triumph.
And so we began sharing.
We began picking up markers and making permanent the reminders that these rocks would be to us so that we would be sure to remember, and to share, and to reencounter these God stories that were so precious as they began to be spoken out loud.
Girls began to share words like “family” and “friendship” and “joy” and “new life."
They also put words like “fridge” and “new house” and “patio.” These represented the tangible, material reminders that also spoke so truly of God’s faithfulness and realness to all of us.
We remembered together the things that we had like dirt floors and water tanks and the things that we have like trampolines and fruit trees and decorated rooms.
The girls were wide eyed and excited as one began a story that they all knew, each jumping on the inside, wishing they were the one to be telling the story, just as excited and delighted in the evidence of God’s way of providing that we had received together.
And when it came to me, I almost hesitated to share my word because it seemed so unoriginal and typical and obvious…
But once I finally choked it out I couldn’t help but explain what God had shown me behind it…
The girls waited patiently as I began to speak it out…
“My word is Love.”
And then I explained to them…
“It’s this love that God has for me that has convinced me of my love for all of you.
I wouldn’t be able to be here without this love. I would have never come, let alone come back. It is this love that has made me so sure…. So sure of what I am meant to do.
I had to know I was loved in order to love each of you.”
nd it was in that statement I was brought back to the moment when I knew I had to be in their lives…
The first time I had come to pick the lice out of their curly locks and walk their little selves to school each morning and venture to their homes and meet their families on the hill.
It was this love that has been compelling me all along, and it started with my ability to receive what the Father has always had for me, a love that has been bestowed and will always be meant to be given away.
This love that we are all made of, that He is made of, that the girls are made of.
I couldn’t think of a greater reminder to be given.
And as I wrote “love” on the rock before me, I hoped that the girls would be able to recall the story behind each time they reached for it… The love that has changed me, changed them, and allows us to change the world.
To be reminded of such a love…
It frees us to then give it away, to remember the purpose as to why we have been loved in the first place.
To be the love that saved us to someone else.
And what a beautiful recollection that will always be.
We finished our circle time with remaining blank rocks, but only because we believe our God continues to give, continues to write our stories, continues to pour into us and New Hope and our lives that so desperately need His vision and favor and kindness.
It was yet another symbol of faith and belief that He will meet us in our present and future, providing for needs we aren’t even yet aware of, but that He is already anticipating to give us… Not because He has to, but because we are His…
And again I am reminded of just how unconditional He truly is.
And I pray that these girls will continue to recognize the Father and search for these rocks daily, finding comfort and hope in what they truly mean.