On my bedside table sits a rock. Yes, you read that correctly, a rock. Not a beautiful leather-bound journal or a delicate tray with trinkets or even a clock. My nightstand holds just a few books I am attempting to read (some more successfully than others) and this dusty (and sizable) rock. About the size of my palm, the stone is misshapen, the surface is rough, the edges are jagged, and I love every imperfection it owns.
Over a decade ago, I dug it out of the flower garden from the front yard of our small rental home in Georgia. It is my Ebenezer Stone and its origins are what make it worth keeping.
In Biblical times, the Israelite people referred to these specific stones as remembrance stones. They placed them at locations where they celebrated a victory, suffered a defeat, or learned a difficult lesson to serve as markers of the moments that mattered. The stones stood in stacks across the nation of Israel as a symbol to all Israelites who passed that they treaded on holy ground.
The stones recalled periods of provision and rescue, reminders that God had helped them through a difficult time. He sent provisions and provided for their needs in some way. They were not forgotten. They had been rescued. These Ebenezers silently bellowed anthems of hope. Hope that the dark days would not reign, and that tomorrow would await them.
In my early twenties, I was introduced to the concept of the remembrance stone by a teacher familiar with the tradition.
However, this Ebenezer holds a different meaning to me.
A Dark Day
The doctor opened his office an hour early for us that morning. Nervously, I watched as my toddler counted and recounted the foam bath letters that he carried around in a blue plastic bucket. The entire alphabet sat present and accounted for.
“A, B, C, D, E, F, G,” my boy sang, taking each one of the letters out and running them against his sweet chunky baby cheeks before putting them back into the bucket, only to be brought out and counted once more.
This routine occurred daily. Frustrated by his own lack of communication at nearly three years old, he often threw himself down into fits of screaming, but in this box of letters he found comfort.
As I watched him do this while waiting for the doctor, I silently prayed they would appease him for the duration of the visit.
Dazed, I sat holding back tears and waves of guilt. I had just emerged from the fog of infancy and thought that easier days lay ahead. Yes, I knew that I still faced the toddler years, but surely those would be easier than breastfeeding, diaper changing, and trying to convince an infant that he adored his car seat. I anticipated play dates and library Storytime.
Yet, I started to notice that certain developmental milestones were not being achieved. He could not speak, he struggled with sensory issues, and his meltdowns were catastrophic and seemed different than typical toddler fits.
But this is my beautiful boy, I’d think. The boy that loved to blow bubbles and dance to Elmo songs. Nothing could be less than perfect with him.
Finally, after months and months of avoiding the conversations from concerned family and friends, I embraced the notion that something might be “off” with my little guy. My heart hurt.
That realization is what led us to the gentlest pediatrician I have ever met. His name is Rich, but our son called him “Dr. Sandwich”, a moniker he graciously accepted. He quietly waited as we laid out each detail before him like it was a fine china place setting. He treated us just as tenderly in his responses. I now wonder how many of those delicate conversations he had conducted throughout the years.
As he confirmed that there were indeed issues that needed addressing, he managed to answer every question, avoid every label, and offered only words of victory and encouragement. In those moments, he became more than just a physician. He anchored us to optimism and spoke only of the best outcomes.
In those moments, he became more than just a physician. He anchored us to optimism and spoke only of the best outcomes.
He listened without looking at his watch or the clock on the wall, nodded with understanding and gave hope as he passed the tissues to both me and my husband. Looking back, I realize hope and tissues is what we really needed in the tender moments more so than definitive answers.
Towards the end of the visit, he asked if we would like guidance in putting a treatment plan together. Once more my heart hurt.
The Main Concern
Most of my concerns focused on the course of action that we would need to take. I am a gal that likes a plan and boy did this need a plan. I wanted nothing more than to be able to fix the entire situation, but I knew that gaining ground would cost money. We required the help of speech therapists and occupational therapists and I have learned that anything with the word “therapy” attached to it carries a sizable price tag. And rightly so.
However, steep price tags, or frankly any price during that time in our lives, was too expensive. We lived on thin margins in the early years. So as Dr. Sandwich related what treatments he thought would provide the best results, all I could hear was the dinging from my mental cash register. I kept a tally and the tally kept growing. I lost my focus. How would we ever be able to afford the help?
There is a feeling that comes when you realize that the simple snap of your fingers will not fix the situation and when you are a parent that feeling shakes the foundation under you. In those moments I realized that not only did we not possess the ability to single-handedly adjust the situation, but we might not be able to afford the multiple resources we’d need to help us make the necessary adjustments.
The doctor took the time to walk through the early intervention classes we could take advantage of and the benefits they provided. I heard none of it. I just sat there staring blankly at the wall behind his head counting the flowers on the wallpaper. As long as I counted, while my son sang quietly to himself, I could keep the tears at bay. We were quite the pair.
Sensing my overwhelmed state, the doctor directed most of his explanations towards my husband. Then abruptly he paused, which broke me from my trancelike focus on the wall. I looked up to see him flip back to the front of our file and reread something in total silence. A full minute of no words. (If you do not think that is long, have a doctor stop mid-sentence and re-examine your chart for that amount of time. I promise you, it feels like an eternity.)
Then, just as suddenly as he stopped talking, he met my eyes and said, “Oh I see you live in Georgia. That’s great! Most early intervention services are free in the state of Georgia”.
The state of Georgia… where we had just moved a few months prior. The state of Georgia where we had no intention of moving to in the first place, but where we had found ourselves when a friend “coincidentally” had a home available for a small rental fee. The state of Georgia where we now found ourselves gaining from its phenomenal early intervention program for children with any type of developmental delay. We had been divinely placed.
We lived in that home for a total of five years. Our son entered the early intervention program that fall and he thrived. We accessed speech therapy for the entirety of our stay in Georgia and encountered the kindest, warmest, most joyful people who not only gave of their time, but made deposits into our lives that still pay dividends. His victory story has them to thank.
Finding My Stone
I stood in the driveway and waited. I listened to the moving trucks rumbling down our street and became overwhelmed with the urge to walk to the flower bed. Once there I realized that I was standing on my own version of holy ground. A light rain sprinkled down as I searched for just the right memento to take with me from the house that had come into our lives at precisely the right time for a very special purpose.
I knew it needed to be a stone. I had heard the Israelite’s story years earlier and it came to my mind as I stood in the morning mist. I was choosing my own Ebenezer, a token to aid me in dark times when my mind needed a reminder that there had been victories and provisions before when I had felt defeat. It would be my reminder that no matter where we traveled, we had been divinely helped before and could be again. We had not been forgotten and I would not let that blessing be forgotten either. No matter the path ahead, hope and help could be found.
It has been well over a decade since I knelt in the dirt and dug that rock from our flower bed. The difficult days have occurred for us, just as they have for anyone else. The days of tears of and sadness have intertwined with those filled with nothing but joy and laughter. The tides of chaos and confusion have rolled in and just as easily flowed back out again.
Yet each night, before the lights go out, I glance at that rough, jagged, imperfectly beautiful rock. The representation that each tomorrow is created as a gift for us to begin anew. A divine path awaits. Provision will be revealed. Defeat and darkness did not come to stay. Hope remains.