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Se Souvenir

(French) verb. To remember

I collect memories. Stories. Moments. Rocks.

In scripture, Joshua used “memorial stones” as a way to remind future generations of their faith in God and God's faithfulness to them. The stone memorials preserve memories as we look back, but also a guide to help us find their way going forward.

When I was little, Mom and I would often build a rock pile together at a special place, and sit and think, marking the time, the place. And when it seemed right to get up, I'd go find the "perfect rock" and put it in my pocket to bring it home for our family collection. It truly wasn't about the perfectness of the rock, but the perfectness of the moment it represented. And now I find myself doing it on my own, marking time and lessons. And I'm deeply inspired by seeing others' memorials of faith too, even if I don't know what caused it to be created.

Like other defining moments in my life, when I visited the Bunny Garden in Newtown, I picked up a stone and brought it home for my rock collection, a pile that serves as a strong reminder of the big picture. A marker that grounds me to what is important and the lessons I've learned there. A memorial to those details I don't want to ever forget. A visual reminder to me that God still shows up. A collection that represents what Grandma calls divine nudges. I felt one of those nudges at Sandy Hook and that's what set me on this path in my heart and specifically on the path with the bunnies.

My rock from December 2012 in Sandy Hook reminds me to be aware of divine nudges. To slow down and help when you feel that inner flutter. To even make a u-turn and go back. That burning yearning inside is meant to draw us into action. Don't ignore it even if you don't understand it.

I truly believe that God motivates people to help others going through their darkest days, especially those who have an empty seat at their dinner table. The holidays only amplify the hole that loved ones leave behind -- and for many people this time of year is also the hardest time of year.

And that first trip to Newtown confirmed to me that I need to keep my heart soft enough to sense the nudges and then be bold enough, strong like the rock to choose to respond. I was young, but I was changed during my trip to Sandy Hook, and each subsequent trip over the years.


I've also come to learn that the rock pile wasn't meant to go with us.

The erecting of the rock pile creates a time to set down the baggage carryied in my pockets, or the backpack of heaviness lugged around for so long. The carrying made us stronger, but there is a time to set them down. These huge piles weren't meant to be carried around with us. I've found that the rocks will be there for us when we need to go back and be reminded. Plus just the fact that the pile exists helps me feel grounded. They only truly help me grow and heal when I choose to set them down.

My family's rock collection includes a rock from the day I came home from the hospital and one from the bus stop on my first day of Kindergarten. One from their wedding day. One from the day that the Bachmans won a house makeover to help accommodate the 24-hour nursing care he needed and his needed bedroom transformation. A rock from the day I was baptized at Minnehaha Creek. A rock from the day we said goodbye to Snickers. A rock from Philadelphia where I met a man who taught me to slow down and see people where they are. A rock from the creek bed on the most perfect day fishing with Grandpa Tractor then eating home made icecream while chasing fireflies: A reminder to hug family and cherish each day with our elders. A rock from my first day at the Hastings organic orchard when we moved in at sunset, a most excellent provision for the bunnies. A rock from the day we got keys to the Cottage. A rock from the shoreline of Peacebunny Island on the day we first arrived in 2018 with Paxton. And so many others...and along with the written journal my family keeps, the rock pile memorialize the stories we go back to over and over, a way to try to remember everything that matters.

At Sandy Hook I witnessed how big love can be and how we're all neighbors on this planet even if it takes a while to get there. I'm so thankful for my continued connection to those I've met on their paths to healing.

On hard days when I feel a bit lost, my rock collection is a reminder of the big picture, like cairns on a trail. Markers to let you know that you're on the right path. And I've discovered when I go back to the rock collection that the testimony of the whole pile is even more important than remembering details from each individual story. Looking at the pile reminds me of ALL the times collectively. Each represent a connection to a certain place and time, but together they represent all the people and places where I saw miracles in motion.

They build us up with Hope.

And that's the real souvenir.

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