the best gift i never knew i needed.
LET THEM GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD FOR HIS UNFAILING LOVE AND HIS WONDERFUL DEEDS FOR MANKIND. — PSALM 107:8
On December 25, 2017, I opened the best Christmas gift I never knew I needed. My husband and daughter handed me a heavy box, and I could tell by the look on her 4-year-old face that she was very excited for me to open it (our 2-year-old son preferred playing with empty boxes). I unwrapped and opened the box and saw that there were dozens of squares, all individually wrapped, inside the main box. What on earth could they be? As I started to unwrap them (now with the help of both kids), tears welled up in my eyes and started to spill down my cheeks. Each square was a 4” x 4” white tile with a picture on it, Polaroid style, made by Matt and the kids to be hung on the wall in our living room.
From the Momentous to the Mundane
Some of the pictures were of really significant moments in our lives: the day Matt and I were married, serving together overseas, college and grad school graduations, holding our kids in the hospital as newborns. Some of the pictures were of everyday life: our toddlers laughing while sitting on a chair together eating blueberries, our daughter riding a tricycle with a BB-8 helmet in a princess dress, our son with a big smile and a bubble beard, kids sitting on Great Grandma’s lap to read a story. We hung each tile on the wall above our couch where we were sure to see them throughout the day. We would often find our kids standing on tiptoes on the couch seats, looking at the wall and telling us about their favorite pictures.
The First Step to Being Thankful Is Remembering
There’s a story in the Old Testament that explains why our photo wall is so significant to us. In Joshua 4, the Israelites have just crossed over the Jordan River—and this wasn’t just any old river crossing. This crossing was the day that the nation of Israel, who had been enslaved in Egypt and then wandered for 40 years in the desert, stepped foot in the Promised Land they had been longing for for generations. And there’s this beautiful thing that happens after God’s people walked across the Jordan on dry ground—Joshua tells a leader from each tribe to walk back into the still-dry bottom of the Jordan River and to pick up a rock on his shoulder to carry out. These 12 stones were then set up as a monument to help the people remember what God had done for them that day.
“[Joshua] said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, “What do these stones mean?” tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God’” (Joshua 4:21-24).
In God’s steadfast love, he knew that the Israelites—fickle and quick to forget, just like us—would need physical, tangible reminders of how he had been at work on their behalf, not only for themselves but also for the next generation.
This Is Our Wall of Remembrance
This is what we pray these picture tiles, our “Wall of Remembrance,” will be for us, and our kids, and our families, and our friends: a physical reminder to recall the Lord’s hand in our lives and a prompt to, together, give him thanks.
In a stroke of genius, Matt thought to use 3M Command Strips on the back of each photo tile so we could swap some out and add more over time. And as our family has grown, so has the number of photo tiles on our Wall of Remembrance, and our stories of God’s kindness toward us. New pictures now include the day our youngest son’s adoption was finalized and he was legally declared a Tully. Birthday parties and adventures in the forest and snuggles on the couch. All of these good gifts (and they are very good) call my heart back to the Giver. When our kids and friends ask us the stories behind the pictures (and they often do), we have a chance to recall and rehearse who our God is and how he has shown up time and time and time again. Here in the midst of our chaotic, sometimes discouraging, grass-is-greener days, we have a constant, visible reminder of God’s goodness, beckoning our hearts toward gratitude and trust.
What Are Your Stones of Remembrance?
How can you remember and retell the Lord’s kindness in your home? We see this call to remember and praise God so often in Scripture, and I know for me it’s a reminder I can’t hear often enough. I am so prone to forget and move into doubt and discontent, but that’s not where I want to live my life. Being thankful, not just for the good gifts, but for the Giver himself, is both an individual and a community endeavor. Remembering the past faithfulness of God enables us to accurately perceive our present trials and joys, giving us confidence in our God’s presence with us in the “right now” and his plan for the future—even in those seasons of “desert wanderings” that we inevitably face.
Maybe you’ll decide to put up a Wall of Remembrance of pictures in your home. Maybe you and your family can write words on stones and put them on your windowsill or table to be seen and remembered. Maybe you can implement a habit of going around the table at dinner and each sharing a way you’ve seen the goodness of the Lord that day and taking time to praise him together for it. Maybe you'll start a journal or a list to write in detail or in bullet points how the Lord has answered prayers and provided for you. The first step to being thankful is remembering—how can you remember and tell your stories of God’s unfailing love and wonderful deeds?
Thanks for reading,
Meet LINDSAY,Dwell EDITOR & WRITER
Hi there, I'm Lindsay. I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to connect with you and hear more about what God is doing in your life!
ON THE PODCAST
What's the Most Wonderful Thing God Has Done in Your Life? // Vera Schmitz
In our final episode for Psalm 107:8, Vera Schmitz, co-founder of Dwell Differently, brings us a super practical way to live out our verse: remembering and giving thanks to God. Hear how this practice has helped Vera in seasons of anxiety, and join us in committing to ask someone this week: “What is the most wonderful thing God has done in your life?” We pray it will give an opportunity to together thank God for who he is and what he’s done!
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