I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what my first post would be, and with the recent passing of my grandmother, I think it would be fitting to start here:

My grandmother, Lela Gertrude (Trudy) Stanley, 85, passed from this life to meet her Lord and Savior at 11:48 a.m. on Monday, February 7, 2011. I received the call on Sunday night that she was near the end of her life and would most likely not survive through the end of the week. I was on duty, and throughout the night and into Monday morning I felt an increasing need to be with her. She was my last surviving grandparent, and the regret I now face with not having spent more time getting to know each of my grandparents will be with me forever. On Monday morning, NE and I packed up and left home to drive down to Texas to be with her and my mother. Shortly after we left, we received the phone call that she had already passed away…I would not make it in time.

We continued our trip, and settled into a new “routine” for NE and I for what was the next two weeks in Texas. On the Friday following my grandmother’s death, I took NE and his cousin to a local park to play and burn off the combined energy of two 3-year old boys. There’s a small crick running through the park with a walking bridge over it to a field on the other side. It was nearing sunset, and as I was enjoying the view of the sunset on the water, the boys began tossing rocks off the bridge into the water. I’m always amazed at how much enjoyment a child can get out of what we adults see as the “mundane”. These two boys were giggling, screaming, laughing and running back and forth to toss little rocks off the bridge, and it soon began to remind me of the times I spent with grandmother collecting rocks. While my memories of her are few, I do remember several times walking through a park, along a river, through a field, in the yard with her and searching for rocks…just seeing what we could find. As the sunset cast sparkles on the water beneath us and the boys enjoyed themselves, I was filled with emotion and awe at how much pleasure can be found in such a simple act. I had a brief, passing thought as I watched, so I took out my phone and jotted down a quick thought. Over the course of the next several hours, God helped me turn that one thought into the following. I was privileged to have been given the opportunity to read it at my grandmother’s graveside service, and I pray that as you read it you find an application for the message within for your own lives.

NE and his cousin NW throwing rocks into a crick today reminds me of times spent searching for rocks with grandmother Stanley and that with each rock tossed in the water, no matter its size, the water’s flow is forever altered.

Some are very tiny in comparison to the river, and at first glance you don’t think they have much affect. They’re easier to find…one glance along the creek bed and you’ll see hundreds of them scattered about. When tossed in, they disappear quickly from view, sinking lazily to the bottom and skirting along the river bed before coming to rest somewhere downstream. While their impact alone is minimal, there is still an impact. Though not often seen by the human eye, and combined with many more of the same size, these small pebbles can alter a river’s course, even if only by inches.

The mid-sized pebbles are a bit bigger. While relatively easy to find, there are fewer of them. They fit perfectly into the hands of these two toddlers, and the right one can be perfect for skipping. When dropped in the water, they make a bigger splash, a little more noise, and a slightly larger wave. They sink quickly from view and may roll along the bottom of the riverbed for quite a distance before coming to a stop. Their impact on the water is a little easier to envision, and it takes fewer of them to change the river’s path. Many of them together can even dam the river if placed properly.

Larger, heavier rocks – boulders to these two toddlers – are harder to find. There are fewer of them, and you have to seek them out. Finding one that a toddler can actually carry down to the water’s edge is more difficult. However, once he drops that sucker in, you immediately know you’ve got something. It hits with a big “ka-thunk”, and the splash is huge! The waves ripple farther out and last longer. It sinks quickly and embeds itself in the muddy bottom. It stays right there, and the water immediately begins to curve around it. The flow of the river has immediately been changed. It will stay there until some act of God or man moves it, and even after it’s gone, it leaves a hole in the riverbed that may take years to fill. The water will continue to flow, but as it passes over the hole that’s left in the absence of the boulder, its course is still affected, albeit differently than when it was there.

The passing of my Grandmother this week reminds me that the people in our life are just like the rocks being tossed by these two toddlers. The tiny pebbles are like the hundreds and thousands of people we pass every day. The single mom with three kids in line at the grocery store. The inattentive driver who cuts us off in traffic. The couple walking hand-in-hand in the park. The countless people we pass every day, most of whom we never give a second glance, can often impact our attitude, our actions and our behaviors, even if for only one hour. Like tiny pebbles that disappear quickly from view, skipping along the riverbed, these are the people that skip through our day and our lives. Gone just as fast as they came, we don’t give them much thought once they’re gone.

The mid-sized pebbles are like our friends and acquaintances, the people that come into our life with a little more splash. They bring us fellowship and inspire us to be better people. They stay with us longer, and the impact they have on us is longer lasting. Like the perfect skipping rock, the good ones come by once in a lifetime.

The larger rocks – what are boulders to these toddlers – are like our family and closest friends. Like the rock that sinks in the river bottom, our parents, our children, our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents and best friends influence us the most. They lift us up when we’re down, they inspire and encourage us to follow our dreams, and the imprint they leave on our lives is permanent. As our lives pass, we are forever changed by the “boulders” placed in our life. They’re harder to remove too. When they’re gone, there’s a hole that remains that will take years to fill, and yet we could go a lifetime without ever filling the void they leave.

Whether a tiny pebble or a large boulder, every toss of a new rock into the water forever changes the future of the river. Likewise, whether placed in our lives by God or through someone else’s actions, every person we encounter will forever change our lives. The life of every person we encounter, whether for a moment or a lifetime, adds meaning and character to our own. From our “boulders” we pick up some of their behaviors, their attitudes, beliefs, habits, likes and even dislikes along the way. Our “boulders” help to shape who we are and who we become. Taking a boulder out of the river of our life, be it by act of man or God, has an everlasting effect on who we are and who we become. Our life path is forever altered.

Grandmother Stanley was one of our family’s boulders. To each of us she represents something special. Each of us has our own special memories with her and with her and grandfather. They each taught us to love and respect family, because when it comes right down to the end, family is all we have. The family they raised spread their wings and grew bigger, forever altering our family tree. Trudy Stanley, though you’ve been taken from our river, the imprint you’ve left in each of us will carry on forever. The hole that has been left in your absence will never be completely filled, and we will carry and treasure our memories of you forever. We will miss you dearly. May your river now and forever flow strong in the presence of our Lord and may you and grandfather walk peacefully hand-in-hand through eternity.

As you read that, you’ll most likely begin to see who the “boulders” are in your own lives. That’s good. Knowing who they are helps you to appreciate them even more while you have them. Your mother, and each of you are “boulders” for me. You each represent a huge portion of who I am and who I’ve become after God placed you in my life. My challenge to you comes from Proverbs 18:24 “A man of too many friends comes to ruin,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” There are people out there in your world who are lonely, who need a friend…who need a “boulder” of their own. Instead of seeking to find a “boulder” for yourself, seek to become one for someone else. Ask God to show you the people around you in need of a “boulder” and then find a way to become their friend. It is then you will discover that in doing so, you’ve placed “boulders” in your own life.

More on how much I enjoyed my two weeks alone with NE to come…

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