And then he told the People of Israel, “In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What are these stones doing here?’ tell your children this: ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry ground.’

“Yes, God, your God, dried up the Jordan’s waters for you until you had crossed, just as God, your God, did at the Red Sea, which had dried up before us until we had crossed. This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God’s rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always.” Joshua 4:21-24 (The Message)

As he sat half-listening to the group chatting on the doorstep, his eyes inadvertently drifted to The Path as it wound its way out of the encampment. Weary from traveling, he had stopped at this encampment to rest . . . how long ago? He hadn’t intended on staying there for long, but the appeal of routine and knowing what to expect each day had held him there for quite some time. Although he tried to ignore it, he couldn’t shake the longing deep in his heart to resume his journey down The Path. While it scared him to face the unknown, remembering the amazing sights he had seen and things he had experienced began to shake him from complacency. He could resist the tug on his heart no longer. He would go.

He packed his few belongings into his bag, said his goodbyes, and headed out the next morning. He followed The Path, marked by small piles of stones, until he could no longer see the encampment. He looked forward, and the long, empty stretch ahead of him caused a twinge of doubt to creep into his mind. He tried to shake it off and pressed on, but the further along he went, the more he began to second-guess his decision. Lost in thought and nearly ready to turn around, he caught a glimpse through the trees of what was around the next bend. A small gasp escaped his lips. Eager to verify what he had seen, he ran down The Path and stopped dead in his tracks when he rounded the corner: the most impressive view he had ever beheld. He hadn’t even realized he was on a mountain, and yet here he stood looking down into a lush, green valley filled with red, orange, and yellow flowers that were so vivid they looked like a sunrise painted on the earth. He stood completely still, enraptured by the sight. Finally, he took a step forward, kicking a small round rock a few feet in front of him.

He stooped down and picked up the stone. He let his fingers trace its smooth edge and suddenly realized he needed to keep it as a reminder of this very moment. A little token of hope at just the right time. Hope that his journey was not in vain. Hope that beautiful things might be around the next bend. He slipped the rock into his pocket.

He continued on his journey down The Path, picking up stones periodically to mark more memories. An encouraging conversation with a fellow traveller. The beautiful melody of a bird to lift the silence. A bubbling stream of cool water that offered much-needed refreshment. Sometimes when the journey was particularly difficult, that pocketful of stones remained the one thing that kept him motivated to continue traveling. The more stones he picked up, the more he began to look for opportunities to pick up stones. After a while, his pockets were full and heavy, and he realized he needed to unload them.

He walked over to the side of The Path and pulled the rocks from his pocket one by one. He recalled the memory attached to each one and spent some time reliving those moments. When he drew out the last stone and placed it onto the small pile, he marveled over all he had experienced. Suddenly, the answer to a question floating around in the back of his mind became instantly clear: he was not the first one to pick up stones. All of those piles marking The Path represented more tokens of hope offered along the way. He felt overwhelmed with emotion at the testimony that had lined his journey the entire time. After a few moments, he collected himself and began to continue down The Path. He walked several hundred feet, paused, and turned around to walk back to the pile of rocks he left behind. He picked up the rock on top and held it in his hand for a moment. Then he slipped it back into his pocket and continued on his journey.

Lord, thank You for offering us small tokens of hope along our journeys. Help us to travel with watchful eyes, never missing an opportunity to be reminded that You don’t leave us to walk alone; You are always with us.

What are some of the tokens of hope God has offered you and your family this year?