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If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the refrigerator is the pulse that hums life into the household. Its surface tells a story, revealing the memories, responsibilities, and the hopes and dreams of its residents.

When we moved from Dallas to San Diego, I admired the gleaming silver appliance in our new kitchen but its surface didn’t stay empty for long. Bit by bit, our cluttered lives spilled over to our refrigerator. Pieces of paper, pictures, lists, and coupons invaded the blank space like soldiers gaining territory.

SACRED CLUTTER

A colorful collection of magnets from our travels held it all in place. The cathedral-shaped magnet from Vienna is chipped, as is the top of the baguette on the one from France—collateral damage from our boys’ delight in throwing balls in the house. Wising up, our most recent magnets are flat, like the one from Rocky Mountain National Park with a picture of an elk who looks like the one who walked through our campsite last June. Four years ago, our youngest son stepped into a booth at Chuck-E-Cheese and emerged holding a hand-drawn likeness of himself. He was barely tall enough to get in the frame, but the camera captured his upturned smiling face anyway. I can’t bring myself to take it down.

In the cultural move toward minimalism, we’ve been quick and enthusiastic to purge our homes of clutter. Clearing our physical space does indeed give our souls more breathing room. I’ve admired the way the blank surface of a friend’s refrigerator gleams. When I turn to my own, however, I pause. The bottom half is currently covered in the boys’ artwork: a pink tree, a watercolor fish, three abstract paintings of circles. The freezer on top boasts a picture from last Easter, a snapshot from our family at Legoland, and some lists. I removed the expired coupons from the fray, but the result was negligible. I’ve decided that the minimalist movement doesn’t apply to refrigerators: They are museums of family life, with ever-changing displays. Like a docent, I can tell you the story of each artifact, smiling proudly at the evidence of a life well-lived.

CONCRETE REMINDERS

The Israelites had their own version of refrigerator stories. They built altars of stone as memorials. In the book of Joshua, once the people of Israel had safely and miraculously crossed the waters of the Jordan river, the Lord commanded them to build a stone altar. One man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel was to choose a stone from the bottom of the river to be a sign.

“When your children ask in time to come ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever” (Joshua 4:6-7).

The Israelites had concrete reminders of God’s faithfulness, protection, and provision. The stone altars became a way to tell stories to future generations about the reason for our faith. We, too, can build our own stone altars in more modern, creative ways. We can keep a journal, chronicling God’s movement in our lives. We can collect pictures to tell a story in a scrapbook or a calendar. Or we can keep adding mementos to our crowded refrigerator in an ever-changing display of God’s goodness in our lives.

MODERN DAY ALTARS OF STONE

When I look at the surface of my refrigerator through this lens, I see not only evidence of a life well-lived, but of God’s provision, goodness, and faithfulness. The magnetic calendar reminds me of the community God has given us. Magnets from our trips speak to His blessings in our lives. Even the Costco receipt that I’m saving just in case I need to make a return testifies to God’s bountiful provision.

My 6 year old recently found the oldest picture on our refrigerator. Tacked to the side of the freezer is my family’s first prayer card from the mission field. In the picture, we are all wearing berets and holding French baguettes. Sometimes when I catch sight of it, I am that little girl again, always the new kid, always trying to fit in, wondering if I’ll ever get to keep the friends I make. At other times, I am filled with awe at how far I’ve come, at the narrative God has written in my life.

“Which one is you, Mommy?” he asks, unable to recognize me at age nine. I point to the tallest of the three kids and remind him of the story of how his grandparents left California to tell people in France about Jesus. There’s a lot of sorrow and joy in this particular stone in my altar, and one day my boys will know more of the story. But for now, as I put the prayer card back in its proper place, I step back to consider my refrigerator as a whole. Each of the other magnets, pictures, and artifacts carry their own stories, so many of which start with “remember when?” And the thread that runs through them all is God’s unchanging goodness and grace.

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2 comments
  1. I like to look around and see the stories in our house. The remember when stories. The people who live here have lived and experienced stories. As a child I used to wonder why the Israelites stacked stones to remember things. But now I have a decretive glass container with lid that is half full of small stones
    we gathered on Irish beaches that sits on a coffee table.

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