I prayer walk through the fields and woods next to our farm almost daily. God’s presence is so powerful in the quiet solitude surrounded by stately old pines and wildflowers. These walks are the highlights of my days.

I’ve begun a prayer memorial by the gate leading out to the fields, a pile of rocks I’ve gathered as I pray. Every day on my way back home, I ask God to show me a rock to pick up and carry back to my rock pile. Usually they are small jagged shale stones that cover these southwestern Missouri hills.

Yesterday was a particularly meaningful walk. While walking through the wooded trail I was so overcome by God’s presence that I knelt down on the rocky ground to pray. I looked up to see a soft morning mist descending into the forest as I knelt there. A chipmunk peeped at me from a nearby tree and a squirrel barked from another. In the distance, a hawk called out. The cool morning woods were filled with life and mystery. My soul ascended into worship of our marvelous mighty Creator.

As my prayer ended, I lifted my gaze and saw… a big, ugly grey rock in the middle of the trail. Instantly I knew, that is my prayer rock for today. My heart sank. “Not that rock, Lord!” I complained, “It is big and heavy and I have a long way to go yet.”

I laughed at myself before my thought was even finished. How like us to grumble about some heavy burden in our path…

I heard His clear response in my spirit, “Pick it up!”

And so I did.

My first surprise was that the rock was much lighter than I thought it would be. Another truth! So often our worries about some impending obstacle are much worse than it actually is.

Then as I turned the rock over in my hands, I was astonished to see a glittery crystal vein running through the underside of it. I never see crystal rocks here in southwest Missouri… never. Our 34 acres in southeast Missouri that we gave up to move here was covered with geode crystal rocks. I loved how they glittered in the sunlight as I walked through the woods there. I collected some of the prettiest ones to bring with me when we moved here and hoped to find more of the same in our new home.

But the rocks here are table rocks, grey jagged shale and hard red clay. The only crystal rocks I have seen since we moved here are the ones I brought with me. Until this morning. Until God told me to pick up that big ugly rock in the trail. I shifted the rock in my hands and as the crystals shimmered in the sunlight I contemplated the life lesson…

God doesn’t promise us a life without burdens. The stones will inevitably litter our path. Sometimes they look heavy, unwieldy, imposing lying there in front of us. How will we ever manage to carry them? But Jesus does promise to walk through the journey with us. He offers to heft our struggles upon His own strong shoulders if we let Him. And then on the underside of it, after we make it through the storm, there is the treasure. There is the shining glittery treasure, the strength, character, deeper faith, peace, victory and all the other gifts that can usually only be found by picking up those ugly rocks.

This particular rock did not make it onto my prayer stone memorial. It greets me on my front porch where I’ll see it as I come and go. It reminds me not to grumble about the burdens. There is glitter on the other side.