The other night we came home from a school basketball game to find two jars filled with coins sitting on the box next to our front door.
“What are these?” Mike asked.
Then we looked at each other. “Christmas Jars!” Oh my …
It was just a year ago Thanksgiving weekend that we learned about Christmas Jars. Randomly, I picked up a book bearing this title off of a sales table at Barnes and Noble. I had never heard of the author, Jason F. Wright, but the thin little book caught my attention as something my Mom would like. Best part – it was short enough that she wouldn’t disappear from us for too long. And loving Christmas stories, I picked up a second copy for me.
As predicted, Mom vanished into her bedroom and didn’t come out for about four hours … the book finished. “You have to read this. You will love it.” Tears were in her eyes, but she would tell me no more.
Mike and I had a six hour drive home, and it took only the first chapter to become engrossed About the time we hit Snoqualmie Pass, we too were wiping away tears. The charm of a story of generosity and hope struck a chord deep within us. I was so moved by the story that I read it to all six of my classes last year. “I’m going to start one of those,” I heard more than one student say.
At the time, I pictured myself making a yearly tradition of reading this book to students, but as each school year takes on its own flavor, I didn’t know how to squeeze it in this time. One of my seniors did ask me if they could hear Christmas Jars again. “We’ll see,” I told her. I tried to start it with one class, but we only got to the first chapter. My sole success with sharing the story was to send the book to college with my daughter. “Great story, Mom,” she said in a text soon there after.
So now … here I am a year later with two mystery jars brimming with quarters, dimes and a few nickels and even a $20 bill. Not jars that we prepared for others … but ones meant for us. Humbling … stunning …emotional.
So many thoughts went through my head as the meanings of these two jars soaked in. Was it one of my “kids”? (i.e. students). Had someone, for a full year, planned this? They knew snatches of all the transition we’ve experienced the last few years with the closing of Mike’s business and his decision to go back to school at 50 years old, starting a whole new career. They knew this, but they couldn’t know how uncertain we’ve continued to be during this time … uncertain how bills were going to be paid … uncertain of the future … uncertain if we are hearing the Lord correctly anymore … uncertain as to why things have gone so very differently than we planned … uncertain how to share with others out of fear of being misunderstood and judged … uncertain how we were going to make the unexpected work out, let alone things like Christmas. Uncertain, and more honestly, anxious, BUT also, slowly becoming impressed that God is closely involved in our journey, and He has us covered.
So, if it was one of the kids … how generous … how perceptive … how much like Jesus … how loved and hopeful they have made me feel.
What if it wasn’t one of them? Maybe someone at church? A neighbor? A stranger? Each prospect equally amazing. I can’t think of anyone outside of school or my family who knows how impacting the story of the Christmas Jars was to Mike and me last year. So, whoever dropped them off, they were a messenger directly from my Heavenly Father, reminding me that He has everything under control and that I worry FAR TOO MUCH about stuff that will one day fade away.
It’s hard to explain the journey we’ve been on these last few years, but in this long, long season the Lord has brought us to a day-to-day existence where no matter what we’ve tried to do, He’s allowed us just enough for the month at hand. I’ve called it our “Manna Season”. Prone to be planners, always finding it easier to be givers than receivers, this is a scary place to be. Yet, week after week, month after month, God has provided for us in the most amazing, always unexpected ways. Job offers rescinded came with extra salary. An unexpected bonus. Unexpected part-time work. An opportunity to go back to school and to start over. Forgotten money in a pocket. Repair help that we didn’t have to pay for. Trades with friends. Extra funds at a moment when we wanted to give to someone else. Twice, I have found 20 dollar bills in my wallet when I could have sworn nothing was there earlier. On and on, have come the provisions.
There have been an echoing chain of closed doors the last few years. Lots of things lost to us … taken away … more of that uncertainty. Fear. Worry. Even guilt, because even though our journey has included much loss, our loss hasn’t been that of close loved ones (at least not recently), never the less we find ourselves mourning and struggling to understand the future. Guilt because even in the midst of the provisions, I start worrying all over again because the future is made up of a path that is completely invisible to me.
Then … the Christmas Jars. An undeniable reminder and a summation of all that God has been doing for us this last year.
I woke up this morning wondering what it is, fully, that the Lord is saying to us through the jars. Even though there are any number of things that we could do with the money, the needs suddenly seemed to evaporate. God is so close … continually doing wondrous, unexpected things. We find ourselves thinking of others who need that same message and how we might share some of the hope of our jars with them. And that is really what the Christmas Jar is about … hope … a reminder that God always has and always will take care of that which concerns me. And that He is always close at hand … Immanuel … God with us.
This next thought isn’t very “Christmasy”, but as I reflect on what God is teaching me, I think of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve’s conflict with God. He told them they could have anything they wanted in this Garden but they were to stay away from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Of course it makes sense why God wouldn’t want us to know the burdens and grief of evil, but until now, I haven’t really considered that I don’t have to strive so hard to know “the good” either. I want so to know everything, and yet end up disappointed or confused because the circumstances so often don’t line up with my expectations. However, if I am seeking God for relationship rather than stuff, it doesn’t matter what I have or don’t have, what happens or doesn’t happen … because in it all I find more of HIM. That’s what my heart hungers for most … relationship with God.
I don’t have to know everything. Be the little kid again … not the one at Christmas who knows Mom and Dad have wonderful surprises hidden in the bedroom, but I can’t wait, so rush things and peak. Instead, be the kid who trusts my Father … know that He has a plan and a purpose in all He does. He is a good Father and knows how to give good gifts. He will not leave me, He will not forsake me. He has given me the gift of TODAY. Finding Him in this day is an amazing amount of enough.
Thank you Father for the Christmas Jars. Thank you that you are quite near to us, because You live in the heart of whomever put those Jars at our door. You live in the hearts of the countless others who act just like You every day in the midst of dark and murky situations.
Immanuel … God IS with us.