The Jar Project
I don't know why I felt led to share about this here, but God does. So here goes....
Recently I have been going through a very "dark night of the soul" with God. I asked Him several months ago to open up any wounds in my heart that needed His healing and His grace so that I would be who He needed me to be here in this place that He's brought me. And I fully meant it when I prayed it, knowing it would bring pain and hardship. I wanted to be whole, to be completely surrendered to Him. I understood when I prayed it that unless I let Him be in charge of EVERYTHING about me, I wasn't going to be used by Him fully, as I was designed to be. And someone out there wouldn't get His blessings because of my disobedience. I was not okay with that thought! So, a bit naively, I prayed "Lord, heal me, all of me. I surrender to You, completely. Remove the scabs and heal the wounds."
The last couple of months since that prayer have been truly some of the hardest, most painful, most stressful, most overwhelmingly heavy days of my life! The Lord, in His grace and mercy, began to grant my request. He began, slowly, to open my mind to past memories that have laid hidden and locked away for far too many years! One by one the memories came back, and with them the emotions I never dared myself to feel and process. Night after night I woke in sweats and fear and trembling and even throwing up a few times. Day after day my mind was locked in the pit of analyzing, deciphering truth from lies, listening so intently for His still small voice, clinging to any and all Scriptures I could find to help me navigate the pain, the sorrow, the grief of all that I had lost at the hands of others' choices. And the journey to forgiving those people... Lord knows how hard that was!! It's still a process. I'm not completely out of it. I still have lies and thoughts that sneak their way into my consciousness that God and I are addressing, learning from, releasing, forgiving. But in those days, in the dark night, my soul craved an outlet beyond my immediate pain. I needed a way to express to someone else the love I so desperately craved for myself. I don't know when He made the shift in my heart and mind, but at some point in the journey I began seeing the pain all around me, the walking wounded in my church, in my town, in my ministries - both here in South Africa and back in America. And I NEEDED to do something to stop at least some of it. I couldn't bear the pain in my own heart as well as the pain in their eyes. It was too much! I HAD to do something.
So one night, after many, many nights of no sleep, I finally found a few hours of rest. And in that rest I was given an inspiration directly from Him. I woke with a passion to share His messages of love and freedom to two very special girls in my life. They were preparing to go on an outreach (short-term missions trip) in just a matter of days. And both of these girls are straight jewels from Heaven. They were both excited and eager to see what God was going to do and I remembered that feeling from my trips. I wanted them to find a way to capture that feeling, to save it for future "rainy days," a bit of stored up sunshine for when the storms of life come back in. So The Jar Project began with these two sweet girls, but very quickly expanded to a total of eleven girls in my church/community, all hand-selected by God as their names (surprisingly just their names and not their faces or persons) appeared in my spirit.
Starting with just five empty sauce jars I had stored in my pantry, I began painting various designs in every color I could find. From my side, it was an amazing experiment in "listen and obey" with the Lord. Each jar was covered with prayers from beginning to end. The very colors chosen, the designs chosen, everything about the jars, was selected only when I felt fully that I knew what He wanted. After the five jars I had became insufficient for God's big idea, I ventured to the store to buy 6 more jars and a lot more paint and brushes, along with blank cards which I'll explain next. The ladies at the shops thought I was crazy and laughed at me. But when I told them what I was doing they were amazed by God and seemed changed in an instant. I could actually see them shift in their thinking and they all left me smiling and feeling loved just by hearing what He was doing. It was so sweet.
The jars were a process in themselves. And each step allowed me time to talk, worship, listen to God. For three days straight I worked with the Lord on this project. From emptying the jars (into freezer bags), to boiling the jars clean, to scraping labels off, to painting each jar in several layers for the paint to stick, to writing the cards, to finding the jar's owner... each step was 100% in His hands. Each step was a conversation with Him, "How?" followed by His inspiration... "Who?" followed by His sweet, tender, loving voice... "What?" followed by messages that to this day I don't remember, but the feeling of love and compassion still rests in my heart. Each and every step was with Him! The intimacy for me was incredible, and so soul-healing!
Now, the cards... oh wow! It actually started with the cards before I knew He was going to direct me to the jars to store them in. It started with envelopes with the girls' names on them, all lined up in my Prayer Room (extra storage room at my flat). Each girl had a card with her name on it, and an envelope. And in my main room, where I was working to paint the jars, was a stack of blank cards. As I worshiped Him, or as I read scriptures, or as I talked and listened with Him, He would share a small word or phrase with me. And I would ask, "Is this for a jar?" If the answer was yes, I wrote it on a blank card and added the cards to an "in process" pile in the middle of my coffee table or picnic table if I was working outside. The stack would build up until it started to fall over. Than I would take the cards, face down, and lay them out on my table. I would sit and pray over them, "Lord, these are Your words, not mine. Show me where they go. Show me who they belong to." And I would wait. Sometimes I would wait for several minutes, just listening and worshiping and thanking Him for the whole process and for the girls He chose. Other times it was almost instant. But the names would come and I'd write them on the back of the cards, making sure I didn't know who got what words. Then I'd take the cards, always face down, and add them to each girl's stack in the Prayer Room and return to my work.
After three days of so much joy, passion, love, forgiveness, peace, and straight intimacy with Him, the jars were complete (including a few close calls where I had to hide them as one or two of the girls would show up at my door, lol!). The jars had been painted, the owners had been selected, the cards folded and placed inside the jars, the jars inside a small bag with a card of explanation and more blank cards for the owner to add her own notes. Now I just had one step left, delivery. And, just like every other step, I wanted it to be His way and not my way.
The first one out the door actually was one I fought from the beginning. It was someone closer to me than the others and I was so determined that this be His project and not mine that I actually fought myself on this jar, afraid I had selected her because of our relationship and not because I had heard Him say her name. But, He confirmed His desire and she was the first one done and the first one He directed me to deliver. On the way home from church the following Sunday she received her jar and a sense of release came over me. It was a strange feeling for me. I felt no ownership over the jar, the cards, any of it. I felt no need for thanks, no need for recognition, no need for anything from the receiver. I truly, honestly, felt like I had just completed a task and moved on to my next task. And as each jar found it's way to it's home, I felt more and more at peace with Him getting the glory, all the glory! I don't know that I've felt so detached to a project as I did when I let these out the door. But because of the process, because it was all in His way and His words, I honestly believe it was His project, and not mine.
I was genuinely surprised when I would hear from a couple of the girls with messages of thanks or asking me questions about the cards or anything related to the jars. From my end, my job was done. I needed no thanks. I had no answers about the cards. I had no real need for the jars anymore. I was to just "listen and obey" and I had done that. But I did save their messages as a reminder of that feeling - that release of need for approval or acceptance or recognition. Because it was such a journey for me, the whole project.
I still look at the photos of this project with a smile on my face, not because I'm proud of them (because I'm not), but because I'm so honored to be allowed to walk through this project with Him and for Him. What He did with the jars afterwards is not my concern; it has nothing to do with me. What He did through the jars, in my heart and mind, is my focus and it's amazing! It still stuns me to this day! It was such a gentle, compassionate way for Him to teach me how to hear His voice in the middle of my storms, how to change my perspective to others' pains and not my own, and how to obey - even when it's hard to even stand.
He is an amazing God and an amazing teacher! And I am constantly in awe of His ways!
Thank You, Lord for The Jar Project and all that it meant to me! May You use these words for Your glory, even now, to teach others how to listen for Your voice and to obey Your words - even in the darkest, hardest nights. I love You, Abba and I am so in awe of the fact that You love me! Keep drawing me closer, Lord! Keep drawing me closer! To You be the glory You so, so, so rightly deserve!