I love the holidays. No other time of the year brings so much hope and expectation.
We get to see loved ones, feast on the best food of the year, and remember how blessed we are to have this time together.
But then all those things that make the holidays so good can also bring a sadness to us. We mourn again those we won’t see this year. Or maybe the beautiful pictures in our minds just aren’t real yet: we haven’t been able to afford a home we feel good about showing to others, the little addition to the family hasn’t come after another year, or the rifts and hurts in the family are still too wide.
Right now all I can see is the expectation of the season, but I know there’ll be disappointment. There always is. This year I hope to meet those disappointments head on.
Let me tell you about the God box.
My husband asked me the other day why I like to read, and I managed to tell him a few things. I couldn’t get it all out though, and here’s one of the things I missed: It provides an escape from the real world while teaching me about the real world.
A whiiiiile ago I read Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, which has become my favorite book ever—besides the Word of God, of course. 😉 I won’t go into all the particulars right now, but one of the things I learned from that book was about something called the God box.
One of the characters in the book had a hard time laying her worries and hurts down, so she started keeping herself a God box. It was a simple box—a shoe box I think— she kept under her bed. She said she kept it under her bed because she always had to kneel to get to it. In it she’d write her worries and prayers along with the date on a piece of paper.
Writing them down helped her to make a conscious act of releasing them to God. And when she wrote them down, she could go back and read all the ones she’d written before. She could remind herself just how God’s always there.
Obviously, that’s stuck with me all these years, because I’ve had a God box ever since. I’ve kept mine under my bed, like the character in the book, but something about it seemed ‘not quite there’ for me.
Stones of remembrance.
Then came another book: My church read Disciplines of a Godly Family by Barbara and Kent Hughes a couple years ago. Nonfiction is a bit hard for me to read, but I did manage to pick up something: stones of remembrance.
The Hughes talked about how, just as the Israelites built altars to remind themselves and to show others the mighty ways God had shown up in their lives, we should make ways to remember God’s might, mercy, and goodness today. Like the stones used to build those altars thousands of years ago, we can erect our own stones of remembrance.
I took it quite literally after reading about that: I wanted to use actual stones that would be visually appealing while serving a greater purpose, but that didn’t work for me.
My God jar.
I realized finally that I didn’t have to be so literal or fancy. Most anything can serve as an altar.
I did want something visible, so I went with a simple jar with a lid. I display it in my living room so it can be seen, and I just stuck with the same system of writing on a piece of paper. I clip together any answered prayers and keep them in the jar, so I can go back and read them.
My God jar, as I’ll call it in honor of Francine Rivers, doesn’t look like much, but it’s appearance isn’t really important. It’s an altar to the God who shows up for me all the time.
I have a whole stack of those folded prayers to prove it. That ‘pile of stones’ serves as a witness to others, but more often it serves to shift my focus to God’s goodness and faithful presence in my life rather than on my burdens.
Tell me about your altar to God. How do you ease your burdens by reminding yourself of God’s work in your life?
If you don’t already have a way to do this, I’d love to know how you might’ve been inspired to erect your own stones of remembrance.