Clean Jars

 by Deborah McCormick Maxey

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Colossians 3:23 NKJV

I love new beginnings: a new store, class, book, craft, or skill. I still get a new notebook every fall and organize it with colorful dividers. And don’t expect me to downsize my big stack of blank journals, because they all have the potential for a new beginning.

But I had to learn to face beginnings I didn’t like. The summer I turned eight, my grandmother had exactly that lesson in mind. Involving my nemesis…. spiders.

When I “sassed,” her about a chore, she was ready. I followed her outside as she opened the door to a crawl space and pulled out a galvanized tub filled with old canning jars. Without tops, they were filthy with, dirt, bug parts and…dead spiders.

As I helped her move the tub to the sidewalk, keeping my arms stiff to create as much distance as possible, she gave me my instructions. “You are going to get these jars to sparkle. And I’m going to be listening for the most important part, you’ve going to pray out loud the whole time you’re doing it. Talk to God. Find ways to thank him.” Looking up she saw my scowl. “You can ask Him for strength or courage or whatever you need. But talk to Him. And Deborah…you’re not coming back inside until it’s done.”

We unloaded the jars on the sidewalk and carried the hose, hot water, and detergent to the tub. She left me sitting on the sidewalk pouting, believing she was torturing me just to get her jars clean. Glancing at the spider parts gave me major heebie jeebies. Granny poked her head out of the back door to make sure I was praying out loud, so to elicit sympathy and reconsideration I prayed for help. (Okay, there may have been some drama involved. Just saying.)

I was stubborn, but so was Granny. I knew I was going to have to clean those jars. So, I offered a sincere prayer for help. The next thing I knew I realized I could take the hose and squirt out the jars before I loaded them into the soapy water. I’d never touch the bugs!

That started prayers of true thanksgiving. I thanked him for the bubbles and soapy water, the way I could splash and make a mess, the warm sunshine, the shiny clean jars that could hold His beautiful flowers or the delicious fruit He gave us to make jelly. Happily, I talked to God in a continuous stream.

When I called Granny outside to see my finished chore, she asked me what I learned.

“Well…not to sass you back.”


“Even with an icky job once I got going and saw I could do it, it turned out to be fun.”


I was stumped. But as I started to speak, I started to understand. “Oh…I never felt alone. When I stopped complaining and started thanking Him, it felt like He was right there with me, like a friend. And He was having fun too.”

“Yes. Now load them back in the tub and we’ll put them back where they came from.” The depth of her teaching started to dawn on me. She didn’t need the jars. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23 NKJV).

Just like the water hose idea came after prayer, He would always show me where to begin. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV).

Granny was big on memorizing verses and this is the one she gave me afterwards: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said. Her lessons have lasted a lifetime.

This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.  

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s first novel, The Endling, will be released by Firefly Southern Fiction/Iron Stream Media early spring 2021. Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety. 

Join the conversation: Did you have a relative that was a good influence on you in your developmental years?

2 thoughts on “Clean Jars

  1. What a sweet memory and lesson. My best friend was my grandmother. Before we could begin our adventures, I had to sit and allow her to comb every tangle from my long hair. It hated it, but I knew my hair would be beautiful for duration of my stay, and the fun followed. Thanks for sharing, Deborah.


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