On the Side: December 2023

December 2023

Tidings of Great Joy
Carol Shrader

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Everyone was sleeping
Except the Medical Spouse.

She wrapped all the presents
She trimmed the whole tree
She baked lots of goodies 
To fill her family with glee.

Her husband was nestled 
All snug in his bed,
While surgeries, lab results, and call schedules
Pranced in his head.

The date on the calendar
Caused her no stress
For their Christmas was dateless
And scrubs were the code for dress.

Medical Spouse continued the holiday trimming
Wholly understanding the worth
Of making Christmas merry for those she loved,
Of pointing them to their Savior’s birth. 

Happy December, dear ones! This is the season where I think in rhyme. I can’t explain it except to say that once upon a time I wrote a Christmas poem for our Christmas card and it has happened every year since. (Ok, it didn’t happen one year when I was completely overwhelmed with life and my goodness, you would have thought I canceled Christmas!)

I hope you will sit with me a minute and let me virtually hug you. I know this season can be splendid and delightful, but I also know it can be incredibly stressful, sometimes sad, and often lonely for the medical spouse carrying the holiday far from family and loved ones. And quite honestly, I have experienced seasons where it was all of those emotions at once.

You are not alone.

We have had Christmases celebrated a couple days before the rest of the world, and some a day or two late.

We have all decked the halls together and I have decked the halls alone.

We have had Christmases where family comes to us and we have a house overflowing. And we have had holidays where it was just my little family – and Dr. Dad made intermittent appearances around trauma call.

We drove to Mississippi from Chicago while in medical school. We had three under two and knew we probably wouldn’t make it the entire way in one day but weren’t exactly sure how far we would make it. And so, we decided to drive until we had to stop. It was a great decision right up until the triplets were past exhausted and there was not one hotel room to be found. Not one. Later, after driving to a third town and finding a room, I had to giggle at the irony of the no-room-at-the-inn situation!

When we returned to Chicago a week later, we were midway home when the snow started. We traveled six hours to drive two miles. Finally made it to an exit with the rest of the holiday travelers. We got the last room in the town, literally. Everyone else was sent to a Red Cross emergency shelter. We haven’t traveled for Christmas since.

Today, I want to give you permission to stop what you are doing and sit. I want you to remember that while Instagram might make it look like the rest of the world has the perfect trimmings, the best tree and the most precious table settings, none of that is really necessary. Oh, I love to decorate. My house looks like the North Pole exploded. But listen to me, I cover every surface with tinsel and bows because it brings me joy, because it is FUN for me….not because some social media influencer said I should.

Will you sit with me today and remember why we celebrate? And in the remembering, I am asking you to think through the things that are truly necessary for your family to celebrate and what can you let go if it is not bringing you joy? What are the non-negotiables and what are the things we might have added because someone else did and said we should?

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first-born, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the field nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ ” Luke 2:1-14 (NIV)

Mary didn’t have tinsel or a perfectly set table. Her newborn didn’t have a picture-perfect layette, or a monogrammed blankie. There were no hand-painted welcome signs. And yet…

“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people….a Savior has been born!”

Merry Christmas, dear ones. I wish you great joy.
Carol Mason Shrader

Carol can be found at home in Wilmington, Delaware where she chooses to decorate every surface but also stops and puts the boxes back in the basement half-full the minute it becomes more a task than a joy. Holiday non-negotiables for her crew include Christmas mugs, hot cocoa, and displaying the Little People Nativity Set even though all her children are adults – and a Christmas poem, of course.

Christian Medical & Dental Associations®

About Christian Medical & Dental Associations®

The Christian Medical & Dental Associations® (CMDA) is made up of the Christian Medical Association (CMA) and the Christian Dental Association (CDA). CMDA provides resources, networking opportunities, education and a public voice for Christian healthcare professionals and students. Founded in 1931, CMDA provides programs and services supporting its mission to "change hearts in healthcare" with a current membership of over 13,000 healthcare professionals. CMDA promotes positions and addresses policies on healthcare issues; conducts overseas medical education and evangelism projects; coordinates a network of Christian healthcare professionals for fellowship and professional growth; sponsors student ministries in medical dental, PA, and other healthcare training schools; distributes educational and inspirational resources; hosts marriage and family conferences; provides developing world missionary healthcare professionals with continuing education resources; and conducts academic exchange programs overseas. By being the "hands of Jesus" to needy people, CMDA seeks to fulfill His Great Commandment (Matthew 22:39; 25:36) and His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). The Christian Medical & Dental Associations® is a 501(c)3 and is governed by a Board of Trustees and House of Delegates. Policies of CMDA are interpreted and applied by the Board of Trustees, which also establishes the guidelines for the executive director and his staff. An elected House of Delegates assists the board with recommendations on courses of action. The House of Delegates is composed of graduate, student, resident and missionary members who are elected for three-year terms by district and meets annually at the CMDA National Convention. Approximately 75 employees currently make up the staff of CMDA in the national office and U.S. field offices.

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