On the Side: January 2024
I love a fresh pack of crayons.
I finished school many years ago. My children are almost grown. My youngest is a senior in high school. There are no grandchildren on my horizon to date. Yet, I still put the new crayons in my shopping buggy at least once a year. There is just something wondrous about a brand-new box.
And mercy, if it has a sharpener, I am absolutely giddy.
Opening the box, I am immediately gripped with the potential that these untapped, crisply sharpened crayons hold. I can draw thin or fat lines; I can color in no less than ten shades of all my favorites—and that means my pinks will soon find themselves stubby and well-used! The possibilities are endless.
Today, we are opening a brand-new box of crayons. A brand-new year. A brand-new set of 365 days before us, unfolding in splendid color.
I wish I could sit with you and hear what your hopes, dreams and goals are for this new year. I would love to know what season 2024 finds you in: have you just married? Are you waiting for March to learn where you will be for residency? Does your hubby finish training this year? Do you know where you will land? Is this the year your husband will retire from his years of service?
But my real question for you is what crayon will you choose for the year, the season ahead?
Today, as 2024 begins, we can choose. We might not know what all the year ahead holds, but we have a choice, nonetheless.
During a time of famine, a man took his family and fled Bethlehem for Moab—a land that chose not to follow God. After his death, and the death of his sons, his wife longed to return to her homeland. Her world must have been colored dark, bleak, with little hope as she packed up to return to the family she had left when times were tough. The only bright spot for her, a daughter-in-law who stays by her side, who leaves her own homeland, to remain alongside the mother of her deceased husband, who chooses to be her family.
We were studying this young, widowed daughter-in-law a few years ago in Side By Side when the question was raised regarding Ruth’s choice: “But we don’t have a choice about where we go, do we? We have to follow our husbands.”
Ah. Do we have a choice? The match is the culmination of interviews and an algorithm that we may never understand, putting our guys in a program to further their training for years. Fellowship following residency is much the same. Often, our first practice after training is a learning/growing experience and our men opt for a change—more academic, less academic, private, etc. And sometimes, years into their practice, opportunities arise that require more moves.
Do we have a choice?
Well, we might not get the kind of moment on the road to Bethlehem where we declare THIS is our choice, as Ruth did to Naomi, her mother-in-law. But oh, dear ones, we have a choice.
We get to choose the way we color our reactions. We can choose to whine about yet ANOTHER move. We can choose to complain about leaving friends and family. We can choose to refuse to plug in to our new town. We can choose to voice every complaint to our husband when he comes home. And we can choose to make him miserable for a little or a lot of his time with us.
We can sharpen the crayons of discontent and despair and use them to color everything in our home.
By following Naomi, Ruth left the provision of her father’s home. Without a husband or father-in-law, she and Naomi are at the benevolence of Naomi’s relatives. They had no home. They had no food. Ruth not only moved to a distant land, she also had to determine how to care for her mother-in-law.
In my mind, the example Ruth sets with her attitude is one of the richest lessons of all in this book of the Old Testament. Do not gloss over Ruth 2:2:
“And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the fields and pick up leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor’” (NIV).
Can you follow that? She asked to go follow the workers and pick up anything they dropped. She asked to go get leftovers. In the sun. Where she could be punished for trespassing. Or worse, harmed by the workers.
But Ruth went because she needed to provide for her mother-in-law. Ruth went because she was choosing to joyfully serve Naomi. Ruth went because she recognized her ability to color their situation.
God richly blessed Ruth’s servant heart. If you haven’t lately, please go to your Old Testament and read the story of Ruth. Her willingness to pick up leftovers to provide food for her mother-in-law lands her smack in the lineage of JESUS!
Because of Ruth’s choices, her story is colored a myriad of royal shades of purple! Can you imagine?
You have a choice. Which color will you choose? Will you allow God to give you the strength, grace and peace for whatever it holds?
Happy 2024 dear ones. I am praying for you right now that whatever the year has on the horizon, you will choose to color it with the crayon of joy!
Carol M. Shrader
Carol Mason Shrader knows that 2024 will require a big pack of crayons as her baby graduates high school and leaves for college. She hopes she can keep her joy sharpened and her heart focused on the One who has already written the story for all this year will hold.