On the Side: March 2019
Shout for Joy and Climb in the Play Tube
Carol Mason Shrader
The restaurant play area was already packed with children. I could only imagine the germs that my three 2-year-olds were about to encounter. I could just turn around and walk back to the car – I didn’t know a soul there and they would never miss me. Honestly, the ONLY reason I kept moving forward toward the group gathered from the church we had just visited was because I had told my husband and my mother that I was going and I knew BOTH would ask me how it went.
We were brand new in town and although I was never alone (triplets, you know), I was incredibly lonely. I was starved for just one friend to make eye contact with. I met several women that day and more than likely just because my mother had called her Sunday School class and told them all to pray – I met another wife whose husband was a surgery resident. Avery had two littles – one born the day before my triplets – and just like me, her Southern accent bounced softly off the walls in that crowded play area. I knew it was going to be ok. (And I was right.)
Just a few years later (19 to be exact), this season of life finds me either unable to sit still – working on organizing closets to be packed, boxing up things I know we won’t need before the move – or completely frozen by the overwhelming emotion of knowing I am about to start all over. Again.
The beauty of Side by Side is that I know I am not alone. Many of you are also on the cusp of a new move – many of you may not even know where you are heading for a couple more weeks (I am already praying for Match Day, sisters!).
On one of my frozen-in-the-emotion days, I decided I needed noise to fill the quiet in my home at the moment. I needed something to stop me from rattling around in my head full of what-if-they-don’t-like-me-there, what-if-I-never-have-people-who-know-me, what-if…. And so I clicked the little app on my phone that my son added so I could try a digital music service. And what should I discover but a playlist called “Calming Christian.”
Really? I was intrigued. I was actually delighted by the fact that an entire community of listeners also needed God to calm their anxious hearts.
“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Psalm 33:1-3 (NIV)
The music filled the quiet perfectly. But if I am honest here, I need you to know that there are days – both the ones where I am frozen in fear and the ones where I am manic in activity – where I am not entirely sure how to shout for joy. How do we do that? How do we sing joyfully when we are packing up to leave our dearest friends? How do we sing when we are brand new in town and don’t have a friend to meet for coffee? How do we sing out praise when we are struggling to find anything praiseworthy?
I think the Psalmist knew we would have days where the joy would be a challenge:
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses…. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Psalm 33:6,7,9 (NIV)
And so he reminds us of the works of the Lord. He reminds us that God spoke the world into being, he poured out the ocean and yet he promises:
“…The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:18-20 (NIV)
Dear ones, the Psalmist knew we would have days that were filled with hard stuff. But by remembering the ways God made the world, the ways God has met our needs time and time again – by remembering that in the middle of rescuing one of my two-year-olds from the inner bowels of an overgrown play tube in a fast-food restaurant, God brought me a friend — we can be joy-filled even in the hard circumstances!
God met me when I moved to Minnesota for residency. He was faithful to provide friends, support, and Side By Side! God didn’t forget me when I moved to Texas for fellowship or Arizona for the first out-of-training job! He was here when we moved to Mississippi and it has not surprised Him even a little bit that we are relocating to Delaware. I might not meet her on play date at McDonald’s, but I am trusting that God has a friend waiting on me in our new home. I am trusting that God has a plan for working in and through me to minister to those I encounter. And I am shouting His name in joy, praising Him for all He has done and all He plans to do.
Will you join me?
Carol Mason Shrader
Carol Mason Shrader currently has the Calming Christian playlist on a never-ending loop. And she is ok with that. Her husband Wade is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and her itty-bitty triplets will graduate from college soon! Thankfully, she still has a 13-year-old and is hopeful she might agree to a play date at an indoor play facility of her choice upon their move!