On the Side: September 2023
In a Brook, or Under an Apron
by Carol Shrader
I met my best friends from high school this summer in North Carolina. It was our third annual trip together—we have been to a couple of beaches, but this year we chose the mountains. One morning as we took a hike on my friend Teri’s favorite trail, we walked out on stones in the middle of a perfectly picturesque brook. I was immediately transported back to a very young me—12 years old and on my first youth trip. I know it was just the brook bubbling, but I honestly felt I could hear our camp counselors instructing us on how to have a quiet time and sending us with our Bibles and our journals to find a quiet spot each morning.
Y’all, I was the girl who always—and I mean always—got in trouble for talking in school. I overheard my dad describe me once as willing to talk to a tree if no one else would listen, and able to get the tree to talk back. What I am saying is quiet was not exactly in my vocabulary. And while I had been in Sunday school my entire life and spent hours in Bible drill every Sunday night and could recite a fair number of verses from memory, I had no idea what it meant to be quiet with God. (I wish I could see your faces right now, because some of you know exactly what I am talking about when I say Bible drill, and some of you have never had to find the book of Habakkuk in the Bible while your teacher had a timer on you.)
But on that first trip, the wonder of being grown enough to be part of the group, and the awe I felt seeing those mountains in North Carolina for the first time, led me outside our cabin to the bubbling brook that ran through the camp. I cautiously climbed out on a big rock in the middle of the stream and opened my Bible and the little prayer journal we had been given.
And the girl who was never quiet learned immediately the benefit of being still, quiet and prayerful.
Life moves fast for all of us, right? We run our homes, support our husbands in their training, or their practice, and possibly have a child or four depending on us for a whole lot of things. I know. Sitting quietly in a bubbling brook is not on our to do list.
I read once that the great preacher John Wesley’s mother, Susanna, would pull her apron over her head in order to have time alone with God. She taught her children that this was her precious time with the Lord, and they were NOT to interrupt.
And before I could even think to myself, “Well, she didn’t have triplets,” I went on to read that she had 10 children!*
Before this summer, it had been a long time since I sat in that bubbling brook. The truth is, I have seasons where my quiet time is as regular as Susanna Wesley’s daily-apron-over-her-head time. And I have seasons where I am slinging up prayer arrows begging Jesus to hear my groans and interpret them in ways I am wholly inadequate.
And if I am completely honest, there are seasons where life feels so heavy and so hard—usually seasons where my children are hurting and in pain—that I feel anger and angst and frankly have to pray the prayer of the father in Mark 9: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24b, NIV).
And my dear ones, God is big enough for all of those seasons.
As my friends and I stood in the little brook this summer, I asked them to sing. At first there was eye-rolling refusal. But I was insistent and asked (perhaps badgered) again (my friends have voices like angels). Acquiescing, my dear friends Tracy and Neece began to sing “It is well with my soul” and we all joined.
And it was. And it is. And I am praying for that to be true for you today too.
Blessings dear ones,
Carol Mason Shrader
Carol lives in Delaware with her wonderful Wade, an ever-changing number of grown and almost grown children and two pups who love for her to sit still. She firmly believes life would be better if people broke out in musical numbers all day every day.