On the Side - July 2015
Delayed Comfort and Concrete Digging
by Carol Shrader
The decision for our post-fellowship job had been made almost two years before Wade finished his residency. We were confident in our decision. Extremely certain in fact.
Right up until the minute when we weren’t.
Boxes were packed all around me. I was preparing our home and our hearts to leave Rochester and our dear friends. I was anxious in my spirit to have the decision for the next move made and done. I was eager to begin the rest of our life. And make no mistake I was certain the move following fellowship was THE move. Our nomadic life through moving from home to medical school, to residency and now fellowship would come to an end.
I may have made one or a hundred comments about pouring concrete on our feet as soon as we made the move from fellowship.
Amid the boxes, over lunch, my wise friend looked at my anxious face and said, “You know you aren’t making a decision you have to stick with for life. Doctors change practices. Often, the first place is not where you end up.”
I may have growled at my friend Robin. And if I didn’t do it out loud, I most definitely did it in my heart.
THAT is not what I wanted to hear. That did not comfort me – even though she completely meant for it to. I was tired of moving. I was exhausted from the starting over, the telling our story, the finding a place to plant myself. Done. I wanted that to be done.
Today, amid another bunch of boxes waiting to be unpacked, I find the comfort dear Robin offered me eleven years ago. I find relief in knowing I am not the first spouse to unpack a family as my husband begins a new practice, at a new hospital, 1500 miles from the one where I initially wanted to pour concrete over our feet.
I am smiling tonight thinking about my friend. I am laughing that God already knew this plan before that day sitting at the table in our little blue house.
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16 (NIV)
And I feel at peace knowing that the creator of the universe took the time to prepare my heart beginning that day and continuing right up until the phone rang asking Wade to come for this interview.
Several years into my stay-here-forever location, the friend I was closest to moved away. I was comforted by the fact that my sweet friend from residency days had recently moved to Phoenix.
And then she moved too.
We came to Mississippi to visit our Alma Mater not long after she left and I had an emotional outburst in my head – so an inburst? The part that DID in fact surface was an angry undertone directed at my husband. It was weeks before I could verbalize my feelings, weeks before I understood them myself – why did he have to be a specialized surgeon anyway? Why couldn’t he just practice medicine in a small town with our friends?
I was feeling serious discontent and unrest. I tried to pray through it. I confessed it. I called the discontent sin. I willed it to go away.
And then the phone rang – several times actually – but one of the calls was from the Children’s Hospital in Mississippi. Would Wade want to talk about a job possibility?
No. No. He very much would not. Because what if he didn’t want the job but I did? No thank you. Let’s not even discuss this one out loud. Besides our triplets were seniors in high school, looking at colleges. No. No.
But God was doing this work. He was working all things together. Turns out Wade DID want to talk about the job. And more than that, the triplets visited colleges in the area and all three found a perfect fit within a few miles of the hospital.
So we moved.
My precious friend since elementary school took us to dinner last week . My best girlfriend from our college days invited me to a ladies’ night out on Monday. We got dressed for church on Sunday and I asked Benjamin if his cold made him feel bad enough that he wanted to stay home. He said, “Well, that depends. I want to go to church. But I do not feel well enough to socialize a lot. Are you and Dad going to know everybody there?”
Oh ladies, if I had poured concrete on my feet 11 years ago, God could not have brought me home. If I had stomped my feet and dug in my heels because a move is a move (I mean, I don’t in fact know everyone around here – I have never lived in this part of the state!), I would have missed the blessings.
Can I re-visit Psalm 139 from The Message this time:
“Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”
Perhaps you are in a stage of life where you are reading this amid your own boxes – can I tell you that I am praying for you right now?
We passed no less than twenty moving vans in our drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Jackson, Mississippi. I bowed my head and prayed for those families every single time. And while I know it is unrealistic to believe they were all medical families, in my heart I thought they were and so I felt the ache, the unease, the fear for each wife whose belongings were rolling past us and I prayed.
I asked God for traveling mercies first – for the families of course, but also for belongings, for whatever treasures make home feel like home.
And then I asked – ok, I may have begged – God to provide a place for that dear wife to plant her feet upon arrival. May you have someone to bring you cookies and welcome you to your new home. But more than that, may you find a place to use your unique gifts in service to those around you and may you be bold enough to plug in, put yourself out there, get involved.
And finally, I prayed for God to guard your heart. I asked him to prevent you from building walls of protection against the pain of building new friendships. I asked the creator of all relationships to comfort you as you develop the deep bonds of your heart. I asked Him to help you tell your story and for it to fall on receptive, warm, welcoming ears.
We met a family with a daughter my Cate’s age last night. This sweet little girl came riding up this morning on her bike, asking Cate to play. I watched as Cate said, “Sure!” and jumped on her bike. They spent most of the day together, laughing, playing, enjoying each other.
Oh may it be that easy for you – and me – as we work to engage in our new surroundings (Or maybe, dear ones who haven’t had to unpack a box recently, you just need to remember to welcome the newcomers to your corner of the world!)!
“He [the Sovereign Lord] tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young.” Isaiah 40:11
And finally, can I share the King James version of Philippians 4:11? Remember, Paul is in prison here – a small, dark, dank prison cell. And yet, he says that he is not in need of anything because he has learned to be content no matter his circumstances:
“…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
Oh dear ones, I am praying for you today – no matter your state – Minnesota, Arizona, Mississippi and beyond.
Carol Shrader can be found talking to complete strangers in town telling them her life story and stalking women with good hair for the name of their stylist (these are important matters!)! She and her wonderful Wade are preparing to send their trio off to college in the fall and hope Little Red can keep their nest busy if not full. Hubby is in the midst of his very first week as chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery at Batson Children’s Hospital.