Returning with Joy

We had the privilege of spending this past summer in New Hampshire.  My husband, Marvin, was invited to Dartmouth’s engineering school as a visiting faculty member, so we packed up both cars and moved east for the summer.  We rented a house in Hanover, which is the quintessential New England college town, and my sons and I spent many hot afternoons at a nearby pond.

It was a dream come true to return with my family because that is where I had spent so many years as a single woman.  Many of the people from the church there knew me since I was an 18 year old, insecure college freshman, and many of them had held up my hands when they were weak and encouraged me to hang on and trust God in the darkest times.  Some had moved, but lots of dear friends who loved me through it all were still there.

My life as a single woman was rich and full.  I worked in full time ministry and got to travel and meet amazing people.  But those years were also painful. Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and my heart was sick much of the time.  I desperately wanted to be married and living there, in such a small town, made that dream feel nearly impossible.

I received many prophetic words about God’s faithfulness and I held onto so many Scriptures.  One was Isaiah 55:10-11:

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
 and do not return there, 
but water the earth,
 and make it bring forth and bud,
 that it may give seed to the sower 
and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
 it shall not return to Me void, 
but it shall accomplish what I please, 
and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Someone needs to hear that today: God’s word will not come back void!

Another was Psalm 37:4  “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

There’s some controversy over this Scripture, but I believe that if we are submitted to God and fully surrendered to Him, He will knead and shape our desires, like a baker kneads bread dough, and our desires will wind up looking like His will for us.

I remember in the early days I wanted to marry a pastor.  Well, through the years God completely changed that desire.  I have a high regard for pastor’s wives, but God showed me that this was not his plan for me — and I married a scientist!  He knew me better than I knew me and gave me what I needed, and ultimately what I wanted.

If you’ve read my book, The Wait, you know that my father was in and out of jobs and his vocational insecurity created a lot of strife in our home.  Over the past few years, I’ve often basked in the kindness of God to give me a husband who is now tenured and thus so secure in his job!  The healing is complete.

Sisters, God knows you better than you know yourself and you need not be afraid of opening your hand, loosening your grip and giving Him the things most precious to you.  He is trust worthy, and He will give you back something that is better (for you) than what you asked for or imagined.

I often drank in John 16:21-22:

A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

Many of the women in that community were like midwives to me: tarrying with me through the years of pain, trusting God for the birth of His promise.

Another Scripture that anchored me was Romans 9:33:  “He who believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  Some people who knew me in those days thought I was crazy for staying in such a small area.  They thought I was deluded and unrealistic.  I thought so myself sometimes!  But God kept showing up with this verse, reassuring me that ultimately, I would not be ashamed of choosing to obey Him, that He would vindicate me and that, as a friend of mine reminded me so many times, if I took care of His business, He would take care of mine.  So I continued to set my face like flint and stumble forward (Isaiah 50:7).

You will never be put to shame if you obey God.  People may laugh now, ridicule, question, point fingers and shake heads, but when all is said and done, God will be glorified.

God’s word is reliable.  I’ll close now with just two more verses which brought life to me in those days:

For you shall go out with joy, 
and be led out with peace;
 the mountains and the hills
 shall break forth into singing before you,
 and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)

 

And, He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him (Psalm 126:6).

Years ago, I often daydreamed of my wedding day, going out with joy and finally laughing instead of crying and then coming back with arms full of fruit.  Well, I got to go back, with my husband and my precious sons: the fruit of God’s fulfilled promises.  As my boys ran all over the church, totally comfortable and basking in everyone’s love, I wiped my tears, my joyful tears, and thanked God.

Posted in God's Faithfulness, God's Timing.

3 Comments

  1. Nicole,this was such a touching remembrance. Your descriptive writing offered a clear path to your heart.We are uncannily alike.The scriptures that you quoted are among my favorite.I did not realize you spent significant time in active ministry.I am a former Sister of St. JOSEPH!

  2. Beautiful! And so encouraging for everyone in that church to see the family God gave you after your years of faithfulness.

  3. So good to see and hear you at Wellspring.I’m one of the women who remembers your single days.I also had “hope deferreditis” not being able to have children.We adopted and our 2 children were dedicated in that church.Now we’ve returned after several years.I’d love to meet Marvin and your boys!

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