Monday, December 8, 2008

"My Melody Story"--Donald's side of the courtship story

From early on in my teenage years God had laid on my heart two things. The first was that God would show me to the girl that he had for me, and that I had no need to date--as dating and playing the field were wrong in God’s eyes. Knowing how my parents got together implanted that conviction in me. The second was that she was going to come from the church where I grew up, as that was the only way I would find someone with beliefs close to mine.

Throughout my teenage years I would get “crushes” on different girls and dream about what it would be like to marry them and have a family. I continually had dreams about how I was going to get married by the time I was 20. Finally, when I was 22 I decided I was going to have to give up those dreams. :D Up till this time, I always thought that I wanted to be with someone my own age, but as time went on and those close to my age either got married or pulled away from God, I started noticing that I was having to start looking at the younger girls to find someone at the church, as I still believed that was from where God intended my wife to come. Then, when I was about 23, comments and suggestions from others led me to think that God was leading me to the girl He had chosen for me. I knew that this was the girl He had for me because I got sick to my stomach every time I passed her or she passed me. I know that sounds silly, but that was what I believed. There was only one problem with this girl in my eyes, she was 6 years younger than me, and that may have been too much difference. My parents advised me that it was not that bad, and that I just needed to be sure to talk to her father before I talked to her.

Finally, just after I turned 24, I worked up the courage to ask this father if I could date his daughter. He immediately told me that it was fine and that I could date her, but I realized that it seemed too easy. The very next evening he called me back saying he talked it over with his wife and that he did not feel it was a good idea for right now. Unfortunately, I took it the wrong way and got angry with God, as well as spent the rest of the evening crying. I did not understand why God would show me His will and then not allow it to happen. Later I realized that her father told me it was not good for right now, and that I still had an opening--but how was I to know when it was okay? I was not going to pester him.

As time went on, I realized that my walk was not with God, but that I was walking in my own ways, especially since up till then I had never spent much time in God’s word at all. In fact, I did not even crack my Bible open during church, let alone when I got home. Just a couple of months after I was turned down, I started purposing to read my Bible and pray daily. My prayers then turned away from this girl and more to that the Lord would show me to whom I truly was to marry. I also asked the Lord that He would give me peace about it till it was time for Him to reveal who the girl was He had for me. During this time I watched the girl that I had persued seem to depart from God and look more like the world, which showed me she was definitely not the one He had purposed for me.

God certainly works in mysterious ways. After I prayed the prayer for the Lord to give me peace for my loneliness, He cured that in a wonderful way. My heart was stolen by a 4-year-old little girl that I very quickly adopted as my own daughter (not literally, of course). Quickly my thoughts departed from wanting to get married for the time being and rather I enjoyed feeling like a father to this little girl who I got to see and spend time with every Sunday and Wednesday at church. I still thought about marriage from time to time, and one of my thoughts was that God was allowing me to show my love for children and that one day a young lady would notice it and see what a wonderful father I would be. Another one of those thoughts would be that I really hoped that I might have a child one day just like this little girl, but the only way I knew to do that was to marry her oldest sister who was 12 years older than her. However, I put that out of my mind because I was 24 and she was 16, and that was definitely too much age difference in my opinion at the time.

Now, you need to have a little history on this little girl and her older sister. These two girls were two of my Associate Pastors daughters, the first and sixth of seven children. The entire family has had a special place in my heart ever since the day I first met them in 1996 when I was 17. During the first year of their membership at the church I paid close attention to the family, and kept noticing the oldest girl who was 9 at the time. I was confused as to why my attention kept getting drawn to this girl at the time. Shortly after they had been there one year, they left the church so that the father could pastor another church. I was more upset about this family leaving than any other family before, yet really did not know why. After two years of being gone the family came back to the church in 2000, when our church elected the father as Associate Pastor of the church. Shortly thereafter my sister befriended their oldest (then 13 years old) daughter, and soon became very good friends. By summer 2004 our entire families had become very good friends. This family would be the Robert Rohlin family.

Since Melody and my sister, Maria, were good friends, she often got invited to our house. On January 14, 2005, my sister had a party for her 21st birthday. Many were invited to come, especially several girls so that there could be a sleepover. Of course, Maria’s best friend Melody was there. I cannot say that finding a girl to marry was much on my mind that day, till discussion in the kitchen amongst the girls turned to marriage. Of course, I was just on the opposite side of the kitchen from them hearing this. At one point Melody piped up to say that she would not be willing to marry anyone younger that her, but would be willing to marry someone up to 10 years older. My immediate thought, while standing just 5 feet in front of her there, was, “I’m in.” I then spent the rest of the evening looking at a picture that had been taken earlier that evening of Melody and me talking. I kept thinking, “Could it really be true?”

As the year continued, I still prayed that the Lord would show me the one He truly wanted me to be with, as well as that He would give me a wife that would draw me closer to Him, rather than drag me down. I still continued to spend a whole lot of time with Melody’s music sister, Harmony (the 4 year old who was then a year older) and continued to do more and more things with the whole family. The last week of June 2005, my boss left me to the helm of the air conditioning company to which I am employed while he went on vacation. This time is always very stressful for me, as I fear constantly that the worst could happen. On the 30th, in the height of my stress and tiredness, something pretty bad did happen. I set my ladder on the side of a building incorrectly, and upon getting to the top, the ladder slid down the building and I rode it down. Upon impact with the ground, the ladder and I hit together pretty hard, and I wound up bummed up pretty badly, and even injured my right knee so that I could barely walk. I went to the emergency clinic to see if I broke anything. While on the way there, all I could think about was that I did not want this to cancel our plans with the Rohlins coming to our house on July 4th.

Well, unfortunately, I got the report from the doctor that I had broken my kneecap, and got assigned to crutches--meaning I could not work. I wound up quite depressed about this, as I did not know what I was going to do, and I was still worried about our plans being canceled with the Rohlins. Thankfully, our plans continued as planned, with the exception that I really could not do my normal playing around with the kids that I always do. However, in my slow state, I am able to notice that Melody seemed to hang around me more and when she was at a distance, she watched me like a hawk. Maria even told me later that she kept hearing Melody say something over and over again, like “He walked off without his crutches again” and “I hope he is being really careful”, which probably actually annoyed Maria. I continued to notice that Melody not only seemed to watch me a lot, but also I began to talk to her more than usual to find out that she and I had the same thoughts and ideas about the Lord and life. I began thinking more and more that Melody was likely the one God had for me when finally, on July 14th, I could not stand it anymore. While at Faith’s (Melody’s next younger sister) birthday party, there was a group of us talking, and when Melody made a comment that was the same as my thoughts, I could keep my mouth shut no longer. I blurted out “That is it, now I know that you are the one that I am supposed to marry”. I said it as a joke, and many got a good laugh about it, but I really was serious. Till this day, this event we know as “The Great Proposal.”

One of the things I was supposed to be doing while recovering from my knee injury was sit and keep ice on my knee. That got old quick. I did a ton of Bible study, which was good, but I also had a problem with loneliness. Sure, a few people visited me here and there, but for the most part it was sitting at home day in, day out, keeping my knee iced down. My sister convinced me that I should take up instant messaging, so I downloaded the software she sent me. Just a few days after getting the software, which was also just a few days after “The Great Proposal,” Melody contacted me over instant messenger just to tell me that she had passed her drivers exam and just got her license. Well, I responded to her, and started a conversation that seemed to last only a few minutes but actually lasted three hours. Up till that point, I had never had much of a conversation with her. Now that we had spoken for such a time and started getting to know one another, we became very good friends, and our conversations became a daily thing. Talking to her became the main thing I looked forward to each day.

As the rest of the month passed on, my knee eventually healed and I went back to work on August 1st. After going to work, I still longed daily to talk to Melody over instant messenger. However, it was short lived. About the middle of August, Melody and her family went on a trip to go to a conference and take a vacation. Upon returning two weeks later, none of the family was the same anymore, which bothered me. For the most part, Melody had not changed. For a few days we continued our online chats. In one of those chats, Melody told me the sad news that in just a few weeks she was moving to Chicago for a year to work in a ministry. I hated hearing that she was going leave us, but I was happy that she felt like she was doing the Lord’s will, especially since she had said many times that she did not know what was next for her life. I decided I would make the most of the next few weeks of talking with her since contacting her was going to be difficult when she moved. For a few days, we kept on as normal, till one day she quit acknowledging my existence, and I could not figure out why. I tried and tried to contact her, talk to her in person, and so forth, but she went so far as to leave our Sunday school class for her dad’s class and I knew it was to avoid me. I could not figure out what I had done, said, or anything. She gave me no explanation. It made no sense how someone could become a best friend for a month and a half and then completely avoid you afterward. It was as if she was a completely different person.

When a few weeks had passed, she left for Chicago leaving a confused Donald behind. I clung to hope, and prayed for her daily. I held the hope that what had happened with us becoming friends was not a fluke, but that she really was the one that God had chosen for me. My greatest fear was that Melody was going to come back from Chicago having met another guy. If that happened, I knew I would be absolutely heartbroken. As I continued to daily pray for her, I happened to realize a past prayer that I had prayed to the Lord that gave me hope. I had prayed that He would show me to who I was to marry, even if it was not His timing. If He was answering that prayer in that way, then I just got a glimpse of the future. I prayed all the more, hoping that my prayer was being answered that way.

As time went on, I continued to do things with Melody’s family here at home while she was away. I viewed her family continually more and more as my family and future in-laws. Also, I would continually hear that her year at Chicago was going to be stretched out to a slightly longer time. As I would hear that, it would make the wait all the harder to see her return. Finally, a year and a half later, God answered my prayers to my favor. Just before Christmas 2006, Melody became the Melody I knew once again when she returned home for Christmas vacation. First, I noticed at church that she started watching me again, something that had not happened in a while. Then, the same night I noticed her watching me at church, she started talking to me again over instant messenger, and we picked right back up where we left off. I tried to see if I could get out of her why it was we could not talk for a year and a half, but all I could get out of her at the time was just that it probably was not the Lord’s will, and that she needed to concentrate on her ministry up there. The very next day, she invited me to a recital where her siblings would be performing. I gladly went, and was very happy to see her light up like headlights switching to high beams when I walked in the door. After I saw that happen, I knew within my heart once and for all that Melody was the person that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. From then on I spent time dreaming up wedding plans and future life with her.

When it came time for Melody to go back, I was saddened. I did not want to give her back up, and I could tell that she did not want to go back to Chicago. It made her leaving even harder to take when Church wound up canceled due to icy weather the day I was going to say goodbye to her. I prayed to the Lord about how I was upset about her leaving and me not getting to tell her goodbye. Once again, the Lord had mercy on both of us, and caused the weather to cancel her flight. Due to several days of icy weather, Melody got to stay an extra 10 days and I got to spend more time with her for which I was quite happy. When it did come time for her to leave, I did get to tell her bye shortly before she left. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways, and freely gives great blessings to His children.

When she got back to Chicago, we kept in touch through email, instant messenger, and internet social utilities. As time went on, it crept up to phone calls too. After one real rough weekend, we decided we needed to talk to each other so badly that we stretched out our occasional short phone call to a 2 hour conversation; because she had just injured herself severely, and some happenings at church had me disturbed and convicted by the Lord. We both just needed to pour out our hearts to each other. After a couple more of these phone calls, the Lord also convicted us that we were getting too involved with one another for the moment, as it was not yet our time to be keeping such close contact in our current lack of relationship. Her parents had not released her to be able to court me, nor had I asked her father. So we determined that we needed to cut way back on the conversation. The only problem was that it was like trying to stop Niagara Falls. We would keep slipping back into conversation. It did help though that just a week after having to stop conversation, Melody came back home to receive treatment for her injuries, so I was able to see and talk to her in person again.

What did not help though was that the same week Melody came home, her dad resigned as our associate pastor at the church, revealing that the Lord had told him that he was to move to another area of ministry. That was something that I had feared for a long time. It was so upsetting to me that for a whole week I felt as though I had been punched repeatedly in the stomach, probably because I had been crying so much about it. It was that upsetting because it meant I would not know when or where I would ever see them again. However, the Lord worked it to His glory. First, He showed me through all this that I had more areas of my life that He did not have control over, and it showed me that I needed to surrender those areas to Him. Also, the Lord worked it out so that several times a week I was able to see Melody and her family while she was here--that would explain the funny peace I had on their last Sunday at our church. I did not know as I told them my goodbyes when or where I would see them again, but I knew I would, and it did--less than a week later. Also, I begged the Lord to let me go with them because when they left the church it no longer felt like home to me, even though I tried to make it feel like home again. Just a few weeks later, God answered that prayer. They started going to Melody’s grandparent’s church that was a good ways off, but had a service schedule that allowed me to go visit them. Soon, it became a weekly thing that I went to that church every Sunday between our services, even when Melody had left for Chicago.

Through the spring of 2007, Melody and I still tried our best to keep out of touch, but were unsuccessful. She returned just before the summer for her brother’s high school graduation, which allowed me to spend time with her again, as well as talk to her just about as much as I wanted. I had the absolute hardest time when she had to go back to Chicago just after the graduation. I had such a wonderful time helping with the graduation setup that I got to do with her and her family, and did not want that to end again. As she left church that Sunday evening before she was to fly back to Chicago, I told her bye, shook her hand, and turned away making a bee-line for the building because I could hardly hold back the tears anymore. I did not want her to see me crying over her.

At the end of August 2007, a very joyful event happened. Melody came home from Chicago for the final time. Our families even got together that very evening to celebrate her return. I knew her return meant that the Lord’s timing was near. The only problem was that I did not know how things were going to turn about as we still had another obstacle in the way. Melody’s parents were not going to allow her to court for another year. In the mean time, Melody and I were able to see each other every Sunday when I would visit their church, and we would get our conversing in at that time. While it was nice to see her once a week to get to talk to her, something was still missing, and not having a relationship was getting harder for both of us. Finally, God worked again and removed obstacles, and, on November 17, 2007, Melody and I were able to start a courtship. That day, her dad took me to the gun range first for us to shoot skeet and for him to show me how good a shot he was in case I do something wrong later on (a running joke we have). After a couple of hours, we quit and went to eat barbecue, where when we were finishing up, he surprised me by asking me what my plans were for Melody. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to get a full, meaningful sentence out of my mouth while also memorizing the tablecloth. In other words, he caught me off guard and scared me half to death. We spent the next couple of hours talking, where he explained to me what courtship was, what his requirements were (and there were a lot of them), and that it was time that night to start it all off.

We practically then left the barbecue restaurant and went straight to our favorite Chinese restaurant, where my family was there waiting to see me ask Melody to enter into courtship with me. I had quickly picked up some flowers and a card to give to her, and hid them with my mother before Melody came in to see what I had. When Robert brings in his family, I can tell Melody knows something is up, but she is not sure what to do about it. We went through the entire meal and barely said a word to each other (where before stopping our conversation was like trying to stop a fast train with a compact car) and also barely touched our food. She was nervous, as was I, plus I had just left from eating barbecue. When we were done picking at our food, and the others were done eating it, I went and got the flowers from my mother, and gave them and the card to Melody, asking her if she would enter into courtship with me. Of course she said yes--I knew there was no chance of another word coming out of her mouth. We then floated out of the restaurant, and she got in my pickup and sat beside me for the first time while in my pickup. I joked with Faith--who was sitting in the back seat as our first chaperon--that she was going to have to tell me how to get back to the house, as I had forgotten. Now, while I did not completely forget how to get to the house, I did almost forget how to use the brakes and nearly rear-ended my parents at the first light. How embarrassing, yet Melody did not notice, thankfully.

That night, I went home with so much on my mind. I was really excited about this, but also scared to death too. The biggest thing was I was not sure how I could meet all of Robert’s requirements. I went to bed and you would have thought sweet dreams would have been the theme for the night, but instead I had nightmares and could hardly sleep. Through all of it the devil tried to feed me lies saying that there was no way I could meet all the requirements, and that I needed to call it all off--that I made a mistake. I woke up that morning distraught. I knew that I had not made a mistake, but I still was not sure what to do. In my Bible reading, God revealed to me how it was all going to work. Psalm 138:7-8 jumped off the page at me, especially where it said, “…The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me, thy mercy O Lord endureth forever, forget not the work of thine own hands.” God told me that it was not up to me to meet all the requirements, but Him, and all I was to do was let Him work. Melody and I are together by the work of His hands, and I know He is not going to forget us and let us falter and not continue His work in us. Obviously, the Lord did perfect that which concerns me, because here I sit 26 days away from marrying Melody, and I do not even remember all the requirements I was to fulfill. The Lord has big plans for us, and I know that the devil wants to stop it, because we are going to bring much glory, praise and attention to the Lord.

The months following were of much joy as I spent time getting to know Melody. We spent much time together praying, studying scripture, traveling, visiting families, bowling with older siblings, taking all the siblings to play miniature golf, getting to spend several holidays or holiday weekends together, cooking together, going to church together, and watching the Lord work in our lives and in those around us. Also, the Lord led me to leave the church where I grew up, and the first Sunday of 2008 I began to attend the church that Melody attended with her family and grandparents, thus answering my prayer to allow me to follow Melody and her family over to the church.

Nearing summer, I decided the time was right, and I asked Melody’s father if he would allow me to ask for Melody’s hand in marriage. He not only agreed, but also voiced his great satisfaction and joy of my deciding I wanted to join his family by marrying his daughter. On July 30, 2008, (Melody’s 21st birthday) I was able to do just that. I had determined I wanted it to be a birthday surprise, so I asked for the day off from work and started planning the proposal. Just as before, the devil was opposed to this and tried to set up many obstacles to keep it from happening. The biggest obstacle was that very week my boss put me in charge of the air conditioning business while he went on vacation. That, coupled with it being summer in Texas, made for an extremely busy week. However, once again the devil failed and the Lord worked it out, bringing to me a former employee who helped with the company so I could get away, and the Lord even stopped the service calls from coming in during the proposal. The Lord turned what looked like impossibility in to a time where things just fell into place. So, I was able to go to the Dallas Arboretum and surprise Melody (who was already there with her family taking pictures) with my presence on her birthday when she thought I was swamped with work and could not get away. After surprising her that way, I then was able to lead her away to a secluded place, give her a beautiful ring that I had purchased for her, and ask her to marry me. Once again, she did not surprise me, as I knew she would say yes. We floated out of the Arboretum, and I took our families back to Fort Worth where we ate at a very nice restaurant for the special occasion celebration.

Since the proposal, we have added planning a wedding, shopping for homes, buying a home, fixing up the home, going to wedding showers, family reunions, and much more to our list of activities we have done together. While scary, it has been fun, and while sometimes stressful, the stress has been overwhelmed with blessing. One of the greatest blessings that the Lord has given Melody and me is that He has bestowed on us the ability to give Him the glory for our relationship. Through our observance of strict courtship principles that help to turn our pre-marital relations away from any physical features (no touching, no holding hands, no hugging, and definitely no kissing till the marriage altar), many have noticed and have seen how it brings glory to God. While temptations make it hard to keep these principles--and they get harder the closer to the day we get--it is such a blessing even today to hear someone tell us what a blessing and example we have been for them, and how they see God in our relationship. Seeing God work in our lives and get the glory is definitely worth the struggle we endure till the wedding day. Now, I am excited that after three and a half long years of waiting, we are now just a few days away from January 3, and finally Melody will be my wife. She definitely is worth it all, and I thank God continually for putting her in my life. I do not know what I did to deserve this wonderful young lady, but I am thankful that God saw fit to bless me with her.

Hope to see y’all all at the wedding.

In Christ


Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Two shall be made One"--the story of how I met Donald

Growing up as a pastor’s daughter always had its interesting side. Part of that meant moving around a lot. So, when at the age of nine, we moved to Ft. Worth, moving was something with which I was familiar. Having resigned his pastorate in Dallas, my Dad decided that we would begin attending South Park Baptist Church there in Ft. Worth.

I have but a vague recollection of walking into that church for the first time, and I’m afraid that it does not include the fact that my future husband was standing at the door, holding it open for my family and I to enter. We attended that church for about a year before my Dad got called to pastor a church in Dallas—so back to Dallas we went.

Two and a half years passed, until I was a young girl of nearly 13. Dad resigned the church in Dallas, and we began searching for another church. The Lord led us back to South Park, where they asked my Dad to teach a Sunday school class, and a year later, asked him to become the Associate Pastor.

Again, I have little recollection of Donald during the first few years of our stay at South Park. I do remember him being the game time leader in AWANA’s, but not much more than that. However, about the time I turned 13, two things happened. First of all, I became friends with Donald’s sister, Maria. And secondly, God enlarged my prayer life.

Doing Him Good

The words echoed through my fourteen year-old mind. I had memorized this passage of Scripture five years prior to this day, but had never thought much of it. But now, at a young ladies’ conference, the verse “She will do [her husband] good, and not evil, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12) came alive to me.

Stunned, I thought, “All the days of my life? All? Not just after I’m married to him? All the days of my life? That means now! But how, Lord?”

“You can pray for him,” whispered a still, small voice.

“Pray for him? But I don’t even know who he is!” I argued.

“That does not matter,” said the voice, “He still needs your prayers.”

My attention returned to the speaker just in time to hear her giving instructions for a private time of prayer. I soon found a quiet corner, and knelt down to pray. “Dear Heavenly Father,” I prayed, “I feel rather funny praying this, but feel as though you have told me to do so. Lord, I don’t know where or who my future husband is. But I pray right now that you would protect him from all harm; that you would make yourself known to him, bind his heart to yours, and make him a godly man of integrity. Lord, please keep him pure and guard

him from the temptations of this world. And Father, could you please show me how I can do him good all the days of my life? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Thus began what became a daily prayer for my future husband. For a time I felt sheepish about praying for him when he was yet unknown to me, but the Lord would never let me go a day without praying for him. I soon came to realize that it did not matter whether I knew who he was, for the Lord knew him, and was just as able to answer my prayers whether I knew him or not. Little did I know that I attended church with him!

Noticing Him

When I was about 16, something strange began happening. My parents began talking a lot about Donald. He would come over to our house to fix our Air Conditioning, and then all I would hear for the rest of the day would be, “Donald is such a nice young man,” etc. Curious why my parents would talk about him so, I began studying Donald. As I did so, I began noticing character qualities that I had always wanted in a husband: gentleness, a servant’s heart, faithfulness, patience, humility, a love for children, and many other qualities.

The more I observed him, the more I noticed these qualities, and I became strangely drawn to him. I began talking to him a lot on Wednesday nights, while waiting for the service to start. He would be standing at the door, opening it for people as they entered the building, and I would come in, and sit down in a chair only a few feet away. Then we would talk for about 15 minutes until the service started. The more I got to know him, the more I admired him.

In January 2005, at age 17, I attended his sister’s birthday party. While at the party, we girls began discussing what age difference we wanted our future husbands to be. I casually remarked that I would marry a man up to 11 years older than me. For some time, people at church had been telling him that the two of us should get together. He, however, would tell them that I was too young for him. However, when he heard my comment, he changed his mind.

June 30, 2005—a day that will forever live in infamy. Donald fell off a ladder while working, and broke his knee. I had gone with my family to Tyler, Texas to visit my grandmother. That evening we were sitting in a Chinese restaurant having dinner, when my Mom’s cell phone rang. It was a man from church calling us to inform us of Donald’s accident. When my Mother relayed the news to us, my heart sank into my stomach.

Along with this sinking sensation came a sense of confusion. “Why,” I asked myself, “Does it trouble you so? He’s just a guy.” However, as I pondered the question, I realized that to me he wasn’t “just a guy,” but a guy that I “liked” very much.

A few days later, we celebrated the 4th of July with Donald and his family. During that day, I noticed something else new and strange about myself. I noticed every single time that Donald got up from a chair to try to get something, and would get upset if he tried to do it without his crutches. During the ensuing days, I kept a “hawk’s eye” on him, and would “lecture” him if I thought he was doing more than he should. Apparently he noticed this, and decided then that I was the girl for him.

July 14, 2005—another day that will forever live in infamy. My sister Faith had a birthday party on this day, and Donald and Maria were invited. During the course of conversation, I remarked to Donald that I appreciated some comments he had made in our Sunday School class the previous Sunday, and that he had said exactly what I was thinking on the subject.

When he heard that, he looked at me and said, “Well, maybe you’re the girl God wants me to marry then.” I blinked and stared at him, and then burst out laughing—something I usually do when I’m nervous, and don’t know what to say. He began laughing too, and then we changed the subject and “forgot” it.

Two days later, I had a conversation with Maria, during which she told me that Donald “liked” me, and I admitted that I returned the “liking.” For the next three or four weeks, Donald and I spent a lot of time talking with each other, and I quickly grew to admire him more than ever. So much so, that I decided that he was the one I would want to marry someday.

During the first week of August, I attended a Regional Conference for the Advanced Training Institute. While at that conference, two significant things happened. While in a session for young ladies, I heard a speaker (Mrs. Speed) talk about surrendering your “love life” to the Lord, and asking Him to take desires you have for marriage, and put them “to sleep” until His proper timing.

Everything I heard rang true in my heart, as I knew that the desires I had for marriage at that time were not in God’s timing. So, at the close of the session, I bowed my head and prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, I want to surrender my love life to you. Can you please take these desires I have for marriage, and put me to sleep to all such desires until I’ve met the one you have for me to marry, and until it is your perfect timing? Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.” Almost instantly, those feelings and desires I had had disappeared—almost as suddenly as if someone had turned off a flowing faucet.

The second significant thing that happened during that conference, was that the Director of the ATI department at the Institute in Basic Life Principles’ Headquarters asked me to come work in their department. Having just graduated high school, and having a great interest in children and writing, the job opening they had for working with the homeschooling curriculum sounded like a perfect fit for me. After praying about it, I accepted the position, and left for Chicago on September 11 at the age of 18.

Up until the time I left, I had no communication with Donald, and avoided him whenever I saw him at church. Since God had put my desires for marriage to rest, I no longer had any feelings for him of that kind, so I basically gave him the “cold shoulder.” Over a year passed by on swift wings. The Lord during this time was taking this young girl, and stretching her—causing her to grow into a woman. During this time, Donald remained in Texas, trying not to give up all hope that I would one day return his feelings for me.

December arrived, and I knew I would be going home in a few short days for Christmas vacation. One day, a thought struck my brain, “I can’t wait to go home and see Donald.” Shocked that I had thought such a thing, I thought, “Whoa there…where did that thought come from? I haven’t even thought of him nor heard from him in the last several months.” Confused, I put the thought behind me. However, as the days continued, and I came closer to going home, I thought more and more of Donald. “Lord, what are you doing to me?” I questioned. “I thought I asked you to put me to sleep, but all these thoughts and desires are coming back to me. Please put me to sleep again!”

But no amount of praying for the Lord to remove those desires seemed to help, and I came home anxious to see Donald. Upon my first Sunday home, however, I was shocked, and even a little hurt to see that he seemed to be avoiding me. I tried my best to talk to him, but every time I headed his way, he would go the opposite direction. I thought, “Wow, you blew it Melody. You avoided him so well in the past, that now he probably dislikes you.”

A few days later, I saw a tagline he had on Skype (an instant messenger program), saying something to the effect that we needed to keep Christ in CHRISTmas. I greatly appreciated the tagline, and sent him a message to that effect (which action, I later learned, gave him hope again). Then, a few days later, three of my siblings had a violin recital, and I invited Donald to attend.

As I sat at the back of the room waiting for the recital to start, I kept an eye out for Donald. To my great joy, he came right before it began. Upon seeing him, my face (as Donald tells me) lit up like a car going from parking lights to the high beams. I was so happy that he had come, and thanked him profusely. After that evening, our conversational barrier was removed, and we once again began talking like old friends—just making no reference to the year’s silence on my end.

January came, and I returned to Chicago, singing in my head, “I left my heart, in Ft. Worth Texas,” for I realized that I wanted to stay and begin courting Donald. However, I also had a commitment and a fierce loyalty to my job in Chicago. During the next month, Donald and I corresponded quite a bit over email. After a few weeks of this, I realized that my heart was more attracted to Donald than ever, and I began feeling guilty.

I felt guilty because I knew that we did not have my Dad’s permission to correspond. And, I did not want to ask him for permission, because I felt that he would say “no,” as he had told me often that while in ministry was not the right time for me to pursue a relationship. So, I felt that to correspond with Donald was to be courting him behind my Dad’s back.

This guilt weighed on me for a few weeks, but I kept pushing it aside. Then, on February 18, while walking home that evening, I slipped on a patch of ice, and fell to the ground. Gasping for breath, I lay there a while on the snowy road, and then slowly got up and headed home. The next day, I was a little sore, but was able to cope. That evening, the guilt began pressing on me more than usual. So I decided to pray. “Lord, I know this isn’t right, and that we need to stop. However, I don’t want to be the one to tell Donald about it. Can you please work in his heart, and cause him to talk to me about it?”

The next morning, I awakened with considerable back pain—some of the most intense pain in my life, yet I still went to work. Upon arriving at work, I found I had an email from Donald saying that he was feeling guilty, and was wondering whether he had done anything wrong. My heart sank into my stomach, for I knew that something had to be done.

By that afternoon, the pain in my back had grown to such intensity that it felt like I had knives stabbing me in my lower back. A dear friend and co-worker took me to the chiropractor, where he took x-rays, and informed me that I had a slipped disc on my third lumbar, a sprained back, and severe whiplash. The doctor adjusted me, had me lie on a table, and put heat pads across my back. As I lay there, I had time to think, and realized that I needed to answer Donald’s email, and tell him that I felt guilty also—and tell him why. I began crying. How in the world was I ever going to tell him? How I reproached myself for ever letting this happen in the first place! After all, I was the one who knew courtship procedures, having been raised with them—he, however, knew nothing about it save what he had heard from me.

After leaving the chiropractor’s office, I insisted that my friend take me back to my office so that I could write that email. I wrote that email, even though I was literally writhing in pain. Then, despite my pain, I insisted on walking home—I just needed some fresh, cold air to clear my head, I said.

I cried the whole way home. The combination of bodily pain and mental distress was too much for me. Nearly to my house, I was startled by my phone ringing, and looked to find that Donald was calling me. I stifled my crying, and answered the phone with dread in my heart. “He’s gotten the email, and is probably upset…what do I say to him?” However, he was just calling to see how my chiropractor visit had gone, and to make sure that I was doing alright, so our conversation was brief and to the point.

My physical condition continued to grow worse, so much so that I no longer went to work, but stayed at home with ice packs on my back. Not liking the fact that their “baby girl” was suffering away from home, my parents had me flown home within a week of my accident. During my three weeks stay at home, the Lord showed me in two ways that it was His will for Donald and me to be together.

First of all, He showed me through my parents. While at home, I told my parents how I felt about Donald. And, to my surprise, I discovered that they felt that it was the Lord’s will for us to court, and someday get married. However, they felt that the timing was not right at that time, and that we should wait at least another year.

Secondly, He gave me an answer to prayer. Back in January, as I had once again felt attracted to Donald, and realized that he was the one I wanted to marry, my heart and my head began arguing. My heart said that he was the one, but my head said that it would never work. I knew that Donald listened to music that I had convictions against, and knew that I could never marry a man who listened to the wrong kind of music. Finally, after arguing with myself about it, I decided to pray about it instead. “Lord,” I prayed, “If this man is the one you want me to marry, then I pray that you would work in his heart and change his music standards. I will not say anything to him on the subject—I want it to be solely your work.” And this I prayed every day for the next two months.

So, while at home recuperating, I got to see Donald at church. One Sunday, he asked me whether I had anything on the subject of godly music that he could read. I said yes, and he informed me that for the last two months, the Lord had been working in his heart, and he felt it was time to change his music standards. Two months later (in June), he took all his music CDs, and smashed them with a sledge hammer. When he did this, I felt the Lord saying, “Melody, Donald is the one I want you to marry. See? Have I not clearly shown you this?”

But, being a doubting Gideon—or Thomas—I was not totally convinced. So, on June 24, 2007, I went on a hour long prayer walk around the Headquarters campus. “Lord,” I prayed, “if this is the man you would have me to marry, then can you clearly open the door wide? But if this is not your will, please slam the door in my face. I want no part of it.” This I prayed repeatedly, until I felt a peace and an assurance that God had heard my prayer. Desiring more time with God, I returned to my apartment, and opened my Bible. It fell open to Revelation 3, so I decided to begin reading there. When I got down to verses 7 and 8, my eyes widened.

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”

“Jesus is He that opens and closes doors! Well good, that’s what I’ve been asking Him to do! And it says here, that the door is open…” Thus ran my thoughts. As I continued to reread these verses, peace stole into my heart, and I heard the Still, Small voice saying to me, “Melody, I am He that opens and closes doors. I can open doors that seem impossible. And Melody, I have set before you an open door that no man can shut. You have learned that without me you can do nothing, and you have sought me in this matter. Melody, the door is open.”

Later that evening, I shared my answered prayer with my parents, and was astonished when my Dad informed me that they had known since I was 14 that I would marry Donald someday. Stunned, I once again heard the Lord say, “See, my child? The door is open.” My Dad then went on to say, “Melody, it’s not a matter of IF you marry Donald, but WHEN. It’s not a question of IF, but a question of the right timing.” He then explained that he and my mother thought that the right timing for a courtship would be when I was 21, but that if I felt differently, then I needed to pray for God to change his heart.

Two more months passed, and at the end of August, I moved back home from Chicago. I had finished the work the Lord had called me to do, and now He wanted me home. I eventually settled back into home life, and began practicing for some upcoming music exams. However, always at the back of my mind was the fact that I desperately wanted to court Donald.

Earnestly I prayed that it would all happen according to God’s timing, and that His will would be done. Yet, I clung to my timing, and longed for a courtship to begin. Seeing Donald every Sunday did not help matters either. The more I saw him, the more I wanted a courtship. At the end of September, I had two dear friends (Chloe and Lauren) from Headquarters come to stay with me for a while. Towards the end of their visit, on October 3, I had a special sharing and prayer time with Chloe.

Chloe had sensed my desires, and I discussed them at great length with her. I explained that I did not want to wait another ten months to begin courting, and that I would like to begin then. However, being a firstborn, I did not want to let my parents down by telling them that I thought differently, and therefore was determined to abide by their wishes even if it hurt. So, after talking a good deal with Chloe, we decided to pray.

We sat down on the guest bed, and began praying. Within minutes, we both slid to our knees. The presence of God was overwhelming, and I felt that I had to get on my knees before Him. Tears began streaming down my face. I once again told God what I wanted, and prayed that He would answer it. Then, Chloe began praying. As she prayed, the Lord spoke to me. “Melody, you keep telling me what you want, and keep praying that I’ll answer your prayer. But have you ever placed this desire on the altar and said, ‘Let thy will be done’?” Shame swept over me. Imagine me—little me!—telling Almighty God what I wanted!

Chloe stopped praying, and I began once again. “Lord, I place this whole matter in your hands. Donald is yours—Dad is yours. I place them and my future on your altar. May your will be done. And Lord, I would like to ask that you would give me a chance to speak with my Dad about this whole issue. But can you cause him to be the one to initiate the conversation? Thank you, Lord. And once again, thy will be done.”

The next day, I read Ps. 34. “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…This poor [girl] cried, and the LORD heard [her], and saved [her] out of all [her] troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the [girl] that trusteth in him.” These verses, and others like them jumped out at me. I felt as if the Lord was assuring me that He had heard my prayer and would answer it. Peace and joy took control of my heart.

Three days later, my world turned upside down: God answered my prayer—He allowed me to start crying about something petty in front of my dad! Now this did not seem like my answer to prayer at the time, but upon questioning the cause of my crying, dad soon realized that a deeper issue was bothering me. Thus, he took me out to a park for several hours so that we could talk undisturbed. Once there, everything came out—everything I had held pent up inside me for months—including my tears. After hearing my desires, Dad decided that it wasn’t wise to make me wait any longer. In his words, “I can see that while your body may be with us, your heart and mind are in a different place. So, I think it’s time to get the ball rolling.” Thus, after months of praying that God would change my heart or change my dad’s heart in this situation, the Lord answered my prayer and moved the “king’s heart” in my favor.

I was stunned! To think that God had actually answered my prayer the way I so desperately longed for Him to answer it! I couldn’t help but pinch myself, wondering if it was really true. I guess that part of me believed that God’s will would be to do things as my parents saw it at the time—because to do so would be the most sacrificial and self-denying on my part…and after all, we all know that God’s will always involves sacrificing our own happiness, right? Or so I thought…Oh me of little faith!

By believing this, I failed to believe Christ’s words as absolute truth. He said that the Father loves to give good gifts to His children…that if we abide in Him, He will do whatever we ask in His name…and all this simply because He loves us! I had heard, read, and memorized these verses…yet had never taken them to heart. But I am Christ’s daughter. Why then was I so surprised that He would actually give me the answer to my prayer for which I so longed?

A few weeks later, my Dad arranged to spend a Saturday with Donald, with the intention of talking to him about me. The day came—November 17, and I was a nervous wreck. So many things could happen that day… I might be courting by the end of it. Yet, at the same time, maybe Donald didn’t feel the same way about me. After all, I’d only heard that he liked me from his sister, and he had never said so himself, but had always acted like the perfect gentleman towards me.

Well, Dad and Donald went out, and were gone for hours. I didn’t eat a single thing the entire day. Finally, around five that evening, Dad arrived back home—without Donald. Dad went into his office, and called me. I went in, and he shut the door. He then proceeded to tell me that he had talked with Donald, and that we were now free to begin a courtship. Apparently, after spending time with Donald at the gun range, he had taken him to lunch. Once they had sat down with their food, Dad looked Donald in the eyes, and said, “So, what are your intentions towards my daughter?” And they talked from there, with the end result that Dad granted him permission to court me.

After telling me this, Dad informed me that we were meeting Donald and his family at a restaurant to celebrate the beginning of our courtship. Once we got to the restaurant, and went inside, I discovered (to my pleasure) that I was to sit across from Donald. As the meal progressed, however, I became somewhat confused. Donald wasn’t saying a single word about our courtship. So, I followed his example, and didn’t say anything either. Towards the end of our meal, Dad asked for my camera, saying that we needed to take a picture to commemorate this event. I handed him the camera, and he started taking pictures.

Then, while I was still looking at the camera, I heard Donald’s voice saying, “Melody, will you enter into a courtship with me?” I gasped, and looked up to see Donald standing there with a dozen red roses in his hand. I smiled, and said, “Yes.” As we left the restaurant that evening, Dad told me that I could ride in the car with Donald, and sent my sister Faith along as chaperone. We were both so dazed that we had trouble remembering how to get to my house from the restaurant, and were glad my sister was along.

Thus began an incredible eight month courtship. During our courtship, we had many Bible studies together, in which we both grew closer to each other and to the Lord. Our courtship included many fun activities, such as going to see the Nutcracker Suite, family Christmas gatherings, dinners with families, Putt Putt, bowling, trips to see extended family, and many other things. But my favorite activity during this time was simply to be with him. It didn’t matter what we did, as long as I was with him, I was happy.

Throughout the months, I grew to love Donald very much, and knew without a doubt that He was the one God had for me. God blessed me so much with a wonderful courtship filled with His gifts—a courtship that has left no regrets, but only treasured memories.

The Engagement

Now, we come to my favorite part of our story: the proposal! On my 21st birthday—July 30, 2008—my family and I went to the Dallas Arboretum under the guise of Dad wanting to take pictures of his daughters (who had gotten all dressed up for the occasion). Well, after a couple of hours of taking pictures in the suffocating heat, we were all tired, hot, sweaty, and thirsty. So, we headed over to a Mansion on the grounds to get a drink, and then go for a tour of the Mansion. After getting our drink from a water fountain, we all sat down on benches in front of the mansion to wait for the next available tour. While we sat there, I looked up, and found to my amazement that Donald was walking towards me. I had been under the impression that I would probably not get to see him that day, as he was going to have to work.

Well, he walked up and said, "Happy Birthday," and then asked me if I was surprised. I assured him that I was. He then informed me that his mother and sister were also with him, which news I was very glad to hear. After they had joined the rest of us, we all headed over to an area where Dad could take some more pictures of us. Once Donald and I had posed, Dad told us that there was a gazebo somewhere ahead in which he wanted to take pictures of us, and asked the two of us to go find it, saying that he would join us after he was done taking pictures of the rest of the family. So, doing as we were told, the two of us went searching for a gazebo. After a while, we found one, but discovered that a wedding party was using it for their picture taking. We then searched for another one, but to no avail. Finally, Donald suggested that we just find a nice, shady area and sit down and wait for the others to join us.

Once we found a spot meeting both our approval, we sat down. After sitting down, he handed me a birthday card, and asked me if I would read it out loud. Towards the end of a somewhat lengthy "letter" that he had written in the card, it said "I once again wish you a very Happy Birthday, which I suspect truly will be one of your best birthdays ever when you look up at me and see the gift I have for you." I looked up, and discovered that he was getting on his knee. I knew then for a fact that what I had begun suspecting halfway through the card was actually happening--he was going to propose to me! Donald was holding a ring in his hand, and was saying, "Melody, I love you, and cannot imagine a life spent without you. Will you marry me?" I replied, "I love you too. Yes, I'll marry you." Then, after the removal of the courtship/purity ring given to me by my Dad on my 12th birthday, Donald took my hand for the first time (and last time until our wedding day) and slipped a beautiful engagement ring onto my finger. Once the family had joined us, and more pictures were taken, we all went to a restaurant to have dinner and not only celebrate mine and Harmony's birthdays, but to also celebrate the wondrous goodness of God as portrayed in mine and Donald's relationship.

I am so very happy and am incredibly at peace, knowing that I am in the center of God's will. God has been so good--so wondrously, overwhelmingly good to me. I love Donald very much, and cannot wait to be his wife. Throughout our courtship and engagement, we have not had any physical contact with one another.

While this has taken a great amount of self control on both our parts, we both believe that it will be worth it in the end—or, should I say the beginning?

The first time that we hold hands, hug, or kiss will be on our wedding day at the marriage altar. In saving all physical contact for marriage, our courtship and engagement have had a purity seldom seen in the world’s relationships as we have had an opportunity to make the Lord the center of our relationship. I praise the Lord for giving me a man with a commitment to purity before marriage. I praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works done for me. All glory, honor, praise, and dominion be unto His matchless name!