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!