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


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