I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace, not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.
Melissa Grace Russell, 20
Down on my knees for two hours in prayer and the Lord won’t answer me! He’ll answer everything but the big question: SHOULD I MARRY J.P.? His proposal was so sweet.
We were on my porch last night, in the brisk, bone-chilling cold. I was bundled in my big winter jacket and the thickest blanket I could find from within the house. I wore the yarn hat my mother knitted for me last month. She knew the winter would be harsh on my petite frame. The only important winter attire I lacked was a warm pair of gloves. But it was okay because J.P. held my hand in his underneath the blanket. If daddy had seen us doing that, he would have flipped and nearly cause himself another heart attack.
Daddy scared me beyond terror last year when he had one. He dropped me off at work the morning he had a heart attack. I knew something wasn’t right with him, but I couldn’t put my finger on what. Mama called me, after I had been at work for an hour or so, and said daddy was in the hospital. He didn’t have a major heart attack, but it wasn’t any less serious. I thanked God he didn’t take daddy home, but he did get daddy to stop smoking… for a few months. I’d rather have daddy smoking cigarettes than marijuana like he used to when I was little. I’m even more relieved he quit drinking when I was in middle school. He thought he wasn’t a drunk, but he was. I don’t have to think of that anymore. Christ has delivered him from those days and washed all his sin away.
Jodi was giving mama a hard time going to bed. Daddy had gone inside to deal with the situation. That left J.P. and me alone. I could tell by the look in his dark, brown eyes he had something to say, but he was nervous. While he worked up some courage, I told him how much I love the starry night sky. Gazing at the stars, I feel like I’m face to face with God. It’s weird to think that way, but that’s the way I feel. He snickered at my comment. I felt completely insulted and I was infuriated with him, but he saved himself by saying, “That is so you… the woman I love.”
Talk about making a girl’s heart gush from the rush of goosebumps that form on the surface of her skin. Boy, J.P. knows how to make my heart sing love and how to make my mind lust. We’ve never had any form of sex. Five times we’ve come close to breaking our purity vows, but we knew it wouldn’t be right. That having premarital sex of any kind, was not God’s plan for our life.
I said to him, “Well, sweet words like that make you the man I love.”
Shock sparked in his eyes. If my mind recalls properly, last night was the first time I said I loved him. I’ve been in love with him since I could remember, but for whatever reason, I was afraid to tell him.
Like courage finally took root in him, he ripped the blanket off us. The chiller winter seeped through any skin the coolness could find, especially my fingers, and J.P. was holding onto them in his rough ranch hands. He scooted closer to be on the swinging bench and he curled me in one arm. He took my hand in his other. He blew on my hand to warm it up. Then he let go of me to hold my hand in his two hands.
When he started playing the little piggy game I thought the cold froze his brain! Wiggling my thumb he said, “This little piggy was cold, so she went inside to get some hot coco.”
I giggled. I wanted to go inside for hot coco.
Wiggling my pointer finger he said, “This little piggy was so cold, she went inside to grab an extra coat.”
He wasn’t doing a very good job to keep my mind off the cold.
Wiggling my middle finger he said, “This little piggy was so fired up, after building a snowman, she couldn’t hold all her energy in.” Using my own finger he flipped me off.
I gasped, surprised. I knew he was joking, but how could he. I slapped him, playfully, in the shoulder with my free hand. After our laughter subsided, he continued, and finished the middle-piggy’s story, “So this piggy found a cold place in jail.”
Wiggling my ring finger he said, “Now this little piggy,” he snickered like a little boy with a secret. “This little piggy was cold because she wasn’t wearing any clothes!”
I couldn’t help it. I screeched, afraid my father overheard, but he couldn’t from inside. I just couldn’t believe he said that. I tried to yank my hand free from his grasp, but his gentle grip was too strong.
“But not to worry,” he said to reassure me. “J.P. has something to warm her up forever.”
I should have seen it coming, but I looked at him puzzled. At the moment, I didn’t know what to think. That’s when he put his mother’s ring on my finger. It’s been in the Donahue family since the early 1900s. A beautiful oval shap, with tiny diamonds mounted in a rim around a deep blue sapphire carat, embedded in a band of gold.
I miss Elaine. She had a bubbly spirit. Every time you were near her, she made you feel bubbly. It’s when God takes people like her home, you wonder why? We all prayed heavily for her. The elders of the church even prayed over her on her deathbed, but God took her home anyways.
“Will you marry me, Melissa?” He asked, officially.
We’ve been together for four years. We didn’t even share our first kiss until we were an item for 9 months, plus, it was the first moment we found time away from daddy’s security camera eyes. It was after Wednesday night service and we offered to take out all the trash in the church. It was a gorgeous starry night, and the dumpster reeked, but the moment was so perfect. I had thought about kissing him for some time at that point. He led in first, then I followed, and that first kiss was more than I could imagine. It beat kissing a pillow to practice for that moment. Cat hair didn’t get stuck on my tongue. I didn’t want the moment to end, but if we were gone for more than five minutes, daddy would come looking. The last thing we wanted was him to catch us.
I shouldn’t have even been hesitant to respond. We wouldn’t have stayed together so long if our relationship wasn’t God ordained… I thought… Worry started to pool in his eyes. I panicked. If I said no, he probably would have ended it, and I loved being with him.
I said, “Yes.”
As he hugged me from overwhelming joy, daddy came back on the porch. He commented, “I take it she said yes.”
Of course J.P. would ask daddy for my hand in marriage. I just couldn’t believe daddy said yes. But instantly I questioned myself: Did either of them consult the Lord?
Before I went to bed I prayed. I can’t even remember what I prayed, but I knew it revolved around my recent engagement. Then I had a dream that has me more confused than ever.
Living in Gallup, everyone in high school takes Spanish or Navajo. I know a little Navajo from Makayla. I picked up Spanish from watching Novellas on the Spanish speaking channels. Something inside of me, probably the Lord, said to take French. I automatically fell in love with the language. What would you know, my dream involved French.
It felt so real. It was incredibly hot. I was in a shack made out of makeshift, flimsy trailer material. There was probably a tin roof. I was surrounded by black women. They were wearing those head dresses Muslim women wear; I forgot what those things are called. There was music playing. It sounded like ‘How Great Is Our God’, but it was played on African instruments and it was being sung in French. There was a skinny, old black man speaking. He was wearing a white t-shirt and white pants. He didn’t have any shoes on and his feet were dusty from the dirt floor. He was speaking in French, of course. He was talking about God’s grace and mercy. Through Christ’s death on the cross, God poured out his grace and mercy through Christ’s blood for our redemption. That because of Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life we have been set free.
Some of the women began to cry. Those crying women took off their headdresses. Then the man asked if anyone wanted to invite Christ into their heart, that those who do should come forward. The crying women came forth. Many came towards me and formed a line. I reached out to the first woman coming to me with my left hand, and Elaine’s ring was not on my finger. Before anything else happened, I woke up.
I was even sweating. Since four in the morning, when I woke up, I’ve been praying on my knees. Asking the Lord to reveal to me what that dream meant. All He said was that I was in North Africa preaching the Gospel and that I was alone. In other words, I wasn’t married to J.P. He said that was the reason why I learned French. I asked Him if that meant I wasn’t supposed to marry J.P. now, or if ever, and He didn’t respond.
I know what I have to do, but how can I reject the man I love? There could be all sorts of reasons I’m not wearing the ring. Why would I take an expensive, family heirloom to Africa? Do I want my finger chopped off just so some desperate soul can make a quick buck? And J.P. could have been there too, just not in sight.
God truly is a mystery. Why would He let me fall for J.P. if we were never meant to marry? Okay, I’m not an idiot. We have to follow His will of our own free choosing. He allows us to do things that aren’t in the plan all the time. He knows it’s hard for us to listen.
My knees feel sore and they’re as heavy as rocks from my long prayer session. I use my bed to help lift myself off the ground. Instead of standing, I turn my body so I end up sitting on the bed. My knees need rest before I rely on them to stand.
There’s a knock on my door. I give permission for whoever it is to enter. I should have known that whoever is daddy.
He leans against a side of my bedroom doorway. He holds his flip phone open like someone is on the other line. Pointing at his phone he says, “Glenn is on the phone.”
What does Lauren’s dad want?
“Do you and Makayla want to pick Lauren up from the airport this afternoon?” Daddy asks.
Hel− ah− of course, YES! I miss Lauren so much I feel a piece of me is missing. Sure, I still have Makayla, but it’s not the same. When the three of us are together, it’s like we are our own knit family.
“He’s just asking.” Daddy adds.
“Yes, yes, yes! Of course!” I say excitedly.
*Edited by Kristen Wenneborg