Friday, October 31, 2014

the next chapters.

The End.


Just kidding.

Thirty one days is over but really our story is just beginning in some ways. There is still so much more to unfold. Some days I can get discouraged about dreams on our hearts that are still sitting there. But was reminded again about how God loves a good story. It is exciting to see what chapters are still being written.



I am glad to walk through this life with this man. My husband, my adventure partner, my dreamer, my encourager... my best friend.



I leave you with lyrics from a cheesy country song. What I love is the last line...living our love song. I pray we could continue to chase our dreams and our love's still growing strong till we are old and gray.


So many things have come
So many things have gone
One thing that's stayed the same
Is our love's still growing strong

Baby just look at us
All this time and we're still in love
Something like this just don't exisit
Between a backwoods boy and a fairy tale princess

People said it would never work out
But living our dreams has shattered all doubts
It feels good to prove them wrong
Just living our love song.

~Jason Michael Carroll


Thursday, October 30, 2014

the island.


We moved to New Bern knowing no one but our realtor. (Mark's brother and his family and a couple other families would eventually follow). It was a crazy step of faith. But it was also an exciting adventure.
My biggest concern with moving there was that Mark find a job. Moving down there we thought there was a possible job but things didn't pan out exactly as we hoped. There was a three month period were Mark was job hunting. It was stressful at times but looking back also a gift to for our family to spend a lot of time together.
One day when we were both feeling a bit discouraged and wondering what we were doing in life we decided to go to a local BBQ joint. We really didnt' have money to be spending to go out to eat but it felt like we all needed to get out of the house. It was late afternoon and we all got our BBQ sandwiches, fried chicken, sweet tea and hush puppies and sat down in a booth. This was real Southern cooking at its finest. As we were eating we noticed two African American women sitting at the table next to us smiling and looking our direction.
We started a conversation with them about the children and then about how we had just moved here. The one woman looked at Mark and said,
 "We have been sitting here since 1:30 and The Lord wouldn't let me leave. And now I know why. I am supposed to tell you, you are right where you are supposed to be. "

We lived in New Bern for six months and then moved 45 minutes away to Emerald Isle which is on a barrier island at the tip of the Southern Outer Banks. We lived 3/4 of a mile from the beach and right off of the sound. Mark found a job working as a manger at a restaurant called RuckerJohn's.

It was not all glamorous but looking back it was a very sweet season of life. 
It was a sabbatical. It was time of restoration and healing. It was a time to establish who we were as a family. Sometimes you don't know why you are doing something until after you have done it. Hindsight is always twenty twenty as the saying goes.
And looking back it really was a pivotal time for us a family and for our marriage. We really grew closer as a couple and spent a lot of family time together riding bikes, playing on the beach, and going for hikes. Also a perk of working at the restaurant was we got to eat there for free once a week which was always a highlight of our weeks.
I often think that everyone should experience a season like that in their marriage where they are away from family and friends and home because it really does push you closer to one another and gives you a different viewpoint.










Emerald Isle will always hold a sweet spot in our hearts for the year we spent there. Some days it kind of feels like a dream. But it was real and I am thankful we followed God on the adventure.
After  a year of living there we felt God drawing our hearts back home. We felt torn because we really loved North Carolina ( i mean you can't beat the weather and the landscape) but felt like He had something for us back in Lancaster. The adventure of following God would continue.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

will you go with this man, again.


The morning after we had heard the words "North Carolina" during our prayer time, Mark had a breakfast meeting with one of his coaching clients. While at the restaurant Mark felt like God gave him a word for a couple sitting a few booths over so he went over to talk to them. They ended up being from North Carolina. They were from Greenville, North Carolina to be exact. After talking with them Mark looked at the map of North Carolina and began to do research on a little town near Greenville named New Bern and how it was settled by the Swiss and the history intrigued him.  The Buckwalter's had come from Switzerland to Pennsylvania in the early 1700's and we had been to Switzerland several times.  He knew there were very few towns on the East Coast that had been founded by Swiss settlers.   The more he read the more he felt drawn to go visit.

The following weekend we made a trip down to visit. We invited Mark's twin brother Matt and his family along as well as another family to come with us. It was a crazy adventure and we really were not sure what the heck we were doing. We went to visit with the idea of checking out if this was some place we were supposed to move to.
I was struggling with this whole crazy idea even though I had felt like God was saying something about North Carolina. It all seemed a bit out there but I agreed to go along, after all it was not like we were really going to move there. We drove eight hours through the night in a caravan and the closer we got the more we both started to panic a little. We were in the middle of Eastern North Carolina with nothing but fields and ramshackle houses and businesses with names like "Big Truck Tires" and "East Carolina Coon Hunters Association" we thought "what are we doing?"  "Have we just lead 17 people on a wild goose chase?"
A few minutes later our outlook would change.

We pulled into New Bern a beautiful little town surrounded by the Nuese and the Trent Rivers as the sun came up. We both began to feel in our spirits that maybe there was really something to this whole journey.
But it was still a struggle. Mark tends to get the vision and see where we are going. Sometimes it takes me longer. When I was on the land there I felt some excitement but still the idea of packing up our family of five and moving where we knew absolutely no one away from our family and friends seemed completely terrifying. Then there was a matter of finding a job and a house.  It felt overwhelming!

We visited New Bern in the middle of April. After two more trips back and forth and lots of praying and late nights talking it out we decided to make the move. I was starting to feel more peace that this was the right decision.
But it was still a time of wrestling with the Lord for me. There was a lot of tension with our families about the decision and it felt like I was being pulled in lots of directions. But when it came down to it I felt like a part of us moving had to do with me trusting Mark to lead our family and again saying to the Lord,
"yes I will go with this man".













Tuesday, October 28, 2014

we weren't crazy

After 8 short months of dating we said "I do" on a September afternoon in a grassy meadow on my parent's farm. By the time September 14th came we were ready to spend the rest of our lives together. We had been on a roller coaster over the impending months and had been tested in our love and commitment to one another. Through the trials and the issues that surfaced we grew stronger in our love.


Our wedding was a beautiful day followed by an almost two week honeymoon where we toured the east coast going from the Poconos to Niagara Falls to Connecticut, Boston and eventually Vermont.
When we came back from our travels we settled down in the small little house on my parent's farm. But our hearts were for the city of Lancaster and for community. After six months we moved into an apartment in the city and began living in intentional community, discipling and ministering to young people. We loved it and felt like we were living out our calling and destiny.  We have lots of good memories from those first two years in our little apartment on Lime Street with many small group gatherings, late night discussions on our couches and shared meals together.
 Our lives were full and continued to move fast. We bought our first house. We had three children three and under. We helped build a House of Prayer. We started a consulting business that ministered to Christian business owners.
The days were long and intense sometimes. Mark was away from home a lot. I was a stay at home mom with three littles. We were living on a very limited income which at times was a struggle for us and our marriage.  But in the midst of some struggle it was also a beautiful time of building relationships, receiving generosity, growing our family and learning a lot in a very short time.

Then came 2006 and 2007. Mark's coaching business was struggling. We hit some unexpected things in ministry. Our finances were lacking. There were some strained relationships. And we felt like everything in our lives was being uprooted. We were not sure what God was up to or which end was up anymore. Both Mark and I took turns being depressed and trying to pull each other out. It was a hard season of life.
One night after we tucked the kids into bed we sat in the living room praying together. We were asking God for clarity for our lives.  Mark began to ask God if we were supposed to move away from Pennsylvania. As we prayed I heard in my spirit "North Carolina". "Thats' weird" I thought, "I have no desire to move away from family and friends. I am not sharing that with Mark." 
A few moments later Mark asked me what I was thinking about and I eventually broke down and shared. He confided that he too had heard the exact same thing.
We talked and dreamed about it for about 15 minutes, then flushed it.
It was too crazy to be God...

Monday, October 27, 2014

the struggle is part of the story

Okay so the whole 31 days of writing every day thing is not going so well. I started out strong but am kind of flailing here at the end. 
Truth is last week I wrote a few posts and a couple in my head but did not publish them. I kind of hit a wall in our story. Sometimes it is hard to write it all out. It is taking the time to sort through the emotions, facts and memories. And sometimes in writing the story I start to relive those tense moments all over again and it is hard to figure out how to put them into words.
Last week I got tired. I also kind of started to feel like "who cares" about the story. Is any one even reading this? What's the point?
But after a few days of not writing. I am remembering what the point is. 
It is our story
 And sometimes the struggle is part of the story. I want to keep writing even if it is just for our children to know the story of their parents. 
And I think a lot of it is for me. In writing our story I remember where we came from, who we are and where we are going.


So I will keep on writing...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

the most important thing

A couple years ago we went to hear Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne's pretzels and her husband Jonas share. It was a good evening of listening to a couple who have walked through the trenches of marriage. One line in particular that Anne shared jumped out to me then and I was reminded of it again recently. It went something like this, 

"When looking for someone to marry the most important thing to remember is this: find someone who loves God more than he loves you."

I have found this to be true. I remember even in the beginning of our marriage being frustrated because I wanted to be the center of Mark's universe. But we can't be everything to each other. We will disappoint each other. We need God!
God is love. We need Him to love...
God will be the glue that holds our marriages together!




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

my curly haired boy.

Okay let's be honest for a moment about ideals. I think most of us have them. Since we were little girls we dream about our wedding day and our prince charming who is going to come and sweep us off our feet. We build these pictures up in our minds that sometimes look very different than reality.

I remember in high school having the assignment of making a list of qualities we were looking for in a spouse. On my list included things like 'loves God' and 'listens to country music', you know the vitals. I also had a secret list in my head that included him being tall dark and handsome with curly hair and guitar skills so he could sing and write me love songs. I think the curly hair criteria came from my crush on Fred Savage from the "Wonder Years" which we watched faithfully every week as a family. God in his sense of humor gave me a bald headed guy who used to have curly hair as a child. I think He was chuckling about that one. And as far as the guitar goes...Mark doesn't exactly do much pickin' but he does sing classic country songs to me when we drive. Which I love by the way!

Some of the things on my list were good things I needed to hold onto and other things were simply ideals that no one was every going to live up to. And its funny I wanted the "perfect guy" not taking into account that (gasp) i.am.not.perfect. 
Ideals and expectations come up a lot in relationships. We see this in the premarital counseling we do and also in our own marriage. We both come with different ways of thinking and doing things and its learning to work together. Which at times can be messy and challenging. But also beautiful too.

It is funny how when we first got together I really struggled with my ideal fairy tale. There was a lot of ways that Mark was exactly what I hoped for but there was still unrealistic expectations on my part of what it was all going to look like.
Today I find that Mark is my ideal man. He brings out the best in me. He makes me feel beautiful.  I love his rugged good looks. He draws me closer to the Lord.
I am thankful for my bald headed man with a goatee who sings to me old country songs and takes me on motorcyle rides and pushes me out of my comfort zone.  I love that we are both changing and growing on the journey. And along the way becoming more and more the ideal one for each other.




Monday, October 20, 2014

restart.


This weekend Mark and I got away just the two of us for three whole days. We went to the Poconos where we spent the first 2 days of our honeymoon 12 years ago. We couldn't remember the last time we did this for a whole weekend without other people so I think it's been a long time, as in years. It was so good to just to be Mark and Heather. I felt young and beautiful and free. I felt like a lover not like the mom of five kids. We laughed hard and ate well and had fun together. We rode the motorcycle together and visited little towns. We spent time dreaming about the future. I could also see our present lives with new eyes when I wasn't smack dab in the midst of it.

It felt like a restart... like a second honeymoon.

Times like that are so good for our marriage, for my soul and my sanity.

Sometimes it is hard to come back to the daily grind...
But I want to stay in that place of remembering who we are,where we came from, and where we are going.
It really is a good story.




Saturday, October 18, 2014

how sweet it is to be loved by you.

Writing this story out at times has been harder than I anticpated as it can take me back to the intensity of how I felt during those days. The extreme highs of being in love and the extreme lows of being unengaged. Also Mark and I have different perspectives at times and we can start to relive that tension again while retelling the story.
Sometimes it is hard to go back because the "us" I know now is different from the "us" I knew then. Our love now is deeper, stronger, more passionate. It has been seasoned and tested with time and come out better for it.

I always tell people that our love story was kind of upside down. I knew I was going to marry Mark, then I got engaged, then I fell in love, then I got married, then we became best friends.  I remember that moment in mid July 2002 when I knew for sure deep down in my heart that this was indeed the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  It was well past our engagement and we were on an airplane flying to Florida together and I could feel myself falling for him in a whole new way. I was falling in love.

Today Mark is my best friend. I see how perfectly matched and paired we really are.  We laugh more than ever together. He really is a funny guy. He helps me not take myself or life so seriously when I can tend to be uptight. 
I love that are love just keeps getting better. That is really one of the best parts of marriage...that it just keeps getting sweeter with time.

Our life is not always a fairy tale. We fight, yell and want to throw things at one another sometimes.  We can bring out the best and the worst in each other.  We can both be stubborn and strong willed. At times we say things we regret but at the end of the day there is really no one else I want to do life with.

There is something about living life with someone who sees the ugly, the imperfect, the crazy and still loves me. And still chooses me. 

Marriage at its best is a little picture of God's love for me and it kind of blows me away. 








Friday, October 17, 2014

the horse.

After a long and intense week Heather and I (Mark) were able to work through things. It had been hard to just wait and pray but Heather again felt that we were supposed to be together.  I was happy - and relieved.  With the pressure and intensity of that time behind us we simply spent time together enjoying each other.  While I was convinced that she was the one I kind of felt like a large bridge that had been shaken but undamaged during an earthquake.

After a few weeks we both felt like it was time to get engaged again.  I knew that Philly was the place.  I asked Heather where we were going when I picked her up and she said, "Philadelphia keeps coming to mind."  We got engaged a stones throw from the Liberty Bell and celebrated that night with my brother and his wife.  This was going to happen!

The next few months were full.  Heather graduated from college and we continued to minister together.  We traveled a lot that summer preaching and teaching at various camps and churches.  In July we traveled to New York City to be part of a large gathering of young people known as the call.  We worked closely with a two teams that week to prepare for the event.  As we went through the week I kept battling control issues.  As someone who hated what I perceived to be controlling leaders this was somewhat humbling:)  None the less these issues continued to arise.  Near the end of the week I asked the team for help.  I wanted to get to the bottom of whatever it was that God was after.  As we prayed one of the girls on our team started asking questions about our first engagement.  "Did you get down on one knee when you proposed?" she asked.  No was the answer.  Heather and I had been worshipping together and I simply slipped the ring on her finger.  As we continued to pray and talk it seemed like God was making plain what he was after.  There was something about our engagement that needed to be made right.  So, there in the middle of Flushing Meadow Park in Queens in front of our friends I pulled out my journal and read to Heather what God had spoken to me in January.  This time I got down on one knee and I proposed to her.  She said yes as the camera's clicked and I put the ring back on her finger.  We were now engaged for a fourth and final time.


It was an intense week in New York but good. The Event was a success and we met up with friends of ours who were working in Queens that summer to debrief before we headed back to Lancaster.  We gathered around the table at International House of Pancakes and talked as we ate breakfast.  One of our friends asked about our week.  I told them about some of it and then shared how we had gotten engaged for a fourth time.  It suddenly got quiet and her jaw dropped.  "Do you remember my dream?" she asked.

This friend frequently had dreams so I wasn't sure which one she was talking about.  "Remember, I told you about this dream before you and Heather got together.  There was a large event going on like the Super Bowl and this famous pastor was there.  (the event that we were at that week was very similar to what she described - thousands and thousands of people and the same pastor had been there)  There was this big event going on and there was a horse there.  The horse was going out to get engaged.  It had to go out a fourth time because the first 3 times it had trouble bending it's knee!"

I sat there stunned.  I felt like God was saying loud and clear: Don't doubt for a second that I planned all of this - not just the parts that felt good. I may not have chosen to include 4 engagements in my version of a perfect love story, but, God had.  This remains one of my favorite parts of our story.  
As we packed up and headed from New York back to Lancaster I was again overwhelmed by God's love for us and his commitment to tell a good story. 




Thursday, October 16, 2014

birthday.

It's my birthday. I am thirty six. Wow. That sounds a lot older than 35 for some reason. A little bit closer to 40. Eeek.
Writing out the story has me reflecting on 12 years ago on my birthday. I was 23 turning 24. I had just been on the craziest nine months of my life up until that point. We had been married a month and it was both good and hard at the same time. A week later after my birthday I would flush the birth control pills and get pregnant with our first child. Yikes. I was just getting used to being married and now I was going to be a mother?

 I was on a crazy journey of identity and transition. 


It has been a wild ride at times over the past 12 years. Sometimes I look at pictures from the early 2000's and dont' like who I see. She is a different person than who I am today. But I need to give her and myself grace because she has helped me to get where I am today.


I feel like I am kind of in another season of identity. God is teaching me more of who the real Heather is. I am learning to become comfortable in my own skin. I am learning to be okay with how God has wired me. I am stepping out into new things and liking it. 

I am excited to see what 36 brings.

my excited face. riding rides with eden at dutch wonderland ;)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

two becoming one.

During the week of confusion and turmoil Mark and I talked very little. Up until this point our relationship was kind of fairy taleish in how we knew we were going to get married from the very first date. But there was some doubts underneath the surface that now came bubbling up and out. And it was not pretty. I said some mean and hurtful things to him that week. I let loose every doubt and fear and question that I had.
I was half expecting him to run. But he stayed calm and listened to me. And prayed. And that spoke volumes to my heart. He saw the ugly come out and he didn't waiver.

There were things that we both needed to work through but we decided that we wanted to do it together. So even though the ring was off we continued to move forward. It felt a little shaky at first but I believe our relationship was stronger because of some of the things we worked through.


Dating in some ways was everything I hoped for. We would spend hours talking till all hours of the night. We both felt like we could not get enough of each other. This must be love!!
Dating also seemed to expose things in each others hearts and there always seemed to be some issue we were working through. This was frustrating at times. I thought I was a good Christian. Why was all this stuff coming up? I thought dating and engagement was supposed to be all lovey dovey and sometimes this just plain out feels hard. Again my expectations seemed to keep getting in the way. Ways that I expected him to act kept bringing disappointment and frustration. We were learning a lot very quickly about communication and ideals and expectations.
Looking back now I see it so clearly. It was two becoming one. It is not always a smooth and easy process. We counsel a lot of young couples and see it all the time. The messy stuff that can come up. That doesn't mean it is wrong. Marriage is sanctifying. It has it's way of exposing stuff in our hearts. This could be frustrating at times but also beautiful because as we worked thought the tough stuff that came up we just kept falling more in love with each other through it.

"Love it is a rock" Shawn Mullins sings, "smoothed over by a stream."
We want love to be stable and immovable, like a rock. Steady and sure. But the stream part is another matter. Some force constantly washing over us, smoothing our rough edges. We don't much go in for that. But let's face it--we've all got a good bit of smoothing over to do. For this wonderful process, God gives us...each other.
Marriage is the rushing stream God uses to shape us into more loving people"
.

-excerpt from "Love and War" by John and Stasi Elderidge





Monday, October 13, 2014

the surrender.

So, Heather and I were dating.  This was awesome.  I had believed that this girl was the one for the past nine months and now we were living it out.  I was flying high.  I told the story every chance that I had and loved watching the looks on peoples faces as I explained how God brought us together.

After a few weeks I felt like it was time to get engaged.  I knew where it was supposed to happen and I couldn't wait.  As I prayed I saw a clear picture in my mind.  We drove to Baltimore Inner Harbor and turned on some random back alley ways. As I looked up I saw the image of the harbor that I had seen when I was praying. I slipped the ring on Heather's finger and we were engaged.  It was a Valentine's day for the ages.

The next day I flew to Chicago for a conference.  It was amazing to me how many times and different ways God had supernaturally confirmed our relationship.  I was overwhelmed. I was also about to find out why.  

As I sat on the runway preparing for takeoff I talked to Heather on the phone.  I could tell something was wrong.  She seemed suspicious of me and of our story.  It didn't feel great but I figured I would pray and she would let go of her fears and it would be fine.  By the time I arrived in Chicago everything had changed.  As we spoke that night I realized that she had taken off the ring. Trying not to be crushed  I simply told her I loved her and hung up the phone.  I walked around the suburban Chicago hotel in the rain praying and surrendering the relationship to God again.  I didn't feel like I had missed it or that we had been out of order but I also knew there was nothing that I could do. 

I flew home that Sunday and realized as I landed that my brother Matt was flying home to Harrisburg from Florida at the same time I was.  We met each other at the airport and prayed together.  I went to meet with Heather while my brother headed to an engagement party for us.  A party that we would not attend.

That night we got engaged again.  This time in Millersville.  The next morning I woke up at my brothers house.  We both felt like we should spend time praying for Heather when we woke up.  So we prayed.  A few minutes later the phone rang.  It was Heather.  The ring was off again.  Brokenhearted I suggested that we take the week and pray about things and discern what was going on.  This was hard.  I continued to surrender things.  There were things that I felt like I should apologize for so I would call Heather and repent.  Meanwhile she seemed cold and indifferent towards me.  
A good friend called and asked me how my weekend had been.  "Great," I said.  "I got engaged on Friday."  
"Congratualtions!" he responded.
 "Yeah - I'm not engaged right now" I said dying a slow humiliating death inside.  "she took off the ring."

 Through this time I surrendered our relationship again.  I wanted to make sure that I was hearing what God wanted me to learn through this.  While I knew that He was doing things in both of us I still felt like she was the one.  I just wasn't sure if it was going to happen or not.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

the ring.

Three weeks after we started dating Mark brought me roses and invited me to go to Baltimore for the evening with him. We went to inner harbor and sat overlooking the water. He asked me to marry him and slipped a ring on my finger. It fit perfectly.
I was engaged.




I went home and told my parents the happy news.
And they. were. not. happy.

Let me preface this with saying,  I am the oldest daughter. I was the straight A student who aimed to please. I was the good girl. This was out of character. I had only been dating this guy for three weeks!
My parents started to freak out and I started to freak out.
The next morning I took the ring off.

(p.s. as a parent now i can see things in a bit different of light. we were young and passionate and moving fast.)

Mark was away on a trip and he came back to find the ring off. We got together and went for a drive and ended up putting the ring back on.
But when I came back home I took the ring back off later that night.

I was a mess. I felt confused and torn.

I spent the next week in a fog of confusion. There was a lot at play. There was the quickness of everything that was happening. There was the tension with my parents. There was the God stuff that seemed to be pointing towards Mark. But there was also fear and doubts mingled in.
I had a lot of ideals and expectations on how I thought everything was going to look. I had dreamed about this my whole life so if it doesn't look exactly how I thought it would does that mean it is wrong?
I felt so confused. I took a week off of work, hardly ate and spent a lot of alone time in my room wrestling and trying to sort out this mess that felt like my life.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Will you go with this man?

 Mark and I got together on a Friday afternoon and shared and prayed together. He too had a crazy God experience the exact night at the exact time I did. We were amazed at the hand of the Lord bringing us together.We had both prayed for a God love story but were blown away as we watched Him write it on our lives.
Towards the end of our time together I could tell Mark was wrestling with something and he asked me to pray for him.
I started to pray for him and immediately got the sense that he might ask me to marry him and for some crazy reason I felt like I would say yes. While he didn't ask me outright to marry him he read from his journal what the Lord had been speaking to him about us getting married and walking in covenant together. It was an intense time where we both felt God's presence. We prayed and looked at each other knowing we were going to be husband and wife someday. 

I felt so much peace that afternoon praying and talking with Mark and was amazed at how God was drawing our hearts together. Yet I went home that evening and started freaking out internally. Most of my interactions with Mark up until this point had been in ministry settings. I had heard his testimony and seen him pray for people but I didn't really know him. I wasn't even exactly sure how old he was! I started to panic. We had basically said to each other that afternoon that we were going to get married and I don't really know him! I mean, what does he do for fun? What's his favorite color? What if we like different things? Oh my! 



The next evening my roommate invited me along to hear a speaker at a local church. The entire message was on the story of Issac and Rebekah. The speaker talked about how Abraham had sent his servant to look for a wife for his son Issac. He stopped at the well and prayed for God to show him which one was the right one for Issac. He asked for a sign. Before he was even was done praying he saw Rebekah and she fulfilled the sign he had been praying for. She was then asked "Will you go with this man?" She said yes even though Issac was a complete stranger. She made a decision to leave her family and the life she knew to follow this man who she didn't know at all. And in one day her whole life was changed. The speaker's entire sermon was based on this line "Will you go with this man?"

 I was sitting in my seat shaking. Here was a familiar bible story and all of a sudden I felt like I was living out my own real life version. 


And I felt God whisper to my heart "Will you go with this man, Mark?" Even if you don't know him that well, will you go with him".

And I whispered back, "Yes".



Friday, October 10, 2014

the green light.

So I (Mark) waited.  And and I did my best to be patient.  Some days it seemed we connected so well.  There was something about her that was unmistakably right. She's the one.  Then the next time I saw her she would turn her back to me while I was telling a story to a group of friends and just walk away.

 I remember going on youth group retreat with Heather and her roomates.  We were there to share with the kids and lead worship and love on them.  It was mostly awesome.  The kids went through powerful experiences with God.  I got along great with Heather's roommates.  We talked and laughed together and life was good.  Then there was Heather.  It seemed like the only time that we talked that weekend she was apologizing.  While I was talking to her friends - she was walking away.  All weekend two specific thoughts kept running through my mind.  "She's too spiritual for you"  and "she hates you."   By the end of the weekend I was pretty sure that those things were true and that there was no future for us.  I woke up Monday morning determined that she was no longer the one and that I had simply been attracted to a pretty girl and dreamed the whole thing up.  Later that day I got an email.  "Mark, I'm sorry for the way that I was acting towards you this weekend.  I just kept believing these two lies about you all weekend.  1 - that you were too spiritual for me and 2 - that you hated me."  I couldn't believe what I was reading.  While I wasn't sure exactly what it meant, I was pretty sure that it meant something.  So I decided to keep watching and waiting.

Finally in January I got the green light.  As we sat in my car in a mostly deserted strip mall parking lot I shared the journey of the last 9 months with her.  I shared how sometimes I was  convinced that there was something going on and other times I was sure that I was completely dreaming the whole thing up.  I put everything out there and then I looked at her.  "I'm sure you sensed some attraction or felt like something was going on?"

"Yeah...no, I didn't even think you liked me...at all" she answered.

And then we sat there in akward silence.  This woman that I desperately wanted to spend my life with sat there and stared blankly back at me, sharing nothing of what was going on inside her heart.
After what seemed like a forever she shared that these things were connecting with her heart and we agreed to spend the next week praying about whether or not we should begin a relationship.

In the course of your life there are a few days, moments and feelings that stand out.  Winning a big game in little league or high school.  Waking up on Christmas morning and being filled with anticipation and getting the bike you were dreaming of.  This night my drive home was the best of all of those nights combined.  It was January but the sunroof was open as I blasted the radio and allowed my heart to believe that I hadn't dreamed up this whole love story.  "This is really happening!" I thought.  This is actually going to happen.

I got home late that night and fell asleep exhausted from what had been a full weekend even before Heather and I talked.  In the middle of the night I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep.  Frustrated I got out my journal and asked the Lord what was going on.  Immediately a verse was spoken into my mind.  Unsure of what it was I looked it up.  It was a promise.  God began to speak about this promise and I opened up my journal to record what he was saying.  "This woman will be your wife and you will be her husband..." that was how the entry started and for the next hour I wrote down the promises that I heard about our lives being joined together.  Finally after an hour I wrote the last words and fell back asleep asking God to confirm in Heather's heart what he had been speaking to me.

That hour between 2 and 3 oclock on January 21st 2002 amazed me.  I envisioned myself sharing the journal entry with Heather for the first time the day that we got married.  I had no doubt about what God was doing and I was so excited to meet with her on Friday and see if she was hearing the same things.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

take me back to the beginning...

I  love music. It touches and awakens my heart. I also love listening to new music. This afternoon I downloaded the album, "The Undoing" by Steffany Gretzinger and spent some time on the couch just listening.
This song is about marriage and I liked the lyrics.  At the bottom of the page I put a link if you want to listen. 
The song is talking about going back to the beginning of their relationship when love was fresh and new.  Beautiful and inspiring. 
I promise to get back to the story tomorrow...but till then enjoy some music.


Take me back to the beginning
When love was patient, love was kind,
Back to the place we first started
When we weren't so proud to change our minds.
And take me back when love was unselfish
When touch was passionate and sweet
When we weren't just getting what we wanted
But we gave ourselves so willingly
And I love you. I promise I always will.
I love you. I promise I always will.
Take me back to the beginning
When I would look you in the eye.
There was no such thing as a cold shoulder
And we lived within your hands and mine.
And I love you. I promise I always will.
I love you. I promise I always will.
And I chose you. Forever I choose you still.
‘Cause I love you, and I promise I always will.
Before we burn down all our bridges
Let's look on what we've built.
With patience asking for forgiveness*
And watch our love grow deeper still
‘Cause I love you, and I promise I always will.
I love you. I promise I always will.
And I chose you. Forever I choose you still.
‘Cause I love you, and I promise I always will.

Monday, October 6, 2014

wrestling for the blessing

 I will never forget the night he told me he was interested in me. It was nine months after I had first met him. I had just spent the weekend with Mark and two of our friends ministering at a youth group retreat. It had been a great weekend but we were all tired and ready to get home. I was wearing my glasses, old jeans and a well worn sweatshirt. 
During the retreat the Lord had been speaking to me more about how He saw me and things he was calling me to and the ministry team had even spent time praying for my future husband. As I was packing up my car to go home Mark asked if he could talk to me. He proceeded to tell with me that for nine months he had been praying and asking the Lord if I was the one. He explained the whole journey and shared his heart. I just sat there dumbfounded. Something inside clicked as he was sharing yet I couldn't believe he was actually interested in me...


 We decided to take the next week and pray about our relationship. I drove home crying as I realized for the first time in a long time that the Lord really did have good things for me and maybe even my heart's desire. That night I fell asleep and woke up at 2:30 in the morning and felt the Lord saying to lay my hand on my hip and pray. Earlier in the weekend at the retreat my hip had been shaking and hurting as we prayed for my husband. Now I laid my hand on my hip and the story of Jacob wrestling with God came to my mind. I had been wrestling with who I was and what God had for me. 
And I felt these words spoken to my heart, "You have wrestled with God and with man and have overcome. I will change your name. You shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel with means struggled with God and overcome.
One of the guys I had been wrestling with whether or not to be in a relationship with was named Jacob. The Lord was saying that Jacob was not who I was called to be with but he was literally going to give me a new name...a new last name.