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.