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.

But 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


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 having sex 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?"

", I didn't even think you liked 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.