Every year, around our anniversary, I plan to write a bit about “us”: looking back on what the year held, what we’re learning, and what “we” looked like in that space. I’m not writing to suggest in any way that we have this marriage thing - or really, anything - figured out. Nor am I writing with the intent to - in any way whatsoever - perpetuate the false/toxic idea that marriage is the most important part of who we are or what it means to be human (read this: you are significant with or without a significant other). Nor am I writing to build any kind of comparison with any partnership that might look different than ours (read this: You do you. No two healthy relationships will ever look the same as each other.). I write here simply as a way to attempt to capture a glimpse of us in this space and time: in all of the complicated mess and beauty and goodness and growth of who we are together and who we are becoming.
We got married on a warm August Sunday at the small church on the corner of Prince Edward and 43rd against the backdrop of an orange-hued wildfire sky. We ate and laughed and danced and held back the happiest of gratitude-filled tears on Granville Island, as our hearts overflowed with joy, surrounded by so many dear family and friends, thinking all day long - even as I keenly wished that my Dad could be a participant in all of it - that I’d be hard pressed to find a day more profoundly sacred, joy-filled, or full-to-the-brim with goodness. The next day, with my Jeep packed full with our bikes, camping gear, and all the belongings I hadn't sent ahead with movers to Edmonton, we headed east, my heart faced with the bittersweet transition of trading the place I love the most for being in the same place as the person I now love the most (and even more than that beloved West Coast city).
We bought paint at Home Depot on our way into Edmonton because Nick knew how much I despised the dominant brown wall in the apartment we would make our space together and he knew that if it was going to become our home, even temporarily, we needed to paint over it. We picked out a deep blue and didn’t even sleep a single night in that 3rd floor apartment before a indigo-hued navy covered over the evidence of that horrible milk-chocolate brown. We popped champagne and ate cheesecake from Remedy and marveled at the fact that this apartment that Nick used to fill with roommates was now ours. Our first space in the world together.
The first year is excitement and newness and joy. It’s unknown - and increasingly familiar - sacred space. It's change and transition. Where I became “we”, woven intricately together, the unfolding mystery of belonging to each other in the deepest and fullest ways that we can belong anywhere.
This was the first year of pulling our mattress out into the living room and sleeping under the Christmas tree or in our case, beside our endearingly lop-sided goodwill tree. The first year of birthdays where we got to wake up next to each other. The first year of making training plans and meal plans and travel plans and summer plans - and laughing at the differences of how much I love lists and planning and how much Nick does not. It was the first year of the unfolding of the most ordinary of moments together: with each other and for each other.
The first year of seeing - really tangibly - the ways that our personalities collectively make us better and also where they make us see the world in completely different ways. Where my 2w1 drive and resolve and energy matches with his 9w1 empathy, patience, and laid-back charm. Revelling - often with laughter and a bit of bemusement - in the reality that you can so fully love someone you don’t fully understand.
We found our way back to home in a Northern prairie city that neither of us call home over and over, wrestling through our discontentment and restlessness, trying not to count down the days to life post-graduation, but finding ourselves drawn there frequently anyway. We made it through a bitterly cold and long winter, slogging out the short and dark days, wishing endlessly for the reprieve of spring. Alberta winters have a way of making you think that warmth and light may never return, but it did - and with the thawing of the air and ground, came new resolve and new energy and countless hours spent biking, walking, and running through the trail network of the River Valley.
We talked and prayed and wrestled and dreamed together a lot this year: asking ourselves who we want to be, bravely speaking of the callings and stirrings we feel and cannot shake deep in our souls, and exploring how we want to engage with the world together. Nick listened as I (over and over and over) expressed fears of getting stuck and not living into the things I feel I was meant to be/do. I listened as Nick expressed the mind-numbing weight and pressure of dental school and the lack of vision it, sadly, inspired. We talked through jobs and jam-packed graduate school schedules that felt uninspiring and wrestled with how to find joy amidst a routine that demanded much and gave us little in return.
But amidst the restlessness, we found our way to home in each other: carving space and rhythms and time together, a haven in the midst of the transitory season. We became the safest space to be real, to be seen, and to be loved without condition.
This year taught us that ordinary is holy - even when the ordinary feels uninspiring and exhausting - and that we're on this journey of a long obedience in the same direction together. It showed us (again) that spiritual maturity and growth is found in steadiness and faithfulness, even when those things can feel meaningless or far removed from the big-picture goals of where we aspire to be. It showed us that these routines we’re carving and making, even in the busyness and monotony are the very spaces where life and goodness unfolds. Jesus met us there: in the adventure, in the sacred ordinary, in the exhaustion, and in the days we ran over to Whyte Ave in the evening to grab ice cream just because we could.
We sold Nick's trusted, but increasingly rusty white Ford F-150 (the only car he’s ever owned) and used the money we got from it to see the Wilson and the Seahawks play Mahomes and the Chiefs at CenturyLink, a worthwhile trade in every way. We watched the entirely of the seven seasons of Parks and Recreation and binge watched Jack Ryan, became pros at making breakfast for dinner, went heli-white-water rafting on the thrilling Class IV Kicking Horse, and found immense solace and joy in slow mornings with endless cups of coffee.
We spent time with each other's families - now our families, learning what it means to be our own family and yet fully part of our (geographically spread out) families too, aiming to pull the best of those legacies forward even as we make our own path that doesn't look fully like any that’s been walked before us.
We escaped to the mountains as often as we could, because it's there where we both feel the most alive and like we can breathe differently. We skied and snowshoed and hiked and camped, watched larches turn bright yellow, and chased the beauty of blue-sky fresh-snow days, all with a backdrop of our beloved Coastal Mountains and Rocky mountain peaks. (Someday I'll catch up to Nick skiing, but this year wasn't (yet) that year.)
This was the year the Raps won the NBA title. 2019 will always be marked by heart-rates racing watching games in our apartment with Ashley or with Peter & Nancy and Chandler in Vancouver and the jumping-up-and-down euphoria of pulling off the win and bringing the Larry-O-B to the north. We watched our Canucks and Flames and rode the emotional wave of loyal fandom and being married to an avid fan of a rival franchise, often laughing (although empathetically) at the other's hope and misery. Nick's Flames had a better than expected regular season and led the west going into the playoffs, but fell-apart in the first round and I revelled in the skill - and hopeful promise! - of Elias Petersson's Calder-winning rookie season. We talked and strategized a lot about our fantasy hockey and football teams and seasons. And in a surprising string of "Rookie luck" in Nick's first season of following EPL and cheering for a (real) football team, his newly chosen, but already deeply loved, team, Liverpool, pulled off the Champions League title.
We traveled to Iceland and Norway: mesmerized for weeks by waterfalls and lava fields, by towering mountains and wind-swept terrain, by northern coastlines and stunning fjords. There is a wildness and epicness to Iceland that few - if any - places touch, and we revelled in the freeing and soul-enlivening space of feeling small and removed from anything even closely resembling hustle or hurriedness. We spent time with beloved friends in a hut deep in the mountains of Norway and watched the sky turn a thousand shades of pink as the sun set over the seemingly endless expanse of snow and peaks, letting those two weeks wash over us with needed reprieve and a revived sense of purpose.
We wrestled through questions of how to reconcile our faith in the person and work of Jesus with the cultural/political enterprise that so often misrepresents Him, sometimes even grossly so. We wrestled through our involvement in the local church, disrupted by a new place of living and not finding our footing in community and not even sure what "starting over" in that regard (even if for a little while) looks like. We wrestled through the spaces of economic and racial privilege that we occupy and chose to - even falteringly - keep unpacking bias and privilege with the hopes that we might better make space for the voices and presence of those systemically sidelined or overlooked. We made space for the wrestling and the questions, holding tight to the very few (if only) things we know without question: Jesus and each other.
And in that space we made some major decisions too. I started a graduate diploma at UBC and later accepted a new job that would shift the trajectory of my career exactly towards the space I've always wanted and felt compelled to work, and we weighed what that might mean for Nick's career. We sat in the tension and sacrifice of making space for two vocations - equally - and realized that here too there are few easy answers and no such thing as an easy-to-follow road-map. We bravely held on to the mystery of speaking out our individual strengths, gifts, and dreams, even as we sought to prioritize the strengths, gifts, and dreams of the other, realizing that this will be the very space we come back to again and again and again as we build a life together.
We swam and biked and ran a lot - often together and also apart. Nick finished his first Ironman and I my first 70.3, and we held the tension of the joy of Nick pulling off a strong season and steady training and the disappointment of health issues, limitation, and weakness for me. Sometimes training rides looked like strong rides together and sometimes they looked like Nick hugging me on the beach after an open-water swim while I cried about being so frustrated with being sick. And in that too we learned the mystery of holding space for each other - celebrating and crying in overlapping spaces, feeling both empowered and proud and frustrated and afraid all at the same time.
Maybe that's the truest and best description of marriage: the act of bravely holding space for each other, being fully alive in celebration and mourning and wrestling and unknown with and for each other, and the mystery of being with and for each other even as we may occupy different heart, head, or even physical spaces.
It's a mystery, this love. Filled with wonder and weight. Sustained, not in our own strength, but in the Love that loved us first and that shows us what love looks like. And this love? In all its sweetness, its unknown, and its demands that we be all-in in all of the ways, is absolutely amongst the best part(s) of who we are and who we are becoming.
(One year in, NJT. I can’t wait for a hundred more.)