One year ago today, we stepped into a whirlwind

It was just before 11 am. The call to head to our staff meeting had been given. And then I got a text. “Got time for a call?” It said. Suddenly, my heart started racing. We’d been waiting for word on my work visa. And waiting. And waiting.

Would I get it? Would we starting an exciting new adventure? Was America actually in our future, or was it not going to happen at all?

“Yep.” I responded.

A moment later, the phone rang.

“You’re in. Pick your start date and let’s get you down here.”

And at that moment, I stepped into a whirlwind. We sat the kids down that night to let them know. One was elated. One burst into tears. One didn’t really care so long as his Avengers poster came along. I wrote my official resignation letter. I wrapped up all my outstanding work to the best of my ability. We made sure everyone had up-to-date passports. We hopped on a plane, looked at several apartments, and applied at one.We didn’t find out we’d been approved until moments before our flight back to Toronto had to take off. We experienced the spectacle of the 4th of July for the first time. On July 5th we were able to officially announce the news in a very “us” way.

About six weeks after receiving that text, we were here in Tennessee.

To some degree, I still feel like I’m in the whirlwind. Although the process started much sooner (a year prior, in fact), there are some things you can never truly prepare for until you’ve experienced them. There are decisions you can look back on only in hindsight. On top of that, I’ve been hard at work learning the responsibilities and demands of my job (which I love, for the record). I’ve never been more anxious in my entire life learning an entire new culture and way of living, while simultaneously being the most satisfied professionally I’ve ever been.

This kind of stuff is not for the faint of heart, y’all.

The day I got the call was also the day before our tenth wedding anniversary. Tomorrow is our eleventh. This last year of our marriage has been among the hardest since our first. It’s also been, I think, the best. From the moment I told her the news, she was ready to go. She listened to me freak out over paperwork, and calmed me down when my anxiety left me a mess in our room. We prayed together and cried together and laughed together. Whatever was happening, good or bad, she was right there with me.

When I stepped into the whirlwind, she did, too. And I can’t imagine doing this without her.


Your wedding is a door to step through

A photo from our wedding in 2006

Today is Emily’s and my tenth wedding anniversary. Yes, she really has put up with my shenanigans for 10 years. And good news: we still really like one another!

Some of you may know the story of our road to the altar: we started dating in college, moved in together during that time, got engaged in a spectacularly unromantic way around Christmas in 2002, bought a house in 2004, and became Christians a few months later. And things went kind of nuts because we had some choices to make about our relationship.

We started thinking and talking about the ifs and whens around getting married. We started talking about when to have children, and what we wanted in a wedding, and all this kind of stuff. We went through a great deal of counselling during that time, together and separately. And there’s one piece of advice we received in our premarital counselling that still sticks with me to this day—a simple reminder of what a wedding really is.

The wedding is not the point; it is a door to step through into marriage. 

A group shot from our wedding 10 years ago. Don't we look so young?

That’s something I’ve tried to keep in mind every day since. Our wedding day was fantastic, even if there are some things I’d probably do differently if I could. (Like maybe using a few more traditional songs, though I will stand by “No Sissies” until the end of my days.) It was a day that was full of laughter, and great food, and conversations. But it wasn’t the point. It wasn’t our destination. It was the beginning of our journey, a redefinition of Emily’s and my relationship. One that has gone through so many twists and turns over the years that have allowed us to actually live out our vows.

We’ve lived “in sickness and in health”, with epilepsy and miscarriages and the general ups and downs of health. We’ve lived “for richer or poorer”, having spent many years below Canada’s poverty line because we chose to prioritize Emily’s role as a mother ahead of her career. We’ve lived “for better or for worse”, dealing with fights, depression, and lots and lots of laughter.

And in all of it, we’ve seen that God is good.

All of the time.

Our family in 2015

We don’t know what’s coming next for us. We never do, really. As we’ve journeyed together over these last ten years, I’m grateful Emily has been the one walking alongside me.

Nine things we’re glad we’ve learned in our marriage (so far)


Today is Emily’s and my wedding anniversary. Our road to the altar was a long and complicated one, involving college romance, abandoning a religion/cult, living together, getting “engaged”, buying a house, spiritual attack, and being rescued by Jesus (in that order).

I (Aaron) still remember the day we both became Christians, and our first question to one another was, “Now what?” We knew that being Christians meant our lives were going to be thrown into chaos. We just didn’t expect everything that was thrown at us in the time leading up to our wedding (and beyond). So today, we thought we’d share a few things we are glad we know now that are also glad we found out along the way:

1. What it’s like to be a part of an exclusive club (that no one wants to join). When we lost our second child (a miscarriage between Abigail and Hannah), we were initiated into a club no one really wants to be a part of: couples who’ve experienced a miscarriage. We had no idea how common it is, and how many people grieve in silence. Though we (obviously) love all our children greatly, and we wouldn’t trade the family we do have for anything, there’s a part of us that wonders what it would have been like to meet our little “almost”, instead of only seeing him or her in a blurry ultrasound. Lord willing, we’ll get to do that in the new creation.

2. What it means to be married and Christian. Yeah, I know this is one of those controversial subjects. But learning how to relate to one another as Christians, as an engaged couple, as a married couple, and then again as parents of young children… we were kind of flying by the seat of our pants on all that. We’d not seen examples of a Christian marriage (Emily’s parents aren’t Christians and mine are divorced, so I’d never even really seen a stable family unit until I met them). And there were a lot of things that we had to learn the hard way. This usually involved me saying something stupid, realizing I was wrong, and asking Emily to forgive me.

3. Being on the bleeding edge of parenthood can be kind of lonely. We intentionally left the barn door open when we got married, having the conviction that we wanted to have children right away. And we did. Unfortunately, we also had people doing the math in their heads (or on their fingers) when we told them we were expecting Abigail. “Oh, so you got married in…”

I (Emily) also had two people ask if it was planned. I also had to let some dreams die during our early years as parents. Because so many of our friends got married around the same time, I had this assumption that all of us would be having children on the same timeline, like I saw the people 5-10 years older than us in our church had done. I was looking forward to “doing life together” and having those friendships remain really close. But my friends did not do those things, and are only now having their first or second children (with their oldest being a bit younger than Hudson).

So, I had to go and make my own friends (which I did).

We love being able to spend more time with some of these friends now, and it’s a privilege to share from where we are in our journey as parents, but sometimes it’s easy to get a bit jealous when everyone else is having the shared experience.

4. Nothing good happens after 2 am. This is advice I (Emily) was given by my cousin, and it’s true. After a certain point in the evening, you’ve got nothing positive to say to one another. So just go to sleep.

5. Sex is a good gift, but a lousy god. We heard a lot of sermons (via podcast) and read a lot of books all telling us that Christian marriages should be filled with free, fun and frequent sexual intimacy. More and more, I (Aaron) wonder how many of the pastors writing such things perhaps were revealing a bit too much about what was (or wasn’t) going on in their own lives. There’ve been plenty of seasons over the last nine years where “frequent” would not be the appropriate modifier to use in our relationship, whether due to illness, babies, or exhaustion. I’m glad we don’t define the health of our relationship by this one measure because, honestly, there are much more important things to be concerned about.

6. Set the ground rules before you start. Going into marriage knowing that divorce is off the table is liberating for us. Neither of us have one foot out the door, and so it’s not a threat or a concern. We’ve seen far too much heartache in other people’s lives—particularly with those who have been divorced—and that makes us want to work harder on the things that matter most.

7. Shared convictions matter, but can’t be forced. No question: shared convictions on theological issues really, really matter. A lot. But having shared convictions is not something anyone can mandate. I can’t say to Emily, “You will be in agreement with me on XYZ.” And not just because if I did, I’d be declared the one jerk who rules them all. Instead, what we’ve found is our convictions have aligned, but usually it takes some time.

8. Don’t press. I (Aaron) am still learning this one. And I’m usually pretty awful at it. But I’m trying to learn that if Emily says she’s not ready to talk about something, she’s really not ready to talk about something. So saying, “Well, what’s the issue?” and trying to cajole it out of her is usually a terrible idea.

9. That marriage really is different. Anyone who tells you that living together is no different from being married is either a. Never been married; b. an idiot; or c. a liar. Living together is a distortion of marriage; a cheap imitation that falls apart too easily. Marriage is different. It is harder, but it is better. If I could do it again, I (Aaron) would have gladly waited until we were married for us to live together.