Year 1: We lived on Kirkwood Street in a garden-level apartment in Fort Collins near Edora Park. The apartments had an underground raquetball court, where Mike taught me to play. Our bedroom window faced a large field of trees. In the apartment above us lived two emotional college girls who liked to scream and cry at 4 a.m.
Mike was in his senior year of college, getting degrees in Philosophy and English. I had just returned from Amsterdam, and was working at a software company for oil and gas companies as a "Router." This meant I used a computer program to "draw" the routes of pipelines, using satellite imagery, old survey maps, and math. Quite a job for an English major. I was in an angry-at-church phase, so we stayed away a bit, but went to Travis and Sarah's small group with other wonderful people such as the Eggs.
I was conflicted, as many newly married women are, that I was going to lose my identity and that my whole being would be swallowed by Van-ness. Most of our fights centered around our insecurities and as yet fragile trust.
Year 2: We moved to the Preserve apartments on College and Horsetooth. Shannan and Jen lived nearby. Mike was a super senior, graduating in December. Then he got a job as a jewelry salesman at Soho in Old Town, while waiting to hear back from grad schools. Although I had resigned myself to a life of irrelevant and ill-suited jobs, I got a job as a copy editor at Group Publishing in Loveland and adored that I got paid to read and edit.
We continued to be shy at church, but went through two marriage studies with the Swans 'en Eggers. At this time, I also went slightly koo koo. I had gained weight when we got married, then lost it and kept going. The frustration at my body's refusal to be a size 2 resulted in me being not the most fun roommate to live with.
Year 3 and 4: A great change happened. we decided to leave Fort Collins, where I had lived 9 years and where all my friends lived. We moved to Longmont, so Mike could do his Masters in Philosophy in Boulder to the south of Longmont, while I worked at Group in Loveland, to the north of Longmont. We lived in a loft apartment across from the Boulder Country Fairgrounds.
I took a walk many mornings to the nearby park with a view of Longs Peak. We would walk to the Farmers Market on Saturdays at the Fairgrounds. We discovered La Fromagerie cheese shop, Red Mountain Meadery, Martinis restaurant, and a CSA farm. We learned that we love food (including Glacier Ice Cream in Boulder). We hiked in Boulder Canyon. We walked at the lakes in Hygiene, which remains for me the most beautiful spot in the country. We defined who we were as people and as a couple.
I got an idea that I might want to write books. I had wanted this since I was 8, but opportunities presented themselves at Group. I was promoted to editor of women's ministry books. I proposed a book to my boss. She loved it. I wrote Party Divas. I had such fun cooking and writing and marveling in the fact that I got to write.
We went to Rocky Mountain Community Church, in beautiful Niwot. We made wonderful friends like Adam and Tara. But after finishing his Masters, Mike and I once again were at a decision point.
Year 5: We decided to move to Colorado Springs. I had by this time gotten my 2nd book deal, to write Hope Lives, which subsequently got me a job at Compassion. We had decided against Mike getting his doctorate, and instead looking for a job in publishing in the Springs. We moved to Bella Springs apartments north of Compassion.
These first years were hard. I missed northern Colorado, my friends, and familiarity. Mike found freelance writing and editing jobs here and there, but nothing permanent. I missed Group and my old job. As months turned to years, we felt lost and hopeless. It was a dark time.
Year 6: Our dark time continued, but light began to break halfway through. I had begun to love my job and get to travel and freelance write. But more importantly, our dark time had sharpened our characters to the point that we learned that happiness doesn't come from circumstances. God was gracious and allowed me to change my attitude to become a loving, supporting wife unconditionally, rather than a worried, discontent wife.
Though we were still unstable, we decided to take a step of faith and buy a home. Put down roots after 6 years of wandering. This was a big step for my wandering heart. At the same time, we finally found a church after much searching. We began to build relationships. Mike began to build out our home. Though he didn't have a full-time job, he was ridiculously industrious, and we now have new floors, a new kitchen, and a new bathroom to show for it.
After years of feeling forgotten and abandoned by God, I started to feel loved and comforted again through the truth of the Psalms. Mike and I started to feel more bonded together than we ever had, coming triumphant out of a situation that could have torn us apart.
Year 7: Our banner year. Mike continued to be my live-in home contractor. Our burned hearts also felt enough hope to begin to dream again. We always were dreamers; our marriage vows included supporting one another's "dreams," one vow we have both upheld. In job searching, nothing had worked. Despite the fact that Mike is the smartest man I know. Despite the fact that Mike is the hardest working man I know. So, as many do in a time of recession, we began to consider creating jobs for ourselves.
It seemed a bit crazy at the time: We thought, "We love ice cream. We don't love Colorado Springs' ice cream. Maybe we could open a store." A string of unlikely events followed. The man in Boulder who founded Glacier took a liking to Mike and offered him an exceptional deal on a store license. The man who owns University Village and his realtor took a liking to Mike and offered him an exceptional deal on an exceptional property. And finally, an individual amazingly offered us the large loan we needed to open the store.
The stresses and difficulties of opening a store were nothing to unemployment. I was able to use the lessons we'd learned to support Mike, not freak him out with worry.
Now: Now here we are at the beginning of our eighth year. We don't know what will come next, but after it all, what I do know is I have the most loving, wonderful husband on the planet, and a gracious and good God.