Last fall, I wrote about the decisions my long-distance boyfriend and I were making about where we might live once we were married. We got engaged shortly after and decided, once and for all, that Josh would leave Canada to join me in Madison and go back to grad school after our September wedding.
Then we learned, along with the rest of the world, that there is no “once and for all” during a pandemic.
We had a few months of blissful planning. Deposits were paid to a caterer and venue (Ladies Lit Club, how cool is that?). I picked out a dress. We signed a lease for a gorgeous little apartment in Madison within biking distance from my work. We emailed our wedding vendors about tiny details that seemed of utmost importance, like “what’s the difference between your dance floor lighting options?”
Even until a month ago, we held out hope for the wedding and future we envisioned. Thrilled to be staying in my city, I daydreamed about future Madison life: bringing Josh into my friend group and teaching him our favorite board games. Keeping “roommate night” traditions and letting my dog play in Susan’s new backyard. Growing houseplants with Monica’s help as she brings over cuttings of her overgrown jade tree. Joining the rest of Madison at the famed summer farmer’s market.
Applying for Josh’s visa seemed like an afterthought. We’d get married, and then he could live here. No big deal.
Then, of course, the pandemic hit. The borders closed; Trump tweeted about not letting anyone into the country. We had a few conversations with immigration attorneys and faced a hard truth. Misunderstood timelines on our part and halted immigration processes on the United States’ part meant that Josh’s fiancé visa couldn’t possibly be granted in time for our wedding. Even if we somehow worked around that, he couldn’t work or attend school here.
Our plans screeched to a halt.
What were the alternatives? We could delay our wedding a year, so that the visa could be settled and Josh could start school in the fall of 2021. But I pictured myself living alone in the Madison apartment, and even that front-load washer and those hip light fixtures couldn’t make up for the struggle of another year of long-distance engagement.
As we discussed our options, our potential fall wedding shrank before our eyes. Even if stay-at-home orders have loosened by then, there still won’t be a COVID-19 vaccine. Could we even have a gathering of fifty people? Twenty? Everything we envisioned was crumbling.
This pandemic has been a time for everyone to reevaluate their priorities. Josh and I talked about ours over long evening phone calls. What do we really value: throwing a big wedding? Living in Madison? Or starting our life together as soon as we can, no matter what dreams we have to let go of for now?
Josh was surprised when I brought up moving to Canada. But it is a viable way forward. Immigration is a little easier, and I could live there while our application is being processed. I could do remote IT work while waiting for a work permit, and Josh could continue getting counseling experience. If we stay one year, we could come back to Madison next fall. If we stay three years, Josh might not need to go back to grad school.
When we terminated our Madison lease, I sobbed. I’d known when Josh and I started dating that I might have to leave. But staying was within our grasp, and it feels nice to know what your future is going to look like.
“Now listen,” James 4:13-15 says. “You who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”
Is it the Lord’s will that we live in Toronto? Was Madison a divinely closed door, or just a plan we screwed up? If we had just started our application earlier, gotten Josh accepted to a program that permits student visas, if…if…. But we didn’t. And even if we did, there’s a worldwide pandemic.
If it is the Lord’s will, we will have some kind of wedding in September. Now I try to dream about a new life in Toronto. Skyscrapers and feeling small in a big city. Getting to know new coffee shops and unfamiliar cuisine. Learning more Korean to talk with his parents. Watching the CN tower in the distance and reminiscing about our first date there.
Our life plans feel so small amidst the global upheaval of COVID-19. I learn something new every day about what my future may or may not hold. But if Josh and I can get married and pursue the Lord’s will together, that is the plan that matters most.
Laura graduated from Calvin in 2015 with a degree in art and writing. She currently lives in Madison, WI, sharing a house with two other Calvin grads. She works as a software support analyst for the State of Wisconsin court system and enjoys painting, rock climbing, biking downtown, and walking her dog.