Thursday, December 27, 2012

Life Story: A Cool Love in the Dry, Dry Desert


On a hot day in Clark County Nevada, just north of the magnificent lights blinking and glowing about the Las Vegas Strip, beyond the pseudo sensuality of the peep shows and the gambling, inside a quiet corner office in the buildings of bureaucracy, I, Courtney Clark married Christopher Kendrick.

Our elopement was as much a surprise to us as anyone. That morning we had prayed together in an attempt to assuage Christopher's doubts about our fresh engagement. In my heart I felt a definite divine push to go south as far as the desert and get married on the spot, that very day. October, our proposed wedding date, was too far away and we needed each other now. I think the Holy Ghost tipped Christopher off to this plan, because he said it felt peaceful, but not all together perfect. Anyway, he was the one who secured our hotel room and prepared plans for a ceremony.

Provo to Las Vegas takes six hours. Six hours in the car with Christopher and his worries, his chills, his seriousness. I kept the car driving down I-15 chasing the tumbleweeds out into the pinks and purples beyond. I wasn't going to turn around no matter his doubts, if anything we could at least spend a night in Vegas betting on a better future.

My faith in us was incredibly solid. We had worked hard for this, asked for it, believed in it. We had kept ourselves chaste and that was no small feat. This was a blessed union, I was sure. I was never more sure.

Along the way we were found out by my family who whooped and hollered in the background of the telephone waves. I was about to marry a third-generational eloper, his grandparents and parents had chosen Ely, Nevada to start their pretty lives in secret. We knew they'd understand.

When we arrived at the hotel Christopher's nerves were overloaded. He sat on the bed in his suit sobbing and shaking. I could feel his overwhelming desire to do the right thing, marry the right girl and have the right life--the happiest life. He was scared to do wrong.

So I left him in the room to think, went down stairs feeling jumpy and serene all at once. I walked the galleries in my wedding dress eating peanut M&Ms and smiling back and the crowds smiling at me. I smelled the tulips in the garden, thousands of them, a smell I have loved since studying in London, and again, while serving as a missionary in a little French town just off the shore from Quebec City. I sat on the couches for awhile listening to a nearby jazz singer ignored by everyone else. Then, after a half hour or so I called up to our room to ask Christopher if we were getting married, or what.

"I'm coming down to the lobby," he told me. I waited for him underneath the sea of Chuhily glasswork, swirling iridescence hanging from the ceiling reaching down into my reality. When he arrived, suit pressed and ready, he whispered in my ear the same sentiments I had heard before, "It's my choice, and I choose you."

Christopher wanted what I had, an unmistakable sign from beyond this earth that I was supposed to marry this person. My vision of Christopher as my husband--the fueling of my patience--came easily to me. But God wanted Christopher to own his choice in a way that heaven was almost hands off. In this way, I respected Christopher's resolution even more because he was stepping into the dark hall of blind faith.

July in Las Vegas is so rigid in high temperatures when a body goes from a cool building to the dry, heated air it's almost a shock. And the effects on the body begins immediately. By the time the valet pulled up in our black car we were a mess, silly, crumpled, melting and drunk on our own brave blood.

Up the strip we ventured, stopping from chapel to chapel looking for a space for our small wedding, finally settling on the solemness of a government ceremony. We didn't need Elvis as much as we needed a certificate and a few words to make it real. The County Clerk's office was just the place.

After pronouncing us man and wife, our officiator sent us out of her office with courage, "This one is going to last for eternity," she assured us. We walked out of the drab, cold building into the scorching city. We turned north to cross the street, holding hands and laughing wildly. I looked up to see the sky the brightest I have ever witnessed--like electric white puff clouds dipped into a sweltering blue soup. In that moment I knew I had never done anything so right in my entire history. I'd never known the goodness of God so sweetly. Never had I loved anyone as much as I loved my new husband. And I never, ever knew life could be so tremendously euphoric, impossibly triumphant, mysteriously pleasing than the day I married Christopher Erin Kendrick on a hot Nevada day in July.

For a more detailed account of our elopement, you can read Chup's version here.

Photo by Haley Warner.


Tara said...

It's so fun reading the story from both different perspectives. Yours is definitely the most romantic elopement I've heard of.

Jenna Wood said...

I think many of us have Christopher's experience of needing to choose. It is a test of our faith and, perhaps later, a test of our marriage.

Thank you for sharing this amazing story. I love how supportive your family was. Every family should be this way.

Aiketa said...

Beautiful story!! I just reread Chup's version too.

al said...

I so envy your ability to write detail. This paragraph made my mouth drop open: "I looked up to see the sky the brightest I have ever witnessed--like electric white puff clouds dipped into a sweltering blue soup. In that moment I knew I had never done anything so right in my entire history. I'd never known the goodness of God so sweetly. Never had I loved anyone as much as I loved my new husband. And I never, ever knew life could be so tremendously euphoric, impossibly triumphant, mysteriously pleasing than the day I married Christopher Erin Kendrick on a hot Nevada day in July."

Is the next part about how his real name is Kody Brown and that you stayed in Vegas to find Sister Wives?

Rebecca said...

I love that you are writing your life story. It's truly inspiring. Have your parents written theirs? Because I'm imagining what a wonderful thing it will be for your children to read this someday, and how I would love to read my parent's stories, and how I really should write mine, too.

hillary said...

Aw, you guys... I just read Chup's account of it, too. My first husband and I got married by the same woman, exactly one week before you! (She told us the same thing about the security guard liking to be asked to be the witness.) That marriage wasn't the right thing for us, but I'm happy to have found my Chup now. :)

Ali said...

Dear Clever Writer Courtney

I love it when you get your writing exactly right as you have done here. I love all your writing - don't mistake me - but sometimes you get it even better. An enormous joy to read - which also touches the heart, and yea, perhaps my soul tonight.

Thank you for sharing your words and your story.

I always wish you always the best,
Ali in Switzerland

Lidia Smith said...

This is so beyond lovely. Your love story is real, and so very wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing from the beginning, I think it's the whole life story that makes this so perfect.

Wendy McDonagh-Valentine said...

Wonderful words and that photo is beautiful. You're both glowing!!

Bryn said...

My husband was so similar. He wanted an irrefutable decree from heaven because he was so afraid about getting it right. He didn't get it, so he broke up. Then changed his mind. He realized it was his choice, and he chose me! And then he got his confirmation! I like you knew way before he did and boy was that hard! I'm glad we aren't the only ones who didn't just easily know at the same time!

Amy said...

What an adorable wedding picture of you both :)

Whitney said...

Can I be like you when I grow up?! I hope I can learn to follow my heart, even when it's hard and uncomfortable. I love you and your courage! Thanks for keepin it real Sista!!

Creole Wisdom said...

Such a great story, and I love that photo.

I think fear is satan's favorite tool. he loves for us to be afraid. God wants to liberate us, let us make our own choices. I recognize so much indecisiveness and fear in myself in these stories, life is hard. However, the most triumphant thing is to pass over fear to a place of peace. I love reading about people who have done that.

Paula said...


Rosarosita said...

"Drunk on our own brave blood" !!!!! I love that so much. Brilliant!

Whimcees said...

It was meant to be.

Wishing you all good things in the coming new year.


Barbara Diane

Holly Decker said...

magnificent. and so was Chup's version. i am in love with you two.

Christy said...

I thought about it all night last night and I just have to tell you how much I ENJOYED this post! In fact I read it twice - it was soooo, soooo good. You are such an excellent writer, my friend! Never stop.

Christy said...

Oh yes, sorry, I totally forgot to mention how gorgeous your photo was in my last comment. Stunning!

Naomi Carmen said...

I love that you guys eloped to Las Vegas to get married in July. My husband and I did the same thing! Best wedding ever!!! We were married on July 7, 2003 in a little wedding chapel on the strip in Vegas. I love every minute of our wedding day, and also of our almost ten year long marriage. And it's only getting better! I also know what it's like to feel lonely in one's marriage and to let go of wanting to control everything and let Heavenly Father work things out in His time for us. Thank you for sharing your story and helping me see I am not alone in my experience. ;(

Lara said...

I just read this entry to my husband, after giving him some background, and we both cried.

Our story is so similar: He wanted to do right so badly, prayed so hard, and felt he got no help from the Lord. I, on the other hand, had had a strong spiritual experience, and I knew that I was to marry him. This got me through several break-ups while he tried to figure things out because he wasn't getting an answer to his prayers. On the morning of our wedding, I had no idea if he would actually show up to the temple!

When you wrote that Christopher needed to own this choice in a way that heaven was hands off, I felt that you had hit in on the nose. And when I read it to my husband, he cried, because he felt it was a truth he had never thought of for the 14 years we've been married.

Thank you.