Wait, what weight? Oh, that weight. Just you wait and see!

Sometimes, I felt too tired to even make it in the house without a nap and would nap in the car for before going inside. After dinner, I would shower and go straight to bed. I was super happy with my life, but my body felt miserable.

Better Together

Faith’s Thoughts:

Terry and I married in March of 2017.  On that day, I felt beautiful and regal. I wasn’t self-conscience of my weight or my looks. My clothes were tight and uncomfortable during my honeymoon, but the food was good.  So, I just loosened a button and ordered dessert. I remember telling my sister Hope how much weight I had gained in a short period of time, she said jokingly, “Oh that’s just ‘happy weight’.”  I was happy, but the weight wasn’t making me happy. The weight was making me tired. I have always been a fan of a naps, but naps were becoming a necessity to get through a work day. I would eat my lunch at my desk in between customers so that I could take a full hour nap in the car during my lunch break. I would wake up tired after 8 hours of sleep. I would come home from work and take a nap before dinner. Sometimes, I felt too tired to even make it in the house without a nap and would nap in the car for before going inside. After dinner, I would shower and go straight to bed. I was super happy with my life, but my body felt miserable.

I knew that I needed to make some lifestyle changes, but I also knew it would be difficult for me to change my behavior.  I felt so sluggish that the thought of exercise overwhelmed me. My strategy would be to lose 30 pounds with healthy eating, then start exercising after I lost those initial pounds. I had lost weight previously through the Atkins Diet and I wanted to go back to that because I knew I could lose a significant amount of weight with or without exercise. Terry was opposed to Atkins and suggested a more balanced approach to eating. I had tried Weight Watchers multiple times in the past and I wasn’t successful because I wasn’t accurately tracking my food and I wasn’t fully committed to changing my eating habits. So, when I decided that I would join Weight Watchers this time, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I felt so out of control with my eating that I feared that I would fail again. That strategy didn’t work very long because Terry does the cooking at home. It just made more sense to tell him.

Terry has always been supportive and loving concerning my weight. He has never given me a reason to feel self-conscious about my size. When I told Terry my plans to lose weight, he was just as supportive as I had expected. He immediately started searching Weight Watchers recipes so that dinner would be points friendly. Terry even downloaded the WW app to his cell phone so that he could see how many points I had left after lunch. The support didn’t stop with eating. Terry would be my walking partner many nights. Because of his support for me, Terry also lost weight, albeit at a slower pace.

One of my biggest struggles was eating out. In my childhood, eating out was only for celebrations. Celebrations usually mean over-indulgence. Terry and I were eating out multiple times a week. I couldn’t afford to over-indulge every time we ate out. When I shared with Terry that eating out was a problem for me, we cut back (which helped both our pockets and our waist lines). When we did eat out, Terry would let me choose the restaurant, which I would chose by checking the WW app first. At first, I thought his support would be intimidating, but it became motiving. Even though he was not an official Weight Watcher, he’d let me discuss with him the things I learned in my meetings and when I had a weekly weigh in, he’d ask how I did. If I told him I lost, he’d respond “I’m so proud of you”. If I had gained, he’d say, “It’s just water weight”. After a few weeks of not losing, I’d be frustrated and say, “don’t say it’s just water weight.” To that he would respond, “It’s because you are gaining muscle.” LOL.

To date, I’ve lost 60 pounds on WW with another 40 to go. The weight isn’t coming off as fast as I would prefer, but I’m focusing more on health. I’m measuring my success by my energy level, self-discipline, and activity. I figure that no matter what happens on the scale, if I eat for fuel, refuse to over-eat and move my body, then results will follow that winning formula. For the first year and a half, I went to weekly meetings which have been a tremendous help. I leaned so much from other members and the weekly topics. I learned about some of my unhealthily eating triggers and how to combat them. I learned how to maximize my water intake and how to find ways to incorporate activity into a busy schedule. I recently switched to a fully online plan instead of weekly meetings which made me a little nervous. I asked Terry if he would join online too so that I could have a “meeting” at home. Weight Watchers has a saying that we’re better together which certainly is the case for us. I’m glad to have a partner at home on this journey. Many ladies talk about not having the support at home and I couldn’t imagine how hard that would be to have your partner discourage and belittle you instead of encouraging you and blaming the weight gain on the water 😊. We are certainly better together.

-Faith

The Weighing Game

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

When I was a kid, I was not what you would consider “thin” by any stretch of the imagination.  Every summer, the Sears catalog would arrive in June and my mother would allow me to choose a few items out of the “husky” section while she chose the rest of my clothes.  We would go to the store in Augusta and place the order.  In 4-6 weeks, we would get a card in the mail stating that my order had arrived at the store and we could come pick it up.  As we would walk to the order by mail section of the store, I would look at all the clothes that were there in the store and try to see if they added a “husky” section so I could be like the rest of the kids.  For years, this was not the case and it would be years (high school) before I could go into a store (thank you JB White for Men) and purchase clothes off the rack.

When I got to college, I started working out with my friends and started to get more muscular and bigger.  I was lifting weights continuously and was getting more and more fit.  Although I didn’t have a washboard stomach, I could look down and see my feet without it getting in the way.  I was fit and in shape.  Yet, over the years as I discontinued working out, the girth that I had gained continued as I started to trade lifting weights to lifting my fork.

One of the advantages of being well versed in cooking and not being dependent upon anyone to prepare my food, I could cook and eat whatever I had the taste for.  The only limits that I had were the time of the year that certain foods were available and what was in my bank account.  This was my Achilles heel: I was my own worse enemy as I could really cook and eat what I wanted.  At my largest, I was 298 lbs. and I was walking several miles every day at work.

One of the things during my courtship with Faith was that everyone in her family would say the same thing, “I hope you like lasagna.”  My response would always be the same, “I do, but I also know how to cook and will be doing most of the cooking.  Do I look like I missed a meal?”  Yet, something bothered me when one day Faith said that she was going on the Adkins diet.  I had done some research about the long-term success of the diet and was not impressed with what I found.  Another thing that I recognized was that what she was used to eating was not balanced and not beneficial to long term healthy living.  I had started losing weight by going back to basics: balanced eating along with portion control.  Yet, I had to convince Faith that my philosophy concerning weight loss was better for her long-term health than Adkins.

Faith had previously had success with Adkins before, but I didn’t feel that it was a sustainable lifestyle for healthy living long term.  So, I began to do the research and began to prepare to make my case to my bride that she shouldn’t do Adkins just to lose weight, rather we would make a lifestyle change together and lose the extra weight.  To my pleasant surprise, she agreed to my plan, but she had a twist: she wanted to do Weight Watchers.  Ugh!  That’s what I grew up watching people I knew go on!  It was my kryptonite and bane of my existence.  Since I had convinced Faith that balanced eating was the best method for us long term, I listened to her make the pitch to me about joining her.  I said I would support her and cook anything that she needed to be successful, but I was NOT going to meetings.

So, I combined my philosophy with the knowledge that she gained from her meetings and we added exercise to the whole thing.  Thus, the Bryant weight war had begun.  In the beginning, it was crazy purchasing things that would help make this war successful for both of us.  Even though I was not “officially” on the program, I was by proxy due to the fact that I had to cook everything that would be compliant with her plan and still learn the lessons to make sure that she could eat what I prepared and not have any setbacks.  Over the next few weeks, I began to notice that there was a little less of me and a little less than Faith than it was before.  A few weeks later, my health insurance company introduced a “diabetes prevention program” (read: weight loss program) that supported the ideas of portion control, exercise and many of the things that I learned through Faith in her groups.  So, another program and front opened up to help us with our goal to be better and healthier people.  Yet, there was something else that would help motivate me to keep losing weight along with my bride: my grandson, Keylan.

Those who have younger children know that they can be a bundle of energy and require a bundle of energy to keep up with.  As we continued to lose weight, we recognized that our energy level was increasing daily and weekly and I noticed that I wasn’t getting worn out when playing with him.  I had always been told that a child can change how a person looks a life and Keylan helped me refocus myself on ensuring that Faith and I would be there for him in later in life as well.

As Faith continued to move forward with her path, I slowed down and didn’t stay structured as I was in the beginning.  Yet, I didn’t become a barrier to Faith and continued to support her.  She continued to lose and lose.  Even when it didn’t show on the scale, it was showing in the clothes that we both wore.  Eventually, I would “get back on the horse” and recover the desire to get to my desired goal.

So, a few weeks ago, Faith asked me to join her as she was going to stop going to the meetings but wanted a partner that would help her remain accountable.  So, with the meetings no longer in play and having supported my queen on her journey, I joined her officially to get to my ultimate goal: get back to my weight in 1990 (don’t ask, you’ll find out when I get there.)  This was the year that I was (in my opinion) at the peak of my physical conditioning and weight.  Thus the “weighing games” have begun and in a few short months, we are both going to have a very intriguing reveal.

In closing, the one thing that we both recognized during our journey is not to base our success on what others may think or feel, rather how we feel about ourselves.  We also recognized that our desire to be more fit has improved our total quality of life and has given us the confidence to do things that we may not have done before.  This includes our blog.  So, we continue to look at ourselves and say, “what can I do to make myself a better person so that I can help more people.”  Losing weight is just one step in the process of fulfilling our calling and we hope others will see that being healthier is just part of a bigger process in fulfilling your calling in life.

-T

The Tune Up

Just like a high-performance sports car, due to the high tolerances in the machining of the engine and its internal parts, it requires more frequent review and “tuning up.”  I learned that as both a husband and a partner in a strong marriage, no matter how good things are going, it can always be better.

A Weekend to Remember

Faith’s Thoughts:

Terry and I registered for an event with the LOVED marriage group at our church. LOVED stands for Living Our Vows Every Day. We planned to both go, but Terry had a work commitment at the last minute which meant that he couldn’t come with me. I almost didn’t go to the LOVED event because I didn’t want to attend a marriage night without my husband. I’m glad I went because that night we won tickets to a Weekend to Remember® event. The LOVED marriage group has long promoted the Weekend to Remember®, so I was familiar with the name. I was excited to win the tickets and very grateful that Terry also wanted to go. It’s important to me that Terry is open to learning and growing as a husband and man.

We originally scheduled our weekend to remember as an anniversary get away in Ponte Vedra, FL. We couldn’t attend during our original date, so we had to reschedule. We ended up attending the event located in Orlando, FL at the Rosen hotel. The hotel and the conference room were great. There are so many couples there at many stages in their marriage and relationship. We learned later that some couples were on the verge of divorce and that weekend would either make or break their marriage. There were engaged couples and couples who were married for 40+ years who attended every year. There was even a couple who were married for just a few hours and decided to spend their honeymoon at the Weekend to Remember®.

The schedule was packed with couples’ sessions, sessions for husbands and wives separately and homework. The homework gave us discussion prompts and we were assigned to write out a game plan for pressing issues. There was an assigned date night. Terry and I went to BB King’s House of Blues which was right across the street from the hotel.

Terry had been married for over 20 years, but not to me. I had been married before and my parents were married throughout my childhood, however I had not seen a healthy marriage up close. When I did see a glimpse of what I thought might have been a healthy marriage, I was cynical about it. That’s why it was important to me that Terry was open to learning how to be married to me. My experience as a single mom most of my life made me very independent and a bit distrusting. Those are not qualities of a submissive woman and honestly, I was okay with that. The “For Women Only” session at the Weekend to Remember® was exactly what I needed. There we learned (or relearned) some things that husbands really need from wives. At the top of the list is: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (in my Aretha Franklin voice). I thought I respected Terry as a husband, but I learned in that session that some of the ways I communicated with him were demoralizing. It certainly wasn’t overt, Terry didn’t even complain about it; but I was convicted during that session to make a commitment to change. What I’m referring to is sarcasm (my second language).  I had to repent for disrespecting Terry with my tone. Even though Terry didn’t complain about my sarcasm, I know it’s disrespectful in nature. I learned in that session that unconditional respect is for men what unconditional love is for women. It’s safety and comfort. It gives you something to look forward to and it makes the place where it’s being given your favorite place to be. I want our home to be Terry’s favorite place to be and I want to be the person Terry wants to be around.

The Weekend to Remember® was exactly what the name says it is. A wonderful, memorable weekend growing closer to your spouse and recommitting to oneness. I hope that Terry and I can attend every year.

-Faith

The Tune-up

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

As someone who has a hidden love of mechanical devices, the one thing that I have learned over the years is that eventually, anything that runs will need eventually need a tune up.  The same thing can be said about a marriage; from time to time, it needs a tune up.  One of the first things that our marriage counselors (Kim and John Freeman) recommended was to participate in a Weekend to Remember® event shortly after our marriage or within the first 15-18 months of our marriage.  They insisted that the event would not only help strengthen our relationship, but it would also help us to see where we were and what we needed to work on moving forward.

I did some initial research into the program and was noticeably impressed on what I had read regarding the curriculum.  Yet, there was a part of me that was saying “I don’t need to do this.  I already know what type of husband I am and what type of wife Faith is.  We got this.”  I think everyone goes through a period of confidence (or over-confidence depending on your point of view) after getting married.  I was very confident that we had what it took to have a lasting marriage and we were still in the honeymoon phase.  All was good…or so I thought.

The moment we finally decided to go was after we won free admission to an event.  We had talked about it off and on over the past year.  We were originally scheduled to go in April of that year, but due to a last-minute change in the arrangements that we had made for Momma Liz, we had to reschedule for the event in June.  It worked out that the delay occurred in the same month that my mother passed, and we had plenty of challenges that we needed to face in the following months.  These challenges placed strains on our relationship that we did not expect to have to face for years to come.

When it came time to get ready for the event in June of that year, I was ready to get away from it all with my bride and to see what we needed to work on to improve our relationship/marriage.   The event was scheduled for Father’s Day weekend and was located in Orlando.  I felt that our marriage needed the additional attention that the event billed itself to be able to provide.  One of the things that I thought about the reason for going into the event was that we needed a tune up.   Not because we had been married for a long time and began to lose sight of each other, rather because we had been through an extremely stressful period in our lives and wanted to make sure that our “love engine” was still in perfect working order.

Just like a high-performance sports car, due to the high tolerances in the machining of the engine and its internal parts, it requires more frequent review and “tuning up.”  I learned that as both a husband and a partner in a strong marriage, no matter how good things are going, it can always be better.  Boy, was I ever correct in my evaluation of our situation!

We headed to our hotel room, checked in and prepared to go to the event.  The event was located at a conference center in a hotel on International Drive (I-Drive) and was the perfect location to be able to walk or a short drive to anything that we could imagine we could need (or want) to go.  Upon entering the conference center, we recognized that there were couples of various levels marriage.  From newlyweds (there was a couple that had gotten marriage a few hours before the event began) to couples that had been married 40+ years and had been coming to the event for a very long period of time.  There were couples whose marriages were in a state of despair/disrepair and this was their last chance to restore their relationship, to marriages that had been humming along since the beginning.  I knew that we were about to go back to school on how to have a great marriage.

As we went through the various sessions and exercises, I realized that although we had a good marriage, there were things that we could work on to go from good to better to excellent.  I was very surprised that over the course of the entire weekend, that we would learn things not only about each other, but ourselves.  We not only learned that there was so much more to being a great spouse but recognized that our faith in God was paramount to ensuring that our marriage would continue to be the best that He wanted it to be.  By the time Father’s Day arrived that Sunday, we became true believers in the benefits of the conference and made it our mission to help other couples experience the same joy and excitement that we experienced.  So much so, that we created our own group to help couples save on the cost of the conference.

In the end, I realized that no matter how much I had learned and experienced in my first marriage, I would need to refine my skills, faith and belief in God to help continue to elevate our marriage to the place that He wants it to be.  To this day, I continue to tell people how it impacted our marriage and relationship in such a positive manner.  For those who are interested in experiencing the Weekend to Remember®, please go to https://www.familylife.com/weekend-to-remember/ and search for the event closest to you.  If you use the registration code: 2ndTimeAround, you can save $100 on the registration fee.  Believe me, it is worth the time and money to help take your marriage to the next level.  I promise, you will not be disappointed and you will find your marriage taken to a new level.  If you take your vehicle to get a tune up regularly to keep it running smoothly, don’t you think your marriage is worth going to a Weekend to Remember® to keep it running smoothly as well?

-T

The Education of Faith B

One of the things that bothered me was that Faith would say from time to time “I want to finish my degree, but….”  I got tired of hearing her say those words, but I knew that she needed a little nudge to get started again. 

The Nagging of A. Terry Bryant

Faith’s Thoughts:

When I graduated high school in 1997, I did not want to go to college. In my parents’ generation, high school completion was enough to have a successful career. I felt like if I wasn’t aspiring to become a lawyer, doctor or engineer, college was unnecessary. I figured I would get a job, work hard, then move up in the company.  After graduation, I was hired at a staffing agency as a front desk person. I liked my job. I worked hard and learned as much as I could.  When I would apply to move up in the company, I kept reaching a ceiling.  I was told I couldn’t get promoted because I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but then I was told that I had reached a ceiling in my pay as well.  What that meant to me was no matter how hard I worked and how much I learned, I would be stuck at the same pay for rest of my career without a college degree.  That was the motivation I needed to “want” to go to college.  I was out of high school for 4 years by then and I was a divorced mother of 3 children.

Once I got back into a learning environment, I realized that I loved learning.  I enjoyed college way more than high school.  After a few semesters at Miami-Dade College and Broward College, I moved to Daytona Beach and enrolled into Daytona Beach Community College (now Daytona State College).  I found it easier to focus on school in Daytona Beach because the cost of living was lower and there were fewer distractions.  After 2 years in Volusia county, I completed my Associates of Art Degree and I immediately enrolled into a 4-year program.  After a few semesters, I had to stop going to school.  Work had become demanding.  My kids’ schedules were full, and I was not being a focused student.  Learning stopped being fun and my grades suffered. I decided to focus on my kids and work.  I kept a job throughout my time in school and I kept being denied promotions because I lacked a bachelor’s degree. To make ends meet, I always worked a second job.  3 kids and 2 jobs meant school was the last thing on my mind.  I set my focus on my kids graduating and going to college.

Davion graduated high school in 2012.  To my delight he went straight to college avoiding the path I took of starting a family young.  Nicholas graduated high school in 2016 and went straight to college as well.  Nick was blessed to be able to play college football which helped with much of his college cost.  When Nick left for college in 2016, that’s when I started thinking about going back to school to complete my bachelor’s degree. That’s also when I found out that I was no longer eligible for any financial aid, not even loans. So, completing my degree would require more than just a time investment, it would require an immediate financial investment.

When I started dating Terry, whenever we would talk about my desire to go back to school, he would always encourage me to do so. He didn’t just encourage me though, he nagged me. “When are you going to enroll in school” he would say often.  It was annoying.  I thought he was telling me that I wasn’t educated enough for him. But what I learned was if you tell Terry that you want to accomplish something, he will encourage (nag) you to do what you say you want to do (which makes him the perfect alarm clock).  I finally told him that I didn’t qualify for any financial aid and I couldn’t afford to pay for my classes as I was sending money to 2 kids in college. Terry’s response: “How much do you need for your classes?” I knew then that he fully supported me going back to school.  Not because he didn’t think I was good enough without a degree, but because he knew I was good enough and he wanted to support me.

I started working for Daytona State College in January 2018. Terry fully supported my career change. A part of my motivation to switch careers was the academic benefits of working for a college. I planned to resume taking classes in July after I had more time to learn my new role at work. But, a series of events made it advantageous for me to speed up my enrollment date 4 months sooner than planned. In March 2018, I enrolled in school after a 9-year hiatus.  I was nervous because my last few semesters (many years ago) were difficult. I felt like such a failure because I couldn’t focus on school at all.  I didn’t even properly withdraw from classes, I just stopped going.  I was so embarrassed while talking to the academic advisor. I didn’t want anyone to see my transcripts. It didn’t help that she was my co-worker; I had to work with her and she saw all those F’s on my transcripts.  After reviewing my transcripts and doing a degree audit, I found out that I was just 9 classes away from completing my bachelor’s degree.  I had spent 9 years out of school. I could have taken 1 class a year and been finished. But I couldn’t look back anymore, only forward. I had the support of my husband and my employer.  I couldn’t waste any more time with regret.  My plan was to take 1 class a semester.  I wanted to ease into it. I thought Terry would agree with one class a semester since we would have to take money out of our budget to pay for the class and the book.  But in typical Terry form, he “encouraged” me to take more than 1 class a semester.  I was actually upset and with Terry for suggesting I take more than 1 class at a time. I didn’t think I could handle it, I didn’t want to use our hard-earned money and fail again.  I was having anxiety about it.  Terry sat down with me and reminded me that I wasn’t a single mom of 3 kids anymore. I had the support of my husband and not just financial support.

I agreed to take a full course load and Terry followed through on his promise of support. He would wash the dishes and take care of the household chores so that I had time to study after work.  He even read my text book with me so that he could be my study partner.  The first semester back, I made the Dean’s list!  That gave me the confidence I need to keep going.  Every semester came with its own set of challenges, but we made it through them with great grades.  As it turns out, I never lost my love for learning!  It had just been buried by responsibilities of life.  This past December, I completed my final class of my undergraduate program, 16 years after starting it.  My degree came in the mail this month and Mr. Bryant framed it and put it next to his on the wall the same day. Now he’s nagging (encouraging) me to go to grad school.  Not because he doesn’t think I’m good enough with a bachelor’s degree, but because he knows I am good enough for grad school and he knows it’s what I want.

– Faith

The Education of Faith B

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

In the months leading to our wedding, Faith and I talked about my upcoming graduation.  I had previously talked about travelling to Washington, DC to walk for my MBA. Yet, we decided not to go and would have a virtual graduation ceremony here at the house. One of the things that bothered me was that Faith would say from time to time “I want to finish my degree, but….”  I got tired of hearing her say those words, but I knew that she needed a little nudge to get started again.  I had just spent 5+ years completing both my Bachelors and Masters degrees.  I knew that sometimes people need a little “nudge” to get started.  With that in mind, I decided to “nudge” Faith into completing her Bachelors degree.

In the beginning, Faith wanted to start slow…really slow.  I knew that if she started working on her degree one course per semester, the length of time needed to complete it could potentially discourage her.  So, we sat down and charted how many courses she needed to finish her degree.  During this time, it became apparent that we (this was a partnership, so we were in this together) were going to need about 15 months to complete everything.  I encouraged her to speak to an academic advisor to make sure that our calculations were correct.  After she spoke with the advisor and set the plan in motion, I knew what I needed to do…become a coach/cheerleader.

Many people don’t realize that when someone they care about goes back to school to complete their journey after an extended period of time, they may need someone to help them stay focused on the task ahead.  I understood that as in my past, I had people who continued to encourage me while I worked. It would now be my turn to pay it forward with Faith.  When Faith first moved to Daytona, she came with the intention of completing her Bachelor’s degree, yet, with the duties and responsibilities of rearing three children, she was only able to reach the halfway point: an Associates degree.  I too only had an Associates degree prior to working on my next level and had an extended time between the completion of my Associates degree.  I knew the trials and temptations that would come as she got closer to completion of her degree.

With that in mind, we began the process of completing her degree.  Now, my goal as coach was to ensure that she remained on track with her assignments both daily and weekly.  My other task as a cheerleader was to keep her encouraged when those moments of frustration and aggravation that I knew would come up from time to time.  Especially those classes that required “group participation” (Ugh!)  The best part of having recently completed a similar journey, I could truly empathize with her during these moments and know what she needed to hear to keep motivated and dedicated to completing her task.

I knew that the kids would be behind her, especially Davion, who was in the final leg of completing his degree.  She was determined to be completed before Princess graduated from high school.  This meant that she would have to go all out and remain focused on the prize: completion of her journey that started over 14 years earlier.  The difference between the start of her journey and as she was heading into the second half of the journey was simple: she now had a helpmate that would be there to help her stay focused and encouraged until completion.  I’m not that important to the process, but I knew that my encouragement and coaching would tap right into her love language: words of affirmation.  By encouraging her and affirming that she was doing the right thing in completing this task, she would know that I loved her and loved that she was going to complete the journey that she started so many years ago.

Once Faith started working on her classes, it became a battle of wills: will Faith want to choke someone for not participating in the group activities and pull out her retired “card” or will she remain the calm, professional Faith and help motivate the team to do what they were supposed to do.  In the classes that required group participation, she did a marvelous job keeping everyone engaged and working as a team.  I admired her dedication and focus to keeping the team together to “get that ‘A’”.  I know the few classes that I had requiring group participation, I did NOT have the patience that Faith did, but I did do what I needed to do to keep them engaged so that I wouldn’t get a failing grade.

When she reached her capstone class (the last class that was needed for her degree), she went to apply for graduation.  Upon applying for graduation, we found out a very nasty surprise: the academic advisor gave her incorrect information and she needed 3 more classes after the capstone class.  Faith was initially disappointed and let down, but I reminded her that the classes that she needed to complete were not upper level classes and that she had the necessary tools to complete them.  After getting over the initial disappointment, she buckled down to complete the task that was ahead of her: the capstone.  Once she got into the capstone class, she tackled it like she tackled any other challenge in her life; she took control and made it submit to her will.

Once she completed her capstone class, we were in the final stretch.  I realized that now would be the time that the coach in me would have to take the lead rather than the cheerleader.  She would need to take these classes just as serious as the upper-level classes and I needed to help her remain focused on the prize.  We have a saying, “short-term sacrifices for long term success.”  There were many times during the final months that we could have travelled or done something that would have taken her away from her studies, but in the end, it was more important for Faith to complete her classwork.  This was one of several “short-term sacrifices” that we made to ensure that the long-term goal was reached.

When she submitted the final coursework assignment, there was a sense of relief and reflection.  We were relieved that it was over, but we reflected on the entire journey.  She knew that she had the capability to complete the work, but the added support from me allowed her to focus on what needed to be done to get it completed.  One of the benefits of having a helpmate is the fact that when one needs support, the other one should be there to give them the support that they need to reach their dreams and goals.  The joy that I had watching Faith complete the task that she had started all those years ago filled me with pride in her accomplishment.  It was not that I had a major part in her completing her degree, but my joy was watching the woman that I love recognize that the dream and desire that she had was coming to fruition.  This joy and satisfaction that I had could not be contained, but this wasn’t my victory lap, it was Faith’s.

Once her final grade was posted and her transcript showed that her degree had been conferred, the waiting game began.  We had to wait for that little piece of paper to arrive in the mail.  I had so many things that I wanted to do to celebrate her accomplishing her goal, but I had to wait for it to arrive in the mail.  Not UPS or FedEx, so that it could be tracked, but plain old first-class US Postal Service mail.  It’s hard to plan a surprise when you don’t know when something is going to arrive or when it was shipped.  ARGH!!!!!  Eventually, it showed up in the mail.  My concern was that it was going to be shoved into the mailbox, bent, damaged and I would be bent with the mailman for damaging my bride’s prize.  Faith was out walking on a Saturday morning and when it arrived, the mailman brought it to the door with a smile.  When she got back, I told her “You’ve got mail” in my best imitation of AOL (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, YouTube it.)  She didn’t want to open it, but in my excitement, I told her that she NEEDED to open the envelope right then and there.  She eventually relented and then put it down on the end table.  She went back out to another obligation and then I went to work.  She didn’t know where her degree was going to be hung, but I already had a place set aside for it: right next to mine.

I measured the degree and off to the store to find a frame that was suitable for such an accomplishment.  I searched the store aisles to find one that would convey both the strength of the accomplishment and the journey that the degree represented.  Once I located the frame, I came home, placed the degree in the frame and then placed it where she could see it prior to being placed in its new home.  When she arrived, I could tell that she was pleased, but still didn’t know where it was going.  When I showed her its new home, a smile came over her face.  She contained her excitement but already she started thinking about her next goal: Master’s degree.  Guess I’m going to have to make room again.

-T

 

The Wedding of Team M-Squared

I didn’t want to get up there and be incoherent, but that’s exactly what happened.  I started the prayer with “Thank You! Thank you, God, for this day, for this opportunity to come before you….”  I tried to say other things, but my eyes welled up with tears, my voice began to shake and my heart took over.

M-Squared Wedding

Faith’s Thoughts:

Last year was eventful. I started a new job, Terry and I celebrated 1 year of marriage, I returned to school full time, Terry unexpectedly lost his mother and my first-born son got married. Those are just some the events that happened from January-July.  I had a hard time remembering what year it was because everything was happening so fast.  I kind of lost track of time. I remember some of the moments of 2018, but the year seems like a blur.  With all the events from 2018 that occurred, one of the happiest moments was Davion’s wedding!  In the past, I prayed for that day. I had prayed for Davion’s wife and from the day that I knew I was carrying life, I prayed for Davion. I won’t go into detail in this post about how wonderful of a son Davion is.

He was a sophomore in college when I began to fervently pray about Davion’s love life and the woman who would be his wife.  My single moms small group at church had just finished studying “Fervent”, a book on prayer by Priscilla Shirer.  Whenever I asked Davion why he wasn’t dating, he said that girls didn’t like him because he was “too nice.” So, this mama started fervently praying for Davion’s love life.  One of my mentors taught me years ago to pray that my son would find a woman who would be “bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh” which is a reference to Genesis 2:23-24. I also prayed for a woman who would honor Davion and appreciate who he is.

The church’s single moms small group decided to host a prayer breakfast as culmination on our study about prayer strategies.  We planned it for the weekend of Mother’s Day 2016 and invited other single moms to attend.  It was a beautiful event.  We had a professional photographer donate family photos to the moms, prepared a delicious brunch for the moms and had wonderful gifts for everyone.  It was beautiful!  I told my kids the only thing I wanted for Mother’s Day that year was for them to help me with the event.  Davion came down from Jacksonville that weekend to help with childcare.  He first laid eyes on the woman would eventually be his wife as she was dropping her son off for childcare so that she could attend the single mom’s prayer breakfast.  She was a beautiful young woman and a great mom with a (very) charming little boy, Keylan.  Davion and Keylan bonded in the nursery during the prayer breakfast while I prayed for a wife for Davion and Keylan’s mom prayed for a husband.  He learned her name as she was picking Keylan up from childcare: Faith. Her name was Faith! Davion was smitten and intrigued.

It was very enlightening to watch Davion fall in love with Faith.  Honestly, watching Davion pursue Faith taught me a great deal about relationships.  Through observing him, I learned that when a man wants a woman, she doesn’t have to wonder about his interest. I watched Davion plan out dates and work out babysitting arrangements.  I babysat Keylan for their first date.  I was very happy that he and Faith were dating: 1) because I had prayed for a woman just like Faith; 2) Faith lived in Daytona and went to the same church as me and 3) Davion came home more often and went to church 😊. I continued to watch him grow in love for her and Keylan.  I met Faith’s mother, Iana at Faith’s graduation from cosmetology school. We exchanged numbers that night without our kids knowing and began to pray weekly for Davion and Faith’s relationship. Seven months later, Davion proposed to Faith.

Terry was very supportive throughout everything.  The couple decided on a dessert reception. I volunteered Terry and I to provide a candy bar for the reception (I’m still learning to not offer us to do things without talking to Terry first).  I started obsessing about the candy. Terry helped me to figure out my vision and ordered the items.  He was there to help set up the church and there to help tear it all down. He even ironed handkerchiefs for Iana and I in anticipation of our tears.

Davion and Faith became husband and wife on July 14, 2018. The ceremony was beautiful. I remember sitting in the rehearsal thinking, “I don’t think I’m going to make it through the ceremony without crying.”  A part of Davion’s vows were to Keylan as he promised to be his dad and honor his vows to Faith.  Davion and Faith asked me, Iana, and their premarital counselor Dina to pray over them during apart of their ceremony.  I rehearsed some things that I wanted to pray over them.  Some of the things that Iana and I had prayed over them weekly as we continued to pray after the kids were engaged, I wanted to repeat in my prayer over them in public.  I didn’t want to get up there and be incoherent, but that’s exactly what happened.  I started the prayer with “Thank You! Thank you, God, for this day, for this opportunity to come before you….”  I tried to say other things, but my eyes welled up with tears, my voice began to shake and my heart took over.  All I could say was “Thank You.  Thank you, God for allowing me to see this day.  To see my prayers over my son being manifested in his life.  Thank you for choosing me to be his mom and strengthening me to raise him.  Thank You, God for the people You placed in my life to help me raise him.  Thank you for this wonderful woman Davion was marrying and this precious little boy he loved.” All I could say was thank you.  July 14, 2018, my first born became a husband and a father. Terry and I became grandparents and “in-loves”. After that I kinda lost track of time.

Faith

 

The Big Day – Team M2

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

The period after my mother passed was a mixture of thanksgiving, fatigue and sadness as I had to take care of my mother’s affair.  Yet, there was something that was coming that forced me to change my mindset and my attitude: the wedding of Davion and Faith.  One of the best things about being in a blended family (at least for me) is the fact that some things that people have to wait decades to experience happens in a matter of weeks or months for me.  In less than 3 months, I was going to have a daughter-in-law and a grandson.

Davion and Faith had been dating prior to me marrying Faith.  They both played an integral part in our wedding ceremony and they caught the garter and bouquet (yes, it was a setup, I admit it).  These two seemed destined to be together, yet it was a surprise that a few months after Faith and I got married that they announced that they were getting married in 2018. In my time around these two, I recognized that they not only loved each other and appreciated each other’s company, but knew that despite the differences in their backgrounds, they were going to allow God to be the head of their lives.

As the months to the wedding came closer and closer to occurring, I had to focus on one person: my wife, Faith.  Davion is her first born and her first son.  As the first born and first son of my parents, I understand the expectations from some people, but especially my mother.  The great thing about Faith and FM2 (this is the nickname that I have for Davion’s bride to differentiate the two when they are in the same room) is that they had and have a great relationship.  Yet, this was her first-born and there was something that Faith needed to do to ensure that this marriage would last: Pray.  Faith is and always has been a prayer warrior and she enlisted FM2 mom, Iana, as an ally early on in their children’s relationship.  These two would send up “timber” weekly concerning their children and their relationship.  From the time that they got serious in their dating, through the announcement of their engagement to the impending wedding, these two prayer warriors set faith in motion to ensure that their children would start and continue down the correct path.

As the wedding date got closer and closer, Faith became more and more “Momma Bear” and I needed to make sure that “Momma Bear” didn’t rip anyone’s head off if they tried to upset the wedding.  Although there were no major problems that could not be taken care of, I made it my mission to make sure that both momma bears did not rip anyone’s head off their body for making any move that threatened the success of the union.  I knew that I would need to run interference for Davion, FM2 and both moms, so I took half the week off from work so that I could be available.  Looking back, I laugh at the things that were said between the two when things would try to come up and my response would always be the same “what do I need to do to make it better.”

The day of the wedding, I was running around playing chauffeur, gopher, designer, roadie, point-man and whatever I needed to be to keep people from being incinerated by laser beam eyes due to people not doing what was asked of them.  For me, it was a labor of love that these two were putting their trust and faith in God that they have heard from Him on who would be the person that they would share the rest of their lives with.  Having spent half of my life in marital bliss, I understood the importance of knowing that the person that God placed in your life would be there for you for better or worse can have on your heart, mind and spirit.  I wanted to do what I could do in the natural what the two mothers have done in the spirit realm through their prayer: help get these two complete their journey to becoming one.

During the ceremony, they had several things that were unlike anything that I had ever seen before.  They requested that certain people (especially the two mothers) pray for them, their marriage and have certain people come and lay hands on them during the prayer.  As always, the protector in me came out and I placed myself strategically near Davion and laid hands on him and prayed within myself that he would have the strength to be the husband and father that God has called him to be. While I was praying this on the inside, Faith was praying for them like she had never prayed before.  The love for her first born and his bride and the success of marriage came out in a prayer unlike I have ever heard before.  Of all the timber that had been sent up before the wedding could not match the amount of timber that was sent up a that moment.  If a foundation for their successful marriage was laid that day, that prayer was a significant portion of it.

When the vows had been exchanged and the pronouncement of their union made, I was HAPPY!  Happy for the new couple, happy for the mothers, happy for the families and happy that no one had to be taken out because they acted stupid (you know there’s always one).  My thoughts turned to the events that I just witnessed and experienced and memories of my own wedding a little over 15 months earlier.  I was happy that I was able to play a part in ensuring that the couple had a great start to the rest of their lives together and could be a witness of their union before God and man.  Most of all, I was happy because I went from being Mr. Terry to G-Pop to my newly minted grandson!

-T

 

Been a long time…but we’re back!

We’re back! Stay tuned to what’s been going on with our family.

Happy New Year everyone!  It’s been a long time since we have posted and a lot has occurred since then.  We’re not going to try an fill you in on everything in one post, but over the next few week, we are going to share what we have been doing and share what God has been doing through and with us.

We’ll be seeing you soon!

A. Terry and Faith

A Memorial to Dorothy W. Bryant…My Mom

I had just reached a point where I was no longer upset with the month of April as 35 years ago on April 15th, my father left this earth.  Now, 35 years and 8 days later, my mother joined him.  Wow…I didn’t see that coming nor expected it so soon.

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

The past few weeks have been extremely difficult for me with the sudden passing of my mother…my mom, Dorothy W. Bryant.  The last words that I heard her say was “I Love You.” These are words that I will never hear again from her lips.  I had just reached a point where I was no longer upset with the month of April as 35 years ago on April 15th, my father left this earth.  Now, 35 years and 8 days later, my mother joined him.  Wow…I didn’t see that coming nor expected it so soon.

To know my mom was to know that she loved helping people and loved talking.  Boy, did she love talking.  When I would have to travel somewhere by vehicle by myself, I could always call her, and she would talk me either to the location or back (sometimes both) without me having to say too much.  She would ride virtual “shotgun” with me and keep me abreast of what was going on back home.  From graduations and weddings to funerals and births, mom would tell me what I needed to know to still feel a part of the community. I would appreciate this as this was her attempt to help me still feel that IF I wanted to come back, I could fit in as I never left.  From time to time, she would ask me if I was planning on coming back and my answer would always be the same: “I don’t know. If God leads me back here, I guess I will be back.”  I never thought that I would come back, but at the same time, I never ruled it out.  I just didn’t know.

One of the things that I enjoyed most about my mother is that as the oldest of all her siblings, she took it upon herself to make sure that the family always had a place to gather together during the holidays.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas, mom always wanted to have something at her house and didn’t want to be anywhere else.  She would start planning weeks before the holiday and tell me all the things that she was going to cook and bake for those that she either knew were going to come by or those that she thought might come by (and most of the time, she was right.)  Last year, I called her and told her that we were coming home for Thanksgiving and I would be doing all the cooking.  She could still bake (I had to let her do something or she wouldn’t agree to it), but I was cooking dinner.  While I was working in the kitchen, she sat back and laughed and talked and bragged about how I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner and wouldn’t let her cook and she was happy that I did it for her.  Although she tried to get family member to come visit with me, this trip was all about spending time with her.  After almost a decade of having to work during the holidays, I was finally able to spend it with her.

The loss of a parent is painful in its own right, but when one does not have any siblings to lean upon during these times, it can be extremely painful and sorrowful.  Yet, there is one thing that in spite of all our trials and tribulations, sorrows and triumphs, that I can say: my mother knew who her Lord and Savior was.  I can take comfort in my time of sorrow and pain to know that she is in the Father’s presence and singing with the choir invisible.  She is praising God in her glorified body with those of like precious faith.  Although I will miss my mom and wanted to spend more time with her on this side of the river Jordan, I cannot help but think that she is enjoying herself without the pain and cares that this world brings.  One day, I will see her again (hopefully not too soon) and we will have the ultimate family reunion.  But until that time comes, I am left with many memories to pass on to my family and to cherish in my heart.

Mom, you slipped out on me and a lot of other people.  You were ready to leave but didn’t give anyone enough time to try to talk you out of wanting to go.  You said “good bye” to those who heard it and said “I love you” to those who would feel the pain the most.  Your laugh and smile will always remain in my heart and my mind.  You will always be a part of me as I was a part of you.  Your memory will live on and your legacy will endure through those whom you touched throughout the years.

Loving you always.

Your son, Terry

 

Dorothy Bryant

Faith’s Thoughts:

Mother-in-law relationships are a tricky dynamic. The fact that I’ll be a mother-in-law in 2 months makes me more aware of what Terry’s mom, Ms. Dorothy must have been going through upon being introduced to me for the first time as the woman Terry wanted to marry. She was kind, but cautious and rightfully so. I didn’t want to force myself on her. I tried to let things develop organically. Ultimately, a mom wants a woman who loves and honors her son and I was sure that, over time, she’d see that. I assumed that we’d have (more) time.

This year in January, when Terry turned a year older, I felt a strong urge to write his mother a thank you note. I tried to talk myself out of it a few times, thinking I should wait until Mother’s Day to send her a note. I’m so glad I did finally send it off a few days after Terry’s birthday. I started off telling her how I’m sure it must be weird to be receiving a greeting from me when it was Terry’s birthday, not hers. I told her, that as a mom, I know how much work and dedication goes into raising a man/child. I thanked her for raising such a wonderful and gentle man. I told her how much I appreciate her persistence in making sure that his lessons in chivalry were embedded into his brain. In response, I received a card from her, thanking me for my letter. She expressed how much it moved her and how she read it several times and it comforted her.

I’m guessing Ms. Dorothy’s love language was words of affirmation. She always sent cards to people she loved for special occupations and she had a knack for picking out the perfect card. The last card we received from her was an Anniversary card in March. When we called to thank her, I commented on how perfect it was! She revealed that she had picked it out shortly after our wedding the year before. When I glance over at that card now, it means so much, yet it reminds me that I’ll never receive a card from her again.

On April 24th, when we finally came to terms with the fact that Ms. Dorothy had passed away suddenly, my first thought was “I’m so glad we got married when we did and she was able to see Terry happy.”  My second was, “I was so glad that I sent her the letter and expressed to her how much I value her only child.”  We packed quick and drove to South Carolina. As we walked in the house, I looked around and my brain flooded with thoughts. Ms. Dorothy was a great host. The beds to the guest rooms were made and the rooms were cleaned and decorated with her touch of love. She had all types of stationary and cards she kept on hand to send to people for special occasions. She was so thoughtful and it showed in every corner of her home. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Ms. Dorothy made people feel loved, important, and comfortable and she has inspired me to do the same. I never told Terry about the letter I sent to his mom when I sent it. We didn’t talk about it until this week when he let me know that in going through his mom’s important documents, he found the letter I wrote to her.  Had I waited until Mother’s Day to honor her, it would have been too late. Tell those you love that you do. Do it often; say it in numerous ways. Make those around you feel important, comfortable, and loved.

Faith