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 Planner, Part 3: The Wedding Day

Before Davion and I began our walk, I looked at him and said, “I’m really getting married, huh?” When I made eye contact with Terry, I smiled. I thought about all the planning we had put into the wedding and there we were: me behind a veil and him in a tux with a pastor there only a few minutes away from saying “I do.”

The Wedding Day

Faith’s Thoughts:

I always wanted my wedding day to be full of family, food, and dancing. I didn’t want to be stressed over every detail. My wedding day was everything that I always wanted!  The night before my best friend -Alisha, my daughter and I had a girls’ movie night in a hotel room we had rented for the weekend. We did facials and watched chick flicks. I woke up and needed to pinch myself, I was getting married today! From the first thought of the day until we left the reception, it was like I was walking on air. Alisha was my wedding coordinator/maid of honor and she had done such a great job of attending to the details. There was a little bit of a hiccup as I had gotten my hair done the day before and as careful as I tried to sleep Friday night, my hair needed a little touching up Saturday. My hairstylist was gracious enough to let me come back Saturday morning so she could fix what my sound sleeping had messed up. She got me in and out and I got to the museum timely. I wanted my sister Hope to do my makeup, but there was an issue which caused her not to be able to make if to Florida. So, she contacted another makeup artist who came and did an outstanding job on my makeup. After makeup, I put on my dress and I felt so regal! My seamstress Comfort did an AMAZING job on my dress. It was her idea to add the veil and I was so glad she thought of it because the veil made me feel bridal. Once I was dressed, Alisha had a surprise for me. My mom and my sisters presented me with something old, new, borrowed, and blue. Davion presented me with a memento which he kept from his childhood which made him think of me. It was all so beautiful and I was trying not to cry and mess up my newly “beat face”.

Before I knew it, it was time to start the wedding. Initially I did not want to walk down the stairs at the museum. I was scared I would trip and fall, but I changed my mind. I told Davion, “Your main job in giving me away is to make sure I don’t fall down those steps.” He did good. I had chosen the song “Suddenly” by Billy Ocean as the song I’d walk to because it seemed to describe my feelings perfectly. I truly did think ‘love was just a fairytale’ and after getting to know Terry, life and love have a new meaning to me. Before Davion and I began our walk, I looked at him and said, “I’m really getting married, huh?” When I made eye contact with Terry, I smiled. I thought about all the planning we had put into the wedding and there we were: me behind a veil and him in a tux with a pastor there only a few minutes away from saying “I do.”

The ceremony was beautiful. It went so fast! Nick sang “For You” by Kenny Latimore. I was so proud of him. Princess was as beautiful as ever and Davion was such a great source of strength for me. Terry and I took communion together which I didn’t expect to be as emotional as it was for me. We played “Now behold the Lamb” by Kirk Franklin and the Family.  I’ve always loved that song!  Hearing it as Terry and I took communion at our wedding caused the tears to flow. One line in the lyrics says, “Why you love me so, I’ll never know.”  That’s what broke me.  The love I have always felt from God, the love and support I felt from my children and the love that Terry had displayed made me feel like I was so unworthy of it all, but very thankful just the same.

Terry and I wrote our own vows.  I had hoped to remember mine, but I was too nervous to trust my memory, so I read them.  I put together some of the things I had learned in pre-marital counseling and other things our pastor had been preaching on concerning marriage. Terry’s vows to me were beautiful.  He was so calm delivering his vows.  He was ready to deliver those vows to me the day he proposed.  He included in his vows his “vow” to convert all my family to Steelers Nation and after the season the Dolphins had, my dad might be the first to convert.  After the vows, we said, “I do” and kissed.  It was probably the first time my kids had seen me kiss anyone. As the ceremony closed and Terry and I were presented as Mr. and Mrs. Bryant, the song playing was “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

The whole thing was so much fun!  I’d do it every year if it wasn’t so expensive.  The ceremony and the reception were so beautiful!   A few times, I wanted to cancel the wedding because I thought no one would want to come. I didn’t want to offend anyone or hurt anyone by having a wedding ceremony.  I am extremely thankful for everyone who came, who wanted to come, who prayed for us and continue to pray for us. Our day was so special and so memorable because I got to spend it with loved ones.

-Faith

The Wedding Planner, Part 3: The Wedding Day

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

The day had finally arrived.  All the planning, “spirited discussions” and everything else that would lead up to the moment where Faith and I would be husband and wife were about to come to fruition.  I had booked a room for her and her bridal party 2 days before the wedding and was secure in the knowledge that if no one showed up, we could still get married as there only needed to be 3 signatures: the officiant, Faith’s and mine.  Everyone and everything else was secondary.  I even went as to have back up officiants on duty in the event something occurred at the last minute.  This wedding was going to take place – no matter what!

As I made my final preparations to leave for the museum, I was checking things off in my head one line at a time.  Once I got the natural things checked off, I went back through my spiritual list of things to check off.  One thing that I always told people is that it’s never too late to back out of a marriage BEFORE you say, ‘I Do’, but once you say it, it’s time to go through it until the end of your days.  That can be easier said than done for some people.  I checked myself one last time before making this lifetime commitment.  I knew this was the woman that God had for me.  I knew I wanted to be with this woman for the rest of my life.  I knew I found my “good thing” as stated in Proverbs 18:22. What I wanted to make sure was that I fully examined myself and was certain that I was not doing anything that would be detrimental to Faith if we were to become husband and wife.

What I found when I checked myself was that not only was I 1000% certain that God had led me to the right one, but we completed each other in areas that we did not know or realize that we needed completing in.  For so long we both had trials and tests that challenged our faith in God from time to time.  These tests helped us become the people that we are today.  We never knew why we went through some of the things that we went through (some were self-inflicted), but in the end, we were being fashioned by the Master Potter to be displayed for all to see.  Our wedding day would be the display case for His marvelous work in our lives.

Once we got to the museum and were preparing for the wedding, I made final checks within myself and with the day of wedding coordinators. No matter what, this wedding was going to go off on time and on schedule.  Once the music started, it was game time.  All joking was put aside and time for me to take my bride and make her my wife and partner for life.  I had already told her father that he wasn’t getting her back (and I still tell him that to this day), but today was the day that all my words would line up with my actions and I would pledge my love and devotion to Faith in front of God, family and friends.

Once the ceremony started and everything started working like a Swiss-made watch, I could see the pressure lift off from Faith’s face as she realized that this wasn’t a dream and she wouldn’t wake up back in her apartment alone.  Her face radiated all the love, passion and trust that she demonstrated all during our courtship and now it was coming to fruition that we were actually going through with what we planned.  As the Rude Boys said, “It’s written all over your face, you don’t have to say a word.”

When it was all over, we were now Mr. and Mrs. A. Terry Bryant.  After pictures and the reception, I looked forward to one thing: getting out of that rented tuxedo and getting some sleep.  Unbeknownst to Faith, I spent the last several days praying late at night about our new blended family and our future together.  I was tired from all the planning, phone calls, emails, moving and everything that needed to take place to make the transition from one household to another as stress free as possible for Faith.  The one thing that we had established was a relationship based on prayer.  We prayed together, and I wanted to ensure that the foundation to our marriage would continue to have prayer as a major component.

I can truly say looking back on that day that I would only change one thing: less cake.  I am thankful that God has blessed me with a beautiful wife, helpmate, friend, queen and prayer partner.  This first year has been great, but I look forward to the next 40+ years with this wonderful woman that I love and call my wife, Mrs. Faith Y. Bryant.

-Terry

The Wedding Planner, Part 2: The Transition

This was love. This was help, provision and protection.  This was something I never had. This was what it was to have a great husband.  I was ready.

The Move

Faith’s Thoughts:

No one hates moving more than me. In one of my moves, I gave away all my furniture rather than deal with the chore of moving it. Getting married to Terry meant moving in together-which meant MOVING. Thankfully, all the kids had moved out. Nicholas still had a bedroom in the apartment, but he was away at school and it was unoccupied. Terry had a house full of things and a storage unit full of more things. I had an apartment full of things. We were good on things. Moving in together mean downsizing. The process took about a month and a half. While we were planning our wedding, we were also working on the chore of merging households.

There were some improvement projects (read repairs) that needed to be done before I moved out. Both Terry and I are readers who have an attachment to physical books, so we had to merge libraries. Then, there was the “small” chore of consolidating closets. We moved in increments. After work, I would come home, load up things to take to Terry’s house and we would find a place for it. Sometimes, Terry would stop by my apartment to take things to his house. I gave away most of my furniture weeks before we got married. Terry and Davion did the heavy lifting and I had to pack.

The emptier the apartment became, the lonelier it seemed. I remember at one point coming home to an almost empty apartment thinking, “If this dude backs out of this after I’ve given away all my furniture, I’m going to hurt him.” That was one of those “irrational fears” which were running rampant during that time. I had developed a strategy to deal with them. I began to rationalize them intelligently. Terry was investing just as much time in this move as I was. He spent Saturday’s painting walls and fixing cabinets in my apartment and helping me deliver the furniture that I donated. He was just as heavily invested in this as I was. I realized I didn’t have to hurt him.

Moving meant changing my address and having my mail forwarded.  Every step was more than a check off my to-do list.  It was a realization that I was about to get married.  It wasn’t just my address which was changing, my life was changing. It wasn’t just my mail being forwarded, I was moving forward. I had peace, but I was scared. I was scared, yet I was moving forward.

Terry demonstrated many great qualities to me during our moving process. He showed me how he was a hard worker. While I was having my bridal shower, he was being a handy man and fixing things at the apartment. He didn’t complain once, although he did make a few comments about the number of clothes that I was bringing to invade his closet space.  He showed me that he could handle stress. We were merging households, planning a wedding, dealing with drama and he was in the process of being promoted at work. He had all that going on, but he still made me a priority. He was sending me flowers and being attentive to my needs. This was love. This was help, provision and protection.  This was something I never had. This was what it was to have a great husband.  I was ready.

-Faith

The Wedding Planner, Part 2: The Transition

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

As we were planning the wedding there was one thing that we also had to plan for: transitioning from 2 separate households to one house.  She was moving from her apartment to what would soon become our home in Palm Coast.  For months, I had been urging her to slowly review what did and did not need to come (as everyone should do when moving) and let me start bringing non-essential items from her apartment to the house.  This was easier said than done.  Having helped many people move (and having moved several times myself) the one thing that I recognized is that when moving, one must declutter before moving to prevent the unnecessary going up and down 2 flights of stairs.  Stairs are NOT a mover’s best friend, especially one who is in their mid-40’s.

So, over the month of February and the first part of March, we talked about what things needed to make the trip and those that needed to either be donated or sent to the great big dumpster in the yard.  Now, this didn’t mean that I had nothing to do on my end.  I had to prepare to make room for Faith in my closet (who has not had to share her closet for years)!  This is a woman whose walk-in closet was larger enough for a person to have a twin bed and still be able to get in and out of.  Oy vey!  One of the first things that I recognized was that everything that she had in the closet was NOT going to make it, so the winnowing process would begin for both of us.

I never had a lot of closet space in the first place, but this was a whole new experience.  The reason for so much clothing in the closet was because Faith didn’t have a dresser in her bedroom and hung just about everything up or had a hanging organizer for the things that couldn’t be hung.  (It pays to be watchful and recognize what can be condensed and what could be relocated to another area.)  As we went through the closet, I noticed she had her books and other material in her closet, which made it easy and convenient for her to get to when needed.  I had several book cases that had space, so my library was about to change to our library and approximately double in size and variety.  The more that we looked over the closet, the more confidence that I had that I wouldn’t have to purchase several chifforobes (if you don’t know what a chifforobe is, look it up) to place all MY clothes in and give up the closet.

As we got closer and closer to the time when she had to be completely moved out, the anxiety level started to increase for the two of us.  For me, it was making sure that everything was moved out in time before the end of the month as we would be on our honeymoon and did not want to pay for any additional days that she wasn’t in the apartment.  For Faith, it was the realization that she was actually going to get married in a few short days and that her life would change forever.  It was a time of great excitement and tension as I looked forward to having Faith and the rest of the family become part of my clan.

As a planner, I plan how things should go and have an idea of how they should be accomplished.  The one thing that I could not plan is how Faith would react to leaving the place that she called home for several years to move over 30 miles further north to a place that she only frequented from time to time that we would call home.  I was not the one who was taking a “leap of faith”, rather it was Faith who was taking the leap.  She was trusting God that she was making the correct decision and trusting me that I would not betray the trust that I had earned.  She was jumping in with both feet into a new world and I had to make sure that she did not regret the decision that she was making.

Once we got everything moved, except what she needed for the final week and for our honeymoon, there was a sense of “ok, it’s almost time.”  We were less than a week away from becoming husband and wife and it felt like the calm before the storm.  Most people have heard stories of wedding plans going haywire at the last minute, but that was not going to be the case for me and my bride.  All the major components had been completed and the move had been completed.  I would not allow Faith to get stressed out about small foxes; it’s my job to deal with them and make sure they would not have an impact on our “happily ever after.”  The only thing left to do was to get everyone together and get this marriage started…we just had to wait a few…more…days.

-Terry

Marriage Counseling: How We Got to Look at Each Other Without the Rose-colored Glasses

I look forward to the day when we’ll look back at our “beautiful day” (the wedding) and say, “It’s also been a beautiful life as man and wife.”

Pre-Marital counseling

Faith’s Thoughts:

It was important for me that Terry and I go through premarital counseling. I’ve been a big advocate of counseling since my divorce. I was 21 with 2 kids and pregnant with my third child when my divorce was finalized. I was working full time and I didn’t have any friends whom I could confide it. I had friends and family, but I felt so ashamed that I didn’t want to share with them what was going on in my head. I tried to keep it all to myself. I tried to manage motherhood, pregnancy, divorce and a demanding job all by myself. I wasn’t managing any of it very well. Actually, I was cracking. I was horrible to work with and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t much better to live with. I worked with mostly men and I remember one telling me, “I’m not your ‘baby daddy’. You can’t keep taking this out on me.” That was harsh, but it helped me to realize that I wasn’t managing this situation.  It was getting worse and I needed help. I took advantage of my company’s EAP program and I was connected to a counselor. Those sessions of counseling were so impactful! Some of the tools I learned in those sessions, I still use 18 years later to help me manage tough situations. There have been other occasions throughout my life when counseling was very beneficial for my children and I. Whenever the situation called for a professional, I called a professional (no shame). Many people place a stigma on counseling, but I’m so thankful that I had it available to me and I didn’t have to try to figure out those tough seasons with (my) limited knowledge.

When Terry proposed to me, I let him know how important pre-marital counseling was to me and I was so thankful that he was willing to go. I didn’t know if Terry was just doing it because he knew it was important to me or because he knew Florida offers a discount on marriage licenses if the couple completes pre-marital counseling. At one point, I feared that Terry wouldn’t take pre-marital counseling seriously because he had a successful marriage for over 20 years. I thought that he would think he didn’t have anything to learn. I remember our first “spirited fellowship” came because of my fears. We had a homework assignment to do for our session and I felt that Terry was rushing through it. Instead of saying what I feared, I just got angry and shutdown. Thankfully we had homework to do for counseling, so we had to talk it out.

I remember when I sent the email to request the pre-marital counseling. I was nervous. I knew some people had reservations about if Terry could be ready to take such a big step so soon with me. I wasn’t sure what response I was going to get. I did not want to make a hasty decision. I recognized my need for wise counsel concerning the matter, but I really wanted to share my engagement news with someone who would gush with me instead of taking a deep breath and then sigh. Kim did not take a deep breath nor sigh. She was honest and insightful and helped me to be more at ease. She assured me that this process wasn’t to beat neither of us up about our decision but to help us to build on a solid foundation. Kim spoke about marriage with an excitement that I had either never heard before, or (always) ignored before. It was very refreshing and helped to ease me nerves about this role I was preparing to fill. WIFE!

I really enjoyed the format of our counseling. We started with a compatibility assessment. Our counselors went over our results. We were assigned a book/workbook to read, discus, and complete homework activities. Some of the activates included a family budget, holiday planning, family planning. The book challenged us to ask tough questions and discus tough issues. We were forced to spend some time out of our “love bubble” and talk about the issues which can cause division within marriages. The book we used had a section added to every chapter for those who were remarried. There are special challenges for those remarrying and our pre-marital counseling book encouraged us to create a plan for success for those challenges instead of hoping our “love bubble” was strong enough combat the inevitable. The pre-marital counseling tasked us to create a game plan for our life together. Some things that I had previously thought were small like “how much we’d spend on gifts for family and friends?”  I’ve learned that even things like the price of a gift for someone else could lead to big arguments if there are strong opinions on the matter. The pre-marital counseling encouraged us to talk about expectations about intimacy which can surely lead to discord if not addressed. Because I’m a divorcee with minor children, the book encouraged us to create a strategy for communicating with my ex-husband and what role both Terry and I would play as it relates to the kids’ needs. Those were things Terry and I had already discussed, but the pre-marital counseling challenged us to think about things which we had not previously considered. I learned that I still have much to learn. I learned that submission is not a prison of do’s and don’ts. Submission is a beautiful protective shield.

I am learning that a marriage relationship can help sharpen and mold both husband and wife into better versions of our previous selves. Pre-marital counseling helped me define my role and better understand Terry’s needs. Our pre-marital counseling was about 6 weeks long. We were in the midst of wedding planning, working and all sorts of other responsibilities, but counseling was a priority. Terry made it a priority. We would read and do our homework during our lunch break and discuss the chapters after work. We were choosing caterers and figuring out our household grocery budget. More than focusing on the wedding day, we focused on our impending marriage. The wedding day was beautiful! The memories will last a lifetime, but our lifetime will be made up of days, dilemmas, discussions, decisions, do’s and don’ts. Strategies we learned during pre-marital counseling and tips we pick up along the way will help us get to our goal of a lifetime of happiness.  I look forward to the day when we’ll look back at our “beautiful day” (the wedding) and say, “It’s also been a beautiful life as man and wife.”

-Faith

 

Marriage Counseling: How We Got to Look at Each Other Without the Rose-colored Glasses

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

Marriage counseling was something that I had already gone through once before and had a good idea of who I was and what type of husband I would be to Faith.  Because we had been so upfront with each other in the beginning, I had a very good idea of the type of person that she was and my expectations on what type of wife she would be for me.  We talked about EVERYTHING.  When I mean everything, I mean everything from finances to education, children, past relationships, etc.  Neither of us wanted to go into a relationship with any hidden agendas or secrets about their past and we did a good job talking about things that we thought needed to be addressed based on our previous relationships.

Although this was a good start for us to get an idea if we should move forward as rapidly as things were progressing or should we slow things down, we knew that marriage counseling was something that we needed to go through.  I have always looked at marriage counseling as an opportunity for an independent third party to look at the relationship that I was in and say “Hey, you two SEEM to be ok in your relationship, but have you thought about this and how it could affect it?”  I have always been open to evaluation (whether self or third party) and welcomed the opportunity to “show my stuff” to others of how great a husband I would be to Faith.  Part of me wanted to go in and say “See, I told you I am going to be a great and wonderful husband to Faith.  Now you can tell everyone I was right.”  Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.

I knew our counselors, John and Kim Freeman, from another wedding I was a part of a few year before.  They were very personable, and we got along very well from the beginning.  A few months after Mia passed, I saw them coming out of service and Kim said, “Don’t make any decisions for at least a year.”  Ha!  Too late!  Faith and I had already started getting to know one another and I knew that she was the one that God had placed in my path.  She was my “good thing.”  Faith had a relationship with them as well as set up the counseling sessions.  When we first met, they were very upfront with their initial reservations about my decision to move forward.  I respected them highly for making their reservations known upfront and even asking how we reached this point.  The one thing that I have not been afraid of is the truth.  If there is something that you want to know (that I don’t mind sharing and isn’t out of bounds), I don’t mind telling people about it in a one on one situation.  Many people make assumptions (you know what that can make of a person) rather than asking and the Freeman’s asked and they got the truth.

During our first few sessions and assignments, I said to myself “this is a breeze.”  I was wrong again.  We delved into some topics that Faith and I either didn’t think about or didn’t spend a lot of time talking about as we had already ‘thought’ we knew what our past mistakes were and had vowed not to make those same mistakes again.  Now, I know some people are reading that previous statement and are saying “but you said you had a good marriage prior to your wife passing?”  Yes, I did, but there are always things that you can look back on and say to yourself that if you had an opportunity to improve the marriage, you would either not do something or do something better.  If you think you are perfect, then you should be standing outside waiting for that heavenly chariot to come pick you up and take you onto Glory.  We had an opportunity to review our past relationships, our role in them and have in depth conversations about what was good, bad and ugly and our responsibility in creating that environment.

The guide/workbook that we had to read and the assignments that we had to complete were very thought provoking and made us both take a long hard look at ourselves and the future that we had planned on having with each other.  Although it did not discourage us as we had done a LOT of praying and talking to each other, I recognized that it was important for our relationship foundation be shaken now to see what falls off before taking our vows than to be sitting with them after the wedding and saying, “I didn’t know she was like this!”  This was the beauty of the relationship that we developed with our counselors.  They challenged us to challenge our relationship and ourselves to make sure that we weren’t doing things “on the rebound” or “loneliness” as some people thought we were doing.

By the end of our sessions, we had a deeper appreciation of who we were as a couple and individuals and what things we had to commit to on a daily basis to ensure that our relationship would not become boring and stale, rather full of energy and love.  Our love and devotion to ensuring that we would not make the same mistakes from our past and our commitment to each other were so evident that our counselors believed that we were in a good place to move forward with our desire to become husband and wife and were pleased to give their “seal of approval.”  I recognized the tests and trials that we had to undergo and appreciated the ferociousness and dedication to ensuring that we had a strong and solid foundation to have a successful marriage.  I came out of the sessions being thankful that there were people like John and Kim who were called to help strengthen marriages by challenging couples to do what is necessary to be a success.

Too many times people think counseling is for couples that have things that are going bad.  We learned that counseling can be used when things are going good as well.  I compare it to getting a tune up before problems start arising in your vehicle.  Sometimes, replacing that older spark plug with a new and improved version can make that engine run smoother than ever before with more power and better efficiency.  Even replacing the wires with newer wires (lines of communication) can make those spark plugs run more efficiently as well.  There are so many things that counseling can do when things are good, that it can reduce, if not eliminate the need for counseling if things go bad, because you have been proactive and don’t allow it to get bad in the first place.

So, with that in mind, if you are in a serious relationship and are seriously contemplating marriage, counseling (especially by John and Kim) would be the start of a positive self-evaluation of your relationship and where you are headed.  It is far better to slow down and make corrections at the beginning of a relationship than it is to be fully committed and trying to salvage a relationship after damage has been done.  We evaluated our relationship, our faith in God and each other in regard to our impending marriage and recognized that we were hearing from Him and that He did place us together.  Now for the most intriguing part of this journey: planning the wedding.

-Terry

2017: Wow, what a year! What a Mighty God we serve!

I had no idea how much I desired to be loved in return. I love hard. I commit. I give it my all. In the past, my opinion was that I was the only one fighting for “love.” I thought “love” was a lot of work to go along with a lot of heartache. But what I’ve since discovered was that it wasn’t love that was hard, it was loving without being loved in return.

2017 When Somebody Loves You Back

Faith’s Thoughts:

Teddy Pendergrass once sang a song called “When Somebody Loves You Back.” One of the verses says:

“It’s so good lovin’ somebody
And that somebody loves you back
To be loved and be loved in return
It’s the only thing that my heart desires”

I had no idea how much I desired to be loved in return. I love hard. I commit. I give it my all. In the past, my opinion was that I was the only one fighting for “love.” I thought “love” was a lot of work to go along with a lot of heartache. But what I’ve since discovered was that it wasn’t love that was hard, it was loving without being loved in return.

Having this 2nd time around with Terry has been me experiencing love in a whole new way. A way that I had never seen up close and personal. A way that I never even knew existed. 2017 was a year of newness for me. I saw love take many different forms. I saw it play the background and be my silent strength. I saw love be nurturing and kind. I saw love be protective and responsible. I saw love deny itself. So new, so refreshing, and so very well worth the wait.

2017 has taught me some things about myself as well. I can’t just mask my feelings and retreat to my own space as a married woman. I am forced to deal with things because I can’t hide them from a man who loves me, nor do I want to. I am learning to lean on my partnership and allow myself to be healed instead of suppressing the way I feel.

2017 has been a year of kept promises for me. On so many occasions, I found myself in awe of something I was experiencing as it was the manifestation of a prayer I had made at some point in my life. 2017 has reminded me God is faithful! He really does hear our prayers and even if we give up on the possibility, all we need is the right yes to the right situation to make all things possible.  2017 has assured me that God’s promises don’t expire. 2017 has inspired me to shoot for the stars and not be afraid to reach them.

2017 has taught me that love is a powerful thing. God’s love for us is far greater than we could ever imagine or think!  But just as Teddy Pendergrass’s song eludes, love is so much more powerful when it’s reciprocated by both parties.  I believe God loves us and longs to be loved in return. What happens as a byproduct is greater than we could ever imagine or think.

2017 was not without challenges, but love conquered them all. The theme of our wedding was 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: (NIV):

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails.

I had this verse printed out and on display in my work area to remind me. I also prayed those verses over Terry daily.  I prayed. “Lord, help me be patient with Terry and kind to him. I pray I am not envious and not boastful or proud” and so on. I prayed every verse. These verses lined the aisle at our wedding ceremony and they are hidden in my heart. This second time around, I want to constantly check my motives and govern my actions around love. As I work to better myself in 2018 and become the woman who God has called me to be, I keep in mind that my current self and better self are both wife to a wonderful man who loves me. I pray that my actions always reflect how I love him back.

-Faith

Wow, what a year!  What a Mighty God we serve!

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

Wow, what a year!  2017 has been one of the most exciting and challenging years that I have had in a long time.  From promotion on the job to getting married and blending a family to all the experiences that have gone one throughout the year, this has been one for the ages.  The year started with us planning a “small” wedding.  Faith didn’t have a wedding and we decided that it would be nice to have a “small” wedding to display our love and devotion to each other.  Throughout everything that we went through to pull it together, it was a success and off we go into the future as husband and wife.

Prior to getting married, I was promoted on my job.  I had interviewed several times earlier the year before for promotions, but I was finally successful on the first one of 2017.  Three weeks after receiving the promotion, I took my vacation and got married.  When I returned, I came back refreshed and a married man with 3 children.  Was it a shock for my co-workers and superiors? But of course!  Did they understand my decision to keep my personal life to myself? Yes, they did, but did say that they fully supported my decision and understood why.

Many of the changes that have occurred this year have been life affirming.  From my desire to marry the woman that God placed into my life, to the new experiences of having a different set of in-laws, children and nephews.  Many times, people wonder why things happen the way that they do, but when they look back on all the things that have occurred, most of the time things work out for the better.

From hurricanes to internal storms to external pressure, one must trust that the Master Chess Master is making moves further ahead than we could ever understand and depend on Him to position us to receive the things that He has in store for us.  After 2016, I knew that He had great and wonderful things in store for me, but did not expect them to materialize they way that they have in the fashion that they have. Sometimes, what appears to be a tragic situation becomes an opportunity for God to be God and move in ways that we thought would never occur.  I have a new view and understanding of my relationship with my Father and understand even better what He will do for me and my household as we continue to do His will.

2017 has been an exciting adventure for the two of us, but it has been a learning experience for me in understanding how blessed I am to have Faith, Momma Liz, the kids and everyone else who became part of our clan.  Bryant means “strong in the Lord.”  For so long, I have had to trust and depend on that strength to make it through.  It is a beautiful thing to begin to see the fruits of my faith and devotion to the things that He deemed important, manifest themselves in my life.  If there is anything that I can leave as advice for 2018 from what I learned from 2017 would be this: Don’t lose faith and continue to focus on the things that He has placed in your life to complete.  The moves that have been made in the past are beginning to manifest themselves.  Just as a seed takes time to break through the ground, grow and develop before being able to be harvested, it takes time for the moves to manifest themselves for you to receive the harvest from your faith.  A mature tree does not grow overnight.

In closing, continue to be strong and of a very good courage.  As you choose each day whom you will serve, the Bryant clan will continue to serve the Lord and be vessels for His purpose.

-Terry