I feel like throughout a couples marriage and lifetime, there are people who influence you, teach you, and give you guidance or perspective. Troy and I have definitely been challenged in the past year with the lack of stability, moving 3 times, living in a hotel room, and OH YEAH, if that weren't enough, we had a baby.
Lesson 1: Love God. Love People.
BRYSON AND LORI SMITH
Troy and I met in high school youth group at church. I lived in Northern Virginia (which is apparently different from the rest of Virginia, because if you grew up/lived there, you know what I am talking about) from 4th grade until 7th grade. We moved away to Texas from 8th grade to 10th grade, where I went to a different school every year. Literally. I moved back to Virginia VERY hopeful that life would be easier and I would fall back into my same friend group from middle school. I was excited to go to the same school for 2 years in a row and graduate and then go to the same school (college) for 4 years. Troy's dad was in the military and he moved to Northern Virginia in elementary school and his family still lives there.
I was involved in church in Texas and our first weekend back in Virginia, my mom brought Tyler and I up to youth group on sunday night. I was pretty nervous. They had dinner at 530 and then we took the church vans to mini golf after. I was lucky. When we got there, a guy I was friends with in middle school, Kyle, was there. It turns out, his mom was a pastor at the church. Kyle (who was the best man at our wedding) introduced me to Troy. Troy and I sat in the back of the church van to and from mini golf and talked the whole time. It turns out, when Troy moved to VA, his family had moved from San Antonio and we had gone to school with the same people and lived on the same street in base housing. We also figured out later that our parents had known each other before we were born. Our dads were in the same training class in California for navigator school. Crazy right?
Anyway, we went to rival high schools. But we saw each other every sunday at youth group. And that's where I met Bryson. Bryson was the youth pastor and led the contemporary worship service at church. He was the young bubbly pastor "keeping church cool." Troy met Bryson when he was 14 and his dad was doing a remote tour to Korea for a year. Bryson was FRESH out of seminary, 22 and ready to make a difference in the world. Little did he know, Bryson would make a PROFOUND impact on Troy throughout his highschool years, beginning when Troy's dad was stationed in Korea for a year.
Troy was saved when he was 9. He accepted Jesus into his life on his living room sofa with his Mom. Troy's mom is an amazing and prayerful woman. She has always had Jesus in the center of her life even when times were tough and she didn't know where her life was heading. Troy's dad was not as strong a believer as the man I know today. Christie had been praying for Jim to focus more on a relationship with Jesus. Jim read the whole bible while he was in Korea and committed himself to Jesus, coming home a changed man. He started going to church when he came home and considers Bryson one of his best friends.
Meanwhile, Troy is struggling without a male role model at home. Enter from stage right, Bryson, 22 year old youth pastor. Troy spent a couple evenings a week over at his house with his new wife Lori. Troy was in that "weird teenager stage" where you don't really know who you are, your goals and your overall purpose in life where you just rebel against your parents. Or in his case, parent, because his dad was gone and he didn't want to talk to his mom about some stuff. Bryson and Lori took Troy under their wings and fostered an environment where Troy could open himself up instead of going out and getting in trouble because he was "keeping it all in." I know that Troy is the man he is today because of the influence of Bryson and Lori at such a crucial time in his self exploration as a man, he was guided by such a wonderful, loving, God fearing man. And for that, I cannot thank him enough.
With that said, when Troy and I met, Troy was like "the guy" in youth group. Most of his friends were from there and he dated girls from youth group. And scared them away. Kidding. Sort of. Troy and I started dating at the end of our junior year of high school. When we broke up about 2 months later, I didn't get scared off. HA!
We were able to stay friends and I kept going to youth group, watching him continue to date girls in youth group and then make it awkward. In the meantime, Bryson tsked in the corner and kept a watchful eye on Troy. We started hanging out with friends in youth group outside of structured youth group meeting times and Bryson found himself in a tough spot at times. For example, Troy and I used to skip school a lot senior year. A LOT. Like a couple times a week. We weren't doing anything bad. Most of the time. We would skip and go hang out with Bryson. And he never tattled on us. One time, Troy had called in to his school and POSED as his dad, leaving a message on the answering service to excuse himself from school. When the school called his actual dad back, Jim covered and said that he did, in fact, call in, knowing what Troy had done it. Troy's dad IMMEDIATELY called Bryson and was like "have you seen my son today??" And of course, we were sitting on the chairs in Bryson's office. Bryson, put on the spot, covered for him!!!! He was like, "uhhhhh noooo, I haven't seen him." He hung up the phone and looked at Troy and was like "YOU MADE ME LIE TO YOUR DAD!! YOU CALL HIM RIGHT NOW AND FIX THIS!" Troy was all "I didn't MAKE you do anything! You covered for me without prompting!" Long story short, Troy called and confessed. But really, how could you be mad at your kids for skipping school and hanging out at church? Haha.
Anyway, Troy and I go off to colleges in different states and when we come home, always go bug Bryson and Lori. They had a GORGEOUS baby boy when we were freshmen in college. Troy was in the waiting room with some other kids from youth group when Jackson was born. When Troy proposed to me, we knew that we wanted Bryson to marry us. We went to counseling with him and honestly, it was one of the best things we have done in our marriage and I think of it whenever we are fighting. Bryson had us tell him why we love each other. Little did we know that it would end up in a monologue of crying and talk of future parenting goals. He told us to remember these monologues when times are tough because if we keep those "little things" at the forefront of our minds, the other things we fight about won't seem so major.
When we got married, our bridal parties were made up of 5 girls and 5 guys. 3 of my girls went to the church and 3 of the guys went to the church. 60% of our bridal party was made up of youth group members. Crazy right? Bryson did an amazing, funny, and very personal service. We got lots of feedback after the event that it was the most memorable service they had ever attended. We love him.
We went through a phase after we got married that we didn't see them/talk with them a lot because we were so busy and focused on settling into our house and "adult lives" that we kind of dropped off the map. We started trying to have a baby. And nothing. And doctors. Nothing. And then Troy deployed and I found out I was pregnant a week later. And miscarried at 14 weeks. Troy called and I had to tell him over the phone. It was awful. Troy probably hadn't talked to Bryson in over a year. But who is the FIRST person he called? You guessed it. Did it matter that it was the middle of the night? Nope.
I haven't said much about Lori at this point. I realize this. I think that I never really "knew" Lori until recently. I had always seen her as the shining star example for the type of wife I always wanted to be. I mean, you know, she's a preacher's wife. She is perfect. And supportive all the time. And has it all together. Right? WRONG! And that is totally normal and okay. I didn't know this until recently. We went and stayed with them in Blacksburg after Avery was born for her baptism. We stayed for 4 days. She had ALWAYS had a wicked sense of humor. Super sarcastic. And such a great listener. And SO real.
But then I told her what a blessing Avery was because I struggled to get pregnant for so long. And all of a sudden, instead of someone I put on a pedestal, she came down to my level. We suddenly became peers. Even though they were only about 8 years older than us, I had always seen them as mentors and adults who had it all together. Well, let me tell you, NO ONE has it all together. And she made me realize how normal it is to be confused about your faith and to struggle. She talked about her struggle with her faith and God's plan in her life when they couldn't have more children. And what it means to trust in God's plan for your life and your family even when it's not what you pictured or planned for your entire life. And the cycle of anger and disappointment and acceptance. I felt so humbled by her words when she told me that she's accepted God's plan for her life because she realizes that she doesn't need more children to check a box. She sees Troy and me and others in the church as her children and leaves her mark on the world in a totally different way than if she had more children. She has the opportunity to give herself to others in a way that she might not be able to if she had to give herself to more kids right now.
My fear of not being able to have more children went away. Sometimes perspective is everything. It's more service, it's focus on loving what you have and not what you wish you had. It's counting your blessings rather than wishing you had more. It's being truly present in your day and seeing the little things rather than wishing you had something else to split your time up.
You meet people in your life who influence the way you choose to live your life. Troy and I will be in the middle of a fight or "discussion" and I'll say something nasty. I immediately think to myself "is this how Bryson and Lori would speak to each other?" Troy and I use them as an example of a "Kingdom Family." How man and wife should serve God and each other. Is every marriage perfect? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Is their marriage perfect? NO! I have seen them argue. I have seen them disagree. And discipline their son. And mess up. But it's all about keeping the main thing the main thing. And if you are doing that, I mean making God the center of your life, you're doing pretty good.
We love you. And miss you so much.