Kevin and I should never have gotten married. We should never have met for that matter.
When Kevin was in high school, he had a plan. He would attend Mississippi College and then go to medical school.
When I was in high school, I had a plan. I would attend an out-of-state college. Period. A small college in Alabama would make the most financial sense, since out-of-state tuition at a larger university would be outrageous.
Ultimately, scholarship incentives to Mississippi State University diverted Kevin’s course. You can’t argue with money, right? During Kevin’s freshman year of college, he applied to be a Mississippi State University Roadrunner. (For the non-MSU readers, Roadrunners are a select group of students who recruit prospective college students and give campus tours.) He wasn’t chosen.
Around that same time, I was a sophomore in community college, standing in the guidance counselor’s office. “You’re crazy,” she bluntly told me. “With your grades, you can get scholarships to pay for most of your education at MSU.” I scoffed at her idea. I WAS LEAVING THE STATE. Got it? Eventually, at the eleventh hour, I begrudgingly walked back in to her office to get an application for Mississippi State University. The other out-of-state school had offered me a measly scholarship that wouldn’t even cover books. I tagged along with my childhood friend Andy to go to Starkville for MSU orientation. I wasn’t even registered for the event. I quite literally just showed up and had a student ID made. Andy and I headed off to different buildings to meet with academic advisors and attempt to register for classes via land line phones. Remember this was pre-portable cell phones, so I have no idea how Andy and I ever met back up. We both wandered aimlessly until we found each other. I went home exhausted, and I cried because I couldn’t get into any classes. I was going to a school that I didn’t want to attend, and I had no place to live.
A few months later in the fall, Kevin started his sophomore year at MSU. He was majoring in microbiology and studying non-stop. He had also pledged a fraternity, so he spent quite a lot of his free time cleaning up the post-party frat house, or being dropped off in the dead of night in the middle of nowhere and left to his own devices to get back to the fraternity house. (I know, right? I would have cried and quit right then and there.) He decided to apply to be a Roadrunner again that year.
That same fall, I started my junior year at MSU majoring in English. I was living in an apartment with three strangers. And I loved it. I loved the campus. I loved my roommates. I loved my apartment. I loved the people I met in my classes. I loved my neighbors. Everything was exceeding expectations. I was walking back from class one day when I saw the guy who lived in the apartment behind mine. We chatted as we walked, and he said out of the blue, “Hey. You should try out for Roadrunner!” I know what you’re thinking. It was Kevin! Nope. It was Eric Bishop, and I give him partial credit for the fairy tale life I have now.
I didn’t think I stood a chance, but I applied anyway. There were several rounds of the process including interviews and finally, a social so that the current Roadrunners could get to know the candidates a little better. I had serious doubts that I would be selected. Hundreds applied, and around twenty were chosen. The odds weren’t in my favor, but it sounded fun so I went with it. Somehow, I made it through cut after cut, and I found myself in a room full of strangers (except for my neighbor Eric!) at the social. I made small talk with many people that night, and one thing that kept coming up was my necklace. People asked me over and over, “What’s that in your necklace?” It was a mustard seed. My mom had given me a mustard seed necklace for my high school graduation, and I wore it often. In fact, I still have it, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. I explained to all who asked what it was, and I read the scripture on the back: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…nothing shall be impossible unto you.” Matthew 17:20.
Days later, the names of the new Roadrunners were posted. My name was there! (I didn’t know it at the time, but so was Kevin’s.) Later that spring, the organization held another social for all the Roadrunners, bidding farewell to those who were graduating and welcoming the new inductees. I spent the afternoon at the pool “working on my tan” sans sunscreen. (Oh, if I could go back!) I got completely fried. I was glowing as red as a lobster when I stepped on to the elevator that night. “I like your tie,” I said to the cute guy standing there, the only other person on the elevator. And the rest, as they say, is history. (By the way, I found out later that Kevin borrowed the tie from his roommate. Ha!)
We often said it was fate that brought us together, two people who had very different futures planned. In fact it was faith. A tiny mustard seed, a symbol of faith, made me stand out in a crowd. Months later, several people told me that it was the necklace that made them remember me. A tiny mustard seed had the power to potentially change the outcome of my life. I’ll be honest. I knew nothing about faith then. I was a kid who made promises to God in exchange for what I hoped for. I’m sure that at the time, I sounded like my own five year old now when she tries to negotiate with me for what she wants.
“I’ll be good, Mommy, if you let me have caaaaaannnnnndy!”
“I’ll be a better person, God, if you….” Fill in your own blank here. We’ve all done it.
God had a plan. It looked nothing like mine. When I was 18, God was probably all, “Oh honey, you WILL leave the state. Just not now. There’s a cute boy named Kevin that’s gonna change your LIFE!”
It is my prayer for my family that our faith is what makes us stand out in the crowd, what makes others notice us. Not a cute outfit, not athletic ability, not popularity. Not even a pretty necklace with a mustard seed in it.
Now back to that cute guy. Kevin has done so much more than change my name. He truly changed my life. We have been on some pretty crazy adventures. I wish I could have Phil Keoghan from our favorite show The Amazing Race narrate this:
“Kevin and Brandie, you’ve had some amazing adventures. Five states, six pets, and four kids! We saw you at the beginning where you started with nothing. You’ve hit some detours and some speed bumps along the way, but here you are SIXTEEN YEARS later, and you’re nowhere close to the finish line. You’ve seen others give up on the race, but you’ve hung in there. Now Brandie, is there anything you’d like to say to Kevin?”
And then I’d say, “Yes, Phil, there is. Kevin, you are my rock. You are my safe place. You have held it together when I fell apart, and you have made my dreams come true. You have made me laugh so hard that I almost threw up. And sometimes you have made me cry. It’s ok though. Sometimes I can’t contain the tears when I see you with our kids. They show up sometimes when I see you throwing the baseball with Braden, or helping Annalise with math, or making pancakes with Waverly, or tickling Caleb’s chubby belly. I can’t imagine running this race with anyone else.”
Happy (early) anniversary, Kevin! I love you!