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‘Be as whole as you can by yourself … then learn to be one’

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By Anita Debro
Special to the Birmingham Times

“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone who would, please send nominations to Erica Wright at ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

KIMBERLY AND STEPHEN STRICKLAND

Live: Trussville

Married: July 26, 2015

Met: Kimberly, a Birmingham native, and Stephen, who is from Opelika, met on Christmas Day 2011 at a church service through a mutual friend. “We were exiting the church and we looked at each other and I just froze,” Kimberly said. “He had a really beautiful smile … and he was handsome.” Stephen said he recognized Kimberly as one of his Facebook friends. “Of course she was a pretty girl,” he said.  The day after that brief meeting, the two started talking via Facebook. For about two weeks they chatted. Kimberly said she was really busy with work and did not know if Stephen was actually interested in getting together.  Stephen said he almost gave up on meeting with her because of her busy schedule but decided against it. “I swallowed my pride and reached back out to her,” he said. He asked her on a date.

First date: February 2012 they met at Applebee’s Restaurant for what they both assumed would be a causal first date. They ended up eating and talking at the restaurant for four hours. “We lost track of time.” Kimberly said. “That was it,” Stephen said. “I knew it was something special.”

The proposal: May 1,2015. Kimberly and Stephen had dinner plans at a specific time, but Stephen had not yet arrived by the designated time. Kimberly was waiting with her son, Jaden. When Stephen finally arrived, he sat Jaden down and started talking to him, telling him how much he loved Kimberly and asking her son what someone does when they really love a person. Kimberly said she was confused because he was not getting ready for the dinner date. “I didn’t even see that he had a ring and was on one knee,” Kimberly said. Her mouth dropped when she realized Stephen was proposing. Stephen said he wanted the proposal to be memorable and special for Kim and Jaden. “It was really special,” she said. “After that we went to Applebee’s.”

The wedding: Just two months after the proposal, Kimberly and Stephen walked down the aisle. “We are planners … we put together quickly,” she said.  The wedding was at Woodrow Hall in Woodlawn. “The wedding was exactly how we planned,” Stephen said. “It wasn’t over the top, but it was done with a lot of splendor.” Kimberly said it was a family affair, including her father who had just had triple bypass surgery and had to watch the wedding via video chat. Following the wedding, the couple flew to Mexico for their honeymoon.

Words of Wisdom: Enjoy the newlywed bliss while you can, but be prepared for the challenges that come when that wears off, they say.  “Marriage becomes real and you have to learn to communicate,” Kimberly said. “Situations happen and it is different from when you were dating.” She added, “Each person is continuing to grow. Learning how to be an ‘us’ is a process.”

Making sure you continue to grow as an individual is also important, Stephen said.

“Be as whole as you can by yourself and then learn to be one together,” he advised.

The two also implore couples to “take off the mask” and be honest. “You have to learn how to have the hard conversations,” she said.

Happily ever after: Kimberly, a flutist, is a smooth jazz recording artist, a teacher at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and host of a nationally syndicated radio show Kim Scott’s Block Party. Stephen is an associate minister at New Rising Star Baptist Church, operates Urban Gospel Radio and serves as Kimberly’s music manager.

“We have crazy schedules,” Kimberly said. “We have our hands in a lot of things … our hands are full.”

The couple, who share three sons Jaden, 13 and twin sons Joshua and Jason, 21, enjoy spending time together in the midst of their chaotic work schedules. “We take it to the house to spend time together,” Stephen said.  Even with the hectic schedule, Kim and Stephen do just about everything together since so much of their lives are tied into her music and his ministry. They look forward to a busy future with Kimberly recording another album and Stephen preparing for several projects on the horizon. They also look forward to “sitting on the back porch and enjoying each other.”