Married Life - How to Make A Marriage Work in the Hard Times of Life

Married Life in the Hard Times

I haven’t blogged about married life in a while.

Because we are still trying to figure out what married life looks like overseas.

Learning how to make a marriage work in the hard times.

The desert moments. Difficulties, struggles and challenges of life.

I never imagined how different married life would look after the unbelievable amount of change, transition, and life that has happened over the past years of living overseas.

From this picture in October 2012… the time that marked our end in full time ministry stateside to that of missionary status.

Married Life - How to Make A Marriage Work in the Hard Times of Life

At the time of the above picture, we had already been married 11 years, had 3 children in 3 years, pastored at 2 churches, moved 3 times, discovered sickness, walked the death of a brother and learned a whole lot of life as a young married couple.

Then, to this picture in November 2015… a picture that marks our first months of settling in Senegal. Just three very short years later…

Married Life - How to Make A Marriage Work in the Hard Times of Life

And to this picture of us in July of 2018, just before leaving for our second term. Knowing the reality of what is coming yet still excited to walk in obedience to the call. Feeling stronger than before.

Married Life - How to Make A Marriage Work in the Hard Times of Life

But from one picture to the next, so much has changed.

We are the same. Yet so very different.

We’ve traveled a million miles from the faces in that first picture.

Struggled. Lived. Survived.

Run a marathon in our journey and in reality.

We’ve learned so much. About each other. About life. About failure. About success. About slowing down and speeding up. About ending the day still in love… even when we don’t feel it. About talking when we don’t want to. About being silent when we want to scream. About parenting when the day is tough. About working together when everything is seemingly pulling us apart.

This process has been incredibly life changing… imagine what that does to a marriage. How that impacts two people trying to walk married life together. With grace. and compassion. All while not even knowing how to have grace for ourselves let alone another person.

The heart stopping feeling of a text that changes everything about the difficulty level of life. So thankful for safety yet fully aware of the impact this will have on the settling in process.

The heart pounding moment when a slammed door means a locked gate. And the whole family is on the wrong side of the gate.

The heart gripping moment when passports are lost… to be found once more.

The heart breaking moment of seeing your spouse wade through the weight of too much pressure.

The truly heart sick moment when you realize that your quick decision, your trying to help, really just made things worse.

And truly not knowing how to help either of you through this situation let alone what you know is coming next.

The fun and the joy and the tears of seeing beautiful things happen, promises fulfilled, calling realized, and journeys lived. SO much great joy and fun in the midst of it all!

Yet, there are deep life-changing, marriage-impacting paths of this new life. this new reality. this life in the desert.

Learning how to make married life work in the desert is not easy.

The frustration of not being able to do and accomplish the things that need done.

The huge learning curve of new roles, language, culture and ways of life.

All walked together. In tandem. tout ensamble.

I think we love each other more than we ever even dreamed. I think our love is reaching depths we didn’t know existed. We feel for each other in ways we never did before… walking in tune to the heart of another person.

Yet, we are at a complete loss sometimes how to help or encourage because it seems our efforts to do so make it worse or cause unintended hurt.

We have to watch and wait while God does His thing.

We have to push through the tangle of words, the daily mix-ups, the stress and the personality changes. We have to learn how to navigate the impact of all of these things on who we are and how we handle life. We have to learn how to do that together.

And how to live married life on a pressure-cooker time frame.

Living married life with Not Your Average Headache

Because if something is left alone or left undone, the next problem will arise whether we are ready for it or not.

These little things become HUGE things because someone has to fix, find, or do without.

We know the emotional cost, the financial stress, the personal discomfort and great impact this will have on us all.

So those faces in the first picture had marriage somewhat figured out. They had a rhythm of life in motion, a way of doing things that worked, roles settled and schedule arranged.

Now, every single day is different and requires a new set of skills for the task. We both must jump in and figure out quickly who is doing what whether we know how or not. Personal weaknesses become alarmingly apparent and hindrances quickly float to the surface. And we must love each other through it all.

We must speak in kindness, be flexible with joy and take the waves with strength.

We need Jesus. moment by moment.

We need each other desperately.

We need things we don’t even know how to ask for and we see needs we don’t know how to meet.

We see what God is doing in each of us and we rejoice that He has chosen us to walk this growth process together.

But that doesn’t make the walking easier. No way through but through. Just keep going. Seek Him in it all.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

I am learning two people in the process of laying down life and learning to live a different way is more difficult and more wonderful than I can explain.

Seeing Jeremy lay down what he wants for me, knowing what it is costing him to do so.

The inner battle to lay down what I want for him… knowing with everything in me I want to do it but also battling the inner selfishness to let go and make what he needs happen.

Both of us deeply desiring to lay it ALL down for the Kingdom, while floundering to grasp the magnitude of the task, the multitude of things to learn.

Living the process ourselves all while married to another person trying to live the process too.

Remembering that our marriage testimony will speak to the nation around us in ways we can’t yet fathom or see. Knowing that how we treat each other, our interactions with each other are seen and heard. Knowing that God is speaking through our marriage being lived out here, in THIS desert.

Knowing that marriage can make or break us.

And wanting ALL of it to make us into something amazing. Praying that we can find our way to new heights together.

How to Make A Marriage Work in the Hard Times of Life

Trusting God for our married life in the desert.

Creating something beautiful and deep and full. Knowing He is faithful and He will do it.



  1. Amazing joy. 🙂 I agree that there is great fun and joy in the midst of it all. I could talk about “marriage in the jungle” instead of the desert since we lived 5 out of the last 6 years in Congo. And jungle would have been a good metaphor for so may other circumstances, too. But we made a point to always keep working on our communication and our relationship. I can say that while we did not emerge completely unscathed, we emerged closer than ever. We have always loved to laugh and joke around together, and we found that it was a good stress relief during some of the hard things. After 3 months back in the US, I have just realized this weekend that we laugh even more than we used to do. I saw that as a positive. 🙂

  2. Oh Jenilee…what a challenge!
    What a commitment! What a jorney you and Jeremy are on!
    Thanks for sharing your heart, and the difficulties you face on a daily basis, now we know more how we should pray for you and Jeremy! (And the girls!)
    May our wonderful Lord give you courage and strength to face every single day there!
    And may He bring many blessings to you and to others who you minister to.
    Love, Linda

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