Three married couples from our Mennonite Brethren family respond to questions about life together. Their candid answers offer a glimpse into the realities of marriage and the wisdom gained through a long journey traveled hand in hand.
Interviews by Kathy Heinrichs Wiest
Lucila and Rolando Mireles: Rooted in the church
When Lucila Cantu was young, her pastor in La Grulla, Texas, would organize activities bringing together the youth from several local Spanish-speaking congregations. Among the young people he would pick up for these events was a high schooler named Rolando Mireles who lived about 10 miles up the highway in rural South Texas. Knowingly or not, this pastor was planting the seed of romance—a seed that took root and bloomed into marriage. For nearly 50 years Lucila and Rolando have lived in La Grulla raising their three children, teaching in the public school and serving their church and community.
When did you first notice each other?
The pastor took us young people skating. When Lucila, an eighth grader, fell on the skating rink, Rolando, 3 1/2 years older, was there to help her up. Our parents were strict and we took it slow, getting to know each other at our church youth meetings. Finally, at Lucila’s high school graduation Rolando was invited to come to the house.
What drew the two of you together?
Not everyone who came to these youth meetings loved the Lord, but we saw that we had a common desire to serve the Lord. We felt that each of us was given certain gifts from God that could complement each other to better serve him together.
What are some practices that strengthen your marriage?
Together we enjoy going out to eat in those small hole-in-the-wall restaurants and tending to our small flock of chickens. We also like to travel, whether it is driving around country roads enjoying God’s creation, short trips to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico or visiting our grandkids. Praying and reading God’s Word together is very important to us.
What role has the church played in your marriage?
A major role. It allowed for us to study and teach God’s Word together while being strengthened in doing so. It was especially important when we became youth leaders and were able to see that God could use us to make a difference in the lives of our young people. It also became important when together we could serve in national youth organizing committees to better serve the youth.
What has been a challenging time in your marriage?
Dealing with church conflicts. There are times as leaders when problems in the church can bring hard and stressful times. We decided as a couple not to answer back, even when people criticized and misunderstood us. There were things we couldn’t say to others in the church and we didn’t want our kids to be affected so we couldn’t talk openly at home. We cried together and really had to rely on each other. We learned to deal with the conflict together and as a family with much prayer and remaining steadfast in the Lord and also receiving counsel with local and national conference leaders that God provided.
How have you found balance between your marriage and many other commitments?
Balancing our marriage while being church leaders, school teachers, members of various local and national conference boards and parenting three children came with its challenges. One way the Lord provided was the opportunity for our family to travel to the state of Washington for 14 summers where we worked teaching in a summer migrant program. It was a time to enjoy family as well as visit our conference churches where we enjoyed many relationships.
Who has been a model for you in marriage?
We admired many for how they served and the heart with which they served. One couple was Harold and Susan Schroeder from Ferndale, Washington, who we learned to know during our summers in Washington. We have learned to imitate their qualities of hospitality, generosity and service to the Lord.
What advice would you have for a couple preparing for marriage?
Go to church, read God’s Word and always be ready to forgive each other when things don’t go right. Honor God in your relationship.
Clint and Evelyn Seibel: Opposites attract
It took him three years to convince her that he was the one. They had their differences: Evelyn a soft-spoken Canadian who came to study at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas; Clint an outgoing leader who grew up on a Kansas farm. But the combination has served them well for 50 years. Career changes took them and their three children to the West Coast for seminary, to Denver to pastor at Belleview Acres Church, and back to Kansas to serve Tabor and the Hillsboro community. The couple is enjoying semi-retirement as the managers of Bluejay Lanes, a bowling and youth center.
What brought the two of you together?
They say opposites attract, but when we were dating our emotions seemed to blind us to our differences. We just knew we were in love, and we didn’t think anything in the world would change that. We both grew up in the church and loved music and had a sense that those interests would give meaning to our life together even if we had no idea of how that would play out.
How has your spouse brought out the best in you?
Evelyn: One thing that attracted me to Clint was how he seemed more comfortable than I did being in charge of things. I enjoyed staying at home raising our children while he worked in the real estate and auction business. I felt affirmed and supported by Clint in my work at home, and after our family had grown and I was working outside the home, his encouragement to look at my work as a place of ministry made it truly meaningful for me.
Clint: Early in our marriage we didn’t recognize the value of what each of us brought to the relationship, but we have learned to appreciate each other’s gifts, giving a better balance to both of us—especially me. Ev has definitely helped me to step back and look at things before charging ahead. God has called us into various directions in life for a specific season. These career changes would not have been possible without her strong love and support.
Tell about a way the church has impacted your marriage.
When we were planning to move our family to Fresno to attend seminary, we left a loving church in Hillsboro that sent us out with their blessings. North Fresno Church embraced us with a lot of love and acceptance, as did our congregation in Denver. The opportunity to serve the church brought us together as a couple to do what we had always hoped.
What are some practices that have strengthened your relationship?
We thought at first that nothing could ever change our thoughts about each other, but soon found out that work responsibilities, personal interests and other things caused a strain on our marriage. We had to intentionally look for things we could enjoy doing as a couple. When kids came along, music, sports, travel and being together with friends and family were all important to us. Now as we are retired, we have more time to go out and talk about life over a cup of coffee. That’s a great thing to do—especially when your spouse’s love language is meaningful conversation.
What have been some challenges?
We’ve jokingly said that we had 48 good years of marriage and that’s not bad out of 50! Probably our biggest challenge was to learn how to communicate when we had disagreements. It was tempting to attack each other instead of the issue. Figuring out how to do that has helped through any challenges we faced.
What advice would you give a couple preparing for marriage?
Someone once said marriage is like two rivers joining together creating some pretty turbulent waters for a while. In time, things begin to smooth out but there are always some rapids along the way. When God brings you together, he will also carry you through the rough waters.
Christine and Sam Wall: For richer, for poorer
Chris was still in high school in 1971 when she and Sam got to know each other as part of summer staff at Hartland Christian Camp in Central California. Three years later they married and moved to Sam’s hometown of Madera where, for 48 years, they have lived and served actively at Madera Avenue Bible Church. Sam has a cabinet-making business. Chris worked 30 years in management at Sherwin Williams Paint Company and then as a planned giving advisor for MB Foundation.
How has your spouse brought out your best qualities?
Sam: Chris has always encouraged me to get involved in areas that interested me. She was understanding as I pursued my cabinetmaking business and encouraged me in various ministries both within and outside of our church.
Chris: Sam recognized that I have leadership skills and always encouraged me in that regard in my work, in the church and in various boards on which I have served. He wants me to be who I am and not try to fit into a mold expected of other women.
Where in your life together have your marriage vows been a challenge?
When we were first married, we experienced “for richer or for poorer” as money was extremely tight. With Chris finishing her education and Sam trying to start a business, we were broke for quite a while. This was not easy, but God blessed us with the ability to work hard and earn money to pull out of that situation. Being so poor early on has made us extremely grateful to God for what we have and makes it very easy to be generous with our finances.
What other low points have you faced as a couple?
Sam served as an army medic in Vietnam before we met. He suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which made our early years quite challenging. But we were both committed to the marriage and felt that God wanted us together, so we kept working at it. Sam has been able to come to terms with his past with Chris standing beside and helping him through it.
How do the two of you work through your conflicts?
Sometimes we don’t. For three years Chris has wanted new patio furniture, but Sam thinks that the old furniture is just fine. So, the old furniture is on the patio rotting away and the standoff continues.
How have you found balance between your marriage and other demands of life?
During our working years, we both worked many hours to the point of neglecting each other. Work-life balance really didn’t exist in our home. The main thing that has gotten us through and kept us together is to give each other a lot of grace, each understanding that the activities occupying the other’s time were important and worthwhile.
What new practices have enriched your marriage in your retirement years?
We have grown to love traveling together both domestically and internationally. We’ve also found that entertaining in our home brings us close together.
What role has the church played in your life as a couple?
Our church has always been an integral part of our relationship. The fact that we attended church every Sunday (and other times during the week) helped keep us together. Our childlessness has not always been a positive thing in the church. In the early years we felt we were not considered to be a family since we were childless, and this was at times hurtful.
What advice would you give a couple preparing for marriage?
The practice we would most recommend is regular church attendance. It’s hard to argue with someone when you have just sat next to them at a worship service. Also, allow your spouse to be who they are and don’t try to fix them. View your marriage as a partnership for life and not a “happily ever after” fairy tale.