So this month I’ve asked some of my dear friends to help me out with this blog post. Mike and Tammy Oswalt are more like “framily” than friends. I’ve worked with Tammy in the past while we were both on staff at First Wes in Battle Creek, MI. Mike was a guy that I asked to grab coffee with so often and pick his brain on leadership, fatherhood, life among other random topics we discussed. These meetings turned into monthly discussions over meals. Our families vacation together. These two have one of the strongest marriages I’ve ever witnessed. I wanted all of you to hear their story and insights as well.
Four Life Lessons to Support a Strong Marriage
by Mike and Tammy Oswalt
We hope to inspire and encourage other married couples by our love story that is our life. Our story began when we were still in high school. Mike Oswalt was 17 and Tammy DePalma was 15. For Tammy, it was love at first sight. Mike would soon catch up 🙂 We both went to the same high school and to the same church. Obviously, this made it easier to see each other on a regular basis. We became friends first and realized that we liked being around each other – a lot. We decided to enter a church costume contest together. At the time, Smurfs were popular and so, two smurf costumes were created – complete with blue face paint. For Tammy, this was a huge deal going out in public with her face all blue…but for the right guy 🙂 We won the costume contest and collected our prize which was a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Our first date was dinner out using that gift certificate. After that first date, our relationship moved forward pretty smoothly and when Tammy was a senior in high school, we were engaged. We married on May 23, 1987.
Being married brought excitement and also its own set of learning curves and challenges. We knew that we were in love and committed to making our marriage work. However, it was difficult at times as we learned how to communicate as husband and wife. Neither of us were brought up by parents that exemplified strong marriages, and the culture for our generation was if it gets difficult, get a divorce. We agreed this was not an option for us. We relied on God and our church leaders to help us navigate the first couple years of marriage. This is where we learned the first of many important life lessons – the more you put God at the center of your marriage, the stronger and better it will become.
We were young when we started having kids. Mike was almost 23 and Tammy was just 21 when our daughter was born. We were excited and scared at the same time. We now had a little being relying on us. Four years later, our middle son was born. Three years after that our youngest son was born. We had always wanted to be parents and wanted to raise our children to love God and love His church. Our kids were raised in church. In fact, Tammy worked at the church for eighteen years, so our kids didn’t just go to church on Sundays, they were there on Wednesday nights and sometimes Saturdays helping to get the children’s’ ministry classrooms ready for Sunday. Some weeks were hectic, to say the least. But now as our children are adults we see that they have continued to have a heart for helping others. If you find life being hectic, don’t loose site that children are learning from your example. Through that hectic time, we learned our second life lesson – make it a priority for your children to have a relationship with Jesus and teach them that serving others is something that you are to do as Christ followers.
Speaking of hectic times,
If some of you are parents, you know that children put a certain strain at times on a marriage. Parenting is a blessing, don’t misunderstand us, but sometimes the tantrums and fighting between siblings can also create tension in the home. Learning to parent together, on the same page, is key. We were not perfect in that regard but did strive to parent as a team. This helped to alleviate tension between us as a couple. We also knew that we had God’s Word to fall back on and other couples at our church when we felt weak or inadequate as parents. Don’t ever feel like you are inadequate if you reach out to others for help. That brings us to the third life lesson – God gives you the tools for marriage and parenting if you only look for them and follow them.
We recently celebrated our 30th anniversary. Although we’ve had some struggles and heartbreaks that we have weathered together over the years, we have had a really wonderful marriage. We both feel blessed in that regard. We attribute our success to the most important life lesson – keep God at the center of your marriage and put each other first. This is made possible when you learn your spouse’s love language – and speak it often. Also, make date night a priority, and by all means, don’t apologize for taking a getaway without the kids each year.
In today’s culture, young adults certainly need success stories to give them hope for their marriages. Whether you are newly married, about to be married, or have been married for many years, remember you are both on the same team. As such, together with God as your hope and strength, your marriage will be successful and an example for others to follow.