Surviving the Pressure Cooker: How One Couple Overcame Ministry Stress to Create a Successful Marriage by Maria Foslien
Surviving the Pressure Cooker: How One Couple Overcame Ministry Stress to Create a Successful Marriage
by Maria Foslien
Paul and Maria Foslien were married in 1989 and served on the mission field in Belarus for three years before founding Living Word Family Church in Naples, Florida
Maria Foslien began serving God in 1986 at Living Word Christian Center in Minneapolis, including work in the youth, prayer and music ministries. She studied prayer under Lynne Hammond and learned to flow in worship with several worship teams at LWCC, and currently oversees the prayer and music ministries at LWFC.
Paul and Maria continue to lead and serve the church they founded in Naples. They have three children, and one grand child.
Going from “a match made in heaven” to near divorce and back again sums it up. We had a great first few years of marriage. After four years we went onto the mission field and it all fell apart. The mission field itself wasn’t to blame. It simply forced weaknesses to the forefront.
I had never lived on my own before marriage and quite frankly I had a lot of growing up to do. Here in America my issues were easily skirted. Even with fast food, washers and dryers, prepackaged meals and microwaves I struggled with the daily demands of motherhood and marriage. We moved over to the former Soviet Union in 1993 to do mission work. Our two boys were ages three and one at the time. If you remember the news regarding Russia back then you will recall seeing the long food lines due to food shortages. That’s when we moved there. We were in those lines hoping the food wouldn’t run out before we got to the front of the line. We had no washer, no dryer, no microwave, no diapers, and many times no laundry soap or bleach. Most of the meat we could find was already spoiled. We literally bought “green” chicken. That’s all that was available. We just “cooked the tar out of it”! For two years I don’t think we ever found fresh meat to buy. So, needless to say, it was rough.
We started a church in Ghrodno, Belarus. The people were so hungry for God and Bible teaching. They hadn’t had the right to own Bibles or to go to church for so many years. Everywhere we looked there were spiritual needs and natural needs. It was overwhelming.
Unfortunately, balancing family and ministry wasn’t a skill we had acquired. Neither was good parenting. Cooking and housekeeping were not at the top of my list of skills either. Are you getting the picture?
We were teaching, preaching, going to orphanages, feeding the poor, distributing humanitarian aide, growing a church and changing lives with the Word of God. On the home front the laundry was piled up waist high, (it just wasn’t any fun trying to wring out jeans by hand in winter with bleeding hands), our children were not adjusting well to the cultural and language differences not to mention the fact that our parenting skills were basically non-existent, meal making was a nightmare because I didn’t know how to cook from scratch, and last but not least, our marriage was falling apart as a result.
I can truly say it was the hardest time in my life. I began resenting Paul for the difficulties I faced day by day. My personal time with God dwindled down to nothing. Hardship seemed to consume me and bitterness replaced love.
The church was flourishing. Our lives, however, were in despair. Words of blame turned into words of divorce. Our children’s behavior was a perfect reflection of our home life. Not pretty!
Things got so bad that a decision had to be made. Stay married or go our separate ways. Divorce was the favorable choice. Staying together was the necessary choice. For our kids and the ministry we decided to stay together.
We asked ourselves, “What steps would our pastor tell us to make if we were sitting in his office right now in America for marriage counseling?” We already knew what he would tell us to do. We made a decision to commit to change and do what was necessary to turn things around.
The next time we were in the states to itinerate we made an appointment with one of the pastoral staff at our church whose family always amazed me. We sat down with him and asked him what we needed to do as parents for our children. We didn’t candy coat the situation. We weren’t interested in hiding our parenting flaws. We wanted to fix our parenting flaws! This pastor talked with us for hours on how he parented, disciplined, etc… We wrote down notes and began making radical changes. Amazingly, our children’s behavior began to turn around immediately!
God sent me a wonderful Russian woman who taught me how to cook, helped me clean and get on top of the laundry. I learned how to manage my time and demands each day. What a difference planning and diligence makes!
Our marriage? We immediately stopped the hurtful and damaging words. Honestly, we had to speak kind words to one another “by faith” because there were no feelings that accompanied those words. Feelings eventually came back, but it wasn’t automatic. It took time and effort. We had to do a lot of repenting and a lot of forgiving. I’m so glad we did.
We also drastically cut back ministry. We realized how overloaded we were and that if we didn’t downsize our output it would undermine what we were trying to do with our home life. Even with the cut backs in ministry, the church continued to grow and we were still able to do all God called us to do there. The difference? We were no longer sacrificing our family to save someone else’s.
As we look back on that hard season of our lives, we are thankful we went through it. Even though we prayed to be delivered out of it supernaturally, it was the best thing for us to learn how to walk out of it one day at a time. Some of the weaknesses that caused us so much pain are now strengths and the source of much joy. Today our marriage is one of the main things that draw people to us. Our children are almost grown and they are some of the finest young men you’ll run into. I say none of this to boast, but rather in the utmost humility and gratitude for what God has done in our lives. We are a testimony of God’s power, help and love.
The Lord ministered something sobering to me not too long ago, which is actually what prompted me to write this out now. He showed me that most of the resentment toward my husband for “not being there ” during that time was actually just resentment of having to go through something difficult. The Lord needed me to grow up. It was His will that we were there. Of course, He didn’t cause our marriage or parenting problems, but He did get them out into the light (I would have happily kept them in the dark)! Those problems would have destroyed us, but instead we got victory over them. Even though it wasn’t an easy time in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t in the “pressure cooker” years ago.