when the better comes AFTER the worst – BOOK GIVEAWAY – #tellhisstory

July 19, 2016 | 31 comments

Our reception was held in the small-town gymnasium, a block from where I grew up. Scott and I fancied ourselves as fairy-tale characters. Miles of crepe paper had been draped around that stinky gym, in an act of decorating prowess that would have sent all of Pinterest into a tailspin of horror. Our dinner reception was served by a bunch of middle-aged fellows from the farmer’s cooperative, wearing greasy aprons. They grilled turkey filets. Potato salad was heaped in cumulonimbus clumps upon flimsy plastic plates.

To us, it felt first-class fancy — this unglamorous wedding reception, lit up with thousands of twinkling lights strung from fake ficus trees and basketball hoops. It was a fairy tale beginning to what—we hoped—would be our happily ever after.

We danced until midnight under the gym rafters. When the band slowed things down a bit, they played “Could I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life.” I nestled my head under his chin, feeling his warm breath coming out in long exhales into my hair.

Then, real life happened. The needle scratched across the record. It didn’t happen in a day, but in a series of months that turned to years. Our marriage slipped into a bland malaise. Suddenly, we woke up and realized that someone short-circuited the electricity in the marriage, and we both blamed the other person for faulty wiring.

A child came. And then another. Some pudgy-fisted toddler and her silk-edged Taggie blanket slipped between the two of us at midnight, again and again.

Sound familiar?

This is the moment when some of us look at our marriages and ask ourselves: How did we go from happy to humdrum? Can we reclaim the joy of our wedding day? Even more, can we multiply it?

Why yes… yes we can. And we don’t have to wait until the kids are gone to do it. The time is NOW. Maybe it’s like Wendell Berry said: “The most misleading thing a love story can do is end ‘happily’ with a marriage, not because there is no such thing as a happy marriage, but because marriage cannot be happy except by being made happy.”

Simply put: A happy marriage takes work. Hard work. And it’s worth it.

The cynics will tell you that holy matrimony is outdated, outmoded and utterly unfixable. But that’s not true. Marriage is something worth fighting for, not only because of true love, but because marriage is a sacred bond created by God.

I loved this book on marriage. Practical advice.

The other day, a book appeared on my doorstep. Because I’m an author, other authors send me their books from time to time. I don’t tell you about every book that comes my way, but there are a few that have a message that I simply can’t keep to myself. For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House is one of those books.

“Marriage is both a blessing we received and a battle we fight for in love, commitment, sacrifice, and grace. The challenge in marriage is not how it starts, but how it continues, grow, matures, and flourishes over time,” write Patrick and Ruth Schwenk.

Last month, Scott and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We celebrated a richer, fuller version of “happily ever after,” than we could have known. It hasn’t been easy. Like Patrick and Ruth write, it has been a “battle we fight for in love.”

Our marriage has grown over the bumps and twists of years, between the unexpected moves, job changes, surprise babies, spontaneous dates—and yes, even the slammed doors. It grew in the middle of our bored nights, and our begging prayers, and in the moments when God miraculously redeemed our irrational decisions.

It grew in the breaking and the mending. It grew over crazy trips to the emergency room, in that gentle brushing-up against each other when you’re hip-to-hip at the sink, and during those late-night Netflix marathons, when you reach in the dark, to find the hand of your favorite person.

It happened in the falling apart, and in the duct-taping it all back together again.

What marriage truly is!

Marriage is waking up every day to say “I do” again. It’s inviting someone into your personal space, and behind your unlocked bathroom door, and into your hospital room, where your back end is open to the breeze. It’s letting someone look into every closet where every last skeleton still rattles, and then letting them look into your eyes, past the crow’s feet, to see someone more beautiful than the day they said “yes.”

Marriage is for better and for worse, and knowing that sometimes? The better comes after the worst.*

(Footnote: A statement similar to this is often attributed to Doug Larson.)


I loved this book on marriage. Practical advice.

Today we are celebrating the release of For Better or For Kids by giving away 3 copies of the book!

To enter the giveaway, complete these steps:
1. Share this post on Facebook.
2. Let us know in the comments that you shared! Easy-peasy!

On Friday, I will draw 3 winners randomly from the comments below.


For Better or For Kids is the #1 new release in Christian Marriage books on Amazon!

This book will enable couples to:

  • Build a God-centered marriage instead of a Child-centered or Me-centered marriage
  • Avoid the dangers of spouse-neglect and self-neglect
  • Effectively communicate in the chaos
  • Explore ways to parent together as one team
  • Find balance in the busyness

For Better or For Kids (by Patrick and Ruth Schwenk) is about remembering that even when you feel worn out, over-extended, and neglected, you promised to be a team. Marriage with kids may not always be what we expected, but it is good. We need to make a vow to love our spouse with kids in the house.


Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Anna Smit. She recently interviewed me about pursuing happiness and community in the midst of pain, and I’ve love to invite you to join our conversation. Find Anna here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer


post contains aff link

by | July 19, 2016 | 31 comments


  1. Christianne McCall

    I shared this in my Bible study group on FB!

  2. Meghan Weyerbacher

    Shared! This book sounds like something we need right now! Jennifer, your admissions and great use of wordage always draw me in – because sometimes I just need to know I am not going crazy..that it is normal to have these hard seasons. I just wrote yesterday about my own struggle in our marriage but when I cake that on top of having kids it sometimes feels like the blind leading the blind. I am learning to get my thoughts and life in line with God’s promises though, slowly but surely. It helps to read encouraging words from ladies who have been there or are in it too! #TheHappinessDare has definitely helped in this journey so far and I thank you. 🙂

    • dukeslee

      Sweet Meghan! You are one of the winners of the book! Send me your address, to [email protected], or just FB message me. 🙂

  3. Deborah Will

    Shared on my Facebook Ministry page. It sounds like a wonderful book. Marriage truly is waking up and saying I do again and again.

  4. Mary

    I love your story Jennifer! You describe the days after the big day so perfectly. “The needle scratched across the record”. I get that! You truly bless me with your storytelling. You have such a beautiful gift. Thank you again and again for your story and willingness to share it with all of us. Hugs!

  5. Patti Gardner

    My husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary back in February. It hasn’t always been easy, but we persevered through the difficulties, and our marriage is stronger because of it.

    I think that the media (romantic movies) have conditioned us to think that marriage will always be a bed of roses and that we will always have those euphoric feelings we had while dating. So, when trouble comes and/or that euphoric feeling goes away, we are conditioned to think something’s wrong and that it’s time to move on.

    But strength comes through working through things together.

    Patti @ Embracing Home

    • dukeslee

      Such truth, Patti!

  6. karen

    Shared on FB and would love to win. I have the privilege of meeting with lots of moms who are in this stage!

    • dukeslee

      Hi Karen! You are one of the winners of the book! Send me your address at [email protected]! Yay you!

  7. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Jennifer, I can see why you highlighted this book–it sounds excellent. Funny, my post I linked this week (first time in a long time) is about our marriage–of 43 years. No one is more surprised than I am. It is definitely God’s glue and grace that has held us together. That, and the duct tape.

  8. Michele Morin

    “It grew in the breaking and the mending.”
    This is so true of marriage, but my heart swells with the beauty of this truth in all areas of our faith walk.

  9. Brittany Van Aartsen

    Shared…..this book sounds like a must read!

    • dukeslee

      Hey Brittany! You are one of the winners of the book giveaway. Send me your address to [email protected], and we will get it sent to you soon!

  10. Anna Smit

    This sounds like a great book, Jennifer. Amen to this: “Marriage is something worth fighting for, not only because of true love, but because marriage is a sacred bond created by God.”

    Thanks for sharing the interview via your featured post. I hope people drop by and are blessed by your words and story there.

  11. Susan

    Several things! Truer words have not been written on this topic. Yay you. I am 60+, married to my second husband for 34 years and we don’t look the same as we did in 1982! The space on the hospital gown has broadened and the breeze is wider but I’ll tell you – we are better than ever! When I married the hubs I had three young children and my mom told me, “It won’t be easy but tough it out because when these kids are grown and gone? He’ll still be here.” The very best advice she ever gave me. It has been worth all the cold shoulders, arguments, all-out brawls (not in the physical sense), days without words. Great post and you nailed the real essence of marriage. Secondly, I am not reading The Happiness Dare nor am I on your launch team but I did take the test! This past weekend I found myself doing things, saying things, reacting to things with this comment, “It makes me happy!” The hubs caught on quickly and as we ended a really great Saturday together he said, “I’m so happy that I can make you happy.” It rubbed off. Of course now I want to encourage everyone to take the happiness dare – this world is hard enough and when we can eek out happiness in the minutia of our lives we have won the dare! This is long but I know how much writers love encouragement…here’s a big dose to keep doing what you are doing. xo

    • dukeslee

      What an encouragement indeed, Susan. Thank you for sharing that!

  12. JViola79

    This sounds like a wonderful book which I will want to share! Grateful you share about books!

  13. Julie Loos

    This post was so empowering! Renews my commitment to my husband!
    I shared your great post and the book looks fantastic!

  14. Crystal Aaron Peer

    Shared, sounds like a great book!

  15. Amy Dowty


  16. Ruth-Anne Hayes

    I shared. Thanks for the opportunity! ♡

  17. Meg Bucher

    Awesome. Sometimes I feel like I struggle alone, until writers like you pull thoughts right out of my head. I’ll have to put this book on my list of “to read’s.” Happy Wednesday! Megs

  18. hfineisen

    This book looks really good. I shared it on Facebook and hope I am one of the winners!

  19. Rachele Watson


  20. Kari Marie Dodd


  21. Crystal Meredith

    Shared! Thank you!

  22. Melinda Roberts


  23. Joy Powers


  24. June

    Great review, Jennifer! I have a few friends I’d like to tell about this book!



  1. If You Need to Remember that God is Good | Waxing Gibbous - […] Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart,…
  2. We Don't Just Give; We Receive - […] at Tell His Story, Small Wonder, Testimony Tuesday, Purposeful Faith, Moments of Hope,  Good Morning […]
  3. Create With Joy and Have Fun - Words, Photos and ArtWords, Photos and Art - […] I’m linking up with #FiveMinuteFriday, #LetUsGrow, #GiveMeGrace, #LMMLinkup, #SmallWonder, #TellHisStory […]
  4. Being Brave - True and Faithful - […] Linking with #TellHerStory […]
  5. Exile - […] I’m linked up with Beth, Holly, Holley, Jaime, Jennifer Lee, Jenny, […]
  6. Mortar for Every Mother's Weary Heart- Fresh Market Friday - Crystal Twaddell - […] I’m joining the link-up over at Searching for Moments and #TellHisStory […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest