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Divorced Couple Takes a Chance on Better Marriage

In 1998, Randall and Chenel met and married in Kentucky. Chenel was 17 years old and pregnant with their son. Randall was 18 and joined the Air Force to provide for his new family. stationed in North Dakota, the couple was hopeful for a fresh start.  

“We've got a new baby, we're in a new city…I just felt like ‘Wow, this is my chance.  I'm grown up now.  I can start a new life.’  But things quickly uh went the other direction,” said Chenel.

“I think the reality was that we married too young and we got away from our comfort zone, our parents, and we both had strict mothers and we was out on our own, so we wanted to be free and do what we wanted to do,” said Randall.

And with their freedom, there was also temptation.  “Early on, we began to go out.  We could hang out at clubs then. A lot of the friends that we were around were having affairs. We began to have communication issues.  When issues would arise that we would need to talk about, I would want to talk about them and Randall would want to uh isolate himself.  He didn't really want to talk about it.  And so that made me madder and madder that he didn't want to talk about it.  So, in order to get a response from him, I committed an affair,” said Chenel.

“Well, finding out about it upset me and I could be kinda vindictive at times, so I’m like ‘Okay, she did this to me, so I have got to get her back.’  And so that's when I start going out and, you know, having affairs,” said Randall.

They say their communication problems stemmed from dysfunction in their individual pasts.

“We definitely had unresolved issues. I believe that both of us came in with woundedness, father wounds for sure, both of us have father wounds.  And being rejected. And so we brought this baggage into our marriage,” said Chenel.

“When Chenel wanted to discuss a matter, you know, if it angered me, I just wanted to be left alone,” said Randall.

Their behavior toward each other grew more destructive and violent, with daily arguments and at times, physical abuse. In 1993, they divorced.   But over the next 10 years, Randall and Chenel would engage in a toxic, “on and off” relationship, sometimes living with each other- - while still divorced.

“If he said the sky was blue, I was going to say it was red. It was just constant turmoil and conflict.  And so, while we were very intimate with each other, we couldn't get along with each other,” said Chenel.

In 2004 the couple was living together in Kentucky. Randall had a reliable job and Chenel was a newly licensed cosmetologist discouraged about her lack of clients and struggling to earn income. Although, at the salon, she quickly found a friend in another hairstylist.

“Her name was Pat and I admired her. I knew there was something different about her, but I just didn't know what. So, as I began to talk to Pat at the salon and I found out that she was a Christian, one day I actually asked her uh if I could go to church with her and she was like ‘Yeah’,” said Chenel.  

She began attending church regularly, and during a service on October 31st 2004, Chenel says her heart changed for good.

“I was ready to change.  I was sick of the life that I was having.  So that definitely made me want to change.  I just knew that I was at the bottom, rock bottom, and that something needed to change in order for me and my life to get better. And so I ended up there, I ended up at the altar and it literally was like a vision that I could see of Jesus and I could see his arm stretched wide and say, "I've been waiting on you, my daughter. I knew that it was – it was a sin for me and Randall to live together and not be married.  I prayed about my situation more. "Lord, if this is not what you have for me, you know I don't have anywhere to go, so what do I do from here?"

Meanwhile Randall began to examine his feelings for Chenel.

“The-the biggest thing that made me not want to lose her is that she has always like put like my best interest before hers, so she always made sure – would always try to make sure I was okay.

And so just having somebody to care for you like that, man, it just meant the world. And so for me to be able to keep her, you know, I was going to have to marry her.  So I just came home one day and asked her, ‘Baby, you want to do this or what?’ And she was like, ‘What?’  I was like, ‘You want to get married?"

She said yes, and in 2005, the couple re-married. Chenel continued to pray and take their son to church. as Randall began to see positive changes in their lives, he wanted to be a better father and husband. he began to attend church too.  “I'm trying to raise a son and he's growing up in the word and his daddy's out ripping and running the streets.  So, I’m trying to raise a good young man, but I got to be able to show him what that even looks like.”

“I feel like a peace came over me like "Okay, I'm taking the right step" to, you know, to lead my family,” said Randall.

The Stewarts attended Christian counseling and began to pray and study the Bible together.

“We have learned how to respect one another, we have learned how to communicate better with one another and we have learned how to compromise.”  

“She’s my bestie.  That's my BFF. I like sports, my wife hates sports but you know, if I say I’m going to a Bengals' game or something like that, she wants to be right there and vice-versa. She talked me into going to a ballet.  I'm not the ballet type of guy, but I went and I actually enjoyed it.  So, we just – we have fun together.”

Today Randall and Chenel have a ministry called Redeemed Life and they lead men and women’s Bible studies.  They enjoy visits with from their adult son Bryce and the couple finds joy in raising their two young nephews.  Their love for each other is stronger than eve and it’s all because they learned to love each other as Christ loves them.

“Hope.  Jesus gave us restoration. It took God to restore this marriage. He showed us how to be committed and loyal, how to love.  Love.  God gave us love and he showed us how to love one another.”

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