Randy and Seantel hold a special place in my heart. They have provided many meals, laughs, and much counsel. They are magnetic and make everyone feel welcome the moment they walk in the door. They are a miracle. Jesus’ power shines throughout their circumstances. Even they would say that without prayer and daily submission to Jesus, they would not be who they are today. Here is their story:
December 9, 2017
SEANTEL: I was born to parents that got pregnant out of wedlock. I actually found that out recently. I had suspected, but I didn’t know for sure. Because of that, there was a lot of dysfunction: a young mom who didn’t want to have kids and a dad who had been in the military during Vietnam and had bad relations with his parents. Because of that, my parents got heavily into drugs. There were other problems: alcohol, job insecurity, and instability in their marriage. Finally the marriage ended after seven years. Then there was me going back and forth living at my mom’s in Atlanta and staying in Missouri with my grandparents. When I turned 11, I was living in Atlanta with my mom and I started to get into a lot of trouble because I was angry and my mom was struggling to raise me and pay the bills. She had her own addictions and problems. My dad wasn’t a good support. He was around, but not supportive.
At that point, the decision was made to send me up here for my grandparents to adopt me. This was my dad’s parents. From the age of 11 and on, I lived up here with my grandparents. This helped because there was stability, but there was still dysfunction. There was some abuse – not from my grandmother, but from my grandfather. There was a lot of loneliness and missing my parents and not understanding why they loved drugs so much that they would give up their kiddo for that type of lifestyle. So that was the “growing up” years. Then, I met Randy at Calvary Baptist Church. We were good friends and liked to hang out and be together. He would come pick me up and we would go bee-bopping around during the day. It was super fun. Through my time with him, we went to a youth camp. It was Windemere … up in Kansas City, I think. I was sixteen. I had already accepted Jesus when I was nine, but then when I was 16, we went to this camp. I remember them talking about how your relationship with God should change your life. People should be able to see this change in you … and that hadn’t really happened for me. At that camp, I remember just deciding that I was all in. I loved Jesus and I believed that he was real and he had a plan for me. I knew I had things in my life that weren’t good and I accepted his forgiveness and his love. That’s where my journey really began with Jesus.
RANDY: My parents were married. Dad was a hard worker and that was mainly what he did … work. Mom worked, too. We were always at babysitters’ or going to school. So, my brother and I did our own thing. Mom and Dad weren’t really close with us. They provided for us, but it wasn’t like we did stuff together, except go on vacation once a year. We were pretty friend-oriented. As we got a little older, we didn’t really go to church or anything. In high school, I had some friends that were having a bible study and they invited me to come so I did. I started learning about God and why Jesus came. I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was sixteen. Not that I was a bad kid, I wasn’t getting in trouble or anything like that. But now, there was a different view on life. I started changing some of my attitudes and activities a little bit. That would be the reason for why or why not I would do something. It was still hard because some of my friends, who said they were Christians, were doing stuff that wasn’t in line with their faith. We kind of drifted apart there. I started going to Calvary’s youth group and got to know some new people. That’s where I met Sean (Seantel) and we did stuff together as friends.
SEANTEL: Randy entered the picture when I was really young – fifteen. We went on our first date when I turned sixteen. As I got older I just wanted to be out of my house. I felt like I could do better on my own and not have to be in this living environment that was so stressful with my grandfather. My grandmother was wonderful, but my grandfather was really difficult. Randy and I had dated almost three years. I graduated from high school and went to college. My grandmother had asked that I do a year of college. My heart wasn’t in it. I had other concerns like two parents who were alcoholics and hooked on drugs and I had this difficult home life. I just couldn’t get my head in the game at school. When Randy was in college, we decided to go ahead a get married. We had been dating for three years at that point. We started saving money. We had saved up enough and bought furniture and a little house. I was 18 and he were 21. We got married.
I thought that was the answer. If I could just get out and be on our own, that would be the answer. Well, as we got into married life, things were difficult there. I didn’t know how to do marriage and Randy, I think, came from a home that had a good marriage but he didn’t know how to work through problems. We went to a retreat that some friends had invited us to. At that retreat, the biggest takeaway was: the word “divorce” is not even in your vocabulary … it’s not something you bring up in your home. Up until this point, if we had problems, I would just say, “this isn’t working … we need to get divorced” because that was all I really knew. That’s how I thought we solved our problems. After we had gone to this retreat, we committed to that – that one rule. That was a game-changer for us. Then we learned: we’re on the same team and we have to figure this out together. Our marriage got so much better. Even our spiritual life really improved a great deal. We worked and Randy had taken a break from school and I wasn’t in school at that point. We had Randon and we decided I was going to stay home. Randy started going back to night school.
So for the next few years, Randy worked full-time so I could stay home and he put himself through night school. During this time, I started going to BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and that was a spiritual growth booster. It was a whole new level up. I was learning the Bible and started understanding what the Bible is, how it fits together, and how it speaks to my life. I got into leadership there and did that for nine years. I grew by leaps and bounds. We were in a good church and things were better. However, I struggled greatly with depression. I felt like my upbringing was the reason I was having these depression issues. Although, I had gone to counseling, was being mentored by older women, had a good, solid marriage, and our kids were doing good, I was still really struggling. It would come and it would go. There would be seasons. I’d be fine for a while and then it would come back. We ended up moving to Kansas City and during that time, I had a lot of dental work done. During that dental work, my health completely crashed to the point where we had to move back home. I was homeschooling the kids and I couldn’t homeschool them anymore. It was difficult for Randy to work and deal with everything. We needed help. We needed to be around people that knew us and people that could help us. We moved back and that started a whole new phase of our life.
RANDY: To reiterate a little bit – we got married and the first couple years were tough. We were adjusting. There was stuff from Seantel’s past that hadn’t been dealt with. Those were relationship roadblocks. We were young and still trying to transition, I guess. We had some difficulties with my parents and Seantel’s parents. We had some good friends that we could look to and hang out with. That made a big difference for us. We really started growing in the Lord after having kids and seeing, Hey, we’re going to have to raise these kids. We want them to know the Lord and have a family that supports them in that. We were involved and busy in a small church. Sean was having some issues after the dental work – where her physical state and the mental state just kind of tanked. We came back to Joplin and made some adjustments. I think this made us dependent on God and not ourselves so much. We were getting through and maturing as a family. We were involved with the kids and a lot of their activities. I thought we had a good family life. We didn’t have a lot of money because the jobs I chose didn’t earn a lot, but I chose more time and less stress. I’m not regretting those choices. We got to have our family and be together. I’m pretty happy with how things have gone.
SEANTEL: [The dental work] happened 17 years ago. That’s when we moved into the house we are in now and put the kids in Webb City schools. The health issues have ebbed and flowed over the last years. They have gotten better and then have gotten worse. During this time, I had started working at Life Choices. I had been a volunteer for years, but then I had the privilege of getting on staff and loved that time. In the last year and a half, the stress of that job and the stress of dealing with aging parents were weighing down. My health had definitely been going backwards. We made the decision for me to step down from my job. That was bittersweet, but God’s hand has been in it the whole way. No regrets.
My health has actually improved a lot since then. The main thing that I would say over these past 17 years and in this phase of our lives would be: God is so faithful. Even in the stormy times when it was hard, when my health was at its worst, when there was a lot of pressure on Randy’s shoulders, when I was having really difficult times with depression, anxiety, feeling so sick, and nasty arthritis, and pain – I just feel like God led us step by step by step and has used all of it and is still using all of it to humble us, strengthen us, make us dependent on Him, show us how much He loves us and that He’s here all of the time. The suffering knocked off a lot of fears that I had … getting to the bottom of the barrel and realizing that, in the end, He’s really all we have. We’re not promised another day. We’re not promised health. We’re not promised provision at the level we all think that we need. My relationship with Him is just sweet. It’s like breath to me and I have to have it every day. I would say that relationship, that depth, and that dependence have come through a lot of years of suffering in my life. I would say that even though the dental work ushered in this big explosion of health problems, that there was stuff before from the stress of my upbringing. I think it was a perfect storm that completely wrecked me. I just felt totally broken, but God has taken that big mess and is slowly putting it all together into something that I hope He can use for good.
And this guy (grabs Randy) … I just have to give a shout out to supportive husbands. In the beginning, when my health crashed and it wasn’t this visible thing you can see, but I was telling him “something isn’t right and I can’t sleep and I can’t eat” … For Randy, it was difficult to understand what was actually happening. This was before the Internet. We couldn’t just look up to see what was going on. As time progressed, Randy would hold my hand and support me and take me to appointments and spend a lot of money trying to get me well. He took off work, helped with the kids, and was up at 4 o’clock in the morning on his knees praying. I would come out of the bedroom and he would be out here on his knees praying for me. There is nothing that is going to strengthen love in a marriage more than walking up at 4 in the morning to see your husband on his knees praying for you. It’s pretty amazing. We’ve learned to lean in. Even though I’m feeling so much better and I feel like I’ve regained a lot of my function back … there’s still limits, ya know? I still can’t do everything I want to do and that limits him. I’m not a wife out there earning money alongside my husband and making things easier and fluffier. He’s had to carry that load. He’s done it in a beautiful way. It’s given me space to have the time of healing I need and the support I need. It’s not going to be in money that our blessings come through – it’s going to be in other ways like relationships, walking with God, and spending time together – keeping the stress level low.
RANDY: We’ve adjusted our lifestyle and contentment level. It’s opened a lot of doors for her by going through these things, like relating to people that you probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. I think God’s using that in a lot of ways that we might not have thought would ever happen.
SEANTEL: It’s not the journey we would have asked for, but it’s the road we’ve been given.
RANDY: But we’re walking it together.
SEANTEL: We just do it together.