What do you get when you pack six spirited children, a bustling wife, and an international worship rockstar – not to mention a week's worth of malaria pills – into an airplane for a weeklong trip to Africa? Marriage, for better or for worse.
Married for over 17 years, with a majority of their years devoted to Delirious?, a Christian rock and worship band known for their iconic songs like "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever," "History Maker," and "Deeper," Martin and Anna Smith know just what it costs to keep their family and their marriage together.
With Martin constantly on tour for a significant part of their lives, the word "difficult" would be quite an understatement to describe their journey.
The couple experienced a near fatal car accident together during the early years of their marriage, which prompted Martin to take his band fulltime and form Delirious?.
They wept for their unborn fifth baby, a tragic loss they suffered while midflight on tour with the band, all while still having to lead worship in front of thousands of expectant fans every day after.
"All we wanted to do was go home, but it wasn't possible. The tour continued. We went through many boxes of tissues, and we hid sore, puffy eyes under our sunglasses…" Anna recalled in her upcoming autobiography, Meet Mrs. Smith.
Though there were times when the family would join the band on tour, a ritual three weeks across America every year and a couple of inspirational trips across Asia, most of the time was spent at home in Rustington, England, waiting for daddy to come home – the boys wanting to play catch, and the girls needing their father's sweet embraces.
"Life can get lonely with Martin away and children to raise. It's hard when Daddy says good-bye, the door closes, and I'm left with children crying, wanting him back," Anna wrote. "I spent many a lonely evening wishing he could be home."
"Staying strong and staying together on our journey was often a struggle. Sometimes we craved time to just stare into each other's eyes … we had to fight for moments together and time with God."
Fortunately, Martin was never away for more than 10 days at a time, apart from a couple of tours in Australia. The band established that rule at the beginning of their formation and worked hard to keep it until the end.
"This wasn't always easy or cheap, but it was a value that we see as instrumental to sustaining healthy marriages and preserving family time," the mother of six explained in her book.
During those 10-day absences, however, times of crisis still waited for no one, not even Martin. And they always had a way of dawning at the most inopportune times.
There were days when Anna would be left alone to battle squirrels and bats that would fly or sprint into her room, or her water would break before Martin was home. Children would bang their heads against the coffee table, or accidentally touch a burning baby bottle. Life as a family continued with or without daddy present.
But with the generous help of friends or family all around, and mum only a few minutes away, Anna and Martin were able to hold down the fort on more than one occasion. Even the kids themselves learned to help each other.
Their eldest daughter, Elle, would answer phones with her younger baby sister, Ruby, on her hip. Levi would accompany his baby sister to the toilet and make sure she turned off the faucet. Other siblings would clean up the toys and help with chores, each easing their mother's load until Martin came home.
And even when her husband came home, there'd still be things to do. Anna never stopped being a mom, and Martin never stopped being a dad.
"Over the years I've realized the necessity of keeping going when the traveler returns. He's exhausted, I'm exhausted, but the children never seem to be," Anna wrote in one of her chapters. "I've found it best to not switch off when I hear the key in the door after he returns from a 10-day tour. Mind you, I'll never turn down a visit to the local beauticians."
Now after 17 years of packed bags and pools of tears, with Delirious? no longer in session – the band decided to call it quits in 2009 – Martin can focus his time on his family, for more "sport days, weekend breakfasts, birthdays, and bedtime stories," according to Anna.
"When I heard God say that my time with the band was over, my six children played a large part in the decision … I just needed to be home," Martin expresses in his newest book, Delirious.
"They all just needed their dad. They needed their dad to show that he loved and valued their mum, too, and that family came first."
Anna penned, "The most important thing a wife can do for her child is to love her child's father. The most important thing a husband can do for his child is to love his child's mother. Marriage is not an extension of single life, and children shouldn't be the reason that a relationship dwindles from cruising in fifth gear to struggling in second gear."
Despite the painful sacrifices both have made to share God's love with the world, Martin and Anna have also experienced a deeply intimate and raw joy in their marriage, family life and career.
"In the midst of all this I saw so many positives: Our children grew up learning that we all have a 'wider' family to take care of too, which gave them a more expansive perspective of their roles as human beings. I'm in awe of all of the band's achievements, and through it all they have stayed humble and down to earth," she wrote.
While speaking to The Christian Post, the Smiths were filled with constant bursts of laughter and lighthearted joking. Teasing about their six children, Martin told CP, "I don't think we intended to have six children … we just got carried away really."
"Our house is full of a lot of fun and there's always music on in the house, so it's pretty rocking," he said. "I think when the doors are shut, we live a fairly normal life really, although we do have a lot of people in and out of the house – it's quite an open house. We have a great church here, great family around … it's just busy, full of people."
Looking back on their journey, Anna recalled her first impression of Martin to CP. They officially met at her sister's wedding. Martin was the wedding singer.
"At that time I thought 'He's got an amazing voice, but what on earth is he wearing?'" – his tux was two sizes too big. "But he had an amazing voice, and just his nature was kind of quirky and fun."
The introverted Martin had actually seen Anna first when she came to sing as part of a choir at the studio where he worked. "When I first met Anna, she was singing in a kids choir when she was about 16," Martin remembered. "I saw this amazing looking girl through the window and I thought, wow, she's pretty hot."
"I liked her straightaway," Martin recorded in his book. "Anna has always brought fun to my life. I was an intense – perhaps over-intense – worship nerd who took things very seriously. But Anna brings light and life, happiness and vitality to everything she touches. She is a brilliant balance to my reflective side."
So how have they changed since they first met?
"Martin is quite happy to socialize and do things that I like to do now, which is cool," Anna jokingly relayed to CP. While Martin sarcastically retorted, "Yeah, Anna's a lot nicer now … she's done a lot of learning."
Aside from the all the levity, Anna honestly told CP, "When I look back at the amount of love we got married on, it kind of can scare me quite a lot because I think we didn't really know each other hugely, and when I look back, I was married when I was 20, and I think it was quite a risky thing to do.
"I think we didn't really know each other, but now I love him to bits and our love has grown more than ever so I kind of wish I got married with this amount of Mart's love."
With six kids around and their involvement in CompassionArt, a nonprofit organization the duo co-founded, how do they find time for each other and make the marriage work despite the ongoing busyness?
"When you have lots of kids and with Martin being away a lot, there were times when it was really, really quite tricky to keep that going and strong. Martin would really make as much time when he was back for us to go out together. And for us to tell our children that times together for us is important."
Her book also touches on some key elements of marriage. "Communication is key. I love my mystery man, but sometimes our lifestyle can pull us apart. At times it feels like two single people living under the same roof – devoted parents with a terrible sense of disconnection with each other. We love each other immensely, but just like everyone else, we have to fight for our marriage."
Martin added, "It's just a life of serving each other, isn't it really."
Keeping their outlook positive and still going strong, Martin divulged to CP their Valentine's plans.
"There's a great little restaurant near us, which is right on the beach so we're going to go for lunch there on Monday hopefully."
To which Anna squealed in delight and responded, "Oh are we? That'd be amazing!"
It looks like we've spoiled the surprise – sorry, Martin.
Both of their books were released this month.