Do you, Lisa, take Paul to be your lawfully wedded husband? To hold and to cherish, through sickness and in health, until death do you part?” These words sounded like ringing chimes in our ears on our wedding day. We had individually dreamed of this day for years. This was the beginning of wedded bliss, passionate kissing for no reason at all, and long walks in the evening while sipping expensive red wine and planning our next ten day vacation.

Right? So incredibly wrong.

The Facts About Marriage

Let’s face it; it is not easy to date, get married, have a baby, go through post-partum, then right as your body is becoming normal, find out you are pregnant again. Any one of these tasks can be a struggle in its own right, let alone one after the other. We are now three years into this thing, this sequence of major events, and I’m pretty sure there were, and still are, a couple of times I thought I was going to meet Jesus at the front of an eighteen wheeler. I am not quite sure what I did to deserve Paul or these hilarious, loving, precious children, but I do know that God is not, and is nowhere near, done with me yet.

Paul and I struggled, and we still have our daily struggles. We went through a couple of short periods of counseling because we had grown tired of each other, worn out, and disappointed. Was this the life we signed up for? Was this really, truly what God had for us after years of searching?

And then it happened — truth barged in where doubt had made a home.

We didn’t “sign up” for anything — we committed to each other and to God. We found a love worth fighting for, a love worth dying for, children worth suffering for because the eternal reward and the legacy we are leaving behind outweigh the signatures on a divorce paper. A love that is worth fighting for through the name of Jesus Christ, a love worth dying for through the death of our self-image and worldly cliché of the “perfect marriage,” children worth suffering for through the discipline of our own selfish ways to show Christ’s love to each other. A love that is set on fire by individual sacrifice, praise, companionship, and teamwork.

My Bald Prince Charming

I prayed a big prayer one time in my life because I had just learned the difference between praying small prayers and praying big ones. My big prayer was the request of a husband. I had been down many unnecessary roads of disappointment, all coming to a complete halt, and I felt God was preparing me for a husband. I asked Him for this, and He delivered.

When I first met Paul, I thought God was playing a little joke. How little did I know then that God knew so much about me. Was this the answer to my prayer? As women, we expect the cliché man to come riding along. You know — tall, dark, and handsome; the one on the white horse. Anyone ever seen Tangled? Or any Disney movie, for example? Something in us is programmed to expect a glorious, paralyzingly handsome, hair-flowing-in- the-wind hero to sweep us off our tired feet and ride us off into the sunset of happiness.

Little did I know that God would answer my big prayer, but I had to be willing to accept the change he was about to create in me.

I fell head over heels in love with the most opposite of myself, Paul Edward Schipansky. I’m pretty sure at some point I was coming home from work mumbling something to God like, “Okay, seriously, you can stop with the jokes. Is this going to be my husband or what?” And sure enough, he was. We said “I do” on April 30, 2010.

We did not expect that what we thought was going to be smooth sailing was going to be an emotional tidal wave of constant change. Our pride, selfishness, self-reliance, and self-image that slowly plagued our relationship would soon come to an immediate halt under the hands of our Heavenly Father.

God was ready to show us bigger change, greater dependence on Him, and that love is not a feeling; love is Jesus, and love is action.

Surprise Sacrifices

I remember sitting in our driveway asking God to make me more like Him, to show me patience with Paul. The answer to my request for patience came in the form of one sweet baby girl and one
strong-willed baby boy. Our daughter was born in December of 2010, and our son was born in February 2012. Understand me when I say this: we thought then that they would be the starting point to our downfall. After all, they weren’t necessarily planned, but God showed us we were wrong.

It was and still is very frustrating trying to raise two toddlers and work on our newlywed bliss. What is bliss again? Ah yes, you have little time to be blissful! And the time you do have is spent cleaning, catching up on life, or showering for the first time in three days. (What is that smell?) Our children taught us how to love unconditionally, to love as is, respect one another, and cherish each other in our strengths but also our weaknesses.

Paul and I had some serious relationship building, marriage coaching, and love cheerleading to do for each other. Somewhere in between changing dirty diapers together and trying to force plastic toothbrushes in our children’s mouths while screaming at the other spouse to get out pajamas, we learned how to start over.  We eventually learned how to create our new day with each other after all hell had broken loose, and we didn’t know where to start.

Resting in the Struggle

So even with all this drama, Paul and I are stronger and braver together than we ever would be apart. We have come to a place of peace and hope, knowing that there isn’t anything two people can’t conquer if Christ is what binds them. We know how much the devil hates us and our children, and he tries every day to drive some sort of wedge between us and our Heavenly Father.

Yes, there are still days where Paul and I are probably contemplating packing a bag and not coming home from work, or suffocating the other one with our pillow in the middle of the night, but hey, this is real life. We are sinners. We are beautifully broken, mangled, but in our own mess, we are the perfect tool for Glory through Jesus.