But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things. 1 Timothy 4:7-8

As I was growing up, I read all the fairy-tale stories like Sleeping Beauty, hoping to one day meet my prince and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, most fairy tales give us an unrealistic picture of what our life with the prince will be like. Cinderella met her prince at a ball, and then he came looking for her with a glass slipper. When he found her, they lived happily ever after—so you too will marry and have a fairy-tale ending, right? That is certainly what I had pictured for my life. You know, "Jewell sees Lewis from afar and is awed by his handsome presence. One day as she is waiting to buy lunch, she turns around and bumps right into her Prince Charming. They eat together and fall madly in love. They get married and live happily ever after." Well . . . not quite.

Between falling in love and getting married, Lewis and I sought God's guidance and attended an extensive premarital counseling class for three and a half months. The pastor stressed two things that I now know are so important: (1) that couples attend the same church so they are receiving the same teaching and are of the same faith, and (2) that their combined finances are in the black before they get married. He also added that we shouldn't set a date for the wedding before counseling, because people who have done so aren't totally honest with their feelings, especially if they have already put a down payment on a reception area, videographers, and other wedding expenses. After counseling, couples should be one hundred percent sure that they belong together before proceeding into marriage. If you do that, you will be able to weather the storms in your marriage much better when they arise.

And they will arise. All couples go through some storms, and your marriage will not be exempt. If you realize this at the beginning, you won't separate or divorce because of false expectations or doubts about whether your spouse is right for you. Instead, when you go through trials and tribulations, you will believe that you are supposed to be with your mate and therefore be willing to do what it takes to make your marriage work. I wish I wasn't giving this advice based on hindsight. I should have given myself this advice before our storms came (although I was and still am one hundred percent sure Lewis and I belong together). However, at that time, I just did not know how to get the victory concerning my marriage.

My Storm

I fell in love with a wonderful man. Lewis was literally everything I wanted in a husband. I had written a list of characteristics I wanted in my husband, and I placed this sheet of paper in my Bible and prayed about it. When I met Lewis, I prayed constantly and asked God for confirmation on three different occasions, and God confirmed each time that Lewis was good for me. In fact, the last time, God told me to take out my list and see for myself! Lewis had everything on that list, which consisted of about twenty-five characteristics, except two for which he was seeking God's help. As I'm writing this book sixteen years later, he is actually more than I asked for. Praise God, whose Word is true, for doing exceedingly and abundantly more than what I can ask or think (see Eph. 3:20)!

Lewis and I dated for four years before we got married, and I knew without a shadow of doubt that my marriage was ordained by God. When we went through the storm, I still knew in my heart that Lewis was the man for me, but the devil kept whispering, "You can do better. You don't have to take this." I thought, "I was all right before I met him, and I will be all right when he is gone." My thoughts were stupid. I couldn't do better because I had the best man for me. We all want the fairy-tale marriage, which is having a perfect man (or woman) without flaws and a perfect life without challenges. That is not reality. Although Lewis is not perfect, he is the perfect person for me. And I am not perfect either. I may be a perfectionist, but I am not perfect. I hope you can face that truth about yourself as well, and say it out loud: "I, [fill in your name], am not perfect and neither is [fill in your spouse's name]." Good! Hopefully, confessing it will be a start to a "happily ever after" marriage.