of things life brings into a marriage. After growing up in intact, middle-class, Midwestern families, they wed before their 21st birthdays and welcomed their first child eighteen months later. By their fifteenth anniversary, they’d brought home a total of six children, while at the same time bearing the loss of five pre-born children.
Over these same years, their relationship with each other and with Jesus Christ deepened and blossomed so that faith, family, fellowship, and fortitude became the foundation on which they built their life and made their decisions—decisions about priorities, commitments, sacrifices, and investments. As a result, they (mostly Ann) homeschooled all the children for over twenty years, they became an integral part of many of their church’s ministries, and they created a glowing scrapbook of family-centered memories at the lake, at the cabin, and around the dinner table.
But at a time when their lives seemed “storybook”, brain disorders and mental illness stormed into their home and turned their family upside down. Heartaches and hospital stays, felony charges and fractured relationships, doctor visits and drug abuse suddenly and for many years became the black hole around which their life revolved. And without an experienced, knowledgeable support network, they did what most couples do: struggle through it as best they can.
Slowly, and by God’s grace and Spirit, they eventually created through the struggle a bond that stands the worst of tests, a hope that moves them forward, and a voice that calls other couples to a place not just of survival, but of growth and delight.
Today, Mike and Ann Gapinski make their home in a quiet community in Wisconsin, where they enjoy bonfires with friends, where Ann quilts and sews for her grandchildren and others, and where Mike chops wood and reads all he can about the USA’s early Space Program.