Scott Stipe and Ralanda Pagano were united in marriage on October 2nd, 1992 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. We became acquainted six years earlier as we both attended the same church and, during our high school years, the same Christian school. It is the Biblical principles that we learned during these formative years that we credit as the basis for the exceptionally strong relationship and marriage that we have enjoyed for nearly twenty years. It was not easy, as we had the same urges and desires as any other teenage couple, but we resolved early on to build the foundation of our relationship before marriage on emotional and spiritual aspects, without developing a physical relationship. Our decision to delay building a physical relationship allowed us the freedom to get to know each other on a deeper level that many couples these days never develop. For a marriage to last the storms and stresses of life, it needs to be grounded in something deeper than outward beauty and physical affection that will ultimately fade with time. We are so glad that we chose to build a relationship on Biblical principles as it has allowed us to have the strength to weather some very strong storms together.
When we first got married, Scott was only half-way through his Dairy and Animal Science degree at Pennsylvania State University and had plans to go on to veterinary school. In relying on our own thinking, and due to a lack of knowledge and a lack of faith, we felt that it would be best to delay having children until Scott was finished with veterinary school. For this reason, Ralanda went on "the pill". It was not until years later that we found out that it was possible to conceive while on the pill, and that the pill could cause an abortion by preventing the newly conceived life from implanting. It was also through study and soul-searching that we realized that we were trying to avoid what God clearly teaches is a blessing and reward from him (Psalm 127:3). We personally had decided that we needed to follow Proverbs 3:5-6, which states, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowlege Him, and He shall direct thy paths." We came to realize that through what seemed like reasonable thinking (our own understanding) we actually were failing to trust God with ALL our heart and with ALL our ways. It was not until Scott was nearly half way done with veterinary school that we came to the conclusion that we needed to trust God with EVERY area of our life, including when he would bless us with children, and so Ralanda stopped the pill.
Ironically, God did plan on building our family, yet in a way that we did not expect. While living in St. Kitts (an island country in the Carribean Sea) for veterinary school, we were very involved in serving in a missionary church in the capital of Basseterre. It was while serving in the music and youth ministries in the church that a Kittitian woman approached us about adopting her newly born baby. The baby was her 7th child and she felt that she wanted her new daughter to have a chance to escape a life of poverty in St. Kitts. After much prayer, we did adopt that baby girl, and Giovanna Natalie (Gi-Gi) became our first daughter. Even though we had just stopped preventing pregnancy, it was six months later, when Gi-Gi was a year of age, that we found out that we were expecting our first baby by birth. Erroneously, many thought that we had adopted Gi-Gi because we "couldn't conceive" and commented how many people in this situation tend to become pregnant shortly after they adopt. In reality, we had just turned control of this area over to God, as well as his leading and timing of the adoption.
From this point forward, we endeavored to trust God with every area of our life, including the timing and number of children we would have. This decision did not prove to be an easy one; however, having complete faith is not usually easy. Several of Ralanda's pregnancies were "difficult" with complications at times. The doctors even told us that if we did not stop having children that Ralanda could die in childbirth. It was very difficult to not take matters into our own hands and lean unto our own understanding, but true faith requires trusting God when you are down in the valley and things are uncertain as much as when you are on the mountain top and all is well. Completely trusting God when all around you are telling you that you have lost your mind is not easy; however, God's ways are not our ways and He tends to build our faith through adversity. At times it has been very scary, and doubt and fear would arise, but God is always faithful, if we only trust in Him. Looking into the eyes of each of our children we cannot imagine which soul(s) would not exist, if we had not trusted God completely. We simply want to view children as Christ viewed children. When the disciples held the children back because they thought they would be too "unruly" or too much of a burden, Jesus said suffer not to let the children come unto me. We want to embrace, not avoid the children that He would send our way. The inconvieniences associated with children are temporary but their souls are eternal. Windows can be washed, walls can be repainted, and broken items can be replaced or repaired. However, our relationship and training of our children will have an impact eternally, so we are willing to sacrifice our comfort and convienience to train the souls that God has so blessed and rewarded us with. Lord, we thank you that you have chosen to entrust us with so great an heritage. May we show them the love and patience that you show to each of us who are your children.
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man: so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.