By: Tessa Chatham
I was raised in a Christian family and always “knew” God, but I didn’t truly have a relationship with Jesus until late high school/early college. When I was 3 years old, my dad died from an unexpected stroke at the age of 33. My mom was left with three children- 3, 5, and 7 years old. She remarried when I was 7 to a man who is a “Christian” but never loved us like a father should. When I was 17 I moved away for college and was finally able to become my own person and not live in the shadows of my siblings or in the box that my step dad kept me in.
In my first year of college, I experienced losing my virginity to my boyfriend who broke up with me a month later, my brother attempting overdose, getting raped, and having my grandpa pass away. It was an extremely hard year and my faith was tested again and again. Thankfully, I had grown up going to Young Life (a non-profit outreach) and my Young Life leader was really good at loving me and pushing me towards Jesus, even from afar. She encouraged me to go to the Young Life at my college and that is where I was able to not only establish my relationship with Jesus like never before, but I found a family who took me in. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I began to understand what God’s love looked like. I was able to study in Costa Rica for the first half of my senior year and the second half I lived with the family who had become MY family. In both of my “homes” that year, I experienced the love of a family, the love of a father, and watching a husband and wife love and support each other, like I had never seen before. No one is perfect, but that year defined so much redemption in my life.
God gave me a taste of his love in a way that I hadn’t known and it allowed me to have hope for my future and for a family. Through my five years in that town away from home, I was mentored by many father figures who took me in, and I was given the hope that amazing husbands who love Jesus and love their families, do exist. (Little did I know, these would be the men who would give me away on my wedding day). When I was least expecting it, God put a man in my life who loved me as I was. I was in my first year of teaching, 21 years old, I had just broken up with with a boyfriend, and was dealing with the beginning of my stomach problems, and yet he wanted to be with me. We have now been married for over 2 years and I get to experience God’s love everyday in my own family. Although there have been trials (unemployment, health problems, lots of financial struggle), God has remained faithful and he has always provided for us.
We have been trying to start our family for almost a year now and just a few days ago we learned that I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as well as the cause of my stomach problems (that have been going on for four years). As hard as it is to hear of the problems, we have never been so hopeful that God will continue to heal me and we will have a family in his time. God’s timing has proven to be better than ours and we are so grateful for His love and how he continues to provide in every season. Although neither of us experienced fatherly love the way Jesus intended it to be, I know that my husband will be an amazing dad someday!
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33