The Story Didn't Start with Tessa
...it started many years ago. I grew up in a Christian home, attended church and Sunday school regularly and was an avid participant in youth groups and various volunteer organizations. Those "formative" years, however, are what introduced me to a life with God in it. I knew where to find Him and who to call on if I ever needed Him. Its interesting how life changes a person and how quickly one can turn from God and not even realize the life they are living is a life of of destruction.
Like most, I went off to college and had to depend on my own "self" to make important decisions. Let me tell you- it wasn't easy...and I made a lot of mistakes. A lot.
(*Disclaimer- it wasn't all bad. God sent me 5 angels who helped me grow into the person I am today...a strong, intelligent, dependable friend). But I have to believe that the broken road is exactly what led me back to God. After several years of making the same mistakes- engaged 3 times and living a "wild" life, I knew I was sinking. But I didn't turn to God; instead I applied for every soil scientist job in the lower 48. I got several offers but chose the one that brought me to Wyoming.
That summer changed my life (literally...read on!). As I worked for the Forest Service during the week I got to spend a lot of time in the saddle- thinking about life and things I needed to change. I learned very quickly that smoking does not help anyone hike at altitude...so that was the first thing to change. On the weekends, I worked as a waitress at a "locals" hangout not too far from the guard station I was living. There I met some of the most wholesome, good-hearted, and good-timin' folks. This environment was what I was running from, but also as I come to find out, exactly what God had planned for me to run towards.
It just so happened that I met my husband there that summer and we married one year later (August 2007). The night of our wedding, we received news that my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and did not have a great prognosis. For our first year of marriage, we were faced with the trial of losing my father-in-law. At that time, two very immature individuals had to grow up fast. I had no idea how to comfort my husband and the easiest thing to do was to be in denial over it...which eventually led to its own demise.
During the next two years, I was broken. I had left home, had fallen into the same pit I was running from in the first place. But this time, instead of running, I remembered my childhood. I remembered my walk with God early on...how good life was then. Maybe I was missing Him? At the time, I had just been laid off of work and took a contract working in desolate areas in Southwest Wyoming. K Love and Pilgrim Radio were the only stations I could tune most of the time...and God knew I would listen. At first just for background noise...but in the end- for saving. I started attending a Lutheran church and got involved with the youth program and served in other ways. God knew I was hurt and broken. He knew he could reach me with a Pastor that took me under his wing and led me to find purpose and worth in working with the youth.
During this period of time, I was still very conflicted at home. While I had found a place to go, to obtain that worth again, I wasn't putting in much effort on the home front. In fact, I was retreating. I was finding any way I could to disappear- to find a reason to leave.
After 2 years of marriage, I decided to throw in the towel. I had overwhelming guilt of not being able to be there for my husband, I was 1000 miles from my hometown and felt guilty for leaving my friends and family, and I thought the grass was going to be greener. During the 2 months that I was home, God worked quickly. I was able to restore some friendships that had been hurt long ago and my husband and I were able to sort out our differences.
We made a promise and commitment to one another not to let go. And from that moment on, our relationship has been tested to the max.
In September 2011, I went into pre-mature labor with my son (now 4 1/2). I was 28 weeks along and started dilating. My husband was managing a hunting camp at the time and just that morning had left to pack in the camp cook. I went to the hospital to get a steroid shot and they immediately started me on mag to stop the contractions and buy some time. I called my mother-in-law who came to be by my side immediately. Upon her arrival, the doctors had ordered a helicopter from University of Utah to come and get me.
I landed at University of Utah hospital on the evening of the 24th. My husband and my mother-in-law arrived in the middle of the night. I was monitored very closely by doctors and went through a series of medications to stop labor. But on the evening of the 27th, there was nothing we could do anymore. The drugs were not working, and my son was coming.
We welcomed my him at 5am on September 28th, 2011. I was in a room with a little window where they immediately handed Noel off to the nurses on the other side. Through that window were doctors and nurses awaiting his arrival as well...but differently than I. They had life support. At 2lbs 12oz and 12 weeks left for gestation- he wasn't ready to be out of the womb. My little man was in the hands of God...and oh, how I prayed for him.
This was (I believe) the second test of my faithfulness and trust in my God and my Jesus. They led the hands and minds of those doctors and nurses for 11 weeks during our time at the hospital. God led us through two unidentified infections (the second nearly taking Noel's life), lung maturity outside the womb and supplied us with a wise, hungry little boy.
There were so many stories from that hospital regarding Noel. I loved all of his nurses. I loved all of our "bedmates". I loved the fact that I was able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House for the 2 months we were in the hospital...and I love that God kept me focused. He kept me focused on Him and Noel.
I will never forget the visitors from the church I was attending- their comfort, prayers, and gifts. I will never forget the overwhelming amount of milk I was able to produce. I will never forget these first moments of motherhood. You know, God answered my prayers for a child...but it didn't happen my way.
It happened God's way.
He was using my son to prepare my husband and I (and, I believe, the rest of the family) for the future. For Tessa.
A few interesting events happened as we prepared to take my son home. Just days before we left the hospital, the camp cook I mentioned earlier was in a fatal accident with his love and her sister. Bert, our camp cook, was life-flighted to University of Utah hospital, the same floor as us. His love and her sister passed away. My husband was able to see him before we left the hospital and Bert has since visited with our son many times.
The day we left the hospital with Noel, December 4, 2011, there was a snowstorm moving in. We had a 4-5 hour drive ahead of us and the snow just kept getting heavier as we trudged toward home. That day my father called to tell me that my Grandmother, Eileen, had passed away. She had spent the previous 10 years battling dementia...God chose her to be a guiding angel that day. I know she was with us. There are no coincidences.
Can I tell you, I may have known God then, I may have put my trust in Him then. But I have never been led so beautifully by the Holy Spirit as I am now. I have never had such a deep and meaningful relationship with my God as I do today. One doesn't have to come out of trials just to have this experience. One just has to press in.
But I have to believe that the broken road is exactly what led me back to God-led me into this relationship. I only want for Him to wrap my family and I in His arms...and keep the fire burning within us. But it would also be very cool to see the flames in our hearts ignite life in others for His glory.
“If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God