Monday, March 30, 2015

I Miss

Sitting in my junior year Accounting class, the substitute teacher asks each of us what is most appealing about a career in accounting and why we want to pursue it.  I raise my hand and speak truthfully, something like “I want to work in accounting because it is a career path that will allow me to be a wife and a mother while working from home.”  This was probably not the expected answer in 1988, when women were proudly becoming the main bread winners for their families. 

But it was my heart.  It was my heart at 16 and it is my heart now. 

Truly, all I've ever wanted was to be a good wife and mother.  I enjoy using my brain in other ways too and like to crunch numbers and solve accounting problems, but my heart is in my home life. 

didn't rush into marriage.  I was twenty three and a half when I walked down the aisle.  Had already graduated from college and begun my career.  Oh how I rejoiced in being a wife.  I lovingly tended to our home and all the “behind the scenes” tasks that made it a comfort zone for Tim and our kids.  I enthusiastically poured myself into our foster children.  Homeroom mom, school foundation member, workroom volunteer…they were things that brought me joy.

I cherish the privilege of motherhood.  I am so very thankful to still have the role of mother to our two children and hope to one day foster little ones again. 

But I am also mourning the lost role of wife

I miss middle of the day phone calls or texts when he would “just check on me”.  I miss having a safe and non-judgmental sounding board for my thoughts.  I miss the way he would sincerely thank me for each meal before rising from the table to help wash dishes.  I miss having him hold me accountable in my Spiritual growth.  I vainly miss being told I am pretty.  I miss holding his hand and being kissed.  I miss finding cards expressing his appreciation for all I do.  I miss him leaving me a snickers bar and a Dr. Pepper to help me get through my day.  I miss date night.  I miss evening conversations and snuggles. 

I miss being one of two. 

I miss standing at his shoulder and smiling as he so comfortably led conversations.  I miss the laughter, the inside jokes, the “look” exchanged when we were in a crowd and “knew” what the other was thinking. 

I miss his parenting.  Man, doing this alone is quite possibly the hardest thing I face in my “new” life.  And our kids are great kids; easy by societies standards.  But parenting is just hard.  And parenting solo can be overwhelming. 

I miss his leadership in this home.  He trusted me, fully and without question, I miss that feeling of knowing someone believes in me.  I miss having a teammate and cheerleader and I miss being his number one cheerleader too.

I miss hearing about his work.  I miss being asked about my opinion. 

When all I've ever wanted to be is a wife and mother and one of those roles gets ripped away, it’s hard to find a new goal or passion in life.  I find myself wondering what I want to do, who I want to be, how I want the rest of my story to be written.

And honestly, I have no clue.  Sure wish I could visit with him about it.  Ask for his advice.

I do know that God promises to never leave my side.  I am leaning hard into Jesus and asking Him to guide my path.  He knows my now and He knows my tomorrows.  I am praising Him for those truths. 

I am daily laying my messy "missings" at the foot of the cross.

And I am buckling up my seat belt as He directs my future. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

20 Year Old Memories

On this day twenty years ago…

I woke up in my parents’ home as a single woman, but I ended the day swept away in a limousine and tucked into the Waterford Hotel as a wife.

My mom and I enjoyed a day full of giggles and shopping.  Two of the things we do best.

Girlfriends met me at the church where we got ready and had our photos taken.

I kissed my dad on the cheek as the trumpet began playing my song, then the double doors were swung open and he walked me down the aisle.

How handsome my groom looked with his beaming smile as I approached. 

We vowed to love and respect each other for richer, or poorer, in sickness and in health.  And we lived through all four of those situations in the two decades to come.

We lit the unity candle in front of hundreds of friends and family as my high school Bible and Choir teacher flawlessly sang the Lord’s Prayer.

We shared our first kiss as a married couple…and then, giggling, I wiped my lipstick off his lips to the laughter of the crowd.

We were announced as Mr. and Mrs.

It was a gorgeous start to an amazing life.  To love and be loved by Tim Streller was an indescribable gift.  I am proud to have been his wife.

Today is both our 20th wedding anniversary and the fourteen month anniversary of his passing.

Knowing now that our love story would be cut tragically short, if I could sit myself down for a chat, I would tell that 23 year old girl to still choose to marry him.

Because, he was worth it.  This life has been astonishingly beautiful.  Through the trials and the tears, the victories and the growth, side-by-side with daily laughter on our breath; it has ALL been worth it.

Thank you for loving me so well, Tim.  Your love lives on through me and our children.  In the blink of an eye, you will turn around and greet us in our heavenly home.  Until then, we will choose to honor you by continuing to live life fully, love intentionally, and laugh daily.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Marriage Covered by Grace

This coming Wednesday would have been our twentieth wedding anniversary.

I should be celebrating someplace exotic.

Instead I am left alone to reflect on our years together.

Tim passed away two months shy of our nineteenth anniversary.  Two months to the day.

I would like to think with certainty we would still be married for our twentieth if Tim were here instead of heaven.  But as I soul search, I have to admit that it would only have been by the grace of God,

just as it was only by His grace we reached the eighteen year, ten month mark.

Let me explain.

We were two imperfect people joined together in a covenant with our perfect GodThere were three of us in this union, and only One of us had the power to make it stick.  Only One of us always loved with a selfless and sacrificial love.  News Flash:  That One was neither Tim nor I.

Over the years, I often failed my husband with judgmental attitudes or harsh words.  He sometimes failed me by placing other responsibilities ahead of our relationship.  We didn’t always choose to love well, even though we knew better.  There were times when we were selfish and immature.  We absolutely failed each other.  But there was One who never failed us.

We learned early in our relationship that good communication would be one of our strongest allies.  It was critical, not just with each other; but our individual and collective communication with our God.

On more than one occasion over those nearly nineteen years, Tim and I sat in our closet floor with tears streaming, sharing our unhappiness and lack of fulfillment in the marriage.  Expressing how we needed more from each other.  Asking God to remove our pride and revive the passion in our commitment to this union.

That’s just the “pull-back-the-curtains” truth.  I do the beauty of our marriage a disservice if I don’t admit it.  We had a good marriage.  We loved each other deeply.  We were friends.  We enjoyed time together and were both head over heels in love with our children.  I could go on and on about the wonderful positives with a huge smile on my face.

Memories of how… 
How we were disciplined and diligent in saving for the 20% down payment on our first home. 
How we grew even closer when eight months later Tim moved us across the country to the mountains of Utah.  (Even though, having never been that far from my family, I literally cried for the first 9 hours of the drive.)
How we clung to each other through repeated failed adoptions and the trials of infertility. 
How we celebrated each positive pregnancy test.
How he held me as we were sent home from appointments to mourn the loss of a life growing inside of me. 
How we delighted in the healthy delivery of two miraculous children.

Memories tumble through my mind, glimpses into our beautiful mess of those first five years.  As I reminisce, walking through year by year of our story, I am reminded of how shallow the beauty of the “good” is without the difficulty of the “bad”.

It was because of the “hard” that we softened to each other.  It was due to the “rough” that we began to smoothly fit together.  And it was most definitely only by the grace of God that our love affair survived.  It was the joining of the three of us that allowed the two of us to remain committed to a relationship full of imperfect love.

Yes, sitting here alone with our twentieth anniversary approaching, I can clearly see our marriage can be defined solely by God’s grace.

Our life together was a choice.  We made a covenant commitment to each other and to our Lord on March 11, 1995.  The three of us walked this journey together.  While “until death do us part” happened for Tim and me far too soon by our plans, there is One who knew the exact ending all along.  There is One who never lost sight of the covenant, never grew frustrated with the commitment, and never left us alone to figure it all out.

I remember the struggles and the pain fondly now, for they led to the stretching that fit us tightly together.  I remember both the weariness and the ease of our love, for they were both required in the growth of our relationship.  One doesn't negate the other.  It’s important I don’t allow my memories to “sugar coat” reality.  Our marriage was not a fairy tale.  It was instead, a tale of two imperfect people bound in unity to a perfect God.  It was a tangled dichotomy of joy and sorrow, ease and hardship, fun and frustration.  It was real life.

Mostly, I remember the commitment covered and protected by the grace of God.

And, I am grateful.  Grateful to the One who held it all together.

Happy “would-be” anniversary, Babe.  I will forever love you!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Another Conference an Amazing God

I am amazed at how God continues to use our family’s journey for His glory.  As most of you are aware, not long after Tim’s passing, I was asked to submit an article to AWidow’s Might as a guest blogger.  Someone from the team had been following our Streller Family Support Facebook page during the battle for Tim’s life.  One guest blog turned into two and then both sides felt God nudging me into a permanent team placement for this volunteer ministry. 

This past weekend, I was honored to have the opportunity to minister to widows at a conference in Dallas, Texas with the team of writers and speakers of A Widow’s Might.  Humbled doesn’t even begin to describe my emotions over this opportunity.  We had an amazing team of volunteers on the ground ahead of us, preparing and serving.  The church was beautifully decorated for our event by local women.  The churches own Tender Hearts widow group rallied around our team and served us and the participants with over-the-top hospitality and kindness.  Friends of one of our team member selflessly gave up their entire week to diligently and tirelessly work behind the scenes, ensuring every detail was meticulously cared for. 

Blessed and humbled were the words that kept rolling through my mind.

It was a privilege to teach a session on Managing Early Grief.  I don’t teach from a perspective of having all the answers, because I don’t.  You who have followed our story from the start know full well I don’t havethem.  I don’t share about leaning hard into God through the “yuckiness” of this life from a place of easy reliance.  I understand the struggle.  I “get” the difficulty and yet the all-consuming necessity of it at the same time.  I empathize with the fear and stress bound tightly together in that ball residing in the pit of a stomach.  I know the path of treacherous emotions that can only be calmed by the presence of God; and I know what it is like to feel as if His peace eludes you.  I have experienced the excitement of believing God has healed on this earth and the crushing blow of realizing He chose differently.

I think our team member Teri explained what we have been through best when she said during her keynote session that we have been mauled by a bear.  The “removal” of our spouse wasn’t done with anesthesia or surgical precision, it was an all-out battle for our very existence against a vicious bear who tore us to shreds; leaving gaping holes and every single part of us exposed and raw.   

I have clung to the truth of His goodness when everything around me seemed to defy it.  This is my testimony.  God is God, He is good and He is faithful, even in the sorrow of this life. 

These women have stories too.  They have pain.  They have survived unimaginable circumstances.  Their eyes have seen horrors that many cannot fathom.  Their hearts have been crushed in a way that unless you have been through it, you can never fully understand.  And even then, each story is personal.  We are widows.  Whether we like that name or not, it is now a part of who we are.  Each of us traveled a unique journey here.  Some journeys were sudden; some paths were slow; but all ended with us in the same place.  Being a widow is unavoidable for us, but it doesn't have to define us.  It is a part of who we are but it doesn't have to become all of who we are. 

On our final night together, the team had a beautiful Love Lights Ceremony meticulously planned for the ladies.  Carefully selected music, beautifully crafted speaking parts for each team member, and a time to honor each husband represented.  Weather prohibited the program from going as planned.  It was still lovely, just a greatly abridged version of what had been prepared.  One thing we were still able to have for the ladies was a scrolling of the names of our loved ones. 

It took my breath away. 

I am thirteen months outside of my loss and seeing Tim’s name caught me in an unexpected way.  It was hard and yet beautiful.  I felt the sting of loss and the responsibility of carrying his legacy forward through our children.  I experienced sorrow and pride oddly intermingled together with the intake of my next breath.       

I wish I could properly express the beauty of our broken selves worshiping God together this past weekend.  The total surrender of singing “Blessed Be the Name”; the rawness required to proclaim it and mean it. 

God redeems and He restores.  He makes beauty from darkness.  He is taking each rough and rugged edge of our battered and shredded hearts and He is tenderly binding them up.  He is carefully tending to our wounds.  His Word declares that widows and fatherless children hold a special place in His heart.  I rest in that.  I keep reminding myself that His plans are for eternity; this place is not our home.  Yet, this place is where He has called us to be for this season. 

If I have to walk this path; if I have to have “widow” be a portion of who I am; if I have to guide my children through life with their Daddy in heaven, then I want God to glorify Himself through our story.  That has been my hearts cry.  Lord, glorify Your name!  Use this struggle, use our pain, use our loss, and use us…our story to bring nothing but glory to Your magnificent, matchless name!