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!