Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Nine Years

It is such a long time - encompassing so many obstacles and much more growth and change than I ever could have fathomed. Depths of grief I wasn't sure we could climb out of and mountain top joys where we are always aware of your physical absence.

Nine years!

I was 42 when we said goodbye, now I am 51. Our children are now 22 and 23. So much life has been lived without you by our side.

It's hard to think of how different our lives would be today if you were still here.

Hard and useless.

Comparison can be a thief of joy.

I recently sat down to pay the kids' final semester bursar bills.

I cried with thankfulness to God for seeing us through these nine years.

I cried with the realization of the celebrations on the horizon where your presence will be missed.

I cried with gratitude for you., Thank you for loving us so completely,. Thank you for leading us. Thank you for providing for us. Thank you for choosing me in 1995 and for building our family together.

I am so incredibly proud of our children. Their resilience. Their work ethic. Their intense dedication to walk through their grief and improve on themselves. I am excited to see where this gift of education leads them in their lives; what trajectory their careers take, how they continue to grow personally. I may have written the checks, but they showed up, did the hard work well, and earned their soon to be awarded degrees.

A lot can change in nine years. A lot of positive can be accomplished.

I have faltered at plenty in this journey, but when it comes to our kids; I am confident your legacy has been honored and we have made you proud.

Timothy Wayne Streller

04/03/1968 - 01/11/2014

Even If

School Awards Assembly 2014
Lunch Date with Mom 2023

Friday, January 7, 2022

Just Like That

Just like that…they are leaving my nest again and returning to their college campuses. 

I sit here crying.

Some sad tears, because I will miss their lively banter and laughter filling this home. I will miss the deep discussions about the book he has just read as he enlightens me on authors and their history. I will miss him taking over my office desk to work on his newest graphic design creation. I will miss the giggles and watching Netflix shows with her while she sporadically shares about her new friends and her plans for her future. Shockingly, I’ll even miss making three meals a day and the endless cycles of laundry and dishes.

Some happy tears because I am just so stinking proud of who they are at their core and how they are navigating their lives into adulthood.

Some grief tears, because I want their dad here to witness it all and cheer them on in person. Although without his loss, they would be entirely different individuals. We all would. It is a grief that is so intimately woven within us; a loss that shattered us so devastatingly completely that there was no choice but to rebuild the pieces in a new way. So yes, I am sad for all that was lost and yet simultaneously happy for how we have chosen to survive and move forward.

We are approaching the eight year anniversary of their daddy’s relocation to heaven and I’d love to say the pain and missing have lessened; but that would be an untruth.  In some ways, the missing is heightened for them as they launch into societies where their father was never known. The ache never goes away. The grief lives inside each of us. We don’t need a date on a calendar to realize who is gone or how long they have been away; it exists within us every moment of every day. And yet eight years out, I personally still experience physical effects of the grief around special dates.

Gone too soon. By my standards. But my standards are not God’s. God is sovereign and Tim lived out every one of the days appointed to him on this earth. I want to scream, “this isn’t how their lives should be!” and yet, this is exactly how their lives were meant to play out according to the plan of their heavenly Father.  His sovereignty is a tough thing to grasp. He knows all. He works all things together for good and for His glory for those who love Him. He didn’t create cancer; He is the author of life. He didn’t design for broken families, but He is with us in our brokenness. My mind swirls with the struggles to understand it all.

That is where faith fills the gaps within all the cracks of my life. Faith tells me that no matter what lies ahead, God is already there. He has already prepared a path for me. He knew my entire life story before my creation. He knew theirs as well. He is at work within them, healing, and guiding. I rest in that truth. I leave these precious children at the foot of the cross where Jesus paid it all. Surrendering to His plans for each of us. Loving the gift of this front row seat in the lives of our children.

Go do good things, kiddos. Share yourselves and kindness with the world. You are loved beyond your wildest imagination and prayed over both on earth and in the heavens above.


Friday, May 21, 2021

Returning to Me

 I used to be an avid reader of fiction. Reading was one of my favorite hobbies from high school onward. It was a passion I shared with my Granny. Special memories of swapping books and eagerly awaiting the other to complete them so we could discuss the plot and characters.

I used to be a lot of things before cancer slipped itself into all the little crevices of my existence. The constant care-giving, the years of battle, the loss. Widow brain (a real thing, friends). 

Since his passing in January of 2014, amidst the stresses and exhaustion of solo-parenting our two fabulous children through middle school, high-school, and into college. I have read exactly one book start to finish. One.

I have, within the past year, happily remarried and found amazing love which has expanded my heart in ways I didn’t know possible. I now balance having active kids in the home again. We are a blended family of seven. 

Moving to a new town, not knowing anyone, the isolation of the covid pandemic, and working from home (thankfully in my same career!) all added up to me desiring something of my own to do with snippets of free time.  Being my directionally challenged self, I got lost one afternoon (in our one stoplight town...don’t even ask) and found myself driving past a library. A library! I immediately parked and went in. Registered for a library card and perused the shelves for my first book to check out. Selecting a suspense fiction work by an author I had never read, intentionally choosing one of a series to help encourage me to finish quickly and return for the next. 

Over nine years since I’ve gotten fully lost in the pleasure of reading. Wouldn’t you know it the book I selected {“If I Run by Terri Blackstock”} unbeknownst to me, has Christianity as a subtle, well-written, underlying theme! 

Today I find myself poolside on a mini-escape with my two oldest finishing up book three in the series. Book THREE. 😃 Less than a month after I signed up for a library card in my tiny new hometown. 

Isn’t God good? Refreshing my soul and my passion simultaneously.  I feel extremely favored, as He reminds me daily that He cares about the smallest details of my existence.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Good Man

 Yesterday was hard.

I can’t even explain why the seven year anniversary of my late husband’s passing hit in such a raw and fresh way; but man did it break down the flood gates of my tears.

Uncontrollable, guttural, breath-stealing sobs wrecked me multiple times throughout the day. Triggered by the most random things; a long early morning commute to work on a nearly empty highway; a friends name popping up on my ringing phone; walking into a lunch to see the faces of two dear friends who have faithfully walked the past nine years by my side; memory flashes of his final hours of suffering on this earth; scrolling up on a social media post from Mark’s late wife’s BFF and my heart shattering again for everyone who has suffered her loss; hearing my son answer his phone with a “hello, momma”...every little thing set me off.

A long commute back home.

A husband who without hesitation asks “how can I help?” the second he learns my emotions have run away from me all day, then rushes home to build me a fire in the fire pit.

And he lets me cry. 

He lets me sit and drink my wine beside the fire he built for me as the sun sets. He kisses my forehead and he returns to the house to prepare dinner for the kids while I sit with my thoughts.

Grief tears pour down my frozen cheeks as my heart breaks over and over again for our children and their journey. Tears of sorrow over what has been lost mix with tears of gratitude for a man who loves me so well in my new that sometimes it leaves me speechless. (No small feat there 😉.)

A man who understands. A man who doesn’t judge me for the uncontrollable eye leakage. A man who loves me deeply. 

I fell asleep last night after a day filled with so much hard and my heart was overflowing in gratitude to God for sending me a man who exceeds any expectation I could have ever considered having. My man. My present and my future. A good man. 

I’m one lucky lady. ❤️

Monday, January 11, 2021

Seven years...

Seven years…

It’s a long time. Two thousand-five-hundred-fifty-six days!

That’s a lot of living this life without your physical presence.

Seven years have contained some bad days; some days we weren’t sure we would survive.

So much change. Incredible growth. Hard roads walked; deep grief navigated.

Seven years have held some good days. Some days of thriving and confidence. Some days overflowing with pure happiness.

All days have possessed the common thread of your absence.

Each day also has been overflowing with the presence of God. He goes before, He walks beside, He hems us in from behind and He pours His blessing of peace within our souls.

Always loved. #EvenIf


Thursday, October 29, 2020

This man...

 This man...

I love being in love. 

Throughout my life, during decades of marriage as well as years of singleness; I’ve always been a huge fan of love stories.

I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve by being loved well. Loved perfectly and unconditionally by my gracious Heavenly Father. Loved securely by a devoted husband. Loved through my failures and successes by two incredible children. Loved intensely by supportive parents and siblings. Loved and truly known in deep friendship. 

And now, being loved by this man...I tear up at the privilege. 

He has opened parts of my heart that were long ago abandoned; unlocked new joys within me. He encourages me to be the best and kindest version of myself. He brings all good things into my life. Our life together is filled with laughter (usually at my expense which is refreshing and needed 🤣). He makes me want to tuck tighter under the wing of my Savior so I can pour deeper love into him and our combined five children. 

When God started opening my heart to the possibility of dating again, I was incredibly reluctant and hesitant. I didn’t want to settle and I was scared of being vulnerable. I remember telling God (and close friends) that what I really wanted was the comfort of a decades-long love affair without having to invest twenty years to get there again. 

And we laughed. 

Life doesn’t work that way. Or it isn’t supposed to. 

But God.

What He has given me with this man blows my mind, humbles me, and fulfills dreams I didn’t even know to dream!

I am most relaxed when in his presence. Stress flees with one long hug from his strong arms. A bad attitude vanishes with one smirk from his dimpled smile. A single glance from his blue eyes captivates me and pastes a cheesy smile across my face. His heart is warm. His mind is brilliant. He challenges and supports me. He makes me feel safe. And mercy, with that first kiss I was completely undone. 

This love did not complete me. It did not heal me. God did the tedious work of binding up the tattered edges of my heart in the years before I met this man. My Lord was tirelessly and patiently preparing me for this time and this marriage. With this man. 

What this love has done is magnify my happiness. It has enhanced my already wonderful life. It has revealed new facets of my heart.

This love with this man; it has transformed me for the better.

I’m not sure why I’m the least bit surprised this love has the comfort of a life long relationship, without having put in the decades to get here. 

You’d think by the age of forty nine I’d know my Redeemer’s generosity and expect His attention to the details of my heart’s desire.

Yet He continually amazes me.

God is such a loving Father and I am one overwhelmingly grateful child.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Love Has Found Me

The other half of my forever. 

It has come quickly and fiercely, yet looking back, I see God’s gentle prodding and preparing of my heart for this timing.

Five months ago I sat across from a widower in a local restaurant on our first face-to-face meeting. We instantly connected on several levels. When he spoke of his late wife, his eyes and voice changed ever so slightly. Maybe it wouldn’t have been noticeable to many; but to someone who also had a beautiful was obvious...this was a man who loved well and was loved well.

What a gift!

If I could visit the afterlife and have a few minutes with his late wife, I would hug her tightly and say...
Thank you, Julie.
Thank you for loving him well. 
Thank you for raising such sweet and respectful children with him.  Thank you for the beautiful relationship you had with both extended families.

Words actually fail me when I try to describe the gift he is to me, and I fully acknowledge that YOU were instrumental in molding him into the man who stands before me. I appreciate your love affair and your forever place in his heart. I am humbled to be stepping into the lives of your children and family. You will always be honored by me. Your family will always be respected by me.

Mark and I never could have imagined that you and my late husband would only be half of our forever's; but here we are.

We know we are fortunate to have found each other; to be experiencing two "love of our life's" in a single lifetime.  I am head over heels in love with him.

I promise to love him completely. I vow to love and treat your children as though they are my own.

I prayed, oh friends how I prayed!

I was content to remain single. We were a happy family of three. I had no desire to ever date again.

I prayed daily for an entire year that if God had someone special for me in my future, he would change the desire of my heart.

He did.

It scared me.

So I prayed.

I prayed daily for an entire year for God to prepare me for my future mate and to prepare him for me.

It was another year and a half before I met him.

A man who was loved well and loves me well. A man who knows the plight of solo parenting through grief and has excelled at it.  A man who is respected in his profession and adored by his family and friends.

I admire him. I cherish him. I enjoy being his. He is the answer to three and a half years of constant prayer.

So now, I pray.

I pray God blesses and protects our relationship.

I pray God continues to mold me into the woman this man needs as his encourager and partner.

I pray I can be a safe haven for him and his children in the years to come and that he can be a positive, loving mentor in the lives of my children.

This life is full of twists and turns; crushing turmoil and unexpected blessings. We cannot escape pain and loss; but we can embrace love. God is so faithful to expand our hearts to include new love without it standing in competition or comparison with the past. I marvel at how the great loves of my life can so peacefully co-exist independently within me.

Beauty from ashes...God is good.