Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Last Tough One

I knew I had one more place I needed to process, but I kept putting it off. I just didn't feel ready.

Throughout the year I have very intentionally traveled to places and spent time with people in order to eliminate potential "grief triggers" or awkward moments with people in future days. I didn't want there to be a place or a person that I avoided. One place remained, and it was an easy walk away - the oncology center where Steve was treated.

One morning a week and a half ago, I knew it was time. I asked the Lord to make happen whatever needed to happen to help me keep moving forward. I couldn't have guessed what he had in store.

I spent time in the chapel on the first floor and then went up to the chemo floor. Lastly, the elevator doors opened to the floor where Steve had his weekly blood draw and appointment with his oncologist. I did a slow walk through two waiting rooms that were all too familiar. I knew this wasn't the time or place to dwell on the memories, so I turned to leave. As I did, I looked up to see Steve's oncologist standing in front of me - we both registered surprise! He graciously invited me into a quiet room where we spent 10-15 minutes in meaningful conversation about Steve and events since his passing. I left with tears flowing, but feeling both free of heart and awed that God would orchestrate this very unexpected encounter.

God is walking this journey with me, and his unanticipated blessings continue to bring healing.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Grandma is smiling!

Stephen Parker Strauss was born on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 (the day before his due date) at 6:39 p.m. Mark and Amy are happily adjusting to a very new normal. We thank God for a safe birth and healthy baby.



                                                                             5 days old

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 11 Reflections

Early Wednesday morning, I grabbed my Bible and hymnbook and headed to the cemetery about a half hour away. I hadn't been there since the burial service and wasn't sure how I would react. I'm sure your prayers made a difference.

It was a beautiful morning and a recent rain had greened up the grounds nicely. I sat on a mat beside the marker and prayed through hymns and read I Corinthians 15 for little over an hour. It was a comforting time with the Lord, a quiet peace held my heart. Considering that I'd polished off a full roll of TP in the preceding three days, it was quite amazing that I only needed one Kleenex in that hour!


One hymn that struck new meaning for me was one of Steve's favorites: And Can it Be? (And he always sang it with gusto.) The verses depict God's work of salvation, but as I read verses 3 & 4 I pictured Steve leaving his cancer-wracked body of death and entering the throne room of God, radiantly dressed in Jesus righteousness!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night.
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray; I woke - the dungeon flamed with light!
My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown, thru Christ my own.

Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God shouldst die for me!

Another thought that struck me during that hour...How then will I live? It's sobering to see your name written on a grave stone. I don't know what year will be etched in that stone below my name, but I long to finish well. May God grace us all with an urgency to throw off everything that hinders and...entangles us and...run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

W.I.D.O.W.S.

Early one morning I was lying in bed asking the Lord to help me get over this word. I was still choking on it, my whole body tensing whenever I anticipated the word coming out of someone's mouth. Even now, when I check the circle for Marital Status on a form, there is still the thought, "This can 't be real."  It wasn't in the plan to be in this category of women.

But here I am - a widow.

"Lord, help me re-frame this word." I mused on it throughout the morning and settled on this: Widows are women  "Walking In Dependence On a Wonderful Savior." How quickly I relax now and even smile as my mind shifts to this acronym. The dark sadness of the word is replaced with comfort and security.

And that comfort lifted my heart as I spent a week in Chicago at the end of May, the last of my grief-processing trips. I walked down memory lane on the campus of Trinity International University (where Steve did his doctoral studies) and our church nearby. I relished blessed re-connections with many friends and extended family. My Wonderful Savior fed and restored my soul in different ways with each visit.

And now I'm back in Dallas - no more trips planned. But there is a big upcoming event - Amy will be delivering our first grandson sometime in the next two weeks or so. Amy is definitely hoping it will be sooner than later!

Mark & Amy

Thank you for your prayers for them, Cara and Mache, David and Ryan and me as we anticipate this Wednesday, June 11th - Steve's arrival day in heaven. 



Saturday, May 24, 2014

Feeling Stronger...

I'm not yet Rocky surging up the monument steps with pounding rhythms spurring me on, but when I look at where I was six months ago,  I can see God's restoration work.

Too tired for emotions after 19 1/2 hours of door-to-door travel from Bolivia on April 30th, I was just glad to be home. I felt disoriented for the first few days. I had packed away much of my stuff to make room for the family that lived in my home while I was gone. I still haven't found some things!

Three days after return: I head to the graduation celebration for the wives of D.T.S. students, my first time back on campus. I reach for the door handle of the building where the event is being held and WHAM! - I see Steve opening this door and climbing the steps to his third floor office. I see students engaging him. I hear his voice echo in the open stairwell...I want so badly to bolt! And yet, I want to be here too. This is a special day for women I know. I head for the rest room and try to get composure. Loving faculty wives offer hugs and words of encouragement and by the time the wives show up, I'm fragile, but can interact and enjoy this time of honoring them and the Lord's faithfulness to them through these stressful years.  

But what was I going to do about next Saturday? I called on family and close friends to pray. Mark was graduating from D.T.S. on Saturday, and we were both aware it could be a very emotional time. Tears spilled for both of us as the ceremony began, but we quickly embraced the joyful focus on God's faithfulness to bring 380 men and women to complete their studies. I was a proud mama (!), and I knew Steve was smiling as a part of that cloud of witnesses as well.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Closing Out My Days Here

In my cozy Alpaca-wool sweater, my legs snuggled under a down comforter and listening to the tinsel-clink of tiny hail on my bedroom window, I grin thinking that a week from today I'll be hoping it's cool enough to open my windows at night. I had my last Spanish lesson today, enjoyed a traditional Bolivian BBQ on Saturday with the family and look forward to seeing a professional dance troupe perform Bolivian traditional dances this weekend (my Spanish teacher is one of the dancers!).

This time in Bolivia has been a reminder that life is good, even with its pain. It hasn't provided a respite from grief, as I'm finding that often the sweetest joys unearth profound grief. But the stimulation of a new challenge, the ever-present antics of a two-year old, the soft warmth of a newborn nestled in my arms have been the green pastures and still waters that my Shepherd is using to restore my soul.

Thank you for your continued prayers and encouraging notes. God's faithfulness expressed through so many of you is a great comfort.

Have to share a few of my favorite photos from this week. :-)

Zoe

Ariana

Cara, Mache, Zoe and Ariana





Saturday, April 5, 2014

Busy Days for Grandma!

Yes, I've been slow on this update...there's been just a few other things to do around here. :-)  Zoe Strauss Contreras arrived at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, March 28th, weighing in at a petite 6 lbs. Like her sister, Zoe never descended and engaged, so after 11 hours of labor (Cara's determination to have Zoe naturally), the doctor called for a C-section. We thank God for his protection as Cara said all the medical people around her exclaimed, "Oh, just in time!" as they lifted Zoe out. The pediatrician said labor had been a bit rough on her, but he expected her to be back to normal in 24 hours. And sure enough, after keeping a gentle flow of oxygen near her face, the next day she was nursing with vigor. Cara is sore, moving slowly, but recovering well.

                                                                          The first hours

Ariana's first look at her sister

Peaceful slumber at home

                                                              Much happiness all around