Parent to Parent

Posted: August 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


Dearest Patrick,

Our son just turned 20 and tomorrow he leaves for a semester in Jerusalem. You would be so proud….No longer a teenager, practically a man, Parker is like you in so many ways. Driven, determined and decisive. Funny, a lover of people and always looking for a good time, he’s got the best of you all wrapped up in his tall, lanky body. He forgives quickly, doesn’t hold grudges, and is eternally optimistic. He is passionate about the Bible and remains sensitive to the Spirit.

Of course, none of this would surprise you. When he was in 3rd grade and went away to summer camp for the first time, you told me “this kid loves adventure and he will take every opportunity given him.” Then you warned me with this, “Eventually when he leaves home, he’ll only come back to visit.”

How right you were. As a couple, we agreed to give both our kids every opportunity to have various experiences and expose them to life at its fullest. We wanted them to see the world from a kingdom viewpoint, that this earth is just a taste of what is to come; and that living under God’s guidelines is the best, most fulfilling way to experience it.

You were able to watch Parker begin the transition to manhood in his senior year as he stepped up to help care for you in your sickness. You knew he had made his college decision for Cedarville University. You were so excited for him and let him know he would do well.

Just like he did in high school, he dove head first into the deep end at college and got involved in many areas. Remember when we would wonder how he would manage it all? But somehow he always did and he continues to do so. His summer experiences have been the most amazing opportunities just like you would have hoped and he always has the next one planned before the first one is finished, with a plan B in case plan A doesn’t work.

You would be so happy that he’s also become very adept at allowing me to be the single parent and has learned how I work, so that we can figure out life together. Starting with the big picture of “I want to study overseas for a semester,” to gathering all the details, answering my questions and letting me have time to think it all over. He’s learned to respect my thoughts and discernment, without being impatient with the process. It has taken growth on both our parts, but we’ve come to a good place as mother and son, for which I know you would be pleased. He’s gone for long periods of times, but when he’s home, he jumps right back in and helps with the lawn, windows or whatever I need. While he’s away, he faithfully calls every weekend, giving me the details of his week without ever making me feel he’s in a hurry to get off the phone.

Someone recently gave me one of the best compliments I could ever receive: They told me I’m the opposite of a clingy, helicopter mom; that I’ve let my kids continue on their own journeys inspite of how easy it would be to try to hang on to them or make them feel guilty that they should stay nearby because I’m alone.

How could I ever do that? That would fly in the face of the way you and I raised them for 17 and 19 years before God took you home. As painful as it has been, I have continued to parent them with the same philosophy and biblical truths that we had instilled in them for all those years. When discussions have come up, it’s been easy to continue the practice of looking for commands and principles in Scripture and then going from there. That hasn’t changed. We talk about the issue openly and analyze it. We all know how you would respond. I can’t remember a time when I doubted what you would say or think.

So about Parker going to study in Jerusalem, you would have simply asked about the finances and then responded with, “why wouldn’t he go? It’s the opportunity of a lifetime!”

And then there’s our girl….Paige is starting her senior year at Cornerstone University. She doesn’t even need me to move her back in. She loads the Taurus and drives over to Grand Rapids and calmly does it all on her own. She is definitely independent, which you well know. But she’s also exceeded our expectations and has blossomed into a beautiful woman who is very involved in many aspects of college, has had internships and run fundraisers. As you always said, her people skills will get her through life. Sometimes she still surprises me with her newest venture, but I always know when she puts her mind to something, she will carry it through. We never had to worry about her being a follower, because we knew Paige never does anything unless she really wants to. One of my highlights of this year was flying to Denver to see where Paige spent the summer. Seeing her in her own territory was awesome. Her confidence, friendliness and maturity are all at a whole new level. I’m so thankful for God’s work in her life. We had a great time as mother and daughter exploring and hanging out. I know when her graduation comes next spring, you will be giving everyone in Heaven high fives!

You would be proud of both of them. Maybe you are proud. I don’t know how much or how often God lets you see aspects of our earthly lives. For us, much has happened in the 32 months without you, but through our pain, we’ve somehow managed to arrive at a new normal. It’s not a normal we ever wanted, but one we’ve accepted. We watch out for each other and understand that the grief comes in waves and although it sometimes knocks us down unexpectedly, we somehow manage to get back up and keep going.

Daily, I wish you were here to share life with. This phase of parenting is different. It’s a lot of letting go and encouraging from the sidelines. Not too much is hands-on anymore. I can only imagine the discussions we would be having as we were so looking forward to this phase of life together. Without you, I’ve learned to take it to the Lord. He truly comforts me. He alone carries my tears and knows my pain. He understands my deepest heart’s desire is for our kids to follow Him. He cares about that even more than me, which as a mother is hard to imagine. But what comfort there is in the fact that God loves Paige and Parker more than I do. He can and will do the work in their lives with or without me. In fact, He never really needed us. Parenting is a privilege and a responsibility. Any positive results are not because of us. On the contrary, it’s despite us.

Our job is not to make them dependent on us; it’s not to fulfill our happiness or fill a void in our lives. No, our goal is to give them wings and watch them fly. Like you always said, we want them to run hard after Christ. I’ve had many conversations with my friends also experiencing the empty nest. With compassion, they share that they can’t imagine experiencing it alone.

Being a single parent was not in my plan. Yet the foundation had been laid with you by my side, so all I’ve had to do was to make the choice to just keep going. By God’s grace, I have and I will continue to do my best. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not impervious to fears, doubts and anxious thoughts. But when they threaten to overtake, I preach the truth to myself and remember that I’ve never had any control over their safety or destiny. They are safest in God’s hands and I best not get in His way.

Packing my kids for a week at camp was hard;

the first time they drove to high school on their own was even harder;

and the hardest so far has been when they moved away to college.

Now they are both almost completely on their own. With tears in my eyes then and now, I have always lived with the full understanding that we raise our kids to let them go. If I truly believe they are in God’s hands, how can I be anything but excited for them? Following God’s plan is going to be far greater than anything I could ever imagine.

So from your heavenly viewpoint and from my earthly one, let’s continue to watch them soar.

All my love.

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”




  1. Jil Good says:

    WOW! Dena – love you girl! I actually was thinking about you this morning! Wondering how you’re doing and how you manage to handle all this with such grace and godliness. Dropping off Autumn last weekend was by FAR the hardest thing I’ve done to date (with the exception of losing my Dad). I was surprised by the intensity of the grief and emotions. We’ve always tried to parent with “the end in mind” too, but I just am so genuinely sad to see her go! (I told her if she was more of a rotten kid it would’ve been easier!)

    Thank you for sharing your words and emotions. It truly felt like you were speaking right to me. You’re such an encouragement friend and I love you dearly!

  2. Tim Vermilyea says:

    Dena…. thanks for sharing your heart and your journey in such an articulate way. I am blessed with each posting, mostly because you are letting people “see” how God is working in your life. Thanks for your honesty… and thanks for following hard after God in spite of the circumstances. I recently read this quote. I hope it doesn’t sound trite to you… in fact, I hope this author’s take on God’s plans will encourage you today!!
    “…the unplanned, inefficient detours of our lives are planned by God. God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55 :8–9). They are frequently bewildering to us, but they are always better because God is orchestrating far more than we see or know in every unexpected event and delay.” Jon Bloom, Not By Sight: A Fresh Look At Old Stories

  3. Kathy Mrak says:

    Beautiful! You and your kids are in my prayers!

  4. Karen Davis says:

    This was such a sweet letter to Patrick! You are a wise woman, and I’m sure your children will be forever grateful that you let them “soar”! Since you and Patrick had your philosophies so together, you had a plan to follow, which I am sure has been a comfort to you. May God bless you during all the transitions to come.

  5. David Searle says:

    You so much reflect the grace of God as a Godly mom, Dena. Thank you for your loving and precious example. Love and prayers continue for you, Paige and Parker. (David).

  6. Judy Stafne says:

    Great read—God Bless!!!

  7. Daryl says:

    I look forward to the 26th every month. Thank you for sharing with us. You all are still in my prayers.

  8. Kay Morrow says:

    Dena, I remember you and Patrick from First Baptist Church in Elkhart when he was an intern there. I was the receptionist at FBC. I knew then that you were a special couple and that you two would have a real impact wherever God led you to serve. I love receiving the chapters on your journey. Your Paige and Parker sound like they are also headed into living their lives serving the Lord. I pray for you when God brings you to my mind. God bless you, dear precious Dena. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey with all of us. You are loved. Kay Morrow.

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