God’s Story

Posted: December 26, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Blogging for us started out of necessity. Five years ago, after receiving Patrick’s ALS diagnosis, our pastor recommended we start one to give updates and avoid having to answer repetitive questions. We agreed that we wanted our time with people to be as normal as possible, not spent discussing his health. At the time, the only person we knew with ALS was Ed Dobson, with whom we had a personal visit early on. Ed had a blog called Ed’s Story, which led to Patrick’s decision to call this blog Patrick’s Story.

Patrick wrote the first couple posts, then he dictated and eventually I was writing them all. When Patrick passed away, so I assumed, would the blog. No one was as surprised as me when six months later, I wrote another post. I had something on my heart and God encouraged me to share it. Journaling had become an important part of my healing and as I was learning, I realized there were probably others who could benefit from my journey. A few posts the first year led to several over the next two years, and then back to just a few this year. There was never a grand plan of how often or when I would write. When God nudged me to publicly share, I would do so.

In the same vein, I now feel that it’s time to bring this blog to a close. It has served its original purpose and much more. I have been blown away by the amount of people who have either written or told me how they have been blessed, encouraged and challenged by these posts. It has shown me that in our humanness, we are all the same. All of us have hurts, struggles and needs; for each of these, God’s word provides comfort, promises and guidance.

Patrick’s story will continue. It continues as we remember him. We remember his genuine love for people, which was shown by his outgoing, friendly spirit. We remember his passion for God’s Word and his constant reminder to run hard after Christ. We remember his dedication to the church in his desire to reproduce and train up young men who would become leaders in other churches. We remember his strange habits, weird quirks and gregarious laughter. We remember how much he loved life. We remember how even when given a fatal disease, he did not stop trusting God and he remained faithful until his death.

My story will continue. It will continue as daily I seek to be satisfied in Christ. Daily I give him my pain and my loneliness; Daily I pick up my cross and follow Him. My desire has not changed since as a young teen I dedicated my life to the Lord wanting only to follow His direction for my life. Death and loss have been a part of what God has written into my story. The grief journey I’ve been on for four years has grown, stretched and challenged me beyond what I thought I could bear. It has also brought God closer than I ever knew possible.

Realizing I may not be far enough removed to yet accurately reflect, it seems that during 2016, I have turned the corner in my grief. It’s not a sharp turn, but more of a gradual curve as my healing has included more good days than bad. I’ve accepted my new normal and the pain is not quite as sharp. The bad days come, but I know I will survive them. I can look to the future with hope and joy. God has me in a place of contentment and I am satisfied in Him.

Deep in my heart, I now have an extra burden…it’s like a treasure box, of sorts. This box contains my love for Patrick. It encompasses memories of the all the years with him…the history of our public life together, along with the secrets of our private moments. It includes the greatest joys of bringing two children into the world, along with the normal struggles of life. It holds the anguish of walking with him to death’s door and the dark depression of grief that followed. This box I have…it may not be visible, but it’s palpable….I actually feel it. I’ve never heard anyone else explain it like this but it’s the best word picture I can articulate at this point. Maybe this is how it feels when a piece of your heart has been broken; Maybe it’s a layer of a scar where God has begun His healing. Whatever it is, I carry its weight like an extra limb. Although I am always aware of its presence, I can choose when to open the box. I choose when to talk about him, when to cry, when I will enter the sadness or when I will roll my eyes and laugh. It will forever be a part of me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It truly is a treasure.

Four years ago, God called my husband home. By God’s grace, He allowed this platform as a means to share our story. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for your support and encouragement throughout Patrick’s journey, as well as to Paige, Parker and me ever since. As God leads, I will continue to share our story in whatever ways He sets before me.

However, this blog has never really been about Patrick.

It has always been a part of a much larger story…God’s story.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. Psalm 63:3

Better is one day in your house than a thousand elsewhere. Psalm 84:10

For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. Isaiah 54:5

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. I Timothy 6:6-8

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake. Psalm 17:15

  1. Mary Rodgers says:

    Thank you for keeping us informed. I will miss your blogs but understand it might be time to
    continue on your journey. I met Patrick at Estero Island Beach Club when he was interested in buying my unit but then revealed to me about his illness. He wanted it for his family to enjoy and I thought how much he thought of you and the children. Hope life will continue to be good to you and your children and that God will see you through in your journey.

  2. Timothy Vermilyea says:

    We have never met. I knew of you through people like Kathy Compton and, of course, my daughter, Mandi. I am one of those who has been, as you said, “blessed, encouraged and challenged” by your blogging these last 4 years. Especially when a new post appeared, my wife and I have prayed for you these past years – we prayed for you and Patrick in the previous years.
    Thank you for sharing your heart – I will miss reading how God continues to minister to you. And I will pray that His unending love and daily-renewed mercies will accompany you all the days of your life!

  3. Dale Murrish says:

    Dena – what an encouragement your posts have been to me and to my family and friends since the time of Patrick’s diagnosis. Your openness to sharing your grief is a great encouragement to others.

    May God continue to watch over you, Paige and Parker as Dena’s Story continues to unfold in His gracious but often painful sovereign plan.

  4. Abe & Cynthia & family says:

    Thank you for allowing us to share in your most personal feelings & challenges. We are delighted to learn that you are slowly turning that corner & are somehow moving forward. For the brief time that we knew Patrick we knew that we had met a very special person. You have raised two incredible children & we know how proud you are of them. Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts with us. We wish you all the success in your new job & all life’s endeavours. Best wishes always – your neighbours in #117 EIBC

  5. Kay Morrow says:

    Oh Dena. God bless you as you move forward. When you were in Elkhart I never had the chance to really know you. I have loved your blogs…cried with you….and prayed for you. You are truly amazing and I’ll miss your writings. God be with you. Zephaniah 3:17

  6. Bryan Schrec says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us through this journey. It has touched us.

  7. Danielle Haag says:

    So thankful that you have continued sharing your family’s story and how God has orchestrated that story for His Glory. I have been encouraged in different ways by each and every one of your posts! So grateful to get to know you better this past year in the Edge class. We appreciate you 💜

  8. Karhy Sturgis says:

    Thank you for allowing me to be on your journey. I pray for you each time you send a post. You share a loss of love and in a way I share a similar box of memories but it lacks the security of a husband’s love. I grieve that we cannot find that oneness God desires so I must take my box to Jesus daily too. He is the only one who can meet my need. He is my husband in this time of longing and because of this Longing He is drawing me close and teaching me He is able to fill me when my husband is unable. Thank you for allowing me to learn with you.

  9. Janet says:

    Thank you for sharing so honestly and openly in your blog. Your healing words has helped others like me to heal too. Maybe God will direct you to write a book for us to hold on to. I love you and pray that God will continue to give you peace and comfort as He reveals His plan to you.

  10. Jonathan Spink says:


    Thank you for sharing these posts! Although I have been touched by death, never in this way. I can say I have been blessed by your growing in God’s grace and comfort through Patrick’s death. I have been praying for you and your children as you have gone through this difficult experience and continue to pray for you as God brings you to mind. It has been a constant reminder to me that this life is so temporal and passes so quickly. We must hold on fiercly to the things that truly matter and let those things that are temporal be held more loosely. As I have had many opportunities to minister to others facing deep grief, I am thankful to have read from you and others who have and continue to face such sorrow. It has been an invaluable help to have read your story and to be able to comfort others more effectively. Thank you for your transparency in bearing your inner most feelings and thoughts as you have progressed through this experience. I pray for God’s richest blessings on your life as you continue to “run hard after God”! I remember Patrick so well as we played soccer together for 2 years at BBC. It was a pleasure to have known him. Thank you for sharing.

    Serving together on different continents, Jon Spink ​

    On Mon, Dec 26, 2016 at 12:01 PM, Patrick’s Story wrote:

    > Patrick’s Story posted: ” Blogging for us started out of necessity. Five > years ago, after receiving Patrick’s ALS diagnosis, our pastor recommended > we start one to give updates and avoid having to answer repetitive > questions. We agreed that we wanted our time with people to be a” >

  11. Diane Lytle says:

    Dena, Thank you for taking on this journey with you!

  12. Kathi Kuenzi says:

    Dena, I met Patrick when we were both freshmen at BBC. Like Tim, I have never met you but I felt your heart through all that you have shared about Patrick since our days at BBC. My husband lost his first wife to cancer and we have learned that each person’s healing is different. I have lost two children in infancy yet there is no grief like it must be for you to have lost your life’s partner. I have read each of your posts with tears, feeling your pain and also seeing your strength that can only come from God alone. I pray that you will continue to blog from time to time so those of us who have come to know you through Patrick’s story can continue to pray for you and love you. Thank you for being transparent and sharing your heart with all of us. I will continue to pray for you in the days, months and years ahead that God will continue to grant you and your children peace.

  13. Sally says:

    My name is Sally Neva. My son Todd was diagnosed with ALS in June 2010. When my son Wayne told me about Patrick ( Wayne went to your church), I followed the blogs you wrote and followed along
    the short life Patrick had with ALS. My son has had 6+ years with this decease and has been a testimony for the Lord also as had Patrick. I just want you to know that God helped me to deal with this illness of my love one through your and Patrick’s testimony. Thank you so much.

  14. Joe & Jessica says:

    We have read every post and have been encouraged each time!!! Thank you for sharing honestly. You’re a beautiful writer and we will miss hearing from you. Yet we are so glad to see you come to the thoughts you shared in this last post! We see Christ in you and it’s such a beautiful picture of His glory!

  15. Carl & Lori Reichanadter says:


    Lori and I were blessed to know Patrick and you! Those early days of us ministering to the Crosswords college/career group at FBC, with you & Patrick assisting us are forever etched in my mind. Nothing specific, just the fun of doing ministry with you guys! Observing you and Patrick navigate your journey with ALS was a testament to both your humanness and your spirituality. Your walk with God spoke volumes to your us and many, many others. Thanks for being so transparent Dena.

    May God lavish his blessings on you and your kids, as you continue to follow him.

    Love, Carl & Lori

  16. Kathi Sherrill says:

    Thank you Dena for sharing your journey, as Patrick did. I could understand many of your feelings and struggles as we went through our sons passing. We know God had a reason to take him home when He did. Not our timing, we saw a twelve year old boy so full of life, outgoing and loving and learning about his Lord. But God had only that time planned for him on this earth. We praise The Lord that we will be together again, but have gone through many of the phases you have. Again, thank you for sharing.

  17. Leni says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. It was a privilege to be let in to this chapter of your life. You are truly an amazing family in so many ways!

  18. Diane says:

    All I can say is thank you. I have appreciated reading your blogs. I know that if it’s laid on your heart, you will share again. I will miss the sharing that you have done. Has always helped me when I think I’ve had a bad day. You are loved by many as are Paige and Parker.

  19. Theresa Ferry says:

    Dena, although we’ve only met a few times at various Confs. here and there, I so value the influence you and your husband have on so many over the yrs.! Both before and after Patrick illness and death into the arms of His Lord!
    Your ability to verbalize and pen your true, raw, and real emotions together with your screaming out to your Savior, discribeing you pain, fears, and anxious heart, has moved me in so many ways. Then you pulled all of that through the grid of Hus precious Word, speaking to yourself and me/us Gods TRUTH about Him and us!
    Please know I love you and am so very blessed to have walked with you through prayer on this journey! You are a blessing indeed. I’ll continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Keep in touch, would love to continue to get you writing! Blogging !

  20. Karen Davis says:

    Your “journal” of sharing Patrick’s story has really been such an inspiration to me. I can only hope I will do a slight measure of how you have done if I would have to experience the same. There are many others who have benefited from your postings as well. It has encouraged me that you acknowledge the bad along with the good…because it is REAL. May God continue to lead you in the days ahead and meet your needs as he has done to this point. I know He will! Love to you, Paige, and Parker.

  21. Barbara Clark says:

    Blessed are those who find strength in you. Their hearts are on the road that leads to you. As they pass through the valley of weeping they make it a place of springs. The early rains cover it with pools. Their strength grows as they go along until each one of them appears in front of elohim in zion.
    Passing through places you’ve been. (Husband died 3 years ago)

  22. Caroline Viviano says:

    Wishing you, Parker, and Paige God’s continued consolation and peace as you find new joys to celebrate and old ones to cherish in the New Year and beyond.

  23. Michelle Jones says:

    Dear Dena,
    Thank you for sharing your heart so genuinely over the years and thank you most of all for being faithful to the Lord thru great trial. This has been your greatest gift to me as I have been able to witness your sincere faith that held thru the storm. You and Patrick were the “real deal” when I was in your youth group and your testimony as a follower of Christ thru the valley is now more “real deal” than ever. I can only imagine that God has used his death for His glory just as he used his life. Patrick influenced me more than anyone else in my whole life to know Christ and I will forever be grateful. From the bottom of my heart I appreciate how you served with him.Thank you for your strength in Christ to persevere and be found faithful. All my love in Christ,
    Michelle Klassen Jones

  24. Sandy says:

    Dear Dena, Thank you for sharing your gift of writing through your blog. Your life experience, though very sad has touched my heart through your blogs. The faithfulness of The Lord to you and your children is such an encouragement. God Bless You is our prayer.

  25. JUDY STAFNE says:


  26. […] When Patrick was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, I knew immediately that my life as I knew it was over. I still find it surreal how when I think about the defining moments during that difficult time, I am immediately overcome with such intense emotions…it’s like it just happened yesterday. Initially during his sickness, we started a blog to keep our church family up to date. After he passed away on December 26, 2012, I assumed the blog was finished. But 6 months later, when it would have been our 24th anniversary, I put my thoughts on paper and shared that if I had known when and how he would die, I would still say yes. I continued to write on Patrick’s Story for the next four years until I felt like it was time for me to close it out with God’s Story. […]

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