Hope, parenting, prayer, promises, Uncategorized

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Had to Do…

I’ve done a lot of hard things in my life.

I’ve walked away from an abusive marriage.

I’ve learned to thrive instead of just survive.

I’ve been a single parent to three teenagers.

I’ve run a half-marathon.

I’ve written a book.

I’ve walked away from a large salary for peace of mind.

I’ve buried friends and loved ones.

And I’m sure there’s plenty more I’m forgetting.

But, today, I am learning to do the hardest thing this life has thrown at me:

I am learning to let my kids live their own lives.

I have three teenagers. One graduated last year and is thriving in college. One is a junior in high school on the verge of leaving the nest. I still have a few years with my baby, but she’s not far behind.

In my mind, I’ve had this nice little plan for their lives: go to college, get a degree, land a good job, eventually settle down with a wonderful spouse, have kids, and live the American dream.

But that’s my plan for my kids.

My heart is in the right place: I want to protect them from the hard stuff like every good parent does. I want to make sure they are comfortable and safe. I want to make sure they have all the right ingredients to have a happy life.

But they are not me. And, let’s be honest. Playing it safe didn’t protect me from the bad stuff this life throws at us.

Even more than that, the hard stuff is where I learned to lean into my Heavenly Father, to walk in communion with Him. Getting out of my comfort zone was where I learned more about myself than ever before, where I was challenged to grow and become more. The pain was where I was molded into the person I have become…the one who desires to know my Savior and be a vessel for Him in ways I never dreamed possible.

I played it safe.

My kids don’t want to play it safe. Maybe it’s because they’ve been through so much pain in their lives. Maybe it’s because they’ve seen loved ones squander their lives and their talents. Maybe it’s because I’ve tried to instill a sense of adventure in them. Maybe it’s because they’ve learned to let their faith be bigger than their fears.

Or maybe it’s just because God wired them differently than He wired me.

The truth is I want to give my kids the freedom to become who God created them to be, even when it breaks my heart, even when it makes my mama’s heart terrified to see what their hearts desire.

The truth is that letting my children spread their wings and fly in their own direction—outside my protective little nest where I can watch over them—is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

So here I sit, doing everything I can to let go while I want so desperately to hold on for dear life. Here I sit, my heart teetering between bursting with pride and being ripped to shreds. Here I sit, trying to believe my Heavenly Father loves them way more than I could and yet thinking no one can love and protect them the way their mama does.

So where do I go from here?

Trust my Father. God has walked with me through the wilderness so many times, and it’s in the wilderness where I’ve learned to trust Him. It’s in the wilderness where I’ve seen Him pour out His tender mercies on me every single day. It’s in the wilderness where I learned the true lessons about His faithfulness.

And, if my children have to walk through a wilderness of their own, I have to trust that God will be faithful. I have to trust that He is a much better protector than I am. I have to trust that my children will learn to trust Him just like I did. I have to trust that all things work for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

Trust myself. My kids have been my life for so many years. My kids were the reason I chose to thrive and not just survive after my divorce. My kids were the reason I chose to keep on living.

I have not been a perfect parent, and I sometimes am hard on myself for not having more: more time, more energy, more prayer, more Bible study, more money, more of everything. But the truth is, I’ve done everything I knew to do and I trusted God to fill in the gaps.

I must believe that I have shown my kids the sacrificial love he wanted me to show. I must trust that I did my job as a parent, loving and leading the best I knew how. And, I must trust that God truly did fill in the gaps.

Trust my children. My kids are amazing! Smart. Kind. Compassionate. Leaders amongst their peers. They have good heads on their shoulders and make good decisions. They all know God and have never done anything to disappoint me.

It’s now that I have to let go and trust that they know themselves better than I do…and that they have learned to be all they can be. I must trust them to make the decisions for themselves…and trust God to care for them wherever this life may take them.

Do you see where it all goes back to trusting God?

Maybe the biggest lesson I’m learning as I walk through this journey of releasing my kids back to God is to lean into my Father once again, to fall on my knees before Him in prayer for my children. As I learn to release them, I must learn to pray for them in new ways, to petition the God of the Universe in ways I never have before. I must learn to trust Him in new ways, to trust Him with my most precious gift on the face of this earth. That’s a tall order for this human heart.

So I pray. And I trust. And I lean. And I cry. And I pray some more.

And I remember my God is faithful…always and forever.

Lord Jesus, as I learn to release my children back to you, I beg you to keep your hands all around them. I pray you would pursue them relentlessly so they can never walk away from the safety of your Presence. I pray every decision they make would be bathed in prayer and in line with your will for their lives…not mine. I pray that when they walk through the wilderness, they would see your faithful love and provision for their every need and learn what it truly means to trust you. Hold my children close as I learn to give them back to you.  

10 thoughts on “The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Had to Do…”

  1. So timely Dena! As of this past Sunday I am living in a house without a child for the first time in 40 years!!! It’s going to be a whole new level of trust and letting go once again for me. Thanks for putting life into words, our paths have many similarities. Blessings sister!

    1. Thank you. Honestly, I was a blubbering idiot as I wrote those words yesterday, my heart shattered and fearful on so many levels. It was God who gave me the clarity to remember they were His before they were mine. My heart is more peaceful as I turn to the Father to hold my kids close. They are much better with His protection than with mine…

    2. Hello Dena –

      I came across one of your articles in a google search and followed it to your blog. I admit, I haven’t read many posts, but the ones I have show me that you’re a woman after Gods own heart. Although my oldest is 12, I can relate to this post. There are 5 kids in our blended family and all are with us full time. I homeschool them and feel so responsible, at times, for their future.

      This post resonates in the space of me where God is reminding me to “let go and let God”. I’m the first to encourage other moms not to feel so bogged down in the details, but to get down and pray to the one who wrote those details out. But, it is always harder to do what seems right when pride steps in and tells you it’s all on you.

      Thank you for this post. It’s covered my thoughts in a lot of ways. No doubt you’re path is he chosen one for you. Even though we may think we are lost in the wildness, we are usually just a few steps from His promise.

      1. Thank you for the sweet words of encouragement. This blended family thing is hard! We mostly only have my kids, but the battles with his just never end. I respect you for having the courage to homeschool all of them! Hang in there! You are doing a great job!

  2. My mother used to say “The day your kids are all grownup, that day you become a real mother. I too worry about my kids. One is happily married, she’s the big strong sister, then the middle one, he struggles alot. There are a few “demons”, but he wants to be left alone to handle it himself. I have to give him a chance and hope and pray that he will ask my help when he struggles too much. Very independent. He will be be 22 this year. Just broke up with his girlfriend of nearly 6 years. I am trying to understand why but he is too emotional now to explain. I thought that they would get married one day. The youngest is nearly 20, also very independent. He is a well balanced young man. Knows how to handle himself in certain situations. I just thank God everyday for another day that I am there for them.

  3. Great article Dena! Very similar paths we share. I always feel like I could be writing these words but I can’t write and you can!! Lol. So I enjoy reading them. My oldest is struggling at OBU and my middle one is now driving and becoming independent and my 7th grader is fighting the urge to be a little bad but not wanting to disappoint her parents and God. It is hard to let go and give them too much freedom. It’s scary but we’ve done a good job as single mothers and have great kids!!

    1. Is your oldest a freshman at OBU? This semester has been so much better for Blake! He’s a new kid…and never wants to come home! 😢 I hope she finds the right girls and falls in love with OBU. Some of the best years of my life!!

  4. I almost laughed when I saw your hardest thing. I am half smiling. I’ve been there and done that. I could write a book on it. I could tell stories. A kid going to Russia in the winter, kids riding trains in dangerous countries, buying kidnap insurance for either Russia or South America, I don’t remember. Talking to my daughter who can’t navigate London. Open heart surgery on my newborn grandson in Rio. Finding out my son is with someone we forbid…crying for six months over the first leaving home. My advice: it’s not easy, it’s extremely difficult, you will get thru it one day at a time. They will come back to you with the cutest grandkids (we have 17!) and the story of your life will be GLORIOUS! I cried thru my 40s, loved my 50s, 60s, and now 70s!!! The coming and going are hard for many years but you get used to it.

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