the gift of letting go…

I just returned from seeing my daughter off on the train, back to her town in southwest Germany where she’s teaching for at least another 19 months or so.  That last hug before she boarded the train was a hard one, hard to let go.  I’d arrived last Tuesday evening, late, and she was there to pick me up at the train station.  Over the past several days, I’ve celebrated American thanksgiving with some of her friends, watched her brilliantly teach a couple classes, and then shared a whirlwind tour of Switzerland together, arriving late last night in Germany.

I preached this morning, and then we shared lunch with the students, and then she had to go home.  Poof!  She’s gone and I’m here on my own, with all sorts of emotions swirling before I begin teaching this evening:

1. Joy – Seeing my daughter in her element as a teacher was a great gift.  I’d never sat in on one of her classes when she was a teacher in Seattle, but here in Germany, it was amazing to watch her, and see her gift of bringing things to life for people.  She knows some tricks, and uses them, and students respond.  My first day in Germany I visited some friends who do an art ministry/outreach, and one of their co-workers has a son in Kristi’s class.  She told me what a great job my daughter’s doing, as did another parent who was visiting because her daughter’s broken her leg.  This is our child who knew, from the beginning, she was made for teaching.  Anne of Green Gables and Laura Ingalls Wilder were her literary mentors, and it rubbed off.  To see her doing that which she’d pursued her whole life, and succeeding wildly brought me great joy.

2. Gratitude – The English department from the school gathered for Thanksgiving, and it was hysterical to listen to the literary conversation that unfolded, all night long, amongst the teachers.  “What are you reading for pleasure?” was the main question of the night and literary references were tossed into conversations with such regularity that I knew my daughter was, in this place, in very good company.  People of faith who love kids, love to teach, and love to read are a small demographic in this world, but my daughter is one of them, and she’s among truly kindred spirits.  I’m also grateful for my friend Phil, who is the interim director of BFA, because he has a great vision for it, one that resonates with Kristi’s vision of being a genuine part of the larger German culture, rather than an isolated enclave.

3. Sadness – Kristi and I genuinely enjoy each other; we’re friends.   The rich conversations about faith, culture, friends and family we love, our own struggles and successes in faith, relationships and work, were energizing for me.  Such times were coupled with the comfort of silence as we both read during long stretches of train rides.  Our love of the outdoors, and words, and writing, and so much more make “kindred spirits” a fitting phrase.  But she lives in Germany!

That’s why letting go was so hard at 1:21 PM this afternoon; but also so good.  She’s doing what she’s born to do, in a place she loves, a place to which she’s called, and this is better than togetherness!  We raised our children to say “yes” to opportunities, recognizing that those who do so will often live beyond the edges of comfort and security, recognizing that we as parents will be stretched in the process.  Who ever said you didn’t have a thing or two to learn from your children?  When my children say yes to the voice that’s calling and it takes them away, the very best thing I can do is let go – and I do.

Thanks Kristi, for a great weekend.  I’m proud of your work, your faith, and am thrilled you’ll be home for Christmas.  Love…


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  • Nicole Potts


  • Thanks for the encouragement–here truly the giving of courage–that has made it possible for all of us to live on our edges. Thanks for your friendship. And for a great weekend. Love you.

  • Mark E

    I’ve always been very encouraged by seeing the relationships you have with your kids. I realize that things are not and haven’t ever been perfect in any family, but seeing a pastor with healthy and whole adult children that love Jesus and their parents gives me great hope. As a pastor with 3 young children, I spend a lot of time worrying and praying (regrettably more worrying than praying) about the future of my kids’ relationships with my wife and me and with God. Right now, my kids still really like church, and I’m greeted by some pretty awesome hugs and epic wrestling matches when I get home each day, but I know that these days will be past before I know it. Again, not that I assume the Dahlstrom’s have it all figured out, but have you and Donna ever thought about writing about parenting – specifically in the context of vocational ministry? Thanks for sharing your heart and some encouragment.