Free to Surrender: My Daughter's Greek Dream Wedding and Letting Go of Control

8 comments
A photo of Dafni and Nathaniel's wedding, including guests, decorations, and trees framing the couple in front of the Mediterranean Sea

I'm pushing Dalia in a stroller, with Dafni and Dimitra walking beside me. I'm 32 years old and pregnant with my fourth child, Dino. I just found out he is a boy, and I am feeling blessed beyond measure.

I'm also feeling overwhelmed and terrified about these children I will raise. What if I create little monsters? What if I'm not paying attention, and one of them gets hurt? What if I can't balance everything? What if I spoil them or am too strict and squelch their spirit?

I felt the immense weight of the responsibility. It was so strong and so intimidating I started to panic. I had no confidence in my abilities whatsoever.

I had been connecting with God on these walks each day and felt the urgency to be close to Him while I sorted through my feelings of being a 32-year-old mom of four very small children. A few weeks before this, I had felt tremendous relief after completely turning my life over to God.

Every dream I had, every desire, and everything I touched, I decided to give to God. I knew God was much greater than I am. I had come to realize that any desire I had outside of Him was useless, and I only wanted to want whatever pertained to my destiny.

Raising God's Kids

Elli sits on the beach with young Dimitra, Dafni, and Dalia

As I walked with the girls, still feeling overwhelmed and incapable, I heard a gentle voice say, "Will you give them to me?" I knew immediately where all my stress and worry was coming from. I only thought I had given God everything, but I was holding back my kids. They were too precious to trust God with them. I knew that this was why I was still having anxiety and constantly feeling in over my head, as if at any moment everything would fall apart.

I still felt the need to control everything, and I channeled that need into the grip I had on my children. How could I really give them away to God? What did that mean exactly? Would I be absolved of all responsibility? If they turned out terrible, it would be no fault of my own because, after all, they were given to God. It would be His fault, right?

Finally, that very afternoon, as I walked through the quiet streets of my neighborhood in Arizona, I told God that I knew He would take better care of my children than I would, and I recognized that His destiny for them was the very best life they could have. I was only here to love them, teach them, and guide them. God was responsible for their well-being and their purpose. I felt my heart expand and my spirit light up as I realized, I did it. I fully released my kids to God.

Over the years, I learned how to take my part in raising God's kids. I sought heavenly guidance about their destinies. Are they meant to be artists? Should I encourage them to attend college? Would they grow up weird if they were homeschooled? Am I doing enough to show them how to find God for themselves?

I came to see myself less as a controller and more as a guide or caretaker, understanding that, ultimately, the results were beyond my control. My influence might last only a few years, but God's influence would last a lifetime.

Shock, Joy, and Destiny

Photo of Elli and her three daughters lying on the floor and looking up at the camera

Sixteen years later, I'm in my kitchen, and Dimitra bursts in excitedly.

"He's going to ask her to marry him!" I knew she was talking about Nathaniel and Dafni. Part of me was shocked—Dafni was only 18, so young—and I wasn't quite ready for this. But mostly, I was thrilled; they loved each other deeply and were clearly destined for a life of greatness together.

With two art retreats in Crete, Greece, just a month away, Dafni and Nathaniel decided they would get married in Crete. They were willing to give up a large wedding to seal their love in such a magical and beautiful place. Planning a wedding while hosting 12 artists in a retreat was not easy, but Dafni was a dream bride and held all her plans loosely, content with whatever the outcome.

As soon as we arrived at the property we were renting for the month, we knew it was the perfect wedding location—nestled high above a cliff with a sprawling grassy yard overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and shaded by large mulberry trees. The owner greeted us immediately, showing us his hillside garden. As he harvested fruits and vegetables, he quickly prepared a delightful picnic complete with his homemade wine, olive oil, and sea salt.

"Is it all right if we have our daughter's wedding here in a couple of weeks?" I asked, hopeful. He brightened up and said, "Yes! My daughter will help you plan it! And I will donate some wine!" His daughter connected us with local florists, musicians, and the owner of a nearby taverna for the reception. Everything came together seamlessly with very little effort. We even found a nearby beach house for my parents and their friends coming in for the wedding.

Magic and Marriage under the Mediterranean Sun

Dafni and Nathaniel share their first kiss as husband and wife

The next two weeks flew by, and we were completely absorbed in the art retreat and spending time with the artists. As the day came closer, everyone was offering help and ideas on how to decorate and make it special. The day before the wedding, we all went to the nearby city of Chania and tasked each person with going to get supplies. Jake and Dimitra had to buy champagne glasses; others were to get flowers, others fabric, and others decorations.

The next day, we all woke up early and decorated the already beautiful space, tying ribbons and flowers to the trees and the chairs. Dafni got ready in one room and Nathaniel in the other. After many happy tears, lots of pictures, and sweet exchanges between mother, daughter, grandma, sisters, brother…the beautiful moment came. Dafni and Nathaniel became one.

Their radiant smiles glistened in the sun, and the sweetness and innocence were unforgettable. After the ceremony, we toasted them, and each one of us blessed them with our heartfelt words of encouragement. They took some more pictures and spent some moments together under the golden sun, while the rest of us walked to the restaurant, listened to the live music, and waited for the newly married couple.

Dafni's Walk Into a New Life

The sounds of Crete echoed in the lyre and bouzouki and fed the atmosphere with the timeless enchantment of the village. The grape vines weaved through the lattice above the tables, peppering us with golden light. As the lively music continued, we all peered down the dirt road and saw Nathaniel coming, carrying Dafni in his arms through the field so her dress wouldn't get dirty. He gently put her down, and they walked the road toward us, holding hands.

As I watched their silhouettes and the light dance between them, I knew our child was gone. All of my hopes for her were now mine alone. She is her own woman now and will make her own choices and design her own path or choose to follow God's. It was the final piece of letting my child go into God's hands. I was no longer her caretaker. My moments of influence were over. My heart ached with loss while it rejoiced with joy, pride, hope, and promise.

A Shift of Influence

I felt my participation as a mom shift in this moment. I had three more children who would leave me and step into their own lives. Now, the ways I would touch their lives could only come as an invitation. The time to assert myself and compel influence was over. This is now my time to watch and rally for them from afar, witnessing their lives unfold with goodness and triumph, as well as pain and difficulty.

The profound truth grounding me is that my whole life and everything in it belongs to God. Whatever loss, feelings of control, or lack of trust I have experienced are nothing compared to the fulfillment and purpose I have experienced giving them up. All that is good, worthwhile, and beneficial in my life is from the one who asked me to give it all to Him.

Share your story in the comments below!


8 comments


  • Iris Ztarr

    Hi Elli,

    Thank you for this beautiful post. My son is now 45 and we have a good relationship now. I left our marriage when he was only 5 and he suffered a lot. Our relationship was difficult for a long time as he was angry towards me. With the birth of his first son (who is now 7) our relationship totally healed. My son sent me a very long post about the intense 36 hour labour his beloved went through, and he said he never realised how much energy it took to bring a small human into the world. He then thanked me for going through that for him to come into the world. That little baby was such a miracle in so many ways. A few months later my son wrote me a card apologising for all the grief he had given me in his teenage years. I treasure that card, and now I have three beautiful grandchildren, all boys, aged 7, 5 and three. They live in Oregon and I’m in Australia. I go visit as often as I can because I want their grandma to be a part of their life but more than that I want to be a part of theirs. When my son was 7 I brought him to upstate New York with me for a month’s holiday and I knew then he would move to the US one day. I believe it was God letting me know so I could prepare. They are so far away but so close to my heart. I love this; I’m going to give all my grandchildren to God too. And thank you for the wonderful Mastery program I have learned so much.
    ———
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Thank you for sharing your touching story in so glad you are a part of each others lives now. Grandchildren are the ultimate blessing!


  • Marcy

    Thank you for sharing this timely message. My youngest just turned 18 this week, and we are struggling to figure out how to be roommates before she leaves our home for college. I will remember to give it to God; they are not my own.
    ———
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Aww! Yes. Just give to God. Keep the peace.


  • Popi

    Thank you for sharing this Elli,

    This post touched me deeply. Thank you for your open-hearted wisdom. I remember the day I accepted that my children did not belong to me. I had been gripping to anger and battling with being alienated from them for years after separating from their father when they were only 8 and 10 years old. I finally realised that in order to heal, forgive fully and learn unconditional love and true gratitude, I would have to let go of gripping to my children. Your story gave me even more comfort because it made me realise that what I was giving them over to was the same Divine force I was learning to connect to through my spiritual awakening.

    Thankfully, my son has returned to my life with so much love, still on his own path of growth. I was thankful to be invited to my daughter’s wedding, but she still holds up a wall to me. I know that she is doing life her way, and I know that God is guiding her. For that, I am grateful, and your message of hope and faith has just cemented that further.

    You emanate inspiration, and I am thankful to be part of the Mastery program, which is more than an art course. The diversity of emotions, love, hope and connection have a new way to be expressed through my art and my work as a holistic psychologist. It all comes together now as an intricately woven fabric of purpose, made up of all the colours of my life’s experience.
    Thank you,
    Popi
    ———
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Hi Popi. Thank you for sharing your story and message. Love hopes, love endures and love bares all things. Your daughter will forgive and let walls down. You’ll have your whole life to be close friends.


  • Julia

    Tears are streaming down my face as read this. My daughter just turned 18 and my son will be 13 this month. I have always struggled with fully giving my kids to God because of loss that I I suffered as a young child. Most of my parenting years are behind me and I haven’t always done the best job. There are things that I regret and things I would change but I know that the Lord uses all things for good. I think my biggest fear of fully giving them to God is the question of what if He takes them from me? But then, I wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore would I?! Lord pls be merciful and grant my children a long life of walking with You and give me grace as I learn to let them go.
    ———
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Hi Julia. It can be so difficult trusting God. I’m listening to a book on Audible called “Hinds Feet in High Places” it’s an allegory and beautifully written. I think it will help you tremendously!


  • Christina

    My grandmother and I never had much in common. Her entire life consisted of prepairing to be recieved in heaven. I am not religious in the traditional sense and I always felt this was a preoccupying concern to her.
    About 20 years ago I was getting ready to embark on my first solo cross country road trip. I was excited and nervous for this adventure and I told my grandma that I had prepared for the trip as well as I could and the rest was up to the universe. She said, “Yes, that’s all you can do.”
    ———
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    So maybe you have more in common with her than you thought. 😊


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