We are in a series of messages entitled Links. As we talk about our relationships with friends and family, we are thrilled to have Kitty Kok, Pastor Rob’s mother, as our guest.
Kitty Kok is the daughter of Dutch missionaries. She was born and raised in Indonesia. Her family was split between several concentration camps during World War II. Kitty was a prisoner of war at age eight through age eleven. Later in life, Kitty married Pieter Kok, an engineer in the medical field who designed x-ray machines. They have six children.
Family has always been a huge priority for you. What are a few of the most important things a parent can do?
My parents went on faith to the other end of the world. On faith they survived horrendous cruelties. They modeled faith for me. Faith became a central theme in my life.
I prayed over my children before they were born. I taught them Bible stories. Every night at dinner we read devotions. They were embraced by faith.
As a family we worked together. From the time they were young they helped the family. We played together and went on family vacations. We gave the children a voice so they knew their ideas mattered. They participated in family decisions. We taught them to forgive and created a united front where they knew their brother has their back.
What about family traditions?
Birthdays were a big deal, beginning with presents in the morning. As we gathered around the dinner table each sibling shared what they appreciated about the birthday child. We created the opportunity for them to celebrate and encourage their brothers and sister. Then the birthday child shared three highlights from the previous year and three goals for the coming year.
We embraced Thanksgiving with gusto! It was different from our tradition in Holland but we loved it and enjoyed the platform for expressing gratitude for our many blessings.
Christmas was a purely religious holiday in Holland and there were no presents. It was a difficult transition adapting to American culture. On Christmas Eve we retained our Dutch tradition celebrating the spiritual aspect of Christmas and we exchanged gifts on Christmas morning.
Traditions are an opportunity to get everyone involved. They bring a lot of joy and happiness.
It’s not like our family has only had good times. We had troubled times as well, but keeping Christ at the center has kept us united.
Your two oldest sons struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. How did you handle that?
It was shocking and heart breaking to see your children go off the road you had planned for them. We tried to keep the lines of communication open. I always wanted them to know they were loved no matter what. They could always come to us. As we shared our concern, we gave them an opportunity to talk.
We did our best to equip them for life. Looking back, I wish I would have been more aware of what was going on behind the scenes.
It is healthy to communicate what you believe to be true. We don’t enable bad behavior but we want our children to know we love and accept them even when we don’t agree with their choices. Acceptance does not equal endorsement.
When someone is drowning you throw them a life preserver of love rather than saying, you should have learned to swim.
How do you deal with a child who is not following Christ?
It is very difficult but I love and adore all my children. I just pray. I’ve shared my faith but if I try to jam it down their throat the distance between us would grow and the wall between us would be thicker. It is better to simply share my personal journey than address what I think is wrong about that child’s choices.
Parenting never really stops. Dad passed away in a sailing accident and just twelve days later we lost our son Caleb. How do you give even when you are hurting?
That was a very difficult time for our family. We felt overwhelmed by grief. We all came to Austin and wailed over the loss of our dear ones. It was the comfort of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God that brought us through and allowed us to be there for each other.
When your children go through hard times, their pain becomes your pain. All you can do is lift it up to the Lord and allow God’s love to flow through you. I learned to ask – How are you doing TODAY?