We don’t have full custody of my stepdaughter. It’s strange and sad and a constant reminder of brokenness.

We miss her–a lot.

Sharing custody of children is gut wrenching. We say things like, “Your other house.” I wash and fold clothes from that other house, put them all in a bag and return them when I remember. I struggle with anxiety whenever she has a weird day or isn’t a good listener. I can feel myself thinking, “She goes back to her other house tomorrow. What if we aren’t okay by then?” She went through a phase where I swear she would always get in trouble ten minutes before she would get picked up. What are you supposed to do?

Sometimes we have long stretches of time with her and I’m shocked by how normal it feels.  We’re doing this thing called family. This all feels so right and it works. Then the inevitable morning comes where we take her to school but we don’t pick her up. Our hearts break as we go to sleep another night without her snuggled in her bed.

I used to not think like this.

I remember counting down the hours until she would go back. I was overwhelmed and wanted to feel a sense of normalcy. I felt like I was just trying to survive. I was so hypersensitive to everything she did. And now, I have literally shed tears over underwear that has days of the week on it, because some of it will never get worn.

Everyone knows that time with your children is precious, but you feel it so strongly when you are only with them part of the time.

It’s pouring down rain, lightning is flashing across the sky. We wonder, “Is she okay? Is she scared?” We have the heartbreaking reality that her kindergarten teacher will often spend more time with her than we do.

So when we have her, I do my best to hold her tight. I read that longer story, Amelia Bedelia, even though I have to explain every. single. double meaning.  Some nights I lay down next to her and listen to her talk about every hilarious thing that goes through her head. She asks tough questions about Jesus. I remember that it is not my job to answer everything perfectly, it is my job to be evidence that Jesus loves her fiercely. We do the sign of the cross over her sweet little blonde head and trust that the Lord is faithful, even in small ritual.

I do my very best to remember that it is okay to let things go. The days are long, but the years are short. It is okay that she was intent on wearing a tiger costume to church. Whatever. A time is coming when she will be way too cool for that. It is okay that she mostly just wants to dance with her best friend during church. It’s hard for me to sit still through 80% of our services too. It’s okay that my failed attempt to make carrots taste better, apparently, “Made dem taste even badder” (at least the child is honest).

This is all easier said than done. The Greek word kairos explains to us that not all moments in time are created equal. There are those moments, those thin places, when you can feel the presence of God unmistakably. Every moment that we have Nyra does not always feel kairos, but I am working on increasing my sensitivity. I am holding onto little moments, Nyra saying “you can sit closer to me…if you want.” That may seem small, but it’s a kairos moment. Picking out Father’s Day gifts for Giancarlo. Her bringing me a glass of water when I said I wasn’t feeling well. When she calls me her “Mama E.”

Mamas, if you have your babies all the time, hold them tight.