Dear Nyra,

I still remember the first day I met you. I was so scared I was shaking. You were wearing a white dress and a pink cardigan, with your hair pulled back like Rapunzel. I said quietly, “Hi, Nyra. I like your bear.” You were still three. You buried your head in your dad’s shoulder. I don’t know who was more nervous- you or me. It was definitely me. You had no idea who I was.

I knew who you were – I had been praying for you for a few weeks at this point. I was terrified by the concept of you. I was trying to understand the weight of what I was getting myself into. I couldn’t process it. No one could process something so huge.

Once I met you and you became real, I became determined that whatever happened with your dad and I – I couldn’t bear to hurt you. I refused to get close to you unless I really knew it was going to be forever. You had been through plenty, I wanted to do my best to not add to that.

When we started to spend lots of time together, it was hard. Oh, sweet girl, it was so hard. You were only four years old and I expected way too much of you. I genuinely hope you won’t remember most of this difficult transition. I came in thinking I knew so much about parenting, and I didn’t even know you. I didn’t understand you yet – how you’re an internalizer, shy, and sensitive. You are so different from me and I thought that different must be wrong. But I was the one that was wrong.

The reality of the situation is this: you loved me first. You did not pick me and I did not pick you – but God chose us for each other in this messy, beautiful relationship.  I was terrified to love you. What if you didn’t love me back? You certainly had no reason to love me. I came in and disrupted your order. You were accustomed to your dad having all eyes on you, and out of nowhere, there was someone else in the picture. I challenged how he did discipline, I changed the ways things have always been, and yet, you just loved me. I did not deserve it or even try to earn it. I was intent on keeping my distance at first, but instead, you resembled the beautiful picture of the Gospel by still loving me.

You are a beautiful, kind, hilarious little girl. You make us laugh so hard. You ask the best questions. You are the bravest child I know. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be you – going back and forth all the time. Your life feeling so out of your control. You handle it so well. You tell us what you think and what makes you sad. You cry when you’re sad- which, Nyra, is so brave. Never lose that.

Precious girl- Jesus loves you so much. He is with you no matter what house you are in. He loves you no matter how mad you get about the fact that not everyone lives in the same house. I love that when we read the Jesus Storybook Bible you stop me frequently and say, “Hold on. So…let me get dis stwaight…” Don’t lose that either – God welcomes all of your questions. He delights in them, you are His child. Repeat after me: You are His.

I did not birth you, I am not your mother. But I will love and protect you – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for all the days of my life.

Also, I’m sorry that I still have to brush your hair.

Love,

Mama E