Forty days.

That’s how long it’s been since I’ve hugged my big kids. 

 At first, it was hard to tell anyone we decided they would stay at their dad’s house. I carried so much guilt. 

What kind of mom has her kids stay at another house? Surely, I’m the only one doing this.  I’m a terrible mom. They’re going to think I don’t love them.

And on and on the lies went. 

But none of it’s the truth.

And I know I’m not alone. But I’ve still had to tell myself . . . You. Are. Not. A. Bad. Mom. I’ve had to say it over and over the last 40 days. And it’ll be another week, at least, until I even have a chance of hugging them. 

RELATED: Dear Kids, Thank You For Being The Strong Ones

These days we take what we can get. Phone calls. Video chats. Silly text messages filled with GIFs. 

But the other day I got to see their faces in real life.

It was essential. 

Not just for me but for the three younger siblings who just don’t understand why Sissy and Bubba haven’t come back home yet. It was hard to keep my littles from sprinting into their arms. I hated having to hold them back. I had to hold myself back, too.

I’ve had my share of tears. Some uglier than others. When I saw their faces in the front yard, I had to hold myself back a little bit, too. 

Dang, I miss them.

We kept our distances as much as possible. Me on the front steps. Them in the front yard. The littles showed them our sidewalk obstacle course, and they took turnsat a distance. Everything is at a distance right now. 

We finally settled with the littles on the inside and the bigs on the other side of the storm door.

It hurt so much to have them so close but not able to touch them. 

My big-emotion-feeling, spirited little drew a picture of her hand and spelled out I love you. They played tic-tac-toe a few times. Sometimes my oldest won and sometimes she let the little ones win.

RELATED: Dear Family, This is Going to Make Us Stronger Than Ever Before

But, I know, above all other things about this time. The ultimate victor and the one thing that is never at a distance . . . LOVE.

Love always wins.

Love is never at a distance.

Love is the most essential thing we have right now.

Because God is love. God is near to those who draw near to Him. And, man, am I drawing near to Him lately.

It’s too easy to let fear and sadness turn into anger, hate, bitterness, and resentment.

But our circumstances don’t determine our relationship with our kidsor anyone else for that matter.

We do. 

RELATED: When Will I Get To Hug My Family Again?

When it was finally time for them to go, I held back the tears. “Are you guys doing OK? Do you need anything?”

A hug,” my 16-year-old boy said. 

“Me, too, Bud. Me, too,” I held back the tears once more.

And fought with everything in me (and with a whole lot of Jesus) to not bust through the door and give him that hug.

As they got in the truck to drive away, we walked out of the house and waved. We held up our sign for “I love you.” We never part without saying iteven when it’s hard. 

Because love is a choice.

The littles chased the truck down the sidewalk. 

Because love does that, too.

Love always pursues.

Love is never at a distance.

Love always wins.

Because love is the most essential thing we have. Let’s use it well and often and when it’s really tough, let’s turn to the One who displayed it first and best.

Ana Bright

Ana Bright is a cheerleader for moms. She empowers mamas who are raising (sometimes extra) strong-willed kids. You can find her at Grace and Glory Moms, where she shares hope, humor, and helpful tips for making it through motherhood while holding tightly onto Jesus.