Fourteen months ago, I became a foster mom to two teenage girls. Long story short, I now consider the girls to be my daughters, and they’re staying with me long-term.

Last month as I put together little gifts for my daughters for Valentine’s Day, I kept remembering 1 Corinthians 13:6:

“Love always perseveres.”

I didn’t write the girls a long note about how much I love them to go along with their Valentine’s Day goodie bag. I wanted to, but I knew they would be like, “Ew, no.” So I didn’t. But that’s OK. I know that right now my words aren’t the main way I need to show love. I’m still intentional about the words I say, just in case there’s something that will stick in their teenage minds. But right now my actions, day in and day out, are going to show that my love is real.

“Love always perseveres.”

It takes time to grow in a relationship. It takes time to build trust. One step forward, two steps back. I tell my friends I didn’t know my heart could love so much, and I didn’t know my heart could break in so many different ways.

“Love always perseveres.”

It takes perseverance to love well. Anyone can sprint in love, but our babies need us to be the steady marathon-runners of love. Maybe every muscle hurts in this marathon; maybe we’re gasping and crying out to God to give us the strength to keep going strong.

“Love always perseveres.”

Lately as I’ve prayed for God to help me to be a good mom, He has reminded me of Hebrews 13:5: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” The Lord has impressed this truth on my heart — this is to be my attitude right now as a mom; this is how I reflect the goodness of God’s heart to them.

Every action, on the good days and on the difficult days, needs to communicate to my daughters, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Sometimes I just want is to think of my own selfish desires and escape the hard parts. That’s when the Lord reminds me that my love is not meant to escape. My love is meant to persevere.

If I try to escape the hard parts, then I will also miss all the good parts — all the cuddles on the couch, the giggles in the kitchen, the long phone calls when they haven’t seen me all day. That moment after the girls opened their Valentine’s Day gift and my older daughter tackled me to give me a kiss because she liked the eye shadow I picked out for her. (If that’s the kind of affection I’ll receive, then I should buy eye shadow for them more often!)

I know I’m probably making a million mistakes these days, but my number one goal is to keep remembering that Love always perseveres.

Mary Nolen is director of women’s and children’s ministries at Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine. She is author of She Won’t Shrink Back: A Story of Building and Believing. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.