I have to listen to an audiobook or podcast while I do housework, or I’ll get distracted. Or sometimes I’ll just put on a soundtrack and sing every role of a Broadway show. (Don’t mind me, neighbors! I’m just in here defying some gravity while I load the washing machine!)

On the afternoon of Easter Sunday in 2011, I was listening to audiobook about adoption. As various people shared their thoughts on the subject, one shared that she would struggle connecting the same way with an adopted child as she would with a biological child. I remember thinking to myself, “If God pointed to a child I had never met and said, ‘That one is yours,’ I’d die for that child right now.”

That’s when it hit me. I could already have children alive in the world.

I spent the next couple hours alternately pacing the room weeping tears of joy for God’s precious gift of motherhood and lying on my face on the floor weeping tears of sorrow for the pain my children might be facing at that moment. That’s when I started praying for my kids.

Somewhere out of my sight (but certainly not out of God’s) L. the little boy currently in my house as a foster child, had just turned one year old.

It doesn’t matter how much you read or study or prepare yourself. You can know all of the behaviors to expect and the techniques to apply, but when you get in the middle of it and you start experiencing all of those things for yourself, it’s hard. The intense times shake you, and the simple daily-ness of it all wears you down. The knowledge of the darkness of your child’s history is a weight. You hold a lot of painful things in your heart when you’re a foster parent. Things you can’t share.

The other day I heard Francesca Battistelli’s song “Beautiful, Beautiful” playing on the radio, and I said, “God, I don’t feel beautiful right now. There are the dark circles from sleepless nights worrying. My hair is weird, and my makeup is hastily applied. The stress is showing on my face.”

But worse, I feel ugly on the inside. Because this is unspeakably difficult, and there are days that I want to run away. There are days when I don’t want this, and I think you’ve given L. to the wrong person.

And God graciously responded, “I’m not asking you to die for L. right now, but I am asking you to die to yourself.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23