I wanted it to be a short walk. A few moments of uncertainty quickly replaced by answers, solutions, and a plan. I wanted to move through this uncomfortable place of not knowing relatively quickly to the more secure land of understanding. Yet, here I am dwelling in the unknown. I don't know what tomorrow holds. There is no handbook with step by step directions of what to do. There is no plan. I only know what I am doing in this moment. And this is where I am dwelling. To dwell means, to remain for a time. I don't know how long this time will last. The vagueness of the future is unsettling. To live without a timeline is stretching me in ways I have not experienced before. This doesn't mean I am inactive. The calls, conversations, emails, research, and advocacy have been exhausting. Every time a potential solution is available I pursue it diligently. At the end of each search, the answer is still the same, unknown, and so the dwelling continues.
Seven years ago I sat in a courtroom and listened to the fates of four sisters get discussed. For three of the four girls the future seemed settled. The oldest was going back to her birth mom. DHS and the court felt she was old enough to be successful and her mom could parent one child. The youngest girls were on a path to be adopted by Matt and me. But for the middle little girl there wasn’t a plan in place. Her current foster home wasn’t pursuing adoption. As I sat there my heart was broken. This young girl needed a family to step in and advocate for her well being. At that moment, I knew in my heart she needed us.
This wasn't the plan. We hadn't expected to adopt a nine year old girl. Our previous foster and adoptive parenting experience was babies and toddlers. We felt out of our league and in over our heads. Yet, we couldn't shake from our hearts the truth that each and every child deserves someone to love and fight for them. So we stepped into the uncharted waters and welcomed another girl into our family.
Thirteen days ago that little girl, now sixteen years old, walked out the front door of our home and refused to come back. The pain of someone you love walking out on you is excruciating. At first it doesn't feel real, like a bad dream you will wake up from at any moment. Then anger and frustration settle in. You can't understand how someone you have loved and cared for could treat you so badly. Next the sadness comes and permeates your heart, and you weep like you have never wept before. In the midst of the sadness a fear rises up inside that wants to rip you apart. This is the reality of where I currently reside. The people around me expect me to have answers and look to me for a solution to the problem. I have no answers. I have no solutions. I am in a dark forest, and I can't see my way out.
It feels as if a hundred times a day someone is asking me, "How are you?" The friendly young person at Dutch Bros, the talkative guy at the gas station, the checker at Walmart. It's a common and simple question used to be polite in social situations. And I smile and say, "I'm good." This is a complete lie. I am not good. I am heartbroken. I am barely keeping it together. But that isn't the answer the stranger wants to hear. It causes me to wonder how many times I have asked others the same question, and how many times they have lied to me, just like I am lying to those around me. It's not an intentional lie. It's just the pat answer you give with a smile to the world. Usually as we ask people how they are we are in a hurry going through our lives. If we stopped long enough to look at the person we are talking to and really see them, we might notice the tired mom, the lonely man, the hurting family.
This time of dwelling has reminded me how easily I get caught up in my own life. How quickly I prioritize my to-do list over relationships. How many times I choose to ask someone how they are doing and don't take the time to really listen to their answer. It's convicted my heart to remember to let my plans get interrupted.
The other day someone in line at Dutch Bros bought my coffee. It was such a simple thing, but it touched my heart. In a season in which I am living in the unknown, every single act of kindness is noticed. This also reminds me who I want to be. I want to be the kind of person who helps when I can. Once again, too often I am caught up in my schedule for the day. I forget to send the flowers, write the text, give the hug. The sweetness of another human deeply impacted my broken heart. Let me never forget to pause and see people and help when I can.
The forest is thick and often seems dark in this time of dwelling. I can see shards of light pierce through the heavens. A call from a friend, a hug from one of my children, coffee from a stranger. The light reminds me this season will not last forever. A day will come when I will be able to walk out on the other side. The book of Psalms chapter 30 says, "Crying may last for a night, but joy comes with the new day."
While I dwell here in the unknown, I will focus on what I know to be true. The promises of God. They stand true even in the darkest of circumstances. He promises to "never leave me or forsake me." (Deuteronomy 31:6) He also promises to "work all things together for good to those that love God, and who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
Although I can't yet see the path out of the forest of the unknown, I know the words of my God are true. Although I can't yet see how things will work together for good, I can trust in the One who sees the past, present, and future. And although there are moments when fear grips my heart, I can rely on the assurance my God will never leave me or forsake me. I am comforted knowing these same promises apply to my wayward child. The God I am putting my trust in loves her even more than I do. In that truth I will rest while I continue to dwell in the unknown.