Today was the day. The day we’ve been waiting for. The day that I’ve imagined in my mind, role-playing scenario after scenario in my head since December 2. Today was the day I returned for my daughter. Today was the day I humbly, yet proudly walked onto the Bukaleba compound with more joy in my heart and gratitude to a faithful God than I ever thought possible.

I seriously tried not to have any unrealistic expectations about what it would be like to reunite with my daughter who hasn’t seen me in 37 days. Still, it’s hard not to have the stereotypical image in the back of your mind—the one of the parent and child running blissfully toward each other in slow motion with arms wide open. And that’s certainly NOT what happened. BUT, I was encouraged nonetheless.

When we first saw each other, she immediately reached out for me … and my heart skipped. I tried hard not to imagine that she would want me to hold her right away. I assumed she would need some time to open up to me again and let down her defenses. Sure enough, that’s what happened. And I was okay with it.

As I approached her, she then shied away. I could see in her eyes that her little heart wasn’t sure how to process what was happening. But she wanted to be held … by a FATHER. So she went to Nelson, the manager of the babies’ home whom she knows well.  He carried her around the compound for a few minutes and I followed close behind talking to her, playing and joking around with her and the other children, and keeping a positive attitude. I honestly was not hurt by it. I couldn’t blame her. I had left her for a month. And now, how was she supposed to feel upon seeing me again?

After a little while her defense walls began to come down one at a time and she began smiling that contagious smile and talking about going to see mommy in America. We gathered what few belongings she had and began making our way to the car, saying goodbye to the aunties and the children who have been her family for the last two-and-a-half years.  The closer we got to the car, the more she was coming back. She was coming out of her shell. She was REMEMBERING.

During the trip home, she fell asleep in the backseat with one of the aunties. But when she awoke, it was as if a switch had been flipped. She reached out for me, came and climbed up into my lap and asked me to read her a book. I told her, “Maybe later!” JUST KIDDING!!!!!!! WOW!!! NO CHANCE IN HADES DID I DO THAT!!!!!

Of course, I was THRILLED! So, the rest of the journey home, we flipped through the family picture book (which somehow survived the babies’ home) and talked about her family that was waiting back home in America for her.

From that point on, she was back. The rest of the night we laughed together, colored, played with her toys, reminisced through photos and videos of our time here together in Uganda, and just had an all-around amazing time.

With each lightbulb moment and with each resurfacing of a new memory that she has, I offer up a quick thanks to the Lord. To me, each one of those are a tiny gift from the Lord—a small nudge of His elbow—an evidence of His grace.

It’s been quite a day.  A day I’ll not soon forget. And yet, even as Alethia sleeps peacefully while I type this, there’s a piece of my heart still hurting tonight—hurting for the many families who are still stuck in this process—caught in the cogs of the system. Please continue to pray that the Lord would move mountains for these families and get these helpless children home where they belong.

And if you wouldn’t mind, please pray that my visit to the embassy tomorrow would be as simple as they are making it sound—that I am simply to pay for the visa and walk out with it!! I just might sing the “Hallelujah” chorus to everyone in the waiting room. You don’t think I will? 😉