Arrival Details

Many of you have asked if the airport is reserved for close family and friends.  Our response is ABSOLUTELY NOT!  I’ve had several of you whom I’ve never even met or who live out of town, ask if it’s OK to come.  How awesome is that?!

So, to answer your question…come one, come all!  We’re going to show RDU how to party.

We won’t be sticking around for long and we won’t be accepting any invitations for dinner and we will be going home alone as a family as I’m sure Alethia will be totally exhausted and over-stimulated (not to mention her antsy siblings who will want to swarm her as she walks around in her new environment), but we would LOVE to share this celebration with those of you who have prayed her home with us!

So, bring on the friends, and family…both familiar and new!  Let’s celebrate the homecoming that the Lord has been so gracious to bless us with!

Josh and Alethia will be flying into RDU on Wednesday afternoon at 1:27pm on United Airlines.  They will have already gone through customs so we’ll be meeting them upstairs by the checkout counters near the escalators that lead down to the baggage claim.

I’ll post any delays if they occur.

Oh, and just a reminder…I get to see this beautiful little face in ONE DAY!

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A Happy Drunk

Well, we got it!!

Alethia’s visa is in my possession!

We made the 3-hour trek from Jinja this morning and arrived at the embassy around 10:30. We checked in, waited for our name to be called, paid for the visa, waited a few more minutes, and then were presented with THE packet. The one containing our ticket home–the precious visa that will allow our little treasure to legally step onto US soil.

It was such a surreal moment. The consular attendant who presented it to me is a lady that we’ve gotten to know very well over the last few months and who has consistently remained positive and encouraging (ooh, sounds like a good slogan for something) throughout the process. As she handed me the packet, she was beaming from ear to ear, genuinely happy for us and excited to be the one to present it.

The interaction took less than five minutes. I couldn’t believe it. With all the hurdles and difficulties we faced along the way, for something to work the way it was supposed to almost seemed, … well, wrong. Ha! (Thank you all for your prayers. Tasha and I really cannot say it enough. It is your prayers and intercession that has held us together! Thank you!)

I thanked the kind lady an insane amount of times, and then Alethia and I made our way back down the winding path toward the security gate singing and worshiping and laughing together. Was it the Hallelujah chorus? Well, not exactly. My mind couldn’t stop spinning enough to grab onto a single thought or idea. So it was more of a hodge-podge of scattered notes combined with both English and Luganda words of adoration and thanksgiving to God pouring from hearts overflowing with gratitude. I wouldn’t say I was a blubbering fool. More like a happy drunk! 🙂

When we arrived back at our vehicle, it immediately filled with shouts of thanksgiving and prayers of thanks from the motley crew who accompanied us–two dear Ugandan friends who have walked with us through all the highs and lows of this journey. They shouted things like “God Is Great.” And “Katonda Mulungi!” (“God is Good!”). It was as if the celebration was for them. And maybe in a way it was. And for all of you who have followed our journey so closely. Who have cried with us. Prayed with us. Donated time and money. Watched our kids so we could clear our heads and think straight. 😉 All of you.

So tonight is Shabila Naikoba’s last night in Uganda. It’s her last night as a residing citizen of this country. Tomorrow we get on the plane that will literally project her toward a whole new life–her life as now Alethia Grace Via. It’s hard to know how much she really and truly understands what is about to happen to her. But in some weird way, I think she knows enough. I believe she understands deep down in the recesses of her heart that though she was abandoned and orphaned, she is now loved, cherished, and forever welcomed into the open embrace of a family who will never leave her again. And her contagious and unending smile seems to tell me that it’s enough for her.

The Reunion

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? 😉

Safe And Sound…And Giddy

I just got off the phone with Josh.  He made it safe and sound!  He is weaving through Kampala traffic now and heading back to Jinja.  He told me he feels like he’s back at home:)  I mean, he’s already negotiated a Taxi and the sim card in his phone still worked!

He said he’s “never been so giddy to hit this Tarmac!”  If it weren’t going to be so dark when he gets to Jinja he’d go get Alethia right away, ha!  He told me it feels so good to be back.  It’s a whole new trip this time around.  We know the happy ending that is coming our way!

The flights were good for him, besides the guy with bad breath right next to him for 14 hours and the other guy clicking his seatbelt over…and over….and over:)

We’re going to try to Skype this afternoon if they’ve got electricity and internet.

Oh yeah, and if you’ve lost count…

PS- Several of you have asked what time Josh and Alethia get in on Wednesday.  Their flight is scheduled to arrive at RDU at 1:27pm and they will have already gone through customs in DC.  I will keep their arrival time on the right hand sidebar in case of delays or changes:)

On His Way

Stan Cherry, AKA Sweetie, well at least by my kids that is, ’cause that would just be weird if I were to call him Sweetie, but his wife on the other hand, I LOVE to call her Sweetie…ahem, I digress…

Anyway, Stan arrived at 4am this morning to pick up Josh and take him to the airport!  (Thank you Stan!)  Josh took the short sleepy flight to DC where he waited to board his 14(ish) hour flight to Addis.  Then one more 2-hour flight and he’ll finally be in Entebbe!

I talked to him this morning while he was in line waiting to board his flight in DC.  He’d just dosed up on Tylenol PM hoping to be able to sleep a large chunk of the flight:)

He’s really on his way!  It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around this whole thing.  I’m sure it will seem more real when Josh walks through the airport hand-in-hand with Alethia, but until then it all seems so surreal.

Here are a few things you can pray for:

  • Safety in the air and on the ground.  This is a fast and furious trip for Josh and he’ll be on the move most of the time.
  • For Alethia.  We have no idea what her reaction to all of this will be.  She’ll most likely be scared and/or confused.
  • Pray that Josh and Alethia will re-bond quickly and that she will be able to trust him without any doubt immediately!
  • I have just under 5 weeks left to go in my pregnancy and I’m feeling it.  I’m tired and…well…getting bigger and bigger, ha!.  Pray that I’ll have stamina and strength to parent these 3 kiddos on my own.  I don’t just want to get by, I want to continue to be consistent and on top of my game.
  • Rainy, Zeke and Cai can always tell when transition is in the air.  They tend to act out when Josh leaves the country.  We are praying for “Happy and Obedient Hearts” regardless of the season of transition that we are in the midst of.
  • We still have to deal with the Embassy.  Although we have been told that Alethia’s VISA is completed and simply waiting for pick-up, we know how this process has been so far for us.  Pray that everything is in order and it is going to be as simple as paying for the VISA and walking out with it!  How awesome would it be to have something happen the right way the first time, ha!
  • Alethia has never been on a plane and she has several she is going to be getting on and off of.  Pray that these flights will be uneventful:)

Thank you all, again, for continuing to lift us up!

The countdown continues!

Letters To Alethia – January 5, 2012

Dear Alethia,

I love you and I’ll give you the bubbles that I got you when you get home.  And you’ll love your presents that me and Rainy got you and you’ll really love them.

I’m excited for you to come and I’ll give you one of my things when you get home.

Love,

Zeke

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Alethia,

say uh, Alethia Shabby.  I want come home.

Uh, Love,

Cai-bo

Letters To Alethia – January 4, 2012

Alethia,

Guess what?  I know a secret that you don’t even know yet!  You want me to tell you what it is?

I’ll give you some clues:)

It is something we had thought was going to happen several months ago.  And then we thought it may not happen at all.  We’ve spent countless hours praying for this to happen.  Thousands of others have been on their knees for this to happen.

Well, let me just tell you ’cause I can’t keep it in any longer!

Your daddy will be getting on an airplane at 6:30am on Friday morning.  He will then hop in a car with our favorite driver, Farouk, and drive the familiar road from Entebbe to Jinja.  Then he’ll wait until you wake up, if he can wait that long, and then make the trip to the babies home!

Do you remember the last time daddy was there?  Daddy was so sad.  You were so confused.  The Anties were so heart-broken.  All because daddy had to leave you with the uncertainty of when he would be able to, if he would be able to, come back to get you to bring you home for good!

But the time has come!  As a matter of fact the Embassy emailed and said that your VISA has been completed and is just waiting for pick-up!!!!  We are as certain as certain can be that you will coming home on an airplane with your daddy to your new home and your waiting family and friends!

In fact, this time next week you will be here, in this house, taking it all in.  I get chills just thinking about it.  You have been on my mind more since we received the news of your VISA approval than ever before.

It’s not just a wish and prayer anymore.  It is becoming a reality and we can hardly wait patiently enough for this next week to pass by!

So, let the countdown to forever begin!

Impatiently Waiting For You,

Mommy

Thoughts From The Sifted

I think when a lot of people go through tough times they question why God would allow “it” to happen.

For me, I GET that God has a BEST plan.  I GET that His timing is perfect.  I get that He knows what is best for me.  I GET that crappy things are going to happen, even to His children, EVEN when they are following closely behind Him in obedience (because so often people question if they heard God correctly if their walk of obedience becomes difficult).  I GET that life sucks sometimes and that we are never going to totally understand WHY exactly God does allow hurtful and painful things to happen.  I GET all of that.  I truly do!

Josh and I have been reading a book called Sifted“, by Rick Lawrence (Thanks Katy!).  It couldn’t be more of a perfect book for the season of life that we are stepping out of.

In Luke Jesus says one of the most chilling (in my opinion) phrases of the Bible:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  
And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

If you notice, Satan went to Jesus to ask permission.  He sought Peter out.  That’s a little unnerving. God was gracious enough to give Peter a warning at least, ha!  And then He graciously went on to tell Peter that he had prayed for his faith and that Peter would, in turn, strengthen his brothers after he had been “sifted”.

Wow!

When Josh and I were in the midst of our “sifting” in Uganda we often questioned why things were going so “un”planned.  We often questioned how in the world everything would work out.  We even questioned if we’d ever get back home (this would have been a very low point in our journey:).  I’m sure we had underlying doubt and questions about why this was going so unpredictably for us while others were zooming in and out of country in less than 3 weeks!

Oh we questioned.  (Here is where I want to say that I believe we are allowed to question God and speak from our hearts to His.)  But we finally grasped (at least part of) the reason behind it.  We had a lot of learning to do.

This “sifting” that we were going through was a hurt that God had allowed.  While we weren’t particularly rejoicing in the fact that we were facing obstacles at every turn we were confident that God had a plan.  While we weren’t sure how the end would play out, we were confident that God had a plan.  While we weren’t sure if we could hang on any longer, we were confident that God was holding us.

After beginning this book and realizing the significance of being “sifted” I believe we could embrace the hardship a little easier.  Our thoughts turned from wondering how it would all play out to “I hope we can finish strong” and “I pray we can pass this test”.

Instead of questioning God through all of this, I’m questioning my own heart and motives.  I want to pass this test!  I want God to get as much glory out of our sifting as He can!  I don’t want my own fears and insecurities to get in the way of what God is teaching me!

I’m all about being transparent and open, because I believe it can help others, but this is a little hard to admit.

Here is the weird thing.  When we finally got word that we had been approved to bring Alethia home I was beyond thrilled and relieved.  But at the same time I felt a strange spiritual finality, as though the sifting were over.  That the test was complete.  I felt like I’d passed, maybe not with flying colors, but at least I survived, but for some reason that wasn’t enough.  I wasn’t ready to be done being sifted.  I don’t want God to stop testing me.  I know it doesn’t make sense.

It took some time to sort these things out in my swirling head and I believe I now understand what was going on.  It’s not that I want heartache or difficulty all the time, but I don’t ever want to feel like God is done with me.  I want to be in a place where I continue to grow!

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I am more than ready to have my whole family on American soil, in our own home, TOGETHER!  I am so ready to have this baby and begin to live a normal life again.  But I don’t ever want to forget the sifting we have been through and I don’t ever want to be so comfortable doing life that I would cave in the midst of another sifting season.

So for now, I pray that we can enjoy the victory when this season of sifting is complete (because this will be the time to gain strength for the next one), and pray that when our testing is complete that we can turn back and strengthen our brothers, because that is when God will get the glory!