And all at once, 26 days had passed and we were in the road to Mentone.
Suddenly I was driving through the mountains and up, up, up to where the trees opened with a smile to let me see the valley below.
In the blink of an eye I was using every last ounce of self-control to drive just above the speed limit because I was in the same town as my girl. The signs pointed to her and I drove, though I wanted to fly.
Siblings slept in the back, not used to being roused at 5:30 am but willing because they missed their sister terribly.
As we neared the camp they awakened, grinning with anticipation. We slowly wound our way down the dirt road to the enchanted forest, where Cabin G awaited. They spotted her first, leaving the dining hall flanked by friends. I parked and almost ran to Cabin G, waiting for her to cross the bridge. Waiting to lock eyes with the piece of my heart that I had missed so much.
And there she was. That smile. We met on the bridge and I relished the feel of her leaning into me. I breathed in her earthy scent, a month of camp showers, bonfires, horses, and sweat. I checked the status of her braids, happy to see them intact and noticed how dark her skin had become after a month in the sun.
My daughter is so beautiful.
Her siblings grabbed her and hugged hard. I love how much they love, how hard this month had been for them. I'm so grateful that they love to be together.
And now we are home.
I love how she ran and jumped into her Daddy's arms when she saw him. I love that I can hear her voice drifting from the pack porch as she teaches her sisters how to splatter-paint. I love how she sits close to her big brother as they watch TV. I love that I can hug her any time I want.
And I love that, though she misses the rhythms of camp life, she is glad to be home. She grew up a lot this month. The Lord worked in her, gave her new maturity...new wisdom. She has shared a hundred stories and, no doubt, has a thousand more to tell.
My heart is so happy.
These are sweet days.