Sunday, October 23, 2016

There's Going To Be A Tent

We do our best during dinner table talk to keep Lifa’s father as the hero every dad deserves to be to his son. We do everything we can to stay in close contact, despite the distance, language and culture gaps. Dads are important.
Father's Day Celebration with Lifa's dad.
No pictures of Lifa's did in this blog for his privacy.
Lifa’s father’s story has been a hard one, and the fact that he’s still in Lifa’s story has proved him to be a diamond in the rough. There are many men with children in his culture, but not many who identify themselves as fathers. According to both government and tribal law in South Africa, fathers have virtually no authority as the head of their households or guardians of their children.

When there’s no place for you in a home or in your culture, how could you know where you belong? How could you know you were made with the hero’s role in the story? Why would you choose to live a hero’s life or do anything differently than all the generations before you?

It didn’t take long after Chris and I got married for Lifa to learn about Dad Powers. I watched him learn to thrive one soccer kick at a time. Family dinners and the sound of a father’s voice praying over him every evening became life-sources for the kid (and the mom) learning about how important dads are.

Lifa's adaptation to the added stability of our house made some things at his other dad’s house hard to understand. When Lifa hadn’t known that houses with dads could be anything other than chaotic, crowded and a little lonely, it was ok. But now he knew something different. He knew dads and their houses are important. 

If Lifa’s father had followed suit with the fathers in his story, we would not even know his name. He is unable to provide for his son due to his life’s circumstances, but he does want to be a dad. Lifa’s father often didn’t come ever home when Lifa was staying at his house for school holiday. His shame was too heavy. The home was too chaotic. He just couldn’t bear any of it. It was all part of the blur of living in a house of 16-ish people that you don’t really “belong to” anyway. Until he saw something different. Then it became unbearable. 

Chris and I planned a two-week trip to Cape Town while Lifa stayed with his father for school holiday. Just before we left, Chris spent a Saturday with Lifa’s father. He drove 9 hours that day and brought along a local pastor for translating. The three men spent some quality table-time with plates full of meat and conversations loaded with Truth. 

Chris spent hours at that table explaining to Lifa’s dad how important he is to us. He shared our burdens, convictions and prayers for Lifa and invited him into sharing the vision for his son. Chris talked to Lifa’s dad about how important it is to protect Lifa’s mind, body and spirit. He promised we would always raise him in the church and according to Biblical standards, and we would blaze the trail for him to prosper. Lifa’s dad humbled himself, and, through a translator, told my hero-husband, “I don’t know how Lifa got so lucky. He has two fathers. I am so happy we can work together to make sure he has a good life.”

Tears salted the table as they were all overcome with how families and table talk change people’s stories.

That table talk counted for a lot more than a Saturday.  During his school holiday, Lifa called me a few times from his dad’s. It was always way past bedtime and when he needed the stability of a mom’s voice and nighttime routine. He was pining for my rice and beans and pumpkin cake, and he wasn’t sleeping well. We would play highs and lows, talk about what we ate for dinner, and I would send legions of angels to sing him to sleep and dance in his dreams. Lifa called a few days before the end of holiday and said his low for the day was that we were coming to get him on Saturday instead of Sunday. There was going to be a party at his dad’s house on Saturday, and there was going to be a tent.

Important things happen in tents in South Africa. Tent rentals are big businesses for weddings, funerals and all major events. Tents make things matter here.

Initially, Chris and I were thrilled that Lifa’s low involved leaving his dad’s. We want Dad’s house to be a happy place. Mostly though, we were curious as to what was really going on over there. In my six years of driving to that house, I have never seen a tent. 

When we pulled up on Saturday, the air felt electrified with excitement. There was a newly-purchased cow and goat tied to the fence that we knew wouldn’t be there long. People were hustling and bustling, and there was going to be a tent. 

Lifa’s dad wasn’t home, but one of the women who stayed in the house filled us in on the excitement. One of the family members had been away studying “traditional medicine” and would return that night to a big celebration. They would sacrifice the animals and honor the ancestors for making their sister a healer. She would be famous, and that house would become famous for its power to intervene to the ancestors. I couldn’t have bene more excited to sweep Lifa out of there. We had to get home to beans and rice and pumpkin cake.

One week later, the hero dad of our house made the long trip to meet Lifa’s father again. This time, he was going to tell Lifa’s dad our big news: WE ARE MOVING TO CAPE TOWN NEXT WEEK. (Here’s that story.) We didn’t know how Lifa’s father would respond because now, instead of a 4-hour day drive, it would be a 24-hour, multi-day drive to see his son. Chris communicated specific details for Lifa’s future and education potential, and that we would go the extra miles (lots of miles) to ensure the continuity of Lifa’s relationship with his father. He was almost unfazed. Location was a detail. It was obvious that we were all one family, and we do what was necessary for the good of the family. 

If we are going to Cape Town, then Lifa should obviously go to Cape Town. Lifa’s dad had something else he wanted to talk about. He looked at Chris and told him that, since their last meeting, he couldn’t stop thinking about what Chris had taught him about a father’s role in his family, leading his household, and having vision for his child. Lifa’s father couldn’t shake what he knew now: He had the right, the authority and the expectation to defend his family and to be the hero.

He heard something different, and he couldn’t un-hear that. And that tent was the last straw for him. Lifa’s dad shared the dirty, demonic details of what happened that night in the tent while we were back at our house with our rice and beans and pumpkin cake.

The Truth about dads shook him until his chains fell off.  

Lifa’s father has set his heart and mind on leaving that household so he can establish a home with dignity and safety for Lifa to come visit.

He wants a house that calls on Jesus and not ancestors.
He wants the best for his boy - an education, safety, spiritual guidance and a safe place for him to come rest and enjoy his father’s presence. He has never seen it, never known it, but he heard about it from another dad. And he believes in it because he’s seen the transformation in his own son.

He can no longer travel from tent to tent, circumstance to circumstance. Lifa’s dad heard about what happens in a home, and he experienced transformation at the table. 

They started casting vision and sorting details to help Lifa’s dad step into the authority and design he was made for. He was made for a home, not a tent.

We all were. 
The people who gathered under a tent, afraid not to give their money, bodies and souls to ancestral worship on that Saturday night in Lifa’s dad’s house didn’t know anything other than that tent. They didn’t know about the Father who sent His Son as the sacrifice, who stretched out His skin to tear down the tents and build a house. They didn’t know that Jesus made a place for them at eternity’s table, where the food tastes great and the talk transforms you. 

Lifa’s dad knows now. Because another dad told him. And he has to do something about it. 

Our family and our home has been transformed by table talk and Dad Powers. Stories are forever changed when you are willing to drive the distance and do whatever it takes to meet someone at the table and tell them they don’t have to live in a tent. It happened in our house, and now it’s going to create another safe house with a hero dad taking his place.

Next week, Chris, Lifa and I are each going to pack a bag. We are going to drive really, really far and pull up to a new table. We are moving to the southern suburbs of Cape Town, and pulling in our truck to a rental house at the foot of Table Mountain.

The tents look a lot different in the well-developed region of the city we are relocating to, but the Truth is the same. We were all made with an important place at the table and in the story of the Family of God.

We are going with 8-year old, cheesy-smiled proof that families and tables change things, not tents. 

There are a lot of things that are going to look different in our life, but we are going with the limitless Dad’s powers. We are going to plant and pastor a church in Newlands, Cape Town. The table has been prepared, so we are pulling ourselves up to it.

PS: We just updated our website with the details, how people are participating from around the world, and how you can too. We’re saving you a seat. 


Thursday, October 13, 2016

How to Set the Table for a One-Armed Monkey

Clark Kent's life has a lot of ordinary moments. So do we.
Currently, our ordinary life moments include monkeys in the backyard. 

There are baby monkeys that wrestle and ricochet off each other. And mama monkeys that latch them onto their bellies to calm them down. The most notorious monkey in our backyard crew, however, is the slightly-too-brave one-armed monkey. (We all have our theories on what happened to that arm.) We love watching them fly from treetops to fence tops, stopping only to taunt the neighborhood dogs. Lifa makes up monkey family stories, and has given them their own voices and personalities. 

Lifa watching monkeys take over the playground.
Recently, we were all away from home for two weeks. Lifa was with his biological father for school holiday. Chris and I were in Cape Town. Everything felt right the moment all three of us were back together and monkey escapades began again. We have new monkey babies! Lifa is convinced the one-armed monkey is the mom. He immediately started wondering aloud about how difficult it would be to be a mom if you only had one arm. It got serious. He was getting concerned.

For someone with something super in them, ordinarily life is ok until a struggle surfaces. In that first moment of hardship, however, things have to change.

In a flash, Clark Kent changes into Superman’s costume. 
Lifa outgrew his superhero t-shirts with velcro capes a long time ago. (That was rough.) But in Lifa's turmoil, I realised there was no cape required: This was the real super-deal. 

In a flash, Lifa transformed his worldview from ordinary to super. He had to. He’s got super in him. Lifa couldn’t bear the idea of struggle, even in a monkey family, so he had to look into the pain until he found something great.

“You know, sometimes it’s a lot better to not have what everybody else has because then you get to learn how to do what nobody else can do.” He started to think about how a one-armed monkey might be able to do stuff better and in cooler ways than a two-armed monkey because she would have to try harder.

There was more to this than monkey moms. Lifa needed to rewrite his worldview for a lot of things he had seen during his past two weeks away from our home. He plopped down in the tire swing, kicked up his feet, and asked what kind of job he could get to save kids from houses full of drinking beer and "smoking drunk” (drugs). He didn't want kids to be scared and to know they didn’t have to smoke drunk or drink beer. 

He was showing his cards from the past two weeks.
Even more than that, he was showing his character. 

Clark Kent has two identities: one ordinary and one super. Lifa has been clued in on the secret that he does too. I don’t mean the SiSwati-speaking and the English-speaking families he goes back and forth between. (We do our best to bring those worlds together into one family.) Lifa knows he’s part of a completely untraditional ordinary family - and he’s part of a super family. 

All of us are born into an ordinary family and ordinary life. As with all things ordinary, there are broken, scary, and perhaps one-armed things that happen along the way. But we are destined and designed for a super family. We can get re-born into the family that sees with strength and saves the day. The super family is being a part of the Kingdom of God, and it lasts forever. 

You can tell which identity Clark Kent is operating in based on his outfit. It’s not quite as easy for those of us who have outgrown our capes. But here’s a little secret...
The Ladds have an undercover radar system in our house: Chalkboard Placemats.

It was my dream-come-true DIY project for our wedding anniversary dinner table. (Chalkboards and table settings are two of my favorite things in life.)

Anniversary dinner. THE PLACEMATS.
We take turns writing on them because finding the extra-special place marked for you is the very most fun way to start dinnertime, and sometimes you learn about how the one holding the chalk sees themselves and the others at the table. 

We knew Lifa was doing ok on that very first night he was back in our house after his two weeks away. Check out the placemats he set for us:

Mine: "Love is Forever!!! I miss your cooking."

Chris': "Best Driver Ever. How does it feel to be a champ?"
(His muscles drawn in the background. Obviously.)

Lifa's: "The brave hero comes home."

We don’t get to choose a lot about the circumstances in our lives. We do get to choose which eyes we use to see them with and which words we use to write them with: the ordinary or the super. 

You can even write the words and take the seat before you really feel it. Lifa choked as he shovelled dinner in his mouth that first night, afraid it would all be gone or he would stay hungry again. Then he slept 15 hours straight, saturated in his own pee. His body and mind were obviously not functioning at their prime. But all that anxiety, fear, deep hunger and weariness sat down right where they should: at the brave hero’s place. 

He’s an ordinary 8-year old whose super-heart challenges me to ask a few questions about the way I see the world. 

No matter what the last two weeks were like, what if we just used the one-arm we have to pull our ordinary lives up to an extraordinary table together?

What if we wiped those old placemats clean and pulled out a fresh piece of chalk? What would your place, your super-place, say? And what would you write for the others at the table? 

It matters. It changes things. 


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Give Someone A Sunset

We’re 1 year in to a beautiful marriage.
We’re 11 days in to a dream-stretching, destiny-shaping trip to Cape Town.
I’m not sure which one has been more revealing.
We’ve learned a lot about God’s love for all types of people on this trip to Cape Town. We’ve also learned a lot about ourselves, and a whole lot about each other.

I don’t know what I did to deserve such a handsome super-husband (aka: my polar opposite), but we undoubtedly go together. We don't quite go together like the proverbial peas and carrots. (He hates peas.) Or like cookies and cream. (I don’t waste time with any dessert less than 85% dark chocolate… And he says my chocolate like tastes tree bark.) Or like peanut butter and jelly. (He puts his peanut butter on apples. I put mine on chocolate. Dark, dark chocolate,)

He walks to get somewhere, and I stroll for the scenery.
He sees life in pictures. I hear life in words. 
He finds rest running up a mountain. I find it sprawled out on a sandy beach.
He comes alive in wintery weather. I savor summer days.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. We’re different.

We were both born in America - the nation often referenced to as a “melting pot” as a result of every type of person in the world  influencing one another to create a whole new culture. We met and married in South Africa - the nation that calls itself "The Rainbow Nation" because there are so many colors, cultures, languages and lifestyles that live side-by-side, like the bands of color that create a rainbow. 

There’s a big difference between a melting pot and a rainbow. 
There are big, big, big differences between the culture groups, neighborhoods, income brackets, and worldviews of the people in the city limits of Cape Town. I’ve been trying to make sense of something with each new accent, new street, and new encounter while we pray through the city and purposes God has for us here. I can’t. I can’t melt them into one, and I can’t paint their colorful differences like a defining banner. I can’t hold the whole world in my hands. 

But I can hold one hand. And we can go on a walk. 

Yesterday, my husband changed his plan for the afternoon. (My man loves to have a plan and to stick with it.) He gave up his sunset mountain run to get back into the zippy rental car he’d driven all day and drive me to the beach for a sunset stroll. He wanted that run, but he wanted to reach for me even more than that. He knew that sunset walks on the beach fill my soul, and he wanted to give me a sunset. 

We were surrounded on all sides by mountains. The flamingos hardly noticed the horses and dogs that ran by playfully while the sun set dramatically on the ocean. The clouds danced and the sky turned all the right colors while we walked in the warm water of the tidal pan. We watched a sunset surfer silhouette on the waves and felt like we had the beach to ourselves.
This is real. All photos by super-husband Chris Ladd.
For more, his instagram is chrisleeladd. #worthit

There’s no single word capable of describing the heights and depths of my joy last night. I felt so deeply loved by my husband and so blown away by God’s beauty. It was too much to wrap my mind around. But I didn’t have to. I just had to experience that sunset.

And it was so fun. 

We can watch the news happening anywhere in the world and be overwhelmed. 
We can hear the tense buzz of conversation about university riots at the coffee shop table next to ours. 
We can wonder at the source of brokenness that gets covered by the latest fashion, the fastest car, or the fiercest gang name.
And we can get afraid. Or overwhelmed. Or something that stops us from doing anything, going anywhere or reaching for anyone because there are so many differences.

I don’t know how to turn all the bad news into good news or make those university students around the corner stop guzzling wine instead of going to class. I don’t know the first step for the fashionable and the fierce to stop hating each other, or even to start seeing each other. 

But I do know about sunsets.

I know I’m not made to hold the whole world in my hand, and I could never have planned an encounter with the Creator as incredible as last night’s sunset. I know that someone who is very different from me gave up his plans and preferences for me yesterday, and a very dry place in me got watered.

It may seem outlandish to compare the issues of humanity to a sunset walk on the beach with your husband. But maybe it’s not if we put things into perspective from the proper vantage point.

The Church is the bride. Christ is the groom.
That Husband gave up his seat in heaven to come sit next to people full of sin and very dry soul-places.
He reached for His Bride while they hammered His hands, and He reached across the gap for Her.
It was a gap much larger than peas and carrots or mountains and beaches.

A Groom gave Himself to reach for His Bride, so She could access true, free, unlimited love. 
He said it was to make His joy complete. 
My husband gave up his sunset plans for my good, and I found out there was more space for love in me.
And we had fun!

What if we don’t have to hold the whole world in our hands? 
What if we just use our hand to hold another?
Or if we just give up a sunset for someone else to experience a love beyond what we could create on our own? 
What if we had fun with someone because they’re worth it?

Your love story of the day may not be giving up a mountain run in exchange for a flamingo-flocked sunset. (I’m sorry if it’s not.)
It may be turning off that cell phone at the dinner table to play highs/lows or turning down the news on the radio on the way to school to practice multiplication rap. It may be beans and rice for dinner every night so everyone can eat as much and as often as they like. It may be having one less of something so someone can have one more. It may be having one more of something so there’s enough to share. It may be giving up a sunset for a sunrise. It may be really, really fun.

It doesn’t feel quite so ominous or overwhelming when you think about it that way. 

It’s not the whole world in my hand or yours.
It’s not saving South Africa - or even Cape Town.
It’s one hand that reaches for another.
It’s choosing to do whatever it takes for someone else to encounter love.
Fun, freeing, beautiful love.

Go give someone a sunset. And you might just have fun. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Cornbread Church

There’s a lot of forward motion in this beautiful Ladd life. 

Chris and I have spent several years in South Africa, both separately and together. We have bounced down dirt roads, dug water wells, taught life skills, and built churches and homes. We’re not leaving South Africa, but we are preparing to travel new roads, dig different fountains, teach Life in a new way, and build the Church starting from our home. Becoming a church family is what we were made for. 
God’s voice is moving us forward the way He likes to move the Ladds forward - like ain’t nobody got time to wait around. We are counting down the days until our next big step. (TWO DAYS TILL CAPE TOWN!!!!)

I’m getting ready for what lies ahead by counting the steps that brought me this far. Every dust-in-your-everything, family-forming, faith-stretching, spirit-strengthening day has prepared us for today and is making immeasurable space for tomorrow.

Markers and scrap paper. 
An old bench and sticky hands.
Cornbread and 11th grade. 
This is how I look back and move forward. 

On September 12, we celebrated one year of being a family. 
Lifa and I spent the weekend before making art projects for a beautiful dinner experience.

Lifa painted a picture of our family seeing a hyena miracle at Kruger Park to decorate our banana braai station.

While the crock-pot did the work, and with the table perfectly set for celebration, we sat outside together with the sunset, paper scraps and markers. The three of us wrote out our favorite moments of the year and hung them as a banner over our dinner table.

We laughed while we read them during dinner. They were our stones of remembrance and celebration - hung with clothes pins and sticky-tac. We could see a church family being born out of uno games, coffee dates, outdoor adventures, sharing our home, spreading tablecloths, sharing meals, giving away cars and cheering for Lifa that time he scored against his own soccer team… twice

My personal dream come true: Lifa and I made CHALKBOARD PLACEMATS.

The moments we choose to hang up and hang on makes the mountain our family stands on and looks forward from.  What we choose to remember is what writes our testimony and shapes our legacy.

They even humored me when I asked them to put on the shoes they wore when we all walked down the aisle. (We didn’t have a piece of wedding cake stored in our freezer because we had a banana braai wedding instead - so we did it again on our anniversary night!)
This week, I went back to Dwaleni - one of the communities I poured my heart and soul into for my first six years in Africa. I went armed with stories to spread as a banner over that place and those people.

Angel and I never skipped a beat after a year apart. We sat on the same old bench, under the same little shelter we had prayed her dreams into existence week in and week out. Every kid that walked by shouted, “MAMA KACY!!!!” I waved and blew kisses instead of asking them why they weren’t in school. I scooped up the stickiest baby I could find and rocked him while Angel and I remembered. “We built this together Kacy. Every week you came, and you knew me. I always remember what you taught me, even when it’s very hard." 

I gathered up the moments and miracles that brought her here so that she could see she is still moving forward. The pain in her face eased, and Angel said, “I do believe in my dreams again.” I told her that we were starting a church, and she remembered how much time I’d spent on that bench teaching her about the local church’s role as the family of God in community centers just like hers. Angel looked at me and said, “I think God has made you to teach South Africa about the church.” 

I walked hand-in-hand to my car with Angel and said with more conviction than I had when I arrived, “Yes, I think God did make us for that too."

I couldn't leave without swinging by my most-frequented front porch in South Africa. I’ve pulled into Mama Charity’s patch of grass a thousand times, scooped up hers and Busi’s families, and driven to church and my house for Sunday Lunch. I stepped back onto that porch to tell those two mamas that it was all those years of making jumbo batches of beans, rice and cornbread for Sunday lunch… It was celebrating birthdays, spending Christmas Eves together, births, deaths, painting nails, teaching kids and moms how to eat together, giving everyone a lunch job, playing, and talking about Jesus on picnic blankets, completely covered in sunshine and babies… It was those years and those moments where God taught me that church works. And it works best with real lives lived together.

Their eyes filled with tears when I told them we were moving forward to start a new church. I told them we believe we will be a church with global impact, and they were part of my unwavering belief in the power of the church. That makes them a part of this church. That makes them world-changers.

I charged them with the charge of a world-changer: Live like you’re from heaven and not from earth. Love God; love your kids; and don’t do anything outside of that. Mama Charity has six kids and with no support. Busi is trying to pass 11th grade to make a better way for her baby. I reminded them they are not victims of circumstance, but they are part of a world-changing, global movement. Now they better act like it and never forget it. 

When she was totally spent and totally out of words, Busi said, “Eish… That cornbread. I’m going to miss that cornbread.” 

“Me too, Busi. I’m going to miss eating cornbread with you. But I’m going to keep making beans and rice and cornbread for Sunday Lunch wherever I am, whoever I’m with. And I’m going to keep having church with that cornbread. You do it too."

Sometimes our worlds are shaken and life changes dramatically in an instant, one moment turns everything around. And sometimes it happens one sticky hug and one piece of cornbread at a time. 

Your life story may leap and bound, or it may just seems to saunter along. Whatever it looks like, it's the words you write it with and the pictures you illustrate it with that create both your history and your future. I almost can’t believe the characters, settings and events that make up my story. I feel humbled to have been entrusted with so much. I will do everything in my power to put words and pictures that point my heart and others toward what counts: the eternally ever after. 

I have to work on my self-editing skills daily because I don’t always speak the way I want my story to sound, but that’s part of the beautiful journey we’re on with the God who always meets us where we are.

So here’s to one year of being married to my hero and a lifetime of cornbread church! 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

All About that Bass

I typically have more caffeine than oxygen pulsing through my veins between 4am and 10pm. Daily life thumps along to the beat of multiplication rap, soccer practice, swim lessons, homework, and all the to-do’s and to-feel's of handing over responsibilities and relationships of several years of ministry. As life thumps on, we fill our house with great people, playful puppies, creative spaces, and lots of intentional thankfulness. We assemble on the Avengers bed at 7’o clock every night. Lifa yawns and stretches out his legs, and we all stretch out our faith. We pile up to pray, and we rebuke restlessness, ask for more of God’s presence, and celebrate one more day together. 

I want to tell you about how supernaturally energized I am. How God miraculously increased my capacity, the way He has done many times before when He’s asked me to lay down one thing to make space for the next. I would like to describe in awe-inspiring alliterated detail how the thankful game and mine and Lifa's post-dinner multiplication rap performance has given me wings like an eagle. I want you to read about how we’ve already been fully equipped for this humbling calling on our lives, and how we are soaring above our circumstances in supernatural peace and strength. 

But guys. 
I’m too tired. 

My heart truly is full. My gratitude is overflows more than the coffee cup I’m too tired to gauge my pour on. (Depth perception is so tricky.) 

Heart full. Bones dry.
Eyes… you don’t even want to see these crazies.

The reality is restlessness has blanketed our family. Sleep comes lightly and sparingly. But it’s the tossing and turning in our spirits that has wearied our bones and exhausted our strength.

I’ve rehearsed, memorised and leaned on Scripture. God is my strength, and His grace is sufficient in my weakness. I’ve plunged into Biblical teachings on God’s rest and not growing weary. I pour our my prayers and hear Him in His Word daily. I surrender my sinful flesh and scavenge for the specks and planks that might be the straining my vision and stealing my peace. I’m not in a spiritual stalemate. I’m just spent. So very spent. 

This is where I usually rally, where the blogs get good and inspiring. I brace myself, pace myself, and post up with joy for the race marked before me. That is happening in all the practicalities of daily life. My body is in better shape than ever because I am nurturing the temple God entrusted me with. My mind is being sharpened daily with memorising Scripture. I’m parenting with great prayer and purpose. And I’m walking obediently in every discipline and gifting God has asked me to. Yet I sit here chugging coffee #3, and I’m dry-boned and crazy-eyed. 

Maybe there’s something to this. 

Maybe there’s holiness and hopefulness to be found in these eye-pits and thirsty bones. 

Last night was a doozy in the Ladd house.
We had lots of cups of tea and hours of heart-sharing, life-giving conversation with young adults who attend our ministry nights. After our late goodbyes, Chris and I laid wide awake to the sounds of bass reverberating through the neighbourhood.
On a Wednesday night. At midnight.
There was also cat-calling and sex-pot whistling and really, really bad music blaring.

After weeks of fruitlessly seeking rest, it felt like last night’s noise ricocheted off our souls. You know those moments, when the bow can’t be stretched further without breaking and you can’t get closer to the fire without burning. You’re standing right on the border of crazy-town, and somehow you’re about to be elected mayor. It’s where the arrow has to be released, the rains have to come, and crazy-town must take a nap. FOR THE LOVE. 

Pillow to pillow, head to head, we confessed the depths of our weariness. We talked about how wholeheartedly we’ve each been pursuing God, serving each other and our family, and focusing on thanksgiving. I told him I’ve been trying to hide the entrapment I feel from my soul, the strangling and tangling restlessness.

The bass blared on while we started to see the bigger picture of our family’s spinning wheels.

This isn’t working. That happens in us, in people and in families. Sometimes all the good things just stop working. So you do something about it. You find what works, and you do that. My husband committed on a whole new level to do whatever it takes for our family to thrive during our window- and soul- rattling night last night. 

We don’t know the details of what our new life will be like or exactly what it looks like to thrive in it.  What we do know is that we are made to be a church family, and, day-by-day and step-by-step, we will plant a church. We know God clearly said to take a 3-month Sabbatical, an intentional season of soul-restoration first because the church He will plant through us will be built with bright eyes and strong bones.
We didn’t need a supernatural noise cancelling miracle - we’ve had those before. (They’re lovely.) We needed the Prince of Peace to show up. And, as it turns out, last night He was all about that bass. 

If you think about it, it makes sense.
He’s the kind of sovereign that leaves perfection to be swaddled in dirty laundry in a back-stable. He chooses to show up right in the middle of intrusive noise and unsettling circumstances because He goes where things are working and makes them work. He keeps His eyes on you and invites you to do something about it. He says, “Come out here on top of the waves, and thrive.”

Today we had soccer practice, swim lessons and tutoring.
I’m cry-tired. (That’s a real word in our house.)
Circumstances didn’t miraculously change over night. They got a little more uncomfortable, actually.   

But I have a Savior and a husband willing to do whatever it takes for our family to thrive. They are wiling to enter the chaos of the darkest and longest night for the good of the family. To go where it doesn’t work so something can be done about it. 

That’s the kind of family we are going to be.
That’s the kind of church we are going to be.
The kind that goes where we need to go and does what we need to do to for the people to thrive.

Pillow to pillow last night, my husband and I made space to the beat of the bass music. We made space to walk obediently toward the Sabbatical and the soul-restoration we are called to. To do whatever it takes to align ourselves with who God says we are and prepare a healthy foundation for a thriving church.

He spoke. We prayed.
And discussed. And emailed. And called.
And there are going to be some changes. 
Please stay tuned, and please stay prayerful. 

We we will thrive, and we will be brave.
We will do whatever it takes to be obedient and to be whole.
We’re going to Cape Town soon with big purpose and prayers. We are expecting big changes to be born out of that trip, and we can’t wait to share them with you. 

But first, will you pray? 
Will you pray for Lifa in all this transition? Pray for his ability to thrive, his sense of security and belonging, and for God to make clear and protected paths for him.
Will you pray for finances, both for this trip and for the larger budget that will be required in this upcoming season of life? If you would like to join our giving team and be a part of this movement with us, please click here to email me. 
Will you pray for the soul-resting of our family and our obedience in taking a true Sabbatical? God has given us a clear directive for this to give us fresh vision and deep bone-quenching restoration for the thriving, bight-eyed church He will birth. 

Thanks for entering this long, dark nights and sticking around for the daybreak. It’s coming. And it’s going to be beautiful. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Mom and Dad Date

Summer is cresting in South Africa. We took our first dip in the pool on Sunday. (Shout out to our smokin-hott pool man, Chris Ladd!) Lifa and Chris spend most afternoons kicking the soccer ball or throwing the Frisbee, while I sit on the porch steps, petting puppies and cheering on my handsome crew.  

Lifa is working on his signature “ZINGAAAAAA” Frisbee throw - which means he usually ends up either face-planting in the bushes or break dancing in the grass. (It’s a work in progress, people.)
My favorite moments lately are the secret sunrises from the back porch. On our quiet morning coffee dates, Chris and I sit close (because he’s just so good looking), and we get close. We want to live a life that savors every sunrise, soccer goal and family swim. We steal away together in the early mornings to seal up those moments and let them become a part a part of who we are. It’s how we date.

Last month, we had a powerful dinner table moment when we shared with Lifa that we were made to be a church family. (Read about it here.) He exploded with excited questions and a visible sense of security. What is there to worry about when your family is doing what it was made to do?

If our family was made to be a church family, then we should just be a church family. 
Lifa logic. Plain and simple.

We took a risk and told the world the plans and purpose God placed in us:
We will start taking steps toward planting and pastoring a church after a season of transitioning from our current ministry and a brief sabbatical.

back porch moments
We threw a faith ZINGAAAAA without knowing the place, people or timing for this church, only knowing what we were made to do. We invited you in to the process to pray with us. What’s faith without risking a face-plant or break dance anyway?  

In the weeks since then, our dinner table and back porch are writing stories and shaping secrets. We are already experiencing revelation about the dinner table we will set for His house and the peace-filled place we’ll gather with the Family of God. Our coffee dates and sunrises are foreshadowing a love story far beyond our greatest imaginings. God is putting direction on this church a lot sooner than we thought we were ready for!

A few nights ago, we sat on the back porch and told Lifa that Mom and Dad are taking a trip. Lifa will visit his biological father during the first week of October for his school holiday. “Lifa, while you are at your dad’s, we’re going on a trip to Cape Town. It’s like a Mom and Dad date.” Lifa nodded contentedly without a single question.

What is there to ask questions about when your mom and dad are doing what moms and dads do? Lifa logic.

Chris and I never dated in the traditional sense of dating. Some of that was because we live in a place that’s unsafe to go out at night and we already had a child. 

Our non-traditional dating had much more to do, however, with us deciding first and dating second. We sat far apart, on separate couches in fact, and shared the promises God has placed in us individually. (Read my rhyme about it here.) Then we chose to chase them together. We chose to watch the rest of the sunrises and walk the rest of the way together. And to sit really close when we weren’t walking.

We made a covenant. We said yes. And then we dated the way moms and dads date – with Lifa on his bike right in front of us.
Lifa right in front of us...
And Gerry the Giraffe right behind us.
We got married, and then we met each other’s families. As husband and wife, we explored each other’s cities and walked through each other’s stories for the first time. We dated through downtown Knoxville and along the shores of Galveston Island. 
Great Smoky Mountain hiking in Tennessee
I didn’t even have to worry when he found out how crazy my family is because he was already mine, and we knew we would take on crazy and coasts, families and futures together for the rest of our sunrises and sunsets. (It’s ok to publically call them crazy. They put pantyhose on their heads for Christmas – there’s no exaggeration happening here.)
Beach walking in Texas
Almost one year ago, we said, “I do.”
And now we’ve said, “We will.”
We have covenanted to be a church family.

Chris and I are going to Cape Town, South Africa on October 2nd -7th because we feel God inviting us there. In collaboration with wise counsel, we feel God directing us to a specific region and building a specific vision in us. We can hear the One whose chosen us beckoning us to come on a date.

This “Mom and Dad Date” is a ZINGAAAAA, y’all. We’re going to the other side of this nation, to a city very different from the one we now call home. We are going because God has asked us to come see, explore and pray there as we prepare for a church.

We are going there to date the way moms and dads date - with the Family in mind, focused on being better together, and ready for any kind of crazy, coast, family and future.

Please pray with us as we go. There will absolutely be coffee-sipping and close-sitting while we are there, but the purpose of our trip to Cape Town is in response to a call from God. 

We are going expecting a yes or no to a church plant in Cape Town. 

Please join us in praying for that clear word from God. Also, pray with us for finances. The one-week trip will cost about$1,000 USD. Pray for safety as we travel and for Lifa while he is away from us. Thank you for joining in with us!
Just had to get one last ZINGAAAAA in here!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Everything about our family just changed. And it’s so cool.

Last week, Lifa tucked himself away with a box of Legos and a vision. Throaty engine revs, constructive schemings, and the occasional worship song resounded from the other side of his bedroom door. Important stuff was happening in there.

When I went in to check on him, Lifa roared, “I’M MAKING A MACHINE!” He looked on his creation with pride, oohed and ahhed a little, and then declared, “It is so cool, and it does stuff.”
(Insert endless boy-sounds.)

We sat down together that evening for some sweet potato-peanut butter soup and one of our best dinner table talks yet. We had GREAT news – the greatest news our family has ever had. Lifa squeal-guessed that Chris’ dad was coming to visit us, and then got too excited to guess anymore. We shared with Lifa that God had told us to do something, and we are the kind of family that shapes our whole life around doing that thing.  We were made to build the church, and it’s time to start doing that.

We are saying sweet goodbyes to the incredible ministry of Children’s Cup in order to begin a journey of planting and pastoring a church. Big deal, y’all. BIG. DEAL.

Such a big deal that it took me 6 hours to write this; I instantly lost every single phone charger I’ve ever owned; and I put the milk away with the cups and spent an entire morning looking for it. That’s what we’re working with over here. You could say I’m losing my ever-lovin’ mind, but I’m going to call it consumed with the joy, magnitude and goodness of a God who would call us. Our minds and hearts are full - too full to remember where the milk goes. It’s capacity-stretching, faith-leaping time. And it’s a big dang deal. 

It’s a BIG DEAL when God trusts you with His family, His house, and His dinner table.

That night with our family, in our house, at our three-bowl dinner table, we felt the depth of it begin to set in. We declared the church to be our family’s mission, and God’s story to tell. This was the very beginning of making space for a lot more bowls and a lot more filling.

Chris and I have had the overwhelming privilege to enter some of the most hopeless stories, places and circumstances in the world during our years of serving para-church organizations in Africa. We’ve encoutered the darkest of darks and experienced firsthand how brightly the Light shines there. Darkness flees and the world changes the instant Light enters the room.

The Church is the Light of the World. We get to be a part of arming the nations with Light until there just is no more dark. We’re thankful because we know, and we’ve seen. We’ve been trusted with the few who’ve gathered around our dinner table and who we’ve fed in local communities around us. Now we get to be counted trustworthy for more. 
Potential, purpose, and celebration rose up in our family that night as we let Lifa’s questions flow ad nauseam.  He was ready for details:

“Dad, are you going to be the guy who stands up in the front and teaches stuff?”
“Where are me and Mom going to sit?”
“Is there going to be tea and coffee?”
“Are you only going to go to work on Sundays?”
“What are the kids going to do?”

We told Lifa that our church is just like our dinner table. We’ll have more placemats and more people. And just like dinner, it happens every day.

Our first night of church-building was a lot like Lifa’s afternoon of machine-building:
I could almost sense the Vision-bearer on his hands and knees with every piece He possessed spread within His reach, revving creation's sounds as His plans for something great began to take shape.

I think Heaven even had a soundtrack to that fateful three-bowl dinner. I have a feeling it sounded like Lifa’s room had earlier that afternoon - filled with impassioned, constructive schemings, enthusiastic building roars, and spontaneous worship. Just like Lifa and his machine, I believe the Creator beheld the family that became a church, oohed and ahhed a little, and then declared, “I’m making a church! It is so cool, and it does stuff.”

A few more details:

We are especially thankful for the work Children’s Cup is doing and for the role we got to play in serving their mission. We will be finishing our season of service with Children’s Cup on October 28, 2016, and they are graciously allowing us to continue processing our donations with them until we establish other arrangements. Children's Cup's integrity and security has enabled us to steward our finances well, and we will continue receiving our funding through them until we establish an equally reliable and secure system in order to protect your investment.

Stay tuned for more information about our upcoming 3-month sabbatical, including what a sabbatical is. We believe God spoke it to us, and it’s the next step toward establishing a healthy, life-giving church.

We have no plans to leave South Africa, but we are still uncertain about where our church will be. 

Most importantly: We love each other. We love you. We love His Church. Thank you for reading, praying and partnering with us.

If you want to join in this great adventure in a practical way, you can start investing now by donating through Children’s Cup by clicking here. We will notify you when we change our avenue of giving.

To subscribe to our newsletter for updates and announcements, click here.

It’s gettin’ real, y’all. Let’s do this together!