Thursday, February 16, 2017

Multiplication is Hard

It’s getting real over here, y’all. Fourth grade just got tough.

We are learning the ropes to the South African education system four years later than the others, and we’ve got some catching up to do. (Click here to read that amazing story.) We’ve been ironing school uniforms, learning how to ask questions in class, checking backpacks, meeting teachers, tying ties, maneuvering morning commuters, talking about making the right kind of friends, learning how to use a library, trying out for choir, picking a sport, packing lunches, and learning what happens if you don’t clean your lunchbox. (i.e., Your mom screams and throws a lunchbox full of cockroaches at you, threatening to make you eat them for lunch. Please withhold your judgements. He did not have to eat the cockroaches.)

We hit the first bump in the excitement last week. It actually felt more like a HEAD-ON COLLISION than a speed bump. 

The 4th graders are preparing for their first national exams. No more reviewing; it’s time to move forward. Memorizing multiplication tables is hard. Really hard. And now there’s DIVISION. (Don’t even get me started on fractions.)

The division did it. Lifa’s could no longer secretly count on his fingers under his desk to try to hang in there with the other kids in class. His ten little fingers just wouldn’t do long division. He couldn’t grasp the new math concepts, and suddenly the bottom fell out on his ability to endure. He regressed rapidly and was unable to hold onto the basics. No counting. No adding. It was like he’d fallen and couldn’t get his legs back under him. He lost tests before he could turn them in, was easily distracted, and couldn’t listen or retain information. Lifa’s self-confidence tanked. His happy, go-lucky 9-year old world was permeated with confusion. He felt trapped inside himself, suddenly unable to communicate in complete sentences. It didn’t help that his mom hit a wall shortly after he did.

Frustration hit me like a freight train after spending another evening in front of homework books with his eyes glazed over. Why can’t he count by 5’s today when he could multiply last week? I couldn’t understand. I was tired. I felt wildly incapable as a mom. Honestly, I felt incompetent as a human.

I committed to raising this boy for God. Did I break him? Did I screw this deal up? My kid can’t count. Or complete sentences. And, for the love, no matter how many times we practice those note cards, he CANNOT remember 2x8=16.

After a solid wallowing in self-doubt and a downpour of failure’s tears, I knew I needed to get some perspective. My handsome husband stood in the kitchen with me while I stress-cooked. He spoke out God’s promises for Lifa today and in the future. He continuously turned me back to thankfulness that we get to be a part of the legwork for God’s glory.  Can you believe God would trust us in the daily grind, the mundane tasks that makes way for miracles? God even trusts us with multiplication tables.

I told Lifa’s teacher the promises God has spoken over Lifa as we rallied together for his good. The stories of struggles, setbacks, injustice and trauma in Lifa’s life were the testimonies that gave the greatest glory to God. It made multiplication look easy. And worth it.

That night I came to the dinner table with new perspective and new hope. I am not an incapable mother. I am not an incompetent human. What an amazing privilege to be called worthy to equip our child for purposes that will multiply God’s glory on the earth. (See what I did there with multiplication?)

Lifa came to the dinner table with a story about his new friend Xavier.
“Xavier’s mom won’t let him go to church. She throws away his Bibles because she said he’s not born to be a Christian. Can you believe it? She throws them away. Today I started telling Xavier stories from the Bible. He already knew Jesus died on the cross, so I told him about Jesus being born, God creating the earth, Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel. He wants to hear more tomorrow and asked if we could do that everyday.”

Lifa beamed. I exploded. Chris covered him in encouragement while I continued to gush and celebrate. THAT’S OUR KID!!!

Over bowls of soup, we talked about different kinds of families, the purpose of the church, and how cool it was that Lifa knew the Bible well enough to teach others. There was no reining in my proud mom ooze-fest.

With a spoon in his hand and soup on his chin, Lifa grinned across the table in agreement with our joy. Casually and purposefully, he looked at his parents, who’d been on knees in desperate prayer for him, and said, “Yeah. I was made to tell people about Jesus.”

Moral of the story:
Multiplication is hard, and it almost got us this week.
But a mom and a dad hit their knees to get back to God’s perspective. Lifa knows his purpose in life, and he’s already living in it. He’s equipped, excited and unstoppable.  

2x8: You will not win.
My kid knows what he was made for.

Being a mom is hard. Being a human is hard.
But we hit our knees. We tell stories of what God’s done and remember what He’s promised. We find our purpose, and live it unstoppably.

Multiplication and division are no longer a threat in the Ladd house, but a promise that there will always be more ground to gain.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Assume the Position

Every Friday night, we go to a market in Hout Bay. It’s the highlight of our week! We look forward to seeing the beach, mountains, every type of person you could imagine, stalls filled with artists and their products, a live band, and the most amazing selection of fresh, cheap dinner options. We go early, draw our weekly cash from an ATM, and find a seat before it gets too crowded. I take a break from cooking, and everyone gets to choose what they want for dinner – even dessert!

Bay Harbour Market is the perfect place for us to learn the heartbeat of the city we're learning to love.
Photo credit:
Until our own church starts meeting, we worship at a local church weekly. The pastor has graciously welcomed us as church planters into the city. Every Sunday morning as we drive to that church, Chris looks at me and says, “I think we’re supposed to give all of our cash to the church again today.” It’s become the standard to deplete our wallets and pockets for another church’s offering bucket.

This week, Chris had pulled money for both of us, and we ended up giving the church double! He shook his head incredulously. It’s (almost) comical that the more financial need we see in our own lives, the more God asks us to give. Before we pulled into the church parking lot, we had taken our stance and spoken it aloud: Thank you, God, for asking us to give all we have because it means you’ve given us everything we need.”

And did you know that we’ve been called to live and serve one of the very most expensive suburbs on the continent?
And Chris is starting a Master’s program soon?

Thank you, God, for asking us to give all we have because it means you’ve given us everything we need.

Recently, while Chris was out on a run, his mind started racing about overwhelming financial obligations, an exorbitant amount of litigation ahead, early stages of church development, getting equipped with a higher education, moving into our new neighborhood, and on and on… But he stopped. And God spoke.

The King of Kings told him we are perfectly positioned for miracles. He is delighted when we live lives that need Him.
Bring it on, Lord!
Lifa in Hout Bay

God the Father loves lives that die to live, not live to die. He loves emptying our pockets so we can open our hands. He doesn’t need us to make sense of it. He just asks us to be obedient and use wisdom.

We’ve learned a lot about that as a family.

A few months before we got married, Chris apprehensively told me a figure God had given him for our housing budget. A big one. It was absolutely impractical for the rural community we lived in at the time. We couldn’t even find a home to pay that much for, and we weren’t able to yet. From that day, we started organizing our budget accordingly. We moved into a very large home for less than half of the price we were working toward and began slowly building up a collection of used furniture that we adore. Little did we know that, 18 months later, we would be moving all of that charmingly old furniture across the nation to fill a home that is exactly the amount He had told Chris to plan for.

A few weeks ago, we didn’t know if Lifa would be able to go to school because he had no government registration number. God said to position ourselves for His favor, we bought school supplies, uniforms, and everything we needed to start the 4th grade. The door didn’t open for Lifa to attend the first day of school, but the waters parted with a miracle and he went, fully prepared, on the 2nd day. (Here’s the story, in case you missed it.)

We’ve got testimonies to stand on, even when one hand is full of lawyer bills and the other is dropping all of our cash into another church’s offering bucket. We are perfectly positioned for God’s provision. For God-filled, God-requiring lives. And that’s exactly where we want to be.

He asked us to sell my car and move to a city where we’d need it more than ever. I'm proud to report that we've learned to be grateful during the daily transportation strategising. It's been a journey, and not every day has been easy-peasy, but we've learned that it's a gift to live a life with larger parameters than you can provide for. The Ladd Family is honoured to have a calling to this densely-populated city, no matter how many vehicles we have to maneuver it with. 

When God trusts you, when He really trusts You with His most beloved, He asks you do do things you can't do on your own. He uses every open hand to make space for more of His miracles.
Photo Credit:
He asked an army to dig ditches while they waited on the rain (2 Kings 3). He asked His Son to die so you could live.

Tomorrow morning, we wake up to a new season. Our sabbatical will be complete. This is the time God has set to begin planting the church. This is when we are moving into the house with the budget he prepared us for, on the street He’s put in my prayers for months. We will joyfully drive our car to get the work done, and spend the rest of our time walking, loving and knowing the neighborhood He's placed us in. 

The table has been prepared.
Tomorrow we are moving to the foothills of Table Mountain to plant a church. 

We can't wait to sit at our dinner table again!

We are perfectly positioned for God’s love to birth miracles and abundance into our family, future, home and into this city. Thank you for praying and participating on this journey with us.
Friday night in Hout Bay

Saturday, January 28, 2017


The Ladd Family has something to share. It’s big, bold and urgent.

Many of you have followed along on our family’s journey. (Here’s a link to a silly story of us coming together as a family.)

You might have been there in Tennessee when Chris gave up his passion for trail running and mountains to move to Africa. He came as a single man, willingly surrendering his desires for a family and the mountains. Or perhaps you remember me finding deep fulfillment in my family counseling career and painstakingly giving my therapy licensure back to God, choosing to stay permanently in South Africa to care for Lifa. He has no birth certificate and the circumstances were messy, so I accepted the likelihood of being a lifelong single mom without any legal way to protect my child.

There have been dangerous and difficult times since we said “yes” to God’s call in our lives, many of them better left unspoken. But we have also learned when it’s important to speak, and today is one of those days.

Today, we can tell you that surrender, the gut-wrenching, wholehearted, painful surrender counts. Every bit of it. And it’s worth it.

This week, we see the secret surrenderings over all those years, even the midnight ones were not hidden from God. They’re worth something to Him, and He’s restores what we lay at His feet in the way only He can do.

Yesterday, we took a risk and shared our story with some family lawyers.

We have decided to pursue legal co-guardianship of Lifa. That means Chris, myself and Lifa’s biological father would all have parental rights over Lifa. He has never been counted and has no legal rights. With guardians, Lifa could be safe, secured and provided for.

He can be a kid. With parents
A human being. With rights. 

We weren’t sure we could even afford the one-hour consultation cost, so we prayed, researched and made phone calls first. We decided that these particular lawyers would be the best stewardship of our family’s resources. As it turns out, the family law advocate we will trust to take our names and future to the South African High Court lives on the same street that we will move into next week. It’s the very street and its residents God has been prompting me to pray over for the past 3 months!

The lawyers soaked in every detail and document and then spelled out the process. They said, “Within a few weeks, you could easily have co-guardianship of Lifa.”

They just said it like it was a normal sentence.

They said it like heaven hadn’t just come down to earth, as though they couldn’t hear the chains falling off over the sound of their pencils scratching facts on legal pads. They said it like breaking off generational curses is their day job. (It basically is.)

They told us the cost and the steps:
First, they will write affidavits for parental rights for myself, Chris and Lifa’s biological father. Next, Chris will have to fly across the country to Lifa’s father, have the affidavit translated and explained to him so he can sign and legalize it. Then, we will bring it back to the lawyers. The advocate (who will be our neighbor by then) will submit them to the High Court. With the favor of the court, LIFA WILL HAVE GUARDIANS WITHIN 48 HOURS OF SUBMISSION.

South African High Court in Cape Town

He’s been invisible for 9 years.
It’s been 7 years of fighting, striving, surrendering, and doubting.

And it’s time for payback.

Since our arrival to Cape Town, God has kept us tucked into His favor. He has restored my husband to the mountains. He has even given me a place to exercise my passions and use my clinical counseling skills. He’s paid back those small surrenders that seemed so big at one time. He’s paid them back with more purpose and abundance than we could have dreamt on our own.

And now… Even now…
He’s paying back what Lifa’s never known he didn’t have.
He’s paying back the prayers of a parent’s raw, rendered heart.
He’s paying back 6 years of sleepless nights.
He’s paying back all those tears and struggles with identity.

He’s giving Lifa a name and a place.
He’s recognizing me as a mom and Chris a dad.
Even Lifa’s father, who’s never had a name or an identity, is becoming a dad. His name will be written down for the first time in history.

He pays back what we didn’t even know we needed.
He deposits more into us than we could ever spend of ourselves.

Pray for a smooth and easy process of establishing legal co-guardianship of Lifa.
Pray for Lifa’s name, his father’s name, our family’s name to be written, sealed, secured.
Pray for our finances to pay for legalities, our communication with Lifa’s father, Chris’ upcoming travel, family relationships, favor with the High Court, wisdom and discernment.

Pray for all the dead dreams being resurrected into something bigger and better than we ever imagined. Pray in faith with us, and remember it.

This same payback is available to you – maybe even more. Whether it’s your midnight or your morning, your prayers and your renderings count. Share your faith with us and share in the bounty of this testimony.

Everything you spend counts for something. Everything you give for God comes back exponentially. Don’t stop in the middle of the night, whether it’s been 7 years or 70. It counts.

If you would like to give toward our upcoming lawyer fees or join our family’s monthly support team, click here.

Joel 2: 12 "Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart… 25“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. The crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, my great army which I sent among you. 26You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

It's Like Taking a Walk on the Beach

After my first year in South Africa, I visited my family in Texas. I took a walk… No, a stomp down the beach on Galveston Island, spiritually arrested with the choice God had laid before me. He gave me a “Yes or No only invitation for a very special kind of life and family.
When I ran out of beach to walk, I took a spiritual leap. With sandy feet and a tear-salted heart, I said, “Yes, God. You can write my family story. From this day forward, I will commit to being Lifa’s mom, no matter what happens.”  

There was no paperwork to validate the invisible covenant I had made and things only got harder from there. When I returned to South Africa, I spent countless hours advocating for justice for the invisible children around me, with one especially in mind.
Lifa is a person – real flesh and blood with a beating heart – but there’s not a piece of paper in the world to prove it. Lifa deserves an education, health care, protection, a hope and a future in his nation.
I’ve heard “It’s impossible,” a trajillion times out of every type of social justice officer in South Africa. Everything changed once my feet landed on Yes in the sand that day. Everything became possible. Not easy. Not immediate. But possible.
A few years later, I took another fateful walk down a wedding aisle. We made a covenant to be a family that walks in God’s miraculous love. We knew we were better together and committed to live in a way that shows and requires God's miracle-sized love. 

Some days, that journey is tough.
South Africa started school yesterday, and Lifa had to stay home.

Lifa has never had the right or access to a proper education. I’ve lived in South Africa for seven full years as of yesterday, and I have spent six of them fighting for his rights. My husband’s YES to stand in the gap with us has been a game-changer. We believe in the power of our united prayers- the impossible doesn’t stand a chance when a Miracle Family brings it to the throne.
We brought it. We had an excruciatingly disappointing day while all the other kids went to school, but we know all things are possible with Christ - in Cape Town and to the ends of the earth.
AND GUESS WHAT: Impossible started losing this morning.
The God of all things possible started “The Great Cape Town Takeover." 
Mission: All Things Are Possible. 
Today is the first day of my 8th year in Africa
Today Lifa started his first day of school. 

Legally. Validated. Visible.
Invisible and impossible is broken off forever.
There was just one school in all of Cape Town that did not send us away with an impossible “No.” The principal invited us into his office and said “Yes, if…” If we were able to make the invisible boy visible to the government.
The school’s admissions counselor has not eaten breakfast or had coffee in a week because she’s spent all of her mornings on the phone with me and the education department. She's denied herself push for possible, fighting for the "Yes, if" with us.
Yesterday, I made my way into the big boss’ office in the Department of Education. I went with folder full of paperwork and a boatload of prayer. I sat in the office and watched everything impossible become possible. She made a phone call, sent an email, and IT WAS DONE.
She told me Lifa could go to school the next day. I kept my cool: I burst into tears and asked if I could hug her before I went to cry in the car. I called my husband, and we wept miracle’s tears together. I drove straight to the school to give hugs, flowers and chocolate to the admissions counselor. I went home to hug my guys HARD. And we got to work… there were books to cover, lunches to pack, ties to tie, stuff to do.
EIGHTEEN notebooks covered by the incredible Mr. Ladd.

Getting the tie ready for the first day.
Lifa is also really good at keeping his cool.

This morning, as we headed TO SCHOOL, I looked at Lifa and said, "It's like we're walking through the Red Sea this morning." I asked him if he remembered when everything felt impossible for the slaves who were trying to get to freedom, and then suddenly God made it possible His way - He simply opened up the ocean. Lifa looked at me and said, “I was thinking the same thing, Mom.”

“Lifa, this drive to school is like taking a walk on the beach.”
We’ve faced fears, struggles and a lot of impossibilities, but impossible has parted like the ocean and made way for the possible. It took a lot of work and a lot of people, but we know Who made the sandy way.

Lifa was full of questions about what the day would hold, but not about Who held him. We’ve got a lot to learn here, but we’re going to keep our feet sandy and our hearts set on Yes.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

It's Not What We Expected.

Three sets of folded legs sat in a shaded circle in Cape Town. Three sets of hands plucked blades of grass and doodled with twigs in the dirt, mirroring our internal fidgeting that day. Our family gathered in Chris and Lifa’s favorite Frisbee field to talk to Lifa about what to expect before we took him to visit his biological father.

As Lifa has learned to thrive in Chris’ loving, engaging fatherhood, it became almost unbearable for him to know anything different. As he thought about visiting his biological father, he created a fantasy, hero-dad that takes him shark-diving in the middle of a dry nation. He developed an entire relationship that never existed. Lifa had amped himself up to the point of exhaustion for visiting his hero-dad, and we had to help him put himself together and develop some realistic perspective before we could drop him off.  

He was sure it was going to be different this time.
We all hoped it would be different.
We expected it to be different because we’d made some major investments into some major changes.

While we were moving to Cape Town, we were also moving Lifa’s dad away from the oppressive household he was living in before. Lifa’s father has always lived in other girlfriends’ homes, full of chaos and people. He has little contact with Lifa during Lifa’s visits, and it’s been an increasingly unpleasant experience for Lifa. With the help of a local pastor, we secured and furnished a home for Lifa’s father in a safe community near people we know. We tried to set him up for success, to be the head of his household and have all the physical elements he needed for a good Christmas with his son. It could be his first experience getting to know Lifa.

Lifa was STOKED. He felt so loved that his dad got a new house, that he would have his own bed for the first time, and he would never have to go into the scary house with the mean family he’d visited before. Chris and I were excited to know that Lifa would be safer, closer to us, and great pastors were watching out for him. We knew parenting would be a whole new ball game, so Chris shared some basic principles of how to protect your child with Lifa’s father and taught Lifa how to make his own eggs. I filled a suitcase with enough clothes to never have to do laundry and enough activities to keep him busy.

With Lifa’s nail-biting anxiety in full-form, Chris (also a nail-biter) made a deal that if Lifa’s nails were longer than his when we picked him up, we would go straight to Toys R Us. Lifa could choose any toy in the store he wanted. (Chris the super-dad has a super-soft heart… he basically just agreed to spend our life savings on Lego’s so Lifa would have something to look forward to. That’s my man.)

We want his dad to always have a hero’s place in Lifa’s heart, and we’re committed to doing whatever is within our capacity to help with that.

Lifa has been at his dad’s house for 10 days now.
It’s not been what we expected.

The Ladd Family arrived with Lifa and a truckload of home goods. With the pastor’s translation, we told Lifa’s dad stories of Lifa’s strengths, skills, and Lifa made plans to make placemats for new table we had just delivered.

Although we’ve helped change his physical circumstances, Lifa’s dad is recreating the lifestyle he lived before. Most days, Lifa has slept over at the pastor’s house because his dad invited a new girlfriend and her child to live with him. Lifa doesn’t have enough space to sleep and the girlfriend doesn’t treat him well. Lifa told me on the phone the other day that he worries relentlessly because his dad is not home at night, and he’s afraid he will never come back… but he has not touched his nails. “No way, not even once. How’s dad? What’s he doing? Is he biting his nails?”

Chris and I considered abandoning all plans and going to pick Lifa up. I cried on the phone with the pastor, prayed with Lifa, and pressed deeply into God with my husband. Finally, we had nothing left to do but remember the promises and instructions God had given us before because He is the only One who does not disappoint.

Years ago, when I cried by myself on the road to drop Lifa off with his father, God told me to keep making that drive until He told me to stop. I have no authority to take Lifa’s relationship with his father in my own hands. I don’t have to understand God’s plans for them to be fulfilled. I just have to get in the car. The distance is a lot further, but that word still stands true.

The King of Kings spoke to my husband about one little warrior He is raising up with passion and purpose for the nation of South Africa, and that warrior training was not something we should protect him from. He said to Chris, “It is finished.” His Fatherly seal of guardianship and safety is over Lifa and that would not be compromised. God’s protection, training and purpose fulfillment may not look or feel the way we want it to, but it’s good. It’s better. It’s bigger. It’s everlasting.

It’s Christmas week. It’s not exactly the way we would have planned it, and it’s not the kind of Christmas we expected Lifa to have with his dad.

That puts us in the perfect position to celebrate Christmas for what it really is.
If there’s any holiday built on not being what was expected, it is Christmas.

Can you imagine the potential for devastation of unmarried teenagers on a government-mandated, extraordinarily uncomfortable, 9-month-pregnant road trip on a donkey - only to find out that their baby would be born in a stinky stable?

Can you fathom the disappointment of history itself when a dirty, fatherless baby entered the working class world and called himself the Way to the Father?

That first Christmas might have been the greatest unmet expectation of all time for those who thought they knew what salvation and redemption would look like. Expectations can disappoint us, and they almost always do. But hope… Hope does not disappoint.

Just like in Lifa’s life, the words the Father spoke are still true for all of us. We can try to make life look the way we expected, or we can believe for something bigger than we can fathom. We can celebrate that His Family makes room for the illegitimate, the dirty, the downcast, the ones who don’t know how to live any way than they’ve lived before. We can celebrate the Father who will go the extra mile, even when it looks like suffering, to make sure we’re strong enough for what He has planned.

We can celebrate that Christmas is the miracle of a family that lets go of their dreams of the way it should be for the way it could be.

We could go pick up Lifa right now and have a rockin’ family Christmas filled with Lego’s and pumpkin cake. Everyone would be relieved for the moment. We could undo all our unmet expectations with our own hands and hugs.

But there’s more than that.

My man and I are going to have a two-person, awe-filled, sweaty, summer-in-Swaziland Christmas together. We are going to give deep thanks to the God that has more for us and for Lifa than we could ever dream, think or imagine.

His safety is better than ours.
His purposes are eternal.
His preparations are far better than scrambled eggs and clean laundry.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving is important.

We didn’t have a bustling, people-filled Thanksgiving celebration this year.

We don’t know many people in this city yet, and South Africa doesn’t know Thanksgiving. We are our pinching pennies (or rands), and the table is tiny in our current rental house. And all of my placemats and tablecloths are in a storage unit in Johannesburg until February.  This is not the proper recipe for a Hallmark Thanksgiving special.

I couldn’t contain my cry-voice for a solid three days as I walked around the rental house muttering, “Thanksgiving is important.” It’s an entirely delicious holiday centered on gathering at a table around family, feasting and gratitude. That’s my dream world. Thanksgiving is important.

We came to Cape Town with a plan and a purpose. For me, it seems like all of Cape Town should be at our Thanksgiving dinner table, laughing, loving and learning that pies are sweet and not savory. But we just aren’t there yet, guys.

We moved less than a month ago, and to say we are still learning our way is the understatement of the year. Chris and I entered a foreign mission field one time before and remember the adjustments – driving the wrong way down one-way streets, not understanding anything someone just said even though they were actually speaking English that time, and the enormous amount of extra energy it takes to understand your surroundings and to live, really live there. We are still in the same country but feel like we are doing it all over again.

And then there’s Lifa, who had never even seen a big city before we moved here. We all learned he has a fear of heights after his first experience on a 3-story escalator. He can’t figure out why there are squirrels instead of monkeys in the yard, and he’s been taking 3-hour naps daily because the thinking, feeling, observing and trying to process his new world has exhausted him.

We’ve got a lot going on over here, y’all.

God told us to go to Table Mountain, and that He has prepared that table for us. Yesterday, as we congratulated ourselves for successfully running one errand and meeting with a local pastor, I realized we might not be ready for all of Cape Town to sit down at our dinner table just yet.

I love feeding people and preparing tables. But there is a better feast and a bigger table than what I can imagine, and that’s the one I want to gather at.

Let’s be real, there is no better table presentation than this:

Table Mountain. My man takes beautiful photos.
So what did we do for Thanksgiving? We prepared a beautiful table as a thanksgiving offering to God, proclaiming we are going give our everything no matter how meager.

We made a budget and began preparing the most cost-effective, wonderful Thanksgiving meal in the history of South African Thanksgiving meals. Lifa found security in sitting at a table with me to help trim green beans, tear bread, and sing worship songs. He found a little more of himself when I put him in charge of card-making and table-setting.

I secretly assembled and cooked the dishes during his naps so he could operate within his capacity and still feel like an accomplished Thanksgiving ninja. We picked rosemary and lemons out of the yard to dress the turkey, cut flowers and vines to decorate, and set beautiful tiny tables with borrowed tablecloths.

We gathered our little family at the base of Table Mountain.
God prepared the table. We brought everything we had to it, and we sat down to eat. It was the sweetest, most important kind of Thanksgiving there ever was.

It reminded me of another similar Thanksgiving feast that had a tight budget, tired people and limited capacities. It was a long time ago, and it wasn’t a family of 3 or the city of Cape Town. It was a crowd of 50,000 families sitting hungry on a hill listening to Jesus. They probably came to that hill like we came to Cape Town, with awe, expectation and promise. There was so much to hear, see and learn, they eventually got tired, hungry, and possibly had cry-voices. Jesus’ disciples muttered that there was not food, just like I muttered that there were no people or tablecloths.

And then there was that one kid.

I like to think that kid wore a superhero t-shirt and had a slightly squished packed lunch from his mom. He probably woke up with extra shiny eyes set on adventure that morning. When tired and cranky hit like a hurricane, he took what he had – one little lunch that probably had a note written on the napkin – and he ran with it. He ran it to the front of the mob like it was the most practical, logical thing in the world. If someone’s hungry, you share your lunch.

There’s something powerful about gathering up the meager portion that’s yours and putting it in holy hands.

We’re not sure how to maneuver through Cape Town, find refreshment on sabbatical, or even where we are going to live in December and January while we are in-between rental house leases. But we are sure of one thing: We’re going to run with what we have to the front of the hungry crowd, and put it all in holy hands.

We have a healthy 8-year old, leftovers in the fridge, and a lot to be thankful for. Lifa has been set apart with a special calling for his nation, but right now he just needs extra naps and to practice subtraction and multiplication. So that’s what we’re doing today. While he takes naps, we are also starting a process for his advocacy, justice and future.

Tomorrow we will release a newsletter with a more illuminating account of the realities of education and dire need in South Africa. We can’t stand on top of the mountain and solve all the world's problems on a Tuesday, but we can invite you to gather on the hill and be a part of the miracle with us.

Giving Tuesday is an international campaign for starting the giving season with the kind of giving that leaves a legacy. We will be sharing through a newsletter and social media how you can join us this Giving Tuesday by starting with one little shiny-eyed kid, one future, and one need that just might be a catalyst for a lot of shiny eyes, bright futures and miracles.

What if we become a part of something much greater than lunch on a Tuesday? 
What if we bring what we've got, and end up with a lifetime of leftover miracles?

Eat some leftovers today, and think about it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

15 Sleeps. 262 Steps.

We have slept in Cape Town for 15 sleeps. We have explored the mountain, picnicked on the beach, and perused local markets.

We are doing all the other things you do when you move to a new city as well. I joined a gym, and Chris is mastering the Table Mountain trail system for running. I walk down every aisle of every grocery store, trying to find “the one”, my grocery store soul mate.

We are learning how to get around and how not to. The lady on my phone’s GPS tells me what to do, but was markedly unhelpful yesterday when I got stuck in a parking garage after not accomplishing any of the things on my list.

Days are full of touring schools and filling out paperwork. We are thrilled at the high quality of education here and equally bewildered by the fact that we can’t find a single (affordable) school with an open seat for Lifa – not even in government schools! True story: Two ladies told me this week that they start applying for their kids to get in school while they are still pregnant, and one school told me to fill out an application immediately so Lifa might have a chance of getting in for 8th grade. That’s 5 years from now!

We found a charming house to rent next year and are very excited to settle in with our own furniture and our puppies! We’ve found paths for afternoon walks, have become regulars at Mr. Arthur’s shop, and Lifa and Chris know the perfect park to work on their Frisbee trick shots.

I haven’t written anything since we moved to Cape Town because there’s nothing extraordinarily noteworthy about moving. People move all the time. They find their favorite grocery store, learn parking garage etiquette, and find the nearby shop to buy milk. (We also found out that Mr. Arthur has some jammin’ good croissants to go with that milk on a Saturday morning. Lifa actually had to pause and emotionally pull himself together after the first buttery bite.)

We are enjoying the adventures and misadventures that come with a new city. Everything is a super-exciting first for Lifa. He has become a full-fledged beach lover with a heart set on being able to run in the mountains with Chris one day. We’re timing 5k runs through the neighborhood, and he’s ready to sign up for surf lessons as soon as he overcomes that pesky fear of water.

My husband takes the best pictures.
I think I’m just as awestruck as Lifa by the enormous potential and the waves to overcome. He wants to take on the ocean and the mountains, and I want to sit at every table with every type of person and taste every type of food in this city.

The rest of the neighborhood is waking up for work and school right now, and I’m thinking about how there’s a there’s a lot more waking up still to happen in me, Lifa, our family, and in this city. I’m sipping (possibly chugging) coffee in a picturesque setting. Currently, the clouds are spreading themselves over Table Mountain, tucking it away like a secret. I have re-named my favorite nearby street “Fairy Road” and call the guys’ Frisbee park “Magical Fairyland”. (Super-manly, I know.) But, for real, it is so lovely that it practically sparkles.

Part of my fairy life. This is just a typical afternoon 5k in the neighborhood.

Cape Town: It’s enchanting; it’s amazing; it’s a bucket list city.  We didn’t move for the views, the adventure or the charm. We moved to Cape Town to live in Cape Town because we see something more beautiful here than sparkles and fairydust. Before we tackle the day’s life stuff, all three of us sit down with Life Himself, and we pray for this city. We know that Jesus has a big, abundant plan for this bucket list city.

We hang on to that Truth, and then we take on all that other stuff. Trust me, we are a work in progress over here… Our little future surfer, Frisbee champ, and mountain runner in the making has been bug-eyed with overstimulation for 15 days now. Lifa needs extra naps and can easily get lost in his own thoughts on the afternoons when the backyard starts to feel small and he’s missing school days and soccer practice. I had a mild, internal meltdown when I realized I didn’t have a single name in this city to write as an emergency contact on Lifa’s school applications and when Chris gently and lovingly asked me how I would like to celebrate Thanksgiving.

When life-stuff starts to overwhelm, my pumpkin pie spices are packed too far away, and Lifa’s eyes have turn Texas-sized, we scale life back to what makes us alive. I dig through this rental house's cookware, make one of our favorite meals, and we squeeze into a tiny table in the sunroom for dinner. We hold hands, Lifa prays, and we talk about our highs and lows for the day. Afterward, we clear the table together and laugh at Lifa’s sideways walking and talking because he just can’t handle his new Cape Town late-night hours. (He's been staying up until almost 8pm. He can't even believe how ridiculous his life is.)

Last week, Lifa got stir-crazy and drove me crazy in the process. We decided to take our at-home learning to the streets. We walked outside with a 3-item grocery list for Lifa to predict costs and pay for. And then we counted steps, by ones and then by two’s, to get to Mr. Arthur’s shop and the Magical Fairyland Frisbee park. It’s 103 steps to the park, and 262 steps to Mr. Arthur’s.

I don’t know what or where we’re going to eat Thanksgiving Dinner, and Lifa doesn’t know how to surf – or even swim yet. But we know we are only 103 steps from a Magical Frisbee-throwing Fairyland and 262 steps from heaven-baked croissants. And that’s not a bad start.

People move all the time. People go to work and school and buy milk and do life stuff all the time. But not a lot of people live. Not a lot of people come to the tiny table they have, take an inventory of their blessings, and count their steps. We want to be those people and make life count in Cape Town.

If you and I chose to reel in the unraveled places and gather around the good, whether it’s a tiny dinner table or a phone call with a friend, we could be alive instead of just busy with life stuff. Instead of thinking about not knowing where or how to celebrate Thanksgiving, I can celebrate knowing it only takes 262 steps (counted in giggly-two’s by Lifa) to have a friendly conversation about church with Mr. Arthur and buy milk… or croissants for the guys and dark chocolate for me… whichever.

Let’s make this life count.
Take 262 steps, and be alive today.