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!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Let's Be Miracle Families

A miracle is something that happens in this world but doesn’t follow the rules of this world. We are bound with all kinds of rules like gravity, time, space, probability and logic. A miracle reminds us there’s something more and Some One bigger and better than that.

We want to be a miracle family. 
No, scratch that… We are a miracle family.


We started with a miraculously outlandish order of events and giraffe hoof-prints on our wedding aisle. It's only gotten better from there. We love each other more than this world could explain, and we celebrate that miracle every night around the dinner table.

Recently, we agreed that there’s more to it than that.
We decided to become a miracle family that expects and calls down God’s miracles. We don't need to see scars to believe or require seas to do the splits to have faith. We have been charged to build heaven on earth, and we want everyone who's weighted down to see that gravity doesn’t stand a chance.  

We set the table and expected a feast. 
We renamed our street “Miracle Lane”. 
We set up checkpoints around town to agree in a specific prayer every time we drive by.

One day, while we drove down Miracle Lane, our 8-year old miracle in the backseat made his own claim on heaven. Lifa had become obsessed with huskies and voiced how badly he wanted one. He’d obviously been ruminating on this for a while, and it HAD.TO.BE a husky. (Yes, that’s the dog made for snow. And, yes, we live in Africa.)

Never one to beat around the bush, Chris laid it out, “Lifa, you better pray for a miracle because that’s the only way we’re getting a husky.”

As responsible parents do, we had a list of good reasons why we should not get a husky: Huskies do not live long in our region because of the heat. They are hard to train, too loud, and typically hard to deal with in general. Lifa had his own list of reasons why we would be getting one: His mom and dad told him he lives on Miracle Lane, and he kept watching their prayers get answered. (Who do you think is going to win this one?)

What we did not want: A husky.
What we did want: A kid who ruthlessly believes in God’s power and love for him.
What we did: Prayed for Lifa to see a miracle.

We rallied as a family for Lifa’s husky. We helped him guide his prayers, and every night he would beg God to bring the perfect husky for our family – one that we could “crain” (train) and would be healthy. His faith rose and so did ours as we overheard him boldly telling friends at church, “I’m getting a husky because I’m praying for one.” One afternoon, I asked Lifa if he had named the husky. It wasn’t long before he put on his cape and bound into the kitchen, triumphantly shouting, “KRAVEN THE HUNTER!” “My husky’s name is Kraven the Hunter!”

Nightly, we prayed for Kraven the Hunter to come home. When Lifa left for the 3-week trip to his biological father’s house, he assured us he would keep praying for Kraven while he was away. He knew we would too - we couldn’t help ourselves. The momentum of a child’s faith was rising all around us, and even our friends and family were jumping in. 

A couple of weeks later, Chris called and let me know the SPCA was coming over to do a home visit. My response: “WHAT!?!” My charming husband took advantage of my staring and stammering to explain that, somewhere in the middle of praying for Lifa’s faith to be built up, his own heart had changed.

Chris wanted to participate in Lifa’s miracle with him, not just watch from the sidelines. With a burgeoning fathers heart, he wants to have an active role in this boy’s walk with God. To agree with Lifa’s prayers, Chris asked specifically for a mixed breed husky for increased lifespan, as well as a puppy cared for by our local SPCA. Lo and behold, three days later, Michelle from the SPCA was sitting on our back porch with goose bumps after hearing the story of Lifa’s prayers. The next day, Kraven the Hunter was home!

He looks ferocious, doesn't he?

Exploring his new backyard
We picked Lifa up from his dad’s house a week later. He was exhausted, lacking in nutrition, and too run down to do much more than eat and sleep... a lot. We pulled on to Miracle Lane, and he perked up at the thought of hugging Khaya (the puppy he already knew), getting back on his bike. He was already dreaming about going to bed that night in his own super-hero room with a belly full of Mom’s cooking (and his favorite pumpkin cake for dessert). I took him straight to his room to set down his bag, and then this happened:

That father, who wanted so badly to participate in his kid’s joy, scooped up the miracle and placed it in the arms of his unsuspecting son. Lifa didn’t know what to do as his answered prayer licked his face. He stammered, stuttered and was painfully awkward when it came to interacting with Kraven the Hunter. But that night, with a miracle sitting under the dinner table, Lifa feasted on Mom’s cooking and basked in the love of a family that stands together.

We aren’t a miracle family because the SPCA happened to get an ultra-rare husky-mix pup three days after my husband prayed for it. We are a miracle family because we know that God moves on behalf of his kids, and we choose to ask for a lot of moving.

We named our road.
He named his miracle.
We are a miracle family.

Kraven the Hunter is ridiculously cute, and we call him our miracle pup every day. But the real miracle isn’t in the collar. It’s never about the physical evidences we see. 

The real miracle is a weary child coming home to find out God hears him and moves on his behalf, even when he’s far away.  

Authentic miracles happen in a father’s heart when he exchanges his desires for his child’s.

We don't need proof, and we didn't need a husky. We need our hearts constantly shouting and being shaped for what shapes God's. We need to know it has nothing to do what we are capable of, and this earth's way doesn't stand a chance when it comes to the King of Kings. We call huskies home, and we know the true miracle happens when heaven’s heart replaces our own. Let's be miracle families. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Tube Full of Heaven... Ok, it's Neosporin

A baby sits unattended, in the furthest corner of the yard, and cries. She’s had a fever for days, and her mother just cannot handle the sound anymore. She puts baby as far out of ear’s reach as her small plot would allow.

There’s a free clinic less than a mile away.

A child limps into the CarePoint with yesterday’s dirty clothes clinging to the infection of yesterday’s run-in with a rusty nail.

There’s clean, running water at the Children’s Cup CarePoint, as well as a free government clinic within walking distance.

Open wounds, broken bones, and senseless infections are accepted as just a part of life. It’s as though affliction is just another stage of development in the fray of South Africa’s rural villages. It almost looks like this just is just the way it is as you bump along the dirt road to Dayizenza.

But there is another way, and it is so accessible.
You pick up that baby, and you walk to the clinic.
You turn on the tap, and you wash that wound.

So why are babies still feverish and wounds still untreated? Why don't they see and use what's available?

The volunteer cooking mothers at the Children’s Cup CarePoint in Dayizenza battle disease and decay in their own bodies. They take children into their homes, and sick children are dropped off at CarePoints because no one knows what to do. Not even them.

But they are watching.

They see mission teams come and hold babies. They watch touch, prayer and affection saves little, endangered lives. (Read Benji’s story here.)

They see us come to wash wounds and administer first aid to sick and injured children. They watch health restored to better than before.

They take a look, ask a question, and dare to believe there’s more than what their eyes can see.

“Mama Kacy, we don’t know how to take care of our children.”
They poured out their most vulnerable longings. “We want to help them, but we don’t know how. Can you show us? Will you teach us?”


The sheer risk in looking for more than what’s there could turn those hole-ridden dirt roads into hope-filled streets of gold.

We practiced putting on Band-Aids, washing injuries, and basic hygiene. I taught them about our bodies being temples of the Living God. We discussed burn care and prevention. They stared in shock when I told them it was ok… and expected… to tell the children to stay away from the cooking fire and hot kettles. I showed them how to use the medication in their first aid kit, labeling everything with appropriate usage, dosage and age. They aced the quiz at the end and loved it!

The most dramatic first aid practice of all time. So good.

They felt so empowered, capable, and strong. Hips swung and laughter roared around the yard as they modeled their faux-sprains and pseudo-slatherings of Neosporin. They were like little kids playing doctor. We laughed and celebrated as we were all healed of our imaginary afflictions.

The mothers learned how to use their hands for helping others, and touched hope in the process. They saw suffering doesn’t have to be the standard, and they could do something about it.

The gold and sparkly hope of heaven squeezed out of them with a tube of Neosporin and the most basic first aid training.

That day began a beautiful and ongoing journey in Dayizenza.
Week by week, we are gathering around thankfulness, stockpiling on knowledge, and strengthening our arms so we can lift heavy.

Boot Camp at the CarePoint! It's a highlight of our week! 
We are bracing ourselves and bulking up.

That tube of Neosporin and that fateful first aid training was the day we saw that heaven is at hand… our hands. We aren’t just here to fill bellies and wait passively for heaven to come. We will be the ones to lay the bricks that pave the path of heaven on earth.

First Aid trained and ready.
The beautiful women of Dayizenza will wash their hands, wash wounds, and renovate the roads from dust to glory. With clean hands and ready hearts, they are building the highway to heaven right where they live.

I remember the way I felt the day the ladies in Dayizenza asked me for help. How much more would heaven hoop and holler with a sparkling and undignified, “YES! YES! YES!” if we asked for more too?

There’s more. It’s free, and you just might already be fully equipped for it. Wash your hands, wash your hearts, and bust open that tube of heaven. Don’t hold back.

Let’s use what we have, and ask for more. Squeeze out every last drop until we’ve replaced infection with affection, disease with delight, and until heaven’s promises are complete on this earth, starting right where you are.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Secrets from the Sweatbox: How to become a Next Level Ninja

I have a hero for a husband. 

Lifa, our 8-year old, constantly watches and listens, trying to absorb Chris' super-powers. On the heels of our household hero, Lifa is discovering his adventurers heart. Just like Dad, he is developing a love for animals, camping, hiking, fire-building, and 4x4’s you can do man stuff in. My guys are awesome adventurers. 

Look at what we do:

Lifa's first camping trip. Kruger National Park.
That’s the Defender. The icon of rugged adventures, manly manliness, and a movement in itself in South Africa. We love that thing. It screams CHRIS LADD, and it makes his wife drool and want to go off-roading for dates. Lifa has built at least a jillion Defenders with his Legos. It’s become a thing in our family. We are those people. 

Well, we were those people. Until the fateful day my handsome husband climbed into the hammock with me and the afternoon sun. He told me it was time to sell the Defender. WHAT!?!

Chris told me that the Defender is his adventuring dream car, but now his biggest dreams are for family adventures instead of his own. His dreams still include rooftop tents, 4-wheel drive, and lots of manly words I don’t even get. But now they include the ability to talk to Lifa in the backseat while we adventure, and to eventually expand as a family. (Swoon.) 

Yesterday was the day. We dropped off the Defender and said our goodbyes. 
We swallowed our emotion, gave thanks for new adventures ahead, and headed back home in my car.

Until we broke down. Less than a mile later.

Boom. Just like that. 
We went from a 2-car family to a no-car family in less than 5 minutes.

Can you feel the tension potential as we sat on the side of the road and stared at each other with question marks in our eyes?

Lifa wasn’t even wearing his cape. We simply were not prepared for this. 

Luckily, I married a hero. 

Chris jumped out of the car and started dad doing stuff - the kind of stuff dads do when cars break down and there is not a back-up plan or a cape in sight. I looked at Lifa and told him we’d better pray for Dad. He closed his little super hero eyes and asked God for Dad to feel His peace, for our protection and that everything would be fine. As soon as we amen’d, an angel in a little red car pulled up and offered to help. Chris locked Lifa and I up safely in the broken car while he went in the little red angel car to get help. 

Luckily, it’s winter in South Africa… which means the high that day was only EIGHTY DEGREES Fahrenheit.

Let me set the scene for you: 
We were baking inside of a broken car on the side of a road in notoriously un-safe South Africa. With no cars left in our family. I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. I was existing on nothing but prayers and crazy. It was 1:00pm, and I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Lifa only had 1 of his 4 giant meals that day. We had no water. And did I mention the sweat? I don’t mean a forehead glisten… I mean armpit fountains and vertebrae rivers. A ROADSIDE SWEATBOX. Oh, and we had just said goodbye to our beloved Defender.

So that’s what we were working with... 

I looked at Lifa and said, “This is awesome Lifa. This is like we are inside a big, giant secret.” He wiped the sweat out of his eyes, leaned in, and we took it from there.

First, we created a reality TV show about ourselves, taking turns commentating and creating save-the-day scenarios. Then, as he began to wilt and worry, we started talking real talk. 

“Lifa, who’s job is it in our family to save the day and solve the problems?"
“Who’s job is it to take care of us and take care of our cars?"

“YES! So our job is to listen to what Dad says. And his job is really just to listen to God so he can know how to save the day.  If we do our job, Dad can do his job, and God takes care of us all."

Lifa beamed and relief filled the seat-belted sweatbox. “That’s pretty cool."

Instant freedom. It replaced the sweat spews and hunger groans. It filled up every nook and cranny that could have been a cranky space with radical thankfulness. 

I leaned in to my sweaty ninja-child and told him that this was actually a secret training sweatbox. God was giving us a chance to become Next Level Ninjas for Him.


“Oh yeah. Are you ready for the next level, Lifa? Can God trust you with His next-level secrets?"

All 8 years of him were IN. I was just as eager to hear what would come out of my mouth as he was! 

I explained to him that true training only happens when it’s hard. You get really strong when your muscles - or your super powers - have to work really, really hard. We assessed our situation and made an action plan of how we could do the very best at our job of helping Dad. 

We made a pact:
  1. No complaining about anything. Ever. Even after we finished sweating and had all the water we could handle, we would never complain about how hot or thirsty we were. 
  2. We would be thankful. Not for the stuff we wanted to happen, but for the stuff that was happening. We would be thankful for God trusting us in the sweatbox and for giving us a chance to become Next Level Ninjas for His Kingdom. 
  3. We would pray. For Dad, for our circumstances, for all of our needs to be met. 
It was our sweaty secret. 
We felt so empowered. SO joyful. So sure of God’s presence. 
We practiced for a little while. And then we did the only thing left to do: We took Next Level Ninja photos. 

Moments later, that heroic husband of mine showed up IN OUR (former) DEFENDER. 
Lifa and I winked at each other, put on our smiles, and listened to the series of events and problem solving my husband had been busy with while we’d been praying, playing and flexing in our sweatbox full of secrets. 

We ended up using the Defender to tow my car, and Lifa lost his ever-lovin’ Ninja mind. “THANK YOU GOD! THIS IS GOD’S PLAN! HE KNEW THAT I ALWAYS WANTED TO SEE THE DEFENDER DO THIS AND WE SOLD IT BEFORE WE EVER PULLED A CARRRRRRR!” (Read that really fast and loud and with outrageous ninja-like giggling, and you’ll be close.)

Totally an appropriate time to take pictures. They call me Mamarazzi for a reason.
“This is awesome Lifa. Now get it together and play it cool. Next Level Ninja style. Ready?"

Game faces. ON. 

We smile at the handsome hero as he continues to sweat, save days and solve problems. Lifa goes deep into this next level thing, and I can almost tangibly feel the Holy Spirit equipping our family for any and every form of future sweatbox we’ll face. We keep whispering to each other: "No complaining. Be thankful. Pray for everything.” And we did. 

Lifa having one last goodbye while the men did men stuff with my broken car.
When our friend picked us up, we played The Thankful Game. Lifa poured out his thankfulness for the adventure, for the talk with Mom, for Dad saving the day, and for everything good he had seen. And then he leaned over to me in the backseat, whispered, and winked, “I made sure not to talk about the sweating.” 

We exchanged a solid thumbs up, and that’s when I knew: Lifa was a Next Level Ninja. 

We let God change the shapes and sizes of our adventure dreams, and we run after them. He loves that. Yet even in the middle of that obedience, we break down. With no backup plan. Because He loves us. 

Because when we break down, wait and have to remember what our job is, we become strong enough to live out the dreams we were chasing and to dream bigger ones. 
We enter into secret, sweaty, hungry, thirsty spaces, and we find nothing to complain about and everything to celebrate.

We find out that angels drive red cars and that when we all do our jobs, nobody is on their own. We keep secrets deep inside of us, only occasionally winking them out in the backseat - the good kind that swallow up sorrow with joy. The kind that make super powers swell up and stress dry out.

I never want to stop sweating and secreting and needing to remember my job:
No complaining. Always pray. Be thankful.
I want my plans to keep breaking down on the side of the road, so He can save the day and pave His way.
I want to be a no-car family that goes places.