We said goodbye to Chris’ parents on Monday after three glorious weeks together.
We made memories with lazy mornings, picnic dinners, beach strolls, Uno tournaments and walks around the neighborhood. We played the thankful game in the car, shared highs and lows at dinner, and did that multigenerational thing families do when the adults start addressing each other by the titles their children use.
|GoGo Sherry and Babakahle. Formerly known as Sherry and Gary or Mom and Dad. |
(Their grandparent names came from Lifa’s first language.
Babakahle is pronounced “ba-ba-ga-shlay”. Sort of.)
They came with bags stuffed with multiplication tricks, running shoes, chili powder and a new motor for my Nutri-Ninja. (220-volt electrical surges are not ideal for kitchen appliances.) Whether you need to know what 9x8 is, want to go on a run, or have a hankering for a taco and a smoothie, the Ladd Family is equipped!
They spoiled our puppies, cleaned the kitchen every night, and sent Chris and I out on our first date nights in Cape Town while Lifa basked in the undivided attention of his grandparents.
There is such power in three generations gathering around the dinner table. We shared the stories that shaped us and narrated new ones. We watched Lifa take developmental leaps with giggles abounding. His personality sprouted and bloomed in the presence of our family’s root system.
He became himself at the table with the people he belonged to.
In case you’re new here, Lifa’s story is written as a battlefield to be won. He has lived a tumultuous and heroic nine years. I made a covenant with God in 2010 to be Lifa’s family, consequently releasing my plans to go back to America. I had no recognized authority or ability to protect him, and nothing was promised. It was complicated to say the least. I knew I couldn’t expect anyone else to make the same sacrifice I was called to.
I ripped the desires of my heart away from my identity with white-knuckled tears. I surrendered my fairy tale wishes for a handsome husband, a household led by a dad, cousins spending summers playing together, growing up with grandparents, holiday traditions, normal family stuff.
I trusted God to rewrite my hopes and dreams as I put my hope in His family.
Then a handsome man came and sat on our couch with his own set of white knuckles (and mostly chewed off fingernails). He had also released his hopes and dreams to be re-authored. In the middle of my messy kitchen and Lifa running wild in Toy Story underwear, Chris Ladd let go of what he thought this would look like. He had come to be the dad in our family.
And then the grandparents came.
Remarkably, they didn’t come to meet Lifa; they came to love their grandson in person. They have loved him from the very beginning.
They didn’t have to be Lifa’s grandparents.
They didn’t have to choose him just because we did.
They didn’t have to leave surprises in his bedroom or buy him a new bicycle.
I never thought we’d have a dad. I never dared to dream we’d have a family.
Everything changes when we encounter the kind of love that shows up when they don’t have to… The kind of family that spent half a lifetime washing your dishes and hugging you goodnight, and then comes around the world to do it again- and to tell you to go on a date with your wife.
Everything changes around the table together, choosing each other when we don’t have to. We become fully ourselves in the presence of shared stories and irrational love.
It doesn’t take a marriage, a mission trip, or moving to Africa for everything to change or to change everything for someone. This isn’t Lifa’s story or the Ladd Family story. It’s a story of white knuckles and family love. White knuckles were nailed to a cross so that we could all qualify for the kind of family that chooses, sacrifices, and makes you bloom.
Bring your white knuckles and show up when you don’t have to. It won’t be what you expected, but it’ll be better than you could dream on your own.
Thank you for coming Babakahle and GoGo Sherry. We can’t wait to have you back!