Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Get the Limp

It’s been exactly one year since we stopped leaving and started going.One year ago, we said goodbye to the foreign town and people that had begun to feel like home.

After almost 8 years of visiting the USA and making home in South Africa, I’ve learned there’s a sacred space between leaving and arriving. During long international travel, you enter a star-spangled time warp where you’ve got no place to be except where you are. Nothing is required of you up there in the clouds - but there are bonus points if you can sleep in the shape of a pretzel.

Patient Lifa in the car the first time
we drove into Cape Town. Fact:
those headphones weren't connected
to anything. Purely a fashion statement.
Our family’s move to Cape Town was a shorter distance but much longer journey than our moves to South Africa from America. In the past one year, we inhabited four homes, two countries, four long drives, two schools, an embarrassing amount of tears and chocolate for the lady of the house, and a boatload of miracles. 

This morning, I cry-told my husband that I’m marking today as the first day of a new year. I confessed I’ve finished the past year with a puffy-eyed limp. It’s the kind of limp that happens when you hit the ground running, but you didn’t realise you were still in the air when you leapt.
The leap into church planting in Cape Town was bigger than that little leap when you exit the airplane in Africa because you’re unsure if the passage is properly secured to the plane. We left, and then I leapt - flinging my whole self into creating security for our son, serving our new city, and setting our family up well. 

Have you ever seen someone’s falling face? The one where they didn’t realise there wasn’t a step there and find themselves crazy-faced and flailing their arms against gravity? It’s the moment you never want on video. I may or may not have looked like that… for a year.

I didn’t realise we'd be in the proverbial air for a year. I didn’t realise that it would be just this week that I would see how to really serve the organisation we’ve partnered with for a year. Or that we’d just now be installing long-term security measures on a home we’ll stay in so we can sleep a little more soundly. I couldn’t have predicted how moving away from the only culture Lifa has known would affect him or how hard we’d pray and push to get him into a healthy learning environment. I would never have guessed that I’d have to learn about rugby! And I just realised last night that we’ve really just landed after leaving a year ago.

When I told my husband I’m coming out of the year with a limp, I wasn’t complaining.
I’m not wounded. I’m blessed. And I have something to show for it.

I was counted worthy of wrestling, faith-flailing, and going past my own ability. It was the most challenging year on the books, and I spent more time that I care to admit trying to save face - because come on, the falling face is terrible. But what a year it has been! 

A man named Jacob was once on a long, straining journey with his family, and he came out with a limp as well. Jacob’s limp is legendary. It marks the day he got a new name and legacy because he said, “I will not let go until you bless me.” He earned that limp, and he was blessed. 

I’d rather limp like I’ve loved hard and be blessed for it than skip through life without a care. 
Today is a new day, and it’s a new year for me and the Ladd Family.

Tonight I’m going on a date with my man. We are going to laugh together and love each other. We’re giving this first night of the new year to our marriage, to putting down deep roots into each other and our new home. We’re not leaving and we’re not arriving. We’re here, and we are going to live like it. 

This year, we will have our first big Thanksgiving meal with people.
This year, we will spend our first Christmas together. All 3 of us TOGETHER!! (We haven't all been in the same country together for Christmas since we met!)
This year, Lifa will start and end school in the same place, with friends and teachers who care for him. 
This year, we will go on lots of dates and create family traditions.
We will be known for the legacies we wrote while we wrestled, and we will be increasingly thankful. 

If you’re wrestling now, don’t let go of it until you get the blessing.

Get the limp - let the way you carry yourself show that you’ve understood the blessing of hard seasons.
It’s a badge of faith that says “Trustworthy”. You might be sore, and you might have had some bad face days. But you’ve been faithful, and the King of Kings says, “Come and share in your Master’s happiness." 

Have a happy new year!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Live like it's a TUESDAY!

Confession: I’ve never made pap by myself.

Pap (pronounced like “pop”) is made with water and finely ground cornmeal. It is a base for meals for many of South Africa’s cultures.
It looks like mashed potatoes but is more firm and scooped into your hands with stew, beans or some sort of saucy meat. It is the most intense form of carb-loading you’ve ever known!

I’ve lived in South Africa for almost 8 years and have never made the traditional staple food on my own! Before moving to Cape Town, I spent my time in rural communities where the grannies with the BIG SPOONS made pap in bulk. There was just no need for me to make it, and my spoon wasn’t big enough.

Little Lifa helping at after school feeding programs.
Lifa used to chow down on his own culture’s food while we ministered, played and celebrated in community ministry. But now that we live a two day drive away from his culture of origin, he doesn’t have that opportunity.

That kid loves all types of food (unless he can see basil on his food).  He has expanded his palette since moving to Cape Town into the beautiful worlds of sushi and chimichangas. He’s also pushed his limits this year by hiking to new heights (first with an escalator and then a mountain!), swim lessons, new schools, new city, new languages, new everything.

We decided to celebrate Lifa last night. Not for taking on his fear of heights or doing anything unusually super. Just for being Lifa. Sometimes you need to be reminded that you are great because were created with greatness, and that’s enough.

On Monday night, we told him we were going to have pap, beans, cabbage and beetroot for dinner the next night. And he could eat it with his hands. His eyes lit up, and he said, “It’s like it’s a birthday dinner!”

To which I immediately responded: “Or a Tuesday!”

Chris looked at that bright-eyed boy and said, “We are celebrating you, Lifa! We are celebrating who you are, the culture you come from, and the foods you like to eat with your dad.”

There is freedom in celebration. Freedom to eat with your hands and be yourself. It’s like coming home to the place where you don’t have to be anything but you, and you are good. That’s what you were made for.

(That’s why I love birthdays -a yearly excuse to celebrate someone just because they are. No reason required! And you get cake for being you!)

It took me two attempts to make pap last night, but Lifa said I nailed it.  He was so happy. He ate until he almost exploded and was a huge, beany mess. It was glorious!

It wasn’t his birthday. It was Tuesday.

I think instead of loving birthdays, I’m going to start loving Tuesdays.
(For the record: I will also always love birthdays.)

My husband inspired me this week to not need a reason to celebrate.
Just celebrate. Just Tuesday. (Tuesday, the verb.)

What if we picked somebody to celebrate every Tuesday?
 Or what if we just celebrated because it’s Tuesday?

The Kingdom of God has come, and it’s coming. Just like Tuesdays.
Let’s celebrate what is, and usher in the rest with our gratitude and messy hands. Let’s not wait for the right-sized spoons or a birthday.

Freedom doesn’t come with big spoons or birth dates. And joy doesn’t come from circumstances. They are found together, at the table and by making an intentional choice.

 Happy Tuesday-ing everyone!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What A Difference A Year Makes

This morning, I dropped Lifa off with an educational psychologist for a 4-hour assessment. He understood that the psychologist’s job was to give his parents and teachers tools to help him be his best in school, and there was a good chance he would get to draw. She has a giant desk like Dad’s, and he would have 4-hours of uninterrupted adult attention. Game on. 

I never would have dreamt up this scenario one year ago. Last year, I was trying my best to help overwhelmed teachers in the crowded, rural school Lifa was allowed to sit in, undocumented.

What a difference a year makes.
We have had a year of amazing miracles. 

Being granted legal guardianship of a child who “does not exist” on any piece of paper is at least as incredible as an ocean opening. 

Being given a place in a school system in a nation that will not claim you is at least as astounding as the Jordan River opening to grant access to the Promised Land. 

In the wake of that miracle, Lifa has met the giants of identity confusion, academic overwhelmedness, racial and spiritual persecution, fearfulness, loneliness, insecurity, and even that super emotional day when we had to explain to him that he no longer has the body type to fit into skinny jeans. (Proud to say we have fully jumped on the jogger train now. The boy can rock them.) 

In the midst of hard moments, we remember that even after that sea opened, there was still a wilderness to traverse. After the Jordan parted, there were still giants occupying the Promised Land. God was sovereignly there whole time.

School has been our giant this year.

One year ago, there was literally no way for Lifa to continue in his education. He could not enter into the next phase of learning without registration. One year ago, I would have longed for these hardships. When I think about that, they suddenly feel like giant hardship hugs instead of terrifying giants. 

What a difference a year makes. 

One year ago today, this classy Ladd couple took this photo: 

We were celebrating finding the famously technical Contour Path on Table Mountain during our scouting trip to Cape Town. Chris’ dream to re-enter trail running was still just a dream, and we had no idea what we would face as a family on the road ahead of us.

It took us many attempts to find the contour path. We still call this spot on the mountain “The place Mom almost died.” It was the peak of glory to find it on that trip, and it very literally took my breath away.

This morning after I dropped Lifa off for his assessment, I power-hiked up to the contour path, sent my handsome husband a lovey message while I took a few deep breaths, and then ran a 5k across and down the mountain.

Chris is now training for a 100km race in December, has run several marathons on the mountain, knows the trails like the back of his hand, and casually runs to the top of the mountain on a weekday. 

What a difference a year makes. 

Last year’s peak of glory was this morning’s starting place.

We were made to go glory to glory and strength to strength. All we have to do is keep going back to that mountain. 

There will always be giants in the Promised Land. The higher you get on the mountain, the smaller they look.

I hope you stand on this morning’s starting place with the faith to remember the miracles. I pray that you take a minute today to look at the very largest, hairiest, scariest giants and call them what they are: Next year’s starting place.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Week I Tried To Build A Light Box.

I am a volunteer counselor in an Islam-saturated area of Cape Town. The suffering I encounter in just two days a week is enough to make your head spin and your heart develop a deeper understanding of why God so desperately wants His beloved to return to Him.

Last week, as I was leaving the counseling center to pick my shiny-eyed boy up from school, my world got rocked when I made eye contact with a 3-year old. She was wearing a fluffy, pink jacket. And her eyes were not shiny. The inherent shine that is part of the thread our Creator creates with was gone. Already. Her parents were also threadbare.

The pink jacket princess has an 11-year old cousin who had been exposed to pornography. In a flash of a screen, in an unprotected moment in his childhood, this boy’s life had been changed forever. He, in turn, changed a little pink princess’ life forever. She had just come from the hospital.

A floodgate of stories opened up from the community of 9, 10, 11, 12-year-old little boys whose shiny innocence had not been protected. Screens had become pacifiers and parents while fathers sat in prison. Drives and impulses were awakened in them that they had no idea what to do with. As a result, several other princesses lost their shine. It has become a cultural norm.

I drove to Lifa’s happy, suburban school that afternoon very aware that just as many children in our neighborhood have unlimited access to the world through thumb flicks, screen taps and remote controls. I was haunted by the idea that one flash of a screen could change a life forever.

We don’t have TV in our house. He has no access to a cell phone or a computer, unless I’m sitting next to him while he uses my laptop. We’ve come to terms with his future teenage world being irritatingly limited compared to the rest of the teenage world. But there are all those moments he’s not with us and all those other kids…

I went to bed that night with fearfulness so heavy it gave me a backache. I told Chris I wanted to forget all that stuff about raising Lifa to be a relevant Christ-follower. Instead, I would like to lock him in a small box, shine a bright light in it and play worship music 24/7. He gently offered that my suggestion might not be the best solution.

I suspected I would not be able to remove every harmful message, image, word or sound from the entire world or lock my child in a light box. So I brought my fearfulness to the Light Himself. I begged the Holy Spirit to do something

Bring on the light, Lord.  

The next morning, I woke Lifa up for another day of school with fewer burdens on my back but still no plan more redeeming than my light box idea. Lifa loves computers and scrambles for the chance to get to learn on them at school. He also loves the Bible. Without thinking twice about it that morning, I sat next to him at the kitchen counter and helped him set up his own account on the Bible app. I showed him how he could read the Bible at school, highlight verses, make notes, how to find kids' Bible reading plans, He could even become friends and send messages to Mom and Dad.


My 9-year old kid’s eyes shone extra bright as he bounded out of the car for school that morning, amped by the incredible reality that technology has made his access to the Word of God limitless. 


And there was the redemption I had been begging for.
My kid does not need to be locked up in a light box. He needs to be armed with light, protected, and equipped.

I spent too much time thinking about the dark last week. 
Eventually, you start to look like what you think about.

A worried lady once cried at a grave after experiencing the very worst loss of her life. What if she never would have looked up and realized she was standing next to the greatest redeeming miracle in the history of the world? What if she had never realized Jesus was there, and all He needed her to do was cheer up and go tell people?

This week, I won’t waste another moment pondering what kind of padlock I should have for the world’s most secure light box. I will look at Who is standing next to me. I will spend all that extra thinking time finding innovative ways to unlock Light to my child.

I will put the sword of the Spirit in his 9-year old hand, and make it accessible with the swipe of a thumb and a click of a button.

I will protect him with an aggressively hopeful, joy-filled posture of taking on the world as the offense team instead of the defense.

We’re here to be a Church. 
Church doesn’t hide from the dark; it brings Light into it. 
That means we leave our light boxes. We arm, equip and protect our families. We don’t send our 9-year olds out unprotected, and we don’t give fear a foothold.

We look up, and we see that Jesus has been standing there the whole time.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Armed and Ready

It’s been six years, three months and one week since I started the long drives to take Lifa to visit his biological father.

Along the way, the oh-so-handsome Chris Ladd stepped in like a super hero to take the steering wheel, take my hand, and take the lead for our family. Together, we re-committed to God to preserve Lifa’s relationship with his father and his culture.

Making a commitment is great… it’s putting in the miles that is the true test of faith.

The long drives and the drop-offs with dad never got easier. As Lifa got older, he could see the discrepancies in the different types of homes, families and protection. In order to honor our commitment to God and protect Lifa, we helped his dad move into a new, safer community near some pastors we have a long-term relationship with. We make sure his father’s needs are met monthly and furnished his home so Lifa could have his own bed and a stable environment to visit when we dropped him off for a visit.

We did our best to provide a stable environment and add value to the household, but we could not create the sense of security and stability kids were made to live in. Lifa had a really hard experience over the 3-week Christmas break with his dad. It was difficult for us all to recover, and even more difficult to think of doing it again for the July holiday.

This year, Lifa has struggled more with finding his identity and place in the world than ever before. Our family is trusted to wrestle with identity development hard and strong until Lifa can stand solid like a rock on his identity in Christ.

Lifa is visiting his dad right now. I still cried my heart out the night before we dropped him off, but we did it. This time, Lifa only stayed at his dad’s house for one week, and they had a great set up.

I got Lifa his own neon green shaker bottle and a box of FutureLife for the trip to his dad’s house. FutureLife is a South African novelty, developed originally to help fight malnutrition and starvation in impoverished communities. Now it is a staple in any type of household. You just add water or milk to make a porridge or drink – hot or cold. It comes in many flavors and has a complete daily dose of nutrition. It would give him the ability to eat whenever he felt hungry and not have to worry about recovering weight and nutrition upon his return.

Lifa’s was chocolate with extra protein, and he loved the idea of making his own smoothies like Mom and Dad do. He sees us drink protein smoothies after I lift weights or Chris runs, and so we sent him off armed and ready with a shaker bottle, FutureLife, and a training plan!

I talked to Lifa on the phone last night from his dad’s house, and he had a lot to say! “Mom, I basically ran all day. Every day.” (Mom and Dad know that means he put in a solid 10 minutes… classic running time warp.) “And then I did 15 push ups and jump squats. I exercise so much. I’m actually sore right now. I’ve been drinking my FutureLife everyday after I exercise so my muscles get really strong.”

I mom-cheered the heck out of that.

It’s silly. Chocolate FutureLife and a neon green shaker bottle. But I felt God’s love for Lifa so deeply through this excited story telling.

The story of the shaker bottle means so much to me because it was a tiny little piece of family identity that Lifa took with him into the rest of the world. He left the safety, protection, and pursuing love of our household and went into a very different reality. But he had a tangible value and lifestyle of our household to hold onto. Something simple like health and fitness provided a strong tower for him to run into and remember who he is, even when no one around him understands. (“Mom, no one likes my FutureLife.” “That’s because it has vitamins, Lifa.”)

The world-changer we’ve been entrusted to raise lives in two worlds, has two very different dads, and everything seems to have flipped upside down on him in the last six months. We’ve cried out to God as we’ve watched him struggle to find something to hold onto, something to stand on to know who he is. To know where he belongs.

It’s hard to watch Lifa wrestle with this reality at 9-years old, but we were all made to wrestle in this. We have been trusted to be citizens of heaven that live on this earth. To be fathered and to know the Father. We’re promised that everything is going to turn upside down at some point, but the Father we turn to will still be standing strong and firm.

The best thing we can do is know our identites in Christ, establish our household according to those values, and then give our families ways to hold on to that wherever they go.

Sometimes putting on the armor of Christ is filling your mind with Scripture, and sometimes it’s giving a hug goodbye while you hand a kid a shaker bottle.

We are made to make Christ-followers and then send them out into the world. Armed and ready.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

FINE - I've been pouting.

I haven’t written in a long time because I’ve been speechless…
Okay, frustrated… FINE - I’ve been pouting.

The Ladd Family was eager to take another faith leap outside of our comfort zones when we moved to Cape Town with a call to plant and pastor a new church. Although the city is more westernized than anywhere we’ve lived in South Africa before, I have spent the past few months feeling hopelessly out of my element.

We are surrounded by entirely different cultures and lifestyles than we’ve experienced before, so we are always learning! To keep us laughing and grounded, we spend dinnertime celebrating our identity and the unique makeup of our family. Lifa says Mom and Dad add “d’s” to everything (water: wah-dder, not watt-ter). I say South Africans make the word “prayer” one syllable, and it’s impossible for me to reproduce that monosyllabic sound. Lifa’s friends cannot believe how he says “eggs and bacon”, so they ask him to say it over and over again. (No, he cannot remember how eggs and bacon ever came up in the first place. I asked.)

Multicultural, multilingual, multicolored can be fun! Imagine heaven!

But it’s the conversations that don’t happen at the safety of our dinner table that have left me stormy on the inside. It’s my 9-year old son’s rip-off-the-bandaid exposure to the world that has turned my words into personal, impassioned prayers instead of positive Instagram posts.

I got mad at Cape Town when Lifa started to lose himself in this big city.

I’ve been quietly going to battle in my heart, mind and home.
We are not a family to be tossed to and fro with every gust of the infamous Cape Town wind. We are here to plant a church in one of the world’s most attractive and influential cities. It is a city more resistant to the Church than any other I’ve seen, but we were made to impact Cape Town for Jesus.

That means mama’s gotta stop being cranky and find a way to plant some roots!

We’ve been given eyes to see a lot of what’s happening in this city in the past few months.

We hear stories of upper-class suicides as we walk through our neighborhood with Buddhas perched decoratively in windows.  We watch the devastating effects of wealthy secrets, drugs and sexual pandemonium in a part of the city we feel especially called to.

My son comes home from school asking if he can be friends with kids who love Allah because all but three kids in his class are Muslim. (Of course you can!) I’ve Google translate Arabic words to be able to respond to messages from the moms in Lifa’s class, and pulled fearful, confused Christian boys out of the mosque when a school field trip took an inappropriate turn. I had never even noticed the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan until we had to confront Lifa for not eating his lunch at school during the fasting.

I believe God has been giving us His eyes to see this new city He’s called us to.

And I think God has heart-storms too.
I think God hates to watch 9-year old boys be over-exposed, confused and fearful as much as he hates to see 39-year old fathers lead their family in that same way. I think He also cringes and cries while he watches marriages crumble behind sparkling veneers. I believe He’s also angry at the idols that perch in windows, flash on social media, or fill up glass after glass.

I bet He also wants to sweep His children away into the wilderness to say “REMEMBER ME! REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE! REMEMBER HOW I MADE YOU,” like we recently did with Lifa on the coldest, greatest camping trip of all times.

It’s because He loves so much He’s willing to let it hurt.
He so loved that He sent His only Son, unprotected from the elements, to immerse Himself in the middle of the big, bad, broken world.

That Son looked at Table Mountain and knew the brokenness that would surround it. He did not shudder like I sometimes shudder when I look at Table Mountain.

He said, “Cape Town, Come.”
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters… Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.”

I’m finally ready to speak and to confess I need to see this city differently. He looks at me and says, “Yes. Now you can go.”
You shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills before you shall break into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

So I guess that means I better stop pouting and start looking at Table Mountain with Jesus’ eyes. It’s time to start living as the melody for the mountain’s song instead of the storm clouds that cover it. 

You should DEFINITELY follow my handsome husband on Instagram: chrisleeladd

Friday, May 5, 2017

Stepping Into Chaos

I felt it as soon as I set foot on the school grounds: Chaos.

It started in my big toe as soon as it landed in the overgrown grass, and it reverberated through my body until my ears were ringing.

I have been volunteering with Arise Cape Town, an organization that believes what we believe: thriving families create space for healing and changing lives. Arise is impacting a pocket of Cape Town that faces tremendous obstacles like sickness, poverty, violence, abuse, gang activity, and heart wrenching family stories.

On this day, we were going into a high school to teach anger management to a group of teenage boys. They stand at the brink of losing control as they mature into violent generational cycles that descend like tornados, destroying everything in their paths.

As we made our way to the classroom designated for our group, we walked through clouds of the teachers’ cigarette smoke and past the malnourished dog lying in the driveway. I ignored the whistles, profanity and gestures from the students, and my heart lurched for the girls whose school dresses stretched around pregnant bellies. Class was in session, but you never would have known it by the amount of unattended students roaming around.

A teacher met us with a key and apologized that we would have no lights today. The school was robbed over the weekend, and the lights were stolen. The classroom was filthy, a disregarded junk room with a toilet sitting on the counter. We managed to find enough wobbly, dirty chairs to pull together in a circle.

Immediately, the boy who is thinking of joining a gang started to try to create his own domain. The boy who is illiterate tried to distract everyone from having to read or write anything. The boy who feels insecure started making sexual advances.

Chaos was in control.

I could only imagine how this group would go, and how their life stories would be written. These boys were made for more than gangs, drugs and untimely death.

But do they know that? The chaos has never told them. Has anyone?

Suddenly, the Prince of Peace stretched a hand through the madness to give me a tap on the shoulder. He told me to tell the storm to be still.

I felt an overwhelming calm come over me, and I leaned all the way in to the smirking, scowling, sneaking boys and said, “My name is Kacy, and I came here today because I respect you.”

Suddenly, the chair-sliding, pushing, poking, distracting… stopped. The clanging of chaos silenced. Ten future fathers, husbands, and men of South Africa leaned in and listened.

“You made a choice today to change your life. You have decided to be men who don’t have to react to your environment or circumstances. You decided to learn how to take control of your life so you can become the man you want to be. I respect you for that. You should be proud of yourselves. I am proud of you.”

I went on to share with them that I am a wife, mother, counselor, pastor and volunteer with Arise. I asked them to respect me, my husband and my family the way I respect them. There was not another inappropriate comment.

The rest of the group time was only mildly wonderful. Angels did not descend and a rainbow did not appear to replace the stolen fluorescent bulbs. Fear-based reactions, deeply engraved patterns, and general teenage boy-ness crept back in. But they heard, probably for the first time ever, that they are respected. They heard they can be men who determine the direction of their lives. Their life circumstances don’t have to determine their future.

We took one step in the right direction that day. We uprooted one chaotic weed, and replaced it with a life-giving seed of Truth. They can’t un-hear what they heard, no matter how loud the rest of life gets.

You are respectable.
You are not a victim to life. You are a victor.
You have what it takes to change your future.

It looks a lot different in the neighborhood we live in and the area we are called to plant the church in. Chaos brews behind high walls with private security guards. Expensive drugs, expensive drinks, expensive parties, and sexual recklessness wreak havoc through perfectly manicured streets. We ring doorbells, reach out and do everything we can to reach through the walls around us.

The demographics don’t matter. We’re all made for perfect peace, and we all have storms that cannot be silenced without Jesus.  We have Jesus. We know life without chaos.

So every morning at 6am, my handsome husband puts our puppies on leashes and steps into the chaos. He walks up and down the streets of our neighborhood speaking to storms in the souls we cannot see. He commands them to be still.

Chris will walk every morning until every storm has stopped, until every person has a chance to meet Peace.  And I will go back to that high school next week. I will speak with light until the darkness is gone.

Imagine if every one of us who has Peace within us stepped into the chaos. Imagine how much ground we would cover if we all walked in Peace’s authority, if we all silenced storms and uprooted lies with Truth. Better yet, let’s all stop imagining and start stepping.