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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.