Some days are just bad.

My day started bad. The middle was bad. And it ended bad.

My phone died. My computer wouldn’t back anything up. I didn’t get all the things done we try to squeeze into a single day. And my kids FREAKED the FREAK out at the dinner I served them. They. Could. Not. Stand. It. And then I told them fine, that was fine but there wouldn’t be any other food options and there would definitely not be dessert.

There were tears and there was gnashing of teeth.

So let’s just say that Advent readings were not even in the same universe as picture perfect tonight.

Like you, I’m tired. This year has been long and hard.

And tonight after I forced everyone into bed early all I really wanted to do was sit down and feel sorry for myself by the light of the Christmas tree.

And then I got an email from my friend, Crystal Paine. And it made me cry. Because it was such a relief to be reminded of something good and beautiful and powerful.

So I sat down to write this completely honest and unfiltered blog post because maybe you’ve had a bad day too? Maybe the whole year has been rough. Sure, there is a TON to be grateful for but that doesn’t negate the hard parts.

Sometimes a mom just needs some good news at the end of a long year.

You guys, did you know that since our community started supporting the community of moms and kids in Maubane, South Africa three years ago, there have been MASSIVE changes there?

What started as a water point and community farm/vegetable garden has grown to playgrounds, after school centers, kitchens, bathrooms, and now a two room classroom with more to come. The work and the changes just keep spreading. And the photo updates I get each week out of South Africa make me stop in front of the sink or the computer or when I’m swinging my feet out of the bed and just sit in amazement. That moms really can reach across an ocean and love each others’ kids.

These are my dad’s hands. He turns 70 next year.

And has three adopted kids now the ages of my own kiddos. He has taught me how powerful it is to offer our hands to serve the little ones, the invisible ones, the ones who will laugh so loud that giggles seem to explode out of them.

You guys, I am lazy and tired and selfish and I have a kind of soul amnesia. It is so easy to forget that loving other people is both a command AND a gift. This is the season of gifts; please don’t miss the chance to open your eyes and receive the beautiful people God wants to pour into your life.

Across the ocean but also maybe just across your dining room table.

My parents – I don’t even know where to start with them. (I think this blog post comes close). Maybe I can put it like this — my precious step-mom, Wanda, she told me they were at an event recently where the speaker said that many adults realize that they never actually lived out there most special dreams. Those dreams just passed them by or died from lack of attention.

But Wanda said to me, you know what, Lisa-Jo? I realized in that moment – No, I AM living my dream. I am actually living my dream.

These kids and making their futures and their dreams a reality? It’s her dream.

(And now I’m awkwardly crying again by myself next to the Christmas tree).

These are my parents and while I am easily distracted by my own gross heart and wants and petty grievances, they show up time and again to show me what it looks like to love someone else more than ourselves.

I just can’t even with how much I miss them and what the example they live means to me

I’ve blogged about South Africa a lot in the past. I’ve been a bit quiet about it this year. But it’s been on my heart and I wish I’d share more about what was going on there. Sometimes it’s hard to put it all into words. But I wanted to come in here at the end of our long day – you reading over there in bed or on the phone in the tub or between loads of laundry, and me over here in my Lions sweatshirt and sweat pants with the holes in them, and send you a hug from South Africa. And thank you again for being part of the beginning of this movement.

And then invite you, to ask you to prayerfully consider giving to a special fundraiser that’s happening this week. Bloggers who traveled to South Africa this year to visit Maubane and meet my family and the whole Take Action team to see the work happening there have joined together for a one week event to bless the communities in Maubane.

Many of you have loved on these moms and kiddos for years now. And if you’re looking for a meaningful way to remember Christmas, I’d like to ask you to consider joining us. Would you consider giving to one of these two opportunities this week:

  1. Spend $10 & Get a Printable Christmas Fun Kit — all proceeds will be donated to South Africa to help finish building a Community Centre in Maubane, South Africa. Read all about this opportunity here.
  2. Purchase a Power of Moms Programs For 25% Off — ALL proceeds will be donated to South Africa to help finish building a Community Centre at Maubane, South Africa. There are six difference programs to choose from and prices start at $13.50. Read more about this opportunity here.

And if you don’t need either of those, you’re welcome to simply make a tax-deductible donation over here.

They call the center that provides meals and before & after school care and children’s church on Sundays and sports fields and fresh water and community farming and working toilets and Christmas parties where every single child gets a gift — they call it the Maubane Rivoningo Transformation Center. Because it’s where lives are changed.

Both the lives of those in South Africa and across the globe.

Thank you for changing my life. Every one of you.


PS: Want to hear more about why and how Money Saving Mom got involved in this project? Listen to the podcast in Crystal’s own words over here.

All photos by the incomparable Kyle Shultz of Shultz Photo School: Helping parents take better pictures of their kids.