2015 Year in Review

our last trip to the beach before our move...

Twelve months ago if you had told us that our family would move to Northern Indiana this past summer, I would’ve laughed in your face. And you would’ve been right. As I look over this past year (really these past two years), the one consistency has been change.

The very first days - then months - of 2015 were filled with processing, praying, and lamenting the idea of uprooting our family from a life we loved in SoCal in order to be near extended family and Brian to begin a new full-time job in Indiana. We worked the process hard. We asked all the questions we knew to ask and did our best to answer our wise counsel’s questions. We embraced and lived into the intense emotions this idea brought up. Brian and I honored each other as we battled back and forth on whether we should move.

The beautiful thing about our process is that it was a tough decision. We knew what we’d give up in order to gain something entirely different. We were trading some very important things to us - community we adored, culture that feels ‘like us’, a city we loved, context that ‘got us’ as much as we ‘got it’… - for other very different things that were also very important to us - proximity to extended family, work for Brian, space for our kids. When we finally decided to move to Indiana, we felt like we were winning so very much, while also losing so very much. Six months later we still feel many of those wins and losses.

This year, we have learned new levels of surrender and trust. It’s hard to do the right thing, even when you know it’s the right thing! We have leaned into our family’s brokenness as our kiddos’ world was turned upside down (oh ya, their parents’ world was too!) and they expressed intense anger and sadness and have found more healing in their stories. This year our family of five has both fought against each other through the stressors of moving and have clung tighter to one another. We’ve learned that we can do hard things…together…and even when we aren’t kind and gracious to each other, we can forgive each other and hold each other tight. We discovered the joy of a backyard for slip ‘n slides and chasing each other, the gift of more bedrooms, basements, storage and play space, the freedom that comes with neighborhood buddies and living on a cul-de-sac, and the wonder of a first snowfall. This year we established Friday night “movie and pizza night” as we snuggled under blankets and recovered from long weeks.

We’ve learned a lot of ‘each other’.

Judah (7) started 1st grade even though he didn’t go to Kindergarten. He’s struggled mightily and valiantly as he’s worked hard to catch up with his classmates. My momma heart swells for how well he’s done!!! His brute intelligence, winsome personality, and magnetic eyes have won him friends and favor. He learned to ride his bike on his first try and is constantly begging to ride it.  Learning to read has been a giant feat and we are so stinking proud of his progress. Judah has his own room in our big new house, which he sometimes yet still wishes he could sleep with someone like the rest of us. This crazy kid still hasn’t lost a tooth, so I anticipate that he’ll lose them all in 2016 and require dentures. Many days I pinch myself in disbelief that my firstborn is really becoming a big kid. Time is flying…

Addise (5) slays us. Our one and only girl is a fighter. She fights for love, justice, a voice, and security. She’s experienced deep healing this year as she’s fought...and found rest. We’ve discovered how wicked smart she is as she owns Kindergarten, and her fancy (new) full-time, purple glasses prove her smarty-pants. She’s into all things fashion, art, her little brother, being the best family helper, and giving the BEST smoochy kisses. Honestly, she’s my hardest to parent but I’d go to the moon for her (tears fall). She’s happiest when she’s drawing at the kitchen table or has 1on1 time with Mommy or Daddy. She asked Jesus in her heart this Fall and she means it. She loves Jesus.

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Asher (3) has been our joy in this season. His insatiable love for life, wild hospitality, infectious giggle and friendliness, wise emotional articulation, and fabulously timed snuggles have been healing and a calming force in our family. He jumped into preschool 3 mornings a week and (literally) hasn’t looked back. I’ve treasured this brief window of time when he is home with me. We’ve had great adventures to parks, the library, Target, and in our new home. He’s my little buddy and I LOVE being with him. He still sneaks into our bed in the wee hours most mornings, and I’m savoring those snuggles. He literally spoons up next to me or his daddy, strokes our face, and whispers “I love you’s”. His older sister strategically cut out 2 chunks of his gorgeous long, surfer hair this Fall and mommy has been lamenting – and trying to fix it! – ever since. I’ve never seen a boy more into Darth Vader. The Force is strong with this one.

A weekend away together...bliss!

Brian is my rock and my vulnerability companion. His selflessness in this new job deeply moves me. The way he cares for our family through work and at home is a force to be reckoned with. He’s felt weak most of this year, and in it he’s become even stronger. My deeply introverted husband transitioned from being a stay-at-home dad to being gone 50+ hours a week. It’s been intense. He couldn't be happier to be in “Go Blue!” territory, which allowed him to go to TWO, winning football games in Michigan’s Big House. His excitement for mowing our half-acre long didn’t even last through the Fall. A riding lawnmower may be in our future. ;)

We celebrated 14 years of marriage and we’ve earned the intimacy we experience. We don’t do oneness perfectly, but I cannot imagine life without my partner.

As for me, my heart is wrapped up in those four above. I’m hopelessly in love with them. It’s been supremely challenging to go from working full time to the primary at home parent who travels for work. The daily hustle and bustle with three kiddos is exhausting (Hello, 7:30am bus pick-up and homework!). Managing a bustling house has required new muscle growth. The coaching and consulting work I get to do with The Youth Cartel and Slingshot Group, along with my independent coaching, speaking, and writing is SO meaningful, value-adding, and energizing. Traveling to do work I love has been a sanity booster. I’m stupid grateful that I get to do in Indiana what I did in SoCal. I hung an art piece in my bathroom that says, “she designed a life she loved” and is has become a goal.

One of greatest gifts of our move has been experiencing more life with our extended family. I’ve lost count with how many times we’ve seen everyone. We’ve celebrated more birthdays together in the past 6 months than we did in the previous 11 years combined. We experience Thanksgiving with our families for the first time in a dozen years. Our kids really know who their cousins are. We’ve had backyard bonfires, play dates, and quick weekend trips to Aunt Liz’s. When our loneliness for SoCal sets in, we remind ourselves of those gifts.

As 2015 has taught us, life with those you love is a gift. There are always little lights, no matter the season. Your family is to be treasured. Your friends are to be appreciated way more than they usually are. And Jesus is to be clung to. If you had told us a year ago all this would’ve happened in 2015, I wouldn’t have believed it. But Jesus has held us together in the midst of it all.

Merry Christmas, loved ones. Thank you, Jesus, for coming close.

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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

Diaz Year in Review

This year has been an epic year of adventure. I don't think we'll fully appreciate and understand for many years the tectonic plate shifts that took place in our lives this year. In 1 Samuel 7:12, a priest and judge named Samuel, raised an Ebenezer. It says,

"Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—”the stone of help”—for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” —1 Samuel 7:12, NLT

That stone wasn't magical but it served as a symbol, a reminder for the people. That Ebenezer represented a fresh beginning for God’s people. It also said something important about God: his mercies are everlasting; his covenant is forever.

We've had that kind of year where fresh beginnings were prominent and God's mercies were needed new every morning. Therefore, in a valiant effort to raise an Ebenezer for 2014, here is our year in review.

A YEAR OF TRAVEL.

Our family literally began 2014 on the sugar-sandy beaches of the Dominican Republic with 30+ of the Getz family. Once again, my uber generous Granny and Gramps swept us all away to spend 7-days in Paradise. Paradise was only slightly twarted by the virus of the century when all but 3 of us got massively sick...on the way home. To this day, Addise lovingly refers to that trip and airplanes as "when we all puked so many times". Yes, baby girl. That's what happened.

Three weeks after we got home from Paradise/Puke-fest, Brian and I headed to Hawaii for a week-long work/birthday celebration trip. Rough start to 2014, right?!? After a few days in Kona learning from YWAM global leaders, we took a quick jaunt over to Maui to celebrate Brian's 35th birthday. We stayed in the lap of luxury and enjoyed our first extended time away together since becoming parents. Thanks, Mom, for making it possible!

In April my man and I got to take another trip to New Orleans where I officiated a most spectacular wedding of a southern belle and a South African at a plantation. It was a most beautiful picture of love and reconciliation.

In May we took a quick trip to San Diego to spend a couple days with Brian's sister's family. We finally got to meet her hubby and 2.5 year old kiddo. Super great.

Of course Brian took his annual trip to mecca - aka Comicon - with a 150,000 of his closest friends. How my introverted husband loves this is so beyond me, but I love that he gets his nerd tank filled every July.

In August the Diaz Cinco took a 2-week, 3,000 mile road trip up Pacific Coast Highway (breathtaking views!) to San Francisco, up to Albany, OR, to Seattle, WA, to Vancouver, Canada, back to Albany, back to Monterey, CA. All along the way we spent time with dear friends and a mentor. It was an epic way to decompress from our recent ministry transition and get uninterrupted time with one another. Our kids LOVED the road trip and we soaked in the sights and ate spectacularly at the best spots along the way.

In Brian's words, "all the vacations were pretty great, the rest was pretty much hard." Truth.

A YEAR OF TRANSFORMATION.

This year our one and only girl, Addise, turned 4, then our "baby", Asher turned 2, and our first born, Judah, turned 6. That's just impossible. They are growing in every way beyond our ability to catch it all. Nearly 4 years into being a family, we felt like this year we moved past survival mode and realized "we're gonna make it" ... and enjoy it a bit along the way. Judah and Addise LOVE preschool and we are crazy grateful for their school, teachers, and classmates. We've found quite the little community there as they partner with us in raising our kiddos to become all God created them to be and do in this world.

In March Judah asked Jesus in his heart on Good Friday while driving in our minivan to the park to play with friends. What a reminder that total transformation is still possible in the most ordinary of places. This little boy has simple childlike faith and exudes Jesus' love.

Perhaps one of my most significant transformations this year was completing my first half marathonin L.A. with Team World Vision.What it did for me physically was powerful, but what it taught me about my mental, emotional and spiritual capacities still astounds me. And running with Team World Vision expanded my great love for our brothers and sisters in Malawi. I literally sobbed in the last 250 yards as I ran into the finish line with Brian pushing our three kiddos. (Hey! I'm running again this year and would love your support. $50 provides 1 person clean water for life!)

June 30th marked the end of a decade long journey for us at Newsong. The transition was a painful and intense because of the depth of love we have for the people we've walked through life with. That community became our family and walked with us through the lowest and highest moments of our life. We are forever grateful even in the midst of loss.

The Summer was dubbed the "summer to remember"! And it was all about reconnection, healing, recovery, and recalibration for what's next for our family. I read books and listened to endless talks on transition, leadership, and spiritual formation in mass proportion. It went entirely too fast and was exactly what our family needed.

Asher potty trained himself on a Tuesday afternoon in September. (He's a total third child.) I'm not kidding. Bless him! We are diaper free and pretty much loving it.

Brian got Lasik. Addise and I got glasses. Whatever.

I traveled 17 times in the Fall while Brian valiantly held down the fort keeping 3 kids alive and working his part-time job whenever he could get a spare minute. My greatest joy was the ability to work with remarkable churches and youth workers from all over the country. Brian's greatest joy was me coming home after every trip ... and knowing that one of us is almost always caring for our little ones. I'm also pretty excited that I earned a new airline status to make travel a little easier in 2015.

Seriously, though, it's not the easiest of things to move from a 17-year local church / pastoral vocation into the world of independent contracting. I'm really grateful for the work I've done this year with Slingshot Group, The Youth Cartel, and Fuller Youth Institute - and the myriad of other churches and leaders I was able to serve and (hopefully) strengthen for their mission. It's been really transformative to see great people doing great work in a variety of great ways.

A YEAR OF CHALLENGES.

Change always means loss, but it can also meet a longing. Most definitely leaving a 10-year job that I loved was filled with loss for us but it also opened us to a myriad of opportunities we never would've dreamed of a year ago. The challenge of letting go allowed us to cling more to our God and each other, while opening ourselves to new, undiscovered dreams and longings. We are challenging ourselves daily with living those dreams and taking risks to become all we are meant to be. 2015 will present a new set of challenges, but we are stronger now than we were a year ago and we are ready!

While on vacation in August, Addise and I were in a car accident with our dearest friends, Emily and Erin. Getting rear-ended lead us to massive pain, 30+ chiropractor visits over 3.5 months. It wasn't until mid-December that we really recovered. Chronic pain is no joke. We're grateful for great treatment (yay Dr. Dave!) and healing (yay God!).

Raising three little people challenges us daily. Brian and my conversations are often lamenting, confessing, processing, and questioning how we can raise them better. Going from zero to three kids in 15-months has pushed us heart and soul. We finish our days exhausted and grateful for the grace to be their mom and dad. We desperately depend on new mercies every morning.

In whatever state this Ebenezer-of-a-letter finds you in, we wish you a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of 2015. And when you find yourself in unhappy moments, may the JOY Jesus came to bring meet you there, too.

Here's to all kinds of adventures in 2015!

Much Love...

 photo by emily bell

photo by emily bell

World Adoption Day

A few months ago after a typical midweek dinner, I had a thought. A prompting actually. I asked Judah if he knew what the word "adopted" meant.

Judah and his younger sister were adopted from Ethiopia in 2011. After a calling from God to adopt, a subsequent excruciating infertility journey, and a 22-month adoption process, God gave us Judah Abebayehu and Addise Aster Tarike. Judah was 2 1/2 years old and Addise was 11 month when they came home January 15, 2011.

Now, Judah and Addise are thriving nearly 4 years later in our family. God's restored so much in our lives and theirs. After dinner that night, that question blurted out of me:

Me: Judah, do you know what the world 'adopted' means? Judah: Yeah, it means that you take someone into your family and you love them forever. Me: That's right buddy. That's exactly what that means.

Heart. Melted. Yes, that's what adoption means.

Over the past nearly 4 years, we've been diligent toward opening conversations about their adoption. Their names carry their birth country and birth names. We celebration Melkam Gena (Ethiopian Christmas on January 7th) every year. We frequently discuss their adoption and answer their questions as they arise. Their whole stories are important to us...and them. Their birth country and families are paramount to their story.

This journey has been anything but easy. When I think about the first 6 months Judah was home, it levels me to think about how far he's come. Judah's one resilient boy. He's lost so much - a birth country, a language, a people. But he's also gained health, a family, and hope for life.

At 6 years old, he gets that adoption is more than a legal process. It's about love and forever and commitment and a future. As I watch him in this moment contentedly watching a Batman cartoon, I can't help but to smile in gratitude for how far God's brought us all.

I also remember a conversation we had last month. Together, Judah and I were folding laundry and for whatever reason I said,

Me: Who's in charge of our family? Judah: You guys (mom and dad)...WAIT! GOD! God's in charge of our family. Me: Let's certainly hope so. Judah: Yeah, because God makes everything better. Because he's the King!"

God really does make everything better. We trust him in the midst of an orphan crisis. And we trust him when God brings those orphans into families and everything turns upside down. We trust him in it all because he is the King.

I was invited to be a World Adoption Day Ambassador, and couldn't be happier. Adoption matters. Even in the midst of great loss and grief, restoration is the end of the story. And today we smile because of the goodness adoption has brought our family.

One the first #WorldAdoptionDay, I hope you'll join our family as we celebrate how God restores families, even in the midst of brokenness and loss. See more of what's happening globally with this movement here: WorldAdoptionDay.org.

 Judah and Addise, we love you no matter what. Our hearts - and hands - are smiling because you are a part of our forever family. XOXO ~ Momma and Dadddy

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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

A Few "Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker" Stories

bookMy first book has been out for 9 days and I'm already SO VERY encouraged by the responses from youth workers, senior pastors, parents, coworkers, and those I've never met. Books have already been shipped to New Zealand, Japan, France, Australia, and Canada. In fact, one pastor in Canada pre-ordered 20 copies to share with a network of youth workers throughout Canada. How cool is that?!? This book is already global! The Amazon reviews are increasing as people read the book. My Twitter feed is filling with very encouraging words. One of the trends I'm most excited about is the book isn't confined to 1) youth pastors or 2) a singular person. This book was written for THE CHURCH and to be read in teams. Those who've read it know if a sole youth pastor reads this book, significant change will not take place. The heart of soul of this book is for anyone who loves teenagers, which begs for groups of people  to read it together and determine the implications for their contexts.

I wanted to share a couple quick stories of how this book is intersecting the dreams and struggles of leaders across the country.

Last week I got these two tweets from Wes Trevor (@thecombackkid):

"Not going to lie, it's been a tough few weeks emotionally in ministry. Lots of pondering. But @aprilldiaz new book has given hope 4 future."

"So friends, it's probably good to go pick up Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker by @aprilldiaz. Great primer for future prof. ministry."

Yes! A deep breath of gratitude that this book is making its way into the hearts of leaders! Then, today I get this email:

I had a long talk with my pastor/boss last Thursday about our youth ministry, my role, Sticky Faith, etc. and I left feeling unsettled and dissatisfied with where we were at in all of these areas. So, the next morning when I was doing my quiet time I randomly had the thought to google "Redefining the Role of the Youth Pastor" and no joke, your book came up right away. I obviously had to order it, because, hello, crazy coincidence (more like divine intervention)!

It already came and I'm almost done reading it and it's exactly what I needed for this particular time/stage in our ministry. That is actually how I found out about the cohort because I went to your website to find out more about the book before it arrived. Also, another moment of divine intervention.

Thanks so much! Jessica

I am hopeful this is the beginning of some real movement toward integration in our churches, families, and communities. Undeniably, God is on the move and I'm so grateful my little book is part of that movement!

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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

Welcome to aprildiaz.com

I started blogging at Plan A Ethiopia in early 2009 when we moved from a season of devastating infertility into a hopeful adoption journey. Since then, I’ve been amazed at the power of the global community. After nearly 200,000 visits on my adoption/parenting blog, this website was born.

I’m a big believer that “God’s word to us is almost always for the other” (an idea attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer). Over the years I’ve fallen in love with multiple groups of people - and the interplay between them! - as I’ve worked with these amazing folks.

  • Leaders
  • Orphans and the foster care/adoption community
  • Women, particularly working moms and vulnerable women
  • Teenagers

Somedays, these are disconnected smatterings of people. Other days, they are inextricably bound. Everyday, they carry a part of my heart.

If you know me, you know that I’m a working paradox. I’m fierce yet tender, faith filled yet deeply struggling, fun yet stupidly serious, future focused and desperately practicing to “be here now”.

This site is truly a working expression of who I am and what I do. At my core, I’m all about team. My hope for this site is that it would create forums for conversation and action. And that God would use my voice to build a collective voice into a community.

When I started blogging in 2009 I had no idea what was to come. May this site also be immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine [Ephesians 3:20-21].

Thanks for stopping by! Join the journey with me.

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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.