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.

We're Moving

Never say never. For the past nearly 11 years we've lived in SoCal, Brian and I have said "we'd never want to move." We love SoCal. It's become home to us in every way. We've both now lived in Orange County longer than anywhere else. Eleven of our 14 years of marriage have been in the OC. We journeyed through rough waters of marriage and infertility and job loss here. We became parents three times over here. We bought our first little (very little) home in Tustin. We fell in love with the cultural and ethnic diversity...oh the food options! We found ourselves in the ethnic minority in our church (and found ourselves very much at home with that reality), and discovered entirely new facets of God and Kingdom living because of it. We found family at a local church for so many years...friends who became family whom we will forever deeply love and treasure. We fell in love with the beach, all the days of sunshine, and the beautiful running trails. We happily explored this vast state and made it our home for the past 11 years.

Home isn't a location; home is people, a place to belong.

So we will build a new home ... in Northern Indiana. It's a God-sized story, so settle in with a cup of coffee and get your "amens" ready. We've said for years that we want to live an "only God" kind of story, and this is yet another one to tell.

On New Years' Eve eve (December 30th, 2014), my mom called me. She said, "I have an idea, but you have to promise to 1) not to laugh and 2) pray about it." I promised the latter, not the former. She went on to explain the company my brother, Matt, works for was hiring a bunch of managers to lead divisions of the company. And together they thought this company would most definitely hire Brian. I asked some questions during that phone call, and Brian could see my face throughout the conversation. He thought something was wrong by my facial expressions.

Immediately, I knew this was something we needed to consider. I quickly shared everything with Brian and he practically shrugged off the idea. I didn't. Something inside me told me this was for real. For the next couple days, Brian and I didn't talk about the possibility, but I went into a dark place. I think my spirit knew we needed to pursue this, but it could also mean leaving this place and the people we so deeply love. I cried multiple times and finally I broke down to Brian.

So during the month of January we began talking about it with some wise counsel and with each other. For the past year, we've asked our intercessory prayer team to consistently pray about three things:

  1. Brian working full-time again - after nearly 3 years of being a stay-at-home daddy, Brian's ready to get back into the work force, especially since Asher can go to preschool this Fall.
  2. Our finances - living in SoCal on one salary of independent contractor income has proven to be quite challenging. Add in the fact we don't have family nearby, and considering future planning...it's just been unnecessarily hard.
  3. The ability to move into a bigger home - this is connected to the first two points, but leaving our condo would require more financial reserve which we just haven't been able to move toward in the past few years. Living in 1050 sq.ft. with 5 people, 3 of whom are rapidly growing, is a pressure cooker of stress!

In mid-February, Brian submitted his resume to Lippert Components (an RV manufacturing company that's grown from $70M to a $1.3B company over the past 15 years!). We didn't hear anything for nearly a month. Hmmm... Brian kept reaching out and expressing interest. They finally responded and Brian began a series of phone conversations with different people. Easter Sunday morning, Brian actually drove out to Corona and met with one of the HR Managers (she was on vacation) for a brief meeting to get a sense of chemistry. The process continued to move forward. Finally on April 20th they asked if he could come out to Indiana for a "final, more formal interview and to do some house hunting". 

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind!! Here's the detailed play-by-play:

  • Week of April 20: I am making final preparations for the Women in Youth Ministry Campference I am leading in NC; Brian arranges for a final interview trip to the South Bend area; we are feverishly house hunting online.
  • April 22: We list our condo for sale...we decide I'd rearrange my trip home from NC and join Brian in South Bend to do some house hunting.
  • April 23: We celebrate Asher's 3rd birthday ... complete with a day at Disneyland on the 24th (thanks to a generous friend!).
  • April 25: Condo open house!!! (Getting your house ready to sell with three little ones is no joke.)
  • April 26-29: I lead the Women in Youth Ministry Campference in NC with 60+ women attending. It is incredible.
  • April 27: We receive an offer for our condo...$5K above asking price! I find myself e-signing seller documents in NC at midnight and excitedly house hunting online in IN. (Funny Note: 9 years ago, I was signing papers to buy this condo while leading at a youth ministry retreat at Forest Home! Some things never change.) 
  • April 29: I fly to Ft. Wayne at midnight in preparation for the house search.
  • April 30: Brian flies in at midnight to prepare for the final stretch of this job interview. (My mom flys from Ft. Wayne to SoCal to watch our babies while we do this.)
  • May 1: Brian's final interview at Lippert and he receives a verbal offer!! I spend the day house hunting in the South Bend area, and Brian joins me to look at a few houses in the afternoon.
  • May 2: Brian and I house hunt together and find "the one".
  • May 4: We submit an offer for a house in the South Bend area (Granger specifically)...it's accepted with only a minor change in closing date!!!
  • May 5: Brian accepts Lippert's official offer to become a manager in one of their divisions.

Here's our new house...I can't wait to make it our own!

Why Are We Moving?

It's time. It's the right thing to do. Remember those three things we've asked our intercessors to pray about this past year: Brian's full time employment, our finances, our housing? This move is the answer to all those things. 

PLUS...Our kids need their extended family, perhaps especially our oldest two. We want them to grow up knowing their cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and extended family. Living in Granger, IN will make us 3 minutes from my brother's family, less than 90 minutes from grandparents, Brian's sister's family, and my youngest brother, and a few hours away from his two other sisters' families. The schools are fantastic. It puts us back in Big Ten country, 2 hours from a few of our dearest friends in Chicagoland, and 45 minutes from Lake Michigan (our new "ocean"). 

PLUS...I can work from anywhere. In fact, there are some great  benefits to me working in the middle of the country (ie shorter flights/trips). My bosses at Slingshot Group and The Youth Cartel are uber supportive of this move and have been incredible throughout this discernment process.

What Happens Next?

We begin packing our life up in SoCal and prepare for life in N. Indiana. Our Granger house closes on June 30th, so we'll let our kids finish up their school year and head out on our cross country commute by the last week of June. 

In the meantime, we are committed to saying goodbye to our friends and loved ones here. We have a bucket list of things to see, do, and eat before we leave. I'm sure we won't be able to finish it all! But dangit we will try!

If you have moving boxes and supplies, share the love. If you want to help us pack boxes, God bless you...come on over! If you wanna watch our babies while we pack, holler!

Grief and Gratitude

Our 2015 phrase has been: "change can mean loss and change can meet a longing" (Scott Cormode). It truly does. We feel a ton of grief and loss in leaving this place we love so much. And yet this move is meeting a metaphorical ocean of longings that cannot be met in SoCal. 

So, we grieve as we celebrate. We cry quite a bit. We hug our friends a little tighter. We shop Trader Joe's with greater passion. We pick up our kids at their amazing preschool with full hearts. We speed down bustling highways toward the beach with a great anticipation. We drive past our old church with gratitude for what was and who we became there. We slip our flip flops on with a little smile for how many days a year we can actually wear them. We find ourselves detouring drives to see places that have meant something to us. We look at Palm Trees and bougainvillea and jasmine bushes and desperately try to lock their colors and smells in our hearts. 

And we also dream of not missing any more birthdays and holidays with family members, and summer nights with fire pits and fire flies. We imagine frequent trips to the Michigan beaches to get our beach fix. We envision our kids growing up in this house, bringing their friends into our sanctuary. We're already designing how we want to finish our basement to become "the spot" for friends and family to hang out. We celebrate an amazing job for Brian to grow and flourish and use his abundant gifts. We eagerly await physical space for our kids to run around and be kids, and a backyard to play in. Our kids can't wait for a puppy! We have a lot of uncovered dreams that are now possible because of Indiana.

So, we hold it all - as messy as it is.

And we know that it's hard to say goodbye because these past 11 years meant something really significant to us.

We are forever changed and forever grateful. 


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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