A Look into Adoption from an 8th Grader's Perspective

Brooke is one of the most creative, articulate, wise, "old souls" I've ever know. She's graduating from 8th grade this month. Two years ago her family adopted a beautiful, sweet, boy from Korea. The past couple years haven't been the easiest like some adoptive families would like you to believe about their "happily ever after". In some of the clearest words with simple, creative visuals Brooke tells her story and the story of her family.

Her story is a must-watch if you're adopting, know someone who has, or are considering adoption. It tells the whole story, and the whole story is worth telling.

** NOTE: Brooke's family attends our church. I got to know her last year when she was in my student leadership group. We've known her mom for years; she was our social worker when we were adopting Judah and Addise. We love this family. They gave me permission to share.

A Review of Bread & Wine (better late than never)

A few months ago I was invited to read Shauna Niequist's newest book, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes. I jumped at the opportunity because 1) I adored (!!) her first two books, 2) I'm always looking for a good read outside of leadership and spiritual formation books, and 3) who doesn't love a free book?!? 

I've known Shauna from up close and from afar since circa 1998. We worked together and were in the same small group for a moment in time, but for the past decade I've admired and cheered her on from the West coast. I love the voice she's developed and the platform God's given her. I love women like her using their gifts in ways to make us all better.

I promised to review the book before it was officially released in mid-April. Oops. I wish it was because I've been consumed cooking myself through the recipes in the book, but it's merely life that delayed my review.

So, on to the official review. Let me be clear and frank with you about Bread & Wine: THIS IS HER BEST WORK TO DATE! To say I loved Bread & Wine would be an understatement. I gobbled up every word, disciplining myself to read slowly, savored in her carefully articulated words, chewed on the timeless truth told from everyday and exotic stories, and salivated the richness of those darn recipes. Perhaps the proof is that I intend to read it again and make every single recipe in this book. If that's not a commendation in the midst of this ridiculous season of my life, I don't know what is. You can order it here

As I read, a couple realities confronted me. To know me is to know that I am not oh-so domestic. I do not cook well; I throw meals together from the handful of "recipes" that are second nature to me. I do not bake; I buy my sweet treats. I'm not the most hospitable host. Our family motto is "mi casa es su casa", so make yourself at home when you take your shoes off at the door.

But through stories and Scripture and sensory experiences, Shauna casts a vision for life around the table - literally and figuratively - with those you love and those in need and those who need a safe space. I found myself compelled and challenged and called to extend the gift of hospitality, to be more mindful of who I invite into my life and space. My expectations are not unrealistic, but I appreciated these words, 

If you put in the time, the learning, the trying, the mess, and the failure, at the end you will have learned to feed yourself and the people you love, and that's a skill for life - like tennis or piano but yummier and far less expensive. I'm not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I'm talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crust and cruelty of the day. (from the "start where you are" chapter)

I will start from where I am. That's a good reminder for most everything.

Of course, many of Shauna's stories are from a life I will not live (summers on Lake Michigan, a childhood with extensive international travel, multiple vacations a year), but that's not the point. These are great stories. Stories of vision and a calling to live deeply in the life you've been given. Still there are so many common stories - of miscarriage, jeans that don't fit postpartum, celebrating your mom's 50th birthday, living in the tension of being working mom, and grieving through death. These stories I can relate to and the other stories are simply fun.

I'm called to love and togetherness and caring for my body and the world. This book shows me how to do that just a little more. Cheers.

Shauna doing her thing!

More on Shauna
Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life--friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.

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.

Tributes this Mother's Day

This day. This day is chock full of emotion. I get it.

  • Prior to 2007 :: Mother's Day was only to be celebrated because I am blessed with a most incredible mother and two amazing grandmas.
  • 2007-2008 :: We were in the thick of infertility treatments. I was aching to be a mom. Mother's Day plain sucked and I wanted to die in a hole.
  • 2009 :: Hope emerged as we began our adoption journey. I also spoke at our church that Sunday. (The message can be found HERE)
  • 2010 :: It was still just Brian and me.
  • 2011 :: Then there were 4 Diaz's. My first Mother's Day.
  • 2012 :: Then there were 5 Diaz's. Asher joined our family and actually came HOME from the NICU on Mother's Day. Well played, God.
  • 2013 :: Celebrating motherhood with 3 healthy children.

On this day, I recognize those women who have forever changed me as a woman and as a mom.

Mom, you truly have shown me how to mother because of your never-ending sacrifice and love for your children. You always have time for us. Constantly celebrate with us. Pray diligently for us. Faithfully correct us. And you still love our Dad. Thank you for loving me in such a way that mothering has come natural to me. I love you.

Grandma Getz, since I was a little girl, you've shown me that it's okay to be me and have applauded my gifts, strengths, and passions. I hope I make you proud. Grandma Neukomm, you've loved your family faithfully and diligently. Thank you for your committed love for us and our God.

My mother-in-law - Laura, you've given me the greatest gift - your son! He is the most upright, loyal, strong, dedicated, loving, and faithful man I've ever known. Thank you for your part in raising him to be the man he is to me and our children.

My sisters-in-law - Zobeida, Liz, Vivian, and Sarah Beth. You are all, sincerely, amazing mothers. 11 kids between the 5 of our families. I'm deeply grateful that my kids get to call you "aunt". I love you all.

The women who long to be called "mom" - SK, BSM, KPS to name a few. I see you today and pray with you. This is not the end.

To the working moms all around me - Rebecca, Jeanne, Kara, Julie, Hana, Tara, Mindy. The way you love your children and are obedient to your calling takes my breath away and pushes me. You help me believe I, too, can do this. You inspire me to kick down walls for our daughters.

To the adoptive/foster care momma's who fill me with hope and joy and compassion, especially Erin. You remind me I'm not crazy. You validate, instruct, and give grace to my "kiddos from hard places" and remind me that parenting them isn't "just like" parenting my bio son. You affirm the great calling that is adoption and love me on the good and hard days.

Finally, to the mothers who made me a mom - Judah and Addise's birth mothers. I weep when I think of the necessary sacrifice you made for your son and daughter. It is my greatest privilege and pleasure to mother Abebayehu and Tarike. They would make you proud and filled with joy. We love them as our own, no matter what. You have my greatest respect and affection.

And now, a few pictures of the wonders that make today a very, very good day...

I love how they love each other.

The ones who call me "mommy".
The sunglasses hide my tired eyes, my tears of gratitude, and the sparkle in my eyes that they bring to my life.
It really is unfair how cute my kids are. :)

Brian surprised me by taking us back to where 1-year ago we celebrated Mother's Day while Asher was in the NICU. This Mother's Day he partied with us.

Flowers from a friend who thanked me once again for giving that "real" Mother's Day talk 4 years ago.  A reminder that our whole stories are worth sharing. Always. And that sharing our pain really can become a platform for transformation.
Mother's Day 2012. Asher came home from the NICU!

2012 :: Leaving the hospital. The little nugget in the background is Asher.
One year later. Pure goodness.

My Guest Post - Moving Beyond Survival

Whoever says that friends cannot be made online is just wrong.

Bex Mann is my friend. And we have never met face-to-face.

Bex and I started connecting online in 2009 when our adoption journeys coincided. Over the past nearly 4 years Bex has been deeply connected to every stage in our adoption and parenting story, as I have been with hers. The similarities in the ways our motherhood evolved are eery - from infertility to adoption to getting pregnant within weeks of each other. It's a connection and story that only God could write. Bex has become a fast-friend as we've prayed for each other, wept over each other's common pain, celebrated with "only God" moments, and "liked" nearly every picture each other has posted on Instagram. I'm deeply grateful for her. She's way hipper, skinnier, and younger than I am and I covet her hair. But we both have nose rings so that evens the playing field.

When Bex asked if I'd write a guest post on her blog, I quickly said "yes" then wrote a raw post late one evening while Asher slept beside me. I love her blog. Please check it out. The original post can be read HERE (including a too-kind introduction to me), but my post is below.

Moving Beyond Survival

For years we l.o.n.g.e.d to have a family. We tried the easy way, the hard way, the prayerful way, the natural way, the medical way…every way we knew how. When we reached our limit trying to have biological babies, we moved toward a dream God had put in our hearts years earlier – international adoption. Soon into our adoption process, I bumped in Bex in blog-land. A fast, mutual, and affectionate online friendship began. Though I’ve never met her in real life, we’ve prayed each other through years of crazy infertility, adoption, and pregnancy adventures.

After nearly 4 years from beginning to end, we brought home Judah and Addise (add-i-say) from Ethiopia. Just months later, the Mann’s brought home breathtaking Mercy. Judah was 2 ½ years old; Addise was just 11 months. Then, miraculously, 9 months later we were pregnant. Go back and read that again. PREGNANT. (Coincidentally, Bex got pregnant about a month before I did!) WITH CHILD. Then, our little bio boy decided he needed to meet his Ethiopian siblings early, so he arrived 7 weeks early.

In 15 months we went from zero to three children - 3 ½ years old, 2 years, and a newborn. And we effortlessly moved into survival mode. After years of longing, here we were. A not-so-instant family with a bazillion needs – medical, attachment, emotional, developmental.

Occasionally I showered, but I put on make-up every day just to feel a little feminine. For months, droves of friends brought food, ran errands, and cared for our basic needs. My mom visited from the Midwest to offer support and cooking skills about 6 times. Once an avid reader, I didn’t read a single book for over a year. I cleaned my house about every 3 weeks. I never, ever, ever worked out, though I grimaced at the post-baby pounds that didn’t fall off with breastfeeding like everyone promised (Liars, all of them). My husband got laid off from his job this past fall. All the while I continued pastoring full-time at our church. Life was – and is – crazy.

I’ve come to believe that surival mode is a gift from God. He graced us with the cloud of ignorance because we just couldn’t do anything more than survive. Now, 27 months into parenting our little brood I’m beginning to lift my head from the tyrrany of the urgent. Beginning. I’ve realized that our family’s had three unwritten, barely articulated goals in the madness of these past 2 years.

First, get $h!t done. Kids need to eat at least three times per day. They need clean diapers every once in a while. Dishes need to make their way from the table to the sink to the dishwasher. Baths are helpful a couple times a week. We need clean clothes. Bills must be paid. Email needs to be checked. Meetings needed to be planned and lead well. Plans needed to be developed. Everyday there’s just a lot of stuff to get done. So, get as much done as divinely possible.

Second, keep people alive. This is where meals and safety and wisdom came into play. But mainly feed the little ones and make sure they don’t drown in the bathtub while you’re cooking pasta.

Third, love each other as best we can. Our oldest two kiddos came home from Ethiopia with a host of (expected) issues – medical, language, developmental, attachment. Our littlest one came home from the hospital with a couple, minor medical issues and normal newborn needs. It’s very easy to let the multitude of real needs overtake the greatest need. At the end of the day, have we spoken kindly to each other? Have we smothered each other in kisses? Have my kids heard me say more than once today “I love you, no matter what”? Have our kids seen me kiss my husband and connect with him more than just as a “divide and conquer” partner? Have we smiled at each other more than we’ve barked instructions as we get $h!t done? Have we said “I’m sorry; will you forgive me” as needed? Love covers a multitude of sins.

So, that’s where we are these days. Three simple goals that are about more than we can handle. Sure, I can’t wait to get back to my pre-baby weight and go on bi-monthly dates with my man and have a normal 8-hour work day, but those days will come. I’m learning to embrace all the more the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11) that Jesus offers me. He knows my madness and he’s okay with my survival these days. It’s actually in that surival that I can experience that supernatural grace and power that I desperately need. Amen.

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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.

Asher's Shower

Six days after Asher was born, I had my previously scheduled baby shower. My friends who threw the shower tried to convince me all week that we should postpone it. "You've just had major surgery!" "You need to rest!" "Let's postpone until Asher comes home!" I stayed the course and convinced them I could do it. I'm so glad I did. It was good for my soul to be with women who love me and my family. The shower took the sting out of Asher being in the NICU instead of my arms. And let's be honest, we needed the gifts to bring home Asher!!
I've had two of the most AMAZING baby showers in the last 18 months. At my last baby shower, I had just left Judah and Addise in Ethiopia and was a blubbering idiot at my shower. Then, at this shower I left Asher in the NICU. Geez. No more baby showers for me. These were two very emotional and non-traditional baby showers for me and my friends.

May the pictures can share the story of this incredible afternoon with my friends...

Cutest cake you ever did see!
Everything had a personal touch.
All the desserts were made by one of the girls on my team - a baker at heart!

Every guest made their own party favor - personalized bags with Asher's birth information. Every guest also signed a handmade guestbook, complete with their address (easy for thank you notes!). Finally, everyone wrote in a book with "mommy advice". These words were beyond general - they spoke into who I truly am and what I need to be a great mother. THANK YOU, RAI, for creating such meaningful, personalized items.
To say my friends are "generous" is just too flighty a word. Thankfully, they didn't make me open gifts at the shower. Afterward, I opened gifts for two days.
Maybe the best part of my shower: my daughter and my mom were there. My mom flew into town just a few hours before the shower. A dream come true to have her there.

She who walks with the wise grows wise (Proverbs). These are some amazing women in my life. Over the past 7+ years these women have spoken into my life, walked with me, and transformed me.
No caption can capture her beauty or personhood. Loved having my daughter with me at this shower. To say she was given too much sugar by all her aunties is an understatement.
Adorable clothes line of baby clothes. The preemie clothes look like doll clothes. The great attention to detail and thoughtful, meaningful interactions blew my mind!
Every guest spoke a prayer and word of blessing for Asher and me. The white beads are for Asher's birth month (diamonds) and the green beads for mine (peridot). They were all strung on to a necklace for me. Beyond amazing!
The icing on the cake: Carol (in above necklace picture) secretly talked with my mom who wrote me a two page letter of blessing and wisdom. Yes, I cried.
Most of the women who showered us with love. Massive love and thanks to Rai, Carol, Sookyung for hosting this lavish affair. Though I still look 9 months pregnant here, I had to post this picture of my beautiful community.

I left full and exhausted. What a day. It truly takes a village and this village is a keeper. Much love and thanks to my community for showering us with love.


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.