5 + 1/2 His Life

It's hard to believe that our firstborn is 5 years old. July 8th celebrates Judah's 5th birthday (according to his records, though we are suspect of his actual birthdate). Perhaps it's mostly hard to believe he's 5 years old because he's only been with us half his life.

Of course, as midnight was approaching on his birthday, floods of gratefulness and sadness filled me as I remembered his birth mother, his birth family. If you've been following our journey since the early days, you'll know that we had the holy privilege of meeting Judah's birth mother in November 2010 when we became his legal parents. You'll also know that's the only part of his birth story we are sharing with anyone. Judah deserves to be the first to know his whole story.

However, on big days like birthdays I cannot help but go back to those minutes with his birth mother, remember her story, recount Judah's origin story, and grieve once again for the trauma his losses have brought him. Yet his birthday is also a reminder of the reckless love and redemption that exists for orphans and longing parents. Judah's story is a story of grace

and power 
and healing
and guttural giggles
and tenderness for the outsider
and a gentle, warmheartedness for what's right
and a strong conscious when he's done wrong
and protective instincts over his little sister and brother
and lavish affection for his momma and daddy
and profuse "I love you's"
and inclinations toward all things superhero, rocket ships, volcanoes, bikes, and new things
and a tenacity to learn and relearn all over again
and tentativeness toward people and things that are not safe
and a full life.

This boy is someone special.

Just a few weeks ago a friend from church told me this story about our son. A little girl wanted her mom in their class and our friend went to comfort the little girl. Judah didn't know this little girl (other than class), still went up to my friend and asked, "What's wrong with her?" My friend comforting the girl said, "She's just sad and misses her mommy." Judah pulled up a chair next to the little girl, held her hand and said, "It's okay. You can leave. I'll take care of her." My friend did as she was told and went to go look for the girl's mommy. Several minutes passed and her momma couldn't be found so my friend went back to check on the little girl. In a room full of busy, active 4- and 5-year olds, Judah was still sitting next to the little girl, holding her hand.

That's our son. Anointed.

Judah's come a long way in the past 2.5 years. He's physically grown so much - weight, height, teeth, potty trained, losing a language (or two) and gaining another. But he's grown in his security, attachment, confidence, understanding, and heart. His growth is captivating.

One of the first pictures when I laid eyes on my son. He was barely (even?) 2. 
8 teeth. 18 pounds here. Brand new in the orphanage in Ethiopia. 
We have no pictures before he turned 2.
This about captures us.

3rd Birthday. His first birthday home! (Only 6 months home)

3rd Birthday. His first bike.
Notice the blocks taped to the pedals. Our little guy couldn't yet reach them.
3rd Birthday. A million kisses are yours.

He loves his daddy.

4th Birthday. No words.
Hanging out. Learning to stand on daddy's shoulders.

More confidence, sureness, and strength every day.

(Illegally) picking flowers for his teachers.
Our favorite Ethiopian restaurant. Celebrating the beauty of his roots.
5th Birthday. How old are you buddy?

5th Birthday. He's getting bigger and bigger. 

5th Birthday. A boy, his daddy, and a lion.
Celebrating his day at the San Diego Safari Wildlife Park. Cute kid kept saying he was going to "Africa" for his birthday. 

I wrote, "Today was perfectly perfect for a 100 reasons. #1 was my 5-year old son. He delights me. Don't deserve to be his forever mom!"

Deserve? No. It's all grace.

Judah, your name means "praise". And you've filled our life with it because of who you are. This next year, your daddy and I bless you with your life verse from Psalm 117
"Praise the Lord, all you nations. 
Praise him, all you people of the earth. 
For he loves us with unfailing love; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. 
Praise the Lord!"

Happy birthday, buddy. Can't wait for this next year of your life. I love every single thing about you!
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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.