Cohorts Catalyze Transformation

A few weeks ago, I launched The Youth Cartel's second women in youth ministry coaching cohort. This group of 9 women are from 6 different states, 6 different denominational churches/organizations, and range in age from early 20s to 50-something. They've been in youth ministry anywhere from just a few months to over 15 years. They met each other on Day 1 and by Day 2 there was already loads of laughter, common connections, inside jokes, a few tears, and shared passion for the work we do.

At dinner after the first day together, one of these women boldly claimed it was her birthday (it wasn't) when a server came to our table inquiring if someone at our table had a birthday. She'll remain nameless, but here's a clue...

We laughed so hard we almost peed our pants. She was delivered a giant singing balloon. a fuzzy tiara was put on her head. And we all sang happy birthday to a girl who's birthday it wasn't.

She owned it. That's part of what I love about this cohort. They are owning it. 

In the 2 weeks since we met, I've already received 3 messages from these women about breakthroughs they've experienced. One young woman has been fearful and insecure about the teaching responsibilities in her job. So we talked through a game plan she could use practically and spiritually. She implemented that plan within a week and her confidence is growing. Another self-proclaimed workaholic emailed me that she was taking 2 whole days off this past week. She's grown tired of owning her workaholism at the expense of her soul. So, she's stopping that limiting belief and choosing a new way forward. YES! Another woman had a looming difficult conversation with her senior pastor. She was very nervous to engage in that conversation but living with that fear was worse than confronting her fear and leaning into a truthful, loving conversation with her boss. The conversation went better than she expected and she's moving into a positive, new workplace reality as a result.

Everyone made commitments about personalized next steps they must take in order to grow. Having the space to get away, learn, reflect, and commit to new practices changes us. 

What continually delights me about coaching is that we have what is needed to be the best versions of ourselves. Scripture affirms that we have been given everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). What being a part of this cohort does is gives these 9 women confidence to believe it. It gives them each other, which reminds them they aren't alone it all and that gives them courage to do what they must to do. The cohort gives them a safe place to say things they aren't sure they can say in other places. Several of my coaching conversations started with "I haven't said this out loud before..." What they shared wasn't illegal or shocking. But it was vulnerable and tough stuff and they weren't sure if those words are always welcomed elsewhere. 

In two days, we were strengthened and sharpened. This is just the beginning of our year together.  I cannot wait to see what God does with these crazy people...

The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because sh*t worked out. They got that way because sh*t went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.
— Elisabeth Gilbert, author

(Special thanks to Granger Community Church for hosting us!!)

What My Garbage Collector has Taught me about Work

Right before Christmas I ran into our garbage collector. He was working hard right up to Christmas Day, so we shared some light jokes and I thanked him for his service to our family and neighborhood. He lit up like a Christmas tree and started bragging on his job.

I do not lie. The man who collects other people's trash for a living began bragging about this work he gets to do.

While I was holding a cooking dish to make Christmas dinner, he told about how much pride he takes in taking care for his truck. Once a week he gets to work early to wash it, Armor-All the insides, vacuum the seats and floors, and buff out his hub caps. Not because he has to (it's not company policy), but because he wants to care for what he's been entrusted. I don't even do that kind of work on my own cars, much less a dump truck. But he does. He told me he wants to be excellent in the work he does. He went on to gush about how he cares about his customers (his words) and he wants their neighborhood to look nice and cared for. He said he gets a part to play in that by cleaning up our trash and taking it away to a place we'll never know about. 

He handles the care of his truck with such professionalism and excellence that the owner of Waste Management noticed and gave him a $500 bonus (out of his own wallet!) for Christmas. Funny enough, the owner asked him if $300 was a good bonus to help him feel appreciated for his service that year and for taking care of the truck. Our garbage collector talked him up $200!! He said, "well, I've kept my truck clean all year!" So he got a couple hundred more dollars. I love it. He stuck up for his hard work and saw the value he brings to the company.

Earlier, last year the owner of Waste Management offered to buy him a new truck. He had an older model and was due for an upgrade. He declined. He told the owner that he didn't need a new truck. His was fine. It worked fine and accomplished the job. He was content with what he had, even when offered something more, better.

That conversation with him lasted about 10 minutes in the alley of our place. I was so inspired. Fast forward...

Yesterday I ran into him again as I was headed out for a meeting, complete with a bag of trash in hand. I turned the corner to see MOUNDS of trash overflowing the dumpsters and overtaking the defined trash bins. My eyes met his and together our eyes rolled and bugged out. We shook our heads in unison. SO.MUCH.TRASH!!!! "So much for a holiday weekend," I said to him.

We commiserated together for a few seconds about how much trash the Memorial Day weekend produced for restaurants and homes. He told me that he was up at 3am, at work by 4am to get started on his route, and at 1pm he wasn't even halfway done with his route for the day! Wow. He'd already worked a 9 hour day and he wasn't even halfway done. He wasn't complaining. He was just telling it like it was.

Again, I thanked him for his service. Again, he beamed and said, "it's my pleasure, ma'am." I believe he really meant that it was his pleasure to pick up my trash. That's a man with some character. Could you say that? I don't think I could.

What if we all had that attitude about our work? What if we saw our work - no matter how inglorious, unappreciated, dirty, or difficult - with that same attitude of our garbage collector. What if we treated our customers with the same respect and dignity, even when we get trashed upon (literally in his case)? What if we got to work early to take care of the tools we'd been given for our job, not because they'd be reviewed in our annual evaluation, but because it was the right thing to do and because we took pride in caring for them?

Most of the time he has a smile on his face and a lightness to his step. He collects smelly, messy, disgusting garbage all day every day. That's his job and he takes pride in it. He has another perspective on it. I see trash. He sees service.

Our garbage collector has taught me a lot about having a different perspective on work. Even when it seems dirty or meaningless or messy, there can be another approach. There can be another way. And even when you're just picking up crap, it can still be important work because of the people you encounter and the greater value behind the work itself. 

I don't know the faith story of our garbage collector, but he's taught me more about this verse than a lot of pastors...

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.
— Colossians 3:23 (The Message)

May your work today be for the right reasons, to honor the right One, giving dignity and respect to those you meet. May your work be excellent, not shoddy. May you do your best as everything you do is unto the Lord.


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.

I am Living MLKs Dream

"I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.I have a dream today!"

Our country has a long way to go, but we are living the dream today. Our three kids are growing up in a world where this is possible because of this man's dream, which is actually Jesus' dream.

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for living your life above fear and the cruelty of systems and choosing the way of Jesus. Thank you for courageously choosing love. Our family thanks you.