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 Our Tears Mean

I get emails from Dr. Henry Cloud regularly. He's been a mentor-from-a-distance for me for years. I'm so grateful for the work he does to bring wholeness and health, especially to leaders. I received this email this morning and it was quite timely. I'm finding myself with a lot of tears in the midst of this life-change. I hope this will be helpful for you (no edits we made from Dr. Cloud's content)...

Our different tears having very different molecular structure! But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense as our tears have very different functions depending on the kind of emotion they are carrying. In these pictures, we see grief, change, onions and laughing. 

One thing they have in common:  they all carry experience. 

They come as you express how you are metabolizing events in your life, heart, mind and soul. So, each one of them is doing its own work, carrying the message of what you have been and are going through to move forward.

So what is the work these tears carry in their various molecular structures? 

Why are they all different?

Grief says that you have lost something you were attached to, invested in, depended on, and most probably loved. In the tears of grief, the message is "it is gone. I have to let go." These tears are doing an important work of taking the pain from letting go out of your system. They are helping you value what or whom you have lost....reinforcing the power of love, reminding you to never forget the importance of that person or investment of your heat. At the same time, they are making space for new investment. They are clearing a room inside for what life is going to bring to you to invest your heart in next. This dance of valuing the past, holding on to what is good from it, and taking it forward into the next investment of the heart, making room for the heart's next chapter, is some of the best work of grief. Where do you need to express some loss and let grief do its work of healing your heart?

Change is a different kind of pain. It rips in a different way, as change gets to patterns and structures that were holding us in tact. Ways that we were doing life, maps we negotiated whether in life for ourselves, with others, or in some area of functioning. Changes means that we have to take in new data, information and ways, rip out the frame and walls of the old "buildings," and begin to try to remodel the house. If you have every been through a remodeling effort, it is messy. It is dusty. It becomes loud, painful, and you feel like you can't figure out where anything goes or how to do anything you used to be able to do. At the same time, it stretches you to new abilities and heights as you develop new muscles and ways to adapt to what you have not seen before. It can be incredibly good, yet incredibly painful. A basic law of growth is change. We cannot grow without it, and we cannot change and grow without "growing pains." What pain of change do you need to lean into now and let the tears do their work?

Onion tears to me are the tears of something invading our system that does not belong there. It is toxic. We reject it. Our chemistry says "go away, get out. You do not make me feel good." We are wired in that way, to know what is toxic to us, what burns us, what we want to "get out of us." It can be the poison of a person, group, organization or almost any aspect of life. Any experience that has a toxic effect on our system is going to feel not good to us. We want it burns. These tears help us get the toxic out. What toxins in your life do you need to cry out now?

Laughing tears are our favorite, for sure. What is laughter except the expression of various positive emotional is mainly  just goodness! You have taken in an experience or realization that has made life lighter. Your body is expressing it as it releases the energy of that joy, and your tears carry that message. An interesting tidbit about is that they release some chemicals that can cause depression, and lighten the internal load. Laughter is certainly good at that, and the energy release is your body letting go. Your tears are good for you....emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally, and in making life work. Embrace them.

One more thing......have you ever wondered why your tear ducts are in your eyes? Why aren't they in your armpits? If they were there you could use some anti-tear deodorant, no one would see them, smell them, or even know you were in pain. But, they are in your eyes for that very reason. Your pain, your tears should be SEEN by someone who is looking right into your soul as you go through that pain.

Your pain needs to be seen and loved in order to completely heal. 


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.

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.