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

Orphan Sunday Matters

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Today is Orphan Sunday. It may better to me than Christmas and Easter. To me it feels like Christmas and Easter wrapped up into one Sunday - doing what Jesus came to do by loving the motherless and fatherless of our world. Today was epic at our church, Newsong. It was our fourth Sunday as a local church, joining with the global church by linking arms on behalf of the orphans and vulnerable children of our world. Orphan Sunday was started several years ago by a pastor of a church in rural Zambia. He said "enough is enough" with their local orphan crisis and rightfully acknowledged that if the crisis was to change, the church would be the solution. Orphan Sunday is personal to us.

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Three years ago today, Brian and I were in Ethiopia meeting Abebayehu and Tarike for the first time. Later that same week, they legally became our children -  Judah Abebayehu and Addise Aster Tarike Diaz.

While we were in Ethiopia, our local church hosted our first Orphan Sunday. Our announcement was shared that day to squeals of praise in our church. See that epic video here...

http://vimeo.com/16811278

Today, I was buckets of tears again. Grateful for this profound privilege we have in parenting Judah and Addise. Grateful they are no longer orphans. Thankful that caring for vulnerable kids locally and globally has become a part of our culture at Newsong. Worshipful that God would allow us as his adopted sons and daughters to join him in the calling to love these children. One of my dear friends, Abe, preached on all these deep, simple theological truths. He also shared this video. Grab a handful of Kleenex. Adoption not only changes a child's life, it transforms an entire family...

http://youtu.be/B0N8P2JMbeo

I hope your church will host an Orphan Sunday next year (the first Sunday of November). It's truly changed our church as we've discovered the heart of God and follow as he leads.

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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.

3 Year Referral-versary + Another Miracle

Today marked 3 years since we first saw Judah and Addise's faces for the first time. I revisited the three posts announcing the call, our referral and initial stories about Lil' A and Baby T...they're still riveting. Mostly, I think it's because I can't believe this miracle we get to live.

There are a few things I've learned since first seeing Lil' A and Baby T's faces.

  1. It really is possible to fall in love at first sight. We loved them - no matter what! - from the moment we laid eyes on them. They filled our hearts.
  2. God's story is always better than the story I'd write. We experienced our share of setbacks, bumps, and turmoil along the way - from infertility to extended adoption to surprise pregnancy - we've lived a crazy story. But in hindsight I'm so grateful for every, single part of our story. 
  3. The miracle is always worth it. I wish miracles came neatly packaged and via happy-go-lucky means but that's rarely the case. Miracles nearly always come after a lot of pain and challenge. That's what makes them miraculous. We experienced another miracle this weekend (SEE STORY BELOW!), and even in the funk of it all I wish for another way. Sometimes I don't even want the miracle. I want the easy way. Yet, at the end of the day, I want my life - our lives - to be a miracle story. A story that only God could write. A story that has the supernatural fingerprints of God all over it. A life that I could never create even in my wildest dreams. I want a miraculous life but I now know what that means.


On that divine morning on August 16, 2010, Brian and I opened our emails and saw these two littles ones who would become our own. Bone of our bones. Flesh of our flesh.






ANOTHER MIRACULOUS STORY. Fast forward to today. The final bit of paperwork in our 3.5 year adoption process was re-doing their social security cards. You see, when Judah and Addise's adoption was completed, they entered the U.S as American citizens under the names Abebayehu Brian Diaz and Tarike Brian Diaz. Because of tax and medical purposes we had to (nearly immediately) get their social security cards under those names. We were assured that when we did their adoption re-finalization in court that we could simply do a name change for their social security cards. During the court re-finalization process, we legally changed their names to Judah Abebayehu Diaz and Addise Aster Tarike Diaz. Their California birth certificates prove it.

Simple right? Ya right.

Today we finally made time for me to go back to the Social Security office with the proper paperwork (1 inch thick folder, mind you). I waited for B3 to be called for over an hour and a half. Finally, my number was called and I confidently stepped to my slotted plexiglass window and said why I was there. I gave the lady Judah's paperwork and she went to work. All seemed well, until she got to Addise's paperwork. She saw one line in her re-finalization paperwork:

Name Before Adoption: Tarike Tinno 

Name After Adoption:  Addise Aster Tarike Diaz

The Social Security clerk saw a missing link between her birth name, her citizenship name, and her re-finalization name. There was missing paperwork, as in NO legal U.S. paperwork with her birth name on it (the same was true for Judah but she missed it). She explained the problem and my anxiety spiked. I calmly tried to explain that no such paperwork existed. I tried to explain the Ethiopian system, the U.S. protocol, the required information in the re-finalization process.

She wouldn't budge. She offered to bring over a supervisor to address the issue. I readily accepted. As the supervisor came over, desperate prayers began. I knew

WHAT THEY WERE ASKING FOR DOESN'T EXIST. 

THERE'S NO U.S DOCUMENTATION OF ADDISE'S BIRTH NAME.

I shared that with the supervisor. We went back and forth. Emotion started rising. The supervisor offered for another supervisor to come. I accepted. I went back to my seat in the giant waiting room and began panicking. Immediately, I texted Brian who was wondering what was taking so long. I pleaded for him to pray. Then, I began texting some prayer warriors. I tried to communicate the roadblock quickly, simply, and as desperately as I knew how. Within minutes prayers, Scripture references, and simple "PRAYING NOW" texts flooded my phone.

I sat in the waiting room as tears streamed down my face. Literally, sobbing with desperation and helplessness. Confused fellow-waiters stared at me, wondering what could cause that emotion while in the Social Security office.

As I waited for the second supervisor's assistance, one prayer intercessor texted:

Rest in the comfort of knowing that God knows their names. He knows! He knows and see your heart for Judah and Addise, April. Love and blessings over the angel at the Social Security office that is there to help you - one that needs to hear your family's story. Can't wait to hear the blessing that will come through this.

SOBBING. God knows their names. The very thing I was advocating for them, God knows. He could move mountains and make a way through incongruent bureaucratic policies to give our children their names. God knew their identity and I was their voice.

Twenty minutes later the supervisor was ready for me. Shaking I made my way with my thick paperwork folder to share our story with her. I cried the entire time. She listened. She rummaged through the paperwork. She firmly stated that "no one would put their stamp of approval on this case because there's a missing link between their names". She didn't even know what to recommend to remedy the situation. She confirmed we did the Social Security process and the re-finalization process correctly. She even affirmed that these were the same kids throughout all the name changes. She literally didn't know what to tell me. We were stuck.

Somewhere in the midst of that chaos, our angel appeared. I don't know what you imagine angels look like, but ours was an older, white man who could be easily mistaken as a wonderful ogre. He stood up from the next cubicle and simply said, "I just dealt with an Ethiopian case like this and there's no paperwork that exists for what we normally do. So we made an exception and gave them the cards." Hope.

The supervisor disappeared for a little while again. When she came back all I remember her saying is "we will do it for you". I literally burst into tears and muttered "thank you" over and over again. Then, she said, "the man in the next window will take care of everything for you".

Our ogre angel.

Only a few minutes later, the ogre angel was ready for me and he kindly waved me over to his plexiglass window. He warmly and light-heartedly asked for our paperwork, and through bloodshot eyes looked down and joked "what exactly would you like?" He took it all and started with Judah. A few minutes later he pulled a box of Kleenex out from under his wings (hehe), pushed them under the window, and gently said "they shouldn't put people like you through things like this". I blubbered out, "You're right! Thank you!"

After another 45-minutes at the ogre angel finished typing away at his computer and copying our mound of paperwork. Officially he said, "Your cards should arrive in the next week. Congratulations!" I stood up and tears spilled out again as I said, "You were our angel today. I can't say thank you enough! Today is our 3-year anniversary since we first saw their faces. Thank you. If I could hug you I would." He thrust his hand through the slot in the window and grabbed my hand with both his and he said, "Take care of those kids, okay?" I nodded and boldly said "Yes sir. We will."

I walked away. Exhausted. Relieved. Fully aware of the miracle we just experienced. I am fully confident that we would not have had that result were it not for the prayers of many who saw my texts, tweets, and Facebook status updates. There was every reason we would be stonewalled indefinitely from Judah and Addise's names being corrected.

God made a way. He knew their names. And this day, in the Social Security office, a miracle happened.

Celebrating all the goodness of today with ice cream - a real treat in our family!
How they've grown.


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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.