3 Parenting Questions for April Diaz
This post is part of a series celebrating the release of the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family. We’re interviewing parents who serve, think, and write about faith, family, and ministry.
This week we hear from FYI partner and Sticky Faith Certified Trainer April Diaz. April and her husband Brian parent three children, two adopted and one biological, and have learned a ton as an intercultural and adoptive family. April also serves as the Director of Coaching for the Youth Cartel, and last year released her first book, Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker: A Manifesto of Integration.
You and your husband, Brian, are deeply committed to multi-ethnic ministry and relationships. How have those types of relationships benefitted your family? How, if at all, has your commitment negatively impacted your family?
Being part of a multi-ethnic community has utterly changed our understanding of God and the Gospel. Our family is also very multi-ethnic. I'm your boring white, Midwestern girl who married a 1.5 generation Puerto Rican (meaning his parents were born and raised in Puerto Rico, and Brian was born outside the US but moved here as a kid), adopted a couple Ethiopians, and have one biological mixed baby. Our family is quite the picture of diversity. As our family has grown in diversity, it's been very important for us to surround ourselves with others "not like us." After all, the story of the Good Samaritan is really a story about being a neighbor by going toward someone who is not like you. It is in that uncomfortable place where we can lean more into the grace and character of God. The incarnation even becomes more miraculous through that perspective.
As we've interacted with and grown in relationships with cultures unlike our first culture, we can see the fullness of God more. It's allowed our kids to see the family isn't only about bloodlines but it's about love and commitment to one another. I believe each person is created in the image of God. We are his imago dei. And just as each person reflects God's image, I believe each culture embodies a characteristic or attribute of God. We've seen more of how different cultures and ethnicities understand God through their environment, strengths, and especially their pain.
Having adopted two children, what do you wish you had known before they entered your family?
I wish I would've known a couple of things. First, how utterly "my own" they would feel as my kids. I knew I would love them completely, but I didn't realize that our adopted son and daughter would feel as much "my own" as my biological son does. It's an incredible thing God does in our souls to knit us together as a family. It's also been an indescribable transformation for me as I experience God's adoption of me with new understanding. I knew God adopted me as his child because of his work on the cross, but I KNOW it differently now.
Second, I wish I would've known how painful adoption is at every level for the rest of our lives together. The losses our two oldest kids have experienced at such an early age are incomprehensible to me. They've lost birth family, culture, language, heritage, food, and more in order to become ours. We realized that before we adopted them, and embraced that loss with the hope of healing. But I didn't realize how every Mother’s Day my heart would ache as I remember the loss of their first mom. I didn't consider how every time we see a new doctor, I would feel the pang of having to answer "do not know" with every family history question. I never thought about how every birthday I'd be simultaneously so grateful for their birth, yet heartbroken both that I was not a part of that moment and also for the loss of their biological parents. I suppose I wish I would have known how ongoing the painful moments would be, yet also kissed with redemption at every step.
I know prayer is something that is very important to you. How does prayer shape your family? What do you wish your family was doing differently when it comes to prayer?
I really love how my kids will initiate prayer at moments other than meals and bedtime. I also love our rehearsed bedtime prayers when my kids burst out with what they were grateful for in that day. It almost feels like a kid-sized prayer of examen together (on the good days). My tired body is energized when they ask aloud with me that God would "fill their dreams with the Holy Spirit, give them peace, and restore their souls". Those are sweet times as they learn about talking with God.
I wish we were more diligent about asking our kids about where they see God at work (as only a 6, 4, and 2 year old can articulate) and asking God for what they need at any moment throughout their days. Our instruction on prayer is more organic and less structured than I'd like, but maybe that's okay for their ages.