Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Boy's Heart

It's hard for me to figure out where to begin. Quite honestly, I've mostly struggled since coming home from Haiti. I have a lot of questions and a lot of unexplainable emotion but in all that I question, I feel an undoubtable conviction that I do not want to exploit the children I met for the sake of a compelling "sad story" of an orphan, so I've resorted to "safe mode" while I process. I apologize and I thank you in advance for the room to breathe. I went to Haiti with great expectation of glorious stories of a miraculous God too numerous to count!  I never imagined coming home questioning the deepest convictions of what I have believed for so long to make room for truths that are sprouting in my heart that are not easy truths to face, digest or communicate. So until I discern with wisdom the very "story" the Lord wants me to tell about MY OWN adventure in Haiti, I'd prefer to just privately seek God's face with my laundry list of questions and my heaping pile of raw emotion in this desert season of my faith journey. If/When the time comes I'll let you know how I prevailed in my personal wrestling match with God's heart, my belief's and the truth. You probably already know who wins, but shhhh...don't ruin the suspense for me.

None-the-less, that uninviting intro was to preface that I do WANT to share one story with you! There's one that I can't wait to share about Zach, it's the only "for sure" God moment I know I own from this trip, well I own it from the back seat anyway! I haven't had a spare minute to steal a moment to myself, let alone sit down long enough to write since I've returned home to house-full of sickly kids. I wanted to tell our story in chronological order to appease my OCD organizational mind and of course for the sake of a good novel read to build up to the exciting last chapter, but it's not working out that way, so out the window goes my desire to be neat & tidy and in control and you'll just have to hang on for the ride and I'll share as it comes, all messy and unkept, much like my appearance these days! This story is the exciting last chapter about Zach that happened on the last day(s) of our trip.

But first, a quick rewind to the first day to give some backstory for good measure: The first orphanage we went to Foyer De Sion, was filled with 130+ kids. It was "loud & busy" to say THE LEAST and Zach easily found his niche playing sports with the older kids. He didn't even really peek his head inside longer than a few moments the first day we were there, he much preferred the soccer & basketball challenge outside. After the first visit we had some down time, so after he had time to process, I asked Zach what it was like to encounter an orphanage for the first time. I wanted to hear if God had broken this boy's heart for the orphans of the world like God had broken mine so long ago, I was fishing for a big "aha" moment of transformation. His answer was a typical 12yr old kid's response "seems fine, I don't think it would be a big deal to live there, it's not at bad as I thought it would be. I even seen one kid with brand new shoes!" I laughed & I sighed, thinking he doesn't "get it".....yet....but he will, I hope. Then in the following days I began to really ponder what "it" was that I desired "he get" anyway...this sadness that always looms in my heart like a grey cloudy day that never parts? Hmmm, I began to question what "it" really was that I wanted for Zach now that we were here living the reality.

The last days of our trip we spent at Gertrude's Orphanage for disabled children. It was a starkly different scene than the first couple days playing sports in the yard and just having fun with some new kids you met. From the moment we walked into the "therapy room", I could feel the discomfort level tangibly rising like a wave about to overtake you. Quite honestly it can easily become overwhelming when faced with the harsh reality of some of these extremely disabled children's every day reality, and then to embrace multiple severity's at once is a hard sight to see. I instinctively shifted into my motherly mode of dual operation with conflicting concerns to be addressed; I wanted to be a servant to these children, love them unconditionally ~ it's the reason I CAME HERE, so I wanted to be fully present in this moment, model for Zach what it looks like to dive in heart first and simultaneously I wanted to parent my son through this experience, be fully present FOR HIM to help him digest, understand and embrace the moment we were in and the reality that his eyes were being thrust open to see. I wanted to hide away with him in a corner so I could help hold his little heart as he suddenly looked like a lil babe to me too young to be here.  There I sat, frozen in time watching Zach intently as he distanced himself, unsure what to do, how to do it, where to begin..sitting solemnly on the corner table just staring, so uncomfortable I thought his skin might crawl right off his bones. I knew he was wrestling, because his expressions told the story like an episode of Days of Our Lives. His face would scowl as though he was angry, then moments later it looked as though he'd burst to tears and have a breakdown and just as I'd nearly get up to go to him, his face would change into this emotionless expression as if he had disappeared all together and there sat an"empty" shell of my son. I watched this revolving soap opera play out through his expressions for a very long time, my heart leaping into my throat at every quiver of his lip, tear welled in his eye, grimace of his brow....what do I do?? I pondered to myself; is this what "it" looks like to have God break my son's heart? Is this simply too overwhelming for my young child?! What have I done, was he really ready to face an experience like this, why would I ever want him to be this kind of broken? He's simply too fragile to embrace this, this will do more harm to his heart than good! Oh Lord, what is happening inside my son's heart, soul & mind right now ~ what is happening inside MINE?! Then of all things; a young lil girl with down syndrome comes over to Zach, helps herself to his lap and pee's her pants...on his leg.This was the tipping point of penetrating Zach's defenses and I could see in his eyes the desperation of anger & loss of control and overwhelming cry for "help" as he had been pushed beyond all he could handle as he thrust her from his lap and he shut down from that moment on through the rest of the day, he distanced himself more & more, desiring to be anywhere but present in this moment.

I can't say for sure what was happening INSIDE Zach, but if that's what it looks like to be "broken" with the burden of God's heart, I'd say it's one of the hardest things to watch your child go through at an age too young to fully process what's happening.

The next morning was Zach's birthday! 13 years old. A teenager. Half man, half boy and quite the adventure as we navigate through both worlds together! I pulled him aside first thing in the morning to attempt to skype home so Donny & the kiddos could wish him a happy birthday and see his face! After our horribly failed skype call, I began to talk to Zach about his experience the day before at Gertrude's. I thought for a moment, it would be all so overwhelming that he'd "need me" to help him digest, understand and it would coming pouring out of his heart, unfiltered and I could love him through the discernment process, but he was guarded, or it may have been to early in the morning for such deep conversation, because he reacted defensively and immediately responded that he wasn't "thinking anything" while he was there. So I just decided to blab on for a moment while I had his ear. I explained to him how it was "hard for me" yesterday and that it really pushes me to grow beyond my limitations, my comfort level to hug lil people I do not intimately know who are full of snot, urine, feces, drool and whatever else you can imagine and I shared with him a handful of colorful stories of unwanted bodily fluids that had made their unwelcomed home upon my body over the course of the week. I looked him in the eyes and said "Jesus, would NOT HESITATE to grab us up in his arms even if we were full of all of that nasty stuff, He'd scoop you right up, hug & kiss ya. Remember we came to be the love of Jesus to these kids, it has to be His love, not ours. Maybe today you could try just a bit harder, maybe you could find one child that is not hard for you to embrace and try and play with him or her on our last day"....then he was off to breakfast without a response.

The final day we arrived at Gertrude's, I seen whatever that tormenting cultivation process was that happened the day prior, supernaturally sprout into something beautiful. The Lord plowed through and in a 24hr period, fruit had already blossomed! Zach fully embraced these children, walls down, open-hearted, genuinely loving in a manner that he could have never done of his own will.

I "hoped" that I'd see him be able to "stomach" rolling a ball to a child or building legos with someone, not even dreaming he'd be willing to touch them, but I seen Jesus in Zach and he loved unconditionally with no reservations, outside of all his shortcomings and OCD tendencies of the same germophobia I know to well and he massaged & lotioned these kids, they rubbed their dirty lil booger hands all over his face and he smiled, one after another they sat their urine-soaked lil bodies on his lap and he hugged or tickled them, he fed a boy lunch who was one of the difficult kids to feed (in terms of swallowing capabilities, messiness, ect) and Zach didn't even flinch.

He really was one of the most beautiful sights I seen during all the time I was in Haiti. I've asked him a few times to share with me, but it's a moment so intimate, holy & emotionally raw in him as well that he can't even process it, so I'll leave his version to be a secret of his heart between him & God and I'll rest in the fullness of my mama's heart just having the privilege of watching from the outside as Zach fully embraced manhood on his 13th birthday as he loved with the innocence of a boy's heart and I realized that whatever we came son "got it".

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

This is FAREWELL!!

TWO DAYS till we're 'airborne' my friends! 2 days! And with each moment that grows closer to Thursday I feel more peace coming upon me, like waves of it. If you know me at all, you know beyond doubt that is not my nature...I have a full on anxiety attack when just packing the kids to go to grandma's for the day so imagine how an unseasoned traveler "could" be reacting these days! Just a visit to Ogilvie brings about an artistic expression of what Hitler may look like as a mother when thinking about all that I have to get ready, what not to forget and getting out the door "on schedule", with my car full of rambunctious lil Traut's.  Needless to say, a heart full of peace is a nice place to be.

So this may be my last post on this blog for the next week+. As we prepare to head off to Haiti, this is the divinely designed group God has orchestrated for the 2014 November ACT Missions team:

Becki & Riley
Meleah & Will
Tami & Elizabeth
Jen & Delaney
Maria & Zach

Will you consider praying for each one of us?! Our diverse team is made of not only seasoned adults but some very young leaders of faith who are stepping out to follow God's call on their life to love the orphan. In the names I've listed above I paired together the parents with their children. We are coming together from all over the US to join in one heart of love for the orphaned children in Haiti.

Thank You all for your support! We're calling out to all our beloved friends & family who have it on their hearts to pray for us, now is the time we need you most! We leave early Thursday morning, November 6th to begin our travels to Haiti. Please keep us in prayer daily November 6-13th until we all arrive safely home.

Pray especially for our amazing team leaders, Becki and co-leader Meleah who carry a great responsibility of leadership over the 14 of us upon their shoulders. Also please pray intently for our young men & women of God we are shaping to be the hands & feet of Jesus on this trip, may their hearts be forever changed by what God sews into them and releases through them in this next week. Please join our hearts in prayer that the Lord would move mightily while we walk this journey with Him. Agree with us that we are in His divine favor and that we'll see the love of God manifested in ways we could not even imagine and all would be blessed by an encounter with our loving Father!

Although we have a tentative, flexible schedule of where we'll be spending our time serving, these are a couple opportunities we may have, so please join in covering these ministries in prayer:

Gertrude's Orphanage

Foyer De Sion

Apparent Project

Baptist Haiti Mission

AND we have created a "team blog" where our team leader wants someone from the group to blog each day about our experiences. So, you will get to go on this ride with us if you follow this blog:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


For some time now I've noticed the Lord working on my heart in a particular area that is never fun to publicly "shed light on"....selfishness.  If I passed the microphone around I'm sure there'd be a nice long line of stories we all could share about your encounters with my family could probably do an entire 2 hour Dateline special so lets not let them have a turn at the microphone!

But here's the thing, selfishness is not where I intend to stay! Here's the kicker for those who've only known me a short time and fallen prey to my selfish motives... I've already come a LONG WAY on this journey since I met that amazing man named Jesus!! It's a beautiful encounter, the conviction of the Lord, He teaches, corrects, brings freedom and changes your heart in such an intimate way that it feels like I'm simply stepping out to dance to a song I've never heard before, the rhythm is new and the music is magnetic and I desire it, I deeply desire to learn this dance, this conviction creates a hunger in me for more of whatever that "newness" is! He draws me closer and I learn to lean on His lead and as we dance, I'm transformed.  This is how I experience "conviction", no punishment, no shame, no condemnation, simply illumination that brings a desire to be empowered to grow beyond my own limitations and I hold His hand as He walks with me every.single.step of the way. And thus is the journey to greater self-less-ness.

A week ago we had a devotional about "a servants heart" as part of our preparation for one of our team conference calls and since that day, everywhere I look, I keep seeing the picture painted by John 13 in this devotion:

“After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. . . . So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.’”   
Foot washing was the business of servants. It was the dirty work of the lowly as they cleaned the dusty, and no doubt gnarly, feet of others who had trekked miles in shoes that weren’t quite as well-made or protective as shoes are today. Think of a fairly nasty job you wouldn't stoop down to do. That is essentially what Jesus was doing. But it wasn’t just about foot washing, it was about humbling Himself before others, about denying Himself and disregarding the majesty and glory due to Him and putting others first. Jesus adopted a lowly posture before others to demonstrate His love for them, and to give us an example of how we are to treat other people.

God had already been speaking to me for sometime (years even), highlighting areas in my life where I had selfishly "esteemed" myself higher than I ought to. So this devotional was good medicine for the soul that came in perfect timing. I keep thinking of this passage and envisioning this picture like it's the first time I've ever heard it ~ day in and day out, multiple times a day...I think of a situation that I can barely stomach and see this picture of Jesus. I immediately began to ponder exactly what the devotional asks "think of a nasty job you wouldn't stoop down to do"...and I began to wonder, what would Jesus' radical actions look like if this story played out here & now, in my life in 2014 in big, bad, Buckman, Minnesota. And to top that, now what would the lowliest of disgusting jobs look like in Haiti! Bet it's worse than I could even imagine in my pampered lil American life. And my heart began to swell with desire, desire that I'd have a longing in my heart to do these jobs selflessly, to become that kind of expression of love, that I'd not overlook any single job that is so lowly that I'd take it for granted by not even acknowledging it happens, that my heart would be filled with gratitude to the point of action to honor every single person who serves and fills these jobs that MUST be done...and that I'd become one who does these jobs. That is not a natural desire of the heart, and I'd dare to say it's probably even a more dangerous want to be put in the lowliest of jobs! Rationally speaking for a moment, are you sure about this Maria???? Yep, my heart is actually growing with a fire-filled desire to be a servant in the most lowly of places, to really learn love to this degree. Even more that I wouldn't even have a paradigm to measure what is considered "too lowly" and what is considered "acceptable". Am I anywhere near ready to walk this out without faltering, probably not as I am a poster-child germophobe who nearly vomits when I have to uncrinkle dirty, crusty, socks that sat for weeks at the bottom of the hamper from my very own family whom I love the snot-out-of...literally. To put them in the wash as I peel each one of those stinky, hardened, dirt-balls called socks apart my gag-reflex is induced yeah, you can find me in the laundry room sounding like a college kid with a hang-over every Monday & Tuesday on "laundry day" I may have a long way to go....but there's a fire in my heart to be transformed and I can't contain it!

For months this has been growing with intensity, ever-increasing in the recent weeks...all day long I see these things in a whole new light. I get flashbacks of memories from Africa, too many moments to share, like when our humble bus driver's took our left-over food to eat as their meal because they couldn't afford their own and so they ravenously eat the scraps of a stranger and I feel conviction for how I took them for granted, not honoring them with a real meal and did not serve them the way Jesus would have and I wonder if I were in their shoes would eating a stranger's thrown-away food be too lowly for me? 

I'm overwhelmed with conviction to the point of tears of gratitude silently running down my cheeks, when I see the garbage man pull up and jump out without a moment of hesitation and grab our filthy, disgusting, garbage can overflowing with used cat litter, babies used diapers and all the other unmentionable rotten things we've tossed in there to the point of my disgust beyond the ability to even drag my own garbage can to the end of our driveway without wearing gloves...and as he lifts the can, garbage falls to the ground all around him and he picks it right up, cleans up the mess our cat made by ripping the garbage bag open for all the contents to fall out...and suddenly my heart swells and I break down in tears as I watch this scene and I can't even believe how long I've taken these men for granted in my own life, watching them week after week from my kitchen window early in the morning sunrise, no matter what the temperature, they're faithfully here every Thursday to haul my garbage away so that I don't have to smell or look at it and I'm humbled at their hearts of true service. I wonder if I could do their job with the same commitment to such quality service. I literally ponder what my heart's attitude would be if I had to jump out, pick up some stranger's garbage with my two hands and serve them in this manner, every day, all day ~ even when it's -30 degrees.

I feel conviction as I sit in a McDonald's booth (cringing from head to toe in my germophobe nature) watching an employee clean up the filth of half-eaten food scraps from the floor and empty the overflowing garbage that I can't even stand to acknowlege is within a few feet of me as I attempt to eat my meal. And I think to myself, time and again, in these types of situations that are being supernaturally highlighted to me "how incredibly thankful I am for that person's service", I'm overcome in those moments watching these people serve to the fullest degree in jobs that I don't know if I could handle and the Lord humbles my heart to see examples of true servants in the faces of these people who are working to serve me and suddenly my heart swells (to my surprise) at the thought of a chance to be the one that serves in these kinds of ways with a cheerful heart, to be humbled and selfless and to be so filled with the love of God that nothing, literally nothing would be too lowly for "me" and that I would no longer think higher of myself than I ought to.

And I feel conviction when I've been home all week alone holding down the fort with the kiddos, a sickly baby hanging on my legs, with unrelenting whining ringing in my ears, and the MOMENT my husband comes in the front door all I want to do is escape so I can feel the bliss of silence for even just a MOMENT and be freed from this baby that has grown to be my third leg! So I don't even enterain the idea of how my husband may need to be served after a long week away from home. I can't dare to imagine that when we all can't attend a family birthday party we've been looking forward to due to the baby's flu, that I'd be the one to offer to stay home to care for her!!  I selfishly want to be the parent that goes to the party because I want to be freed from puking baby duty. I want to have adult conversation. I want to enjoy my sons without the distraction of a sick, crying baby. I want to get out of the house! Then a whisper comes and says "It would be much more self-less to stay home, serve your sick daughter as only you can, she desires you, allow your sons some bonding time with their dad they missed all week, while he enjoys his side of the family"....and my HEART SWELLS at the thought of serving my family in this manner, so I swallow my pride, confess my selfishness to my family and I do it. I stay home and I throw a big-girl sized baby tantrum, right next to my puking daughter as we both sit crying on the floor because I'm still exhausted, I'm still selfish, I still don't fully want to be here and I'd still much prefer to be having fun at the birthday party....but my heart did swell when the Lord spoke and so I know that I know, there is a work of transformation being done here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


A couple quick testimonies!

Sunday night as I lay in bed, tired, but unable to drift off to sleep; I thought to myself about our mission team's prayer calendar that had Zach scheduled on Monday to be one of our team members to keep in special prayer for the day. So I asked the Lord "what should I pray over Zach tomorrow in preparation for Haiti?" and suddenly I had this overwhelming surge of anticipation rush through my veins like unbridled horsepower and my blood began to pump like crazy, shortly after the Lord spoke to me and said two incredibly powerful words... "he's ready"....and I lay there quietly in the dark, experiencing this supernatural adrenaline rush, thinking in my natural mind, I'll surely NEVER fall asleep now and I just enjoyed this moment full of anticipation that the Lord has spoken to my heart and told me my son is absolutely READY for this! The Lord has prepared him, my boy, His boy, our boy..... HE.IS.READY. That is such an incredibly peaceful place to be!

Second testimony:
Because I've been less than shy about our financial adventures and all the fundraising chaos we threw together, I have to share this story too. Just the other day, I realized we're completely at the "end" of the fundraising 'fun' as I was gathering the last of the money to deposit, sending out the last of the bracelets, tshirts, no more bake sales, garage is long emptied from the maddness of yard sales yet two bracelets remained unspoken for. They both say "thankful" and I knew that was by no mistake. You see, I had chosen one that said "hope" to carry me through this faith journey as a daily reminder and Zach had chosen one that said "loved" which I shared about in an earlier post how I felt was significant for him, but I secretly wanted us to each have another one to give away to someone special we might meet in Haiti. I decided if there were any bracelets left, that's what we'd do with them. So as I looked at the two remaining bracelets that say "thankful" I thought these are not my first choice of words to give away as an expression of our love to whomever we meet in Haiti. I seen a picture in my mind of us giving the bracelets away to that special someone and that it would be a proclamation over their destiny, the word they wore around on their little arm, that they most likely would never be able to read in English and I envisioned having it say "hope, blessed, believe, loved"...something that would remind them of Jesus' great love and would inspire them to dream bigger than their circumstances. That's when I looked at these two "thankful" bracelets for a second time and suddenly the Lord spoke to me and said "one is for you and one is for Zach to be reminded daily of  this journey and to know the depths of unspeakable gratitude. Thankful for Jesus; Thankful for those who supported you; Thankful, as a proclamation over your own life; this was our tangible, daily, visible expression to wear our humbled hearts "on our sleeve"...a declaration that would inspire us to always dream beyond our circumstances! THANKFUL! Then I realized, right from the start, God had saved "hope" & "love" to be the bracelets we give away as something "special from our heart" as these words we clung to as promises all the months leading us to this place but all along we didn't realize "thankful" would be the one that would best describe our true heart!

That leads me to this final testimony: When we signed up for the trip I knew the cost was an estimate, but I never really even entertained the idea of it exceeding the initial number of $4600 for both of us because that was enough "sticker shock" for me. As we were nearing the end of our fundraising, the actual costs did exceed what we had anticipated and that put a rather large lump in my throat for days. So when our fundraising goal suddenly jumped to $5352 and we had no more "tricks up our sleeve" I felt like I had two choices; mental breakdown from this pressure or that I just really couldn't carry this around for one more minute so the Lord would just HAVE TO SHOW UP because there is no other plan. So with every donation amount that came through me to send in, I'd pray for who's "account" it should go toward, mine or Zach's. Today, when I signed onto our fundraising site and surprisingly seen the most beautiful number $0 under the fundraising goal for Zach's account I just couldn't believe my eyes, I wondered if there was a mistake so I looked under his contributions page where it shows the donation amounts that came in and to my lovely surprise each donation that came in...


tallied to the EXACT number he needed: $ the penny! Zach is fully financially supported for this trip!! Without doubt, we are indeed...THANKFUL! 

ps. I'm almost there too! Just over $400 left for me and I'll see that same beautiful number soon!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

To Belong

This past weekend, the Lord revealed something to me that I didn't know was a lie that had been 'still' hiding inside me. I was sitting at the International Healing Conference on Saturday night and a man named Ian Andrews was praying over people. As I sat in my seat, suddenly Ian said a prayer that pricked my heart in the most unexpected place, he said "I release over all of you a sense of belonging" and just like that, my heart started to hemorrhage pain while my mind suddenly raced with old film reels of my life spinning in rewind right before my eyes. I watched the replay of my youth revealing all the ways I strived "to belong", to every single social circle, to every expectation of perfection, to every standard someone else set, with an incredible desire to please so that I could earn acceptance and never be rejected. When you don't know you're loved unconditionally, fear of rejection is all consuming. The irony is that I spent all those years never actually "belonging", skimming the surface, never sticking my toe in the water for fear of "falling in too deep", lost like an orphan roaming the streets. If I had to be stark honest, inside my heart it was the crippling fear of rejection that drove me to be the straight A student, the hardworking daughter, the athlete, the best friend in every social circle imaginable, the artist, the homecoming queen, the party girl, the funny jokester, the career driven financially independent woman, the super mom, the Christian who can do it all "through Christ who strengthens me", the chameleon that could blend perfectly into any that no one could see my ugly weaknesses! I lived a good portion of my life wearing this mask, finding my value in the accolades of others who would commend me for how perfect my 'mask' was fitting. It would feed this insatiable beast in me; performance = acceptance. A beast that never is satisfied. In all reality, I'm certain the only person who didn't know it was a mask was me.

Sad part is, I didn't realize this wasn't the "real me" until the day I met the most loving person in all existence; Jesus. When He came and found me in the sloppy midst of my screwed up, out-of-control, derailing, messy, pain-filled life, in my most vulnerable hour and loved me unconditionally, extravagantly, passionately, without measure at the simple response to more of a dare than an invitation "if you're real, show me and I'll give my life to you, otherwise it's over for me". He showed up to a supernatural degree, speaking His life into dreams I never dared to imagine would come from inside of me. I felt for the first time in my life something I had never known.... "HOPE". IT WAS POWERFUL, TRANSFORMATIONAL and nothing I was ever able to manufacture all 27yrs prior to that day. Something changed after that encounter, suddenly I belonged and I knew it, from the depths of my bones, I simply knew without having to be graded on my performance I would always belong to Jesus from this moment forward, nothing could change that. Felt like CPR to a flat lining pulse. Felt like "home" for the first time. Whatever this "feeling was" I knew I never wanted to settle for less....I belonged to Jesus and He belonged to me. I am His and He is mine and "HOPE" was the fruit of this exchange and I DID NOTHING TO EARN IT. Such an incredibly powerful awakening to have in your heart, in your soul, breathing life into your dry bones when your whole life had hinged on your ability to perform. And the Lord continued to show up in the most powerful ways, every single time I messed up, fell flat on my face, biffed it hard, that was when I'd have the most radical love encounters with God. Things changed drastically in my life after that, first; I knew I was loved and then I began to dare to learn how to walk the path that was destined for me, even when it was different than everything I had known. Being "different" was one of the greatest risks for me as I lived my life trying to fit into everyone else's story. But the Lord had put desires in my heart so profoundly deep that it was suddenly worth the risk of "being different" to chase this untraveled path through the wilderness to grasp ahold of these dreams too big for me to achieve on my own; dreams of motherhood, dreams of loving orphan children in different countries. And inevitably rejection came and it didn't destroy or define me like I had feared all my life, because God was right there waiting for me in His infinite goodness.every.single.time. Felt good to breath oxygen for the first time instead of living off everyone else's exhaled dreams so that I may "fit in". 

Fastforward back to last Saturday night: When that man spoke the words "belonging", God simply pulled the bandaid off my heart that I had applied to hide the wound that was there and I began to bleed 'real pain' that made no logical sense in my present life. (besides I believed I had handled all this long ago!) And as the Lord always does, He addressed the wound by showing me His perspective which is always far superior than my own. I love that He looks as us so radically different than we look at ourselves or even one another. Instead of pointing out all my faults, He showed me my promise: He said to me "look at those people you know down front praying for others, you belong to them" (you beautiful people who were down front working the altar at the Healing Conference, praying for others, know who you are!), and the walls in my heart began to quake with intense emotion. “I belong TO THEM?!” Then He whispered to me "you know why the generosity, support & love of your church, family & friends is a raw emotional nerve that you simply don't know how to process cognitively...well, it's because you belong to them too" I belong?! Something I’ve never “felt in my heart” before because it was just too much of a risk and it requires going below the surface to truly "belong" to something. I belong. Some of the most powerful words I’ve ever proclaimed over myself. I belong, because of God's love. They weren't "stuck with me”, they didn't HAVE to let me belong, I belonged not by anything I've done to earn acceptance, and just like that BAM I suddenly had a revelation as to why the overwhelming generosity of everyone who's supported us in preparation for this Haiti trip has left me an absolute mess of "unworthiness", because it's simply that = I didn't do anything to perform for your support, I didn't earn it, and I couldn't repay it if I tried. That kind of love is earth-shattering and it makes me all sorts of uncomfortable and simultaneously a glorious mess at the revelation that I BELONG. And without the Lord even having to point a finger on the problem I realized it: for a long time now, I had taped up all the masks I used to wear, slapped a few new Christian stickers on the outside to cover some of the old scratches and carried them right along with me settling back into where I felt most comfortable. When did I get back here, to this masquerade?  HOW did I get back here? Have I always been stuck here? No wonder this has been exhausting for countless months, years. Even more important WHY was I hiding behind this mask again? I wish I had all these answers to wrap this up with a nice neat bow, but I don't, I just have questions and one or two carrots to chase...this is all fresh revelation for me. I'm still running through the maze!

I do know that whatever all this is, all this identity crisis I seem to be encountering, reliving victories that I thought I once owned to realize I was just scratching the surface; like "trust" & "belonging", needing to be battled once again, now on a deeper level to continue the walk of's all for a purpose. I can already see how the Lord had graciously let me camp out for awhile in my 'infancy' thinking that those bandaids could stay on my heart and that I'd never had to address whatever was hiding under there in relation to "people". Once I met the Lord and achieved the first step of these victories through His grace & mercy, learning how to trust God, learning how to lay down my masks in front of God, He's now telling me, the war has not been won, just a small battle had been the victory I lived on for years, but this is not where I set up camp. So for this relationally-dysfunctional orphan-minded girl, the Lord is extending His hand in an invitation to me; it's time I learn to trust PEOPLE; it's time I learn to be vulnerable & real and stop hiding behind performance-based masked around the PEOPLE I belong to; it's time I learn how to be in real relationships with more than just God, I need people! So it's time I dive deep into relationship with the people He has gifted me to walk through life with; it's time I learn how to be "Maria" transparently and allow all those people in my life to fully be themselves, freed from my dysfunctional need of finding worth in their approval and freed from any expectations I've put upon them to perform in return. How freeing that will be for all of us!! To be love and be loved. To simply "belong"...belong to Him as His sons & daughters and to belong to one another as family. Because after all, the Lord already revealed this secret of His heart to me on Saturday night when He whispered to me and said "YOU BELONG" and He showed me face after face of all the beautiful people I "belong to" and so I know this is already a finished work in the Lord's eyes, it's time I surrender the mask, come out from behind the walls I've built, rip off all the old bandaids and learn to walk this out.

Like I've already said, I don't really know why I'm in the season I'm in, but I'm just trying to be transparent "in the process" to encourage others too. I’d much rather be crossing off my busy to-do list in preparation for Haiti, feeling like “I’m ready for this” and being in control of all the details, but instead I’m smack dab in the midst of a full on identity crisis. When the Lord shows up & says the victories I thought I thoroughly owned were just simply scratching the surface and that there's so much MORE, it’s time to take that journey and lay down my own OCD plans. I have peace in knowing it's all for a purpose and He's saying now is the time for this journey, so the packing list has to wait. I'm thankful that He always continues to make my life more beautiful, bringing me more freedom, allowing my heart to be transformed to be more like His, growing my capacity to love people and see people (including myself) the way He sees them, because that's the desire of my heart.