Maternity Shoot

•March 7, 2017 • 2 Comments

It’s hard to believe that I’m almost 37 weeks along in this pregnancy and baby Hadassah could come at any time. The last couple of months have been full of unexpected twists and turns for my husband and I. Just one month ago we moved from Australia back to America after having just a few weeks to get rid of all of our belongings, pack our life into suitcases and actually make the move. It was such a crazy time but before leaving I really wanted to get some photos of this beautiful little girl inside of me in the Country where so much of this journey happened. So, just a few days before leaving Australia, with so many other things to do…I put myself together as much as possible and drug my husband to the beach in the pouring rain. Thankfully an amazing photographer there ( http://www.dejanbilan.com.au ) agreed to do the shoot even though the weather did not cooperate at all. In fact, in most of these photos, his wife stood over me with an umbrella and then literally ran out of the shot when he was ready. (Thanks Sarah:)

I’m so amazed at how well these turned out knowing how bad the weather was and so grateful I was able to still do it, as crazy as it seemed.

I’m dreaming of the day I get to finally hold my daughter in my arms, but I will forever cherish the time I’ve had to hold her in my womb. She already takes my breath away…sometimes literally!  I’m so grateful we were able to do this photo shoot because miracles deserve to be documented.

 

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*For those wondering, here’s the outfit details. The dress: Free People (not maternity) The shoes: Urban Outfitters, The watch: The Horse (Australian brand) Stacked Rings: Coach

Hair and makeup by ME lol

Even Though, Even So

•December 24, 2015 • 1 Comment

She’s Not Dead

•November 19, 2015 • 2 Comments

There is nothing more intimidating to me than a blank page. I am a writer. It’s what I do. What I’ve done my whole life. Songs, poems, articles, TV shows, devotions, thoughts, quotes, sermons. I write. It’s part of who I am. For fifteen years living in New York City, I found a million places that inspired me…filled me with words that came so quick I couldn’t keep up with them. The streets, the people, the culture, the coffee shops, the noise, the brutal bustle of the City, the faces, the stories, the success and suffering of the concrete jungle. They were all a safe place for me. I knew if I could just walk outside my door I would find words. Words that inspire and heal. Words that give a voice to people whose pain had muzzled their heart and paralyzed their soul. Words that became tears they didn’t know how to cry. Words that injected life like drugs till they were hooked on hope. Words that made the dead breathe. I wrote for them. I wrote for God. I wrote for me. I wrote.

And then something happened. My life got flipped upside down for all the right reasons and suddenly I was packing my life into the back seat of a car rental and moving to Atlanta, Georgia to marry the man God had miraculously sent my way. Now here I was, trying to find my way in a City full of strangers…a place that was nothing like home, and planning a wedding all at the same time. The excitement of planning for the beautiful future that was to come and the grief of letting go of the life I had known, both coexisting in the cramped space of my soul. Something about the mixture of the ultimate joy and sorrow was too much for me to process simultaneously and the words just seemed to have vanished forever. There was not a single place in this new City that inspired me.  I lost my words and for some time, lost the desire to find them. Writing was a big part of who I was and it seemed as if I’d left that part of me in New York City.

For 18 months in Atlanta, I travelled and preached more than I had every preached in my life. It was a sudden shift from being invited to places as a Spoken Word Artist, to now being invited 70% of the time as a preacher. I have no idea how that happened, it just did. There was no longer the pressure to create artistically. No big events to write for. No blank pages staring me in the face with a deadline.

And then, after those 18 looooong months in Atlanta, God abruptly sent my husband and I to Australia to Pastor the City Campus of Influencers Church. Another new place to conquer with barely a year of marriage under our belt. Trying to find a rhythm to write now in a Country where the people don’t even know what Spoken Word is. My schedule utterly overtaken with caring for people and leading and preaching. And by preaching, I mean writing more sermons in one year than I have in the past 5. I’m like really, God you sent me to a place that has no idea what my art form is and beyond that, they have no Starbucks?! Is this a sick joke? Starbucks is where the anointing is! You’ve left me here to die. And then I found some good coffee and came out of my white padded cell long enough to have a sane conversation with God.

That conversation went something like this: “God, my heart grieves at the thought that the season of me being an artist could be over. I miss it like a person. I can’t even think about it without choking back tears. You’ve given me this gift and it’s dying on the inside of me”. And after months of praying that same kind of prayer, I added this question: “Lord, am I grieving this gift because YOU aren’t done with it? Or is it because I”M not done with it? If I’m holding on to it for the wrong reasons and that season is done in my life then I need to know so I can bury it, grieve it and move on. I feel like I’m carrying something dead inside of my soul. Do I grieve it or revive it?”

For months that question went unanswered. Until several weeks ago. Sitting in a service, the preacher (Jabin Chavez) began speaking of the man who came to Jesus asking him to heal his daughter. (Luke 8, Mark 5 & Matthew 9) Unfortunately, after agreeing to do so, Jesus got a little distracted by a bleeding woman who pressed her way through a crowd to try to touch him. She made it and when she touched him, she was healed. Which was great for everyone except the dad waiting for Jesus to heal his dying daughter. In fact, as Jesus was being distracted, this father got word that his daughter had already died. Devastated, he tells Jesus not to worry about it because it’s too late. She is already dead. As he prepares to make that long journey home to mourn and comfort his family, Jesus interrupts his grief with a promise that it’s not over. And as Jesus arrives at the house full of loved ones weeping and wailing, He speaks these words that changed everything- they changed everything for this desperate daddy and have changed everything for me now. Into the sorrow He speaks, “She’s not dead, she’s just asleep”.  That makes little to no sense to the people who were feeling her pulse and reporting that her heart was no longer beating. But in the truest sense of the word, Jesus was right. She wasn’t dead because death is final and He already knew the end of this story. Jesus refused to call dead what He planned to revive. In the eyes of man, Jesus just told a big fat lie, like  seriously, the Lord’s pants are totally on fire. He said “She’s not dead”, yet according to all facts and evidence, medically speaking she actually was dead. But the thing about Jesus is that He is privileged to facts and evidence that aren’t evident. Realities we can’t see. His statement wasn’t based on the inactivity of her heart, but on the activity of his power to both see the future and to resurrect that which seems dead.

“Lord, do I grieve it or revive it? Bury it or perform CPR?” That was the desperate question that haunted my soul. And as I heard this story for the millionth time it was like hearing it for the first time ever as Gods Spirit was speaking directly to mine. Sitting on the front row, tears flowed without remorse. Finally, the answer cut straight to my heart…It’s not dead, it’s just asleep. This gift has seemed inactive, no inspiration, no words, no heartbeat, no breath. The people who have followed my ministry are probably as convinced as the people who were in that house that the artist and writer in me is dead. But Jesus has come to me speaking over their voices, into the sorrow and I believe Him more than I believe them.

To be honest, I started writing this well over a year ago; somewhere between Atlanta and Australia. So I’m writing today partly because it’s a blank page for me to conquer. But much more than that, because the thing that has grieved me most about the silence in my soul is that I know how many people are on the other side of my words. I know that God wants to revive this gift not for me, but for you. I don’t have a plan, I just have a revelation that it’s not dead, it’s just asleep. And what I’ve found to be true is that when it comes to God, the most powerful thing that moves his heart is when we are courageous enough to start saying with our mouth what He has said in our spirit even before we’ve seen it with our eyes. Agreeing without seeing, that is real faith. For some time it has seemed to me that the ink has run dry. But what I’ve forgotten is that I’m not the one writing this story anyway. I am just the pen, and I’m in his hand.

Maybe you are carrying around some dead weight as well. Dead dreams are so heavy to bare. Perhaps somebody else out there needs to be reminded that when Jesus is around there is always a chance for dead things to live. So before you make the funeral arrangements I pray you ask yourself this one question. What if it’s not dead, but it’s only asleep?

 

*Links mentioned

www.instagram.com/influencerscity

Album on Itunes “Oraia Speaks Volume I”

http://www.misfit.nyc/home

https://instagram.com/jabinchavez/

 

 

 

 

Because sometimes you have to look back to move forward…

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A year ago

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A year ago

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A couple years ago at Christ For The Nations in Dallas

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A writing shoot in NYC about 10 years ago

 

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A writing shoot in NYC about 10 years ago

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My first recording “Oraia, Live at the Aftershock” (now known as Misfit NYC)

 

 

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At The Potter’s House, Dallas

 

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Performing at Izod Arena about 7 years ago

 

A Messy Miracle

•March 26, 2014 • 8 Comments

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If you know me at all, you know one thing about me for sure…I’m slightly obsessed with The Bible. I love everything about it. Reading it, teaching it, praying it, memorizing it, imagining it, digging beneath the surface and investigating it. One of my absolute favorite things to do when reading scripture is to try to put myself on the scene of the crime. I want to imagine and visualize every detail from every angle. What it looks like, sounds like, smells like. I want to feel like I actually walked right into the scene wearing 3 inch heels while Peter rolls his eyes at me not understanding what it’s like to be 5 foot 3.

As much as I make it a custom to visualize the text, some stories are just so beyond believable that, although I have heard them a million times, I’ve never stopped to imagine what they would actually look like in real life. For example, a demon possessed man running around buck naked & foaming at the mouth? Not really interested in that picture. Naked Noah drunk in the tent with his sons? I’ll pass. I realize just now that theres a common thread of nudity in those examples, but there are plenty of other stories in the Bible that I’ve never truly seen in the theater of my imagination. Let me give you another example where everyone’s got their clothes on. There’s a powerful point in this story that I have overlooked for my entire life, until now.

In Exodus 14 we find Moses & the children of Israel being pursued by the very powerful Egyptian army. Remember, the Israelites have been slaves to the Egyptians for quite some time and have been treated brutally. Abused. Degraded. Oppressed. All that and more. They’ve been in a really dark place for far too long. Then, after hearing their cry for help, God has responded by sending Moses to rescue them.

Fast forward past ten plagues and you now find Moses & roughly two million Israelites on the run, being chased down by a mighty army. This is the part of the story that I’ve heard so many times, but never fully imagined till last week. Suddenly, the men who held the Israelites captive for so long are right on their heels and terror overtakes them. In the rearview mirror is a life of torture & bondage, but in front of them is a sea so massive that the thought of moving forward seems like diving into death. Moses assures them that victory is on the other side, but they can’t see the other side…all they see is what stands in their way. It seems insurmountable. All they can think is “I knew this freedom thing was too good to be true!” The “what if’s” were endless.

Have you every been in that place? Ever escaped a miserable, terrifying or unhealthy situation in life only to be faced with a challenge so big that you considered going back? Ever been so close to a breakthrough and been tempted to make a u-turn because you thought carrying that old burden of despair might be better than risking the disappointment that could accompany hope? To some people, the only thing worse than the pain of the past is the fear of the future. Can you see it?

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them—Egyptians! Coming at them! They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, “Weren’t the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn’t we tell you this would happen? Didn’t we tell you, ‘Leave us alone here in Egypt—we’re better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.’” (Exodus 14:10-12)

For the first time, I really and truly saw this picture. Roughly TWO MILLION people standing at the shore of what seemed like the biggest body of water they’d ever seen. Moses stretches out his staff and the waters blow back, forming a path of dry ground so long that the end cannot be seen. How far till the other side? And how do we know what’s over there? Beyond that, how do we know that we won’t get halfway across only to have these walls of water collapse upon us?

I can see it so clearly. Two million slavery survivors, scared to the bone. Over and over, they look ahead at the Red Sea and then look back over their shoulder. Back and forth they look and urgently wonder, “What is worse? The pain of the past or the fear of the future?” In the end, we know what they choose. They choose to take a first step. And then another. With miles of water on the left and right, on every side is reason to fear. Yet, with every step they take, they become committed to their decision. I imagine that at a certain point, slow and pensive footsteps turn into chaotic sprinting, stumbling over one another. They run in fear, yet they run on.

To me, there is something so profound about this moment. As the children of Israel walk right through the center of the Red Sea on dry land, there is so much fear and chaos that they don’t even realize that they are standing in the middle of a miracle that will be told till the end of the earth! After hearing this story many times, the Holy Spirit revealed to me a truth that I had never seen. Often times, the middle of a miracle feels more like the middle of a mess. As they passed through the waters, all they felt was fear. Every step was soaked in sheer terror. It wasn’t till they got to the other side and watched the water wash over the army that pursued them, that they realized the God of Heaven had just performed the miraculous on their behalf.

I don’t know where you are in you life’s path, but I want to remind you that sometimes miracles are messy. I just want to encourage you to keep moving. Even in the middle of chaos, fear and uncertainty, keep moving. Moving toward freedom. Moving toward obedience. Moving toward the promise of God. Don’t look back and certainly don’t GO back. Tell fear to be quiet and even if it refuses, just know that it’s a liar. Feelings are dishonest and can’t be trusted. Break up with your emotions, eat some ice cream and keep moving. Stop believing that it’s too good to be true. Stop waiting for the water to crash back over you. No matter what you may feel, if you continue to walk the path of obedience you will see the God of Moses act on your behalf.

Most often, you don’t know a miracle is happening while it’s happening. It doesn’t feel miraculous till you get to the other side and look back at that bodies floating in the water and realize, that should be you. Be encouraged…the middle of a miracle always feels more like the middle of a mess, but on the other side, you will see it and rejoice.

It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned. (Hebrews 11:29 NLT)

And Who?

•February 25, 2014 • 4 Comments

I’ve got to be honest, if I had to pick just one of the twelve disciples to be friends with, it would probably be Peter. No offense, but I don’t think it would be John. Don’t get me wrong, he’s awesome, I’m just not sure how long I could take the whole “I’m the disciple whom Jesus loves” thing. Seriously, who says that about themselves? Pretty sure he did. Anyway, I’m gonna stick with Peter. He’s a bit of an inconsistent mess, but at least he’s not trying to hide it. I’m a New Yorker, so I can deal with “Keepin’ it real…I am who I am…mess with my dude and you’ll lose an ear” type of people.

Yesterday, I sat down to study for a couple of hours and ended up looking at the calling of Peter. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this, but if you don’t study it carefully, it would appear that Marks account & Johns account are wildly different. Many have even used the apparent “discrepancies” in Mark 1 & John 1 to say that the Bible contradicts itself and is therefore invalid and not worth anything. The problem with that theory is that Mark & John’s stories sound completely different because THEY ARE. In fact, if you look at the chronology, they aren’t even telling the same story at all.

In Mark 1, we see Jesus walking beside the Sea of Galilee. In John 1, Jesus is on the other side of the Jordan River. In Mark, Jesus finds Peter & Andrew. In John, it’s an entirely different story…A story that I now love! In one account, Jesus is finding. In the other, He is being found. In one story, He is asking to make them “fishers of men”. But, what happens in the other narrative? I’d love to tell you.

Long story short, John the Baptist is spending time with two men that he is discipling, because, well… that’s what discipleship is-actually doing life with people and pointing them to Jesus . Anyway, he has two of his disciples with him and all of the sudden, here comes Jesus. John tells the two guys, Look! It’s him! The Lamb of God I’ve been telling you about! The two guys follow Jesus and graciously, Jesus spends the entire day with them. Interestingly, only one of these two lucky men are named. You want to know who? I’d love to tell you that too.

His name is Andrew. You may have heard of him. Usually, his name comes in the context of “Peter and Andrew”. Which, ironically, sounds a lot like “And-who?” Ahhhh…Andrew. My new favorite, Peter’s brother. There are no spectacular miracles or famous stories attributed specifically to him. He’s not walking on water, cutting off ears, preaching on Pentecost or writing Epistles. Nobody’s falling over when hit by his shadow. He’s not one of the three elite and Jesus isn’t calling him “The Rock”. And who? Andrew. He’s spending the whole day with Jesus. But, it gets better. What’s better than being with Jesus? Nothing really, except maybe one thing…your response to being with Jesus. Here is Andrews response:

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah”. And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:41-42

You see, this isn’t the account of Peter’s calling to be a “fisher of men”. In this account, Peter is the fish and his brother is the fisher…bringing him to Jesus. This isn’t the story of Peter’s call, it’s the story of his conversion. Brought to Jesus by his brother. And who? Andrew. The reason we know about Peter, is because the guy who we barely know anything about, brought him to Jesus. Before tweeting about it or posting an Instagram selfie with Jesus, the Bible says the FIRST thing he did after leaving Jesus’ presence was to bring Peter to him. It was his priority.

In the church, we seem to do a good job of preaching about the “super stars” in the Bible, but we often do a really bad job of preaching about the ordinary people whom God used to build his Kingdom. We do what Jesus wouldn’t; we focus on the prominent and overlook the faithful. Most of the time in scripture, Andrew is just a name on a list. But, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t detrimental to the Kingdom. He wasn’t just a disciple, he was an apostle, handpicked, called and sent out by Jesus himself to preach the Gospel, given authority to drive out evil spirits and heal every sickness and disease. You think Jesus didn’t value him? He trusted him with everything!

In modern day terms, Peter was the guy with the fastest growing church (Hello, Pentecost) and Andrew was the preacher who never got to speak at the big conferences. Peter was “successful” in ministry & Andrew never “made it”. In the Kingdom of God, everybody wants to sign up to be Peter when what we desperately need is more Andrews. More “And-who’s?” People who don’t need to be in the spotlight, they don’t even need to be known. People who have simply been with Jesus and their response is to bring other people to him. Andrew loved to bring people to Jesus. In fact, when Jesus is standing before 5,000 hungry men and the other disciples are panicking, it is Andrew who brings a little boy to Jesus with a few loaves and fish. He wasn’t sure what could be done with so little, but he knew that every time you bring someone to Jesus, a miracle happens. When your job is to bring people to The Lord, it doesn’t really matter who you are because it’s all about who he is. The goal in ministry is that by the time you get someone to Jesus, they forget about you. Jesus and who? I don’t know, I just saw JESUS.

Peter did many great things, but it began with Andrew. I once heard a preacher say this, “What matters in life is not as much what you do, but rather what you set in motion”. Andrew’s life ended on a cross, martyred for not submitting to idols. We don’t hear much about him anymore, but the story of Peter is still bringing many to Jesus all these years later…in a way, Andrew is still bringing people to Jesus. Every time you bring someone to Jesus, you tip a divine domino, setting something in motion that may outlive you.

You may feel like the part you play in The Kingdom is so small and insignificant. I pray that today, as this truth passes your eyes and finds it’s way into your heart, God is now shutting the mouth of the enemy. The truth is, you are valued in the Kingdom of God. We need people who have simply been with Jesus and love to bring other people to Him. You must know that what you do in obscurity is seen by all of Heaven. Remember, you are living to hear “Well done good and faithful”, NOT “good and famous”. Worry not, Andrew. Peter is the more celebrated on Earth, but Heaven knows better. And now, so do you.

But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then. -Jesus

Best Day of My Life

•February 20, 2014 • 1 Comment

This makes me cry almost every time

To See or Be Seen?

•February 18, 2014 • 9 Comments

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Matthew 5:8

Normally when I travel for ministry, I bring a young lady with me who I love very much. She is a beautiful, Dominican, New Yorker named Orlenis, who says things to me like “Girl, you don’t need an iron, just lay that shirt between the mattresses tonight”. Really, there’s nothing more I need on the road than that.

There are two things Orlenis will never, ever fail to do: 1-Make sure there’s at least a case of water for me to drink. 2- Make sure that I use the bathroom at least twice before stepping on stage. You can see the correlation. Well, earlier this year I was on the road alone and the system fell apart. There was no Orlenis to drag me to a toilet, so of course, right before taking the stage to speak, I realized that I needed to make a quick run for the back.

Something happened that night in a Connecticut church bathroom, that I’ve not been able to recover from. You see, I was facing a lot in my own life at that time and wasn’t even sure I had it in me to speak life into anyone, because honestly, I could barely speak life into myself. So, there I was, counting down the minutes till this evening was over, when suddenly a sound from the next stall shattered me. I would end up running out of the restroom and weeping through my entire time of ministry and all night at the hotel.

In the quietness of that bathroom, I suddenly heard a sound. (Not the kind of sound you’re thinking. It’s not that kind of story) It was the squeaky, soft voice of a little girl singing one simple line “Jesus, we just love you…we just love you”. Over and over again, she sang that one line. At first, I just smiled and thought “how cute”. But, as she continued, the most unexpected thing happened to me on that toilet. I began to have what I can only explain as a vision.

Suddenly, I saw a picture of what looked like a synagogue from the Bible days. Right outside was chaos and a mass of people whose voices all seemed to blend together into one loud noise. Then, I saw Jesus–Eyebrows furled, hands behind his back. Walking, watching, weaving his way in and out of the crowd. But, even as he brushed up against them, nobody seemed to notice his presence. At that moment, the sound of the little girls song coming from the other stall began to bleed into this vision and I saw the countenance of Jesus change as he swung his head around looking for the source of this song. Aggressively, Jesus began to move people out of his way and search the crowd. Finally, when he couldn’t find the little girl, I saw the most powerful thing…I saw him run. As I watched Jesus run to find her, I heard one verse echo in my heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. Then I heard The Lord saying, “I would leave a mass of religious people who don’t even notice my presence any day to find just one pure heart. One heart that still just loves me. That’s who I want to see. The pure in heart will see me because I’ll go anywhere to find them”.

In that vision, only one person really saw God. It was a little girl who most would think had nothing great to offer him. She saw Jesus! He was around an entire crowd of religious people, but they were somehow blind to him. They were so busy trying to be seen that they couldn’t see. You learn a lot about the purity of your heart in a crowd. I always thought my heart and motives were pure, till several years ago when I found myself standing before crowds of 15,000 people and tragically, I found a piece of myself that loved it. I may have left the screaming crowd on their feet, but when I went home I knew I had utterly failed, for a heart cannot long to see God and long to be seen at the same time. Years later, I often remember what that felt like and plead with God to never let me see that in myself again.

The real reason that I want Orlenis to travel with me when I minister instead of anyone else (besides my husband) isn’t to remind me to use the bathroom. The reason is simple. She’s not there because she sees me as some kind of Christian celebrity. She doesn’t care who she meets in the green room and has no desire to network or make “connections”. She doesn’t have any ulterior motives to take her vacation days to travel with me. If I finish preaching and I need to find Orlenis, I don’t have to wonder if she’s back stage, I know exactly where to look. The altar. Whether she’s on her face or got her arms wrapped around a stranger, I just look for the tears. She is with me not because she loves the hype of public ministry, but because she just loves Jesus and the opportunity to be in his presence with his people all over this nation has not grown old to her. If I want God’s blessing, if I want to see the manifest presence of God in my ministry, that’s who I need by my side. Someone who longs to see God. Someone who is pure in heart. By the way, the same applies to you. If you want God’s blessing, if you want to see God in your life, motives matter. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

I wonder today, does your heart burn to see him? Or instead, does your heart burn to be seen? Can I lovingly challenge you? If you searched beneath the surface of your heart and placed your every motive on the lap of God, what would he see? All the things you’re doing for The Lord or the things you dream of doing…whether it’s attending church, doing devotionals, writing blogs, being generous or pursuing full time ministry, would you pause to search your heart and ask yourself a one word question: Why? Maybe make a list and beside everything, try to articulate the “why?”. Be honest with yourself.

Are you having a hard time seeing God lately? Have you found yourself wanting to be seen? A heart cannot long to see God and long to be seen at the same time. There is tremendous blessing that comes to a heart that is pure of mixed motives and selfish ambition. That blessing is seeing God. In your marriage, in your prayer life, in your family, in ministry. If seeing God is not enough, then this would be the best time ever to begin the process of surrendering that part of you to The Lord until it is. If you feel the love of God convicting your heart, then don’t run, lean into it. In his kindness, he is drawing you back to him. Back to a place where you just want to see him again. The beauty is that when you get there, that’s when you see God run.

“BLESSED are the pure in heart, for they WILL see God” -Jesus