Today I offer you a candid look at my journey of starting a new career as an author. I'm not about to offer you 10 steps for balancing a busy life, nor am I going to tell you how "together" I have it. It's just me, walking through life.
Let's get right to the juicy center of it all: Although I've written a number of articles for websites and have a personal story published in someone else's book, it wasn't until the summer of 2014 that I realized how passionate I am about writing. Ironically, at the moment, I'm an Event Coordinator for an accomplished non-fiction author.
Making the decision to embark on a new career path has been a crazy awesome fun! But it's also challenging. I always test 50/50 for being right/left brained, I prefer to live life on the "right" side. The part I'm struggling with, is the fact that my job requires me to be 90% left brained. And I didn't realize until recently, that life on the "left" side causes me to shift my attention away from the Lord. Don't freak out on me! I know He's always with me and I can close my eyes and BAM! there He is. But for whatever reason, having to be so decisive, logical, and strategic, makes it harder for me to slow down and experience Him. No offense to you amazing lefties! But I'm not used to it and I find it exhausting.
I used to start my day with hours of quiet contemplation with Jesus, dancing, and writing, but now I'm too aware of the time- HURRY to start work, RUSH to pick drive kids around, RUN errands, tap back into CREATIVE side and work on my novel, teach ballet, exercise, dance in the various ministries I'm in, and oh...I'm a wife and have a house to clean , and for some reason people think they have to eat every day which means I need time to cook! I'm in a swirl of activity, busy flopping back and forth between left and right brain.
I crave the peace, passion, creativity, and depth of living not just from my right brain, but from my spirit. And that is where I am at the moment - learning to jump around in my brain, but to live from a much deeper place in the spirit. To remember to slow down and look, listen, and expect Him to show up. I had NO idea that my job would so affect my ability to let go of the noise in my head and embrace the quiet of my spirit. I'm not complaining about my job! I have a GREAT job! But I'm realizing now, more than anything, I'm ready to see my dreams and my passion as an author become my full-time job. Until that happens, I need grace!
Can you relate?
Constant thoughts are the noise within that dulls us to His voice, His touch, His breath.
Being dedicated to spend time with the Lord, silencing what clamors for attention like a crying child, isn't always easy. Life demands we pay close attention to the things that matter from day to day, but over time dull us to what gently whispers from behind the veil.
At times becoming still enough to hear those whispers, is difficult. We forget that the veil no longer separates us, but entices us to draw close and see what awaits just beyond it.
Distractions don't have to be forced from our mind. To look past them we simply turn our attention to Him and remain there until everything else fades. In the stillness of His presence, distractions lose their grip and we find their importance landing in proper order. All we have to do to hear, see, and feel Him again, is turn our attention towards Him.
Many unwind with movies or TV because it silences the thoughts and lists streaming constantly through our consciousness. But we must do more than only give our minds a break. We must refocus on the eternal, get lost in the limitless awe, and breathe His love. It's in the simple turning towards Him, that we find peace that remains even in the midst of life demands.
He is the place of peace, of creativity, of wisdom, and of grace.
He is the One that silences the noise within.
Words are such powerful bits of life, aren't they? Recently, since venturing into the area of fiction writing, I've fallen in love with the beauty and power of words for the first time in my life. Though I've written non-fiction before, I've never really understood how beautifully captivating the artistry of words can be.
Words are mystical- allowing us to get lost within their depths.
Words can be loud, echoing within us long after they've been spoken.
Words can be as soft as a whisper, enticing us to lean in and hear.
Words can heal.
Words have roots which grow hidden beneath the surface, until they blossom with life or death.
This summer I decided to pursue my secret dream of fiction writing. I've always loved reading and often would put a book down and say, "Ugh! If only I could write like that!"
How often do we dream of doing something but don't, simply because we aren't sure if we can? Sometimes finances, or other things can hinder us from pursuing our dreams, but if your dream has the breath of God upon it, it will succeed. Take the first step! Don't sit back and wonder if it could have been a success.
Let's take what is within us - potential gifts to the world and trust God to disperse them where He wants them. That is my goal - to give readers a gift. There is life that flows through our words especially when they are God inspired.
I'm more than halfway done with my book. When it's published, there's no telling what God will do through it. What is your dream? What do you have that God is waiting to breathe upon? Leave me a comment below - I'd love to hear the dreams of your heart.
Look doubt in the eye and run after your dreams!
Perhaps this will be my least read post in my blog. In truth, it really doesn't matter.
Tonight I am writing. Just writing.
I was first profoundly impacted with the raw power of what a book can do, when I read The Secret Place, by Dale Fife. Each word seemed to play a chord within my heart; picking at strings and creating melodies that I didn't know existed - drawing me beyond simple words on paper. I normally devour books, but this time I savored each bite, allowing myself to appreciate His presence in each page.
It was then, after reading this book a few times, that I realized I too wanted to write something that could only be described as God's love on paper; wooing its readers to delve into His heart through the letters on a page. My desire has been and still is to see a creative stream of writing that can unlock even the most guarded heart.
That was over twelve years ago. Since that time, I have written for a couple of ministries, authored two small books and began this blog. However, it has only been over the past few months that I
realized that writing was becoming a passion of mine and something I have decided to pursue without regard to the reasoning that has previously held me back. One never knows the power within, until they release it. It is time for me to find out what God wants to say through me. Through the tapping of my keyboard, I have found my voice.
I may spend the rest of my life searching for the words that will change a life, but I will find them. God will give them to me. My dream is to write something that is teeming with the very essence of God, something that will be remembered not for how beautifully it is written, but for the literal presence of God that rests upon it.
This will be what I write.
Perhaps you will be one who reads it.
As I lay my head upon Your chest,
I hear souls, crying.
With each beat of your heart-
As though awakened from a dream,
I focus my gaze,
Shake off the past,
And give You praise.
Unite my heart,
Give me Kingdom eyes.
Not denying my part,
Letting destiny guide.
Extending Your hand
I see what you hold-
The treasures of life,
Are the jewels of souls.
Dancing in the fires,
Learning to hear
Your greatest desire,
To draw them near.
©Gretchen Rodriguez, 2005
I'm so excited to have my amazing friend Rachel blogging for us today! She is one the most passionate people I know; beautiful inside and out, an incredibly anointed dancer, and an equally gifted writer. See for yourself! You can find Rachel's webpage at: www.rachelelizabeth.org
Sealed in Jesus, by Rachel Koszka
Wonder at what the cross really accomplished has consumed me. I've discovered that everything changed in Christ's perfect act of love two thousand year ago. Everything.
Since the dawn of time, Jesus has longed for reunion. Creation echoes the mystical reality that my spirit is seated in heavenly places with Christ, our union of love beyond the borders of time and space. I have always been known by Him. God tells Jeremiah that before he was formed in the womb he was known.
When Adam and Eve believed they were different from God, not already created in His image and likeness, shame and separation became their new reality. Our glory was contained in skin, so Jesus presented Himself to the earth, the fullness of God's glory dwelling in man. From the tree, Jesus reached towards us and erased the reach of Eve. He drew us home.
Like a man who asks the woman he adores to spend the rest of her days with him, Jesus has already invited us into eternal opportunity. Except, the rest of our days will last forever; death cannot conclude our union with Christ. Love became a guarantee when Jesus reached from the cross for my hand in marriage.
Saying yes to Jesus and slipping His signet ring on my finger, allows love to be perfected. Our relationship is proof that His choice to reconcile was worth everything, even death. My responsibility has never been to woo or impress Jesus; simply saying yes and receiving the finished work of the cross is enough.
I'm overwhelmed, when I think of how any risk I could ever face in the realm of love has already been risked on my behalf, and won. It's the beauty of His love-risk towards us. All fear disappears when I realize that Jesus risked everything first. He took away the "gamble" on the cross; now love is sealed.
Eternally press Me on your spirit, like a wax seal left from the imprint of a signet ring. Print Me on your arm forever; tattooed commitment. Our love is stronger than separation, desire dramatic as death. Our love is The End itself - final breath and warmth of life. Our love is like a lightning bolt; it sparks a supernatural fire when displayed. The very flame of God, is contained in our union. Paraphrased from Song of Solomon 8:6
Any healthy marriage thrives on grace. Our entire experience of God has only ever been fully infused with the reality of His grace towards us. Relationship should never be founded on conditions and rewards; genuine relationship flows from the gift of grace. A good husband will always go above and beyond for the desires of his wife, because her perfect joy is his favourite thing.
Have we convinced ourselves it could be any different with Jesus? He believes in my innocence, He was the one to win it back! Why else would He sing, "It is finished." Simply believing what Jesus already believes about me, allows me to see that righteousness has been perfected.
God confirms love by placing us in Christ, anointing us just like Jesus was anointed. If this isn't enough to convince you, He even sealed the deal by giving a written promise, like a letter carefully sealed. His spirit in our hearts is a pledge, a testimony that He will always follow through on His promise. Jesus will come back and marry you, because He is who He professes to be: the most faithful Man alive. Paraphrased from 2 Corinthians 1:20-22
In some ways, the church is like a wife attempting to convince her husband that he isn't already madly in love with her. The bride must wake up to the reality of her status: we are one with Christ. He has redeemed innocence and reconciled us to the eden that is eternity found in Him. Our dwelling place is with God; His dwelling place is in us. Welcome home.
As I sit to write, I realize that words, no matter how eloquently expressed, will forever be insufficient in expressing what I feel in my heart. It is the perpetual and earnest desire of God's passionate lovers, to somehow capture the love and beauty of the Lord that we feel and express it in a way that others can understand and embrace. Yet even the most gifted musicians, song writers, artists, dancers, and poets, will always fall short in expressing His fathomless beauty and limitless wonder.
How can we describe One so profound that He Himself decided to create the heavens and the earth as a taste of who He is? How can we explain a love so mystifying, it turned a sacrifice of death into a victory of life vast enough to save the entire world? How do we take a spiritual substance and attempt to encapsulate it in some perceivable way that makes it recognizable to the human mind? How does one dive into a realm of spirit with the efforts of a natural mind? The answer is, we don't. And yet we try.
We will forever try to find ways of describing what consumes us so profoundly. His love has set us on fire and our hearts burn deep within our spirits. Our thoughts are continually upon Him and our senses awaken to a reality beyond the natural realm.
One of my greatest desires is to engage His love so deeply and consistently, that the passion I feel becomes contagious. When I dance, I want the reality of what is tangible to me, drawing others into their own encounter with Him. When I write, I desire for my readers to go beyond the words into the very substance of His love. As I go about my day in monotonous errands or joyful adventures, I want others to be drawn to the greatness of the One inside of me.
May we all burn with the pure, holy light of His countenance radiating so strongly from within, that we shine everywhere we go. May our lives radiate and illustrate His love so evidently, that others are drawn to Him, regardless of how inadequately we try to explain it.
"Your faces will glisten with glory." ~ Psalm 34:5 The Passion Translation
This has been such a beautiful season with the Lord for me personally. I've been so aware of the burning desire in my heart for Him, so grateful that He has fanned the flames of longing. There has been a fresh grace over me this year - a consistent desire to remain aware of the Lord's presence at all times.
Yet in my longing to hear more accurately, see more clearly, and encounter His Kingdom more profoundly, I was actually losing focus. It wasn't that I was getting distracted from this overwhelming desire to know Him more, but the desire itself was becoming larger than the Object of my desire. As I encountered Him more deeply, I also felt the frustration of wanting to be closer. The desire has been so deep, that the Lord finally revealed to me that the desire itself was distracting me. Focusing on what we aren't experiencing, causes us to come to Him with frustration instead of expectation. No matter how much we have experienced His love and have encountered His glory, there is always more! However, we can become anxious in our longing instead of resting in His love and trusting that He wants us to experience deeper union with Him, even more than we do.
Now I lean into this burning desire for more, with expectancy, enjoyment, and rest. Instead of crying out to encounter Him more deeply, I simply believe that I am. I have learned what it means to enter in by faith. I don't come with ideas of what my quiet time will look like, I simply trust Him to lead me into new adventures. Now I welcome this passion and lean into it, remembering it is a gift from God. I am literally allowing myself to melt into the yearning I feel, instead of fighting the pain or wondering when God will show me more. To have burning hearts is something we should be thankful for; something to celebrate without allowing it to exasperate. I pray that you too will learn to appreciate the tension between what you are experiencing and the desire for more. There is nothing sweeter than living a life as His burning ones!
Breathing You in, effortlessly.
My eyes adjust to the unrelenting glory of Your nearness and my mind settles into peaceful torrents of stillness.
Our hearts,Yours and mine, tangled knots of tangible affection.
I can taste the sweetness of Love swirling all around me, flooding into me and surging through me.
Heaven and Earth converge as I engage with what is vastly felt yet dimly seen.
His fragrance gently reveals itself until it penetrates deep into my being, demanding memories of love revealed.
Unrelenting glory consumes me until there is nothing left but blood-washed fragments of who I used to be, revealing the true beauty of who I have become in Him.
Unveiled glimpses of His face and the warmth of His embrace become my obsession.
Learning to live here - in this place that transcends the mirage of reality, announcing what is true.
This is life in Him; the beauty and awe of a place I now call home.
There is a simplicity of life offered to all, but sadly attained by few. It is a profound clarity in our identity and purpose that comes from knowing who we are in the Lord and how much we mean to Him. It is the place of peace that surpasses all understanding; a knowing that life is much more than what is commonly perceived. It is the discovery that the One who calls us to Himself, is worthy of our unhindered trust and unlimited love.
In fact, for many this deep seated security is only found when God mercifully and lovingly swoops in to adjust our focus. He cradles our face with those big, strong, yet gentle hands, looks straight into our eyes and waits. He patiently watches as we strive to attain peace through ever spinning trinkets of man-made pleasure and trivial pursuits. He waits for us to stop wiggling around in fruitless efforts to quiet our soul and center all of our attention on Him. "And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you." -Isaiah 30:18
For me, the season when He brought my heart and spirit into harmony with Him, came when we lived on the mission-field. I admit I chuckle and shake my head when I think of the irony of the mission-field during our last year and a half. The mission-field is supposed to be a place of pouring out, of giving freely to a people and place not your own. It's where lives are changed, people are healed, and cultures are impacted with God's love and power. Much of the time we lived there, all of those things happened. But I admit it wasn't the healing, salvations, or miracles happening through us or around us that impacted me the most. It was what happened inside of me as God took my desire to be fully His and began answering that yearning.
You see the last 18 months that we were there, nothing I had envisioned personally, was happening. It was a time where I had no friends, nothing to do, and no where to go. Everything I tried to do fell to the ground and eventually I began to surrender to the nothingness, feeling consumed by the type of prison I found myself in. The heat was unbearable in our poorly made house, the water was off more than it was on, and the electricity sometimes went out for days. People I reached out to for friendship didn't reciprocate. I was alone with my daughters, husband, Jesus and my longing soul. We didn't have the resources to be able to move back to the States. We were totally in God's hands - ultimately the best place one can find themselves.
I had no distractions of normal life to inhibit my time with the Lord. As a matter of fact, most of what I had, was time with Him. In the midst of confusion, surrounded with nothing, I found that my spirit was still shining. As I would quiet my heavy heart filled with questions, I would find my spirit connecting with the Lord on the deepest level possible. Worship would bypass the clutter of my mind and navigate me into His presence where I knew that a foundation of trust was being assembled. The security I so longed for would only be found in Him, not in my location or circumstances. (This revelation alone was worth all of what I went through.)
And then I learned to fly. My circumstances didn't change nor did my overwhelming desire to be free from them. I wish I could tell you a defining moment in this season that turned things around, but there wasn't one. There were many. Every day was a defining moment. Every time I decided to smile, to worship, to encourage myself and my family, every time I prayed for someone on the street when I didn't want to, every time I lifted my hands thankful for His love, each moment I laid my questions at His feet, defined me and altered me most profoundly. I just kept doing it - every day, over and over and over again because He was all we had and in truth all we needed.
Then one night I had a dream unlike any I had ever had. I dreamt that I was flying around our house, in and out of each room, fully free and happy. My prison became a limitless sky! It was so real. I had never dreamt I could fly before. The Lord was showing me how I could be free and soar higher than my circumstances. I was still stuck in the natural, but I was learning how to be free and fly in, through, and above the limitations that went deeper than my surroundings into the depths of my soul. After I had that dream, it was only a matter of a month or two before God moved us back to the States.
Now that we are here, I have had to learn to fly in the midst of busyness and stay in the place of worship and communion with Him. This is the position most find themselves in. But regardless of what situations you are facing, what distractions seek to hijack your focus, God is wanting you to stop and discover something beautiful; something simple yet profound. In order to learn to fly, we must choose to love, to be thankful, to trust Him, and to experience the substance of His presence every day and in every situation. He longs to fulfill you, satisfy you, and surprise you with His love! Can't you sense His nearness now? Don't you feel Him drawing you every so gently into His love? Stop wiggling and be still. Everything that once has tripped you up is actually a step to stability - a foundation of strength and assurance. Choose to take moments - over and over again to be with Him, to love, to surrender all, and to be thankful and then you too will learn to fly.
I have written many times for this blog and as a guest author on other sites, encouraging others and myself on the importance of hanging in there & worshiping beyond our circumstances. But yesterday I realized how few write about the experience of dreams coming to pass. To keep writing about how things will get better and failing to write about how incredible it is once the breakthrough actually comes, sounds as though we are beating a dead horse ...always hoping but never realizing our dreams coming true. It's essential that we celebrate and shout our victories even louder and longer than we have bemoaned our struggles.
Today I want to tell you that it is quite sweet on this side of the breakthrough! Years ago I led an amazing dance team in FL and felt so fulfilled and blessed to be doing what I loved. Then I gave it up to serve for many years on the mission-field. For all of the years that I was on the field, I taught ballet here and there, but longed for the day when I could truly dance not only what was in my heart, but to be a part of a team who shared my passion. Every time I tried to do anything with dance as a ministry, it fell flat. With each passing year came the realization that I was getting older and more out of shape. My dream of ministering with dance felt like it was dying. Right before we left the mission-field, I once again laid my dreams on the altar and thought my only outlet to worship the Lord in dance would be in the privacy of my home.
Then we moved to Redding and joined Bethel Church. Immediately, I was surrounded by passionate lovers of God who shared the same heart for dance and worship. I wanted to scream, "Please let me dance with you! In the hall, at a house, just let's get together and dance!" But the one thing I have come to appreciate about our church is that no one is promoted based on talent, ordination papers, or the famous people you have ministered with. Here, it is all about relationship. And relationship is one of the beautiful things we encounter in the ministries we join.
The fulfillment I have found isn't only because I get to dance - though that feels AMAZING - it's because I have found a group of people who love what I love, care enough to be real, and are crazy in love with Jesus! It is actually easy to say they are family - after all, that's Christian lingo for lots of people - but I am happy to say they are my friends.
I understand quite abundantly how blessed I am to have come full-circle. There is definitely more that I believe will come to pass, both with dancing and writing, but it is finally here. It is actually happening. After years of holding tight to the hem of His garment, worshiping and praising the Lord for what felt like a disappearing dream, fighting disillusionment & discouragement, that He some how, maybe, just maybe had forgotten, God has once again proved His faithfulness. I never expected that my dreams would begin again in my 40's when I was in the worst dance shape ever, but God is more concerned with my heart than the height of my leg or how many pirouettes I can do! I understand where Bethel gets their model of relationship over titles. They get it from Him. And I have come to value that as well.
So today as I publicly shout, "God is faithful! I've never been happier!" I want to cheer you on as well. He was all I had for many years. I had no local friends (besides my amazing family), no outlet to dance, and my dreams felt like a cruel mirage, but I had Him. He became my Best-Friend more than He ever had been. I learned to trust Him more than I thought I could and I worshiped more honestly and deeply than imaginable. The times of disillusionment don't last forever. I am one who can very humbly and joyfully attest to this truth.
Thank you God and thank you Bethel Leaders for a not only a place I am free to use my gift, but for place I now call home.
In all of the years I’ve been dancing, I have never had a season where I have learned more about dance and myself in it, than this last year. Unfortunately, it has come out of a season of injury. This has been a difficult season to navigate through in the natural, but what the enemy has tried to steal, kill, and destroy, God has turned into a time of great discovery.
I have danced since I was 4 years old. I have no memories of a life without dance (except when having babies). As a result of a life woven into a beautiful tapestry of dance, my identity has been intertwined with dance as well. When I cannot dance, I feel incomplete. However, what I’ve recently been processing with the Lord is that my identity is not that of a dancer. When God looks at me, the most significant thing He sees is not that I am a dancer. The most significant thing to Him, is that I am His child.
I am much more than dance. Within me is the convergence of two realms – Heaven and earth contained in one body. I am His child and a vessel of His Spirit. Since God is love and I am made in His image, I also am love and a dispenser of that love on this earth. Dance is only an expression He has given me to shine forth my true identity. The problem is when we confuse our identity with the expression of our identity. This has been one of the biggest things I’ve learned in this season and to be honest, was hard for me to come to terms with. Who am I if I’m not dancing? Who are you if you aren’t doing the things that have become a part of you? God doesn’t define us by what we do, but by who we are.
Looking back over the 24 years I have taught ballet, I have found a common thread among injured dancers. They complain more about their frustration with not being able to dance, than they do about the injury itself. They express how fragmented, out of sorts, and discouraged they feel when they’re unable to lose themselves in the movement of dance. And that is in fact what happens to dancers - we blissfully lose ourselves in the freedom of expressing an inward reality.
You see for those who only watch dance, they may not understand that the physical aspect of dance is only a portion of what is happening. For us, body, soul, and spirit harmoniously articulate themselves through the language of dance. As worshipers who dance, it is an especially deep experience. It is a language of love, a way for us to shine forth what He is saying & doing, and what we are seeing & experiencing. But when that expression is suppressed, we can feel off balance. We have become so intertwined with this expression that we confuse it with the deeper foundations of who we are.
In seasons when we have no outlet for dance, (no studio, etc.) or are physically restricted, we should embrace these seasons as allowances for strengthening our foundation in Him. I believe that when we aren’t able to express ourselves through the gifts He’s given us, it is a good time to make sure the gift is still as pure as when He gave it to us. A season where we cannot dance is the perfect time to lay this gift at His feet and allow Him to purify any area that has been tainted with mixture of any kind. And the only way to know if it has been tainted is to ask Him. We want the waters flowing with purity in order for them to have their full intention realized. I also encourage every dancer to take at least a couple of weeks off each year for these same purposes.
Expressions of love can become automatic – done out of a habit instead of an overflow of experiential love. When this happens we are exhibiting the clanging symbol symptom. (see 1 Cor 13) It is so important that we walk every day, every expression, with constant awareness of our Source – of His love as the foundation and center of what flows out.