Easter in Seasons & Reflections of His Son

This time last year I was taking a deep breath at the end of a whirlwind weekend called Easter. A week full of being out in the middle of the night buying toys, calling every store in Central Florida for an iPad 2, waiting in lines, Good Friday service, Love Reach – all built up to these few hours that held so many souls in the balance.

There were lights, there were give aways, there was all sorts of excitement. I remember the anxiety in the build up, the set-up, the breakfast run, the tweeting, and when it was go-time, I remember standing in worship, looking around me and thinking to myself that I wanted to capture the serene moment that I was standing in, as people filled into the balcony, because I knew that it was the beginning of something amazing in Lakeland.

True to that sentiment, I am once again excited and overwhelmed at what God continues to do – a year later – in Lakeland, Florida… and I wasn’t even there. I can’t tell you the amount of people who are so committed to the execution of the vision of Free Life Chapel and yesterday is just one – out of many – of those days that proves that. Someone told me while I was in the states that it was good being there so that I could see that it isn’t all that I make it out to be in my head. But I continue to disagree – it has only gotten better and more fulfilling to be a part of the house at FLC – and I love every chance I get to be there and be a part just like when I was 19 and stepped into that place for the very first time.

I will admit that when Good Friday came around I was taking my grape and cracker communion alone in my room, reflecting on a day that ultimately changed my eternity and throwing a little prayer in for all the people who were doing the same so far away (and simultaneously pulling their hair out in preparation for the days ahead) and my heart was a little heavy because a piece of me wanted to be pulling my hair out in crazy preparation also.

For me, however, this was a different kind of Easter. One for the books, really. There were no lights, there was no invite bunny (only through my Facebook stalking skills), there was no cool music and no power house message from someone I honor and admire (Thank you, Jesus, for podcast!) but instead a lot of silence and reflection. I read through the gospels and tried to dwell on the fact that Jesus struggled with this decision. That His sweat was like blood. I spent time meditating on the suffering of my God and the confusion that must have occurred in Jerusalem during the days that followed.

Last year was loud and crazy for me and this year was quiet and pensive, but the heart of both were the same: that on Sunday people all over the world came together to celebrate that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and longs for us to find freedom in His death.

I am aware that this season of my life has purpose and is different for that reason, and for that I am excited. I am excited because it is weekends like the one that just passed, in silent reflection and strong presence, that remind me that no matter how bright the lights are and how loud the music is, the heart of it all is the Son!

And in that I’m so grateful that it isn’t this or that. That I was here reflecting and such, while watching my people at FLC throw a mean party in Florida – all in celebration of the same thing – He is Risen!

Happy Easter – keep that reflection in your heart all year!

Back On The Saddle & Always Grateful

Thank God the process of getting from America to Haiti is over and I am officially back to work at Danita’s Children! Nothing exciting to report this time around (which is a good things!) just the usual airport, airport, airport, hotel, transport home. My time in Florida was wonderful as expected and it is never fun to leave Free Life Chapel. It is truly an amazing house of worship and family to the community in Lakeland.

Someone said to me while I was there, “You know it’s good for you to come back so that you don’t remember it in your head as more than what it is.”

No.

I went back.

… and it is just as good as I remember it to be.

Thank you to everyone who made my time at home so so great! To my pastors and Caleb – as much as I tell you that you bless me – it is so much more than that! Thank you for providing for me so much more than just a place to stay – I couldn’t love you more!

Thank you to everyone who is so supportive in prayer as I continue this journey, and a special thank you the few who have joined with me finically – you make it possible for me to be here and I am so grateful for you!!

Lots of things happening since I left – our medical center is looking AMAZINGand is closer and closer to it’s opening – and I am so grateful to be a part of the team at Danita’s Children. Thank you for helping us fulfill the Great Commission as we rescue, care and love for orphaned children in Haiti! It takes everyone’s special part to make it happen!

God is so great, graceful and truly provides everything that I need!

Blessings From Haiti,

Hope

24 & The Concrete Jungle

What do you call four Puerto Ricans and a white girl walking five deep down the streets of New York City, slowly with the wind blowing through their hair, the song that I call “Concrete Jungle” fading into the background, conquering every major sale within a many block radius?

(Did you get a good visual? Maybe that song was just in my head, but how cool would it be if we were walking down the street and that song was like blaring overhead motivating our shopping energy? )

You call it Hope Dodson’s 24th birthday celebration AKA The First Annual Shopping Conference, that’s what you call it!!

Many things were set to happen during the four day festivities, but what made it great was the amazing no plan plans that were set into motion and became an amazing time of girly conversations, late nights, early mornings and great memories that reassured me that maybe being 24 won’t be so bad after all.

Overall, what I can say is: I haven’t laughed that much in a long time.

Mary Poppins. Great show. Great music. Very nostalgic and I so enjoyed reliving the classic that I always watched as a kid. I was singing the songs and everything! 

Cart food. OMG pretty much sums it up. You can dress ‘em up but you can’t take ‘em anywhere!

                                                              

 After the show, all dressed up and everything, went in search of the best cart food I’ve EVER had. Literally. Worth every block of walking. Worth waiting in line. Worth sitting on the sidewalk stuffing our faces with these amazing gyros that I am now craving just thinking of them. Hallal Guys – I don’t know how you make those bad boys, but you’re doing something right!!

Shopping. It goes without saying that NYC has some AMAZING shopping in store. And believe you me that we attacked just about every great deal in New York City.

Wicked. Wicked, Wicked, Wicked. What to say about Wicked.

My goodness, I can’t get over it. The storyline was written in the most clever way. The stage set and costuming was over the top. The voices – my word! I had never read the book and I am SO GLAD that I waited to see it on Broadway. I was just absolutely SHOCKED at the plot, and I’m telling you – if you ever have a choice to go see a show – go. see. Wicked! It will have you laughing, crying and just in awe of the great relationship between the witches who we always saw as ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Everything you thought you knew about the Classic “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” isn’t exactly what it seems. Just simply amazing!

The last day of our trip we relaxed around the city. Enjoyed the amazing Brooklyn Diner one last time, had a little bit of empanada heaven from the Nuchas cart and sat around discussing how great our time has been. Then off to the airport to return to the amazing Florida, 80 and sunny, weather!

That's us on the wall screen!

All in all, I couldn’t have brought in a new year better. I enjoyed so much time and laughter with some amazing women and wish that I would have had more time to see all the people in NYC that I love, but I am leaving the city ready to tackle another year of the 20’s. I’m ready for all that it has – bring it on!!

Another Year Older,

My “One of Those Days” Pep-Talk

Matthew 6:23, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all things will be given to you as well.” … SO STOP WHINING. (my translation)

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s packing and anxiety of traveling and passport checking and not wanting to get on that 3 hour bus ride. Maybe it’s because life is unpredictable and scary and following a path less traveled isn’t always glamorous and I don’t always feel like being courageous and making a deliberate decision to continue anyways. Life doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t just fall into place. It takes deciding to keep going every time that it would be easier to not.

I’m reminding myself today that God’s arm is not too short. He can reach me right where I am. And, for what it’s worth, the God who placed every star in the sky doesn’t need my help in coordinating the plans that He created before I was ever born. This is how He builds faith in us – testing and watching us follow through. Or not follow through. So, to myself, stop trying to control a life that has already been set into motion. Not for me, but for God to be glorified. Just live with a willing heart and allow Him to make your way straight.

I literally just gave myself that pep-talk, while I wrote it and had a little pity party, and then re-read it and cheered myself on!

No joke. I’m so weird. Now I’m gonna go get on an exhausting 3 hour bus right and begin the process of getting to Florida!

Cheers to a hot shower and good water pressure in about 5 hours!!

XOXO,

Hope

Not My Will…

“The pain of sacrifice is far less than the pain of regret.” – Christine Caine

The desire of my heart is to spend my twenties serving, sacrificing and learning the big lessons in life, no matter how hard or what the cost. To connect with people, hear their hearts, see the world for what it truly is and realize that we’re all the same, in our nature, even if not in our lifestyles.

However, I never saw myself in ministry. I never wanted to work at a church. I have always been burdened by church and culture in America. It’s a mission field just as much, if not more, than many other places in the world. We (Americans) miss the point so much. We are so easily distracted. So easily tempted. We are so easily personally defeated. Young girls so often view themselves with such low regard. These are

problems that burden my heart.

My plan was to be the cute girl. Work a job in corporate America – kickin’ butt and takin’ names – and use it as a platform for people to watch a balanced and consistent lifestyle and say, “Wow! And she’s aChristian? I want that, too. And omg, her shoes are so cute.” In the mean time I would be helping make my church go round, and I would be doing super cool stuff all at once. I would fit that lifestyle well, enjoying all of God’s abundance. And the cute shoes wouldjust be a bonus, cus you know, God cares about the little things…

Side note: more Christians in America would do themselves a service by strategically attracting secular society before delivering a life changing message, rather than just spewing views and opinions and hoping that someone is in their line of fire. Job well done, Tim Tebow.

But then there is this heart in me that yearns for those who are forgotten. That sees adventure in going to places less desired. That is fulfilled with compassion. That is bored with convention. That is restless in tradition. That is in no way impressed with keeping up with the Jones’. This heart beats for the love of Jesus to overtake my surroundings the same way that He has overtaken myself. And that is something that won’t let go of me.

At this moment, the serendipity that I share with these alternate universes is one that I will never understand. As if I am standing in the middle of the Great Divide. Torn between two separate worlds. One full of expectations and deadlines, and the other dusty feet and border crossings.

In all of my desires there comes a tiny window of opportunity where I have to take that plan that I had, as confused and blurry as it is, and lay it down. Go all in. Not knowing what the future holds, not knowing what is next, not knowing how it will all play out. But knowing that I trust Him, knowing that He will lift my head and steady my heart – I had to lay down my plan, along with every ounce of who I am, at the feet of Christ, and declare, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”

Even when it’s hard. Even when it hurts. Even when I say it kicking and screaming.

I know that in time life will come. Money will come as I need it to fulfill God’s plan for His people. Success will come (whatever that looks like) from being obedient in the little things. A wedding and forever best friend will happen when/if He feels like I need a partner. Whether it’s in a foreign country forever or not, those things will come, but those aren’t the things my heart craves.

My heart longs to be more giving like the children I see sharing their only meal. To be stronger like the women I watch work 20 hour days to send their child to school.

To remain grounded in the spotlight and overlook jealous criticism- and not only to overlook it, but to truly love those who are spiteful – like my pastors who pour so much into me. To be more patient and compassionate like the friends who I work along side of in Haiti. Because once my heart learns these things, all the others things will be added unto me – both worlds, in abundance. Which is definitely only something God can accomplish!

Nevertheless, not my will….

And, as God is the faithful God that I have learned that He is, I am going to remain in the middle of the Great Divide, with a content heart, continually watching Him keep His promise, and make everything that I thought I wanted, more than I could ever dream of or imagine for His glory.

 

I say all of this, not to you, but to myself – somedays I get so consumed with life that I forget that I have barely even begun my twenties. I’m not even to the halfway mark yet. In those moments it’s good to have a reminder – to go back against everything and everyone who is uncertain and unsure and confusing, and read the things that I know to be true and unchanging – and declare them out loud.

Thanks For Reading.

 

Monday Update Just Because

Just for those curious about the little things:

1. It’s been raining all day. I walked to the bank in a soft mist and then by the time I left,  all the way to the border, and all the way to our property in large drops that smacked my face, soaked my hair and got all my bags wet. Praise God that my laptop is safe (looking for the positives, people).

Mom and Dad – don’t read the next one.

2. There are riots in the streets because people want electricity to come to our village, and because a guy got accidentily shot by a police officer last night. Tires on fire, rocks thrown. I’m spending the night on this side tonight so that we don’t have to cross the border this afternoon.

3. Our little 16 lb. 4 year old is recovering slowly but he shall surely live and not die.

4. There was a gecko in my bathroom last night (looked just like the bad guy on Monster’s Inc.) and I had to catch it with a plastic container. I accidently cut it’s tail off with the rim and then I screamed and lost him and then chased him around the house (who can sleep knowing that there is a gecko in their house) but the tail kept moving on the ground. I finally got him and threw him outside.

Happy Monday everyone – pray for our safety today and for the safety of our school children who walk home after school is over!!

You Shall Live & Not Die

When we arrived he was lying all alone. Alone in a dark room with two beds and an iv stand. Alone on urine soaked sheets and crying for someone to take him to the toilet.

Reason #762 as to why we can’t finish our medical center fast enough.

Witson’s mother took him, at four years old and only 16 pounds, in desperation to the hospital in our village. Knowing that she had no money and his condition was so advanced, they based his value on mere dollars, a liability of wasted time, and chose not to commit to his recovery. They sent them both away, back into the street. His abs protrude from his stomach and every rib in his chest is visible. It seems painful just for him to breathe.

Unfortunately, in the lifestyle of survival the value of a human life is compromised for the sake of the remaining family. If one child is sick it is easier to sacrifice that child – and not feed him – in order to keep the others progressing.

In lieu of that they sent him to Danita’s Children. We have no iv’s, no equipment in place, no staff, yet the best hospital in town sent this dying boy to us, knowing that we are the only place in Ounaminthe willing to take a risk for a human life. Willing to go all in. Willing to commit to save a life so valued by our God. And now the same hospital that sent him away sees that after only two days of treatment he is showing extreme signs of recovery. The same boy that they were so quick to let go unnoticed.

You think the life of a missionary is so glamorous? It’s really just being willing to do the little things. The sometimes gross things. Because they’re worth it. It’s continually walking into a dark room at a hospital in our village to ensure that our patient wasn’t put out on the street since our last visit. It’s carrying his fragile urine soaked little body to the toilet and sitting there with him while he struggles and is in pain. It’s then changing the soaked sheets that he has been lying in for hours because no one on staff at the hospital has even stopped to check. It’s continually checking his eyes to ensure that he hasn’t entered into a coma. It’s sitting by his bed, while people sit and wait in desperation for help outside in the hall, continually pleading for a life, declaring Psalm 118 over his little spirit, “You shall live and not die, and declare the work of the Lord.”

One day soon we will not have to beg for people to take risks with us. We will not have to plead with this community to commit for the sake of one human life. We will receive those in desperation and do everything possible to begin them on a journey to recovery.

Because they’re worth it.

Learning to Listen

I was woken up this morning by a brown foot kicking me in the face and two others running in to beg for more Nemo on the laptop. I love these morning. I’m sitting on this Saturday, thinking about life. About sacrifice. About uncertainty of the future and trusting in God’s promises that come from obedience.

I cannot speak to what the future holds, but I do know what God is doing right now. And I am choosing to hold onto to that.

My life… so far… is a story about change, mostly. About the adventures of steering through my twenties learning, loving, forgiving and growing up. Learning to adjust. Learning to dance in the storm. Learning to continuously look for the rainbow. To continuously keep my heart tender toward humanity.

During this chapter, in Haiti, it’s about learning to hear God. Just to listen to the things that He has to say about the world. He was saying all the same things in Florida. But there I just listen differently. Distractions are more apparent.

When you’re in a place where God’s provision is the only resource, His voice seems louder, but really it’s the same steady voice – small and still – and the more I am learning to listen, the more I want to be silent so that I can hear.

I’m learning to see people for people. To look for their story. To find the beauty that Haitians see everyday within their indescribable surroundings. To understand their personalities. Not as just a taxi driver, or hair lady or waitress. But as specific people. Living life. Trying to figure out tomorrow, just like me.

Look around you today and find God in a few areas – His beauty, His grace, His provision. Be grateful for those things and I guarantee you it will make you smile a little bit more. And in the mists of your crazy worlds, stop and listen. You may be shocked at what you hear.

Have a great Saturday, folks! XOXO