What Love Is This

I never knew that my heart was capable of this kind of love.

It’s not like how I loved my pets when I was a kid. Or even how I love my family. Shoot, it’s not even the kind of love like when I come across a beautiful pair of shoes that are marked down off an already reduced price.  It is this deep in the stomach, overwhelming, never goes away and never runs out, ultra selfless, do anything to see them smile, burdened by what makes their hearts hurt kind of love.

I’ve never felt anything like it. And once again, shout out to all the parents out there – man, y’all go through it for your children. So worth it.

When I moved to Haiti I was the ultimate Auntie. As a 12-timer, I’m good at the Auntie role. It’s pretty basic really – chocolate after 10pm, toys that make loud noises, stay up past curfew, always go to their school for lunch when in town.

So when I got to Haiti and had to take on a parenting role – implementing rules, changing wet sheets in the middle of the night, disciplining (the worst, but more necessary part – kids definitely crave structure!)  – I was less than prepared, and even less prepared for the overwhelming love that has grown in my heart for 115 of Haiti’s finest.

Literally. Like when I pray for them, my heart is deeply burdened for what plagues their dreams and the insecurities that manifest themselves through their actions (which is the nice way of saying when they’re acting a fool, but I can’t be mad at them because I know it comes from their intense past that I could never imagine). I wonder what they saw before they came to live at Danita’s Children and I desire, more than anything, for them to catch a slight glimpse of who God has planned for them to be.

I am in America this month  and I can’t stop thinking of them, how their doing, what I’m missing out on and wondering if they miss me.

It’s crazy how God has given me this love that makes us all family in Haiti. Not like a group of people who live together so are inevitably close – we are family.

I am so grateful to be at my home church for a few weeks (my word, God had to have known that I was insanely home sick for it) and working in our US offices, in the land of abundance and overwhelming choices. However, no matter where life takes me, my heart will always wonder toward the kids who God is using to change my life. Their insane courage and determination to rise above the statistics that surround them continues to humble me and encourage me to always push for more and to continuously count the blessings around me.

You should do the same – you’ll be surprised at how beautiful your life really is.

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Dwelling On The Beatitudes

MOUNT OF BEATITUDES

Capernaum, Israel

Matthe 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 One of my favorite places in the whole world.

Whenever my heart is conflicted or I’m feeling overwhelmed with this life, it is this place that I think of.

This place, where it is believed that Jesus taught to many, saying things, such as, “… blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Where He called me blessed and said that I would inherit the kingdom of heaven.

So grateful for these words in Matthew 5 and love remembering back to the moments when I sat on this mountain, in front of this gate, dwelling on these words and imagining what that moment must have been like, reassuring myself that it’s all gonna be okay.

And to all who are overwhelmed in this life (and to myself in particular), take a deep breath, and remember… you are blessed. Seek His kingdom first, and EVERYTHING else will be added unto you. [Matthew 6:33]

Side note: Which means, if you are seeking His kingdom first, and you don’t have what you think you need, then it’s not for you yet – because when it is – he will add it unto you. He promised.

Many days my actions (or just plain human stupidity) may not always reflect it, but I am so grateful that God sees my heart and that I truly desire after Him. Sometimes – and when I say sometimes I mean like every, single day – I make a total mess out of myself. It amazes me that God carries this abundance of grace that is renewed each morning, and that He can see the promise in me, even when I can’t see it in myself.

Quiet Time #ThoughtsOfDad

There are so many memories that live in my soul, and my most cherished are the times with my family before this world expected anything of me.  When I was just a clumsy little hooligan. Most of them take place on our sailboat, a campground, the woods somewhere or a beach house. The one constant in all of my past times is the infamous words from my Dad, claiming that it was, “quiet time”. The sun on it’s way to bed, crazy hair (I’m sure) from whatever the day held, feet hanging off the edge of our O’day, around a camp fire, in the sand, in our back field (or somewhere of this sort) and attempting the impossible task of not speaking while looking up into the black night sky as the stars simultaneously begin to appear – the big/little dipper, O’riens belt, beetle juice (totally not how you spell it, but I thought that’s what it was called when I was little). Quiet time: a moment that I find myself longing for more and more these days, and has left me with a deep love for astronomy.

Among quiet time lives so many moments of waiting for my Dad to get home from work so he could lift me up to touch the ceiling. One time he took me on a date to the circus. I don’t remember the whole day, but remember that I loved it. I also have this vivid memory of getting to ride a pony outside the tent and getting a coloring book.

His presence has always been consistent – whether there was a funny noise under the hood of my first car (or second… or third), learning to change a tire (cus what if no one is around!!), shooting my first gun (I’m a Texan people, don’t hate) in our field, being taught just about everything, or calling my Dad in his office at work to talk me through putting water in a radiator while I’m crying on the side of the road in a different state. Being lost, and a phone conversation that always sounded like some variety of the following – Me: “Dad, I’m lost.” Dad: “Where is the North star?” Me: “Dad! What the heck? I’m driving down the highway and I don’t even know what that looks like. They all look the same.” Dad: “You can always find home from the North star… home is East.” My best friend, Ashli, after I hang up: “Did your Dad try to explain our way with the stars again? “

And when the day came that I decided to move away from home and forge through on my own, and everything in my life was a question – he told me to head out, live the dream, take the road less traveled, make mistakes… and if it all crumbles – call him and come back home.  It is safe to say that because of this man I have never been afraid to conquer my hearts desires, knowing that I could always call my Dad at any random, petty, but “important in the moment” moment that I would certainly encounter along the way… and it would all be okay.

However, no matter how crazy life gets or how far out I venture, I am always taken home when I look at the stars. It has a way of calming the anxiousness of a busy day and always makes me smile… When I gaze into the sky, and all at once feel overwhelmed by the vast amazement of God’s artwork, feel seven years old again, look for Orion’s belt and find “quiet time”.

And to my Dad: In the mists of a crazy life, I am forever grateful that 23 years ago you chose to make me your daughter – a decision that showed me what love really looks like,  how special that I am, the worth that no man can match and that continues to reap fruit as I navigate these years “out and about” on the path less traveled.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

 

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.