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!

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,

Reminding Myself – Read and Repeat.

I don’t know how to share. It’s easy to impart and pour in – when the hurting is not coming from within.

But it is from within and I can’t quite comprehend why this is so hard and why my journey is never soft to the touch .

Why the questions that are being asked of me are so extreme and why the answers take so much. Why the sacrifice to grow, to be more, to expect great is always screaming and why I continue to desire to choose to turn the volume up.

During this time I don’t know how to share. I don’t know how to write. I don’t know how to poeticly form lines and rhymes and stories to flow from my cup. Within me feels pain and anguish and hurt. I feel selfish and deserting. I feel like the Ruth inside of me is betraying her loyalty.

But I know that it is right.

I know because I have prayed for this. I have prayed that this would come to pass. As soon as I saw a glimpse of it I ran so fast.

I refused, I regretted, because the roots that I have planted are so comforting, so warm, so true and so rewarding. I’m comfortable in my place. I know my lane. And have found what makes me shine.

So to my Father, to my Father who has known me before I was birthed into this earth. To the One who I’ve never had to question, assume or raise a second guess. My heart is content with you. You know me, my fears, and each very tiny insecurity and concern that is inside of me. You are the greatest love story ever told, the greatest story ever known, and I am privileged to play opposite you. To even be in the supporting cast. Even if it makes me the damsel in distress instead of the heroin that I wish I could be.

Just know that I am scared.

Tears on my pillow betray my strength.

The decision before me is one that confuses me, has my head and my heart spewing two different lines. It’s a gamble and a bet. Unknown, risky and without convenient, safe or reserved seating. However, it is not what awaits in Haiti that frightens me, but it is what I am leaving and what possibly will not be.

 Right now all that I am asking of you is that if I step away from the things that I know. If I walk away from the people who have aided my healing and provided a safe place for my pain, celebrated my growth and gave segway to “church” as more than a name. If I go through with this time away from those who have become family and forever important, that You will hold steady the distance between us and provide grace in the mean time. And in the latter of this adventure, what remains is strength and honor.

However, whatever the outcome, whatever the trial, wherever the journey – I will remain knowing that your plan is true and real. You are sovereign and still reigning over this earth that You created in the vast cosmos of eternity.

Even if the relationships that are deepest and closest to my heart find another bonding place, I will continue to meditate that You are forever my judge and I long to forever be your witness. My only prayer is that I am always found on a mission about my Father’s business.

Whatever that looks like, wherever that is. Beyond whoever understands, is confused or could care less. I pray that you keep my mind on this path, this very narrow bind that is embedded into my heart. The one that pulls me here and pushes me there.

 But I thank you before I even know it or feel it that on this journey you have lit, you have put in me peace and contentment in a way that as uncomfortable it is, as wrong as it feels, as selfish as I seem, it is a fit. It is a fit because I know the Word that you have put in me, I know the desires that my soul longs to be.

And on the other side I know the reward that you have waiting for me. On the other side of prayer, of obedience, of fear, of sacrifice. Just to see if I will.

 But I want you to know, that even if my steps seem shaky, inconsistent and quietly plotting our escape any minute, know that my heart is willing. I want all that You have for me, in the abundance and essence that You want to give me. I want Your word to be tatted all over me.

And before this one is even over, let me just say… if it isn’t how I want or not how I planned, if You’re ready for another move, another test or another trial – I will be waiting. Still willing. Knowing all that You are according to who You have always been.

Selah.

A Rare Glimpse Into My Thought Process.

I haven’t written much in the past month. Not because I couldn’t write and not because I had nothing to say. But because I had no words to serve proper justice to what is under weigh in my heart.

It’s not easy to share in a hard place, always better to share the story in hind sight, after it has all worked out for my good. But you know I’m always told to write down my feelings because one day I will want to tell my kids how I felt and I won’t remember. All I can say today is that my hurt is burdened. I know that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle and I am confident that there are blessings on the other side of this test of obedience, but the process of pressure that is building my exit has me at a place where I’m just ready to walk away.

There have been many times that I have come to this point and have not walked it through because it hurts me to see those hurting around me. Apparently a pressure cooker needs the pressure in order to cook correctly, but at some point I have got to stop crying.

(Is this normal? No clue.)

I can’t think about it, I can barely talk to the closest people in my life because my current reality is heavy.

I love my life.

I love my normal.

I am so grateful and so blessed.

I love my church. I love that it doesn’t take going to the street to see true and tangible change in lives, and that is what is happening at Free Life Chapel.

This is the moment where relationships are truly tested. Were they becoming because they were convenient or available? Or was there something that connected a relationship worth investing in? I am grateful for the relationships that I know will remain.

No matter what, I feel like I am leaving my place in my home. Giving up my room. The place where I feel valuable and purposeful. When I come back, will it be the same? I almost feel guilty  because I’m bringing this on myself. I don’t have to feel this way.

I could just stay.

And then my heart wouldn’t be aching with the slightest thought of leaving this place that I call home. I wouldn’t be making myself sick over the idea of gambling the most precious relationships to me in the world for the opportunity to serve a small community of people.

I have a good life. I am in a good position. Why is it even necessary to go? I have no clue. Is it just longing for adventure? Is there something that I need to learn about God and faith and trusitng Him that I’m not getting in my element? I don’t know. I have asked myself that same thing and tried to substitute the idea with another and I keep returning to this point.

This same point of “go or don’t go”. I could just stay in my good life where I know the ropes and it’s comfortable. People do it all the time. People have huge dreams and desires in their heart and instead they stay where they’re comfortable and live a happy life, never knowing what else they could have missed out on.

 It’s harder because it has been my choice. It is so much easier for me to react courageously to other’s choices that I have no control over, but it’s never been me who caused my own pain. This is something new.

I am holding on to what I know to be true, and trusting that God has a sufficient plan.

Goodnight,

Hope

Tell a Beautiful Story.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I worship in a house that is simply re-defining “church” as we know it. It’s called Free Life Chapel and if you haven’t heard of it… well, let’s just say you will shortly. Interning with them has taught me so much just by sitting in a lot of meetings and watching a lot of people do what they do.

I didn’t realize just how relevant we are, however, until I took a new job and had a meeting out of town to discuss what my role would be and how the company could utilize my abilities.

Throughout every conversation I continued to catch myself saying, “… well at Free Life we do it like this…”, and it made me so proud that I was continuously using the house of God to influence the culture and execution of a company – not faith based – on best practices.

Then I  began to further question – is that not something that should be occurring on a daily basis? Should it be a shock that the church is the leading influence in our community and our businesses and our ideas?

Many people questioned my taking an internship at a “church” when I am so interested in things like journalism, event PR and politics.

None of which relate directly with typical churches in our society.

Whatsoever.

(Note that I said typical. So if you happen to attend a rather snazzy church yourself, don’t be offended, there are many across the nation that are doing huge things and making waves and kicking butt and taking names. Who am I to try and define what ‘typical’ looks like anyways? And if you are offended then you’re missing the point. Keep reading.)

However, if you do worship in a house that causes you to wonder why someone interested in things that pertain to no part of church, then all i can say in return is

you just haven’t found the right house to worship in.

As soon as church steps BACK INTO culture and becomes relevant again, that is when the church will be telling a story so beautiful that the world has no choice but to stop and listen.

Good Tuesday, folks.