Playground Shenanigans

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Dear Daughter,

As a child, I always had the hardest time crossing monkey bars. After holding on tight for a while and reaching for a few bars, I would always grow tired, dropping to the ground. So, I would run to other areas to play. The slides and swings were my favorite. That’s where I was most comfortable. Those play areas were much easier and didn’t take as much effort.

There’s nothing wrong with swings and slides, but I was often left alone to play by myself while all my friends went to conquer those rusty, old, dirty monkey bars. For me, the monkey bars were hard and they took so much time. For some reason, I just didn’t have the strength it took to reach forward with one hand and let go with the other to make it to the other side… Go figure…

Just as I had a tough time reaching and letting go physically, I have often found myself in the same emotional mindset as an adult, maneuvering through life’s playground, never straying from the most comfortable play areas. I wouldn’t dare go near those rugged, old bars. As long as I don’t touch them, maybe no one will notice they’re there. The truth is that people may not always see the broken fragments of your heart, which are constantly buried deeper and deeper from daily debris, but it does not negate the fact that they are still there and sometimes it is difficult to move on. If you want to see those broken fragments healed, you have to step out of your comfort zone, letting go of what was and reaching toward what will be. My love, always remember, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”

 Respect the Process,

Ana J.

 

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Enough is Enough

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Dear Daughter,

Trusting. It seems to be a persistent topic in my conversations with the Lord as of late. I have realized, and soon enough you will too, that there is a huge difference between knowing that I can trust God and actually trusting Him. Knowledge is power but what good is power if you don’t actually use it? I know that I can trust God. I know it in my heart and mind but simply knowing it isn’t enough.

A few weeks ago, after reading a devotional and meditating on scripture during my quiet time, I listened to one of my favorite worship songs and, as I was listening, I began to sing:

“I know that I can trust You,

I know that I can trust You,

I know that I can trust You,

I lean not on my own understanding,

My life is in the hands of the Maker of heaven…”

As I reflected on these lyrics, I prayed and relentlessly declared to the Lord, “I trust You.” As I repeated these words, I considered the areas of my life where I need to trust God a little more. These are the areas that I haven’t fully relinquished control. It was at that moment that I thought to myself, “Yes, you can trust God but can God trust you?” WOW! You can imagine that my heart skipped a beat. It stopped me in my tracks and I sat and thought about it for a while longer… Can He trust ME? I thought of everything God has called me to do: all the visions, dreams, and assignments and all the commandments that He has given in His word. I realized that I hadn’t been faithful in my assignments. Conviction set in.

There is a specific assignment that God has placed in your hands. There are people in the world who are waiting… They’re waiting for you to fulfill your assignment. Lives depend on it. Souls are at stake.

Can God trust you? YES, He can!

The fact of the matter is that God knows that He can trust us but we don’t always trust ourselves. I had to ask myself, “What actions have you taken to show yourself trustworthy?” I have to say that I didn’t have much of a response. I had a lot of excuses which all stemmed from fear. For years, I have allowed fear to paralyze me from moving toward my destiny, but enough is enough! What is paralyzing you?

God has entrusted you with an assignment. He knows for sure that you have enough in you to complete it. My love, never forget that God trusts you enough to do your part. It’s your job to trust Him enough to do His.

Be Faithful in the Process,

Ana J.

 

All the Wrong Places

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Dear Daughter,

I have heard others profess these words countless times and have even affirmed them myself over and over again, but I’m not exactly sure that we are fully aware of the depth of their implications. I trust you: three simple words that seem to be so easily understood. On the contrary, the convoluted phrase concerns more strenuous matters of the heart. The act of trusting is not as effortless as the words may roll off the tongue. Just think about it: relinquishing control; firmly believing in an expectation; confidence in the integrity, ability, and strength of something or someone…

I remember getting home late one night and I was exhausted. I didn’t feel like doing anything else and just wanted to jump in bed as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, I had no other choice but to stay up late to complete the tasks that lingered, and I am so glad that I did! I was awarded the opportunity to listen in on a discussion my mother was having with one of her good girlfriends. As we all sat in the kitchen, her friend asked, “What would you say is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?” I sat in my seat with my chin in the palm of my hand, silently pondering the question as I patiently awaited my mother’s response. She so graciously explained that, in this season of her life, she would say that her greatest lesson has been that you cannot trust man because people may fail you every time. Instead, You have to trust God.

This was just what I needed to hear! During that time, I was experiencing an insurmountable level of stress and anxiety, and it was at that moment I realized that I had it all wrong. My stress level was so high because I put my trust in all the wrong places. I was relying on people when I should have been trusting that God had the situation under control. I would love to say that after hearing those words I instantly and wholeheartedly trusted God in every area. If I’m being honest, I can’t make that declaration, but I can say that, although that issue hasn’t been completely resolved, when I feel stress rising, I intentionally remind myself that God knows better than I do. Only He knows what’s best.

Of all the years I have spent stressing about life, I can only imagine the sickness that has developed in my mind and body because I have been inclined to my own understanding. Yikes! And maybe this is true for you too. I get it. It’s hard enough to trust the tangible, let alone trusting someone you can’t see. In all actuality, the bigger issue is that you can’t really trust someone you don’t know. So, our first step in learning to trust is becoming more acquainted with Christ. It’s important to spend time reading of His character. For starters, God is not a man that He should lie (Num. 23:19). Therefore, you can rest assured that He will ALWAYS hold true to His promises. One of which is to never leave you nor forsake you!

Take some time to think about every situation in your life that God has miraculously resolved even though it seemed hopeless. Write them down. Read them often. The more you’re reminded that God worked it out before, the more you will trust and believe that He will do it again. Beloved, always remember that it’s better to trust in God than put confidence in man. Pour out your heart to Him. He is your refuge.

Trust God in the Process,

Ana J.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

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Weapons of Mass Distraction

Dear Daughter,

Distractions. They have one purpose: to divert our attention, for amusement or distress, from reaching an end goal. They come and they go. Ideally, they would come in anticipated increments so that we are fully prepared to handle them as they creep their way into our lives. Wishful thinking. They don’t come as expected. Quite frankly, it may often seem as if they pop up at the most inopportune time. They come when you’ve finally found your rhythm… When you’re steadily headed toward achieving your goals… When you’ve finally mustered up the courage to follow the path to fulfilling your purpose.

Take it from me, do not, I repeat, DO NOT allow yourself to be so easily overcome by distractions. The consequence can be fatal and recovery can seem impossible. Since you already know they’re coming, how will you respond to these unanticipated interruptions? As I assess my own life, it is evident that when distractions come, good or bad, my attention is so effortlessly shifted. Instead of being Christ-focused, my engrossment with temporal satisfaction conveniently diverts my attention. My focus is masterfully redirected on clinging to that temporary “thing.” On the other hand, when adversity strikes, I almost instantly begin to question my purpose and whether I’m traveling the right road… I question God, His promises, and the word He has spoken to me. Either way, when I seem to get off track, it can be difficult to rediscover the path toward the assignments God has ordained for my life. Somehow, by the grace of God, I always find my way, but not without considering the time wasted on these senseless distractions.

Stay focused. Stand guard. Anticipate the distractions that will soon come. Understand that these prudent disruptions are specifically designed to shift your focus and deter you from reaching your destiny. Beloved, always remember to never allow your distractions to cause your destruction.

Respect the Process,

Ana J.

The Best of Your Life

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Dear Daughter,

“You can miss the rest of your life, which could be the best of your life, by focusing on what was the worst of your life.” Write it down. Memorize it. Never forget it. I can’t tell you how many times I have made my “today” so much more stressful than it had to be because I refused to let go of my “yesterday.” So many missed opportunities, so many unnecessary arguments, so much negative energy wasted.

Sometimes it’s difficult to just let things go, especially when you feel offended. Trust me… I know! I, for one, can hold a grudge (with a tight grip) until the end of time. At some point, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized how much effort it actually takes to hold a grudge against someone. It takes effort to intentionally ignore someone when they are in the room. It takes effort to drag someone’s name through the mud trying to convince others of your point of view. It takes effort to be mad, angry, and mean. All that effort for nothing in return… It’s just not worth it!

I recently had an intense discussion with a close friend about something they did that offended me. Not only was I offended, I was extremely hurt by their lack of sensitivity regarding how their behavior affected me. It reflected in my attitude, in the way I talked to them, and in my behavior when they were around. Needless to say, it put a huge strain on our relationship. We didn’t hang out as much and we didn’t communicate as often. But what I didn’t recognize was how often I brought up the SAME issue even after it was discussed and resolved. I just kept beating that dead horse. For some reason, I couldn’t get over it. I realized it wasn’t them… It was MY issue. I had to dig deep and find out why I couldn’t move on. I had to do the heart work and it was not easy. I was missing out on the best of our friendship because I was so focused on the worst.

My Love, always remember heart work is hard work. Do the work so that you can move forward from the worst of your life and start enjoying the best of it!

Respect the Process,

 Ana J.

A Love Note

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Beloved, always remember ‘any change without the power of God is just manipulated behavior.’ You have to do your part and trust God to do His. We trust the process because we trust the Processor. It’s impossible to do one without the other.

Ana J.

A Mother’s Love

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A Mother's Love

Mother’s Day has always held such a special place in my heart and I’m sure it has for you too. Over the last several years, it has gained even deeper meaning to me. Three years ago, on Mother’s Day, my grandmother, affectionately called Grandma Lulu, went on to be with the Lord. That day, as I reflected on the impact Grandma Lulu had on my life, I was saddened because I never told her how much she meant to me. I never want that to happen again. Experiencing such tragedy has shown me that my biggest regret in life would be to never express how much my own mother has impacted my life. In honor of Mother’s Day and your birthday (tomorrow), Mom, this letter is for you!

Dear Mom,

I would be remiss if I didn’t express my deepest gratitude to you for the example you have set before me over the last twenty-seven years. You have taught me countless lessons over the years. I have not only learned through the many dialogues and heart-to-heart chats we’ve had about life, but I would say the greatest lessons that I have learned were taught without you even speaking a word. I have watched you over the years, observing how you handle various circumstances. The most impactful lesson: grace, class, and prayer always triumph! I am so thankful that God trusted you to deposit in me the essentials of life and humanity. You taught me the importance of spirituality, but you have also instilled the importance of being the best that I can be… the best citizen… the best human… the best person… the best me.

Your character is second to none. Your love and compassion for others supersedes what I could ever imagine to be. You have delicately transformed our house into a home. “Home is where the heart is” and your heart is impeccable. Your graciousness to not only raise your own children but also extend your nurturing and loving spirit to our friends and acquaintances is remarkable. The warmth you carry with you creates a peaceful, comforting environment everywhere you go. The grace and class you consistently display, even in times of discord, is admirable.

I can only hope to be half of the daughter, sister, mother, wife, mentor, leader, and overall woman that you are! Over the years I have seen that the heart of my father safely trusts you. Everyday, you do him good and not evil. You watch over our house. You are clothed in strength and honor. You always speak wisdom. Your children call you blessed… Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all. You are a woman who fears the Lord. You are praised. So, I honor you… not just today… but everyday.

I Love You to Life,

Ana J.

Silence the Critic

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Silence the Critic

Dear Daughter,

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you may be exceptionally hard on yourself. The phrase “We are our own worst critic” rings so true! How many times have you overanalyzed your actions wishing that you could have a “do over.” How often do you replay in your mind what you would do differently if you had the opportunity? How many times have you completed a task but scrutinized the finished product because you think it could be better? Have you ever criticized your gifts and talents thinking to yourself that it’s just not sufficient, or even comparing them to the gifts and talents of someone else, which in turn leaves you with feelings of inadequacy? (You can’t see me right now, but I am shamefully raising my hand.) Been there. Done that.

You may not want to admit it, but if we’re being completely honest, we often judge ourselves (as well as others) based on our own insecurities. Oftentimes, our critiques come from the frustration of seeing the potential that lies within. We know it’s there, but the painstaking journey to exert our maximal capacity can be quite overwhelming at times. We envision ourselves as the person we yearn to be. We anticipate the accomplishments we can achieve. But sometimes, we get discouraged, comparing where we are to where we want to be, and we realize how far off we really are from our goals. I can’t tell you how many times I have started something but never finished because of my own critical assessments. Don’t get me wrong… We should strive to do everything in excellence, but please don’t let your ambition for perfection cloud the progression it takes to get there.

You won’t always get it right, and that’s ok. Learn from it and aim to do better. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Beloved, always remember the lessons you learn along the journey are far more valuable than the destination.

Respect the Process,

    Ana J.

A Love Note

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Solid Rock

 

 ‘Sometimes when you hit rock bottom, you forget that Christ made the rock.’ But once you’ve hit rock bottom, you’ll realize the only place to look is up. My love, always remember Christ is our firm foundation, our solid rock.

Ana J.