“Bye Felicia”

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Bye Felicia

Dear Daughter,

As a thirteen year old, it was the worst day of my life. I came home from school and my day progressed as usual until a phone call from a friend changed it all. “Ana, you won’t believe what “Felicia” said about you! She said she saw you the other day and you had on corduroy pants!” My world as an eighth grader was over! Despite the fact that I didn’t even own a pair of corduroy pants, it hurt me to my core and I didn’t understand why it bothered me so deeply. Then it dawned on me… I had never heard of or met this girl a day in my life. Days later, the same girl was still spreading the most malicious rumors I had ever heard. Well, that meant war and, at this point, she was a self-proclaimed enemy. Evil for evil, I responded with the harshest expressions I could muster up. Overwhelmed with emotion, I remember jumping into my bed crying my eyes out. I didn’t understand why someone who didn’t know me would make such callous remarks.  It just didn’t make sense.

A few days ago, I recalled this story and I thought to myself, “What would you want your enemies to say about you?” I was shocked at even considering such a preposterous thought. Nonetheless, an important question to consider. Yes, your first response may be to imply how strongly you disregard your enemies, not giving an ounce of attention to their attitude, thoughts, and actions toward you. But I think it goes a little deeper than it may appear to the eye, especially the “enemies” that have proclaimed a silent war against you. Sadly, this may leave you clueless as to what you could have done to initiate such negative feelings. What’s a girl to do???

I think it’s clear how society influences the way we respond to those who seek ill will for our lives. Instinctively, we maliciously retaliate. Take the story I shared for example, a trivial circumstance, from a mature point of view, but I still think there’s a lesson we can learn. Contrary to what society suggests, the Word of God offers an unethical approach, as it may seem to some. We are charged to turn the other cheek, live peaceably, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and overcome evil with good. Talk about unorthodox! To an enemy, this response may seem unauthentic, pretentious, and maybe even weak. Don’t stoop to their surface level mindset. Never fight fire with fire. My love, always remember to let your actions speak louder than their words.

Respect the process,

Ana J.

Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones…

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Words Do Hurt

Dear Daughter,

I’m sure as a child, at some point, you’ve heard the infamous phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Well, as much as you may have rehearsed this line over and over again in your mind, hoping it would stick like glue, the phrase just simply isn’t true. Words really do hurt! Oftentimes, it’s difficult to see the power that lies within our words. Therefore, without thought, we blurt out what we consider to be harmless nuances; the utterance of which, in all actuality, may leave the hearer mentally scarred and emotionally broken. In our eyes, it may be unintentional; however, it is harmful.

I have to be honest with you… I’m not always cautious with my words, especially when I’m angry or hurt. I can be a firecracker spewing daggers at you when I feel like you have wronged me in some way and sometimes even for no reason at all. Don’t get me wrong, there have been instances when I have said something to someone and the meaning got misconstrued in my tone or choice of words, which was a sincere mistake and not my intention at all. On the contrary, there have been plenty of times in the past (and when I say past, I mean like yesterday. Don’t judge me. I’m still a work in progress!) when I have fired harsh, unimaginable daggers with words that cut so deep it took days, weeks, months, even years to recover: words that even today I can’t believe I would ever say. Lesson learned: once I say something, as much as I wish I could, I can’t take it back.

My prayer is that you would learn this lesson sooner rather than later. Think about how others’ words have affected you. It’s so important to have control over your tongue. Be mindful of the motive behind what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. Use your voice to uplift and not tear down, to encourage and not discourage. SPEAK LIFE! My love, always remember, “Life and death are in the power of your tongue.”

Respect the process,

Ana J.

Secrets

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Dear Daughter,

As I reminisce on the early teenage years of my life, I can vividly remember feeling that there wasn’t anything remotely interesting about me. I had a decent childhood. I would say I was a “good” kid… Never really got in trouble; I can count on one hand the number of times I was severely disciplined by my parents. Up until a certain point in my life, I felt that I lived a mundane, indolent lifestyle from day to day. I heard countless times that “God has a purpose and plan for everyone,” but that just didn’t seem relevant to my situation. Lo and behold, somewhere along the journey, I had one of the most inspiring “aha” moments of my life… I realized and embraced the fact that I have a story… not only that, but people actually want to hear it!

I once heard someone say, “We are as sick as our secrets.” I was blinded for years. You see, it wasn’t that I lived a dull, boring life, but I masterfully tucked away all the not-so-pleasant areas in a safe place cautiously protecting the memories I didn’t want anyone to know. The longer you convince yourself that your secrets are too shameful or that nobody cares, the longer they hold you hostage.

Your life isn’t just about you. There is someone in this world who will find solace in hearing your story. No detail is too small. What you think is insignificant may be a monumental epiphany for someone else. There is a liberating power in sharing your story. It gives others a sense of hope, and shows them that there is beauty in their ashes. How empowering!  My love, never forget that your scars help others on their journey to healing open wounds.

Share the process,

Ana J.

Finding “It”

Dear Daughter,

At some point, everyone notices the need for it… We wander around like a ship that has no sail without it… It may take some longer to figure out than others… But we all have to find it… That’s right… I’m talking about identity. There will come a time in your life when you may feel lost and unsure of your significance. Speaking from my own experience, I also understand how easy it is to lose sight of who you are, shifting your focus to the identity of others. I remember a time in my own life when I was so wrapped up in trying to be like other people that I completely lost myself. I just didn’t feel right. I desperately searched to reunite with my true, authentic self. I didn’t recognize this person I had become.

The truth is significance is wrapped up in your identity. And in order to find out who you are, you have no other choice except to go to the Source. The one who knew you before you ever existed… before you were even a thought… before you were conceived in your mother’s womb. The One who knows every move you will make even before it comes to pass. The One who has searched you and known you. The One who knows your sitting down and your rising up. He is the same one who formed you and designed every intricate detail about you. He not only knows your innermost being but He understands you.

So, when you feel like you don’t know who you are and you don’t know how to figure it out, spend some extra time with God. Spend time talking to Him and learning more about Him. Understand that you were made in His image. My love, never forget the more you know about Him, the more you will learn about who He created you to be. In turn, you will discover your true identity and along with that comes significance, self-worth, self-love, and confidence.

Respect the process,

Ana J.

Start NOW!

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Dear Daughter,

“You may not be able to start over but you can start now.” A phrase I once heard that didn’t quite make sense to me at first. The more I thought about it, the more insight I found in what this phrase really means. Sounds a little backwards, right? Technically, I’m supposed to offer you some sort of hope in spite of the past. I’m supposed to tell you “It’s never too late to start over.” Don’t get me wrong; sometimes that’s true. In some cases, you will be able to completely start over, erasing a defaulted approach while wiping away careless mistakes. On the contrary, however, there may be times when you are not truly able to start over entirely.

Slightly confused? Let’s look at it this way. Think of your life as a single sheet of paper. You only get one sheet, and every experience is precisely written, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. As each experience is jotted down, there are times when we want to erase what was written, but then we notice it was written so intensely that even if we eliminate the words, the letters still remain imprinted. As we look at the sheet in its entirety, there’s no way to go back and write over the darkened spots. Even if we could erase the light-hearted fragments of our past, you can tell that there was once something else written and, while writing over it may emphasize the change, it doesn’t completely erase the fragments underneath.

Oh, how I wish this weren’t true. I wish I could offer you hope that you could telepathically travel back in time and relive some of the key moments in your life changing the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that were left behind, but that simply can’t be done. No matter how much we dwell on the past, we cannot erase the embarrassing, hurtful, annoying, irrational, disappointing, disastrous, unfortunate experiences we have faced. But wait… THERE IS HOPE! What we can do is start where we left off, changing our story from that point on to what we want it to be, and keeping in mind that these very experiences have shaped us into who we are today.

Beloved, never forget you may not always be able to start over but you can absolutely start now. So, start loving now. Start forgiving now. Start dreaming now. Start planning now. Start living NOW!!!

Live through the process,

Ana J.

Sweet Dream or Beautiful Nightmare

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Dear Daughter,

Be careful with whom you share your dreams. On one hand, there will be people who won’t want to see you succeed but, on the other, there are those who don’t mean harm but may not know exactly how to support you in fulfilling those dreams. In an effort to help you tweak and develop your dream, sometimes those around you can inadvertently discourage you from pursuing the vision that God has given you. When I was a teenager, I had a vision about pursuing a dream that I knew was something God wanted me to do. I was so sure that it would be a blessing to the body of Christ but, at the time, I didn’t know where to begin. I needed help with the step-by-step planning process. I had no idea how to make this vision in my mind come to fruition but I felt compelled to do something…

With much excitement and anticipation, I presented the idea to someone I looked up to as a mentor. I shared what God had given me but I never expected what happened next. Much to my surprise, the response pinpointed every reason why the idea wouldn’t work, including the fact that something else similar already existed. The feedback focused on how difficult it would be to conceptualize a plan to carry out this God-given vision. The worst part was that I actually believed it. I believed that it wasn’t a good idea. I believed that it couldn’t be done. It seemed to me that it was no longer necessary to pursue. Instead of using the negativity constructively as ammunition to thrive, it had the complete opposite affect on me. I was so discouraged… I let that dream fade away.

Well, fast forward ten years later… You can imagine the shocking, painful stab I felt in my chest when I found out that someone else I knew started an organization similar to what I had envisioned. I couldn’t believe it! Outside of being angry with myself and slightly jealous of this other person, it saddened my heart that I didn’t allow Christ the opportunity to strengthen my faith and complete His work through me. Soon after, I felt the guilt of not operating in obedience to God. With a heart of repentance, I made a promise that I would do my best to never allow negative influences to deter me from fulfilling God’s purpose for my life.

My love, always remember… you can’t control how people react to the visions you strive to fulfill but don’t let that discourage you from pursuing your dreams. Be cautious of who you trust to help and support you along the way. No matter what, obedience is key.

Be cautious in the process,

Ana J.

The Truth About Happiness

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Dear Daughter,

There will come a time in your life when you explore the idea of happiness. When this happens, you may have feelings of confusion, worthlessness, depression, discontent, or even fatigue. You may question your purpose and why you were placed on this earth. If you’re anything like me, you may look for happiness in relationships, material comforts, or over commitment – if I’m always busy I have to find happiness in something I’m doing, right? WRONG! Just as I have learned, you too will see that none of these things will satisfy the emptiness you feel inside.

Happiness: “a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” There was a point in my life when everything just seemed so (for lack of a better term) “blah.” I was just going through the motions and keeping myself busy but I wasn’t happy. I noticed the more I searched for happiness externally, the more frustrated I become internally… leaving an unexplainable void plaguing every facet of my life. What I didn’t realize then, was that it could never be satisfied with external possessions. It just won’t work.

On my quest to be happy, I realized what I was missing… Joy: “a source or cause of delight”; a subtle change in wording but a HUGE difference in meaning. Happiness directs our thoughts to outward circumstances but joy focuses our attention to the Source. When you have joy, everything around you can come crashing down but you won’t crash and burn with it. Weeping may endure for a night but joy does come in the morning! As long as we keep our eyes on the Source and allow Him to direct our paths, our joy will sustain. My love, in every situation, never forget those who sow in tears will reap in joy… ALWAYS!

There is joy in the process,

Ana J.