A Seat at my table…

During this physical distancing time, I have re-organized my closets, my dresser, the kitchen cabinets, my office desk, and the bookshelves. I have sorted in stacks of what I will keep, donate, and throw away.

So it occurred to me, what in my relationships do I need to re-organize? How am I relating to the people around me? How am I serving them? How are they serving me?

It is not an easy conversation to have with oneself because you don’t want to feel alone, nor are people disposable, or at least they shouldn’t be treated that way. My circle is small and intimate, which keeps things healthy. Yet, I know that several relationships are not serving me well.

Where do they belong? Where do I place them? How do I sort them out?

I have not figured that out as of yet; it’s a work in progress. I am setting a new table during my physical distancing, and I am inviting those that will help me grow, those who will sharpen me, those who will challenge me, those who will call me out when they see me losing my way. I am inviting those that will lift me, cheer me on, sit quietly when it’s necessary, and party when required.

A seat at my table will come with some rules…you must be exceptional!

Exceptional potential to be the best you can be without tearing anyone else down. Exceptional ways of loving. Exceptional ways of caring for one another. Exceptional ways of respecting each other’s opinions. Exceptional ways of living with an open mind.

My table is going to look a little different when we meet again, but that’s because I seek to be exceptional in loving, caring, giving, sharing, and living with open hands.

Lesson:
In this season of re-set, where can you learn to be exceptional? Who will have a seat at your table?

‘Til Tuesday

Women can be….well… read on…

So, here I was feeling really good about myself.  Walking with a pep in my step and singing along with the radio in the car.

I was HAPPY!

It had been a summer of several health challenges, in which at this point, I was overcoming, and I had just completed my third semester of law school.  Don’t know if I mentioned, I am getting a Masters in the Studies of Law (MSL).

It seemed like any other day.  Moments of reflections and truly a thankful heart.

YET!

Here it comes! I encounter an acquaintance who, unbeknownst to me, was not having such a great day, and as I was sharing my accomplishments with her she proceeded to be critical and diminish all my achievements and efforts.  I found myself defending my experiences and immediately bothered by her ability to stomp and crush my spirit with her antagonism. I WAS LIVID…NO I WAS PISSED. Yes, there…I wrote it!  I could not believe here I am having what I thought was a delightful exchange with this woman, and she chooses to hold me down and crush me…like a bug.

I was stumped. Literally.  And that is pretty hard to do, for those who know me.  I sat there looking away, wondering, what just happened here?  Why did I allow her to get under my skin and become defensive?  What was it saying about me?

 Cause I know what I was thinking about her!

I went on with my day feeling sorry for myself.  I figured some retail therapy will make me feel better.  As I walked toward the back of the store, to the sale rack, I came across a lovely woman, and we acknowledged each other with a smile.  I proceeded to look mindlessly look through the racks, and she said, “excuse me,” and I moved out of the way.  Then I heard her say, “no…miss, excuse me, may I say something to you? ” I was slightly confused, and hesitantly said “sure.”  She proceeded to tell me, “you are beautiful, you need to know this, that you are absolutely beautiful.  Have a nice day”I literally gasped.  I looked at her and said, “Oh my God, thank you, thank you,” and she quietly walked away.

You see, I needed to hear that. It wasn’t about my physical appearance, I was well aware of that.  It was about my heart, what was living in my heart.  I was hurt, and God knew I needed the assurance that HE sees me, and HE thinks I am beautiful.  I wanted to share with this complete stranger what had transpired earlier in the day.  I wanted to let her know how much I needed to hear that I mattered. I walked around looking for her, and she was gone! GONE! GONE! I realized at that moment, she was an Angel sent to whisper into my soul.

I went to my car and cried.  Thanking God for that most personal and transcendental moment.  I realized I was still his favorite (thanks to Robert for the reminder).  I also realized that as women, we can lift each other up and bring each other down.

My preference is always to lift, encourage, and celebrate.  There’s power in the words of encouragement.  There is love in the act of celebration.

Women can be smart, strong, kind, and loving.  Women can be caddy, petty, judgmental.  Let’s chose to be women that lift each other up!

Because…WE ALL ARE BEAUTIFUL!

Lesson:

“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts…” (Proverbs 4:23, Message Translation)

 

-Annette Ortiz Mata

Kissed by God…

“We need all your birth certificates”, he said. “All your siblings, it’s the only way to disperse the inheritance”.

I proceeded to collect all the birth certificates and something was off. Six birth certificates and there it was. One of these was not like the other, and that other was mine. I was staring at the inevitable truth.

What followed was a myriad of questions that no one dared to answer.

Who, what, when, why?

The unbearable truth began to unfold, and I began to understand the whys!

Rejection – the lie that was engraved into my heart, mind, and soul. Not fitting in nor belonging – the constant sense that I was just in the way, all the time.

Why I looked so different.  Why I was tormented with wanting to always please so that I could be noticed.  All of these questions…slowly being answered.

It became the hurt that slowly carved itself into my heart. I began to understand the truth of my hurt. My quiet hidden hurt.

I managed it pretty well until I couldn’t anymore.

A few weeks ago I hit a wall. I wept quietly realizing the task of carrying this in my heart was breaking…yes breaking my heart.

Then suddenly…

I was kissed by God.

 Without anyone knowing all the details of my silent hurt, I was honored in a way that just took my breath away.  I found myself weeping at The Peninsula Hotel during High Tea as two beautiful women lovingly told me “God told us to honor you, celebrate you.”  I was stunned.  As I wept, I shared with them my truth, my silent pain.  The fact that they were saying those words to me, clearly confirmed in my heart that GOD was present the moment I was conceived. GOD was present the moment of my rejection. GOD was present in the moment of my assault. GOD was present at the moment of my betrayal. GOD was present when my heart was broken over and over again..waiting for me to lay it all at HIS feet.  Leaving the hurt right there and then…there HE WAS!  Letting me know that HE was present and ready to restore what was stolen. He wanted me to remember that I mattered and I have a purpose.  Though the road has been mixed with trials and triumphs…

HE SEES ME!!!

That moment shattered me into a million little pieces, removing the cracked glass that was around me which I thought was protecting me from any further hurt.  It was over.  The shame, the rejection was gone.  He chooses me, in spite of my circumstances. He chooses me in spite of myself.

What are you carrying that you need to lay down?  What hurt are you picking up every day?

Lesson:

Lay it down.  Lay the hurt, shame, pain, and disappointment down.  It was never meant for you to carry.   

“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you.  Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you:  A prophet to the nations–that’s what I had in mind for you” (Jeremiah 1:5 – Message Translation)

-Annette Ortiz Mata

Love…it sometimes hurts.

You are broken, and I can’t fix you

You are broken, and I will not hide it

You are broken, and I must release you

You are broken, and I will always love you

You are broken and I accept it

You are broken, and I will wait

You are broken, and I have faith

The shattered pieces of your brokenness will create a beautiful mosaic for wholeness that will be a witness to others.

I will love you from afar.

I will love you through my prayers

I will love you unconditionally 

I will love you because you are mine

 

Lesson:

Sometimes things need to break to be completely repaired.

I will wait.

“Til Tuesday

Do I call?

The call came in.

My father had a heart attack and is intensive care.

I sit still and wait.

I sit still and process what is before me.

Do I love or do I walk away

Do I choose to remember how he protected me or do I remember how he treated my mom?

Do I remember all the times he took my brother and me to the museums, the eye doctors, the dentists, and parent-teacher conferences, or do I remember the lies and disagreements that would later grip my heart?

Do I choose to live offended, or do I choose to live thankful that he cared for me?

Do I choose to pick up the phone and call or do I let him exist in his loneliness and pain?

Life with my dad has been full of unpredictable moments.  Unexpected joy and gut-wrenching heartbreak.

Did he change as he grew older, or was he this man all along distant, cold, and indifferent to others’ sorrow and pain?

Was I going to sit and wonder why or was I going to let go and forgive in my heart and reach out to the broken man that may or may not survive his grave diagnosis?

I chose to call.

 “Hello Pa, how are you?” “How are you feeling?”

“I am praying for you…and…

I love you.”

I chose to remember the good; I chose to remember the laughter.

He is living in pain, loneliness, and sadness.

It was not for me to add any more to his current condition.

Lesson:

It’s doing the hard things that bring the greatest reward.

Choose life, joy, and happiness, and make the call!

‘Til Tuesday

“Silent Witness”

The year was 1966.  On April 3, a baby girl was born on the Lower East Side, the firstborn for Maria. One month later on May 29 of the same year, another baby girl was born in the Bronx, the youngest child of Lydia. These two baby girls had no idea their lives would cross paths and forever change each other’s trajectory.

Here in lies the love story of a friendship that has stood the test of time.

It was 1980, I was a freshman in High School. I walked into my typing class and sat down, and she said hi. We immediately became friends, and we have walked the rest of our days as soul sisters.  Upon graduation, our lives would take two different paths, extreme some would say, but never forsaking the bond that was made when we met.  Our lives were full of ups and downs, sharp curves, incredible detours, but we always found each other. With each experience, we held on to what we knew to be true

…our friendship, our bond.

It was May 1998, the call came early Saturday morning; it was time to go. I needed to go be by the side of my very best friend, who at that moment was experiencing the loss of her husband, her partner, the father of her son. She loved, cared and traveled the long road of til death does us part. Her journey of caring, and loving her dying husband had come to an end. I knew that when the call came, I needed to fly across the country and sit by my best friend’s side and just

be silent.

No words were required at this time. Everything had been said during the 11 years of this journey.  Every tear, every anguish, every moment of desperation, we had spent in conversations.  There were many days and nights of her crying, while I quietly listened, encouraging her and just letting her be. She wept many times bitterly, yelled in an anguish of the inevitable. So you see, I had heard it all, all that was needed at this moment was to be by her side and be her “Silent Witness.” It was a long week of grieving, planning, shopping for an outfit, long walks in the City, dessert, and coffee, eating out and just taking it all in. The homegoing was standing room only, and as I had done for their union, I sang.

 All I remember of the events was

being told, please don’t leave her side and

I didn’t.

Her grace and strength during this experience were admirable. When it was time to come home, I cried bitterly, knowing that the long journey of change that awaited her and her young son was a painful new reality.
The year that lied ahead demonstrated her grace and resilience through it all and God’s beautiful blessing soon to come.

Seventeen years later…

Spring of 2015…She looked beautiful, she walked out with incredible confidence – “Please help me welcome – Nereida Rosario.” She was walking onto a National Platform, unlike anything we could have imagined. She was sitting on the set of a National Talk show – where one of the Talk Show hosts was honoring her for the season in her life in which Nereida was an incredible influence and inspired this host to be better. The host said, “Thank you, thank you for inspiring me, for loving me when no one understood me, and for making it cool to love God.”

As I sat in the Green Room, watching the taping of this show, I cried, I cried tears of joy. I knew the weight of those words. I understood more than anyone that was watching this exchange, the power of those words and how important this was for my friend.

It was a moment of redemption in the most unimaginable way. God saw it fit to publicly say “Well done my good and faithful servant- You did Good. I saw every tear, I was there each sleepless night. I saw the struggle of faith and hope and moment of joylessness. And you DID WELL. You did the right thing in spite of what you were going through.

You Won!

I cried, I cried, you see, once again I was her Silent Witness. I was by her side at this moment, on this most momentous occasion when the Nation would get to know Nereida Rosario. I again, am her Silent Witness to affirm that everything that was being said of her was, in fact, all true.

What a privilege is it to be a Silent Witness. Every person needs a silent witness. Some who will stand by your side, hold your hand, hold your life in their heart and stand in silence when words are just not enough. That’s what I was to my friend,

I needed to add nothing to this experience. Only watch the beauty of it unfold……

and it did!

Lesson:  

Your pain is someone’s lesson.  Rise up and be strong.  Someone is watching.

Your Silent Witness.

‘Til Tuesday

CANCER – It’s more than the C word…

The first time I heard the word cancer I was a young child. I didn’t quite understand it, but I knew that it was a deadly disease and it brought a lot of pain to our family.

It wouldn’t be the last time I would hear it…   

As life would have it, my first born would be diagnosed with Cancer.  I would hear my own diagnosis,  twice! I would hear it again with my mother-in-law, Jean, my father-in-law, Lyle, my sister-in-law, Deanna, my brothers, Paul and David.

Yet, cancer is more than the C-Word.  It’s a word that paralyzes the heart for several seconds. It’s the word that makes us feel an overwhelming sense of fear.  It’s a word that makes us think of our mortality.  Cancer grips us and tells us we will die, making us believe there is no life left to live.

Having walked, lived and recovered from Cancer, I am sure of one thing. You must rise above your diagnosis.  You must get informed!  Go for that second, third and even fourth opinion. Ask questions, lots of them.  Read, research, it’s your health.  Do what makes you feel the strongest and the healthiest.  Have people around you that will walk the road and travel the journey looking for your best interest.

 Don’t give up the will to live.

Cancer affects the family.  Emotional cancer spreads among those around you because of fear.  Emotional cancer can create stress, leaving the caregiver exhausted.  Emotional cancer can fracture a family into a million pieces. Find a community, find someone you can confide in.  Give yourself permission to cry, mourn and cheer the final outcome.  Believe with the patient.  Bring comfort to yourself.

Everyone is trying to live, everyone is trying to survive.  

Cancer can be revealing.  It reveals those who are the strongest.  It reveals how much you believe in your healing.  It reveals your inner peace to let go. It can also reveal your personal torment.  It reveals the intentions of those around you.

It reveals the selfless.  It reveals the selfish.

Cancer can be healing.  You begin the will to live, you begin to fight.  With the will to live you listen, you love.  With the will to live you take care of yourself.  With the will to live you let others take care of you.  With the will to live you believe with those who believe in your healing.

Cancer is not a death sentence, it’s a diagnosis.

 How you choose to attack the illness will determine your outcome.  Don’t let the disease paralyze you, don’t let cancer intimidate you, don’t let cancer kill you.

Lesson:

Fear is the illness.  Cancer was the diagnosis.  Fight for your life!  

‘Til Tuesday

Pictured: (Left-Right):  Lucienne Carrillo, Deanna Gonzalez, Lyle and Jean Mata, Robert Mata

Forgiveness is difficult to give..but required…​

Warning this blog may be too revealing for some.  Read at your own risk!

As a little girl, I witnessed the many times my mom would hold a grudge, and I mean that lady could hold a grudge like nobody’s business.  I promised myself I would never be that person.  That I would just forgive and let go. I felt this way not knowing what the future held for me and how much I would need to forgive.  As my mom grew older, I witnessed the softening of her heart in ways that blew me away, and it was then I learned that forgiveness is difficult but required.

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well!!

Yup you read that right – wish the offender well.  Though I have to say when I read that I was taken aback, I realized that if you wanted to be free, you need to wish them well, because then forgiveness well, it wouldn’t be forgiveness, it would just be lip service.

In my life, I’ve had to forgive many people, moments, and times…

I forgave my molester – though my heart shutters! I was a child, I learned to forgive in my heart – I learned it was never my fault…NEVER!

I forgave my ex-husband – the brokenness I experienced, emotionally, physically, and mentally – I learned I was stronger.

I forgave my friends who judged me so bitterly – I knew that only God knew the truth and in HIS due time the truth would be revealed. I learned to trust.

I forgave my dad – For not allowing us to intervene in my mom’s care and ultimately watching her die.  I realized he too was broken.

I forgave my inlaws – for accepting and rejecting and accepting me again.  It was a journey of learning who I truly am.

I forgave my husband – for emotional indiscretions – (no-no affair) just learning to understand me – and I learned how to better communicate.

I forgave the woman who hurt my son – the experience proved to be the most revealing of our character, and for that, I am grateful. (Blog: Grace Extended for details)

I forgave my son – for the fights and challenges, in it I saw myself and my own shortcomings and learned the meaning of a real apology.

These are just a few instances that come to mind…there are lots more…

You see every day we will come against something that will challenge us and go against everything we believe and, it will anger, hurt, and accuse us. BUT, we must forgive.  Forgiveness is never for the other, but for YOU...Each time I came across a challenge that blew my socks off I knew it was there to make me stronger.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these moments broke me.  There were days I literally didn’t want to get out of bed, but what good was that going to do.  Everyone else is living their lives, and I am balled up in fetal position believing I couldn’t go on. BUT…I got up, took a deep breath, and said I’m done.  I will not let anyone define who I was intended to be.  If you are reading this and think there is no way, no way.  Yes,  yes there is.  I promise you will be all the better.  Forgiveness allows the real purpose of your life to be fulfilled.  If you are stuck and have not moved forward, check to see who you haven’t forgiven.  With forgiveness comes grace, joy, love, laughter, and strength to forgive the next offense, because there will be the next time. Do not allow yourself to be held hostage by what someone else does to you. When you forgive you are free!

Lesson:

Live to your full potential.  Forgive in your heart those that have hurt, accused, and offended you.  Then let it go.  Don’t pick it up.  Don’t look at it, taste it, dream about it…

LET IT GO and  BE FREE!

“Til Tuesday

Relationships…they’re complicated..but they are necessary!

Have you ever met someone and thought, where have you been all my life?  Or say, I am so glad that you are a part of my life and I couldn’t do this without you.

Folks come into your life, sit at your table, break bread, and then BAM! They are gone!  One disagreement, one difference of opinion and they are no longer a part of your circle.  The circle that you guarded and kept close to your heart.  The circle you protected so this very thing wouldn’t happen to you.

Well…I am here to burst your bubble…Relationships…they are complicated.  It has been my experience that even those closest to you come in, take a seat, make a mess, and then leave.  You are left, cleaning up after them, and asking yourself what happened.

How did this happen…again?

Honestly, it’s not your fault!  I have learned that relationships are indeed incredibly complicated, but are necessary!

Not everyone has the same understanding of how to “be” in a relationship. How to “accept” in a relationship.  How to “respect” in a relationship, how to “forgive” in a relationship.

I have come to understand relationships are meant for us to grow, learn.  I have come across some devastating experiences.  Leaving you feeling hurt, confused, and sad.

BUT…there is always a lesson that is left behind.  When something like this occurs, realign your thoughts.  Recount the experience and find what role you may have played. Refresh your spirit with stillness and regain yourself.  Surround yourself with those you love and live with an open heart.

To live with hope and joy, we need community and with community comes all the messiness of folks.  Don’t shy away from developing other relationships.  Don’t close yourself off.  Be quick to discern the intentions coming towards you and check your gut.  It’s always right!

Lesson:

Live with an open heart.  Give generously.  You never lose when you live this way.

 

‘Til Tuesday

 

She’s my friend…with no judgment, I think!​

Growing up my mom had a very best friend…her name was Mery.  They couldn’t be more different.  My mom liked fancy things, Mery was simpler in her taste. Mami loved jewelry and makeup, and Mery only wore her wedding ring and a watch.   Even with their extreme differences, my mom loved her and defended her, she never judged her.  Their bond was a lesson for my sister and me.

We learned the value of relationship and the definition of friendship between women.

I have been fortunate to have my very own “Mery” in my life. It’s a friendship that has survived distance, marriages, children, and disagreements.  But with all that in the mix, we have never lost the respect for each other.  We talk about the hard things, the fun things and the all out amusing things.  We have taken road trips together, celebrated, holidays, and birthdays.  We cheer each other, and we keep each other in check when things look messy.

Relationships among women can be tricky.  There’s a fine line of judgment, mixed in with a little jealousy.  We can become resentful and suspicious in a minute.  We can questions motives and downright tear each other apart.

We judge our appearance, our career, our home life, our children!  We forget that each one of us, no matter the journey, have just that our OWN personal  JOURNEY…

With age, I have come to learn the importance of female relationships in our lives.  Everyone should have friends of all ages.  Young woman, we can encourage and older women that can help us understand how to get around those roadblocks that come along, that only someone with experience can speak to, and we should have friends that are our contemporaries that we can laugh with, cry with and love.

We need to begin to hold each other up.  Encourage each other.  Compliment each other.  Laugh we with each other.  Just show up for each other!

Social media, magazines, movies, television and every other form of media scream at us how we are supposed to look, what we should be wearing, where we should be wearing it and how we should be wearing it! How we should wear our make (I mean how many makeup tutorials do we need), what’s the latest hairstyle and nail color?  Everything is dictated to us so that we can look like mannequins.  It manipulates how we interact with one another solely on our appearance.

That is judgement…that is a lie.  Seek to be the voice of reason when judgment sets into a conversation.  Try listening before accusing.  Listen with an open heart.  Respond with a kind word.  Relate with a tender touch.  Embrace with open arms.

If this seems too difficult to do, then allow yourself to be loved, listened to, welcomed and encouraged.  Everyone you come across has a story.  That is what makes us all unique.

 

Lesson:

Live your life as a running fountain. Pour into others the knowledge that has been poured into you.  

Be the “Mery” in someone’s life.  

‘Til Tuesday