Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Part 1 of I will never leave you nor forsake you...

With a jolt I wake and unexpectedly hear a thud outside the front door. I shrug it off, certain it couldn't be anything of concern. Until two more thuds break the night's peace. "That's odd, how in the world could someone make it up to my floor? I wonder. The elevator requires four locks before it will even give you the privilege of opening it's doors.

Sitting straight up in bed with my muscles tense, seconds seem like minutes. I debate waking Javier, my husband and asking him to check it out. I glance over and find him in his favorite solid sleeping position. Face up, on his back, elbows out and hands tightly clasped. All reminding me of a corpse resting in peace in it's casket. As I often jokingly tell him.

Not wanting to go through the torture of explaining unexplainable thuds in the night, I wait to see if I hear it again. Unable to take it any longer, I swing my bear feet out and my toes hit the cool tile floor. There, I hear it again! Thinking the fastest way to silence doubt is with action, I walk down the short hallway toward the front door. Ignoring what an eeirly still and cool dark night it is for San Juan.

As I put my ear to the door I feel a slightly salty breeze pushing its way in through the double wide sliding glass doors of the balcony. The balcony that sits five floors up and has rusty white paint chipped burglar bars. Dutifully doing their job night after night. Keeping out any brave would be robber who thinks he's half spiderman.

Rolling a whisp of honey brown hair between my fingers I wishfully think of the peephole I never had installed, and could kick myself. At the time it didn't seem pressing with very little activity in the building. With only two apartments per floor there's not a lot of coming and going that happens anyway. I once reassured myself.

Taking a deep breath I slowly slide the three dead bolts out of place. Opening the door a tiny smidgin, a crack of bright yellow light cuts through the living room. Emboldened I bravely attempt to open the door wide. To my horror, instantly the door meets with solid resistance and forcefully pushes against me. Shoving me back inside I harshly fall sprawling onto the splintered hardwood floor. As soon as the door slams, I scamble back to my feet and ram the three dead bolts back into place.

My heart hammers so hard I can hear what sounds like the roar of the ocean in my ears. I run as fast as I can back to the false safety of my bed. Creating a cocoon with the blankets I crazily debate waking Javier, who is still resting in peace. Slowly my racing heart returns to its familiar rhythm and the sound of the roaring ocean fades away. I convince myself it was all nothing. The bolts are secure and no one can enter. Right before I fall back to restless sleep the fleeting thought floats into my mind. Perhaps I should warn Javier, but sleep imparts its magic and off I float to sweet unawareness.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's been way too long

It's been too long since my last post. I don't mean for that to happen it's just... well you know how life can get. It can get busy!

I'm doing good. I got a job at a preschool. I started in the summer and since then well, I'm just going crazy trying to get everything a busy family needs done. Being a mommy who works outside the home comes with new sets of challenges. Maintaining the needs of my home and family make it so hard to sit down at the computer and find time to write. There's always something that needs to be done or someone who needs attention!

I'm working as a preschool teacher for the school at my church. The great thing is Lorenzo, my almost 4 year old goes with me. It's the next best thing to being a stay at home mom! I get to make a little money and be with my at least one of my kids!

God brought into my life a great opportunity through this job. One of my students is autisic and I've always been drawn to these special children who seem locked within themselves. I really took a special interest in this student and the parents noticed and asked if I would be interested in taking training in something called Applied Behavioral Analysis. I jumped on the opportunity and have been doing online training videos and now give private lessons to this student.

I enjoy working with this student so much I now want to go back to school and get my degree in special education. The mother has said to me many times she thinks I should specialize in this field as she thinks it's my "gift." She said her son has shown more improvement with me in these past months than in the 18 months of special therapies and school he was in!

It's was amazing to me that my student's mother said that. My own mother always said to me that I had a gift and should somehow work with kids in need. She called it a special wisdom and said my nana Connors had it too.

I just know when I look into the eyes of a child with autism I cry out to God for help and mercy. My heart sings, asking my student "where is your soul? I know you are in there." Autism is trapping them, locking them inside a prision in their mind. It is my job to reach in there and help pull them out!

And so that is what I have been up too everyday. Helping pull this special child out. It's not an easy job, thankfully my student isn't violent but I have been bitten and it's physically very demanding. But it's so awesome to work so hard and then see the child respond and do something new, something you know they could never do before! To make a difference and get a chance to love a special child is really an awesome thing!

Someone asked if I have been working on my mother's novel. I'm sad to say I haven't done a single thing. It bothers me quite bad, I feel so guilty and have confused emotions regarding the subject. Am I supposed to be writing that story? And if I am supposed too and I'm not... well that just creates a lot more questions. Sigh.

Despite it being well over a year since my mother passed away, I'm still greiving terribly. The only way I can describe it is I feel like cancer stole something sacred from me. My sense of home and family have been ripped away and a hole is left there. Time will not heal that. Oh, I will adjust, what else can one do? But I know now I'll never be the same. And how can I be? Every holiday will remind me that it was supposed to be very different. My future, the way it was supposed to be was stolen from me.

We were supposed to have a life time of memories to make. Now it's like right in front of my very own eyes, a black hole opened up and ripped part of my happiness from my hands. As if through a fog I can see an older Claudia and her nana around the table for Christmas dinner and then it's like a vaccum comes and sucks that image away, leaving behind a whole lot that is never to be.

Now I'm left numb and scrambling to quickly redefine the meaning of a lot of things, before I lose too much time. Life is so quick and these kids I'm blessed with are little only once... Cancer has stolen my mom, but it's not going to make me have regrets with what I have left.

A very bright spot in my life right now is my relationship with my husband Javier. Financial it's been a tough year for us, but praise God I can report that despite those hardships our home has never been happier. I recently started back mountain biking. I used to compete along with Javier before the kids and had to drop that once I had them. But now they are getting bigger and easier to care for so Javier watches them while I ride. We load up the car on the weekends and head off to a trail as a family and then we take turns riding. It's been so much fun. There is nothing like flying down a trail on your bike to clear your mind. It's just me, my bike and the mountain! I'm so thankful to God my little family is intact and happy. Thank God for his mercy.

Whew, that got very long. I guess I should try and keep up on here better so I don't have to write a book when I come back on!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Your comments brought me here...

I'm still around! Thanks for asking about me.

I guess this summer has been a little hard for me. This past May marked one year ago that my mom entered Hospice care and the countdown to her death started. Most of you know I spent those last three months with her.

My mind keeps flashing back. I keep remember things like, "well last July 4th, Julie the kids and I bought a ton of fireworks and set them all off on mom and dad's drive way." Afterward we drove downtown and watched the city firework display.

Where was mom? In her hospital bed dying...

There are no words to describe that grief. The pain of watching her slowly slip away.

Someone, and I can't remember who told me right after she died that the grief hadn't even begun yet. I remember those words and understand them now.

July 21 will mark a year since her death. How can that be? It seems like yesterday. It seems so fresh. I've cried more this summer than I did last summer.

I keep thinking about the family summer vacation we would have taken this summer if she weren't gone...

I feel angry and cheated and I really really really miss my mom.

I guess that's one reason I haven't posted. Right now I'm full of pain and hurting. I know it will be ok, my mom said it would... but I just miss her...so much...

My heartfelt prayer; Dear Jesus, Please tell my mom I miss her but I'm going to be ok with your help. I hear her words, her advice, her encouragement and with your help I will rise up! Love, Jennifer

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Dance with Jesus

Tuesday I attended a memorial service in honor of my mother, Kristy Dykes who died last July from a glioblastoma brain tumor. My mother was a pastor's wife serving 37 years in church ministry along side my dad. She was a published award winning author, speaker, writer, painter, pianist and so much more. A talented woman. Her grave marker reads Pizazz! Enthusiasm! High Energy! This describes her perfect.

I flew into Orlando without the kids on Monday for the short two day trip and my dad and Wanda picked me up. Julie joined us and we had a wonderful time together.

What is it like having a stepmother after the death of my own sweet and wonderful mother? Wanda is a comfort, a soothing balm to a wounded and worn soul. There is a spoken and even unspoken understanding and love that flows from her heart. She is a rare gift of hope and promise from God Himself.

Tuesday was the memorial service given by the Assemblies of God at their annual district council. It was in honor of all the ministers and spouses of ministers who have passed away in the past year. We sat in the front of a church that seats 6,000 and waited for my mother's name to be called and her picture displayed in a brief moment of honor.

Sitting there grief and disbelief grabbed hold of my heart. Waves of tears threatened to shake me to the core. Suppressed sobs and screams demanded to ring out of my heart and spill through tightly drawn lips.

"How oh how, will I ever be able to grab a hold of myself?" I wondered desperately. My eyes stealing fleeting glances at the many others who dabbed at tears with tightly wadded tissues. Their eyes rimmed red with tears that spilled in grief for their loved one. "Get control of your emotions, Jennifer." I shouted quietly to myself.

But oh how my heart bucked against reason and longed for once to be let loose in loud, long wails of grief and pain...

"Your beloved sweet mother is dead and you are all alone. You sit on a bench with only a rose to hold, instead of her sweet hand. She is gone...gone...gone...!"

Suddenly her name was announced, we stood in shock looking up at the picture of her beautiful smiling face. So full of love for life, passion and energy. And then it was gone. Blinked out and another face flashed on the screen. We sat down almost unwillingly as our hearts sighed for her to come back... "just one more minute...don't take her picture down..."

Crushed I felt. Defeated. Left feeling robbed, I sat with my shoulders slumped, head bowed and hid behind a curtain of my long brown hair. And then someone started singing. Something about Jesus the Savior.

I closed my eyes and listened to the music with my heart. Sweet images of my precious Savior Jesus started washing over my weary mind. My soul became silent and still with the knowledge that He is God.

I felt a gentle whisper into my heart calling me. Ever so quietly. Ever so sweetly. Ever so softly like a gentle flutter of a butterfly wing against my soul. A voice called... "Look Jennifer! Can you see? Can you see her, Jennifer? Can you see us? Look with your heart, not your eyes Jennifer! Look! See!"

Looking with the eyes of my heart, I strained against a cloudy and unclear vision. But I saw! A sigh of instant peace and joy washed over my soul.

For there in my minds eye was placed the beautiful and perfect image of my mother held tenderly in the arms of Jesus. And they were dancing! Dancing slowly to the same sweet worship music I was hearing! My heart sang: "Jesus, I see! I see her! She is perfect and made whole and smiling! She isn't gone! She's right there in your embrace, dancing with You!

Real or imagined, that image remains forever burned in my mind. Hope replaces broken despair! Peace replaces raging, unchecked grief! Joy replaces despondent sorrow!

Oh to have such eternal hope! Won't you too trust Him? Don't you too hear Him calling you? Whispering tenderly to you, "Look! See! Oh how I love and care for you!"

My heartfelt prayer: Dear Jesus, How sweet and beautiful You are! At times You take my breath away. I am speechless in front of Your stunning beauty. Just what is so beautiful about You, some may ask? Why, it is Your amazing selfless love! It is Your perfect love that is so stunning!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

just sad

What a sorry post title but it's how I feel today.

I just feel sad.

I'm not without hope for the future...

I'm not without love for the moment...

I'm just sad.

Sad that someone I love can get cancer and die, and I can't do one thing about it.

Sad that cancer still has the power to stike a family twice.

This world is so full of hurts, disappointments, pain, and grief.

Today I'm sad that I know first hand how brief life really is...

My heartfelt prayer: Dear Jesus, When are You coming? My soul longs for Your return. My soul cries out "how much longer, Lord?" What a conflict I find my soul in... my heart is longing to be complete in Your presence, yet... my soul weeps for those who still don't know You. Strengthen me for Your work today. Renew my hope for today. Love, Jennifer

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Happy Birthday

Today is my 31st birthday!

I woke this morning with Claudia pressing her little button nose to mine, her sweet breath on my cheek and whispering "happy birthday, mommy." It was so tender, I couldn't keep a stray from tear escaping.

Today hope flows through my heart, I know that somewhere in heaven my mom knows that today is April 18th. This is the first birthday of mine that she's been in heaven instead of here...

I don't doubt that today she remembers and is smiling and most likely thanking our creator for LIFE!

My heartfelt prayer: Dear Jesus, Thank you for my life. How can I ever express my joy that You thought of me, that You made me. That You created me to know You! Thank you!

Jesus, here is a question that You know the answer to: How can there be love without choice? You have given me the gift of life and not only life but eternal life and so today on my birthday I have a gift for You! Today, to show my love I choose You! And not only do I say I love You, but I desire to show You this love by a choice.

Today I take a piece of my flesh, my earthly desires and I nail it to Your cross! You know my innermost heart and soul, I don't even have to speak out loud what those fleshy desires are. With the power of You love, I turn and face You.

My heart and soul LONGS for You. I have so little to give, so little to offer. I am so frail, so weak, but what I do have is a heart that is beating for You.

I invite You in to my day, and smile knowing You are by my side holding my hand and delighting in my gift! Love, Jennifer

Monday, April 06, 2009

Where have I been?

I'm sorry I've just disappeared!

April has been very busy. I've been preparing for VBS, and working on Sunday school stuff. Plus the daily doings of a busy household with small children.

Now I'm in Tampa with Javier and the kids. My dad got married to Wanda on Friday. We arrived late Wednesday night in Tampa and on Thursday before the wedding we drove to Brandon and met Wanda and Paige, her four year old granddaughter.

I wondered how I would feel seeing my dad and Wanda together for the first time. You know what? It felt completely natural. I knew I would like Wanda but I just wondered how it would feel to see them together. There is something about Wanda that is comforting, warm, and a calming love you can feel.

There is much I want to share about the wedding, but I will have to come back later and write more.

Saturday we went to Jacksonville and went to my dad and now Wanda's home.

Dread filled my heart. I didn't want to go inside, but running away solves nothing. What else can one do but push forward? What was I dreading, you might wonder. Honestly, it had nothing to do with the changes. Simply put, that doesn't bother me. It had nothing to do with Wanda. It feels comforting and right that she is there. It was only about the fact that my mother wasn't going to be opening the door, waiting for me.

It was HARD. Harder than I thought to be there. Had I not had two small children and a husband there with me, I would have jumped in the car and driven straight to my mom's grave. Every fiber of my being wanted to fling myself on her grave and dig her out, screaming, "you're not supposed to be dead to us. Don't you know you're supposed to be in your house?"

I've never felt so angry about her being gone, her spirit so far away, so untouchable in heaven. I wanted her home. Greeting us in her kitchen. I could see her smile, imagine what she would say and do.

There were many bitter, angry and depressed tears. I haven't grieved like that before. I know where my mom is, my heart is set on the place where she is, my eyes focused on the goal of one day getting there myself. But Saturday's tears boiled down to pity.

I don't regret those tears or letting myself grieve like that. I know God understands and gave me the space to just simply be human.

But you know what, one can't stay in that frame of mind long. It's a dangerous, dark place that pity, depression and anger leads you. They beckon with their cold, sharp tentacles. Desperate to wrap pity around one's mind and it's a horrible trap.

Thank God for His mercy and LOVE that are stronger... that are more powerful... and more wonderful than one can imagine. Thank God for His HOPE that is fresh... that flows like river... that fills your heart and gives life!

Sunday was a new day and I woke feeling... released, renewed and refreshed. Ready for a bright new future. Worship at Southside Assembly was wonderful! I went with Jesus by my side and praised my God just steps away from where my mother's coffin once held her earthly shell. I raised my hands in VICTORY because death didn't win! Through Jesus, there is eternal life. I smiled knowing in heaven my mom was dancing along with me! I felt like I was smiling with her, knowing a wonderful secret!

My heartfelt prayer: Dear Jesus, I thank you for being so close beside me this week. Thank you for allowing me to grieve and release my anger and hurt. Thank you for allowing me to be myself and still loving me despite that! Thank you for taking care of my mother, for giving her such a wonderful place to be, in heaven and in your presence. Thank you for the gift that is Wanda. I see her for the beautiful treasure she is, and I stand in awe of your blessing to our family. Simply put I love you, Jesus. Love, Jennifer