In Joy Life Magazine

In Joy Life Magazine


Jenice’s Story: A Familiar ‘Chick Flick’

Woment is lookin to the right with an expression of concern

This journey of life will take you through peaks and valleys. Just hold on, because it has a purpose. If you keep moving you’ll find the peak. I have the honor of witnessing the transformed life of someone so dear to me live through a dark and desolate valley to get to the heights of life. My sister Jenice’s story begins like a familiar ‘chick flick’. It begins with love- the love of her life. In her eyes he was as good as it gets.

My sister Jenice started her senior year of college as a married woman. She had gotten married over the summer, because she “just couldn’t wait” to get her married life started. Like most of us in our early twenties, we are eager to get our adult life started…making our own decisions and building a life just the way we want it to go. In Jenice’s case she had this wonderful man who had this bigger than life personality. He drew everyone in with his charm. He had a can do, will do attitude, which naturally translated to being a great provider and family man.
At the time nobody questioned why she didn’t finish college first and then get married. She obviously knew what was best, and we just accepted her decision.
Although we were both attending the same college and had shared an apartment before she was married, our lives were vastly different. I was completely focused on being a college student and everything that it entailed, however, my sister was apparently focused on her relationship, and planning her wedding. I didn’t think for a minute what her life would be like once she was married.
Suddenly, summer break was over and we returned to school- me and my, “married sister.” Not her husband. He stayed back home in the city where we grew up. She had an apartment at school, a house back home, and continued going back and forth as if that were a typical set up. Again, no one questioned it, or at least no one said anything out loud.
As the school year went by, the reality of being a full-time college student at a major university, and a new wife didn’t seem to mesh well, especially, since she had to head back to school on Sunday afternoons, following a blissful weekend with her husband. This dreaded trek back to reality was a two hour drive.
With only nine credit hours left towards receiving her bachelor’s degree, Jenice drops out of college leaving behind four years of hard work, plans and aspiration to be a public administrator, in order to truly begin her life as a newlywed. According to Jenice, the decision was easy.
Just as planned married life seemed filled with ongoing gatherings of family and friends, homemade peach pies, and jobs that were sustaining. They were happy and content… for a while.
Unfortunately, a few years later this dream life with a new baby, a home, and dog was being shattered by a thieving third party…drugs. Again, a familiar story. Just like any third party or third wheel in a relationship, someone gets left out. In this case the third wheel in their relationship was their marriage. Her husband too often chose the life of drugs over his family. In a marriage it was the ultimate betrayal. My sister and her family were being robbed in broad daylight and there was nothing she could do. Robbed of this great life she had expected to have. Robbed of provision, stability, time and more importantly, love. Drugs are so powerful and intrusive; it steals everything-possessions you didn’t know could be stolen. Things like dreams, hope, and trust.
As Jenice’s younger sister, I was a mere spectator outside looking in. I saw a revolving door that I felt she had created and allowed. One day her husband came home, one day he wouldn’t. Each time he came through this door, he seemed to be let off the hook. There were no threats being unleashed. No implosion of words regarding this life disruption. It was a numb continuum of day-to-day rut and just living.
These disappearing acts continued for many years. Each time a wave of disappointment and rejection would follow. So often I wanted to yell at her, “What are you doing? Why are you accepting this?”
Material possessions were beginning to disappear as well- obviously being sold for drugs. I tried to speak of the insanity of it all and it caused a rift in our relationship. I wanted her to make it stop. To control it with what I thought were two simple letters- N-O! At that time that word was too powerful for someone who has no control, but thinks they are in control.
There was one occasion when my father and sister spent an entire evening looking for the new truck my sister cosigned for her husband, only to find it abandoned at a crack house. The keys were still in the ignition. It too had been carelessly discarded like their marriage. No explanation, no remorse, only loss.
The stress of this marriage was definitely taking a hold of all of us. The betrayal was being carried throughout the entire family. Just like an artery, betrayal carries its waste through the whole body. My mother was consumed with worry while helping to co-parent my two nieces. This toll on her caused physical illness and hair loss. I began to harbor bitterness and anger towards both my brother-in law for his choices and my sister for not seeing clearly.
During a visit home, I couldn’t stand to see my sister hurt and deceived. My feelings and emotions broke like water breaching a dam. There it was- words of truth that were invasive and hurtful came rushing out of my mouth. We ended up on the kitchen floor of my parent’s home weeping and embracing each other following a bout of yelling and arms flailing in the air. I had to relinquish my own frustrations, because what I knew and understood about their marriage was not as important as my relationship with my sister. She was incapable of receiving my advice. It was not time. I quietly kept up with her progress during daily phone calls to our mother.
During the death of Jenice’s marriage she grieved in isolation. She didn’t have hospice care for her marriage to help her cope with an impending reality. She lived it the best way she could- through depression and anger.
This anger created a calloused heart. It was a coping mechanism, and she was unaware of its lasting, devastating effects. My family later learned that this mechanism suppressed memories. Reminiscing about our childhood has often been pointless. Relying on photos and videos to give a snapshot of her children’s milestones has been indispensable in retelling her past. So many memories were lost in this pool of self preservation. A dying marriage is a trauma that the brain will voluntarily try to adapt to in order to move on.
Life did go on. Birthdays, holidays and school events came and went without their father being present. Precious moments lost in time. The youngest daughter’s relationship with her father was vague and underdeveloped because of his absence. So often his whereabouts were unknown. What was known was infused with words like ‘living on the streets’, or ‘incarceration.’ Amazingly the love of their absent father has been strong and often hopeful.
After the marriage ended in divorce, Jenice dealt with “now what” through a filter clouded by distrust of herself. She also had to deal with in-laws who accused her of prematurely abandoning her relationship; a relationship of one.
Eventually, Jenice did the only thing she could do, and that was pray. With much prayer and the help of my parents, healing began to surface in their life. Words of hope and encouragement were being spoken to Jenice and her daughters from pastors and people from their church.
Restoration can take a long time. I imagine there is an entire orchestra of people involved in the process. God orchestrates a symphony to accomplish his purpose in our life.
Still in the valley, Jenice sustained an injury while working as a boiler tech operator leaving her out of work for several months. Jenice made the decision to not return to the job because of the possible dangers associated with it. This decision resulted in a significant decrease in income.
Shortly afterwards an administrative position in the church office where she was attending, was offered to her. She took it and felt as if God had created it just for her even though the pay was low. Being in that environment, Jenice was beginning to find her purpose and hope began to flourish in her life.
Unfortunately, the loss of income was too great and the home that she had purchased with her ex-husband was being foreclosed. One day she received a phone call from her youngest daughter telling her the sheriff along with a stranger was standing on her porch. Leaving work immediately, she arrived home where dread and denial met her face to face. The sheriff explained that he was there to assist the new homeowners in taking possession of the home she had lost. She did the only thing she could do; she began to frantically toss all of her possessions into anything she could get her hands on. What she couldn’t take she left on the curb.
The day Jenice had to pack all of her belongings and put them in a black trash bag, was a defining moment. There was no looking back- only forward. Again, my parents did what they always did for us, they opened their arms and this time their home.
Thankfully, the transition of moving in with my parents was seamless for my sister’s oldest daughter because she left for college within a couple of days. She was going to be attending the same university where her mother dropped out of twenty years earlier.
Once again, my sister began to pray like a black belt. She began to fight for her life and the life of her children. Through prayer she learned that her journey and pain was not for her own good, but it was meant to encourage and help others. During this pivotal time, she knew she had to surrender all and let God be God in her life.
One day Jenice had a revelation to do something good and meaningful. The vision was a plan to help women who found themselves in situations where they too, needed to rebuild their life. She began a non-profit organization called Just the Beginning, Incorporated. This ministry organization was created for women who have been traumatized by life events. There is a special tug on her heart for incarcerated women. So began her ministry to preach, teach and reach women who find themselves in situations where they have one more chance to get it right. Just the Beginning, Incorporated (JTB) has facilitated training over 500 women. These women are transitioning out of prison and JTB provides after care services via behavior health, counseling for women and children, transitional housing and rehabilitation, and more recently adult literacy. The organization was featured in a special report from a local news station, and it continues to receive many accolades for its contributions towards community empowerment.
A few years ago Jenice was accepted back into the University of Oklahoma and within a couple of years she and her oldest daughter both received bachelor degrees. As she continues with her studies, Jenice is pursuing her master’s degree while her youngest daughter is at the same university seeking a degree in engineering. My sister Jenice’s story is a perfect picture of restoration through life’s journey while moving forward and hanging on to your faith.

Written By: Janetha Edwards