Another Milestone

One year ago today I traversed the concrete sidewalk to the entrance of Jesup’s Federal Satellite prison for the last time. I wore a flowing white dress and curls in my hair. I was a bride in roles reversed, coming to get my groom.  Joel’s official release date, June 26, 2012 had finally arrived. My heart tripped and stuttered in my chest as I approached the guard at the desk and announced the reason for my presence.  The twenty minute wait for Joel to be “processed out” felt like an eternity as I sat on those familiar, hard chairs, in the stark, drab front room.

Three boys waited eagerly in the parking lot, holding signs created by Marshall and Jaden with welcome messages for their dad. Could Roman even remember his dad walking beside him in freedom? Of course not. He hadn’t even been walking when Joel was incarcerated. His idea of dad being home was one created in his imagination by the stories and explanations of his brothers.  And then there were Joel’s parents–His dad by my side as I waited out those final crawling moments of Joel’s incarceration, his mother sitting patiently with the wily grand kids. They had been God’s gift of stability to our family in these years of upheaval. Their hearts so bonded to us before our tragic losses, were not knit inextricably together with ours.

And then, suddenly, he was standing before more, on this side of the razor wire! What a strange mix of emotions as I stared into his precious face, one I’d seen for three years, only under the scrutinous  eyes of cold corrections officers.  Hugs, warm greetings uttered around lumps of tears, and we were all smiling and crying and the boys were dancing and climbing on Joel and our hearts were thumping a new kind of beat, one of immense emotional relief. Coming up for a deep breath of fresh air after an extended period underwater is a good physical representation of our emotional experience.

Thus began our first year of Joel’s release. And now on the anniversary of that day, I rejoice to see all the milestones God has brought us through. His loving, guiding hand has been so evident even in the moments of intense sorrow and disappointment as in the 3 months of Joel’s unjust separation from the boys. As I ponder the really hard moments–moving from FL alone, and working so hard to help Joel get adjusted to the halfway house, waiting to hear from the lawyer about our appeal regarding Joel’s being with the boys, searching for a place to live, a school for the boys, a job for Joel, connections in a new community, continuity in my ministry, and wisdom for the many decisions facing me–I am amazed on this side of things to see how God’s hand wove together each moment of the struggle and is indeed working all of it for our good. My suffering was not irrelevant in his eyes, but momentary, even by the time standards of this life. However, as the struggles and the joys of rebuilding continue, God continues to teach me that all of this life’s trials are light and momentary and that my suffering, though not irrelevant, is not paramount either. In His time, beauty comes from ashes, be that in this world, or the one to come!

One Response to "Another Milestone"

  • Dearest Tabitha,
    God has given you a wonderful gift in writing and as I read your letter I’m touched in how
    God is using you, not only for your family but for each of us. Stay strong and continue the path He has laid out for you. My prayers are continuely with your precious family. Hopefully we can get together soon.
    Love and hugs, Patti

    1 Patti Edwards said this (June 30, 2013 at 3:09 am) Reply

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