Monday, July 28, 2014


Jamey and Cari - 1987

My baby brother turns 27 today. I can remember being on a youth mission trip in Mexico the day he was born. I called home to check on Mom about 9 pm and there was no answer...I knew my parents had no late-night social life, so I assumed they had gone to the hospital to give birth to my new Home-Ec project! I cried when I realized I missed his birth. I missed him...and I didn't even know him yet.

He was such a pretty baby. Dark, plump, and smiley. His first year of life was my first year with a driver's licence. One day I was running an errand in the "good times van" with James harnessed into his new, plush car seat. His seat faced forward, positioned on the captain's chair closest to the big sliding brown door. I say "positioned" because "secured" would be inaccurate.

As I came to an abrupt stop at a red light, the car seat tipped forward until it rested on the front passenger seat. I saw it lunge forward in my peripheral. I panicked, thinking James had been thrown to the floor. I quickly pulled into the next parking lot available. I threw open my door, darted around the van, and frantically opened the sliding door.

There he was. Safely suspended over the walkway between the two seats. He dangled his feet over the expanse as though he were seeking thrills at a theme park. With his chubby fist clinched around the straps of his 5-point harness system, he giggled. I set the car seat back into position and tightened the seat belt strap.

Then as he looked at me with those innocent ebony eyes, and I couldn't take it. I just started bawling. I unstrapped him, held him close and pledged my undying devotion to his health, well-being, and life-long pursuit of happiness.

His second year was our family's first year in Washington State ... which turned out to be my only year in the Northwest. I have sweet memories of coming home early in the afternoon from my lightly-loaded senior year to share ice cream and silly stories with "Jamey". There is a photograph of us on my first day at OBU. Mom was behind me and as James hugged my neck, she captured his saddening sobs. She was so thoughtful to keep us in close communication despite the 2000 mile gap. Mom would send pictures, artwork, and even tape-recorded messages from James to me at college. All the girls on my hall anxiously waited to hear the next "adorable thing my baby brother said".

By the time he entered Kindergarten, we were all living in Texas again. It was that year that he announced his name would then be "James"...not the babyish name "Jamey". It tickled me that he thought he was so grown up. That wasn't the last time I'd be tickled in such a way. He proudly served as the ring bearer in our wedding. During the rehearsal he was sorely offended when he found out the rings tied to his silk pillow were from the aisles of Hobby Lobby. "You can trust me!" he pleaded with me at the back of the church. Philip and I looked at each other and as we looked into James' eyes, we recognized the resolve in his countenance. We cautiously tied a couple thousand dollars worth of jewelry to a beautifully embroidered pillow and offered what would be the first of many opportunities to successfully handle responsibility. He came through like a pro!

The next year, I looked across the funeral home to see a little 7-year-old perched on one of the sofas near a lamp. He was dressed like a little man. He was calm. He listened patiently as people shared memories and stories. He would have to wait a lifetime to see his dad again. He was smiling as he chatted with folks, but the brightness in his eyes to which I'd grown accustomed had darkened a bit.

Several months later, he was able to come with mom to stay with us after Landen's birth. His famous quote concerning my culinary technique: "I love to eat Cari's can really tell she uses her brain when she cooks."

The rest of his school years were spent in B-town. We were limited to phone calls, the occasional letter, and seasonal visits. Ranger games every summer, Cowboy games in the winter, Spring Breaks and family fall vacations to Missouri. I missed a lot of his everyday life. But by most accounts, those were the "punk" years...Lord bless my mother!

After high school graduation, he moved in with us to attend college. We had three bedrooms and four kids, so he moved his stuff into our dining room and began sleeping in our bay-window-turned-college-dorm. While he earned his degree, we bought a four-bedroom home, and added two more kids. James' enthusiastic involvement during those transitions kept the morale high, and childcare costs low.

James is a fantastic uncle! In so many ways he has shaped our kids' lives. Mari is apparently musical because James sang to her and played the guitar to settle her down while Philip and I were away on date nights. From her time spent with James, Ashlin has learned the discipline of truthfulness and the value of a vigorous laugh. Ardyn never tires of James' presence, as they hang out and even write music. With James, Luke finds comfort in his genetic potential and basks in the reciprocity of quality time. From James' example, Landen has discovered the secret to being completely cool: start with a limitless wardrobe, establish a personalized gesture of greeting, and ultimately don't worry about what anybody else thinks about you.

Elizabeth adores James, and he is a wonderful steward of her affections. Together, James and Philip have agreed upon the importance of focused attention during conversation and the peaceful, easy feeling of a good, growly, bear hug. I'm not big on the hugs, but I treasure our kitchen discussions. I love his company. He brings tears to my eyes. Sometimes because his sensitivity to God's love is sincerely sweet, and other times because we're laughing so hard.

Asa & JW, - August 2013
Today, this guy (formerly Jamey; formally James) is our beloved JW (pronounced in East Texan endearment: "Jay-Dub"). And he's old and married. He has grown to be such an incredible man who humbly honors God,  demonstratively loves his precious wife, diligently works to see his company succeed, faithfully encourages others, and evidently has a pretty good time all the while.

Oh! And just for a little job security in the uncle department, last year when we added yet another Johnson to the mix ...
we named him Asa "James".

"Blessed is the man who delights in the Lord.
He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever he does will prosper."  Psalm 1

Thank You, God, for James.