Monday, July 11, 2011


Nicholas Joel Johnson
He was born at 4:02 a.m, one day before his brother's birthday.  He stormed into the world, taking me by surprise.  He would not wait for the doctor, not wait to be born, not wait one more day.  The nurse tried to make him slow down, told me not to push, but there is no reasoning with a baby who has already decided that his time has come.  It was terrifying, and Nick suffered a bruise between the hemispheres of his brain.  I was young and tearful and worried, but after several days in the hospital his rapid breathing subsided, we took him home, and all seemed well.  He grew so fast and was a happy, chubby fellow.

Our first two sons were the perfectly planned, perfectly spaced set of brothers.  We patted each other on the back, applauding our ability to make life orbit properly, and sat back to revel in our organizational life skills.  Nicholas Joel, the youngest, beat his brother Jacob Robert's second year birthday by one day and one day only.  It was a coup de tat, as the ability to celebrate a birthday *first* was forever  captured.  Nick was second born, but would never truly settle for second place.  The competition was on, and with the addition of a surprising little sister 17 months later, Jeff and I felt our false sense of timing and capability trickle away.  We had never really been in control, to begin with, not in the grand scheme of things.

So, they became brothers by blood, by bath, by bubbles.... books.

Although they are only two years apart (minus one day, we mustn't forget...) two boys couldn't be more different as they grew.  One is a computer-head who clutters the room with old hard-drives and keyboards; the other is a music fiend with books and legos strewn everywhere.   They have shared upstairs rooms in old houses with no air, cold rooms in ugly basements, favorite jeans and socks with holes in the bottom.  They've fought at times to carve out their own identity, struggled at times to get away from each other - and yet, they can still be lost when the other one is not around.  They know each other so well.  Their days of sharing a room will come to an end too soon, and I will be sad.

Nicholas was always the daring type, the dangerous man; but always a tender and compassionate heart.  He wanted to marry a friend of mine who had been widowed, and he was serious about it, even at the age of 4.  Even then, he could sense deep pain, and he wanted to be a help to her and to be a Dad for her girls.  She wisely let him down easily, ha ha.

But he is also the type of boy who, as he has grown, has tried to ride his bike down slides, has attempted to play with power tools, who is the most passionate... both good and bad.  He is most responsible for his mother's grey hair and high stress levels. (And it doesn't bother him in the slightest.  Grin.)

I'll tell you all about Jake tomorrow, for it is his birthday then.  Today, Nick turned 17.

Nick has made Jeff and I live a deeper life, filled with high emotions and some days that have stretched us to our limits too.  As his mother, there are days where I am sure the world is ending and that he is the one who caused it.  And by the next day, I've learned something new about my son that convinces me that he surely hung the moon.  He gives me hope for his generation.  He's taken me places I've never wanted to go, but thru this son, God has taught me so much about love, and hope, redemption, and a future.

A passionate child pulls the rest of his family to a deeper level of reality.  The child who stormed his way into his world allows for no coasting, no pretending, no sweeping feelings or emotions under the rug.  He's wanted to know since forever how much he means to you and how much he is worth and just how far you would go for him.  The answer is, of course, to the ends of the earth and back.  And beyond that, if necessary. And the answer is the same for each individual child.  And each child would do it for the other.  That's just family.

But let me tell you about the other side of our son, Nick.  He'll not like me saying this, but you know, today I read the obituary for another local seventeen year old boy, and I just don't think we should wait to tell the good things we know about the ones we love.  Our children should never seriously doubt that we love them.  We should tell them and show them more often than we do.

Last summer Nick mowed the yard of a drug addicted, alcoholic neighbor woman. For free, all summer long.  He knew she didn't have it within her means to ever get it done on her own.  He never bragged, nor complained.  He didn't even tell me for a whole year.  His sensitive spirit has never gone underground, even during the teen years.  God has given him a compassion for the down and out.

He mows yards for many older people around town.  He charges them next to nothing.  "Mom.  I feel bad asking her to pay anything."  He never lets them down, not even with a cut hand. 

He writes songs.  Good ones.  I expect you'll hear them someday.

Everyone thinks he's tough and overly confident.  He's not.  He's carried a lot of woundedness and he's faced up to it without allowing himself to become bitter.  He's sought to grow thru the things that could have destroyed him.  God has been gracious to Him. 

He's working off a car - hopes to own it this fall, just in time to drive himself to take some dual credit college classes.

He pays little kids good wages to help him do small jobs.  He covers their eyes during scary movie scenes.  He buys them things, "just because."

He loves to give good gifts:  Bleeding heart plants or roses for Mom.  Gift certificates to send us out to eat.  Gifts for the unwed neighbors.

He tithes, to places like Amazima and Real Hope for Haiti.  His heart is broken for a local soup kitchen that might have to close.

He's no saint, I've already made that clear and we wouldn't have any idea how to raise one of those, anyway.    He gets grumpy when he doesn't have enough sleep and when the little kids are too loud and he bosses his sisters around too much.  But he's also the first to keep an eye on their safety and to buy them birthday presents months in advance, too.

Happy birthday, Nick.  It's been some ride being your mama and your daddy.  More snakes and bugs and panic attacks than we can count.  You are still seeking and still growing and still becoming who you are going to be in this life, and in Christ.

This isn't bragging.  There isn't any bragging to be done, as your story is not yet written.  This is just saying that we love you and see Jesus growing in your heart.

May it ever be so.

Though the days with you still at home are fleeing, we love you to the ends of the earth and back, for always.  Thanks for the fun.  :)
Mom and Dad

Silly brothers.
Pretending to not get along...still.


  1. Great post Holly! This was super sweet and touching. :)

    Happy Birthday to Nick!

  2. I enjoyed reading your post, Holly. Thanks for sharing. And Happy Birthday to your son, Nick. He sounds like a boy to make a mother and father proud.

  3. Very, very nicely done... wish I knew this young man!

  4. Thank you! I love them all so you all surely love yours so deeply too.