On this day 21 years ago Jerilyn and I had our second son Jody Johnston. The birth of Jody came 6 years and 8 days after the birth of our first-born son.
The birth of Jody was not without issues as Jerilyn went into early labor at twenty-four weeks before the due date. At thirteen weeks Jerilyn was put on total bed rest. During this time we were blessed by the love and support of our family, friends and co-workers. Our parents went the extra mile during this time as Jerilyn’s mom stayed with us until Jody was born except on several weekends when she went home and my parents came to Nashville for long weekends that allowed Mrs. Jeannie a time to go home and rest. During this time we received hundreds of card and letters from people throughout North America telling us they were praying for us. I can tell you the prayer support, cards, phone calls were used by God to keep our eyes on Him through this season of life we were living.
On the afternoon of October 21, 1990 I received a call from Jerilyn that the contractions had increased and that we were to go straight to the emergency room at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, TN. I came home and picked up Jerilyn and we went to the hospital. The hospital staff thought because of the contractions Jerilyn has been experiencing that they would give her something to slow the contractions and we would be sent home. The afternoon turned to evening and the contractions did not slow down. We were moved from one area of the hospital to another section where we were placed in a room that looked like a closet and the only thing hooked up to Jerilyn was an IV. It was about 9:15 pm when Jerilyn said to me I think the baby is coming. I went and retrieved a person who was in residency at the hospital and told him the baby was coming. He looked at me with unbelief and came quickly with me. He did a quick examination and a look came upon his face that was of something from a sitcom. He ran out of the room and within a minute returned with a nurse and together they started rolling the bed out of the room and down the hallway to what I guess was some type of birthing room. I was directed to stand in one part of the room while people came running from everywhere taking their place near Jerilyn and within a few minutes Jody was born. They took Jody over to a corner of the room and worked on him and then a doctor and a nurse started making their way out of the room with Jody in the arms of the nurse and told me to follow them. We went halfway down the hallway into an area labeled NICU. I was told to stand in one spot while the doctor and nurse placed Jody on a small table where they worked on him. It was about thirty minutes later when they told me that the lungs were not developed and were not producing surfactant and that Jody would need to stay in NICU. He was placed in a one of those clear boxes for ten days where he was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and lines. I stayed in the NICU until they assured me he was going to be okay and then I made my way out of NICU to locate Jerilyn. I was brought to a room where she had been moved to and told her what was taking place with our baby. We cried and prayed believing Jody and Jerilyn would both be okay.
A few days later Jerilyn was discharged from the hospital while Jody was to remain at the hospital. The drive home was strange because we were going home without our baby. When we arrived home our son John Grady was standing outside with Jerilyn’s mom holding a sign he made to welcome his mom home. During the days Jody was in the hospital we made multiple visits to the hospital each day at the time we were allowed to see Jody. I went every morning at four so I could see Jody before work and before the shift change in NICU. On the seventh day of Jody being in NICU I walked in and the nurse asked if I would like to give Jody a bottle. I started crying and she took Jody out of the box with all the tubes and wires and placed him in my arms. I wept as I gave him a bottle. Upon finishing the bottle the nurse took him from and I called Jerilyn to tell her what took place. The nurse told me to have Jerilyn at the hospital by seven so she could give him the next bottle. Needless to say Jerilyn was at the hospital ready and waiting to hold Jody in her arms for the very first time.
Over the next three days we continued this routine until he was moved to the regular nursery for another two days before being released from the hospital.
We quickly begin learning about Jody’s personality. He brought smiles to all who came in touch with him. His nursery workers at church told us how joyful he was and that he brought smiles to all of them. In fact one of his teachers wrote an article about him that was published in a church magazine.
Over these twenty-one years we have enjoyed every day with Jody. He begin showing an interest in the violin at age two and begin taking lesson in the first grade. It seems like only yesterday that we went to bed every night listening to music cd because of the violin method he was learning. If he were not playing his violin he would always be singing. As he grew older he continue playing the violin along with learning to play the mandolin and guitar. We love hearing Jody play and sing along with many of his friends coming to the house playing music with Jody and his brother Grady. During the first of this month Jody was home for two days and oh how we enjoyed his singing. Jody mom and I encourage you to keep playing and singing because you remind us when you sing how much Jesus loves you and us. The Lord has used you in my life to be free to Worship Jesus and I encourage you to continue leading and teaching people to Worship the King.
When Jody was five and a half he was going with me on a weekend trip where I would be preaching and teaching for the weekend. For several months Jody had been asking us about what did it take to become a Christian? Jerilyn, Grady and I along with others would answer and nurture these conversations. As Jody and I were driving down I-65 heading toward the Alabama line Jody continue to ask me questions about becoming a Christian. He then became very quiet and at mile marker forty-three he looked up at me with tears coming down his face and said dad I want Jesus in my heart. I pulled over and share with him what the Bible says and ask him is that what he believes. He said yes and he invited Jesus into his heart. I prayed over him a blessing and we hugged each other. I got back on the road and at the next exit we went to a service station and called Jerilyn for him to share what took place. (This was before cell phones in our life.) After he called Jerilyn he then called our friend Sharon and shared the news. We then got back in the car and proceeded to our destination. We were staying at Jerilyn’s parents so when we arrived he jumped out of the car and ran into to tell them. He then called my parents to share the news. The Lord gave Jody a heart for to tell people about him. The first person Jody led to the Lord was at the age of six and it took place in the back seat of my parents car when he shared Christ with my cousins son Randy and he invited Jesus into his heart. I thank the Lord that Jody’s heart has not grown cold as he continues to share Jesus with the lost.
Jody has brought many laughs to our home from his days of potty training until now. On one occasion we were playing charades while waiting in ER for Grady to get a cast on his leg when Jody it was his turn in the game we could not figure out what he was doing. He then demonstrated that it was mom spraying a Lysol can.
We enjoyed his days at Hendersonville High as a member of select chorus, participated in plays and a leader of the FCA.
One of the most priceless moments was when my position at LifeWay was deleted and I told Jody what was happening to us. He dropped his head and then looked back up and said “Dad, are you okay?” I said Jody I am okay and his response was then I would be okay. You see this took place at the beginning of his senior year in high school so his response was beyond his years.
I am proud of Jody Johnston and grateful for the way he lives his life. He loves God, his family and friends. He has a relationship with his brother and sister-in-law that blesses Jerilyn and I. The Lord Jesus has called him into a vocational ministry and he continues to prepare for that journey.
Jody I can tell you that mom and I are proud of you. My thanks to Ricky, Sharon, Luke, Molly, our family members, neighbors, your Sunday School Teachers, School Teachers and Music Teachers for pouring into you. We continue to thank God for you and look forward to seeing how God will continue to work in your life.
May you finish strong at Liberty University and know we are praying and cheering for you. Thanks for allowing God to continue to work in your life. On this your 21st birthday may God continue to keep His hand on you and extend your platform of writing, speaking and singing so many will come to Jesus.
With a Grateful Heart,