Today is a milestone in our oldest niece’s life. Jessica has now been a part of this family for a quarter of a century. It sounds quite a bit longer than her 25 years of age, but when you say it in terms of centuries, it has an air of permanency about it. And we’re glad that she is is part of the clan. We spend quite a bit more time with her sister, our other niece, Emily. Emily attends Butler University here in Indianapolis, and so we see her quite frequently – in fact, she is with us this week-end – but more about that another time because today is about her older sister – the niece we don’t see so often.
The reason that I mention this is that Jessica and the rest of her nuclear family moved to Williamsburg years ago and it wasn’t nearly as convenient to get out there to see them as it was when they lived in the Chicago area. But life happens and we have all had to adjust to it. Jessica is our oldest niece. In fact, I can’t tell you how many websites and passwords have security questions these days and frequently, one of them is, “What is the name of your oldest niece?” Of course, I smile each time I type in “Jessica”.
But my early association doesn’t end there. Early in her life, Jessica and I connected on some inexplicable level. She was a happy child and for some reason, she always had a smile on her face when I saw her. She carried herself in a way far beyond her years and so I started calling her “Lady Jessica”. Now, the association in my mind is so strong it’s like peanut butter and jelly – I can hardly think of one without the other.
Years ago, Jessica wrote an article for school about a favorite relative and guess what? Yep – I got the nod! But throughout the years, the families, like most families who don’t live so close to one another, drifted a little further apart. Jessica and Emily attended school and had their projects to get done. I was in seminary and Janet was tied up with our own children and grandchildren. Eventually, Lady Jessica graduated from Penn State and found her career in New York City. And honestly, until 10 years ago, I had never even visited New York City, so it isn’t a place I am intimately familiar with.
She now lives there and is becoming quite the expert on the area. She is advancing in her career and seems to have her head screwed on pretty straight. She’s still single, which is fine with me, but I know that she would ultimately like to find someone to love and spend the rest of her life with.
With all the heartache that the family has recently experienced, with the death of Janet’s folks (Jessica’s grandparents), I have had a chance to spend more time with Jess as she has returned from New York to Williamsburg for the funerals. Her employer was kind enough to allow her several extra days and it was great to get re-acquainted. Now I know that she has her own life to live, but I can’t help but remember her as a little girl, not unlike our own girls, and sometimes I get stuck in remembering the past. I think she will always be that smiling five year old to me.
With all the events of the last several months, out of these tragedies, the family has found a new level of bonding and commitment to one another. We are planning a reunion for next summer and we expect all the generations to be there, although that means that Janet, her sisters, and their three husbands constitute the oldest generation for the first time. I’m sure that holidays and birthdays will take on additional meaning and that we will all be a little more sensitive to the importance of making sure we grow our relationships with other family members as much as possible.
After all, I don’t care what you say, when the chips are down and you really need somebody to love you and ease whatever heartache you may be experiencing, family is who you should be able to count on – period. And as the generations age, there still has to always be the knowledge and security that the younger generations have somewhere to turn. With the death of Janet’s parents, that means us… and we’re up to the task.
The verse for tonight references the knowledge of the Lord about each one of us and how He created us – uniquely. He is omniscient (all knowing), omni-present (everywhere at once) and omnipotent (all powerful). So no matter where you are, God is always with you, even if your earthly family is not. We are told, in Psalm 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”
These are great words for all of us to remember. My encouragement this evening is to remind you that God loves you wherever you are, and when you are separated from family members and those who love you. My prayer is that you will assume the mantle of responsibility of loving the family well – for the following generations, when it’s your turn. Happy Birthday, Lady Jessica, and may the Lord bless you and keep you all the days of your life and to the rest of you – Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…