Each New Year’s Eve, Janet and I replay that night 40 years ago this evening when Janet went into labor, leading to the birth of our second daughter, Jill, early in the morning on January 1, 1978. To be sure, it was a snowy night, and rather cold, as I remember it.
We had been celebrating New Year’s Eve by having our next door neighbors, Jim and Diane, over for dinner and dessert. We had grown rather close to them as they lived in one of the oldest homes in Downers Grove and after their lot was subdivided, our new home was built in the original front yard of the home they occupied. So their front door looked into our back door and each time we went out on our patio, Diane or Jim were busy in their yard working. We were about the same age and became fast friends.
None of us stayed up real late and Jim was a real workaholic, adding a second floor to their home in his spare time. So they walked back home after our early evening and soon after Janet started to feel the early signs of impending labor. Mind you, Janet’s due date was December 18th and we were more than two weeks past that date. Both of us were relieved that Jill wasn’t born on Christmas as we really wanted her to have her own special day. Little did we think that she would wait all the way until the first of the New Year.
Janet and I headed to the hospital in Hinsdale late in the evening on December 31st. When it came time to head to the delivery room, the doctor asked whether I wanted a son or a daughter. I replied that I had been asked the same question before Kristin was born and hoped for a daughter. I renewed that request the second time. And sure enough, Jill was born at 6:32 am on January 1st, 1978. She was the first baby born in DuPage County, Illinois that year but not the first in the Chicago area.
We were very comfortable bringing Jill home from the hospital. After all, we had been through this before with the birth of Kristin two years earlier and we were becoming pros at raising babies. No doubt about it, Jill was the model baby. She slept through the night from the beginning and all in all, was a great baby. Shortly after she was born, we moved to a larger house in the area but before that I remember wallpapering Jill’s room with one of my favorite papers of all time – I just loved the way her room turned out.
I was a little disappointed that Jill wasn’t born a day earlier – back in those days I was concerned about getting the tax deduction… but being born more than two weeks late was the last time that Jill was late for anything. She is one of those people who always show up early – in fact, when she comes here to visit, she is usually at least a day early, or more! We lovingly tease her about it, but Jill has a real sense of timing and hates being late.
So in the morning, Janet and I will have two daughters who are in their forties. Several years from now, Andrew will join the club. As the kids get older, Janet and I are even more pleased that we made a decision to have children when we were young. After all, many times people wait until they are older to have kids. But early in our marriage, Janet and I decided that we wanted to spend as many years of our lives as possible with our children and we have never wavered from that decision.
So, tonight, as Janet and I celebrate our 45th New Year’s Eve together, we eagerly await the New Year and Jill’s 40th birthday. The verse for tonight reflects our wishes for Jill and a verse that has become something of a legacy verse in our family. The author of Hebrews tells us, in Hebrews 13:20-21, “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
The author of Hebrews placed this verse, really a benediction, in the middle of the book as an act of worship to the Creator, God. My encouragement this evening is that God has the power and authority to equip each of us with specific spiritual gifts, passions and style to accomplish our divine mission in the world. My prayer is that as we start 2018 we will each take a little time to reflect on our families, our God given gifts and how we have each been equipped for our uniquely ordained divine mission. Happy birthday, Jill! We love you! …and to the rest of you, Happy New Year and have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace.