RJ

RJ and Justin ImelOctober 16, 1999, is not a date that I will easily forget. After four days of attempting to induce labor, the obstetrician broke my wife’s water, and we were in a delivery room not long after. Complications (the baby had his hand up over his head) forced us to rush to the OR for a caesarean section. As Tammy was rushed to the OR, I changed into scrubs and quickly joined her. As I held her hand, Dr. Mary Eastham delivered my first child. A nurse placed him in my arms, and I held him up so that Tammy could kiss him. The pediatricians then took RJ to make sure everything was in good shape. I follow the pediatricians out of the operating room. When I saw our families anxiously waiting, I began to cry and hugged my mother-in-law – okay, that isn’t quite true: I began to weep and fell into my mother-in-law’s waiting arms. A flood of emotions came over me: Relief that Tammy and RJ were okay, the weight of becoming a father, and the joy of having a healthy son.

Because Tammy had a caesarean, she was mighty sore, and the privilege of caring for RJ fell to me – I changed his diaper, I walked him, and I sang to him. I sang so often to him that only my singing could soothe his cries for months (I know – you’d think he’d cry when I sang, not before). I had a bundle of joy in my life.




As RJ has matured into a young man, it’s been an absolute honor to call him my son. I could never give thanks for God’s abundant blessings and not write about RJ.

Here are some of the ways RJ has blessed my life:

  • He serves.

    RJ willingly helps me in my struggles. I don’t mean this to sound self-serving. Quite the opposite – not many teenagers would serve so willingly as RJ does. You see, RJ never complains when it’s time to push the wheelchair or when I need him to walk beside me so that I don’t fall. I’ve told RJ several times that he can go on and I’ll make it eventually. “Dad, I’m your son and I’m going to help you.”

    RJ serves in so many ways. If a kid doesn’t have lunch money, RJ will buy lunch. If it’s potluck Sunday, RJ will stand at the door and most happily waits at the door of the church building to help carry in food.

  • He loves Alabama football.

    As I’m writing this, RJ just yelled that Alabama is now number 2 in the rankings. It’s fun to watch a game with someone who loves the sport.

  • He loves Kentucky football.

    I’m a rapid University of Kentucky basketball fan – I openly wept when we won the 2012 National Championship, and I openly wept when we fell to Wisconsin in 2015. RJ is just as passionate about the sport and the Kentucky Wildcats as I.

  • He serves in the church.

    RJ is happy to lead prayer or serve communion. He wants to start teaching children, and I think that he would be absolutely wonderful.

  • He knows the Bible.

    Just tonight we had a Bible discussion, and RJ volunteered his opinion. I don’t think he was right in saying that the mark of the beast is one’s actions (I’m not really sure what that mark is), but he did have a very reasoned argument. His reasoned argument, even though I think he is wrong, warms my heart, for he is studying and meditating and thinking on his own. Truth in someone’s heart has a way of impacting people for an eternity.

  • He knows right from wrong.

    RJ has a very strong moral compass. If he knows something is morally wrong, there is absolutely nothing you can say or do to convince him to participate in some sinful activity. RJ desires to do the right thing regardless of the cost.

  • He is his own person.

    RJ and I don’t always agree on stuff. He and I have had some interesting discussions on Christians and government of late, and we strongly disagree with one another. That’s cool. I’m thankful that he can think and reason for himself and that he’s able to disagree with Papa.

RJ is a great child. He has blessed my life tremendously. He continues to bless my life. He is a great blessing from God.

(Some people wonder how we can be both Alabama football fans and Kentucky basketball fans. RJ considers Florence, Alabama to be his hometown, and Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, is my hometown. I was raised loving the Cats, and the Crimson Tide got in my blood when I attended college in North Alabama. RJ’s love for the Tide has only increased my love for that team.)

P.S.: I know I’ve missed a day of thanksgiving. I plan on posting two posts on the same day at some point(It might be Christmas before I can get it done, but I will!).




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