Many years ago, because that sounds very professional when I begin that way, when I was blogging all the funny stories about the boys just to socialize with others and keep myself sane, the title of my blog came across the computer of a pastor in Wisconsin.

It was the title – Life With Four Boys…Coffee Please – that caught his eye.

Soon he was commenting on nearly every post.  We began to email each other.  If I am remembering correctly, my husband and I tried to find his church to look him up to no avail because this was many years ago and not everyone had a website. We also were all scared of everyone we met on the internet because we were basically brave pioneers in a new world and how could there be so many people out there just like me?

We wanted to make sure Pr Ron was “safe”.

But as the years progressed and our emails went back and forth, Pr Ron became an extension of our family in a way.  We would mention him like he was our everyday friend instead of what he was…a guy we had never met who lived in Wisconsin.

When we went through a very tough time at our church, it was Pr Ron who kept encouraging us without him even knowing it.  We knew he was praying for us and he loved us.  We knew it as surely as if we had met with him.

Eventually Pr Ron got on facebook and then the fun really began.  Jake and Pr Ron hit it off so much it was as if they were two peas in a pod.

Pr Ron kept close tabs on the boys as they grew up, continuing to check in on me when I was not blogging.

Ron and Joan retired and as if Wisconsin wasn’t far enough away, the moved somewhere snow rarely falls because they are no fools.  We would say in passing how great it would be if we all ever met without every really thinking we would.

But then we did.

This summer, when it was full sun and summer was before us, Ron messaged me to get S4 Abe’s football schedule.  “It’s happening this year, Denise.  We’re coming to see you and we want to see Abe’s home game.”

Ron has followed Abe’s football love all his internet life.  He felt S4’s woes of not being able to play football until he was ancient old at third grade.  He has even been known to cheer for Michigan State University because he knows Abe’s love of the college and we all want to see how S4’s plan to attend MSU to play football but not do ANY college schooling is going to work out.

“Wait,” Abe said hearing this, “he is driving from Arkansas to watch me play football?  This is kind of creepy.”

Ron and Joan were due to arrive in middle of our busiest time of the season.  Jake and I had hardly spoken to each other to discuss what we would do when they arrived other than Jake was taking the day off of work.  I worked until hours before their arrival and spent those last minutes before they arrived doing things I knew I would appreciate most – making food and making sure the bathroom was clean.

My sister kept checking in with me.  “So you have NEVER met them before and they are coming here again, why?  Are you sure they are safe?”

Everyone’s reactions seemed to be like that but we were so sure it would be just like we imagined it would be.

It was not.

It was better.

I literally was jumping up and down in my bare feet by the front door when they arrived and I would not even accept a hand shake hello, it was all hugs.

Joan, Ron’s wife, was someone I knew nothing much about.  I was hoping we would hit it off.  I don’t know why I worried.  We walked in the house and here came S3 Eli to the door.  “Joan,” Ron said, “This is Eli.  The cross country runner.  How are you, young man?”

Days later, this moment is still the moment Eli brings up.  It made such a huge impression on him.

We spent the first moments awkward, all of us meeting the two of them and somehow we all settled on the back porch where the breeze was cooler than the muggy hot summer feeling house that October day and we spent the evening talking.

We didn’t take one photo to document this.  We all have it as our most favorite part of their visit.  Sitting on the porch, talking, waving the motion light to kick on so we could talk just a little longer.

Jake, bless him, wanted to show Ron and Joan all the best things Michigan has to offer.  I had not known my husband had tour guide in him, but goodness gracious, that man does.  He listed some of our most favorite places to go and I reminded him we had kids to pick up from school at 3.  “If I ever get to visit Mary (another blogger from the beginning and now family friend), I want to see all the places I have read about her life over the years.  When I went to visit Becca (I still love that Becca and I have that and that I could also then meet Kara and others.) she just did her normal life with me and that helps me picture her all the time.  That is what I wanted to see.  I love these friends for who they are in their every day life. I wanted to show Ron and Joan our everyday life.

And so we did.

We drove to the old farmhouse.  So very many blog posts from that house!

We drove them to the church we attend now, the boys school, our entire village, Mezzo to meet Sue (because how could we not?), my childhood home, the church where we were married and so many other little stops before Ron and Joan retired for a nap before all the excitement of the upcoming afternoon.

When it came time for the football game, the weather – which had been less then stellar all day – was dark and damp and it misted a cold rain over us all.  But I could not have been happier listening to Ron narrate the game for me as watched our middle school team win 64 to 0.

I had debated trying to record the game that night.  I keep missing all the great plays and it makes S4 Abe so sad.  I decided I would start and see how it goes and later that night when Ron had left and Abe was re-watching it, Abe looked at me and with all sincerity said, “Mama, I can hear Pr. Ron on these.  Thank you, thank you so much.”  Abe had me make a video of all his best plays and all the best lines from Pr Ron.  You can see it here…

Note: Ron is not the woman yelling “Go Defense!” haha!

We had dinner around the table that night after the game and it was so amazing to me to see how Ron interacted with all the boys.  He asked them questions that dug for deeper answers.  My parents stopped in to meet Ron and Joan and Jake’s mom and brother also were at the game and met them as well.

Ron went out to his car and he came back with a box full of goodies for us.  Joan told us he has been looking for gifts for us for months.  We were stunned and touched.  My parents were still there so we took a picture with our new gifts.

I wanted Ron to pray over us so badly before he left.  I didn’t want to miss his blessing over us.  And as they said it was time to leave, Ron gathered us in prayer without my saying a word and with arms looped around each other, we bowed our heads and he prayed over us.

Ron and Joan extended a welcome to us to visit them, reminding us that they had made the trip to visit us (haha!) and Joan, headed for the door because she hates goodbyes like I hate goodbyes, told me she would see me soon.  Either here or up there in Heaven.

And then they were gone.

And then I cried.

“How can I be so happy and thankful to meet them for real and so sad to see them go?” I sniffled to my husband.

Even the next morning I was somber.  Eli rubbed my back.  “You are still sad, aren’t you, Mama?”  He rested his head on my shoulder.  He understood.

I got ready to head out for Bible Study and realized if I left early I could drive right by their hotel.  It was hardly out of my way.  Maybe I could just say goodbye again.  I pulled in and – believe it or not – it’s easy to see an Arkansas plate so I wrote them a note for their car door and quick sent a text for safe travels.  I didn’t want to seem creepy, I just wanted to send one more goodbye.  I had prayed as I had pulled in the parking lot, “God, if you want us to meet again, You will do it.”  I went to put my Shipsiburban in gear and there was Ron.  “Denise!” he cried surprised, “Come to McDonalds and have coffee with us! We are just leaving and Joan would love to see you again.”

Hearing Ron and Joan recap their thoughts on the boys and us as we stood in a busy McDonalds by the drink station for a few minutes was just what my saddened heart needed.  What treasures they are, what gifts they have been and will continue to be to us.

The internet gets such a bad wrap so often.  But it also can do amazing things….like bring these two families together.  I am so thankful we had the opportunity to meet in real life and I am reminded again of the power of words to connect us – no matter the distance between us.

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