You know, it's odd, this blog thing. We end up knowing people we may never actually see in real life. Strangers often know more about our daily goings-on than our next door neighbors do. We become friends with people we otherwise would never come across. Sometimes, we feel like we know a person because we read their blog, but they've never heard our name, not once. (I read the blog of an extreme outdoorsman/ TV reporter who lives in Portland, Oregon, for instance. I'd recognize him and his wife on the street, but they've never heard of me, EVER.)
Today, I finally met one of my blog buddies. You've probably heard of him, 'cause he's been linked in my sidebar since the inception of this blog. In fact, if you'll go back and read my very first post, it was he who inspired it.
Ira Lester Hays. What a name for a baby boy, eh? He's named for his two grandfathers, and what an awesome legacy he's making for those names! Ira wasn't given much hope for survival in the early days. Before he was born, the health problems were evident. He faced odds that made those who loved him already weak with worry, sick with sorrow. He also forced a community of friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers into a life of faithful prayer. We ALL pulled for Baby Ira. Around the world, people shared his blog with other bloggers. Bracelets were sold to raise money for his care. People sent in photos featuring the bracelet in their vacation photos and at their family picnics. Complete strangers wore Ira bracelets, entered him on their church prayer lists, and waited quietly for Joe's latest blog reports.
I was a mere acquaintance. I'd actually met Joe and Laura once, briefly, when they were in town visiting. They'd been members (the MINISTERS, actually) of my church, but had moved to Brooklyn before Darren and I showed up on the scene. That Sunday, I happened to have nursery duty, and it was Sophia I held conversations with. The only words I spoke to Joe were "You're welcome", after he said "Thank you" when he picked up Sophia from my care. I wasn't reading The Blog yet at that time. In fact, I think it was that weekend that I became aware of its existence.
Since that time, Joe and I have become blog friends. We've shared emails, playlists, photos, IM chats and comments. I check his blog almost daily, and love it when Laura joins the fun and blogs in her own words. Even so, I sometimes wonder.... is it weird that I've come to love them so much? That I feel like I know them so well? This afternoon when I walked in to the restaurant to meet them for lunch (along with many of their old friends - MY friends, too - from Fortress Church), Joe stood and threw his arms around me. "Stacy!" he said enthusiastically. "It's so good to see you!" Then Laura, whom I'd imagined maybe didn't even know my name, hugged me and said, "Stacy, I'm so glad to finally meet you." I'm fighting those silly little spurty, burning tears that come when you're happy as I type this. Because, see, we DO know each other.
And then I met Ira. Oh!! He's beautiful! He's God and Miracle and Grace and Beauty and Life and Amazing Love wrapped up in one perfect bundle of energetic little boy. He didn't want to be held, he wanted to run. He looked at me with pleading eyes and dramatically pointed to the floor, twice in quick succession. I knew what it meant. "I. WANT. DOWN!!" He made mean faces on command, he laughed and giggled and knew when he was being cute, he threw the appropriate fit when he didn't get his way.
In short, he was real. REAL. This precious baby, who all this time has been a picture on a screen, a tug on my heart, a prayer on my lips, a video and a sound track and a news bulletin... today, he was real. He wouldn't let me hold him, but he gave me five. He smiled for my camera, and I kissed his hand. Precious, beautiful Ira.
God is real, y'all. When you start thinking too hard and say to yourself, "What if this is all a scam? How do I know it's real?" Well. Here's how you know. Find your way to Brooklyn. Knock on Joe and Laura's door. Meet Ira.
For today, I saw God in a little boy.
I saw God for real.
I met Ira.