If you’ve chatted to me or husbandface for longer than a few hours about our lives you’ll probably be aware of this American family we have. I can’t quite believe they’ve never had official blog post recognition before but better late than never. They are amazing and it’s hard to know how to express our gratitude for them in meaningful ways.
The story starts around 25 years ago when husbandface was 12. He participated in an exchange programme which took Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants over to America for 6 weeks. Presumably to help the Irish realise they had far more in common with each other than these crazy Americans they were encountering. It’s fairly chancy that husbandface got on the programme, he really wasn’t the target demographic at all.
On the other side of the pond a lovely lady called Deb happened to see a newspaper advert for hosts wanted on this programme. She tells the story well, saying she just somehow knew that they should do this programme, she had no idea why or what would result but they signed up to be a host family.
That first summer husbandface wasn’t actually placed with them but struck up a beautiful geek friendship with their son. So much so that in the next couple of years when they came over to Ireland to visit they hung out loads and when he returned to America, aged 15, husbandface was nabbed by them to stay at theirs for the summer. They’ve never let go since.
Every year they’ve seen him, took him on holiday with them, kept in touch with him and claimed him as their third child. They have consistently poured out love and grace on him and they’ve been a massive part of the rock underneath his feet. They demonstrate to me what being part of this body of Jesus thing is about on earth. They’ve been constant examples of generosity and unconditional love.
If God is the foundation we build life on then these guys have been outward physical signs of that foundation for husbandface. The story of how husbandface has been wrapped into this family is another one of those inexplicable maybe-there-is-a-God stories that we carry around with us for when the universe seems too dark and random to contain a loving, present, real, Maker involved in our lives.
I’ve had the privilege of hanging out with these guys for 10 years now. When we first met I had heard of them but hadn’t quite clocked the significance of them coming over to England a few weeks before our wedding to hang out with us and presumably check me out. (They returned for the wedding and read some lovely Revelation passages for us so I think I passed the test) As the first meal I had with them unfolded I suddenly realised I was meeting my other in-laws and still remember the weeping moments we shared as we told stories and enjoyed husbandface together. I loved meeting some more people who adored this man, had known him for years and really got him.
Since then they have welcomed me, and now our boys into the family. I loved the confused looks on some faces as they introduced us to people at their daughter’s wedding a few years ago, ‘here’s our son and daughter in law’ (cue slight double take when the English and Irish accents came out).
They have poured out more and more love upon us over the years, enabling husbandface to retrain after he had to give up teaching and providing wise counsel in the process. They’ve been an incredible safety net, a source of wisdom and grace. We’ve loved the moments of sharing life with them through the changing circumstances of our lives in this last stormy decade.
We are currently enjoying their wonderful hospitality in Arizona and being looked after in another season of husbandface not doing that great. We know better how to cope with these times but it’s still so lovely to be taken care of and be in a safe place away from normal life. I’m soaking up some much needed sun and blue skies and the boys are loving messing about in a swimming pool and learning lots of cactus facts.
It’s refreshing being loved.
I am so grateful for how God does this, how ordinary everyday life has been infused with the presence of God and lives have been changed. I feel constantly inspired to follow this example of unconditional love and covenantal care which Keith and Deb have shown us. We are reading Ruth as a church this month and, like with that story, I reckon this God working in the ordinary to transform peoples lives is a good story to tell over and over again.
Here’s to more and more years of family and friendship. Raise your glasses to the excellent Keith and Deb.