On the last day of 2017, I was in the middle of the Mark Twain forest on retreat with the youth group from my church. We stayed at a fantastic facility, Logan Valley Christian Retreat, where we worshiped and ate great food and played wiffle ball and floor hockey. My team finished in second place in both mini-tournaments.
I first met Matt at Logan Valley several years ago while leading worship at a youth camp. Over the past couple of years, Matt and I have grown into a rhythm of an end-of-the-year game of catch and hitting of fly balls.
So, on the last day of 2017, Matt and I warmed up playing catch after breakfast and were joined by Harper and my daughter Sophie. When we switched to shagging fly balls, it started to snow. It was the first time I’d ever shagged flies in the snow and I couldn’t stop laughing. I felt like I was 10 years old as Matt hit the ball high and deep and I threw it back on multiple hops, alternating throws to Sophie and Harper.
Last night, I dreamed about Matt and woke up with a gut-instinct impression that I needed to contact him.
“You up for a game of catch today?” I texted.
“After the circus. Before the Super Bowl.”
And then it started to snow.
Since Sundays are for double-headers, Harper found me after church and tried to warm me up. But 20 mph north winds made “warming up” practically impossible. We dodged cars and friends heading to lunch until I started losing feeling in my fingertips.
Twenty-three years ago, I worked on the staff at Logan Valley. It was a summer of lots of cooking and lots of dishes and lots of mowing. Jeff is the youngest child of the owners, Dave and Sue, and was my shadow for much of the summer. I met Matt on the MSU campus and he brought along Jeff, who is now his brother-in-law.
The three of us spread out and tossed the ball and laughed and the large flakes fell fast. Under all the layers, I wore a West Virginia Miners hoodie; it is the closest thing I have to Philadelphia Eagles green.
I love spending time with Matt; his joy is contagious and he always leaves me with a smile on my face. Jeff reminded me of something I had completely forgotten — I saved the money I made that summer twenty-three years ago to spend on an engagement ring.
Jeff’s mom and Matt’s mother-in-law just returned home from the hospital, recovering from flu turned into pneumonia. So, if you’re the praying kind of friend, please say prayers for Sue.