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  • Writer's pictureRyne

"Is this heaven?" - "No. It's..."

Some of the earliest memories of my life are of the farm we rented outside of Sheyenne, ND. My favorite place to be was the makeshift baseball field that my dad “built” by moving some dirt from the garden onto the semicircle of gravel at the end of the driveway. A metal disk from a seeder was painted white and used as a home plate. Holes were punched in a metal coffee can and flour was used to outline the batters boxes and a few feet of the foul line. White paint connected the flour foul line through first and third bases and to the “outfield fence.”

As Jungling’s, we took baseball seriously - so seriously that we took our field prep for our own baseball field seriously as well. As I grew older, my dad’s love for taking care of a ballpark was passed down to me. Even during my time as a Babe Ruth player, I remember helping clear water from a field during a state tournament. After American Legion games I took care of the batter's boxes and made sure that my catching area behind home plate was just how I liked it.

When I moved into my role as a coach, field prep became part of my job. Eventually, the nostalgia wore off and at times I had a love/hate relationship with field prep. Field prep was hard work and there were times when I hated that I was doing it and not someone else. At the same time, I loved that I was the one doing the work. I loved that when things were done, the work of my hands, the other coaches, my dad, and the players left an amazing result. I loved the feeling of accomplishment. But did I say that I loved the result?

Having not been coaching this spring, I can say that I don’t miss field prep very much. But I’m missing it a bit more today when I saw this memory from Facebook last night. Three years ago I took four-month-old Anders with me to our high school softball field on a Sunday to water the infield. He watched me organize the storage shed as the field got some much-needed moisture.

Right before we left, I took this picture and wrote “So Anders and I had to stop by the field today. This won’t be his last day helping me prep a field...” I even finished it with an ellipsis - knowing that one day we would be back, working on a field again - and that he would be helping me.

I even finished it with an ellipsis...knowing that one day we would be back, working on a field again

But you all know that I am writing today because he didn’t ever help me prepare a field again. We watched a few baseball games together, but we never again came to the field with no one there just to get some work done. We didn’t need to run to the field to pick up the shovel that we left at the field so that Rachel could plant flowers. We didn’t get to share time sitting on the drag, manicuring the infield dirt.

I never got the opportunity to teach him about where on first base to run the string to lay the perfect foul line. He never helped me reclay a batter's box or rebuild a pitcher's mound. He didn’t get a chance to ride around in a gator as we hauled old sod off the field after a fresh edging.

And most of all, we didn’t have a chance to place a nice layer of water over a newly groomed infield and then stand back and marvel at the work we just did.

It feels like I am missing out on the opportunity to teach all of my kids what my dad taught Reid and me. But then I think about how much I loved looking at the work that my hands helped groom and I think about the work that God has done on this earth. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets the entire world experiences each morning and night. The highest mountains and the deepest valleys demonstrate the heights and depths of His love for us. The waters of the largest ocean and the smallest stream sustain life on earth.

More than all of that, I think of my family - my three children, who all were created by God and in His image. Imperfect humans created by a perfect God for His divine purpose. I think of Anders’s sister Linnea, standing in church on Sunday morning, lifting her little arms straight up as she sings of the goodness of her Creator. I think of Elias and the miracle he is. That out of the sadness of losing Anders, finding out Rachel was pregnant with Elias brought joy amid sorrow.

There’s a line in one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams, where John Kinsella asks his son Ray (played by Kevin Costner):

“Is this heaven?”
Ray’s response, “No. It’s Iowa.”

I think about those nights at the baseball field, or the early mornings before a tournament when everything looked perfect. At the time, it sure felt like heaven. Straight white lines were ready to determine fair or foul. The ground was freshly watered. I can see where John Kinsella might get mixed up - but then again, I don't see it.

Even the most perfect conditions of a baseball field cannot compare with what is to come.


There will be no need for lights at that ballpark - Jesus will provide all the light we need. “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” - Revelation 21:23

What a breathtaking sight that will be!


Anders and I didn’t get the chance to work on another field again. So today I think about that one time we did. And I smile. And some sadness wells up in my throat. And then I thank God that I chose to take Anders to the field that day - to spend that time together, and make that post to Facebook so that today I can reflect on that great memory.

Anders, I miss you everyday little guy, but I know that what you are seeing is so much greater than anything we could ever imagine.

 

* Follow along with my writing journey by following @RyneJungling on Instagram or Mission Anders on Facebook.


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