Christen Young

My life, my story. My life for His glory.

Category: Ryan Remembered (page 1 of 3)

MOPS Tragedy…Beautiful things out of dust

The angelic voices of the Kansas State Choir rang out at the MOPS Convention, “All this pain…You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of dust, You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us…All around, Hope is springing up from this old ground. Out of chaos, life is being found in You. You make me new, You are making me new…”  As they sang, tears streamed down my face until I could taste the saltiness on my lips and inwardly chastised myself for my lack of foresight in forgetting to bring tissues.  Moments before, Sherry Surratt, the CEO of MOPS International had somberly announced that a group of mothers traveling from Nebraska to the MomCon had been in a horrific car accident in which one of the moms had been killed and another lay in the hospital in critical care. Grasping my “Ryan” necklace hanging by my heart, I wept for the families involved, who were feeling unimaginable pain, as we gathered to worship.

Before I left for Convention, I had texted my husband to pray for me since I was having a lot of anxiety as my heart was reminded of the events of last year’s Convention.  This week as I had prepared my house to leave, I had even found some notes that my dad had scrawled down when hearing the news of my cousin, Gunnery Sergeant Ryan Jeschke’s, death while serving in Afghanistan. The notes seemed an eerie reminder of that day when my world had stopped and I had spent the weekend, and many moments after, weeping in the arms of my friends.  The moment that I found out had occurred while coming out of a large session of Convention just over one year ago. I had gotten the phone message with the news of Ryan’s death, and had literally collapsed into a pool of tears only to be guided to my room by a dear friend. After that, all I could think of was to ask anyone and everyone to pray for the members of Ryan’s family who did not yet know the Lord, so that one day they too could embrace him in heaven.
Over a year has past and the hurt remains, however, God is making beautiful things out of the chaos and tragedy of my hero, Ryan’s, death. Just this past weekend, my Aunt Carolyn was baptized in front of family and friends as she became dead to sin and alive again in Christ.  Prior to Ryan’s death I had no knowledge that she had ever even had a relationship with the Lord, so she was one of the people that we so fervently prayed for after he went onward to Heaven.  So much chaos, so much pain, and yet something so beautiful as my Aunt dedicating herself completely to the Lord had been birthed out of that terrible grasp of the grave.  Ryan’s death had given way to the beautiful life in Christ that his mom now confesses.
For the family or families of those lost in this MOPS tragedy, I know that for now it is impossible to see past the pain and the relentless tears.  We may never know the “whys”, however, I do know that God makes beautiful things out of ashes…out of dust, and that He has a beauty that no one can even yet fathom waiting for the family of the mommy that has joined him in heaven. “He makes beautiful things, beautiful things, out of dust. He make beautiful things, beautiful things out of us.”

Ryan’s Heavenly Birthday

Ryan and his wife Sheila
Today I woke up early, rolled over, and came face to face with my youngest son, Decker, who had climbed into bed with me.  He grinned and did something silly to make me laugh and I thought about how blessed I was to enjoy that little moment with him, then in an instant, it hit me as it does at some point every day…Ryan is gone. Today is his first heavenly birthday, as it has been exactly one year since he was killed while serving in Afghanistan.  Memories of last year on this day came washing over me as tears rolled down my cheeks.  

Easily the worst day of my life, the day that I heard about Ryan’s death, I was at a Christian conference for moms.  I don’t want to repeat the whole story, sufficed to say that I fell apart and as my sister teased, was “that girl” literally sobbing aloud although surrounded by strangers–then finding great comfort in the arms and prayers of my friends.  That day was spent mostly weeping; sharing stories about Ryan and telling others of the amazing man he is and was; and even at one point after a drink in his honor, being slightly intoxicated while witnessing to our waiter about the urgency there is to give your life to Christ.  I cried everywhere I went and missed out on most of the convention, as was understandable. After talking to my mom, who assured me that I should finish the trip, I decided to stay for the remaining day of the convention.  Not wanting to be sobbing through the small sessions interrupting everyone, I only attended the twice a day large “general sessions” with my dear friends.  I wept my way through those as well, but I also was able to worship and cry everything out to God.  
The worship leader, Christy Nochols, played the song “Marvelous Light” by Charlie Hall, over and over again that weekend. The chorus goes as follows: 

“Sin has lost it’s power
Death has lost it’s sting
From the grave You’ve risen
Victoriously

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way”

Although I physically ached for Ryan and the devastation of his death, I loudly sang these words with my arms lifted high, clinging to the promise that they held in Christ for him and all of us.  I later told my husband about singing this song repeatedly and he asked me if the words seemed to mock the sting of death that I so freshly felt, but they did not–they gave me hope.  Over and over again, I held tight to the promises that those words held.  For here on earth, sin had seemingly triumphed when an evil man killed my cousin and two other heroes that day, but the power of sin over Ryan was lost for his life belonged to the Lord, and I knew that very day he was in Heaven living life eternally.  Death had lost it’s sting years before when Ryan gave his life to Christ.     

Since Ryan’s death, this past year I have witnessed the amazing power of God work through his loss to bring forth life and so much love.  Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV) says “…Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  In this verse, the ruler Joseph is addressing his brothers who plotted evil against him, but God used those horrible circumstances for good.  I can clearly see the Lord doing the same thing through the tragedy of Ryan’s death.  Satan wanted to use his death and the deaths of others to destroy lives and tear apart families, but because Ryan loved the Lord, his life is still a witness even in his earthly death.  This year I have been so blessed to get to know my sweet cousin, Ryan’s sister, Jean better than ever before.  She is four years younger than me, so I really never got the chance to know her as an adult until recently.  She has sweetly shared her heart and her prayer requests with me on many occasions. This week in texts, she was updating me on all that God has been doing in her life and the lives of her family–all I can say is that God has been working miracles, truly miracles.  It is not just his family either, God has used Ryan to touch the lives of people who never have even met him.  “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”

Through Jean, I have also been able to witness the spiritual growth of her mom in particular.  Recently this was evidenced in a beautiful post by my Aunt Carolyn titled “On Forgiveness”: 

“Friends – The July 8th edition of Time Magazine included an article titled “Green on Blue” by journalist Nick McDonell. It is about the event nearly a year ago. It is mostly McDonnell surmising the motivations behind why the Afghan police officer turned on his allies. I can’t imagine how the author would know with any accuracy as he did not interview him. My belief is there was a fair amount of poetic license exercised. I can also tell you there was factual inaccuracy regarding recounting of the event. But all that is neither here nor there as far as I’m concerned.

Here is what is important to me. The article put a face and name to the man who took my son’s life. Abdul Razaq. Imagine looking into the face of your son’s killer…even if it is just a picture. Chilling. It made someone who used to be abstract all too real. My stomach churned. Tears poured. And I was back to the day it happened. The wound re-opened. How was I to move ahead again?

I went to church, and as it happens, the sermon had to do with loving your neighbor and turning the other cheek. Ha! Sure. Maybe if your neighbor commits an indiscretion other than murder, least of all murder of your child! How in the world am I to forgive this? After the service I approached the pastor and I told him of my situation. I told him I was struggling with the message in his sermon of forgiveness and asked him for counsel. He said, “Pray to God for guidance.” Well, that was simple advice, but would I get my answer?

I prayed. I prayed a lot. I mean I prayed a whole lot! I asked God, please show me the way to forgiveness. If that is Your will, please show me how. It may be hard to believe, and though surely he wasn’t looking for forgiveness, I have forgiven this man, Abdul Razaq, killer of my sweet son, Ryan. You may find this hard to believe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being preachy; I
don’t expect anyone else to follow this path. Each must find their own way. I needed to do this. It was the right thing for me. My answer was provided to me in Romans 12:9-21 but especially 17-21 below.

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for in doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

As to justice, well, that is something for God and others to determine. Forgiveness from me was between God and me. The rest will be taken care of in time.”

This morning the thought of “celebrating” Ryan’s first heavenly birthday was difficult to imagine. However, the more I thought and prayed about it, I had to celebrate…I needed to celebrate all the good that God was bringing out of the evil that Satan intended.  I needed to celebrate that Christ had indeed won the victory over sin and death and that he is using Ryan’s death to draw people to Himself so that they too can live in eternity with Christ and embrace Ryan in heaven one day.  So, through tears and the hugs of my children, we are celebrating Ryan’s first heavenly birthday together.  There is not a day when I won’t miss him.  I will still cry that he is gone forever from this earth, but I will still cling to the hope in the Lord and keep watching as God transforms others through Ryan’s ultimate sacrifice.

Ryan’s niece Jayla, told me one day that she likes to pretend that Ryan is still alive fighting bad guys. I told her that I like to do the same thing as it always brought me comfort knowing that he would be there to protect me.  I would like to think that Ryan is watching us from Heaven and that he would also say to us “…Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

I love you Ryan and I will always miss you, but I can’t wait to see you in Heaven one day!

Mourning our Heroes



I know that loss is never easy, but my cousin Ryan’s loss is particularly heart-wrenching.  Not only did he lose his life, but he gave his life for you and for me, for all of us.  He sacrificed his life–the ultimate sacrifice, but so many others sacrificed too.  His wife, his mother, his father, his sisters, those who served with him–all of them sacrificed more than we can ever imagine or repay.  
In the days leading up to Memorial day, I had tears in my eyes often.  My daughters would find me crying and they would give me a hug and tell me that they knew I was crying because I missed Ryan.  I told Jackelyn “KeKe” all about him and how special he was to me and I sobbed through one story after another.  I eventually had to excuse myself from talking with her to sob under the warm water of the shower where I could be alone and cry my heart out.  She heard me sobbing, but how could she not, as I poured my heart and my tears out to God.  Even church that week was not comforting.  They honored our veterans in respect of Memorial Day, but it cut through my heart like a knife and I sobbed through most of the service.  The thing is, it isn’t just Memorial Day, but at any moment, the slightest reminder of him brings me to tears.  The days prior to my birthday were hard too, because I felt so much sadness and guilt that I was turning 32 and he would never get to. Each day I am reminded of all that I have that was given to me because of his sacrifice and the sacrifice of other fine men like him, and each day I mourn that Ryan is not here to live the life that he so valiantly fought for.  It is not fair that such a great young man was killed by someone so evil.  It is not right that he is gone and lesser men are here.  I don’t find it fair that others can go on living life without knowing or appreciating the sacrifice that was made by Ryan and so many other service men and women.  These heroes deserve to be remembered and honored and instead so many people live life without any regard to the lives given for them.  Ryan Jeschke deserves to always be remembered and honored for his heroic sacrifice.


His mother, Carolyn Jeschke, wrote the following poignant and touching words about Memorial weekend:

“There is no such thing as “Happy Memorial Day”. Doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I’ll get to that place again someday. But not now. It was a tough weekend, I’m not gonna lie.

Tom and I went to Arlington Cemetery a couple of weeks ago in order to visit Ryan’s grave in relative privacy, before the crowds. Good choice as it was intensely emotional. Ryan’s headstone was in place. I can’t believe it’s been nine months. There is quite a collection of rocks on the top of his headstone from visitors.

I was already aware of Ryan’s headstone being in place as one of Tom’s work folks had sent an email with picture attached. I was caught off guard and overcome at the sight. Dissolved into a puddle of tears. Bawled actually. Ryan got in my head and said, “Mom, it’s just a piece of marble.” Ha…such a Ryan thing to say! He knows when I need him. My rejoinder was, “Yeah, but it reminds me of how you are not here anymore.” To which he replied, “But I am always with you. Whenever you need me, just call out and I’ll be here for you.”

Yesterday (Memorial Day) we were in Richmond for a ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial. Beautiful ceremony honoring the fallen. Governor McDonnell was the keynote speaker. Ryan and nineteen other Virginians who gave the ultimate sacrifice this year were honored in particular. Each name was announced followed by ringing of a bell. After the ceremony, I personally thanked the Governor. He was quite warm. Hugged me, asked about Ryan and did not rush as there were many people competing for his attention. He grabbed his glasses to check out the picture dog tag around my neck of Ryan and, again, hugged me expressing his sympathy. I was touched by his genuine expression of concern. After that, we visited the Hall of Honor, where Ryan’s picture is now posted along with over 250 other Virginians who have lost their lives in the War on Terror. Many folks came up to Tom and me and expressed their sympathy, thanks, etc. But I will tell you the most moving moment of the day was in the gift shop….

I stepped in the gift shop to see if they had Gold Star pins as Tom lost his and mine broke. Before I got very far, a little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old with silky brown cropped hair tugged on my dress and looked up at me with the biggest brown eyes and said, “Thank you for your family member’s sacrifice for my freedom.” I don’t even know what I said back to her. I just know I was so touched that after she trotted off I had to hide behind Tom and sit down on the low counter in the Gift Shop and cry so as not scare anyone, especially her.

So, barbeques and picnics just aren’t part of the equation right now anymore. Maybe they will be in the future. For now, celebrations and “Happy” just don’t cut it. I don’t begrudge them for other folks, as long as they remember the reason for the day. I guess I didn’t give it as much thought as I should have before either. I pray no one has to from this p
erspective.”

Five Minute Friday–Cherished…

My cousin, Ryan, was killed while serving in Afghanistan this summer.  It was so sudden, so heartbreaking, so devastating. In an instant, the lives of everyone that his life had ever touched were changed forever. He was so handsome, so loving, and such a cherished hero.

I can’t help but think of him each time I look into the bright blue eyes of my son, Britan, or feel the loving arms of my other son, Decker.  His mom, my Aunt Carolyn, must have looked into his beautiful green eyes and been enveloped by his hugs in the same way when he was a little boy.  She loved and cherished him so much and could never have foreseen or imagined the ultimate sacrifice that he would one day make for all of us.  How could anyone imagine that such a precious and cherished little boy would grow to be so strong, so brave, and yet be taken from the arms of his mother so soon?
Ever since that day, I can not help but think of Ryan and his Mother’s love for the little boy that she was blessed to raise into such an amazing man.  I can not help but picture that love as the same kind of love that I have for my own precious little boys and it is a heartbreaking reminder to cherish every moment, every hug, every smile, every laugh, and every “I love you” never knowing when it might be our last.  
One day I will see you again in Heaven, my cherished cousin, but until then I will remember to love deeply all of those around me.

Mourning Into Joy

Today would be my cousin, Gunnery Sergeant Ryan Jeschke’s (USMC), 32 birthday.  Today is a day for celebration and yet no thanks to stupid Facebook, I have already cried before the day even begun.  I have determined that today should be a day of celebrating, yet I know that the sadness has it’s way of encroaching on the joy.  This morning as I tried to remember to be joyful, this reminder of the Lord’s joy popped into my mind and made me laugh once again.

One week after Ryan’s heavenly birthday when he went to be with the Lord, was my brother Scott and sister-in-law Eliza’s wedding.  That day we all determined would be a day for joy, but my heart was broken and I wasn’t sure how to have joy in the face of such tragedy.  The morning of their wedding, I was driving my daughter, Cadence, (aka their beautiful flower girl) to the church and we we had to wait for a free vehicle so we were running late.  As I drove, through tears, I implored the Lord to give me joy on what should be a most joyous day.  Since we were going to be late, I needed to let Eliza know where we were.  I gave my phone the voice command to “text Eliza Jeschke” and my phone repeated my command by saying… “searching for Eliza’s vagina”.  It said it so loudly that Cadence (7) heard it all the way in the back of the car and we both burst out laughing uncontrollably.  “Searching for Eliza’s vagina”.. Cadence guffawed, and we laughed out loud again and again.  As crazy as this sounds, I laughed too knowing that was God’s sense of humor reminding me to laugh and be joyful.  I bet you didn’t know that God is so funny, but I do!
When I got to the church, I saw Scott and laughingly told him the story, crassly reminding him that he would be the one “searching for Eliza’s vagina” later that night.  Apparently, he retold the story to his groomsmen and just as he was finishing up, his future father in-law walked into the room interrupting and Scott quickly placed his hands on his hips, turned away, and pretended that he was looking out the window as he tried not to laugh.
I seems like such a silly, little, random thing at the expense of poor Eliza’s (I love you!!!) girly parts, but in reality that funny moment gave me, Cadence, and lots of others (I wasn’t shy about sharing the story) the little bit of joy and laughter that we needed to remind us of what a joyful day that Jeschke wedding was to be. 
Jeremiah 31:13(ESV)-“Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and old shall be merry.  I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. 


Older posts

© 2017 Christen Young

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: