Sunday, December 23, 2012
Monday, August 20, 2012
R-Y-A-N. It was my younger cousin Ryan Jeschke who taught me how to spell my middle name, huddled over toys in my family's playroom, long before Kindergarten, or high school, or war.
The name was a family name. A warrior name from the long list of legendary fighters from which we both descended. Our patriarch, John Ryan Devereux, served our country in the Army Medical Corps during both the Spanish-American War and World War I. He was a professor at Georgetown, assisted President Hoover, and did relief work for Pope Pius. His brother was the Archbishop of Philadelphia, and we all were descended from an ancestor who was an officer in the army of Louis XVI of France. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/jr-dever.htm
We had a lot to live up to -- for that ancestor was only the beginning of the warrior legend. Our great-grandfather, Richard Hall Sr., was a Brigadier General in the USMC. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Croix de Guerre, and helped plan the D-Day invasion of Normandy, for which he accepted an award from President Eisenhower on behalf of the entire USMC.
His brother-in-law, Brigadier General James Patrick Sinnott Devereaux was the "Hero of Wake Island" and survived the Death March to Bataan. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/jpsdever.htm
Our grandfather, Richard Hall Jeschke, Jr., retired a Colonel in the Marine Corps. He served in both the Pacific and European theatres of World War II, and in Korea as well. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star with a combat "V". One of his last honors was to be selected as a reader for the 75th anniversary of Iwo Jima at the National Cathedral. And, in a twist of God-ordained fate, was the Marine mentor to another one of my heroes, Charles Colson -- but that is a story for another day. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/rhjeschke.htm. I called him "Grandad" and Ryan called him "Gramps". He was our hero.
I write all that to say this -- Ryan was a warrior born into a line of warriors. It was a part of his undeniable DNA. He had the Jeschke "look", which two of my brothers also have. He had their seriousness, focus, and drive. He had desire to serve, to help others, and to sacrifice their all for our country. My dad loves to tell the anecdote about how Ryan was originally not allowed to play with toy guns or swords. So Ryan made his own weapons -- out of sticks and stones. The warrior spirit pumped through his veins. Irrepressible.
He grew up in a rough side of town, so he learned to defend himself and his two younger sisters through martial arts training. From his mother, a collegiate swimmer, he was gifted with Aquaman-like skills. In other words, like it or not, Ryan was born and bred a Marine.
All these things I loved about Ryan. But I, Katherine Ryan, loved him for more than just that. I know Ryan as the little boy who taught me to spell my name. Every time our families would get together, we would sneak off and find a place to talk and play. At the time, I was a tomboy with two sisters, and he also had two sisters and no brothers, so we would take any chance to ditch the dolls and tea parties to play more athletic/rough-and-tumble stuff.
It was at the home of our ancestor, the original Ryan, though, that I sharply remember a moment we had together on the stairs. "I know you are younger than me," I admitted, as children and old people swirled around us, "but you are my favorite cousin of all." In hushed tones Ryan responded: "Same."
You see, whenever I was with Ryan, my heart was at rest. I felt safe. We understood each other. No pretense, no expectations to live up to, just open admiration and trust and a sense of peace. With Ryan, I was myself.
I think the biggest gift in all my grief is the knowledge that my husband Chris loved Ryan as much if not even more than I did. Ryan and I were family, but Ryan and Chris were FRIENDS long before Chris and I got married. When Chris first started out leading Young Life back in college, it was at Herndon High School, and when I mentioned that my cousin Ryan was there, Chris sought him out and Ryan became one of Chris' very first "Young Life kids". In fact, on my very first trip to Young Life's Rockbridge camp, Ryan was there on the bus with me -- or rather with Chris' sister Jackie! Ever since their brief dating history, our family has had a wonderful time teasing that the Craddocks find Jeschkes irresistable ... since both Chris and Brian married myself and my sister Cheryl, and Jackie dated my cousin! Weird, but true.
When Chris and I were engaged, I joined on as a Herndon Young Life leader, and got to witness Chris and Ryan's bond firsthand ... mostly them wrestling each other EVERY SINGLE YOUNG LIFE meeting, and breaking people's houses in the process. Chris assures, me, however, that aside from wrestling, there were also much more serious conversations taking place, day after day, month after month after school -- discussions about life, and manhood, and Jesus. And sometime during that time frame, with my dad, Ryan prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
In the twelve years since, many a young teenaged buck like Ryan has challenged Chris in wrestling, and all have lost. Chris even took down a five man squad that tried to kidnap him as a prank one night (true story for another day). I think that the fact that Chris could beat Ryan earned Ryan's lifelong respect. "But," Chris admitted to me just the other day, "there was only one time a teenager has ever beaten me in wrestling." That teenager was Ryan.
("I was beating him," Chris insists, "but the only reason I tapped out is because he cheated! He grabbed my finger and nearly tore it off. I HAD to tap out, or he would have broken it.")
I'd like to think that Ryan flew cross country for my wedding just to see me, or stopped by our "Love Shack" apartment after September 11th to boast about his intense Recon training for my benefit. But I know, deep in my heart, as Ryan sat in our hideous 70s orange chair and recounted how he would survive if water-boarded, that he hadn't returned just for me. He was there to see his friend, his mentor, and one of his own personal heroes, my husband.
The truth is, Ryan may have looked up to Chris and I, but we also looked up to him right back. His war exploits and training were the subject of every Thanksgiving and Christmas discussion, his face my prayer through every "Star Spangled Banner."
"When I was little my cousin was one of my biggest heroes," my brother Brendan wrote in a tribute on facebook.
"If I could turn back time, I would. Ryan Jeschke is and has always been my hero. He died so that we may be free and now he is alive in heaven with Christ who died for him," blogged my sister Christen. http://blog.christenyoung.com/2012/08/10/my-hero.aspx
Over the past 12 years, Ryan was deployed so much that we rarely got to see him in person. He never saw my new townhouse, or my current "big house." He never met my dogs. And it wasn't until last summer when my family was visiting San Diego that he finally met my four children, and we finally met his bride, Sheila.
From the second he saw them, Ryan adored my crazy kids. He hugged us all and swooped them onto his shoulders. He didn't mind that they were a little loud at the dinner table. In fact, he reveled in it. And the fact that we had adopted a child that was of a different race didn't bother Ryan in the least. In fact, he was totally in love with Christian, and peppered us with questions about adoption, parenting, and how to be a good dad.
The thing that struck me most about our all-to-brief time together was how much Ryan adored Sheila. His arm protectively around her, his eyes drinking her in. He had fought hard to win her heart, and he was never, ever going to lose her again. We couldn't help but fall in love with her, too. Most importantly of all, we saw and heard for ourselves Ryan's passionate commitment as a follower of Jesus Christ. He was reading the Bible and faithfully attending a vibrant church. Jesus had saved Ryan, and Ryan's marriage. And, like anything in life, he was going to pursue his faith full throttle.
"This is going to be your last tour, RIGHT?" Sheila said with a smile, patting his leg.
"We'll talk about it," Ryan conceded. But as he looked at me across the table, I could see the twinkle in his eye. As much as he loved and adored Sheila, the Marine corps was in his blood, and he could not refuse his country's call. He was a warrior, from a line of warriors. He was a Ryan.
The last time I saw Ryan was God's precious gift to me. God knew that I needed that gift, and I can barely tell or write the story without breaking down once or twice. It's hard to find the words to match the story in my brain, but I'll try.
I was standing in the lobby of our church, The King's Chapel, chatting mindlessly and making small talk, in my ordinary world. Sunlight poured through the windows. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. My American hero. My cousin. My Ryan.
The conversation melted away in that instant. I ran across the room and threw my arms around him. "RYAN!" I shouted, my sheer joy in seeing him overpowering any embarrassment at the exuberance of my greeting. Nothing else was important as that hug.
We chatted happily about his deployment, his arm cuddling Sheila close. Sheila's eyes were rimmed with tears, but even as Ryan talked about returning to one of the most troubled regions of the world, his voice was steady. He had been there before, he had a job to do, and he was going to do it. For the first time, it hit me what he was sacrificing -- the soft San Diego breezes and a wife's embrace for the harsh sands and disgruntled people of Afghanistan. And he was doing it for me, and my family.
The words felt cheesy, because it was my own cousin I was talking to, but I said it all the same. I stared dead in his eyes and said, "Thank you, Ryan, for your service." As we said goodbye, we wrapped each other in a long, warm, tight hug. "I love you," I said aloud, spontaneously. I surprised even myself, but shrugged it off in my head. Well, I did love him. So there. "I love you, too," he said.
We didn't know it then, but I know it now. Our last words to each other on this earth were "I love you." My precious gift from God. And with that, Ryan headed out into the sunshine, off on one last adventure with his brother-in-law, one last tour of duty, one last sacrifice for you and me.
Everywhere I look, I am reminded of Ryan. American flags, Marine Corps emblems, uniforms, anthems. Breezy, warm, soft days that remind me of San Diego. And most of all, I think of Ryan as I watch my daughter bop around the grassy-green soccer field, free and happy and safe because of his service, and his sacrifice.
Next week, he will rest with our ancestors ... the many warriors of our family (and their beloved wives) who have made Arlington Cemetery, our nation's finest resting place, their final earthly dwelling.
As I come to grips with the reality of Ryan's earthly absence, I miss the cousin whose heart beat along with mine. The cousin who shared my name. The cousin who -- among many accomplished cousins -- was our family's PRIDE. I miss my husband's friend, our Young Life kid, his wedding picture on my refrigerator that I put aside because "I'll always see Ryan another time." And I will, of course, because I KNOW where the real Ryan is, because we both loved Jesus.
R-Y-A-N, greet me again. When I get to heaven's gate, greet me again.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Monday, June 4, 2012
by Katie Elizabeth Craddock, Age 8
In the class, we do work.
Go the erasers on the math test.
Now it is time for writing.
People zip like race cars to get
Paper ... before it is all gone.
Time for lunch
SCREECH! Go the shoes to line up.
Slam! Go the doors of the cafeteria.
Is the sound of the eating children.
Goes the kitchen sink.
PLOP! Goes the spilling yogurt.
Ding dong! Goes the dismissal bell.
Time to go home!
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Theological debate held over lunch today, while doling out lunch.
Colt: "Mom! Mom!"
Me: "Colt, just let me give you your lunch."
Colt: "But I want to tell you something."
(I do NOT agree to listen, but, undetered in his evangelism, Colt forges on anyway).
Colt: "It's like we are the food, and if God eats us, then we are with Him always."
Me: "Um ..."
Colt: "But if Satan eats us, then we belong to Satan."
Me (emphatically): "No. No, Colt, that's not how it works."
Colt (equally emphatically): "Yes it is, mom."
Who is theologically correct? Colt, or me? Has Satan eaten you, or has God? Discuss.
I nuzzled Katie good night and tucked in her covers. "Good night! I love you!" I whispered.
"Mom! Mom!" Colt shouted from the other room. I sighed a deep sigh (Colt has a LOT of questions about life and the world).
"When I grow up I want to be two things: a pastor AND a police officer."
At first, I blew his pronouncement off. But then, I was suddenly struck to the core. What if my son was destined to be a preacher man like his father and his grandfather (and his great-grandfather and his great-great grandfather and even his GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER)? The inquisitive mind, the care and concern for others, the obsession with the great theological questions of life (even if often times heretical in conclusion). Might God be calling my little boy into the ministry?
I rushed to his side and sunk to my knees. I poured out a prayer of blessing over him, and prayed with all my heart that if God were calling Colt to become a pastor, that He would give us wisdom.
"Dear God," Colt sweetly prayed. "If you want me to be a pastor, just show me who to tell about Jesus, and I'll go and tell them." (Katherine's heart melts).
Beautiful. Pure. True. And yet ... there was just ONE tiny detail I was forgetting/omitting. You know, that whole pastor AND a police officer thing. But did Colt forget? NooOOOOoo. Colt doesn't forget ANYTHING.
Fast-forward to day two, three boys and one mom packed in a minivan on a Costco run.
"Mom!" Colt piped up excitedly. "When I grow up and am a pastor and a police officer, maybe whenever I see bad guys, I can put them in my police car. And then, on the way to jail, I can tell them about Jesus."
So far so good. But then, Colt just couldn't resist quoting from Chapter 16, verse 42 of the Book of Colt:
"And then, if they ask Jesus into their hearts, and PINKIE-SWEAR to never do bad things again, I'll let them go!"
Monday, April 2, 2012
My two oldest children sprinted forward along the breathtaking sandstone cliffs of La Jolla, my husband walking briskly behind them. But me? I trailed far behind at a painfully slow pace, dragging my reluctant two-year-old by the hand. “Come on, Christian!” I growled. “Hurry, hurry!”
Why did I get stuck in the back? I grumbled. I always end up with the caboose.
But as I matched my steps with his painfully slow baby totters, I started to notice things. The salty breeze. The cries of the gulls. The crash of the waves against the coast. The tiny flowers nestled in cactus leaves.
Before I had kids, I lived life at full throttle. Always pushing, always achieving. Straight As? Check. College done in 3 years? Check. Engaged at 20, married by 21, homeowner by 23. Surging forward to what was next.
During that time I asked my grandmother – now happily married for over 67 years (and counting!) – when she stopped living in the future. “When I had my second child,” she replied.
It is now, happily weighed down with four young children, that I know why. Little hands, pulling us back, anchor us to the present and remind us to savor the now. Because what my stumbling two year old knew that I did not, was that moment, walking on the beach at La Jolla, his little fingers clasped in mine, will never come again. And I almost missed it.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Lily (originally written in 2007)
For the past few days, I have been very angry with God. And every time I look at my son, who was three days before Lily and shares her temperament, smile, and eyes, I am afraid. I kept asking myself why your family was chosen. Why your family was had to live through parent’s nightmare.
But then, I thought about Lily, and the few short hours that I was privileged to spend with her. And I know, from that time I spent with her, that she was one in a million. And that at only 3 months old, God had already uniquely equipped her for the short, intense life that He had planned for her. He knew from the very beginning what Lily’s path was … even when none of us did.
I met Lily at Lindsey White’s funeral. A sad way to meet someone, but Lily wasn’t sad. In fact, Lily was one of the only children that wasn’t sad that day. The sparse room was filled with babies, all laid out on Lily’s colorful blankets (which she happily shared). All of the other babies were fussing and crying, but Lily wasn’t. She was smiling and wriggling on her little blanket. She was calm. She was happy. She was content.
I hoisted her in my lap. I say hoist, because Lily was VERY heavy, like a little lumpy sack of potatoes, in the best sense. “I thought my baby was big!” I crowed. “I can’t believe how big and strong this baby is!” When Brian came to pick Lily up, we proudly handed her to him. Out of all of the babies, she was clearly the favorite, and she was the only baby that I and the other workers paid a compliment to. (I am not one to hand out compliments about babies). “Your baby is so happy,” we said to Brian. “She didn’t cry once. All of the other babies have been screaming and crying this entire time, but not Lily. She is a very special little girl.” Brian smiled, held Lily in one arm, and agreed with us. But none of us yet knew just how special she was.
Some of us study for years to prepare for college. We spend hours in front of a mirror preparing for the prom, or our weddings. There are many things that we believe our children were meant to do. But Lily was never meant to do those things. God prepared her in advance for the good works that she had to do, and she was well equipped. For a brief, shining moment, we all were able to see just how special Lily truly was, and that God’s design for our lives is much greater than we could ever map out.
In that day in that make-shift nursery, I saw all of the character qualities that would enable Lily to face her path. Her smile, her calm, her generosity, her strength. The family that clearly took such joy and pride in being entrusted with such an amazing little girl. That day marked one of the last days before Lily’s diagnosis.
A few days after I had taken my own son in for his monthly check-up, I heard what had transpired at Lily’s. “Not Lily!” I exclaimed. “She’s so big and strong and healthy and happy!” Of all the children in that nursery that day, no one could ever have guessed. But as Lily faced each trial, as I read the Carepages posts and saw her pictures, I was not surprised in the least. Even in intense pain, her character was still the same – in fact, it grew even stronger. I heard that she smiled at doctor’s, and I thought, “That’s Lily. She was so calm. She was so happy, even in all the chaos.” And when I heard that her size helped her in her battle, I smiled. “That’s why God made her so big and strong. He knew all along!” And when I heard that Lily was a fighter, I believed that too.
I had never met you all, but I did know Lily. As as her tiny body was broken and bruised, the sweet aroma that was this tiny flower poured out for all to inhale. I never thought that 2 hours of babysitting in the rain would be such a blessing. And I never thought that missing a funeral to take care of a child would be the greater blessing. But it was. Because that morning, wet and late as I was, I got the privilege of meeting an incredible human being. And each day, as I look at my son— Lily’s personality twin— and watch him grow, I will see Lily’s smile in his, and Lily’s joy in his very own big blue eyes. And I will remember to hug longer, speak softer, and kiss fat cheekies more.
And for my daughter Katie, who met both Baby Lindsey and “Baby Loly” (as she calls her) and prayed for them both, I know that she now has two friends waiting for her in heaven one day, with eternal princess tea parties, sparkly tiaras, and oversized pearl necklaces. With two of her little friends going to heaven in such a short time span, I truly think that she believes that heaven must be an extra special place. And if someone as wonderful as Lily is there, then I ‘m a little less scared to join them.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Every son often, our five-year-old son Colt graces us with his astounding theological acumen.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Oh! How I long for heaven!
Deep breaths of holly blossoms
And crushed mint under bare toes.
Children laughing, chasing butterflies down
Ordered gravel pathways among quiet waving ferns.
But today, I do battle against the weeds.
The thorns and vines and thistles and mud choke
Disordered bouquets with tears and chaos,
Stains and prickles smothered by the stench of
Wet, damp decay.
Oh, how I long for heaven.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
I'm mostly just posting these recipes so that I can find them quickly! But if you have weirdo sulphite/salicylate food allergies (intolerances?) like me and are looking for some decent tasting (emphasis on decent), healthy alternatives, enjoy!
Sulphite/Salicylate-Free Apple Quick Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 cups milk
1 cup agave
1 Mashed Banana
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups peeled and finely diced tart apples
Heat oven to 350°F.
In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In large bowl, whisk together milk, agave, mashed banana and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients until just blended. Stir in apples.
Divide batter between two greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 15 minutes, then turn out and cool completely on wire rack. Serve with butter if desired. Yields 2 loaves.
Friday, January 27, 2012
“Excuse me, Mommy.”
“To save us from the bad guys?”
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Yessssssssssssssss. Finally a cookie recipe that I can eat! (And it passed the 3 little chef taste test). For all those of you with weirdo allergies/intolerance or just looking for a healthy sweet, here it is:
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup organic can sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
- ⅓ cup agave syrup
- ½ cup safflower/vegetable/olive oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ cup carob chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the agave, oil and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Fold in the dried fruit.
- Using your hands, roll tablespoon-size scoops of dough into balls. Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet and press down slightly on the balls to flatten the tops. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a baking rack to cool completely.
- If you don't have weirdo allergies like me, you can substitute in real chocolate chips or add 1 tsp. of cinnamon.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
It was a rookie mistake. For 15 minutes, I actually closed my bathroom door and TOOK A SHOWER. My three children (at the time) were all older then … what could possibly happen in 15 minutes?
A rice parade, that’s what.
“Mooooommmm!” my oldest daughter bellowed. “Christian exploded a bag of rice!” That’s fine, I thought to myself. How bad could it be? We’ll just vacuum it up.
“Get the vacuum!” I bellowed back, drying my hair. Half dressed, I opened the bathroom door and peered into my bedroom. Thousands of grains of rice were scattered all over the hardwood floor.
I heard the vacuum, but it was coming from down the hall. Hmm. That’s funny.
Or not …
Rice in my bedroom. Rice in my sitting room. Rice on the landing. Rice down the hall. I finally reached the noise of the busy vacuum, sucking up hundreds of grains of rice a second. Rice in the nursery. The children were clustered around, doing their best to vacuum the carpet. “But wait, Mom!” my daughter shook her head. “There’s more!”
Christian had dumped rice down the stairs and into the lobby. At this point, I knew I had to take pictures of the chaos – so I tiptoed downstairs to get my camera. Surely the carnage must have ended in the lobby! Nope. Rice in the library. Rice in the kitchen. Rice in the dining room. FOURTEEN ROOMS of my not-small-house covered in rice.
Needless to say, any plans for the day were out the door. I spent the entire rest of the day (and several days after), painstakingly vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping up rice.
So now, three years later, what was the amazing lesson I learned from the rice parade?
I guess it is that no matter how hard you try to control and schedule your life, everyone needs to take a break sometimes. I mean, we all need showers! (Some more than others). And sometimes, because we can’t be on guard 24/7, bad crazy things just happen. (Well, A LOT of times, if you have wild, fun little kids in your life).
The important thing is to face the reality of the situation, and that it is your job to clean up the mess. And it might be long, and hard, and frustrating, and sad. And it might derail your current plans for the day. Or days. Or months. Or years. But in the end, inexplicably, (hopefully!) you are left not with the memory of hours spent vacuuming up tiny grains of rice, but rather the memory of the survival of a significant life challenge. And then – at long last – you smile.
(At least, that’s what I think I learned ... to be honest, I mostly just wanted to post this story so you could commiserate with me over the amazingness that was this epic disaster. Ha!)