Glimpses of beauty in suffering


Sunday morning at church our pastor talked about the chapter in Luke when the Transfiguration happens.
Jesus takes Peter, John and James up onto a mountain to pray
and while they are there Moses and Elijah appear in glorious splendor,
talking with Jesus.
It’s in that moment that Peter catches a glimpse of what Heaven would be like
and he tells Jesus, let’s put up tents and stay here,
where it is good.
Our pastor went on to say that often times we want to stay where its happy,
where there is no pain and no sorrow.
And while Jesus doesn’t want us to feel pain and sorrow,
He knows that in those moments we look to Him to find strength.
We look to Him to become stronger.
And then our pastor said something that struck home with, “Sometimes we need to embrace the suffering and sadness in this life.”
Not just push it down or push it away and pretend it’s not there,
but embrace it and allow God to be our strength.

When I met Jacqui about three years ago at Disneyland,
we were just two women, trying to navigate motherhood.
We may have met through blogging, but we bonded over our love for our children,
and our families.
While Jacqui’s love for baking and my love for eating all things sugar
might’ve been what brought us together,
it’s something much deeper that has cemented our friendship.
Do you have those people in your life that even when you don’t see them every day,
you know they are with you?
You can feel it.
And then when you’re together it’s as though time hasn’t passed,
and you waste no time on the weather, but go straight to the heart
of how you’re doing?
That’s how our friendship is.


| Jacqui and I at her wedding last August |

Finding out that Ryan had been killed rocked my soul in a way that I had never experienced.
It changed the way I viewed the whole world.
It even made me question a God I love so much.
I couldn’t see His plan, I couldn’t see His glory.
What good could come from this incredible family loosing their only son?
Seeing Jacqui and Dan after it happened made the dream even more real.
As we hugged and cried, Jacqui just kept repeating, “please don’t forget my son.”
She needed reassurance of who she was as a Mom.
She needed her friends and family to come around them and be their strength.

As we sat together on the couch, talking through tears,
she asked me if I would write something in honor of her son.
If I would share in remembrance of him.
I wrote the post about Ryan out of love
Love for my best friend,
for her family
and for her lost son.
When I hit publish, I prayed as a fell asleep that God would use this to glorify Him
That he would manifest it in a way that would help the family to heal
That people would remember Ryan and share that remembrance online.
And I honestly only created the hashtag so that if any of the small community that knows them,
that reads my blog, shared their story,
that they would have a small place online to see it and that it would create hope and healing
and they would feel the arms of the community wrap around them.

I’ve been blogging for years
and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit publish and thought,
I know this is going to touch lives and people will share.
But then the next day….crickets….
Yet as I sat in front of my computer after I wrote Ryan’s post,
I just hoped that someone would see it.
That someone, just one person, would be touched by their story.

I had no idea that it would become what it did, what it has.
It was not created to do what it did,
but sometimes things happen beyond our control
and beyond our expectations and those things can be
so wonderful!
The beautiful hearts of the community, opening up their arms to wrap them close
giving them a reason to keep moving forward.
It gave them a reason to get up,
to eat, to breathe, to keep loving.
It told them that our community loves them and are thinking about them.
It validated them as forever parents
and spoke loudly in remembrance of Ryan.


No one was forced to share,
they did it because they were touched by the story.
Some piece of their heart made them yearn to live life,
to live in the moment and to remember all who have lost.
That’s what Jacqui and Dan wanted and still want.

When something like this happens so unexpectedly,
it’s scary
your world begins to spin around you and no matter how much you try to make it stop
it doesn’t
I had no idea what to do, how to act, the right words to say.
In the midst of it all, I was grieving my friends loss in such
a signifiant and unexplainable way.
My husband was also half way around the world.

I’ve always known that social media had the power to do good,
but I’ve never experienced it’s small tendency to create pain,
even for those who have the best of intentions.
And I’ve wanted to fight back, but I won’t
Say what you want because at the end of the day,
I know my heart, I know my intentions were good
and most importantly I know that Jacqui and Dan and their family know that too.

I choose to look at the beauty that has unfolded from this tragedy.
This community came together in such a powerful way,
with fundraisers, auctions and ways to support the family
both monetarily and through letters, emails and cards.
It truly has been the most incredible outpouring of good I’ve ever seen.
And while I was aware of many of these fundraisers happening,
they weren’t started by me or by my suggestion.
These are real people, with real hearts who were touched by the story
and wanted to serve the family in a real and tangible way.
My prayer is that they are blessed for it in big ways.
Money that has been raised has been donated to the family,
and I’m sure when they are ready and have moved through
this raw season of grieving they will address that more.
But to be honest, I don’t think that the family owes us any explanation.
People gave because something deep within them wanted to help.
There were no stings attached.

I know many of you have reached out about ways to continue to help.
Pray! Send emails! Comment on her blog posts and Instagram pictures!
Do the little things in the days, months and years to come that will remind them
that we are all here for them.
That we love them
And that, most importantly, we won’t forget Ryan.

Dan and Jacqui held a memorial for their son Friday, May 16.
Red balloons lined the center aisle and pictures of Ryan adorned the alter.
The church was filled with people who love their family.
Who stood with Dan and Jacqui as they talked about their son.
His zeal for life and his desire for everyone to always be happy.
It was heartfelt, honest and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we don’t all grieve the same.
For everyone it looks different,
but that doesn’t mean that some grieve more than others
or better than others.
If there’s anything I’ve learned through this tragedy is that
people want to be remembered
They want to know they have some significance
And for this beautiful family,
they needed to know that God was remembering them in the midst of this.
they needed to see others remember their son.
To remember all those who have lost,
to understand that life is precious and can change in a moment.
While you may not understand,
or what they need may  not be what you would need
that doesn’t make their need… wrong.

I hope that we can all be reminded through all of this,
to remember others who have lost.
Let your remembrance of Ryan also signify a remembrance of all those in your life
who have lost.
Let it be a reminder of the needs of others.
Maybe through all of this God is trying to teach us all
to focus just a little less on ourselves and our needs,
and turn our eyes to helping others.

I ask that you all continue to love on this family.
Be there for them.
Love them through this.
And please, please,
give them the grace they need to grieve the loss of their child,
they way that they need to.
And it won’t always look the same so we need to be ready,
ready to be there for them in the capacity they need.

but more than anything

xo, Alissa