Ryan grew up in a small family of four in Michigan. His parents loved the Lord and were involved in Church. At a young age Ryan made a profession of faith, but as he grew older he struggled to admit doing wrong. Ryan was a people pleaser and wanted his teachers and parents to be happy with him. So when he left home to attend Cedarville University, he realized his faith was either going to be for real, or not for real. He chose to make it real.
Deborah was raised in a Christian home and her father was a pastor. As a little girl she prayed a prayer for salvation, but didn’t really come to faith until later in life. In High School she sought fulfillment in relationships rather than the Lord, which left her feeling empty. While a student at WSU, God brought godly women into her life and she joined a Bible study. God began tugging at her heart. She began attending Apex.
And that is where the two met.
In December of 2005, they married -- full of hopeful expectations. After four years of marriage, they learned they were pregnant. “We were elated and told everyone!” Deborah recalled. But when she began experiencing unsettling symptoms and went in for an ultrasound, their joy would turn to sorrow. She was pregnant with twins, but the babies within her had died.
Although Deborah and Ryan wanted to be alone in their grieving, God provided close friends to walk through their devastation with them. He also provided their house church community. “Some came over to pray with us, and others brought the dinner they clearly made for their own family but gave to us instead,” Deborah shared. "I learned that when we want to isolate ourselves in the midst of our trials, we need to be surrounding ourselves with the Body of Christ.”
Deborah and Ryan’s loss was followed by more than a year of infertility. During that time they heard well-meaning people tell them they needed more faith. “We wrestled with that one for a while,” Ryan admitted, “but then we thought, No. 'Faith is simply trusting God is who He says He is, and that He’ll do what He says He’s going to do.' And we knew God had not promised us children. So for us we had to come to a point and say, ‘look, it’s not about how much faith we have; it’s about believing who God is and that He’ll do what He says He’ll do. And what does God say He’ll do? He says He’ll stick closer than a brother; He says He’s near to the brokenhearted; and He says that He is good.”
Whether it was walking though the devastation of their miscarriage or through the wilderness of their infertility afterwards, they wrestled with belief that God was truly great so they didn’t need to be in control. “Any control we think we have is just a figment of our imagination,” Ryan chuckled, then added, “We have no control whatsoever.” Recognizing and believing God’s sovereignty and greatness in their lives helped them move to a place of belief. And once they arrived, they didn’t immediately become pregnant.
“There’s nothing you can do to bring those kids back, and there’s nothing you can do to force God to do a work in you to allow you to get pregnant again. There’s no capability to be able to fix anything. It was a humbling experience to really understand the level of my inabilities – but it was good. It was very, very good because I could watch God comfort my wife. I could watch Him care for us as a couple and do the things I was incapable of doing at a heart level.”
Deborah had to wrestle through, “Am I going to be content with what God has for me – regardless of what it is?” She clung tightly to Romans 8:28, that God was working all things for their good.
And God did use it for their good. They wrestled and grew. They saw His provision. They felt His comfort. “There’s many things we don’t know about any given situation,” Ryan stated. He then shared that after Deborah’s miscarriage and subsequent surgery on Good Friday, he ran into a business acquaintance while pacing the hallway. The man and his pregnant wife were there to deliver. When asked why he was there, Ryan used the opportunity to gently share Deborah and his story followed by congratulating the couple on their soon to be born child.
Once the couple went into Labor and Delivery, Ryan wrote a note expressing he and Deborah’s excitement and joy for them and asked a nurse to hand deliver it. Little did he know the impact it would have. The note was placed on their fireplace mantle of that couple’s home. A year or so later, Ryan found out that the couple still had the note on their mantel. It was that impactful. Had Ryan and Deborah not been going through what they were, they wouldn’t have had that opportunity to share God’s grace and hope. “God is certainly working all these things together for the good of those who love Him – and it doesn’t say just for my good, but for the good of those who love Him,” Ryan added.
He then quoted something he heard from a professor who had just lost his wife: “A lot of times the hammer is really heavy, and the chisel is really sharp, but there’s nothing compared to being made into the image of Christ.”
Storyteller: Jackie Perseghetti
Photographer: Hilary Tebo