Wheels Of Grace Magazine

Volume 14, Issue 5

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Page 21 of 39

22 | WheelsOfGrace.com | #69 Only by the grace of God am I even still here; and for that reason, I am writing this for the sole (soul) purpose of glorifying God. I grew up in the sandhills of Nebraska, on a smaller family ranch. You would have to drive at least an hour in any direction to find a stoplight. Even then you are most likely to only find one. It was a very rural area with way more cattle than people. It was a wonderful place to be brought up. If memory serves me, when I was in the 3rd grade, I attended something called The Good News Club. This is where I first accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I would say I sort of understood what that meant, but definitely not close to the full extent. My parents were good to me, but not exactly lovey-dovey. They were not the church going type—there were seldom church services held in a bar. My grandma Anna, however, was a church attending Godly woman. She was the only spiritual influence I remember. Grandma would make sure to take me to church with her when she could. She also got me into summer Bible school on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately, grandma passed away when I was reaching the seventh grade. For as good as my childhood was, I always seemed to have some sort of a hole or a void inside me. This feeling, as I recall, only grew larger after grandma passed. Rodeo is big in Nebraska and there was a history of it in our family. I had started riding calves at Jr. rodeos by the age of 5. This moved to steers and the natural progression by 13 or 14 into bull riding. The first year or two of attempting to be competitive did not go as planned. After enough buck offs of colts, you are breaking on the ranch or bulls at rodeos, you need to figure out how to improve. I have always seemed to have plenty of determination. Whatever I would try to do, I wanted to be the best. An all or nothing mentality. With some focus and practice, my bull riding took a turn for the better. I ended up winning the state high school rodeo finals, qualifying for the national high school rodeo finals 3 times. I ended one year being tied for 6th in the nation. This led to a college scholarship, and then riding in the professional ranks. However, at college when we would practice, I started stepping in for protection purposes. Next thing I knew, I had found a passion for fighting bulls! Like everything else, if I was going to do this, I strived to be the best I could be. Over the next 13 - 14 years, I managed to be voted the bullfighter of the year 7 or 8 times. I was able to work many pro bull riding events all over the Midwest as well. By around 30 years old, although my rodeo career was doing fine, my personal life was pretty messy. I still had that unexplained void in my life. It was a strange but very real pain inside of me and I could not find a pill for it. My pill of choice was alcohol, and I turned to that SEE THE UNSEEN to hope to dull the pain. After two previous marriages, one resulting with a wonderful little boy (Dakota), I met my current bride. She had a cute little boy (Zach) of her own. Three years later, we got married and very soon brought home a gorgeous little sister (Jaeden). At this point it was very evident that I needed to learn to live life without the bottle. It had already cost me many precious things and was threatening to take the rest. Only by the grace of God, once again, I was able to get there after a long road. I knew I had to change my playground, so I retired from rodeo, and we relocated. God had given me the strength to turn my attention from drinking to trying to be a good father and husband. That being said, the void was still present. It maybe had lessened just a bit, as I was fighting it and putting all my focus into my family. I did not realize at the time, but that is where I was still missing the picture. Family can be a close second… but God has got to be number one! (This memory just hit me, and I am jumping ahead here but it seems important. ….. Our youngest daughter, Jessica Ryechel, understood this even at her young age. When I would tuck her in at bedtime, she would remind me that I was her number two dad, that God is number one!) We had another beautiful daughter (Jessica). After starting a new chapter of life in a new state and some job hopping for one reason or another, I finally found a decent job. (Still there today!) At this point, we were occasionally attending church and taking the children to kids programs on Wednesday evenings. We knew we needed to somehow give the kids a foundation of faith at the very least. And this seemed like what we were supposed to do. We were living what I would call the "American Christian" life. As we were celebrating Jessica's 6th birthday party… the unimaginable happened. We had eaten some of the birthday cake, the kids at the party ran back to the swimming beach at the park to get in one last dip. I walked over to the trees right alongside the beach to grab a couple small branches for roasting marshmallows. That never happened. We hollered for the kids, and they all came running … except Jessica. As my heart sank and a panicked search began, what you don't want to even think became reality. When I reached the edge of the beach, I scanned and could only see a clump of floating hair. I ran into the knee-deep water and lifted Jessica to my chest and started screaming for help. In less than an hour, she was being life flighted to the twin cities. In a bit of a blur, it is seven days later. With all the ups and downs there had been (including my wife praying for a different doctor than her original one; amazingly, he came down with gallstones), the doctors were telling us that decisions were going to need to be made. A harder decision I will NEVER face. We needed to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was nothing more that could be done. How does one ever know that for sure?? This is where God showed up in a very real By Ryan Lindsey

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