Join us for a conversation with Casey Nestor about grieving with the Gospel. After losing her sons Judah and Caleb, Casey found herself laying on the floor in deep grief, crying out at the foot of the Cross.
Through her tears and questions, she depended on Jesus to survive the suffering and be sanctified in His image. Because she received a cradle for her son, Casey was connected to Bridget's Cradles and has become a part of our Hope Online community. Her testimony of faith has been a source of encouragement for many grieving moms.
In this episode, we discussed:
Her experience receiving a Bridget's Cradle for her son, Judah
What attending an online support group has been like for her (and why she was skeptical at first!)
The importance of attending a Christ-centered support group
How to believe God is good even when life hurts so bad
Standing on the Word of God in the midst of grief and why we can't rely on our feelings or our own "truth"
Culture's trend of seeking "mediums" to contact their babies (and why that's dangerous!)
A beautiful illustration of the impact of the Gospel
Grieving your old self and finding a new identity in Christ in the New Year
Looking away from ourselves and toward helping others to find hope
Full transcript below.
Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!
Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)
Casey talks about how she had to learn to trust that God is good even when her grief hurts so bad. Through wrestling with God and discovering some false theology in her beliefs, she was able to believe that God is good, no matter what. Can you resonate with her feelings and if so, in what ways are you struggling to believe that He is good? List some Scripture references that remind you of His goodness in all circumstances.
In this episode, Casey says that God is the only One who can heal our hearts and He's the only One who can connect us with our babies again. Do you believe that? If so, how does this fact change the way you grieve? Can this perspective alter your healing journey and if so, how? If not, what is in the way (e.g., doubts, the enemy, other beliefs) of surrendering your heart to Him?
We talked a lot about finding purpose in our pain and how we should look toward others instead of solely focusing inward. God can redeem pain when we surrender and allow Him to use it for good. How has God prompted you to use your grief for good? List some ideas of ways you can focus on others, even when you're in the messy middle of grief.
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ABOUT OUR GUEST
Casey Nestor is married to Sean and is a mother to six children: four on earth and two babies in Heaven. She lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
Casey received a Bridget's cradle for her son, Judah, who was born into Heaven in February of 2021 at 20 weeks. She also attends Bridget's Cradles' Hope Online support group every month.
Read More of Her Story:
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MEET OUR HOST
Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,090 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.
Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.
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Episode 15: Grieving with the Gospel with Casey Nestor
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.
I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a nonprofit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.
Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:01:26] Happy New Year sweet friends. I am praying for you as you navigate a new year and new chapter in your grief. I know that this day can be a hard milestone when you're grieving, and we will talk about that in our episode today. But first, I want to introduce you to my friend, Casey Nestor.
She lives near Atlanta, Georgia, and received a little blue cradle for her son in Heaven, Judah. After receiving his cradle, she started coming to our Hope Online support groups and I was able to get to know her better through these monthly Zoom calls.
Then a few months ago, when traveling to Atlanta, I got to meet her in person and have dinner together. I have enjoyed becoming friends with her and walking with her in her grief.
Each month, during our Hope Online calls, she always shares valuable Biblical wisdom and insight in our groups and spends her time encouraging other moms in our group, even outside of the Zoom room.
But I thought she should be on our podcast to encourage you as well, and let me say, after recording this episode with her, I can't tell you how much it blessed me and how much I think it will bless you. We talk about so many aspects of grief and also how to walk in the new year with hope. I'm excited to introduce you to Casey and hear our conversation.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:46] Welcome Casey. We are so glad to have you on the podcast.
After getting to know you in all of our Zoom groups for Hope Online, it's been wonderful to hear your testimony and how God has walked you through your grief. Would you mind introducing yourself and sharing your experience of loss?
Casey Nestor: [00:03:04] Yes. My name is Casey Nestor. I live outside of Atlanta in Duluth, Georgia. I am married to my husband, Sean, and we've been married for a little over 11 years. We have four living children and two babies in Heaven.
In 2018, we decided that we were going to try for a third baby. We were super excited. It took us six months to get pregnant, which was really different than our first two pregnancies, which were really easy and happened right away.
So that was challenging in its own self, and when we found out we were pregnant, we were just so overjoyed and excited. But we lost that baby at eight weeks, and we named him Caleb, and that was really a difficult loss for us.
And then after that, God gave us our baby, Isaac, who was born a year almost to the day of my D&C.
And then in February 2021, actually three years to the day that we lost Caleb, we lost our baby, Judah, at 20 weeks. We went to the 20-week ultrasound and we just were told that there was no heartbeat.
Ashley Opliger: [00:04:24] I'm so sorry, Casey. Your precious Judah connected you to Bridget’s Cradles. Would you mind sharing more about his birth and receiving a cradle for Judah?
Casey Nestor: [00:04:34] Yes. We went for the ultrasound, just the normal anatomy scan. We had no idea that something was not right.
And we went in and found out that there was no heartbeat and that he went to be with the Lord, which was so hard. And we decided to go ahead to the hospital that day. Mostly we just were so in shock and overwhelmed, and we really didn't know what to expect and just kind of felt ourselves moving through the motions of like, ‘Okay, I guess this is the next thing that we do in this situation.”
So we got to the hospital and they induced me, and he was born at three o'clock that night. And I remember feeling like, “We're in the hospital room,” it was so difficult.
I was feeling like we thought we were going to be finding out whether we were going to have a boy or girl and be planning a sweet gender reveal party. And then here we are in the hospital getting ready to deliver our stillborn baby and feeling like, “How did we get here? What are we doing here? What is going on?” I felt like my world was crashing down all around me.
And it came to the time to deliver him and I remember feeling, “I cannot do this.” I remember crying out to God, “God, I can't do this!”
And there's a popular song that goes, “I'll walk through the fire because you're walking with me,” and immediately He brought that song to my mind. And I thought, “Okay, God, I can't do this. You're going to have to do this.”
And He walked me through delivering Judah, which was so hard, but then it was also such a blessing of getting to hold him and cherish him.
And a little bit after he was born, one of the nurses brought a sweet little blue cradle in to me, and attached was the card from Bridget's Cradles that had the verse from Psalm 139, that said, “You knit me together in my mother's womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
And I remember thinking that, “I had no idea I would be here. This is not where I wanted to be, but You knew I would be here. You prepared this cradle for me in advance. Someone took the time out of their day to carefully knit that cradle together to comfort us during that time,”
It felt like God wrapping His love around us and being like, “I'm with you. I'm going to get you through this.”
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:21] Casey, that's going to make me cry.
I'm thinking back to my experience, being in the hospital and feeling like my world was ending, and God getting me through the most difficult experience that any parent can walk through, leaving the hospital without your baby.
And then to see what good that He brought from Bridget's life and creating the cradle and designing the little tag with Psalm 139, He knew in advance the families and the babies that would be held in these precious cradles.
And not only does He knit together our babies. I do think he knits together our stories and He knits together a community of moms to support each other through.
And the cradle is the reason why I was able to meet you. And you and I actually got to meet recently. I was in town in Atlanta visiting Amanda, who is our Director of Communications.
And we got to go to dinner with you, which was such a blessing to get to meet you in person after meeting you through the ministry and through Hope Online, which I'll let you share more about your experience with Hope Online and how you got started coming to our online support groups.
Casey Nestor: [00:08:34] Yes, I started following Bridget’s Cradles on Instagram because I just felt like I needed to find some connection to other people who were experiencing what I had experienced, who knew what I was going through.
So I started following you online and you posted that you were having a virtual Zoom that night. And on an impulse, totally on a whim, it was the Holy Spirit. I just signed up to go on the Zoom meeting.
And I remember sitting there that night, talking to my husband about it, like “I signed up for this group, but I don't really want to go. It just seems weird. It's a Zoom meeting,” and I was really nervous about it.
And he was so great and encouraged me to follow through, to see what it was all about, and give it a try. And it was such a blessing for me. That very first night you talked about so many of the things that we had been talking about that we were really struggling with.
It was such a blessing to realize that I wasn't alone in my grief, that I wasn't the only one feeling the kinds of feelings that I was feeling or struggling with the things that I was struggling with. And it has been such a blessing for me to walk through this grief with other people who understand.
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:55] Would you mind sharing maybe some of those aspects of grief that we've discussed in our online support groups that have been helpful or healing to you so that other moms know what a support group looks like and what we talk about and how it's helpful?
I think there are so many barriers to women signing up for this, and we can talk about that in a little bit. But what has been helpful or what stood out to you? What messages really spoke to your heart that we have discussed?
Casey Nestor: [00:10:23] I think when I thought about doing an online support group, it just seemed like it would be impersonal or weird or awkward.
And then you start to feel like, “I don't know what other people's stories are.” And especially if you've experienced an early loss, I think sometimes there's a misconception that it's not as bad of a loss or that you're not hurting the same way a mom would who had lost a baby later in pregnancy. Maybe you feel like, “I'm not sure that they'll think that I should be in the group,” but everyone is so kind and compassionate and understanding.
And with grief, I think loneliness can be such a place of vulnerability and a place where we're really easily attacked. I think feeling like you're alone, you're the only one who's going through this because a lot of us don't have friends that have experienced pregnancy loss or miscarriage. They haven't gone through the same experience. And you feel like you're alone and sometimes you can feel like you are crazy for having some of the feelings that you do after walking through such a deep grief.
And to hear someone else say, “I struggle with that too,” Or, “I've walked through that too,” is such a comfort. And I've had the opportunity to be able to reach out to girls in the group and exchange prayers and thoughts, and that's just such a comfort to know that someone's lifting you up. They know what you're going through. They'll ask you about your baby, about your family.
That's such a comfort to feel like you're able to connect with people, even though you may live far away and in other circumstances, you might not have that much in common with, it's an instant connection of, “We’re in this club that no one would want to be in.” But once you're in, it's very instantly connecting.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:27] That's been one of the blessings I've seen from Hope Online is that the connection across even state lines and across the country.
I am friends on Facebook with all of the moms that have come to Hope Online. And whenever I see a mom post something about their baby online, whether it be their baby’s Heaven Day, or they post a picture of their baby's grave, what I have found to be so beautiful is whenever I see a post come up on my feed of a mom that's come to Hope Online, when I look at the post, I see that the first comments are moms from the group.
And so to see other moms in the group that they've connected on Facebook and they are encouraging and supporting and commenting on their posts, obviously it'd be better to be in person and be going to coffee and giving each other real hugs in the flesh. But the next best thing is to have this online community and taking it beyond just the Zoom room and going into social media and text messaging, FaceTime.
I've even heard that there's been moms in our group that have sent care packages to each other or cards in the mail. And what a blessing and what a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ coming together and moms empathizing with other moms and lifting each other up and walking through their grief together.
Do you have an example of you connecting with another mom from the group and how that encouraged you?
Casey Nestor: [00:13:57] Yeah. I have really found that after attending a Hope Online, God will lay one mom in particular on my heart. And I will just be thinking about them a lot and praying for them.
And so sometimes just by messaging them and saying, “Hey, you're on my heart. I've been praying for you. I'm so sorry for your loss. Let me know if there's something I can pray for you about,” just opens up the conversation even further.
It'd be like, “I really would need some prayers for this.” Or, “We have this going on.”
And it opens up an even easier connection where you can be like, “Yes, I know what you're going through. I'm feeling that too.” Or, “We're really struggling with that as well.”
And it's been really encouraging to have other people lifting you up. Through this loss, we've really felt the Body of Believers lifting us up and carrying us through when we just couldn't, when you felt like you were going to just fall apart.
Ashley Opliger: [00:14:54] Yeah. And we need that community of support. And it's so special to see sisters in Christ coming alongside each other in our own pain, in the middle of suffering, being able to support and encourage someone because you know better than anyone else what someone else will need, and what you can say to that person to encourage them, and what you can do that will bring a little bit of peace and comfort into their day.
Of course, friends and family will try to comfort us in our grief, but it's just a much deeper connection when you have someone who knows the pain that you're in and can really relate to you on such a deep level of understanding what the sadness feels like and what triggers you're experiencing and the different emotions and the layers of grief that you're walking through.
So I would like for you to back now, and talking about grieving Caleb and grieving Judah, what did that process look like for you of grieving with hope and leaning on your faith in the middle of complete darkness and sorrow?
Casey Nestor: [00:16:06] It’s been a really long journey. And when we lost Caleb, it was a true crisis of faith for me. It was totally unexpected.
We had been praying for a baby, really felt like God told us that we were going to have another son and that we should name him Caleb, which means faithfulness.
And we were so over the moon when we got pregnant. We were so excited. And then I started having bleeding, a lot of bleeding, and panic set in. Complete worry.
I remember falling on the floor of my living room, begging God, “Please, God, don't take my baby. Please, Lord.” And the bleeding would stop and then it would come back.
And we went to church that Sunday and they were playing a song. And I don’t remember what song it was, but it talked about God being a good Father. And I remember feeling the Holy Spirit asked me, “Will you still say that I'm good, even if the answer is no?”
And I remember thinking, “What? How could I say that You're good if You're going to take my baby from me?”
And I would say that I really wrestled with my faith for a good year of feeling like, “How can God be a good God when this hurts so bad? How can He say that everything is for my good when I can’t understand what could come out of this kind of pain and sorrow, when I don't understand what He's doing?”
And it really opened my eyes to some false theology and maybe places where I was not believing really true what the Word of God said.
Like there was a part of me that felt like good Christians don't struggle with their faith. They don't question God. If we're counting everything as joy, then I don't feel joyful. I don't feel like I can just say, “Okay, I know that this is what God's doing.” I thought that I would be able to look back and say, “Oh, I can see that God brought this from it and it was worth it.”
And walking through that, I came to a place where I realized that I'm not going to understand, this side of Heaven, what God is doing. And I don't have to, because I can trust that He knows what is really best for me and what is best for my baby.
And there's an aspect of faith that we have to take a leap of saying, “I'm going to stand on the Word of God. I'm going to accept that what He says is true, that the Word of God and His promises are for me,” and through that, walking through that, and just Him coming to show me in all of these little ways that He's faithful and that He bore me, that I'm going to choose to say that God is good, no matter what.
And so when we came to the hospital with Judah three years later and found ourselves in another loss of a child, which I never imagined that we would be in, I don't think anyone ever pictures themselves losing a baby or walking through pregnancy loss, but I remember thinking, “I know that You're good, no matter what, and I'm going to choose to trust You and to praise You no matter what.”
So we named him Judah, which means praise, because he will be praising the Lord his whole life. And when he was born, he was literally the size of my hand. My palm is five inches, so about, he lay perfectly in my hand, so tiny and so perfectly formed with 10 tiny little fingers and 10 toes and a cute little pudgy belly. And he was born with a little smile on his face.
And I remember when we watch a little video at the beginning of every Hope Online and a part of it is “for some of our babies, the first thing they see when they open their eyes is the face of Jesus.” And it still makes me cry every time because I just think about him, every moment of his life, every memory that he has is in Heaven with Jesus, praising God, where there is no sorrow or hurt or pain. All he knows is just perfection.
And one day when God calls me home, I will get to praise God with him and with Caleb, and what an amazing day that will be!
Ashley Opliger: [00:20:54] Oh my goodness, Casey, what a beautiful picture that you've just painted for us! And truly to think of their lives from their perspective, it's beautiful to think about our babies going from our wombs, being loved and hearing our heartbeats from the inside and going from the safe place inside of us into Heaven, to perfection, to Paradise, to God's presence, and being there with Jesus.
Like you said, they will not have to suffer. They will not have to know what it's like to face temptation. They will not have to sin. They will not feel the consequences of their sin. They won't have their heart broken. No one will lie to them. No one will betray them.
All of these things that we go through on this earth, these trials and this pain, they will never know any of it. They will not know what it feels like to suffer. And so what a perfect life that is, to be in a perfect Paradise with God.
Of course, we want them on earth because we wanted the opportunity to raise them and to love them here, and to experience the joys of earth. Even though we live on a broken earth, God has still given us blessings to experience on this earth with our living children.
But you're right. Our children are in God's glory and one day we'll get to praise Him forever with them. And I love that you said that he was smiling when he was born because he was seeing the face of God and that's just so beautiful.
I didn't realize that part of our video, which we call our Declaration of Faith and we show this video, it's a short three-minute clip at the beginning of every Hope Online, really just outlines our beliefs and our views and our perspective and why we are grieving with hope, with the hope of the Gospel.
And also it shares with all of the moms why we believe that a loss at eight weeks matters just as much as a loss at eight months or eight days after birth, that every single baby was made in God's image, and that we believe that life begins at conception and that each of us has lost a baby, and we have lost our hopes and dreams for that baby's life on earth.
And that's why we share that because we do want every mom to feel welcome, and to let her know that her loss is validated, that her baby's life matters, and that we're grieving with each mom, no matter how many weeks gestation.
And the other aspect of that video is that we try not to compare our grief to each other and that some of the moms have lost the baby a few weeks ago, others a few months ago, some years, or even decades ago.
And we understand that even though we're all in different parts of our grief journey, that we are going to support and encourage each other on that journey. So if you're listening to this podcast and you decide to come to Hope Online, you'll get to see that video.
Casey, you were a little skeptical to come to an online support group. You felt like it could be weird. It could be awkward. And I know there are a lot of moms that say that not only for our online support group, for in-person as well. There'll be moms that come and give me a hug at the end and they'll say, “I'm so glad that I came, but I almost didn't come,” and that seems to be a pretty common story.
I think there's just a lot of fears and a lot of unknown about putting yourself in such a vulnerable place and opening yourself up. So do you have any advice or encouragement for moms to step past some of those barriers or the skepticism to put themselves in a place to find healing in community with other believers?
Casey Nestor: [00:24:36] Yeah. It's hard to be that vulnerable, especially you feel like with people that you don't know. You've never met these people, you have no idea where they're coming from and you're sharing your deepest sorrow, the worst pain in your life with people that you've never met before.
But I would say you feel like you've known these women for much longer because they understand where you're coming from. And walking through my grief journey, and I know before I experienced loss, I felt very uncomfortable around grief. I didn't know what to say.
It made me just feel like, “Oh, it's probably best not to talk about it.” And walking through my grief journey, most people are not comfortable talking to you about your grief. They don't know what to say. They don't bring it up. They feel like it would be better just not to say anything.
But it's so healing to be able to talk about what we're going through, what we've been through. It brings me so much joy to get to talk about my babies in Heaven because it's not something that a lot of people ask about, they don't feel comfortable talking about.
But the moms in this group understand how much you love your baby, how much you wish you could hold them and be with them, and how much you want to talk about them.
Ashley Opliger: [00:25:54] Right. And I think if there's ever going to be a safe place to talk about your baby and to say their name and to share their story, this is the place for it.
And whether it's our support group or another Christ-centered support group, we really just want you to be plugged into a support group. It doesn't have to be Bridget’s Cradles’ support group. There are many other digital support groups and in-person support groups at churches and nonprofits across the country.
I will say though, and I think you would agree with me here, it's so important to find a Christ-centered support group, if you're a Christian and you're wanting to grieve with Jesus through your journey, because there are so many support groups that can talk about grieving, the stages of grief, and talk about coping mechanisms to get you through your grief. But if the hope that you're clinging to is an earthly hope or is in you doing certain things or practicing self-care or whatever …
And obviously, self-care is fine. We encourage self-care, of course. But if that is the end-all, be-all of your grief support, it’s not going to last you very long. And ultimately, your soul will not be settled because the ultimate hope that we have is to see our babies again, and no one else other than Jesus can offer us that kind of hope.
So would you mind speaking to that a little bit about why you feel that's important?
Casey Nestor: [00:27:19] Yeah. I actually tried some other support groups. I signed up for the Hope Online and the first night was amazing. I loved it so much and I felt like, “Oh, I'd love to find an in-person group here in Atlanta. Maybe there's something.”
And I tried another group that I went to one meeting and people were talking around the faith issue but weren't really addressing it head-on. And I felt like, “Okay, I'm just going to bring it up, if nobody else is.”
And after that, the leader of their group said something like, “Well, we are a Christian organization, but we're not really.” Or, “We're a faith-based organization, but we're not really exactly a Christian organization. And I just encourage everyone to lean in, search your feelings of what you think about that.”
And I just remember thinking, “That is so dangerous.” In a time where you're grieving, your emotions are just all over the place, to lean into our own feelings and not lean into Truth, it's not going to lead anywhere good.
And true healing can only come from God. That is the only One who can heal our hearts, because people can offer us comfort and things that can maybe make us feel better in the moment, but God is the only One who can give us what we truly need. He's the only One that knows what we need in our healing journey. And God is the only one who can connect us with our babies again.
When we lose our babies, the only thing we want is to hold them, is to see them again. And if we don't have the hope of Heaven, then we don't have hope to see our babies again, and what a horrible state that would be!
And I often think, “If I didn't have the promises of God to know that this pain and the sorrow is not pointless, that I'm not just walking through earth, it’s not just something that we've experienced because, well, pregnancy loss happens, it's really common, that no, God has purpose for everything, that He has a reason to be walking us through what we're going through, if I thought that all of this pain was for nothing, I don't think I would be able to carry on.
Ashley Opliger: [00:29:47] Right. And the support group leader saying to lean into your own feelings, that's a very cultural thing to say that it's, “You do you, it's your truth. What is your truth?” And that's very dangerous because our feelings are faulty and we're humans.
And each of us as humans have our own feelings and are going to view life and view God through our circumstances, most likely. And that's the thing about this whole “everybody can have their own truth” thing.
Well, if everyone can have their own truth, then there's no truth whatsoever. If there's going to be truth, there has to be one truth and it can't waiver. And as Christians, as believers, we know that Truth to be the infallible and authoritative Word of God, the Bible, and we can't waiver from that.
And our culture is wanting to do everything it can to say, “Well, the Bible is not true. You can choose to believe what you want to believe, and whatever's going to comfort you, you can believe.”
And I'm seeing, even in the loss space, some really dangerous ideas coming out. Recently I've seen some really scary and to be honest, quite evil practices happening. And what's interesting is that the moms that are grieving and doing these practices, they're not trying to be evil, but they're deceived.
And one of the things that I've been seeing that's becoming very prevalent is there are so many moms in these Facebook groups that are asking for mediums, like very New Age kind of thing, but asking for mediums and even [so-called] ‘Christian’ mediums to speak to their babies. And they're trying to learn about their babies on the other side. And some of them are believing that these mediums have told them about their babies.
And it is becoming very prevalent. And I know you're probably listening, thinking. “That's crazy. This is really happening?”
Yes. This is really happening. I'm seeing this frequently. And it's just pure evil– mediums and trying to contact the dead in that way, that's witchcraft.
And it's very scary because we're so led astray in our culture of how we're trying to cope with these things and how we're searching for answers and searching for our own truth, but really just trying to take comfort in the Truth of the Bible, which brings me back to something you said earlier.
You said that you struggled after Caleb passed away with some false theologies that you had been believing. And you and I were talking before we clicked record, and you and I have talked about this before in support groups, about faith and the two kinds of faith that exist.
There's ‘even if’ faith, which is, “I'm going to believe, even if God doesn't do what I hope or what I expect or what I want.”
And then there's, ‘I will follow You if’ faith, and that's the kind of the faith that, “I'm only going to follow You if I'm blessed, if good things happen to me, if my baby doesn't die.” Basically, “Everything must be good and it must be the way that I plan,” which is essentially making us our own gods, if you think about it.
And the support group leader saying, “You need to search your own feelings,” well, doesn't that make us our own gods if we are the ones who determine truth?
And you said something as well about how we can make ourselves idols, we can also make our grief an idol.
Casey Nestor: [00:33:18] I think when we walk through our Christian faith, we know that the Bible tells us that we're going to experience suffering. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world,” but there was a part of me that thought, “As long as I'm doing what God wants me to, if I'm faithful, then He would only give me what I believe to be blessings and good things.”
And then when that didn't happen, I was walking through my loss with Caleb. I questioned God, “You say that You are a loving Father, but this doesn't feel like love. It feels like hurt.” And I questioned God, “You say everything is for my good, but how could losing my baby be good? And how can it be good when it feels so horrible?”
But I came to a place where I realized that either God is God and He is the things that He says He is, He is all-knowing, all-powerful, He is sovereign, in control of everything, and He is my loving Father, or He's not.
I can't have it sort of in-between where, “Yes He's God, but I don't really believe that He's for me. I don't really believe that He's for my good,” and it's all or nothing.
And God is very clear that the Word of God is Truth and we have to take it all or nothing. We can't pick and choose things from the Bible to say, “I'm believing this, but I don't believe this.” Or, “I don't know how I feel about that.” We have to say that, “I'm going to stand on the Word of God, no matter how I feel.”
And walking through my loss with Judah is really a lot of learning that my feelings are not Truth. Just because I feel a certain way does not mean that is the Truth. And I need to stand on the Word of God, even when I don't feel it.
The Bible tells us that God is close to the broken-hearted, but I didn't feel like He was close to me. But I can stand in the Truth that He tells us that He's with us walking through the fire. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
And looking back now, I can see all the ways that He orchestrated little things, that He was with me in that time, even though I felt like I was alone and that He's very clear that everything is for our good. It says, “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
So that means even the death of my babies is for my good even though it feels like the worst thing that ever happened to me. I know that. And I can look back now and see, especially with Caleb, it's three, almost four years since we lost him, I can see how much God has changed me through that.
He's made me a better wife, a better mother, a better friend. I'm so much stronger in my faith. I can see things that He has brought from it that, when you're in the deep throes of early grief, we're not removed enough to be able to see all the things that God is working.
And I also know that we won't know all of the things that God is working. Our God is all-knowing and all-powerful, even more so than we can even imagine.
So to even think that we could look and say, “Oh, these are the things that God brought from this situation,” it's such a small view of all the things that He is orchestrating that we won't know until we're in Heaven.
And David Platt has a quote that says, “There is some suffering that we can't make sense of this side of Heaven,” and I think that it's comforting to know that it doesn't make sense and it doesn't have to make sense.
Ashley Opliger: [00:37:19] Not all of our grief has to be wrapped up in this perfect little bow and tidied up where we can say, “Look what has come from it,”
And maybe some of you are listening and thinking, “Well, that's interesting,” that I'm saying that because I ended up having a non-profit come from Bridget’s life.
But I will tell you even with having a non-profit come from Bridget’s life, there's still so much of my grief that feels as though it hasn't been redeemed and other trials in my life, unrelated to Bridget, where I've seen little to no redemption this side of earth.
But I know and I trust in God's character that He is working everything together for my good and for His glory. And He has a purpose on earth and in Heaven and for eternity for my pain and for every single thing that I've walked through in my life, and it's all this story that He's working out.
But ultimately what I've realized is that the story is not about me. It's not about Bridget. It's not about Bridget’s Cradles. It's about God.
I've heard it said that the story of the Bible is a love letter to humanity, and you could argue that. It is a love letter. God sent His own son to die, to save us from Hell, and to save us from our sin and from death, and give us this glorious hope and future, and to be reconciled with God, the Father.
But really, even more so than a love letter to humanity, it's this picture of a good and faithful God, and it's His story of writing His glory and sharing who He is and what He's done for us.
And I think that's something I've been walking out with Him, even the way I read the Bible. I feel like I used to read the Bible, to try to extract things to apply to my life. And of course, we should read the Bible as a living, breathing Word of God and it is for us, and it is to be applied to our everyday life. Yes, of course.
But I've been trying to read the Bible just to know Him and to know His story, and to glean historical context of what was happening in these stories, and see the whole picture that He's painting of His covenants, and how He's worked in history, and how He's continuing to work in humanity through the End Times, and when He will eventually establish His Kingdom on earth.
So it's a shift that I've taken in how I study Scripture and how I view God, because the story of the Bible is not about me. It's about Him.
Casey Nestor: [00:39:52] Yeah. And like you said, it's such a shift in trying to view our lives as our life is not for us, but it's about God. And what is our purpose? What were we created for?
And the answer is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. And when we look at our lives as: It's not to make myself happy or see all the things that I would like to see come true, but it's to glorify God.
And there's the Scripture that says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourself. It is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast for. We are God's handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
And leading up to Judah’s due date, I felt so much anxiety and I just was dreading this day of coming to the place where I thought I would be holding him in my arms. And I found myself with empty arms in a place that I never thought I would be in and a place that I don't want to be in but realizing that this is where God has me. This is the place that He's planted me in, and there are still good works for me to do. And that's how I can glorify Him, in doing those everyday things.
And I think we can really get focused on what we don't have. “These are the things that God has taken from me.” And I realized that I'm not missing out on something, that God didn't take something from me because it was never meant to be. He never ordained it that way.
In Psalm 139 it says, “My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”
So even way before Judah was conceived, God knew that he would only live for 20 weeks because that was what His plan was for Judah's life. When He sent him to earth, the good works that He had for Judah were to only be there for a short amount of time.
And it's really hard to reconcile with the fact that we thought we were going to have a lifetime with our babies, and we wanted a lifetime with our babies. But they were never meant to live longer than the days that God ordained for them.
And so when I was looking at his due date, I wanted to focus on, “I thought I would have a baby to hold and I don't. I thought I would have these years with him and I don't,” to instead want to focus on being thankful for the time that I had with him.
I'm thankful that God gave him to me, to our family, even if it was for just 20 weeks here on earth, because we will have a lifetime together in Heaven.
And one day we will be in Heaven and the days on this earth will be but a blip. The Bible says that it's like a vapor. Our days on earth are like a vapor, that compared to the time that we have in Heaven, we won't even think about the time that we were spending on earth without our babies.
So to me, if I have to go through this sorrow even just to be able to have him, I would do it again because as a mother, you love your children that much. You love your baby that much. And it's a trusting and knowing that God's plan is perfect, that I'm not going to understand it. I don't have to understand it because I know that He is God. He's so far above what I can comprehend that I have to just trust. I trust that He's for me.
I was listening to a podcast and she was talking about there was a story of a little boy in France, who had fallen into a well. It was a little two-year-old boy and the parents couldn't get to him because he was down in the well, and it was this really dire situation.
And she was thinking about just how heavy her heart was for this family and how much she hurt for him. And then she came to realize that even though she felt all this empathy and hurt for him, she would never come to the place where she would say, “Take my child for your child. Take my child in place of your child.” But that's what God did for me.
And that's what God has done for us. He chose his one and only Son to die the most horrific death to pay the price for our sin so that we can spend eternity in Heaven with Him. And He did that for our babies. He died on the cross so that they can come to Heaven as well.
And I think about myself and my flesh, I would never sacrifice my babies for anyone, but God chose to send His perfect Son to come as a baby on earth and die a criminal's death for me. And if I think about that, how can I not realize that He loves me, that He's for me?
And if He loves me and He's for me and He really is God, and He really is sovereign, then I have to believe what He says is true. And I have to cling to that, to the Word of God, even when I don't feel it, even when I can't see it, even when I don't understand it.
Ashley Opliger: [00:45:10] Wow, what a powerful illustration with the child in the well, and thinking through the empathy that you would feel, but that you wouldn't be willing to sacrifice.
And I don't think any of us would want to sacrifice our children in that way, but God Himself did that for us. And He died when we were still sinners and undeserving of that grace.
Ashley Opliger: [00:45:32] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We wanted to take a quick break to tell you about some other hope-filled resources our ministry provides to grieving families.
On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find many resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, blog articles, featured stories, recommended books, and other support organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays. We also have a page with ideas on how to care for a friend or family member who has experienced pregnancy loss.
In addition, every month I lead free Christ-centered support groups for bereaved moms called Hope Gatherings, both in-person and online. You can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up for our next support group on our website. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find friendship and support. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name.
Lastly, our Pinterest page has beautiful graphics of quotes & Scripture from this episode, along with many other resources that you can pin and save. We would also love for you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us on these three pages: @bridgetscradles, @cradledinhope, and my personal page @ashleyopliger. We’d love for you to follow along and spread the word about the Cradled in Hope Podcast. Now let’s get back to our episode.
Ashley Opliger: [00:47:09] I haven't shared this publicly, but the week before Bridget was born, I was hospitalized. I was 23 weeks and I was passing really large blood clots and I was in a lot of pain.
I was starting to become dilated and I had those straps around my belly and the monitor, and I could hear her heartbeat and I could see her heartbeat lines on the machine. And I remember just kind of laying there, like in a daze, in shock and questioning, “What is about to happen? Am I about to deliver her?”
This was my first pregnancy and my first labor and delivery experience, so all of this was new to me. And they were taking me to the bathroom and I was passing clots into the toilet, and I kept wondering, “Am I delivering her?”
I remember asking the nurses to make sure it wasn't her coming out, and it was a very traumatic and scary time. But what I remember so clearly and so vividly about that hospitalization was laying there on the labor and delivery bed, being in pain, listening to her heartbeat, and looking up at the ceiling, and I was seeing images of the crucifixion on the ceiling.
I can't say that I saw the face of Jesus, but I could see His figure, His body on the cross. And it was a very vivid illustration in my mind, or on the ceiling, wherever I was seeing this, but He was bloody, He was beaten, like flesh ripped off of His skin, and pain. That's what I was seeing, just pain.
And I was in physical pain and agony, not the same, I wasn't being tortured, but it was this moment for me to connect with His suffering and His pain and to see what He did for me. And I can't really explain it because it was just so powerful.
And I did not end up delivering Bridget that night, but I will always remember God giving me this picture of the crucifixion and how painful and ugly and sad it was, it was devastating watching Jesus on the cross.
And I'm not saying that I can see back in time or anything like that, by no means. It was probably my imagination connecting to God in that way, in that moment. But it was so powerful for me and my faith to connect with the crucifixion.
And most Americans know the Gospel. They can tell you, “Yes, I know that Jesus died on a cross,” but unless you really sit and think about it and read it in the gospels from His disciples of eyewitness accounts of seeing Him up there and what He went through, it doesn't hit the same way.
And that's why on Good Friday every year, I like to watch something like The Passion of the Christ or some movie where I'm actually watching Him be crucified. That sounds very morbid and, I don't know. But for me and my faith, I don't want to ever forget how gruesome and how horrible it was for my Savior to walk through that, and to carry His own cross up that hill, and be spit on and tortured, mocked and ridiculed, and for Him to look down on these people who are doing this to Him and say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And even to the criminal who hung there next to Jesus, this is recorded in Luke chapter 23, said, ”Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us,” and was just mocking Him, basically.
And the other criminal said, “Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”
And Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
I love that grace that He gave right there as He was hanging on the cross and that He extends to us as well who believe in Him and choose to put our faith in Him.
So I share that story because in my faith journey, it's been important to me to remember what Jesus did for me. And I will say, hearing your story and how God walked you through your grief after Caleb's passing and then to Judah’s passing into Heaven, there's a spiritual maturity that I could hear in your story and even the name that you chose for Judah when you were in the middle of walking through incredible suffering, that you chose to name him after praise.
And I can sense that God really matured you and your faith through your grief journey after Caleb passed away. And through this entire sanctification process that we go through as Christians, He's refining us through the fire, that He's using all of these trials for our good. And ultimately as Christians, our faith walk is that He is sanctifying us to be more like Him, to be more like Jesus, and that is where our ultimate identity lies.
And so this episode is actually airing on New Year’s, and many people are going to be focused on writing out New Year's resolutions and goals for the year and what they hope to accomplish.
But when you're in the middle of grief, you're not thinking about resolutions. You're not thinking about goals. You’re just trying to survive the season. But at the same time, I think when a new year comes and you're in a grief season, there's an opportunity to turn a new leaf or a new chapter in your grief.
And we know that our hearts will not ultimately be healed until we're in Heaven and God makes everything right again, and we get to see our babies in resurrected bodies. But until then, as we're grieving and we're navigating this new normal that grief has put us in, we're never going to go back to our old life before we lost our babies.
We have been changed by our babies' lives. We're never going to be the same. We have this new identity. But it's important that our identity isn't in our loss. Our identity isn't in our grief, but it's in our identity in Christ and how He walks us through our loss and our grief.
So would you mind sharing more on what that looks like to find identity in Christ in the midst of grief, and encourage moms in the New Year of walking through their grief with Jesus?
Casey Nestor: [00:53:39] Yes. I told my husband at one point that I felt like I was grieving myself, as well as you grieve for the loss of your babies. And also, you realize that you aren't the person that you used to be, that you're never going to go back to being the person you were before.
I remember wishing I could go back to the girl who maybe was a lot more naïve, but when things felt like they came a little easier, my faith walk seemed like it was a little easier, but realizing that if we are in Christ and He is sanctifying us and we are becoming more and more like Him, then we are always changing.
You're always, hopefully, becoming more like Christ, that we're never the same person that we were before. If we're walking with Christ and we're being faithful and He's changing us, then Lord willing, we are always becoming more and more like Him.
And so just realizing that God has a purpose for our pain and our suffering and He has good works for us to do, that we're put on this earth to glorify Him, and I can do that through my grief walk, that He has a purpose for me and walking through that grief and that purpose is my sanctification.
2 Corinthians 5:15-17 says that, “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone. The new is here.” I’m realizing that I'm not just here for myself, that I'm here for His glory. And my grief journey, my walk with losing my babies, my testimony, is something that can be used for His glory and, Lord willing, used to help other people.
I think when we can turn away from looking at ourselves and turn toward looking at others and what God can hopefully do through our loss, it brings a new hope and a new purpose for us.
Our babies don't ever want us to just be here on earth mourning in sadness and never moving away from this point of deep sorrow. They want our lives and their lives to be meaningful.
And I feel like God had a purpose for our babies, whether that was five weeks on earth, five months, or five years, He knows exactly what they needed and what we need, and what is part of His whole plan to bring about the redemption of Creation and that we can participate in that even in a small way and realizing that our babies are a gift to us from the Lord, even though it wasn't maybe how we wanted it.
It's not how we would have chosen it, but they are a blessing from the Lord to us to teach us how to become more like Christ and to move us in our journey toward sanctification.
Ashley Opliger: [00:56:56] We’ve just talked about that in our support group, how we really do believe that our Father in Heaven as well as our babies in Heaven don't want to see their lives go in vain, where they came to earth for a short amount of time, and then their loss caused us to become bitter and angry and resentful toward God and changed our lives for the worse. That is not the legacy that we want for our babies' lives.
We want their lives and our lives to be pointing toward our Savior and be used for His glory. And of course, there is a season to be grieving, and of course, there's a season to be looking inward at our own sorrow and at our own feelings of suffering, but there is something so healing when you can rise above and look outward instead of inward and help others.
And that’s been a huge part of my healing, being involved in the ministry and serving others. Of course, I would say the number one aspect of my healing has been my faith. But aside from that, I would say it's been the community aspect, like we talked about, having support but then also serving other people, which is why our local support group is called Support and Serve because we have a support aspect to the evening, but we also then gather around and serve in the ministry.
We feel it's so important to be using our hands and our time to be serving others. And there's so much healing for all of these moms that come into our headquarters and get to tag a cradle or laminate a hospital sheet, or put together a hospital box, knowing that their time was spent to comfort someone else who has gone through the exact same pain that they have.
And when we can do that and we can look beyond ourselves and use the same comfort that God has given us to comfort others, that is a beautiful picture of redemption and of praising God for the gift of salvation that He's given us, when we can do that for other people.
That's something that I'm very passionate about sharing, is using our pain for purpose and using our grief for good and for God's glory. There's so much healing that can come from that.
I think we might have some knitters and crocheters listening to this episode because you are a mom who has received a cradle. And like you mentioned, the cradle was made just for you, even though the knitter or crocheter who made baby Judah's cradle, they did not know your name. They did not know Judah's name, but God did, as they were knitting this little cradle for Judah.
And it's this beautiful story of a cradle, of how a knitter goes to a craft store and picks out the yarn and then brings the yarn home and makes the little cradle. And then it gets sent to our headquarters and we have a sewing volunteer sew the cradle and put lace around the edges and a cross charm at the foot of the cradle.
And then someone else tags it and puts it in the box and ships it out to the hospital, and then the nursing staff picks out the cradles and gives the family an option. And it's a beautiful story of how many hands and how God orchestrated the Body of Christ to come together for this little cradle, and how He knew who it would go to.
I would just love for you–if you wouldn't mind closing–some final thoughts on your experience with the cradle that would encourage our knitters and crocheters to keep on in this mission, to keep using their time and their talents and their yarn and their shipping costs because this is so important, the work that we're doing, and it really impacts so many families and I would love for them to hear firsthand from you what that meant to you and your family.
Casey Nestor: [01:00:51] Absolutely. When we found out that Judah had passed, and we were taken to a room and the doctor went over all these options, and we found ourselves moving to the hospital, and you almost feel like a zombie. You're moving through the motions of, “I guess this is what we're doing,” and we're just trying to do the next thing.
And you find yourself in a labor and delivery room, which even after we talked about going to the hospital, it hadn't connected in my mind that I would be delivering him. I remember walking into the room and seeing a little plastic bassinet that they put newborns in standing there and just freezing, thinking, “What are we doing here? How did we get here? How can I possibly be in a labor and delivery room for my stillborn baby?”
And because we were in such shock, we didn't have anything at the hospital for our baby. I didn't bring any blankets or hats or memorabilia, or even a good camera with me to be able to take pictures because I just hadn't even thought about any of that I might would want or wish I would've had when I was there.
And after I delivered him, here was this sweet, precious baby that I wanted to soak up every second with, and we got about eight hours with Judah, which was such a blessing.
And I will always be thankful for that time that we had with him, but you're trying to squeeze a lifetime of memories into this small moment that you have with them. And anything that you can keep in remembrance of your baby is just so precious and sweet.
And when she brought that cradle, I remember feeling the peace of God wash over me, a feeling like God knew I was going to be here. He knew that I would want something to remember my baby by, to be able to connect me to him, because when the funeral came to get Judah and take him, that was absolutely the hardest thing that I've ever had to do, was let my baby leave without me, knowing that I wasn't going to see him again until the Lord calls me Home and I'm in Heaven.
And when you're alone in the hospital and you want to connect to your baby but you don't have anything, to have this special, carefully knit, beautiful cradle to always remember that time that you had with your baby, to connect you with your child, is just something that I will always treasure.
Sometimes I still like to pull it out and hold it close to my chest and remember my baby, and think about that time that I had with him, and get to feel a little bit of a connection to him again.
It was so precious to me that I actually this summer learned to crochet so that I could donate cradles as well, because I know what a comfort it was for me and for our family to have something to remember our baby by.
When you have a child grows up, you have a lifetime to make memories and keep things for them. But when you lose a baby early, you have very little, sometimes nothing to remember them by. And everything that you can keep and save is such a blessing and helps you to feel that connection to your baby again.
Ashley Opliger: [01:04:22] It's so special that you're able to hold on to Judah’s cradle and hold it close to your heart and know that was what held his precious body here on earth, and remember those eight hours that you had together.
I know it's so hard when that's the only memento that you have from their life, that you didn't get to have blankets, and hats, and clothes, and all the things that you would think to bring to hospital because you're in shock and you're not thinking. You're not prepared to bring all of those items to the hospital.
And that is why the mission of Bridget’s Cradles is so important because we wish that we could be in every labor and delivery room to give peace and comfort, and hope. But we can't do that. The cradles going out to—right now we're in 1100 hospitals in all 50 states.
And so the cradle is our tangible act of love and expression of love in that moment of deep grief and heartbreak to not only honor the baby's life that it holds, and we believe that our babies in Heaven are God's most precious and sacred creation, so that is so important to us that the cradles are made so sacred and beautiful for the babies that they will hold, but also to give that peace and comfort to the parents and to have something both functional and dignifying for the family to hold their precious baby and to have those memories.
So thank you for sharing your experience with your cradle for Judah. And I just hope that encourages anyone that's listening that volunteers for us to understand the importance and the impact that your knitting and crocheting has on families.
Casey, thank you so much for being so vulnerable and sharing your grief journey with our moms today.
Casey Nestor: [01:06:31] Thank you for having me.
Ashley Opliger: [01:06:33] Thank you for listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We pray that you found hope & healing in today’s message. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a future episode. New episodes will be shared on the 1st and 15th of every month. You can also find this episode’s show notes and a full transcript on our website at bridgetscradles.com/podcast.
There you can download a free PDF for each episode, called the Hope Guide, that is filled with notes, Scripture, links, discussion questions, and so much more. Be sure to leave your email address so that we can keep you updated on podcast episodes, upcoming support groups, and other hope-filled resources.
If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to Bridget’s Cradles in memory of a baby in Heaven, you can find information on our website on how you can get involved and spread hope to other grieving families.
One way you can spread hope is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the two minutes of your time as a way YOU can personally share this hope with a mom whose heart is broken and needs healing. Thank you so much for listening and sharing. Until next time, we will be praying for you. And remember, as Jesus cradles our babies in Heaven, He cradles us in hope. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope.
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