Join us for a conversation with Alisha Illian about how to find peace after miscarriage. Alisha shares her story of finding out that her second baby had no heartbeat while she was all alone at a routine doctor's appointment.
Blindsighted by grief, Alisha discusses with Ashley how she learned to rely on God and surrender her plans for her life. She encourages grieving moms to stay in Scripture and fixate on Jesus in order to find peace after pregnancy loss.
In this episode we discussed:
How God stretches us when life doesn't go as planned so that we can learn to depend on Him
Why are we not talking about pregnancy loss more?
Feelings of guilt after losing a baby
How God gave us a motherly instinct to bond with our baby right from the start
Why nothing can satisfy or comfort us like God can
Learning to surrender control and not depend on our own adequacy
Scripture memory and why it's a powerful healing tool during grief
The perfection of Jesus and how amazing Heaven will be with Him and our babies for all of eternity
The fact that our babies didn't have to suffer on earth
How hustle culture and staying busy can negatively impact our grief
Why it's important to get in our Bibles and read Truth
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!)
Alisha shares a quote from C.S. Lewis that says, "Pain makes us put away our toys." How do you relate to this quote? Are there ways that you are still relying on your own strength/adequacy or things of this world to cope with your grief? List them and pray for God to help you surrender them.
Alisha clung to Psalm 139 after her miscarriage. Is there a particular Scripture that's comforting to you? Write it out and commit to memorizing it this week.
In this episode, we talked about hurrying through grief. Do you feel a cultural or internal pressure to stay busy/distracted? In what ways can you slow down and allow God to sit in your sadness with you?
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CONNECT WITH OUR GUEST
Alisha is the founder of Women (re)Purposed, the author of Chasing Perfect, and an avid teacher and student of the Bible. Her heart beats wildly to inspire women toward a deeper knowledge and love of God.
Alisha experienced a first-trimester miscarriage in her second pregnancy. She lives in Kansas with her husband, three living children, and Golden-doodle dog.
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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 1,065 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 2: Finding Peace after Miscarriage with Alisha Illian
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.
Hi everyone. I am so honored to introduce to you today, our very first special guest to the Cradled in Hope Podcast, my friend, Alisha Illian. Alisha is the founder of a ministry called Women (re)Purposed and the author of a book called Chasing Perfect.
She is an avid teacher and student of the Bible and her heart is to inspire women toward a deeper knowledge and love of God. Her greatest passion is to disciple women as they learn to walk with their Savior. I know you are going to be so blessed by the conversation that we had about how to find peace and pursue Jesus after a miscarriage.
Let's welcome Alisha Illian. Welcome, Alisha. Thank you for being here.
Alisha Illian: [00:02:09] Thanks for having me, Ashley. I'm so excited to be having this conversation with you.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:16] Yes, I know. I know it's such a hard topic and reliving that pain and the grief that you walked through, but I'm just so thankful that you're willing to be vulnerable and share your story.
I just want to jump in and ask you to share your story and a little bit more about yourself and the children that you have on earth and the child that you have in Heaven.
Alisha Illian: [00:02:40] I would be glad to. So, my husband and I have been married, I'm going to say like 15 years now I can kind of lose track after 10 it's like, is it a dozen?
I know we're headed towards 20, feels like a long time, but it goes really fast. We've been married for about 15 years and we have three kids.
We got started real quickly, so I got pregnant five months after we were married with my first, whose name is Reign as in the Lord reigns. And, he is now a teenager, which is a whole new world for us and we're loving it.
He has his ups and downs, so that's been a lot of fun to navigate, but, it is definitely making me more dependent on the Lord. Then we have our daughter who is 11. And our youngest son Rogue, he is nine and he lives up to his name. We call him Rogue and we tell him it's because he was set apart for God.
So he goes his own way. And definitely be careful what you name your kids. We love our family. All of our kids have been a huge blessing to us, but as you know, and you're familiar with Ashley, I'm a planner by nature. I don't know about you, but I like to have everything planned out. And so in my mind, as a little girl, I was like, I'm going to get married and I'm going to have like 10 kids.
And then I had my first kid and I was like, well, maybe like six. And then I had my second kid and I'm like, maybe like three kids, but, anyways, I was such a planner. And so in my mind, this is the way it's going to go. I'm going to have my first and then my second and third. And, the Lord He's good to me and that I say this, I don't like it, but He does stretch me in that.
He doesn't allow my plans always to go the way I think it should, because He wants me to be dependent on him. And if everything always went according to Alisha’s plan, I would naturally not be dependent upon Him. And so one of those situations did happen after our first child, we didn't really have any complications with him.
I got really sick with my first pregnancy, meaning I just was nauseous the whole time, hooked up to IVs in my first trimester. I really wasn't prepared for that, but we got through it, we managed. And like, after you had your first, you kind of forget all the hard things and you're like, I can do this again.
It wasn't really that bad. And so I got pregnant again. I think it was about 10 months after having Reign, our first, and everything was going according to plan. I had my first sonogram and everything was great with that. The heart rate was a little bit on the low side or slow side, but they weren't concerned at all.
And so I went in for my second appointment and I was sick again with the second pregnancy. So I thought, “Oh, the hormones are doing what they're supposed to do because they're making me really sick.” I wasn't having any issues. So I went in around 11 and a half, 12 weeks, I even told my husband, because he had gone to every single doctor's appointment with me, I said, “Baby, you don't need to go in on this one, it's going to be fine. It's just going to be routine.”
We've already had the big first sonogram and he was busy at work. And so I went in for that second sonogram, fully expecting a very normal appointment. And, I just remember they did the little sonogram and they could not find a heartbeat on the outside.
And it just took them forever and I just kept thinking, “Well, this is really weird because normally they're supposed to probably find it pretty quickly at 11 and a half weeks.” Then I knew something was wrong when they're like, “We're going to have to actually go in and see if we can hear the heartbeat with a sonogram.”
And so when they got in, they told me, “I'm so sorry, but you have lost your baby.” And it just hit me because I wasn't prepared once again. I'm a planner. If I can just have it all planned out and prepare myself, but that wasn't what the Lord wanted. And so it kind of broadsided me a little bit.
I wasn't bleeding. And so I called my husband at that point. He rushed in, and my doctor, we were down in Texas at the time, and she was so great. She was like, “You're coming to the office, sit down with me and I'll let you just stay in there as long as you want.”
And that meant so much because she told me one in four pregnancies end up in miscarriage. And I was kind of taken back a little bit because I was like, what? Nobody really talks about it, you know? And that kind of shocked me. One in four pregnancies.
That's a lot if you think about all the pregnancies that happen. Miscarriage is happening a lot and she's told me, “This is the part of my job that I hate the most is having to tell these new moms this information.” And I was like, wow, that in a strange way, though, that was helpful to know that I wasn't alone, that this isn't just something that doesn't ever happen. And immediately I felt guilt. Like, what did I do? Did I eat something wrong? Did I do something? Did I sniff the wrong paint, walking in the room painting?
You're like: what did I do? You know, that caused this? And that's horrible to have to deal with that guilt. It was really helpful her coming in and saying, “You know that it happens very frequently and this is normal.” And, as I thought about it, you had this process of pregnancy and a woman getting pregnant and the sperm and the egg coming together.
Of course, it happens a lot, all the things that have to go into making a healthy pregnancy. It's amazing when you start reading about it, I mean that it [miscarriage] doesn't happen more. Honestly, it made me think of how big our God is and how amazing He is to design something. Cause I'm really wanting to understand the whole process then at that point and how it all works.
And so I left. Of course, I was upset and grieving and I had to go through the initial shock of this baby that in short 12 weeks, I guess it wasn't even 12 weeks that I knew I was pregnant, like eight weeks at that point, I had already connected to this life.
I think that is so designed by God that the mom and even my husband, he wasn't even carrying the child, but he had formed a connection already to this life inside. It wasn't just a clump of cells. There was something so meaningful and intimate about that relationship that you have with that newborn and you start thinking about and preparing in your heart for what's going to happen and then to have to go, okay, well that wasn't God's plan.
And so I remember going back home and we decided to opt for a D&C because my body had not realized that I was [miscarrying], it still thought it was pregnant. And so she was like, “I don't know how long it's going to take for your body to realize that you have miscarried.”
Knowing that the baby was not alive at that point, I didn’t want to be carrying the baby any longer. And so we did a D&C and we did all the genetic testing because my mom had a pregnancy loss. Actually, her baby was born alive, my sister lived for seven hours. And so we wanted to make sure that there wasn't anything similar going on.
And my sister has a son that has a neurogenetic syndrome called Angelman Syndrome. And so there were just some things that we wanted to make sure weren’t connected. And so we had the D&C. This turned into discovering that the baby had twice the amount of chromosomes, which can lead to a molar pregnancy, which sometimes can turn into cancer.
And so then I ended up having to have all these blood tests done to make sure that my hormones were dropping and that the cells weren't growing inside of me. And so not only was I grieving the loss of our pregnancy, it turned into, okay, this could be something very serious for my body. And now I've got to consider how do I take care of that and start praying, Lord, what does this mean for me now?
And He was faithful too; there wasn't any complications and I'm super thankful for that. We ended up having to wait until the hormones were all back to normal. And then we were able to try again and got pregnant with my daughter.
I will tell you, Ashley, I think that you probably know this too, cause we've talked about this, but, after this happened, I had so many women reach out to me and say, “Me too, I had a miscarriage, I had two or three miscarriages,” all for all different reasons.
And I was like, wow, I wished I had known, and I don't know what it is. I'd love to hear your thoughts too, why do we struggle to talk about this? Is it shame? Is it just not wanting to make people feel awkward or not know what to say? I wish at that point that other women had shared so that I didn't feel alone as I was.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:39] Yes. And I'm just so sorry, you went through everything that you went through and I'm so sorry for the loss of your precious baby. Because I had complications in my pregnancy and was somewhat prepared for Bridget to pass away, my heart just breaks for women who, I mean, and that's hard and in and of itself, having the anticipatory grief and those questions and walking that road of grief.
But my heart is also so sensitive to moms who go into an appointment just expecting to hear their baby's heartbeat and nothing's wrong. You're not bleeding. You don't have any complications. And then to be blindsided with the worst news of your life.
And like you said, no matter how many weeks you are, you're attached to that little baby, you have hopes, you have dreams, you're planning, and maybe you had already bought clothes or started thinking about the nursery, but it's your motherly instinct to already be connected to that little life inside of you and to be thinking of them.
And so I'm just so sorry that you experienced that and had to walk through that and be at that appointment without your husband. I know that must've been really hard. And I think that has made me even more heartbroken for the moms that have walked through this in COVID, going to their appointments alone and finding out this news by themselves.
But to answer your question, I will say from the time that I lost Bridget until now, which has been almost seven years, I do see that people are talking about it more and more. There’s still room for improvement and there's still a lot of people that aren't talking about it.
And I think that comes in with our culture's idea of not announcing pregnancies until after you're out of the first trimester. And so if you don't announce that you're pregnant until after 13 weeks and the majority of early miscarriages, those are happening in the first 12 weeks, then I think a lot of moms feel that it's difficult to come out and say, “Well, I had a baby. I miscarried.” When they hadn't even announced the pregnancy yet.
And so I am a really firm advocate and passionate about announcing pregnancy early, which may sound interesting. But with our second child, our son, we announced at five weeks, which is really early, because I felt like for us, it was like, this life is a life and no matter what happens if he passes away or we have a miscarriage, I want to talk about it and I want to talk about his life, but he's my child.
And so I do see the tide turning a little bit as there's more organizations and more people blogging and writing on social media. But it's like what you said when the nurse told you there's one in four pregnancies that end in loss. Until you've gone through it, I don't think your eyes are open to that because I certainly think before I lost Bridget, that was happening, but I wasn't aware of it.
I didn't know anybody, but then I went through it and then I realized, wow, this is happening to so many women. And so I think you just become even more aware of it once you've walked through it and people reach out to you because they know you've walked through it and they want to share too.
So you talked a little bit about your faith and you knew that God had a purpose and that you were going to rely on God and that you needed God to get through that grief. Was your faith impacted in any other way? As you were wrestling through that, I know you were also going through things with your own body and just the trauma of all of that happening at once. Did you feel like your relationship with God changed during that season? And what did you learn about God during that time?
Alisha Illian: [00:16:32] Yeah. So one of my favorite CS Lewis quotes is “Pain makes us put away our toys.” And the reason I liked that quote so much is because I relate to it because for me, I tend to be the type that when things are going well, I'm super sufficient and I can handle things on my own and my prayer life is not great.
And I'd skip out on my Bible reading and I think I can just handle stuff. And I tend to run towards the little temporary things that make me happy versus digging deep for that peace, that soul peace and that joy that only God can give regardless of our circumstances.
And so, like I said, God and His grace, I think allows. I'm speaking for myself. And I do believe this to be true for all of us in some way, shape or form, but He does allow trials in our life because for those who love Him, He works all things for good. So I trust that even in the difficult circumstances, He's working something out in me.
And usually that's because He wants me to put away the things that I turned to and that are not Him because ultimately they will not be for my good, even my own self-sufficiency and my own plans and my own adequacy and stuff like that. And so I love that quote.
And I truly believe in this season for me looking back, it was one of those times where I was like, okay, God, I remember like You are who I need, You are my adequacy, not my husband, not my kids, not my plans for the future. You hold my life together. I am so vulnerable.
Ashley Opliger: [00:18:22] Absolutely.
Alisha Illian: [00:18:24] Even my pregnancy. I can only do so much. But ultimately God, You put breath in my lungs and You cause my heart to beat and You give and take away. And I may not understand this side of Heaven, this side of the Kingdom, why You allowed what You did, but I get to choose right now to trust you. I get to choose to remember that You are for my good and that You love me.
Those other things aren't going to satisfy, like You will, even the good things. I know this to be true anytime we make good things God things, it's never for our good either. And so even some of the good things like having children and getting pregnant and getting married and you name it, if it becomes something that I turned to for my joy and happiness and my peace or purpose apart from Christ, then I'm in for trouble because some of those things can let you down.
Only Christ will be there. And so I think this was another reminder for me, Ashley, that God's the one in control of even the life inside of me and my plans for the future. And I shared this with you before we started talking, but I've always loved Psalms 139, and I know this is the key chapter for your ministry and it's so appropriate.
I clung to the words of David. In fact, I memorized this chapter and I am not one to memorize scripts. They're like, I'm horrible at memorizing Scripture.
Ashley Opliger: [00:20:05] Wait, the girl read your Bible?
Alisha Illian: [00:20:11] I know.
I mean, when I was a kid I could and that's a good thing. If you can get your kids to memorize as much as they can, because it does sink in. But, my memory is just not great anymore. And that I do remember thinking I have got to just let this seep into my soul right now. And, I just clung to it.
It was literally a balm for my soul during this time. And it was part of my grieving process, these words. I think some of it, there are a couple of verses that really stood out to me. And that was one 139:14, of course. For You formed my inward parts. You knitted me together in my mother's womb for I praise You.
I praise You for I'm fearfully and wonderfully made wonderful are Your works. My soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was being made in secret intricately woven in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed substance. In Your book were written every one of them and the days that were formed for me, when, as yet there were none of them.
How precious to me are Your thoughts. Oh God, how vast is the sum of them? And I could go on, but I think it was this idea that this little baby was truly a life. The world, the culture wants us to think that it's not, I think deep down inside, most people, most mothers would know that it's not, at the end of the day.
I think it was just such a perfect reminder for me during those days that God was knitting together, purposely designing. There was nothing He did that was imperfect in that moment. He knew exactly the way He was going to. We named our baby Caleb. We found out the gender when we had the genetic test done, because it was connection for me, but God knew Caleb. God knew that he was going to have twice the amount of chromosomes and that he was going to take Caleb back.
To be with Him immediately. And, something that was so helpful for me was to know that he never had to suffer in this world the way they do because of the effects of sin. And this is probably for you too. Cause you know, when Bridget was taken to the Lord, they get to experience perfection immediately, and that’s what it will be.
And if we truly clean to the words of Christ that for me to be away from the body, is to be present with the Lord, we trust this to be true, it really takes us back to the core of our faith. I believe Jesus. That You are the Savior of the world, that You exist, that You are for us, that we will get to be with You someday because of what You did on the cross.
And that You are preparing a place for us that is unimaginable. And we gotta trust. We gotta pray. I mean, our faith becomes so real in that moment. Cause we're so acquainted with our vulnerability and our mortality. So I think it was just so helpful to know that this was a baby that was fearfully and wonderfully made and knitted together in the womb.
Not outside of the womb, not when it took its first breath, but inside the womb and I will meet that baby. You will meet Bridget someday. We'll meet our babies that are no longer with us presently. And then just the thought also in Psalms 139, over and over God is telling us that we are precious to Him and that He understands our thoughts.
He understands our ways at the beginning of the chapter, the Lord, we know that He has searched us and He's known us and everything that we do when we sit down and when we rise up, He discerns our thoughts. He searches out our paths. He's acquainted with our ways. He is in the details. My heart needed to hear that.
Then I needed to know that God knew I was hurting. I needed to know that God understood and that nothing had escaped Him and that He was there with me, and that He, every single thought I had, every pain, every tear, He was in the midst of it. And so this chapter, I just felt it was specifically inspired for these mamas.
That is your ministry chapter. So it was definitely something that was so helpful.
Ashley Opliger: [00:24:39] Yes. I love that. And like you mentioned about leaving the brokenness of this earth and going straight to Heaven, to go from a mother's womb where all the baby knows is love to seeing the face of Jesus.
As much as our momma hearts want our children on earth with us and we grieve that and we want that, but to know that she's never going to have the effects of sin, of being tempted to sin or the evil that we see in this world and the corruption of this world. She gets to bypass all of that. And actually, when I was studying in the book of Job, I realized there was a verse in there where Job, having gone through all of this suffering, he actually says something to the effect of “Why wasn't I like the infant that hadn't seen the sun?”
Like, why wasn't I stillborn? He was basically saying I wish I would have died in the womb, which when I read that at first I was kind of offended, because why would anyone wish that, why would you want that? But he was saying I've gone through immense suffering and I just want to go be with my Lord.
And that kind of gave me that perspective of knowing there's so much good to come in the perfect Paradise where we will one day be with Jesus. And I think it was the late Billy Graham that said, “If we could only, just for a split second, see the glory of Heaven. We would never want our loved ones to come back to this broken earth.”
You know, we can't fathom or imagine how beautiful and wonderful it is in a place without sin and death and in the presence of God. And so I think just having that perspective and when you go through something like this, when you've had a miscarriage, experienced stillbirth or infant loss, I think you just start thinking of these things.
I don't know if you felt the same way, but you start thinking more about your own mortality and about death and Heaven because you're more intimately connected to Heaven because your child is there and you long for Heaven even more. And I was going to say too, with what you were saying about when you're in those seasons, where you feel everything's going well and you don't feel like you need to depend on God.
I think what came to mind when you were saying that was when things are going well and going according to our plan, I think we have this false sense of control that, “Oh, we're controlling everything. Everything’s good. I don't need God. I have it under control.” But then as soon as like a trial or a loss or something happens, all of a sudden, we're like, we're not in control.
We don't have control. If we could have prevented this or fixed this, we would have, but really we were never in control to begin with. And so for me, and I don't know if you felt the same way, I realized going through this, I don't have control with Bridget's life, with my living children now, with anything, and so surrendering and having the intimacy with God and realizing, I never really did have that control when things were going well, we think we did.
And I think 2020 is kind of the example where everybody felt our normalcy and we had control. And then it was like, all of that went out the window and people realized, no, we actually don't have a lot of control over a lot of things. And as hard as that is to navigate, there's beauty in surrendering and realizing God is all that I need. And I'm going to depend on Him for everything.
Alisha Illian: [00:28:16] Yeah. My pastor in Texas always said this and I thought it was so good: “If dependence is the goal, then weaknesses is the advantage.” And at first you're like, “No, I don't think I want weakness, but it should be our goal to daily trust the Lord to daily be dependent upon Him.
So anything that causes us to realize our weakness, just like Paul and Philippians, anything that would cause us to realize that we are weak and He is strong is a blessing. It really is. I know it doesn't feel like it sometimes. But it truly is. And that's when we have to trust the Lord.
Ashley Opliger: [00:28:57] Yeah, in the moment when you're going through pain, your gut feeling as a human, because we don't like to be in pain, we don't want to feel it. We want to escape it. We want to get out. We question, why is this happening to me?
But I think as you have time to walk with the Lord and to heal, and you start having this perspective of eternity and suffering’s place in eternity and Jesus Himself suffered and what His life on earth looked like. I think then you can look back on it and say, you know what? I wish that wouldn't have happened. That's not how I would have written my story, but I'm really thankful that God walked me through this.
And then I grew in my relationship with Him and in my understanding of His word and His story and my life, and I can count it all joy because of the coming glory, that's to come in Heaven. And this life is such a vapor and it's going to be in a blink of an eye, it's going to be over. I use this example when I talk to bereaved moms at support groups, we think of Bridget's life as being like such a vapor mist.
She didn't get to take a breath on this earth, but really in comparison to eternity, so is mine [my life]. I mean, you really wouldn't even be able to compare my little blip on this earth to her little blip because in the grand scheme of eternity, thousands and thousands and thousands of years, it's nothing.
And so just looking at it with that perspective to know that the time that we'll get to spend with our babies in Heaven is so much greater than the short years that we had or short time where we were just carrying them in our wombs, but didn't get to hold them in our arms on earth. And there's so much good to come and so much we can look forward to because of the hope of Jesus.
Ashley Opliger: 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: I want to share with our audience about the ministry that you started, Women (re)Purposed, which is discipling women and really encouraging women to be in the Word and growing closer to God through studying His Scriptures. And so I know that the ministry itself is not specific to grief, but obviously being in His word and staying connected to Truth in the grieving process is so important.
So if you could just share a little bit more about your ministry and how staying in the Word, and I know you shared this with Psalm 139, but how for our listeners, for a mom, that's just gone into her appointment and found out there's no heartbeat or had a little stillborn baby.
How would you say getting into the Word and staying connected to God and hearing a little bit more about what Women (re)Purposed is all about.
Alisha Illian: [00:33:06] So one thing that I'm really passionate about is encouraging women to get in their Bibles. It's always been something because for me that has been really transformative.
It is God's love letter to us, and it's a story about Him. And I honestly believe the more we fixate our minds on Him, the more peace we have as opposed to fixating on our own struggles and our own problems. I think that is so key, abiding in His Word. And He tells us to do that. That’s how we get fruit as we abide in Him.
And the way we do that is we abide in His words. Jesus is the Word in a sense manifest to us. So I feel very strongly about that. So Women (re)Purposed is a ministry that grew out of that passion that I've had. And I have an amazing team, five of us now that works together.
We have a podcast called Truth Be Told in 10 and Ashley, you were on that this last month. And so that was really fun. But our idea is to give short little podcasts that will help women take some of their daily struggles and how do we apply those to our minds, our head, heart, and our hands.
Our tagline is to love God, learn truth, and live transformed. And so I do believe that as we spend time in His Word, and we learn the truth in His Word, and that love grows in our hearts. So as it grows in our minds and grows in our hearts, it will translate to a transformed life over time.
And so that's the hands. And so we do take all those things, all those struggles that we had, and we pass it along that framework and try to talk about those things in our blogs and our podcasts. And that's been a lot of fun. God's just provided an amazing group of women that are working really hard to put together some great content.
So that's the ministry and you can find us online at womenrepurposed.com. And we have a newsletter that goes out every two weeks. We have a little shop which has been a lot of fun and probably will continue to put together some more content, maybe some studies in the future.
I have a book that came out and the blogs ongoing with that kind of coincide with the podcasts. So yeah that’s been a lot of fun.
Ashley Opliger: [00:35:31] I love that. I love the head, heart, and hands. And I'm going to try to talk through this in terms of grief. So the way I see it, as you know, when you're grieving and you go to His Word, you have your head, you're reading it, you're learning truth, right?
And so you have this knowledge, okay, this is who Jesus is. This is His story. This is God's love letter and His story of redemption from creating the earth to the brokenness of sin coming into the world to Him dying on the cross and giving us hope in Him. And then one day He'll redeem this earth and Heaven.
And so the way I think of it when you're grieving is you're reading this and you're like, okay, if I'm going to choose that this is going to be true. I'm going to believe this is true. I believe Jesus is who He said He is then that does change your heart because then you're like, “Oh, my goodness. If He is giving me the salvation, I have this hope to live forever, and I get to see my baby again.’ That changes your heart.
And when you have that feeling in your heart and you have that love for God of my goodness, I did not deserve this, but You have given me such a great gift. Like what better gift could You give me than the hope to see my baby again? In terms of being a grieving mom, I don't think there's any other gifts or any other hope or any other comfort that could be better than that.
And so when your heart feels that, then that's where the hands come in. Because I think once you have that appreciation and gratitude toward God and that feeling of, “Wow, Lord, You've done this for me and I have this amazing hope you can't not then go and live a transformed life and do something with your hands.
And you obviously know my story and starting the non-profit, but that doesn't mean that every mom that's lost a baby needs to start a nonprofit, but there's something that God can do through you, whether it's their time, their talents, resources that you have. I just am so passionate about talking to women about how can God use your grief for good and for His glory and finding purpose in your pain.
Because I think it's a natural feeling for anyone when you've gone through pain to want something good to come from it. We don't want to have it just go in vain. But when you're a Christian, you want that pain to be used for His glory and for His Kingdom and for helping others.
And so I just love that about your ministry, that it's going into the Word and having it change your heart. And then having a radically changed life where you're out discipling people and loving people, comforting people. So I just love that. I love what you're doing, and I hope that everyone will go and check out her website.
I was blessed to get to write a blog for it about what I learned about God's character through my loss. And so if you want to check that out too, but there's so many wonderful blog posts and resources on her website.
You mentioned the book that you wrote Chasing Perfect. I love it. I have it here.
And this book is about chasing Jesus. So, “perfect” you're talking about Jesus. He's Perfect. Instead of hustling for perfection on earth and just that culture that we have. You actually had a meme that went viral. And I'm just going to read it, but it says: You can eat all the kale, buy all the things, lift all the weights, take all the trips. Trash all that doesn't spark joy, wash your face and hustle like mad. But if you don't rest your soul in Jesus, you'll never find peace and purpose.
And I just love that so much. I know so many people have resonated with that online. But I was reading and there was another part of the book that resonated with me when it comes to grieving. You talked about our culture of being busy, we're busy people, we have full schedules. We like to do all the things like your meme was talking about. You said, busy is what we do with our bodies. But hurried is what happens to our souls. And when we're hurried, we compensate by speeding everything along.
We just want to get through it or past it or around it. And anxiety creeps in on us and we lack peace and contentment. And so that word, peace, chasing perfect peace, which is Jesus. When it comes to grieving, I think there's so many women that, especially if it was an early loss, there's this cultural pressure that you need to just move on.
You need to get past it. You shouldn't be grieving. Just pretend everything's okay. Get back to normal. And I think we're so good at hurrying through grief and pretending that it doesn't happen, that it's not affecting us and pushing that pain down. And so I just wanted you to speak to that a little bit about when you were writing that in the book and then as it pertains to the conversation we're having about why it's important to slow down when you're grieving and why that really will allow you to heal in the long run.
Alisha Illian: [00:40:38] I think this is a really important thing to talk about Ashley, because our culture is all about hustle. We almost equate our worth with our productivity and how quickly we can do and how much we can accomplish. And so I think we turned busy into this like badge of honor.
The more busy you are, the more worthy you are. Maybe you don't think you feel that way, but really if you're honest, if I'm honest with myself, it's really hard for me just to sit still. It's hard for me to pause and if you think about it really, life it is busy. I mean, we have to live life, there's responsibilities that we have.
We don't all get to just sit back on the hammock and kick our feet up and that's amazing and that's awesome. I hope we do take vacations and that we get to pause, but life does carry responsibility. Even Jesus had responsibility on earth. And so I always used to struggle with, well, what does it really look like to rest in Christ because we still have to live life.
I do think that there's a difference between busy and hurry. And in the book I do unpack this idea because I think busy is actually what happens in our lives. But hurry is what happens in our hearts. So, a person could be really busy with their life and doing a lot, but in their soul, they are at peace in their soul.
They are content and satisfied and joyful. I didn't say happy because I don't believe we're always happy with those feelings. Like you said, feelings come and go. They're real, but they're not reliable. But I'm talking about what happens deep down inside. And I think that a person can be somewhat busy in their life and experience that Shalom peace because of Christ because it's not dependent on circumstances.
However, I think a person can be not busy in their life at all and be completely discontent and not have peace. And so I'm not sure that busy is a good indicator of what's happening deep down in our hearts. If that makes sense at all. But I do think that God established His rhythms and He did that from creation.
He said, you're going to, I'm going to show you, cause I'm going to create the world in six days and the seventh day I'm going to rest and enjoy it. And He also set up rhythms for His people, Israel. Of certain days that they would, in seasons that they would take off and rest and rest the land.
And He forced that upon them because I think He knew that Sabbath day, that time was important for our flourishing, for human flourishing. And so I think rhythms are really an important thing. And to get back to grief on that. I think grief is the same way. I think you can probably speak to this better than me, Ashley, because this is kind of your world.
But, I know there's stages that you kind of have to go through and I think that's probably wired into us that God wired that process. And, if you hurry that along and I think our culture is all about hurry, gets to the next thing, get past it. We're doing ourselves a disservice because I don't think that's how God created us. So I'd love to hear your thoughts on that too.
Ashley Opliger: [00:44:05] Absolutely. I love what you said, just resting in the Lord and having that peace. And in grief, it's hard to rest because you have to sit in that sadness and feel it. And like I mentioned, we're human. We don't like to feel that.
And sometimes it can be scary when you're sitting in a really deep, dark depression or really dark and sad grief, but I think there is something to be said about resting in it so that God can sit in it with you. If you open your heart to him, sitting with you and loving on your broken heart.
And so I love that you said that we're just resting in Christ. I think that's where we find our peace in the middle of the heartbreak, because I know I have so many different times through my grieving journey. Even on the day that Bridget was born, which was the most heartbreaking day of my life, having a little cradle and my mom, putting her in the cradle and getting to love on her.
Even in that moment, I felt peace and I felt love and even joy because here I was getting to love on my daughter that I love so much. The world wouldn't understand that because I was in the middle of the worst and darkest day, but at the same time was feeling this deep, deep love and joy of I get to spend this time with my precious daughter.
And that's where that peace that surpasses all understanding comes from. And it comes from Jesus that He can sit in those really, really painful days with you. And just hold your hand and carry you through those days. And even since her birth, there's been moments like that when it came time for her due date or for her Heaven day, days that I anticipated would be so hard.
And I walked the week leading up to that day with just so much anticipatory grief, but then the day came. And there God was, I mean, why was I so surprised? But He was there and He gave me this peace and He walked through it with me. I love that your book is focused on chasing Jesus, above all things in this world.
You know, the world cannot satisfy. There's no coping mechanism apart from Christ that can really heal our hearts and give us the hope that we long for. Thank you so much for just reminding us of that truth and encouraging us to be in the Word and anchored to the hope of Christ. I'm so thankful for you just hearing your story and hearing all of the wisdom that you've learned along the way.
Alisha Illian: [00:46:47] It’s so great to talk to you, Ashley. I can talk to you all day, but it’s a pleasure for me. So thanks for having me on. And I'm just praying for all these ladies that are listening. I know God knows and He hears your prayers. He understands what you're going through and He is dependable. He loves you. He cares.
And I believe that He will turn all of our pain into a purpose that is beyond what we could possibly imagine. And we may not know right away, but I do believe He will work all things together for good. If we keep focusing on Him. If we keep abiding in Him, in anchoring in Him and His Word, He will not fail us.
And Job knew that and I was thinking about this too, Ashley, and I just want to say this real quick, cause I know we're wrapping things up, but Jesus, when His friend Lazarus died, He wept. He wept. There was grief there in His humanity, He felt pain. And if the Savior of the world, the God of the universe in human flesh needed to go through those feelings and thought it was okay to feel those things it's certainly okay, if not helpful, for us to grieve through these processes.
And I know that He feels those things with us. Yeah, because He loves us. Oh, I just want every single woman listening to know and believe that God loves you so much, so much. If you anchor yourself into anything and speak truth into your heart on any message, it is reminding yourself, we have to be rooted and grounded in the love of Christ because if we miss that, we miss everything.
So that's my prayer and my hope for every woman that's listening today, that they would remind themselves over and over again, that God is good, that He cares, and that He loves you.
Ashley Opliger: [00:48:59] Like you said, mentioning Jesus's own humanity, before He died and went through the crucifixion, He was crying and crying out to God saying, take this cup from Me.
And so, He knew the plan and He knew what good would come from the cross, but for us as humans, when we go through things, it's okay to question, it's okay to not want this to be part of our lives. But when we submit to God and we keep our eyes focused on Heaven and on that hope, He will bring good from it.
And I believe that. And I just love that Alisha, that you want to remind every mom how much they are loved and how God loves their precious little baby in Heaven and is holding them now. And that's when we say cradled in hope, I think God is cradling our babies in Heaven as He cradles us in hope on earth. And so, thank you.
Alisha Illian: [00:49:51] Thanks for having me, Ashley.
Ashley Opliger: [00:49:57] 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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