Join us for a conversation with Pastor Kerry and Chris Shook about how to grieve a grandchild and support an adult child who has lost a baby. After losing their grandson, Jude, they had to learn how to navigate grief both from the perspective of grandparents and parents. In this episode, they share how they came alongside their son and daughter-in-law and walked with them through their grief.
Kerry and Chris give practical ideas on how to show up for your children who are grieving a baby and how to navigate family traditions and holidays. They also share hope-filled lessons they learned from Jude who lived for one day on this earth. Their story will inspire us to live with intention for Jesus in memory of our babies in Heaven.
In this episode, we discussed:
What to do when you can't fix your children's pain when they've lost a baby
How to be a safe place for your child who is grieving
Seeing God work even in the middle of difficulties
Starting a Miracle Book and the impact it made on their faith
"Just for today" prayers
Honoring grandchildren in Heaven through family traditions
Special memorial ideas for the holidays
Normalizing talking about babies in Heaven and going to their graves
Learning the lesson: "Hard is not the opposite of good"
The power of vulnerability, including in the Church
About their book, The Gift of One Day
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!)
Kerry and Chris share about their Miracle Book and how they recorded, in real time, how they saw God working in the midst of their trials. Is this something that you could do, even now, in your grief? What benefit would this have on your perspective? Write down a few instances in which you've seen God work in your grief journey.
In this episode, Chris shares that the beauty of the body of Christ is that there's always someone who is up and someone who's down, and someone who's been through the same experience. God says in His Word that He uses those experiences we've had to help others. How can you use your story to help someone else?
One of the lessons that Kerry and Chris learned from Jude's life is that "Hard is not the opposite of good." What does that saying mean to you? How do you see God's goodness prevail over this season in your life?
Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest!
MEET OUR GUESTS
Kerry and Chris Shook have been married for more than thirty years and are the co-founders of Woodlands Church in The Woodlands, Texas. They are New York Times bestselling authors. Kerry is the senior pastor at Woodlands Church and his wife, Chris, is the Director of Missions.
After losing their grandson, Jude Samuel, they wrote a book called "The Gift of One Day: How to Find Hope When Lift Gets Hard."
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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 1,300 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 30: The Gift of One Day – How to Grieve a Grandchild and Support an Adult Child Who Lost a Baby with Kerry and Chris Shook
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ who founded Bridget’s Cradles, a nonprofit ministry in memory of my daughter, Bridget, who was stillborn at 24 weeks.
Cradled in Hope is a Gospel-focused podcast for grieving moms to find comfort, hope, and healing after the loss of a baby. We want this to be a safe place for your broken heart to land.
Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to heal our hearts, restore our joy, and use our grief for good. With faith in Jesus and eyes fixed on Heaven, we do not have to grieve without hope. We believe that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven.
Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:51] Friends, I am so excited to introduce our next guests, Kerry and Chris Shook. They are the Co-Founders of the Woodlands Church in The Woodlands, Texas, and they are also New York Times bestselling authors.
Kerry and Chris lost a grandson, Jude Samuel, and have walked the road of grief with their son and daughter-in-law. I'm looking forward to sharing their perspective as the grandparents with our audience of moms today.
Kerry and Chris have so much wisdom to share, and I think this would be a great episode to share with your parents or in-laws after you listen to it. They give a lot of practical ideas on how the grandparents of a baby in Heaven can support their adult children after a loss.
So let me introduce Kerry and Chris. They have been married for more than 30 years and they have four adult children and six grandchildren. Kerry is the Senior Pastor at Woodlands Church and his wife, Chris, is the Director of Missions at the church.
After the loss of their grandson, they wrote a book called The Gift of One Day: How to Find Hope When Life Gets Hard. You'll hear more about this book in this episode. So let's welcome Kerry and Chris to Cradled in Hope.
Ashley Opliger: [00:01:58] Welcome Kerry and Chris to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We're so honored to have you here today.
Chris Shook: [00:02:03] It’s great to be with you today. We've been looking forward to this.
Kerry Shook: [00:02:06] Really have; we so appreciate your ministry and how God's using it.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:10] Thank you so much. Well, you are the first couple to come on from the grandparent perspective. Your son and daughter-in-law lost their little boy in 2017, and you were grieving for your precious grandson but also for your son and your daughter-in-law. So would you share your story of losing him and what that was like as the grandparents?
Chris Shook: [00:02:36] Our son and daughter-in-law had long looked forward to having their first child, and when Josh and Kelly found out they were pregnant, our whole family, we have kind of a big family, four kids all married, so just all these soon-to-be aunts and uncles, the family all gathered around them. We were so excited, so looking forward to this.
And everything went normally until the 20-week checkup. And at that time they found out that his kidneys were not developing and that this was going to create a cascade of other issues, and that he was not expected to live very long at all past birth, that she would be able to carry him most likely to term but that he would not be able to live.
And then with that news as grandparents, to see our children just collapse, and just crying out to the Lord and hurting, and we did feel that we were grieving instantly with them over Jude, over this child, a name had been chosen, Jude Samuel.
We'd all looked forward to this event together and we'd already started as grandparents to have our own dreams and hopes and imagine what it was going to be like. And, then, to see our children grieving and at the same time, so we were grieving Jude and then grieving for our children.
At times it just felt like we couldn't breathe.
Kerry Shook: [00:03:50] Yeah.
Chris Shook: [00:03:50] It was just very difficult because as parents of any age, I think whether you're a young parent or a parent of adult children, your first knee-jerk instinct is to want to protect your kids. You want to help them, you want to save them from hurt, if there's a way you can save them from hurt.
And so there was, of course, nothing we could do to step in and help our kids, and we couldn't fix it for our grandchild. But what we could do is we could walk along with them.
Kerry Shook: [00:04:16] Yeah.
Chris Shook: [00:04:16] And just come alongside them, try to be a place that felt safe for them.
Kerry Shook: [00:04:20] And I think for me, I'm not the most emotional person, and when we heard the terrible news we were driving over to their house, and as a guy, as a granddad, it just broke my heart.
And I knew enough to know from being with a lot of people in ministry that my tendency would be to fix it. But I knew, walking through so many grieving moments with people, it's not that at all. It's just being with them and crying with them and hurting with them.
And so my mind triggered, for me, I had to like, “Okay, I want to fix this,” because you want to fix things for your kids. Yeah. I wouldn't do that ministering to someone at church. I would know better. But it clicked in, “We’ve got to find a way. We’ve got to find a way.”
And right away Chris said, “Just know that they're going to be hurting so much and all we need to do is hurt with them.” And it just flipped my mind, and so I let my heart feel what it really felt, just crushed. And we just cried with them for I don't know how long, but that's really all we did. And then we prayed,
But that started the journey for us as grandparents, and that even though there were so many different things that happened along the way, that continued to be our place of just brokenness before the Lord, seeking, praying for a miracle, looking for miracles, but just knowing that God would have to do everything because we couldn't. We weren't strong. We were weak, and we were all weak together.
Chris Shook: [00:05:41] So we cried with them and we came back home here in our own house. And that night I just was on my knees praying for them and felt like the Lord was, wanting to see Him work, longing for Him to work, and not knowing how this would turn out.
And so I grabbed a blank little journal, it's a blank notebook, and wrote down a couple verses that the Lord was leading me to. And I thought, “You know what? We are not going to miss out on seeing You work, God. I don't know what You're up to and I don’t know what this is going to look like or how this is going to go, but I'm going to believe that You are here with us. I believe Your Word. And even when it doesn't feel like [it], we're going to hold onto You.”
And so a couple days later, there was an experimental treatment out there for the condition that Jude had, and it was in another state, and so I traveled there with our son Josh and his wife Kelly.
I traveled there with them as a support role, just going along. How can I take care of practicalities while they're the only ones that could really be there for their son, but what could I do to lighten their load, get meals, or help figure things out? And so I did those kinds of mom type things, but also I started this, we called it the Miracle Book and said, “We're going to watch, and let's just see where God's going to work, where He's going to show up.”
And every day, yeah. I mean, we'd go through the day and inevitably something awesome would happen. Maybe a tech was really overly kind. Maybe there was someone who stepped in and there were so many things along the way that just helped us recognize that God was there. And every night I said, “Okay guys, what have we got for the Miracle Book?”
Kelly might say, “Oh, today,” and it wasn't really focused on something that had to do with a physical miracle, a healing of Jesus. It was just, “God, where do we see You? We need to see You. We're desperate to just see You in our lives.” And so we kept on the lookout for that. We were watching for His goodness, for Him to show up.
And I think that really helped us because it changed our focus. Still grieving, absolutely, and having such a difficult time in that, but yet focused on and determined to see, “God, I will see You at work. I'm going to trust You.” And so we did. We just stayed with that and focused on the things that we could see Him doing.
I think we would've missed a lot if we hadn’t. That's what it took for us. We had to just daily, hourly, remind ourselves to stay in a place where we're going to focus on the Lord and sing His praises. And so we did that.
Jude was born early and he did live for 24 hours. And during that time, Josh and Kelly were able to be with him and hold him. And I know everyone's story is different; this just happens to be theirs. And I was with them during that time as a grandparent, so there in the NICU with them, and I again looked for ways that I could step in and just ease the burden.
And so when hard stuff came, I would just volunteer to, “Let me do this. Let me take care of this.” There's a lot of things that many of your listeners I'm sure might relate to, just the practicalities that go along with this type of thing. And I just leaned in; where I couldn't fix anything. I just did the small things I could to try to let them know that we were standing with them.
And I think as grandparents, it's been a journey and it still is. So now we're several years out and still wanting to honor Jude, and he is part of our family and he's 100% part of our family, and to keep talking about him and keep including him, and it's been our journey. We're still on it.
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:11] Oh, well, I'm so sorry for your loss of Jude.
And I'm just amazed and so impressed with how good of grandparents and parents that you are to step in and sit in their sadness with them, because I think a lot of times people are uncomfortable sitting in sadness and like you said, want to fix it.
But in a situation that's as out of control as this, the only option is to surrender to the Lord and be present. And I love that you talked about easing their burdens and the practicalities of everything because that is a really functional, yet loving way that you can be there and say, “I'm here with you. I'm holding space. I'm going to take care of the things that might be too hard for you to take care of right now.”
For me, when I was in the hospital after we lost Bridget, my mom was the one that called the cemetery and got her casket preparations, because that was just too much as a grieving mom to make those phone calls. And so I love that you did that.
I also love the Miracle Book, that in real time, even though you were in the depths of your despair and suffering, you were looking for God and for His goodness and His faithfulness, because I think a lot of, we like to look back and we’re like, “Well, we know God was there, so let's look back and see. Where was He in these moments?”
But you were walking through that in real time, in the suffering, and that's such a beautiful reminder to think we need to be looking for God even in the moments of suffering because it's hard, but there's so much beauty in it, and to have that written down so that when they do look back, there's all of those things that they can remember.
Kerry Shook: [00:10:47] Yeah. We were really also so impressed with Josh and Kelly that even in the middle of it, and we want them to grieve and they'll always grieve, they'll never get over it, but they're getting through it with God's grace and power.
But the first thing Josh said to me when I got over to the house, he says, “Well, we know God's not surprised by this, and we're shocked, we're devastated. Yesterday everything was amazing. And today, I mean, we're just devastated, but He's already, He's in the future. He knows it all and He wasn't surprised by it. He was already grieving for us.”
And I was like, “Wow.” And so they taught us so much through the process. And one of the things Chris wrote in the Miracle Book and it just stayed with her and especially after Jude went to be with the Lord, it stayed with us and still is, it's, “Just for today. Lord.”
She would pray these ‘just for today’ prayers. “Lord, just for today, get us through this day. Give us the strength somehow”. And that was during the process, but it's become even more real in the grieving process, as, “Lord, tomorrow overwhelms us, but just for today, show us how we can honor Jude. Just for today, show us how we can be there for Kelly and Josh in this point in the grieving process.” And God always shows up just for today. Not for tomorrow, just for today.
Chris Shook: [00:12:04] Yes.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:05] He provides for our needs for today, and He has that grace and strength and power for us to get through the day. Sometimes it's minute by minute, hour by hour, but He's going to walk with us.
And I love that you also said that Jude is part of your family, and so you're going to include him. You're going to talk about him. He is part of your eternal family. You're going to get to see him again. I love that you're honoring him on earth.
And sometimes when I'm in support groups, a lot of times it's really hurtful when family members don't include their baby in Heaven during the holidays, maybe for a Christmas or Thanksgiving meal, there's not a mention of their baby, and that can be very hurtful. So would you share some practical ways that you honor Jude in your family and maybe some encouragement to other grandparents that are walking through [this]?
Chris Shook: [00:12:51] Sure. I think that as grandparents, we're all going to find some unique ways, just like I think it's beautiful that your mom found this way because she's good at sewing and that she was able to do that and look what, the miracle, what a blessing it's been to so, so many.
Something we have done, we are authors and out of this process, that's something that we did together was to write The Gift of One Day, recognizing this is a gift. Jude’s story's a good one. But God is still using, He uses all of us. We hope that no matter how many days [we have], He will use us and that He has used Bridget and continues to greatly.
And how many people can say they've touched as many thousands of lives as Bridget? So the first thing is, I’d say that whatever unique way that grandparents have, that they may find something within that to honor their grandchild.
Jude was born and went to be with the Lord in January and one of the first things I did is I got him a Christmas stocking. So we have several grandchildren and we get these neat stockings made. And so I had one made for him with his name embroidered on it, and of course it's always there at Christmas.
And then that's just like with each holiday there's little things we can add. But I think the number one thing probably is a more daily thing, which is speaking his name commonly.
It’s a common thing, Jude, for all of our grandchildren, and of course none of them were able to meet Jude. They're either younger or the ones that are older, but since he never left the hospital, they didn't get to meet him.
But everyone knows Jude. We have his pictures and we all have pictures of him in our homes. And we talk about him and when we pray, “God thank You for Jude,” he’s always right there, right in the lineup, right with everybody else.
And we talk about when we'll get to see him. We don't discourage those questions. We just look at that as an opportunity-
Kerry Shook: [00:14:39] Yeah,
Chris Shook: [00:14:39] … to talk. One thing that's meant a lot, I think, to Josh and Kelly, is that the cemetery, we're thankful and blessed to get to live in the same area as them, that wouldn’t be true for some grandparents, but since we are close by, that's something that we do. We go to the cemetery either with them or separately and get flowers and put them there.
And so we're several years out now, but that's not such a scary thing or a hard thing. It's more of a like, “Wow, isn't God good?” I’m, “Wow. I cannot wait to see that boy again.”
And of course there are hard parts of it, and it’s not diminishing that at all. but we're able to talk about the good stuff too.
Kerry Shook: [00:15:16] Yeah. I think, too, we've been sensitive to Josh and Kelly. Any little thoughts they have on, “Maybe we should do …”
“Yes, you should. How would you want to do it?” Every year we have a birthday party for Jude, and what they wanted to do was to give gifts, toys to all the kids from Jude, all the grandkids. So the grandkids look so forward to Jude's birthday and we celebrate. Yeah, and it's so joyful. And that's what Josh and Kelly wanted.
Now, if it had been something different, if they wanted a time of real reverence and just to share together with just us or a few of their friends, we pray together and cry together, then that would've been what we would've done because it's all about everybody grieves differently.
And so it's not about what we think would be great for them or even how we would grieve. It's about what they would want. And there's different things for different seasons, and one of the big things was they wanted to honor him in different ways to make a difference, just as you've honored Bridget and the Lord by doing the ministry you're doing.
And so even just little things that they've come up with to honor him so that they can see that he's making a difference in others' lives has been so important. That's not the thing that we've come in to talk to them about. We do now. When they do something, we talk about, “Wow, can you believe what God is doing through Jude?” But our job was just to be there for them and not to tell them anything about, “Oh, God's going to really use Jude and he's going to change the world.”
We believe that, but that's not our job. It’s to grieve with them. Instead of saying, “Oh, this is so great. Look what God's going to do,” it's just to be there for them and then be so thankful with them when they see God using Jude in some way.
Chris Shook: [00:16:56] There's a few times they come up, and we can predict them now, that always we especially feel the missing of Jude. One is family pictures.
Once a year or so we'll all get together and do a big family picture, an extended family picture. And it's really important, I think, to them to be able to verbalize that and say, “Wow, I sure wish Jude was in this picture.”
And it's not a big sad thing where we all start crying. It's just a recognition that, yes, we know, we recognize that this really isn't complete. We live in a broken world and someday in a perfect place, we will all be together. But right now we're missing him,” and just being able to say that.
Or if there's a family vacation, something that the cousins, everybody's all together, you can't help but think, “Wow, we miss him.” And just being able to say that and talk about it I think has been really helpful.
Kerry Shook: [00:17:43] I think we had a friend early on who lost a little one and they said, “Start talking about Jude right away because it gets harder if you wait.”
And so we're so grateful for that advice because right away, and Josh and Kelly would've done it anyway, and I think we would awaken to it with them, but it just helped us knowing that.
And I know that if we just learned that today, then we would step out of our comfort zone with God's power. It'd be harder, but we'd step out of our comfort zone with them and start talking and then see how they wanted to do it, because I know a lot of people in our church, when we started talking about Jude, it really helped them.
And really, there's a lot of things that broke through with people that were able to cry, thinking that, “Well, other people have it tougher,” because maybe they've lost a loved one, a husband or wife or a teenager died in an accident or something. But all grief is different, but all grief hurts desperately, and it's your little one.
And so, but they felt like it was just a terrible lie that Satan puts on them that, “I shouldn't grieve this. I should move on.” And it's going to come out in some awful way, but to just be able to find, “Yes, I was right. I'm hurting,” which really set a lot of people free.
Chris Shook: [00:18:56] The one last thing that’s been helpful, or Josh and Kelly have told us it's helpful, is that at Christmas when, of course as grandparents, we're getting gifts for the grandchildren, that starting that first year the amount that we would've spent for Jude, love all our grandchildren equally and spend the same-
Kerry Shook: [00:19143] Tried to.
Chris Shook: [00:19:13] … amount on them, but the amount we would've spent for Jude we asked Josh and Kelly, we said, “If you could take this money and, and give it to someone in some way, whatever that looks like for you to share Jude's love, we are thinking of him this Christmas and we want to want you to know that.”
And again, as Kerry said, it's trying to support Josh and Kelly, but trying to help them. And so I remember that first Christmas, there was someone that we knew of through church who was a veteran serving overseas that Christmas. And his wife was here with her three young children while he's serving overseas. And so they put together a care package and sent one to the soldier who was overseas and then they got some things together also for the kids for gifts.
And where that came from is that Christmas, right before Jude was born, we were out of state in the hospital and were so grateful for just any sign of God's love, and so just finding someone who needs a little extra love that Christmas.
And again, that may not look the same for another family, but it's something that Josh and Kelly are able to hold onto, just planning traditions around Jude, I guess, has been helpful in our family and continues to be, and it's made Heaven more real.
A side note, for our young grandchildren, a lot of grandchildren, they're all under seven years old and it's made Heaven real. Now they see that picture of Jude and know he is a real person and that he is in a real place and that we will see him again. And it's given us a lot of great opportunities to talk about Jesus and Heaven and things that are hard to conceptualize.
Ashley Opliger: [00:20:38] It is. It's such a blessing. I feel that same way with my little boys being able to talk about Bridget and the hope of Heaven. It makes life and death so much more real. They were raised going to a cemetery, which as a young child myself, I never went to a cemetery when I was young. But it's been normalized and Heaven is so real.
And it is a gift to your living grandchildren to know that Jude is there and to look forward to getting to meet him and play with him there. There's so many beautiful ways that your family has chosen to honor Jude, and I love that.
And Kerry, you said that you listen and want to honor and respect how they grieve. And I think that's so important because we do grieve differently. And sometimes it's kind of like the love language thing.
Kerry Shook: [00:21:22] Yeah.
Ashley Opliger: [00:21:22] Sometimes we love the way we want to be loved, but we don't necessarily love people the way they want to be loved. And the same is true in grief.
And so I love that you’re showing Josh and Kelly your love and supporting them in the ways that they need to be supported, and that you have so much communication wrapped around that.
You're listening to them, you're sitting with them in their sadness, and then you're also using your grief for good, that Jude's life, although his loss was sad and heartbreaking for your family, that you're making his life be joyous. You're giving gifts in memory of him to other grandchildren and using it to donate to other causes and people in need.
That's so, so beautiful and I love that because, I think that's how Jude is honored and our babies are honored when we use their life for good. I don't think God wants us to have our lives and our baby's lives be marked by perpetual sadness. We are supposed to grieve and we are grieving, but yet we want to grieve with hope.
And so would you share from your book The Gift of One Day: How to Find Hope When Life Gets Hard, you have 14 life-altering truths in hopes that readers will live each day with intention. So will you share some of those key takeaways from the book that you wrote in memory of Jude?
Chris Shook: [00:22:41] I think that one of the biggest ones is, Kerry had mentioned it, I think it bears mentioning again, it's ‘just for today’, and that has become a lifestyle for us. But not only during the process of when things were hard, when we were out of state and in this time of waiting for Jude to be born, but in the days right after and in the months after, and now the years.
It has changed our lives that we can only stay in this day we're in. Just for today. You don't have to worry about, “How will we ever make it through tomorrow,” because that's just too big.
I mean, we were in a place, a lot of times it was not just for a day, it was, “Lord, just this hour, Please just get us through this hour. Just let us honor You this hour.” But it's become something that's really permeated our lives and it also hugely helped us just walk those hard days, especially early on.
Kerry Shook: [00:23:29] Yeah, and really, it's all lessons from Jude. We almost titled the book Lessons From Jude because it really just hit us that in 24 hours, this little one taught us so much about how we're to live the rest of our life.
And he really just did God's will for 24 hours, and look how God is using him. And he just did God's will. He breathed, God wanted him to breathe for 24 hours. And we don't understand why it wasn't a lot more, and I've had so many days I've wasted, but it's really helped us be more intentional with our lives.
And I think Chris, she wrote one of these lessons in her Miracle Book, but one of the ones that really stays with us is, “Hard is Not the Opposite of Good”. And we say it all the time that this is really hard, and life can be really hard and really hurtful, but it's not the opposite of good. God's goodness prevails.
And Chris gave an example in the book of a gentleman we work with who's an agricultural scientist and he worked with us in Africa to plant the farmer's field schools and the right seed and all these things.
And so we do ministry in Haiti and Chris took him to Haiti to see if he could set it up there so that we could really do something sustainable there. And he looked at the ground we'd been given and it was really rocky, and Chris was thinking, “This is probably not going to work. This land is really bad and it's just rocky and awful.”
His name is Dr. Apollo and he rides a motorcycle and he is a brilliant African man that we love so much. But he looked at Chris and he said, “Of course it's good. It's what the Lord gave us. So we work with what He gave us and so it has to be good because it comes from God.”
And we just think back on that many times, when we're facing something that's hard, it's like, “Well, this is what the Lord gave us. So we may not see it right now, but it is good.” And God's using that land in Haiti to produce a lot of crops.
Ashley Opliger: [00:25:25] Wow, that is amazing! And it's all about perspective, isn't it?
Kerry Shook: [00:25:29] Yeah.
Ashley Opliger: [00:25:20] The way we choose to look at it, because I think both your story and my story, and so many of the moms that are listening to this right now, your story can go both ways.
I know we talked about this before we recorded, but we can choose to use this tragedy and lean into God and have it strengthen our faith and be in His Word and have the hope of Heaven. Or we can turn away from God and be like, “Okay, God, You rejected me. You abandoned me. I don't see You in this, so I'm going to turn to my own coping mechanisms.”
But then we're left without hope because what hope do we have apart from Christ? And so would you share how this experience has strengthened your faith and strengthened your family because Jude has made such an impact, all the lessons that he's taught you?
Chris Shook: [00:26:13] Yeah. Well, I think the easy thing for all of us, our default as humans is, “Well, I've got to see it to believe it.” Seeing is believing.
Through this journey, we all learned the lesson by having to walk it, that believing is seeing, but it's the opposite. It's that as we believe things, we get to see them. And as we kept an eye out for seeing God at work, we saw Him at work. We were able to see Him.
There were so many times in inexplicable ways that strangers were so kind. And they didn't know anything about our story. It wasn't that they knew, “Oh, this …” I mean, I'm talking about whether it was a barista at Starbucks or someone parking cars at the hospital, but seeing the individual, specific ways that God would use to just show His loving kindness and care and the things that would work out.
Trusting Him, there is something that I can't explain about that. It's the way God works. I couldn't have made it up. I couldn't have written this story the way it went. But God, as we trust Him, as we look for Him, and as we say, “God, this is hard and I hate this. I never would've chosen this ever, but yet I see You at work. I may not be seeing the thing that I would like, the script the way I would like to write it out, but yet I see You at work, God.” And that has been life changing for us.
Kerry Shook: [00:27:32] And it's interesting because we really believed God was going to heal Jude, that God led us to the experimental treatment. We had no idea about it, and it was just a miracle. And so through the process, we prayed every day, we sought the Lord every day, we surrendered it to God. We'd know that God doesn't heal everyone and it's not about the amount of our faith. And so we know that in our theology. But we did expect God to heal, that He could come through.
And Josh has told us many times that the first time it hit him that God was not going to do the miracle the way we wanted was when Jude's heart rate started going down. And he prayed and prayed, “God, you’ve got to bring this back,” and his breathing rate going down and Josh holding him. And then it was real disorienting, but Josh went back to his love of Jesus and Jesus’ love of him, and just said, “I don't feel this. I don't understand. I'm in shock, but God, I know You're good”.
And I think that I saw in our lives and in this whole situation since, there was a sliver of hope. And I know that sometimes it's like you're in denial, but when all the medical community says, “No hope,” but the medical community said there was a sliver of hope. And we believe that all these treatments, from what the doctors told us, gave us that 24 hours, which we're so grateful [for].
But I just want to encourage listeners that it's okay to believe that God's going to come through in the way you want Him to. And as long as we always go, “But God, it's in Your hands because You can do anything.”
And in that thing, God took care of us. There was a wonderful Christian doctor who, and I think you almost have to be a Christ follower to do the treatments they were doing because otherwise it's like, “Why would you bother? There’s hardly any hope. Let's spend all this money.”
Medically, the doctors and all this research that they were doing, and the program was experimental, so the burden wasn't on us financially. And so why would you do that other than that you believe in the sanctity of life and every child is a gift from God.
And so as we went through it, one of the doctors who was so amazing, he was a little worried that we might be really crushed in our faith [especially] Josh. And so he talked to him about it and Josh really appreciated it. But afterward, Josh said, “I've got to go see this doctor because I want him to know it didn't crush my faith at all, it strengthened my faith.”
And so the next day he went, and also wanted to thank him because of what he was doing. It meant so much to us. But I think it's okay to believe God can do this miracle. Just be surrendered that God is good all the time.
And then it's okay to get mad at God. I know Josh journaled a lot about, “God, I'm so mad. I don't get it. But You're good.” It's always turning to grieve with such hope. We'll all be in Heaven soon anyway and that's what it's all about. And Josh said, “We have no less days with Jude because we have all eternity. And I don't feel it right now, but I'm claiming it because I know it’s true.”
Ashley Opliger: [00:30:33] Yeah, thousands and thousands of years. I don't think our human minds can fully wrap around eternity.
And we were talking about that at support group last night. I think that's sometimes so hard for us because we just see it in terms of a human lifetime. We don't understand how the time that we had with our babies on earth, it was such a blip and a vapor in the grand scheme of eternity.
And we're going to get to spend [a] thousand years and then after that another thousand years, and it's just never going to end. And we can't conceptualize that.
And I think if we could, we wouldn't be so sad because we know what's coming is so much better than what we had here on earth. And even our lives are but a vapor. And just like your book says, The Gift of One Day, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. So we do have to live each day with intention and trust God and have that faith and hope of Heaven.
Ashley Opliger: [00:31:23] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We want to take a quick break to tell you about some resources our ministry provides to grieving moms.
On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find hope-filled resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, featured stories, and recommended books and other organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays.
In addition, every month I lead 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.
Lastly, we would 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. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find community. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name. Now let’s get back to our episode.
Ashley Opliger: [00:32:32] I do want to ask you a question as well about you being pastors at the Woodlands Church in Texas because in your ministry role, you are primarily taking care of your flock and taking care of the needs when they're going through difficult times, and ministering to them when there's deaths and illnesses and things, but now you were, your family was going through a difficult time.
How did your congregation react when it was you going through it? And also if you could share maybe some of the things that they did well to care and love for you.
Kerry Shook: [00:33:03] Yeah, I think it felt really strange to us to be the ones being taken care of, that we needed to be taken care of.
And the church was so gracious. At first, I know I wanted to put on the faith thing, “We're okay, we're okay,” because it's not so much that we believe God's always going to do something we want the way we want it, but it was just, I felt like I needed to be strong. I'm supposed to be strong for these guys.
But it really grew the congregation so much when they saw us through this whole thing, not knowing how it was going to turn out, and they saw us be very vulnerable, be scared and hurt and all those things.
And the day Jude went to be with the Lord, he was born on a Saturday and we have Saturday night service, so I announced Saturday night [that] Jude was born and, “Really pray for him because it's very critical.” And so everybody cheered that Jude was born and then, but they were very somber too about praying.
And then the next afternoon he went to be with the Lord, but he started going down right before the last service, and I had to tell everybody that, “It looks like Jude is going to be with the Lord, but really pray for Josh and Kelly.” And then it was a totally different reaction from one day to the next then, but they walked with us through all of this.
And I remember one dear woman, while it was going on before, she said, “I've never seen your family go through, I've seen a lot of things God’s done for y'all that are miracles, but I've never seen you go through where God didn't just do this amazing miracle and I'm just concerned.”
And I said, “Oh, we know God will do it however He wants and we're grieving already, but just pray for us. We need prayer because I don't know how we're going to handle this, that we need the Lord.” And our congregation just let us be us and grieve the way we needed to. And I think they've done that for Josh and Kelly.
Chris Shook: [00:34:42] Yeah, definitely. It was something that, when something hurts so deeply, the first thing you want to do is shut the whole world out and deal with it on your own. It's too big, you can’t even talk about it.
And we, from the start, and it was I think a good thing, we didn't have that option really, felt like, “This is so big that we don't feel like talking to anybody else, but yet also so big that …”
And so we just said, “This is what's going on,” and gave updates and people were so, so gracious. When we had Jude's Celebration of Life service, so many people came that we didn't know, just who had followed Jude's story and had been praying and just to show support. And I know that meant a lot to Josh and Kelly as well.
So I think as pastors, it's been very good for us. It's been good to be on the other side of the fence. Not that we haven't always had hard things in our lives, but being on the side of actually needing to share that and open up and not just be the strong ones, but be willing to be the weak ones.
And so yeah, we are devastated. And that's the beauty of the body of Christ, is there's always someone who's up and someone's down, or someone who's been through the same experience. And God says in His Word that He uses those experiences we've had to help others. Right?
And look at this beautiful ministry that you have created through the hard stuff that you've walked through and continue to, and so using it and still using it, I think, for good. And it's been a lesson that we couldn't have read in a book. It's something that He just taught it bone deep to us.
Kerry Shook: [00:36:15] Yeah, we wish we could have just read it in a book.
Chris Shook: [00:36:15] Yeah!
Kerry Shook: [00:36:11] But we look back and we grieve, and Josh and Kelly, they grieve and we want to take their hurt away from them, but the whole purpose comes from the pain.
And we don't understand it totally, but it is so comforting to know that God's allowed us to see purpose. And that wasn't what it was about at first, but now it seems that that really brings a lot of comfort for us, that purpose from the pain.
Chris Shook: [00:36:41] We titled the book The Gift of One Day, and that sums up the viewpoint that He's given us, which is instead of thinking, “Lord, why didn't we have years? Why? This wasn't supposed to go like this. Why didn't we have years?” It's realizing that, “Wow, we had a day, a whole day. What a gift! The undeserved gift.” We never in our lifetimes could have worked at the gift of getting to be Jude's grandparents, of getting to look forward to meeting him again.
And so whether listeners were able to spend time with their child or not, it doesn't matter; either way, this is a child in Heaven. This is a child to look forward to. Our time on earth, long or short, isn't the point. It's the gift that we have to look forward to. And that's really strengthened us for the days ahead.
Ashley Opliger: [00:37:28] It’s a temporary separation. And so the gift of one day is the gift of eternity because if he didn't live that day, then you wouldn't have a grandson waiting for you in Heaven. And-
Chris Shook: [00:37:39] That's right.
Ashley Opliger: [00:37:39] … that’s the perspective that we hope to share with our listeners and I know that you're sharing as well, because that's the only hope that we have, is knowing that Jesus holds our babies and cradles them in Heaven as we are cradled in hope on earth.
And so I love that your congregation had the opportunity to see that your faith is real, that you're preaching about the Gospel and Jesus on Sundays, but that you're actually walking through the depths of sorrow with your family and your faith is real, that you believe it.
And I think that's a really powerful testimony for your congregation to see their pastors still believing, still having hope, even in the dark times, that you trust Jesus through that, and it's a powerful testimony.
Also, I think what you said about just opening up and being vulnerable, I think when we're vulnerable with others, people feel that they can be vulnerable back with us and share their hearts and their pain, and that fosters relationships and community and fellowship. And so I'm sure it just really deepened your relationships at your church.
Kerry Shook: [00:38:38] Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ashley Opliger: [00:37:39] And it's amazing to see what God has done through Jude’s life. He's touched so many people, and I'm so grateful for this book that you have written in his memory. We are going to be linking that in our Hope Guide and on our blog for listeners to go find that. Would you also share where that is sold and where people can find you on social media?
Chris Shook: [00:38:58] Well, there's giftofoneday.org and then the book can be found anywhere books are sold, so yeah.
And yeah, we're so grateful for Jude. And one of the things that's so cool, when we talked about it at church, so many women, so many couples came forward to say, “For the first time, I'm talking about my little one who's in Heaven. We haven't talked about our little girl, our little boy for years, because we didn't think we were supposed to, or no one understood. We're all alone. Now we're not alone.”
It just keeps happening over and over again, just as you’ve found and as you talked about Bridget, how now thousands upon thousands are being able to talk about and celebrate in joy their little one who's in Heaven.
Chris Shook: [00:39:50] Yeah, and it takes someone being brave and stepping into that. And so I think a lot of times people stay quiet because they're not sure how they'll be received, or they think, “Everybody seems to be happy here, so I don't want to bring up something that might make people sad.”
I think just as you mentioned with your children, normalizing going to the cemetery, which is what we've done as well, it's just like it's a normal thing. By normalizing being able to bring that up and even if they think it's going to feel awkward, and it might the first few times, knowing that it is a gift, that guaranteed it is a gift, there'll be someone they come across who has never spoken about a child of their own or a grandchild of their own.
They've never felt there was any safe place to talk about them. And it's such a gift to be the one to be brave enough to open up that conversation.
Ashley Opliger: [00:40:36] Yeah. Well, we're so grateful for your time here today, and so we would love for you to say a prayer for all of our listeners.
Kerry Shook: [00:40:42]
Dear Lord, we just thank You for Your love for us. We thank You that You are good. And Lord, we know that each and every day You give us Your strength and Your power when we are weak. When we feel like we can't make it another day. Lord, You give us one more day of grace and peace and strength and purpose. And Lord, we thank You for our little ones that are with You, and we thank You that we'll all be together again, reunited because of the gift of Heaven through Your Son, Jesus Christ.
And Lord, we pray that for Chris and I, that we would continue to live our lives in a different way because of Jude and the lessons that he taught us in that one day. And I pray, Lord Jesus, You continue to help grandparents just have wisdom to walk through hurt with their kids. When you feel that double hurt, Lord, and when you feel like you can't do anything. Lord, give them the strength that they need.
And we thank You for all the men and women out there who are grieving, Lord, because we don't grieve without hope. And Lord, there's something about the broken hearted that brings You so near and You're nearer to them ever before. Let them know that, Lord. Just bring them Your comfort and strength and a joy that the world can't explain. For it's in Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
Chris Shook: [00:41:56] Amen.
Ashley Opliger: [00:41:58] Thank you, Kerry and Chris, so much for being here.
Kerry Shook: [00:42:01] Oh, we just so enjoyed it. Thank you for what you're doing and the ministry that you have.
Chris Shook: [00:42:05] Yes, we appreciate what you do so, so much. And we pray that the Lord uses it in fresh new ways every month, every year, to continue to reach the hearts of hurting people.
Ashley Opliger: [00:42:17] Thank you.
Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes when they release 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 also download a free PDF for each episode, called the Hope Guide, which 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 help is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or the Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the minute of your time as a way YOU can personally share the hope that you’ve found here with another 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.
Cradled in Hope is part of the Edifi Podcast Network, a collection of faith-inspiring podcasts on Edifi, the world’s most powerful Christian podcasting app. To listen to Cradled in Hope and find other podcasts by leading Christian voices, download the Edifi app in the Apple and Google Play stores or online at edifi.app. Thank you so much for listening.
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