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Episode 34 - Redemption in Our Marriage and Family after Losing our Daughter with Steve & Heather

Join us for a conversation with Steve and Heather Colvin about how the Lord brought healing and redemption to their family after losing their daughter, AnnaJoy.

Through a testimony of radical transformation in their marriage after AnnaJoy passed away, Steve and Heather founded a nonprofit ministry called AJ's Place: A Foundation of Hope. They help families afford memorial stones for their babies who have gone to Heaven too soon.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • How the Lord wants you in complete freedom in your healing

  • The lies we believe when we are grieving

  • Satan and how he exploits our trauma and loss against us

  • How can God be good if He doesn't seem to be good to me?

  • Looking for God's promises and miracles in the midst of the pain

  • Feelings of bitterness and resentment around other babies

  • How to focus on the season you're in and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus

  • Different ways to handle being invited to a baby shower

  • Humility and repentance in marriage

  • Putting your spouse's needs first and asking what they need in their grief

  • Healing and redemption through foster care and adoption

  • Why they call AnnaJoy's grave her "place" and how their ministry started

  • The importance of memorial stones and how AJ's Place can help you if cost is prohibiting you from getting one for your baby in Heaven

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!)

  1. Steve and Heather talk about how they believe that the Lord wanted complete freedom and healing after losing AnnaJoy. But it was a painful process of reliving trauma and exposing lies they were believing. What obstacles stand in the way of you finding complete freedom in your healing? What aspects of your trauma keep you stuck? List some ways you can keep your gaze fixed on Jesus.

  2. In this episode, Steve and Heather vulnerably share that they were having marriage difficulties for the first few years trying to grieve their daughter. But it took a moment of humility and repentance to bring transformation in their marriage. What did you learn from this? What would repentance and grace look like in your marriage?

  3. We talk about baby showers and pregnancy announcements in this episode and how it can be triggering in your grief. Yet, Ashley shares that God didn't want her to have bitterness in her heart when others received the gift of life. What is the state of your heart, and how can you release your pain and resentment to God? Journal your feelings in a notebook.

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Steve and Heather Colvin have been married for 25 years and live in Mount Vernon, Washington. They have ten children, three living with them currently, four who were foster kids, and one daughter in Heaven, AnnaJoy who was born at 27 weeks in 2014.

Steve and Heather founded the ministry, AJ's Place: A Foundation of Hope, in memory of AnnaJoy which helps grieving families afford memorial stones for their babies in Heaven.



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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.

Connect with Ashley:

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Instagram @ashleyopliger

Pinterest /ashleyopliger

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Facebook /bridgetscradles

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Episode 34: Redemption in our Marriage and Family after Losing our Daughter with Steve & Heather Colvin

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] Hi friends, and welcome back to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. You may have noticed that we didn't release an episode this past month on the 15th like we normally do. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the episode you're about to listen to ready to release in the normal two-week turnaround time, and therefore, it's being released today.

The truth is that right now, I am having a hard time keeping up with everything on my plate due to some life circumstances that have been all-consuming the past few months.

I have briefly mentioned our son's medical issues in the past, but I would like to share more of what our family has been going through so you can understand why we are having to make the decision to make our podcast a once-monthly podcast for the rest of this year.

Before I do, I want to offer a trigger warning here that I am about to briefly talk about my living son for a few minutes before we start the episode and our conversation about pregnancy loss and grief.

Our two-year-old son, Brenner, was diagnosed with a rare GI immune disorder called FPIES, which stands for Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, and he was diagnosed at nine months old after having an extreme reaction to eating egg.

He went blue and limp and profusely vomited and had diarrhea until it was all out of his system. It was so scary, but after getting rehydrated and removing egg from his diet, he did improve after that reaction. But he continued to have vomiting several times a month that we couldn't really pinpoint the cause as well as other GI issues.

Right now, he is currently dairy, egg, peanut, chicken, turkey, and soy, corn, and pea protein-free, which makes his diet incredibly restrictive. And to add to that, he has sensory issues to different textures of food. So due to his diet and feeding issues, he has struggled to gain weight and consume enough calories.

He went from being 50th percentile in weight as a baby when he was born and at three months old to only 5% at one-year-old, and then he completely fell off the growth chart over the last couple of months.

This has been incredibly stressful and worrisome for my husband and I. We have, for the past year, done everything we could do to help him eat and grow. He is seen twice weekly for feeding therapy with a Speech Pathologist, one time in our home each week and then once in an outpatient setting.

He's also followed by multiple GI doctors, both here in Wichita and Children's Mercy in Kansas City. He has a pediatric allergist, an endocrinologist, a geneticist, many other doctors that we've seen, trying to figure out what we can do to help him grow.

He's had almost every GI procedure you can imagine, a scope, gastric emptying test, upper GI radiology test, abdominal ultrasound, and so many pricks to get lab work done, stool and urine tests, et cetera. There have just been so many things we've been trying to do to figure out what all is going on with his GI system.

Recently we have him on a special hypoallergenic formula that breaks the food proteins down into amino acids so that his sensitive gut can tolerate it. And then he is also on certain vitamin and iron supplements to help with the deficiencies from his restrictive diet.

We are working with a dietitian and counting all of his calories to hit daily calorie goals and weekly weight gain goals, and we're also tracking all of his food intake to see if we can identify further foods that are bothering his GI system.

So needless to say, this diagnosis has been very challenging for Brenner and myself and our family, but the prognosis is actually very promising because most kids do outgrow FPIES by age five, and so we are praying with all our might that this will be the case for Brenner. I'm praying that the Lord will heal him from this and let him one day be able to eat all of the foods and not have to struggle with this condition for the rest of his life.

So all that to be said, and I know I shared a lot of details, and I struggled with how much to share on this episode in giving you an update and how many details to share, but I really wanted to be forthcoming with what's going on in my life and why in this season I am unable to produce twice monthly episodes.

So it really breaks my heart because I love making these episodes and sharing the hope of Christ with you. But right now, Brenner needs me, and this is the season God has me in. I don't fully understand, but this is what God has for me as part of my story and part of Brenner's story. And I know that one day He's going to use it for good and use it for my testimony and for his testimony.

And so I also wanted you to know that I am still completely committed to my role as Executive Director of Bridget’s Cradles, and I am still serving in the same capacity there, but I just have reduced time to commit to the podcast because the podcast has always been an extra commitment of time that I reserve to this particular part of the ministry.

But Lord willing, when I am able and things are more stable with Brenner, I will be able to do more episodes in the year. So for now, I'm going to just commit to once a month and see if I can do that. And I really thank you so much for your understanding, and I would appreciate your prayers for Brenner and our family when you think of us.

I also want to say that though this trial has been incredibly difficult, it has been another opportunity for me to lean on the faithfulness of God. He has carried me through so many other struggles and so much grief in the past, and He will carry me through this.

So though there have been many days and nights in the past few months that have felt very dark and hopeless, so many worries have swirled through my head, and so many times I've wondered if this will get better, but I have not once doubted God's goodness, and I know He is here with me, still waiting on this miracle, and we're waiting on healing for Brenner, but I want to publicly say that I believe He is good right here, right now, in the middle of this storm.

So friend, please let me tell you that I'm here with you in the trenches of grief, pain, sadness, loss, and I know He is with you too. Don't ever forget that. Don't ever lose hope. Know that I am continuing to pray for you, and I'm standing on God's faithfulness and believing that He will carry you through.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to the founders of AJ's Place, Steve and Heather Colvin. Steve and Heather have been married for 25 years and live in Mount Vernon, Washington. They have 10 children, three living with them currently, four who were foster kids, and one daughter in Heaven. AnnaJoy, who was born at 27 weeks in 2014.

Steve and Heather founded the nonprofit ministry, AJ's Place in memory of AnnaJoy. I am so excited for you to learn more about their ministry and their beautiful story of redemption in their marriage and in their family. Let's welcome Steve and Heather to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.

Ashley Opliger: [00:07:36] Welcome, Steve and Heather, to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We're so grateful that you're here, and we're excited for everyone to hear your story and also your beautiful ministry, AJ's Place. So would you introduce yourselves?

Heather Colvin: [00:07:48] Hi. Thank you for having us. We're Steve and Heather. We live about an hour north of Seattle, and I am a former teacher, now a homeschool mom. And I'll let Steve introduce himself.

Steve Colvin: [00:08:01] Hi, thanks again for having us, and I drive a wheelchair van part-time, and then I work with our nonprofit, AJ's Place, part-time.

Ashley Opliger: [00:08:08] Amazing. And we're going to get into your story of how AJ's Place came to be, but it started with your beautiful little girl, AnnaJoy, who was born at 27 weeks in 2014. So would you share her story with us now?

Steve Colvin: [00:08:25] Yeah. So we were believing for another baby. We had our oldest daughter in 2004, and in about 2006, we started trying for another child. And so we'd been believing for AnnaJoy for about eight years.

And once we found out that we were pregnant, we were super excited, and we shared the news with our oldest, and of course, she was super excited. She was born to have siblings, and it was something that she couldn't wait for; she was really looking forward to it.

So we found out in January, and by about April or so, we noticed there were some things that were not quite right with Heather, and then in May, she ended up going into the hospital to get diagnosed and to see what was exactly going on.

Heather Colvin: [00:09:12] They diagnosed me with something called HELLP syndrome, which I had never heard of, but it's a liver disorder with pregnancy, and at first, I was just going to be on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy.

Then once they diagnosed me with HELLP syndrome, it was a clotting disorder, and because I needed to be a C-section, they said, “We have to deliver her today,” so it was kind of a whirlwind.

We also were fostering at the time, so we had our foster son, and dealing with the state and all of those types of things all at the same time. And I was at total peace. I was believing, “This is our miracle baby. We've been believing for her for eight years. The Lord answered our prayers. She is going to be a testimony.”

I was at complete peace, and I actually didn't even realize how sick I was. I ended up having to have two blood transfusions after delivery. And they actually also, backing up, they had to knock me out. I thought Steve was going to get to be in the operating room with me, and he wasn't because they couldn't get lines in. The epidural wasn't working, everything was crashing, and it was really difficult. So then I was completely knocked out, and then I'll let Steve take over what was happening.

Steve Colvin: [00:10:24] She was born on June 9th, 2014, and I was in the hospital in the waiting room. We had some friends and family with us there because I wasn't able to be in the operating room, and they, [crying softly] sorry, I didn't recognize the magnitude of what was going on.

And I mean, we were excited. We knew she was early. We knew that there was complications with Heather, but we just didn't fully process everything, I suppose. And anyway, I was back in the waiting room, and then the code blue alarms went off, and I instantly knew that they were headed to the operating room where my wife and daughter were.

And I ran down the hall towards where they were going. I saw them flood into that operating room. And then a moment later, somebody came out, and they said my wife was fine. They said, “Heather's fine, but it's the baby.” And when she came out, she wasn't breathing. They got her to be breathing again, but they said that they're going to have to work on her, and then they'll keep me updated.

So they brought me to a room across the hallway, and there I just sat and prayed. But then what seemed like forever, they came in, and they said, “Okay, we've got her stable, and they're going to bring her down to the NICU in just a little bit,” that I'd be able to see my daughter in a few minutes.

So then I went back out to the waiting room, and I was able to grab our oldest daughter, Lydia, who was out there with our friends and family, and was able to bring her into the hallway with me outside of the operating room. And when they wheeled AnnaJoy out in an incubator, we were able to see her for a brief moment, and that would be the only time that Lydia ever got to see her baby sister.

So then I was waiting for Heather to wake up in recovery so that I can tell her everything that's going on.

Heather Colvin: [00:12:30] So I didn't see AnnaJoy. We think, it's always a blur, but I don't think I got to see her for a couple of days because of recovery.

But we did get to go down and see her together, and we had some really sweet visits together, so that was awesome. And then she would go to rounds, and in the NICU, she's doing well, and she's stable.

I delivered on a Monday, and so that Saturday, I was sent home, and we were like, “Okay, this is going to be a new normal for us, and we're going to figure out the NICU, and we have to figure out our bigger kiddos and all the things.” So we went home at total peace about AnnaJoy, and I am just going to pause.

I had a son when I was 17 and gave him up for adoption, really neat, cool Jesus story, redemption. We have relationship, all of us, his whole family and our whole family, so it's a beautiful story. He was born at 29 weeks gestation in 1993. I was fully toxic with him and eclampsia, and he was a miracle baby. So I think that also played into having no doubts that AnnaJoy would make it this many years later. So that was part of it.

And so, getting back, the next day was Father's Day, and we were going down to the hospital. We also hadn't told anyone AnnaJoy's middle name because AnnaJoy is her first name, which we had gotten from the Lord. He'd given us her name, which means prophet of joy, during a really hard time.

Before we'd even conceived, the Lord gave us her name because my mom had a traumatic brain injury, and I was grieving that, and then the Lord started speaking to hope and speaking, “You will have a daughter, and her name is AnnaJoy.”

And so back to Father's Day, we were super excited to bring our daughter's namesake. They didn't know, we were going to tell them that her middle name was our pastor's wife's, her first name was going to be our daughter's middle name.

So we got to, on Father's Day, introduce them; it was super sweet, and then tell them that AnnaJoyce's middle name was Lindsey. And it was a super, super sweet time together.

Steve Colvin: [00:14:33] AnnaJoy was really tiny. She was less than two pounds. So anytime we would see her, I couldn't even hold her because she was in an incubator, but she was just so tiny, so precious. And that Father's Day changed Father's Days for me because I had no idea that was the last day I was going to see my daughter.

So the next morning we'd gotten a phone call from the hospital saying that she had a rough night. That was not really a surprise to us because they had told us that premature babies often have ups and downs, so it wasn't something that really gave us panic, I mean, other than the fact that, okay, she had a bad night.

Heather was getting ready to go down to see her. This was going to be my first day back to work, and then I would go down after work kind of a thing. But there seemed to be no urgency in the nurse's voice when she called.

So anyway, we went about everything, and Heather got ready, and I got ready for work, and I went to work, and Heather was headed down to see her. And then I got a call at work saying, “You need to get down here.” And I ran out the door and got to the hospital as fast as I could, but I knew I was going to be maybe 5, 10, 15 minutes behind Heather, and I couldn't get a hold of her, so I just started calling anybody else that I could think of to let them know to pray.

But anyway, when I got there, I left my truck in the valet parking area, ran out the door of the truck and into the hospital. The elevator to get to the right floor was not coming. And I was asking a security officer for stairs and they wouldn't give me stairs, so I just had to wait.

But then I ran out the elevator doors and around the corner into the NICU. Once I got around to the right spot, and I saw Heather sitting outside of AnnaJoy's room, but there was nobody in AnnaJoy's room, I instantly knew that she was gone. Worst feeling of my life. I at least wanted to hold my daughter, wished I could have held her hand as she went to be with Jesus. So I sat there and held Heather for a few minutes.

Heather Colvin: [00:16:47] When I got to the hospital, it was just complete chaos. And they were doing CPR on her when I walked in. So, yeah, you are suddenly not of this earth anymore. It's really hard to explain in words what's happening. My world is spinning and swirling. I couldn't even think.

And then people are just peppering you with questions, and they kept saying, “Can we stop?”

And I kept saying, “Steve's not here.”

But the one thing that I heard the Lord saying very clearly is He kept saying, “Do not look to the right or to the left. Look at Me. Do not look to the right or to the left. Look at Me.” And I've held onto that since.

So it was awful. It was a whirlwind, and we'll probably talk about later how the Lord redeemed that and has even been redeeming and giving us healing even a month ago, and what happened on that day, because the Lord wants you in complete freedom, and so He will bring things up.

This is what's happened with us, is He'll bring things up and lies that we've been believing because that was a big thing to overcome for the two of us, that Steve wasn't there and I didn't call him. I couldn't move. I was paralyzed.

Ashley Opliger: [00:17:57] I am so, so sorry. I can't imagine the traumatic experience of losing your daughter in that way, and Steve, for you not to be there. I know as a parent, that has to be one of the worst feelings in the world, but I also know that Satan wants to leave us in this feeling of guilt and shame, and regret. And I think what you're talking about, this freedom that God wants for you is not to stay stuck in the trauma and to focus on Him.

And so I want to transition and talk about your faith journey because you were followers of Jesus before AnnaJoy went to Heaven. But how did your loss and this experience of losing AnnaJoy in this way impact your faith walk as Christians?

Heather Colvin: [00:18:42] Just a few weeks or maybe even a week after AnnaJoy went to Heaven, some pastors of ours came to our house and it was a profound moment.

They said, “You are at a crossroads right now, and you have a choice to make, and you have to choose right now if God is good. or if He's not.” And we'll never forget where we were sitting when that was spoken. And we chose right that day.

Steve and I were very disjointed in our marriage before this all took place, but we were in unity over that, that God is good. And we made that decision together, and that decision was what started us on the path of healing with the Lord.

Steve Colvin: [00:19:25] I think before, I didn't really understand what it meant to press into the Lord, and after this happened, that was the only thing I could do. That was the only thing that made any sense. It was the only thing that was keeping my sanity together, I think.

I can understand why people go crazy and turn to things to cope or just to feel numb, but I think that if we focus our eyes on Him and, like what the Lord gave Heather with, “Don't look to the left, don't look to the right, look to Me,” if we keep our focus just looking on Him, then you can't explain it, but there's peace there, and that is ultimately what strengthens our faith.

Ashley Opliger: [00:20:12] I think it comes down to that choice of, “Am I going to turn to God, or am I going to turn away?” Because Satan would love to use this opportunity to steal, kill, and destroy, to destroy our hearts, to destroy our relationship with God, to cause us to doubt His goodness, to doubt His character, and to cause a strain in our relationship with God.

And if he can make us question God's goodness and turn us away from Him, then he can use all of those coping mechanisms, like you mentioned, to keep our eyes away from Him, whether it's alcohol or overeating or whatever it is, each person is going to have their sin tendency that Satan's going to exploit to use against them. And Satan’s only purpose is to keep people from God and to wreak destruction on the world because of his hatred for God.

But I think that what God told you, Heather, is, “Don't look to the left, don't look to the right,” because in grief, there are so many ways you can look and so many lies that you can believe.

And so if you can have this tunnel vision on who God is and what the Bible tells us about His character, which is hard to do because everything about infant loss feels to the contrary of God is good because it doesn't feel good.

And I remember for me logically in my head, “I know God is good, but He doesn't feel good to me. Or maybe He's good, but He's not good to me.” And that was something I had to really grapple with in my faith and wrestle with, is that He is good and He is good to me, even when bad things happen to me, or I walk through difficult trials.

So would you talk about some specific struggles that you had in your faith and that you had to wrestle with God and how He walked you through those struggles?

Heather Colvin: [00:22:07] Yeah. We were pregnant with five other friends at the same time, so AnnaJoy was supposed to be the last baby delivered. She was the first, and so the Lord really, He used it to heal us, but it was really difficult.

We had friends who delivered twins early at the same hospital, at the same NICU where AnnaJoy was. And I had my six-week follow-up appointment, and we were there talking with the doctor, and we had been wrestling because we knew the babies were down in the NICU. Do we want to go down there? We felt the Lord saying to go down there, but we were wrestling with it. Do we walk into that pain?

And we were talking to my OB about it, and I don't think he's a believer, but we're hoping that he's a believer in Jesus, but he just said, “What are you going to do?”

And I felt like it was directly from the Lord, “What choice are you going to make right here, right now?”

And we said, “We're going to go see those babies. We're going to go see our friends' babies.” And the Lord opened it up. We went down there, walked in through the same NICU. and I just feel that there was just healing in our obedience. It was just our “yes.”

It wasn't anything we did, but just saying yes to the Lord and walking in there and holding those babies; He was doing work that we still today can't even understand, but He was redeeming because He's the God of redemption.

And it was so powerful, and we even ran into a different couple that we were able to pray over, whose baby was in the NICU as well. And it was just a divine appointment we would've missed if we would've said no.

And something else that the Lord did was He had us start writing out the miracles of AnnaJoy. So we had this journal, we would just sit on the couch in those early weeks and every single thing we could think of, knowing that the Lord was working, from a nurse that was super sweet to our kids being taken care of and our friends coming into our house, and we had gift cards scattered all over our island in our kitchen.

And even eagles, we don't think that the Lord is in the eagle, but we have a lot of bald eagles that appear in the Northwest, and we would just see them. And it was just a reminder I feel like the Lord used, as a reminder of His promises and His goodness.

Ashley Opliger: [00:24:19] That's beautiful. We actually just had an episode with Chris Shook, and she also mentioned the Miracle Book, how God had led her to do that and write down things, and I had commented during that episode being able to see God working in the moment, because a lot of times I see in the loss community with moms that I talk with during support groups will look back on it and in hindsight see that God was there even in the middle of your grief or during those painful moments and seeing God work.

I think there's some beauty in that, and then being able to go back and read it, just to be reminded of His goodness that, “Yes, I did see Him in the midst of this.” And that can be hard to see sometimes, but when you're looking for it, I think that's when you find it.

Heather Colvin: [00:25:05] Mm-hmm.

Ashley Opliger: [00:24:19] I love that you shared that, and also with the families that you mentioned that were pregnant at the same time as you, first of all, I realized that you and I would've been pregnant with AnnaJoy and Bridget at the same time. Bridget was 2014, so that's a special connection between you and I.

But I love that God gave you that instruction to go and hold the little babies because, and this is an area I feel like I have to be really sensitive to when I speak with moms and support groups, but it is a trigger for moms who have just lost a baby to be around pregnant women or be around babies. And it's an understandable trigger. And I have been there, I've felt those feelings, I've had to put boundaries for myself during the fresh days of grief.

But like you, I also felt this strong conviction from God that I did not want new life to be something that caused bitterness in me because I value the sanctity of life. I believe that every baby is a blessing from God, and I did not want the spirit of bitterness and resentment or jealousy to reside in my heart when I saw babies or pregnancy announcements.

It didn't mean that it wasn't hard for me, and I definitely would say that it reminded me of my sadness, but I was always feeling that I needed to stay close to the Lord when those moments happened because I wanted to make sure that my heart was right before Him, and that I was truly happy for people who had a living baby, because I didn't want that seed of resentment to grow into this general feeling of, “I can't be happy for new life or for other people.”

And so it's something that God always would say to me was, “That's not your story. I have a different story for you.”

Steve Colvin: [00:26:55] Mm-hmm.

Heather Colvin: [00:26:56] So good.

Ashley Opliger: [00:26:57] “This is not your season, that's their season.” And so I just always hung onto that because I didn't want that to be a thing for me, but I completely understand how it can be triggering. But I also see the beauty in putting yourself out there and allowing your heart to heal even in those really difficult moments.

Heather Colvin: [00:27:15] Yeah, it’s been eight and a half years, and I've only gone to one baby shower. Baby showers are really difficult, and I still love on those people, and I love the babies, but it's just something I don't do. I did it because the Lord told me to, and I felt good about it for one friend, and not that these other women aren't my friends, it's just there are areas where it's still a struggle for me this amount of time later, so yeah.

Ashley Opliger: [00:27:37] Yeah, and I think it's an individual thing. For example, with baby showers, there are other ways you can support a friend by sending a gift in advance or sending a card or texting them on that day and saying, “I'm sorry, it's just too hard for me to be there.”

And I think there are different seasons and different levels of where you're going to be comfortable with it. And the prayer is that over time, that the healing can happen and that one day it might be easier for you to do that. But it's such an individual thing, so to say that how I handle it or how you handle it is the right way, but I think overall, having God work through that trauma and that pain so that we can have pure hearts before Him in those feelings. But thank you for sharing that.

And Steve, what would you say would be the biggest struggle that you’ve faced in your faith journey?

Steve Colvin: [00:28:28] I would say just continuing to know that God is walking me through. Obviously, the goal is to keep our eyes on Him, but we're humans, and we get distracted. Sometimes we want to wallow in our own sorrow, and I think that there are times when that's okay for a few minutes or for a short period of time. But to camp there, there's no fruit in that. So I would say for me, the biggest struggle is knowing when to make sure that I'm not letting that be my major focus.

The Lord told me when I was in a particularly down spot, He told me, He said, “I lost a Son too, once.” So the idea that God knows our hearts, He knows us intimately, and He knows everything that we've been through, I can say, yeah, He's experienced that as well, so He can definitely comfort me.

Ashley Opliger: [00:29:25] Absolutely. Yes, He is very acquainted with suffering and pain on a scale that I don't think we can even imagine.

Steve Colvin: [00:29:32] Mm-hmm.

Ashley Opliger: [00:29:32] I always think of Mary having to watch her Son up on the cross, being ridiculed and spit on and crucified. It just is unfathomable to think about that as a parent, watching your child go through that and to think of what God went through from Heaven, His Son dying, knowing that was His plan.

And even though that was what He chose as His way to redeem people to Himself, it was still incredibly painful in that all of His wrath had to be satisfied on that cross. And so that's just such a painful thing to think about, but also for us to resonate with our Savior, who understands and is acquainted with grief and sorrow and pain and rejection.

And so I love that you shared that because sometimes we can feel so distant from Him that He doesn't understand what we're experiencing down here, but He does because He actually put on skin and was born as a little baby in a manger. And we're recording this just four days before Christmas of 2022. And what a beautiful time for us to reflect on the fact that He is Emmanuel. He came to this earth. He's not a distant God that we serve. So I love that you shared that.

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,, 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: [00:31:57] I would also love to talk about your marriage, and specifically how He strengthened your marriage in ways that you found that you could support each other, and if you could give some specific advice for listeners on how to support their husband or how to support their wife through grief.

Heather Colvin: [00:32:15] Yeah, we’ll give a really quick backstory.

We had already been very disjointed, as I said a little bit ago, for many years, and I kept Steve at bay spiritually. I'd share things with other girlfriends, but I wouldn't share them with my husband. And so after AnnaJoy passed, everything was just compounded, and so we grieved separately for three years.

We kind of talked, but not intimately. We weren't talking about our grief, so we were very separate. And unbeknownst to me, there came this point on April Fool's Day, which we think is really funny because it's just the Lord has a sense of humor, and He interrupted our mess and came in.

We were in our bedroom, and Steve, I didn't know, was coming to pack a bag to leave. He just couldn't do it anymore. And I had a Holy Spirit awakening, and literally, the scales came off of my eyes, and I saw that every time I was keeping Steve at bay, I was self-harming myself because we’re one.

And it was just a revelation that happened in our room and followed by repentance, repenting to Steve on my knees. And it was just this holy moment that was completely the Lord. It was a divine interruption of what was happening.

And I'm one that, “Okay, I got the revelation, now I just want to be done.” I don't like to walk out the process, but we did and learned to hear each other in new ways.

Advice that I would say is I would get offended with Steve, like he was going to go grieve this way or he needed to go to her grave or whatever he needed to do, I mean, I wasn't right, so I would just get offended with how he needed to grieve versus now, after getting that download from the Lord and the work that He's done on both our hearts, we go to her place. We call it her place instead of the grave because there's no life in the grave. So the Lord has told us to look up.

So this past year, we always do something to celebrate her birthday and her Going Home Day. And it was on her Going Home Day, Steve wanted to record a video for her at her place, and he asked me if I wanted to do it. And I said, “I don't want to be in it.”

Now before, the old Heather would've been, “This is so stupid. When are you going to be done,” offended with his grief. But I can just see the redemption of the Lord because I wasn't offended. He wasn't offended that I didn't want to be in the video, and I wasn't offended that he was doing a video at her place. And it's just a picture of the work that the Lord has done in us.

So I would definitely say just honoring each other in the grief process. It looks different because He's made us differently. And when you honor that and give that grace to your spouse, there's more room for you to be on the healing journey together, on the grief journey together. Even if you have to do things separately or you do them, they might look differently, but I just feel there's unity in that.

Ashley Opliger: [00:35:06] I love the humility in your repentance, Heather, because I think for married couples, just apologizing is such a hard thing to do, saying, “I'm sorry,” and self-reflecting, because so often it's easy for us to look at what our spouse is doing wrong and their sin and the things that they could do to improve the marriage.

But when we can look inward and we can see our own sin and our own areas that we could improve or be more helpful or loving or respectful. I think that's when God can really do a work, because we can't control another person, but we can control ourselves. And I think sometimes it's honestly easier to repent before the Lord than it is to repent before our spouse.

And so just to repent before your spouse and say, “I'm sorry. Here's what I'm realizing. Here is what I need you to forgive me for, and here's what I want to do better or differently,” and know that it's probably not going to be an overnight transformation, but just a self-awareness and reflection and repentance, that's a huge thing.

And so I think that must have been a huge moment for you also, because when your spouse apologizes, there is such a grace that you want to extend upon them because you're like, “Wow, they're seeing this too,” and that humility and vulnerability allows you to move forward and have those deep conversations.

What about you, Steve? What would you say your advice would be and how that looked after Heather came to you that day?

Steve Colvin: [00:36:36] Yeah, I would say like what you just alluded to or what you just started to say, was how it allows you to move forward. I think that was a catalyst that propelled us forward in many ways in our marriage, not just surrounding AnnaJoy, but yeah, there was a part of me that was like, “Now you get it? This has been an issue for a long time, and why now?”

And I really feel, like Heather said, the Lord interrupted where we were at. He interrupted probably the further devastation of what I would've done and what that would've caused in the ripple effect. So it was huge for me.

And it's funny because, like Heather said, she doesn't want to walk out the process and the old Heather didn't want to walk out the process. Heather now, I don't know that she enjoys the process, but definitely, when there's a process to be done, she's very willing to do it.

But yeah, I guess what I would say as far as advice, to not only be looking at, because obviously, each person is looking at themselves for, “Okay, what do I need right now,” but to really sit back for a moment and think, “Well, what does my spouse need? What does she need that may be completely different than what I need right now?”

But to ask, “What do you need today? What do you need in this moment,” and to be willing to lay yourself on the altar before the Lord and just go after what she needs and trust the Lord that your needs will be met at the same time.

I really think that you might think you need one thing, and that might be very true. You might get something that you didn't even realize you needed by doing what your spouse needs to be done. So I think that if you each put your spouse first, that's huge. That's hard to do, but it's huge.

Ashley Opliger: [00:38:27] I think, too, there's that reciprocal effect of when you see your spouse loving you in ways that you want and need to be loved, there's this intrinsic desire to then go and meet their needs and be loving.

And I know there's the book, Love and Respect, and so when you're respecting your husband, then he feels like being more loving to his wife. And when a wife feels loved, she wants to give respect. And I've definitely found that to be true in our marriage.

We talk in other episodes about the marriage journal that we do and the questions each week, “What do you need from me? How can I support you, and how can I be praying for you?” And just asking each other those questions every week.

They're very simple questions, but something that has evolved for us is that we are being more and more specific about our answers. Instead of just saying, “Oh, I want you to be more loving,” saying, “I would like for you to hug and kiss me before you leave before work. I would like for you to send me a text message during the day.”

And it sounds so silly, but we've been very specific about the things that we need and that we could do to support or encourage each other, and so I love that you shared that.

I also want to comment on something I've been sensing that God is using pregnancy and infant loss and the grief of losing a child in so many marriages in bigger and just profound ways, because a lot of times, and I think what you were saying was these were issues that were there before, these were things that you were going to struggle with regardless of your loss, but having grief and loss and pain brought it all to the surface.

And actually, the episode that launched just before yours with my friend Kelcey, her marriage was on the brink of divorce. They were just completely broken after the loss of their son, but it was all of these issues that were there before, and all of the sin and trauma and pain from their past, and losing David brought everything to the surface, and they were confronted with dealing with this brokenness.

And what transpired was this radical transformation of them individually and in their marriage that would not have been possible or would not have happened, at least not at that time and who knows when, but this beautiful marriage that has come from that. And if anyone's listening and hasn't listened to that episode, go back and listen to Episode 33 with Kelcey.

But Steve and Heather, you're sharing the same thing, and I'm seeing it over and over again in our ministry, I mean, radical transformation that God is doing in marriages and in people, and the loss of their baby is what started that.

And it's so hard to say this because it's like we would never want this to happen to anyone, and we wish that it wasn't part of your story and my story. But I'm seeing God do an amazing work in this grief. And we always say we don't believe that God purposed this to happen, that He wanted it to happen, but He can bring amazing redemption and beauty out of the pain if you choose Him.

Heather Colvin: [00:41:31] Yes.

Steve Colvin: [00:41:31] Yeah. Yeah.

Ashley Opliger: [00:41:43] So I love that about your testimony because what a testament to AnnaJoy's life that she came, and her life and legacy brought such healing in your marriage and your faith walk. That's amazing.

I also love that adoption is part of your story and was a huge part of your healing after AnnaJoy went to Heaven. And so would you share Faith's story now?

Heather Colvin: [00:41:59] Yes. The summer after AnnaJoy went to Heaven, we were still active foster parents. We had our son Jordan in the house. He was not adopted yet, and the Lord was speaking to us about hope. And He kept speaking, “Hope is coming,” and I knew it was a baby girl. But we didn't tell anyone because we would seem like we were out of our minds because it had only been like a month or so.

And in September, right around what would've been AnnaJoy's due date, I got an email from the state and it said a baby girl at the hospital where AnnaJoy was, five days old, needs to leave now, same NICU, drug exposed. And the Lord said, “Don't call Steve. Call the placement desk.”

So I called the placement desk and said, “I'm inquiring about this baby.”

And she said, “You're the first phone call I've gotten. I'm going to give this baby to you.” I was practically knocked over in my chair! It was because it was a Holy Spirit moment, but I had to act normal on the phone with a state worker. And it took a little bit because they had to examine our mental status, but we had an active case worker because our son was in our house, so we had an active social worker in there, and they could attest to our mental health.

And also the Lord, it was so beautiful because one of our really close friends is a direct placement for drug-exposed babies. They have seven adopted children themselves. and so because we weren't able to go pick up the baby until everything had been figured out, our friend, at first they called her. She was going to go pick up our daughter, and then they said, “No, you can't. Somebody else is going to go do it.”

Our friend is a fiery redhead preacher's kid, and she said, “I just want you to know that you got it wrong. That baby was supposed to come to me.”

Ten minutes later, the state called her back, said, “You can go pick up the baby.” So our friends, really close friends, went and picked up our daughter, saved all the firsts for us. We came to their house, got to give her a bath, and at ten days old, we got to bring her home from our friend's house.

And we didn't know what her name was at the beginning. I was positive her name was going to be Hope because that's what the Lord had been speaking. And then we found out her name was Faith, and I was like, “Okay, that's wrong. Her name's supposed to be Hope.”

But Steve said, “No. Faith is a substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen.” And it was amazing.

We always say that Faith was never a replacement for AnnaJoy, but she was redemption. She is redemption for what the enemy stole. We were able to adopt her. Her case went really quickly. Oh, and also, her parents named her Faith in a drug-induced state, so nothing hinders the Lord.

And a year later, we were able to adopt her and our son on the same day. Actually, this is really neat, tomorrow will be, we call it For Keeps Day. So we were able to adopt them on the same day, and they're unrelated cases. That never happens.

The judge gave us special favor and did it on not a normal adoption day. The courtroom was so packed full of people because we were celebrating. There was so much to celebrate and to celebrate the redemption of the Lord. The judge said he had never seen an adoption courtroom so packed out. It was standing room only.

And it was really neat, this transitions into the ministry that we do. A few days before that, we were able to place AnnaJoy's memorial stone, and that was really important to us to place that stone before we adopted our kids.

It took us 15 months to be able to do her stone. We were just grieving and we weren't ready, and every time we'd bring it up with each other, it would be just difficult and painful. But as the Lord was moving us along on our healing journey, when we would have her Going Home Days and her birthdays, He would give us different things. He would give us just His Word.

And on her first Going Home Day, He told us to not be looking down at the grave, and I think I already mentioned this, but to be looking up. He said, “Look up. God is good.” And when we heard that, we looked up, and her place is right under this gorgeous tree, and we put that on her stone.

The funeral home director said he'd never seen a stone like hers before. And it's a declarative stone. We are declaring that God is good, that AnnaJoy is His promise to us fulfilled. He didn't mess it up. We claimed her place as a place of worship and music and-

Steve Colvin: [00:42:07] Healing and hope.

Heather Colvin: [00:46:27] … and healing and hope. And that's our heart. That's how the Lord birthed this vision for memorial stones.

We never incurred any costs. The community and our church family came around us, and so we never had a financial burden. And so our heart is to help other families who are walking through pregnancy loss and infant loss to be able to have the perfect stone that they want for their baby and they're not hindered by time or by financial restrictions. Yeah.

Ashley Opliger: [00:46:58] I love that. I do think that the process of choosing a memorial stone and having it placed at their grave, or if baby doesn't have a grave site, having it at your home somewhere in a special memorial area, I do think it's a very healing process to walk through.

And I know for me, as we were preparing Bridget's headstone and making the choices of what Scripture we were going to put on there and what image and everything about it, what font, and then as we ordered it, waiting for it to come and the day that it was placed was a big day in our healing, and then now being able to see it every time we go back.

And so I think for any mom who's listening, If you have not had that experience but want to, and cost is prohibiting you from doing that, I would highly recommend that you reach out to Steve and Heather with their nonprofit ministry, AJ's Place | A Foundation of Hope. And would you share where people can get connected to you and what that process is like in applying?

Steve Colvin: [00:48:07] Yeah. You can get in touch with us through our website,, and also through our Instagram and our Facebook, and on those, it's just @AJ's Place | A Foundation of Hope, but on our website, there's a Contact Us button and you can use that. Or you can send us an email, or, and we'd be happy to get back in touch with you.

We work directly with the local funeral home, so normally funds are sent directly to the funeral home to take care of the cost, and the funeral home invoices us for it. But we're more than happy to help in that way because for us, that was a huge piece of our healing to be able to create that stone.

We call it a living stone, really, because to us it's just like the Word of God. It's living and active. And for us, every time we go there and we see it, it still speaks to us and it speaks life to us. So it doesn't seem like that would be what you would have out of that, but that's how the Lord works.

Ashley Opliger: [00:49:09] I think that that's absolutely beautiful, because, like you mentioned, Heather, there is no life there. It's our body awaiting the resurrection. But one thing that always gives me so much hope every time I visit Bridget's grave is that it's going to be empty one day.

Steve Colvin: [00:49:24] Mm-hmm.

Heather Colvin: [00:49:24] Mm.

Ashley Opliger: [00:49:26] Empty tomb. And so every time I'm there, I just think about, “This is temporary. Her body is temporarily there. Right now her soul is in Heaven with God, but one day she's going to be resurrected from this place.”

And so to make that a testament of this waiting, this longing for the future that God has promised us for our babies, I love that you have such a positive focus on making it a place of worship of God because He's the one who's going to bring life again. And so thank you for sharing that.

And thank you for this beautiful ministry that you've made in memory of AnnaJoy and that you've blessed so many families in Washington and now in other states.

And so if you're listening to this and want to get connected to AJ's Place we will be linking their website and social channels on our blog as well as in our Hope Guide. And we'll be sharing those links as well on our social graphics that we share from this episode. So please do reach out to them and follow them.

And thank you so much for everything that you do for grieving families. And your testimony is so beautiful and powerful to witness to the redemption that God does in our lives. So Steve, would you mind closing us in prayer?

Steve Colvin: [00:50:36] Yes.

Father, we thank You for this time together. Lord, we thank You for this whole ministry.

For Bridget’s Cradles, Lord God, we pray that You would bless them and bless their ministry and all of the people that they touch. Father, we thank You for the way that You're doing this ministry and the way that You're connecting Bridget’s Cradles with other ministries. Lord, we thank You for the widespread spreading of the Gospel.

Lord, we thank You that there is hope that is coming, and we pray a blessing over Bridget’s Cradles in Jesus' Name, amen.

Heather Colvin: [00:51:06]

Father, I just thank You for all the moms who are listening right now, at any point in time that will be listening to this. I thank You, Lord, that You are giving them hope today. I thank You, Lord God, that You are blessing them today.

I thank You, Lord God, that You are comforting, that You are the Comforter who is just closing them up like a blanket, like you're a blanket around them, Lord. I thank You, Lord God, that You are the Author and the Finisher of their story. I thank You, Lord God, that these mommas have their identity in You.

Lord God, we speak to that identity. Their identity is in Jesus. And I thank You, Lord God, for the opening of momma's eyes to know that You are their greatest Advocate, the lover of their soul, Lord God, and I thank You for Your peace. We speak Your peace over every single household right now, in Jesus’ mighty Name. Amen.

Ashley Opliger: [00:51:59] Amen. Thank you so much, Steve and Heather, for being here and for the beautiful work that you do with AJ's Place.

Steve Colvin: [00:52:06] Thank you.

Heather Colvin: [00:52:06] Thank you.

Steve Colvin: [00:52:07] Thank you so much for inviting us.

Ashley Opliger: [00:52:10] Thank you for listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. We pray that you found hope & healing in today’s episode.

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

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 Thank you so much for listening.


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