I fell face down on the floor of what would have been her nursery. Gasping for air and crying out to the Lord in a desperate plea for answers: What are You doing? Why are You letting this happen to me? Why, God? What is Your purpose in this? What am I supposed to do now? How can this be Your plan for me? What do You want from me?
All my hopes and dreams seemed to be shattered. My plans turned upside down. My whole life seemed to come down to this very moment. This breaking point. This moment of truth. This moment of surrender.
I laid on the floor in the fetal position and smelled my hospital wristband that was on my right wrist and still smelled like her. For the past 24 weeks and 5 days, I had held our sweet daughter, Bridget Faith, in my womb. But now I was home, in her nursery, and she was in Heaven. My arms ached to hold her precious 13 ounce body, and my heart ached to love on her, but my soul ached the most…for Heaven, for Jesus.
In this dark moment, I had a choice to make. Either I believed everything I had always believed, or I didn’t. I mean, really believed. Either Jesus Christ was really the Son of God and He was raised to life, or He wasn’t. Either my faith in Him was real and true, or it wasn’t. And it couldn’t be that I half-way believed. It was all or nothing. If I were going to believe that Bridget was in Heaven and that I was going to see her again because of Jesus, then that meant everything else He said in the Bible was just as real. I already knew I believed. His truth had already been etched on me; He placed a seal on my heart a long time ago. But if I really believed, then I needed to really live like it.
This was my ANYTHING moment. The coming to the end of myself and my life and surrendering it all to Him:
God, I’ll do ANYTHING for You, ANYTHING. What do You need me to do? If You are real and everything I believe is real then I have nothing to lose! I’m all in, God! You have all of me and I’m going to live the rest of my life radically surrendered to You! I am going to live each day believing, trusting, and acting as if You are real – because You are. I am Yours and I will do anything for You!
I can honestly say that THIS prayer on the floor of her nursery was the BIRTH of the ministry you now see as Bridget’s Cradles. It was this moment that I knew God was calling me to ministry. It was this moment that I knew He wanted me to help other bereaved families. It was this moment that He called me, and it was the moment that I said yes.
And God took that YES and ran with it. I wish I could describe to you the things that He has done with that simple yes (and all the “yeses” that I’ve had to say each day since then). Every day I see Him take my obedience and do something AMAZING with it. I tell people that I am “working tirelessly on the ministry, but that God is the One doing all of the work!” He is the One opening the doors, making the connections, connecting the dots, and paving the way. Although our legal documents list me as the President of our Foundation, I give Him the title – because He is Jesus Christ, God of the Universe, and President and CEO of Bridget’s Cradles Foundation.
Only He could take a family from Kansas, who was grieving their sweet baby girl, and begin to set up a nonprofit. Only He could orchestrate blessing bereaved families in hospitals across the country with knitted/crocheted cradles to hold and bond with their babies who are born into Heaven in the second trimester of pregnancy. Only He could provide bereaved families with support and encouragement and raise awareness about pregnancy loss to the general public so that families can be better supported in their grieving. We believe He desires to make Himself known to families who are grieving their babies. He wants them to know that their baby is fearfully and wonderfully made by Him (Psalm 139), and that their baby is alive in Heaven. Better yet, we have the opportunity, through Him, to spend forever with our babies! (To read more about Bridget, our story, mission, and cradles, please explore www.bridgetscradles.com).
Practicing obedience and total surrender isn’t always easy. In fact, most of the times, it is HARD. There are moments when I doubt, and moments when I become overwhelmed, stressed, fearful, insecure, and anxious. These feelings are not from God. He pushes me through these moments to continue to obey Him despite how I feel. He has done UNBELIEVABLE things through that obedience. In fact, I would say He works ten-fold when I am obedient to Him against my own fears and weaknesses.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
On Bridget’s due date, February 6, 2015, I attended the IF:Gathering teleconference at a local church. My husband and I had spent the morning at Bridget’s grave, released a balloon to Heaven, read our letters we had written to her, and looked through her pictures. It was such a surreal day knowing that our life looked so different from what we thought it would be on that day. That evening, I knew I needed to go to the conference. Our ministry was just getting started (our website hadn’t even launched yet), and I told my husband that I just knew God needed to speak to me there on that day.
And, what was the message and theme at the If:Gathering 2015? BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS.
“Faith does not erase uncertainty, fear, doubt, or suffering, it just overcomes it.” – Jen Hatmaker
“The call of God is not convenient and comfortable, He called us to be dangerous to the kingdom of darkness! The enemy doesn’t want you to activate your faith. He uses fear to cripple, paralyze, and immobilize. The enemy will give you fear and anxiety to discourage you. But GREATER is my faith than my fear!” -Christine Caine
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
At the end of the conference, we were asked to write on a rock what we were surrendering to God and to throw the rock onto a pile. On February 6, the day Bridget was supposed to be born, I wrote “Bridget’s Cradles” (ministry) on the rock and threw it on the pile.
God began to work, move, guide, direct, and reveal His plans. He helped me create our website, opened doors at hospitals, made connections with hospital staff and other organizations, introduced us to families, recruited volunteers, and helped us lay the groundwork for His ministry from an administrative standpoint. However, I still wasn’t quite sure what the “big picture” and “grand plan” was going to be. I knew I was just supposed to take it a day at a time and be obedient each day and He would use me how He needed me that day. Then one day I was walking our golden retriever, Braxton, in a large open field and talking out loud to God. I was seeking what His will was for the ministry. I had spoken to someone about our ministry and they had exclaimed, “Bridget’s Cradles should be offered in every labor and delivery department in the country!” I was overwhelmed by this but started envisioning what that would look like and if that was what God was going to do. I asked Him, “Is it Your will and desire that Bridget’s Cradles will be in every hospital in the country?”
In that field, I heard Him clearly say, “It is my desire for every family who loses a baby to know Me and know the hope of Heaven.”
There it was. Clear as day. He had revealed His desire to my heart and I knew that this was now our mission. A few weeks later, as Bridget’s Cradles Foundation was being formed, I was studying Jennie Allen’s Bible study, Chase, with my women’s small group. As Jennie walked through David’s life story of surrender, I found myself relating to him more and more. David wasn’t a perfect person and he wasn’t qualified for the work God had for him. But God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. What made David so special was that he was willing to say yes to God; He was obedient and surrendered to God because he trusted Him. If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s that God is trustworthy. He has walked me through the deepest valleys in life. So why not commit my life to the One who promises to be faithful?
And, every day since my Anything Prayer on the nursery floor, and since my walk with Braxton in the field, I have watched God do immeasurably more than I could have ever expected or imagined! Did you know that Bridget’s Cradles headquarters/office is now being run out of the same room I prayed my Anything Prayer (in Bridget’s nursery)? Did you know that I, out of fear, almost didn’t do the KSN interview? Did you know that the KSN interview aired on WBAY news in Wisconsin, WRIC in Virginia, WANE in Indiana, and then Yahoo! Buzz 360 aired our story nationwide (see links on our website under Media)? Did you know that we had 17 local knitting/crocheting volunteers before the KSN article, and now we have over 300 volunteers from all over the country?
Did you know that we have regional coordinators all helping us bring Bridget’s Cradles to hospitals all over the country? Did you know that we have received hundreds of cradles that we will distribute to hospitals to provide to bereaved families? Did you know that thousands of people have visited our website from all over the world? Did you know that hundreds of people have emailed us to tell us the story of their precious baby in Heaven? Did you know that we are in the process of becoming a nationwide 501c3 nonprofit? Did you know that God is doing ALL of that through a team of people who are just waking up each day saying “Yes, Lord. I’ll do what you ask of me today!”?
What if all of us would have said “no”? Thank God He didn’t let us. Thank God He did what only HE could do. Thank God He uses imperfect people. Thank God He uses us when we are weak, when we are in pain, and when we feel unqualified. People ask me all the time, “Could you have ever imagined it would be like this?” (referring to the ministry’s growth and impact). My answer is YES, I really did believe that God would do this, but I didn’t think He would do it so quickly! But, that’s God for you…
A few weeks ago, I was called to the hospital to visit a mother who delivered a baby who was already in Heaven. The baby was delivered at the same hospital as Bridget. This was to be the first time I would see a baby in one of Bridget’s Cradles since Bridget. I went to the chapel before visiting the family. Tears fell from my face as I shook my head in disbelief: God, what qualifies me to be here at the hospital right now? How is it that I am qualified to comfort a family who has lost a baby? How did you get me here, to this place, right now? You orchestrated my life and now I am sitting here, but how am I qualified for this? What do I say? What can I do?
Ashley, I am qualifying you. I am. I have called you. I am with you.
I looked at the empty seats in the chapel and imagined Jesus sitting there, holding Bridget, the two of them spurring me on. I left the chapel, took the elevator upstairs to the NICU, and walked one foot in front of another to where God needed me that night. Because I was where He needed me, I was able to see a beautiful, precious child of His who was already in Heaven with Him. I saw the parents holding their baby in a cradle my mom had knitted, just like the one she had made for Bridget. I imagined the baby playing in Heaven with Bridget and I felt at peace.
I left the hospital knowing that Jesus has forever altered my life and that this wouldn’t be the last time I would be comforting a family at the hospital after their baby was born into Heaven. Bridget helped me lose myself for Christ. Jesus had been there all along, waiting in my heart for the time in which He would reveal His plan for my life, but Bridget brought me to my moment of surrender. I find it amazing how He chose such a sweet and beautiful little girl, my daughter, to launch my life into His greatest calling for me.
This past weekend I was driving home from Kansas City after delivering cradles to the two largest birthing hospitals there, and I broke down crying in the car. I was on a spiritual high after watching Him do what only He can do. It was this moment that I not only realized that I want to do ANYTHING for Him, but that I don’t want to do ANYTHING else. I want to live my life in a continual state of obedience, relying on Him and watching Him do amazing things! It is the most joyous feeling in the world to feel that you are right where God wants you. I want to give my life up for Him because I am grateful for all that He has done for me and for the hope of Heaven that I am clinging to every single day. Thank You, Jesus.
In closing, I would like to share with you the prayer that I prayed before writing this post. It’s been on my heart for a few weeks to share this story, but fear (of vulnerability, of judgment, of appearing self-righteous, of appearing too radical) almost stopped me from writing it and sharing it. But I am convinced that God wants this story told and that the enemy clearly does not, therefore I am sharing it all the more boldly. I am so thankful for my women’s Bible study group who is spurring me on (and who is studying the #anything Bible study with me each week!)
So, for You, God, and for others seeking Him, here is my #anything prayer:
God, I give You my words. I give You my life. I want to know You. I want to please You! I want to be obedient to WHATEVER You ask of me. If You say go, I’ll go. If You say stop, I’ll stop. If You say wait, I’ll wait. I want to honor You in all that I do. I want to go to Heaven tired, tirelessly doing good for others and bringing You the glory You deserve! God, I will give You ANYTHING. You have my time, my resources, my gifts, my heart, my soul, my whole life, my anything. I long to desire You more than I desire to have life done my way. I long to be used by You rather than living a comfortable, convenient, private life. I am done trying to control, manipulate, and plan my life. I surrender it to You! I give up my plans and dreams for the sake of the Cross and for Your will to be done! Lord, shed me of myself, refine me, prune and sanctify me. More of You and less of me…no, ALL of YOU, and none of me! Equip, lead, guide, and mobilize me for Your kingdom. God, I long to watch what YOU will do when I recklessly abandon myself to You. I want to live radically for You and be obedient to Your calling on my life! You are great and mighty and amazing. You take our pain and redeem it. Heaven is coming and there is nothing to lose and NOTHING is lost in You. Consider me Your servant, Your disciple. I will go forth and tell of Your great name! I will do ANYTHING for You, I don’t want to do ANYTHING else. Greater is my faith in You than my fears! Your power is made perfect in my weakness and I will boast of them all the more! Thank You, God, for Your son, Jesus, and for my daughter, Bridget.
Heaven is near – what is your #anything?
With my all,
Bridget’s Cradles Servant
My #anythingproject is dedicated to my sweet daughter in Heaven, Bridget Faith. This story would not be written if it were not for you, sweet girl. You were born 8 months ago today, 6/22/15, and I feel the Lord has chosen today as the day to share my #anything testimony for you and Him. I love and miss you so much and I cannot wait to see your beautiful face again. Thank You for bringing me closer to Christ and for setting a fire inside of me to be bold in sharing Him with the world. See you with Him in Heaven baby girl.
(For the pictures that accompany my story, please visit our blog: http://www.bridgetscradles.com/#!blog/cpzx)
Jennie, thank you for allowing this opportunity to share our stories and for making an impact in my personal walk with Christ. You have inspired me to be bold for Him. Please give your sister Brooke a hug for me. I ache with her for her precious daughter Lucy. I look forward to meeting Lucy in Heaven. I know Bridget has already met her in Heaven and they are rejoicing in Christ until we enter into eternity with them. What a glorious day that will be! Until then, we’re living for Him. Jennie, you’re doing huge and great things for His kingdom, far greater than you could ever imagine. I know you are making Lucy and your Heavenly Father so proud. Sincerely, your Sister in Christ, Ashley (Wichita, Kansas)