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So far Laura has created 21 blog entries.

I See You

By |2021-09-06T12:44:26+00:00September 6th, 2021|Categories: Laura's Blog|

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.            

For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV)

I see you in church walking from the nursery – the cute, chubby little boy clinging to his Mama.

I see you on the TV singing and sharing your talent with the world.

I see you on the campus of the school you loved so much.  The good-looking young guy, with broad shoulders and a little facial hair.  Always surrounded by friends.

I see you in the marching band smiling as you show off on the drums.

My heart skips a beat as I see you walking down the aisle in the grocery store.

I see you on the stage acting and making everyone laugh.

Every time I see a pair of size 15 shoes, I see you.

I see you at Halloween when someone dresses as a red Power Ranger.

I see you in the pool -you’re the one doing the cannon ball and splashing everyone.

Watching a mother/son dance at your friends’ wedding – I see you.

Every time someone puts ketchup on eggs, I see you.

Whenever someone sings “Midnight Cry”, I see you.  You were only 3 years old when you got on stage and sang that song with me.  The first time you had ever sung and yet you had perfect rhythm and pitch.  You fell in love with singing. There was no keeping you off the stage.

Families walking in church to worship together, and I see you.

I see you every time I see your friends. Their lives went on but yours didn’t.

I see you first thing in the morning and every night before I go to bed.

But my eyes deceive me because you’re not there.

I didn’t get to see you graduate high school or college.

I didn’t see you get married.  You promised me that you were going to do our mother/son dance to “Mama” (Boyz2Men).  I can’t listen to that song without seeing you.

I don’t see you arguing with your brother for the bathroom anymore.

I don’t see you trying to explain why your room is such a mess.

I don’t see your drums being played.

I don’t see you sitting around the dinner table telling me about your day.

I don’t see you walking in the door and giving me a big bear hug.

I don’t get to see you at the hospital glowing with joy at the birth of your children.

But I know my Jesus gets to see you and I am thankful for that. You lived your faith boldly and made your Mama so proud.

I’m sure you’ve had many conversations with John about his writing of the book of Revelation. You loved the Word of God and were so intrigued by that book. You no longer have to wonder – you now know.

One day Dad and I will join you in Heaven and then we will see you again!

 

 

Dedicated to James Lee “Jamie” Holmes

(In honor of his 30th birthday)

September 6, 1991 – May 3, 2008

 

My Hope Endures,

Laura Holmes

Director, Ephraim Ministries

 

 

Sincerity Is Important For Those Grieving

By |2021-08-13T18:58:36+00:00August 13th, 2021|Categories: Laura's Blog|

“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

     (2 Corinthians 2:17, ESV)

When our son Jamie died one of his friends wrote us a song.  One of the verses in the song P.J. wrote is “Death only hurts those left behind”. It’s the ones left behind that are given the hard task of trying to live without their loved one.  Life keeps going on, bills keep coming due and all you want to do is stop.  The love you had for them is still there. But you are not able to express that love to them anymore. It is that inability to express that love that makes grief and all the emotions that come with it so hard to survive.

Everywhere I went people were asking me “how are you?” I appreciated the ones that asked and were interested in hearing an answer.  While it was difficult to talk about, if someone stopped, and made the effort to hear what I had to say, I would respond. However, most people would look at me and smile and say “hi, how are you?” and keep on walking. They never even heard me answer. Some days it infuriated me. Other days it turned me into a puddle of tears. I was a big open wound that was trying to get up and live.  Yet this question triggered a lot of pain.  Simply because people really didn’t care (well, at least that’s how it felt to me at that time).

Our society calls it a polite courtesy. I feel it’s pretentious.  Why ask a question if you don’t want to know the answer?  We have a world of hurting people around us.  Yet, I watch people walk by one another with such a shallowness.  One will say “hi, how are you?” the other will respond “I’m fine” and they keep on moving.  Why?? Why ask a question – instead why not make a declarative statement.  “Hi, it’s good to see you” and keep on walking.  You didn’t ask the person anything.  There’s nothing shallow or pretentious about making a statement.  But when you ask that question what are you expecting the person to say?  Especially when you know they’ve just experienced a great loss. You’re putting that person in the position to lie.  That simple question became a thorn in my side.  I would pray and do all I could to “get it together” to go out in public.  Then someone would walk by me and in what felt like a very insincere manner – “Hi, how are you?” and just as I try to muster up the words to answer them – they were gone.

One incident that was extremely upsetting to me was walking into a friend from church at the grocery store.  She saw me, her face lit up and she made a beeline to me.

“Hey girl, how are you doing?  How’s your summer been?”

And just like that she was gone.  I thought she was making a beeline to me.  Apparently, she was after the produce that was behind me.  There I was, left standing, feeling like I had just been shot in the gut, hemorrhaging in the produce department.

“She was at the funeral in May.  It’s only July, did she really ask me how my summer has been?”

Would Jesus walk up to someone whose child had just died and say “Hey girl, how are you doing?  How’s your summer going?”  No, I don’t think so.  Yet sometimes Christians and even non-believers lack the simplest of sincerity and compassions.  We erroneously think that because the funeral has taken place, the grieving is done.  The funeral preparations were the easiest part of this process- -the everyday living with the emptiness is the real horror of it all.  Being asked that question whenever I went out in public cut deeply.  I wanted to scream at them, “How do you think I’m doing – my heart has just been ripped out of my chest – my family is a mess and I’m barely hanging on.”  The reality of it is, that our society has become so casual minded, that the question “how are you doing?” is something we ask to start polite conversation.  We expect the other person to respond “Ok” and then proceed on.  We really don’t want to hear the minutia of details going on in that persons’ life.

In my grief, I had lost that sensor to just ignore the question. Some days I would respond out of the rawness of the pain I was feeling.  I had nothing in me to “pretend everything was fine”.  There were times I responded quite bluntly “I’m hurting, I’m asking God for strength every minute of the day, otherwise I’d still be in the bed.”  The insensitivity of the way that question was often asked made me want to completely retreat from the outside world. Prior to Jamie’s death, I had been guilty of doing the same thing to people myself.  I would walk by them in a grocery store or the church and politely smile and say “Hi, how are you?”; all the while knowing that something hard was going on in their life.  Yet not sure of how to say anything or even if I should say anything.  I found myself asking the Lord for forgiveness of my own insensitivity.  People still do it to me today.  I usually respond with it’s nice to see you.  I will only ask how you are doing if I’m able to engage in a conversation with you.  To do anything less would be disrespectful of all that grief has taught me.

I recently ran into a mother that lost her daughter this year.  I saw her at the gym that morning and I knew it was her daughter’s birthday (her first birthday in Heaven).  I didn’t ask the mother how she was.  Instead, I walked up to her and gave her a hug.  I told her how proud I was of her for getting out of the house that day, that I understood what it took for her to do that. And that I was praying for her.

It’s hard to know what to say on both sides of the grief conversation.  But people always appreciate sincerity and honesty.  Sometimes no words are needed, just a simple hug or the physical presence of being there in the moment go a long way.

 

My Hope Endures,

Laura Holmes

Director, Ephraim Ministries

 

Finding Focus During Grief

By |2021-07-01T17:43:44+00:00July 1st, 2021|Categories: Laura's Blog|

“And now, go, write it before them on a tablet   and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come   as a witness forever.” Isaiah 30:8 (ESV)

I had a strong relationship with the Lord, but after Jamie’s death I had a hard time with prayer.  Not that I didn’t want to pray.  Simply every time I closed my eyes to pray, I would see images (that no mother should see).  Also, I felt like I was such in a fog that I could not concentrate enough to put two or three words together to have an effective prayer.

In the midst of my rawest grief, I shared this sentiment with a friend one day.  She sweetly reminded me that I could pray with my eyes opened.  In fact, I could write out prayers to help my wandering mind.

Why didn’t I think of that? Really, I had learned first-hand the benefits of journaling over the years.

In my home office, I have a credenza filled with journals that contain over thirty years of prayers. I’ve referred back to them as a “witness” of God’s faithfulness over the years. At times, encouraging myself as David often did – to keep moving forward. (Psalm 42)

But I had stopped writing after Jamie’s death.  It was too overwhelming.  Then I seemed to simply forget about it.

Why do we become forgetful with grief? Stressful and traumatic events affect the neural processing of the brain, causing our brains to get stuck in replaying the bad memories. Ultimately shutting down our ability to think clearly/calmly. It stops our ability to be creative and move forward.

I decided to heed the Godly counsel of my friend and started writing my prayers again.  Pouring out my heart to God, sharing everything that was in my head – – the good, the bad and the ugly.

It was extremely painful to relieve those horrific memories.  But as time went on, I watched some amazing things happen as God began to bring healing to my mind.  I also found my voice again.  You see, the woman before was used to being on the stage “up front and center”.  This broken shell of a woman cried constantly. Talking was the last thing I wanted to do.

While it may be more convenient to type on laptops/tablets – typing doesn’t stimulate the brain like handwriting.

In fact, the act of writing by hand engages the left brain – stimulating the Reticular Activating System. The RAS categorizes what must have immediate focus and filters out the rest. While the left side is engaged, the right brain becomes free to create and feel again.  Basically, writing removes the mental blocks that hinder you from utilizing your full brain power.  When both sides of your brain are fully engaged, you are more capable of understanding yourself, others and the world around you.

When we’re able to fully engage in our world – we’re more likely to make an impact for the Kingdom.  The enemy of our souls knows this and works hard to keep our minds distracted and focused on the pain. It is his goal to inhibit our ability to move forward in life.

When we heed the words of Habakkuk 2:2 to “write it down” – we not only see spiritual, but mental, emotional and physical benefits.

In addition to helping us sort out our thoughts, find control and clarity, did you know that regular journaling also –

  • Strengthens your immune cells – T-lymphocytes
  • Decreases symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Reduces stress – writing about painful emotions helps release their intensity.

Science is now catching up with what the Bible has told us for years – handwriting (journaling) has positive impacts on our bodies.

The next time a friend or a counselor suggests you try journaling to help you find focus in your grief – don’t be so quick to dismiss it.

God has given you access to a powerful tool– don’t waste it!

 

My Hope Endures,

Laura Holmes

Director, Ephraim Ministries

 

Returning to Work After a Loss

By |2021-06-14T21:56:29+00:00June 14th, 2021|Categories: Laura's Blog|

“You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.” Jeremiah 8:18

 

When Jamie passed away, I was working for Liberty University.  Since they are a Christian organization, they were very understanding about my returning to work later than the normal 3 days most companies provide. I think it was about 2 weeks later when I did return. But even though I took a little longer (than the standard time) it wasn’t easy.

I was the Welding & Fabrication Supervisor for the University.  My shop was in the alley behind Green Hall and next to TRBC and LCA where Jamie went to school. Part of my duties included doing work for and in LCA and TRBC. Having to go into LCA or TRBC those first few weeks were torture. I would see things and remember things about Jamie. I would hear the band when they rehearsed. I would see his friends, but he wasn’t with them. If I had to go into the sanctuary, all I would see was his casket sitting in the front.

I found it very hard to concentrate on my work. Something that I normally could do in minutes would take hours or sometimes even days. I would forget about meetings and deadlines. Quality of work and safety are some things that I have always taken pride in. But I would even be slack in those areas.  Some days it felt like nothing I did was right.  I was walking around in a deep fog trying to find the way out. If it wasn’t for my guys in the shop stepping up to fill in for me, I probably would have lost my job.

“You do what you’re supposed to do, but in fact you’re not there at all.” – Frederick Barthelme

I was also battling health issues.  For those who have been following us, you may remember that I had just had a heart attack prior to his death.  My doctor was constantly telling me to reduce my stress levels.  Just waking up increased my stress levels.  My first thought in the morning was being reminded that he was gone, and our family was shattered.  Going to work only increased my anxiety and stress.  Yet, not going to work wasn’t a financial option for us.

Over the years Laura and I have spent time with many families who have lost a child. People underestimate the overwhelming grief, emotional stress and physical toll that the parents endure.  Sometimes no matter how much you need to work, you simply can’t. We’ve spent time with families who couldn’t go back to work. For some, it was numerous health issues that piled up on them after the death.  For others, it was simply the inability to concentrate on anything but the loss that cost them their job.

I’m thankful that God protected me and allowed my health to improve.  I’m also thankful I had a couple of people at work that I could talk to about my grief.  They helped me cope with what I now know was depression. The VP that I worked for as well as other leaders at LU and TRBC helped me in ways they will never know.

“Co-workers are mostly caring and supportive, but their lives haven’t changed.  They haven’t (most likely) experienced the loss of a child.  They naturally anticipate that we will rebound from this and be the same people we were before.  They have no frame of reference for what we are enduring.  We begin to feel the squeeze of job requirements and expectations.  Our own desire to work hard and perform well adds to the burden. Work is tough when we’re grieving.” (Surviving the Loss of a Child, Gary Roe)

If you are grieving a loss and are having a hard time meeting the expectations of job – please know it is okay and you are normal.  My first advice would be to seek the Lord for comfort and guidance – not just day to day but minute by minute.  Give yourself grace as you sort through the emotions.  Find healthy ways to grieve.  One of which is finding people that you can talk to about what you’re going through.

We’re not meant to do this on our own!

 

In His Grip,

Chuck Holmes

Ephraim Ministries

Still Grieving

By |2021-05-01T13:07:12+00:00May 1st, 2021|Categories: Laura's Blog|

 

“I have this friend who is still grieving her husband.  It’s been a year.   Do you think you could see her?”

“I have a friend who is still grieving her child.   Can you meet with her and tell her how it will get better?”

Words I often hear from well-meaning friends wanting me to counsel people who are grieving.  However, those words “still grieving” always strikes a chord in my heart.

There is this faulty assumption that after a year or maybe even two – we should no longer be grieving someone who has passed away.

When we lose people, we never get over that.

In scripture we are taught:

“So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)

In God’s image you were designed for eternal relationships.

Take comfort in knowing that you were designed to grieve well.  To adjust, heal and grow.

But you were not designed to get over losing a person – that is impossible!  It goes against the very nature of God to get over people.

Grief never ends.  But it can and should change in time.

As we approach the 13th anniversary of our son’s passing, I think about how differently my grief looks now compared to then.

After Jamie’s death, I went years without sleeping through the night.  Every time I closed my eyes, I saw images that no mother should ever see.  I thought I’d never get them out of my head.  Now, I sleep very well.  If my sleep is bothered these days, it has nothing to do with those images.

I didn’t think I would ever be able to “function” like a normal person after his death.  Going to the grocery store, going to church, working, being around people was such a challenge.  The crowds triggered memories of the days surrounding his death and funeral. Everywhere I turned there was a memory that would completely devastate me and bring back the rawness of that day.

Most people meant well, but often the things they said would trigger me.   Being at home was even harder because I was surrounded by the silence that his death had brought.  It took me nine years before I felt fully comfortable in my skin again.  I have no problem being around people or crowds now. As my husband says, “I’m back to being to the social butterfly I was before.”

I was a walking database of knowledge prior to Jamie’s death.  I kept up with everything in my head.  Very seldom did I need to write down reminders because my mind was able to organize it and retain it.  I could read something one time and my brain retained it. After Jamie’s death, my concentration was gone. I would read and re-read things and a few minutes later still couldn’t remember what I just read.  I would find myself on the road driving some days and literally forget where I was going.  I was also a person who paid attention to the “details”.  If I showed up for whatever the event was, that was the only detail I could retain.

I remember feeling like I couldn’t allow myself to learn anything new because it might push out his memories.  I was scared I would forget Jamie.  Thirteen years later and I know that will never happen.  I’m not scared of forgetting him – it’s impossible. I have allowed myself to grieve him.  The more I allowed myself to grieve and not run from the grief, the more my ability to heal and grow has developed.

My attention for detail and ability to concentrate has returned fully.  The trauma of his death combined with the aging process has affected some of my memory, I have to write things down now to remember them these days.  But God has allowed me to learn and grow in ways I never thought possible after his death.

If you know someone whose grieving or if you’re grieving yourself – please know that you were not designed to get over that person. Instead of focusing on the fact that you’re “still grieving” – take inventory.  A healthier question to ask would be, how has your grief changed?

Are you still isolating from others?  Are you able to talk about your loss?

On May 3, 2021 it will be thirteen years since our son Jamie died.  I still grieve his absence. I will until the day I see him again in Heaven. His death has brought numerous other losses (secondary losses) that I also grieve – their story is yet to be told.

But my grief looks so different than it did 13 years ago.

I’ve read dozens of books on grief over the years.  I agree with very few of them.

When I spend time with people grieving, I don’t focus on faulty concepts (like stages and getting over it).  Instead I focus on helping them find healthy ways to grieve, to tell their story and engage in life again.  That is possible.

 

My Hope Endures,

Laura Holmes

Director, Ephraim Ministries