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14 Years Ago

By |2022-05-03T11:58:22+00:00May 2nd, 2022|Categories: Laura's Blog|

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”

Proverbs 11:14 KJV

 

14 years ago, that’s how long it has been since my life was “normal”.

14 years ago on April 25, 2008, I died but God allowed me to return. Little did I know that I would be cursing Him a week later.

Because 14 years ago, on the morning of May 3, 2008, I died again when my baby boy was taken from me, Again God saved me but kept my son Jamie. I was angry with God for doing that, Why Jamie today and not me last week? (For those who don’t know the story, I had a massive heart attack on April 25th).

Why was I being punished? What had I done to deserve this?

14 years ago, I thought my life was done. At least that was MY thinking, MY anger, MY unfaithfulness…

I had been in the hospital the last week of Jamie’s life.  When I got home, I was tired and quite irritable.  Anyone who met Jamie, knows he is an easy going and extremely laid-back person.  As a father it was my job to prepare him for the world. Someday he would be a husband and father (or so I thought).

What I knew of the world was that it was harsh.  I’m thankful to God for the ability to work for everything that He’s blessed with me.  But I didn’t want my sons to have to work as hard as I did.  I stayed on Jamie about school, organizing/cleaning his room, and being on his cell phone way too much.  One of my last conversations with him was an argument about the cell phone.  My harsh words with him over the phone ate at me for years.

Until I learned to focus on the truth of the situation.  Jamie’s in heaven now, he’s not replaying that conversation.  He understands that Dad was trying to prepare him for life as a grown man on this earth.  He knows I love him, and he understands and appreciates the sacrifices his Mom and I made for him.  He was extremely confident in his walk with Christ because of the love and guidance Laura and I modeled in our home.  Yet the enemy of my soul wanted me to focus on that one conversation.

It has taken me 14 years to fully understand why I was allowed to suffer through that and so many other trials. I have regained my faith in God, but it was a long road to travel. Sometimes I felt totally alone carrying the guilt and hatred in my heart, but eventually realized that it was Satan not God that was inflicting my soul. I had allowed Satan a stronghold in my life in the early years and didn’t even realize it. I had allowed depression, guilt, fear, hate and grief to take control of my life. Oh, I kept it hidden pretty- well.

As men we tend to do that. Men have this uncanny ability to take the bad and compartmentalize it and bury it deep in their subconscious. As an Army Veteran, I had suffered with PTSD before and knew what the monster looked like and knew how to keep it at bay. I courted the lair of my new monster daily, not quite letting it win me over. But in time I knew I had to destroy the monster, in order to get back to some semblance of a normal life. I was lucky to have strong men around me that counseled me back to reality. They fed me life sustaining advice from their own personal walks within the world and with God. Advice that was critical for me to survive one minute to the next. Men that even if they didn’t know the exact pain I was feeling could relate through other trails. I now know that God kept me around for a reason. A reason that is known only to him and is being revealed a little at a time. God has put people in my life that I have been able to help through this walk of grief and pain that we mutually suffer. God has kept my marriage intact, and it is stronger now than ever. God has given me purpose though sometimes I fail see it. But that is my own fault.

In time, with prayer and purposeful living, you can get through the feelings of depression, guilt, self-hatred and fear. Align yourself with a person that you can discuss your feelings with. A close friend, family member, pastor or counselor. Fill your mind with good thoughts of your loved one, don’t dwell on the bad days. What was said or done while they were living cannot be changed once they have passed, do not let those things steal your healing.

You will always grieve your loved ones, but it if you keep pressing into Jesus, it will get easier to live your life.

I am still in the same body as I was 14 years ago, but my mind is stronger.  My faith is restored.

If you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death, don’t walk it alone.  As much as you may want to isolate from others – don’t do it.

“There’s safety in the multitude of counsel of others” – – you need Jesus! And you will need others to be speak Jesus into you when your feelings are completely overwhelmed.  When you can’t see a way out – don’t retreat men – reach out to others!

 

Keep Up the Fire,

Chuck Holmes

Co-Founder/Ephraim Ministries

 

“It’s All My Fault” – The Guilt That Comes Accompanies Grief

By |2022-04-10T19:20:50+00:00April 10th, 2022|Categories: Laura's Blog|

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)

Grief is a unique journey on an emotional rollercoaster.  While we don’t experience all the same reactions, there’s one emotion that every grieving parent battles – guilt.

Guilt is real for – –

  • The parent who was driving the car that was involved in a wreck that took their child’s life
  • The parent wondering what signs they missed that could have prevented their child from taking their own life
  • The parent who upon hearing the news they’re pregnant, realizes they’re not ready for a baby – it’s not the right time – decides to have an abortion – only to go into premature labor and deliver a stillborn
  • The parent who regrets not having more talks about spiritual matters with their child and now will forever wonder
  • The parent who buys the car that their child is driving when their involved in a fatal accident
  • The parent who gives permission for a needed medical procedure. Only to have the child die during the procedure.
  • The parent whose last conversation with their child was an argument

For parents who’ve lost a child – the survivors’ guilt can be an unbearable pain. As parents, we tell ourselves it’s our job to protect our children.  We are supposed to be the ones in control.  As a result of that thinking, when something happens to them, we often punish ourselves, consciously and subconsciously.

Guilt is an emotion given to us by God, our Creator.  It is meant to serve as a moral compass to aid in fueling our motivation to improve our behavior.  To inspire us to turn to Christ in all that we do.  But when we allow unhealthy thoughts to bombard our minds – we can rationalize a situation that incorrectly places guilt where it doesn’t necessarily belong.

As parents we have a lot of influence over the lives of our children, but we are not in control. We aren’t omniscient (all-knowing).  We’re not omnipresent (everywhere at once).  We are not omnipotent (all powerful).  Simply put, we are not God.

But sometimes when things go wrong, we want to tell ourselves the exact opposite.

By leaning on our own unhealthy understanding, guilt can become debilitating when we fail to depend completely on God.  Thoughts of self-sufficiency and self-dependence tell us that we somehow should have known everything and been able to “prevent it from happening”.

Guilt loses its’ control over us when we release it a loving God. We must look at the situation truthfully through His eyes.  Acknowledging that we made the best decision we could at the time, with the information we had.  We may even need to ask God for forgiveness, if there were mistakes made (so regret doesn’t consume us).  By allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to help us learn from those mistakes, we can live victoriously -no longer controlled by guilt.

We may also need to forgive ourselves.  Offering ourselves self-compassion as imperfect beings is a necessary part of the healing process.

For a believer, guilt belongs in the past.  We are not called to live in the past, but in the present moment. One day at a time.

My Hope Endures,

Laura Holmes, MA, CATP

Founder/Director Ephraim Ministries

 

 

Loving After Loss

By |2022-02-21T21:37:11+00:00February 21st, 2022|Categories: Laura's Blog|

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, ESV)

February is known as the month of love.  It can be an exciting time as everywhere you go, the stores are full of pink and red hearts, shelves of chocolates, stuffed animals, and flowers.  If you’re a parent you’re busy finding creative Valentines for your children’s class parties. However, for those grieving the loss of someone they love, it can be another painful time of year. A reminder of a love that has been taken from them.

When our son Jamie died in 2008, an overwhelming devastation just crushed my soul and blinded my vision.  I was convinced that life for me had ended.  Yes, I had people in my life that loved me, and I loved them.  But I just knew that I would never open my heart to love anyone or anything new from that point on – it was just too painful.

Life would be dull and empty from that point on – it would be safer to think that way (I told myself).

Ten years ago on this very month, God blessed us with our very first grandchild.  He was named after the uncle he never knew.

I had been a fully devoted mother to both of my sons.  Loving them unconditionally and giving them everything I had.  I couldn’t imagine how I could ever love anything more than them.  But when our grandson Jamie was born – God opened a part of my heart that I didn’t even know existed.  There was no way to keep from falling absolutely in love with this little guy.

He was a precious gift that brought a lot of joy to my heart.  He gave me a renewed sense of purpose.  I wanted to live again for him and to see the world through his eyes.  But he didn’t replace my son (his uncle) in anyway.

Friends and family may encourage you to “move on” with your life.  If you’ve lost a spouse, they may tell you – “it’s time to date again”.  Or in my case, some informed me that I was young enough to “have another child” to replace my son.  While they may mean well, only someone who has never gone through anything as devastating as losing someone would ever utter those insensitive words.  Because a person can’t be replaced.

God designed us as unique individuals.  Our personalities, our spirit and our relationship with others is a one-of-a-kind creation.

Over the past thirteen years since our son Jamie died, God has put hundreds of new people in my life.  And through the healing that only Jesus can do – I’ve allowed my heart to be opened to love again.  I’ve fallen in love with new hobbies, new passions, and a plethora of new friends.

However, none of them take his place – that hole is always there.

Sometimes we fear loving again, because we think we are letting go of the person we lost. Even if we allow other people in – they never take the place of someone whose died.

Since Jamie died in 2008, life has continued to throw devastating heartbreaks our way. Yet choosing to close myself off and not love or live is simply not an option I can choose.  Because I know that fear is not from God. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I understand how the domino effect of the secondary losses that come our way after the death of someone we love, is enough to make us want to completely give up on life. But more importantly Jesus understands.

If you’re reading this today let me encourage you to take hold of His precious hand. Call on him, be open, to sharing with him your pain and your fear for living.  His Word promises us He will hear you.  He can bind up those wounds and allow you to find the strength to live and love again no matter what this world has taken from you. (Psalm 147:3)

My Hope Endures,

Laura Holmes, LPC-R, CATP

Director/Founder, Ephraim Ministries

Another Year Without You

By |2022-01-13T00:36:05+00:00January 13th, 2022|Categories: Laura's Blog|

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4, ESV)

Two weeks ago, we turned the page on the calendar to a new year. That can be a scary and dark time for those who are grieving. While everyone else is celebrating and making plans, you’re just trying to survive. You can easily feel overwhelmed by the thought of facing another 365 days without your loved one. You may even battle feelings of guilt for having to move forward without them.
First, let me remind that God hasn’t abandoned you in the new year. Sometimes things are so traumatic that our feelings are overwhelmed. We can’t always feel God’s comfort, all we feel is the pain. Even though he’s always there. Again, why it’s so important we don’t make decisions based on feelings. But He walks with you through this valley. Seek Him first for wisdom, guidance, and discernment for how to best approach this year with your fragile heart.
He knows how your heart has been shattered and the prospect of a new year may not seem hopeful to you. He knows the plans that you had with your loved one. He knows how you “thought life was going to be”. But He has plans for you and if you allow Him, he can bring something beautiful from the ashes of your pain. He can carry you through another year.
This may not be the year that you’re ready to reemerge fully back into the world of the living. That’s okay. But let this be the year that you take small steps to find healthy ways to grieve.
Sometimes people grieving fear moving forward and learning/doing new things simply because they’re scared of forgetting their loved one. Let me assure you that you will never forget them. But as we age sometimes the sharpness of our memories do fade a little. Instead of letting fear hold us back from living – take control of it.
One suggestion is to start documenting memories this year.
Write memories down while they are fresh in your mind. Make a goal of taking a little time each day or each week to write about your loved in a journal (either by hand or on the computer). It will be challenging, and it may even make you cry at times. But that is a good thing. Tears bring healing. And the more you allow yourself to process those memories in a safe place (and cry if needed) – you will find that your strength will grow. And your ability to embrace new things will grow also in the new year.
Maybe you’re not a writer, perhaps you could do a photo journal instead. Capturing some of your favorite memories of your loved one by putting photographs together in a book. Be sure to add a few sentences describing the picture/memory with it.
Sitting in the pain with your memories can be a very therapeutic way to move forward. We may think we’re protecting ourselves by avoiding the memories, but that only prolongs the healing process.
One thing many realize once they have gone through the process, the simple truth that their loved one is always with them. They live on in their hearts and in their memories forever – until we meet again!
My Hope Endures,
Laura Holmes, MA, CATP
Director, Ephraim Ministries

Sometimes It’s Not The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

By |2023-12-12T00:05:51+00:00December 12th, 2021|Categories: Laura's Blog|

I was at a dinner party and the hostess asked us to go around the circle and share a favorite Christmas tradition that we did with our families. My mind immediately started racing trying to find something to share that wouldn’t leave everyone in tears.  I was having a nice time and didn’t want to be the party pooper.

There used to be many happy traditions.  They seem like a lifetime ago now.

Chuck and I were always off the Friday after Thanksgiving.  That Friday would be our “kick-off” to Christmas with the boys. We would sleep in late, have a lazy morning with a big breakfast then off we’d go to find the perfect tree. We always got a real tree and the biggest we could find.  That weekend there would be no Black Friday shopping.  The four of us would be together focused on decorating the house inside and outside.  Going all out (as much as we could afford).  We would watch our first Christmas movie of the season that weekend, while enjoying the glow of the tree lit up and sipping hot cocoa and usually eating pizza and popcorn.

We made sure to have all the decorating done that weekend because once we rolled into December our calendars were always full.  The boys had school events and practices for the various programs they were involved in. The four of us were always involved in Christmas programs at church, I even wrote some of the programs over the years – so that meant extra time at church in December practicing/preparing. There would also be Christmas caroling and trips to see Christmas lights throughout the month.

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around we had already celebrated the entire month, but the thrill of Christmas was just beginning. I remember tracking Santa on Norad with the boys on Christmas Eve.  We would always read the birth of Jesus from the Bible and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and we’d always open one gift on Christmas Eve.  Of course, we always picked the one gift they could open and always made sure it was new pajamas to wear.  And we always wrote our letters Santa and left them out on Christmas Eve with milk and cookies for him.  Trying to get two very excited boys to go to sleep that night was never an easy task.  Then Chuck and I would be up for hours putting stuff together for Christmas morning.

When the boys woke on Christmas morning, they knew to come get us first (if we weren’t already up).  One of us would go into the living room, turn the Christmas tree lights on and put on Christmas music in the background.  Once we were ready with camera in hand, they ran excitedly to the living room to see what Santa had brought.

For Christmas 2001, (they were ages 12 and 10) one of their “big” gifts was an envelope in the tree. The envelope held 4 tickets to a 3-day Christian music festival at Liberty University (Winterfest).  It included ringing in the New Year with some of the biggest Christian artists around at that time.  They were thrilled and that itself became a “new” tradition that we kept every year. We were blessed by the fact that they loved Jesus and loved Christian music.

As the verse in that famous song goes-

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Chuck and I always made it a priority to be off the two weeks from Christmas to New Year’s.  It was a wonderful time of no schedules, sleeping late, hanging out with the boys and just reconnecting as a family before another full and busy year started.  All of that ended in 2008 when Jamie died.  Christmas time (and the entire month of December) became something to “endure” not to look forward to with anticipation.  The first Christmas after he died was horrible and the following years just as bad.  Family members grieving in their own unique way ended up pushing away the ones that loved them the most.  Christmas became a painful reminder of what was.  A home that was once full of life, love and laughter now empty and silent.

Sometimes, it’s not the most the wonderful time of the year

In his book, “Hope for the Brokenhearted” Dr. Terveen writes “going forward through grief, suffering and loss demands our greatest faith and love.  Jesus marched into battle, full to the brim with love and faith. Thwarting the designs of the Devil to make death the last word on the battlefield of people’s souls, Jesus turns the tables by turning his own suffering and death into the very means of life for a myriad of people who give their lives to him.  In the midst of our own pain, our hurt, and our losses, Jesus still comes to us (sometimes waking us up) with his call to go on, to go forward with him through the battles we must yet face in a world still afflicted by heartbreaking pain.  We do not go on alone.  He has gone this way before us, and now he will go forward with us.”

This year will be our sixteenth Christmas since Jamie died.  Christmas is still not the same as it was before. While we are back to celebrating throughout the entire month of December – it still looks different. Grieving never ends but it can and should change. Unfortunately, though, sometimes people don’t grieve.  Instead they run from the pain they feel.  They try to bury their pain (and overwhelming emotions) in jobs and substances – hoping that will fill the void. And pushing away from anyone that would remind them of the pain. Which only causes more pain and loss. Grief has left our family a fractured shadow of what was.

There will always be an emptiness, an ache in my heart to hear him, to see him, to have one more conversation with him around the dinner table.  But as I’ve continued to “go forward through my grief” and be honest with Jesus about my pain – I’ve watched over the years how Jesus has brought a lot of healing.  In fact, when our family does get together this year for Christmas, I am quite certain there will laughter, fun and games and lots of life in our home that day.

If you’re facing a holiday season that brings great sadness to your heart, please know you are not alone.  Remember the words of Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Your sadness and disappointment are real.  It is okay to bring them to Jesus this Christmas season.  He is the only one who can bring us deep and lasting comfort for life’s sorrows. It is His birth as a babe in a manger, and his death on a cross and resurrection that gives us Hope to endure this life.

 

My Hope Endures,

Laura Holmes, LPC

Director, Ephraim Ministries

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