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 |2021-12-12T16:03:38+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 thirteenth 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, MA, CATP

Director, Ephraim Ministries

Giving Thanks

By |2021-11-08T12:56:03+00:00November 8th, 2021|Categories: Laura's Blog|

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV))


There are certain situations in life where we don’t find ourselves automatically expressing feelings of thanks. Situations such as: receiving a phone call from the doctor to inform you they have found a lump in your breast. Or having someone you love removed from your life because of death.

However, that is not what this verse is saying. This Bible verse is sometimes misconstrued. It doesn’t say to give thanks for all situations, but IN all situations–big difference.

In the days and weeks following my sons’ death, I had people quote this scripture and remind me that I should be thankful.  How does a person find the ability to be joyful, pray continually and be thankful in every situation?

It’s easy to rejoice when the news is good.  When life is going the way we planned, joyful emotions can flow from us without a second thought.  But in seasons of loss, our faith can be tested.  Giving thanks can seem like an impossible task.  Sometimes faith is simply hanging on in the dark – hanging onto our hope in Jesus until God illuminates the way. To hang on, it requires a concentrated effort to redirect our thoughts in such a way that we can think on things that fill us with a heart of gratitude. While we may not be “thankful” for the diagnosis of cancer or the unexpected death, we can be thankful that Jesus is with us in the middle our pain and heartache.

As believers, when we seek God in prayer and through His Word, we are reminded of His attributes.  We are reminded of His complete love and faithfulness to us.  In the process of reminding ourselves of God’s attributes, we can be drawn back into a living fellowship and intimate communion with Him.

This is the part for which we can always give “thanks”.  The simple fact is that everything that comes into our lives has been filtered through the hands of a loving and faithful God.

When we know Jesus, we can find joy in stressful times and even rejoice when your life is filled with sorrow. Because as believers our joy is not based on circumstances, but in God. Circumstances change in the blink of an eye, but God never does.

God honors our expressions of faith when we say ‘thank you” through tearful eyes and broken hearts. When we trust Him, He can turn our tragedies into a triumph for the Kingdom – this is His will.

Lord, thank you for Your faithfulness to me and Your patience with me. Thank you that You are in control. No matter how much my heart breaks, no matter how much the ground underneath me shakes, you are a reliable.  You are sovereign and you will never leave me. For this I can rejoice and be thankful. Amen


My Hope Endures,

Laura Holmes

Director, Ephraim Ministries

The Empty Cradle

By |2021-10-20T17:09:26+00:00October 20th, 2021|Categories: Laura's Blog|

“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”  (Job 33:4, ESV)

Her husband shouted with joy at the news.  She was pregnant, expecting their first child.  She was only 21 and they’d only been married a few months. Getting pregnant so soon wasn’t exactly how they planned it. She had received a diagnosis of PCOS, which meant getting pregnant could be difficult. But here she was pregnant.  It was a miracle and a blessing all rolled into one.

They would spend the next nine months preparing for this miraculous blessing.  A nursery decorated with little baby elephants awaited his arrival.  In addition to his crib and changing table there was a hand-made wooden cradle crafted just for him.  It was a room full of love, hopes and dreams for this precious little life.

Before they knew it the day arrived, May 7, 1991.  Her labor started out normal but took a dangerous turn.  An emergency c-section was needed.  Right before she went under with the anesthesia, she heard his heartbeat.  She would be seeing his precious face soon.  She had felt his kick for months.  She knew he’d have a strong personality.

But when she came to – her world had changed.

Her placenta had ruptured during the delivery.  They were unable to get him out quick enough and he suffocated.

Since she’d had a c-section, doctors kept Valerie heavily sedated for a while (to keep her still so the incision could heal). She heard them say the words but didn’t believe it at first.   Until she was allowed to hold his lifeless body, then reality set in.  Caressing his precious little face and holding the hands and feet that had vibrantly kicked inside of her for months; it was hard to fully comprehend what had happened. She wanted it to be a bad nightmare that she could wake up from.

She had family pack up the nursery for her before she came home.  She wasn’t up to seeing his room, the empty cradle.  It was too overwhelming.  The room was turned back into a spare bedroom that showed no signs of him.  But that didn’t keep her from going to that room daily and laying on the floor, grieving him.  Just wanting to feel closer to him in some way. Her arms ached to hold him.

As with the death of children, parents typically grieve differently.  It would take years before Valerie and her husband Tommy would discuss the events surrounding that time.

Tommy, just a young man himself at the time was in a hospital room all alone faced with the possibility of losing both his wife and his child.  As it was, the doctor placed his dead son in his arms.  He was on his own while Valerie healed. It would take him years to process the anger he felt at God and life.

Early in the pregnancy Valerie had a thought “I’m too young to have a baby, it’s too soon”.  When the baby died, Valerie struggled with guilt over that thought. Part of dealing with her grief was realizing that this wasn’t a punishment from God.  Her thoughts didn’t create this. She had to forgive herself. She also found the strength to forgive the doctor.  His negligence paid a huge role in their loss and made her chances of getting pregnant in the future almost impossible.

It would take years of physical and emotional healing before more children would enter their lives.  Six years after their horrific loss God blessed with them a healthy, happy set of twin boys.  And then another son a few years later.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Tommy and Valerie for over 25 years.  In fact, I was the Sunday School teacher for their sons. They are Godly fun-loving people.  They have a huge heart for children/youth.  Tommy is the Youth Pastor at a local church.

Valerie believes that because of what they went through that God used that to open their hearts to children.  “It’s made me love other people, appreciate life, love my kids more and let me see God in a real way.  Burying a child was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it made me a better person.  My son although his time was brief made a lifetime impact on me.  His death wasn’t in vain.”

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.  I asked Valerie if I could share her story this month to bring awareness to the pain that couples face in the aftermath of an infants’ death. When talking to Valerie, I asked her something she wished people would have told her back to then.  She stated she wished someone would have shared the following:

  • it was okay to grieve,
  • that it wasn’t a punishment
  • it’s not something you ever get over

Even though Thomas Calvin Brooks, III never took a breath on this earth; his life doesn’t have less value.  His life was important even if others didn’t know him.  His parents did. In nine months, they had developed a lifetime of love and dreams for him. Love and dreams that never go away.  He would have turned 30 this year.  While God has blessed Valerie with a full life, she states there’s not a day that goes by that she doesn’t think of him.  Even though she grieves him every day; she knows she’s not alone.

“I know that God walked me through that and still walks with me through it all these years later.”

My Hope Endures,

Laura Holmes

Director, Ephraim Ministries

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