Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ready To Ring In A New Year

I'm not gonna lie. 2016 was the worst year of my life. But it was also the year of grace that I spent with my daughter before she died, so I'll cherish that forever. Even so, I'm ready to rip 2016 from the calendar and get on with 2017.

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that 2017 will be filled with blessings…and when trials come, as they always do, you’ll seek the solace of Christ’s peace (John 14:27) that carries us even in the hardest of times. God bless you all.

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be. 
         ~Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1809–1892~

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV 

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 NKJV 

Do you have a favorite Bible verse or poem that inspires you? I’d love to hear it! Share it in the comments for everyone to enjoy.

If you have a prayer need, please leave a comment or email me confidential requests.

Happy New Year!

God bless,
Laura


FREE Kindle download December 31, 2016 through January 1, 2017.

From the time she was a child, Carly Shepherd has gazed at the silent stars in the night sky of her home town of Bethlehem, North Carolina. With her childhood overshadowed by her father’s abandonment and mother’s alcoholism, she wonders how anyone can believe in an equally silent God. After all, she’s not felt his presence any more than her earthly father. Though she remembers Christmas pageants and attending church as a child, she no longer has any use for what she considers fairy tales.

Drew Middleton is seeking shelter from a rain storm when he walks into Carly’s vendor tent at a fall festival, but he’s quickly taken with the talented artist and her creations. Feeling an instant connection, Carly is confused by her feelings, especially when she realizes his spiritual commitment.

Dealing with a wayward brother and career opportunities that may require relocation, Drew knows now is not the best time to begin a relationship, especially with someone who doesn’t share his faith.

Carly’s past and their chance of future together collide when she’s snared into refurbishing sets for a Christmas pageant with Drew’s help. Will Drew’s love and their shared experience bring about a spiritual awakening in Carly this Christmas? Or will time run out as the stars continue to shine silently over Bethlehem? 

Click here to get your FREE kindle download now. 

Fireworks Celebration and the City Night Light image courtesy of Areeya/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Dr Seuss Tree

I made a pact with myself today.

I’m not going to cry. For one day. No tears.

After thinking about Christmas and what it’s always meant—the family traditions and celebrating Christ’s birth—I decided maybe I could do a Christmas tree after all.

Trouble is I didn’t want to put up a big traditional tree so late. It’s a lot of work, and my energy level is unpredictable from one moment to the next.

So in the pouring rain, I decided to go to Lowe’s and see if they had live trees. Maybe even a Charlie Brown tree. J I could picture in my mind what I wanted, and when I walked through the front door of the store, there on the left sat a display of live Norfolk Island pines almost four feet tall. Glitter had been sprinkled their branches.

Perfect!

I hefted one into my shopping cart, added a $2 strand of lights to the purchase, and headed home.

After finding something to place the tree on to give it more height, I went up into the attic and sorted through our ornaments. I carefully selected a few that held special meaning. An angel Josh bought me when he was about ten years old, little wooden ornaments my in-laws bought us when Lindsay was just a baby, some from Pigeon Forge that Lindsay had helped pick out when she was six, and a few others that would hang gently from the small branches of our Christmas tree.


I stood back and surveyed my work. My throat ached, and those dreaded tears threatened to spill. Then I thought about what Lindsay would say about my abstract, nontraditional, wacky-looking tree. My Charlie Brown tree. Although looking at it now, maybe it's one the Grinch or the Cat-in-the-Hat would've picked out. It's very Dr. Seuss-ish, wouldn't you say?

Even though she loved Cinderella as a child and still believed in fairy tales, Lindsay had grown to be a minimalist. I could hear her saying, “It’s perfect, Mom. I like it.”

Her laugh filled my mind, and I smiled.

And my pact?

Well, a few tears did fall, but they didn’t just reflect my sorrow.

I choose to celebrate the joy of my Savior’s birth and the joy of having a beautiful daughter, even if it was only for thirty-three years. I savor the memories of her child-like approach to Christmas each year and how, in the end, she chose to see joy in simple things.

Boy, do I miss her.

Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

Friday, December 2, 2016

Grieving Through The Holidays

I thought I'd try something different this time by sharing a video—my first. I hope you find it encouraging if you are grieving the loss of a loved one, as my family is this Christmas.

God bless you all,
Laura
©Laura Hodges Poole

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Moving Forward Through Grief

Temporary grave marker
I stare at the email on my computer monitor, my finger resting on the mouse.

Do I click send?

Will approving the headstone for Lindsay’s grave mean she’s truly gone? Is that why it took eight proofs to get it just right? Perfect…and yet oh, so final.

All I know is fresh, hot tears flow down my cheeks once again, as I grieve for Lindsay, for what was lost, for what might have been—her dreams and yes, my dreams for her.

There’s something really wrong about having to bury your child. Sounds cliché, but there’s really no other way to express it.

Trying to make sense of an unexpected and tragic death from a human perspective doesn’t work. As my husband and my mom said, Lindsay’s death is senseless. At least to us.

So we choose to trust the One who it does make sense to. God has the master plan, and our faith tells us that He works all to our good (Romans 8:28), even something meant for evil. God has been faithful to us in so many ways throughout our life. He wouldn’t stop now.

Even when life doesn’t work out the way we want…Even when living without our loved one hurts to the marrow of our bones…Even when we don’t understand the hurtful path we now find ourselves on.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 

And maybe therein lies at least part of the answer. We’re never given trials for us alone. There is a greater purpose. Something outside ourselves. Perhaps for others to gain some comfort from us as they grieve their own loss.

I click send, and the proof is forwarded to the marker company. Sometime before Christmas, the headstone will arrive, and James, Josh, and I will make the trek to the cemetery to see it laid at the head of Lindsay’s grave. No doubt, more tears will flow that day.

Meanwhile, we move forward—in time, in life, in circumstance. Though we’ve always known life is precious and often short, Lindsay’s death altered our lives irreparably. So we look above for comfort and cling to the knowledge that one day we’ll see Lindsay and other loved ones again who’ve passed. And we cherish our memories of the beautiful person she was. 

There’s still much to accomplish in this life, or God would’ve already taken me, yet I long for the day when my Savior returns, and there’ll be no more suffering and no more tears (Revelation 21:4). 

Come, Lord Jesus, come…

What’s your go-to verse for comfort in times of grief? Have you ever had a chance to help someone from a trial you’ve been through?






If you’d like me to pray for you and your family, please leave a comment or email me confidential requests.

Looking above,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Her Journal Will Never Be Read

After experiencing several deaths in my life and watching friends lose loved ones, I noticed a common theme among mourners—the regret that there wasn’t more time to say or do one last thing with the deceased. As I grew older, I became more purposeful in my living, stopping to hug my kids good-bye or telling them I loved them, even when they were in a hurry or thought I was being melodramatic.

In fact, that was the case the last time I saw my daughter Lindsay alive—the morning I left for Nashville. She rushed through the house to leave so she wouldn’t be late for work. I yelled after her, “No, you don’t. Come here.” She laughed as I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and to be safe. She would be off to Kentucky before I returned from Nashville. She gave me the assurance I wanted and sprinted away, the kitchen door slamming behind her moments later.

About six years ago I decided to start two journals—one for Lindsay and one for my son Josh. My intention was to write in them periodically, recording personal thoughts, Bible verses, poetry, quotes, basically whatever struck my fancy that was meaningful to me and hopefully, would be to them. One day I’d be gone, and they’d want one last thing from me—a tangible reminder of my love, and I knew I could do that through my words.

Sadly, I didn’t write in the journals as much as I’d planned. Often, months would go by before I’d “find the time” to sit down and write. While in Florida last month to help my mom through cancer treatments, I made the time to reflect back over Josh and Lindsay’s childhoods and write in both journals.

Now Lindsay’s journal sits here, untouched, except by me, and she’ll never read the words I wrote to her. Her death changed the whole scheme of things. Our pastor used the phrase “death out of time” at her funeral. I wholeheartedly agree. There’s something really wrong about it.

The cliché that parents aren’t supposed to bury their children rings true. It’s certainly not something I ever imagined myself doing. Now I’m acutely aware of the club I belong to as I look at my friends and count the number who’ve also lost children. It is unnatural, but at the same time, God has a purpose for our suffering, even when we don’t know what it is or we rail against it.

Oh, how I long to know what that purpose is.

Meanwhile, as I trudge through this valley, becoming more worn and tattered by this earthly life, I can only put my hope and trust in God that one day all things will be made new and there will be no more suffering, no more tears (Revelation 21:4-5). I look forward to the reunion in heaven with my loved ones!

I echo the words of the Apostle John when he said in Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Please come.

How many I pray for you today? Leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’d love to join you in prayer. And while you’re at it, if you have a verse of encouragement, I could use it right about now.

Looking above,
Laura

 ©Laura Hodges Poole

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Four Words I Never Thought I’d Say

Every parent’s worst nightmare came true for my husband and me almost three weekends ago. As my tears flowed and sobs wracked my body, the agony spread to my mind as I tried to process the news…

…my daughter is dead.

It’s hard to see that in print—almost as hard as replaying it in my head constantly. Somehow typing that sentence and seeing it makes it more real. I wish it were as easy as backspacing for it not to be true.

One day, maybe I’ll be able to discuss the specifics of that weekend, but for now, I’m just trying to get through the day.

The word has not been invented for what my husband, my son, and I are feeling. Somebody smarter than I am will have to figure out what it is. For now, devastated and heartbroken come close.

An assortment of roses, lilies, wildflowers,
thistles, eucalyptus, vines, and other
plants that reflected Lindsay's
love of nature.
The blur of having Lindsay transported back to South Carolina, planning, and then having her funeral hasn’t quite figured out where to settle in my mind. Friends and family arrived, along with hugs, tears, and food. Beautiful memories were shared, and questions were asked that don’t have answers…for now. Maybe one day.

And right now, as difficult as it is to handle Lindsay’s passing, four equally powerful words prop me up each day.

My God is faithful.

He has wiped my tears. He has wrapped his arms around me. He holds my grieving heart in his hand.

My big “why” question hasn’t been answered, and maybe it won’t be this side of heaven.

Am I angry? Oh, that’s an easy one to answer. Yes!

But faith means trusting God, even when He allows tragedy in my life. It was a lesson learned when my sister committed suicide eleven years ago and still rings true today. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know my motto has always been “trust Him to get it right” when walking through trials. This means in all circumstances—even the ones I don’t like or disagree with. I don’t begin to claim to understand Him (Romans 11:33-34), but I do feel His love and comfort as I walk through each mind-numbing moment.

My family and I cling to the promise of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Though Lindsay’s death doesn’t make sense now, we’re praying that one day some good will come from this tragedy. Meanwhile, we cling to the wonderful memories we have of her. She was a beautiful, bright child from day one, and her laughter still rings in my mind. 
Happier Days - Wedding Rehearsal Dinner 2011
Please continue to pray for James, Josh, and me as we walk through this dark valley. If you need prayer today, please share in the comments or email me confidential requests. I’d love to join you in prayer.

Standing on the Solid Rock,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Borrowed Hope

Today, I have the honor of welcoming a guest, Dr. Michelle Bengtson, to share a few words about hope. 

“I don’t know if I can do this anymore. What if it never changes? What if things stay this bad forever?” She pulled her sweatshirt sleeve down over her hand and dabbed at the streak marks left on her cheeks from the cascade of tears that had been flowing for several minutes before she added, “What if I don’t have enough faith to get through this?”

I reached over, took her spare hand in mine, and held it quietly for just a moment before responding, “I know. I understand. I’ve been there before. Now that I’m on the other side, you can borrow some of my hope while yours is weak. We’ll get through this together.”

I could offer to share my hope with this dear one because my well was full. I could look back and see the faithfulness of God in my own valley of depression and despair years before. Yet I remember feeling the same way, asking the same questions.

I remember the attacks of the enemy causing me to question and doubt what I knew to be true, and wondering how I would ever make it not just another day, but sometimes another five minutes.

The Lord sent a friend across my path in His perfect way and in His perfect timing. I remember thinking, “I’ve believed all my life, but what if my faith isn’t enough to get me through this this time?”

God used this friend to speak life and truth into the dry and discouraged places of my heart. She reminded me of God’s promises:

  v  Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

  v  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20).

  v  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).

  v  “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

What I know is that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). In my despair, I had lost my hope, and my emotional health had become sick, but as I began to see God’s plan for me, it was like He breathed fresh air into me. Yet in the valley of depression, we often feel like we are dying a very slow death.

Sometimes in the valley of our despair, we have to borrow on others’ faith and hope while He restores our own. That restoration comes when we identify the lies we have believed about ourselves and our situations and replace them with God’s truth.

In my despair, I began to believe that my situation would never change and that I was destined to remain in the valley forever. Once I identified that lie and replaced it with God’s truth, my hope was renewed. God promises, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Whenever I became frightened or unsure of my future, I recited that verse aloud, reminding myself of His promise, and restoring my hope.

Once my hope was restored, I was then able to comfort others with the comfort He had given me (2 Corinthians 1:4), and let them borrow my hope while theirs was lacking. And in time, they will be able to do the same for others.

Who can you lend hope to today?

Dr. Michelle Bengtson (PhD, Nova Southeastern University) has been a board certified neuropsychologist for over twenty years. She interned at the University of Oklahoma with “The Father of Neuropsychology,” Dr. Oscar “Oz” Parsons, and completed postdoctoral training at both the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and the University of Alabama Health Sciences Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

Author and speaker, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She lives in Dallas/Fort Worth with her husband, their two sons, and two dogs. Among her favorite things are beaches, boating, and sea salt caramel.

She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com. Her book “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” (Revell publishers, August 16, 2016) is available for purchase now:  http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/

For more hope, stay connected with her at:
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/DrMBengtson (@DrMBengtson)
  
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
  • An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
  • As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
  • Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson has seen the devastation that people experience when depression sweeps into their lives. She knew what research advocated in terms of the most effective treatments and prescribed them to her clients. But when she personally experienced to the ravages of depression, she found that the treatments she had been using with her patients didn’t help her. As a result, her personal experience became the catalyst for a more holistic approach to treating depression in others.

In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.

For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.

“Catching Hope Word” image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.