Live Oak

Live Oak

Sultry sway in the summer breeze
Just fine.
Swags of moss,
Hanging tendrils adorn.
Beauty shines as
Sun caresses
Leaves a-shimmer
With a lick of morning dew.

She stands
Erect
Guardian of the river
She waves at passersby
And holds out hands—
Safe harbor
for bird ornaments
Perched to watch
from her view
Ages of water
Gone by.

Benevolent gaze
In still summer
Turns angry as agitated winds
Pull her locks
Straining to dislodge
Earth
That live oak grips in
rooted fists
Protective
of the
Bank
That she clasps to her bosom.

Storm moves on
Giving her one last shake
On her backside.
Freshly cleaned limbs
Dance in the residual breeze
Chuckling
An inside joke with the river
Ages of water
Going by.

6/20/14
Joy Eastridge

The Final Word

Here is a link to an article that I published on all nurses.com.

http://allnurses.com/hospice-nursing/end-of-life-969849.html

Words matter all the time. It’s just that at the end of life, there are so few of them left, that we must count carefully to make sure there is no waste. That awareness keeps us from using them foolishly. As we leave the bedside of the dying, may we carry with us the desire to use our words carefully, every day, not just on the final ones.

End of Life: The Final Word

“If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” James 3:2

I reach down to touch Anne’s* hand, my own fingers still chilled by the outside morning air. Her eyelids flutter, letting me know she was aware of my presence. I speak gently, trying to not disturb the threads of silence that hang heavily in the room.

“How are you doing?”

She does not voice a response, but the furrowed brow tells me that she is thinking of how to answer my question.

As a hospice nurse, I come on the stage of life when others have played their parts and now stand silently in the wings, witnesses to life and death. The chemo team is gone, the transfusions are mostly over; the doctors with their serious pronouncements have faded into the background. Standing beside the bed are the one best friend, two of the six children, and a few others that come and go to leave their gifts of steaming soup or fragrant flowers, attempts to brighten the long journey home.

Anne’s eyes open and she looks at me, focusing through the curtain of pain and the blessed numbness of opiates.

“I’m ok,” slides out in a whisper.

I stand by, struggling to find the best words, the question that might help her along the way, the voice that will not hurt, but instead help. At times like these, everything matters and the burden of that knowledge, keeps my mouth still, waiting for the Holy One to fill it with direction.

The others leave the room. I hold her fingers in mine, while palpating her pulse, assessing her color, monitoring her respirations, checking her skin for signs of breaks. As I wait, the question spills out, “What is the one thing that bothers you the most about all this?”

A single tear, creeps down her tissue dry cheek and she answers, “I’m afraid of leaving the children. I’m afraid that they will grow apart after I am gone. I won’t be here for them to come home to.” She speaks with some effort, but as the words well up, expressed from her spirit, they also relieve some of the pain, pent up in her aching heart.

I have no response. None is needed. Saying the words and shedding the tear, seem to ease the crack in her heart. Her respirations even out, her eyes close, apparently more focused on the beyond.

Words matter all the time. It’s just that at the end of life, there are so few of them left, that we must count carefully to make sure there is no waste. That awareness keeps us from using them foolishly. As we leave the bedside of the dying, may we carry with us the desire to use our words carefully, every day, not just on the final ones.

Dear God, Grant me your words today. Let me be silent or let me speak only at your prompting. Give me a renewed awareness that words matter. Amen.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Prayer is Hard

Discouragement in Prayer

As I prayed with my friend, I thought to myself, “I am praying into a black hole.” The words bounced back, as if encased in a box, tightly sealed with duck tape, each corner carefully tucked so that the air itself could not escape. Struggling to feel a connection with the Spirit of Jesus, my words kept coming, faith pushing them out, squeezing them from the tube of words coiled up inside me. The words lay there, freshly spoken, apparently as yet unheard, waiting for Jesus . Even as the doubts bullied me, I continued on the path of letting the words spill forward, a path well worn and familiar. The sweet, gentle touch of Jesus came then, and he told me, “Don’t worry, I’ll take it from here.”

He walked beside me in my prayer, picking up the pieces, words torn like so much confetti and tucked them gently into the folds of his robe, treasured, held close, each one answered carefully in his time.

Amen. So be it.

Hunting

Hunting

“Whatcha hunting for?” my kindly husband asked as I stuck my head further into the darkened recesses of a lower cabinet. “Oh, I’m hunting for the lid to this tupperware,” I replied, delving even further into rarely probed corners.

I don’t know about other places where they speak the English language but around these parts we “hunt for stuff.” In fact, here at my house we spend lots of time hunting and not just for tupperware lids. We also seek out keys, wallets, lonely socks, misplaced credit cards and all-important passwords. Sometimes our hunts are active and involve going up and down stairs, looking under beds and shuffling through jackets. But other times the hunts are all performed from the relative ease of a chair, thinking, thinking. “Where, or where did I last see that _______?”

Fortunately, our hunts are usually rewarded with eventual success and we rejoice with a loud, “Aha! There it is!” Finding the lost item often brings a sense of triumph and relief as we hold up and proudly display the treasure.

Studying God’s Word can be a hunt, too. Just as we are not likely to find a sought for item with a cursory look, so it is with a serious student of the Bible. Finding deeper truths and meanings takes concerted effort.

First, we must open our eyes to look for new truths. It is easy for the busyness of our days to pull a veil of dullness over our spirits. If we desire to receive new revelations, our initial commitment in the search is to open the eyes of the heart.

Secondly, we must prepare ourselves to take action on the truth that is revealed to us. Just as a hunter assiduously pursues his prey, he must also prepare to capture it once it is found. But how do we “capture” new truths? In the spiritual realm, it may mean not just hearing it, but putting it into practice. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Teachers know that when students hear the lecture, that is only the first step in actually assimilating the lesson. Learning goes a step further when the pupil is able to interact with the material in some way on their own—re-writing, re-phrasing, re-telling the concept. With scripture, we find the same process works: we hear the lesson but unless we write it down or meditate on it or find a way to carry it from words to deeds, then we don’t truly accept and believe it.

In Matthew 7:7,8 we read, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  As we seek out wisdom and discernment and greater knowledge of God’s Word, we have a promise that we will be rewarded. So let us ask God for more knowledge, seek out the truth, and go through the door when it opens—all in order to be able to take what we find and share it with others.

Now, where did I put those keys?? 1/15

One Person, Big Difference

One Person, Big Difference

There are only a handful of people who have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal: Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel…Norman Borlaug. Norman, who? Most of us haven’t heard of Dr. Borlaug, a scientist who is credited with the Green Revolution, a series of plant developments that radically changed farming and grain production all around the world. Borlaug’s dogged pursuit of advances in seeds and planting, led to a planet that knows much less hunger and privation. Dr. Borlaug was a humble man who eschewed publicity; nevertheless, he was acknowledged for his world-altering contributions many times before his death in 2009. Some say that Borlaug saved “a billion lives.”

I especially like to read stories about individuals, like Borlaug, who make a significant difference in the world. It is a source of encouragement when we daily face evil, poverty, and violence. In our discouragement, we find ourselves wanting to throw our hands up in despair. Instead, as I look around to my own family, my friends, my church, and my community, I see that there are many individuals working tirelessly to make the world a better place, unrecognized by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, but just as deserving, quietly moving mountains one rock at a time.

While we may never be recognized by the world at large, let us persevere in doing what God has called us to as we hear him tell us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9). We know we are not able to change the world, to address the overwhelming problems that face us from the world inside our own heads to the world as seen from space, but let us continue to be faithful to do our small part every day to save the environment, to make peace in our families, to be good stewards, to reach out to those in need. God, in turn, is ever faithful to take what we give and multiply it hundredfold.

Making a Call

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Rom. 12:21

April 16, 2007 was the day of the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech, a day that lives on in infamy and is forever emblazoned in the minds of those of us who were personally affected. Our oldest son was a freshman student there at that time and when the news came, we were among the thousands of parents who waited anxiously for word that he was okay.

Our anxiety was short lived as he was quickly able to get word out that he was ok and had been in his dorm at the time, but that was not the case for the parents of the thirty two students who lost their lives in that senseless act of violence.

During the days following, our phone continued to ring with family, friends and acquaintances from near and far calling to check in to see if our son was ok. As each call came in, I wrote the name of the caller on our kitchen white board. Slowly, it began to fill up with names until there was no space left to fit even one more caller—and the calls still came. We answered all the calls that we could and were so grateful for the outpouring of love and compassion. Most people didn’t know what to say or how to ask if everything was ok, so they would say things like, “We are praying for you.” We felt enveloped in love and sustained by those prayers.

Our experience made me even more determined to call when tragedy strikes—even if I don’t know what to say. The simple act of calling or sending a note or messaging someone in their time of difficulty, can be the difference between crumpling under the pressure and finding the strength to carry on.

In a world that seems to be suffocating in evil, let us fearlessly continue to be Christ to one another by simply making the contact that spreads a blanket of love and compassion over tragedy.

Dear God, Help me to have the courage to make the call when I need to. Amen.

Change Happens

It’s happening again. Change, that is. Our daughter is bustling around with excitement and anticipation as she prepares to graduate and start a new phase of her life. It’s all about buying stuff for the college room, making plans for classes, and scheduling orientation. Her dad and I stand by, playing our supportive role, waiting in the wings, knowing it’s her time to shine and watching with smiles on our faces and maybe an occasional tear mixed in.

Ah, change. It comes to us all. Like it or not. It assails us with increasing frequency as we move through time with changes that often don’t feel fun but instead much more akin to suffering. Bodies change, relationships shift, death visits nearby, and we are left to fill the role we are assigned.

Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) We know that we will suffer and have pain. Life will change. And sometimes not for the better (at least that we can see at the time).But the wonderful thing about being in Christ and having his love with us is that he never leaves us. He walks in the valley beside us and carries us when we falter. And even more wonderful than that he tells us, “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)

So, little girl, we embrace the change. The stage is ready. Step out and live your life. Your daddy and I will be standing by.