An open letter to elderly-care facility personnel

RosePapaHands

My father-in-law, a beautiful man who has been my only dad since I was 15, spent a week in a rehab center in March. He was then sent back to the hospital showing evidence of less-than-optimal care while in the facility. We had no way of knowing the care he was (or was not) receiving because the facility was on lockdown with no visitors allowed due to COVID19. We lost him a few days later, and the world lost an amazing man who blessed the lives of many.

We got to spend his final day with him in Hospice Care–a gift from their staff that will never be forgotten. We stayed in for the next several days and some of us have only left home for his burial. Saying goodbye was never going to be easy, but it was made much more difficult because of the questions that will always plague our family regarding the likelihood of his life being shortened by a lack of quality rehabilitative care.

I’ll be honest–the thought of that sweet man being neglected is one I have a really hard time processing.

Since his death, we have heard numerous stories of advanced-age loved ones being neglected in rehab care facilities. That hurts my heart. Know what else hurts? Being told by doctors that most facilities caring for the elderly have sub-standard care, that by and large the attendants in such places don’t value their calling, and that it makes medical professionals hesitant to even release a patient to that type of facility because the prognosis automatically takes a nose-dive. I’m not sure why that came as a shock to me, but it did.

To clarify, not for a minute do I think all people who work in that type of facility provide less than optimal care. I personally know some wonderful caregivers, and I thank God for them and the vitally important job they do.

So here’s my message to those who work in such a place:

First, you are appreciated. You are seen. The work you do is valuable. If you haven’t heard that in a while (or ever), I am saying it now.

Second, please, if you cannot care for the elderly lovingly and gently and diligently, please find a new career. These people are precious to their families, and they are a treasure to our society. They are often under-appreciated, but these lovely seniors have seen so much we’ve never seen, experienced things we haven’t and could teach us so much if we care enough to listen.

We can’t look forward to more of their stories and being blessed by their presence if you fail to see them as worthy of your time and attention. Take the time to look beyond their condition, their needs, their complaints, their pain, and see them as we do. Please. At the very least, don’t be mean.

This plea applies to all the time, but particularly right now during this challenging time of quarantine when our beloved elderly are at your mercy and we have no window into the quality of their care. I beg you, if you can’t go above and beyond and love on our loved ones, at least do your job and care for them on a basic level. We count on you to keep our loved ones thriving, so I’m asking you to carefully consider the way you approach the job you do.

Please take care of our elderly family members. They are worth your time and energy. They are our very heart.

Uncovering

IMG-0012

I can hear the door creaking as I poke my head in, reminiscent of my childhood in southeast Georgia when we’d open the screen door slowly, trying to minimize that scranching sound the springs made. We never could fully drown out the sound. Part of the screech this time was having to retrieve my password, as embarrassing as that is. No denying it’s been a while.

I guess it’s weird that I’m back here, like coming home after a long time and everything looking and feeling different but vaguely familiar. Hopefully I haven’t been away long enough to be forgotten, but I would understand if I had.

I recently saw a post from Emily P. Freeman on social media where she re-introduced herself to her followers. What a simple but effective practice, right? I was intrigued reading the simple and lovely things she shared in a style that makes the reader feel like a friend. Somewhere in the nether regions of my overactive brain, I remembered having a copy of her book A Million Little Ways so I went into my office and retrieved it from the shelf. I’ve spent a few days getting back into it, and I admit I’m hooked. I feel like she is talking directly to this washed-up word weaver who wonders if she still has anything to say worth reading. I have to believe I do. So with her words encouraging me to dig down deep and find out, I’m going to give it a go.

I’m Lisa Easterling, waving from the Tampa Bay area of Florida where it is currently raining (my favorite kind of day) and because it’s somewhere in the upper 60’s, we have the windows open so the breeze can dance through our little yellow cottage. My husband Steve and I have been empty-nesters since our youngest got married in December a year ago. We have five adult children all married to amazing people we love as our own, and five grandchildren ranging in age from 2-19 whom we adore. After writing a couple of books a few years ago, I decided to go to college. I graduated last May with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education. I currently teach middle school at a local Christian community school, teach kindergarten and first-graders in a local after-school program, tutor at the local library, teach 5-year-olds at church on the weekends, and work on the editorial support team for an author friend. I love the ocean, but rarely get to visit it–a situation I would very much like to change. In addition to my deep love for teaching, I enjoy writing, reading, sketching, painting, photography, crafty things, music, cooking & baking, and perusing thrift stores for vintage kitchen items.

That’s enough for now. Hello again, and thank you for being here. Maybe we can uncover some deeply-buried God-purposed art together.

Smiles,
Lisa

Puzzle Piece

I

Though it may not make a difference, I confess that all too often
I have daydreamed things might change and that somehow your heart might soften.
I reach out to you in friendship, but get ridiculed instead;
When you hate that I exist, you make me feel far worse than dead.
Do you think I am oblivious to the way your eyes avert?
Do you know how your expressions and your words and actions hurt?
I am different—how I know this! I’m reminded every day.
It is written on your face and laced in everything you say.
But I should not be defined by what does not work perfectly;
I am more than just a wheelchair or a disability.
I may not think just like you do, may be sickly or obese;
By your judgment I don’t fit, but what about my puzzle piece?

II

In my world there’s so much noise that at times I cannot hear
Where a raindrop brings you solace, it’s a brainstorm that I fear
I speak softly; I speak loudly; Oft I do not speak at all;
Where you see me stilled by palsy, I can see me standing tall.
I’d give anything to tell you what is swirling in my mind;
What you can’t imagine losing I’d give anything to find.
I am under no delusion you can fathom how I feel;
I’d just like to know you’re willing to envision me as real.
You’ll see my unique artwork if you’ll look beyond my frame;
For us both to be of value, we don’t have to be the same.
I’d like to think this world might offer yet some small release
As I struggle to define the shape of my one puzzle piece.

III

All the times I’ve held my hand out, just to have my reach resisted;
I had almost given up all hope that a friend for me existed.
In a world where I must blend the way that I’m expected to;
My heart resolved to emptiness. Then one day there was you.
You didn’t see a crooked smile, a limp, a tic, an illness;
You saw a vibrant beauty tucked beneath peculiar stillness.
You were patient with my doubts and how I needed to adjust;
Where I once feared ill intentions, I knew you were safe to trust.
And I know you don’t want thanks, but still I’m thinking you should know
What a difference you have made and how you’ve helped me bloom and grow.
Just the way it made you smile to see my confidence increase
Has helped me love a world completed by my puzzle piece.

Lisa L. Easterling                                                                                                                                    

Worshiping in Beautiful Diversity

Forum-Transformed

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately, mostly circulating through social media, of Christians criticizing the worship styles and methods of other believers. This saddens me, brothers and sisters, on many levels.  If anything should be held sacred and apart from personal attack, it is our worshipful expressions toward our amazing God.

The trend seems to be specifically focused upon criticizing “modern” worship as “more like a concert than worship” and “just a loud, meaningless performance” and other such indictments. As though anyone can say for someone else that he or she cannot be worshiping as they make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

IntheRing

Our church has five campuses spread over the Tampa Bay area, and all five have modern worship styles. I am blessed to know–at least on some level–many of those who are leading worship on all five campuses, some of whom are in my immediate family. I don’t know a single person who is up there for a self-glorifying performance. Any performing I see being done is for an audience of One and for the planned purpose of leading those among them to God’s throne in corporate worship.

I don’t see a flashy concert with a frenzied audience. I see people praising. I see hearts softening. I see brokenness mending. I see lives changing.

At the Cross

That blonde girl up there jumping around and shouting, “In the name of Jesus Enemy’s defeated! And we will shout it out!” is currently saving for a missions trip. That guy playing the guitar? He was called to worship ministry in sixth grade and has never looked back. The guy playing piano? He just lost his teenage daughter and is infusing his grief into using his talent to worship the God who holds her in Heaven.

And that silver-haired guy down there dancing all around in bare feet? That’s a man who loves his Lord with all his heart and recognizes that in all of his unworthiness he is worshiping the One who alone is worthy of the praises of unshod followers and young missionaries and broken fathers and all the others living out their God-calling in wild abandon dancing on holy ground.

LayDownYourBurdens

One day into recovery from wisdom tooth surgery, I awoke this morning with the words to one of our currently oft-sung worship songs running through my head.

God is fighting for us! Pushing back the darkness! Lighting up the Kingdom that cannot be shaken!

It’s downright Scriptural. In a manner I’ve not seen in many other churches, we cover a variety of musical styles from country to hip-hop to pop to alternative to rock to classical to jazz and all in between. And believe it or not, we sing hymns. Sometimes we sing them in their original versions, often in beautifully blended a cappella harmonies. Sometimes the words are sung in a varied musical style, and sometimes parts of hymns are woven into more modern songs.

Jungle

It’s okay to sing only hymns. Never mind that many of our original hymns were sung to bar tunes, because all music was God’s first, and what better place to sing God-songs than in bars? My point is whatever happened to worshiping the way you want to, and letting everyone else do the same? We don’t all have to be holding our hymnals like a scene from American Gothic droning out “Bringing in the Sheaves” with all the joyful enthusiasm of a geriatric sloth to be considered real worshipers.

IveComeToWorship

The real worshipers are all of us, friends. However we express it, whatever songs we choose, whatever styles we employ, whether we sit or stand or jump around or dance barefoot. All of us whose hearts have been lit up by the Holy Spirit to pour out our worship to the God who makes all things new. The God Who heals the broken and delights in the dances of the gray-haired and the missionaries, and works His perfect will in and through the kid who said yes to His calling at 6th-grade youth camp.

We’re all in this together, believers. Let’s worship together, all of us, all over the world, in the ways and styles that suit us best as we praise the Creator of beautiful diversity and wide-open worship. Are you in? I am.

GloryForever

Freedom

 

Sky

These are busy days, but they are filled with renewal and awareness and purpose. Final assignments and exams for spring semester will be finished this week and a new semester in my education program starts mid-May, just before my teaching year ends. I’m finding my groove with work, school, and ministry involvement I love.

One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself was the Freedom class that culminated with the Freedom Encounter this past weekend at Grace. I’m not sure what I expected from the class, but I can assure you that I can’t capture the enormity of what actually did happen in my heart and mind. Some things defy words. I confess I have been hesitant to try to write out the jumble of thoughts darting through my head over the past three days. I have been fervently praying for God to reveal to me all that He wants for me, and I trust Him to do just that.

I was prayed over by two beautiful women of God during the Encounter. Daphne and Natalie prayed and spoke words of encouragement and direction over me, after which I couldn’t wait to get back to my seat to jot it all down in my notebook. So while this is all very hard to word, I have a Freedom notebook jam-packed with words that have been shared with me over the past nine weeks. I will be spending the next several days, weeks, and months unpacking the teachings shared by Kristin, Chris, Scott, and Jerry. Their wisdom has made a profound impact that will be a gift I open slowly and continually.

I want to be an invitation rather than an opinion. I want to welcome and not repel. I want to live fully into God’s purpose for me rather than shrinking back and accepting the lie that I am washed up, that my time was then and this is now and I have nothing to offer. I want to learn from what God revealed to my heart–that I am capable of loving and healthy friendship when I focus on Him and His Word, and that words of negativity spoken over me in the past need to be left there.

I want to walk forward in forgiveness and gratitude and compassion. I want to be unafraid to do what I am equipped and called to do. I want to love freely and wisely. I want to encourage others and take gentle care of me. I want to follow God’s lead with humility and grace, focused on His will for me. I want to lead by relationship and follow with respect. In all these things, I trust God to guide me.

I have camped out in the Psalms today, calling out with the Psalmists for God’s hand on my life and the blessing of dwelling in His house forever. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Ps. 27:13) For much in this life, I must wait. But not this. I will see His goodness in the here and now if I look for it. And believe me, I am looking.

 

27

roseheather

I’ve penned little verses for your day each year
My heart never emptied of weeping the why
Twenty-seven years still can’t fade the sad joy
Of reliving the day when hello meant goodbye

~ * ~
In Memory
Heather Rose Easterling
B/D April 18, 1990
~ * ~

Purposefulness>Deprivation

fruitwater

I mean no offense whatsoever toward those who promote weight-loss plans, but I find deprivation “diets” really depressing—and for me, totally ineffective. About mid-August I started focusing on drinking more water–a lot more–and once I did that, I naturally left soda behind. After a couple of weeks I noticed I wasn’t craving sweet tea any more, and by about the third week I noticed I was drinking exclusively water. I was feeling good, losing weight, and noticed a marked energy boost.

I never banned myself from those other things–it just came naturally–and that is why I believe it worked. I also noticed that I was eating less sweets to the point where now I rarely even want any. But I can assure you that if I had set out to deprive myself of any of those things, I would only have craved them more and my focus would have been annoyingly steered toward what I couldn’t have.

Not that I am knocking the value of self-control, because I truly believe God calls us to develop and exercise it. My point is that I don’t believe God calls us to blanket deprivation simply because a food is tasty/sweet/whatever. God gave us taste buds and made food tasty for a reason. I also don’t believe any food is more “righteous” than another. I am not closer to God because I eat more cabbage than I do M&Ms. I love them both, and I don’t think M&M’s are sinful any more than cabbage is holy.

Personally, I crave collard greens far more often than I crave candy, but when I do want candy, I have some. I am finding that my whole outlook on food is much healthier and more conducive to happiness as I take everything as a gift from God with gratitude and am watching extra weigh fall off as I follow God’s lead without a list of “NO”s to keep. My tummy shrunk considerably early on, and my portion size naturally adjusted to about a fistful at a time. Which is the size our tummies should actually be. Imagine that.

I do acknowledge that allergies and aversions/sensitivities exist and should be considered. I also am aware that certain foods are more nutritious than others, and that certain people have a harder time digesting food prepared in certain ways. I just happen to think that “all things in moderation” applies pretty well overall, and if you have a certain food sensitivity then pay attention to it without making the leap that such food/prep method is good or evil. It’s just food. All things in moderation with gratitude.

I guess my whole point is sharing the notion of purposefulness when it comes to what goes into our bodies. Stay aware, purposefully intentional, and grateful. That’s really all. I’m determined to find the size I’m supposed to be. There may not be a skinny girl trapped in here, but I’m fixin’ to find out who is and what she looks like. With all this water, at least I’ll have more energy for the quest. I’ll keep you posted on the excavation.

Seasons

seasons

For most of my life I have readily recognized the truth of the verse that says, “To everything there is a season.” I get it, the whole that was then, this is now thing. I understand that some life seasons are harder than others. I’m not sure I was fully prepared for how confusing and bewildering this season would be.

Becoming a mother of five adults crept up on me and by the time it popped out from behind the tree I was too far in to run and too scared to scream. Don’t get me wrong–there are some pretty awesome things about watching five adults grow wings and take flight and make their own way in the world. Something fulfilling, even, about knowing I had a key role and a ringside seat to who they have become.

But just about the time I get excited about being a big part of something so amazing, I catch a scent of something concerning going on with one of them and the creative in me goes all imagination-nutso and suddenly all the pride and joy gets vacuumed up in a whirlwind of worry. I like to consider myself fairly flexible and resilient, but this is maddening.

Maybe the truth is that I’m just beginning to realize what a key role fear has played in my life. What a key role it still plays, if I’m totally honest. The perfectionist in me grumbles that I should have grown out of this by now.

And yet here I am, in the throes of peri-menopause, with emotions flailing all over the map and me in the middle playing wack-a-mole to keep them subdued. I’m exhausted.

I find myself wondering what women do in my situation when they don’t have the fierce love and support of a family like mine. I know how the frustration mounts for me, how it feels like a vise I can’t escape, how on my worst days I wish I could start walking and not stop till I fall into an exhausted heap too far away to negatively affect my family. I can’t imagine doing this without the grace and patience of my people.

One bittersweet facet of this time in my life is that memory is acutely sharpened for times gone by. Someone asked today if I remember my childhood phone number. It’s 912-382-0273. I was eleven when that stopped being my phone number. Eleven was a very long time ago. Memory moments keep popping into my head–not just monumental moments but plain old ordinary ones–with an acuteness that has my senses piqued in ways it’s hard to describe. This is a part of my season that I don’t really mind; I find comfort in reminiscing.

All in all, I guess I don’t mind being here in this season. Things could be a lot worse, and I am not about to wish away the blessings that keep me rooted in the here and now. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s where I am. And even with the frustration and the occasional fantasy of heading for the mountains and the life of an old hermit lady, I’m glad I’m here.

Simple

calm

“One day I will find the right words and they will be simple.”
Jack Kerouac

These days, they are anything but simple. They are complicated, complex, wrought with conflicting opinion and stand-taking and assertion. I am tired.

I long for calmer moments, of rainy afternoons and dark clouds gathered and thunder like the rumbling of a distant train.

Things are about to become much less quiet in my life as I start work as a TA and simultaneously begin work on my B.S. in Ed Studies full time online. This will be far from simple, but I need rest soul-deep if I have any hope of getting through the next two years.

I want the election to be over. Whatever we are going to wind up with for leadership I just want it done so (hopefully) the arguing and judgment will stop. If it doesn’t stop, then social media will not be seeing much of me. I need to focus in a positive direction.

I long for quietness, for lightness of being, for peace. I long for moments spent holding my husband’s hand or playing Little People with my grandchildren or making dinner for my big, beautiful family. I need to pull inward, to beckon my heart back home. Only then can I pour myself out the way God calls me to do as a wife, a mother, a Mimi, a teacher, a friend.

I am praying for renewal of purpose. For all of us.

Our Children

E-family 3.16
From back left: Papa, Charly, Jeff, Trevor, Matt, Steve. Next row: Amanda, Strider, Jenna, Rosie, Joe. Next row forward: Lisa, Nana, Morgan, Lakin, Luke. Front: Rosabelle, Archer.

One thing we believe in most strongly at Easterhouse is the value of FAMILY. We’ve built ours on a culture we’ve grown from our earliest days. It is a culture that says family done intentionally according to God’s design is the hub of everything in this life, and that what we do and say and experience becomes the spokes stretching from that base. We try with all we’ve got to live it personally, and we’ve mentored it in family ministry for years. We believe in it, and we know it works beautifully.

Our son Jeff, who arrived the day after we moved into our first apartment of our own, is a born leader. In those early years his headstrong personality provided quite a challenge for our fledgling parenting skills. We bumbled around trying to be a good mom and dad, but thankfully he is also quite resilient. Every so often we extend what we refer to as the “guinea pig apology”, our ongoing “I’m sorry” for him having to be the one on whom we learned the ropes of parenting. He has always been an amazing dad to Morgan (b. 2000). He served on staff at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa for 19 years, and in July of 2014 he moved to Seattle to work for Microsoft’s 343 Industries. He continues to spend as much time as possible with his beloved Charly, who is working on a biology doctorate at USF.

Just shy of five years later Luke joined us, with a disposition about as calm and accommodating as Jeff was headstrong. His goal was to bring peace and make everyone happy, and he did. I caught myself worrying that he would grow up to be a pushover who couldn’t speak up for himself or stand strong on his beliefs. That thought makes me laugh now, seeing the courageous man of God he is. He married Lakin in 2007 and has since become a daddy to Rosabelle (2010) and Archer (2013). He is Senior Director for a local youth sports enrichment program, and a sports journalist for USA Today‘s Draft Wire.

We lost a baby we named Jamie to miscarriage in May of 1989. In April of 1990 our precious newborn daughter Heather lived ten hours before she died of a Beta Strep infection. I share more about these times of grief and God’s provision and comfort within the pages of this blog.

Trevor joined our family in March of 1991. With chipmunk cheeks and a ready smile, he filled our home with joy and brought healing where our hearts had been crushed with grief. In the sixth grade he announced that he felt led into worship ministry. He set to work immediately preparing for that calling, and throughout his life has continually shown us ways to walk more closely with God. He married Amanda in November of 2011, and is now a worship leader at Grace Family Church in Tampa.

Matt came in March of 1993 with big blue eyes and a head full of curls. He quickly developed a disarming wit that left people scratching their heads. His childhood was spent growing into a young man who strongly values honor and personal integrity, and who pours himself completely into every task at hand. All who know him love and respect him as an exemplary man of God. He married our music pastor’s daughter Jenna in June of 2013. Their son Strider was born in December of 2014, and their daughter is due in August 2017. Matt works as a CAD drafter for UC Synergetic.

When Rosie came in May of 1995, our whole world turned pink. We named her Rose after my mother, and she brought a completeness to our family none of us could have anticipated. She twirled before she could walk, and has continued to follow her lifelong passion for dance. She teaches dance at a local studio and is working on a business degree at St. Petersburg College. She dearly loves children and is a trusted sitter and childcare worker. She and her beloved Joe have been together since May of 2011.