When I first moved into my new LifeLines office space not quite a year ago, I gave you a look “behind the screen.” At that time I had nothing hanging on the walls—I was still enjoying the blank canvas of clean, fresh paint.

Throughout the year, I’ve gradually allowed the paint to become a backdrop for other sources of inspiration, and I thought LifeLines readers might appreciate an update:

inspiring - view
I still love my green walls, and I find that my view out the window is more inspiring than distracting.
inspiring - exploring
The wall I look at most often is now covered with this piece I found in a furniture store. The painted beach is textured with actual stones and sand, and I love the three-dimensional effect. The scene reminds me of family vacations in Florida, where I spent long childhood days exploring and discovering and learning from my grandparents.
inspiring - family
To my right are these smaller framed works, including a series of poems I wrote as a child. My young sister illustrated them and my proud grandmother had them framed. Of course, they are not terribly impressive writings, but I kept them after my grandmother and grandfather died because it meant so much to me that they meant so much to her.
inspiring - tragedy
Behind me, where I can’t see them all the time, are these photographs from 9/11/01. For no particular reason, I was deeply impacted by this national tragedy. I had never been to New York City, and I suffered no personal loss during those days, but I was intrigued by our national response and the national mood—immediately and in the months following. There are things about those days that I never want to forget.
inspiring - art
I have just begun filling this wall with masterpieces from people who are an inspiring part of my everyday life: a woman from my church who used to teach art, a neighbor who was willing to part with “Heart to Heart,” my young niece who seems to have some natural talent, and my mother who refuses to believe she is talented and will probably be annoyed that I’ve included her work on my wall as well as in my blog. All of these people teach me something different about art and work and talent and inspiration. I like having them behind me.

I also like having some room on my walls for new inspirations. The thing about inspiration is, it fades. We get used to it, and then we become immune to it. We need a fresh inspiring from time to time. But the new inspirations don’t have to replace the old ones. Instead, those old relics can be polished and brightened and given new meaning as we carry them into the present and build on them for the future.


Revisiting Why (do I) blog?

why blog

why blogAlthough I first posted this blog five years ago, I believe it remains true and relevant today. If you’re still not sure what a “blog” is, this blog’s for you!

Why (do I) blog?

originally published October 20, 2010

Many of you who subscribe to this LifeLines blog are rather new to blogging. You’re not sure what “blogs” are, or why you need them, or how to engage with them. So when I saw this video in a social media class, I thought, “Cool. I want to share this with my subscribers.” (The good people at Common Craft put together this video—and they gave me permission to use it here. Check out the other “in plain English” videos they’ve created to explain a variety of topics!)

Helping you share your story

The tagline for my blog (and my business) is “helping you share your story.” Those five words are what this blog is all about. My story is that I help other people share their stories—in books, on business cards, through fundraising letters, on their own blogs or websites, however that story-telling will be most appropriate and most effective. Throughout the process, I’m both discovering and living out my part in God’s larger story.

As this little video says, there are millions of stories to share. And many of them are worth sharing! But people often need help with the sharing.

I like being in a position where I can provide that help.

What do you think? Did this little video help? Which questions did it answer for you? Which questions remain unanswered?


Funeral keepsakes


I never want the work to have a mindless, assembly-line feel. Each funeral is personal. Each program is special. With proper care, it becomes a keepsake.

My friend’s mother died unexpectedly in 2006. I sat with the family as they sorted through photos and told stories through their tears. There’s not much you can do to help in a situation like that, but I did the one thing I could: I designed and wrote the funeral program.

Three years later, when my friend’s father died, I was able to help with his funeral program too. It became a keepsake the whole family treasured.

keepsakeIn both of those situations, Funeral Director Mike Matthysse (of Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf Funeral Homes) expressed appreciation for the work I had done. He recognized what a value this service would be if he could offer it to other grieving families. So we began to talk about working together.

Working together

I sent Mike a proposal, and he liked what I had to offer, but he couldn’t meet the price I had quoted. So I adjusted the quote to make it work for both of us—that is, I brought my price down, but I also decreased the time I would need to invest. For example, I reduced the number of revisions Mike could expect from me, eliminated stock photography options, and asked if there were parts of the work his staff could handle. In the end, we came up with an arrangement that works for both of us.

funeral keepsakeI enjoy working with Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf because they have a system in place for gathering photos and information from the family and providing it to me quickly. That allows me to work within my strengths—I review all the info, clean up the photos, write a “life story” based on the details they’ve gathered, and lay it out in a format that Mike’s staff can print and fold in-house. I’m usually able to email a PDF proof the same day, and Mike and his staff show it to the family and ask if they have any corrections. The corrections have always been minor, so I can turn around a final copy right away.

Quick, yet mindful

keepsakeObviously, the nature of the funeral business demands a quick turnaround. And the more of these projects I do, the quicker I become, which is good.

But I never want the work to have a mindless, assembly-line feel. Each funeral is personal. Each program is special. Through the resource gathered by professionals like Mike, I get to know the people I’m writing about, and it’s an honor to share their lives.

funeral keepsakeGetting the writing right

It requires sensitivity, intuition, and empathy to get the writing right so that a funeral program can become a funeral keepsake. But the work pays off when you see clients read the program, and you watch them smile through their tears.


Note: A longer version of this article originally appeared as a guest post on Peter Bowerman’s blog,

Related post: Memorial Folders: a final tribute to your loved one’s life story

Net Neutrality
(democracy and the internet in action together)

Net NeutralityLast year, I posted a couple of blogs about Net Neutrality. Now, I understand that a name like “Net Neutrality” does not sound terribly exciting, but it is, in fact, a subject very important to the life we take for granted in America every day.

Many of you responded to my first Net Neutrality post by digitally signing a petition or making your opinion known in some other way. I appreciate that!

Net Neutrality
Click image to view larger

Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who took action. People all over the country made their digital voices heard.

And our President has responded. (See the letter at right.)

Not only has the FCC voted in favor of a strong Net Neutrality rule, but the President himself has issued a statement about his plan for “keeping the internet open and free.”

The White House has also provided a clear explanation of what Net Neutrality is, how it was defended by the American people, and the path of policies and petitions that led us to where we are today:

  • Net Neutrality, by

I think the whole issue is a fascinating example of regular people—the democracy—using today’s tools—the internet—to be involved in government, commerce, and personal expression.

Well done!

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