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Put Your Heartbeat In the Room…the Ministry of Presence in everyday life.

I am a classic over-thinker. I over plan. I contemplate words. I analyze, strategize and kibbutz about stuff.thinker

Sometimes I make things way too difficult. I search for the perfect words or the right approach. I contemplate every word of a conversation – even rehearsing in the car (yup, that’s me on I-94 southbound talking to myself).

Sometimes I struggle with what to do. Do I hug? Hold a hand? Purchase an expensive gift? Do I avoid someone? Do I even have a deep enough relationship with someone to be needed in a moment of crisis or despair? Who am I to step forward to lend support?

Or some times I delay action and conversation because I don’t know what to say. I stumble awkwardly or avoid connection so that I don’t hurt someone’s feelings or make a situation worse.

See…here I am…totally over-thinking, over-analyzing, over-everything…when all I need to be is…there.

I was recently taught about the Ministry of Presence. As I pondered this Christian concept, I realized that it was hugely applicable to a lot more than my religion.

The ministry of presence basically teaches that sharing our faith is as simple as being present and caring for someone else in very simple ways. It’s a basic approach that teaches us that we don’t need to actively instruct, influence or share our faith in order to minister to others. We can simply be present.

For a classic over-thinker, this idea of presence, and nothing more, is staggering. How do I do that? How is my simple presence enough?

Stepping back, it’s easy to see how living with presence can have huge impact in all of our relationships. Whether we are sharing a TV show with our spouse or hanging out with our kids, if we do it with presence and an open heart, we accomplish something.

Some times, all our loved ones need is our heartbeat in the same room. Some times, Horizontal Pulse Trace Heart Monitor with the symbol of a heart inline with the pulse.all we need is another person to share a movie we’ve seen 100 times or a friend to h
old our hand when we’re worried or afraid.

Some times, no words need be said, no gifts need to be given, no profound idea needs to be shared. Some times, all we need is to know that we’re not alone.

In our lives with funeral directors, we often have sparse time with our spouses. We can meet at the end of a hectic day and wonder if our failing energy is enough to keep the spark between us. It is in these moments that presence is enough.

Maybe you just sit on the couch together while one person reads a magazine and the other watches TV. Perhaps you share the kitchen while one person does dishes and the other works on a hobby at the table. Or maybe you just take a drive, run an errand or otherwise inhabit the same space…even without words.

You see, being present together is extremely important for the strength of our personal connections. This is why going along on a call or sipping coffee together for two minutes has so much strength!

When I tell funeral directors that the time they give their spouse is more important (and wanted) than the fancy vacation or expensive dinner, they laugh. But then I mention that it’s not really the outcome or experience that means something, it’s the choice.

When a person chooses to spend time with you, you know you are loved. It doesn’t matter what that time involves or includes, it’s just the gesture of choosing YOU for that moment.

Our kids respond to this too. Rather than over-scheduling our little mini-mes, we should be finding time to be together, unscripted and unplanned. Sometimes, our kids just want us. Time. Attention. Our heartbeats in the same room.

When I turn off the noise, open up my heart and BE with my kids, I am always amazed by the conversations that happen. Burning questions tumble out of their mouths. Unique ideas and viewpoints are shared. I get to know them better and have opportunities to parent that can’t be bought by more practice time, scripted sit-downs and schedules.

Next time you feel like maybe you should find a way to support or connect with someone, consider the Ministry of Presence. Bring your heartbeat to the room, be present and Be.

It is enough.

Posted in Marriage, Parenting, The good stuff, Why Are You Here? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Projects The Pause

pauseThere are some very sage advisers in our culture who tell us to finish what we start. We are encouraged to tie up loose ends…to complete our tasks…to seek to wrap up what we’ve started before we move on to something else.

But if you spend life with a funeral director, you are more than familiar with projects that pause.

When our funeral directors are on call, everything they start may have to be paused. They search for things that they can do during downtime that can be paused if the pager or cell phone trills in the midst of a project. If not for Projects That Pause, on call weekends would be a total loss. But there are some that can.

Unfortunately, most major home renovation or fix-it projects cannot pause. Stopping for days in the midst of tiling the bathroom floor can cause major disgruntlement in our families. Half-mowing the yard makes our neighbors crazy. Partially painting a room may be OK for a while, but the set-up and clean-up needed to make this happen can be enough to stop before you start.

But there are projects that can pause, if you do them with pause in mind. Sorting a tool room, planting trees, spreading mulch, cleaning out a closet, and more can be done while on call.

What kinds of projects can be placed on pause? And what types of projects should be avoided while on call? Have you and your director ever started something only to pause it? What did you learn?

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Dropping the D Word

Words have tremendous power. D

Nations have risen – and fallen – through words. Reputations have been built – and destroyed – by words. Horrific things have begun – and been ended – with words.

Words come easy to us. They are free. They are simple. But they are strong.

Whether you mean it or not, casually dropping the “D” word to your spouse can do irreparable damage to your marriage.

How many couples have met their demise when one member of the pair decides to throw out the D word without considering the power of the word?  Maybe they didn’t mean it? Maybe they just wanted to make a point? Maybe they were just angry?

But using the D word, whether you mean it or not, sends your marriage down a road where it is difficult to traverse and even harder to turn around.

Once the D word is introduced into your relationship, it cannot go away without a lot of work. The D word has power. It is a word full of labels, assumptions and doubt. It is riddled with guilt, accusation and finger-pointing. It is the embodiment of blame and failure.

I beg you to use great caution and care before you drop the D word. It’s not a word to use to make a point, unless your point is to divorce your mate. It’s not a word to use to hurt someone unless you mean to cause permanent damage.

In our lives with funeral directors, we get frustrated.  We are lonely. We may be angry some times.  But it is very important to remember that the words we choose can be extremely powerful.

When we share our feelings, express our thoughts and respond to our spouses, do we consider the words we are using?  I’m not asking you to tread on egg shells, but I am asking you to consider the strength of the words you choose.

There is a big difference between thinking and feeling.  There is a major eclipse between assuming and asking. There is a massive crevasse between feeling hurt, tired and lonely and ending your marriage in divorce.

I challenge you to drop the D word into a very deep mental well. Forget it. Leave it.

If you truly need the D Word at some point in your life, it’ll take a very heavy, very tall mental ladder to get it.  And perhaps, by the time you reach it, you won’t want it any more.

Be careful where you drop the D word.

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Feeling Bad…About Feeling Good

IMG_20150805_195946203_HDRI’ve been MIA from this blog for a bit. I just haven’t felt the raging desire to write anything relevant lately.

Wait. That’s not true.

I haven’t been comfortable sharing much lately because…well, frankly, everything has been pretty good.

As I started to analyze this phenomenon, I realized that I wasn’t writing blog posts because I was feeling bad…about feeling good.

All is well in my life with a funeral director. We just got back from our annual family vacation and it was great! We’re having a wonderful summer. The funeral home has been very busy. My job has been predictable and well-paced for the summer and I’ve been able to manage everything with a leisurely hustle. Life is good.

But I hesitated to share these things because I know I’m an anomaly in our world and that a lot of you are struggling with these same things right now. Whether it be loneliness, frustration, anxiety, marital strife or something else – my ego believed that there are a lot of readers who don’t want to hear about my happy little life right now and I’d just be a total B(*#$*&( to share while I verbally rub it all over your faces.

However, none of us should ever feel bad…about feeling good. We should not hide the positive things in our life with the intent to protect the feelings of other people. This doesn’t make any sense! By sharing and exhibiting our happiness, we might inspire someone – or give hope to someone who struggles. We CAN be happy in our lives with funeral directors…look! Katy is happy!

There is a tendency in our culture to seek crises and to wear suffering as a badge of honor. Victimhood is revered. People who are persecuted by someone – or something – are held up as examples to the rest of us. As a result, we all seek something to battle.

In a given day, count the number of times that other people tell you about how busy they are or how tired they are. Take a closer look at your response to the question – “how are you?” Are you really busy? Are you actually tired? If so – these are things you can change. But do you change them? Or are you just answering in this way because you’ve been programmed to do so?

Are you really busy? Are you really tired? Is something really wrong?

Why can’t things just be…good? Why do we always have to struggle against something to feel like our life has meaning and purpose? Can’t the purpose of our life be contentment? Shouldn’t our goal be to spend more days happy? I like it here. I think I’ll stay.

At a conference I attended recently, one of the speakers asserted that everyone has trauma in their life and we should embrace it, share it and fight to overcome it. She is right. We’ve all experienced something major.

But when the trauma becomes our identity, we lose sight of happiness. I would assert that consistently and constantly identifying as a victim freezes our ability to overcome and blinds us to happiness.

Chronic victims don’t really want happiness. They derive attention from being a victim. If they truly released their identity as a victim and overcame whatever victimized them, they would find happiness from within, but they would lose the attention (positive and negative) of others. This is a tough transition to make and one that most people don’t really want.

As I started to think about a post for this blog, I brainstormed for things that had gone wrong since my last post. I tried to come up with a relevant struggle or frustration. I began to invent negative scenarios that I could theoretically solve with you. But I had nothing.

Then, I realized that it was absolutely stupid to focus on negativity. Yes, this blog is meant to inspire you to solve problems. It is here to provide solace and commiseration so that you know that you are not alone. But it is not a place to wallow. And you don’t want it to be.

We don’t need to look for the crisis. If it’s a real crisis – it’ll be obvious. We don’t need to invent oppression for ourselves. We have enough real issues to deal with when they come along on their own.

We need to accept happiness and contentment as the gifts they are. And we need to feel good…about feeling good.

I know that the bottom could fall out at any moment. It could get horribly busy again. My job will whip up into a lather in just a couple of short weeks. The kids will go back to school and the rat race will resume. The weather will get colder and the leaves will start to fall.

But for now – life is good. All of the practices and strategies I share on this blog are working. We’re a happy family with good jobs and a thriving business. We’re balanced and things are…well, good.

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Breaking My Own Rules

Last weekend, I broke almost all of my own rules and many of the strategies that I share with all of you every week. im sorry

I started a project – that required my funeral director’s time and talent – while he was on call.  Gasp.

Then I badgered him to finish the project on my timeline – which I suddenly invented that day. Horrid.

I texted him, repeatedly, from the aisles of Costco while he was dealing with a call. Shame.

I bit off too much.  I demanded his participation.  I simply lost my consciousness of what was happening in his head while I blindly forged through my to-do list on my weekend.

As a result, I ended Sunday night with apologies and my blogging tail between my legs.

I was not at my best.

Why do I tell you this?  Because I think it’s important to admit when we go down the wrong path. I also think it’s important to share this with you because I’m not infallible, far from perfect and sheesh…I’ve been there.

I also think it’s important to forgive ourselves, move on and do better next time.

When I got the text on Sunday that said – “I’m in the middle of a mess please stop I will call you as soon as I can”…

I felt like donkey dung.  What was I thinking?

This text was precluded by a series of texts that said “I’ll call you in an hour” and “Right now? I’m really busy”.

Seriously, what was I thinking?

So, rather than beat myself up or become a martyr, I stopped texting. He called me later.  I apologized. He sighed. I apologized again and promised to remember my own advice.

And it’s done.

As a woman, I need to be contrary to my natural tendency to dwell on my misdeeds.  I need to leave it alone.  I don’t need to ruminate on it.  I don’t need to beat myself up. In fact, beyond this blog post, I really don’t need to think about my dumb actions. I just need to remember my own advice.

When you break your own rules, forget our strategies or otherwise start something that’s not likely to end well, just remember that only you can ask for – and give – forgiveness…and maybe learn something from yourself.

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Always Ask For More

It sure seems like absolutely everyone is taking video of absolutely everything…all of the time.  whole story.onesnapshot

No matter what is going on, someone seems to be taking a video and instantly posting it online for everyone to see, judge and make assumptions.  Sometimes the consequences of this practice are devastating and alarming!  People have been fired, injured, slandered and ruined by videos nonchalantly posted and opinions instantly waged.

When the second video, the longer clip and the other angle are posted – we sometimes see a totally different story.  But by then, the damage is done.

Take, for example, the video of the bus driver in Edmonton, Canada who was nearly fired for booting an unruly student off of his bus. The first video, taken by a child on the bus, showed him pushing the student off of the bus…and everyone passed judgment.  The School Board even asked for his immediate dismissal.

However, new video, longer video, more complete video from the bus camera itself shows the student hitting the bus driver in the face with his hockey bag.  The little jerk instigated the problem and was disciplined for his actions. I would have kicked him off of the bus too.

Now, the school board eats crow.  The bus driver is reinstated.  And the kid…well…who knows what his consequences will be.  But, either way, the bus driver was still judged by others and his life has likely changed forever.

This should be a lesson for all of us – always ask for more information.  Always look beyond the headlines.  Always check from another angle. Always make sure you have all, if not most, of the story before you pass judgment.

In our culture of instantaneous over sharing, it is too easy to digest snippets of information and form opinions, judgments and ideas without all of the information.  When these snippets prompt people to violence, hasty decisions and life-altering actions, our cultural irresponsibility becomes dangerous.

In the same vein, it’s easy to assume that everything we see posted by others tells the whole story. Comparing ourselves to the chosen snapshots of life that are shared by our friends, family and acquaintances can make us feel less than we actually are.  We are frustrated that we don’t look like them, feel like them, have everything that they have.  We wonder what is wrong with us. Why can’t we have the same life?  We came from the same background?  Our families make the same money…so why don’t we look like that?

We don’t look like “that” because we’re only seeing 10% of the picture.  We don’t see the struggle, sacrifices, unhappiness and decisions that occur outside the perfect picture that they chose to share.  We don’t see the dirty laundry, disagreements, missed opportunities and choices that they make in many of the same ways that we do.  This is the stuff that most people don’t share.  And those who do share this stuff…well, we wonder about their pity-party aspirations…don’t we?

Maybe we see a happy family who goes on awesome vacations with perfectly toned bodies and endless disposable income.  But we don’t see the hours that mom and dad have to work – in jobs and at the gym – and the time that the kids spend with a sitter or on their own so that the family can spend one week together in Florida.

Maybe we see someone who is ultra-successful at their own business and has “it all”. But we don’t see the late nights, the coupons clipped, the sacrifices made, the tough decisions and the old cars they drive to make the business go.

Maybe we see an amazingly talented, creative stay-at-home mom who out-performs super woman.  But we don’t see the lady who is exhausted and frustrated by the same things that make us crazy. We don’t see her begrudgingly agree to chair another committee…because she “has the time”…when all she wants to do is read a book by herself for a while and have down time to use for whatever SHE wants to do.

Maybe we read the headline of a news story and form an opinion without knowing all of the facts;  or maybe the writer, anchor or presenter spins the topic to make you believe their point of view and (more dangerously) call you to action.  But when we’re asked to defend our position, we find out that we would have formed a different opinion entirely if we’d studied the issue a little bit more…even if we’d just read the whole article or thought it through…beyond the spin.

You can’t see the whole story in one snapshot of time.

I encourage you to look for more, ask questions, peer beyond the headline, and seek more than a sound bite.  Gather more information before you pass judgment, compare yourself or make a decision.  You may be surprised by the reality you find when you look for more.

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Completion. Doneness. Finishment. ~ The Case For Finishing Something That’ll Stay Done

completion.doneness.finshmentAs a mom, a wife of a funeral director and a full-time workin’ stiff, I spend a lot of time spinning  my wheels.  I commute.  I clean. I get kids where they need to go. I do laundry. I make meals. I load and unload the dishwasher. I go to work.

I do a lot of stuff that starts all over again the next day no matter how thoroughly and completely I’ve done these things the day before.  Spin.  Spin.  Spin.  Repeat.

But over this past weekend, I finished a project in my yard that has been six months in the making.  I started it last fall just before the snow started to fly and then I couldn’t finish.  Life got in the way and snow drifts and frozen ground covered the evidence.

Since spring sprung, I haven’t been home for more than an hour at a time between soccer games, dance recitals, working and trying to keep the balls of life spinning in the air.  Each weekend, I have given this project a cursory glance and felt it chuckle at me…  “you’ll never finish”…it said a gruff troll-like voice.

After the rain stopped on Memorial Day, I grabbed my shovel and decided to forget the dishes, screw the laundry and damn the unfinished work. I was going to finish something.  And I did.

The feeling I got from this completed project is amazing. I feel such a glow of completion. Doneness. Finishment. (my own words).

This project is something that will be completed and finished and done for as long as I leave it that way.  I cannot say this for most of the other things I do on a weekly basis.

The laundry never ends.  Dishes are always in a state of unclean. Kids usually need to be fed and transported somewhere.  Work beckons.  I can vacuum the living room and within 30 seconds there are tufts of something or other all over the place. Don’t even get me started on the back seat of my car.

In the words of Lisa Simpson – “this is why I can’t have nice things…”

But this project is done.  For a glorious moment, my wheels stopped spinning. I felt completion. I knew doneness.  I experienced finishment.  And it was sweet.

If you feel like you are constantly spinning your wheels and that the “stuff” of life never ends, pick a project that you can finish.  Do something that will remain done until you undo it. A clean countertop or a reorganized closet doesn’t count.  It has to be something permanent that no one with sticky fingers or a lazy toss can undo in less than 2 seconds flat.

Pick something to finish.  Get out your shovel.  Go.  Complete. Done.

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