“Hope that you spend your days
And they all add up.
And when that sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup.”
-One Republic, I Lived
Last weekend my 12-year-old daughter prepared a special birthday gift for one of her best friends. As a generous gift giver from an early age, it did not surprise me that Natalie put great thought into gathering her friend’s favorite things. Having outgrown the tendency to re-gift gently used items from around the house, the basket was filled with items Natalie purchased with her hard-earned babysitting money. What did surprise me about this gift were the envelopes tucked inside. My younger daughter discovered them while admiring the gift before her sister left for the party.
“Wow! This is so thoughtful,” I told my older daughter when she discovered her little sister and me bent over the gift basket. Natalie quickly gathered the envelopes up. I sensed she didn’t want us to make a fuss over this special touch, but I had to ask, “What’s inside the envelopes?”
“Just inspirational messages,” she said as she hugged the basket to her chest and headed to the door. “They’re just words to help my friend through situations that might come up.”
Just words to carry her through.
There was nothing just about that.
Although I could not know for sure, I felt certain those envelopes would outlive the Eos lip balm. They would be more coveted than the warm PJ pants. They would be remembered long after the party was over. At the age of 12, this child got it—she got the point. I live each day of my life desperately wanting to get it too.
But so often I fall short—especially during chaotic, busy times like holidays. I get caught up in what’s on the outside—the tasks, the preparation, and how it looks. I forget what’s underneath—the memories, the connections, and how it feels. In light of personal health struggles and worldly tragedies, I don’t want to miss the point this holiday season.
Perhaps you don’t either.
So I’ve taken a page from Natalie’s book. I’ve written some special “OPEN WHEN …” inspirational passages for us to use in the days ahead. They have been created in the spirit of Hands Free Life Daily Declarations which help me (and many who are reading my new book) start the day in a positive, intentional direction. My talented friend Kristin of Two Cannoli made the 9 Day Openers into a beautiful printable found at the end of the post for our ease. Feel free to use each Day Opener as a mantra, a prayer, a lifeline, or an aspiration. Feel free to use them in order, trusting that message will be exactly what you need that day. Or feel free to use the same opener day after day if it really resonates with you. Feel free to print them, cut them, post them, or tuck them in your purse or wallet and carry them with you. Feel free to pass them on. Feel free to gift them as if you wrote them yourself. But most of all, feel free to live them. Let us all live out these life-enhancing day-openers as much as humanly possible. Let us not miss the point this holiday season.
9 Day Openers to Carry Us Through
Open when … it’s hard to show up:
Today I will show up even when it’s hard, even when it requires going out of my comfort zone, even when it means facing people who are difficult to face. I will be kind to myself and give myself grace for trying. I shall clasp my hands together and show up. I shall hold my own hand and be brave. Today I will not walk away from the chance to offer myself a divine invitation to step fully into life and shine in all my glory.
Open when … you want to feel grateful:
Today when I make the bed, I will rest my hand on the warm spot where my beloved slept. If I hold my hand there for just a moment, this action has the power to change my attitude, alter my perspective, and soften my heart about bed making and other monotonous tasks that consume my life. That one tiny glimpse of goodness will bring peace in the midst of challenge, exhaustion, and uncertainty. That one tiny connection to what really matters will fuel me forward. My goal today will not be how much I accomplish, but how much I noticed the goodness within it.
Open when … you need self-care:
Today I will remember I have limits. I have dreams. I have needs. I deserve affection, rest, sustenance, and grace, just like everyone else. Even the one who holds up the world needs a reprieve. Even the one who doles out the love needs replenished. Even the best fall down sometimes. Today it is necessary to look after me. This may look like a cup of tea, a long walk, a good book, more water, more sleep, or more forgiveness. Today it is necessary to breathe life into my weary bones. I am worthy of love too.
Open when … the outside world ignites fear, stress, or despair:
Today I will turn my attention away from the negativity filling my senses and my newsfeed. I will turn to the people I love and notice there is still so much goodness to be grasped and celebrated. Goodness comes down the stairs with crazy morning hair. It has a milk mustache and stinky feet. It puts gasoline in my car and kisses me goodnight. It bags my grocery with a smile. It teaches my children. It hugs me with shaky, wrinkled hands. The ability to detect goodness where others see no good is more than a day changer; it’s a life changer. Today I will notice the good in the world and in my world.
Open when… you want LOVE to be your first response:
Today I will take a 3-second pause before responding in times of conflict, stress, and struggle. In that momentary pause, I will see the person in front of me as a human being with a need or a hurt – not as an annoyance or an inconvenience in my day. Today is not going to go perfectly; this I know. Important items will be forgotten. We will be late getting on the road. Things might not fit. There will be long lines and rudeness. But I will not contribute to the negativity. If strive to communicate with hints of kindness and traces of love, I have the power to save the moment—and quite possibly, save the day.
Open when … you want to DO less and BE more:
Today I refuse to be a moving target that my family cannot hold. Today I refuse to multi-task the moments away. Next week, next year, or ten years from now, my family will not remember what I made for dinner—whether it was from a box or homemade. They will not remember if the bathroom counter shined or if it was covered in globs of toothpaste. But they will probably remember if I laugh at the dinner table or hugged them fiercely at bedtime. Today I want them to remember my laugh and my hugs more than anything else.
Open when … you need to forgive yourself
Today I will not look back in regret. Whether it was a mistake from yesterday or ten years ago, it is in the past. Dwelling on it or berating myself for it comes at a cost. It sabotages the opportunity of this moment—to make a memory, to create a loving connection, or to feel joy in my soul. Oftentimes, I am the only one standing in my way of a new beginning. Today I will not stand in my own way. Today is a new beginning. I shall grasp it with both hands.
Open when … you lose sight of what matters:
Today I shall not collapse in utter exhaustion without having one significant memory to cherish because I chose to be too busy, too annoyed, too distracted, and too focused on perfection and productivity to recognize and appreciate the blessings in my life. Today my goal for my family is this: To gather together with our messy, imperfect hearts and create memories that outlast us all.
Because when we do this, we can breathe … and love … and maybe even laugh a little during this precious time we have.
Let us be open … open to the goodness right at our fingertips and under our breath.
The goodness shall carry us through.
In an effort to be fully present with my people and my beating heart, the blog and Hands Free Revolution page will be quiet for a spell. But trust me, by living fully I will be gathering insights and reflections to share with you upon my return. If you happen to be at Target doing some holiday shopping and need a meaningful gift for someone you love (or you!) Hands Free Life is there! You made it happen! My book will be stocked there through the holidays because you supported it during the trial period. I am so grateful! And if you are an online shopper, HANDS FREE LIFE can be found right here. It is chock full of daily declarations and truthful stories about breathing, living, and loving. The stellar Amazon reviews are saying it’s a life-changer. That makes my heart full.
And lastly, if you should get to take a walk or have some ME time and want to hear a mindfulness expert with a beautiful Australian accent ask me important questions about living an intentional life, please listen to this lovely chat I had with Brooke of Slow Your Home. You can forward to the 11-minute mark if you want to get right to the conversation.
* Don't forget to print the list below made by my lovely and talented writer friend, Kristin Shaw. If you feel it's going to help you in some way over the next week or month, I'd be grateful if you share it with someone else. Let's spread the hope & goodness.