The day I returned from a speaking event in Mobile, Alabama, I unpacked and repacked my suitcase for another flight to Indiana. I would be traveling with my family to bury the ashes of my beloved father-in-law. I was especially careful about selecting my attire for the flight – not because we would be going straight from the airport to the cemetery – but because metal fibers had set off the security alarm in my previous trip.
I could still hear the TSA officer berating me at the top of her lungs.
I could still feel pain in my neck from straining to get a glimpse of my bag as hundreds of travelers rushed past me in the pat-down area.
I could still hear my desperate pleas to the disapproving officer. “I would just feel better if my bag was beside me,” I begged.
I could still hear the officer summon her supervisor about me being “uncooperative.”
I could still hear me raise my shaky voice to tell the supervisor it was “cruel” not to let people with travel anxiety have their bag with their wallet and I.D.
I could still feel the officer’s hands groping parts of my body that should not be touched by strangers.
I could still feel the panic rise in my chest and the tears on my face as travelers stared but didn’t stop to help.
Once I was allowed to retrieve my bag and be on my way, anger boiled up inside me. I wanted to scream. I wanted to rant. I wanted to go home and never see another human being again.
That’s when poignant words from Glenis Redmond popped into my head:
“We are so far away from the heart, when only the head leads with only what is wrong. How about the million beauties you walked by today and did not see? Name them. The world needs / I need your catalog of beauty.”
Sometimes when the world is dark and anxiety holds me hostage, I scroll through the pictures on my phone. There, I find my family in our most natural state. There, I find my Catalog of Beauty. Although I did not have the energy to pull my phone from my purse in that moment, I didn’t need it. In my mind’s eye, I could see a polaroid picture Natalie took the night before. I was lying in Avery’s bed in my comfiest pajamas pants with a fluffy cat on my lap.
Almost instantly, my heartrate returned to normal. My breathing slowed. I looked around and saw regular people on their way to a destination, many nervous and flustered, just like me.
Suddenly, I knew what I needed to do.
“I need to catch my plane and speak my message of Only Love Today,” I said to myself. I proceeded to smile at every person I passed. I counted five “beauties” for my catalog along my way. Before I even experienced many blessings at the speaking event, I knew with certainty this was the right choice. This was my role to fill in this difficult situation.
Two days later, I was back at the same airport. My heart raced as my family went through security. I worried about my daughter’s guitar that she was going to play at the burial service. Thankfully, we were met with kindness. This time, we got through without a hitch.
When we got to our gate, I saw I had two missed calls from the airport. A woman named Debbie left a message to say my suitcase had just arrived in lost and found because it had no airline tag. I found that odd since I watched the curbside worker attach the tag myself. Luckily, Debbie noticed my phone number on my personal luggage tag and decided to try and call me.
I immediately called her back and told her she was an angel. To not have my bag when we arrived would have added to the stress and sadness of an already difficult day. I told Debbie how much I appreciated her kindness. She said my suitcase would be in Indiana when we arrived.
Sure enough, it was there. I immediately opened it to get out my special Cannon camera to take to the cemetery. There was a gaping hole where I’d packed the camera my husband got me for Christmas a few years ago. The missing camera explained why the airline tag had been ripped off the suitcase and sent to lost and found. The perpetrator was not expecting kind Debbie to make that call so I could be reunited with my bag.
“My camera is gone,” I informed my family.
“Are you sure you didn’t pack it in another bag or leave it at home?” my husband asked.
“No, it was right here, under my blue sweatshirt,” I said with certainty.
I saw the sadness in all their faces. I saw the tension mounting. I saw the stress build.
“Well, we should go report it – file a claim,” my husband said in aggravation. He was already worried enough about this day – about being on time for the service and about how things would go. Filing a claim for my stolen camera was the last thing he needed.
“I am sad about this, but I will call later. We need to go to the cemetery,” I said. I was eerily calm for someone who doesn’t like surprises and hates when best laid plans go awry.
I sensed the whole family breathe easier by my decision.
“It can be replaced,” I added as I took inventory:
Scott – check
Natalie – check
Avery – check
My catalog of beauty was standing in front of me. I had the most important things. This perpective-shifting practice enabled me to see my role in this situation clearly.
I had a tribute to read in honor of a special man.
I had a husband who needed my presence and support.
I had a musician who needed her mama’s strength as she played for her grandpa one last time.
I had a teenager who needed to see me find the silver lining in a disappointing situation.
I had a role – and it was not to be resentful and angry – it was to be love.
My catalog of beauty helped me gain perspective so I could see that role.
As soon as we arrived at the burial plot, I received confirmation this was the right choice. It was a moment of glory that happened right before the service. For that brief moment, it did not feel like a cremation burial—it felt like a celebration of life.
The beloved uncle arrives, the cousins laugh, the musician tunes, the sun shines down on all. In the midst of profound sadness, there was great hope, divine peace, and abundant joy.
So that next time you find yourself in a difficult situation,
When tension is mounting,
When loss is great,
When hope is scarce,
You will remember to take inventory. One by one, you will add to your catalog of beauty.
This will not change your circumstance, but it will help you see it differently.
Like a kalidescope, you will turn the event on its side and see colors, connection, and beauty where you never expected to find it.
And with this new perspective, you will see a role you can fill.
This is why we must, at times, turn off the television and refuse to ingest everything poured out for our consumption. We must see with our own two eyes the opportunities to be LOVE as we go about our daily lives and interact with people within our reach.
At first glance, you may look at the difficult scenes of your life and our world and see pure and utter devastation. You might feel overwhelmed by the work that needs to be done.
But now you know how to look past the struggle and see the next step.
First, you access your catalog of beauty. Once your breath steadies, you tilt your head to the side and see the situation through the lens of love.
Ask yourself: What is my role here? How can I bring hope to my tiny corner of the world?
My friends, I believe this is what we are called to do.
Our role is to be a bearer of love and healing.
And as a bearer of love and healing, we become the recipient of love and healing.
Over the past two weeks, the catalog of beauty saved me from abandoning two critical roles I was called to fill. By changing my perspective of the situation, I was able to find my purpose and become a positive force in the world. I imagine I will be using this shift quite often in the weeks and months to come. Will you join me?
Let’s be love.
It’s what hostile airport workers need.
It’s what anxious travelers need.
It’s what grieving sons need.
It’s what survivors of catastrophic events need.
It’s what first responders need.
It’s what fearful children need.
It’s what hurting souls need.
It’s what you need.
It’s what I need.
By being a bearer of love, we become a recipient of love.
This is how we’ll heal our hurting world.
One person, one situation, one role at a time.
We can’t change the circumstance, but we can choose our response to it.
Let’s be love.
Dear friends of the Hands Free Revolution: please read three important notes …
• Last month, you helped raise close to $1000 for the survivors of Hurricane Harvey. Through proceeds from your Hands Free Shop purchases, our community was able to directly help three families whose homes were destroyed by flooding. Today through October 9, we raise money for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Use the promo code PRLOVE to receive free shipping anywhere in the US. If you have had your eye on the Soul-Building lunch box notes, or ONLY LOVE TODAY or COME AS YOU ARE wrist wraps or metal cuffs, or one of the beautiful hand-lettered signs, now would be a great time to purchase. Thank you for supporting our brothers and sisters facing dire circumstances.
• Speaking at the Focus Women’s Conference in Mobile, Alabama recently brought me so much joy. Thank you for those who took time to speak with me afterwards. I am fueled by one-on-one conversations at these events. In the coming weeks, I am traveling to OH, PA, and MI. It makes whatever travel issues I have worthwhile to meet with you. Please register here for Cincinnati … here for Pennslyvania … and here for Ann Arbor Michigan. If you would like to bring me to your area for an event, you can direct local organizations, businesses, schools, churches, and fundraisers to my new speaking page with all the information. I am currently booking for Spring 2018.
• For those who cannot make my speaking events, I will be offering my first online course in January. I am so excited to tell your more about that in coming months. In the meantime, I am a contributor for two enlightening courses and webinars with sign-ups going on now. Here is the info:
1) Raising Siblings: A Free Online Summit … Weary of trying to pay attention to each of your kids when there’s not enough of you to go around? Struggling to help your children connect with one another? Unsure how to help when your kids are fighting? Join me with parenting author Susan Stiffelman for a free series: Raising Siblings: Less Drama, More Joy. Other speakers include Gretchen Rubin, Amy McCready, Dr. Laura Markham, Dr. Harville Hendrix, Dr. Christine Carter, Dr. Michael Gurian, Janet Lansbury, Elizabeth Lesser and a host of exceptional writers, teachers, and experts in the field. Click here to sign up!
2) Simple Year 2018 – Imagine what it would feel like to breathe a little easier, and feel lighter moving through your home and life. How would things change if you started taking steps to be less overwhelmed, busy, sick, or tired? Living simply provides so many benefits, but sometimes it can be challenging to maintain a commitment to long-term change. A Simple Year was designed to help you simplify your life gently and with purpose. You’ll learn something new each month and focus on what matters most with a simplicity advocate that specializes in topics like clutter, food, money, relationships, and busyness. Please join me by clicking here.