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Key 6: Welcome others; be hospitable.

A native son was returning home to Philippi, and the Apostle Paul–writing from his prison cell in Rome–instructed this small, struggling group of Christians to welcome Epaphroditus with joy. From beginning to end, the Bible is full of injunctions to be welcoming and hospitable. I tend to think of hospitality as a gift, and certainly we all know some people who excel in entertaining, who have a knack for making everyone feel comfortable and welcome. However, the Apostle, who had a lot to say about spiritual gifts, did not include hospitality on his lists of gifts that some might have. Instead, he wrote unequivocally to the Romans, “Practice hospitality.”

One of the shocks that many new widows experience is the loss of couple friends. After a few weeks or months, the invitations to dinner and weekend parties dry up. Many women are relegated to a social life segregated by gender and limited to daytime, weekday hours. That first Christmas is a lonely affair. She may not feel like partying, but sitting home alone night after night is miserable, and the possibility of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone is terrifying. Thoughtful friends find ways to include her.

However, widows are not exempt from the admonition to practice hospitality. Instead of throwing a pity party, we can reach out to others. We can fill our homes with friends. In September I wrote about 6 Good Reasons to Entertain at Home Alone, so I won’t repeat myself, except for the last point–benefiting from the joy of anticipation:

Keys to Joy thumbnail6. Anticipate. I’ve saved the most important reason until last. C.S. Lewis wrote that joy has two components—memory and anticipation. More recent studies suggest that anticipation is a stronger and more positive force than memory. As widows, we can live on our memories of the past or we can create opportunities to live with anticipation—always one more thing on the calendar to look forward to. And when we give a party, we share that gift of anticipation with our friends.

We can take those very events that are our sinkholes—holidays, anniversaries, even long weekends—and turn them into keenly anticipated, enjoyed moments. And we create new happy memories. For example, most of us find that our social life slows down on weekends when our married friends are spending time with their spouses. A Sunday night supper fills that hole: Friday grocery shopping, Saturday getting the house in order, Sunday cooking. A widow in Amarillo addressed her dread of coming home to her empty house from the family gathering on Christmas day by having an annual multigenerational open house on Christmas night. She stayed busy getting ready for her party—no time to brood or wallow in self-pity—and her party became the hottest ticket in town. Everyone wants to go to big Christmas parties, but few want to host them.

No one needs to feel like her home is too small or her budget too modest to entertain. You can invite a handful of people to come for wine and cheese before—or coffee and dessert after—a concert or other big event. Cook a big pot of soup for a Sunday night supper. Invite friends to share potluck. For your single friends at least, it is all about spending time with friends. Food is just the excuse to get together.

Photos: Top, a beautiful dinner party given by old friends who regularly include their widowed friends. Click on the thumbnail of the open Bible to see the full list of 12 keys to reclaiming joy.