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Thank you, God,
for the gift of senses,
for the joy we feel from what we see, hear, taste, smell, touch.
But as always you give us free will.
We can choose beauty or we can choose ugliness.
At this time, oh God,
may we choose the good and the beautiful,
your people,
and as a nation.
n Jesus’ name,

My memoir, Reclaiming Joy, which describes my long journey from grief to joy after my husband died 11 years ago, was inspired by the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. The words joy and rejoice appear 14 times on those three pages in the back of the Bible. Paul’s letter was my primer on how to do widowhood.

These years immersed in Philippians have been transformative, as I have applied those skills, attributes and thinking patterns I wrote about to other crises I have encountered since. But the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic in which I find myself is tough, and I have never had to be so intentional about seeking joy.

Monday was a bad day, the eve of the anniversary of Lev’s death. It was a gray, windy day. I had not set foot out of my apartment since Friday. I scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom and mopped the floor. I ached from the lack of exercise. By dinnertime I was not in the mood to eat my own cooking. I knew I needed to build in self-care on Tuesday.

A Morning Walk

I awakened the next morning to a sunny, breezy, warm day. After a good breakfast I set out to walk through the beautiful old Highland Park neighborhood on the other side of the Katy Trail, what once was literally the other side of the tracks.

Once again I rejoiced in the gardens, welcoming front porches, children at play and the inviting benches under spreading live oak trees in pocket parks. I stopped to rest. Looking up through the tree branches to the blue sky, I found myself praying a prayer I had never prayed before. Oh, I have said, “Thank you, God,” for the beauty of the flowers many times, especially as I have looked for moments of joy during long summer walks on Nantucket.

At first it was the beauty of what I saw Tuesday morning that led me to prayer; but involuntarily I was filled with gratitude for all the senses—the sounds of the birds, the tastes of a good breakfast and good coffee, the scent of the flowers and fresh mown grass, the touch of the breeze. I sat there and typed out my prayer to God on my iPhone.

When I sought joy, I found it in abundance. The rest of the day was good: a simple lunch, lots of time on the phone talking with friends and family, a good dinner and then Zoom Time—another first—with all 11 of the family sharing and laughing from our five separate home.

Thank you, God.

April 9, 2020

* * *
Author’s notes:

After a long drought, I have been writing a lot while under stay-at-home orders in Dallas, producing more blogs than in the last six months and posting incessantly on Facebook. I found when I arrived here on March 18 that I needed work harder than ever to reclaim joy, and I wrote about it in my March 22 blog, Seeking Joy While Sheltering in Place.

A few days ago a younger friend called and left a message. She had pulled out my book and reread it, and she wanted me to know that she had found it helpful for this period of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Perhaps you too can find a roadmap to reclaiming joy in its pages. Reclaiming Joy is available instantly for Kindle at Amazon.

You might also like to read some of the books I found so helpful after Lev’s death. You can find the list here. If you think you are too old or set in your ways to change, I challenge you to read Mindset by Carol Dweck. We don’t have to stay stuck. We have a choice.

Wishing you a blessed Easter filled with grace, peace and joy!