It’s time to get our groove back and reclaim our joy! This has been one scary and challenging pandemic year. But the finish line is in sight and it’s time to write a new chapter. Following are a couple of suggestions to re-inspire and help you find your way back into the province of joy!
It has to be the little things that give us joy! Last week, I delivered cartons of strawberries from Green Door Gourmet to my circle of friends and to those who I knew needed a “love drop” of sweetness in a tough week. Right now, I’m enjoying strawberries in my oatmeal, on top of salads and for dessert. Try this easy recipe for a Strawberry Galette. You can sign up online to take your family strawberry picking, but be quick because the season is almost over and then we move on to peaches. Hooray!
Can you remember your mom saying, “Just smile!,” before sending you off to brave the world? Well, science can now back up her wisdom. The simple act of lifting the two sides of your mouth into an upside down arc can literally transform your mood, reduce stress, raise serotonin levels, even boost your immune system. Dr. Isha Gupta, a neurologist from IGEA Brain and Spine explains, “a smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin.” He says, “the brain is a sucker for a grin.” The neurologist recommends that we “fake it til we make it” because the simple act of a smile is transformative for our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. What is your default facial expression? Today, when you are driving to work or sitting in a meeting, or cooking, exercising, relaxing—make yourself smile. See how many times in one day that you can intentionally smile, even better if those who cross your path witness it, because apparently smiling is contagious!! Smiling could literally save our world.
Martin Luther famously said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Planting anything is an act of hope because it means you are betting on the future! We must live in expectation of what God will do next in our lives!!! More importantly, our planet could always use a gift of green. I love planting beds of mint to use in recipes and for flower arrangements. If you are in Nashville, I’ll happily gift you a cutting!
The first time I saw an immersive art production was in France with my mom. The artist was Chagall and it took my breath away! We were in a cave, with his masterpieces displayed all over the walls, floors and ceiling, and paired with music. We were mesmerized! I am currently reading the letters Van Gogh wrote over his lifetime to his brother. He was a soulful man, responding through art, his true love, passion and gratitude for beauty, nature, relationships and God. I cannot wait to see how they bring to life his incredible works of art set to incredible music! I have a feeling its going to be magical!
Integral to who I am, what is important to me, and especially what gives me soul joy is gathering people I love around my table and serving them yummy, beautiful food. The Pandemic put me into hibernation. But I’m coming out! I am so thankful that we are beginning to resume normal life and have a summer of fun ahead. I have started hosting picnics in my backyard for friends and family. It is a safe and comfortable way to do what I love best! Make the food simple; whip up a tomato mozzarella salad, try my recipe for Croque Monsieur sandwiches, pick up fried chicken from your local grocery store, make an easy tomato pie, cut up fresh fruit or slice a watermelon; lay out quilts; put on some good music! Voila! Fun!
If you are struggling to rebound from the pandemic, or find yourself in the vale of tears, this book is for you. I keep it close and refer back to it often! Archbishop Desmund Tutu and the Dalai Lama, through their own tragic life experiences express the hard-won truth that joy has to be a choice; a spiritual discipline, and it is possible to achieve regardless of life’s circumstances.
Recently I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room eavesdropping on a lively conversation between the receptionist and a nurse. She was ecstatic in the description of the birthday party she would be hosting for herself at the end of August. All the people she had missed making memories with over this last pandemic year would be invited. She had already hired a DJ to play 90’s hits like “Ice Ice Baby,” and had purchased online not one, but two frozen margarita machines. She kept repeating, “It’s time! It’s time!” Nosy me inquired: What is it was time for? Exasperated, she said: “Honey, it’s time to laugh, to dance, to eat, to love on your people!” A friend from church recently shared that she sent all of her family an email inviting them to join her for a week at the beach. She said she was determined to finish this year on a high note with her toes in the sand next to her granddaughter building a sand castle!
The biggest lesson gleaned from this past year is time is precious. Do not postpone joy! Make plans!
My sister MC just gifted me,The Girl with The Louding Voice, and a promise that the story will have me up on my feet cheering for the protagonist and hopefully will encourage me to tap into my own “louding voice.” The story is set in Nigeria and follows the life of a young girl who faces every obstacle imaginable, but never gives up on her dream!
Yes! The Mason family started our own “Happy” playlist. As you can imagine with eight people, the music choices are all over the place! We each picked songs that make us smile or get us up dancing! My daughter Belle chose the theme song from The Lord of the Rings; Charlie picked rap songs, and I included my favorite, Closer to Fine, by the Indigo Girls. We just keep adding to it!
I am in the process of making my list! I would like to plant a weeping willow tree in the front yard, publish my Soulful book, restart 4 new bee hives, graduate from Vanderbilt Divinity School with an Art and Theology speciality, take my friend Tallu to Lourdes, France……and that’s just scratching the surface! I’m coming out of a metaphorical winter, ready to heartily embrace spring. I’m just going to keep adding to the list because it makes me feel like I am no longer stopped in place, but moving forward. It feels good to make plans, to dream again, to set goals!
Bonnie Smith Whitehouse is a fellow Sewanee grad, writer and professor at Belmont Univeristy. I loved her first book Afoot and Lighthearted. Her most recent project came at the perfect time! After the pandemic, we could all use a little inspiration in our lives. Her cards are both clever, thoughtful and nudge at the imagination.