Career, Joy

Joy To The World!

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.

Psalm 47:1
New International Version (NIV)

You are invited to join me in the clapping and shouting that I’ve done the past few days.

About 5 years ago, JoyReturns had been read in 115 countries according to the map in my WordPress analytics.

If someone in a country read this blog, then the country was light blue. The more people in a country that read a blog, the darker the blue. If no one has read the blog, then the country was white.

Just for grins, I decided to access my stats and get an updated count on the countries JoyReturns has reached. I expected the number to be between 115 -125.

Well God pulled a fast one on me.

JoyReturns has reached 161 countries.

The ideas, opinions, thoughts, and adventures of this unexpected widow have been read by people in 161 countries. Not bad for someone who always thought her conversational writing stunk.

I have not promoted JoyReturns on any social media platform for years. The fact that this blog has reached an additional 46 countries is the work of God.

Where JoyReturns Is Not

According to the WordPress map, these are the places where JoyReturns has NOT been read (click on the links to learn more about them):

Thank You

First, I would like to thank God for whispering the words “Widow’s Website” in my ear early one morning in late 2010. I wrote the words to blog posts and you saw that they were read in countries where they needed to be read.

Second, my humble thanks to J.T. O’Donnell of Work It Daily for her guidance and coaching on how to start a blog and for being my first subscriber.

Third, Thank you to my readers for your support over the years. Many wonderful relationship were made here and I cherish everyone of them. It is a pleasure to read blogs about other people’s adventures whether they be the good, the bad or the ugly because we all have something to learn from one another’s lives.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I thank you Joe. Every moment, from the first time I dispatched a service call to you to our last moment as man and wife, was an integral part of making me the woman I am today.

I thank you for loving me, for your kindness, for your faith in me and for the joy you brought to my life. It was an honor and a privilege being your wife for 14 3/4 years.

You still and always will have a piece of my heart. But I have done what you wished and moved forward with life.

I look forward to the day when we will see each other in heaven.

Future of JoyReturns

JoyReturns future is in God’s loving and capable hands. Only He knows the plan for this blog. However, my goal today is the same as when I started blogging:

 “…That henceforth I may be the salt of the earth and a blessing to all.”

(Regeneration prayer from The Valley Of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers )

I hope by sharing my adventures as I rebuild my life they provide support and encouragement for widows and educate society about grief, joy, and the realities of widowhood. If so, then with God’s help I am accomplishing my goal.

Time to Celebrate

Now I am off to celebrate reaching 161 countries and my Dad’s birthday at Dairy Queen. Dad, Joe, Rommie and numerous other relatives are celebrating his birthday with him in heaven.

Final Thought

Remember –

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:5 NLT

No matter what country you live in. 😀

Bio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, co-facilitating a grief support group, and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses, and golden retrievers. She is also the amateur photographer behind the blog

Books, Career, Faith

What I Would Tell My Younger Self


This post is inspired by Holley Gerth’s Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely for which I was blessed to be a member of her book launch team.

In chapter 5 Holley talks about if she could go back to her elementary school, she would look into her younger self’s eyes and tell her

“You’re going to be okay. Actually, you’re going to be quite wonderful.”

That got me to thinking what would I tell my younger self if I could go back to elementary school.

Now you have to be very, very, very careful what you tell young children as they are very, very, very, impressionable. I know. I was very impressionable and had words said to me that should not be said to anyone of any age.

I am going to put a different twist on Holley’s idea and say what I would tell myself at the following turning points in life:

  • elementary school self
  • 18-year-old self the night before graduation
  • 22-year-old self the night before college graduation
  • the night before my wedding self
  • the returning to work self the first day back after Joe’s passing.

My Elementary School Self

What I would tell myself the night before I start first grade. This is the most difficult because I would not want to freak my young self out, but there is an important life-changing, life-shaping event that will happen in a year. I need to instill confidence in her and not destroy her self-esteem.

  • Never forget Jesus loves you.
  • Love everyone
  • Be Kind to everyone
  • Pray

“Honky Tonk Woman”

Oh, and 1 + 1 = 2 not 11.

My 18-Year-Old Self 

The night before my high school graduation I would say:

  • Don’t give up the flute. Take lessons in college. Start a hobby career as a flute player for weddings, cocktail parties, and other social events. Keep track of your clients and stay in touch with them during the holiday season. This is called networking and you will be ahead of the rest of society if you develop good networking skills now.
  • Change Your Major. Instead of setting your sites on being a teacher, major in Library Science with a minor in creative writing. Make sure you do not lose your conversational writing tone.
  • Stop being a people pleaser. Instead, live to please God.


My 22-Year-Old Self

The night before my college graduation I would tell myself:

  • Stay grounded in the Bible. It will always be your manual for living fully and loving bravely.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. You need to be grounded in gratitude as it will help you get through life.
  • Learn how to apply makeup and keep up with the trends. Teaching people how to apply makeup is a vital skill now and in the future. If you work in retail, push to get into the makeup department.



The Night Before My Wedding Self

I would say:

Love, Live, Laugh, Dance, Hold Hands, Snuggle, Kiss A Lot


You waited a long time for marriage – cherish it.

  • Keep doing small things for him. It’s the small things that matter, like making Tuna Casserole.
  • Live by Elizabeth Barret Browning’s How Do I l Love Thee poem:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.


My Newly Widowed Self

Here is what you need to do to thrive:

  • Write, write, and write. No one but you has to see what you write – not yet anyway. Hone your writing skills but keep the conversational tone.
  • Get some career counseling. Start and figure out what you would do if you were laid off.
  • Go back to school. I know the thought of term papers makes you want to puke but go back to school anyway.
  • Trust God. I know it is easier said and done, especially when times are tough but you have to do it.  He really IS your shepherd.
  • Keep praying and keep writing in a gratitude journal. This will help keep your mind focused on God and what is right in your life.
  • Get Back to photography, and reading. You enjoyed these hobbies before you got married, now get back to doing them again.
  • Eliminate the word “survive” and “okay” from your vocabulary. Focus on thriving instead. Surviving means treading water and okay means mediocre. You need to thrive and not survive.
  • But most of all:


Life is not going to get any easier. As a kid, you always knew life would be a struggle and your gut instinct was right. So no matter how hard life gets be kind to others as you are not walking in their shoes and don’t know what battle they are facing. Being kind will help keep your heart from hardening.

Remember no matter how hard the rest of your life will get:

Life is beautiful2


Now It’s Your Turn

That’s the advice I would give myself throughout different turning points in my life.

What advice would you give yourself?


Hands Photo by Shelby Deeter on Unsplash

All other photos by Michele Kearns


My Virtual Call Center Representative Career

In mid-May, I started working a seasonal virtual call center job. It is rewarding and yet frustrating. It is a community and yet it is aloneness. I started out working with customers and then got trained to work in the logistics department. After training, I jumped at the opportunity to work in logistics.


My Rules 

Once I got this position, I instituted a few rules:

  • Do not work from bed
  • Shower
  • Wash Hair
  • Put Makeup on
  • Style Hair
  • Jeans, Capri’s, Shorts are allowed
  • Sandals, Slippers and Bare Feet are allowed.
  • Must put on a blouse, top that I would wear to an office job. How you are dressed comes across on the phone.
  • Be ready 1/2 hour before start time.
  • Eat small meals
  • Drink small amounts – break and lunch is strictly regulated and there is not a lot of “potty break” time
  • Pray upon awakening and as I sit down to my desk (which is a 6ft long table)
  • Stand up during meetings. (sitting 8 hours a day is not healthy)
  • Walk away from the computer during breaks and lunch – get outside. This way the neighbors know I am still alive.
  • Stock up on healthy snacks – mozzarella sticks, turkey pepperoni, fruit etc…

There are 2 rules I have not broken –

  • Do not work from bed
  • Jeans, Capri’s and shorts

The rest I have broken on occasion.

My Challenges

Working from home does not come without its challenges.

Right now my work schedule is Friday – Tuesday but that can change any given second. It is Wednesday night as I write this and when I go back on Friday I could find out I’m working a different schedule, that I am on a new team, or that I will be in a different department.

Another challenge is isolation. Working Friday -Tuesday makes the challenge of isolation harder because I miss out on church, community, and family events. Being off Wednesday and Thursday means whatever I do, I will probably be doing it alone (with the exception of Bible Study and lunch with the gang afterward).

My office is also a challenge. I had to move my office from the small bedroom with 2 outside walls to the bigger middle room with only one outside wall. My environment must be distraction free. It needs to be painted and rearranged, however, that is not going to happen until next spring. I had hoped it would happen before fall but alas, more plans went astray.

The final challenge is housework. I attempt to get it done on lunches, or before and after work as I do not want to spend my days off in the house (unless it is snowing out). Like everything else, I’ve had some success with this plan.

Final Thoughts

While the pay is not what I need to keep my covenant promises to my creditors, it is consistent work with no commute in a car with 115,000 miles on it. So I will keep my job and hopefully build a career managing a team of logistics specialists.

P.S. I am on schedule to convert to a regular employee in November.




Bio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives by seizing new opportunities. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used her skills while working as a call center team leader, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of golden retrievers and an amateur photographer.