Journey of Gratitude

I’m writing today from Columbus, Ohio. I’m here for the wedding of my niece. It’s a wonderful time to celebrate a beautiful young woman and her great guy. We’ve had long talks together as a family. We’ve treasured memories, remembering Rachel as a young girl, a teen finding her way, a dedicated teacher who helped her students do their very best during the pandemic.

A time of gratitude!

Starting a Journey of Gratitude

Before heading to Columbus, Kurt and I cleaned out the attic in our garage. Seeing all the boxes come down, I marveled that we’d not become a promotional for Public Storage, how the ceiling had held.

I say Kurt and I have been cleaning up and clearing out, but really, it’s been just Kurt. He carefully sorted items into a “Junk” pile, a “Donate” pile, and a “Keep, lest the wife become unglued” pile.

I was not part of the process. I was quickly overwhelmed. Seeing things I’d forgotten, opening a box that hadn’t been touched in decades, finding “treasures” that were not treasures stopped my in my tracks. We found my first resume, height and weight included along with a really bad hair photo. We found cancelled checks from 1977. We found an autograph book from 5th grade.

It was too much. Kurt graciously put the box and the items aside. “Nothing has to be decided today.”

In the mix were three trays of slides, pictures from college and our early years together, pictures of family and friends. After finding a replacement bulb for the slide projector, we set up an old screen and watched them all together. They were worn and not that clear, but they were delightful memories of our time together.

Surprising me were pictures of a party that I don’t remember being at, pictures that included all our college friends, but not me. I wondered aloud who Kurt might have been with, who he’d taken. Kurt tried to convince me I was the one taking the pictures. I’m not so sure…

One of the last slides was a picture of me. Kurt and I were newly married. We were in Eastern Washington with friends for a long weekend. The shot captured a young woman, head to the side, glancing back at the camera. I was a sickly thin, my protruding breast bones clearly visible in the afternoon sun, my waiflike arms not hiding anything.

I was stunned. Memories of my eating disorder came flooding over me. I tried to let it go, but two days later the young woman in the picture was still with me, the tears were still coming. “Kurt, it was hard seeing that picture.”

I went on to tell him how difficult it was remembering that time in my life, to see that miserable young woman who couldn’t cope, couldn’t manage her life, couldn’t accept herself.

“Deanna, focus on the journey. That’s where you might have been, but it’s not where you are now. Think about how far you’ve come.”

How far I’ve come.

I will always hurt for that young woman who was in so much pain. But that pain has given an older woman compassion, empathy, a little more patience with herself, a deeper understanding of life’s challenges, a respect for the struggles of others, even a sense of gratitude for the journey.

I was going to add that I will always need to be careful that that younger woman doesn’t color my world now, but she has—in a way that I want to see as a blessing, not a cautionary tale. I want my life to be a journey of gratitude.

I have so much to celebrate: a wonderful marriage, a delightful family. I have a career that fulfills me, Friday mornings that delight me, opportunities I could never have imagined, blessings all.

Celebrating a Journey of Gratitude

We are all just trying to figure it out. We are all on a journey, and at times we can feel very alone, gratitude not leading our thoughts.

When the Israelites were preparing to cross into the Promised Land, their leader Joshua encouraged them: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The Israelites had been trying to figure it out for 40 years. Their journey had taken twists and turns never expected; their lives had changed in ways not imagined. And God had been with them through it all. They were never alone. And now was a time for gratitude.

Life will include struggles, some that might go on for forty years. Some challenges will catch us unawares; some will cause us to stumble. There will be memories that make us cringe, that disappoint, dishearten, and discourage.

But we have a God who walks with us each and every day, who insists on being with us, not just in those moments of grand celebration, but also in those moments that bring us low, that find us heartbroken. We are never alone.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah got straight to the point:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Yes, He will. A time for gratitude.

Today’s prayer includes words from a letter that Peter, one of the disciples, wrote.

Heavenly Father,

We know that suffering is part of life in a broken world.

We also know that You have called us to Your eternal glory,

restoring, confirming, strengthening, and supporting each one of us.

To You be all glory and honor forever and ever. Amen.

Kurt often calls me Thorp, my maiden name. My day always ends with “Goodnight, Thorp,” simple words that honor that 18-year old young woman in a way that always makes me smile.

I see God’s strength in him, his help and guidance, too. And yes, gratitude.

God has been with me in many ways and I continue a journey of gratitude. I will be forever grateful that my life included a young man who saw the possibilities in me then, a man who continues to celebrate the possibilities in me now.

Our WOLK, our words of loving kindness, matter as we journey together. It’s a journey of gratitude and one I’m very grateful to share with you.

Deanna is the author of two books, Fruit of My Spirit and Signs in Life.

Deanna Nowadnick author

Hi, I'm Deanna

I am a writer and speaker who loves helping women of faith connect our delightfully ordinary stories to God’s extraordinary love and faithfulness, so we can be encouraged and empowered knowing God’s been in the details–always has been, always will be.

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