Journey into Hope

hope spelled out in red letters on sign - image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay

I started picking a word of the year a few years ago. I usually pick the word during December, and throughout January, I think about it and write about it and commit it to memory. Then, I honestly forget about it—that is, until it pops up for me in the most unusual way. The word will come to me again with the most profound meaning during the tiniest, most unsuspecting moment of the year, as if God’s hand gently rested on my shoulder for just a breath before it was gone.

Unlike the words of the past few years (mindful, grace, perspective), I didn’t know why or how my 2022 word came about. I searched for a word for a while, but I couldn’t find the right one. Then suddenly I just knew on New Year’s Eve 2021, it would be journey.

This time, there were no subtle moments. The word journey smacked me over the head again and again this entire year, every time life threw me yet another major turn in an ever-winding road. The last turn happened just as the word was about to expire. But this time, it wasn’t just a turn. I was suddenly on a brand-new road in an unfamiliar place.

It happened on a Wednesday morning in December, a bustling morning full of final exams and Christmas wishes. Instead of hustling around, however, I was laying down exhausted on the couch while my son, who was home with the flu, played happily near me, content with his “day off.” It was somewhat relaxing until the phone rang. From the calmest, most monotone voice, I heard: “Mrs. Crowder, your test results are in. Most everything looks good but two results. But they are really important. You need to go to the ER as soon as you can.”

The next few days went by in a blur of tests, nurses, doctors, family visits, and much time staring at the TV while aimlessly refreshing the hospital app that could tell me the latest test results. That app was gold. It was how I already knew even before the doctor confirmed it for me that I had Addison’s disease. (Thank you, Google.)

Basically, Addison’s disease means that my immune system decided my adrenal glands were the enemy, and as a result, I no longer produce cortisol and aldosterone, two hormones that help keep us hydrated and alive. I now measure how I’m feeling, my blood pressure, my heart rate, and my instincts. If I don’t, I could go into an adrenal crisis. Cortisol rises naturally with unexpected larger stressors (“fight or flight”), but mine doesn’t. So, I’ll have to carry an emergency injection kit just in case something really bad happens. But if I manage my stress well, pay attention to my body’s signals, and trust my instincts, I’ll be just fine.

In all my frantic Web searching on this new reality, I read on various social media posts something like, “God chooses the strongest ones for the roughest roads.” I don’t like this sentiment, because it implies God looked at this particular road ahead and said, “I know exactly who could endure that journey because I built her strong.” Sorry, but that’s just not the God I believe in.

Instead, I think God saw this road ahead and knew when I reached it, I would finally understand where the journey was leading me. I think God stood next to me and said with tear-filled eyes, “I got you.”

And now, as 2023 begins, a new word has finally come just in the nick of time. I felt this word long before I heard it. It kept me warm and calm and safe. It saved me when I chose just the right time to trust my instincts and get myself checked out at urgent care one busy Monday night. It walked with me back to my car when I was ready to leave the hospital five days later.

And it is the only word that could possibly make 2023 what it is meant to be.


Not just for me, but for you, and for all who didn’t see this one coming—and for the incredible things that even this road can and will offer.

Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay.

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Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.


  1. Gretchen, this really touched my heart. Last year was my journey. I was critically ill, my husband died 10 days after I was out if the hospital. Then my best friend died from a cancer that she was fighting for 10 years. I knew it might come but still didn’t expect it. The word you spoke has given me Hope! God Bless

  2. Gretchen, God bless. My wife was suddenly diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism in September, put on oxygen and had open chest surgery to remove the large clot in her lung. Complications have followed, but my wife is tough and is hanging in there following two subsequent hospitalizations. Yes, journey is an appropriate word I used with my son. Marathon is another. Peace to you and your family. Moms are the glue of the family. Hang in there!

  3. Thank you Gretchen! Your reflection reminded me that life blindsides us at different times and in different ways. Yet, thanks be to God, we are not alone. Over twenty years ago I was blindsided when my husband of 37 years left me for a parishioner. That was the impetus that God used to guide me through the door to becoming Catholic. And what a great opportunity for discovery that has been in the past twenty years. I have never chosen a word for a year but your writing has inspired me to choose “discover” for 2023. May your health improve as you move forward with new guidelines to follow. God bless!

  4. Dear Gretchen,

    I was diagnosed with Addison’s five years ago after feeling unwell for months but not being willing to accept the fact that something was truly wrong with me. Living in Maine there is only one other person with Addison’s that I know, and it can get a little lonely at times. I remember the endocrinologist in the hospital at the time telling me that I would come to know my body better than most because of my disease. That has certainly been the case, and I am treasuring my body as the gift from God that it is.

  5. Gretchen, I’m sorry for this health challenge for you, prayers that you will grow even closer to God through this new journey. I agree with your sentiment on “God chooses the strongest ones for the roughest roads.” I think it’s more like ‘God knows who will have the difficult journeys and he strengthens them for it.’ God loves us and wants us to be well and joyful and share His Good News but we are in a fallen and broken world filled with challenges of all kinds but He is here holding us up through them all. God Bless.

  6. What a beautiful way to accept one’s cross, and we all have one. Thank you for candidly sharing your journey. May God Bless you, guide you and heal you. I also like your idea of choosing a word for the year. I will make mine two words “hope and pray” for this year. I will pray for you as well. Iole

  7. Thanks Gretchen for sharing your life. It means a lot to me who after a good active life now has to manage falls, walking sticks and walkers. A straight back and brisk walk has become a hunched back and a slow measured walk. Wow! not easy but the Lord has ways of intervening with good days and good friends. Praise Him forever. What I wanted to share is that this came to me in one of my bad days: 2023 a new year . The figures total 7, which in biblical terms means completeness and positive . It means we need to HOPE. The old is becoming new in more senses than one. If you would like to ride on this thought and write we will be most grateful. daphne stockman.

  8. God bless you Gretchen, I will hope in prayer along with you as you begin a new journey. God’s plan always bring us closer to his love for us. We may not like the road but having a personal guide is the best good news.
    I did not see it coming either, my diagnosis of breast cancer after my routine mammogram. I am a 13 year survivor. Each year offers renewed blessings for the journey.

  9. God Bless you Gretchen and give you strength as you journey in this new way of life. Thank you for sharing. My word this year is authentic. I have no idea what that word will do for me. I’m 82 yrs old. I should by this time be authentic. It will be an interesting year. Once again, I hope your health improves and that you can continue your ministry. Thank you.


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