Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington


By most people’s standards, I picked the wrong word for 2018.

For several years now, instead of making new year’s resolutions, I’ve practiced selecting one word to focus on each year. Actually, it’s not so much that I select the word, it’s more that it’s the word I believe God gives me.

As I posted this past January, my word for 2018 is gratitude.

My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of 2017, and after chemotherapy, radiation, and more chemo, was declared to be in remission by October. When I selected gratitude as my word, we had not yet learned of the remission. Still, as we waited for my husband’s PET scan results, I knew the choice I had to make. To choose gratitude regardless of whether the cancer was still present. To hold on to thankfulness, no matter what.

Sadly, the cancer returned with a vengeance early this year. It metastasized, yielding a terminal prognosis. We are walking that journey today.

If gratitude is based solely on pleasant experiences, then I did, indeed, select the wrong word for 2018.

But despite the hurricane-force winds ripping through my circumstances, one thing will never change. Because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I will always belong to my heavenly Father. And I have the comfort of knowing my husband has the same assurance.

We’ve been given the gift of eternal life. The incomparable gift of eternal life. A gift that will always eclipse our physical circumstances. It overshadows the worst diagnosis and outlasts the saddest prognosis. And it speaks hope into our brokenness.

So yes, gratitude is still my word for 2018. It’s still the right word for 2018. I’m grateful for the forty years of life my husband and I have shared together. Despite the terminal prognosis, I’m grateful for the remaining time—however limited—we do have, whether months, weeks or days. And I’m grateful for the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is upholding and strengthening us during circumstances that would otherwise be unbearable.

Surely that is reason enough to always be grateful. Grateful for what I have, regardless of how long it will last. Grateful for who I have, regardless of the soon-to-be fulfilled prognosis. And grateful for who I—and we—belong to, because He is holding us close and wrapping us in His love.

Did you choose “one word” for 2018?
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  1. Mary Ann

    I’m grateful for you, my friend, and the encouragement you have given to so many of us as you and Russ travel the road He has placed you on – knowing you are wrapped in His strength, peace and love. My love to you both.

  2. Jane Roach

    You have captured the essence of gratitude so beautifully! I am encouraged by your words and am praying for precious moments together that will give you and Russ more reasons to be grateful to our faithful God. How kind of God to give you “gratitude” for your word in 2018. He truly knows what is best for us. Love for you, dear friend.

  3. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Mary Ann and Jane.
    God does indeed know what’s best for us and He is holding us close.

  4. Sue Chess

    My gratitude for you is the way you have so courageously used your journey to show the world God’s faithfulness. Thank you!
    My word was “Glorify” and I contemplated it last month. It was EXACTLY how I needed to make it through this year. God is never wrong!!

  5. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Sue.
    Glorify is a great word. And I love what happens when we put our 2 words together. We glorify God with our gratitude!

  6. Marlene J Bagnull

    I’m continuing to pray for Russ and for you. Love you so much.

  7. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Marlene.
    Love you, too.

  8. Michelle Tierney

    We enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. How precious that the Lord would give you this word and position you and Russ in his presence during the season. I am thankful for you in the life that you live pointing us all to the Savior, so intentional living a life built on a sure foundation. You are dearly loved and both you and Russ continue to be in my prayers.
    See you on the 18th !!

  9. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Michelle. Hope to see you then!

  10. Karen

    What a good God! I love the word He gave you, Ava! We are GRATEFUL, LORD, for everlasting hope and precious promises. Carry Ava and Russ close through this journey. Ava, I was listening to the PPL1 music tonight thinking of you! It’s wonderful. May it minister to your heart right where you are. Much love! xoxo

  11. Evie

    Yes, gratitude is the right word!! You have shown how God, in Christ, brings gratitude into our hearts!!
    My daughter passed last year and I was so blessed to have raised her! Thru Him, she gave me gratitude and now I can carry that with me, as you do, and will continue to do in your life!
    Thank you, Ava!!!!!

  12. Vicki Wickert

    Dear friend Ava, our Heavenly Father has given you
    Amazing grace, and faith to continue in your journey
    Of sharing God’s love and mercy to others. May He
    Continue to bless you and Russ with His presence
    Through the Holy Spirit during this most difficult and
    Painful time. I couldn’t be more grateful for your
    Friendship. Yours is truly a beautiful godly marriage.
    Much love, Vicki

  13. ellen asselin

    Many of us have had to watch the passing of our dear husbands, but we know the Gratitude I had felt, knowing the Lord was with me all the way, and HIS Presence sustained me. I’m paying for you and Russ, knowing God is always with you. love,

  14. Gale Tate

    Beautifully said Ava, what a perfect word. My gratitude to God is neverending. I am grateful for who God is, for His love & grace poured out on me during the hardest times of my life when my brother passed from ALS & when my husband passed. Without God in my life I wouldnt be who I am today. Gratitude, Amen! Thank you Ava for sharing your gift of inspiration & faith.

  15. Sharon Bly

    You are a beacon of light for those who would not have such a positive outlook. May God continue to bless you and Russ. It is the quality of the time not the quantity.

  16. Marcy

    What a transparent blessing you are! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Gratitude for the good and the bad draws us closer to our Savior. I’m sorry this is the journey that He chose for you and Russ. But, how beautiful will be the day that we all will be able to embrace our Savior for eternity! Love you to pieces.

  17. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Marcy, Sharon, and Gale.

  18. Jennifer

    Ava, I didn’t see this blog until this morning, after learning Russ has gone to his blessed reward in heaven. Knowing you are walking through such a difficult time as this with gratitude is just another facet of the amazing woman you are. I have admired your faith and strength since I first met you, and you are always an inspiration for me. I can’t thank you enough for your diligence, love, and openness of sharing your trials, treasures, and wisdom along the way with us all. Thank you that it is no secret where you get your strength. I can’t inagine your sorrow right now, and I am praying for you. Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Hugs 💕

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