I am grateful

Pasha stands looking out the window as we prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, 2007

Pasha stands looking out the window as we prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, 2007

“I am grateful for the beauty in the midst of suffering. I am grateful for the treasure hunt through the minefield of life.  Dangerous or not, I don’t want out of the minefield.  Because truth, and beauty , and God are there.”Glennon Doyle Melton

As I write this, the day before Thanksgiving, Jeff has not yet awakened from the 14+ hours of surgery he endured yesterday.  They had to keep him anesthetized overnight because they knew he would be in the OR again for an emergency procedure this morning (a stent placed to drain a bile leakage from the liver that could result in infection if left untreated).  One of the doctors woke me up in the waiting room this morning, after about 6 hours of sleeping for the first time in two days, to sign a consent form for the procedure.  I am grateful I was there to sign the form.  I am grateful there was a way to solve the immediate problem. I am grateful that this morning’s procedure went “as well as it possibly could have gone,” as the surgeons have just informed me, and grateful for the prayers that will join mine, asking for this complication to heal without further setbacks.

I’m grateful for the many, many doctors from various specialty fields, whose names and cards I can hardly keep track of.  I am grateful for the compassionate nurse who gave me kind and reassuring words, along with much-needed blankets and a pillow so that I could sleep last night on chairs that were pulled together in a waiting room.  I am grateful both my sons are near, sharing my love and anguish for a man we always knew to be remarkable, but had no idea, until now, how truly amazing his strength and endurance are.

Yesterday’s surgery was far more difficult and long than anyone anticipated, due in part to massive scarring from the first liver resection.  Jeff ended up getting seven units of blood (so far) and four units of blood products, and has a long, tough road to recovery ahead.  The surgeons were exhausted and disappointed at the setbacks, but were nonetheless pleased to believe that Jeff is now rid of the cancer and very likely to be among the 8% who survive his particular diagnosis, if he is able to survive the post-surgical risks of the coming days and weeks.

Today, on this day we set aside for the gratitude we can rightly feel every minute of every day, I pray your life is filled with the best kinds of abundance.  As with those who shared the first Thanksgiving meal on which our celebration is based, we all come to the table with a mixed bag of blessings and sorrows, many disappointments, hurts and griefs, but also countless reasons to rejoice.  May we all open our eyes to the providence that surrounds us, making our existence possible.   Happy Thanksgiving!

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  Psalm 27:13

One year ago today:

Vibrantly alive


  1. oh amiga you are equally strong, and your post touched me deeply.  i was up all night working on a painting an am about to go to sleep;  i wish i could be there just to sit w/you and say nothing – just be there in silent company.

    i will be sending massive doses of love and strength to all of you, and i pray that jeff continues to reach down and fight his way back to wellness.    

    the photo shows a very beautiful family, one that has touched many of us here via wordpress.


    • Thank you Z, I enjoyed thinking of you so far away, painting through the night! In one sense it was as if you really were sitting here with us. I am so thankful for your friendship and support!

  2. HarryS

    Studies have shown that people consistently achieve more when they focus more on their achievements and spend less time focused on their failures. This is true for spirituality as well. Have you finished studying a book of the Bible? Celebrate! Have you overcome a negative character trait? Give yourself a pat on the back! When we take the time to acknowledge and celebrate our spiritual achievements we will be encouraged to reach higher and achieve even more. — Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein


    • Thank you, Harry! I like the Rabbi’s quote. Too often, we push ourselves by focusing only on the goal and our impatience with our progress (or lack thereof). I think discouragement is one of the primary snares that pulls people back into failure or relapse into old habits. Thanks so much for being here, and happy holidays to you too!

  3. Hi Julia,
    I can understand your state of mind and I truly appreciate your courage and forbearance to write regular posts and even wishing us Happy Thanksgiving in the midst of Jeff’s surgery. So far I have not come across such a positive and brave person as you. I am praying for you and Jeff. God id great, Julia. If He puts us through such tests, He only steers us through.
    Wishing Jeff a speedy recovery with my sincerest prayers, right from my heart.
    I am sure He will bestow a million reasons on you and your family to celebrate and rejoice, in near future.

    • Thank you so much, your words are a great compliment and I appreciate your kindness and generosity in expressing them to me. Your prayers are being answered; as I write this, Jeff is sitting up in a chair and growing ever more lucid. He is even giving me instructions, so I know he’s coming back to himself :-). Thanks for being here and also for being with us, in spirit, in the future celebrations to come!

  4. Jim Beavers

    Julia, I am so glad to hear that the surgery went as well as it could have. God is good! I have been praying for you and your family and will continue to do so. May God pour out His blessings to you and yours on this day.

    • Thanks so much Jim! This Thanksgiving is a bit different; I don’t plan to eat anything until maybe later tonight, but I can say in all honesty that this year I have more to thank God for than I ever have. The feast today is a spiritual one, sharing the bounty of love, warm wishes, prayers and support from so many directions. God is good indeed! May he shower you and your family with blessings too!

  5. Ann

    Thank you for the update. You and Jeff have been on my mind for days. Your positive attitude is truly inspiring. It reminds me of a quote from an aunt of mine as she reflected on her life…”even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now”. Years from now, you and Jeff can look back on this past year and say the same thing together.

    Get some sleep now!


    P.S. I love the photo you selected for today.

    • Ann, you will be happy to know that I slept in an actual bed last night, and got about 6 or 7 hours of sleep; I feel almost human again! Yes, even the terrible things can seem beautiful looking back. It reminds me of the unforgettable lines at the end of Catcher in the Rye, a favorite book of mine, where Holden says “I think I even miss that crazy Maurice.” Those who have read the book will recognize the connection, I’m sure. I’m so happy you like the photo! It’s hard to believe that was six years ago, but I like to think none of us changed TOO much in the years since then! That’s Drew’s wife Megan on the far left, before they were formally engaged in 2009. Happy memories.

  6. Deb

    Julia and family, thank you for sharing your story. May God continue to heal Jeff and may you all feel his loving presence with you today and always. Peace and Strength to you.

    • Thank you Deb, I appreciate your visits here, and I am grateful for your kind comment. It means a lot to me to read that others are thinking of us. I hope you enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday this weekend.

  7. Julia, I can imagine how hard it is for you and your family. I am glad you are still able to count your blessings in the midst of such uncertainties and hardships.
    Let Jeff be ‘able to survive the post-surgical risks’ and be healthy and strong very soon. That’s my prayer.

    • Thank you Bindu! I wish you could be here with us on Thanksgiving Day so you could enjoy a typical American holiday, especially our southern favorite, cornbread dressing – but it is wonderful to have you here in spirit, and to have your kind thoughts and prayers. I appreciate those who are willing to “hang in there” with us through the hard times. I hope to have more happy news to be sending soon! As always, I am thankful to have met you through our blogs.

  8. Patricia Eastin

    My prayers are with you…God bless! Love, Pat

    • Thank you Pat! I so appreciated your card, photos and gifts, and I have been writing a reply to you in my head which I hope to eventually get onto paper – so much to say and so little time (those who have heard me talking are probably smiling at this remark). It means a great deal to have the remembrances from your mother; she must have been a remarkable woman. Yes, I will keep the magnet visible on my fridge; a reminder of the faith I share with so many I never met in this life. Thanks so much for being with us on this journey! Love and blessings to you and your family – especially those beautiful grandchildren!

  9. Linda Blackford

    Julia, I know that I am just one among the many people praying for Jeff, for you and your sons. You are an amazing example of strength in the midst of uncertainty. But one thing is certain! God is there with you, supporting you through it all. I don’t just believe this. I know it, having been through similar crises with loved ones in the past. God is my only explanation for how I made it through, but God was enough. I’m thankful this Thanksgiving Day that you know this, too. With this certainty, I know you can continue to Defeat Despair! God Bless You!

    • Thank you Linda! It’s the sort of thing one cannot totally comprehend, let alone express, so it’s comforting and affirming to know that others have been there and understand that peculiar “peace that passes understanding.” I told a friend many years ago that Jeff’s presence in my life is one of the surest affirmations of my faith– I could think of no other reason we would have ended up together– and now, through the past 14 months, that is re-affirmed again and again through what Jeff has survived, and the blessings that continue to flow to us from all directions, especially from those we would never have known of, except through all that has happened in that time. Thanks so much for being with us on this journey, through your visits and comments here!

  10. What a lovely photo. Happy Thanksgiving my friend. We are grateful that Jeff is coming around today. We are praying that the surgeries are done and very thankful that Jeff is in the 8%. “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well fed calves.” Malachi 4:2 Love you all always. Amy and family

    • Thanks Amy for that beautiful verse. I’ve had dozens of them echoing in my head for months now, but that is one I had not been hearing. I love the thought that we will “frolic like well fed calves.” Hmmm, sounds like a cruise to me :-). I am projecting myself forward in my imagination to our next tea-time. Scones or cinnamon rolls? Maybe another chocolate bobka? Choices, choices. Meanwhile we WILL call you if we need anything. Enjoy your holiday with your family. Love to all of you.

  11. Bobby

    The Lord bless you and keep you; may He make his face shine upon you and give you peace. Love and prayers coming your way.

    • Thank you Bobby. Hope this finds you enjoying your holiday with your family. Love to you, Randall and all of your clan!

  12. Conrad Sloat

    May God’s blessings and abundant Grace surround you and Jeff!

    • Thank you Conrad. I feel blessed indeed. I know it would be hard for Jeff to feel thankful today given what he is suffering, but on some level I do believe he too is thanking God for grace and mercy. I appreciate your kind thoughts and comment today! Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. A lovely testimony. Your quote reminds me of the wonderful Andrew Peterson song, “Dancing in the Minefields”. Here is the official music video, if you want to check it out — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Gs3fg_WsEg

    • Wow, Wow, Wow. What an absolutely gorgeous song and video. I had never heard of that artist or that song but I am so thankful you introduced us to it! The very first line, “I was 19, you were 21, the year we got engaged” really caught my ear because Jeff was 19 and I was 21 the year we got (unofficially) engaged. I love that he has the older couple featured in the video. This is a wonderful Thanksgiving Day gift. To all readers – I highly recommend this song and video. Thanks so much, Tony, and many blessings to you this holiday!

  14. Chris and Carlos

    Prayers and thoughts for the Dentons continue; these Dentons who never cease to amaze! We love you all.

    • Thanks Chris, your visit and comment take me to North Alabama where my extended family is doubtless enjoying one of their legendary feasts (probably at the camp house on the lake?) and I so wish I could beam myself over there for awhile. Please give my love to everyone, and have an extra helping of some cornbread dressing for me! Thanks so much for being here, and give Carlos a kiss for me.

  15. Carolyn

    I am praying for all of you and Jeff is on top. I pray for a full recovery for Jeff, I know it will be a long road but we have a reunion to get ready for. Thanks for you blog today. Take care and hugs and love to Jeff ,you and the family. Love you all.

    • Yes, Carolyn, 2017 will be here before we know it! Thanks for being with us and hanging in there as Jeff’s fellow warrior in this battle against cancer. You have both already won and I feel so blessed to know you both! Love to you and your family this holiday.

  16. maryellen davis

    God Bless you and your family, Julia

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Thanks maryellen! I am so happy to have you sharing our journey with your visits and comments. Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

  17. Lani (Morgan) Beagle

    Julia, I am thinking of you on this marvelous day…….. thank you for the post that is filled with gratefulness, fear and hope. I am grateful for hope everyday, but there are times when it is essential to our survival and I assume last night and today it has been that way for you. I will think of you and your family today and pray for comfort and peace for you and yours.

    • Yes Lani, hope has definitely been our mainstay for a long time now. I know you have known your share of sorrows and I’m thankful for your ability to understand and comfort us at this time. We’ve both come a long ways since our childhood days together, but I still feel that connection and I have been so happy to be back in touch with you. We so need and appreciate the prayers! Please give my love to your Mom and Karen. Blessings to you and all your family today!

  18. Beautiful…your son and entire family will be on my mind and in my prayers. God is good, no matter what the circumstances. Your son is in good hands. Blessings to you and yours…

    • Yes Denise, “God is good all the time” as the song goes. Thanks for being with us on this journey! I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

  19. Havimg read, and greatly appreciated, this post many hours ago; I just wanted to say good morning! Please let me know when you’re up, and how you rested?

    • Hi Eric, I am happy to say that I slept in an actual bed last night (at Fisher House) and got about 6 hours of sleep, which has been so refreshing. Now I can say “Good afternoon” and tell you that Jeff is SITTING in a chair directly across from me — he wasn’t keen on the idea, but the docs want him upright as much as possible. He was even able to “coach” me with instructions while Drew and I were on the phone while ago, working out airport transportation and other logistics. He kept insisting that we make time to eat a Thanksgiving dinner somewhere today (he was in the background saying “FOOD! FOOD!” several times during hearing my side of the call – knowing him, you can understand why that made me happy to think “hey, he’s BACK :-)) Sadly, he can only have a few ice chips every 3 hours right now, but he is back in caretaker mode, at least mentally. He asked me last night about how the surgery went. All I told him about it was “the doctors say the cancer is GONE now. I believe you will be with us for many years.” He said “If I can survive this surgery.” Thank you for keeping him and us in your prayers.

  20. A beautiful story of faith, love, and courage. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, Mary! I am so happy to have you with us here today. Thanks for reading our story. I wish you a wonderful holiday weekend.

  21. MaryAnn

    Praising God w/ you! He is caring for you during this very difficult journey. Thank you for sharing your life w/ us & showing “how-to” praise God in the storm!
    I love you, MA

    • Thank you Mary Ann! We love you and appreciate your presence in our lives through thoughts, words and prayers! We WILL get back to California sooner or later for a visit with all our west coast “family.” Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. Roger

    Been thinking of you and Jeff and boys since leaving the hospital Tuesday afternoon. Boy were you right about the traffic thing and timing. I got home at 12:45 and fell in bed right away but it took awhile to get to sleep with the memories of the day. That was even before hearing that Jeff’s surgeries weren’t over yet. He has been through so much but it seems quite obvious God has been right by his and your side every step of the way. Happy Thanksgiving you you all!

    • Roger, I was so dismayed when Drew told me you had called him and you guys weren’t even as far as RICHMOND yet. Wow, I felt so awful. I hope you at least got to stop and eat somewhere en route. I am always telling Jeff re: DC traffic, “late is the new early.” Everyone, it seems, tries to get a jump on the traffic by leaving early, especially on Fridays and holidays. I’m guessing the Tuesday traffic may have been worse than Wednesday. In any case, we are thankful that all of you braved it to be there with us. Good thing you did not stay until he was out of the OR, because it was nearly 11 PM before that happened! Jeff just told one of the doctors that this time is WAY better than last time – music to my ears considering the surgeons felt just the opposite; the first liver resection went perfectly but the post-op complications were a nightmare that dragged on literally for months. Thanks so much for being with us through all of this! We’ll keep praying in faith that God has great things in store. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all the Denbigh family!

  23. Beverley

    Dear Julia, Thank you for sharing. I continue to pray for you and your loved ones. Am presently listening to some very comforting arrangements by John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers. Wish I could send them to you as they are very calming and bring glory to the Lord who watches over us. Blessings, IN CHRIST, Beverley

    • Thanks Beverly, when I got your comment about Rutter and the Cambridge group, I went to some sample tracks by them – in fact, I’m listening to one now – and I agree it’s beautiful music. I did not realize they collaborated with Chip Davis on some of the Mannheim Steamroller albums, all of which I have and listen to again and again each year. Listening to the angelic voices I’m reminded of the old Cambridge joke about rival Oxford being “the land of dreaming spires and screaming choirs.” Having attended vespers at both universities, I’d have to agree that Cambridge definitely has the musical edge! Thanks for being here and sharing this lovely music with us.

  24. sam

    Such great news to hear that Jeff was sitting up and getting back to himself. Praying for no more complications and for his comfort level. Truly a Thanksgiving blessing to hear the good report of his surgery as well as your list of gratitude amidst the circumstances. Loved your photo, and we look forward to seeing Grady in your next Thanksgiving photo.

    • Thanks so much, sam! Jeff and I got birthday cards “from” Grady (signed by his parents for him :-)) which said that he hopes to be with us on our next birthday – Jeff and I have the same birthday, near Thanksgiving, though I’m two years older than he is. I hope to be posting that Thanksgiving photo here in 2014! I appreciate your visits here, and your comments.

  25. Sheila

    Julia, God has brought us through this year and through these struggles, but also a year of many joys. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! Sheila

    • Happy Thanksgiving, Sheila! (sorry it’s a bit late) – it will definitely be one to remember for us :-).

  26. Thank you for taking time to share your news Julia. It really sounds like they have given you very positive news. To “be rid of the cancer” is a true miracle and testament to your faith, Jeff’s endurance and the commitment of your medical team. I’m so happy for you and the whole family today. I’ll absolutely keep warm thoughts for continued healing. Glad you are able to get some rest too. Happy Thanksgiving !

    • Thanks Boomdee, Happy Thanksgiving WEEKEND to you (since I’m a bit late for Thanksgiving wishes). You have been there with the sunshine, as well as solace and sympathy, since the very early days of this blog, and Boomdeeadda has been my “happy place in cyberspace” that’s helped to keep my chin up! Thanks so much for walking with us through these difficult times.

  27. LB

    I saw in a previous post that you slept in a bed and feel a bit restored. I hope your dear Jeff is making progress in recovering from that very long surgery. I’m sure this blog and all those who comment bring you great comfort. Thoughts are with you …

    • Yes LB, I thank God for this blog and all the wonderful people I’ve met or reconnected with here. What a comfort it has been and continues to be! Jeff appears to be making good progress, and we have much to be thankful for this weekend. Including a bed to sleep in so close by! 🙂

  28. Michael

    Had a quiet Turkey day with both boys on the East coast now. Someone said,”You should have had girls as they tend to stay in place.” So it seems, but I guess you know about that.
    My older son in Atlanta had to work. He is a fireman in Marietta- station 52. Hope to get back to Atlanta zoo in January. I think it is the best zoo ever.
    We saw three baby gorillas there last time.

    • Mike, YES, I do know all about that! Not just from our own situation, but from watching our friends and their children. All you adult sons out there, take note!! 🙂 But I suppose there are exceptions. Drew’s wife Megan, who is from Kansas, spent this Thanksgiving in Atlanta (their home) without her parents OR her hubby, since he was here helping us out. I have not been to the Atlanta zoo in decades, and I am quite surprised to learn that you think it’s the best ever — now I will simply HAVE to make time to check it out. Gorillas were always their strong point, though. I remember at least two of a long line of celebrity gorillas there named “Willie B.” (in honor of the man who was mayor when the zoo was built, I believe) and I wonder if there is still a venerable, much-adored gorilla who bears that name? If so, I’d guess it would have to be the 5th or 6th generation at least.

  29. Maggie

    Dearest Julia, we are continuing to hold Jeff and you and the doctors up in prayer. Jeff is amazingly resilient, as are you. I loved reading your response to Eric’s post, about Jeff’s already resuming his caretaker role…So like him. And it is so like you to be thinking of all of us, and keeping us updated on Jeff’s progress. Our prayers continue.

    • Thank you, Maggie. Yes, Jeff is already fretting about everyone else’s well-being. It’s funny how we find things that normally irritate us to be endearing and reassuring at such times as this! I am so happy we have stayed in touch all these years. Thanks for being here with us!

  30. You sure make me stop whining and complaining about little irrelevant things in my life. Thanks for the kick in the butt!

    • Honey, no one is a bigger whiner than I am. Oddly, I find it’s the little irritations that seem the most unbearable. I can brace myself and be brave for the big stuff, but with the minor annoyances, I sort of have an attitude problem, like “OK, do you REALLY think I need this NOW?” In any case, my blog is a place for me to kick myself in the butt – if it helps you, that’s a double bonus! 🙂 Thanks for being here.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: