Evidence of the Journey – Nancy Nordenson

Nancy Nordenson joins us again to finish our month of exploring life’s stages. Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul (Baker Books, 2004) is her quiet call to embrace faith, creativity, and wisdom. Please see below for a special offer on her books.

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash


Evidence of the Journey – Nancy Nordenson

The back of my plane ticket stub reads, “This portion of the ticket should be retained as evidence of your journey.”

Unexpected wisdom courtesy of a commercial airline. 

This same mind-set is shared by grade-school teachers. Every June during my children’s grade-school years, their teachers sent them home for the summer with portfolios under their arms, the folders bulging with routine math papers and spelling tests, as well as special poems, booklets, and artwork. Viewing their accumulated work of the past year, in one place and at one sitting, their progress was unmistakeable. While day-by-day growth in knowledge, understanding, and proficiency was hard to detect, the growth over a nine-month period was always startling. This annual viewing of the portfolio brought not only a “Wow!” from my lips as I recognized their progress, but as a sense of “Yes, I did that!” from theirs as they were reminded of all they had done.

As adults, we also need that sense of, “Yes, I did that!” or any variation on that theme—“I learned that!” “I made it through that!” The expanse of our lives is evident when we are reminded of the journey through our days by a picture, a song, a smell, a journal entry. Or when we recall our “firsts”—first love, heartbreak, job interview, home. Or when we relive in our minds a series of days that were difficult or joyful or ordinary. By revisiting the evidence of our journeys, we remind ourselves that we are more than what we are at any one moment. 


“Mighn’t it be a good thing if everyone had to draw a map of his own mind—say, once every five years? With the chief towns marked, and the arterial roads he was constructing from one idea to another, and all the lovely and abandoned by-lanes that he never went down, because the farms they led to were all empty?” 

Charles Williams, The Place of the Lion


 I am usually pleased to remember that I am more than what I am at any particular moment. In rather dull and predictable moments, I am gratified to be reminded of days of success and excitement. In moments of success, I am grounded when reminded of days of work that preceded the success. In any moment, I am humbled and reassured when reminded of the workings of God in past days of my life, and enriched when I recall past lessons learned.

The problem is that it is too easy it is to forget the days of success and excitement, to forget the hours of work, to forget the times that God has acted, to forget lessons learned—even when I think all of it is seared into my brain. 

To remember, the journey must be intentionally marked. A journal, a collection of old songs, personal mementos, a bottle of old perfume, newspaper clippings, special books, family photographs, notes of books read, a work portfolio, a list of important dates. These factual and sensory reminders help to bring the map of your life journey onto your mental desktop.


“So much of the past is encapsulated in the odds and ends. Most of us discard more information about ourselves than we ever care to preserve. Our recollection of the past is not simply distorted by our faulty perception of events remembered but skewed by those forgotten. The memory is like orbiting twin stars, one visible, one dark, the trajectory of what’s evident forever affected by the gravity of what’s concealed.” 

Sue Grafton, O Is for Outlaw


When you have saved the evidence of your journey, you are free to access it. You are free to remember yourself as a young person, to reappreciate the sorrows you’ve endured and the joys you’ve treasured, to take what you learned yesterday and bring it forward to today. All of your past remembrances can help shape who you are today, can help you be the multidimensional person time and experience has made you. 

Take the advice of the commerical airline and follow the example of grade-school teachers. Gather and save the evidence of your journey so you can reconnect with who you’ve been and what you’ve lived. Mark your journey as you go. Markers of the journey illuminate what has past and point toward the way ahead. 

Photo by Celia Ortega on Unsplash


Nancy Nordenson is the author of Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure, (Kalos Press, 2015), and Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul (Baker Books, 2004). Her writing has appeared in Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Indiana Review, Comment, Under the Sun, Relief, and in other publications and anthologies, including The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God (Cascade), Becoming: What Makes a Woman (University of Nebraska Gender Studies), and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage (Kalos Press, 2015). Her work has earned multiple “notable” recognitions in the Best American Essays and Best Spiritual Writing anthologies and Pushcart Prize nominations. She is currently working on a book about hope.


Nancy has a lovely website. She has put a discount into the system so that if you use the code GRETAHOLT there is a 20% discount, good from May 2 through June 18!   http://thelivelihoodproject.com/buy

Thank you, again, Nancy!


I welcome your comments: gretaholtwriter.com/blog. Please enjoy a few short stories on the Home page, as well.

{Thank you to my niece, Addie Liechty, for taking the picture above that is this blog’s featured image. Her blog is: https://addieswriting.wordpress.com.}

Best wishes and have a good week.


Greta Holt


  1. Nicky on May 31, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Loved hearing from Nancy again & look forward to more posts from you!

    • Greta Holt on May 31, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks, Nicky. Isn’t being in Dan Blank’s Master Mind groups great!

  2. Diane Gottlieb on May 31, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    So … I am the anti-hoarder. I never saved much of my kids’ work and have never been big on taking pictures. I could have used this post years ago! Taking stock and having hard evidence of the past has real value. I will keep this in mind when I become a grandma.

    • Greta Holt on May 31, 2018 at 8:50 pm

      I don’t keep either. My mom was the keeper of all things written and photographed. Enjoy your grandkids when they come along.

Leave a Comment

Sign up to hear about upcoming stories and posts.