Diane Paddison, founder of 4word, and Marion Medina, Director of Programs at 4word, continue our discussion on gratitude by sharing what gratitude looks like in their lives. They also explain why it is so important that Christian women in the workplace express gratitude openly to those around them.
You can listen to this conversation with Diane and Marion on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.
What are your roles at 4word?
Diane: I am the founder and executive director of 4word. I was drawn to found 4word for three key reasons. First, I was on the global executive team of two Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies in the commercial real estate industry…and I was the only woman on both of those global executive teams. Second, I formed a group of women who were in similar stages of life and had the same belief system I did—their faith was their foundation. They were married (or had been married), had children, and they were professionals and were really my lifelong line in my 40s. I knew how important it was to have community with women in a similar life stage as me.
Third, in the 2010 census data, there were three statistics that had changed tremendously in my lifetime. The percentage of women in the workplace with children under 18 had changed from 47% to 75%. The percent of families with the woman as the primary breadwinner went from 11% to 44%, and the percent of college degrees going to women went from 6% in 1964 to 58% in today’s society. Those data points really gave me the feeling that I was called to start 4word, because it was proven by data to be a need.
Marion: My professional background is very different from Diane’s, except for also being the only woman in the room sometimes! I joined the 4word staff in 2021 after 17 years of pastoral ministry in local churches. What drew me to 4word initially were a couple of women who were involved in 4word. I had a good friend in the Chicago area who was a board member with 4word, and I shared with her that I was about to transition out of my role. She not only supported me during that time but also took action to try to help me. She introduced me to another 4word board member who became my mentor during that entire transition and walked with me and is still one of my dearest friends to this day. The community of 4word is unique. It is a community of women who are truly for each other, not just cheering each other on but willing to get in there and work for each other. I honestly haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else.
What does gratitude mean to you?
Diane: When I sat back and thought about gratitude and what it meant to me, I thought it is truly a reflection of God’s generosity to me.
Marion: I believe that gratitude is a choice and a disposition. Developing a habit of gratitude changes everything. We choose to be grateful, and when we choose to acknowledge all that God has given us, it makes a change in us physically and emotionally. Years ago, I found myself in a place where I was just in a little bit of a negative and cynical place. I read Psalm 50, which says, ‘make thankfulness your sacrifice to God.’ So I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to just start expressing gratitude on a daily basis.’ So I did! On my walk every morning, I would just thank God for the sunshine, the trees, for my family—just anything that came to mind. That practice totally brought me out of that rather dark place. Now, that’s my personal experience, but now there are multitudes of research studies that show that a daily practice of gratitude can have positive physical, emotional, and psychological effects on a person. So God knew what God was saying when He said, ‘Make thankfulness your sacrifice.’
As Christian women in the workplace, is gratitude something we should be extra mindful to express and model for those around us?
Marion: You just never know who desperately needs to be seen and acknowledged on any given day. It might seem small to you to express gratitude to someone, but that gratitude could be a lifeline to someone else. Anyone who’s quick to acknowledge other people and express gratitude for what they’ve done is someone who is going to go far, because gratitude breeds gratitude.
Diane: I thought of two things related to why it’s important to express and model gratitude. First, gratitude sets a culture for an organization or company: a culture that is grateful and always looks at the positive. Second, expressing gratitude is just a modeling of what Jesus did, and as Christians, we are called to strive to be more and more like Jesus. It’s just amazing to think about the people that have expressed gratitude to me and how, as Marion said, that could be a lifeline. An example of someone expressing gratitude to me in a way that has been a lifeline is a note that Jordan, 4word’s Digital Content manager, wrote on her five-year anniversary with 4word. I still have her note in my purse or in my suitcase, and if I ever need to remember why God had called me to start 4word, I read that note and it brings me joy just thinking about how God does use us to able to bring joy to others.
Can you think of a situation or memory that was only made possible because of gratitude?
Diane: One story that I thought of was of one of my 11 mentees that I’ve had. His name is Lopez Lomong and he’s a lost boy of Sudan and a two-time Olympian. Lopez and I once spoke at an event, and I always say I was his ‘warmup act.’ When I heard his story, I was just totally amazed. We became friends and went to lunch the next day with each other. Lopez really allowed me to be a big part of his life and next season, which involved starting a foundation, starting a race, etc., so that he could give back to the children in Sudan. How he got to the United States and then became an Olympian is an amazing story, and Lopez is the most grateful person I’ve ever met in my life. Our friendship continues because he is just such a grateful person. There are so many people who want to have Lopez’s time, and he gives his time to me and my husband Chris whenever we’re in the same city. It’s just a great relationship made possible by gratitude.
Marion: I have a really personal story about gratitude getting me through. It’s really rooted in what the Apostle Paul says about worry: ‘Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done.’ A few years back, I found myself in probably the most stressful work situation I have ever been in. I began to struggle with anxiety, which is not normal for me, and it was almost crippling. I had a 40-minute drive once a week, and I would get in the car and just start saying prayers of gratitude. I mean, I had done lots of crying out to God. God knew what I needed and what I was worried about. But for those 40 minutes, I would just practice gratitude the entire drive. When I got to where I was going, which was a place where I needed to speak up and speak truth to power, I found myself calm and centered and able to be courageous in that situation. Honestly, I did not have that ability naturally at that time, so I know it was the practice of gratitude and the Holy Spirit giving me what I needed in those moments that got me through.
Diane Paddison, 4word Founder and President, is a Harvard MBA, former global executive of two Fortune 500 companies, CBRE and ProLogis, and one Fortune 1000 company, Trammell Crow Company, and serves as an independent director for one corporate and four not-for-profit boards.
Diane is a leading advocate for Christian women in the workplace. Diane published Work, Love, Pray in 2011, and Be Refreshed . . . a year of devotions for women in the workplace in 2017, laying the foundation for 4word.
She authors weekly posts at 4wordwomen.org and is a featured columnist for The Washington Times and the 4word Mentor Program has been highlighted in The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.
Diane and her husband, Chris, have four children and two grandchildren and live in Dallas, Texas.
Marion Medina served in pastoral ministry for 17 years at three local churches including, most recently, Willow Creek Community Church. During her church ministry, she incorporated her organizational development skills with her practical knowledge of effective discipleship to create growth strategies that focused on the equipping and mobilization of congregations on the mission of Jesus. She holds degrees from Trinity International University and Wheaton College in Organizational Leadership and Missional Church Movements.
She directed vision and strategy for the Alpha Chicago Board during her tenure as Chairman of the Board, and she partnered with Dr. Rick Richardson to develop and launch the nation-wide Church Evangelism Institute, a ministry of the Billy Graham Center of Wheaton College. As a member of the Christ Together Midwest Board, she provided guidance, training and strategy and individual coaching for pastors and church leaders throughout the central United States.
Marion and her husband, Ray, reside in Dallas and have two adult children and three amazing grandchildren.