Gratitude as a Cushion in Life

As a gratitude coach, I constantly look at ways of explaining gratitude and how to use it. I feel if I can find simple analogies that maybe it will help others understand gratitude and how it can change their lives. I was reflecting this morning about how many times a day I use a cushion for comfort and support just as I do gratitude.

Let me explain. Years ago when working in a veterinary surgical center I had a very unruly and large German Shephard that threw me around as I tried to hold it for a blood draw. This dog was about 85-90 pounds and I was only 138 pounds at the time. It thrashed and pulled away as we attempted to do a blood draw for a heartworm test. Needless to say by the end of the process my back was throbbing in pain. It took me about 10 minutes to be able to attempt to stand upright. Since this time I have always had back soreness and tenderness.

Daily as I sit on my sofa or at my desk I require a lumbar cushion to support my back. The cushion offers a soft surface for my tender back to lean against. It fills and supports my lower back which was injured 24 years ago. Without this cushion, my back feels shooting pains off and on as I sit. I require the cushion to get me through the day.

Just like the cushion to comfort my back, I rely on gratitude to comfort my life. Gratitude is a cushion for anxiety, worry, or despair. As the cushion comforts an ailment I have lived with for more than half my life, gratitude comforts me for my daily heart and mind ailments.

I lean into gratitude when I hear sad news involving my friends or the struggles of a victim I am working with in my ministry. I know Jesus told us we will have trials in our lives but that He has overcome the world. We are safe in His arms. I approach those I minister to with this comfort. Gratitude, like a cushion, supports me in my weakness. Where my back is weak it fills the gap allowing comfort. Gratitude fills our weaknesses when we find the good in every situation.

John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”

When my grandbaby, Mila was diagnosed intrauterine with gastroschisis I was initially fearful and shocked. You are supposed to get pregnant, percolate for nine months, and be joyous when you deliver the baby. This pregnancy wasn’t going to happen this way. How was I going to cushion this situation and find gratitude? First, I remember what God taught me in the Bible. In all circumstances be thankful and with prayer and supplication for this is the will of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I asked my daughter and son-in-law who were on the phone delivering the news, “Can I pray for you?” Immediately my daughter responded, “Yes.”. I began a prayer asking our Gracious and loving God to bring us together in this walk. Our sweet growing baby was in need of miraculous healing. We need Him to protect our baby and her little developing intestines. Allow our family to be confident in Your goodness and to never lose trust in You. Let us feel your love for us daily in comfort and may we be grateful for this blessing you are sending us no matter the walk. In Jesus’ name, I offered the prayer.

I then prepared small green (the awareness color of gastroschisis) gratitude hearts with Mila’s name on them to share with our prayer warriors. We asked friends and family to take a heart and pray for Mila’s development and delivery. We shared over 50 Mila hearts. My daughter’s fetal medicine team took hearts which allowed me to see God’s love in them.

Mila Prayer Hearts

With every doctor’s appointment and ultrasound examination, I prayed for the best outcome and for our sweet baby to be protected and not arrive too early. On December 3rd, our baby girl was born by emergency C-section. There was a team of fetal medicine doctors, a surgeon, and staff called together to deliver this high-risk pregnancy. My husband and I rushed to the hospital to be with Lexie and Ty. My husband stayed in the lobby because this was during Covid and only 1 immediate family member could be in the maternity ward.

As I saw my beautiful daughter preparing for labor I prayed in my heart. “God, I am prepared for whatever walk this night brings. I know You have planned this walk for me. I trust and love You and will be grateful and obedient in any outcome. I know You will guide this delivery and immediate surgery of my sweet Mila. You know what is best for all of us and I am in peace because You are with me and in me. In Jesus’ name, I pray for my family. Amen.”.

They rolled Lexie away with Ty following behind. It wasn’t long and a NICU nurse came to tell me Mila had arrived and Lexie was doing well. She took me to a hallway where they would be transporting Mila to the NICU and I could catch a quick glimpse of her. It seemed like an eternity waiting in that back hallway. It was awkward trying to make conversation when all I wanted to do was see my granddaughter and Lexie. I am one of those people that needs to see my family members to understand they are okay. I looked down the double doors that stood before me and saw the team coming toward me. In an incubator was my beautiful, tiny Mila. My heart was at peace, my eyes filled with tears, and gratitude washed over me.

Baby Mila 2 hours old

There was our little baby that was at high risk for many months before me. Her surgery was a success, my daughter doing well in recovery, and God is by my side. Gratitude cushioned me through a very uncertain situation and walk. I allowed myself to see gratitude in this walk that cushioned my day-to-day uncertainty.

This is a recent picture of Mila. Her intestines are healthy, she loves all foods, we have not seen any complications from gastroschisis and we are grateful for God’s goodness.

Mila 9 months

If you are having difficulty today, find your cushion of gratitude. Be thankful for something in your situation. God is with you and where gratitude lives anxiety cannot. We can always find gratitude when we look. May God bless You today. My love and gratitude-LoLo

The Many Faces of Cancer

As I sat at MD Anderson with my mom, waiting for scans and doctor appointments, I noticed many people surrounded me.

My mom is here for a 3-year melanoma follow-up, and we pray we get the “all clear” report today. MD Anderson is a hectic and bustling place. Everyone that works here has a smile always and they are so caring. Though they are all masked, their eyes express compassion. For the last thirty-six hours, I have been touched by many new people.

Yesterday morning I sat at breakfast and overheard a man and woman sitting at the next table; that caught my interest when I heard the man say, “How can I pray for (patient’s name) specifically?” The woman responded, ” For miraculous healing.”. I recognized that the patient was in a dire situation with cancer. Miraculous is a word infused with Divine intervention. I prayed for “miraculous healing” for my dad too. I understood this urgency. I stopped my breakfast and intentionally prayed for this unknown patient for miraculous healing.

My mom had full-body and brain scans scheduled for early afternoon. When we arrived, we saw an entire room of patients and family members waiting for scans. The receptionist notified us they were running 1-2 hours behind schedule. I looked around the room, patients were in recliners, and family members were on small couches. I saw some patients resting and sleeping, others were working on laptops, and I knew who were patients by their wristbands.

My mom was called back to set her IV line as I sat alone; I listened to conversations as they developed around me. Directly across from me, three families were waiting for scans. They slowly began initiating conversation to pass the time. Quickly I found out they all were being treated for colon cancer.

The stories I heard begin to unfold were incredible to me. The first lady was probably in her mid-forties. She spoke of her diagnosis in 2012, probably in her mid-thirties. She had four surgeries. Her first surgery took part of her colon, the second and third surgeries took 75% of her liver, and the fourth surgery was again in her colon. I believe she said she had over 70 tumors in her colon at diagnosis. Her first doctor in her hometown told her there was no hope, but MD Anderson said differently.

I heard her say that deciding to come to this cancer center allowed her to see her kids move through elementary school, celebrate birthdays and Christmases, drink coffee with friends, etc. She said it’s been a challenging walk, but she is still alive. The other doctors told her she would never see these events.

I heard next a conversation between the other two patients stating that both of their doctors told them that since it was stage four cancer, they should contact hospice and enjoy any days they had left here on earth. I was devastated; how can a doctor say that and not offer a referral to a cancer center to find any hope possible? I was so inspired to see both of them here at MD Anderson. They had been diagnosed one and three years ago, respectively. Although one of them was debilitated, just coming from a rough round of chemo, he still shared hope.

I soon started to see the love and comfort coming from these patients They were supporting each other in the most beautiful way They were sick and debilitated yet encouraging and sharing with each other I found that the patients had a comradery that supported one another True love in a world of cancer.

My mom arrived back from getting her IV line set as a man was being rolled into the waiting room for a chest scan He was dressed in a hospital gown and maybe was in his 70s I am not good at gauging other people’s age but he reminded me of my dad My dad was in his 70s when he passed away The man was bald and I saw a scar from brain surgery that was well healed His caregiver sat with him and I soon found out was his daughter She was agitated and very restless I saw the man wave to the receptionist for help.

The receptionist came over and asked how she could help “My daughter is disabled and not going to be able to stay with me We are about to lose communication with our family because we don’t have a phone charger We need to reschedule our appointment.” “Are you sure?, responded the receptionist, “I hate for you to have to come back.” The man said, “We are from Austin and my daughter is disabled and can’t sit here any longer.”

As I saw this interaction, God compelled me to move in The man had called his wife and said that they were coming home, it was too busy, and the daughter was about to implode.” I moved to the chair next to the daughter with my cell phone charger in hand “Here, you can use my charger I am going to be sitting here with my mom, I can sit with your father if you want to take a walk or get a cup of coffee If you are okay with it, I will stay here with your dad until they call him back.” I heard the man tell his wife that something was happening and that he would call her back The daughter then informed me that she had a traumatic brain injury and crowds make her incredibly nervous.

The daughter thanked me for the charger and told her dad that she felt comfortable having me be there with him while he waits Remember, there was a two-hour wait. He looked at me and asked if I was sure I would want to give up my time to be with him. “Absolutely, I am here waiting with my mom that also has a long wait.” His eyes reminded me of my dad He called his wife and said they would be getting the test. I looked at the daughter who now was calm and relaxed and peaceful.

I then proceeded to the receptionist and told her that I was giving the daughter a break and would be sitting with the man until he was called I also said a quick prayer for a blessing for this family I then asked the receptionist if there was any way this man could get his chest x-ray expedited and if so, I would be forever grateful.

I walked back to the man and told him they would be with him shortly He took my hand and held it. His daughter was content and squeezing my hand the man looked at me and said, “You are our saving grace today.” I responded, “Thank you, but I know you would have done the same for me.” The next thing I saw was a technician coming to take my new friend back for his scan. Thank you God and thank you, MD Anderson.

Later my mom made dinner plans to meet a couple that my mom and dad have known for many years. The man was also a patient here at MD Anderson. In 2011 he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and given a year to live. He has defied all odds and is still with us. He has been through clinical trials, and several chemotherapy protocols and his body has been greatly affected. He smiles and gives such gratitude to his doctors at MD Anderson. He spoke for about 20 minutes telling me about his journey with this cancer and continued to smile. What an inspiration!

Today we met with mom’s surgeon and oncologist to get the results of her scans and bloodwork. I think there were 10 sheets of paper they started explaining. Bottom line, mom is cancer free at this time and has graduated to only coming for yearly scans. She will continue to have skin exams every six months to monitor visually for new melanoma. Honestly, this is the best news God could have blessed us with today.

While here I have also learned the importance of a plant-based diet. Learn more here.

https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/5-benefits-of-a-plant-based-diet.h20-1592991.html

As I close out this blog I want to encourage anyone that doesn’t know about MD Anderson to Google it and read about all the beautiful work they do in ending cancer. If you know someone with cancer that should be referred to this national cancer center please be persistent in getting them here. I heard story after story from patients saying they feel so much love and hope here when other doctors offered them none.

Today, some are here finding out they are cancer free. Others are hearing their first diagnosis of cancer and the road ahead. Also, there are those continuing treatment after living this life for many years. I pray for all of them as well as all of you. My love and gratitude-LoLo

For more information click here. https://www.mdanderson.org/

Our Faith as a Winnie the Pooh Character

I remember being a small child and watching the television cartoon movie “Winnie the Pooh”. I loved the soft pastel colors the animators used to color the movie. They were comforting colors. Colors of peace, relaxation, and calmness. The characters were so diverse, yet simple. I, of course, didn’t recognize this at an early age. A sweet pleasant memory I carry with me still today.

When preparing to teach a class today, I decided to use the characters of this beloved book as a comparison of ourselves and how we present ourselves as Christians.

First, let’s look at Winnie the Pooh himself. He is not very bright, he’s gullible, and he lacks common sense. Although Pooh loves helping others and his friends, he is more of a support than a leader. I know people like this. They are amazingly supportive friends and will do anything for you but they don’t share God’s word verbally. These people show Christianity through their actions. Pooh is content in life (like us, understanding God’s love) and offers hugs to comfort friends. These people are the foundation of our story, just like Pooh.

Winnie the Pooh “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
The Bible Philippians 2:4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Next, let’s look at Christopher Robin. This Winnie the Pooh story character is smart, compassionate, he is wiser than others, and others look up to him for mentoring. As a Christian, I strive to be like Christopher Robin. Christopher Robin is wise in the ways that he will admit his faults and seek others to solve problems. He understands the importance of humbling himself. I study every day to try to learn how to be more Christlike, understand God’s Word more clearly, and offer love. I aspire to be a Christopher Robin in representing my faith. Even when I am not with you, I am praying for you.

Christopher Robin “One thing you should know, no matter where I go, we’ll always be together.”

The Bible Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

What about sweet little Piglet? Piglet is very timid and takes his lead from others and what they do. There are many Christians like this. They choose to follow the crowd or let others make all the decisions. When we do this as Christians we can fall into false teachings or incorrect interpretations of the Bible. Piglet has good intentions but needs to think for himself. God’s Word (the Bible) is the perfect guide on how to live our life. It allows us to be brave and courageous because God teaches us that.

Winnie the Pooh“Pooh?” “Yes, Piglet?”
“I’ve been thinking…” “That’s a very good habit to get into to Piglet.”

The Bible Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Lastly, let’s look at Eeyore. He’s glum and sarcastic, and he does things halfheartedly. He spends more time avoiding doing what needs to be done instead of just doing what needs to be done. I know people that say they are Christians but are always complaining and tearing down the church. They always know how to do things in theory but do nothing. They feel like no one understands them but they understand everyone and that tends to be in a negative light.

Eeyore “The sky has finally fallen. Always knew it would.”

The Bible Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

How do you choose to be represented? The story of “Winnie the Pooh” describes basic human behavior and personality types. Our faith can be described the same way, as Christopher Robin, understanding but knowing he needs guidance, Piglet, who follows the crowd and does not think on his own. Maybe you are a Pooh Bear that is supportive and always there or Eeyore who finds little good in life and wastes it. I was a Pooh that became a Christopher Robin, you can too.

Thank you for reading my blog and may you see God’s work in you today! My love and gratitude, LoLo

Intentional Gratitude

I was reflecting the other day on how many people tell me what they are grateful for. It only makes sense because my whole ministry is based on practicing gratitude. As I reflected on how many people when asked to list what they are grateful for gave me the same answers. My family, God, my home, my job, my friends,….. This is what I call the “superficial list of gratitude”. I’m not putting these answers or people down by any means because we all should be grateful for these things. I just say let’s dive much deeper.

I taught a class yesterday on intentional gratitude. I personally made a list of 11 things that required more thought to be grateful for. I then took 11 oranges and wrote in Sharpie one of the things I listed, so 11 oranges with 1 item on each. As I handled them out I chuckled and said, “Orange you grateful?”

I then asked each person one at a time to read out loud what the Sharpie said. I then explained why we should be intentionally grateful for these obvious things we never list on our gratitude list when asked.

The first person spoke, ” A full moon.” They looked at me in a confused way. Yes, a full moon I am intentionally grateful for because of 2 very special reasons. When there is a full moon in the sky it emits such a bright light in the dark night. It reminds me of God’s bright light keeping us out of the dark, He is light so I find a full moon reminds me of Him and I am calmed.

Also, any moon I am able to visually see connects me with so many people. I think of all the people in the world that may look up to the moon, the moon I look at. That also takes me to people in history that look at the same moon I look at. Jesus, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstien, Rosa Parks, Walt Disney. I wondered what they wondered when they looked at the moon.

Psalm 89:37 it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.”

This verse seems to refer to the constant of the universe just as God is with His convents and faithfulness.

Another orange was read aloud and it revealed the changing of seasons. I personally love autumn when all things are turning bright orange and golden, especially the leaves. Piles of leaves will rustle when the wind winds blow ( by the way the word for that is psithurism). How amazing is a crisp autumn day at a farmer’s market? Ah, heaven!

I also loved when someone in the class said that it can also represent when God takes us through seasons in our lives. So true. God never promised an easy life but He did promise to be by our sides always. He explains there will be balance in our lives, sadness balanced with joy, illness balanced with healthy times, and so on

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

The next orange to be read was marked with the word “music”. I have to personally admit that music has carried me through many moments in my life. There are so many benefits of listening to music. I recall memories when I hear certain songs, especially during my high school days. Music can release dopamine in my brain making me happy and relaxed. Most of all, music allows me to worship God when I am singing in my car beautiful worship songs. This draws me closer to God. I don’t really think I need to explain this verse.

Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with song. And magnify Him with thanksgiving.

The final orange I am going to list here is being grateful for a quiet place to sit. A place without phones, people, or distractions. I sit on my patio when I need to just be alone and think. There is a big tree that’s branches spread wide and to the edges of our fence. It reminds me of being sheltered and protected. We have many birds that chip when I sit out there. There is just something about chipping (the birds sing, hence the music listed above) that relaxes me. I am able to look up and focus on the changing clouds and attempt to figure out what the shapes look like. Jesus had to have a quiet place to sit.

Mark 1:35-39 It was very early in the morning and still dark. Jesus got up and left the house. He went to a place where he could be alone. There he prayed.

As I close this blog post, I pray that maybe you will get an orange and a Sharpie and start listing the things you are grateful for. I pray you will list things that take intentional gratitude to appreciate and can be tied back to God. Focus on the beautiful gifts God has given us in nature, family, and friends. May you feel God’s love and blessings today-LoLo

God’s Light and My Umbrella

You know how you are sitting, daydreaming and you have a profound thought? That happens to me all the time and it becomes the inspiration for a blog post.

I was thinking the other day about how in Heaven there is no night or darkness. In Heaven, God’s light is bright and always on and no one can put themselves into the shadows of darkness like here on earth. Then I began thinking about different types of umbrellas. These “umbrellas” are used for coverings or protection but many times these “umbrellas” are used to keep God out.

The first umbrella is the portable umbrella. These are carried in a backpack or car console and stored away for unpredicted storms that blow in. They are small and used for a short time. Well, I believe if we think about how umbrellas can be compared to shadows and dark places we can understand how we shield ourselves from God’s light. Let me better explain this.

There are times when we may have brief anxiety. Let’s say when we have a sudden unexpected meeting in the boss’s office. We see dark clouds coming in (the uncertainty of what the boss wants) and we grab our portable umbrella (a shield of defense against the uncertainty). We put this “umbrella” up to keep us dry. Although it is small and unable to keep all the rain (the boss’s words) off us. It only does partly well in protecting us. As we put the small shield of defense up against the uncertainty it will also fail to fully protect us it is way too small.

We grab the “umbrella” (shield) to protect us from the harshness we feel is coming from our boss. It has to be bad right? The boss doesn’t talk to me. We forget that rain serves a purpose. Rain quenches the thirst of our plants and fills ponds and lakes. It’s positive. Same as God’s light. We feel that the small umbrella will take the brunt of the boss’s wrath we forget that God does that for us in His light. We don’t have to pull out this small “umbrella” when we have God.

If we don’t put up the “umbrella” and let the rain fall on us maybe the sunshine (God’s light) will come quickly. Maybe the umbrella only holds a spot of darkness over us, not allowing the full rain and sunshine (God’s light) to fall on us fully.

Let me give you another example. Remember the clear bubble umbrella? They were made of clear plastic and bubbled around you. They were good at giving you more protection but if it was a hot day it was like being in a sauna. Very hot…..but dry.

This type of umbrella covers you really well and you are exposed to the sun. I think of some of the people I know and they tell me they are Christians yet their actions don’t match their words. These people are using a clear bubble umbrella. They feel protected and covered by the “umbrella” and they have God’s light on them or so they think. They are showing themselves inside their “umbrella”. Actually, this is the worst umbrella to be under. You feel protected and in the warm sunshine (God’s light) for everyone to see but the heat from the sun and plastic combined gets humid and stuffy. Just like pretending to be in faith and understanding God’s word.

The people using this “umbrella” are feeling protected because they say they are Christian and feel that God will protect them with His covering (“umbrella”). This is a false sense of security. God sees them through that clear plastic knowing their true heart. Nothing is hidden from God, yet they are parading their umbrella in full view for all to see.

Then there is the big golf umbrella. Wide, vented for gusts of wind, and very protecting.

This umbrella tends to be a great option for “umbrellas”. Why is this one better you may ask? It’s better because it allows for two people to be under it to stay dry. It also has vents cut into the umbrellas to allow wind to move through the vents. This allows you to hang onto the umbrella and not be blown out of your hands. Lastly, the shape of the umbrella is wide and slanted for protection from the rain.

Let me break this “umbrella” down a bit more. First, an “umbrella” that allows two or more to be protected and dry is called fellowship. One can lean on the other if rain appears in their life. Fellowship and support are necessary.

Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Ecclessiates 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

Next, the vents protect us from our “umbrella” blowing away in storms. The wind moves through the slits to keep things stable. God calms our storms.

Luke 8:25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Also, the golf umbrella is wider than a regular umbrella with slanted sides. It is designed to protect us from rain that falls straight down or at an angle. Just like God, He protects us from all sides and situations.

Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

I don’t want this blog post to seem judgemental, remember how it started. You know how you are sitting, daydreaming and you have a profound thought?

This started as just a thought and a comparison of umbrellas. Relating them to different types of examples of how we are allowing God to cover us. How we may be tricking ourselves into thinking we are being good Christian yet not allowing God to fully protect us. Opening our eyes to a simple understanding that we need to be under golf umbrellas. Golf umbrellas with friends in fellowship, letting God blow through us in the storms while opening ourselves to the falling rain allowing His protection.

May you feel God’s love and blessings today. My love and gratitude for you-LoLo