Gratitude Archive

The Man at the Cemetery

I was driving up highway 75 after picking up books in Dallas that had been donated for my grief support groups. I was thinking of all the things I wanted to get done today before the impending ice storm hit in a day or two. My heart became very full as if the Holy Spirit was telling me to take the time to go to the cemetery and check on my dad’s grave. I go fairly often but today I felt my heart just pulling me to go. I passed the exit I had planned on taking and instead took the exit by the cemetery.

I drove into the cemetery and all the way to the back where my dad is buried when I saw another car near where I had planned to park. The driver’s side door was open and I could her worship music coming from inside. I parked my car and I suddenly was compelled to get one of my soapstone crosses out of my bag I thought to put on my dad’s grave. I had placed a gratitude heart inside the arrangement in his urn. I figured I was going to place it next to it amongst the flowers. As I exited my car with the cross in my hand I saw a man sitting alone at a grave not far from my dad’s.

My Cross

The cross wasn’t for my dad’s grave, it was to give to the man sitting alone. God placed it on my heart to share the cross with the man. I walked towards the man and he began standing up from his chair. “I’ve seen you here before. May I give you this cross?”, I asked. His response was, “That’s amazing you are giving me this cross today. My wife had a ministry before she died and she shared wooden crosses with people for them to hold.” What? Seriously? My head was racing with thoughts. “Your wife shared crosses?” I asked as he headed back to his chair to retrieve something.

He reached into the cup holder on the chair’s arm and brought back a wooden cross. He handed it to me as he instructed me how to hold the cross in my hand. I was truly dumbfounded. I wanted to share this cross for his comfort and yet this person wanted to do the same thing. He and I looked at each other in a type of amazement. Then I see something!

“Is that a rock you have placed on your wife’s grave?” I saw a rock that was fairly good size laying on the flat gravestone. It was just at the base of the urn that had flowers and a balloon placed in it. “Yes,” he said, “She also shared rocks with the words ‘turn it over’ on both sides. It is a reminder to turn it over to God.”

“Wait right there, don’t move!” I said. I immediately went to my car to show him the rock hearts I give people. I dug in my truck, none there, none in my backseat, and then I found a tiny one in my bag. It was a hot pink heart with a white flower carved out similar to this one and gave it to him.

Heart gifted to Bill

I told him my name asked him his name and he said it was Bill and his wife’s name was Linda. He talked a bit longer about Linda, her ministry, and how the church honored her after her passing and then revealed, “This is my 57th wedding anniversary. I come out here every day except three during the winter ice storm last year.” This struck me too, we have an ice storm predicted for this week.

“This is very special that I met you today on our anniversary and that you give crosses and rocks too. Very special.” I understood what he meant. In a way, I was reminding him of being with Linda. Crosses and rocks unexpectantly on a very important day.

Linda has passed of cancer on May 7, 2020, just days before his birthday which is May 15th. I told him my dad passed away of cancer too. Hold on God, how much more can we have in common? I just knew my eyes were getting wider and wider in this beautiful Godwink I was experiencing.

I told Bill I hoped to see him again very soon. He was so pleasant and I could see God within him. He said he would hope he would too. I asked him if I could share this story on my blog and he smiled and said yes.

After leaving the cemetery, Bill was still on my heart. I wanted to go back to take him a full-size gratitude heart but I knew he would be gone and I wouldn’t be at the cemetery for several days. I finished several errands and returned to the cemetery and to his wife’s grave. I placed a beautiful aqua heart next to the “turn it over” rock. I thought it would be a nice surprise for Bill when he went for his daily visit to Linda’s grave.

Thank you, God, for giving me this spectacular blessing today. I didn’t take a picture of the two rocks out of respect for Bill and Linda. I did take a picture of the crosses and rock he gave me.

Crosses and rock Bill shared with me

I pray God shines on you today and I am grateful for you reading my blog.

A Bag Full of Love

February is upon us and again we are reminded of “the month of love” and Valentine’s Day. Red hearts filled with candy appeared on store shelves the day after Christmas. Greeting card shelves lined with $10 greeting cards gushing romance. Another opportunity for the retail community to separate us from our money to commercially celebrate L-O-V-E. I think we forget that God is love.

Love to me can be romantic gush but primarily it is the softness and compassion that comes from my heart. The day in and day out serving others, smiling at strangers, making time in my day to care about someone other than me. I believe love is not an emotion but a working action within our hearts. Our heart has been shown scientifically to have its own brain that works independently of our actual brain. It can process information which means awareness (love) begins in the heart and not the brain. For more information on this check out HeartMath Institute. https://www.heartmath.org/science/

I could go on forever about the mechanics of the heart and love but I would never get the actual purpose of this blog post completed. That purpose is to talk about our “Bag of Love”. “What in the world?”, you are probably thinking but hang in there with me.

In my ministry, it is vital that I keep things simple and uncomplicated when I am teaching. I learn visually so I make the assumption everyone else does. I know, selfish on my part but I think it works effectively. February rolls around every year and I try to base my talks on just love and not specific types of love. For example, not everyone is romantically involved and probably doesn’t want to hear a talk on how being in love “completes” your life or people don’t want to hear about the mythical origins of love that Plato devised. As I said before, God is love so that keeps that topic simple and complete. I talk about developing a “Bag of Love” at my February classes. In each class, I hand out small bags with hearts on them to each person attending and I explain the following teaching.

I start by analogizing that the bag is our life. The bag is empty and the things we add to the bag will influence our lives. Now, a participant can choose to throw the bag in a drawer never to be seen again or they can begin to fill it (just like our lives). I insist that the bag only be filled with things the participant personally loves, hence the hearts on the bag. Again, I need it simple, so I offer simple. A heart is the symbol of love so having the bag covered with hearts emphasized what goes in the bag. The bag is a good size but not too big to force participants to feel they have to fill the bag.

I ask participants to think deeply before adding anything to the bag because what goes in should never come out (except to remind yourself of the original reason it was added and I’ll get into that later). I ask they prioritize things as they go in the bag. For example, whatever they feel most love from goes in first.

The first item I placed in my bag was an olive wood cross from Jerusalem. My first love is Jesus Christ reflected in God’s love for me. 1 John 4:7-10 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Olive Wood Prayer Cross

God is my first and one true love and hopefully, He is yours too. I have always felt that when I am placing God first in my actions and decisions that I am experiencing the utmost love possible. God shares unconditional love when we don’t deserve it. As humans, we can’t offer this type of love honestly and genuinely like He does. He has to be first in my “Bag of Love”

Next, I added my Family by placing pictures of my family. The family that is still here with me and my family that have moved to Heaven. Family should be the support of earthly love but many times it may be a family of friends that share your love. I want to emphasize that a family can be a community that is not a blood relative that treats and respect you like God intended a family to be. Use the word “family” loosely if need be. My family includes true family and friend family members.

The third thing I have added to my “Bag of Love” is my ministry, Grateful Gratitude. God really interrupted my life to hand me this ministry and it made my life so beautiful. The gratitude heart started everything when I began practicing gratitude and gifting the hearts to others in gratitude. The hearts are hand carved in Kenya with allows me to be grateful for artisans I don’t even know but have impacted my life greatly. Their dedication to producing the hearts and my fair trade importer keeps me supplied with hearts and have yet to run out. The heart in my bag represents my love for the ministry God gifted me.

Lastly, I ask participants to add one thing that reminds them of simple love. This should be something you look at and it represents earthly love and happiness. This last thing is a penguin. The penguin has so many endearing qualities that to me represent love. Do you know that penguins mate for life, they huddle together in large groups to protect other penguins, their feet are built for long journeys, male penguins gift female penguins with rocks in order to woo them, and male penguins guard the eggs and keep them warm? So many beautiful and loving characteristics. The little penguin statue below is in my bag.

I told you earlier in this blog that you keep everything in the bag and keep it closed. This is important because there will be days down the road you will need to open it to be reminded of your love. There will be times of funerals, lost jobs, anxiety, hopelessness, and loneliness that your will need to be reminded of the items in your “Bag of Love”. I anchor people to Gods’ love by holding a gratitude heart. This “Bag of Love” is just as important. We need to be reminded in a difficult time that God is with us and we have many things that we love that God has placed in our lives to be anchored to. Our hearts will soften when we see the items we took the time to appreciate and add to our “Bag of Love”.

Some suggestions for your bag may be a baby’s hospital bracelet, a small bible, a special poem, a dime you picked up in a special place, a dried flower from your wedding, your grandmother’s favorite recipe, really, just anything that you hold and feel love.

I hope you create your own “Bag of Love’ with special items of love personalized to you. Please comment if you have something special you would place in your “Bag of Love”. My love and gratitude for you-LoLo

How Do You Handle Change?

Change is defined as an event that occurs when something passes from one state or phase to another. Change can be subtle or it can be dramatic. For example, my waistline change is subtle, it happened over time, that time being the holidays. Change when you lose a family member is dramatic and not subtle at all.

It’s interesting, I saw a message by Pastor Pete Wilson on change and he talked about how constant change is always happening in our bodies. Your stomach cells turnover (change) every 2-9 days. Your tongue’s taste buds every 10 days. Your red blood cells every 4 months. We are in a constant flux of change without ever really knowing it. It just happens within our body without notice, but in life we definitely notice.

Change can come in two forms he shared, initiated change, or inflicted change. This is easy to understand, we either initiate the change ourselves or it is thrust upon us from outside means. So simply said, changing your hair color or buying a new car is initiated, death or losing your job is inflicted.

Change was recently inflicted on my family when my dad passed away. He had pancreatic cancer that spread to his liver and we had a very tough walk for sixteen months until he succumbed to cancer. Though we knew his cancer was terminal, his death was still a shock causing a major uninitiated life change. I now understand that all change is a loss and all loss will result in change. I also learned quickly that everyone responds to change very differently. Some embrace God’s grace and mercy like I do and yet others completely fall apart. There is no right way to react to change but this message I heard had four stages that helped me to understand change a bit more clearly. I would like to share those stages with you.

The first stage is shock and disorientation. This is the, “I didn’t see this coming” stage. No matter what the change is, we all feel this stage immediately, even with a simple hair color change. We knew my dad’s cancer was terminal but we didn’t realize that when the end was near, it was so much nearer than we could imagine. This left my family shocked and disoriented. We couldn’t think clearly because we were having difficulty believing he was gone. We didn’t realize the ripple effect that would take place after his death, my mom’s overwhelming sadness, unknown passwords to devices and accounts, the extreme day-to-day change in our lives, and the list goes on.

The next stage is anger and our emotional response. We expressed anger at doctors for not curing my dad. Anger for not having more time. Anger for the disfunction death brought to our family. Anger for lack of grief support in our community. Unfortunately, many people struggle with this stage and can get out of it because it’s hard to release anger to move forward in the change. This is definitely a time we need to seek God to move us through this anger. When something unbearable, deeply unkind, and manipulative happens to us, it is in our sinful nature to become extremely angry.

Romans 12:21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good

Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

The next stage he explains is the stage of coming to terms with a different normal. I don’t like “new normal” because of the beatdown it took during the pandemic. Let’s face it, change is a different normal. This is the process of understanding things will be different. This is a growth process of realizing that your life has changed and the dynamic is not the same. I wouldn’t rush through this stage because I feel there needs to be much meditation and conversations with God on how to understand this change.

Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

The last stage is acceptance and moving forward. This is the stage where you surrender to God’s will. It’s a place where you say, “God this isn’t the outcome I wanted but I know I am now accepting Your will and plan over mine.”. I think this is the stage I am in. When my dad was diagnosed I knew it was not good news but I also knew God was with us. He would walk the walk with us with the outcome He had planned, not our plan. I have accepted my dad is gone and life is different but I also know God doesn’t want me to sit and spin my wheels in despair.

I felt God call me to offer comfort to others like He offers me in my loss. I have put together comfort boxes to share with others that have recently lost a loved one. They have a small book, cross, candle, comfort cloth, and a handwritten note from me expressing my sympathy. I am honoring my dad as well as God in serving in the different normal.

Comfort Boxes

You can learn more at my website

I am always so grateful to have you read my blog. Please know I am praying for you. My love and gratitude-LoLo

LoLo’s coordinating video

See Pete Wilson’s sermon that impacted me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7r7xgl6haw&t=3582s

What Are You Hearing And Is It HOPE?

I have devoted much time lately to just hearing people. Listening and hearing what someone is actually saying. I have to admit that in the past I used conversation as a filler in life. I would “network” with others over coffee talking about each other’s business and then promising to send referrals to each other never to speak again. It was a way I was filling my days until God passed me my ministry.

Grateful Gratitude, my ministry, was started in March 2018. I knew that day God impacted me in a way I had never felt before. I felt the burning in me to share His words and more gratitude daily because of my blessings. I can say I became truly enriched at that moment. I knew life would be much different.

As I began my ministry, it was all about me practicing more gratitude, appreciating life, and others more. I removed as much negativity as I could and reflected before speaking. My words I knew could be impactful to others if I allowed God to touch my words as they passed my lips.

In June 2020, I learned to listen more closely (still not as much as now) when I heard the words that my dad had terminal pancreatic cancer. I had to listen more closely to many telemedicine appointments with blood and CT scan results. I learned how to hear the news that wasn’t what we hoped for. God kept me at peace hearing what was necessary to hear. He spoke loudly that he was blessing me with more time with my dad and I was grateful. If this cancer hadn’t been diagnosed my dad would have become very ill quickly and only had a few months. God opened my ears to hear that I needed to appreciate this difficult time. It wasn’t an easy walk but a walk He needed me to walk through.

During this last year, I have learned that not many people truly listen and hear. I am not saying I am better than anyone else, this is just an observation. I know that I must Listen first and then HEAR what was said. It’s a full two-step process. You must complete both steps. I also now can tell if a person is negative or positive within a minute of hearing them speak.

I have visited with hundreds of people since starting this ministry and most times I am only given 1-2 minutes to share hearts and prayers with someone. I have to listen to hear what they need prayers for and effectively pray over them. This can be very difficult as I have worked with women who have been trafficked, victims of violent crime, lonely older adults, food-insecure people, and so many more. I have to be intent on hearing truly what they are struggling with. Then it hit me (thank you, God, I am a blonde….) everyone needs HOPE. Prayers of HOPE.

Hope is the conduit that connects people to God. HOPE is also the faith in knowing God is with you. Hope brings you out of depression, it offers you a future, it sustains you, and most importantly it brings you to God. Hope is the anticipation for something good that leads to trust and then faith.

As I talk to many people this holiday season I recognize we all need HOPE. I have a good friend who is single, struggling financially and is lonely but he has HOPE he will meet someone to be a loving companion. I have a friend that has been battling stage 4 ovarian cancer and she HOPES for healing in her treatments. I have a friend whose father is facing a medical battle and she HOPES for peace and comfort through the walk.

My dad passed away on October 20th and I miss him greatly but I know my dad’s heart. He would want to share HOPE somehow through our walk. I was inspired (Divinely of course) to build comfort boxes to share with grieving families. The box includes a book about God’s promises, a candle, a handkerchief, a pocket cross, comfort cloth, HUGS candy, and a personal note from me. The note shares HOPE with the receiver as I tell them that I too have had a loss and understand their grief.

I began to talk about the comfort boxes and soon realized that the boxes would help many others in HOPE. I am preparing boxes for victims of violent crimes that be gifted at the scene or before starting their trial against the perpetrator. The boxes can be gifted to lonely adults to anchor back to God and HOPE.

This is what’s included in the box. The cards are personalized to the type of HOPE that is needed by someone grieving, someone that has walked through being a victim of a violent crime, or uniquely to each need.

The Bible tells us Hebrew 6:18-19 NLV that HOPE anchors the soul:

God gave these two things that cannot be changed and God cannot lie. We who have turned to Him can have great comfort knowing that He will do what He has promised.  This hope is a safe anchor for our souls. It will never move. This hope goes into the Holiest Place of All behind the curtain of heaven.

I pray that you too have and share HOPE. To learn more about Project Comfort click here. https://www.gratefulgratitude11.com/project-comfort.html

God’s blessings and love for you-LoLo

LoLo’s coordinating video

Switchbacks in Life

Do you know what a switchback is?

Definition of switchback
: a zigzag road, trail, or section of road for climbing a steep hill

Have you ever been on a mountain road that when you were driving you couldn’t see very far ahead of you? The roads curved and bent so sharply that you had to drive slowly and very cautiously because you didn’t know what lie ahead. You were nervous and afraid that you may crash or drive off the road. When you reach the top of the mountain and pull over, you are able to look back and down the mountain. And what you see is all the curves and bends you just drove through and understand the journey you just made.

Life is the same. Daily we wake up and journey through curves and bends in our day that we can’t see what lies ahead. Unsure of what the day brings causes us to be anxious about maneuvering through our day just like driving on that mountain road. We don’t know what we will encounter, good or bad yet we need to “drive” on because we can’t turn back. An important note on these roads with switchbacks is that you can’t stop, pull over, or even turn around. You must continue forward. Once we have “driven” through the day on our “mountain road” and we can reflect back maybe while we are laying in bed before sleep. We can see how the day has played out and have a clearer view of where we have been and how we maneuvered through the daily switchbacks..

Let’s view these switchbacks in a different way. What if instead of viewing the switchback as something scary ahead of us we viewed it as a possibility as something beautiful. Let’s say as we round the hairpin turn we see a beautiful doe and fawn nuzzling along the side of the road. What about maybe that turn leads us into a gorgeous sunrise with more colors than you have ever seen before. Does a switchback have to be negative?

We are so much better at handling switchbacks with gratitude and faith. When I wake up in the morning I tell God, “Father, I don’t know what today brings but I want to do good in every situation. I serve in Your name while thanking You for all opportunities You offer me.”. By saying this, begins my day facing my switchbacks with God holding my hand no matter what and being grateful for what He has planned for me.

Psalm 37:3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

I have lived too many years of my life fearing the unknown of a switchback. My attitude was negative and fearful and constantly anxious. Thankfully, that no longer is my life. I have learned to look back on my life’s switchbacks and see how God always brought me through them. He steered me through a tough divorce, family members with cancer, car accidents, financial difficulties, relationship breakups, and other tough times. I can now look down the mountain at the switchbacks of the last 50 years. I can see those roads and journeys He was with me on.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Psalm 56:3-4 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you In God, whose word I praise—
in God, I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

I ask you today to not fear the corners, bends, and switchbacks in life but embrace them. Knowing God and having faith in Him will bring many more beautiful opportunities from the unknown than you can imagine. Remember these words, God is good and you can TRUST in HIM. My love and gratitude-LoLo