Why Gratitude?

I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy. ~ Will Arnett

My Gratitude Story…

Over the course of my life, I’ve seen how easy it is to be overwhelmed and literally unable to function when faced with a life-altering event.  It happened to me when I needed to move to a less expensive area.  Or when I needed to change jobs.  When, for various reasons, I lost contact with friends and even some family.  When I lost two children to miscarriage.  When my dad passed five days after his one and only heart attack. That year my teaching contract wasn’t renewed.  When I moved overseas for eleven years of missionary work, and again when I repatriated to the United States.  What about the day my husband was diagnosed with Fronto-Temporal Dementia, dementia that often attacks the young, even the very young?  That New Year’s morning at 2:16 am (yes, that time is indelibly engrained in my mind) the county deputy sheriff knocked on the door, instructing us to contact the sheriff in another state, who told us that our youngest son had passed.  The day my husband of 45 years passed – it was during Covid lockdowns and I was not able to see him at all.

How does one even begin to recover from life events such as this?

When overwhelming events like this happen to me, it seems as if my mind seizes.  As I’ve talked to others, that seems to be a common response.  I had a couple of months recently where ten people I either knew or knew their family died, passed from this life into eternity.  It was also during this same period of time several friends had severe illnesses.  One Sunday morning after our church worship service ended, I turned to walk to the back of the sanctuary and into the foyer and saw the flashing lights of an ambulance arriving at our front steps.  One of the congregants had called the ambulance, believing that she was in the midst of another heart attack.  I prayed over her, asking God to protect her and to guide the hands of all the medical personnel who would be helping her through this crisis. This prayer had to be quick, as the EMTs were beginning to assist her onto the gurney to take her to the premiere hospital in my area.  Within minutes I was seated in the adult Sunday Bible Study class, hearing nothing, totally overwhelmed by what had just taken place.  When I texted a couple of people letting them know I was taking at least a few days to process the events of the previous two months and wouldn’t be coming to the office to work on some paperwork, a lot of concern was expressed.

For years, I have been encouraging many people to develop an “attitude of gratitude.”  And now here I was, unable to do that for myself.  I learned sometime around the turn of this century of the need to develop gratitude in my mind, soul, and spirit.  For most of these past 23 years I had written in my journal at least three “Thank You, Father” statements nearly every day.  First the date, then my three gratitude statements.  This habit, this attitude, had produced a great transformation in my life.  I experienced far less anxiety and fear and developed a greater depth of faith.  Anger issues began to subside, and joy was becoming more evident in my life.  What had begun as the development of a new discipline had literally transformed a good portion of my life.  There was now a level of irony in the situation that the one who had been encouraging so many to develop the transformative discipline of gratitude was unable to come up with even one thing to be thankful for.  The first thing I was able to write in my journal the next Wednesday was expressing gratitude for the friend who challenged me, who reminded me the way I was processing and behaving was not representative of me or of the relationship I have with Jesus. So, once again, I began the discipline of writing three “Thank You, Father” statements in my daily journaling once again.

Why 3?

Sometimes coming up with three things for which to be grateful can be challenging.  It can be very challenging. Because of that, it’s OK to start small.  “Thank You, Father, for that cute squirrel running along the top of the snow-covered deck railing.” “Thank You, Father, for my silly puppy that loves me and makes me laugh.” “Thank You, Father, for that lazy roadrunner who always walks, never runs, down the street in front of my house.” “Thank You, Father, for my friend who reminded me that I need to follow my own advice and begin expressing gratitude once again.” “Thank You, Father, for my children and grandchildren.”  I remember taking up to five minutes to come up with one thing at the beginning of building this discipline!

Somewhere around 2015, I started coming across various articles about how gratitude has an impact on how one’s brain, one’s physical brain, is altered for the good.  Some of the more recent research articles can be found on this website here.  Developing a discipline of gratitude often leads to the transformation of one’s actual thoughts, and one’s outlook on life in general.  This is powerful stuff!  God, Creator of heaven and earth, and all contained in them knew this from the beginning.

 In so many different places in the Bible, we are instructed to thank and praise God in all things, all the time. Why would this be important, especially in difficult and challenging times?  The verses that always come to my mind when asked this question are found in Psalm 22:1-5:

1My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

2O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer,

and by night, but I find no rest.

3 Yet You are holy, enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

4In You our fathers trusted;

they trusted, and You delivered them.

5To You they cried and were rescued;

in You they trusted and were not put to shame.


There it is, God is enthroned, God inhabits, God is discernably present, in the praises of His people.  When we praise Him, when we are grateful to Him, He feels near to us.  And it’s that nearness that gives us joy and peace, that calms our sorrow, worries, fears, and anxieties.

Why gratitude?  Gratitude and praise are the first things we can do that begin the transformation of our mind because it is gratitude and praise that brings God’s discernable presence into our situation, along with His love, healing, and hope.

God Bless,
Cindy B


Written by Cindy Bratton

Most people are never blessed to the degree that I have been. I’m a retired educator and a retired missionary now embarking on my third career: CEF (Chief Encouragement Officer) of the Live With Grace Initiative. You might ask, “A third career?” However, my question is, “How could I not?” Here’s a little of my story: On September 7, 2017, my husband, Dana, was diagnosed with Fronto-Temporal Dementia (think Bruce Willis). By the middle of 2018, I fully realized what this diagnosis meant – all dementia is terminal, and FTD is no exception. The illness can progress at various rates; seven years after diagnosis is the average life expectancy for FTD. I had to learn how to be an excellent caregiver. Over the course of the next 34 months, I would slowly lose my best friend, my lover, my ministry partner, and my “partner in crime.” 16 months after Dana’s diagnosis, I experienced my second significant loss. On December 31, 2018, our youngest son took his own life. This was a total shock to everyone. The grief was almost unbearable. By January 24, 2019, Dana began a series of hospitalizations due to the rapid progress of FTD, largely attributable to his rightful emotional response to our son’s death. In the spring of 2019, I began having several rounds of excruciating pain, which my Primary Care Physician (PCP) brushed off. However, to shut me up, he ordered blood testing which showed my Rheumatoid Factor nearly 34 times what is considered normal. By early December I was diagnosed with moderately severe Rheumatoid Disease (sometimes called Rheumatoid Arthritis). So, yet another loss in my life: this time it was my own health. Three losses in 27 months. By some miracle, my husband was discharged from long-term care on March 9, 2020, just days before everything shut down due to COVID-19. Yes, he was wheelchair-bound and needed 24/7/365 care, but he could make his own transfers from bed to wheelchair, to chair, to shower, and back again. On June 28th of that year, things had opened up a bit and we celebrated our 45th anniversary by renewing our vows at church. On July 9, 2020, Home Health came for their regular visit. Dana’s O2 Sat. was 78%, and it couldn’t be raised with deep breathing. The nurse got us an immediate appointment with his PCP. I was instructed to call the office when we got into the parking lot to confirm the office was empty, just in case Dana had COVID-19. The doctor was unable to get his O2 up with his resources and said he had to go to the Emergency Room. “OK,” I said, “I’ll take him there.” The doctor said he needed to be transported via ambulance, and the ambulance was called. Our hugs and kisses before Dana was loaded into the ambulance gave the EMTs great concern. Little did I know those would be the last hugs and kisses we would ever share. He got to the ER about 11:30 a.m.; at about 1:30 p.m. I got the call confirming the diagnosis of COVID-19. 13 days later his organs would completely shut down, I gave permission for him to have the ventilator removed, and he was gone. This was my fourth major loss within 34 months. In the prologue to the second edition of Grieve With Grace, Pastor Lee Strawhun speaks of grief upon grief, of compound grief. This is exactly what I had experienced in 34 short months: The loss of my husband’s health to FTD; the loss of our son’s life to suicide; the loss of my good health to degenerative Rheumatoid Disease; and the loss of my husband’s life to COVID-19. After my husband passed from FTD, which COVID-19 hastened, I found myself in the position of being able and desiring to facilitate my church’s grief recovery ministry. It was in that grief recovery program that I met Eric. He attended the support group after the death of his beloved Jan, and at one point gave me an early copy of Grieve With Grace long before it went into print. My reaction upon reading it was, “Wow! How did you take the way I processed my grief and so expertly turn it into an acronym?” The acronym of GRACE encompasses Gratitude, Resilience, Authenticity, Creativity, and Empathy. We came to the same conclusions by slightly different paths and using slightly different descriptors, but the conclusions were the same. From that point on, we became collaborators on this project, Grieve with Grace. I immediately decided it could be a seven-week follow-up to our original thirteen-week recovery program which brought participants to a place of accepting their loss. An additional seven weeks so those who are grieving can begin to move forward, pursuing a life of meaning and purpose, thus honoring their loved ones. I envision a future where Grieve With Grace will be used by grief counselors to guide thousands – no, millions – into lives full of meaning and purpose as they step forward with Gratitude, Resilience, Authenticity, Creativity, and Empathy. I am honored to share my thoughts with you all and please remember, I am always just one click away:) Cindy



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