Monday, June 30, 2008

Top Nine Blessings to Be Thankful for as an American - Celebrating the Birth of Our Nation

Being that this week concludes with the Celebration of the birth of the United States of America or 4th of July for short, I'd like to dedicate all posts this week to this great land.

Today's focus is, "Top Nine Blessings to Be Thankful for as an American." Most of us take these things for granted not realizing that these conveniences and pleasures are not experienced by so many around the world. Don't take this as a criticism! This is meant to more of an eye opening post about the things we are so fortunate to have here in America.

Top Nine Blessings to Be Thankful for as an American:
  • Hospitals filled with life saving equipment, medication, and educated people to help us, all within a short drive of our home. When I went to the British Virgin Islands I hoped that I wouldn't have a medical emergency (thankfully I didn't!) The hospital was small and antiquated looking not to mention it wasn't around the corner.
  • Doctors with specialities of all types that ease our pain, resolve our medical issues, and help us to take preventative action for our health. Did you know in many countries who either don't have dentists or can't afford to go walk around without most of their teeth because they've rotted and fallen out? Not only does that look unattractive, but it makes it difficult to eat. You don't see that often in the USA because of our educated dentists.
  • Prescriptions with easy access. If you don't have any medical problems, you don't give much thought to this, but if you do, you come to appreciate how the quality of life can be improved with the use of prescriptions (even with those pesky side effects!) In America, we have pharmacies on every corner, in our supermarkets, and available through the mail. And although we may complain about the co-pays, we'd hesitate if stopped to investigate the total cost which is picked up by insurance if we have it.
  • Food everywhere. I wrote a post last week on how fortunate we are to have access to good food every where we turn. Check out my post on Eatin' Good.
  • Little luxuries. I have a huge armoire filled with jewelry - costume and real gold. Between my husband and I, we have four cars, one of them being a Corvette (my favorite!) We have tons of clothes, nice home decor, TV's, computers, other technology gadgets, and on and on and on. My point? I am not trying to brag - I just want us to realize that at any given time, we can go to one of numerous stores and get what we want. That's no so for everyone in the world.
  • Freedom. This is one of our most precious possession which we'll talk about later this week.
  • Civil order. For the most part, we can walk the streets of our country without feeling too much concern. Mostly we have civil order on our streets thanks to the thousands of police officers that keep it that way. There are no bombers or non-stop shooting on our streets. Yes, you have the criminals who make waves for the rest of us, but for the most part we are a civil nation.
  • Fancy homes. How fortunate we are to have the protection of our beautiful homes, filled with luxuries and modern conveniences like air conditioning, plumbing, and electricity. Even the most basic of homes are still much better than the living conditions for some around the world.
  • Education. Our children get a great education these days, learning things I never learned or didn't learn until high school (and I am only 33!) and we're fortunate to have community colleges, colleges, universities, and trade schools to better ourselves and our careers.

What am I forgetting? There are so many more things big and small and we'll talk about them as we lead up to the 4th of July. Feel free to share your own thoughts on blessings we enjoy in the U.S.

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Wishing you "Blessings from Above,"


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eatin' Good

Have you ever thought about how fortunate we are to have such easy access to food. It's everywhere, at least in good old US-of-A. I have two pantries full of all types of yummy things and I am made fun of on a regular basis by my husband who won't go anywhere near the freezer because it's so jam packed.

When we go out to the mall or even to work, we have our choice of so many delicacies. There's a Starbuck's on most corners, Cinnabon's, and Cold Stone Creameries just inviting us in for a snack. And restaurants are every where. We can go whenever we want to have a nice meal or pick up take-out several times a week. Go in our grocery stores and you could be in there for hours they are so big (at least here in New Jersey!). Stocked with so many varieties of each item, I could drown in a sea of options.

But realize that this isn't the norm all over the world. Many people scrounge all day just looking for their next meal. They are either extremely poor and can't afford food, or in many cases, there just isn't enough food to be had. Meanwhile, as American's, we have the luxury of keeping tons of food in our homes to last us weeks and months to come. We're so fortunate!

And let's not forget about the farmers who have to work so hard to grow and deliver that food to us. I often complain when I have to go to the grocery story about what a hassle it is and how much work I have to do to get that food home. When you think about it though, it's so much easier than picking the apples in the hot sun and then struggling to carry baskets and baskets of them in just to have something to eat. All I have to is pick up the reddest apples, put them in a plastic bag and toss them in my cart. Quite easy compared to the farmer's job.

So the next time you take a bite out of your Twinkie, remember how blessed you are to have an endless supply of food to enjoy.


If you are not so fortunate and struggle to keep food on the table because of hard economic times, or know someone who does, please consider the following resources:

America's Second Harvest is a nationwide hunger relief agency that helps provides food to those who can not afford to buy groceries. (You must apply and qualify to receive this help).

Local Food Banks - that provide food to those who need it in your area of the United States.

Food Stamp Program - helps families put food on the table by issuing food stamps to be used at grocery stores, retail chains, and more. (You must apply and qualify to receive this help).

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC program) provides grants for women low-income pregnant women, those who are breastfeeding, non-breastfeeding postpartum women, infants, and children under 5. (You must apply and qualify to receive this help).

Food pantries at your local church - if you need help feeding you family for a short time, visit a local church and ask if they have a food pantry. If they do, they'll be glad to supply you with non-persihable foods. Don't hesitate to request it if you do not attend their church - it is seen as a way to minister to and help the community and they are more than willing to provide.


Since the theme of this post is food, I thought I'd share a recipe that my family loves and has become my speciality.

Denise's Sausage Surprise

1 pound of pasta
1 pound of Premio sausage (it's the best!)
1 bunch of broccoli rabe
1 pint of grape tomatoes
Real bacon bits in a jar or made from fresh bacon
Lemon juice (added to taste)
Extra virgin olive oil (added to taste)

Wash broccoli rabe and then fill large pot and boil it until it becomes tender. Boil for at least a half an hour, then drain.
Fry sausage and drain.
Boil water, cook pasta, and drain.
Put pasta back in the pot and add cooked sausage and broccoli rabe.
Wash grape tomatoes and add to pot. Put on low heat to allow tomatoes to warm up for about
2-3 minutes.
Toss with olive oil t0 wet all ingredients. Add as much or as little as you like.
Toss with lemon juice. Add as much or as little as you like.
Put in a large bowl and sprinkle parsley on top with real bacon bits.

Serve with a hearty salad and crusty bread and butter. Enjoy!


Feel free to share your favorite recipe in the comments section of this post. To subscribe to Blessings from Above, click here to subscribe to a RSS feed, or fill in your email address at the top right this blog.

Wishing you "Blessings from Above,"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mind Your Own Blessings

Sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in looking at other people's lives and thinking that the grass on their side of the fence is greener than yours. We spend a lot of time thinking jealous thoughts like and wishing for the things that our friends, family, and acquaintances have. We're sure they are better off then we are, have better luck, more money, and more of God's favor. That is until you really look at their lives and talk to them about the hardships they face.

I would have thought that accomplished speaker and author, Sheila Walsh, a Women of Faith favorite and former 700 Club host, was the perfect woman. She's petite, slender, beautiful, articulate, intelligent, and seems to really know the Lord. Then I read her book "Honestly." It depicts the horrors that she faced when going through a deep depression. She lets the reader see what it's like to be in a mental institution and the criticism she faced from the public being that she is a public figure. I could tell it wasn't easy for this women. It wouldn't be easy for anyone.

I could spend a lot time dwelling on the idea that I am not as successful as Sheila and that I am not as good of a public speaker as she is. I could even whine about how she's had books published and I've yet to accomplish that desire. And if I had done that, it would have been a waste of time and not favorable in the eyes of God. He wants us to mind our own blessings rather than other's perceived blessings. Because once you dig deeper into other's lives, you'll find that you really wouldn't want to be in their shoes and many times they are enduring harder times than you.

It's time that we take a look at our lives and do a blessings inventory. We'll find there are many wonderful, positive things in our lives provided by God even during difficult times. And those are the things we need to stay focused on.

But how do you do that?
  • At the end of everyday, write day all the positive things that happened to you that day. Include everything from compliments, to help you received.
  • Take notice of goals that you achieved and the direct result that came from accomplishing them.
  • Be grateful for every living thing in your house, pets included! Write a list of all the things you like about them and review it when they make you angry.
  • Stop and realize how good you really feel when you are not sick or suffering from an illness and don't forget the feeling.
  • Look around the inside and outside of your house and really take note of all the objects around you. Realize how much you realize have.
  • Consider how much money you have, even if you feel like you don't have much. Just know that it is still more than people in many poor countries have.

If you have any other ideas of how to focus on to "mind your own blessings," feel free to post them in the comments section of this post. Thanks!

Wishing you "Blessings from Above,"

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Importance of Contentment

The other day I was listening to HOPE 90.5 FM who broadcasts pastors from all over the country and their teachings. Skip Heitzig was speaking on the message of contentment and how so many of us, particularly in the United States, lack it. To some this may seem like an insult, but I have to say, I think he's right.

In our society we're driven to consume things. We always want more. Maybe we'll be happier if we get that new car or maybe we'll have a good day if we head to the mall and shop till we drop. We have houses full of things and basements and garage stuffed to the rafters. The new thriving business is self-storage facilities that are popping up all over.

And believe me, I am not trying to lecture you. I am just as guilty. I have things from birthdays and Christmases past that I haven't even had a chance to "play" with or use. I've only managed to make it through 1 disk of 4 from the Taxi television DVD's that may parents gave me years ago. And books? They are piled high. It could years for me to get through them all. Honestly, I could not buy one more thing (besides food and essentials) and have enough things to entertain me for a very long time. In fact, I'd like nothing more than just the time to enjoy the things I already have.

Even the Bible speaks of contentment. Philippians 4:11-14 says: "Not that I was ever in need, for I learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty of little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." This came from Paul, author of the book Phillippians with the intent of thanking the Phillippians for the gifts they had given him and to show them that true joy comes from Jesus.

We can still draw on this verse today for we really will only find contentment in a future with the Lord. Materialistic things mean nothing. They rot, get lost, and lose meaning to us. Often an impulse buy seems like fun at the time, but then later with then novelty wears of we find we don't even know where the item is. To tell you the truth, I couldn't tell you what I got for my 30th birthday which was almost 4 years ago, so you can see how unimportant "things" really are.

So why do we have such a drive to hoard so many things? It could be:
  • We're trying to fill an emptiness within us.
  • We're bored.
  • Shopping is our hobby.
  • We learned it from our parents.
  • We have a serious shopping obsession that requires help.
  • It was fun to shop while we were out with friends.
  • We're trying to substitute our love for others by giving them things.
And I am sure the list could go on and on...

But what can we do about it? Try to:
  • Attend church or other church-related activities more to make a strength connection with God.
  • Read the Bible more.
  • Spend more time with family, friends, and our fluffy furry pet friends.
  • Find a new hobby.
  • Exercise.
  • Make list of all the blessings in your life and try focusing on them.
  • Rather than buying gifts for the holidays or birthdays, plan a trip or an event and spend time with your loved ones.
True contentment takes a lot of practice and conscious effort, but it's worth it. It makes us a better person, helps to get our priorities straight by showing us that eternal life with Jesus is what really matters, and prevents us from buying, buying, and buying. Not only does it make us a better person, it helps keep our garbage dumps less crowded!

Be content!
Wishing you "Blessings from Above,"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Blessings in Times of Trouble

If you take a look at my last post, you'll find it's been a while. I've been dealing with health issues that have made it difficult to keep up with my daily activities, including posting to my blog. This issue hasn't gone away, but I am starting to feel much better.

While dealing with this problem was very trying and somewhat scary, I can see many blessings that came from it. What good could possibly come from an illness you ask? Plenty with the right attitude. Let me share with you. I know have:

  • An awareness and appreciation of how truly good I feel when I am not sick.

  • A thankfulness that I do not have diseases and other health ailments worse than mine.

  • A bigger sense of empathy for those who do have bigger problems than mine.

  • A closer relationship with my husband.

  • A closer relationship with family, friends, and co-workers.

  • A sense to live and enjoy everyday to it's fullest when I feel good. If I want a brownie, I am having it!

  • The ability to reach out for help and not be ashamed of it.

  • A desire to inspire others to live happier, more appreciative lives with this blog, Blessings from Above.

  • More time spent with and learning about God and the Bible.

  • An ability to leave the laundry behind to go out for a walk in the sun and the ability to leave the dirty dishes in the sink to sit on my new comfy family room furniture to read a good book while the birds tweet outside the French class doors.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have this positive attitude toward things perfected. I still get a bit discouraged and anxious when it comes to my health, but I am really trying not to let it rule me. It's a challenge everyday, but it's worth the effort.

I think it's when we deal with some of the lowest of lows in life that we really wake up and realize all we have. Sometimes that's what it takes, unfortunately. Life gets hectic and often our focus becomes our daily to-do list, rather than the more important things in life. It's when we've been removed from the daily grind, with the focus on a crisis, that we realize we're missing out on the big picture. I think God using a crises to open our eyes before it's to late. We have to make sure we're paying attention to that and getting the message. I am glad I did.

If you are dealing with health problems or any other life issue or crises, this applies to you too. Try to look around and realize all the positives in your life and truly try to be appreciative for them. Make a list if you have to. Sometimes visual reminders are helpful and there is nothing wrong with writing things down and tacking it to your bulletin board if you need to. Whatever it takes to live a happier life (within reason of course! This is not an endorsement to do something immoral or illegal!)

Praying good health for you!
Wishing you "Blessings from Above,"