Hymns of Thanksgiving

As we gather with family and friends today to remember with gratitude the blessings of the past year, let us remember to thank the One who made these blessings possible.  Without God’s help, none of us would enjoy the blessings of good health, family, liberty, and and freedom.  America was formed as a nation under God, and we need to remember to thank Him for his mercy and favor on our great nation.

I’d like to share two old hymns that I grew up singing during the Thanksgiving season.  They are reminders to me that all good things come from God.  Let’s offer up grateful prayers of thanksgiving to God today and everyday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Come, Ye Thankful People
 Henry Alford
 
Come, ye thankful people come, Raise the song of harvest home:
All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin.
God, our Maker, doth provide, For our wants to be supplied.
Come to God’s own temple, come, Raise the song of harvest home.
 
We Gather Together
 Theodore Baker
 
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing cease them from distressing.
Sing praises to His names, He forgets not His own.
 
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side,all glory be Thine!
 
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader in battle,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;
Let thy congregation escape tribulation:
Thy name be ever praised!  O Lord, make us free!
 

We Thank Thee

For mother-love and father-care,
For brothers strong and sisters fair,
For love at home and here each day,
For guidance lest we go astray,
    Father,in Heaven, we thank thee.
 
For this new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For ev’rything His goodness sends,
   Father in Heaven, we thank Thee.
 

My New Orleans Top Ten

I’ve just returned from my first trip to New Orleans.  I was in New Orleans for the annual conference for the Association of Small Business Development Centers. My husband accompanied me.  Due to attending conference sessions, I didn’t have an abundance of time for sight-seeing, but we made the most of the time we did have.

I’m sure that everyone who visits New Orleans comes back with different favorite restaurants, night clubs, and tourist attractions.  These are my top ten, not in order of favorites, as ranking them would be too hard, but rather they are in the order in which I experienced them.

1.  Parasols Restaurant.  We stumbled on this hidden gem quite accidentally.  After settling in our hotel room, Steve, my two co-workers, and I set out to see a bit of the garden district.  We caught a trolley and then a bus to reach the district.  We strolled around for about 40 minutes admiring the large, well-maintained houses before deciding we needed nourishment.  We headed for the first restaurant we saw.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  A local man advised us that we should go “one block down and two blocks to the right” and we would find a great restaurant.  It doesn’t look like much, but they serve up delicious food in ample quantities.  I had my first New Orleans gumbo and gravy cheese fries at Parasols.

Pedicabbie Mark Orfila–Mark is a friend of my brother and was a wonderful guide

2.  Pedicabs–After dinner we returned to our hotel and decided to stroll over to RiverWalk.  It was closed, but we encountered our first pedicab driver.  Steve and I hitched a ride to Jackson Square.  Pedicabs aren’t the cheapest way to travel in New Orleans, but they are the greenest and a great way to enjoy the city.  We utilized the pedicabs several times over the next three days.  Each pedicab driver was polite, friendly, and truly loved his/her job.

 3)  Mule-Drawn Carriages–We have occasionally taken tours on horse-drawn carriages, but this was our first experience with carriages pulled by mules.  Our tour guide explained that the climate is too hot and humid for horses; mules, however, cope quite well.  We thoroughly enjoyed our 30 minute tour and learned some interesting facts about New Orleans.

4) Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz PlayHouse–We spent two evenings enjoying the wonderful musicians showcased at Mayfield’s.  The first evening we listened to Jason Marsalis (brother of Wynton and Ellis).  Jason is an amazing drummer; his pianist and bassist were excellent.  The pianist had actually composed a few of their numbers.  The next night Mayfield’s own band NOJO Jam Session played, minus Irvin Mayfield, unfortunately.  They were also amazing.  We skipped Mayfield’s on our final night, but my co-workers went and said James Rivers was their favorite performer.  They stayed through all three sets and thoroughly enjoyed their evening.  The food at Mayfield’s was also quite good.

5) Oceana Grill–Located just off Bourbon Street and across from the Royal Sonesta Hotel, Oceana Grill offers great food at very reasonable prices.  We shared appetizers of oysters Rockefeller and barbeque shrimp.  Steve had a fried seafood platter, while I ate redfish with crawfish mushroom cream sauce. I loved every bite.  Their desserts were very tempting, but we were beyond full.

6)  Royal House Restaurant–On our last night, we asked our pedicab driver to recommend a restaurant and he took us to Royal House.  Although everything we ate in New Orleans was delicious, the dinner at Royal House was definitely our ultimate dining experience.  We started with oysters royale and sautéed crab claws.  The crab claws were our favorite dish of all that we tried in New Orleans.  I wished I had asked for a spoon so that I could have enjoyed every bite of the wonderful sauce.  For dinner, I had the crawfish  and crabmeat ravioli (recommended by our pedicab driver) and Steve had shrimp creole.  Again, both dishes were fantastic.  We really didn’t have room for dessert, however, the bananas foster cheesecake was calling to us.  It was truly delicious, but I was too stuffed to properly enjoy it.

7) Frenchmen Street–Much quieter than Bourbon Street, Frenchmen Street has plenty of nightlife to offer.  We strolled the street, listening to the music emanating from the many bars and restaurants.  Most venues did not have a cover charge but do ask that you purchase drinks and tip the band.  For the price of two drinks, we sat for quite a while in The Maison and were treated to the vocals of a very talented singer with a wide range accompanied by three musicians.  Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the group.  We were happy to leave a generous tip for the band on our way out.

8) Street performers and artists–From Jackson Square to Bourbon Street to Frenchmen Street, we were constantly treated to street performance and performance art.  On Bourbon Street, we enjoyed a troupe of street dancers.  Jackson Square was filled with artists displaying their paintings, musicians performing jazz and blues, and performance artists pretending to be statues.  On Frenchmen Street, we happened upon a community of artisans displaying their crafts late in the evening.  One craftsman made art and jewelry from forks, knives, and spoons.  Others displayed sewn or knitted items or paintings.  If I had brought an extra suitcase, I would have been tempted to get a lot of my Christmas shopping done early.   I did buy a few small items that I knew would fit in my crowded luggage.

9) Jackson Square–We spent a lot of time at Jackson Square.  The mule-driven carriage begin their routes there and artists and musicians abound.  There is also any number of great restaurants and shops.  We ate at the Rivers Edge and Cafe Dumond.  Both were very enjoyable.  We enjoyed the shops and made a few small purchases.  Additionally, there is easy access to walk along the river at Jackson Square.

10) The French Market–It is a combination flea market and farmer’s market.  We enjoyed seeing the various products for sale in the market.  From produce to sun glasses to art, there was a little bit of everything.  I particularly enjoyed a photographer’s beautiful scenes of the French Quarter and purchased a photography of the Court of Two Sisters restaurant on Bourbon Street.

As you can tell, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to New Orleans.  These are my top ten favorite places and things in the city.  If you’ve been to New Orleans, what did you most enjoy?

I Thank God for My Mother

Everyday and especially on Mother’s Day, I thank God for my mother. I have learned many lessons from Mom that have served me well throughout my fifty-two years of life.

  •  The importance of education.  When I was two, my father was stationed in Okinawa for a year.  My mother moved me and my sisters, ages 4, 1, and 6 weeks, to North Carolina from California so that she could finish her college degree.  I can only imagine how challenging that year must have been for her.  The move itself was quite an adventure, as she flew across country with four preschoolers in tow.
  • The importance of family. Mom devoted herself to our family.  With nine children, including one special needs child, there was always a lot of work.  Yet it was a common occurrence for us to arrive home to the delicious aromas of home-baked bread or a made-from-scratch chocolate cake.  She made sure we had home-cooked meals, clean clothes, and her attention when we needed it.
  • A love of reading.  We had lots of books in our home, and mom liked to read to us. I can still remember her reading “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “That Quail Robert” to us when I was in elementary school.  My sisters and I are avid readers, and my children have inherited the love of reading as well.
  • Responsibility.  As the second of nine children, I was expected to help out with the younger children.  I was well prepared to care for my own children when the time came.
  • Dependability.  I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of times I came home from school to find that mom was not there.  On one occasion, she got held up while shopping and arrived home about two minutes after we did. On the other occasion, she was at the emergency room with a younger brother who’d been injured.
  • The joy of sewing.  When we were small, mom sewed a lot of our clothes, as well as costumes.  I still remember the Red Riding Hood cape she made Jeanne and the purple floral jumper she made me when I was in first grade.  When I was in high school, she taught me to sew.  I’ve made some clothes, but my real joy has been in making costumes for my own children and uniforms for girls in my Missionettes clubs.
  • Security.  Mom came from a broken home, and she was determined that her children would have the security of parents who stuck it out through thick and thin.  She and Dad don’t always see eye-to-eye, but they’re still together and in love after 55 years of marriage. 
  • The need for a Savior.  Mom accepted Jesus as her Savior when I was about 7. She instilled in each of her children the need to know Jesus.  She taught us that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness, which can only come through the blood of Christ.

Thanks, Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day!

You’re Blessed!

The Beatitudes from Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only than can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are–no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being “care-full,” you’ll find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world–your mind and heart–put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to god provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Not only that–count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens–give a cheer, even!–for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds.  And know that you are in good company.  My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Matthew 5:3 – 12 (The Message)

May your life be truly blessed this week in all the ways that matter.  May you feel God’s presence in your moments of grief, disappointment, and weaknesses. May you know that God loves you far more than you can comprehend and that He will never leave or forsake you.  May you bask in His presence as you read His word and spend time with Him in prayer.

The world offers no peace, no contentment, no satisfaction compared to what God has offered mankind through His son Jesus.  If you haven’t taken the time to know Jesus and to make Him your Lord and Savior, please consider doing so today. Only when you do so will you be truly blessed.

Hopes for the New Year and Blessings of the Old One

Last night I watched on television the New Year’s celebration in Times Square.  It struck me as odd that we get so excited about what is essentially just another day.  When you think about it, it’s a bit crazy for grownups to gather in the streets on a cold winter’s night to watch a ball drop.  Of course, for many people, it’s simply an excuse to party.  For others of us, the New Year signals a new start.  It is fresh and unblemished; we are filled with hope that the coming year will be better than the one just ended. 

 In 2011, I hope and pray that the economy improves significantly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end, our troops come home and are reunited with their families, and the President and new Congress work together to find answers to the problems facing our nation. On a more personal note, I pray that my husband will find a job, preferably one that matches his skills and in which he finds fulfillment.

2010 was a rough year for our family as my husband’s period of joblessness extended to two years and his unemployment benefits were exhausted.  Despite those challenges, we were blessed in many ways.  I think it’s appropriate to begin the New Year by acknowledging some of the ways God blessed our family during the past year.

Our top ten blessings of 2010:  

  1. The birth of our grandson Daniel was the highlight of our year.  He is a delight and brings joy to our life.
  2. My first novel, Restorations, was finally published in October, three years after I finished it.  It took me 8 months to find a publisher, followed by 28 months of waiting for the book to be published.
  3. Our oldest child completed a Master’s Degree program in History at Villanova University. 
  4. In June, my husband and I took a Caribbean cruise.  The cruise was wonderfully relaxing. 
  5. A new, lasting friendship was formed on the cruise. A woman seated with us at dinner turned out to be the sister of one of our high school classmates.  We spent much of the week with her husband and her and found that we shared not only a common hometown but also a common faith. 
  6. I completed my second novel, Reconciliations, and started the third novel in my Restored Hearts series.
  7. All three of our sons are employed in jobs they enjoy.
  8. A new administrative assistant was hired for my office.  We had been without one for nearly two years due to a hiring freeze.  Our new co-worker has been a wonderful addition to the staff.
  9. Although there were no raises for state employees for the third year in a row, we did receive small Christmas bonuses. Mine went to pay for a root canal and crown.  I’m thankful God provided the money to pay for the necessary dental procedures.
  10. Despite my husband being unemployed, we ended the year with more savings and less debt than we started it with. 

We are truly thankful for the blessings God bestowed on our family in 2010. We look forward expectantly to 2011 knowing that God has great things planned for our family.

As you will look back on 2010, how has God blessed your family?