Too fat, too thin – who is the judge?

sport-fitness-workout-resolutionMany would agree that our nation has a weight loss obsession.  Television, Instagram, Facebook all contribute to the focus of women’s and girl’s bodies being on display.  The message does not seem to change—to look one’s best, you must decrease in size.

Weight discrimination in America is very real.  You might be surprised by the following facts:  being overweight is the number one reason children are bullied. A majority of overweight people report delaying seeking medical treatment and/or weight being a barrier to getting appropriate health care.  Overweight and obese individuals have up to 6% less earnings than people in comparable positions.  

Americans spend $30 billion dollars annually, 100 million on diets.  85% of these are female.  When feeling desperate about handling these internal and external pressures, women and girls often reach for a quick fix. Step One: Restriction. Step Two: Deprivation. Step Three: Binge.

Failure then marks the experience of focusing too much on weight, and depression and anxiety can follow.  

There is now a trend in disordered eating called “Orthorexia” which is the obsession with “healthy” eating or being “healthy” to an extreme—one which interferes with normal everyday life. The beliefs that contribute to this condition are listed below:

  • eating nothing else but organic foods
  • “clean eating” is the only acceptable way
  • no processed foods allowed
  • excessive exercise
  • a “better than” mentality, that is, there is always a better weight, a better diet or a better look.

Well there it is—the root of this obsession with weight. It is the belief that there is ONE better way than everyone else’s way of doing things.  Sometimes people are made to think that there is a body-mass-index in the Bible. People forget that manna from heaven (sounds like carb loading to me) though it was not green (veggies and fruits deleted?) was actually acceptable.

Jesus warned us not to judge one another. He wanted us to care for ourselves and the temples He created us to be—but not be obsessed with worshipping them. Our worship is of the Lord and His love for us. Our beauty is not external. Our health is precious but our emotional health will suffer if we harbor judgmental attitudes toward our own bodies or toward our sisters in Christ. We are to love ourselves as we are. Today. Now. Not in the future when we hit our ideal weight.  

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fear the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 21:30


To Cook or Not to Cook?

kitchen-cooking-interior-decor1To cook or not to cook, that’s the question. For as long as I can remember, as a young single adult, the thought of cooking always overwhelmed me. With a busy schedule and limited income, it was much easier to throw together a few noodles or make a bowl of cereal than to put together a meal.

But as a newlywed, and a thirty-something, I decided it’s now time to take the first steps into the cooking world. As a way to ease my nerves, I reached out to a few friends for tips and suggestions and here are their top pieces of advice:

  • Have a plan. Making a meal plan for the week and sticking to it is pivotal to being prepared. In order to make the plan, I have to look through my weekly schedule. Knowing that Tuesdays are busy in my house, this may be a good night to have leftovers that can easily be heated back up. Making a shopping list of ingredients is also key. Shopping that week for only what is needed will help keep costs down, food fresh, and ingredients ready.
  • Share the Work. One of the best ways to have a variety of food prepared, without loads of work is to share with friends. Find a weekend where you each cook up four meals to share with others and freeze them for later. This way, if you have a busy week or visitors coming this weekend, you have a delicious meal without all the work and dirty dishes.
  • Keep it simple. Crockpot meals have become my new favorite. Throwing in a few pieces of chicken, a can of salsa, and taco seasoning makes for a quick and easy taco night. Another favorite is chicken, biscuits, and vegetables for a simple meal of chicken and dumplings. I’ve added these two favorite new crockpot recipes below. You can always spice things up in the future, but as a beginner, the easier the better.
  • Give yourself grace. Not every meal is going to turn out perfect, especially in the beginning. It’s important to know this ahead of time so that when it does happen, you won’t get discouraged or give up.
  • Have fun! Cooking doesn’t have to be stressful! By being prepared ahead of time, it frees you up from the 4 PM doom of figuring out dinner plans. It also saves you from the typical conversation my husband and I have…Tera: “What should we have for dinner?” Trevor: “What do we have?” conversation. Look through your cupboards and Pinterest recipes for ingredients you already have. Get creative. Add your own twist to any recipe. Wear a fun apron. Blast your favorite music, maybe even dance a little.

For the veteran cook or the new beginner like me, it’s important to celebrate our time together over a meal. Often with our busy schedule we can only be together one meal a day. It is during this time we can discuss our days, encourage each other, and enjoy time well spent. It helps to keep us healthy physically, emotionally, financially, and even spiritually. While this will still be a learning curve for a while, the next time I’m asked to cook or not to cook, I’ll pick to cook.



Looking for some new recipes? Take a look at some of my favorites…

3-Ingredient Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

Crock Pot Chicken & Dumplings

Meet Leanne Lemons from Connections Cafe!

pexels-photo-62097One of our goals with “Haven Help Us” is to introduce to you women in our church who serve not only in Women’s Ministries but also in other ministries of our church. Leanne Lemons has been coming to AAC since 1989 and has served in Women’s Ministries as a small group leader for the last 15 years or more. But did you know she is the Manager of Connections Café? I had the privilege of interviewing her and hearing her heart for the ministry Connections Café has in our church.

Leanne, what first sparked your passion for cooking, baking and serving?

Leanne:  My mom actually managed a café while I was growing up and our family’s love for cooking and serving was always a part of my life. However, after high school, I trained to be an Occupational Therapist. It wasn’t until my first Pampered Chef party that I began to have a vision of managing some kind of cute bakery or café. I had this as my dream job, but not really expecting to live it out. Now in my 40’s, I praise God He gave me my dream job!

What do you love about managing and working in Connections Café?

Leanne:  There are many things. I love the way I am allowed to be creative with new food ideas and combinations. I like to keep things fresh and interesting. I also see this as a way to encourage people. Mostly it is the staff that uses the café, and I enjoy being able to bless them and cheer them on in their day or in their ministry. You never know who might be having a rough day, and I like to spread a little joy where I can.

What has been some of your own personal faith challenges?

Leanne:  2006-2008 was a very rough period. In 2006 I needed a kidney transplant but had to wait as I also developed eye cancer that had to be brought under control before I could have my transplant. This involved lots of travel to Madison and many fears and concerns. I think I had 5 operations in 2006. Finally I was able to get a kidney from my sister in 2008. Then my husband got cancer, and on top of that he had 2 eye strokes! And my mom died in the middle of all this. So it was definitely a challenging time! [Read more…]

3 Cures for the Comparison Trap

comparisonYesterday was a down in the dumps kind of day.

I was tired. We returned earlier in the week from our travels and hit the ground running.

I felt overwhelmed. My last few days have been engulfed by piles of laundry, chores, work, errands, packing lunches, and scraping together dinners.

I also promised myself that I would accomplish my personal goals for the week. But a crazy road trip + daily responsibilities left me with a bad case of the blues. 

So naturally, I did what any of us would do. I mindlessly thumbed through Facebook.

And then I saw her life. You know the one.

The one with endless pictures of perfect children. The marriage-of-bliss anniversary photos. Full of witty posts and comments. And the “watch me change my first diaper” video that got a bazillion likes. Seriously? I imagine her at her (perfectly organized) desk gleefully cranking out posts about her new leggings and baking Whole30 brownies in the oven while her kids play quietly in the background. 

Somewhere between her angelic children and Betty Crocker Brownies, I got moody.

I got downright depressed. 

In one swooping moment, my thoughts went down the drain, sucking my emotions in with it.

In that moment, I psychoanalyzed my own life and gave myself an F for failure. Suddenly, all my efforts felt in vain. No longer was I good enough, creative enough, fast enough, witty enough, romantic enough, healthy enough or perfect enough.

When someone’s success makes us depressed, there’s a problem.

Instead of being inspired by her success, I felt inferior. Sad. Discouraged. Overwhelmed. Behind.

Times infinity.

Like, maybe I should just cut my losses early and throw in the towel on life. After all, who can keep up with the ever-perfect family with their social media omnipresence and picture-perfect lives?

Truth be told, I had a bad case of the comparison blues.

And if you are breathing, chances are you’ve had them too.

I spent hours a whole day prying myself from the deadly grip of the comparison trap.

Because if I’m not careful, comparison will destroy me.

And it’ll destroy you too.

A heart at peace gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30

At the root of comparison there is discontentment and envy. When we compare our flawed lives to the Facebook highlight reel, we’re destined to come up short. 

When we’re not satisfied with our own yard, we’re tempted to peek over the fence at our virtual neighbors. And what we see will either puff us up with pride or weigh us down with insecurity.

Contentment is a sure-fire way to guard yourself against falling into the comparison trap. When we are satisfied with our own path, purpose, and progress, we experience joy and peace as a result.

So how do we avoid the comparison blues? Here are 3 ways to stay content and avoid the comparison trap.  [Read more…]

5 Reasons Why God’s Word is My Compass

unnamedThere are times I am lost in this overwhelming world, when I wander, when the right path and the future seems unknown. I don’t know about you, but I need help finding my way back. I need guidance to lead me down a new and right path. I need to be shown how to build a stronger relationship with the Lord. I need a compass. And that compass is GOD’S WORD.

Here are 5 Reasons why…

1.  A compass is a direction finding instrument. It points to the direction one should travel. God’s word is the best instrument I have to direct me to what is right and true. This truth points me to Him and His Son. It leads me to Grace and salvation. It points away from sin and towards righteousness. Psalm 119:133 says, “Direct my footsteps according to your Word; let no sin rule over me.”

Click here to read more of this post on bluejeangypsy…

Elizabeth is one of our regular contributors.

Speak Life

photo-1466111015920-82c8b3e3e43c (1)If you are a parent, then you have been there. That dreaded moment when your sweet little blessing from above decides to display their independence in public places.

We were on the last of our errands, I had just filled his belly with mall yumminess, and set the expectation that we would not be getting treats or trinkets from the dollar section. We were not even past the entrance mats when he hit the dirt. “I want a pretzel!”  

Now, this was not my first rodeo.

Unfortunately, it was the norm for a while as he struggled to find his place in the world. And today was no different, except we were only shopping for this one item and my car was on the other side of the mall.

But this tantrum was not the part of this story that stuck in my head. It was the reaction I received from strangers.

I attempted to reason with my son, to no avail, as he blocked the main walkway of the store. So I began to walk away. Just far enough that I could keep my eye on him. He did what I expected. He picked himself up and threw himself on the floor by my feet. But a lady strolling by decided to confirm the already defeated feelings I was having, “You need to get control of that boy.”

Suddenly I felt small. Too small to overpower a three-year-old. Already tired and humiliated, I was now judged and scorned for attempting to handle the situation to the best my defeated mind and now heart knew how.  

The tantrum continued with leg kicking and tears. I attempted to do my shopping with a child wrapped around my foot when another helpful guest walked by and exclaimed, “That poor, poor boy!”

Now I was hot! Do not feel sorry for the little tyrant exploding himself on all of us. He is taken care of in every way. And these little episodes have been a regular occurrence. Do NOT feel sorry for him!

And then a lady came behind me, walked by and said, “Mom, you are doing a good job. You have got this.” [Read more…]

5 Tips for Newlyweds

wedsLet’s get real. Being a newlywed can be tough. Between learning your husband and learning your own new role as a wife, there is a lot of room for error. And most of the time I’m all for making mistakes. Heck, there’s no better way to learn, in my opinion. But sometimes you’d just prefer to avoid the headache and frustration altogether. You just want advice on “what to expect,” or “what not to do,” or “common pitfalls to avoid” so you spend your time experiencing the “better” of marriage, and not so much of the “worse.” So from one wifey to another, here is my beginners guide for surviving marriage.

One || Leave and Cleave.

When you get married, you must be completely prepared to leave your parents and have your husband become your immediate family. I will admit that when we first got married, this was a tough one for me. I often still wanted my mom to be the first one with whom I shared good news, and the one I went shopping with on Saturday afternoons. Slowly though, Eric and I began to see each other as our “family” and rely on each other instead of our parents. I believe that no matter who you are this shift in thinking takes some time, but if you can start mentally preparing for it even before you get married, you will have a much smoother transition. [Read more…]

Miss Janet’s Tomato Pie


Recently, a friend of mine, started calling herself a farmer. I was a little perplexed by this self-appointed status because I have been to her lovely home and there are no signs of it being a farm. There are no animals to feed and care for, save for the orioles just outside her kitchen window. And there are no fields to plant or harvest. In fact, I’m pretty sure her husband can have the whole lawn mowed in less than an hour. And that’s without the use of a tractor. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a beautiful bounty coming from this small plot of land in the middle of Appleton.

It turns out, my friend’s “farm” is tucked away on the side of her garage. There you will find four lovingly cared for container planters from which several varieties of tomatoes and peppers, along with basil and rosemary grow. I was offered a tour of the farm just after planting season as the growing season was getting under way. I have to admit, I hardly saw a garden, let alone a farm. But now it’s time to harvest the crops and based on the yield, I’m ready to call it a farm!

Just the other day, my friend arrived on my doorstep with an overflowing bag of goodness. I was astonished at the abundance of vegetables she was able to cultivate! She was a little exasperated as she is running out of benefactors for her ample surplus of produce.

As any gardener farmer knows, when the crops are ready for harvest creativity is in order. In Janet’s case tomatoes have been especially prolific this summer. While I turned my bag of veggies into a batch of the most delicious, fresh salsa I have ever tasted, Janet was busy turning out one of her favorite summer recipes….

Tomato Pie.

Admittedly, I had no idea what tomato pie even was until she sent me the before and after pictures. Before meaning, a picture of the assembled pie just before it went into the oven. And after, right when it came out. Let’s just say, I could almost taste the deliciousness of this concoction just by looking at it. Immediately I knew I needed this recipe. And not only that, I wanted to share it with you…

Before I get to the recipe, Miss Janet wanted you to know there are two things that are very important to its successful execution. (Please read the following caveats with your best southern drawl)

You must use homegrown tomatoes. In the South, where Miss Janet hails from, she says everybody and their brother grows their own tomatoes. Consequently, she has never tasted a store bought tomato and thus cannot vouch for their suitability in this recipe (wink wink).

Secondly, again being from the South, the only mayonnaise Miss Janet dares to use in her recipe is the famed Duke’s Mayo. I myself am quite the Hellmann’s fan so I don’t think this one is a game changer, but nevertheless I want you to have the greatest chance for success when you try this recipe.

Without further ado, I present to you… [Read more…]

Think on Your Thoughts

havenHave you ever thought about your thoughts?  Most of us have, since we are shocked by where we can go in our thoughts.

“I wish (he)she disappeared (or was dead)”

“I wish I had a new life in a new state with new kids!”

“I’m sick of all this chaos! I’m running away!”

“You are so stupid”

“I am so stupid”

“You are a failure!”

“I’m going to kill him when he gets home!”

“I deserve to die”

“You are permanently damaged”

The thoughts we have determine how we think about ourselves and others. In my practice with women who struggle with issues of self esteem, there is a pervasive pattern of critical self-talk taking place. This often begins in childhood, when through circumstances and trauma, young girls come to conclusions about themselves that are very harsh, judgmental and rigid. For example:

Jane was bullied as a child at school through 5 years of her grade school experience. She came to believe that she was a bad person. After all, why would so many others regularly call her names, push her around, taunt her,and tease her? Naturally Jane began to have a series of thoughts about herself that she was a disappointment, that she was worthless and not lovable.  This went on for years unknown to her parents. Jane was loved in her family and tried to be as helpful as she could, to fight against the barrage of thoughts she had about herself. These thoughts became her reality.

Through the help of family and counseling, Jane began to see how the abuse she suffered formed a pattern of beliefs and thoughts she had about herself. This went on for years so that the thoughts were like a well worn trail in her mind. With God’s help, Jane needed to heal through her abuse and establish new thought patterns about herself. [Read more…]

Our Leaders are Readers: 8 inspiring book ideas

readingI love to read. I tend to have a few books vying for my attention at any given time. I think the books we read can tell a lot about a person’s passions, dreams and personality.  

I realize not everyone likes to read, but when it comes to ministry it is rather important to keep up on our reading so we can stay fresh, informed and motivated as we seek to minister to the people we are called to.

Having said that, I thought it would be interesting to get the top three books that have impacted some of our ministry staff. What are they passionate about? What books have influenced their faith and ministry? What would they recommend?  

I received a lot of great information and came away wanting to read everything on the list! So many books…so little time…

I don’t want this to be overwhelming so I decided to divide the books into 3 parts in order to share it with you over the course of the year.

First up? Our Senior Pastor… [Read more…]