A Message for Special Dads (of Special Kids)

Special DadsWe all think our dads are the best, as we should, but why is it we only take a day to celebrate one of the most important aspects of the family unit?

And so, because Dads deserve celebration, I want to talk to you about a group of Dads that don’t normally get the praise, the homemade cards or even the hugs from their kids. They have been dealt a ridiculously unfair set of circumstances, yet they don’t complain. They haven’t run away, even though in today’s society this solution is acceptable if not expected. They have faced setback after setback yet have chosen the road less traveled and then walked this path chosen for them bravely.

They are Dads who have had every dream crushed in a moment as they were given the heavy blow of the diagnosis of their child.

They are the ones who have given up every one of their own dreams to provide for their little ones onslaught of therapies, medicine and equipment for a chance that maybe they will be able to hold their sweet babe a little longer on this side of heaven. These dads have come to the end of their rope, learning that you cannot fix everything and realize that when they finally let go, it is a remarkably wonderful place to be. They are the dads who learn to celebrate each smile and milestone as the amazing gift that it is. They are they ones who learn to look past that same diagnosis that stole their dreams and see the perfection of their little one just as our Father sees us.

These are the men who have learned that the only way to win the war on this earth is to bow down humbly on their knees.

You may or may not know one of these dads. The scars they bear often cannot be seen. But these men are valiant warriors. Selected and chosen carefully by God for a job like no other on this earth. If you do run across one, let them know. You see what they have done, the battles they have fought. Remind them that all of their efforts are not in vain. They are doing a great job. And the King of Kings is well pleased.

Call upon Me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.

Psalm 50:15 (NKJV)

Mindy

Hosea Summer Study

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We are excited to be starting our summer Bible Study soon on the book of Hosea; a study written by Jennifer Rothschild. Below you will find more information regarding the study offered and a way to join us! 

Women’s Summer Study

Tuesdays Jun. 14-Jul. 26
Mornings 9:00-11:00 a.m.|  Click Here to Register
Evenings 6:30-8:30 p.m.  |  Click Here to Register
SMC
Cost: $18

Join us as we study the Old Testament book Hosea ~ an account of an unlikely couple, an unusual courtship and an illicit affair.  But the marriage didn’t end, instead a love story began.  Through Hosea and Gomer’s love story discover a God who truly cherishes you.  When you’re looking for identity, God calls you His own, when you feel enslaved, God frees you and when you wander away God brings you home.  His unfailing love changes everything.  This is a DVD driven study with Jennifer Rothschild teaching.

(NO CHILDCARE OFFERED)

Placed for a Purpose

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[God] determined the times …and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that people would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.” (Acts 17:26-27)

I need to say up front that as a 56-year-old white woman, I don’t really have much rhythm. I never have.  I think it is because I grew up in a very strict household where “rock and roll” was the playlist from hell and dancing was on par with an alien invasion.  

But then came the wedding. Our daughter was getting married. My husband suggested we take dance lessons so that we could at least be prepared for one of the first formal dances at the wedding. I suppressed my feelings of anxiety and for the sake of family said yes. We took lessons and practiced for months. And then hoped for the best.  

Needless to say, when the time came for our first dance in front of a couple hundred people it was my ticket to humiliation. I looked like an octopus in heels. Or part of an alien invasion. I definitely felt out of place. Even though as mother of the bride I really was in the right place at the right time – serving a useful purpose of supporting my daughter and family. I just wish I didn’t have to be the comedy entertainment.

You and I are placed for a purpose. Dancing shoes and all. God’s Word in Acts 17:26 says He has placed us exactly where we need to be right now and for all time. “Exactly” is a very precise word. In fact, it says “he determined…” Sounds like God has a very detailed plan when it comes to you and I, and He is resolute in making it happen.

Why then do I so often feel out of place? There could be many reasons for feeling this way. It’s interesting to think about, because in other passages the Biblical writers describe Christ followers as “aliens (this must reference my dancing!) and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Just because we feel out of place, doesn’t mean we aren’t meant to be in this exact place. As believers in Christ, many times our sense of not belonging has more to do with being out of step with the culture than it does being in the wrong place.

God tells us that His purpose is not necessarily to make us feel comfortable and happy right now, but that He is putting us in a position where we will not only seek Him out but also find Him. And usually it is only when we are uncomfortable, that we seek His help. The good news is that if we are truly looking we will find His comfort, His wisdom, His love, His strength, His goodness, and ultimately His blessing right here. Right where we are, right now.

Ephesians 2:10 is another of my favorite verses when I try to understand what it means to be placed for a purpose. This verse says we are God’s Masterpiece, created to do good things, which Christ prepared in advance for us to do this very day. Think about that! We are a work of art, a Masterpiece! Not only that, God has planned that I live a life of purpose and goodness today! His purpose is not just for tomorrow.

I confess I am not always sure of what these “good things to do” are in my life. I don’t always have access to God’s “to do list.” I realize it involves kindness, honesty, forgiveness and love. I wish I could know more specifics but many times I don’t. For instance, was it really necessary for me to take dance lessons? (Don’t answer that!) I guess it comes down to having to make a choice and trust that God knows what He is doing and that one day it will be revealed (see 1 Peter 1:4-6). God’s Word also says that when I choose to trust Him for my life and purpose, He has an eternal trophy waiting…and it won’t be for my dancing! And that is ok with me.

Judy

Broken & Beautiful: my trip to India

pexels-photo-542167I recently celebrated my birthday.  

Typically birthdays provide people with information like when and where they were born. Birthdays play a role in our concept of identity. For many of us, our identity is rooted in our ethnicity or culture. Others view identity as the roles we have in life, such as daughter, sister, friend, or employee. Birthdays help provide these type of answers.   

My birthday has always brought up questions for me.  

I was adopted from India and no one knows my exact birth date. I don’t know who my birth parents are or why I was given up for adoption. I don’t know if I have siblings, nor do I feel a part of Indian culture. I have always struggled with feelings of not being wanted, of being abandoned or just not fitting in.

Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you have identities you hold close to your heart but do not share with others. The fact is we all have identities we are proud of and identities that embarrass us.  

This past January I had the opportunity to travel to my native country of India where I was adopted. This came about through the graduate program I was enrolled in. Much of my reasoning for going was to find out more of who I am.  

Being legally blind makes traveling complex for me. I was also traveling with people I did not really know. Not only did I have these challenges, but India is also a country deeply rooted in Hinduism. I questioned if I should even go on this trip. Could I really trust God to protect and provide for me? 

A big part of trust is being able to not lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge Him (Prov 3:5). I knew God wanted me to take that next step of trusting Him even if I found it difficult.

I am so glad I was willing, however tentatively, to get out of my comfort zone.

It was such an amazing trip! God orchestrated a way for me to visit the hospital orphanage that I was adopted from! This was not part of our excursion at all but God opened the right doors and connected my professor with the right people. Never in a million years did I ever think I would take this trip, let alone go back to where my life began! I was powerfully reminded of the sovereignty and goodness of God. I had felt abandoned, but God showed me His hand was on me all along. He knew the entire time that I would be adopted and that I would have the opportunity to know Him. Perhaps if I had not been “abandoned” I may not even know Christ. He provided for me in the best way possible; He gave me the gift of eternal life.

Two passages of Scripture that I have always clung to became a vivid reality for me while I was in India. Jeremiah 29:11 says “for I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you”. Psalm 139 tells me He knew me in my mother’s womb. This trip helped me realize that my identity starts and ends with Christ. My identity is found in being a daughter of the King. It also showed me that big things happen when I trust God in a big way. I was able to see that God’s plans are so much better than my own. I can trust Him and His plans for my future.

Being in a country that is so beautiful yet so broken was an incredible experience. Many of the people we interacted with were joyful for the simple things in life. They had nothing to physically give us but took such honor in serving us tea and lunch. It illustrated for me how we are all beautifully broken. By this I mean we all have broken areas of our life yet we are made beautiful through trusting Christ. It is through our brokenness that God’s love shines through.

In India, God challenged me in life-changing ways. It doesn’t matter where I have come from. Christ is all about giving us a future. He takes our broken pieces and makes them beautiful.

Rebecca

Stay Fit 60 Years in Marriage

marriagetitle60How did you meet?

Barb: When we came back from camp, my mother had been revitalized in her faith and the church we were attending was not real strong evangelically. We started looking for a church. So we went out of town to Oconomowoc to a church that was starting in a home. I began praying for a Christian boyfriend, not knowing there was a boy praying for a Christian girlfriend. That boy (now my husband, Dick) saw me in church and told his friend, “I’m going to get that little blonde” and I didn’t stand a chance. We got married 10 days after my 18th birthday. And we have been married now for 60 years!

What surprised you the most about being married?

Barb: Within 11 months we had our first child – a baby girl, Connie. That was a surprise! It was hard because we really didn’t have much money and for a few months we even lived in a cottage that had no bathroom, just an outhouse! Fortunately that only lasted a couple of months but then Dick went to Bible School and we lived there at the school.

Dick: The first few years of our marriage was challenging not only because we had very little money but I (Dick) struggled with direction. How was I going to take care of my family, and where was God leading me? I struggled in my faith a little and I confess for a while there I had a hard time going to church. When I did, I often sat in the back row. Then the Pastor at the church asked Barb and I to help out with the youth group. We didn’t feel qualified but they didn’t have anyone else to help, so we took it on. God really moved and our love for youth started during this time. That youth group grew and a lot of those kids went into full-time ministry. It was while we were working with the youth that we both heard God’s call to ministry.

What has marriage taught you about yourself?

Dick: I am not as cool as I thought I was!

Barb: Marriage brings the worst out of me! Also, I was not good at verbally communicating love and I had to learn how express love in words as well as actions. Marriage taught us both how important it is to handle conflict in a healthy way. [Read more…]

Stay Fit 39 Years in Marriage

marriage39Pat and Bonnie Costello will have been married for 39 years on July 2nd. What makes their marriage work? We asked them some questions to see what we could learn. Bonnie works as special events coordinator for Women’s Ministry and Pat works in corporate finance at Schneider in Green Bay.

What surprised you the most about being married?

Bonnie: What was our answer going to be? We talked about this, what did we decide?

Pat: I don’t remember…

Bonnie: Come on…

Pat: It was so long ago…(laughter) Part of this for me, is that my folks got divorced when I was a senior in high school and it obviously wasn’t pretty the years before that. So I didn’t know what to expect when I got married. I just knew that I didn’t want what I grew up with. I knew I was making a commitment, and I knew what I didn’t want it to be, but I wasn’t quite sure what it should look like.

Bonnie: Well I remember what we talked about…We were surprised at how good of friends we became.

Pat: That’s true! Since we have been married we really became very good friends!

Do you take any specific steps to safeguard the sanctity of your marriage?

Pat: There are some things that I do for my marriage that are related to work. For example it will always be in my calendar when I go out to lunch with a woman and then Bonnie and I talk about it when I come home at night. When I travel, there are a series of steps I take to safeguard our marriage to hold me accountable.

Bonnie: When the kids lived at home Pat and I always scheduled date nights. We even tried to get away for at least for one or two nights at least once a year. It was important to make time for each other and our marriage.

Pat: I didn’t call it a “date night.” It was more like having one on one time to talk and catch up.

Bonnie: We tried to keep our marriage a priority. Sometimes I think many marriages are child-centered and children become more important than the spouse. If the kids are more important than the spouse, I believe that can endanger the marriage. Now there are many years that the kids demanded more time and attention than the spouse but we always knew our marriage was the priority.

What was your favorite memory from your first year of marriage?

Pat: Well, the first year was actually a blur. We were working a lot. We did not really find it easy. The first year of teaching for Bonnie was ugly and hard. So we don’t actually have too many good memories.

When was the first good memory?

Bonnie: Yesterday! (laughter) [Read more…]

8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Spouse

marriage04Our relationship has been pelted by many storms. Our vow to remain faithful “in sickness and in health” became a sobering reality when my health suddenly declined and I became all but crippled for a number of months. Many other physical and emotional issues have threatened our sense of stability and intimacy. These experiences forced us to find ways to stay strong and connected in our marriage. As the storms cleared, we saw how God uses the little moments to keep us anchored when we weather the hard times.

A good marriage is not something you automatically start out with on your wedding day. It is something that is carefully and intentionally crafted over time. Change how you handle the little moments each day and you can change your marriage! Your past doesn’t have to predict your future.

A great marriage is the result of a thousand great little moments. Here are a few little things we have found helpful in staying connected through the stormy seasons. Click here to read more…

Rachel is one of our contributing writers. You can read more of this post on her blog

Glorious Follow Up

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On April 23, 150 young moms gathered at AAC for a morning out!  This year’s theme was Glorious: Finding beauty in your ordinary life. Our very own Becky Kopitzke was the speaker. Our goal for the morning was to make moms feel special. The SMC was transformed with gold decor, and a gorgeous floral arrangement gave the room a glorious feel to go along with the theme of the day. Women were greeted with a wonderful spread of fresh fruit, scones, and gold-dusted mini-cupcakes. It was such a delight to see their smiling faces as they entered the room.

In the first session Becky shared that life as a mom may not be glamorous but it can be glorious. She warned us against believing the mom lies that:

 

We need more

Our work as a wife and mom is not as valuable

What I do is who I am

 

As a special treat, mid-morning, we enjoyed a panel of 4 moms answering questions on tricky topics we may face including discipline, screen time and sleepovers. To close out the morning, Becky gave us 3 solutions to those lies:

 

Make your place your sanctuary

Let it be

Redefine your blessings.

 

It was a great way to spend the morning being refreshed and renewed. I think we all left feeling more grateful for the little blessings in our lives and thankful to the God who gave them to us.

 

You can review Becky’s presentation at the link below:

http://beckykopitzke.com/glorious/

 

Mother’s Day and Mental Health?

mom2Yes! This is the year that Mother’s Day and Mental Health month are running at the same time. Coincidence? I can hear several jokes coming. I have heard that hospitals experience a high volume of emergencies and mental health related problems on Mother’s Day.

How can you have an hmd (Happy Mother’s Day)? Here are a few ways to make your day special. Begin with the end in mind—how do you want to feel that day? Well, moms . . . I want to encourage you to allow yourself to receive on Mother’s Day. It is good to teach your children to give and not just take from you. Also, please speak to your husbands ahead of time about what you are hoping for on “the day”. In other words: are you hoping to relax, to take a bike ride, to eat out, to nap, to read a book, or just sit around and play in the yard? It is good to ask yourself what kind of day you would like and then spell it out for your family. Now, we all know you will likely NOT get everything you wish for. But a card, a treat and an activity of some kind is not too much to ask for. Homemade cards are awesome.

If you are going to Grandma’s house, you may want to encourage your kids to make her a card or do something special for her. No cost fun is always the best. So get out some balloons and blow them up, or fill them with water and have a balloon toss outside while she watches (just don’t throw one at her! Whoops!). Make sure you decide before you leave how long you will be staying at Grandma’s. Maybe it’s a two hour visit and then you go home so that you yourself have a bit of the day to be celebrated. Make sure before you go, you clarify this with your husband and kids!

So along with the above examples, check out these important mental health tips for moms:

1. Clarify expectations with your family (and husband)

2. Give yourself permission to receive (and not just wait on everyone else)

3. Ask for what you want (yes you have an opinion and a vote)

4. Be realistic (about your list of expectations)

5. Honor the Grandmas

6. Set boundaries around how long you are going to stay

7. Have fun! When Mama’s happy, everyone is happy!

“He loves each one of us as if there were only one of us.” St. Augustine

 

Suzan

Apologize Correctly

stayfit3Most of the apologies that come out of our mouth are bad ones. If you ever stop to listen, our go-to apologies sound something like this:

“I’m sorry, ok?” so get off my back.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were so sensitive” this is your issue.

“I’m sorry if you were offended” because I didn’t really do anything.

“I understand that mistakes were made” but they sure weren’t mine.

“I’m sorry but you…” my behavior is your fault. 

Guilty as charged. How about you? Making mistakes is just part of being human. But when you are confronted, what kind of message are you sending? Are you apologizing completely? Or is your sorry just a quick attempt to escape the conflict altogether?

A bad apology can create just as much conflict and hurt as the original offense. If you don’t do it effectively, your apology can lose its value over time. Don’t let your words become meaningless. Get good at the “I’m sorry’s” and stay fit in your marriage! Click here to read more…

 

Rachel is one of our contributing writers. You can read more of this post on her blog