Inspiration for Christmas

inspiration for ChristmasEvery year around this time…wait, let me start over.

Every year around December 15th, I start to ask myself if I’m doing enough to keep our family’s focus on Christ this Christmas. Some years, the closer the 25th gets, the farther I feel from the miracle of our Savior’s birth. Instead of awestruck wonder, I find myself wondering how I am going to accomplish everything that needs to be done.

This year is going to be different. For starters, it’s only the first day of December! That means it’s not too late for anything. And, I’ve come across some wonderful books designed for the specific purpose of helping us shift our gaze towards Jesus during the Advent season. Let me tell you about two of my favorites: [Read more…]

AAC staff survey on Thankfulness

thankful-pic-monkey1

In this Thanksgiving Season, it’s great to be reminded of the big things we are all thankful for. Those things like God, our family, and our church. Our Haven Help Us team thought it would be fun to interview a few people on staff to see what are some of the other things they are thankful for. You will find an array of answers from serious to comical. We hope this brightens your day and reminds you we all have so very much to be thankful for, this time of year – and always. Let’s continue to keep our eyes open to the big and little things all around us.

Below is a list from a few employees on staff and the things they are thankful for this year:

  • Mostly chocolate, but anything sweet.
  • Sweatpants and Netflix. An apartment with a fireplace and free heat.
  • A new job.
  • Being done with school in 4 weeks. Warm weather this fall. Heated blankets. Sugar.
  • The Giants being a playoff contender for the first time in five years. And that they are playing Cleveland this weekend.
  • Renewed relationships and friendships. Icemakers and countertops.
  • Playing with toddlers. Working computers.
  • Marshmallow shooters. Competitions with family. Slippers. And baby giggles.
  • Apple trees. Being able to run outside and enjoy God’s creation in all seasons.
  • Being able to turn on a fireplace and enjoy the warmth. Having a comfortable home.
  • Having kids who are in the mission field and getting to travel to where they live. A good cup of coffee in the morning.
  • The volunteers that serve at the church.
  • A heritage of believers and kids who are all walking with the Lord.
  • Christmas music and decorations.
  • Orange juice and spicy Kind bars.
  • Chocolate and sunshine.
  • Friends who stand by you no matter what.
  • Sports- especially volleyball.
  • All of the seasons we enjoy in Wisconsin.
  • Mountain Dew.
  • The ability to set boundaries and say no.
  • Wonderful musicians and worship ministry at AAC.
  • Seeing God at work in the lives of so many people.

Tera

Meet Cheryl, our Community Care Connection

Community CareWe are very blessed in AAC Women’s Ministries to have so many gifted and loving women that participate and lead small groups. One of these women is Cheryl Bogdan. 

Cheryl is also on staff here at AAC and is involved in our Community Care Ministry.  

Our Community Care Ministry involves the distribution of benevolence funds to help financially hurting people as well as support our Free Hope Clinic. Cheryl works under Pastor Mark Tegtmeier in the area of benevolence. She meets with people who attend our church as well as people in our community.

What kind of help are people looking for when they come to AAC and meet with you?

Cheryl: People who apply for assistance are usually looking for help with rent, mortgage and utilities. And then there are people who need assistance with gas and food. Now we are seeing more people come in and ask for auto help so they can repair their car and get back to work. Few agencies help out with auto care.  

How has the Benevolence ministry grown?

Cheryl: Ten years ago we saw 2-3 people a week. Now as our church has grown, the needs have grown. We usually see 8-10 people a week.

What do you want to communicate to those that are seeking help?

Cheryl: Many people that come for help are truly at the end of their rope. They are dealing with shame and guilt and many times are surprised and relieved with our non-judgmental approach. Our ministry is not just about assistance. We want to come alongside people and be Jesus with skin on. We want to communicate that they are valued and honored as someone made in the image of God. Because of their desperate state, people tend to look down on those who are seeking help. But unless you or I have walked in their shoes we wouldn’t know what we would be like at the point they are at. I try to look at everyone as someone God loves, and I want to make sure they feel welcomed and leave with hope – no matter what their story may be. Some people have just come out of prison, some are single parents, some are struggling with addictions, mental health issues and health problems.

Do you have any “God at Work” stories?

Cheryl: One of the more recent ones is about a woman who was involved in sex trafficking and drug addictions.  Now she has come to Christ and is radically changed. We talked about what it was like to ask for help and I had her meet with our teams…

What were some of her insights?

Cheryl: She shared how self conscious people are as they stand in line and perhaps have a nice purse, wearing make up, or have a nice coat.  They worry that they are being judged. They fear people will wonder why they are asking for help if they have that nice car, coat or purse.

She also told us that people wait until the last minute because they keep thinking there has got to be a way to get through this. People generally don’t like to ask for help. Asking for help takes a lot of humility and people feel they have failed in some way or other.

Have you seen many people who have been helped from the community come to church after receiving assistance from AAC?

Cheryl: Another God at Work story is about a single mom I had met with. We always tell people about the ministries our church offers such as the support groups and children ministries. We invite them to church, not as a prerequisite for help, but to let them know they are welcome. It can be hard to come out because the bus service does not run by our church. Many times people will say they will come on Sunday but I don’t always see them or know if they follow through. However, this time I actually saw the mom I had met with a few weeks ago. She had a big smile on her face and it was very encouraging to me! [Read more…]

Why You Must Lose Your Leaves this Season

leaves4It wasn’t until I moved north that Fall took on a whole new meaning. The charming season now warms a special place in my heart. The very word conjures up memories of apple picking, pumpkin carving, hot cider, and the delicious aroma of Grandma’s pie baking in the oven!

Every year I look forward to pulling out my weathered box from its nestled place in the basement, rediscovering the rustic decor that will soon adorn my home. This year, as I sat down to admire my handiwork, my eye caught a glimpse of the trees out back. Tall and proud, they line the yard with their fiery blaze of reds, oranges, and yellows announcing that summer is officially gone and winter is sure to come.

Soaking in the moment, I was suddenly struck by the irony of it all. The very leaves I admire are actually dying before my very eyes. The thought was slightly disturbing and fascinating all at the same time.

How could death be so beautiful?

I was compelled to rustle through my memory from the old school days when we learned about the abscission of deciduous trees (science words make my head hurt). If the trees were going to survive the season, they must toughen up and dispose of their leaves. Not only is the loss of the leaves important but the nutrients that are received from that loss, and the chance for regrowth, is what guarantees longevity and new life in the spring.

I’ll be honest. Science makes me yawn. But as I gazed at the foliage, God whispered in my heart. There was something I needed to learn from the leaves.

Click here to continue reading on Live Well, Worry Less…

New President, Same King

pexels-photo-196667As this bitter campaign narrows to a close, I for one am ready for it to end.

For months, many have used social media to fight for the cause leaving the rest of us feeling like collateral damage. Facebook makes me apprehensive with its onslaught of endless debates.

Fear and anxiety run rampant across the country. Americans remain divided and distraught over the options for commander in chief. Many believe the future of our country (along with our rights and liberties) may very well be at stake.

But I am not afraid. Nor am I angry. I am not the least bit stressed and honestly, I’m not even that surprised.

Because regardless of who is elected tomorrow, my purpose will not change. And if you claim to follow Christ, neither should yours. 

No candidate, party or protest can ever thwart my purpose in life. The government is not ultimately in control of my safety, security, and future.

My God is.

He is bigger than electoral votes, campaign ads, or media bias. He is not bound by human authority nor is He swayed by it. His plan will continue to proceed according to His will, not mine. And even if I do not understand it, I do not have to wring my hands in fear.

“Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?  You are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me? Is there any other Rock? I know of none.” Isa 44:8

Though these words were penned thousands of years ago to Israel, they are just as relevant to us today. Has God not foretold of these days? Has He not already warned us of things to come? That things will continue to get worse. That sin will breed more evil. That there will be wars and rumors of wars. That mankind “will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers…without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Tim 3:2-4).

And yet, God speaks to the heart of our anxiety and reminds us of the purpose we serve in the midst of a confusing and chaotic world.

Do not tremble. Do not be afraid.

“Worry and fear are about danger, perceived needs, and being out of control” (Edward Welch). This pretty much sums up what we’ve been seeing over the last several months. Even Christians have given no restraint to their anxious fretting and fears.

But what are our fears revealing about us? And who do they say we trust in? [Read more…]

Thankfulness from a Tree Stand

Thankfulness from Tree StandYou don’t have to be a hunter, or even agree with it, to appreciate what it is they experience out there.

There is something about being 15 feet in the air, completely camouflaged, and in total silence. You become part of nature. Just another tree branch in a sea of browns and greens. You are almost invisible to the animals around you. This means you can see the way blue birds chase each other as they fight over food on the ground. You can hear the squirrels that are rustling through the leaves below you and climbing from tree to tree. You can feel the cool brisk air across your cheeks and even smell the dew covered grass.

This is not a Pocahontas Colors of the Wind kind of experience. It’s one that God put together. He painted the sunrise and sunset. He designed each leaf unique. He created the earth and everything in it and called it all good.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3

What does this mean?

It means that nature should point us to Christ. So the next time you are in a tree stand, on a hike, or outside enjoying the leaves or snowflakes, take a second to thank God for what His hands have made. Take a moment away from the noise and silence your soul until you can sense His still small voice.

Dallas Willard, a famous author on Spiritual Disciplines said this about silence and solitude:

“Solitude can help us to see that our extreme busyness is caused by our inability to trust God or unwillingness to let others contribute. Hurry is the enemy of kindness and love, and also involves worry, fear, and anger.”

As we approach the Thanksgiving season, let’s find a way to bring some silence and solitude in our life.

Whether it’s in the tree stand, a walk around the block, or quietly sitting in front of our fireplace, let’s silence our cell phones, turn off the music, and just be. Allow God to speak to you through His still small voice.

Tera

3 Things Not to be Haunted by this Halloween

HalloweenGhosts. Goblins. Witches. Oh my! This time of year you can’t go anywhere without facing billboards of vampires and scantily-clad French maids—exactly the kind of thing I don’t want my children (or my husband) to see. But even if we decide to lock ourselves at home, isolated from the madness, there’s no use. The gore still finds us through the mailbox, which gets stuffed daily with catalogs of spooky costumes, creepy decorations, and gummies shaped like eyeballs.

Seriously. On Halloween it’s as if the whole country conspires to promote the very depravity we Christians aim to resist.

So what’s a Jesus follower to do?

Be not afraid.

Throughout scripture, God tells us to be brave, to take heart, to remember He is with us and He will go before us. So rather than bemoaning the evil of this world, why not find opportunities within it to shine the light of Christ. Here are three things NOT to be afraid of this Halloween—and, better yet, how to redeem them for the kingdom. [Read more…]

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

Suzan

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.

 

Tera

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…]