A Few Good Women

 

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I would like to introduce you to a few good women, actually a few great women, in our church. I have a hunch that many of the people at AAC may not know about these wonderful women and their service to our congregation. Have you guessed who I’m referring to? It’s our Deaconesses! How many of you know who a Deaconess is? Or exactly what she does?? I’d like to fill you in a bit.  Deaconess is from the Greek word “diakoneo” meaning “to serve.”  The job of the Deaconess in her service to the people of the church more than fulfills the meaning.

Deaconesses are the female support team of the Appleton Alliance Church Pastoral Care Ministry. A Deaconess is an AAC member approved by both a nominating committee and the church congregation. Her resumé must include the qualification of I Timothy 3:11, “ In the same way, Deaconesses are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”  

This explanation seems fairly straightforward but what does a Deaconess do?

According to Sue Solberg, lead Deaconess at AAC, our deaconesses assist with the James 5 healing services, help prepare and serve at the communion services and assist with baptisms. Additionally, these fine women visit shut-ins, organize and provide meals for those recovering from hospitalizations or illnesses, and run a card ministry that expresses care, concern and encouragement to our church family. They are also part of a vital ministry to grieving families by helping to prepare and serve free luncheons for funerals held here at AAC. Conversely, they are also involved in hosting a social reception for families as part of Child Dedication services.  

Phew! That is quite the list! Especially when you realize that we have a congregation of over 4000 men, women and children and only 16 Deaconesses! When I titled this  “A Few Good Women” I was not exaggerating!

Once someone has been identified as a potential deaconess Sue Solberg calls them to gauge their interest and explain the importance of their role. After prayerfully considering the request and agreeing to serve, the potential candidate must be approved by a congregational vote and a nominating committee. It is an intensive process because we really value and respect the character and role of the women who take this on as they are on the front lines of representing AAC to our members.

Nevertheless, the group could use a little more help, so Women’s Ministry plans to be more intentional by partnering with them to help provide interested and qualified women through our Discipleship Program. (More on our Discipleship Program in another blog post!)

I spoke with our Lead Deaconess Sue Solberg and asked her the following questions:

What is your favorite part of being a Deaconess?

My favorite part of being a Deaconess is the joy I experience by serving our Lord and his church family with sisters in Christ who have true servant hearts. The fellowship, care and concern for our church and one another is a blessing! These women uplift our church family and one another!  It is a privilege and an honor to serve our church.  I know each Deaconess considers her service a God-given purpose. Getting to know these caring women has greatly inspired me; I admire each one of them!  Serving helps me and the other Deaconesses feel more connected to our church family and allows us to meet many more people in our ever-growing AAC congregation.”

Do you have any funny stories about being a Deaconess?

“We have all heard how challenging it can be to function when there are “too many cooks in the kitchen.”  Imaging having twelve to eighteen cooks in one kitchen at the same time! That’s how it is working together to prepare funeral luncheons.

One day during lunch prep, I caught a Deaconess standing at the end of the buffet table laughing and shaking her head. I walked over and asked her what was so funny. She said, “Stand here and watch for a minute.”  Each Deaconess who walked along the buffet table reached out to ‘tweak’ it by moving something to a new position. The next one would come along and move something else, or even the item that had just been re-placed. It got to be quite comical and the three of us watching soon got the giggles!  

Even though we are many women with many differing ideas and abilities, we are always able to approach one another with a sense of humor and enjoyment. We tease and cajole in a friendly/sisterly fashion and are not afraid to laugh at ourselves!”  

Do you have any touching stories about being a Deaconess?

“Recently I was privileged to go with two other Deaconesses to visit a woman who has dementia and lives in an assisted care facility. My two partners had known this woman over many years but had not seen her in quite awhile.  

When one of her old friends opened her door and she saw her two dear friends, her face lit up! With wide eyes and open arms she eagerly hugged each one exclaiming, “Oh my, Oh my!  It is so good to see you – and YOU!”  She was truly overjoyed by their visit. It was a joy that was simultaneously imparted back to each of us.  It was an extremely poignant visit that blessed us as much or more than we blessed that sweet woman.

But we don’t only serve those outside of our group, we are also an encouragement and support for one another as we go through life’s difficulties as well.  We care for each other as a family, as strong caring sisters demonstrating love to others as well as to one another. It truly is a rewarding and precious ministry. “

All I Ever Needed

pexels-photo-54547I am a special needs mom. I joined these ranks close to twelve years ago when my greatest fears became my reality. Every mom says, “I don’t care if it is a boy or a girl as long as they are healthy.”

For us, a few simple words, the diagnosis of my little girl, changed my life entirely. My dreams or twirling dresses and blissful giggles were replaced with therapy appointments and medical side effects.  Almost immediately I found that life as I knew it was different. Different than anything that I wanted, different than anything I could have imagined but as time went by, I realized that it wasn’t at all what it seemed.

Life was nothing like I wanted but everything that I needed.

I needed to know that God is in control. Before my daughter was born, I worried about everything. Would I be able to love my second as much as my first? Would my son have friends? Would my child be healthy? This type of unhealthy conversation consumed my inner dialogue.

Until I gave it all to Him. [Read more…]

His Sacrifice for True Freedom

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Stars and stripes fly high in the summer sky this time of year. Our flag is carried splendidly in ceremonies and marched down parade routes. It is waved proudly. In all these things, when we see ‘Old Glory’ fly, it stirs in us a sense of freedom. It reminds us of the freedoms that were fought for years ago. Freedoms we fight to protect today. It represents the freedom to speak our thoughts, to worship where we choose to, to travel where we desire, to vote, to share what we believe, to follow our dreams.

Freedom. We celebrate it. We fight for it. We stand up for it. We often take it for granted. But during this time, do we take a moment to think about what true freedom is? While I am grateful and thankful for these freedoms ‘to do’ (do this, do that) and respect them as worthy reasons of celebration, there is a truer and far greater freedom. It is a freedom that frees us ‘from’. It is freedom in Christ. And it’s banner over us is God’s love. (Song of Solomon 2:4)

God in his gracious and astounding love sent His son, so that true freedom could begin in our hearts. Through this love and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we have been set free from the bondage of sin. 1 John 4:9-10 says, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Thus, through grace, Christ’s sacrifice and the work of the Holy Spirit, we are free not only from sin, but from death. We are free from brokenness and blindness. Free from our past, our mistakes, our feelings of unworthiness. Free from an identity in a world that says we are never enough.

The flag, with its representation of our freedoms of ‘to do’s’, is temporary. It can be taken down. It can be burned. It can be stripped of the freedoms it represents and no longer be the symbol it once was. And while I pray otherwise, it may someday, cease to exist. But God’s banner over us is eternal. Our true freedom in Christ? This freedom that frees us from all that holds us back from being complete, from fear, from death? This freedom ensures us that we are loved. We are healed. We have eternal life. We are complete. We are justified. We are enough. This freedom can never be taken away. It cannot be suppressed. It cannot be contained. It cannot be enslaved. It cannot be moved. Nor can it be changed. It cannot be extinguished nor defeated. It rises; it never falls. And it’s banner over us of God’s everlasting love cannot be burned or trampled upon. It cannot be taken down or restrained from flying over our hearts. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:37-39) And nothing can stop the eternal life we are promised through our faith and belief in Jesus Christ, for Romans 10:10 says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

In the coming days, celebrate and be thankful for all the freedoms our country gives us and for those who have given their lives to defend those freedoms. But, remember, during these celebrations, to look up to that banner that flies higher and greater than any flag. Give praise. Find comfort in it. Celebrate it too. For there is no truer freedom than the one manifested from the banner of God’s love: Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Elizabeth

AAC Sportsplex: more than just a gym

gymtitleSpend 30 minutes with Xcel Sports Operations Manager, Dana Vanevenhoven, and you’ll come away with a new appreciation for the Sportsplex and how fortunate we are here at AAC to have access to such an amazing facility.

More importantly though, you’ll learn what an excellent outreach to the community we have built with the many camps, fitness classes, and wellness opportunities that are offered.

If you’ve never been to the Sportsplex before you should check it out.

Sportsplex members have access to the gym and a full schedule of fitness classes, along with a Fitness Center packed with excellent cardio and weight training equipment. Membership is rather inexpensive at $55/year for individuals and other rates for family, student and seniors. The Sportsplex stays busy year round with programs that run all year. However, summer is especially bustling due to the many camps that are offered.

Earlier this month Xcel Sports kicked off its summer programming schedule. From now through August 18th they will offer 19 camps for youth ranging in age from Kindergarten – 8th grade. There’s also a 3 on 3 basketball league for 5th – 10th grades with over 80 teams competing. Once known primarily for basketball, Dana says they are now expanding into new areas, adding a football, soccer and baseball camp for the first time.

She estimates that between the 3 on 3 basketball league and the 19 youth camps there will be 1,000+ kids passing through the doors of Xcel Sports this summer. And the vast majority (over 95% in the case of the basketball league) are not attending AAC. There is a unique opportunity to share the Gospel with these kids through sports and the staff takes that seriously. [Read more…]

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…]