Decisions

In last couple weeks, we have had decisions placed in our household to make. I like the easy decisions like…

  • My child is crawling out the crib…  Decision: move them to a bed.
  • Should I get that new pair of pants…  Decision: The budget is empty, done deal.
  • My friend is sick and needs help getting to the doctor… Decision: Of course I should help!
  • Should I buy a bag of  Cadbury Mini Eggs… Decision: Well this one takes more thought; the smart health answer is no, but… : )
  • In light of some decisions, I do not even mind the endless decision of what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and the three snacks a day my toddler eats (although if a maid wants to show up at my house and start cooking to make all of those decisions for me that would be great!)

But then there are decisions that force us to weigh out short-term and long-term gains. Decisions that force us to choose trust. Trust that God is in control even in a situation that may seem to others like a train wreck waiting to happen. Decisions that take days to discuss and consider. Decisions without clear answers or direction, real right or wrong, good or bad ramifications. Decisions that can only be clarified through priorities and what attitude you will choose in the future based on your current decision.

Psalm 90:12 is a verse that God impressed on me this last year and it becomes helpful in making decisions that seem otherwise difficult. The verse states “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV’86). The things that matter most are relationships with God and people and our most precious commodity is time. Time is also the commodity over which we have no control. Our days are numbered, none of us know how many we have left. We need to live and plan for the future with wisdom and leave the day without regret because it may be our last.

Some decisions result in choosing that even if we are down to the last $10 we are going to trust that God has brought us this far and He NEVER, EVER walks away. Although at times life may feel like God has walked away when that last $10 is gone (check out the prophet Jeremiah, Daniel in a den of lions, the book of Job), God does carrie us through to completion in Him – not our stuff or our American way of thinking. In God’s economy following through the trial is better than walking away in the process.

What does this blog have to do with design anyway! The design of our days is sometimes found in the decisions small and big. So the design of our life should be based on our priorities and values. Life is short. Make decision based on the design of the life you want to create not just on the momentary feelings. (And, yes, that is how I am calling this blog relevant to design!)

And, if you want direction on making decisions check out “Ask It” http://northpoint.org/messages/ask-it/ – a teaching series by Andy Stanley of Northpoint Church in Atlanta, GA.

Decisions

How are your goals doing?

The third week of 2014 has begun. My goals are written and I’m still working to arrange my schedule to make the most of my time, so that, come December goals are achieved. But, I am also playing catch-up, still working on urgency of the moment items, and still not as organized as I would prefer. Why are new things sometimes so difficult to incorporate into our day?

The old way of doing things gets comfortable. The immediate discomfort out weighs the long-term good. UNTIL the old becomes so comfortable it is a tripping hazard, a thing that makes us stumble & fall behind and the immediate is no longer beneficial. Reaching that juncture is not a pleasant experience – the house is so messy it should just be condemned, your health and energy are lost, your finances are a sinking ship, your relationships are strained.

So, before that comes, I am determined to be a part of the 8%* that absolutely makes their goals or new year’s resolution from the beginning to the end of the year. This year and last year I have given my goals to a good friend with whom I meet nearly every week. I also have posted my goals on the refrigerator so my husband and all who come over can see and ask about my goals for the year. Built-in accountability to accomplish your goals makes a big difference in finishing what has been started. Not to mention seeing your goals everyday all year long makes you choose to ignore them or work at them each and every day.

What about you? Have you written your goals and arranged your schedule to meet them? How are you doing? What things help you to stay on track and make this year count?

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*http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

Oh my Goodness….

It’s here! Christmas is here the end of the work day, my last work day before Christmas! (My sympathies to those who have to work over Christmas.) I have one work errand to run and then it is off to make a birthday cake for Jesus… something my little guy gives a great big excited face about every time I mention it!

What are you most excited about? This week may bring anxiety or sadness about stressed relationships and people who you are longing to see again, but cannot. It may be stressful with the things you want to finish before Christmas arrives. BUT I hope that all of those things pale in view and feeling when you remember the love that God has given us. Jesus came to walk with us on this crazy, difficult journey of life. He didn’t just tell us how to survive, but He showed us how to blossom in this world.

We will always have trouble, but Jesus has overcome. He gives abundant life, starting now, with a plan and a future that is better than anything we can imagine. Marvel at Jesus this week, relish His love, and have a very Merry Christmas!!!

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Fog, Work & a Tree

It is a marvelous thing to have work to do. All day long the fog has hovered outside my window as I have had the privilege of completing another full day of designing drafts for various projects and people. The fog actually brings a comfort to sitting and working all day. I do not feel as if I missed anything by not going outside. Nor, do I feel stuck indoors, I find myself thankful to be cozy inside. In fact, it may be a new record, my son has not even requested to go outside once today. It must be a cozy indoor day.

My workspace is filled with the smell of fresh pine thanks to a beautiful, very thick 8′-4″ Frasier fir standing in the living room. I do not think we have ever had a nicer Christmas tree. I think I work in the best office one could ask for.

So, as orders are filled for Christmas Countdown cards, Christmas cards are designed to bring hope to others, and marketing materials for small businesses are organized to bring information to clients, I am grateful to have such incredible blessings. Lots of work to be done, cozy foggy weather outside, and a beautiful tree (that will one day have decorations) to work beside.

May the goal of December be to remember all the blessings recounted last week at Thanksgiving and turn them into blessing for others. Enjoy the start to another wonderful season of giving!

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Thanksgiving… It is here!!!

I am so excited that Thanksgiving is on Thursday! I can hardly wait to see everyone and celebrate. I found coloring place-mats at Target and thankfully bought the exact number of people coming so far… unless there is someone else who joins in! Want a place to go where the cooking will be done for you! : ) Come on over!  (Don’t worry I’ll come up with additional place-mats for you to color!) Parade, people, food, games, and counting our blessings – I don’t think there can be a better agenda for a day!

Here are some of the things for which I am thankful this year:

  • My family who loves us, encourages, and prays for us
  • My husband who so lovingly deals with me and gently leads me to know Jesus more and who has endured and completed nearly 70 college credits in one calendar year – I am so proud of him
  • My son who is helping me understand how I need to obey God without excuse in the same way that we are trying to teach him to obey us without excuse : )
  • Endurance from God for the long days and hard times that are just a part of life
  • Encouragement from God and others that makes the long days worthwhile
  • The incredible support of some amazing friends who have walked through the crazy with us
  • Those who have encouraged LeA’Tev and allowed us to serve you this year
    • In particular, this past week I have been blessed by the response to the “Jesus is… Christmas” countdown. Your response and support of LeATev is among our many blessings and we have begun to pray daily for those that have received the cards. We are praying that they would truly help each person to focus on Jesus this Christmas and love Him more.

Thank you to those who read and follow this blog. Life is truly a beautiful design crafted by the Master Designer “who works all things together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.” (paraphrase of Romans 8:28)

Thank you for being a part of this sojourner’s journey; I am very thankful.

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Beautiful Disruption

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This past week I worked on a t-shirt design with the words “beautiful disruption”. The words are the theme for the holiday season at Journey Church in Worthington, MN. They are a reminder that out of the disruptions of life God creates beauty. God is in the disruption; He allows and places circumstances and trials in our path that are contrary to what we thought the plan was for our life.

We all have daily disruptions… whether you are in the work place and receive constant disruption by bosses, co-workers, those you supervise, customers, venders, etc.; or if you work from or at home where children and pets offer about a kazillion disruptions per day. And everyone deals with the disruption of the phone, email, IM, and social media!

And we all have life disruptions – major and minor events that change the course of a day, a week, a month, or a lifetime.

In his book Margin, Dr. Swenson discusses the need to have margin in our spiritual life, emotional health, physical health, and schedules so that we can handle and even embrace disruptions. Mary, the mother of Jesus, displayed well her embrace of God’s disruption on her life. Mary’s responses to God’s angel telling her she is going to conceive are “How can this be since I am virgin?” and “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” She asks a question of logistics and curiosity, accepts the explanation, and willingly sets aside her plans for God’s disruption in her world.

Mary’s response to God’s major, life-altering disruption models an exemplary attitude. She held loosely to everything in her life – her dreams, her plans, her ideals. In a single conversation her life went from the average young Jewish girl to an extraordinary off-course, unchartered path with an uncertain future. But she does not even seem to fret for a moment.

Mary says – “OK, I am God’s. I am not my own.” She goes to visit her relative Elizabeth not too long after her conversation with the Angel, but she does not go to receive consolation or complain about the uncertainty of her future because of the plight God has given her… nope. Mary sings the Magnificat of praise to “Mighty One [who] has done great things for me.” (Luke 1:49)

We are thankful for the harvest God has given, for His salvation, for His provision and family and friends He has blessed us with and so many other good gifts. But, are we thankful for the disruptions and difficulties of the year? Do I recall that I am not my own, I was bought at a price; I belong to God? (1Corinthians 6:19-20) Do we recount God’s praise in our struggle or rehash our lack of faith to others? Do I hold loosely to every hope, dream, and even my life because I trust in God alone?

Luke 14:33 tells us that “in the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (emphasis mine) Mary was willing to give up everything – she was a disciple of God. The question of holding things loosely is not just a good thought it is indicative of my relationship to Jesus Christ as a disciple.

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But God

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him [God], and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

These popular verses ring so true, but are so difficult to walk in. I’m not sure where your Monday morning finds you, but I know that for several in my circle of friends it finds them with many more questions than answers. Difficult marriages that require clinging to God and trusting Him for strength each day to love their spouse anew, a deep longing for children with seemingly no options left, a financial hole that seems it will only end in ruin, a diagnosis that has no hope with it, a layoff with no idea where the next job is going to come from,or a daily threat of layoff as one heads to work each morning and new co-workers are given the pink slip. And then there are those in the world who are trafficked, homeless, broken, blind, marginalized, and left empty – where does trusting God fit in there? Where is He in the “daily grind”?

Kind of a downer isn’t? We see our problems, BUT GOD… oh these words break through to the human spirit and in all circumstances we can find hope. Even if the hope is that this life is merely a few years. A breath. Seventy or eighty years if we are lucky. BUT eternity in paradise is coming – not just a resort – but a true everyday life of paradise that will last without end. After celebrating our 10,000th anniversary, we’ll just start over – working, loving, praising, rejoicing. No tears, no fears, no worries… true life. This life and its trials preps us for a marvelous life ahead.

And there is a “BUT GOD” right now. God gives joy. He gives peace. He gives strength.  God’s presence changes everything and He is Emmanuel – God with us. God sometimes brings new journeys, paths, and relationships we would have never found if not for the struggle. God gives miraculous healing. God gives a new job. God always gives more than we could ask or imagine.

Even in hardship, maybe particularly in hardship… God is present. To be honest, I understand fear and uncertainty right now in my life. I am reminded to hold everything loosely and rest in God by choice of will and not emotion. I have to bring Him the emotions of feeling out-of-control (which He reminds me I am), overwhelmed, fearful, uncertain, and wondering why He has brought me to this place. BUT GOD’s character, His heart His love overwhelms emotion. He brings peace and reminds me that no matter how difficult life may get, He is still the only one who can bring life and destroy it. He is the only refuge in an uncertain world that has had a whole history of continuously uncertain times and struggles. In God we trust not our savings account or 401k, not our ingenuity or strength – we trust in Almighty, Holy God.

Your life has been beautifully designed. If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Master, God of the universe, You can find a refuge. If You are not certain if there is a God, let alone one that would step into your fear and mess – seek Him. He will be found, and He longs to be close to the brokenhearted. See the beautiful design of your days and moments cannot be seen in the momentary plights of today, you have to keep waiting for the masterpiece to be completed.

“God teach me to follow Your directions, to know Your ways. Teach me to walk in Your marvelous light of Truth. Give me a heart that fears only You; for only You can destroy and only You can bring life. There is no one and nothing greater than You. I will worship you from the depths of my being. With my whole heart I will give You praise. You will be glorified forever and ever; I want to bring You glory every moment of everyday. Your love towards me is extravagant; I am overwhelmed by Your faithfulness. You rescued me from the depths of hell. I was dead and You gave me life!”
Psalm 86:11-13 Paraphrased by Heather Haxton

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Productive & Thankful

The gardening season at the Haxton house came to near completion this weekend… with the exception of a few broccoli plants all of the potatoes, onions, tomatoes and peppers were dug up, picked and brought inside. My sister looked up spaghetti recipes and two large pots of spaghetti sauce were made… the equivalent of 10 jars of sauce – or a paper grocery bag and a half full of tomatoes.

Our first year of gardening was quite the adventure of learning and experiments with a few failed attempts and much thankfulness for everything that God provided. The final experiment is in progress as Tim & I transplanted 11 pepper plants to pots and brought them inside. Lord willing, they will grow and finish producing the buds on them or at least ripening the peppers they hold!

Ultimately God grows food and provides; I am so thankful for everything He has graciously given!Harvest-1

Marinara Sauce Recipe… based on recipe by the Pioneer Woman and adapted by Debra Moe

  • A bunch of fresh tomatoes skinned, gutted (at least the seeds and majority of the water), and chopped.
    • Approximately 5-7 lb. or just under a 2’x3′ area of single layer tomatoes : )
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 whole garlic bunch
  • 2 Tbl. fresh chopped basil
  • 1 Tbl. + Oregano
  • +/- 2 Tbl. Olive Oil
  • 2  cans tomato paste (c. 12 oz.)

In a large pot add Olive Oil, enough to lightly cover the bottom. Add the green pepper and onion and sautee until just barely transulent.

Add the tomatoes until you they are approximately 1 – 1 1/2 inches from the top of the pot.

Gently stir in the tomato paste, garlic, basil, oregano. Stirring after each addition very carefully!

Your pot is now probably at it maximum fill or 1/4″ – 1/2″ from the top. Keep the heat on low and keep it uncovered.

Be patient! Let it sit on low, uncovered, on your stove top for the next 5 – 6 hours. Stir occasionally or at least once an hour. If you are going to serve it at this point you certainly can. If you would like it to be smoother run a hand mixer through it very carefully.

If you are freezing it… put it in the fridge, uncovered overnight. More of the water will evaporate and then it will be much easier to blend to the consistency you would like it to be.

Once blended put it into your containers to freeze or can and enjoy on a day that calls for a quick dinner!

What are you busy with?

Schedules have become so full it is crazy! My husband came home last night having found a recent article about bedtime stories:

In a new poll, only 13 percent of British moms said they read a story to their children every night, even though three-quarters recalled being read to on a daily basis when they were kids, according to The Guardian.

Almost a tenth said they feel too stressed to read bedtime stories, while 13 percent revealed they don’t have enough time to take part in this activity with their kids.

The poll of 2,000 U.K. women with children age 7 or under was conducted by British retailer Littlewoods. (www.today.com)

This poll is sad to me. Stress and busy are real factors in an increasingly crazy world with too many choices and pressures. But it is a good reminder to check my own priorities. There are two things that always matter more then the things on my to-do list – God and people.

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In the midst of a week that seems to have more to do than hours that are given I needed a reminder to keep priorities straight and to serve God in all that I do. I love work and I’m thankful to have many projects in process and due this week. But amidst the busy there needs to be a willingness to prioritize – love God, love people.

When serving looses its luster and I want life be about me… I am reminded of these verses to choose my attitude, choose love and serve joyfully.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13 (NIV)

Make the most of your day with the most important things.

(Pictured is my eager servant Uriah!)

Fall is here!

Fall classroom units are planned, children are back at their desks, gardens are producing harvest, and football is beginning again. Signs that fall is here!

Each season brings new beginnings. I love starting the fall activities at our church and seeing kids start a new grade (which somehow makes them seem older so quickly!). The beauty of the harvest and the leaves. Sweatshirt-weather and high school football games. Brach’s candy corn and mellow pumpkins. And I cannot help but long to spend fall days at Edward’s Apple Orchard in Poplar Grove, IL.

The sadness of saying goodbye to summer still lingers… I want to soak in every ounce of heat I can before the chill and cold settle in for a stay. I want to print the fun pictures of family visiting, summer birthdays, and teacher-friends who once had more time during summer months. I’ll embrace the fall, but oh I love and long for the warmth of summer fun!

Are you ready for fall? Pumpkin cookies and apple cider, trick-or-treat, and football? Fall is a fun season on its own. A delightful season of anticipation. A season that culminates in the holiday of Thanksgiving. A beautiful celebration to help us carry an “attitude of gratitude” all year. I worked on thank-you notes over the past week… an excellent reminder of how many things and people I have to be thankful for. In the midst of today, perhaps one person comes to mind who needs to know that you are thankful for their presence in your life. Write just one thank-you this week.

Fall is here! Celebrate the beauty of the new things, enjoy the harvest that God has given from your garden or grocery store. Start making your list of things to be thankful for… there is always lots no matter what circumstances you find yourself in right now.

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