Blessings in Disguise

The long, unusually cold winter in Montreal has been taking a toll on many people. I don’t know about you, but my mood tends to be affected by the weather (not so much when it’s cold but when it’s cloudly and overcast) so on those days I have to make an extra effort to remember that my joy comes from the Lord, and not the sunshine or the circumstances around me. I guess that when I look at it that way, the clouds are a blessing in disguise, since they make me depend more on God!

Life’s like that sometimes. We get discouraged, tired or overwhelmed and then anxiety begins to creep in. What’s going to happen? Why can’t I figure out this problem? How will this situation or relationship ever be made right? When will this sad time pass? Will I ever overcome this struggle?

While some people are careless or indifferent about the serious matters in life, others may go to the other extreme of becoming preoccupied and obsessive about difficult circumstances. Both are wrong. The Bible instructs us to bring our burdens to the Lord and commit all our ways to Him. Our peace shouldn’t come from being able to solve our problems, but rather from knowing that God is with us.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
(Psalm 23:4)

Nothing escapes His notice. Nothing is too difficult or scary for Him to handle. No one is too hopeless for Him to be able to rescue and restore. (And here’s a thought: If there are shadows, that means light is present, too!)

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Yes, we have to care and pray and intercede and work and obey and discipline and serve and change…but we can also rest! We can do all those things with joy and peace and courage in our hearts because we know our heavenly Father lovingly watches over us.

I encourage you to stop for a moment right now, take a breath, and give your burdens to the Lord. Tell Him what you’re worried about or afraid of. Recognize the distractions that may be robbing you of your joy and peace. What am I saying? The Apostle Paul put it so much more eloquently:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:6-8)

Rethinking Prayer

If everyone followed your pattern of prayer, would God’s kingdom be strengthened?

Ouch. If every Christian modeled his or her prayer life after my own, I’m not sure that would be a good thing! I definitely have room for improvement in the area of prayer.

For some people, prayer is a non-negotiable in their lives. It’s the first thing they do in the morning, the last thing they do at night, and something they do often during the day—and we’re not talking about two-minute messages fired off to God. For others, prayer is something that happens in between everything else on their to-do list… if it happens at all. I wonder if our prayer lives are starting to follow “social networking” and other modern communication formats—Twitter, Facebook, quick e-mails, text messages. God is not a buddy on our Friends list that we should keep in touch with now and then. He’s God. He’s our Saviour and Lord. He’s our heavenly Father. He’s God. (I know, I already said it but I think it bears repeating!)

The Bible says…

“Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

woman-prayingWe all know that prayer is essential, but I wonder if we really believe that it makes a difference. If we did, wouldn’t we pray more? Also, do we realize that it’s something God commands us to do? And if he commands it but we don’t do it, isn’t that disobedience? Why do we sometimes behave as though prayer is optional, something we can do at our convenience?

Here’s one tip for improving our pattern of prayer: “Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1 Peter 4:7) Maybe it’s time to de-clutter our minds and hearts so that we can better focus on our relationship with God, keeping in mind that a relationship requires interaction and dialogue—talking and listening.

Catch 22 (Catching Up + 22 Things About Me)

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At the start of the new year, I had good intentions about updating my blog on a weekly basis. Alas, an entire month has passed since my last post so I will try to do some catching up with this one. First a few news briefs from my life:

  • I started a six-week calligraphy course at the beginning of January and have my last class this coming Monday. It’s been challenging but fun, too! We’ve been learning copperplate calligraphy with a pointed pen and covered capital letters last week. For the last class, our teacher (Joy Deneen of imaginejoy calligraphy) is going to show us how to add variations and our own style to the basics we’ve been practicing. I will share photos of my progress in my next update.
  • On February 9, I was interviewed by Lynne Ford on WBCL in Ft Wayne, Indiana, about my new book, Truth, Dare, Double Dare. If you’d like to hear our nine-minute chat, click here and fast-forward to the 24:00 minute mark.
  • Here’s my latest column at Choose NOW Ministries: Stop Chasing Two Rabbits.

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On January 31, I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Ren of RensRedeemed.

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What is the Liebster Award, you ask? Good question! I wondered the same thing. For those who want details, this blogger did extensive research, saving me the work. In a nutshell, however, it’s an Internet award designed to welcome new bloggers, which is quite neighbourly and friendly! My blog isn’t really new but I appreciate Ren picking it as one of her nominees, especially as “liebster” has the connotation of something dear or sweet. Since there are variations on the “rules” of accepting this award, I’m not going to worry too much about following them strictly (i.e. I’m going to do the unthinkable and break the chain!)

However, I do want to take up Ren’s challenge to first answer 11 questions and then share 11 random things about me. So, here goes…

  1. When did you come to faith in Christ?
    1. When I was 7 years old. (My full faith story is here.)
  2. What is your favorite Bible verse/passage and why?
    1. I have many but, some months ago, the Lord pressed this on my heart as my life/ministry/career goal: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
  3. What woman figure from the Bible do you most identify with and/or admire?
    1. I was telling a friend just this afternoon that in recent years I have identified with Esther. I feel that God has given me opportunities and resources that I can use for His glory. Sometimes I’m not sure how to do it but I simply need to be brave and wise like Esther.
  4. Marriage/single life: What’s the biggest blessing and biggest challenge you face in your relationship status?
    1. As a never-married, I’ve certainly had my share of questions, lonely moments and self-doubts. However, God has really helped me to experience contentment and joy throughout my singleness, so I tend to not focus on the challenges.
  5. Mothering/mentoring: What is the most rewarding thing about being either a mother or a mentor?
    1. I’m not a mother but I have been a mentor on many occasions (in fact, I wrapped up a 12-session program with a young woman today). The most rewarding thing is seeing the joy and relief on the faces of my mentees when they recognize their own progress.
  6. What is your favorite thing about your faith community?
    1. I still worship at the church I started attending when I was a newborn so it is like my second home and the members are like family to me, even though the nature of our inner-city ministry is such that I have seen countless turn-overs in our congregation. My favourite thing about our ministry is the heavy emphasis on and dogged commitment to evangelism and missions. We are a small group in a 105-year-old building without fancy equipment or a worship team but our members support and get involved in outreach and the greater portion of our church budget is earmarked for missions and evangelism (we have no paid staff, including the pastor, my Dad).
  7. What’s on your reading list right now?
    1. I’m in the middle of four books: Love Does (Bob Goff), The Idiot  (Dostoevsky), Fortress of Mist (Sigmund Brouwer) and Orthodoxy (Chesterton). Also on my reading list: Einstein A to Z, a few Madeleine l’Engle books, the sequel to Fortress of MistThe Artisan Soul and about 50 other books!
  8. What is you favorite TV show this season?
    1. I generally don’t watch TV unless I am in a hotel room, but I do sometimes catch up on older TV shows on Netflix. My current indulgence is Gilmore Girls.
  9. Where is your favorite place to go, apart from home?
    1. Other than church? :) Boy, this question really highlights how much of an introvert and homebody I am. I don’t have too many “favourite” places but when the weather is nice, I love to be out in nature, walking through a park or sitting under a tree. I guess I need to get out more!
  10. What is one thing on your “Bucket List” (list of things you’d like to experience before you “kick the bucket”)?
    1. For years I’ve wanted to go to England to see the homes of Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis and Beatrix Potter. That’s pretty high on my list.
  11. Which of your blog posts is the one nearest and dearest to your heart?
    1. Finishing Well

So now I’m supposed to share 11 random things about myself. Voila!

  1. I studied Chemical Technology in college but finally admitted, in my third year, that I was in the wrong field.
  2. I have had my driver’s license for almost 23 years but I’ve only driven three or four times, and never alone.
  3. I skipped second grade.
  4. I’ve never ridden a horse.
  5. I am the proud owner of the three-volume boxed set of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, thanks to the generosity of a friend.
  6. I have not watched any of the Star Wars movies.
  7. I am terrified of water that’s deeper than chin level.
  8. My favourite colour is red (and my favourite desk accessory is my red Swingline stapler).
  9. My favourite desserts are key lime pie, Nanaimo bars and apple crisp.
  10. I don’t drink coffee. Ever.
  11. I have a weakness for red hair and freckles. On anyone!

So there’s me! :) I won’t be nominating anyone for the Liebster Award (sorry) but if you’re interested in writing a similar post on your own blog, let me know and I’ll happily supply 11 questions for you. I’ll try to write again soon but I’m not making any promises! In the meantime, don’t forget that you can “like” my Facebook page for daily inspirational posts.

Good night!

Do You Have a “Peacemaker”?

Several years ago, someone at church shared a praise report about his mother’s successful heart surgery but, because of his heavy accent, many of us thought he said that she’d had a “peacemaker” put in. Of course, he was referring to a pacemaker but we were all suddenly struck by the wonderful significance of the term peacemaker.

pacemakersIsn’t this a great picture of coming to Christ for salvation? The Bible teaches that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. We are born with a spiritual heart disease that we cannot cure on our own. People try all kinds of home remedies to deal with the symptoms and try to make their hearts feel better, but none of these actually bring about a cure. We need to submit to God and allow Him to perform “open heart surgery” on us.

Whether you think of it as bypass surgery or a heart transplant, God heals us. He removes the cancerous sin tumour or the plaque of sin blocking our arteries and restores us. And then… He gives us the Peacemaker. When the Holy Spirit enters our lives, He helps our hearts work properly and gives us “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Do you have the Peacemaker in your life? If you have not yet had that life-changing experience of receiving Christ as your personal Saviour, I pray that you will soon. If you have questions about this, please contact me and I will do my best to respond or to provide helpful resources.

May your day be filled with peace!

 

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Mid-January . . . Already?

I feel like I blinked and we jumped from January 1 to January 14. I’m afraid to blink again lest I find myself celebrating my 57th birthday or something. Of course, that’s exactly how it will feel on my 57th birthday. (Ack! Less than 15 years to go!)

Well, 2015 is clearly going to be a busy year. My wall calendar is already covered in colour-coded abbreviations denoting deadlines and meetings and trips. Hopefully that means I stay out of trouble, but it also means I will have to be more strategic about making time for fun and rest and reading and creativity. Bring it on!

Rather than write a long blog update, this week I simply want to share links (along with wee excerpts) to four of my latest published pieces. If you have time to read them, I believe you will find them encouraging. Please leave comments and share the links with friends!

My personal testimony of trusting Jesus as my Lord and Saviour at A Look at the Book

Time and time again, God reminds me that He loves me, He’s on my side and He’s still not finished with me. I have been on the receiving end of His discipline, but I have also felt His grace and compassion in my lowest moments. My life might not have changed drastically on January 1, 1980, but if I didn’t know Jesus today, I hate to think of where I’d be.

“New Year’s Resolution” – my first contribution to More to Life Magazine

Ironically, the motive behind most resolutions is to make us feel better about ourselves, a flawed strategy that inevitably leads to failure. Try this: Instead of writing down all the things you can do to like yourself better 12 months from now, ask the Lord to help you start a revolution in your life and in your family, to transform you from the inside out.

“Wanting Not” – my column in ChristianWeek

I listed the things I wanted—to lose weight, to have a vibrant devotional life, to have victory over sin, to manage my time better, etc. Not a single thing on my list seemed contrary to God’s will but I knew I wanted those things more than I wanted God. Things began to change when I made hungering for God my daily, overarching goal.

“Beware the Feel-Good Quote” – my column at Choose NOW Ministries

Quotes can be great for motivating, inspiring and amusing us. Many of them are quite insightful and  can help us articulate truths we already know. The problem is, it’s so easy to click “share” or “retweet” or “forward” when we come across a saying that sounds deeply philosophical, that we sometimes don’t take the time to think critically about the message being conveyed.

Love of Christ“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. . . who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:17-20)

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Like many people, I love new things and new beginnings: a blank notebook, new socks, a freshly cleaned room and, most of all, the first day of a new year. I am also fond of antiques and vintage treasures so one might think I’m a little confused, but I don’t think there’s a conflict here. I believe it’s healthy to appreciate and learn from the past as long as you don’t cling to it too tightly, and it’s also important to move forward and experience renewal as long as you don’t miss out on the blessings of the moment.

backThe Bible says: “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” (Isaiah 46:9)

Three chapters earlier, however, we see these words: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19a)

Is this a contradiction? It might appear so at first glance but I don’t believe it is. There are things in the past we must forget and let go of so that God can bring new blessings and experiences and lessons into our lives. And yet we must not forget what He has done for us in the past and how faithful He has been.

May God help you discern what to remember and what to forget as you begin this fresh new year!


On a more personal note, I’ve been enjoying the benefits of creating a special spot (and making extra time) for writing, journaling, reading my Bible and brainstorming. In the coming weeks I’ll share some of the inspiration that comes out of this.

I’ve also been dabbling in magnetic poetry (thanks to a young friend who sent me a set of words). You can see my first attempts below. :) (I am using the cover of a plain tin box to hold the letters and then hanging it from a couple of push pins on my bulletin board.)

iconsOh, one last thing! I’ve just added a new page to this blog where you can find any freebies I’ve posted in one spot: https://annhovsepian.wordpress.com/freebies/. (In the future, you can just click on the big red circle (pictured here) at the top of the screen to open the page menu.)

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Brave New Year

This captioned photo was my New Year’s Eve post on Facebook:

One of my goals for 2015 is to be more confident and relaxed, and less timid and self-conscious. So here’s me being silly for the camera. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

NYE collage

This morning a friend asked what steps I’m taking to achieve this “unique” goal. Here’s how I responded:

I guess it is a bit unusual. First, a bit of preamble: Since last summer, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how often I have hesitated or held back because of fear, insecurity or the influence of others’ words. My goal isn’t to become prideful or arrogant but, rather, to start discerning between what is true and what I feel. I write and speak about finding one’s worth in Christ and embracing who God created us to be, but I don’t always live that out in my own life. I want to change that and start being more authentic, more brave, more reliant on God than on myself, without always trying to be my own (or others’) interpretation of “perfect.”

As for steps I’m putting in place…Whereas some people make the mistake of not thinking twice before making a decision, I err on the side of over-thinking, so I’m scaling that back and giving myself permission to just go for it when I feel God opening a door for me or when I feel inspired to do something. I’m also making note of the good choices I make and their results, which helps motivate me to keep making positive choices. I don’t have a specific strategy to share with you but it’s something I’ve been praying about. I have to be careful to balance confidence with humility and that’s an interesting challenge I’m looking forward to exploring this year.

How about you? Do you have any goals for 2015? I have a few specific projects I’d like to complete but, at this point, being more courageous and open-hearted is my overall goal for the coming year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! See you here again soon. :)

“God With Us”

My favourite Christmas-related word is Immanuel (or Emmanuel, depending on the translation you’re reading), which means “God with us.” Some people make the mistake of thinking it means “God is with us”—a statement that is true, of course, but has a slightly different meaning.

When Jesus Christ was born, He was God…with us. I love that! It reminds me that not only is God always with us in spirit, but in the person of Jesus He was also with us in physical form. Jesus was and is God. He came and dwelt among us here on earth, participating in the journey of human life as we know it. Yes, God is the eternal, infinite creator of the universe who is too great for our minds and eyes to be able to handle. And yet He is familiar with even the tiniest aspects of our lives.

This is what makes Christmas, as we call it, significant to me. God could have sent His Son as a grown man, as a majestic king, as a great warrior, at an appointed time to come to earth and do what He had to do. But He chose to be born as a baby and go through all the undignified experiences of childhood and adolescence and young adulthood for 30 years before starting His ministry. How beautiful and humbling that He chose to know us so intimately.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” - Isaiah 7:14

I pray that, as you prepare for your Christmas celebrations, you will reflect on and be encouraged by thoughts of Immanuel. Jesus is God…with you. ♥

Immanuel
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Free Facebook Covers

Here are some Facebook covers I’ve designed for myself over time. If you like any of them, please go ahead and grab them and use them. I make them for fun and not for profit so I’m happy to share. If you feel like sharing a link back to my blog, I will send you virtual hugs or chocolate, whichever you prefer. :) And if this is your first visit to my blog, please stick around and check out my earlier posts.

Have a great day!

 

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God’s Great Love

Here’s an excerpt from my new book that you can share with a special tween:

God's Great Love

(Click on the image to see it at full size.) Just share a link to this post or go ahead and save the image to your hard drive.