Circumstances Don’t Create Contentment

“If Eve wasn’t content in the garden, what makes me think I will be content if only my circumstances were different? Contentment doesn’t come from perfect circumstances but from fixing our eyes on Jesus and what’s eternal, not on what’s temporary.” – Laura Krokos

I came across this insight several years ago and it really grabbed me. I had often talked about how contentment is a choice and that it depends on our willingness to be grateful for what we have instead of lamenting over what we don’t have…but I had never thought about how perfectly Eve’s story teaches this lesson.

There she was, in paradise, with a perfect man in a perfect environment with no work to do, no pain, no material needs, no stress, no conflicts. Everything that any one of us has ever imagined would bring us happiness, Eve had it. But when Eve faced the choice to be content with all that God had given her or to reach for something that promised to make her happier, she caved. She wanted more even though her cup was already full to overflowing. She chose to believe the lie that what she had wasn’t enough. Sadly, that discontent led to her demise.

It occurs to me that Eve’s story isn’t recorded in the Bible simply to give us historical information about the first human rebellion against God, but to teach me and you a lesson that, heeded, can help us avoid making the same foolish choices.

Do you go through each day, week after week, year after year, waiting for and wondering about that elusive something that will finally make you happy? You may say that God is all you need and yet there is still a sense that you’re not quite complete, that there’s something out there that will finally fulfill you—marriage, children, your dream job, your dream house, financial stability, healing, weight loss, an exotic vacation, etc.

It’s a lie from the enemy. When the psalmist said, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), he wasn’t implying that Christians will see all their fantasies materialize. No, he was reminding us that only God can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. And this is not an empty promise. God will fill your cup to overflowing when you stop depending on “things” to bring you contentment.

“And 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 [emphasis mine] to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19) *

Try it. Ask God to give you a hunger for Him. You’ll be amazed at how He satisfies that appetite!

Ann-Margret

* Here’s a quote from my book, Restore My Soul, that fits well with the passage from Ephesians. Click on the image to go to the Amazon listing for the book.

RMS quote

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Celebrate Today!

I’ve learned that it’s foolish to wait for special occasions to celebrate or to expect external influences to make me feel good.

Every single day, every moment that we take a breath, is a reason to celebrate. Turning this day or this hour or this moment into an occasion is something I need to decide to do. It’s something you can choose to do.

(excerpt from my book Restore My Soul)

Today, I want to encourage you to find a way to turn this mid-winter Saturday into a celebration! Here are some ideas, but I’d love it if you added your own in the comments section:

  • Buy your favourite cake, add candles, sing “This Is the Day” (or another happy song) and then blow out the candles. While this would be a fun activity for a family, go ahead and indulge even if you live alone. 🙂
  • Dress up fancy, even if you have nowhere to go.
  • Think about your favourite moment of the day so far, even if it’s something small, and then pause long enough to commit it to memory, thank God for it and bask in its joy.
  • Buy flowers or a coffee for someone who wouldn’t expect such a treat. Explain that every day is an occasion and encourage them to celebrate today in their own way.
  • Block off 30 to 60 minutes to make a poster that says, “Make every day an occasion,” or, if you’re not feeling particularly artistic today, add your own embellishments to my doodle below. Click on the “BEFORE” image to download and print it. Use a fine pen or glitter markers or watercolour paints… just have fun! I’ve provided one example of how the phrase can be dolled up (click on it to see it bigger).
Occasion 1

BEFORE – Download and print this out and then embellish it your own way!

 

Occasion 2

AFTER – I love doodling… but you may come up with something completely different.

I’d love it if you came back and shared with me some ways you will make every day an occasion. Let’s inspire each other!

POM pigPOM snowmanAlso, don’t forget the creativity challenge I posted last Saturday. Here are a couple of examples of what you can do with the unfinished squares I provided. I flipped them upside down and then used PicMonkey to add some digital elements and create these cute images.

IMG_2002

And here’s a sneak peek at a fantastic entry I received from Tina. (Her kids also put together two delightful storyboards, but I’m not going to reveal those just yet. So much creativity in one family!) 🙂

Let’s see what you come up with! (Don’t forget: There’s a book giveaway involved!)

Have a wonderfully creative Saturday! ❤

Ann-Margret

(mostly) Useless (but still fun) Facts

A few weeks ago I was watching The Chase on Netflix, a game show that pits a team of three contestants against British trivia wiz Mark Labbett. The funny thing about trivia is that it is often completely useless and inapplicable to daily life, and yet it can be quite amusing if you come across just the right tidbit.

Today, I offer you some trivia.* If you can actually do something with this information, I’d love for you to come back and tell me about it!

Did you know that…

  • 3d3cf2d0b6ab18f7bf81ca0003b985da--pippi-longstocking-astrid-lindgrenPippi Longstocking’s full name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraimsdaughter Longstocking?
  • Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts? (I like Pippi’s name better!) 😀
  • Tarantulas can live for three years without food? Also, they can’t kill you, contrary to popular belief (unless you are smaller than they are).
  • 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321? (I dare you to work that out long-hand… heehee!)
  • The colour of your computer screen background—or office walls—can affect your performance? Red makes your recall more accurate while blue makes you more creative. (Okay, so this information isn’t all that useless. Just thought I’d sneak it in there.) 🙂
  • It is illegal to hunt camels in Arizona? (Um. What?)
  • The Filet-O-Fish sandwich at McDonald’s is made mainly from a silvery fish called hoki, or whiptail, which is found near New Zealand? Other whitefish such as pollock is also used.
  • The odds of dying in a car crash compared to on a roller coaster are 40,000 to 1? And yet people scream on roller coasters and not while riding down the street.
  • black-box-rev-1000x667An airplane’s “black box” is actually orange?
  • John Lennon’s first girlfriend was named Thelma Pickles?
  • The “pound” symbol (#) is called an octothorpe?
  • The Hawaiian alphabet contains only 13 letters (5 vowels and 7 consonants)?

In case you think you just wasted five minutes of your life, you didn’t. Studies seem to indicate that learning obscure facts is good for your mental health, especially, of course, if that knowledge comes in handy during a trivia quiz and you win!

Having said that, it should be obvious that more important than knowledge is wisdom… godly wisdom.

Proverbs 3:7 warns, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.”

Jesus’ brother James had some good words about wisdom:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)

I consider myself a more-or-less autodidact—most of the things I’m good at or am knowledgeable about I learned outside of a formal classroom—so I’m always happy to pick up bits of trivia that make me go “Hmm!” or “Huh!” But I’m not obsessive about it and have no plans to compete in a serious quiz. Mark Labbett is safe from me for now. 😉

Have a great Wednesday! And don’t forget to try out my creativity challenge from Saturday (click here to see it).

Ann-Margret

* I do not guarantee the accuracy of each of these facts. Please don’t give me a hard time if there’s an error. This is meant to be entertaining!

A Blank Cheque

(Or check, if you’re American.)

A missionary society wrote to David Livingstone (the Scottish missionary to Africa in the 1800s) and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you.” Livingstone wrote back, “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”

depositphotos_5777799-stock-photo-blank-check-with-open-spaceHow often do we enthusiastically declare that we want to serve God…but only if it’s convenient for us, on our terms, as it fits into our predetermined schedules? How willing are we to write God a blank cheque—not simply from our financial institutions, but from our lives—sign it at the bottom and hand it over to Him to do with as He pleases?

Perhaps you’ve been serving God for many years, at a church, camp, charity or some other type of ministry. Or maybe you’re a brand new Christian. Maybe you’ve been a Christian for a long time but haven’t yet taken the plunge to use your gifts in God’s kingdom. Wherever you are on that spectrum, be willing to follow wherever the Lord leads you, even if that means taking a narrow, unfamiliar path or paving a new road altogether.

I like this thought from Casting Crown’s Mark Hall: “God, help us stop shopping for the church we WANT and start being the church the world NEEDS.” That means entering the discomfort zone and making God’s will and others’ needs more of a priority than our own wants. Counter-cultural? Absolutely. Exhilarating? You bet!

And let us not forget the words of Jesus:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Yesterday, my attention was drawn to one of my old blog posts, and this bit fits well with today’s theme of surrendering to God:

“It takes a great deal of courage and humility to trust that He not only knows what’s best, that He not only is able to do what’s best but also that He is willing to do what’s best. Why? Because He loves us.”

Be brave today. Write God a blank cheque and say: “Your will be done.” I’m already excited for you about what may happen. ❤

Ann-Margret

Doodle Challenge (plus giveaway!)

Ready to get creative? This exercise should be of interest to writers, illustrators and most other creative types. If there is enough response, I may create one of these on a regular basis… so please participate and give me feedback!

Here’s the prompt:

POMDOODLE 1

POMDOODLE1

Either download graphic above and manipulate it on your computer or print it out. Then have some fun! Your creations can be silly, serious or anything in between. Tell a story, make ornaments, create abstract art, or do anything else that comes to mind. The point is to take something simple and turn it into something new and interesting. Click on the smaller image of the doodles on the right if you’d like to download the six frames on their own (without the wording).

And, in case you have trouble reading the text, here it is again:

CHALLENGE:

Using any medium (computer, pen, markers, glitter, stickers, etc.), turn these six doodled frames into:
– six new completed pictures (faces, animals, scenes, objects, etc.)
– one large picture
– An illustrated story or comic strip (or three short ones)

Feel free to:
– draw outside the boxes
– cut the boxes out and rearrange them (or do so digitally)
– NOT do any artwork but write a story that somehow includes the six images
– write six separate stories about the doodles
– come up with your own idea!

I am excited to see what you all come up with! You can send me your final creations by email (ann@annhovsepian.com), post them on Instagram (please use #pomdoodles and, if you don’t mind, tag me @AnnHovsepian), or share them in the comments section of this Facebook post.

inspirations-banner

To thank you for participating, I will compile all the submissions and, on January 27, randomly pick one… and then the artist it belongs to will receive a copy of my latest colouring book, Inkspirations for Breast Cancer Survivors! So please send me your projects by January 25 (and make sure to provide a way for me to contact you). That gives you almost two weeks.

If you have friends who might enjoy this creative challenge, please share this post with them! Or do this as a family or with your students or writing group. I will be posting this on Instagram as well (follow me here).

Okay, go have fun! 🙂

Ann-Margret

10 for the Tenth

How is it possible that we’re already ten days into the new year? Wasn’t I just fussing over my first Christmas Day turkey? (It was delish, by the way. Three cheers for food bloggers who share their tips and tricks!)

Here are ten suggestions for celebrating safely getting through the first ten days of 2018.

  1. Image result for letterWrite a letter to yourself, dated December 31, 2018. Remind yourself of your goals for this year and then congratulate yourself on all you accomplished and extend grace to yourself for mistakes you made. (You don’t need specific details—just express the sentiments.) Give yourself advice about any goals you didn’t achieve during the year. Either print it out and keep it somewhere safe (after writing a reminder in your planner/calendar to open it on December 31), or email it to yourself using a delayed delivery option. It will be interesting to open up that letter at the end of the year and reflect on how far you’ve come. Please let me know if you do this one!
  2. If you have a journal, jot down the first ten things (not the top ten things) you think of that you’re thankful for so far this year. They can be serious or silly—it’s your list and no one else needs to see it!
  3. /ʇxǝʇ-uʍop-ǝpısdn/ɯoɔ.sǝɯɐbʎsǝǝɥɔ.ʍʍʍ//:sdʇʇɥ :ǝɹǝɥ ʇxǝʇ ɹnoʎ dı1ɟ uɐɔ noʎ .ǝbɐssǝɯ uʍop ǝpısdn uɐ puǝıɹɟ ʇsǝq ɹnoʎ buıpuǝs sɐ ɥɔns ‘ʎ11ıs buıɥʇǝɯos op
  4. Get your tongue all twisted learning about these “10 words we’ve forgotten how to pronounce”.
  5. Download ten (or however many you want) fun new fonts from DaFont, one of my favourite free type foundries.
  6. Perform a random act of kindness for someone who would never expect it but might really need it today. You can find some ideas here.
  7. Get a head start on Lent / Easter preparations for your family by checking out my latest illustration project, a collaboration with author Anna Collier Sklar. She wrote a devotional book and I contributed the colouring pages. Read all about the series here. Here’s a sneak preview of my drawings: Lent collage
  8. Make a list of 10 people you know who are either going through a hard time or have some tough decisions to make. Keep the list in your pocket or on your desk and make a point of praying for one of them every time you have a little break or pause to stretch. You could even send them a quick note letting them know you prayed for them. Imagine how encouraging that would be!
  9. Start doodling. I’m serious! I always have a notebook with me when I go to meetings (except the ones I’m taking minutes for, which is (sigh) most of the time) and Bible studies. I occasionally take notes but, more often, I also doodle while I listen. This may seem impolite but I’ve learned that it actually sharpens my attention to the discussion that’s going on and I’m more engaged, not less. Don’t believe me? Check out this study and this one. There you go: Now you have permission to doodle! You’re welcome. 😉
  10. Take 10 minutes to enjoy one of my favourite celebrations of God’s awesome creation. This video, which combines Brian Doerksen’s song “Creation Calls” with BBC Planet Earth footage, is only 6 minutes and 22 seconds long, but you’ll probably need the other 3 minutes and 38 seconds to catch your breath. 🙂

Have a wonderful, joy-filled day! See you back here on Saturday.

Ann-Margret

Good vs. Very Good

They say (you know… the mysterious “they”… whoever “they” are) that perfect is the enemy of good. In other words, the burdensome drive to achieve perfection can prevent us from completing a task or project adequately well.

In many cases (though certainly not all), doing a good job is all that is required of us, and is also absolutely acceptable because the completion of the task is more important than its quality. For example, if your daughter is running late for school and her hair is a mess, it makes more sense to pull it into a half-decent ponytail than to take the time to meticulously french-braid it. If your boss needs the minutes of the last board meeting on his desk now, you may not want to choose that particular moment to make sure all the bullet points are perfectly lined up and that you aren’t missing any commas.

I won’t belabour this point, however, because I want to share a thought that may seem to contradict everything I just said.

One of my 2018 goals is to follow a year-long Bible-reading plan that will take me through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. So, last week, I was right at the beginning, in Genesis, when something occurred to me. The first two chapters describe creation. For five days, God call His handiwork “good” but, when He created man and breathed life into him through his nostrils, He called it “very good.”

What made the difference?a614ae1bca58e03591c0f126542232cf

Was it because humans are vastly superior to everything else God made? If so, we can hardly take any credit for any special abilities or characteristics we possess. But I believe it goes deeper than our mere physical form and function. The key distinction in the way God made Adam and Eve was this: He breathed life into them. He gave them not only bodies, but souls. Like God, in whose image we were created, we are spiritual beings.

I can’t help but see this as a model for us to follow in whatever we do: our jobs, our ministries, our hobbies, our relationships. When we breathe God into the things we create and produce–when we do what we do with love and humility and generosity–we raise them from the level of “good” to “very good.” (Notice that God did not call His creation of man “perfect” but “very good.” Only He is perfect.)

The Bible gives us some clues on how to do this:

Colossians 3:17 and 22 – “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. . . Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

1 Peter 4:11 – “If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

In conclusion, my advice, as obvious as it may be, is this: Perfect may be the enemy of good, but very good is much better than good. As you approach your projects and goals this year, invite God to be a participant, breathing His life into all you do. I believe the results will be very good!

Have a blessed week!

Ann-Margret

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