Embrace Boredom

Most people think of boredom as something negative. It makes them uncomfortable and anxious and they tried to avoid it at all costs. We live in a world of over-stimulation, information overload, and instant gratification. . . so why should anyone ever be bored, right? 

We seem to have forgotten that boredom kick-starts imagination and the problem-solving genius of our subconscience. Those of us in creative fields sometimes lament that we don’t feel inspired or can’t think of new ideas. More often than not, we’re probably trying too hard instead of sitting quietly, listening, watching, and letting our minds wander. If children have more toys and games and movies than they have time for, when will they invent, create, build, explore, and imagine?

Embrace boredom.

When you have time on your hands that you don’t know what to do with, don’t reach for your remote control or your laptop. Pull out a notebook or journal, and just sit quietly for as long as you can stand to. Look out the window or stare at the ceiling. Pray or hum a song. Pet your dog or moisturize your feet. Colour in this “Imagine” design, which you can download and print for free. It doesn’t matter, as long as you are not scrambling to chase your boredom away. Don’t run away from your thoughts. Scribble down any bright ideas that come to you. Let yourself be in the moment. Look around you, at people, at architecture, at the sky.

You never know when inspiration will hit.

In the studio. . .

My latest doodling craze has been personalized bookmarks (for customers) and some nifty candy cane gift tags (just for fun). This week I submitted several illustrations for another multi-artist colouring book by Ink & Willow, coming out next year. And today my Christmas cards got a little shout-out in Uppercase Magazine’s All About You newsletter. Hurray!

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Welcome to the Studio!

In the coming weeks, you’ll be hearing more about Buttercup Design Studio, my fledgling art business. This blog will be revamped as part of the process so don’t be surprised if it looks different from what you remember.

Be sure to subscribe to Whimsy & Wisdom, my free weekly e-newsletter. New susbscribers will receive a link to a free download of my new and improved Puffy Christmas Tree (pictured here) tutorial.

Here are all the important links you might need:

Long overdue update

A lot has happened since my last blog post!

Last summer I registered for two art business courses, which I’m still working my way through in between freelance work and, you know, life. I can’t wait to finish organizing my portfolio and start selling some fun products! While it’s not yet an officially registered business, I decided to call the illustration side of my freelance work Buttercup Design Studio. Here’s my prototype logo. Isn’t it cute?

My Whimsy & Wisdom weekly e-newsletter is still going strong and is about to celebrate its first anniversary. Well over 200 people get a dose of “serious joy” in their inboxes every Monday morning, and you can, too, by signing up here. (That link also brings up the archive of the last few months, if you want to check out samples.)

I’ve updated my website to highlight my latest projects and showcase some of my illustration work. I’m also offering coaching for writers as well as creative workshops for small groups.

You can now buy my books and colouring pages directly from me online, through my Whimsy & Wisdom shop here.

Last fall, I had the privilege of having my profile of Master Penman Jake Weidmann published in Inspire magazine. (Flip to page 86 of the magazine. Sorry, there’s no way for me to link to a specific page, but if you enter Full Screen mode, you can move the scroll bar at the bottom to the right page.)

I’m currently finishing up illustrations for another multi-artist colouring book being published by Ink & Willow this fall. My contribution will be eight pages, and this is the fifth such book I’ve been asked to collaborate on. Last fall I contributed to this one.

Another Ink & Willow book I collaborated on last year was Resilience, a lovely one-year journal that helps readers let go of worry. I was asked to write the text for it, the second such book I’ve worked on for them.

I’ve had several opportunities to create custom colouring pages and designed a set of Christmas illustrations for a local boutique (available through my online shop as well).

I conducted an experiment last summer and moved my office, art studio, and sewing room upstairs into the apartment above my home when my tenant there left. It was fun for the first five or six months but I eventually realized I missed living in my creative space (or creating in my living space!) so I rearranged things at home and moved back downstairs. Previously, I was trying to use my dining room for my art projects and that just wasn’t practical. Now I simply have a desk in a corner of my living room for my writing and my old office, which was much bigger than it needed to be, is now a dedicated art room. I couldn’t be happier!

I hope you enjoy all these links and find some great new resources for yourself or to give as gifts. Please comment below if you discovered something you particularly like!

Whimsy & Wisdom

The last 25 years have been an incredible journey of exploring the world of publishing and books andsurprise for me!illustration and art. And, over the last few months, I feel like God has given me greater clarity about what to do with my gifts and talents.

After much reflection and prayer, I’ve decided to give my creative work a name: Whimsy & Wisdom! (Thus the renaming of this blog, which used to be called Piece of Mind.) As many of you know, I’m passionate about both faith and artistry, I can be both serious and silly, and I’m committed to truth while also being a fan of wholesome fantasy. I have written articles about difficult subjects and doodled whimsical butterflies.

Some people worry that if they’re too joyful, people will judge them for not being serious enough. The opposite is also true. I am on a mission to remind people that they can be botheven at the same time! I want to inspire you toward seriously joyful living.

In the coming months I will be working on projects I look forward to sharing with the world at some point. But, for now, I’d like to ask you to sign up to receive a FREE weekly e-newsletter I’ll be launching sometime in February. You won’t be receiving long letters or articles to read (although I may include the occasional interesting link). Rather, I would like to send you bite-sized inspiration, creative ideas, and tips for living with more joy. And while I may occasionally mention my books, this newsletter won’t be a weekly sales pitch. That’s a promise!

How does that sound? Are you in? Then please click on this link and fill in just a couple of quick details: http://eepurl.com/hmTd8j. That’s it! 🙂

I’m not sure of the exact date I’ll send the first newsletter, but I’ll probably send an update in the next few weeks. Of course, you will always have the option to unsubscribe if you’re not enjoying the weekly emails.

Thank you for your time, interest, and encouragement! Wishing you many blessings in the days ahead,

Ann-Margret

New Year, New You

Five to Wear

When holidays and celebrations roll around, it’s not unusual for women to look for a new outfit to wear. I’m not as much of a shopper as I used to be but I still enjoy putting on a pretty new blouse or heading out in cool new boots. Let’s face it: We live in a fashion-obsessed world.

But did you know that the Bible gives the best outfit advice? Look at Colossians 3:12…

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Think about the word “clothe” for a moment. When you get dressed every morning, I assume you open your closet or drawers, look at what you have, and choose what you’re going to wear. Whether you lay your clothes out the night before or throw them on in a mad dash before going out, it’s probably safe to say you choose your outfit.

How much time do you spend every morning deciding what qualities and character traits you are going to adorn yourself with? How much thought do you put into what people see and experience three seconds after they notice your clothes and hair?

It really doesn’t matter how sharp your suit is or how darling your dress is if you forget these garments at home:

  1. COMPASSION – sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others (see also Zechariah 7:9)
  2. KINDNESS – the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate (see also Job 6:14)
  3. HUMILITY – a modest or low view of one’s own importance (see also Proverbs 22:4)
  4. GENTLENESS – the quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered (see also Philippians 4:5)
  5. PATIENCE – the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset (see also Proverbs 19:11)

No amount of fashion sense can make up for a heart focused on pleasing and glorifying itself. Not even the most stunning outfit or perfectly applied make-up can cover up a selfish, prideful and arrogant character.

Conversely, it really doesn’t matter if your blouse is 10 years old or your jeans don’t turn heads if you are clothed with the five qualities listed above. Few people will care about how you look on the outside when your kind words and gentle nature make them feel respected and safe.

Here’s a challenge I hope you’ll join me in this week: Memorize Colossians 3:12 and recite it back to yourself in the mornings as you get dressed. Observe any changes in your life with each passing day.

To help you out, I’ve created a graphic you can post up somewhere as a reminder. Just click on the image below to download or print it.

Five to Wear 2

Please leave a comment below with your own thoughts about Colossians 3:12. What does it mean to you? Which of the five qualities do you struggle with the most? (For me, it’s probably gentleness.)

I wish you a blessed, joy-filled, and peaceful new year. If you were planning a make-over in 2021, don’t forget to clothe the “new you” with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Happy new you! ❤ 

Ann-Margret

Ditch the List

Most of us start each year with a long, stress-inducing to-do list that—let’s be honest—only makes us feel lousy, as if we were such horrible people in the previous 12 months that we need a major overhaul this year to have any value. This is usually the result of comparing ourselves to others. Please stop doing that to yourself! It’s not constructive and it’s not even close to being biblical.

I’m not suggesting that we adopt the attitude of Calvin here. . .

. . . but I find it ironic that the motive behind most of our resolutions is to make us feel better about ourselves, a flawed strategy that inevitably backfires on us.

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.

Romans 12:1-2 is a great passage to memorize and meditate on: 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This year, replace your list of goals with a blank page that you offer to God. Allow Him to reshape your thoughts, character and behaviour.

Old Habits Die Hard

Some of you might still be itching for a list of some sort, so here are five general principles (not goals) that can help you prepare to be transformed in 2021.

  1. Do a clean sweep (see Colossians 3:5-10) — Before you tackle the closets you want to declutter or start tossing out junk you’ve been hoarding, invite the Lord to help you let go of attitudes and compulsive behaviours that hinder your spiritual growth and your relationships with others.
  2. Celebrate each day (see Psalm 118:24) — Don’t wait for special occasions to break out the fancy dinnerware, blow out candles or give cards. Make it a habit to find something special about each day to rejoice over, because each day is a precious gift from God. Do something fun or meaningful—even if it’s tiny—to celebrate.
  3. Break up with your mirror (see 1 Peter 3:3-4) — When I turned 40, I wrote this in my journal: “There must come a point in every girl’s life when she cares less about how beautiful she is and more about the beauty she creates.” Certainly, use a mirror when you’re getting ready in the morning but try not to spend hours in front of it and avoid checking it throughout the day. Set an example, to your children and to others, of prioritizing inner beauty over outer beauty and of beautifying the world around you. Remind yourself that how you see is more important than how you look.
  4. Talk less, listen more (see James 1:19) — We joke about how there’s a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth, but the truth is that some people can be difficult to listen to. However, your relationships in general will become healthier when your loved ones see that you are listening to understand them and not simply to respond.
  5. Bark less, wag more (see Philippians 2:14, 4:4) — Determine that you will replace complaining and criticizing with thanking and praising. Don’t wait for your circumstances to change your feelings; you will be waiting a long, long time. Instead, change your attitude and your circumstances will suddenly look very different.

I’m pretty sure 2020 did not turn out the way you had hoped. Whether that’s because of COVID-19 or your own unmet goals, let it go. Let God give you a fresh start. 

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’” 

Lamentations 3:22-24

I love how Anne Shirley (in Anne of Green Gables) put it: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Happy new year, friends!

Ann-Margret

Wanting Not

(No, your mind is not playing tricks on you. I originally posted this last Saturday but decided to move it to today.)

It’s the same every year: Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Christmas. Boxing Day. We gorge ourselves during the last several weeks of the year—on food, on consumer goods, on anything that brings us pleasure—and then wake up on the first day of January determined to be more altruistic.

We know that “stuff” will never make us truly happy and yet we remain on this cycle, believing the lie that one day we will find the perfect thing that finally makes our world okay. If it’s not gadgets and clothes, it’s money, food, entertainment, and a rush of adrenaline, fame or someone who loves us.

As a Christian teen, I pitied unbelievers who sought fulfillment in behaviours I wouldn’t dream of. Naïvely, I did not recognize the same patterns in my own life. My pursuits were different but the driving force was the same: a longing for significance. I began performing, trying to please people. What I lacked in beauty, athleticism, and charisma, I tried to make up for with academic excellence, church involvement, and perfect behaviour.

None of those efforts are inherently bad, but when the underlying goal is to earn people’s love, you set yourself up for a life of regret. The slightest indication that I’d fallen short sent me into a tailspin of anxiety, followed by self-flagellation. I’d pull away from people, trying to hide my brokenness and weakness, sabotaging any potential for true intimacy.

Harry Schaumburg, a Christian counsellor and author, says, “In demanding the bliss of someone’s real or imagined warmth, we become consumed with ourselves, which destroys the very ecstasy we seek. There is no way out. We are locked in reality, always wanting and therefore always destroying what we want.”

Several years ago, I realized that even my relationship with God had become a way to feel better about myself; confession and repentance were more about not feeling yucky than about pleasing God. I prayed: “Please teach my heart to want nothing but You. I want to want You, Lord. I want to truthfully say, ‘Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’”

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.

God is patient and faithful and—I love this—God is for us. He doesn’t shame or condemn us for our cravings because He sees them for what they really are, even when we don’t. He is ready to meet every need.

My wish for you for 2021 is similar to Apostle Paul’s: “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).

Ann-Margret

Two “Joy” Books!

A month ago I shared a list of books that have had a great impact on my life in the last year or two but I didn’t say anything about the books I’ve written or collaborated on. So I’m going to tell you about two of them today!

The Joy of Working at Home

This summer, after numerous discussions about how COVID-19 has forced many people to work at home—people who never intended to work from home and possibly still hate doing so—three freelance writer friends and I decided to write an ebook covering all the ins and outs—and ups and downs—of telecommuting.

The Joy of Working at Home is a practical manual that covers, among several other topics:

  • Best practices for a useful workspace
  • Tools for managing time and tasks
  • Advice on staying healthy, professional and productive
  • Tips for setting boundaries
  • Help for blending work and family

At only $2.99 US from Amazon, you can download a copy for yourself and give one as a gift to a family member or friend who is also puzzling over how to deal with the challenges of working and living in the same space.

If you’re on Facebook, you can also follow our page for free book excerpts, bonus tips, and more: https://www.facebook.com/joyofworkingathome.

Choose Joy: A Coloring Book of Gratitude and Wonder

I was thrilled when, early in 2020, Ink & Willow asked me to participate, for the third time, in a multi-artist colouring book. (I had previously contributed five drawings each to Whatever Is Lovely and Everything Beautiful.)

This time, I not only got to draw seven of the pages in this gorgeous book, but one of my designs was chosen for the cover and I lettered the quotes on eight other illustrations. Five years into illustrating colouring books, this is my best work yet. I hope you’ll get a copy! Click here to find it on Amazon.

I’m working on several new creative projects that I look forward to sharing with you in 2021. Thanks for stopping by! I’ll share a Christmas reflection this weekend, so please make sure you’re signed up to be notified of new posts.

Ann-Margret

My Book Wish List (for you)

Since 2011, I’ve been keeping track of the books I read in an old notebook, listing books as I buy them and then using a date stamp to mark when I finish one of them. I have also finally started to keep track on Goodreads (you can follow me here).

As I read, I tend to pull out quotes I like and share them on Facebook (follow my author page here). A few friends have told me they appreciate my book recommendations so I thought I’d write a post about several books that have had a great impact on my life in the last year or so.

Other than the first two, they are in no particular order…

After the Bible, The Cure (by John Lynch) has been the biggest game-changer for me, especially as a long-time Christian who grew up in evangelical circles and became a pastor’s kid in my teens. A kind, older gentleman who was in my life for only a couple of months recommended it to me last November, not knowing the spiritual turmoil I was going through at the time, and God used it to open my eyes to the fact that I’d spent years trying to make Him (and everyone else around me) be pleased with me instead of trying to please Him. Every page of this book made me feel less alone, less hopeless, less lost. My relationship with God did a 180 turn and I’ve been going through a transformation I had begun to despair I’d ever experience.

The Rabbi’s Heartbeat by Brennan Manning – I’ve read this little book three times in the last couple of years. The second time was in one sitting, a few weeks before I read The Cure. I wept and wept as it touched a deep place inside, a place that found it hard to believe God truly loved me. It helped me better understand the kind of intimacy I could experience with God. Another game-changer.

Your Future Self Will Thank You by Drew Dyck – If you struggle with self-discipline and self-control and feel frustrated by failed attempts to form new habits, read this. It’s full of biblical wisdom and practical tips, woven with humour and backed up with brain science. It helped me shift the way I approach self-control and I’ve started to see good progress with my goals!

The Sensible Shoes series by Sharon Garlough Brown – These books read like novels but are packed, packed, packed with insights and encouragement about the journey of spiritual transformation we go through as we submit our lives to Jesus Christ. I was especially touched by the character Hannah as her story mirrored mine in some ways. (Fun fact: I got my ears pierced in January because of her!)

Influence by Kate Motaung and Shannon Popkin – Every Christian who is a writer or speaker or “influencer” of some sort needs to read this little book. The authors help make sense of the condundrum we all face: How do I market my work without making it all about me instead of God? Insightful and inspired.

Free to Lean by Jocelyn Green – I’ve read all eight of Jocelyn’s fantastic historical fiction books but this little non-fiction number is my favourite. It’s a breath of fresh air for those of us who feel weighed down by the pressure to be everything and do everything. Stop. Read this book.

Other books I highly recommend:

Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson

Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Lies Women Believe by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Sex and the Single Girl by Juli Slattery

Me, Myself and Bob by Phil Vischer

The Minister’s Wife by Karen Stiller

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins