Let Us Not Grow Weary

Although I spend my days mostly alone in my home office, I have enough access to social media and interact with enough people who stay on top of current news to get my daily fill of what’s happening around the world and locally. Sometimes I wish I could block it all out, however. Know what I mean?

Every day I hear about new developments in political races, international affairs, religious issues and social trends and most of it is discouraging. Just one or two decades ago, when I was a young adult, it seemed like we dealt with one social issue at a time and hashed it out for a while until it either was resolved or blew over. Nowadays it feels like something new needs our attention every day.

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Do you ever wonder,

“How much worse are things going to get? Why doesn’t God do something? When is Jesus coming back?”

Do you ever feel like it’s too hard to keep going as a Christian in a world that is becoming increasingly secular, godless and hostile toward anything that has to do with Jesus and the Word of God? It can be tempting to just give up and “go with the flow.”

There’s a verse that is often on my mind and I find it so motivating that I’ve started adding the reference every time I sign one of my books for someone. Galatians 6:9 reminds us:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

I understand the word “weary” these days more than ever before. I spent most of June trying to recover from a nasty virus that gave me strep throat and an ear infection and, believe me, I grew weary. I didn’t feel like working, I sulked a lot and it took more effort than I wanted to make to accomplish simple tasks.

That’s how I feel sometimes when I look at what’s going on in the world. I think,

“Why bother? What difference can my small acts of service make? How can God possibly use me when the waves of change are so strong and relentless?”

Then God reminds me of little things that make a big difference: the small rudder on a ship that helps steer the huge vessel in the right direction, microscopic white blood cells that fight infections in our bodies, bees the size of your thumbnail that pollinate agricultural crops and are responsible for one-third of the bites of food we eat… The list is long!

You, too, are truly valuable in God’s kingdom!

Still feeling unsure? I encourage you to memorize and prayerfully meditate on Galatians 6:9 this week.



P.S. I have lots of news I’d like to share with you, which is one reason it’s taken me so long to update my blog (I’ve been waiting for a chunk of time to sit down and organize it all). In the meantime, I finally decided to go ahead and share the meditation above with you. I’ll try to write again this week and give you some fun updates and links.🙂

Life as a Tree

Out of all the wonderful things God has created—animals, flowers, mountains, oceans, clouds—trees are possibly my favourite aspect of nature. Whether lacy with snow in winter, freshly budding in spring, shady in summer or fire-red in the fall, I find trees utterly fascinating and often find myself admiring their majesty when walking or driving through a well-treed area.

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quercus macrocarpa (bur oak)

You can imagine my joy, then, when the City of Outremont planted a young tree on our church lawn recently. Last fall they had to uproot an ash tree in that spot because it had been infected by beetles. In its place now stands a somewhat awkward-looking but healthy bur oak.

This new addition to our property got me to thinking about how humans are a lot like infected trees before we meet Christ. Throughout the city, trees that had been attacked and damaged by the emerald ash borer were cut down and destroyed. These trees could not be pruned, patched up, scrubbed or coaxed back into good health. The old trees had to be removed and new trees had to be planted in their place.

Isn’t that a lot like what God does in our lives when we are born again? Our natural selves are infected with sin and condemned to hell. No amount of good works, no matter how sincere, can scrub sin out of our souls. Discipline, positive thinking, religion, self-sacrifice, and philanthropy cannot eliminate the disease of sin we are born with.

We cannot be made alive in Christ until we put our old self to death—not physically, but in a spiritual sense—and allow Him to live in us and renew us.

In Galatians 2:20, Paul said:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

He also wrote:

“In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted…and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Many other verses talk about the importance of being dead to sin and alive in Christ. I especially love how 2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it:

“So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”

How is your life as a tree? Are you still trying to make it on your own, fighting the sin disease alone? Or have you allowed God to give you a new, whole and fruitful life?

Mini Update

While, I’m here, let me catch you up on what’s been happening this past month and what’s coming up. In brief…

  1. It’s my 44th birthday (June 2)! I think I’m finally ready to accept that I’m hitting middle age.🙂
  2. Great news about my new book, Restore My Soul. The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association listed it on its Christian Bestsellers list for May 2016, in 34th position. Check out the list here!
  3. I wrote a guest blog post for my friend Karin Beery, a writer, editor and writing coach, packed with tips on getting your manuscript ready for submission: Polish Before You Publish. Feel free to share the link with friends who are aspiring (or even veteran) writers.
  4. I wrote another guest blog post for my friend Chris Maxwell, a pastor an author. This time I write about my creative process from kindergarten to the recent publication of my devotional colouring book. Check out “Created Creative” here. Perhaps it will inspire you to explore YOUR creative side!
  5. If you can get your hands on a copy of the Summer 2016 issue of The Coloring Studio, published by Stampington & Co., be sure to check out the front inside page. There’s a full-page illustration by me! And I’ll have a couple of illustrations in the fall issue as well. I’m stoked!

Before I go, I just want to remind you that you can connect with me on Instagram and use the hash tags #restoremysoul, #restoremysouldevo or #annhovsepian to share pictures of my colouring book pages that you’ve completed or are working on. I also want to ask you to consider writing a review of Restore My Soul on Amazon as soon as possible. Every review makes a huge difference! If you’d like to see more books from me in the future, I need your help and support.🙂 Thanks so much!

I wish you all a lovely rest of the week. Don’t forget to bloom where you’re planted!

Ann-Margret

 

Wanting to Be Known

In a film I recently watched, a young man asked a woman he was getting to know what she was looking for in a husband. Her response was not one you commonly hear. She simply said:

“I would like to find somebody who I felt knew me very well. I want to be known very well by somebody.”

This statement possibly embodies the deepest desire of the human heart since the beginning of creation. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a romantic relationship—whether the need for connection and acceptance is filled by a parent, sibling, friend or life partner, don’t we all long for the type of relationship in which we can be fully known? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we never felt like we have to hide parts of ourselves to be loved and accepted by others?

Sadly, in seeking out the fulfilment of this need, many people end up putting their trust or hope in relationships or activities that actually have the opposite effect, leaving them feeling ashamed, empty and disappointed. And that perpetuates the cycle of looking for one’s own worth in all the wrong places.

Others may feel satisfied that they have that kind of intimate relationship in their lives and put all their hopes on that one person. This can also be a set-up for disappointment. There is only one guaranteed way to fill the need to be known.

We sometimes forget that we already are known—and loved—fully. There is Someone who knows us “very well” because He made us. We may feel, however, that God cannot fulfil our need for intimacy because He’s too far away and not in the flesh. I am coming to the conclusion that this assumption is the result of not knowing God ourselves.

In Philippians 3:10, Paul said that he wanted to know Christ. Jesus prayed in the garden: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) There are many other Bible verses that talk about the importance of knowing God, His Word and His love. The amazing thing is that it is possible to know God personally and intimately.

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If the young woman in the movie was not willing to know her future husband as well as she expected him to know her, that relationship would not survive for long. In the same way, we cannot expect God’s knowledge of us to be enough to experience joy and peace in our Christian walk. We must be willing to invest the time and effort to get to know Him as well.

I encourage you to read Psalm 139:1-16 for extra reassurance about how well God knows you, His dearly beloved!🙂



Updates

1. You can download three colouring freebies that I created for Tyndale right here! You’ll find a calendar for May, a simple Mother’s Day card and a doodle that you can share on social media.

2. You can also print out and enjoy this free colouring page! (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Serenity Prayer

3. Local friends, don’t forget that the Restore My Soul book launch and colouring party is coming up on Saturday, May 7! Here’s a link to the event information page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/1513355205636290. Please let me know if you need more details.

4. Check out my latest feature in the May/June issue of In Touch magazine!

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Made in Vietnam

“In 2008, Bob Roberts Jr. picked up a chair used during a prayer meeting the night before and noticed a sticker that made him weep. It didn’t bear an inspiring message or Bible verse. It wasn’t a cheery smile or heart. It was a manufacturer’s label that simply indicated where the chair had been made: Vietnam”

 

That’s it for today!🙂 Before I sign off: Please be sure to connect with me on Instagram if you use that app. I’m at www.instagram.com/annhovsepian.

See you later!

Restore My Soul!

Tomorrow’s the big day… the day my first devotional colouring book is released! (It’s already been showing up on store bookshelves and people’s mailboxes so tomorrow’s really only the *official* release date at this point.)🙂 There are already a couple of five-star reviews on Amazon including this gem:

“I would highly recommend this coloring book! I was drawn to all of Ann-Margret Hovsepian’s art work in Whatever is Lovely. She was my favorite artist in that book, so I was thrilled to see she came out with her own! The best part is the devotionals that go along with each coloring page.”

Don’t have a copy yet? Not sure whether you want to order one? Have a sneak peek at the book, thanks to this free download provided by my publisher. If you do have a copy, I’d love it if you posted a review on Amazon (or your bookstore of choice). Thanks!

You can also listen to this recent interview during which I chat about the inspiration behind this book, my journey as an author and my favourite colouring tools.

In the next few days, you’ll also be able to print out a couple of colouring freebies so be sure to watch for those links! I’ll share them here and on Facebook.

Know what else? I have a few more colouring projects in the works, which I’ll tell you about in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a fun ride so buckle up!

My next blog post will be less news-y and more reflection-y. Promise!

Happy Blogday to Me!

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I’m actually a couple of days late but apparently Sunday was the 9th anniversary of my signing up with WordPress. Seems like a good time to post a long-overdue update. (Note: This particular blog doesn’t go back nine years so don’t try to scroll back that far. It’s had a couple of incarnations.)

There has been so much going on! (If this was Instagram, I’d insert half a dozen cute emojis here.)🙂 Here are a few highlights with links and things to check out… And I’ll have more to share in the coming weeks!

 Restore My Soul, my new devotional colouring book, has already started hitting book stores, so be sure to ask for it if you can’t find it on the shelves, or you can order it from several different online retailers. I provide links on my website here.

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I’m finally on Instagram! I wanted to be able to connect with those who buy Restore My Soul and want to share pictures of the pages they’ve coloured. You can join in the fun by following me and searching/using the hashtags #restoremysouldevo and #annhovsepian. I’ve shared sneak peeks at Restore My Soul pages and you’ll also see my latest attempts at doodling, lettering, colouring and more. Lots of colour and lots fun! Click below…

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 On May 7, I’ll be (nervously) hosting a book launch / colouring party in my neighbourhood. I have never attempted anything like this before so I’m not sure what to expect but “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” right?! 1924250_36240912797_2388_nI thought a traditional book signing would be pretty boring so I’ve rented Espace POP on Park Avenue for the day and am inviting everyone to come and spend some time colouring free pages I’ll have on hand while they check out my books and other goodies.
I’m going to whip up crayon and marker rolls similar to this one I made ages ago and have those available, too.

Eek! I have so much to prepare but I can’t wait! If you’re in the Montreal area, please come! Here’s the official Facebook event page.

 In February, a resource I created for Canadian Baptist Women of Ontario & Quebec, including two free colouring pages, went live on their website. You can find it here.

It was a privilege to be asked to participate in a special Holy Week devotional series published by In Touch this month. My piece was for Good Friday and you can read it here (or in your March 2016 devotional, if you’re an In Touch subscriber). Here’s an excerpt:

The cross of Christ is more than the wood His body was nailed to 2,000 years ago. It’s more than a symbol, on churches or jewelry, of what Jesus did for us. The cross we carry must be a consciousness of the debt we owe God and the willingness to live—or die—for Him.

That’s all for today! See you all soon… and don’t forget to connect with me on Instagram and Facebook!🙂

In With the Old, In With the New

First, some seasonal thoughts, and then I’ve got a wee update (as promised in my last post) below.

A common expression we hear around the end of each year is “Out with the old, in with the new.” However, the “wrong” title of my post is actually in reference to something I was thinking about some time ago.

I usually start listening to Christmas music about the third or fourth week of November. Over the years, I’ve noticed that there is always new Christmas music being written and produced — or old songs being redone in a “fresh” new way. We like new things, especially in our Western society where we have short attention spans and get bored of the same thing quickly.

What a challenge it must be for preachers preparing their Christmas sermons, knowing that their listeners might be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard this a hundred times before.” How many different ways can you present the same story, the same message? How many new twists can you give to something so familiar? Do we really need to?

I enjoy new things as much as anyone else, but I am also a lover of vintage treasures and antiques. I cannot throw anything out without first looking at it  and asking myself, “Can I reuse this? Can I salvage and recycle any part of this for some other purpose?” For example, I never toss a magazine without first going through all the pages to pull out any that I can craft into a pretty envelope or use to wrap small gifts.

Of course, even more important than old things are old (or, to be more polite, elderly) people. I hope none of us ever looks for ways to get rid of or “redo” a loved one just because they’ve passed a certain age! No, we cherish them the way they are and sometimes even listen to the same story for the 43rd time. We do this because we recognize the blessing that these people are.

What about the Word of God? What about the two-millennia-old story of Jesus’ birth? Do we really need to try to give it a makeover? I don’t think so!

I do believe, however, that when we hear the old, old story retold, if we listen with an open and seeking heart, God will make it new for us. Christmas becomes fresh and relevant to us when we change, not when we change the music, the props  and the message.

This Christmas, I pray you will enjoy the old… and the new!

christmas divider

And now to let you know what I’ve been up to for the past several months: Over the summer, with the encouragement of persuasive friends, I submitted a proposal for a devotional colouring book to a few publishers. After the usual sitting-at-the-edge-of-my-seat wait, I heard back from Tyndale House. They wanted my book! Amazingly, I got word the very next day from WaterBrook Multnomah asking me to contribute five drawings to a multi-artist colouring book called Whatever Is Lovely (released last week on December 15).

My own book, Restore My Soul, will be released on April 1, 2016. It features 40 devotions, each accompanied by a colouring page that urges the reader to meditate on and respond to the reading, whether that’s right away or during a re-visit later. Please check it out and go ahead and pre-order it! Details about Restore My Soul, including purchase options, and all my other books can be found here. Stay tuned to hear about an exciting book launch / colouring party I’m organizing. In the meantime, here’s a peek at the first of my book covers that I designed myself:

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A couple of other fun things that have been happening:

  1. I’m in love with the astoundingly beautiful art magazine Uppercase and am tickled red (I don’t like pink) that (a) one of my tiny doodles will be included in the 2016 Uppercase calendar and (b) my Puffy Christmas Tree tutorial was featured in a recent Uppercase e-newsletter.
  2. I’ve been invited to teach two workshops next April (which is also book launch month… whew!) First, I’ll be teaching about “Fearless Freelancing” at the 2016 Evangelical Press Association convention and then, a few weeks later, I’ll be at the Canadian Baptist Women of Ontario & Quebec annual conference, leading a class on incorporating colouring into one’s quiet times. At past events I taught workshops on Creative Devotions so this is a great follow-up. I’m excited about both these opportunities!

If you haven’t yet, please “like” my Facebook page (we recently passed 1,000 followers… hooray!) and enjoy daily inspiration.

See you next time!

 

Thoughts on Eternity

I know, I know… It’s been an eternity since I last posted on my blog. So sorry, folks! But I think I might have a good reason. Lots of exciting things have been happening around here and I will be telling you about some of it very soon. Let me just give you a two-word hint for now: COLOURING BOOKS! Oh yeah… *insert joyous Snoopy dance … or Hobbes dance … whichever you prefer!*

Until my next update (which I promise will be before the end of the year), here’s a little something I wrote the other day for my church newsletter. I hope it inspires you. If it does, please leave a comment and share this with a friend!

Thoughts on Eternity

One of the fir trees behind our house, which was barely two feet tall when my father planted it over 30 years ago, had grown to about five storeys high. On June 23, the top seven feet broke off, mercifully falling into our second-storey patio instead of on top of my sister’s car on the other side of our fence. The top two feet or so of the portion that broke off weighed at least 50 pounds, by our estimation. The full seven feet must have weighed at least 200 pounds.

Here’s a little gallery of the photos I took after the treetop tumbled:

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I find it a bit ironic that firs are evergreens but even this hardy tree, which has withstood many winters and storms, was vulnerable under the weight of its own cones. The burden was too great and it cracked.

When Isaiah said, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (40:8), even evergreens were not counted as exceptions. Every created thing, whether human or natural, is finite. From the instant melting of delicate snowflakes to the gradual erosion of majestic mountains, nothing on earth is immune to deterioration.

This serves to highlight the truth and profundity of Isaiah’s proclamation about God’s word. Contrary to what’s on earth, everything about God is infinite and eternal—His power, His wisdom, His holiness, His love. He is not bound by space. He is not limited by time. Nothing can stop Him or contain Him.

Don’t we all long to be that free? Don’t we long to be unburdened of the shackles that weigh us down and slow us down? We want to be strong, pure, brave, wise and good, and we want to live forever? Why is that?

First of all, we must remember that we have all been created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Secondly, as King Solomon put it in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

This hope of eternity, the promise of eternal life, is what keeps us going. As we celebrate Christ’s birth this month, we must remember why He came to earth: to become the sacrifice that would provide a way for us to be reconciled to God and be saved for eternity. John 3:16 says it all: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

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