You’ve Invited God into Your Life–What About Your Day?

Image result for atm machines for prayer (Uncredited photo from Bing Images)

Does prayer make a difference? Most of us know that God isn’t exactly a wish bank: Insert your wish like an ATM card and pull out your heart’s desire. Um, no. Doesn’t exactly work that way. But what, exactly, does prayer do?

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot this week as I’ve been weeding and weeding and yes, more weeding. I’ve been weeding our yard, AND boxes of cards and letters. Both activities have given me time to reflect on those heart-felt prayers from years–even decades ago–that have been so faithfully answered. Time gone by has helped me see why God might have slapped big-old WAIT or DETOUR signs on some of those fervent prayers of long ago. (Maybe for people today his messages sound more like Garmin’s “Recalculating.”?)

All those cards and letters reflected the “biggies” in life–my friends and I contemplated who to marry, what we should do with our lives, children. We prayed for, and encouraged each other,, and no, those letters I can’t “weed” out. But what about today? Does God just want to be at the center of the “biggies” in our life? Does God also care about that other patch of weeds I’ve been tackling (otherwise known as our backyard)? That Facebook post I’m thinking of writing? This blog post? What about the Skype visit earlier this week with a great group of kids at a big church in Ohio that’s using Sophie’s Quest as a book club book this summer?

Speaking of Sophie, prayer is also a major theme in the third Sophie book! Sophie and her friends may not have homes as the City is bankrupt and might need to sell off the Park for condos. What can be done? Sophie hatches a plan, and it’s a bit desperate, but it might just work. One small problem, though–she forgets to invite Sky Painter in to her planning  and to ask him if this rather crazy scheme is something she should do. And that’s actually a big problem.

Do you forget to ask God in to the planning of things, big and small? Do you forget how faithful He’s been in the past and think you’ve got to do everything on your plate by yourself? I often forget that God is a rather polite God–He wants to be invited to come along! And, wow, can He make a difference when He shows up!

Wednesday morning, I was preparing for the Skype visit with the book club. No sweat, I thought! I talk to kids all the time! Then I started to think about it some more. I didn’t know these kids, or these leaders. It had all come up pretty spontaneously and we didn’t actually have a plan for the conversation–did they expect a presentation? Would they have questions? What if my own questions fell flat? What if they haven’t read much of the book yet and I can’t think of anything to say without spoiling the story? How long was the Skype visit going to be, anyway? Why, oh, why hadn’t I planned for this better?

Before I knew it, my hands were folded and my eyes were closed and I rather desperately invited God to be part of our conversation. To go before us. To be with us. To not let me say anything that He didn’t want me to say, and to help me remember to say all the things He did want me to say.

Long story short, the visit was fun! I even got a note from one of the leaders, telling me that “The Holy Spirit was so present during that meeting. I love seeing God work up close and personal, and you were such a big part of that!” Wow. Thanks, God!

No one has prayer “figured out.” It certainly doesn’t always turn out the way we expect or hope. But what I can say, is that God wants to be part of our day,for all the big and small things. When what we are doing is not “all about us,” it doesn’t have to be “all UP to us.” May God be part of your day today. Why don’t you ask?

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Mathew 7:7-8

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What can be a Window AND a Mirror? A Book, Of Course!

 

 

Longtime readers of this blog might remember that I’ve posted a few times on cultural tidbits that Ethiopian students at my school have shared with me. I’ve been blessed to hear their stories, to see their palm branch rings worn proudly on their hands after Orthodox Palm Sunday, to sense the pain of a community after bad news from their home country hit the airwaves. My students have given me a window into their world.

I went searching for a book about an Ethiopian child after one of our students confessed to the librarian and myself that she had never read a book that was a mirror for her–one where she could see herself in the story. We had just finished watching Grace Lin’s amazing Tedd talk on books being windows and mirrors for kids, and how important that it is to find books where we can see ourselves in the pages, along with using them as a window to see how others might live and feel.

After a Twitter inquiry, a librarian in the district suggested The Storyteller’s Beads, by Jane Kurtz, about an Ethiopian refugee family. It’s great, and I highly recommend it! That book led me to agreeing to review the author’s newest book, Planet Jupiter, featuring an Ethiopian child who moves in with very unorthodox distant relatives when a series of tragic and sad events forced a big change in her life.

This book won’t teach you much about Ethiopia (it hints at the Ethiopian’s Orthodox background when Edom, the child in need of a home, balks at eating pork, but doesn’t go any further in illustrating her faith or her life in Ethiopia), but it did provide me a very interesting window into the world of a child thrust into a very different family and into a very different culture. The way Edom and Jupiter–a very independent, free-spirited kind of girl–learn to relate and work together felt very authentic, filled with misconceptions and wrong assumptions, and eventually, a growing sense of respect and, well, family!

The family Edom has made her way into is a family unlike any I have ever read about, which gave me a window into a completely different lifestyle from my own. Jupiter’s family “busks” music and goods at street festivals, and the next meal is always a little uncertain. The longing Jupiter feels for an absent father, whose ultra free-spirited ways make the rest of them look down-right boring, and her desire to be like him, tugged at my heart strings and made me feel sad for her. I have to admit that I felt a certain, underlying sense of anxiety through much of the reading of the book–probably because I very much like knowing where my next meal is coming from!

If you wonder what it might be like, though, to be living a busking kind of life and to understand how hard it might be for the many immigrants and refugees in Seattle (and around the world), Planet Jupiter is a warm-hearted, unique place to start.

Posted in Being a Good Neighbor, Diversity, Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Zombie Apocalypse or Breath of God: A Life Choice

Zombies move and act alive–sort of. They don’t actually possess the breath of life, which means they’re actually, deceptively dead. Are you–am I–living a zombie sort of life?

On Memorial Day, Jeff and I watched a movie about D-Day (see previous blog post about “Picking at a Societal Scab”). It concluded with a voice-over of a modern-day soldier who had lost a limb (or two) when a bomb exploded near the place he stood in Afghanistan. The young man said that as he was healing, as he was struggling to simply survive, he reflected on how the most important thing in this life wasn’t next year, or next month, or next week, or even any plans he might have for the next day, but the most important, wonderful thing was simply the next breath. If he could do that, then he might be able to have the courage and strength to take another one.

Breathing, simply breathing.

After hearing that, and for the next couple of weeks, I’ve had the hymn, “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” running through my head. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when we sang it at church the very next Sunday, and that I’ve heard at least two or three messages on the topic in just the past couple of weeks. That’s the way God seems to work when he wants me to pay a little closer attention to something.

Dr. Sara Koenig, professor at Seattle Pacific University, spoke at a recent commencement gathering about how the present moment is about as long as it takes for you to breathe in and out–about three seconds. She asked the graduates to try to be fully present, fully engaged with the work they will be doing, and also to be fully present with the people they encounter, for as many of these precious, present moments as they can–and then to be sure and celebrate all the good ones!

As I keep singing “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” while doing crossing guard duty, repairing piles of ripped and broken books in my school library, shelving the last books to come back at the end of the school year, I’ve been pondering what it would look like if we all asked God to be part of that next, most important, present moment. To fill that next breath with his Spirit’s peace, his love for others, his patience, his joy–even if those others we are surrounded by have different belief systems or political points of view, or even if they cut us off on the highway. What if we were to grab hold of God’s promised abundant life, moment by moment?

What kind of a difference would that make in my life? In the lives of those I encounter, both stranger and friend? Sometimes it feels easier to wander through a day more like a zombie, not letting God reach through each moment to make a loving difference to each student or co-worker or personwe pass on the street.

Yet, choosing life this moment, and then maybe the next moment, doesn’t feel so hard, does it? We can trust God with the moment after that.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Click on the link to hear the hymn!

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-24

Posted in Being a Good Neighbor, Faith, Loving our Neighbors | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

First Mount Rainier-based Interview!

Connecting Kids with Nature! That’s the cool theme of my friend, Maria Marshall’s, great blog. She asked if she could interview me regarding my newest book, Mount Rainier’s Historic Inns and Lodges, and even though it’s not exactly a kids’ book, kids at my school last week were thanking me for writing a book about history!

Enjoy, and be sure to explore the rest of her great blog!

http://www.mariacmarshall.com/single-post/2017/06/05/The-Picture-Book-Buzz—Interview-with-Sonja-Anderson

By the way, thank you to everyone who came to our book launch party yesterday! I wish I could spend more time chatting with everyone who came. If you missed it, Jeff and I will be at the Westwood Village Barnes and Noble on Friday, July 7th, at 7 pm, and up at Paradise Inn on July 1st for their Centennial Celebration! A Federal Way Barnes and Noble event to be announced soon.

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Women in Faith and Fiction Interview!

Good morning, readers! Gail Johnson hosts an amazing blog filled with inspirational thoughts and interviews with women who write inspirational fiction. I’m blessed with being a part of it today!

Check it out here: https://centerofhiswheel.com/2017/05/30/women-of-faith-and-fiction-sonja-anderson/?fb_action_ids=1581495565196380&fb_action_types=news.publishes

Be sure to explore her blog and follow it, too, so you never miss one of her great posts!

Also, if you’re in the Seattle area, you are invited to the BOOK LAUNCH PARTY for Jeff’s and my new book, MOUNT RAINIER’S HISTORIC INNS AND LODGES! Catch us at the Burien Library on Sunday, June 4, 2017, from 2:30 -4:30. Learn some fun facts about our favorite Mountain, and maybe win a small prize!

 

 

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So, Who Published Sophie’s Quest, Anyway? A Pretty Fascinating Person!

Sunpenny Publishing Group has been conducting a series of interviews with all of their authors (led by Val Poore, a barge-living woman in the Netherlands, who is pretty fascinating herself!)

The authors come from all over the globe. What is interesting about Jo Holloway, our publisher, is that she herself seems to come from all over the globe!

Read more about her interesting life in Africa, sailing the Indian Ocean, and more:

http://www.sunpennyblog.com/2017/04/author-interview-with-jo-holloway.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SunpennyPublishingandImprints+%28Sunpenny+Publishing+%28and+Imprints%29%29

I know one thing is for sure–I’m very grateful that she developed a fascination for sailing somewhere along the way, because that is one thing that helped her be interested in Sophie!

Speaking of Sophie’s Quest, if you know of anyone with a Kindle, it’s on sale right now for just 99 cents.

Click here for the link! https://www.amazon.com/Sophies-Quest-Sonja-Anderson-ebook/dp/B01G7CKNYW/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1492113355&sr=8-1&keywords=sophie%27s+quest

 

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Picking at a Societal Scab

Those scabs. Hard and crusty on top, raw and bleeding underneath–and oh, so hard to keep away from! Especially when they were big, say from tripping on the sidewalk and skinning your knees, and especially when I was little. I couldn’t stop picking at them, even when it hurt.

We recently switched from one provider to another for our TV, and we discovered channels we never knew existed. One of these, AHC (no idea what it stands for, but we call it “America’s Hitler Channel” because documentaries on Hitler’s life seem to be playing all the time), has become like a scab I can’t stop picking at.

I’ve always known about Hitler’s atrocities, of course, and will never forget the scenes I was shown at school on a big screen of the staring, skeletal bodies being rescued from a concentration camp, along with piles of hair and shoes and other haunting images. But now, as an adult, I find that I’m drawn to watch documentaries of Hitler’s early days, and his rise of power.

Questions keep surfacing: How did nice German people, Christians, many of them, not recognize a monster and stop him before it was too late? How did they start calling him their savior of all things? How did they go along with demands to teach German kids to hate, mock, and eventually exterminate their Jewish neighbors and former playmates?

And, like a scab, a really deep and painful one that I can’t stop picking at, I keep watching the scenes of brutality and systematic murder that go far beyond even the horrific images I saw a school child. If that wasn’t enough, I keep checking books out of my library and reading those, too: Irena’s Children, Escape from Warsaw, Hitler, and others.

Why torture myself? Several reasons, if I can even put words to it. I want to know the depths to which humans can drive themselves and others, and not forget. I want to empathize with those who were hurt, to read about the thousands of children who were left to fend for themselves after their parents were dragged away, to wonder if I would have had the courage to stand up against those who were committing such crimes against humanity. I’ve been too aware through this unprecedented political season that I’m basically a chicken when it comes to expressing views I know others–others who are important to me–will disagree with.

Mostly, I want to remain aware of the ways that a divided society can attack itself.

We, my dear readers, are a divided society right now. Refugees fleeing terrible situations are not as welcome here as they were a few months ago. Some children in my own city are scared to go to school because of worries about bullies or immigration status, and people within my own circle of acquaintances don’t agree on what should be done about just this one issue, let alone all the other things that divide us.

I miss the days when an argument could be called a “good old argument.” People duking it out with words as they tried convince one another through the merits of their points. People who, schooled in the Ten Commandments, at heart recognized that the other person was loved by God and made in His image, no matter how much they disagreed with one another.

Do we still believe that? I had to wonder this week when I read an article saying that James Dobson, a Christian church leader, was advocating for all Christians to leave the public schools. I hope that it was “fake news.” Because otherwise, it’s a call to abandon all those beautiful children who are made in God’s image, wherever they come from. It’s a call to abandon the amazing school staffs who valiantly work to educate ANY child who comes through the doors, no matter how prepared or unprepared for school they are. I’d like to see James Dobson try to do what all the educators at my school pull off on a daily basis.

Maybe more of us should be picking at our World War II scabs. Maybe, just maybe, Christians are missing the challenge–and opportunity–of our generation.

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New Book Title Revealed!

Val Poore, Sunpenny author from the Netherlands, honored me with this interview for the Sunpenny blog.

Click and read, esp. you Pacific NW dwellers/lovers, for the title of a brand new book Jeff and I wrote together.

http://www.sunpennyblog.com/2017/02/interview-with-sonja-anderson-author-of.html?spref=tw

Here’s a hint: mount-rainier-and-familyThis picture of Jeff and me and our daughters was taken at Van Trump Park, part of the setting of this new book! Make your guess in the comments before reading the interview!

By the way, this was a hours-long, hard slog up and up and up. One of my prouder moments that I actually made it! We even saw bears!

 

Posted in Interview, Writing | Tagged | 5 Comments

New Book Hints, and Introduction of a New Blog Series!

 

 

Did you know? Sunpenny authors come from Italy, Australia, the Netherlands, and many more interesting places. I’m blessed to be one of them through the Sophie Topfeather series!

Val Poore, a Sunpenny author who writes about life on a boat in Europe’s canals (children’s stories and memoirs), is about to launch a new blog series about her fellow authors and how their local environments and communities have helped shape their writing. Seeing that these people come from all over the world, it’s bound to be a very interesting series!

Click on the link at the end to read her introduction to the series, and then look here for the Sunpenny author interviews in the days and weeks to come. I’ll be reposting them on my website. For the first interview, I’m honored to say, she chose me! (For those who subscribe to the Sunpenny blog and my website, my apologies! You’ll be getting it twice).

Read the interview through (when it’s posted in a few days) for a sneak preview of a new book that my husband, Jeff, and I actually researched and wrote together about a very special place here in the great Pacific Northwest! It’s due out in May, and we’ll be releasing the cover and all the details as soon as we can. For those of you who have noticed a distinct lack of blogging from this corner of the web, this new book is a big reason why. It was a lot of work! (But really fun!) Here’s a hint: doing the research involved a lot of trips to Ashford, Washington. Do you know what’s in Ashford?

Click on the link for Val Poore’s introduction to her Sunpenny interviews and some fun pictures of the London Book Fair, where some of us got to meet!

https://sunpenny.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-blog-is-back.html?spref=fb

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Your Work Plus God’s Silence Equals God’s Mighty Plan?

Why is God silent sometimes? Whether or not you’re a writer, you may have wondered this at some point in your life. If that’s you, check out my guest blog post that fellow Christian writer, Dawn Kinzer, asked me to write for the website she helps coordinate, Seriously Write. Then take a look around the rest of her inspirational website!

Click on the link below for the post!

http://seriouslywrite.blogspot.com/2016/11/your-work-silence-gods-mighty-plan-by.html

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone! I am thankful for many things this year, especially my family, but also for the kids who are telling me that they have read Sophie’s Quest three times and they can’t wait for the sequel (released today on Amazon!). Their love for the book and its characters feels especially sweet this year as I reflect on the journey–including periods of puzzling silence–that got the book into their hands.

Blessings to each one of you!
Sonja

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