Call Me Pollyanna: Top Ten Reasons to Feel Hopeful Today

Image result for fema sign image

Tiny, but actual pangs of anxiety have been coursing through my chest lately as I read headlines from Washington and North Korea, and as I try to imagine what others are going through where earthquakes, hurricanes, shootings, and fires have recently struck. It’s not a good feeling. I’m wondering, friends–How are you doing?

In my house, we’ve been mildly joking that as soon as FEMA completely runs out of resources, the “Big One” will hit the Pacific NW, and we’ll be completely on our own. Somehow, it feels too possible to actually find it funny enough to laugh out loud. (My husband went to Costco recently for a big case of water, just in case, so I don’t think he’s laughing too hard either!)

Hope on the ground feels a tiny bit thin at times, to be honest.

So, in this era of threats and tweets, natural disasters, fake and real news and constantly having to discern between the two, I’ve come up with a list of my “Top Ten Reasons Why I Feel Hopeful (and Why You Can, too).” I need this list, and maybe you do, too?

I was going to create a nice, concise set of bullet points, but my tiny little anxiety pangs have actually subsided this week after spending time working on this, so I’ve decided that I need to spend more time with these–not just read them fast in a quick list. If that’s what you need too, I’ll be focusing on one bullet point each blog post, and then I’ll recap them all in a short list at the end.

Number 1:

  1. The sun still rises and sets (pretty spectacularly from my living room window lately, I might add). My God is Lord of all, including nature.

    For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:18). He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45).

God still has a plan for each day, a plan leading to something bigger and better that only he can fully understand. If I trust God, I need to trust that all the disasters (natural and man-made), are ultimately subject to (not saying caused by) God’s bigger plan.

Most importantly, God’s Word tells us that he loves us. He loves me and you and all those folks in dire straits and even our political leaders on the right and the left. He even loves all those football players taking a knee. He made each of us, you see, to be part of his ultimate plan (John 3:16, for a reminder).

So, when Jesus says in Matthew that not a “least stroke of the pen” will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished, and he also says that “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” are the greatest commandments in the Law, maybe I have my answer as to why the sun rose and set again today: I get another chance to try to love God wholly and to love my neighbor as myself.

Have I done that? Have I tried to love God and others as myself in every conversation, in every social media post? In every action, no matter how subtle? Have I neglected to take action or words that would show love to God and others?

Thank you, Lord, for giving me–and all of us–another sunrise and sunset today, for giving us another chance! That’s a reason to hope, because, as it turns out, our hope isn’t “thin on the ground,” but with the Lord!

See next week’s post for Reason to be Hopeful #2~


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Book Club Materials Now LINKED to the Website!

Just a quick follow-up to the blog post from Sunday about the new book club! Thanks to the awesome, FAST, accurate help from the WordPress people, I have now got a link to the materials on the SOPHIE’S QUEST BOOK CLUB PAGE on this website. Just look at the header buttons in that green strip, and find the book club.

Click on that, and then scroll to the bottom. The link to all the materials is just above the Contact Form. If you have any questions about any of it, feel free to use that form to contact me and I’ll try to answer your question or put you in touch with the very nice woman who created the four-week plan.

Feel free to pass on the word to people in your church, school, or neighborhood. The book club strikes me as a fun, unique way to share the gospel and to become a better neighbor by trying to understand our diverse world a little bit better.

Even if we believe different things, God made each person and loves each one enough to die for them! We can show that we love others too, when we try to understand them. I like it when people try to understand me, and you probably feel the same way.

Thanks for sharing about the book club in whatever way feels right to you!

I hope you’re having a great day!


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Book Club Blessings–A Free Gift for You

Courtesy of Cateresa Boston

Have you ever participated in a book club? My oldest daughter and I joined a group that met all through middle school. We met new people, read new books, and heard thoughts and opinions on a wide variety of topics that were often decidedly different than those we heard from our regular circle of friends. While we often didn’t agree with each other and liked different kinds of books, we respected each other and enjoyed our time together a lot.

What I loved most about being in a book club, though, was the time my middle-schooler and I spent in the car together on the way to and from the meetings. We’d chat about some of these decidedly different thoughts and opinions, and it really helped me get to know my daughter in a brand new way; I think it also probably helped her know where I stood on some things, and why.

A surprise book club blessing this summer has brought up a lot of these old memories. A church librarian in Ohio, who had been given a copy of Sophie’s Quest last Christmas (thanks, Mom!) teamed up with a new home-schooling volunteer at her church to create a month-long book club experience using Sophie’s Quest! They had never done a book club at church before, but they made detailed lesson plans, creative snack and craft activities, greatly expanded the discussion questions I had included in an Appendix, and created worksheets to help kids understand literary concepts like the Hero’s Journey, and to think about prayer and the biblical names of God in a new way.

They sent out an invitation. Would anyone even want to come to a book club every Thursday in the middle of the day throughout the month of July? To their surprise and delight, over 20 kids eagerly signed up and showed up! We even Skyped together one week, and I was amazed by their thoughtful questions and enthusiasm for the whole experience. It gives me goosebumps to think about it!

Best of all, the creator of this fun book club has made all of her materials–the thoughtful product of hours and hours of her time–available to me and YOU for FREE! Continue reading

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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.

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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

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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!—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:

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:

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!


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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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