Words of Wonder - September 2022



How have you encountered wonder lately – and how can you best respond to that gift of inspiration? Wonder doesn’t leave us the same; it changes us. Every encounter has the power to spark positive change in our lives, as we reflect on it, pray about it, and ask God to show us what to do about it.


This month, I’m reflecting on a family heritage trip to Germany we enjoyed over the summer together. We were grateful for the opportunity to visit the places where many of our ancestors lived. As I write in Wake Up to Wonder, traveling is a powerful way to experience lifelong learning that leads to wonder. Our German trip opened my mind and heart more, just like every other trip I’ve ever taken. But this trip was particularly special, since it had been long delayed by the pandemic, and since it helped us connect more deeply with our family’s past. My husband and I both have ancestors who lived in the various kingdoms that now make up Germany’s federal states. Many of those ancestors lived and worked along the Rhine River, which features a myriad of picturesque villages that each looks like it’s from a fairytale: A romantic stone castle, a lovely church with a high steeple, and an array of charming houses and business buildings. We took a boat cruise on the Rhine to soak in the wonder of it all. As our boat floated from village to village, we talked about how we felt like we had become characters inside a fairytale scene built with Lego bricks. It was as if we were Lego figures placed inside a fantasy creation, where everything looked so wondrous that it seemed perfect. When we had to leave the boat, it felt like we had been scooped up by a child who had built that wonderful world and was now taking us back to reality.


It was a shock to see how much the Rhine had dried up shortly after our trip, during Europe’s recent severe drought. Climate change had caused the Rhine’s water to disappear so much that it hit unprecedented low levels. The photos I’ve seen on the news lately look nothing like the wondrous beauty we experienced just a short time ago. The pebbles on the riverbed are exposed, scores of fish and other wildlife have died, and boats can no longer travel the length of the Rhine to deliver goods that are vital to Europe’s economy. When I ponder how quickly that all happened, it makes me all the more determined to do whatever I can to help our planet. Our family supports a variety of environmental organizations, and the wonder we experience in nature regularly inspires us to renew our commitment to environmental work. Nature reflects God’s wondrous qualities (Romans 1:20) and taking good care of it is a sacred assignment that God has given us (Genesis 1:26). Wake Up to Wonder includes a chapter on nature, and I’ve written a lot about wonder and nature on this blog and for Crosswalk.com. Lately, I’ve written all sorts of new articles for Crosswalk.com, which you can find on my Crosswalk.com author page. Hope you enjoy!


September brings a rush of new activities into our lives – at work, school, home, and beyond. Making time to pursue wonder and paying attention to what it means for us is especially challenging when we’re rushed. We always need to be intentional about looking for the wonder around us, but even more so during especially busy seasons like September. As summer transitions into fall, simply stopping to reflect on a regular basis (rather than just rushing from activity to activity) can reset our minds. Then we can notice more wonder around us and consider what God may be saying to us through that wonder.


Blessings,

Whitney