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Wake Up To Wonder

Karen Wright Marsh
Published by Baker in 2023

As the world burns, as human death tolls rise, wars rage, earthquakes decimate, I confess, I struggle to see and experience wonder. How does one create a routine of presence amidst the chaos and trauma?  

I was curious to read, Wake Up to Wonder, by Karen Wright Marsh to see what I might discover. Marsh writes each chapter as a gracious invite to wake up to the wonder in the ordinary everyday. 

Marsh opens her book with her own “Aha” moment of awareness. She writes, “At some point, I had a revelation. It was nothing profound, really but it caused a lasting change in me. I realized this: I don’t need to find and follow the perfect plan. (What a relief!) What I truly need is people I can follow–older sisters, brothers, mentors, spiritual friends who have been this way before.” 

Leaning on the wisdom of those who have walked this earth before us is both inspiring and comforting. With each chapter, Marsh reminds us through stories of fellow travelers that we are not on this journey alone.

She frames the chapters with a call to: Wake up. Reach Out. Go Deep. Dwell. Each chapter invites us to practice wonder through stories, journal prompts and practical tips. I find this invitation particularly poignant at a time when attention may just be our most valuable resource.  The small box we carry in our hands everywhere we go keeps us on high alert to the value of this resource. So, I leave my phone in the other room as I pull up a chair with Marsh.

Wake Up.  Marsh introduces us to Hildegard Von Bingen (ca.1098-1179) who prioritized health and healing of the body and the medicinal value of the natural world. Marsh then shares her own story, where we are transported to a mealtime with her grandmother, Betty Weible Sweet, who shared a love for garden-fresh food. At the end of each chapter, Marsh includes a, “Try this,” with practical ways to explore and practice what has been discovered. In this case, she shares nourishing recipes and encourages the reader to pay attention to the nourishment of the body. I loved the creative ease of this invitation.

Reach Out. Seeing wonder in the everyday takes practice. Maybe that practice looks like creation care. Maybe that practice involves kneeling down, grasping handfuls of soil, dropping seeds and inviting others to join you. Marsh shares Dr. Wangari Maathai’s story of using her area of study to grow and heal, not just the land of her ancestors, but the whole community. Maathai invited and empowered Kenyan women to plant millions of trees and to join her in what became the Green Belt Movement. As Marsh explains, “[This movement] planted more than trees; it planted ideas about managing natural resources, sustainable and equitably. It planted ideas about democracy and human rights.” As Marsh shares one woman’s story, she reflects on her own and invites us to pause and consider how our spirituality connects with creation care. What does it look like in the practices of our daily lives?  

Go Deep. Review The News. Wait, what? I am grateful to Marsh for including this invitation.  She does it with awareness and care. Her invitation is also a challenge, I think, to be intentional about our news consumption, to look deeper, to consider the source and to set a limited time. In her challenge to consider the source, she shares the story of two young University of Munich students, Hans and Sophie School, who, during WWII, recognized Nazi propaganda and created their own resistance publications. I came away from reading this section asking myself questions: What are my habits? Do I engage sources that offer an opposing perspective from my own? Do I dig deep for understanding?  For my practice, I decided to slow down the intake and have a newspaper delivered to my doorstep. It creates a daily ritual of engagement I look forward to rather than dread. 

Dwell. In this last section, we are introduced to Brother Lawrence and his practice of presence.  Marsh writes, “He determined to pursue one single purpose: to go through each day and every hour with a moment-by-moment attention to God–Over time, Brother Lawrence’s intention became practice; practice became habit; habit became an ongoing conversation with God.” Marsh describes her own intention beautifully and simply, as a “micro commitment–words that I plan to take along the way–something I can reach for even in the disruption, noise, and activity. To help me toward deep listening for God, for myself.” I find this invitation so utterly simple and yet essential. It is a subtle grounding act, almost subversive, this deep listening. 

As Marsh closes, she reflects, “I have been learning that the richest spiritual life is not about achievement. It’s about amazement. It’s not about labor. It’s about play.” The beauty of this book is both how it is packed with stories, of historical sinners and saints, as well as the stories from her own life; and filled with tips and concrete accessible ways to engage, practice, reflect and act. We are invited to be curious and playful as we begin to Wake Up to Wonder.

Kerin Beauchamp

Kerin Beauchamp teaches English as a second language to Newcomers to Dallas, TX.  She is an accidental activist, a reluctant Enneagram novice, an accomplished trail wanderer and an expert procrastinator.

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