The Rothko Sky and the Slow Movement of Hope

A friend recently enlisted me in a photography project; the first assignment was 2D photographs. Yesterday I stuffed my iPhone in my pocket as I went for a hike, occasionally shooting my shadows (confession: I’m easily mesmerized by my shadow).




Then I looked up. At first glance the sky looked like a flat blue, one of those double-coated paint jobs. It seemed a bit too bright and boring for an Ash Wednesday.

But then I kept looking.

It wasn’t until I snapped a photo that I really began to see. The blue moved slowly across the frame, rivaling the finest of Rothkos.

By Mark Rothko

By Mark Rothko

I was reminded of the power of framing things—framing seasons in life, framing perspectives, framing hope.


I can so easily lose sight of hopeful shifts, of growth, of actual transformation. I live in a world where things can change. I embrace a faith where hope invades, even if ever so subtly.


Lent creates a forty-day frame. One where we’re invited to pause, isolate a time for certain prayers, look for light, and see the slow movement of hope—hope in the Story of God, hope in our own hearts, hope in the flat blue of a world around us.


God, teach me to see.


Wonder = Now + Then x What Might Be

[Part 1]

Here’s what I’m discovering: wonder gets lost when I’m not present in the moment. When I’m consumed with the regrets of the past or concerned about the future I invariably miss out on the wonder of now. My vision blurs and I lose sight of the little and large gifts right in my midst.

As I’m in the throes of transition—searching for work and not knowing where in the world I’ll live in the coming months—staying in the moment doesn’t come natural. Nonetheless…

Wonder requires presence.

Yet, here’s the curious paradox: wonder can intensify with memory.

I just spent ten days on the East Coast. During that time I had the opportunity to visit family and friends, patron old haunts and pass by two of my childhood homes. Memories enveloped me. On the front-end of my trip I traveled with my sweet mom to Bennettsville, SC (think Deep South charm with bonus fame of Aziz Ansari’s hometown). There my aunt and uncle run The Breeden Inn, a stunning antebellum Bed and Breakfast. For years and years they have generously let me come for family gatherings, needed rest and writing retreats. It’s particularly been a special haven during seasons of transition.

The Breeden Inn

The Breeden Inn


As I ran by Lake James, as I have so many times before, I was struck anew by its beauty—the light diving into the water and the birds partying on tree limbs. I had admired this view in the midst of so many seasons of life. Memories of runs before came rushing back—runs post-college angst, post-living-abroad reverse culture shock, post heartbreaks—runs with my head and heart wondering what’s next, prayers whispered in the spaces between strides.

I had puzzled through book chapters and dreamt about adventures ahead as I gazed at the glory of this little lake. My gratitude became more vivid as I recalled how generous God had been through the years—getting me out of tight squeezes, and inviting me on adventures I couldn’t have imagined on my own.

Lake James

Lake James


That little lake helped me realize: Familiar places of beauty can serve as a map for memories.

They can create a grid for our experiences and orient us to the movement of our lives—ultimately intensifying a sense of wonder as we’re reminded that we’ve made it through challenges (perhaps some seeming insurmountable at the time), and beckon us to celebrate dreams turned reality.


The respite of The Breeden Inn and Lake James has been a gorgeous gift through the years. And wherever I’ve lived I’ve tried to find a local place of beauty. I call it my Vacation Land. It’s typically a nearby greenway, hiking trail or public park that I frequent. I love the rhythm of going to the same place during different seasons of the year, seeing how light reshapes the same scene, and processing and praying through the shifts of hope and heartbreak in my ever moving life.

If you haven’t consciously chosen your own map for memories—a place of familiar beauty—I can’t resist encouraging you to do so. Find a place that hems you in with a sense of home and strikes you with wonder…and go there as often as you can.

Cathy Fromme Prairie: my current Vacation Land.

Cathy Fromme Prairie: my current Vacation Land.



On this recent trip I also noticed that not only places hold a power to trigger memories—and intensify wonder—but friends and family can too. Admittedly I have an uncanny ability to forget swaths of my life, often very lovely swaths.

As I was preparing for the trip I shared with a dear friend that I had some anxiety about an upcoming speaking opportunity. He reminded me that he heard me speak on the same topic a couple of months ago, and how well it went. I had totally forgotten that experience. The fact that he had been there mattered. I was deeply encouraged by that reminder; it freed me up to approach the next speaking engagement with a greater sense of joy and peace.

A few days later while in Charlotte I was with another dear friend who I’ve known for over a decade. She was sharing about a leadership challenge her husband was facing. It was such fun to remind her of prayers prayed and desires expressed years and years ago that he would see himself as a leader. That desire, those prayers, had been so thoroughly fulfilled we both were astonished. It was in the remembering that a deeper amazement came.

Especially in this time of transition I’m realizing the fortune of my friendships. They curate the gallery of my experiences with a sacred trust.

Anne Lamott framed it so well for me when I recently heard her speak. In her off-the-cuff, profound way she said something like this: The reason I have such devout faith is because I have impeccable friends.

I can’t help but believe: We’re designed to have companions on the journey to give interpretation to our fears, hopes, dreams and prayers.

So the question emerges: Who are the curators of your memories? Who can you entrust your curate experiences–believing they can help you better understand them in the future?

And here’s another paradox: Wonder benefits from dreaming.

I’ll explore this concept in the next post. And as a parting shot here’s a little something, something from the television show The Wonder Years (why not):

“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”

May familiar beautiful places map your memories and impeccable friends curate them.

What is Wonder Worth?

This week as I jogged through prairies and hiked up foothills and meandered about with coffee in hand, I contemplated the worth of wonder. Here are my musings…I’d love to hear yours. Do share. IMG_1459

What is wonder worth?

If all that caused me to render words useless, to halt my step, to slack my jaw, if all that somehow vanished…

If all that enticed my unconscious toward gratitude or called my curiosity to come and play, if all that succumbs to extinction…

If the numinous, the ineffable, the source of unexplainable beauty breathed no more…

My joy would die with it.

What is wonder worth? All the joy in my world.


What has wonder cost me?

Faster heartbeats and the slowing of time.

“Thank yous” whispered, some aloud.

A glance turned to a gaze.


I could have paid more.


An early morn to meet the rising sun.

A longer drive to chase a harvest moon.

On a rare day, a prayer on my knees.


I should have paid more.


A handwritten note.

A “I love you, too.”

A stooping low to meet a child’s eyes.


It has cost me so little, but I’ve promised it my heart.


Oh, to keep my promise.


What would I give for more?

I’d like to think I’d exchange the comfort of distraction for the rigor of intention.

On a good day I’d trade the ease of entertainment for the posture of surprise.

But could I barter this?

Control, the illusion I cling to.

My defenses, the power I wield to guard my broken heart.

Entitlement and pride for the fair market price of gratitude and awe.

I desire to desire that–to give my heart to higher loves.


How would life be poorer without wonder?

A desert without flowers.

A moon without light.

A mother without child.

A hope without cause.


The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.”Abraham Joshua Heschel


Now for you…I’m curious how you might respond:

What is wonder worth?

What has it cost you?

What would you give for more?

How would your life be poorer without it?


Less Stuff. More Life.

Dee William's Big Tiny

Dee William’s Big Tiny

A year in my twenties I lived without a permanent address. It remains one of the richest years of my life.


I strung together a loose line-up of house-sitting, dog-sitting, cat-sitting and kid-sitting gigs. All that sitting helped contend with my unshakable habit of eating and enabled me to hit the road for a multi-month backpacking trip through Europe. I then headed to California and lived with friends as I worked for a non-profit.


I survived on baguettes and yogurt and surveyed some of the world’s finest art and architecture. It was a season in life when all my belongings fit into a couple of suitcases that I stuffed in my little Honda.


But I was in my twenties.


While I still relish adventure, those days are 10, 000 purchases ago. Fifteen or so years later, what could that life of simplicity look like?


I recently got to interview an extraordinary woman who is living one extravagant life…with less. And, she’s beyond her twenties.


Dee Williams resides in an 80-sq ft house. Her home fits into a parking space; it’s the size of an area rug. It contains approximately 300 items, a lower count than many junk drawers.


Dee’s journey to less came rather unconventionally. At age forty, Dee was living the American dream. She owned a three-bedroom house with a bloated garage and had a fulltime job, with heaps of stress. And then, she had a heart attack.


Instead of a massive medical procedure, she opted to radically minimize her life. With the precision of a surgeon, she removed anything blocking her joy and causing her anxiety.


She sold her house, cut her belongings to bare essentials, and reduced her work to part-time. She built herself a tiny house for $10, 000, customizing every inch. Her utility bills are approximately $8 in the winter; her electricity comes from solar panels.


She’s now liberated to lavish time and resources on family, friends, neighbors, and causes.


I loved meeting Dee; there’s nothing self-congratulating about her. She seems to live with a generous smirk and light-heartedness in the midst of all her intentionality.


Yet, as I reflect on Dee and her tiny house and big life I’m enticed to ask what does her story call out of me, especially as I endeavor to live 365 Days of Wonder.


Dee’s life seems to brim with wonder—spacious with gratitude, relationally rich. Radically reducing clutter and drastically cutting down stress has freed her to be more present to people, and to the life she has been given.


So, a question that emerges for me: Do I have a relationship with my belongings that liberates me or limits me to love others–from those next door to those around the world?


If I pay attention to this question, I suspect there are closets to clean out, goods to sell, neighbors to invite to diner, and causes to more intentionally engage.


Thanks, Dee, for a snapshot of a more expansive life, one packed with wonder.


Here’s a look at the trailer for the Lifetree Café story I did on Dee Williams:


If you’d like to explore Dee’s story further she wrote a winsome book called The Big Tiny. I highly recommend it. Her story will also be shown at Lifetree Cafes across the country.


Can’t resist the question: What questions/responses does Dee’s story ask of you?


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