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.