“I wonder as I wander out under the sky why Jesus our Savior has come for to die for poor orn’ry people like you and like I; I wonder as I wander out under the sky.”

The Appalachian folksong, “I Wonder as I Wander,” has haunted me since I was a young teenager. One of the Dominican sisters who taught English sang it at our high school assembly before Christmas break. Sr. Caitlin was a witty, wise-cracking young woman, full of mirth and practical jokes. When she stepped up to the microphone, no one expected the emotional “wondering” that came from the depths of her powerful voice and beautiful soul. She forever changed my perception of wonder that day.

I generally do not make resolutions on January first. In the olden days, I would take my three daughters to the beach and we would each make a list of prayer requests that I would tuck into my bible and then not look at until the following New Year’s Day. We were always filled with wonder when we opened the list again. Soccer games had been won, and math tests conquered. Squabbles with friends were long forgotten and sick dogs and cats well again. It was always amazing how many prayers got answered, which was a good lesson about seeing life full of abundance and grace.

Although we no longer participate in this exact ritual, (they are all mothers with children of their own) I still spend a fair amount of time ruminating over my personal prayer list on New Year’s Day. I call this “wondering.” I wonder why some prayers get answered exactly the way I think they should while others remain open-ended. I wonder why human beings are still so cruel to one another; why we do not share resources so that all people can have food and clean water. I wonder why we want to fight over images of God, of who is and who is not in heaven; why we quibble about doctrines and words to creeds. I wonder about the world-wide pandemic, when it will end, what good has come out of the devastation. The list goes on.

There is another kind of wondering I do on January first. I wonder over the beauty of nature, the perfection of a child’s face, the random acts of kindness that spill out of ordinary circumstances. I feel wonder arising when I think of so many friends who have loved and supported me when I was too busy to notice. I wonder that I have lived twenty-two years into the new millennium and can still feel enchanted by wonderful things.

Today, the prayer list includes a request for your New Year: may the next twelve months bring you many experiences of wonder.

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