Seasons of Wonder

Making the Ordinary Sacred Through Projects, Prayers, Reflections, and Rituals: A 52-week devotional

About the Book

A 52-week interactive devotional that helps families and friends discover God enfleshed in the world.

“A devotional in the most all-encompassing sense, Seasons of Wonder sets readers on a path that leads to a year filled with more hope, more sweetness, more grace, and more love.”—Margaret Renkl, author of Late Migrations and PEN Award Winner

Seasons of Wonder is designed to allow you to gather together weekly with your loved ones and expand your understanding of divinity, specifically the radical but faithful idea that everything is sacred. This devotional is designed around weekly contemplative activities as well as interactive and transformative practices that connect us to surprise, awe, and wonder, including:

• uncomplicated crafts that honor creation
• simple recipes to make together
• conversation guides to cultivate the gifts of storytelling, deep listening, mystery, and community
• accessible introductions to liturgical observations and rituals
plus four additional weeks of activities that you can incorporate whenever they’re appropriate, such as birthdays, sick days, or when you’re traveling together or blessing your home
In February readers might make a hiking stick to embark on a holy pilgrimage (even if it’s just in the neighborhood) and discover the meaning of Ash Wednesday, while in the summer months they can learn how to cherish the Earth’s seasons of holy pause by making prayer cards, bath salts, or family time capsules alongside the reading of peaceful liturgies and ancient prayers.
Bonnie Smith Whitehouse invites us all to consider the life-changing idea that small, intentional moments of wonder are charged manifestations of the grand presence of Christ in me, in you, and in this dazzling, vast—and imperiled—blue planet we call our beloved home. By spending a short amount of time together with Seasons of Wonder every week this year, you can transform an ordinary meeting into a sacred gathering.
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Praise for Seasons of Wonder

“Getting saved, in Professor Whitehouse's vision, is becoming more whole and less divided in our affections. She invites us to drop the psychic burden of dualistic thinking and to become more attuned to our own resources, whether it's the Bible, Alanis Morrisette, the Tao Che Ting, or an inquisitive child in Star Wars pajamas. Receive her eloquent witness. It is a gift.”—David Dark, author of Life’s Too Short To Pretend You're Not Religious

“Bonnie Smith Whitehouse is a master at metaphor, prose, and possibility.  To read her book, even if you can't always do the daily practices, is a gift that will open wonder and joy into your day. This book is remarkable in vision and in truth.”—Rev. Dr. Becca Stevens, founder and president of Thistle Farms

“In an age of disruption, we are scrambling to find meaningful ways to connect. Seasons Of Wonder is a necessary and timeless gift—a wise, big-hearted, practical invitation to carve out time for holy gatherings with the people we love.”—Ian Morgan Cron, author of The Story of You

“For all of us still trying to know God, Bonnie Smith Whitehouse has created this accessible, delightful, educational companion guide . . . Drawing from contemporary mystics, revered saints, and even pop stars, Whitehouse invites us into a year of sacredness, hope, and ultimately love.”—Heather Lanier, author of Raising a Rare Girl

“Bonnie Smith Whitehouse offers a joyful gift to Christians and seekers in this practical and poetic devotional. This handbook for prayer and life feels like a chat with your wisest friend, and includes suggestions for all ages and stages of life.”—Rev. Claire Brown, author of New Directions for Holy Questions: Progressive Christian Theology for Families

“At a time when it has been increasingly difficult to comfortably show up as a lover of the Lord and an unapologetic Black woman, I found solace in Seasons of Wonder. Bonnie Smith Whitehouse eloquently makes space for little old me to live an expansive life. By removing the oft-imagined barrier between the sacred and the secular, Whitehouse suggests that we can find faith work everywhere . . . I can’t praise it enough.”—Amber O'Neal Johnston, author of A Place to Belong: Celebrating Diversity and Kinship In the Home and Beyond

“In this lovely volume, Bonnie Smith Whitehouse amplifies the value and beauty of the liturgical calendar for families. This treasure trove of activities, crafts, recipes, and spiritual practices are tailored to each month of the year . . . each activity is simple to implement and yet rick with meaning and delight.”—Julie Bogart, author of The Brave Learner and Raising Critical Thinkers and founder of Brave Writer
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Seasons of Wonder


Transcend Dualities

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

—­William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 1, scene 5

Welcome to January! January is named for Janus, a Roman god known for having two faces. One of Janus’s faces peered backward to the past, and the other looked forward to the future. Sculptures of Janus were often attached to gates, and like Janus, we are perched at the end of one year and at the beginning of another. What better time than now to think through some of the deep ideas and beliefs many of us hold? For this month, consider what it might mean to transcend dualities. That’s a very fancy phrase, so let’s simplify.

Right/wrong. Mind/body. Me/you. Male/female. Heads/tails. Tradition/change. Visible/invisible. These are just a few common examples of dualistic thinking, and many of us find ourselves deeply rooted in such either/or thinking. Some Christians even define themselves by asking dualistic questions like: What do you believe? What don’t you believe? Who is in our club? Who is out? What if, instead of centering Christianity around checklists of beliefs, we centered Christianity around the practice and ritual of gathering and celebrating together in hope, respect, and friendship?

Dualistic thinking burdens the imagination. Minds and systems constructed around dualistic thinking have prompted many to separate, fight, and be defensive instead of embracing the mystery, the wonder, and even the wildness that characterized Jesus’ life and teachings.

For example, ponder the parables Jesus used in his teachings; just when you think you might understand one, you realize you actually have no idea what the lesson is supposed to be and you find yourself back inside the mystery. Or, imagine Mary Magdalene’s eyes wide with wonder when she realized the stone at his tomb had been rolled away. And how wild it was when Jesus spit in the dirt and knelt down to make mud to rub in the eyes of that blind man he healed!

Leave good/bad, right/wrong, and us/them behind for the time being, and give your imagination permission to exist and to wander. Jesus taught mercy, grace, reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, hope, and love, and these radical ideas surmounted dualities like a January snowstorm overcomes the landscape.

    ♦    What if we embarked on this new year with a resolution not to settle for easy answers?

    ♦    What if we consider that being faithful is more about what we do than what we believe?

    ♦    What if we set aside those false choices that dualistic thinking forces us to make?

    ♦    What if a period of confusion can lead to a state of illumination?

January Creation Care Challenge: Enjoy your leftovers! All the time, energy, and resources it took to plant, grow, harvest, transport, purchase, and prepare the food is wasted when we don’t reuse. We all have leftovers after the holiday season, so get in the habit of eating leftovers regularly this month. You don’t necessarily have to rely on a recipe. Use your imagination, and challenge yourself to transform your leftovers into casseroles, salads, stir-­fry, sandwiches, or soups.

Week 1

Gather & Resolve

We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other.

—­Dorothy Day

A New Year’s Resolution: Welcome to this new year. Each family member gathered in this space is beloved by God. What if, at this special time each and every week this year, you resolved to look in the eyes of these people you hold dearest in this life and remind them of their belovedness? By spending this short amount of time together every week this year, you are transforming an ordinary meeting into a sacred gathering. You are blessing and consecrating one another by dwelling in God’s presence. Isn’t that a resolution worth keeping?

Resolve to gather weekly in the ardent hope that, by gathering, we will learn day by day to love each other more and more. Where shall we gather? At what time? What shall we wear? I recommend keeping everything as casual, fun, and simple as possible. Maybe someone will bring a snack, and maybe someone will light a candle. Think together about how and when your gatherings will occur. But most important, think together about the atmosphere you’d like to create during your gatherings of loved ones. One of my mentors says that when she gathers people together, she works hard to create environments where trust exists. Why? Because where there is trust, risk occurs. And when we feel free to take a risk, we are more likely to speak the wild truths that live deep in our hearts. May this weekly gathering become an ecosystem where you and your families can be real, can be vulnerable, and can dwell in the presence of God’s liberating love.

WONDER: What is something that makes you beautifully unique at the table? After you speak about yourself, go around again, and point out something about each other person at the table that you find uniquely beautiful. Listen, and let this discussion inspire you to proclaim something new you’d like to try to learn, do, or express as this year begins.

TRY: Use paper and markers to write a blessing that can begin each of your weekly gatherings this year. Find a way for everyone to contribute, and display your finished blessing nearby so you can say it together at the beginning of each weekly gathering. If you’d like an example, the template below might help:

We are gathered together at this table to______________.

We thank you for______________.

We praise you for______________.

We look to you for______________.

With joy and hope, we look forward to_________________.

Discover: The Way of Love

The Most Reverend Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, reminds us that in the first century, those who were followers of Jesus of Nazareth were not called “Christians.” They were called “followers of the Way.” Bishop Curry invites us all to nurture families and communities devoted to the liberating, life-­giving love of Jesus by following these practices, or the Way of Love:

TURN: Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus

LEARN: Reflect on Scripture, especially Jesus’ life and teachings

PRAY: Dwell intentionally with God each day

WORSHIP: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and draw near to God

BLESS: Share faith and unselfishly give and serve

GO: Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus

REST: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration

You can find a wealth of resources on the Way of Love at episcopal

The Way of Love is an aspirational invitation. How might you and those you love respond?

Discover: Epiphany

The Magi were overwhelmed with wonder and joy when they found baby Jesus after following a star. The Christian calendar commemorates their visit on January 6 with the Feast of Epiphany. Traditionally, Christmas decorations are left up until the Eve of Epiphany (or Twelfth Night).

Celebrate Epiphany together by chalking your door, building a fire, and hosting a Twelfth Night party. Chalk the door above the main entrance to your home on Epiphany with a blessing and as a way to commemorate the hospitality Mary and Joseph showed to the three kings. Use chalk to write, for example, the pattern “20+C+M+B+23.” The first and last numbers stand for the year (i.e., 2023), the crosses stand for Jesus, and the letters stand for the Latin blessing Christus Mansionem Benedicat (May Christ bless this home), as well as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar—­the names of the Magi. Learn about the Magi’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold, of course, was a gift for a king. Frankincense is derived from the Boswellia tree and promotes a feeling of relaxation and well-­being. Traditionally used in prayer and meditation, frankincense has strong healing and cleansing properties; see page 33 to learn how to make candles infused with frankincense. My friend Jen makes a soothing body butter using frankincense because it is known to calm inflamed skin, as well as alleviate feelings of grief, lonelinesss, and anxiety. Myrrh is a resin extracted from thorny Commiphora trees, and was and is extremely valuable. Myrrh was an oil used for purification rituals and to anoint bodies, including Jesus’, at burial.

About the Author

Bonnie Smith Whitehouse
Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, PhD, is a writer and professor who studies storytelling, creativity, contemplation, and wonder. She is the author of Nautilus Award winner Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking and Kickstart Creativity: 50 Prompted Cards to Spark Inspiration. A lifelong Episcopalian, she has spent the last twenty years as a lay leader of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel at Vanderbilt University. Bonnie is professor of English and director of the honors program at Belmont University, and she lives in Nashville with her family. More by Bonnie Smith Whitehouse
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