We Are All Cabinets of Wonders

Sometimes, I get seriously annoyed at characters in epic books and movies. Because their lives are so darn significant. There are prophecies that the fate of the world rests on them. Everyone they meet is an intriguing, yet flawed, character. They go on epic quests, face danger with courage (and perfect hair), and constantly say interesting, funny, or dramatic things that people actually want to listen to.

But I am Amy Green, twenty-three-year-old nobody who battles…the broken belt in the vacuum cleaner. Who goes boldly forth…to answer emails and finish HTML coding. And who is blessed with the mysterious gift…of making chocolate chip cookies.

I am ordinary.

But another ordinary person, a friend of mine, Keith Cantrell, shared a video today with that chronicled his 2014 in one-second bursts.

And you think, watching the video—what would mine show, from 2014? A collage of all the unremarkable days.

But, no. That’s not right. Because if the video tells us anything at all, it’s that there are no unremarkable days.

I can see it, my own story in seven minutes—

People. My sister waiting at the airport, pink scarf and all, and the look on her face when she turns to see me. The jr. high girls gathering around my sleeping bag for storytime. The picture—the one picture in probably a decade—where my grandpa is smiling (he always thinks he’s smiling). The way she laughs and he prays and they whisper when they think no one is looking.

Places. My empty apartment the day before the move. The fort I built in a woods when people on Facebook gave me a string of rights and lefts to turn. Snow and ice all over my car on those -20 days. The seat near the aisle where I huddled and cried after the Good Friday service, hair brushing the floor. The strawberry patch, the front row, the booth at the end, the graffiti-covered gas station bathroom.

Things. “Would You Rather” tally marks on our chalkboard. Shoes outside the youth group Bible study. The Word document of names when I met several dozen new people and couldn’t keep them all straight without writing them down. Flowers from my mom. Five-year-old plastic cups with the names of old friends written in permanent marker.

And I think, maybe I didn’t have very many ordinary days after all. When I look back, I can see moments of joy in the corners, even of stressful or lonely or difficult days. The epicness of my story is in ordinary things, in a long, sometimes tired faithfulness, in the ability to pick out fragments of common grace wherever I can find them.

It makes me think of Wonderstruck.

Last New Year’s Day, I read it for the first time, a delightful illustrated story about wolves and sign language and the early years of motion-pictures. But it’s especially about “cabinets of wonders,” kept by wealthy collectors to showcase interesting items, from historical artifacts to natural curiosities. They were the early, and smaller, versions of museums—a hodgepodge of what that person found intriguing and worth saving.

An illustration from the book.

An illustration from the book.

And, near the end, comes my favorite line: “Maybe, thought Ben, we are all cabinets of wonders.”

Yes, yes we are. All of the people you pass by every day—the guy who cut you off in traffic, your kids’ piano teacher, the teenage girl who laughs too loudly, the janitor putting up the “Closed” sign on the bathroom right before you try to go in—are a collection of quirks and weaknesses and hopes and dreams and fears and stories. Each one of them has a soul. Each one of them is a cabinet of wonders. They are all significant.

And so are you, and so am I. There will be many, many days where we won’t feel like it. But look for those little seconds, the snapshots you could take that show something that matters. Maybe try to have more of them this year—care about someone else’s hobby enough to ask about it, be intentional about meeting someone you admire from a distance, learn something new, give something unexpected, write a few more letters, take a few more risks, love a little deeper.

Shouldn’t we all be just a little bit wonderstruck, looking back over a year of our lives, realizing that we interact every single day with hundreds of people who have stories and hopes and dreams?

This first day of the new year, I will not chose frustration, even though there’s much I wish I had accomplished in 2014 that I didn’t. I will not choose pride, even when I feel like I’m a pretty good person. Above all, I will not choose fear, even though I don’t know what will happen in the next twelve months, or even, sometimes, what I wish would happen. Today, I will choose wonder—to stand in awe of the miracle of time and life and love and the world God gave us, in all its broken beauty.

Happy New Year.


  1. Wonderstruck is a wonderful book. Thanks for the post. Happy New Year, Amy.
    P.S. One of my gifts is making snickerdoodles.

  2. I love the imagery of the cabinets holding treasures. Beautiful. It took many years and lots of loving but hard knocks from the Lord to help me stop trying to be and elf and be content being a hobbit. “It is no small thing to celebrate a simple life.” 🙂

    1. I wish sometimes that we could see a visual representation of the treasures inside each person.

      And I am, and have always been, a Hobbit. My favorite things are making food, giving gifts, and telling stories. Also, second breakfast is wonderful.

    1. I’m going to try something new… I’m going to start a short writing project with a prompt, listening to a song on YouTube On Repeat, and we’ll see what comes of it… Prompts please? 😉

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