How to Fill Your Life With Wonder & Awe

Back in January when I realized Milan was the city I’d be flying into for the art and faith retreat in Italy last month, my heart happily skipped a few beats. 

Of all the works of Leonardo da Vinci, the one I wanted to see the most was The Last Supper. And it was painted on the walls of a church in Milan.

A year ago, I’d read a fascinating book by Ross King on the history of the painting, never dreaming I’d ever be able to see it in person. 

I’d heard that tickets had to be reserved months in advance, so I planned a few days in Milan before leaving for the retreat in Lake Como and booked a city tour that included the painting.

I waited patiently through the tour of the Duomo cathedral in central Milan, a walk through the Galleria shopping area, and a stop for a snack before we arrived at the church, Santa Maria Delle Grazie.  

I found it hard to believe I'd be in the same building that Leonardo da Vinci once entered and I'd soon see the painting he devoted years of his life to completing. 

I had to pinch myself that I had crossed the ocean, traveled from Florida to Italy and now was going through the door of this rather unremarkable-looking church that housed a masterpiece, compared to the majestic Duomo I'd just toured.

The tour guide told us we’d have just 15 minutes to view the painting and warned us not to even reach for our cell phones since photos were strictly prohibited. 

As if to reinforce the reverence of this visit, our group was ushered into two dehumidifying rooms before we stood in front of the doors that would finally open into the room with the painting on its walls. 

It was quiet and still and the tour guide spoke in hushed tones that she would identify the apostles for us and then let us silently experience the painting.

The room was much smaller than I thought, but when I finally stood in front of Jesus and his disciples, I was overwhelmed.  

This work of art inspired my awe. 

A few years ago I didn’t think much about awe. 

If I had any thoughts that could be classified as awestruck, they were probably about a miraculous come-from-behind finish by the underdog in a football game. Or I might have been in awe of God for a few minutes while I was at Sunday worship at church {if the music was particularly good}. 

But awe or wonder weren’t words I’d use to describe any part of my own life. 

I had a routine of ordinariness. Work, friends and a host of hobbies filled up my days and nights. 

I took figure skating lessons, volunteered teaching kids, beaded jewelry at a boutique and wrote for a news syndication company to earn extra money. But on the inside, I was resigned. 

I was used to the way my days were rather undistinguishable, and I was okay with it.

Months melted into years until one day I found my soul starting to stir. It was a slight rustling within — an awakening of sorts — but I didn’t realize it was something holy. 

I hadn’t realized God was inviting me to experience the extraordinary in my own ordinary life.

I wondered if I could approach all of my days — not just the ones in Italy or Paris — but the days where I’m sitting in my cubicle, walking through my neighborhood or having coffee at the bagel shop — with the same awe and wonder. 

What if I asked God for these days to have the same potential to leave me wonderstruck as that day in front of The Last Supper? 

At the beginning of this year, I decided to ask God to show me something new for this year. Something to revive and renew me and fill me with awe. 

And he showed me Italy. 

He showed me The Last Supper.

But really, he showed me more of himself.

I’m beginning to understand that what’s conventional and typical and ordinary can become exceptional, remarkable, and yes, even miraculous, when I bring my experiences and hopes to God. 

This coming to him in prayer invites me to know a little bit of his wonder.

He continues his work and artistry in my life and then gives those very things that I’ve offered him through requests in prayer, back to me, in ways that fill me with awe.

As our Milan tour guide finished talking to us about The Last Supper, she pointed out that experts argue that the numerous restoration efforts through the years have ruined the painting. But the bright patches of Leonardo's original paint that remain are enough for it to still be regarded as one of the greatest works of art in the world.

What if this is the time is to develop the awe, the reverence for what God can do through something in your life that you once thought was mundane and ordinary? 

What if this is the time to develop something sacred in what you haven't highly regarded before? 

I wonder if you'd consider gazing at your life through the perspective of a holy awe. Would you be surprised at what you’d see?

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there for posts from some of my blogger friends!


  1. ---> "What if this is the time is to develop the awe, the reverence for what God can do through something in your life that you once thought was mundane and ordinary?" <--- YES!
    Oh girl I think it would serve us all well to learn how to truly live like that-- abide in His awe-inspiring wide open presence continually rather than our shabby views of the pit we think we're in! Thanks for a much needed wake up call this morning! Rallying with you here in VA looking for how God is moving here in the day to day. ♥

    1. Thanks sweet friend! Abiding in his awe-inspiring presence instead of our shabby views of the pit we think we're in -- love the way you said that! Love thinking of us doing this together, linking from Virginia to Florida! :)

    2. Aww : ) And sometime soon we will have to find a way to just that in the same room!♥

  2. SO good! Yes Lord, show me your Presence in my ordinary. Thank you Valerie and rich blessings to you,

  3. Valerie- this is so beautiful and good for me to think on, as I feel like I am in a season of ordinary. I have been trying to re -think things some- in that maybe all these "unimportant things' that fill ,my days are really the important things- You know? I just get frustrated thinking when will I get all the everyday things done so that I can do what is really important- but God keep whispering to my soul that he is in the ordinary and that it is a holy work he is doing there- I so badly want to experience more of Him in the everyday- and slowly I am learning to find him there - So grateful for your heart and how you share it with such beauty and grace- xoxo

    1. Susie,
      Thank you so much for your encouraging words! I'm there with you -- in a season of ordinary! But sometimes I feel like God is preparing me for more by asking me to see the extraordinary in this ordinary space -- and that is hard for me! So I'm trying to look at what I'm doing as a holy ordinary -- is that even possible?! But I love how you expressed it and YES I think we can find him there and THEN it makes it extraordinary, doesn't it? So grateful for you! xoxo

  4. A truly extraordinary trip

  5. When I first started reading this, I thought I can't wait to get to the picture she took of the painting. Then I read you weren't allowed to. But I can see how it was an awesome, memorable experience. This is such a heart-searching question that I need to open my heart up to - "What if this is the time is to develop the awe, the reverence for what God can do through something in your life that you once thought was mundane and ordinary?" Thank you, Valerie. Also for sharing your Italy pics. They really are amazing. I'm so happy you were able to go on that trip. :)

    1. Trudy,
      I only wish I could have taken a photo! But I bought a bookmark, mug and postcard at the church's gift shop! I can drink my morning coffee looking at the painting now. :) Living in the ordinary is hard so much of the time so I'm trying to see it through a different perspective and I'm glad you're pondering these thoughts too, friend!

  6. What an amazing sight that must have been! I am always awestruck when anyone can draw or paint. ;) My daughter thankfully takes after my sister in the art department!

    1. Sarah,
      I'm with you! I thought maybe I could gain some skills in the art department but I'm pretty sure they're inborn! Keep encouraging your daughter to develop her art -- what a talent!

  7. Truly, I am enjoying my travels with you, lovely lady. You're opening my eyes, touching my heart, enlarging my vision.

    Thank you seems insufficient. But I know you hear what I'm saying.

    Hugs for your weekend's journeys ...

    1. Oh Linda! I love sharing my travel adventure with you! I am so grateful to know your generous heart through your blog and experience your encouragement! Maybe one day our traveling paths will cross and we will get to meet! :)


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