February Winterscapes

God allays our fears in ways we don’t always expect.

Going into this winter, I was worried about the long, cold nights combined with continued COVID cancellations and isolation.

But the Lord brought an unexpected delight in January and especially February—snow!! We received an above average amount of snow in Maryland, making for some beautiful scenery and lots of fun exploring and playtime! Even the cold temperatures kept the snow around, allowing for hikes through the woods with glorious sunshine on the snow!

The freezing temperatures plus the tide created an amazing icy landscape at my favorite place along the Chesapeake Bay.

And then there’s home. It’s hard for me to believe these gorgeous scenes are right in my backyard.

I’m incredibly grateful. Life has been far from pretty, but God has given me natural beauty and the value of home for moments like these.

What a beautiful winter it has been!!!

And now we turn to March, the month of transitioning weather in Maryland. While the winter has been wonderful, I’m feeling hope for spring in my heart.

So here’s to gratitude, for beauty even in the dead, icy seasons. And here’s to newness, springtime, and looking for beauty even in the little places.


Receiving the Sunset

The Practice of Receiving Love

The February sky put on a show last weekend!

I wandered the shoreline, watching the evening progress through several stages of beauty. The cold of the night contributed to a sensory experience, as I soaked in the crisp air, the colors, and the calls of various birds on the water and in the woods.

Back in my car, the heater blasting as the last vestiges of color faded, I sat for a few minutes thinking about what it is that makes a sunset experience so powerful. After all, I go to this spot frequently to watch the setting sun, shouldn’t it get old?

It doesn’t; it may not be quite as memorable with the colors each time as it was this night (or like THIS STUNNING SUNSET I wrote about last year), but it’s always meaningful. It is a gift, which must be received, with me giving nothing in return. It’s a practice of learning about and receiving God’s love.

To sit and observe the sky,
Somersaulting into glorious colors,
Is a precious gift
.

It’s a liturgy of learning to be still,
Of welcoming peace,
A practice of receiving love.

As the shades of a setting sun unfold into beauty,
All I can do is watch and wait;

No where to go but to be present.

This moment is real and true;
I am safe and secure,
In my space and in the Father’s love.

An evening experience for the senses;
So that my soul can rest and receive,
The love that is mine, is coming, and that I am becoming.

God’s love is steadfast, enduring, redeeming, and never-ending. As a child of God, I can’t earn it or lose it (just ask the Israelites). It’s so easy to be conditioned through our culture (🙋🏼‍♀️) that God loves us because we are good, achieve, or do the right things. He desires for us to follow him in obedience, don’t get me wrong! But that doesn’t earn his love; rather, the outflow of a heart that abides in him should be a life of faithfulness. Ultimately, he loves you for who you are, not for what you do.

This can take a lifetime to truly live out, I believe. To rest securely in his love, and not our own control. That’s why each sunset, as a practice of receiving love, is such a gift.

Here’s to becoming a professional sunset-watcher, basking in the light of God’s love!

A song to consider for the week, from Koryn Hawthorne, “How Great,” on the theme of God’s love!

Grace I don’t deserve
Forgiveness I can’t earn
For this I will praise you.
Love that covers all
Love that makes me whole,
For this I will praise you.


A Sunrise Surprise

Spotting Snow Geese at Blackwater

I’m not a morning person. Never have been, although I always aspire to be one!

This weekend though, I got up for the sunrise. And it was worth it. But it was more than just the sunrise…

Sunrise at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, 1/24/21, photo by me, Bethany Peck

My sister and I did a weekend getaway on the Maryland Eastern Shore; we wanted to explore Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a waterfowl sanctuary for birds migrating along the “Atlantic Flyway.” It seemed like a great place to combine hiking, nature, and opportunities for photography. And it did not disappoint!

The sunrise on Sunday morning was incredible (as was the sunset on Saturday evening!).

I am so thankful we pulled ourselves out of bed at 6am not just because of the sunrise, but for the rare sighting of a massive flock of snow geese. It was a beautiful sensory experience of sight and sound! It also happened to be about 30 degrees, so it was definitely freezing – but worth it!

The sight began as what looked like a giant floating line of white in the crisp blue waters of the marsh. At a closer glance, one could see that it was actually a massive flock of birds floating together on the water. It was beautiful, but after being up so early for the sunrise, we were also ready to get on our way for some coffee and breakfast!

Photo by Michelle Peck

After watching for a few minutes, we started to leave. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted some movement. That’s when the giant wall of snow geese began to take off. And what an incredible sight!

Photo by Michelle Peck

A larger portion of the geese formed a murmuration, a swarming behavior of movement, while other smaller flocks broke away, forming into a V formation and heading off into the rising sun. These beautiful birds breed on the Arctic tundra, and then migrate south to places like Blackwater during the winter, foraging for wood in wetlands and muddy agricultural fields.

Photo by Michelle Peck
Photo by Michelle Peck
Photo by Michelle Peck

Nature is truly amazing!

I’m still thawing out from lots of time outdoors in below freezing temperatures this weekend, but my heart is warm from the natural experience and memories.

It’s freezing at 7am in January in the middle of a marsh!

The entirety of the morning, waiting and watching for the sun to rise and birds to flock, brought to mind Psalm 130, words that my heart has held closely this past year. Verses 5 and 6 stood out as I shivered on the wetlands’ observation deck, waiting for the sun to peak through the dark morning’s wispy clouds.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.

Patience and waiting are a discipline. But with them comes gifts. Practice may not bring perfection, but it will bring peace. And maybe even a rare bird sighting!

Sunset at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, photo by me, Bethany Peck

The Artist in All of Us

What does embodied living look like? That’s the question I posed to start the new year year in, “cheers to an embodied existence.”

One aspect to explore is the gift of creativity. Art + Faith: A Theology of Making by artist and author Makoto Fujimura is an excellent read on these cold January nights to dig into consideration of mankind’s ability to imagine and create.

Humans were designed to create; at the most basic level, consider the wonder and awe of procreation. Beyond that, at an even more intrinsic level, is the commission God gives to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, to have dominion and stewardship over the earth. Starting with Adam’s role to name the animals, the Bible shows how God gifts humans with creativity to explore and create and think and build.

I think creativity can sometimes be a “buzz word,” or something that we think a person has or doesn’t has. But, I don’t think that’s true, especially if we expand the concept to the constructive and cultural possibilities of people. Of course we’d consider a painter like Fujimura creative, but so too is the architect who designs a new school, the doctor who diagnoses and cares for a patient, the teacher who comes up with an innovative lesson plan, or the data scientist who analyses numbers to find a strategic solution.

Leaning in to the giftedness we have is living a life of embodiment. This book has been an inspiration to me to foster and tap into my own creativity. This weekend that meant setting aside a few hours to dust off my watercolors and pour some creativity into a painting. While I was moderately pleased with the final product, it was the process and the experience that gave me more joy!

My challenge to myself this year, and any reader who may come upon this, is to find ways to declutter from the distractions of modern life and get to making, whatever that might look like with your gifts.

Creating and making is good for the soul and glorifies God!

Need some inspiration? Spend time with the Master Artist in Creation!


The Thing About Lament

It’s been a week for weeping.

These days have needed lamenting.

The thing about lament…is that it is anchored in truth and hope.

“Believers in Jesus are called to walk the path between earthly brokenness and heavenly restoration. Lament is our song for this journey.” – Mark Vroegoep, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy

A lament for our world, for our country, for our community, or for the circumstances of our own life, is anchored in God’s word, in his redemptive plan.

Almost 500 years ago, Martin Luther wrote “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Singing this (masked, of course) in church this morning, this stanza really struck me:

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

If anything, this week, and the start of an new year, should call us to to our knees in prayer. God HEARS our prayers—faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.

Our lament should always lead us to sing out in praise, because while we may weep for brokenness around us, we know the Lord is in control, and that he is working all things for redemptive purpose. No matter what, our God is a “bulwark never failing.”


Nature is such a gift. These are the scenes that centered me and drew me closer to God this weekend! Enjoy!

Zoom in to see the heron
Such a beautiful bird
Heron in his element hunting; me in my element, taking photos in nature
Sunset over Otter Creek Pier
#grateful
Glorious colors!

Cheers 🥂 to an Embodied Existence in 2021

It’s a new year. Goodbye 2020, hello 2021!

COVID, of course, dominated the New Year’s Eve discussions, with essentially everyone toasting to leaving 2020 behind. Flipping the calendar doesn’t mean changing the circumstances though. But it is a great opportunity for reflection and resolve for 2021!

Back in the early stages of COVID, I wrote a little something about a desire for a new pace and patterns for life. That was a LONG time ago. So much more death and destruction has occurred since May. As I prayerfully discern my goals and hopes for the new year, much of it is relating to recovering from this challenging year.

It’s okay to acknowledge how hard 2020 has been. So many people have suffered and lost loved ones. That is a tragedy. But the isolated “social-distanced” living we’ve had to accept has also been a tragedy. I’m not intending this post to be a dissection of government policies over the pandemic; others can do that! But I do think we all must acknowledge that a disconnected lifestyle is not the way we we are supposed to live.

We were made for an embodied existence.

Humans were created with not just a soul, or a mind, but a human body, to be lived out in relationship, the truest reflection of the Creator’s image.

Our bodies are incredibly important, not just how care for them, but how we interact with others. We quite literally need human connection.

A very simple example is from a story I shared this past summer—a gentle touch of the hand from a kind nurse on my arm gave me peace and comfort during a painful cortisone injection I had to get in my back (not fun!!). It was so simple but it not only reassured my anxious body but my distressed emotions as well.

2020 was unique for me in that I was not only experiencing the loss from the lockdowns, but going through the aforementioned physical injury and recovery, learning much about my body. This also coincided with a few classes in theology for my graduates studies in which I researched and wrote on embodiment…this is something that I have been thinking, experiencing, and praying about all year, and why I wanted to write more about it to start 2021. There is so much richness to theologies of the body and embodiment—its truth is a great good to share with the world not only because it is the best way of living for human flourishing, but because it points to the Gospel.

As I played with my niece this Christmas, I was able to marvel at the simple beauty of embodied living. Babies depend on their mother and father to live. And they learn by playing. How can we not see how important our embodiment is? The beauty and mystery of the incarnation was real for me in a new way this year as I soaked up the goodness of life lived abundantly in my body.

Running through snow and along slippery ice with my dogs.

Hugging my sister tight after a year of absence.

Hands covered in cookie dough and rolling out pie crust.

Silly rounds of charades with my family, filled with laughter.

Delighting in sweet and savory treats of tradition that fill my belly with goodness and my heart with warm memories and remembrances of loved ones long gone.

Fingers on ivories for Silent Night as my niece taps away off key notes, her little mind soaking in my presence.

An embodied Christmas was a balm to my soul after this painful year.

I am resolving to live an embodied existence as much as I can in the coming year. It’s not only what my body, spirit, and soul needs, it’s how I best reflect the image of God.

I write this not as someone who has it all figured out—whether during COVID or not. No, I write as one who has failed at this and been failed by others in it. I write as one who is learning, to instruct myself, to humbly share whatever wisdom God speaks to me on this. I am writing this to encourage myself and others to embrace an embodied existence in this new year!

Blessings in the New Year and cheers 🥂 to 2021!

Feel free to share ideas for connecting and embodied living in the comments. 👇🏼


Joy of Every Longing Heart

A deep blanket of fog lay thick all morning Saturday. The afternoon sun burned it off, with the December day becoming mild and bright.

Morning fog lays low,
Lifts, allowing sunshine on
Streams of liquid light

Despite the beautiful weather, my weekend was battered with burdens. The sunshine could not keep me afloat. Nor a brisk hike. They were good for me, but not all I need.

I need the light of life.

Living waters of renewal.

And—love. Love, divine.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Our sanitized Nativity scenes during Advent sometimes obscure some of the facts about the birth of Christ. Or rather, the weight of the incarnation gets lost.

This long expected Savior is God—come to this earth as human, as flesh and blood. Divine love came to save us, to save you and me. For love. To set us free from our sins and shame and fears and failures. It could only come from love, beyond our understanding; the divine love that is working out redemption through history.

This love flows from the Creator who loves me and cares for me, knows my every thought, my every burden. This divine Love sent his son to be born and die, that I might have life. That I would be filled with his love, steadfast, sure, and secure.

This love divine is a free gift to those who believe. It’s the season of wonder. Believe and be free, let love divine transform your heart. And if you do believe, lean into this love. I need to remember this, in every moment. His love is the hope and the joy that my longing heart needs.


Pour Over Me Your Holiness

It’s beginning to feel a lot like winter!

As I wandered the woods this weekend, the wind whipped, and the chill cut to my bone. But beams of sunshine and a brisk pace brought warmth to my face and core.

With the trees completely bare, except for a few pines and holly plants, and the leaves crushed along the trail, I was aware of the death all around me. Gone is the vibrancy of summer; it has broken down into this necessary phase of the seasons, the rhythm of renewal for the flourishing of the forest. For new life in spring time, death and detritus must come first.

The woods in winter, is a place of death. Like the world, without Jesus.

As I walked, the Christmas song that danced through my head was one of my modern favorites, Breath of Heaven, by Amy Grant.

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy

I came upon one of my favorite spots and was struck by the contrast—a little pool created by a mini cascade of fresh water before it forms a creek on its way to the bay.

Watching this little waterfall, was a perfect moment of serenity. Of peace (an answered prayer from last week). The sound of the constant flowing of streaming waters felt true and holy and life-giving.

It was a reminder of gratitude for the living water that is the gift of God.

The spirit of God, the breath of God, is like a well-spring deep within the hearts of those whose believe.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.””
‭‭John‬ ‭4:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is too much death and destruction in this world to live without this living water. Even the good things won’t ultimately satisfy; they won’t quench the soul’s thirst for God.

This living spring, signed with a seal at baptism when water is poured on the body, is a renewing source. A well of rest and regeneration, supplying the soul with a source for sanctification, each and every day.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18 NIV‬‬

In the wasting-away woods, the wilderness, and in this world of woes, one needs Jesus.

This Advent season, if you are looking for rest and renewal, strength and serenity, hope and holiness, draw on the living waters of Christ. It is a well that will never run dry.

Savoring every second at this spot of serenity (except for a quick selfie!)

Sights and Sounds of Summer

It’s been a very different summer. And yet, in so many ways, it’s still the same. The sights and sounds of summer have made their seasonal appearance, a comforting reminder of the persistence of life.

The sights and sounds of summer have made their seasonal appearance, a comforting reminder of the persistence of life.

The rumble of thunder from a summer storm. The waves of cicadas buzzing each morning and evening.

This weekend, on a leisurely stroll, I came upon some peaceful sights. They were not the most stunning scenes— in comparison to my days on the water or hiking or traveling (remember when we could travel?!). But they were welcoming and lovely, even in their imperfection and messiness.

The beauty of a butterfly—with a broken wing no less—brought much joy. The happy—albeit disheveled—black-eyed susan’s stirred delight.

The blessing of a quiet walk sparked a smile of gratitude.

Seasons of suffering make these simple things—even a simple step outdoors—all the more sweeter.

Seasons of suffering make the simple things all the more sweeter.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭

Soak up the sights of summer. Enjoy creation. Learn from the rhythms of life, especially the times of hardship. They make the joy that much more precious.

Here’s to an August of treasured enjoyment of the sights and sounds of the fading summer. And many more gorgeous sunsets!


The Whispers of Wildflowers

I’ve been day-dreaming about wildflowers. They show up in unexpected places on adventures with my four-legged companions.

‘I will believe in my beauty even if no one else sees it’
That’s what the wildflowers whisper
These lilies dance to the music of a soft breeze
No one is watching or listening
But me
An interloper and yet also welcomed in their presence
I marvel at them in their solitary splendor
In a landscape of a hundred shades of green
Their fire burns brightly

They are free
To simply be,
Beautiful

I will believe in my beauty even if no one else sees it.

We admire these beauties along the bay. A summer afternoon of delight.

The boys are always on the move; it’s a challenge to document a picture of the three of us!

It’s a perfect evening for patrolling the shoreline.

And swimming. It’s always a perfect time for swimming.

The sun sets but the warmth of the memories made flows through me.

We slowly ramble home, ready for rest and dreaming of the next adventure.

And the wildflowers remain, basking in the fading summer sun.

When a flower grows wild it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow.” – Dolly Parton