Gratitude for Gifts Along the Way

It’s been a lovely spring so far! I have been soaking up lots of glorious sights – blooms, blossoms, and beautiful scenery.

I’ve also been blessed to be very active – with lots of hiking and adventures with my dogs. We’ve discovered new trails, along with the joy of favorite trails re-discovered.

With the weather getting warmer, we’ve also enjoyed swimming! Well, the dogs have enjoyed the swimming, and I greatly enjoy watching them and attempting to capture videos of their hilarious antics.

Trying to catch some ducks

We’ve visited our favorite spot a number of times as the sun is fading. Last weekend was a stunning sunset. It was the dogs’ first time back swimming in the Bay since last October (?) and they didn’t miss a beat. Their swimming ability always amazes me.

It occurred to me this week that it’s been exactly four years since Hunter got hit by a car. And yet, on Saturday he hiked over 6 miles with me, and on Sunday he swam, and swam, and swam. I am so incredibly grateful he recovered from the accident and injury!

Hunter, enjoying a swim and the sunset!

A remembrance like that, brings a flood of gratitude. Life has been quite difficult in those four years since, and my dogs, Hunter and Scout, have been some of my greatest blessings.

Just a girl and her dogs watching the sunset! 😂

It’s hard to understand our trials, suffering, challenges. I believe God wants us to ask the questions, but to remember not to “lean on our own understanding.” I certainly can’t make sense of it all, and am continually learning to lean into “trusting the Lord with all my heart.”

But what I do know – is that God is with us in our trials. He is always present and will never leave us. Nothing can separate his love from us. That love has been the rock that has kept me afloat.

He also provides. And for me, these precious dogs have been an incredible provision that have brought me so much love and comfort when all else has been dark and lonely. And they have provided so much joy, fun, and laughter!

So today, I am grateful for a pup that survived a car accident, and for the joy that my two pups bring me, that has helped me survive the trials of life.

Gratitude doesn’t take away challenges, but it sure feels good, and gives perspective. In this season of new life and blossoming, may we all be filled with gratitude and the grace to go on!

And here’s to more beautiful springtime sunsets!


Wintering and the Hope of Springtime

It’s been a beautiful winter…as I wrote about last week. This first week of March in Maryland was still quite cold! And yet, there was a feel of spring in the air, with the upcoming week having a forecast of temperatures in the low 60s!

It was a weekend of more snow geese, on a frigid Saturday evening in Pennsylvania, still with snow on the ground. It was definitely representative of my gratitude for what this winter has been in discovering new pursuits and delight in nature.

A Sunday hike with sunshine brought thoughts of spring. I’ve also been starting to see daffodils shoot up in my neighborhood! The first sighting stirred something within me—my longing for spring. It’s felt especially poignant after a year of hardship, not only with COVID, but personally, after a year of back pain and surgery, which prevented me from experiencing spring last year.

I’ve been thinking of that for a few weeks, and working on some words to reflect it. Enjoy, and may the hope of springtime feel strong in your heart!


The sidewalk led me around the familiar neighborhood,
Strewn with vestiges of February’s ice and snow.
The sun set slowly behind me,
While the near full moon shone brightly ahead.
I rounded a corner and saw a neighbor’s flower bed, still with a few spots of snow,
With shoots of daffodils starting to emerge from the soil.
Something stirred in me, seeing those stems,
Pushing through the earth, starting their journey above ground.
With the sting of the winter winds gone, and birds chirping in the distance,
A few deep-seeded tears came to the surface,
Reflecting an ache and a hope;
A longing for spring,
For spaces long dormant to come alive.

I’ve been bundled in sweaters, scarves, and coats for months, a welcome relief from the cold,
A blessing I don’t overlook.
Home has cocooned me, protecting me from the elements,
But the long dark nights keep me inside and isolated.
Now I long to shed these layers and let the sun shine on my skin, to relish in a gentle breeze and soak up the warmth of rays of light.
To embark outside my four walls and explore the outdoors,
Free and unfettered.
Alive and attune to the natural world around me.


So intense is this desire,
I wonder what’s wrong with me,
Or where this is coming from.
Is it just my penchant for pretty flowers?
The exhaustion from shoveling snow?
The lack of sunlight?
Perhaps just my seasonal, and otherwise, depression.
And…
Or…
Is there something within our souls that is simply drawn to renewal?
Of songbirds,
Warm breezes,
Blooms,
And butterflies?

I don’t want to wish the winter out of existence.
There’s great beauty to be found in it;
I see this looking at the delicate intricacies of a small snowflake,
Or moonlight shining through a frozen forest of snow capped trees.
But it’s not just the beauty.
Acceptance of the season, and all of the necessary things that are happening,
Has allowed me to make peace with the winter.
Even in the hibernating, the quiet, the darkness,
There are meaningful things taking place;
And the rest, is restorative.

The cold cannot go on, though.
I am thankful for the wintering,
And acknowledge growth gained.
But the human heart is wired for winter to end;
The hope of spring is deep within.
And so, I don’t want these longings to languish;
To become numb and frozen,
Okay with an endless winter;
Because bulbs are no good if they stay buried.

Thus, in this transitioning time,
I welcome the gratitude for winter,
And the peace that comes with its acceptance,
And I also allow my longings for spring to be piqued.
I start looking for signs,
Harbingers like the daffodils,
And the pure happiness of a chorus of cardinals.
As they start to appear, and make themselves heard,
My spirit lifts and my heart feels lighter.
This is hope, in the watching and the waiting for springtime.

Newness and life alive is on the horizon.
This is what we were made for;
Each season has its place,
And the fall and winter will come again,
But it’s the regeneration that sings a sweet song to my soul.

The hope of springtime fuels the spirit;
Without it, how to go on?
It’s coming.
And so I wait, I watch.
I keep walking the path in front of me,
Seeing those shoots press further above ground each day.
The daffodils will be dancing soon.


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.


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!

The Babe, the Son of Mary

Christmas is coming soon as night falls on the fourth Sunday of Advent.

The anticipation has felt a little more near this year with a snow fall and a cold snap that has kept the snow and ice from melting. When I look out the window and see my landscape bathed in white, I feel the closeness of Christmas a bit more acutely.

The snow as a harbinger of Christmas has been a kind blessing, especially as so much else this season has not been the same. I flipped through photos from this day a year ago, and was reminded of memories and celebrations traipsing through a decorated D.C. with colleagues and friends and a holiday dinner date with my sister, in 2019.

Who knew what was coming in 2020, then? No one. I certainly did not. If we knew the suffering that is soon to ensue we would not choose it. I would not. And yet, my year of pain, has brought much gain to my soul. While the weight of struggle still feels heavy, the freeness of release and the reliance on trust beyond myself has changed me in ways that I know are good.

2020 has been a year of life, interrupted.

But Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, who came to this earth in human form in the humblest of ways, is still Lord.

That is the crux of Christmas—that God came to dwell with humankind. The incarnation and the Trinity are great mysteries of the Christian faith. We cannot fully understand but we can fully know it is true. The life of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, is real. His death and resurrection are historical events. Christmas is not just a feel-good time of fairytales and lights, it is a time when every person must reckon with the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and choose to make him Lord of their life.

He is not a distant king or an unfeeling god. He is our Creator, who came to earth, in human form to rescue us from the sin and shame which separates us from him.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

He arrived as a baby, to live and know the life we live in our bodies. He knows our pain.

He was born to give us second birth. By his physical wounds on the cross we have been healed.

He came to save all those who believe. His resurrection promises resurrection for our redeemed bodies, too.

Jesus is Lord. That is good news!

My Advent reflections may have rambled a bit these past weeks, but I have taken the risk this year to write from the heart, in hope that others might know. And even so, I don’t write for the “clicks” but rather to witness to beauty and the truth of God, no matter the audience. Well, my affinity for alliteration has wound its way into this series too, but they are words that God has written on my heart as this hard year, for you and for me, comes to a close:

God is—

Light of life.

Living waters.

Love, divine.

And, Lord of all.

I often write of the peace and comfort that my relationship with God brings me. And yet true Christianity is not a therapeutic religion. God will change your heart and his consolations are many. But it does not mean a carefree life. Oh no, my friend. Trials and tribulations still come. This Christmas season I pray that you, dear reader, know Jesus as Lord, the King who came to save us. Our trials may not leave, but He alone, will never forsake us. He is with us in the waiting.

Merry Christmas!

After many attempts and pieces of popcorn, this was the best I could do as our digital Christmas card! But it’s 2020 so I’m just grateful and glad I am still laughing and smiling!


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!)

A Sunset I’ll Never Forget

I still think about this sunset.

Exactly a year ago, on a quiet, forgettable November night, I went to the woods for a quick escape before the weekend set in.


Gray clouds hang in the air, low to the shore. The ordinariness of the evening matches the mood of my week.

I don’t mind the cloud cover, or the dampness, or the solitude. The cool air is cleansing, chipping away at the constriction of my chest.

As I allow worries, and work, and deeply buried wants to simmer, the stillness of the waters strikes me. There is depth to this blue bay. It is a place of peace, to release those burdens.

And so I open my hands, and my heart. I surrender my struggle and let go of my longings. I send them out into the sea, because I know the captain of my soul is watching. He is with me. In charge of the wind, the tide, the creatures chirping, and the sun that is setting, He is restoring my soul along these still waters. He most surely can handle the whispers of my soul. He is in control.

He most surely can handle the whispers of my soul. He is in control.

I realize my eyes have closed, in reaction to the restfulness that is flowing from my smiling face to my feet. I slowly open them to see colors emerging in a choreographed dance that begins to take my breath away.

Immersed in waves of the most glorious sunset, everything within me is lifted heavenward. The sun has long left the horizon, lighting up those heavy clouds with every shade of yellow, orange, blue, pink, purple, and red.

Those deep, still waters provide a perfect mirror for the masterpiece overhead, doubling all of its breadth and beauty.

It is absolutely stunning.

I soak it all in. This was not just a sunset but a spiritual experience.

I finally leave the shoreline, reluctantly, knowing that I am seen and loved, and worthy of great beauty.

An attempted photographic capture of each phase:

That sunset sticks with me, a year—a long, hard, painful year—later. Perhaps it even got me through the next terrible twelve months to come? How often my imagination drew on the goodness of the memory!

It was not something for which a screen could suffice, and I see now how it’s timing was perfect. I didn’t orchestrate that evening, I just showed up. I am glad I know the director.

I went back again this weekend, thinking I might see an encore. I find more loveliness and delight, but nothing like last year. But even simple beauty can fill one with wonder.

Another long, cold, and I’m afraid, lonely winter looms ahead.

What are the memories you will draw on?

Where will your imagination take you?

Trust that the quiet hand of providence will take care of you. He is an artist, choreographer, and conductor that we cannot even comprehend.

He turns a gray, bland night of clouds into a glorious blaze of colorful creation. He is continually writing the most beautiful story of redemption. I will keep choosing to let him be the author of my life—I hope you will too.

He turns a gray, bland night of clouds into a glorious blaze of colorful creation. He is continually writing the most beautiful story of redemption.


Back to Normal or Not?

Spring brings reminders that life continually moves along.

And while COVID is still a threat, society is s l o w l y beginning to reopen and move along.

There is much “talk” [sadly, often in the form of angry shouting matches on social media] of getting “back to normal.” When we mean mitigating the virus, and recovering from the disastrous economic and social consequences of the near-shutdown of society for two months, this is a noble and necessary goal.

In reality, this crisis has revealed a great deal of challenges that have been lurking beneath the surface—or have just been ignored in plain sight—for a long time.

—> From Time Magazine: COVID-19 Is Making America’s Loneliness Epidemic Even Worse

This has me thinking about a lot of things on both a personal, community, and public policy level. Of course, a balance for the practical and the idealistic is important! I’ve needed this reminder for myself – it’s okay to wish for the simple things in life pre-quarantine and at the same time desire social and economic change and justice. Both are valid!

Since coffee shops are where I do a lot of my work, and I love the simple pleasure of a latte, getting back to my favorite places is definitely at the top of the list for me!


Here are some of my reflections, hopes, and prayers for this strange season of life >>>

There are rumblings…things are changing
People are grumbling…society rearranging
I don’t want to get “back to normal”
What is normal?
What do we really want?

What have we learned?
What have I learned?
Will we waste the suffering
Or let it change us—change me?
Allow some good to come of the trials?

Will we let the busy life
Be the band aid to our pain underneath?
Or
Will we tend to the wounds
This time has revealed?

Will we tend to the wounds this time has revealed?

For me,
I say goodbye to stress
I want life without the hustle
I say yes to work with purpose
To life with boundaries and blessings

I want connection without the screen
I want community without the discord
I want purpose without the performance
I want a future, released of my grip of expectations,

Filled with God’s presence and plan

I want a future, released of my grip of expectations, filled with God’s presence and plan

Perhaps these desires—my own and to fill the holes in society—
Are a yearning for something more
A longing for a better life
The life we will one day live in glory
When all is made right

So let the longings flicker
May this trial fan the flame of change
I choose a new normal
I will walk—God willing—towards wholeness and health
For my soul—For my neighbors—For my world

I will walk—God willing—towards wholeness and health

I’m praying for all my friends, readers, neighbors, and well, all of us, in this together!