The Gift of Scout

Sad news friends, and anyone who has enjoyed pics/videos of my adventuresome and handsome dogs…

My sweet Scout has died. I am heartbroken.

It was all very sudden and unexpected a few weeks ago—he would have only been 7 in August.

He went from a seemingly healthy dog, hiking on a Saturday afternoon, to breathing problems, and then multiple Animal ER visits. It was a horrible and heart-wrenching few days.

Essentially, he died of an enlarged heart. The symbolism has not been lost on me. This dog loved me so much, took on my own heartache, and gave so much to me. Scout had the sweetest heart—he was truly a gift from God.

I do not know how I would have survived a lot of hard things without my dogs, which makes the loss feel even more acute. Scout in particular was keenly in tune with me. Every time I would cry, he sensed it—he would find his way to me, give me a dog-kiss, and cuddle up with me. He was an athletic, energetic, joyful dog who thought he was a lapdog. He was incredibly affectionate and very smart. He loved everyone he met.

Incredibly, in his last few weeks, we had managed to go to all of our favorite local spots. He swam, he climbed rocks, he hiked, he waded in creeks. I had even recently taken him out on several solo hikes bc he was such a perfect hiking companion—I will cherish those memories so much.

He was the best dog a girl could ask for.

With Scout it’s not just the memories I’m thankful for—though so many of them are sweet. No, it’s the gratitude for him and his brother Hunter helping me—to smile and keep going.

It’s been a few weeks now and we still are in shock. Hunter is doing okay, but is a little subdued from losing his brother and litter-mate of almost 7 years. They were the best of buds and their playtime and antics always, always brought me joy. And their sweetness and affection for each other always warmed my heart.

I don’t understand why Scout’s time was cut so short, and we are grieving the loss. But I do know that he was given to me as a life-saving blessing. I will always miss him and for ever be grateful for the heart full of love that he gave me.

These pictures are all from his final month—I’m so glad I let him lick my ice cream cone. I am so glad we took an Easter picture. I am so glad we hiked, and swam, and enjoyed the spring. He was so sweet and happy. And so brave through every last horrible moment til the end.

I know there are so many larger tragedies and suffering out there. Yet the story of Scout is not one of “just a dog.” It’s about how God provides grace in our darkest hours.

This world is so hard with evil and suffering and brokenness, and yet there is still good. There are dogs like Scout, there are flowers, and there is God’s peace and presence when all else fails.

I will forever be grateful for my Scout and all his love and joy ❤️🙏🏼

A Weekend Filled with Feelings

It’s a weekend filled with feelings.

Full hearts,
longing hearts,
struggling hearts,
broken hearts,
grieving hearts,
and grateful ones too.

Hopefully, we can see it,
not as a weekend of haves and haves nots,
but days to look more closely for grace.
To hold grief and gratitude,
equally as each emotion needs to be honored.

We are women of complexity, 
far beyond the hashtags and squares 
that fill our screens.

To be a woman is a beautiful thing.
And it’s a hard thing— 
in a world that seems like it says,
if you’re not a model or a mother 
or a #girlboss with a million followers—
and performing it all perfectly—then,
you’re nothing…
… no.
Let’s not look to false standards,
or insidious internal lies;
worth and dignity come from within,
the gifts of humanity given by God.

Let’s rejoice with one another, 
celebrating good gifts;
like the laughter of little children,
and the warm arms of wisdom;
while respecting our wounds too.
The deep places of long ago,
along with the present spaces that ache.
We can nurture our own hearts,
when we hold tenderly, 
every dream, 
every loss, 
every precious joy.

Dear ladies,
I see you.
As the beautiful woman each of you are;
artist, dreamer, thinker, giver,
daughter, sister, mother, friend.
Let us see one another,
know one another,
love one another
and be,
who we are meant to be.

May we keep growing—our families, and our souls—in grace.

Spring Watch: Trusting the Underground Work

What wind we had this weekend! Several walks had me bracing against blustery gales, and chuckling at my dogs as their ears were blown around. Frigid temperatures arrived Sunday…today was nearly 60 degrees and sunshine…and the forecast shows rain for the rest of the week.

Yes, it’s that in between season…getting close to spring but not quite there yet. And who knows what March may bring! But I am ready. The winter has felt so long. It’s been quite cold, and not as much beautiful snow as we had last year.

The thing is—time doesn’t stop. The calendar doesn’t lie—we are inching closer to spring.

Sunday’s hike may have been freezing with a palette of grays and browns—but in a couple of months it will be transformed.

It’s almost hard to believe that in about a month, daffodils will begin to bloom, and trees will start to blossom.

The ground still seems so dead, if you will, so frozen. Yet, things are happening underground.

Life feels like this often, does it not? Desiring change, but progress feels like it will take forever. Wondering when newness will abound. Waiting for a new season.

I continue to realize how our modern world is conditioning us to expect quick fixes. When Amazon can deliver a purchase within 24 hours, how is it not natural to be frustrated by slow answers?

Yet patience is a practice that yields deeper fulfillment. The ultimate wait—to be with God in glory—is the greatest gift, so how can we form our souls to learn to wait in the here and now?

Waiting for spring, for the earth to renew, is a perfect opportunity to cultivate patience. And to fuel the imagination for what redemption will look like. It’s a real-life metaphor for learning trust—we know that something is happening in the brown earth right now which will give way to lush greens and vibrant colors. We can also know, that the God of the universe is working—leading you and me on his providence.

Patience is the key ingredient. In her excellent book on the spiritual life, author Sue Monk Kidd writes:

“To create newness you have to cover the soul and let grace rise. You must come to the place where there’s nothing to do but brood, as God brooded over the deep, and pray and be still and trust that the holiness that ferments the galaxies is working in you too. Only wait.” – Sue Monk Kidd, When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions

Yes, God is working. I must faithfully wait.

Remember the big picture. Think of spring. And look to God’s word, which reminds of the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases.

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭130:5-7‬ ‭

I’m on watch for spring. Are you this year too?

What is this Season Inviting You To?

The wind whipped today, and I found myself shivering a few times while out with my dogs, despite being bundled in my winter coat, and gloves, freshly pulled from the closet for the first time since April. The weekend too, felt different, with rains, wind, the cold coming in, and sparse sunshine.

A new season is upon us.

There’s no hiding from it, especially considering NEXT WEEK is Thanksgiving. Which means Christmas will creep up in no time.

I’m still trying to hold on to the bits and pieces of fall, though. I came upon this beautiful spot last week, as the fall colors were desperately holding on for a few more days of glorious color.

The scene appeared to me as a welcoming, an invitation. Perhaps it was its warmth, or its opening to a world of color; I’m not sure exactly, but I do know that I want to receive this beautiful invitation.

And so I wonder…what will these weeks hold? What is this season inviting me to?

That’s the question on my heart.

There is certainly a pull to the hustle and bustle, frantic rushing, fretting over supply chain issues, making and performing so that everything is just right, or at least looks just right on Instagram.

But I don’t think that’s what our hearts truly want.

What if we could heed the invitation to slow down, to look, and listen, to soak up the season for all that it truly is?

That type of attentiveness and openness to the world around us seems to become harder in this holiday season – gone are the gorgeous sights of spring, summer, and beautiful spots like these from the fall.

And instead we come upon the barrenness of the winter.

But even in a season of darkness and decay, there is light and there is life happening below the surface…Will we notice it?

I have been learning and striving in this work, as I’ve shared a bit about with summer wildflowers, fireweed, and the unfurling of ferns. But I am still learning, always learning. And right now, I am really enjoying thinking about this spiritual practice in terms of holy noticing.

In his book, Holy Noticing: The Bible, Your Brain, and the Mindful Space Between Moments, Charles Stone describes this as “Noticing, with a holy purpose, God and His handiwork, our relationships, and our inner world of thoughts and feelings.” But central to this slowing down and awareness to both surroundings and what’s going on inside us, is noticing God first and foremost, and trusting his goodness and timing, accepting that we do not know and see everything.

What an invitation that is!

To see, to notice the good, to trust.

That is the invitation that I am going to accept for this season, even if in some moments it is more of a begrudging acceptance. And I hope you will join me, too. But whatever the invitation that is on your heart this season, I hope you will accept.

May we all find the opening to slow down, and to listen to whatever the welcoming is that weighs on our soul. And when we slow down, when we listen, may we hear and know the lovingkindness of the Lord.

Recent Posts:

Summer Wildflowers

The summer is slipping away. I don’t want it to end. Do you?

I like to hold on to every moment of a shifting season. To day by day, notice the small changes. The angle of the sun. Flicks of color in the leaves. The golden hue of autumn creeping in.

Perhaps it’s a manifestation of anxiety? Go slow because the prospect of fast change is too much? Or, settled into the rhythms of one season, there is fear of what the next one will bring?

How can one entirely know? I’m not sure. But as I grow, and continue in this new slow pace though, I am learning how the Lord is gracious with all that’s on our heart, including every fear, and every hope.

With a new season on the horizon—he has reminded me, there will always be new delights along the way. Even if it’s as simple as an unexpected wildflower, the simple joys are there. Sometimes, you may just have to wander off the beaten path or look a little more closely.

I have been amazed to discover new wildflowers blooming in places I never remembered…of a gorgeous fall color palette, soaking up the late summer sun.

I’m grateful for these late summer wildflowers, a show of God’s creativity and provision. I don’t know what this fall will bring, but I know God will be with me—will be with you—in it all.

Looking for the Fireweed of Life

Fires are deadly and destructive. At both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, I saw first-hand the damage that wildfires can do.

On a hike along St. Mary’s Lake in Glacier National Park, I could even still smell the effects – the odor of burnt wood still wafted in the air.

Fires unfortunately happen. Sometimes it’s negligence, which is incredibly frustrating, criminal-even. And often, it happens more naturally – dry conditions and a lightning strike.

I’m not a botanist, or a naturalist, or a park ranger (obviously!) but I do like looking for the meaning and significance in the natural world around me. And I think fires have something to tell us.

Fires change the terrain. There is a ton of interesting reading one can find about the value of fire to the environment. Here’s a snippet from the National Park Service (click the images below to read more):

“Fire is part of a cycle in most ecosystems. It reduces dead vegetation, stimulates new growth, and improves habitat for wildlife, many of the details park visitors imagine when they think of a national park. With fire suppression, fire was removed from the cycle and ecosystems began to get out of balance.”

An informational sign for the Three Falls Trail, my aforementioned hike, noted “The Reynolds Fired burned most of this area in 2015. The fire opened up new vistas and wildflowers abound in this dramatically changed landscape.”

And I love this description from a National Geographic informational book on the impact of the great fires of 1988 on Yellowstone:

What an interesting metaphor – the creative destruction of fire.

As I hiked through the burned out forest at Glacier, and yet was overcome by the beauty of the view of the lake and the beautiful wildflowers growing everywhere, I couldn’t help think of what a picture it painted for my own life. Metaphorical destruction, and yet beauty coming up from the ashes.

Don’t we all have fires in our lives?

Sometimes, they are fast and quick, the damage can be minimized. Other times, the fire is all-consuming, destroying everything in its wake. Nothing is familiar, and you’re forced to navigate wholly unfamiliar terrain. Perhaps even your body bears the physical scars, an additional handicap to moving forward.

How to go on?

First, grieve the fire. Give your body, your heart time to rest.

And then?

Accept the force of the fire. Look for new vistas and fireweed blossoms.

“Fireweed is a tall showy wildflower that grows from sea level to the subalpine zone. A colorful sight in many parts of the country, fireweed thrives in open meadows, along streams, roadsides, and forest edges. The name fireweed stems from its ability to colonize areas burned by fire rapidly. It was one of the first plants to appear after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. Known as rosebay willowherb in Great Britain, fireweed quickly colonized burned ground after the bombing of London in World War II, bringing color to an otherwise grim landscape.”

Where are the new landscapes opened up in life – that you never could have dreamed of before?

What are the new wildflowers that are now free and open to germinate, blossom, and flourish – bringing unexpected beauty and delight?

How are the debris and dead trees providing an opportunity for new life to come alive?

I am not minimizing the utter destruction, pain, and impact of fire. I know it first-hand. But I have also experienced the complicated beauty of the wildfire. Life can find a way. There is always newness available. Fireweed will appear.

And above all else, on the moments when there’s not a glimpse or a hope of the fireweed, I can know that the Creator of this vast world is with me – when my reality and body are threatened, my soul is always safe:

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

(Isaiah 43:2)

It is truly incredible to me how the earth can regenerate after fire. Nature is pretty amazing! And yet, I don’t think it’s surprising given that is just how God works – always working towards redemption.

Keep looking for fireweed, friends.

The Unfurling of Ferns

It’s now officially summer! And it felt like it this weekend with hot and sunny Maryland weather!

Hiking along a favorite trail Saturday evening, my dogs and I came across a forest ridge filled with ferns—after some rain recently, everything is looking so green, lush, and alive!!

Ferns have been on my mind a lot over the past season and as I’ve reflected on the spring, and my hopes for it I wrote about here. It was a different spring for me. A spring without physical pain, where I could walk and explore. A spring where I had more time without a work commute. Yes, much still lurks under the surface, but it’s been a quiet spring.

And so I have gone to the woods. Like I always have over the years, to stay grounded, and connected to reality. To breathe the fresh air, to listen to the sounds of safe solitude. To connect with my Creator.

I’ve walked my favorite paths over and over again, and explored new trails that have become new favorites. I’ve delighted in spring ephemerals like bluebells, and woodland blossoms like mountain laurel. It’s been a beautiful spring—a good spring filled with beauty and newness and hope.

With spending so much time in the woods this spring, and my head and my heart in a much more clear place to take a slow pace, I was so much more keenly aware of the awakening woods and things like… ferns. Yes, simple ferns.

Ferns are fairly ubiquitous in the woods, but I suppose I had never noticed them in the springtime as they are coming up out of the earth, unfurling. But this spring I did! And wow, are they cool!!

Everywhere I turned in the woods this spring, these little fern coils kept jumping out at me—all different types of ferns. Seeing them progress over the weeks brought so much delight and joy! A friend even teased me on a hike for what she considered my over-exuberance for ferns!

But, that is who I’ve been this spring, a woman enthralled with ferns along woodland trails. It’s been a strange path that’s brought me to this place, of noticing and finding joy in unfurling ferns. A complicated one—one of grief and the feeling of missing out on so many other non-fern joys. A path that I wouldn’t choose, yet I’m grateful for how it’s refined me and for who I’ve become in my fern-awareness and appreciation. How to make sense of that? You don’t, you just accept it—while the sorrow can’t be erased, perhaps the hollowed out places can be filled with simple, reliable joy and contentment in the simple delights of this world? If we notice them—like unfurling ferns.

The ferns have also been teaching me about patience. The beauty of a vibrantly green lush fern starts with a little coiled spring, and slowly, slowly, with imperceptible changes each day, those little corkscrews become a woodland of glorious ferns.

Growth and beauty and flourishing take time. It’s hard to notice the movement day by day, but it’s happening. Because that is just how God, the author of beauty and flourishing, works. On the days I doubt, I go back to this truth. On the days it’s hard to go on, I cling to nature’s reminders of redemption.

And now, I think of the unfurling ferns as a reminder too. They will become a glorious forest floor of beautiful ferns, in time. The journey is often hard and confusing, yet there are still the sweet gifts of woodland delights to be found, for simple joy and reminders of truth.

A newly discovered song, an old hymn, God Moves in Mysterious Ways, also speaks to this beauty and the patience in trusting God’s guiding hand:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face

His purposes will ripen fast
Unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste
But sweet will be the flower

Gratitude. Delight. Patience. Trust. These are the lessons of unfurling ferns. Enjoy the woodland blankets of them for now, and remember to look for the coils next spring!

The Bluebells of Susquehanna

A highlight of my spring has been experiencing the wild flowers along the Susquehanna River, particularly the Virginia Bluebells.

I’ve hiked at Susquehanna State Park for several years, and have fond memories of the park as a little girl, but I now realize I had been missing out on the springtime delights found there!!

I first noticed the bluebells at the end of March, as I hiked the ridge line trail, and was intrigued by the tiny purple blossoms I saw sprouting up.

When I returned a few weeks later with my dogs for another hike, I was pleasantly surprised to see that these were beautiful blue wildflowers—Virginia Bluebells—all throughout the park!

I was so enthralled by the beauty of these flowers, I was drawn back to them several times. I particularly wanted to see the the bluebells with different types of lighting, so I visited for both a sunrise and sunset—both were lovely in their own way!

The sunrise experience was my favorite. It was a perfect April Saturday morning with glorious sunshine for several hours before turning cloudy. The bluebells in the morning light were stunning—I truly encourage anyone local to visit next year—it’s hard to describe how dense the flowers are along the river, making for an absolutely breathtaking scene. And with the chorus of birdsong throughout the early morning hours, my sunrise experience with the bluebells of the Susquehanna filled my heart with so much joy!

A few days later, I rushed off to the park after work to try and make the sunset. There is one spot on the ridge line trail where there is a dense portion of bluebells, right where the sun would be setting, and I was hoping to be there for the moment those setting rays of light would be hitting the hillside. As I arrived at the spot, my heart sunk as it seemed like I had just missed it. I paused, with some disappointment settling in, and reminded myself to just change my perspective. Sure enough, as I moved further up the trail, I was greeted with the beams of the setting sun lighting up those bunches of delicate blue flowers! The picture (of course) does not do it justice.

How wonderful it has been to discover this natural beauty so close to home. It’s reminded me of the simple delights that come with nature. Sometimes life can get into a pattern of monotony that can feel hard—and then a new joy from an old place is discovered. On the other hand, just like the seasons, life can feel like it’s always changing and never certain—which sparks gratitude for the comforting familiarity of favorite places. And whatever is happening, there is always the constancy of light. There may be cloudy days, but the sun is always there. Just like God’s love, guiding, leading, and making life beautiful.

Life is hard. But there is beauty. There is light. There are bluebells along the Susquehanna River…and I can’t wait to visit them every spring for wildflower delight.

How can you not feel happiness in this place?

For a more botanic description of the bluebells and their presence at the Susquehanna, check out: “THE BLOOMING BLUEBELLS OF THE LOWER SUSQUEHANNA RIVER, MARYLAND,” by THE SANGUINE ROOT: A Website about Urban Environmental Restoration in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

And lastly, a few comparison shots of sunrise light vs sunset light!

And a glorious sunrise and sunset picture for good measure!

Mark your calendar for next April to visit the bluebells at Susquehanna State Park!

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!

Mountain Views

Family time in the mountains is always a good thing. As the year mark passed on COVID, I could not be more thankful for time spent in the woods my loved ones. There’s something about the mountains, especially at springtime, when new life is ready to burst.

Mountains surround me

I breathe in air, crisp and clear

My gaze lifts, upwards

The first blooms begin

Tree buds are ready to burst

Life renews, again

Clouds and fog roll along

Sunshine breaks, painting the sky

Peace flows from above

May spring continue to abound in beauty, whether you’re on a mountain top or not!