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!


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!

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. 👇🏼


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!


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.


In Death Valley, You Are Never Alone

Three Things to Remember in Hard Times

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23: 4, NKJV

Death Valley, CA, August 2019

Last year for Labor Day, I headed west. It felt good to take a few days off work, pack up my hiking gear, and hop on a plane (that world seems so different and long ago!).

One of the national parks I visited was Death Valley. I was interested in visiting it for a number of reasons, including my hope of experiencing it as a spiritual pilgrimage.

Being that it was the end of August, and pushing 115 degrees, it wasn’t going to be a long visit, but I wanted to see the main sights. It was incredible with an “other-worldly” feel to it.

Artists’ Palette Drive

Unfortunately, what I hoped to be a peaceful and reflective experience, turned into a scary one by the end of the trip. Thanks to an unidentified critter that stung me, I got to experience the body’s fight/flight response in full blown action! By the end of it, I was fine, but in the moment it was quite frightening; it truly felt like I was living through a “death valley” moment in Death Valley.

Badwater Basin, lowest point in North America, 282 feet below sea level

I survived my literal Death Valley adventure, but I didn’t know more “valley of the shadow of death” experiences would be coming in 2020. No one knew the Covid pandemic was coming and that we would collectively be living through a valley season.

Over this past year, I’ve been reflecting on three important things to remember during hard times:

  1. Don’t go through Death Valley Alone

In hindsight, I should not have gone to Death Valley National Park alone; I let my independent spirit get the best of me. The same goes for any valley experience – we can’t do it alone. Even the fact that I couldn’t get cell service when I needed it in Death Valley, painfully highlighted how it can be downright dangerous when we can’t be connected!

Whether it’s an immediate traumatic experience, or long-lasting suffering – we need one another. The beauty of God’s design for humans reflects this need. He created us to exist in families; we are literally dependent when we come into the world. And he created the church, as one body with many members. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor. 12:26, ESV)

We were made as humans to need one another.

2. Be Prepared for Death Valley

I may have made the miscalculation of going alone, but at least I was prepared. I researched to know what I was getting into; I hydrated and had lots of water, I wore lots of suntan lotion and a hat, I had energy bars and gatorade, a first aid kit, a paper map, a flashlight, and I always made sure I had a least a half tank of gas. Those were wise things to do to be prepared.

Similarly, when going through a real-life valley experience, we need to be equipped. Prayer, Worship, Scripture, the Church – these are our lifeblood in times of suffering. And they prepare us for whatever suffering may come. By studying the Word we become immersed in God’s truth so that it becomes an anchor when we are wandering a wilderness.

Prayer, Worship, Scripture, the Church – these are our lifeblood in times of suffering.

3. Trust that God is with you in Death Valley

No matter what we are going through, or will go through, God has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. As Moses preached to Joshua and the Israelites after they’ve been wandering for so long and are prepared to enter the Promised Land: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV)

No matter what we are going through, or will go through, God has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us.

During my frightening experience, with no humans around and no cell service, all I could do was remain grounded in knowing the presence of God was with me. Looking back, I am amazed at how he gave me the peace I needed (and how he designed the human body to respond in a crisis!).

A hot, sweaty, tired smile right before I got stung!

Life can throw us some very challenging experiences. How marvelous that the Creator of the Universe is with us every step of the way, longing to help and comfort us. We may have those times where we feel completely on our own and helpless, but we can trust that we are never truly alone.

Dante’s Peak, overlooking Badwater Basin in Death Valley

If life feels like a desert, be encouraged. Find family, friends, and the fellowship of believers to connect and carry you. Equip yourself with prayer and Scripture. Meditate and take comfort in the truth that God goes before you and behind you – he is with you as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
Isaiah 58:11 ESV

All photos taken and owned by me, Bethany Peck.


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!