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.


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

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!


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!)

Disperse the Gloomy Clouds of Night

And all of a sudden, Advent is upon us and Christmas is right around the corner.

The mild weather this weekend allowed for a few hikes crunching through fallen leaves, as waning light led the way through bare trees, and across cold creeks.

The nice temperatures were also a good opportunity, apparently, for many to put up Christmas lights. As I drove home from the woods on Sunday evening at dusk, my neighborhood was adorned with house upon house of Christmas lights. It was lovely!

As Advent begins at the end of this difficult year, there was something about these lights appearing tonight that moved me and brought tears to my eyes—tears filled with sadness but also great hope. Tears of gratitude for the simple beauty and tradition of twinkling lights upon trees, sparkling reindeer, and light-lit nativity scenes.

I’m feeling the tension this year. Isn’t that what waiting is about? The tension between the here and now and what is to come, for whatever we are waiting.

As I joined with my fellow, spaced-apart congregants in a masked but no-less meaningful singing of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” this morning, I was feeling the tension. The tension of those minor chords, noting the lonely exile, and the longing of Israel for its promised Savior, Emmanuel.

I was feeling the tension of the joy of the knowledge of the incarnation, with the weight of the sorrows of this present world, as believers everywhere await the return of the Lord of Might, once and for all, setting all things right.

The tension of waiting is weighty, filled with grief and groans. It pushes and it pulls, punctuated with joy and goodness along the way. All along, it’s underlaid with longing.

But we have the light.

O come, Thou Day-Spring
Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel

While I have been feeling the tension, I am praying for peace this season. For myself, of course, for my community, this country, the world. But true peace only comes from Jesus, the one we await in Advent. Christ came, “through the tender mercy of God,” to show the way of salvation. He came as the day-spring, like a rising sun,

to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Luke 1:78

The light illuminates the pathway of life, as we live as exiles, again, in a world filled with gloomy clouds, and dark shadows of death.

The day-spring lightens our loads, and lifts our tension.

The light leads the way.

Emmanuel, who has come once, and will come again, is the prince of peace.

He is the light of life and love, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Peace and blessings as we wait together this Advent, in the year of our Lord, 2020.

Emmanuel, who has come once, and will come again, is the prince of peace.

Some helpful reads on “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”:

Desiring God
Ligonier Ministries
Mere Orthodoxy
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Theology of the Carols


Change in the Air

Pulled on my fall flannel, for the first time this year;

And jeans, snug and comforting.

After a quick drive, and a few steps, I’ve been transported.

Sounds of a chorus of buzzing bugs set my pace.

Deep breaths of fresh air filled my lungs, providing a new rhythm;

Calming my anxious mind and relaxing my body.

Soft and slow ripples in the water flowed towards me, a welcome to rest.

The lushness of summer’s greens has been infiltrated with reds and yellows.

Signals that time is moving to a new season.

Like the foliage before me, life finds a way of providing signs.

Am I walking slowly enough to pay attention?

To hear what’s in the whisper of the wind?

Am I seeking intimacy with my Creator to notice his nudgings?

With the aroma of change in the air,

The sun sets on another day.

A chance to reflect. To confess, to worship, to pray.

To welcome a posture of openness to God’s direction.

To be led by Him, looking for his signals; be they red, green, or yellow.

Every hard lesson after hard lesson, I find;

His way, especially in the waiting, is best.

Psalm 73

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.


Advent Now and 'Till He Returns

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” – Micah 5:2

I’m not an Old Testament scholar, but from what I understand, 400+ years transpired between the prophet Micah’s prophecy –  that the awaited King, the Son of God, would be born in Bethlehem. This is just one of the many prophecies that the people of Israel were waiting upon to be answered.
But God was faithful and He sent His Son to earth. The years leading to the time may have been dark, and filled wih questioning of his intent but The Lord fulfilled his promises.
The beauty of Christmas is celebrating the birth of our Savior and treasuring that season of Advent – of waiting for Him. Let’s not forget we are now in another stage of waiting – for His return. The world is dark and evil, but our Savior – who came to earth as both God and man- has a perfect plan for all of history. His birth was foretold and The Lord knows when he will come again.
We can’t lose hope, but must press on for His Kingdom. His Birth is cause for reflection and celebration as his period of Advent concludes. May our hearts always be in a state of Advent for his second coming.