Summer 2020 Reflections: Finding a Place of Peace, Purpose, and Play

We are holding onto these final days of summer for as long as we can.  The summer of 2020 has been strange to say the least. It was not the summer we expected or even the summer we hoped for, yet still, somehow, it was the one we needed.  It was simple.  It was full of sunshine and salty air.  It was the summer we learned to let go.  The one in which we shared the joy of our pregnancy and also shared the grief as we lost our sweet babe.

Summer 2020, you were beautiful and hard, you were joyful and sad, and you were long and short.  

I want to write this down here because I do not want to forget how this summer made me feel.  It has been filled with some of the most painful days, but somehow, through the grace of God, I have laughed and enjoyed these summer days more than I have in a long, long time.  

Here is a list of what this summer meant to me:

  • A Positive pregnancy test
  • Joy, joy, joy
  • Bike rides
  • Fireworks that lasted all night long
  • Yosemite with good friends
  • Hikes and waterfalls and skipping rocks
  • Trash trucks
  • 4 mile runs 
  • New friendships 
  • Loss and waiting rooms and ultrasounds that make your heart drop
  • Grief, grief and more grief
  • The couch
  • Family and friends showing up and loving us in such tangible ways
  • Malibu
  • Pickleball 
  • Kayaking in the bay 
  • Margaritas that make you sad that you can drink them 
  • The beach almost everyday
  • Spontaneity 
  • Ocean swims 
  • Letting go
  • Loosening up on bedtime 
  • Drives to San Clemente and San Diego
  • Golf cart rides after the beach 
  • Boat ride with dear friends
  • Outdoor Church gatherings 
  • Scooter-Walks as a family 
  • Afternoon reading on the couch 
  • Riding in the back of a pickup truck of newlyweds (true story, and something I will never forget)
  • Adjusting expectations 
  • Leaning in
  • Staying present 
  • Long hair and very tanned legs

This was our summer.  It was weird.  It was hard.  It was beautiful.  It drew me closer to the Lord, it brought me to my knees, and brought us to the ocean again and again and again.

As a former English teacher, I always love pulling out a theme.  And after reading over this list a few times and thinking of the big moments of our summer, I found a pretty strong and important theme.  It is one that I think I needed to learn and figure out this summer.  It is something especially helpful to have when walking through painful seasons, but important to have in your back pocket regardless.  Ready for it?  

This summer I learned the importance of finding a place of peace, purpose, and play.

Before we walked through our miscarriage, I do not think I had strongly identified what these three places in my life were.  I had peace, but not a specific place.  I had purpose, but I never named it.  I had play, but never for myself.  

This summer changed that for me. And I feel like I actually figured out my place of peace, purpose and play. Do you know yours? Think about it. Name it. Figure it out.  For me personally, it has been so essential in my healing process.  We all are walking through stuff.  Maybe this summer for you was about the joy, and that’s great, but can you name your place of peace, purpose, and play?  And if this summer has just been plain hard, do you know what these places are for you? And if so, I hope you can go to them again and again.

In case you were curious, here are mine.

My Place of Peace

The ocean.  No questions asked.   The beach has been our place of healing.  It has been one of the few places that make sense.  It is our peace place.  Our morning spot. Our late afternoon spot. Our Sunday evening post-dinner spot.  It is where we come to exhale the anxiety and inhale God’s peace.  

My Place of Purpose

Purpose has always been something really important to me.  In high school and college, my purpose was mostly running/performance-based.  Post-college, it was teaching-based as I started a new career as a high school English teacher.  Postpartum, my purpose seemed to get fuzzy.  Of course, it was within motherhood, but I did not even know who I was as a mom, let alone my purpose in being that mom. 

Two years and one miscarriage later, I finally feel at home in my purpose. It is pouring into my son.  It is teaching and guiding and showing.   Right now my purpose is in being my son’s teacher.  This is my full-time job.  And I am proud of it.  I might not get paid for it, but this is where my heart is and I know it matters deeply.  This all clicked for me one summer evening, when I walked into Lance asking Hudson who his teacher was.  Hudson without even thinking, instantly said, “mommy”.  And my heart melted. We never talked about how I was teaching him different things, but just based on our days together, he instinctively knew I was the teacher in his life.  This has changed a lot for me.  I have a newfound purpose. Yes, motherhood, but it really is much more specific than that.

My Place of Play 

This summer we carved out more play into our days and it made all the difference. It was a week or so after my D & C procedure that we picked up my mom’s pickleball set. We brought it with us to rally together after dinner. We went down by the ocean and rallied back and forth. We laughed. We were competitive. And we were focused on something outside of our sadness. Playing pickleball brought back laughter into our days. It drew us closer in a season that easily could have caused drifting. It was a simple source of joy. When you are going through hard things, picking up pickleball might not always make the most sense, but for us, it was one of the best decisions we made in our grief. Pickleball brought healing. It brought back play into our lives.

If you too had a hard summer, one full of unmet expectations and disappointments, know that I am right there with you. Even in the hard, my hope is that you too can find some silver linings and that this time of heartbreak can allow you to fully lean into what is right before you.

Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

It is officially summer! Summer has a different meaning for everyone. For some of you, it might not feel that different because you still have to work. For the teachers, it is a glorious time off, but if you have little ones, it is an adjustment of figuring out a new routine. For stay-at-home moms, summers can become more work as you adjust to having your older kids at home more often. Regardless of your feelings towards summer, my hope is that wherever you find yourself, whether that be a house packed with little children, moving out your last child to college and about to be empty nesters, or hands full with a 1-year old who is in that awkward in-between phase of desiring independence, but still being wobbly and out of control; you can enjoy it and soak in as much sunshine as possible. I can only write from where I am and that currently is being at home with that wobbly and out of control 1-year old. I am finding this phase to be a lot of fun as he is becoming a little person, but it also has been a challenge because he is still at a place where he is not quite that active toddler that can do more things on his own. He thinks he is, but he is not quite there. He is not yet walking, so wants to crawl when we are out, which often results in very dirty hands. I have been struggling with finding the right activities to occupy him with. When I search for summer activities with a toddler, I have found that a lot of the ideas seem to be a few months ahead of him. So, if you are with me, and also find yourself in this awkward in-between phase of baby-toddler, I want to give you a list of 5 ideas of things to do this summer. Most of these things are not revolutionary, but hopefully it can give you some inspiration if you are feeling stuck. I am finding especially as he is getting older, the best for both of us often involve getting out of the house. While especially as a new mom, getting out the door can be a real challenge. So, if you are in a place where getting out of the house a ton just doesn’t feel possible, that is absolutely okay. Give yourself grace. Take baby steps. I just had a great conversation with another mom this past week about the pressure the sun brings. The weather doesn’t always match our mood. For me, I am in a season where I am welcoming the sun. I want to soak it all in and be outside, but it is very likely that you are reading this and the sun coming out feels like more pressure to get out. Maybe for you winters are easier because there are more excuses to stay inside. Wherever you are, I hope you can try one of these ideas and if not, give yourself a lot of grace. There is a whole lot of fun to be had at home too!

5 Fun Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

1. Go to a baseball game

I get it, MLB games can be expensive, especially when your little one might not be the most focused on the game. But, the nice thing about going with a little one is they won’t mind if you don’t get the best seats; it is more about the experience. They will love the people, the lights, the colors. I would also take advantage of going to the ball park before they turn 2, so you don’t need to buy them a ticket! We recently took Hudson to his first game at Yankee Stadium. He had a blast. A major tip if you choose to take young kids to a game is to check and see if they give out “first game” certificates. Someone informed us about this at the game. We went to the guest services office and within seconds Hudson had a personalized certificate. This was an amazing souvenir that was totally free! I believe a lot of stadiums give out these certificates, so be sure to ask or research it for the specific stadium you will be attending. We are located in Los Angeles, so I am linking here Dodger Stadium’s policy. Based on the website, it looks like you need to email a request for the certificate beforehand!

2. Picnic at the Park

Take advantage of the nice weather and instead of the same old lunch routine with food flying from the high chair, take it out to a park. Some of you reading this may be thinking I am so sick of the park! And I get that feeling too, so maybe this summer you could try some new and exciting parks that you have not been to. You can make an outing and adventure out of it. Parks that have wildlife and ponds are always a plus because it adds an extra layer of interest. If you are local to the South Bay Area, Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach and Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach are two parks we recently went to. Both of these parks have a pond with turtles, ducks and coy fish.

3. Visit a Farmer’s Market

Here in Southern California there are tons of farmer’s markets. This is a great outing with a one-year old. Hudson loves sampling the fruit with me! This can be a fun way to get your kids excited about trying different kinds of foods they might not be used to. Take a look at the different markets in your area and try to find one that is especially kid-friendly. I love going to the farmer’s market in Manhattan Beach because it very much catered to little ones. There is a train ride that runs every week at the market. It is just $2 and it is a fun activity for Hudson. There is also a balloon man and face painting!

4. Beach, Pool, Splash Pad

The beach with a newborn was not always the most enjoyable experience for me, but this summer, the beach is much more relaxing and fun. Hudson is so happy when we are at the beach. Sand toys are already a huge hit with him. He doesn’t really use them correctly, but he loves holding the shovel and different tools. The pool and splash pad are two other fun water activities. You can sign your toddler up for a swim lesson or you can find a pool and just spend some time getting them used to the water. At this age, I am not even sure it is worth spending money on swim lessons. We have a pool, so I am planning on spending some time with him in the pool getting him to enjoy the water. We just went into the pool for the first time this summer and we used the Swimways Baby Spring Float. It worked well and he seemed to really enjoy it. Taking a visit to a splash pad is another fun way to get your little one enjoying water. For us, Hudson is still not walking, but the splash pad will be especially fun when he can walk on his own.

5. Try a Local Class with Kid Pass

When you get tired of the typical park days, it can be fun to give your toddler a new experience. I recently discovered Kid Pass, which is very similar to the Class Pass model, but geared specifically towards kids and families. You can do a free month trial and get 5 credits to use at the different classes and facilities they offer. I just tried it for the first time yesterday and it was awesome. We went to a Gymboree class and Hudson had the best time. Not to mention, it was totally free! He got to interact with babies his age and he got to release lots of energy. Not to mention, it was fun for me and he was entirely entertained and happy for a full hour. Kid Pass is a great way to try classes out without a huge investment or risk. It is a great resource to get tangible ideas of things to do to get out of the house.

And if that doesn’t satisfy, here are a few other things we plan to do this summer: visit daddy at work, visit other family members we don’t typically see as much, take a train ride to San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm (AAA has a discounted rate and kids are free under three), visit the zoo, visit the aquarium, visit a children’s museum, make ice cream at home, take a nature hike, attend free summer concerts, and play dates with our MOMS Club (check out my post this coming Saturday for more about MOMS Club).

Like I said, I know, nothing revolutionary, but if you are feeling overwhelmed with how to occupy a very active and energized one-year old this summer, I hope this can give you a little inspiration. Also, remember, you are not a camp counselor. Don’t feel crazy pressure to have every second of every day planned. Part of the fun of summer is freedom and rest. Make sure there is also a lot of free and restful days. Happy summer!

Coffee-Stained Seashells

Sundays are again becoming my very favorite days of the week.  I used to be all about Fridays, especially when I worked.  Fridays were always nights Lance and I went out for dinner and it was the beginning of time away from work and students and stress.  When we had Hudson, Friday night dinners out became less frequent.  We tried to continue with this tradition but it turned out that by Friday we both preferred to stay inside and not deal with the stresses that come with a baby in a nice restaurant.  I still love Fridays, of course, but they lost some of the meaning they once held to me.  Now, Sundays are my favorite.  Maybe part of the reason for that is I no longer have the dread of Monday, but I think it more has to do with the fact that we are more intentional with our Sundays.  Sundays used to feel like catch up days.  It felt like cramming a lot into one day.  Sundays were church plus everything else that did not get done in the week.  Now, they are church plus rest.  This past Sunday embodied this new intention.

I think my favorite part of these days are the fact that church and small group are the only two things on the agenda.  The hours between then can hold anything we want.  This particular Sunday we had less time than others, so we chose to get coffee and walk along the beach in Manhattan.  With coffee in hand, we walked right along the water.  It was low tide.  There was just the right amount of sun. There were people, but not too many because most were watching the football game.  There are moments I have when I feel this deep sense that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  This was one of those moments. I was present.  I was with my two favorite people (Lance and Hudson).  And I was not worried about producing or accomplishing anything.  All I was focused on were the beautiful seashells before me.  When was the last time you did something not out of obligation or necessity, but just because?  I know for me the answer to that question is not very often.  Walking along the shore, finding the most beautiful shells, collecting them in my empty coffee cup; reminded me that I need to fill my days more with moments like this.  I found so much joy in shuffling through the array of broken shells and misshaped rocks.  It gave my mind and heart pause.  It allowed the constant rolling voice in my head listing out the things that must be done to stop and fade away in the background.  Collecting shells at low tide on a Sunday afternoon might not be quite the thing that fills you up, but my point in writing this is to encourage you to find the thing that does.  Maybe it is going to a cafe to eat breakfast by yourself.  Maybe it is taking a long drive along the coast.  Maybe it is going antique shopping and finding a piece to make your home feel more complete.  It is freeing to allow yourself the permission to do things that do not always result in a measurable outcome.  It is okay to have moments that are simple.  It is okay to give ourselves pause and just focus on the shells.

When we got home, I opened up my Starbucks cup to find the three shells I collected.  There was a small amount of vanilla latte remaining, so the shells were stained with espresso.  The cup held an aroma of sea salt and vanilla.  It sounds slightly silly to put this into words, but opening up that cup and seeing those coffee-stained seashells I collected, brought me so much joy.  I washed them, hoping that some of that coffee scent would still remain.  I then placed them on the dresser in our room.  I laid each one out meticulously, giving space for each shell to shine on its own.  Some of you reading this, probably think I am crazy for doing this or even writing this.  I know it seems relatively insignificant and not fully worthy of even sharing, but I think it is.  I think it shows the importance of the little things.  It shows the value in doing the things that fill you up.  It shows that we do not need to spend a lot of money or do all the fancy things to enjoy our life.  Sometimes all you really need is to go down to the beach, or the park, or whatever quiet environment you choose and find something that bring you joy.  For me on this Sunday, it happened to be shells soaked in coffee.

I now look at these shells every time I am in our bedroom.  They are more than shells.  They are symbols of a life well lived.  Every time I look at these shells, I am now able to transport back to this Sunday afternoon.  Those shells will take me back to the waves crashing, the taste of a warm latte, the curiosity of Hudson as he takes it all in.  Those shells remind me it is okay to just wander.  It is okay to be spontaneous and not have every minute of the day planned out.  It is okay to just be.

Even since this past Sunday afternoon, there have already been multiple times that I have forgotten about the shells and fallen back into the cycle of work and obligation.  This past week was filled with a lot of shoulds.  It was filled with a lot of lists and time obligations.  Unfortunately, there was not a whole lot of seashell collecting that occurred.  And this is okay.  I am human and quite frankly, it takes just a second for me to forget what I really need.  What I truly need is not found on lists or even in the form of a shell.  It can only be found in Jesus.  Just like shells can symbolize baptism, those three coffee-stained shells remind me that through the grace of God, I am made new.  My work will never be enough nor will it ever save me.  I have messed up 10,000 times already this week.  I have yelled at Lance.  I have been impatient with Hudson as I wake up for the 5th time in the middle of the night.  I get frantic as I am trying to feed Hudson and get dinner in the crockpot and get out the door in time for baby yoga.  I have very quickly forgotten about that peaceful Sunday afternoon where I was restful and just looking for pretty shells.  This is how sin operates.  We turn away and focus on our selves in an instant.  Thankfully Jesus offers us abundant grace.  Thankfully those shells do not leave and will be there for us next Sunday to return to.