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.

Small Joys in Quarantine Pt. 1

I am going to be real honest here. I am over this. I am over staying at home. I am over not getting to see my family and friends. I am over hearing the words cancelled and uncertain. I am over wearing a mask to get our weekly groceries. I am over it.

I truly don’t want to come across as insensitive. I am fully aware of the realness and severity of this virus. I am not questioning the validity in any of it.  I am just admitting my very human feelings of being ready to move forward. 

The last couple weeks have been more of a struggle for me. The initial adrenaline of the quarantine has fully worn off. I began with a great deal of motivation and inspiration to tackle projects around the house and to do all the creative at-home things with Hudson. All of that is fully gone. My well is feeling dry and my ideas are slowly beginning to dwindle. I so desire for life to return to its normal rhythms once again. 

Amidst this struggle and creative block, I am finding a few very small things that are bringing the joy. I wanted to share. Here are the first 5: 

1. Audiobooks and Dishes

Is it weird if I admit I am enjoying doing dishes?  The only reason I am enjoying this time is because I am listening to audiobooks. I just finished You Are the Girl for the Job by Jess Connley and recently began Big Magic by Elizabeth GilbertVery different books, but both are speaking to my heart.  Connley is reminding me that I am in fact the girl for the job and Gilbert is reminding me to keep on writing.  

2. Fire pit and S’mores

A couple weeks into the quarantine, we decided to buy a fire pit.  It was something we always talked about, but our days never seemed to have the margin to actually sit down research fire pits, order it, and then spend leisurely time at home actually enjoying it.  We now have lots and lots of margin so a fire pit seemed like a timely and good idea.  And it was.  We have spent a lot of time around our little fire pit.  It has been our evening thing we do almost every night on the weekend.  There is something about fire.  The smell, the light, the warmth.  It brings you in. It makes you want to stay a while.  

Along with my love for our new addition, I have realized my deep love for burnt marshmallows.  I used to pretend I liked my marshmallows golden brown.  I did not, but I thought it seemed like the cool, more patient thing to like.  A perfectly, golden marshmallow.  Now that is something to be proud about.  But here’s the thing, I love burnt ones.  And I mean, like really burnt.  Like near charcoal.  Like if you were to touch it, you might think it would crumble to ash.  I am done pretending I like the perfectly golden one. I am all about the burnt ones. They just taste better.  

3. Minestrone Soup

I have also decided that if I were a food, I would be minestrone soup.  This might seem like a strange choice, but let me explain.  It is hearty- full of veggies.  It is varied- we are not talking about chicken noodle soup here, there is zucchini, yellow squash, celery, carrots, onion, kidney beans, great northern beans, tomatoes, and of course the lovely shell pasta. 

There is a lot of life in a minestrone soup.  Each bite you are not exactly certain what you will get.  Not only this, but there is a simplicity to minestrone soup.  It’s flavor is warm and deeply comforting and reminds you of your mama, but it is not overly extravagant.  It requires meticulously chopped vegetables, broth, a few cans, and pasta.  That is all. It is a weeknight meal.  A meal for a quiet Sunday evening.  A meal for a new mom.

There is something about this soup that I deeply resonate with and I am pretty certain I would be happy if it was the only soup I ate for the rest of my days.  I am falling in even greater love with this soup after making Joanna Gaines’ Minestrone soup from her new cookbook, Magnolia Table Volume 2.  Clearly it made an impression if I just spent three paragraphs rambling about soup.

4. Pulling Weeds 

No need to ramble about weeds, but I do want to note how good it feels to pull out a weed and get the whole root.  The smell of fresh dirt and the satisfaction of knowing it ain’t coming back is unbeatable. The past few days when I started pulling weeds in our crazy front yard that needs a lot of TLC, I did not feel overwhelmed with the work that needed to be done.  I was perfectly satisfied with the few weeds I pulled, knowing it made a small dent into the jungle of weeds that we call our front yard.  

5. Picking Wildflowers

Today, I also discovered that I love taking scissors and cutting some of the lovely purple wildflowers we have in our yard. Hudson is obsessed with lawnmowers and all things gardener-related.  This morning after our walk as he pulled grass and made his precious lawnmower noise, I cut and arranged the wildflowers. 

This I decided is even more satisfying than the weed pulling. I washed an old, beautiful vase that had been gathering dust in our garage and put the flowers in their new home.  Each time I have looked over at this vase full of purple, I have smiled.  

More joys coming next time!