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.

5 Things to Keep Doing During Coronavirus Pandemic

Now more than ever, the routines we have in place are essential for getting through this time of pandemic. Our calendars have emptied and we are uncertain what the next few weeks will truly look like.  We each are affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in different ways. I can only speak from my own experience. Since we do not yet have school-aged kids and I stay-at-home with our toddler, our routine does not feel drastically different. 

With that said, last week I internally struggled not having our usual routine filled with toddler class, park playdates, and library outings. I was left wondering: how should I spend this extra time?  Should I just sleep in? Should I just watch all the movies during H’s nap time?  Should I just stop training since the marathon is postponed?  Should I just mindlessly consume social media and let everyone’s thoughts and opinions and anxiety seep into my own heart? These personal questions plus more have been bouncing in my head the past two weeks.

And the answer? Keep on keeping on.  Keep doing the same rhythms I do on a daily basis, minus of course the things I can’t do.  If you are feeling stuck, in a rut, and confused about how your days should look in this new normal, here are a few things I am continuing to do during the coronavirus pandemic, we are currently living through.

1. Keep Waking Up At the Same Time 

After everything was postponed and cancelled, my first thought when my 5:30 alarm went off was sleep in.  I have a feeling that more people probably are sleeping in.  It makes sense. There is less of a need to urgently get out of the door.  I get the temptation and the reality of sleeping later, but for me personally, that small choice can really mess up the rest of the day and my own attitude.  Keeping up with this rhythm of still rising early has been an important piece of keeping me grounded. Now more than ever, I need this quiet time to process with God, to read His Word, and journal out what is in my heart.  

2. Keep Moving (Running is always a good option).

In the midst of all the hard news and fear surrounding us, I have been deeply encouraged to see SO many people using this time to get moving outdoors.  The New York Times in an article last week, even called it “a back-to-basics exercise boom.”  As I am typing this, running, walking, and biking outdoors is still within CDC guidelines. And for that, I am really thankful. 

If it comes to the point, that we can’t run outdoors, I am not exactly sure what I will do, but for now, I am deeply appreciative of my hour runs outside. It feels like freedom, it feels accessible, and it feels essential.  We need movement. Whether that is doing those push-up challenges cropping up all over social media or walking the dog around the block or lacing up those running shoes that have been gathering dust. This is the time to make movement a daily rhythm of yours.  It is essential.  

3. Keep Setting Goals 

With the cancellation or postponement of so many events, races, conferences, and gatherings, it is easy to just scratch all the goals you made at the beginning of 2020.  Along with being routine-oriented, I am very much goal-oriented. I need a clear goal to keep me focused and working hard. With the Boston Marathon’s postponement, I decided I desperately still needed a goal to look forward to and motivate me to continue to get out the door. 

As I wrote about last week, my new goal is to run a sub-1:20 half-marathon in a virtual race.  Obviously, not quite as thrilling as hitting the streets of Boston, but this goal is still keeping me engaged and excited to get the miles in.  This is what it looks like personally for me, but I think it is possible for us all to re-write and adapt our original goals.  This is no time to throw out goals altogether, instead, let’s pivot and adjust. 

4. Keep Connecting 

God made humans to be in community.  We are literally wired for connection and community.  This is one of the MANY reasons, this new time is so challenging.  As much as my own introverted self is perfectly okay spending most of my time with family, this time has reminded me the great value and importance in connecting with others.  It has been encouraging to see so many having virtual meet-ups with friends and Face Times that go beyond the casual “hi” and extend to really hanging out and enjoying time together.  Keep doing this. Keep scheduling time to see your people virtually! Hudson is not quite at the age where I think a virtual playdate would work, but if you have older kids, I found this creative list of virtual playdate ideas.  

5. Keep Praying

Well, of course.  But in full transparency, I know when I begin to get fearful, anxious, and out of my normal routine, sometimes the first thing to go is my daily conversations with the Lord.  Please don’t let this one go. God is listening. He is not surprised with any of this, and I truly believe he desires to teach each one of us something essential during this time of staying at home. 

Are you listening? Are you willing to hear what he has to say? Are you telling him your own concerns, worries, and fears? Please keep praying. Pray for all the medical professionals working tirelessly.  Pray for the elderly that may be especially fearful right now. Pray for those with compromised immune systems. Pray for those personally affected by COVID-19. Pray for those losing jobs. Pray for our grocery stores and the lovely people working in them.  Pray for the students that deeply depend on the structure that school life brings to their days. Pray for the teachers. Pray for the parents. Pray for those that live alone and depend on social gatherings. Pray for our world and for deep healing on a physical and spiritual sense. Christianity Today, put together 20 prayers that can help lead you to pray during this time.

In all the uncertainty and change, let’s work together to keep some things the same. Keep rising, keep moving, keep looking forward, keep connecting, and most importantly, keep praying. 

Also, keep attending church (virtually).

Keep reading books.

Keep having family movie nights.

Keep chasing trash trucks on Mondays.

Keep fort-building.

Keep washing your hands.

Keep taking your vitamins.

Keep sending birthday cards.

Keep the sabbath.

Keep creating.

Keep drinking coffee.

Keep walking the dog.

Keep grocery shopping.

Keep cooking and baking and ordering take-out.

Keep online shopping.

Keep reaching out to your mama.

Keep taking baths.

Keep watering the plants.

These little, unchanging things are becoming more beautiful to me with each passing day.

What are the things you are keeping in your life right now in the midst of pandemic?