Estuary Moments: Necessary Stops on The Journey

In the summer of 2016 my family was lucky enough to spend a month in San Diego. As much as I love my desert home, I have also always loved the beach. So, for an incredibly good deal I found an adorable cottage 50 steps from the ocean that fit our little family perfectly. It felt like home and for 30 days it was.

For 30 days we spent time together without doing any of the things you might typically do on vacation – no theme parks, no grand adventures, no tourist checklists – we simply existed in a new place together. We took hold of a gift we desperately needed and let it fill us, let it smooth over some rough edges, and let it help us see each other and our life in a new light – a light dusted with sand, cool breezes and salty air. Our time near the water that summer was not just a nice time – it became sacred time. Our beach home wasn’t just a comfortable space – it became sacred space.

Did the filling up, smoothing over and illuminating have to happen there? No, but sometimes beauty helps. That summer, beauty, cool weather and an ocean in our backyard helped.

One of the unexpected joys of our little beach cottage was what lay behind it. To the west was the ocean. That we knew we were getting. But behind us, to the east, was an expanse of green, an estuary.

An estuary is where a river meets the sea, where fresh and salt water mix. Estuaries are places of transition but they are also safe places protected from the full intensity of ocean waves, wind and storms. Estuaries provide areas for migratory birds to rest and refuel during their long journeys. Because many species rely on the sheltered waters of estuaries as protected breeding places, estuaries are known as the “nurseries of the sea.” (My children loved that fact the most. Looking out across the estuary they wondered about all the babies there now, safe and protected, but who would one day make their way out into the big world of the ocean.) As water flows through estuaries, pollutants are filtered out creating cleaner and clearer water while wetland plants and soils act as buffers between the land and the ocean.

Estuary – a refuge, a safe place of transition, a sheltered space to rest and refuel that fosters and protects new life, filters out pollutants and acts as a buffer from outside forces.

It is not lost on me that my family found ourselves next to an estuary that summer, at a time when we were being filled up, smoothed over and our life illuminated. I sought the ocean… but the estuary became our home. A 30-day stop on our journey as a family. A refuge, a safe place of transition, mixing our past experiences with our hopes for the future, a sheltered space that allowed us to rest and refuel, while helping to filter out the yucky stuff that sometimes gets mixed up in family life, and acting as a buffer from the outside so we could just be, together, opening our hearts to the work God wanted to do in us. The days were not all easy, nor picture perfect, but God working in us rarely is.

Maybe you’ve experienced estuary moments in your life. I hope so. While I’m not suggesting we all need 30 days at the beach to make it happen (although that would be nice!), I do think momentary stops on our journey are necessary, no matter what space we find ourselves in.

In what ways can you create estuary moments in your life and in the life of your family?

When it was time to head home I worried we would lose what we had those 30 days, that going home would be hard and that soon the busy-ness of life would take over. But I found going home was good. It was home,after all, and the grace of our estuary experience was feeding us in new ways. Then, just nine short months later, we welcomed our 4thchild – a very tangible result of the grace we had experienced.

We’ve returned to San Diego since that summer, not for 30 days, turns out the incredible deal I found was not to be had again. In a way I was relieved. My heart treasures that time, so much so, I can’t imagine it ever being quite the same. Now we make short trips and as no surprise to us, our littlest one, #4, is a natural beach baby. I am sure (as mama’s are) the sacredness of that place speaks to his little heart in the way only Grace can.


As a wife and mom to four young children, Kimberly Baldwin is happiest when spending time with my family and friends, enjoying the gorgeous Arizona sunshine, watching a little HGTV and volunteering with organizations doing good in the world. Professionally, I spend my days working with awesome undergrads in the Next Generation Service Corps at Arizona State University who are committed to creating change. This is where my passions lie and where my heart is most drawn. I look forward to connecting with you as you too discover and share how you have been called to love and to impact change as you carve out estuary moments in your everyday life. Read more from her at http://www.ignatianmama.com