Quarantine-tastic

Quarantine-tastic

The weird thing about March 2020 and the whole Coronavirus scare is … well, honestly … I can’t finish that sentence.  Because the weird thing is everything.  All the things.  Each one.  There is nothing normal about the life we are all living right now.

I took my one-year-old in to her pediatrician for a recurring ear infection and left with the recommendation to quarantine ourselves.  She had an upper respiratory infection, and our local hospital’s standard practice is to treat all upper respiratory infections in little ones as if they were COVID-19.  Most cases are mild in children, and Selah didn’t fit the qualifications to be tested.  So we hunkered down for the good of others as a precaution.  We have one week left to go, and I think I have about two days’ worth of nerves left.  So we’re in a pretty good spot.  Ha!

I have started this blog post approximately twelve times, and each time I launch into writing about some other aspect of this quarantine life.  So in effort to not give you 50,000 words on Laundry: Why Do We Still Have it During Quarantine? or on How to Survive When You Lose Your Job and Your Health and Your Church Building and There’s No Bread: A March 2020 Life Guide, I’m sticking to this one today.  Our quarantine bucket list.

Aside from God, my husband’s humor, and copious amounts of coffee creamer, there have been two things that have kept me afloat during this quarantine: 1) making a list and 2) throwing the list out the window.  I am not one of those moms who scheduled everything out that first week school closed.  You remember those moms?  The ones who scheduled out activities and lessons and theme-based snacks and all the family time?  How are you ladies doing?  Are you tired?  Come on over to our side, mamas.  There’s plenty of room on the couch covered in Goldfish crumbs.  Just turn Daniel Tiger back on.  It’s fine.  Remember that line – “it’s fine.”  That’s your new motto.  Not “it’s great” or “it’s award winning” or even “it’s admirable.”  We’re in the apocalypse over here.  IT’S FINE.

But back to my list.  I knew that these days would put me in a fragile emotional and mental state.  My husband’s job is affected by all of this, and I now have no childcare options so that I can do my job. We have had surprising behavior problems (with our children, not the grown ups – unless you count me eating cookies with my head under the blankets), and being in isolation has a way of just messing with your mind.  We were watching some show about this guy on death row who got in trouble in the prison, so they put him in isolation.  So, isolation is the punishment for people ALREADY on death row?!  Yet, here we are.  Isolated and doing just great.  Wait, where was I going with this?

Oh, yes.  MY LIST.  So I made a big chalkboard list of guidelines and activities and called it our Quarantine-tastic list.  The other working title was Let’s keep Mommy out of the mental institution.  But it didn’t look as cute in calligraphy.

I broke it down into three categories: daily activities, special activities, and home projects.

The daily activities are the things we need to do around here to keep us sane.  We take family walks outside – keeping at least 6 feet distance from others and yelling UNCLEAN if anyone comes too close of course.  We read lots of books.  It’s helping my Selah monster stay still for two seconds and it feels like it’s helping our brains grow.  We clean up each day.  Normally I’m the opposite of a clean freak and fine with some clutter, but our brains need the extra space these days.  A clean home is one thing I can control right now, and that feels better than I can explain.  And lastly, we have quiet/iPad time.  Selah takes a nap, Ruby gets to play on her iPad, and I get to just sit down and stare at the wall in silence without anyone touching me or snotting on me.  (My husband has been working most of the days in his office downstairs in the basement.  I’m not making him take a nap.  Ha!)

There are other things I do daily like church/personal work, pursuing my relationship with God, and eating cookies, but this is a small, manageable list that I can involve both girls in.  Your daily list may look a lot different, but this is what’s working for us!

Next, we have special activities.  These are just a few free and easy things that my four-year-old can look forward to.  Our list is to bake a unicorn cake, play with sidewalk chalk, have a picnic under our tree, make a big fort, and find + paint rocks.  There are a billion ideas out there for social-distancing activities.  These worked for us since we can’t go out anywhere.  

And lastly, we have a home list.  I’m like 98% sure that I won’t cross off any of this stuff, but at least it makes me feel better as a person that I acknowledge them.  Ha!  As self-employed parents of little gremlins trying to figure out life in quarantine, we don’t have any free time these days.  And if we do get free time, Timothy spends it on work and I stare at the aforementioned wall.  But each time I pass our list I see the home projects written down, and it gives me hope that somehow they will get done.

So, my tip one was to make a list.  It’s been a lifesaver in feeling like we have some control in the uncontrollable.  My second tip is to throw the list out the window.  Some days you’ll wake up feeling great and powerful and hopeful and ready to do all the things.  Some days you’ll wake up with the weight of this chaos weighing heavy on your heart.  The uncertainty and fear will creep in.  Some days it takes all of your energy to continually give all that back to God.  To fight the doubt away.  To not snap at your children or argue with your spouse over meaningless things or eat all of the Doritos or to let dread make himself at home.  On those days, throw out the list.  Put on worship music.  Let your kids have some extra screen time.  Take a nap when your baby takes a nap.  Lock yourself in the bathroom and cry for a bit.  This is not normal.  Living like this is not normal.  Do what it takes to clear your brain.  Then after a few hours, pick the list back up again.  Take your kids to the backyard.  Look up.  It’s okay.  This won’t last forever.

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.”

Psalms 91:1-16 KJV

Miracles in the Mundane

Miracles in the Mundane

My friend, Dacia, runs her own business from home and has two adorable little kids.  She recently posted on her IG stories about being home alone and randomly catching herself calling out “what?”  She just laughed about it and said, “that’s how many times my name (aka ‘mom’) has been called in the last 24 hours … I’m just conditioned to call out ‘what?’ every so often.”

If that doesn’t sum up the life of a mom, I don’t know what does.  

Motherhood is made up of countless mundane habits and tasks repeated over and over and over again, punctuated by thrills of novelty.  Motherhood is answering to “mama” so much, so often, that you can hear it ringing in your ears long after your children are put to bed.  It is chopping up food into bite size pieces for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and snack, and then washing the highchair, sweeping the floor, wiping the hands, and cleaning the bib after each meal.  It is pushing the toddler on the swing until your arms are numb, but her giggles somehow infuse the strength in your limbs to continue.  It is nightly zipping him up into soft pajamas and getting sloppy, sticky kisses professing his undying love, even when you feel you don’t deserve it.

Sometimes the monotony of motherhood can feel overwhelming.  Your job is never done, your tasks never complete.  A lawyer can deliver a beautiful closing argument and close her case.  A surgeon can mend a heart, then wash her hands from the surgery and go home.  An artist can paint the last stroke on a canvas, then seal up her paints and hang the art in a gallery.  Yet a mother kisses a boo-boo, washes behind dirty ears, mops a kitchen floor, folds soon-to-be dirtied clothes, and then prepares to redo it all the next day.

As a work-from-home mom, I have been guilty many times of looking at these monotonous tasks as the things keeping me from more meaningful work.  I have looked at women in other seasons of life, maybe without children or maybe with older, more independent children, and envied their freedom to go after dreams or callings or giftings that God has given them.  If I didn’t spend so much time serving my toddler and pre-schooler, would I have written my book by now?  If my mind didn’t feel so numb at the end of a needy day, would I be farther along in what I think my ministry should look like?  Am I less valuable to the world and the Kingdom since I spend all day scraping up dried gummies from the kitchen floor and fishing random items out of my baby’s mouth?  Am I showing my daughters how to be a dynamic, world-changing woman if my biggest accomplishment that day was successfully clipping my one-year-old pterodactyl’s fingernails?

This never-ending repetition of a mother’s tasks can feel like the very thing holding you back from getting the “good” work done.  But what if, in fact, these mundane tasks are where the miracle is?

GK Chesterton wrote, “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.  They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.  For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.  It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

It’s okay, go ahead and read it again to let it sink in.  Bro. GK was speaking straight to my heart.

Now, the daily (hourly) task of diaper changes may not at first appear as glorious as the way the sun daily rises, but they both carry a hint of the consistency for which our Father is known.  He has a limitless imagination, yet He has been content for thousands of years to keep on creating daisies with sunny yellow centers and long white petals.

God is known for His unchanging, consistent, never-failing ways.  He doesn’t look at the sun and say, “I need excitement!  How about you rise from the west today?”  He doesn’t look at Monday and say, “I just created you last week.  I’m tired of it.  Let’s just not do Monday this week.”  He doesn’t look at the lilies and say, “My glory and worth are better shown in big, public arenas.  Clothing you is not worth my time.”  No, He doesn’t say that at all.

Matthew 6:28-30 says, “And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:  And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

He arranges petal on lilies in the field that won’t even last a day.  He tells the sea at each tide how far to come in.  He holds the earth up every second of every minute in the vastness of space.  He creates winter, spring, summer, and fall, and then starts all over again without fail.  He provides us with new mercies each and every morning.

Yes, He does great and mighty miracles – stories that we pass down to our children and their children.  He heals blinded eyes and gives children to the barren and shrinks tumors and speaks in rolls of thunder.  But are those moments of loud, earth-shaking, breath-taking feats of His power more “important” than the daily acts of sustaining and protecting and speaking and leading and guiding He does for us all?  Would we dare tell God that His unfailing consistency isn’t as miraculous as the moments He surprises us?

If God can be glorified in the consistent clothing of the lily, then surely He can be glorified in my consistent tasks of mothering.  Surely He looks at the mother, wiping her little one’s runny nose for the tenth time that day, with the same reckless love with which He looks at the one standing on stage speaking to hundreds.  He is God of the unimaginable universe, yet He counts our hairs one by one on our head.  Surely I can slow down enough to read my daughter her favorite book a few more (hundred) times.

The never-ending repetition of a mother’s tasks is not the thing holding us back from getting to the “good” work.  It’s not what we need to check off a to-do list before finally going after our calling or gifting or purpose.  Maybe God is taking this time in the trenches to mold us mamas into an image more like Him? Maybe it is a season where He is using the monotony to strip the excess off us.  Maybe it’s not always the loud moments of acclaim on social media, but the quiet moments in the basement folding clean footed jammies that He looks at us and says, “Yes, I see My light reflecting from her.”

There are God-reflecting miracles in the daily mundane of motherhood.  There is beauty and glory and power in the daily sweeping and disciplining and cooking.  We just have to look closely not to miss them.

Scribbles of Hope

Scribbles of Hope

Either two days ago or twenty-five years ago, our country started preparing for a global pandemic.  I’ve honestly lost all notion of time at this point.  Ha!

But here we are, an uncertain amount of time later, with our children home from school, restaurants shut down, events cancelled, churches changing their methods, doctors issuing new warnings every day, and not one loaf of bread to be found for miles.

While I feel small and insignificant in light of the chaos that is going on, I serve a God Who is bigger than it all.  I didn’t want this time to pass without doing what I could to make a difference.  Now, I can’t cure the virus or calm all the panic or create toilet paper.  I’m even highly doubtful of my bread baking abilities. But I can use my voice and my art to try and shine a light.

So I have created an 8-page digital coloring book filled with hope and trust and faith in Someone bigger than us.  My idea for these pages is two-fold.  One, your children are now home 24/7 with no outside activities to engage them. (Don’t worry, I included several non-floral designs for the little men in your life.) 

Our children are little sponges, and can soak in stress and worry that we think we have hidden.  These coloring pages are an activity that they can do that has been steeped in prayer.  As they color them, you can use that time to explain the words on each page and what they mean to you.  When was the last time you explained “peace” to your four-year-old?  Somehow the process of condensing down these big ideas into easily-understandable ones for children makes them come alive in a new way. 

That leads me to the second purpose of these pages.  I think they would be great for adults of all ages.  You can color them with crayons or markers, or you can download them onto your tablet and color them in your favorite art app.  The act of coloring is slow and methodical.  It is perfect for those of us who have racing, busy minds.  Let the time spent filling in each stoke be a time that points you to the Peace Speaker.  Think about the words on the page and how they are related to what the Promise Maker has spoken over our lives.  Turn off social media for a bit and make something with your own two hands.  Give Him an opportunity to speak to you.

This may sound crazy and a bit much to put upon a coloring book, but God has used smaller things to minister to His people before.  And we don’t really have time right now to do anything without making God a part of it.  We are literally relying on Him for our daily bread in some cities and towns.  If we approach Him boldly and expecting to hear from Him, I have no doubt He will meet us there.  

(This set of coloring pages is completely free, and don’t worry – I’m not asking for your e-mail either. It’s simply a free gift – no strings attached!) There is a User Guide included in the download link that will hopefully answer any questions you may have about using the coloring pages. I hope it blesses you!  And I hope you have some fun!