“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” -2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

My life as pastor’s wife, magazine editor, author, and mom was a busy but well-tuned routine of work, kids, church, and social activities.  During the margins, I found time to write, exercise, and even socialize a bit.  Sure, I was a little harried, but things were actually going quite well.

But on March 8th, everything came to a grinding halt when our state’s governor ordered a shutdown in light of COVID-19. As the reality of our new normal gradually sank in, I realized our day-to-day existence would change radically. What would it mean for the future? What would it mean for now? And above all, how do we keep it together? Here’s the short answer: by the grace of God! But the long answer is a little more involved. Here are a few ways this Torchlighter mom is surviving quarantine.

Keeping a consistent schedule

In the writing world, I am what would be called a “pantser”: that is, someone who flies by the seat of her pants. I don’t usually plot or map out stories before I write them, which allows for a lot of wondrous, creative flexibility. It can also make for some meandering story lines that need a good revision or two to make sense later. When it comes to daily schedules, it turns out that I’m also a bit of a pantser. I could get away with it when it was only a day or two out of the week. But do you know who doesn’t appreciate pantsers for seven days straight? My children. Can you guess the result? Chaos. So much chaos.

In these wild, stuck-at-home times, I’m learning to mitigate some of that chaos by having an actual plan. I try to keep it simple—planned meal times with school, nap time, family worship, and free play (or screen time *cough cough*) filled in between. Most days we make a point of getting dressed—even if it means changing from pajama pants to sweats. When evening rolls around, we try to keep our bedtime routine at around the same time. All this has helped my kids regain a sense of normalcy and stability, and my sanity can hang on by its very last, thin thread knowing the day will end eventually!

Taking advantage of free online resources

I am grateful to live in a time that the word “pandemic” doesn’t mean total isolation from the outside world. During this time, many companies have made their resources readily available and even free to use for families looking to redeem the time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all that’s out there, but here are a few of the resources we’ve been using at our house:

  • Torchlighters!  I almost can’t believe how much my 6-year-old daughter enjoys the Torchlighter series, but she can’t get enough of them! Torchlighters is available for purchase, but thanks to Redeem TV, CHI’s new donor-supported streaming service, you can watch all the episodes for free! We love the coloring and activity pages, and the free study guides are a great way to supplement at-home learning.
  • The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.  This interactive game introduces children to various musical instruments in a really fun way! Check it out!
  • ABC Mouse. Lessons, games, coloring pages, read-alouds—you name it. Right now ABC Mouse is offering a free 30-day trial, which might be worth your time.
  • Ligonier Ministries. This one’s for you. Ligonier Ministries is offering their teaching series for free until June 30th.

Getting outside

For both my mental health and that of my kids, getting outside is a game-changer. Social distancing measures in our state allow for exercise on public and state park paths, so we’ve been taking full advantage of that along with the warming weather. The change of scenery and fresh air (even if it’s brisk) helps expend that pent-up energy. This mom is learning that wet socks, leaves in our hair, and muddy hands make for fun and cherished memories—even if I have to mop the floor after we come in!

Shutting off the news

It’s worrisome enough for me to listen to the constant news cycles recounting daily infection and death rates, but sometimes I forget to consider how that information can affect my little ones. We’ve done away with frequent updates to shelter all of us, and I’ve had to learn to guard what I say in the kids’ presence. Not that we hide reality—we still talk about what quarantine means for us and what it looks like going forward—but when we can filter it through God’s Word instead of a frightened world, we have a great opportunity to comfort our children with His peace that passes understanding.

Being present

My kids are navigating sudden isolation and all the consequences of normal life changing dramatically, just like me—only they haven’t yet learned the skills and matured enough to cope on their own. I might be concerned and preoccupied with other things, but what they really need is my presence. I need to be available to answer questions, give hugs, cry, laugh, watch a movie or play a silly game.

Showing my kids (and me) a lot more grace

You might be suddenly educating your children at home or you might be trying to adjust to life without your supportive co-op. Maybe you’re working full time during this, or maybe you’ve lost your job. Your loved ones or you might be sick, or maybe you’re currently grieving a loss, with the added burden of being isolated.  This isn’t an easy time for parents, and it isn’t easy for our kids, either. One of the most life-giving things I’ve heard recently is that what we’re all doing now isn’t homeschooling, it’s crisis schooling. All of us have had our lives upended. The future is uncertain. We are grieving over lives, opportunities, jobs, and momentous occasions lost.

Now more than ever, I’ve had to learn to show my children extraordinary patience and grace. Even when it frustrates me, I know the meltdowns, disobedience, anger, and tears stem from a situation far beyond our control. But I have to be the one to reach out in love and tell my children I understand their big feelings, and sometimes, I want to cry or scream along with them. They won’t get everything right, and neither will I. We probably won’t be able to balance it all—things will get missed and fall through the cracks—and this frazzled mom will feel guilty and useless.

It’s during times like these I need to remember God’s grace is sufficient for me, and his power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). If his grace is sufficient, then I need only to lean on Him and trust in His strength. When I fail my children, He never will. And even when all the world around us changes, He never does. In the midst of the chaos, it’s sometimes hard to remember that. But surviving anything, even quarantine, takes more than a few helpful tips. It takes leaning on the everlasting arms.

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