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Ages & Stages

Prepared for the Pandemic

I say I’m a pinball, and I’m glad the machine belongs to God.  I can look back and see that when I started dreaming about things and feeling an urgency to take certain steps, it was God preparing me, gently nudging me into position for what was to come. I had no idea how COVID-19 would change our lives on the day we went to our favorite restaurant to celebrate our son’s grades. I did not yet understand how personally God had helped us to collect tools and materials with which we’d build systems to carry us through this present storm. 

Our favorite waitress, Kim, was grateful and surprised when we hugged her, as we had done many visits before. “The craze going on in the world is making us hug our sanitizer instead of people!” she said. “People are buying water and toilet paper so they can sell what they’re hoarding online. I’m not worried about myself,” she told us, as she pulled herself away to pour a warm-up of coffee into cups at another table. Her fear was for older people living on fixed incomes, bravely gathering themselves for their weekly shopping trip, only to find the pandemonium of lines, basic staples out of stock, and rationing. 

Now that restaurant is closed, except for curbside pickup—online orders that detail the make and model of the car in the “Catering” notes.

God knows the end from the beginning—not to say the pandemic is our end, but  it did not surprise God. Well before the pandemic arrived, my heart and mind had been increasingly drawn to the idea of teaching our children at home. My husband did not share my desire. It had been a point of contention for months. I was ready to pull the kids from school and hit the homeschool thing with all my energy. My husband thought it was wiser to step into this possibility with a little more caution, and he pledged his support in gathering supplies and homeschooling on the weekends. Still, God was leading me to do one thing in all areas—prepare. He knew ahead of time how my desperate and seemingly futile homeschool agenda would weave perfectly into what I call “the craze.” While I was scheming to shift education from outside of our control to within it, fear of the virus and confirmed cases led to school closures and suddenly, homeschool was the only option. Oprah Winfrey once said, “Opportunity has to be met with preparation.” God called me to trust Him to hear and answer my prayers. I will not end up begging for bread, even if there isn’t a single roll of toilet paper for miles. I am established, and my path is being made straight; because I’ve committed homeschool, the craze fallout, and my family to Him in the name of Jesus.

I remember being on the phone with my husband in the kitchen having one of our tense micro-discussions—the kind where I needed to fit in a full day of feelings, thoughts, and questions into a few minutes. We had many things over which we needed to “come into agreement,” while his attention was divided between me and his computer screen, fielding pings, replies, updating code, and a meeting he just got out of and the one about to begin. I was heated, not just frustrated; I could feel it in my skin. Maybe my meetings never took place in real pants or conference rooms, but my bun and I fielded the emotional pings of kids bullied mercilessly at school. I needed to be ready with replies when my kids told me about the uncensored TV some of their teachers allowed them to watch and some of the language they were allowed to use. I felt a desperate sense of urgency to bring them home from that environment.  

“Why do you trust the school and not me?” I asked him. “God knows I can do it. He has equipped me.” My friends kept saying this to me. It was hard to believe any of it when my own husband—the person God made to be one with me—was nervous about my ability to educate our children. 

“I trust you,” he said and then he called me a pet name—salt in the wound of his doubt. “I just think they’re doing well. It would be weird to pull them in the middle of the year,” he said. “Why don’t we just allot some time on the weekend to see if it even makes sense for us.” 

I felt patronized, because I like to have my way on a shorter timeline. Public school got eight hours a day for months to prove itself. I was allowed only a few hours a week, but God opened my heart to see I could throw my complaining mentality away and choose a better mindset from the shelf. I could use the opportunity he’d offered—teaching them on the weekends—to organize myself, familiarize myself with the materials, and set up a lesson plan.

If I hadn’t taken those steps months ago, I would be totally overwhelmed by what’s happening right now. If I hadn’t prayed while I couldn’t see the thing I wanted or the way to get to it, I wouldn’t have been ready when God gave me the answer to my prayer.

*****

We started to sense that even if we were not panicking, we’d better prepare, so we got some canned foods and toilet paper. Good thing, too. That was around March fifth. A few days later, too much persistent chatter with other moms had me wringing my hands about water, so Hubby brought home six cases (not the four or five I’d requested.) When he went to Walmart for diapers, wipes, and bacon, there was zero tissue—not even the thin, scratchy prison tissue I’ve only bought by accident in the past. Then the Governor told all the superintendents in the state: School is canceled for four weeks. He tightened the jar of our isolation by demanding restaurants and pubs close. The problem: We are inside that suffocating snow globe, shaken by COVID-19. Our lives are inside.

Fear rose in me as I saw the change in the community mentality—the lengths people go to avoid eye contact and maintain physical distance. Shoppers wear hospital-grade masks and gloves, and the tension concentrates in the air like water vapor, invisible to the human eye, but slowly drowning us all. Hopelessness wafts from shops instead of coffee smells, desperate small businesses emailing daily, now offering “contactless delivery” options. In-person services clumsily shift to online, like square pegs in round holes. 

Within my marriage, my husband and I disagree about what it means to have a proper margin of security, and about when and whether and how we could possibly have any idea of the timing for a market correction. I filled my cart for just one more grocery delivery, and then we quietly fought to the death during family movie night as my thumb hovered over the Apple Pay confirmation thumbprint. 

“What does Mama want to buy?” one of the kids wanted to know. 

“What do we need a First Aid Kit for?” asked another. 

*****

Before the Shelter in Place Mandate officially closed schools, my oldest came home from a regular junior high Friday, talking about a friend’s birthday party. I hoped the venue would honor the booking given the unfolding events.

Ultimately, the smelly trampoline place was open for the birthday party, but barely, I realized, as my friend texted me pictures. It was a ghost town. 

As I considered the pictures, I began to have a heavy thought: I don’t want this to be the end.

I want life to resume.

Life—the parts that can be taken for granted as boring—is fragile and hollow, holding together only as long as there isn’t too much pressure. People walking by with their dogs or driving by in their trucks, waving and smiling—that simple, neighborly connection—is actually precious.

For my own reasons, I gathered homeschool materials and tried to convince my husband that my new education agenda can work. I was talking with a neighbor recently, and she surprised me by saying she’d been doing the same for her own reasons. She has a son with special needs, and her only hesitation is not a skeptical partner; it’s the very necessary services that public school has always provided.

Weeks into the Shelter in Place Mandate, different Mama Bears have reached out to me saying: “I think it’s important for our kids to see us going about our normal routines as much as possible during this time. It teaches them that we still have to keep living. (Insert prayer and heart emojis.) They aren’t alone.” Another said: “I feel like I am dreaming all of this! It’s pretty scary. All I’ve been doing is praying. (Prayer emoji.)” I italicized their words to emphasize what stood out to me—fear, and in one case, the way it’s making her search for God as COVID reigns in our minds. We aren’t alone.

The isolation has revealed my arrogant belief that I was holding my life together. From inside the snow globe with my face pressed against the glass, I wondered: Will regular life begin again? Then I read this declaration by Bishop Jakes: “This is a great time to pray, plan, and prepare… Many people are just waiting for normal to return, but disruptions come to liberate you from what was, and to prepare you for what’s next!” I realized there are other wise ways to view these current events.

Although I hadn’t seen it this way at first, my husband’s heart has opened and given me an opportunity to walk out the homeschool vision I’d been imagining. Watching my kids build the robots my successful homeschool friends recommended, I know God was preparing me.


Jay Jones is a writer, a mama, and a podcast intern for Kindred Mom. God has changed each goal Jay has ever had, chiefly those concerning her relationships and writing. If it is part of her life, she wants it to please Him. Self-taught in many ways, she is always looking to make connections and find ways to improve her brain, her blog, and her brood (ages 2 to 13 years). Married since 2004 to her husband, Taylor, she’s been tied to her college sweetheart for nearly a quarter-century. Together, they raise their 4 children in the Chicago suburbs, where they enjoy pursuing creativity in the midst of the daily grind. Whether it’s writing screenplays, gardening, or gaming, Jay’s family is usually cultivating something. As a mama to both teens and toddlers, Jay is passionate about instilling deep, identity-forming truths in her children. Her other interests include: encouraging others, reading when she can, and learning what she can about where the mind-brain-body-reality intersects with Biblical perspective.

You can find some of her musings on her blog at http://www.jayjonesmomagram.com and on Instagram @jacelya_jones.

 

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