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Our Family Has Quarantined Before: Here’s How We Found Joy

Written by Emily Schuitema on

Double pneumonia, again. As I sat in our pediatrician’s office, I heard, “She cannot get sick again. Our office is trying to get her into a pediatric pulmonologist as quickly as we can, but in the meantime, you need to quarantine her.” Eleven years ago, our family lived through an eight-week quarantine. Our two children were eighteen months and almost four years at the time. We were quarantined. No church nursery, no MOPS, no grocery store visits, no museums, no playdates—no germs.

Driving home from the doctor, I can still remember the almost audible voice in my head as I waited at the stoplight on 80th and Westfield, “Consider it pure joy, Emily, when you face trials of various kinds…” (James 1). The Word was talking and I leaned in. Joy, huh? Okay, Jesus, I’m going to trust you, trust you for joy.

Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into two months. And throughout that time we were quarantined, joy became the norm. Joy became the air we breathed. Soon we were face-to-face with a doctor who would become the favorite one we’d ever encountered.

As we’ve taken part in the current quarantine, I’ve been reminded of those days eleven years ago. In that long interim when joy became our mainstay, what did we do?

First, we kept as normal of a routine as possible. Though we were quarantined, I still woke early to spend intentional uninterrupted time with Jesus. I needed fresh words from him each day, fresh opportunities to thank him and lean into the joy he would provide. Breakfast, getting dressed, playing, and snack time all still happened at the normal times, as did lunch and reading and naps. During naptime, I often chose to do something that breathed life into me, usually some kind of exercise, and often began to prep dinner.

We also dove into a world of pretend. The couch became a speedboat with mommy often the skier who couldn’t stay up. The circular route through the front hall, kitchen, and living room became our Monon Trail. As baby strollers were pushed on the trail, “On your left!” was yelled by the joggers who passed by. The couch became a trash truck, pillows the trash cans needing to be picked up. The basement housed Conner Prairie log cabins constructed out of blankets and couch cushions. The play kitchen became a grocery store with mommy often being the absentminded shopper bumping into things. The old Halloween costumes and dress-up bin provided a zoo full of animals. The old couch in the basement was a fire truck, a race car, a pirate hill, a trampoline, an ambulance for hurt stuffed animals, and the edge of a swimming pool. Clear plastic tubs became the portholes for our submarines. Laundry baskets became cars on the carpet.

Looking back on those days, the joy was real. Life in so many ways became much simpler. The more I engaged and played with my kids, the sweeter the time with them became, and we truly enjoyed one another. I learned so much about them, things that make them tick even to this day.

On many occasions, though, I remember thinking, “Jesus, I have no idea what to do with these little people. Please give me an idea.” Sure enough, some crazy scheme would come to mind, and we would dive into a new world of pretend. Often, it wasn’t my great idea, but me asking my Creator for one. He supplied the ideas and the joy.

In an age where technology can easily become a way of escape, I’m reminded of how much joy was found in trusting Jesus and engaging with my children, no matter the trial. Joy is found as we trust in him for the grace to thrive even in unexpected and unwanted quarantines.

Emily Schuitema

Emily is a member of Pennington Park Church who is passionate about encountering Jesus in the Word; she finds great joy in coming alongside others to help cultivate a hunger and thirst for knowing God and delighting in his Word. Emily is married to Mark Schuitema, who is a pastor at Pennington Park, and the couple has four kids.

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