Thursday, November 5, 2015

I Used to Think I Couldn't Dance: A #Wholemama Post (and Sarah Bessey Linkup)

(I’m hitting two linkups in one fell swoop today - my usual #wholemama group as well as linking up for the release of Sarah Bessey’s wonderful new book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace With an Evolving Faith. Sarah issues a challenge to be part of a blog linkup on the topic “I used to think ____ and now I think ______”, and that seemed to dovetail perfectly with my idea for this week’s #wholemama prompt of “dance”.)

I used to think I couldn’t dance.

Honestly, let’s not beat around the bush.

I know damn well that I can’t dance.

It’s not like I’ve really tried. Most of the ‘dancing’ I’ve been called upon to do has involved a kind of middle-school slow-dance technique, all shuffling feet and awkwardness and you could probably take one good look at my face and know I’d rather be reading a book. There may have been once or twice, at my sister’s wedding or a few times in college when enthusiasm and beer got the best of me, that I tried. It’s probably for the best that no one had camera-phones then.

For all my famous lack of rhythm and my surplus of self-consciousness, I’ve still danced more in the past year than probably my whole life combined before then.

A little over a year ago, I became a mother. The grace of motherhood is how it teaches you that whether or not you can dance never mattered in the first place. What matters is that this little person in your home and in your heart sees that you dance anyway.

My daughter does not care that I have no rhythm.

She doesn’t mind when our dances don’t match with the beat of Daniel Tiger’s song. She barely notices that I trip over my own feet at least once a week. To her, it’s all part of the song. It’s all a part of the way we move.

What matters to my baby girl is that we’re dancing anyway.

My daughter dances in the way that the youngest toddlers do.: she bends only at the knees, bouncing her whole body up and down, with no particular understanding of beat, rhythm, or even that her arms might be involved in the equation. When I dance with her, I am rewarded with big cheesy grins or the way she collapses into giggles. Sometimes, she’ll hold her arms up or throw them around my legs to ask for me to hold her while we sway.

Motherhood has involved a lot of sleepless nights and desperation, to be sure. It involved the terror of that first trip home from the hospital, the low-level panic of realizing how wholly unprepared we were, the new levels of difficulty that are uncovered with each new stage of her development. It's been a road with occasional mudslides, that we must find our way around or climb over and just dig straight through.

Motherhood has also been a walk with God, a way to find a Jesus I had let fall out of my everyday. I had worked to find my way back into church (though that has fallen by the wayside, too, lately). While I had never lost my faith, I had let it fade into background noise. I spent less and less time on it, less and less time on what is a foundation of my world.

Becoming a mother did not make me more religious, not really. But it helped me to see again the way there is God and Jesus in my life, that they are in everything I do, no matter how small the moment.

I find God in the dance.

My husband takes a night most weeks to spend an evening hanging out with some friends, and so Audra and I have the evening together, just the two of us. Most of that time in my end involves chasing my daughter around the house, trying to keep her from pulling every single book out of the bookshelves. I convince her to eat dinner, convince her to take a drink of water or juice now and then, convince her to let her teeth be brushed, convince her to sit still for ten seconds to let me change her diaper and get her into pajamas for the night. Our evening is full of convincing.

Between the constant we-need-tos and no-you-can’ts, my baby girl and I make time to dance.

We always find at least a few minutes, even if it’s the very last thing we do. Some nights there’s no time for dancing until we’re in her room singing the goodnight song, the lullaby she hears each night that lets her know it’s time for sleep. If I haven’t had any time at all otherwise, I take the time I am singing to her, hold her in my arms, and we dance.

It won’t be too long before she doesn’t want to anymore. The other half of motherhood is watching your children learn to not always need you. Audra is already prone to pushing away from cuddles after only a minute or two, the kind of snuggling that used to last so long I thought I’d never get anything done.

Well, I still don’t get anything done, but “too much time snuggling” isn’t my reason anymore.

She just wants so much to be like us, and so she pushes away to learn on her own how to wiggle and walk, to find out how the edges of the world relate to her when she’s not on my hip or in my arms. There is God in the growth of your baby, the way the six-pound miracle of creation I brought home in my arms has turned into twenty-five pounds of nonstop destruction.

Still, though - she wants to find her way back to us in the end, to know that those arms are there when she needs them. I find my way back to Jesus the same way, through her. I realize how small I am compared to the vastness of life, and hold my arms up for reassurance just the same. 

This is why I always find a few minutes for us to dance, either mostly to the beat or entirely off of it.

(I won’t lie to you - we are almost never dancing to the beat.)

Sometimes she laughs and claps her hands, swings her arms around as we move. Often we’ve barely begun before she’s twisting in my arms to get back down and scoot away to a book or a toy or her Daddy.  

Now and then, though, my favorite thing happens; she’ll tuck her little head under my chin and we’ll move in the dark in total quiet except for my slightly out-of-key singing. Sometimes, she’ll hum tunelessly along and I discover my love for her can’t quite fit in the bounds of my body.

In these moments, God is with and through and in us. These moments, when I am carrying her, I can feel that God has been carrying me, that my request to be held has been answered. That this request was answered a long time before I ever made it.

My daughter and I dance in the dark, and somewhere with us is my mother dancing her own babies to sleep. With us are my grandmothers singing lullabies to their own children, my great-grandmothers dancing with theirs. With us is a line of women that goes back to the very first mother who moved, gently, while she sang the first lullaby.  

This is the grace of God in motherhood.

I used to think I couldn’t dance; now I think I don’t really care.

We dance anyway.

God dances with us.

Today's post is my eleventh while participating in the #Wholemama linkup. This week's theme was "dance". You can find the link to this week's linkup and post over at Erika Shirk's blog Overflow. My other posts as part of the linkup or just inspired by the theme are CalmA Hard Leap Off a High CliffMotherhood on PurposeOn Reading and PeaceI Lay You Down to Sleep, My LoveWhen It Rains... CelebrateParenting is SillyAnything But OrdinarySpacePrayer, and A Supermom is a Sleep-Deprived Mom.


  1. Katie, I love this! I love how you dance with your daughter even if you don't follow the beat exactly. I'm not too good at dancing either, but I really should do more anyway. Thanks for your encouragement and sharing a little bit of your life. :) Blessings to you!

  2. Katie ... I love this! Oh what our little ones teach us. And can I tell you that the dancing even gets more fun when grandkiddos arrive. Yes, for sure, it does.

    Keep on celebrating, girl. So good to meet you this week! Sarah sure knows how to throw a party ...


    1. Ha, I am told grandkids make up for all the harder parts of parenthood. Plus, you can hand them back when diapers need changed ;)

      She really, -really- does. Almost 100 linkups! That's just crazy.

  3. "Becoming a mother did not make me more religious, not really. But it helped me to see again the way there is God and Jesus in my life, that they are in everything I do, no matter how small the moment."

    I feel this. Though for I lost it first in motherhood before I found it again. All the world's ideas of motherhood drowned out my own inclination towards God in motherhood and now I'm finding it again.

    thanks for your lovely words, as always. :)

  4. So many places I can relate, Katie. Even in your tag line. I'm not a coffee drinker but I gotta get my caffeine or it's not a safe for anyone. The 5-Minute Friday prompt this week was dance so there's that common ground too. I have rhythm, but dancing, in public, is way out of my comfort zone. I'm sure I've danced more with the granddaughter than my own but they have a way of bringing things out you'd never think. Having children has been one of the strongest ways God has taught me about love and grace. And a bunch of other things. With them both in their 30's, he's still teaching me! Good post. Keep dancing!

  5. I'm not sure she'll grow out of dancing for a while. It seems like it has the power to stick.

  6. This brought tears to my eyes, Katie! Lovely and true.


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