A few years ago I used an exercise DVD with several types of exercise. One of my favorites was a beginner’s ballet routine. I followed it so many times–not that it turned me into a ballet dancer, but it did program some of the instructor’s words in my mind. Sometimes I still hear them.

One of the things she said about ballet was, “So the arms make it appear effortless at the top, while the legs are working hard at the bottom.” The beauty of this has intrigued me quite a lot because ballet is, in fact both very hard work and an elegant art of gentle movement.

Last night was one of those times I heard those hard-effortless words in my mind, but this time it had nothing to do with  ballet. Instead it was a picture of the dance of mothering.

We are in the middle of upheaval right now since we discovered mold in our house.  The boys and I left home and lived in SC for nearly a week and Virginia for a little over two weeks while Steve worked on getting rid of the mold in three rooms in the evenings and weekends after work.

We came home two weeks ago to our main living area crammed with the contents of other rooms waiting to be cleaned and sorted. Most of the living room furniture is in temporary storage and Steve and I are sleeping in the guest room while the master area is torn apart.

We definitely were reacting to the mold that is still in the house and tried to keep those parts of the house closed off as much as possible. Still we didn’t feel feel well at all.

This past weekend we all moved into a hotel for a weekend, so Steve could tackle the next three rooms–a closet and our master area.  Our friends Eric and Linda so generously came up to spend the weekend with us. Eric helped Steve work on the house on Saturday and we got to enjoy time together.

Although the men got a lot of work done on the house, it wasn’t ready for us to move home on Monday like  we had been expecting. We hadn’t taken our school books with us, so I planned a field trip to keep us from losing a school day.  I planned to go to a nature reserve a few miles away, and they even happened to be hosting a  homeschool day.  Then it started raining.

I searched a little more and decided to take the boys to a train museum about a half an hour further north. It turned out to be a great, low key place for us and we all enjoyed our time there.

We killed a little time at a library close by, ate a little food then started toward home. I’d heard about a really great Christmas light display, and thought we could drive through on the way home. At that point I was so t.i.r.e.d., but how hard can a drive through be?

It was fantastically fun, only we ended up needing to get out and walk around.  Finally everyone was packed back into the car and we were driving HOME after a long weekend away. I didn’t know what to expect at home, and besides for the mold there are lots of big things on our minds these days.

The boys were happy and there was Christmas music playing.  Zac was sitting beside me, and his eyes were sparkling. He let out a long happy sigh.  “This has been the best day of my LIFE.”

In that moment I recognized the contrast between my experience and his. And those words from long ago came back, “So the arms make it appear effortless on the top while they legs are working hard on the bottom.” They felt very true to my mothering in that moment.

In a sense mothering had been [working hard]

All day I’d been fighting to find joy while hard things pressed against me.  I had also been thinking about how to make the change in plans work for us, how to incorporate school, how to keep this day happy for the boys even when it felt hard to me. I needed to redirect whining, find snacks, and keep boys safe on the street. I’d been looking out for places to eat that would work for our diets and places to go to fill our time without requiring a lot of energy from me because I wasn’t feeling great.

while also [making it look effortless]

All day we had been sleeping in, eating lots of good food, going to new places, stopping to play at a playground we passed, finding a bridge to run through, hanging out as long as we wanted in the museum’s educational play room, never rushing, visiting a great light display, listening to holiday music, and coming home and drinking hot chocolate.

Of course there’s a little bit of heart between the arms and legs for us, too–the times when they hear me recognize a problem and ask God to help us or when we talk about asking Jesus to help us find happiness or when we take our fears to Him.  But mostly I love that the boys don’t really see the ugliness of life, yet.

Maybe because there’s so much hard stuff in our life I know our children will see and feel sacrifices and brokenness a lot. Obviously we want to engage them in processing it well, but I also want the boys’ childhood to be carefree.  While there is all kinds of turmoil in our world and we’re working our way through it, they can lean back in their seats with stars in their eyes and see it as the best time in their lives. Effortless.


I’d love to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment here.


19 thoughts on “Effortless.”

  1. This is so good, Christy! I needed the reinforcement of these thoughts. I tried to make a special evening for my kids last night. Daddy was away, so I took them to Food Lion for a few groceries, picked up McDonald’s for supper, then came home for hot chocolate and a movie. It’s way too easy for me to miss the moment in tension. “Watch out – your juice is spilling!” “Keep your feet out of your brother’s ketchup.” (We were eating on the floor) “Can you please just sit down and sit STILL?!”
    I need to remember two things. Loosen up!! And remember that this is so worth it for them, even when it’s stretching for me.
    So thanks. And good job. You are shining grace, even in this hard place!

  2. I echo what Clarita said. This is just wonderful. My childhood was very much this way: “best days ever”, idyllic and playful and innocently free from worry and concerns, not really remembering my parents as being stressed or overwhelmed (although they had plenty of occasion to be). I hope to foster the same and remember this perspective of “effortlessly working hard” with my children. Thank you for sharing, Christy!

  3. Christy, this so spoke to my heart…thank you for sharing it. I struggle to not let my children know when I’m frustrated, or tired, or stressed…and I want to do so much better in this! Thank you for the inspiration in the middle of real life hardness. Hugs.

  4. So inspiring. I can’t imagine what you are going through right now with your house. Obviously, God has given you joy and strength in the midst of this hard time. How beautiful. I want to mother like this…and to have my child say that about their day would be priceless!

  5. I admire your effort to do things with your children, rather than to merely survive. They will have so many special memories of their special mom!

    Yesterday while I helped deliver a couple babies, I realized that one of the things I love about that job is that it makes me feel competent. Most days I feel like I am miserably failing at motherhood. And the load of guilt is overwhelming.

    I love the picture of the ballet dancer–grace paired with hard work. I hope someday I can see that in my own life. Blessings and thanks for writing!

  6. Something that makes me feel grateful toward my own parents, is that the years of my childhood that were the most carefree and happy for me were some of the most difficult years for them. At the time, I had no idea what they were facing: unemployment, health crisis, church issues, and more.
    Now the challenge for me is to make sure that my own frustrations do not shape my children’s childhood in negative ways. Glad to have you for a role model.

    1. This is good to hear. And I really liked the way you said that you don’t want your frustrations with life to shape your children’s childhood in negative ways. Ha, I don’t know about being a role model, but I love learning about life with you.

  7. This made me cry. Because your strength and spirit are amazing, and because YOU did the hard work while making the day effortless for them. The reason Zachary had “the best day ever” is because you didn’t whine or fuss about the circumstances – you could have made them realize just how difficult things were that day, but you didn’t. What a precious moment for you as a mother to hear Zachary say those things, especially when you had been working hard all day as a mother. Red Letter Day right there. :) Good job, sweet brave mama! xoxo

    1. Well, I’ll give the glory to God here because I was pretty weak–if you see strength it is HIM in me. Yes, it is absolutely precious to hear those sweet words and know that our kids are feeling loved and secure in a life that isn’t blissful. :)

  8. Your words are relevant and encouraging to me today.

    I’m not facing mold right now, but I felt like throwing in the towel all day yesterday.

    I want to be the kind of mother/woman who is willing to do that hard, relentless footwork in the dance of life for my family.

  9. Wow, Christy! Dealing with this mold in your house has got to be SO hard! And tiring. Praying you have strength to keep working at it, and mother with joy!

    1. Yes, it stinks. Ha. Although, in some ways it’s nice to finally have an answer to the why for the cause of our health issues. Also, it’s pushing us to make some decisions about our calling here, so we see God’s hand in it. I appreciate your prayers!! So many days are lived in desperate dependence on Him.

  10. Christy, I love this. And I will just say that the reason that they didn’t see the ugliness, is because you didn’t let them. You were obviously cheerful through it all instead of whining and complaining. YOU deserve a medal! I love your heart for your boys. You’re a great mom! And hopefully that mold mess will be over soon and you’ll be able to have normal life again. 😊

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