I received this in an email the other day from my Motherwise Mentor Mom (my Bible Study Leader). Be encouraged, mamas! I also included a letter I wrote to my mom after reading this.
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.
Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’
Obviously, not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?
Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated suma cum laude—but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going; she’s going; she is gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself.
I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription:
‘To My Dear Friend, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’
In the days ahead I would read—no, devour—the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
1*No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names.
2*These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished..
3*They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
4*The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’ And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.
It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘you’re going to love it there.’
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
Dear Mom (Debbie Miller) :-D,
You have done such a great job at building 3 little cathedrals who are now building their own cathedrals. (although, you aren’t done yet… we still need you!!!) I think of all the amazing memories I have that you have given me – mainly of the unconditional love you gave us and the cozy home you created. I want that so badly for my children. I am *just beginning* to realize the sacrifice it takes to create these memories… ones that are inscribed on your children’s hearts for their lives.
I can’t begin to think of all the work you did making Christmas Eve & Christmas Day so special – only for you to be exhausted & to hear us complain or fight or pick on each other the rest of the day. But the thing is, I don’t remember any of the fighting or picking, I only remember the incredible memories you made for us. How the house smelled so yummy, how I woke up knowing I was loved and safe, how we created silly traditions that had to be done the *exact* same way every year.
Even Valentine’s Day became so special as we woke up to heart-shaped pancakes, red and pink decor, balloons, and sweet gifts. I remember my first Valentine’s Day with Chris thinking I would do the same thing… until it was Valentine’s Eve and I hadn’t even thought about the smallest decoration!!! That was my first glimpse that this took work, planning, and sacrifice!
I think of the fun vacations we took as a family… all the planning, preparations, and packing that had to be done. We were so excited and thrilled, but I’m sure that by the time 12 o’clock rolled around on the first day, we had already complained or whined or done something that wasn’t exactly appreciative of all that sacrifice.
More importantly, thank you for the day in day out consistency you gave us. Consistency takes a lot of work – this I’m learning. Waking up early – whether you want to or not – preparing breakfast, packing lunches, sending us off to school to represent our family. The *break* you received while we were at school still revolved around us, I’m sure. Once we were home, you gave us yummy snacks, helped with homework, prepared dinner, got us clean and into bed. At the end of the day, you fell into bed, too only to wake up and start the entire process all over again.
Thank you so much for it all. Thank you for taking care of me on days I was sick. Thank you for putting up with my mood swings, dramatic tears, and sassy mouth…not just for putting up with it, but for “disciplining” it out of me! Thank you for praying for me, Johnny, and Nancy through out the years, weeks, days, and minutes. You have sacrificed so very much for us.
Even now, your life is not your own. Thank you for sacrificing your time (and life) to live with me and Chris and Harper as we prepare and then care for three tiny baby boys. There is so much comfort in my heart knowing that MY MAMA is here!!! But, I know it is taking A LOT of sacrifice on your part to do this. Please know that I am so greatly appreciative and humbled that you are standing by my side and helping me through this.
Like I said, I am just learning this whole process, and in just a month or two will be thrown in the middle of my dream ‘job’ with a grand total of 4 children… for the rest of my life. Oh how I have been blessed!!!
I know that only Jesus can teach me true sacrifice, and I know that you learned it from Him. I will stay in His Word to find the strength and wisdom to do this. Thank you for your example that you lived before us. I’m just laying the foundations for my 4 cathedrals.
I love you,