I received an email from a friend today that really touched me. Some of you may have seen this verse before while for others it will be the first time.
To receive this today was perfect timing. As the children get older, I’m hearing more and more “will you take me there?” & “please pick me up from here” & “what’s for dinner?” & “I need this by such and such date” & “Is my blue jersey washed yet?” & “Did you order my uniform?” & “I need money for the book fair tomorrow” & “Did you pack my lunch?” …. and all the extra kids who are over for weekend sleepovers and play dates, when I wrongly assume that I’ll find some “down time” during the respite from the mid-week craziness. What about my sleep? Or lack of it, I should say. On Thursday last week I stayed up extra late to fix a pretty good sized rip in a favorite shirt that one of my daughters just had to wear to a dance the next night. It was a last minute request, right before the bath that I was so looking forward to at the end of my day. (Please mom, please… I just have to wear this one to the dance!) And so, I gave up my bath and spent my evening with a needle and thread…only to learn on Saturday from viewing the posted Facebook photos that she chose to wear her friend’s shirt to the dance, instead. I smiled, didn’t show disappointment. I understood. I didn’t say anything, but inside I was thinking….I could have been relaxing in the bath that night!
I love my roll as mother to all these children, absolutely. But some days…I just wonder…does all that I do really matter? Who even realizes it? Who notices all the late nights, all the behind the scene details it takes in planning and organizing our days so that I can do all that I need to do for each one of my children? Surely not the kids, but that’s okay because they shouldn’t need to know all that. But if they don’t realize it and appreciate it…then what’s the point? Why go that extra mile?
The Invisible Mother
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, “Pick me up around 5:30, please.”
Some days I’m a crystal ball; “Where’s my other sock? Where’s my phone? What’s for dinner?“
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature -but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. She 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 she 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: “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 story of legend 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, no hockey/soccer/piano/Scout/school meeting, no last minute errand 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.”
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 four 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 monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, “You’re gonna 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 mothers.
The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you. To all the wonderful mothers out there? God bless and keep you!