"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
Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'
No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor,
standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm
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 sum a cum laude - but now they had
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
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 Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are
building when no one
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
No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of
These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see
finished. They made
great sacrifices and expected no credit. 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
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, Charlotte.
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
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
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
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 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
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