I am going... to take all three of the older kids to their dance lessons tonight.
I am reading... Parenting with Grace. Again.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing...
The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral -- a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body.... The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God's creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other human creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation.... What on God's earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother. (Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty)But that title was already taken by seven young Catholic mothers, friends from Princeton, so I went with my second choice (but I really like it, too).
So, to all of you mothers who sometimes feel invisible, take courage! And keep building!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.
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 ?" 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 summa cum laude -- 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. 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 as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it.
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 . 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 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, 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 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.
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.
If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.
How many times have we, as parents, marveled at how quickly our children grow? at how fast time flies? at how each passing year seems shorter than the one before?
I am trying (oh, how I am TRYING!) to embrace each moment, not just survive each day. I am trying to overlook the things my mind tells me NEED to be done, in favor of the things my children's hearts are aching for: mom REALLY listening, hugging, tickling, playing, cuddling, teaching, and working alongside them, not in spite of their presence. Sometimes I succeed; more often I fail. But striving to live life thus intentionally means the more I remind myself of what is REALLY important, the easier it will be for my will to choose that good.
And, in that, I find great comfort. And hope. And JOY.
Lord, help us all to learn to make the most of the life You have given us. Teach us to leave no tender word unsaid and to love while life shall last. May we persevere in our work while the daylight shines, and rest in You when evening falls. Amen.
"This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).
"I love Sundays!" -- I must have said that to my husband at least three times yesterday at the beach. Truthfully, I don't think I could survive without them -- I think I'd be in an institution, or worse. God, in His infinite wisdom, has shown me time and again the necessity of a day of worship and rest.
It was in college that I was first made aware of our call to give the whole of the Lord's Day to the Lord. I had been raised Catholic and knew that attending Mass was an obligation of my faith, but as I began to claim that faith as my own and take it more seriously, I realized that "keeping the Lord's Day holy" meant more than merely attending Mass. And so, I began to refrain from work on Sundays, which at that time meant study. I am the type of person who is always wishing for more hours in the day to accomplish my never-ending list of things that MUST be done. So to know that whatever was not done by dinner Saturday evening would have to wait until Monday morning was sometimes difficult, but I was rewarded with renewed energy for my studies, and with a greater peace and sense of balance that I think I would have had otherwise.
My husband had done the same thing in college, and so it was natural for us to continue refraining from work on Sundays during our marriage. Again, sometimes this is difficult for me, what with piles of laundry or paperwork or attacking dust bunnies. I would probably never rest if not either forced to by a breakdown or (thankfully) reminded and encouraged by the Church (and my husband). Sometimes it means we HAVE to leave the house for the day so that I'm not constantly reminded of what needs to be done, but again, we have been rewarded time and again for giving the Lord's Day to the Lord, and to each other and our children and extended family.
As a family, we try and start our Lord's Day celebration on Saturday evening with a special meal together. We start with a time of prayer and song. Sometimes we share bread and wine. My husband reads the Gospel for the week and we discuss it, which the kids find helpful at Mass the next morning. Though we attend Mass daily as often as we are able, Sunday Mass is seen as a "little Easter" and we dress in our finest. After Mass, the day is spent together as a family, sometimes with extended family or friends, relaxing or enjoying one another's company in a way that the busyness of the week does not allow.