Saturday, April 5, 2008


I'm Invisible

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 summa cum laude - but now they had
disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be
seen again. She's going, she's going, and she's

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 hair clip and I was afraid I could d 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 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 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: No one can say who built the great
cathedrals - we have no record of their names.
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

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.

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 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 women.


Carrie said...


martha said...

Amen. that is a very cool quote. thanks for sharing it. I love you and your beautiful cathedrals. :)

brockleesgirl said...

I liked this a lot. It is such an encouraging reminder. thanks

Betsy Cradic said...

I had never read that before. Who wrote it? Very powerful!

Jennifer said...

I don't know who it is by. :( I'm sorry. Another invisible person. :) Praise to God!

Esther said...

That was beautiful. Thank you.

Sarah Dill said...

This is beautiful, and I'm not even a mom! I'm so glad to have met you last week and that we've found each other's blogs. Hopefully we will meet again someday soon.