Monday, February 15, 2010

Okay, I blew it

I had every intention of having a nice heart picnic for all of my men on Saturday and to take pictures of us opening up our Valentines Surprises on Sunday, and then to whisk you away with photos of the eventfully fabulous Valentine's Dinner that Mr. Dunbar and I attend every single year. But none of it happened.  I was in a bad mood on Saturday, exhausted on Sunday, and just overwhelmed today.  But I received the following passage today and I thought it was fitting. I've read it before but it's a good reminder.

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, '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 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:

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 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.

~mrs. dunbar


On the Bright Side said...

Wow!I really needed that right now. Thanks!

Katie said...

A Gf emailed me that last week, isn't it Awesome!!!

Cathy said...

Your mission field is one of the hardest...little hands and big needs, with few breaks. Much easier to travel to far lands and minister to strangers, I always say, them being a missionary to the ones tucked in bunk beds down the hall. God's mercies are new everyday--Oh, how that helps me as I mission within these four walls we call home! xoxo

Anonymous said...

oh my goodness irene! i was gasping throughout this post! i am trying not to cry! thank you so much for this wonderful post! it reminds me of what i am doing and why i am doing it! i so wish we could be sitting together right now so i could give you a big hug! xo

Cathy said...

"than (not them)


Genn said...

Wow. That's powerful. Thanks for sharing. I will remember that story. And I hope your bad mood has drifted on by. It happens. :)

Seizing My Day said...

hands buried in peanut butter... ;) I love it! I feel it! Have a blessed 'invisible' week!
Just Jenn ~

Sarah said...

Hey Mrs Dunbar, this is a truth, I have never before heard put this way. The person i think of straight away is my Mother...she has done just what you wrote. I am going to print this out and give it to her! Thank you for your openness!


Feather said...

i, too, needed this. i have never read or heard this before. it is ... awesome. and awesome concept. thank you.

Jill said...

This has ALWAYS been one of my favorites!!! I have the video saved in my inbox...I can't tell you how many days I go in and replay it!!
and it brings me to my knees everytime...and a stream of tears usually folllows too!
Hope your day is lovely today!
Many Blessings!

jen@odbt said...

Thanks for the reminder. I had read this a long time ago and it is so true. I wonder often why I'm doing what I'm doing or not. You did not blow are always present for your family.

Michelle F said...

Thank you for sharing this, you didn't blow it. I know your boys think you are the best mommy in the world.

Janna said...

This story is real to me today as I'm home with a sick child. Usually I get all stressed out about the things I'm not getting done, but today I'm actually enjoying just taking care of my baby. I woke up SO GRATEFUL that I no longer have to worry about juggling my job with my kids - now that my family is my full time career!

The Salinas Family said...

Blowing it is a little strong don't you think? I think you are a busy mom, who is always thinking about and putting others before yourself. So don't be so hard on yourself. You are wonderful and had many other days of love activities (even though EVERY DAY you operate out of LOVE!)

Amy said...

I love this and it is perfect because that is just how I am feeling today! Stressed, overwhelmed and definitely not like mother of the year!

Tawny said...

Such a wonderful story, I've never heard it before!
It really does make you stop and think.
I hope you are feeling better.
We really do all have those kinds of days and hopefully writing about it and reading your story helped a bit :)

Kristi said...

Wow. Awesome story.

I have to say that reading your posts leading up to Valentine's Day, you hardly blew it! You do some amazing things for your family and you are very inspirational. Shake it off!

Thanks for the story, it's a great reminder.

Erika Johnson said...

Great post! It gave me chills. Thanks for sharing it.