Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Invisible Mom

A dear friend emailed this to me today. It is a blogworthy piece of writing for sure.

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, 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. 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 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.

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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Blessing of Starbucks

I have been severely limiting my Starbucks intake as of late. I can easily get out of control in this particular area of decadence and spend too much money. So I've almost cut back to 2 or 3 per month (Gasp, Buford - its true!)
A few weeks ago I was at our local grocery store which has a Starbucks in it. The roasty, pungent smell greeted me the moment I walked in the door but I resisted the pull of temptation and walked on past. After I'd paid for my groceries and was heading toward the car, I ran into a mom that I knew from school. She was holding two grande Starbucks cups in her hands. I smiled and said something about treating herself. She said that they had messed up her first order and made it full fat/full sugar when she wanted non-fat/sugar free. Would I like the messed up latte? - because she was going to throw it away. Oh horrors! Don't throw away a perfectly good latte! In the name of all things sacred I will save that whole milk, sugary, vanilla cup of bliss from certain trash can demise! I walked to my car savoring a warm, sweet, free blessing that I knew was straight from the Lord.
Then just this Monday, while on another grocery store excursion, I was so thirsty. I scrounged in my purse for the exact change to get an iced macchiato but when I walked in the store, I was met with the awful sight of this on a sign: "Espresso Machine Out of Order. Sorry for the Inconvenience." Bummer! I just took it to mean that I wasn't supposed to have a Starbucks that day. (You know the verse "No discipline is pleasant at the time but later yields a harvest of righteousness.") BUT later on that evening at Bible Study, my leader came in with a whole carafe of Starbucks coffee and vanilla/caramel creamer. Another blessing!
This morning, after dealing with some stressful PTO issues, I decided a pumpkin spice latte was in order. So I went to the drive-through Starbucks and placed my order. (At the same time, I was questioning if it was a good idea - since I don't want to get back on the latte-a-day plan!) After the gray-haired barrista handed me my receipt, she said, "Have a fun day! Blessings on you." Whoa, I was blessed by a barrista! But not really - I know that she was just a vessel through which came the blessing of God.
See, here is what I'm learning: I often get Starbucks (or any other treat) to bless or reward myself. But in trying to honor God in my spending, I'm fasting from something that I really enjoy. And in return, He is blessing my obedience by letting me have what I love either for free or with blessings on it! When I stop trying to bless myself, I get out of the way and allow God to bless me. That is a cool place to be.
Finally, tonight, while looking through some blogs, I found this quote and a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Lattes that you can make at home...the blessings never cease:
“A cup of coffee, home made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream…such a cup of coffee is a match for twenty blue devils and will exorcise them all.” - H. W. Beecher

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Something to Chew On

"There are herds of erroneous thoughts roaming across our minds, grazing upon the ever-available hay and stubble of unbelief and failure."

Quote from "The Three Battlegrounds" by Francis Frangipane

Friday, September 12, 2008

Say Hello to My New Best Friend

Today I finally broke down and bought a "store" vacuum. I've never had a "store bought" vacuum cleaner before. I've had hand-me-down Kirbys from my grandma and a Rainbow that once belonged to my mom. Pricey, super-suction vacuums sold by door-to-door salesmen who promised they would perform far superiorly to any "store bought" vacuum. But my hand-me-downs are well into their geriatric years and performance is failing. Plus they are cumbersome and heavy and I vacuum ALOT -almost everyday - some would say it's OCD - I would defend myself by saying, "We have 5 pets and I have people coming in here with wedding dresses!" I love to vacuum - it is my favorite household task. It relieves my stress and creates nice little vacuum tracks in the carpet. I believe the satisfaction of creating vacuum tracks has something to do with the farm girl in me loving straight rows of corn or perfectly swathed alfalfa. (I also like mowing the lawn for this very reason.)

Anyway - I've had my eye on the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser for some time now. (Lord knows I need some pet hair erased!) I read reviews of it on the internet and checked prices at some local stores. A few days ago a catalog from Kohls arrived in the mail. They had the Pet Hair Eraser on sale for $169 plus the little peel off coupon on the front revealed that I had an extra 30% off. It was a sign that it was time to bite the bullet and purchase that store vacuum.

And, can I just say that after its first use, I love it very much. It is easy to push - almost self-propelled feeling. And you can stop the brush from turning when you want to vacuum the hardwood floors. Plus the front edge fits all the way under the kitchen cabinets and sucks up all the little crumbs that live under there. It has this little turbo brush that did a number on my stairs - black dog + light tan carpet on the stairs=UGLY! The turbo brush got into all the little nooks and crannies and stair edges. Then there is the edge to edge cleaning - right up next to the baseboards. Oh my!! I am smitten!

How my "store bought" vacuum will hold up over time remains to be seen but right now this looks to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

PS: Dear Grace - I'm only kidding about the best friend thing. A vacuum could never replace you - unless maybe it also made fresh guacamole while vacuuming - but so far no one has thought that up. Your BFF status is very safe!

Friday, September 5, 2008


A couple of months ago, I signed up to be a Compassion blogger along with over 250 other folks. I didn't hear anything from them for the longest time - I began to think that maybe they only picked the really cool bloggers and I hadn't made the cut! Can you say blog insecurity?? However, that was not the case at all - they were simply getting organized in order to have a measurable impact via the blogging community. So this week the marching orders for us "first class Compassion bloggers" have been handed out and our initial assignment is to introduce our readers to our own Compassion child.

Please meet Miss Saintana Civil of Haiti. Saintana has been my Compassion child since the spring of 2004 when our former church held a Compassion Sunday event complete with video presentations and a table stacked with photo cards of children who were available for sponsorship.

So, why out of all those stacks of photographs, did I choose Saintana? Well, first of all, I knew that I wanted a child from Haiti. Our church was directly sending missionaries to Haiti and some families in our church had also adopted Haitian children. It seemed like that was the area of the world we had chosen to impact. Secondly, (and this is the craziest thing) when I looked at her photo, she reminded me of my great grandmother. The simple cotton dress, the tightly pulled back hair and a seriousness to her expression that revealed a life that had been hard. I was just instantly drawn to her and knew that she was the one.

I cried the first time I received a letter from Saintana. It made my sponsorship of her seem suddenly very real. This wasn't just some money that left the checking account each month but a real child, who loves to sing and who prays God's blessings for me. The letters from Saintana are written by one of her teachers in French Creole. I can only read one word in that language but that is really the only one I need to know: Jezi (Jesus). In a country rampant with voodoo, Saintana knows about and loves Jesus because of Compassion.

It is hard to believe that four years have past since I first sponsored Saintana. Four years of her photo hanging on my refrigerator and four years of praying for God to watch over her. It is fortunate for Saintana that her serious little face caught my attention in 2004. But there are many more children who have not been so fortunate and are in great need of sponsorship. Some have been waiting more than six months - they are on the outside looking in - waiting for someone to give them hope for a better life.

Please take some time to learn about Compassion by clicking on the links in this post. Then take a look here at the photos of some kids who have been waiting the longest for sponsorship. Who knows, one of them might remind you of your great something or other! Sponsoring that child really will make them a part of your family and most importantly give them an opportunity to learn about how to become a member of God's forever family.