Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Superpower or Reality

The other night I was playing a game with Megan, Ellie and Mike. I was asked the question, "If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?" I think it shocked them how quickly I was able to answer the question.

Without having to give it a moments thought, I said,

"I'd want to be invisible, so I could go into other people's houses and listen to their conversations." 

Megan had a horrified look on her face. Ellie seemed too young to care and Mike? Well Mike knows me well and has heard many a time the phrase, "I wish I could be a fly on their wall" come out of my mouth. 

I'm not ashamed to admit my nosiness. I've said it before--I inherited my genuine interest in other people from my dear Granny.

All kidding and joking aside.

Summer is just about half over--at least as far as summer vacation from school goes. As much as I love the break in routine from homework, packing lunches, early mornings to catch the bus and early bedtimes, I am not loving the seemingly long days of five children at home. Do you know how much fighting, snacking, arguing, messes, meals, dishes and cups on my counter, five kids home all day everyday cause?


As a result, I am weary. I am worn-out. I am ornery. I am short-tempered. I am tired.

Because in between the refereeing of arguments and the meal/snack preparations and clean-up I'm still trying to fit in all the "good things" I'm supposed to be doing as a mother. I'm trying to guide my children in their musical practicing, their academic responsibilities, and their housekeeping assignments. All the while, I'm trying to make sure we fit in family prayers and scripture study, personal hygiene, social interactions, oh, and of course I've got to give friendly reminders making sure goats, chicken and rabbits get fresh water during these hot temperatures.

Perhaps it is all those overwhelmed thoughts and feelings that made a recent article by my friend Allyson touch me deeply. Her article (that you can read HERE) referenced a beautiful excerpt from the book, "The Invisible Woman" by Nicole Johnson. (Side note: I'm looking forward to receiving the book in the mail any day now. Doesn't reading the following make you want to devour the whole book in one setting, while sitting on your back patio while eating a good piece of chocolate?)

I'm finding it ironic that my superpower wish is to be invisible. In a way, I already am.

It started to happen gradually …

One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, “Who is that with you, young fella?”
“Nobody,” he shrugged.
Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, “Oh my goodness, nobody?”
I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family – like “Turn the TV down, please” – and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, “Would someone turn the TV down?” Nothing.
Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party. We’d been there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, “I’m ready to go when you are.” He just kept right on talking.
That’s when I started to put all the pieces together. I don’t think he can see me. I don’t think anyone can see me.
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.
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 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 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:
  • 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.


  1. Interesting reading. I have felt a lot of things, but never ever once have I felt invisible as a mother. Hmmm. I'm going to have to think about why that is and maybe blog about it! I do however, completely empathize with getting weary from the summer chaos of 5 kids home! Usually around August 1, I'm done with summer and start the countdown for school. Looks like I'm right on schedule!

  2. I really liked that excerpt. And I'm not sure if you'd like to be a fly on the wall at my house, we like saying some inappropriate things around these parts. I'd love to tell you what Zack said to me today after I asked him to please bring the hose from the back yard in to the front yard for the hundredth time so I could water my plants, but I'll spare you from his sick humor. ;)

  3. Tiffany, I've thought a lot about why the particular passage you read has been weighing on my mind and I think it's because the woman who is speaking has accepted her invisibleness and I don't think as a mother or wife you ever should. I think at times you should insist, or maybe even demand to be seen because I don't think it is a noble thing to be invisible. What do you think? Of course children don't notice everything we do for them or appreciate it, but they shouldn't be oblivious to it either. One of my mantras is: be a mother, not a martyr. I think that motherhood can be mutually beneficial in the here and now by expecting your children to see you and aporeciate you, and not just many years in the future when you look back on what you have accompolished. You'll have to let me know how the rest of the book is. Perhaps I am misinterpreting the passage you shared. Nonetheless, I always appreciate something that makes me think, so thank you!




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