Building Cathedrals

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 2 Comments »
I am not overly fond of schmaltzy chain emails, however well-intentioned.  I got one the other day, however, from no-blog, non-quilting Jan, that touched me.  It was in honor of Mothers' Day, and the request was to pass it along to other mothers, especially those just starting out on the journey of raising a family.  Rather than annoy my friends with unwanted fram (friendly spam), I'm posting the text here.  Read it if you like, pass it along if you like.  It gave me pause for thought.

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 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 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; 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, though, 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.
Great Job, MOM!  Share this with all the Invisible Moms you know...I just did. Hope this encourages you when the going gets tough as it sometimes does. We never know what our finished products will turn out to be because of our perseverance.

Read this book!

Thursday, May 05, 2011 2 Comments »
Well, at least think about reading this book.  It's beautifully written, and provides a peek into a culture most of know nothing about.  It will give you a deeper understanging of what it is like to be a stranger in a strange land, clinging to a culture that has been all but destroyed.  I was mesmerized by the writing, the story and the journey. 

A quote from the author:

"I dream that one day soon my book will be published, and it will show the world one more way into words. I dream that this book will have the power to give value to all the dreams I’ve collected along the way, not just my own, but those that were planted inside of me by my grandmother, my people, and the hard lives we’ve had all along history’s forsaken trails. I dream the writing dream: to live in language forever, to unravel the human story and grant it the power to change human life.”

This would be a wonderful book for a book group to read and discuss, or for a young adult

Here's the link on Amazon.  The book is available in paperback and in a Kindle edition. 

Willy Wonka

Monday, May 02, 2011 2 Comments »
Boy are these wonky stars fun to piece! 

They are from the Bonnie Hunter workshop that Nancy's church sponsored on Saturday, with proceeds going to a New Orleans mission trip planned for this summer.  You can read about the workshop on Nancy's Blog here and here, then catch Bonnie's take on it here.

After spending months on the Civil War albatross, it was so liberating to sit and pull bright, colorful scraps and create something crazily unstructured.  The workshop covered wonky stars, crumb blocks, string piecing and funky letters.  I was so entranced with the stars & crumbs that I never moved on to the strings and letters.  I think it was a very liberating experience for some quilters who are used to a very structured way of piecing.  

The crumb blocks are just random scraps from old projects; the stars are mostly Kaffe Fassett scraps backed with  squares cut from a fat eighth I found in my stash.  I liked the effect so much that I panicked when I realized I had no clue what that black fabric was.  How could I make more wonky stars????  TGFG  (thank God for Google).  I did a search for "black fabric with bright stars and squiggles" -- no lie, I really really did -- and found some on eBay.  It's gonna be one bright and happy wall hanging.  I might try the funky lettering to spell out "Wish upon a star". 

Buh-bye CW.