When I put dinner on the table, everyone acts like it just appeared from nowehre. The four of us can sit down with a full meal in front of us, and Jake will say, "I didn't want milk," as if he's talking to the air. It's the same air that my husband talks to when he surveys the table laden with food and says, "There's no butter." I have come to understand that this means, "I can't see you; I'm not even addressing you. But when I say there is no butter, the butter lady will get up and get it."
And he's right. Presto, the butter appears like magic; the milk gets swapped for juice; and we go on with dinner. No one says thank you, because no one sees that anyone did anything.
My family has no clue how their socks get back in their drawers, how their favorite treats end up in that mysterious brown bag that sits by the door waiting to be picked up on their way out, who comes to pick them up after school, or why the dog doesn't wet on the rug anymore.
Tim, my teenager, takes everyone else's advice but mine. My husband Michael talks to other people like he's interested in the minute details of their lives, yet he doesn't even ask me about my day...
Is this what comes from seventeen years of marriage and two children?...
At first I didn't care about being invisible. I thought maybe it was just a temporary condition, but the longer it persisted, the harder it became to deal with, because the more I poured myself into my family, the more invisible I became. It was the complete opposite effect of what I was used to. In college or in the workplace, the harder I tried and the more I gave, the more I had to show for it. I became more visible, not less. But in my house the more I do, the more it gets taken for granted.
I mean, is this what I signed on for? What did I really expect?"
(From "The Invisible Woman" by Nicole Johnson)
Feeling invisible to those around you hurts. Especially when it seems that the very people you pour yourself out for the most, seem to not notice you or care.
In reading this book, “The Invisible Woman- When Only God Sees”, I was reminded, that though I may be invisible to the world around me, I am never invisible to God! Invisibility can ultimately bring real significance and meaning to my life, that I might miss otherwise! Nicole Johnson demonstrated this beautiful truth through the stories of the builders of cathedrals in Europe more than a thousand years ago….
I was fascinated and started to research the lives of men and women who worked tirelessly to build incredible Cathedrals for the gathering and worship of God’s people. I think as a woman who works tirelessly at home- far from the applause of the world, you, too might find new perspective from their lives….
*Cathedrals required over 100 million pounds of stone and often consumed the labor of entire towns with only hand tools and stone! Not only were they architectural wonders that literally defied gravity, they were also filled with sculptures that were considered Bible stories etched in stone. These intricate statues are staples of gothic cathedrals and took dozens of carvers decades to complete.
*“Some of the architects and bishops behind a few of these great building are known, and much credit is given to them for their work, but the vast majority of the labor, the masonry, the carpentry, the stained glass was all done by people whose names history will never reveal.”
*Many of these cathedrals took over a hundred years to complete. One hundred years was far more than one working man’s entire lifetime, which meant that many builders devoted their whole lives to a work they would never see finished!
*A worker would need a special vision of what he was creating to inspire him for the work ahead. Especially since all he saw was rubble and dust and an endless amount of work to be done. (sound familiar?)
*While many of these builders and workers were townspeople, there were also a large number of monks. But unlike earlier monks, who were preoccupied with intellectual life, these monks regarded manual work as a form of prayer.
*Even along the roof lines of these magnificent cathedrals are carvings that can not be seen from the floor stories below. Why was such craftsmanship expended on them, and such planning given to their content and narrative? One sculptor wrote- "The most lofty work is as carefully carved and skillfully finished as any at a lower level.” (where man could see)
*A story is told of a very prominent man who went to visit a cathedral that was being built. He stopped to watch one of the workers, perhaps a monk. He saw the worker carving a tiny bird inside of a beam that would eventually be covered over by the stone roof. The man asked the worker why he was spending so much time and giving so much attention to something no one would ever see. The builder never looked up. He never stopped carving as he replied, “Because God sees.”
Years later, Martin Luther urged ordinary people- not just the clergy – to find the same perspective. He told the world that it was not the nature of work that made it holy. Milking a cow was no less holy than giving an offering. Luther believed that a housewife had as great a calling as a high priest, and that both should perform his or her work as though God alone were watching. Holiness comes from God and from the heart of the person doing the work, not from the work itself.
And now, centuries later, we read of exquisitely carved statues hidden behind walls visible only by reaching in with a mirror through holes in the plaster. It seems the artists walled up some of their best work because they believed God himself saw it, and they left it for God’s eyes only. Their work was not hidden by some one else,; they hid their own work. They weren’t afraid that no one would find out what they’d done. The one who mattered most had already seen it!
As mothers to young children, we need to understand the heart of the cathedral builders who were motivated to dedicate their lives to a work that they would often not see to completion and would likely never bring them the recognition of men. When we do, and we embrace it for ourselves, we will discover real JOY in being the women God has called us to be….
Titus 2 says that the older women are to teach the younger to be “workers at home”. (some versions say “busy at home”, “keepers at home” or “homemakers”) This career choice is not a popular one in our culture. Through the eyes of the world, there is no significance in forgoing a “real” job and being keepers of the home who raise their own children. But when God’s Word was put to pen, He listed it as one of the most important, significant roles we would have as a woman.
“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
“Let us think often that our only business in this life is to please God. Perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity.”
Last week I had the opportunity to clean a home in our area for $250.00. Say no more! Count me in! I clean a home every single day of my life and have a wealth of experience in my 30 years of homemaking, but not once has anyone handed me a check for $250.00 to do it! I would gladly set aside my own house work to do this one and already had a few ideas in mind with how to spend that $250.00!!!! I gathered my supplies, packed them in the back of my car, and was on my way! This job opportunity had me excited! Not, of course, because the work would be fun or self-fulfilling… but because for once someone would appreciate it enough to fork over the big bucks for it! I had a spring in my step when I arrived at the home to discover a TON of work that needed to be done. It didn’t appear this would be done by the time the kids got off the bus at 3PM. That’s OK… Even if I had to come back that night, I was looking at way more per hour than I had seen in 30 years! Should I go clothes shopping or maybe look for a new piece of furniture I had been wishing for….. it was fun to dream about what to do with the fruit of my labor!
Within the first hour I had worked up a nice sweat and looked the part of “frumpy maid”. I kept the prize in mind as I got on my hands and knees and worked my way around the commode it appeared the construction crew had been using. Suddenly a voice interrupted my thoughts on the job I had only hours before found to be so appealing. It was a beautiful, well dressed, hose and high-heeled wearing realtor stopping by to see if the house would be ready for showing the next day. I got up from my hands and knees, of course, and introduced myself. I was suddenly humiliated by what I sensed was a very “low” position in comparison to hers! I felt the urge to somehow explain that I was important… I was significant too… even if you couldn’t tell by the aroma of bleach and sweat colliding with your designer perfume. Did she know how much experience I had? I was a bona fide professional… But at WHAT? Cleaning houses? I decided to just smile and return to work.
I had plenty of time for some introspection as I wrapped my body back around the base of the commode and finished up the first bathroom out of four that needed to be done before I could go home to do the two that were begging for attention in my own home! It became painfully obvious that I had agreed to this job (and actually had been excited about it), solely because it held for me the promise of reward! Had I lost sight of the “reward” in cleaning my own home… in being the “keeper of the home” God had designed me to be? I obviously had! The truth was, I didn’t need new clothing or another piece of furniture, and I suddenly wondered if the time I had taken away from the care of my own home (and would have to do later!) was worth it after all! The lure of the money melted away… I wished I hadn’t taken the job.
It was obvious that God was teaching me something through this experience and I didn’t want to miss it (and chance having to repeat it again!). I had heard just a few days earlier of a missionary family in great need in China. They had once given money to pay for Abby’s open heart surgery when complications arose. Now the orphan they were caring for and hope to adopt was terribly ill, lying in ICU, clinging to life. Hospital bills would need to be paid or care would not be provided. They were desperate for God to send help… My $250.00 would be just a drop in the bucket in comparison to what they had done for my own daughter. But God had provided a way for me to give it, and what had begun as a way to line my own pockets for more “stuff”, became a way for me to serve the Lord through my cleaning “skills”!
Now suddenly- the job that had quickly become drudgery, became a JOY! And I realized as I cleaned my heart out until late into the night… that there seems only to be JOY when done as “onto the Lord” when only He sees! And just as suddenly, I realized that the quality of that work was equally as important. I wasn’t cleaning that house for construction workers or for a realtor! I was cleaning it for the Lord and I didn’t intend to skimp on my offering!
Shouldn’t this apply to the keeping of my own home too? He has entrusted that to me… asked me to care for it. Should I not give my whole heart to making it a beautiful offering to the God I love so much? It’s perfectly fine when “He alone sees”… because He is the only One that matters!
About a year ago, God began to do a radical work in my heart. While I had been a homemaker (by choice) for 30 years and a stay at home mom (by choice) for almost 26 of those, I had somehow missed the beautiful significance in doing a job for no measurable earthly gain. I settled it in my heart that I had done so out of love for my husband and the children God had given us… This is what I believed was best for them, and it was a sacrifice I was willing to make and enjoyed most of the time. It didn’t matter much that the world disagreed with my choices. I felt that it was what God had designed for me to do, and I wanted to do it with JOY. Sadly, though, my life was characterized more by resentment and drudgery, than it was with JOY!
While surrounded by young children and piles of dirty laundry, I had begun to feel as if a life of “ministry” was on hold, at least until those children started to go to school from 8-3, 5 days a week! THEN I would be free to get back to the “ministries” I loved and ones that made me feel more valuable in God’s eyes… and when that day finally came, I did! I began to speak for MOPS Intl’ and enjoyed wonderful, “ease-filled” lunches with my husband while they were all in school. THIS was the life I had been waiting for and I had earned it!!!! Life was GOOD!
But 10 years ago, right in the middle of the wonderful, ministry-filled life I was enjoying, I completely missed my monthly period! This had always meant only ONE thing and I was, of course, convinced that I was pregnant! God had “overridden” our decision to have no more children biologically and He was obviously calling me back to a life without the ease I had come to love. I decided then, that if this were true, then I would finally follow my dreams of adoption from China and bring a little girl home too!
I wasn’t pregnant. But I could clearly hear God’s whispering to my heart… “Lori, I won’t force you back home, but would you return willingly?” 10 years, and 4 children from China later (soon to be FIVE… and YES, that was an announcement, in case you missed it!), it would be safe to say that I willingly returned to His call of full-time mothering and housekeeping once again! One of those little girls (and soon to be two) was born with an extra “JOY” chromosome- commonly known as Down Syndrome. In adopting Abby, and now little Rebekah, I am CHOOSING to embrace this role of full time mom and homemaker, likely for the rest of my life!
This is not the life of “ease” I had planned or looked forward to! But thankfully, (through what I call my “do over”!) God has used the adoption of those precious girls to completely change my understanding of my role as a mother and as a homemaker. His call back home was not a call AWAY from ministry! Nor was it a call to put my ministry on “hold”! Instead, it was a call back to the GREATEST ministry He HAS, or ever WILL give me… right inside the four walls of my own home! Yes… where only He sees!
The most significant change was that I began to see that those children are not “mine” (as I had often viewed my biological children to be), but HIS- entrusted to me for a short time and intended to be offered back to Him when I am through. My home belongs to Him too, just like everything else I “possess”! My call as a mother and a “keeper” of that home is a sacred trust! I work for HIM! Not for my children and not for my husband!
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
If you look at all of Paul’s writings throughout the New Testament, you find this theme woven into each and every one! So, it would only be natural to read the words of Titus with the same idea in mind… For us, as women, our place of service is the HOME, and we are to do it with all of our hearts, as unto the Lord!
We too, can be like Paul, and become what he called a “drink offering” before the Lord! Our lives, poured out, in service to Him!
I remember a time in my life when I cried out to God- “I want more of you!” I was not satisfied… And I didn’t know how to be. Everything I had looked to left me empty! I knew that true joy would only be found in Him, but I didn’t know how to get more of Him!
What I really wanted was all of me PLUS more of Him… I did not yet understand that to get more of Him (more JOY!), I would have to pour out some of me! But as I poured out more and more of me, I discovered a JOY I had never known before!
Now I finally see it! The more of me that I pour out- the more space there is, for more of HIM! He can only come in and fill up emptiness. When I am full of self there is no room for Him! Give away me- make room for Him- Give away His gifts- make room for more gifts!
“Lord- give me more so that I have more to give!!!!” Joy, Joy, JOY!!!! That’s why we were created…. To glorify Him! I become less- He becomes more- I overflow with His JOY and He is more and more glorified in that JOY!!!! A beautiful cycle of JOY!!!! And that is His design! YES… even in your God ordained role as the “keeper of your home”… When only He sees!
Recently I read this quote from another weary mom of many children… “Ease is the enemy of the mother who really wants to fall in love with God!” Really? Ease is my enemy? What a scary thought when I realize how often I dream of more hours and days filled with ease… and sometimes allow my desire for ease to neglect the very responsibilities God has laid before me in His Word!
The life of a mom and homemaker is far from a life of ease (contrary to what the world would have us believe!), but it gives us the perfect opportunity to pour ourselves out for the good of others and look to Him for the significance and value we long for as women!
Just a few weeks ago, while wiping bottoms and bathing little ones, I felt especially inpatient and irritable. My friends were all enjoying their empty nests these days. Probably sitting in front of the TV watching HGTV or out on a date with their husbands. My best friend happened to be in the Florida Keyes for a long week away… alone…. with her husband… with no children…. I was terribly jealous!!!! There would be no empty nest for us, and likely not much HGTV, date nights, or weekends away, for a long time to come. Why had I signed up for this? But then God swept into my consciousness in an instant and brought His words back to my mind… “Do everything as onto the Lord… It is the Lord Christ you are serving!”
I had forgotten and my role became drudgery. But as I let that sweet reminder sink in and I looked down at the child waiting for my help, I remembered… This is HIS child and He’s asked me to serve HIM in this way. With what kind of heart would I serve Him? Irritability and impatience were replaced instantly with JOY!
HGTV is a great friend to spend the evening with, and my husband even better! But relaxing in front of a TV screen or in the Florida Keys alone with my husband won’t bring the kind of JOY serving Him does!
The greatest JOY I will ever know is found in those places… those sacrifices that “only God sees”! What I do may be invisible to the world around me… maybe even to the very people I am doing them for. But my offering is never invisible to God and the reward is so much more than a mere $250.00 I’d earn for cleaning up after construction workers.
My life, and the way I choose to live it, is all I have to give back to God… and I only have one chance to do it! You will be a mother of young children and the intense homemaking that comes along with them for such a short time and as much as you’d like to sometimes, you cannot turn back the hands of time… They will fly from the nest before you know it, and this particular carving in the cathedral of your life will be complete. Will you give yourself fully to that, knowing that though the world might not notice.. God does, and your offering is beautiful to Him!? What will you do with this ONE sacred opportunity He has given you?...
“WHEN ONLY GOD SEES"