Building Cathedrals

A story was told in church today and it went something like this:
Three masons were all working together on a structure.

A man walked up to the first mason and asked him, "What are you building?" The mason replied, "What do you mean? I'm laying bricks."

The man then walked up to the second mason and asked him, "What are you building?" The mason replied, "I'm building a wall."

The man walked over to the third mason and asked him, "What are you building?" The third mason replied, "I'm building a cathedral."


One of the questions in my yearly wrap-up post is, "What was your biggest achievement of the year?" I always forget this question is in there and I always cringe when I read it. Ugh. Achievement. I never have a decent answer because the answer isn't obvious to me. I pretty much copy whatever I posted the year prior, because most days it just feels like I'm laying bricks. Dishes. Brick. Laundry. Brick. Meals. Brick. Rinse and repeat.

In our "live life big" and "push the envelope" world, "achievement" and "accomplishment" are loaded words. People are hurling themselves out of things and climbing other things and betting it all and letting it all hang out. They're pushing their bodies to complete exhaustion. They're pursuing job titles, recognition, and raises or abandoning it all for a start up. All to "pursue the dream" because you "only live once."

And these things are all totally fine. If those types of things get you excited and give you a sense of purpose.

But different people are driven by different things and while I've suspected that was the case for years now, I'm just finally getting to a place where I don't feel like I have to apologize for it or explain myself.

Except this post, of course...where I explain myself.


Laying bricks is not known for being a vocation with a ton of variation. No matter where you are in the job the process doesn't change and the materials don't change. Your scaffolding gets a bit higher and that's about it.

The job requires a lot of skill, to be sure. I'm not trying to downplay that. The boys and I watched some videos a few months back when we were learning more about Frank Gilbreath, the father featured in Cheaper by the Dozen. He started out as a mason. It takes a lot of skill to lay bricks quickly and efficiently, and have it all be plumb and pretty when you're done.

Still, it's a tedious process, no doubt. But a tedious process that leads to amazing results. Results that can last for generations.

I just finished ready Jenny Lawson's book Furiously Happy. One part in particular stood out to me:
"You learn to appreciate the fact that what drives you is very different from what you're told should make you happy. You learn that it's okay to prefer your personal idea of heaven (live-tweeting zombie movies from under a blanket of kittens) rather than someone else's idea that fame/fortune/parties are the pinnacle we should all reach for. And there's something surprisingly freeing about that."

Funny and so true.

So my accomplishments this past year?

  • I read just shy of 50 books.

  • I made my family healthy, home cooked meals almost every day. I planned the menus, created shopping lists from those menus, shopped for the ingredients, and made the meals.

  • I meticulously researched, plotted, and planned an epic 2-week vacation where we drove close to 5000 miles, visited 9 states, toured 5 National Parks, viewed numerous other sites...and visited an alpaca farm.

  • I single-handedly (stuff it, spell check, it's totally a word) managed the education of 2 children. Arranging for and driving them to classes, planning and attending field trips, researching, choosing, and implementing curriculum. For two of their subjects I even assembled my own curriculum.

  • I kept going when the voice in my head said, "Stop fighting, already. Not everyone is going to be healthy this side of heaven. Accept that and move on with life the best you can." I chose, instead, to listen to the other, quieter, voice that said, "Keep going. This hasn't been for nothing. Better days are just around the corner. Keep fighting. Keep pushing. Keep hoping."

  • I learned to push back a little in my marriage. Oh, not that I'm married to a bully or a bad guy. I think I've got one of the good ones, actually. But he's human. And humans mess up (I know I do). And I do believe that we teach people how to treat us. After years of, "Sure, fine, whatever you want..." I realized I didn't like the dynamic in our marriage. I realized that "iron sharpens iron" is a principle that should be alive and well in every marriage. I was hurting both of us by not speaking up for myself and not calling my husband out on sinful behavior and by just letting things slide.

So, yes, now that I think about it, this has been a year of achievements!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to build a cathedral.



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