The Real Mary/Martha Message by Tami Kiser

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kiser_tamiWhen I first started leading Smart Martha seminars, I began with the premise that if we just get our work done more quickly and efficiently, then we would have more time to sit at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps if Martha and Mary used a slow cooker for the guests, had an efficient dishwashing system, and worked in a clutter-free, organized kitchen, Martha would have easily been able to join Mary at Jesus’ feet.   And this, Ladies, is all that we need to be more like Mary, a system and better organization!

I am not sure that I proposed it quite like that, but I know that many women took it that way.  Granted, if we do have our act together, work in a simplified and organized way, and use many timesaving techniques, we may spend more time being Mary-like.  But Ladies, it isn’t that simple, is it?  Women with that Martha-like tendency will find still one more drawer to organize, one more load of laundry to wash to distract her from the most important things.

After intentionally praying about and studying the Mary/Martha story for weeks, months and now, years, I’ve come to a deeper understanding of the message that lies in this story.

The message is NOT:

~I need to get all my work done as quickly as possible so that I can pray and be with Jesus.

~I need to put my work aside and spend “x” amount of time with Jesus each day.

~I need to carefully assess each situation that I am in and see if I should be “doing dishes” or “being with Jesus.”

I am not saying that any of these are wrong in and of themselves.  They probably are an improvement on what we normally do.  But I have been challenged, and I now challenge you, to take a deeper look at the Mary/Martha lesson.  Jesus simply wants Martha’s full devotion and love in whatever she may be doing.  In the story, it was evident that Martha’s thoughts and mind were on other things—like dishes.  Consequently, we see clearly where Mary’s devotion was.  She was physically (and spiritually) present with Jesus.  This is the “better part” that Jesus wants.  Not so much that she was sitting at Jesus’ feet not doing dishes, but that she chose to be physically and spiritually present with Jesus.  Remember, it wasn’t so much that Martha was doing dishes, but that her mind was elsewhere, “anxious and worried about many things.”

Our challenge now is to be present with Jesus at all times—whether we are doing dishes, praying at Mass, or playing Candy Land.  Sometimes it is good to go to adoration so that we can have that concentrated time of prayer, but don’t under estimate the potential for Jesus to be present during “dull housekeeping” tasks or boring Little League games that we attend, too.  As St. Josemaria Escriva says, “Do you really want to be a saint?  Carry out the little duty of each moment: do what you ought and put yourself into what you are doing.”

Sometimes we think that to be saints we have to do an hour of adoration everyday, say the rosary, attend daily mass, and do an hour of spiritual reading.  Sure, all these things help, but they may not be what our duty for that moment is.  Busy moms may be lucky to get in one of these a day.  But, that is OK.  Moms need to be in the moment and be spiritually present with Christ in whatever duties they have.  Picture yourself like Mary at Jesus’ feet while you are doing the dishes, changing a diaper, washing the car, reading “Green Eggs and Ham” or walking around the block.

Yes, it’s a lot to ask.  But essentially, this is how Christ asks us to live.  Try it.  It will be worth every effort you make.

I really found that nobody says this better than St. Francis of Rome:  “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”

Smart Martha Tip of the Month:  “Have Clear Spaces and an Empty Shelf”

Yes, I am still ranting about the importance of decluttering your home.  In particular this month, see what you can do about having a clear space.  It can be a counter,  table, dresser or your desk or all of the above.  I’ve been recommending this at my seminars for years.  Try it and you’ll see what I mean.  When my kitchen counters are clear–even if the rest of the house is in shambles, I have one place to go where I feel order and peace.  I don’t mind having to cook or bake when my counters look like this.  And clear spaces are easier to keep clear.  Piles and clutter attract more piles and clutter.  I thought to give you this tip this month when I ran across the same “clear space” advice from Gretchen Rubin. She is a best-selling writer. Her new book, The Happiness Project, is an account of the year she spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier.  It has been on the NYTimes Bestseller list for 3 months.  I’ve not read it, so I don’t endorse it.  But what she says about clutter is true: “For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm; a messy coat closet, for instance, is clearly a very trivial element in life, yet clearing out that messy coat closet gives a disproportionately large happiness boost.”

She also suggests having an empty shelf.  Have you ever experienced this?  I have.  I actually cleaned out our mudroom/work bench recently  and was able to leave one shelf bare.  Wow! what a feeling.  We don’t need to fill every space in our homes, even if our homes are small.  Simplify and lighten your load!

I will be putting the big finish on my decluttering spree when I tackle the attic the weekend after Easter.  I’ve been dreading this for a long time, so I had to use another decluttering tactic–Get Help! I  had to strike a bargain with my husband so he would agree to help me out.  Otherwise, I couldn’t face it alone.  Being present with Jesus in my messy attic will be a lot easier when I am accompanied by another person.

Copyright 2010 Tami Kiser

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About Author

Tami is the author Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms and the founder of www.smartmartha.com. She lives in Greenville, SC with her husband of 29 years.  She has 10 children:  8 boys and 2 girls ranging in age from 27 to 4. She also has 5 grandchildren.   Tami runs the Smart Martha ministry, CatholicFamilyCelebrations.com, the CatholicMosaic.com, and teaches dance classes.  Thinking like a Smart Martha has helped her to constantly seek to “sit at Christ’s feet” even in the midst of piles of laundry and sinks of dirty dishes. Visit Tami at
www.smartmartha.com.

2 Comments

  1. Tami, your article really hit home to me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to find the balance between cleaning up and letting the clutter lie. I have two very messy young boys and a very small house … which means that neatness is often some far-off ideal rather than the reality. I go back and forth about whether to spend my time picking up (or hounding the boys to pick up) or whether I should just learn to transcend the mess. I like your idea of making sure to have one clear space … that is very attainable, even for messy us! 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I am saving the quotes from St. Frances of Rome and St. J. Escriva as reminders of what I should do–and can do!
    And I know where my clear space needs to be. I’m off to clear it RIGHT NOW.

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