Beating Stress this Advent & Win a Great Book!


Editor’s Note: Tami Kiser has graciously offered two copies of her amazing new book Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms as a gift for our readers!  Tami’s book gives moms practical solutions for managing their homes but more importantly for nurturing their souls and familial relationships. From prioritizing family dinners to organizing your home and schedule, Tami offers the tools we need to help ourselves and their families live happier, holier lives.  To enter to win a copy of this wonderful book, simply leave a comment below and tell us something special you’re doing this Advent in your home, or why you need Tami’s book.  Two winners will be randomly drawn on Sunday, December 19 at Midnight PT.

“There is need of only one thing.” Luke 10:42

Do you really want Advent to be special for your family? Do you desire to do the “right” activities?  Are you anxious about getting everything done?  Yes. Yes. And yes.  I sometimes stress myself out by trying to do all of “the best things” for my family—especially during the holidays.  I want to decorate like Martha Stewart.  I want to cook like Julia Child.  I want to make crafts with my children worthy the pages of Family Fun magazine.  And, I want to have prayer and worship time with my children like Kimberly Hahn.

When I began writing this monthly reminder before the beginning of Advent, I was at the peak of all this stress.  While I was thinking of all the “Smart Martha” things to share with you to do when beginning Advent, I began to feel the pressure of actually doing those things myself.  Nothing is worse than an advice columnist who just writes about how to live without really living that way. I promise to always tell you like it is, even if it isn’t pretty.

If you remember the weekend right before Advent began, you will recall that it fell in the midst of another holiday weekend—Thanksgiving.  And, oh yes, I had a houseful. I was doing my best to remain a cheerful, attentive Mary in the midst of all my Martha dishes.

It was at one particularly stressed filled evening that I “complained” to God about the stress I felt and how overwhelmed I was by everything I wanted to accomplish.  I prayed, “Please, God, show me what I should be doing.  I want to live this Advent with a joyful hope of seeing you.  What do I need to do?”  I began to think about Mary and Martha.  I thought of Jesus’ words to Martha.  “There is need of only one thing.”

What?  I only had to do “one” thing?  What about the Jesse Tree, the Advent Wreath, the Giving Tree at the parish, the dozens of cookies for the Christmas concert, filling the shoes on St. Nick’s day, decorating the church, finishing my Christmas shopping, the Christmas cards . . . etc.etc.

“There is need of only one thing. . .”

What is that one thing? That one thing is to seek Christ.

Can I seek Christ doing a Jesse Tree, baking cookies, or wrapping Christmas presents?  You bet.  But only if I am truly seeking Christ in these activities.  Being a busy, anxious mom going through the motions of advent activities is just that, a busy, anxious mom going through the motions of advent activities. And you better believe that your kids and spouse can spot this. Less can truly be more when done with Jesus.

My Smart Martha Advice to you for this Advent season is this: “There is need of only one thing.”   When you feel “anxious and stressed” about many things, remember this:  Look for Christ.

I followed this advice, gave up my Advent plans and activities (including postponing this newsletter) and started simply with just an Advent Wreath.  I love this visual reminder in the center of our home.  It reminded me of my need for only one thing:  “Am I looking for Christ during this Advent season, like the shepherds, like the Wise men, and like Mary?”

Of course, as the days went on, Thanksgiving passed, and guests left. I had a little more time to plan and to put out a few of those other reminders of our need to look for Christ.  I put up the Jesse tree.  I found some short, but meaningful meditations to do every evening night after dinner.  I even began plans to celebrate some of the December saints, like St. Nicholas. But this time, so far, the activities have been so much more than just “activities,” because I”ve been more aware that only one true thing is needed, Jesus, Himself.  The activities have become a means to live out this Advent message of seeking Christ with my family.  In the past, I usually got so caught up in carrying out the activities themselves that I forgot why I was doing them.

If you find yourself feeling stressed about getting all of your Advent and Christmas activities done—think “there is need of only one,” and if necessary, stop all of the activities.  Don’t be a Martha who busied herself around her house instead of doing just that one thing that her sister, Mary, was doing.  If you can’t find Christ in the activities, then ask yourself,  “Are these worth doing?”

We just lit the 2nd candle on the Advent wreath, and so far I have not been anxious or stressed out.  Our meditations as a family have been meaningful.  We’ve just put Abraham on the Jesse Tree and discussed a little more salvation history.  Maybe someone can send this newsletter back to me in a few weeks as a reminder of my message for I’m bound to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season again!

St. Mary and Martha, pray for us!

Link this to the rest of my Advent Newsletter at

Don’t forget to leave a comment below to be entered to win your copy of Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms

Update:  Congratulations to our contest winners Kristen J and MajellaMom.  Both have been notified by email and will receive their books soon.  Be on the lookout for another contest later this week and more chances to win!

Copyright 2010 Tami Kiser


About Author

Tami is the author of Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms and the founder of She lives in Greenville, SC with her husband and family. Tami runs the online CatholicConference4Moms, Smart Martha ministry,,, 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.


  1. I could really use this book! I need help simplifying and being more deliberate about my home.

    For Advent, we have the Advent wreath, but we’ve been working to add simple additional prayers when we light the candles before we say grace at the dinner table.

    Blessed Advent!

  2. I draw so many great ideas from Tami every Smart Martha newsletter! I’m trying to stay focused on simple. I am just trying to remind us of the daily saints and prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child.

  3. I want to enrich my family with Catholic traditions. As a convert, I do not have my memories and past to draw from. I look for resources everywhere I can. I want my children to have great memories and traditions to pass to their families.

  4. I would love to win a copy of this book! I need direction. My kids have not experienced a true advent yet because I always get disorganized and behind and miss opportunities to incorporate these activities during the month of December. My goal is to change this next year.

  5. What a coincidence, I was just checking out that book when it popped up in my “recommendations” on Amazon this afternoon. I’d love a copy – enter me! :c)

  6. Well, I could use all the help I can get with my frazzled life and trying to re-center it!

    We are taking baby steps with Advent. The kids made a nativity set, and we again took part of the Our Lady of Guadalupe service (not technically Advent-y, but I think important nonetheless.) Still trying to find our way!

  7. I am making cookies for the 1st time with my son. I love to cook but never had help in the kitchen until this year. I would love to read Tami’s book. I need some reading material to feed my soul.

  8. We are doing the Jesse tree this year.. My girls (10 & 8) are making felt ornaments.. Helps them with sewing practice as well 😉 Hope to post a photo when they are all done.. (But that won’t be until after Xmas) I could use a little help in the spiritual uplifting department.. Thanks for such a great offer!

  9. Besides keeping the usual Advent customs (i.e. Advent wreath and calendars, Jesse tree, good works, O Antiphons, etc.), I’ve started taking the children to daily Mass. (Told them it would be their Christmas present to me! How could they refuse?) In church, my prayer echoes Tami’s: “Please, God, show me what I should be doing. What do I need to do?” Maybe He will answer me through “Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Mom”!

  10. I would love to have this book! Something special we’re doing for Advent…Actually this is probably the first Advent I feel like we’ve actually celebrated, instead of doing Christmas all season. We’ve prepared, quietly and never really in a rush. We’ve baked cookies all Advent, used our Advent wreath, I made a new Advent calendar that I plan on adding to each year, ect.

  11. This is EXACTLY what I need right now….something I will do in the future is a Jesse Tree!! But for now, loving daily prayers using a little blue devotional 😉 Thanks for the awesome chance!

    • oh snap, I didn’t follow directions! 🙁

      we are doing a jesse tree each night with our 3yr old and 3mo sons. we sing “come thou long expected jesus,” read a little story about the day’s ornament from the children’s bible, put it on the tree and sing a verse from o come, o come emmanuel.

      my oldest loves it! he sings along now (which is adorable!) and really loves putting the ornaments on. our list also includes the o antiphons, so the catholic nerd in me gets really excited 🙂

      also, we have two “add a piece a day” nativity advent calendars which my boy has also really liked!

  12. This advent we are simply doing an Advent wreath with reflections. In the future, I hope to add a Jesse tree, but this year we are hosting a foreign exchange student, and it is our first Advent on the farm, so that’s enough adjustment this year to convince me not to try to do more this year. I would LOVE to win that book, I am the first person on the paperbackswap wishlist right now, but it still may take a while before anyone lists it to swap!

  13. We combined the Advent calendar and Jesse Tree for our two-year-old. Following the lead of Kathleen Basi in _Joy to the World_, I wrote down a little activity for our son to do each day on post-it note. Then I pasted some small Jesse Tree symbols onto a December desk calendar and covered the days with the post-it notes (purple for weeks 1,2 and 4 and pink for week 3). Every day he takes a post-it note off and sees the symbol. We don’t always read the corresponding story, but this was about making a start. We do the Advent wreath together as a family after dinner each night. DS loves singing the song and helping to blow out the candles.

    The Smart Martha’s Guide would be very helpful because I’m a terrible housekeeper and very disorganized. I also have a number of chronic health problems so learning to be as efficient as possible would be very helpful. The story of Mary and Martha has always seemed to me like a huge slight to married women (and indeed the Church still privileges nuns over married women), so her perspective on finding Christ through housework would be a welcome respite from the guilt of not spending more time in adoration.

  14. As a new mom, I am still learning how to juggle housekeeping, husband, and baby. Staying organized has been the most difficult part of motherhood so far. This book would be wonderful!

  15. Oh, I didn’t follow directions either!

    The most special thing we’ve done during Advent this year is to involve my almost three-year old in the gift-giving/gift wrapping process. He has been so excited to make ornaments for family members and help wrap them. He can hardly wait till Christmas to give his gifts! I’m hoping that this will teach him the joy of giving as opposed to receiving.

    I would love this book because I really need help with balancing the different demands of motherhood, homemaking, etc.

  16. Thank you for the chance! We light the Advent candles (almost) every day, and sing a very fun Advent song in addition to O Come O Come Emmanuel, and read a short reflection. I also have been squirreling away Christmas books and movies, and we bring out one each day to read or watch. So far, it’s been very fun!

  17. No young children at home any more, but tips are always welcome. This Advent we are listening to some wonderful Advent messages on CDs, after lighting our candles for our evening meals.

  18. I would love this book because I am a new mom and a relatively new Catholic. I am also new to being a full-time homemaker and I think it would inspire me to do a great job!

  19. This looks like a great book! Currently, we are celebrating the O Antiphon days with the kids. We are doing things very simply with things we had already planned to give or do with the children. This has been a less stressful Advent by simplifying what we’ve done. I’m so happy this year! I’m usually telling my friends that Advent is so busy that it’s too hard to prepare peacefully for the birth of Christ. Today we all cleaned the house, and I caught myself thinking, “I’m getting the house ready because a very important guest is coming next week!” We also went to confession to clean our spiritual houses.:) Thanks for the chance to win this book!

  20. I just made a decision this morning to stop complaining about the clutter in my house and not to let it make me lose my peace. After all life with a newborn is only a season. I will look forward to the day that I have time to declutter. For advent I cut out treats and all “screen time” for our family.

  21. Thank-you for offering this Christmas present to one of your readers! So often I find that when God wants to tell me something a book is placed in my life. I was given the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life, by Joanna Weaver and then I found this on Faith and Family! I am a mother of 4 who works fulltime as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Life can be very busy and chaotic trying to meet everyone’s needs and juggle the demands of family and work. I have found lately that my time is spent trying to meet so many needs that I am just “doing and running” and not having time to spend listening and being with God. Truly living like Martha. My hope is that this book would provide some inspiration and guidance on how to live more efficiently in order to make living like Mary possible! Thank-you and many blessings to all this Christmas!

  22. This Advent I’ve done the best job ever for me at really doing the Jesse tree. When my oldest gets home from school, we all gather around the table and have snack, read story, do a craft ornament and talk about our gifts for Jesus in a day (sharing, obedience, cooperation, helping, dependability, etc.) We’ve only missed 2 nights and it has been wonderful time to “do only one thing.” I’d love this book because typically my house is so cluttered and chaotic that I need any help I can get. May God bless you!

  23. This year we added the Christmas Novena to our evening Advent prayers and we are reading Jotham’s Journey. It is a wonderful advent story (with a few harsh parts) about a 10 year old boy at the time of the Messiah’s birth. It adds a sense of authenticity to our Advent.

    Thanks for this great offer!

  24. This truly looks like a wonderful book. In our home, we put up a Jesse tree with homemade clay ornaments. Every night we read a Bible story that goes along with the ornament. It’s a great reminder of the waiting time of the Old Testament.

  25. This would be a wonderful gift for all of us to start the new year! The richness of the Advent season many times gets overlooked due to the stress we put on ourselves.Blessings to all!

  26. I would LOVE a book like this as I usually have about five things competing for my attention at once. I’m a mom and high school teacher and though I’m currently on Christmas break (yay!) , I’ll be spending large parts of my vacation grading essays and writing college letters of recommendation for my students (sigh). I’m always trying to work a more intentional spirituality into all of the chaos of my daily life. Thanks for the chance to win! Blessed Christmas to you.

  27. I’d love to win a copy of this book. I’ve been a total Martha this Advent running around like a crazy woman. Perhaps I can glean some useful information in reading this book.

  28. I think I could use some encouragement in my vocation as a mom of many children, so thank you for the opportunity to win the book. With varying ages of children, I am trying to simplify our Advent by focusing on the Magnificat meditations at night, the Jesse tree, and learning the O Antiphons.

  29. I couldn’t think of anything I need more! LOL! We have 6 kids (2-14) and have still not managed to figure it out. For Advent, though, we revel in reading special books brought out just for Advent and Christmas. We light the Advent wreath every night and follow with readings and prayers. This is a wonderful time of year!

  30. I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate our Catholic faith into our daily lives. Please enter me. I can’t believe that we’re in the last week of Advent. I’m hoping to focus on Christ’s coming for the next 5 days and not on all the plans that will remain undone!

  31. I would love to win this book – I think I could really use some help on the organizational front. This advent has been wonderful so far – my three kids and I have done everything from making homemade Nativity sets to gathering evergreens at the local park. Lighting the advent wreath candles and saying a prayer every night at dinner has been my favorite. The lighting of the candles, one new one each week, is also such a great way to teach young kids about the wandering in darkness, waiting, anticipating Our Savior!

  32. Would love this book. We are expecting our 6th child in February and I’m always looking for ways to keep myself sane and the family Christ-centered!

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