Squelching Our Inner Martha This Christmas

Messages encouraging us to slow down this Christmas  abound, but without a game plan and the courage to follow through, those inspiring posts and articles lead to little more than guilt. We know we need to focus on what’s truly important and most fills our heart and soul … but how? It’s one thing to desire–and even choose–simplicity; it’s another matter entirely to put our plans to action.

Change, especially when it comes to long held traditions and family expectations, requires courage.

(Insert background melody: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year)

It’s the most stressful time of the year
With kids fighting and yelling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most stressful time of the year

It’s the bus-busyest season of all
With the holiday shopping and mass-event hopping
And you must do it all
It’s the bus-busyest season of all

~ ~ ~

Did that song resonate with you? Do you feel so squeezed by all the expectations and obligations surrounding Christmas that you’ve lost the ability to think straight?

It’s hard to say no.

You may have heard the Mary and Martha story. Martha was a stressed out matron of the home who liked to throw perfect dinner parties, and Mary was the spiritual one—the girl who sat at the feet of Jesus—in the middle of said dinner party.

woman setting table

Photo by Simple from Unsplash

How many of you have hosted an important dinner? I have a few times. Now my husband begs me to order pizza.

Picture chaos, burned (or undercooked) food, and a massive mess. Always. Had I been serving Jesus, the Savior of the world, I probably would’ve had a major meltdown. He’s the last Person I’d want to serve hard potatoes and undercooked roast to!

Martha and I could’ve been twinsies, except we’d probably give each other a migraine. Too often, I allow my desire for perfection (eh, hem. pride) to overshadow what’s truly important. And everything turns ugly.

This certainly seems to be the case for Martha. I picture her as being quite passive aggressive—stomping about, clanking dishes, sighing every couple minutes while shooting Mary the stink eye.

Only Mary wasn’t paying any attention. She was too busy enjoying the special gift God had given her—His presence.

Although, she, and all their guests, must’ve heard Martha’s fuming. But Mary chose to ignore it.

Think about that for a minute. Mary chose to ignore the drama and do what she knew she needed to do.

Make no mistake, this took courage. You’ve probably been there—stuck in a situation where you knew what you wanted and needed to do, but were surrounded by others who acted as if you’re efforts or choice was lazy, irresponsible, or manipulative.

If we’re not careful, we can easily turn into Martyr Marthas, feeding our negative thinking and fueling our frustrations until we verbally explode.

This is precisely how I envision Martha acting–trudging about her kitchen, glaring at her sister, growing all the more irritable, until she’d had enough. Couldn’t anyone see how hard she was working, and how hard her sister wasn’t? Wanting to make sure they—Jesus especially—were fully aware of Mary’s poor behavior, she confronted the issue head-on, in front of all the guests.

“She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to You that my sister just sits there while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me,’” (Luke 10:40, NLT).

Imagine Mary’s humiliation—to be called out in front of all their guests. So how’d she respond? Did she hurry to do what Martha wanted? Argue with her? Nope. She let Jesus take care of the situation, and He did. He said, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42, NLT).

Image of candle and background lights with text: there's only one gift that will leave us fulfilledIt’s easy to get caught up in all the details, especially during the holidays. Unless we take control of our schedules, we can become “worried and upset,” otherwise known as totally stressed out, and rob ourselves of the gift of God’s presence. But we are in control of us, and we get to decide what our Christmas looks like.

This holiday, we can approach it one of two ways. We can get so worked up over all the details, or we can create the kind of Christmas we and our families need, the kind that’s centered around Christ.

Let’s talk about this. Whenever I feel the need to make changes, especially if those changes impact others, I’m hesitant. It can take courage to change a tradition, or cut back on family commitments, perhaps to turn down invitations. But God calls us to please Him first. How can focusing on Him give us courage to put Him first? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive free, inspirational content (and recipes and craft how-tos) sent directly to your inbox. Subscribers also receive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE. And, for added fun, you can snatch Breaking Free and When Dawn Breaks for half off–with free shipping! Grab a copy for yourself or the book lovers on your list!

I also invite you to pop on over to my blog on Crosswalk to read about the unlikely Christmas cast and what it revealed regarding the heart of God. You can read it HERE.

*Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Pubilishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Fussing, Fretting, Fiddling

Oh, to learn to be still. To take each day, each task, one at a time. To find the balance between doing and restfully abiding! I’ve heard we all need a bit of Mary and Martha, and I’d agree. Although I think I’d like to be able to work like Martha *while* abiding like Mary. If you want to know what I mean by that, check out Grabbing Hold of God Moments. 🙂

Christine Lindsay Author picToday Christine Lindsay, author of Captured by Moonlight, shares her thoughts on taking time to rest. I hope you’ll find her post encouraging.

FUSSING, FRETTING, FIDDLING, JUST LIKE A WOMAN

By Christine Lindsay

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about the fact that I am a workaholic. I think it’s because I’m a woman. Yes, of course there are men workaholics, but how many women do you know who just can’t stop working, fussing, fiddling, fretting, over getting it right—whatever ‘it’ is?

At the start of my fifties God allowed me to have a ministry—writing and speaking. And it’s all for Him. Each day in my prayers I yield it ALL to Him. Even if He wants to take it away from me, to do some other task to further His glory, I’m yielded, surrendered.

Wonderful sentiment…don’t you think? Downright noble…if you ask me.

Over this past winter I’ve been writing a great deal about how I felt the Lord say to me, “Slow down, spend more time with your husband.”

Apparently, I didn’t know how to take a day off, and my husband was paying the price. So I did the right thing and trailer in fallencouraged my hubby to buy us a travel trailer so we could get away just the two of us, for togetherness time. And oh how I love it.!!!!!

And the nicest thing is, my hubby is smiling too.  We’re having fun, just the two of us, ALONE.

It’s not that we don’t love our grown kids, grandkids, mothers-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, next-door neighbors, workmates, friends from church, siblings, and whoever else happens to call…but I distinctly heard the Lord tell me to get away alone with my husband.

I obeyed, and felt the reward of it.

Then I felt the second half of that whisper on my soul.

And who else do you need to spend alone time with, Christine?

You know, I’ve been a Christian a long time. There are not too many sermon themes new to me. I know I’m supposed to put the Lord first each day, spend time with Him, really listen to Him.

But am I always faithful? Have I really yielded? Did I truly surrender?

Sadly, no.

I’m too busy. And then, I’m ready to crack from overwork, and I sit down in prayer. Real prayer. Not just a bullet-list of “I Wants”, but prayer of thanking Him and praising Him, worshiping Him … slowly, I start to feel that I’ve given the Lord a tiny bit of joy. As if He smiled at me.

God doesn’t want just my bullet list prayers. And when I spend time with Him, I find that He helps me with all that other stuff that I fret and fuss over. All of a sudden, it all comes together as smooth as butter.

***

Christine Lindsay was born in Ireland, and is proud of the fact that she was once patted on the head by Prince Philip when she was a baby. Her great grandfather, and her grandfather—yes father and son—were both riveters on the building of the Titanic. Tongue in cheek, Christine states that as a family they accept no responsibility for the sinking of that great ship.

It was stories of her ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India that inspired her historical series Twilight of the British Raj of which Book 1 Shadowed in Silk has won several awards. Book 2 Captured by Moonlight is so far a finalist in the 2013 Readers’ Favorite Award. Christine is currently writing the final installment of that series called Veiled at Midnight to be released August 2014.

Coming February 2014 is Londonderry Dreaming, a romance set in Londonderry Northern Ireland.

Her short Christmas story Heavenly Haven is available as an Ebook

Christine makes her home in British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada with her husband and their grown up family. Her cat Scottie is chief editor on all Christine’s books.

Visit her online at her blog www.christinelindsay.org, on Twitter,  Pinterest and Facebook

Captured by Moonlight Christine LindsayCAPTURED BY MOONLIGHT Book 2 of the series Twilight of the British Raj

(Best book 2013 according to Author April Gardner, in top ten of Diana Flowers 2013 picks, Finalist in Readers’ Favorite 2013 Christian Historical, currently nominated for INSPY 2013 award)

Prisoners to their own broken dreams….

After a daring rescue goes awry, the parched north of India grows too hot for nurse Laine Harkness and her friend Eshana. The women flee to the tropical south…and run headlong into their respective pasts.

Laine takes a new nursing position at a plantation in the jungle, only to discover that her former fiancé is the owner…and that Adam has no more to say to her now than he did when he crushed her heart years ago. Why, then, is she still drawn to him, and to the tiger cub he is raising?

Eshana, captured by her traditional uncle and forced once more into the harsh Hindu customs of mourning, doubts whether freedom will ever again be in her future, much less the forbidden love that had begun to whisper to her. Is faith enough to live on? Or is her Savior calling her home?

Amid cyclones and epidemics, clashing faiths and consequences of the war, will the love of the True Master give hope to these searching hearts?

Watch the book trailer for Captured by Moonlight

Buy it on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and DeeperShopping

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How long has it been since you’ve paused to spend a day, just you and Jesus? If it’s been a while, will you schedule some time in? I say schedule because if you’re like me, if you don’t schedule it, it likely won’t happen! It’s also important to take time to connect with our Savior and to unwind each day. For moms, this can be especially hard because everyone needs us! All the time! 🙂 (Or so we feel.)

But if we don’t take time, how will our kids learn to do the same. Moms, there’s nothing wrong with telling your kiddos, “I’d love to play with you/read that with you/whatever, but I need to read my Bible first.” By doing so, we show our children spending time with God is of utmost importance. 🙂 We also show them it’s okay to take time to refuel, and when they are parents, they’ll need to be able to do that.

Is it hard for you to slow down and take time for yourself? What makes doing so difficult? Would scheduling time help? What are some ways  you like to refuel? I love going for walks or even cleaning house. I know that sounds contradictory, but when I clean, I turn on Pandora and plug my earbuds in and use it as a praise and prayer time. (I’m one of those odd Christians that pray best when I’m moving.)

What about you? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Some additional posts and resources you might find helpful:

Learning to Rest

Learning to Be-Do

Knowing When to Quit

Spiritual Wellness by Rhonda H. Kelley

 

Are You a Mary-Killing Martha?

Most of us are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha. If asked, I suspect many would readily admit we have much more Martha in us than we’d like.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Martha and Mary were sisters in ancient Palestine. They were close friends with Jesus. More than friends–they adored Him. One day, Jesus came for a visit, and Martha went frantic. (You can read the account here.) As would I.

Can you imagine the Creator of the universe stepping inside your kitchen? Drinking from your water-stained glasses? Or am I the only one with dusty furniture, buggy light fixtures, and cobwebs hanging in corners?

Like Martha, when I get on a cleaning-doing-rampage, I expect everyone to join me. For truly, how could anyone possibly sit while so much needs to be done? But in my dolling out tasks and responsibilities, I need to be careful I don’t rob my loved ones of God’s “better.”

It takes a lot of strength … patience … surrender, to sit at Jesus’ feet. We’ve all got to do lists, ambitions, and obligations that threaten to sap our time. Add in a frenzied Martha condemning our efforts, and how many of us can continue to abide?

It’s so hard to be a Mary in a Martha world! For us and our loved ones, which is why we need to be careful not to kill their Mary through over-scheduling.

Each day, I must ask myself–what am I training in my daughter? Am I cultivating an atmosphere that encourages divine-connections, where it’s okay to be a Mary? Do I actively adjust our schedule in order to leave time for God’s best? And what do I praise most, her commitment to Christ or her earthly achievements?

This is a hard one–especially when raising a teen. We want to teach responsibility, service, hard-work ethics. We want to expose our kids to the world. And there’s always so much that needs to be done! That can be done.

To find the balance, I believe we need to continually pare things back to the basics–training our child/encouraging our loved ones to know Christ and make Him known. If their lives, our families, center around that, everything else will fall into place.

This summer has been fairly easy for us. Our schedule leaves plenty of time for family discussions and Bible reading. My challenge will come this fall when sports, classes, and activities threaten to crowd out those family-bonding, spiritually-nurturing times. I pray, when our schedule balloons, God will provide a dose of Mary to balance my Martha, giving me the wisdom to differentiate the must-dos from the can-dos.

Moms and Grandmas, which woman do you relate to today? Are you a Martha, running around ragged, wishing others would help you? Or maybe you’re surrounded by a thousand want-tos–those blessings like amusement parks, sports teams, and gatherings with friends. Be careful your to-do and want-to-do lists don’t rob your children and grandchildren of their time with God.

Maybe you’re a Mary desperately needing time with Jesus, but the obligations of others weigh you down. Today I encourage you to close your ears to the voice of man and tune them instead to Jesus, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one” (Luke 10:41b-42a NIV).

And invite your kids to do the same. Each day show them what it means to abide.

Some things to try:

1. Read a Bible passage after dinner and, instead of teaching, invite each family member to share how God spoke to them through the passage.

2. Create a family quiet time with no tv, soft praise music playing, attractive journals for family members to write in.

3. Take your family on a prayer walk/hike.

Do you have any ideas to share? How have you encouraged your children to draw near to Christ? How have you modeled a vibrant, abiding faith? What are some ways you’ve tackled the schedule monster, and what were the results? What’s *one thing* you can and will do this week to foster an atmosphere of abiding?

Before you begin your busy day, pause to soak in, to rest in, Jesus words, spoken in John 15:4: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (NLT)

Life’s tough. You can’t do it alone. Neither can our kids. Let’s teach them how to tap into and remain connected to their power source.

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about ways to train up Marys in a Martha world.

What Happens When God Is Late?

Have you ever felt like God forgot about you? Like when you’re caught in an impossible situation with nowhere to go, searching for the life line that never seems to come? Maybe your rope got stuck in the parcel post or passed through a few too many hands along the way. But it doesn’t matter. You’re in a bind and you need God. Now. But then, when you least expect it, God does show up, and contrary to your panicked thoughts, the world didn’t end. In fact, once the storm passes and you take a step back, you realize God was there all the time. And He really did know what He was doing.

I’m always in a hurry. I’m about as far from a procrastinator as you can can get, unless of course we’re talking about errands. But other than that, I’m on constant overdrive. Not because I’m terribly ambitious, but because I can’t let go of the reigns. I expect things to get done a certain way and in a certain period of time. When they don’t I hit panic mode. And I could rationalize it a million ways, but ultimately it comes down to lack of trust. It’s like I forget that God is bigger than His creation, which includes my tiny little role in it.

Which is why I love the Bible passage about Martha and Lazarus. Martha and I would have been great friends. Or at least a highly efficient team. Although I’m sure our anxious thoughts and frantic behaviors would have given us both a migraine.

In John chapter eleven, we are told that Martha’s brother is sick. And what did you do in first century Palestine when someone you loved fell ill? You sought out the Healer, of course. And I imagine if He was a close friend of the family, as Jesus was to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, you’d expect a rather quick response. But what does Jesus do when he learns of Lazarus’ illness? He tarried, on purpose. Didn’t He love Lazarus? Verses five and six say He did: “So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, He stayed where He was for the next two days.”

When He finally arrives at Lazarus’ home in Bethany, it’s too late. Lazarus is dead. Martha is distraught, and even accusatory.

John 11:21 “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would not have died.'”

Translation: God, You’re too late.

Lazarus had been dead for three days. Martha’s faith and hope had come and gone. She’d gone from fervent prayers to mourning.

Jesus’ response? I’m bigger than that, Martha.

John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life.”

And we know the rest of the story. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and God’s power was revealed. And I’m sure when it was done Martha could have kicked herself for her lack of faith. Just like I frequently kick myself for mine. But the account of Lazarus has a way of bringing me back to reality. The God that made me, that saved me, is bigger than anything I could face. And His timing is always perfect.

So what happens when God is late? Now that is a question without a logical answer, my friend. The more rational question would be, when is God late? And my response would be never, even if it appears things have regressed to the point of decay.