It’s mid-November. A week before we travel to family in another state for Thanksgiving. Two weeks before my Father-in-law comes to stay with us for several weeks. Three to four weeks before a middle school band concert, cookie exchange, Matthew West Christmas concert, mammogram, Christmas cards in the mail, packages wrapped…and the list goes on and on.
In an effort to get ahead of the holiday chaos and minimize my own stress, I wanted to get the Christmas decorations up this last weekend. See, I was thinking that I wouldn’t have to do that while we had company here and I could roll right into the festivities of December without a thought to decorating.
Right after church, I started dragging tote after tote into the house to turn the casa into a winter wonderland. I worked for hours while the boys washed the boat. As the sun began to set, my attention had to turn to other chores…the chickens had to be put to bed, dinner had to be started, and clothes ironed for work on Monday. I realized I wasn’t going to finish decorating in time.
In a hurry I threw an empty bin into the garage, which bumped a fishing cart that promptly fell onto my foot. I bent over in pain and screeched “poppycock!” (I’ve been making a concerted effort the last few weeks to use antiquated words—not sure I used it in the right context, but it was my 1940s word of the day).
And then I started crying hysterically. You know the cry. The one where you can’t catch your breath, you turn red, your nose starts to run, and you sound like a skipping record when you try to talk. That was me. Hurt, but not “call 911” level hurt. Seriously, no need for all the hysterics.
My husband rushed over to check on me. He listened to me cry about my foot, about not finishing the decorations…and for good measure I threw in a bunch of other things like my Dad’s health, my Mom being overwhelmed, tasks to be done before we went on vacation…I even tossed in feeling sad about my pup going to the doggy day care for a week.
He hugged me while I cried and then said, “You know, you don’t have to do the decorating or all the entertaining preparations. You could wait. Or not do it. Or you could just be present with us.”
Did my husband just tell me that I’m acting like Martha, while I should be emulating Mary?!?!?
In the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we see Martha scrambling to make all the entertaining preparations, while Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to his teachings. Martha becomes increasingly frustrated with her sister’s lack of assistance and complains to Jesus that Mary isn’t helping enough.
In response to Martha’s complaint, scripture records Jesus’ response in Luke 10:41 (NASB). “But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but only one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
If Jesus were right in front of me, where would my attention be? On the decorations? On the meal preparations? On the cleaning?
Or would I be focused on Him? On His teachings? On His words?
I hope I would be focused on Him. And through the gentle reminder from my husband and from the Gospel of Luke, I recognize I need to shift focus away from the pre-holiday meltdowns. The preparations are nice and in some cases necessary…but they should not be overwhelming to the point of complaint or of shifted focus away from what is most important.
As we all go into the next several weeks of preparing for the holidays, let us stay focused on what is important by remembering the examples of Martha and Mary. It just might help us prevent a pre-holiday breakdown.