Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” –Luke 10:40-42
It is really snowing heavily today. In all the years I have lived in New England, I can’t remember too many snow storms quite this big. As I sit here trapped at home, I am thinking about all the work I could get done today. There are the Christmas decorations to put away, there’s all the extra laundry still piled high from having guests over the holidays, and then there’s my paperwork, forever looming and never ending. However, it just feels like a perfect day to quilt.
About a dozen or so years ago, two friends each gave me the same gift — a calendar for “Women Who Do Too Much” by Anne Wilson Schaef. It was one of those daily inspiration calendars where each day of the year offered a meditation, a little hope and a good reason to change such destructive behavior. I kept one and re-gifted the other.
At the time, it wasn’t all that clear to me why my friends believed I needed such help. It became clearer, though, when one day in June, I realized I had been too busy to take the time to turn any of the calendar pages. The first page still offered a Happy New Year! I tore off 173 pages in one hard tug revealing a message I’ll never forget (paraphrasing):
“Women who do too much believe they cannot have fun until all of their work is done, so they never have fun.”
God speaks to us in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes His voice is a quiet whisper and other times it’s like He is shouting through a megaphone. My eardrums were nearly vibrating on that June day. Oh my, Lord, was this ever true of me.
My entire life passed before my eyes. There was no going out to play until my room was clean. No watching my favorite show until the dishes were done. No sewing until I had completed my homework.
Since my love of sewing, art and crafting began when I was a young child, I sometimes had to stifle my creative juices until my work was done, or worse, I did my creating in secret while my mother was probably thinking I was working out algebra equations. I honestly remember feeling guilty while crocheting an afghan because I knew I should have instead had my nose in my chemistry textbook.
This mindset made its way into my adulthood. How often I said to myself, “Ok when I finish the laundry and the ironing . . . when the kids are in school . . . when the dishes are done . . . when everyone is sleeping . . . and THEN I can quilt! With the help of that little calendar, I had a revelation — THE WORK IS NEVER DONE SO WHY DO I KEEP TRYING TO REACH THAT IMPOSSIBLE GOAL?!
From time to time, someone will say to me, “I love to quilt, but I no longer have the time.” This always makes me feel incredibly sad. Ben Irwin said, “Most of us spend our lives as if we have another one in the bank.” When I hear someone say they don’t make the time for something they love to do, I wonder, when will there be time? Do you have another life waiting to be tapped?
When I began to think of my skills and talents as gifts from God, I began to see how not making the time to use these special abilities was also to deny God. When I thought about quilting as another way to pray, I realized that putting it last on my “to do” list was the same as putting God last.
Teaching children about the importance of work and getting it done is very important. We all have crucial work to do and we all have to learn responsible behavior. I really wasn’t much different as a mother than my mother was in that regard. I tried to teach my daughters to be responsible and get their work done, too. I shutter to think about the condition of the world if all us just stopped doing our chores or if we all decided to quit our jobs.
At times I have thought about being present with Martha and Mary when Jesus came to visit. Most likely I would have been helping Martha all that I could. I can see myself going to Martha’s defense with my arm around her shoulders saying, “Well, Jesus, it’s all well and fine to sit and listen to you, but when you’re done talking, you are going to want to eat!” I’m sure Jesus would have explained to me what I have come to know in my heart — it’s all about balance and it’s about loving Jesus no matter what we are doing.
Today I will do some quilting and some housework. I will do the quilting first when I am at my best and wide awake. Then I will do some housework later when I am tired and less focused. God gave me special gifts. I owe it to him to give my best self when I use them.