Mary and Martha Moment: Declutter Out of Love for God

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DSC06636 (375x500)  large plastic organization (2)

Remember that movie “Speed” with Keanu Reeves?

You know, the guy who delivers lines in this voice: “I will sword fight you now. Yes. We will fight. I am delivering a line in a movie using my hero voice, but you do not need to remember that I am acting.”


The entire movie is shot on a bus that can’t stop and is speeding to certain doom. The hero has to figure out how to stop the bus, save the pretty girl and all the common people, and look good while doing it…and all the while the bus is hurtling down the freeways and backroads and any road it can find.

Do you ever have days like that?

Not feeling like a handsome superhero days.

No, I mean days when you feel like your life is a bus hurtling at top speed toward something, and all you can do is cope with what’s on the bus and perhaps ponder trying to figure out how to slow it down, even though you know it’s a lost cause (since you’re nowhere near as snazzy as Keanu Reeves).

I feel like that’s been my life since about…late 2009, maybe early 2010.

I’ve always been a perfectionist, burning the candle at both ends to accomplish as much as humanly possible, as well done as humanly possible, in the time I have.

I’ve always done it all – or at least my bad memory is fogging over the failure parts.

This blogging thing, though – it’s getting away from me.

Never in my life have I had so many unfinished projects.


That’s not entirely true.

I’m sure I have lists somewhere of ironing I never got around to, letters I meant to write (back when I wrote letters, circa 1995 or so), and people I want to call on the phone (I found one of those from 2007 last week). I know I don’t always clean the bathrooms exactly once a week, and sometimes I want to learn more about something for ages until I finally throw away that note and give up.

But never before have the unfinished projects been so public, and seemingly so important (even though they’re not).

Better than a Box 300x250This eBook I keep hinting about, Better Than a Box, was supposed to come out originally in spring 2011, if I’m figuring that right. Then I thought maybe summertime, but we sold our house and all bets were off.

We welcomed an addition to our family that summer, and I pushed to get Smart Sweets out in time (sort of) for holiday baking season. I thought I might get Better Than a Box out in late spring, but it just didn’t happen. Then my goal was late September/early October.

And now? That bus feels like it’s heading toward the abyss of the ominous “holiday season” when no one wants to be healthy. It’s moving even faster, and I’m giving myself less time to sleep than ever.

So although I hate to do it, and I really dislike missing deadlines, not finishing projects, and feeling as if I’m going back on my word, I came to a realization yesterday [last week] that this fall just isn’t the right time for Better Than a Box. I can’t turn out shoddy workmanship, and I just don’t have the time to do it right in a few weeks.

I was a better mom today because that elephant left the room.

And that confirms the decision to wait.

Where is the Mary and Martha Moment?

Right. That.

That’s another really good example of the overfilled plate I’m trying to balance.

I came home from Bible Study one Wednesday with a great idea about how the theology of St. Therese, which we’re reading about in this fantastic book, applied to what I was trying to do in the kitchen and the rest of my house: declutter and organize.

I immediately wrote this title down so I’d remember to tackle the post after lunch, when the 4yo was at preschool and the 1yo going down for his nap.

It was such an inspired idea, and it would have been a really good post. But I guess I multitasked away and did other things, and by the time I thought about it again, I had forgotten what I wanted to say.

It’s telling that I haven’t posted many Mary and Martha Moments lately, and it’s discouraging (and a red flag) that I prioritized whatever else I was doing that day over sharing the Word of God, in a sense, with you, dear readers.

So this poor document with a great title became a fitting place to step into the online confessional and get real about my own priorities.

Can Decluttering Clear the Way for Being who God Wants You to Be?

It’s actually been a week since I wrote the bulk of this post, because I wanted to get back into the St. Therese book and try to figure out its original intent.

It may have been my pondering on this beautiful thought:

“Without love, everything is painful, everything is tiring, everything is burdensome. The Cross, taken up hesitantly, is crushing; taken smilingly, by free will, and with love, it will carry you much more than you carry it.” (emphasis mine; life can feel that way, can’t it?)

Combined with St. Therese’s whole philosophy of the “Little Way” as summarized here:

“The good God would not inspire unattainable desires; I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to sanctity.

For me to become greater is impossible; I must put up with myself just as I am with all my imperfections. … I am too little to climb the rough stairway of perfection. …

The elevator which must raise me to the heavens is Your arms, O Jesus! For that I do not need to grow; on the contrary, I must necessarily remain small, become smaller and smaller.” (emphasis mine)

In her quest for sanctity and her acceptance of the saving sacrifice of the Cross, St. Therese accepted every little task, every time she had to do something she did not enjoy, as an opportunity to practice holiness.

Every smile she could share with another, even if she did not enjoy their presence, became a gift from her to God.

In the life of a mother, this translates to every diaper we do not want to change, every dish we wish we didn’t have to wash, every occasion to discipline with a loving smile and tender (but strict and consistent) mercy rather than the “Mommy is mad” voice that has been know to come out of my mouth. We must do them all with joy and abandonment to him, believing in the reality that we can love God by loving others even in such small, insignificant, and even rather dirty and stinky ways.

I reflected on my position as wife, mother, and homemaker and thought about the clutter as something that kept me away from those roles. If I’m stressed in the kitchen because of “stuff” on the counter, I am more likely to snap at my kids.

If I’m holding onto something “in case I need it someday” but it’s getting in the way now, maybe I need to let go, bless someone else with it, and trust God.

Who Can “Do it All?”

Then again, in the next chapter I wrote down more amazing revelations that I may have connected to the simple task of organizing and decluttering, something that I can offer up as a sacrifice for the Lord and which can bring me to holiness if done joyfully, prayerfully – or that can take me away from my relationship with God and family if I let it stress me out and become too much of a focus.

These lines really struck me as a new paradigm for recovering perfectionism:

“We can never say, ‘I have done all I could.’ Who can say this besides Mary? We always could have done more…We must never worry over the results.”

We will naturally worry – but we must not consent to it and worry voluntarily. “That is what causes Him pain. That is what wounds His heart more than anything else…”

Why? Because worry demonstrates a lack of faith in the God who counts all the hairs on our head and watches over the birds in the field – are we really so hard-headed that we think He won’t take care of us? Even those things that happen that feel like problems, that seem too much to bear, we must trust that our good God will use them for our ultimate good, not ill.

“When you realize you’re worrying, immediately make an act of faith! Jesus, I know you are here.”

What a concept for me. I’ve been working on this all week, noticing when I’m worrying and turning it over to God.

Whose Plans?

I’m also someone who always knows what I want to do next in my day and have a tendency to get very frustrated when things don’t end up “right” in my view. When baby doesn’t nap as he should, when the to-do list is still full at the end of the day, etc., I need to focus on this next idea:

“If He destroys my little plans, I kiss His adorable hand!”

Who am I to assert that my plans are better than God’s plans for me? My job is to roll with it and be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit. If that means John falls asleep perfectly and then won’t stay laying down in his crib so I can “get some work done,” well – I’ve been kissing his little hand a lot and thinking of this goal!

When it comes to decluttering, it does seem that having an inviting home, one that makes children and husband feel content and peaceful, is a way to show love for God. It’s a way to joyfully accept my vocation.

My prayer life has definitely been improving through this study, and I hope to share more with you as we work through it and it makes me think of life online as well as life in the kitchen. For example, I’ve got a partial draft that I wrote this week at Bible Study called “God is like Google.” Winking smile

If after reading the excerpts you feel like you must have this book, well, you’re probably right. It’s incredible. It’s this one.

Vocational Priorities

In the week since I made the decision to put the book off, I haven’t really been less busy in my online time. My inbox is still overflowing, my to-do lists just as unfinished.

But I am less stressed about it.

I have taken time to do some awesome organizing in my basement and have made every effort (it’s a many-times-daily task) to keep the counters clear. Clear-ish. I’m good with “ish.”

I hope that because of it, I’ve been a better wife, mother, and homemaker, my three primary vocations in this world, in that order.

First, a daughter of God. Then a wife. Then a mother. The role of blogger needs to stay in its place down in the middle of the pile of “hats” I wear, not at the forefront.

What do you need to do to make your priorities fit your vocation?

PS – The winner of the Trilight Health Giveaway is Nicole E.! Watch for an email from me with instructions!

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25 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    Oh, what a good post, Katie. I really needed to read this tonight. I’ve been really trying the last few weeks to remember that all the little menial tasks are an act of worship, but today was such a bust. The “Little Way” philosophy you quoted was exactly what I needed to read tonight! So encouraging. :-)

  2. says

    This is where I am at too – when I have love in my heart and act upon it (in this case, for my son), then the ever-growing to-do list does NOT stress me out. I can get things done, get them done WELL, live in the moment enough to BE with my son… although I might not (and usually don’t) get everything done, it is just plain spiritually healthier, and physically healthier!


  3. Katrina says

    I was just thinking this same thing! The toddler took a late nap because we went to Mass at noon, so he was up late. I had stuff to do, but instead of getting grumpy about it, I sat with him an prayed. Why is that so hard? On most days I feel like a fail because I didn’t get “enough” done, but never really took the time to see that God wanted me to do something else.

    I look forward to hearing why God is like Google!

    Thank you for this post.

  4. says

    Katie, I feel like I could have writen this post! Sorting through the same emotions right now. I’m thankful for loving friends and other bloggers that help me find perspective. Can’t wait to discuss this more with you. Have you ever the read “The Mother’s Rule of Life” by Holly Pierlot? Convicting and grounding. I have a copy if you want to borrow it.

  5. Julie says

    Great post! Perfectly understandable about the ebook; definitely have to keep your priorities straight. I’ve learned so much from reading your blog — thank you for all your hard work!

  6. Mom24boys says

    I have found decluttering and organizing help me serve God, my husband and children better. I don’t waste time searching for items, I don’t spend 20 minutes cleaning before I can cook (or skipping it because it’s just overwhelming), I’m able to cheerfully direct others to what they need for projects or self-sufficiency instead of grumbling as I root around for the item myself, I feel the liberty to go to Bible study, I am much more prone to hospitality. I still have piles of paper around the computer, boxes of stuff under the side table in the dining area, clean laundry on the couch, school books all over the dining table – but because so much else is organized, I don’t mind the unexpected visitor. I can easily slide piles over. I can go right to the cupboard and get out the special teas, nice cups and maybe even a snack to offer, all without the cupboard avalanching it’s contents on my head.

    I find this directly leads back to the “Little Way”
    Serving my family and serving guests become little things when I can do them simply, without trying to wrangle control of my home first.

  7. Mamalaoshi says

    Thank you for sharing your struggles. I really appreciated reading this tonight. I’ve been working on getting rid of “stuff” that is cluttering my life so I can spend more time serving and more time creating, but it seems like a never ending process and I was feeling a little overwhelmed. Your thoughts really gave me a lift and helped me refocus on why I do what I do.

    Something that does help me a lot to prioritize- be Mary more than Martha- is my 4yo daughter. She often will ask me to read stories from her children’s scripture and my response is often “Let me just finish the (laundry, dishes, cleaning the counter, etc.)” Her reply, “Jesus is more important Mommy.”

  8. Kimberly says

    Great post! I, too often, have to remind myself what God has called me to do. More importantly, the order in which He called me to do them. His yoke is easy. Mine? Not so much…

  9. says

    When I started reading your blog, you had just finished up a summary of the Theology of the Body, which I love. I hadn’t seen many posts of a spiritual nature from you since, and I have to admit I missed them. This was a lovely read. Thank you.

  10. junobee says

    Thank you very much for writing this. I was sitting at home yesterday thinking, “there has got to be a better way to live than spending all my time shuffling around this clutter.” Then I remembered I’d pinned this post to read later… Thanks again!

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