Archive | December, 2012

Mary & Martha Revisited: It’s Attitude, Sister.

13 Dec

It’s not how much you have to do, it’s how you feel about it doing it.

(Note: Wow – one MOPS meeting results in three blog posts! What a morning it was! First, Potluck; then My Fave  Five, and now, Mary & Martha. Yahoo!)

I just completed one of the most schedule-packed, busy, speaking-writing,-cooking-socializing 9-day chunks of time in my adult life. The culmination event was leading the devotional and discussion time at the Mothers of Preschoolers group at my church Monday morning. Not surprisingly, given my audience of busy young moms and my recent schedule, I chose a verse that is often studied this time of year — Jesus at the Home of Mary & Martha: Luke 10:38-41. Check it out:

“38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

In my many years of studying this passage, the revelations just keep on coming.

In my early days of reading the Bible, I marveled: This is in the Bible? It seems like such a mundane, slice of life passage. But Jesus cares about the details of life! I have, at various times, identified (silently!) with Martha – Seriously, can’t somebody help me around here? And at other times, when my kids were little and the demands on my time precluded periods of “sitting at Jesus’ feet,” I yearned to be Mary: Please leave me alone and let me just sit quietly!

This year, however, as I revisited this passage with the intent of sharing admonitions against over-committing, and tips for doing what’s really important and lasting during the Christmas season, I had a new reckoning.

It’s not that Martha took on too much, per se. It’s how she felt about her decision – worried and upset. It’s attitude, sister.

After the 9 days of  crazy scheduling I just had – that included producing and co-MCing a women’s event at church, coordinating food for a memorial service at the high school (and I was a speaker there too), baking for a cooking exchange and a care package for my finals-burdened, out-of-state college student, three dinners out, cooking dinner at home every other night for my hubby and my busy 16-year old, hosting three meetings at my house (with food and bev, naturally), coordinating with the dryer repair man, doing announcements at church, going to the holiday fireworks show in our town, and then, speaking at the MOPS group on day nine, you might think I was being Martha – overscheduled and bitter about having to do so much.

But unlike many of those busy times in my adult life when I have over-committed and grumbled, this was different. I loved every minute of it! I mean, I was seriously joyful!

What was the difference this time? Well, the only explanation is: God.

As I approached this season – which I knew would be busy, even without foreknowledge about the death of our beloved Track Coach and his Memorial Service – I was praying fiercely and obediently. And I asked others, whom I knew would really do it, to pray for me. Before accepting responsibilities or offering to help others, I laid my ideas before God and asked Him – Should I? I didn’t respond to any requests immediately. I let the decision marinate in prayer.

Did I hear a voice? Well, that’d be weird! But “hearing” isn’t necessary when all the answers I need are in the Bible. This verse, which I had memorized long before, resonated with me as I prayed and sat quietly, “listening:”

“Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.” Colossians 3:23

So, I felt God was saying – Hey, Cindy, it’s really up to you if you decide to do this stuff. But if you do, remember that you are doing it for me, you are representing me, so don’t go all Martha on me. If you decide to do more than that “one thing that is needed,” don’t be worrying and upset. And definitely don’t try to pass the buck to someone who has chosen differently. No guilt trips, girl.

So, with God’s blessing, I discussed the scheduling with my wonderful, patient, also-busy husband, and we figured it out. And then, there was the matter of a couple of giant and key naps on last Sunday afternoon and this past Saturday afternoon. Those kind where you wake up and think it’s a different day! So awesome!

So, as you go forward with your to-dos and your plans, and all those “shoulds” that you have on your calendar, it’s probably too late to decide whether or not you can get out of them. But it’s never too late to lift up your attitude for a recalibration. Remember who the Christmas season is really for, and ask Him to help you get to a place where you can joyfully serve, work, cook, clean, shop, host, whatever, as though He were going to be right there with you. Because, ya know, He is.

Now, as the real “meat” of my Christmas season looms (and yes, it’s Dec 13 and I have only bought 3 gifts), my challenge will be to maintain my joy, my daily conversation with God, and the act of laying my schedule out for prayer and approval.

Stuff to think about while you’re in line at Costco…or on the freeway….or trying to fall asleep:

When have you missed a moment because you were more Martha than Mary – grumbling about all you perceive you must do instead of enjoying it?

In what areas do you struggle for perfection – often hampering your own – and others’– joy?

What can you do this Christmas to be more “sit at the feet of Jesus and enjoy the moment” rather than “Hey, why isn’t anyone helping me do all this crazy stuff I think I need to do?”

Identify what you can let go of, and let go. Identify the “have-to’s” and work to change your attitude about them.

And pray!

“Mary” Christmas!

My Fave Five

11 Dec

This fall we started a new segment of our monthly Mothers of Preschoolers group (I’m the mentor, BTW, not one of the “young” moms) called Fave Five where we share our five favorite “things.” Could be anything, from cleaning products to websites, from recipes to cosmetics. I was considering sharing this: “Sunday after-church nap.” But I wanted to combine my talk with giveaways in the spirit of Christmas, and I wasn’t about to offer to watch toddlers while one of the mamas napped! Maybe in the spring….

Here’s what made the list (and seriously, I feel like I could have done my Fave Fifty!)

Microfiber Hair Towel — I’ve got thick, curly hair that takes forever to dry (I don’t blow-dry my hair, so this is especially an issue in the winter). I love my super absorbent hair towel turban! I usually go through one about every year and a half (they last but get discolored… especially when I use it within a day of “rescuing my roots.” Ahem.) My latest version of hair towel is turbietwist. Of course, it has its own website (but I bought it at CVS–they had a two-for-one dealio that was perfect for my give-away idea!) TurbieTwist

Fleishmann’s Pizza Dough Yeast — We love thin, crispy crust. Since I discovered Fleishmann’s

Pizza Dough Yeast at Ralph’s

supermarket (it doesn’t need time to

Homemade Pizza with dough by Fleischmann's Pizza Dough Yeast

Homemade Tostada Pizza with dough by Fleischmann’s Pizza Dough Yeast

rise!) I’ve been making pizza from scratch about once a week. Makes it so easy! I make two crusts from one packet, and I let my bread machine do the heavy kneading (I split the dough ball into two after it’s formed). I bake the crust for 7 minutes before I add the toppings for extra crispiness, but otherwise, I follow the directions on the packet. I have frozen the crusts (after the initial baking) and it worked out great to pull them out of the freezer, add leftovers and bake! A fave:  BBQ Chicken Pizza — use bbq sauce instead of tomato sauce, add white cheeses, thinly sliced Bermuda onions, fresh chopped cilantro and leftover shredded bbq chicken!) The photo is another favorite — half salsa/half refried beans for the sauce; Mexican cheese blend, shredded roasted chicken, black beans and corn. Mmmm. Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust website

Kevo Moisturizer: My friend, Brad Glynn, developed this great product after years in the sun playing and coaching

tennis, as well as years on the giving end of deep tissue sports massage. He wanted an all-natural moisturizer that could multi-task. He has since developed a couple of more specialized products (deep tissue massage oil, lip balm and eye cream), but I still love Kevo original for a lip balm, eye cream, cuticle cream, chapped face (hello Tahoe!), dry elbows, heels and knees, and so on. I have pretty sensitive skin (especially when it’s chapped….even hypoallergenic stuff stings me), but Kevo has never failed me nor stung even my most chapped ski-bum lips! Kevo Website

Method Shower Spray: We have two glass shower walls and really hard water. That’s not a great combo. And who wants to squeegie every time you shower? Neither my husband nor I! Never fear, Method Shower Spray is here! Bought it at Target after reading the label – it’s all natural, non-caustic and –yahoo– you just spray it on and leave it! Five years of showers and still the glass looks great! You can spray it on the tile too. If I could only convince my sons to use it too…..workin on it! Method Shower Spray

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge: Not new, but still one of my favorite household products. Thank you, Mr. Clean. You’ve been bald with an earring long before it was trendy. What a forward thinker! These magic sponges are great to wipe away scuffs on the wall, scuffs on my shoes, soap scum in the tub (for those among the family who don’t use Method Shower Spray, cough cough) and a variety of other wondrous feats! Magic Eraser

So, there’s my Fave Five for now — and it’s probably important to know that I don’t get any kind of grease from promoting any of these products. Dang, that’d be nice, wouldn’t it?

Get Lucky this Christmas! (We’re Bringin’ Potluck Back)

10 Dec

In these tighter economic times, it makes sense that potluck parties should be on the rise. We shouldn’t give up our get-togethers just because our party budget has shrunk! And, with busy lives, the ability to cook multi-course meals – and still have the energy left to enjoy them with guests – is a rare feat!

I’ve hosted quite a few potlucks over the years –  from 80-person grade-level parents parties when our kids were in elementary school to Bible study end-of-year soirees that grew to 90 folks. We recently hosted a smaller potluck with a crew of 20 friends who all have kids in college (that same crew from the elementary school days)! If anyone ever understood the necessity of a frugal dinner party, it’s those of us who are paying out-of-state tuition!

Whether you are hosting or attending, here are a few tips!

Tips for the host:

Don’t kill yourself cleaning: Hide the stacks of unfinished business in your bedroom, turn down the lights and light some candles. Even a mess looks better by candlelight.

Tell them what you want: Give people suggestions for what to bring. You can even create a signup on one of the online sites like SignUp Genius. Unless you want specific items (such as bread to accompany lasagna) you can ask for general categories (appetizers, salads, main, sides, desserts, beverages, paper goods). But make sure your guests can see what the others are bringing – you don’t want four people bringing brownies! And, from experience, you don’t really need as many desserts as you think. One or two usually will suffice.

Be ready: Have everything ready to go so that you can greet guests and not be busy in the kitchen when they arrive. That means you’ve got space in the fridge for items that arrive and need to be kept cold, and space on the counter or in the oven – or on the buffet table – for items as they come. Also, lots of aluminum foil, ziploks and containers you don’t need back for sending leftovers out the door (or at least so you can send the original dish home with the provider. Who wants to drive around town with a load of Pyrex deliveries?)

Self-serve beverages: Unless your spouse or a friend really enjoys playing bartender, make drinks as self serve as possible. Walk your guest, for instance, to the cooler and cups, the already-opened wine bottles and glasses —  and get them the first one – then deputize them to help themselves  (and anyone else) to seconds!

Prepare for forgetful guests: Have plenty of dishtowels, trivets, oven mitts and serving utensils on hand, as well as platters, bowls, etc. for those who neglect to bring them. You don’t want to be standing on your head peering into the dark depths of your serve-ware cabinet trying to find the chip and dip bowl while you are supposed to be mingling and offering witty and charming commentary on your Christmas décor, right?

A friend indeed: Enlist a good friend to help you do an occasional walk-through-tidy (throw away empties, pick up used napkins, replenish ice or wine) or walk around with a platter of appetizers.

Ice-breakers: Even if someone else is bringing appetizers and drinks, be sure to have a few simple things on hand for those who arrive before the providers: some little cups of nuts, pretzels or Chex mix, a few large bottles of sparkling water, a bottle of champagne or prosecco (something that’s festive but won’t trump the person who arrives a few minutes late with that gallon of sangria or pitcher of Pom Martinis!)

Tips for the Best Potluck Guests:

Sign up early – but be flexible: Let your hostess know that even though you signed up to bring a chocolate cream pie, you would be happy to bring something else if she would like. This is better than signing up “I’ll bring whatever you want.” If you do that, you are forcing the hostess to figure it out for you. Give a default and proffer a phone call a few days before.

Know yourself, tardy girl: If you sign up for appetizers, arrive on time. If you are a habitually late person, offer to bring dessert instead!

Be fully prepared: When you bring something to a potluck, bring it ready to serve (or as close to that as possible) with all the appropriate serving utensils. I once had someone offer to bring macaroni and cheese to a potluck. They arrived 30 minutes late with a grocery bag and handed it to me: two boxes of uncooked Kraft Macaroni & cheese, a half gallon of milk and box of butter. I thanked them and told them we would be enjoying it for lunch the next day!

Even if you are bringing chips and salsa – bring a bowl for the chips and a dish for the salsa. Ask the hostess where she wants it and take it there. Dump them in and throw away your trash! If your dish needs preparation right before serving, let the hostess know that you will prepare it at the time – just ask for a five-minute heads-up before she wants to serve.

No doggie bags for You:  If you bring something to a potluck and it doesn’t get completely consumed (food or beverage), offer to leave it there – ask if they have a ziplock or a container you can transfer it to so they don’t have to wash your dish and get it back to you. (I know, the temptation is to take it with you – especially if it’s a bottle of wine – but etiquette wise, leave it unless your host resists and wants you to take it with you. They hosted, cleaned house and organized the party. They deserve to have a glass of wine and a nosh of onion dip once the guests have left!)

High-maintenance dish: If your signature potluck dish needs to be in an oven, be sure to check ahead with the hostess to make sure she has the oven or microwave space. I was once doing a pizza party (I had made several homemade gourmet pizzas). One guest arrived – they had offered to do meatballs – but they needed the oven for 30 minutes to heat them up. 30 minutes is a LONG time – and I needed the oven for the pizza. It was awkward…..but we did a little Rubik’s cube action and enlisted the microwave for the initial heating, and got it to work. But if it’s not convenient, consider making something else this time and save that high-maintenance entrée for you own party.

Gifting your Hostess: When you bring a hostess gift, make sure it’s not something the hostess has to deal with—such as a bouquet of flowers that are not in water. Nice host/hostess gifts you might consider as an alternative: a plant; a bottle of fancy olive oil or balsamic vinegar; bottle of wine with a note (but wrap it so it doesn’t get consumed that night);  cute cocktail napkins; a Christmas apron; small plate of something homemade (cookies; banana bread; brownies) wrapped nicely with a note; liqueur or schnapps (especially peppermint this time of year) are always nice to have on hand.

Courtesy call for help: Call an hour before the party and ask if you can pick up anything on your way over (a bag of ice – a bag of chips. I love it when someone does that for me!)

Last minute cancellations – send the dish anyhow! Unless your host refuses (or you have the stomach flu and no one would want to eat what you made with your infectious little hands) send your dish over even if you have to cancel – especially if it’s last minute and you’ve already made it. And that’s doubly important if you are bringing dessert – you might be the only one!

Now, shutdown your computer and get out there and socialize, people!