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     As a mother of four, it is utterly amazing just how little time I have. If I actually counted the exact minutes spent switching laundry, packing lunches, driving to sporting events, helping with homework, and speed-washing, well, everything, I'm pretty sure I'd realize that I'd get to the end of my day only to find that I've done a lot of quantity, but maybe not as much quality as I was hoping. In fact, I'm quite positive that's what I'd find. Instead of scrubbing the baseboards, I may run the broom over them (or move the couch in front of them!) and instead of folding laundry perfectly, I may settle for just finding the matches to the socks and forget folding the underwear entirely. Quantity. I actually have a name for this type of behavior. I call it Pulling A Martha. If you're not familiar with the Bible story of Mary and Martha, let me briefly introduce it to you.
     Jesus traveled to visit some of his friends one day, two sisters named (as you can guess) Mary and Martha. As the older sister, Martha was totally being all Type-A personality and organizing/cleaning/cooking like a mad woman. She wanted everything to be perfect (as we oldest children do) and she grew quite ticked off at her little sister who was relaxing out in the living room with Jesus, just listening to his stories and being an obvious youngest child. (Just see Alfred Adler's birth order studies if you don't believe me!) Mary didn't have a care in the world. She didn't mind if the floors were dusty (afterall, they were probably made of dirt anyway) and she didn't care if dinner had a 5-course menu or not. She would've been satisfied munching on some nuts and berries and just hanging out with her pal. As you can imagine, Martha stood there, probably up to her elbows in dirty dish water, preparing a "chat" she was planning to have with her sister as soon as she could get one free second to steal her away.... and she'd HAVE one free second if Mary would just get off her rear and help, right? (Can I get an Amen, any first born Mamas out there??)
     Well, Jesus, being the perceptive Christ that he was, recognized Martha's stressing out. He called her to come and chill with him for a while. And that's when Martha blurted out that she was quite annoyed that Jesus hadn't even bothered to send Mary in to help her so that she, too, could sit and relax and finally kick her feet up. But Jesus knew that the dishes weren't going anywhere. The food could simmer, the floors would wait. He just wanted to be with her.... like he was with Mary. It meant more to him to spend quality time with his friend than to have a quantity of chores done for him. He didn't want a palace to visit, a goose to eat, or a Lazy Boy 3000 recliner to sit in. He just wanted her time.
     And now here it is, the last weekend of summer vacation, and I find myself asking the question, Did I Pull A Martha for the last 3 months? Was I too focused on chores and getting through my enormous To Do list each day? Did I put my household before my home?
     I want so much to be able to say that everyday we had quality time. But I know that I'd be lying if I did. I know that I put laundry before tuck-ins and cooking before catching toads. And even when we did go on day outings to the beach and the park, was I too tired from my "quantities" to give my "qualities"? Did I have to be the outsider at the beach watching my children build the sand castle instead of joining in? Granted, I've had a newborn to care for, and perhaps some things are different now than they will be in a year from now. But I look back at this summer as a time where we grew together so much, and yet as a time where I still need to grow. Ugh, the growing... does it ever stop? I always thought the kids would be the ones doing the learning, and here I am learning new lessons day in and day out about this crazy life called Mommyhood! They spent 3 months asking me to be their Mary and I scowled at them while pointing my 6- and 8-year-olds towards my list of things that still needed to be done, grumbling that i was "too busy" to put the puzzle together. And what about those famous last words, "We'll do it tomorrow, ok?" Oh, how those tomorrows came and went....
     Maybe you're like me. Perhaps you recognize that, because of your job or your chores or your personal obligations, that it's super difficult to balance the quantity vs. quality parts of life. And just maybe you're in the middle of your very own Mary / Martha controversy. Just remember this. They don't want a palace, a goose, or a recliner. They just want a Mama (and Daddy). They'll settle for dust bunnies and hot dogs if it means they can paint your nails and show you their forts. My hope is that you will join me in Pulling a Mary for the remainder of the summer and continue to do so as the busyness of school takes over this fall. Times tables and vocab words rock, but story time and cuddles win every time. Be a Mary to your kiddos tonight.