Too Much Mary, Not Enough Martha


In my daily life right now, I’m good with the Mary part and not so great with the Martha part.

My spiritual life is pretty great, but my house is a disaster, as usual.

Most women tell me the Mary part is hard for them.  They struggle to find closeness with God, time to pray, and time to read his word.  But for me, the Mary part in Luke 10 has always been a breeze. 

The schedule of my life is similar to many other working moms.  I’m working 35 hours a week, then another 15 to 20 as a writer.  Each week I shuttle my kids to sports practices, church classes, and various activities.  Grocery shopping, clothes shopping, and cooking fill up most of the other hours.

The Mary part:  Early morning Bible study, praying in the car on my commute, reading Christian books, listening to Christian music, having daily faith conversations with friends and family, church every week.  Not hard for me—part of my daily rhythm.

Can I confess my junk to you?  On my desk right now, where I’m typing, there are several 8” high piles of paper, books, and whatnot.  I have to move a stack to the side so my mouse has room to work!  Stacks of unsorted papers reside on my laundry room counters, kitchen counter, dining room table, and my bedroom.  Dirty dishes cover the counters.  Clean laundry sits in the dryer and in a basket in my bedroom.  The floor is in a desperate state of disrepair.

Why is my Mary part working and my Martha part broken?

Because I don’t have a system in place.

For my Mary part, every morning as soon as I get up I open my One Year Bible.

Every time I’m alone in the car, I pray or listen to Christian music.

Every day after lunch I have a faith conversation with coworkers.

Every afternoon I read a Christian book in the afternoons while I decompress.

Every night I pray before I go to bed.

The “every time” system is in place in my faith life.  When I get to those times of day, I automatically connect to faith.

My “system” for sorting papers?  Wait until they are so out-of-control I can’t stand myself anymore, then spend three hours sorting, irritated and self-condemning.  The organization lasts for a week or two, then papers begin piling up again and my discouragement and apathy multiply.

My “system” for cleaning the house?  Wait until the weekend, when we really need time to relax as a family, and attack with Martha-like verve, exhausting myself.

A better system:  Set a timer for 5:00 p.m.  That’s my reminder to sort papers for 15 minutes EVERY day while something simmers on the stove.

That’s also my reminder to ask one child to vacuum.  Another to put laundry away.  Another to help with the dishes. EVERY day, delegate tasks.

Today, I’m making a promise to myself.  I will inject some Martha into my daily rhythms.  I will set the timer for 5:00 p.m.  I will begin conquering my junk with 15 minutes of paper sorting.  It may take a week to see a real difference, but I’m going to chip away at this lifelong struggle every day.  And in those same 15 minutes with the help of my children, the laundry, dishes, and floor will be under control.

With a little Martha today, my Mary will be more peaceful.

My new book Christmas Peace for Busy Moms speaks about ways to put systems in place to increase peace in busy December.  Today is the last day it sells for only $0.99!  Check it out here.

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  • Patricia A Krank

    I love your idea of setting a timer for 15 minutes while dinner is cooking to sort paperwork! This is my weakest area. I dread it, it causes anxiety within me, and I really don’t know why. PTSD maybe, from the days when there wasn’t enough money to cover all the bills. I’m going to join you in the paper sorting journey 🙂
    P.S. I found you over at Suzie Eller’s today <3

    • Sarah

      Thanks Patricia! I hope you had success in sorting papers as I did yesterday! We can conquer this weakness with God’s help, I’m certain.

  • Liz

    I am so with you! My Martha part is a little broken, too. So I capitalized on it for my business name… My Messy Desk. LOL! But, truthfully, your suggestion is great to set a little reminder. Cleaning up usually doesn’t take nearly as long as I think it will, I just don’t have the discipline to stop.

    • Sarah

      Liz, I enjoyed your post. Glad to find a Messy Desk sister here!

  • How did you know that I was just scanning the living room and noticing all the dust? (After having spent yesterday afternoon writing?) We need Mary and Martha in our lives.

  • Oh dear Sarah, I can relate to this so much! For me it’s laundry that’s the problem. It rarely ever gets folded. We just have a “clean hamper” that the clothes get thrown into once they get out of the dryer. You’re totally right — we need a balance of Mary and Martha within each of us. Happy to have connected with you through the #LiveFree linkup!

    • Sarah

      Happy to join you here too Lauren! Thanks!

  • WhoWillStandUp

    I entered my name and email address above where it asked if I enjoyed the post……but it doesn’t appear to be taking my info, or at least there are no signs of it. Just wondering if there’s something I’m doing wrong.

    • Sarah

      I’m sorry about that! You can enter at the sidebar instead. If you have any other problems, please send me a note on my Contact page. Thanks for your visit!

    • Sarah

      I’m sorry, try entering it at the sidebar. If you have any other problems, write to me at the Contact page. Thanks for your visit!

  • Great post! I like how you point out that we need systems for both our Mary and Martha habits and to get into good habits in both these areas so that we can get the balance. I think I have some work to do in both areas but I like your idea of doing a little bit each day and tackling it gradually.

    • Sarah

      Thank you, Lesley. I put the system in place this weekend, and I’m already feeling much better about the messes. Going to tackle another paper stack today–it feels like a weight lifted off my soul each time I conquer a stack!

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