October 10, 2019

Thanksgiving for Lessons in What Is Enough by Sharon Espeseth

I had always wanted to “catch up” or move ahead in various aspects of my life: laundry, housekeeping, cooking, Bible reading, devotions, my book-reading stash, preparation for teaching, writing goals, visiting the sick and lonely. . . Obviously this list is in no particular order, but I generally looked after the squeakiest wheel, rather than setting priorities. I didn’t know how to say, “No," when asked to do a job. Maybe I wasn’t asking God earnestly enough to help me in making decisions.

Conversations with Elderly Neighbour

One August day, while visiting outside with our elderly neighbour, Alex, and watching the kids play, I expressed angst about wanting everything ship-shape before going back to part-time teaching in September. I also didn’t want to short-change the kids with story time, family outings, clean clothes or healthy meals.

Relying on a sympathetic ear from Alex, I said, “I don’t know how I’ll ever catch up with everything before I go back to work.

Without hesitation, he replied, “I don’t think you’re supposed to.”

Emily Carr’s Perspective

Emily Carr of Canada’s Group of Seven is quoted to have said, “Lord, may I never catch up before I die. Struggling financially, she ran a boarding house and taught art to support her life as a painter.

Her wisdom rested with me, but I didn’t take it to heart. My perfectionist strivings prevented my seeing the beauty in what she said, in always having another idea or project ahead of her.

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

I’ve written before about my midlife discovery of Joanne Weaver’s book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. I used to think--dare I say it--that Jesus had been hard on Martha who was trying to prepare a fabulous meal for him and his disciples. I know I would have been flustered in a similar situation with no help from my sister. I benefited greatly by reading Weaver’s book, but I still didn’t put into practice the lesson that visiting with Jesus is more important than all our busyness.

Weaver’s book title now reminds me that we are in a Martha world where lots is expected of us. We still need, however, to live like Mary and spend time with our Lord. We don’t need the fancy dinners and the perfect houses. More importantly, we need to spend time with Jesus and his friends, be they tax collectors, sinners, or Samaritans.

What Is Enough?

Earlier this year, I read, digested, underlined in pencil, and starred much of Wayne Muller’s book: a life of being, having, and doing enough. Muller, as a therapist, public speaker, minister and bestselling author, encounters people from all walks of life. In doing so, he discovered that
“. . . they each in their own way feel victim to a relentless assault of increasing expectations, activities, demands, and accomplishments that overwhelms any spaciousness or ease in their daily lives.”

I know we put pressures on ourselves, but why do so many of us feel overwhelmed. Why is it that what we feel is required of us seems to "transcend any realistic human scale or possibility”? The folks Muller has talked to admit that, “. . . The sheer pace and volume of their lives seems to corrode whatever joy, wonder, nourishment, or delight they may find in simply doing their best.”

I’m not sure if I came across the term “The Micah Mandate” in Wayne Muller’s book or if I read it elsewhere, but I know that Muller does make reference to Micah 6:8 that tells us in simple terms what God actually requires us to do.

Free Image from bibleversestogo.com

“What deep and poignant confusion,” Muller asks, "has so infected our hearts that we feel incapable of remembering this most essential, human offering: to do what we can and have mercy?” ((The above quotes and/or paraphrasing, except for the quote from Micah, are from page 4 of a life of being having, and doing enough.)

Do you suppose God was suggesting, through Micah, that we have mercy on ourselves as well as on our fellow man? God has also commanded: “Be still and know that I am your God.” (Psalm 46:10) That is how we can walk humbly with our God and how we can learn of his love and of how we are “enough.” That is all the “catching up” I need to do. Thank you, Dear God.


  1. Excellent points, Sharon. As I become more immersed in the medical world of assessments, tests, and appointments, ad nauseam, I'm discovering that catching up is no longer the goal. Keeping up? Yes! Work, family, house all require appropriate attention, but I'm discovering other pursuits were but for a season, and their season is done, for now anyway!

    1. I hear you, Bobbi, and my heart goes out to you. Dealing with medical issues, tests, appointments, reading up on your situation--all takes time, and it becomes one of the top priorities. It needs to be. My prayer for you, Bobbi, is
      Numbers 6:24-26 New International Version (NIV)

      24 “‘“The Lord bless you
      and keep you;
      25 the Lord make his face shine on you
      and be gracious to you;
      26 the Lord turn his face toward you
      and give you peace.”’

  2. I love Emily Carr's perspective. I had someone point out once to me that having things going on is better than nothing at all! And Carlson's books on Don't Sweat the Small Stuff back in the 90's with the advise to be grateful for the full 'in' basket reminds me to be okay with the lists and notes of projects still in the idea phase! But as soon as I put the pressure on to get it done, shame and guilt, and 'not good enough' kicks in. So I appreciate the teaching here you share on mercy. Yes, lets always be graceful and merciful to ourselves and others.

  3. Yes, I remember Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff--maybe it’s still in my bookshelf, so I can take another look. I found Muller’s book very good on being kind and merciful to oneself, not being so hard on ourselves. Notice that in his title, Muller put being ahead of having and doing. Somebody came up with the reminder that we are human beings, not human doings. Maybe that is why God reminded us to be still and know that he is God. i.e. We are not. Thanks for your comment, Lynn.

  4. this is a such a powerful post, Sharon. I know I am one of those who is always 'catching up' when, as you pointed out, we were never intended to do so! I love this! God bless you this Thanksgiving.

  5. Wonderful words of life. Thank you Sharon.

  6. You are most welcome, Joy. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  7. Thanks for sharing, Sharon
    I too, tend to be a Martha. My kids help me to be more of a Mary. And God has also allowed circumstances that cause me to realize I cannot do life without God and sitting at His feet.
    May we continue to learn to be still - realizing God is in charge and can handle things perfectly well without our "help" :)

  8. I believe you and I have some similar leanings. Ruth. Amen to your prayer that we continue to learn to be still and to realize God is in charge and we would to well to leave matters in his hands. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, my dear friend.

  9. A belated thanks for your excellent blog, Sharon. It was a good reminder to "Be still and know that I am God." I hadn't thought of Micah on mercy in the terms you wrote: "Do you suppose God was suggesting, through Micah, that we have mercy on ourselves as well as on our fellow man?" I think we do need to be merciful to ourselves.

  10. I don’t mean “have mercy on ourselves” in a selfish way, but I believe what Micah is saying fits Christ’s commandment when he told us to “love our neighbours as ourselves.” Thanks for you comment, Sandi.

  11. Another belated thanks for this excellent post. I think I'm a slow learner as well. This quote struck a note with me: "The sheer pace and volume of their lives seems to corrode whatever joy, wonder, nourishment, or delight they may find in simply doing their best.” I needed this reminder of mercy for oneself. Thanks again!!

  12. I know I need to hear or read reminders like this myself. That’s probably why I felt called to write on this subject, because we humans have some common traits. I’m glad, Jocelyn, that there was something for you in my blog. We can all learn how to be satisfied with doing our best, because what else can we do? It takes too much out of us to go beyond our best.


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