Choosing the Better Part

This past Sunday, the Gospel reading was the well-known story of Jesus’s dinner at the home of sisters, Martha and Mary, and the Lord’s advice to Martha about choosing the better part. On the way out of Mass, as I led my entourage of family and friends from the church, someone remarked to me that it looked like I could relate to the reading and the homily that weekend! I had been thinking the same thing as I sat in the pew with my husband, three daughters, my son-in-law, Katie’s boyfriend, two of Rebecca’s friends, Rebecca’s mother-in-law, and my bestie, Anne, from Illinois. These were just the last bit of people staying with us for Rebecca’s baby shower weekend.

Many know the story of Martha–cooking, cleaning, serving–and Mary, who quietly sits and listens to Jesus. Poor Martha, doing all the hard work and planning and then being admonished by the Lord for it! If only she could be more like her sister, Mary (how many siblings have heard that before?).

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

This story holds so many lessons for us, but the true meaning, the better part of the lesson, is lost on so many. It’s a lesson I often have to remind myself, including this past weekend…

The Easy Part

We often host large gatherings at our home. That’s what happens with you and your husband both come from very large, extended families. Actually, I love hosting parties. Any kind of party! So nobody had to ask if I was going to host Rebecca’s baby shower. It was a given from the start.

In the past, I did everything for the parties. I made and sent the invitations, I made the better part of the food, I did the decorations, I planned any activities associated with the gathering. I did it all.

I am a HUGE planner. I have lists of lists. I begin thinking about our mother-daughter Christmas party in July. Well that’s not really true… I actually start thinking about the next event on the day after the current event and continue thinking about it for the better part of the year. For me, I sometimes think the planning is more fun than the actual event. And often, it is.

You see, planning can be done gradually. It can take place over months. I can put in tons of time one week and almost none the next. Planning is like the pre-party to the party. It’s the easy part.

Unlike the planning, the party is one enormous blitz of chaos, over in a matter of hours. All that work and planning, done in an instant. You blink, and everyone who crowded around the yard is suddenly gone. It can be a real letdown.

The thing is, I often look back on these events with wonderful feelings of love and happiness and accomplishment. And a heavy dose of regret. It feels like I’ve somehow missed the better part of everything.

For all the planning I did, how much time did I actually spend enjoying the party? I rarely had time to talk to any guests or visit with out-of-town relatives or admire the way everything came together. In the back of my head, I often heard the words,

“Amy, Amy, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

The Smarter Part

A few years ago, we were holding a graduation party for Rebecca (college), Katie (high school), and both of their cousins (also one college, one high school). Rebecca suggested that I hire someone to come in for the day just to take care of the kitchen–heat the food, serve everything, and clean up. Ken agreed, so we met with a friend of the family who runs a very small catering service. We talked about our needs, our budget, and what the day would entail. She agreed to help out.

Hiring help that day was one of the best ideas ever.

I actually got to talk to everyone. I was able to see people and spend time with them. I truly enjoyed the entire day. I was on my way to understanding the better part.

Fast forward to the shower. Who knew that modern baby showers are coed and could have as many as 75 people???!!! I knew it would be overwhelming.

We decided to do the same thing this year that we did before and hire our family friend (also a Rebecca) to be in the kitchen that day. My Rebecca’a mother-in-law, Peg, came a few days early to help me get ready, and she planned the biggest, most hysterical game (OMG – the diaper-changing relay was truly a riot!!). My bestie came in to help as well. My cousin, Amanda, asked me months prior if she could do the decorations, and she came a day early to get everything up and ready. My Aunt Debbie made the sheet cake, and my sister-in-law made Smith Island Cakes (of course!). My brother, Scott, cooked the pulled pork, and it was ahhhhh-ma-zing!! Along with Peg and Anne, Amanda, Rebecca and Anthony, my parents, Scott and his family, and Ken’s sister, Chrissy, were all there Saturday morning, buzzing like worker bees alongside Ken, Katie, Morgan, and me. It was a wonderful group effort, and I felt calm and relaxed in the days and the morning leading up to the event.

Baby Shower Decorations

Between welcoming everyone who came, managing two of the games, and trying to keep everyone cool (ninety degrees in the shade!), I was still running around like crazy, but I was able to visit and have fun. When Rebecca opened her presents, I just sat and watched, glowing in the love that was so clearly showered upon this very special, well-loved young woman (thank you, Bailey, for writing everything down and Amanda for organizing the process).

The Better Part

It’s not easy to let go. It’s not in my nature to let others take the reins or do the hard work. I am rarely able to truly enjoy an event because I’m so busy making sure everything is just right.

“Amy, Amy, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

However as things were winding down on Saturday, I walked into the house, and my kitchen was spotless. All the food had been put away. The trays, platters and bowls had been washed and dried and placed back in the cabinets. To-go containers were packed. The countertops sparkled, and suddenly, everything felt just right.

On Sunday, after everyone helped clean up from breakfast, we returned from Mass, and the tables, chairs, and tent were broken down and put away, we sat down for a rest before going on the boat. One of my girls asked if there was a plan for lunch. I shrugged and said, “There are plenty of leftovers for anyone who wants them. From here on out, I’m having a Mary kind of day.”

Father Michael reminded all of us at Mass that whenever we entertain, we are serving the Lord. We need not be anxious and worried about many things. We need only to spend time with those at our table. That is the better part–not the cooking or the cleaning or the serving or even the planning, but just spending time with the ones who matter.

For it’s not about the food or the planning or being left “by myself to do the serving” (Luke 10:40). It’s about sitting “beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak” (Luke 10:39).

Whether it’s party planning, putting together a vacation, or doing something at work, we all need to remember that being a Martha is a good thing. Planning, organizing, managing, and carrying out tasks are all necessary. Someone has to do it. But that can’t be the main focus. We can’t be so worried and anxious about what needs to be done that we forget what should be done. We can’t forget the better part.

It’s always about being attentive to those around us. It’s always about listening to those who are present. It’s always about showing our love and caring and understanding to those who are there for us, for those who choose to be with us. It’s always about sitting beside them and listening to them.

May it be said of all of us, at the end of the day, we have “chosen the better part.”

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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall

Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy,  Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021. 

Amy’s new book, Seeking Tranquility, was released on June 15, 2022. Buy your copy now!

You may follow Amy on Facebook at, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at and at

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021), Under the Summer Moon (2021), Seeking Tranquility (2022).