With nine children, homeschooling mom Tami Kiser was forced by circumstances to become a sort of efficiency expert. Or, as she puts it: ?I had to become organized to survive.?
Kiser, of Mauldin, S.C., eventually became so confident in her skills that she began presenting workshops to other mothers at Catholic conferences. Then one day she reread Luke?s story about the two sisters Jesus visited. Martha complained, according to the evangelist, that she was doing all the work attendant to the visit while Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him preach.
Jesus said to her: ?Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her? (Luke 10:42).
Kiser realized that she and many others were in danger of becoming just like Martha, so intent on working that they were giving short shrift to the word of God.
?We?ve all met people like Martha, running around, stressed out and trying to make everything fingerprint-free and feeling guilty if the house is not always neat and in order,? she says. ?But that?s only part of our vocation. I?m reminded all the time that I?m that way too. We need to put Jesus in our lives, the Jesus we see in our husbands and children, and he should come above our household duties.?
So it was that the former teacher and Natural Family Planning instructor, armed with her two decades of experience, went back to the books and eventually developed a seminar called Smart Martha.
Now she goes around the country teaching young mothers how to strike a balance in their busy lives. Without using complicated formulas or extensive charts, Kiser shows potential Marthas how to have a ?Mary attitude,? as she says, while still accomplishing their Martha duties.
One can pray for the person whose laundry she is folding, for instance, instead of just slogging through a tedious task.
?This is God?s work for us,? explains Kiser. ?We can sanctify it by offering it to God and by doing it well. I give a lot of organization and time management tips [in the seminars]. ... Martha tasks are second in priority, but we need to do them and do them with a ?Mary? or prayerful attitude.?
Applying her organizational skills to her ministry, Kiser is winning fans and adjusting attitudes.
?Tami was very organized. There was nothing complicated; everything was very easy,? says Megan Schmitt, who coordinated a Smart Martha program in March from her parish, St. John the Apostle in North Richland Hills, Texas. ?She had her presentation on PowerPoint, her books ready.?
The 50 women who took time on a Saturday morning to attend the workshop raved about it, Schmitt recalls. Besides concrete examples of what to do and inexpensive ways to better balance the competing demands in their lives, the mothers found words that struck home.
?She delivered a really good spiritual message, and that was what most of the women wanted to hear,? Schmitt says.
One point Kiser emphasizes in her workshops is the importance of the family meal. Despite ballgames and activities for the teens and the work of their father, children need to sit down and dine with their parents. It?s a daily struggle, she admits, especially for working moms ? but no one has to go it alone.
?God has given us the ability to do this vocation of ours,? she says, ?so we must turn to him and ask for his help.?
Tami Kiser wasn?t always satisfied to be a homemaker, mother and wife. In her undergraduate days at Grove City College in Pennsylvania in the ?80s, she felt the drive to have a high-powered career.
That began to change when she struck up a friendship with the theologian Scott Hahn and his wife, Kimberly.
?I had a change of heart because of Kimberly Hahn,? Kiser says. ?She showed me the value of a vocation as a wife and mother.?
For her part, Kimberly Hahn, a Catholic speaker, writer and research fellow at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, as well as the homeschooling mother of six children, finds the Smart Martha seminars worthwhile enough to list them as a resource in her latest book, Graced and Gifted: Biblical Wisdom for the Homemaker?s Heart.
?The seminar is a wonderful design,? she says. ?In one day, she walks through a lot of the management issues that face mothers who are drowning in diapers. Tami covers the care and keeping of souls in an authentically Catholic way.?
A few years after college, Kiser and her husband, Keith, converted to the Catholic faith and she studied ?how to be a good homemaker and mom.? She must have been a quick study, since the couple had their first five children in five years.
The Kisers have eight boys and one girl. The youngest is a toddler and the oldest is a freshman at Franciscan University.
Tami Kiser also found time to co-author a book with her husband, The Incredible Gift: The Truth About Love and Sexuality (OSV, 1996). She is now working on a book about the vision behind her Martha seminars.
Despite the demands of her days, she still finds all the time her family requires and sees no reason to begrudge them the work of caring for them.
?I live an abundant life,? she says, ?hard but joyful.?
Paul Barra is based in
Reidville, South Carolina.
FOR MORE INFO Smart Martha 202 Anders Ave. Mauldin, SC 29662 E-mail: TamiKiser@SmartMartha.com Website: smartmartha.com