January 17, 2014

Tea: One of My Favorite Things

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? . . . Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:16, 31.

I was watching Martha Stewart make biscuits and scones the other night on television. She urged her viewers to bake up some of her easy recipes for tea. Then I remembered I had sent a copy of Queen Elizabeth's favorite recipe for scones to the editor, Pearl Dexter, of "Tea: A Magazine." She compiled several such offerings together and her little cookbook called "Scones, Shortbread, and More" was published in 2006. 

My mother likes coffee; I like tea. I could never stomach the bitterness of coffee even heavily diluted with milk and sugar. My mother said she grew to like it when a boy she was dating at the time [pre. Dad] took her to town for a coffee. 

As a young mama, I fell head over heels in love with tea when I found Emilie Barnes' book called "If Teacups Could Talk: Sharing a Cup of Kindness with Treasured Friends." Her book's beautiful

illustrations are by Sandy Lynam Clough. Emilie and Sandy, two lovely Christian ladies, write about and illustrate the concept of tea parties with treasured friends so wonderfully well. Ms. Barnes has gone on to write several other books which I have a couple of: "Time Began in a Garden" and "The Spirit of Loveliness: Bringing Beauty, Creativity, and Order to Your Life." Ms. Clough went on to found a Tea Society.

Next I found an old book called "Aunt Martha's Corner Cupboard" By Mary & Elizabeth Kirby, published by W.B. Conkey Co in Chicago, Illinois. The chapters were really stories related to things in Aunt Martha's cupboard like the china tea-cup, refreshing beverages and nibbles for tea-time. A homeschool friend and I used both books to teach a small unit study on tea with our children. Later, when I joined OldFashionedLiving.com as a moderator in their forum (the Parlor), I compiled in-depth unit studies on both hospitality and tea. 

I continue to collect everything I can on Tea into a 3-ring binder notebook, like tea crafts, poetry, a list of Laura Child's tea shop cozy mystery titles, etc. When I began to scrapbook and rubber stamp, I collected tea-related stamps. While my creative style isn't as nice as Sandy Lyman Clough's and Mary Engelbreit's, I keep striving to create lovely cards too.  

My dear husband, knowing I love all things TEA, has taken me to several tea rooms to sample their fare and yes, I have a favorite one in the town south of us prettily decorated in shabby chic cottage. They also sell gift items such as candles, soap, and tea accessories. I enjoy the eye candy! Some of my favorite teas are Celestial Seasoning's Gingerbread and Sugar Plum Tea, Chai, Constant Comment, Mint, Peach, and Russian Spice.

One of my friends sent me this story of the Tea Cup. I hope you like it: 

There was a couple who used to go to England to shop in a beautiful antique store. This trip was to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They both liked antiques and pottery and especially tea-cups. Spotting an exceptional cup, they asked, "May we see that? We've never seen a cup quite so beautiful." As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the tea-cup spoke. "You don't understand," it said, "I have not always been a tea-cup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me over and over. I yelled out, 'Don't do that, I don't like it! Let me alone,' but he only smiled and gently said, 'Not yet!' 

Then, WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. 'Stop it! I'm getting so dizzy! I'm going to be sick!' I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, quietly, 'Not yet.'

He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then, --- then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. 'Help! Get me out of here!' I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips, as he shook his head from side to side, 'Not yet.' When I thought I couldn't bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! Ah, this is much better, I thought. But, after I cooled, he picked me up and he brushed me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag, 'Oh, please; stop it, stop it!' I cried. He only shook his head and said, 'Not yet!'

Then suddenly he put me back in the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged, I pleaded, I screamed, I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited and waited, wondering what he was going to do to me next?

An hour later he handed me a mirror and said, 'Look at yourself.' And I did. I said 'That's not me; that couldn't be me. It's beautiful. I'm beautiful!' Quietly he spoke: 'I want you to remember,' he said, 'I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone you would have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there you would have cracked. I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn't done that you never would have hardened. You would not have had any colour in your life. If I hadn't put you back in that second oven, you wouldn't have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.''

The Moral Of This Story Is This:

God knows what he is doing in each of us. He is the potter, and we are His clay. He will mold us and make us and expose us to just enough pressures, of just the right kinds, that we may be made into a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing and perfect will.

So when life seems hard, and you're being pounded and patted and pushed almost beyond endurance, when your world seems to be spinning out of control, when you feel like you're in a fiery furnace of trials, when life seems to "stink", try this -- brew a cup of your favorite tea in your prettiest cup, sit down and think on this story and then -- have a little talk with The Potter.

Rejoice With Me!
1. I'm delighted that "God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (1 Timothy 6:17) provided tea for me to enjoy. Thank you, Creator!

2. I'm grateful that there is a bend in the tea cup handle to grab. Remind me, Lord, of the hope of your salvation! "Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." (Isaiah 64:8)

3. I'm grateful for the warm southern breeze that blew into our area. It made the polar vortex go away. My hubbin was having a hard time typing the keys of his computer with cold hands at his warehouse job.

4. Thank you Lord for reminding me of your care through GAP when my husband was unemployed.

5. Like a popular song says that our local Christian radio station plays: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) and "For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5)

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"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." (Hebrews 12:28).