Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Teacup’s Talent

from Susanne Dietze
I’m a party girl. Tea party, that is. There’s something about teatime as a celebration of the moment that soothes my spirit, whether it is time spent building relationships or in solitude.

I love all things tea: tea houses, tea sandwiches, and teacups. Boy, do I love teacups. The first in my collection, a violet-strewn piece, came from my husband the first year we were married. Since receiving that gem, I’ve added a few shelves’ worth, and each cup and saucer is like a friend, unique and precious, with its own history.

My tea-themed collection also includes books, and my favorite is by inspirational author Emilie Barnes. It's a pretty book, part narrative, part recipe collection. Can a recipe book challenge and inspire you? You bet it can: If Teacups Could Talk enriched my life, and not just because of the astonishing recipe for Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake.

For one thing, Barnes’ insight into the ritual of tea offered me a practical way to put my faith into action: by showing hospitality. Though my house doesn’t look like an Ethan Allen showroom, I was reminded that God still wants me to open my home and show love to His people, using the things I surround myself with to His glory.

And as I’ve said, I’ve surrounded myself with more than a few teacups. Barnes encouraged me to get them down, wash them out, and have some girlfriends over. So, when there were no small children afoot to shoot a Matchbox car across the kitchen floor while I carried the cups to the sink, I removed my teacups from the hutch. Of course, I didn’t have to use my teacups, or serve tea for that matter, to fellowship with my friends. A paper cup of lemonade would’ve sufficed. But I do not lack teacups, so I decided that I should use them as they are intended, “to share joy and friendship and caring, truly a ‘cup of kindness’” (47).

I learned that a teacup’s true purpose is to bless others, even though (and perhaps because) it is a thing of great beauty, value, and vulnerability.

With use, however, I knew chances were good that a handle would break, or the gold paint on the rim would wear off. I didn’t really want to use my teacups, even to share joy and friendship.

english teacupImage by digiyesica via Flickr
This exercise made me admit something about myself. There are a lot of things in my life that I’m afraid to use just in case they sustain damage. In particular, I’ve hidden my gifts. We each have them, talents or aptitudes bestowed on us by God for use in the body of Christ and for His glory. Like teacups, they are unique and precious, and it takes risk to use them. I’ve hesitated over my writing more than any other gift I think I possess. I’ve concealed it at the back of my heart's china cupboard to protect myself from rejection, judgment, and pain. But as with all gifts – teaching, nurturing, evangelizing, singing, whatever talent God has given you – we’re supposed to use them as God intended, not box them up.
Barnes invites every guest, even children, to choose a teacup to use when they come to her house, and she has lost several pieces in her effort to show hospitality. “But it’s a risk I choose to take,” she says. “After all, life is fragile, too . . . . If we let the risk stop us from living, we’ve already lost. While protecting ourselves from injury and loss, we’re cutting ourselves off from joy and growth” (46).

I’m all for joy, but growth? I know it’s a good thing, but it hurts sometimes. Sometimes people are born with amazing gifts that seem to have required no training, but for the most part, developing our gifts is a process that requires perspiration and perseverance. My writing is a prime example. I am seldom happier than when I am in the flow of a scene, my fingers flying over the keyboard. It's natural and fun. Those are joyful moments. However, those moments have been tempered by numerous (and I do mean numerous) occasions that can best be described as growing experiences. I have a lot to learn about writing and this industry, and in my journey toward publication, I’ve been chipped, cracked, and tempted multiple times to forget it and dive into an entire pan of Emilie’s Triple Fudge Chocolate Cake.

But life, like using teacups, calls for valor. “A full and worthwhile life will always call for a certain risk and a certain courage. And my teacups, in all their vulnerability, remind me of that” (46). The Bible assures us that the use of our gifts blesses and builds up others in the body of Christ. Therefore, I have to believe that there’s someone out there who will be edified and entertained by my stories, just as I’ve been blessed a hundredfold by others who have risked something in sharing their gifts with me. Who will be blessed by your gifts? You may not yet know…but you certainly never will if you don’t take your talents out of the cupboard.

So here’s to you as you valiantly develop your gifts, precious and unique. I lift my teacup (a gorgeous Lady Carlysle pattern, by the way) in your honor, and pray you have the courage to use the gifts God has given you to bless others, to your mutual joy and growth.

So my serious question for today is rather obvious: What sorts of risks have you taken to develop your gifts? What have been the benefits? I'd love to hear about them. My not-serious question: what's your favorite coffee mug or teacup?

Leave a comment and your email address by midnight PST, Sept 19, for a chance to win a box of Raspberry Scripture Tea. Every bag has a Scripture on the tag, so your cup of tea warms both body and spirit. Everyone who leaves a comment and email will also be entered into the grand prize drawing on November 1. Don't forget to include spaces around the "@" to protect yourself from spammers.

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  1. Woo hoo, I'm the first to comment! Great post about a neat subject. I'm more of an iced tea girl than a high tea lady, but now I kinda want to find a beautiful, delicate piece of fine bone china. Thanks for helping me look at it in a new way!

  2. Ahhh, I love the smell of tea. My hubby thinks I'm crazy because the first thing I do when I open a box of tea is inhale the scent. Like Jen, I drink mostly iced tea...every day, in fact. But it's always fresh-brewed. None of that imitation stuff for me. And I savor the aroma as it's brewing.

    My favorite tea cup was one of my grandmother's. I bought it for her years ago. Little pink roses and a painted gold rim. My mom rescued it for me after my grandma died.

    My favorite mug is one from a women's church retreat. It has a watercolor painting of the mountain where the retreat is held silkscreened on it. It says, "The Divine Secrets of the Yahweh Sisterhood" on the painted side, and on the other side it has a passage from Psalm 91 painted on it. It holds treasured memories.

  3. This post was as beautiful as I'm sure your teacups are, Susanne.

    On the serious question, I would say I just came "out of the closet" as a writer this year. I've finally started introducing myself as a novelist. I allowed a friend to interview me about my writing career during his sermon at church. I guess there's no turning back now. I've also been passing around a printed version of my first book in a three ring binder.

    I like a sturdy oversized mug a la starbucks. The one I'm using today is bright orange and says "Love like you've never been hurt before. Live like heaven begins tomorrow." It was a gift from my husband, and it does have a huge chip, but it still works great.

  4. I'm a big tea drinker -- out of a mug. My most beautiful teacup came from a little old lady I used to visit with as a child.

    Thanks for such a sweet post, Susanne. I can identify with it all. I wonder what I'm holding back on.

  5. An absolutely AMAZING post, Susanne! Oh, haven't we stored away in china cabinets the traditions, the symbolism, the grace inherent in life's "tea ceremonies"?

    How's THIS for a buzz of encouragment for a writer: "Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do--the actual of writing--turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward."

    Thank you Anne Lamott, for that bit of wisdom from "Bird by Bird"
    And thank you Susanne. BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Good morning! I've got the kettle on for a pot of tea, and here's some scones to go with it.

    Patti, I love that quote and I am scribbling it down! Wow, what a blessing. Thank you for sharing it.

    Suzie, I'm so glad your mom saved that teacup for you. What a treasure. I have one of my grandma's teacups, and it's just about the only thing of hers I have. Teacups make precious heirlooms.

    It sounds like you and I "came out of the closet" as writers at about the same time, Dina. What a year it's been for you!

  7. Deb, like you I drink out of a mug most of the time. But when someone's over or I'm in need of a pick-me-up or I'm celebrating (even if I'm just celebrating that it's a Saturday), I use a teacup.

    We have to find you one, Jen!

  8. Great Post! Keep it up! I plan to share it with others!

  9. Thank you. This post was so inspiring. Actually this AM had a cup of tea, opened up the post and surprise. What a blessing. Actually have been thinking about this post all day.
    I guess my "talent' is adaptability. It has taken me into uncharted waters but the Lord is there and blesses. Just today the ladies leader at our church came and ask if I would teach a lesson on Saturday, yes this Saturday. Something came up and she needed me to take her place. Of course, i said OK. Thankfully the Lord has already given me the thought!
    I do have a few tea cups. But I love tea pots. My first one I bought at a small Chinese shop in a third- world country in 1978. I also have a treasure from my grandmother - an ivory tea cup with pale pink wild roses. Today I used a tea mug that has an angel on it and says There is joy in the Lord.
    PS I have the tea pot to match!
    Thanks, Susanna for this inspiration today
    mrstgr at msn dot com

  10. Thanks so much for this post, Susanne. A beautiful expression of a beautiful thought. I'm constantly impressed by the talent and insight of this group.
    Hugs to you all

  11. Lovely, Susanne, just lovely. I'm feeling the need to go to Starbucks so I can order some Vanilla Chai Tea, then bring it home to savor in a tea cup.

    Again, I'm awed at how the different Inkies use their skills, desires, hobbies, and joys to honor God.

  12. Theresa, thank you for your kind words; they blessed me today! Adaptability is a true gift, and one I wish I had. It's an exercise for me, because I'm the type who plans out everything! I'm inspired by your willingness to say "yes" today.

    I love teapots too, but I end up using the same one all of the time because it has a wide enough opening to fit my big teaball. Your collection sounds lovely.

    Thanks for stopping by, and I have you entered into the drawing for the tea! (It's not loose leaf, but it does the trick...)

  13. Great insights Susanne,
    I travel a lot internationally and what amazes me the most when I visit third world countries is the seen of little kids playing with hand made toys. They created very beautiful and creative balls, wheels, table top games and other toys out of cardboard, wood, rubber, bottles and other items that we throw away here in the west.
    Here at home I look around me and I see mountains of high tech and low tech toys waiting patiently in the corner for someone to touch them or to even give them attention.

    The kids playing with the few hand made toys had big smiles and were playing like there is no tomorrow with great big smiles on their faces. They worked very hard for that moment and they are enjoying every sip of that cup of tea.

    (Important Disclaimer)
    I gave Dina a new cup without any chip in it. The cup got chipped few weeks later. I think we were discussing a very serious subject and suddenly the cup cut chipped :)

    God Bless.

  14. Susie,
    I truly enjoyed reading The Teacup's Talent. Your God-given gifts are readily apparent - in other words, it's too late to turn back now !! Your parents are among my very dearest friends, so I feel I know you-even though we've never met. I hope someday we can share a cup when you're visiting.

    Not long ago I dispersed my grandmother's china amongst the young women in my family. Grandma used the teacups more than any other pieces; many of them were crazed, which only added to their charm. Those "weathered" teacups were among the most highly-sought pieces. The china was left to me, and I did keep a few small pieces, but I am so happy that it will be displayed--and possibly used -- in so many homes.

  15. Hi Dani, thanks for popping by today! I appreciate your insights. What an experience, to be in other cultures so different from our own. We have so much "stuff" in our part of the world (well, at least in our house, LOL). That's something I'm working on: less stuff. And then, with the stuff I do have, to use it. Someone reminded me once (about using my good china) "Love people, use things."

  16. Janice, I am so happy to see you here. Yes, I look forward to sharing a cup of tea with you sometime!

    I think it's wonderful that you shared your grandma's china with the ladies in your family. What a blessing you bestowed on those ladies, one of heritage and generosity. Your grandma would be delighted to see that her precious teacups were in use and enjoyed. I think you've got a great point about the "weathered" cups...a friend told me that tea stains in a teapot used to be viewed a badge of honor by their owners. That struck me, as it seems like I try to keep things looking new instead of using them for their purposes!

    Thanks for coming by. Say hi to my folks!

  17. Hi Jill! I am so glad you could come by tonight! Thank you for your words, which touched my heart. You have so many gifts, but I'll send you an email about that later! For now I'll join you in prayer and thank God for His blessings in our lives. Your friendship is chief among those He's given me.

    Thank you, Phila.

  18. Great Job - even if I am rightly biased!!! Keep using your gifts!

  19. Susanne: A beautiful post. I too have a tendency to hide the gifts our Savior gave me. It takes a lot of courage to tackle this writing 'thing' and put your words out there for others to see.

    Since I'm here in Denver, I can't turn over my treasured teacup given to me when my daughter was born by my step-mom to see what kind it is. When I get home. . . .


  20. Beautiful post, Susanne, and such an excellent reminder. How often we hold back and "save" things for special occasions, instead of making special occasions by bringing out and using those things! I think I might make "company dinner" tonight for my family, and use the good plates and the cloth napkins. Just because. : )

    I'm a morning coffee person and an afternoon tea person. So for coffee I like my tall mug that looks exactly like a grande Starbucks cup. My tea? Usually winds up in whatever is clean. <3

  21. What a wonderful post. I love all things tea. When I was living at home mom. my twin sister and I would have mini tea devotional parties. It was a great way to coonect to each other and the Lord. We would read and then discuss a devotional reading and then devour whatever goodies we prepared. Now I am trying to do that with my kids. My 6 year old son loves tea parties and my 2 1/2 year old daughter is starting to like it as well. Such a wonderful way for loved ones to connect and to also establish a stronger connection with the Lord.


  22. Ooh, Cherie, I love the idea of devotional teaparties. What a fun way to connect with your kids! We sometimes have little family teaparties, but I'll have to incorporate devotional time into them. Emilie Barnes has some great theme ideas in her books. I've mostly used them at Christmas and with my Bible study, but I need to make a point of exploring more of them. I'm definitely starting with your idea. Thank you!

    I have you entered into the drawing. I am so glad you came by today.

    Niki, how did your dinner turn out? My kids love it when they get to use crystal for their dinner drink (which isn't very often, but it's a treat!).

    Connie, thanks for popping in from Denver! How's ACFW so far? Savor every minute!

  23. Great article. My husband often tells me that he believes in me more than I believe in myself. And to some extent, I'd say that's true. I want people to read what I write, to hear songs I've written, but then I'm always afraid it's not good enough. And I love to sing, but never feel it's quite up to par.


  24. oops...i posted the wrong email address...


  25. Thanks for popping by, Jan! Your husband sounds a lot like mine, which makes you and me lucky ladies. I know exactly where you're coming from. It is so difficult to step out and put yourself out there when it comes to using our gifts. I'll be praying for you in this.

    I confess I'm envious; I wish I could sing! I love to sing. Perhaps nobody likes to hear me but the Lord, LOL, but I love it. Not my gift.

    I've got you entered into the drawing for the tea, and your name is also going into the big drawing. Thanks again for coming by.

  26. LOVE your thoughts here! THANKS for taking the risk to share them. I am blessed.

  27. Susie,
    I enjoyed your devotional. I love the tea posts also. I'm looking forward to reading/following more of your posts.


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