from Susanne DietzeI’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.
Image by digiyesica via FlickrThis 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?
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