May 10, 2019
Sometimes, we need a story to make us sigh with gladness. Here’s one for you.
The invitation read: “You’re Invited to an afternoon tea to celebrate Janet’s Birthday.”
My mom had artistically prepared that invitation for my tenth birthday celebration.
Bursting with excitement, I raced down the narrow dirt streets of my hometown of La Paz, Bolivia to deliver them to each of my neighborhood friends. The common tradition of enjoying an afternoon cup of tea became special when it included a birthday celebration.
As in most Latin American countries, drinking tea begins at the dawn of life. My grandmother prepared anise tea and poured it into a baby bottle to ease nagging colic in little family members. She grew a myriad of plants, whose leaves she used to prepare tea. According to her, each leaf or herb held special properties to cure any ailment imaginable. Perhaps it was the love she exuded when she handed us the aromatic blend that eased our afflictions.
Tea Was Served Daily
As part of her daily routine, wearing her apron over her black wool skirt, Grandmother stood in the doorway looking outside as her echoing voice called us in for mid-afternoon tea. Missing this important treat would leave us famished until dinner, which wasn’t served until 8:30 in the evening.
Engraved in my heart are memories of so many afternoon teas. I can still smell the warm golden bread at the center of the table. Beside it sat a plate of white homemade cheese and a glass bowl of Grandmother’s orange marmalade. And while we sipped our tea, the conversations with her added a special delight for me.
During the school year, once the dismissal bell rang, I dashed out and headed to the corner bus stop. I would wiggle my way through the crowded old bus and sit clutching my book bag, gazing out the window at the activity on the streets. Vendors in their colorful garb sat behind their stands calling out their wares to the crowds who jammed the sidewalks.
Then I would elbow my way out of the bus and hop off with anticipation thumping in my heart. My gaze would travel past the green lawn to the tall building, the only university in La Paz, where Mom worked in the basement cataloguing books. I then darted as quickly as my young legs would take me through the large entrance, pushed the glass door that opened into the library, and headed down the stairs to the basement.
As I slipped between tall bookshelves, the smell of buttery pastries wafted straight to my growling stomach. Swinging the door open, and with a huge grin, my gaze swept through the familiar scenery—my mom and her colleagues’ chatter blending with the pleasant aroma of coffee, tea and cream. After breaking loose from Mom’s tight hug, my glance darted to the mound of flaky pastries on the table along the wall.
All was not well.
But, as afternoon tea breaks offered moments of relaxation for all, Bolivia’s unstable government and stagnant economy offered scarce opportunities for my brother and me.
Two years later in 1964, while seated in our tiny dark kitchen, it was time for our daily teatime again. With Mom stirring sugar in her cup, I watched as she gazed toward my grandmother and announced her decision to move to America. Grandma set her cup on the saucer with a loud clank, and tears flowed down her wrinkled cheeks. My grandfather, who had lost his lucidness along with most of his teeth, sat in silence, and with shaky hands, dunked his crusty bread into his tea.
After we began our life in America, whether by design or coincidence, I found special moments over cups of tea. When I lost my sight to an incurable retinal disease, my mom and I would sit sipping tea in the cozy kitchen of her condo. She reassured me that I wasn’t alone in my darkness. The aroma of the citrus blend still lingers, as do her words echoing in my heart: God would provide and she would be my eyes.
God did provide. At times, while the family slept, I sat in silence with a cup of herbal tea pondering just how much He had granted me. His provision included Mom’s perennial assistance, and a renewed attitude, confidence and determination on my part. With the aid of a computer program that reads the screen, I’m able to string together words of inspiration for those who might need a little light in the midst of dark moments.
As herbal tea comes in a variety of flavors, different types of events also came into my life. When my heart was sliced with pain after losing my 19-year-old son, in the midst of cold anguish, I remember moments of warm comfort. My mom handed me a cup of chamomile tea with honey. “Here sweetheart,” she said. It’s okay to cry. God knows your pain, and He will heal your heart.”
Now, as I take the last sip of my Lady Grey tea, I set the cup on the corner of my desk and the eyes of my heart review the scenery of my life. Fueled by gratitude, my fingers begin to dance on the keyboard, relating the blend of emotions that swirl in my heart like tea leaves in the cup.
A note from Janet
I pray God hands you a cup of His love to warm the cold moments of your adversity. And may you taste the sweetness of His Word to soothe the pan and bring delight instead.
Did you know I wrote a book filled with words of encouragement, uplifting thoughts and illustrations of real-life triumph to empower you? Its title, Trials of Today, Treasures for Tomorrow: Overcoming Adversities in Life. You can get it HERE.
CLICK HERE for a one-minute inspirational video.
Looking for a speaker for your upcoming event? A great speaker makes the difference between a so-so event and one that shines with impact. I invite you to view one of my two-minute videos HERE.
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