A cup of tea and a clean slate
October 31, 2011 | My Jottings
(this is from the archives….)
In 2007 Michael and I took a wonderful trip to Scotland, Ireland and England. In each place we stayed, whether chain hotel, bed and breakfast or elegant guesthouse, there was tea. Not just tea offered in dining establishments, but tea in our rooms. There was always an electric teapot, some nice teacups, a small assortment of shortbread, and Typhoo brand tea every single place we went.
We got into the habit of getting up in the mornings, heating water in our little electric teapot (much faster than microwaves), and enjoying real UK tea together before we went out to see the sights.
Then at night when we returned to our room after traipsing the Scottish Highlands or the Yorkshire Dales, we’d have tea again. Sitting together in quiet and taking time for a cup of tea seemed so simple, yet its effect on us has been a lasting one. As we sipped, we talked over the day. We wondered together what the next day would hold. We marveled that a cup of hot water with dried bits of leaves in it could taste so good and feel so comforting. By the time we flew home to American Siberia we totally understood the British habit of stopping everything at 4:00 p.m. to have a cup of tea.
Michael has been an inveterate coffee drinker for decades, and I’ve always liked tea, but I probably drank it only a few times a year. When we returned home, we started buying little red plaid boxes of real Scottish shortbread, and having a cup of tea almost every day. It made us think back to our fantastic trip, and we enjoyed sitting together for a few quiet minutes in the waning of the day.
When we moved into this house almost two years ago, we decided to designate a nook in our bedroom as a special place for two comfy overstuffed chairs, a reading light and small table, and an ottoman, where we could take a few minutes to have tea together.
I would heat the water for our tea in our kitchen microwave and carry it up in steaming mugs on a tray to our bedroom, and we would sink into our chairs and sigh, sipping our tea, nibbling our buttery shortbread, and remembering how much we love Scotland and want to move there.
Well, a little over a month ago I was in Menard’s, of all places, and as I wandered the aisles I found an electric kettle almost exactly like many of the ones in our rooms in Great Britain. I bought it for Michael for Christmas and he smiled when he saw it, knowing exactly what I had intended by this little gift.
Now when we have tea I don’t nuke the water in the kitchen microwave and carry it upstairs. Instead I fill the teapot in the master bathroom and plug it in just like we did on our trip each morning and evening, and since the teapot is faster than a microwave, we have boiling water in the time it takes us to sing “Danny Boy.”
Here’s the tray with all our tea things on it, sitting on the ottoman in our lovely bedroom nook. (These pictures should enlarge if you click on them.)
And not that I have any issues or anything like that, but I also think it’s a good idea that our mugs sort of match the decor, which is black and cream with splashes of deep red here and there.
Above, you can see my cardinal mug from a friend, Michael’s manly black and white Guinness mug he bought in Ireland, a box of Typhoo tea bags from the United Kingdom, a red bowl with a few other tea bags in it, and the new electric teapot, all sitting on a dark red tray. We keep all of this here all the time, and even on the days when we don’t sit down for tea, the tray still beckons and we look forward to the next day, when perhaps we’ll be able to take some time in the morning or late afternoon to sit in peace together.
Our teatimes aren’t all about tea, however. We have been reading through the Bible together for years now. Sometimes days will go by and we won’t read together at all. We’re not so concerned about finishing quickly as we are about taking it in as we read, to discern what God is saying to us on that particular day. We read slowly, out loud, and stop to talk about what we read and what it means to us. I always keep Kleenex nearby. We mark our Bibles when we finish each chapter so we’ll know when we’ve read through all sixty-six books together. We finished the New Testament years ago, and are more than halfway through the Old. We keep rereading the Psalms and Proverbs and we both love the book of Acts so much we’ve read that aloud numerous times. This morning we read a chapter from the Psalms, and one from the books of Daniel and 1 Samuel.
After we read, we often pray together. We pray for each of our children by name, each of our sons-in-law, each grandchild. We pray for our friends, for neighbors, for those people we know who have needs that only God can meet. Sometimes we ask for huge miracles, sometimes we just ask for daily bread. Some days we don’t know how to pray, so we cry, knowing God can read our hearts. And we always ask for God’s help and forgiveness for ourselves; we’re so thankful that His mercies are new every morning, and that His faithfulness is so great. (Lamentations 3:22-23.)
I must say that I think the most wonderful, miraculous and intimate thing Michael and I have ever done as a couple is pray together. When we were newlyweds in the early 1980s I used to think the most intimate thing between us was, er…uh…ahem, something else. And as wonderful, miraculous and intimate as married love is, the joining together of hearts and souls in prayer to the One who made us and loves us, defies description.
And we hardly even know how to pray. We just bumble through like many people, placing ourselves before our Father, humbling ourselves before Him as best we know how, asking in short, ineloquent phrases that He would help and guide us, and help and guide the ones we love so much. Author Anne Lamott says the prayers she most often says are, “Thank you, thank you!” and “Help! Help!” We’re quite familiar with those prayers too. God doesn’t expect us to pray perfectly. He just wants us to pray – to talk to Him and trust Him and listen to Him.
Michael and I have asked Him to do things He has yet to do. Still we trust Him and pray. We have asked Him to do things and He has exceeded our expectations, taking our breath away. So we thank Him and praise Him, and pray again.
I don’t know much about prayer, but I confidently say to any married couple who might be thinking they should try praying together: do it. Don’t let fear or embarrassment or any other thing stop you from connecting to the One who has all you need. If all you can do is bow your heads, join hands for thirty seconds and one of you croak out, “Dear Jesus, please help us! Amen,” then do that! That’s a lot. He will hear you.
So when 2010 arrived, it seemed only right that Michael and I start the year out in our comfy chairs in our little bedroom nook. When we found some time to go upstairs, I brewed cups of tea from our new electric teapot that reminds us of Scotland, and we sat together and exchanged knowing smiles. We read a little from the Bible. We held hands and prayed together too, asking God for a clean slate as we face a new year. Indeed, we need a clean slate each and every new day.
A cup of tea and a clean slate. Both are so heartening, so comforting. Michael and I highly recommend them.