The small wooden cart was rolled in from the kitchen and we all gathered eagerly around it. It had been an arduous afternoon of work on the hillside as several of us tried to cut down thorn bushes in an attempt to landscape a gentle slope near a staff person’s chalet. At last… it was tea time! We made our way up to the main chalet of our temporary home, L’Abri, in Switzerland. Tired, weary, and feeling a little poked over from all the thorns, my husband and I were ready for a rest, some good conversation, and a little reprieve as we enjoyed a cup of tea and some biscuits. This was tea time. And it made its way into our hearts.
As my first babies grew into toddlerhood, we started a tradition of “making foam”, our version of steamed milk with honey, or hot cocoa! Especially in the Fall and Winter months, after naps and playing outside, we would come in from the cold to warm up our hands and our noses. I would start up our “foam machine” and get out the cups and saucers. Somehow, this just became routine, an every day liturgy with my children. This was our “tea time.”
Fast forward a few years later, with four little ones running around my ankles, filling my days with dimpled smiles, contagious laughter, dry erase boards, flashcards, math lessons and storybooks, we haven’t kept up this tradition quite as much! Oh of course, we always had snack time and milk, but with the busyness of our home, I had forgotten the earlier days of this set apart event. It was time to create space in our day to gather around the table with a warm mug of something yummy, instead of rushing out the door to the playground with granola bars in our pockets and a quick sip of milk before we all ran outside! Of course, there are seasons for that too!
The time honored traditions of gathering around cups of warm coffee or tea have been since ancient times. This was a way to build community and share about the news of the day in many cultures around the world.
This is a new season of motherhood for me as our home expands to include more children and as they enter the next stages of childhood. With my daughter turning 7 this year and my eldest son turning 5, we are having deeper conversations about the why’s of life. These discussions take time and thought. I can’t just answer a question with one sentence anymore. I need to think about the Biblical and philosophical implications of what I’m saying and how to communicate it at their level. Now is the season of turning those little tea parties with tin cups and saucers (which are so well loved and dented after years of play – how did time fly by so fast?) into a daily time of discussion, a coming away from the routine of school and chores, to rest and reflect, with a cup of warm tea and biscuits.
In her article, Tea and Liturgy, Sandra McCracken writes, “…tea, in its proper form, can be a kind of spiritual liturgy as well. Bringing the water to a full boil, setting out the china, the cups and saucers, tiny silver spoons, whole milk, honey, and often biscuits or cookies is important just because it is beautiful and good to do so. It slows me down. Clears my head. It makes space for thought and conversation right there in the middle of a busy day.” Arthouse America
I want my children to grow up with this tradition, to weave it into the fabric of who they are. I want it to become habit for me, that when three o’clock rolls around, we put our books and school work away, and instinctively start to boil the water and place the china with anticipation of conversation and treasured moments.
“As the water boils and the afternoon sun calls out the evening shadows, a new space opens up for us to listen to each other, and to meditate on less urgent but more significant matters. As we wait for the tea to steep, the unspoken, dried out thoughts within us are now able to expand like the leaves in the warm water.”
-Sandra McCracken, Arthouse America