Tea and Leaves

Tea and Leaves

I sit here at my writing desk looking out over the fields now yellowed and browned with age and listen to the farmers’ machinery humming in the distance. Once again, I am overwhelmed with the golden warmth of this season. The sweet scent of earth and ripe fruit, described by poet John Keats as ‘mellow fruitfulness’, hangs in the air. A few oak leaves flutter and twist their way to the ground, and suddenly mixed in are huge, heavy drops of rain, first a few, then more and more as the rainstorm picks up volume and speed.

I quickly get up to close the sliding doors and suddenly the house is quiet. Dusk begins to settle in on our little villa, and I decide to abandon my desk in honor of my nightly autumn ritual. The silver teapot is lifted off her place from the nearby coffee bar and filled with cold water. Soon she is chattering away on the stovetop, her voice rising higher and higher to a fever pitch, letting me know it is time. Craving something sweet, I choose a dessert tea, Candied Chestnut, described on the box as having sweet, light chestnut notes and a smooth buttery finish. That should do. Soon my senses are filled with chestnuts and memories, and with tiny, careful steps so as not to spill a drop, I mince my way back to my desk.

Suddenly feeling a chill, I grab a trusty, plaid blanket lying close by and wrap my shoulders tightly. Settling in once again, I sip the hot brew and nod self-approvingly on my selection tonight. Pulling an oak leaf from a dried floral arrangement on my desk, I study it thoughtfully. These sturdy leaves don’t crush and break so easily like the maple and ash when I rake them. Like the tree itself, they silently boast of strength and durability.

“It’s been a hard season,” I murmur to myself. I twist the leaf by its stem and watch it twirl in my hand. “You never know just what tomorrow holds, and you’re stronger than you know, stronger than you know,” the words to a song echo through my mind, and I join in, quietly singing to the leaf, the tea, and myself. And at this precise moment, I knew I had everything I needed. I was going to be okay.

“I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” ~ Philippians 4:12-13

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If You Water It, They Will Come

13906830_10208793252601631_8219072198248097418_nI didn’t expect to see him squatting there with his green and brown spotted coat blending in with the still-damp soil and tiny weed sprouts. I had come to the gardens early in the day in search of red, juicy tomatoes for a salad lunch later.

“Well, hello there, little frog,” I murmured. What brings you out this morning?”

Then I remembered how I had watered the garden last night, and the plants and soil were still moist. It’s been a long, hot, dry spell in northern Indiana. We haven’t seen rain in days, and the lawn is sun-bleached and brittle. The vegetable and flower gardens with their bright greenery stand in stark contrast as they get watered nearly every day. Naturally, the frog set up shop where there was a source of water and refreshment.

I thought back to yesterday morning as I peeked out the kitchen window, the first rays of the sun promising another steamy, scorching day. The gardens were full of birds. They flitted in and out, disappearing momentarily among the green beans and bell pepper plants. Cardinals, sparrows, robins, and finches with little mincing steps danced choreographically in and out of the garden for this audience of one. Tiny droplets of water lingering on the plants washed over their feathers. This was their way of taking a morning shower, I surmised.

“If you water it, they will come,” the words sifted down upon my mind. “The water is intended for the plants, but so many others benefit from and depend upon it especially in the drought seasons.”

Ah, yes. I see where this is going…my life, my parched soul, my desperate need of living water. Intentional, daily watering (worship, meditating on Scripture, practicing the presence of God) is necessary for any hope of fruit. But something I hadn’t considered was the secondary by-product of this watering. Others nearby, namely my spouse, my kids, friends, and strangers alike, all benefit, too. When I am well watered, I bring a refreshment to others.

As I reached for a tomato, my little spotted visitor hopped away. I breathed a prayer, “Father, when the heat is on and souls are withering, help me live in such a way that when anyone comes near me, they come under the influence of living water.”

“The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” Isaiah 58:11,12

Of Praying and Prying

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Recently, when I wanted to open the heart of someone I love, I placed some Scrabble tiles in my kitchen window frame to spell the word, PRAY.  Just a simple reminder to pray whenever I stood at the kitchen sink.  One day as I was dusting the window frame, I accidentally knocked over the letter A.  Now it spelled PRY.  In that moment God asked me, “Which will it be?  PRAY or PRY?”  To pry means to move, raise, or open by leverage; to obtain, extract, or separate with difficulty, for example, to pry a secret out of someone.  Was I going to turn to Him to open the heart of someone I love or was I going to turn to the leverage I have to do it?  If through leverage, I am able to get the result I want, will it be the result I want years from now?  Will it be genuine heart change?  Will it come from the free will of the individual?  We all have been given good gifts that can serve as leverage to open difficult situations and people.  Things like wisdom, beauty, intelligence, education, wit, knowledge, strength, finances, and yes, even love.  How and when we wield them and whether it is in our own strength and will or in God’s way and time, determines the effectiveness.  And sometimes God does things without any of our help.  Because He can.  Because He is God.  He has been doing this for eons of time:  Opening hardened, encrusted, glued-shut, darkened, deceived, blinded, broken hearts.  Changing circumstances that have been set in stone for years, impenetrable, immovable, and seemingly unchangeable.  This one is no exception.

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