When Lauren and I were not older than ten, we and a group of girls and their mothers hosted a tea party for all the ladies in the church. Each family hosted a table, contributing to the delicacies on the menu, arranging the table, and practicing hospitality to the women assigned to their table as well as two guests from outside the church of their choosing.
I don't remember who sat at our table, or who one of our guests was, but I do remember our other guest. Mrs. Alberta W., the elderly wife of our former pastor, was a gracious woman whom I didn't really know well, but whom I respected and was more than happy to host.
The tea went well--no embarrassing gaffes or shining moments that stand out to me now, twelve years later. The extraordinary moment came several weeks later, when we unexpectedly found a box on our doorstep. Inside was a typewritten letter resting on top of mounds of tissue, the essence of the contents being as follows:
Dear Lauren, Mikaela, Melanie, and Susanna,
Thank you for having me at your tea. The food was delicious, and I was happy to be your guest. In 195-, when I married my husband, my daddy gave me a set of china. I've used and kept it all these years, and now I want to give each of you a teacup and saucer from that set as a thanks for the wonderful day. I hope you will cherish and use them as much as I have.
We gasped in childish delight as we burrowed into the tissued depths of the box and retrieved four teacups with a cream background, gold edging, and the most charming minute pink flowers imaginable. These were our cherished possessions, adorning every tea table from that point forward.
Then, a year or two ago, my piano teacher received a long-awaited shipment from Germany: all the china and tea service from his grandparents' estate. The happy occasion quickly turned sour, however, when he opened the box to find piece after priceless piece in shards. Only the silver survived, and as he told us this sad tale and showed us the sad remnants, he handed the remaining teapot, cream, sugar, and teacups to us as a gift.
I'm not deserving of these special gifts; they came with family history and heritage, and the china was given to four clumsy children who preferred a spot of tea with their milk and sugar and peanut butter and jelly to cucumber sandwiches. I hardly think that, were the positions reversed, I could ever part with such treasures; I have yet to master the principle these special friends live out so well:
"Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~ Luke 12:33-34
I still remember the dear old lady who has long since moved from the area, and who may not even recognize my name, because of a sacrificial gift she gave to my sisters and I that far outweighed anything I had given to her. And I will never forget the giver of the beautiful silver who, for no reason at all, bestowed upon us a gift--a link to his family and heritage--made even more precious because it survived the perilous journey from Germany.
The lessons of the tea service have been great. Do not hold on to your possessions so tightly that you miss an opportunity to greatly bless the life of another.
Above all, do not forget the consummate sacrifice and gift our Savior made for you and I on the cross so long ago.
I smile in delight every time I sip a cup of tea (several times a week), and I marvel and worship God for my salvation and every time (each moment of every day) He gives me His strength and grace. I am indeed, a blessed and unworthy recipient of many good gifts.