My mom Kate loves tea. LOVES tea. Begins everyday with a cup of strong, black tea with a lot of milk. Starts every hour with a cup of black tea with a lot of milk. Ends the day with tea with a lot of milk. When I walk in the door for a visit, she puts the kettle on for tea before the hug goes cold. Tea is part of my mother’s daily regimen, hospitality practice, stress reduction program, and cure for the common cold.
Perhaps tea drinking may not be spiritual enough for some, but Kate’s tea drinking is usually other-oriented. This is in part because of her Irish culture, but it is also my mother’s nature to be hospitable. My mom has an open door policy; when we were growing up, it endeared her to my friends and to my future husband. Had she been a first-century Christian, she would have made it onto the Apostle Paul’s “widow’s list” in 1 Timothy 5:9-10, because she “is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.”
Hospitality involves sacrifice of time, space and sometimes expense.When we were in seminary, my mother put us up countless times, fed us her famous spaghetti and meat sauce (not bad for an Irishwoman) and yes, made us countless cups of tea. She patiently housed our pets, our kids, and put up with our comings and goings. She would have made it onto the Apostle Peter’s good list (if he’d had one) according to 1 Peter 4:9-10: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
My mother was instrumental in my coming to Christ, as was my father, who passed away in 2005. My father modeled grace, faith, perseverance and a sense of humor with the kind of jokes that made you groan. The scriptures were on his lips constantly, especially in the last two decades of his life. My mother, very much the rock and center of our home, modeled then and now an unwavering cheeriness (perhaps to a fault), perseverance, compassion and care for the sick (she has been at the side of many dying friends, putting feet and hands to her prayers) and the elderly, a loyalty to her church, her children, her friends and her siblings, and a passion for God.
Before you think she is perfect, I am happy to report she is human: Kate can drive me crazy, as most mothers can drive their daughters crazy, but she will be just as quick to retort I am the one driving her crazy, and to look at me aghast when I make my guest bed at her house with the ironed sheets (“Those were for guests!”), to begin her phone calls with the statement, “I am calling in case you thought I was dead,” and to end them with, “Well, I guess you are tired of talking to me now.” She makes me laugh and pull my hair out. She will probably pull it out for me when she discovers this blog entry, because for all the heavy dose of extraversion God gave her, she is a private person.
But back to the tea: when she was caring for a 97-year old last year, she made him a cup of tea. He sipped it and sat back in the chair, surprised. “What have you done to this tea?” It was the best cup of tea he’d ever had. Turns out that other caregivers had given him microwaved tea for years. Yes, Kate has the gift of hospitali-tea.