The cost of love
I couldn’t see well enough through the tears to even make sure I was picking up every single piece of china shards off the floor. At first I could only stand there and hold the kitchen towel over my tightly shut eyes. Knowing that when I opened them, I would see the shattered tea cup saucers in pieces strewn across the hardwoods. The box had been too close to the edge of the counter and had tipped onto the hard floor before I knew what was happening. Fragments of delicately painted flowers broken into razor sharp angles all over the place.
Every month we host a girls’ tea group at our home. We delight in setting beautiful tables and making delicious food and providing a place for friendship to grow and hearts to knit together. For my friends who come and bring their daughters, they’ve come to know that they will be lavished with love here. I’d like to think they anticipate being served and loved because I’ve done just that for them month after month for many months. We use my grandmothers wedding crystal and my mother’s tea cup and saucer sets. Each one of the thirteen, a unique and beautiful piece of bone china. I pour their tea or cider after we’ve talked some about life and Jesus and the other important things. The girls talk and laugh at their table while the mamas share tea and encouragement at ours.
To say its been a highlight of our month, is understated. There can be a dismal week (a little like this one) with a child on crutches after a trampoline injury and four other kids with fevers and coughs and grumpy hearts and a worn down mama who’s doing all her normal work plus the chores of all the sick ones too. There can be all sorts of un-wonderful-ness. But then there is tea. And despite what the week (or month) held, we get this precious respite from normal. Instead of salsa and jelly stains on the tablecloth, there is a clean white lace one. Instead of piles of school work at each seat, there is china and crystal and candles and beauty. Instead of carrots and cucumbers and too-healthy-somethings, there are raspberry vanilla topped chocolate cupcakes.
Mind you, there are still hand prints all over the slider to the yard. When the sun beams in, I’m blinded but still manage to notice the smears from wet dogs anxious to come inside all over the glass. The bathroom is orderly but it bears the constant smell of “boys use this bathroom”. The spoons are mismatched. The wallpaper is peeling. A piece of molding fell off the wall. It is not perfection. But it is a welcome haven that beats with love.
Much of my life is not easy, does not come easy or easily. Life with a half a dozen children is many (wonderful) things, but certainly not that. But this – this tea, the hours long hand washing of dishes that follows each gathering and the flurry of every tea morning to get everything in order and the lull of feminine chatter ringing around every corner? It’s the deepest kind of delight for me. It flows in the most natural, instinctive way. To get to give love in this way, is rich and priceless.
So, when the box tilted and the dishes went flying, the loss wasn’t really about the tea sets. I know good and well they are just dishes. It was about what they were a part of, what they helped to provide. And as I stood there speechless staring at the box of brokenness, something made sense in a new way.
This is way I live and love. I spent many years with the fine china and my heart tucked away safe. And no one knew the beauty of what I had to offer, at my table or from my heart. The decision, whether its’ reached in a day or a year, to wear your heart on the outside, to love people like crazy, to bring out the beloved dishes and use them, its a risky one. Loving people, really loving them with all you’ve got, is immeasurably perilous. The likelihood that your heart will break into pieces that feel sharper than any knife, is a million to one. My heart and my dishes would be safer locked away, if you don’t use them, they’re highly likely not to break. No one could argue with that. And were they to stay there, cherished young girls wouldn’t get to sit by candlelight and feel treasured as they eat on plates my most beloved grandmother received at her wedding in the 1940’s. Were I to stay safe, love safe, love guarded….well, my life and relationships would look wildly different than they do today. In a thousand different ways. There would be emptiness where there is fullness. There would be scathing poverty where there is abundant richness.
Choosing to be daring, to live out love, pays the deepest kind of dividends. And in the very same instant, it means knowing the searing pain of absolute heartbreak. The two go hand in hand. I suppose what’s struck me today is simply that its worth it. Taking your heart, and your gold-rimmed china, out of the box and giving pure love lavishly to others – it is worth it. Worth the mess, the cost and the pain. Even though you know they might break. It’s still worth it.