Originally published Sunday, 23 June 2013.
Five months ago, our little family of five crammed our most precious earthly possessions into twelve overstuffed suitcases, and traipsed across the Atlantic. In a manner of speaking, that is.
To many, twelve bags weighing fifty pounds each may sound like a whole lotta stuff. And it is. I agree.
And yet, there remain other things, little things, things that didn’t make the cut when the bags were zipped for the umpteenth and final time. Things I didn’t think I would miss, but I do.
During the ten years I spent living in South Africa before moving back to the States, I grew to love so much about that beautiful, diverse land. The hikes up Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. The orange sun slipping below the horizon at Camps Bay beach, with the Twelve Apostles as a cloak over the shoulders.
Those are some of the big things.
Literally ‘red bush’ tea, I had my cup down to a ‘T’ … pun intended. Sage-colored mug, about an inch worth of milk on the bottom, one semi-heaped spoon of sugar, microwaved for forty-six seconds while the electric kettle boiled. Insert sweet-scented bag of Rooibos, pour in boiling water, and there you have it.
Comfort in a cup.
Yet somehow, those square sachets of comfort didn’t find their way into my backpack at the final boarding call.
Fast forward a few weeks.
We were in a new church in the States, surrounded by freshly acquainted faces. One of the dear congregants, herself familiar with South Africa, took my wrist after the evening service, placed a palm-sized packet into my hand, and wrapped my fingers around it.
Somewhat bewildered, I looked down, loosened my grasp, and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Resting in my palm was a bag of Rooibos tea.
Having lived in multiple countries herself, the woman who bestowed this nugget of gold upon me knew what it was like.
And with a token as tiny as a tea bag, she had shown me love.
That evening, I clasped my left hand around the prized treasure, and slipped it into the pocket of my black pea coat.
And to this day, there the tea bag remains.
I could have savored it, steeped in a mug of steaming water and hot milk.
But instead, I keep it in my pocket.
And every time I reach my hand into that left pocket of my pea coat, I am reminded of warmth – a warmth that is greater and longer-lasting than that of a recently consumed cup of tea.
It is the warmth of a sister in Christ, reaching out to wrap my hand around a token of kindness and compassion.
It is the warmth of God himself, using the ‘little things,’ the things that didn’t get packed, the tea-bag-sized glimpses, to remind me of His everlasting grace, kindness and love.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
~ Jeremiah 31:3b