Friday, June 13, 2014

"You are Tea Time"

"Who is Connie Chandler?" my friend Joyce asked me over our traditional Japanese luncheon together. We try to get together for lunch whenever I come home, and she always finds good ways to challenge and encourage me. This time it was with a seemingly simple question with seemingly profound implications. I think I frowned a little and sipped my tea to avoid answering right away. I knew she was asking what makes me unique, what is my special "ingredient." Well, I'm a teacher, a writer, a mentor, an encourager, a listener, a researcher, a collector of stories, an organizer, a puzzle solver, an adventurer, a dreamer, a romantic, an international at heart... none of these are particularly unique things to me, nor do they really encompass who I am entirely, and I'm not sure anything ever could, but I was trying to think of a shorter, more succinct, more holistic response. Joyce doesn't ask questions without hoping for a meaningful, thoughtful answer.

After a couple minutes of thinking out loud with her, she said, "I think Connie Chandler is Tea Time." I thought about it, and slowly nodded and smiled as I understood what she was saying. I wrote a book a few years ago, a collection of short stories and poems that I called Tea Time (a link to buy it is in the right side panel of my blog!). It isn't so much about tea, as it is about taking time to deepen relationships and live fully in the smaller, quieter moments.

Of course, as much as I love my book, I am not my book. What Joyce meant in her simple but resonating statement is that the way I view and interact with the world is the way I expressed it in my book, and how I live out "tea time." See, when I have tea with someone, it is a process... We have to wait for the kettle to whistle, then wait for the tea to steep, then add in cream or milk and sugar or lemon or honey, then wait for it to cool as we warm our hands on it. And we can't gulp down hot tea - it is meant to be drunk slowly, savoring the flavor.

And some people think I'm a "tea snob" because I have and consume a LOT of tea, but actually, I don't pay that much attention to the number of minutes it steeps or the exact amount of sweetener we add, or even the distinguishing quality of different teas. That's because I'm letting the steam of the cup relax my muscles and melt my tension, I'm letting the time slow me down and allow me to be still and listen and just know, I'm pausing to give my attention to small, secretly beautiful details... I'm letting fellowship happen: heart-to-heart conversations, face-to-face encounters, story telling in real time and with pure authenticity.

So yeah, I'd love to be able to say that I am Tea Time... that this is what my life is about, or at least what I strive for and what I thrive on...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Adventures - Part 3, The South

After Florida, Mom and I returned to North Carolina, where I got to have a ladies' tea party and speak in front of a women's group of about 55 people at my home church. It was so fun, and I got to see some very dear ladies who have been a part of my life at different times and stages, and who continue to bless and encourage me.  

I also got to share at another church in town, to a mission board that has been very supportive of my ministry for a long time. My friend Tim is the leader of the board, and he was my Bible teacher/spiritual mentor through middle and high school, and because of his background and passion for missions and God's Word, he had a huge influence on the decisions I've made with my work. He got up to introduce me to the group last week and said, "For those of you who don't know her, this is Connie, and she is my favorite missionary." Well, I hardly needed to say anything after that - what a recommendation!

Besides speaking, I did get to just have some fun while I was home with my parents too - doing puzzles, having picnics, watching old tv shows, and eating ice cream. Anna and I went downtown Friday night for the gallery hop and all the craziness of street performances (Winston-Salem can be a pretty hopping place in the summer!), and Hayden took me to get "southern soul food" (which can be identified when the "vegetable" category of the menu includes macaroni and cheese, apple sauce, cole slaw, and fried okra).

I got to catch up with a few other friends too, and it was actually kind of hard to leave this time. When life is changing and I don't know what lies ahead, nothing is quite so comforting as being at Home.