Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Tea

I almost turned the news off that night, the scenes coming out of Japan continuing to bring such heartbreak for the people there.  But after viewing the destruction, the scene changed and viewers were taken into a small but pretty apartment in Tokyo where a mother and her two young daughters were interviewed.

The two girls were both wearing pretty dresses with thick sweaters, their mother equally dressed for the interview.   The apartment was comfortable with soft furniture, pillows, pretty pictures... not a lot of space but plenty of charm.

The mother talked calmly about the situation in Tokyo and how she was concerned for the future, the girls missed playing outside in the park each day.  Instead they played board games and spent time together indoors as a family... all three calm in their sweet apartment as they faced an unknown future (Father was at work).

Already food was limited and the very air they breathed in fear of becoming contaminated.  But there was peace and courage and a gentleness wrapped in the knowledge this family would face together what was to come.

Flowers on a summer day
Now, I am well aware that a home atmosphere cannot change bad circumstances.  If there is abuse within the four walls, all the pretty flower arrangements in the world cannot take away that hurt.   But for most of us in our day-to-day activities, Beauty in the home has the same affect on us as the pretty little apartment gave a sense of order to the Japanese family.

I was reading through some Victoria magazines this past week... old and new... thinking on this theme of Beauty in the everyday.   Man was born in a garden and has an inherent need for Beauty.  There is something about a bouquet of daisies in a canning jar that strengthens the soul of one who has been suffering.  The scent of an apple pie brings with it the anticipation of good food and fellowship... in the midst of trials and tribulations.

Life is never "all or nothing", we need to continue (to what extent possible) in creating a safe harbor in the storm for those whom we know and love.  It doesn't take a lot of money but it does require someone putting thought into the creation... perhaps as we knead the bread or wash the teacups or set out milk & sugar in their pretty containers... we are also teaching the next generation to show grace in the midst of an uncertain future.

While serving tea or hot chocolate with simple cinnamon toast may not seem like much for now but when a child must economize as an adult, isn't it good that they have fond memories of inexpensive treats?  If they spent early years learning to appreciate simple food on a daily basis with the occasional Feast Day... instead of expecting fancy food each evening... they bring with them into their adult years a proper expectation of the everyday as well as the Feast.

What brings Beauty and Peace and Grace is often unique to each family.  I have been in homes in which music played together brought unity.  Another homeschooling family we know play video games together!  When Christopher was younger and his Dad traveled a great deal, I watched his favorite cartoons with him... which is why the Transformers can bring a warm and cozy feeling within... not what one would expect at my age! ;)

In our home these days, bookshelves filled with books yet to be read as well as old friends awaiting another visit brings contentment.  Pages in various cookbooks have been tagged with index cards where recipes waiting to be tried soon are located.  The sight of Victoria Kitty with her nose pushed up to the glass can always bring with it a smile... or seeing her curled up at Christopher's feet when he's not feeling well.

The porcelain garden of floral plates, platters, teapots, and teacups in the china cabinet provide flowers inside as the snow falls on the backyard.  The decision to turn off the electric lamps and light candles (and perhaps oil lamps) brings with it an old fashioned calm to the room.

Preparing the onions and carrots for soup in my kitchen filled with yellow and red accessories can bring a duo joy... that which comes from my surroundings and the feeling I experience as I am cutting and chopping vegetables as mothers for millennium have done before me.

Rarely does a perfect day reach this family.  There is always... something... which can remove the Grace and Peace... always health and financial concerns, dealing with the one who is not thinking clearly at times, extended family trials and tribulations... and much coming in from the outside world adding to uncertainty of the future.

Having prepared a place of Beauty and Grace has not taken away the challenges of life... but it certainly has provided a safe harbor in the Storms.  It reminds me of a quote I heard about the French and their appreciation of "the good life"... that only the French could transform a food they had to eat in poverty (that being snails)... and make it a gourmet treat.

So much of our journey in this life is out of our hands but that which we can control... our decisions, our attitude when things go wrong, making the decision to trust God rather than letting the seeds of bitterness take root, serving hearty soup in a pretty bowl with homemade bread on the side... instead of complaining there is no money for steak, searching for Beauty while Trifting, choosing to be thankful for what we have... all coming together to provide the safe and cozy harbor in the crazy world in which we live.


Joanne said...

Another beautiful and thoughtful post....thank you for articulating so well!
Blessings on your Sunday!

Anonymous said...

wise, wise words...our attitude in the face of trials is indeed key.

Anonymous said...

Your toast memories bring back what I served my young children: cinnamon toast cut into long sticks...somehow it tasted better in that shape.

And when hubby was laid off 20 months and in school full time then, we ate lots of tacos, burritos, tuna sandwiches, peanut butter honey sandwiches, carrot sticks. We survived. We even had extra to share with others at the school who had less. My son says he still loves those foods (I wonder if maybe part of that is the memories otherwise of those days that the 4 of us at home shared?) Actually, for the 4 of us it was some of the best time we ever had, because Dad was home more and we did fun, free, cheap things during that time!!

Anonymous said...

Brava, Brenda!

becka said...

Today's lovely post reminded me of the Chinese proverb, "If you have two loaves sell one and buy a lily." It is so true that beauty and orderliness are so necessary for a feeling of peacefulness and calm.

samcoll said...

Such a nice post! You have such a way with words...and thoughts! I love reading your posts!~Jennifer

samcoll said...

Such a wonderful post! I love how you think! Thank you!~Jennifer

Vee said...

Thank you for this, Brenda. I can't help but wonder what would've happened if people threw their hands into the air and gave up every time a crisis threatened. There's always another crisis waiting in the wings. As they say, "thus it has been and shall forever be." Just reading this lowered my blood pressure. ☺

Christine said...

Brenda, such wonderful words and reminders!! thank you for your beautiful post!

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries™ said...

Wonderful post Brenda. Your perspective is lovely, rich, practical and ever so encouraging...and beautifully said as well.
Love and good things to you my kind friend.

Vicki in UT said...

Wonderful post. It goes right along with a church lesson we had today, about not only looking at the glass as half full rather than half empty, but being grateful for the half a glass that we have.

My daughters all prefer casseroles to steak or roast, and I think it is because we ate that way when they were little (although my sons prefer the meat, lol).

When you think of it, most of us in the USA have more than the majority of the world, even in limited circumstances, so we have much to be thankful for.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Well my dear Brenda, you and I are certainly musing over the same things. Home, hearth, family, simplicity, beauty, and meaning.

I loved this.



hmsclmom said...

Thank you for your timely post today. We have been through those lean times too when eating a salad grown in our garden or a filling pasta salad on pretty plates while sitting on our back porch ment the world to us. One of my favorite memories is seeing my oldest son and his friend paint pictures with watercolors for a couple of hours one afternoon on that same back porch and then hanging them up to dry on the laundry line. :)


Mrs.Rabe said...

Such an encouraging post!

There is such beauty in ordinary things, and in simple living. Cinnamon toast and hot chocolate, yum.


Marie said...

Great post, as always. I am getting joy, these days, of picking pansies from our deck and placing them in a small vase on the sink. I can't help but smile when I see the sweet faces of them. When I was growing up, the only fancy meal we had was Sunday dinner. In our country, we have so many THINGS. Since my husband's retirement and living on a fixed income, I have found out that we can live fine with less. I wish our younger generation would learn that.
Love you,

Gina said...


Such a lovely post to warm my heart and home. So true. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.


Heather L. said...

Such a beautiful post!!! love it! Beauty is a topic that is forever before me.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a recent article by Chuck Colson who said that a lot of wealthy celebrities are very unhappy because when you have so much, you lose the ability to find joy in simple things. It takes more and more, bigger and better to satisfy.

Virginia Knowles said...

I found your blog via Sally Clarkson's recommendation and loved this post.

We must be kindred spirits because I just wrote a post called "Just Beauty" with some of the same themes (and a mention of Japan) at

Take a peek!

Christy@WickedHappy said...

Thank you for posting this! It is a lovely reminder to surround ourselves with beauty. Such a small thing...that can make such a large difference in our outlooks.