Weak Tea, by Janice Lane Palko

In February 2015, my daughter surprised us by announcing that she was in her second trimester of pregnancy. After experiencing three miscarriages in 14 months, we were overjoyed. Our prayers for a baby, it appeared, would be answered. Plans were soon hatched for a baby shower. This would be the first grandchild for our side of the family as well as my son-in-law’s. All of the family lives in Pittsburgh, except for my daughter and son-in-law who recently transferred to Augusta, Georgia. They made arrangements to come back home in May for a shower that I and my daughter’s mother-in-law would host.

Since this would be the first baby born below the Mason Dixon line and because we’ve all fallen in love with Southern cuisine from visits to them in Georgia, we decided Southern food was in order. We enlisted help from the soon-to-be great-grandmothers and great aunts to help prepare authentic Southern food.

In addition to writing, I like to get creative doing crafts, making decorations, cooking, and baking. My daughter’s mother-in-law who described herself as “not crafty” told me to have at it, giving me free rein to indulge my inner Martha Stewart. The new baby was going to be named Sadie Grace, and the phrase that kept playing in my mind was “Sadie, Sadie, you sweet little baby, how does your garden grow? With hugs and kisses and loving wishes from everyone you know.”

So a garden theme was chosen, and I scoured the dollar and craft stores for bargains that I could turn into decorations. I sprayed Mason jars pink and stuffed them with flowers to be used as centerpieces. I found flower petal pinwheels that I stuck into green blocks of Styrofoam, which would be situated around the rocking chair, simulating a garden, where the gifts would be opened by my daughter. I made tissue paper flowers to hang from the ceiling and punched out hundreds of pastel paper flowers to affix to the favors and bundles of utensils. I punched out dozens more intending for the guests to autograph one flower, which I would then affix to a framed garden print creating a collage of the flowers for Sadie’s garden. I was a regular Pinterest princess.

The chefs in the family and myself made shrimp and cheesy grits, pulled pork sliders, and fried chicken tenders, as well as an array of salads and sides. For dessert, there were individual pecan pies, peach cobblers, and banana pudding shooters that my sister made with real whipped cream. We would have made Paula Deen proud.

When the day arrived, we worked all morning setting up tables and chairs and decorating the hall. It looked as colorful as a Southern garden, and as the guests arrived, many remarked to me as they nibbled on candies in the shape of flowers that I should be a party planner, that everything looked beautiful, and that the homemade Southern food smelled delicious. I tell you this not to brag but to set the stage for what happened next.

As I was in the kitchen, putting peach-shaped cookies on a tray, my mother walked in and said, “Denise said to tell you that your sweet tea is weak.” Denise is my busybody relative.

I stepped back, stunned. “What?” was all I could utter.

“She said to tell you the tea is weak.”

Crestfallen, I opened my arms, motioning to the lavish display of food and decorations. “All of this and that’s all she could say?”

A flare of anger sparked in me. I had worked for six weeks on the shower to create a wonderful celebration for everyone, making festive decorations, creating homemade bath salts for favors, and cooking for days to make scrumptious food to enjoy, and weak tea was all Denise could notice?

Then I heard that still small voice of God in my heart whisper, “Now you know how I feel.”

And for a split second I did; I had an insight into God’s perspective.

How many times have I been like Denise, oblivious to the beauty God has created all around me or to all the blessings he has lavished on me only to focus on an insignificant thing I felt I lacked? I confess, I’ve been like the Israelites, led out of slavery only to moan in the desert that they didn’t like God’s accommodations and his menu plan for them. What an ungrateful lot we humans can often be.

And then I felt sad not only for Denise but also for myself. And God. Now I knew what it was to see your gifts offered only to be ignored or criticized. What of God’s bounty and blessings was I missing by homing in on what I felt were flaws or things that didn’t meet my myopic standards?

“Tell her to try the peach sangria,” I said to my mom. “That has a bit of a kick.”

As I walked toward the dessert table with my tray of peach-shaped cookies, I resolved to be more aware and more grateful for all that God has given me and cease focusing on what he hasn’t. And that’s an attitude that could just be my cup of tea-whether weak or not!

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2 Responses to Weak Tea, by Janice Lane Palko

  1. Ellen Marie Dumer says:

    Just a great lesson. Thanks for sharing in such a personal way!