tea’s kindness

I shuffle my feet out the bedroom, wiping the sleep out of my eyes. I lift the tea kettle, making sure there’s enough water leftover from yesterday to reuse. This makes some people grossed out. Not me.

Click, click, whoosh. I light the gas stove and begin heating the water.

For the next twenty minutes, I sit on my big, beautiful red couch, swishing coconut oil in my mouth as I drift between reading, journaling, thinking, dozing off, praying, and listening. The tea kettle whistles and steam billows up out of my coffee mug as the hot water meets the tea bag.

And as the train obnoxiously announces its arrival downtown, the sun peaks through the tall buildings, and I sip on my tea. Slowly, cautiously, quietly. I sit and breathe and tell my heart who God is and who I am.

This morning rhythm is changing me. Drinking tea is teaching me how to be kind to myself.

Kindness was something taught to me at a young age. But somewhere in the last few years, I exchanged kindness for harshness. I played on repeat a loop of criticism, comparison, and complaints. Suspicion was the filter I saw everything and everyone through. I flung arrows at myself and then I armored up, constructing walls and covering  in layers, convinced that everyone would be as mean to me as I was. As time went on, I found myself in a deep well, struggling to keep my head above water. The criticism, the complaining, the venting rewired my brain for negativity and I couldn’t make it stop. It sounded a bit like the enemy in the voice of my elementary lunch lady who used to scare the daylights out of me.

And I took my hurt and spewed it out onto my husband, and family, and friends, and coworkers. I offered fragmented attention, half-hearted encouragement, and the very worst assumptions.

Then, one day when I was reading Shauna Niequist’s newest book, I remembered there was a time years ago when I was kind to myself, and kind toward others. A time when my default emotion wasn’t anger or annoyance. A time when I was present and patient. A time when joy and tenderness seaped out of me. The realization that I haven’t always been so mean to myself made me do something I haven’t done in months: I cried.

Missing my old way of viewing myself and others, I sat the next morning on my big, red couch and thought about how tender God has been to me. His kindness stretched over me like warm blanket. And so I got honest with myself and with God. I told Him what I was feeling, not relenting the yucky stuff. I told God who He is and waged war against living in response to my wounds. He is kind and compassionate, faithful and patient. And He told me who I am: beloved.

That morning, and so many after that are changing me. It’s slow and clumsy, and less than glamorous. But I’m committing to drinking tea. Lots of it. Because tea makes me slow down. Tea has this powerful way to silence the mean, nagging voice within me. Tea, in its warmth and magical way of slowing me down is so kind. Tea invites me to sit and be still. And when I’m still, I can listen. I can decipher between lies and Truth. And the Truth is setting me free.

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