Tea As A Tonic

words: Jessica Sowards
images: courtesy Jessica Sowards and Jackson Whitaker

I don’t drink tea at night as a general rule. Only sometimes, when it’s on the early end of late, and my brain just won’t settle. When it’s dark outside and the day is dying and the night is calling my name. Then I make an exception.


I made a cup of tea at 8:15 tonight. Not long before bedtime with no thoughts of bed, I pulled out a mug with plans to retreat to my kitchen table. I was the kind of tired sleep can’t touch, so I turned on the kettle and dropped the thin round bag of dried leaves in the cup, then poured the water over the top.


It’s Nana’s special kind of tea she has shipped from far off family members in Newfoundland. I don’t know the brand. She carries it in her purse in a Ziploc baggie, and leaves it for me to find after her visit to my house has ended.


I put too much honey in it, too much cream. I’m sure Nana and the rest of the real tea drinkers would know me as an only-sometimes tea drinker if they saw it. It’s OK. Because I am.


CupOfTea by Jackson Whitaker

I was praying while I stirred. The sort of praying that comes out like a mumble, a mutter, a whisper. An unthought-of prayer. Because when I don’t want to talk to anyone, I make myself talk to Him.


I love my God. Not in an only-sometimes kind of way. In an every-moment kind a way. In a test-my-words and check-my-heart kind of way. In a catch-myself-and-thank-Him-for-the-grace-to-repent kind of way. I love the fire of the Spirit. I’ve felt it fall. I’ve preached it. I’ve shaken and cried underneath it. He is a mighty God. Oh, and Jesus. That beautiful Man. I love that Man. I have been marvelously wooed by Him. I have heard Him call and run headlong into His arms.


But it’s not that kind of night. It’s not a passionate or burning or seeking kind of night. It’s a too-sweet tea at 8:15 kind of night. It’s a night for a blank document with a blinking curser and the Word. It’s a night of thoughts that spill and roll out onto whatever will catch them. Because some days I’m a preacher, and all days I’m a mother, and most days I’ve got a good grip but every once in a while, a day comes along that finds me altogether overwhelmed.


I was afraid for a very long time. When I was a girl, I would watch the news. My mother faithfully turned on the TV every day at lunchtime, fingers crossed to win the “Dialing for Dollars” giveaway, a program that prompted viewers to call the station for a chance to win cash. Every day, we would watch. The jackpot rose and fell, and she never won, but as we waited daily for the announcement, I would feast on the horrors of the world along with my peanut butter sandwiches.


I put too much honey in it, too much cream. I’m sure Nana and the rest of the real tea drinkers would know me as an only-sometimes tea drinker if they saw it. It’s OK. Because I am.


Even though I was not allowed to watch PG-13 movies or visit haunted houses that sprang up every October, or even wear scary Halloween costumes, I lived in fear that held me in sick captivity and told me that I would never catch my breath again. It didn’t take a fictional terror to start me down the road of living in fear. Reality did the job just fine.


As I grew up, my fear grew with me. Right to the point where my heart was birthed into little mobile bits I call sons. In them, I found the most precious love I’d ever experienced and the most crippling realization that I could not protect them from the broken world.


It was a long hard battle, but in the end, I found myself on top. I found myself delivered from this fear like an Israelite from Egypt, heading to the Promised Land, though admittedly there had been much less fanfare. Nonetheless, I didn’t know how to be anything but scared, so I set my eyes on Jesus and asked Him to help me be bold and fearless, so He led me into a wilderness of discovery and there I found a voice and a love that sent the terror running.

But sometimes, on nights like this, the wilderness is hard to navigate, and captivity calls my all-too-familiar name. No, I do not thrill at the thought of danger or death. There is only one fear that still seems to weasel its way into my ear to ask me, “Are you sure?” It picks at the sureness of my faith and rattles my resolve to stand up for what I know is true.


I spoke up. Once or twice, three times maybe. I lent my voice to the Gospel, and someone listened. And before I knew it people used phrases that I never thought fit me. Things like “Faith like that,” and “Called by God.” They’re still uncomfortable. Like wearing dress-up heels. My toes slip off the front of these words, and I feel them make an amplified sound when I step, each clunk reminding me that I don’t know how to walk in them yet.


I believe God. I believe Him in all the things He says. I’ve even made the choice to believe Him about that having-a-voice thing. I believe He has told me to use it. But some days seem covered in all the things I do wrong. Some days, my walls feel plastered with unfinished to-do lists and the faces of people I’ve let down. And some days, my voice comes out as a squeak, and I think perhaps I am not a roaring lion but a tiny mouse. Some days I feel everything in the world but fearless.

I believe Him, you know. So I don’t go to bed on my doubt. I stay up and fight it. Grappling in my too-big heels because one day I will walk sure that they will not make me trip and fall. I stay up, drinking tea and speaking truth out loud until I believe it.

But first I share my heart. I don’t know why exactly. I do have faith. Big faith. Mountain moving faith. I command money problems and illness and all sorts of threats from the Enemy to jump into the sea in Jesus’s name. And they do.


But I am only a girl, trying hard to love with the heart of the Father, in the power of the Spirit and with the passion of the Man Jesus. Tomorrow I’ll wake up a little better. A little more sure in this walk. I’ll drink tea at the appropriate time and not feel like falling to pieces by night. I’ll pray under my breath all day, and I will be a preacher and a mother and a writer and a farmer with a good grip and no fear.


But tonight I’m weak, and so I’m saying it. I’m weak. And He’s strong. As strong as this tea, and also as sweet. Good-night. They are all good nights. Even the hard ones.


Follow Jessica @thehodgepodgedarling.blogspot.com.

Comments are closed.