I had so much to say about “quiet hospitality.”

I intended to begin with all the stories of my early, “loud” hospitality. All those parties and gatherings and big efforts.

Those efforts weren’t misguided. It was a good season, but it was only that. A season. And as our family grew, and we uprooted for a few big cross-country moves, it ended.

I planned to tell you all about the quiet hospitality we live today. About the cooked breakfast routines and the Friday night homemade pizza tradition. We no longer have the space in our lives for big efforts, but by living a few good, daily rhythms it has become easy to invite others into them.

I thought I would tell you about the ways in which hospitality has become, not this extra, added-on thing, but something woven into the daily fabric of our lives. For instance, there is the young neighbor boy who spends every afternoon with us while his parents finish out their workdays. Also, there is the young woman who recently moved into one of our third-floor attic bedrooms.

But the quietest and most beautiful hospitality I am living right now is this: God has set a table for me in my own house.

Tea

***

It began, I think, with a prayer. Though I didn’t connect the prayer and the table till much later.

Over the past few months, I’ve been praying these occasional, desperate little prayers that God would help me connect with my eight-year-old son. There wasn’t any problem, exactly. It was only that we were like one ship and one little boat passing in the night. And I wanted more.

About the same time I started praying those prayers, this funny little desire began flitting through my mind.

I began to wish I was English. Or that I lived in the UK. Or maybe both. Actually, it might be most accurate to say that I wished I could live in one of the British novels I’m always reading. I wanted to live in one of my favorite books for the simple reason that I wanted to stop, every afternoon, for tea.

I didn’t just want to take a cup of tea to some dark corner of my house and try to block out the sounds of my squabbling children. I already do that on a pretty regular basis. No, I wanted to gather up my kids and sit down with them at our kitchen table every single afternoon. I wanted to pour out tea and nibble a little something just-baked, and maybe read a chapter of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud. Preferably the chapter where Tumnus and Lucy share tea in front of the fire.

Feel free to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of my wish. A wish that even uprooting myself across the ocean wouldn’t make true. Because apart from a cook in the kitchen baking scones every afternoon and an attitude adjustment for my kids, who seem to prefer arguing over Legos to listening attentively to quality literature, my little dream was impossible.

I knew this. But I still wanted it.

***

When I say that God has set a table for me, I mean it quite literally. And you’ve probably guessed by now that it’s a tea-table.

It is afternoon tea with my three older kids (my youngest is generally off wreaking havoc in another room) plus the neighbor boy. My firstborn and I are usually the only ones drinking tea, but there’s a teapot on the table and usually something freshly baked, so we call it teatime.

tea time

Honestly, I have no idea how it happens. All I know is that when my children returned to school after Christmas, this space seemed to open up in the afternoons. When my older two arrive home, I leave my laptop and my deadlines. I start some quick baking (or I pull something from the freezer). Someone (usually the child begging for a snack right now) sets the table, and we all sit down as soon as little brother walks in the door.

It happened once, and then it sort of kept happening until the day, about a week or so into it, that I told my kids I’d be out of town for a few days.

The first thing my son said was, “What about our tea party?”

At first, I didn’t understand. Tea party? Do we have a party on the calendar? But when he said, a little franticly, “can Dad make tea!?” I understood that the afternoon tea break that meant so much to me meant something to him, too.

He was counting on it.

***

I think that the very quietest hospitality might just be the hospitality God extends to each of us.

I am also beginning to think that at the end of all my prayers is a table. And that table is prepared by Love.

QH_GT

 

Photo used with permission: Kelli Campbell

Christie Purifoy / Posts / Blog
Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English literature at the University of Chicago before trading the classroom for an old farmhouse and a garden. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and four children, where she is witness to the seasonal beauty of God's good creation. Her book Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons is out now from Revell. She blogs at www.christiepurifoy.com
  • Robin Dance
    http://www.pensieve.me/

    Christie,

    I. LOVE. This! Oh my–I’m really, really NOT trying to drive traffic to my site, but you will LOVE this–it’s from Emilie Barnes “An Invitation to Tea.”http://robindance.me/2007/04/partea_time.html

    We had an annual Mother-Daughter Valentine Tea for 16 years, from the time my daughter was three until she was 20; the past two years, we haven’t been able to coordinate it (I wrote about this over the weekend at incourage, won’t link to that one 😉 ), and it has been PAINFUL to end for me. BUT, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, I invited my in-laws (my MIL is why we started the tea), my sis in law and my daughter, and we had a modified version of the tea party. I read the thing I linked to above because it is such a part of our annual gathering.

    That you do this with your children and they LOVE it is testimony to the way it brings a brush of “sacred” to the table. How precious that they want to continue it even in your absence.

    Oh, this makes me so happy!

    February 16th, 2015 12:21
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      “It really isn’t the tea. It’s the spirit of the tea party.” Yes! Thank you for sharing, Robin. And your stories make me happy – now I’m wishing we could sit down and share all our teatime tales. One special memory I didn’t write about above is the many “Proper Lady Teaparties” I had as a child with my aunt. My aunt died much too young, but when our larger family gathers we always host a teaparty in her name for all the little girl cousins. Ahh, tea … so much more than tea.

      February 16th, 2015 12:56
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  • Mary Bonner
    Mary Bonner
    http://www.marybonner.net/

    I no longer have children at home and I have a lot of time to myself for tea or reading or whatever. The idea quiet hospitality is something I find intriguing. Thank you for writing this Christie. I am going to be reflecting on this for a while.

    February 16th, 2015 12:21
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Thank you, Mary. At first I thought that quiet hospitality might simply be something for our busy, stage of life. But I’m realizing that, though it will look different for each of us, it is for all of life. I’m glad you found something in my story to reflect on. I’m praying God leads you to the table set just for you.

      February 16th, 2015 12:59
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  • Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org/

    Although I am not a tea drinker, you make me want to become one…for sheer beauty of experiencing afternoon tea. Isn’t it beautiful how God often gives us what we so desperately long for. Thank you for this lovely post. Grace and peace!!

    February 16th, 2015 12:46
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Leah, I love coffee in the morning, but there really is nothing like a cup of strong, milky tea in the afternoon. I recommend it. 🙂

      February 17th, 2015 0:50
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  • Veronica

    Quiet Hospitality…I like this very much. Doing small things that matter.
    “the very quietest hospitality might just be the hospitality God extends to each of us.”
    And that your son wanted to continue it, even during your short absence, was so heart warming.

    February 16th, 2015 14:07
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Thank you, Veronica. I sometimes wonder if we’ll discover someday that it has always been the small things that matter most.

      February 17th, 2015 0:51
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  • Joy B. Rudolph
    http://joybrudolph.com/

    I love this, Christie. It’s exactly the kind of thing I need right now. To join God at the table He has prepared for me.

    February 16th, 2015 15:24
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  • Karrilee Aggett

    Oh Christie, I love this so! Like Robin, (and thanks to An Invitation to Tea!) for years I hosted Tea Parties! I had gathered up quite the collection of cups and pots and all things Tea Party related. Some of the affairs were fancy and elaborate, and some were thrown together last minute for just my Girlie and I, or a visiting neighbor. For many years, I hosted an annual Christmas Tea Party both for grown ups and for littles and oh my how I loved that season! Like Mary Bonner, I am now an empty nester, and I have since gotten rid of most of my teacup collection. But how this post made me want to make some cucumber sandwiches and shortbread cookies and scones and just invite someone over! (I think I will add a few things to this weeks’ grocery list!) Thanks for the inspiration!

    February 16th, 2015 15:45
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      I love hearing that, Karrilee! Cucumber sandwiches are my love language. And I bet I’m not the only one. 😉

      February 17th, 2015 0:49
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  • Teresa R

    This stirs memories. When I would visit my daughter, she always had a new coffee flavor she’d found. She would make a cup for each of us, and we’d sit and talk while we drank our coffee. I never drank any coffee other than Folger’s Classic coffee at home, so this was a treat shared between us.
    I lost my daughter October 2011, 5 days after my birthday. Now when I go to the grocery store, I look at all the different flavored coffees, and I think of my daughter

    February 16th, 2015 15:53
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Such a small, simple thing. Yet so powerful. Thank you, Teresa. I won’t forget this precious memory you’ve shared.

      February 17th, 2015 0:48
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  • Jamie H
    http://www.brownpaperandstrings.com/

    Christie, how much I needed your quiet words in my inbox this morning. A reminder that God sets the table for me. I know this. The table is becoming a sacred place for me, but these words give me soul rest today. Thank you. I love the idea of an afternoon tea. That’s just the kind of thing I need with my kids home from school too.

    February 16th, 2015 17:22
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Oh, I’m so encouraged by your words. Thank you, Jamie.

      February 17th, 2015 0:47
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  • Glenda Childers

    I love tea with children … usually kids visiting our house.

    Sweet sweet story, Christie.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

    February 16th, 2015 20:34
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  • SimplyDarlene
    SimplyDarlene

    what a good reminder how we thrive within ritual, tradition, and routine.

    and that image? beautyFull.

    blessings.

    February 16th, 2015 22:09
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      I agree! Routines are like music.

      February 17th, 2015 0:54
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  • danielle
    danielle
    http://danielleayersjones.com/

    I LOVE this post Christie. First of all, I can identify with the desire for afternoon tea and to move to England. 🙂 But also, growing up my mom made tea time special for us too. Not regularly, but she drank tea everyday and for Valentine’s Day she always had a tea party for us. I do the same with my kids now. We have tea, read, etc. All my kids love it, yes, even the boys. I hope they will always remember it as a way I showed my love for them. I love that it’s become an everyday, after school ritual of reconnection for your family, though.

    February 16th, 2015 22:36
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Thanks for sharing, Danielle. Love seeing you here. And I’m positive your kids will remember the tea parties and your love for them. Whether or not they become tea drinkers. 😉

      February 17th, 2015 0:46
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  • Traci Rhoades
    http://www.tracesoffaith.com/

    Christie, Such rich reading here! The simple ways God prepares a table for us. Do we miss the opportunity to sit and bask in His Presence? Thank you for the word picture you painted. High tea indeed!

    February 17th, 2015 16:39
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Thanks, Traci. The highest of high teas! 😉

      February 19th, 2015 13:30
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  • Shannon Evans
    http://www.agreatparade.com/

    What I love about this is that you had a clear idea of the kind of hospitality that you wanted to write about… and God surprised you with His goodness and took it a completely different way. We are so blessed by your ear being attuned to the Holy Spirit! 🙂

    February 17th, 2015 19:54
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Thank you, Shannon. I think our God delights in these sweet surprises. I know I do.

      February 19th, 2015 13:29
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  • Benjamin Capps
    http://www.thebeardblog.com/

    This is beautiful. It seems that quiet hospitality is so often about showing up. Showing up over and over again. In quietness and consistency. I’ve been finding God’s hospitality extended towards me in the consistency of liturgy and prayer. I think it’s mostly about showing up. Over and over again.

    February 18th, 2015 1:20
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Showing up. Yes. That makes so much sense. I’ve been floundering a bit this week as I stare down the long season of Lent, but this helps. I only need to show up. Sit down at the table, if you will. Thank you, Benjamin.

      February 19th, 2015 13:29
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  • Jessica
    http://jlsanborn.wordpress.com/

    I loved this. Everything about it. Thank you. You have inspired me to set a table for my children when they walk in the door. I want to make space for them in the rhythm of our day. Isn’t that the essence of hospitality? Making space in our hearts, in our time, and in our homes. Thank you.

    February 19th, 2015 14:58
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      I’m so glad you found inspiration here!

      March 9th, 2015 14:27
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  • pastordt

    Lovely, lovely, lovely. Thank you, Christie. And I LOVE that your boy loves this sweet ritual about as much as you do. Genius idea.

    February 21st, 2015 6:03
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Me too! And guess what? He likes tea now! I only had to offer it about a hundred times (well, that, and add quite a bit of honey.) 😉

      March 9th, 2015 14:28
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  • Lisa-Jo Baker
    http://www.lisajobaker.com/

    Goodness, well you know I LOVE everything about this. Tea was such a pivotal part of my own childhood growing up and my kids LOVE doing tea out of tea cups – we do it pretty regularly but I love the idea of making it a daily ritual. This is fantastic.

    March 9th, 2015 14:06
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    • Christie Purifoy
      http://www.christiepurifoy.com/

      Lisa-Jo, I’ve always been jealous that your boys would drink tea. I’m doing my best to follow your example!

      March 9th, 2015 14:29
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  • Debby Hudson
    http://debbyhudson.com

    Hoping to tuck this one in my memory to not miss opportunities. This is just the sweetest thing I’ve read all day. Love it!

    May 29th, 2016 15:26
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  • Kimberly
    https://kimberlyageorge.wordpress.com/

    I love this.
    I have often thought I live in the wrong country.
    I love, love, love English authors, teas, scones, etc. and our days are often filled with tea times and stories.
    It’s such a wonderful way to connect with my kids and whoever else drops by.
    I even have the same tea service in your pictures. 🙂 I was given a set as a child and collected more and more pieces over the years. At one of my sales I had my product samples (including my scone mixes) on the Moss Rose plates. A lady shopping that I’d never met before asked me if I liked that pattern and I said yes. She offered me her mother’s service for twelve as a gift. She wanted it to go where it would be loved. Um, yes, please! It’s amazing. Truly. If you ever end up in Colorado, do come for tea!
    Who are your favorite English authors?

    February 16th, 2017 22:45
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