Last Saturday, our Vineyard hosted a Women's Tea, a celebration of all things that require a curled pinkie: tea sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, tea pots and tables festooned with flowers, napkin rings and (gasp!) cloth napkins. Oh and Jesus of course! Woops forgot about that part for a second, although not sure how He fits into the curled pinkie bit. Hmmm.
We were each to bring a plate of tea or finger sandwiches. I brought a plate of Branston pickle and cheese sandwiches, a decidedly English combination that I came upon when I was about 17. A boy, in my class, Matty, suffered from what I could only think was a mild eating disorder, because why else would anyone leave their Branston and cheese sandwiches untouched??
I realise now that he simply may not have liked them.
In any case I, not being afflicted with said eating disorder (perhaps afflicted with an eating order?), would nick them from his locker every day, savoring the intersection of sharp cheddar flavour and sugary, tangy, crunchy yumminess. Branston's is more of a chutney than a pickle, with crunchy veggies (cauliflower, rutabega, onions etc) bathed in a sauce made of dates, vinegar and sugar. Oh MAN is it good.
You can usually find it in the international aisle of your supermarket, and I urge you to get it. Once you do, you might never have a cheese sandwich without it. It's ri-DONK-ulous. In fact, this lady has the right idea: Grilled Cheese with Apples and Branston Pickle. Hello?!
Ok, back to the Tea. We were also encouraged to bring a nice big hat, with as much frilly, flowery floofiness as we could manage. I didn't get a chance to find or make a hat, which I mentioned to good ol' Laura... who a couple of days later texted me in installments:
"I made your hat. It's grand 4 high tea. U shall have the finest! I decree it!"
"U r gonna poop urself."
"U will be a vision. U could have been on the Titanic with this hat."
Between gut-convulsing giggles, I wondered again at the little angels God has put in my life. THANKYOU LAURA! It was indeed, the finest hat of the day. Check it:
I got so many compliments from complete strangers on my hat. In fact, even the blind woman in the gospel choir, Terry, wanted to lay her hands on it so that she could appreciate all the marvelous little surprises Laura had woven into the hat: a little birdie...
...and a butterfly!
It was such a great conversation starter that I made new friends! These are the ladies I shared a table with. They're awesome!
And look at the gorgeous table Kim (the woman in black and white) designed for us:
It was such a great day, bathing in teenage memories of Branston pickle, crowned by Laura's thoughtful friendship, encircled by new friends and (oh thankyou!) full of clotted cream. Oh, and not to mention a fantastic speaker, Grammy-nominated Zydeco singer, Lisa Haley, whose story will bring you to tears.
At the end of the afternoon, right before she left, Lisa asked us, if we had the cojones, to utter the bravest prayer she has ever heard: "Jesus, I give you permission to do whatever You want with my life."
I gulped, closed my eyes and whispered it under my breath. Then Lisa asked us to come to the front of the sanctuary if, after saying that prayer, you didn't know what was next; the elders would pray with you. One by one, about half of the women tiptoed up to the front, whilst Lisa played this song:
For some reason, as I went up, I was thinking about the documentary we've been trying to make about the atrocities happening in the Congo... it has stumbled so many times that part of me, in all honestly, has given up on it. Instantly, I heard a voice inside me say, "Keep going, keep going, keep going. I'm here."
You can call it my inner voice, my gut... I call it God. And I've now written it on a piece of paper and taped to the fridge. So, if there's something that you have been struggling to complete, or been met with adversity about or had people saying, "Nope. Not gonna help you 'cos that's a stupid idea"... even though you know that it is the right thing to do, DON'T BACK DOWN!
Keep going, keep going, keep going. He's with you.
Have a great weekend.