Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Beautiful (11/07/05)
TITLE: Seeds of Witness
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Our old maple tree knows what it means to suffer. A searing bolt of lightening once ripped its bark; a scar permanently marks the spot. Two bald streaks on the trunk stare blankly where limbs were once ripped away.
Fifteen years ago a storm encased the entire tree in ice; branches fell like daggers to impale the ground below. This rather drastic pruning allowed for an explosion of new growth the following year.
Every spring millions of seeds continue to flutter to the earth like miniature harbingers of new life. It is a beautiful tree.
* * * * *
Gloria’s beauty seemed obvious; she was poised, shapely and trim. Her eyes sparkled, and her gentle smile framed words of affirmation and encouragement. I wanted to know this beautiful woman intimately. I wanted to know her heart.
Gloria was seventy-two years old.
One day Gloria invited me to a tea party at her house. Soft music and the aroma of freshly baked bread wafted around her table where a “favor” awaited me: a notepad imprinted with a teacup design and a porcelain teaspoon wrapped together with a thin satin ribbon. Antique teacups sat atop a lacy linen tablecloth. “Please use this special teacup,” Gloria said, gesturing. “It is reserved for guests of honor.”
A floral nametag perched beside my teacup displaying a scripture verse. Gloria read it from her Bible as soon as I took my seat. “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods: with singing lips my mouth will praise you” (Psalm 63:4,5).
“Gloria, I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” I remarked. “I feel like a queen!”
“Just relax and enjoy yourself. Here, choose a flavored tea bag while I get our food.”
I gazed at the plate placed before me: chicken salad with pineapple, celery stuffed with squiggles of orange cheese, black and green olives, and a cluster of purple grapes. It was beautiful!
“Gloria, this is amazing! You did this all - just for me?”
“I love tea parties – they’re my ministry. There’s something about a tea party that opens up the human heart.” Her eyes searched mine. “I want to know more about you…and your sister who just passed away. You must still be adjusting to her death.”
I was grateful for the invitation to talk about Judy. There were so many layers of emotion surrounding her complicated life, her advanced cancer, and her death. “Thanks Gloria…death is so final…and even though I know she is in a better place…well, I find myself wondering how I could have been a better sister.”
Gloria paused to gaze across the table toward a tiered pastry stand laden with tea cookies and miniature chocolate cheesecakes. I noticed a small picture frame on that side of the table displaying the faces of two smiling women. “I think I understand. My sister died prematurely, too. There we are in the picture frame over there. She always comes to my tea parties.”
I spread some lemon curd on a thin slice of bread while looking at the young faces in the picture. “She was only thirty-eight,” Gloria said. “She seemed too young to die.”
A thought flashed through my mind. “I heard that you almost died from a gunshot wound years ago.”
Gloria swallowed a sip of mint tea and looked at me over the rim of her teacup. “I was held up in a restaurant parking lot, and I made the mistake of running away. The bullet pushed pieces of my fake fur coat through my chest. They never found the boy who shot me.” Her winsome smile radiated with forgiveness and grace. “I’m just glad I knew the Lord. While surgery dealt with the effects of my inner bullet wound, He healed my heart.”
“Wow – well, what about the time boiling grease poured down your legs? Didn’t I hear something about that?”
Gloria paused to take another sip, and then explained. “That was one of my most painful experiences. My skin peeled off in sheets, and my whole body went into shock. But following recovery, I was blessed by a desire to praise God for His mercy in bringing me through it all.”
I left Gloria’s house encouraged by her beautiful testimony: God resurrects pain. Life’s trials become seeds of witness as they shape wisdom and gratitude out of what might have been regret.
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