Contest #132 shortlist ⭐️

73 comments

Christian Inspirational

My daughter’s house smells like a cup of London Fog. Black tea leaves and orange bergamot kissed with vanilla. The scent permeates everything, even her clothes, so she carries it everywhere. When people ask, she excitedly explains that it’s her favorite tea. My husband and I joke that she has been called to preach her doctrines to the coffee drinkers of the world. She’s already had a number of successful conversions.

I watch as she spoons sugar into a porcelain teapot as the leaves steep. Bright purple violets decorate the body, and a thin vine curls its way around the ornate handle. 

“You’re going to love this!” she assures me.

I sit patiently at the kitchen table. She’s been after me to have a cup of tea with her for a while. I don’t know why I waited so long. She goes to the built-in shelf next to the window and pinches the rim of two saucers, carefully balancing the cups that rest on top. None of the cups make a set. They are all individual treasures she has plucked from various thrift stores and antique malls across the country to create what she calls her “Collection.” 

Today, she’s chosen the Dogwood and Sunflower cups.

Once the tea is poured, she sits across from me, the skirts of her dress fluttering as she rests in the wooden chair. Her palms wrap gently around the cup, and she raises it towards her face, closing her eyes and inhaling deeply. I watch this ritual with some curiosity, and decide to try it, myself. 

The warmth of the teacup reaches from my palms all the way to my chest. I shudder slightly as I move it just above my lips, letting the fullness of the scent reach me. I feel a tingle beneath my eyes, deep in the skin, and then I take a sip. When my eyes open, Elsie is staring at me intently.

“This is good,” I admit. Her exhale is loud, dramatic, and filled with relief.

“I told you! Isn’t it so deliciously rich?” she prods.

“I don’t know why I expected it to taste like coffee,” I reply. “It’s not bitter.”

“Exactly! And did you know…”

I drift somewhat as she begins to remind me of the health benefits, but I keep sipping on the tea. A few leaves sit at the bottom of my cup, and I swirl them amid the last drops of the London Fog before setting the cup back down on the saucer.

Elsie reaches for the plate, and her sleeve pulls back, revealing her more recently acquired tattoo along the underside of her forearm. I gaze at the sparrow outlined in deep blue ink, and the iconic phrase of “Matthew 10:31” underneath. 

You are worth more than many sparrows.

“Has Dad gotten used to the idea yet?” she asks. I must have been staring for too long.

“You know your father,” I remind her. “When he makes up his mind, it’s hard to change.”

She sighs, and crosses to the sink, setting my empty cup down inside.

“It’s a beautiful thought, isn’t it?” she says, quietly. “Sparrows weren’t anything valuable in ancient Israel. Yet something humanity deems so worthless still has the attention of God. Not a sparrow falls from the sky without His knowing. But we think somehow He will forget us.” Her eyes reveal she’s on a journey now, albeit a short one. There is a peaceful happiness that washes over her face. It gives her a glow. “So don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”

I bite my lip a little nervously. “Why did you have to get it on your skin?”

“What’s wrong with that?” she poses to me.

I hear my own mother’s voice resounding in my head. Something about Leviticus, and not cutting yourself for the dead or marking your body. But I don’t offer that. Elsie has heard it before. Somehow, she’s gotten past it.

“You know the type of people who get tattoos,” I say, instead. The look she gives me makes me wish I could take it back. It says you know better and here we go at the same time.

“I’m the type of people who get tattoos, Mom,” she tells me, gently. “What does that mean to you?”

A myriad of thoughts barrage me, and I can’t voice any of them. I don’t want to voice any of them. But they still come.

“It means you’re slipping away from what we taught you.”

“It makes me worry about your soul.”

“Are you unhappy? Is this for attention?”

“Did you do this to rebel against me and your father?”

“Where did we go wrong?”

But when I look at her face, it makes me question everything I have believed.

“I don’t know,” I manage.

She gives me a nod, and sits back down. I can tell we’re not done with this conversation. She’s just gathering thoughts. I’m not surprised. This girl spent two years on the debate team at school. Her brain can back you into a corner faster than you can recall what you just said.

“Did you know Jesus has a tattoo?” she opens.

I blink. This has to be some crazy, new age, mega church madness that a tv pastor pumped out. How can my daughter, who was in church from two weeks old, who led her youth group, who went to Bible classes every week, be pulled into that? How?

“Elsie, you’re being ridiculous,” I reply.

“I’m serious! In Revelation, John says that he sees Jesus in Heaven, and,” her voice pitches down. It always does when she is quoting scriptures. “On His thigh is written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”

I blink again. I’ve read that passage hundreds of times sitting in my den. I’ve read it inside three different Bibles. My children’s Bible that my father gave me when I was in First Grade. My Study Bible, which I purchased as a college student. And my Mother’s Bible that came home with me when she left us last Christmas. But I have never reached Elsie’s interpretation before.

“I don’t think that’s what it’s saying,” I try.

“Really? It sounds like it to me. What else do you call something written on someone’s skin?” she asks. I don’t have an answer, and she knows it, so she continues. “But more importantly, why does He have it?”

She pauses to pour herself another cup of London Fog. I can almost see her pupils dilating from the caffeine that is surely hitting her bloodstream. Her enthusiasm is palpable.

“What do you mean?” I sputter. I need to buy some time to attempt a true response.

“Why would Jesus need to have King of Kings and Lord of Lords tattooed on his skin?” she repeats. Luckily, she doesn’t give me the chance to try and respond. “Doesn’t He know who He is? Doesn’t He remember? Of course He does!”

Now, she takes a breath, and stares back into her teacup. Her finger reaches up and runs over the words on her arm. Those sweet words that remind her how much she means to Him.

“The message isn’t always for the person who wears it,” she tells me. “It’s for the people who read it. And trust me, people read tattoos. They can’t help themselves.”

I had to admit, that was true. I was guilty. When the girl at the checkout line in the supermarket reached for my items and revealed a phrase across her wrist, I would pause to see what it said. Or the teller at the bank, or the stranger with his sleeves rolled up. It seemed like my eyes were just drawn to the words.

“And maybe when they read it, it’s a reminder that they needed. Or maybe they’ve never seen it before, and they come up and ask,” her voice pitches again, “Hey, what does your tattoo mean? I’ve had so many random conversations with so many random people about this verse. And you know what? I think God is just fine with that. Maybe He wanted me to talk to them. Maybe I got to be the first person to let them know, Hey! Guess what? You are valued!

I just stare at her. There’s a red mark on her neck that darkens when she gets excited. Only a few people know to look for it. And right now, it’s flushed crimson. 

Her words permeate a wall of doctrine that has stood so firmly in my mind, it had surely grown moss along the ridges of its stones. When was the last time I told someone they were valued? Not in the supermarket, certainly. But now, I imagined my daughter on the bus, or in the park, or getting popcorn at the movies, and stopping to remind someone that they were worth something to God. 

And it was a beautiful thing.

I reach out to her, and she takes my hand. I know we’re done. She doesn’t need a concession. She doesn’t want me to admit defeat. That’s not her way. But we both know, we have reached a place of understanding that we haven't explored together before. But we’re here now. And it feels good.

“I’d like another cup of tea, if you don’t mind,” I tell her.

She smiles. “I was hoping you would.”

February 10, 2022 16:13

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73 comments

K. Antonio
21:40 Feb 14, 2022

Where were you during the tea inspired prompts?! I found the sensory descriptions of the tea super well-written and smooth. The daughter having this hobby/interest was interesting and I found it quite quirky. I love how his story interweaves religion, tea, and tattoos. As someone who is heavily tattooed (16 tattoos and counting, I think) I have had conversation similar to the one displayed in your story. I'm going to stop myself efore I start rambling. I enjoyed the read! The dialogue was great. The first paragraph really drew me in. St...

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02:31 Feb 15, 2022

I just got here about three weeks ago 😆 I’m so sad I missed the tea prompt! I hoard books, tea, and swords, so tea is VERY important to me! Thank you so much for reading, and I appreciate the feedback! I’m so glad that it could resonate with you. And 16+ works of art? Very impressive 😊 Thanks again, mister!

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K. Antonio
15:08 Feb 18, 2022

HANNAH CONGRATZ! When I was reading some stories this week I definitely knew yours had a chance at winning. The writing was vivid from the get-go. I was rooting for your story and for another story (Yellow). Glad to see they both did well!

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15:40 Feb 18, 2022

Thank you so much! ❤️ I am just feeling so honored, this story was very personal to me, so seeing it make the shortlist is just so amazing 😭😱 thanks again for your support 😊

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Dillan T Ajer
13:01 May 09, 2022

I read it to the end, so, just for you: Tea, tea, tea, if you want, want, want, None, if you don't want any, But all the tea in China dear, Won't cost you a penny. Won't cost you a penny, cos your my little doll, And everything I've gotten, you can have it all, Everything I've gotten, by hard work or by chance, You can have it all babe, for a cheeky little dance. So tea, tea, tea, if you want, want, want, None, if you don't want any, But all the tea in China dear, Won't cost you a penny.

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16:21 May 09, 2022

I am honored, sir! 😊 This feels like a jazz song to me (perhaps it is and I am just out of the loop) but I want these words with a saxophone!

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Dillan T Ajer
17:45 May 09, 2022

I have a simple tune in my head from when I wrote it, but have no musical ability, so be my guest.

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16:45 May 10, 2022

So I came up with a tune and sang it and sent it to my bestie (cause I liked it that much) and he replied with “This is a real jam”, so kudos to your lyrical talent 😁👏

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Dillan T Ajer
13:11 May 15, 2022

Great stuff. I had a second verse while walking in the park, but forgot about it by the time I got home. If it comes back I'll let you know.

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Senta Cunningham
21:59 Mar 03, 2022

Congratulations on this superb story making the short list! You’re quite a gifted author, especially with your descriptions. I love London Fog and we also have a cabinet full of various tea cups and pots, so I could just smell the tea and see the beautiful setting. Most of all, I could feel the tension and love between mother and daughter. Well done!

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Kelsey H
07:19 Feb 23, 2022

I loved this, there is so much meaning packed into a scene with such a simple premise, and the descriptions are so vivid I could really feel like I was there with them. I enjoyed how the mothers initial dislike of the tattoo is resolved in a way that shows the love and respect she has for her daughter.

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13:39 Feb 23, 2022

Hi Kelsey 🙂 thank you for stopping to read my story! And thank you for your kind words! I’m so glad you enjoyed it ❤️ I will be sure to go and read some of your work as well!

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Amanda Lieser
15:46 Feb 21, 2022

Hi Hannah, I just gobbled this piece up because I love how you made this piece a bit lighter than some of the other submissions. I think that faith is a serious conversation, but just because it’s serious doesn’t mean it has to be morose. I loved how this piece, at its core, is about a mother and daughter. I think your beautiful imagery of the tea really creates a focus point, an anchor to happiness, for the reader. It was a beautiful story that absolutely deserved to be shortlisted. Thank you for writing it. If you’d be so kind, please cons...

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17:54 Feb 21, 2022

Hey Amanda! Thank you SO MUCH! I'm so glad you enjoyed it, this piece was very personal for me, and everyone's comments have been wonderful. I will be happy to read your story! :) and thank you again!

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Maggie Gibbs
22:49 Feb 20, 2022

This was a fantastic story. I, too, have several tattoos and have had similar conversations with my parents. Had I known I could use this rebuttal, I would’ve saved myself numerous uncomfortable conversations. But aside from the story itself I loved how you wrote the characters. I could feel the positive excited energy from Elsie, and the loving concern of her mother. I loved that at the end they came to an understanding. It was very well done. Thanks for sharing!

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23:55 Feb 20, 2022

Hi Maggie! Thank you for reading my story 😊 I don’t have any tattoos of my own yet, but I’ve defended myself internally with this argument 😆 I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and I hope maybe this can help you if needed in the future ❤️

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Maggie Gibbs
23:59 Feb 20, 2022

I’ll use it in the future for sure! 🤣 Forewarning - tattoos become addictive… as I’m sure you’ve heard lol.

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00:15 Feb 21, 2022

It’s been mentioned Lol I will make sure I’m ready

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Maggie Gibbs
00:21 Feb 21, 2022

😉

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Philip Ebuluofor
12:54 Feb 20, 2022

There's logic running around my brain that I don't think holds strong conviction. I never heard from the disciples that Jesus that walked the face of the Earth for 33 years had tattoo on him. We can refute what John saw without calling him a liar although.

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14:46 Feb 20, 2022

Hey Philip 🙂 I guess my more simple thought on the matter was that the writing on His thigh appeared AFTER His time on Earth. Once He returned back to Heaven. But whether or not the writing is exactly what we understand as a “human tattoo”, my bigger message is an idea of love and ministry. And that in this day and age, perhaps God could even use a tattoo to remind us that He is still thinking about us ❤️

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Philip Ebuluofor
19:59 Feb 21, 2022

For sure. He works in mysterious ways.

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Philip Ebuluofor
12:35 Feb 20, 2022

I am seeing it from different angles for the first time too. In Libya, some Christian Moslems would have the image of Christ or Bible tattooed in their arms or backs and cover them with their shirts for security reasons. Written words I never thought as tattoos before. You have just given me research to do. Fine work.

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17:34 Feb 20, 2022

I know there is a lot of cultural variance around tattoos. For some people, it’s a form of worship, a rite of passage, or just a form of self expression and art. I’m glad the story inspires you to do some research 😁 I know it’s a bit “out there” to say Jesus had a tattoo. But maybe this will bridge a gap between some people, and open up their conversation to even more spiritual matters

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Philip Ebuluofor
19:57 Feb 21, 2022

For sure it will.

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Katie Kanning
22:16 Feb 19, 2022

Hi Hannah, I love your story! It's so rare to find Christian stories out here in the wild and it's quite refreshing. I enjoyed you choosing the mom as the main character. It's not only the young that need encouragement and spiritual spurring. I'm wondering if I could read your story on my podcast, "Unpublished, not Unknown"? It's all about giving voice to indie authors' short stories and spreading their reach a bit further. You retain the credit and I find fun ways to promote you and your story. I'll credit you and link your profile in...

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00:24 Feb 20, 2022

Katie! I am so very glad that you enjoyed the story! I was nervous about submitting this one, but the positive feedback has been so reassuring. I am so honored you would consider me for your podcast! I will happily submit my story 😊 thank you so very much!

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Katie Kanning
00:48 Jun 28, 2022

Apologies for the wait...but your episode is officially live!!! Enjoy :)

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01:48 Jun 28, 2022

Oh my gosh! I’m so excited! Is there a link I can go to?

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17:12 Jun 28, 2022

Katie! I loved the episode so much! Thank you for wanting to use my story 😊❤️

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Katie Kanning
20:57 Jun 28, 2022

Sorry I missed the message about the link! I'm so glad you liked it! Share it around :)

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21:52 Jun 28, 2022

Katie would you be willing to send me the audio of you reading it for me to put on my YouTube channel? I will link your podcast in the video 😊 if not, that’s ok!

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J.C. Lovero
16:52 Feb 19, 2022

Hi Hannah, Beautiful piece of work you have here. The prose was easy to read, and there was power in the words unspoken from the mother, especially at the end. Looking forward to your next one! Well done.

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00:40 Feb 20, 2022

Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, it’s meant so much to me to get so much positive feedback 😊

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Kathryn Mofley
04:41 Feb 19, 2022

Very nice and well-written story, Hannah. I’m going to try that tea. In my book, a Winner!

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01:11 Feb 20, 2022

Oh you will LOVE the London Fog! It’s my favorite tea in the morning 😊 Thank you so very much, that means a lot to me that you would say that! ❤️

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Keya Jadav
03:38 Feb 19, 2022

Wow, this was incredible! I loved how you've conveyed the message in such an intriguing way that made no chance for this piece to be tedious. It had me hooked till the very last word. There are statements and topics raveled that I might've never given a thought to. Really great story! Congratulations on the shortlist!!

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00:57 Feb 20, 2022

Keya, thank you so very much! I get nervous writing stories like these because I don’t want them to be boring, or “too deep”, and your kind words are so very reassuring ❤️

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Shea West
02:48 Feb 19, 2022

Hannah this was a cool read! I like that you went there, allowing the daughter to push back on some of her mother's antiquated beliefs and interpretations. It was like an I told you so but in a way where both people speak in order to be heard. Congrats on your shortlist!

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03:54 Feb 21, 2022

Shea, thank you so much! I think it’s important to try and understand where “opposition” comes from, sometimes. And I do think finding understanding is so much more wonderful than “winning”. Thank you for reading my story and leaving your comments ❤️

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Shea West
03:55 Feb 21, 2022

of course! I love Reedsy, it's a great community here!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:23 Feb 18, 2022

Lovely work. Pitch perfect dialogue. You are one to watch!

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Kevin Broccoli
17:05 Feb 18, 2022

This reminded me so much of an Updike story. So well-framed and with so much going on under the surface. Congratulations.

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17:13 Feb 18, 2022

Kevin, that means so much to me that you feel that way! thanks for taking the time to read my story!

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Kathleen Fine
15:16 Feb 18, 2022

Very well written! Great read!

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16:10 Feb 18, 2022

Thank you so much, I’m glad you could enjoy it! 😊

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22:10 Feb 15, 2022

I love the idea of having tea with your mom. What a heartwarming story. I can feel the warmth of the cup now.

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01:07 Feb 16, 2022

I’m so glad you feel nice and warm 😊 I love tea, so it was easy for me to write about! Thank you for stopping to read my story!

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Michelle Colpo
20:45 Feb 15, 2022

I absolutely loved this. You have such a talent for descriptors and forming the story to flow effortlessly. I loved the graceful slip from tea to religion! Tattoos can be such a tender topic between generations, and you captured this open and honest discussion perfectly. I very much enjoyed reading this, and I'm excited to read more of your stories!

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21:39 Feb 15, 2022

thank you, Michelle! that really helps me so much, I need all the feedback I can get! I'm glad you felt the story didn't "lag" between the topics. Tattoos are a very contentious area for my family, and I wanted to write about something personal, so here we are :) thank you for reading, and I will be sure to check out your writing as well!

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Mister X
19:46 Feb 15, 2022

Top notch work. Definitely professional grade.

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21:25 Feb 15, 2022

I feel extremely flattered, thank you so much!

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16:42 Feb 15, 2022

I absolutely love the imagery in the first paragraph. The interpretation of the Bible quote and how people just want to be valued instead of judged. I never had a tattoo and I often wonder why people get them but that's me. I should, like the mother come to value the message instead of the canvas the message is etched upon. Great story!

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18:28 Feb 15, 2022

Kathryn, thank you so much for reading my story. I was having a rough day, and this made me smile ❤️

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18:37 Feb 15, 2022

Keep your chin up kiddo. We all have rough days. Keep writing. You are very good at it!

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