Cups of Tea and Hammer-strokes

I may be suffering from a lack of ordinariness. Most of my life, I have wished for exciting things to happen to me. And now that they are happening, I miss the simple things that I don’t have time for. Like making jam. Gardening. Sewing. Teaching First Day School. Serving on clearness committees.

Recently, I was at an international committee meeting that was hosted by Friends in a thriving meeting in a small town. I was really touched by the obvious care and concern and interwoven nature of their personal lives and their meeting life. It made me think of two passages on marriage that I love, in Catherine Whitmire’s book, Plain Living,

“We thank God, then, for the pleasures, joys and triumphs of [life together]: for the cups of tea we bring each other, and the seedlings in the garden frame; for the domestic drama of meetings and partings, sickness and recovery; for the grace of occasional extravagance, flowers on birthdays and unexpected presents; for talk at evenings of the events of the day; for the ecstasy of caresses; for gay mockery at each other’s follies; for plans and projects, fun and struggle; praying that we may neither neglect nor undervalue these things, nor be tempted to think of them as self-contained and self-sufficient.”
from London Yearly Meeting, 1960.

And a poem by Ellen Sophia Bosanquet, from 1938:

If truth be told,
It was not priest, who made us one,
Nor finger
circled with gold,
Nor soft delights when day is done
and arms enfold.
These bonds are firm,
but in death-storm
They may not hold--
We were welded man and wife
By hammer-strokes of daily life.

[Bold emphasis mine]

I think these two images, the kind gestures of the cups of tea we bring each other, and the hammer-strokes of daily life, are both key to marriage and to meeting-life.

It takes time and active participation to be part of a meeting, just as marriage takes work and attention. It’s the same drudgery of washing dishes or making a budget work. The important conversations (and cups of tea) at the kitchen table late at night or in clearness committees for marriage or membership. The misunderstandings, getting hot under the collar, practicing forgiveness and receiving forgiveness, year after year. This is what makes a meeting or a marriage.

Any marriage is part of a family made up of marriages, and part of a wider community. This is where we learn that while every marriage is unique, it has a lot in common with other people. Likewise, a meeting needs the family of yearly meeting, and a wider community of Friends, where we sometimes learn other ways of solving our problems and sometimes we learn just to be grateful for what we have, and the problems we don’t have.

I don’t think I could do the job I have now without the grounding of 17 years of being part of San Francisco Monthly Meeting, the support and the hammer-blows of our daily life together. I think I need to be more connected to my new meeting, to stay fluent in Quaker practice, and to be a coherent, spiritual human being, in order to continue to be a blessing to the wider family of Friends.

I know I couldn’t do my job without the ongoing support and dedication of my husband. I have also learned a lot that is useful in this job from being a mother. I am blessed. I am grateful.

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Blogger badigiovanni said...

Thanks for the post, Robin. I have a saying my children get to hear from time to time, which is "the loving is in the doing". Around the house, washing the dishes, cleaning a bathroom, etc... counts in the "doing" and the showing of love. Same is true for life in a Meeting. Thanks for connecting the two.

- Anthony

11/17/2013 9:37 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks, Anthony for the comment and the connection. I like that saying.

11/17/2013 5:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

as iron dinged and bent, not yet shaped, thank you.

11/18/2013 9:32 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Jonathan, you are welcome.

As anyone who has worked metal knows, a lot of the hammer-strokes in life or in metalsmithing are little tap-tap-taps that do as much to shape a piece as the infrequent and higher risk resounding blows.

11/18/2013 9:44 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


I love seeing this written down and having heard you say it, too. Wonderful insight, marriage and meeting community are both all about facing ourselves and being formed in the crucible of community.

Blessings, Lucy

11/19/2013 9:08 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thank you, Lucy. It is amazing to me how much I learned in my six weeks of working in a blacksmith's forge, despite the terror that held for me at the time. Being afraid is exhausting, in part because you have to be really awake the whole time.

11/19/2013 10:12 AM  
Blogger Krista B said...

I appreciate these images of the bonds of marriage and of membership in a meeting. "Doing" is definitely part of the loving. This year my meeting asked me to serve as its representative on the Quaker Life Committee of the nearby Friends School. Once each semester, a special invitation goes out to families in the school to join us for worship on a particular First Day. Challenged by the committee not just to make a simple announcement, but to offer reasons to come to worship, I realized that many meeting members had recently provided answers in the form of written responses to the query "What role does meeting for worship play for you and your family during the week?" I selected a few of them in order to offer an invitation in a chorus of voices from the monthly meeting to the school families. This "doing" helps weld me to both communities.

11/20/2013 12:38 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi Krista! So glad to hear from you. And I'm glad to hear you're serving on the Quaker Life committee at SFFS now. That sounds like a great match.

Sometimes when we have to articulate why we do something, we discover afresh how much it matters to us.

11/20/2013 8:40 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Thank you for this. I'm just coming out of an "exciting" time of travel and such that left me drained, and being called to remember that it's often not what we do - but how we do it - in God's example of Love. My local meeting holds many lessons right now - as does my daughter's welcoming attitude towards worship in "small" and deep ways. Kathleen

11/20/2013 9:12 AM  

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