14 Apr 2014

How to say “I love you” on Mother’s Day – a gift for mothers and daughters

My dad used to bring my mom tea in bed every morning that I remember.

Hot, sweet tea. Milk and sugar. He brought it in her favorite delicate pink Spode tea cup and saucer. She liked to sleep in. He was always up early. And after he’d spent time in his study with his books and his Bible and on his knees, he’d make her tea and wake her up with it.

I grew up thinking that was normal.

That’s how you loved someone. With hot tea.





It’s still one of my favorite love languages.

After she died I sat at the kitchen table one night with my dad. I was crying. A boy had broken my heart and I didn’t have a mom to stroke my fringe back from my forehead; tell me it was OK to cry.

He kept trying to fix it. Until finally I looked at him and said, “Dad, this is the moment you just listen and make me tea. You don’t tell me how to make it better.”

And so he did.



Peter had never had tea the British way till he came home with me to South Africa.

A plane ticket was all he asked for as a graduation gift. And we sat around the dining room table – my dad and my brothers and the man who would become my husband – and poured tea out of my mom’s Spode teapot.

And I wondered what she would have thought of him.

Her own dad died five years later. And we traveled to Grahamstown for the funeral. I was seven months pregnant with Jackson and my new husband sent me on that winding road of memories and grief and beauty with my father. We flew together to Port Elizabeth and then drove along the coast visiting Uncle Jolyon and Aunt Rose and ending up finally in the pocket of a town that holds a world-class arts university and my mom’s youngest sister.

Her other sister had come across from East London and I was wearing the soft pink sweater stretched over my new son as I sat between them at the dining room table with afternoon sunshine pouring in and showed them Jackson’s 4D sonogram pictures.

Of course there were piping hot cups of comfort in front of us.

Tea and grief.

Tea and joy.

Tea and new babies and old friends and family stretched across miles and years.

Tea spooned thick with sugar and stirred rich with milk and comfort.




Tea and love.

Tea and first kisses.

Tea and tears.

Tea and melktert – the delicious milk-pudding like pie that is always sliced with its cinnamon topping alongside any cup of South African tea.






When Jackson turned 6 we marked the occasion with an adventure walk one December in South Africa.

We’d read about the importance of ritual and ceremony in the lives of boys. So all the men in the family gathered for an afternoon to chisel a memory into Jackson’s sixth year. Growth spurts need to outlive the lines on a door frame; they need to mark themselves on the mind of your boy.

Uncles and his dad and Oupa all came out to teach a lesson, walk a part of the journey, share a piece of his family story, claim him as their own.

What ended at the top of the mountain that my dad’s house is built into trickled down into the living room and around the big, pine table with hot cups of tea and plates of melktert.

All the ladies toasted the boy with sugar and milk and slices of cinnamon flavored love.



I’ve had a thousand, thousand cups of tea.

And as many conversations to go with them.

Tea in Pretorie, Ukraine and Owosso. Tea in Springfield and Johannesburg and Cairo. Tea has been the always familiar in a sea of changing stories and losses and loves.

Tea has rocked me when I’ve been rocked hard.

Tea has spelled comfort and home and the familiar.

It is “I love you” cupped in a cup and it’s still always a gift when someone makes it for me.

I make it now for my own kids. My sons like it like I do. Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea or South African Rooibos named for the red bush its made from. With Milk. Always. Hot and terribly sweet. Zoe takes hers in a plastic cup that’s almost all milk, but she always takes it.

Tea and melktert is home no matter the zip code or time zone.

It’s the love language of my mother and I’m passing it on to my own tiny people.

The glory of a full cup of sweet love that warms you from the inside up.

It’s been my balm after each of my babies was born – the reminder that while so much has changed – so much that matters will still always, dependably, thankfully, stay the same.

Won’t you join me – in pouring a cup of hot, rich, reassuring encouragement for another mom between now and Mother’s Day?


Host your own Mother’s Day Tea and/or Book Club

Any time between now and Mother’s Day, which is really every day, isn’t it? Why not gather the moms and daughters you love and host a tea celebrating the every day, ordinary, unsung glory of motherhood. We’ve had such fun putting together everything you might need:

Just click here to find and download what works best for you and the women in your community.

Do it with your church or MOPS group or best friend and your daughters. Do it with your grandma and great grandma and aunts and cousins.

Take time to celebrate the ordinary, to glory in the miracle of raising tiny humans.

Take time for tea.



{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    Oh the glories of tea! A nice hot cup of tea can soothe anything from tired muscles to a weary heart. I like mine with milk, honey and lots of ginger. It’s really nice of you to pass a little of your history to your children, even when you’re so far away from home.

  2. 2

    A cup of tea with a friend would be such a blessing to this bruised and wounded heart. Thanks for sharing this today.

  3. 3

    Oh, Lisa-Jo, you have so inspired me! I love hot tea. Green, herbal, fruity, and plain though. I have often thought of throwing an adult tea party, but have never done it. I have an English bone china teapot and cup/saucer set that I will put to use. I am so excited! Thank you!

  4. 4

    I’ve just come back to blogging after a hiatus and am so glad to have come here this morning.

    1. Congratulations on your new book!
    2. As I prepare for our family’s annual seder dinner, this was a wonderful reminder of the power in ritual. Thnaks for the encouragement. <3

  5. 5

    Melktert sounds so good! My boys love a similar dish that was handed down to me by my aunt, but the custard has oats and orange juice in it, in addition to the milk, eggs, sugar, and cinnamon. It sounds strange, I know, but it’s delicious!

  6. 6

    Milk tart !!

  7. 7
    Elizabeth Duncan says:

    I am so excited about this, thank you for sharing! I was born and raised in Texas, but I always thought I hated tea (especially iced tea, a favorite around here). As an adult, I tried out some hot tea, but it never grabbed me. Then one day at Borders, on a whim, I ordered Tazo’s Berry Blossom White tea, and the barista offered to add a little milk and sugar to it. Ahhhh!!! Soo good! It was my “gateway tea.” lol

    I discovered Rooibos at Teavana a few year later, and it is still one of my favorites. And I just discovered last Friday that Starbucks serves full-leaf Vanilla Rooibos tea that is awesome! And $2.42 for a Venti!! Score!

  8. 8

    I made your milk tart today with one of my daughters… just delightful! Thank you for the recipe. I enjoy that special tea time with my girls too…

  9. 9

    Love me some tea! The Melktert reminds me of a sugar cream pie, a Hoosier staple and definitely present at all family functions! I read your book cover to cover in one sitting, which hasn’t happened in a loooong time….thank you so much for your story. Through it I was so encouraged and at a time I needed it most. I’m hoping I can read it again soon. I’m off to make myself some tea now!

  10. 10

    Love your quote on the glory of motherhood, so good. Piping hot cups of comfort are the best, have been raising my kids on this for some time now and love watching the tradition morphing into unending quality time as we linger over steamy brews. A precious time and space for our souls to expand, connect and find rest amidst the crazy busy swirl of the day, these moments are indeed the best.

  11. 11


    Have you seen this video? It made me think of your blog and the work you do…


  12. 12

    Lovely Rooibos Tea and Melk Tert. How I miss those so very much living in the Midwest. I miss my Zimbabwean and South African friends so very much. 15 years is too long to be gone from Africa…..

  13. 13
    Joanne Peterson says:

    Hi Lisa-Jo,

    I came over from Ann Voskamp’s Saturday blog. I also have heard of you from (in)courage.

    I tasted real tea and scones when I volunteered at a Child Evangelism Fellowship’s children’s camp for two weeks in the Republic of Ireland in Rossknowlaugh the summer of 2001. I have since relished tea, met a very dear friend and came to know her over steaming cups of milk tea, and have found it to be just lovely and what is needed all of the time. My grown son agrees. I enjoy English or Irish tea and Rooibus tea.

    I now have two tiny ones who are three and four and they will sip whatever is in my cup be it coffee or tea, both milky and sweet. (It always tastes best from Mom’s cup) The go-withs are not always required. Any cup left sitting are fair game to sneak sips even when they get their own.

    I need to host a tea, I used to often with the ladies…..due to life I have not hosted a tea for a very long time. I need to do that again. Wonderful reminder.




  1. […] Yes!¬†Everything you need to host a Mother’s Day Tea – […]

Hide me
Free eBook for Blog Subscribers!
Just enter your email & you'll receive a welcome email with a link to download the eBook. Easy Peasy!
Show me