Sunday, August 7, 2016

Ladies, we really do need each other

My friend Patsy Stanfield invited me to a Ladies’ Tea at Bethel United Methodist Church Ruffin held this past weekend. Patsy’s sister, Carolyn Breland, was one of the hostesses. I looked forward to it for weeks and was excited to have a reason to dress up in lace, pearls, and a hat.

I was a guest at this event and was not involved in any of the planning or preparation. Those who were did an unbelievable job. We walked in to a room full of tables set with beautiful linens, tulle accents, colorful decorations, and fine china. It was gorgeous. I felt as if I’d found my way home to the charm of the South. It was stimulating and comforting all at the same time.

There were twelve tables and each one was assigned a different hostess. Each hostess selected a theme for their table and brought their own china, crystal, linens, centerpieces, and decorations to fit their theme. Some of the themes were Lazy Days of Summer, Christmas in July, Virtuous Woman, Summer Meadow, Philippians 4:13, and Friends, Tea, and Old Lace. Each table was unique but all of them were set and decorated down to the tiniest detail. It didn’t take long for me to sense that not only were the table settings chosen with love and care, so were the people that would be sitting around them. The festivities hadn’t even begun yet and I already felt special.

Once we sat down at our tables, a young man in a white shirt and black bowtie poured my tea. One of the greatest highlights for me came when each hostess was asked to introduce the guests at her table. As I understand it, not only was the hostess responsible for her complete table set up, she was also responsible for inviting the seven other people that would sit at her table. It wasn’t a Y’all Come kind of event; it was by special invitation. I’m assuming a good many of their church friends were hosting tables of their own, so the invitees were people from other parts of their lives. That was what was so remarkable to me.  As these ladies introduced their friends sitting around them, there was no doubt that there was a sense of relationship and belonging among them. They represented years of doing life together and were not afraid to tell their friends, in front of all the rest of us, how much they appreciated each other. That display of friendship was more beautiful than any Lenox place setting or Waterford stemware could ever be.

I sat next to my friend, Patsy, at her sister Carolyn’s table. I’ve known Patsy for several years. She was born in Walterboro and has lived her entire life here. She likes camping and the outdoors. She was in her twenties when I was born. I was born in a large metropolitan city and have lived in several different states. I like hotel rooms, indoor plumbing, and maid service. Patsy and I may not have a lot in common, having grown up in opposite cultures, at different times, and with incompatible pastime preferences, but in spite of that, I consider Patsy a dear friend.

Frances Ulmer, Eva Beach, and Carolyn Powers were also guests at Carolyn’s table. In our conversation over cream cheese and pineapple sandwiches, I learned of some of their life stories that have made them into the beautiful women they are today. I heard stories of death and tragedy, but also of accomplishment and joy. Their life experience is priceless and their willingness to talk about is even more precious.

None of these women have exactly the same story to tell. Even if they have similar backgrounds, each one has their own story to tell. Here’s what all of this has made me realize:  Ladies, we need each other. I need to hear stories of people who’ve made it through some of the things I’m struggling with. Maybe it didn’t turn out like you wanted, but you made it through. The other side of that is maybe my stories could encourage someone else.
We don’t necessarily need to cling to other women who are the same age or have the same interests. We don’t have to be blood related or from the same country.  Ruth and Naomi weren’t.

The main thing Ruth and Naomi probably had in common was Mahlon, Ruth’s husband and Naomi’s son. When Mahlon died, there probably wasn’t much else to talk about. Different ages, different cultures, different everything. Somehow God used all of that to allow Ruth and Naomi to be the main encouragement to each other. Even before there was a hint of Ruth’s happily ever after with Boaz, she was able to say to Naomi, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

So, to Pastor Cheri Yates and all the women at the Bethel United Methodist Ruffin Tea, thank you. Thank you for setting that example. I have been blessed beyond measure and consider you all my people now.

Originally posted August 7, 2016 on

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