Over ten years ago, I was sitting in a hotel room far from home. I spread a pashmina scarf across the small side table, pulled out and lit a small vanilla candle, placed two tea cups and a chocolate bar on the edges. Finally, I turned music on from my computer and connected it to a speaker I carry with me everywhere I go. A soft knock tapped on my door. “Just in time,” I thought.
I opened my door and smiled and touched my friend’s arm. “I am so excited to steal this time with you. You are always an encouragement to me.” We had met at a conference a few years before and both of us found solace in the fact that we mutually understood the demands of traveling and speaking as a way of life. Though we lived over a thousand miles away from one another, we met whenever we were even a little bit close to the same city.
As my friend peered around me and saw my little table and heard the music, she squealed with surprise and delight—truly a squeal! “A traveling tea table! How fun!”
“Oh, I have been longing for a cup of really strong tea. How fun.”
My ministry to women all over the world means that I travel many weeks of the year. Sometimes it is a weeks-long international trip, but often I travel to speak at weekend conferences. One night I was dreading a weekend engagement because I had been “away from home for several weeks in a row. A brilliant thought popped into my head: Take home and table with you wherever you go. Make a table for friendship and mentoring by taking everything you need with you. Create a table of friendship and influence that is portable.
So now, these many years later, whenever I go on the road I bring along everything I need to create a lifegiving table moment, either alone or with someone who needs my love and encouragement. This helps me create some peace wherever I am and sets up my times with the Lord and with my sweet ones.
While visiting China on my book tour in seven cities a few years ago, I purchased several beautiful pashmina scarves for a song. Now I take them everywhere I go. A pashmina works as a shawl over my shoulders when the plane is too cold. But it also brings added loveliness to a coffee table in my hotel room—a perfect setting for an impromptu teatime.
Candles in tiny jars or cans (plus matches!) also accompany me wherever I go. Their flickering lights automatically create a soft atmo- sphere. My iPhone and computer are always stocked with a variety of background music, easily played on my tiny portable speaker.
I always travel with my very own tea—always a strong English Breakfast blend, with Yorkshire Gold being my favorite—and a china teacup or mug because china keeps tea and coffee warmer longer. This is a necessity to keep me centered on the road. Being able to continue my daily habits of creating islands of beauty and civilization makes me feel I have a little touch of home when away.
For snacks, I carry a zippered plastic bag of toasted, salted, sprouted walnuts and almonds, sometimes salted dark-chocolate almonds or tiny wrapped rounds of Gouda cheese. Fruit or veggies are available wherever I go, so I can have a tiny feast for whoever visits me.
And it goes without saying that I travel with my Bible, whatever book I am reading, and my most current study journal. I may even stuff in my newest Victoria magazines. (My Sarah and I love perusing them, as the old ones are collector items and have lots of articles about authors we love.) These are beautiful to look at and fun to page through—food for thought and ideas for recipes and decor and travel and more. Therapy for my eyes and soul without having to contemplate too many stressful subjects.
Looking for opportunities to deepen friendships, to counsel women, to have fun and invite someone in so that I do not feel alone has provided me with countless sweet and memorable moments from setting my table in my hotel rooms.
It can happen nearer to home as well, of course, and I don’t even have to pack my bag. I have been known to create a lifegiving table in restaurants and coffee shops, at picnic tables in the woods, in local hotel lobbies, and in the houses of friends. Sometimes I serve the food and drink; sometimes it’s served to me. But as long as I carry with me the vision of table ministry, I can almost always make something happen.
Once again, it’s not about the food. It’s about what happens at the table.