A Lemon Tea in the Service of Love

A lemon tree and a passion to fight against sex trafficking?


Call me crazy and I’ll say, “Yes.  I am.  For Jesus.”  He met me in the lemons.

As I was pouring lemon juice into several (and I mean several) ice cube trays for freezing, I thought of the story once again.

I met my friend nearly 20 years ago.  Mother of 4 . Ministry volunteer.  Preschool class mom.  “Do it all perfect because no one else will do it for you” woman with a huge heart to give.  That was me two decades ago.  I was committed and over-committed on all fronts…and…I…loved…my…crazy.. messy ‘look perfect for the camera’ life.  Until I got tired.  I’ll save that story for another time.  There were crazy days and days I felt crazy.

Though I had no idea at the time, right there in the ‘crazy’, God’s love came gently and unnoticed into my ‘perfect’ mess through a delightful friend.

The knock on my front door came mid-afternoon.  My 4 small children were doing what 4 small children do – playing – fighting – loving – and biting.   I moved to the front door with one ear toward my family room and one ear toward the door.

Peering through the oval window, I wondered who the shadow belonged to.  I opened the door to greet my dear friend, Mrs. Reisch.  She had often babysat our children so my husband and I could play a game of darts with friends in our garage apartment.  Really loved her.  And her kindness.  And darts.

She stood in my doorway holding a basket of what looked to be large grapefruits.  I invited her in.  My curious kids ran to give her hugs and ask their always and hopeful question, “Did you bring Duffy?”  They loved her and they loved her small dog, Duffy, a sweet brown and white Sheltie.  I was secretly relieved to hear her “No” as I feared Duffy might possibly get love-squeezed to death in my home.

We meandered to the kitchen and she placed her basket on my countertop and pushed it toward me.  I promptly thanked her for the grapefruit sharing. They were the largest and yellowest grapefruit I had ever seen.

“They are not grapefruit, they are lemons.” Shocking at best.

My mouth hung open as she explained that these particular lemons had been selected as the first place winning lemon in the Texas State Fair.  I raised one to my nose and inhaled deeply…Yep.  Proof positive they were indeed lemons.

Mrs. Reisch stayed a few more minutes and answered my question, “How in this world do you grow a lemon that large?” She shared her stories and I took notes.  Over the course of the next week, I cut into one of those lemons and retrieved the seeds for a morning activity with my kids.  With a kabob skewer, I poked holes in the bottom of small dixie cups and together, we filled them with dirt and each planted a seed.

The kids found it exciting to water, watch and wait for the seeds to grow.  Before long, little green shoots poked up through the dirt.  Time passed and as the plants grew we repotted them until two sturdy young trees were ready for planting in our back yard.

Before our trees were old enough to bear fruit, an unexpected turn of events required our family move to another city.  All of us were heartbroken to leave behind our dear friends, our home and our lemon trees.  Before our departure, Mrs. Reisch delivered another lemon plant in a pot and offered her encouragement to take it with us.

We planted it in the front yard of our new home and within 4 years, beautiful yellow lemons the size of grapefruits burst forth on our tree.  It was a family affair the day we picked the lemons.  We juiced some and froze the juice in ice cube trays for future use.  We gave others as a gifts.

A month later I held my first lemon tea for women in my community.  Every appetizer, salad and soup was made with a little bit of love and a little bit of lemon.

The gathering was a taste of togetherness and connection.

As a departing gift, I gave my guests small lemon plants in dixie cups,  already sprouting tiny shoots of green.  I kept three  to deliver to my neighbor, an elderly woman too feeble to leave her home.  Later that day, I delivered her plants and placed them on her window seal hopeful that she could enjoy watching them grow.

Just a few weeks after that first lemon tea, our tree froze and died.  Once again, we were heartbroken that we had to let go of our tree and also say goodbye to our neighbor.

That was several years ago.

Imagine our surprise  when while driving past our neighbor’s house last year we discovered three large and budding trees in front of what was my friend’s bedroom deck – a space we often shared while visiting.

“Could it be?”  Within a few short months the buds grew into what appeared to be a hundred lemons.  Indeed, they were the trees from the seedlings I had saved for my neighbor from my first ever Lemon Tea. I asked permission to pick some lemons.  I cut into them and planted some seeds and they are now 5 feet tall and growing in our back yard.

This year my neighbor’s trees bore fruit again…

And again, I have been given permission to pick some lemons.

I hosted my 2nd (with years in between) annual Lemon Tea.  Each appetizer, soup, salad and dessert made with love and some lemon from the seedlings of the state winning lemon from my dear friend Mrs. Reisch.

This time, however, my lemon tea theme grew.  While eating and sipping lemon delicacies, I shared my heart and my passion to raise awareness about sex trafficking.

I write more about fighting sex trafficking at Red Tent Living. You can stay tuned there and partake of the goodness of community where women can gather to share stories and where every story belongs.





7 thoughts on “A Lemon Tea in the Service of Love

    1. Thanks Frig! Glad you love my site – that means the world to me – Katy did a fantastic job and I love it too. Love you back… lemon tree planting and sunshine. Nothing better!

  1. Ellen, What a wonderful story you shared on your site!! I smiled as I read your words and relived the happy days I spent at your home and the fun times we all shared! We still have lemon trees, I still share the lemons and baby lemon trees and donate to shelters around the area. I would like to tell you the joy your old swing set has given my 10 year old granddaughter, Annie. Lauren’s parents gave it to us for Annie to play on. It was been painted all colors by Miles and Annie. Now we are going to share it another youngster!!

    1. So fun to remember those days and the life we shared together! What’s even more fun is to hear how those blessings continue to bring life today. Grateful!

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