This morning, I sit with my belly turned out, as my Dutch friend calls it, after eating eight meals in one day. Day 1 of the Muslim feast to end Ramadan is over. The morning after—still uncomfortably full, but satisfied, I am glad I fit in all the invitations from generous Indonesian friends who feel honored when I eat their food.
I am glad, too, that the kids slept all night despite the fact that they consumed some 50 cookies and several glasses of brightly colored drinks with jelly pieces floating on the bottom. I am not sure that Evan ate any real food all day.
In the midst of trying to keep my kids from breaking glasses and spilling drinks, and after having to borrow a friend’s car when my tire went flat, I sat in the homes of friends, and on the edge of this Muslim world of beliefs, traditions, hopes, fears, food and celebration.
Evan and I entered one home that has buried two young adult children in the last four years. We waited for our hosts to finish the Arabic chanting during a special ceremony to offer food to angels. I’ve heard similar chants in this home throughout the years—during the funerals of my friend and her brother, at the hair-cutting ceremony of a new grandbaby, and during other Ramadan feasts. The purpose of today’s prayer was to pray dead relatives into heaven.
My heart broke with their loss, but it swelled with joy at the request of my 3-year-old son to pray to our Grace God by ourselves while we waited.
At another home of friends, we ate potatoes and liver, while learning about special all-night prayers during the odd-dated nights of Ramadan. I asked if they’ve ever had something worth praying for all night, and they answered yes. My daughter was fussy and kept falling off the step to the outside so the rest of that conversation will have to wait until another day.
Today—Day 2 of the feasting, I plan to visit the family of a friend of mine whose parents kicked her and her husband out of their home a couple of years ago. My courageous friend spent a lifetime as a devoted daughter, but then chose a way that brings new life to her, while bringing shame and hurt to her family.
Two years ago, she called me once at midnight, afraid, as her mom threw dishes at the wall outside her bedroom door after she told her parents of her choice. She left that night, rejected, but returned months later to care for her sick father, who finally welcomed her and her grace-love back.
So, I will sit in a home where there used to be broken dishes. But my friend and I will feast and celebrate with her parents, and hope together of more choices of new life someday.
Later still, I will feast as if I am royalty, served on the finest of dishes and fed expensive ingredients on the floor of a shack. My friend decorates her walls with other neighbor’s trash, but she will insist I take seconds and thirds of her food until my belly is turned out.
For days, I sit and eat in the homes of friends whose stories I know, but whose lives I may not ever completely understand. I eat what they offer me, and let Him offer Himself through me, hoping they become full someday too.
In a couple of days from now, I will wake up without being stuffed. I won’t feel worried about how I will fit in all the visits in between naps and flat tires. But today I will say yes to my son as he reaches for another cookie, and yes to this culture of generosity and friendship that fills my heart until it’s all turned out.