Sunday, August 19, 2018

4 southern ladies + a bunch of Afghan ladies = a feast of fun

The final organizational message sent to all my Gateway Of Grace baby shower friends and helpers went something like this.... 

I'm counting on you ladies to handle the small talk and social portion of today's event... as, surprise!  I tend to fade into the wallpaper in party atmospheres.  Actually, I tend to hide myself in the wallpaper, the bathroom, the back porch or my car, pretending to fetch this, that or the other that I claim to have forgotten and need to survive.   

And just to note, I received two, large, gently used baby items - a swing and a play mat - that I chose not to give at this baby shower.  Given the size of these things, and all the wonderful our gal is already receiving, I wasn't sure how much room they have in their apartment.  So I checked with my Gateway of Grace go-to person, and asked if they might have a use for them. 

And it turns out that God had already asked, answered and delivered..... as another expectant mother delivered early, and had just this past week mentioned that she would love to have a baby swing.  So basically I'm loving how God takes one thing and turns it into even more.  Sort of like a buy one get one free sale on fancy shampoo at the salon, or 3 for $1 anything at the grocery store, .... bundles of good are always better when joined with a free gift. 

Can't wait to see everyone Saturday a little before 11:00 - like a ladies SWAT team, gathering in the parking lot, ready to charge their home with goodness. 

That's how I saw this thing working out.  But here's how it really did. 

Fireman Dave helped me load and unload all the gifts into my car.  Thank the lord for the invention of fold down seats and mid-size SUV's.  And I can't even tell you my shock and surprise when the baby jogger stroller/car seat combo arrived in a giant, crate sized cardboard box, and after assembly, took up the size of a love seat in Kid 2's room. 

(Let me add a shout out to Kid 2 for being the keeper of all the baby gifts, wrapped in cute animal prints and pink bows, in his room for the last 2 weeks.  Because not only is he a hard worker, a good student, and pretty cute in all the ways, he's also kind and good and extremely patient with my projects.)

And we headed out to Apartment 2102, with cupcakes, lemonade and a leaky cooler full of ice to bless some souls for the Kingdom of God.  Or so I thought. 

Myself, three friends, and one fireman walked awkwardly into M's apartment, not realizing the cultural expectation of removing our shoes - something about the Biblical tradition of sandal wearing and foot washing, and sort of like the tradition I tried to start with my boys a million years ago - leaving a shoe basket at the back door for them to take off their dirties and save me hours of vacuuming and sweeping time over the course of motherhood.  My tradition never took hold, though.  I should've told the boys it was part of our religion.

We were greeted with hugs and kisses on the cheek, and the most amazing smell of lunch cooking.  M's friends arrived, each with kids of their own and more yummy food smells.... And y'all, I was in pure wonderment at the size of the platters and bowls these ladies hauled in... like they all went shopping at the restaurant supply store for industrial size cooking utensils.  I watched one of the ladies stirring shredded carrots and raisins into a giant bowl of cooked rice, and tried to ask her about her recipe.  I could've/should've just said, just won the Lottery!  Because she had no clue what I was saying... but boy did she look happy and sweet about it. 

The apartment was clean and neat and the table was set with a table cloth, plates of cookies, fresh fruit, and trays of mixed nuts.  Long cushions lined the living room walls, sheer curtains hung over the windows, and a 3 year old boy watched cartoons.   He was 9 months old when his family moved here to Dallas.  My friend Kelly brought a big brother gift to him, the first and most brilliantly thought out move toward a new friendship.

M's husband was quiet, but welcoming.  Probably like most men, ... wondering what the what am I supposed to do now that all these ladies  have shown up at my house on my day off from work?  His answer?  Stick around for a few minutes to look polite, then walk outside with Fireman Dave and never come back till the party is over.  They had important men things to discuss. 

And we ladies had gifts to give and get, and small talk to make -  and truth be told, I had some questions to ask.  Like, where are you from?  Afghanistan.  How long have you been here?  Almost 2 years.  How did you choose Dallas?  Because husband knew one person here, and it was as good a start as any.  Do you ever get to go home to see your family?  No, it wouldn't be safe to return.  Why?  Because, dear American lady, don't you ever watch or listen to the news?  The honest to goodness answer is no.  I try to avoid it at all costs.  Except for the weather on stormy days and some of the juicier, gossipy news clips that show up on Yahoo when I check my email. 

One of M's friends spoke the best English, proud of how she has learned it all in less than 2 years as a student at Gateway of Grace.  She works at a company that repairs those little table top trivia games that you see at Chili's while you wait on your food.  Small world, I told her... we LOVE those trivia games - they make us forget how hungry we are while we wait.  She calls her English teacher from Gateway of Grace, her American mom, and I crazy loved that from the start. 

M wanted lots of pictures to send home to her mom.  Her mom lives in the capital city of Afghanistan now, safer than they were, but not completely so.  Her husband said the same about his family.  Worried especially because he worked as an interpreter for the US Embassy and would not be well loved nor received back in his home village.  He can never go back, and is concerned that his family will be recognized and harmed because of his allegiances.  And we were not permitted pictures.  We could take them for ourselves to keep, but I couldn't share them with you.  Not sure if this is a safety thing, a religious thing, or just a thing... but the pictures in my mind of this day will stay with me for a long time, just in my memory. 

M opened all her gifts, loving especially all the little girl clothes.  I noticed that she loved the ones with special details, unique sewing, girly prints the most.... And I thought how much I can understand that... having dressed 3 boys in Spider Man t-shirts and anything else that was made especially for getting ripped, torn or muddied within 10 seconds of first wear.  

Then our new friends set out the feast. And Lord help me, as I learned way too much about how American meat is sacrificed in an un-clean way and all the gory details involved with that.  I can never un-hear what I heard, thank you very much -  And from this day forward I only want to shop for halal meat even if grass fed beef is on sale at the Aldi.  

We sat around a mat laid on the floor, and used M's beautiful china plates and silver.  Baked chicken, eggplant, broccoli cucumber tomato salad, some sort of lamb dish, enough rice to feed an army - and homemade yogurt.  And our contribution?  Cutesy pink cupcakes, lemonade and a sugar high for the next 12 hours for these sweet ladies' children. 

We visited, asked more questions, answered the ones we could, and mostly just enjoyed a good meal in a small, hot apartment with people I would've never met had I not stepped out on faith to volunteer for this baby shower.  One of the ladies said she liked blonde hair - and I told her I liked her sparkly, sequin outfit, and that I could hook her up with a great colorist if she ever wants some Dallas blonde highlights.  

We took a group picture of all of us that will be shared across miles with people I'll surely never know or see.  And they made a heaping plate of food for Fireman Dave to take home with him - again, on one of M's beautiful china plates.  I asked if she would rather I put it on a paper plate so she wouldn't lose a dish.  And she said no, she wanted me to have it.  And I asked her if I could please return it to her another day with some cookies or brownies on it, and she said that I/we are welcome in her home anytime. 

I read to her one of the notes that a friend included with her gift - a blessing for M and the new baby, and I think we all cried a collective tear of joy at what had brought us all together today.  Babies and gifts and a nudging in me that I had something to give that someone needed to receive.  Y'all, this  shower sprung up so fast that I worried if it would survive the 2 week rushed planning and providing.  But I have to say, I had nothing to worry about.  God placed the call in my heart, and all I did was say it out loud.  He made sure that others heard it.  

I think I'll return that beautiful plate with or without something on it.  Probably with, ... but I'm not sure it would even matter after getting to know these ladies.  I've spoken of their kindness, generosity and thankfulness all afternoon.  They've formed their own community of like kinds - other refugee friends.  Other Muslim friends.  Young moms raising their kids together with new and like adventures.  And all trying to find where they fit in here in Dallas.  I hope after today that these women know they fit in with me and my friends... and our church and my blog readers and basically everyone that has the kind of heart that is open to God's kind of love.  The love that I sort of think is the best kind. 

post script:  that whole charging their home with goodness thing.... I feel like it was the other way around.  I'm feeling fully charged.  

And if you feel like you can host a baby shower, help with another one of the Gateway of Grace events, or tutor English to these very special people, all you have to do is say yes to the nudge.  I promise to help you make it happen.  

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful experience.


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