Drinking Vodka Out of Frozen Turkeys

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kathy escobar -frozen turkey vodka3

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

Jackie DeShannon belted out those words decades ago but they still ring so true.

The more I engage in relationship with people (and myself!) I am struck by the deep need for love in this world. 

Not talking about love. 

Not theologies about love. 

Not ideas about love. 

But love. 

In-the-flesh and making-a-difference-in-the-deep-places-of-people’s-hearts-and-stories love.

Yes, I think this world needs more and more little pockets of love, and I think we are supposed to be part of creating them.

When I saw the theme for October at Sheloves was “Lit,” a memoir by the same name came to mind — “Lit: A Memoir,” written by Mary Karr.

There’s this one scene in “Lit” that I will never forget. 

Mary is an alcoholic just starting to attend AA meetings for the first time. Her first reaction to the other people there is so typical:

“I’m not like them. I’m not as bad as them. I’ve got it much more together than these people.” (I hear this one often when it comes to The Refuge community, too). 

Yet she goes to meetings anyway. She puts her butt in the chair and she listens to other people’s stories, to other people’s pain, to other people’s struggles. 

During the meeting, the best-dressed woman in the group stands up.  She’s a put-together woman; she’s educated, wears designer clothes. She also talks about how she would hide her booze in the carcass of a turkey so that her kids wouldn’t find it. They searched the house high and low for her alcohol but it always eluded them. She thought she was so crafty. In her worst moment, she ended up desperate for a drink but couldn’t get the bottle out of the frozen turkey, so she heaved it up, guzzling vodka right out of the carcass.

That was her last drink.

Mary’s initial reaction: “Oh my God, no way would I ever do that! I’ve got my drinking under control.”

My initial reaction: “Wow, that’s pretty desperate. I’m glad I’ve never been that bad off.”

But the truth is that I am that bad. My drinking-vodka-out-of-frozen-turkeys just looks different.

Sure, it’s maybe a little cleaner, a little neater, maybe a little more productive, but it’s all about the same thing:

In those moments of desperation, we are looking for Love. We are hoping for something to fill the pain and loneliness and settle the scary dissonance inside us. 

So we work, eat, drink, pretend, perform, sex, shop, rage, spiritualize, and do a whole lot of other things to try to find “love”.

As the story unfolds, Mary finds peace and hope and God through community. 

She begins to experience love in deep places, receiving it instead of rejecting it, letting it transform her instead of run away from it.

To me, it all comes back around to the beginning of Jesus’ first sermon, to the first Beatitude that says, “Blessed are those who are spiritually poor, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

Blessed are those who are willing to admit—I need God. I need help. I need love.

When I’m honest, I can acknowledge it’s a lot easier to drink vodka out of frozen turkeys (and all the other crazy things we do to get love) than admit how desperate I sometimes feel. How much I need help. How afraid I am of rejection. How desperately I long to love and be loved.

This story isn’t about “stopping” drinking vodka out of frozen turkeys. That’s typically what an awful lot of church energy gets focused toward. Rather, this story reminds me of the deeper truth, the deeper story going on underneath in so many of our hearts and souls—How can I/we be filled up with the radical love and peace of God in the midst of this broken world and how can I/we pass this love on to others, too?

In reflecting on this story, I was reminded yet again of the depth and beauty and mystery of God’s love for me, for all of us. 

And just how much I need God, need help, need love.

Oh how I always wish more of us could feel it in our bones and live out of that place more freely, more fully.  It’s not so we would be “happy clappy people” with no sense of pain, but rather that we’d know, when we were standing by the fridge with a turkey carcass in our hands (or whatever that looks like for us), that there’s a better way.

The way of need. 

The way of love.

The way of hope.

The way of honesty.

May we not drink vodka out of frozen turkeys, but rather find safe and brave places to talk about the ways we are looking for love, in honesty and hope. May we admit what looking for love feels like for us, and may we know we are in good company in our struggles. May we not pretend any longer that we are better (or worse) than another.

That’s what the world needs more of.

It’s what I always need more, too.

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. A trained spiritual director, speaker, and advocate, she also blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Faith Shift and Down We Go—Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus. A mom of 5 young adults and teens, she is married to Jose and lives in Arvada, Colorado.
Kathy Escobar

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  • SO preaching to me. Thank you, Kathy.

  • Amen and amen

  • As someone also deeply embedded in the recovery community you have touched so many places in me with this Kathy. Yes, and amen over and over and over.

  • On the day I speak of honoring the body on a podcast episode, God is moving! Thank you! xx

  • “May we admit what looking for love feels like for us, and may we know we are in good company in our struggles.”

    Ufff. This is so timely for me, wise friend. I’d forgotten this lovely story in the book. Thanks for helping me remember.

    I’m going to hold on to this imagery every time I feel myself spinning out.

    P.S. #spinningoutHARDthismorning

  • Striving to live honestly and hopefully. Thank you for these powerful reminders, Kathy!

  • pastordt

    Preach it, friend!! Well done – thank you.

  • Kelley J. Leigh

    The way of need.

    The way of love.

    The way of hope.

    The way of honesty.

    Yes.
    Thanks for this, Kathy.

  • Kelly Christian

    love the title so much