our drinking-vodka-out-of-frozen-turkeys

our drinking vodkas out of frozen turkeysi hope everyone had a really great holy week.  it was a wild one around here & i loved it in all kinds of ways.  we did a beautiful & simple good friday gathering & then a fun & so-refuge easter celebration on saturday night.   easter is my favorite season; to me there is so much beauty in the reminder that out of death & darkness new life emerges–over and over and over again.  death, grief & resurrection (i call it friday-saturday-sunday living) is not something to talk about once a year but rather something to practice in the day-in-day-out rhythms of our ordinary lives.

to me, the easter story is about love.  wild, pure, deep, unexpected, enduring love.

and 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.

i shared this story at the refuge during lent but i thought of it this weekend, too.  it is from the book lit by mary karr.  i think some of you have already read it but if you haven’t, i highly recommend it.  there’s this one scene in the book that i’ll 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 crazies” (i hear this one often when it comes to the refuge, too).  but she goes anyway.  she puts her butt in the chair and she listens.  then, the best-dressed woman in the group stands up.  totally put together, educated, wearing designer clothes, she proceeds to talk about how when she was drinking 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 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 so she heaved up the turkey, 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.  glad i’m not that bad off.”

but the truth is that i am that bad.  my drinking-vodka-out-of-frozen-turkeys just looks different, 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. something to fill the pain & loneliness and settle the scary dissonance inside us. so we work, eat, drink, sex, shop, porn, rage, spiritualize, and 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.

it all comes back ’round to the beginning, to the first beatitude, to “blessed are those who are spiritually poor”, who are willing to admit “i need God, i need help, i need love.”

when i’m honest, i’d often much rather drink vodka out of frozen turkeys than admit that.

this story isn’t about “stopping” drinking vodka out of frozen turkeys.  that’s what an awful lot of church energy often gets focused toward.  rather, this story reminds me of the deeper truth, the deeper story going on underneath–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?

this easter, i was reminded yet again of the depth and beauty and mystery of God’s love for me, for all of us.  and how much i need God, need help, need love. and how different the world would be if we could all really feel it in our bones & live out of that place more freely, more fully.  not so that we’d be happy clappeys with no sense of pain, but rather that we’d know, when we’re standing by the fridge with a turkey carcass in our hands, that there’s a better way.

a way of need.  a way of love.  a way of hope.  the way of resurrection.

* * * * *

a few other quick things:

  • i had the honor of being part of she loves magazine for easter sunday.  the piece i wrote is called she can’t be silenced.  there are some really beautiful voices and hearts over there, check it out.
  • i will be in seattle this thursday-friday-saturday for the inhabit conference, hosted by parish collective, transFORM network & mars hill graduate school.  focus is centered around my favorite topics:  practice, presence, place.   looking forward to being part & seeing a bunch of fun friends. hoping my back holds out okay.  if you’re coming, let me know.
  • i just bought one of these, a little easter present to myself this year.   david hayward is one of my favorite reads, all his stuff is so good.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • How many times have I sipped vodka from the frozen turkey. Crazy, but true. Mary Karr found love in community and it changed her life. The same two forces have done the same for me. Is it any wonder Jesus said the greatest commandment is love?? Great post Kath.

  • What a good way to start the day: thinking about “the deeper story going on underneath” and with a little tear in my eye remembering my own brokenness. Thanks Kathy you are both a blessing and inspiration!

  • I read that book last year. Great read!!!!! And great message illustrator..the vodka in the turkey story. Totally remember that part of her story.

    I have a lot of friends in recovery and it’s true. None of them thought they needed to be there, that they weren’t that bad off. But they report to me that though the outward stories differ in details and severity (not everybody is slugging liquor from a frozen bird) the similiarities on the INSIDE are nearly identical : shame, guilt, feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred, and so on….Blessed are the poor in spirit…we are all blessed, with or without a turkey margarita!

    • glad you dug the book, too. i just got “liars club” but i haven’t started it that yet. i remember when i first started the healing journey, too, and how i was like “i’m doing good, i’m fine, i’m not that bad….” and then, holy smokes, it all broke loose & i became painfully aware of how $*!^$^!*!(‘d up it really was inside. what a gift.

  • O.K. – I know I’m off topic here, but the vodka in the frozen turkey is a new one. As a former LEO (law enforcement), I know that alcoholics often have the best ideas for places to search a residence for hidden stashes of drugs, weapons or cash. If the spot is large enough to hold your vodka, chances are it’s also large enough to hold other contraband. I know some great hiding places based on experience serving search warrants. Personally I think some of the very best are suggested by the story of “The Purloined Letter”.

    Your turkey story also reminds me of the Mr. Bean episode where Mr. Bean got his head stuck in a giant turkey carcass. If you haven’t seen that one, you’ve got to see it if you’re a Mr. Bean fan. It’s on the “Best of Mr. Bean” if I remember correctly. We’ve lent that VHS tape many times and everyone tells us they showed it to family, friends and neighbors.

    Some things end. Relationships die. But we’re seeing signs of new growth here in San Diego. Grieve for that which has been lost and look for new life. It’s usually there. Sometimes life sucks, but God is good. Learning to laugh is a gift.

    • thanks, sam. i think i did see that clip a few years ago, it was so funny. yep, “sometimes life sucks, but God is good….and learniing to laugh is a gift..” definitely. life is sometimes what i call a dramedy–a drama + a comedy. laughing is good. crying is good. noticing the love is good.

  • Kathy

    I love the tone of your article. In my painful experience Divine Love approaches us in our brokenness and honesty. That’s why religion is such a block to Divine Love – it promotes self righteous strength and a subliminal sense of dishonesty.

    Keep up the good work!

    • dylan – i agree, religion can separate us from our hearts, from honesty, from truth. the more those dividers can crumble, the more free we are. the more loved.

  • Ok, so I am still hacking away at the book, but I will say that I am learning waaay more than I bargained for about love… I have thought for years and years that I was plenty ok on the love dept, and I just needed to give it all away… I am so realizing the gaping wound in my own heart, and how desperate I am to feel solidly connected and wanted and, well, loved. How I have worked my life in such a way that I haven’t had to actually feel emotions that leave me longing, or wanting, or admitting that I am vulnerable. It’s hard.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *