Month: November 2015

The Call That Saved Thanksgiving

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

My husband and I had been married for just over three months. We lived in a cute little one-bedroom apartment a few hundred miles away from our families. We were busy—he finishing up graduate school and I working odd hours at a local television station—but we were making our first home together, and we were happy.

Maybe I felt a little too overconfident, still basking in that “honeymoon phase.” Maybe I just didn’t think it through. Either way, for my first Thanksgiving as a married woman, I volunteered not only to cook a meal with all the trimmings—I’d invited my in-laws to join us.

Which, as you might imagine, included my mother-in-law.

Who, as you might also rightly guess, is a darn good cook.

No pressure there, new daughter-in-law. 

Cooking your first Thanksgiving turkey can be unnerving

I made a plan. Prepared side dishes ahead of time. Unboxed the wedding china and serving dishes. Cracked open my Better Homes and Gardens red and white checkered cookbook.

But, there was one glitch I didn’t count on: the turkey.

I’d selected it carefully at the grocery store earlier that week, my new husband humoring me as I pawed through a freezer full of shrink-wrapped Butterballs, looking for one that spoke to me. I’d thawed the winning candidate slowly, and when Thanksgiving morning dawned, unwrapped it, cleaned it meticulously, and slid it into the oven on a satisfied note of triumph.

I’ve got this.

When my in-laws arrived a few hours later, the hearty scent of slow-roasting turkey greeted them at the door with me. They gushed. We hugged. I swelled.

It didn’t last long.

As my husband and his parents settled in to the living room a few feet away, I grabbed a baster and opened the oven. I squeezed the bulb—and looked in horror at the liquid I’d just drawn up. It was pink. Pink! Something was terribly wrong.

I figured I had two options: fix it, or ask my mother-in-law for help.

I closed the oven door, grabbed the phone off the counter, and hurried into the bathroom. Cheeks flushed in shame, I dialed the number my husband and I had laughed over when we’d unwrapped the turkey hours before. 1-800-BUTTERBALL.

I was calling the turkey hotline to save Thanksgiving dinner. 

The friendly voices on the other end of the Turkey Hotline saved the day

A cheerful voice answered. “The juice,” I rasped urgently. “It’s pink. It’s the first time I’ve cooked a turkey…and it’s pink.”

“Oh don’t worry! That’s a very common problem,” she answered kindly. “Did you remove the neck from the cavity before you placed it in the oven?”

“Well, of course I—,” I faltered. The neck. Oh no. The. Neck. Had I even known I had to fish that thing out first? “Um…what if I forgot? Is it ruined?”

She gently assured me it wasn’t, told me to remove it now and cook the bird a little longer, and no one would be the wiser. Thanksgiving dinner, she soothed, would not be a turkey-less feast.

Thankfully, she was right.

Now, almost a decade after that anxious phone call when so much of my confidence as a new wife and daughter-in-law was riding on a misbehaving turkey in my tiny oven, I wish I could talk to the woman from the Turkey Talk-Line again.

We would laugh together at the absurdity of it all, at how I’d panicked over something as trivial as a turkey when my table was filled with so much love, acceptance, and support. 

I’d thank her for talking me down from the edge of fear, for coaching a new wife through a harrowing moment in her early marriage.

I’d even boast a little about how I’d made pan gravy from scratch, earning points with my new mother-in-law that boosted my confidence in my fledgling domestic abilities.

But mostly, I’d say thank you. Because whether she knew it or not, that woman—that voice of reason—saved my first Thanksgiving.

And I am forever grateful.

This post also published on 11-25-15 on Bison Booties

Convenient Lives Matter

Last night, the winter finale of the ABC show “Scandal” aired. Twitter is abuzz over the episode, which centered around the filibuster of a bill that would have cut funding to Planned Parenthood. The show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, frequently takes on hot-button topics in the show’s provocative script, but defending Planned Parenthood (which tweeted out its giddy gratitude over Rhimes’s support) wasn’t the most ostensibly sickening content of the script.

The main character had an on-screen abortion.

Accompanied by strains of “Silent Night.”

And a soliloquy by the character’s father saying, “Family doesn’t complete you…it destroys you.”

And fans of the show practically fell all over themselves swooning in its aftermath.

Just hours ago, many of the same people were sputtering about the possibility of the United States halting resettlement of Syrian refugees within our borders. Indignant Facebookers were slamming the “un-Christian” view of the world this kind of closed-minded hatred obviously exposed. “What would Jesus do?!” they cried. “Their innocent lives matter!”


Enough of this disgusting double standard that has seized American society.

Enough of the twisting of Scripture. The bending of morality. The marginalizing of right and wrong.

Why do the lives of Syrian refugees matter but the lives of unborn babies don’t?

Why does the politically charged plight of a war-torn nation and the glorifying of a taxpayer supported baby-killing organization launch throngs of righteous armchair quarterbacks onto an unchallengeable soapbox of moral and religious authority?

I read a commentary on last night’s episode of “Scandal” today that might be the single most morally depraved essay ever written. The author spoke of how thrilled she was to see the show cast abortion in a positive light. How finally—finally!—the small screen had gotten it right. How the character had seized her feminist right and terminated the unwanted annoyance inside her without the ridiculous pretense of an agonizing decision, or an ounce of guilt or shame afterward. How brilliant she was to skip the painful discussion with the fetus’s father about whether or not to be bothered with birthing the thing. How she was empowering women everywhere to take matters into their own entitled hands—ethics and conscience be damned.

But perhaps most disturbing, this writer wished this simplistic portrayal of ending a life had been the prevailing message years earlier when she agonized over and eventually had her own abortion—an act that sent her spiraling into admitted anguish. If only this episode had aired back then, she reasoned, she would have been spared the bother of that nagging voice crying out for life. She was just a kid in college, after all, unfit to raise a child.

Of course, that child was never given the chance to find itself a mother who was fit for the job.

Where is the voice for the millions of unborn babies dismissed as pesky, ill-timed parasites? Where is the morality and religious authority so quickly invoked in public discourse over Syrian refugees?

Where is our humanity?

Its absence exposes a gaping black hole of wickedness masked by slick television scenes and flowery Facebook statuses, and one dirty little secret those same people will never admit: all lives don’t matter.

Convenient lives matter. Socially wronged lives matter. The lives they want to matter, matter.

And it is completely indefensible.

In Search of Grace

The debate over Syrian refugees is reaching a boiling point in the United States—at least judging by social media activity in recent hours.

With more than two dozen US governors now refusing to accept refugees within their borders over concerns of adequate background checking abilities and news that one of the Paris attackers may have entered France as a refugee, a bitter divide is beginning to emerge.

If social media is to be believed, there are two positions on the issue:

  1. We must accept all Syrian refugees because it’s a humanitarian issue, and the only Christian thing to do; or
  2. If we deny Syrian refugees, we’re denying the teachings of Christ and exposing ourselves as heartless, isolationists.

People of the Internet: can we all take a collective chill pill?

Are we really living in a society where you’re either on one side of an issue or you’re venomously dismissed? Are we really living in a time when opinions—and, more importantly,  the people who hold them—are immediately categorized as good or evil? Are we really living in a country where free and open discussion is squashed by judgment in complete and quickly-leveled fashion?

Today, it feels like it.

Granted, I’m no theologian and I’m no national security expert, but I am this: human. A sinner. An American. Imperfect, and in constant need of grace.

There is room for Christian values, for love, and for humanitarianism, in conjunction with prudence, discernment, and due diligence. I’d argue that Christ calls us to do all of these things; they do not exist in a vacuum.

So, while the debate rages on across angry Facebook statuses and biting tweets, as friends un-friend friends and indignantly denounce dissidents as racist or radicals or worse, I’ll be over here trying to cling to grace.

I’ll be over here trying to be respectful of others, but unashamed of my own convictions.

I’ll be over here trying to reflect that while world events can pit our primal need for security against our desire to love as Christ loves—they should not pit us neighbor against neighbor in some bitter battle for righteousness.

They ought to drive us to our knees. It’s where the only hope, the only answer is to be found.

Deep breath, my friends. Deep breath.

Sharing Scary News With Our Children

This week, my daughter’s elementary school went into “soft lockdown” after a domestic shooting nearby appeared to have a link to a child attending the school. Administration decided to err on the side of caution and implement additional security measures. The school’s front doors were locked and manned, window shades were drawn, and children were kept off the playground.

When I picked my first grader up after school, she mentioned that the janitor told them they had to keep their classroom door locked, and that they’d watched a movie instead of going outside for recess that day.

“Do you know why?” I asked her.

“Dunno,” She shrugged. “I guess maybe it’s too cold to be outside.”

A perfectly logical explanation—we live in perpetually cold, windy, recess-stealing North Dakota—but something about the incompleteness of her explanation left me feeling slightly unsettled.

It begs the question: how do we balance our desire to shield our children from scary situations with our responsibility to tell them the truth?

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Yesterday’s horrific terrorist attacks are a sobering reminder of the state of the world. Most of my peers were teenagers on 9-11—not yet grown, but no longer children—and those attacks transformed the way we viewed the world dramatically. In an instant, everything was bigger, scarier, and infinitely more dangerous than it was just moments before.

Today, we’re parents of elementary school students. I’m admittedly no psychologist, but I suspect 9-11 left my generation feeling a nagging pressure to fiercely protect the innocence we consciously lost that Tuesday in September. When I look at my seven-year-old, I see her inherent trust in the goodness of the world, and I want to preserve it for her. She doesn’t yet understand evils like ISIS, or suicide bombers, or mass murders.

At age seven, she shouldn’t.

And yet, I feel an obligation to be truthful with her. To help her understand that where there is evil, there is also good. That where there is terror, there is also justice. That where there is fear, there is also hope.

But . . . how?

In the case of my daughter’s school lockdown, I decided it was better for her to hear from me why things were operating a little outside of the norm. As simply as I could, I explained the situation. She listened with rapt attention. She asked questions and I answered as honestly as possible. I reiterated how committed the teachers, staff, and police were to keeping her and her classmates safe at school, how locking the doors and keeping them inside were just part of that right now.

After taking it all in, she frowned and gave a tight-lipped, curt nod. “Okay,” she said.


No panic. No fear. No apprehension.

Just acceptance.

I realized then this child—this generation—is growing up with a view of the world we parents can scarcely understand. Phrases like “lockdown” and “additional security” are part of her vocabulary—more alarming to her mother than they are to her.

She’s more mature than I give her credit for.

She can handle unsettling truth when it’s shared gently, with love.

I can’t shield her from everything.

. . . But I’ll never stop wishing I could.