The restaurant that shall not be named

I didn’t eat Chick-fil-a on Wednesday, but I’m also not going to boycott them forever.  So I don’t really fit into a “camp”.  I know I’m late in the game here, but I had trouble sorting out my emotional reaction to Wednesday.  I’m sad that I’m on sabbatical right now, because this is great material for a sermon, Sunday school class discussion, or youth group.  It’s a great “case” to start discussion about a lot of theological and practical issues – it’s all about needing a good dialogue with people of every viewpoint.

Why I do like Chick-fil-a and will go again

  • The food is good, and healthier than most other fast food options.  Except the milkshakes, they are way too good to be anything close to healthy.  I think maybe they put crack in their waffle fries, because…oh, so good.
  • It’s very kid friendly – my kids LOVE it.
  • They give out lots of coupons (which never actually expire, despite what the date on the coupon says), and you know how much I LOVE coupons.
  • They give out free bowls of cheerios for babies, and you know how much I LOVE free stuff.
  • You can dress like a fool and get free food once a year.  Some people even dress up and go to three different CFAs  to get three different free meals, can you believe it?!
  • The restaurants are clean, they even have sanitizer wipes on all the high chairs.  And you know how my OCD self LOVES clean stuff.
  • The employees are extremely polite and helpful, carrying my tray to my table when my hands are full of children and getting refills for my drinks without me having to get up, all without expecting a tip and while wearing a smile
  • In college, there were several times for a fundraiser or other student event that they would generously donate food (every time I asked, they gave)
  • Their WinShape Foundation does support a lot of worthy causes, ones I certainly agree with, but I do hope this recent controversy gets them to at least take a closer look at the anti-gay organizations they support and rethink where they send their money.  Because it does matter, especially to their GLBTQ employees and patrons.
  • I truly believe the owners and executives are guided by Christian values and doing their very best to be faithful in their personal and business lives, even though on this particular issue I think they are wrong.
  • They close on Sundays (even though I always crave it on Sundays)
  • They are a very successful business and employ a lot of people in a difficult economy, straight AND GLBTQ people.  So boycotting their restaurant would be hurting their employees who work hard and need to earn a living just like the rest of us, and if I boycotted every company that did things I didn’t like, I would have no where to eat or shop.  Thanks to this guy for reminding me of that.
  • I respect CFA for not promoting the Appreciation Day, and I think it would be really great if they donated a portion of their record breaking sales to a cause that the GLBTQ community would support, like The Trevor Project or any bullying or suicide prevention group.  I think that would do a lot to build some bridges without compromising their personal beliefs.  And wouldn’t it have been really awesome if all those people who bought CFA food on Wednesday would have taken it to homeless people instead of eating it?!
  • One CFA is doing something really cool by partnering with a Pride Fest.  Isn’t it amazing what can happen when we sit down at table together for a conversation instead of throwing around words and instagram photos?!

While I do like CFA, I also did not want to in any way be a part of  Wednesday’s Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.  It literally made me sick to my stomach – my stomach was in knots all day and the day after as people kept posting pictures of their “successful” days eating at CFA.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I think I was so upset by the whole thing because it seemed that everyone forgot that there are real people, real children of God involved in this “issue”.  Every time one of my facebook friends posted a picture of their crowded CFA, my heart hurt for all of my friends and the people I don’t know who are truly hurting because of the current words being spoken and the policies in place and the potential bans being lobbied for in states all over the country.  People who work just as hard as the rest of yet are denied many civil rights because of who they are and who they love.  People who have loving families.  People who have great faith and love God.

The words that kept popping into my head on Wednesday as I scrolled through facebook updates were smug and pharisaic.  I know you were not intentionally either of these on Wednesday.   For those of you who are my friends who participated in Appreciation Day, I know you are loving and kind people.  And I understand the reasons you went to CFA on Wednesday, really I do.  But I just have to say, from the outside looking in, to people who think differently from you, it did not look kind and loving.  Jesus was always on the case of the Pharisees who strove to live by the letter of the law (First Amendment Rights!  “Biblical” Definition of Marriage!) but who failed to see or help people who were hurting.   People are more important than issues and causes and being right.

I didn’t find out until afterward, but actual churches were rallying behind CFA and telling their members to go on Wednesday.  Really?  Is that what we are called to do?  The whole Bible for me, and the whole mission of the church, can be summed up in these (condensed) words of Jesus:  Love God, Love Neighbors.  No “love CFA”  No “love the first amendment”.  How was the demonstration on Wednesday anywhere close to loving God or loving our neighbor?!

What I think Wednesday did was to confirm in the minds of many GLBTQ folks and non-Christians that all Christians are anti-gay and judgmental.  There was a study done a few years ago, and those were the top two perceptions non-Christians had of Christians, and I doubt the perception has changed.  I think Christians need to concentrate more on the Love God, Love Neighbor stuff if we are ever going to seen as relevant again.

I know that not all people who went to CFA went because they hate gays and that many of them had good intentions.   But even though you may say that you don’t hate gay people, you have to look how they are treated in society and see why perhaps they have their guard up and feel hated by what happened on Wednesday.  When CFA gives money to organizations that spread lies, fear, and hatred of the GLBTQ community, it feels like hate.  When CFA gives money to organizations who actively promote bans on gay marriage, it feels like hate.  When the COO of CFA says he wants to strengthen families, yet also wants to deny GLBTQ people the right to be a family unit with all of the benefits that come with that, it feels like hate.  When he goes on another interview and says, “”I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about,” it feels like hate.   When hundreds of thousands of people flock to Chick-fil-a in a counter protest and post celebratory pictures and status updates, it feels like hate.   It just does, so a little sensitivity is needed when dealing with these “issues”, yes?

I really hope we can all learn something from these last two weeks, me included, as we keep striving to be the people of God in a  complicated world.

In closing, I quote John Stewart about my hope for the future, “In 10 years, America will have a lot more gay marriage and a lot more Chick-fil-a restaurants because they are both quality products.”  You really should watch his whole bit! It’s crass at some parts, but hey, it is The Daily Show.

Other things that inform me

The Bible is not anti-gay by Neely Stansell-Simpson

Dan Cathy Interview

Some Words For Christians on Both Sides of the Chick-fil-a War by Rachel Held Evans

5 Reasons Why the Church Failed Yesterday by Mathew Paul Turner

Would Jesus Appreciate Chick-Fil-A?

Now onto things we can all get excited about!  Olympics!  Funny Kids!  College Football!   Back to School Shopping!  Sabbatical!

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31

I think I like the age of 31.  The kids and I have been evicted from our house while Russ rips up and replaces the floors in our living room,  kitchen, and foyer.

You see those black lines/spots….that’s mildew in the exact outline of where previous homeowners added onto the house…obviously not doing a very good job.  FYI – this is NOT why I like the age of 31.   Being evicted means we came to Pops and Grammy’s house for the week, where Kathryn and Ryleigh are also staying.  All PARTY all the time!

The day started with birthday pancakes, made by mom, accessorized by Kathryn.

Then I had a COM meeting (COM is a regional church committee for you non-PCUSA clergy folk).  And it was over in TWO HOURS, which I think is a record for us.  We usually meet for at least 3 hours.  I think they sped things up for my birthday.  That AND the unanimously approved the presbytery parental leave policy I submitted – welcome presbytery to the year 2012!  Now people don’t have to call me whenever they get knocked up to get advice on how to get a policy done at their church.

While I was gone, the kids made me a “special surprise”

Then I met Grammy, Kathryn, and the kids at the park for Chick-fil-a lunch and play.

After naps and rest time, we got to eat the “special surprise”

The we played.

We all got to ride in the 32

And chased/caught a cricket

And then Mom made my all time favorite meal…SOOOO good.

And then, since we hadn’t eaten enough, Kathryn and I were treated to another ride in the 32 to Baskin Robbins to sample one of their 31 flavors (for my 31st birthday) with Dad.

Yes, 31 should be alright!

tea

Today, my mom invited her two daughters and two granddaughters to a Mother-Daughter Tea at her church.  It was lovely.  The hostesses decorated the tables with fancy linens, flower arrangements, and full sets of china…even real tea pots with matching sugar bowls with sugar cubes.  I don’t think I have experienced that much fancy before.  But it wasn’t stuffy fancy…it was very relaxed and fun.  The owners of the fine china didn’t even freak out when a four year-old and two year-old sat down in front of their finest.

And then there was food….good food.   We are the classiest people by far.  Mom put some chocolate Dunkin Donut holes on some doilies on a fancy dish.  (LOVE her!)

Taylor ate her finger sandwich daintily, with her finger up.

Of course, she also tooted three times during the course of the meal.

And then shoved a cupcake in her mouth.

I think we pulled off Fancy like Fancy Nancy in our dresses, hats, and jewelry.

Even if we aren’t the most photogenic family in the world.

My hat serves mostly as my beach hat, so I had sand all over me by the time the tea was over.  Yes, yes, we are classy folk.

Boo-yeah

So I don’t really like to brag – really.   But I must say I feel a bit like this lady this year.

Not only am I done with Christmas shopping (a whole 15 days early), I am back on the coupon wagon.  And every time I get a good deal, I say “BOOM!” in my head a little and imagine myself looking like that lady…I think I even have that sweater.

I was off the coupon wagon for a bit because it is time consuming and once you’re off, it’s hard to get back on and get organized again.  It doesn’t help that I keep forgetting to get a Sunday paper.  But now, me and coupons are tight again.

I was also assisted by my sister.  She sent me a link for a $4 off coupon for a sweater at Target…the sweaters were on sale already for $8.99 – you guys!  That’s a sweater (and a nice one) for $4.99!  So I got two.  Plus she sent me this link to a $10 gift card when you purchase $50 worth of stuff, which ain’t hard to do at Target.  So I added a few necessities to my sweaters, like Aveno lotion for the kids (cause they both have exzema and it’s now winter) – which I also had store and manufacturer coupons for, thank you very much.  It was a super sweet deal.  And even though I’ve already said “BOOM!” in my head, I still feel the need to tell everyone who compliments me on my sweater that it was only $4!  It blurts right out of my mouth.  I can’t control it.

THEN, I got diapers at Babies ‘R Us with $5 off coupons AND got a $25 gift card.  I’ve totally been buying our Christmas presents with the gift cards I’ve accumulated by watching the deals.  OOOOO – I love it.

I had cut back on our eating out, but on Friday after my good deals at Target and Babies ‘R Us, we splurged and went to Chick-fil-a because I had accumulated 2 free chicken sandwich and 2 free chicken strips coupons….and also packed the kids drinks and sides…so maybe we didn’t actually splurge all that much.  But we FELT like we did, so that’s nice.

This saving money, couponing, deal seeking stuff is a huge rush and completely addictive.  And also completely necessary since we went WAY over budget in November – the sheer amount we spent on food last month is unspeakable.  But that’s what happens when you fall completely off the coupon wagon and also eat out way more than we should because who can make dinner when there is a toddler hanging on your leg for all the hours of the day, especially when you’re in the kitchen and he senses that food is eminent.

But now I’m planning ahead for meals and planning to get to know my crock pot very well.  I feel so very domestic.  Saturday night (because we know how to party), we all straightened up the house and folded the laundry.  Then after the kids went to bed, Russ and I made deviled eggs for a church lunch on Sunday and made a whole pot of chili soup to freeze (5 meals worth), AND I sewed the strap back on Taylor’s $.99 Christmas apron.  Cleaning, cooking, and sewing…what is this? 1950?  But I don’t care – I LOVED every minute of it – feeling productive, taking care of my family, and doing it all with the best partner in crime.

BOOM!

what dreams are made of

Last Christmas, my sister and brother-in-law gave us a fire pit.  We were really excited about, but there was always some reason we didn’t actually USE it…it was too cold or too hot or too light outside or raining…or Russ was working late…or I was working late.  You know, life.  But last weekend, we decided it was the perfect time to try it out.  So great! And now we are hooked.  We did it again last night.

I mean, really, what’s better than sitting around the fire on a crisp fall evening sipping hot chocolate, listening to Christmas music, roasting marshmallows, making s’mores and hanging out with your favorite people?  Nothing.  Nada.  The only thing that would make it better is if Caleb would refrain from trying to touch the fire and therefore be allowed to hang out with us.  So far, he’s only made it 5 minutes before I put him to bed so we can enjoy the time without fear of third degree burns and a screaming toddler.  But the upside of that is that Taylor has gotten some good quality time with the undivided attention from both parents.

Last night we sat around talking for a while.  Taylor finished her hot chocolate, then pulled her s’more apart, ate the melty chocolate, then scraped the gooey marshmallow off the cracker, then decided to put the cracker in the bushes for the ducks.  Then she wiped melty chocolate and gooey marshmallow on her jeans (*note to self:  bring wipes outside next time).  She sits back in her chair for a minute gazing into the fire before looking at Russ and saying:

Daddy I want to cuddle with you.

and climbs up into his lap with her blanket in hand.

His face was covered side to side with a grin of perfect contentment as he says back to her:

I love you so much.

She gives him a kiss and says:

I love my whole family.

Then she snuggles her hello kitty hat covered head under his chin as he and I share a glance that confirms that this is what dreams are made of.

if it’s free, it’s for me

So you know how we’re broke?  Well, we are doing our best to have fun with it and also be smart.  So today I started hawking stuff on craig’s list.  Anyone want a really cute table with drop leaf sides and 2 chairs?

And while on a walk this morning, I ran across a sock in the road that Caleb lost on Wednesday’s walk.  I picked it up and carried it home in order to wash it and put it back in his drawer so he can wear it again.

And we also planned not one, not two, but THREE trips to three different Chick-Fil-As for Cow Appreciation Day.  Breakfast was a hot date with just me and Russ.  We were the first “cows” of the day and the only ones the whole time we were there.  I looked around at the people paying for their food and thought “SUCKAS”….but then they were probably thinking the same thing about us.  For lunch, we met Grammy so she didn’t have to go by herself (Pops is NO fun).

Then for dinner, we dressed up the whole family.  Taylor was pretty excited.  And THE chick-fil-a cow was there.  Caleb wouldn’t stop pointing at him – he was mesmerized and even got to practice saying “cow” and mooing.  Taylor on the other hand was terrified.  Go figure.

I didn’t think it was possible, but I am Chick-Fil-Aed out…even with the different menu choices.  It’ll probably be a long while a few weeks  a week at least before we go back.

And I did save the spots and ears for next year.

Gratitude

While I certainly wouldn’t wish a giant cyst and it’s necessary surgical removal on anyone, I do wish everyone had the opportunity to experience the blessings that come from an event like this (or at least to intensely recognize the  blessings surrounding them everyday).  I am truly overcome with gratitude and humility.  I have the best support system ever.

My mom has been here since the night before my surgery (two weeks exactly now) taking care of me and the kids….feeding us, cleaning, doing load after load of laundry, playing with the kids, driving us around…basically loving us in every possible way.

I have not cooked in two weeks and yet have eaten heartily (I take that back – I have only eaten heartily for nine days – since I was in the hospital before that – no hearty eating there).  The amount of food in our house is incredible.  Russ is getting spoiled…poor guy won’t know what to do when the food runs out and it’s back to me to determine and prepare what we eat.  Taylor has also grown accustomed to her “church friends” coming bearing food.  The one night we did not have a new meal (we needed a break to take care of some leftovers), she asked “Which of my church friends is bringing dinner tonight?”  For all of us it’s a double treat because we get to see some of our favorite people AND get delicious dinners.

I love the note in a recent card from a loved one:  “So, I’m southern and feel the need to feed you because that’s what we do when someone we care about is hurting.”  That note included a gift card…we have received a few of those as well, so we can still eat when the meals run out.  INCREDIBLE.

I received lots of beautiful flowers (and a balloon).  It seemed like there was a steady stream of flower delivery people coming in.  Flowers from friends, family, church people, and even the MUSC Dean’s Office (!).  INCREDIBLE.  I used to wonder why people sent flowers for things (other than an occasional love bouquet from your spouse), because really what do you need all those flowers for?  But, man, did each arrangement bring a huge smile to my face!  In the sterile white hospital room, I was surrounded by beautiful color, reminded of love and awesome people.

There were more cards than I could have dreamed

on top of the electronic love through comments here on the blog, on facebook, txt, and e-mail.  I got a stack of magazines to keep my loopy brain entertained and some games to play with Taylor.  I had visitors who braved the downtown craziness.

I am truly humbled by it all.  It’s not that I ever doubted that I had great people in my life or that I was loved deeply by many, but I have just come to a new understanding and appreciation.  I will never be the same (or at least I hope I won’t).

I will begin writing thank you notes tonight, now that I’m feeling better and hopefully won’t fall asleep as soon as the kids are in bed.  I made a list of everything people had done before Sunday because Russ wanted to make sure he knew what to thank people for when he saw them on Sunday…but I added all the non-church people as well for my future note writing (since the drugs do crazy things to my memory).  When I handed Russ the list, he stood there for a second with his mouth wide open – in shock by all of the acts of service we have received.

Shock.  Awe.  Overwhelming Gratitude.

I am grateful for all of you – for your love and support and prayers.  I couldn’t have made it through without them.

Thank you.