When it’s time.

It was the day that the clouds ran across the sky like a river, and somehow my kids knew. 

You can’t hide things like that from children. Not even the quiet nuances enfolded into whispered conversations where words like “ventilator” and “not long,”  are tossed back and forth, crushing the people on both ends of the line. Both the ones that have to say it, and the ones who hear it for the first time.

The same people who look at the sky after they hang up the phone, and wonder why today is the day, when the sun is shining through the way it is, because it wasn’t supposed to be today.

Somehow, kids know that you are totally different when you hang up the phone. 

You’re just thankful that they can’t see your weary face up in the front seat from where they sit in the back, and you are just as thankful that they would rather look out the window at the passing scenery then at your sagging, heartbroken eyes. 

But then they ask you how God made everything that we see rolling past our car windows, and you know that somehow, they instinctively and unknowingly realized that today is the day that we needed to talk about such things. To say them out loud to each other and to ourselves.

Today we need segment our thoughts, talk about it how we each see it so that we can piece it all together to really understand. We needed to feel the pain that comes from wondering why the dried sunflowers rustling against the hot wind out in the fields had to die.

I had to tell them that everything fades, even us, because it’s what’s supposed to happen.

But God? He spoke and simply breathed everything into being with one word because He could because that’s just what He does. We are the creation, and we could only breathe life in to our newly dust-formed lungs, and sputter out that first aching breath when He told us that it was time to rise.

I told them how we are all only a few stunted breaths away from dying, but we were surely only ever a word spoken away from existing. How the breathing is what happens to us on a molecular level, but we really didn’t start living until the word was spoken, and the soul appeared. And the soul, clever, wonderful thing that it is, is what rises by the command of the word when the body fades away back to the dust.

And now, your face is in my mind as always, as thoughts turn over one right after the other, as the clouds in the sky run together like a celestial white river against a stark blue backdrop and pool somewhere just over the horizon.

Then I wonder where you go when you close your eyes forever.

I’ve always marveled at sepia toned photographs of loved ones who have passed hanging in wallpapered hallways. I run my fingers over them, smudge their glass corners, straighten them against the flowered wall. Ponder long and hard the smiling faces and the eyes that have closed forever, and I wonder where they went.

And if they knew.

I wonder if my photos, one day, will look old and worn like these do, or if mine will have the luxury of having an Instagram filter veneer, but does that really even matter?

We are the flowers, and the flowers fade. And then, they’re gone. But that’s what flowers are supposed to do. But what’s left of us is actually all of us, and all we need, and we breathe again on the other side of eternity, where the clouds pool just beyond the horizon. And our eyes open again for the first time for the last time, and we see with such clarity the way it’s supposed to be. Even better than all of those times that heartbreak caused us to wonder why and broke and scattered us into a million pieces as we tried to gather ourselves back up to keep going. It’s the things that cannot be shaken that remain, and when that is all that remains, we will have eyes to see, when we have finally been fully gathered.

Only now, you’re gathered one last time, for the rest of time. 

And now in my mind I hear the footsteps of a dozen grand children, the voices of four daughters who loved you. A wife who made your meals just the way you wanted them, who always held you together when you probably didn’t even realize it with the flick of her cane and a quick knowing glance from behind her glasses.

I hear all of the conversations in joyful spurts around the Thanksgiving table with the white lace table cloth, and the perfect dressing and gravy. I remember all of the goodbyes on Christmas nights from tired children with red cheeks, their innocent ‘thank you’s’ for their presents, completely high off of Christmas lights and the fudge that was always hidden in the secret cookie tin. 

And the sincere pledges shouted into the cold air before the car doors closed that we would all call when we had arrived home safely.

It’s burned into my mind forever, the both of you, standing in the drive way. Two of you as one, waving off the people who make up the negative space around you. And it’s just as much the negative space around someone that creates a life and lets people know that we were here to begin with, we really were. We were more than just the photographs and the eyes that are now closed. We are more than the pine box, the final breath. 

How lucky I was to have almost thirty Christmases like that. How sad I am that it will never, ever be the same again. That none of us will. How amazing it was that even when I was thirty, my grandpa would slip me a twenty on the way out the door, his gentle cologne wafting into my nose, and admonish me with a smile and a nod to take care of my mother.

I always said that I would.

And I promise that I always will. 

 

 

 

 

I review something: What ‘Bad Moms’ really gets right.

I managed to have a mom’s night out last weekend. 

And I did what any self respecting mom does when she has time away from the house. I met my amazing sister-in-law for an scrumptious tex-mex dinner, where we laughed obnoxiously loud, stared at some cute babies at the table across the way from ours and went to a movie together.

No, we weren’t seeing the latest romantic comedy clearly marketed for the minivan majority starring Julia Roberts in a bad wig (at least, I hope that was a wig…).

We saw Bad Moms. Moms everywhere, meet the raunchy comedy you have been waiting for. 

After all, our children cough right into our mouths, or put soggy Rice Krispys into our hair when we aren’t looking. We scrape poop off of the backsides of tiny, and oftentimes slightly deranged people. 

We moms are some of the grossest people around. Isn’t it time our cinematic options reflected that truth?

So, yea, a few times, Bad Moms made me outright blush because of its sexual content. This movie definitely might not be for everyone.

The plot:

Bad Moms centers around three moms, the unbridled Carla, the meek Kiki and the grounded Amy, but mostly the story focuses on Amy.

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Amy is clearly a giver, both in her marriage and in her parenting. She is overworked, and under appreciated. After a particularly bad day, during which she finds out her husband is having an online affair, and after being bullied at the school PTA meeting by the resident Queen Mean Mom, Amy up and quits the PTA. She also quits being a constant doormat for her husband and children. She then befriends Carla and Kiki, and the moms all let their hair down for the first time since…ever.

Some Spoilery bits ahead:

The “bad” (no pun intended):

The three males in this movie are basically cardboard character cutouts, and two of them are of the worst stereotypical dads/husbands you could think of.

There is the perpetual man-child who refuses to grow up, and then there is the authoritative father and husband figure who lords over his family. The minimal humanization makes them both easy to loathe, which was probably intentional.

The other guy is the school’s resident hot dad, and he hardly does any talking, but that’s okay. His body is harder than Mount Rushmore. He isn’t really supposed to talk. 

Also, not once did I forget that Mila Kunis LOOKS LIKE MILA KUNIS. Yea, okay, you can throw a denim jacket on her and fling some spaghetti noodles in her hair, and try to imply that she is somehow dowdy. I still never forgot that she looks like Mila Kunis. Am I, the mom who currently has dried ramen noodles stuck to her elbow, supposed to relate physically to Mila Kunis? Even in the unsexy bra bit?

But whatever, Kunis’ Amy is still wonderfully relatable and grounded. 

Lastly, a lot of things in this film are highly exaggerated. 

For instance, Amy’s house looks pretty much like an upscale interior design catalog, and she drives the most tricked out minivan on the road. There was not one smudged chocolate pudding hand print on the walls of her home. When various moms open their purses, thirteen crayons and a pretzel rod didn’t fall out. This is definitely Hollywood’s take on parenting, and Hollywood is a town where the Kardashians are mindbogglingly famous for absolutely nothing. So take it with a grain of salt.

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The (at times, oh so very) good:

From a non-parent’s perspective, I can see why someone might think that nothing very significant actually happens in this movie. 

We see a few days in the life of Amy. Rushing from office meetings to school appointments to soccer practice and back to work. We see Amy making lunches and dropping her kids off at school. We see Amy doing all of the heavy lifting in her household and at the office as the sole over thirty employee in a sea of self-obsessed millennials.

We even see her crying alone in the parking lot when she feels like she’s failed everyone. And boy, does that ring true.

Nothing that seems supremely monumental or universal ever really happens, even after she catches her husband having an affair, and she decides to pretty much stop being the overachiever that she is. 

Amy quits the PTA. She stops going the extra mile at work to pick up the slack for her lazy coworkers. She goes out for brunch and to a movie by herself. She gets drunk a few times and refuses to make her kids breakfast. Still, not a super big deal, right?

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While these occurrences may not seem epic, these instances are where I feel like the movie really shines, even despite its flaws.

Bad Moms was written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore in honor of their wives, and this fact has drawn criticism from the mommy peanut gallery who couldn’t believe that two men (men responsible for giving us The Hangover trilogy no less) would dare to write about the trials motherhood.

And I can understand that. There are a lot of women out there who I think could write a very funny, and very poignant movie about motherhood that rings a little truer.

Still, I decided to be open minded when I watched this movie because sometimes, you have to remember that movies are about escapism, and not always about being politically correct. Amy, Kiki and Carla all have valid journeys that women around the world make every day. And I was happy to watch.

Despite what doesn’t always work, which is comparatively minor and no worse than the usual comedy fare we see on screen, what the film gets right it really nails. 

I read a review by a film critic, who is a mom herself, and who insists that while motherhood is tremendously hard, it is also the most basic job on the planet.

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You do not need a college degree to take someone’s temperature, change diapers or drop small people off at school.

She was asking the question of what in this film actually makes these mothers bad mothers?

Once I stopped being slightly offended by her review, I thought about it. And on the surface, we mothers can sit in the audience and say that nothing the characters did was really ever bad.

Only, we moms also know that we don’t always view ourselves in that single, objective way. 

We are infinitely harder on ourselves. 

How often do we feel guilty when we are late to something pertaining to our children?

How often do we feel guilty when we have to prioritize work over our children?

How often do we feel guilty when we just have to say no to volunteering for the bake sale or extracurricular activities?

How often do we feel guilty when we know we aren’t showing up for our kids the way that we want to?

How often do we feel guilty when our marriages are struggling, our finances are struggling, our work life is struggling, and it bleeds over into the way we parent our children?

How guilty do we feel when we go out for a well deserved night night on the town, some tex-mex and a movie, when our kids are crying as we leave?

We have all been Amy and Carla and Kiki and Vicky and Gwendolyn and so on. We have all wanted to rip our children’s heads off while also wanting to smother them because they are so perfect, so cute and so wonderful.

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We have sat in the car in a parking lot, huddled in the shower and hidden behind the bathroom door because we just couldn’t anymore. And we know that there are parts of parenting that should be really easy, like the pb&j sandwiches, the dishes and the wiping of noses, but that doesn’t really matter because we are at the end of our rope.

We know that it isn’t exactly what the task entails. It’s knowing that we don’t always know what we are doing. It’s knowing that our kids need more of us than we have to give. 

So, no, a mother going out for brunch entirely by herself doesn’t sound particularly scandalous. Neither does a mom who takes leftover nachos and coffee to bed with her while her children make their own damn breakfasts. Or a mom hands the reigns over to her husband for a night while she blows off some steam with a friend. 

It might not seem like much at first, but a mom who values herself and who values the worthy effort she puts in for her family is an immeasurable thing. And it takes some of us a little while to get there.

These are such seemingly small things, but they are the things that help us moms feel whole again. That help us feel like a person again.  That help us feel alive again. 

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So when Amy let her son finish his own school project, or slips into a black spaghetti strap dress, no, it might not have seemed as epic as the end of Saving Private Ryan or as mind blowing as The Matrix. 

But the moments when each of these moms realized that they could be good moms, while also being a complete person and even despite their flaws and shortcomings was a revelation for me. 

So go see Bad Moms. Ignore the reviews and decide for yourself. Go for the raunch, stay for the heartstrings and leave with a smile on your face. 

Tits up!!

About the election

Are you ready to pull your hair out yet??

Have you been ready to pull your hair out since…last year? Before the nation’s two largest political parties even had their nominees???

I know I have. 

It’s a fun thing, wondering when you unlock your phone in the morning if you’re going to be blood boiling pissed off by the time you get off of social media, or if you’ll just have to settle for being depressed. Or both. 

I’m going to have an aside with my fellow believers for just a moment, because I think that this is really, really important:

I have read so many social media posts, comments, articles and blog posts with the same redundant message: if christians vote for or side with candidate x, they aren’t true believers.

I have read those sentiments from people on both sides of the political aisle. I think that line of thinking probably frustrates me the most out of all this election hoopla.

Look, I get it.

As a christian (or anybody for that matter) you want to vote and do the “right” thing. But we can all probably agree that there are…issues with BOTH candidates, right?

I’m pretty sure that if you looked past the glossy veneer of either candidate, you will find deeply unpleasant truths about each of them without having to actually look all that hard.

In fact, I’m also certain that if you also looked at the history of our great nation, you will find that she has many black eyes and bruises, maybe even a festering wound or two that we always seem to collectively overlook.

But when you also look at her for what she is, for what she was created to do, how can you possibly be in denial that she’s…beautiful?

Because she is us.

Because we were made in God’s image, and all beautiful things, no matter their size, shape, color or creed come from the ultimate creator of beauty.

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But do you have a flag?

It gives me a lump in my throat when I think too long about it. I love my country, and I so very much want to see her do the right thing.

So what gives? 

What are we supposed to do when we literally can’t even? When we aren’t sure of what the right answer is?

Do we convince ourselves that if so and so wins, things can go back to the way they were, the way they are “supposed”to be. Is the best answe one that allows us simply to sleep a lot easier for the next four years? 

Is that all it takes to see God’s kingdom come on Earth as it is in heaven? To cast our vote behind the curtain?

Do we really believe that the fate of our nation hinges on one political election? Are we really at the darkest political precipice mankind has ever known?

Or did we start making the wrong choices a long time ago? Haven’t we been on this collision course since the garden of Eden, and since creation was…created?

See? So many uncomfortable questions that we really need to ask ourselves. And come on, if we are going to examine our political culture through the lens of Christianity, let’s take a moment and also examine ourselves a bit more. 

I don’t know about you, but for a while now…I have taken Jesus out the political equation. And it isn’t because I want to do what is politically expedient come election Tuesday in November. 

It’s because I honestly believe that you cannot distill enough of Jesus to make Him fit into one political party. 

There. I said it. 

You cannot put Jesus into the meat grinder and hope to mince up enough of him to put in your recipe for political perfection. He doesn’t work that way. And that is a very dangerous game.

We can say that Jesus would be on the “right” because He would be in favor of all of us understanding the virtue of hard work, of being good stewards of what we have. We can say that it’s because He’d favor the freedom to worship, and the strength of the body when the individual members are strong. We can say that because of a lot of reasons. 

We can say that Jesus would be on the “left” because He would be in favor of accepting all people to the table. We can say that it is because He would want us to give portions of our income to those who are less fortunate. We can say that it’s because He would want us to be compassionate above all. We can say that because of a lot of reasons.

We can say that all of those points are true, and yet, none of them are exactly the truth. Because the ultimate solutions have nothing to do with which side’s candidate wins.

Both sides want to use Jesus as a means to legislate, not evangelize. Both sides want to use Jesus as a means to win an election, not for outreach. 

Do we want to be a nation that on the surface does the “right” thing, but bears no actual fruit? Do we really believe that if an undesirable political candidate reaches the highest office in the land that that is the darkest hour we could ever imagine?

Or do we have actual faith that churns in our hearts even in the midst of difficulty and uncertainty?

In all actuality, the game of politics is one that is purely man made.

Christ can call be called down on both sides of this argument, by people who mean well. But we cannot legislate this way. Because we cannot turn hearts to Jesus this way.

The way we bring a lost nation back to Christ is by getting on our knees and prostrating ourselves before an almighty God. The way that we turn our people back to the thing that matters most is for those of us who claim to be part of the kingdom of heaven to take that command seriously, every day of every year, and not just during an election year. 

I’m not telling you which side to vote for. You must search that answer out for yourselves. 

But you must also remember that God is sovereign, and He is in control. He will allow to happen whatever it is that He allows. The wonderful, wonderful thing about the gospel is that its message is not just pertinent every four years. It’s here for us every day.

We STILL have a calling the other odd years that don’t have a major election cycle. 

 

It’s just time we started living like we did.