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Take heart

October 24th, 2017

“What’s this song about?”

It’s a question Tirzah Mae asks me a half dozen times a day.

It’s a question I love to answer because it forces me to listen to the music that’s on, forces me to articulate the message in simple terms.

But this time, the question discomposed me. We were in the car listening to a random “Christian” CD we’d borrowed from the library. A “Christian” CD that was basically the prosperity gospel set to music.

I blustered a bit. “Well, this song has bad theology. It’s saying that if we trust in Jesus, we won’t have any problems.”

And as the song promised believers would be “on top of the world” and as the singer ad libbed what sorts of things believers would be “on top” in (money, physical health, possessions, families, fame, more money, more possessions…) As the song pushed on with its false promises, I was reminded of – and told my daughter of – a true promise Jesus made:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
~John 16:33 (NIV)

I told my daughter that God promised that we would have hard times, but that those who believe in Jesus have Jesus to walk with them during the hard times on this earth – and that those who believe in Jesus have the promise that God will set everything right in the end.

And then I had to stop lest the tears obstruct my ability to drive.

But I kept thinking on the promise of God for a good long while. I was moved to worship the God who has overcome this world – even though all has not yet been put to right. And I was moved to pray for those pitiful souls who are clinging to a false promise of ease in this life and do not know the joy of trusting Christ for what HE has promised (and will surely bring to pass).

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
~1 Corinthians 5:19 (ESV)

Tirzah Mae’s question was a simple one – and one I didn’t really know how to answer – but the process of attempting to answer it turned what had been background noise (and theologically incorrect background noise at that!) into an opportunity to worship God and pray for the lost.

Take heart, dear believers, who feel on the bottom of the world – whether because of a job you hate, an income that doesn’t seem to make ends meet, relationships that are broken, health problems that seem insurmountable, or any other thing. Take heart, Christ has overcome the world.

And, if you have been placing your hope in this world – in the pursuit of fame and fortune and comfort and family or in any other thing – know this, those things will never satisfy. All the hope this world offers is hollow. Place your trust in Christ – he has overcome this world.

What we did over summer break

September 5th, 2017

As students stream back to school this fall, they’re getting busy writing the ubiquitous “what we did over summer break” essays.

And as the Garcias ease back into something of a routine (I’m hoping!), I too will be writing what we did over summer break.

It wasn’t intentional, this summer blogging break – but it wasn’t unintentional either.

With the Tetons in the background

We were busy this summer. We spent a week in Yellowstone National Park with my family at the beginning of July. We spent a week in Colorado with Daniel’s family at the beginning of August. And I jumped right into teaching Sunday School a couple days after we got back from Colorado. In the in-between-time, we packed and did home improvements and took a first aid/CPR class for foster care and cleaned and tried (fruitlessly, it seems) to keep up with the yard and garden. And I gestated. I’m still gestating – and hoping to be for several more months.

Reading it now, I can’t decide whether to be overwhelmed by what we’ve accomplished this summer or whether to feel like it isn’t that much now that I’ve got it on paper.

At the beginning of the Alpine Trail with Daniel's mom

But in the moment it felt like a lot. Flitting and flying, planning and packing and catching up from being gone.

There was barely enough time to process one trip before we left on the next – and I really want to process those trips and preserve those memories.

Which is why I plan a protracted narrative/photo essay here on bekahcubed, detailing just exactly what we did over our summer break.

A Tale of Three [First] Trimesters

May 30th, 2017

I was a working woman in my first first trimester. I remember being exhausted and nauseous. Daniel made me eggs and toast every morning and I dutifully choked them down before heading to work. I’d come home for lunch and eat mulberries straight from the tree – I’m so thankful we found that tree while my brother and sister-in-law were down helping us in the yard Memorial Day weekend three years ago when I was pregnant with Tirzah Mae. I generally did eventually go inside and eat leftovers or something – but the mulberries were what really sounded great. When I got home from work in the evening, I’d eat more mulberries and go inside to eat potato chips or Swiss Cake rolls or something else that required nothing more than opening a package and inserting food into my mouth. I was SO. INCREDIBLY. TIRED.

My second first trimester happened to coincide with Tirzah Mae starting to sleep through the night at last. I remember thinking how amazing it was that I had SO. MUCH. ENERGY. Not working outside the home was amazing. I had energy to cook – and cook I did. I was determined to have a successful home birth VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section), which meant keeping my midwife happy. So I dutifully consumed at least 100 grams of protein daily (just to keep my midwife happy – there is no evidence that increased protein intake actually prevents preeclampsia). I also consumed 7 servings of vegetables, 5 of fruits, and 3 of whole grains daily (since there is a correlation between high fiber intake and decreased risk of preeclampsia.) And I did 35 minutes of aerobic interval exercises six days a week. Plus 5 minutes of deep squats, 75 pelvic tilts, and 50 Kegels daily. And stretching. I was on top of my game. I didn’t realize until my energy level was suddenly increased when I entered the second trimester that the “amazing” energy I had during the first was probably more due to finally sleeping through the night rather than to some magical first trimester energy.

And then came my third first trimester.

Louis is NOT sleeping through the night. I do NOT have so much energy. Nor do I have any appetite. I force myself to eat breakfast and lunch because I have to make something for the kids anyway. I try in the evening, but more often than not I let Daniel feed himself and the kids while I retreat to my room with my phone for a few moments of alone time. I don’t have nausea – and I’m incredibly thankful for that. But I’m tired of going to the grocery store and spending far more than I’ve budgeted on something that sounded good while I was looking at it but that feels disgusting to me once I finally get it home. I’m tired of making a menu, purchasing what’s needed to make it, prepping a bit in advance, and then feeling like there is absolutely no way I could stomach even a bite when the time comes to actually cook it. And I’m tired of being tired by ten in the morning every single morning. I’m tired of dragging through each and every day.

I’m ready for this third first trimester to be over.

Thankfully, it should be soon.

[Then maybe Louis can start sleeping through the night too.]

On this women’s day

March 8th, 2017

Facebook tells me this is Women’s Day. My Feedly newsreader tells me it is the “Day without Women” – where women go on strike to demand recognition of their disenfranchisement.

On this Women’s Day, having just struggled over the question of “how do you divide chores in your household” in our foster care packet, I want to do the opposite of going on strike.

Because while some women may want to complain that their work is underpaid and underappreciated, I do not.

I have the gig I’ve always dreamed of.

My husband is gone from our home eight hours a day, working for his company. He enjoys his work, yes, but he also works because he’s our breadwinner. He trades forty hours a week for money. Money that we use to pay our mortgage, buy our food, keep the lights on and the heat or air conditioner running.

I’m at home. I read to our children, sing songs with them, dance about with them. I change their diapers, I feed them meals and snacks, I breastfeed them whenever I need to (without having to hook myself up to a pump.)

I’m at home. I make the meals, wash the dishes, sweep the floor (sometimes.) I rinse the diapers, wash the laundry, fold it and put it away. I organize and rearrange and decorate.

I buy or make clothes for our children. I mend the clothes that I or my husband or our children tear. I clothe the children in the morning.

This is what I’ve always wanted to do.

On this women’s day, I want women and men to receive equal pay for equal work. I want women to be valued in their workplaces.

But even more, I want women to have the freedom to make the choices I have.

My dream is that every mother would be married to a man who recognizes the value she provides in raising their children, who works hard to give her the option of staying at home should she desire that.

My dream is to live in a world where two incomes are an option, not a necessity – where value isn’t determined by how much money a person makes or how many possessions they have. My dream is that there’d be an end to the arms race of ever bigger houses and cars and vacations, where women could opt out without fearing their children would fall behind.

My dream is that every woman can do what they’ve always dreamed of, whether or not that includes making money.

And on this women’s day, I’m going to keep doing what I do every hour of every day. I’m going to keep doing this job I’ve always dreamed of.

Heavy heart, wordless petitions

March 2nd, 2015

My heart is heavy.

A classmate of Daniel’s (an acquaintance of mine) from high school got married just a little after we did, pregnant just a little after we did.

Their daughter was born early last month, went home with her parents, was readmitted to the hospital not long after, where she fought for her life.

Their daughter lost that fight.

My heart is heavy as I snuggle my infant daughter close. We had a tough start, but I never feared for her life. I can’t even imagine what Daniel’s classmate must be going through.

So with heavy heart, I pray mostly wordless petitions, entreating God for this grieving family.

Crazy Car Lady

January 7th, 2014

I was trying to figure out what the gal in the car in front of me was doing today.

My best guesses?

Either she was a cell-phone driver who communicates entirely by sign language
or she was a charismatic getting some prayer time in.

I’m not gonna judge. I’ve been known to do some pretty crazy things while driving.

Still, I really wish I knew what had her hands moving with such animated gestures.

Have you ever seen someone doing something unusual while driving and wondered what exactly they were up to? What’s the craziest thing you’ve done while driving?

Singing through life’s trials

November 3rd, 2013

In our preaching through Ephesians, our pastor preached today on the importance of singing from Ephesians 5:15-21.

He spoke of how our singing is directed in two directions: to others (addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs) and to God (singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.)

Daniel and I discussed the sermon on our way home, and I was reminded of the great grace of God in giving me a husband who sing to me with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. When I’m inconsolable and he doesn’t know what to say, oftentimes, he’ll just begin to sing:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”

I don’t always appreciate it in the moment. Sometimes I resent his focusing on God when I want him to be focusing on me. But once I stop, I thank God for a man who always sets the glory of God before my eyes–and who sings to me in (heretofore unwitting) obedience to Paul’s teaching.

Just now, I was blessed as I saw Barbara H’s post on new lyrics to “So Send I You.”

Barbara wasn’t physically singing to me, but she was as she recounted the story behind the hymn and how the hymn-writer rewrote her lyrics later in life.

The second verse of the new lyrics brought me such edification:

“So send I you-my strength to know in weakness,
My joy in grief, my perfect peace in pain,
To prove My power, My grace, My promised presence-
So send I you, eternal fruit to gain.”

We must acknowledge that our call involves weakness, grief, and pain. But we are not called to suffering for suffering’s sake. This pain is not the end result. I am sent not simply to be weak, but to know God’s strength in weakness. I am sent not simply to experience grief but to know God’s joy in grief. I am sent not to have pain, but to know God’s peace in pain. Ultimately, my suffering is that I may know Christ and that I may show Christ.

In which case, my suffering is worth it.

May I know Him and show Him still better with every passing day.

And thank you, Barbara, for singing truth today.

Legalize Hitmen

October 23rd, 2013

Because blogging something is better than blogging nothing, right?

I read this article today and was bowled over:

“Murder for hire is an uncomfortable subject, and I personally could never order a hit. The better course is to avoid unwanted marriage in the first place. Yet this is not a decision that anyone else can make for a woman. It is her marriage; only she can decide when it must end.”

You really should read the rest.

Thankful Thursday: Those who hold up my hands

September 12th, 2013

Thankful Thursday banner

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this has been one of the hardest weeks of my life. I don’t know that I’ve ever cried so much, for such a sustained amount of time, for no apparent reason.

This depression that has lingered for so long, which came to its breaking point this week, threatens to topple me.

I think of the song

“So I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe
If the One who gave it all
I’ll stand
My soul, Lord, to You abandoned
All I am is Yours”

My voice breaks with a sob. I cannot stand. It is too much for me.

Instead I sit, like Moses on a rock, while others hold my hands high-helping me to see and to savor the gospel.

This week I’m thankful…

…for Daniel
He has held more than just my arms this week. He held me up quite literally, when I was having persistent dizzy spells on Sunday. He has held me physically and emotionally, as I bawled before and after work each day. He has held me up in prayer, consistently lifting me up to the Father. And he has held Christ’s love before my eyes when I haven’t the strength to lift even my eyes to the Lord.

…for Megan
When I said that it had been a tough day on Tuesday and she commiserated and chatted with me. When she welcomed us into her home for Bible study, with a far better birthday treat for Daniel than I had the power to muster. When she sat beside me and put her arm around me, praying for me.

…for Bev
She listened to my tale of woe. She told me I was okay. She asked me about my time in the Word. She pestered me about seeing a doctor. She praised my resolution to get ten minutes of physical activity each day. She challenged me to look to Christ. She held up my hands and told me that this darkness is not forever, and that God has a purpose when I see no purpose.

…for Ruth
She texted me last night to invite me to a Bible study this evening. I told her she should pick me up so I couldn’t talk myself out of going. When I realized this afternoon that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the night, and messaged her to cry off, she probed deeper. She asked how she could help. She gave me a chance to change my mind. She showed up on my doorstep to make sure I was okay, to give me a hug, to remind me that she was here for me.

…for Shirley
I’m sure Shirley has no idea that she was an agent of grace tonight when I went out for my ten minute walk and she asked me if my husband still had his job. She reminded me of the things I have to be grateful for–that my husband still has his job after the recent rounds of layoffs at his plant, that I have a neighbor who is concerned about us. She reminded me to lift my petitions with thanksgiving, even when the petitions weigh so heavily.

These have, probably unknowingly, been pillars beneath my hands, holding them up to the Lord–effecting victory (however small it seems so far) in the woman below.

“But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”
~Exodus 17:12 (ESV)

But most of all, I am thankful to my God, who sustains me.

“I give thanks to my God always … because of the grace of God that was given [me] in Christ Jesus, that in every way [I have been] enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge…so that [I am] not lacking in any gift, as [I] wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain [me] to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom [I was] called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
~1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (ESV)

Rabbit Trails and Fertility Data

June 5th, 2013

One of the many reasons I love my husband…

When I assert that I doubt white fertility rates reach replacement level anywhere in the developing world, he challenges me to a race to determine if this is true in the US.

For those of you uncertain about the concept of “replacement rate”, this is the number of children a woman would have to have to keep the population stable. In most developed countries, this rate is about 2.1

Daniel beat me (finding this CDC dataset), but the challenge led us to making an excel spreadsheet to evaluate which states, if any, were reaching the replacement rate (irrespective of race).

Our results showed that nine states and four US territories have fertility levels at or above the replacement rate.

Oklahoma came in closest to the replacement rate, with 2.105 children born for every woman of childbearing age. Nebraska, Hawaii, Kansas, and Texas were next up, with approximately 2.15 children born for every woman. Idahoan and South Dakotan women had about 2.25 children each; while Alaskan women have 2.35 children each. Utah tops the count, with 2.45 children per woman.

I don’t find this information particularly surprising. In general, states that exceed the replacement rate are conservative, Bible-belt or Mormon states with a heavy emphasis on “family values”.

More interesting to me was the knowledge that Northern Marianas, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa have very high fertility rates. In fact, the last three on the list have the highest fertility rates in America, ranging from 2.49 to 3.11.

Why is this, I wonder? Could this be evidence supporting my assertion that developed countries tend to have fertility levels below replacement rate while developing countries (and maybe developing territories too?) have fertility rates above the replacement rate? Could this support my assertion that white fertility rates (especially in developed countries) are less likely to reach replacement rate than those of other races and ethnicities?

I’m just going to have to see if I can find some kind of data on the fertility rates of different nations around the globe.

Well, wouldn’t you know…the CIA keeps record of such things and the
CIA list of fertility rates can be found on Wikipedia.

Of the 34 countries listed by the CIA as “developed countries”, only four meet the replacement rate: Israel (2.67), Faroe Islands (2.4), South Africa (2.28) and Turkey (2.13). Of these, South Africa’s black peoples exceed the replacement rate, while their white peoples have a total fertility rate of only 1.4-1.8 (per table A3 in this report from Statistics South Africa). Both Israel and Turkey are difficult to classify racially, since their residents often have white-toned skin but claim a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Only the Faroe Islands is undeniably white.

Additionally, of the 117 nations listed in the CIA Factbook as having fertility rates of above the replacement rate for developed nations (note that replacement rate is higher in less developed countries where mortality is higher), only four can potentially be called “White”. Three of the four are from the “developed country” list: the aforementioned Israel (2.67) Faroe Islands (2.4), and Turkey (2.13). Kazakhstan (2.41) is a newcomer to the mix, being composed primarily of Turkish ethnicities but with a substantial population that could be called “white”.

So my original claim (that I doubt there are any countries in the developing world where white fertility rates reach the replacement rate) is not true. The Faroe Islands almost certainly has white fertility rates above the replacement rate.

On the other hand, my underlying premise does appear to be true. Overwhelmingly, the developed world has fertility rates below the replacement rate–and primarily white nations are exceedingly unlikely to have fertility rates above the replacement rate.

So there you have it. Rabbit trails I’ve taken tracking fertility data.

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