truth

On 2017

If I had to sum up 2017 in two words, the words that instantly come to mind are “Stewardship” and “Blessings.”

When I look back on this year, I cannot stop thinking, “There is simply no reason in all the world that I deserve what I have received.” Grace and mercy do not even begin to describe what the Lord has given us.

This time last year, Massimo and I stood together, arms over each other’s shoulders, looking ahead to the great grey abyss. We saw everything and nothing. We imagined what may lie beyond the fog, and feared for it and longed for it: the great mystery of the unknown. And we held each close and looked each other in the eye and said, “Let’s go.” We cannot do anything on our own, great or hard. We nodded to the Father and said, “Okay. What is there?”

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Eph. 3:20-21

2016 was a year of preparation. We grew and learned and planned for what would come next. It was not a wasted year by any means, but a year of little change and uncertainty in our own lives, while we saved and dreamed of 2017.

When 2017 started with a positive pregnancy test, we knew it would be a different sort of year. Blissfully overjoyed, we attempted to ignore the ever-mounting list of things over which we had no control, but needed figured out.

Would this baby be healthy?

How are we going to pay for health care?

How will we care for this baby?

Will I work? Will Massimo? How much time can we take for maternity and paternity leave?

What car will we drive?

Where will we live?

When will Massimo start his guitar business?

How on earth will we afford all of this?

After all the questions, came blessing after blessing. Maternity leave was determined with my ever-gracious boss. Health care was covered for the baby and I. I was perfectly healthy throughout the pregnancy, and for 75% of the time time, the baby was, too. A car was found and purchased. Our landlord allowed us to have a month-to-month lease as we searched for a house. And, last month, we shockingly moved into our very first home. (It is really, truly our’s and we can’t believe it.)

We even got cherries on top of it all. In May we learned my dear cousin and best friend was expecting her first child. Another dear friend from church welcomed her fourth child the same month, and my brother and sister in law not only had their first child, but came up to the United States for six months to let us enjoy their presence!

Despite all our many, many blessings, there were still ever-present uncertainties. Months where we didn’t know where the money would come from. Shocking news when we learned our unborn baby was not growing well and we would have to keep an extra-close eye on him. Having to pay out of our savings for an unexpected tax bill. Searching and wishing for the perfect house, but facing fruitless searches time after time.

Which is why the other word for 2017 is stewardship. Not a very popular topic, I know. It is not one we throw around often. “I hope you have a very healthy new year, and can be good stewards of your blessings!” No exactly.

But it was a theme we continued to return to time after time. When things got tight – time, money, emotions – we pledged that we would be ever-diligent in our stewardship over these resources. When resources are abundant, we are cursed with not considering that they are truly in limited supply. It is a gift to be required to consider the value of what we are using. We knew our needs, and we continuously asked God to direct our resources to meet our needs.

The good thing is, when there is little and his has to stretch far, you are forced to ask God where to put it and to make a feast out of a few loaves of bread and fish. Somehow, miraculously, truly, Massimo worked full-time all year. We went on a trip to Vermont to celebrate four amazing years of marriage. We spent days and weekends with our families and friends around camp fires, swimming pools, feasts, and birthday cakes. Massimo finished his second guitar. We bought a house and still have an emergency savings account. Despite the failure in our health insurance system leading to Massimo not having health insurance all year, his body was protected and he did not need it. We had full bellies and bursting closets and our tanks are on FULL.

I will end my reflection on this year with a small illustration of the themes of this year. Early in my pregnancy, before I even went to the doctor, the Lord revealed to me to be a good steward and celebrate the blessing of the small person presumably growing inside me. Early in a pregnancy, one is all-to aware of the high risk of miscarriage, and fears the worst. Most women even delay telling anyone about her pregnancy because there is such a high risk that it will end tragically.

While wrestling these fears, God revealed to me that there was no use in worrying, and that by pinning my hopes on passing a certain week of gestation without bad news, I would only be disappointed. He told me that even if my baby did not survive, I should celebrate its life now, while he or she is alive. That may be, after all, all I have with this unborn child. This lesson – to celebrate blessings in the moment and cast cares to another day – became even more valuable when, months later, we learned we had a high risk of losing our unborn child, despite being well past the first trimester “danger zone.”

Thanks to God working on my heart and gracefully teaching me a lesson I would need ever more months later, I was able to look over my pregnancy as a steward- a mother to this unborn baby despite the lack of control and uncertainty. Being a steward means caring for what you have for the benefit of someone else – in my case, our Heavenly Father. It doesn’t mean you have complete control over it; all it means is that you have to do the best with what you have, and leave it up to God to honor your obedience. Not does it mean everything will work out sunshine and roses. Obedience is, after all, a reward in and of itself.

D.E. Barbi Bee

 

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15 answers for 15 weeks

  1. I am due in September.
  2. I am actually seeing it as a positive that I will “have to make it through the summer.” I have fewer pregnancy clothes to buy, won’t have to lace shoes or even put on socks. I will wear dresses and flats, and live in either air conditioning or the pool. #winningallday
  3. I am now in my second trimester, but had an extremely easy first. I never got sick, dealt with a few weeks of exhaustion and mild nausea if I didn’t put some food in my mouth every couple of hours, and that was it. I got my energy back well before my second trimester started and had such an easy pregnancy, and I was pretty shocked when the doctor actually found a kid in my belly!
  4. I feel amazing. Every once in a while, I get worried or anxious. I had bad heartburn for a few days that is now under control. I literally cannot tell you how easy this has been so far and how insanely thankful we are for that. No trips to the emergency room, no special instructions. Just a boring,  easy pregnancy. Thank you, Lord!
  5. It doesn’t matter if it was “planned,” does it?
  6. We don’t know the baby’s sex.
  7. We won’t find out until it is born.
  8. We don’t think we are stronger or better or have more will power than those that do find out. We want to be surprised for ourselves.
  9. The nursery does not have a color because there is no nursery. We do not know where we will be living when the baby arrives, and if it is our current home the bassinet will hopefully fit in the corner.
  10. We will both return to work outside the home after the baby is born.
  11. We are extremely grateful to be surrounded by supportive family, all of whom are fighting over how much free babysitting they will be allowed to provide. We are overwhelmed by love and support!
  12. We do have names picked out. Ask next time I see you and I will be happy to share.
  13. I do not know how this baby will be fed, but it will be fed.
  14. We accept all offers of free baby supplies. Between my brother’s baby, our home, my parents’, and my in-laws, I can almost guarantee every item will be well-used and appreciated! And we promise to pass along any extras to others in need.
  15. We are super excited and blessed. Massimo is already an amazing father and takes care of me and loves us like crazy. We are enjoying every day left before we have a child to tote around, but also greatly looking forward to meeting this little person. #humblebragpro

-D. E. Barbi Bee

Social Media Shade

SPOTTED: Tina and Joe are on the razor-edge of a break up and I have all the scoop. What happened, you ask? How do I know, you ask? Because of Social Media Shade. Her passive-aggressive posts and his social media purge reveal everything they are trying not to look like they are trying to reveal. It is going DOWN. It used to be that if you wanted to shade someone, you had to show up at the soda shoppe with their best friend or a Letterman jacket. Not today: you can do it with the click of button! Here’s how I (and, let’s face it, everyone) can tell:

1. Shady quote posts about how love will let you rise again after you heal.

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Guys, this isn’t about me, you know, this is just, a general inspirational quote that I happened to find (wasn’t searching for) and is applicable at any time, and not just after a break-up/getting fired/getting in a fight with ANYONE.

2. Low-ball “My life is complete” photos, usually captioned about all the wonderful people in your life (and definitely NOT captioned: “Not pictured: A Snake.”).

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See?! See how freaking totally happy I am and how I have to many friends and go out all the time? See? Also, I am hot…. so….

3. Just clearing your social media of the person.

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This one takes so much time and work (scrolling through Insta? Hello!) but some people have the motivation.

4. The subtle details.

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Changes in: relationship status (it disappears entirely, usually), profile picture, removing all personal details (even job/school/location) so as to disguise removing the relationship status. It takes more detective work, but it can be spotted.

5. Dramatic shift in tone and interests.

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Another sly one. See, you can’t just stop posting on social media – people would think you died! Instead, you attempt to drown out your prior posts about the person or job you are breaking up with and flood your accounts with new content: I’m journaling/hiking/biking/wine tasting, and now you forgot all about that thing I’m no longer mentioning. Also usually included: posts about self-reflection and becoming a new person, doing new things.

To the woman next door

To the woman next door:

I don’t know your name; that I should be ashamed of. When my husband, Massimo, called 9-1-1 they asked, and he couldn’t say. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.

When we heard him yelling at 1:30 am, it woke us all up. Massimo with a startle. He didn’t know what was wrong, but his body knew and he was up and dressing before I even realized the yelling wasn’t in my head.

Just so you know, when we heard banging, and suspected he was throwing you around, he wanted to come over immediately. So did Massimo’s best friend, an Army sergeant who happened to be spending the night.

They both wanted to go over there and make sure you were alive, make him stop hurting you. They feared to go because the culture today is that if you step in, you can get in just as much trouble as the instigator. They talked about how horrible that culture is: it’s not like back in the day when you could do lend a hand when your neighbor was getting beat up by her boyfriend at two in the morning.

I wonder what you would have wanted, and I hope we find out some day.

Just so you know, we all listened in silence in the thirteen minutes it took for the police to arrive. We listened for your voice, to make sure the worst did not already happen. It took an eternity for them to arrive. I prayed you were okay.

When they finally finished questioning the clearly drunk man you choose to live with, I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what you told the other officer who was talking to you, but I hope you told the truth.

I want you to know three very important things I cannot get out of head since last night:

  1. We do not judge you one bit for being with him. I cannot begin to imagine how hard it must be to watch someone you love do something like that. I have no idea how hard it would be to walk away, and I can’t possibly judge your choice to be with him in the first place, let alone stay with him. I hope that no matter what, you find healing and peace, the kind that can only come from our Heavenly Father.
  2. Not all men are like him. I tell you this because I have no idea what any other men in your life are like, but just in case you have a poor sample, I want you to know with one hundred percent certainty that there are great men out there that would literally never so much as raise their voice to you. Two of them wanted to go and help you that very night.
  3. I’m really, truly sorry for what happened. I was comfortably asleep when the conflict started; for all I know it has been the same one going on for years. I don’t know how you got where you are, but I really hope you in no way blame yourself. You are a beautiful daughter of the Most High King, worthy and loved; it breaks his heart when you hurt, in any way, and You. Do. Not. Deserve. This.

Finally, please forgive me if I did or said anything wrong. I again am sorry I don’t know your name. I hope we can talk soon.

 

-D. E. Barbi Bee

 

10 Lies TV Tells Us

6b1683288c8111e19e4a12313813ffc0_7There are certain things about television reality that I can accept, like that nothing ever happens unless it’s moving the story forward (no one goes to the bathroom, has a conversation, or eats unless it’s a scene), or that sidekicks never have ANYTHING going on in their own lives, and are just available for coffee. Also, when you imagine your memories, it’s always from a third-person perspective.

However, there are so many things about television I just refuse to accept as reality. And I cannot understand why the most educated, informed, technologically advanced, wealthiest, and most cultured generation in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD cannot make a television show that does not perpetrate these down-right falsities. I just want a great new show that I can believe, okay people? Just make that show. And put it on Netflix. Right away.

Now, to be fair, not all shows advance all of these distortions of reality. But many do, and some worse than others. The important thing, I think, is to be aware of them. The Bible is very clear that lies are from The Evil One, but that God always tells the “Capital-T” Truth. So take a gander at this list I’ve compiled and let me know if I missed any big ones. And please do not accept these lies that entertainment tells us.

1. Marriage

Marriage is a death sentence in television. Marriage is something that you stumble into in a season finale because the actor decided to come back next year. Gone are the Huxtables of yesteryear. Now it’s all about lazy husbands, nagging wives, screaming children, and trying to avoid the inevitable affair (either physical or emotional). Women have to trick men into marrying them, sometimes by pretending to be pregnant. And men totally lose their manhood when they put a ring on it.

Married people on TV are more afraid of “losing themselves” than anything else in the world, and often it seems like the spouses are in a competition to be the most selfish they can possibly be before the other one loses it. And married people are always keeping secrets from each other! Big life-altering things or small “I bought this on an impulse” things – they never tell each other anything. Also married people never have sex and they complain about it all the time, because sex is as important as air or water – it’s essential to life.

2. High School

In what world does high school take place essentially outside, and it’s always sunny and a  breezy 67 degrees? Also, your locker is always next to your best friend,  everyone looks 25, and there’s no dress code? Answer: every movie and television show ever. High school was a huge disappointment when I realized all our hallways were enclosed structures and we had only 3 minutes between classes.

3. College

If college in real life is like it is on TV, then I don’t know why anyone doesn’t go! All they do is hang out with their friends, it’s gorgeous weather all the time, no one cares how much money it is to be there, and classes only happen as an excuse for people to leave a scene. Also it’s all about the Greeks. My college didn’t even have a Greek system. Also it was a dry campus. I basically didn’t go to college.

4. Money

How do these people afford to eat out so much? I mean, seriously!? And in the Great Recession, I’m sure I’m not the only one who got tired of watching yet another great meal out at a restaurant. Why do you have such a nice kitchen if you eat out for every meal?!! If I had those counters and that dishwasher, I would be all up in that space, making whatever for all the meals of all the days.

Also, surprise! We’re going on a flight right now for a very important purpose that could also be accomplished over the phone because I have so much cash available that I can just fly to Italy. And have zero consequences at my job or home. The dog is fed for the next two weeks. Basically, everyone on TV has an endless pile of money they can just access no problem.

5. Sex

I recently saw this article on Relevant Magazine about 3 Lies Entertainment Tells You About Sex, and they really got it right. But there are even more lies about sex that entertainment tells you, that I can’t even start. Just, every time there is anything said or done about sex, sexuality, porn, stripping, or anything else sex-related, just assume it’s false, cause it is.

6. Gender Roles

Women like shopping, champagne, getting their nails done, and handbags so expensive, they could be mortgaged. They only care about how much men like them, how much money they give them, and men won’t do anything unless she tricks him into doing it. Women are in charge of everything, but have to make men feel like they did something good.

Men are valued for their ability to bring home a paycheck. They like beer, sports, vehicles, noise, and guns. Men are basically animals. They can barely function unless it’s to impress a woman. But boy, do they feel good when they win at something. Women don’t get so distracted by that childish competitive stuff, unless it’s competing against other women: in that sport, we all want the secret gold medal.

7. Hair, makeup, and clothing

Bear with me on this one; I took film classes in college. People on television always dress according to their character, which is fine (I understand the importance of visual cues). What I cannot understand are down-right lies, like women waking up with perfect hair and makeup and the “totally inappropriate for the work-place but somehow they can wear that in the officeoutfits. Also, I hate how women’s clothing is often so tight that when they get pregnant and it has to be hidden on the show then it’s a huge ordeal from month 2 and she has to wear parkas and oversize accessories. (Except for Leslie Knope. She’s the bomb.)

Now in all fairness, there are some people in real life who do look that good, but most of us don’t. And none of hang out in jeans; as soon as I get home it’s all about the comfy pants. (Thank you Liz Lemon for showing me I’m not the only one.)

8. Music

When I went to India four years ago, it was my first time being in a foreign country. Before that my only exposure to foreign anything was either in movies or stories from friends. So, naturally, when I was riding in the back of a taxi to Panaji to go shopping, I half-expected there to be some light Indian-style dance jam in the background of my fun shopping/travel montage, a la Mary-Kate and Ashley. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I just heard conversations and honking horns. And that was actually better.

9. Babies

What is the deal with everyone being all about the pregnant lady on the show, but as soon as that baby comes out, it just disappears, and the mom and dad are available for everything they used to do just like they used to. Nothing’s changed and she’s back in her old clothes! And there are no food stains on anyone’s clothes. Oh, television, you crack me up.

10. Legal Practice All Jobs

Everyone on TV is paid plenty, no matter what his or her job. They also have tons of time to take naps, get home for dinner, or have long conversations with friends about personal matters. I know that no job is accurately portrayed on television because I’m going to be a lawyer (hopefully) in a year and I’ve been in law offices for years. I know that lawyers do not run to court every ten minutes, solve a case in a week, and the perp doesn’t confess every time! Lawyers on TV never read, do research, write, or have bad client meetings. They are always running from place to place and having productive  meetings. No wonder they’re so thin! Yeah, that’s not real life. Also no one’s office is that clean. Ever.

Did I miss any big ones? How much do these lies bug you? Which ones bother you the most?

-debarbibee