Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Pastor's Prayer

Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’” 
Isaiah 6:8 NLT

Five years ago, I was introduced into the world of disability ministry through Joni and Friends. Although I had been in full-time vocational ministry since 1997, I admit that I was nervous, confused, and even wondered if God might have made a mistake. Since then, I have been privileged to gain so many friends across the country who are affected by disability and who serve people affected by disability. Having just returned home from Family Retreat, the prayer below is what God has shown me and continues to show me over the years. May my prayer provide blessing and encouragement to you.

Dear Lord,

Help me to see the world through Your eyes.

Help me to live with compassion and grace, treating others as You treat me.

Teach me Your Word and provide insight to Your truth.

May I see all people as created in Your image without exception.

Lord, help me to make space for peoples’ abilities, rather than build obstacles for their disabilities.

I confess that I get busy, tired, exhausted and impatient…and then treat people poorly.

May I surrender to Your strength and rest in Your presence every day.

Lord, my head understands that we all are affected by disability due to sin, but I confess that my heart does not always respond accordingly.

Teach me how to love people Your way, to include people Your way and to serve people Your way.

Keep my heart tender and open – available to love, learn, and lead as Jesus did.

Thank You, Lord, for introducing me to disability ministry…my life will never be the same.

Amen!

Lord God, I am so blessed to serve and befriend people affected by disability. Thank You for calling me into this area of ministry. My life has truly never been the same and I am transformed daily. I pray that You would continue to draw more pastors into the world of disability, not merely as spectators, but as active participants creating space for people affected to fully belong. Strengthen, encourage, and equip each one of us as we continue to simply say “here I am, send me.” Amen!
~ Mike

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Camp for Families and Kids with Special Needs

For I am about to do something new… 
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. 
Isaiah 43:16,19 NLT 

I was 8 years old when my mom and dad let me go to Summer Church Camp. I still vividly remember falling to my knees with my camp counselor and asking Jesus to come in and fill my heart. Summer Church Camp continued to make an immense impact in my journey as a Christ follower.

Our other children also enjoyed camp, youth retreats, and mission trips -- all except our last child, Bethany. Bethany just turned 17 and has Down Syndrome. What was an adventure and growing opportunity for our other children, didn’t work for with Bethany's special needs and maturity level.

But God doesn't make our lives out of a spiritual cookie cutter! He is a God of new beginnings, new ways, new paths, new solutions -- if I will just let go of the past and look for how He is guiding. He makes a way when there seems to be no way.

Oftentimes, parenting a child with special needs can feel isolating, lonely, and similar to a “wilderness” or "desert place". While everyone seems to be enjoying “normal” summer vacations and camps, we search/pray/wish for something that will work for our children. Something where they can flourish, be confident and comfortable, and be accepted just as God created them.

How does a parent of a child with special needs provide a glorious summer time experience that is common to most typical kids?  
I’ve looked into Camps for kids with special needs, and while they look amazing, Bethany hasn’t really been around lots of kids with special needs and has never spent more than 2 nights at a time away from us. I’ve contemplated sending her to a typical Christian camp but realized she would either need someone to help keep her up to speed or I would need to go and be her counselor.

This year, a wonderful opportunity presented itself in the “medium” Bethany is most accustomed to: A Christian Family Inter-generational Camp.

We just got back from a Christian Family Camp and I have to encourage you to check out this option if you’re nervous or if they're nervous to go to camp alone. (Just google it and you'll be amazed how many places are offering a camp experience for the whole family!)

The absolute beauty was this: Bethany got to experience camp but in the context of her comfort zone -- Family.
3 Reasons Christian Family Camp Worked For Us 


  1. Family Support  - While developing community and common experiences with other families, Bethany was surrounded by 4 nieces, a nephew, a sister, a brother-in-love, and her parents! This camp was open to any conglomeration of family; blended family, grandparents, single parents, cousins and any combination. Family was the starting point, the launch pad, and the end place of camp. (But the flip side was our family wasn't in charge of orchestrating the fun, the food, or the fellowship times!) The games, devotions, crafts, swimming, archery, horse back riding, and obstacle course were the commonality that was shared by the whole community.                             
  2. Structured/Unstructured - The days and evenings were structured with plenty of personal space intermixed and all activities were optional and scheduled by the individual family. Bethany, Cadence and I took a 2 hour nap Saturday afternoon (which met our needs), while Sarah, Finley, Jeff, and Cohen did the obstacle course and archery. We all met up later to swim before dinner. The camp directors provided an hour of activities for all the kids while there was a time of encouragement and respite for the parents/grandparents.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  3. Warm and Accepting Community - We didn’t have to worry about behavior or oddity or not fitting in. Everyone was friendly -- each family was different. There were crying children, clingy children, whiny children, uncooperative children. Everyone just took it in stride. I reveled in the relaxing, accepting attitude. There were no dirty looks or snide comments, just warm community.
sign at our camp!
I know that Family Camp isn't for everyone. Some parents enjoy the respite and the break it provides when their child is at camp, knowing their child is well cared for and having fun! 

Other parents feel camp is a rite of passage and another step into independence.  

While this is true, the point is that God can and will make a way for each of our children. One that fits their needs and ours.  

I'm thankful our daughter, Sarah, found this family camp and invited us to join in with their family. It was the perfect answer for our family and Bethany this summer.  

Be encouraged, even if you can't do the exact same experiences for your children with special needs, God will make a way -- create a path in the wilderness for you and your child. I'm learning to keep my eyes and heart open to new things He might want to do in our lives, while letting go of what worked in the past.  

Prayer: Wonderful Way-Maker, You are a God of making a way when there seems to be no way. You delight in bringing water to the desert places of our lives. I pray that we would seek you to open up ways for our children to experience You and enjoy life. Thank you for Your care and creativity in our lives. In Jesus Name Amen. 

Cindy Barclay

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

beyond the front door


“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”
Psalm 127:3-5 (NASB) 

The choice is hard, sometimes very hard.
   
Satan wants to weigh in on the choice.

Culture wants to weigh in on the choice.

The flesh wants to weigh in on the choice.

All three want to mess up the choice, they want their say, and drown out God’s voice.

All three throw up barriers – no place to change her, lack of accommodations, lack of accessibility, lack of compassion, lack of assistance, lack of understanding, just plain old fear.

Do I take my special needs child out in public? Or do I keep girlie at home?

The older she gets, the harder the decision becomes. Depends on the day, depends on the circumstances, depends on her mood, and depends on the emotional state of mom.

But, do I let my enemies have a say in the matter? 

No, I really shouldn’t. 

Just NO

Psalm 127 says she is a gift from God, of whom I should not be ashamed. Scripture does not say if she is physically perfect, if she can walk, if she can talk, if she can communicate, if she has good behavior. Psalm 139 tells me my daughter is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God.

Scripture says she is a gift, that is all, plain and simple.

She is valuable to God, she is valuable to her family, and she has value and importance as a member of society – she is different but differences are important to be SEEN not HIDDEN.

Do I hide the gift that God has given my family?

 NO

She deserves the chance to interact with others, to people watch (one of her favorite things), to talk and sing in her special voice to others, and to enjoy riding in the car (another favorite) with her family in the seat between her brothers who love her and hold her hands.

Oh, but I need the courage to go out with girlie some days.

The fear sets in – wonder who that is from? You guessed it, an enemy.

The heart flutters set in – wonder who that is from? You guessed it, an enemy. 

God made my personality as someone who does not like to be in the public eye. I don’t like people looking at me, wondering about my family, wondering about my child. I would much rather be under the bench, behind the tree, behind the curtain.

God is doing a work in my heart in this area - because GIRLIE SHOULD NOT BE HIDDEN.

Oh my. Just keep breathing. Keep being brave.

Please pray with me:

God, I need your courage, and I need your bravery, and I need You so that I can keep taking my child in public and not run from the hard places. I so want to run, Lord. Please help me remember that you have not given me a spirit of fear, and that I should never be ashamed of my beautiful and amazing daughter.  Also, Lord, please help me give grace to those around me in public who may not at all understand this journey. 

Amen.

Monday, July 17, 2017

When nothing goes to plan

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see— how good God is. 
Blessed are you who run to him.
(Psalm 34:8, MSG) 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 
(Lamentations 3:22,23, NIV)

It’s been another tough day. Nothing has gone to plan – not even sure I’ve actually had space and energy to formulate a plan! My to-do-list has had no ticks, I feel I have been reacting to demands and problems left, right, and centre, unable to move things on to a more constructive, purposeful, harmonious way of being together. Family time doesn’t always feel Instagram pretty, Pinterest fascinating, or Twitter newsworthy – some days I can feel as though we must be the only family that feels that way… We do family life in our own way, with our own eccentricities, limitations - and strengths.


I am trying to reflect, and recognize the blessings hidden like gems in the midst of our day. The Bible tells me God is good, God is faithful, God pours out blessings – my head knows it. Yet some days I need to sit and count them as I run to him for strength and renewed energy. As my lamentations are poured out, becoming aware of the blessings of my good God turns my heart back to trust and renewed faith. I am reminded, through those tangible gems that God is my safe refuge and that he will not let me down.

So, the beginning of my list of the blessings of today: 
(And as I reflect I'm humming 'King of my heart' to myself for encouragement!)
  • A butterfly by my feet
  • A hearty giggle between siblings
  • The smell of food cooking
  • Blackberries in the freezer, like jewels
  • Beetles camouflaged amongst the seeds of a wildflower
  • A phone call with Mum
  • Walking through an avenue of trees
  • A curly haired dog on a walk in the park
  • Conversations with people out & about in the community
  • Pancake breakfast
  • Teamwork – I’m not doing it all alone
  • Music … 

What’s on your list today?
How has God gently shown you his goodness, 
his compassion, his faithfulness today?

Father, bring to mind the moments where you hid your blessings in plain sight for me today. Open my heart to see them, taste them, hold and treasure them and know that you are good and faithful, my refuge and strength. Thank you Father. Amen

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Only Elohim ~ #SacredSunday

Our summer delight rises to an entirely new level of awe when we reflect on the fact that the beautiful skies, gentle breezes, and whimsical waves all come from God's hand. Elohim, "the strong one," Sovereign and Mighty, is the sole Creator of all this wonder. And we are blessed to be able to enjoy it all. What a generous God! What a sweet Savior! 
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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Second Look Saturday - 6

Summer -- The source of so many happy plans and photos. It's meant to be a carefree time where we take life a bit easier and spend our days with the people and things we love.

Yet, Mike Dobes' post "Summer Plans With a Twist" reminded me that this can be a melancholy time for so many of us. Whether it's the family separation encountered by divorce or the disappointment of the season not turning out quite the way we had planned, Mike has some sage advice.
"Be encouraged that no matter what your summer might look like, God has plans for it. He is sovereign, He is for you and He desires to invest wholeheartedly into the life of you and your family."
That is such needed reassurance that we can too easily forget!

Is your summer painful? Our God is a redemptive God. He can help you formulate a new strategy to lift your spirits for the days ahead.

Reflection Questions:

  • How much are you trusting God with the life of your child?
  • What do you cherish about your family time together?
  • Are you investing in your marriage or other significant relationships in spite of difficulties?
~ Barb Dittrich

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fist-Clenching, Tongue-Biting Patience

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 
Galatians 5:22-25, NIV

My friends and family know the truth. They've seen me at my best, and they have certainly seen me at my worst. They are fully aware of those days when I only look patient on the outside. But on the inside, my teeth are grinding, my fingers are clenched, and I am wishing I wasn't quite so frustrated by the circumstances happening in my life. I wish and I pray to have the patience that people think I have already mastered. But to be honest, brutally honest, sometimes, patience is hard to come by. I feel a like a piece of fruit that looks tasty on the outside, but is rotten and moldy on the inside.

Moms of children with special needs aren't supposed to admit that we don't always feel patient with our littles. Because if we did, it is somehow offensive to those not walking in our shoes. Sadly, I cannot always laugh it off when thing go wrong, when chocolate sauce is intentionally poured on the brand new IKEA sofa or when the plumbing is broken and the toilet is exploding... again. Perhaps I look patient on the outside, but I don't always feel it on the inside. Especially when I am wandering through the labyrinth of insurance and co-insurance and referrals and pre-authorizations, and especially when I can't arrange treatments in a timely manner. Sometimes, my patience with hospitals or doctors offices or therapies is stretched beyond belief. Sometimes, the lack of sleep rubs my patience raw and it isn't a reflection on anyone but myself. Patience does not come naturally, nor can we will it into action. We cannot force ourselves to be more patient any more than we can force delicious fruit to grow and ripen. Only the sun can do that. Sometimes, I fear that the more I pray for patience, the more I will have to practice it. And practicing patience is much too hard. Patience is simply not our nature.

The Bible speaks to our nature in Galatians 5, when it talks about our sin nature - our natural bent towards being impatient, and selfish, and a whole bunch of other less-than-wonderful and sinful things. But we aren't stuck in this sin nature, because Christ died and rose again, and when He did, He gave us a new, grace nature. This new grace nature doesn't take hold overnight, but is a process of growth. Through the process, our old nature is at war with the new. The new nature makes us want to be more patient, more kind, more good, but our old nature wants us to do everything for ourselves, to have it our way, right now. But there is a cure for the war between our old nature and our new nature.

The only way we are really going to become more patient, more kind, more good, more loving, is to lean into the Holy Spirit. To pray - not just for patience - but for the Spirit's filling in our lives, for the Spirit's hope in our lives, and for the Spirit's power to live our lives to the fullest capacity, and to grow pleasing, enjoyable fruit. It is by drawing closer to God that we grow in our new, grace nature. The only way we can be more patient is not to scold ourselves for our impatience, but to draw more deeply from the river of life - that is, the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We don't have to grit our teeth and clench the steering wheel in rush hour traffic, hoping to feel better about our lack of patience. We need to draw from the Spirit, to get to know the One who is always patient with us. The more time we spend with Him, the more like Him we become, and the more precious, beautiful fruit we will bear. And I especially, need to be more like Him.

Dear God,

Thank You for being so patient with me. Please forgive me for the times when I have not shown patience and kindness, or love. God, please fill me with Your Spirit, help me to lean upon Your strength, and make me more like You, especially when I need to show patience each and every day.

Amen.

Amanda Furbeck

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My Do-Gooderness is Put to theTest

Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo
 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 
Acts 17:24-30, NIV

I was at Lifest this past weekend, a Christian music festival in Oshkosh, WI. On Saturday night we were blessed to have the opportunity to worship with the band Tenth Avenue North, and, as always, the lead singer, Mike Donehey, spoke directly to my heart.  
He challenged us with his testimony about believing that he was "DOING GOOD" for God. He told us that his need to DO GOOD was like a sickness and could have broken up relationships in his personal life and spiritual life. Mike even told us that it was just a few years ago that the band, at the height of success, had to take a look at how they were over-filling their schedule and decide to back off because it was tearing other parts of their lives apart.
When we look at the scripture Mike referenced above, the Apostle Paul calls us out on our belief that GOD NEEDS US TO DO GOOD...
God doesn't need us.
God created the world, and everything in it.
Why would God NEED us?
When our heads start to swell, and our hearts start to become addicted to ACTING as though we are somehow HELPING God, we can be led astray and become derailed. We become narcissistic and start to look for recognition. We might feel jealous if someone experiences more success than us in our DO-GOODERNESS. We might believe that "we need to do this because things will fall apart if we don't."
If we are actually doing-good for the right reason, (because we are so thankful for what God us done for us) then we would never grow tired of doing good.
If we are doing-good without looking for earthly recognition, we don't need to Instagram, tweet or Facebook about it.
But God DOES ask us to care for one another while we are here on earth, so we MUST find a balance.
That requires staying in tune with God in our hearts.
Naming and owning our motives is just as important as WHAT we do. 

The best way for us to know that our motives are pure and God-centered is to stay in His Word and to pray for guidance so we can test and see what His Will is.  
Are you addicted to Doing-Good because you believe God needs your help?
Pray:  Heavenly Father, it's easy to become distracted in this world that is abuzz with social media and all types of opportunities to do-good and to tell others about it. Help us to seek you and your will so we can know that our motives are pure. Help us to listen to others, who know your teachings, for guidance and redirection when we need it. We are constantly learning, Lord...may our hearts be humble enough to remember that. Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

God is in the Details, Even the Ones We don't Like

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother.
Exodus 2:1-8, NIV

I was sitting with a group of young people and listening in on a discussion about Moses and his sister Miriam. A familiar story to most, unless you are like me and the fact that Moses had a sister who hid and watched over him as he lay in a basket in the river. She was there at just the right moment to suggest to the Pharaoh’s daughter that she could find someone to nurse the baby for her, her mother...the baby's mother.

Miriam was divinely placed, obedient to God’s direction and cooperative in living out her purpose.

Most remember Moses, not so many of us remember this detail of Miriam.

God is in the details.

The small group discussing this story reminded me of that fact.

Many years ago, when my son was my younger and in the middle of many therapies and working very hard, I was asked to speak at a couple of different board meetings. I was a little perplexed at first, what could I possibly share about Cooper and his journey that would be helpful. We were not a miraculous success story, we had not sacrificed and overcome anything. Our details were not pretty.

We were quite literally at the “blood, sweat and tears” point of the journey.

Maybe you’ve been there, maybe you understand? If you have and you do, you may also understand my confusion as to why on earth anyone would want me to stand in front of a group of nicely dressed business men and women and explain to them how incredibly hard everything was.

You will also love this, one group asked me to bring Cooper.

Why?

The therapist that invited me to speak and bring Cooper, wanted the board of directors to see and hear how hard her job was. She said they only saw the “cute” kids with disabilities, the easy kids. She wanted them to see the ones they struggled with, the ones that cause the “blood sweat and tears”.

That was my child.

That was his therapy sessions.

That was our life.

And this lady wanted me to get up, in front of a bunch of strangers, and share it all with them.

Miriam stood and watched over her baby brother as he floated in the Nile river. She knew he was hidden because he should have been killed like all of the other male babies of that time.  
She was a child, but when the time came, she stepped out and spoke to the Pharaoh’s daughter, setting into motion the details of Moses destiny.

Confidence.

Courage.

Faith.

But what do you do when you are standing in front of a group of people explaining how difficult it is for your son to endure the therapy he needs and how he kicks and scratches and fights…and you realize you are, your life is…he is, the purpose no one wants.

No one says:

“Hey, I would like to struggle!”

“I would love for my child to have a really hard time navigating through life, and I would like to watch every moment!”

What do you do when you don’t like the hard parts of existence?  

You remember the details, and you stay anchored to what you know.

Moses had a purpose to the hardships of his life, so did Miriam.

So do I.

So does my son.

So do you.

We may not understand them.

We may not like them.

We may not want them.

This is what I know:

God is in the details, even the ones we don't like.

So today I will pray:
God, You are the orchestrator of eternity, the planner of all things. There is not a step we take or a breath we breathe, that You have not already planned. I pray our focus be constantly on You and Your way. May we always know and recognize that Your way is in fact, better than our way...even though it so often appears harder. Help us to remember that we are running this race for the end result, and what is at the end is far greater than anything we could experience here on earth. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Balance and the Family Vacation

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
~ Psalm 34:4-10, NIV ~


There are a few words that bring terror to my mind as a special needs mom – one of those words is vacation.

You see, my husband and I have very different views of this word, and my boys too for that matter, mostly because of our special needs daughter who has some complex medical needs and does not walk.

When my boys and I think of vacation, we think of heading to somewhere kind of beachy, with sand, water, a little breeze, the sun, sea creatures of some kind, and a pool.

Beach is NOT the image that comes to my husband’s mind. Vacation for him is seeing new things, napping, reading books. He had a pretty bad experience with the beach one time when our daughter was little, and our poor choice of accommodations made it hard to get her to and from the beach, cleaned up when we got in and cared for in general. No good memories of the beach for him.  

So, several times in the last few years, my husband has asked me to carry the boys to the beach by myself because this meets the needs of everyone. Yet, this arrangement splits up our family at the same time.

He has asked me to balance the needs of all.


Balance

So hard to achieve sometimes as the special needs mom. Balancing everyone’s wishes and needs. Knowing when to include and when not to force inclusion.

I believe in balance. I believe that our girlie cannot always be included while including her is what I wish most in the world. Because it may not be best for her, and best for anyone else for that matter.

Girlie has temperature issues when she gets overheated, she will have seizures, pretty severe seizures that can lengthen and intensify if she is not cooled down.  So, hot climate is not good for her. Beach – not a good plan for the girlie. Plus the fact that within 1 hour of morning time in the sun, she can get a severe sunburn.

But sometimes inclusion is the right thing even when it is the hardest thing. Bringing the entire family on a vacation of an indoor water park, or to a shaded amusement park in the fall/winter, or to the mountains where temperatures are more tolerable. Even sharing that hotel room with the girlie who refuses to sleep all night long when she is not at home in her own bed.

Balance

Finding what works for each person. 

God does that with us, his children.

Psalm 34:4 says “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.” 
and verse 8:” O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
and verse 10: “But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.”

God cares about my juggling act. He cares that our family life can never be normal, and He cares about the balance. He holds the balance in His hand. And even more than that, He desires good things for my family.

Because of this, I can trust that He will give my husband and I wisdom in balancing the needs and desires of our family. He knows what is best for all. He knows all and sees all.  Something I don’t have to figure out how to do, even when it comes to vacation.

Please pray with me:

Thank you, Lord, that you want good for me, that I can take refuge in You. Thank You that You are concerned with the details of our lives and the choices we make. Please give us wisdom in how to love each other best, and love You the most.