When We Sabotage Our Own Lives

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Once again I am preparing myself to pack up another child’s room.  Once again I feel the sting of grief.  My hope is that as my heart is shattered into more pieces that God can use those pieces to love that much more greatly through me.

As Mike and I think and look back we feel no regrets.  I pray and ask God was there something else that needed to be said or done.  There is nothing, but a peace He gives that we did all we could.  We loved whole heartedly we provided chances, forgiveness, teaching, true sacrificial giving of time, energy, and resources.

There has been nothing that has painted a better picture of what Christ has done for each and every human being than this ministry of Foster care.   We are born into a sinful and broken world.  Why are innocent children abused and neglected at such a young age?  Why are so many people succumbed to addictions to drugs and alcohol?  Why are we so prideful and full of ourselves?  Why are we so selfish?  Why are we so ungrateful?  Why do people who show nothing but love and kindness get taken advantage of?  It is all because of sin.  God gave us all freewill.  I can not make choices for any other human being and can only control my own.

We become comfortable in our situations of sin self inflicted or inflicted by others.  It is what we know.  It is why so many victims of domestic violence just keep returning to the abuser. When love steps in, when God calls to a person’s soul, we become uncomfortable.  We start to realize there is something far greater and bigger than us and it is scary.  The thing about our human nature is that so often we start to see and realize what true love, true abundant life can be and we sabotage it.  We retreat back to old ways because it is what we know.  Our sinful habits are what we think will make us happy.   It is a deceitful lie that leads us down a painful and deadly path.

The image of Jesus dying on the cross taking all my sin and shame as well as every human being’s remains the strength that keeps me going.  Christ was rejected by his very own.  He is rejected every minute of every day.  So many curse Him, turn their backs on Him, and run straight into the pit of destruction He came to save them from.

Oh, but when a person finally does realize their great and desperate need of His love and forgiveness that is when life truly begins.   Life is hard and the consequences of our own bad choices are very hard.  God gave us a way out of the pit.  He gave us a way to true life through Jesus Christ.  As my relationship deepens more and more I yearn for each breath I take to be for Jesus.  Because of my own sinful nature I still have so much to learn about full surrender and trust.  The more I breath Him in the deeper my peace, joy, and realization of how loved I am becomes.

My heart breaks when the love I give is rejected.  I can only imagine how Jesus feels to have paid the penalty for all sin through death on the cross only to be rejected by so many.   In fact the love I give doesn’t even come from me it is Christ loving through me.

So my eyes will continue to look that much more intently on Jesus and His way.  Everything I do is for His Glory and not mine.  God has a plan and perfect will.  My hope and trust is that anything done for His Glory will not go in vain and that He will take the seeds planted and continue to water His truth on them.

Philippians 2:1-5 “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and one of mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

Love Brings You Home Our Foster/Adoption Journey Continues

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About a year ago my mom and I were shopping at Hobby Lobby to find some items for a few projects.  Our foster care licensure process was nearing completion and one project was to add finishing touches to our spare bedroom.   A year ago before our journey began when I walked past this picture and read it the tears immediately started to flow.  This one little sentence seemed to sum up our call to foster children in need in the most perfect way.

That day I did not buy it as I had no clue who would fill the room and I was trying to just keep the décor simple and as gender neutral as I could.

When I wrote A Whole New Kind of Grief in January I had no clue why and what God had planned next.  Grieving someone’s potential to such depth was new to me.  As I write now I have had so much more of God’s plan revealed to me.  As I write now I am in greater awe of His amazing attention to detail on every life.  As I write now I am even more deeply humbled and thankful to be a part of His great plan.

Two weeks to the day of God giving such a definitive answer of “NO”  to my prayer “Do we take the next step toward adoption?” I got a message from a friend’s husband about a need.

You see with our first child we could have no other placements probably never had we adopted.  I had resolved to this was the one and only child God had planned for us to help, but as usual I was so very wrong.   God gave us two weeks to digest all that had happened and then I get a message from a friend’s husband to call his wife about a need.  We were not yet on the market as a foster family.  Our bed capacity still was showing zero as I hadn’t even gotten to fully communicate with our license worker.  As I listened to my friend tell me the story of the need I could feel my heart swelling with love and compassion once again. When asked do you know of a family that can help, all I could think was “all I know of is us”. God had opened our room up and it was specifically for this very need in this very perfect time that it was needed.   Separately speaking to Mike and the girls I watched as each of their hearts did the same as mine.  They all turned into a puddle of compassion.  There are not strong enough words to express how proud I am of their willingness to love and follow God’s call in this ministry.

It has been amazing as we have been able to open our hearts and home to another.  There has been a community of people to help this one life and that is exactly how it should be for a child in need.   It indeed does take a village.  Another amazing turn in the story is that our family gets to remain a strong support in the life of our first child.  Of course I can not share too many details, but God provides the most amazing paths when our hearts are open.

This brings me back to the picture above.  A few weeks ago I found myself at Hobby Lobby again.  When offered to get some new décor for the room our newest family addition only requested a chalk board.  While shopping along I again see this picture that I saw a year ago.  This time I bought it!   Our sweet new member of our family was more than happy to have it hung in the room.

There has been nothing in this life that has brought me to a deeper understanding of God’s love for us than this calling to love this hurt world through foster care.  Our broken lives take us to so many unexpected places, but God’s plan through Jesus is to bring us all home.   Jesus is the only source of true love and our home is our eternal home with him.  As a child I always thought of “God’s Will” to be what job, career, who I would marry, if I would have children, etc…  God’s Will is to completely open my heart to Him.  There is no way I can love unconditionally the way that I have on my own.  It has purely been opening all of my soul allowing God to completely love through me.   Of course my own human nature has gotten in the way from time to time, but He continues to teach me how to rely on Him fully.   God’s will for my life is to love others in such a way that they feel truly loved and  “home”.  Whatever amount of time, capacity, platform, or tool God gives it is all just a way for God to work through me.   My life is to be a channel of God’s love to direct others to Him.  He is our true source of love and our true home.  God’s wish is for all of mankind to come back to Him.  He is such an amazing God that He gives us a choice.  He cares so much about the details of every life that He will provide opportunity after opportunity even in a life of tremendous pain to see His love.  It may be a complete stranger offering a word of encouragement.  We get to see God in small doses throughout our life and it is up to us to accept Him.  As a follower and totally sold out to Jesus I get to be a part of God’s plan to reveal His love to our hurting and broken world.

Home doesn’t always mean to live in the same house.  Home is knowing that you have at least one other person that loves you unconditionally with their whole heart.  Home is knowing you have someone cheering you on in life.  Ultimately home is knowing that there is a God in heaven that loves you in a way that no other can love you.  Ultimately home is knowing that God planned you, wants you, has a purpose for you, and wants to spend all of eternity with you.

John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you.”

John 3:16 “For God so Loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

A Whole New Kind of Grief

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One never knows what a new year will bring.  This year has brought a whole new level of heart broken.  This picture is with puffy sad eyes of a turn of events breaking this momma’s heart.  Praise God for a sweet sensitive family pet that knew exactly what I needed in the moment. Sunday morning during our pastors sermon I had a short little prayer “God is it time to move forward with adoption…should I ask Mike about it again?”   The answer to my prayer was practically immediate and not what I ever dreamt or thought.  To protect privacy I can not write about the behaviors of our child that ensued immediately after our church service while we were still at church.  It was more of the tough stuff we have been enduring the last nine months with great intensity.  The afternoon improved and Mike and I once again were given apologies.  Once again we forgave without hesitation and then it seemed that what had become our “new normal” family life resumed for the rest of the day.  That night our child made a very dangerous, pre meditated and planned choice.  It was a choice that greatly endangered our entire family.  The realization was overwhelming that God was protecting us in a mighty way that night.

With prayer and consultation through the proper channels of foster care workers it became very evident that the next layer of healing would not be in our home for this young one.  God had answered my prayer with a big NO regarding adoption.  Not what I expected.  The message that followed was “you did exactly what I needed you to do and now it is time for the next step in the plan I have”.

This Sunday morning I sang the special music at our church.  It was a song that I had heard weeks prior that grabbed my attention in a powerful way.  As I listened to the words I thought “oh my this is my prayer that I have been praying through our journey!”  “These are the images of Jesus put to words in a song that have been sustaining me moment to moment.”  The song is “Abide With Me” by Matt Maher.  As my life journey continues my relationship with Jesus is deepening, but nothing has required a further growth and complete reliance on Him as our foster parent journey.   One of the images has been the image of Jesus on the cross carrying the burden of all the sin of all mankind.  As we have carried the weight of the EFFECT that sin has had on just one young life the understanding of the magnitude of Jesus’ love has blown my mind.  The burden has been so heavy and I have not been able to even carry one person that has been so sinned against without Jesus’ love.  The next image has been Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He prayed alone, abandoned by His sleepy disciples.  He prayed with great anguish knowing the magnitude of the weight he was about to endure.  His anguish was over the burden of sin and separation from God the Father more so than the physical torture.  Now with this week’s events there is a deeper level of Jesus’ pain that is becoming more clear.  Not only was he giving the ultimate sacrifice for those who would choose His healing.  He was fully obedient to carry the weight of those who would completely deny and reject Him.  This was something I knew, but haven’t had the depth of understanding as I now have.  To pour every ounce of love, energy, and sacrificial giving into a person who may not ever choose healing has been very eye opening.

God goes to extreme measures to reach each and every human being.  He will place people in the paths of others so that everyone has the opportunity to know the truth.  The workers are so very few.  (Matthew 9:35-38) As a follower of Jesus I feel so gracious and honored to get to be used by Him.  To understand that there is so much work to heal this broken world and that God would use someone so inadequate as me to touch the life of another humbles my soul.  God continues to provide a peace that nothing has been in vain.  That His purposes are eternal and we may not know on this side of heaven what work He has done through us.  If we went back in time to the day we got our license to foster the answer would still be “yes” to our first call.

We do need some time for “self care”, healing, and to pour love into our daughters.  We are not going to quit and still feel the call to open our home to children who have been hurt by this sinful broken world.  There are so many lessons that are priceless.  I will always love this child that is still learning how to receive true love.  Any child that has been in my care will always be one of my children.  This young life will remain in my prayers.  My hope is that one day I will be reunited with this young one in heaven.  I pray he will choose goodness, love,  and healing that only comes from Jesus.

Here are the words to the song “Abide With Me”.

I have a home, eternal home

but for now I walk this broken world

you walked it first, you know our pain

But you show hope can rise again up from the grave

Abide with me, abide with me

don’t let me fall, and don’t let go

walk with me and never leave

ever close, God abide with me

There in the night, Gethsemane

before the cross, before the nails

overwhelmed, alone you prayed

you met us in our suffering and bore our shame

Abide with me, abide with me

don’t let me fall, and don’t let go

walk with me, and never leave

ever close God abide with me

Love that will not ever let me go

Love that will not ever let me go

You never let me go

Love that will not ever let me go

You never let us go

And up ahead , eternity

we’ll weep no more, and sing for joy, abide with me

 

Foster/Adopt #5

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It’s funny that this is now my 5th blog on this subject and we are actually still just waiting for our license.   We live in a broke and back logged state so there is no surprise in the waiting.  Our room sits ready, clean, and a bit sterile until personalities fill it with life and color.  As we wait I continue to see how God is working within my own heart to prepare me as well as my husband and children.  He continues to provide people of support, stories, testimonies, and articles to read to build a foundation of love and wisdom.

Our family continues to lose loved ones.  Tomorrow we say our earthly good byes to the man that was my last earthly father figure remaining, my maternal grandfather.  All the loss lately of fathers, aunts, uncles, friends leads me to a deeper level of empathy that can only scratch the surface of the loss that any child placed in our care will have endured.

As a child one of my greatest fears was to lose my parents.  I am not sure if that is a normal fear of a child.  Having been a pretty weird little kid now grown to weird little adult it is goofy stuff that I remember best.   When I was age five my parents went on a retreat of some kind I am sure for pastors.  A couple from our church kept me for about a week and another family kept my baby sister.   What I remember that week is that I never stopped crying.  The couple I stayed with were very sweet and loving.  They were at their wits end as to what to do to make me happy and to stop crying.  They bribed me with buying toys to no avail.  I am surprised I didn’t dehydrate from all the tears.  I wanted familiarity, normalcy, and security.  I felt scared and alone even though I was with nice people in a nice home.   The highlight of that week was getting to see my baby sister at church.  She was my family and someone I had a true bond with.  It was the longest week of my life.

Having been born to a very loving stable environment I really don’t know what it feels like to have the people that should be your rock and support fail you.  I don’t know what it is like to suffer through the death of a parent while still a child.  I have not been beaten or have had to watch anyone beaten and abused.   I have not had to watch sexual immorality or people getting high as if that is a normal everyday activity for a child to see or experience.   There is a loss of family and a loss of innocence for so many children and it makes my heart ache.  What I know is that week without my family even though I was safe and cared for made me so very sad.  I know that as we continue to lose more and more family my heart grieves and I am forever changed.  My prayer is that God will keep these feelings alive in me so that His love and compassion will flow through me as we press on with this journey.  He continues to prepare us and ready us for who He has planned.  It is hard not to get impatient in the waiting.  He reminds me that Noah didn’t build the ark in a day.  David had to wait to be king.  The Israelites were slaves for 400 years in Egypt.  Throughout scripture God refined and strengthened His people, prophets, and disciples through the process of waiting.  Then the glory of His perfect plan and timing was revealed.

“Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”  Psalm 27:14

Hug Like it’s Your Last

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We can learn a lot from this sweet lady pictured above.  Her name is Donna.  She is my sister’s husband’s grandmother.  Great grandmother to my nephew and niece.   When I think of the definition of “Fun Grandma”  she fits the description perfectly.  My sister’s picture captures her character as you can see.

How many grandmas do you know that play volleyball into their 80’s?  She is the only one I know.  Donna played volleyball regularly unless her health held her back here in these last months.  She even played up to about a month ago.  Donna is a cancer survivor having battled cancer in her 40’s.  It took another 40 years before it reared it’s ugly head again.  In the meantime she LIVED.

Being a distant non-relative  I know her from just a few family gatherings, the stories, and the impact she has had on my sister and her family.  Living 9 hours away she was able to make one last visit back in early November and was present at my niece’s birthday party.  As she was leaving that evening and saying her good byes she stopped right in front of me.  What she did next has truly made an impact on me.   Donna turned looked me right in the face and in the eyes and said the sweetest most sincere good bye.  She then hugged me so very tight.  This 87 year old volleyball player could squeeze tight let me tell ya!!!    I knew she was saying her goodbyes to everyone and she made this “non-relative” even feel significant by her sincerity.

A few weeks ago while she was still physically able she wrote in a card for my nephew’s birthday and the family waited to mail it for her so it would arrive on his birthday.  She passed just the evening before Ben’s birthday.  What a treasure her sweet words of love and encouragement in that card will forever be.

Donna has got me to thinking “What if we lived everyday like a cancer survivor?”   “What if we treated every good bye and every hug as if it is our last?”  We don’t always know when our life on this earth is coming to a close.  None of us know when our last breath will be.  None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

This Christmas hug your family tight.  Look each other in the eyes and say kind and sincere words of love and encouragement.  This Christmas have fun and laugh!!  We just never know when it is our last.

There is a Place in Grief I Can’t Allow Myself to Stay for Long

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What I am learning about grief is that there really seems to be no rhyme or reason nor any timeline it follows.  For the last year and a half or so when a memory would sneak up on me I maybe would get misty eyes, smile, and then go on.   The last few weeks the lonely feeling of missing my father is wanting to just hang around.  The way my brain works I always want to understand the “why” in everything.   There is so much happening in our country and in our world that would have deeply affected my father.  Everyday I see something on the news that I feel a thankfulness that God has protected my kind hearted father from seeing.  The day he was rushed to the Emergency Room I asked to go right in to see him.  As I entered that ER room and saw his lifeless body I felt an overwhelming comfort that God took him on home to protect him.  His face was completely relaxed, even with resuscitative tubing and wires he looked like there was no trauma, no pain, and only complete peace.  He was now home with Jesus.

A couple weeks ago I woke up feeling much like I am even again today.  I just can’t stop crying.  The desire to take a long walk and talk to my dad about so many things has been stronger than it’s been since he passed.   This particular day I actually made mention of how I was feeling on social media.  Sometimes I think we try to portray a false sense of what our lives are to the rest of the world and we don’t spend enough time being real.  Not a feel sorry for me type of real or negative.  Just a “hey I am human and life hurts sometimes” type of real.  As I sat watching our youngest daughter and her friends swim that day this butterfly kept coming around and landing on me.  It was gray underneath, but when it opened it’s wings I saw flashes of bright orange.  It kept landing on my hand and finally settled on my thumb for what had to at least have been five minutes.  I was actually able to capture several pictures using my other hand.  My thoughts were that this butterfly was a gift from God to bring comfort.  My father was always big on walking and holding his little girls hands.  He loved to hold my mother’s hand and each of his daughters hands.  This butterfly demonstrated the same gentleness.  I later posted a picture on social media and had friends who also had the immediate thought that this was my needed comfort sent straight from heaven that day.

Another reason I am feeling sad I am sure is that another chapter of my parent’s life together is closing.  Since I was the age of five my parents have gone camping in a town where they use to live in the very early years of their marriage.  After thirty seven seasons and six different campers my mom has come to the conclusion that it is time to sell the current trailer.  It is time and she has my full support, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me sad.  My father loved to camp, fish, loved this campground, this town, and so many people in it.  There are shadows and shadows of memories there and echoes of hours of laughter.  My family and I just spent a couple days there as one last time to camp.  While swimming in the campground pool something caught my eye.  With a closer look there on the very edge of the pool was a butterfly just like this one.  Cora noticed it too and said “hey that is the same kind of butterfly that was landing on you!”  I smiled and said “yes, that is a Papa butterfly.”  With that the butterfly took off briefly landed on a towel and was gone.

God knows our every need.  If we are paying attention to Him we will see and feel our comforts sent straight from heaven.  Everything is in God’s hands and no matter what happens in this life my hope is in the Lord!!!   Psalms 30:5b  “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

One evening while there I went down to the dock on the lake feeling this looming sense of loss and sadness.  As I looked at the empty fishing boat my father spent hours in and the lake he had spent countless hours fishing in everything grew very still.  The lake was reflective as I too reflected on so many memories.  The silence and stillness God gave in that moment was yet again a precious gift and it was as if God said “it is ok the lake misses him too, you can miss him.”  Precious gifts sent from heaven…  One day I will get to walk with my father along the crystal seas of heaven.  Thank you God for the greatest gift sent from heaven Jesus, your Son, sent to die for a sinner like me.  He overcame sin and death by rising again!!  Because of Jesus there is hope even in sadness, loss, and death.  Joy comes in the morning!!

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Attention to Details

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Sunday evening our town had a memorial and tree dedication service for those who had trees donated to the town parks in memory of a loved one.  There were many small details that I noticed God paid particular attention to.  Our church usually has an evening service at 6 pm the same time as this service.  We had a special schedule this Sunday that allowed our family this time free.  I was also on call for work and was not needed at the hospital during this time.  The service was held at the rose garden.  My picture above was snapped quickly with my cell phone, but I actually like the vintage blur given in the photo.  Some friends of the family donated a tree in honor of my husband’s father and he loved roses.  What a great detail.  My own father loved roses and caring for them so this was a nice time for his remembrance as well.   When we walked under the pergola a momma bird had built a next that had a least three baby birds.  We had a nice “birds eye” view under the pergola of these young ones.

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These baby birds reminded me of new life with Christ when we accept his gift of salvation.  They reminded me of eternal life in heaven and the hope of seeing our loved ones again.

Another detail was that my father-in-law’s tree was planted right next to a fellow church member’s who lost his wife this year.  This gentleman and my husband are buddies driving the church bus to pick up children and those unable to drive.

It was a great reflection of how God always pays attention to the fine details.  He knew of this little ceremony long before our church staff planned the calendar.  I am so grateful God pays attention to the details and that his timing is perfect.

Romans 8:28 ” For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

Firsts and Lasts

The year of “firsts” without my dad are now complete.  All the holidays and birthdays have past and it has been a complete year since he passed.  Little did we know that this year was a year of lasts with my husbands father.  Life is full of firsts and lasts.  Each day is filled with them.  The question is do we live like every moment is a first and possibly a last?  If we did maybe there would be a lot less anger, harsh words, and a lot more celebration of life itself.

Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:   a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,   a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
   a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
   a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Look Toward the Cross

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When our family met to make arrangements for my father-in-law’s funeral my mother-in-law communicated that she would like for me to sing at the funeral.   Accepting her request I had to start praying about it right away.  “What song do I sing?  What about music?  Please dear Lord keep me from crying!! ”  Our pastor friend, the funeral director and I had pre-arranged that I would sing in a small room off to the side of the large room where the services were to be held.  First off I wanted the focus to be on Jesus, my sweet father-in-law,  the words of the song, and not on me.  Having my plan of how and when to exit to the small room I felt well prepared at the start of the service.  Without knowledge of what the three of us had previously planned another gentleman working with the funeral home closed the bi-fold doors to that small room just as the pastor began the service.  At this point there was no way to slip into the small room and obtain the one microphone without causing a big distraction.   My prayers went into even greater levels of desperation besides “Lord help me not to cry” they went to “what on earth do I do now??”  Then my eyes were drawn to the cross hanging on the wall directly above my father-in-law’s casket.  There was just enough room for me to stand in front of the bi-fold doors to the left of my mother-in-law allowing me to face the cross instead of the room full of people.  Knowing that tears are extremely contagious for me even with strangers there was no way I could look into the weeping faces of those I love and be able to sing.  The words “just focus on the cross and sing about my ‘Amazing Grace’ ”  kept speaking to my heart as I prayed.   It was easy to communicate to our pastor where to stop with the podium adorning the one cordless microphone allowing for minimal distractions to be made.  God got me through with no tears I just had to look toward the cross.   This has become the answer to everything in my life…Look toward the cross.  When times are hard and I don’t know what to do…look toward the cross.   When I feel weary…look toward the cross.  When things are going great…look toward the cross.   My hope, my strength and my help comes from the Lord.

Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter  of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”