October 5, 2014: Day 21 – If God Were to Give Me A Written Answer, What Question Would I Ask? (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

If God were to give me a written answer, what question would I ask…one of the most complicatedly simple things to ponder.

Instinct tells me that all of the answers to life’s questions have already been written out by God by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Some of you may think what I call instinct is brainwashing or simplicity when it comes too applying Scripture to life. Perhaps you aren’t thinking any of those things at all and have already tuned out.

The question I have been asking God for years is: “Am I good enough and loveable?” From a young age, I learned that I need to prove that I was good enough to receive love. It’s a deep lie that, by God’s grace, has been brought to the surface so it can be squashed. Let me share the first time God wrote out the answer to part of this question (good enough):

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14 NIV)

I was reflecting on this verse in the middle of a school chapel and noticed how many times full is in that verse. Inside I heard, “now go and live out of that fullness.” I had been meeting with a counsellor at school due to academic difficulties and she was used by God to bring both the “good enough” question to the surface and to help direct me to Scripture to answer it. She pointed out that in the above verse, there is no measuring up to some sort of standard to receive love: “you’re good enough already” she would say. I needed to believe that because I was created or made by God that that was wonderful in and of itself. I did not need to earn wonderful, I was just was wonderful.

As to the loveable part of the question, I have been on quite the journey to trust that God’s love is unconditional. There has been much unlearning that has taken place when looking at what it means to rest in God’s love.

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 NIV)

Trying to find only one part of Scripture where it is written is quite difficult. I could quote so many. This morning I heard a beautiful sermon on God’s unconditional love (here: John 14:15-31 Obedience, Love and the Holy Spirit). A couple things stood out – the smoothness is not where the assurance is and we are perfectly loved by God, even if we are not perfect in showing love. I needed to be reminded that God’s love is unconditionally perfect, He does not need my works or love in return, He shows self-giving love through the trinity… AND He shows His love to us through Christ’s sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have Him to guide me and remind me and spur me on to love Him because of the rest found in His unconditional love, not because I earned it by being good enough.

To anyone who has read this far: You are good enough because you are made in God’s image and His love is unconditional. No matter what, His love remains.

October 4, 2014: Day 20 – Do You Prefer Mornings or Evenings? (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

Ironically, I did not write this post yesterday because I wanted to sleep instead. I got up early to go to the Ride for Refuge and I got home late after seeing Conflict Wrestling. Does that mean I like both mornings and evenings? Let’s figure it out together as you read me processing out loud (If you have read this far into the blog posts, you have come to expect this approach).

sunriseMornings can be beautiful in the fact that they often signify a new beginning. His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23). I get a clean slate on what decisions I made, what words I say, and how I treat others. I love mornings when I get to wake up with ease and naturally and see the sunlight streaming in. Last year I trained to run/walk for a 5km fun run and I decided I would do this around 545am. I actually began to enjoy the quietness of waking up early and being out in the open air so early. As I got to further distances, it was such a wonderful experience arriving back home as the sun began to rise. In a practical sense, I feel like I can accomplish more in the morning than in the evening. I have noticed that I get more work done before lunch than I do in the afternoon. I have this exhilarated drive when I arrive at work and plunge into the day’s tasks or another pile of hours on a project. I do not concentrate or work well in the evening.

On the flip side, I can sometimes be a bit of a bear in the morning. If I went to bed with too much on my mind and then woke up on the “wrong side of the bed” then look out. I started to notice that my Mom would want to have a full blown conversation sometimes in the morning, so I have intentionally stayed in my room five extra minutes to wake up a bit more so I can be nicer. I also do not do well on mornings after a nightmare or when tears kept me company as I tried to sleep. I’m too raw to enjoy the morning fully and it takes me time to adjust from the night of emotional craziness.

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Evenings bring a different dynamic. Look at the above sunset! It’s gorgeous living on the twelve floor of an apartment building when the sun sets and your bedroom is filled with this orangey-pink glow. You can’t mimic it or capture it with a camera really, you just need to experience it. I enjoy that evenings give me an excuse to get out of the apartment also and spend time with friends during the week. Not many friends want to do something in the morning of a weekday before work. I love that with the evening you get stars and the moon. The sky is beautifully painted with little specks of glowing light. One time while I was looking out my window from my bed, I noticed a star in the sky that was incredibly bright and I could not take my eyes off of it. It filled most of the window and gave me a child-like sense of wonder as to whether it was a planet or not.

I don’t accomplish work stuff well at night. I cannot stay focused as I start to get tired from the day’s activities. I did not do well as a student because I would often choose sleep over studying. I convinced myself that sleeping was more important than handing in an assignment on time (I know some of you are cringing at this, and trust me I learned that this does not work in a job). In hindsight, I wonder if I would have done better in school if I had woken up earlier and worked on assignments. *shrug*

I think the conclusion is that I prefer mornings. I feel so much more productive when I can say I accomplished a, b, c, and d before noon. I love getting up early to go to the farmer’s market on a Saturday or heading to my favourite coffee shop. I think, like I said earlier, mornings bring a fresh start and I often need that.

October 3, 2014: Day 19 – Describe the Perfect Day Off (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

The perfect day off starts with hearing “Good Morning” and “I love you”. This is what I thought of when waking up thinking about my perfect day off… To be honest, this topic seemed simple at first until I over-analyzed it and thought, “perfect day off from what? Reality? Work? Life?”. So I decided that it would be my perfect day off from work if anything was possible. So let’s start again.

Taking a friend’s perspective, I would wake up naturally. I would see the sunrise and would peacefully know that the day was starting. Then, the day would start off with hearing “Good Morning” and “I love you”. Who doesn’t want to start their day off not feeling loved or knowing that love is present? And it would be a good morning, because I have the day off.

I would look into the day to see what possibilities it would hold. I would not worry about what I was going to do or could do because everything would be possible.

hagleslagI would get out of bed and would be able to get on a jet to England. Of course it would be my own private jet with a massage therapist and all the amenities I would need to arrive in England in style (or at least showered 😉 ). I would arrive at the airport and would have my own personal black cab waiting for me. It would have a driver and an amazing acoustic guitar player with an awesome voice (plug: Black Cab Sessions).

On this particular day off, I would get to meet the Queen of England who would be listening to Queen of course because she would enjoy the irony with me. Queen Elizabeth, listening to Queen with Catherine Elizabeth, it just makes sense. We would have tea and crumpets with peanut butter and Hagleslag. We would chat about how we’re probably related and she would give me a complimentary tiara from the crown jewels.

I would dine and dash because my goal is to sheer a sheep in Scotland. I once had the idea that I would also need to try haggis at the same time. A friend reminded me that just because I sheered a sheep didn’t mean I needed to also eat that same sheep. The fleece would come home with me already washed and ready to be spun into yarn and it would be gorgeous. Being in Scotland would remind me of my Scottish roots and somehow I meet at least one Macmillan in my family line and we would just know each other well.

I suppose that time does not exist in this scenario… but eventually I would want to come home. The perfect day would end with “Good night” and “I love you” because that’s how my days end now and it’s not anything I want to change. I thank God for parents who said it and I will not go to sleep until I say it and hear it. Loved all the day through, it’s just awesome.

Sidebar: in real life – I could continue reading through John or Ecclesiastes, I could lay in bed and just ponder life, or I could reach for the book I’m supposed to be reading for book club (at the moment: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies). I could play games on my ipad or watch tv. But these things are more normal to a day off, so let’s get a bit more unrealistic.
On a typical day off, if I would choose between Downtown Kitchener, Downtown Galt and Uptown Waterloo. If in the mood for Kitchener: I would visit my friend’s store, More Than Half, and possibly go to Woolverine and see what new yarns might have arrived. If in the mood for Galt: I would head to my new favourite coffee shop Monigram Cafe for breakfast or just some amazing coffee and then check out what is at Phidon Pens. If in the mood for Waterloo: I would stop at the Honey Bake Shop for french macaroons and then would eat lunch or dinner at Taco Farm. You can see that days off mean food and hobbie adventures. I would not run errands or make appointments, I would just spend the day doing my own thing and just going from place to place enjoying some of my favourite things. Thinking about doing all that plus evening activities is crazy… so we’ll just stick with during the day. 🙂

October 2, 2014: Day 18 – My Favourite Yoga Poses (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

Coming soon to a blog near you…a post. Headache present from pressure change and yoga helped chill me out in order to already be in bed. I’ll finish this entry in the morning cause I’ll probably be up before my alarm.
Cheers!

Naturally woke up at 430am, but am more prepared to continue writing now – 617am. Thanks for understanding readers :)!

The first time I tried doing yoga was in a community center gymnasium. It was during my degree and I was having a lot of lower back issues. I remember that it took me forever to get to and from it on the bus but I had invested money into this activity, so I needed to be there. I was nervous about doing postures and poses because outside of believing I can krip-walk (hip hop dance move) I would not put myself in the coordinated category. Wasn’t yoga graceful? I do not put myself in that category either (unless we’re speaking of the double-entendre side of showing grace, and yeah, I digress).

yoga pose 1 All season at yoga I practiced the darth vador breathing (eunji breathing) and tried to extend the poses. I actually saw progress! The funniest thing happened that describes one of my favourite poses. I was doing the Prasarita Paddotanasana pose where the full extension of the pose essentially has you with your head between your legs… yeah, awkward right? The yoga instructor, who was quite the character, said quite loudly across the room, “Catherine, I think we found the right pose for you.” I fell out of the pose laughing as I found the idea of my “right pose” being this particular one somewhat embarrassing… especially since my butt was in the air.

Since this first time of doing yoga, I am now doing yoga with a very good friend who began teaching last year. She has introduced me to many more yoga poses and a lot of them are my favourites because they have brought more relief and rest to many of my muscle groups, but especially my back. Here’s her page if you’re interested: Soul Connection Yoga – https://www.facebook.com/soulconnectionyoga?fref=ts Though I also have some funny moments in her classes, I have found that she encourages the restful and serious side of yoga. Her voice is soothing and she intentionally challenges you to strive for growth internally and physically.

 

 

yoga pose 2Another pose I like is the Adho Mukha Kapotasana or Pigeon pose. It feels amazing and I feel like it makes my body feel longer/taller than it actually is.

yoga pose 3The Virabhadrasana or one of the Warrior poses makes me feel like a superhero. When I am able to actually stay balanced and do focus on the point in front of me as instructed, I imagine a cape behind me blowing in the wind. I feel like I can take on anything, I’m a yoga superhero!

 

 

 

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The Natarajasana or Dancing Shiva pose was introduced to me only in the current yoga session…last night, I realized that it is the perfect amount of twist for my back muscles and I feel like it brings rest.

 

 

 

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The Malasana or Garland pose is not my favourite… and yet it brings me laughter. The first time we were instructed to do this pose, I remembered how “blessed” I am in the butt as gravity took its toll. I cannot seem to get this to work. But mark my words, I will!

October 1, 2014: Day 17 – Deep Fried Pickles or Straight From the Jar? (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

I’m going to take an unconventional spin on this post. I’m not going to answer the question but use it as analogy. Sometimes in life, I hear something said and I immediately think, “awesome band name”. Tonight, for example, my friend said in the car on the way to an event, “I smell hot lettuce” and I said, “Hot Lettuce” good band name. The topic of this post, to me, could be an album name for a band, but not for “Hot Lettuce”, that would be cheesy (oh yeah food puns).

The first time I ever had something like this was when I was working at a camp at age eighteen. There was a guy that I really got along with, like having one of those really cool older cousins or something. He told me he had a band name idea, “Righteous Brothers of Harmonious Fists” and just after we were looking around and he suddenly found an album name. The camp had a wooden sign by the fireplace stating, “The Damper is Closed and the Firebox Full”. Eureka! I remember that I took both things and went to drawing him up an actual album cover.
Once I have a band name, I often spend a few minutes thinking about what type of band it would fit and maybe will come up with an album name. Like the first example, “Hot Lettuce”, this could be a punk band or maybe metal possibly. Can’t you imagine two teenagers talking about the band? Teen one, “who do you listen to?” teen two, “Hot Lettuce. Man, they really rock”.
In hindsight, I realize that I have had lots of these moments in life where I have taken the idea just one step further. I cannot seem to leave the moment as the moment. Once the idea gets in my head, I have a hard time not acting on it, especially if it would bring encouragement or is thoughtful. I have needed to learn how to harness my ideas into innovation for work and discerning when to share them out loud or keep them to myself. I would not have labelled myself an ideas person before, but I now see that differently. Imagination doesn’t just need to be for children or when doing art. It gives us the ability to look forward and plan out things. It makes life an adventure. I love having an active imagination. I love seeing where it takes me. I would not have been able to write this post without thinking out of the box a little bit and using my imagination.
For the record, the only thing I can say about pickles in any form is, “Don’t send your teenage daughter to high school smelling like a pickle!” But that is a story for another time.

September 30, 2014: Day 16 – Learning How To Cook (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

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One of the things about learning how to cook is discovering that there is an art and a science to it. You need to know the language if you’re going to follow a recipe exactly as written. However, for the flavour you want, that takes more than skill, it takes passion. Yeah I am making cooking more artsy than it can be…but to me food is art.

I have typically put my Dad and my brother in the category of just having the cooking passion…knowing what to do when, having good knife skills, mixing a little of this and a little of that. I looked up to my Dad for many of the staples: stew, tea biscuits, fish, mmmm, his shepherd’s pie. My brother, I look up to for being adventurous: beer chili, bacon cheeseburger meatloaf, and once we made chicken cordon bleu.

I’ve been on a journey to combine both of the lessons learned from theses two cooks. I have attempted many of the staples like my Dad while taking risks with curries much like my brother. One memory for my Dad relating to cooking was the aspect of him putting mustard in Kraft dinner. I thought it was so weird until one day I decided to make macaroni and cheese from the Betty Crocker cook book from scratch. Sure enough the recipe calls for mustard powder. I loved reading that.

Maybe I should comment on the photos that started this post off. I like to use the crock pot because I put everything in, play with flavours, and take a leap of faith that when I get home from work it is going to taste good. Tonight after my dinner guest took finished and we assessed the meal, I said, “I think stews are my thing.” I have found the best results I have had have1 been while making a chilli or stew. Of course, there has been the odd bad pot of whatever, but it’s a learning experience. And I hope to keep doing that very thing, learning how to cook cause I know why I cook – it’s in my blood.

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1. Footnote: “have had have” really Catherine? I had had that that other other thought in mind… 😉 Nod to Jasper Fforde

September 29, 2014: Day 15 – Reflection on the “Tight Pants” Video (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

“Everybody’s talking about my tight pants, I got my tight pants, I got my tight pants on…”

Okay, reflecting on this video is the topic one of my best friends gave me… so I’m about to deliver. What this video proves to me is that sometimes things are funnier because of who is telling the story versus the content itself. Let’s dive deeper into that concept shall we?

When my friend first shared with me about the “Tight Pants” video, I laughed about it with her because she only described that it was about tight pants and then she began to sing it and just the line I quoted above. Hoping this won’t offend her, the tune she sang was not in the above video. I HAD to see this video she exclaimed while we were camping. I watched the video, and I was disappointed. I clearly needed my friend to commentate on what I was watching. And the most ironic part is that I can’t even really place the humour of the clip with her humour. She doesn’t swear or unnecessarily get angry… I’m that one probably.

Humour is one of those things that often needs the right audience and can be subject to personal taste. What one person finds funny another person could find offensive. Some people love Seinfeld, others don’t get why a show about nothing would be so hilarious. I even catch myself changing my humour moods when I compare the movies I find funny now compared to in my teens. I feel like right now I like smart and witty humour (most likely British) compared to the slapstick humour of Adam Sandler when I was fourteen. Many of friends like certain movies that are raved as “one of the funniest” whereas I find the content disgusting and unnecessary.

“I love to laugh, ha ha ha ha, long and loud and clear” – Bert in Mary Poppins

Have you ever had that moment with a friend where no matter what is said next you both cannot stop laughing? The kind of laughing where your stomach hurts or you might pee your pants or you’re already crying? A couple of scenarios come to mind that will probably be inside jokes but I’m going to share them anyway.

With my one friend we found saying numbers with emphfasis on the wrong sillabbble so funny we barely got to teeeeen. Eggight (8) was the most funny.

Another friend and I once pretended to have a kung-fu fight at a bus shelter after leaving class. We were so into it and even made sound effects. We could not stop laughing at the fact that no one was around to witness it. Another time we were studying for Human Health & Sexuality on the bus to school and you can imagine what we were quizzing each other on. As we stepped off the bus and were in line at Tim Horton’s, we kept talking about different things and a German guy from the bus turned around and said, “I kant get away from you two!”.

At work I received a call from my boss asking where we should put French in our HR Database when tracking spoken languages. I suggested, “Let’s put it under Gender”… I could hear her laughing from where I was at my desk. She thought I meant that French was a gender, like, male or female or french. I was thinking in terms of where it would show up on an employee screen.

To wrap up and go back to the beginning, I still don’t find the above video funny, but what does make me laugh is thinking about my best friend making me write about it. Hopefully she enjoyed this reflection on the fact that she is funnier whether she wears tight pants or not.

September 28, 2014: Day 14 – What I Like About Camping (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

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I borrowed the above photo from a friend’s backpacking trip that only ended some time today. It visually captures what I like about camping – the beauty of God’s creation. Camping, to me, means being outdoors and soaking in everything around me.

In my teens, I would go camping with one of my best friends’ family to a variety of places. The one that stands out the most was when we went to Algonquin Park. It was my first time there and I was ready to explore. I wanted to set out and see everything.

One day we were canoeing where I sat in the middle between my friend and her Dad and I was looking here and there hoping to see an animal. I had read in a book about someone praying and the sight of an animal brought them peace and a sense of God’s presence. I prayed that I would see something. I saw an otter. He swam near our canoe and I got such a rush of wonder.

Another special aspect of that particular event was that my friend’s Dad and I had a lot of really good conversations that week camping. I got to hear his perspective on a lot of different topics and share my own. I think I was under eighteen at the time and he respected me as if I was an equal. What a blessing for a young woman.

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Camping with my own family was a bit different. We would get a cabin at a camp in Stayner, where my Mom grew up, for the whole summer. My Mom worked in administration and my Dad managed the sound booth for services. I would travel throughout the camp freely. One time my Mom said she was looking for me as a kid, and I was just happily sitting at the trailer of an older couple chatting away.

Whether out in the wilderness or in a campground, camping is liked by me because it seems to bring people together in relationship. You need to pull together things if it suddenly rains. A tent will not set itself up. You’re stuck with others and it will bring out your best and worst, especially if one. Of you snores or your back hates the ground or most of you are women during “that week”. It’s always an adventure!

September 27, 2014: Day 13 – My Experience Climbing Mount Margaret in Seattle (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

mount margaretThe journey up Mount Margaret started as a geocaching adventure. My good friend wanted to do the 5ishkm one way to a certain point in order to get a specific cache (link), apparently one of the oldest in Washington State. It has a 1,600 feet elevation.

On the way to the hike, I decided drinking a Dr. Pepper would be okay versus the water I could have drank. We began the climb up the mountain on a gorgeous day with the sun beating down on us. Most of the hikes I have been on go up and then flat for a bit and then up… this one just felt like it went up.

At about 1.3km, I started to get a little light headed and almost passed out on my friend. I determined that it was time to head back down to where we started and rest while he pressed on with another couple of guys we were with. He was reluctant but with the technology available (cellphones), I convinced him to let me go back down alone.  Little did I know that God had orchestrated such a beautiful time alone with Him.

I started down the mountain and felt such a peace about just listening. I said out loud, “Speak Lord, I am listening.” As I took my next step, a little brown snake slithered out of the nearby brush. Normally I am afraid of snakes, but in this case, I looked at it and said, “Move along!” It did. I said to God, “Yes, the lies really do run that deep.” The snake reminded me, as it can with many Christians, about the Fall in Genesis when the snake says to Eve, “Did God really say?” The lies I have believed, that run pretty deep, are about God being who He says He is and whether or not I can trust Him and am I good enough for Him.

As I was soaking in these thoughts, the trees suddenly parted and I hills in the distance, one layered upon another (the picture above). The scene took my breath away and I felt as if God had revealed beauty to me in such a timely and wonderful way. I exclaimed, “You brought me all the way here just to tell me how much You love me?!” I knew deep down that the Sovereign God had orchestrated the trip, the hike, the timing for me to just enjoy Him. I was being wooed by the Beautiful Pursuer.

Every time I look at the photo I am reminded that God is who He says He is and that is love is amazing and unique and beautiful and special and precious. I am glad that I had the time to myself and I would not have traded it for anything on that hike.

September 26, 2014: Day 12 – Being a Pursuer and Not a Distancer (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

For the last three years, when January 1st hits, I pick a word for the year. The first time I did this, I picked the word “Freedom”. Throughout that year, I explored the difference between “freedom from” and “freedom to” and I was on a journey of understanding what freedom in Christ meant. Last year, the word was “Identity” as it seemed to build off the previous year’s growth. This year, my word is “Pursuit”. I decided to intentionally seek to recognize Christ as Pursuer and to see the variety of moments in life as God wooing me to Himself.

I received this topic from one of my best friends because she has pegged me as a pursuer and her as a distancer. I seek others out and make every effort to get to know them. She reminded the other day that I practically annoyed her into being my friend when we met in college. She described the encounter as, “I was headed to Zehrs across the street and you followed me and kept asking if you could go with me.” Sounds stalkerish eh? It is obvious that I did win her over. She tried to distance herself from me but my pursuer nature would not relent. Thank God.

Why am I a pursuer rather than a distancer? Let’s start with the positive side of being a pursuer shall we.

Today a friend shared with me a line from a song, “The opposite of love’s indifference”…I asked, “How can love be indifferent?” My heart could not ponder such a thing. For me, to love others means to pursue them. I want to know who they are, what makes them unique, how they think…  Some of my best friendships were formed out of my desire to get to know the other person. I intentionally and boldly asked that question – you know the deep kind of question that opens up the other person… and I listened. Another way I have been describing pursuit lately is the concept of just getting in someone’s way. It can be literally standing so they can’t get by or inserting myself into a conversation or some sort of activity. Once it is put in my mind or heart to get to know that person, it’s pretty obvious to me that I’m going to try hard to see results. The other positives of this side of the coin are that it is easier and natural to meet new people and help others feel welcome.

One thing I am learning is that often our strengths can also be our weaknesses. In being a pursuer, I often have wondered if it flows from a sense of control. If I make the first move or start the conversation then I am in some way in charge of the outcome. Even though I know deep down I cannot control someone else’s reactions or decisions, I have myself convinced that I can. I get to start the rippling effect, so there! The other disadvantage is that I often cannot tell if I am being pursued. If I waited, would I be surprised? I once experienced this in friendship. One of my best friends came up to me after we had met at a party and said, “We’re going to be friends.” I have loved her for that ever since. It gave a taste of what it is like to be on the other side; someone got to know me first. What a wonderful feeling.

Ironically, I realize that although I may be a pursuer in human relationships, I tend to be a distancer when it comes to my relationship with God. It is why I have made a conscious decision to put Him as the Beautiful Pursuer. The more I respond to the work of the Holy Spirit through Scripture, relationships, prayer, and every day life experiences, the more I see God pursuing my distancing heart. He does not give up even when I walk in the other direction at times. Last Sunday the sermon was about when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and something struck me…He washed the feet of Judas, the one who betrays Him. I had this feeling of pursuit as I realized that He pursues me even when I betray Him. His grace and love are not conditional on how much I pursue Him. And at the same time, the more I see God’s pursuit, the more I do want to pursue Him in return. I want to know who the Beautiful Pursuer is and truly grasp why He loves me so much. His love remains…