Help me with my unbelief.

Over the last few years, God has been working with me on having loose hands…not holding onto things so tightly and placing all under His care & direction.

Sometimes that’s easier for me than others, to say the least.

Looking back over this past year…embryo transfers, new job for Chris, our move, making the decision to adopt traditionally {which practically requires letting go of most of the control}…2015 had loose hands written all over it.

As I move into 2016, I know loose hands will still be something He works on with me. I doubt there are many people who don’t get some attention in that area, but for control-freaks like me it’s definitely an ongoing process. But a few weeks ago, in an advent sermon I was listening to online, I heard a verse read-aloud that hasn’t left my mind since. I wouldn’t say that it’s my “resolution” for 2016, but rather it’s my prayer.

Mark 9:24b says “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

Here’s the excerpt from the sermon {transcript} by Matt Chandler…you’ll see that I’m not escaping the loose hands thing any time soon. 🙂

“Because I’ve followed Christ for 20 years, and I still have some of that in me. Hear me putting my cards on the table so I might love you well. In 90 percent of the areas of my life, I just trust the Lord has it, and I’m not worried about it. “What are you going to do aboutthis?” “I don’t know. The Lord has it. I’m not concerned about it.”

But I have 10 percent I’m nervous to loosen up on. Anybody else? I have 10 percent where I go, “Okay, I trust you. I believe you, God. I can look back and see your faithfulness, but for whatever reason, it’s hard for me to trust you with this one. It’s hard for me to fully believe you’re for my good in this. It’s hard for me to believe you’re going to do this thing in the way I’m hoping.” I cling to it a bit more tightly. Anybody else? No? All of you have such great faith. Well, praise God for you. Come on up. I’ll take it off. You got it. You finish this up.

No! Of course we do. In fact, one of my favorite stories in the Bible goes along these lines of encouraging us as we wrestle to believe what we believe. The Bible tells us of a father in Mark, chapter 9. It tells us of a father who has a son that is demonically possessed. That demonic possession has manifested itself in physical seizures. Not just physical seizures, but the demon will manifest itself by throwing the boy into fires and trying to kill the boy.

The father, who is now out of hope, has nowhere else to go. Nobody can help his son. Again, reading the Bible with detail and imagination, here’s how I want to read Mark 9. “I have a son. He is 9 years old.” Where’s my heart? Where’s my mind if this is my boy and there are no answers? You start reading the Bible likethat, and you’ll start reading the Bible. Are you tracking with me?

He takes his son to Jesus and says, “Hey, he has seizures. He throws himself in the fire. We have no hope. Can you help?” He asks the question, “Can you help?” Jesus responds, “If you believe, all things are possible.” Look at what the father says immediately. I know he says it immediately because of the first word in Mark 9:24. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said…” Listen to what he cries out. “I believe; help my…” What? “…unbelief!”

Now that’s a life verse right there. For all are more than conquerors through Christ. Right? How about that one? “I believe; help my unbelief!” I don’t know of another verse that is more really dialed in to the reality of my pursuit of Christ than that verse. “I believe; help my unbelief!”

“I know you’re good. I know you’re right. I know you won’t betray me. I know you’re for me. I know you’ve purchased me by your blood. I trust you’re good in this, but help me because part of me is wavering. I can’t make sense of this. I don’t know what to do with this. I’m afraid. Help my unbelief!”

See, the incarnation anchors us regardless of life circumstance. He is worthy of our faith, because if this is the year that, forget presents, you’re just trying to keep the lights on, he’ll anchor your soul. If this is your first Christmas without a loved one, gosh! It’s terrible. I know. He’ll anchor your soul as we trust him. He cannot betray you. It would be betraying himself.

If this is a Christmas where things have come together and you’re really excited… You know, your kids have kind of grown out of the “eat the paper and go back to sleep” phase, and they’re like amped right now. I mean, they’re shaking boxes, and you’re having to say, “Stay away from the tree!”

You’re having to engage. You’re super excited about what’s to come. Well, that should be wind into the sails of your worship. See, the incarnation makes sense regardless of life circumstance. He is worthy of your faith. May our mantra always be, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

So as 2016 starts out, that’s where I’m at. It’s my mantra, it’s my verse for the year, it’s what echos in my mind when I start to wrap my mind around how God is going to bring a baby into our family.

I think it’s been my verse for a while now actually, I just didn’t know it. 🙂

Blessed am I.

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Just a dog.

The last day of 2015 was an emotional one for me.

Earlier in December, our dog {a 4 1/2 year old corgi} came in from the backyard in a panic & with a major limp. The vet’s diagnosis was a torn ACL {which ended up including a torn meniscus}, so we spent the better part of December on activity restriction & a pain medicine regimen…mostly in the hopes that the diagnosis was wrong, I guess.

But alas, Huxley didn’t show much improvement and was obviously not feeling like himself…so I found myself sending out 2015 with a surgery consultation, which turned into an expensive dog surgery, which resulted in weeping & gnashing of my teeth. And an early bedtime. So much for ringing in the new year… 😛

Because I write to sort out my feelings and because this is where I do that, I’m going to try to get out why I find this whole thing so stressful. Beyond the obvious parts, that is.

It’s a very invasive surgery. 

Okay, I mean…it’s surgery. For a dog. That was hard for me to stomach. But beyond that, this was a very invasive surgery that involved cutting his bone, repositioning it, and setting it in place with a plate & screws.

Leaving him there was terrible…he kept alternating between hiding behind my legs and just staring straight into my eyes like he was trying to figure out what was happening. I cried and cried when they came to take him, and cry now just thinking about him being away from me in a new place while he’s in pain. Because of the holiday we had to leave him there an extra day, which added to the stress.

The recovery process is no joke. 

It’s going to take him months to recover and find our “new normal.” I hate that for him because it’s going to mean major activity restriction, which will be hard for a dog that loves to play and run. He has to go on a diet, he has to be on a leash any time he’s out of his crate {even in the house}, and we’ll have to ice his leg throughout the day / do “physical therapy” with him at home. Because our house has laminate flooring, we had to create a pathway of rugs for him to move around on. Oh yes, and he’ll probably have to wear a cone throughout the day so that he doesn’t chew at his leg and tear out his stitches.

All of that will be a burden on us as well, and I’m going to struggle with worrying about him when I’m not at home. We will have spent too much and gone through too much with all of this for something to go wrong.

It’s expensive. 

So that’s obvious I guess. It feels as though this could have literally not happened at a worse time though. My parents are helping us finance the adoption, which we so appreciate; i.e. they took out the loan and we are paying them back. That had all just been finalized & we were in the process of paying off our credit card so that we could focus on taking on the loan payment {in addition to the insane student loans we pay on each month} when he first got hurt. Taking on another expense just didn’t make sense, and yet…

Because of the type of injury and the build of his body, he required the most expensive surgery out of the options presented. It literally almost sends me into a panic attack to think about the cost of the surgery.

What it really comes down to…

People know that Huxley is my baby. Those closest to us know that he’s my little shadow, that he has this big personality, that I love him more than I ever thought I could love a dog. {Seriously, I never had an indoor dog before him and never saw the appeal really. I wouldn’t describe myself as a dog person. I would describe myself as a MY-dog person.} In the same way, they know that we’ve been through alot in the last several years and that Huxley has taken on an important role in my life because of that.

And yet, I don’t think they understand the degree to which his love and loyalty has helped minister to my spirit. I tried to voice it to Chris, the person who has witnessed and participated in it himself…and could barely get the words out.

When we first chose Huxley, we were delayed in picking him up because of my Pappy’s death. He helped me in those weeks following her death, gave me a happy distraction and something to focus all of my extra summer attention on.

He kept me company on the nights I was alone until midnight or so while Chris attended night school over an hour away multiple nights a week. I liked not feeling like I was home alone; Huxley has always been a good companion. He follows me around & is just a constant, loyal presence in my life.

I love schedules, and much of my schedule revolves around Huxley as I’ve been his primary caregiver. Before his injury {and since he was big enough to take long walks}, I walked him almost every morning and evening. Because of those walks I got to know so many wonderful people in our old neighborhood. We have silly routines & I know if his barks are bossy or fake hurt or because he wants to play. He is there wagging his tail when I wake up and is always happy to see me when I get home. There is something about the unconditional love of a dog that is so encouraging.

But more than all of that, he has been there with me through all of the hard stuff of infertility and embryo adoption and transfers and loss. He’s always been very perceptive to my feelings, much more willing to snuggle when he can tell I’m upset. I can remember that dark month, right after we received our infertility diagnosis, when I just cried and cried every day. It was hard on those around me to always know what to say or do, and at times it was difficult for Chris to enter into my struggles {either because I didn’t know how to let him or he was battling his own struggles}. But Huxley was always there, snuggling up & watching me with those big, knowing eyes. I believe God can minister to us and provide comfort through his creation, including dogs, and I experienced that over and over…even in the darkest of times. I can clearly remember the day we learned that we’d lost our first two embryos…sitting there on the couch in shock, crying together as we called our parents. After a while, Chris got up to cook some dinner and put Huxley up on the couch with me. He came straight over and laid his head right down on my stomach and just sat there with me. We stayed like that for a long time, and he never moved, just kept his head there patiently. That’s not a way we usually sit, and it just felt like he knew.

Infertility…and adoption to a measure…can be a lonesome experience. I’ve struggled on and off with feeling isolated because there are so few who understand what I’m going through without me even having to try and explain it. {And I’m glad for that, it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.} Even Chris can’t fully understand my experience, just as I can’t fully understand his. In those lonely moments, Huxley helped ease the burden.

So all of that to say, I’ve realized over the last month or so just how much Huxley is tied to all of these deeply rooted feelings, how important he has been to my healing. It may seem that he’s “just a dog”…but to me, he is a loyal and important member of my family. He’s been there for me in the hardest times & for many of the happiest. And in light of that I couldn’t not do this for him.

I understand that the day is coming when a little one will enter our home, and my perspective toward Huxley will shift a bit as I love on a real baby. That is good and right and natural, although I’ll always love him and feel thankful for the role he fills in our family. {I’ve also told Chris that I hope I never love another animal to this degree again…and at this point in my life it seems like that would be difficult, given how far we’ve come through our struggles & how close we are to welcoming a child into our family.}

And that’s why all of this crying I’ve been doing for a dog is not just about the dog. It’s why I paid for an expensive surgery. And it’s why I’ll pray pray pray that his other knee stays strong and healthy.

From my lips to God’s ears.

Seriously though.

Blessed am I.

 

 

 

I thought of you.

Tonight, in the hush of a Christmas Eve service lit by candles, with the chorus of believers singing Silent Night…I heard a little one say mama.

In that instant, my breath caught. As my eyes filled with tears, time slowed and I thought of you.

I thought of you, my precious little ones…the ones I so desperately hoped and prayed I would be holding this Christmas. This time last year we were full of hopes for you…with a smile & a few giggles we let ourselves dream aloud about what Christmas would be like if you were here. My arms ache with the emptiness of it all, but my heart is full for having mothered you in my own special way. Although it’s not what I pictured, and that hurts, I can’t help but feel awe that you are celebrating this Christmas with Jesus himself. You get to sing along with the angel chorus & bask in the warmth of His light, and I still feel so humbled that God invited me into your story & journey back to Him.

I thought of you, courageous one. I have yet to meet you, and I don’t know if you are yet carrying the child you will one day entrust to me. In the flicker of the candlelights, I wondered where you are tonight…prayed you are surrounded by love this Christmas Eve. Can you feel our baby kicking, moving around inside you? You have the distinct honor of mothering our little one as he/she is in your womb, and I pray such strength & wisdom & peace over you as you do. I think of you more than I even think of the baby you are carrying {or will carry}…maybe because it is your choice that will place a little one in my arms, your care that is essential for life & growth. I pray this Christmas is your most precious one yet…that you are able to take hold of the sweetness and beauty of this season & let it take root in your heart. Adoption is a beautiful and messy and holy work…so it only makes sense that you would be on my heart on this holiest of nights.

And I thought of you, Lord Jesus. The King who came as a baby; the creator who took on the flesh of His creation. You are everything, Jesus…forgive me when I don’t bow to you as such. There is a stillness that fell over my spirit tonight, a quietness that settled into my bones as I considered the weight of what your birth meant for us. For me. Christmas ushers in a bittersweet longing, an expectant hope for your return… feelings I am familiar with as I walk through this season of waiting and wondering. I am struck by the co-mingling of the two, of what is and what has been and what will be. You are in it all Jesus, and I celebrate you with a reverent and bowed heart tonight.

So from a sincere heart full of love, Merry Christmas to each of you – my little ones, the {birth}mother of my child, and my King.

Blessed am I.

Yes. Just yes.

I’ve been meaning to link to this post for a while now. Like since October. Now that we are hoping to adopt I can share that when asked if we have kids, but moving to a new town earlier this year and having to struggle through answering that question over and over was not fun.

Elisha over at Waiting for Baby Bird summed it up pretty spot on. She’s good at doing that. {Hey Elisha!}

So mostly I’m saving this for myself because it’s good stuff.

I Was Afraid You Wouldn’t Understand {Grieving Lost Embryos}

Blessed am I.

Paperwork. Like a boss.

I emailed our agency on November 1st expressing our interest in adopting through them. Everything started moving pretty quickly from there…in the way of forms, forms, and more forms. My goal was to wrap up this phase of the process by the end of the month…and today I received word that we have a complete checklist!!

I mean…can we all just take a second?!

Checklist. Complete. 

Thank you Jesus. 

We have scheduled our two home study visits…on in office and one in our home. In between traveling for that & preparing our home {and you know, work and life and Christmas and stuff} I’ll be working on our ‘Dear Birthmother’ letter and family album for the agency.

This part of the process gets a little out of my control…I’m not exactly sure how long it will take to complete. We’ll be done with our interviews by the 14th, so I’m really hoping we’ll be officially approved by the end of December. That would put us live on the website and able to considered by potential birth-mothers around the start of the year. {Talk about mind-boggling!}

To celebrate Chris dropped by work with a dozen red roses…so sweet. 🙂

Blessed are we!

Wrestling with words.

Lately the routine has been this: work all day, paperwork all evening. Huxley is back to groaning every time I open the laptop and just lays there staring at me while making a variety of bored and “I’m so over this” sounds. Chris has been a champ at doing almost all of the cooking, and has even worked away at his parenting classes with minimal complaining. My mom came up this past weekend and helped us measure the house / draw out the floor plan and take pictures of the house.

We’ve hit a few snags here and there {the e-mailing in the form thing has gotten weird on us more than once} but for the most part it’s been a smooth process so far. Boxes are getting checked off at a steady pace and I’ve felt pleased with it all.

Tonight was a big accomplishment because I finally finished the first of the ‘important words’ forms. Important as in this is what the woman who chooses us will read. These are the words that will inform her decision and speak to her heart and breath peace over who we are and all we want for the baby she will place with us. {Well, God is the one who will do the peace breathing and the heart speaking, but in at least a small way it will be through those words.}

And so that’s why I just spent time over 3 days and over 4 combined hours wrestling over 3 short paragraphs.

I pray I got them right. 

 

I wanted them to convey who we are.

I wanted to keep in mind the struggles she will be facing as she reads them. That my “hope” and “excitement” will most likely be met by very different feelings from her.

I wanted to acknowledge in some way that this just isn’t how it should be.

And so I spoke, ever so briefly, to the beautiful mess that adoption is.

I hope she understands my heart.

I hope she knows I wrestle. 

Blessed are we…she & I.

The Decision to Adopt.

The best way I know to describe it is this…I feel like I was that kid in the pool, panicking and feeling like I was drowning and I didn’t know which way was up, just paralyzed with fear and indecision, until I finally heard someone say “Just stand up – you’re in the shallow end for pete’s sake.”

Yep. {Except minus the drama of life danger and insert more just flipping and flopping and uncertainty.}

For months I’ve been just kind of…floating. Not sure what we were doing, not sure how we were going to pay for it, not sure about much of anything. I didn’t write much because a) busy with work and b) what is there to say when you don’t know what is happening with your life?

I felt like we were leaning toward IVF, and for a while we really were. Or I guess mostly I was. Chris was seemingly on board. We talked with my parents and lined up a plan to pay for it, I started birth control…really all I needed to do was call the doctor and get it going.

But for whatever reason each day, I never actually called. Or emailed.

The feelings {aka tears} started amping up at that point. I finally told Chris that I just needed him to really think about it and decide. After a couple of questions {how bad was it going to be if I never got pregnant being the main one} and a few days, he came back with a strong and confident answer – adoption.

We took a few days to stew on it together; talking it through and reminding ourselves of what it would mean for us, for our family. It was almost comical because Chris just kept saying all of the things that it normally would have been me saying. {It’s not that I was resistant to the idea, it just took me a bit to change my thinking from IVF to traditional adoption.} I needed to know that he understood adoption wasn’t the ‘easy route’ and that it would require a lot of work {mostly on my part} so I needed his cooperation and support in that.

It didn’t take long for it to settle in and feel like the right decision. Our parents agreed; mine said it was what they had arrived at hoping we would do. By the end of that weekend I was e-mailing the agency we had chosen when our adoption journey first started, and so began the paperwork!

The decision itself was a bit anti-climatic I guess, but it was forward motion that we felt at peace with…and that’s more than we’ve had in months. Traditional adoption was never far from our hearts, and we know it is near to God’s heart, so we have no doubt that we will be walking in God’s will as we join Him in adopting.

It’s all very full circle – we made the decision and got in touch with the agency exactly 2 years to the time we were first doing it. The decision was much easier this time around, to say the least. {When I think back to the struggle it took within me to arrive at that decision two years ago, I just want to wrap the old me up in a hug. Those were hard, hard days.}

I read once that trying to assign meaning to everything is just another way that we try to gain some sort of control over our situation. Maybe that’s what I’m doing here, but as I’ve considered the timeline of everything I wonder at the big picture of what God has been doing. Timing is everything with Him, and I’d like to think that instead of having us just wait, for years perhaps, for a baby by traditional adoption, He allowed us to detour so that we could be a part of another big, beautiful thing with our little ones.

I’m so happy that He allowed us to know them, and my heart is only just beginning to catch up with the thought that He has a grand new beauty for us to be a part of.

Blessed am I.

Hebrews 12:28

So I reallllly need to get on here and write a more formal update about life and decisions and how it is that I came to be writing a check and submitting 17 forms to our adoption agency tonight…but I think that’s going to have to wait for another night. 🙂 It’s a goal of mine to really set aside time to write…it always helps when I do…so hopefully I’ll be back on track soon.

Tonight I really just wanted to get down a few thoughts from my reading this morning. {Literally, just a few thoughts. My brain is tired and Chris is grouchy that I brought the computer to bed with me. Ha!} I decided to try to read a passage a day {leading up to Thanksgiving} about thankfulness…trying to really focus in and prepare my heart for the upcoming holiday season.

The portion of scripture I read came from Hebrews 12, specifically verse 28. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

In reading that and really thinking about it, I realized how powerful that is and what hope it offers me. Life has been on shaky ground for us, there has been a lot of uncertainty and sadness. But my God is unshakeable, and through Him I gain steady footing and solid ground. Anything that pushes me to look outside of myself and this moment, this phase in life, is good for me. Today’s verse reminded me of the bigger picture and the hope and security I have in Christ.

Blessed am I.

The day God sent me flowers.

This past Friday, a volunteer at our school walked through my classroom door with a beautiful fall arrangement of flowers in the sweetest little jack-o-lantern vase.

So just, love. I so enjoy flowers anyway, but to be surprised in the middle of the day with a bouquet? Yes please!

Of course the kids and I are all oohing and aahing…{we share our highs & lows in Kindergarten, so flowers for me is like flowers for them} as I tried to guess who they might be from. Mom got the number one guess, but beyond that…I just honestly wasn’t sure who they could be from.

When I opened the card, it simply read “God is always faithful.” No signature, no clue as to who it was from beyond the address of the florist, which is the town we recently moved from. With teary eyes and a shaky voice, I read the card aloud to the kinders {who by this point are practically chanting “who are they from? who are they from?”} and told them there was no name signed.

Their response was priceless, and as kids can often be, so on point.

“Oh. My. Gosh….God sent you flowers?!”

“Y’all. God sent her flowers!”

“Those flowers are from GOD?!”

And from there it kind of digressed into weird 5 year old chatter of how exactly God would send someone flowers, with some adamantly declaring that God himself must have walked into our school while others were confused about whether or not God has legs. Of course Jesus on the cross came into the conversation and pretty quickly they moved into argument mode & had to be shut down…but the truth remained.

God sent me flowers. 

pumpkin

I still have no idea who responded to God’s prompting and sent the flowers my way; but I know I’m so blessed by their gift of encouragement. I have really been struggling with feeling alone and forgotten…so the flowers were a tangible reminder that I am cared for and loved. More importantly, the words were like a balm to my weary soul…a reminder of God’s character and an offering of hope.

God is faithful and I am not alone.

Blessed am I.

“Oh

Woe is me…and yet blessed am I.

Okay, so yesterday’s post was a little heavy. I could blame it on a lot of things {like the fact that I looked at the web page for the adoption agency we originally looked at and realized that every other couple we went through orientation with has already welcomed a baby into their family} but the truth is I have been in an overwhelmed, frustrated, emotional state for quite a while now.

The move isolated us from a lot of people who cared and checked in with us and were faithful to pray. That in itself has been a blow. Then visiting new churches led to a lot of questions about if we have children or not and a lot of “Oh yeah, well no hurry! There will always be time for kids later!” responses when we said no. Double blow. {That and they keep trying to stick us in classes with 20 year olds. I guess we look youngish and the no kid thing throws them. But no. Just no.}

Financially it was a very challenging summer for us. We charged the last transfer, then moved, had an insurance switch that was very costly, had a couple of unexpected yet necessary car repairs…then it was the usual start to school costs. All of that would have been enough, but then I did some…retail therapy. And I was nesting and trying to get us settled into our new home and…honestly…just felt desperate to be in control of something and have something in my life be the way I wanted it to be. So that thing became our home and I did some buying to get us there. So all of that equals a drained savings account, paycheck to paycheck in the checking account, and a substantial amount {for us} of credit card debt.

Needless to say, I’m mad at myself, and I battle feeling defensive. We’ve paid off a lot in our marriage {both cars, multiple student loans, etc}; we paid cash for almost $20,000 worth of doctors costs, adoption fees, fertility procedures…and we don’t typically carry credit card debt. I know we shouldn’t have any now and I was wrong to do some of the spending…so now we are just trying to get everything back in order. This past week we were literally the “poorest” we have been since our first year of marriage probably. So defeating, especially considering we need a minimum of $15,000 to do anything that moves us toward a baby.

When I get to counting my woes, I can really go on and on. The feelings of being forgotten…the trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel…the struggle to get on the same page as Chris. The battle against hopelessness. The just plain worn-outness from the beginning of a new school year. The hurts that I won’t let myself write about because there is literally nothing good that could come from doing so.

I’ve struggled in my walk with God, and I know it’s my end. I was grieving for a while…which was really okay I think. But I allowed myself to get stuck in the grief, and that’s not okay. It has resulted in a lot of confusion on my part; in a lack of direction.

But now for some good news. 

As I struggled to unbind my heart {nod to former posts from a Beth Moore simulcast I went to} and pursue God in an open, genuine way…Chris randomly stepped it up. {Randomly meaning by God’s prompting, of course.}

He started reading the Bible to me at night. He started praying for us more willingly and often {not something he is typically opposed to, but it has been a growing process for him}. He started praying that God would change his heart in several areas. It was the type of spiritual leadership I didn’t recognize my need for until after the fact.

Not everything has changed, obviously. But my heart has softened and opened, and I can feel a shift happening. More of a willingness to listen, I guess.

Through our reading in Psalms, it has started pinging me around to different verses and chapters and commentaries. Writing, even just the little I did yesterday, has started to help as well. Reading and writing are my forms of processing, and I wasn’t doing either for a while. I lost my words I guess…or perhaps I shoved them under the couch cushion while I sat in denial.

The scripture I quoted yesterday eventually led me around to the story of Jacob wrestling with God. I’m not done digging into that just yet…it probably needs a post to itself.

So I’ll wrap up tonight’s “woe-is-me” post with these words from a blog post on desiringGod.com…
“Sometimes faithfulness to God and his word sets us on a course where circumstances get worse, not better. It is then that knowing God’s promises and his ways are crucial. Faith in God’s future grace for us is what sustains us in those desperate moments.”

Faith in God’s future grace for me. For me.

I am no doubt in a desperate moment.

But He has a future grace for me, and His word promises that He has not forgotten me.

And if for that reason alone, Blessed am I.