Greetings Friends! Today’s post, “Fasting the Forecast”, is on Our City On A Hill. I would love to share with you what God has shown me this year during lent! Please click here: http://www.ourcityonahill.net/fasting-the-forecast-by-katie-taylor/
This cookie cake sums up our weekend; it turned out to be…not exactly what we envisioned.
Mary was going to write her name in cursive and it was going to say “Jesus loves Mary” in a fancy font just like you’d see in a bakery. We were going to serve it to our entire family gathered together on the eve of her baptism.
As her parents, Will and I were thrilled when she decided she wanted to be baptized. We were baptized almost seven years ago on a somewhat spontaneous trip to the Tennessee River. As friends who had been instrumental in our coming to know Christ looked on and cheered, it was one of the most special days of our entire lives. We felt so alive coming out of that water.
So naturally, we had high hopes for this Sunday, February 10th, as our oldest daughter was ready to take that exciting plunge.
The church video was ready, the family’s plane tickets were booked, the outfit was laid out…and then it hit our home like a freight train. Oh, yes it did—the flu. Anna came down with it first. It was a curveball for sure, but not a total knockout. Then John came down hard. Not only flu, but croup. Our house became a hacking war zone as Will and I ran around with Lysol trying to stay alive. One after another, the family members cancelled their trips.
While we wanted to share Mary’s faith with our loved ones who were ready to cheer her on, we did not want to share the flu with anyone who came near us on this special day. It just seemed all wrong.
This opened the door for a challenging conversation with Mary. We talked about how comforting it is that some things never change, like God’s incredible love for her, whether or not she is even baptized. We talked about His unchanging character and the miracle of our unchanging status with Him in Christ. Then we talked about the things in life that do shift. We wrestled with the fact that sometimes things just don’t make sense. But when we don’t understand why things go wrong, we can trust God and know He must have something better in mind.
Mary agreed to postpone her baptism until May. She was born on the first day of spring and it seems only fitting that our first-day-of-spring baby would be baptized in the spring. Her birthday and baptism date will be tangible reminders that winter ends and new life comes. I don’t know what other parts of the story will unfold or what other details will be tied up, but I do believe it will be just what it should be! There’s a freedom and peace knowing we can’t mess up what God has for her and nothing can increase or decrease His love for our girl.
We spent the morning in our pajamas watching church online and celebrating other people’s baptisms from afar.
The message was about how we often come to God to change our circumstances but He responds by meeting our deepest need: He changes our hearts from the inside out. He offers us grace…and it’s a grace that is sufficient.
The only thing Mary requested is that we still make that cookie cake. We laughed as the blobs of pink icing poured out. And we talked about how just like the cookie cake, our lives are imperfect, downright messy and not exactly what we envision sometimes.
But Jesus says to taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8). And through twists and turns and changing plans and letting go of how we may have written the script, I believe He delights in showing us—He is even better than we thought.
Seven years ago, Will’s cousin invited us to the U2 concert in Nashville. We were about to leave town when we got the call that his wife was in labor. And it was not going well. They were headed to Vanderbilt Hospital and said we could come pick up the tickets from them and head over to Vanderbilt stadium.
Should we still even go? With mixed emotions, we hit the road to Nashville anxious to see them in person.
When we got to the hospital, we exchanged hugs as the doctors came up with a plan. Things were unsettled. The elevator doors closed as we parted ways with Will’s cousin, also a physician, who said, “it’s not good.”
With heads hung low, just steps away from that hospital room in the stadium, we waited for U2 to start in silence. Oh, how we wished the seats beside us were filled by the faces we had just seen. We felt guilty for being there and worried. We were waiting for news and praying while trying to make sense of the turn of events. The atmosphere shifted as U2 came on stage and played “Beautiful Day”. At the exact time the song began, we got the text that baby Dylan had arrived and that momma and baby were healthy and doing great. With happy tears we sang the song at the top of our lungs and texted them a video of Bono’s words echoed by thousands of voices just steps away from that baby boy’s first cry. After the show we got to meet our baby nephew and rejoice in that oh so beautiful day!
It is one I will never forget!
Will and I had tickets to see U2 in Nashville again last night. I woke up thinking about that memory and song. I envisioned a picture of us there steps away from the band with a hashtag #beautifulday. We were ecstatic! Before leaving town, we swung by the pool for a quick dip with our kids. Long story short, Anna (our two-year-old) stepped into a pile of fire ants, and moments later her face was swollen and her throat was closing. We gathered our wet kids and bits and pieces of our stuff and found ourselves speeding to the ER, our whole world spinning, shaking out of control. We held our little girl and prayed to God to keep her alive as she lost her ability to speak.
In just a moment, our universe turned upside-down. The previous script of our day was thrown out the window as we held tightly to our baby girl wanting nothing more than moments with one another. There was something beautiful in that crazy moment of knowing that nothing else mattered. The cares that had previously consumed our morning were gone. We were fully present with each other and with God in the eye of that storm.
As Will rushed Anna into the ER, I parked the car with Mary and John, and a crocodile tear rolled down John’s cheek. “I was really hoping Anna was gonna get to turn 3 and get bigger.” It was, as Will’s cousin had said those seven years ago in front of another set of sliding doors, “not good.” Anna received excellent care and breathing treatments as the adventure continued in an ambulance ride to another hospital where we spent the night in the ICU.
It was a nightmare in the middle of a summer day and all we knew to do was hold tightly to each other and claim God’s promises for our girl. We are so thankful for the love from our family and sweet friends who happened to be there in the moment to help and pray.
As it turns out, my childhood friend who lives in Nashville was able to go to U2 in our place. She texted me this video of that all too familiar song.
The words reminded me of the picture we had seen just hours earlier over the Emergency Room reminding us that God was with our little girl:
“After the flood, all the colors came out…it was a beautiful day!!!”
As I held Anna in that hospital bed, I was overcome with the same feeling Will’s cousin had 7 years before.
Indeed it was.
Anna is doing great and got to eat Skittles for breakfast this morning. She was discharged in hot pink style with an epipen and charge to always wear shoes outside. We have a cautious road ahead, but she’s a happy girl with an even happier momma!
God, thank You for Your mercy. Thanks for waking us up and reminding us of the miracle of life. May we love well, live with purpose, keep perspective, and hug our family. Thanks for the joy in those anticipated moments on our highlight reel that are extraordinary. Thanks also for those unexpected moments we would never write into our script that send us to our knees and reframe the ordinary as beautiful days. In Jesus’ Name we thank You. Amen.
Is there anything like watching a little kid open a present? This was my four-year-old opening a package sent from his grandmother this week.
Oh, the joy!
During the Christmas season we often teach our children about giving, but I believe we have much to learn from our children about receiving.
Because somewhere along the way, as we grow older, we lose the art of it. In the moment John received his power ranger, he didn’t think a minute about paying his grandmother back. He knows he can’t! And I’m pretty sure he didn’t envision writing her a thank you note later like I did. None of that crossed his mind. He was completely fixated on the gift that was now his! And nothing delighted his grandmother more.
There’s a reason families arrange travel plans to be wherever the kids are on Christmas morning. We’ll do anything to be able to see those faces the moment they are overcome by surprise and wonder! We don’t want credit for the gifts; sometimes we even attribute them to a man in a red suit. It’s not about keeping score. We plot and plan and spend without counting the cost because…it’s a joy like none other to watch a child receive a gift.
We love it because, in many ways, we’ve lost it. As adults, we have a harder time receiving. We feel awkward accepting a compliment. We feel uncomfortable when someone gives us a gift and we can’t repay them. We feel unworthy. We’d rather earn it.
We focus our attention this season on giving. And giving is an incredibly beautiful thing. But, as children of God, the birth of Jesus is perhaps more of a time for us to receive. A time to receive a gift with wonder and awe that’s impossible to pay back. A time to receive a love that pursues us relentlessly despite how short we fall. A time to see that we are indeed unworthy, but accepting that somehow we’ve been miraculously—chosen. A time for us to become as Jesus said, “like little children.” (Matthew 18:3)
The birth of Jesus into our lives is a time when our Heavenly Daddy gets to see those of us who know we’ve been tragically naughty receive the gift of extravagant grace with the same foot-stomping excitement that John received his power ranger.
The joy is ours.
The joy is His.
Let earth receive her King!
Thank you for the precious joy we get to see in little children this time of year. Please help us learn from them how to anticipate with great hope and how to receive in exuberant joy. Please open our hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit to receive the extravagant gift of Your Son. Thank you for joyfully receiving us as Your children. May the miracle of grace fall so fresh on us that we can’t help but dance a jig!
Today, I wanted to say how much I appreciate you as someone who reads my blog. Thank you for sharing life with me! I hope your Valentine’s Day was filled with extraordinary love. Today’s post is on OurCityOnAHill. Please click below to read. YOU OWN THOSE GATES! Read, and you’ll see what I mean!
I visited the pool from my childhood this summer, and as we walked in, a smile burst across my face when I saw it; the high dive. They don’t build them like this any more. I was flooded with memories of trying new dives with childhood friends, sitting on the side of the pool until we caught our breath, only to walk up the stairs and courageously try again. It was more than silly kid fun; it was overcoming fears with a spirit of excellence. We did it together. It was absolutely awesome.
As I played with my children in the shallow end, I kept looking at the high dive, and it seemed to be looking at me too. “Hello, old friend. I’m still the same. I’m just as fun as I used to be … Are you?” As a mom of three little kids, it was an intriguing question.
I continued playing in the shallow end, but on that second night before going to sleep, I retraced the steps to the one and a half in my mind. The bounce, the flip, the landing. I could feel the splash. I could taste the chlorine. My blood rushed as I wondered if I could still do it. A one and a half off a low board is not as complicated, but off a high dive, when you are flipping and falling fast, it is a big deal. The stakes of landing right are as high as the board.
“I’m going to do it,” I told my dad. It had been about twenty years since I stood on the high dive. I asked my sister to video it and she agreed. I didn’t walk to the edge to size it up or talk to any onlookers. I knew what to do. My heart was beating so hard and I could feel the adrenaline as I climbed those familiar stairs and stood at the back of the board looking out. Ready. Set. Go. I could hardly believe it, but…I nailed it. My dad was watching from the shallow end cheering with fist pumps and holding my children. It was so exhilarating and liberating to know that this older body can still do it. I was beyond elated!
I wanted to share the video with my childhood friends and on Facebook to give other moms and “older” people the “me too” that says “you’ve still got it” and “you’re still fun!” It was a reminder to me that as a grown up, I don’t have to always sit by the pool with dry hair, but can show my children that I too have dreams and challenges and a desire to overcome fear with a spirit of excellence.
I watched the video, and my sweet sister had flipped the camera as I flipped. It didn’t take. I was crushed. I decided to do it again and asked my mom to video it. She did. I nailed it again. But, she was talking with the lifeguard and the video didn’t take exactly as I wanted. Did it capture the flip? Yes. Did it communicate the “me too”? Yes. But, in that moment, pride snuck in my heart. My desire to share shifted to a desire for approval. And the video wasn’t quite perfect enough to meet that desire.
I returned to the high dive again, and as I entered the water, I heard a loud crack. My pony tail holder not only came out, it shattered. I felt a little fuzzy and a little sore, but didn’t think much about it. Two days later, the headache lingered. It hurt to think. It hurt to touch my head. It just hurt.
Worried about my brain and wondering if I needed to see a doctor, I called a good friend who is a neurosurgeon. “You have a concussion.” he said firmly. “It’s like you’ve been in a car accident.” Oh dear! He told me nothing would make it go away but time. I could not exercise and needed to rest. A concussion in the 100+ degree Alabama heat when my brain was needed for the mental gymnastics of back-to-school was awful. God had my attention.
And He spoke to me in a book recommended by that neurosurgeon. During our conversation about my head, he (also a father of littles) happened to recommend a book for my children, “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. I got it for my kids, and while reading it, realized it was for me.
The story is about wooden people who live in a land where they give each other stickers for everything. They get stars for good looks, successes, accomplishments, etc. and dots for bad looks, mess ups, mistakes, etc. Punchinello, who is unattractive and clumsy, is covered in dots and very sad. Then, he meets a girl who has no dots or stars and asks her why. She tells him that she spends time each day with Eli, the woodworker (their Maker) and lets Him inform her who she really is. Getting to know Him made her stickers fall off. Punchinello goes to meet Eli who delights in Him and tells him the secret about the dots and stars; they only stick if you let them.
What a brilliant book! I felt like God was very protectively and kindly whispering through my pounding head, “when you look for those stars to stick, you’re going to get hurt.” He has brought me so far in not letting the dots stick. Countless dots have fallen off since I met Jesus, and I will never stop singing His praises for that. But the stars. Oh, how I love the stars! Oh, how I can stick them on others too. Oh, how I desired stars in capturing the high dive flip on film in the perfect way. The flip wasn’t the problem; it was doing it the third time. It was the heart seeking stars from others that led to seeing stars through my injured head.
Will I continue to struggle with this? Yes. Will God continue to help me overcome it? Yes. Every day, He will. The high dive was a gracious, painful, powerful and (in hindsight) humorous reminder that the One who made the stars…counts me as one of them. No stickers needed.
This is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago. I have never put it on my blog, mainly because I didn’t want to offend anyone who has chosen a different path. I am a strong believer that women should encourage one another as much as we possibly can and not judge each other. I also believe everyone has good, thoughtful reasons for the path they choose and that God moves people in different ways. Whatever your lane, go Momma! But, in light of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share this to honor my own Mom. It’s called “Just Like Her.”
When I grow up I want to be…just like him. My dad was my hero. The teacher asked in 6th grade what we wanted to be and I wrote, “a banker.” He wore a suit, he worked in a very tall building, he did important things with important people and he carried a very cool briefcase.
Mom was the wind beneath my wings. She cheered me on and shared my dreams. She was so smart, but all she offered seemed to stay within the four walls of our home. Things were different for me. I could be anything, and I wanted to be…just like him.
And so I was. Not at a bank, but in another business. She cheered me on with pride. She was my biggest fan. My dreams were coming true. I was important with an important salary.
Then, one day I saw my child’s face looking up at me. One who said, “Help me, Momma.” How could such a tiny baby need so much? Oh sweet child, you will fit into my life just fine. And others can help while Mama does the things Mama needs to do. And even though she couldn’t talk, her eyes screamed, “I want YOU, Mama. You are the most important…to me.”
The world said one thing, my heart said another. So many options made things confusing. And even Mom, my great source of wisdom, couldn’t empathize. The wind beneath my wings never knew what it felt like to fly over her babies looking up from a distance.
And during this time, I met Him. I began to understand His grace and who He says I am in Christ. He says “if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) Every woman has her own story, calling and wisdom. I am simply sharing mine. And wisdom came to me in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus says, “the son of man did not come to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45) I thought of Jesus, the servant King. I thought of how he bent low to be lifted high. How he washed feet. How he said the last would be first. How the world didn’t understand him. How he stopped in his tracks for children and said “let them come to me and do not hinder them.” (Mark 10:14) And then, I thought about her.
I thought about the long waits in the doctor’s offices, the lunch box notes, the face in the carpool line that brought me comfort even when I was too old to admit it. If something was wrong, she knew…because she was always there. I thought of the endless laundry, the talks and giggles in the kitchen, the messes, the times in the yard picking flowers. She taught me how to pump my legs on the swings, how to count, how to read…she made the mundane fun too, and deep down we found comfort knowing there was nowhere else she’d rather be.
I thought of all the homework, the rides in the van, the questions she answered. She was the referee, the encourager, the cook, the nurse, the photographer, the counselor, the teacher. She was so smart; she taught me everything. It’s no wonder Dad made it look so fun. He had her, the one tirelessly working behind the scenes. She was the invisible glue who held our family together.
My dad has so honorably worked hard to provide for us and accomplished much. I am so proud of him and the way he has led our family. But the bank building, like my office, will go on just fine when he leaves. And she has poured her life into me, life that will go forward to generations that will long outlive her. Her invisible job has produced fruit that will last well beyond her time. The world may overlook her, but she is most important…to me. Dad was my hero but God has opened my eyes that there were two heroes in my home.
In trying to fly, I found a higher calling. I can be anything, and I want to be…just like her.
When an Achiever Becomes a Believer
Here is a picture of two very different half marathon finishes.
The first is of me six years ago and the second is last week. The Bible often refers to life as a race, and I thank God for how He transforms us along the journey and loves us every step of the way. Three kids and six years later, my race looks very different now…and so does my face! Because somewhere along life’s road, this achiever has been transformed into a believer. I am not afraid of my weaknesses anymore; they have been overcome by Grace!
One difference in these finishes is the extra 18 minutes it took to complete 13 miles. You could say I am a weaker runner now. But on this journey, God has shown me a different kind of strength. When I look at the first picture, I am so proud of her ability! When I look at the second, I am in awe of His ability to overcome. I see new things. I see:
Failure in my first race was going slower than a 10-minute mile. And sure enough, I beat it! But, as soon as I started training this time around, I realized my body could not run at that pace any more. So I had to redefine failure as allowing my expectations to drive me to quit. Releasing them set me free! Pride can so often shut us down from stepping into the abundant life. There was peace in embracing where I actually was instead of where I thought I should be. Weakness opens the door for His power to be made perfect. This mama can’t run fast in anything right now, but if I am willing to be humble, I can go to distance.
These pictures were supposed to be of the same race. I signed up to run in Nashville again but it didn’t work out with the kids. So I had to switch to a race in my own town three weeks earlier. This cut three weeks off training plus I caught the stomach bug and never-ending cough from my kids. The fight was not just to the finish line, but to the start. Six years of raising little ones has taught me to adjust and roll with curve balls. I do not have this mastered, but am learning I am not in control. Rather than quitting when things don’t go as planned, I am learning the strength of embracing the new plan and showing up for it just the same.
There was no training without teamwork. Unlike before, each time I went for a long run, it took teamwork from my husband and readjusting our family’s day. And rather than running the race too like originally planned, Will sat this one out to watch the kids. I am so thankful for my teammate in life!
I am also thankful for my friend Katie, who runs alongside me in ministry and motherhood, and showed up to run this race with me! We are not meant to run alone. God gives us the gift of co-laborers and encouragers to carry us when we can’t carry ourselves. And there was a moment in this race when I couldn’t carry myself. I hit a wall at mile ten and the gray road and sky started to blur together into what looked like a static tv channel. My legs felt cold and I wondered if I might collapse on the side of road. I tried to fight it, but knew I was shutting down.
And somewhere along life’s journey, I hit that wall too and came to an end of myself. The entanglement of my sin and flesh brought me to a place where I could not go on. I needed help. So on the run, I started praying through that fuzzy gray. Lord, help me. Please just help me see. And there in front of me was this sign “Church.”
It was not just any church; it was THE church where I came to Christ five years ago through a Bible study on Freedom. Seeing it made me know I was going to be okay and that this was a turning point.
The church is not just a building; it is God’s people. And right there in that moment was Katie. I told her I needed help and asked her to lead me. She reminded me to eat some jelly beans :), and that sunshiny shirt and ponytail bouncing to the worship music she was singing out loud pulled me through until I could see again! I am so thankful for all of God’s people who have helped me see and find my way.
This race was a reminder that we don’t have to be fully trained to go the distance; we just have to have the courage to show up. A special part of the run was passing by Hudson Alpha where Will works and was called out of the corporate world to be a part of an entrepreneurial enterprise. It was a leap of faith that the unknown would be better than the known. I am thankful for the risks we’ve taken along the journey, especially the ones for God. The achiever fears failure; the believer fears not doing the hard thing in light of the failure that has been overcome.
The Nashville race had a band at every mile, which was awesome! The ever-changing music encouraged me. There were no bands on this race; the soundtrack came from the never-changing Truth I played to myself.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
“Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character, and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame..” Romans 5:3
This race was different because of who I would see at the finish line.
There was nothing like hearing Will with these little voices cheering “Go Mommy!” at the end. While giving birth to them has made me slower, knowing I would see their faces pushed me to the finish. And embracing them reminded me that at the end of my race, their footprints will extend generations beyond my time here. And that’s how it is in this race of life. When we believe in Jesus, it’s different because of who we will see at the finish line. We may look weaker by the world’s standards, but the life He births in us is a gift that will extend beyond our time. And knowing the One we’ll embrace at the finish makes it worth the fight.
I treasure these race pictures and the amazing love God has for us every step of the way. He is writing a story in each of our lives, and lets us in on the best secret…no matter what we achieve, we’re made perfect when we believe. And that’s worth smiling for!
A wise friend once told me to run after God with all you have and then look at the people on your right and left; those are the people with you on your faith journey. God has led me to a group of writers at Lincoln Village Ministries called Freedom Writers. Each week, I go with three beautiful sisters to write with middle school girls. It’s a time the girls can have a safe place to share what’s on their hearts. We write together, pray together, get real and help each other experience freedom in the Lord. I learn as much from these middle school girls as they do from me. They are awesome! My friend Katie Wilson founded Freedom Writers, inspired by the movie, and you can read more about it here.
We recently took a field trip to Rhymer’s for the Lord, a ministry founded by my dear friend and fellow freedom writer, Toya Poplar, and her husband, Melvin. Melvin is a gospel rapper and lyrical genius! Rhymer’s invites kids and adults to the Inner City Learning Center to rhyme for God’s glory. It takes an art that can used to share harmful words, and transforms it into something life-giving and amazing!
Speaking on a mic in rhyme is new to me (haha!), but I love new things because they break me out of my comfort zone. The cool thing about running after God is when you look to your right and left, you won’t see people who look exactly like you. I have found in all of the places He has led me, He brings people of different color, backgrounds and age into my life. This makes HIM bigger, extends the facets of His glory, and stretches me to experience Him in different ways!
Toya asked me to read “The Pavement” (my rhyme about running below) without my notes. That’s not my style, but I did it! At her suggestion, I dressed in my running clothes and acted it out. And isn’t that how it should be with God’s word too? We don’t just read it, but write it on our hearts, dress in it and act it out? This freedom writer experienced freedom in a new way tonight at the Inner City Learning Center!
I wanted to share “The Pavement” with you and hope you enjoy it! And if you haven’t experienced spoken word, rhyming for the Lord or God in a new way, I highly recommend it! We have a Creative Creator who delights in bringing His people together and inviting us into His creativity.
Running is a gift
It’s hard but it teaches
I think the pavement listens
I also think it preaches.
I know I’m not alone
When I wrestle hopes and fears
Does the pavement see me?
Does the pavement have ears?
It calls me out to try again
To wrestle and to fight
To run my race with all I am
To battle dark with light.
My envy, fear and anger
I talk them out so freely
We work it out together
I know the pavement sees me.
And yet it never changes
Or pushes me away
My darkest thoughts are fully known
And yet I get to stay.
It reminds me to be humble
It reminds me to be brave
It reminds me that I stumble
But in failure I am safe.
It reminds me that comparison
Blinds us to our light
We choose to win or lose
By choosing who to fight
Our struggle is never against
Another runner in the hood
But powers of darkness that lie to us
And tell us we’re no good.
There is no hill too high
And I never climb alone
The pavement feels my every step
And always brings me home.
So, when I’m sad and hurting
Or feel I might explode
I go and tell the pavement
That ever-listening road.
The pavement never judges
I don’t have to show restraint
The pavement never rejects
True colors I can paint.
It shows me I’m not stuck
And that I get to keep going
It reminds me I have freedom
And a hope that’s always growing.
God, thank You for the race
For trials and triumphs true
In Christ, we have the victory
And on the pavement,
WE FIND YOU.
Father’s Day is coming up this weekend, a special time to celebrate the wonderful dads in our lives and what they mean to us. But for all too many, Father’s Day marks a day when hearts ache for someone who, for whatever reason, is no longer here.
As we approach this weekend, I wanted to share a post written by the amazing father of my children, Will Taylor. Will tragically lost his daddy at 16, which began the challenging, painful, beautiful and redemptive search for His Heavenly Daddy, who welcomed him as a son five years ago.
I pray you are as blessed as I was! While you are on OurCityOnAHill.net, please check out other “soul food” local devotionals and testimonies. The mission of the site is “To unite believers and bring out the God-colors in our city; so that God is glorified and the lost are found.” Whether you live in Huntsville or not, I hope you enjoy hearing amazing stories of grace and transformation. God is alive and active around all of us!
And may Father’s Day be a day when we also reflect on our Heavenly Daddy…the One who will never leave us or forsake us, who has adopted us as His precious children, who loves us with a perfect love, and who says to each of us, “with you I am well pleased.”