Made in God’s Image?

Even without overt sexual abuse, all young women are known to experience a descent into low self-esteem at puberty, probably as they realize their role as sexual objects.

Aron, Elaine N.. The Highly Sensitive Person (Kindle Locations 1732-1733). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are you the parent of an adolescent – past, present or future? If not, I imagine you were one yourself, once! Do Dr. Aron’s words shock you? I hope so. I hope that they shake the core of any decent human being. If you are a mother or a father, how can we best instil into our adolescent sons the non-objectification of women and girls, given that it is e.v.e.r.y.where? Do you recognise where you yourself have objectified women, however unintentionally? This is just as much a question to women – women’s magazines, etc., attest to the fact that women buy into this objectification of one another. How can we best teach our daughters that they are worth so much more than just their physicality?

If you are a follower of Christ: Jesus is recorded on many, many occasions taking care to give particular respect and esteem to the women that He encountered, who were at the time generally treated as ‘less-than’ the men. It is clear from the New Testament that the early Christian church – the living expression of the New Covenant – was a place where women were included and valued. Jesus in fact told men, in no uncertain terms, not to objectify women. So why is this rarely addressed in churches? Why is a structure in which men’s voices are always the loudest (reflecting the world – not Christ) still the status quo? I ask this of Christian men and women, not just men. Men have to recognise their privilege and women have to recognise where they are reinforcing stereotypes against one another (which is also a reflection of the world, not Christ). We need to stop these generational inflictions on our young people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – and all, by grace, are lifted up and made beautiful. A healthy self-esteem is a recognition that we are bound, in this earthly body, to fall and to fail, but that we have a dignity bestowed by a loving Creator, who made us in His image.

There are words of hope for those for whom this is a daily struggle, for whatever reason, and they come from the same chapter; Jesus was on a roll that day 😉 Can you imagine what it would have been like to actually hear Him speak, to be there in His presence? Amazing!

Jesus said:

Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

Matthew 5:3, Amplified

Sometimes blessings come from the places we least expect, eh?

What are your thoughts on the prevalence of the objectification of women in Western culture and on the subsequent effects on young people? Is it something you have given any thought to? How do you think men and women within the church can respond?

 

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

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We’ve had an eventful couple of days. Fluff had fallen asleep with her main light on on Saturday night. Frank and I had gone to bed. She got up to turn the switch off and tripped on her way back to bed, falling face-first into the side rail. This caused an immediate massive nosebleed so she took herself to the bathroom, which is thankfully next to her bedroom, and promptly passed out. When she came to – which may have been as much as 30 minutes later – she called her sister and Chip ran downstairs to get me.

I dashed upstairs into a scene from a horror movie. There was blood everywhere. Fluff had begun to go into shock and was standing in the middle of the bedroom looking dazed and shivering, so I grabbed a blanket and wrapped her up in it, then made her climb into bed with her duvet tucked around her. Seeing a protuberation on the side of her nose I checked to see if it was in fact bone sticking out of her face – it wasn’t (at least, it had not broken the skin), but that and the bloody gash made me concerned. I told Chip to stay with her, warning her to call for me immediately if Fluff changed in any way, and made my way downstairs to the telephone. I dialled 999 and requested an ambulance.

Meanwhile, I used another phone to call my dear sister, the consultant paediatrician. I would advise anyone with children to have a consultant paediatrician for a sister. Very handy. She instructed me to give Fluff a cup of tea with sugar in it, so I sent Chip – suddenly turned remarkably helpful – off to put the kettle on. It’s true – the English response to any emergency is a cup of tea and I can confirm that this is endorsed by the medical community* (or at least, my sister). While we were waiting for Chip to return I prayed with Fluff.

By the time the ambulance arrived, poor Fluff was still shivering and looking dazed. On seeing the trail of blood, and the blood all down her legs, the paramedic – in his dry, Northern manner – commented that it was just in time for Hallowe’en.

Fluff managed to walk to the waiting ambulance and Frank went with her. I drove behind with Prince and Chip. It was a long night. A&E on Saturday night was busier than usual, including several individuals who were rather the worse for wear, but we all sat patiently in the waiting room, as we English do, the rough and the not-so-rough together. The police brought someone in and they too behaved as calmly as if they were just off to walk the dog. Gotta love the police.

Two young women – we’ll call them May and June – around the age of 20 brought their friend in – we’ll call her Sally – who had drunk too much, fallen and hit her face. May called Sally’s parents and calmly explained what had happened while Sally loudly informed the receptionist of her name, date of birth and address, so that everyone in the waiting room overheard. June held Sally’s head and her sick bowl and gave continual reassurance. That right there, I thought, is what it means to be a friend. I whispered this to a wide-eyed Chip, who was watching them with fascination adding, “Note how the other two are completely sober… You can have fun without getting drunk – and it’s safer.”

At just after 4am, as we were leaving the hospital, Sally was still there, and with a sheepish expression explaining herself to her bemused-looking father. She was much more alert. I reckon the only lasting damage was a bruised ego, poor girl. Sally’s situation was, I feel, quite an important thing for an impressionable 13-year-old to witness. Funny how things happen.

Fluff was admitted at 3am and subjected to a series of tests. It’s a forty minute drive to and from the hospital but I was back with her by 11am. She apparently had no memory of the night before, and had woken up in the hospital bed wondering what had happened to her bedroom, though she did remember falling. She kept asking to go home, insisting she was completely fine (she has an extremely stubborn tendency to stoicism). And eventually, after having seen the maxillofacial surgeon and having an ECG, deemed fit to leave, only now she was disappointed because she wouldn’t be getting the meal she had ordered for tea!

Throughout everything that happened, I remained calm. I was, however, concerned that the staff took Fluff’s symptoms seriously. This is the same hospital that missed symptoms of an aneurysm in my very dear friend last year which led to her death hours later, at the age of 38, after they sent her home. That was, as you can imagine, utterly devastating not least because she was such a vibrant person, so I kept reiterating the pertinent points about Fluff and her fall, probably tiresomely, to all the doctors and nurses.

Fluff is fine. She has a black eye and looks like she did a round in a tent with a feral cat but she and her brother are now happily playing with their guinea pigs and eating ice cream. I am cream crackered and resting, but fine. What I want to know is this: how come attending a theatre group prompted the PTSD blitz, yet going to the hospital with my bloodied daughter, in the same place my dear friend’s fatal illness was missed, prompted a self-assured, calm competence? What the flip is wrong with my head? How come the EMDR and BWRT have worked in some areas but not completely?

Meh. It’s all a journey. I’m just glad Fluff is ok.

*Please note that any reference to the consumption of tea as the true English cure-all is not intended to act as a substitute for proper medical advice…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe

Many years ago a little girl planted a seed. Buried in the damp dark the little girl forgot about it. When she did occasionally remember a fleeting sense of a – something – she assumed she must have been mistaken. That cold nubbin must simply have been a tiny, impermeable pebble. So what? That’s life. Hardly even life because it never lived in the first place; it just existed. And it was just a stone.

I’ve always had the odd habit of attaching a song to whatever I’m doing at a particular time. I know it’s odd because when I asked my husband whether it ever happened to him, he just looked at me with that patient look, the one that says okaaaaayyy… Yeah, he plays role playing games and gets all Big Bang Theory geeky over the difference between a troll and an elf. He can look at me all he likes. We’re a good match 😉

I wonder if the song thing’s related to synaesthesia? Anyway, sometimes it’s a hymn, sometimes a rock or pop song, occasionally an aria. Sometimes it’s just a phrase of music, minus words, especially jazz or big band. The overall effect is a bit like the dreaded earworm, only this thing comes and goes, and does not linger beyond its wantedness. It is a useful reflection of my unfiltered subconscious reaction to whatever is going on: my very own mental musical score. Woohoo.

As I lay down to sleep yesterday it was this:

Last night I went along for the first time to a local mental health theatre group. I told them I didn’t want to act – at least, not at first – and they were fine with that. I was astonished by what I found. Not ‘astonished’. That’s too forceful. No, it was a beautiful surprise, like realising that what you thought was just a plain old lump is actually an egg, and that the cracking, the apparent breaking, is what’s supposed to happen. That keen-edged shard is just the first, hesitant glimpse of a little chicky beak.
I am equally astonished – and there I use the word advisedly – by my own response to this blossoming. I could have been triggered by some of the subject matter. A few things were rather close to home and I have an overactive sense of empathy. Ouch. But the simplicity of the delivery, the raw honesty, the writing, the direction, even the screw-ups (the group is, after all, still in rehearsal) were a call to something that I had almost forgotten existed.

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
All your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
Psalm 42:7 (NIV)

And the ‘trigger’ didn’t happen. The expected ‘ALERT! ALERT! DEFCON 1! IMMINENT ATTACK!’ PTSD response just didn’t occur. I wasn’t overwhelmed. I didn’t want to hide under the table, or run away vowing never to return. I didn’t look at any of the group and ‘see’ someone else, someone threatening and crazy and powerful. Instead, I was touched by the enthusiasm and talent of the actors and felt genuinely inspired, something I barely recognised.

Maybe last night that little girl’s seed began its first, tentative creep towards the surface of the soil. The tiny, tender sprout is still in the dark, but the seed’s no longer dead. Maybe.

Abiding

It has been well over a year since I last blogged. Is anyone still following my blog? I think of you all often! The sudden and unexpected death of a very dear friend left me reeling just over a year ago, and we also experienced great upheaval, more trauma… I didn’t want to write about any of it on my blog because some of it wasn’t my story to tell. The trauma involved family members rather than me directly and although it was bloody awful for me, it’s still not my story to tell. Perhaps one day those involved will desire to tell their stories. Perhaps not.

As for me, my illness has significantly improved. I was in a wheelchair every time I went out for about nine months. Now I can walk a mile or even two on a good day and I continue to get better. I am so grateful. I meditate (nearly) every day. Mindfulness meditation has become a wonderful tool to enable me to cope with everything that we have been through and to support family members who have needed it.

I’m now a home educator <gulp>. Fluff decided she had had enough of school so we’re doing Year 11 from home, which has been interesting to say the least. I am enjoying it, but it is also exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. Yesterday I felt quite unwell and stayed in bed for most of the day after dropping Prince off at school. He’s still at school, bless him. We have another year before we have to send him off to special needs college.

Our daughters have made some drastic changes – Fluff is now vegan and extremely vocal about it. As part of our homeschooling she is studying Music (clarinet and piano) and GCSEs in Maths, English Language, Double Science and Geography, along with ABRSM Music Theory. She is determined to study plant-based nutrition and environmental science at university. Chip has become vegetarian and sees herself as a social activist. She is excelling at school and loving her weekly theatre school. They are both involved in Girl Guides and Fluff has become a Young Leader with Rainbows. She’s also just completed her Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. My children make me smile.

My darling husband is still working hard for his family and enjoying his role-playing games. He’s also assisting with homeschooling, especially Maths as that’s his speciality.

Our guinea pig brood grew (and shrank, sadly). We now have three, two girls and a boy. Cookie is snuggled up under my chin as I type, making little snuffling noises to tell me she is happy. She’s a black and white squeaky fluff-ball and very cute with it. The piggies even came camping with us in August when we went up to see Hadrian’s wall. I fell head over heels in love with the Northumbrian National Park.

800px-Vindolanda_bathhouse_-_2007-05-19

Vindolanda © Simon Robinson, 2007 / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GFDL-1.2.

“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” – Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

“This moment is as perfect as it can be.” – Richard Rohr, Letting Go

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” – John 15:9

How are you? How’s life been treating you? What is God doing with you in your life?

 

Ramblings

My next door neighbour mowed the lawn wearing a bowler hat this afternoon. #This is England. Did I do the hashtag thingy right? I like my neighbour.

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My daughters cycled into the countryside and I had to go and ‘rescue’ Chip when Fluff’s enthusiasm came up against Chip’s lingering cold and the cold won.

Two of our rescued guinea pigs couldn’t stand the sight of each other this morning, but after a run around outside, followed by a thorough exploration of the dining room (with accompanying inquisitive squeaks that sound like they’re saying ‘what-what-what-what-what?’) they decided they liked one another again. They’re so funny!

Continuing our month of Living Well and Spending Zero, we are using up what’s in the cupboards, including some fairly ancient packets. Chip made strawberry blancmange for pudding. Despite the fact that she even made it with almond milk, Fluff insisted it could not be vegetarian so refused to eat it. Oh, well, more for me… I like strawberry blancmange. It’s the same colour as Bagpuss. I am a big fan of Bagpuss. I have a mug, a cushion, a tee-shirt, a pyjama case and a small toy Bagpuss that makes a yawning sound when you squeeze his tummy, just like the real thing.

I got an animation kit for my birthday and I have yet to use it. Bagpuss and Mr. Benn are definitely my inspiration. I’ll have to get it out! That’s the trouble with this stupid illness. I spend the vast majority of my energy looking after my family and then I don’t have any energy left to invest in creative stuff :-/

Frank went along to a Sunday afternoon games group. He loves role playing games but there aren’t too many people who are interested nowadays. Not that I can imagine it ever being a particularly popular pastime.

I was going to lead our Sunday night bible time with some colouring-in of printable bible verses, but I was too tired. Sorry, God :-/ It’ll have to be a Monday night bible study instead. I don’t suppose God minds.

I added a row to my crocheted blanket this afternoon, having pointedly ignored it for a month. It is blue with sparkles and is a repeating pattern, but I keep forgetting the order of the stitches and having to relocate the actual pattern. When it is finished, it will be presented to my sister, who loves all things blue and sparkly and who is, at the grand old age of 37, moving into her first unfurnished flat.

I have taken to downing a mug of Clipper Sleep Easy tea before bed and I have to say it works a treat. So much so that I have stopped taking my bedtime tablets because I don’t seem to need them.

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I have been out for a walk every day since Monday and I think it has been doing me good. I read that studies have shown that sunlight itself has a positive effect on the brain and when combined with exercise (even if it’s only the limited amount that I can manage) it is highly beneficial for health. I still fall into bed exhausted of an evening, but I suppose that’s a good thing.

 

Putting on Imperishability

“What do you hope to get out of this?” She asked gently. I was sitting in the office of the new specialist. She had been explaining how the treatment worked, explaining how it’s a combination of a neurological approach and a psychological approach. “What did you come here today expecting would happen?”

“I – uh – I’m not sure.”

“What would you like to be able to do, once you have completed the treatment?”

I paused. “I don’t know because I kind of stopped hoping for things a long time ago. I have been let down too many times.”

This was the most truthful answer I could give, but I don’t think the lady understood. She still looked at me expectantly and gave an encouraging smile. “I’m sure you can think of something.”

“I guess… I’d like to be able to exercise.” I said, somewhat lamely.

“Good, good. Ok. And what about your daily life? Do you want to return to studying or to get a job?”

“Yes. Yes. I would like to study again and get a job. That would be wonderful.”

What I didn’t say was ‘that would be wonderful and so would a myriad other possibilities but I daren’t put any stock in them because it hurts too much to keep hoping and then to be let down. Again.’

It’s common sense to not have ‘goals’ as such, beyond today and tomorrow, isn’t it? How can I make plans when none of us know the future? How can I do anything except survive today, be thankful and prepare for tomorrow? Is this biblical? Or is this an un-dreaming, un-hoping, un-inspiring and un-inspired way to live? I don’t have dreams. But is that because it’s sensible or because if you get knocked down enough you learn to crawl and stay out of the way of the punches?

These were my thoughts this morning. I have been earnestly taking a good, hard, prayerful look at myself. And then I read this, from Richard Rohr’s daily meditations:

The Risen Christ is a great big yes to everything… even early, incomplete stages. The Risen Christ is still and forever the wounded Jesus—and yet now so much more. Your ordinary life and temperament are not destroyed or rejected, but instead, “This perishable nature will put on imperishability, and this mortal body will put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15: 52-54)—one including the other, not one in place of the other.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ… was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it is always ‘Yes.’ For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ ~ from 2 Corinthians 1:19,20 (NRSVA)

I think I have a tendency to say ‘no’ to things. I pray for the grace and strength to say ‘yes’. What about you?

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I am writing this to the chorus of guinea pigs. It happens every morning. Our piggies are now six months old and two months old. The mother and daughter are being very quarrelsome today, but even in their squabbling they are so very cute. And so funny! I think on the day God made guinea pigs He thought, “Now what can I make that is just the perfect little bundle of cuteness, always friendly, a bit shy but loves snuggles and is very talkative?” And thus was created the cavy. Proof that God has a sense of humour, imo. I might not know which way is up some days, but these little ones always make me smile:

COOKIE MONSTER

This is Cookie, aka Cookie Monster – though there never was such a misnomer (he is such a little scaredy cat) or Flufflebum. He likes to hide and to snuggle and to eat. When he is cuddled he chatters away in his own cute little guinea-pigese. Guinea Pig Therapy really should be a Thing.

Exclusion

I had to fill in a form for my new doctor. I have finally been given an appointment to see a CFS/ME specialist. It included questions that asked me to compare my current state with my ‘normal’ state. I am flummoxed by questions like these. I was diagnosed with this condition when I was 14. I have never lived a ‘normal’ adult life. Then there was the question of employment. I never chose to be a housewife, although I’m trying to do the job well. Coerced away from education and into my first marriage and immediate motherhood at the age of 21 I never had an occupation, as such, so it’s no good asking me about this. I never chose to be a mother (yes, you did read that right and yes it probably does mean what you think it means…) and I never chose to be a housewife, just as I never chose to have this condition or to be abused or to end up with PTSD.

In that moment I understood what it is to be excluded from general society, to be treated as less than human. There was no box for me to tick. The assumptions were already made. Perhaps that is why my response to those whom society has excluded is so strong. I get it. It sucks. It’s wrong. They and I are no better than anyone else, but equally no worse. They and I, like every human being, are made in the image of God. We are all God-breathed.

This morning God spoke to me through His Word and it directly relates. You may find it useful, too, so I share it here:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (NRSVA)

So the people that seem small and insignificant are deemed ‘indispensable’? That’s good. I’m ok then. How about you? And how does this change the way we view our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? How does this change the way we view our potential brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? Why do Christians follow worldly ideals and create ‘celebrity’ Christians?

 

A Non-scare

“Fluff, what does ‘gullible’ mean?” Chip asks her big sister.

“It’s a swear word!” Fluff sounds shocked. “You mustn’t say it!”

Chip looks at her sister. “It isn’t.”

“It is!” Fluff is insistent, although she is smiling. Chip is unconvinced.

“Muuuum?”

“Hmm?” I look up.

“What does ‘gullible’ mean? Fluff says it’s a swear word.”

“It’s not swearing.” I pause. “There’s no such word, Chip.”

“Really? Fluff said it was a swear word!”

“No, it’s not a swear word.”

********

Two weeks later we are waiting in the hospital for me to see the breast specialist about a lump in my *breast. It is the same hospital in which we visited my dear mother-in-law before she died three weeks prior. Emotions hang raw in the air.

I am sitting with my new crochet project and Chip is quietly reading. She is, like her mother, addicted to stories.Suddenly she jumps up and runs over to me, her index finger against a word on the page.

“See, Mummy!” She cries, “It is a word!”

I look at the page to see what she is pointing at. I smile up at her and all of a sudden she gets it and looks at me with dismay, then disapproval and then amusement. There is a gleam in her eyes that I know means she is thinking of a way to get me back (the girls and I love jokes, but Daddy and Prince not so much, so we don’t play jokes on them). Prince wants to know what was funny and so I explain to him, several times, until he understands and grins. A difficult day becomes a little lighter.

*******

*It was just a large cyst, which was drained with an enormous needle. I am prone to them, apparently.

My word I was grateful that it was only a cyst! Not because we wouldn’t have somehow dealt with/struggled through any eventuality (because who has a choice in these things?), but because the last few months have been really hard. This non-cancer-scare actually felt like a bit of a turning point for me. It’s not just the grief of losing someone you love that can cause distress after the event, but the weeks leading up to death during which a loved one is suffering. I had become consumed by my mother-in-law’s suffering. I couldn’t bear to see her like that. I researched strokes and vascular dementia and end of life care, etc., etc., just to try to find some answers that would limit her intense distress. I came up with very little, to be honest. I just wanted to make her feel better. She was clearly distraught and in pain. I eventually realised that ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away’ and there was not one thing I could do about it either way, except be there for my husband, and pray. I don’t think I did a very good job of either.

Sometimes a non-scare can give you a bit of perspective.

Who?

Who said this: “[My uncle was] a shameless old man who taught us obscene folk songs in Genovese dialect. That’s why none of the words of the little Genovese I know is repeatable”?

Was it –

a) Donald Trump

b) Pope Francis

c) Prince Philip

d) Silvio Berlusconi

 

Scroll down for the answer 👇👇👇

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answer: Pope Francis (yes, really!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clarinet and Ukulele

Last week Fluff (13) had her first clarinet lesson. Her piano teacher also teaches clarinet so we’re very fortunate. Fluff often feels like she lives in the shadow of her sister, which is difficult when it’s your little sister. Chip (11) is one of those (annoying) people who is gifted at everything: she’s very academic, she’s a natural swimmer, she played for the school football team in primary school, she’s a gifted actress, she was voted form captain within the first fortnight of secondary school, she’s friends with everyone, she got the Head Teacher’s Commendation Award at the end of the first term (December ’16), she currently has both bronze and silver merit badges… Need I say more? I marvel at this girl. Is she really bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh?!

I adore my Chip but sometimes find it hard to relate to her seemingly inevitable success, not to mention her gushing abundance of self confidence. Fluff – fiercely independent, creative, very much her own person, not as academic but determined, a bit of a loner – I confess I relate to better. Fluff is currently discovering her innate talent for music (she’s just picked up my ukulele and begun playing, never having touched it before). We bought her a second-hand clarinet for Christmas and by the end of Boxing Day she was playing In the Bleak Midwinter.

The delightful thing, for me as her parent, is that because she’s not used to being as naturally good at something as her sister, she takes such joy in the discovery of music. She’s also recognised that hard work pays off: she has a natural talent but knows that musicianship is found in practise, and plenty of it.

I wonder if there’s a lesson in that? I wonder if something is the more wonderful when it is hard won? I wonder if joy is only truly found in the space between sorrows?

“The kingdom of heaven is like [yeast], which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till all of it was leavened.”

“…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:33, 45-46 (NKJV)

emphasis mine