Off-duty Faith

September 14th
…after finishing day shift


Helping a new nurse fill out her orientation paperwork.
Showing her where a few things are.
Asking where she is from– Nigeria.
How long is she here?– 10 weeks.
Was she able to save up her crew fees?– Only one month’s worth
How much does she make?– One month of work for her equals one day of work for me.
Did she receive donations?– One, $50.

Does she know how she will pay for the remainder of her fees?– “No, but I KNOW God wants me here for a reason. My God will provide.”

Wow. Her faith brought me to tears in seconds. She kept talking with a light in her eyes of COMPLETE assurance.

I showed Linda where the crashcart was, but she reminded me where my source of hope lies.

To bless Linda financially, follow this link to donate directly to her crew fees on board the Africa Mercy as she continues to faithfully serve as a nurse and share the gospel with the people of Benin. Her faith is incredible. I have enough personal savings to “save” myself if I don’t raise enough, she does not. Please donate to her before you donate to me. Her heart is beautiful!

She has no idea I’m doing this. Please don’t mention my name 🙂
http://mercyships-us.donorpages.com/crewmates/LindaIkwuagwu/

Glowing Moments and Painted Nails

But first…Some photos!

This group is our Advance Team. They had been in Benin for over 3 months preparing for our arrival. Hiring daycrew/translators, purchasing vehicles, working with local and government officials, getting our visas, getting the word out to potential patients, organizing for all our necessary supplies to be shipped into the port…. I could go on and on and on. There were so many logistics to work out and they killed it!

The Advance Team poses in fronf of the incoming Africa Mercy
The Advance Team poses in fronf of the incoming Africa Mercy
The Advance Team celebrates on the dock
The Advance Team celebrates on the dock

Screenings and Setup!

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Potential patients and their mothers await their turn for screening.
Potential patients and their mothers await their turn for screening.

 

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Made it past the first phase of screening: Patients on the Dock!

Israel and his mom wait on the dock before being admitted for cleft lip surgery.
Israel and his mom wait on the dock before being admitted for cleft lip surgery.
Israel and his mom wait on the dock before being admitted for cleft lip surgery.
Israel and his mom wait on the dock before being admitted for cleft lip surgery.
Israel and his mom wait on the dock before being admitted for cleft lip surgery.
Israel and his mom wait on the dock before being admitted for cleft lip surgery. *Note: the woman to the right is Raymonde, waiting to be seen at our surgeon screening.
Three patients with nelgected club foot stand on the dock.
Three patients with nelgected club foot stand on the dock.
Orlane on the dock before receiving treatment for her bilateral neglected club feet.
Orlane on the dock before receiving treatment for her bilateral neglected club feet.
Orlane, Gladys and Herve on the dock before receiving treatment for their neglected club foot.
Orlane, Gladys and Herve on the dock before receiving treatment for their neglected club foot.
Herve on the dock before receiving treatment for his bilateral neglected club feet.
Herve on the dock before receiving treatment for his bilateral neglected club feet.
Herve rides a tricycle on the dock before receiving treatment for his bilateral neglected club feet.
Herve rides a tricycle on the dock before receiving treatment for his bilateral neglected club feet.
Herve rides a tricycle on the dock before receiving treatment for his bilateral neglected club feet.
Herve rides a tricycle on the dock before receiving treatment for his bilateral neglected club feet.
Gladys on the dock before receiving treatment for her neglected club foot.
Gladys on the dock before receiving treatment for her neglected club foot.
Potential patient waiting in line for screening.
Potential patient waiting in line for screening.

Preops and a 7 year Postop!

Dr. Kyley Wood examines Israel before surgery to repair his cleft lip.
Dr. Kyley Wood examines Israel before surgery to repair his cleft lip.
Dr. Kyley Wood examines Israel before surgery to repair his cleft lip.
Dr. Kyley Wood examines Israel before surgery to repair his cleft lip.
Dr. Gary Parker meets with Oceane and her mother 7 years after removing a large mass from the back of Oceane's head.
Dr. Gary Parker meets with Oceane and her mother 7 years after removing a large mass from the back of Oceane’s head.

Week Two

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better…I got to see the same patients I helped screen walk into the wards and settle into their beds. I got to see them leave and come back from surgery. I got to take care of them, love them, and paint their nails (if painting nails were a love language, it would be mine!) Since this is the first week the hospital was open, I also got to orient 6 or 7 different nurses to the hospital and consequently push them out of the nest to get them flying on their own. One of the new nurses had something to teach me, though. More on that in the next blogpost.

Anways, back to painting nails… 🙂

Sunday, September 18th
At change of shift during handover one evening, I was introduced to Miss Raymonde. She was not a patient that I had taken care of the day before or after her surgery, but since her bed was near the med cabinet, I’d smile and greet her often as I walked by. The off-going nurse informed me that Raymonde’s affect was quite flat (nurse-talk for a down or emotionless face). They weren’t able to figure out just what, if anything, was really bothering her, but they had deduced that it might have to do with the drab hospital gown and not feeling very feminine. Solid bright colors are basically neutral for our patients here in West Africa…so imagine a light blue/gray hospital gown. Totally blah. In addition to that, Raymonde did not have any long hair or braids like many of the other women. I don’t know exactly why, but it may have had something to do with the neurofibroma hanging from the hairline behind her left ear.

After I got all my patients settled, I called a dear friend, Ivanna, who absolutely loves to wrap hair.
[She’s an excellent writer. Check out her blog! Here is a post she wrote about a patient in Madagascar who also had a neurofibroma removed: Angeline’s Story]
When Ivanna answered the phone, I told her we had a patient who “might want to look a bit more feminine…and she even has her own scarf.” She joyously replied, “Oh, how perfect! I’ll come down before dinner.”

Before, Ivanna arrived, I asked my charge nurse (and friend!) Jenny if I could run to my cabin quickly. I returned with a bag full of nail polish and a mission in my heart. Raymonde was going to know that she was beautiful, darn it!

Raymonde made quick work of my stash and selected a beautiful deep shade of shimmery blue. “Perfect”, I thought. “I can work with that.” As I started to paint her nails, I searched for a connection.

Blue…
I asked one of our daycrew, Brice (if I remember correctly haha…week 2 and 3 have been a whirlwind), to come translate for me. Speaking through a translator is a bit like poetry. It’s hard to describe, but just imagine your words being echoed back, yet incomprehensible, and awaiting a glimmer of understanding from your patient.

“I love the color nail polish she chose.”
Echo,
Glimmer

“It’s one of my favorites.”
Echo,
Glimmer

“Does she know blue is the color of royalty?”
“I’m sorry?”
“Royalty. Like Kings and Queens.”
“Ohhh yes.”
Echo,
Glimmer

“And since she is a child of God, that includes her too!”
Echo,
Glimmer
…and a smile, finally a smile…

Earlier that day during “coffee church” (sleeping in followed by a bit of caffeinated community in the cafe), I had downloaded the Bible in the “Fon” language from the Youversion Bible App. So, I asked Brice to help me and asked if he could read a verse to Raymonde for me. Even though Fon is the most common local language, my day crew quickly informed me with a perplexed expression that this was a more “professional” version of Fon than a layperson would typically read. I was so bummed, but I was determined to share this verse with her! I  scrambled. Pausing to look up at the name card above Raymonde’s bed, I asked, “does she understand French?” I held my breath. Brice inquired. She nodded. Yes! Raymonde understands French! I quickly switched the language to French in my Bible App and handed my phone over to Brice.

In beautiful French, Brice slowly read: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

And then he translated for me as I finished her nails,
“Her nails may be beautiful now, but her hands are always beautiful when she does God’s work.”
Echo,
Glimmer,
Glow

To top it all off, Ivanna came down within an hour to wrap Raymonde’s hair,
and she was absolutely royalty.


Last year, it actually took me a while to get “warmed up” to my new life and I know for a fact that I let opportunities slip because I wasn’t looking for them. This field service, I determined in my heart not to wait. Not to wait for an opportunity to smack me in the face. Rather, I am choosing to look for any sliver of an opportunity to encourage or speak truth. In a way, I am trying to play a spiritual game of “Associate This” or improv comedy–using everyday circumstances and relating them to God’s word. Call me a nerd, but so far God is honoring my silly little attempts. I have an inkling that he would do the same for you. 🙂

This little light of ours can cast a pretty big glow if we let it.

Addictions and New Beginnings

September 19th, 2016

Cotonou, Benin
West Africa


I’m back!
At this time two weeks ago, I put on my Mercy Ships scrubs again and got my jet-lagged self to work cleaning the hospital. Now, here I am with a day off just pondering how much I’ve seen unfold in two weeks time. I truly can’t wrap my mind around how productive the time has been. I cannot bring to mind a single stretch of two weeks over the summer that were this lifechanging.

That is why this is all so addicting. This is a drug I could definitely use for life. Please don’t think of me as angelic. I SERIOUSLY believe if you experienced this place and this work, you would want more too. Dopamine is dopamine. My brain has been exposed and now I crave it.

Enough talk about chemistry/addiction. (One of my favorite random topics)

During the first week I was here, I took part in cleaning the hospital, screening patients, diagnostic screening, giving out surgery dates to patients, and giving preoperative education to our plastics patients.

[[Last year, I spent the whole first week in orientation. So all this activity was definitely a welcome change, and it is honestly a lot easier to ignore exhaustion if you keep moving!]]

Cleaning the hospital literally involved double-cleaning all equipment/furniture, scrubbing floors, and washing walls and ceilings (let’s be honest, the tall nurses and Dr. Linds did that). Not to mention, moving everything back were it belongs (since it all gets strapped together to secure during the sail). I helped clean for a couple days, but it went on all week long.

Partway through the week, I was asked to help with screenings. This is something I had done midway through our fieldservice in Madagascar, but only once or twice. This time, I got to spend time with general patients (hernias, goiters, lipomas), maxillofacial patients (facial tumors), and plastics patients (burn contractures, soft-tissue masses, and genetic deformities like polydactyly, syndactyly and gigantism). It was so neat to be a part of the process. The patients I came in contact with had already made it through the massive pre-screenings that were happening at a school outside of the port. These were the few patients that received a “yes” in a sea of “no’s”. Out of the patients that had been pre-selected, one surgeon estimated that the screening team (all nurses and day crew) was so efficient that about 98% of the people he saw at surgeon screening (phase 3) were a “yes.” Now that’s efficiency. I have to give credit to our screening team. They are absolutely incredible, smart, and resilient.

In phase two, I had the easy job. I provided some extra man-power to obtain further information related to health history and recent illness–occasionally these patients were also turned away (either permanently or temporarily) related to underlying conditions that could make it dangerous or life-threatening to operate. We really try to reduce risk.

I also got to participate in what I would call phase four (none of these phases are official by the way–I totally made up the numbering haha). If patients made it through ¹the mass screening, ²more detailed health history screening (and ALSO diagnostic screening for our maxillofacial tumor patients) AND ³surgeon examination/screening…finally, FINALLY, they would receive a surgery date! I got to give surgery dates to so many hernias! I got to give extensive education and surgery dates to plastics patients! I got to give surgeon screening dates to a bunch of maxillofacial patients!

Admittedly, I used the word I a lot in that last paragraph. Please know its not out of pride, but rather amazement. Amazement as I saw the process all unfold before my eyes…amazement as I got to write hope and healing in black and white on the back of a plastic ID card…amazement that the screening team let me be involved in their huge undertaking. I am privileged. I am honored to be a part of this team. I am blessed to be God’s coworker.

God is God, and I am not.
That could not have been more obvious in the first week.


Up next: Week Two, Little Moments and Quiet Faith

Below is the link to my donor page for those asking 🙂

http://mercyships-us.donorpages.com/crewmates/kirstenmurphy/

Pursuing Higher Things: The Reward

Part Four


In my previous blog post I talked about the different types of “work” God has assigned to those in his family. Here I’d like to list some of the rewards God spells out in scripture. In the category of marriage, many of us have heard that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.” Although I agree, I believe the entire body of scripture directs us to many other blessings to pursue instead of placing all our effort and hope into preparing for and waiting for a significant person to make a lifelong commitment to us.

James 1:12
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

2 Timothy 4:8
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

1 Peter 5: 2-4
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;
not lording it overthose entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

1 Corinthians 9: 22-25
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

I feel the need to state that this list is not exhaustive. And although these scriptures broaden our Christian sense of purpose from the tunnel-vision of marriage, it is still only four passages out of the 66 books that make up the Bible.

Using just this selection of scriptures, I hold resolutely to my previous conclusion. Aside from the question of relationship status, there are so many other ways to relate to and converse with single Christians. I personally resolve to speak about and encourage others in these things instead.

Finally, I’d like to quote a piece of Jesus’ well known “Sermon on the Mount.” In these verses, the word “blessed” means victorious. Essentially, Jesus helps us to see value in status’s or emotions that we sometimes tend to perceive as “less than” or undesirable.
Take a read with that in mind:

Matthew 5
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Let’s stop making singleness such a thing to be endured. Instead, let’s exhort eachother to run headlong toward the work God has for us NOW that will reward us in ETERNITY. If becoming married happens along the way, great! However, like everything else on earth, it will also end. Let us not be short-sighted in the way we live.

Please remember this:  God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind. Romans 2:11 (MSG)

I think its about time that we choose to live for His approval–and no one else’s.


This is my fourth and final blogpost in my series on singleness as a Christian. Please feel free to comment or message me privately with questions or remarks. I’d love to talk with you.

Next up…
Transitioning back into life on board the Africa Mercy in West Africa!

Pursing Higher Things: The Work

Part Three


“Ok, Kirsten. So there is purpose in my singleness and there is work to be done. What work?”

Roll up your sleeves, beloved. It’s about to get real.

I could basically break this down into two categories. God wants us to:
-Become like Him
-Help others become like Him

If ya’ll would read your Bibles, this would be the end of my post haha. All jokes aside though, here we go:

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NIV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

The Amplified Bible defines reconciliation in this way in verse 18,

“But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him].

So here in one passage we clearly see that there is work to be done. Work that God has specifically assigned to us. Work that is not dependent on marital status or even maturity. The one requirement is to be a person “ingrafted in Christ.” (AMP, vs 17). How well do we ask one another tough questions about the last time we attempted to do this…instead of the last time we went on a date? It’s time for Christians to have a more BIBLICAL world view.


“What does God reward?” This is a far more important question than the subconscious (or conscious) goal we have to please others and meet the expectations of the people around us. So for those of us who are single, our objective must be intentionally different than what is natural to pursue. And for those of us who want to love and encourage the single people around us, we should attempt to reform the precarious expectations our young people are trying to live up to.

I hope that the single culture and the attitude toward singles are different for my younger sisters when they enter this phase of life. I hope that they are internally and externally (in the speech and actions of people around them) catapulted into a life of pursuing the higher things. I hope that marriage is something that purely and simply happens in God’s timing instead of being heavily influenced by those who glorify it.

Please, please for the sake of my sisters, ask them about anything other than “when their turn is”…
Ask them about ministry…
ask them how they are doing in reaching out to their friends…
ask them about their spiritual disciplines…
ask them what God is teaching them…
ask them to lead a bible study…
ask them to accompany you to an outreach event…
ask them for prayer…
ask them how they dream of serving…
ask MORE OF them.
Please.

A commitment to marriage and family is a high calling. However, it the does not need to be pursued at the exclusion of all other God-given callings. Frankly, how else will my sisters learn to pursue something other than matrimony is it is given supreme attention.

Reconciliation of mankind to our Savior is the most important thing we could ever do–with or without a change of “relationship status.” In addition to reconciliation, a huge undertaking in and of itself, there are more specific things to be done. Things that require no waiting or preparation. Only DOING.

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Titus 2:1-7 (NLT)

As for you, Titus, promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching. Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.[a] Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes,[b] to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.

In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.

 

I will be the first to acknowledge that being a good wife and mother are in the list of things older women should teach younger women. AS IT SHOULD! However, do we take notice of every other thing that makes up a God-honoring life? A truly biblical world view requires us to place self-control, faith, love, patience, and hardwork in the canon if topics that we teach eachother. We cannot remove from scripture that which God has breathed.

Simply put, the Bible tells me that I am designed and created for much more than a ring on the fourth digit of my left hand. My purpose, if given by God, must have eternal impact. So with the greatest of gusto, that is what I will pursue. Eternal impact.

Below is my final verse for the night. In Ecclesiastes, a great teacher examines life and seeks to find meaning in a variety of things: knowledge, wealth, a job well done, marriage(s). And these were his final thoughts.

Ecclesiastes 12:8, 13

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”
That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion:
Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.

Everyone’s.
No need to indicate marital status.
So, let’s get to work.

Dear Church People… [Use Whatcha Papa Gave Ya]

Part Two


Before reading this, please read my previous post
“Singleness in the Church (good luck with that)”


Dear Church People,

Encourage our young people to hurry, but not towards marriage like it’s the freakin crown of life. God doesn’t award any crowns in heaven to people who managed to put a ring on it. In fact, marriage no longer exists in heaven. Don’t ask me details about how exactly that works. (I haven’t gotten that stamp in my passport yet.)

Let us not debate what we do not know. Let us not be MORE eagerly supportive of an earthly “reward” when there are clearly stated eternal rewards that really should be more fervently pursued than a mortal earth-partner. (I think that’s the realist description of “spouse” I’ve ever come up with haha.) Let us think and dream bigger. Let us think eternal… for ourselves, our youth and the world.

Loveeee,
Kirsten


Before you continue, just know that I am not ONLY going to list some of God’s purposes for single people or the advantages of singleness (though they are significant of themselves). I’m also just going to talk about his purposes for his children. These things are all inclusive. Neither singleness nor marriage are prerequisites for any of them. We are first and foremost, God’s children. Let us not forget that. God is not the disappointed grandparent at Thanksgiving asking if you’re seeing anyone. You are his child, and he wants you to be WHOLE. Marrying someone has LITERALLY nothing to do with wholeness.

First of all, I’d like to touch on a few things from 1 Corinthians, chapter 7 that I believe are misunderstood or improperly applied.

Verse 9 speaks specifically to unmarried WIDOWS and WIDOWERS. So people whose eyes have been opened to the pleasure that is marital sex. For those, Paul’s advice is to stay single if you can (and he gives his reasons a bit later). However, if such people “cannot control themselves” it is better for them to become married again “than to burn with passion.” So just to state it another way, this provision was not given for lustful teenagers, porn-addicted young adults, or fantasizing youth. Unfortunately, that is how I see that verse being applied—to young people that are not controlling themselves as pre-marrieds and then continue to not control themselves as young-marrieds.

Moving on.

Later in the chapter, Paul specifically speaks to “virgins”—so the never-marrieds. He sums up in verses 25-28 that if you are engaged or not engaged to be married is not important and neither is sinful. In the instance of marriage, however, Paul says “but those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” Wow! What a difference in the dialogue! How often are we warned of the trouble marriage will bring? Pretty much never…until premarital counseling or the “for better or worse” vows.

In verses 29-31 Paul gives several examples of how we should live differently in this world. He essentially says that the only thing that counts is obeying God’s commands (verse 19) and doing the work of reconciling the world to God with URGENCY. He basically says “the time is short”, so forget about pursuing marriage, lengthy mourning, happiness, personal possessions or being engrossed in things of the world (the lingo, the lifestyle, the dress-code, the beauty standard, their acceptance etc). And you know what Paul’s ultimate reason is for that? Verse 31 “For this world in its present form is passing away.” What does that mean? It means none of that other stuff (including marriage) will matter for you, the people you could have been a Godly example to or those you could have reached with the gospel. Let me just put it this way. [Pun warning] Hell ain’t lit. Well, it is…but not like that.

Verses 32-34 starts with “I want you to be free from concern.” To summarize, Paul basically says that married men/women will have their devotions divided between God and their spouse. He ends by stating, “I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” All throughout this chapter, Paul repeating over and over that neither marriage nor singleness is wrong, but singleness definitely appears to have less burden and more eternal impact. He does recognize the purpose and need for marriage, but is basically doing what I’m trying to do right now—make people slow down and use their youth for “the Lord’s affairs.” A single woman’s aim should be “to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.”

Conclusion?

Give God all you’ve got. Don’t you dare sit on your butt and wait for Mr. Prince Charming (or Cinderella). If that’s what you’re going to do, you might as well get married ASAP to the next toad that comes along. I’m not going to be that person that calls singleness a “gift”, but I sure have seen its value. God gave you some assets that can only be cashed in while you’re single. So stop hoarding and/or squandering the gifts and opportunities God has given you NOW.

Now, moving away from the chapter about singleness vs marriage…
Let’s take a look at another scipture that speaks of an eternal mindset.

Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6

Often, this verse works its way into sermons that deal with materialism or generosity. Have we ever considered that we may be treasuring marriage ABOVE the eternal treasures God wants us to “store up”? ABOVE the eternal work he wants us to take part in?

Hmm… food for thought.
When we start to think in terms of eternal or kingdom-minded work and reward, marriage suddenly isn’t such a huge priority.
Stay tuned for part 3.
Yeah I know…ridiculous. I can be concise about some things, but apparently this is not one of them! In my next post I will specifically be drawing out the work that God has called us to be a part of and some of the crowns/rewards that God talks about awarding in heaven [spoiler: Being married doesn’t get you one].