Setbacks… a chance to regroup

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This month has been full of turmoil.

I already knew that it was going to be off, to say the least, as I have a love-hate relationship with August… It was the month Dad (and Mom) were both born, but also the month that Dad died. The two-year anniversary of his death was August 11th, and there were several other events that coincided with that date that left me moodier and more emotionally frazzled than normal.

On July 29th, we traveled eleven hours to Alabama to see my two very talented brothers-in-law put on a special gospel concert at their church. Their hope is to launch a CD soon, and I have no doubt they will be successful. Not only do they sound like soulful old men, although they are only 17,  one of them plays the drums and one of them plays the keyboard. They taught themselves their instruments. They have the natural skills to pay the bills.

While we were there, we visited my husband’s grandmother, who had recently been put in a nursing home. She knew who we were and was genuinely happy to see us. Before we left her room, she implored Matt to come see her before we left. Matt said, “we’ll see…” But I was not going to let him leave without going back to see her. Turns out, we didn’t have to, because one of her daughters brought her to the concert that was the next day, and although her breathing was labored when she came into the church she seemed fine. I sat next to her and we ate peppermints. She took a nap. Everything seemed fine.

The day after we got back to Michigan, we got a call from my father-in-law telling us that she had died.

My mind was BLOWN. Of course, none of us know when anyone’s time is up, so really, should we be surprised when we find out someone has gone home? I don’t know the answer to that, but all I can say is, she looked fine.

A nagging part of me worried after that call that her funeral might be on the eleventh. Matt wondered the same thing and asked if he should ask John (his father) if they could possibly avoid having the funeral on the 11th. I told him no–that is a difficult day for me, but it is not about me, and I wasn’t going to allow my grief to overshadow the fresh grief of a family who had just lost their mother and grandmother. I told him not to mention it at all.

They settled on August 12th for the funeral, which meant that we would have to leave on the 11th at the latest to head down there. I was supposed to be in charge of the annual church picnic that was to be held the 12th, so I had to reluctantly turn over the reins of the picnic to other church members. We visited Dad’s grave and actually left on the 10th. We didn’t want to have to rush down there.

In addition to my grandmother-in-law’s sudden death, there have been multiple family members getting sick. And I’m not talking small illnesses, I’m talking things that have put them in the hospital. All in all, I have not made the progress that I’ve wanted to with my novel and with my cheesecake hustle. I’ve devoted little time to them both, but I haven’t stopped working on them completely. Instead of being flustered, I am using the time that I have to more thoroughly outline the chapters of my novel when I can and tweak my cheesecake recipes to perfection.

And August is not yet over. Mom’s birthday is on Sunday, Dad’s birthday would have been the 29th. Not to mention back to school is coming up. It’s a pretty chaotic month.

In the midst of it all, I always remember Ecclesiastes 3:2, and how everything has “a time to be born and a time to die”. Everything. Here in Michigan, we are approaching one of my favorite seasons–fall–and the flowers that have bloomed so brightly will wither up and die, and the green leaves on the trees will turn gold and brown. Everything that lives, eventually dies. Just like Dad looked fine when we left him last, just like Mrs. Johnson (grandmother-in-law) looked fine when we left her, there still comes a time when we all have to go. It’s unavoidable. You know what is avoidable? Ending up in the smoking section, as we call it. Grief is difficult, but it can be alleviated when we remember that our saved loved ones are resting in the arms of Jesus.

In order to help my bereaved family, I’ve shared several dreams I’ve had, personal ones that I shared with only my close family, after Dad’s death. In one, Matt, my mother, my sister and brother-in-law, and I were all in a super bright, super sterile looking room that had rows of what looked like examination tables in it. In one instant there were other people in the room; in the next, it was just us, and we were there with Dad, helping him pretty up… We were helping him fix his suit jacket, patting his handkerchief in place, etc. He looked grim, which was unusual for my Dad. Dad was always smiling, especially around us.

I said, “I wish we could go where you’re going…”

He responded, “Y’all can’t go with me right now.”

Need I say more?

In my interpretation, Dad was getting ready to go be with the Lord. And although going to be with Jesus is a joyful prospect, I don’t think most people would be happy to leave their family. I’m sure Dad was sad that he had to leave us, but I can only imagine the joy he felt when he realized he’d made it to be with the Lord.

A time to die. We’re all going to go. And while we’re here it only takes a second to decide where we want to spend our eternity. I’ve made up my mind. I’m looking forward to seeing Dad again.

America, the Ugly.

I am a bit disheartened and a lot exhausted.

Exhausted because I am disheartened.

I am tired.

If you cut me open, I bleed red just like you.

When something is funny, I laugh, just like you.

When I am hurt, I cry, just like you.

I want to watch my children grow up, flourish and thrive just like you.

If you are a Christian, you are supposed to treat me as a brother or sister, regardless of my color.

Don’t judge me because of my color.

Don’t treat me different because of my color.

If all you’re seeing is my color, you’re not looking deep enough.

And I shouldn’t have to force you to. It’s not my job. It’s not my job to deal with your stereotypes and your prejudices. It’s yours.

Don’t push your fears off on me. Try knowing and understanding me instead.

When I voice my opinions, don’t label me an “angry Black woman”. Understand that I am passionate about injustice. I am not angry. No one, I repeat no one, has ever even seen the full force of my anger, because I have learned to control it, lucky for those of you who judge me.

I’m tired of having to be “more than”. Dad always told me I had to do better than average because of the two strikes against me. Black + woman. Why is that fair to me? I have never felt like I could just be me in America. Because someone is always judging me. Always.

If I laugh too loud in public, I’m ghetto. White woman laughs too loud in public, she’s just having a good time.

I go browse around a high-end store, I’m profiled. White woman browses a store, employee asks her if she needs help.

Your delusions of intellectual superiority are just that. Delusions. I’m as capable of learning as you are. Probably more so, you know why? The curriculum I was taught wasn’t necessarily geared toward people like me.

The double standards are exhausting and unfair. The lies, the prejudice, the racism, the hatred, the divisiveness the racism, the racism, the RACISM… I am TIRED. I am TIRED. It’s not fair.

America hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. And it’s pathetic. I’m sick of it. If nothing else, my kids deserve better.

Why the HECK should I have to tell my son to be careful how he behaves in public because some dirtbag might judge him for it… He is TEN YEARS OLD…

WHY did I have to be careful not to give my kids certain names lest they be deemed “ghetto” and denied a job interview just based on that…

Why should I have to tell my son to be careful if he has to pull his ashtma inhaler out in public so no one mistakes it for a flipping weapon and shoots him…

I am ready to cuss so I’m done for tonight.

The salt of the earth has lost its flavor.

Christians, can we talk?

I know I speak of racism a lot, and how racism and the love that is supposed to infuse us as Christians cannot coexist. That is because as a Black woman, I’ve been subject to plenty of racism. These days it is obvious that a lot of so-called Christians are failing miserably in terms of how they treat people who look differently from them, but we are also collectively failing miserably in terms of how we treat people whose sexuality differs from our own.

Before I go any further, yes, I know what the Scriptures say. And of course, I do not argue with them at all. My concern and complaint is how Christians have decided it is more important to condemn LGBT individuals as opposed to being concerned about their saved status. Remember the Great Commission of Matthew chapter 28, when Jesus tells His disciples “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”? It didn’t come with stipulations. It didn’t ask us to determine who was worthy of the message of salvation or not. It didn’t tell us to try to rank sins in a manner that causes us to forget our own. That is what is happening now.

There have been LGBT individuals in the world since the beginning of time, and guess what… some of the people in the churches right now just might be gay (gasp!). You know the praise team leader? The one who leads his team with such passion and energy that he can bring a whole church to its feet? If he just so happens to be gay, does that somehow change the fact that God can use him? You know that cute little old lady who sits in the second pew from the front donning the best church hats and admonishing other young ladies to cover up when they come in the church with a dress that might be a tad too short? If she fooled around with other women back in the day, does that render her incapable of providing advice and counsel?

 I say that to make a point. There is a theme in the Bible in which God uses regular, flawed people to accomplish major purposes. You cannot find in the Bible other than Jesus a single person who existed without sin. We as Christians like to think we are better than someone else because their sin may be more visible than our own. But at the end of the day, whenever we make a decision that someone is not worthy of the kingdom of heaven based on our own principles and prejudices, we are NOT living out the Great Commission.

You know what I think would bother our Father more than a person being gay? Since God still created the person, regardless of their sins, just like he created me and you regardless of our sin, I think it would bother him MORE if that person ended up going to hell because a judgmental hypocritical Christian decided that it was more important to berate the person because of their sexuality than talk to them about the love of Jesus Christ.

Christianity is facing a great apostasy. People like to blame it on the Word itself, saying the Bible is antiquated. That is not the case. The Bible still stands the test of time. It is people who are messing things up.

So Christians… can we talk for just a minute?

Number one, can we stop being so blind as to pretend to think that a gay person can’t also be a Christian?  I often hear people talking about not “judging” other people. Apparently people take that to believe that basically we are not supposed to ever question anyone’s actions, beliefs or lifestyle. Wrong.

Only God can judge whether a person is truly saved or not. That’s what only He alone can determine. Me and you, if someone says they are a Christian, we have to take them at face value. But God knows that person’s innermost thoughts. He knows the condition of their heart. He knows if that person truly accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Think about it. In the Old Testament, God set up the nation of Israel to be a priestly nation to the rest of the world. They were supposed to show the rest of the world how to live holy and how to worship God. They failed miserably because instead of living righteous, they wanted to follow the ways of the world. Now, we have us Christians, who should be living lives that are permeated with the love of Christ so as to draw people to Him, and we are failing miserably because we want to follow the ways of the world. There are Scriptures in the Bible to support the fact that God does, in fact, expect us to hold people accountable for their behavior. Why?

Not to berate them. Not to make them feel badly about themself. Because we love them. That’s what this Christian thing is supposed to be all about. We are supposed to LOVE people. We are supposed to love EVERYBODY. Do I understand what it feels like to have romantic feelings for another woman? No. Do I need to? Nope. It’s not my concern. My concern is talking to them about Jesus if they do not already know Him and allowing HIM to do the convicting work as He does in mine.

In order for us to do that effectively, let me get to number two. One of my favorite Scriptures, particularly in these times, is Matthew 7:5: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Need I say more? When did Christians forget that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)??? So where do you get off thinking that you have more right to the kingdom of heaven than anyone else just because you haven’t been intimately involved with a member of the same sex?

Am I saying water down the Bible message? Absolutely not! What I am saying that our approach should be peppered with LOVE. If Christians continue to show this hateful side–the proposed transgender ban for the military, despite the fact that there are transgender folks already serving and doing just fine? So we want to take away their livelihood now? Yeah, I’m sure they’ll want to listen to us talk about Jesus after that, right?–we can expect further apostasy. I’m actually kind of tired of it being an issue. I love people and don’t want anyone to get sent to hell. So therefore I can put aside my confusion about their romantic goings-on and focus on their soul’s goings-on.

I urge my Christian brethren to do the same. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his. savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

Christians need to stop splitting hairs.

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Why do people always find ways to separate themselves into groups?

Where in the Bible is there a Scripture that supports multiple Christian denominations?

Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal…

All these things do is fracture the unity that we should have as members of the body of Christ.

Where do they come from? Obviously misinterpretation of Scripture. Certain denominations believe that one is not saved unless they speak in tongues. Other denominations believe it is acceptable to baptize infants; others believe individuals should reach an age of accountability and understanding so that they may fully grasp the weight of baptism before they partake. Even within denominations, for some reason, certain churches, or should I say, church members, believe their church is better than another, when at the end of the day, IF a church is built on the most solid of all Rocks using the Word as its foundation, it has the exact same Holy Spirit within as the church down the street.

When I was in college, I shopped around for a church home. There were multiple factors that drew me to the one I ended up going to (every now and then. Regretfully, I neglected my Christianity during college). Number one, a lot of other students went there. Number two, the pastor was dynamic. He knew that there were a lot of college students in his congregation and, under the unction of the Holy Spirit, was able to tailor a message that suited both the college students AND the mothers of the church. Not to mention they had a fantastic choir, and everyone there was SUPER friendly. They welcomed us college students with open arms. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I really should have connected myself more deeply with that church.

I like to think those are some of the things that people look for when they try to find a home church. People you can relate to, preaching that draws you in, and friendly members. Depending on your level of spiritual knowledge, it is also those things that might cause one to leave. But I digress.

Regardless of what leads one to join a particular church, when they are finally in, they are taught the church’s doctrine. Now, this doctrine OUGHT to be the pure, unadulterated Word of God. But somehow, over the years, beliefs and teachings have crept into our churches and once people have gotten accustomed to certain rituals and beliefs it is virtually impossible to convince them that they are incorrect. My thing is, can’t we agree to disagree on some things and unite?

Despite our denominations, if one has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, we are united already. We have a common task to go and spread the Gospel amid a world that is increasingly hostile toward it. WE NEED EACH OTHER, yet we let these minor squabblings over speaking in tongues, whether or not Communion should be given in the morning or afternoon and whether or not a woman’s head ought to be covered in the sanctuary keep us from getting out there, pounding the pavement, and getting people saved TOGETHER. And I think that’s a shame.

We are wasting time being prideful, not wanting to be wrong but not accepting the fact that the “other” people might have something right. We must be careful in our zeal not to do what is told in Revelation 22:18-19, in which we are warned not to take anything from or add anything to the Word of God.

Babies have trials too…

breastfeed teething baby

SWEET JESUS WAS TODAY ONE BIG HUGE TEST OF MY PATIENCE.

Apparently, Jayla is in the process of cutting some more teeth. I kind of figured that was the problem, because the last few nights she’s been sleeping terribly–waking up every hour or two–and she’s been biting everything, including my nipples (I know, TMI, but this is my life and my blog 🙂 Today, she unveiled the fullness of her teething wrath. She was fussy, clingy, and bitey. In a futile attempt to relieve my sore nipples, I tried to give her a bottle several times today–she wasn’t having it. My husband tried as well and I left the room. Earlier on when we first tried to introduce her to the bottle, she wouldn’t take it if I was nearby because she preferred my chesticles. She still refused it. She ate some solid foods, but almost choked on a bit of pancake, and that scared me so much I just gave in and nursed her.

And what do my older kids do? Out of thin air, Layla showed me a huge burn blister on the pointer finger of her left hand. I asked, “How in the world did you get that???” She told me that she had touched something hot while she was at Gramma’s (my mom’s) house, but her explanation left me with even more questions. She claimed that she was in Granddad’s room and the dresser was hot. There is nothing in my Dad’s old room that should have been hot enough to burn her like that. I called Mom so she could investigate the matter, and she was just as confused as I. The problem is, sometimes my kids make things up to hide even worse things that they have done (I have no problem admitting that sometimes my kids are liars. It drives me nuts). So I’m not truly convinced that she didn’t get that burn blister from doing something she had no business doing. Either way it goes, I had that to deal with, and my son was just aggravating everyone for no reason: Being noisy and making stupid obnoxious sounds for no reason, including once when I almost had Jayla asleep; dropping things or bouncing balls off the walls, which I HATE; teasing Layla without provocation. I don’t know WHAT his issue was today, but it resulted in him being banished to his room for awhile.

Before anyone says I should only send my son to his room for discipline, I think it’s better I send him to his room than explode. Don’t you?

By late afternoon I still hadn’t had the chance to put a single piece of food in my mouth. Even worse, I hadn’t had a DROP of coffee. I was ready to put all three of them out on the curb and attach a “FREE” sign to them.

I prayed for strength when I felt that my temper was reaching its tether, and here we are– it’s ten-thirty at night and Jayla is sleeping peacefully. Having slept fitfully the night before and only taken one recuperative nap today, she was exhausted. I rubbed her gums with teething gel, played lullabies for her, and rocked her. While I was holding her and rocking her, she was staring at me; her eyes almost looked apologetic. I told her, “it’s okay for you to have a bad day. Mommy still loves you.”

And she closed her eyes and went to sleep.

I’m not going to discount her pain and discomfort from teething just because she is a baby. I’m not going to pretend that this whole “growing up” thing is easy. Of course I have no idea how a baby’s mind works, but we all know that there are tons of processes going on in that developing brain and body. She might want to be able to verbalize to me how she was feeling, but since she couldn’t, she did all that she knew how to do–fuss about her pain and cling to the person that provided her with comfort–me.

With that being said, if anyone wakes her up, they get to deal with her. LOL!

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Your value has already been determined.

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No, you don’t need another person’s approval.

God has already deemed you valuable.

Our God is not a God who does things haphazardly. So know today and every day that you were carefully planned and lovingly designed.

As my kids get older and I reluctantly relinquish them little by little into this awful world, where people are all too happy to push their insecurities off onto other people, where people would rather tear someone down than build them up, I try to impress their value into their minds. No, I don’t want them to get big heads… I always tell them to remain humble, and that their looks are just that… looks. The importance is having good character. There are plenty of attractive people in the world with garbage personalities. We don’t need any more of those.

While it is still necessary for your children to know that in your eyes they are physically beautiful, it is more important for you to make them understand that they don’t need the approval of another person to be alright. As they get older, I’m sure they will want to fit in. They might be like I was and have problems with their skin as they go into adolescence. My daughters might have that awkward stage where their body is kind of developing and kind of not. Maybe they’ll need glasses; maybe braces. Either way it goes, there might be something about them that either they don’t like, or some other jerk will bring to their attention as a flaw.

How can one overcome insecurities in this superficial, shallow, plastic world? Well, what does the Word imply to you in terms of your value?

Number one, we know that God makes no mistakes. If you just consider for a moment the majesty of God, the awesomeness of His works, and remember that He didn’t have to allow you to come into being. He didn’t have to make you. But He did. And we all know God is not a man, He is a spirit, but imagine if you will how much work He put in when He made you. God being spirit doesn’t have hands, but I like to imagine Him in deep thought, designing your blueprint like an architect does before erecting a magnificent skyscraper, paying attention to the smallest details, even numbering the hairs on your head.

Would you take that much time on something you didn’t value?

Second, we have to realize that everyone has flaws. Some have flaws that are not as visible as others. I think God purposely gave flaws so that people would remain humble. It’s not happening now. Instead, people project their flaws onto others. This is something I cannot understand… what joy would I get from making fun of someone who has a face full of acne, as if they asked for it? Why would I have to put someone down for not having clothes as sharp as mine without knowing their background? What difference does it make to me in my life how someone looks or what they have? Short answer–it doesn’t.

There is a stark difference between myself and my son in particular, and I kind of worry about him. I have a much thicker skin than him and a smarter mouth. In middle school and high school there were some people who had comments about my appearance. They were irrelevant. Just as quick as they could point out my flaws, I could point theirs out, and usually with a more colorful vocabulary.  Then I would go to my group of friends or my family, feel the unconditional love from them, and keep it moving. On the occasions where someone has said something to Jayden, I’ve asked him why he said nothing back. He said he doesn’t want to hurt their feelings, even if they’ve hurt his.

That.ticks.me.OFF.

Not his response, but that there are people in this world that are so awful that they can’t appreciate that kind of kindness and tender-heartedness. I’m not so much worried about my girls–I think they’re going to be pretty tough–but what I’m not interested in is hearing about some little boy whose parents haven’t spent as much time trying to develop his moral character as they have his jump shot making my son feel bad for being a nice person.

Christian I may be, but this is no society to raise wimps, so I tell Jayden he can defend himself from verbal assaults as well as physical. The verbal defense, if he is not comfortable, doesn’t have to be anything mean. All he has to do is inform the person that he doesn’t care whether they like him or not. I’ve told him time and time again, for the one person out there who doesn’t like you or is jealous of you, you’ve got literally hundreds of family members and other friends who think you’re just fine the way you are. And a mom who has not reached peak-Christianity yet and sometimes wishes I can shrink back down twenty years and throw some of these kids to the ground on his behalf.

In Sunday school, we discussed this subject. I was hoping there would be more kids to hear the message, because they all need to hear it. When God made you, He had a plan for you… the mighty, omnipresent, omniscient God of this universe took time out of His busy schedule just to make YOU. That should mean something to all of us. He decided the world needed YOU, and He wants to use YOU to help advance HIS kingdom. That right there ought to tell you how valuable you are. You don’t need a stamp of approval from someone who has no more power than you do. When God finished your blueprint, that was the only stamp of approval you needed.

Your worth has been determined. Don’t wait on anyone else to define that for you.

The Honorable Proverbs 31 Woman

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I have been toiling away.

My husband was off for two weeks, and it was a wonderful time. I enjoyed his company and our kids were definitely happy to have him home. The entire time he was home, I was dreading his return to work, because I knew they would have to play catch up. As I suspected, he is already projected to work the entire weekend.

Often, I think about our complementary roles as parents. I think we have a pretty good handle on the parenting thing, for the most part. Are we perfect? Nah. Do we give it 100%? Absolutely. One thing is for sure, there are differences. I suppose it may be kind of innate for a mother to be a tad more tender toward her babies. My husband is no tyrant, but he is definitely the more firm, no-nonsense parent, whereas I admittedly allow my kids to get away with a bit more. Another difference is how our time is spent in the household. Since Matt is away working so often, when he is home, they’re usually hot on his heels everywhere he goes, and he is happy to wrestle with the kids, watch movies with them, play outside with them, etc. My free time with them is often spent coaxing them to do chores, helping them complete their educational Bridge books, cleaning up, and making sure they’ve dressed themselves, brushed their teeth, taken meds, etc. Honestly, sometimes it’s a drag. I won’t lie. But just like he goes to work over forty hours a week even when he doesn’t want to, I do what I have to around the house even when I don’t want to.

I often hear women talking about mothers as though they’re more important than fathers. I’m going to go ahead and disagree with that. The proof is in the pudding–children don’t fare as well in single-mother homes, and if moms were all kids need, then that wouldn’t be the case, right? And as the product of a two-parent home myself, I can attest to the benefits of having a Dad and Mom who also operated in the same complementary manner as Matt and I do now. So although we differ in style, we both love our children just as much. If harm ever came their way, I have no doubt that just as I would Matt would sacrifice himself.

I am not content to have him gone so often. It is necessary for us to stay financially afloat, and I feel compelled to do something about that. I have also been working on accepting the fact that I probably won’t be able to ever again have a scheduled, routine job–I don’t know a field that would be flexible enough to accommodate this illness–so I will have to figure out a way to use my talents to bring in a little extra cash while not interfering with my responsibilities to my family.

The well-known Proverbs 31 woman is an inspiration for all Christian women. She is a model for us to follow. As I’ve pondered my next steps I’ve been reading and re-reading those Scriptures and have found fullness of meaning in these verses in particular:

 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.(Verse 13)

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. (Verse 16)

“She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. (Verse 19)

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. (Verse 24)

And finally:

 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” (Verse 27)

There are some Christians who claim that wives should not work outside of the home. But yet, this woman here was an entrepreneur.  Now, we can make a couple of assumptions, and either one can be right–either she had the money from selling her goods to “consider a field, buy it, and plant a vineyard” or her husband fronted her the money. I’d like to think the former. This honorable woman rose early in the morning to care for her household and stayed up late at night working on the goods she sold. This is what I am trying to do–continue being a caring mother for my kids while not neglecting being a support to my husband, because I know his presence with our kids is just as important as mine.

With that being said, I am working toward a goal of having a finished manuscript by the end of August, and am I also working on a little side hustle–people have told me I make the best cheesecakes, so I am putting together a little cheesecake business. I’ve always loved cooking and baking, and have some ideas from my grandmothers that I want to use. I have about ten recipes. I named one after my mom, because the idea is based on her banana pudding recipe; another is named Emma after my maternal grandmother, because it is based on her sweet potato pie; a third is named after my paternal grandmother, Aggie, because it is adapted from her chocolate pie recipe. I am very excited by the possibility of doing things I love, possibly making a little money, and not having to leave my home.

Pray for me.