Valentine’s Victories

A couple weeks ago, I was discouraged when I received some not-so-great feedback on a writing project. My writing coach thought I could do a better job. I was rather disheartened until a friend popped into my office unexpectedly and encouraged me.

So imagine my relief on Monday of this week when I received positive feedback instead! I had revised the same material from before and my writing coach was pleased with the improvements.

As we talked, I explained how frustrated I was previously and how difficult this task had been for me. We discussed how our most challenging work often happens to be the most important.

Sometimes the ‘edits’ are easy—like grammar and punctuation—and don’t affect the overall content. But other times, the edits are tough. Content revisions are more important structurally, and in my case, lay the foundation for the next round.

There will be a bigger payoff later if I do the hard work now.

As I realized the significance of the work I had done, I was excited. I had pushed through this perceived setback, and to me, it felt like a breakthrough.

The victory made we want to celebrate! Soo, on a whim, I decided to go to the movies!

On my way to the theater, I praised God for the writing victory and thanked Him for the movie, too. It almost felt like a Valentine’s date because God blessed me so much that day.

I used a gift certificate to buy my ticket and also bought a kid-sized popcorn (not wanting to over-do it!). I even shared some “snack cash” coupons with the couple in front of me.

I watched ‘The Greatest Showman’ and I’m so glad I did!

The movie was fabulous and I highly recommend it! The music (soundtrack) was also so inspiring. Without giving too much away, I loved the overall message about being yourself and appreciating each other’s differences. It makes you consider what is really important.

Most—if not all—of us have felt like we don’t belong at times. There are days when we struggle with feeling like we don’t measure up. Or, maybe we have been rejected and treated poorly… Sometimes, it’s totally unfair!

Some people feel down on Valentine’s Day if they don’t have a ‘special someone.’ I can understand that perspective. But, don’t be discouraged. Turn those feelings around and make someone else feel special.

Sometimes, we overlook how powerful it is to love people and show kindness every day. Even just a little note or phone call can have great impact.

Remember, whether or not you have Valentine’s plans is not a determination of your worth. You are so very loved!

In Christ, we have infinite value. If we have that perspective, we see that with Jesus, we can thrive. When we keep our eyes on Him, we see His grace and blessings—not our lack.

In Jesus, we have Victory! We are MORE THAN CONQUERORS!

 My little girl, Lydia, reminded me of this Victorious perspective in a recent drawing.

I asked her to explain the picture, which to me, looked a little like four people at a disco party… 😉 Lydia explained, “This is a picture of my family. The first person is my daddy, then you and me, and then God.”

Lydia is starting to understand the difference between immediate and extended family…

I loved that she drew what was in her heart, including both her daddy, Dave, and her Heavenly Father, God. And, the disco figures made me smile. 

I see Lydia’s confidence in God’s love for her as a huge Victory!

Nothing can compare to God’s love for us! He is soo good!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for taking such good care of me. Thank you for leading me to Victory. Help me stay close to You and keep the right perspective. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had a personal breakthrough recently? Have you seen any good movies lately? How can you show God’s love to others today?

Tasks: Write down your victories in a journal so you can remember them. Celebrate your successes and thank God for all He has done.

Finding Grace #101

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing with God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This week was jam-packed both with activities and God’s grace! On Sunday, Lydia and I ate lunch with some new friends. We had fun getting to know a mom and daughter from church! I also learned my new friend’s husband worked at Caterpillar when my late-husband, Dave, did. It was so cool they knew some of our story! And, it was comforting to see how God continues to place encouraging people in my life.

This week a good friend received some news that seemed really unfair. In fact, it may mean the end of a personal dream. Still, we know that God has a good plan for her life, a plan full of hope and a meaningful future. I will be watching to see how God uses her and provides for her in new ways…He is faithful!

This week, work turned out kind of odd. It went well, except that none of my patients showed up! Nonetheless, I used my time wisely and was able to work on a few projects. But it was a little funny to have my schedule open up unexpectedly!

After school yesterday, Lydia and I went sledding at a local park! Despite the temperature only being 5 degrees (F), we had so much fun and enjoyed having the hill to ourselves. We will definitely be going back…and next time will bring our ice skates, too!

Going sledding helped us get excited for the winter Olympics! We are looking forward to several events, including ice skating, speed skating, snowboarding, and luge. It’s always fun to watch athletes at their peak! I’m praying for extra grace for the athletes… and for the politics. It is cool to see so many cultures coming together! I’m sure it makes God happy too!

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Finding Grace #95

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing with God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This was an exciting week! We took a snowy road trip to see family in Illinois!  We celebrated Christmas with my parents and sat around the warm wood stove…one of my favorite places. It was so restful. I’m grateful for time with loved ones.

Lydia and I road-tripped it back to Fargo on Wednesday to beat more snow-fall and sub-zero temps. I’m thankful for the Lord’s provision and protection during our trip! The weather is always a factor to consider, and He is so good!

Since Lydia and I arrived back, we have been hanging out at home having fun and preparing for the new year. We have a lot of fun events and activities coming up. So far, we’ve played games, watched movies, and made yummy food. I trimmed Lydia’s hair and have done some cleaning and organizing. I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store in the coming weeks.

Happy New Year!

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Finishing Strong: 2017 Year-End Review

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! As we come upon the new year, I always like to consider the adventures we had and lessons we’ve learned.

2017 was a year of transition for us. I knew that before it ever started. I had been praying for months (and in some cases, years) for events I saw coming. I appreciate how the Lord gives us a vision for things to come and prepares us to walk them out.

For example, I had been praying for two years about getting a roommate. I was not sure what that would entail, but I kept envisioning someone staying in my guest room. Then, in January, my dear friend needed a place to stay and the timing all made sense. We had a wonderful experience during those six months, and I think a large part of that was God’s blessing from all the prayers. Our friendship is even stronger now!

However, there were still some surprises…the big one is that my dad’s youngest sister died in January. She lived in the mountains of Colorado and so once the majority of snow melted (May), we trekked there to celebrate her life. It was an unexpected loss and an unexpected road trip. But we were thankful to see our extended family, too.

Some of the transitions were known about, however I did not know how they would play out. My job went through a merger in March, and I was unsure of the fallout. I prepared to stay but also felt it would be wise to have an exit plan. Thankfully, it has worked out well for me. That too, was covered with much prayer! I learned a new level of trust and rest during this process. I’m grateful for the Lord’s provision and graciousness!

Additionally, Lydia started school (full-time) this year, and so that has also been a transition. I was a little nervous about how that would go, so I covered that in prayer too. Overall, it has been a smooth (and mostly fun) experience for both of us.

In many cases, I have felt the need to just “roll with the punches” through some experiences. This summer, I decided to change travel plans and stay home instead. Dear friends were moving, a project needed significant work, and I wanted to get ready for the start of school. So my dream of going to Glacier National Park will have to wait…hopefully I will get there someday…but I am at peace knowing the Lord’s timing is perfect.

Sometimes, when life feels a little chaotic, it’s difficult to know what to do. But, if we rely on the Lord, it will all work out. I was hoping to make it home for the holidays, but was unsure about the weather. So, I prayed and planned and prepared as best I could. Then, the weather held up and we literally jumped in the car ready to go. I’m grateful we did because the weather turned snowy again the next day. God is so good!!

I don’t know what 2018 has in store, but I know Jesus has it under control! I am eager to see how He moves in our lives. I know whatever challenges come, He will be with us. As I pray for His wisdom and timing, the Lord will lead me and prepare me for what is to come. Jesus has never let me down, and I am excited to walk Victoriously with Him each day!

So let’s finish strong. Don’t give up. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). If you let Him, He will work it out for your good and His glory. Trust Jesus!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for bringing us through another year. Thanks for walking with us and teaching us along the way. May we continue to draw near to You in the new year. Please direct our path, showing us what to do and what to avoid. May we trust You more and more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What events or circumstances stand out to you this year? Can you see the Lord’s faithfulness? How has He come through for you?

Tasks: Pray for wisdom going into the new year. Ask the Lord to give you a vision and prepare you to walk it out. Thank Him for going with you!

 

Finding Grace #94

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing with God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This was a busy but good week! I worked extra hours this week, in case I want to take some time off next week. Lydia will be out of school, so it is good to have options. I’m thankful to have a flexible schedule and understanding supervisor!

On Sunday, we celebrated Dave’s 39th birthday, his fifth in heaven. We went to church, Blaze Pizza, and the new Ferdinand movie. We think of him often, but I know he would be proud of us! We received several calls and texts throughout the day. I’m so thankful for everyone’s continued prayers, support, and encouragement! I’m also grateful for how far the Lord has brought us and look forward to how He will continue using our story.

On Wednesday evening, we attended a Christmas Eve service at church (early!) to give us more flexibility with our holiday schedule. This year, Lydia has been learning Christmas carols at school and on the radio. It was fun to hear her singing Joy to the World and other songs. I also enjoyed seeing her take it all in and process the lyrics.

At the Christmas Eve event, we also lit candles at the end of the service. It was a leap of faith to give Lydia her own candle. We caught the eye of more than one mom…! Thankfully, nothing (and no one) caught on fire. We did, however, have a good conversation about how Jesus is the Light of the World and how we can share His light with everyone we meet. Thank You, Jesus!

During the Christmas Eve event, a video was shown of kids acting out the first Christmas. Sometimes it is good to see the Bible from a different angle. In one scene, the little shepherds raced to find Jesus. One of the boys fell in the mud with a thud. In that moment, I could envision the real Bible characters in their struggles…and what challenges they might have faced. The shepherds were likely outcasts and the wise men were foreigners (on a lengthy trip in unfamiliar territory). Life wasn’t easy for any of them. I know we can all relate. Yet, they pursued Jesus anyway. What joy each of them must’ve felt when they finally found Him!

We’ve had some snow this week, which is perfect for Christmas. One day, the sun reflected upon the white in the most perfect way. It was so beautiful that Lydia and I felt like we were driving through a winter wonderland! Merry Christmas!

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

The Best Deal Ever

Have you noticed how people often go crazy for a good deal? This holiday season, consumers shopped more online than in regular stores… and set new records for Christmas spending! I, for one, certainly contributed to those figures! I discovered lots of new items for Lydia, other people…and myself. 😉

In many cases, I prefer to shop online because I feel it saves me time (which is also money). It’s even better when everything is delivered directly to my door!

I buy anything from clothes, books, coffee, toiletries, gifts, and lots more. I have several friends who order perishable groceries online.

This year, some of my favorite online purchases were a Dead Sea mud mask, a heated mattress pad, and erasable pens. I try to buy what I need, but clearly, I also buy items just for fun.

It is certainly easy to spend more money online. My go-to statement after showing my purchases (and receipts) to Dave used to be, “Look how much I SAVED!!” He would roll his eyes, and tell me, “Spend more, save more!”

Somehow, I don’t think he was convinced…

While deep discounts are good, FREE is even better!

Have you ever noticed the frenzy that occurs around free stuff? One can usually find free birthday coffee or ice cream. There are also free concert tickets for the ‘umpteenth’ caller into the morning radio show. And, often some ‘lucky’ person will win a free prize for sharing a company’s Facebook post…

I’m sure the odds of winning aren’t that high, but it doesn’t seem to stop us from trying.

I recently balanced my checkbook and updated my budget like I usually do… And to be honest, I felt a little convicted about extra purchases beyond just the usual toiletries. So I decided to return some items that I didn’t really need.

Thankfully, I had my receipts and felt better afterward. But as I considered my choices and habits, this thought struck me: Do I run to Jesus like I do a good sale?!

Really, Jesus offers us the BEST DEAL EVER: Total forgiveness and redemption FREE of charge. He gave us everything, at no cost to us.

He takes away our shame and regrets and gives us His peace. He shoulders our burdens and eases our pain. He is Immanuel and walks with us through each circumstance. He is a faithful Provider, too—in Him, we have all we need! Thank You, Jesus!

Yes, Jesus’ love, mercy, and grace are not for sale, but they sure did cost Him everything. What a wonderful Savior and treasure He is!

I hope you bought some awesome gifts with great discounts this holiday season! However, don’t forget about Jesus! Salvation truly is the BEST DEAL EVER.

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Jesus, thanks for all You do for us. You are so good. Help us keep You the focus this Christmas. Show us all the treasure we have in You. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you prefer online shopping or in-store (local) shopping? What are your favorite purchases this year?

Tasks: Next time you are shopping, pause and thank God for Jesus: THE BEST DEAL EVER!!

Finding Grace #93

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing with God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This was an exciting week! We had a layer of ice before it snowed this week, so that made me rethink my daily routine. I don’t like to go out if I don’t have to. Still, a friend flew into town and invited us to a little gathering. Lydia and I decided to brave the weather that night and go. I’m so glad we did! It was great to catch up and eat dinner with a handful of dear friends and meet some new friends too.

In addition to visiting with friends, we have another round of company at our house for the weekend. So far, we’ve had lots of fun and giggles. We’ve made cookies, played games, and drove to see some Christmas lights at night. We have lots of other ideas!

This afternoon, we attended a musical production at our church. It was a modern rendition of “A Christmas Carol.” It was fabulous! The music was an original score and the cast of adults and children seemed professional. I was amazed to see many familiar faces…we have some talented people at our church! It was a free show and was a great blessing to our community. I’m thankful to see so many people using their God-given gifts!

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree… So apparently, there are several versions of this song, but now that it’s probably in your head…my work is done. 😉

O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson
That constant faith
And hope sublime
Lend strength and
Comfort through all time.
O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson

While I enjoy the smell of real Christmas trees, Dave and I received a ‘hand-me-down’ artificial one years ago. Dave loved the ornaments, and we always enjoyed decorating it together. I’ve noticed some of the lights are out, but overall it is still in decent shape.

When Lydia was really little (our first Christmas without Dave), I bought a smaller tree and new ornaments because it was just too difficult to think about the big tree. I have come a long way, but it is still bittersweet.

After this year’s Thanksgiving, my dad brought the tree upstairs for me and helped me set it up. Then it sat there until last week. I had brought the ornaments upstairs, but I felt myself postponing it…

So last Friday night, I decided not to ‘fake brave.’ Lydia and I decorated our six-foot-tall Christmas tree for the second time since Dave died. (Last year was our first…and perhaps the first time Lydia has had a more active role.)

This time, we listened to Christmas music while decorating. Lydia was thrilled!

At first, I too, was excited. But as we opened each box of ornaments, I grew more nostalgic. Maybe it was related to the Christmas music. As we opened each box, memories flooded out. Lydia was completely unaware, however.

She was completely in her element, placing all the ornaments just within her reach. Her approach to life reminds me of Dave. “Mom, isn’t this fun?!”

While I never burden Lydia with my grief, I do try to be honest and model that it is okay to show our emotions. So, I mentioned I was a little sad.

As usual, Lydia’s reply snapped me back to reality. “Well, it’s okay to be sad, Mom.” She continued, “But you could try to be happy and enjoy your time with me!” She said it so sweetly, it was hard to disagree.

Ever-practical, Lydia was right. My mind was on Christmases past, instead of focusing on the present. Besides Jesus, Lydia is one of the best gifts God has given me!

 Thankful for Lydia’s outlook and gentle reminder, I took her cue and was glad.

 As I thought about our conversation, I gained a new perspective: This is why Jesus came.

Not only did He come to save us from our sins, but He also came to take our burdens.

When we let Him, He gives us love, joy, hope, and peace. He eases our pain and suffering.

He restores and renews what has been broken.

Hearts included.

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Dear Jesus, thanks for all You do for me. Thanks for carrying our burdens and for bringing us peace. Thanks for renewing our hearts and minds with Your grace and truth. Help us stay focused on You this holiday season. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a real tree or an artificial one? How is it decorated?

Tasks: Let Jesus carry Your burdens and give you His peace instead.

Finding Grace #92

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing with God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This was a good and interesting week as I saw God working all around me! On Monday, Lydia’s school let out two hours early due to blizzard conditions. A blizzard means poor visibility, not necessarily a ton of snow. I ran two errands just as the storm was starting and was glad to get home safe. When I picked her up from the bus, Lydia said, “Mom, I am only a little sad…because I love school so much!” We spent the rest of the day doing fun little projects!

Early in the week, I met with some ladies in a writing group. We meet once a month, and I shared about my blog. It was fun to see how much I have grown through the writing process. Later in the week, I had another important writing meeting. I left feeling encouraged about a big project. There is still a lot to do, but I am on the right track!

This week, I shared a video with a friend after we talked at church. The video was about something called a Journible. This is a simple little journaling book in which one can copy the Bible by hand. There are many benefits, including understanding and remembering God’s word at a new level. I have a few friends who decided to do this with me. If you would like to join us (or need more information), leave a comment here or check out Grace and Lemonade on Facebook. I will post more information there. I’m excited to encounter God’s word in a more personal way!

Lydia and I decorated our Christmas tree last night. We listened to Christmas music, and I tried my best not to be sentimental. It is still a little bittersweet to put up old ornaments that Dave loved so much. But, seeing Lydia’s face light up was well worth the emotions I was facing. This season, I am choosing to walk in Victory!

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Seeking the Savior

Last month, my mom, Lydia, and I went to the movies. We saw “The Star” which tells the Nativity story from the perspective of the animals. It was cute! Since then, I’ve noticed a theme: That special Star keeps popping up in our daily lives!

For example, the other night Lydia woke me up in the middle of the night. “Mom, you should move the Star from Afar because I just found it in the bathroom.” Thanks, Lydia!

The Christmas Star from Afar is a special thing we started last year during Advent. This year, Lydia begged me to set it up. She finds the Star in the morning and we discuss a Bible verse. She then moves the wise men to the star. On Christmas Day, the Star will finally appear over the little stable with Baby Jesus. Pretty simple…just how I like it!

To clarify: I don’t recommend hiding Christmas items in the bathroom! : ) I simply put it somewhere Lydia would find it quickly on a school day. Finding the star each morning has helped Lydia look forward to waking up and getting ready to go.

This past Sunday at church, the sermon was also about the Star and the three wise men (or Magi). Scripture does not denote the number of wise men, but we usually go with three because of the three gifts they brought. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.

The Magi were very well-educated, as either astronomers or astrologers. At any rate, they noticed something new in the sky and were eager to follow the Star (or light, as it may have been). What amazes me is that they expected to find something good—the Baby Messiah—probably without having a ‘proper’ or perhaps ‘personal’ knowledge of God.

I’m also amazed by the fact that no one else seemed to understand or pay attention to what was happening in the sky around that time. Jesus’ birth was foretold over centuries. Why did no one else seek the newborn Jesus?

Actually, some people did look for Jesus… Evil King Herod was jealous and wanted to kill Him. So perhaps it was a protection the newborn King didn’t gain a lot of publicity! Also, the shepherds found Jesus after being notified by an Angel and Heavenly choir, but not because of the Star. All things considered, most people must’ve ignored the sign. 

To seek something, you have to be focused and intentional. For instance, on this blog, I use the tagline: Seeking God’s sweet and refreshing grace. It’s as if I am on a mission to find His grace and goodness. I am looking for these things on purpose!

The Magi in the Nativity story traveled a long way to find Jesus. It was a costly and time-consuming trip, possibly requiring a couple years’ journey. They were dedicated!

It makes me wonder…am I like the Magi seeking King Jesus…or do I act like everyone else who apparently couldn’t have cared less about the Savior?

Oh, I never want to take my Lord for granted. I want to seek and celebrate Jesus Christ each and every day! He is worthy of my time and adoration.

Each of us has the potential to ‘be a star’ for others. We can point people to Jesus, living in such a way that they are drawn to Him. On the other hand, our actions and attitude also can deter them from coming to Jesus. Am I helping or hindering others from finding Jesus?

Both positive and negative events (or people) can cause us to seek Jesus. When life is good, these things help us praise Him. When things turn bad, we can praise Him for His help! Either way, we have to be intentional about turning our hearts toward Him.

If we don’t seek Jesus first, we will miss Him in the chaos of everyday life. If we are not careful, something else will always pull us away from Who is most important. Ultimately, I don’t want someone to get stuck following me (or some object or an idea). But I do want to direct them to Jesus the Savior.

Jesus is our Peace and our Wonderful Counselor. He alone is the Rescuer that we need. In Him, we have Victory. Come, Lord, Jesus, Come!

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Dear Jesus, thank You for being our Savior King, our Rescuer! As we celebrate Your life, may we be a pleasant reminder to others of Your love and grace. Help us point people back to you. All blessings and honor be unto Your Name! Amen

Questions: What (or whom) are you following? Does it lead you to Jesus or away from Him?

Tasks: Read about the Nativity in Scripture: Matthew 1:18-252:1-12; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20.