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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sexual Violence Awareness Month Workshop

Tuesday, April 16, 2019 @ 6:20 PM

Alpha Counseling

April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month

You are invited to join Alpha Counseling for a discussion regarding taking your first steps to healing from sexual violence. If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual violence, or if you want to take a stand against sexual violence, please attend.

Speakers to include representatives from North Idaho Crisis Center, Post Falls Police Department Victim's Advocate, as well as Dr. Debbie Nunez and John Huffer, LMHC from Alpha Counseling. Participants will be able to write words of inspiration on the healing wall.

There is no charge for the event and it is open to the public.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Freedom In Forgiveness

Saturday, March 30, 2019 @ 7:18 PM

As we near Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday, many of us begin to focus more on forgiveness; forgiveness for self and for others. This can oftentimes be a difficult and confusing action to take.

Many people think that when we forgive we are saying that what someone did to us is OK. We believe that forgiveness is a way of letting someone off the hook for a wrongful act. However, let us not confuse forgiveness with permission. When Christ said in John 8:11, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more,” He did not give permission for sin, but forgiveness. He was differentiating between forgiveness and permission.

You see, forgiveness is not for the person who wronged us, it's for ourselves. When we hold on to resentment, bitterness brews within us. Bitterness is a root that grows in our hearts and can negatively affect other areas of our lives. Bitterness takes us down and steals our joy, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Unforgiveness is like carrying around a backpack filled with rotten potatoes, which weighs us down and prevents us from moving on.

Forgiveness does NOT:
...excuse the one who hurt you or did you wrong.
...mean you re-engage in a relationship with the one who hurt you.
...equal trust. Forgiveness is given. Trust is earned.

Forgiveness IS:
...saying goodbye to bitterness and resentment.
...gaining freedom from pain.
...releasing the beauty of peace and happiness.
...letting go in order to move on.

Forgiveness Is Freedom!

Forgiveness is hard, but is it also possible. If you need help forgiving someone, including yourself, I’m here to help. Living with bitterness and shame is not God’s plan for you. Working with a professional therapist can help you process the wrong that was done to you, help you discover the strength to forgive, let go of shame and guilt, and recapture your joy.

Why should you forgive? Because YOU deserve it!

Gretchen is currently accepting new clients and may be contacted by email at gretchen@anxietytraumatherapy.com or by phone at 619-272-6858 x713

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Fixing Your Blind Spots: How To Become More Self-Aware As A Leader at Home, Church Or Work

Thursday, March 28, 2019 @ 12:38 AM

"First, remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye." - Matthew 7:5. Self-awareness can become one of your most powerful tools. Being able to step outside of yourself and see your own junk can be very helpful for leaders and their relationships. Self aware people are largely successful. You can become so self-aware that it becomes neurotic. But this happens in the case where you are judging yourself rather than evaluating what's going on. Here are some ideas to help create more self-awareness as a leader:

1. Invite feedback especially from direct reports. You can use a 360 degree feedback mechanism but it can also help just to have conversations about how you're doing.

2. Pay special attention to how others feel around you. While you don't want to give them too much power, you also want to make sure that you're being sensitive to them while also being independent of their opinion.

3. Ask yourself what you are truly feeling. Get a chart with some feeling words and ask yourself what you're feeling in regards to a situation with your relationships with your associates. 

4. Check your assumptions and your entitlement. These two issues can really get you into difficult situations in relationships in the workplace, home or church.

5. Check out your ideal self or despised self. These two parts can help us understand a lot about what we're thinking and feeling about ourselves.

6. Ask yourself how something happened not just why. Attempt to debrief with yourself and with others exactly how a problem or a success occurred.

7. Understand what you might be afraid of. Know what are real threats or just cues that might be triggering you into anxiety.

8. Shaming yourself will help your heart to hide. Real guilt, as opposed to shame, can be used to learn lessons and make amends.

Be encouraged to take at least one idea here as a first step. Get outside feedback whether that's counseling, coaching, a friend or a mentor and find a small attainable goal.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Black Pearl Blue Hope, Surviving through Mental Illness

Thursday, March 14, 2019 @ 12:18 PM

L. Nicole Goodman takes the audience on a journey; humbling sharing her world with living with mental health and what it looks like on a day-to-day basis. Her family and friends offer insight and perspective. Through her transparency, she redefines the stereotype making her book and short firm truly inspirational pieces.

Understanding Mental Health: Bipolar, Depression, & Anxiety, The Breakdown

Thursday, March 14, 2019 @ 12:13 PM

This book is an educational resource that can be used to understand the identities of Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. Each condition’s symptoms are broken down. The material also includes interactive questionnaires, noting sections and offers a guide to understanding different treatment options. The highlight of this book is its ability to not only highlight essential coping skills but its explanation of how-to-apply these skills in day-to-day living.

"This book is a must-have for churches, community agencies, mental health professionals, and households! What I love about this book is that anyone can read it and walk away having a credible information source to begin the process of exploring mental illness and seeking treatment options. Just like we have to know the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, we have to know symptoms of mental illness too!"

-Beatrice Akins, LCSW, LCDCI

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Broken Fences

Thursday, December 27, 2018 @ 9:06 PM

The Pastor's Place

This scene always reminds me of broken fences and the brokenness of life. We often put up fences to keep people out but in that attempt, we often keep ourselves in. We don't express ourselves in an appropriate moment but let it build up and then take it out on someone who really doesn't deserve it, although they may just trigger it.

Broken fences, broken pieces, broken lives. Jesus fed 5,000 people and it is told that they always had broken pieces left over and they picked them all up. I often wonder what they did with them. But it tells me that even though brokenness is a part of life, Jesus will pick up those broken pieces and do something with them. And you can be sure He does all things well.

The Loneliness of Sin

Thursday, December 27, 2018 @ 8:53 PM

The Pastor's Place

Genesis 4: 3-15

Cain and Abel were the first brothers. Both went to the altar to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering, a firstling of his flock. The Bible says God respected Abel and his offering. But Cain did what he shouldn't have done; mainly, he offered something from the ground. God didn't accept the offering or respect Cain. Have you ever wondered why? I believe it was because in just a few short chapters prior to this encounter, God had cursed the ground. Able recognized the significance of giving the first and best. Cain became very angry. Notice that even after The Fall, God still talked with man. He asked Cain why he was so upset. Now, that’s a caring God if you ask me!
God told Cain that sin was waiting at the door and desired to take over in him. Wow! God was trying to teach Cain a lesson but he wasn't listening. He wanted to be resentful, bitter and angry to the point that it led to murder.

Verse 7 shows us that sin will pursue us and run us down if we allow it. We are to conquer the sin in our lives by mastering it. That tells me that sin will keep coming at me until I either give in to it or overcome it.

I often wondered why God asked Cain where his brother, Abel was. Doesn’t God know everything? It reveals that Cain felt no remorse, no guilt for what he’d done by killing Abel. By telling God his punishment was more than he could bear, he shows he wasn’t really convicted about his sin, but only concerned about the consequences of getting caught. It would have told a different story if he had said, “I have sinned against you, God. Please forgive me of this terrible thing I’ve done. Things could have possibly gone much better for Cain.

This passage shows that God still talked with man even after they had sinned and fallen in the Garden. Cain had no sense of guilt because the Law had not yet been given. He had no fear of God. (Romans 5: 12, 13) God still desired to commune with man. It wasn’t until after the Law (the 10 Commandments) was given that sin became evident. God talked with man up until Exodus 20: 18-21 and it was not God’s choice. God NEVER left man. Man chose to leave God.

As a result, Cain was destined to be a vagrant and a wanderer. A vagrant is defined as one who wanders from place to place without a permanent home or livelihood; a person who constitutes a public nuisance. No root, no plans, no future. A fugitive looking for some destination, some quiet haven, a place of safety and satisfaction.

Gen 5: 16 As a result of his conversation with God--and notice, God was trying to help Cain with his anger and sadness, but Cain walked away. He left God’s presence. The loneliest people do not know God’s presence. Those who choose to walk away from God’s help are truly lonely. Separated from God with no hope of their own.

Here are some reasons for Cain’s actions:
1. Unbelief/Disrespect
God had taught Adam and Eve the meaning of a blood sacrifice. They taught it to their children. Cain and Abel both knew the truth. Cain chose to not believe and offer whatever he wanted to offer instead of what God required. In his indifference, he gave an offering of the ground, the ground God had cursed.
2. Hatred
Cain closed the door of communication and killed Abel out of his hatred. He chose not to master his anger and by killing his brother, he let sin master him. It can be so easy to be like Cain.
3. Jealousy
Many of us look at our siblings and feel cheated, rejected, the less favored. This has an effect of children that can last a lifetime. We grow up feeling like everyone else has it better.

The Stages of Sin:

1. Anger. Cain became angry at the rejection of his sacrifice. This led him to start thinking. His countenance fell. He probably felt sorry for himself, too, which fed his anger. Not mastering his anger, he let it lead to murderous proportions and it overcame him. Sin crouched at the door and Cain let it in. Sin will usually crouch or try to hide until you are taken by it. Satan roams the earth looking for someone to devoir.
2. He lied to God
Cain went to talk to his brother, but his true intent was different. Not only did he have unbelief and hatred, but when God asked him “Where’s your brother?” Cain was dishonest and said he didn’t know; he wasn’t his babysitter. Like satan, Cain became a liar and a murderer.
3. He despaired and was lonely. He reacted to feelings. He closed the door on the
Life God wanted for him. (Genesis 4: 13) I believe the anger and the rejection he felt caused Cain to leave the sin unconfessed. Surely he knew God’s grace. Why didn’t he trust God to forgive him? Instead, he blamed God, accusing Him of giving him a sentence greater than the sin.
4. Cain proclaimed his destiny: “I am a wanderer and a fugitive.” Cain became a
farmer. Now he built a city to be rid of loneliness. He introduced manufacturing of tools and weapons of bronze and iron. He introduced human culture and civilization based on human effort. His civilization had broken-down standards. In verses 18 and 19, Cain’s descendant Lamech had two wives. God’s standard is one.
Sin starts with a thought and turns into an action if the thought is entertained.

He settled in a place called Nod, which means wandering. The generational curse of murder began with Cain. In verse 23 Lamech killed two people. Cain built a city, a civilization and a culture without God. He had things and activities but no salvation. Cain was ultimately lonely looking for satisfaction. Sin was at the root of his loneliness. Not all loneliness is from sin. That’s why examining yourself is so important.

Cain built a civilization where people had opportunity and culture, science, even a certain amount of technology, but Cain was still a fugitive and a wanderer because he was unrepentant and without God. Life without God is no life at all here or in eternity. John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.

Job also faced loneliness, but this was a different kind of loneliness. (Job 19: 13-15) God will sometimes isolate you to get you to call out to Him. He will remove every distraction in order to become your best friend and it’s only through this separation that people will see change.

Loneliness is a malnourished soul that results from living on substitutes.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Reconciliation: Toward Creative Counseling and Education

Friday, December 14, 2018 @ 5:02 PM

This is a book emphasizing conflict (trials) as the dynamic of life, and shows the methods by which reconciliation may be applied to find connections in conflict which lead to growth and maturity. Reconciliation is a Biblical concept expounded by St. Paul in his Epistles, among which is 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. This book may be further observed on the Amazon.com browser.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart

Sunday, May 20, 2018 @ 7:59 PM

My wife had a toothache that developed into unbearable pain the day before the recent holiday. Her dentist’s office was closed for an extended time and she decided to make an appointment with another dentist who handles emergency situations. The x-rays from the visit revealed a likelihood of an infection that was treated with a medicine. Thankfully not a root canal needed, but the pain drove her to seek relief even though the timing was not good.

Emotional pain can be similar to a physical pain in many ways. Disappointment, worry, anxiety, depression, or feelings like abandonment, shame, fear, powerlessness, damaged, invalidation, and hopelessness are common and come in varying degrees for different people. The pain can be intense. It pops up unexpectedly. It can pop up with bad timing. If you try to ignore it, it will only get worse. Sometimes the source is hard to identify. The only lasting solution is not a quick fix, but takes time to heal. For true healing to occur, the root cause must be identified and dealt with properly.

Root causes of emotional pain are often not easy to determine. It may take the help of a “soul doctor” (counselor) to get better. The root cause of emotional pain almost always involves some sort of offense. At the very least, it takes the form of a perceived threat to a person’s comfort, pleasure, or power. At worst, an offense is a gross injustice or disregard for truth. In my experience as a counselor, I have found that when a person is willing to do the hard work of identifying and rooting out offense, it transforms their inner life for lasting results. In the previous few articles I have written a lot about offense, but this article deals with the best solution; that is forgiveness.

The things I learned about forgiveness during the 3 year research project to culminate my seminary degree, changed my life forever. I still consider myself a learner on the topic. One only learns about forgiveness if he practices forgiveness. Since offense creates the need for forgiveness, and since offense is part of an inescapable human condition, the only way to learn about forgiveness is to practice it. How does one practice forgiveness? As an answer to this question I authored the book called Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart.

Below is an overview of the book. The goal is to help people in three aspects of life: understanding what true forgiveness is (and isn’t), applying this understanding to inner life change, and applying it to relationships with people. I divided the content into three sections of three chapters each.

The first section, Part One, is called Foundations. The chapters in Part One are called The Cycle of Offense, Misunderstandings, and Divinely Initiated (the basic theology of forgiveness with many biblical references).

Part Two of the book is called Transformational Healing: Between God and Man. This section is the heart of the matter, distinguishing forgiveness from reconciliation. The simplest definition I have discovered for forgiveness is “surrendering to God the right to judge.” Forgiveness is a matter of getting your heart in the right place before God, and nothing (or at least very little) to do with how the offender responds (or doesn’t respond). The three chapters of Part Two are called Receiving God’s Gift, Surrendering to God, and Trusting God for Change.

Part Three, applying forgiveness to relationships, is called Conflict Resolution: Between God, Man, and Fellowman. Whereas forgiveness is for the offended person restoring right relationship with God, reconcilation adds the offender to the mix. The Bible is clear about the necessity for brothers and sisters in Christ to relate to one another in love, peace, and harmony as much as possible. When God’s Gift of forgiveness is truly received in our hearts, we are genuinely prepared for the reconciliation to be pursued. Reconciliation requires two hearts surrendered to a higher judgment, not just one. In some cases complete reconciliation is not possible (eg. Death, imprisonment, lack of safety), but again, the freedom of forgiveness (escape from the pain of offense) is still possible. The three chapters in Part Three are called Forgiveness and Reconciliation, Reconciliation in Relationships, and Conclusions. I refer to marriage, church, and community relationships for practical application.

At the end of each of the three sections I include a few pages of material to encourage looking into more detail on the topic. These sections are called Follow-up and Practice. I include End Notes that correspond to numbered references throughout the text. These references are included in an eight page Bibliography at the end of the book. These are great resources for further study of the topic. At the end of the book, I also include a Study Guide. This study guide presents questions for further exploration and deeper reflection. The questions can be used for self study or group study.

Finally, the book includes three Appendices. Appendix A includes a number additional resources (sample prayers included) that have been meaningful in my own journey and have helped others in our counseling ministry. Appendix B is about my personal healing journey including forgiveness. Appendix C is the content of a pamphlet entitled Overcoming an Abortion that has been distributed by the thousands and helped many find Christ Jesus as a Refuge for their pain. It highlights the truth of Jesus being our pain bearer and our escape for the debt of our offenses and payment for the debt of offenses against us. No matter how much guilt or shame we carry, Jesus is our Refuge, and best solution to the pain.

You may have heard of the three typical responses to emotional pain; flight, fight, or freeze. Escaping the Pain of Offense is not a book about escaping in the sense of a flight (nor fight, nor freeze) response to pain. The above details about the book show that substance and sufficient effort is necessary to become a victor and not a victim. The book is different from other books on the topic of forgiveness in that it emphasizes the inner life transformational growth journey. Personal growth occurs by embracing forgiveness as an ongoing process of changing our inner person.

Forgivenss does not solve all the problems a person may have, but it prepares the heart for answers to be implemented. I recommend John C. Maxwell’s book called The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. Maxwell’s book contains a chapter called “The Law of Pain.” He shares how to turn pain into a growth experience. Maxwell elaborates on 5 specific ways to grow through struggle. I would add (perhaps as a per-requisite) “Seek Corrective Understanding and Consistent Practice of Forgiveness” to his list below.

You grow best when you::

1. Choose a Positive Life Stance

2. Embrace and Develop Your Creativity

3. Embrace the Value of Bad Experiences

4. Make Good Changes after Learning from Bad Experiences

5. Take Responsibility for Your Life

Maxwell’s book will help you with many aspects of personal growth. But all the growth expertise in the world will not help a heart that is unwilling (or lacks the emotional capacity) to change. And it’s not all or nothing. Any part of your heart that resists positive change will hold back the entire growth process. The human heart changes bit by bit, incident by incident, offense by offense, forgiven offender by forgiven offender, etc. For the Christian, fully surrendering judgments to God is the path to growth. A mere decision does not qualify as full surrender. Thoughts and beliefs must be accompanied by surrender of the soul (mind, will, and emotions). Growth is only as current as the last time you allowed God to take his rightful place as Judge in life circumstances.

Is there an area of your life in which you know growth needs to happen? Maxwell’s book is filled with very insightful practical application to help. But is there a part of your heart that feels pain, stress, or negative feelings mentioned at the beginning? I wrote the book Escaping the Pain of Ofense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart to help people find freedom through forgiveness. The book has helped many people already. For those who think their level of understanding and practice of forgiveness is adequate, I encourage you to rethink whether your beliefs are holding you back from God’s best for your life. I am not saying this to sell more books. I am sold on the idea that greater measures of truth about forgiveness are essential for positive change. My book is available online or by contacting me. I am so convinced of the message that if you cannot afford to buy a copy, I will make it available at cost. Write me and remind me of this offer. Check out more about the book at http://book.bluerockbnb.com .

Also write me with your feedback or requests for more input on the topic. May this not only be the beginning of a successful New Year, but also a new beginning for a brighter future of real, healthy, and new growth in your life!

This article is published at:
http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2018/01/escaping-pain-of-offense.html

More on simpliar topics is on the blog site.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Four Stages of the Obsessive Love Wheel

Friday, June 16, 2017 @ 11:08 PM

Obsessive love is an oxymoron: it’s not about love at all. It is about owning and possessing another person.
Often people confuse an obsession with being in love. When the two are fused, it can lead to volatile, destructive relationships. Obsessive love is the kind of love that leads to murder, rape, stalking, false accusations and suicide among other things. An obsessive love wheel divides this kind of love into stages that can be clearly identified in certain behavioral traits.

Four Stages of the Obsessive Love Wheel: 

  1. The first stage relates to the initial attraction. This is an overwhelming, emotional or physical attraction that ignores any signs of incompatibility and focuses on physical and emotional traits rather than personality characteristics. The Obsessed begins to have magical fantasies about the person, and then signs of controlling, obsessive behavior begin to show.
  2. The next stage is an anxious one, where the obsessed begins to create unrealistic and baseless notions about the other person abandoning you or being unfaithful. This can lead to depression or violent reactions.
  3. The third phase is the stalker or obsessive phase, when the obsessed person may follow the target, continuously call, stop by the office unannounced, drive by and even monitor the targeted one. Obsessive questions are usually a characteristic of this phase.
  4. Finally, the obsessed person enters the destructive phase. This is usually triggered by the targeted one fleeing or leaving. This phase is characterized by depression for the obsessed, substance abuse and thoughts of suicide. Obsessive love easily transitions from one phase to the next, even the slightest signs of it should be checked and preventive measures should be taken. An Obsessive Love is not love at all, it is all about control and possession of the targeted one.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

A Reflection on Grief

Saturday, March 04, 2017 @ 12:16 PM

I remember it just like it was yesterday. My mother came into my room, waking me up from a peaceful slumber to tell me that the most important person in my life had passed. Wait, this just can’t happen, I thought at the time. That person is my only “safe” person. That person is the only one that I feel truly loves me. That person is the only one willing to take care of me when I get sick. “That person” was my grandmother and I had just turned sixteen. Living with a mother battling severe depression and a disconnected, authoritarian father, losing my grandmother meant losing my only safe place.

This was when I became acquainted with grief for the first time. Now 40 years later, I realize it truly has been woven into my core and is inseparable from my very soul. Katie McGarry in Pushing the Limits describes grief this way…”Grief doesn’t get better. The pain. The wounds scab over and you don’t always feel like a knife is slashing through you. But when you least expect it, the pain flashes to remind you you’ll never be the same”.

Grief doesn’t just hit us when, as in my case, we lose the most important person in our world, but can flow into our lives in unexpected ways. As a professional counselor, I have specialty training in helping people cope with grief that comes to them in a variety of ways. One client came to me when it dawned on her that her abusive childhood had stolen away all her memories of having a childhood at all. Another came to me grieving the fact that she was in her 30’s and had never been in a close relationship with another human. So grief takes many forms.

We don’t have to view grief as an enemy. Quite the contrary, we can view grief as something to embrace, love and make peace with. The grief that I feel from the loss of my grandmother is “sweet” to me. As it nudges at my soul, it releases a smile on my face when I think about the last time she put her arms around me and told me how special I was. And I remember how she always let me win at monopoly while baking my favorite chocolate cake. Kristin O’Donnell Tubb in The 13th Sign describes grief this way, ”Whoever said that loss gets easier with time was a liar. Here’s what really happens: The spaces between the times you miss them grows longer. Then when you do remember to miss them again, it’s still with a stabbing pain to the heart.” While this writer agrees with Ms. Tubb’s quote, I would like to add that the “stabbing pain” is followed by gratefulness, in that every time I experience that pain of remembering my grandmother it is followed quickly by the joy and love that she gave me in my life.

April is a time when we are made aware that there is a type of grief that is not always followed with joy—National Infertility Awareness Month. So when grief comes to a couple as they live day by day childless, knowing that the one thing they want may never happen, how can one turn that to joy? This is an unrequited loss that can turn into complex, prolonged grief if not attended to. While there is not “pat” answer, one thing I am certain of is that in the case of all grief, acceptance brings relief. As all other options are exhausted for the couple that desires a child, trusting that God is there to comfort and accepting “what is” can bring some relief. C.S. Lewis put it this way…. “getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point and move forward.” I believe there is much wisdom in this quote. Trusting God is not always easy, but it’s always necessary—even when we have to grieve the loss of what could have been.

As I reflect on grief, I am reminded that God himself is most intimate with grief. Isaiah 53:3 reminds us with these words…He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.” Is it not wonderful to know that our God understands our grief and one day promises to make all things right—even our grief—no matter what the cause.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Mastering Stress, Maximizing Success The Complete Guide

Saturday, June 04, 2016 @ 9:35 AM

LAE-LAH Inc

Stress is as necessary to life as eating and communicating. Without stress we would not be able to appreciate our limits or attain our objectives. Being under the right kind of pressure, whether self-induced or externally created, is integral to responding appropriately to the challenges of everyday life. To desire an existence that is stress-free is quite literally a death wish, for it is stress that tells our bodies when “enough is enough” and we need to STOP!

Stress—what is it? As you navigate through the pages of this book, you will be able to grasp the concept of stress on different levels.

How can one manage stress and maximize success? As you approach this journey let the words marinate within your mind and penetrate your body and soul. You are on the road to managing stress and maximizing success.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Brain Power: How to Fine-Tune Your Brain Naturally

Thursday, February 25, 2016 @ 3:11 PM

Written by a 4th generation Christian Missionary Physician, this book offers insight into how the brain works, integrating biblical knowledge with cutting-edge science and nutritional information. It is a great resource for any individual or therapist.