“Why Do I Struggle with This?”

Over the past few years as I’ve become open about my struggle with food addiction, overcoming insecurity, and finding freedom a kind of personal ministry has evolved. I’ve had the privilege of speaking into other’s lives, mostly because I’m a little farther down the path–that is all. I do not pretend to have the answers. All I have is my own experience and what I have learned on this journey, and my prayer is that God can use my story, insight, and experience to help others find freedom. That is all I ever want.

Why?
I learned early on that I am a stubborn kind of girl. I have a thread of rebellion running through my personality like a snagged string that threatens to unravel the entire sweater. (I don’t even like sweaters.) But that’s exactly what this streak of defiance does to me. Unravels. Sabotages. Destroys. God also knows this about me, and he wants me to grow out of the prideful stubborn heart that tends to hold me back. Maybe you can relate. If you call yourself a Christian, Christ-follower, Jesus-lover or any other name to describe a person who follows the teachings of Jesus, than you can relate. He talks about this in His Book. He calls it the sin nature.

You see, God is most concerned that we become HOLY. Like Him. It is His chief concern. When we are not, he uses things in our lives to sharpen, strengthen, prune, and reveal the things keeping us from that holiness.  (This is called Sanctification. The process of becoming holy. After we have received Jesus as savior (that’s called justification) our journey of sanctification can begin. Justification is already done for us, but sanctification, takes our participation to make happen.

So you might wonder, “Why do I struggle with this?” and “this” could be anything from obesity and food addiction, to marital problems, joblessness, illness, grief over a death, parenting, self-doubt, insecurity, insignificance, or any of the other woes we find ourselves walking through in this fallen, broken world. Does God cause these things? No. But He uses them.

For me, he knows food, exercise and weight are the best tools to train me in righteousness. He knows my lack of consistency, procrastination and general laziness are places I need to grow out of in my process of sanctification. Other people who do not struggle with weight or food addiction will have their own struggles as mentioned above, and each struggle will be in line with their areas of weakness. God also allows this so that we will not be able to do what He knows we will want to do and that is try and figure it out on our own, without Him.

God won’t give us the easy way out. He loves us too much. He is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. He would rather our character be strengthened than just give us what we want. He’s a good father. He wants to teach us, change us, transform us… And he knows this can happen through our frustrations. He knows this is most often when we turn to him for help. When nothing else seems to be working.
When we decide not to participate in our journey of sanctification, and ignore the issues in our lives, we stay stagnant. When we do this it is a deliberate choice not to mature in Christ. It is a deliberate choice not to step toward God and where he is leading us. The enemy loves this, by the way, because there is nothing less threatening to Satan than a stagnant Christian, stuck in their own stubborn pride. They have no power there, no influence, no real life.
But Jesus has come that we may have life and have it to the full. To get that life we have to be willing participants in our own transformation. He won’t just take all our struggles away and give us what we want, but He does give us opportunities to learn and grow through those struggles. He wants us to work with Him toward real heart change. It is in the work of inward change, that outward change will not only happen, but will last.

Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. Are we alone? No! The good news is to get to this place of sanctification we’ll need Jesus and lot of Him and you know what? It turns out, He’s actually the greatest gift of all. He’s the one our hearts really longed for all along. We thought it was an easy life, a struggle-free existence, money in the bank, flat stomaches, a great marriage, no problems, but those are just reflections of a much deeper longing we have within: Being known for who we really are. Knowing and loving ourselves for who He says we are. Being loved by Him, and loving Him in return.
My heart LONGS for each person reading this to find that level of surrender to Him. When you do, you’ll know true freedom and the effort of this life will come from an indescribable power rising from within your soul. The very Holy Spirit–who communes with Jesus all the time–giving us the power, patience, and fortitude to continue our transformation one day at a time.

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Insecurity and Self-Promotion

I used to be afraid of what people thought, especially when it came to self-promotion. Mega Phone

Anytime I shared a blog, a piece of writing meant for encouragement, or news about how my latest ventures were going, I would fearfully wonder if others would pass me off as a shameless self-promoter bragging about my accomplishments. This fear kept me from writing or creating anything new which made me feel purposeless, insignificant and ineffective in my gifts and calling as a writer.

Then I realized the only reason I feared people’s judgment was because I, myself, judged others too harshly. Ultimately, I had to lay down that judgment and fear if I wanted to keep creating.

God spoke to me quite clearly one morning during my Jesus time, as I was complaining about all this. He said, “You’re not promoting yourself, or your message. You’re promoting Me and Mine.”

I was giving myself too much credit and that was causing fear to hold me back from something God was calling me to do. When I got out of my own way I began to see much more clearly what I needed to do.

Do you know when the fear of what people think goes away? It’s when you do the thing He’s asking you to do. Not before. Not during… but after you’ve obeyed. That fear will always be there until you step out in faith and obedience to the calling He’s given you.

So, if there’s something He’s asked you to do don’t let the fear of what others think hold you back. You have no idea the blessings on the other side of obedience.

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The Path to Your Greatest Impact

Below is an article I wrote for Paramount Business Coach blog and website.

Insecurity.

The word alone elicits feelings close to shame, self-doubt, and embarrassment. Feelings we like to pretend aren’t there. But over the last several years, as I have observed, researched, and uncovered all I could about this word Insecurity, for my book In_Security: Break Free from what Holds You Back, I’ve discovered everyone struggles with some form of insecurity or another. It is not gender specific, age specific, or career specific. It is a human problem, manifesting itself in as many different ways as the individuals it infects.

It is fascinating to me, really. All the different facets that come from such a universal feeling that most are unwilling to talk about. And why are we unwilling to discuss it? Because of insecurity. We don’t want to look weak. We don’t want to admit that, we too, have moments of doubt, fear, and uncertainty. This might ruin our reputation. People might not take us seriously. After all, we’re taught that “positive thoughts breed positive action” and while that may be true, complete avoidance of our insecurities may not be the answer. Through much of my research I have discovered a surprising, yet helpful fact about our greatest insecurities.

“The path to your greatest impact is often through your greatest insecurity.” 

I’ll share from my own journey. I’ve struggled for years feeling insecure about writing. Not just writing, but sharing my writing with others. Putting myself out there for acceptance or for ridicule. Because of this, I remained in a state of apathetic complacency, swatting away the gentle reminders to use the gift I had been given, convinced it was worthless. I knew for ten years I was supposed to write a book—not only a book—but a book about overcoming insecurity. The ironic thing is I was insecure about writing a book about insecurity! So I put it off. For ten years. Doing nothing also left me empty. Not only empty, but feelings of self-contempt continued to increase for the constant procrastination and waste of precious time and talent. I didn’t know what was worse: Facing the fear of completing, publishing and marketing the book, or living with regret. I finally started writing, and I can tell you from experience, facing the fear is the way to go.

Along this journey, many others have confirmed the same feelings as they’ve shared their insecurities with me. Is it possible that the very thing holding us back could be the launchpad of a great calling we’re too afraid to step into? Could our insecurities be an indicator of the path we need to take?

We could say it like this: insecurity is the neon sign that points to a life of purpose, freedom, and fulfillment. The more insecure and fearful you are about that path reveals just how important it is that you take it. We just have to fight our way past the insecurity that threatens to leave us stagnant.

Here are three things to watch for as you embark on your own fight to overcome the insecurity holding you back from your greatest impact.

Self Regard 

Your personal self-regard will reflect in every interaction you have. The way you think about yourself will teach, inform, and direct others to think about you the same way. The problem with this, is oftentimes, we are riddled with self-doubt, fear, and insecurity when faced with a risk we want to take. We want others to believe in us, but we first must believe in ourselves. Do you want to know a great way to have a better self-regard? Do the things you say you’re going to do. Not just the promises you make to others. Keep the promises you make to yourself. That’s where the real test of self-integrity is given and where positive self-regard will grow. Have a phone call you need to make? Put it on your calendar and make it. That idea you’ve been sitting on? Get the prototype going. The thing on your list you are most afraid of? Do it first. Taking small steps to keep the promises you make to yourself will help foster personal trust. If you can trust yourself that you’ll do what you know you need to do, you’ll be unstoppable.

What Will People Think? 

This fear is deep-rooted in our human desire to be accepted and most of the time we tend to avoid moving forward if there is a chance of rejection or judgement. What if I fail? What if this idea doesn’t work? What if they say no? What will people think if…? The great news is: people don’t think about you. Do you want to know why? They are too worried about themselves to put any real emotional energy into thinking about you. And even if they do think or speak negatively about you, it’s most likely because you’re doing something they aren’t doing and they misplace personal resentment into negative jealousy. Holding yourself back based on a fear of what others think is a waste of time and a trap designed to keep you from moving forward. Recognize it, and walk through it.

The Resistance 

Whether we agree or not on the existence of a Higher Being, a Master Creator, Mother Earth, the Power Within, or God, I know we can all agree that we have an enemy working against us. I call it a spiritual enemy because I believe in God and the spiritual realm that’s waging war in the unseen. Steven Pressfield simply calls it Resistance—the enemy within, who,  by the way “is always lying and always full of shit.” If you have ever dreamed of becoming more than you are, you have experienced Resistance. It’s that little voice inside (or big voice, depending on how good we’ve gotten at ignoring it) that wants to take us out.

What insecurity holds you back? What is keeping you from taking the next step in your journey, business, dream or life? Is it any wonder you feel uncertain, cautious, or doubtful in your approach to this sensitive issue? There is so much working against you. Our enemy knows your potential and fears what could happen if you not only knew your greatest calling, but walked in it confidently. Why do you think he works so hard to make you feel incompetent, unqualified, fearful, or even undeserving? So you’ll avoid the work.

So, maybe you don’t believe in the devil, but you know the Resistance I’m talking about. Think about it. Oftentimes, it is the unknown that makes us feel unsure or insecure. It is the risk that makes us fearful. Most of the time when we’re faced with insecure feelings our instinct is to back-track or avoid those situations or talk ourselves out of what we know we need to do. If we but understood the path to our greatest calling is often through our greatest insecurity, we could plunge headfirst into that destiny, knowing that great blessing is waiting on the other side.

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GIVEAWAY

**GIVEAWAY**
We had a record-breaking month of book sales for the month of July!! I’m in awe of the way God has blessed the obedience of writing my story. I’m humbled at the number of messages I receive everyday from people fighting for freedom, practicing freedom, and celebrating freedom from what holds them back!
Because of His blessing, I want to BE a blessing! That’s why I’m doing a GIVEAWAY!
I’m giving away a book, with a freedom necklace, AND a $20 StarBucks gift card to THREE LUCKY WINNERS! (Drawing will be done Saturday, August 6th)

Like my page 
share the post on your timeline, and
comment below for a chance to win.
‪#‎thebestisyettocome‬

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Gratitude Activates Peace

My family and I just returned from a get-a-way to Colorado. We love to visit a small mountain town called Creede. Home of the Rio Grande National Forest, it’s known for it’s fishing, hiking, camping and all around mountainous beauty.

We stayed in a small cabin in town, and while visiting a local restaurant employed by foreign exchange students, we met a young man from Ukraine. I’ve always been fascinated to discover the stories of people from other places. What I soon discovered from his story gave me a whole new perspective on the blessing I have as an American citizen.stock-photo-45137828-drinking-water

As he looked at our young children he told us how blessed they were to get to travel away from home. He said growing up they were never allowed to go anywhere except school. The government of Ukraine made it nearly impossible to travel outside your town with fees and expenses too outrageous to make it worth it. He said he always overhears the older couples who come to the restaurant, talk about where to go next… thinking to himself “You have no idea what a blessing it is to have options…”

He was in the states for the summer on a temporary work visa. He wasn’t complaining but told us he works 6-7 days a week with little time off, serving American’s who have no idea the blessings right in front of them. But he was so grateful to get the chance to be in America, even if it was for only three months at a time and only if he was working.

He told us about meeting a group of a young American’s at one of the restaurants he was working. “They were complaining about how awful America is…” he said with a thick Ukrainian accent. “About the politics and the violence… I had to tell them they do not know what they are taking for granted. At least America has politics, and gives it’s citizens a choice… in Ukraine, we do not have choice. In Ukraine we are taxed for everything… even the water and the ice in the restaurants is something you pay for…”

He was gracious and kind, like he just wanted us to know how blessed we were to be American’s.

He left to go check on our food, and as I popped the top off my kid’s 7-UP, with free ice, and sipped on my free water, I reveled in how much I actually do complain.

When we don’t have a great perspective on how blessed we really are, it can be easy to fall into the trap of ungratefulness, complaining, and focusing on what we do not have.

One thing I always do at the start of each day, or anytime I’m starting to feel unhappy or lose my peace is list the things I’m thankful for… the things many of us take for granted everyday:

Food to eat, a car to drive, money in the bank, a healthy family, a house with air conditioning and heating, great friends, a wonderful church… I think I’ll be adding freedom, and free ice water to the list too.

Gratitude activates peace.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”

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The Size of Your Impact Should Not Determine the Use of Your Gift

I was having coffee with a friend the other day and she was telling me how under-utilized she feels.

“I want to be used by God, but I just don’t feel like I have a great impact, so I find myself not using my gifts.”

I was instantly struck with this thought.

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I think most of us want to make a great impact. We want to use our gifts and talents to make a difference in the world. We want to matter, feel significant, and play a vital role. But sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can be deceived into burying our gifts, believing the lie that a small impact isn’t worth the trouble.

But that’s not what Jesus teaches.

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” Matt. 25:14,15

If you know the story you’ll remember that the first two put their talents to work immediately, but the servant who received only one talent, buried it under the ground.

Sometimes I wonder if he did that because he saw how much the other servants had. More than him. Did comparison steal his chance to use the talent he had been given?

What about us? Does comparing our talents and success with that of others actually undermine our ability to use the gifts we have been given?

The size of our impact should not determine the use of our gift. 

We are continually encouraged: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Ro. 12:6-8

It doesn’t say, if your gift is prophesying, then prophesy if you have an audience. If it is to lead, then lead diligently if you have followers, if it is to encourage, then give encouragement to gain popularity.

It simply says to do what you’ve been gifted to do. Despite nothing.

To be completely honest, the friend who was telling me this over coffee was actually me. For too long the enemy has been on my back and in my ear whispering lies that I shouldn’t use my gift because I’m not making that big of an impact. He had me tied up in knots, comparing myself to others that I perceived were having more success in reaching their dreams and God-given callings. In my eyes, I didn’t have the same success as these others, so why even bother? My enemy convinced me to bury what I did have out of fear, pride and insecurity.

But God, in His loving grace reminded me once again that the size of my impact should not determine the use of my gift. That if He’s gifted and called me to write for, encourage and build up the body of Christ I am to obey that calling no matter if I see the fruit of my labor.

And so it is for all of us, because each of us is gifted in one way or another and each of us is called to use that gift for His glory.

Are you using yours?

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Self Sabotage

The decision to make a change can be a frightening thing, and the enemy will come at us even stronger than before. Remember, a free person is a dangerous person to the enemy, so he will try to destroy our progress through self-sabotage.

I am a recovering self-saboteur. As I have overcome this bad habit, I have noticed a few reasons we may find it easy to fall prey to sabotaging our own best intentions

We believe we’re not worth it, or we don’t deserve it.

This is a common lie of the enemy, especially among women. Relational sabotage is wrapped up in this lie: “Go ahead, settle for what is less than best. You’re not worth the wait… the trouble… the work. You do not deserve to feel loved… pretty… fought for… pursued.” Fill in the blank. If we fall for this lie, we will self- sabotage by selling ourselves short. If no one has ever told you, I’m telling you now: You are worth the fight and the time it takes to make a change.

We allow our feelings or emotions to dictate our actions.

Most women, and maybe a few men, know this all too well. Many of our goals, dreams and visions are delayed, destroyed or dismissed when we allow our emotions to control us. Don’t get me wrong, feelings and emotions can be good things. God made us emotional, but our emotions and feelings can sabotage us if we do not bring them under His authority, focusing them in a positive way. A Bible reading plan I followed recently talked about our emotions and how they travel 80,000 times faster than our thoughts travel. Knowing this can help us understand why we sometimes act on our feelings even when we know the right things to do. Ever wonder why the Bible says to “Guard your heart.”? (Proverbs 4:23) Because from it springs our feelings and emotions. It is not only talking about guarding it from outside predators, but also guarding the emotions that may want to come out of it, if they are not in line with God’s leadership. A mentor of mine likes to say, “feelings are rarely our friends.” When we allow our feelings to control us we never know what may happen or where we may end up. Finding freedom from insecurity is not a practice in feelings, but a practice in choice.

Laziness.

Of course, it is easier to skip our Bible reading, not practice our sport, not eat healthy, craft or art, or sit down and accomplish what God has called us to do. It takes a lot less effort to let our thoughts run wild, or our mouths say what they want. Doing what we know we need to do is the harder thing. If it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be worth it. We have to get off the couch of our mind and stand up for our freedom. No one else is going to do it for us! We must not allow laziness to cripple something God is calling us to do. “What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”—Picasso.

Fear of change.

Oftentimes, it is this fear that keeps us taking one step forward and two steps back. We impede our progress because we fear how progress might change our lives. We fear failure, but we also fear success. We keep ourselves in our comfort zones, even though we are screaming to get out. We are playing tug-of-war with our flesh and spirit and the one who is going to win is the one we feed more. If our flesh is stronger, we will never change. We will stay in the prison of insecurity because that is where it is safe. It is what we have always known. As He asked the man waiting to be healed, Jesus is asking us, “Do you want to be free?” We keep ourselves living an okay life, when God has an unimaginably magnificent life waiting for us on the other side of change. Yes, change is scary. It is the unknown that stretches itself out across the expanse of our mind and keeps us from taking that first step forward. It is okay to feel afraid, but step out anyway. It is only when we step out of our comfort zone— step out of our bondage— that we will discover the life God designed for us all along.

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Give Yourself Away…You’ll Be Happier

A couple weeks ago I was really struggling with having joy as a mom. I was irritable, snappy, short. I wasn’t spending quality time with my kids because I was spending quantity time. In the same house, in the same room, in the same seat! I pushed away their requests for attention, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted (more on exhaustion later.) I wanted to do my thing, and wanted them to leave me alone. There were days when I laid down at night and asked myself “Did I even LOOK at my kids today?” Sure, I was with them. Sure, I took care of them. Fed them. Bathed them. Disciplined them. But did I LOOK at them? Did I take in his long eye-lashes, notice the hair in her face, the new scab on his knee, the fact she changed clothes eight times? I was actually entertaining thoughts like “Things would be so much easier without kids.” “This would be more enjoyable without kids.” “I wish I had never had kids.” It was a dark place. I know, you might be thinking, “She only has two kids…how hard can it be?” But everyone has their limits.

Is that ok to share? Oh well. If you’re a mom and you haven’t had those thoughts, you’re either lying, or you haven’t been a mom for very long. Just wait. You’ll think them too, eventually.

I am convinced being a parent is quite possibly the hardest form of sanctification there is. (Sanctification: the process of being made holy) If you let it, it can be the most effective way to break us of our stubborn, prideful and selfish heart. It can be the best teacher of service, selflessness and the true value of solitude. It’s as if God, in His infinite wisdom asked Himself, “How can we train these heathens called humans? I know! Let’s give them children.”

Children are a sort of ticket for the journey to holiness, if you but allow them to reshape your heart. Can other things take you on the journey to holiness? Of course, but parenting uncovers things inside us that other things just don’t.

I didn’t want to feel this way anymore, so I spent some time with Jesus, talked to my husband, and got a few things sorted out. I’ll admit, when it comes to parenting, my experience only reaches as far as my oldest son (who is almost five) So I know next to nothing, but this I do know:

As moms, we are leached of life. You can’t get around it. There are demands on you that are constant, urgent, and important. We can either be sucked dry and have a bad attitude about it, or choose to give ourselves away. The latter brings much more peace.

So I did a little experiment. Instead of allowing myself to be irritated at the rate of life and energy being sucked from me daily, I told myself “Give yourself away.” It became my mantra. “Give yourself away.” When he wants to play Uno for the sixth time, “Give yourself away.” When she wants you to accompany her to the bathroom Every. Single. Time. even though you know she can do it on her own, “Give yourself away.” I made a point to look, actually look at them, in the eyes, in the details, and I realized, once again, just how much I loved them.

Nothing changed, really… except me. Except my attitude. They still needed me at the same rate, and I was giving out the same energy, but it was different somehow. I did it with a happy heart. I chose to do it. The days passed more quickly, I enjoyed myself a lot more, and I’m sure my children enjoyed me more too.

Was I still exhausted at the end of the day? Yes, even more so. But I was also more fulfilled.

I like how Anne Lamott put it somewhat close to this: “Willing to be of service is where the joy resides.”

I write this to inspire, and encourage, but also to remind myself I always have a choice. A choice to be willing instead of reluctant, not just in motherhood, but also in life.

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Fight for Joy

It’s Memorial Day today and I was talking to a woman at church yesterday and asked her if she had any plans, a cookout with friends, swimming and lounging, or visiting grave sights, anything to commemorate the day. She looked a little sad and said “it’s just another day. But when I was a kid we would celebrate everything. Every holiday, big or small. Decorations, food, family. Thinking about it brings out the kid in me. If I had a place of my own, I would celebrate every holiday.”

I love that. Celebrate. There are so many opportunities to celebrate. So many chances to fight for joy in our lives. But I fear, too many of us miss the chance for joy in celebrating. We rationalize with “it’s not practical” “it takes time” “it costs money” “It doesn’t really matter” But it does matter because we need joy in our lives and celebrating things can bring us joy. It doesn’t have to cost money, unless you want it to. It might take an extra ounce of time and energy, but I’m convinced the joy it brings will repay you twice fold, if not more.

My mother-in-law celebrates everything. My kids get cards in the mail for Valentines, St. Patricks Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and the first day of summer and winter. She decorates little areas of her house and writes on little chalk board signs for each obscure holiday. I love this about her. She takes celebrating seriously and she is full of joy.

A friend of mine is going through menopause. She took the news really hard and just couldn’t see the beauty in this next season of life. I immediately felt compelled to encourage celebration! (Now, I understand I’ve never been through menopause so I don’t know what it’s like, but I do believe certain things in life need to be celebrated among close friends—especially milestones, and the beginning and passing of certain seasons.) I started thinking of party names for this particular celebration. “The Hell Yes Party,” “Hot Hallelujah Party,” “Freed from the Bleed” “The Red is Dead” and my personal favorite “Flo No Mo.” We’d all wear red, but she would wear black. We’d drink Bloody Mary’s and invite Flo from the Progressive commercials to give this certain season the right send off. I’m already excited for my Menopause Party.

Fight for joy. Life gives us enough reasons not to celebrate, why not take every opportunity we can to throw a little party?

Many people might think negatively about celebrating and making a big deal out of things. I’ve certainly heard people talk negatively about the stores coming out with Christmas decorations in July, and Valentines decorations in December, always reaching for that next party, always planning for that next celebration. I’ve read writers who condemn this kind of behavior saying “we’re grasping for joy” instead of living in and enjoying the moment, but I believe there is a balance of both. Grasping for joy is not a bad thing. Fighting for joy is a necessary part to living this life. Without joy, what do we have? Yes, live in the moment, but live with joy. Truly live, don’t just get by, don’t just make-it-through, LIVE.

Happy Memorial Day. Hope you’ll celebrate in some way, even if it’s just wearing a star crown on your head!

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Today

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Psalm 95:8

I always read this verse thinking it was talking about the lost… but lately Jesus brought it to my attention as it relates to His believers.
Sometimes we have hardened hearts toward Him.

It could be when we hear His voice to spend time with Him, but choose to do other things instead… It could be when we read a scripture that tells us who we are, but we don’t believe it… It could be when he asks us to do something, but we choose disobedience….

Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your heart.
He is calling to you.

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