I Didn’t Recognize You With Your Clothes On!

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One story my husband hates for me to tell – but I get such fun out of telling is the Sunday a visitor showed up at church.

My husband loved to get out of the office and into the community.  He felt just sitting at a desk all week was not the best way to be a help and influence to the community.  Since he is a Pepsi fan (I always said if he needs a blood transfusion they could just use Diet Pepsi instead of blood), he always stopped at the local Casey’s for a soda while he was out visiting.

Stopping two or three times a week at the same Casey’s, he became friends with the cashier and often invited her to come to church.  She always had some reason why she could not come.

Then one day she surprised my husband by showing up for the morning worship.  As my husband greeted her in the foyer, she loudly proclaimed, Pastor Paul, I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!

I wish I had a camera with me that day to get a picture of the shocked look on his face.  Then, a second later, a picture of the woman’s face as she realized what her comments sounded like and her face turned all shades of red.

Looking around at the congregation that stood by very puzzled at her statement, she explained what she meant.  “I mean, I always see you in jeans and a t-shirt.  I have never seen you in your suit and tie.”

While my husband hoped that everyone who heard her first statement also heard the second one, I just stood there and laughed and laughed!  I still tease him from time to time that I did not know he made pastoral calls in the nude!

39 years Ago – He Met His “Barbara”

It was in January 39 years ago I walked into a church in Bethalto, Illinois, not knowing that I was about to meet my future husband. As Paul and I remember that special day, we still marvel at how God brought us together. So – once again, I share our story.

“We as a community of friends are gathered here in God’s presence to witness Paul and Barbara’s renewal of commitment to one another and to ask God’s continued blessings on them. Marriage, like our creation as men and women owes its existence to God. It is His will and purpose that a husband and wife should love each other throughout their life. Shall we pray?”

This was how our Pastor began the ceremony when my husband and I renewed our wedding vows on our 25th anniversary. We still love to remember that story.

Here’s the story!

While living in the state of Washington, my husband, Paul, found himself a single father trying to raise two teenagers. Needing support, he returned to his home town to be near family. He was very lonely and began to pray for a Christian wife. Since he was a minister and also loved to sing, he asked God if it would be possible that this wife would also play the piano and be able to work with him in the ministry.

Her name will be Barbara

While praying, he felt impressed in his spirit that God would grant him that request and that his future wife would be named “Barbara.” He was afraid at first to share that thought with anyone as he felt they would think he was crazy. But it was so real to him he needed to reveal it to someone. He finally related that information with a couple at the large church he was attending but no one else.

Four months later I walked into the church with my two young daughters.

While living in Southeast Missouri, my first husband was accidentally killed leaving me with two small daughters to care for. Everything I read about grief told me that I should make no sudden changes or moves for at least a year. However, after a year of trying to make it far from home, I decided to return to Illinois where my family could give me much-needed support. While it was great to be close to my family again, I still carried a heavy load of grief and sorrow. I tried to be strong for my two young daughters, but after a while I realized I did not want to continue living alone. Although I longed to find happiness again, I knew that my daughters’ happiness and safety were more important than my own. If I ever remarried, it would have to be a very special man who would love my daughters as well as me.

I asked God to give me a godly husband who would help me raise my daughters.

One year after moving back to Illinois, I decided to attend the church where my parents were members. When I walked in the foyer, I saw a couple that I recognized. They were friends with my first husband’s parents but I had not seen them in years. They seemed extremely happy to see me, but it was only months later that I found out why my sudden appearance at their church was so exciting to them. They were the couple that Paul had shared his secret with.

After greeting me, they hurried to locate my future husband and tell him, “There she is.”

He had no idea what they meant until they told him the red head that had just walked into the church was named Barbara. Paul told them to not say anything, but if this was the Barbara God had promised, God would work it out. A few weeks later Paul asked me on a date and the rest, as they say, is history.

And a good history it has been. Paul has proven to be a wonderful husband and, even more important, a wonderful father to my two daughters and grandfather to my grandchildren.

Today as we look back at the 39 years we have shared, we are grateful that God answered our prayers. I am no longer a red head, but he loves me anyway. 🙂

Frustrations, Laughter and Joy

As another new year comes around, my mind races back to other new years and other times. Recently I was thinking about the life of a pastor and his family and the frustrations, the laughter and the joy that life brings.  Three different stories came to mind that illustrate all three scenarios.

THE FRUSTRATIONS

frustration

One Sunday morning as my husband was greeting the church members after service, one man stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Smiling while thinking “I didn’t know anything was wrong – and who asked you,” my husband asked him what he thought was wrong.  His response:  “You are too organized.”

Continuing to shake hands with the other members, a woman stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Now my husband took a deep breath, smiled and said “What is wrong?”  Her response:  “You are not organized enough”

THE LAUGHTER

laugher

There was a woman in one of our churches that bounced from church to church throughout the community.  She was a little slow mentally and when she came to our church we tried our best to make her feel welcome.

One Sunday my husband told the congregation that we would be out-of-town the following weekend as we were going to visit relatives in North Carolina.  He was encouraging everyone to please attend as members often stay home if the pastor is not going to be there.

This woman raised her hand and when my husband asked her what she wanted she asked him:  “Is Barbara going with you?”  Of course I was going and my husband replied in the affirmative.

The entire congregation tried so hard not to laugh when she said, “Well, if she can’t go with you, I can.”

THE JOY

joy

One morning as my husband and I headed across the parking lot from the parsonage to the church office a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out to talk to us.  She was looking for the church that was administering the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program.  We gave her directions to the local church that had the program.

She lingered after we gave her the information and seemed as if she was troubled and wanted to talk.  We invited her into the office and she began to share how she was pregnant and wanted to keep the baby but her boyfriend told her it was either him or the baby.  If she did not abort the child, he was kicking her out of their apartment and breaking off their relationship. She clearly did not want to abort the child but was unsure if she could raise a child by herself.

We spend time with her discussing her options.

  • She could obtain an abortion and keep her home and relationship with her boyfriend.
  • She could seek help from others, give birth to the baby and then put it up for adoption.
  • She could seek help from others and raise the child herself.

While we tried not to judge her or her boyfriend we naturally advocated for the life of the child.  It was clear she really wanted that, but just needed some help in not only making that decision but being able to have resources so she could keep that choice.

I made a list of phone numbers of various resources that would help her including the local Pregnancy Resource Center.  We also gave her our phone number and told her we would do anything we could to help her with doctor visits, baby supplies, etc.

After prayer with her, she left saying she did not know what she would do but she would keep in mind our offer of help and the list of resources I had given her.

Weeks, months went by and we never heard from her again.  I agonized over whether we had not made it clear enough that we and our church were willing to help her.

Almost 3 years later we had a district meeting at our church.  Several other churches in the area were in attendance.   A young woman walked up to me with a beautiful little girl  in her arms.  She asked:  “Do you recognize me?”

I did not know who she was.  Tears of joy quickly came to my eyes as she identified herself as the young woman who we had counseled and prayed with over the decision of abortion.  Although she had never called us back she had gone to the Pregnancy Resource Center.  They helped her with doctor visits and baby clothes and gave her the friendship she needed to carry though with the birth of that little girl.

She thanked me that we had taken the time to help her walk through the options she had and offered resources to help her in her choice of life.

So – you add it up.  The joys and the laughs far outweigh the frustrations.

The frustrations are gone, but the funny things still bring a laugh, and the joys still make it all seem worthwhile.

Remembering Richard at Christmas

Six years ago a dear friend died just before Christmas.

 My husband and I had watched him battle cancer (two different kinds) for over two years.  It was hard to see him slowly lose the battle.  He fought hard and he never lost his courage or his great sense of humor.

His family asked my husband to do the funeral service.  It was an extremely hard thing for Paul to do.  They had been friends for almost 20 years.  In the very beginning of their friendship, I had surgery for breast cancer.  The cancer was very advanced and my husband was  frightened as his mother had died from breast cancer.  Richard came to the hospital and sat with my husband through my surgery and did not leave until I was out of recovery.  That cemented their friendship.

That – and their love of golf and corny jokes.  Although they claimed they played golf, I think from listening to their tales that they spend more time laughing at each other’s skills than they did actually playing the game.

After my retirement, I often joined the two of them for breakfast.  It was such fun to just sit and listen to them as they teased one another and shared stories of their time on the golf course.

While it was hard for my husband to do the funeral service, he was honored that the family said that was what Richard would want.  As we arrived at the funeral home, his daughters handed us an envelope.  On the outside it said, “Paul and his bride.”  That was how Richard always referred to me – “Paul’s bride.”  When Paul and Richard met, if I was not present, he would always ask, “How is your bride?”  The handwriting on the outside was clearly not Richard’s.  So we assumed it was just a card saying thank you for doing the service.

When we opened the card it was a Christmas card.  Thinking it was a little strange that his daughters were giving us a Christmas card, we opened it up.  My heart skipped a beat as I saw the signature inside the card.  It said simply, “Richard.”  We immediately recognized his signature.  Also enclosed was a picture of him.

His daughters told us although Richard never sent Christmas cards, just before his death he asked them to get him some Christmas cards.  He then signed a few and asked them to give them to his special friends at his funeral.  He knew he would not be here for Christmas and he wanted us to know what our friendship had meant to him.

This is a special card my husband and I will treasure forever.

Merry Christmas Richard!

Here We Go Wassailing

Today most of us think of Christmas carols as something we hear on the radio, or we sing at church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services.

However, singing carols in many places used to be more than just singing a song at church. It was a time to connect with neighbors as people would gather together and go from house to house singing Christmas songs.

In doing research on old, unknown Christmas carols I found that it is believed caroling began in the 13th century. Neighbors would sing to one another, and the term used was “wassailing.” The word comes from an Old Norse term that meant “be well and in good health.

In England as neighbors gathered to share songs and wish each other well, they also shared warm drinks. By the 14th century the word “wassail” become associated with the warm drink shared at Christmastime. It is wine, beer or cider with sugar, spices and fruit.

Apparently as the community began to share maybe a bit too much of the wassail the Christmas season became quite a time of parties and drinking (does this sound like us today?) and the Puritans Parliament in England actually outlawed celebrating the holiday in the 1640s and 1650s.

English bishop Hugh Latimer, said that “Men dishonor Christ more in the twelve days of Christmas, than in all the twelve months besides.”

In New England Christmas caroling was condemned by the famous minister Cotton Mather who wrote in 1712 that the “Feast of Christ’s Nativity is spent in Reveling, Dicing, Carding, Masking, and in all Licentious Liberty …by Mad Mirth, by long eating, by hard Drinking, by lewd Gaming, by rude Reveling. . . .”

Growing up my church family often gathered on Christmas Eve and visited the homes of older members who might not be able to attend church services. We would stand outside their homes and sing carols. Sometimes they would invite us in to share a warm drink. When we were missionaries in the Philippines, we were serenaded at Christmas by students at one of the Bible colleges where we taught.

Even this year our church will be gathering to share Christmas carols with the community. We will gather afterwards to share warm cocoa and cookies.

If you would like to try a pot of wassail, here is a recipe from allrecipes. There are many other recipes available if you google.

Ingredients:
½ gallon apple cider
1 (46 fluid ounce) can pineapple juice
46 fluid ounces cranberry juice cocktail
1 orange, thinly sliced
5 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole cloves


Directions:

Step 1
Pour apple cider, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice into a stockpot. Place orange slices, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, and cloves in a muslin pouch or directly into the apple cider mixture. Bring apple cider mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until flavors have blended, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove orange slices and spices before serving.

Here is a second recipe from the “Williamsburg Cookbook” that is served at Colonial Williamsburg.

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
3 lemon slices
2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups orange juice
6 cups dry red wine
½ cup lemon juice
1 cup dry sherry
2 lemons, sliced

Directions:
Boil the sugar, cinnamon sticks, and 3 lemon slices in ½ cup of water for 5 minutes and strain. Discard the cinnamon sticks and lemon slices.

Heat but do not boil the remaining ingredients. Combine with the syrup, garnish with the lemon slices, and serve hot.

If you try one of the recipes, I would love to know which you tried and if you liked it. (But don’t drink too much and cause a riot.)

Carol of the Bells – The Story Behind the Christmas Song

Normally on Friday I post a list of ten things I have found interesting in my reading and listening to various speakers. For the month of December, I am going to instead post the history of a beloved Christmas song.

The one today is one I hope you will take time to read – and then pray for the Ukrainian nation.

I have always loved this song. It is so cheerful and full of the holiday spirit at Christmas time.

The song first came to worldwide recognition when the Ukrainian National Chorus conducted by Alexander Koshetz performed at Carnegie Hall in October 1922. Dressed in their traditional embroidered dress the audience responded to their rendition of the song by cheering for encores and throwing flowers on the stage.

This traditional Ukrainian song was listed on the playbill as “Shchedryk.” This was actually a pagan folk song that was sung on the New Year and had nothing to do with bells or Christmas. The song tells of a swallow summoning the master of the house to look at the coming spring season and the harvest it will bring. In 1916 composer and teacher, Mykola Leontovych added music to the lyrics. He had worked for several years on his arrangement and orchestration of “Shchedryk.” He sent his arrangement to the director of the National Chorus in August 1916 and several months later it was performed by the choir in Kyiv.

Original version of the Ukrainian song

This song is closely associated with Ukraine’s history. When the Romanov dynasty fell in March 1917, the Ukrainian People’s Republic was declared in 1918. Its president, Symon Petilura, wanted the world to know about Ukrainian culture in the hopes it would gain support for his new state. So, the Ukrainian National Chorus began a worldwide tour. On their tour they would pass out brochures with information about their new country.

While the choir was touring Europe and the USA, the Cheka, which later became the KGB, began killing thousands in an effort to bring Ukraine back into Russia which was now ruled by the Bolsheviks. This period became known as the Red Terror.

This terror reached to the composer of this song. On January 23, 1921, the composer was shot by an agent of the Soviets, Afanasy Grishchenko. He had asked for shelter for the night at the composer’s family home. During the night he shot Leontovych with a rifle.

Hearing a performance of the original song, Peter J. Wilhousky copyrighted the music and wrote new lyrics (not based on the Ukrainian folk song) which he published in 1936. The new version became popular in the USA and Canada and became associated with Christmas.

By 1921, the short-lived People’s Republic had fallen. Its terriitories were divided between Russia, Poland, Romanis and Czechoslovakia. It was not until the collapose of the Soviet Union in 1991 that Ukraine became an independent nation once again.

While we enjoy this cheerful song with its cheerful lyrics, let us remember we owe our thanks to the Ukrainian nation for this song. Let us pray for this people who have fought so hard and so long for their own country.

Our American version

Friday’s List – Honoring Our Veterans

In honor of those who have faithfully served our country.

My father who served with the Navy in the Pacific during WW II. My mother was left at home to care for three small children. (I was not born until after the war.)

My first husband who was with the USMC in Vietnam. Wounded while there, he earned the Purple Heart and was given 10% disability for problems from his injuries there. Sadly, when he came home, he was met with protesters who called him “baby killer.” After he was discharged from the USMC, we came home with a USMC sticker on our car. One night in St. Louis we were followed by a car full of young people yelling obscenities at us. It was a scary time. He survived Vietnam and then was killed in an accident working on our car in our front yard. He never lived to see the Vietnam vets finally given some respect. I hate that!

My second husband is a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force. He served in Thailand, France and Germany overseas and in Texas and California here at home.

My two sons (stepsons but still mine) also served in the USAF. The oldest one was disabled as a result of his time in the service. He was a disabled veteran who died over seven years ago.

The youngest served at the Pentagon while in the USAF.

My One Night of Luxury!

Shortly after my retirement my husband and I made a trip to North Carolina to visit our children who live there. On the way we decided to stop and explore the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.

Built by George Vanderbilt, grandson of famed industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt, in Asheville, North Carolina in 1887 it is unbelievable how big it is. The home contains over four acres of floor space and includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces.

On the grounds is a conservatory which is full of beautiful orchids. We were told there are over 600 different orchids. I could not of course get pictures of all 600 but I did my best to capture some of the most beautiful ones.

While there we decided to spend one night at The Inn on Biltmore Estate. We knew it would be expensive, but thought after all these years of working, we deserved one night of luxury. The view from our room was wonderful.

The lobby and lounge areas made us feel so pampered.

In our bedroom we found custom bathrobes and slippers. They offered complimentary night turn-down service, but we passed on that.

When it was time for supper my husband suggested we go into town to find a restaurant, but I wanted to enjoy a meal in their dining room – it looked so special.

Wanting to keep me happy, he agreed. After we sat down and saw the menus, I realized this was probably not a good idea. But, too embarrassed to get up and leave, and still wanting to enjoy one night of luxury, we stayed. The food was excellent and we really enjoyed the meal. When we had finished the waiter asked if we would like a cup of coffee. My husband passed, but I asked for a cup. Thinking after spending such a large amount on the meal, the coffee would be complimentary, I sipped my cup that was served in very delicate china and enjoyed every drop.

I was very upset when we got our bill (which I knew would be much too high for our budget) to discover they had charged us $4.00 for this tiny cup of coffee.

The next morning we enjoyed some coffee in the library (which was free and served in paper cups) and read the newspapers savoring one more moment of luxury.

I felt a little guilty for spending that much money for one night – but looking back now I’m glad we did it. What price do you put on good memories!

Are You Anticipating?

Although it has been years ago, I still remember the day when I heard I was going to be a mother. What excitement as my husband and I began planning for this addition to our family.

I read books on child care. We began shopping for a crib, a baby bed, and tried to decide if we should use cloth diapers as our mothers did or go with the modern throw away kind. We picked out a new paint color for the nursery. I enjoyed a baby shower given by friends and had such joy finding a place for all the gifts.

After a few months while I still found joy in the waiting for this child, I also began to really long for the nine months to end and the child to come. There was morning sickness that seemed to never end, back aches as my stomach got bigger and bigger. The closer I got to the expected delivery date it seemed the more active my child became. It was hard to sleep at night as no matter how I laid, she seemed to move and turn and I was miserable. Sometimes I could feel what I realized must be a foot or a hand and my excitement grew.

See the source image

The time for her delivery came – and went. Now my anticipation grew stronger. Come child, come. I am so tired, so miserable and long to be delivered from this stage. But even more, I am so anxious to meet you.

For nine months I have thought about nothing much but you. I have wondered if you would be a girl or boy. I prayed that you would be healthy and have all your toes and fingers. Often I tried to imagine what you would look like. Would you have my red hair or my husband thick, dark hair? For nine months you have been the center of my thoughts. Everything has evolved around “when the baby gets here.”

As the delivery date passed, my anticipation grew much stronger. Every morning I would wake thinking “will this be the day?” Every night I went to bed thinking “will the baby come tonight?”

Then it happened. Sitting in my living room with my husband, my water broke. What excitement as we grabbed the bag we had packed a few weeks before for my stay in the hospital. Thankful that we lived only a few blocks from the hospital, we hurried to the car and were filled with such excitement. The baby was finally coming!

At the hospital there was still a time of waiting. The doctor said “yes, the baby is almost here. Just a few more hours.”

My husband paced the floor as I prayed the baby would come soon. It was painful and I wanted the pain to end, but more than the pain, I longed to finally hold this child in my arms.

After a few hours, the baby was born! I still remember as if it was yesterday, the moment I held her in my arms. To finally see her face to face. To be able to count her toes and fingers, to look into her beautiful hazel eyes, just like her Daddy’s. To whisper to her how much I loved her and how I had longed for her arrival.

It’s Christmas time. We are excited about the day. Seeing family members, opening presents, enjoying a great feast.

But I wonder, do we really understand what this time of Advent should be about? How much do we anticipate the return of our Lord? Do we even think about it?

Does the thought of His return fill us with excitement? Do we count the years since His promise and wonder “When will you return?” Do we think about what it will mean to see HIm face to face? Does that thought fill us with wonder?

There is such chaos in our world today. Covid has created health issues, and divided people on what our response should be. Politics have beoome so ugly, so divisive. Many are suffering financially. Fires in California, tornadoes in Kentucky. Almost weekly we hear of a shooting in a mall, in a factory and now even in our churches and schools. We are like a woman in the last months of pregnancy, hoping for deliverance soon.

But where do we turn for deliverance? Some are thinking if we can just get Donald Trump back in the White House all will be well. Others think if we can just get rid of Donald Trump and keep Biden in the White House all will be well. Some are hoping Congress will pass some legislature that will solve it all. Just the right action by them and suddenly the Covid crisis will pass, the economy will get better, the violence will be controlled.

As for me, while I have no idea when that day will come just as I did not know the exact day my child would be born, I live in anticipation.

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Just as I did not sit around doing nothing when I was told I was pregnant, so must we not just sit around and wait for the day of His return. I was busy preparing. How do we prepare for the Lord’s return? He told us in HIs parables. We work to help others, to make our world as much like His kingdom as we can. To be His hands, his eyes, his arms to those in need until He returns and makes all things right.

This season, I encourage you to seek to do all you can to reach out in His love to the hurting world as you wait for His return.

And in all the dinners, parties, family gatherings, please take time to remember what this season should really mean to us. And in all the chaos, frustrations of daily life right now, remember our Lord will return. While we wait, work to be His hands and feet to help those in need.

There’s a light upon the mountains,
  and the day is at the spring,
When our eyes shall see the beauty
  and the glory of the King;
Weary was our heart with waiting, and
  the night-watch seemed so long,
But His triumph-day is breaking, and
  we hail it with a song.

In the fading of the starlight we can
  see the coming morn;
And the lights of men are paling in
  the splendors of the dawn;
For the eastern skies are glowing as
  with lights of hidden fire,
And the hearts of men are stirring
  with the throb of deep desire.

There’s a hush of expectation, and
  a quiet in the air;
And the breath of God is moving in
  the fervent breath of prayer;
For the suffering, dying Jesus is the
  Christ upon the throne,
And the travail of our spirit is the
  travail of His own.

He is breaking down the barriers,
  He is casting up the way;
He is calling for His angels to build
  up the gates of day;
But His angels here are human, not
  the shining hosts above,
For the drum-beats of His army are
  the heart-beats of our love.

(Henry Burton – 1578-1648)

Let Us Not Forget

Eighty years ago today our nation was attacked at Pearl Harbor.

My parents’ generation sacrificed much in the next few years. My father was in the Navy and came back from the war with many difficult memories of death and danger.

My mother was left to take care of three children on her own.

President Franklin Roosevelt created the OPA (Office of Price Administration). This organization placed ceilings on prices of goods to prevent companies from taking advantage of the situation to raise prices on goods and also created rationing to limit consumption.

Ration books were issued to families restricting many things such as sugar and gasoline. I remember hearing stories of how people would trade their sugar rations for gasoline so they would be able to get to work.

Families were encouraged to raise their own vegetables to allow more food to be canned for the military. These “victory gardens” led to the government publishing guides on how to plant a garden and how to can the produce. Women’s clubs began with women sharing new recipes and ideas of how to create tasty food with less ingredients available.

No woman wanted to go out on the town without nylon hose. As the nylon was needed for parachute and other military needs, the hose became hard to find. (Like toilet paper in our Covid-19 situation).

When I see our generation facing a different type of crisis with Covid-19 – and the response we have made, I wonder how we compare to this “Greatest Generation.”

This past week one of the last of that generation died.

Bob Dole served in the Army and was injured in a German machine gun attack. He lost a kidney, he was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down. While he regained mobility, his arms never fully recovered. He lost the use of his right arm and his left arm was partially numb. He said he had to allow 50 extra minutes each morning to get dressed.

There are many stories of other men/women I could write about. But I’m sure you all know parents/grandparents of that “Greatest Generation” who lived through the Depression and World War II.

Sadly as my generation is gone, I wonder if anyone will remember and appreciate the sacrifice of that generation.

Let us not forget!