66 Years of Grace

Listening to music this morning, this song brought tears – tears of joy – to my eyes.  It has been 66 years since I started this race with Jesus Christ.  There have been mountain tops of great joy, great excitement (to mention only a few – marriage, birth of children and grandchildren) and valleys of sorrow and pain (to mention only a few – death of first husband, oldest son and grandchildren, cancer).  But one thing has remained true through it all – He has proved to be that “friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

Thank God for His grace.  This song says it all!

I was just six years old.  Too young many would say to know what I was really doing.  But I knew.

Growing up in a family that attended church every Sunday and where my parents practiced what they preached on Monday through Saturday also, I understood that Jesus loved everyone – even “sinners.”

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I wasn’t totally sure what all being a sinner included, but I knew I was not one.

Until one evening at church, I recognized I was.

I was coloring during the sermon on a Sunday night when I heard the speaker say

We put sins into a “big” and a “small” category.  But sin is sin regardless of how big or how small it seems.

 

He then mentioned what we call “small” sin – like lying or disobeying our parents.  Now he had my attention.  Just that week I had disobeyed my mother – and then lied to keep from getting in trouble.

I was a sinner!

Now many may laugh at this or even say how terrible to make a six-year-old feel she was a sinner.

But for me, it was one of the most important times in my life.  Because I knew that Jesus loved sinners – and that He loved me.  I also knew what I needed to do.

So – I went back to coloring and waited until the end of the sermon.  When the message was over, I put my colors and my coloring book aside and walked to the front of the church where I asked Jesus not only to forgive me, but I also committed my life to His service.

Yes, I was only six, but yes I knew what I was doing.

Shortly after that I was baptized as an outward sign of what had taken place in my life.  Our church did not have a baptismal so we went to a farm pond where I, with several others, was baptized.

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Since I am scared of water and do not even like having water in my face in the shower, it was a BIG step of faith to walk out into that pond.

But what a wonderful experience it was.

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Just turning 72 this year, I have been following Jesus for 66 years.

It has been a great walk with a great friend!!!

 

My “Rights” as an American vs. My Call to be A Follower of Christ

The last few weeks I have missed a lot of Sunday morning services at my church due to some health issues.  Since I hate to have a Sunday without hearing a good sermon I have watched quite a lot of ministers on TV.

Let me start by saying this post is not meant to be a bashing of TV ministers.  I have heard several excellent sermons based on the Bible that were challenging and encouraging.

However, there did seem to be a theme running through many of the ministries on the TV which I found not biblical and disturbing.

One recurrent theme seems to be that becoming a Christian means a life of material blessings and nothing but victories in every area of your life.

One service I watched on video had a pastor praying over the offering.  I could not believe his words.

Basically he told God because the congregation were tithe payers, they were claiming:

promotions at work, increased interest on savings, great real estate deals, new sources of income.

I could not help but think:  really, this is why Jesus died on the cross?

Granted, I believe Jesus has promised to bless those who follow Him and give to others.  In my own life I have seen God provide for me and my family many times when we were in real need.

But I think Christians in America have come to think of material blessings as the main part of the gospel.  Our country has been blessed with many freedoms and for many years Christian believers have been in the majority.  We have experienced little persecution.  On the contrary, until recently, our laws protected and even encouraged the Christian faith.  Instead of recognizing how blessed we have been to be born in this country I am afraid we have come to think material blessings, freedom to worship as we please and laws that protect our way of life are all the “rights” of being a Christian.

Sadly, that is not what Christians in other countries have found to be true.  And that is not what I believe the Bible teaches.

Do not misunderstand me.  I am so grateful for being an American.  My husband, our youngest daughter and I all spend time in another country teaching in a Bible college.  As our plane touched down in Hawaii, I wanted to kiss the ground and thank God for being an American.

But these blessings of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness with all that entails is not what Jesus died for.

Jesus came to set up a kingdom but He made it clear it would not be a worldly kingdom with our own leaders.  Rather He would be the one in charge.  In His kingdom things would be much different than what we experience here in the USA.

His gave us an idea of what His kingdom would look like in His discourse we call “The Sermon on the Mount.”  The things He said would make us “blessed” or “happy” were opposite of what we as Americans have come to think are our “rights.”  

As we find our nation becoming more and more post-Christian – even anti-Christian – we are beginning to experience what the first Christians knew, what a large majority of Christians around the world know.

Jesus did not promise us “rights.”  Rather, he called us to a high standard of love and commitment.

“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? …

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.”

The early Christians did not demand their “rights.”  They were focused on sharing the good news with all who would listen and willing to give up any right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I am not suggesting that we should not work to keep our government committed to the freedoms our fathers died for.  My own father won in the Pacific in World War II and my first husband (now deceased) was a Purple Heart recipient from the conflict in Vietnam.  I honor and respect them and others who have given so much for our freedom.

But I am suggesting that we keep our eyes on God and not forget that nations rise and fall, politicians come and go, but God remains forever and His kingdom calls for us to be Christians first, Americans second.

Let us not confuse “success” as the measure of what is right.

“In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. . . . The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought that takes success for its standard.”….Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No offense meant – but as a Christian I cannot proclaim “America first.”

I’m a follower of Christ first, then an American.

 

Five Things I Like About Myself

Recently I began following another blogger whose posts I have enjoyed.  Her post that caught my eye was listing five things she liked about herself.  Check it out here:

http://cyranny.com/2020/01/15/5-more-things-i-like-about-myself/

The whole point is that we are quick to find things about our self we do not like, things we want to change, things that make us feel less than satisfied about who we are.

Why do we never look at our self in a positive light?  So she encouraged her followers to take a look and see the good qualities they possess.

Here goes my list:

Five Things I Like About Myself

 

  1. I am a good musician and use my talent to help others.  Since age ten I have been playing the piano.  Over the years I have played for worship in church, played for weddings and funerals and written and performed Christmas programs.  For the last 35 years I have been a volunteer at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities providing musical programs for the residents.
  2. I am a good cook.  While I have never mastered the skill of making cookies, my pies and cakes are always welcome at a pot luck.  My husband will testify that my meals are not only delicious but usually healthy.  (Although I do probably cook too much pasta.)
  3. I am adventurous always taking the road not well traveled.  When my husband suggested we do a two-year commitment teaching in a Bible college in the Philippines, I said “why not.”  Sold everything we had and headed off on an adventure.  In our 70’s when our youngest daughter took a position as pastor in a new state and moved with her family and my husband suggested we sell and move too, I said “why not.”  On our road trips we always get off the interstate and follow the local roads just to see where they go.  Our trips are always more interesting than following the well-marked roads.
  4. I am a positive person.  While I have had my times of depression and discouragement, basically I see the glass half-full rather than half-empty.  Life to me is a blessing from God to be enjoyed even when difficulty comes because my faith tells me that He will never leave me.
  5. I love to teach the Bible.  Teaching Bible classes both in church, in homes and in the Philippines, my students tell me that I make the Word of God simple to understand and show them how it applies to the “here and now.”

So there – I challenge you to take a positive look and share five things you like about yourself.  Then share them with me and/or on Cyranny’s blog.  We’d love to know you better.

Check out her website at https://cyranny.com/ for more great articles.

 

 

 

Papa Can Fix Anything!

My husband has a big reputation to live up to.

A few years ago our youngest granddaughter was given a beautiful carousel.  As she watched the beautiful colors and the animals go round and round she could not resist reaching out and touching them.  In the process, she broke one of them and the carousel would not work.

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Her mother and father both tried to fix it, but could not.  But she was not worried.  She told them to take it to Papa because “Papa can fix anything.”

When my husband got the carousel he knew he had to fix it because he could not disappoint the faith in him that this little girl had.

However, in his attempt to fix the carousel, he actually broke another one of the animals and now he had not one, but two errors on the carousel.

What to do?

He first went on line and tried to find the company that made the carousel to see if they had replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it.  While the company still was in business, they no longer made the original carousel  and had no replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it.

He then began calling all the repair shops, the jewelry stores, any place he thought might be able to help him.

After several weeks of trying to find someone to repair the carousel he saw an ad for a store that sold and repaired watches and clocks.  The store was in a small town some 30 miles north of our home.  Quickly he drove to the store with the carousel.  What a relief when the owner said he could repair it!

My husband was so glad he left the carousel with the owner without even asking what it would cost.

A couple of weeks later he got a call that the carousel was fixed.  The price tag was much higher than he had anticipated – but what price can be placed on a little girl’s faith in you.

It was worth all the effort and every penny as we watch her each Christmas still be so enchanted by the lights, the music and the animals turning round and round.

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And of course, she had to buy Papa a cup to declare how true it is that “Papa can fix anything.”

 

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Enjoy The Moment!

Growing up I often heard my mother say that as you age time flies faster.  I always thought that was silly.  Time is time.  It does not move slower or faster.  A minute is 60 seconds, an hour is 60 minutes.  Same for everyone.

Now that my mother is gone and I am the old lady in the room, I totally understand what she meant.

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As we approach the end of 2019 it is hard for me to believe another year is almost gone.  It seems only yesterday my husband and I put our house in Illinois on the market and took a big step to move to Michigan.  At our age (71 and 79) starting over in a new town, a new state was a little scary.  After our house sold we loaded all our belongings in a truck and headed out for a new adventure.  And here we are already in our second year here.

Come spring I will be 72.  When I look in the mirror and see the old woman with grey hair and wrinkles I often wonder how she got there?  Where is that redhead with the smooth complexion?

My mother was a strong, active woman and I found it hard to keep up with her as a young adult.  The memory of the day I was walking with her and suddenly realized  I needed to slow down so she could keep up with me is still so strong.  Now I see my daughter doing the same with me.

It truly seems time is flying much faster as I approach old age.  (Notice I said approach.  I still refuse to believe I am old.)

Looking at life from the last stage I can say it has been a great ride.  I plan to enjoy these last years to the fullest.

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  • Life, if lived well, is long enough….Seneca
  • Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments….Rose Kennedy
  • The truth about motherhood is that the days drag on but the years fly past…ChildInsider
  • Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind….Nathaniel Hawthorn
  • Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today….Mother Teresa

As we head into the Christmas holidays, enjoy every moment.  Don’t spend time regretting what you may not have, but enjoy what this year, this moment gives you.

 

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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You will see lots of pink ribbons this month as October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In 1979 wife of one of the prisoners held by Iran in the hostage crisis decided to use a yellow ribbon to show support for her husband.  Soon there were hundreds of yellow ribbons displayed around the country to show support for our brave men being held captive.  The history of a yellow ribbon goes back hundred of years.  It is believed that the Puritans brought the story in a song of a women who wears a yellow ribbon to remember her love who has gone away to war.

‘Round her neck she wears a yeller ribbon She wears it in the winter and the summer so they say If you ask her, “Why the decoration?” She’ll say, “It’s fur my lover who is fur, fur away”

Since then many groups have used a colored ribbon to bring awareness to their own cause.

  • Red ribbon – AIDS awareness and for heart disease
  • Orange ribbon – leukemia awareness
  • Green ribbon – mental illness awareness
  • Purple ribbon – Alzheimer’s awareness

And the list goes on and on.

Breast cancer is something all women should be aware of.  Men can also get this disease but they count for only a small percentage of all cancer cases.

As a cancer survivor I encourage all women to do all they can to prevent this disease.  Some important things to consider:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat fruits and vegetables
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit alcohol consumption

I also strongly recommend a monthly self-exam.  John Hopkins Medical Center states:

“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”

This is how I discovered my cancer.

If you discover a lump or are told you have breast cancer, please do not panic.  If discovered in the early stages, survival rates are usually 100%.  Even in later stages, treatment keeps advancing and survival rates keep going up.

For me my diagnosis was not good.  I was told without any further treatment after surgery, I had only a 15% chance of being alive in ten years.  With a vigorous treatment of chemotherapy and radiation, my survival rate went up to 25%.  But here I am 17 years later cancer free.

As my husband said when we received the terrible diagnosis:

“It is not over until God says it is over.”

Another cancer survivor whose diagnosis was worse than mine but who survived for years told me:

Don’t worry about the statistics.  That is all they are – numbers.  Make your own statistic.

But do your self-exam monthly!!!!

 

 

Thank God for Mondays!

We often complain about Mondays.  Back to work, back to school.

Since I am now retired Mondays are different I must admit.  I can sit with a second cup of coffee and just relax while many have to hurry off to a job that may be stressful, to a school they do not like.

Still, this morning when someone asked me on social media how I felt about Mondays, I could not help but reply as a cancer survivor Mondays mean that God has given me another week of life.

I pray today for those struggling with difficult job or school situations.  But I hope in the midst of those difficulties, they can see something to encourage them.

As for me, given another week of life I say:

 

My Husband’s Legacy

I have been hugged by many people for many different reasons but today’s hug was a first!

This coming Sunday I will be playing for the worship service at a local church whose organist is out of town for a wedding.  Since this church has a much more formal format of worship than my own church, I went by the office to get a copy of their bulletin for Sunday to be more familiar with the order of service.

As I introduced myself to the church secretary and began to tell her I would be providing music for Sunday’ service, she quickly interrupted me and asked if she could give me a hug.

Now I like hugs.  But usually I like hugs from close friends and family only.  I’m not into hugging people I have just met.

Still, how could I refuse?

As I hugged her I could not help but wonder why she clearly wanted to hug me.

  • Was she grateful that I was going to miss my own church on Sunday to provide music for her church?
  • Was she some kind of nut that hugged strangers?
  • Was my smile so dazzling that it invoked such feelings of friendship?

When the hug was over, she explained why she felt such a connection with me.

No – it was not anything about me.

  • It was not my wonderful generosity to help the church out.
  • It was not my beautiful smile.
  • It was not my friendly personality.

She had met my husband earlier this year when he came by to introduce himself to her pastor.  Being a retired pastor, my husband visited many of the churches when we moved to this small town.  He loves the fellowship of other ministers and he just loved seeing the beautiful old churches in our new town.

She shared how much my husband’s visits meant to her and her pastor.

Her comments about the joy and encouragement his visits brought reminded me once again that no matter how old we grow, we can still contribute to others.  My husband just turned 79.  He can no longer pastor, no longer preach sermons in church, but he can still minister and bless the lives of others.

So I thank God for that hug!  And for the reminder that as long as I have breath, I can and will be used of God to help others.

My husband will not leave our children a great fortune when he dies.  But I am thankful for the legacy he will leave them.

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” —Shannon L. Alder

 

 

 

I Can Only Imagine!

In the fall of 2002 I was diagnosed with an advanced and very aggressive cancer.  Hearing my doctors words, “The odds are not in your favor,” I realized I was heading into the battle of my life.

Would I live or would I die?

Facing your own mortality changes the way you look at the world.  Some things that seemed so important no longer matter.

  • What difference does it make if I do not get that promotion I wanted.
  • Who cares if the windows need washed?

Other things take on a new importance.

  • Reading a book to my granddaughter.
  • Taking a walk with my husband.

During that long year as I lost my hair and my strength became less and less, I thought about the very real possibility that I would never see another birthday.

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We took a picture of me with my Dad and we laughed at how much I looked like him with my bald head.

Throughout it all I had a deep assurance that whatever the end result, it would be fine.  When I first heard those terrible words from my doctor, I immediately thought of the scripture that says:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.

Feeling at that moment God had given me that scripture for this battle, I did not know if it meant I would walk through the valley and come out on the other side alive and well.  Or, did it mean I would walk through the valley into death?

For me, it did not matter which it meant.  What comforted me was the assurance no matter what the outcome, God would be with me.

As the treatment continued and my strength got less and less, I began to think perhaps it meant I was walking through the valley into death.  Thoughts of exactly what that would mean kept running through my head.

Then, I heard a song that had been released just the year before.  It had become the most played Christian single in 2002 and you could not listen to any Christian radio station without hearing it.  In fact, it became a main stream hit in 2003 hitting the top 40, adult top 40 and country radio lists.

In the song the writer talks about trying to imagine what he would do when he stands before God in heaven.  He questions:

  • Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
  • Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
  • Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

Listening to that song over and over, I tried to imagine what I would do when I stood before Jesus?  Slowly in my mind a picture began to take place.  I saw myself standing with my hands raised in the air and dancing round and round the throne of God.

Wanting to live for my family, yet there were moments I wanted to see that vision fulfilled and to dance for Jesus.

I did not share this thought with my family.  For them, I continued to maintain a strong belief that I would live.

When all my treatment was finally over, my youngest daughter took me to lunch to celebrate.  She arrived with a gift for me.  It was a Willow Tree angel.

When I saw it, I almost cried with joy.  The angel she gave me was the exact vision I had of me with hands raised dancing around the throne of God.

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So grateful that I survived that battle and God has given me many years beyond what the doctor said I would have.  Still, as I age I know before many more years pass, I will be facing my eternal destiny.  I have no idea what I will do on that day when I see Jesus, but I hope I can dance for Him.

A movie has been made about the life of the young man who wrote this song.  If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  It is an inspiring story of what God can do to change a monster into a good father.  The move has the same title as the song, “I Can Only Imagine.”

What do you imagine you will do when you stand before the throne of God?

 

 

The Cycle of Life

My parents died in the same year – Mom in April and Dad in August.  I remember my sisters and I looking at each other and saying “We are now the older generation.”

Until that time we could think of ourselves as young – it was our parents’ and their siblings who were old.

But now that generation is gone and we are the old ones.

Even then, still in our 50’s and 60’s, we did not really feel old.

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But time has passed and we are slowing down.  We look at each other and see the wrinkles, the grey hair, the slower gait and realize we have come to the last chapter in the book.

With that in mind, recently I have seen so many posts on Facebook of the next generation – my daughter, my nieces – becoming grandparents and it has made my heart so happy.

Watching them and their excitement at having grandchildren brings back the memories of that time in my life.  I relive those wonderful days of children and grandchildren.  Now I rejoice in great grandchildren.

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I love this picture of my youngest grandchild.  She is 8 now but this is still a favorite memory!

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When this little grandson was born, doctors were not sure he would live and said if he did he would be a weak little guy.   Today he is 6 foot 6 inches tall and anything but weak or little.  God is good!

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Love this picture of our youngest son with two of his children welcoming their baby sister.  All three are grown up now but still a joy to me.

Seeing their joy, seeing the next generation take the stage – it brings me such satisfaction to know our family will continue on.

Shakespeare said it well:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

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Each stage of life has had its blessings and its difficulties.

Those carefree days of childhood with little or no responsibilities.  Still, there was the pressure to do well in school, trying to “fit in” with the other kids.  Hoping to make friends.

Young adulthood brought the joy of first love and marriage and babies.  What excitement those first years of marriage brought.  Yet, there were sleepless nights with babies who would not stop crying, worries about meeting the bills.  For me that time also brought sorrow as my husband was killed in an accident and I struggled as a single mom with two young girls.

Middle age came.  Finally, jobs were more stable and money problems were less.  The kids were at a age to really enjoy adventures with me and many evenings were spent playing board games, shopping or just “hanging out” together.  For me there was new joy as I found love again with a wonderful man who loved my girls.  However, I began to realize my body was aging.  I could still do what I did in my 20’s but it took me longer and I was many times exhausted by the end of the day.

Now old age has come.  This body refuses to do what it once did.  Not only does it take me longer to walk the mall, I simply cannot shop as long as I once did.  My husband and I love road trips but even those have to be shorter and I am exhausted for days recovering from the trip.  Still, there are joys in this stage.

I can get up before dawn, sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun raise.  Or, I can turn over in bed, pull the covers over and sleep until long after the sun has risen.  Lunch and dinner can be a gourmet meal with our best china sitting at our dining room table sharing a great conversation with my husband.  Or, we can eat pizza on paper plates while sitting in our recliner and watching a movie.  There is a great deal of freedom to just do whatever I want to do.

Realizing that my days are much fewer than when I started this journey called life, I am more appreciative of each one.  Thankful for the sunshine, for the rain.  Thankful for the silly jokes my husband tells, for the scrabble games we play.  Thankful for the phone calls from grandchildren checking on me.  Thankful for the hot shower.

A study by Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford found that as people age they got happier and their emotions bounced around less.  Our drama-filled days seen to lessen as our negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced.

Psychologist Karl Pillemer interviewed over 1,000 older people for his book,  30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.  He found that:

“Many people said something along these lines: ‘I wish I’d learned to enjoy life on a daily basis and enjoy the moment when I was in my 30’s instead of my 60’s,’” he says. Elderly interviewees are likely to “describe the last five or ten years as the happiest years of their lives.”

So my advice to those in the earlier cycles of life:

Enjoy each moment.  Do not let the difficult times stop you from enjoying all the good times.  This day, this moment in time will not come again.  Look for all the good in your life and savor that experience.

As for me knowing I am playing out the last chapter of my story, I take comfort in God’s Word.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

May my last chapter be my best!

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Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-so-good-about-growing-old-130839848/#xr2BBzFeUxqfgrfg.99