This So Isn’t Me – Battling Anxiety

I have been after Macy to write a guest post for almost a year now.  There is something about the way she shares her heart that always convicts and encourages me, and I was excited to share that with all of you.  What she ended up sending is a collection of snapshots into her battle with anxiety, and I believe that God will use her struggles to give those of us in similar places hope.  I pray that you will be encouraged by her heart!

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I’m not sure how to pull these thoughts together with an introductory paragraph. To me, they are all connected with a common thread that I apparently can’t put to words. Let’s just introduce it as a collection of snapshots into my battle with anxiety.

Last year, Joe told me that he has had to relearn how to be married to me. This was after we had one of our biggest fights to date. It had to do with me sharing a creative idea with him privately and him sharing the idea with others and running with it before I’d had a chance to speak up. He argued that I had never before cared about taking credit for an idea, preferring to remain nameless. And he was right– but It wasn’t so much about the recognition. It was more about the ownership of my participation in the world around me. My tendency is to mesh. To blend. To let things pass by me, through me, even. This all stems from fear, of course. Of being misunderstood. Of being disliked. Of being wrong. But I am learning to spend less time trying to perfectly portray myself to people and more time just getting in there showing up and learning and contributing. That’s where vulnerability happens. That’s where connections are made. That’s what has the power to break that enormous barrier between me and others that I feel I have been timidly tapping on my whole life, afraid of calling too much attention.

I told a friend a while back that anxiety, to me, feels like I’m trying to navigate through life with someone screaming continuously inside my head. The screaming isn’t even words, just constant “white noise” muddying up my ability to be completely present in whatever it is I’m doing. I still haven’t figured out how to turn the noise off completely but I am learning to dial back the static and focus on the life going on around me.  My comfort zones are tiny spaces, with the white noise bouncing off the walls and amplifying 1000x over. But I think if I can break that barrier, just shatter it and live in bigger spaces, maybe that noise will actually have some space to dissipate into.

I was recently bawling my eyes out because I felt so incredibly inadequate to do a certain thing. I couldn’t see why I had been trusted with it in the first place. Joe asked me “Macy, are you solving more problems than you are creating? Then you’re good.” That really hit me hard.  I am never never never going to get to a place where I do it perfectly. No matter what “it” is. I think I was trying to maintain a perfect record by doing nothing at all, but what an unfulfilling life that ended up being.

I’ve been pushing myself super hard lately– working full time on evening shift, giving up some of the social life I feel like I only just built, taking on a leadership role in the piano hub @ my church. We are in major debt payoff/house savings mode, I’m going to the gym regularly (mostly haha), and we’re hoping for a baby for too many years in a row now. It all feels like chaos a lot of the time and I crave a giant pause button.

I have found myself saying so much lately “I don’t feel like myself!!” “This so isn’t me!!” as I am forced to do things less than perfectly and not be able to hide it or dwell on it. I think “I’m not a speeder. I’m not ever late. I’m not insensitive. I’m not careless. I’m not unorganized. I’m not unprepared!!” But, I am those things. I am human and flawed, but I used to avoid pressure to keep those flaws from surfacing. What’s coming to the surface now is a whole lot of ugly and broken and I’m doing my best to take it apart & let it be rebuilt better, and it has been super cool to realize I am surrounded by beautiful people who are okay with my awkward unfinished parts.

Because taking credit for my own ideas, and actively contributing to things that I am passionate about despite being afraid, and connecting with a variety of people on a regular basis, and finding my way through the fog, and yelling over the static…. well, those things “so aren’t me!” either. But I am discovering that yes, indeed, they are.

 

A Drought of Friendship

Over the past 5 or so years I have been living in a drought of friendship.  I’m not sure how it happened, because I had many close friends in my late teens and early twenties, but as life happened and people moved around I found myself without much fellowship.  I had a few people that I would call on the phone or talk to online, but I lacked in person female bonding.  I remember traveling through Oklahoma and spending a few days with a friend from school there, and we spent the whole time curled up talking about life and God, watching sappy tv shows and drinking cocoa.  My heart needs that connection.

I worked with women that I talked to a lot, and I married and had a beautiful baby, so my life wasn’t devoid of human interaction.  But something is different.  Sometimes you need a friend that clicks with you at the heart.

Something that I had taught myself years ago was to go to God first with my feelings.  I am apt to emotionally vomit on people and never get around to prayer, so it is good for me to work things through with God before I talk them over with someone else.  During the drought I went to God a lot, and I worked on investing in my relationship with him.  I prayed about this lack of friendship and asked for him to fill the dry cracks that I felt in my life because of it.

Another thing that I struggled with was overlooking opportunities for friendship because they didn’t fit my preconceived mold of what I was looking for.  God has always paired me with weird people, but for some reason it is hard for me to let go of wanting “cool” friends.

Eventually, I reached out.  I stopped hoping for a friend to come to me, and instead I decided to be that friend.  I realized that I have a lot to offer, and that my strengths are perfectly suited for deep and meaningful relationships.  And I stopped looking for friendship where I expected to find it.

I now have a few women that I see regularly and consider close friends.  I also have a few women that I see infrequently but I have purposed that when we visit I ask intentional questions and share my true heart because I love them and refuse to live in a shallow place with them.  I have also let go of a lot of past insecurity and am trying to build relationships with people that I was intimidated or irritated by before.

If you are going through a friendship drought, be encouraged.  First, you have the ultimate friend in Jesus, and maybe this is the time that you need to build your reliance on him.  Secondly, stop looking for the type of friends you want and start praying about being a friend to the people God has put around you.  The weird ones always make the best friends.  And when you find that person that your heart clicks with, it is like a drink of fresh water in the middle of a long drought.

Actually Becoming The Happy Wife of A Human Husband

 

The title of this blog came from an oft-repeated threat to write a book called “How To Be The Happy Wife Of A Human Husband”. I began making that threat after it dawned on me that it’s typical to vent about a husband’s failings while excusing our own weaknesses. This behavior is not limited to the husband/wife sphere, either — we all do it.

I got married later in life, so there were lots of years with human room mates. Being the oldest of 5 meant my family life was pretty full of humans, too. Four human children have become adults who make their own choices — choices I do not control. (In all honesty, I never had the power to control their choices.)

On top of the aggravation of humans in my house, humans share the road with me as I drive and they post irritating stuff on social media. I go to church with humans. Humans all around, and they all act human. How do we stay “happy” when there are all these humans bothering us?

I am human, too. Maybe this blog should be called “Happy Human Among Human Humans” or something similar.

The thing is, we all cut ourselves some slack and think our own aggravating qualities are not so bad. There is deception in our hearts, according to Proverbs 21:2. We all think we are right, or we have good reasons for whatever wrong we do.

I am blind to my own faults — a good example is the piles of “stuff” I plan on sorting someday. I have many piles of stuff. One of Dave’s first gifts to me as a new wife was a blue basket to put my piles of stuff in. One basket, however large, won’t hold all my procrastination piles. Did his helpfulness change my pile habit? A little, but they are still there in the corners of my life because they don’t bother me like they bother him.

Here’s the thing — he gives me grace about my pile habit. Should I give him grace about his irritating habits? Yes, because not only does Dave give me grace, but God forgives me for far more serious sins than procrastination. When I realize all I am forgiven for, the natural response is thankfulness followed by forgiving others. It’s like that parable of the servant in Matthew 18 — we need our eyes opened to how much we have been forgiven.

When I choose to forgive as God has forgiven me, I am free to be happy with imperfect things and people. I can be a happy wife of a human husband, or a happy co-worker who works with humans, or whatever life throws at me.

Our daily lives are where our theology is tested. Truth is always true, but we don’t always believe the truth and it shows. My reactions to the people around me show me what I actually believe. This is humbling because I often have a disconnect between what I “believe” and how I react.

Recognizing my consistent failures helps me see myself accurately — I am human. I fail. Because I am human and I fail, I have to accept others as human failures just like me but our failures cost us more than we like to think about.

Jesus points out in his famous Sermon on the Mount that our natural tendencies have horrible results if we let them grow to fruition. Sibling rivalry, for instance, is the same basic attitude as murder. That’s harsh! But it’s true and we all do it.

We all need forgiveness, we all need grace, we all need the good news that God loves us enough to do something about the condition of our hearts. The cost of my self-centered insistence on my own way was death. Not death as an arbitrary punishment by an egotistical deity but death because it’s the natural consequence of my choices.

Jesus chose to leave his position as God and become human — like us — so that he could be a substitute for us and take that consequence on himself. I don’t understand how that all worked, but this changed everything. Do some research on the historical evidence for Jesus and the resurrection and it’s hard to ignore.

So what do we have? A resurrected Savior who provides forgiveness for me. He gives grace, so I can extend that forgiveness to the human who shares my life. That makes me a happy wife of a human husband.

 

 

 

 

To Love & Honor

Two days ago I had a quarter life crisis kind of a morning. It was all in response to an article I read about the roles of men and women in marriage. I of course brought this up to my husband, Luke. “So what do you think?” In my head I believe that God designed marriage in a way that gives husbands the leading role, in real life though this doesn’t seem as clear cut.  A thousand scenarios fly through my mind. What if I’m the only one that wants more kids? I don’t care what he wants to do he can’t just borrow $5K in credit card debt! What if my way is right?

In our culture the idea of submitting to your husband is often repulsive, and I struggled with it too. Certainly that is not necessary, this is the 21st. century after all, haven’t we as Christians decided that giving in to our husbands was some cultural Bible times idea? Not too far into this discussion, one I had somewhat confrontationally dubbed; “who gets the final say”, I was getting defensive!

In the heat of the moment, to even say the word submission is to feel weak, vulnerable, and less capable. “I am my own man! I am usually right!” I vehemently expound. Luke reiterates that it is from a place of love and protection that God has him lead. I want that love and cherishing and I want to be the boss of me! My eyes are dark and glaring, like a cornered cat, my hackles are up. “Why should I?” I scream in my heart. I want to do the right thing. I want to honor God. I want to avoid this issue like the plague.

So I did the only reasonable thing to do and went to my older sister’s for cocoa. She would vehemently state that God made both spouses equal in marriage, but with different roles. I left fortified with a solid argument and good hot chocolate, but the matter was still unsettled for me.

My next step was to ask my little sister, more input couldn’t hurt. “Oh we agree to make all our decisions together.” She confidently smiled. Nodding and smiling in return I thought, I like that sentiment, this is a good philosophy. Still a debate raged in my heart. After 8 years of marriage it’s obvious to me that we will not come to an agreement on all major decisions. We will not come to an agreement on if the kids can have more cake.

Mom joined what was now a family discussion. “Many times Dad and I agreed on decisions, but there was one time that Dad was excited about a business opportunity and all I could see was having to leave our children home many nights. I never voiced my opposition, and this endeavor had a major effect on our lives. I didn’t want to burst his enthusiasm or face his judgment that I was being negative.”

The question for me has never been whether or not I can voice my opinions, or be the deciding force in major decisions, that is an overwhelming yes. My question here is; after we’ve hashed it all out and a stalemate has been reached, is there a biblical truth that directs me to let my husband take the lead? Does the Bible give us a structure for our roles in marriage? After great debate and studying I believe so. Read Ephesians 5:22-30 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.”

Here my husband is given the roles of savior and lover, he is to nourish and cherish me, to give himself up for me as Christ did for the church. I am given the direction to make myself subject to my husband. This isn’t a word we use a lot today. To be subject to Luke is to place myself under him, this is a voluntary choice on my part to let him lead. Submission is not something you can take, or force from someone. It is placing myself in his care.  

Choosing to give preference to my husband and follow his leadership is peaceful. It brings us a new oneness, and it demands a level of trusting from me that I am unaccustomed to. I see in Luke a greater willingness to listen to my point of view and defer to me. I see him give himself up for me in a whole new way. This is not about winning or losing, it is about building a loving relationship, orchestrated by God in a way that reflects Christ’s love for us, His church.

10 Ways to be Content Instead of Stir-Crazy

The original title for this post was “How to Survive as a Stay at Home Mom of a One Car Family in a Tiny Apartment with no Dishwasher”.

That’s catchy, right?

If any of that made you cringe or nod your head in understanding, let me tell you about my life right now.  I am a stay at home mom with a one year old daughter, I run a daycare and watch 3 other kids part time.  We went down to one car when our 2nd car died on the side of the highway 6 months ago.  We live in the 2nd story of a big farmhouse in a 2 bedroom apartment that has no laundry facilities and no dishwasher.  And there are days when any one of those things (let alone all of them at once) make me want to scream.

By the grace of God I am learning to love my crazy and cramped life.  Let me share with you some practical tips for if you ever find yourself in my shoes.

  1. Keep it clean.
    There is nothing as depressing as living in a tiny space that is dirty and cluttered.  It makes you feel like a failure.  Like the clutter will eventually cover your floor and the children and you’ll be cast in that Hoarders show on TV.  RESIST THE DEPRESSION.  Pick one thing or spot and clean it.  If that means the countertop or the toys or the kitchen table, just do one place.  It makes you immediately feel better.  Then keep going!  Living in 5 clean rooms sure beats 5 messy ones.
  2. Prioritize kitchen gadgets & counter space
    I have two tiny counter spaces.  One has a dish drainer and one used to house my bread machine and toaster.  I just bought myself a coffeemaker and rearranged everything to give it the top priority spot of honor.  This serves two purposes: first, to look inviting and give me wonderful hot coffee every day, and second, to discourage me from allowing dirty dishes to pile in front of it.  It helps me keep my promise to wash dishes every time the dish pan is full, which in turn keeps me sane without a dishwasher.
  3. Get outside & rearrange occasionally
    If you stay at home and your family only has one car, you go a little stir crazy.  Especially in an apartment out in the country with no stores or friends in walking distance.  The best remedies for that are to get yourself outside as much as possible just to breath some different air, and let yourself rearrange some furniture.  My kitchen rehaul made me love the space all over again, and I just did some moving around in our living room too.  Rearranging gives you a new perspective.  And when you are home as often as you are, you need to love it.  Take some time to think about how your space works and how your family uses it.  We ended up switching around our living and bedrooms last year because we realized it just works better that way.  The biggest priorities are to get rid of unused items and find a home for everything else.
  4. Keep play spaces out of high traffic areas
    Duh, right?  It took me months to realize that if I moved the toys to the far side of our living room they wouldn’t obstruct the doorway.  Sometimes you miss the most obvious things!  Try looking at your space as if you were an interior designer.  Leave your preconceived dislike of the space at the door and think about what would make it flow better.  Think about what pieces of furniture you aren’t using or what weird spots aren’t being utilized.
  5. When you have the car, GET OUT.
    Sometimes I don’t think my husband realizes how much I need to get out of this house.  Don’t be afraid to leave him on his own for dinner and go visit a friend or even just drive to a park or the store.  I am guilty of getting angry about times I can’t use the car when there were 6 other nights that week it sat unused from 4pm-6am.  If you need to get out, GO.
  6. Like your husband
    No matter how big or small your house is, liking the person you live there with makes it 100x better.  Marriage has stages and seasons, and all relationships have ups and downs, but if you can strive for a place where you enjoy each other’s company it will make any other circumstance much more bearable.
  7. Use your kitchen
    One of the most welcoming things that I have found is to be baking fresh bread or have soup simmering in the crock pot.  I LOVE being in my kitchen when there is yumminess on the stove or in the oven.  If you don’t want to make anything right now, try lighting a candle.  A great smelling home is welcoming and friendly, no matter what size it is or how bored you are of it.
  8. Invite people over!
    When your house is pretty and clean, invite some friends over for coffee.  Plan a Bible study or a crafting day, depending on their interests.  I bet every one of your friends has projects they need to finish and this may give them an excuse to do it.  If you have artsy friends you can ask their opinion on rearranging, or you can forget about your house for awhile and just live your life.
  9. Become a DIYer
    Do you like Pinterest?  Go search for apartment living, small kitchens or DIY decor.  You can deck out your tiny space on the cheap and maybe find solutions for the areas that were stumping you.  There is something soothing about breaking out the power tools and attacking a project that has been sitting for a long time.  Install that coat rack!  Hang those pictures!  Flip that Craigslist freebie!
  10. Be intentionally content
    It is so easy to dream away your days by wishing you had a bigger house, another car, more money or a different set of circumstances.  By utilizing these tips you can learn to be content in the home you have right now, even with the flaws.  Contentment is all about trusting God in your current circumstances, and trust is all about how much control you are willing to give him in your life.

Maybe someday we will have a house with a laundry room and a yard.  Maybe someday we will get another car again.  Maybe someday a magic box will clean my dishes for me.  Until then, I choose to believe that washing dishes is therapeutic & I do it with a smile.

Learning to Wait

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On my wedding day, my husband and I chose Ephesians 5:22-33 as one of the verses we wanted to live by. I strongly believed what those verses have to say and — by God’s grace — I have kept by them.

I believe as a wife it is extremely important to be submissive to your husband. It is something to take very seriously. We are to be their help meet. What we say, things we do, and how we respond affects them as a person. They need to be built up, not torn down and nagged. Sometimes it isn’t easy, though.

My husband and I got married in 2008. He didn’t want to have children right away. Babies scared him. He was the youngest and really wasn’t around babies as he grew up. He knew that we were going to have some but “not that soon.”

So, I had to wait. A year passed and he still was not sure about having a baby. Year and a half? Nope — not yet. It was really hard to have to wait. There were times that I would talk to him about it and where I would push him away. I had to back off and had to respect his decision even though I didn’t understand.

Then, in the late spring early summer of 2010 (after a year of struggling with God on where I was at) God got hold of me. He really made me see a lot of things about life. Through every detail, He was involved and guided me through His word. Having this spiritual breakthrough really helped me become more submissive to my husband.

Here are some verses and tips that helped me to wait and submit to my husband by submitting to God first.

  1. His way is perfect. 2 Samuel 22:31

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is shield to all who trust in Him.”

Every single thing you go through is His perfect plan for you. There are no mistakes. Every situation, every person you come in contact with is a part of His perfect will for you. His word is there to help you understand this and to give you peace. Even when you mess up, He is still a part of it. He is involved in every detail of our lives. It is also important that you and your husband discuss situations and significant issues. In those discussions you could bring it up on how God is intimately involved in every details of your lives. There might be those times he might not be ready to hear that. It is so easy to get upset too, but it is always imperative for you to talk these things through. That is why it is important for us as wives to constantly focus on God’s word and pray for our husbands. But the key is believing God’s way is perfect and what He says is true, so that whenever your husband says something that you disagree with, you can trust God and submit to your husband.

  1. He knows all my days and has a plan for them. Psalm 139:16-17

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!”

Every single day that we live has been written down in His book. He knows when you were born and when you are going to die. He knows what days you and your husband had that argument about that same issue that keeps coming up. Our Lord is sovereign and in control. Even your husband’s days are all written down. God knows when your husband will change his mind or even if you will change your mind.  He has great things for the both of you, things to make you grow, things to make you understand your husband or other people. He wants and has the very best for your marriage.

  1. He instructs and guides me in the way He wants me to go. Psalm 32:8-9

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.”

You might be thinking, “You don’t know my husband. He doesn’t understand what I am trying to do.” Yes, that might be true but God knows the way you and your husband need to go. Allow Him to instruct you in the way He wants you to go. It might be the entirely different way from what you want. But who are you to know what is truly good for you? He knows and He will guide. Don’t fight your husband! You are fighting God because He has called you to be submissive to him. Don’t be like a horse with a bit and bridle. When you let go and be submissive, God will tell you and guide you in the way you should go.

  1. A gentile and quiet spirit does work. 1 Peter 3:1-6

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,  2 when they observeyour chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.”

In today’s society, wives don’t have many examples of what a gentle and quiet spirit looks like. It doesn’t mean that a wife has to sit quietly while her husband does all the talking. That’s not right. It means allowing your actions to speak louder than your words. It means that if your husband is doing something that is not correct, but it does not go against God’s word, your only choice is to fear and trust God and humbly pray that He can help you to be that woman who wins over her husband. In the long run, your husband will respect you because even if you didn’t agree with him, you didn’t put him down or nagged him.

  1. Be thankful in the moment you are in. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always,  17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

The years I had to wait until my husband decided to have kids was the will of God for me. When I finally allowed God and His word to transform my heart, I am so thankful for the things we got to do. I honestly cannot imagine it any other way. God gave me such a thankful heart and enabled me to be content in every moment.

Very close to our fifth anniversary and only two months after getting off of the birth control I was on for five years, God allowed us to get pregnant. The following year we received a beautiful baby girl who, with all the joy in my heart, daddy loves and adores and treasures with his whole heart. God is faithful, so very faithful during those years.

 

The Glory of The Mundane

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Most of the spiritual giants in God’s kingdom are anonymous. It’s interesting to see who is named in the great “faith” chapter of Hebrews 11 and look at their stories — stories that are only a few highlights of countless days. What do we know of their daily grind of a life? Not much, but we see the result of their many small choices in the glimpses that Scripture provides.

That chapter ends with mention of a host of those who lived their life in faith, knowing that the end of their story was “not yet”. It reminds me of the brothers and sisters in Christ who are even now experiencing torture and death for the Gospel.

I think that the most amazing example of a life lived primarily in the mundane is Jesus. Christmas is a time of celebration of His birth, but it’s hard to imagine just how mundane that actually was. What do we know about His daily life on earth? Not much, but there would have had to be things like this:

  • Keeping the baby Jesus clean, warm & fed — that’s lots of poopy diapers and baby spitup and the rest of infant care. The God who created the universe needed someone to change His diapers. Think about how far a step downward that is.
  • Childhood — no temper tantrums but still daily meals and the cleanup involved. Preparation of daily meals without electricity, too. Most of the day was likely spent in community, talking and working.
  • Early adulthood — I cannot imagine there were not chores of some sort. Floors need to be swept, the meal thing never goes away, dishes and laundry still happen. There is no mention of servants for this class of Jewish society.
  • Ministry years — His years of ministry, short ones, were spent walking places as far as I can tell. Lots of unexciting stuff mixed in with the teaching, and He often used what was happening around them to illustrate the lessons. God uses stuff we understand to help us understand new concepts.
  • Integrated into the Jewish home & community would be regular religious celebrations, teaching times for the family to focus on God and His Word. All the Feasts, the Sabbath, and more would be part of life’s regularity.

How many of those days do we know about? Not many. All we know is the relatively few times things were recorded. In today’s social media tech world, daily moments are recorded a lot, but in that time, it just happened. We see the fruit of the harvest, but we miss the mundane reality of seeds planted and organic growth that takes time.

At Christmas, I am reminded that God values the mundane and partakes in it through His Incarnation. He takes the ordinary, physical reality of daily life and blesses it with His presence in every aspect. It takes time to see the harvest, but it will come.

I had a blessing today, when my daughter posted about washing the dishes. It was encouraging to see some of the fruit that comes from just doing what comes next by the grace of God. It’s a privilege to have lived long enough to see a small part of what He has been doing all the time.