The Risk of Stopping: An Expression of my Journey

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gratitude

"You must, when facing difficulties and hostilities, look to the unseen hoping in what God has promised in the life to come, rather that "this slight momentary affliction" facing you. God promises that such afflictions prepare you for "an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." But you cannot have it both ways. Inner renewal is the product of an eternal gaze." (Thoughts from the Diary of a Desperate Man)
I often get caught up in the "momentary affliction"- the worry of day to day things and the struggles that I face. Much of it is valid, but much of my struggle with affliction and momentary circumstances create this world of uncertainty, a world of anxiety, fear, and anger. Living in this place for too long can bring ones mindset further and further from the truth that God offers. I have been reading many different books at the moment (one is the devotional mentioned above) A common theme I have seen when discussing anxiety, fear, and anger or thoughts on affliction- is this- GRATITUDE is the antidote that will save one from darkness.
"Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Phillipians 4:6)
What a wake up call! Have no anxiety about anything- do not worry about anything! Gods truth instructs us not to worry, but in everything go to Him in prayer with GRATITUDE. I can only imagine how different my attitude, and how different the outcome of my days would be if I had a mindset of gratitude- a mindset of prayer and supplication- a mindset of things eternal, and not momentary. Every conversation, every encounter, every circumstance and every thought would have purpose- everyday would be His kingdom come, His will be done.
I have heard this truth many times before- but the struggle to live it has become more and more difficult. I have been overwhelmed with an attitude far less than that of gratitude. I see Gods blessings for sure- I know He is ever present- I believe His love for me is true and enough- but my actions filled with anxiety, fear and anger show that I have forgotten these very truths. I could list the many things that constantly cause me to worry, or most of all to be angry and frustrated- but that might prove useless. What is important though, is to understand that when I am clinging to the momentary affliction- when I cling to the things that worry me- when I refuse to go to God with gratitude, when I refuse to let go- I am hardly able to be a blessing to others. I believe that with whatever I do, God longs for me to bless those around me- unbelievers and believers alike. If I am consumed with only temporal things, I am consumed less with Christ and more of myself.
Let this be my prayer:
God may I decrease, and you increase- may there be more of you in me. Grant me the desire to follow you and to think of things eternal and not fall into the pit of momentary affliction, but may I come to you in gratitude so that these afflictions may prepare me for eternal glory- my I embrace the things that are seen with your wisdom and grace and trust in the things unseen. Let you be the center of my joy, peace, and understanding. May I find strength to let you work though my anxiety, my fear and my anger so that I may cling to your promise and live a life that blesses others.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Engaged...




I never thought it would happen, loving someone through sickness and health, through richer or poorer never seemed possible. Love- terrified me. Then I met Kenny, and over the past year we have learned to love, to reach out, to embrace humility, and to let God lead us to life in Him. Learning to love is a life long process I think....and I am glad to say that I will spend my life learning along side Kenny.
Kenny and I got engaged 4th of July, he asked me to marry him while standing on the beach, with the ocean crashing and the morning sun shining! Amazing! Truly, the best day ever. Saying yes to him was really a leap of faith, of saying not only that I love him, but that I trust God more than anything. I am so excited to start life together!
Wedding planning is not my thing though. Finding a place, a date, and all the other details kind of drive me nuts, but I can not wait for the day- and I honestly never thought that I would find myself in this place.

We are getting married!

Monday, May 11, 2009

"How many prayers nowadays truly express the will of God? How much in our prayers is self completely forgotten and the will of the Lord is alone the things that is sought? How many believers are really working together with God in prayer?How many of us are declaring daily before Him His will and pouring out our hearts in prayer that He may do whatever is His will that He has made known to us? Let it be clearly recognized that selfishness is no less evident in prayer that it is in other areas."

I have been contemplating prayer, and as of late, a small passion and call to prayer has been building in my heart. I have been reading what others have learned about prayer- most recent readings have been from Watchman Nee. His discussion on prayer in the translated book 'Let us Pray' has provided clear insight, and challenged me to pray differently.

Basically- leaving myself out of prayer. "Oh how we must learn this second part of prayer. Although we are immature and weak, we may never theless approach God and let His Spirt bring our will into Gods will, and our thought into Gods thought. As we touch a little of His will and thought we come to understand a little more of how He works and what He requires of us." Eventually our prayers will be nothing less then His will. Even in our needs, we can pray His will. Even in distress we shall pray His will, even in fear we can pray His will.

How humbling it is to come to a place in thought such as this- to leave myself, my thoughts and my ideas out of prayer, and completely surrender to His will, His power, and His hope.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Let His Kingdom Come to Earth

God desires to work through us, to work with us, not apart from us.
"For whoever shall call upon the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have yet not believed?How shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?"
I some how wonder if the answer to these questions is simply 'they will not, unless...'

God wants to work with us, He longs for us to be in conversation with Him, to hear His heart, His will, and for our hearts to break by the very things that break His. Sometimes I forget that God longs to be one with me. He longs to work through me, in me, and with me. He longs to bring His kingdom to earth through me. What a reality check. Through me- broken, often wretched and prone to wander from His will- ME. How humbling that the Creator of the Universe longs to work through me- through my story, through my struggles, through my life.

God has been speaking to my heart, and calling me to prayer. I have realized that God needs me to interact with Him, so that He can interact with others through me. I need to call on His name on behalf of others, on behalf of the children I work with, the adults I work along side, and for the strangers I pass day to day. Prayer isn't just about asking for things, but its also about knowing what to ask for, allowing God to prepare our hearts for what is to come. Gods heart is not far from us, he longs to share it with us right now, in this second He wants us to know Him, to speak to Him and most importantly obey Him. I have been encouraged and convicted by the scripture as it has been revealed to me

"I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken...My victory and honor come from God alone, He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people trust in Him at all times, pour out your heart to him, for GOD IS OUR REFUGE" Psalm 62 1, 7-8

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heavens Armies, I long yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord, with my whole being body and soul. I will shout joyfully to the living God!" Psalm 84:1-2

"Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen for he who calls you is faithful. " 1 Thess 5:23

"Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart." Colossians 4:2

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Unfinished Book

I came across an unfinished book, one I started last summer but didn't get far into it. Interesting book, and I bet I just got too busy and could not find the time to read it. I started reading it again today- UNChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.
So here is a piece of it:

"I urge you to consider the transparency in your life- with your family, neighbors, and co-workers- and begin to ask yourself how you believe you should address significant moral issues. God's laws are important, and he is just as concerned with out inner thoughts and attitudes as he is with our behaviors. What concerns you? Major moral issues- pornography, sexuality, addiction, integrity, homosexuality, abortion, profanity, selfishness, and so on- are symptoms of deeper issues. Every human being struggles with immorality, because at our core is our hearts rebellion against God. As a Christ follower does your response to these moral issues reflect their complexity? Are you honest with yourself about your own struggles? Do they motivate you to turn your heart- and that of others- toward God, seeking His ways to handle these issues? " pg 58

If you are a christian, and living out the life God has for you along side and in front of others who do not follow Him, these are very good thoughts to consider. In my life I am faced with moral discussions every day, mostly with unbelievers. Truly I love being among others who have not come to faith, because I get to see the work of God come alive in many ways.

Today I taught for the college group. In Romans Paul talks about the fact that both Jews and Gentiles are without excuse, that each will be judged according to the law. See the thing about transparency is the fact that each of us, will be judged. When it comes to moral issues, God has written on every heart his desired will. We as christians often shy away from moral issues, because I honestly I think we don't take the time to really learn the core of the issue, but instead we judge make an opinion and off we go to sunday school. People around us are looking for truth, looking to do the right thing, seeking justice and peace. As a christian I have a responsibility to live according to Gods will that has been revealed, to talk about these moral issues with love and conviction. I was also reading in Mark tonight- when Jesus looks at his disciples and asks "who do you say that I am?" it made me think- when it comes to moral issues, to hard conversations about sexuality, pornography, poverty and justice- who do I say that Jesus is? When it comes to voting, speaking up on a certain issues, and arguing a point- who do I say that Jesus is? Am I living according to His law? Am I living according to who I truly believe Jesus is? Am I transparent?

I think I am going to put some effort into finishing this book. It has so far provoked new thoughts, and challenging insights. But like any book- I will read it with a close eye!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Taking Love for Granted


I forget sometimes how good it is to be loved. In fact I often forget that I am loved. Sounds silly, but it's true. I go day to day, working in a place full of people- adults and children alike- longing to be loved, and often I long for it just like everyone else. We all long for love, it's no secret. We want perfect love, but few of us truly know how to embrace such perfect love.
I take it for granted. I am loved, I know that I am. Not just by family and friends, but I am blessed to know the love that Christ has for me. I know the power of grace, and kindness. I have reason to hope, I have been loved with such perfect love. This perfect love, gives me the courage to love without fear. I can love others because I have been loved by the Father. I know this love, I often don't understand, and I can't usually explain it- but I know it.

I have been working some things out recently and it caused to me marvel at Gods love. It has been made clear over the history of my life that human love often fails and causes pain. Indeed human love can cause great joy, purpose, and even make us glow- but if we learn anything from human love, we know it is not perfect. Many people have been hurt by the people they love the most. And sometimes the people who should love us the most, end up hurting us beyond comprehension. Fathers hurt their daughters, brothers hurt their sisters, daughters hurt their mothers, friends hurt their friends, husbands hurt their wives, wives hurt their husbands. Love hurts. Love betrays. Love goes away, or it lingers with pain and never lets go. I am lucky to have experienced human love- the love that hurts, and the love that makes you glow.

This is why I marvel at Gods love. God created us so that He may love us. He created a hole so deep so that we would search constantly, that we would reach out groping for a love that only He offers. (Acts 17:22-27) How blessed I am to know such love. I am 23 years old and I can honestly say that I have the perfect love from God alone. The world is big- and full of people, full of children who do not know love. I can't imagine what it would be like to live not knowing I was loved. I can't imagine what it would be like to try to love others, to be a husband or wife, a mom or dad who did not know love. Paul, one who was called by God and knew Gods love for him- said it best "without love I am nothing" ( 1 Cor 13:1-3)

Without knowing love- I am not sure who I would be, or where I would be. I am so thankful that I can identify with such love, Such a perfect love has purchased me with blood- I am His beloved and His desire is for me. I am His own. His love gives me strength to rise above the hurt, the doubt, the fear, his love pushes me beyond loneliness, our of darkness and into the light.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Can You Spare a Smile?

Her smile gets me every time!

The other day I went to meet some friends for lunch down town. I arrived early and was waiting on the side walk. A guy, not much older then me I imagine, was walking around. He appeared to be a traveler- maybe homeless, or maybe just on a journey of self discovery. He looked at me a few times but continued walking. It was kind of funny because we had the same jacket on. Anyways, my friends showed up and we went to get our lunch. As we were sitting I could still see the guy walking around outside.

I began to feel some compassion building up in me, but not to a point where I felt compelled to talk to him, or offer him something. My friends and I finished our lunch and said our good byes. As I walked to my car I passed by him sitting on a curb. He looked my direction and we made eye contact and he said "Can you spare a cigarette?" I kindly told him that I didn't have any. He then looked at me as I was just about to walk away and he said "Well then, could you spare a smile?!" So I smiled, and gave him a thumbs up.

I was struck by his question and it has been echoing in my head for the past two days now. We don't smile enough. I love to laugh, and I am sure I smile a lot, but I am sure I could smile more. Smiling should be a requirement. One smile can make all the difference.

I got to thinking tonight.

How often do we smile at people? How often to we respond with a smile when someone looks our direction? Do we smile while driving alone in the car? Do we smile just for the fun of it? What makes us smile?
And most importantly....
Can you spare a smile?

Monday, November 24, 2008

A year in the past


March 28 2007 I started a new journey. Looking back through old journals I see that God has held me tightly though my heart is so prone to wonder into darkness and away from His love.
My journals represent seasons in my life. In March of 2007 I started a journal for a season I called "A coming back". I hit a dead end and decided to move to San Jose- I had many sensible reasons but deeply I knew it was to get away, start fresh, and the crazy thing I thought I was getting away from faith and God- no intentions of getting involved in a life style represented by Christ or the church. Prior to this season of coming back, I had told God that I would never fold my hands again to pray- not for anything or anyone. I was angry, hurt and desperate for truth and at the time I believed it was not God.
The journal opens with " I am coming back, I know its not worth walking without You. The search has been dark and lonely...My soul craves for truth, my heart longs to trust....I don't want a life without meaning, I want a life created for adventure. My life is a journey of healing. I want to love. I want to trust. I want to run free! This is a new beginning, a new kind of faith- trusting truth that is non other than Jesus Christ."

Today is November 24 2008. The last 20 months or so have been amazing. I could have never imagined that the season of coming back, would turn to a season of complete surrender, and total transformation. I guess what has been on my mind, is that God desires to take us on a journey. Our faith is growing and changing just as the seasons change. We all face seasons of doubt- but for me, doubt is ever present but the truth I seek builds strength and endurance. Through doubt I learned humility, boldness, love, mercy, brokenness,repentance, and compassion- and so much more!

My journal now is marked by a season of service, and the joy of learning to love and to be loved.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where do I begin?


These last few months have been amazing. Difficult as well. I love my new job, working in the school has opened my eyes to such a great need. My heart has been challenged, and God has inspired me to further my education so that I can get my credentials and be a teacher. I am really amazed at how God has constructed my life, to where every moment has significance. I see things happening that seem impossible.
I feel I am without words. My life has evolved to something I never dreamed possible. Each day pushes me to dream big, to reach out, and never let go of hope. I trust completely that God is at work, and He is moving through out, looking for hearts that are truly His.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Season....


Autumn by Howskelly.....

autumn rolls around. The leaves are changing, I
feel the same so consumed by the day now the
weeks pass by life trees on a highway once again
I’m trying to do it my way I clamor in the dirt
looking for a penny while you stand there offering
me gold

sometimes I run from you sometimes you’re all I
breathe sometimes I wait for you to come and rescue me

it always makes me sad to put out a fire all we
want to do it burn...for someone, or something are
we burning for nothing? So I climb this ladder of
Jacob, hoping to get a better view I only want to be
close to you

the shadows long for the sun’s return as it sinks
below the ocean so my soul longs for you , my God
my arms are open

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wow. It was an amazing first week of school. Transitioning onto the school staff was seamless. My site partner and I feel very welcomed by the teachers and staff and most the students. It was a little crazy getting used to the routine and even being at work at 7:30am. But it is wonderful. I love being apart of a school that has hope for every child- even the most difficult ones. The kindergartners that I work with are so cute- even the little monster. Every day the teachers and staff have been so encouraging and repeatedly saying how thankful they are to have us there. We definitely keep busy, and we are learning a lot.

As I have been working on homework and searching through old emails, and written files I have had saved. I came along something rather interesting. I have always had dreams of writing a book- and as silly as it is- I write sometimes in hope that it's "the beginning" of a book- when I came across this piece I kind of laughed. My life is so different, I am so different. I love how seasons change us, how people and situations inspire us to grow. Below is the written piece I found. Kind of interesting, makes me wonder what was going on at the time.....

April 4th 2007
"In our day to day life we can find ourselves waiting to be surprised. We wake up each morning knowing that today is going to be same as yesterday yet we have a little bit of hope that something out of the ordinary will happen.
Some of us we hope for an encounter with an old friend- or maybe the person we once loved would call and want to meet for coffee. Husbands and wives it seems 40 years go by sleeping in the same bed yet they still long to feel pursued and romanced by the one they love . Sons and daughters wake up knowing that their father is at work and wont return for days but maybe today he will call. Teachers go to work everyday to a classroom full of kids who dont follow directions and yet she hopes that someone will say thank you, maybe today someone will appriciate all that she does. A man sits in prison knowing he will never be free, but he wakes up with hope that someone will care, that someone will write and his children would forgive him and that his wife would touch him. A man is cheeting on his wife with many women, watching hours of porn and doing his best not to get caught- but the pain of hiding creates an ache and he hopes to get caught, he hopes to be free. Young men and women spend days alone convincing themselves that they are content without being inlove- yet each day they wake hoping to meet the one, hoping to be swept off their feet while getting their usual cup of coffee.
The thrill of surprise, the joy of experiencing something out of the ordinary is found in small things. We push through life attempting to keep things the same so that we are safe and comfortable. But what if- pursuing the outrageous, taking the road less traveled, ordering something for the first time, walking insted of driving, whispering insted of yelling and giving insted of taking was really living. I have a spirit inside of me that longs for adventure. I long for a surprise. I even have learned that when things remain the same for too long- when I can depend on a certain person, or situation when I know for sure what tomorrow will be like I will create change because everything in me craves something new- a challenge. When I feel surprised or when I experience something for the first time I feel alive.
When I really like someone I keep them as far away as possible- because I know myself to well. I know that the moment I know when he will call I have to run. Trust me its not a good thing. I want to dream of settiling down, of letting someone care for me till I am old, but the reality is- I will always run. I will always walk away from people I care for- in fear of getting used to the feeling."

How crazy-I laugh at the things I write sometimes-

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Another Update





I kind of like him. . . a lot!

A long over due update

My life has taken many turns this summer. I quit my job at In N Out mid summer, and since then life has been crazy. I loved my job at In N Out and it blessed my life greatly, but I chased after a different job- what I like to call a big kid job. I saw an opportunity through Americorps and went through a series of interviews and I became very optimistic about the job and felt it was a done deal. The door shut and though I was sad I was not hired I figured God knew what He was doing. I filled my summer with small baby-sitting jobs, and house-sitting, and brutal class homework. I kept busy with my current internship with my college group and enjoyed my friends. I even took a trip out to colorado which was well needed! As I was running out of my savings I knew it was time to start job hunting. I decided to find a part time job and take a huge load of classes both online and at the city college. I found a perfect job that worked with my school schedule and allowed for me to volunteer at the center still. It all seemed great and I felt that I could see the bigger picture.
Then three days before starting school, and my new job God surprised me- just like He always does. Last friday morning I got an email from Americorps asking if I was interested in taking a job. I was shocked and a little upset at such a late offer( A month in a half later). I was overwhelmed with a sudden need to make a choice. What was God doing? I decided to tell them I was interested and I would think about it over the weekend.
The weekend happened to be the weekend I was going on a college retreat and I knew I would have plenty of time, space and fellowship that would help me sense where God was leading. The weekend was amazing, and the speaker could not have been more relevant, honest, and inspiring. With every message and Gods spirit inside me, there was a small whisper- "Betsy, I opened this door just for you." I had excitement building up inside of me, but I kept turning it all over to God. I had a constant assurance that God was about to do something big, that He had a place prepared for me. Knowing that I still had to have another interview I trusted that God had in store more then I could have imagined.
Tuesday morning I had my first day of class and first day of my new job. All went well and I was anxious for my interview. I went to the school where I would be working at and the feeling I felt when I drove up was overwhelming. I knew God had prepared a place for me. This run down over populated campus won my heart. As I met the principal, staff, teachers and even some students all I could say was "This is awesome" As my interview and tour ended the principal looked at me and said "The job is yours if you want it." I looked at her and said "Really?" She laughed and said "Yeah, I will see you monday at 7:30am"
I walked back to my car and I was speechless. See its not about the job really- its about being where God wants me. I have been to many places in my life, I have followed God into some dark places, and I have experienced blessings and awesome moments, but this moment- nothing compares. What is so amazing, is that God was the only One who could have created this opportunity. When I was applying and seeking Gods will for this job almost two months ago I really thought it would happen. But when it didn't I really was sad- but it was out of my hands. BUT God made a way, and he brought me to an amazing place.
Tomorrow at 7:30 am starts a new journey. I think I will call it, 'Ministry in Disguise'.

So check it out "Your World. Your Chance to Change it"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It has been a long while and I have not posted much lately. I haven't taken the time to sit and write, and to be honest, I regret it. There are so many good things taking place in my life, and so much that I am learning and I have not posted about any of it.
So I thought I should update my few but faithful readers...but not now. So stay tuned and be looking forward to an exciting update!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Answered Prayers

Tonight was a long night. I took 4 older girls out to dinner, then to the mall. What an adventure. It was a lot of fun, and to be in their element, it opened doors for lots of good conversations. We talked about boys, clothes, school, friends, and even sex. Classic girl talk. They even ran into some of their friends, and to my surprise they had no problem introducing me to them. After the mall we got some ice cream and came back home. Since it was dark, it was finally starting to cool off- so all the kids were out and about. As we walked into the apartment, I realized that there were a ton of kids following me. Everyone came into the hot apartment, sat down and just started to goof off. There were 13 kids and some of them I had never met. It was a lot of fun. We had little ones at the age of 4 and older ones at the age of 16. I was a little overwhelmed, but lots of fun!
Some of the kids from downstairs were up as well. They had a lot of adults in their place praying and 'talking about the bible'. I asked one of them if everyone was there to pray for their mom and she said "No, everyone is hear to say thanks to God for bringing my mom home." So with surprise I said "Oh is your mom home from the hospital?" and she said "Ya, she came home tonight, so everyone came to pray and give thanks." How awesome is that. Often people will gather to pray for something when in need, but rarely do you see people gather to praise God when He answers in ways hoped for.
Eventually all the kids got out games and music, and finally got bored. I felt so old, seeing it was only 10 and I was ready for bed!
What a great night though.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Praying Makes a Difference

his last week in the neighborhood was pretty crazy. The family that lives below is an amazing family. There are five children, some of whom I mentioned in earlier post. The youngest is 5 and the oldest is 12. They are an active part of the center, and the kids are pretty awesome. There family is faced with a big challenge, and is suffering right now. Their mom has cancer. She has had cancer for some time now, and through much surgery, radiation and recent chemo she was doing pretty well. Tuesday I was up in the apartment reading a book when on the girls came up and asked if she could sit with me. She said her mom wasn't feeling well, and wanted to rest. The dad had just left to take the others to soccer. No more then twenty minutes later the dad had arrived with all the other kids. Before I knew it I had all five kids in the apartment. There mom was in a lot of pain, and really sick so she had to be taken to the hospital.
I knew the kids were nervous and not to mention antsy and in a small apartment with no tv it is very hard to find things to do for 5 kids. So we went to the movies. When we got back, there dad was still not home, but lots of friends and family were all in their apartment praying, and singing songs of worship together. The kids went inside, and I knew they were wanting to see their mom, but she was not there.
The next day I saw their dad take off for work, and later I saw the kids. There mom was still in the hospital. What courage and strength it must take for this family to still have smiles on their faces. It is so hard to sit and talk with these kids, about the reality of their moms sickness. They know she doesn't have much time, but they continue to pray for Gods healing. These kids need their mom.
She is still in the hospital. Her tumor has grown, and she has an infection that has caused a high fever that has yet to break. Her left lung is also failing. With the language barrier it is really hard to know what is really happening. The kids only get scattered details. They know there mom might be having more surgery, and that she wont be home for a long time. It is heartbreaking, to have to talk about death with a 5 year old, and then to ask the oldest girl what scares her most. The oldest girl was in my tutoring group at the center last year and we once got to talk about her mom, and her being sick. It went soemthing like this " My dad says that if we pray hard enough, and read our bible every day God will heal her." I simply responded "What if you pray all day, and read your bible non stop, and your mom still dies from the cancer, what would that tell you about God? and she said something profound, " well, then, I guess, God is still God." What an amazing truth.
God is still God, even in the midst of pain and struggle. I have been praying for this family, but they aren't any words that make sense. I don't know what to pray for except that the kids would understand that God loves them, and that some how they would not be afraid.
Our prayers, might not bring healing their mom, but it will make a difference. Prayer brings hope, encouragement, purpose, and even joy. This family need our prayers,....so we shall keep praying,
Below are pictures of the family. The mom and dad, tho always together did not get married until last april. All the kids got to see their parents get married, and their mom was well enough to enjoy all the festivities.