Coaches wife: my husband’s helper

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I used to hate the title I now proudly bear. Being a coaches wife is no easy job. It takes true sacrifice and commitment. I have cried many nights, feeling alone, or simply not feeling like a priority in my husband’s life. In the earliest years of my husband’s coaching career, I struggled. I resented the time commitment, and in time I began to resent my husband altogether. My relationship with my husband’s team was one of competition. It was me verses them, and I made sure he always knew the score, as I pitted myself against his passion. I never wanted to come right out and give him an ultimatum, because I was afraid I knew what his choice would be. Not me. Of course, this may not be true, but I was never willing to take his biggest passion away.

I felt cheated as a wife. Surely this was not what I signed up for. In the early years of our marriage my husband coached 2 sports, at schools an hour or more from our home, and the issue of him being gone, or tired all the time when he was home, was the biggest thing we fought about. I would pace the floor and look at the clock getting angrier each minute he wasn’t back by the time he said he would be. I would be outraged that he had to wait for parents to get their kids for over an hour after practices, or get caught up in some conversation with a parent or athlete till “way too late.” Didn’t he know I was home waiting for my turn to talk to him, which seemed to never come? Fourteen to eighteen hour days were becoming his norm, yet on a teacher’s salary. By our third year of marriage I was so tired of this endless battle, that I decided something had to change. Since my complaints and requests seemed to go unheard, I decided I must be the one to change.

I worked so hard to be positive and supportive, but despite my best intentions when that witching hour would roll around and he’d be home at midnight on a Wednesday night, I’d explode once he walked in the door. I tried attending some of his events, in hopes of seeing him more, but my presence seemed to go unnoticed. I would become angry if he didn’t get to tell me hello, and harass him about it later. “What is the point in me taking time to come if I don’t even see you, if to you I’m invisible?” That was his world, and I clearly needed to get my own. I was tired of being second fiddle, tired of late night phone calls interrupting the little time I spent with him, tired of my needs being put on hold. Was it too much for a wife to ask for some undivided attention? To me it seemed if something had to be taken care of for the team, the whole world could wait, but if I needed something, I must wait till after the team was cared for. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays were either forgotten or shared. I hated to see the effort I perceived that he would pour into the team, versus the effort I thought he put into our marriage, but I kept the tally.

After our first child, I tried even harder to be a part of the sports scene. I showed up to more events even though I felt unnoticed, so our baby could see his daddy. I would smile through a clenched jaw at the athletes and parents who said hello. I really resented all the time they took away from my family. I began to feel like a single parent. My child would sometimes not see his father but once a week, as he was sleeping most nights when “coach” came home. I felt totally alone. And for what? The pay was terrible! When I calculated the meager check my husband got per season, it was clear to me he was working for well below minimum wage. Might as well call it volunteer hours, except of course nothing was tax deductible. All this sacrifice, and in my eyes I got nothing in return. At one point my toddler summed up the way I felt when he said, “mommy, is my daddy married to those wrestlers?” Why yes son, it sure seems that way doesn’t it? I was tired of making excuses for why daddy couldn’t tuck him in; I didn’t want him to hear the bitterness in my voice when I talked about his father’s frequent absenses.

Then something started to change in my heart. At first it was a desperate attempt to fix our marriage which I felt was rocky at best. I started to try to look for the positives. I would try to be thankful that my husband didn’t work as a long haul trucker, or musician, always on the road, and I realized that I had it way easier than military wives. I tried to appreciate his time at home, however brief it was. Still that resentment lingered, and anger flared up each time my expectations weren’t met. I would breathe a sigh of relief when the end of a season came, feeling like the time I’d waited for so long (my time) was here. And then I would be devastated when the season was never really over. Off season practices and events would start up unexpectedly (to me) within a few weeks. Just after my husband got over his after season fatigue, and as soon as I had gained him back, I felt I had lost him again.

When I felt ready to give up, and find something to lose myself in, so we could be like two separate entities that shared the same roof, (something I never wanted for my marriage) I decided to spend one more season being as supportive as I could. I began going to every event I could, no matter the inconvenience or the way I felt shoved aside. I decided to bite my tongue when he came home late. I decided to actually listen when he wanted to share something about the team with me. That is when I began to see a change in my husband as well.

He was really appreciative to me for showing up, even if I didn’t get to spend time with him. He said the support mattered, and that he realized it wasn’t easy on me. He began apologizing to me for being late, instead of fighting to defend himself. He even started trying to communicate with me about his schedule more. Then one day I struck up a conversation with one of the team moms. To hear the appreciation and respect she had for my husband was an eye opener. I had not had the same appreciation or respect for the often thankless job he does. I had seen his passion for kids as my enemy, and now for the first time, I began to see what my husband was really doing with all those hours away. He wasn’t in a bar, or hanging out with the guys just to shirk his duties at home, or to avoid meeting my needs, just to spite me. No, he was busy shaping the lives of young men, the next generation. He was busy being a mentor, and a role model, so much more than just a coach. What he did suddenly became about so much more than just a sport.

I began to study my husband as he coached. Instead of being angry that he was surrounded by his athletes, too busy to nod his head my way, I watched him with them. The way their faces lit up when he motivated them was moving to me. The awe and respect they had for him, and the way he helped an athlete recover after an embarrassing loss were two things I’d missed when I was so angry. And then there was the way he dealt with others. I began to notice he was a man who treated everyone with respect. When he became head coach, he took pride in the character of his team. He was all about molding these kids into outstanding young men and members of society, not just pumping out the best athletes. He cared deeply about their reputation, appearance, and sportsmanship, but most of all he cared about their future. The kids began thanking me for the time I allowed him to devote to them, and that really made my hard heart melt. I found that he was  father figure to them, especially to some of them who had no father. I heard the way the parents and other coaches respected him in the community. I had a new admiration and a new respect for my husband.

It was then that I went from being against my husband to being his helper. I became his biggest fan, his supporter. I love to be there at his events just to see him do what I know he was meant to do. Instead of dreading a new season, I get a little excited about “traveling with the team.” I love to hear athletes come back and tell me how my husband has changed their life in some way. I have developed relationships with many of the kids and parents of the team. I no longer feel like an outsider, forgotten at home, but a part of a family, a part of something bigger than us: part of a team. It is not always easy and I still have days that I have to talk myself out of getting angry when plans are cancelled, there is another late night, or he is unable to show up to something, but I will tell you things are so much better now that he knows he has my support. I am finally on my husband’s team.

Coaches wives, new to the experience, hating the job your husband does, or somewhere back and forth between love and hate, I have been there. If you feel stuck in an endless cycle of being unable to genuinely support your husband in what he does, let me encourage you: “get in the game.” If you relate with the story above, and feel you have not made much progress, start small. Decide to be forgiving if he isn’t home on time. Listen to him talk about how a game went, and give him some encouragement. Pat him on the back for the job he does once in a while, though you feel it takes so much from you. Don’t make him feel like the only place he can’t win is at home, then what reason will he have to want to be there? Show up to a game; get involved. Start to lower your expectations of the time you will spend together, and focus on being appreciative of any little time that is available. No one needs your support more than your husband. He is there supporting his team and their parents all the time. There will be times when he feels like a failure, and when he feels like everyone is against him. Don’t be a part of that tide. Be on his team. Build him up, rather than knock him down.

Often the type of marriage you will have rests with you, ladies. I have found that if you will make the first move, he will usually respond. You can choose to be bitter and miserable, letting his coaching career come between you, or you can work to have it be something that brings you together, a love you share. You can’t change this thing he loves that God put in his heart for such a good reason, so be for him, even if you don’t feel like he is for you. I promise it will make a difference. You will never be happy sitting on the sidelines waiting for a change in the game that may never come. Only when you become a part of his world will you be immensely rewarded by the work he does. You can take joy in knowing that your support is the reason for your husband’s success as a coach, yes, but more importantly, as a man. You can take pride in the wins, you can comfort in the losses; you can know that in every life that was impacted for the better, you played a part. You can reap the harvest, if you help your husband sow. Chances are when you become a part of his world, he will want to become a part of yours.

 

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I surrender

Trust is what I have been struggling the most with lately. Over and over again I read the words “trust in the Lord your God, lean not on your own understanding,” Proverbs 3:5. I don’t know exactly how many times it is mentioned in the Bible, but I know I come across the word trust almost everyday, and I need to be reminded to take this attitude twice as much. Trust involves risk, and while I think I have surrendered fully to God, somewhere in the back of my mind, it is really frightening to trust him again after being hurt. Is it because I am blaming him? Maybe, without meaning to.

We had our annual “flower drop” a couple weeks back. Every Ground Hog Day since 2013, we memorialize the life of the baby we lost to miscarriage, on the anniversary of the day we found out we were expecting. Only, since the last time we did the flower drop, we have added two flowers for two more losses we incurred this year. It seems too hard to memorialize each child on the day we found out about his/her impending arrival, so we decided to consolidate, and remember them all on the date we had chosen after the first one. We remembered them  this year by tossing a lily bud for each (symbolic for what we knew them as) and then a flower, symbolic for what we believe they are now in God’s hands, fully formed children that we will see again someday. I know God is holding my children till I can. I am comforted by these thoughts in Psalm 139:

11If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

12even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

13For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

15My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.”

My oldest son, who would have been big brother to these three little “buds,” asked what we were doing, and helped us to say a prayer and toss the flowers. We told him that each flower stands for a brother or sister he would have had. He asked why he couldn’t have them now, and we explained they are in heaven with God. He asked why God took them away to which we replied, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. He knows what we need, and he has good things planned for us, so we have to trust him when things don’t seem fair.” He really seemed to be ok with the whole idea. My youngest, who will be two next month, helped as well. Seeing the joy on his face when he threw the flowers in, reminded me of just how blessed I am and how much I have to be thankful for.

It is hard to move forward and try again, to be excited, when I know what the outcome could be. Anxiety is a better explanation for how I feel. I am anxious as I try, anxious as I wait to find out, anxious as I wait to see if I can carry the next child. The doctors have given no reasonable explanation for these three losses. They can only suggest I see a specialist “if it happens again.” Thanks, good to know you can’t help me. Luckily I know who can, the one who reminds me to be anxious for nothing, but instead to pray about everything. I was blessed to have some ladies from my Bible study at church lay hands on me and pray for me. I do believe in the power of prayer!

I have many questions. I go back and forth with the knowledge I have as I try to make sense of it all. For example, I know that God does not like to see his precious daughter hurting. I also know that we live in a fallen world, and the result is pain and misery. These things are not out of God’s control, but he did warn us they would happen before the fall. They are not a part of his design, yet he allows them in our lives. I also know the Lord has a plan for each life, he knows the number of our days before we are born. Still, I believe there are some things, or maybe many things, we will never make sense of in this lifetime.

Following God is not going to stop my troubles and make my life wonderful; I’ve learned this first hand. God seems to be the perfect scapegoat when we are trusting him with our lives and things don’t turn out the way we think they should. We blame him for not stopping what we know he could, for not intervening when we think he should have. After all if he is so loving, then what the heck did he just let happen to me? (I’ve tasted that anger and disbelief before.) What tends to be so easy to forget is that hardship and pain will always be there, but with him, under his care, we will get through it. He will lead us: “In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths,”Proverbs 3:6.God never promises when you sign up to give your life to Him that your pain is over, or that life is going to be a beautiful walk in a sunshiny park from here on. No, I never found that in the small print. In fact he explicitly promises in John 16:33 that in this world we will have trouble, but we should take heart, because he has overcome the world.

So if God’s not going to answer all my prayers the way I think he should, if he won’t stop bad things from coming my way, then why on earth should I follow him? Why not just be happy, “living it up” and doing whatever my flesh desires? I’ll tell you why, because that life doesn’t fulfill me. Once you have reached the end of yourself, and nothing on this earth is pleasing to you–as Solomon puts it “meaningless, it is all meaningless”– you begin to long for the only one who can fill the emptiness that is looming inside of all of us. I have tasted living water, and bread of life; nothing else can satisfy. Besides, if I’m going to go through hard things in this life, regardless of whether I’m a Christian or not, I sure would rather do it with hope than with hopelessness. I would rather do it with the God of the universe to comfort me, to mold me, to bring me through, and to give me peace, than go it on my own with none of the above. I have felt alone before in misery. I’ve even turned my back on God blaming him for my pain, and the times I chose to do this led to the most depressing and darkest times of my life. But when I was in the pit, he rescued me; he lifted me up. When I was looking for anything else to fill my void, he was there, waiting with arms wide open and a heart full of love. There is no condemnation in him. God doesn’t promise to stop our troubles, but does promise to be with us in them. He promises to lead us out of them, to give us a hope and future, and to use them.

So with this knowledge, why am I not bouncing around in total joy and strength all the time? One word, surrender. It is a constant battle of wills to take on this new and very different mentality. I forget the truth of God and lean on what I know to be true. Learning to not lean on your own understanding is truly a process, thankfully one that does get easier. Of course I have struggled to surrender myself completely to God! What human being hasn’t?  But I cling to the knowledge that when life doesn’t make sense to us, he has already made sense of it. It is all for a purpose, and I refuse to be stuck in a bewildered state, forever wondering why so many terrible things have happened to me. I try to live by these words: I am an overcomer. I am more than a conqueror. I am not a victim, I am a victor!

So this is my prayer:

God help me truly surrender all to you. To come to a place in my heart of peace in all circumstances of life, because I know you. Through time in your word, you have revealed your character to me. I stand on your promises now. I trust that with you I can do all things, and apart from you I can do nothing. You give me strength. I will trust in your plan for my life through the good and the bad. I look forward to the hope I have found in you, of a future after this life, one without pain, or sorrow, where my troubles truly will be redeemed, and will trouble me no more.

 

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A Birthday

Today, I am 28 years young. Birthdays have always been pretty important to me. I guess because it is a chance for people to let you know how significant you are. It’s important for everyone to feel significant. We all want to matter; we all want to feel noticed, wanted, needed, and I think deep down we all want to make an impact. I remember one time when I was a young teen, no one in my family told me happy birthday. I went through the day crushed that my own parents had forgotten the day of my birth. By the time I got home that day I was an emotional teen-girl mess. My mom told me happy birthday when she saw me, and apologized that things had been so busy she hadn’t been looking at the day. But I’m sure I was quite dramatic about it, and made her feel terrible. Bursting into tears, I lamented over how no one cared about me. I felt so wounded, so unnoticed, insignificant even.

Over the years, I have come to care less if other people remember, though it is nice when they do, and Facebook makes it easier, Amen? I no longer take it as a personal insult if the day is not full of well-wishing friends and family. In fact yesterday when my sister texted me about how she wasn’t going to be able to “make it,” I had to think for a while, and remember what she was talking about. Make it, to what? Did I miss something? We aren’t supposed to meet up till Sunday… is this part of a group text for something I wasn’t invited to, or does she have the wrong number? Then it dawned on me, oh, tomorrow is my birthday. We are supposed to have dinner. Wow, do I feel old now? No, canceled plans and memory lapses simply aren’t so hurtful anymore. What really makes my birthday significant to me is the time I spend reflecting on the impact I am having in this life. It’s a reality check for me, a time to inventory how I’m doing.

So my birthdays have become a lot less about what people are doing for me, and a lot more about what I am doing here. For the past few years, my birthday has brought up the thought, “I wonder how many years I have left.” I hope I have a long life ahead of me. I know I’m young yet to worry about that. It’s less of a worry though, and more of a musing. Besides, I have classmates that are already gone, and you never know, you really don’t.

I have often felt like I will be young (in years) forever. I know that’s not true, on this earth, youth will fade so quickly, as I’m told. I know there is a place I will be forever young, but I have really had to fight to hold onto the youth in my soul. I was always one of those really mature kids. My mom says I was born a little adult. I’ve been told a number of times that I am “wise beyond years.” I never really took it as a compliment; somewhere inside, I always wished I could just be a kid, and not think so deeply, not be so bothered by things. The truth is, I focused much of my childhood on growing up too fast. I wanted the freedom adulthood brings, since I felt like an adult trapped in a child’s body.

I have been keenly aware and concerned about life’s problems, since I can remember. I don’t feel I have ever been carefree, except for some time in late adolescence when I tried to take a break from it all by frequent intoxication. Even when I was drinking though, I couldn’t seem to escape the philosophical side of myself, and my misery would wind up being compounded after having the short burst of freedom from inhibitions. Why can’t the world be more perfect? Why is their so much suffering? Why is life so unfair? I remember becoming so melancholy right around puberty, and so overwhelmed by the prospect of living in this fallen world, that I locked myself in my bedroom for a long time and cried. My mother, worried sick, had to get a family friend to come talk me out of my funk. I told her I didn’t want to get older, I didn’t see the point of school and work, I didn’t want to live in this world. This wasn’t the way we were meant to live, and I knew there had to be something better than a future I felt was getting worse and worse. She held me while I cried, and encouraged me to get a grip. But my 12 year old heart was broken over the state of things, and I didn’t sense much hope.

Somehow I pulled myself up and kept on going. I think everyone thought I was just melodramatic, but I struggled with depression off and on. Though I had a strong connection to God from early on in my life, and I felt he was constantly pulling me back to him, I kept running away. I was a bit of a loner in school, and I went back and forth between wanting to be liked and seen as “cool,” to feeling like no one understood me, or ever would. It was here I decided to learn to keep people at arms length, and here where my faith in God became a secret. The longer this went on, the more nonexistent faith and friends became.

I was never taken for counseling as a child or teen, but there were many times life felt like too much for me to bear. The best solution for me seemed to be to numb out, and to walk through mindlessly, taking pleasure in things, and the fleeting enjoyment in earthly comforts. Even though I was raised in a Christian home, and rededicated my life to Christ at 15, I would frequently walk away from my faith. I would feel strong in it at times, and then when troubles came, again I would despair. It didn’t seem worth it to keep trusting in God when I was living in a battleground, a wasteland.

For most of my adulthood, you know, the point in my life I had waited and pushed so hard to reach, I felt aimless. I floundered, like a “lost soul swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,” to quote my favorite Pink Floyd song. I felt like I didn’t know who I was, or why I had been put here. And like I did as a child, I would often hope this life was all just a dream, that I would soon wake up from and be in my real life, one much better than this. The older I got, the more that dream faded, and hopelessness set in.

Soon the hopelessness had gotten so bad that I felt I was wasting my life. I struggled to get up each day. I had wandered to the foot of the throne in search of mercy. I sought God with vigor during some problems in my life after my first son was born. I felt I was supposed to make a difference, but I didn’t know how. So through prayer, I came up with a new purpose. Again, I would recommit my life to Christ, and stay home to raise my children in his ways. It seemed crazy, but it became the most important thing to me. I had to give the children I planned to have the hope I had been searching for. I had to help them learn to impact the next generation.

But as good as that idea seemed, when it came down to it, I couldn’t achieve it. I didn’t know what to do. My husband wasn’t exactly on the same page spiritually; he fully supported me staying home, but it became clear he wasn’t ready for the same level of commitment to a close walk with Christ. We weren’t in a church, and I felt lost with no one to guide me. Every attempt I had to fulfill my purpose and have a deeper walk with Christ seemed to be interrupted by one crazy hardship after another. I so longed to make each moment count, as that was my motto, but it seemed impossible when I was just holding on for dear life, praying for the moments to pass quickly. Life was a boat in a raging sea, and I felt I would go overboard at any moment. It didn’t take long for me to lose sight of it all and drift back into the aimless existence I was so familiar with. That is till this past year.

A series of events that only God could have orchestrated brought me to a point of brokenness I have never known. And finally I sought him for full surrender of my life. I wasn’t any good at it, so I gave it back to the author and asked him to please fix the mess I had made. I can happily tell you that while it hasn’t been easy to give up control in any way-in fact, it has meant continually dying to myself and everything I held dear, including my pride-I wouldn’t trade this past year of heartache for anything. And I look forward to revealing the ways God is bringing me on this journey to living life on the narrow road, one stumbling step at a time.

This year feels like a fresh start for me. Something is different. I feel like I finally know what it is to be living. No I don’t have all the answers, never will, and I don’t feel I have got it all together. I haven’t yet arrived at my destination. I will always be a work in progress as long as I’m here, but I have learned something I didn’t know before. I have a new captain of my ship who gives direction and meaning to my life. I have so many goals and things I feel I have left to accomplish, and I am going to work like the time is short, because you never really know. I will take it one day at a time, yet I know there will be days I feel discouraged, where I fail, feel attacked and overwhelmed, and start to lose sight of the truth. I still feel like I’m wasting time when I am not “doing something” all the time, but I cling to the fact that nothing is ever wasted when you have given your life for the cause of the kingdom.

I have a hope and a future; I have an identity and a purpose. I am driven. I know what I am here for, and I know full well that it won’t be easy. I will have to pick up my armor and fight everyday to keep going, to fix my eyes on what is unseen, on why I am here. I will have many battles and trials to come, but I face them with full confidence that I will come through. Because my life is hidden in Christ, I already know the outcome He has promised. Eternal victory, and that is something to live for!

 

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Transparency

It is an important quality in any good relationship. It is what I am aiming for in starting this blog. Since I have given my life to Christ, He has continued to remind me that my life is no longer my own. I believe God gives each of us gifts, talents, and abilities to use to glorify him. On a quest for what gift I had been given that I might use for this purpose, I came to a realization: each moment, each breath, is a gift. My story is something, that left to my own choice, I would rather keep to myself. Yet, I am not my own; 1 Corinthians 6:20 reminds me that I was bought at a price. Because so great a debt (Jesus Christ’s death for the forgiveness of my sins) was paid to give me this redeemed life, I feel the rights to the story of my journey are not mine to hold.  If I want to glorify God with what He has gifted me, and be used to help others, I must learn to be transparent. I must learn to let my light shine, rather than “hide it under a bushel.”

I want to be a giver. I want to encourage you with the hope I have found; I want you all to come to the realization that you are not alone. I want to show you that when you choose to give your life to the giver of life, He doesn’t waste a thing. Every experience you have gone through, every heartache, every seemingly insignificant moment, is used, past, present, and future, to develop you as a person. This is how God molds you into your final product, all finite moments working together to build a beautifully unique story. I am confident that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6. The story of your life is one that no one else will ever have. Your distinct experiences and moments, the big ones and the mundane, are one of a kind events that will only happen once, ever, in the history of mankind. Isn’t that crazy to think about? Isn’t it all the more reason to live intentionally, thinking about each action, each choice that we make? You will never happen again; you can never get time back once it is gone.

Still, it is so scary to be real about who we are, and what we have been through. I have been putting off what I feel is a calling to write for that very reason. I get nervous every time I think about the stories I feel I should share. It takes real risk to be vulnerable, and to put your personal life out there for others to know. Fear of rejection often keeps us hiding, and putting on our best face for others. This pretending is taught to us from an early age. We often learn to be someone different in the lime light, and keep our family matters private. Never let others know your weaknesses, lest they use them against you, right? The question, “how are you?” is often met with a forced smile and a resolved “fine, and you?” Of course we never actually mean to know how the other person is. We don’t want to move into their lives, or invade their privacy.

Why is it that we don’t want to let others in? Why do we feel we can’t be human with each other, and let the truth of our flaws, and weaknesses be known? It is hard, but these flaws, these struggles, they are teaching me something; I have learned they are useful. And it is that “something” I now feel compelled to reveal. I don’t want to be known by my “I’ve got it all together and everything is great” front. I want to be known as someone who lived unafraid of rejection, unafraid of letting others in, and of fully giving and receiving love. So I will tell my story of redemption and hope. I’ll be transparent about the good, the bad, and even the ugly along the way. I will share with you the truth I have found. I do this with the hope that in telling my story, you will not feel alone, and you will feel able to tell yours. I hope you will journey with me as I seek to show you how not a thing has been wasted in my life, and I hope you will begin to see how not a thing is wasted in your own.

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