Friday, February 26, 2016

Vulnerability and Seeking

I haven't really posted on here, save a line from Amazing Grace a few months ago

Again and again, that refrain played in my head through the month of August and I've seen it come true. 

A few days ago, I came back to this blog, reading back through a few old posts and seeing a few major trends. 

I push myself, I'm crazy productive, I get super sick. 

Each instance builds and builds.

I have a difficult time knowing my boundaries and when I've reached my exhaustion limit. I always feel that I'm not enough, forgetting that I'm not called to be enough, but that Christ is enough. Again and again, I have seen this trend. I can only hope that each time I do learn something new about myself and there's some upward progress as I run in circles. 

But so everyone is up-to-date (if you still follow this at all) 

The past year... has been...

I can't succinctly explain it all, I wish I could wrap it up with a pretty bow and have a perfect outline as I sort through the ups and downs, the beauties and pain I've experienced since last year this time.

Trying to take a step back (which I'm terrible at) and looking at the overall big picture, I have clearly seen God at work. I have seen how He has used circumstances to all work together for my good. 

When I last posted in June, I was fighting for freedom. I felt like I was being held back by stagnation, apathy, and blatant ignorance of what I knew was not good for me. I was seeking a reset button and clean slate, but it wasn't instantaneous. 

The semester before I had been attending a church that was about 40 minutes from home with my then-boyfriend. After a painful breakup, I wasn't eager to return there to see him. Suffice to say, that relationship carried a lot of baggage with it. (Lots has been processed, I wish him all the best!)

Over the summer I dwelled on freedom in Christ and seeking personal growth, not wanting to be tied down to any denomination or any person. I craved genuine. The word was my goal. Whatever I was, I wanted to be an authentic one. 

Growing up in the Bible Belt, it's easy to be fake christian-y. I knew exactly how to act to be perceived as a good christian girl. I was good at fronting, but I hated it. I wanted to be seen as I was, not as a dime-a-dozen girl who fit a certain stereotype.

Throughout college I have visited several churches in the area. So many flavors of christianity but each didn't feel like a good fit. I didn't feel spiritual connection to these places, I felt my attempts to connect met with forms to fill out so someone could say hi to me (like I was a number), or worse, I was greeted with nothing but being ignored. Cliques seemed well-established, and I wasn't invited. 
I had visited so many churches. Again and again, I extended my hand, I put myself out there, I sought to be part of a group only to be faced with awkwardness at best and rejection at worst. 

I was reaching a point where I thought that churches (little c) as a corporation were all the same. I knew I was part of the Church (big C) that is the body of Christ, but maybe I wasn't intended to be part of the corporate church, but rather to seek community in other venues. I prayed long and hard about it. I eventually stopped "trying out" churches. I was exhausted and burnt out from so many awkward and uncomfortable first time experiences. 

If nothing else, I would grow on my own, I began reading my Bible with more regularity and praying more frequently, and bought many theological books to strengthen my apologetics skills. 

Maybe God could work some sort of miracle? Maybe, somehow, I would have peers who shared my theological views? I felt like I didn't fit in any church I had tried. I was weary and discouraged. 

The semester started, I was craving christian community but surrendering it to God, my attempts to make it happen had been met with awkwardness.

On Tuesday, I ran into a friend from high school on campus at the start of the semester. "Are you in a church?" was one of his first questions. I sheepishly said no, trying to hold back some of the building resentment I felt at feeling burned. "You should try providence, I know some of the people there are awesome" 
I turned over trying one more time. 

On Saturday I volunteered at a local concert. There I ran into one of my acquaintances from the radio station where I work, WKNC (tune in, crazy musics to be heard!) 

Side note: He had trained me on the operations of the station a year before, and when he had, he was definitively atheistic. I remember asking God if someone like this guy was too far from being saved, but that his heart might be softened towards God.

He came up to me and said, "Hey, so I became a Christian this summer. I'm getting baptized tomorrow, and it'd be cool if you came." 
That story made me so giddy. I had nothing to do with his decision to be a Christian, except for a little prayer I had lifted up a year ago. GOD WAS DOING STUFF WITH PEOPLE I KNEW. Was this the christian community I craved? 
...guess which church he was going to? 
PROVIDENCE, the same church that my friend from Tuesday had mentioned. 

I agreed to go to church with him the next day, though when I got up that sunday morning, I was having strong second thoughts. 
One last all-out attempt to connect, I remember praying as I got in the car. God, I don't want to bargain, but I am weary of trying churches and being met with indifference. I'm doing this in faith. Please don't let me be discouraged again, but I trust you. 

I was welcomed. I felt like people cared. 

That's such a small thing, but people were genuinely interested in talking to me. It felt like family. 

One of my dad's good friends went there and I met his daughter before knowing the connection. Our parents had been trying to get us to hang out for a few years but it never had worked out. What a great confirmation! She and I have built a solid sister-ship together, encouraging one another. 

God has answered my prayer for genuine community and opened a door for me to continue the train to others who come through the doors. 

Fighting for being genuine and transparent is difficult. Sometimes I feel like slipping into my "church person" mask and allowing that front to be what people see. But when I have let my guard down and trusted God, I've seen so much real connection. There are many times of experiencing those moments of friendship as C.S. Lewis says, 
“Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” 
In order to have the connection of friendship, one must be vulnerable

Sunday I decided to commit to Providence as a member, I agreed that I'm on board with what they're doing. 

As I have been in this church environment, I've been hit with a few thoughts.

Christ above all else. Self-doubt and insecurities stem from self. I'm in process of realizing that I have to intentionally put Jesus on the top of my thoughts and I have to intentionally test my motives against the beauty of the gospel. 

Three words have been where I've dwelled: Surrender, Vulnerability, Intentionality. 


I'll expand more on where I've been with those in future posts (if I have time to post). God has been so good to me and given me a clear directive for the next two years (EXCITING NEWS) 

I hope this post can encourage you, wherever you may be in your journey.  

I was in a dark place last year this time. I was stagnant in my faith and my soul wasn't peaceful. The journey to light hasn't been easy, and my prayers weren't instantly answered, but I know that Psalm 34 was true when it was written and even today (Psalm 34:4-9, NIV): 
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.  
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and he delivers them. 
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  
Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.
  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Restoration

The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.

Monday, June 01, 2015

a yoke of slavery

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. -Galatians 5:1


I have been set free.

...I allowed myself to be burdened, and now I am free again. 

I am realizing I need to find the old Kenzie. The set-free me that was confident, adventurous, fun-loving, and wholeheartedly following God. I have learned so much through recent experiences, one thing has changed: my naïveté is diminished and I have more of a backbone to stand up for my convictions.

I had allowed myself to bend and change. It happened slowly: inch by inch. I allowed myself to be controlled. I became hollow-feeling. I felt depressed and worthless. I would cry often.

I take responsibility for allowing this to happen. I should have had a backbone. I should have left this  sooner. But I thought by staying I was doing good. I believed lies. All of the red flags were there, I just wanted to ignore them. 

Praise God, I was empowered by a loving support group to move forward and out.  

God has forgiven me. That should be enough. But when one is in this mindset, one learns to twist blame around to themselves. Learning to forgive myself and see myself as God's beloved child is so hard.

The spirit laid Psalm 73 on my heart. I felt a surge of joy and a pang of sadness identifying with Asaph as I read his psalm.  
God is indeed good to Israel,
to the pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my steps nearly went astray.
For I envied the arrogant;
I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have an easy time until they die,
and their bodies are well fed.
They are not in trouble like others;
they are not afflicted like most people.
Therefore, pride is their necklace,
and violence covers them like a garment.

It is difficult to admit that I allowed myself to get totally swept up into things that in the perspective of God's bigness are flecks of mud, not worth a thought. I began to change my perspective from God to things in the here and now. Like Asaph, I wondered: 

"Did I purify my heartand wash my hands in innocence for nothing?" 

I started to wonder if God really even cared about what I was currently doing vs what I had been doing as I followed him. 
In hindsight, YES HE DOES CARE. But at the time I was beginning to be bogged down and not able to see with perspective; I doubted God's goodness and will.

I have been embittered by some circumstances. It hurts. I felt like God was silent, but it was from my own ignorance. I had been willfully ignorant, making it difficult for me to hear God. 
A few weeks ago I began to fervently pray and seek him, and as I became convicted, doors opened and truth was revealed. 

Restoration is underway. 

Knowing that the maker of the world cares this much for me, that he promises to uphold and love me... it's overwhelming. 


21 When I became embittered
and my innermost being was wounded,
22 I was stupid and didn’t understand;
I was an unthinking animal toward You.
23 Yet I am always with You;
You hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with Your counsel,
and afterward You will take me up in glory.
25 Who do I have in heaven but You?
And I desire nothing on earth but You.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever.
27 Those far from You will certainly perish;
You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.
28 But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
so I can tell about all You do.
I have strayed from being who God has called me to be. But I know that in Him, He will guide my heart. He is my refuge and he is always with me.

I praise him for being my strength when I fail. I praise him for guiding me and for his goodness.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

not resolutions pt 1

It is a new year! Time for that resolution list!

Personally, I feel that resolutions are silly things to make. With the start of the new year everyone does reflect back and think of ways to further improve before jumping back into the whirlwind that is life. Call me a hipster for not wanting to call these planned directions "resolutions", buuuut I'm not calling these things resolutions. These are things that I am going to actively work to improve upon for my well-being indefinitely.

So, during the winter break, I've taken time to assess myself. I've looked at how I engage with work, school, myself, friends, family...and I've realized a few things. As humbling as this is to type out, I know I will be glad to someday (hopefully!) see the progress and steps I've been taking towards becoming a better human. I'll just hit on one giant tender area in this post.

*deep breath* okherewego

LOVE.

"Love your neighbor as yourself"
This line came to mind repeatedly yesterday morning as I was taking some time to reflect and pray.
Sometimes verses pop to mind and play in my head over and over like a broken record.

"Love your neighbor as yourself"
I've been realizing I am so unkind and unloving to myself. If I treated others the way I treat myself, I would have no friends. I always find faults. When others compliment me, I realize that I usually shoot them down (I've realized this is SO rude, I don't like it when people do that to me, why on earth would I think my friends are ok with me not accepting the nice things they say?) Nothing I do measures up to my own standard. I see all the "blaring" things that should be tweaked, be it my body image, the level of academics, even silly things like hobbies...it's a never-ending list. I nitpick and find errors in everything I do. I hang on to mistakes I make. It's perfectionism, and it's not healthy. It leads to those stressful situations I've blogged about before.

This is no way to live. Depressed because I don't live up to my own arbitrary standards?
This must change.
I should reevaluate what my standards are and who I let give me validity. My validity should not come from me or any human (though I do need to accept myself), but my validity comes first from God himself. He says that he loves me, and therefore I should love everyone (including me). He says that I am his creation.

Part of my moving forward plans (*ahem* not resolution) is to focus more on those validations rather than what I perceive.

Beyond even the treatment of others, this made me realize, if I cannot accept myself, warts and all, how can I fully be able to accept others just as they are?

This fight against my negative flaw-seeking mentality will not be an easy one. But by making small changes in my perceptions and with God's help, I hope to reshape my views and become a more loving, gracious person.

It's cliche, but 1 Corinthians 13 is how I hope to treat everyone, including myself:
I strive to:

  • be patient
  • be kind
  • not envious
  • not boastful
  • not rude
  • keep no records of wrongs 






Monday, April 28, 2014

Taking Inventory

The semester has culminated in a finale of sicknesses, each building on the next until the final diagnosis Friday afternoon:
Mononucleosis. 

Mono has no magic pill to take to get better. I am on steriods and antihistamines for allergies, but they don't directly fight mono, they're just helping with seasonal allergies and easing the symptoms.

The only cure for mono is to drink fluids, eat healthily, and rest.

The way it has been working is that I'll feel fine and have a mini-energy surge and start to be productive. A few minutes later I feel like falling over wherever I am and falling asleep.

The past few months have been a whirlwind of work I've gotten swept up into. I've been acting as if my energy bank has boundless credit (and that I'd never have to pay/face the bill)

Looking back, I'm not sure how I juggled all that I did.

This post isn't to self-congratulate, by no means. Rather I hope it'll serve as a reminder to myself in the future.

I admit I've been pushing myself hard.

I've somehow found ways to be completely and utterly busy since January. Like, every minute of the day, something to do.

Friends and family warned me to slow down.

I kept going.

I burnt the candle at both ends, so to speak. This makes for a brighter flame, but why have two flames when one will do?
It's wasteful.

...it's also terribly hard to hold a candle burning at both ends anyways.

My days this semester would usually start at 7 am, and I wouldn't typically get home until 10:30 or 11 pm. I usually didn't have much of a food break during the day either...I didn't eat with healthy regularity.

All of this came together in the perfect storm.

Early in March I came down with the flu.
I was out of commission for a week, but as soon as I was fever-free, I jumped back in.
Then allergy season hit hard. All of the pollen at once. My eyes were swelling shut, I was sneezing and coughing.
Still going.
Then came a bout with strep.
Still going.
Through this, I worked on. I really tried. The doctor gave me a cocktail of medications to enable me to keep working through the semester and to push through the strep and allergies.

At first, the meds worked. I was great, even better than before, but then... everything got worse. I woke up one morning covered in itchy red hives. I started having vertigo, shortness of breath, and a sharp headache.
I went to the doctor again, thinking that I was having a reaction to one of the medications.

She ran a panel of blood tests.

It was a positive for mono.

Now I sit here, sapped of energy and struggling to study. I am blessed I only have one legitimate final, while the rest are just papers and reports.

But I am annoyed at my past self for thinking I was able to handle and do so much.

I'm paying for overdrawing my energy bank now.


But this experience is a perfect learning opportunity.
Through this experience I was reminded that I had been neglecting the biggest and most important thing in my life: my relationship with God.

I was so busy working on things or running around, that I didn't have much more time than for a quick prayer here and there. I started to feel like God didn't care, I started to put God in a box and limit Him to human characteristics and give him human limitations.

Red flag: never put God in a box.

I didn't take time to be still and remember that I'm connected to GOD. 

The most vital part of my being was being repressed. I was spiritually malnourished.

And to what purpose? To have a longer list of human "accomplishment"?

Sure I prayed about the big things in life, but I didn't think God needed to be bothered with the details.

"didn't need to be bothered"?

God is the God of the details.

Matthew 6 popped into my mind:

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. 

Over the past few months...I hadn't been seeking Him first.

I had to confess I was acting as if my own purposes were all that mattered. I acted as if I had all of the answers and was capable. (though I secretly struggled with the fear I wasn't capable, I wasn't enough. I feared that everyone would see me for what I was. I was worrying)

So while this sickness is a setback, it's also a blessing in that it has put things into perspective. It has pulled me back in to seeking God first and foremost. Because ultimately, everything else will pass away, but His words remain forever.

In the end, it won't matter that I had straight A's or that I received certain honors.
It won't matter what university I attended.
It won't matter how esteemed or famous I am in my field.
It won't even matter what jobs I held.

In the end, all that matters is Christ.

I have nothing else to boast in.

This semester I was putting my hopes all on myself and relying on myself to carry through. My foundation was not what it should have been.

I am resolving to no longer putting my hope in myself, for I'm proving to be weak. It took this semester to really realize how weak I am and how much I need Christ and His strength.

As a Christian, God promises that He'll direct my paths, but He's not going to force my hand. He gives me the free will to trust Him or not.
(tip: it works out better to trust Him)

And this is what I must remember as I strive towards completion of my education and as I continue down the path of life.
All that I have is thanks to God. He opened the doors for me to be in the successful position I am in. He has given me the abilities and talent to succeed. But I cannot allow my own ego to get in the way. I can't forget where all of the good things come from.

And I'll finish this post out with Philippians 3 (I do need to go study, but it feels good to blog):
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in review -- mostly in pictures.

2013 is going away.

What a year it has been.
I've become a MAJOR nerd. Like, you have no idea how much school is bringing out my quirkiness. All of this intense gaining of knowledge can't be good for one.


While I have largely neglected blogging save to post about the "stresses" of my life (blogging is a lovely outlet) there have been many great things to happen too. I will do a countdown of the interesting/important/not-so-important life events thus far:


I learned to grade essays.
In the spring 2013 semester, I was able to TA for my advisor. (If that doesn't get brownie points, I don't know what will.) It was an interesting experience, especially in what was my second semester at college. I graded ~ 250 papers over the semester and gained a whole new appreciation for teachers everywhere. To give a fair, thoughtful grade requires quite a bit of work, especially when one is grading opinion/persuasive essays. It also allowed me to see what some college kids feel is acceptable. Is there hope for the future?

I fried bugs for 100 students. 
bug stir fry!
I TA-ed for another class the Fall 2013 semester. It was hands-on, lots of demos, and so much fun. It took quite a bit of effort, but I gained a great appreciation for what professors and their TA's do.


I assisted with research projects.
JACKPOT!
Over the summer, I worked with two students on their master's research projects. I learned so much from helping them out with their projects. Before, I didn't really know what went into being a grad student, but this experience made me see that I would probably very much enjoy this sort of thing. 

Dare I say it? ...I'm excited for grad school.

I am finished with Organic Chemistry. 
FOREVER AND EVER. I am so joyful! I was never so glad for a C+ in my life. 

I now have a job in an analytics lab! 
Major nerd excitement.
My bench.
I'm learning to operate one of these:
HPLC machine
I'm learning the science jargon for simple things. I guess it's the way scientists weed out who actually "knows the lingo" because really, the stuff I'm doing isn't terribly complicated. There's something somewhat amusing about attempting to explain what exactly one has been working on in lab. People tend to glaze over and smile politely. I've learned how to communicate my research somewhat simply.

I got this fortune cookie after I had spent all day frustrated in lab: 
It gave me HOPE. 

I will interrupt my list by the realization that most of my major activities for 2013 were academic.
It's a bit depressing that I've dedicated so much time and energy to school. 

I know that this year was one of the most stressful heretofore.  
I had to learn coping strategies.  
I'm learning to deal now by living one day at a time, living in the present moment.

I've whined written plenty about it, let's move on.

 There were other things I did, just let me think…
Ooh! I learned to dance.
I adore dancing. Salsa, swing, shag, waltzing. I wish there was more time for it. So that's something new.

I learned to wait tables.
As silly and simple as that sounds, I had never experienced this sort of exhaustion before. It's not so much the physical exhaustion [though my forearms could potentially rival Popeye's at this point from lifting trays] as it is a mental head game. I am an introvert, so walking up to countless seated strangers, attempting to be likable, and asking what they'd like to eat and try to accommodate their every need (without hovering too much) left me drained at the end of my shifts and zombie-like. When you work for ~$2/hr, you very much hope you do nothing to peeve the customer.
I appreciate good service so much more now.
And over the summer, I gained regular customers! I consider that a win.
I have humorous anecdotes as well from serving. At some point, they'll be relayed.

I went outdoor rock climbing for the first time. 
annnnd I loved it.


I am still trying to learn to play music.

I began to learn the mandolin, and I've been playing my other instruments off and on. Music is so incredibly soothing. Maybe someday I'll play in front of people.

I tried to go on new adventures whenever possible. 

I have gotten so many neat experiences in. 
The longer I sit here dwelling on the past year, the more wonderful times I remember. 

What a fantastic gift life is. 

So here's to 2013. 

Who knows what 2014 will hold? 
Always there will be adventure. 

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” 
― G.K. Chesterton

Friday, December 13, 2013

OVERTHINKING

I've not blogged blogged in a while, which saddens me. I wish I could better articulate my experiences, thoughts, and emotions.


But I have a difficult time of it; I have been occupying my mind with other things. Many of them are dull but necessary -- general education courses, ugh. 
Sadly, my brain can only handle so much before it feels saturated with information. When this happens, I want nothing more than to do something mindless (what I am doing right now is veritably mindless. Basically a train of thought without completion...)

 Part of me wishes for the days when I had seemingly endless time to think; then again, when I had room to think, I didn't have the ability to act upon my conclusions. An education will open so many doors.  

However, I enjoy thinking when I can; just having time to sit and ponder. I like marveling at the complexity of the world, the intricacies of life, the WHY.

I've been told I think too much. Is that possible?



Reading is something I love and haven't had much time for. Over thanksgiving break, I read 4 novels over the course of the 3 day break. I hadn't read for fun in ages; I found once I started, I was starving for the written word.



Also, I used to think I was one of the people who was good in the spotlight, who liked attention. I do, but not in the extrovert way. I'm "shy" and I don't understand it.

While I'm good in small groups, I am terrible in front of "crowds". Every time I've been put in front of a group of over 50 people, the floor becomes INCREDIBLY FASCINATING, my knees shake, and my speech increases speed. 

This is something I must overcome.

I've ben realizing I like to observe. I like to be the one behind the camera, the one who gives perspective in my own introverted way. 

Is this an excuse for not participating? 
Probably.


Monday, December 02, 2013

BAH HUMBUG

It's here!

Christmas music.
No.
Please no.

I don't want to hear those tunes, those repetitive songs replayed year after year.

It's like new Christmas music isn't even written anymore. A few songs have come out, almost all of it is the SAME. The same sound, that genre that sounds stuck in the time when synthesizers were just discovered and so OVERUSED.

While I love to remember Christ's birth and God's goodness, I don't WANT to hear songs about white christmases, wanting someone for christmas, or shoes.
Maybe the week before Christmas I'll play some tunes, but not now.

NOT NOW.

Sorry.
Apologies for my tirade. I know multitudes are thrilled it's on the radios.
I have my own music to listen to with earbuds.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

defeat?

Yes.
I know I have it good. My cup of blessings are overflowing.

I know I take too much for granted, and that I really have little excuse for this feeling.
My list of responsibility is short.

But life is wearing me down.
I can't do it.
I don't want to.
I feel like a petulant child or a lazy slug.

But maybe that's the point.
I can't keep this up.
I'm filled with dread and defeat. A taste of failure and I feel I've failed at everything.

I need priority.
I need focus.

I need rejuvenation.

I think all of this, all of my feelings of utter inadequacy are to remind me to draw near to my power source, to the one who promises He is with me always, even to the end of the world.
The one who promises that His yoke is easy and His burden light.

The one who reminds me I am to work at things wholeheartedly, as if it is for Him.
The one who tells me I'm even more than a conqueror in Him.  

You'd think I'd learn my lesson and remember that my identity is supposed to be Christ. My power source is Christ.

All things through Him and by Him.

I'm a slow learner.
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