Books, Books, Books: A November Give-Away

I had no clue what book I was going to give away this month. NONE.

So when I happened upon this title (several days after our foster son’s open-heart surgery was canceled/rescheduled and my heart felt like a puddle of raw mush), I devoured its contents within a week.

Friends, I have three small children, a part-time job, and a whole bunch of other things I need to do with my time…other than read…so this is kinda a big deal. But friends, this book was that good. 

It’s been the kind of book that I have stolen away (even if to read only a few pages at a time) as a baby has used my legs as a jungle gym and as I’ve waited for dinner meat to thaw. Truly, it’s been a man-written balm to my soul in a time when my heart, soul, and mind have needed some tender, loving care.

And maybe you’re there too? Or maybe you’ll be there soon? Either way, I want people to have this title, squirreled away on a book shelf, for a season where weary and hard are the themes and memes of your season.

So what book am I giving away this month? 

I am giving away THREE copies of Remember God by Annie F. Downs.

And why am I giving away this book?

Because my tender heart needed this read. In a season of weary and hard, I needed the reminder that God is “kind,” and I needed  to rehearse the Truth that there can be purpose in the pain, beauty in the struggle.

That is why; my one and only reason.

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book? 

“Again, an empty space that God could have filled, but He didn’t.”

“And back on that Monday of the fast in June, I sat in my swirly chair just dumbfounded at the idea that God has said, thousands of years ago, He would be for me what other people didn’t know He could be. He has fed my heart and soul in ways I didn’t know He could do.”

“When being un-tethered is the gift. When the limp is the blessing. When the most beautiful thing is not the empty places being filled, but the empty places being seen.”

So how can you win a copy of this book? 

In the comment section below, share a blessing that has come from your hard and at 10 PM (EST) on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), I will randomly choose THREE of you to win a copy of this book!

Happy THANKSgiving (even in the midst of pain)! 

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Books, Books, Books: An August Give-Away

Friends!!!

Before you know it, pumpkins, cider, football, and colored leaves will be upon us!  Okay,  okay. So maybe we don’t actually want them on us, but you know what I mean!

This girl loves me some fall in temperatures and some fall of leaves, so I am counting down the days until fall! 15 days to be EXACT!

And it just so happens that the book I am giving away this month reminds me of fall. 

Amber, Russet, Auburn, and Carnelian colors don the cover of this lovely book! Yes, yes…I indeed googled the “colors of fall” and loved every single second of my autumnal search!

So what book am I giving away this month? 

I am giving away TWO copies of In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin.

And why am I giving away this book?

  1. Because I read her book, None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us, and loved it.
  2. I am finishing one of Jen’s Joshua studies (You can download her studies and podcasts for free; just google it!) and am currently in the process of doing an Exodus study of hers. Jen is truly a wonderful communicator of God’s Word!
  3. I love how she takes the Truths of the Word and packs it into short, concise, easy-to-digest chapters for this busy mama/professional.
  4. I absolutely adore that she tackles the ridiculous notion that “knowing the will of God” is equated with “making the best, earthly decisions.” And instead, she offers the Gospel-centered Truth that to “know God’s will is to love Him and reflect Him.”

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book?

“Without meaning to, we can begin to regard our relationship with God primarily as a means toward better decision making…but if Scripture teaches us anything, it is this: God is always more concerned with the decision maker than He is with the decision itself…which brings us to the better question…not ‘What should I do?’ but ‘Who should I be?’…if we focus on our actions without addressing our hearts, we may end up merely as better behaved lovers of self…what does it profit me to make the right decision if I’m still the wrong person?”

So how can you win a copy of this book? 

In the comment section below, share a book you have recently read (that you think I should read, too) and at 10PM (EST) on Sunday, I will randomly choose two of you to win a copy of this book!

Happy soon-to-be-FALL! 

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I Haven’t Loved You, Only to Drown You

Neither one of our kiddos have ever been the type of souls who are attempting escape plans to jump into the pool without swimmers. Neither one of them have ever been known to openly fantasize about jumping from the diving board, cannon-balling into the deep end, or participating in organized swim lessons. EVER. Not either of them.

They have never been huge risk-taskers when it comes to water, not even in the bath tub. Seriously, water in the face is SO NOT COOL.

Reserved, cautious, and pretty much SCARED have been both of their initial responses to bodies of water that are bigger than the ones they refuse to walk around in the Target parking lot. And though that’s been nice from the perspective of not having to worry we will find them being rescued in the deep-end by a complete stranger, it’s also been fairly frustrating to convince them that water is not akin to a hurricane or the Hulk.

I remember when Caden was little I once said (in an attempt to use the reverse psychology that always worked on me as a kid), “I bet you can’t jump off of the side and into my arms!”

To which he promptly said, “You’re right. I can’t.”

FAIL.

The kid was not going to be bargained, manipulated, or ANYTHING ELSE into the water. And so, we waited.

Over the course of his life, we have encouraged and provided him with many, exciting opportunities to try the water on his own terms and in his own way. And to our surprise (DUH, PARENTS!), he has transitioned beautifully into a reserved fishy who does not fear the water like he used to and even enjoys it.

So why we thought it would be different for his sister, I really don’t know?! Maybe it was because she’s a tad more extroverted and a bit more blonde??? But it wasn’t different. In fact, I think she’s been more scared than he was.

And it wasn’t until this recent vacation that I realized that she’s not only scared of water, but she’s also mistrusting of us…in the water.

Point in case…

I was treading water with Evie in my arms , who was wrapped in a belted and secured swimmer with her face completely above the water, and she was screaming her head off in absolute distress.

No, folks-on-the-side-of-the-pool, I am not maliciously drowning my child even though she acts like it. No need to call the guard, squad, or CPS; she’s merely floating in beautifully-calm and entirely-safe waters. 

And though I wish I could tell you that I have remained understanding and un-irritated in this 2nd “swim rodeo,” I haven’t.

In fact, I’ve had moments where I’ve revisited the days of “being annoyed with a kid in the water.”

And it wasn’t until I uttered the following words to our little girl that the Lord decided to speak a word of compassion into my impatient and insensitive heart:

“Sweet girl, I haven’t loved you, only to drown you.”

With tears streaming down her eyes as we floated cried down the Lazy River, my heart stung with the weight of my own words.

Almost immediately, I remembered the words of Deuteronomy 6:23 where Moses says to the people, “And He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in and give us the land that He swore to give to our fathers.”

Did you catch that?

The Lord brought them out, so He could bring them in.

And where did He bring them from?

Egypt. Slavery. Death.

To where?

Israel. Freedom. Life.

And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…Exodus 3:8

As they are standing on the mountain getting ready to enter the promised land (40 years later), Moses basically reminds the people, “He didn’t rescue you, so He could kill you; He rescued you because He loved you.”

And isn’t that the same for us, friends?

He didn’t rescue us from our sinful state only to leave us stranded. He didn’t redeem us from bondage only to leave us destitute. He didn’t die only to leave us dead.

No, no, and no!!!

He brought us out, so He could bring us near!

And though He sees our struggles and sufferings and though He knows our weaknesses and our worries, He didn’t leave us to drown.

Just as I saw the fears of my daughter in the middle of that water, He sees ours. And just as I refused to let her go, so does He.

Brothers, sisters….He didn’t love you, so He could kill you. He died to love you.

So when the waves of worries toss us, we can rest in His finished rescue plan. When the storms of suffering afflict us, we can trust that His arms are our ever-present, life preserver. And when the winds and worries of this world threaten to overtake and overcome us, we can remain firm that His Word never fails.

Friends who have accepted His gift of grace, there is no need to wail and flail, we are floating in waters of salvation.

SALVATION.

We are floating in His mercy…buoyant in His gracious grip.

And no one, not any one, ever needed a rescue from safety!

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. Colossians 1:13

Books, Books, Books: A September Give-Away!

I cannot even express how excited I am about this month’s book give-away! Seriously, friends. This book is all kinds of wonderful and beautiful. Not to mention, its pages hold such awesome and timely Truth.

When I read it to my oldest two, they absolutely LOVED it. Sure, they were glued to its pages (the illustrations are super fun and rather colorful), but they also loved seeing pictures of children who look like their foster sister (Friends, our children’s books are lied with white people!!!). In fact, this whole book is about the diversity and beauty of God’s family–His fearfully and wonderfully man image-bearers. Truly, I think every soul (age 2 to age 102) should read this book!

When we read the disheartening and sinful ways that people can choose to treat others who differ from them, my heart sunk. It’s never fun to expose your kids to the sinfulness of this world, the nastiness of our hearts, and the ugliness of our sinful and sometimes systemic ways…but it’s necessary and good if we want to encourage love and promote change.

As I read, it was obvious our oldest was tracking with the content, but I wasn’t entirely sure if our 3 year old was “getting it.”

But as soon as I read the words, “People ruined God’s very good idea…People fight with each other. People are mean to each other. People laugh at each other,” she scrunched her little face and shared such honest and true words.

“Mommy, that’s rotten!” 

I don’t think I’ve ever heard her use “rotten” (I know I don’t use that term), but she was right. The unfair, unloving, and ungodly ways we can treat others who differ from us are DOWNRIGHT ROTTEN.

So what book am I giving away? 

I am giving away TWO copies of God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story About God’s Delightfully Different Family by Trillia Newbell.

And why am I giving away this book?

Three reasons!

  1. We need to teach our children this Truth.
  2. We need to talk with our children about the beauty of God’s design.
  3. And we need to tear down unloving and unfair walls that are anti Gospel.

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book? 

I literally cried when I read these words.

God MADE it. 

People RUINED it. 

He RESCUED it. 

He will FINISH it. 

How true! Because of His holiness and because of His work on the cross, not only will He right all wrongs when He returns, but we can love and do right while we’re here!

So how can you win a copy of this book? 

In the comment section below, share a “glimpse of God” you had this week and on Sunday at 9PM (EST), I will select TWO winners!

 

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Swiss Chard, Lent, and the Sunday My Son Lost His Mind

I grew up in a Baptist church, and we never talked about Lent (at least if they did, I never heard about it). To me, Lent was kind of like Swiss Chard growing up. It was a real thing; it was mysterious; people partook of it; and yet I had no clue about either. And to be honest, though I’m more familiar with the practices of Lent and the lettuce called Swiss Chard, I’m still learning and growing in my knowledge of both.

I can’t say that I’ve yet to buy a book on Swiss Chard (there is actually a real book on Amazon ALL about Swiss Chard. I do not tell a lie. Google it for yourself; it’s real. I just did), but I did buy a book at the beginning of February on Lent–its history, its purpose, and practical ways to implement fasting, prayer, and alms-giving. It was good–so good. I won’t and don’t have the time to block quote his entire book, but Aaron Damiani in his book, The Good of Giving Up, did an absolutely stupendous job of outlining beautiful reasons why believers (in all denominations) can practice this beautiful journey to the cross.

Designated in the church calendar to be the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, Lent is a season where we create “wilderness experiences” for our hearts and souls, so that we can help ready our souls to embrace the beauty of the Resurrection.  Lent is a season where we carve out extra time to boost our prayer lives, strengthen our generosity (in all forms), and fast from the things that take our time, attention, and energy. Lent can be practiced and implemented in all kinds of ways and to all kinds of degrees; Lent is PERSONAL. Lent is not meant to be worshiped; it’s not meant to earn God’s favor; it’s not meant to trim our waistlines; it’s not meant to twist God’s arm into acting how we want Him to act; and it’s certainly not meant to make us “holier than thou.” From my perspective, the sole purpose of Lent is a set-aside time where we can deliberately focus our hearts on the cross and ALL that it means for our lives.

So…after reading the book in the month of February and then praying through the areas in my life that need both a “fast” and some “reinforcements,” I decided that we would broach the subjects with the kids.

Leisurely and spontaneously, I introduced the topic at Sunday lunch. Giving a short explanation for Lent (what it is, why we do it, and how we can practice it), I then shared the ways that I had planned to observe Lent in 2017 and then Daddy shared too.

I explained that in my “fast,” I would be saying “goodbye” to Facebook, Amazon shopping, and “bored snacking” in between meals. I shared how FB, Amazon, and “bored snacking” can take away time and attention from God, and how they can bring a joy that can easily become an idol. I also explained the ways that I felt like God was leading me to be more generous, specifically in areas related to my time (hosting, phone calls instead of texts, notes instead of emails…). And lastly, I shared the ways that I had planned to spent some extra time in prayer and study of God’s Word.

Things were going fabulously.

But then I said, “Soooooo, I was thinking that maybe we could start helping you guys practice Lent.”

Everyone was still in their right minds.

“And I was thinking that one of the things that you guys really love is your TV shows.”

Weird faces started happening.

“Aaaannnndddd…I was thinking that maybe in order to create some more space for God, we would decrease the number of shows we watch and instead…spend a couple of evenings a week, watching the What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver DVDs as a family.”

And then my son just LOST it. 

Like heaping, huge, ginormo alligator tears, he started wailing. Not even kidding.

“NOOOOOOOOO. I love my shows!!! That’s not fair!!! I don’t like it!!!”

I can’t remember all his protests and honestly, I couldn’t even hear most of them through the sobs, but suffice to say…BOY WAS “MIFFED-MAD” (I just coined that term, which is exactly why you’ve probably never heard of it before. NBD.).

Again, I reminded him that we weren’t suggesting that “we take away ALL of the shows” but rather decrease the amount of time spent watching the shows they are allotted, so that we could create some extra time to spend as a family–focusing on Easter, the Word, and other activities that promote generosity.

That seemed to bring some reassurance.

“So we can still watch some of our shows?”

“Yes, you can still watch some.”

“Okay. We can do that.”

(younger sister sat in silence watching the whole drama unfold)

Clearly, we had struck an idol nerve. Clearly, we had pounced on something that means a lot to him. Clearly, we had identified an area that he holds dear. And my, oh my, did I ever understand!

No FB posts for 40 days? No “likes” that bring happy pick-me-ups throughout the day?

No quick shopping on Amazon? No scarves and books and dumb junk that brings an easy thrill?

No snacks? No Doritos? No popcorn? No opportunities to stuff feelings and provide an easy, mind-numbing, night-time activity?

YYYYYYYIIIIIIIKKKKKEEESSS!!!

Think about taking stuff away, and it doesn’t take long to realize the things we value, love, and even worship. 

Fast forward to today, two days after we leaked the idea of Lent.

“Mommy, when does Lent start?”

“It actually starts tomorrow.”

“Oh. Okay. I was just wondering.”

He didn’t sound angry, wasn’t presenting hysterical, and didn’t appear to be ready to jump off the TV ledge; he simply sounded interested.

Having no clue how he would respond but wanting to know what he had gathered from our lunch discussion on Sunday, I asked, “So, what is Lent all about?”

Without missing a beat, he said, “Lent helps us make extra space so we can worship God.”

A smile the size of Mississippi spread across my face.

“You’re right, buddy. You’re exactly right.”

I have no clue what Lent 2017 has in store for the Buczek family, but I am eager to see how God is going to use our “extra space” to bring us into deeper relationship with Him. At the end of the 40 days, I pray that we would look more like Him and less like us and that Lord willing, we won’t lose our minds every single day for 40 days!

 

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Son, Your Words are Painfully True

Lately, I feel like my son has been speaking my mind, uttering my junk.

Like he’s been speaking the real things and the raw thoughts that I don’t always want to share and certainly hesitate to reveal. He’s been sharing right from the pit of his little, imperfect heart, sparing no tact and spewing the honest things. He’s been acknowledging the hard and messy thoughts that swirl in his head–the things he struggles with and the things that make him uncomfortable, worried, and down-right angry and scared. He’s not mincing words, dancing around the truth, or sugar-coating his frustrating realities and his sinful tendencies. And as he shares, he seems to share with unashamed courage, not worrying how I’ll perceive or receive his muck and yuck.

And it’s been good for this mama’s heart. SOOOO good.

Why?

Because it’s not only given me “conviction space” to acknowledge and accept those raw and real thoughts that I also have, but it’s also created a place for me to process his yuck and mine…all at the same, sweet time.

So, in an attempt to remember these moments (uploading memories) while simultaneously practicing the authenticity I preach and so desperately crave (downloading grace), I thought I would share some of my son’s words–the raw and real thoughts that have resonated with his mama’s heart…and maybe yours, too.

1. “Mommy, sometimes I just want my life to be how I want it to be, and I don’t want anyone else to tell me how to live.”

Isn’t that the real truth?!?! How often I desire to live my comfortable, safe, and desired life, not wanting anyone or anything else to threaten my safe things and my valued places. I want control, and I want it my way. I want things to go as I plan, as I want, and as I think would be best. Though I don’t always say it, “I want my life to be how I want it to be,” and I struggle when it’s not. I don’t want that bowl of suffering or that cup of hard; no, I want ease, and happiness, and a whole bunch of things that go my way on my timetable. Can I get an A-MEN?

Son, your words are painfully true. 

2. “I hope that church goes quick because I like to go home and do what I want to do.”

Ouch. Ever said or thought that before? I know I have. Sitting in church, I find myself thinking about the day or week ahead. I find myself eager to get home and relax, unwind and lay on the couch. I find myself struggling with adding another “church activity” or another “time obligation,” finding lame excuses and other weak reasons as to why other things should take precedence (including but not limited to…family time, down time, and me time). Church and community takes time, energy, and a whole lot of grace. It requires transparency, compassion, mercy, courage, and honest reflection. And let’s be honest, sometimes it would just be easier to “go home and do what we want to do” rather than invest in the C-H-U-R-C-H. Right?

Son, your words are painfully true. 

3. “It’s hard to be gracious to Evie because she isn’t acknowledging me being nice.” 

Ai yi yi. Been there, felt that. It’s easy being gracious and kind when people are responding like we want them to, right? But the second your efforts aren’t noticed and the hot minute that your love isn’t accepted? Yikes! That is the stuff that hurts the pride and humbles the spirit. It’s easier to be merciful to those who are merciful, and it’s easier to be gracious with those who are gracious. Didn’t he see how I bent over backwards for him? Didn’t she notice how hard I was trying to act differently? Those times when your love is shoved off and your generosity isn’t blinked at can be downright hard. We want our fruit to be acknowledged, and it’s hurtful and even angering when it’s not. Been there?

Son, your words are painfully true. 

 

5. “Mommy, sometimes I get so angry that I want to burst.”

Yes, yes, and yes. Sometimes my anger is so red-hot and lava-mad. Sometimes my ignition is quick and my fuse is short. Sometimes my anger comes out and sometimes my anger stays still. Sometimes my anger boils out when I don’t want it to, and sometimes it seeps out when I least expect it. Sometimes my anger looks like irritation and sometimes it sounds like a ROAR. Sometimes it looks aggressive and sometimes it looks passive but most times…it just feels scary, shameful, and 100% sinful. Ever had those feelings?

Son, your words are painfully true. 

6. “Sometimes I get really scared of new people and their eyes.” 

Ummm…me too, son. Me too. New things are hard for me and new people and new interactions can be scary, especially when you’re afraid of their gaze. Worrying about what they think, and how they’ll perceive you, and if they’ll accept you. Concerned with how you’ll come across and if you’ll be “too much,” and whether or not it will take effort and energy that isn’t easy. Insecurity that breeds fear, and fear that breeds more fear, and fear that gets you stuck. I’ve been there. Have you?

Son, your words are painfully true. 

7. “I feel really special when you need me.” 

Yep. It’s nice to feel needed and wanted. And though there isn’t anything wrong with wanting a role and a place, there isn’t anything good about feeling “less than” and “unloved” when you don’t. We want to stand out; we want to be needed; we want to have a niche; and we want to be WANTED. Do I make a difference? Do I matter? Am I seen? Do they care? So when those friends don’t reach out, and those family members don’t seem to remember, and that boss doesn’t recognize, it’s easy to cling (and even fight) for an identity that is rooted in being loved, pursued, needed, and known. You too?

Son, your words are painfully true. 

8. “Mommy, I don’t always like when things change.” 

Son, your apple fell straight from my branch. I get it; I really, really do. Change is hard and even scary; change is unknown and even uncontrollable at times. Change requires adjustments and “letting go;” it demands trust and acceptance. Change isn’t always pretty and easy, happy and fun. Change can require new actions and new thoughts; it causes shifting and assessment. Change can be good and best, but man…oh man…change can also be overwhelmingly new. Sometimes it feels easier and safer to stay in the “old” than to live in the “new.” How ’bout you?

Son, your words are painfully true. 

But, son, if there is one thing I’m learning and encouraging both you and myself to do, it’s this:

No matter the change, no matter the hard,

no matter the feelings, no matter the frustrations,

no matter the roles, no matter the remembrance,

may we find rest and refuge in the ONE who sees it all, holds it all, and cares about it all

the ONE who is NEVER, EVER overwhelmed by any of it and any of us.   

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22 Reasons Why You Should Praise Jesus for Your Daddy

  1. Because post-nursing, your daddy is your only hope for being heard in the middle of the night. Your cries, your poops, your lost stuffed animals…he hears it all while your mommy is complete G-O-N-E (those nursing days ZAPPED me for the next 18…or at least until you start crawling out the window).
  2. Because if your daddy didn’t monitor our budget and monies, we would be living in a teepee in your grandparents’ back yard because either we spent it all at Chipotle or we bought the whole world a set of books.
  3. Because if your daddy didn’t set up a monthly reminder to change the Brita filters, we would all be under the treatment of a physician for mold.
  4. Because if your daddy didn’t set up a monthly reminder to change the furnace filter, there’s a good chance our house would catch fire at some point or another.
  5. Because if your daddy didn’t monitor the toothpaste tube, you would never know what a tube of toothpaste is supposed to look like, nor would you be able to pry off that dried-up, gunk of a lid.
  6. Because without your daddy, there’s a good chance that you would only be able to count to 10 and addition and subtraction would be out of the question, never mind multiplication and division.
  7. Because without your daddy successfully hiding a key in the yard, we would be locked out of the house…like your whole life.
  8. Because without your daddy, you would either never have a hair cut, or we would have already dropped approximately $840.00 in the last five years to have Great Clips do it.
  9. Because without your daddy, we would probably be lost on some mountain because we didn’t take the time to read a map, don’t know how to read a map , thought we could just “figure it out.”
  10. Because without your daddy, we would still be stuck in Wal-Mart counseling some random soul who your mommy does not know but because she said “hello” and smiled, she has now heard a life map and two, life trajedies.
  11. Because without your daddy, Doritos would be a food group.
  12. Because without your daddy, none of us would remember to take vitamins and all our bones would be breaking.
  13. Because without your daddy, the IRS would have already put me in jail because I’d have absolutely NO clue what to “claim.”
  14. Because without your daddy, there is a good chance that you might be getting your own breakfast in the morning while I hit “snooze” for the 12th time.
  15. Because without daddy, there would be nothing ALIVE and THRIVING in our yard, except dandelions.
  16. Because with your daddy, there would be no functioning smoke alarms, no LED bulbs, and we would be using copious amounts of water to take daily baths…just for fun.
  17. Because without your daddy, we would have no functional cars because I’m SURE that your mommy would not remember the mileage for the next oil change.
  18. Because without daddy, there would be no home-made pretzels, no biscuits, no bread, and no pizza. And forget the grilled meat that you guys love, I’d light myself on fire and our house if #4 hadn’t already occurred.
  19. Because without your daddy, the fruit of “self-control” might be a foreign concept for ya’ll.
  20. Because without your daddy, organized trips where you have room to sit in the car WITH your luggage…would just NOT happen.
  21. Because without your daddy, we would all be throwing a tantrum on the floor and worrying about our obsessions.
  22. Because without your daddy, life would be incredibly unbalanced, potentially unhealthy, and absolutely less safe, peaceful, and thriving.

Kids, you are so blessed; WE are SO blessed. Your daddy is one of our greatest gifts and though I could continue on and on…and on and on…with this list, suffice to say that God was good and kind to give us a daddy like ours. Lord knows we need him!

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