Message in a Costa Rica Poem

I wrote this in Costa Rica, while looking through the scenes you don’t see in the Travel brochures…

His Redemptive Treasure
 
Endless webs of metal
     Spin fear upon black tar.
Dark lungs grasping dense air,
     Fierce anger wonders far.
 
Life’s hope is lost for those
     Who dwell within locked bars.
With fear of evil woes
     Bitterness turned to scars.
 
Searching for life’s purpose
     The world’s empty pleasure.
Who will bring God’s true light?
     His redemptive treasure?
 
His death upon the cross
     Covered our scars of sin;
Brought joy in redemption,
     Hearts full of peace within.

~Nora Marie

 

I never let this poem go anywhere…it’s not one of my best works…not even close. But now that my ex mom-in-law is lying in a hospital bed breathing her last, this holds a higher place in my heart. The trip I took was with a group from an organization called “Men for Mission”, which my ex in-laws were part of for many years. As they grew older the trips grew less frequent. Most of the trips were work missions. The trip to Costa Rica in January 1999 was the only one I was able to join. Maybe I’ll write more about it one day. But for now, my prayer is that one of the leaders…my ex mom-in-law…will rest in the arms of Jesus knowing she ran a good race. I pray my ex mom-in-law finds peace. I pray she knows I have no more bitterness for the angst she caused in my marriage. I pray she knows I’m sorry for not being the daughter-in-law she needed. I pray she knows God redeems and restores all.

I need to pull out the old photo albums and scan some of the pictures from that trip. The people and country are beautiful. I pray the two boys I spent time with, showing and telling about the love of Jesus, are still following Him.

Some things we will only know when we cross over into heaven…

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The Brightest Star

I wrote this poem a few years back for a very special daughter of one of my best friends after the children’s Christmas program at our church. She always had a way of putting life into perspective…

1982

The Brightest Star

A baby born to parents young,
just starting out in life.
She formed a bond of love so tight,
baby, husband, and wife.

All American family,
the world was at their hand.
They dreamed of trips, the three of them,
the ocean and the sand.

The doctors’ words were cruel and hard,
“She’ll never be like those
who run and play, who laugh and sing,
her kind we will dispose.”

Then love broke in their aching hearts,
for quiet answers lie
in Special babies God has blessed,
not the world’s reply.

While all the children shine like stars
on Christmas program night,
this special child the Lord did see
in her the brightest light.

For from her eyes God’s kingdom shines,
her silent lips proclaim,
to ‘sign’ the words from palm to palm,
His praises to exclaim.

Yet through the words she could not sing,
His love she longed to tell.
From palm to palm she ‘signed’ His name,
and Glory on her fell.

June 1984

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Was I really meant to be here?

Here’s that mood again. So tell me…what if a person was not meant to be born? How is their life justified? Does the life that was not meant to be actually have purpose?

Deep questions for a dreary day.

I know a lot of babies these days born outside of the traditional home. I feel a sense of connection for those born out of wedlock. Do they use that word anymore? I don’t know. I guess it’s the new norm. Seems no one even knows virginity these days. I didn’t way back then either. Every generation drifts farther and farther from that biblical “family unit” we were taught from our grandparents. I’ve read the millennial generation is more likely to live together than risk getting married, to risk getting divorced. I don’t agree, but I thoroughly understand.

So mom gets pregnant. Sometimes dad stays, mostly he moves on. Sometimes we have two moms, and sometimes, two dads. Seems there is no “norm” these days.

In some ways I sure do wish the “anything goes” philosophy was accepted back in my day. Do the kids of today feel the awkwardness from being born as the result of a “non-biblical” situation? Has society evolved enough that no one cares?

I felt it…the rejection. In some ways, I still feel it. The lies Satan whisperers in my ear:

  • My parents had to get married because of me.”
  • Their hardships were my fault because I came too early.”
  • Six months after our wedding? Oh no, our baby was early.”
  • We’re so sorry we got pregnant, it was an accident.”
  • You’re nothing but an embarrassment.”
  • I see another zit…are you ever going to clear that thing up?”
  • You’re just a fat whore yourself!”
  • So you survived those illnesses, surgeries, and accidents? Maybe the world would be better off if…”

Oh yes, I’ve heard it all. The excuses, the cover-ups, the lies. So, what it boils down to is, I wasn’t supposed to be here. Right? Maybe. But doesn’t God himself breathe life? If so, why did He breathe life in me if I was not to be? Would I not have survived those near death experiences if I were not to be here?

I wonder if my own experience is the basis for my deep pro-life stance. My empathy generates great passion for the unborn, unwanted, and unloved. What right do I have to life if another is aborted or abandoned? Why me and not another?

Sometimes…I really do wish I could take their place…

“Even though my mother or father rejected me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.” ~Psalm 27:10

“Even though my mother or father rejected me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.” ~Psalm 27:10 (MSB)

 

 

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Another church debate?

And the church is now debating youth groups…

The newest movement in the church world today is the “Integration of the Congregation”. The concept is such that our kids are falling away, as argued in one of many circles such as in this article; Charisma News; which discusses statistics showing youth groups are driving Christian teens to abandon the faith. The trend is leading the church to abandon their youth groups.

The debate seems to be about destructive peer pressure in church. The new thought process is that separating youth from parents in church waters down and annihilates any teaching of Godly principles, leaving youth abandoned to seek total downfall with their church peers. By integrating the youth with the adults, they will learn to become exemplary, well rounded, Christian grown-ups. In all the articles I’ve read on Family Integration, statics and scripture references are used to back up this theory: Deuteronomy 16:9-14, Joshua 8:34-35, Ezra 10:1, 2 Chronicles 20:13, Nehemiah 12:43 and Joel 2:15-16…to quote a few from the above article. But, if you look at these scriptures, they talk of feasts and assembly gatherings (you know…church), but do not mention youth groups. In fact, I don’t think anyone has found any scripture stating youth groups are not allowed. (Yet, the bible doesn’t mention cigarettes either. Just sayin’!) One of the verses used by most when it comes to family worship is Deuteronomy 6:4-7, which instructs fathers to teach the statutes to their children. Yes…the fathers to teach their children. So, is this proof we need to abolish youth groups and put everyone together?

And then…finally…here is a common sense article by Ed Stetzer debunking the theory that all youth groups are bad, posted in Christianity Today. Actually, he debunks the statistics used by arguments for the bad youth group theory. When the statistics are skewed, we are compelled to take another look at our theories. I am not at all against Family Integration, rather I am for it. But I am not against abolishing our youth groups either.

This post is obviously just my humble opinion…but my opinion is based on experience…from my own youth. You see, I had a drug problem. My parents drug me to church every week! (Bet you haven’t heard that one before! 😉 ) Seriously, that is about the one thing my parents did right. Part of my “testimony” is that I hated church…and youth group…from being a pretty messed up youth myself. I felt all the kids were either hypocrites or dorks. They were not the kind of kids I preferred to hang out with on a Friday night…and I didn’t. I partied. And partied. But, that’s another story…

In spite of hating youth group…the Gospel got in.

It. got. in.

And I came back. Not to church. I came back to Jesus.

Yes, some of my most pivotal memories are of little words, verses, or phrases, Ron or Lindell spoke here and there. And then, there are the Sunday school teachers who put up with us one hour a week speaking into our lives.

And the list goes on…

I’ve often wondered over the years how many of them thought they were wasting their time. How many of them thought I was a waste…

I wonder where I would be if the church my parents attended (quite by default due to my Grandma) did not have a youth group. Would I have created less trouble for myself and others? Would I be here today? No, I don’t believe so.

Listening to the many in favor of abandoning youth groups, I hear a resounding argument that the youth would be naturally sitting at home on daddy’s knee listening to him quote scripture every waking hour.

Maybe in a bubble.

Not in my family.

Not in today’s world.

Yes, we were a “Christian” family. We went to church. We talked the talk. But not once do I remember my dad leading in anything other than prayer before dinner on Sunday afternoon. Even if he wanted to, how could he? He was either on a ship somewhere or working 2nd shift during the week. Neither did his father, or his father before him. I don’t blame them, they were living as their fathers before them taught. They were doing the best they could. Our forefathers believed the way to show love to the family was to work and leave the teaching to Momma and the Public Schools.

Hey Church! That’s the real world.

Yes, I gathered some instruction from my family. But when a teenager is “troubled” their parent is the last person they will follow. That’s reality.

What would have happened if I did not have a youth group? Where else would I have gone for instruction? The very places that encouraged my self-destructive behavior to flourish: the world. Yes, the public school and, of course, peers.

Now, they say times have changed. We watched a clip in church this morning interviewing several Millennials about their perception of the world and what it was like to be a Millennial Christian. Their words took me back to my own youth. You know what? Nothing has changed. Not really. As a child of the 60’s & 70’s, I had the same outlook…round peg in a square hole. I have a sneaky feeling youth have experienced the same moods since Adam & Eve. We can blame it on almost anything, but common sense says the human body changes and we grow up, during which time we search for purpose…that inner longing for the choosing between right and wrong…searching to fill the hole created by our own sin. That hole which only God can fill. Youth grow to adults, and in the process, we all seek to fit somewhere in society. Heck, even the disciples jockeyed for position…trying to “fit in”.

Youth of any millennia will seek their place in adulthood. Where is the best place to navigate those roads? I believe both the family and youth groups are the answer. The best place is the place where they can find Jesus. If the youth are in a spiritually non-existent family, would they receive instruction outside of church? No. If the youth are in a spiritually non-existent church, would they receive instruction sitting in the pew next to their parents? No. Are there churches with youth groups that are simply play-time? Yes. Are there families who are only “Christian” on Sundays? Yes.

As for the theory of separation, in most American churches, after “Sunday School” is over, when the kids are old enough to sit for a spell (older than toddler age), the youth are always sitting (Integrated) in the church service…sometimes bored to death. But…the Spirit can work years later to bring back God’s word to a broken heart. God’s word which we never realized will reach into our deaf ears. And the “youth groups” that are in question? They always meet outside of Sunday morning services, such as a Sunday evening or mid-week night. Most active youth groups meet more than adult life groups! Would you rather your youth go to the parties I attended on the weekend or to a church youth event? I didn’t think so. Are there “bad” activities going on during church events? Sometimes…for we live in a fallen world. Are there “bad” activities going on during social, non-churched, events? Of this, I can assure you, almost always.

If you want to “fix” our youth, abolishing the group is throwing out the baby with the bath water. Preach to the fathers. Yes, instruct the fathers in how to teach their children. And in all reality, that may fail. Bad stats show somewhere around 50% in the church are divorced/single parent households, where it is more likely around 25-30%…which is still huge no matter how you look at the issue. Embrace those kids, as well as kids whose parents are unchurched. When the fathers are absent, create churches that will hire Youth Pastors and not Youth Directors. Train leaders who will be examples of Jesus to kids. Create an atmosphere where youth have a safe place as they learn to break the parental apron strings and grow into adulthood.

Then, and only then, will you have an explosion of salvation in our youth culture….our future!

God's Spirit will bring His word back to our hurting hearts!

God’s Spirit will bring His word back to our hurting hearts!

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Your Daily Proverb ~ 18:17 (Did you hear the other side?)

“Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” ~Proverbs 18:17 

~A wise one is never gullible. As the saying goes…don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see…no matter who it’s from.

When you hear a sob story, are you listening to an opinion or an account of actual events? How many relationships have been destroyed by gullible good people not verifying statements from trusted sources? We hear the hurt in their voices as they recount events that describe injustices done and we want to defend our loved ones & friends against the evil that has been inflicted on them. Why would we question their side of the issues? After all, they are our best friend, our teacher, our pastor, our mentor, our parent. Why would we question?

We question because we live in a fallible world. We are all one-sided human beings. We react and feel based on OUR own experiences. And just maybe, just maybe, they themselves do not know the other side.

We woke up to a bang outside our bedroom window a few weeks back. Big bangs are never a peaceful way to start the morning. It always means my coffee will be delayed. Not good. 😦 My husband went out to see if everyone was safe. The teenage boy who crossed the middle line on his way to school was a fairly new driver. I felt sorry and glad for him at the same time. While it’s never good to be in any accident, sometimes, especially for boys, having a non-injury accident early on teaches hard lessons in humility.

The first-hand account from the second vehicle following the youth claimed the youth was trying to pass another vehicle and he did not have enough room to return to his lane before hitting the oncoming truck, spinning both the youth’s car and the truck off into the cornfield. Of this, he was certain of what he witnessed.

The problem is…there was no vehicle in front of the youth for him to pass…in all actuality, he was reaching in the passenger’s seat for his brush. I guess he forgot to look in the mirror before leaving home. When mom arrived, taking pictures on her cell phone, he was definitely red-faced!

This is why law enforcement are trained to take all statements before writing up a report. They look at all angles before making any conclusions.

Basically…they unknowingly adhere to the **gasp** Bible… “He who states his case first seems right, until his rival comes and cross-examines him.” ~Proverbs 18:17 .

Why can’t we do that with our relationships? Do we really…really…know what it is we think we know??

Maybe…just maybe…we should at least ask??

Maybe…just maybe…that is what you would want others to do for you??

cornfield crash

Do you really want to be a step-parent? Part 2

(For the 1st half of this post, read here… “Do You Really Want to be a Step-Parent?” Then come back!)

I started this post quite a while ago, but decided with the negative nature of lengthy blogs, I would divide it into two posts. I’m afraid it’s still a bit lengthy. 😉 This post may not make sense without reading through the first post, but they are thoughts from two different directions…this one being my “bullet” list…which I’ve read are not very popular, but I feel effective for multiple points within the same subject. We’ll see if anyone agrees…bullets or no??

Most of these two posts on remarriage have already been written in the volumes of blended family self-help discussions…I’m just trying to post my own “journal” from experience through my studies, my friends, and my own life. My prayer is that someone…at least one person…would be able to improve our world by avoiding the pitfalls of so many others.

In all these years, I have seen very few cases where all four ex’s were mature enough, and secure enough, to be amicable. We live in a society where offense runs skin deep. The innocent children are tossed back and forth continually being used as weapons against the ex. The competition quite often becomes childlike and immature. And it doesn’t have to be. It takes maturity and love to be amicable.

What is a step-parent to expect? Below are snippets of common and worse-case scenarios from my research and experience (not necessarily my own experience). As you read through these bullet points, some will resonate with you, and others will remind you of a friend or two. Hopefully, you will see a running theme.

The pitfalls of step-parent/step-children:

*No matter how much kindness is shown, or how much love is given, the step-parent is typically seen in the negative.

*No matter how many years the step-parent helped raise the child, even in cases where the spouse has full custody, the biological parent will always take emotional precedence.

*The step-parent is not welcome in their ‘family time’. The kids learned visitation is “me” time while their parent was single and is not interested in having to share their mom/dad with someone they view as embezzling their parent.

*A step-mother is expected to carry the load of the household chores while the step-kids spend play-time with their dad.

*A step-father is expected to ignore the undisciplined step-children with no rights to scold when his favorite golf club (insert favorite personal belonging) is used as a baseball bat.

*The step-child’s disrespectful attitude is overlooked due to the pity given by parents, grandparents, and extended family. The child is not taught that even though there is no requirement they respect the step-parent (usually due to their hurt from the family division) their parent’s divorce gives no excuse for the child to behave disrespectfully (Oh yes, I have plenty of experience in this one!).

Respected

* Research shows the hardest position to be in amongst a blended family is that of the step-mother. She is expected to be the caregiver while despised at the same time. If a step-mother steps in to create an atmosphere of a normal working family, with expectations of equality for every family member, they are met with hostile opposition. The new in-laws will revile her as the outsider. If discipline and chores are expected, she will be met with the position that the kids need a “vacation” on their visitations. The excuse is they don’t see their dad near as often since their parents’ divorce. However, the responsibility for the respectful behavior of the children falls on the biological parent, not the step-parent. It’s called “parenting”. (Note: Every piece of literature I have read from the experts indicates that discipline, consistency, and structure create the best environment for security…not vacation time!)

*Most non-custodial parents do not “engage” due to the separation during the space of time between visits, or out of fear that discipline will cause the child to draw away, when in fact, the opposite is true. Spoiling out of pity only leads to disrespect and dysfunction later in life.

*Through jealousy and insecurity, all too often, the ex will saturate the child with defamations regarding the step-parent. Since the parent/child bond runs deep, even when a parent is dishonest, the child is easily persuaded against the step-parent, causing irreparable damage to the relationship. (Keep in mind, lies will always backfire when the child becomes an adult and begins to think for themselves.)

*More often than not, the new step-parent will not only have to deal with the belligerent attitudes of the step-children from hurt and insecurities created from their parent’s divorce, quite often the new spouse will also need to deal with the manipulations of an insecure and over-protective or jealous ex.

*Never reply to the ranting of a jealous ex. Learn to ignore false accusations and brush them off. As they say, sometimes the reasons are obvious as to why they are divorced. For your own emotional well-being, forgive and let God handle your justification. Oh yes, I know how hard it is to let go of justification! Sometimes, it never comes. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The opinions of men/women do not at all indicate your value.

*All too often the ex (and/or overly doting grandparents) will sometimes try to out-buy or spoil the child, or outright belittle everything the child says about the ex’s household, especially the step-parent. Too many times, I have witnessed a parent withhold visitation and badger the ex in the presence of the bewildered children, not realizing their manipulations only destroy the child’s future relationship capabilities with their own spouse. Their attacks on the step-parent will eventually backfire. If only the vengeful parent would realize the depth of anger they have fueled in their own child’s heart (causing the child to sin), anger that only causes children (no matter what age) to lash out toward those in authority. Thus, the number one cause of the “troubled teen” syndrome plaguing our society.

*If the children are allowed to take a higher priority than the spouse, whether from guilt or pity, the home will be filled with dysfunction and the subsequent marriage will suffer. Discipline falls on the shoulders of the biological parent, and if not enforced, the family can expect nothing but chaos.

And on and on and on…volumes have already been written so hopefully you get the picture.

What can a step-parent do? Is there hope? Can a step-parent possibly have a good or even great relationship with their step-child?

Yes! Both families can have amicable and loving relationships! But it takes work. It takes patience. It takes thick skin. It takes maturity. It takes prayer. It takes love. Lots of love.

Do some heavy research to be informed on the negative and positive impact of step-parenting, both to the child and the adults, so these pit-falls can be avoided. Look for classes offered by your church, or a local church, on blended families to help you navigate through the initial adjustments. My husband and I took an invaluable class early in our marriage. Not only is seeking help beneficial for your marriage, it is essential for your children. Again, you are not alone in your struggles. Do not be too proud to seek help. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”Proverbs 15:22

Always keep in mind, when you enter in a relationship with someone who already has children, the presumed “rights” are automatically diminished. A blended family can be successful if both spouses (parent & step) prioritize, keeping their marriage as the most important family relationship. It is imperative to build that “three stranded chord” with God as your head.

Peace will come into the home and heart when you take responsibility only for that which is yours. That does not mean the atmosphere in the home will be calm. It may take years for the child to mature enough to accept and actually like their step-parent. Most of the step-parent’s success is dependent on the support of the spouse, the biological parent. The step-child’s happiness is not the step-parent’s responsibility. Yes, step-parents should continue to try and convey areas that need improvement for the benefit of the whole family. But, always remember if others do not choose to live with integrity; the results are not your responsibility. Learn to ignore. You are only responsible for you.

Though being a step-parent is a thankless job, and you may never receive the credit or recognition for your sacrifices, never grow weary in doing good. Even though you may never be fully appreciated, and a greater chance you will be resented, never ever grow weary in doing good; for no matter what the opposition, you are contributing to the future. It’s up to you whether your influence is positive or negative. The Lord above is the one you need to please, to look for approval. You will never find affirmation in people.

But most of all…pray! Pray for God’s comfort and strength. You will need it…and He will give it.

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~ Galatians 6:8-10

Matthew 11.28-30

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The Pain of a Child

We all have our crosses to bear. If your child is perfect, count your blessings and ignore this post. If your child is imperfect, join the crowd. You are one of the gazillion humans who’s beautifully innocent baby evolved into a normal human. Imperfect. Fallible. Normal. So, why are parents everywhere beating themselves up?

Just what is “normal” in our world? I have several friends who have offspring deemed handicapped, or the PC term, special needs. I’ve seen firsthand the agony they feel as they navigate through social barriers. It hurts. It’s not fair. It’s humiliating. But I also see more patience, care, and genuine love from these parents to their special children than from anywhere else.

One time a close friend confided that even though she would never trade her child, she sometimes grieved for a “normal” child. She grieved for the sports that were never played, the parties never attended, and the weddings never planned. She dreamed of having just one day that her child would not embarrass her in public with weird noises and gestures. Just one day where the awkward stares were of jealousy and not disgust. Oh, to have just one day with a “normal” child…

And then there’s my other close friend…the one with the “wild” child. How many times did she get a call in the middle of the night? I watched as she stood in court next to her son, dressed in orange. I would be upset too. I hate orange. It totally washes out my complexion. Orange is only good on a pumpkin…and then only in a pumpkin latte…or pumpkin ice cream…or pumpkin pie…with whipped cream on top. Autumn is the best time of year…the fall color of changing leaves…and pumpkin. Ahhh…

Pumpkins & Mums

Oh yes…back to court…

Can you imagine the pain a mother feels standing with a judge staring down in front and her son’s friends staring from behind? The boy she gave birth to made a few bad choices, yet, society blames the parents. I saw her teach right from wrong. I saw her love. Then I saw the very life she gave turn on her, lie about her, and hate her. My friend always said she did not expect her child to be another Albert Einstein, Peyton Manning, or Brad Pitt, yet, how she longed to have that “normal” child. Just one day where the awkward stares were of jealousy and not disgust. Oh, to have just one day with a “normal” child…

Why do we long for what is not ours to have? We want relief. We want acceptance. These two mommas were human. Just a small longing of a world without the difficulties of life. That’s all it is. But, are we willing to walk the path of those we perceive as normal? I once heard the recount of a musician in a symphony who was sought after by several fans. One commented they would give anything to play as well as the musician, to whom the musician replied, “You can, if you are willing to give up everything to practice sixty hours a week for most of your life.” The fan sadly walked away…not willing to make the same sacrifice.

Would my two friends trade places? Would they be willing to walk in the other’s shoes to have what they deem as normal? I also have friends who have those “perfect” children. For the most part, they cannot relate to parents with difficult children. But, are their lives perfect? Is their world free of difficulty? No. In every case, in every life, drama digs in its evil claws through some small area of their lives. One friend is riddled with financial burdens, while another is plagued with health issues. One friend is aching for the loss of children from a barren womb, while another wrenches from miscarriage. One friend mourns the death of her child from a reckless driver, while another reels from the death of her child from suicide. Would anyone want to trade places with either of those friends? I didn’t think so…

Thanksgiving Holiday can be a very grim time for people in rough situations. How can we be thankful when we face so much adversity? How can we explain the situations we have no control? Why is our pumpkin never a silver-lined coach? Character. Yes, God is building character. Think about it…don’t the best people in life have a trail of tears? It’s been said the biggest problem with the next generation is ingratitude with an entitlement mentality. I believe it. We give trophies for participation. What do they learn? Self. What happens when the pressures of life surround them? And, they will. Most young people crumble. Looking back…I did too. But I got back up. I survived. Experience has a way of not only maturing, but of strengthening.

If I can convey anything in this post…it’s hope. Only when we stop looking at the supposed successes of others will we see our own. We are each unique. We are each made for a different path. Quit longing for someone else’s path. Mow the grass on your side of the fence first. When we realize that God in his great love did not place any greater value on Albert Einstein, Peyton Manning, or Brad Pitt than he did on Jane, Sally, or Mary, then we will appreciate the little “thorns” in our life. For when we look up past our thorns…the rose of God’s love holds us in his palm.

 

Can we be content? Can we be satisfied? Can we be Thankful??

Romans 5.2-5

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