Homeless

I’m back “home” for a couple of weeks.  I’m a week in and have a week more to go.  I put the home in quotation marks because really for more than a decade now, I have a new home. 

But something about this home…the home I grew up in.  Well, it’s just different.  This is the home that when I was 6, I wrote all over the basement walls and promptly blamed my sister.  It didn’t work, though, because well I could write and she was not yet in school, so let’s just say I didn’t get far with that lie. 

This is the home I played school with my dolls. 

This is the home that I learned to ride a bike and played catch with my dad in the backyard. 

This is the home that I spent almost every evening eating dinner with my family and all of the other surprise guests that would show up on any given night. 

This is my home.  This is my place of comfort and refuge.  It is the place where I come to find rest and recovery.  It’s the place that I receive so much love and grace.  It’s the place that just makes me remember the Sara that first fell in love with Jesus.  It brings me inspiration, and it provides me a place to lay my weary head.

And let’s just say that when I got off that airplane a little over a week ago, my head, my body, my entire being was feeling more than just a little weary.  I spent the first 4 days here just holding back tears at every turn.  I would be in the passenger seat in my Mom’s car and a song would come on or we would pass a certain tree, and the next thing I know, my eyes are filled to the brim and a few tears trickling down my cheek. 

One evening while I was changing my daughter after her bath, she pointedly asked me, “Why did you marry someone from a different country?”

I was taken off guard so I asked her to explain what she meant.

“Mommy, I mean why do you and Papi have to be from 2 different places.  It makes me so sad sometimes.  Because when I am here, I miss everyone in Guatemala, but when I am Guatemala, I miss everyone here.  And I don’t like it.  It is very hard for me, and it makes me really sad.”

This all came from a 7 year old, but I basically could have asked the same thing.

All these years later, and I am still amazed at how hard this is.  I am amazed at how difficult it is to passionately and fiercely love two sets of people and places separated by thousands of miles. 

And if truth really be told, these last few months, I was starting to wonder if it wasn’t all a big mistake.  It all just felt plain HARD.  There were no highs and lows.  There were no real breakthroughs. There were no moments of “oh yes this all makes sense.”  No it was just plain, old HARD! I felt lonely and confused and scared and tired…so very, very tired. 

For so many years, I admired many women that had stood on large platforms or were leading large ministries.  I admired them and secretly probably even envied them too.  It seemed like the pinnacle of Christian Ministry.  I feel embarrassed and slightly ashamed to admit that, but I do it because I am certain that I am not the only one to have ever had those thoughts.  As Christians and especially as Christians in full-time ministry, deep down we struggle with the desire to also be recognized for our obedience.  We want God’s glory, but we kind of want our own too.  It may not be a very pretty truth but deep down for many, it is the truth all the same.

Nevertheless, I didn’t realize we were going to be thrust into that kind of platform and leadership so soon.  I wasn’t prepared.  I had a plan.  I had a timeline.  We weren’t ready.  There was still other stuff we needed to do first.  Yet, there we were like 2 doe-eyed kids trying to do what we were being asked yet feeling so completely incapable and unprepared. 

And the real ugly truth for me was that I didn’t like it one bit.  Don’t get me wrong; I was thankful for a fresh opportunity to use some gifts and abilities that I hadn’t been able to use in a very long time.  So much of what we were being asked to do was right up my alley as far as what makes me passionate.  But it was really, stinking hard.  It was pressing us on all sides, and I was not enjoying feeling flattened out at every turn.  

“God this is not what I signed up for.  This is not what I had in mind.  I am having trouble trusting You with this.  This is just too dang hard.  I think I just don’t want to do this anymore.  Pick someone else.  Choose a different one.  I AM OUT!”

These are just a few of the thoughts I had rolling around in my head.  I never said them to anyone, but I felt them deep in my heart, and my 7 year old’s confession just made them bubble right back up to surface.  Suddenly I was seeing everything through this one lens; this lens that was convinced that God was holding out on me.  He wasn’t providing when we desperately needed provision.  He wasn’t carrying a burden that I felt was crushing me underneath its weight.  He wasn’t answering when I was crying out.  He wasn’t defending us when we were feeling defeated. 

What a beautiful gift it is to know that we have a God that is big enough to handle these crises of faith.  He is mighty enough to handle my anger.  He is merciful enough to gently handle my fears.  He carefully and patiently removed the lens.  He wiped my tears.  He whispered His truths to my often deaf ears once again.

Today one of my dearest mentors and teachers reminded me of some of my very favorite verses.  I memorized this passage when I was only 19 years old and I clung to these verses as I walked through what it meant to be surrendering to be a missionary someday.  I didn’t want to do it, but I knew clearly that was what He was asking me to do.  So, for some reason, I knew someday I would need these verses and desperately tried to seal them into my heart. And today as we discussed some of what has been going on in life, she spoke these verses over me once again.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies…So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:9-10, 16-18

With the commotion of 2 impatient children, I couldn’t really express in the moment what I felt when she reminded me of these verses. However, I can say that as I have continued to reflect on that moment today, I feel overwhelmed at the way God continues to deal with me.  I knew these verses as well as I did my own address and phone number.  I repeated them. I shared them.  I wrote them.  I prayed them.  And yet somehow, in the moment that I needed them the most, I had forgotten all about them.  But God didn’t.  He saw those moments over 15 years ago.  He saw me.  And He knew that nothing was going to speak to my heart today like the reminder of those verses and the promise that they hold. 

Oh how my God knows me.  Oh how He loves me so.

Yesterday, I had the great privilege of sharing about our ministry with one of the Sunday School classes in our church.  This group is made up of the older generation of the church, and it may have been one of my favorite times of sharing yet.  They were enthusiastic and generous and kind with their words and hugs.  But, it was one lady in particular that I will probably never forget.  At the end of class, she shared about her desire to support my husband and I personally as missionaries.  She said it wouldn’t be much, but that one of her greatest privileges is being able to support several different missionaries each month.  I told her how much I admired her faithfulness to the Lord in this way and almost instantly she burst into tears.  

Through her tears, she whispered, “I always wanted to be a missionary.  I begged God to let me be a missionary someday.”

I wanted to scoop her into my arms.  This sweet lady, who was probably a grandmother and great-grandmother tenderly and vulnerably shared one of her deepest regrets.  I don’t know the rest of her story.  I don’t know why she never was able to be a missionary, but it doesn’t really matter. I know God knows her and loves her so much.  I know He will bless her and honor her and care for this very tender and loving woman of Him.

And she probably will never know how that one moment reminded me of the great privilege I have in living this crazy, hard, sometimes lonely life.   It isn’t easy, and there is a very real possibility that it may never really be comfortable or easy. 

But, it is good.  It is rich.  It is wonderful.

“He who has prepared us for THIS VERY THING is God, who as given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are ALWAYS of good COURAGE.  We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by FAITH, not by sight.” -2 Corinthians 5:5-7

I don’t know what “this very thing” is that God has prepared you for. I don’t know what He is asking of you. I don’t know your portion.  But I do know this. 

It will take courage. It will take faith.  It will take more than just a few good intentions.  But we FIX our eyes on Jesus.  We fix them.  That means that they are glued on Him…not on us, not on those around us, not on our circumstances, not on our mistakes, not on our successes…just on Him.  We fix our eyes on HIM.  And we know that whatever He is asking of us is preparing a weight of glory that far outweighs anything this earth could ever hope to give us. 

And then we thank Him.  We thank Him for all that pressing in and even for that affliction because we know that it is taking out some that ugly that still resides in those dark corners of our hearts.  We thank God for loving us enough to take the time to transform us and renew us.  We thank Him for wanting more for us than we often want for ourselves.  We thank Him for giving us more than we deserve and keeping from us what we often do deserve.


How sweet it is to be loved by You, Jesus.

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The Dream that had to Die

The death of a dream.

I remember the night that Hubs and I packed up my 4th grade classroom like it was just a few days ago, and yet we are nearing a decade since that late night in July.  I never actually got to teach a day in that classroom, but I sure poured a lot of love and time into making it lovely. It was my dream classroom at my dream school teaching my dream grade.  It was all I had ever hoped for since I was only 5 years old.

And yet there I was packing all of it back up into boxes with the man that would soon be my husband because instead of starting the school year in a few weeks, I would be moving back to Guatemala with him to begin our new life together.

The truth was I didn’t feel near as calm as I looked on the outside.  I was one of those mixtures of hot and cold, sad and excited, calm but fearful.  But, for the most part my soon to be hubby and I worked in silence. 

When we arrived back to my parents’ house, it was already quite late and my parents were already in bed but not yet asleep.  I peaked in to let them know we were back, and as I turned to walk back out of the door, my dad quietly asked in the darkness, “How did it feel to pack up all your dreams tonight?”

It’s amazing how even now, all these years later that question still brings tears to my eyes. 

My daddy knew me well.  He knew that no matter how strong of a fa├žade I was wearing, deep inside, I was mourning this loss.  I just was too prideful to let anyone see it.

He knew how I had lined up my Barbie dolls at the bottom of the stairs to “teach them.”  He saw me clapping around my grandma’s house in her hot pink high-heeled shoes pretending to be my most favorite teacher Mrs. Schmutzler.   He overheard the times I made my sister “do homework” and listen to my lessons as I stood in front of my green chalkboard.  My daddy knew all of these things.  So he knew that turning in those keys and locking up that classroom was no easy task.

As I look back there are a thousand things that I wish I could go back and do different.  In my immaturity, I didn’t always handle things correctly.  I didn’t speak when I should I have.  I spoke sometimes when I should have remained quiet.  I just lacked so much of the foresight that age gives you. 

That night still often stings.  I still get choked up about it occasionally when someone reminds me of that season. 

Deep down I think a part of me is still mourning the death of that dream.

And sometimes that is still really hard. 

I think back to that picture of how my life was supposed to look right now, and more times than I would like to admit, I still feel a pang of sadness about it.  There are still moments in time when I will catch a picture on a friend’s Facebook wall, and I will think, “Oh what a beautiful life they live.  I wonder what it would be like to live it too?”  Driving through the glorious Rocky Mountains back in October with my family in tow, I often stared up at those lovely cabins in the woods and wondered to myself, “Maybe someday we could live in one of those too…”

Even in the 10 years since I packed my teaching things into the boxes, there has never been an August that I don’t struggle through the grief of wishing I was starting a new school year again with my students.  I still remember the smells and the sounds and the wonderful sights of new classroom supplies, new leather shoes, and the laughter of the kids excited from a wonderful summer and filled with expectation of a new school year with their friends. 

The thing about death and grief is that it never quite goes away.  The pain may fade in time but the sting of death and the grief that comes from it is always a bit near. 

Nevertheless the death of a dream is more manipulative and much less cut and dry.  We struggle with the “What if’s” and the “What could have been’s?”  We never actually got to experience it in its fullness so we are left to paint the picture in a way that is often over-exaggerated and far from the depiction of the real thing.  And this will damage us if we aren’t careful.  It will enslave us.  It will ask us to choose over and over again between what we think we could have had and the beauty and pain of what stands in front of us.

One of the most impacting moments in the newest version of “Beauty and the Beast” is the famous dance scene towards the middle/end of the movie.  Belle and the Beast clearly have feelings for each other.  He invited her to a lovely dinner and then they are dancing away in the stately ballroom, he in his best “suit” and she in her legendary yellow ball gown.  It’s nothing short of breathtaking.  Truly one of the most spectacular scenes in cinema I have seen in a very long time.

After they finishing dancing, they step out onto the balcony and the Beast asks Belle if she thinks that she could truly be happy there with him.  Its obvious she believes she maybe could, but instead she says, “Can anyone truly be happy if she isn’t free?”  I may have changed the wording just a tad because it’s been a couple of weeks since I saw it, but the idea has stuck with me since.

Can anyone really be happy if he or she isn’t free?

I don’t have to hesitate to answer because I know that happiness without freedom is only a mirage.  Chains and captivity and walls and borders can often disguise themselves and give very lovely and impeccable illusions of freedom and happiness, but they can never master the real thing.   We can never truly experience all the beauty and joy and happiness of this life if we are living in chains. 

And those chains will look different for everyone.  For so many years my chains were my lost dreams.  I could never truly embrace this life because I was too busy mourning the one I never had but always believed I had wanted. 

Later in the movie Belle of course does get to leave the castle so she can go and rescue her father.  Once she does that, she tells him that she must now return to the castle to rescue the Beast (and I would add to “free him” although that was only implied never said aloud). Her father looks incredibly scared and pleads “but it will be dangerous.” 

Yes Papa, it will be dangerous.  It will be very very dangerous,” she replies.

Sometimes breaking free from our chains will come with a cost.  There will be a price to pay.  There may even be some sadness and grief that come with it. 

But isn’t freedom worth that price?  Isn’t the danger worth facing if it means walls and chains and fences and borders no longer bind us? 

Why do we choose captivity when we could have freedom?  Why do we hold onto things that are meant to die so that we can go on living?

It took me a very long time but I finally decided to just let those dreams of mine die.  I didn’t let them die because they no longer mattered, though.  I let them die so I could live.  I chose to believe that God knows better.  I started to ask Him to give me new dreams and the strength to finally embrace this beautiful, lovely, hard, scary, crazy, rich life that He so graciously gave me. 

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.  Neither is new wine put into old wineskins.  If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed.  But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” 
Matthew 9:16-17

What old things do you keep trying to stuff into new wineskins?  What is keeping you in captivity instead enabling you to face the perils and wonders of a life in freedom?  Don’t choose the safety of what is known just because you know it.  Choose to let die what needs to die.  Choose to bury what kept you in chains.  Choose to risk but to trust and believe that what God has for you is ten thousand times richer and fuller and just better than anything you could dream up for yourselves. 

Dreams are good.  They are good and lovely and wonderful.  But, not all dreams are supposed to be realities, just as not all realities are as beautiful as a dream.  But if we have the courage to keep dreaming while still living in our reality, I believe that we can find the freedom to trust God with both. 



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The Dreaded Day That Saved My Life

It was Valentine’s Day, 1994.  I was 11 years old and in 6th grade.
I was rocking the coolest Joe Boxer heart boxer shorts over my tights.  My red t-shirt had just enough feminine flair without being overly girl. My hair was perfect, and my dear mother had even let me wear just a little bit of make-up that morning.

It was going to be the perfect day.

1st period passed, and I laughed and joked with my friends and life was feeling as grand as I could have hoped. I had received a few Valentine’s and given a few, and I just knew that the best was yet to come.

2nd period came, and it was my favorite class, Reading, with my favorite teacher Mrs. White.  We discussed and read aloud some of the book we had been reading as a class, and then she left about 10 extra minutes at the end of class for us to just eat candy and giggle and converse with each other on this special day.

The bell rang, and I grabbed by bag to move along for a quick stop at my locker before math class.  Mrs. White ran out into the hall after me and quickly pulled me into the teacher’s bathroom with her.

“Sara dear, I think you are having a little accident honey.  There was blood all over your chair after you got up from class.”

Mortified I ran straight to the mirror and sure enough my once cute boxer’s were totally stained red. 

“Is this your first time, sweetheart? Did you not know?” she kindly asked.

“No, it happened about 3 weeks ago, but I didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be this long,” I responded, my eyes not daring to look at her in the face.

“Let’s wait till the bell rings and the kids go back into their classes, and I will take you down to the nurse.”

God bless Mrs. White.  What a dear she was to me.

She quickly got me to the nurse’s room. The nurse asked me all of 3 questions before she had my mom on the phone to come pick me up from school.

Once, of course, my mom heard the whole story (as I had been leaving significant details out of the situation for weeks in a feeble attempt to show my maturity), she quickly whisked me straight to the doctor’s office.

What ensued were lots of discussions between the doctor, the nurse, and my mom of blood transfusions, anemia, hospital stays, medicine, and a whole bunch of really uncomfortable questions for me.

It was a whirlwind that left me almost bedridden at home for the next 2 weeks and the knowledge that one of the worst days of my short 11 years of life was actually that day that literally saved my life.

Both literally and figuratively.


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In my school district, 6th grade meant the merging of 5 different elementary schools into one big middle school.  To say I was petrified at the start of the school year would be an enormous understatement.   I had established a great group of friends in elementary school, and I was just certain that it was all going to be ruined come middle school.

And in many ways it actually was, but not for the reasons I had foreseen.

By some inexplicable measure, I quickly became one of the popular girls in school.  I was hanging out with the “cool” girls in my grade and also being noticed by some of the girls and boys from 7th and 8th grade.  I am sure there was a reason for all of this, but 23 years later I couldn’t tell you what it was.

But I was living it up. 

The problem with this, though, was I was also becoming one of those mean girls.  I had totally abandoned my old friends from elementary school.  I was more than unbearable at home.   And while I was able to maintain good grades, I also started pushing the limits at school.  I am ashamed to say that this included a note to a boy I was trying to impress that included a reference to one of my teachers as Mrs. Fatb****.  This letter was intercepted by another one of my teachers, and well you can imagine the rest of that story.

It was not a high point in my history to say the least, but I was so consumed with my newfound “fame” that I didn’t realize the person I was becoming.

That all changed that fateful Valentine’s Day. 

Even as I lay on the couch at home, the rumors of what had happened to me at school came flooding to my house.   Some were saying I was pregnant.  Some were saying I had been pregnant before but lost the baby that day at school.

Now remember, I was 11 years old! 11! I was still a baby who had yet to even have a real first kiss.  But the rumor mill spun at rapid pace with all kinds of hurtful and painful stories about what had happened to me.
Let’s just say I went back to school with my head hanging and a whole new understanding of how quickly one can rise and fall.

On top of all of this, I was taking large quantities of medicine to try and sort things back out inside of my body, and one of the unfortunate side-affects of all this medicine was massive weight gain.

Throughout the next 2 and half years, just exactly the duration of middle school, I went from wearing a size 12 in girl’s clothing to a size 14 in women’s clothing.  I gained probably close to 40 or 50 lbs., although I was never brave enough to actually get on a scale and see.  This happened all while playing year round sports and eating a fairly well balanced diet.

I remember the shame I felt going into American Eagle with my grandma the week before starting high school. She was going to buy me a new outfit for my first day of school. The girl working there was a year older than me.  She was petite, adorable, and one of the most popular girls in school. She took my size 14 skirt and hung it in the dressing room for me to try on.  It was cute and fit me well, so my grandma did buy it for me with a cute little top. 

But I went home and cried in the bathroom about the size in the back of the skirt, and in anger, took scissors to almost every tag on the clothes hanging in my closet.

Even then, I felt that the only thing relevant about me was the size of my pants.

Thankfully, though, all hope wasn’t lost.  I had friends that stuck by me and supported me.  They saw me for who I was and didn’t care so much about the rumors or the shame.

And as I already mentioned above, in a way those years, that dreaded day, all of the rumors and teasing and shame, all of those things built in me character.  I learned compassion and kindness.  I fell in love with the theater and the voice it gave me.  I began to see people for who they really were and not just judge them for what I saw on the outside.  I listened more. 

And even more important than all of those things, this painful season of life is what showed me my need for Jesus Christ.  I could finally see my sin and need of a Savior.

I can say without a hint of doubt or pause that I am who I am today and living the life I am living today because of that awful and very painful experience.  


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So what’s the point of all of this you might be wondering?  Why am I sharing all of these intimate details on the World Wide Web?

Well, I am sharing because I think it matters. 

As I have already written about on several occasions here on my blog, I still struggle with feeling like the most relevant and important thing about me is the size of my pants.  I haven’t stopped being the chubby girl since 1994, and even now at the age of 34, I still sometimes think that you would like me better or my life would be easier if my pant size was smaller. 

Yep I still sometimes think that.

I decide what I am going to wear based on whether or not it makes me look too chubby. 

Deep down I want people to see me as a person that is kind and compassionate and generous and just and passionate and courageous.  Actually, I don’t want people to just see me like that; I want to BE that kind of person.

And yet…

I like it best when you tell me I am pretty or look skinny that day.

Why is that?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we care?

And I have been asking myself these questions over and over again because it is happening now with my daughter.

My beautiful, smart, spunky, sassy, kind, independent, generous 7-year-old daughter is hearing that she is chubby.  She is being told that her stomach is too large and her cheeks too round.

Now before my parents completely freak out, I will add that this is somewhat normal here in this cultural.  Here you say exactly what you think about a person no matter if it is “politically correct” or not.  If you ask someone if they like your new haircut, they will actually answer the truth…not just what they think you want to hear. If you are fat, they tell you are fat. If you are bad a something, they will tell you that you are bad.  If your eyes are slanted, they call you “chino” or “china.” If your skin is darker, you are “negro” or “negra.” If you are light skinned, you are “canche.” If you are curly headed, you are “colocho.” And if you are chubby, you are “gordo” or “gorda.”

So this is somewhat normal, and I don’t think in any way malign.  But it is still painful for me.

For the first 4 years of my daughter’s life she was the smallest, little petite thing.  She always wore 2 sizes smaller than the other kids her age.  And secretly I was praising God that she wasn’t going to fight the weight thing like I have had to fight it. 

And then she turned 5 and that started to change.  She wasn’t obese or even overweight but just filling out and rounding out.

But now I am faced with having to decide if I am going to continue to allow myself to believe that the most important thing about me is my pants size and in turn send the message to my daughter that it also is the most important thing about her, or I can decide to bury this thing once and for all.

Even though I was young, I tasted the sweet wine of affection and praise and even to a certain point, fame…fame on a small scale at least.  I knew what it meant to be applauded and cheered and liked for nothing more than the way I looked.

But in that same year, I tasted what it meant to be ridiculed and shamed and made to feel less than, also because of the way that I looked.

We are sending our daughters and our sons messages every single day.  We are sending them messages in how we talk to them.  They receive messages in how we respond to each other.  They are picking up messages even in how we describe and talk about movie stars and singers and famous athletes.   With our words, our critiques, our praises, and our affirmations we are telling them over and over again what really matters.

Kids are much smarter than adults in that they don’t just listen to the things we say when we are trying to talk to them about important stuff.  They actually watch what we are doing when we put our guards down.  They decide what is true and right and good through how they see us live our lives…not just the things we say when we think they are listening.

So what message will it be?  Will it be a message that says you only matter when you are beautiful and thin and smart and popular?

Or will it be a message that says you matter because you were first made in the image of God, and He loves you and chose you and delights in you?

Will they see us pursuing a life of wealth and beauty and popularity? Or will they see us with our actions living a life that pursues justice and compassion and love and generosity?

23 years ago, I learned that one of those things fades and shifts as fast as the weather changes, but the other has the power to endure and produce wide and great tides of influence and strength and courage. 

So today I choose the latter. I choose to tell my daughter not just with my words but also with my actions that I matter because of who I am and to WHOM I belong, and so does she.  There are so many things in this life that are just going to happen to us without any control of our own.  There are so many aspects about us physically that are just going to be true no matter how much we try to work and change it.  But these are not the things that are truly relevant about us.  These are not the things that matter. 

But will I be brave enough to embrace this truth?  Or will I sulk in the shadows and continue to believe the lies?



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Some bits and bobbits about this blog...

This blog is mostly just ramblings by yours truly. I talk about my ups and downs being a wife, mother, and missionary in Guatemala. I have a tendency to get off on "soapboxes" as those who love me say but it is my desire that this blog can be a place of encouragement in each of your pilgrimages with Christ. At any moment if this blog becomes more about me than about Christ, than it will be done and over...so please help me stay accountable. To God be all the Glory, Honor, and Power!

Books I am currently reading...

  • Eight Twenty Eight
  • Interrupted
  • The Connected Child
  • This Momentary Marriage
  • Unbroken

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