Two Songs: When God Speaks Through the Mundane

He climbed up into his big boy bed – a new, unfamiliar, but also exciting place for him. The sheets had trains and there were no bars holding him in. The freedom was fun, but I could sense his uneasiness as we tucked him for his first night on that wooden captain’s bed. All seemed fine until, just seconds, after we closed the door, the crying began.

“I scared,” he said. These were words I had never heard from his less than two-year-old mouth, but I wasn’t totally surprised. Growing up and trying new things can be scary.

As I tried to calm him, he suddenly asked, “Mommy sing?” This former music teacher’s heart skipped a beat at the sweetness of his request. I always wanted to be the mom who sang her children sweet lullabies before bed. And I did when they were babies, but the older two boys didn’t seem to need or want the signing as part of their bedtime routine. I was thrilled to comply with his desire for a bedtime song from Mommy.

I started with the song that was playing right after he was born, “How He Loves Us” by David Crowder. That became the song he wanted every night. Until Frozen came out. Then, you guessed it, “Let It Go” was requested on repeat. And then came the night where he asked for both songs. Convinced it was a stalling tactic, I sang the chorus of each and called it good.

A chorus of “Let It Go,” the chorus and bridge of “How He Loves Us” – that became our routine every night. After a while, the sweetness of it wore off for me. I began to see singing these two songs as mundane, ordinary, even tedious and annoying.

But after a long day of kid-wrangling and house-cleaning and food/clothing/homeschool battles, I melted into that wooden rocking chair in the corner of his room at 7:30pm as usual. As I started to sing, tears fell and I felt like the Lord was making me hyper-aware of the words I was singing. The words I had sung dozens of times. They were speaking to me in that dark nursery.

Two Songs

The annoying routine suddenly became a sweet message from the Lord…

Let go of the hard stuff from the day. Give it to Me and shut the door on all of it. There are no grudges to be held. No pity parties to be thrown. Just let it go.

And do you know how much I love you? No, do you REALLY know? Even if you lost it with the kids or forgot to change the laundry or burnt dinner…I’m still head-over-heels for you, My child. You don’t have time to keep thinking about all that crummy stuff from the day because I love you and want you to move forward in that love!

I barely made it through my two-chorus standard that night as I choked back sobs. These two songs weren’t picked by my son. They were picked by my Jesus to speak to me just when I need it most – as the day ends and the perceived failures of the day pile heavy on my shoulders. He cared enough to speak through those moments I thought were just a means to getting my son to sleep.

Two songs. Songs I gladly sing now when he asks. Songs I can still barely make it through without the tears flowing because He speaks freshly these reminders into my heart every time.

Let it go and remember how much I love you.

 

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The New Awana: Story, Pillars, Website!

Awana logoI was so honored to be a part of Awana’s internal launch back in April and I gave you a few insights into all the “secret” info we were learning, but I’ve been dying to let you in on all the details…and today is that day!

While at Awana Headquarters, I was blown away by the heart behind Awana. In the past, I may have never heard that passion and vision had I not visited their offices, but Awana is changing all that by sharing more stories, launching a new website, and centering everything around three central pillars.

Awana prayer

The three pillars are Awana are what have had me all fired up {in a good way} – I passionately believe in each of these pillars and love how Awana is moving forward with these as the focus…

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 7.04.58 AM

Reach Kids | Equip Leaders | Change the World

  • Awana reaches kids for Christ through fun, relational Scripture-rich experiences that lead them to know, love, and serve Him.
  • Awana equips church leaders and parents to reach and disciple kids who impact their generation with the gospel.
  • God is at work changing the world through the evangelism and long-term discipleship ministry of Awana.

When I heard this quote at the internal launch, I knew Awana was serious about making an impact for Jesus, not just for their own organization:

“It’s not about planting more clubs, it’s about reaching more kids.” -Kevin White

To share more stories and to keep everything aligned around these three pillars, Awana has launched a brand new website today! It is not just a store to buy resources for clubs, but a place to find out how lives are changing for Jesus, to find training for leaders and inspiration for parents, and a valuable resource for all involved in Awana!

A few highlights I’m excited about…

  • The “Reach Kids” page includes a parents and families section with a blog and free ebook downloads!
  • The mission of Awana is to read every child, everywhere, so I love the Global Outreach page, where you can learn about sponsoring a child or engaging your church to help the global reach of Awana.
  • The stories featured on the “Change the World” page make me all weepy. Story is powerful and I’m so glad Awana is telling more stories about the impact God has made through their program!

Take a look at this video to get your very own website tour and then go look around at the website for yourself!

To keep up with Awana as they move in this awesome direction, make sure you subscribe to their blog here. You can also connect with Awana on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!

Which of the three new Awana pillars is most exciting to you?

 

P.S. My friend Tricia is traveling with Awana to Kenya this weekend to see their international clubs and global outreach in action! Please pray for her and the whole group as they travel and bring back more stories! Thank you!

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Spiritual Mothers + Messengers

I knew there was a reason I wasn’t able to write about the #SheSharesTruth topic of spiritual mothering yet. It’s because what He had on my heart for it was just perfectly in line with the Five Minute Friday word: messenger. So I’m combining the two…

It’s Five Minute Friday with lovely Lisa-Jo!

Set a timer and just write. Don’t worry about making it just right or not.

For me? An exercise in letting go and letting words flow. Five minutes only. {yes, I do set a timer and it quacks like a duck at 5 minutes, which totally makes me smile}

Today’s prompt: Messenger

And the #SheSharesTruth topic…

How is spiritual mothering already taking place in your community? Has a godly woman influenced you in your growth in the Gospel, or has mentoring a young believer impacted your life? How would you like to see Titus 2 shape your relationships moving forward?

*****

And go…

These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. ~Titus 2:4-5

The call in Titus 2 to us as women is very clear. Older women are to teach the younger women, and not just older as in years, but further along the path, if even just by a little bit.

I have seen so many women floundering with no one leading or encouraging them in the ways of Christian womanhood. And I’ve heard lots of excuses from women why they aren’t being these mentors to younger women: work, too busy, not “good enough,” nobody wants to hear from me. Yes, they do, and knowing and experiencing all this makes me want to be a spiritual mother even more when the time is right.

Spiritual Mothers

We need messengers, ladies. Women who aren’t there just to say, “Cherish this time.” We need honest messengers of hope and Truth, women who have raised families well in the name of the Lord, not perfectly, but with His grace. Women who know the struggles of the daily motherhood grind and looked to the Lord to sustain them.

My heart is burdened to tell the next generation of women and moms that it is all worth it, but it is NOT easy and that is all the more reason we need Jesus. I love all the things Titus mentions – marriage and home and family – but I could not do a single one without the Spirit guiding me and giving me fresh strength when I’m all out.

I’m grateful for the honest spiritual mothers that have brought these messages to me – not sugarcoated with “You can do it!”, but rather messages full of understanding and the reminder to always look to Jesus to guide me and get me through one day at a time.

Wherever you are in your journey, FIND those messengers and BE those messengers, sisters. Spiritual mothering is a holy call.

Stop.

*****

Read the beautiful words of my fellow writers over at Five Minute Friday and She Reads Truth today!

How has spiritual mothering been important to you? If you don’t have a spiritual mother, what would you hope to gain from one?

 

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#SheSharesTruth: The End of Nehemiah

I just finished reading the book of Nehemiah. Scratch that. I’ve read the book of Nehemiah before. It wasn’t very memorable. This time I studied it. 17 days of in-depth slow reading, study note devouring, journaling, praying. It won’t be a book I soon forget now.

The Nehemiah study was from She Reads Truth and the lessons I learned from it were numerous. Lessons on prayer and faith and leadership and boldness. But I’m going to start at the end today.

shesharestruth

A little back story of Nehemiah before I get to the end in case you’re unfamiliar {spoiler alert!}:

Nehemiah was working as the king’s cup bearer in Babylon when he heard the wall protecting Jerusalem had been destroyed and his people were unprotected. After much prayer, Nehemiah asks the king’s permission to go rebuild the wall. The king grants his request and Nehemiah heads back to Jerusalem for 12 years to head up the wall rebuilding project. He is a wise, God-fearing leader and, with his direction, the people of Jerusalem are once again protected. They rededicate themselves and their holy city to God.

But then…

Nehemiah leaves to go back to his duties with the king and the people backslide. They start intermarrying with pagans, breaking the commandments laid out by God, living in disobedience. The book of Nehemiah ends with him rebuking many in Jerusalem for breaking the covenant they JUST renewed.

Not the happy ending I was expecting and not the results Nehemiah had prayed for either.

So here is today’s question: Why does the book of Nehemiah end the way it does? What does God want us to see here about Himself and the Church?

During my reading of Nehemiah, God was speaking to me about my “building project” – my family. Day after day, the words in Nehemiah were convicting, inspiring, encouraging to me as a wife and mother. So in this ending, I saw another lesson for me as a mother.

Nehemiah did everything God asked him to do. He was in constant prayer. He was one of the wisest leaders in all of the Bible. And still the people fell away from their renewed commitment of faith.

I am not a perfect mother or wife or homemaker, but even if I follow everything God asks me to do, pray all day long and wisely steward the time and resources of our family, I can’t control the outcome. My children have free will. They are sinners just like me. My faithfulness and wise leadership don’t guarantee their obedience.

This might be a discouraging lesson, but I think it is also meant to take some of the pressure off for me as a mom. Nehemiah has taught me to pray, trust, and act on God’s will and leave the rest in His hands. Just like Nehemiah, I can only do what I can do. The bad choices of those under my leadership, including my kiddos, does not make me a failure.

Breathe that in, ladies. We are not failures because of our children’s choices.

Nehemiah went through a similar process to mothering: years of caring for the people, building up the wall to protect them, praying fervently, and then the big letdown of their disobedience. But in his wisdom, Nehemiah continued to stand for what is right and pray to his Heavenly Father.

Why does Nehemiah end with this big bummer? To remind me to keep on seeking His will, doing the next right thing, and praying hard for those in my care, no matter what those around me choose. And I will never give up on that. I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.

Nehemiah 63

 

I’m linking up with the #shesharestruth community today – read the thoughts of other women on this ending of Nehemiah over at the She Reads Truth site!

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Close {Five Minute Friday}

Five Minute FridayIt’s Five Minute Friday with lovely Lisa-Jo!

Set a timer and just write. Don’t worry about making it just right or not.

For me? An exercise in letting go and letting words flow. Five minutes only. {yes, I do set a timer and it quacks like a duck at 5 minutes, which totally makes me smile}

Today’s prompt: Close {which I read wrong and went with close as in shut, not close as in nearness – whoops!}

*****

And go…

There’s a door I’ve been hovering around lately. When the door first opened, I stepped fully in, with great joy and anticipation. But the longer the door has remained open, the more I have creeped back towards it, trying to get out.

Close

Through the door is where God asked me to go, but it’s hard in there. And with one foot in and one foot out, I’ve been trying really hard to close that door this year. I made up my own mind that the door would be better off closed.

He has different plans. No matter how hard I’ve tried to slam that door and walk away, God keeps gently opening it again and again, asking me to walk fully through with Him. My stubbornness makes me dig in my heels. But He has plans for me.

And even though the other side of the door is hard, He knows that is where I will grow the most. The hard produces the most fruit in us. If I close that door, the growth stunts. There will be no fruit-bearing.

I want that door closed, but He knows better, and I’m starting to see the holy in leaving it open. So I’m taking His hand, letting Him lead me all the way through, and closing the door on my own plans in exchange for the best He has for me.

Stop.

*****

Go read more fabulous posts about being close {the right topic!} at Lisa-Jo’s place today!

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Rhinestone Jesus + The American Dream

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

I’ve been thinking about the American Dream a lot in the last year, even before I started reading Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch. In October, I did a whole series about our need to “have it all” and my rebellion against that idea. I have this uncomfortable feeling of Holy Spirit change going on inside of me that I’m not entirely sure what to do with, but I know it has do with a different kind of American Dream.

I don’t want us to make more money so we can have more stuff. I’m in the {really long} process of trying to get rid of stuff. I want to be able to GIVE more. My American Dream for our family is to be givers and have the means to give generously as led. To love others well with our time and resources. Like Bob Goff. Like the Welch family.

Even though I’ve only met Kristen once and we’re not neighbors or close friends, I feel like I’ve watched God grow and move in her family for years now. And there’s no way to see what He is doing with them and NOT be inspired to live a different kind of existence. Kristen’s blog, We Are THAT Family, has always been full of family and fun, but most importantly, it chronicles an honest faith and an incredible journey that knit their hearts with Kenya. I think I’ve mentioned Mercy House Kenya just a few times around here…

Now Kristen has released a book and it’s exactly what I’d expect from her writing, but also so much more. Rhinestone Jesus is about stepping out from safe faith. It’s about saying yes to God in the middle of our messes. It’s about knowing there is no such thing as a “just a mom” and God does big things with the little yes of a mom or dad or kid or anybody.

I’ve been trying to write this post about this book for weeks. It’s hard to put into words the MANY ways it impacted me, especially in one blog post, but here were my major takeaways:

Being an intentional mom IS a big yes to God.

The Kingdom of God is revealed in sacrifice and service in the small places, especially to our children.

Kristen tells her story about saying yes to God’s calling to do something about the poverty she saw in Kenya, but she also makes it clear that God isn’t calling all of us to do what she did. He is calling us to say yes to whatever He asks of us right now. And being an intentional, loving, Christ-following, servant’s heart mom is what He’s calling to all of us mamas, right?! Some people may read this book and say it’s about Mercy House Kenya, but to me it is about a family living in obedience to God because Mom + Dad led the way. I want to say YES to that.

The most significant thing I’ve done for Jesus is to love and serve my family. Motherhood becomes me, and God uses it daily to refine me and draw me closer to Him.

I really can do that thing God is calling me to do.

When we live for Him one yes at a time, He rewrites our story.

I appreciate immensely Kristen’s honesty in Rhinestone Jesus because it shows all the weaknesses she thought would get in the way of her fulfilling God’s call on her life. And it shows just how God filled those in with His strength. He doesn’t ask us to do big things because He wants us to fail, but because He wants us to trust Him and let Him carry us through for His glory.

Deep down I knew God was calling us to something radical. And even though radical terrified me, I was more afraid of not following God.

Family matters.

If Satan can convince us that we aren’t good enough as a family to leave a positive imprint on the world, then he wins. We cant let that happen.

I can’t get enough of the stories and posts Kristen shares about raising a family to love, honor, and respect one another, to do what Jesus asks not matter what our culture says, and to live in a generous way, leaving behind the entitlement that has overwhelmed all of us. The heart of this all is to make your family a priority, to find a mission you can all get behind, and to LIVE IT together.

I can try to create an amazing career or impact the world with a global nonprofit, but if I end up with a family who is ignored or resentful of my efforts, what have I gained? More than anything, I want to work alongside my husband and children because it’s in serving together that we are all changed.

And it all boils down to this…

Rhinestone Jesus Quote

 

Wherever you are on the dreaming scale – whether you’re chasing that God-sized dream, sitting on the couch thinking you’ll never be able to follow the dream He has for you, or you have no idea what that dream is – read Rhinestone Jesus. Be inspired to say yes in the middle of your mess to whatever He asks.

Do you have a “yes” you need to say to God right now, in the middle of your mess?

 

I received this book to review. I was not compensated in any way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own!

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Armed With Truth: Wearing the Word!

I am very passionate about the Word of God. I think more so right now than at any other point in my life. It is Truth. It is my lifeline. It is my hope and sword and shield.

I am equally passionate about my boys knowing the Word of God for themselves. The older boys each have their own Bible and when they have a question about a verse, we get the Bible out and look it up. And we’ve made memorizing key verses a priority – hiding the Word in our hearts, if you will.

Scripture music has been a favorite way to memorize Bible verses, and now we’ve added a new favorite way to keep important verses close by…

Armed With Truth 2

Armed with Truth is an awesome new company designing temporary tattoos with Scripture as their focus! And they weren’t just created with kids in mind – Armed with Truth tattoos can be worn by anyone!

Armed With Truth 1

The basic Scripture tattoos come in packs of 10 based on themes such as fearless, identity, and missions for just $9.95. The ones we’re sporting here are from the kids pack!

Armed with Truth 5

The awesome graphic tattoos, seen above on my foot and below on Little J’s arm, are part of the designer series which come with two of the same tattoo for $4.95-$5.95.

Armed with Truth 6

We have received so many fun comments from people since we started wearing them! And for me, it has been a great way to keep the Truth I need to remember right in view at all times. I really needed that Philippians 2:3-4 reminder often during the days I was wearing it! I also wore one during my half marathon this weekend to remember all good gifts – health, strength, joy – come from Him!

I know you want to get your hands on your own tattoos for your family, so hop on over to Armed with Truth to pick out your favorites! And then enter our fun giveaway for $15 to spend in the Armed with Truth store!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

AWT blogger*I received these tattoos as part of the Armed with Truth blogger program. I was not compensated in any way for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own!

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#Awana14Launch: Exciting Things Ahead from Awana!

My first day at the Awana headquarters was amazing – a tour, meeting lots of staff, inspiring brainstorming sessions, and REALLY good food. You can see more from that day here.

Awana Blogger Day

Awana Matt's Office

Awana Out to Dinner

The second day was completely different but also completely amazing. Awana brought in its staff from around the country and world for an internal launch of a new direction for the ministry. Fun fact: Awana actually has its own “hotel” in the headquarters to house their missionaries when they come to town! I felt like part of a great big family all coming together for a reunion, and they really did treat us bloggers like family!

This launch day was full of fun news from Awana, inspiring talks from staff and guest speakers, great fellowship, and worship with Meredith Andrews! There may have been a little impromptu dance party to “Happy,” too. That was my favorite.

Over the next month, I’ll be slowly unveiling what we heard at Awana as part of their internal launch, but let me just say that they whole day just felt holy. I had to take my shoes off at one point during worship because I just felt His presence so strongly. The focus at Awana is passionately on bringing the Gospel message to all kids and my heart beats right there as well.

More to come in the next several weeks, but here are a few more photos and quotes to wrap up our #Awana14Launch time…

Awana Breakfast

“It’s not about reaching 10 million kids with Awana - it’s about reaching 10 million kids with the Gospel!” ~Zac Wendlund

Awana Sound Check

From Peter Greer, CEO of Hope International and author of Mission Drift:

I cannot outsource the discipleship of my children to Awana.

Self-centered service undermines impact, families, and ourselves.

Awana Meredith

“In the world of ministry, redemptive innovation leads to unprecedented impact.” ~Dan Lovaglia

Awana Tweeters

Awana Chick Fil A

“Every child everywhere deserves and needs long-term discipleship for the sake of the Kingdom.” ~ Travis Williams

Awana Worship Feet

Awana Matt

From Matt Guevara, campus pastor at Christ Community Church in the Chicago area:

You should not commit yourself to any story for your life that is not itself worth the spending of the only life you have.

Epic, quest, pilgrimage, mystery, love story – the Gospel is all these things.

There is space between ending of 1 chapter + the beginning of another. Use in-between to remember + anticipate.

Awana Group

This is most of the awesome group I had the privilege of hanging out with while at Awana! Brannon {in the middle back} was our point person on staff at Awana and he and his wife took such great care of us! He also knows how to PREACH about bringing Christ into our communities! If you’d like to read more from the other bloggers on the #Awana14Launch team, check them out here:

Felicia at Go Grow Go

Alicia at Making Time for Mommy

Heidi M. Hensley

Bill at Commander Bill

Ron Brooks

Jesse at Coffee with Dad

Steven at KidMinTools

Matt Guevara

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I’m with AWANA!

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ve seen an abundance of #Awana14Launch tweets over the past 24 hours. That’s because I am actually at Awana Headquarters in the Chicago area for a blogger summit and exciting internal launch event!

We love Awana at our church and in our home, but to be honest, coming into yesterday I knew VERY little about what Awana actually does and is all about. I am just blown away. The depth and breadth of this ministry around the world is so much more than just the Wednesday night clubs most people know.

The tricky thing about this summit and launch is we’re learning a lot inside details…and we can’t share most of them yet. Such a tease, right?! But I CAN tell you that the direction Awana is heading is exactly along the lines of what makes my heart beat excitedly regarding God and families and churches. It is a huge God thing and it is evident from every leader we have heard from how much prayer and thought and obedience to His call has gone in to the next steps for Awana. When an organization with a legacy of almost 65 years is moving in to something new and a little bit scary, you know God is up to something!

Enough with the teasing, I know. Here are a few fun images of our fabulous first day at Awana Headquarters…

Awana name

Awana Desk

Awana missions

Awana Sparky

Awana prayer

Awana meeting

Awana Bocce

Awana Hope Intl

Awana appetizers

Awana countdown

Stay tuned the week of June 16th for exciting, God-breathed news from Awana! And keep following me and the #Awana14Launch hashtag on Twitter for more sneak peeks throughout the day!

Have you or your kids been a part of Awana? Do you know much about Awana beyond the club experience?

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Spiritual Misfit

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I’ve got a lot of love for all of my lovely book-writing friends right now, but I have to admit – when one of those friends is a fellow Nebraskan and makes all sorts of references I totally get from having lived in the same town, the book is a little extra special.

Don’t worry if you’re not a cool Nebraskan like Michelle DeRusha and I, you will still love every single page of Spiritual Misfit, Michelle’s memoir of her lack of faith and the experiences that changed that around.

Spiritual Misfit

Words like memoir and faith make Spiritual Misfit seem like a heavy, serious book, but I assure you it is quite the opposite. Just ask The Hubby how many times I’ve laughed out loud or until I cried as I was reading this in bed each night. Michelle is hilarious and a fabulous, honest storyteller. I really didn’t want this book and her stories to end.

Even though I have believed in God my whole life, I connected with Michelle’s experiences on many different levels. First of all, we’ve both got the boy mom thing going on. The wrestling and fascination with creepy crawlies and the desire to pass on legacy of faith to my boys – Michelle portrays motherhood in such an unapologetic, refreshing way. Let’s face it. Motherhood makes us face so many of our deepest, darkest fears and shortcomings, but it also refines us. I loved reading the part motherhood played in Michelle’s walk towards faith. And the story about Cheez-Its – you just have to read it. We’ve all been there. {I heard Michelle tell this story in person at Refresh My Heart – tears of laughter streaming down my face.}

Another way I really related with Spiritual Misfit was in the missing out on relationship with Jesus until I was older. For whatever reason, I didn’t find my personal relationship with Jesus until I was 19 years old. When I finally made this faith connection, I felt a newfound openness in my prayers, but also some awkwardness. Praying out loud in groups was unfamiliar and I wanted to say the “right words.” Michelle’s honest thoughts on her experiences in bible studies and small groups were so refreshing – not knowing what to pray and how to be “real” as a new believer in a group of veterans. I often still feel this sense of discomfort when I keep my focus on what others in a group might think of my spirituality, not on what God thinks of me. Just like Michelle, just like all of us, I’m a work in progress.

Whether you’ve been a Christian all your life or you’re just starting to wonder if Jesus is for you, Spiritual Misfit is a book that will make you realize none of us “arrive” at a perfect faith – we’re all misfits on a journey. It’s all about always moving closer to Him in all things. I hope you’ll pick up Michelle’s fabulous book for a good laugh, a good cry, and a fabulous read.

 

I received a copy of Spiritual Misfit to review. I was not compensated in any way for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own.

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