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Saturday, April 28, 2007


Photo credit: Flickr/shutterbugchik

There have been hundreds and hundreds of books and articles written on the Proverbs 31 woman. Many of us have probably heard those verses too many times to count. However, like any scripture, it must be "chewed" on, meditated upon, and processed over and over so that it can permeate our daily lives. I want to work through some of these verses and share my thoughts on them...and as always, I look forward to hearing yours!

I have heard so many women get frustrated as they read these verses...feeling like they could never live up to the "standard" that is set forth in this passage for a godly woman and mother. But take heart and don't be discouraged! These are words of uplift and guide you in your journey...not a list of rules. So read on with an open heart and let God speak to you where you need it the most.

Bring Good, Not Harm

v. 11-12
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
v. 23
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
In the early days of my marriage, I decided that I would never speak harshly about my husband in the presence of others. Not even in jest. No matter how frustrated or annoyed I might be with a situation, it was between Matt, myself, and God. I didn't run to my girlfriends, my co-workers, my mom, or the message boards. I spoke directly to Matt about my feelings and also to God. And in 7 years of marriage, we have never had a "fight" that lasted more than a few minutes. We never go to bed angry. I attribute those things largely to the fact that I focus on "bringing him good, not harm". I don't talk to others about our home life and let harsh feelings brew and brew all day.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you are in a verbally or physically abusive relationship, you must speak with someone about it. And if you and your spouse cannot get past certain issues, you may need counseling with a third party. But those interventions are very different than speaking with others about him and bringing him "down" in their eyes. Build him up! Help others to see him for the amazing man that he is.

I also want him to be confident in my abilities to run our household whenever he is away. If he knows that he doesn't have to worry about what is going on at home, then he is free to focus on the other important things in his life.

Shop Wisely
v. 13
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
v. 16
She considers a field and buys it;out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
v. 18
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In our consumerist society, we are constantly fighting against messages of "buy me!" and "pay later!". These three verses are each speaking against impulse spending and frivolous purchases and calling us to shop wisely with consideration, eager hands, and resourcefulness. We can apply these verses to our life whether we are grocery shopping, browsing eBay, or trading services. A few ways that we can do this:
  • Make a grocery list and menu plan before going to the store.
  • Stretch what you have and "make do".
  • Plan ahead.

Rise Early
v. 15
She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and
portions for her women servants.
I've posted about this before, but for my own sake, I need to talk about it again. This is something that FEELS almost impossible for me to master. When I was in college, I went through a phase of about 6 months where I was getting up every day at 5:30 a.m. and reading the Word...preparing for the day ahead. It was an amazingly sweet time of fellowship with Christ and I benefited greatly. However, since getting married and having a child, this discipline of getting up early has eluded me. There is just no comparison between having your quiet time in the early morning hours and having it later in the day. It is a battle with my flesh to get up early...especially if I have stayed up late.

This verse doesn't speak directly about getting up early to pray or meet God, but I am assuming that this is a given. She gets up while it is still night (BEFORE) the rest of her family and feeds HER soul first so she can then feed her family (body and soul).

E.M. Bounds, a pastor who was born in 1835, wrote one of my favorite passages on the discipline to rise early:

"A desire for God which cannot break the chains of sleep is a weak thing and will do but little good for God after it has indulged itself fully. The desire for God that keeps so far behind the devil and the world at the beginning of the day will never catch up.

It is not simply the getting up that puts men to the front and makes them captain generals in God's hosts, but it is the ardent desire which stirs and breaks all self-indulgent chains. But the getting up gives vent, increase, and strength to the desire. If they had lain in bed and indulged themselves, the desire would have been quenched. The desire aroused them and put them on the stretch for God, and this heeding and acting on the call gave their faith its grasp on God and gave to their hearts the sweetest and fullest revelation of God..."
This man is completely amazing. The "chains of sleep"? Oh yes. I can realate. Read more of his thoughts on prayer here. Several other authors have fueled my desire to rise early over the years. Becky Tirabassi, author of Let Prayer Change Your Life (you all must read this!), made a vow to God that she would get up early and pray for one hour every day for the rest of her life. She has an amazing story. Another woman, Laine, is a beautiful woman of God and she writes "letters of encouragement" to other Christian women. She speaks extensively on this a very convicting fashion!

Jesus modeled getting up early to pray over and over...along with other disciples. This is one of the disciplines I am actively working on in my life right now, and I would love to hear those of you who have "mastered" it! I take comfort in knowing that because it's something that is God's will for me and that He will be pleased with, He will not hesitate to answer my cries of "HELP ME GET UP LORD!".

Work Vigorously
v. 17
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
The definition of "vigor" is "energetic activity; energy; intensity". I want to apply this to my life immediately. When it's time to do dishes, I want to do it with INTENSITY! When it's time for
laundry, I want to do it with great ENERGY! Not only will it get done faster, but it will be a great workout, which completes the rest of the verse. My arms will be STRONG for my tasks. If I can do housework in a speedy fashion, I will have less need to work out every day because it will come naturally. I like it.

Be Generous To All
v. 20
She opens her arms to the poor and extends hands to the needy.
A generous woman is a beautiful who is constantly looking to help people. Looking for opportunities to bless others. When it speaks about the "needy" doesn't necessarily mean someone needing money. It could be a friend who just needs a word of encouragement. "Extend your hands" today to someone who needs help...whether it be someone on the street or someone in your family.

Clothe and Take Care of Your Family
v. 21
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothes in scarlet.
Basically, take care of the needs of your family. Clothe them. Feed prepared FOR them. Make sure there is enough food on hand. Have a plan for the day. If you see clothes that will fit your child next year for 25 them. If they are "scarlet"...that's even better. :) hee hee...

Be Crafty and Make Your Home a Haven
v. 22
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothes in fine linen and purple.
v. 24
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
Not everyone is blessed with the desire to "make" things...but I think these verses go beyond just "sewing" and making things. Just the fact that she is making things leads me to believe she is concerned about the "feel" of her home. We are called as wives and women to make our homes inviting, cozy, and wonderful to be in. It's part of the way we can bless our family and our husband...creating a haven for him to come home to every night.

Laugh At The Future
v. 25
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Wow. This is one of my favorite verses. To be clothed with strength and dignity is an amazing picture of a Godly woman. Think about the Christian women in your life...I'm sure you can pick out a few that embody this description...I know I can. Even amidst life's difficult times, they can still LAUGH at the days to come. I recently heard John Piper speak about this verse...and he said that this type of woman is not naive...she KNOWS that there is difficulty ahead, but she can still look to the future with HOPE. Here is an excerpt from his sermon (which you all should go listen to or watch). Powerful stuff:

The deepest root of Christian womanhood mentioned in this text is hope in God. “Holy women who hoped in God.” A Christian woman does not put her hope in her husband, or in getting a husband. She does not put her hope in her looks. She puts her hope in the promises of God. She is described in Proverbs 31:25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” She laughs at everything the future will bring and might bring, because she hopes in God.

She looks away from the troubles and miseries and obstacles of life that seem to make the future bleak, and she focuses her attention on the sovereign power and love of God who rules in heaven and does on earth whatever he pleases. She knows her Bible, and she knows her theology of the sovereignty of God, and she knows his promise that he will be with her and help her strengthen her no matter what. This is the deep, unshakable root of Christian womanhood. And Peter makes it explicit in verse 5. He is not talking about just any women. He is talking about women with unshakable biblical roots in the sovereign goodness of God—holy women who hope in God.

Speak With Wisdom
v. 26
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
I went to the commentaries for this one...
Matthew Henry: She not only takes prudent measures herself, but gives prudent advice to others. The law of love and kindness is written in the heart, and shows itself in the tongue.

John Wesley: She is neither sullenly silent, nor full of impertinent talk, but speaks discreetly and piously, as occasion offers. In her tongue - Her speeches are guided by wisdom and grace, and not by inordinate passions. And this practice is called a law in her tongue, because it is constant and customary, and proceeds from an inward and powerful principle of true wisdom.

The tongue is a powerful thing...especially one wielded by a woman. It's very easy to use it for harm and not for good. I pray that my words would be full of wisdom and grace, not "impertinent talk". Every word is counted in heaven...have I said anything today that I would not want to have "counted" by Christ?

Watch Over Your Household and Don't Be Lazy
v. 27
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Another great commentary by Matthew Henry: Her heart is full of another world, even when her hands are most busy about this world.

Wow. It is possible to be overwhelmingly busy running your household and still have a heart focused on God. I love the phrase "watches over the affairs of her household". A woman of God will know what's going on. She knows when she's out of dish soap and she does something about it. She knows when her children need her undivided attention...she knows when something needs to be taken care of...she just KNOWS.

Now...for the next part. Eating the bread of idleness. An interesting word play for me...because I LOVE bread. Bread is tasty. Bread smells good. Bread is warm. But too much bread is bad for my body. Just as too much idleness is bad for my household, my spiritual life, and my family. Two other verses come to mind regarding this:
Psalm 90:12
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:17
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us...yes, establish the work of our hands.
God wants to help you be productive. He wants to help you effectively "run" your household. He wants to show you HIS plan for your day...but you must let Him. Pray that He will reveal that plan...even if it's at the expense of YOUR plan.

Be Praised
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
If you are striving to be a woman of God...focusing on all of things things talked about here...your family should be happy! They will be happy because they will be taken care of, fed and clothed...and the household will be running smoothly. There is no greater joy for me in earthly endeavors than to have Matt praise me for how I am doing as a wife and mother.

Beauty Is Fleeting
v. 30
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
We live in a nation obsessed with looks. Hair, nails, much time did you spend today making sure that all of that was how you wanted? I hope that we can all spend MORE time with God each day than we do getting ready in the morning. Piper had wonderful words on this from the same sermon that I linked to above:

And this leads to a third feature of Peter’s portrait of womanhood, a focus on internal adornment, rather than external. First Peter 3:5 begins, “This is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves.” This adornment refers back to what is described in verses 3-4:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

We know this does not mean that all jewelry and all hair styling is excluded because then all clothing would be excluded as well, because it says, “Don’t let your adorning be external . . . the clothing you wear.” What he means is: Don’t focus your main attention and effort on how you look on the outside; focus it on the beauty that is inside. Exert more effort and be more concerned with inner beauty than outer beauty.

And he is specific in verse 4. When a woman puts her hope in God and not her husband and not in her looks, and when she overcomes fear by the promises of God, this will have an effect on her heart: It will give her an inner tranquility. That’s what Peter means in verse 4 by “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

I bolded the part that I really like. Our MAIN attention in life should be inner beauty: getting to know who your heavenly father is...learning His will and studying His word. If you can do that, it will transform you from the inside out and will affect much more than just you. It will affect your family, your friends, and everyone you come into contact with.

There is a book that I have been reading consistantly over the years and it has had a profound impact on my views of womanhood and motherhood. It's called "A Woman After God's Own Heart" by Elizabeth George. I am going to devote an entire post to this one book because I know that many will benefit from her words. If you've ever wondered or struggled with the "submission" part of a Christian marriage, stay tuned :) In the meantime, I will leave you with a passage from that book called "The Heart of the Homemaker". My post on the book will go into more depth, but I felt that it coincided well with my desire to be a Proverbs 31 woman:

The Heart of the Homemaker
  • I will get up before my family, in order to prepare myself spiritually and physically.
  • I will prepare breakfast for my family and sit with them while they eat.
  • I will work diligently to send every member of my family off in a good mood.
  • I will consult my husband every day to see if there is anything special he wants me to do for him.
  • I will keep a neat and orderly home.
  • I will respond positively.
  • I will meet my husband's needs.
  • I will put my husband before my children.
  • I will personally meet and greet each family member as he or she returns home.
  • I wlil be predictibly happy.
  • I will prepare special, good food for my family.
  • I will make dinner a special time.
  • I will grow DAILY in the areas of Lord, marriage, family, and homemaking.
She wraps it up by saying...
Is yours the heart of a homemaker? If not, ask God for His transforming touch. As He empowers you to obey, He will give you JOY at the task to which He calls you and enhance the beauty of the tapestry you are weaving.
I'm off to ask God to TRANSFORM me and make me JOYFUL about my alarm clock ringing at 5:00 a.m....wheeeee! Bring on the coffee!

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Local vs. Organic

Do you know where your food comes from? Do you know how many miles your apple traveled so you could crunch on it's juicy goodness? You should. I read labels like it's going out of style (was it ever IN style?). I want to know where my food is produced. I've been known to come home from the grocery store and look up the farm who has their sticker on my avocado.

Luckily for me, Montana and the surrounding states have a huge number of organic farms. AND, if it's not organic, it's local. BUT SARA! Aren't we always supposed to eat organic so we don't die a horrible pesticide-induced death? Well...yes. However, buying local has many, many advantages. I love going to the farmer's market and meeting the farmer's face to face. When I eat that delicious, red, tomato...I know who picked it. If the farm is not certified organic, I am able to just ask the farmer what they use on their produce. There were several vendors in Iowa at the Farmer's Market who were not certified, but did not use pesticides. You just have to ask. However, it's harder to call up the corporate farm in California what they used on their crops.

I started thinking more about buying local foods when I found the 100-mile diet site. It's radical and wonderful. I love my avocados and bananas a little too much to do it, but I love the concept. Last summer when we had a share in our local CSA, I experienced a little of what it might be like to eat 100% local and 100% in season. When the tomatoes were done, they were done. You better savor it now, because pretty soon, they won't grow anymore! Boo hoo! But it made me appreciate the food so much more. Someday, I would love to grow all of our food...canning and preserving along the way to sustain us through the winter. Oh, and I want to live in a sweet yurt. But that's another blog.

On my most recent trip to the coop, I was looking at salsa and I was disappointed because almost all of them were made by "big organics" (companies who are owned by a larger, nastier corporation...i.e. Boca, which is owned by Phillip Morris! Oh the horrors!). So I turned around and in the cooler, I found a yummy, bright red salsa made just a few miles north of town! It was not organic, but in that case, I would much rather support my local grower than Muir Glen...which is owned by General Mills. It also tasted so much better than the jarred variety.

I walked over to the bread section and I made sure to grab 2 loaves made locally by Wheat Montana instead of the Rudy's, which I used to buy. They aren't organic, but they have the ingredients I look for and no added sugars...except honey. AND, they are made right here. We also have a delicious bakery just a few blocks from our house called On the Rise...and I buy yummy crusty bread from them.

If I can't find something completely local, I go for the next best thing...the surrounding states. I will choose Oregon, North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin over other states. Be sure to READ your labels! Every mile your food travels (a.k.a. food miles) to get to you is gasoline being burned and resources being used up. Most sources say that the average piece of produce travels about 1,200 miles to get to your plate. Yuck! I just don't like the thought of all my food traveling in a truck to get to me. I especially don't like thinking about buying food from other countries. How do I know that those organic grapes from Chile are truly organic...and who knows what kind of residues are on them from the trip. Call me paranoid. Just another reason to buy close to home or grow your own.

When we are thinking about going out to eat...we try to always think about where the restaurant is getting their food as well. We have a great Farm to Restaurant program here...and most of the places we support buy locally, and some are organic too. We have so many amazing local restaurants here...the food is so fresh and perfectly prepared. Living in a tourist town has it's perks.

To sum it up...buying local is tastier, better for your local economy, and great for your body. If you can find something that is local AND organic, life is good. KNOW your food. KNOW your farms. Where you put your grocery money is as important as your vote! Be informed about your food choices.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I've been thinking trashy thoughts again.

I have re-read Garbage Land and I've been putting my trash can under scrutiny...and I recycle everything I can. However, instead of focusing on reducing TRASH, I want to start focusing on reducing intake of potential trash into my house and life. Where is it all coming from?

Disposables: For the most part, I have gotten rid of all of the disposable products in our house. The occasional bottled water creeps in, especially after we've been traveling. I hate bottled water, but it tastes so much better than nasty gas station water in the middle of Wyoming! I carry my trusty Klean Kanteen bottle everywhere (and one for Bella too) and we fill it up whenever we can. I am going to focus more on this and try not to get caught "waterless". And for those of you who are buying bottled water for use at home...STOP! It creates so much waste (even if you are recycling). Instead, invest in a water filter. If you're like me and just like to have something cold to grab from the fridge, fill up empty glass bottles with filtered water and keep them in there. Bozeman just announced that it's not recycling glass anymore, so all of my old root beer bottles are now water bottles. Wine bottles work great too and make an elegant water pitcher when company is over!

I am also guilty of one too many disposable coffee cups in the trash. I have a harder time remembering my stainless steel coffee mug when I go to my local cafe, but I'm getting better. Most shops have no problem putting your drink into your own cup...and some will even offer a discount. That's great, but the discount is just pathetic. It's usually around 10 cents. 10 cents! It's just not very motivating. Now, give me 50 cents off my coffee and I'll never forget my re-usable cup. Chains like Starbucks and Caribou usually don't offer a non-disposable option...but many local cafes do. You may have to ASK for a ceramic glass, however, as most will give you a disposable cup by default. It's mind boggling to me to think of how much coffee cup trash I have been personally responsible for in my lifetime (case in point...the above photo is my cup from Sunday!). Here are a few stats on disposable cups. And a great article about how Starbucks could have saved the world.

Packaging: Have you ever REALLY paid attention to the hideous amount of packaging you bring home when you go to the store? I did an inventory of my search of items that I can buy without a package. Check out your own kitchen and see where you can reduce. An easy first step is to not bring anything into your home that is "single serving" or "single use".
  • Cereal...will only be purchased in bulk. This will avoid the box that so quickly crowds my little recycling bin.
  • Granola bars...will be made from scratch. Matt takes a Clif bar with him to work everyday, so I will TRY to start making them from scratch to avoid the box and endless wrappers.
  • Condiments and misc...such as ketchup, butter, mayo, etc. I can make ketchup, mayo, and mustard from scratch (they are much tastier too!). I will examine all options when shopping for these types of items.
  • Milk...most of the time I buy soy or almond milk in cardboard containers. I can make my own nut milks at home and put them in reusable glass containers.
  • Much of what I purchase is already in bulk...spices, grains, flour, tea, etc. and I already have containers at home for them.
  • Other types of packaging...such as that for craft supplies, etc. can be avoided by striving to buy used. The thrift stores don't have any packaging!
Paper: There is so much paper! It's everywhere! Whenever I can, I use an electronic copy of a document and try to avoid printing at all costs. The invention of email/internet was a wonderful thing to save paper waste. Of course, if you print out your emails or articles online, that kind of defeats the purpose. Receipts drive me crazy. I rarely keep them (unless it's a large purchase or I know I might return it). If all retail establishments, fast food chains, etc. would implement a rule to ask if you want your receipt before they print it...just think of all the paper saved! Around the house, be sure to use both sides of the paper, re-use envelopes, etc. for craft projects, re-use padded envelopes for mailing, and shred paper to use for packing boxes. And of course, RECYCLE. However, just becuase you CAN recycle something doesn't mean you should use it. It's best to not use it in the first place. Especially with paper because it can only be recycled a limited number of times, unlike glass which can be recycled endlessly.

I found an interesting little clip detailing our country's trash addiction. It's 19 minutes long, but worth watching. See it here. It is based on the book "Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage". Their website offers lots of statistics:
  • Packaging comprises the single largest category of household waste, taking up 30% of all landfill space in the U.S.
  • About 80% of U.S. products are used once and then thrown away.
  • More than 60% of waste in U.S. landfills could be composted.
  • Methane gas, which is always produced by trash rotting in landfills, is 21 times more heat trapping than carbon dioxide; garbage presents a major global warming threat.
  • Garbage production in the U.S. has DOUBLED in the last 30 years.
I have always been interested in the concept of "Zero Waste". I am inspired by communities who have taken the initiative to make hard changes. EcoCycle describes this in more detail and has lots of links.

San Francisco has recently banned plastic bags AND has proposed banning Styrofoam take-out containers. Go San Francisco! That's my kind of town.

The trash problem in the U.S. seems so overwhelming, but people are taking notice and changes are slowly being made. If everyone makes small changes, it will add up to a big change! What will you do to REDUCE your trash today?

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Voting is Fun

I adore Apartment Therapy and have always wanted to enter one of their contests. So, with this last apartment, I finally did! Our apartment was listed the running for the "Coolest Smallest Apartment" for 2007. Click here to check it out and vote! Pretty please? Can I bribe you with promises of posting more often? tee hee!

Thanks everyone!

Friday, March 30, 2007

No Impact Man

I came across an interesting blog...No Impact Man. It's one man's radical attempt to decrease his family's "impact" on the earth over the course of a year. It's inspiring and CRAZY. It's been in the news lately, so you may have already heard about it...but I know that many of you will enjoy tracking his progress this year as they live mindfully.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Walk Slowly

Anywhere is walking distance, if you've got the time.
Steven Wright

Walk slowly...or quickly if you're late. Just WALK! One of the reasons we fell in love with our new apartment was because we have so many amenities within walking distance. There is no reason to use my car to run errands. All of the following is within a 5 minute walk:
  • 4 grocery stores (including the coop and another smaller health food store)
  • Library
  • Post Office
  • Hardware store
  • 8 coffee shops
  • Children's Museum (indoor playground)
  • Park
  • Ice cream shop
  • Every restaurant imaginable (from sushi to pizza)
  • Video rental store
  • 3 Thrift Stores
And if I just have to go somewhere else...the bus stop is 1 block away. Of course, when it's freezing cold, walking doesn't sound so appealing, so I do drive sometimes...but I try to avoid it. I have been working on planning my week so that if I do have to drive, I can clump everything into one trip. I've also been trying to be more mindful of if I truly "need" something. For example, do I NEED to go to Costco to buy my bread? They carry a locally made brand that I like...but it's on the other side of town on the busiest road in town. I can walk directly to the bakery that makes it and even though I'm spending a little more, I am saving on gas, emotional energy drained in traffic, and I would be supporting a local business. Or I could just make my own bread! But that's another post. I would encourage YOU to examine your extra car trips and work on condensing them or eliminating them altogether.

This morning it was about 20 degrees and we bundled up and walked to our friend's house for a play date. I was not really looking forward to the cold weather, but the rewards were many:
  • Exercise. It feels so great to walk. Move those legs!
  • Fresh air. Freezing cold fresh air. It was good.
  • A slower pace...which results in you inevitably looking around at your surroundings. Today I noticed so many wonderful things on our walk...a family having breakfast around their table, cute houses along the way, majestic mountain views...things that I wouldn't have paid attention to if I would have jumped in my car and rushed over there.
  • Time to think. Check out this interesting essay on walking by Henry David Thoreau.
My entire life I've wanted to live in a city that I could walk places, but I've always thought I'd have to move to Manhattan to find it! Walkability will be at the top of our lists the next time we move (let's hope that's not for awhile). I feel so blessed that we have the opportunity to "stroll" to our destination. Next on my list...a sweet cruiser like this one. Wheeeeeee!

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