Why I bother reflecting….

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I spend time regularly reflecting on my thoughts, attitudes and the way I interact with those around me. It is one of the most valuable things I do. This is where the rubber hits the road, This is where I do business with the Lord. This is where I grow, mature, repent, forgive and am humbled again and again.

I can’t hide here.

Since the 18inch Journey last April I have spent more time intentionally writing it all down. Over and over I take time to discover the ‘why behind the what’.

‘Why did I overact so strongly when I was misunderstood earlier?’ ( Because I hate injustice of any kind)

‘Why did I get frustrated with Jon when he tried to help me?’ (Because I love to be in control)

‘Why were my thoughts so critical towards myself for making a simple mistake?’ (Because part of my value still comes from getting everything right)

‘Why can’t I let it go when I don’t fully understand something about God’ (Because I don’t always trust Him)

Theres always a reason for our broken ways of thinking, feeling and relating. The Holy Spirit will always reveal the truth if you’re willing to hear it. The more you do it the quicker your pride breaks down, the more you do it you begin to see patterns to your brokenness. Healing and wholeness come hot on the heals of truth and vulnerability.

Because I have practised this sometimes quite painful and pretence crushing discipline, Im starting to do it without the pen and paper every day as I live my life….It’s brilliant. I quickly recognise when one of my ‘sticky struggles’ is rearing its head and sort it much quicker. The fruit is beginning to grow both in my more positive mindset and my relationships, particularly my marriage and parenting.

A recent example;

On Thursday morning I really wanted to have some quiet time as it had been a while. So I decided to get up super early and nail my jobs to make the most of it. I got to crossfit for 6.30am, then straight to Tesco. I got home for 9am and had the fairly unrealistic expectation that I would have the whole 2 and a half hours before nursery pick up to spend reading/writing. (I’m always over ambitious and deluded when it comes to time) Jon had of course got all the kids up, sorted, done lunches school run etc and had started work on my return. As reality kicked in and I realised I now had to eat, shower, pack the shopping away, sort the breakfast pots etc my irritation grew and grew. As the minutes slipped away all my negative agreements began to rear up in mind.

‘theres never enough time’

‘nothing ever goes to plan’

As well as very unfair feelings of anger and blame to the rest of my family

‘Why didn’t the kids put the cereals/bowls away’

‘why didn’t Jon straighten the kitchen’

Slam, Huff. Slam, Huff.

Poor Jon who had only helped me out came in to make a coffee and made the mistake of asking me if I was ok….my selfish complaining began to come out. Historically my whole morning would have been ruined in my eyes and Jon and I would probably have an argument…

However I caught myself quickly and quietened quickly. I felt that inner nudge, notice all he has done to help you instead of the one thing he missed. Say thank you. Your not making eye contact (another thing I do when I’m annoyed) All of this is happening in my head and nobody is going to notice or pull me up on it. But I notice, I don’t want to be like this.

So I make a choice I know I’m freaking out and being horrible because I never think there is enough time, the tighter I grip it the more it falls away from me. So I do the exact opposite of what I want to do I breathe deeply, I stop stomping around, I give eye contact and I say thank you. It hurts, it crushes my selfishness. The fruit is beautiful…

My morning isn’t ruined. We don’t have an argument. I kicked selfishness’s ass!

I’m embarrassed to write this. I feel ridiculous that I have these thoughts but even as I risk vulnerability and share them with you I’m becoming more free. I don’t want to stay where I am and use excuses to justify unacceptable ways of thinking and behaving. I want to grow and I want my life to marked my love and kindness. I think it’s worth the work.

I encourage you reflect on your life, admit your faults, find your freedom.

Its so beautiful and every part of your life will begin to flourish

Love Emma

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Listening and letting go

‘Theres always room for everything that matters’ ( Call the midwife, Christmas Day 2018)

As a mother I have learned over the last 11 years to listen out for the voice of the Lord in and through everything. For years I punished and tormented myself with striving to create a life where I could meet with God and experience him according to my preconceptions and preferences. I love the quiet, solitude, nature and my journal. I always meet Him there, I make sure I go there regularly, but it isn’t my daily reality. Through the fire, through persistence, through desperation I have found a new way, a way I will keep on finding for the rest of my life;

Everything is sacred.

The Lord is always present and always speaking, that’s the deepest reality, not how we feel or our circumstances.

Sometimes He uses words, sometimes films, nature, heartache, relationship, bible study, beauty, song, church gatherings, poetry or suffering. But more often than not its a whisper, not a shout. Sometimes He even speaks through silence and you have to extra quiet deep down inside to hear that…..

For the last decade Jon and I have created a rhythm of seeking a word of theme for our year. The Lord has always answered that prayer, his response is often a surprise and nearly always disruptive. I always begin the year with a fast, reactive interpretation of the word or theme and I finish the year realising I had no idea what God had meant by it, and what He worked in and through me was far deeper and richer than anything I could have come up with.

My word for 2018 was grace. I imagined spending the year trying to give more grace to Jon and the kids, to our team at church and to wider friends and family. I ended the year knowing God has been teaching me how to receive it.  This morning a tiny reaction, so small and insignificant showed me I’m making progress. I woke late, the house is a bit messy and as I sat on the toilet (such a glamorous story!) I glanced over and saw our bathroom plant totally dead

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Instead of my usual reaction of anger towards myself for neglecting it, annoyance at the waste of money to replace it, I found myself letting it go and deciding to just go and buy another one. Not really choosing to have a good and rational attitude just having one. Grace towards myself, fruit growing in my life, change happening.  Tiny, small, insignificant yet so beautiful to me. I felt heavens smile. Went downstairs and the first thing that caught my attention was this little lemon tree shoot i’m nurturing a gift from a friend. It’s thriving.

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It’s unrealistic to expect everything in our live to be thriving all the same time. No one can live like that. I found gratitude springing up. I do do some things well, and it’s OK that I make mistakes. Other people are also allowed to make mistakes, whatever we first live and do the work in in our own lives will always spill out to those around us. Without a doubt I have given out more grace this year to those around me than ever before as I have learned to receive it.

SO this year my word is focus. God gave me the word about two weeks ago and in that time I began my usual race to interpret it and make a plan. I was halted in my tracks. No more rushing ahead this year, Im waiting. Partly wisdom is making my wait on the Lord, partly circumstances is forcing me. But Im waiting all the same. Below is the list that began to swirl in my mind of what God might want me to focus on in 2019. This isn’t a joke by the way this is how intense and unrealistic I can be!

  • Getting up at 5.30am
  • A daily pilates routine
  • one to one time with my kids
  • supporting Jon
  • keeping the house really clean
  • the youth work at church
  • cross fit
  • my close friendships
  • my broader friendships
  • my prayer life
  • my giving
  • my bible reading
  • my marriage
  • decluttering
  • getting my book published

So waiting is new unsettling, control freak crushing, Jesus’s sense of humour plan.

He’s given me the word focus and then led me to a place through different circumstances  where I am unable to make plans and choose my focus. I mean He’s brilliant, I just love Him!

Christmas Day I was watching Call the midwife with my mum, I wasn’t prayerful or attentive but I was quiet, my heart, thoughts and plans were quiet as I allowed myself to rest and be present with my mum and the show.

Suddenly these words jumped straight out of the screen and grabbed at my heart

‘theres always room for everything that matters’

I filed it for later and when I went to bed I scribbled it at the start of my new journal. Whatever surprising things end up being my focus in 2019 He quieted my fears by interrupting call the midwife and telling me that whatever he calls me to focus on in 2019 will leave room for everything that matters. It won’t require my old ways of striving and needing to know everything, I can use what I’ve learnt in 2018 trust him to lead me in 2019.

Everything is sacred. He is always speaking. He is always present.

I pray Gods richest blessing over your 2019, and I pray you show yourself kindness however things end up playing out

Love Emma

Handling Disappointment

Life is full of disappointments.

Its not cheery, but its true. They come in all shapes and sizes and they matter.

I’ve been journeying through a few disappointments recently. Some of them big, some of them small, some personal and some relational.

As we grow up we learn so many practical and educational things but not many people grow up with someone teaching them to properly care for their hearts and handle their emotions. When it comes to handling disappointment I admit Ive never really known what to do. I guess Ive mashed together what I saw around me growing up with what Ive learnt from observing both the world and the church. The messages Ive received go something like this…

  • keep calm and carry on
  • have a good attitude
  • find the positive in it
  • be sad inside but don’t show it
  • but on a brave face in front of people
  • handle with humour, sarcasm and diminishment
  • toughen up and move on

Ive chosen to disregard most of those ways. They don’t work for me.

Im trying a different way, a more honest way, a more wholehearted way, a way that honours my story, reflects my faith, grows my character. A way that keeps me soft, open, willing to risk and try again. A way that I would advise others to do but struggle to give myself the grace for. By no means have I got this nailed but I’ve been trying this instead of the above….

  • Brutal honesty in prayer, there’s no point of sugar coating stuff with God…he knows what we really think and feel, and he resides in our reality not our denial.
  • Honesty with my family and a trusted few.
  • Acknowledging and owning my disappointment and other consequential feelings.
  • Catching and rejecting lies about God, myself and others that come up.
  • Allowing myself to fully feel the range of emotions that ensue.
  • Acknowledging that whatever it is matters.
  • Receiving love and comfort from the Lord.
  • Mourning what I’ve lost if its a big disappointment
  • Looking forward with gratitude and hope….I’m going to be ok
  • Seeing what I can learn from it

That sounds like a lot but considering most of this stuff happens in our minds and we think thousands and thousands of thoughts every day its not really. I want to give you an example of how this looks with a real situation to bring it to life.

I had a writing rejection last week and I was deeply sad and disappointed. When I got the email I knew immediately that it was a big moment, I felt the weight of it, I knew my response was critical. I could sense the love of the Father so strongly inviting me to walk with him right from the beginning, I knew there much freedom he wanted to teach me.

Its personal and raw but I want to walk you through it, because God walked me through it and it was hard, beautiful and worth sharing.

I got the email in front of Jon and Sophia as I read it out I tried not to cry, I knew instantly, this is worth tears…let them come…so I did. I wanted to harden up to protect Sophia but instead I was vulnerable in an age appropriate way, giving her permission to be sad when she is disappointed. I wanted to go inward and shut Jon out, but I softened and let him comfort me. It was so hard and so holy.

It was time for the school run and Jon offered to do it and take Soph. I wanted to say no, I hate feeling like a burden, but I didn’t I gave in and let him help me. It was so hard and so holy.

The dog needed a pee so I took him out in the garden, horrible thoughts assaulted my mind

‘Your a rubbish mum anyway, your not the right person to have written that book’

‘Your writing isn’t good enough’

‘Just give up’

‘Im totally overwhelmed, Im never looking at it again’

I wanted to agree with the negative thoughts, indulge in them, let them grow, allow in negativity and self pity. But I didn’t I rejected them and replaced them with truth

‘Im an imperfect writer and mum but I try my best’

‘I can cope’

‘Im not giving up’

It was so hard and so holy.

I went upstairs got in the bath and sobbed my heart out, I felt ridiculous but it was so releasing. I prayed, I read psalms, I journaled honestly about it all. I fought against ‘putting my best foot forward’ and ignoring what I felt, I let all my emotions pour out. This took a couple of days because Im a mum and my life isn’t filled with endless hours to reflect, but I found the time when I could. It was so hard and so holy.

I spoke to a couple of people I love and trust about it all. I wanted to sound super spiritual and say all the right things, I wanted to make jokes to lighten it all, but I didn’t. I let their words of love and encouragement come into my heart, I told the truth about how I was doing. It broke down my pride and faking it. It was so hard and so holy.

One of the most beautiful parts of it all was chatting it though with my kids. Letting them see me sad, inviting them into my process with the Lord, letting them see that I get affected by life too, and thats its ok to have feelings. Showing them we can be disappointed without giving up hope.

Finally I began to look forward with hope and honesty, trusting the Lord for my future. Im still figuring out all that Ive learnt through the rejection and disappointment, but one things for sure Ive learnt how to handle my heart better in disappointment! Im shedding off the false messages and destructive coping mechanisms. Im saying no to medicating, distracting and diminishing my pain, and you know what I feel good. I feel hopeful for the future.

Sorry for the long blog, it was a long journey!

As always I hope it gets you thinking about your own story

Love Emma x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sabbath; practising a value driven life

As a family we aim to practise sabbath. A day of rest, delight, fun, beauty and togetherness.  Sunday through Friday is busy with life. Like most families we juggle work, school, cooking, cleaning, shopping, after school clubs, church, friendships, exercise and a few surprises along the way! So Saturday is a day apart from duty and obligation. It is removed from expectation and demands. We all love it.

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Two weeks ago we got a puppy and it’s been a little crazy to say the least. Where some vague routine used to exist it’s plunged into survival mode. The previous 7 weeks included 4 trips away, although sabbath is something we practise….let’s just say it’ been a while.

I woke up on Thursday and I was done. The house quite understandably was a tip and my abiliy to cope with it was over. I decided when Saturday came we were going to have a sabbath. I know myself and my family well enough to know we never rest as well in chaos. Rest is not just a lack of activity it’s a state of mind.

So for 2 days we all chipped in and cleaned and tidied the whole house. At 7pm last night after 48 hours I finished the final touches and set the table for the following morning. I sat down and chilled….it was worth the work, I relaxed and slept like a baby.

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I woke up and I felt so light,  the joy of just walking through a clean house, eating, reading, playing, laughing and connecting,  without the weight of jobs that would normally need to be done. The kids felt valued and seen as a special place was set for them at the table in place of the normal rush and grab of a bowl of cereal

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We took our time, we went out for a walk and giggled at Barney diving in the sand. We ate chips in the car then came home to a movie

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I’m typing this in the bath now the 24 hours nearly over. We never switch off on a Saturday night with last minute plans and thoughts for church on a Sunday. So this 24 hours is our good gift given to us by a good God if we will take the time to plan for it and time accept it

Every Saturday is not perfect. That’s not a standard I would ever try and aim for.  I don’t want a perfect life.  That doesn’t’ exist. But I do fight to live by my values and sabbath is a value that keeps our family, faith and sanity strong.  It let’s our kids know they are important. I remember I am a human being and not a human doing. We all remember that we are loved for who we are and not what we do.

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Is there a lapsed discipline or delight in your life?

Have you ever considered a sabbath? Life is busy,  our minds and timetables are busy. Every family is different and a whole day doesn’t’ work for everyone,  could you set apart a few hours?

Do you need a rest?

Love Emma x

Own it!

 

 

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Earlier this year my husband and I went on a 4 day retreat in North Carolina called the 18 inch journey, a head to heart experience of who God is and who we are in him. When we came back naturally lots of people asked us ‘how was it?’ which was a hard question to answer about something so deeply personal that has impacted us so profoundly.

But now almost 6 months months later I want to share with you one simple thing that I learnt. Im ready to share it now because for 6 months Ive practised it consistently, and its starting to bear fruit….

Own it.

Own your life, your story, your victories, your sins, your failures, your disappointments, your joys and your frustrations. Because until you own something you don’t posses it, and if you don’t possess it, you can neither keep it or give it away.

Being aware of things is not the same as owning them. Lots of people are well aware of their limitations, damaging behaviours and bad habits. But finding true breakthrough and freedom from these things doesn’t come easy. Well it hasn’t come easy for me thats for sure.

It goes back to the garden. I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.

We’ve all been hiding in one form or another since then. An example of my experience would be something like this. I shout at the kids over something minor, then I feel a pang of guilt and shame ( I was afraid ) I feel embarrassed to have acted out in front of my family ( I was naked ) So I either ignore it or blame someone else ( So I hid )

Owning simple moments like the one described above is simple but not always easy to do. It means coming out of hiding, saying no to pride and being humble.

‘Im sorry for shouting guys’. Full stop. No buts…. ‘Im sorry for shouting guys, but you are driving me crazy’ Doesn’t count as owning the behaviour thats just blaming someone else for it.

We use wonderful excuses to validate our thoughts and behaviours, we think or say things like:

‘Oh well, you know what I’m like I just can’t keep quiet about anything’

‘Im just an angry person I can’t help overreacting’

‘I hate confrontation thats just how I am so Im not going to say anything to my coworker for publicly disrespecting me, I don’t like to cause a fuss.’

‘they always push my buttons and make me respond like this, if only they pulled themselves together I would never react badly’

Judge. Blame. Run. Hide.

So basically my major spiritual breakthrough this year has come from saying sorry. A lot.  I can literally feel myself softening and changing every time I say no to pride and yes to humility. Im starting to become less critical and judgemental of others as I do the simple and profound work of owning my life.

And today something incredible happened, it was small, invisible if you weren’t paying attention, but joy exploded in my heart as I watched one of my kids reject pride and own something. This small thing was the fruit of the spirit growing in our home right in front of our eyes.

They had misplaced something for a while and found it this morning. ‘I found my thing’ they shouted up the stairs ‘it was in my bag, someone must have put it there’. ‘no one really goes in you bag, are you sure it couldn’t have been you’ I responded ready for the battle I was sure that was coming about everything being someone else’s fault. He responded ‘ You’re right, I must have put them in there and forgot’

Jon and I just looked at each other in shock, ‘did he just admit something was his fault….’ For this child this is a big deal.

You better believe we celebrated this victory with him and Im happy to share it with you. Part of breaking down pride and owning your life is being able to share both the failures and the victories…otherwise you get false humility….and don’t even get me started on that!

The way I live my life and respond to things affects people, and yours does too. Our children particularly are unconsciously absorbing the way we deal with life and learning from it. Thats a fact.

I could have shared with you 1000 stories of failure in this area of my life but Im choosing to share this tiny victory because it works. Owning your life works!

Maybe saying sorry isn’t something you struggle with but just fill in the bank. Cant accept a compliment? Why is that? Cant have anyone disagree with you? Cant accept criticism? Cant let things go? Go silent and passive in the face of difficulty? Flip out every time you make a mistake?

The list is endless, and Im here to break the news that just trying really hard to act right doesn’t bring breakthrough. Thats just a recipe for a pressure cooker, I shouldn’t be angry, ram down the emotion, I shouldn’t be angry, ram down the emotion over and over smiling sweetly until one day a lady treads on your toe at the bus stop and you explode like Hulk. Theres a better way;

One of the kindest and wonderful gifts of the gospel is repentance. Super religious word with some weird connotations. But honestly I love repentance, don’t know what Id do without it. The freedom and joy that comes from admitting stuff, saying sorry to God and any people if applicable, then turning away from that thing towards freedom. Thats all repentance is and its amazing.

Anyway there you go, heart on my sleeve

I pray it helps you today

Love Emma

 

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The gift of correction

Sometimes we have to go back to go forward.

I love progress.

I hate going backwards.

I’ve got this niggly shoulder injury, Ive had it for years. Its never bad enough to really stop me doing anything, so I just ignore it and keep hammering on when it hurts. Turns out my body isn’t letting me do that anymore and last week I had to go and see someone about it.

My lovely boss Jenny worked away trying to loosen and relieve tension from my left shoulder. I wanted answers and a solution and I wanted them immediately! I don’t have the time or patience for process with this, I asked her ” Is it tense?, Can you see why it hurts sometimes?” To which she responded “It is so incredibly tense, Im surprised it doesn’t hurt all the time…”

Right OK.  I went into the Pilates studio as a student this morning, as I often do. Jenny kept gently correcting me and showing me the subtle bad habits I have picked up. These habits are small, unnoticeable to most in fact, but they are there slowly but surely damaging my shoulder.

Where my body isn’t strong and stable enough at its deepest level, other muscles switch on take the load they aren’t meant to carry. When I do a full press up or roll up or plank I look like Im doing it correctly but I’m not and over time I’m damaging my body.

So I’m on a slow, corrective, take it easy kind of plan for my shoulder. Even as I type Im annoyed, I hate slowing down! Im going back to basics, I have to retrain my brain and my body to do the work properly, building back up using the right muscles at the right time. Jenny’s correction is a gift to me should I choose to listen to it and do the work.

Sometimes we have to go back to go forward.

When we moved to Dunbar and started a church there was a lot of going back to basics. Stepping back and allowing God to teach us things all the time. As we have worked with other churches and different people, as we have faced our own failings, as we have parented without the support of wider family we have been given great opportunity to learn and grow.

Our everyday life is a fantastic teacher, and close friends and leaders can help us so much if we go to them humbly and allow them into our story. I want to be awake to my life. To my thoughts, words and actions. To take responsibility for my life and allow Jesus to grow me into his image.

The church plant has been an amazing tool for personal growth and mirror to see the truth. But I think being a mum is just as great a teacher. When my little humans run around displaying my less than desirable attitudes or reactions its an amazing opportunity to be corrected.

I’m the kind of person who can be thinking and feeling a hundred different thoughts at any given moment. I wake up and my mind launches straight out the starting blocks. At my core are some deep seated beliefs about myself and God which shape a lot of those thoughts and emotions.

I’m not enough.

God isn’t fair.

I must control and understand everything to be safe.

Fill in the blank………..

So I guess just like you I have a choice, do I keep hammering on and ignoring the brokenness in my life? Or do I slow down and head back into my story for healing and freedom?

Just like my dodgy shoulder shows up every time I exercise, my deepest beliefs show up every time I’m challenged in life. Giving time to go back to basics and allow the Holy Spirit and a trusted few to correct me is my gift.

Do you allow God and a trusted few to correct you?

The truth is I am worth the time and the effort to be whole and so are you.

Happy Monday!

Love Emma

 

 

Chaos, clothes and cleansing

I’m sat on my bedroom floor surrounded by utter chaos. Actually I’m sat right in it, in piles of clean clothes (and a few dirty ones) so I can keep my iPad on charge and write this quick unedited post while the kids are all content.

  
I woke early today after a late night and dragged myself out of bed, the need for a bit of solitude greater than my need for sleep. Groggy and grumpy I sat with my bible and journal and tried to connect, it was hard going at first and I ended up flicking through an old journal and reading. 

What I found brought me to tears, I saw myself and my striving through an unusual lense of kindness and mercy, instead of my usual critical and ‘try harder’ lense. I saw how much I try and fail and try and fail to have everything together. I sensed the Fathers smile and warmth over me and my efforts to live in relationship with Him. I ditched my agenda and just sat accepting that I am loved just as I am, room full of chaos and all.

Life has been really full recently. Full of trips, visitors, possibilities and challenges. Within it all I’ve lost any sense of rhythm and the care of my spiritual life, my home and my body have dissolved. Slowly and silently little foxes come in. I let worry and anxious thoughts run riot in my mind, I scroll mindlessly on my phone, I go to bed too late and sleep poorly, I speak and react without thinking, I don’t tidy properly and walk around my house in frustration at the chaos that is everywhere. 

Order leaves and clutter and chaos come and fill the void.

Sometimes we try and climb the mountain and put all the good stuff back in before we clear out the bad… It never works.

Sometimes a cleanse is needed.

We all know it In a physical way after lots of partying or over eating our body needs a cleanse, our houses sometimes need a cleanse, a sping clean. So do our spirits. What does that look like? 

For me it looks like going to bed early so I can get up early. It looks like order and routine. It looks like ditching the internet on my phone. It looks like treating myself with kindness and mercy, taking it one day at a time and embracing the messy process. It looks like time outside and time alone. It looks like repentance and intentional thought towards my thoughts, words and decisions. It looks like love.

It also looks like cleaning and decluttering my home and body, because we are one. Body, soul and spirit, mind, will and emotions. One affects the other.

How about you? Is there an area in your life that feels like chaos and could do with a cleanse? If so pray, start slowly, embrace the process and be kind to yourself like you would a friend or your child if they were struggling. Reject overwhelm and just begin.

I’m starting where I am. I’m starting with sorting and putting away clothes….

If this encourages you today, let me know your start point and I will be praying for you

Love Emma x

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