13 Gifts for 13 Years

Yesterday was my oldest daughter’s 13th birthday.IMG_3304

I have my first teenager in the house. And…get this…over the next 7 years, another preteen will become a teenager every couple of years. When my oldest is 19, I will also be looking at a 17, 15, and 12 year old. It would be a sobering picture except that I fear once I enter that era, they will be out of my house as quickly as they appeared.

Truth be told, I am crazy excited.

I think.

I feel a bit like I am in the fourth quarter of an intense game where every pass in every play matters.

Veteran moms, is this normal?!

I usually love crunch time because I tend to work well under pressure. It certainly does not mean I am not immune to freak outs. My husband has talked me off the proverbial cliff more than I care to admit. He will, however, tell you that I get it done one way or another. The rush of kicking productivity in gear, giving all you have, and intentionally focusing on a goal, well, I’m already excited.

This teenager thing stirs in me a different kind of fourth quarter adrenaline. Maybe because there is so much at stake? A desperate plea to the Lord for help seems only a breath away most of the time.

Needless to say, my prayer life just got intense.

Turning 13 is a huge milestone. I wanted her birthday gifts to be different to represent this coming-of-age marker. So I began a creative search online.

After reading other moms’ blogs and searching for ideas, I “borrowed” a few ideas and created my own version of 13 Gifts for 13 Years. IMG_3308

Before you see 13 Gifts and think it’s overkill, look below to see that some gifts did not cost but a few dollars, and one costs nothing! I am a minister’s wife whose paycheck is earmarked for my kiddos’ tuition at their private Christian school. In short, birthday budgets are tight. Bring on the clearance isles. My point? 13 Gifts for 13 Years can be done on a humble budget or an extravagant one!

Each gift was selected to correspond to 13 verses. Through these years ahead, I hope she is reminded of foundational truths concerning her purpose and her identity.

I did not set out to share these, but as several friends heard about the informal “ceremony” and had questions, I decided to share my ideas. Moms unite.

1. We began with a new study Bible (ESV). As she opened the crisp pages, she was instructed to find Luke 11:28.IMG_0345-1.jpeg

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

After reading the scripture aloud, she read a card I had written and placed in Luke.

There is nothing more important than the word of God. It breathes life into your soul. I am praying you thirst for it and long for its teachings. There you will find wisdom, peace, and hope.

2. Before opening each gift, she was given a scripture to look up and read aloud, and then she would read the handwritten card found at each location. The second scripture was Proverbs 16:24.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Our words can be used to hurt others or to build others up. May you work to use yours for healing and be quick to encourage.

The sweetest thing I could think of? Ice cream! We gave her a gift card to a local ice cream dive.

3. Next, she turned to John 8:12.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is the light of the world and in Him there is no darkness. When you become tunnel visioned or feel as though you are stumbling in the darkness, look to Jesus and find the light and find life.

You probably guessed this gift – a candle! My oldest loves pineapples, so I happened to find an inexpensive keepsake pineapple candle for her room. IMG_0346-1

4. The next verse was Matthew 5:16.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Your smile lights up your face and is contagious. In a similar way, I am praying your light draws people to see the Father and glorify Him.

Her gift for this verse was a picture session with a local photographer. I really love this one because it is a gift for me as well (since I will display her pictures on my walls for years to come)! When the kids were little I was diligent to schedule formal picture session. As the years have passed, those sessions became few and far between. Pictures are a gift for us all!

5. Next up was James 1:5.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

One of the important virtues we can possess is a teachable heart. God has placed people in your life to impart knowledge, bring words of correction, and guide change…all important as you become a young woman. Stay teachable.

I looped her grandparents in on the next two gifts, and they picked her up a darling whiteboard for her room as a symbol for staying teachable.

6. This next verse/gift corresponds with James 1:5 and with the whiteboard, 1 John 1:9.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

You are only beginning your life into “teenagerdom” and adulthood…both likely to be peppered with mistakes. I am praying these mistakes lead you to a deeper relationship with Christ, as He has already covered them on the cross! In Christ there are no regrets, no shame, and no guilt. Let Him erase it all away.

What better reminder than an eraser for the whiteboard!

7. Next she turned to Isaiah 52:7.

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
    who publishes salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

What good is it if we know about God, have the key to eternal life in the Gospel message, and do not give it away? Step out in faith, share boldly and beautifully the love of Jesus with the world.

My daughter has been eyeing a pair of sandals for months, so I picked her up the pair she wanted – perfect for the verse!

8. Deuteronomy 20:4 followed.

“For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”

The love of the game and the love to win runs deep in your genes. You are after all a Teat/Burt. But, when the game is hard and you do not feel like you will come out on top, look to God to fight for you. Let Him give you the victory.

My oldest loves sports, so this gift was fitting and specific to that drive inside her. I found a scoreboard clock for her room, but this gift could be adjusted to fit any child’s specific loves. IMG_0352-1

9. Nearing the end, she turned to Romans 12:4-5.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

No matter what stage of life you are in, it takes a village of fellow believers to “grow up” in the Lord. God created us for fellowship with one another. Listen to those you are in covenant membership with and let them speak into your life.

I knew years ago raising kids was a group effort. Most teenagers tend to think they know it all, and I am sure mine will follow suit. As a teenager, I often needed to hear the same message several times from several sources before I “got it.” My husband asked our youth minister to write a note to our daughter and speak into her life. It was a really neat moment and I am thankful he was willing to pen the words for her!

10. Next, she turned to Luke 12:27-32.

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Sometimes these years ahead can bring you many worries. But these verses talk about the absurdity of thinking God is not going to protect and provide for you. He is an amazingly loving God, and He proved that in His Son. Lean into His love.

As a reminder of God’s love displayed on the cross for her, we bought a James Avery charm for her charm bracelet/necklace.IMG_0350-1

11. 1 Peter 4:8-9.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Two of God’s greatest commandments are to love Him and to love others. Pineapples are a sign of warmth, welcome, friendship, and hospitality. So much is wrapped up in our willingness to practice biblical hospitality. I am praying you continue to love people well.

I found (on clearance 🙂 ) a small pineapple with a picture holder to represent the principle of hospitality.IMG_0348-1

12. Next to last, I had her turn to 1 John 1:7.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

There are two key parts to this verse: 1) walking IN the light and 2) fellowship WITH one another. If you are tempted to use technology in such a way that draws you to the darkness or isolates you from fellowship, I pray alarms go off in your spirit. If, however, technology is used IN the light and draws you to fellowship WITH live, animate, beings, then you know you are finding pleasure in one of God’s gifts. Be TECH-WISE!

We bought her a new phone case to remind her to be tech-wise as she entered this new technological season.

13. Last, she was asked to find Hebrews 10:22-23.

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Purity and cleanliness are found in repentance and forgiveness, not in striving to “be good.” As Dad often says, “God is the bath.”

What more appropriate way to end than with a reminder we are saved by FAITH ALONE and not by our works. Her final gift was body wash to represent the constant and daily cycle of repentance and forgiveness found in Christ. What a precious gift to start over daily!!

I hope you can use some of these ideas and make them your own. While teenagers certainly are the future of the church, they are not only the future but the present church as well. Parents have no small task to raise them up in the Lord. We pray for God’s guidance and covering over all our mistakes. His will be done.

Here’s to the teens in our lives and to the moms and dads investing in the upcoming generations!

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New Year: Thrive (Day Thirty-One)

a-new-year-thriveWhen I was young, my mother told me at least once a day that she loved me “bigger than the whole wide world and more than all the tea in China.”

I thought it was silly and responded with the same sentiment. I also thought she was strange when she opened her prayers with “Abba, Father.”

I finally asked her what that meant and why she said a name of a band while praying. She said she was His (Abba’s) daughter, loved her heavenly Father, and emphasized how great His love for her and hers for Him.

I didn’t think much more of how my mom prayed until I grew older and had children of my own. Now that I am a mom, I often think of the amount of love I have for my three crazy boys and how they could do nothing to take that away.

You see, we don’t think about the unsurmountable love when we think of our relationship with our heavenly Father. We realize it and acknowledge it, but to truly know His love is something we cannot comprehend daily.

Or I can’t at least.

I think of the ways that I screw up and forget to take things to Him and try to handle them on my own. I think of my goals and don’t check to see if they are what our heavenly Father wants for me. I plan towards things selfishly and feel guilt and shame later…sometimes, much later.

But then I see my children and how they can make poor choices, and see the guilt and shame they experience.

I want nothing more than to take it away and hold them tightly.

I want to tell them and show them just how much I love them.

I want the pain and all the negative feelings to disappear.

I feel this must be a piece of what our heavenly Father wants for us too. He must want to hold us close and remind of us of just how greatly we are loved. And how beautiful He thinks we are.

As I close the day with telling my sons that I love them “bigger than the whole wide world and more than all the tea in China” and they yell “China” while laughing before I can finish saying it myself, I think how great I love them. I pray some day they will understand the love of our Abba, Father just a little bit more.

Nidal Pascoe

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New Year: Thrive (Day Twenty-Five)

a-new-year-thriveRecently the soundtrack from “The Greatest Showman” has been the only music playing in my house. In fact, as soon as we left the movie theater over Christmas Break, one of my kiddos pulled up the album on Spotify and “Project Learn All the Songs” commenced.

I have a tendency to completely immerse myself in an album if I am drawn in and love the music. Sometimes my family grows weary of hearing the same songs over and over and over again, but that’s how the music seeps down into the marrow of my bones. I turn the lyrics over slowly and repetitively on my tongue like a piece of ice on a hot summer day. The music melts in and becomes a part of me.

Most of our memories are wrapped up in some kind of sensory marker. If we see a picture, smell certain food, or go to a certain place, we can uncannily retrieve a memory attached to the sense engaged.

Music is the marker of my life and my life is full of musical Ebenezers (1 Samuel 7:12).

I remember the music from times of triumph and times of defeat.

I remember the music from times of joy and times of sadness.

I remember the music from times of love and times of heartbreak.

Just hearing certain music sets off a chain reaction of emotional memory and usually awakens a beautifully satisfying spiritual pilgrimage to past experiences.

I am currently going through the study, “Uninvited” by Lysa Terkeurst, a study I highly encourage you to go through!! Why? Unpack this statement, one of many nuggets of wisdom to take hold of memorize from the book:

“The mind feasts on what it focuses on. What consumes my thinking will be the making or the breaking of my identity.”

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How true is this?! I want to feast on the commands of God designed to bring me fullness of life and fullness of joy.

Knowing how I’m wired means 2018 is a year I am planning to immerse myself in songs that speak of God’s principles. And this spiritual discipline isn’t only for musicians. It’s biblical baby.

May the words of Psalm 119:54 ring true for ALL of us in 2018 as we journey on, singing songs along the way:

Thy statutes are my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.”

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Only by songs of grace,

Sara Danielle

Pastor’s Wife & Director of Thrive Women’s Ministry

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New Year: Thrive 2018 (Day Twenty-Four)

a-new-year-thriveIf you’ve spent much time in Christian women’s circles, you may have noticed that we have devoted many gatherings to exploring our identity.

Retreats, conferences, and topical Bible studies rush to assure us that we are redeemed and treasured, that our lives have purpose, that our actions carry eternal significance. If we just understood who we are — the message goes — we would turn from our sin patterns and our spiritual low self-esteem and experience the abundant life of which Jesus spoke.

Recently I attended a women’s conference at which this message predictably took center stage. One after another, all three keynote speakers took us to Psalm 139:14, urging us to see ourselves the way God sees us, as fearfully and wonderfully made. It could have been just about any women’s event, with just about any typical speaker. Christian women ask Psalm 139:14 to soothe us when our body image falters, or when we just don’t feel that smart, valuable, or capable. We ask it to bolster us when our limits weigh us down. But based on how frequently I hear it offered, I suspect the message may not be “sticking to our ribs” very well.

Why is that?

I believe it is because we have misdiagnosed our primary problem. As long as we keep the emphasis on us instead of on a higher vision, we will take small comfort from discussions of identity — and we will see little lasting change. Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self-worth, not that we lack a sense of significance or purpose. It’s that we lack awe.

Awe and Wonder

On a recent visit to San Francisco, my husband and I had the chance to hike Muir Woods. Walking its paths, we halted, slack-jawed, to gaze up at 250-foot redwoods that had stood since the signing of the Magna Carta. Towering and ancient, they reminded us of our smallness.

Muir Woods was a place to be awestruck. But not necessarily for everyone. I can still see the eight-year-old playing a video game while his parents took in the view. I’m not judging mom and dad — I’ve been on vacation with young children myself — but the irony of the image was compelling.

Research shows that when humans experience awe — wonderment at redwoods or rainbows, Rembrandt or Rachmaninoff — we become less individualistic, less self-focused, less materialistic, more connected to those around us. In marveling at something greater than ourselves, we become more able to reach out to others.

At first, this seems counterintuitive, but on closer examination, it begins to sound a lot like the greatest commandments: Love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength (marvel at Someone greater than yourself), and love your neighbor (reach out to others).

Awe helps us worry less about self-worth by turning our eyes first toward God, then toward others. It also helps establish our self-worth in the best possible way: we understand both our insignificance within creation and our significance to our Creator. But just like a child on an iPad at the foot of an 800-year-old redwood, we can miss majesty when it is right in front of us.

True Self-Awareness

We have done it habitually with Psalm 139:14. It’s easy to hear it as a “pink verse” when a woman is reading it aloud to a room full of women. It is harder to hear it that way when we consider who wrote it. Imagine King David writing it to give himself a pep talk about his appearance or his self-worth. No, Psalm 139:14 is not written to help us feel significant. We have only to zoom out and consider the entire psalm to see this. Without question, the subject of Psalm 139 is not us. Rather than a reflection on me, fearfully and wonderfully made, it is an extended and exquisite celebration of God, fearful and wonderful.

Awe yields self-forgetfulness. When we emphasize self-awareness to the omission of self-forgetfulness, we have missed the mark. You can tell me that I am a royal daughter of the King. You can assure me that I am God’s poem or his masterpiece. You can tell me that I stir the heart of God, that I am sung over and delighted in, that I am beautiful in his eyes, that I am set apart for a sacred purpose. You can tell me these things, and you should. But I beg you: Don’t tell me who I am until you have caused me to gaze in awe at “I Am.” Though all of these statements are precious truths, their preciousness cannot be properly perceived until framed in the brilliance of his utter holiness. There can be no true self-awareness apart from right, reverent awe of God.

Lift Up Our Eyes

So I implore you, women teachers, lift my eyes from myself to him. Teach me the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 31:30). Finding our identity in the wrong places is a symptom of succumbing to the fear of man. We measure ourselves by a human standard instead of a divine one. But the solution to the fear of man is not repeated assurances that we are loved and accepted by God. It is fear of God.

  • When I ask, “Does he delight in me?” Teach me, “He delights in those who fear him.” (Psalm 147:11)
  • When I ask, “Does he call me friend?” Teach me, “His friendship is for those who fear him.” (Psalm 25:14)
  • When I ask, “Is he for my good?” Teach me, “His goodness is stored up for those who fear him.” (Psalm 31:19)
  • When I ask, “Will he grant me wisdom?” Teach me, “It begins with the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 111:10)
  • When I ask, “Can I turn from my sin?” Teach me, “Yes, by the fear of the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:6)
  • When I ask, “Does he see the way I take?” Teach me, “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him.” (Psalm 33:18)
  • When I ask, “Does he love me?” Teach me, “His steadfast love is for those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:1117)

The fear of the Lord is linked to contentment (Proverbs 15:1619:23), to confidence (Proverbs 14:26), to blessing (Proverbs 28:14), to spiritual safety (Proverbs 29:25), and to praise and adoration (Psalm 22:23). It is no wonder, then, that the much-referenced Proverbs 31 woman is called praiseworthy because she fears the Lord.

Teach Us Awe

As Ed Welch has rightly diagnosed, we must fight fear with fear. We cease offering reverence and awe to a human standard by instead offering it to its true object: God himself. This is worship. And when we “worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness” (Psalm 96:9) an interesting thing happens: we do rediscover our true identity — as sinners redeemed by grace, in a manner that defies human understanding.

In that moment, the one in which we tremble and stammer, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful woman,” our hearts are ready to drink in the good news that we are daughters of the King. The priceless pearl of his love for us can at last be properly valued. The miracle of our acceptance through Christ can at last be properly savored.

It’s time for women teachers and authors to abandon the thin gruel of self-reflection for a message that sticks to our ribs. Women desperately need to be discipled into the joyful practice of self-forgetful worship. Help us lift our eyes to towering majesty. Help us learn awe. Teach us the fear of the Lord.

 is an author and Bible teacher. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, where she serves on staff. She is author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds and most recently None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing).

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(Originally Posted Here: https://www.jenwilkin.net/blog/2016/07/trading-self-focus-for-self.html)

New Year: Thrive 2018 (Day Twenty-Three)

a-new-year-thriveDo not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”

Philippians 4:6

I tend to worry…a lot.

I have worry verses underlined and highlighted in every Bible that I have.

If I am not careful and focused on praying about my worries, then I let them take control of my spiritual and physical health. I have literally made myself sick thinking and pondering over worries in my life…my kids, my students, whether I might have hurt someone’s feelings, flying (or when someone I love is flying)…

The thing is, I know I can’t change situations by worrying! But if I am not focused on God, then I let worries control my thoughts.

This is the best analogy I have heard for worrying:

Worrying is like a rocking chair…It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

I have to constantly give my worries to God and let Him handle them.

He is in control, and I am not.

So let us truly not be anxious about anything and pray about everything.

Kelly Rhodes

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Thrive: New Year 2018 (Day Twenty-Two)

a-new-year-thriveWell.

It’s 2018.

It’s the year my firstborn child will leave home. Today, she turns 18 years old.

And lemme tell you, if turning 45 doesn’t make a girl feel old, 18 candles on the cake of your child —will. I started this blog when she was 8, and if you remember that, you probably feel old too now.

Her senior year has been a sweet one and I’ve become a walking fortune cookie of All The Things I don’t want to forget to tell her. It feels like I’m trying to give her a crash course in everything.

A few nights ago we both dissolved into a puddle of tears as our conversation turned from dorm room to missing her brother and sister. So, yes, we are handling it well.

We’ve talked a lot about purpose. I think it’s a hot word for this generation and it’s been a focus for our family for as long as I can remember. But it’s also easy to feel pressure and panic when you aren’t quite sure what you were created to do.

Here’s my advice for her (and you) and a reminder for the rest of us: If you’re not sure of your purpose, follow your passion. It will lead you to the right place.

When I found my sweet spot–that place where our passion, what we’re good at (our skill) and God’s timing collide, it was divine.  I love how my dear friend, Ann Voskamp puts it, “You were made for the place where your real passion meets compassion, because there lies your real purpose.”

Saying yes to our purpose is more about courage and faith than opportunity and success. I don’t think we always recognize our God-sized dream for what it is, especially when it’s wrapped up in our normalcy.

My sweet spot wasn’t exactly a success story. I think we often confuse glory with something glorious. Nothing really changed, not for a long time. But I had changed. I was pursing my passion. I was living authentic. I was satisfied and that changed everything.

I discovered that one thing we are called to do—our purpose—is really secondary. It’s only found after we pursue the primary, the ultimate goal of our lives which is to bring glory to God. This is our foundational, primary mission and purpose for living. It is what we were created for. Isaiah 43:6-7 says, “We were made by God for His glory.”

There aren’t two paths we’ve been given—one for us to pursue our dreams, the other to serve God. When we divide our lives up into those compartments, we work for our glory not His. But when our lives flow with the central purpose of shining His light, it gives us to deep satisfaction and contentment, and leads us directly to the secondary. I have found John Piper’s statement to be true: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Our primary job is to have a relationship with Jesus. It’s the only way to discover the contentment in life we all crave. And when we focus on intimacy with God, He provides the right timing, couples it with our hard work and skills, and passion is born.

So, my dear 18 year old girl– believe this truth: where you are today is the place He has put you and who you are is how He created you and what you’re good at is a gift. Follow your passion and whatever you find yourself doing—being a student, chasing a career, becoming a wife or mother one day, pursuing your passion—do it unto God. And your purpose will collide with your passion and you will thrive.

Kristen Welch

Wife, Mom, Author, Blogger of “We Are That Family”, Speaker

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(Originally Posted Here: http://wearethatfamily.com/2018/01/youre-not-sure-purpose-follow-passion/)

New Year: Thrive (Day Twenty-One)

a-new-year-thriveThe heart is such an important organ in our body.  It not only pumps blood through our body to help us live, but it also is the proverbial center of our emotions.  There are so many verses in God’s word that describe the condition of the heart – broken, hard, whole, pure, caring, soft, joyful, troubled, grateful – and so many more.

As I have thought about what to write, I wanted to talk about having a grateful heart.

Looking back over this past year, my heart has been many things – troubled, caring, joyful and grateful to list a few.  Being involved with missions at Taylors Valley Baptist Church, I can truly say “my heart is grateful” for the fellowship of our body of believers.

I sometimes feel like I’m always asking you to do something, spend something, or pray for something, and I can honestly say you have NEVER let God or me down. Whether it’s for our yearly Honduras Mission Trip, Backpack Buddies, scholarships for summer camps, our mission offerings or Operation Christmas Child, you have always gone above and beyond.  

My prayer for 2018 is to have servant heart for what God will use me for in His Kingdom.

What is your prayer for the year? Where is your heart today and for this new year?

Be ready for what God will put on your heart in order others might know Him and those who know Him may know Him better.

So, it is with a grateful heart that I look forward to what we as a church body will do to help spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.  

May God’s grace, mercy, and peace be yours this year.

Dianne Arwood

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