Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Intentional Family Traditions - Giving

A few months ago a home in our neighborhood caught fire. We were home and smelled the smoke and didn’t know how close it was, so I quickly got the children in the car and we left. As we drove out of our neighborhood, we found that the home 5 doors down from us was completely engulfed in flames. It was a very traumatic evening for the children and me. The next day one of my daughters was very troubled and she said, “Mommy, we need to take those people a meal because all their food burned.” She also wanted to give them all of the money in her piggy bank to help rebuild their house!
I was blown away by her huge heart to give!

Sadly the two things she wanted to do weren’t really things that we could do. The couple, who we don’t know personally, obviously wasn’t living in the destroyed home, so we couldn’t take them food. And I didn’t know how to give them all of my daughter’s money! I didn’t want to kill her generous, compassionate heart, but I just didn’t know how to reach out to this couple who is now gone.

I don’t think there is anything lesser about giving to an organization or donating a toy at Christmas time. However, there is something very different about giving to someone face to face. And if it is someone that you don’t really know, it can be rather uncomfortable. Why is that? Why are we sometimes insecure to give? My daughter had no reservations about bringing food and giving all of her money to a couple we’ve never met and she was so disappointed when there wasn’t opportunity to follow through.

Christmas is a great time to give to those around us. You don’t have to look far to find someone in need, they could be in your very own neighborhood. And getting children involved with giving is so important. They need to know that many people in the world are suffering. They need to know that blessings are meant to be given away. They need to know that they have something valuable to give that can help another.

Here are some ideas of Giving Traditions to start with your family this year!

1. Give a gift to your neighbors – it’s amazing how much children learn by example! A wonderful holiday tradition is to give your neighbors and service people a small, homemade holiday treat. This includes the mailman, garbage man, gardener… It’s fun to encourage your children to be the ones to deliver the goodies so they learn the joy of giving. Have them help prepare the gifts too!

I recently had the joy of eating Butterscotch Bits and I immediately decided that this would be our homemade treat to hand out this year! I'm going to package them up in little cellophane bags with tags.  Make some extra for yourself – trust me!!

Butterscotch Bits
12 oz butterscotch morsels
1 c. peanut butter
8 oz Chex (sometimes I use more)
1 c. milk chocolate morsels

1. On low heat, melt the butterscotch chips and peanut butter until smooth ~ keep stirring.
2. Remove from heat; add cereal and stir until all the pieces are covered.
3. Stir in milk choc chips until combined but not necessarily melted.
4. Spread on wax tray.
5. Chill 30 minutes and break apart

2. All of the toys and loot children get at Christmas can be overwhelming. I read on another blog last year that for each child, the parent buys one “need,” one “want,” and one “surprise.” I thought this was a thoughtful way of not going crazy with the gifts.

3. I think it’s really fun to teach the children to give by giving them a set amount of money to buy gifts for their siblings. It teaches them to think of others and what they would like.

4. There are a lot of less fortunate people all over the world who can be so blessed by a Christmas gift. Here are 2 organizations that do a great job of reaching out to those in need. It’s really easy to jump on board what they are already doing. Check out their websites.

Operation Christmas Child – giving to children in need around the world

Angel Tree – giving to children of prisoners

CHALLENGE: How are you going to be Intentional with giving this holiday season?

FLASH BACK QUESTION: Have you thought of some new traditions to start to prepare your family for the birth of Jesus? Please share!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011


*Intentional Family Traditions will post Tuesday - tomorrow.
Happy Monday!

Grab a blanket and a cup of tea, this is going to be a long one!
But I’m so excited about it, so please read on!!
I’ve always loved to be on stage, I cannot lie! From dance recitals to musicals – I’ve loved to perform. When I was in college, I had to give a persuasive speech for a public speaking class. I remember that my professor was Jewish. I remember that a few students in my class were friends of mine that I knew did not share my beliefs. And I knew that my topic was to be Jesus. A persuasive speech about Jesus – trying to woo the students and professor to enter into a relationship with the only person who would radically change their lives and give them purpose, significance, healing, rest and peace. I don’t remember exactly what I said. I don’t have any idea what comments were given. I don’t know what grade I got. I only know that Cody spoke to me afterwards and wanted to talk more about Jesus with me. It was that very moment that I knew God had given me a voice to speak of his truth and in a way, persuade others to follow him. Not persuade in the sense of trick or manipulate, but persuade by telling the truth – the rich, unconditional, loving, miraculous, all inclusive truth of Jesus Christ.

I remember my first night of college ministry as the Director of University Ministries at Malibu Presbyterian Church. Over 300 students gathered on that Tuesday night and I decided that if the students were going to be hearing from me every Tuesday night, it was important that they knew where I was coming from, and knew that I believed everything I would be sharing over the next year. I got up and shared my testimony. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more alive. At the end of the evening, a freshman came up to me, her name was Millie. She said that as she listened to my testimony, it was like I was telling her story. She went on to tell me about her life, her family, her fears, her confusion, and said that she wanted to make Jesus Lord of her life. In the office of the church, we prayed together and her life was changed. As I drove back to my apartment that night, around 1am, I clearly felt God say that it wasn’t always going to be like that. I wouldn’t always see results to my speaking. I wouldn’t always know if what I was saying was making a difference. But I wasn’t called to success, I was called to obedience. My job was to be obedient to speak the truth of Jesus Christ and God would do what only He can do – change lives. Thus began a deep love and passion for speaking and teaching about Jesus.

Over the course of the next 6 years, in addition to speaking weekly at UM, I had the opportunity to speak to 2,500 college students at Pepperdine’s convocation, women’s retreats, high school retreats, university retreats, and church services.  After leaving college ministry and getting married, I took a break. Our twin girls came along a year and a half into our marriage, so my speaking opportunities shifted to baby talk, singing nursery rhymes, and saying silly poems. After I got into a routine with the girls and caught my breath, a few opportunities to speak drifted my way. I was blessed to return to the college ministries I had worked with to speak at their retreats. I also was asked to share in some young adult groups. But, with the babies, my exposure was mostly with moms. I then began to teach a group of young mothers and enjoyed the fact that the gospel knows no age or life stage limits! It covers all seasons and walks of life!

At the beginning of this year I sat at the beach and read Joshua. As I did, I knew God gave me a challenge for this year – Be strong and courageous. Little did I know that the very next month I’d have to be extremely strong and courageous as I walked into my ultrasound to find that there was no longer a heart beat for our fourth child. I’ve had to be strong and courageous this year to protect my children, send them off to school, and stand up for them. I’ve had to be strong and courageous becoming a single mother 3-4 days a week as my husband’s work schedule radically changed. There have been some big things and there have been some little things that I’ve faced, but all have required me to be strong and courageous.
Today is no different.

For the past 6 months I’ve felt a strong calling to speak and teach. My excuses have been, “where?”, “How? I have 3 small children?”, “Who?”, “How do I begin?” My insecurities and fears have gotten the best of me and so I’ve sat quietly and struggled with my passion, my calling, and my doubts. At a conference I attended in August, a speaker was talking about doing what you love and living into your passion. He said stop obsessing over all the things you need to start, and use what you have. I immediately thought of this blog! He said, take small steps with what you have in hand, and bring people along. Last week I e-mailed 6 people who have been very instrumental in my life and ministry and asked them to pray with me about this journey I’m about to embark upon. Their responses only affirmed what I felt God was calling me to.

So, with what I have in hand, I’m taking a step towards my passion and calling and putting a new tab at the top of my blog called “Speaking.” Sounds little and simple, but for me, it’s huge! This has been an uncomfortable process (you can read more about it here and here) – self promotion isn’t my favorite! But if I didn’t feel so passionate and convicted of what I am to do, I wouldn’t do it.

Take a moment and click “Speaking” at the top of my blog.

A good friend said to me once, “how can anyone call you if they don’t know your number?” Meaning, how could I expect people to know that I desire to speak at their retreat or conference if I never tell them?!
So, I would love for you to prayerfully consider me speaking at your next women’s retreat,
conference, or ministry event. 
I'm stepping out in faith with what I have and I'm going to pursue my passion!

I will be updating my “Speaking” tab regularly with new clips of me speaking and other information.
AND….. I didn’t forget!! The winner of the Advent Devotional is
thanks to Random.org
Please e-mail me your address and I’ll ship it out!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

In case you need some inspiration for your Thanksgiving fruit platter today!!!

Today is the last day to enter the Advent Devotional give away.  Go here to enter
 I can't wait for tomorrow!
 I'm really excited to share an important post with you
and announce the give away winner.

Happy Turkey lovin' today!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm Grateful

Yesterday was the day of the Kindergarten Thanksgiving Play!

It was so amazing and although some parent removed my sweater from the seat I saved and threw it on the floor to take my seat, I was grateful that I got an extreme side view of my precious girls as Native Americans!

As I sat on the floor, practically behind the stage, I made a quick decision to just enjoy the play and not be bitter about not being front and center. And trust me, it was a decision – it did not come naturally!

Earlier this year I was doing Grateful Heart Friday posts every Friday to cultivate a grateful heart in myself. I don’t believe that gratitude comes naturally, but rather is something that we need to practice. I’d taken a hiatus from my GHF posts, but was reminded yesterday again that gratitude is a choice. I didn’t get the perfect photos that I dreamed of. I barely could see my girls say their poems. But I was so grateful that I was there! I’m grateful for precious littles. I’m grateful for their teachers who put together such a wonderful performance with the children with obvious care and thoughtfulness. I’m grateful for those pilgrims who took a leap of faith and trusted their hearts to pursue freedom in worship.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

*I’ll see you back here Friday as I share how I, like the pilgrims,
am taking a step of faith to pursue what God is calling me to!
And I’ll announce the winner of the Advent Devotional.
If you want to still enter to win, click here and leave a comment at the end of the post.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm getting excited!!

I can't wait to share something very exciting on Friday!
In addition to an exciting post for me, I'll be announcing the winner of the Intentional Family Traditions advent devotional!  If you want to win this awesome family devotional for the Christmas season, just leave a comment on yesterday's post.
Happy Tuesday!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Intentional Family Traditions - Advent & a little give away

I have a strict rule: Nothing Christmas before Thanksgiving! But I’m about to break that rule (again). This time I have to because of the timely nature of what I’m about to share. So, if you’re like me and can’t handle anything Christmas before the proper time, please read on, just this once!
I promise it will be ok!

I grew up in a family with a lot of holiday traditions. Every year was the same and we loved it! I think that’s why I love Christmas so much - more than the amazing funnel cakes that we only got once a year, or the magical pajamas that just appeared on Christmas Eve - Christmas traditions were something I could count on. We found security and grounding through our traditions. We forged an unbreakable bond that only the Jones family shared. They were our traditions and they were special to only us. At the holidays, I always knew I was a part of something great. I belonged to something bigger than myself and that was an exclusive group called The Jones Family.

     It wasn’t until last year when my neighbor inquired about our family traditions growing up that I realized that not everyone grew up with family traditions. But my neighbor, seeing the joy that came over me as I shared about Christmases growing up, wanted that desperately for her family now and was making an intentional effort to start some new family traditions with her husband and children that she didn’t have growing up. I admire that so much. Being intentional with our families is so important. We only get one shot at this and it goes so quickly! The value in being intentional with how we do family has a powerful impact that reaches through the generations.

Through this 5 week series of Intentional Family Traditions I’m going to share with you some fun and meaningful traditions to incorporate this holiday season. I hope you’ll share some of your tradition highlights and ideas too! Most of all, I hope to challenge you to be intentional this holiday season with putting your family first and focusing on Jesus above all else.

So, here is a new holiday tradition that we’re starting this year and I want to encourage you to do the same. I’ve ordered an Advent Devotional and we’re going to do a family devotional every night in the month of December. We always try to do fun things that keep us focused on Jesus throughout December, but a nightly devotional will take it to a new level! There are so many great resources out there and I honestly had a hard time choosing the “right” book. But I decided to just go for it and trust that it will be wonderful.

Advent means: coming or arrival. The Advent season is the season of preparation for the coming of Christ, the arrival of the Messiah. I’m looking forward to focusing my heart on the coming of Jesus every night in December. Through this devotional I’ve chosen, there is a daily scripture reading, brief devotional and then a family activity like making an ornament, singing a carol, or going outside to star gaze… I know this is going to bless my family this year.

CHALLENGE: take some time between now and December and decide how you want to be Intentional with preparing your family for the arrival of Jesus. There are tons of resources at Christian Book (dot) com.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ GIVE AWAY ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I was so excited about this new tradition that I ordered 2 books and I want to give one away to one of you! So, to kick off Intentional Family Traditions, I’m giving away the book, Our Family Christmas, this Friday.
Our Family Christmas: A Memory-Making Devotional 
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post
saying that you want to be Intentional with your family this holiday season!
You can enter as many times as you want and I’ll pick a winner on Friday. 

Friday, November 18, 2011


I attend a women’s Bible study on Thursday mornings and yesterday a woman in our small group shared a word of encouragement that was completely off topic from our study, but she felt like she had something to say. She said God’s mercies are new EVERYDAY. We need to give ourselves grace as moms. His mercies are new EVERY MORNING. It’s new, it doesn’t need to be the same as it was. Today is new. EVERYDAY is new.

I’ve always loved how God makes all things new in us when we choose to follow him. I also love how he makes all things new when he forgives us. This topic gets me fired up because I love the restoration, healing and redemption of Christ. But when she kept saying that EVERYDAY God’s mercies are new for us – it really struck me in a new way. That very morning, as I brushed me teeth, I asked God to make me joyful and smile. I’ve felt like I lost my joy awhile back and whereas I have glimpses of it, for the most part I feel like I’ve lost my smile. There is no real reason, which makes it all the more frustrating. The joy of the Lord is my strength – give me your joy Lord! It’s almost like I’ve type cast myself as a joyless mom and I’m secretly carrying that title. But when she said that His mercies are new EVERY MORNING, it really struck me. The lack of smiles I had yesterday doesn’t carry over into today – today is NEW. I can start again. I can be different today. My mistakes yesterday don’t carry over into today. Today is new. I don’t know – but this really hit me in regards to my guilt for not being a very joy filled mom. I realized that just because I lacked joy yesterday doesn’t mean that my new permanent identity is “Joyless Mother”! EVERY MORNING is new. Ahhhh, I needed to hear that.

*I’m really excited about Monday to kick off 5 weeks of Intentional Family Traditions! And I have a great book to give away to boost your family holidays this year.
See you Monday

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Love Your Neighbor

Last night I was a little chilly, so I grabbed a pair of slippers to keep my feet warm.  All the memories came flooding back.  Many years ago I lived in an apartment in Santa Monica with a lovely roommate.  In the building next to us there was an old woman who often stood on her balcony which looked directly into our window.  She looked a lot like the old woman in Snow White with the poisoned apple.  Her hair was long and wirey gray and her back was hunched over, making her about 4 feet tall.  If I’m being honest, she kind of scared me.  My roommate and I were attending Fuller Seminary at the time and in a class my roommate was taking, they were doing a study on loving your neighbors.  Ashley decided to put her lessons into practice and reach out to the old woman on the balcony.  Thus began a beautiful friendship with Bryna Gerber.  Ashley ended up getting married and leaving our apartment, but I had forged some deep bonds with Mrs. Gerber and continued to go visit with her and glean from her wisdom.  Her apartment was neat as a pin.  She lived there for over 50 years.  She brought her babies home from the hospital in that apartment.  She entertained in that apartment with friends from her husband’s company.  She was widowed in that apartment.  Bryna loved to knit and she used to knit her husband’s socks!  (I thought that was so romantic!)  One day she took me into her closet where she had a dozen bags filled with knitted slippers in every color.  She asked me if I’d like a pair and I gladly accepted.  Every time I came to visit, she offered me a new pair of slippers and after awhile, I had quite a collection!  I certainly didn’t need 10 pairs of slippers, but it brought her so much joy to give them away.  It made me sad to see all of those bags of slippers with no one to give them to.  When I took a team of college students on a mission trip to Poland, I asked Mrs. Gerber to knit the girls on my team slippers.  She was over the moon about the project.  I took her to the yarn store to buy new yarn and she got to work.  This little old woman who used to scare me as she stared at us from her balcony, was really a wise lady with many gifts and talents and a generous heart, just waiting for someone to say something more to her than hello.  About 5 years ago when I moved back to Southern California, I went to visit Mrs. Gerber.  There was a package on her doorstep that was addressed to someone else.  I knocked, but no one answered.  I walked away and cried.  I was pretty sure of what had happened, but didn’t want to admit it.  I will always remember Mrs. Gerber and always be convicted by that sweet old woman who I would have otherwise quickly passed by to hurry into my apartment; but Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself.  He says, “whatever you’ve done for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you’ve done for me.”  Is there someone you know that is lonely?  Is there someone that you see all the time and quickly avoid?  Don’t miss an opportunity to love Jesus through loving your neighbor.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Intentional Family - Tough Calling Part II

As I left for the final day of the conference, my husband shared his desire to go back into full time ministry, but didn't see how it was possible.  I was walking out the door and didn’t have time to unpack this complex statement, but his words didn’t sit well with me. Prior to getting married I was in full time ministry and living a life of great adventure. I got to take college students all over the world on mission trips, I got to see the hand of God move in mighty ways, I got to experience radical faith in a way that kept me up at night. I loved my life. A quieter life as a wife and mother has been a bit challenging at times, I won’t lie. When I first met my husband, he was an associate pastor of a church and he too had a life filled with God’s amazing work. He left full time ministry to pursue a calling to law enforcement and over the past few years he has longed to return to ministry but doesn’t know where or how. On this morning, when he honestly shared his fears about the future, I was so sad because I strongly feel that if we are following God’s calling, He will provide for our needs.  I had no idea what was yet coming that morning in a lecture from Bill Hybels called “Tough Callings.”
“Are you willing to take a tough calling?” Bill asked. He talked about searching for the new president of Compassion International a few years back and knew that the caliber of person they needed most likely would not be willing to take a huge salary cut, fly coach around the world to visit the poor and oppressed, and step down. But they found a man who was willing to take a tough calling and give up his private jet and came to serve as the Compassion president.

Mama Maggie Gobran spoke – a modern day Mother Teressa – who serves the most severely poor people of Egypt. “If you want to be a hero – do what God wants you to do.” Wow, what a challenge.

Bill talked about Jeremiah’s tough calling to be God’s mouth piece and deliver tough words to the nations and be beaten and despised for it. He again asked, “Are you willing to take a tough calling?”

Here’s what I wrote through my tears that morning:
Honestly, it would be, perhaps not “easy,” but a welcomed calling to go to another country and serve those in need. To do something radical, something risky, something life changing that gets my heart racing and daily forces me to my knees in complete dependency on God. I salivate at the thought and dream of a life of complete abandonment. My tough calling is to live where I’m at and serve my family. Sometimes it’s tough to support and honor my husband who has a different calling right now. Sometimes it’s so hard to submit to his leadership when I’d go in a heart beat.
I realized that for me, my tough calling is to trust and obey right now, where I’m at. My tough calling is to be the wife God has called me to be, even if that means setting some of my dreams and passions aside and trust that God knows far more than I do. My tough calling is to submit.

Marriage is a tough calling. No matter how much you love your spouse, no matter how compatible you are, no matter how committed you are – marriage is a tough calling. I think what makes it so tough is that the enemy knows the power of marriage and how it radically affects the whole family and he wants for nothing more than to see it crumble. We must stand firm in our marriages and pray for protection over our marriages.

CHALLENGE: Take some time this week to get alone and get honest – what is the toughest thing about being married for you? Pray and ask God to protect you most in that area from attack. Pray that God would strengthen you and give you a heart to be the wife that God has called you to be.

FLASHBACK QUESTION: How is God blessing you in the toughest areas of being a mother?

*Next Monday Intentional Family will kick-off a 5 week series on Intentional Family Traditions. I hope you’ll share some of your favorite family traditions for the holidays!

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like.....

I'm a stickeler when it comes to holidays.  No candy corn before October 1st, and no Christmas music before Thanksgiving!  But today is a little different.  A few months ago I was asked to speak at MOPS about holiday traditions and as I've prepared, I've been getting into the Christmas spirit a little bit early!  Shhhhh don't tell, but I've even listened to some holiday tunes - I just can't help it!
I'm really excited to share with the moms this morning and I"m excited to share all about holiday traditions with you too - on November 21st, my Intentional Family posts will be all about holiday traditions through the month of December.  More than some good laughs and great memories, family traditions give us a great sense of belonging and security.  I hope you'll join me on Mondays for Intentional Family Traditions.
Now I've gotta run and eat a candy cane to make sure my breath is Christmasy fresh!!
Happy Weekend

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Embrace The Yummy Cabin

 What a Yummy Weekend
In this yummy cabin
With these yummy women
Celebrating this delicious gal!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A New Season

Last weekend I got a dreamy invitation to spend 3 days in the mountains with 5 phenomenal women.  I was so honored to be included in this get-away!  When we arrived at the cabin, it couldn’t have been more perfect – cold, crisp air, and snow falling onto the beautiful log cabin.  This little tree out the front door caught my eye.  It wasn’t hard to miss because it was brilliant red!  But what stood out to me most of all was the snow atop the bright red leaves.  A tree stuck in 2 seasons!  The changes that fall brought were still evident as the early winter snow fell, only slightly changing the bright red color to pink.  I thought about how in life, sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye to a season and embrace a new one.  The past is familiar, comfortable, easy.  The future is unknown, daunting, and a challenge.  But we cannot fully embrace a new season of life until we step out of the season we’re in.  We cannot receive the blessings God has waiting for us in a new season  if we still have a foot in a past season.  We must say good bye and leave an old season behind, fully embracing the change that is inevitably occurring.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Intentional Family - Tough Calling - Part 1

Another session at the Global Leadership Summit that really spoke deeply to my heart was entitled, “Tough Callings.” They talked about how it is easy to glamorize leadership – we gravitate towards leadership opportunities that forecast success, fame, financial security – it’s easy to get hooked on the narcotic of success.

      I thought about this in regards to being a mom. We all want success as a parent and it wouldn’t hurt to have a little recognition for it! It’s easy to glamorize our life as a mother and always highlight how fantastic life is and how great our kids are. The pursuit of perfection can become a drug and before we know it we’re comparing ourselves to others, killing ourselves to do more than humanly possible, and chasing idols that pull us away from both our family and God.
      It’s a tough calling to be a Godly mother that seeks to please God alone and not the other moms at school or church. It’s a tough calling to be a mother of challenging children. It’s a tough calling to be a mother of special needs children. It’s a tough calling to be a mother.
      But I believe this is because the role of a mother is so powerful and her influence stretches far beyond her own children. The enemy knows the power of a mother and he wants to do all he can to thwart us and in so doing, injur our children and their future potential.
      As mothers, we must be intentional with our relationship with Jesus and seek his protection against the enemy everyday. We must be keenly aware of our own weaknesses and put on God’s armor to protect these weak areas.

      The desire to be a fabulous mother must come from a deep, genuine desire to please God – no one else. The longing to “get it right” must come from a deep place of humility, knowing that it is only by the power of God within you that you can do anything.
      Stay encouraged mom! Whether your tough calling as a mother is to stretching circumstances with your children or if it is the struggle of your own pride and selfishness – this thing called motherhood is a beautiful tool to refine us and make us more like Jesus. Don’t get caught up in the addiction to success – get caught up in Jesus and His power at work within you.

Take time this week to be honest with yourself and admit what areas of being a mother are toughest for you. Ask God to strengthen you in these areas, protect you in these areas and provide guidance in these areas.

How have you been intentional with your family’s spiritual development lately?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Embrace The Corn

It's been a week!  This is and will be my only post this week.

Staying up until midnight to make an "Ice Fairy" costume because Fed Ex got stuck and said they'd deliver November 1st...... exhausting
Waking up at 4am for the day because the little Garbage Man was too excited to trick-or-treat that night......exhausting
Watching Papa carve the exact pumpkin that the little Ice Fairy drew..... exhausting
Having 9 children (one not pictured) and 17 adults for dinner before trick-or-treating..... actually a ton of fun!  (and slightly exhausting)
seeing the kiddos with their grandparents.....
And finally having someone to be a Candy Corn with me.....


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