Monday, October 20, 2008

My Mugatu Moment

Okay, so I was having a bit of a Mugatu moment when I wrote my last post. Not that I don't still hold to it, just that I feel I was a bit combative when maybe it was not so necessary. Have y'all seen Zoolander? Do you know what I mean by a Mugatu moment?

Mugatu, pictured to the right, is a high end fashion designer played by Will Ferrell. Derek Zoolander is a male supermodel played by Ben Stiller. Derek has various "looks," pictured to the left below, which are clearly all the same look. But for whatever reason, everyone calls them different names. At his breaking point, Mugatu finally freaks out onstage during his fashion show and says, "Who cares about Derek Zoolander anyway? The man has only one look, for ___ sake! Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? They're the same face! Doesn't anybody notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!" I refer to any moment in life where I feel like no one is paying attention to the obvious as a Mugatu moment. And this whole election for me is a Mugatu moment. And talking about emotional health with a lot of Christians is a Mugatu moment. But I am so grateful to have readers who agree (though again, feel free to disagree). And if you have seen Zoolander, you have heard Will Ferrell's execution of his lines- hysterical, angry, panic stricken- that is how I can get sometimes over these things. 

So about the election. I did think it was a very important clarification that I missed, of course you can be a Christian and vote for Obama. Let me tell you that people I love and respect are voting for Obama, and that is why I am so frustrated. (I know that you knew what I meant, Elizabeth, thanks for making it clearer.) I just feel like he is a little dangerous. Not to quote the lame-o McCain commercials, but because of his connections with anti-American and anti-Christian people. Am I saying he is anti-American or anti-Christian? No, but I'm just saying he is not able to clear up a lot of suspicion. He could, but he doesn't. So, that just scares me. 

As for the signs in the school, I had not actually seen the signs until this morning. I was prepared to be a little bit combative, but I really didn't know how to go about it. I mean, I definitely don't think we need any campaign signs in the school. But if they had been some other democratic candidate some other time, even Hillary, I probably wouldn't care so much. And I realized that this could, in the end, become me really offending someone, so I decided not to say anything, just to ask. Well, I had figured they were up because of a mock election the school was holding. And when I asked today, that is what I was told. So then, the question really becomes, what is the point of a mock election at an elementary school? We had mock elections at my schools growing up, which was a serious joke in conservative Christian school in Southern Red States. I have no idea what the point was. Maybe it was to raise everyone's spirits heading into the election? "Reagan beat Mondale 638 to 0!" (I remember everyone, you know all the other second graders I knew, saying, "Reagan won by a landslide!") "Bush beat Dukakis 789 to 14! Woohoo!" I don't know. 

Any insights into the value of this? Or thoughts on if posters are more or less appropriate if they are for an election in the school? Amabel says there are McCain ones too, if that matters. It doesn't to me (I will say that if there are, I didn't see any in two hallways). The neutral ones are okay. There are some that say "Get out and vote," and things of that sort. Those are fine. Anyway, I have not spent a whole lot of time working through my political ideology so I am open on this. Well, not on who to vote for, but on how politics should be handled in schools. Although, I tend to think that it is something better left to parents. And though this is another post, I have been feeling for a while that I am more comfortable with my child's Biblical education being left to her parents as well. I find myself a little weirded out when her teachers are wanting to talk about her understanding of the Gospel. But think of all the parents who dump their kids in Christian schools so they don't have to teach them anything about the Gospel at home! Okay, that really is another post. And please please please don't hear me bashing Christian schools! Certainly not! It is just something I have been surprised to find myself feeling- "Wow, I put her in this Christian school and now I am not so sure I want someone else telling her what to believe about God's world and God's Word."- because isn't that the point? Anyway, another post. But since she's there, any ideas about the politics thing? I am thinking I will let if go, of course, but I just want to think about it rightly, even if I am not planning to do anything. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

How I Really Feel

It may have been noticed, or not, that I have been holding back with my usual honesty and forthrightness when it comes to how I really feel. So many of you have commented positively, both in writing and in person, on my vulnerability in the past. And I should remember that. I am letting you down, I guess. But if you appreciate it, if you really value that trademark transparency of mine, it seems to me that you are a rare breed. For various reasons that I will not go into, I have a hard time trusting myself. What I tend to do is put little feelers out into the world to see if what I am thinking and feeling is okay. And well, that's just never a good idea. Because there will always be people who disagree with you- just think of all the weirdos who are going to vote for Obama! I think what this five months of misery has done for me, among other things, is really cement this understanding for me: you cannot go around worrying what other people think all the time. My problem is that I usually think that people misunderstand something. Surely if they understood the situation, if they just really knew exactly where I'm coming from, they would agree with me. But even then, I have found, people can't or won't understand. Again, I write without specifics. Sorry about that.

But just for example: You start thinking that surely if people knew that there is a lawsuit against Obama because his natural born citizenship is in question (he has family members who claim he was born in Kenya, that they were present for his birth) and that he fails to produce his birth certificate as proof of his natural born citizenship, they would start to recognize how shady he is. Or even if they just paid attention to his relationship to his cousin, Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya, for whom he helped campaign, an anti-Christian Socialist who is massacring Christians (but claims to be Anglican?). Or if they noticed that one of his close mentors, Frank Marshall Davis, is a Marxist, a member of the Communist party. You think that even if they didn't know or care  about those things, they would recognize what a bad idea socialized healthcare is, and what a terrible idea it is to send everyone to college (imagine the entire working class obliterated!). And I know some people don't think abortion is a big enough deal to base your vote on, but (besides saying that murdering millions of babies is not a big enough deal- although I get it, the President can't overturn Roe v. Wade) generally speaking, the people who are pro abortion, are also pro a bunch of other things that they shouldn't be pro, namely pro ginormous government that makes all your decisions for you. But people don't care, maybe that's why they want someone who will make the government make all their decisions! Or else they don't know. I am constantly amazed to see Obama signs in neighborhoods where presumably educated people live. And I am disappointed that there are Obama campaign signs hanging in the hallways of my child's Christian school, where education and Christ are presumably the goals. They really should know. But maybe they don't. 

Anyway, it is helpful. It reminds me that people disagree on things. And that it is possible that I really am right when more people are wrong. I just don't like being outnumbered. And I think that another big trend in the Church at large, something I get from people all over, is this idea that contentment, the way Paul writes in Philippians 4, is being happy and cheerful no matter what. What? That is absurd. When did optimism and happiness become the equivalent of Godliness? I mean, yes, there is a point, a point where you rebel in obedience to God, or where you decide that he is no longer in control or good, that there is a problem. But is questioning okay? Is being sad or scared? If it's not, then we have a big problem with the Psalms being in Scripture! Even Paul says that contentment is something he has learned. Why do we not trust the work of the Spirit to bring us to that? Instead, people are walking around in pain pretending things don't bother them! It drives me crazy! And I never want to be one of those people. On the other hand, this growing thing is something. I definitely feel better going through my current situation- three months without a home, five months of my husband being unemployed, my family being perpetually homesick, poor, and exhausted- than I have going through much less trying times in the past. And for one reason, because I am not terrified of actually being sad this time. I'm not defensive. Part of it is because I have several wonderful friends who have really walked with me through this, who have said "I don't get this. It stinks. I am so so sorry. I am praying for you. I know it doesn't seem like God is good or like he is paying attention to your family at all, but I know he has something for you in all of this." Wow! That's perfect! What else is there to say? 

Well, actually, there are plenty of other things to say. I know because they have also been said. I have had people say that it would be tempting to be sad, but that I can't let Satan get in there like that. What?! Or that this is all because of something we did or did not do or we are or are not doing. Again, what?! Some people don't seem to grasp the frustration of our situation. Some seem to think it is problematic to even ask questions about God's goodness. And why is that so terrible? What is so wrong with "I believe, but help my unbelief!" Is that sinful or just less mature? I mean hey, we can't all be as mature as the next guy. Do stories like Amelia's not make y'all wonder what in the world God is up to? They do me. And selfishly, my story makes me wonder that. And a whole bunch of other stories that I fear I should not share without permission. But you know them, you know about the tragedies of the people of God. What is up? I used to be content with a very youth group answer to that question. But lately, the tragedies in people's lives around me have gone beyond a mean boss at work or not being able to get pregnant right away (not that those aren't difficult!) And I have realized how small my world has been up until this point. Because it isn't just people who have crossed Abby Edema's path. What about martyrs? What about the people of God who have been massacred or starved to death or lost a child? I mean, these things are all over and all through history. And yet, we believe that not only is God good, but also that he is in control. And that is where I lose some of you, I know. I lose some of you when I say that all of these tragedies are part of his plan. Yet here I am, in the midst of a comparatively small tragedy, but a tragedy nonetheless, certain that God is behind all of this, and that he is good. 

And yet, I am not happy about my life right now. It's not a whole lot of fun living at my mother-in-law's house with my three kids. I mean, that is nothing personal about her, it's just that being at anyone's home, going by their house rules from where you can eat to when you can shower to how to do laundry to what's in the pantry, when you have been a homemaker yourself for seven years, really stinks. And she is great to let us stay here. I am not diminishing her generosity in any way. I would feel the same way living in any of your homes. And asking people for money we will likely never be able to repay isn't a good time for me either. Although, let me just say that we are humbled and overwhelmed by the generosity of loving friends. Also, my parents being ticked off at us because our lives don't look the way they want them to is not fun, not surprising either, but definitely still not fun. 

Nevertheless, I am okay. Do I rejoice in all of this? That's hard. I mean, I definitely rejoice in what I'm learning, in what God is showing me of his love and care, and in how I am growing. I definitely rejoice in the beauty of friendships that are growing and sustaining me during this time. I definitely rejoice in the hope that I have that is that we will probably not always have to live at our parents' house, that we will likely have a home again someday. But, I do find myself wondering, sometimes crying,  "how long, O Lord?" I do find myself hitting a wall every now and then, even getting stuck in a funk. And I don't rejoice in the funk, or in the frustration and sadness over the practicality of our situation. I struggle to get through it, whether it is through a three mile run or a heart to heart with a friend or whipped cream on my coffee! And I reckon I rejoice over running and chatting and coffee, but I do not always enter into those situations with gladness in my heart. I enter into them often, as an act of desperation, from the point of view that those things may be the only thing I can muster up gratitude for today, the only thing that will remind me of God's very specific and personal goodness to me. But what I think is that my actions demonstrate my faithfulness to the Lord, even when my feelings, if they could be seen, would indicate doubt and anger.  

And I am sure that there are points in here on which some of you will find fault. There will be some of you who will instinctively want to tell me where and how I am all wrong. But I really think that is wrong. I'm just going to say it. When our first instinct when we see a brother or sister in Christ is to judge, to figure out where he/she is sinning, and not to love and figure out where someone is hurting, there is a problem. And I do it too, so I'm not just free and clear on this one. But it is a lot harder for me to fault someone for their feelings when I have felt them. I begin to recognize feelings that many people would classify as sinful, as really just human. And human is not bad. God made man and said it was good. Jesus was fully man. So while man has a sinful nature, being human is not sinful. I have said this better before. Please don't hear me denying total depravity, because of course I am not. Just hear me saying that humans being sad or angry or sorrowful is not categorically wrong (though it can be handled or manifested wrongly). I heard someone the other day say, "this person is a strong Christian; they do not struggle with depression!" I did not hold this person accountable for these particular words because they were said about a frustrating situation. But, they were said in such a way that the first was meant to be a proof for the other- if the first thing exists then the second thing must be true. And while I am not going to take the person to task, because of the situation, I tend to think that they really think that depression cannot be present in a Christian. I think they think that because a lot of people think that. Wow! I mean, I have never been diagnosed with depression myself or been on any medication, but I am here to say that depression and Christians are not mutually exclusive. And I am unsure of different people's connotations of depression, but I am even willing to say that there is a depression, a long, drawn out sadness, where one is desiring and waiting on healing and relief that does not come (think loss of a loved one or chronic illness/pain), that is not sinful in essence. 

I know some of y'all will disagree. Or I will be really really surprised (not that I am thinking of anyone in particular). But I'd love to hear what any of y'all think about all of this. And I will try my hardest not to take anything personally (unless it is meant to be!). And even if I do, like I said, I am learning to let these things hurt me a lot less. And that's how I really feel. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Good Things

I truly appreciate the encouragement you have all been so generous to give me since my last post. I am amazed that somehow, in my weakness, I am able to encourage some of you. It is a blessing to have something to give right now. And so, that makes me think I should send a new post out. I don't have a whole lot more to report though. We are still being looked at by several churches, and we are still hoping for one of several local jobs to come through as a temporary fix. What is constantly new is the generosity of the people in our lives. One concerned reader found fault with my phrasing "we haven't had any money coming in" in the last post. I am not sure if that hurt some feelings out there or not, but I am happy to clarify. I was really aiming at a less dramatic and more concise way of saying that we have been unemployed, or without income, and some of the people who supported us financially during seminary have discontinued support. I did not mean to in any way diminish the fact that there have been many people who have helped us out. Clearly, our parents have opened their homes to us. We have had both friends and family give generously to help us make ends meet. I hope that that was not misunderstood. I would gladly brag about some of these generous saints if I felt that it was my place to do so. But I think most people would rather their giving be a private thing. Anyway, all that to say, thank you notes have been sent and prayers of thanksgiving and blessing for our benefactors have been said; make no mistake, we are extremely grateful for the people in our lives who have helped us during this difficult time.

Sometimes I just wonder how I come across. Was that explanation necessary to all? To some? What must people think of me? These are things you generally have to get over if you're going to have a blog. And I suppose, if you're going to be a pastor's wife, you have to be quite comfortable with people assuming the worst about you. On the other hand, not everyone will. But most people will tell you that there is always someone who is not happy with the pastor. Or that is what they try to prepare you for anyway, so you will have thicker skin. I have to confess that I have very thin skin. Or didn't you notice? And perhaps I should get over the desire to want to make everyone understand me and my motives so that they will be less apt to think the things that will hurt my feelings. My friend Rebekah has said it best, "Abby, you just always want everyone to be so nice!" It is more than that though. I also want us to all be honest. You can be nice, you know, without really meaning it. And so, given the choice between having someone confront me, even in an insensitive and hurtful way, or having someone be very nice to me, all the while assuming the worst about me and spreading gossip around about their suspicions and frustrations, I would much rather the confrontation. Ideally though, people recognize who other people are and what they are about, so they won't need an explanation for a person's every action; and even in the case of a person's sin or shortcoming, can confront in a loving and sensitive way.

What am I talking about? So many things. Someday, I will write my autobiography and this will all be very clear. Of course, I need to do something interesting first so that people will have a reason to read. No worries, I am certain that I was intended for greatness. Well, no, I am certain of no such thing. But I am confident that I am intended for something. And for this moment, I believe it is to share a recipe.

It is time for fall, and for all things apple, pumpkin, and cozy. If you search "pumpkin recipe" and "brownie recipe" you will find some of my favorite fall recipes that I have posted for y'all in years past. I have a real shortage of apple recipes though, partly because we eat them too fast and they are far too good that way to mess with them by cooking them, and partly because they are kind of expensive. Anyway, there is one way I cook them fairly often, the old Southern way to mess with them, fried apples. Mmm boy! I don't have to tell most of you how to make these, but for any curious non-Southerners, here it goes. You just chop you up some granny smith apples (lots because they really reduce when they cook), throw them, with the peels on, into a nice amount of butter melted in your cast iron skillet, and fry them up on medium low heat. I always put a lid on them so they get softer, quicker, and you'll want to move them around every now and then so they don't brown too much on one side or another. After a while, they will be real easy to smoosh up. Basically, you're going to end up with a hot applesauce that is way better than any applesauce you have ever tasted. That's why we don't even call it applesauce; it's in a league of its own. Put enough sugar in to sweeten to your liking, but wait until the end or it will caramelize and burn. Oh my goodness! I am going to be fixin' us some this week!

We are having a contest at our church fall festival for the best apple dessert. I can't decide if I want to jump in there and compete or just taste and learn. I may have a look-see at a few of the cooking magazines I didn't pack in storage, but I confess to not having an old standby when it comes to apple desserts. I have been known to make a nice apple pie, but nothing award winning. Chili on the other hand, I might could win with. Every year I contemplate entering the contest and I never do. My problem is that I'm not much of a chili connoisseur, so I really have no way of knowing if mine is really that good. I have tried other recipes and have never found one I like so well, so that is something, I guess. Anyway, win or lose, I will post the recipe after the contest. The festival is next weekend. In the meantime, one more recipe bears sharing, even though it has actually been put in an old church cookbook from when we put one together at our church in Birmingham. Many years later though, I have changed it a little, and most of you wouldn't have access to that cookbook anyway. My problem here is that I am no good with quantities. However much you want to make, make. How 'bout that? Seriously, I am totally making up amounts and cook times, so if you are a details person, sorry!

Potato Soup
any combination of russet, red, or gold potatoes, peels on, baked and chopped, scooped, or smooshed into bite sized pieces
carrots, peeled and chopped
onion, peeled and chopped
3 cans chicken broth
1 1/2 c. cream (oh yeah!)
1 tsp. dried basil (more, if using fresh, which I do often)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
shredded cheddar

This was originally a crockpot recipe, so if you choose, you could chop all the veggies raw and cook them in chicken broth for around 8 hours. I have no presence of mind at nine in the morning to do this, so I have revised the recipe to work for my "it's three o'clock, what will we eat for dinner tonight?" approach to meal prep. If you choose to crock pot it up, just add the basil and cream about thirty minutes before time to serve.

Here's what I do:
saute carrots and onion in butter for several minutes to soften
place cooked veggies (including taters) in a pot with chicken broth and bring to a boil. turn heat down and let simmer for a few minutes while I do other stuff- run out to the garden for basil, grate cheese, answer the phone, swap out laundry, whatever. add basil sometime during the simmer. then, like five minutes before serving, add the cream. it's sort of one of those things that can simmer for a while, or for just a few minutes, depending on how well baked your potatoes are. the starch in the potatoes thickens it up pretty nicely, I think. George's mom used an immersion blender to break it up and thicken it some when I made it the other day because we were on like a ten minute simmering schedule. the original recipe called for fat free half and half and flour as a thickening agent. but, while I almost always have cream in the fridge, I never have half and half, and I figured I could cut the calories from the flour because of all the ones I was adding with the cream. and of course, you gotta top it with some fresh grated cheddar.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Little Rusty

Two weeks later... I feel compelled to write again. Sorry, y'all. I wonder if any of you even still come by anymore. I keep thinking I'll turn a corner and start blogging often again, but I am wondering if it doesn't have something to do with having a desktop computer. We have been all laptop since we have been displaced, and that has not been something I have easily gotten used to. We actually have a really nice MacBook, but for whatever reason, I just have more patience for being on the computer when it's not in my lap. But, I am guessing you do not need an explanation. Although I know some of you would like an update. So let's see if we can help with that. And please do excuse my atrophied writing skills as you read! 

Well, we're still at George's mom's house in St. Louis. We spent about six weeks in Nashville, and we have been here just over a month, almost five weeks. There are definitely days where my patience wanes thin, days when I wrestle with intense anger, days where I wake up feeling like I want to burst into tears, and days when I don't want to wake up at all. But there are plenty of moments when mercies come, moments of peace, and moments of renewed strength and courage that carry me for days. Do I sound dramatic? Well, I am dramatic, you know. I waffle a lot on the appropriate degree of drama for a situation. Here we are, without a home, without a job, looking forward to a few more bills, and all that we had has run out. On the other hand, this is not anything other people haven't experienced before, we have a loving and giving Church body, and George's family has done whatever they can for us. I have found a freedom in many of our fears being realized. It is very hard to depend on others for everything. It is what I feared. As graduation approached this spring, and we were still without any real probabilities for a call, I remember writing to one of my close friends with these words,"I have a feeling this is going to go very badly, as in 'did you hear what happened to the Edemas?' badly." I imagined a lot of the scenarios we have recently found ourselves in, and I was terrified. But what I have found is that the fear of things is often a lot worse than those things actually happening. Okay, that was not my best writing skills at work there, but you get the idea. While things could definitely be worse, for the most part, the things I was most afraid of have happened, and I am not afraid anymore. And that is a great place to be- fearless on the bottom rung!  

Now, leave it to me to start with the negative. There is a lot of good stuff going on. First of all, there are lots of little conversations going on, so we are not without hope of having some sort of job in the coming weeks. I will say that it has been freakish how many part time jobs that seemed like a sure thing haven't worked out. It is things like that that often remind me of God's perfect plan. Sure, the impossible happening is a sign of his hand in things, but the probable, obvious thing not happening seems to me to be a very clear directive- a closed door, if you will. So far in our family's journey, it seems that the Lord often guides us by closing every door but one. We have found ourselves, many times, taking the only path available to us (often after months of waiting) and receiving abundant confirmation and blessing. It's just that right now, we are still looking for that one open door. I feel the urge to be defensive here, to say that George has applied to over eighty jobs, that he is doing a wonderful job loving his wife and children well during a very trying time, that he is pursuing every job opening he hears about, that he is seeking wise counsel from pastors and elders, and working whatever jobs come his way. But only someone who doesn't know George at all would be tempted to believe otherwise. 

In the meantime, there have been other blessings, both great and small. First of all, George's sister married a really wonderful guy this weekend. We are so excited for both of them as they become a new family. And he will definitely be a blessing in our extended family. We were also blessed to have more of the extended family in town to celebrate the marriage. George's stepmom is a super sweet lady and I had a good time spending an afternoon (and more) with her. His dad paid for us to stay in the hotel with them so that we would have more time all together. We had a nice change of scenery for a few days and enjoyed meals and fellowship with the Michiganders from the Edema side of the family. George's mom was remarkably composed for all of the wedding events. She handled herself very well and looked lovely. I know she had to work hard to keep herself together- it is not every day that your only daughter gets married! There was only minor dysfunction where there could have been major, and for all of that, we are very grateful. 

We have also seen God provide many of our needs in unforeseen ways. We haven't had any money coming in in over four months, and yet we have food to eat, clothes to wear, and the bills are being paid. Each day I have to remind myself to only worry about today, that tomorrow has worries of its own. It is easy to look a week or so ahead and begin to worry, but as each new day arrives, so does each new provision from the Lord. It is not always abundant or exciting if you think in terms of what most of us are used to, but under our current circumstances, daily bread is nothing short of miraculous! 

My friend Jessie wondered out loud with me the other day about the guarantees of a proverb like, "cast your bread upon the water, for you will find it after many days." You know, because neither of us is finding our bread! I had been really wrestling through the idea of knowing that there are many who do so much for the Kingdom and find themselves enduring disproportionate suffering while many who could do much do nothing and find themselves experiencing disproportionate prosperity. The day after Jessie's and my conversation, my friend Ami and I were on our way into the zoo when another mom offered us the rest of the tickets for her zoo membership that expired that day. We were able to take four children to the children's zoo and round trip on the train for free! When I told George about the sweet lady, he said, "that sounds like something you would do." And I told him it's because I did do that when my zoo membership ran out last year. I am not telling y'all to brag about some silly little thing like giving away tickets I can't even use, but to let you know how I was encouraged that day. I had a real concern, something I had been praying about and seeking the Lord over, and he graciously provided a return on something I did months ago. We may not see the return for the things we do for his glory on this side of eternity, but he promises that we will reap a harvest if we do not give up(Galatians 6:9-10). 

While we wait for that harvest, here is something else to encourage you. We sang this hymn in church tonight:

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth;
And follow where He guideth;
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He never will deceive me;
He leads me by the proper path:
I know He will not leave me.
I take, content, what He hath sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away,
And patiently I wait His day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His loving thought attends me;
No poison can be in the cup
That my Physician sends me.
My God is true; each morn anew
I’ll trust His grace unending,
My life to Him commending.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He is my Friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm,
Though many storms may gather,
Now I may know both joy and woe,
Some day I shall see clearly
That He hath loved me dearly.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all.

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