Day 14: Sabbath Beauty Hunt

We do not want merely to see beauty… we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” CS Lewis

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It’s what happens after the long lament: the quiet numbness left after the weeping. And it’s the first whispers of peace.  The Psalms say: “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning,” (Ps 30:5) but most of the time, joy must be sought, hunted right down. After the lament, we have sent Jesus our pain and space has been made in our hearts. In then right there in the wide open space left, joy has been given room to spread. Numbness and perhaps peace comes after the lament, but joy? We must choose joy.

 

Will we choose life?

 

Will we choose the goodness of God expressed right here on this unique crosshair of latitude and longitude?

 

Now here’s the question that I’ve lived with for the last six months: Can I trust God’s hand of goodness to spread a table right here?  (Ps 23:5 and 78:19) Can I trust that there will be enough…and if God is the host, that there will be a generous feast spread out in the midst of my wilderness.

 

Today we begin hunting for the feast.

 

Friday morning I found it. The children and I blew our breaths toward the neighbor’s roof across the road so we could see the clouds we made from our exhaling. Later I glanced toward the pond to the right of our entrance as I drove Andrew to work and saw the mist rising from the water. It was a whisper, a quiet invitation to be immersed in beauty.

 

Back at home I grabbed wool hat and sweater and camera and walked through the neighborhood to the pine woods spread around the north side of the pond. As I knelt down to capture images, pine needles crunched underfoot. All around me birds chirped a chaos of their morning waking up.

 

Beauty heals. Being immersed in beauty reminds us there is goodness we don’t create, that the table is spread and we are invited to eat.

 

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The heavens declare the glory of God not because they tell the weather but because they astonish. We stand by open-mouthed and our capacity for wonder, for awe builds. And perhaps as Dosteoyevsky said, “Beauty WILL save the earth” not because it sparkles and makes us want to possess it, but because it points to a place outside of us and up to a glory with depths we cannot fathom. Beauty speaks of God.

 

I tramped through the woods for a view of the northeast corner of the pond and stopped breathing. A great white egret was holding court over white ducks in the corner of the pond. She was preening, spreading her wings. In the middle of her cleaning, she sensed my presence. I had raised my camera to shoot and she took off accompanied by the ducks. I only barely captured the ducks and a complete blurry photographic mistake became my favorite shot of the morning. Visual poetry.

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The Egret

She took flight

white whispering across dark pines.

Her wild presence met the systematic syncopation

of our suburban tidiness,

deigning to give our neighborhood an audience

and touch our ordinary with her regal soar

mixing awe

into our grounded

all.

 

Action: Be immersed in beauty:

A sail across the lake,

A hike into the cool of covering trees,

A walk through the farmer’s market, tasting as you go,

Baking cookies with the children,

A glass of wine on the porch listening to the birds,

A picnic at a beautiful park,

 

Count the gifts spread out. And you, my friend, as you have time, read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts…or reread it in the midst of this major change.

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We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together.Start here.

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Day 11: Root

We are all transplants in this Kingdom, all ball of roots, shook out and replanted insecure, longing for our heart’s true home.

 

 

We are adopted children of the most High who wander through the world with amnesia forgetting to come home, forgetting where our bread (acceptance, security, purpose, Life) comes from.  We turn towards whispers of “little l” life with hope-filled faces and turn away from the arms always offered.

 

We are basically earth scorched thirsty people searching for living water, quenching our thirst in the most unhealthy/unholy of ways.

 

Everywhere I go, when I’m turning toward another voice in hope of some piece of the puzzle coming together, I hear an echo of Him, “Daughter, Come back to Me. Don’t go too far. Attach. Dwell. Abide.”

 

It takes three years for plants to reach down in foreign soil and establish. Three springs that follow three cold winters before they begin to thrive.

 

The gardeners at the Center where I bought my white hydrangeas said to chop off the big snowball blooms for two full years. The roots’ establishing was more critical than beauty, she lectured, tenderly patting the black plastic base. Let them spread all their energy to the tightening, spreading roots and then, she promised, they’ll bloom strong into the years.

 

It’s the roots we can’t see, the roots spread firm in Him that create the lasting beauty.

 

Around that same time wandering through a Christian bookstore, I stared at a black and white Ansel-Adams-like photo. She was a queen of a tree, full of leaves, standing alone, a lace of intricate branches. Underneath the photo was Ephesians 3:17 “Rooted and established in love.”  Paul, midway through his letter was praying for the Ephesians. Now, Paul was hardcore. A missionary of missionaries. I imagine him a bit wild-eyed, like I’d have to look away if I tried to look straight at him. And yet much of his writings come straight back here, straight to the importance of being rooted in God’s love.

 

The full verses of 17 through 19 go like this, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” We need to be rooted in love in order to be filled with God.

 

Chapter 8 in Romans, the chapter I would gladly take to a deserted island (or maybe just a four star hotel) and feast on for weeks, climaxes in this: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

The man was rooted and established in some serious hummus-filled love. You’d have to be in order to endure the whips, the chains, the prison isolation, the shipwrecks. He’d be dashed and wrecked about the rocks of life without that firm anchor of love. And maybe that’s all we’ve known.

 

We are so often like adopted children wondering where home really is, insecure, fearful when my dear friends, our Abba is firmly here with us. “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Mt 28:20)

Every moment we:

stop and look into His eyes,

whisper “Jesus” in joy or wonder,

search the Word for his self-revelation,

fill up the lungs, drink deep breaths of His love,

bring our fears to his lap,

take our sins to the cross,

listen, getting used to the sound of His voice,

worship with arms outstretched,

or double back, saying thank you.

All this roots and establishes us a little deeper.

It is the constant abiding John talks about, the branch coming in close, attaching firm to the Vine.

 

 

Christianity is less a lifestyle of trying hard and more a constant doubling back, coming in close.  And the most beautiful service, the most powerful wave-walking trust and firm obedience? It comes naturally out of the coming in close.

 

The beauty will come. One day it fill unfold into bloom. And my friend, I can already see in you the tight nubs whispering of future glory.

 

And you, my friend, how do you send the roots down deep into love?

Summer Gross

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Day 9: Play

Moving is hard, slogging work: new relationships, new rules, new horizons, and the daily mixture of grief and joy. You have been hard at work, my friend.

 

Today toss “have to” aside and travel on over to the side of your brain where play resides.

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Put on your favorite dance tunes and slide over the hardwood floors in your socks. Go to the art store and pick up new watercolor supplies. Go to a concert and lose yourself in the string section, saunter slowly around the paths of a park, or just pile magazines on your bed to peruse with a warm cafe au lait in your hands. Push a canoe paddle through the water, make a new recipe, pick up forgotten handiwork, take in a new movie (one acclaimed for children). Go to the dollar store and buy bubbles.

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Enter in.  Often go to the park with your kids and sit on a bench, perusing your facebook while the children play? Today, enter in. Swing beside your little guy. Follow her up the ladder into a world up in the trees. Put on your tennis shoes get out onto the field and kick the ball.

 

Enter in with all your senses. Plant your feet in the sand. Make bread. Visit a gardening store, smell and dream.

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crawfish water play

134creative threadsmud play Caedmon

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Today, you have permission to forget the boxes still piled in the corner of the living room and walk out the door. Today we play.

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We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together.

 

 

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Day 1: How to Fall in Love with a Zipcode

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Just this last month, the Gross’ family adopted a new zipcode, driving through the mountains of five states and landing in northern GA. You too friend? Have you moved and are still reeling a bit? Or do you live with a chronic case of discontent and wanderlust? 

We’re taking 31 days to learn to love this place we call home.

Journey with me? 

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From the reading Sunday:

Proverbs 8:30-31 “Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

You, dear one…you have been called to love a zipcode.

 

Jesus cried over one, begged Jerusalem to find life under the generous width of His wings.

 

He loved a rambling, hillside town.

 

You will too.

 

Dear one, even though you feel uprooted, your heart raw from grieving, begin to ask God for His love of your new town.

 

And these strangers who look so unfamiliar, they too are made in God’s image –great walking beings weary from the fight, who wear a mask just like you are sometimes tempted to do lately.  Don’t. Engage real.

 

Your new librarian fidgeting behind the great oak desk, she is His image bearer and He adores each hidden facet of her heart.  He delights in her as she sits by the window, hot coffee in hand drinking in the chirps the birds sing back and forth in the early morning.

 

Your kids new teachers are exhausted with overwork, underpay and under-encouragement.

 

And your neighbors’ doors are shut now but behind them is a tangle of heart-breaking and glorious stories waiting to be known and honored and loved.

 

And He…He is waiting to walk through those doors holding your hand.  Through You the King comes. You push open the door and the Light of the world glides in, bringing waves of Resurrection with Him.

 

Cause dear one, this move is about you, but mostly it’s not.  He moves love-bearers around the world to bring Kingdom life, His pounding, loving, grieving heart for the world zipped into their suitcases.

 

“Go ye therefore”always requires us to pack, exchange zipcodes and suddenly friend, whether you meant it or not, you are smack dab living in the center of the Great Commission and there are hearts here just waiting for the seed God wants to plant…seeds you carry in your pocket.

by Summer Gross

And you, friend, how do you choose to love your town?

Do you have a friend who has recently moved or who struggles with where they’re planted? Consider sending this series to their inbox or facebook it to encourage all your newly transplanted friends.

Want more? Remember him?  How easy it can sometimes be to fling seeds?

Join the journey? Submit your email in the CONNECT box on the right hand side of the front page. Don’t worry…it’s safe with me.

 

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Searching for Resurrection

Crabapple trees in pink frills process down my new street. All winter I wondered what color they would wear. Their miniature crabapples  fell onto the sidewalks and gave the early robins something to eat in the cold. Still, they kept their secret. Now I’m showered with fragrance as I pass them on my morning walk.

 

I needed spring.

 

I didn’t just hope for spring, long for spring or crave spring. This year I. needed. it. We moved into a new town, a new empty life right before the dying seasons and by March, I was holding my breath. I hadn’t been writing much, here or in my journal, afraid to go digging in the mucky soil. I was afraid of what I would find. I couldn’t write, couldn’t tunnel down with a trowel into the loam without signs of resurrection.

 

I’ve been a coward.

 

I know the grip of depression, the root ball of the mind squeezing tight. I’ve lived in its tomb before. This year I’ve been waiting…like the earth.

 

Last week, I took a camera with me, the children kicked on scooters creating a rhythm as they slid over the cracks and I went searching…for resurrection.

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Late the next day we drove up to McConnell’s Mill State Park. The children found a sandy spot on the trail by Slippery Rock River and started digging like they were at the beach. Caedmon rested under a tree deep in a book and Andrew took out his fly rod waving it back and forth with nymphs tied on tight for the ride. I went hiking, D60 camera around my neck, looking for light and resurrection.

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Tillium. They push up hidden under a canopy of trees creating constellations of light for those who go into the deep forests to find them. I remember tramping back into our woods behind the North Fairfield house in the wet of early spring and discovering an island covered with trillium. I held my breath as I tiptoed between their stalks afraid they would die if my foot came down heavy.

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In the days that followed I found other constellations of light and tried to drink deep.  But it wasn’t until I started naming the spaces in between, the dark places, that I began to hope. So much of what was making me hold my breath was a fear of rejection. Being new has its gifts but for a girl whose main wounding includes a fear of rejection, being new is like a drive over Gabon’s dirt roads from pothole to pothole, jolted and holding on, exhausting. I began to see patterns of tiny rejections I was holding onto. When was it that I quit writing? When was it that I began to veg out in front of the tv every night? When was it that new experiences made my heart pound hard?

 

We have to name the dark before we can renounce it.

 

I started to pray simply when I felt the shadow passing over, asking this question: what core longing is not being fulfilled? (This core longing list comes from here from Terry Wardle and maybe you remember my conversation about my moving fears and the core longing litany found here.)

Am I lacking:

A safe and secure environment,

constant reinforcement of my personal worth,

the need for repeated messages that I am valued, unique and special,

the need for unconditional love and acceptance,

basic care and nurture,

encouragement to grow and develop my personal gifts and talents,

a pathway to fellowship with you,

a sense of belonging, or

to feel useful and needed.

 

Acknowledging the empty places led me to light. He is always the Source of our core longings…no amount of turning toward the face of another will provide these essentials.

 

In lamenting my lack I was able to open my hands. I was able to stop the search, open my hands and ask the Provider.

 

Halfway through my hike, I had taken out my iphone and clicked. I breathed in the mist foaming up around the waterfall but I didn’t see THIS until my husband commented on it days later:

 

Light was streaming in.

 

In the midst of my maniacal search for resurrection, I had been bathed in unknown light. I breathed out slowly. He had always been present on the road. Resurrection had found me.

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linking with the lovely Jen Ferguson and the Soli Deo Gloria sisters

and joining with Jennifer’s community of storytellers...and boy, she will lift you up and speak encouragement straight into your eyes today: Don’t Give up.

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Sabbath: Delight

Don’t you get the feeling that in those six days God created straight out of unbounded delight?

 

The red-eyed frog, the blue morpho butterfly, the elephant? Only someone with a serious sense of humor could have come up with an elephant.

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Yesterday I wept and my spiritual director watched me thrash about talking about discipline and trying harder. She wondered aloud if I could sit back and rest into God knowing that He’d already found me. We talked about joy. I shook my head saying I truly wanted that.

 

We talked about Sabbaths full of the search for beauty. We talked about taking our shoes off in the wet morning grass and watching butterflies flit from bush to flower around a garden. No one tells the butterflies to try harder.

 

Butterflies are delighted in for who they are, not for what they do…and you, my friend, you are too.

 

This morning I slipped away in the morning, cleaned inches of snow off the minivan and escaped to a coffee house for quiet.

 

I read this poem of Gerard Manly Hopkins, God’s Grandeur like I was remembering how to drink water:

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Soon I found myself walking slowly through the aisles of an art store touching coral silk strands, packs of watercolors, and picking up gold pens wondering how fine a tip they had. Just because. Just because joy creates. Just because we are creators made in His image. Just because today, in a world coated with white, where the dearest, freshness deep down things are blanketed, I want to watch the colors bleed and meld…aqua and peach and Kelly green.

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And you, my friend, how will you delight in this day?

May I pray a prayer of blessing for your Sabbath?

Creator God, You dreamed up this dear one because you delight in her. Will You grant her the gift of sitting back into Your rest? Can she join You on this journey of walking through her world wild with wonder touching the ordinary things and echoing your “it is good”?

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Sabbath: Time to Witness Heaven Touching Earth

I’m at the end of Emily Freeman’s lovely book, A Million Little Ways, on life and art and an art filled ordinary and also carrying the heaviness of my Nona’s passing.

(Isn’t she stunning?

Classy. That’s the word I keep hearing. Inside and out. She never gossiped, risked everything for love and dressed as if today she could be invited to tea with the queen. Today is visiting hours. Tomorrow Andrew and I have the privilege of leading the funeral service.)

This quote from Emily on page 185 rang authentic for these days:

 

“When we stepped off the elevator for the first time on the Palliative Care Unit to visit Frank, I had the distinct feeling of the presence of God. This is a place where heaven touches earth. It was real, palpable, comforting. But heaven touches earth in my living room too. In my bedroom and in my front yard and on top of the Empire State Building and on an island in the middle of the sea and in the cardboard houses in Manila and on my front porch. Heaven touches earth every minute, when I touch my husband’s hand and look into his eyes, when the girls whisper good nights and I love you and the boy makes a mess with toy airplanes and crayons. Heaven is touching earth right now. But sometimes it takes endings for us to see it.”

 

I pray that today the dust of earth will be washed from your eyes. That you will see heaven touching earth, His glory spread like a soft blanket of light into your everyday.

 

Take time to look, taste, touch, smell, hear and breathe deeply of this God-made life. Feast on the present. Blessings, my friends.

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Wonder – Feasting on the Present

A 5 minute writing dare…just words on a timer. no editing.  Yup, it’s what we writer nerds do for fun!

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GO – word: Wonder

My three year old blondie began hoisting his chubby little legs over the side of his Jenny Lind crib when he was just seventeen months old and sliding down the side. One morning before waking, I heard him wandering around the kitchen with a surfer dude sense of wonder, “wo-o-o-o-h,” he was saying in the early morning, sun not yet risen darkness. Twisting around, he was glancing at the familiar in a new light, and it was wonder-filled.

I often wish for a new pair of eyes to see the ordinary. It is easy to fall into an unexpected wonder at Christmas, long white candles reflecting into my neighbor’s eyes, silent night being sung. I am stunned by wonder when traveling, the hundreds of Buddhist spires in the ruined city of Bagan, Buurma, fog capturing early morning sunshine or thousands of red poppies in a Tuscan May field.

But, here around the ordinary, puttering life, wonder escapes us and we fall empty, our eyes needing to be healed.

Annie Dillard wrote, “We are here to abet Creation and to witness it, to notice each thing, so each thing gets noticed…so that Creation need not play to an empty house”

and

“Beauty and Grace are performed whether or not we sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

Wonder is learning to have Epiphany eyes, to “open our eyes to see His hand at work in the world about us.” We say this every Sunday morning acknowledging that we all have cataracts, that some blindness keeps us from looking around the world and saying an unencumbered, “Wow!”

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Joining the flash mob writing at Lisa-Jo Baker’s:

Five Minute Friday

 

I also enjoyed Holly @ http://walkingintheslowlane.blogspot.com/2012/11/wonder.html

“So, the Wise One, He drew back the veil of stars and entered in. In a place at once dark and dingy, the bearer of light broke through the shadows.
It is on such an Eve that wonder lives and breathes and has its meaning. For there is no precedent, nor moment following, that can outshine the resplendence of Love made incarnate.”
So lovely, Holly, and such poignant words in the cathedral of just five minutes!
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The Practice of the Presence of People: Day 11

These last three days, I have been listening to their stories down the four steps from the sidewalk into our Prayer Clinic.

 

Beautiful stories of the treachery of growing up on planet earth.

 

It has been a privilege to hear the heartbreak and the loss and we wept with the disk heater blowing fullblast on our feet, shawls on our shoulders, kleenex boxes on our laps.

 

Because this world is not as it was supposed to be.

 

But I get to be witness as bandages are unwrapped and wounds are exposed in safety to the Light.

 

I adore them already, all these women who will begin Journey, our 16 week curriculum toward Inner Healing.  Tomorrow we will start at the beginning, Week 1 and I will try to find a moment to sit back and feast and look in awe at the image of God gathered, marred but stunningly beautiful.

And this will be my prayer (from the Celtic Daily Prayer, St. Caedmon’s Day):

Teach me to hear that story/ through each person / to cradle a sense of wonder / in their life / to honour the hard-earned wisdom / of their sufferings/ to waken their joy / that the King of all kings / stoops down / to wash their feet,/ and looking up/ into their face / says, / “I know – I understand.”

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The Gift of Each Season: Day 9

 

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.”

Henry David Thoreau

The feast has been laid.  The table set.  The candles lit and He is here.

 

The trees flame, the boughs grow heavy and what do I do? I cringe fearing the months of winter.

 Today I hear: Live this season, Summer.  Feast here.

This morning I awoke and surged toward the fitness center with tennis shoes in hand, streaming past life to run on a treadmill.  I burst out the little yellow cottage door bracing for cold and the warm breeze stunned me and I stood still.  Morning stars pricked the darkness with quiet glory and I turned from one constellation to the next, breathing in the unsearched for beauty.

Later, at lunch with a friend I laughed as Henry David Thoreau spoke (out of the truth of God?) from a 1 by 1 square attached to my Earl Grey Celestial Seasonings tea bag.  Sit still, daughter, it said.  Taste fully today.  Taste fully this season.  Yes, I’ll bring in the crockpot of hot apple cider Thursday for my new Journey group, wrap warm for the walk down the Kal-Haven trail, the trees shedding color.

But in that miniscule wisdom, I heard more: Summer, drink deep the life, the season, I have created and stop this incessant stream of…more, different, new, better…

The most profound adventure of all may be living the life I have given you, intentionally.

Receive the gift.

 

Hi Friend! 

How is this journey of Feasting on the Present going for you?  We are practicing getting present through each of our senses with just ten minutes a day (start with five?), the focus of our attention.

BTW, all of these beautiful photos are from Etsy: Photography by Karin A.  Gorgeous, are they not?  Check them out here.

Today I’m linking with the incredible writer Jennifer Lee Dukes here:

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