Archives for January 2012

Are you too comfortable in your relationship?

My husband mentors a group of twenty-something guys courageously trying to do dating different.  Fortunately in God’s economy, as much as Tim pours into dater dudes, they in turn flood our lives with uproarious laughter through daily text updates on their awesome dating adventures/catastrophes.  I adore these guys and I love how they make my husband light up like a Christmas tree.

So, I was talking to one of the dater guys at church the other day debating over how much looks should be a part of the process of his dating selection.  And as the conversation heated up, I felt myself getting agitated by his blatant bias towards beauty. Just as I began to climb up onto my soapbox and really lay into him- I got the nudge.

From the Holy Spirit that is.

And a vision of my own shallowness in the dating realm nipped at my toes.

“Really Jesus? Now?  I’m chewing him out so well.”

Yep.  Now is a good time Sam.

Right.  Deep breath.

So I fessed up.  I admitted I used to be a sucker for ripped abs and Tim had me at six-pack.

Dater guy looked at me with a puzzled expression.

Here I am busting his balls for dating hot chicks and yet one of the reasons I (initially) liked my guy was because he made me weak in the knees.

Dater guy looked at me weird.   “Pastor Tim?  Pastor Tim was fierce?”

Tim walked up then.  He rolled his eyes. “Is she telling you about how fabulous my abs used to be?”

Dater guy nodded his head yes.

And then Tim ratted me out.  “She isn’t exactly the same woman I married either.”

OUCH!

Ok, maybe I’ve let myself slide a little.  Ok, a lot. 

“Isn’t the fact that I used to be hot, enough dear?”

We laughed on the way home, because we love each other deeply and for way more than just the looks department.

But it made me think about how once we got married and oh so comfortable; we began to let ourselves go –one mystic tan and protein shake at a time.   I guess, since we already bagged the love of our life, it was a relief to stop the madness of trying so hard to be uber attractive.  It’s much more fun to relax on the sofa holding hands with a bag of Doritos and some Girl Scout Cookies.

But how far is too far?  Have I gone too far?  Clearly…I might need to shower more because exhausted mommy with baby poop on her isn’t doing it for my man.  (This was revealed to me on the way home)

So what is a good balance between apathy and relational confidence?  Between showing your spouse you care enough to be attractive and yet not overdoing it to get outside attention?

So I came up with a test. 

1. Do you shower most days?

a. Yes  +10  b. No -15  c. Define most?  -5

2. Is alcohol or chocolate one of your food groups?

a.  Yes  -10  b.  No  +10  c.  Does chocolate covered bacon count?  -5

3.  Do you wear clean underwear? 

a. Yes  +20  b.  No -50  c. Are you talking about the days I shower?  -25

4.  Do your pajamas have sock monkeys on them?

a.  a. Yes  -10  b. No  +10   c. The sock monkey is in the pajamas  +25 

5.  Ok Ladies…Are you within 10 lbs of your honeymoon weight?

a.  Yes  +10  b. No  -10  c.  Does my honeymoon weight include my wedding dress?  -25

6.  Hey Dudes?  Are you still sporting a mullet?

a.  Yes  -10  b.  No  +10  c.  I’d love to have a mullet because it would mean I had hair!  -25

7.  Have you had a pedicure in the last six months?

a.  Yes  +10  b.  No  -10  c.  Is it a problem if I rip sheets with my toe-nails?  -25

8.  Is lingerie a foreign word in your marriage?

a.  Yes  -10  b.  No  +10  c.  Does my husband’s V-neck t-shirt with pit stains count?  -25

9.  Is your idea of a hot date going to Costco and eating samples for dinner?

a.  Yes  -25  b.  No  +25  c.  Splurged on the ice-cream on the way out  +10

10.  Do you get moderate exercise?

a.  Yes  +50  b.  No  -25  c.  Men-if your primary wardrobe consists of sweet muscle shirts and you drive your Camaro to the gym twice a day  -50  Ladies-does Gymboree with my toddler count?  -25

Results:

Below 0=You might need a marriage makeover

1-80 = Soft in the middle…but on your way.

81 + = Keep Rocking it!

*Sidenote*  Sam got +75 and Tim got -25   (must have been the Camaro that took him out)

 

 

The Stigma of “Single” in the American Church

I was thirty-two when a frog kissed me and I magically turned into a single person.  All of a sudden the veil of married person apathy lifted and I saw all the stuff that whizzed past me before –namely how church wasn’t all that much fun when you’re flying solo.

It really hit me the first time I had to go church all by myself.  With my new single vision goggles I realized how intimidating it is to even walk in the worship center a la carte.  If you stand at the door for more than a minute it becomes apparent you are missing half of your species.  It reminds me of Noah’s Ark.  In the couples go, two by two, a pair of every kind. 

And there you stand, all awkward with a cup of coffee grasped like a lifeline, so you have something cool to do –like sip, pretending that being alone is a choice and not a condition.

Once in the sanctuary I would sit and listen to a sermon geared towards a nuclear family –now it might be a dysfunctional nuclear family, but spiritual metaphors were generally culled from a conflict with a spouse, teen angst or making amends with a cranky neighbor. As a single mom in a condo, just trying to survive and get my kids to school on time without losing my marbles…it was a little tough to relate.

The pastor would generally poke at the singles over thirty.  He would remind us we were too picky, not that awesome of a catch anyway, and urge us to get our “sparkly act” together (i.e. get in shape, smile more, and stop being weird).

Strangely enough, church wasn’t a safe place when I was single.  It made me feel even more lonely and sad.  And single is such a strange description these days for an unmarried person because people under thirty do not consider themselves single –they identify themselves as young with options.  It’s the over thirty folks who wake up one day and says “Jinkies, I’m starting to get old and I’m still alone.”

And this is when you realize you are single.

Ironically over half the church population is unmarried and I would reckon many of these people feel like the unwanted step-children at their church.  This isn’t a blanket statement and I know there are vibrant, single people who flourish at church, but I hear the hearts of many more singles that are floundering and can’t comprehend why the church seems to turn its back on this group.

I have a few theories –though I imagine there are a multitude of reasons. 

Most Sr. Pastor’s Can’t Relate

First, most Sr. Pastors and pastors in general marry young.  And even though I agree with the theology of marrying young and growing old together, it doesn’t happen for everyone.  People make mistakes, we have broken “pickers” and divorce happens, even to good Christians.

Our culture has deceived us into believing we need to postpone marriage until we have our lives figured out –money in the bank, a big house, and a great job. But when the lure of having it all together evades us due to job loss, college debt and a bad economy, we are left with shattered dreams and without the proper tools to move dating relationships towards marriage.

Most Sr. Pastor’s  do not understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a thirty something perched on a stool at Starbucks waiting for their thirty-fourth date from E-Harmony and hoping…praying, maybe, just maybe this is the one. 

Preaching to the Bread and Butter

This one might bite but I’m going to say it anyway.  Generally speaking, singles do not have a reputation for tithing as much as married people do.  The Barna Group in a recent study on Trends in Tithing and Donating revealed only 1% of single unmarried adults give money to the church.  So, if I’m a Sr. Pastor trying to keep the doors open, I would probably direct my time, resources and metaphors to the married couples.  Sad but true.

The Church is Aging

There is a new initiative in church circles to go after the younger twenty-something generation because the church population at large is aging, waning and turning grayer by the minute.  But this younger generation does not consider themselves to be “single,” –remember?  So, the thirties and forties “Singles” groups are being discarded to make way for this “attract the Christian youth movement.” 

It doesn’t help that young people are turned off by single references, they perceive singles ministry to be lame, and despise any reference to the fact that they are alone (because they are young with options).  And the savvy churches who don’t want to go extinct are going after this younger group with a passion.  Which unfortunately…leaves the single thirties and forties high and dry.  

The Lost Generation

Singles Gen-X’ers somehow got lost in the middle.  It’s a sandwich demographic that has been usurped by aging baby boomers and a push to be relevant to the hipster post-post modern generation.  Many churches are getting rid of their single ministries for the very reasons I stated above.  In the “Simple Church” model we are all one church ministering to each other as a community and I believe this to be true in parts –through Sunday worship, volunteer service and outreach to the poor and needy.

And while we don’t want to recreate life stage ministries that take away from this united church community, it still doesn’t take away the desire for new mommies to want to connect with new mommies and not talk about menopause with the hot flashers, and couples who want to engage with other couples, and most importantly –the unmarried population, whether they recognize they are “single” or not who want to meet and connect with other people in their life-stage.

Combating these issues isn’t boiled down into one easy fix; it’s a battle we all must engage in.  First –the church is responsible for speaking and ministering to the needs of the single person (51% of the population) and moving towards them with care and compassion, second –singles need to recognize the lure of the world doesn’t lead to “happily ever after,” and third, we as a community of Christ followers need to encourage, embrace and stand up for marriage –and give singles a reason to even want to move towards this relationship.

Side Effects, Katy Perry, and the Forbidden Fruit

My last post “Talk about Sex” generated some tremendous dialogue and initiated more questions than I have answers for.  Clearly I hit on a hot button by openly discussing why I talk about sex within the church community. 

What I hear people saying loud and clear is “we need this conversation and we need more of it.”

I hear you.

And since I’m not one to shy away from a tough debate, giddy up, let’s talk about this, in-depth and with radical honesty.

Before we begin though, I want to lay some ground rules.  There are many points I want to address on this “oh so sensitive topic” and I won’t be able to do it all within one post.  I would be glad to oblige if I didn’t have three kids, two jobs, ministry and a husband. 

I know.  I know.  I need some cheese and crackers with my whine, but please be patient with me.

I also want this to be a two-way conversation, not a diatribe.  So play along.  Feel free to engage and comment.  I feel vaguely safe from all the haters out there who violently disagree with me, mainly because we are online and you can’t yell at me, but take it easy on the punctuation marks and the name-calling.  I have a list of alternative bad words if you need to be creative.

Ok…now we have some ground rules.  Here are some of the topics I want to cover.  If you have suggestions too, I am wide open.

  1. Waiting is HARD to do.  (Give me a REASON to be pure)
  2. How far is too far?
  3. Why does the church ignore singles?
  4. Why is sex important to God but not Sr. Pastor’s?
  5. The bumbling buffoon and the media (Counteracting the stereotype of the incompetent male)
  6. Wives –the ministry of intimacy.
  7. Talking about sex with our kids

 

Shall we begin?  Let’s start with “Waiting is HARD to do”…  And we’ll begin tomorrow. 

Totally lame right?  I lead you to begin a great conversation, and then I leave you hanging.  It’s sort of like what we do with our kids.  Every day they are bombarded with images of blatant sexuality.  The world says it looks good, feels good and it’s so easy to get.   

But then we –as good Christian church people tell our kids, “oh by the wait, just wait another twenty years for it.”

Your boner is bad.  Sex is wrong.  And for God’s sake, “do not touch yourself.”

And then my Jr. High kid turns on the radio and Katy Perry says, “Forget that nonsense. You won’t die if you take a bite of this yummy sexy hot red apple.”

Of course we might think twice if they showed us all the side effects of pre-marital sex… you know, like the disclaimers on the pharmaceutical ads?  “This drug will help you with your depression… could cause dementia, diarrhea, increased sensitivity to noise and loss of desire to do anything fun…” sounds awesome!  I’d rather be depressed.  (See 10 Worst Prescription Drug Side Effects to laugh your butt off)

Actual Side effects of sex before marriage include: Unwanted pregnancy, emotional scarring, abortion, HIV, HPV…which leads to ovarian cancer, genital warts, STD’s and the slow but gradual ripping apart of your soul, so that one day when you do find “the one,” you won’t actually be capable of emotionally connecting with a human anymore and porn on the internet and masturbation will be your “go to gal” instead of a real live complicated woman. 

Wow…that sounds appealing.

But what if I told you there was a good reason to wait?  And it was a compelling reason that doesn’t suck?

Would you wait for dinner if you knew you were having a filet mignon and sushi or would you go ahead and feast on Cheetos every night?  And never, ever be really satiated?

What about waiting for ten million dollars?  Would you work for five or ten years to collect a fortune or would you settle for a thousand bucks today?

But we’ll get to that tomorrow.  And maybe it will be worth the wait ♥

 

 

Talk About Sex

Yesterday, someone in my writing group suggested I write a lot about sex. 
 
Ummmmm guilty.  I actually mention sex in my blog posts six percent of the time.  I calculated this number for personal clarification or possibly because I was a tad bit defensive.
 
So, I think this “sex talk allegation” deserves a proper response.
 
I don’t talk about sex simply for shock value, because I want you to think my husband is a voracious horn-dog, or because I am a secret sex addict -as a woman in my group suggested.
 .

I talk about sex because I believe the church has done a really bad job in not talking about it. 

 

There.  I said it.  I think the church has screwed this one up (no pun intended).
 
We (the church) have let the world define sexuality and allowed it to be removed from its very creator.
 
We have let the world define sex in marriage as a chore and adultery as an epic romance.
 
We have let the world  polarize “sexy” into something perverted, unchristian and sinful. 
 
We have allowed marriage to become a business deal and sex to become a hobby.
 
There is a an epidemic of married women who are so exhausted from working full-time, raising kids and trying to be superwoman they are neglecting their husband’s sexual needs and justifying it all in the name of feminism. 
 
There is an alarming trend of married men who are so resentful of women emasculating them, they have turned to porn, football and work addictions to cope (only further isolating their wives by disengaging their hearts even more).
 
And the mere fact that a pastor’s wife openly discusses sex and (gasp) encourages it in marriage makes some people uncomfortable.
 
Just to be clear, my husband has a perfectly normal desire for intimacy.  He is a healthy male who loves and desires his wife.  And I am not always frisky.  In fact, I am usually exhausted, overwhelmed and sometimes play dead to get some sleep.
 
But when I let God whisper into my marriage…I am reminded that I chose this man and made a committment to care for his needs, not justify my own.  And I try to find, deep within me -in the dregs of my crusty heart, the extra effort to love my husband in a way he feels loved. 
 
I talk about sex because someone in the church needs to. 
 
So when a fellow writer insinuated I might be a sex addict yesterday because  I blogged about how my husband and I take vacations or “sexcations” without our children I just about fell over. 
 
Not everyone get’s my humor.  And not everyone has the luxury (or the misery) of knowing my heart behind the words I pen.  I write satire.  It’s supposed to make you laugh not analyze my neurosis.  And for the record, I’m pretty open about those too.
 
In all honesty, my husband and I didn’t have sex before we were married.  Maybe that’s why we like it now.  We have the security of knowing, without a doubt, we love each other for more than how we make each other feel.  I practically skipped down the aisle when I married this man because I knew he loved me for me and not for sex. 
 
I actually went to an SA (Sex and Love Addicts) meeting once.  My friend dragged me there because I was struggling to end a bad relationship.  After one very poignant and humiliating meeting, where I thought I was going to die, I drove home and broke up with the jack waggon.  Thank you SA for empowering me!
 
I make jokes about sex.  This is true.  And it’s possible it might be on my mind more than usual right now because I’m trying to get knocked up.  But the deeper message I want to communicate is we as the church need to reclaim sexuality as a good thing within the relationship of a committed marriage. 
 
And that’s why I talk about sex. 
 

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Five hands reached out to the center of the table and piled one on top of the other.  Kolby’s little arm had to stretch really far, but she got the tips of her fingers in as our family made our New Year’s pact.

“One, two, three…Yo Gabba Gabba,” we yelled out to seal our commitment. 

The crowd at CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) looked at our table in open curiosity.  Our family isn’t exactly a quiet bunch and tonight we were celebrating Kolby’s second birthday.

First, we went around the table and affirmed our little girl.  Kolby beamed over her mac-n-cheese and pizza.  Then we picked one New Year’s goal each and shared it with the table.  We finished up by picking one crucial action item we could each do in the next few months to turn our goal into a reality. 

Our conversation was sincere, tender and full of cheers and encouragement.

The family next to us glanced over at us occasionally.  Their boys were dressed in the height of surfer cool and the mom and dad had the “OC well groomed look” (i.e. hours at the mall, salon, dermatologist and gym).  Each child got their own meal and soda.  It was obvious their entertainment budget had more wiggle room than ours.

Our family was out to eat on a gift certificate received from a congregant as a Christmas present.  Each of us split a meal and we made our kids drink water.  I dressed baby Kolby in a birthday girl t-shirt, just to make sure the restaurant didn’t forget to give us our free ice cream sundae.

Just as they delivered Kolby’s monstrous sundae (amidst a loud and lusty rendition of “happy birthday”) and the five of us dug in –snarfing like wild dogs on the baby’s treat, I noticed the other family getting served individual desserts the size of Texas. 

I looked at my husband and chuckled, “You know you’re the financially strapped pastor’s family when…”

  • The waiter hates you because the bill is always couponed, meals are split, and they have to ID your kids to make sure they are twelve and under for the kids menu (the hair on my son’s lip and almost six-foot status might indicate an older teen-ok he’s thirteen)
  • The baby yells out “Amen” when the food arrives because she is hungry and doesn’t want to wait for prayers.
  •  The homeless guy in the parking lot is wearing an outfit you have in your closet because the same rich family in town gave you both their hand me downs.
  • You get excited when your kid loses a tooth with a cavity in it. What a saver!
  • You re-gift nice gifts you actually want.
  • You consider washing the birthday girl t-shirt and wearing it the next time you go out to get another free dessert.  (The two-year old won’t catch on for a while)

You also really know you’re the pastor’s family when the rich kids next to you look longingly over at your table and wish they could abandon their big sundae’s and fancy clothes to come and hang out with the big, noisy family where the mom has just spilled ice-cream all over the son’s pants as they try to share bites and snort hysterically.

And even though I don’t love always struggling and pinching pennies, I also know there are some things money simply can’t buy.

 

 

How kids affect your relationship

Two weeks after the honeymoon my new husband cornered me outside the door of our condo and whispered in agony, “The kids never go away, do they?”

I looked at him with all the empathy a former single mother of two small children could muster and shook my head, “No, they are pretty much around ALL THE TIME. Better get used to it babe.”

I really did feel sorry for my husband that day. It’s a big adjustment for a single (i.e. self absorbed and not used to sharing) thirty-eight year old man to get married and instantaneously have two children. Within a year, I was pregnant and then there were three munchkins running around creating havoc.

But to his credit, my husband adjusted admirably and I have watched in both delight and trepidation as fatherhood has transformed my sweetie into a more loving, sacrificial and humble human being, even though, by his own admission, it’s been excruciatingly painful at times.

The truth is kids affect the best of relationships because kids create stress. But it’s truly up to the couple to determine if the little stressors will be a blessing or a curse.

There is an antidote to the grass is always greener adage about relationships; it’s called –the grass is greener where the lawn is watered. If you take care of your marriage along with your children, both will flourish, but if you neglect one for the other, the marriage will inevitably wither.

The biggest shocker when the stork arrives may be the overwhelming demands of children on one’s time, resources, and sleep. While this may seem obvious, it’s still surprising how many people are baffled at what this actually entails- pretty much everything.

Sleep isn’t guaranteed, emotions become fragile due to lack of sleep, and sexual relations (also due to lack of sleep and post-partum recovery) generally take a nose dive during the toddler years.

There is an erroneous assumption all couples make as they stand at the altar and say “I do,” believing their romance will stay the same and transcend the length of their marriage. And it will, if they would continue to woo and romance each other for the rest of their days.

But generally, couples who spend a great deal of time meeting each other’s emotional needs in the early years refocus all their love, time and attention on the children, leaving their marriage high and dry.

The husband (feeling neglected) starts working longer hours and the wife glares at her husband each evening as he arrives home late while simultaneously blowing kisses to the baby (her new love). Little junior replaces daddy’s spot on the bed next to mommy and the internet become’s daddy’s new girlfriend now that he’s been booted to the sofa. Sound familiar?

In an age of child-centric parenting and skyrocketing divorce, many couples forget the best gift they can give their children is a strong and stable marriage. Kids need to know that their parents adore not only them, but each other as well. A child’s sense of security grows as they watch their parents display love, with all its imperfections, struggle, and willingness to choke out an “I’m sorry (even when we aren’t).”

Because I’ve been through a divorce (and don’t want another) there are certain non-negotiables in our marriage that we implemented right from the get-go.

My husband and I intentionally spend time alone catching up –usually over a long rambling walk where we air out both the good and bad. I make an effort to meet his sexual needs (always a challenge) and he tries hard to emotionally connect with my complicated female heart. We vacation together without our children (AKA “sexcations”). We affirm and admire each other and we go to counseling on a regular basis. We are honest with each other and try to always put our marriage first-even before the children.

All of this takes enormous effort and a hearty dose of unselfishness, but the results are a strong and healthy marriage that we both treasure.

Marriage isn’t for the weak or the namby-pamby’s out there, and it’s no walk in the park once the children enter the picture, but I believe it’s a worthy endeavor and if done well, can be a beacon of hope to a world desperately in need of something to believe in. Love –at its core is radical, sacrificial and a choice made every day in the trenches of dirty diapers and temper tantrums.

The greatest compliment my husband bestowed upon me was when he leaned over and whispered, “I know it would be hard with four children, but I would love to have another baby with you.”

*Note* I wrote this piece for a secular magazine. I tried to weave God into it, without being overly preachy. But ultimately, I believe God is love and marriage is a beautiful picture of the relationship between Jesus and his church.

Oh boy, do we ever screw this one up ♥

Baby vs. Puppy -The Final Decision

After a good deal of prayer, looking for various signs from heaven, and crying out for fleece (and then more fleece because God can’t really be serious about this), I think Tim and I are going to go for the BIG TRY.

For a baby that is. And some poor dog out there is out of a doghouse now because we dissed him.

Basically “trying” means we are having necessary sex vs. the unnecessary sex we normally have.  This makes it much more official.

And since we want a boy child who will be a tall and a  stellar athlete I will be donning sports apparel and six inch heels for the “trying.”  (I’ve found it’s best to be specific with God)

I know some of you are thinking…seriously?  Raising four children seems rather excessive these days.  (It’s so Duggar)

I know.  I know.  Trust me…I know.  The pitter patter of little paws sounded so appealing.

And let’s be honest here.  I’m already overwhelmed.  As I write this, I have a huge baby snot stain on my nice work pants and some buttons on my shirt have gone astray.  I’m lucky if I pull a shower every other day and my makeup is haphazardly applied at stoplights.

I was so exhausted a few weeks ago I actually ate a nugget of baby poop thinking it was a cheerio. Let’s just say it was an unpleasant surprise.

We have a three bedroom home and it’s pretty darn full.  The only room left to put a baby in is the cabinet over the TV that I can’t reach.  Or maybe in the closet or the bathroom (oh wait…that’s daddy’s Man Cave).

Then there’s the fact that my husband works non-stop (three nights a week and six days a week) and he goes to seminary on his only day off- which leaves me completely hosed from a help perspective.  Of course I do have the older two minions, I mean children.

Crazy right?  So I’ve been asking for a sign.  And every sign that comes across my path is anti-dog.  Remember when Snoopy was trying to hook up with that cute little girl and then he realized he was a dog and the relationship was doomed (maybe because he was a canine and she was human) and everywhere they went there were signs that said “No Dogs Allowed.”  Yep –it’s like that.

I tried the throw open the Bible tactic to get a word from God on my Kindle.  This method lacks the “wow” factor of dramatically flinging open the scriptures, closing your eyes and dropping a finger down on a verse, but it was still effective.  I opened my Kindle, clicked on my Bible download and Psalms came up randomly.  I glanced down with intensity and bamm…a verse on how “God knits us together in our mother’s womb.”  Shut the front door!    Another baby reference. (Or maybe a knitting reference, but God knows I’m not crafty so it has to be about a baby –right?)

Then my husband Tim says he feels like God is saying to him, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Youza!  I’m thinking, “Are you sure he didn’t say –be fruitful and multiply our income?”

But my biggest objection is really not the enormous amount of work involved in having another munchkin, it’s the same fear I struggle with everyday –that I won’t be able to love everyone enough, or I’ll feel even more inadequate as a mother than I already do, and oh yeah –that I won’t have time to write or volunteer as a room parent and then there’s all the additional mommy guilt trips.

I guess I have to trust that with four rug-rats and the always lively Tim Keller I will probably have enough material for a full season of SNL and as for the rest, I’ll just have to leave it up to God. 

For those of you still not convinced –namely me, I will suggest to you that I do have three great kids and (because of or in spite their mother) they are tremendous little people.  They are giving, loving, talented and irreplaceable. (And the world really needs more good people and fewer jackwaggons, dang it!)

So…now that we got that settled, here comes the fun part –making the baby. 

(More bun in the oven jokes to tentatively follow pending the “trying” phase)

PS.  I was joking about wearing the six-inch heels. 

What new, risky and bold decisions are you making in the new year?

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