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When Loving Others is Difficult

If you are a certain age (or like oldies music), you’ll know the song, “All We Need is Love.” It sounds so good when the Beetles croon, “All we need is love, love, love is all we need.”

And loving everyone sounds like such a great thing – in theory. In reality, it’s not quite that simple because people are, well, human. Add to that our own humanness, and suddenly loving people isn’t all fluffy clouds and rainbows and unicorns.

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In fact, loving others can be one of the hardest commands God has ever given us – especially when we’ve been hurt or betrayed by those we are supposed to love. It’s particularly painful when the hurt comes from those who are supposed to have your back. No betrayal cuts quite as deep as the betrayal from the person you trusted the most.

I don’t think that this is a particularly new problem though. Over and over in Scripture, the early church is exhorted to love each other, to forgive each other, to offer grace to each other. I don’t think it would have been mentioned quite so much if those early Christians didn’t struggle with it, like we do.

Paul, the primary writer of the letters in the New Testament, tells us how crucial our love for each other is – because a lost world is watching. They are watching, looking for something they don’t have. Our love for each other is one way we show them who Jesus is.

I have to wonder, though, what message the unsaved world gets from the church if they are basing who Jesus is on by how we love each other. 

Let’s face it, the church as a whole is divided, not just along denominational lines and racial lines, but also within individual church bodies, as well. And I think satan rubs his hands in glee to see all the disunity among the family of God because when we are busy fighting with each other, we aren’t fighting the true enemy. We lower our shields and let our swords drop by our sides, making us easy targets for an enemy the Bible describes as a lion who is seeking to devour us.

Instead of clinging to our right to be right, maybe we should start clinging to Jesus instead. We are focused on things that, really, in the light of eternity don’t even matter. Will we really care if we got invited to that party or if someone said something unkind about us when we are in Jesus’ very presence in heaven?

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I’m not denying those things sting, but we have to keep the bigger picture in mind. And that bigger picture which is we are in a war. We can’t afford to turn on our fellow soldiers if we hope to come out in one piece.

I’m talking to myself just as much as the next person in this. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily stuff I am living in. It’s all too easy to make a mountain range out of an ant hill. I get it. But know that this is what the enemy wants.

If he can turn us on each other, we do the work of devouring for him.

In Galatians 5:15, it says, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”

 

That word consume means to use up or destroy. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Yet, how many times have you felt yourself being used up or destroyed by someone actions or words? How many times have you been the one doing the devouring and consuming?

I wish I could say that if you just get spiritual enough, that everything at your church and with the people there will be smooth sailing, that everyone will just love each other perfectly and never hurt each other, intentionally or unintentionally. But that’s not the truth and we know it.

But I do think we can make a choice to not be easily offended, to not look for insult and hurt where it wasn’t intended or let it go when it was. Often those things say so much more about the other person than you. I think we can make the choice to be mature in our relationships. If we have something that is truly bothering us, that we can’t let go – go to the person in love and get it straightened out. So many times, it’s a simple misunderstanding that honesty resolves.

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Unfortunately, no matter our good intentions, the bad news is there is no way we can love each other as we are called to do. However, the good news is that we don’t have to do it in our own power.

 

Thankfully, God promises us that we are, “equipped for every good work.” I don’t know about you, but that is a big relief, to know I can lean on God to help me do the hard stuff – even loving the unlovable.

How about you? Do you struggle loving others? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

5 Minute Friday – Expect

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for 5 Minute Fridays, where women from all over write for 5 minutes on a specific topic – no editing, no planning, no SEO – just writing. You can head over HERE to join the party!

 

The topic today is EXPECT.

I obviously don’t have time to look up the word expect since I only have five minutes, but the idea of expecting something means there is always the opportunity for disappointment isn’t there? How many times has someone let you down or not met your expectations in some way? It’s hard isn’t it.

Yet at the same time, I don’t want to become that person who always expects the worst of people either. I will confess that I have a tendency toward becoming cynical, so while I want to believe the best of everyone, experience has taught me – sometimes painfully – that sometimes it’s better to have no expectations rather than have them disappointed.

The thing is though, I can take that idea of low expectations and apply it to God. Because, let’s be honest, haven’t you prayed for something and the answer you got was No or maybe what felt like silence – and while you hate to admit it, you feel a little like God let you down. That He disappointed you. It can make you feel like you can’t expect from Him either.

But the truth is, God is always FOR us – even when His answer is NO. I was reading this morning in Lamentations about God’s lovingkindness and His mercy is new every morning. While we have no guarantee that God will always answer our prayers or orchestrate our lives the way we WANT Him to, we do have the assurance of His love  and His presence.

We do have the promise that nothing – not even the demons of hell – can take us away from our Father’s love. There is a verse in Malachi (I think – again, that whole 5 minute thing means I can’t look it up!) that talks about waiting on the Lord with excited expectation.

I have to ask myself – do I wait on the Lord like that? Do I wait with great expectation to see what God is going to do – no matter the circumstance?

We have evidence in the form of His Word that some of God’s greatest glory showings came when His people were in the worst spots. I mean, God LED the children of Israel to the Red Sea. It looked pretty bleak, but He showed up BIG TIME.

In Ephesians it says that God does above and beyond anything we can ask or even think to ask. I don’t know about you, but I want to live my life with that kind of expectation. Anne Shirley often talked about the excitement of seeing what was around the bend in the road.

What’s your bend in the road and are you waiting for it with great expectation?

Blessings, Rosanne

5 Minute Friday – GROW

I’m not sure how it is Friday again already. What I do know is that since it is Friday, it’s time to do some free writing with some other wonderful women from all over. If you haven’t been a part of 5 Minute Friday, it’s a link up where women from across the country (and probably world) all write about one word for five minutes – no editing, no perfectionism allowed.  Are you ready?

This week’s topic: GROW

Several years ago, I planted my very first vegetable garden. I did the square foot gardening method and I went to Lowe’s and some nice worker there helped me find all the supplies I needed to construct the raised bed. I painstakingly combined the different types of soil and compost that the guy in the book suggested.  I divided my little 4×4 foot garden bed into squares and then I planted the seeds, carefully poking them in the freshly turned soil.

I don’t know why, but for some reason I was really shocked when things actually started to grow. I remember coming into the house and exclaiming to my husband, “The green beans are growing! There’s all these little plants! Can you believe it?”

My husband grew up in the country, so he started laughing.  “What did you expect would happen?” he said. “Wasn’t that why you did all this work?”

So many times, in my own life, I put in the work or the time or whatever, but I’m not really expecting the harvest. I’m not sure why, but I’m always sort of pleasantly shocked by the fact that there is growth and change.

Like my little garden, some things take only a little tending before they shoot up into green sprouts, while others take more time and attention.

Today is my oldest son Brock’s last day of high school. I’m not sure how we got here so quickly. It seems just yesterday he was starting his first day of high school. I remember that day very distinctly because he fell and broke his nose which was kind of memorable!

I’ve prayed very specific prayers for my sons, and God has answered many of them in ways I wasn’t expecting. The growth and change have taken me by surprise. I remember praying that Brock would love God’s Word. I always provided the tools like devotionals and stuff, but I never felt I should make my kids do devotions because that kind of defeats the purpose. Then one of his teachers challenged the kids to read their Bible every day. Since then, studying God’s Word has become a big part of Brock’s life. He has become a critical thinker too because of that. He recognizes if someone teaches something and it’s a bit off. He’ll go home and look it up to see for himself.

And I find myself surprised – even though I prepared the soil and planted and watered it – that he has grown so much in this way.

Sometimes, the things I prayed for weren’t obvious on the surface. Like a carrot or radish, the growth was all going on under the surface. I worried and I prayed and I fretted – only to find that God was working and moving. I just couldn’t see it.

That’s the thing about God – He is faithful. He WILL bring a harvest. He WILL bring growth – even if sometimes, we can’t see it right away. So, if you are looking for growth and aren’t seeing it, keep watering and tending. God promises that what we sow, we will reap.

Blessings, Rosanne

5 Minute Friday – MISS

Hey All! It is Friday again, and it is time for 5 Minute Fridays. If you are new and are wondering what in the world 5 Minute Fridays are, let me share! Every Friday over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home, women from all over all write about a word for five minutes – no editing allowed. Just write for five minutes! You can join in HERE.

 


Today’s word is MISS.

In a few short weeks (I’m still sort of in denial), my oldest son Brock will graduate from high school. I know it sounds like a cliche, (but I guess cliches are used so often because they have some truth in them), but it really does seem like a very short time ago that he was going into sixth grade and I thought he was so big.

Now he’s a young man – one whom I admire for his character and strength of mind.

This past summer, my brother died by taking his life. It’s been hard and painful, but it’s times like this that are toughest. No matter how much time passes when you lose someone you love, grief can ambush you.

It ambushed me after my youngest son was in his first play. I kept thinking how my brother would have enjoyed seeing him and he missed it.

There was also an art show and I could just hear him exclaiming over one of Brody’s pictures, but he missed it.

Brock has won several awards and scholarships, most recently the Scholar/Athlete of the Year which is the first time anyone in the school’s history was picked as the winner out of a group of 15 other top student/athletes. I could just hear my brother’s exclamation, “That’s awesome, dude!” I could see him in my mind’s eye grabbing Brock’s hand and pulling him in for a guy hug, but he missed it.

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From now on, everything that happens in our lives, he’ll miss. Some days that makes me really sad, and some days, it makes me really angry.

Unfortunately, when my brother made his decision to end his life, he wasn’t thinking of all he would miss. He was only thinking of escaping his pain. As life moves on and milestones come and go, I wish the things my brother would have missed would have loomed larger than the pain.

Blessings, Rosanne

How Did Mother’s Day Become Another Way Women Hurt Each Other?

Today, I’m over at Arabah Joy’s blog doing the Grace & Truth link up. Join us HERE!
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It seems in the last several years, celebrating Mother’s Day has become somewhat of a touchy issue. In fact, my default for Mother’s Day has become to feel somewhat guilty and try not to look too happy, because some people might find that offensive or painful.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do feel compassion for the woman sitting in a church service bleeding on the inside while all the moms stand up to get their flower or bookmark or little book. I get that that is hard and painful to see others celebrating what you don’t have and desperately want or what you have lost.

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I do feel compassion for the woman who sits in the pew and has lost her mom through death or misunderstanding or mental illness. I get that that is hard and painful to see others enjoying a relationship and a connection you wish desperately you had or that you have lost.

I have friends who have walked this road, who have lost a child or couldn’t have a child or who lost their mother or no longer speak to their mother. In fact, there is a woman at my church who lost both her mother and her son this year. My heart goes out to her and I regularly pray for her and others for whom Mother’s Day is painful and difficult.

But I’m not sure how guilting or shaming women who do celebrating being a mom takes away the pain for the women for whom, for whatever reason, Mother’s Day is difficult.

Instead of drawing together and supporting each other in whatever stage we happen to be in, Mother’s Day has become just another way that women end up hurting each other. Somehow, instead of encouraging each other, we end up fighting about whose experience is most valid and worthy of support. The truth is the young mom with 3 kids under 4 years old deserves a day to be celebrated just as much as the woman who has lost a child due to miscarriage deserves empathy and compassion.

It really doesn’t have to be either/or.

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Romans 12:15 addresses both of the groups that face Mother’s Day – the one with joy and the one with dread – when it says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

The word rejoice is the Greek word chairo and means to rejoice exceedingly, to be glad. This verse is specifically talking to believers. In fact, there is a whole list of ways believers are to treat each other in this chapter, but one thing we can do is to be glad for someone even if they have something that we want but don’t have. This isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially if your heart yearns for what that person has and is celebrating.

Recently, my Facebook feed was full of pictures for Siblings Day (not sure who came up with that one), and I’ll be honest.  It was hard to look at all the pictures posted of siblings, smiling and laughing or being goofy together. It was hard because my brother is no longer here. Their happiness reminded me of my own loss in a poignant and painful way, but that didn’t mean I wanted everyone else to NOT celebrate their siblings or to stop posting pictures. That sibling relationship is special and worth celebrating. I was happy for them, even though my smile came through tears.

At the same time, the word weep is the Greek word klaio which means to mourn, to lament or to bewail. When our sister in Christ hurts, we aren’t supposed to just pat her on the back and move on. We are to enter her grief with her, to cry with her. That’s called empathy and it is something that often doesn’t come naturally to us. We tend to be selfish creatures and it’s easy to just focus on our own lives and families or to allow busyness to make us careless about other’s feelings. But this isn’t a suggestion. It is written in the form of a command in this passage of Scripture. No matter how hard or how difficult, entering into another person’s pain is a meaningful way to love that person and to lift them up.

 

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So, as Mother’s Day approaches, I’d like to suggest a plan. How about if those who struggle with the day determine they will rejoice with those who rejoice, that they will smile for their sister in Christ even if that smile comes through tears, and that they will give themselves the gift of doing what they need to do to get through the day without guilt or defensiveness.

And how about if those who enjoy the day take the time to look around and acknowledge the pain and difficulty of this day for those who do struggle. Maybe send them a card or offer a hug or just listen. Give them the grace to bow out of services or celebrations if it is just too painful. Take a moment to encourage them to take care of their own emotional well-being.

Let’s determine that instead of judgment or taking offense or becoming defensive, we will grant each other some grace on this Mother’s Day – grace to celebrate and grace to bow out; grace to feel joyful and grace to feel sad.  In other words, let’s love each other because love smooths over all those pesky human frailties.

How about you? Is Mother’s Day hard, easy or some combination of both? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

 

5 Minute Friday – Pass


Every Friday, women from all over the internet join up and write about one topic for 5 minutes – without censoring, without editing, without second guessing. Want to join the party? Head on over HERE to be part of the link up.

The word for today is PASS.

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The other day, I dropped my kids off at school, and then I pulled out onto the street where the speed limit was still 20 mph. I was toodling along at this slow speed, kind of impatient to get to the part of the road where the regular speed limit picked back up, when two other parents who pulled out behind me blared their horns and zoomed around me, matching looks of irritation on their faces

I’m going to be honest, a big part of me wanted there to be a cop close by so they’d get a ticket. In my defense, I am not a morning person and I hadn’t had any coffee yet. Yet, I was kind of taken by surprise at the amount of anger that welled up in me by, what really, was no big deal. I was also a bit taken aback by the amount of irritation in the other drivers too.

But God showed me, even in that simple incident, that there are lessons to be learned. the first is it is so easy to get angry when you are in a season of life where you feel like you are in the slow lane and someone else blows by you. You are putzing along at 20 mph because that is the speed limit. That’s where you are at. It’s not that you don’t want to go faster or zoom ahead. It’s just that you are limited by things outside of your control – like the speed limit.

Yet, you feel kind of stuck and you find yourself irritated by the people around you whose lives seemed to be lived at a much faster pace, who are going somewhere, who are moving forward at a much faster speed than you are. It’s hard to be happy for that friend who finally published her book, or congratulate your friend whose adoption came through when you are still waiting. You want to feel happy for the friend who got a job promotion but a big part of you feels jealous of their success because your time is spent changing diapers or caring for an aging parent and getting ahead at work just can’t be a priority at the moment.

I think just being aware and seeking to get to a place of acceptance (not resignation) can help with some of these feelings. I have found, when I feel stuck like that, writing down what I am thankful for and the ways God IS working in my life help me to let go of any resentment I feel when others seem to be zooming by me.

The other lesson that stuck out to me was the irritation of the other drivers – their impatience with my slow pace even though that was the actual speed limit. It annoyed me in the moment, but how many times do I get impatient with someone else who might be in that slow lane of life at the moment.

Maybe, instead of riding their bumper and blowing my horn and leaving them in the dust, I could slow down and keep pace with them instead. A lot of times, it’s easy to get annoyed when someone in your life just isn’t as available as before or can no longer be your buddy in whatever you are pursuing. Instead of getting upset because someone is now in a different, slower season than you are, extend some compassion and kindness instead.  Spend some time slowing down and waling beside them rather than leaving them in the dust, blaring your horn of irritation all the way.

Whether you are the one being passed or the one doing the passing, a little compassion and understanding can ease the way.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

5 Minute Friday – EASY

It’s 5 Minute Friday again, that day of the week when women from all over come together and write about one topic for five, unedited minutes. Want to join in? Check it out HERE. Today’s word is EASY.

 

I want things to be easy. Remember Charlie Brown? When people would ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he always said, “Happy.” I can relate to Charlie Brown, but my answer to that question has always been fun and peaceful.

But life isn’t always peaceful, and it is certainly not always fun – or even mostly fun, if I’m completely honest.  I don’t know how many things I’ve missed out on because I prefer easy over hard or difficult. I don’t know how many opportunities that passed me by because I wasn’t willing to do hard.

I’ve noticed, though, that all the truly worthwhile things aren’t easy.

Parenting – definitely not easy. I guess it’s a good thing that nobody really knows what to expect. No matter how many books you’ve read or how much you’ve tried to prepare, nothing can really prepare you for the complete life change children bring into  your life. Nobody can explain to you the pain you feel when you child hurts or the angst you go through if you have to watch them struggle at all. And while parenting is fulfilling and I love my kids and wouldn’t trade them for the world, nobody can say it’s been exactly easy.

Marriage – despite the warmy fuzzies you have walking down the aisle, it doesn’t take long to realize you have to fight for a good marriage. I know, everyone thinks THEY will be the exception to this rule that marriage is hard work because they REALLY love each other. I just smile and nod when young couples gush about how wonderful and perfect and beautiful their lives will be together. They have no idea, but that’s okay. And there will be some awesome, wonderful moments, but those moments don’t happen because marriage is easy.

Fulfilling your calling – definitely not easy, no matter what anyone wants to tell you. I’m not sure where we got the idea that if we are truly doing what God wants us to, it will be smooth sailing. That message certainly isn’t in the Bible at all. Look at Paul. He basically took the Gospel to the Gentiles and wrote over half of the New Testament, but his life was anything but easy. He often took the hard road, even when he knew it would be hard from the start to do what God called him to do.

No, life is not easy, but I want it to be. I’m learning though that pushing through the hard stuff is the only way to have a life that is actually worth living.

Blessings, Rosanne

5 Minute Fridays – WHOLE

It’s Friday again and time for 5 Minute Fridays. You can join in HERE. Five Minute Fridays are where women from all over come together to write on one topic for five, unedited moments. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE free writing, and I love the community at Five Minute Friday!

 

I’ve been studying on some of the kings of Israel for an upcoming workshop I’m doing next weekend (gulp!), and I was drawn back to the stories of David and Solomon. If you look at these two men, it would seem that David had the bigger doozies as far as sinning went. I mean, he did steal another man’s wife, force himself on her, and then have that man killed to cover up his tracks when the woman got pregnant. Solomon on the other hand, didn’t seem to have any huge, glaring sin that would have made the Jerusalem Herald, yet God was not pleased with Solomon.

I don’t have time to look it up (5 minutes, people!), but one verse said something like, Solomon did not follow the Lord with his whole heart, as his father David did. In fact, because he was not wholehearted in his devotion to God, he allowed his foreign wives to influence him to worship other gods. In fact, his preoccupation with exotic women was Solomon’s downfall really. Like his father before him, Solomon had an eye for the ladies. The man had 1,000 wives and concubines. When I was little, they told this story in Sunday school and I remember asking the teacher, How big was their bed? (the poor woman was totally flustered!).

Even though David messed up many times (he also got in more trouble for counting the people), his desire for God outweighed his desire to hide from the consequences. While he sinned in spectacular ways, his repentance was passionate and sincere – because he loved God with all of his heart.

Solomon didn’t. His heart was divided.

I have that problem too sometimes – a divided heart. There is another verse (again, no time to look it up but I think it is in I or II Kings somewhere), that says that God is seeking the whole earth for those who are wholehearted.

What does it mean to be wholehearted in this world that clamors for our attention and pulls on us from multiple directions? I think it starts with a desire to truly know God. I’m reminded of Mary and Martha. Martha was distracted by “all these things,” but Mary sat at Jesus’ feet – her attention focused wholly on Him.

I believe that being whole starts with being wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus.  It’s really the only way to get through this world in one piece.

Blessings, Rosanne

5 Minute Friday – DECIDE

Today is 5 Minute Friday where every Friday women from all over the world get together and write about a word for five minutes – no editing, not censoring. Just writing. You can join in HERE.

Today’s word is DECIDE. This is the second week in a row that I’ve participated in 5 minute Friday after a long hiatus and for the second time, the chosen word echoes eerily the current events in my life.

You see, right now I am in the process of deciding: deciding how to spend my time, deciding where to put my focus, deciding what to say no to and what to say yes to.

All of it seems so good, yet I only have so many hours in my days, so many days in my weeks, and well, you get the idea. I can’t say yes to everything.

The problem is, I like lots of things. Learn more about photography? I’m in. Grow my blog and learn more about how to get the word out? Sounds like fun! Learn new knitting techniques and maybe take a class on hand lettering? Sign me up! Get more involved in the organization where I volunteer? Great!

The problem is – I can’t do it all. Well, at least I can’t do it all and do it well. So, I have a choice. I can do a lot of things halfheartedly or I can do a few things really well.

I have to decide.

Did I ever mention I hate making decisions? The reason I hate them all comes down to fear. Fear that I might choose wrong. Fear that I might miss out on something cool or interesting or awesome. Fear that by deciding I am closing doors I might not be able to open again.

Thankfully, God tells us in James 1 that if we ask for wisdom He WILL GIVE IT TO US UNGRUDGINGLY.

The key is we have to believe Him – both that He will give us that wisdom and the actual wisdom He gives us. Have you ever prayed about something and God answers and you keep praying because you think that can’t possibly be what He meant? Yeah, me too!

Ironically, today I set aside time to decide – decide on my focus and direction in this next season of my life. And one thing I have decided on very firmly is that I can trust God to lead me and give me wisdom.

Blessings, Rosanne

5 Minute Fridays – ALIVE

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in a 5 Minute Friday, but I am excited to dive in again. If you aren’t familiar, 5 Minute Fridays are where women from all over the world all write for five unedited minutes about the word for that week. I know this labels me as a word nerd, but  I always loved those timed free writes we did in my college writing classes. Some of the best work came out of a time to write with no pressure. You can come on over and join in on 5 Minute Fridays HERE.

Today’s word is ALIVE.

I find it really interesting that the word today is Alive because today is Good Friday, the day we slow down and remember Jesus’ death. It’s also a bit ironic for me personally because it seems my little world has been colored with death a lot lately. It started when my brother took his life last summer, but it didn’t end there.

A woman our family has known for a long time died in September.

A young man in a local high school killed himself, and he was found by his dad and brother on the soccer field of the school.

A woman (the daughter of the woman who died in September) lost her oldest son suddenly in January.

A young man was shot and killed just a few weeks ago which means his life was taken and his shooter, another teenager, his life is also over.

A young girl at a different local high school tried to kill herself in the band room of her school. A few students found her but she passed away just a few days ago.

Two young girls, only 7 and 10, died in a house fire this week.

Today, I remember that Jesus died a gruesome death on my behalf, and yet, because of that horrible death, I can have hope. Despite the numerous tragedies that have surrounded my world lately, I can still be alive because Jesus died.

But He didn’t just die. He defeated death. See, the cross, while it is so important to our salvation stories, isn’t the end. If it was the end, Christianity would be no different than any other religion in the history of the world. No – Jesus defeated death and he arose from that grave and He is alive.

And because He lives, I can too – no matter what the circumstances.

Blessings, Rosanne

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