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Monday, April 30, 2007

Welcome to Making Home!

Welcome to Making Home!

I'm Jessica, but my friends often call me Jess, and you can read more about me here.  Our family has lived and traveled around the world in various spots since 2005, but we are currently delighted to be "Making Home" back in our home state, Texas, once again. 

Feel free to read recent article, and be aware that there are several hundred articles/posts from the past few years that you can check out about marriage, family, parenting, womanhood, and more.  My aim here at Making Home is to encourage and challenge Christian women to think beyond what American culture tells us, and to think beyond even what so-called "Christian" culture might tell us-- and to examine the issues and ideas that affect our hearts and homes from a biblical perspective. I enjoy discussing life with women who keep Scripture as their standard.

  1. You may find the sidebar helpful-- To the side, you can check out categories of topics we've talked through, or you can look under the heading "Making Home Highlights" to find some of the most popular or favorite posts.
  2. In 2 boxes on the left & right sidebars, you can find my favorite books & resources.  Truly, one of my great joys in life is passing along helpful, encouraging, and insightful resources to others. [Full disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to  This fact does not change my recommendations.]
  3. I love to point people in the direction of great and worthwhile information, books, and articles. I do that most often through this semi-regular feature -SHOW & TELL- These posts are chock-full of links I've found to interesting articles, blogs, people, or ideas... this is my storehouse of great "finds" on the internet!
  4. And if you're new to reading blogs, this is kind of like an online magazine with the most recent articles posted to the top of the page, so as you scroll down through, you're scrolling backwards through time. You can use the archive menu on the sidebar to access previous month's articles, or choose to browse by "categories" (subject matter) so you can click on what you want to read about.

I'd love to hear your thoughts & comments, even on issues we've previously discussed... I read every comment, so it's great to have you join in!
Please join in the discussion or e-mail me at this address:

Feel free to stay awhile, and let's learn together what it means to make a home and to make our way Home towards Heaven. I want to share what I'm learning & encourage you in your role as a child of God, wife, homemaker, mother, homeschooler, friend, daughter, mentor, or student. Whatever your role is, I hope what I've shared here will challenge you to live obediently toward God and rebelliously toward the world.

Press on!

Quick Query #17: Country or City Living?

Lately, many different Christian bloggers have been writing about the virtue of simplicity. Specifically, these people are trying to slow down the pace of life, simplify the way they live, and each for his/her own specific reasons. Some of those reasons include: pace of life, time together as a family, ecological impact, and intentionally not buying into the materialism and "bigger is better" attitude that so permeates America. Essentially, opting out of the so-called "American dream", and choosing instead to design their own family life.

One reason this is so interesting to me is because when we lived in China, we lived within about an 8-10 mile radius. Occasionally we took trips up into the mountains and went farther than that, but our friends, school, shopping, entertainment, restaurants, and everything else we needed was easily with an 8-mile radius of our home. So you can imagine our reverse culture shock when we came back to the States... it took SO LONG to get
anywhere! 30- and 45-minute rides in the car are just a fact of life, in most places in America.

So, my question for you is this: If you were going to simplify your life, which one of these "plans" would you most like to pursue and why?
  • A: AMY'S HUMBLE LIFE: "Oh give me a home with acreage to roam, where the cows and the four-year-olds play..." Amy's plan includes buying land, having land to give to children, possibly having a vineyard and an orchard and room for some livestock, virtually living off the land.
  • B: SARA'S CITYSCAPE: "Oh give me a home with no styrofoam, where the hippies and vegans eat whey..." Silly song aside, Sara lives an ecologically-consciencious life, buying locally, eating fresh and healthy, living in a very small space (382 sq. ft. for a family of three!), and even growing dreads to the glory of God!
Now I know, it's not about where you live- it's HOW you live. An article that made this very point is what actually inspired this post. She points out that it's more about living frugally, living within your means, and making deliberate choices to simplify and slow down your family's life.

Nonetheless, today, if you're going to participate in this Quick Query, your choices are what you find above; there's no "other" in this query. Both plans provide a method for simple living, with an eye for being a better steward of the earth, but they go about it in very different ways. You may choose a plan and disagree with certain aspects, or choose to go about it a different way; that's fine. But tell which you'd choose and what you see as the advantages of that particular choice.

So, let's hear it! Which one would you choose?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

What Suffering Produces In Us

For our family, these last six months have been a road filled with questions, sadness, uncertainty, weariness, and more questions. We have tried to walk faithfully, looking neither to the left nor the right, but fixing our eyes on Jesus, fixing our minds on the last "word" we heard... that we are to be in Central Asia. Throughout the months, I have faced discouragement and frustration, but no real sorrow. Up until last week, I have been able to walk this road with joy and faith in the One Who called us to walk this road.

But last week, it all hit, all at once... the waiting that is out of our control, the faithless questions from well-meaning people here, the desire to be back in Asia, the aimlessness we feel here, and the feeling that while we believe we have followed His plan for our lives, the fact remains that here we are, back in America for a time, after all the preparation we underwent to be overseas.

And I would have despaired, had it not been for a solid, unshakable faith in the Rock on which I stand. No matter the storms that wash over me, no matter how high the waves rise, no matter how fierce the wind that wants to knock me over, no matter that I'm holding three little hands and trying to shield them from the storm, my Rock will hold fast. And His Words hold true:

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; YES, wait for the LORD." -Psalm 27:13-14

All along I have been asking to know Him, to more clearly resemble Him, for His love and light to shine through me. And how could I become acquainted with Christ, the Man of Sorrows, were I not to suffer? Suffering, even this suffering here and now, can be sweet and fruitful.


Our God is not an arbitrary God. He does not spontaneously decide to send suffering upon us. He does not change His mind like the changing of the winds. He has a plan for each of us, and each plan is different. But in each of our lives, if we cling to Him
while we are in the storms, suffering will produce some things we all need: perseverance, endurance, compassion and comfort we can pass on to others, and a greater sense of identification with Christ Himself.

The "high times" of life are not what reveal our true character. The fiber of our character, the strength of our faith, and the degree of growth that we have undergone as a disciple of Christ are all revealed through struggles and suffering.

It is easy to be generous when we are doing well financially. It is easy to "take courage" when there is nothing to be scared about. It is easy to rest in Christ when nothing is jarring or difficult or concerning.

What is difficult is to cling to Him in the sorrow, to run to Him with our burdens, and to have abiding hope and faith despite our circumstances. But if we are learning to take His yoke instead of our own, and if we are learning to praise Him in the midst of a storm, and if we are learning that He is good despite what our circumstances (or even what our acquaintances) tell us, then those beliefs will show up in how we respond when we are facing brutal storms in our lives.

This present suffering is not solely intended for what it is producing in us right now, but for how we will be able to testify to God's comfort for those who suffer, and for how we will be able to comfort those with the comfort we have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5 tells us this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
So "our present" suffering is not really either of those things. It is not only ours-- it is for others as well, so that we may comfort them with the same comfort we ourselves are finding. And it is not only for the here and now-- it is preparing us for who we will be and for who we will meet in the future.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
For each point, I struggled with whether or not to say "Suffering Can be Fruitful Because..." or "Suffering Is Fruitful Because..." But I settled on "Can Be", because Christ does not force us to grow. It is possible for someone in a storm to dig their heels in and war against what God is trying to produce in them.

Yes, the rain falls on both the just and the unjust and the storms come to both the faithful and the unfaithful, but the difference is our response. So we can choose to learn and grow and run to Him in the storms, or we can grow bitter and calloused and harden ourselves to our Father. It is entirely up to us. His call remains the same:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tulip Tips

TulipsApril 2007Tulips are one of the easiest to grow and almost problem free flowers for the garden. They are a true spring delight sure to bring a smile. Some of our tulips are finally in bloom and the rest are ready to follow suit. Each year the tulip clumps get larger. The majority of the tulip clumps are orangish red giving a blast of wonderful colour. Somehow a clump of rosy pink and

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

One Year Anniversary

My GnomesOne year ago today I started Garden Gnomes Wanderings blog. Over the year there have been a few changes mainly with the template. I'm still having a lot of fun writing this blog so expect it to last. Today our house is one step closer to being sold. If that happens I'll go through the steps of turning over the garden to the new owners and the steps of creating a new garden. Time

Show & Tell: What's Good, Bad, and Ugly for Raising Our Children

I've found some interesting articles, all having to do with raising our children or children in general. Look through the list & find one or two to read... you'll be glad you did!
  • New study finds that religious upbringing is good for kids: for their behavior, self-control, and ability to play with others. (Really just confirming what we already knew, but it's interesting to read their comments.)
    "The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services���especially when both parents did so frequently���and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents."
  • For those of you who don't like the full-blown Westminster catechism for use with children, here's a children's catechism with simple questions and answers that may be useful for memory work or for family devotion times.
  • WHO is this kid and who are his parents? Who are these parents spending upwards of $1 million dollars to raise one child?! Consider this line to see the kind of parenting their talking about: "Parents with more than one kid then face the fiscal phenomenon of upgrading, where baby No. 1 starts with a standard-issue stroller, the middle issue gets an upgrade to a $300 MacLaren and, by the time No. 3 comes around, it is an $879 model by Bugaboo." Who is doing this, other than Kelly Ripa? In my experience, the third child is the one who gets the really threadbare hand-me-downs, plays with the already scratched-up Matchbox cars, and is reading taped-up books.
    "...for many families, drawing the line between attentive parenting and extravagance is a tough call; even parents who are relatively strapped will go to great lengths for their children." Read the whole article here.
  • Do interracial couples spend more money on their kids? This article says yes, in almost every instance, they do!
  • And finally, for a sad story about one child, a high school in Fresno, California has allowed a "trans-gendered" teen girl to run for Prom King. It's sad that this even has to be discussed among teens; this ain't your parents Prom!
Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Sinner, the Spiritual, and the Observer

Galatians 6 begins with a situation that many a Christian will face at one time or another:
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression..."

This isn't a passage admonishing you how to behave if you are caught in sin, but rather, it gives us advice about what to do if a fellow believer is caught in sin and you find out about it. Isn't that just a practical way for a passage to begin? Because so many of us find ourselves in this situation. During "prayer" time, someone will share about "Carrie's sister"... or about "the argument between Michelle & her mom." We'll hear about a crumbling marriage, a church member's addiction to pornography, or a young mom's problem with anger toward her children.

It goes on to say:
" who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness."

Charles Stanley says that this kind of spiritual person is not just someone who reads their Bible occasionally, or is merely a regular church attender. This kind of spiritual person is someone for whom Christ is the center of their lives, a person who walks in the Spirit, and is a person who will have wisdom as to how to help restore a fallen brother or sister. This person knows to address the situation gently, humbly, and kindly, offering compassion and love while working towards restoration.

Not many people will fit this description, which is why things go awry when a casual Christian tries to "help" a Christian friend by giving advice from the likes of Oprah, Dr. Phil, or Dr. Laura. A spiritual Christian will restore by offering encouragement from the Word of God. A spiritual Christian will approach a fallen brother or sister
gently-- offering kindness instead of judgment, and a hand and ear rather than back-biting. We should each begin to develop that kind of gentle spirit toward those caught in sin.

"Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."

The interesting thing about this sentence is that this is what we very seldom do. When we see a brother who has fallen prey to internet pornography, we shake our heads at both he and his wife, thinking he must be a louse and she must not be "taking care of business". When we see a parent whose teen or adult child wanders into rebellion, we may think, "ah, they must have made some major mistakes with
that one!" But the truth is that any one of us -male or female- is subject to the same sins we see in others.

That's why Paul admonishes us to keep watch. We're to look at those going through the struggles of sin and learn from their mistake. We're to take caution not to fall into the same pit ourselves.

You know that saying,
"there but by the grace of God go I"? We often hear it in terms of a beggar on the side of the road or a drug-addicted prostitute. And while it is good to recognize that we, too, without the grace of God, would be ravaged by addiction, need, and sin, we need to personalize it more. It is you or I that could one day have a husband who falls into the arms of another woman. It is you or I that could have a child walk away from the Lord and foolishly into the world. It is you or I that could fall into any kind of sin ourselves. That is what makes the grace of God so incredible! Truly, without the lavish grace of God, you and I wouldn't stand a chance.

Gracious Father, help us to begin to see the sin of our brothers and sisters in a new light. When we hear of fellow believers that have fallen into sin, let us look inward, checking ourselves, lest we too be tempted. Make us the kind of men and women that offer gentle kindness. Keep us from making judgments about others, but instead, help us to be gracious in our words, actions, and, even though they're hidden, our thoughts as well. Make us spiritual men and women who You can work through to touch people in their moment of need. Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Attracting birds to my gardens has been one of my goals. Most birds are beneficial in the garden and while some can be pests, they are easily controlled. I was shocked when a fellow gardener referred to grackles as junk birds! As gardeners, we are stewarts of the land so there should be no such thing as junk critters. Some are pests and some are beneficial but all serve a purpose. I took this

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yesderday In The Garden

The weather has finally turned mild compared to the nasty April start. I spent a bit of time in the garden yesterday just puttering and enjoying the new growth. Now this is rather bitter sweet in some ways as we do have the house listed for sale and our offer was accepted on another house. Basically the only thing we have to do to move is sell our house. Looking at all I've accomplished in

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What Kind of King Do You Serve?

Last Summer, when we were in Thailand waiting for Maranatha's arrival, we were able to take part in the celebration of the King of Thailand's sixty years as monarch of that country. The Thai people LOVE their King. They turned out in droves all over the country to celebrate, to show their support, and to have a chance to leave a flower, flag, or note to commemorate his reign.

Christians sing songs and teach lessons that center on Jesus as King. "All Hail King Jesus", "Crown Him With Many Crowns", and "Majesty" are all titles that speak to the Kingship of Christ. But not everyone who calls his/herself a Christian has actually acknowledged Jesus as the Lord of his/her life. There are different kinds of Kings in this world, ranging from the Elvis (the "King of Rock & Roll") to the current Queen Elizabeth to absolute monarchs, such as King Solomon or Henry VIII. I want to explore these different kinds of Kings, and ask you:
What kind of King is Jesus in your life?

An "Elvisy" King Jesus
This treatment of Jesus is evidenced when you hear things like, "I think Jesus was a good man, a good teacher, and I can appreciate Him for that." Spoken by secularists and cultural Christians alike, these people write off the Savior of the World by relegating Him to the position of someone we can all learn from. In a way that sounds like the way people talk about Elvis, they say, "whether or not I like his particular style, we can all admit that he contributed important things to the world, thoughts, ideas, and themes that changed the world in a big way."

Sadly, I think most people in the world treat Jesus this way. He's an important man of history, and they certainly know his name and a few things about him, and would even go see a free exhibit about him, but as far as having a strong commitment to Him,
forget about it!

King Jesus as Figurehead
This treatment of Jesus can be likened to the British Kingdom's treatment of modern royalty, like their current sovereign, Queen Elizabeth. The monarch is watched, praised, and resides in a palace, removed from the everyday lives of his/her 'subjects'. As a titular head, this is a person in an official position of leadership who possesses few, if any, actual powers. This ruler does not issue edicts or make demands on those who are 'ruled'. While subjects to this kind of ruler appreciate him/her as an important person in their lives, this kind of King does not actually affect real life. There may be an emotional attachment to this person as "King" or "Queen", but this monarch is not ruler over their lives.

And isn't this exactly the way many of us approach Jesus? He is the King that we will worship and praise on special occasions (perhaps every Sunday, but at least He'll get a nod a couple times a year--on Easter and Christmas, if the Easter Bunny & Santa don't distract us too much). But He will issue no demands on our lives, and even if He did, we regard Him as a figurehead, so His edicts carry no weight. He will have no say in the decisions and details of our lives, and so He is simply a nicety in our life, who will not really affect our everyday lives.

Jesus as King of My Life
We must do more than pay lip service to Jesus. He is not just a King in name- but He is the sovereign King over all things, whether or not we recognize Him. I'm reminded of this scene, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (I beg your indulgence, as this is one of the most funny scenes on the silver screen), as King Arthur approaches two peasants who do not acknowledge his Kingship:
How do you do, good lady? I am Arthur, King of the Britons. Who's castle is that?
King of the who?
The Britons.
Who are the Britons?
Well, we all are. We are all Britons, and I am your king.
I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship: a self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--
Oh, there you go bringing class into it again.
That's what it's all about. If only people would hear of--
Please! Please, good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?
No one lives there.
Then who is your lord?
We don't have a lord.
I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week,...
...but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting...
Yes, I see.
DENNIS: a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,...
Be quiet!
...but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more major--
Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
Order, eh? Who does he think he is? Heh.
I am your king!
Well, I didn't vote for you.
You don't vote for kings.
Well, how did you become King, then?
The Lady of the Lake,... [angels sing] ...her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops] That is why I am your king!
Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Be quiet!
Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
Shut up!
I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!
Shut up, will you? Shut up!
King Arthur ends up leaving them to argue amongst themselves to search for someone who will acknowledge him as King and respond to Him. And that is what Jesus does. 2Chronicles 16:9 says, "the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him." He desires communion and fellowship with those who acknowledge Him as the rightful King of their lives. Will you be one whose heart is fully committed to serving this King of Glory?

The kind of King Jesus that ought to be in our lives is not only a sovereign King- one who reigns
and rules, but one Who is also our personal King. Like King Arthur's historical "Knights of the Round Table", we ought to be servants of the King who will give everything we have- our resources, our time, and our very lives-- to serve Him. We ought to be committed to fighting for Him, pursuing the things in the world that He deems important, and ready to obey His every command- whether large or small. His Word will reach into every area of our lives at one time or another, and we must submit ourselves to it. Let's give more than lip service to this Victorious King. Let's read His Word and delightfully obey!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Please Watch Your Step

It's springtime and time to do a little updating on the blog. Over the next few days you will see a lot of changes and at times the blog may look just a tad weird as I tweak the elements and template. Sorry for any inconveince.Happy Gardening!Garden Gnome©2007

When Politics Trump Faith

Growing up, my grandfather was a doctrine-focused, KJV-wielding, argue-to-the-death pastor. Puffed up about and convinced his own "right"-ness, he sought out small, controllable churches on which to unleash his opinions, worldview, and knowledge of the Bible. He also LOVED to listen to attack-driven, hate-spewing political commentators.

Now, let me just be upfront here: I'm politically right of center on most issues, and I am a family values & free market woman. But the problem comes in when a person's politics override and even negate their faith. I had a hard time listening to my grandpa's sermonizing, when I knew he regularly used crude racial slurs, supported politicians whose private lives were every bit as screwed up as Bill Clinton (who he loathed), and lived for venomous, hate-filled political programming. His behavior overruled his claimed beliefs.

Three main problems occur when we let our politics overrun our faith:

You see it all the time... Ann Coulter recently criticized John Edwards by calling him a crude name, and refused to apologize. Ms. Coulter, a member of the Reformed Presbyterian church, resorted to a base attack, and for many people, that
alone will turn them away from whatever "good" ideas you may have. As Christians, we should not be in the business of attacking people. If our ideas are well-grounded and well-considered, we need not resort to mindless attacks, calling people names or slinging around insults. We can engage in a more thoughtful and deliberate way, by discussing ideas rather than personalities.

It is naturally the case that many of the vocal Christian voices in America today are also apt to share their political beliefs, whether on TV, radio, or in print. James Dobson & other Christian commentators are popular because they take strong positions and are well-spoken. It is a natural next step for these same personalities to then feel free to speak out about their political beliefs.

The problem comes in when the distinctions begin blurring and we forget that while we may have a political difference with a Christian brother or sister, we have a higher bond between us

We can also make the mistake of equating faith with politics. Christians in Texas often view political conservatism (family values, a pro-life culture, etc.) as the only political position with merit. Christians in Arkansas may view social liberalism (caring for the poor & hungry, being good stewards of the earth, etc.) as the only political position with merit. We forget that reasonable people, thoughtful people,
Christian people can disagree on poltical issues and still be genuine in their faith.

One of the issues politically-conservative Christians have really dropped the ball about is the environment. Because it is seen as such a "left" issue, we often leave it to the other guys to think about, or it even becomes an issue that is scoffed about. We can get snide about it: "Yeah, I know... we should save the whales and kill the babies".

Now, I'm certainly not saying that we *necessarily* need government intrusion in this area, nor am I saying that this should *necessarily* be a top priority for Christians, but we ought to be concerned about not intentionally sabotaging the beauty God has created. We ought to be discriminate in the trash output from our home, we ought to try to recycle or reuse as possible, and we ought to be intentional about caring for whatever piece of earth we've been entrusted with (whether that's a backyard, the wilderness we go camping in, or the roadside we're driving past).

There are issues that left-of-center Christians have dropped the ball on as well, but I'll not delineate those here, as there are plenty of other sources you can look to that will give you criticisms and problems with the political left.

There are other problems too, for example, when we are "choosy" about whose immorality we will judge and criticize. For example, many of the same commentators who made lots of money and spent lots of airtime criticizing Bill Clinton NOW support men like Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich, who have themselves admitted to many indiscretions. But I'll save that discussion for another day.

My point is this: we need to remember where our highest allegiance lies. When we approach political issues, we need to not only come with a Christian perspective
on the issue, but we also need to approach these issues as Christians, offering grace, kindness, gentleness, and peace to those with whom we disagree.

Thoughts? Further comments?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Secret to Happiness

"Nothing betrays our deepest theories more eloquently than our practice."
-R.C. Sproul,
Knowing Scripture

There are many Christians who make comments like, "I don't need to know doctrine, I just want to know the practical stuff." The problem with this is that when we don't have a solid foundation, the walls we build aren't sturdy. These "practical" walls are walls that buckle when the winds of opinion shift. When someone else comes along selling a different version of common sense, built not on the Word of God, but on men's opinions, we'll fall for that, because we don't know our faith well enough to tell what's from God and what's not.

This kind of Christian inwardly groans when challenged to begin diligent, intentional study of the Word of God. Sproul called this person a sensuous Christian,
"one who lives by his feelings rather than through his understanding of the Word of God. [This Christian] cannot be moved to service, prayer, or study unless he 'feels like it.' His Christian life is only as effective as the intensity of present feelings. ... He constantly seeks new and fresh spiritual experiences and uses them to determine the Word of God. His 'inner feelings' become the ultimate test of truth."
While Christianity is not merely an intellectual and thinking faith, it is that. We are not meant to enter into faith solely through emotions and strong feeling. We are to approach faith in Christ with our hearts AND brains fully engaged. Sproul puts it this way:
"The Christian life is not to be a life of bare conjecture or cold rationalism; it is to be a life of vibrant passion. Strong feelings of joy, love, and exaltation are called for again and again. But those passionate feelings are a response to what we understand with our minds to be true."
Recently, Oprah and others have lauded a book called "The Secret," which is really no more than an overhaul of age-old New Age and Pagan beliefs. But the Bible identifies something other than following human feelings as the key for happiness.

Sadly, among Christians, and even pastors, we will find advice dispensed that is people-pleasing, but entirely contrary to the Word of God... "Yes, Mrs. Jones, go ahead and divorce your husband despite the fact that you are without biblical warrant, for I am sure you will never find happiness married to a man like that."
"If there is a secret, a carefully guarded secret, to human happiness, it is that one expressed in a seventeenth-century catechism that says, 'Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' The secret to happiness is found in obedience to God. ...How can we be obedient if we do not know what it is we are to obey? Thus, the top and the tail of it is that happiness cannot be fully discovered as long as we remain ignorant of God's Word."
Our happiness rests on our knowledge of and obedience to the Word of God. The more we stray from it, the more our lives will be in disarray; and the more we cling to it, the more our lives, even if full of challenge and suffering, will be characterized by a contented happiness that only God can give.

Most Holy God, give us a desire for your Word. Help us to make it a priority today and every day. Let us hear it and learn it ourselves so that we can teach our children and encourage others with it. Give us a passion to know and obey Your Word.

Minty Fresh Perseverance

Five months ago, when I left our apartment in China with the kids to go join my husband in Hong Kong, I thought in my head that we'd be gone one, maybe two, months at the most. I won't say I never thought we'd be gone almost six months, but believe me when I tell you, I never thought we'd be gone almost six months! Because he had gone ahead, we found ourselves with two tubes of Crest toothpaste, purchased in our home city in China. I remember laughing, thinking, why did I bring another tube of toothpaste? (I strive for efficiency in our travels, after travelling to multiple countries multiple times with a family of five. I'm really not keen on unnecessarily duplicating packed items.)

Little did I know, I'd be sitting here in Texas, five months later, with my perseverance so linked to the one remaining tube of toothpaste. I never thought we'd outlast it. A bit of sadness stirred up inside of me when I notice that the last tube is almost empty. It sounds silly to say it, but I really didn't want to use it up without being back in China.

The other day, I was listening to Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the radio, and she made this point that so resonates with me:
perseverance is hardest when you don't know how long you're going to have to persevere. If I knew we'd be back in the States another 2 months or just 2 weeks, then I could kind of rest easy and enjoy the rest of the time, but not knowing how long it will be until the doctors clear us to return is becoming more and more difficult to bear. Each week that passes leaves us with no more answers, nothing else to tell the people who ask, and nothing to tell ourselves.

This morning I read in Romans 8 about how the Spirit bears witness inside of us that we are God's children, and just like earthly children have the details of their lives linked with their earthly fathers (for example, our children have flown in innumerable airplanes over the last 15 months of their lives), ours are linked with our heavenly Father. And just like earthly children receive an inheritance because of that tie to their parents, it says we are,
"heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
And then, just about the time that I was thinking, "wow, all this waiting will be nothing in comparison to the eternal glory of Christ...", I read this:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, ... in hope that the creation itself will be set free."
Now while I recognize that what we've gone through over the past five months has been significant, there is no comparison with the length of time that the fallen creation has been waiting to be restored to perfection. Our tube of toothpaste will soon run out, but I pray that our perseverance will not. I hope we will stand ready to do His will no matter how long we wait. If you're waiting on something too, I pray you'll be faithful also, until you see the purpose of your perseverance.

More Signs of Spring

Naked Lady LiliesAmaryllis belladonnaDespite the recent cold weather, signs of spring are all around us. Yesterday a house finch and goldfinch were visiting my neighbour's niger seed feeder. The bluejays are coming around for their daily peanut offering. If I don't have the peanuts out by the time they arrive, one of the bluejays has taken to sitting on the windowsill then tapping on the

Friday, April 13, 2007

What Will You Be in the Final Hours of Life?

A friend of mine has just been told that she probably has about three days left on this earth. As a godly woman, wife, mother, and prayer warrior, she has led a full and lengthy life. My prayer is that she'll be strong in these remaining hours, strong in her faith, preparing herself for seeing Him face to face.

Her news has got me to thinking about what I would want to be like, if I knew I had three days left. Not in terms of, "I would have wanted to bungee jump and see the Pyramids...", but rather:

What kind of faith will I want to have on my deathbed?
An unwavering, constant faith... faith that would lead others to believe, faith that would cause my loved ones to be of good cheer, faith that would sustain me in my final moments.

What kind of Scripture verses will I want to be acquainted with?
Verses about Heaven, about faith, about joy, about strength. I will want to know them well enough to bring them to mind, even if my mind is hazy, even if I cannot read anymore, even if I am alone.

What kind of life will I want to have led? Is there anything I'm doing now that I will then regret? Are there things I'm not doing now that I will regret not having done?

I just really wanted to share these thoughts- you are welcome to share any additional thoughts, but I just wanted to get this out "on paper"-- a tribute to my friend, a challenge for myself, and an encouragement to you.

Lord, let each of us soberly estimate what our lives are today, that we will not look back with regret, having not lived cautiously and intentionally. Let us be all that you intend for us to be today, walking in the abundant life you offer, alive to Christ and dead to sin. Make us attentive to your will in all things, big and small. Make us aware of our own mortality, so that we will honor you with our lives.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Quick Query #14: Should We Treat Our Daughters Differently?

Yesterday, I wrote an article about moms who encourage masculinity in their young daughters. One reader left this comment:
Dawn wrote:

Great post! This is an area that I've been contemplating lately, since I have a daughter who is about to turn 15 and another 9 yod.

I guess part of my dilemna is how much do we push our daughters towards a career or do we just train for being a wife and mother? I guess I was fortunate to have had both training. I have a Master's degree and have worked in my field for a number of years, but feel that right now my true calling is being home for my family. (Although financially right now it looks like I may have to return to the work force, even though I don't really want to.)

Lots to think about.


So, I want to bring it to you for discussion. I've read many different opinions on this issue among Bible-believing Christians women, and I'd like to hear yours. Please think realistically as you form your thoughts... don't just say, "well by age 18 I'll be expecting a marriage proposal for her and then she'll never need to work, because she'll stay home with her 67 children and homeschool, and her husband will never die or get sick, so she'll never even need something to fall back on." I would also encourage you to think about how much feminism has affected your thinking in this area: do we really think that women are suited to do every job just as well as a man can? Let's think through all the issues carefully and each share how we'll approach this with our own daughters.

SO, HERE'S THE QUESTION: Should we treat our daughters differently from how we would treat a son, as we prepare them for adult life?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"What a Little Girl is Made Of"

Have you heard it lately? It's been happening for decades, but only recently has it been common. I'm talking about how parents describe their little girls, from young ages.

No, I'm actually not talking about the sex-driven descriptors (hot, p0rn star, etc.) that many advertisers are now plastering girls' t-shirts and underwear with. And I'm not talking about the boy-demeaning words & phrases we see all too often either (smarter than boys, girls rule, etc.). Nope, I'm actually talking about the tendency to label little girls as "tough," "independent," "strong," and "rough." I've heard it from friends, on TV, and read it on many blogs; it's everywhere...moms bragging about a daughter's toughness.

First Peter describes women as "the weaker vessel", not meaning that we are not spiritually strong- but that we have a tendency toward physical and emotional weakness. And it's true. No matter what culture you are looking at, across the board, it is accurate to say that men are physically stronger than women. So why are we actively trying to "buck" the truth by encouraging our daughters to be something that they are not built to be?

And let me just clarify: it's not so much the words I'm concerned about, as much as the frequency that these comments are made, and the intention of the words used. I'm sure I've said something along the lines that our daughter is going to be tougher than she otherwise would have been if she hadn't grown up with two older brothers. That's one thing, and I certainly am not talking about speech control or not stating the truth.

But here's what I'm hearing too much: moms of little baby girls and toddlers, praising them for their toughness, independence, and "sassy"ness, all things that are either boyish or sinful. Are these really the things we want to praise and promote as desirable to our little girls? And can we really label a two-year-old as a "tomboy"?

Isn't every two-year-old a little wobbly, prone to bruises, curious, and more rough than they should be? That's where
teaching comes in. To little ones--girls AND boys, surely we say, "we must be gentle" when we see a little kitty cat or a newborn. This is the age where they begin to learn about soft touching, not hitting, that it hurts to scrape your knee, that other people don't respond well when we're agressive, etc. Boy or girl, these are all things that happen around age two or three. So why would some moms be bragging about "my little tomboy", when really all they have is a little girl who is a toddler?

This is one more sign of the after-effects of over-the-top feminism unleashed in the everyday American home. Too many young moms are encouraging their daughters (by their words, even if they don't realize it) to be "rough and strong"... words we use to describe a combat fighter, fireman, or policeman.

Why are we promoting toughness to our daughters? Why are we proud of encouraging our daughters toward masculinity? Why is it OK to encourage a tear-prone little boy to "buck up" and to be a "strong man", but it's not OK to encourage a fall-prone (or physically agressive) little girl to be more gentle, more kind, and more ladylike?

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

DIY Baby Food

For those of you with new babies, I want to encourage you to think outside the box for ALL the things that society tells you that you "need". Particularly in terms of food. Society often tells us one thing: namely, that your child needs the most expensive, most highly processed food possible, when in fact, you can not only make something else 'work', but you can make it better than they can do it!

For all three kiddos so far, I've been able to make their "baby food" until they're old enough to eat table food. There are many benefits to doing this:
  • It's WAY cheaper than purchasing baby food off the store shelves. As in, pennies on the dollar cheaper. For example, let's say you purchase Gerber baby food off the shelf. A decent price may be $1.00 for 2 jars. But if you made it yourself, the same serving of bananas, sweet potatoes, or carrots would cost anywhere from 2-10 cents per jar/serving.
  • It's healthier than using the preservative-filled, salted and sugared versions you'll find in your supermarket (with a shelf life that extends until your baby is two or three years old). When you've personally purchased, cooked, and served up the baby food you're feeding your baby, you'll realize how much more confidence you'll have, knowing so much more about what you're putting in that sweet little mouth.
  • It's very easy to do. It takes me about one afternoon a month to prepare all the veggies and fruit my baby will eat for an entire month.
Here's how I do it, in FIVE EASY STEPS:
  1. Purchase great produce- the best you can find. For some people, this will be locally grown, organic, fresh-from-the-farm veggies. For others, it will be choosing the best of the offerings at the local supermarket. Whatever the case, purchase good veggies and fruit and watch for sales.
  2. Cook it, if required to get to a mushy consistency. For example, sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli will need to be cooked in some way (usually baked or steamed). Bananas and avocadoes don't.
  3. Once cooked, use blender, food processor, or fork to mash the produce into desired consistency. For early foods, you may need to add water to get to a finely pureed texture. As baby grows, a fork will be sufficient to mash into small bits.
  4. Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze. You can cover with foil or plastic wrap. Once the cubes are hardened, empty them out into labeled Ziplock bags.
  5. Heat and eat! You can either thaw them out in the refrigerator overnight, if you desire the food to be cold, or pull the baby food ice cubes from the freezer and heat them up.
As I mentioned, this is so easy, and it takes me just a few hours one afternoon a month. I gather whatever produce I'm wanting to make up: sweet potatoes, acorn squash, green beans, broccoli, and corn, let's say. I'll cook the sweet potatoes, squash and corn in the oven while steaming the broccoli and cooking the green beans on the stovetop. As each item gets finished, I use the blender or food processor to mash them up (adding water if necessary), and use the same spatula to easily spoon each veggie into the ice cube trays. Within two hours, the whole job could easily be done. One set of dishes, and two hours saves me so much money and gives me much more confidence in the food my babies are eating.

Additionally, I can control what my baby is taking in, and tailor her tastes to what our family actually eats, rather than giving her a huge sweet tooth for apricots, blueberries, and strawberries, when our family is more of a broccoli, rice, and corn sort of family.

If you're interested in reading more about specifics of how to do this, or if you want some great recipes and ideas for varieties of food for babies and toddlers, as well as how to introduce baby foods (in what order to avoid allergies, etc.), you'll want to check out this book, called Super Baby Food. Everything I know, I learned from this book. And here's one GREAT website about making your own baby food.

I hope you'll consider this economic and healthy option!
Blessings on your little ones~


Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you talked about it passionately to everyone you knew? Was it a product? person? theory? parenting method? political candidate? political issue? biblical conviction? I know I have. I've been riled up about all of these areas at one point or another. And I don't think that's always bad.

sometimes, it is. Sometimes it can cause broken relationships and broken hearts. Sometimes we can put our strong feelings (which we know wax and wane) ahead of the feelings of others. Sometimes it can lead us into legalism or judgmentalism, heaping rules of men onto the shoulders of others. Sometimes we can become so sure of ourselves that we fail to graciously present what it is Christ may be leading us to feel convicted about.

I recently heard a great word about life in general, but it also applies to nearly every issue we consider in life. It is this:

STAY ON THE ROAD. The ditch is wide on both sides.

I just love that, don't you? When you think of parenting, politics, or personal convictions, these are all things that we can get sidelined over. These things become the "gospel," or good news, we are sharing with everyone we meet. And our enemy would love to sideline us either way: by getting us to focus on all the rules we can come up with about a particular issue, or by distracting us from even asking the question, "what is the right thing to do in this area?". The difficult thing is striking the right balance, or staying "on the road".

Thinking of Jesus, He was full of grace
and truth. He did cast out the money changers in anger, but then He also was kind to the lowest of the low. He had virtually no patience for the religious leaders, but He was completely gentle with vile sinners. He turned to Peter and said, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" (How would you like to hear that?), but also washed Peter's feet as a servant. There is a balance, but it is such a narrow place: a place of grace and truth.

It is so easy to fall into a "ditch" on either side of an issue:
  • to be too lenient or too strict with our children-- the hard thing is to find the balance between obedience and grace
  • to be too legalistic or too permissive in our faith-- the hard thing is to be neither judgmental nor worldly in our pursuit of God
  • to be too wrapped up in or totally unconcerned about politics-- the hard thing is to find the proper place for politics in our priorities
  • to be too concerned with the "gray areas" or to not even consider the personal convictions in life-- the hard thing is to feel personally convicted about something without having to criticize others who either (1) feel freedom in that area, or (2) may not yet have been 'pricked' by the Holy Spirit in that area.
I don't know about you, but I want to walk on the road. I often find that I've stumbled into the ditch, but I am trying to become more alert to that big "DANGER" sign.

What are the issues in your life where you struggle to "stay on the road"?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Critical Moment

Consider this: If Jesus had not become human, been raised as a young man, lived a sinless life and died for us, where would you be? For my part, not having been born as a Jewish woman, I would most likely be a pagan, worshipping false gods, and living by superstition in hopes of appeasing whatever family idols we feared.

Beth Moore and her daughters, I recently heard, have a term they've used throughout the years to describe a distinct moment in time; they call it "the critical moment". Amanda (Beth's daughter) writes, "The critical moment occurs in the seconds between getting your hair exactly how you want it and then sealing it with hairspray. The Moore world stops spinning during the critical moment."

Today, I read this: "While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly."
(Romans 5:6)

Do you notice that this is precisely the opposite situation from the hairspray example? With the Moore's critical moment, they take something that is lookin' good, and hope it doesn't deflate before getting the fixative applied so that it will not change. But without Christ's death and resurrection, we were not in a state of lookin' good. Our only hope was that something miraculous would happen in that critical moment and turn things around for us.

And He did it. "As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men." (Romans 5:18) That one act of righteousness happened--"at the right time"--so that all men could have hope of perfection. It was not that we were already perfect and He just sealed it for us, like hairspray, but rather, we were lost in our sin, wandering aimlessly and hopelessly, and His life, death, and resurrection gives us purpose, hope, and eternal life. Praise Him for the blessing of that critical moment!

Enjoy!Garden Gnome©2007

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Show & Tell: Thinking Blogs

I was recently awarded the "thinking blogger award" by two lovely bloggers, found at Cappuccino Life and Life is Not a Cereal (now it's five, thanks to The Joy Box , Musings of a Housewife, and Walk Slowly, Live Wildly). Thanks, ladies, for the award... I'm so glad that others are challenged by my random thoughts and musings.

As I've noticed that many of my favorite "thinking" blogs have already been chosen by other women, I'm just going to take a moment to point out some "thinking" blog
posts I've recently come across. Take the time to read; I hope they're as insightful to you as they have been to me!
  • The first two are from a new blog I've found, called Seeking Faithfulness. It is definitely worth poking around over there, as she has insight and wisdom ready to be gleaned. I'll give you two excellent posts to start off with:
    • She has a great word about not sheltering your children as they get closer to adulthood. As a homeschooling mom, she has this as a huge blip on her radar screen as a possible pitfall. For my part, I'm so thankful to see homeschoolers who think through these things; I had too many homeschooled friends who fell into deep and tragic sin (and still haven't come out of it, 10 years later), because they were so excessively sheltered while at home. Sin just hung out there as a forbidden fruit, ripe for the picking the second they got out from under their parents thumbs. So yeah, I really appreciate her insight in this area.
    • This post really challenges me as a mommy. There is such a battle that rages as our babies/toddlers become children. They begin to see our flaws; they see that our words and deeds don't always match up. And there's such a temptation to cover it up. But there is such wisdom in opening up your life to your children, and letting them see your flaws, while simultaneously asking God to enable you to be consistent in word & deed. CLICK HERE FOR ENCOURAGEMENT!
As always, let me wish you happy reading!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Show &Tell: Odds & Ends (Mostly Odd)

First up- the discussion in the comments of my recent "Quick Query" about lingerie has gotten quite lively. Take a look and feel free to weigh in with your thoughts!

Jenn over at Frugal Upstate has declared April as Amateur Improve Your Blog Month. So, if you're an amateur blogger or just want to improve your blog, you should check out her blog over the next month and read some of her tips on *frugally* improving your blog (I know I plan to!). She's already got one great post about free blog designs you can get online, if you're looking for an overhaul!

Seriously? You mean to tell me that with obese 8-year-olds, gender-changing divorcees, and women who want other people to pay to raise their children, that HOMESCHOOLERS are who we should all be watching out for?! Heaven help us!

Here's one man who finds homeschoolers admirable rather than concerning. He does a good job paying tribute to all homeschooling moms out there.

A new blog I found, called What Not to Crochet, had this hilarious example of why the title of their blog fits.

Emily over at Confessions of a Tired Mom has a great video about what a "Mommed out" (as opposed to 'pimped out') van looks like. If you need a laugh, GO SEE THE VIDEO!

Happy reading!

Mommy Wars Over Convictions

March Madness recently came to an end, and one team rose above all the others because of all the battles fought. Sometimes the games were close, sometimes it was a no-brainer, but each time, we got a little closer to knowing who would be the last team standing.
Now imagine that each mom you know has gone through a process like March Madness, not to see who's the best team- but to see who she is. Just like you and I, she has "fought" all the mini-battles (or will soon enough) to come to her own set of convictions about mommyhood.

The battles begin with small potato issues during pregnancy:
caffeine vs. decaf
find out the gender vs. wait & see
count by weeks vs. count by months

Things get more fierce when discussing labor & delivery:
hospital vs. birthing center vs. home
induced vs. going into labor naturally
natural vs. epidural
birthing plan vs. doctor's plan
vaginal vs. cesarean section

Then the gloves come off once the baby comes out:
breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding
If breastfeeding, how long?
schedule/routine vs. attachment parenting
medicine vs. no meds
vaccines vs. vaccine-free
"My" discipline method vs. every other method
day care vs. stay-at-home
occasional day care/babysitting vs. kids-never-leave-my-side
child-centered vs. parent-centered home
(shouldn't a Christian home be God-centered anyway?)

Then when you start talking about family planning:
birth control (b.c.) vs. quiver full
If b.c., pill/IUD vs. non-abortifacients vs. NFP
Short term vs. permanent b.c. options

And then once these babies become kids:
Barbie vs. Bratz vs. baby dolls
Harry Potter vs. Narnia vs. no fantasy books
family devotions + church vs. occasional church attenders
organic vs. non-organic
How will they dress?
When to have "the talk"?
Make up at what age?
Dating at what age?

etc., etc., etc.

We do this for so many reasons... I don't believe it's because we want to be at war with other women. We want to find common ground with friends. We want to feel "normal". We want our choices to be validated. We want to see women (and their children) further ahead of us on the road we're choosing to walk. On some things, we believe there is a biblical reason to do it one way over another. On other things, we just have a natural inclination, perhaps due to our own childhood, perhaps due to our personality or the personality of our child, or some other reason.

The truth is that with each choice we make as a mommy, we carve our own little "niche" part of the world. We become a breastfeeding, organic, attachment parenting mommy who uses an IUD and doesn't spank. Or a bottle-feeding working mom who spanks, allows Harry Potter, but not Bratz. Or a quiverfull-minded woman who vaccinates, uses locally-grown produce, and allows Bratz, but only if they're given as gifts. Do you see what I mean? Each of us is our own type of woman, so that even though we like to have a sense of comraderie with other moms, it can only go so far. At some point, we will disagree with every mom we encounter on something.

There is such a natural pull to be a part of something bigger- to connect with other moms that are doing things the same way we ourselves are, so that we can identify and learn with one another. But this same natural pull that can connect us with other women can be divisive. We've each fought so many "mini-battles" in our attempt to become who God wants us to be. We (and I am definitely speaking to myself on this one) must be so careful to remember to separate what is a personal conviction from what is written in the Word.

Thoughts? Stories? Anything you'd like to share about this idea of mommy convictions?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Six Tips from a Mom of Seventeen

Yes, you read that right! Susannah Wesley had seventeen children, two of whom became men of God used to bring spiritual renewal to England. Here are her six tips on child raising:
  1. Subdue self-will in a child and thus work together with God to save his soul.
  2. Teach him to pray as soon as he can speak.
  3. Give him nothing he cries for and only what is good for him, if he asks for it politely.
  4. To prevent lying, punish no fault which is truly confessed, but never allow a rebellious, sinful act to go unnoticed.
  5. Commend and reward good behavior.
  6. Strictly observe all promises you have made to your child.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

He Only Requires What He Gives

Have you ever been to a really important event? A meet-and-greet with a VIP? A backstage pass to your favorite concert? A formal wedding? The Prom?

In life, when we attend important events, we feel fortunate to have an invitation. But after we receive the invitation, many other issues arise:
what will I wear? Will I need to purchase a gift? Are there special customs or rules I need to be aware of? How will I get there?

But not so with the Lord. Chuck Swindoll points out this theme of Romans:
"God provides what He requires of us--perfect righteousness." We are not invited to become a part of His family and then told to wash ourselves and purchase our own clothes- no! He washes us and makes us clean; He clothes us in HIS righteousness.

Yes, God has standards- completely unattainable ones, for anyone but Him. Praise the Lord, we don't have to consider how to make ourselves holy enough for God. When we become His child, He
makes us holy; He purifies us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. After we receive His invitation, He tells us to take off the old things, and sends us His righteousness for us to "put on". He wrote out those customs or rules we need to be aware of AND we have His full assistance in living those customs and rules out in our lives, because as believers, we have Him with us at every moment. And, finally, we don't even have to figure out how to get there: He has already arranged our transportation to the event of our lives: meeting Him face to face.

It is not burdensome to accept this invitation from the Lord; His only requirements are those things that He gives. What an incredibly gracious God we serve!

**** I am so excited about reading through Romans; I look forward to getting grounded even more in the doctrine (truth) of our gracious God. I'm planning to spend the first 10 days of this month focusing in on the first five chapters. If you aren't already in the middle of a Bible study this month, I would love for you to join me in reading and studying Romans throughout April.****

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