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Jea

I've followed your blog for your wonderful photography talent.. but for the most part, what i've loved is how you made it as a single mom. I'm sure there are many of us like you. .. I am one of them, and i just wanted to cry with you, reading this post. I was a single mom for 8 years before i married. My son is now 18 and i often wonder if i did all i could for him. ...wondering if i did enough for him to be how he is today.. wondering if i just didn't have him so early, he could have a better life. And yet when he gives me that big hug, all i can feel is that I showed him LOVE when he gives me that hug tighter. He reminds me that life is great with him.

Ladonna

What a convicting post! I've followed your blog silently for several years, but felt like, as Comment #2, I should say...I'll be praying for you. The "stuff" I carry around is not the same "stuff" you carry, but God has used my sometimes less than ideal experiences to bring others to understand his love. I'll never understand God's love for us and why he wants to use us in our brokenness--but he does. And in it, He does amazing things!
My husband and I dealt with infertility and 7 weeks ago were blessed with our new son. I'm astounded at God's love now--how if I can love my son that much, but God loves me even more than that....! So glad you're allowing God to love and change you to make you look more like Jesus. Makes me evaluate what I've been putting off that God's been calling me to do for a while. Thanks for being about more than photography! Again, I'll pray for you.

Steph R.

You are called to help the brokenhearted because you once were brokenhearted yourself. You have a unique experience that will allow you to help women in a way no one else can. You are never going to be perfect, so you can't wait until you are to help others. I think it's completely awesome that you took such a big step. You will be blessed in ways you cannot imagine through that clinic and that is what will ultimately transcend your pain.

Diane W.

You are a good person, and this is going to be just one more way you will be making a difference in peoples' lives. Wishing you all the best in your new endeavor.

mandy friend

oh karen! i have lived such a different life than you,but just so you know those of us who look like we've made the 'right' choices on the outside feel the same exact way inside because we know our own hearts and the yuckiness within them:( i would never judge you based on your past. we all have sinned! look at david,look at paul. i am so very , very PROUD of you. it takes guts to do this, even 20 years later. may the Lord use your past to bring such hope to other young women.i have been simply amazed watching your journey play out on here, the faith you have grown in is so very evident and a testimony to God's grace. one of these days when your life settles down {ha!} i really would love to get together for lunch and a target trip. get ahold of me...i am praying for you<3

Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita

you are beautiful Karen - inside and out. What a touching post, made even more so by your generous student who gave up her seat for another. Beauty from ashes, indeed. Simply lovely!

Vicky B.

It is so funny how we get the inspiration we need, just at the right time, from a great source. Thank you for sharing your heart and your story. You are an amazing person! :)

Lisa A

I love your honesty. Your posts always touch me, possibly because our pasts and our struggles are a lot alike, except I think I'm a few years older than you.
Sometimes we are right where we need to be, in order to hear what we need to hear. Today, I needed to hear, or in this case read what you
wrote, I just simply needed it.
My oldest, he is a blessing, and I can't imagine my life without him, I wouldn't want to.
My pregnancy, while it should have been joyous, it was full of sadness and shame. I was alone, having been kicked out by my husband. His mother wasn't yet ready to be a grandmother. I was the single mother, welfare, kids with multiple fathers, single mother again. You carry around this guilt, wonder what you should have done different, always thinking that so many look down on you, and try and try to make it up to your kids.
Long story short, 25 years later, I am going to
be a grandmother. And up until now, it hasn't been the most joyous news. They are not married, my son and this young woman. She is young, they are both in college, and I'm not even sure if they know if they are together or not on some days. I know they are both scared, trying to do the best they can, and be there for each other. While I've not been negative, at least not verbally, I do need to be much more
supportive. I need to reach out to this young
woman, to let her know that she is not alone. She should not have to wonder for one single day if their baby will be loved and accepted, as I did so many years ago. She should know beyond a doubt that their baby will be loved and cherished. For this baby will be a blessing!
Thank you for reminding me of that today! Thank you for being an inspiration.

And now that I'm done crying, can I just say how much I enjoy your blog. I started following you for the photography, but you are about so much more than that. You are so honest, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I truly appreciate that about you.

I had plans through this year to take your photography class the first of the year, but with a wedding (my second blessing) and a baby in March, I was afraid I'd be a little too busy. It is my goal, and all I want for Christmas :), to take your class in 2013!

Sorry for my rambling, and Thank you Thank you, for all you do.

Jennifer

Thank you for this today. Also, totally gorgeous picture of you with Ross.

kate

you are such a blessing for opening yourself up to so many... you make us feel like we are not alone.. you say it for us.. God shines through broken pots..(talk by joyce meyers)

Faith

Yeah for you, your student who gave up her seat and for Nicky. And God bless the little girl in Church, who now gets to have lunch with someone who cares. What a beautiful thing, life!

Heather Crawford

That's awesome Karen..our pastor said recently that your hurt becomes your story that you use to help others...so true..I know you'll be great!

Have you ever heard the song by Crystal Lewis "Beauty from Ashes" ...it fit perfectly (I love her voice!) you can google it..

This is a really old video, but you can hear the song..

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WDGLNNNX

Joni H

You know I keep quiet (lol) unless I have something specific to say so here it is. We would not be who or where we are today if we didn't live our pasts. Without past mistakes how would we know what we really want. You are the best person to be a mentor. Who better to mentor single moms than someone who has experienced exactly what they are experiencing. I personally think that some of the most worthy people are those that have made mistakes along the way. I'm so proud for you taking this first step. You are an inspiration for so many by being so open.

Rosa

Thanks for sharing this! My life is a pit of ashes that God is still working on. I'm going through a dark valley right now but I am so encouraged knowing I get to have a crown of beauty when it is all finished and then I can share my darkness with others to inspire them onward toward God. Thank you for taking the first step to give back!

Robyn

Has it ever occured to you that God has already been turning ashes to beauty through this blog of yours? You have a very moving and powerful testimony and you spill it out here everyday, plus you have tons of readers who are being impacted by it!
God doesn't just qualify the called, he constantly uses broken vessels to complete his most perfect plans.
The women's bible study at my church is studying "When Godly People Do Ungodly Things" right now (by Beth Moore) and it's right along these same lines. If you get the chance, either pick this up at a book store and at least look at it, but also I believe she writes a regular book aside from the bible study that is titled the same.
Anyways, God works so powerfully through us, even when we have no idea what he's doing. This blog is likely an example of just that, a powerful tool in God's hands. Bless you Karen.

Leonie-Australia

Beautiful post Karen, I know what you mean about the baggage of our past that we carry with us, the way to try to escape from it, but of course we can't it will always be a part of who we are. Learning from it & then learning to walk beside it not behind it is what I have found I needed to do.

Melissa K.

I think your openness is one of the paths God has used to reach my heart. I haven't been listening to Him for a while, trusting He'd always be there. I know He was, but messages like yours (especially your human frailties) have reassured me, because they sound like what is in my head/heart. Thank you for posting. Always. You touch so many through your words.

Kelli

Thanks for sharing this!
I was 17 when I had my son. For lack of courage and self esteem, I stayed in the relationship for 4 years. When I left, I never looked back. Our lives have gotten so much better. I shiver when I do allow my self to think what could have happened.
If I had someone to talk to then, things would have been so different.

janel

You are so beautiful!! You light is shining.....big and bright! And it continues shining through Ross...and your kiddos, your photos and this blog. You truly are the light that shines. Now go sing it Karen Russell.......:)

kat-in-texas

"God doesn't call on the qualified - He qualifies the called." Oh, your pastor is so right on!!! You go, Nellie!!

I wish we had mind erasers for getting rid of the hurt and shame we feel about our pasts, but those reminders aren't coming from God. Don't let the enemy pollute your present and future thoughts. God has equipped you with those experiences for a reason and now you know another purpose He has for your life!! That gives me chills!!! :) Can't wait to hear more about it!!!


And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. -Romans 8:28


kristen

hello there!
i am not one to comment (like ever), but you brought to mind a song that i love & thought you might like. it's called beautiful things by Gungor. maybe you've already heard of it...but here is a link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR7VOKQ0xJY.
I love your blog & your heart.
kristen

Mickee

You are a very loving, generous and beautiful (inside and out) person. God bless you more for enriching other's lives.

Jenny

You are such an inspiration!
Thank you.

Lisa

Girl...you are not a mess, but a wonder and inspiration. I love how you share the good and the bad, and what a blessing you will be to those girls that need someone true and honest that has walked in their shoes and made it. Hugs to you.

Jennifer S

Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!! I want to hug you! You are moving in a direction, finally, you have always felt..and its so scary and courageous and admirable. Time to shake the "devil" off your back for good - and help other girls not go through it.... EXCITED for all of you!!!

Tracy

And the most beautiful thing is that you chose life! God has a plan for you Karen and He will guide and direct your path just as he has been doing for the past 20 years. You already have touched so many lives!! My life has been blessed by you. There is a beautiful book you should read called The Atonement Child...anyone faced with or having already gone through an unexpected pregnancy will find this to be an awesome book. I chose life as well...we will be married 27 years this December and our daughter will be 27 in May. I too have felt a calling...to do what exactly, don't know but I am willing to follow where He leads me. You will be in my prayers...thank you for this beautiful post.

Tammy

Amazing. You are so beautiful in your human-ness. Your posts always highlight how hard it can be to follow the nudge, but it is so worth it! And that you share here is so wonderful. Thank you for putting yourself out there. You touch more people than you will ever know.

Tammy

Olivia

How do I say this? You are so brave! Your story will reach so many people, and you will be a blessing to those moms-to-be. I have followed you for years, audited your class (fell behind when the house burned the first time). Right now, I'm struggling to know what my own path should be: unemployed English teacher, a "wannabe" photographer, a wife with grown children. I'm searching. . . . I am so happy for you, and I am praying for you.

Nichole

Karen-
I'm so happy you are doing this! We have a brave teenager living with us who had a baby at 16. She bravely placed her daughter for adoption and is now working hard to graduate. She needs people like you! I love her but I have never been there. God is and will continue to use you in this adventure. When He speaks - you gotta listen :-). Sometimes it just takes us a few extra years to respond. It's okay 1000 years is like a day ... right? ;).

Pamela

Aw Karen, I work with postpartum moms, and with the young ones I just want to hug and hold their hand and tell them I know how it feels, but I don't. You do, and you'll be such a great support for them! Praying that God continues to work through you in amazing ways!

Gina

Sometimes the best thing to come from our hardships is that they give us a perspective and wisdom to help others facing the same or similar hardships we have already endured. I hope that as you give of yourself to others you will find healing and have those old sorrows turn to peace and joy. You are one brave cookie!

Jacki

Congrats Karen for making this step. You are and will be an inspiration. Beautiful heartbreak...

Robin Healy

Thank you for this post... You are an inspiration and a gift.

Karlene

My wish for you is to one day feel the pride in your accomplishments and no shame.

judith fender

You constantly inspire me at every level of my life.
Thank you is not enough...

Hugs and love for your journey.

Carrie Thompson

You are not a joke Karen...keep listening to God...After losing Jess I learned the hard way that God uses the storms to become closer to us and to equip us to help others become closer to him...You are equiped now you just need to let God work his magic...have faith and courage...he has big things in store for you this I have no doubt!

Coreen

I truly love your open heart and bravery. We all have baggage. It's important we allow ourselves to 'check it' and not carry it around our entire lives. Mistakes make us smarter, kinder, humbler, and frankly - easier on everyone around us. And if we're easier on those around us, maybe they'll catch the vision and be easier on people around them, and before you know it ... we may find ourselves surrounded by kindness and understanding and love.

ps - I see that Nicky is from Okotoks, that's the little town I grew up in! It's in Canada and there were only 7,000 people living there when I was a child/teen and now there are 35,000 ... and yet, somehow I hope I know her.

renee

It's interesting how we all have varying perspectives. - here you've been carrying around shame and guilt and here I've been (and I expect several others) carrying around high held respect for who you are, and I wouldn't have sent that little photobook to you a couple of years ago if I thought orherwise. I know these things are easier said than done but I really hope your feelings of less worth can slowly start to dissipate soon. Thank you for sharing, and in my opinion 'walking in your shoes' people are the best life helpers there are.

Kate

Karen - it's almost as if you are were at Influence (a blogger conference I attended a bit ago) because my biggest take home message was (besides he doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called) was that we ARE asked to minister out of our vulnerability. We flawed, imperfect people are asked to minister simply because nothing illustrates HIS grace more than knowing we are loved - despite humbling pasts, despite imperfect backgrounds, despite our shame and hurt and all the garbage and baggage we bring. HE ministers to us and loves us. And if He can do that? What can't he do?!?

I'm so glad you are doing what the Lord has called you to do. I'm so glad you are using his influence on your life to minister to others. And I'm so grateful that you share your heart and your vulnerability on this blog - and your ministry. You touch my heart.

Carrie B

Karen- Your honestly is breathtaking and so sincere. The road to motherhood is always a challenge, even in the most "perfect" circumstances. You have a gift to share. it's called "SURVIVAL" despite too many bumps in the road. Years from now you will look back and marvel at all you have accomplished. Don't worry so much, it will be OK.
Much love to you in your new adventure,
Carrie

Shelly

God will bless you Karen throughout this journey! I applaud your courage in stepping out of your comfort zone and offering yourself to this service.
And what a beautiful example for your children to witness. We are all called to help others in whatever way we have available.

Colleen Barron

Hugs to you Karen.....everyone ahead of me has already said it so eloquently. We love and admire you!

Mary Ann Jenkins

Take that feeling of baggage from the past and let it go. You have moved forward, and there is no stopping you now Karen!

Kimberly

It is simple as, GOD IS AMAZING! His works are mighty through many...

Lisa

Oh goodness gracious...I knew you would absolutely follow your heart and go through with this just like I know you will be absolutely incredible at healing and helping these sweet girls. When God was handing out souls...he gave you such an authentic extra large one to go in that tiny body of yours. I'm proud of everything you do and give back to our world.

caro

You will be giving each girl the gift they most want; to know they're "not the only one" that's dealing/dealt with being a single Mom. "Just" having someone to listen, will almost certainly be a lifeline for them and their beautiful babies. Will pray for this purpose of yours, Karen.

Penny M.

What a fantastically inspirational post! I couldn't help but cry. My single niece of 21 is pregnant and staying with my mom for a few months until she can get on her feet (not looking good at this point) before moving to another state. She's been a lost soul ever since I can remember (due to the freakish upbringing of my brother and his crazy wife and the fact that she wasn't raised anywhere near any of her "normal" family which, if she were, it would have provided a much needed alternative guiding light in her life). Mom and I try so hard to mentor her, but we're just not getting through. It's been tough and heartbreaking to both me and my mom. Thanks for the wonderful insight.

tara pollard pakosta

karen,
you are just about the most beautiful person I have ever "known"
you should know that, inside you are sooooooooooooo much more than you give
yourself credit for. You need to listen to God and finally feel that inside!
much LOVE to you!
tara

Tammy

I can't tell you how many times your posts encourage me to do the things that I know, as a Christian, that I SHOULD do. I feel so often like Paul described in Romans 7: 15-19. If we allow God to continually work on our hearts and spirits and allow him to use us as cracked vessels, I'm convinced that He will be glorified. Obedience is all that is required. You are beautiful, couragegous, and a model of intention.

Julie Long

Karen...
I started following your blog because I love photography and am actually a past student, but I now read your blog b/c I love your honesty, transparency, and seeing God work in your life. Tears fell the entire time I read this post and I think it's the coolest thing ever that you are volunteering and you are going to be a blessing to so many people....in ways you don't even know. Just like this blog! This week I was talking with someone about how the Holy Sprit works in our lives and prompts us to do things, but we often ignore it or start doubting ourselves, which is the work of Satan. He (Satan) is putting those silly thoughts in your head....doubt, not being good enough, guilt, etc..... and wants you to not doing anything with it. I'm so glad you ignored them and are already helping others. You are amazing! You've also gotta see this clip from Beth Moore re: the holy spirit. I love it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xtk5WgzZcYA She also has a great study called Breaking Free that you might love! I'll be praying for you!

carriep

Thanks so much for sharing, I will be praying for this ministry God is putting together. As I read my Bible, I never see that He ever used perfect people. (If we were we wouldn't need Him.)Thanks for listening!

Maribeth

Wow. This was the best post ever. Way to be bold Karen!

Carole R

Such a wonderful post. Hi there, single mum too at 19 and many disastrous relationships followed. But I went to college as an adult then teacher trained and then taught 16 year olds English Literature. But, in a rough town. It was hard and I had my work cut out enthusing these boys and girls but it worked, they passed exams and moved on. But I was able to empathise with their struggles (many had babies) and encourage and support them. Sometimes, people just want someone to listen (really listen) to them. I am sure that girl will always appreciate that you listened to her.
You are certainly not a joke. You are just grand!!

Patty B

Thank you for your blog post - - and thanks for stepping out in faith where God is leading you. I keep praying myself that I want to be obedient in the next step, and trust God for showing me what that step is. One step at a time!!! Thank you for continuing to incorporate your testimony into your blog. I love it, I love the encouragement it brings, and I love that I have a sister in Christ on the other side of the country who also happens to be an amazing photography teacher!

Andy

Karen - you are definitely not a joke. You are strong, intelligent, compassionate and beautiful inside and out. You not only have so much to offer, but you HAVE already given so much of yourself in ways I'm sure you don't even realize. You have nothing to be ashamed of and your kids should be proud of you and what you've accomplished and overcome. Bless you and your family and thank you for posting things that make me really stop and think about what I want of my own life.

Juli P

Karen, beautiful post! and have a wonderful lunch with that young lady. I hope that you are an inspiration to her for all that good that will come her way.
Also, beautiful article in Click magazine, I was so excited to see your name on the cover when I got it out of the mailbox yesterday!

lyley

Our gifts and talents exist not for our glory but so that Gods glory may shine through us to others.Be assured of this one thing-God loves us- nothing we do is a surprise to Him-not even the timing. May God bless you as you journey on.

Lacey

This is so profound that I'm not sure I can find the words to respond ... but really, Karen no matter what any of our pasts are, NONE of us are worthy of anything God blesses us with. HE is just that amazing. We are righteous by His good, never ever by our own, and I am so thankful for that. Blessings to you!

Teresa Z

Your post deeply touched me. After I finished crying, I prayed. God bless you on your journey and for having the courage to stand. To stand for yourself. To stand for others. xo.

linda t

Beautiful. Omg, I cried through your whole post. Thank you for letting your story help others. Thank you for inspiring us all to be a light, to venture outside our comfort-zone, to make a difference in the life of another. You are so amazing Karen!

Lynne D

Sometimes I think just your blog alone is somewhat of a ministry. You are doing good work just by your willingness to share what so many women are going through with you - You put our own insecurities and uncertainties in words that so many of us are afraid of (and could likely not word quite as beautifully). The fact that you continually turn to God for His guidance reminds me and countless others where the answers truly are.

Ashley S.

What a beautiful thing you're doing Karen. You will surely bless many lives with your experiences and service. You are inspirational.

Paige

Oh how I hope Nikki sees this! What a gift (in so many ways) your past student has offered. I hadn't heard the quote about deep empathy before. Makes me wonder how many opportunities I've missed that we're right in my face. I've felt it SO many times. I'll be aware in a new way now! Karen, I love your posts, your thinking, and your heart so, SO much. A group of friends (and Karen followers) email frequently something as simple as, I LOVE KR. Go read her post today. Bc we always know its 1000x worth the read. You have no idea how awesome you really are!!!

Charlie

Your post just gave me goosebumps. It makes me realise that I have been lucky, and I should give back more so that others can also be lucky. Thank you for sharing so much with us Karen.

Nicky from Okotoks

First I must say Karen - you are an amazing woman and mother. You have been given your children as true gifts, and they truly are. What a true blessing you have and what a wonderful strong woman you are. Trust me, they will see what an amazing woman you are and you will see it more when they are grown up. It does come back ten fold. What a wonderful choice god made in giving you these beautiful children and the ability to help people who really need that shoulder and support through a difficult time.

Secondly - I must say that I am humbled to my core with this gift from your student. I have been crying for 2 days since reading this post. I am crying as I write this. You even had my husband crying - he plays the tough guy. We try hard every day to give back to the foundations that help us in ways that we can - we donate many hours, my husband builds furniture and I quilt my little heart out to give back. In getting Brody's service dog 3 years ago, it has given him more independence, it has given my husband (as he is the one who was laid off when this occurred) a much closer relationship with all the schools, specialist, doctors, our boy, everything. It has been wonderful to watch my husband and sons relationship grow and help carry the load. Through all the tough times this has created financially, it has given us such great gifts and we have seen the benefits for our son - baby steps - growth has been amazing.

Words cannot describe how I feel. I have something planned for this amazing lady and we are hoping that in the next 6 months my hubby will have the ability to start working part-time. Our son started full days in school this september and it is becoming successful which means my hubby will be able to look for something part time - now that he has more than 3 hours a day while our boy is in school. He now has a full - typical school day and now 90% integrated with his grade 6 class - wow how far we have come. In this being said, once we have that second income coming back into our lives, this too will be paid forward. I have such a hard time excepting gifts from anyone but I am so truly grateful and have to thank this amazing lady graciously. Words truly cannot describe how this has touched me to the core.
This has been a dream of my for a very long time, you have no idea what this means to our family.
Love and blessings.
Nicky from Okotoks

Karen I have sent you an email as I am not sure what you need from me - I am truly humbled with this gift

paige rodriguez

And now I am crying to see that Nicky saw the post!! I was holding my breath as I scrolled through to see if she was on the comments. Man, what a gift to all of us to witness the GIVER, AND someone so deserving of the gift. Amazing stuff!! Just awesome.

Valerie

And once again I am reading another post that has touched my heart and made me a blubbering mess….but all with a happy and grateful heart. xoxox

Leslee Cotterell-Barrow

I rarely comment on a blog and I check yours now and then. But, I have decided to make a comment. God works in mysterious way. I feel he controls our lives in ways we might not understand. I have seen true miracles( I am a NICU nurse). I personally have dealt with issues I don't understand at the time. But in the big picture of life, everything starts to come together. I give you a big hug for taking a big step in your life. Leslee

Rachel C.

Karen, how wonderful to see God continue to write your story in such a beautiful way. May He get the credit for His work in and through you.

Angela

Karen, God will certainly use you in ways you're not even expecting! You will be so blessed and be such a blessing, even if you don't feel equipped in the least!

Have you ever done Beth Moore's Breaking Free study? She uses this passage from Isaiah as her basis for the entire study. It's incredible!

Danielle

So I'm not a photographer although I'd love to be one day and I don't actually remember how I found your blog, but this post is exactly the reason that I've never stopped reading. You are amazing to say the least and by far not a job. Glad you heard God's call. Enjoy your new experience, I know you're going to be the best counselor that they have.

Jewels

Beautiful! Wonderful! He is so good! He takes all of our ashes and makes them beauty! I love that you are allowing the Lord to use all of you for His glory! I love that verse and all it means to each of us! Truly beautiful! Praise God for His work! Don't let satan every tell you that your a joke! Your a daughter of the KING of KINGS! A warrior princess who has a distinct calling and a beautiful gift to be used for HIM! HE is good! He is worthy and because of His love for us we are redeemed! Live in the confidence that you are a righteous Oak because of His great love and sacrifice for you; for us all!

Beautiful about the class! May the Lord bless both of them! WOW!

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Ma lihtsalt armastan teema ja detailselt sa läksid. Kõik oli nii hästi koordineeritud ja tundus nii aestehtically meeldiv silmale. Selline lõbus on kaks aastat vana.

Pam

There is no one better qualified to help than one who has walked in the same shoes. Praying for your healing as you focus on helping others.

Maureen E

Wow, this is a really beautiful and heartfelt post. My husband and I were just talking last night after we got in bed about how things are tough now and how we don't seem to be getting closer to our goals. How frustrating it is. This post makes me realize how we are so fortunate in other areas that matter more. Karen, that is such a wonderful way for you to give back. "A mess" is never a phrase I would have used to describe you. I often find myself admiring your charming house, beautiful and obviously happy and joyful children, lovely neighborhood, etc. You've also managed to create an awesome career out of a talent and passion. On top of all this you have found time to serve your community. Something I have been meaning to get back to myself. I marvel at how idyllic your life seems. I realize that I don't know you, only through class and your blog and I'm sure it's far from as idyllic as I think, but you are definitely someone that I admire.

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