NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

Tag: Christian (page 1 of 2)

Why We’re Switching to a Home Birth

In my last pregnancy update, I hinted at a big change in our birth plan coming up.  As you can see from the title, we’ve decided to switch from a hospital birth to a home birth.

I have always wanted a home birth with a midwife.  My mother had four of her five kids at home with a doctor or midwife.  I was her first home birth and I love the pictures of her and my dad and newborn me snuggled up on the bed, cozy and comfortable at home.

I’m a homebody, an introvert, and I hate hospitals.  With my three previous hospital births, I have always requested an early release and have checked out of the hospital about 12 hours after giving birth each time.  I just want to be home, in my own bed, being cared for by my mom.  No nurses coming in at all hours.  No loud sounds from the hospital coming through the walls.  No uncomfortable hospital beds.  I want to be home.

I love my bedroom - it's bright and cheery, uncluttered, and it makes me happy. I can't imagine a better place to give birth!

I love my bedroom – it’s bright and cheery, uncluttered, and it makes me happy. (This post was a perfect opportunity for a mini-tour!) I can’t imagine a better place to give birth!

I also love the relationships that you get with a midwife.  I’ve had midwives for my last two hospital births and they were both great.  However, I delivered with a midwife group, so there was very little, if any, prior interaction with my midwives.  My mom developed a wonderful friendship with the midwife that delivered my little sisters. I crave that.

My husband and I had discussed paying out of pocket for a home birth before we knew we were expecting this little one.  He was completely supportive of the idea. However, I felt somewhat selfish and guilty for spending all that money on what I wanted.  We could use that money to help pay off our school debt faster. We could use that money for a family trip to Disneyland.  I knew what I wanted, but I couldn’t get over feeling selfish about it.

I love my poppy print!

I love my poppy print!


My husband has good insurance coverage with his work and we are very blessed by the generosity of his employer, but we are limited to one insurance group and hospital.  (Not the hospital based birth center that I’ve delivered my last 2 kids in – which I loved.) I’ve been happy with my care and our family doctors, however, I have had many friends deliver at the hospital we have to use, and I know that it is NOT my ideal birth environment.

I’ve had a friend who has had two of her births at that hospital all-naturally, so I was encouraged that it was, indeed, possible.  She had to fight a bit and sign some liability forms, but she was able to get the natural birth she wanted.  So, I was prepared to fight to make the situation work.

However, a couple weeks ago, I decided to call to make sure that everything we thought was covered by our insurance plan (which said it covered all prenatal appointments, etc.) was actually covered.  I learned that although all my appointments, labs, tests, etc were completely covered by our insurance before meeting our high deductible, the actual birth was not.  We would have to pay our full deductible before they would cover the rest of our labor, delivery, and hospital fees.  So, I learned, that it would actually be significantly cheaper for us to pay out of pocket for a home birth instead of using the hospital.

I was really excited! The search for a midwife started immediately!

I love this verse from Song of Solomen 8:6

I love this verse from Song of Solomon 8:6

We live in a more rural area, so finding a midwife that delivers here, even when only a couple months pregnant, can be a challenge.  But I had the additional challenge of finding a midwife that delivered locally AND had availability in just TWO short months!  After making a lot of calls, I finally found a midwife team who could take me.  I set up a meeting with them the following week.

Before the meeting, I prayed that God would give me a feeling of peace if this was the right place for me.  In previous pregnancies, I’ve met with providers before that I was not comfortable with.  I couldn’t tell you why, but I had an uneasy feeling after our meetings.  I didn’t want that to be the case with this meeting, but I prayed for God to make it abundantly clear to me.  And it was.

The two midwives work together, are licensed and certified, of course, and have birthed over 1000 babies between them.  The meeting was relaxing and peaceful.  Addamay played happily and I talked about my previous births and why I wanted a home birth.  I felt comfortable and at complete peace with the situation.


Now it’s time to get serious!  In the next few weeks I’ll be ordering the supplies for my home birth kit, picking up one of the birthing tubs that they provide for their clients, and generally getting everything ready for our birth!

I'm planning to make my bedroom prayer corner my birth place. The table and chair will move temporarily to make room for the birthing tub.

I’m planning to make my bedroom prayer corner my birth place. The table and chair will move temporarily to make room for the birthing tub.

I’ve had friends tell me I’m brave for not having the option of pain relief during labor, but really I’m not worried about it at all.

God created women to give birth.  It is completely natural and something that women have been doing since the beginning.  I’ve given birth completely drug free twice already and my third birth was my easiest yet.

Of course, some women have high risk pregnancies and really should give birth in a hospital setting.  I, thankfully, do not fall into this category.  I have very easy pregnancies and somewhat easy births (not counting the useless interventions in my first birth).  I don’t think any birth is exactly “easy”.

I am not afraid of not having an epidural.  I’ve given birth with an epidural and without – I much prefer doing it without – but, that is a post for another day…


So – that’s our big news!  I’m so excited that I’ll be finally getting the home birth I’ve always wanted!

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Choosing the best homeschooling option for our family

So, Part 2 of my homeschool series is how we chose the method of homeschooling that we currently use.  (If you missed part 1, on why we chose to homeschool our kids, you can read it here.) This is a personal option for any homeschool family, and like the choice to homeschool your kids, or not, it can change depending on the current needs of your family.  The options that I mention are not available in every state, so you will have to research your homeschool options based upon your state’s, or country’s, laws.

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

Micah traces numbers and places the right number of teddy bears on each one at age 4.5.

California Homeschool Options

The homeschool options in California, where we live, are very good.  Not only is private homeschooling an option (if you register your ” private school” with the state, a process that I am told is relatively simple), but there are numerous public charter homeschool options and online options, as well.  There are also some private schools that have homeschool programs attached to them – an option that my parents used when I was a kid. Homeschool groups, coops, and programs also give parents many options within these broad categories. We looked into each of these options and the many different charter schools available in our area – we talked to people who had used all of these things, assessing the pros and cons of each option.

The best option for us

In the end, we decided on what we believed to be the best option for our family, a charter homeschool with a local campus.  The campus gave us the option to enroll our students in on-site classes once or twice a week for 60-90 minutes of learning in a classroom setting. (Jr High and High school students have more on-site classes). It allows them to get used to other teaching styles, classroom expectations, and interact with their peers while still spending the majority of their school day at home.  My boys, who are slow to read just like I was, are able to participate in programs to help them with reading, all free of charge because it is a public school – which is such a blessing!

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.comCost – Another reason that we chose the public charter school route was that it was much less expensive than private homeschooling.  When we started homeschooling, we were trying to raise our family on two part-time adjunct professor salaries – which is not much money!  So we had to find an inexpensive option.  Because it is a public school, the curriculum is provided for us.

Curriculum – However, we don’t just have one curriculum option, we have many many great options to choose from.  When my oldest was in kindergarten, the basic handwriting curriculum we were given just wasn’t working, so I asked about another curriculum and was able to check it out of the school’s curriculum library that day! (Find out what it was in my favorite curriculum post coming next in the series!)

The only drawback to getting free curriculum through a charter school is that Christian (or any religious) curriculum is not an option.  We are okay with this.  We supplement our own Bible curriculum and we know that our kids are getting a solid Biblical foundation even without books that specifically address it.  More on that in my curriculum post.

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

Addamay always wants to do what her brothers are doing.

Personalized Learning Teachers – Another great thing about going through a charter school (although this is a drawback for some) is that we have a credentialed teacher overseeing our children’s education.  She helps us create an individualized learning plan for each of the kids and is incredibly encouraging!  We check in with her frequently; she ensures that we are staying on track and is always so encouraging. We love our PLT (Personalized Learning Teacher).  However, if we didn’t like our teacher, we have the option to switch teachers, even in the middle of the year.  Every parent and teacher has a different approach to learning/teaching, so sometimes it can be a process to find the teacher that works best for your family. We did our research before applying to the school and made our teacher request based on our research – thankfully she had openings that year!

Classes – The optional  onsite classes have been wonderful for our boys and have allowed them to have an in-class experience each week.  These are taught by the credentialed teachers and there are always several options for the kids to choose from.  This year my boys are doing a reading program twice a week to help them with their reading and they each have one fun class.  My 3rd grader LOVES his science class where he gets to do experiments with his peers each week – he wants to be a scientist of some kind, but thinks it’s too much pressure to choose what kind of science just now – smart kid!  My 1st grader started in a fun math class, but found it too easy (which is boring for a 6 year old), so he switched to a reading class that has different stories and crafts each week – he loves crafts!

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

On a field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Student Resources – Finally, our public charter school allots resources for additional or extra curricular educational classes or tutoring from approved vendors throughout the year.  The funding is limited per month, of course, but it allows our children to participate in some great educational classes that we otherwise would not be able to afford!  The boys are currently taking semi-private swimming lessons twice a week because of this!  Other kids choose tutoring in every subject, music lessons, karate, ballet, etc.  There are so many options!


How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

Our school room at home (I’ll write a post on that soon, too) and my lesson planner.

 

After researching all the options – we settled on the public charter school option as the best one for our family currently.  It is certainly possible that the best option for our children may change at some point in the future.  If we move, we may decide that private homeschool is the best option, or we may decide on a charter school without a campus.  I don’t think we will ever choose an online school for our children, because my husband and I are opposed to that idea for children’s education. Of course, never say never – right?

So, do you homeschool?  And if so, what is the option that you have chosen for your family? I’d love to hear about it!

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A big announcement…

I alluded to some exciting changes coming our way a couple weeks ago, but now, I will let the cat out of the bag.  I’m pregnant!  Our rainbow baby is expected to join us sometime in late February or early March next year.

Pregnancy after miscarriage - allowing time to heal both body and soul. How God turned my mourning into dancing - NatureAmy.com

Our fun pregnancy announcement

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I experienced a miscarriage last February.  I wrote a post about the experience and another about taking time to heal from it – and one thing that I have learned in this all is that miscarriage and loss needs to be talked about more.

It is such a painful thing for a woman (and really a couple or family) to go through, it really should not be done alone.  Yet, so many people feel that they cannot talk about it.   And although I posted about it here, I am guilty of not talking about it much in person.  It is painful to bring up, but it is also reassuring to know that we are not alone in our pain.  There are many, many women who understand.  The more I mentioned the experience to friends, the more friends I learned had been through it themselves.  It was a kind of sisterhood, of sorts…

Time to heal

After my miscarriage, the doctor told me to wait a couple months before trying for another baby.  I smiled and nodded, but I did not really understand his reasoning.  He wanted to make sure I was completely healed, but mostly he was concerned that I had time to heal emotionally.  He said that depression after miscarriage could lead to postpartum depression after a new birth if there was not proper time to mourn the loss.  Only after living in a fog of depression for several months and finally feeling it lift completely this summer did I realize the wisdom of his suggestion.

My body was also not the same after my miscarriage.  My hormones were off for several months and my cycles were strange.  I gained weight and was not able to lose it no matter how hard I tried (which I believe was due to my hormone imbalance).  Finally, in June, the fog started to lift and I finally felt more like myself.  My cycles, which I chart, also normalized again and we conceived our rainbow baby.

Mourning into dancing

When I calculated the baby’s due date, I was pleased to discover that it was just days away from the day that our last little one was taken home into the arms of Jesus.  It was like God was taking a day that was heartbreaking and replacing it with a time of joy.  I really do see it as a gift from our Heavenly Father and I am so thankful.  Our God is so good, my friends – so good!

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

Again, thank you for your faithful prayers and support during this time of healing for our family.  It really does mean so much to me.

Oh! And, I can’t wait to give you all an update on my first trimester with a Trim Healthy Mama pregnancy.  I really have noticed some really amazing differences I am excited to share with you!

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Healing from Miscarriage: Allowing myself time to heal, rest, and recover

At the end of February this year, I had my first miscarriage (you can read more about it here).  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through and something I hoped I never would have to experience.

But, although it was physically, mentally, and spiritually hard, it brought me to a place where I could feel my Jesus’ presence.  I knew He was right there with me (as He always is).  I made the very conscious choice to praise Him through this storm.  My anthem was the Bethel Worship playlist of “Good Good Father” on YouTube (linked here) and I played it over and over in my grief.

But even though I could feel the presence of God and I knew He held me safe, it did not change the fact that I was still in the midst of the storm…

I am naturally very self reliant, self-motivated, controlled, self-sufficient – you get the picture – but my grief left me feeling raw, broken, and like I had little control.  My emotions, usually buried and in check, easily sprang to the surface and I found myself retreating into the safety of my home.

It was almost as if I was in a fog.  I went through my normal routine.  We home schooled, went to our extracurricular classes, went to church, and shopped for groceries, but I stopped doing anything that I did not have to do.  I didn’t even realize it until several months later that I was operating in a fog for about three or four months.

I didn’t realize, until it started to lift, that I was experiencing depression.  Looking back at the spring months, I realized how much I had retreated.  I realized how little I had done with friends in that time.  I generally am quite social and fill our calendar with play dates, Bible studies, and activities because I enjoy them, but for several months I retreated from most everything.

And honestly, when I realized what I had done, I was not disappointed.  I knew I needed that time “off” to rest and recover and heal.  Instinctively, I did what I needed for that period of healing in my life.

“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.”           Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Many people have told me that when they experienced miscarriage, the path to healing for them involved giving and investing in others.  They spent more time focusing on others, more time away from home.  And I can see why that would be important, especially if you don’t have children at home, but with three little kids at home and homeschooling, I think I was already giving enough of myself.  The path to healing for me involved allowing myself to rest, to pull back, and to heal in the quiet and safety of my home.

I spent more time in the Word, more time in prayer and reflection, more time writing.  I also found great comfort in Becky Thompson’s book Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart.  Becky writes about her miscarriage and healing in the book and how she used praise as a weapon against grief.  It is just one chapter in the book, but it played a big part in my healing.  If you don’t follow Becky at Scissortail Silk on Facebook, you really should – I guarantee you will be blessed.

I finally feel as if the fog has completely lifted.  It’s been over five months since my miscarriage and it took about four and a half to finally feel completely like myself again.  It has been a process.  And for a “do-it-yourself” kind of girl like me, it has also been a humbling experience.  I would never choose to go through the pain of miscarriage again, but I know I am a stronger woman because of it and I can relate to those who have, or will, also go through one. And for that, I am thankful.

If you are going through something like this, or have in the past, I would love to hear from you and pray with you.  Leave a comment below, or send me a private message on Facebook.

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Under Grace: Ella’s Trim Healthy Mama Testimony

Diets are made up of laws, a lot of laws. I have been through plenty of diets (Atkins, South Beach, Slow carb, No carb, Medifast, Blood type, Paleo, the walk everywhere because you don’t have a car diet) and have lost weight, for a while. And reading the books, they are clear about this one thing. The laws of the diet have to be your new way of life. Forever. Period. So I would fail eventually. I could never make these extreme diets a way of life. I love carbs, and fats, way too much. And my body needed them. I couldn’t do the diets while pregnant or nursing because there was not enough to sustain myself through those. So I would gain again.

Under Grace: A story of grace, a story of freedom - Ella's Trim Healthy Mama Testimony - NatureAmy.com

Ella as a senior in high school

I have never been skinny. When puberty hit I got big. I don’t remember a time in my teenage years that I was less than a size 14. In college I gained my freshman 15 and then my sophomore 10 and then a junior 10 then a senior 5. My year of teacher training and my first year of teaching I was too busy to eat so the weight melted back off of me, but that didn’t last and I never made it below a 14 even then. I was resolved to be a size large.

My weight continued to yo-yo throughout the years as I tried one diet after another. I only had the will power to stay strictly with a plan for about a month. But the laws were too much for me. I would allow myself some leeway, some grace amongst the laws, and that always would sabotage my efforts. Eventually the cheating would overtake the good of the diet and I would just give up.

But then my sister Amy introduced me to a new plan. (You can read Amy’s THM testimony here.) She had success with losing weight with a new diet that sounded interesting. And, being a sucker for a new diet to try, I borrowed her book and started to read Trim Healthy Mama.

I was astounded to learn that I could enjoy my carbs and my fats in the same day and not gain weight! I didn’t have to cut out a food group for a long period of time. I didn’t have to count calories or go hungry. I didn’t have to eliminate desserts or exercise like crazy. I just had to be wise about how I enjoyed all these things. This was a plan I could see implementing for the rest of my life.

Under Grace: A story of grace, a story of freedom - Ella's Trim Healthy Mama Testimony - NatureAmy.com

Ella with her husband last Christmas

There are plenty of posts out in cyber space that explain the concepts of this way of eating better then I ever could (or better yet, read the book), so I will let you look those up yourself  if you are interested, but the part of this plan I want to talk about is the Grace.

For we are not under law, but under grace.

The writers of the book are Christians and believe their faith should permeate every area of their lives. They used their study of scripture to realize that the food rules we were living under were not placed there by God. They lay out clearly the food freedom that God intended us to have. The food Grace, He designed our bodies to live under. And it is a food freedom flowing with milk and honey, with bread and wine, with the fat and the lean.

Under Grace: A story of grace, a story of freedom - Ella's Trim Healthy Mama Testimony - NatureAmy.com

At goal size – all dressed up and ready for the ball!

The best part is that your body does a reset every three hours. If I do go off plan, have a cheat or a treat, I am only three hours from going back on. I don’t have to derail an entire day or week or month of hard determination for one moment of bliss. There is grace.

I am under grace, so I can choose to have a meal out every week with my family and eat whatever looks good to me on the menu and still lose weight.

I am under grace, so I can enjoy a holiday weekend away and not worry if there will be food that I can eat available.

I am under grace, so I can enjoy s’mores on a camping trip.

I am under grace, so I can eat a helping of the first cake that my son made completely on his own.

I am under grace, so I can enjoy popcorn at the movies and a corn dog at the fair and still lose weight.

I am under grace, so I can stick with this plan for life, even after reaching my goal weight.

Do you feel the grace tonight? Do you rest in the knowledge that God created you and your body perfectly and to function with grace? Can you have grace towards yourself?

I am excited to report, that under this plan, I am now at a lower weight then I have been at in my entire adult life. I am now wearing a size 10! And I am firmly a medium. These are huge things for this big girl. And you know what? I am not quitting this plan because I have reached my goal weight. I am just adding more crossovers and enjoying the food freedom and allowing my body to find its “happy weight.” I may go down more, I may not. I am not going to stress over it, because I am under grace. And that is exactly where my Father wants me to be.

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Running the Race

I want to introduce you to my dear friend, Christine.  Christine is a mom of four very energetic young boys and she has a heart of a Warrior Princess.  She is currently writing a book, a curriculum actually, on this topic.  She is a wonderful friend, mother, and teacher.  She is also a talented writer and speaker.  I’m honored to share her work with you!                    ~ Amy

I ran a marathon before I was married. I’ve never really cared for running, but caring for my body has been a priority for a while now.  Without access to a gym, training for a marathon was a great way to employ discipline to stay fit.   And the peer pressure of the friend I was doing it with was a great help too.
The marathon was in San Francisco, California. The course took us through all kinds of terrain; flat roads by the bay and wharf, hills by the Golden Gate Bridge and through Golden Gate Park.  Along the way I was presented with a few obstacles.  I broke out in hives on mile one so by mile 3 I was running with Benadryl in my system.  About mile 13 my foot started throbbing and swelling.

christine fam

Christine and her family

Just as the race course goes through different terrain and we are met with all kinds of circumstances- our spiritual life looks similar. As we approach the different seasons of life, it’s crucial to realize that this race we are in is a marathon.  This is no 5K.  This race is our lifetime and will impact eternity.  Friends, there will be a time to sprint and a time to walk.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:1-3

Perseverance has been defined as a steady persistence in a course of action, steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success, a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition.  So I would say following the instruction in Hebrews 12 means moving forward.  As long as we don’t let a circumstance take us out, if we take the time to deal with them so that we can continue in the course marked out for us, we are persevering. Let us consider Jesus, the way our God cared for Himself and others as He ran His human race.  His actions were never rushed, His ways were steady as He moved toward His finish line.

I was diagnosed with a hypothyroid a few years ago.  The season of discovering my illness and recovery was slow going, learning how to really rest was crucial to my recovery.

It was in this season I came to a much greater understanding of God’s grace.  My inability to run well forced me to lean into Him.  His grace carried me, and I had to be okay with not being strong enough. I saw this image of trying to run my race with my four young boys.  Like hauling them along with me- constantly verbally pushing them and physically dragging them along this dusty trail.  They were getting filthy and scuffed up.  I was getting nowhere and my exhaustion was not only going to destroy everything in my world but also kill me. This picture slowed me down.  And when I did the scene changed.   In this new picture I was not in workout gear sweaty and straining, but in more elegant attire.  Walking leisurely along this dirt road, holding a mug of coffee and smiling while conversing with the four children around me.  They’d discover things along the path, eager to show me and tell me all about it.  I was able to laugh and enjoy every bit of them. Although this picture is different than the one that comes to mind reading Hebrew 12:1-3 I think it can be applied.
I knew that Jesus had come to give me a full life- wanting me to thrive- not just survive, so I changed my battle plan.  It was time to look at the season I was in and consider the terrain.  It takes discipline to slow down.  Sometimes it takes more discipline to slow down then to “keep up”.  Sometimes the things that ensnare us on our journey are sins of pride as we seek perfection and holiness with our own effort and perhaps even competition with our fellow runners.

christine boys

Christine’s four boys

Run your race sister.  Focus on the ground before you, feel inspired and encouraged by the other runners, but remember they won’t be able to beat you in your race, because God did not make your life or my life a competition.  Others are running their own race and we can celebrate the successes they have, the ones they post on social media, just as we would want them to celebrate with us.

Warrior, strive to press on, enjoy and embrace the terrain God has brought you to. This requires us to beat our body into submission.  Practically speaking this will mean striving to keep up in spin class or telling our body to be quiet, and climb in bed mid-day to read a novel.   Maybe it’s doing the dishes, and maybe it’s snuggling with a child.  God has called us to run the race as if to win.  You will need to pace yourself.  Depending on the terrain you’re on, acting in the spirit of discipline will be to reach out and say “yes” to the leader in church who’s asking you to serve.  Other times it will mean beating that people- pleasing desire down and saying the word “no.”

As we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith we will be able to run with perseverance the race marked of us.  Our goal is progress- not perfection.  Perfection is being with Jesus at the end.  For the joy of being with Him in eternity- of finishing the race with a smile and an embrace from our proud Lord.

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God Cares About Mom Friends: and other seemingly trivial requests

When January comes around each year, like so much of the world, I like to reflect on the past year and come up with some goals for the new one. Some years I come up with a whole list of resolutions and some years I decide on a word that I want to focus on for the year (for example, this year my word is discipline).  However, one year, when I was a young first time mom, I only had one New Year’s wish – only one cry of my heart – I really wanted a friend.

I had lots of friends, don’t get me wrong, but as a new mom I felt what, I believe, is common for so many new moms – I felt lonely.  My life was suddenly so different and I had very few friends who were in the same place that I was – a mom who mostly stayed at home (I did work a couple days a week), nursing an infant, in need of a friend.   Becoming a mom changes things in so many ways that you do not expect – I felt lonely and isolated.  It kind of snuck up on me.  That New Year’s I realized what I needed – what I wanted more than any lofty goal – was a mom friend.  So I asked God to bring me a friend that wasn’t miles away or too busy with work or school or kids activities.

It was one of those prayer requests that you think really doesn’t matter, right? It wasn’t a request for healing from cancer; it wasn’t something catastrophic; it almost seemed trivial, mundane, ordinary.  Would God really care that this young mom was lonely and just wanted a friend?

But, friend, I know my Jesus. I know how much He loves me – how much He loves you.  And just like my husband would never want me to be lonely, my Jesus wants it even less. Sometimes, God is just waiting for us to ask…

I have asked God for many things in my life and although I have received many “yes” answers, the more frequent response seems to be “no” or “not yet, my child”. But I was reminded of the words of my Jesus – words that mean so much more to me now that I am a parent.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7: 9-11

All I had to do was ask. So that New Years night, sitting exhausted on my bedroom floor after feeding the baby (again), I prayed for a friend.  Then, I fell asleep, exhausted, and forgot all about it…

Sometimes prayers take a long time to be answered and sometimes I think God is standing there, holding a gift out, just waiting for us to take it.

I don’t remember how many days later it was, but less than a week, I somewhat begrudgingly attended a baby shower for a neighbor.  Usually I like showers, but I was not looking forward to this one at all.  In fact, I told my husband I was going to make a polite appearance and duck out as soon as possible.  So, I took the baby – always a good excuse to leave early – and reluctantly walked down the block to the shower, gift in hand.

I am a strange combination of personalities – an extroverted introvert.  I can certainly be confident and bubbly and make acquaintances easily, but I secretly hate small talk and long for deep conversation with someone I really connect with.  Going to the baby shower, without really knowing anyone was uncomfortable and required a lot more energy that this sleep deprived young mom wanted to give.  But I went and God met me there with the gift that I had asked Him for.

You know when you meet someone and within minutes you know there is a connection?  That was the case with my friend Jen. I had met her before – we were also neighbors, but we had only introduced ourselves at the mailbox and pointed out our houses.  At the party, both not really knowing anyone, and both not being comfortable in that situation, we connected.  We talked the entire party, and as we walked home together after the party (I didn’t leave early after all), we made arrangements to meet for coffee and shopping a few days later. And, without even realizing it until several months later, God answered my prayer – my silly, trivial, won’t stop the world’s problems prayer – because He loved me.

God loves to give good gifts to His children, no matter how trivial they may seem. - NatureAmy.com

My friend, Jen, and I on a recent coffee date (well, we both had tea)

So, my friend, what is your heart longing for today? What seemingly trivial request do you have for our Father? Because, you know, He loves you more than anyone in the world – He thinks about you all the time – He delights in giving you good gifts.  All you have to do is ask…

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Hope Unfolding: How God met me in the midst of my miscarriage

Warning: This is a story of hope, but also of loss.  If you have recently experienced loss, my prayer for you is that my story brings encouragement and light to you. These are hard days, but our Jesus never leaves us in the midst of the pain. I am sharing my story in the hope that it will touch your life at this time.                                            ~Amy

Have you ever had something happen at just the right time that you know it had to have been God? A God-incidence, if you will? Maybe it was a song coming on the radio that you needed to hear?  Maybe it was a random encounter with a person that felt like a divine appointment? Or maybe it was an encouraging word or a book or blog post at just the right moment? It is times like these that feel like divine encounters.  Like God is reaching out to hand us a special gift or lift us out of a pit when we need Him most.  This happened to me recently.  I am completely blown away by how our Savior loves us each individually knowing exactly what we need before we even know that we need it.  Let me tell you my story…

I was very excited to get an advanced copy of one of my favorite blogger’s new book in the mail.  Becky Thompson of Scissortail Silk has a heart for encouraging mothers and God has used her to do just that for millions of women around the world in the last couple years through her blog, www.beckythompson.com. As a blogger, I was able to get an advanced copy of her new book, Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart, to review before it comes out on March 15th (read on to win a free copy for yourself!)  I was excited about this unexpected perk of being a blogger (I am still quite new to this) and was very happy to read the book since Becky is a wonderful writer. But, I had no idea of the divine appointment God had just placed in my hands as I pulled the book out of the mailbox.  I had no idea that I was about to experience one of the most tragic (yet very common) events that parents go through and that God had given me this book for that moment.  

A review of Hope Unfolding and a story of peace in the midst of loss... NatureAmy.com

The reality of trying to stage blog photos at my house – Oh well, isn’t she cute?

When I got the book in the mail a couple weeks ago, I had just come back from my first midwife appointment for my fourth pregnancy.  We were very excited about having a fourth kid and I was about 8-9 weeks pregnant.  However, the first appointment was disconcerting, not exciting, as I thought it would be.  The early ultrasound showed a little baby that was measuring about 3 weeks behind schedule, although there was a nice heartbeat.  The midwife was unconcerned, she thought I must have my dates off – I was concerned, I did think my dates were pretty accurate, but I thought she must have mismeasured.  I was to come back in two weeks to see how the baby had grown and remeasure…  

I tried not to worry too much and life went on… Meanwhile, this book arrived in the mail and I started to read it.  It is an easy read, beautifully written, emotional in parts, funny in others, and very transparent about life as a mother today.  Becky’s stories bring hope to all parts of motherhood, and as I read it, I thought of so many mothers that would get so much from this book as well.  It really is a book that any mother would love – I could not recommend it enough. (And I am so excited to be giving away a free copy – I know that God has someone in mind who really needs to receive it!)  I really enjoyed reading it, and I got a lot out of it, but I still had no idea the real reason God had placed this books in my hand until Saturday morning.Lock-Screen-2

Thursday night, I had started to spot a little, just a tiny bit of bleeding.  I was definitely concerned, but I had spotted in my first pregnancy (it is very common, especially in the first trimester) and it had been nothing.  Friday was my second son’s birthday and we had a family trip to the zoo planned.  He was ecstatic, to say the least, and he had been looking forward to this day for months.  I was so worried that I would miscarry on Friday and ruin his birthday.  I am so thankful that we had a beautiful family day together celebrating my second born.  I spotted a little more throughout the day, but still nothing much.  Saturday morning, though, I knew without a doubt that God was calling this baby home. 

I have a special chair in the corner of my bedroom (I am sitting in it now) that was a gift from God. Yes, I actually asked God for a chair, and it showed up with a “FREE” sign on it along the road later that same day – exactly the type of chair I had pictured in my mind.  The chair has become my prayer corner, my own personal “War Room”, and I was sitting in it, crying, and talking to God on Saturday morning.  I decided to finish reading Hope Unfolding – I was only pages from the end and the book was a welcome distraction.  I picked it up and I read these words, written by another mother, another mother who, like so many others, had gone through what I was experiencing right then.  

“Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to imagine Jesus there in the room with you right now. Yes, right where you are sitting. I want you to invite Jesus to come and be present with you. It can be as simple as a whispered, ‘Jesus.’… He comes to bring peace and healing and wholeness. That’s what He wants to do for your achy mommy heart right now.” (Hope Unfolding, p. 194)

And although Becky Thompson had no idea that she had written those words just for me, God did.  He made sure that I had a copy of that book in my hands, before it had even reached store shelves, because He loves me…  And just like that, Jesus was right there beside me, in my room, by my chair.  He always is with us, but it isn’t often that I feel His presence so clearly.  And in that moment, as He spoke love over me through the words of a book, I lifted up our precious little fourth baby and placed him or her into His loving nail scarred hands.  And I cried (and I’m crying now as I write this) knowing that this little one was being held now by my Jesus and that I would one day meet this precious soul in Heaven.  

And do you know what happened next?  This was a gift that I was not expecting, but I am oh so happy about – I was flooded with an unexplainable peace.  Over the next few hours my body finished miscarrying my little one, but I was not scared.  I was not in much pain, and it was a quiet and peaceful process at home.  I felt God’s presence with me and was filled with God’s peace.  My three children did not know what was going on, we had not told them about the pregnancy yet, but they knew I was not feeling well.  Their sweet presence, as well as my husband’s, throughout the afternoon was such a gift.  My 21 month old daughter, who is usually too busy to snuggle, wanted to be snuggled and loved on all afternoon and into the evening, which brought me such comfort, as well.  The process was strangely peaceful and full of hope, love, and grace.IG-Square_Print3

I had no idea when I asked for an advanced copy of Hope Unfolding to review in an email weeks before that God would use it as an opportunity to usher in His presence and shower me with love on that hard Saturday.  But God knew I needed it.  For that is who our Heavenly Father is – He is Love and He is Good. He is continually speaking love over us. He is always near to us. But, so often I am too busy to hear Him or notice His presence. Is it the same for you, my friend?  Have you taken a moment today to listen to your Father’s loving voice?  To feel His presence near you? Because He wants to speak love over you today, whatever you are going through right now… He wants to bring you peace in the midst of the storm that is raging around you because He loves you! All we need to do is ask.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:7-11


Enter to win your free copy of Hope Unfolding

THE GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Finally, you have a chance to win Becky Thompson’s new book Hope Unfolding for yourself! To watch a preview video about the book and read the first couple chapters for free, click here. It will be released on March 15th and I hope to have a copy in the winner’s hands as soon as is Amazon-possible!  This giveaway will be taking place on both Facebook and Instagram (@amylovesnature).  Please click over to either one of those outlets for a chance to win!  If you do not have either of these social media accounts, you can send me an email at amylovesnature [at] gmail [dot] com and I will put you on the list!  You may enter on any or all of these places for a chance to win!  While you are there, please make sure to like, follow, or subscribe to those accounts!  This giveaway will be closing at 6 pm Pacific Time, Friday, March 11, 2016.  You may enter up to once per day on each of these outlets to increase your chances!

This contest is open to all US Residents for a good old fashioned paperback copy of the book. (I am sorry, I can’t ship internationally at this time.)  I will send you a message on Facebook or Instagram or by email if you won and will send you your copy as soon as you send me your address!

If you are a mom, or if you know a mom, this book is for you.  It would be an amazing gift for someone (think baby shower?) and will likely be passed around to all your mommy friends – I already have a wait-list for my copy – LOL! The book will be shipped to you via Amazon as soon as it is available on March 15th.  I am praying for just the right mama to receive it – I know it will make a big impact in your life, just as it has for me.  Blessings to you!  Now, let’s get this giveaway started!

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To buy a copy of Becky’s book (or pre-order her next one) simply click on my Amazon Affiliate Link:

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Confessions of a Sugarholic: Finding lasting freedom from sugar addiction

I wrote last week about my Trim Healthy Mama story and why I am kinda obsessed with it.  Part of that journey led me to freedom from my sugar addiction that has been more than just a temporary thing.  Here is the rest of the story…

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My daughter’s first birthday cake – full of real sugar and oh so good!

I love sugar.  Give me any homemade goodness – cookies, cake, homemade frosting and that sugar-sweet high and all the problems of the world seem to melt away!  For years I medicated any problem with baking. It was therapeudic and there is nothing like a warm cookie (or two dozen) right out of the oven.  I baked for friends when they were down, for any special occasion, even just to celebrate a good day. When I was a teenager and in college, this baking and sugar addiction did not affect my weight, but once I started birth control when I married at 22, that all changed.

In 2011, I gave up sugar for long periods of time and just did not bake to avoid temptation. I denied I had an addiction to sweets, though.  In June 2014, I found Trim Healthy Mama and along with it learned how to bake some amazing sugar-free treats.  However, I still could not admit my addiction to sugar. The word addiction was just too much for this good Christian girl to admit – “I wasn’t an addict to anything serious – sugar is perfectly acceptable and I could totally live without it or not – it didn’t make a difference…”  I allowed myself sugar on special occasions.  I lied to myself for years that I could have “just one treat”. “All in moderation.”  I know many people who can do this, but they don’t have a sugar addiction.  I have no moderation when sugar is involved.  One bite makes me crave more… and more… and more…

After a special occasion splurge on sweets, if I was very disciplined, I could get back on my sugar-free track in a few days.  However, usually I was not so good.  Often weeks, or months, would go by before I would finally wrench myself away from sugar again.  I started to feel that gentle pull of the Holy Spirit to give sugar up for good.  I knew what He was asking me, being ever so gentle about it, but I tried to ignore it.  I continued to lie to myself and live in this cycle of defeat.  I tried to control my craving for sugar, to have power over it, but it continued to drag me down, again and again…

Last summer, in June of 2015, I was doing a Bible study and the author spoke about her addiction (not to sugar) and the cycle of defeat that she lived in for years. After reading her testimony, I thought to myself, “I am so thankful I don’t have that problem.” No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, then that still small voice whispered to my heart, “But you do, Amy.”  I knew God was again asking me to give up sugar and He was offering me the freedom to walk away from it for good.  I was so tired of lying to myself and living in a cycle of defeat – I was finally ready to make a lasting change.

I had to admit I had a problem and I had to come to a point where I was sick and tired of living in a cycle of defeat.  It took me years of denial and lying to myself, but I was finally ready to admit my weakness. “Hello, my name is Amy and I am a sugarholic.”

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set me free – if I am still living in captivity in any part of my life, I am not embracing the true freedom He has given me!  I was finally at a place where I wanted to give my sugar addiction over to Him – totally  and completely. I was scared – terrified that I could not do it and would be embarrassed as I once again fell into that cycle of defeat.  I knew I did not personally have the strength to do what I knew God was asking me to do – I would have to step out in faith.  So I chose to believe God – that He had convicted me and asked me to give my addiction over to Him. I chose to believe that His all surpassing power was within me and that I could do all things through Christ – even give up sugar for good. (The book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst was very helpful in this journey.)

These are the steps I took to make sure that this change was a lasting change. If this is something you struggle with as well, I hope that these will help you to find lasting freedom from sugar-addiction.

1. Be completely ready for a lasting change – you must be FED UP with living in a cycle of defeat.

I tried to give up sugar so many times before.  However, I always failed because I lied to myself that “just a little bit” or “just for such-and-such occasion” was fine.  Every time I let myself eat “just a little”, I always struggled so hard to go back to my sugar-free ways.  It took me almost 4 years of living in a cycle of lying to myself about sugar, and my relationship with sugar, to finally wake up and realize that I could not keep living in defeat.  I was sick and tired of it and ready for a lasting change.  If you are not at this place yet, it is unlikely that you will be able to truly give up sugar –  at least that was the case for me…

2. Confess your addiction to sugar – out loud and to a person or group of people that you trust and that love you

For me, this was my Bible study girlfriends, my husband, and my sister. All of these people loved me and I trusted them completely with my confession.  Even so, this was not easy.  I was terrified to admit my sugar addiction out loud and afraid that I would be judged, or laughed at, or even shunned.  I knew logically that this was not the case, but my insecurity and pride, and even the enemy wanting to keep me in captivity, made me “feel” otherwise.  Thankfully, this time, I did not listen to that negative voice.

3. Commit to God, your trusted friends, and yourself that you will not eat sugar

Confessing to the problem is only the first step.  The next thing I needed to do was commit to a lasting change and ask for accountability.  Doing this before God and before man is important.  I knew there would be plenty of times I could hide my eating sugar from people, but I could never hide it from God or myself.  So I prayed for the strength to give up sugar for good.  I also asked my friends to hold me accountable and I promised myself that I would not fall back into my old patterns.

4. Know your trigger foods – the foods that will cause you to go back into the cycle of defeat.

For me, my trigger foods are what we call “treats” in our house.  For me, these were sugar laden cookies, cakes, frosting, soda, sugar filled drinks, ice cream, pastries, and candy – all of those things were no longer on the menu (at least not sugar filled versions – check out my THM Pinterest page for many great sugar-free healthy alternatives).  I still have some sugar, in small amounts, in foods that are not triggers for me.  For example, I still have ketchup occasionally, or I might have barbecue chicken that has been cooked with sugar-filled barbecue sauce.  These things are not triggers for me and do not make me crave sugar.

I don’t want my sugar issues to become everyone else’s problem – I don’t want to inconvenience a host who has made barbecue chicken, or something with some sugar, by refusing to eat the main course.  But, I find, a dessert is usually easier to pass up without offending the chef.  I believe that relationships come before my eating hangups, however. In my over 8 months of sugar freedom, I have had one occasion where I was not comfortable refusing the gift of some lovingly made homemade ice cream.  I prayed about it, had a few bites, and shared the rest with my toddler.  Thankfully, God gave me the strength to not be triggered by that treat and continue on my path of sugar freedom.

5. Be prepared. Determine before hand what you will eat and will not eat (whenever possible)

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Along with making sugar-free treats at home, it is also fun to make crafts that satisfy that holiday baking urge. Salt dough ornaments to the rescue!

Eating well at home was not the biggest challenge. For the most part, I keep the trigger foods out of the house.  The biggest issues come when I am at special events where I do not control the food choices.  However, if I come prepared, either physically with a treat to share that I can eat, or mentally prepared to not have a treat, I am fine.

At holiday events, I always bring my own sugar-free treat to share. I still love to bake and there are endless healthy sugar-free options.  (THM’s Gentle Sweet has been a game changer for me – if you have a hard time finding a natural sweetener you like, I highly recommend it.  You can buy it here.) I also find, at most events, there are usually many good non-sugary options – like a yummy fruit, veggie, or a cheese tray – I choose those instead of my trigger foods.

If I know I will be surrounded by only sugar, like the gingerbread house decorating party I went to in December, I make sure I come prepared with a drink I enjoy and I keep sipping on it the entire time.  My current favorite is “Cuddle Family Hot Chocolate” from the THM Cookbook.

7. Don’t feel sorry for yourself – nothing tastes as good as freedom.

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A selfie with my baby girl – nothing is as sweet as freedom!

What I had learned from my many failed attempts to give up sugar was that the battle was mostly in my mind.  I found that if I determined before an event that I was not going to eat sugar, I just didn’t.  I wasn’t upset about it.  I did not feel deprived.  I had determined before the event that I wouldn’t do it and I didn’t.  However, if I went to an event thinking maybe I would be good and not eat the dessert, I failed every time.  Attitude is everything on this journey.  I have determined to NOT eat sugary treats anymore. Period.  So I don’t.  Since I no longer give myself the option to eat sugar, it is no longer an option.

However, if I let doubt sink in, that would be a different story. If I went to a party with the attitude that “It’s not fair that they all get to eat that cake and I don’t.  Why do I have to struggle with sugar addiction?  Life’s not fair.” Even if I came away from the party without eating the cake, I would have failed.  This is not “a fair or not fair” issue.  This is a personal choice to live in freedom from the cycle of defeat I lived in for years.  Thank you, Lord! I am no longer in bondage to the control of sugar.

If you struggle with sugar addiction, I hope that this is a freedom that you will find as well.  The freedom that I have found tastes sweeter than any piece of cake.

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When you feel like you don’t have a testimony…

For years I felt like my testimony was essentially worthless – it had no amazing story of redemption from horrific circumstances.  I was not healed from disease or freed from a life of addiction.  It seemed like everyone around me had amazing testimonies of God changing their lives drastically – but me? I had nothing special…

When it seems that everyone else has an amazing story to tell of how God saved them from disaster, but you've been a Christian forever... But you DO have a beautiful testimony of God's faithfulness. -- NatureAmy.com

My sister Ella (left) and me (age 6)

I was raised in a Christian family and accepted Christ as a young girl.  I felt loved by everyone in my life and knew I was valued and special.  I never rebelled; I never was abused.  I loved Jesus and chose to go to a Christian college to study environmental science.  I met my Jesus following husband in the same degree program and we married soon after we graduated.

I knew I was incredibly blessed, but I still felt somehow less of a Christian because I didn’t have a “great” testimony.  So many others could bring a room to tears by God’s amazing transformation of their lives.  What did I have compared to that?

I believed the lie that my testimony was essentially worthless for years and I let the devil keep me from sharing it.  But thankfully, I was open to hear the truth. On my 30th birthday, I was at a women’s conference and we split into small groups to pray together.  Some of the women had shared their testimony and I mentioned how amazing they were and how I didn’t have anything like that.  What one wise woman shared with me really opened my eyes – she said I had a beautiful testimony of God’s faithfulness.  I had deep roots planted in the fertile soil of my family’s faithfulness to Christ.

I felt like I was seeing my story with new eyes – I had never thought about it that way before. Now, as a parent, I realize that I have a beautiful testimony – one that I wish for my own children.

When it seems that everyone else has an amazing story to tell of how God saved them from disaster, but you've been a Christian forever... But you DO have a beautiful testimony of God's faithfulness. -- NatureAmy.com

My parents outside the Campus Advance for Christ Apartment they lived in and kept open 24 hours a day for students at their University of California campus.

“They will not build and another occupy;
They will not plant and another eat [the fruit].
For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,
And My chosen [people] will fully enjoy [and long make use of] the work of their hands.
“They will not labor in vain,
Or bear children for disaster;
For they are the descendants of those blessed by the Lord,
And their offspring with them.”

Isaiah 65:22-23

God has been faithful and I cannot take credit for any of it.  His faithfulness is to my parents and grandparents – their faithfulness and prayers and the way they chose to live out their faith to everyone around them was the firm foundation (or the rich soil) where my life was built. I never went through the trials of life that so many children must walk through.  There is so much grace in this and a testimony to my parents’ wise choices. My parents worked very hard to build into me and my four siblings and taught us to love God and others and to care for creation. They taught me that I was a valuable and beautiful daughter – not just to them, but also to the King of Kings!

When it seems that everyone else has an amazing story to tell of how God saved them from disaster, but you've been a Christian forever... But you DO have a beautiful testimony of God's faithfulness. -- NatureAmy.com

Generations of faithfulness – my grandmother, my sister Ella, and me as a newborn.

Don’t get me wrong, I have not had a perfect life and I am far from perfect – although thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, God sees me that way! And thank you, Lord – my testimony is not worthless. I am not a boring story of “raised a Christian, always a Christian.” I am a testimony of Christ’s faithfulness which is exactly the testimony I hope for my own children.

Will this be my children’s testimony as well?  I can’t say – although as their mom I want them to make wise choices and not be scarred by the sin of the world – but that may not be God’s plan for their lives. God uses us in different ways and uses our hurts and scars and past lives to build into others and show His power. It is amazing how the Creator molds broken things into beautiful masterpieces!

No matter your testimony, remember that you have one and that it is powerful and beautiful no matter how God brought you to Himself. Don’t believe Satan’s lies that your story is not as powerful as others. It is your story and tells a unique love story of God’s pursuit of your heart, no matter if it occurred at age five or 45 or 90. You are valuable and you are loved by the one who hung the stars in the sky.  It is His desire to love you and be with you for eternity and that is something to be very excited about!

 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  1 Peter 3: 15-16

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