Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Motherhood (page 2 of 4)

Just a Crib

These days, life is best summed up in one word: transition.

My body is transitioning as baby #3 grows and prepares to make her arrival. Our guest room is transitioning to a nursery for said baby girl. And most recently, we transitioned our son from a nursery to a bona fide “big boy” room, one full of furniture that will likely last him until he’s ready to leave our home (oh, banish the thought!).

And let me tell you something: I cried taking that crib apart. Cried like a baby (no pun intended). Emptying those baby dresser drawers took my breath away, especially when I came across one of the tiny bracelets that adorned his ankle during our hospital stay.

My chest has never been so tight with sentiment. Weren’t we just picking this furniture out? Weren’t we just setting up this sweet baby’s crib?

The intense, raw emotion of it all took me by surprise—after all, it’s just a crib, right?

Then again, it’s so much more than that. It’s a crib I dreamt of buying for years. It’s a crib I stood and prayed over many a late night as I watched Isaiah sleep and dream. It’s a crib that held our son’s tiny, precious body for all this time as we’ve watched him grow from infant to toddler in what feels like overnight.

It is a physical representation of one of the happiest seasons of my life.

Yes, it is merely a piece of furniture, but it carries the divine stamp of my loving Heavenly Father—a Father who caught all my tears during the excruciating months of longing, waiting, and heartache as we faced infertility. That crib, simple as it is, represents answered prayer.

The book of Joshua recounts another beautiful example of answered prayer. After 40 years of desert wandering, the Lord led Israel across the Jordan River and into the long-awaited Promised Land. Once safely on the other side, He commanded each tribe of Israel to gather a stone from the middle of the Jordan to serve as a sign:

In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord … These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever (Joshua 4:6-7 NIV).

You would think after such a miraculous occurrence, Israel would need no help in remembering what God did … but past behavior revealed just how in need they were of such a memorial. And if we’re honest, we too are just as needy for memorials in our lives.

The unfortunate truth is, we are far too quick to forget God’s past goodness to us whenever we’re facing a new trial. Our Creator God knows us, and He knows our human frailty. In His wisdom He directed the people to construct a physical structure to remind them of a spiritual victory … forever.

My son’s crib is more than mere wood and nails—it is a “memorial stone,” a tangible piece of evidence highlighting the intangible, glorious faithfulness of God. The pictures and memories of it will indeed always serve as a memorial of God’s goodness to our family.

What about you—are you setting up memorial stones? Or are you allowing the harsh flood waters of life to sweep right over the evidence of God’s goodness to you? Like the Israelites, it’s all too easy for us to enter a new trial and quickly forget God’s past faithfulness. Let’s not make the same mistake!

Today, may you and I join with the Psalmist and sing of the Lord’s great love forever (Psalm 89:1 NIV). May we boldly step into the Jordan of our past and dig out a few memorial stones. And each time we run our hands over those smooth, lovely stones, may the evidence of God’s goodness strengthen and encourage us for all our days to come.

Blessings,

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Dependence Day

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard the saying, “parenting is not for the faint of heart.” But I never quite knew what to make of that saying before I had children. In truth, parenting didn’t seem as scary or difficult as people made it out to be …

… well, God certainly has a sense of humor, as I now find myself neck deep in the throes of parenting, disciplining, and teaching two of the strongest-willed children on this planet. The fact that God chose me to be the mother of such precious, iron-willed humans boggles my mind. It really only makes sense in the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9, when the Lord told Paul, My power is made perfect in weakness (NIV).

Weakness indeed.

Recently, I had an experience that made me want to disappear from the planet and use one of those “Men in Black” gadgets to scrub the memory of everyone around me.

On a beautiful morning, my mom and I decided to take the kiddos to the farmer’s market. What could be more relaxing than strolling the booths of mouth-watering just-picked strawberries and rows of delectable tomatoes, squash, and lettuces?

Well, within about 5 minutes, we had major meltdown on our hands. My son broke out of the stroller and began grabbing hunks of broccoli and berries from a table, even after I repeatedly told him to stop.

My daughter, indignant that her brother escaped the confines of the 5-point harness, began screaming as only she can, bursting the eardrums of all those around us and garnering the kind of attention you make it your mission to avoid.

As the hot California sun bore down on my head, a mix of sweat and tears began rolling. My children refused to obey and refused to calm down. If people’s looks could kill, I would have been dead a dozen times over. Helpless and exasperated, we scrapped the trip, put those screaming children back into the car, and headed for home, where they forced my hand into some serious discipline.

I felt utterly humiliated, embarrassed, and incompetent. Here I was, round and pregnant with baby #3 while the two I already have wreaked havoc and blatantly disobeyed my orders.

We’ll mark that under the category of mothering fail.

I cried to my mom about how incredibly tired I was of going places and being embarrassed by their behavior. If you’re a parent, I’m willing to bet your children have also left you feeling embarrassed or helpless a time or two. The feeling of humiliation and judgment sticks to your skin like the thick, humid air of the South.

It plain old stinks.

But God has been teaching me, as only He can, about the treasures and lessons to be learned in the sometimes humiliating midst of this crazy hard thing called parenting.

With each tantrum and meltdown, God has revealed hidden plaques of pride stuck to my heart—stuck so tightly, apparently, that it’s taking the searing heat of disciplining my strong-willed children to melt it off.

It is a pride born out of a stiff-necked, flesh nature desire for independence and control. I stand amazed at the stubbornness of my children, yet all the while a part of my own heart wants nothing more than to be in control and independent, just like them.

Once again, the seemingly simple act of raising children is revealing my endless need for dependence on God like never before! In my own strength, I am weak. In my own wisdom, I am lost.

In these moments, how grateful I am for the life-giving words of the Psalmist:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV).

Just like Eve long before us, the enemy entices us to think that somehow, we can do it better without God—somehow, our own will could be better than that of our loving, helping Creator. But try as we might, there’s simply no escaping the truth—as believers, our freedom is won through total dependence on God and His resources.

Whether it be in parenting, relationships, work, or any other facet of our lives, we must get serious about living out the words of Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (NIV).

What about you? Is there an area of your life in which you’re attempting to function and thrive independently of God’s strength and wisdom? If so, I’m willing to bet that, if you’re honest, it’s not really working for you—just as it’s not really working for me.

Let the words of Hebrews 4:16 settle deep into your core:

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (NIV).

Sweet reader, whatever your struggle is today, you’re not alone in it. You and I serve a God who is Holy and Sovereign, yet at the same time invites us to sink into the comfort and strength of His arms. It is in dependence on those arms that we will find what we need to handle our strong-willed children or taxing job or difficult marriage.

When you find yourself lost and confused as to the next step—how to discipline that child, how to proceed in that relationship, whether or not to take that job—run to the One who knows the answer to all your most difficult questions. As James 1:5 tells us,

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (NIV).

I don’t know about you, but this is a promise to which I’m clinging whole-heartedly these days, as I’m learning to depend more wholly and fully on Him in the fire of life’s trials.

What circumstance is leaving you humbled, confused, or defeated today? Let me be so bold as to ask you to do the same thing I believe God is asking of me:

Be willing.

Be willing to be humbled or in need of help from friends or family. Be willing to accept grace, which I find oftentimes harder than extending it. And be willing to embrace your need for dependence on Him. There is so much freedom waiting just on the other side of laying it all down …

… A funny thing happened later that morning—once the kids settled down, my mom in her wisdom suggested we put them back in the car and try again at the farmer’s market. Those sticky plaques of pride in me balked at first, unwilling to risk further embarrassment. But at her gentle urging, I decided to exhale and be willing to go and let it be what it would be.

And wouldn’t you know? My children behaved like the sweet ones they truly are, and I felt a little flicker of hope at this evidence of progress. It is thrilling to watch your little ones learn to trust and obey—and in similar fashion, I imagine God greatly rejoices when we respond in obedience to and reliance on Him.

Be willing, dear one. And when the fireworks pop and sparkle this weekend as we celebrate our national independence, I pray that your heart and mine will pop and sparkle just as vibrantly at the freedom to be found in spiritual dependence on our Creator.

Blessings,

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This post is a part of this summer’s series Finding Meaning in the MessAll summer, we’ll be diving into the faith lessons we canSummertimeTheme learn in the midst of our everyday lives. God can teach us through all kinds of trials, big or small–let’s commit to drawing nearer to Him and hearing His voice!

 

That Time I Went to “Babies R Us” Looking Like a Hot Mess

Yes, that time—as in, that time just this week.

I took my tiny minions of the apocalypse children to Babies R Us this week, splotchy-face and puffy eyes and all, and I didn’t even care who saw me or how bad I looked.

Why?

Because I was so darn tired of the slamming doors.

So incredibly tired of my son opening and closing every single door, rummaging around upstairs while I sat helplessly trying to get my daughter to flipping pee in the potty.

Tired of him dragging the rocker over to his sink and overflowing water onto the floor. Of emptying all his drawers. Of eating lotion (the third time this week). Of squirting out the rest of his tube of blue toothpaste all over the carpet, right where I’d just managed to clean up the first half.

Tired of him raiding the refrigerator and stealthily cracking open a dozen new, organic eggs on the floor and licking them up while I was—you guessed it—sitting helplessly on the floor with my daughter, trying to get her to flipping pee in the potty.

Tired of him eating chocolate syrup and squirting bright yellow mustard and unrolling a roll of toilet paper while I looked and sounded like an idiot, waving my hands enthusiastically to a song about poo. About poo, people.

And you know what? The poo still ended up on the floor, as well as the pee, where my daughter and the dogs had a grand old time splashing and squealing in it while I was cleaning up aforementioned lotion, toothpaste, cracked eggs, chocolate syrup, etc. etc. etc. Toddlers 1; Mom, 0.

But let me tell you: my house is now more secure than Fort Knox. So we should be good until my kiddos figure out how to undo all these baby-proofing devices, at which point I imagine we’ll just move to padded walls and straight jackets.

If my exasperated tone hasn’t already given it away, we have been in the middle of potty training our daughter (though I feel it’s dishonest to call it “potty training,” as my idea of potty training is that your child’s waste actually goes in the potty and not anywhere and everywhere else). And, to say it has not gone well is kind of an understatement.

To say I’m more than a little crazy and losing what was left of my mind is not, in any form, hyperbole. Seriously.

My kids are amazing. They are smart and bubbling over with personality and life. They were sleeping through the night—12 hours—by 3 months of age and never regressed.

They are not, however, potty training prodigies. And so, after much wrestling and innumerable tears, we are pulling the plug for now. I know half of you get it, and the other half is saying oh, don’t give up!

But stepping back for now is what’s best for our family.

Because I’d like to stay married.

I’d also like to keep from researching toddler rescue programs (that’s a joke, people, no need to alert CPS!).

So for everyone’s sanity, we’ll press pause and revisit the issue when we don’t have an impending cross-country flight and preschool and the arrival of a new baby breathing down our necks.


If you’ve been reading along the month of May, you know we just finished up a series all about motherhood—specifically, how to thrive in this phase of young motherhood. I have to release an ironic laugh and confess that lately, I feel I’ve been doing anything but thriving in this thing called motherhood.

And oh, how ready the enemy is with his whispers and accusations—see, you have no business writing. You can’t even practice what you preach on a consistent basis! Who are you to say anything?

Anyone else feel me in this struggle? I’m amazed at how I always seem to forget that, once God shows us truth, Satan comes right along behind Him, doing his best to snatch it all up.

It also amazes me how our enemy can use pretty much anything as a weapon against us—even something as strange and seemingly innocuous as bodily functions. But yes indeed, pee and poo have brought me to my knees—a variation on the whole “bowing down to the porcelain throne” thing, if you will.

The whole experience has shoved me into confronting truths about myself that I’d rather not confront. I’ve always thought of myself as a determined, stick-to-it kind of person, and in many ways I am …

… but I’ve also seen up close and personal my lack of persevering grit. Within just the first 24-hours, I wanted to give up a few dozen times. I wanted to take it all back, pull out the diapers again, and pretend this is something that will magically take care of itself—without intense effort on my part—at some mythical, future date (hey, a girl can dream, right?).

It feels as though I’m being forced into running a marathon, be it potty training, discipline, cultivating relationships, or motherhood in general. And can we be clear about something else?

I don’t run marathons.

I don’t run marathons, and I don’t ever want to run marathons. But the hard truth I’m learning? It’s not really up to us.

Many of us are running marathons we never intended to run—difficult marriages, difficult jobs, difficult financial circumstances, strained family relationships, troubles with children, illness and disease, and a whole host of other possibilities.

Whatever you’re facing, the tough truth is that life on earth itself is a marathon. God’s Word is filled with race-themed metaphors:

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 (Hebrews 12:1 NIV).

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV).

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV).

As followers of Jesus, we are called to run the marathons we encounter—whether or not we consider ourselves marathoners or not! This thought could threaten to discourage those of us who, like myself, would rather sip fruity drinks on a beach than train for a race …

but, the really awesome, encouraging news is that we have a divine Trainer, and thus we are not alone.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, living and active in us, we are able to dig in, persevere, and keep going through whatever circumstances we face.

The critical question becomes: in whose strength are you running your marathon? Your own, or God’s? On our own, we’re not capable—we will hit a wall at some point. I’ve been smacked across the face lately with the reality of how much I’ve been depending on my own strength, without even realizing it! Independence and rebellion have a funny way of sneaking up on us (just ask Eve).

So I say to you, as I say to myself, stop trying to run life’s marathon in your own strength. Lay it all before the feet of our Heavenly Trainer, the one who promised that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26 NIV).

You may feel so very weary and at times think but I didn’t sign up for this. I’m with you—there are things in my life for which I certainly didn’t sign up for … but we can have victory. We can have the abundant life Jesus promised.

I don’t necessarily believe the idiom that “God will never give you more than you can handle,” but I certainly do believe that God will EQUIP us to handle whatever trials we encounter. And in doing so, our lives bring Him glory as we reap the benefit of all we’re promised in Him.

Hang tough, my fellow marathoner. Sip some water, take a moment to breathe, and regroup with your very own personal trainer, who just happens to be the God of the Universe.

The prize is ours for the taking.

Blessings,

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Cultivating Community: Choosing God’s Values Over the World’s

Happy Memorial Day, readers!

This month’s Cultivating Community post comes from Jennifer Moye, a COMPEL sister and fellow busy mom!

As parents, it’s all too easy for us to find ourselves sucked into the world’s way of thinking when it comes to our mothering and what it should look like. Today, Jen encourages us to keep our eyes focused on God and His ways, learning to be still and seek His approval above all else.

As we close out the month of May, I hope Jen’s words will encourage you to continue relying on our Great Helper as you daily undertake the task of raising your babies!


Keeping Up With the “Pinterest Mom”

by Jennifer Moye

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Before my eyes have adjusted to the light of 6 am, I hear the not so little voice of our 3 year old, “Where’s my juice cup!” It’s a statement, not a question by the way.

I’m hungry. Play with me. I’m bored. He hit me. I don’t like spaghetti. I hate this show. I love spaghetti. I don’t need a nap. Mom. Mom. MOOOOOM!!!!

Can you hear these voices? If so, you must be a mommy too! And while I love our three little boys with more than I knew my heart could hold, I am so tired.

The blog world is overflowing with articles and posts on how to be the perfect “Pinterest mom”. Everywhere I turn it seems like that put together mom is stalking me with her perfectly done makeup and hair. I am sure she lost all of her baby weight before she left the hospital and what? What is a c-section pouch? She has no idea.

Her children’s clothes all match, no stains in tow. And they all walk quietly in a line behind her like a bunch of little ducklings. You know this mom right? Well, I don’t even know what to say to her. I don’t hate her. I used to be jealous of her, but not anymore.

You see, God has been teaching me something in the midst of this mayhem we call motherhood. He is teaching me to be still. Still enough to enjoy what matters . . . not to this world but what matters to Him. God did not call us to be parents so we could show off how good we are at juggling. God called us to be parents so that He would be glorified through us and through our children.

Called. That is what we are—called by God Almighty and entrusted with His little children. Have you ever thought of it like that? They aren’t just ours, they are His first. Our calling is divine, and I would argue one of the most important callings we can have in this life.

When I start to get overwhelmed with the craziness of this life with kids, it is so important for me to stop and realize what really matters to God. I can run myself to the point of exhaustion in less than 24 hours trying to keep up with the demands this world and society put on a mother. These things are simply not what we are made for. We cannot serve two masters.

The first step in reigning in the chaos of parenting is deciding who it is we are trying to please:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).

What if we all agrees to choose God right now? I know it is hard. Comparison and guilt come at us from every direction, but right here in this moment, we must choose God. He is our Master. His opinion is the one that matters. This world will never be satisfied with us. This world is ruled by our enemy and wants everything opposite of what God wants for us.

So what does God value in our parenting? Scripture points to many things, but for today, I would like to share what God has been speaking to me lately.

If I were to get to the gates of Heaven and God asked me, “What have you done with the lives I entrusted you with?” what would I be able to say to Him? (By the way, this is not in the Bible anywhere. Just go with me for a moment.) How would I answer this question? What would He want to hear?

I sure don’t know all the answers, but I am very confident God would not be looking for an answer like, “We all got out the door on time”, or “Everyone matched today”, or even “I made it through Costco with all three kids and no one got hurt.” I think the answers God would want to hear would look more like love . . . grace . . . mercy . . . faith . . . worship.

Think about how our Heavenly Father parents us, as He is the perfect example for us to follow: He is quiet with us. He is loud with us. He sits with us in the floor and listens to our problems. He wakes with us in the middle of the night and comforts us without anger. He smiles at our obedience and gently guides us to His Word when we stray.

Most of all, He takes His time with us. He doesn’t rush us to learn life’s lessons, as He is patient and kind.

What if being a good mom looked more like dirty pants from playing in the sandbox and messy kitchens from family baking “experiences”? What if God thinks it is more important to spend time showing my kids love rather than rushing them through my day of errands? And what if I miss the joy of childhood because I am too busy trying to keep up with that exhausting super Pinterest mom?

I challenge you today to slow down, and get out of the crazy mom race. Be still for a bit and focus on the One who has called you to be a mother in the first place. He is your audience of One. In Him and for Him we should be raising our children, not for the approval of others. Life is hard enough without trying to be super-mom. I’d rather be found worthy in the eyes of my King than in the eye of anyone here on earth!

I will leave you with my favorite Psalm. One in which I find such strength and one that helps me to focus back on who He is and who I am not:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;  I will be exalted among the nations,  I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46).

mjennifer2Jennifer is wife to an Airman and mom to three rambunctious little boys. With excitement on a daily basis and grace around every corner, she believes we are meant to live this life in community with others and with the mercy to mess up and try again….and again.

Being a mom is hard, but it is also one of the greatest callings we can have in this life. Her ministry to women is relevant and heartfelt with her core passion being that we learn to glorify our God in our parenting, our marriage, and in our everyday lives.

Join Jennifer’s community online at:

www.jennifermoye.com

www.facebook.com/jennifermoye

www.twitter.com/jenmoyewrites

www.pinterest.com/jenmoyewrites


So this concludes May’s series, Ring of Fire: Surviving & Thriving in the Furnace of Young Motherhood. www.meredithhcarr.com-4What a great month it’s been! We’ve tackled some big issues and hopefully come away with a healthy dose of encouragement and strength in Him to keep on going. Thanks for reading and joining in the conversation–it’s so nice to know we aren’t alone in this journey of raising little ones!

A mama’s work is never done, but we serve a God who is able to meet us in each and every trial and need. As we move forward into a hot, busy summer, I pray God’s strength and love will settle on you like never before. Blessings!

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Balancing Act

If there’s anything that amplifies the heat of motherhood, it’s the daily, extraordinarily challenging task of balancing all the many components of our lives.

As if tending to little ones’ needs wasn’t hard enough, we have relationships with husbands, family, and friends that need cultivating, jobs to work, the constant hamster wheel of house work to do, bills to pay, groceries to buy, appointments to make, birthday cards and gifts to mail, school projects and homework to help with, etc. etc. etc. The list could go on in dizzying fashion.

Sometimes, it feels as though we’re trying to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope, doesn’t it? And if we don’t maintain the perfect balance—if one thing slips—we’re at risk of having the whole kit and caboodle come crashing down in spectacular disaster.

I feel that wire underneath me wobble and twist erratically when I’m facing a blank dinner menu and a hungry family. Or when I remember that phone call I still haven’t returned. Or when I see that text to which I’ve tried to reply half a dozen times but have found myself interrupted by little hands and voices at every attempt.

I feel it in the friendships I see falling behind due to unintentional lack of effort … in the clutter on the stairs … in the long, ticky “to do” list of doctor’s visits and speech therapy sessions to schedule and more meals to plan because, inexplicably, they want dinner every single night!

Mamas, we do so much. We carry so much. We are walking across a high wire, carrying what feels like the weight of the world at times. What’s a mom to do?

Out of curiosity (and a smidgen of procrastination), I did a quick search into the mechanics of tightrope walkers—how in the world do they do it? I once tried a slack line at a friend’s house, and I looked like an overcooked noodle trying to stand up. It seems like an impossible feat.

Simply put, posture is the most important element. Thus, a tightrope walker focuses on lowering her body’s center of gravity towards the wire. In the same way a shorter, sturdier vase is harder to topple than a taller, slimmer vase, so a walker is less likely to fall if the majority of her mass is closer to the wire.

Tightrope walkers also recognize that the wire itself tends to rotate, threatening to throw the walker off balance. Assuming a position of “arms up and out” in horizontal fashion brings balance to the walker, helping her offset the constant wiggles and turns of the wire beneath.

These may seem like random, useless facts, but I believe we can draw wisdom and insight from this illustration. In our quest to traverse the tightrope of young motherhood and maintain a modicum of steadiness and grace, we can pull spiritual lessons out of physical ones:

Just as a walker lowers her center of gravity towards the wire, so we must lower our center of gravity towards Christ, sinking deep into His Word and truth. With our arms out and open, ready to receive all His very great and precious promises (see 2 Peter 1:4), we are ready to walk through the twists and turns life throws at us.

Our entire ability to maintain balance hinges on us keeping Christ at the very center of our beings. Simple, right? Yes … and ridiculously challenging, because our enemy knows our source of strength, balance, and light is found in positioning Jesus as our center. Is it any wonder he puts all his resources into thwarting that goal?!

Like walking a tightrope, the key to maintaining balance in our lives is simple, but not easy. It takes a lot of practice. But it is possible, even though it appears impossible at times!

Let’s look at 3 practical ways we can improve our spiritual tightrope walking skills and move from just surviving to truly thriving:

Get to Know Him

While Jesus walked the earth, He gave clear teachings on what our priorities should look like:

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

In these simple, powerful words, Jesus makes it clear that we should love God and love others … and everything else flows from this! Living this life of faith requires tremendous trust—yet to deeply trust Him, we must deeply know Him.

To lower our center of gravity towards Christ, we must first come to know and love Him. Talk to Him through prayer. Spend time in His word. Find a devotional that speaks to you in your current season (some of my favorites can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE). Get involved in a small group or Bible study at your church. God longs to be in a love relationship with you that is real and personal!

Like any relationship, becoming better acquainted with God requires time … which brings me to the next point:

Make Room

Mamas, I know you’re tired and stressed out. I know you—like me—feel as though you have zero moments to spare, but may I humbly ask permission to push you a little bit here? Only because I believe we could both use a gentle, loving push.

The truth is, we make time for those things we find most important. We find time, create time, or cut time from other places in order to prioritize what matters most in our lives.

When I find myself walking through life without His joy and focus, and I want to scratch my head and wonder why, I’m reminded of the words of Jeremiah:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 29:13 & 14 NIV).

So I’ll ask you the hard question I have to ask myself: are you seeking Him with all your heart?

Are you making room for Him, or spending your time seeking approval on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram? Perhaps instead of checking our e-mail and blasting out a couple tweets first thing in the morning, we could spend those first quiet moments with Him.

I know that’s not a popular thing to say—and believe me, I feel the tension too, and the desire to reach for other distractions first. But just give it a try for a few days and see how you feel. The First 5 app from Proverbs 31 Ministries is an excellent way to begin!

Speak the Language of Gratitude

Finally, we could all benefit by learning to speak the language of gratitude. I know I sound like a broken record here, but y’all, this one is huge. I can be having the worst day paired with the worst attitude, and if I force myself to stop, breathe, and write down five things for which I’m thankful, it completely turns my heart around.

Ann Voskamp, one of my favorite authors and followers of Christ, writes that there is always something to be thankful for. Always. I rather agree with her!

Few things restore balance to my day faster than lifting my head up and refocusing on the good things God has provided rather than the stressful, negative things that often consume my conscious thought. It’s a game changer, sweet mama, I promise you that.

* * * *

I realize this post is long, so thank you for hanging in there with me. And I know I’ve challenged you guys to a lot: digging into God’s word, setting aside lesser things to make more room for Him, and being willing to give thanks even in the midst of a hard day …

… but what do you have to lose? Nothing, really.

And who knows? You just might look up to find yourself half-way across those raging falls, taking in the glorious sights and sounds of a life lived with balance and steadiness.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

 

This post is a part of May’s Series, Ring of Fire: Surviving & Thriving in the Furnace of Young Motherhood.www.meredithhcarr.com-4

 

Come back Monday for Cultivating Community as we finish out this series with a guest post from Jennifer Moye! 

When Mama Needs a Time Out

As y’all know, Mother’s Day was just a couple weeks ago. Ah, that day laden with expectations, gifts, and pressure. Whatever your day looked like, I want you to take a minute, close your eyes, and envision your dream Mother’s Day:

Are there flowers? Chocolates? Breakfast in bed? Quiet time spent with your cherubs by your side, husband ready with the camera to take Instagram-worthy pictures?

All of this sounds lovely and indeed is lovely. But can I confess to you my ideal Mother’s Day?

Being alone.

Yup, as I began thinking about what I desired, the first thing that popped into my head was alone time!! Sweet, rare alone time!

My internal dialogue jumped from amused to horror-stricken as I began to contemplate the implications of that craving. For years, I prayed and yearned and begged God for these babies … and on the day designated to “officially” celebrate my much-desired motherhood status, all I wanted was to run away to the mall for a few hours.

Is something wrong with me??

But before I could follow this thought down the rabbit hole, God whispered quite matter-of-factly, no, nothing is wrong with you. You’re just tired.

Tired. Exhausted. Running on empty.

Yes. Can you relate?

That was a silly question—if you have children under your care, then I’m certain you can relate! Exhausted seems to come with the territory. The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual hyper-vigilance accompanying the seemingly simple task of tending to little ones takes its toll on us.

Sometimes, mama just needs a good old-fashioned time out.

Time to wave the white flag, to remove oneself from the distractions, and to think about the state of our hearts.

Houston, We Have a Problem

I’m guessing you, like me, would readily welcome this kind of respite, but there’s a problem: we happen to be mothering in an age that allows very little to no time for self-care. Moms naturally have a lot of work to do, but we’ve added heaps upon heaps of extra pressure and stress to our typical schedules.

The world tell us:

We have to look like a Victoria’s Secret model and cook and decorate like Martha Stewart.

We have to throw Pinterest-worthy parties for our children, beginning from year one.

We have to volunteer at school, church, extra-curricular activities, and the like. Heaven forbid we bring a treat that’s store-bought or contains—gasp!—sugar, gluten, or dairy.

We have to keep our outward lives looking shiny and bright, ready to upload and blast out to five forms of social media in an instant.

Basically, we have to be perfect. Supermom.

But you know what? You’re not a Supermom. And neither am I. We are human and fragile and we have needs. Yes, as moms, we must often put other’s needs above our own—but this doesn’t equal neglecting our own needs entirely.

These ridiculous pressures and expectations are robbing us of joy, rest, and peace at every turn—and this is not the life Jesus envisions for you, tired mama.

Listen to what Jesus desires for us:

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10 NLT).

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me (John 14:1 NIV).

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27 NIV).

Rich and satisfying life. Rest in His sovereignty. Peace. A life free of fear.

Do these qualities describe your everyday life? I wish I could say all my days reflect the reality of walking in these promises, but quite often they don’t.

Moms, it’s time to bow out of the world’s rat race and stop the futile task of pursuing perfection. It’s an illusion. It’s time to drop the mom guilt like it’s hot. It’s time to run to Jesus with your needs, your fears, and your empty tank, and let Him care for you in the lavishness of His love.

This will look different for each one of us, but I wanted to share 3 practical ways I’m learning to find rest and rejuvenation amidst the chaos, embracing the abundant life that is ours for the taking:

Fill Your Tank

Motherhood often feels and indeed often is all-consuming. Yet even so, you and I are complex, multi-faceted individuals who lived and thrived long before we wore the “mom” badge.

If you’re anything like me, you are full of passions, dreams, and goals, in addition to the intense love and focus you have for your children. Becoming a mother changes you, yes, but you are still that unique person God created and gifted you to be.

Psalm 139:13-14 says—

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (NIV).

Take a moment and think about who God created you to be—what do you love? What gets your blood pumping and brings a smile to your face? What activities fill your tank?

You may love to write, paint, cook, sing, decorate, craft, run, or any vast number of things—and being a great mom doesn’t mean you have to shelve all the things that make you “you” for the next 18 years!

These parts of you will likely manifest differently in this busy season of motherhood. Would I love to write the sweeping Historical fiction novel that’s been burning up my brain for years? Sure. Is now the time? No. My plate is full—but I’ve found that carving out even a little time each week to write invigorates me, ultimately helping me be a better mom.

Enlist your family or a sitter, drop the mom guilt, and begin carving out time to cultivate those uniquely-you things that fill your tank!

Sleep

Like, literally—sleep.

I know this is way easier said than done—we can’t exactly force our children to stay in bed, short of reaching for the children’s Benadryl (which I hear is frowned upon).

Even still, there are probably extra minutes or hours of sleep you could grasp, though it will take some self-discipline. Turn off Netflix, shut down your phone or laptop, and force yourself to turn in early—you’ll be glad you did!

I know how tough it is to prioritize rest, as I myself tend to end up burning the candle at both ends…but when those ends meet in the middle, I burn right out—and everyone in my family suffers as a result. We are far easier targets for the enemy’s attacks and lies when we’re physically exhausted.

Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s rest, mama! It’s worth the effort, and all those t.v. shows and status updates will be there waiting for you in the morning.

Hold Onto Perspective Like Your Life Depends On It

Y’all. This one is so critical, at least for me. Motherhood is filled with such a beautiful tension: doing all we can to enjoy and be present for every moment while also knowing that the river is swiftly, irrevocably moving us down the winding way.

Good, bad, or indifferent, where you are now is a season. It will pass. It will not always be like this. And every season has its joys and challenges, so the best thing we can possibly do is embrace each day God gives us, love our babies with abandon, and stay on our knees in prayer.

One of the greatest articles on perspective I’ve read lately came from writer Marian Vischer, and you can find it HERE. Save it and read it often. I’m amazed at how much her words have helped me breathe, step back, and see this current season in a whole new light.

***

My challenge to you, mama, is to find a little you time this weekend. Sneak in a nap. Read a book. Journal. Sing. Run. Grab coffee with a girlfriend sans kiddos.

Take off the itchy, oppressive Supermom cape this world begs you to wear, and sink deep into God’s satisfying soul-rest. You (and your loved ones) will be glad you did!

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

 

This post is a part of May’s Series, Ring of Fire: Surviving & Thriving in the Furnace of Young Motherhood.www.meredithhcarr.com-4

So let’s hear it moms: are you in need of a time out? Do you find yourself craving a little “me time” or extra sleep?  I would love to hear how you’ve incorporated self-care into your busy mom life!

And join us next Friday for encouragement and tips on bringing balance to the circus act we call motherhood! 

Don’t Get Back Up

My shaky hands reached in desperation for the phone. Through big, bulbous tear droplets, I dialed my mom’s phone number, longing to pour out my heart into a safe space.

While a gentle spring breeze blew across my face and rustled my hair, I confessed the agony pressing in on my soul: I’m not cut out to be a mom!

In that moment, I felt the eerie clarity that must afflict the deranged: it seemed blaringly obvious that a glitch had occurred in God’s plan, and I mistakenly ended up as the mother of 2 young children. I’ve been entrusted with two little ones, and I’m failing at every turn, and now there’s another one on the way … what is God thinking??

As moms, we are all familiar with hard days and mom doubt. Someone didn’t get enough sleep or enough coffee or enough patience, and when our precious blessings finally settle in for the night, we plop down on the couch with a sigh and a phew! And perhaps a glass of wine (or two).

There are those days, but then there are those days. Like the day I described above, where you look at yourself in the mirror and hang your head in shame after losing your cool with your kiddos. The days where you didn’t know so much anger and frustration had tucked itself deep inside your heart. The days that leave you empty, broken, tearful, and doubting your very calling as a mom.

The days when all you hear is the deafening whisper, I am utterly failing at this mom thing.

I want to speak into your heart about those days, when a hot cup of tea and Netflix won’t do the trick. The days when your sweet babies send you running to turn in your resignation letter, because they have utterly brought you to your very knees.

Mamas, when your children bring you to your knees, stay there. Don’t get back up.

Stay there, and ask Jesus to join you—right there in the middle of the mess, the crushed cheerios and crushed spirits, the lake Eerie pee accidents, the bad attitudes, the anger, the fear, and the mom doubt.

Stay on your knees and listen. Listen for the comforting voice of your Father—let Him be the one to pick you back up and shut out the chorus of critics loudly pointing out all your shortcomings.

Mamas, if we’re going to survive this season and the ones ahead, we must learn to recognize and discern the voice of our Father.

There are so many voices speaking to us about how to mother, how and when to do this, that, and the other. You can find a litany of articles to support and refute pretty much any parenting decision. It’s enough to completely boggle the mind and leave you feeling like you’ve totally missed the mark some days.

And make no mistake—our enemy stands ready and eager to capitalize on those feelings of failure and confusion. We have to fight to discover and hold onto the truth.

John 10:27 says:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (NIV).

Discerning the Father’s voice isn’t always easy, but it does have a distinctive tone. Let’s be honest, we all know we’ve had those days when we’ve messed up—it isn’t just our children demonstrating a bad attitude. But God is in the business of conviction versus accusation. He is gracious and faithful to convict our mama hearts when they’ve gone astray.

When I’m being as stiff-necked as my three-year old or when I’m in need of some serious gratitude or when I simply need a good old fashioned time out, God readily meets me with firm conviction … but you know what? elizabeth

Even in the correction, He is unbelievably kind. He doesn’t come wagging a smug finger at us; rather, He reaches out His Hand and invites us up out of the pit, up into something far better. His voice is inspiring, because He compels our hearts to want to change our ways.

This week, I want you to listen, sweet reader, and assess the tone of all those thoughts rattling around in your over-wired brain. Is there fear? Guilt? Condemnation bordering on harassment? Then you can know with confidence that this is not your Father’s voice. God’s heart longs to speak to us, but we’ve got to silence the destructive white noise in order to hear!

This is a moment to put 2 Corinthians 10:5 to work and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (NIV).

Recently, God gave me a chance to put this into practice (oh how I wish we could simply learn without being tested!). Waking up early one morning, battling yet another day of a migraine, I felt immediately attacked in one particular area of my mothering.

One by one, the enemy hurled his accusations at me—accusations that, truth be told, I often stipulate to, proceeding to live the day with lies as my truth. But that day, perhaps because I felt so bad physically, I’d just had enough. I rebuked the enemy out loud, called him on his hogwash, and refused to buy in this time.

Perhaps that sounds silly, but a miraculous thing happened—the nagging cloud of failure lifted, and I was overcome by a joy so pure and steady that it produced a natural high of sorts. The war rages on, but this particular battle was won by standing on the truth of God’s Word and my identity in Him.

I wish I could say I always stand firm and fight the lies, but of course I don’t. The good news is that God gives opportunities daily to put this into action. We will never want for occasions to practice discerning His voice amidst the lies!

It’s a battle, mamas, know that—you and I have to fight for joy and fight to hold onto the truth … but it’s a fight worth undertaking!

Soldier on, brave mama, and stay on your knees in prayer until your gaze is firmly fixed on Him and your hands rest securely in His. I’ll meet you on the battlefield with a knowing smile—and perhaps wielding a Grande latte in both hands.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

 

www.meredithhcarr.com-4

This post is a part of May’s Series, Ring of Fire: Surviving & Thriving in the Furnace of Young Motherhood.

Do you ever find yourself sucked into believing the enemy’s lies when those “worst of the worst” days roll around? How do you deal with them? Share your strategies with us!

Join us next Friday for encouragement and advice on finding rest and rejuvenation in the midst of the chaos that is motherhood.

Waiting for the Harvest

Happy Friday, readers! I hope your month of May is off to a great start. Today, I’m excited to kick off the new series for this month, focused all about motherhood:

www.meredithhcarr.com-4

If we’re honest, motherhood certainly feels like a furnace at times, right?? And then there are the days where that furnace is seemingly heated seven times hotter than usual (see Daniel 3:19).

All month, we’ll be talking about how to handle living in the midst of that heat. No, I don’t consider myself as having it all figured out, as I’m right in the thick of toddlerhood—but what I’m realizing is that oftentimes, once a mom exits one phase, she naturally moves on to the next and forgets the difficulties of the previous phases (thank goodness, right?). Perspective is often encouraging, yet we also simply need to hear me, too from others who are similarly situated.

So my heart this month is to encourage, come alongside, and gather together all us moms who find ourselves in the thick of pregnancy, newborns, strong-willed toddlers, temper tantrums, potty training, and intense sleep-deprivation. I write from a place of solidarity, with the hope of putting words to the thoughts, emotions, and trials we all face as moms of young ones.

Are there harder seasons ahead? Of course. But today, we need to band together, knowing that although motherhood often lends itself to feeling isolated, we are not alone! We feel alone. Most of us are no longer surrounded by that village it reportedly takes to raise a child. We live in our lovely homes in our lovely neighborhoods—so close, yet so far away from each other’s hearts. Let’s forget the voice of fear holding us back and be willing to shatter the glass separating us!

While this month’s theme is quite specific, I believe the truths of God’s word and who He is to us apply in all circumstances. Maybe you’re not a mom of littles, but we are all in a furnace of some type—so I hope these posts will encourage you, no matter your season of life!

With that, let’s jump right in. Today’s post was originally published as a guest post last month, but I believe it provides a great starting point for this month. Take heart as you wait on the Lord, knowing that your perseverance and trust will reap a bountiful harvest one day!


Waiting for the Harvest

Note: this post originally appeared on author Jennifer Slattery’s blog as part of her “Mama Mondays” feature.

I promised them I’d be right back. I just needed to step into the pantry to look for that box of much-desired Teddy Grahams.

Alone. And behind the thin layer of protection afforded by the pantry door.

As tiny fists pounded the pressed wood separating me from my 1- and 2-year-old toddlers, my ears absorbed the millionth whiny cries of the day. Without warning, hot tears filled my eyes and made their way down my flushed cheeks.

I’m so tired! The inaudible scream left my heart and shot up to God.

Tired of the whining. Tired of the crying. Tired of the sheer volume of epic neediness two toddlers can exhibit!

Yes, I needed to duck into my pantry to look for my children’s snack … but more than anything, I needed a good old-fashioned time out.

Inside that small space, in a brief moment alone, I felt the gentle hand of my Heavenly Father on my shoulder as He whispered, be still.

The words of Matthew 11:28 resonated with my fatigued soul: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (NIV).

Breathing in the truth of these words, I wiped my tears, whispered to Jesus how worn out I felt, and timidly emerged from the pantry—Teddy Grahams in hand—to see smiling, happy faces.

* * * * *

Motherhood is hard. That sounds obvious, but oftentimes the world makes us forget the truth that this high and holy work we’re doing is about so much more than simply feeding hungry mouths and clothing precious bodies. We are nurturing souls, sculpting human hearts and minds in the midst of the mundane, everyday tasks we do.

It is all at once boring and chaotic. Routine and unpredictable. Filled with incredible highs and wrenching lows.

In the exhausting hyper-vigilance created by mothering young ones, I am reminded of the words of Galatians 6:9:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (NIV, emphasis added).

These early years of motherhood are all about laying the hard, laborious groundwork. Sowing, planting, watering, pulling weeds, shooing away birds, endlessly tending to tender, young shoots. The harvest appears very far off at times, and it’s easy to lose your way in the midst of all the work. This I understand, and all too well.

Dear mama, I know you are weary—I am too. But let us cling to the beautiful promise in this verse. All that hard work and sacrifice? It matters, and you and I will see the harvest … one day … if we will only not give up!

So keep on loving those little ones. Keep on showing patience and grace and forgiveness and kindness and joy in the midst of these intense, chaotic days. Keep on keeping on.

Your babies are watching, and their little senses are taking it all in—taking in all the love and sacrifice and grace you’re offering, day after weary, beautiful day.

And one fine day, you will emerge from the pantry or wherever your hiding place happens to be and look up to see the beginnings of a golden, bountiful harvest. Born of love and tears and perseverance, this harvest will make all these sowing and cultivating days worth the effort.

And you and I will feast with joy.

Blessings,

Mere copy

Mama Mondays – Guest Blog

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Hey readers! Today, I am honored and excited to guest blog for author Jennifer Slattery as part of her regular feature, “Mama Mondays.” Head on over to  https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/2016/04/18/parenting-with-the-end-in-mind/ and check it out!

Blessings,

Mere copy

Expecting the Unexpected

As many of you know, thanks to the magic of Facebook, we recently broke the news that we are expecting baby #3!

Phew.

Even typing that sentence makes my heart beat a little faster while tiny beads of sweat form along my hairline. We’ve known for weeks, yet the reality still hasn’t fully sunk in.

Telling other people, however, has a way of bringing it home. Our family is growing and we are going to be outnumbered by our children. Lord, praise You—and please, help us!

Many of you also know that we struggled with unexplained infertility for two and a half long years before God miraculously called our son’s life into being. I’ve written a little about our journey, and if you or someone you know is in the same boat, you can click here to read that post. It would give me great joy to encourage and inspire others in a similar situation, which is why I’m willing to share so freely about such a personal, painful issue.

In the darkness of those days, it was nearly impossible to imagine being on this side of the equation. Looking back now, it takes my breath away, seeing all that God has done and provided. I love the advantage afforded by time and perspective. When Aaron and I packed up our little Honda Civic and two dogs and headed out across the country, we had no earthly idea all that God had waiting for us just on the other side of that journey.

On the morning we left, our families gathered around us, praying for and “commissioning” us as we prepared to head west. I’ll never forget my mom’s tearful, heartfelt prayer, asking God for babies. Well, God heard, and He listened—and answered in ways we never could have imagined!

The thought still floors me, and I can’t help but think Lord, what if I had insisted on my own way? What if I had refused to rest in You and trust Your timing? The thought makes me shudder, and I’m thankful that—in this instance, anyway—I did not seek my own plans and will. God will always do things far better than we ever could, even when His plans surprise us or don’t meet our narrow expectations. He is worthy of our trust and hope!

Learning to surrender my body and all hopes of motherhood was an excruciating process. Yet what I learned about God and myself through that process was invaluable. Now, I wouldn’t trade our struggle and those years of waiting for the world, as the Lord used it all to forge in me a deeper faith … a depth and a faith I so very much need now that I find myself on the exhilarating, overwhelming front lines of motherhood!

But in looking back, I see that my surrender was only partial, or one-sided. When I finally opened my hands and fell to me knees, I was prepared to live a life without children, without ever experiencing pregnancy, birth, motherhood, etc. The Lord led me to a place where I could truly say Your will be done—meaning, if that will did not include the children I had so long envisioned and desired.

I did not, however, surrender to the possibility of the other side of that issue—e.g., the place in which I now find myself: about to have three children ages three and under! And what I’m learning is that it takes faith to walk the road of life, on whichever side of surrender you find yourself.

It wasn’t easy experiencing disappointment month after month and bad news from every doctor we visited.

It wasn’t easy having my first baby 2,500 miles away from home, family, friends, and support.

It wasn’t easy welcoming a second baby just 12 months later!

And I know it won’t be easy to add this third miracle to the mix.

The point I’m making is, God wants to bless us, and we of course want to be blessed … but those blessings do not equal an easy, carefree path in this life. I am so incredibly, joyfully, over the top thankful for the gift of motherhood—it is a miracle! But I am not somehow more complete or more whole now than I was a few years ago. It took faith to wait on God’s blessing, and it’s taking faith to steward and enjoy His unexpected blessing now.

Whatever road you find yourself walking these days, the truth is that you and I must learn to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 2:7 NKJV). It’s so much easier to identify our deep need for God when we’re walking a hard road, be it infertility, divorce, financial troubles, etc. etc.

But when we reach the other side of those hardships? Yup, we will still need God just as much as we did before. And, considering that God’s ways most often end up looking vastly different than what we had in mind, we have all the more reason and need to lean into His vision for our lives.

God is always working, in a million and one ways—some expected, many unexpected. And we can rest in the knowledge that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

One of my favorite, silly reality t.v. shows often tells its contestants to “expect the unexpected.” The same can be said for the life of faith. I never expected to be living in California and pregnant with my third child. I’m willing to bet there’s at least one circumstance in your life you never expected.

Whatever the case, we can expect that God will always be working tirelessly and often behind-the-scenes on our behalf. The picture will most likely look different than we imagined … but if we will only surrender our expectations before Him, we place ourselves in a position to experience the immeasurably more of God (see Ephesians 3:20).

And when we arrive in that place? Expect to be dazzled by the tireless, perfect love the Father has lavished on us!

 

*Note: the picture this week comes from my own archives–those are the precious feet of my son, when he was 8 days old!

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