Lorri Dudley

Be moved. Be changed. Love because you are loved.

Page 2 of 17

Boy raising hand in class

It Never Hurts to Ask

Boy raising his hand in class

Have you questioned whether you have the skills to make the team, good enough grades to get into college, or ever poured your life into a project only for your boss to give you another even more challenging one?

My hand is raised.

You would think book launching would become less nerve-wracking with each release, but every time doubts plague me. They buzz about head like bees threatening to sting. This one isn’t going to measure up. People are going to be disappointed. And even if or when good reviews start pouring in, the bees don’t stop circling. You’ve set an expectation, how are you going to beat that? Look at your work-in-progress. It doesn’t come close.

Moments like these, I’m grateful for the story of Elijah, because we are not alone.

On Mount Carmel, Elijah’s confidence was at an all-time high as he courageously announced that he was the only remaining prophet. He taunted the other so-called prophets asking them if their gods were on vacation or sleeping. Elijah had men dump buckets of water on the offering, alter, and wood and filled a trench around it. He then called upon the God of Abraham and fire rained down from heaven, burning up the offering and drying up every last drop of water in a fantastic display of God’s power.

bonfire

Not long after, Elijah swings from a high to a low. He runs from Queen Jezebel, who’s threatened to kill him, and he hides in the desert, weeping and telling the angel God sent to restore him his woes about being the only prophet left and prayed to die. Why is it that like Elijah, our confidence can be like an iron dome one day, but the next, it’s as if we’re trying to grasp water running through our fingers?

We all have doubts—doubts about ourselves, our abilities, our future. James 1:5-6 says, we aren’t to be double-minded. “If you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” Like Elijah, we can turn to God. He’s not afraid of our lows or our doubts. He’s not going to turn us away with a pointed finger saying, out of my sight, you of little faith. God’s going to meet us in the desert and give us substance like He sent an angel to Elijah. Or he’ll bring us up to the mountain and speak to us in His still small voice. He’s going to remind us of His faithfulness and our past victories. He’ll send us revelation and people to strengthen us like Elijah’s successor Elisha.

All we have to do is ask.

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Silhouette of man and woman

Would You Want to Be a Character in a Romance Novel?

Silhouette of man and woman

We might relish the thrill of the hero and heroine’s gazes holding a tad longer than appropriate, the quickening of pulse as their fingers brush, or the intimacy of their mingling breath as a loose strand of hair is tucked behind an ear. We might sigh with longing at those romantic moments, but my answer is a firm, no, thank you. Granted, I may have a different perspective as a writer. I spend hours creating emotionally traumatic circumstances to force my heroine and hero to endure. When they think it can’t get worse, another peril presents itself.

In The Sugar Baron’s Ring which released this week, the hero, Bradlee, must return to England with his research in time to face the dons and pass his final exams, because his father is under the presumption Bradlee has already graduated. However, a drunken captain runs the passenger ship aground on a reef. When Bradlee stops to help a man, he loses his spot in the lifeboat. The vessel, then, breaks apart, and before he plummets into the dark, swirling water, a man yells, “Shark!” And that’s just the first chapter.

If writers aren’t spiteful, ruthless people, why do we need to torture our heroes and heroines? Holding a reader’s interest isn’t the only reason. We torment our main characters because, through their struggles, readers fall in love with the redemptive story. When the black moment hits and all is lost, readers experience how hope prevails.

We see similar suffering-to-redemption examples from the Bible. Naomi, in the book of Ruth, relocates to a foreign land due to a famine, her sons marry outside of their religion, and then Naomi’s husband dies. When it seems it can’t get worse, Naomi’s sons die. Let’s look at Joseph. His jealous brothers throw him into a pit and then sell him as a slave to passing traders. Joseph works hard and tries to make the best of a bad situation, but then he’s accused of a crime he didn’t commit, thrown into jail, and forgotten. And then, there was the Apostle Paul, he was arrested for being a Christ-follower, but during his transportation to Rome to stand trial, a storm sinks the ship. He helps the crew and captives swim to the island of Malta and build a fire, wherein another almost comical stroke of bad luck, a snake bites Paul’s hand as he’s warming them.

snake with mouth open

If we didn’t know the ending, we’d think God had it out for Naomi, Joseph, and Paul. In our own lives, when things take a turn for the worst, we may wonder if God is punishing us. However, we must remember the full story. Because of those trials, Naomi’s joy was redeemed through her daughter-in-law, Ruth, and she became a grandmother in the lineage of Jesus. Joseph became Pharaoh’s righthand man and saved his family from starving to death. Paul had an opportunity to heal and witness to many of the Malta islanders.

In our black moments, we may cry out to God and feel like it falls on deaf ears, but don’t give up hope, because hope hasn’t given up on you. In those bleak times, we must remember the redemption story, not the ones from fiction novels, but from history, where Jesus faced his darkest moment on the cross and took our sins upon him so that we may have life and live it to the full.

Or as I call it, happily-ever-after.

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back of girl riding bike

The Voice Behind You

Girl riding her bike.

I remember learning to ride a bike. It wasn’t pretty. My dad started me in the grass. He’d run alongside me as my little legs peddled, and handlebars wobbled. I wouldn’t know exactly when my dad let go of the back of the bike, but eventually, I’d notice his encouraging voice growing distant, “Keep going. You’re doing it.”

Once I was able to keep my balance in the grass, my dad graduated me to the road. We lived in a circle on the slope of a hill. He’d start at the top stay with me as long as he could, I remember the blur of the road under the wheels, the wind on my face, and my chest expanding as I realized. “I’m doing it. I’ve got this.” Then I noticed the curve in the road. I panicked. My dad’s pounding footsteps sounded behind me while he yelled, “Turn, turn, turn the handlebars!” I didn’t turn. I crashed in a heap in a drainage ditch.

Dad walking with daughter

My dad picked me up, dusted me off, and helped walk my bike back up the hill to try again. A couple more ditch crashes and a run-in with a mailbox, and I became a biking pro. My dad and I marched back into the house, exhausted and bruised, but with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Life can often be like learning to ride a bike. One moment we think we’ve got it—we can do this on our own—but the next thing we know, we’re lying in a ditch while our Heavenly Father pulls us out and dusts us off. He helps us get back on the bike and runs alongside whispering, “This is the way, walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21.

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Girl reading map in middle of road

Mighty Plans

2020 has been an unpredictable year. Back in Jan, the world was excited about the beginning of a new decade. 2020 Vision was spotlighted everywhere. I even wrote a blog about it. Then, like a car slamming us from out of nowhere, life threw us in a tailspin. Many of us have been blind sighted by a deadly virus, lockdowns, riots, and unrest. Quite a few of us are ready to skip ahead to 2021.

I flipped on the TV this weekend and a scene from the movie Evan Almighty was playing. Evan (played by actor Steve Carell) had been asked to build an ark, by the Almighty himself, and was having a discussion with God (played by Morgan Freeman). Evan questioned God, “Why me? Why an ark?” and then he proceeded to tell God that the whole ark thing wasn’t really part of his plans because he and his wife just bought a new house, and he just started a new job. Morgan Freeman, in his awesome God voice, starts to laugh, not just a chuckle but a hand to the stomach laugh before he chides, “Your plans,” and breaks out into great guffaws once more.

Proverbs 16:9 states, “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

I have to admit, I have my days when I’m like Evan Almighty, and I’m crying to God about how life isn’t going along with my plans. I don’t think God doubles over laughing at me when I do this, but I do believe He probably chuckles and maybe releases a deep sigh. Thankfully, God is patient, and eventually, I learn His method is better. My plans are shortsighted, but His are long term. Mine are worldly, but His are otherworldly.

Flexibility is the best ability.

gymnist

I cringe when I hear this phrase because it usually means hold tight changes are coming. However, the statement rings true. Flexibility is good. We make our plans, but God is going to establish our steps. So, we need to be open to how He is moving and what He is doing. There is freedom in knowing God ultimately is steering the ship. We may chart our course, but God is going to guide us through the storms. He’s going to lead us into calmer waters, but when it’s time for us to dock, we will no longer be cabin boys, we will disembark as tried and true men and women of God.

By the way, it turns out 2020 is the end of the old decade. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the new decade begins January 1, 2021. Since a lot of the craziness started in March, I’m extending the phrase for the entire year: 2020 may go out like a lion, but 2021 will come in with The Lamb.

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Grandmother and grandaughter

Face It. We Need Face Time.

Grandmother and granddaughter

The things we took for granted now have a whole new meaning. I went for a walk with a friend of mine, and upon parting, my friend said, “I needed this.” I understood one hundred percent what she meant. There is no substitute for face-to-face human interaction. It builds trust, understanding, and conveys significance.

As much as I appreciate Zoom and Microsoft Teams, so much is lost when you are only seeing a person’s face. Writing has caused me to be acutely aware of other people’s mannerisms. Stating she said, or he said, is like the Zoom call of writing. When authors use action beats, it draws readers deeper into the story. For instance, here’s an exert from The Sugar Baron’s Ring releasing June 23rd:

Using he said: “I knew you were playing matchmaker,” Colin said. “Whether or not I marry Miss Barrington will be my choice.”

Using action beats: Colin lurched upright. “I knew you were playing matchmaker.” He jabbed a finger into Bradlee’s chest. “Whether or not I marry Miss Barrington will be my choice.”

See the difference?

The Definitive Book of Body Language holds a comprehensive arsenal to reading nonverbal cues. For instance, men who don’t want to participate in conversations will often stuff their hands into their pockets. A woman will place her purse next to a man with whom she feels a personal connection and communicates emotional distance when she keeps her handbag away. How we hold our coffee cup can depict two different attitudes. If the coffee cup is placed on the opposite side of the body, creating an arm barrier, it shows they are unsure or not liking what you are saying. However, if they place the cup on the same side of the body, they are displaying an open attitude.

Alan Teo, the lead author of the study “Does Mode of Contact with Different Types of Social Relationships Predict Depression Among Older Adults? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey,” published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that depression rates can be reduced by half when a person met regularly face to face with friends and family compared to those who spoke via phone or email. I’m always awed by how today’s research tends to re-emphasize wisdom the Bible has proclaimed for centuries. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” [emphasis mine].

Group with hands raised in worship

I realize that recently meeting has been challenging or near impossible in some instances, but we shouldn’t underestimate the power of gathering together, even if it’s in smaller groups. This past weekend was Pentecostal Sunday, which celebrates the beginning of the church when Jesus’s followers met together to celebrate the feast of the harvest, and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. They began speaking in all different languages and brought 3,000 new believers to the faith (Acts 2). There is an impact that we make assembling together. Jesus, himself, tells us he will be in our midst in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Jesus proclaimed to Peter that, upon this rock (meaning Peter), He (Jesus) “shall build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail upon it (Mathew 16:17-19).” We need not to give up meeting together in times like these. We need to be meeting more. Doing so may mean thinking outside of the context of a building, but the church was never a building, it’s always been the people.

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pregnant mom belly and little girl kissing it

Overcome and Adapt

Pregnant mom belly and little girl kissing it.

Men may want better to understand the closeness between a mother and newborn. As much as I love to tell childbirth stories, that’s not the part I found most inspiring.

I knew there had to be a creator as I watched my body grow during pregnancy. I wasn’t doing any of the work other than eating a bit more (okay, maybe a lot more). My hips and ribcage shifted of their own accord. My blood quantity increased. (The only New England winter that I wasn’t freezing was the one during which I was pregnant.) Once the baby was born, my milk supply altered to meet the baby’s needs. I didn’t have to do pushups or eat certain foods to get it to change. My body adapted of its own accord because God made it to change.

We are meant to overcome and adapt.

Not only did God forge women’s bodies to adapt for childbirth, but He’s also given us an amazing immune system. When we catch a cold, our glands swell up, our nose runs, and we’ll cough because our lymphatic and immune systems are warring against a virus. When we eat something spoiled and get food poisoning, we don’t have to tell our bodies what to do. It just starts purging. (I’ll spare everyone the descriptions on this one.)

We often forget that our bodies aren’t the only thing God created to adapt. He made us to adjust emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Paul says, in 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” We start as spiritual infants, but we are meant to feed on God’s word, grow, adapt, and become spiritual adults. What turns us into adults? Trials, tests, and temptations. Mature spiritual adults have proven they can overcome challenges and persevere.

Take the story of Joseph, for example. Joseph was an immature young man when he bragged to his brothers about his dream that they would bow down to him. His juvenile boast set off a chain reaction. 

barred window

He was thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold as a slave, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, thrown into jail, and then was forgotten. I can imagine Joseph waiting for his father to march through the door and shout, “Unhand my beloved son!” Little did Joseph know, his brothers faked his death. What devastation Joseph must have felt when he realized his father wasn’t coming.

Joseph had to overcome his disappointment, adapt to his new normal, and mature to a higher degree of spirituality before he could go from slave to Pharaoh’s trusted advisor with power second only to the Egyptian king. He got there because he persevered. God equipped Joseph to be able to acclimate to each situation, and in the end, he came out a stronger and more capable person.

Currently, we are all adapting to a new normal. Yes, it may stretch us, irritate us, weigh us down, but lean into God. Feed on His word. Absorb His strength. Spiritually grow because God has plans for you.

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lego man at desk

Alpha and Beta Males Need Not Apply

lego man sitting at desk

There’s a new trend toward having beta males in the hero role of romance novels. If you’re unfamiliar with the term beta male, the Oxford Dictionary describes it as, “A subordinate male, or a man tending to assume a passive or subservient role in social or professional situations.” The opposite of the beta male is the alpha male, a man who assumes the dominant role in similar scenarios. The logic presumes that readers are looking for a sensitive and understanding hero who values the heroine’s views and that alpha males are overbearing, insensitive, and treat the heroine as a trophy.

Personally, I don’t want to write about either a beta or an alpha male. The heroes I want to convey in my books are what I call honor males. This may be a made-up term (I tried a Google search but came up null), but let me explain my honor male by first defining honor. Dictionary.com states honor as a noun is “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions,” and as a verb “to hold in honor or high respect; revere.” There is nothing in this definition about dominance or submission. It’s the focus on doing the right thing.

Man sitting, back facing

What’s great about novels is that no hero (or heroine) is perfect. The story evolves as the hero overcomes his false perception(s) and learns to do the right thing. In essence, the story is about his journey to becoming an honor male. From the definition of honor, we see two types, what Brett McKay from The Art of Manliness calls horizontal and vertical honor. Horizontal honor is a mutual respect among individuals that is earned and maintained. These are the men who’ve developed trust among their peers by showing strength, courage, and mastery. They know, when trouble arises, they can count on each other. The hero must demonstrate the bravery and tenacity to defend their virtue of honor when needed. Whether that consists of raising a sword and standing back-to-back or hopping on a keyboard and hacking into an evil fascist’s cyber system, depends on your genre of preference.

Firefighter in battle

On the other hand, vertical honor is derived from the verb form: to revere or hold in high respect. It’s not about mutual respect but about showing praise, esteem, and adoration to a position of power because they’ve distinguished themselves usually from the horizontal honor group. These heroes are the captains, bosses, officers, and political leaders.

My all-time favorite honor hero is Jesus. Even though He already held the vertical honor of being the Son of God, He came into the world to rub shoulders with us in the trenches. Because He loves us, He not only took on our limited human form with its vulnerability to illness, pain, and weakness, but he placed all of our sins upon himself. He suffered and died so that our wrongdoings would be washed away by His blood, so death no longer would hold its sting, and we won’t ever have to be separated from our awesome God. Jesus, who holds the honor of sitting at God’s right hand, in essence, transferred value to us, not because of what we’ve done, but because of what He gave (His life) for us.

Now that’s a hero worth writing about.

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child hiding in couch

No Vacancy – Fear isn’t Welcome Here

Child hiding in couch

I’ve had to attempt to relearn factoring polynomial quadratic equations. I say attempt because, after watching hours of YouTube videos, I still couldn’t help my son with his math homework. Of course, my not remembering freshman algebra served as fodder to prove his argument that this kind of math isn’t useful. If mom hasn’t had to use polynomial quadric equations since high school, what’s the point? Why should he?

My boys complain the same about history, “Why learn about the past? It isn’t going to help me in the future.” While I can’t make a great case for factoring equations, I wholeheartedly am a proponent of history. Winston Churchill’s adaptation of George Santayana’s quote says it best:

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

My eldest son, along with quadradic equations, is also studying the effects of WWI and the rise of communism. Of course, I geeked out while quizzing him for tests and wanted to know if he saw any similarities between then and now. My wise-for-his-years son says, “Yes, fear.”

It was one of those heart-sinking moments. He was right.

Museum of Victoria Unsplash photo of people watching soliders pass

Fear was a huge proponent for allowing Stalin and also Hitler to come into power. After the massive death tolls and financial costs of WWI, Russia and Germany were left dangling in uncertainty and economic decline. People sought change and relief from their financial worries. In fear, they fell subject to propaganda and skillful orators who appealed to their sense of helplessness. (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC., History.com, Vladimir Lenin, and Encyclopedia Britannica, The Civil War and War Communism.)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

We must stay alert and be vigilant. Fear is a sneaky foe. Phrases like, Do not be afraid and Fear not are written in the Bible approximately 365 times. Whether God had to repeat Himself that many times in order to get through to us or merely to drive home His point, I don’t know, but we might want to take note.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It can cripple us. I’ve seen Covid-19 turn normal, happy people into paranoid hermits. The longer they remain secluded behind locked doors, the more their fear grows, and the more helpless they become. Fear wants us to lead small lives, but we have a choice whether to listen to the voice of less, the thief who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, or to listen to the voice of more, Jesus, who came that we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). 

I’m not condoning licking microphones or toilet seats like the crazy Coronavirus challenge (an idiotic stunt on the internet to which my boys have alerted me). I’m not even saying take off your masks or gather in groups. We need to be cautious because God wants us to be good stewards of our lives and the lives of others. However, we need to remember we are in a battle. Fear believes God won’t make it right. Fear convinces us to depend upon sources of man-made protection. Fear allows evil to get a foothold as witnessed in history with Stalin and Hitler.

Faith, on the other hand, seeks and trusts God.

Focus on fear, and it will grow.  Focus on God, and faith grows.

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couple embracing

The Musings of a Love Connoisseur

Couple embracing

I love love.
Although this sentence sounds strange and looks repetitive, it’s true. Writing romance novels gives me free rein to study love and people in it. There is nothing more heart-thumping than the moment the hero realizes his life is better with the heroine by his side. When in a grand gesture, the hero sacrifices the one thing he said he’d never give up because her love was well worth the cost or vice versa. It’s the moment when two people battle their demons to find happily-ever-after, within their grasp, and they take the leap.

While romantic love is what sells in boxes offices and books, there’s a love just as powerful and self-sacrificing—a mother’s love. I often had nightmares as a child. I remember repeatedly running into my parent’s bedroom and waking my mother. She’d calm me down and sit with me until I fell back asleep. While I know I appreciated her helping me, I didn’t truly understand the full sacrifice until I had kids of my own who also had terrible dreams, and I’d go and sit with them by their bed. Kids don’t fall asleep that quickly, and at 3 am, when you’re utterly exhausted with a big day ahead of you, one minute feels like an eternity.

Mom holding baby

Mothers are continually making sacrifices for their children, but you don’t find too many books written about a mother’s love. Often, it’s taken for granted, with kids thinking it’s a mother’s job or just how moms are wired. But the love that changes diapers, cleans up vomit, sacrifices their Sunday night to do a forgotten, last-minute panorama project, and loses sleep worrying until they hear their child pull in the drive past curfew, this love doesn’t expect anything in return. In fact, a mother knows the day they endure excruciating pain to bring their child into the world that the goal is for that child to grow up, spread their wings, and someday fly away.

While a mother’s love is special, God’s love is even greater.

Isaiah 49:15 asks what mother would forget the child at her breast? But, it states, even if she might forget, God will never forget you. One of my most treasured memories is sitting in a rocker-glider with my newborn baby boy looking at his sweet little face, feeling the warmth of his little body cuddled in my arms, and thinking there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my precious little man. God’s love is even greater, stronger, and more passionate. It’s the marrying of romantic love where the groom comes for his bride and the sacrificial love of a mother. There is no height nor depth, no angel nor demon, nor any power in all creation that could keep God’s love from us (Romans 8:38-39).

He loves you beyond fathomable because you are that precious to Him.
What an amazing love.


To all the moms out there, happy Mother’s Day this Sunday! 

A special shout-out to my mom. Thank you for staying up nights with me, for the countless packed lunches, and all the spelling words you helped quiz me. Thank you for every moment of worry and every tear shed. Thank you for believing in me, cheering me on, and cheering me up. I love you.

Happy Mother's Day

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purple sunrise

What if the Sky was Purple?

Purple sunrise

My middle son is not black and white colorblind, but he can’t tell the difference between blues and purples. His brothers love to point out when he’s colored a purple sky or when his clothes don’t match. The funny thing is, he’s the artist of the family. He’s shown the gift of being artistically inclined since kindergarten, and it has only improved with age. Now he’s moved on to creating animated characters through software programs like Blender. He’ll sit for hours, drawing elaborate landscapes and detailed creatures where the leaves ruffle in the breeze or fur ripples down the animal’s back.

It’s as if he can see things in layers – the bones or basic structure overlaid with curves and lines, followed by the intricate details that give a drawing life, and lastly, shading and touches of light. He may not be able to tell the color blue from purple, but he has a unique ability to see shapes, shadows, and details in a way other people do not.

God wants us to see differently.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

After leading the Israelites out of Egypt and up to Canaan, Moses sent out twelve men to collect intel on the city’s people, crops, and fortifications. The men went out and came back, stating that it, indeed, was the promised land, flowing with milk and honey. They also brought back a cluster of grapes, so huge two men had to carry it on a stick between them.

Giant fairytale

They also reported back of the great city’s thick walls, mighty fortifications, and powerful giants. Yes, giants. The men shook in their sandals as they relayed how the Israelites appeared like grasshoppers to the Canaan giants. Only Joshua and Caleb silenced the men and said, “We should go and take possession of the land.” However, it was too late. Fear had already begun to spread like a contagious disease throughout the Israel camp. Because of their doubts and fears, the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, and only Caleb and Joshua ever stepped foot in the promised land.

Joshua and Caleb witnessed the same land as ten other explorers, but whereas the men saw giants, Caleb and Joshua saw victory. Whereas the other explorers took into account their human abilities, Caleb and Joshua considered God’s capabilities.

The world may tell us we’re small, incapable, or colorblind, but God says, look out and see victory.

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