"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Faithful from Beginning to End

I've become much more comfortable with myself and my work in the past several years.

I've come a long way from that first song I wrote on the way back from choir practice almost a year and a half ago.

I've grown a lot since I found I was unable to stop writing less than six months ago.

Each day has been a chance to learn, a chance to continue to change,

And each day has been a tribute to God's unending faithfulness.

I wish I could find the words to more fully describe what an incredible experience this has been for me,

But, as I cannot, I would like to offer a bit of an example instead,

The lyrics to the first song I scratched down in my old, used composition book that Tuesday night nearly a year and a half ago

And the lyrics to the one hundred fiftieth song I wrote down in a "new" composition book (that's so beat up the words are worn off and it's being held together by duct tape) just one week ago,

A tribute to God's faithfulness.

My Prayer (Your Arms) - #1

Lord, when I stand in the valley
And cannot remember what it is like up on that hill,
Give me the strength to make it through these trials,
Give me the strength to always do Your will.

And, Lord, when I think that You aren't speaking,
Help me to hear and answer Your call.
Help me to further Your cause,
Help me to give You my all.

Lord, help me fight
To do what is right
And when I think I cannot win,
Help me to find strength resting in Your arms again.

Lord, I keep following this pattern:
I eat, I sleep, I think, and I pray.
Help me to quiet down and listen,
Help me to hear what You say.

Lord, help me fight
To do what is right
And when I think I cannot win,
Help me to find strength resting in Your arms again.

Lord, I want my faith to be real.
Give me the power to listen to what I feel.
Break me of my will and replace it with Your own.
Carve a masterpiece out of this harsh, uneven stone.
Help me to live for You alone.

Lord, help me fight
To do what is right
And when I believe I cannot win,
Help me to find strength resting in Your arms again.
Help me to find strength resting in Your arms again.

Lead - #150

I'm not sure where this path will go,
I'm not sure I can walk this road,
I'm not sure I can bear this load,
But I'm sure I can't let it go.

I'm not sure where this gift will lead,
I'm not sure of Your plans for me,
I'm not sure because I can't see,
But my heart wants to follow Your lead.

Will You lead me?
Father, lead me.
Will You lead me, please?
I need You to lead.

I'm not sure what will come next,
I'm not sure what I think is best,
I'm not sure that I can do this,
But I'm sure it's all in Your hands.

I'm not sure where this gift will lead,
I'm not sure of Your plans for me,
I'm not sure because I can't see,
But I'm going to follow Your lead,

So please lead me,
Father, lead me.
Will You lead me?
Father, lead.
Will You lead me, please?
I need You to lead.

You've been faithful before,
You will be faithful now.
Your footsteps are sure,
You are my solid ground.

I'm ready to take
Another big step,
You have all my faith,
Let me reach for Your hand.

I'm not sure where this gift will lead,
I'm not sure of Your plans for me,
I'm not sure because I can't see,
But my heart will follow Your lead.

Will You lead me?
Will You lead me?
Will You lead me?
Will You lead?
Will You lead?

No, they're not perfect,

Maybe not even good,

But I can look at these two songs and see that God has been so faithful.

He has been so incredibly faithful,

And He continues to be faithful,

For the most recent song I've written is not number one hundred fifty,

It is number one hundred fifty-one.

The bold, italicized words are the lyrics to two songs by Mary Schieferstein - "My Prayer (Your Arms)", ©2010 Mary Schieferstein, and "Lead", ©2011 Mary Schieferstein. 

This post is the sixth in a multi-part series.  The other posts can be read via the links below.
     Part 1 - #150
     Part 2 - When I Was Little . . .
     Part 3 - Favorite Artists and Favorite Instruments
     Part 4 - . . . And Then it Happened
     Part 5 - The Way I Was Made
     Part 6 - Faithful from Beginning to End


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Way I Was Made

Less than a year after I'd started writing again

I read a post written for people like me,

People trying,


Searching to understand,


"Where am I supposed to take this?".

It was written by Christa Wells,

An incredible singer-songwriter

Whose music I found through my favorite artist's website.

The post was entitled "To the young writer . . .",

And that's exactly what it was,

Advice to the young songwriter,

Advice that helped me to see that I do have something to contribute,

Something unique to me that no one else could offer,

And even if no one recognizes my efforts,

Even if no one likes my music,

I can still write and sing to the only One whose opinion really matters.

There was one bit of advice that required a little action on my part,

Advice someone else had given the writer when she was younger:

"If you're not sure this is what you're meant to do, try NOT doing it.  See if you can."

I was riding with some friends after an evening church service and we were talking,

They were asking about some of my future plans,

I included that challenge in them -

To not write,

To see if I was capable of not writing.

After all, I'd been perfectly capable before,

Would I be now?

I said, though, that I wasn't going to do it yet.

I was working on a song based on a sermon series going on at the church we'd just left,

A series about the life of Joseph.

I wanted to tell his story the way I tell so many of my own -

With words

And music.

One of the friends I was with said something I hadn't even considered,

That this, in itself, was my answer.

Still, I wanted to take the challenge,

To try to stop,

Really try to stop.

I finished the song several weeks later,

Decided to start,

Start trying to stop,

Trying to see if this is what I was meant to do.

The funny thing about trying to stop is it makes me want to write more.

Still, I managed to not write . . .

For a day, almost two.

Then, of course, someone said something

And the gears in my head started turning,

Twisting together phrases,



I couldn't do it.

I couldn't stop.

Still, something in me wondered,

"What if I'd tried harder?

Could I have done it if I'd just tried harder?"

I was sitting at a table,

"Finishing" the song I was working on,

("Finishing" because I don't think any of them are ever really finished.)

When a friend came up to me,

The same one who had been in the car when I told of my intentions to stop,

The same one who had said I already had my answer.

He spoke of the song just played,

Said I could write lyrics as good as those.

I took it as a major compliment,

Though I didn't think it was the best song I'd ever heard

Or that the song of mine I had shown him was the best I'd ever written.

I told him that, at that very moment, I was failing,

Failing to not write,

Unable to stop.

He offered a few more words of encouragement,

But then had to leave,

To get back to the ever-waiting pile of work.

The rest of that week, someone encouraged me in my writing,

In my music,




It was incredible.

My friends often encourage me,

But it's more like once a month,

Once every other week at most.

I never get encouraged every single day.

After all that happened,

It seemed like God was trying to use the experience to tell me something,

Use the inability to stop and the consistent encouragement to say, "No.

No, you couldn't have stopped if you'd tried harder.

You couldn't have stopped because I made you this way,

I made you to write.

I don't want you to stop writing,

I want you to keep writing,

To use the gift I've given you.

Don't stop."

Nothing that happened that week answered all of my questions.

I still don't know where He wants me to take this,

How far He wants me to go . . .

Or try to go.

There is one thing I learned, though.

I'm not supposed to stop.

I'm supposed to keep writing.

Music is a part of me,

A part of who I am.

I can't stop writing any more than I could cut out a piece of my heart.

It's the way I was made.

This post is the fifth in a multi-part series.  The other posts can be read via the links below.
     Part 1 - #150
     Part 2 - When I Was Little . . .
     Part 3 - Favorite Artists and Favorite Instruments
     Part 4 - . . . And Then it Happened
     Part 5 - The Way I Was Made
     Part 6 - Faithful from Beginning to End


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

. . . And Then it Happened

Months after I started playing the piano again, I was driving home after a choir practice,

Thinking about random things,

Something I do quite frequently.

Somehow, what I was thinking of led me to twist words together,

Words with melodies.

Before long, I had an entire refrain in my head . . .

In four-part harmony.

(Did I mention this was after a choir practice?  Yeah.  I don't know if it was possible for me to think in anything other than four-part harmony at that point.)

When I got home,

I got out an old composition book,

Opened it to a blank page,

Wrote out the refrain . . .

And the rest of the song.

Before long, I'd worked out an accompaniment, too,

Although it was difficult to play on my dad's old keyboard -

Apparently one of the first ever created -

With tiny keys not even big enough for my fingers

And a piano sound almost identical to the electric organ sound.

Still, I had an accompaniment,

And it all happened that one Tuesday night.

The next day,

Seriously, the very next day,

One of the teachers at school asked my class if anyone wanted to do anything at the weekly assembly the next Tuesday

And I knew.

I knew it was something I needed to do,

To play my song less than a week after it was written,

And the timing was absolutely perfect.

I went to see her later that day,

Volunteered to help,

Though I warned her that it was a song I'd only just started working on.

She said that was fine,

That I could play it for her on Friday.

Friday ended up being a snow day.

I played it for her Monday,

The day before I was supposed to perform,

On an old piano in one of the classrooms,

An old, out-of-tune piano.

It wasn't incredible.

Still, she liked it,

Said I had a beautiful voice

And that I could play it at the assembly the next day.

I left class early to go down and get set up.

I had been practicing the accompaniment on the piano in study hall,

Working hard because I was nervous,

Afraid I would screw something up,

Especially the ending.

I was still nervous, sitting there,


Then it was my turn.

I went up

And played

And sang.

It wasn't perfect,

But it wasn't bad, either.

One of the people in my school told me later that she'd liked it,

Asked if I wrote it myself.

I said yes, I had.

It was the first time I'd ever performed one of my songs,

The first time in a long time I'd played the piano in public,

But it went pretty well,

And it was just incredible how it all came together.

For some reason,

I don't know why,

I kept writing after that.

It wasn't just one song every now and then,

It was a song almost every day,

Though I still didn't think they were that good,

My best friends read them for me and encouraged me.

I was truly blessed.

After that, I started asking God what He wanted me to do,

What the reason was that He'd brought this back into my life,

How far He wanted me to take this.

I haven't gotten a complete answer yet,

Although I've gone past a few road signs,

One of which was very, very big,

But I want to be sure that I listen,

That I seek,

So I take this where He wants me to,

Not where my still-overactive imagination wants me to.

Well, more about that tomorrow.

The words visible in the pictures are from the song "My Prayer (Your Arms)", written and performed by Mary Schieferstein, ©2010 Mary Schieferstein.

This post is the fourth in a multi-part series.  The other posts can be read via the links below.
     Part 1 - #150
     Part 2 - When I Was Little . . .
     Part 3 - Favorite Artists and Favorite Instruments
     Part 4 - . . . And Then it Happened
     Part 5 - The Way I Was Made
     Part 6 - Faithful from Beginning to End


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Favorite Artists and Favorite Instruments

Though I didn't write more than the occasional song (none of which were very good) for years, I still listened to a lot of music.

One morning, I heard a song on the radio.

I thought it was really good, creative, interesting, true . . .

By some artist I'd never heard of (must have been new).

I didn't have the time to look her up then, though,

And I forgot about it when I did have time

Until I heard another one of her songs,

Thought, again, that it was really good,

Heard the name, remembered the other song,

Then finally remembered to look her up.

Turns out, she wasn't a new artist at all.

The songs I'd heard were from her seventh album.

I asked Dad to get the album for me,

Listened to it,

Then listened to it again

And again

And again.

Something kept drawing me toward that album.

I found two more of her CDs in a 2-disc set at the Christian bookstore,

Then listened to those over and over again as well.

I couldn't stop listening to her music,

Watching and reading everything that I could get my hands on.

It wasn't long before she'd earned the title of "favorite artist",

A title I had never before matched with any one person or group.

Her music just inspired me.

Months later, I was hanging around at my church,

Waiting for something or another, I don't remember what,

And I went to find a piano.

This was a big deal because my grandma taught me to play the piano when I was little . . .

And I hated it.

I hated having to practice,

Hated trying to read the bass clef,

Hated trying to recreate the sheet music using the instrument.

When I sat at the piano bench that day, it was the first time I had willingly done so in years . . .

Just to play.

I sat and picked out melodies by ear,

Figured out chords for the left hand,

Until I could play "He's Always Been Faithful".

I started playing during study hall

Because I had nothing better to do,

Or because I preferred playing to doing math homework.

I learned many more songs,

Most of which I've forgotten by now

Because the accompaniments I came up with were boring,


Still, I could play.

To this day, I prefer my keyboard to my guitar.

I know it better,

I can be more creative with it,

It's more fun to sit down at and just play.

I often wish I had an acoustic piano, though,

Because it has a more beautiful sound,

More real.

It's a real treat for me to sit down and play an acoustic.

To this day, Sara Groves is my favorite artist.

I have a stack of her CDs in my bathroom.

I listen to them almost every night.

I honestly believe that her music,

Which helped inspire me to start playing the piano again,

Is a big part of the reason I am writing music now.

Well, that's another chapter in the story.

More to come tomorrow.

The songs "When the Saints", "It Might Be Hope", and "He's Always Been Faithful" are written and performed by Sara Groves.  The albums Tell Me What You Know, Add to the Beauty, and Conversations are also by Sara Groves.  Many, many, many thanks to this incredible artist for her beautiful music and continued inspiration.

This post is the third in a multi-part series.  The other posts can be read via the links below.
     Part 1 - #150
     Part 2 - When I Was Little . . .
     Part 3 - Favorite Artists and Favorite Instruments
     Part 4 - . . . And Then it Happened
     Part 5 - The Way I Was Made
     Part 6 - Faithful from Beginning to End


Monday, July 25, 2011

When I Was Little . . .

I promised to tell how this all started,

How I got into writing music,

How I came to enjoy making music so much,

How it became such a part of me that I couldn't stop.

The story begins when I was much younger.

I had a friend.

She was just learning to play the clarinet in her school's band.

I had been taking flute lessons.

We both liked to sing.

The two of us decided that our musical knowledge qualified us to start a band.

Yes, a band -

The kind we listened to on the radio,

Like ZOEgirl, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Nichole Nordeman -

The two of us, with a flute and a clarinet.


It was nice to have such an incredibly active imagination.

Anyway, I figured that if we were going to start a band, someone would have to write some music.

After all, there are copyright laws that would prevent us from singing someone else's music.

I had written poetry before.

In fact, I used to quite enjoy writing poetry.

I figured I would write the music,

So, I sat down at a computer keyboard and typed.

I probably ended up writing about twenty-plus songs,

Lyrics neatly typed,

Melodies stored in my brain, retrieved by reading the lyrics.

Both had come together,

I only needed the one to remember the other.

I was pretty excited to have written all those songs,

So I printed out the lyrics and started singing them to whoever would listen.

After a while, I got the impression that people didn't really like my songs.

Well, maybe they liked them a little, but not too much.

After all, I was just a little kid,

Standing around singing words from a sheet of paper,

A capella,

Interrupting whatever it was they had been doing before I came along.

So I stopped writing.

Yes, that's right.

I stopped.

I didn't think anyone thought my music was any good,

I started to agree with them,

And I stopped.

Somewhere, there is still a file with all of my old lyrics,

Everything I wrote before I stopped.

I don't even know where it is,

Don't remember most of what I wrote.

Every now and then, however,

One of those songs will pop into my head . . .

     Yesterday was a spot on the windshield,
     Yesterday was a bump on the road, . . .

Maybe someday I'll find that file,

Read all of those songs again.


Not today.

Well, that's how the story begins,

How I got into writing music.

Unfortunately, I can't tell the whole story in one day.

I wouldn't have anything to write about the rest of the week.

(Well, I'm sure I'd find something.  Still, it's more fun this way.)

So there will be more to come,


This post is the second in a multi-part series.  The other posts can be read via the links below.
     Part 1 - #150
     Part 2 - When I Was Little . . .
     Part 3 - Favorite Artists and Favorite Instruments
     Part 4 - . . . And Then it Happened
     Part 5 - The Way I Was Made 
     Part 6 - Faithful from Beginning to End


Friday, July 22, 2011


I was up late last night,

Scratching lines on formerly blank pages,

Pressing keys and humming notes.

It started as it frequently does,

I was doing something else,

Then I started to think

And they started to come,

Words and notes,

Lyrics and melodies.

I finished, then went to find my composition book,

Sat for several minutes putting the phrases onto paper.

Then, of course, I couldn't help sitting at my keyboard,

Playing chords, trying to improvise on them,

Writing them down so I would not forget.

Then I finally went to bed . . . at about 1 A.M.

It'd been about a month again,

I had been having my doubts again,

Then I read that book

And it got me thinking,

Feeling like I needed to write.

Then the words came,

Lyrics for #150,

The one hundred fiftieth song I've written since I started writing again,

Almost as easy as breathing.

Speaking of which, this little landmark means it's time for me to tell a little more,

Share how this all started . . .

Next week.

This post is the first in a multi-part series.  The other posts can be read via the links below.
     Part 1 - #150
     Part 2 - When I Was Little . . .
     Part 3 - Favorite Artists and Favorite Instruments
     Part 4 - . . . And Then it Happened
     Part 5 - The Way I Was Made
     Part 6 - Faithful from Beginning to End


Thursday, July 21, 2011

". . . almost as easy as breathing."

I've been searching for this book for a year,

Carefully watching the library should it turn up.

I finally had the opportunity to check another library.

I found it,

Finished it in a couple of hours,

The book I'd been waiting to read,

The second in a series by my favorite author.

I had read the first book last year,

After I had begun writing again.

It really resonated with me

Because it was about a young singer-songwriter,

Struggling to find the answers,

Much like I am.

The second book proved to be just as good,

Possibly even better.

At one point, the main character, Chloe, wrote in her journal about what it was like to write music,

How most people consider it to be so hard,

But to her it was almost as easy as breathing.

I feel this, too,

That the music flows so naturally from me,

From my life, my feelings, my very self,

That it is almost like breathing.

Maybe slightly harder,

It's sometimes difficult to come up with rhymes,

Or even find the words I am searching for.

Still, everything tends to fall in place,

The verses come,

The melodies,

The songs take form.

Almost as easy as breathing.


Yes, this is how it feels.

Maybe Chloe was right, too, in what she said next.

Maybe that's why they call it a gift.

I really need to find the next book in this series.

Sold Out! is a novel by Melody Carlson and is the second in the Chloe editions of the Diary of a Teenage Girl series.  The image above is of the cover of the book.  Many thanks to this incredible author for her many wonderful books.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wet Moments

It was a beautiful day,

Though oppressively hot.

She begged me to come swimming with her,

He decided to come with us.

We three walked down and began removing the solar cover.

Clear, aqua water waited beneath.

She grabbed the skimmer,

He and I grabbed the camera.

Simple moments of sun and shadows,

Hot air and cool water,

Light making patterns on pool bottom.

The water was soon clear and we all got in.

Usually I like to jump,

But the water was warm enough that I just used the ladder -

92 degrees Fahrenheit,

Yet definitely cooler than the hot, still air.

Toys floated lonely on the water's surface, abandoned.

We dove,

Exploring the underwater world,

However plain and simple,

Giggling and waving at each other,

Bubbles rising up from noses and mouths.

It was one of those times I wished I had a waterproof camera

To capture the joy of being together under the water,

The beauty of the sky seen through the water's surface,

The swimmers brushing the pool bottom.

We spent a long time in that underwater world,

Twisting and bending,

Rising and falling,

Swimming as much like fish as our human bodies would allow

Before we went back into the house,

Red rings from goggles still encircling eyes.

Being there reminded me how much I miss.

I am surrounded by such indescribable beauty, yet I rarely stop to notice it.

I am invited to join them in this water almost every day, yet I often refuse.

I am given many so many simple moments like these,

Water glistening in sun moments,

Wet cheeks touching moments,

Teaching little ones how to do a handstand moments,

Smiling wide moments,

Yet how often do I let the moments pass and not even stop to see?

Isn't this important?

Isn't it much more important than everything else I have to do?

Shouldn't I make time for this?

This joy-sharing with precious young ones

Who will not be young for long,

Who will all too soon be all too old,



Just like the moments.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yahushua: The God Who Saves

It's still there.

It's been there for days,

Ever since I was sitting on the couch,


With a song stuck in my head,

Which reminded me of the VeggieTales Jonah movie,

Which reminded me of Jonah 2:2-9,

Which reminded me of a song I wrote based on that passage.

As I sat, I heard the song,

In a way I rarely hear my songs,



And accompaniment.

I almost never hear the accompaniment.

The words come with the melody,

The melody comes with the words,

But the accompaniment rarely presents itself.

When it does, I can never manage to imitate the notes I hear when I sit down at/with an instrument.

I'm just bad at accompaniments.

That day, though, I heard it

And I felt like I had to try to play it,

So my afghan-in-progress (about the size of a scarf at that point) was left abandoned on the couch.

I retreated to my room,

Plugged in my keyboard,

Turned on the speakers,

And began to play.

I slowly coaxed notes from keys,

Awkwardly repositioned fingers to play different chords,

Played notes over and over again,

Played and sang to make sure the melody sounded okay with the accompaniment,

Made changes,

Played again

And again

And again.

I did it.

I managed to reproduce the accompaniment I heard using my keyboard.

Well, more or less.  It still needed work.

I pulled out my laptop and used its microphone to record what I'd come up with,

My hesitant chord progressions,

My tiny improvisations,

Then I went back to practicing for my performance.

I haven't touched the song since,

I've been busy with many things lately,

But the book lies open on my keyboard,

Covering screen and buttons,

Touching black keys,

Reminding me of the blessing of writing an accompaniment better than most I've come up with,

Reminding me to play it again

And again

And again . . .


When I have time.

I thanked God,

Still thank Him

For this blessing,

Beautiful and precious,

Calling Him by the name I learned writing the song,

The God who saves.

Thank You, Saving God,

Thank You.

The bold, italicized words, as well as the words in the pictures are from the song "Yahushua (Jonah's Prayer)" by Mary Schieferstein, ©2011 Mary Schieferstein.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Still Holding Me: Video!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to perform one of my songs as special music.

I was somewhat nervous, but once I sat down at the piano and began to play, my nerves calmed quite a bit.

Three words into the song, my voice kind of failed for a moment.

Fortunately, it came back.

When I listened to the recording, I was surprised that it actually sounded pretty good,

Better than I thought it would.

I had actually done it!

I performed one of my songs live for the second time in my life

And recorded it on video (which has never happened before with a live performance)!

I am excited to say that the video recording of my performance can be viewed online!

I was a little nervous about creating an account on a video sharing site, so I took some extra precautions, but I have uploaded it

And embedded it below.

I hope you enjoy it!

"Still Holding Me" is written and performed by Mary Schieferstein, ©2010 Mary Schieferstein.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hide and Seek

She asked me to play with her,

To spend my time on her,

Play her favorite game.

I said yes,

For too often I say no,

And how can I say no

When the time I have with these precious ones is so short?

They had a hard time finding me the first two rounds,

On purpose, I think.

He came in, turned on the light, and still did not see.

She walked past me twice,

Came back immediately after finding another

And sat down on top of me.

The third round, I volunteered to be "it".

I grabbed my camera,

Started counting,

Gave the final warning:

". . .23, 24, 25. Ready or not, here I come!"

I headed up the stairs

In the direction the feet had run.

I found him first,

Almost instantly,

Hiding behind door ajar.

I kept searching,

Looking under one bed,

Then another.

(Dirty, aren't they?)

I searched behind the giant inflatable Dora

And behind the couch.

I went to the basement,

Looked underneath everything,

Even under the stairs in the ever-dirty,

Ever-forbidden spot.

I went back upstairs,

Wondering where she could be.

He accused me of not hearing,

Not listening,

Not paying attention.

He said I should have noticed.

I want to notice,

I'm just not that good.

I missed it.

I missed it.

I have to find her.

I went back upstairs,

Remembering the one place I hadn't looked,

Another place that should be on the "forbidden" list

Now that dresses have been moved there.

I peeked in,

Saw her tan legs where they met her white socks.

I found her.

She came out slowly

(Possibly because I was still snapping pictures),

Accepting defeat.

I found her.

It took awhile, but I found her.

I noticed.

The game reminded me of the second verse of a song,

A song that I need to hear over and over again for many reasons,

This being one of them.

I remember running down the hallway playing hide and seek
I didn't know that I was searching for someone to notice me
I felt alone and undiscovered
And old enough to understand
Just when I'm s'posed to be learning to love

You let me down again

"[S]earching for someone to notice me".

Do I notice them?

I was thinking just last night of how often I fail,

How many times a day I'm an awful sister,

How many times I fail to notice.

I want to notice.

I want to be there.

I want to love them

And care for them

And build them up

And lead them in the way they should go,

But how can I

When so often I don't do it myself?

One day I try to notice,

The next I try not to.

I want to notice every day,

To be there for them every day.

It's just so hard.

Please, Lord,

Teach me to notice.

The song "7x70" is written and performed by Chris August.  Many thanks to this artist for his incredible music.

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