Anne Neilson Home | Blog

Deep Waters: Hope for Texas

Aug 30, 17

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 10.43.05 AMThis week my heart and prayers have been with the people of Texas! Anne Neilson Home has several stores in Texas that carry our products. I have friends and even daughters living in Dallas. My girls are not in the heart of the damage, thankfully, but I do have close friends who are affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Watching the coverage has given many of us, including me, flashbacks to Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans on August 23, 2005. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in church with my family, at the time my children were 9, 8, 6 and 3. There was a group of people sitting next to me, who were visiting from out of town. As we worshiped I noticed that their eyes were closed and their hands were raised high. That expression of worship is not one that you witness frequently in a Presbyterian church (The phrase that I often heard that makes me laugh is that Presbyterians were the ‘frozen chosen’). For some reason tears welled up inside me as I witnessed these three just praising, and then I watched as the offering plate passed by, dig deep in their pockets and pull out a few dollars. Later that morning after the service, I introduced myself and realized that they were part of the storm. They were homeless.They lost everything in New Orleans and had moved to Charlotte looking to restore and rebuild their lives.

A friend had invited them to church that day and was helping them find new places to live. In our conversation, I asked what they missed most and how we could help. Darren Nelson, one of the hurricane victims, said that he missed the Cajun food, and he missed cooking. He loved to cook and wanted to get his hands back in a kitchen. He promised that he could make a mean jambalaya. We all agreed that we would host a dinner at my house and set the date. Our family took them shopping, not only for food, but we surprised each of them and took them on a huge shopping spree for clothes.

We invited members of the congregation to bring items to outfit a new apartment for them: Vacuums, coffee makers, new towels, new sheets, utensils… Everything that someone would need to set up a brand new home. When our new friends showed up to cook they were also greeted with gifts for their new beginnings! It was a magical night watching these three in the kitchen having the time of their lives. We ate. We laughed. We cried. We loved. We gave hope. But even more than that — after dinner, Darren sat down at the piano and began to play (and sing!) Little did we know that he was a gifted gospel singer that would bring us all to tears. As we gathered our crowd around the piano, we all broke out in worship.

We stood in community praising God for the storm, knowing He would take us safely through the storm and deliver us on the other side. Darren taught me a valuable lesson that night (and that morning in church). No matter what we are faced by the storms of life…we have a choice. We can lift our arms high to a living God giving Him thanks and praise no matter what our circumstances are. We can trust that our God will carry us through the storm.

We didn’t have smart phones back then to capture every moment, and as much as I wish I had captured them, they are burned into my heart forever. The love and the joy despite the loss. As I turn on the TV today, I am reminded of the love from years ago. I am encouraged that there are countless volunteers. There are the Darren’s in the midst of Texas, and there are others reaching out and offering HOPE. We are releasing a small 5”x5” limited edition print entitled HOPE. 100% of the proceeds will go back to help offer relief for Harvey Hurricane victims. I am encouraged once again that we have a GOD who will carry each one affected by the storm. You can purchase your ‘angel’ here. Keep it as a reminder our God our Hope! Join me as we continue to pray for Texas!

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To Wendy

Jul 26, 17

The other day I was sitting on my side porch just watching the birds come and go to the bird feeder. Matthew 6:26-27 sprung to my mind, as I watched them:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

It was such a wonderful reminder that God can and will take care of everything. I was overcome with a sense of divine peace as I sat there praying for friends in need, my family and my company’s future. Whatever circumstance arrives, I love the assurance that God has already taken care of it for me.

The next morning, I got to work, and I received news that my right hand person, my first employee, my confidant, my visionary, my dear employee Wendy Wilson, was leaving at the end of the month.
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While I was shocked by the news, I was also overcome with the peace that God already knew, and He has plans to care for our company, for me, and for Wendy’s next season. My heart is so sad, but I am content in that Promise, and I am trusting Him with these next steps.

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Wendy stepped into Anne Neilson Home in June 2013, and her role was simply to ship out books. For 10 hours a week, Wendy would come in and help ship. A month later, we were at Atlanta Market together showcasing Angels In Our Midst, and suddenly everything escalated. Several retailers and several connections sent us nationwide and into a new level of success.

These last 4 years wouldn’t have looked the same without Wendy. I know I will never forget the experiences we have shared together, that include brilliantly high, low and poignant moments.

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Wendy,

Words cannot begin to express how much you have meant to Anne Neilson Home! There are way too many memories we have shared that I will cherish for a lifetime. I know in my heart that this is the right thing to do moving forward. I just want you to know that I will be praying for you as you embark on this next journey. I pray for PEACE that passes all understanding in all that you do: remodeling your new home, parenting tweens and teens, being a wife and taking care of YOU. You are an amazing person and an amazing friend. You have had an amazing vision for ANH. I pray that you will find the JOY in cooking for your family, that you will find the time for more tennis matches, that you will enjoy the times with your family! I hope you will know that you will be deeply missed!

Anne

 

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Life Is Short

Jul 6, 17
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Painting angels has become my ministry, and I meet so many people who share countless stories that reflect the theme that “life is short.”

Recently, I have had several friends lose friends and family members at an early age. Walking down memory lane on social media, I came across a family whose daughter became very close to our family. This sweet girl passed away at just 8 years old. Whether 8, 54, or even 80, life is short.

Each of us has been given the gift of life, and when we are handed that gift, we are also entrusted with the responsibility to love. We are given a choice every day of how to define our days. Scriptures tell us that we are not even promised tomorrow and that each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6).

We will all face challenges throughout our days and our lives, and when I was talking to a friend in the middle of a challenging season, she told me, “I don’t question God about the Why. I just ask Him to give me strength through it all.” I hope to always keep this perspective in front of me in the midst of trials and not question His “why,” but instead focus on glorifying Him in all circumstances.

I certainly do not ever want to belittle or minimize the sadness or pain that accompanies loss. I do, however, want to encourage you along the way to grab hold of the God who will equip and strengthen you. Make it a point to wake up each morning with eyes fixed on Jesus and a heart filled with gratitude, because even when your days seem long, our lives are so short in relation to the eternity that awaits us in the Kingdom!

Life is short… live it.
Love is rare… grab it.
Anger is bad… dump it.
Fear is awful… face it.
Memories are sweet… cherish them.
Friends are precious… embrace them.
God is good… praise Him.

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A Broken World

Jun 26, 17

Just a few weeks ago, I spent a glorious few days in London with my second daughter. She is going to be studying abroad and doing an internship there this summer. I was thrilled to be spending some rare one-on-one time with her before being separated by an ocean.

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The second night we were there, we learned that there had been a stabbing on the London Bridge. Our plans changed, and of course, our excitement was replaced with anxiety and worry.

Of course I tuned into the news, and the horrific scene from London Bridge was being broadcast everywhere. Naturally, I panicked. How in the world could I let my daughter live here in the midst of so much uncertainty, unrest and fear?

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But in an instant, the Lord touched my heart and gave me a sense of His divine peace and serenity as I prayed Psalm 91 over Catherine, the city of London, and our broken world.

It seems so simple to say, but when we really ponder it in our hearts, it’s profound: God is with us… ALWAYS. He challenges us to not only live in but to engage with a broken and hostile world. He did the very same thing when He sent His Son, Jesus, to step into the brokenness as a man and deliver grace and truth to the hurting and seeking.

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The next morning, I stepped into the streets of London armed with a warm Southern smile and a fervent prayer that people would know me by my actions, and in turn, that they would know the Lord because of my actions. I yearn for people I encounter to see my love for others, my peace in the middle of stressful situations, my willingness to extend grace, a merciful spirit… I don’t want them to see me. Instead, I want them to see Him through me.

Each day we are given choices. We can choose to live in fear: Fear of the unknown, be it fear of singleness, closed spaces, random acts of violence, or a medical diagnosis. Or we can choose each day to lift our hands, hearts and concerns to a God who is ever-present and ready to engage with us and provide us with wholeness in the brokenness.

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Running Aground

Mar 22, 17

I am a true Florida native. I LOVE the water and grew up boating on the St. John’s River. My childhood was dotted with trips to the Keys and the Bahamas. There is something so healing about being on the water. Whether digging your toes in the sand or dipping in the refreshing, crystal water, there is a healing power in those bodies of water. For me, I feel like the Lord speaks His gentle whispers when I am near water. His gentle breezes speak loudly to my heart.50911051-1072-4DAB-A9E5-F0B985C2D34AOn a sailing trip during one of my daughter’s senior year, I talked with her and her friends about anchoring their faith, and how anchors don’t weigh your faith down, but rather secure your heart so that you have the freedom to explore the place where God has set you.

Just recently, we took our son to Exuma, Bahamas. What an incredible place to witness the full glory of God’s Creation! We rented a little 18 foot Boston whaler, which gave us the ability to explore multiple little cays and an incredible, huge sandbar. A few times, while running around in these beautiful waters, our little boat would hit the bottom of the shallows. We’d trim the motor and somehow work our way back out of these precarious positions and into deeper waters behind us.

One afternoon when the tide was almost out, my husband and I took the boat to explore a little spot on the island. We anchored in knee deep water, but I wanted to get a little closer. Clark hopped out of the boat to pull us closer to shore, when all of a sudden we came to a dead stop. We were beached. We strenuously and furiously pushed and shoved, trying to nudge the boat into the deeper, safer waters, but we were stuck and not budging. And frustrated. And grumbling. And blaming. All in a matter of minutes.IMG_1528.JPGFinally (it felt much longer than it actually was!) someone in a dingy came to our rescue, and with his help we made our way to the safety of the depths. Even in the midst of the frustration of this scenario (as beautiful as it was, it was a little scary to think we might have to wait hours for the tide to make its way back in).

There are days that leave me feeling stuck in the shallows. Whether I’m stuck on a painting that needs finishing, stuck in a rut where I pray for the same thing over and over without seeing results. Sometimes aren’t we all a little stuck? Thankfully, we have a Mighty Helper who comes to our rescue anytime we call upon Him. He doesn’t just happen to wander by in a dingy when we’re in trouble. No, He is aware of our every move and is available when He call His name. No matter what our circumstance or how stranded we may feel, He is waiting to pull us further into deep waters and into a deeper relationship with Him.

If you’re feeling stuck today, maybe you need to realize that you aren’t floundering where it’s deep, but instead you’re beached where it’s shallow. Call His name, push away, and be held.
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An Introduction to Shabbat

Mar 15, 17

Last week I shared a post about simplifying and trusting God. A few friends that know me well asked if everything was OK. Let me assure you, I’m celebrating with joy the journey that the Lord has me on right now. However, I want to use this space to always be real and transparent about the frustrations, trials and tribulations that we all encounter. We all need moments of time to refocus and set our sights back in line with the King of Kings.

Last March, Clark (my husband) and my oldest daughter Blakely went to Israel with Kathie Lee Gifford and about 40 of her co-workers, family members, and friends. It was truly a trip of a lifetime, and I blogged about a few highlights. On February 23rd our Israel group reunited in Ocean Reef, Florida for a weekend reunion. What a joy to be reunited with this group that really started to feel like family across the ocean!

During our reunion celebration, we practiced the Jewish custom of Shabbat, led by Rabbi Jason Sobel. Friends, put simply: It was amazing and a life changing practice for me. Shabbat is a designated day of the week to shut out the burdens, discouragements, distractions and chaos of the previous 6 days. It’s a time to come together, celebrate and bless with your family. For our Shabbat, we gathered on Friday night at Kathie Lee’s house to walk through the 4 blessings of Shabbat with Rabbi Sobel. He shared with us that the purpose of the custom is:
C28EB218-4BD3-4224-80C8-E4B6178761931. To be reminded of Eden and embark on a foretaste of our future. 
When you think about it, the beginning of our time on Earth began in the Garden of Eden… the purest example of God’s intention for our lives. When we observe the Sabbath and rest and commune with the Lord, we are reconnecting with that original design, a taste of those days in the paradise of Eden. And because we have faith that Christ is returning to restore paradise on Earth, observing a Sabbath is also providing us a glimpse of the future as believers. By engaging with God’s design for rest and worship through Shabbat, we are positioning our hearts for hope and anticipation.

2. To be postured for thankfulness.
Shabbat creates a space for us to fulfill the very purpose for which we were created – to worship our Creator. When we celebrate the Sabbath, we remember what God has done for us, and when we remember, we also thank Him for His eternal goodness. Shabbat gives us the opportunity to set the tone of our hearts to worship God with gratitude through the week ahead.

3. To be refreshed and rejuvenated.
All too often, we find ourselves feeling like we don’t have time to take to rest and observe the Sabbath. Unfortunately, our constant busyness frequently leads to burnout and strained relationships. Shabbat is intended to be an oasis of time to be refreshed and rejuvenated both in our bodies and our souls. Even God rested on the Sabbath, setting an example for us to follow.

4. To be led into a more connected life.
The purpose of creation has always been about connection. A blessed, meaningful life is one that is full of connections and relationships. The Sabbath helps us connect more deeply to God, His Word, and others around us, increasing the meaning and depth of our lives. When we observe Shabbat, we are submitting to God’s original design for us, honoring Him and creating the necessary space to embrace the connections He intends to bring peace, joy and wholeness into our lives.
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At dinner it really hit me that we do not spend enough intentional time with our families. Sure, we find ourselves together as we hustle and bustle back and forth to sporting events, school events, church, even time spent hanging out watching football or golfing. However, in our culture, we really do not take the time to come together for a solid 24 hours to bless one another (in a very literal sense. During our Shabbat supper, we had the husbands bless the children then the wives then the husbands). There is a lot of singing and dancing, laughing and eating, and oh yes, drinking some fine wine!

But why don’t we exercise more intentionality? More reflecting, relaxing, and rejoicing in a God who is ever present at all times in our lives. Shabbat enforced in me the need to rejoice in the middle of all circumstances. There is something powerful that occurs when you come together as a family or a close group of loved ones and intentionally celebrate a meal together. Jesus modeled this perfectly for us, when He gathered His disciples around Him to break bread and celebrate despite the cross that was looming before Him.

What a powerful art to begin to put into practice! I’m excited to share more about Shabbat in the future, including a handy guide to host your own Shabbat supper club. Stay tuned!

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Simplify and Trust

Mar 6, 17

AnneNeilson_August2016_Finals_BSP-105I am ever so grateful for the gift that God has given me, but as my businesses have grown, it seems that the passion to paint gets in the way of the busy details of running a business and managing employees. The daily details of payroll, maintaining excellent customer service, finding new artists and developing new products… it can be chaotic and messy from time to time.

It sometimes seems so complicated. Just the daily details of life can be so fraught and complex. Recently, I was reminded it was GOD who equipped me in the first place and set my feet on this path, and it will be GOD who will continue to guide me along the steep rocky steps as I navigate through this journey.

Just the other week, orders went out to all our wholesale accounts, and our fulfillment warehouse triple shipped their scripture card orders. As I got so frustrated and tried to figure out the best way to deal with issues (computer glitches, human glitches, mail glitches), I was reminded that I need to stop and rest in HIM.

He is a mystery to our human minds, but His commands to us throughout Scripture are so simple. It’s our human nature that clutters them up. I challenge you today to evaluate the thoughts, emotions, and habits that you need to simplify in order to get back to the root of your trust in Him. Our lives our chaotic, but our Lord is calm.

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Among the Dust and Dirt

Feb 1, 17

16265762_1935700416658137_64882121648028615_nThe new year is starting out at a breakneck pace for our team. We just wrapped a major construction project and move from our Southend art gallery and Home showroom to a huge, gorgeous space in the Southpark area of Charlotte (the Shops at Morrison, for local readers… come see us!).

As exciting as being settled in a new space is, the process of moving and construction is not nearly as fun or glamorous. Sorting through possessions, choosing what to keep, what to throw away, packing, unpacking, organizing, and then remembering where everything is… whew. Add in, dust, dirt, erecting walls, refinishing floors, and navigating around the dust and dirt… It’s overwhelming!

12E48B7C-747D-4505-BC7F-C9AD4CEC9023Entering into a new relationship with Christ is a lot like the construction process and the act of moving. The end result is beautiful, refreshing and incredible, but the process can be a little messy. As we come to know Jesus more intimately, we are required to sort through all of our junk and make decisions about what to keep and what to toss. Each move is the opportunity to move forward to your next destination a little bit lighter, and a little bit less cluttered. A move toward God gives us the same opportunity… a chance to shed the burdens we’ve been carrying way too long, and a chance to let Him cleanse our messes. Moving toward Him means being dusted off, cleansed, and pulled out of the direct that announces that we are a work in progress.

30AA08AF-1C69-4AC2-8D31-8420B497BB52There are great reminders from each past season to take with us mementos. Tokens to remind us of what we’ve cherished, what we’ve overcome and what He’s seen us through.

This week, as we open the doors of our new space, I have so much joy in my heart as I unpack those reminders of where He and I have walked together, and look around me at the new walls ready to see the journey He is leading me on next.

I would love to hear from you! What is among your boxes? What signs of life are pulled out of the dust and dirt?
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The Knock

Dec 22, 16

Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

lamb-dk-6x6The story is a familiar one, even if the details of it can be hard to grasp. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable because there wasn’t any room for her family at the inn… or any of the inns… in Bethlehem or Nazareth the night God chose as His Son’s birthday. And while we typically relate to Mary’s plight, I think more often, we’re like the innkeeper.

Did the innkeeper even realize as he turned away a heavily pregnant woman and her tired husband that he was turning away the parents of the Prince of Peace? Could he have known that by putting out the No Vacancy sign, he was eliminating himself from witnessing the birth of the Savior? Did he know as he locked the door, that he was missing out on a miracle?

It makes me wonder as we’re just days away from Christmas, how many times I close the door on a miracle because my days feel too full. I wonder if I miss the thing that I’m praying for because it doesn’t feel like I have any more room to welcome inconvenience. What miracles is God performing right in my own backyard that He wants to be doing inside of me?

This week, I urge you to keep your ears open for The Knock. Listen carefully for the guests that are asking to take up residence inside of you. You never know when God is asking you to be the innkeeper for His next great promise.

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One Simple Prayer

Dec 14, 16

When we released our newest coffee table book Angels: The Collector’s Edition, we were thrilled with the 150+ pages of brand new content from artwork to stories of encouragement from some of the most celebrated musical artists. Today, we want to share our friend Amy Grant’s piece titled “One Simple Prayer.” Read her heart below, and find out more about The Collector’s Edition here. You can also order Amy’s brand new Christmas album “Tennessee Christmas” here!
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One Simple Prayer – a guest post from Amy Grant.
A simple prayer… a life-changing outcome.

Jesus demonstrated this time and again throughout the Gospels, with His divine simplicity leading to supernatural results. What is my simple prayer? Could something of mine become like the 5 loaves and 2 fish in His hands?

25 years ago I was in the midst of one of the busiest seasons of my life, with two young children and a busy music career.  While I was grateful to be touring, traveling and singing, I was exhausted….that bone-crushing fatigue that gets harder and harder to shake off. One morning, stumbling into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, I found myself telling my mother-in-law, Mary, “I don’t remember the last time I prayed a succinct prayer. I feel like I’m running on fumes with myself, with my kids and with God.” In her gentle matter of fact way, Mary smiled and said “Amy, I think it just takes one good prayer in the morning and you’ll be ok. Just pray this, ‘Lord, lead me today to those I need and to those that need me, and let something I do have eternal significance.’ That’s all that really matters.”

I have prayed that prayer nearly every day for a quarter of a century, and it has changed my life. Asking God to lead me to those I need and to those who need me makes me curious about everyone whose path I cross. What if the person on the other side of the gas pump needs me? Or an even crazier thought than that…what if I need them?

Just praying that simple prayer heightens my awareness of the people around me, as I anticipate the day ahead. There is power in the spoken word… a word of prayer, a spoken dream, a spoken hope.

In the spring of 1994, I purchased a beautiful farm in Middle Tennessee. I love the open fields and the wooded hills. Three old cabins and a barn, that all date back to the late 1800’s, were the only structures on the property when I bought it.

It’s the place where Vince and I got married. Now my mother’s ashes are buried there.

img_9734A few years ago, I began to feel that the farm was meant to be more than a personal getaway. Eventually, I started referring to the farm as my 5 loaves and 2 fish, wondering what God could inspire in me if I would put this place I loved so much in His hands.

One Sunday afternoon, I loaded up two of my sisters, my friend Sharry, and my father to drive the fields with me. We bumped and bounced along in the sunshine with the windows rolled down. I told them that I felt like someone had taken this pot of dreams that had long been on the backburner in my mind, shoved it to a front burner and turned the heat to high. One of my sisters suggested that I start speaking my dreams aloud as we drove along. “OK”, I said. “I want to grow old surrounded by friends and family, experiencing community, experiencing God through His creation, experiencing healing.” I continued imagining what could happen on this land…a community garden, a hillside of beehives, opportunities to share an outdoor experience with people from all walks of life. For two hours we drove and dreamed, until we returned to the cabins on the hilltop.
barefootrepublic-5025_27494864361_oSomeone suggested that we get out of the car and pray. (I think I remember their words were “Amy, let’s pray that you stay out of the way!’) I laughed at the prospect So we gathered around, holding hands. Sharry reached in through the car window to rest her hand on my dad’s chest, adding him to the circle, whether he knew it or not. You see, my father suffers from advanced dementia. He was with us that day, but he also wasn’t. He spent most of our ride silently fixated on his seatbelt. It’s been a long time since he’s said my name. A long time since he’s said much that makes sense at all. But still, Sharry reached out to include him in our circle. In that moment right before we bowed our heads, when we were just taking in the sight of each other, Dad broke his two-hour silence. He looked at the four of us and said clearly and coherently, “This is all going to happen, and there’ll be great celebrating!” You could have knocked us all over with a feather. We were dumbfounded and awestruck. I wanted to grab a pen and paper in case he was about to reveal THE PLAN, but the next thing out of his mouth was just gibberish. That didn’t matter. We were laughing and praying and ready to welcome the adventure.

Little did I know that the adventure would begin immediately! Within a week I had met Tommy Rhodes and offered him the use of our farm the following June to host his Barefoot Republic Camp, a faith based day camp bringing children together from all different racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds in an environment of reconciliation and love. It would take all the pages in this book and more to describe what has happened since our prayer on the hillside, and how the wind of faith continues to fill the sails of this dream  Maybe the best part of all is seeing so many threads of relationships formed over decades of my life being woven together with a new and vibrant energy.

A simple prayer can have a life-changing outcome.
What is your simple prayer?

Why don’t you join me in mine?

Lord, Lead me today to those I need

And to those that need me,
And let something I do have eternal significance. Amen.

 

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