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Rediscovering Your Joy in Motherhood (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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September 6, 2022 6:00 am

Rediscovering Your Joy in Motherhood (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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September 6, 2022 6:00 am

Ashley Willis aims to encourage moms to hold tight to the peace of God through every moment of parenting. She introduces four “peace pirates” that steal joy and how to effectively combat them. (Part 1 of 2)


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Imagine what it's like to sail on the open sea. The wind, the waves, the sunshine, the tranquility of it all. It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But suddenly, without warning, your calm and peaceful moment is shattered by chaos. The ship you were sailing on is under attack by pirates. It's chaotic.

It's awful. The scenario is very similar to what can happen to you almost every day if you're a mom, especially during those early childhood years. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. We're going to be sharing some encouragement and hope, especially for young moms and dads.

We'd recommend you hang around as well because a mom with young children needs all the support she can get. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller and your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly.

John, that was impressive. Let me applaud that. Drama.

I haven't heard you do the drama. Well, we'll have to look for opportunities like that. Yeah, there we go. It was inspired by memories of raising small children and what my wife was like when I got home. Well, we'll do that show at a different time.

Okay. But today we're talking about peace pirates. This is a great concept and, you know, I wasn't the pirate. I was more like Batman as a kid running around saving the neighborhood. I identified with him too. I don't know why.

I used a towel and a clothespin to create the cape. We didn't have a lot of money, but it was so much fun. But what you're describing can be a challenging season for moms and dads who are caring for young children. It is chaos.

It is that storm and the winds and the waves crashing into the ship of your family. And today we're going to talk with a wonderful guest about some of those observations and how to embrace the moment and perhaps even calm the storm. Yeah, we're really happy to have Ashley Willis back with us again here in the studio. She was here a few months ago with her husband, Dave, describing how you can have a stronger, healthier marriage even during storms. And today we're going to be hearing more about a book she wrote. It's got a great title, Peace Pirates Conquering the Beliefs and Behaviors that Steal Your Treasure in Motherhood. And you can find details in the episode notes or give us a call.

Eight hundred, the letter A in the word family. Ashley, welcome back to Focus. Thank you.

I just love being here with you guys. Now, did you realize this was going to be an intervention for John and his pirate desires? We booted the pirates off the ship. It's all good now. I'm still impressed by that.

I know, I was impressed too. Ashley, let's get into it. You're a mother of four boys, ages seven to seventeen.

Yes. Moms listening just went, wow, you're like esteemed among all women. Four boys of those ages. I have two, but I mean it is busy. And I'm sure households with girls are busy too.

Don't let me fool anyone. In that regard, with that busyness, how do you continue to love your children in that way that you want to, that you know they need to be loved with all that going on? I mean with the runny noses, with the messes, with the cleanup, with the loads of laundry, everything that's going on, no matter how you and Dave divide those responsibilities.

But, man, how do you keep the ship moving in the right direction toward a North Star? Oh my goodness, I think it just takes, it takes a lot of intentionality and a lot of monitoring and adjusting. If there's anything I've learned, you know, in being a mom for seventeen years now, that's what I've, I've learned that I never really figure it out. That's pretty amazing when you say it that way, being a mom for seventeen years. I know, it really, I'm still like, have I really been a mom that long? But that's, that's how long I've been a mom.

Yeah, you're not that old by the way. Oh good, well, I'll take it, I'll take it. But I'm telling you, these kids, they've taught me so much because just when I think, and just when Dave, my husband, thinks like, oh we've got this parenting thing down, there's a new season, maybe we add an additional child to the family, something else changes, you know, life will throw a lot of things your way. And so there is a lot of chaos. And I've, you know, I kind of for a big portion of my life believe the lie that chaos, and that many of us believe, I think this is kind of what our culture believes, that really you cannot have peace if there's any kind of chaos in your life. Like the only time you can really have peace as a family, as a mom, as a dad, is when there's like your circumstances are calm, and everything is going your way, you're achieving those dreams you set out, the kids are always behaving.

Like that, that was my belief. And what I found, gosh, in all the years being a mother is, man, if that's the definition, how in the world can I ever experience God's peace? And so I set out on this journey to really discover, you know, how can I have peace in motherhood? Because I don't want to just begrudgingly get through motherhood and just survive it.

I want to actually thrive, and I want to truly enjoy my kids. And so that's why I talk about these things I call peace pirates, these things that are kind of attacking my peace, because that's what pirates want to do. They want to steal from you. They want to make you feel, you know, like everything's topsy-turvy. And there are things in our life that do this, but in the book I describe, you know, how we can really combat that. And it really starts first by understanding what God's peace really is.

Well, you know, it's interesting. I don't know why we have this boat metaphor going, but we do with a pirate thing. But, you know, Jesus himself in the storm, he was asleep. And the disciples weren't really happy about that, I don't think. They didn't seem to expect, like, how can he sleep through this, right?

And then he kind of wakes up and says, hey, you guys got your attention on the wrong thing. Exactly. Isn't that amazing? It is amazing. I mean, that is the analogy.

It is. And I love that story too, because, you know, he's recorded as saying peace be still. And he does calm the waters. He does calm those chaotic circumstances really to kind of teach the disciples a lesson and that they can depend on him.

But he also, in essence, is telling us, listen, even when the waters are going crazy, if you can just trust, trust in the Lord, trust that he still sees it all, that he's still with you, you can actually have peace in the midst of the storm. I actually did a Hebrew word study on the word peace. Many people know it's shalom, you know, in the Hebrew. You go to Israel today, instead of just saying hello, they're going to actually say shalom, which actually means have God's peace.

And when you look at the deeper meaning of this and the earliest way that the Hebrews wrote this word to each other, the four symbols that make up the word shalom actually carry this definition. It means breaking the authority established by chaos. Wow.

I know. And when I set out to write this book, I didn't even know that definition yet. But when I looked at it, I just it just blew my mind because I thought, oh, my goodness, that's what God wants us to have. He wants us to have his peace. And it means being under his authority, not the authority of whatever chaos is going on in our life, not the authority of a wayward teenager, not the authority of, you know, the tantrums of a toddler, not the authority of a financial situation that's just making us feel like we can't get a grip on life. You know, we have to make sure that we put all of those things under God's authority by surrendering them to him and also trusting him. I mean, really having peace in the midst of chaos has a lot to do with trust.

We do a series with Ray Vanderlon called That the World May Know, and he's a Jewish scholar. And he adds to that, too. He says, when sin entered the world, chaos entered the world.

Isn't that a great way to look at that? And that's what you know, that's what batters our ship every day is the chaos of this world. You know, keeping that trend of the boat metaphor, you had a kayak story in the book that was I mean, first of all, it's hilarious. But you started I'm going to jump in and say something. You go ahead. Sure.

All right. Well, when I was pregnant with our fourth boy, I was about 30 weeks pregnant. So I had, you know, two elementary schoolers at the time.

And I think our third was probably two or three years old. I decided it was a good idea for us to go and do this big kayak trip. Here's the interruption. What were you thinking? Oh, my gosh, Jim, I don't know. Thirty weeks pregnant? Yes. What were you? Was this like a pregnant thing? It was a pregnant thing. Did you go, oh, let's go for this kayak? It really was. How did you even like comfortably get in the thing?

I don't even know. Like, I look back on this because I had to have on, you know, a vest. A vest and everything. And I'm like, how did this even happen? But we were on a little family stroll by the Savannah River in our town of Augusta, Georgia.

And I'd always wanted to do the kayaks. And I saw them and I had that pregnancy brain moment. And I was like, this is the moment. It's a beautiful day.

It's not too hot. Let's do this. And my sweet husband looked at me probably like I was crazy, but was like, if you're in for it, I guess I am too. So we proceed to go on this kayak trip. And as you can imagine, we have two separate kayaks.

Dave's, you know, in one kayak with with two kids. And I think I'm in one with our toddler and toddler even better. No, it is insane. So our toddler starts being just nuts, like he's moving the kayak. And I, of course, don't have the mobility that I would usually have because I'm 30 weeks pregnant. And so we are almost tipping. And I am very calmly trying to tell him to stop. But then I'm all out.

Like, I get to the point where I'm yelling and I'm like, stop it. We're going to tip. And he didn't know how to swim.

And I didn't know what my buoyancy was going to be like. And I noticed out of the corner of my eye and Dave and I, too, are trying to communicate, you know, from kayak to kayak down this river. I noticed this young couple, like young married couple, just strolling and looking at us, like gawking, like what's going on with that crazy mom?

Is that our future? Seriously, I told Dave, I said we were birth control that day. Like we legit were birth control.

And and they're just gawking at us like, what is going on? And we made it and ended up that it was so bad with the toddler at the time because he just, you know, he was just sure just being a toddler. Exactly. So Dave tethered our kayaks together. And he alone with our older boys, he was just the man in that moment he was. But he with our older boys help kind of like just got us to the finish line and then a bus with the kayak. The kayak company came to get us because I'm like, there is no way we're going back.

I mean, it was just it was nuts. And I think, you know, one lesson I learned is you have to set yourself up to win. Like you don't set yourself up to fail.

And I think, again, I wasn't looking at what was really required to do this to our kayak track. But also, I just learned in that moment to just just how that is really a metaphor for a lot of the years of raising kids. Because it is so topsy turvy and they don't always cooperate. And, you know, you can have the best laid plans and they don't go your way. But what I was trying to do kind of in those years of studying peace and trying to really be the best mom I could be was like, how do I have good, you know, healthy expectations? But also when it doesn't go my way, how can I still appreciate this gift of motherhood? Because I want to appreciate it.

I want I want to just relish these years because they go by so fast. You stress for moms not to miss the moments. I mean, not to get so distracted by those chaotic things that you're you're missing the things that count. I guess the question on behalf of moms is, OK, how do you discern when that moment is? And I don't want to miss that moment. And what are the moments I can just forget?

Right. Well, I do think I'm glad you mentioned that there are moments that you want to forget. And I think that we're you know, we're human beings. We're not perfect. God doesn't expect us to be perfect parents.

He's the only perfect parent. And I actually take great comfort in that. Like, I look at the stories of Jesus's parents.

I mean, they lost him for three days. I'm like, man, if that's in the word like God, God understands it. As parents, we get stressed out and he just puts that story in there for good measure to let us know, hey, there are no perfect parents. So I take great comfort in that. But I think that even with knowing that, I think it's really important that when we blow it, we do say we're sorry. Our kids need to see us having a repentant heart, like when we blow it, just owning that and saying we're sorry. But then I think that not staying in the thick of whatever happened too long and finding the humor in it.

And that's something that my husband, Dave, it's just helped me so much. I mean, he's so good at finding the humor at the right moment. I mean, it has to be at the right moment because it can definitely go so well. That can backfire.

That can backfire real fast. But like as a family, like even this kayak trip, for example. You know, once we got in the car and I'm feeling like a total failure as a mom, like because I just lost my mind out there on the water. And I was just like, man, this was supposed to be a good moment.

Now it's just going to be this bad memory. And I think one of our older boys was like, Mom, that was so awesome. You went crazy.

And you know, and he's like, and those people were staring at us. It was so funny. And I like was so mad at first. But then I was I just started laughing and I was just like, guys, you're right. I am so sorry. That's good. I said, I'm so sorry. I lost my temper. Hopefully we can look back on this and laugh.

And let me tell you, this was many years ago. We have laughed and laughed over this story. And so sometimes, you know, those worst moments can become like just it can give you some levity just in the day to day life. And so we actually that has become one of our favorite stories at my expense. Yeah, no, but it's good.

It's one of those markers and it's great for your kids. Those are great lessons when they can remember it like that, see it illustrated and so good of you to come back and talk about your failures with your kids. No, seriously.

Well, we all fail, right? Yeah, absolutely. You've identified four peace pirates, these things that rob our joy and rob us of the moment. What are they? All right.

They are Mommy Martyrdom, which is a big one. And we can talk a little bit about that. Let's go ahead.

Let's hit it. All right. So this is one where I remember when I was writing this book and explaining it to my friends, just kind of seeing what they thought about this. It was one that at first as mothers were like, we don't do that. But I actually I based these four peace pirates on an actual survey that I did with 300 moms because I wanted to see what are the tendencies. Is it just my opinion or is this a tendency for most mothers?

And this is from mothers of all walks of life, with all different age kids, married and unmarried. This is Mommy Martyrdom. Yes. What does that mean?

This was a big one. So Mommy Martyrdom is basically when we end up making our kids an idol and we actually kind of neglect ourselves to the point of like being a martyr, that we are kind of hanging on the cross for our kids, so to speak. Right. So how do you know if you're doing that? Well, like you're never getting the amount of sleep you need ever. And it's not because you can't because it's a crazy season or whatever, but because you're just it's always for the kids.

You're choosing you're choosing those things. Exactly. You're neglecting yourself if your marriage is always on the back burner, if you're a married person. And it's always like, but the kids, but the kids is they become like your your excuse all the time. OK. And you can you tell yourself it's because the kids that we have a bad marriage, but really you look at your spouse and you're like, it's just because we haven't talked in so many years about the kids. Right.

And you're not investing the time. I think, too, just when it's really all of your thoughts. OK. And I know this is going to step on some toes, but literally all your thoughts are surrounding your kids and to the point of being fearful of the future, to the point of anxiety. It's making your kids an idol.

And they're not supposed to be God in our life. And I think that so many times they become that. Well, you're describing what many talk about, which is a child centric family as opposed to a marriage centric family. Exactly.

Kids in the home. Exactly. A much better way to describe it. It is. OK, so that's mommy martyrdom.

And I think a lot of moms will identify with that. They're trying to do the best job they can do. Absolutely. But there is a point at which you need to reach a better equilibrium.

Right. Is that a fair way to say that? That's a great way to say it, because I do think sometimes with mothers in particular that we see it more with moms than with dad. It's poor out, poor out, poor out.

It is. And we want we so bad want to be good moms. We want to lead our kids in the right way. But I think sometimes we end up trying to to live vicariously through them sometimes and fulfill parts of our life that the child is not even supposed to fill. That's where we see codependent relationships that that really don't not only don't serve us well, but really set our kids up for issues later on. And so it's important in this book.

I say this because I myself have struggled with each and every one of these people. But we've got to make sure that that we have God first. And then if we're married, then our marriage, then our children. We have to keep things in biblical alignment and just not not put. It's really it's putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, but also on our children.

Because we're looking at them to just to be our whole life. And yes, we as mothers make sacrifices for our kids. Absolutely. We as parents do. This is part of being a parent.

But we're not supposed to put them as an idol where we're just living for them and sacrificing everything for them to the point of neglect for ourselves. Yeah, that's a whole book right there. Yes. OK, number two. All right. Number two, clinching control is a big peace pirate where and this is one I've struggled with so much.

It's messed with me so much. Just trying to control our children now on one aspect, we have to discipline our kids. We need to have expectations for our children. You know, there needs to be some semblance of control. But I do think that sometimes when it comes to control and my husband said it so good this way, where where this becomes an issue is when our kids are doing well, we pat ourselves on the back and we take all that credit. Aren't we good? Oh, we're just we're just doing a great job. You know, good job, mom and dad. But then when they're doing bad, we feel like complete and total failures and we take on all of that failure.

And really, it's somewhere in the middle of all this. Right. You know, God wired our kids each differently. They're going to have some things that it's really easy to teach them and to guide them and to lead them and other things. They're going to really rebel.

They're going to really test us. And so as parents, we're constantly monitoring and adjusting and really looking at kind of how healthy our standards are, that it's not control for making us look good, you know, and I really struggle with this where I'd be out in public. I'd have these foreign rambunctious boys and they'd be maybe a little louder than they needed to be. I would feel like they're embarrassing me. Right.

They're embarrassing me. And I take that on and I would just really wrestle with that. And it wasn't necessarily about teaching them proper etiquette, so to speak, but it was the reflection on me. And we all identify with exactly parents.

I mean, I think dads, you know, dads can identify with this, too. But I really wrestle with that for a number of years. It was like, do I want am I really teaching in these things based on, you know, following the Lord and their character and the things that are that last with them?

Or is it just to make me look good? Because I was actually reminded of this. We had some neighbor kids that on the surface were very polite, said their mams and sirs. But then I would witness them because they were over at our house a lot and behind closed doors, there was this major character issues. But on the surface, the parents loved all the mams and sirs. They love the pats on the back, like, oh, your kids are so polite.

And I told my husband, I said, listen, I guess on on the one hand, gosh, I would love it if my kids were always saying the right thing. And we were getting pats on the back. But on the other, it really is about character. I don't want them to be great on the surface and us getting all these accolades, but really in their heart.

It's just not it's not flourishing. And it's all for show. We want to raise kids where it goes deep, where they really are living a life that is pleasing to the Lord and not not just to please mom and dad. I mean, that's the goal is they want we want them to please the Lord. Well, another way of saying that, too, is like you're you're trying to shape behavior rather than shape the heart. Yes.

And I think we in the Christian households, you know, we lean so heavily on the behavior. And that's important. Yeah.

Don't miss hear me. But we've got to shape the heart because the right behavior will flow from the right heart. Exactly. And sometimes, yeah, kids can fool you by providing the right behavior without having the right heart. OK, number three and four.

All right. So excessive expectations. We talk a lot about expectations in this book and they all interrelate because, you know, I mentioned expectations with clinching control. But really, I think that we have to take an assessment of what kind of expectations do we have for our children? And also, what kind of expectations are we allowing to be placed on us? And this is where that definition, that real definition of God's peace shalom comes in, because I think sometimes we allow ourselves to be ruled by expectations, whether on us or the ones that we feel are being fulfilled or unfulfilled by our children or even our spouse.

And so, you know, a lot of times in the research that I've been doing, I found this this huge just issue of expectation. It was nobody's ever listening to me or they're never quite doing it that way or that we maybe even put on ourselves. Like sometimes we just have these unrealistic expectations for ourselves as a mother or we think God's putting on us somehow. And so we kind of go around half-hearted feeling like we're failing, everybody's failing, and it's just bad. Like I remember Dave early in parenting, especially when we had multiple kids. He was like, sweetie, you are letting this just rule your day. It's like we are living or dying by whether or not these certain expectations were fulfilled.

He's like, we've got to find a way to have peace in this. Like we've got it. We need to have good standards for our children.

We absolutely do. We have to decide that as a family, as a couple, and make sure they understand that. But we also have to make sure, is this excessive or is this realistic? Is this something that is a healthy expectation? And if so, have I actually told them, you know, how they can meet this expectation?

Or am I allowing or am I allowing maybe other things to shape my expectations that aren't even really one of my ideals that I feel like is part of our family? I think it's just really good to take that self-assessment. Yeah.

And it's good to challenge your expectations. Right. And where the source of that is coming from. Number four. And that really leads to number four.

So this is a big one in our social media driven world. And that's comparison chaos. I think every mom out there, there's whole books on this. You know, we deal with comparison, whether it's looking at Instagram or just talking to your friends, maybe even your own family. Like you feel like in my family, it was always this way. And now my family looks this way. Like just constantly feeling like you're not meeting the mark because of comparison. Not because you're actually, you know, talking to your spouse and saying, OK, what does God want our family to look like?

Because every family slightly different and really having peace in that. And I know for me personally, I mean, sometimes I just have to put down, you know, I have to put down the phone because we have to realize we're all showing our own highlight reels on there. Like I didn't take pictures of my kayak fiasco and everything I said to my child and plaster it on social media, because that's like one of my, you know, not great moments. But I'm going to put like the day that the kid gets the award at school or, you know, has the perfect picture where everybody's smiling at the camera, which is literally a miracle.

That's what I'm putting online, you know. And actually, I was reminded about this by my child when we were going to an award ceremony. It was our second child, Connor, who didn't. He's a great kid, but doesn't always get academic awards. He's very smart, but not school's not really his his place. He doesn't love it. And so he gets this invitation and I was talking to my husband.

I was like, oh, my gosh, it's fifth grade. He's getting an award finally. And so we go.

I mean, we're all dressed up. Well, they finally get to the end of the ceremony and actually right before the end. And it was where I believe he was going to get awarded.

And I'm waiting and waiting. And it turns out it was just like a you were part of this project award, like participation. And so and I looked at my husband.

I said, he is going to be so disappointed. He thought he was getting something, some kind of award that like mattered, you know. And I'm like, it's just it's like an honorable mention.

Like, you know, we went to all this, built it up and here's this. Well, the next award was the biggest award of the day. And it was like the character award or something like that. And they ended up announcing one of his best friends, Claire, gets the character award. And I see my son, Connor, after he received his participation award, he stands up and proceeds to clap for his friend Claire and looks back at me and has such a just joy all over his face. And then after they dismissed, he ran up to me and he said, Mom, can you take a picture with Claire? She got the biggest award of the fifth grade. Isn't that awesome? And I was like, I know I'm so proud of Claire.

Well, when he walked off with Claire, we took the picture and then he's mainly with his friends. I looked over at my husband and I said, I can't believe that my own child understands awards and what really matters better than me. Here I am as the mother, again, wanting to pat myself on the back because of whatever. And he's over here having such a joy to cheer on his friend. And that's to me, that was better than any award because my child could cheer on his friend, you know. And it just taught me. I just thought, man, I can't lose sight of those moments because, you know, they may or may not get awards.

Awards are great, but we have to really look for those those signs of them growing in a character. What an amazing story from our guest, Ashley Willis, sharing from her book, Peace Pirates, conquering the beliefs and behaviors that steal your treasure in motherhood. And we'll encourage you to get a copy of it from us here at Focus on the Family. Donate today and we'll send that book to you. Our number is 800. The letter A in the word family 800-232-6459.

We're stopped by the program notes to learn more. John, I love that story that Ashley told. It speaks to an issue that all parents struggle with, I think. And I think it's fair to say we all can be guilty of comparison. It's easy to look at how other couples are parenting or the accomplishments their kids are attaining. And we make that comparison.

You know, they're doing better than I am. And when we do that, we miss the opportunity to recognize where our kids are succeeding and how their character is growing. We have to remember that every family is different, just like a fingerprint. So just as Ashley said, we have to ask God what he wants our family to look like.

Yeah, that's good, Jim. And we have these programs like today so that we can come alongside parents who are struggling in some sort of way. John, that reminds me of a mom who recently wrote to us and said, I have two teen boys, I can relate to that, 13 and 16, and my husband and I are having a hard time teaching them to become responsible, respectful adults. And to start letting go and giving them more freedom to make their own choices and mistakes. Your programs give me hope and helps me to know I'm not the only parent struggling with these issues.

Well, first of all, if you have teen boys, all of us struggle with those issues. And I just love it because that's the mission of Focus on the Family. It's why we're here, to help parents and to give them hope for the future.

That's why we're telling you about resources like Ashley's book, Peace Pirates, Conquering the Beliefs and Behaviors that Steal Your Treasure in Motherhood. And if you can make a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family to help us with ministry, we'll send this book right out to you as our way of saying thank you for partnering with us to help a broader swath of people find that joy in their parenting journey. We also have tons of online resources available for you. Focus is a treasure trove of help and I hope you'll tap us and just call us or get a hold of us. Yeah, our number is 800, the letter A and the word family. And we really do want to help equip your family in any way we can.

So donate and get Ashley's book, Peace Pirates, when you call 800-232-6459 or stop by the program notes for details. And tomorrow we'll continue the conversation with Ashley Willis about reclaiming joy in motherhood. We do need to know, like God gave us these kids, it's a big role that we're filling. But I think when we allow that to just rule in our hearts where love is supposed to rule, then we're missing it.

We're missing the joy that's in it. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. They encouraged me and my wife to attend one of their marriage intensives for couples in crisis and they prayed with us. They helped me believe that my marriage could be saved. I agreed to go but was very skeptical that anything could help us.

But the whole environment was so safe and non-judgmental. I felt my heart start to open up as we worked with the counselors. Both of us still have work to do in our marriage but for the first time in a long time, we have hope again. Focus on the Family's Hope Restored Marriage Intensive Program has helped thousands of couples who thought that their marriage was over. Find out which program is right for you at HopeRestored.com
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-01 11:24:26 / 2023-03-01 11:38:16 / 14

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