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  • Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Joanne and I’ve been blogging for many years under the name The Simple Wife (you can see all of my old posts under the archives or by clicking on any of the categories that interest you). I love receiving comments from you and try to respond to each one personally. I hope you’ll visit often!

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Thank you for sharing, Toben. Praying for y'all right now.

renee altson

thank you, toben, for being honest. how could someone experience what your family has and NOT have their faith affected? you know me - i don't have any answers. just wanted to put an arm around you and pat you on the back. its okay to doubt and wonder and be angry, and your specific errors are not responsible for the way things are. you are loved, in faith, in doubt, in anger, in the midst of injustice. your friends love you. and we haven't run away. thank you for telling the truth about how life is right now.


Thanks for your honesty. I actually do like your post. And you're in good company--Job, the Psalms, the prophets' laments, and countless other souls throughout history and the present.

Tina smith

I totally get what your saying!! Life on this earth is hard ;(


Renee is spot on with her comments. Praying for you all.


Hi there Toben, you don't know me but I'm friends with Yvette. I identify with your struggle. This year has been a difficult journey for my family for various reasons. In the midst, I found myself not so much angry with God as let down by Him and His silence. I actually found a book "Disappointment with God" by Phillip Yancey. It helped me gain some perspective. It didn't fix things. I don't necessarily understand my circumstances any better, or hear God any clearer. but it helped. I see his character throughout history and have better perspective. Praying for you and your family.

Marena Sheffield

It's going on 20 years since my stroke and maybe I, too, am damaged. Please keep being honest. Just today I honestly thought "If I hadn't had the stroke I'd be able to..." (I always thought I'd be over those thoughts by now!) And when anyone says they "know why" I had my stroke, or that I'm "just fine" in spite of my stroke - I think I will scream (though usually I just smile). So please just keep being real and honest. And I'll keep praying for you (and me)!


Toben, THANK YOU, for putting words to the very questions that so many of us ask. Over the years, I've learned to stop asking "why?" and just try and not squirm too much from the mystery of it all. So many people preach a safe and predictable God. He is anything but that. Still not sure what to do with that conclusion, but it certainly helps to just be honest about it. Love and peace to your family as you walk this imperfect path.


I think you would not be human to not question once in awhile. Often when it seems like we have done all we can do and keep getting pushed down we can't help but wonder.

No one knows how hard it is on the caretaker until they have been there themselves.

It's hard. My brother had a major stroke. My SIL often feels like she is being punished for something because she has had to change her life so much and it's nothing like she had planned.

Yes, it's very hard on the person who has the stroke but people seem to forget how hard it is on the spouse too.

Don't feel guilty. You can only do your best and God knows that. However, never forget He doesn't give us more then we can handle. It's just sometimes He has more faith in us them we do ourself.

Erin Koss

Rock on, T.



You do not know me but I have followed Joanne's blog for years silently. I almost wrote a note following her stroke but hesitated to because I didn't feel like it was time. My heart aches for your family and my prayers are with you all.

In the weeks before Joanne's stroke she wrote a series of posts that struck me at the time. They were all about how it was to be a year of love. His love has not left you. I don't claim to speak on behalf of God but I think it would be good to perhaps reread some of them when you get a chance, especially those in the days/weeks before the event that changed your lives and if you feel led to, pray about it.

I'm not claiming to know 'why' or have the answer. I just strongly feel like God wants you to make this connection.

Please know that I am not in judgement at all, and I understand the questioning you are going through.

Julie Powell

How can God be all good AND all-powerful? Is my faith dishonest because there have been/are times when I only believe because the alternative is worse. God knows. And He still loves me. And He lives you and Joanne. We all are damaged. May God's grace be upon us.
PS. I need to read Valley of Vision. Have you?

Jeanie Hans

I'm a long time reader of Joanne's blog and a rare commenter. I have truly enjoyed your posts although hate the reason you have taken it over. It is so painful to see someone of Joanne's talents...silenced in her writing. I appreciate you sharing your family's struggles and daily walk. Perhaps God is telling his story for your family through YOU, Unfortunately the answers we will never have this side of heaven are the most frustrating to us but I think your family is very blessed to have you leading it. They are fortunate that you love God, that you don't just accept that faith verbatim but want to work it out, that you love them madly and unconditionally and that you are committed to them. That is far more than most families have. Keep writing and I will keep reading and praying.

Angela Hall

God had broad shoulders He can take anything youthrow at him just keep talking to Him x Nothing can seperate you from this love c


You wrote what many feel but aren't brave enough to say. Oh - and by the way - we are all half great/half trainwrecks - most of us just won't admit it.


Lots of courage in this post. I think of and pray often for you and your family. Seems like the 'big' events (a stroke?) aren't the biggest challenge--it's the day to day trudging through that is so difficult and painful and faith-testing. Continue to wrestle through with God, Toben. What you're doing is good, and very different than wrestling against Him. And cling to 1 John 1:5--"God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all."

Melissa Benson

Thanks for being honest. My husband died very suddenly 7 years ago. I was left a single mom to raise our 14 year old daughter and our 16 year old son. I asked God "Why?" a lot. As a Christian, I struggled with what I believed thru the next few months and years. And, I discovered that this in not unusual when faced with such a life changing event. I looked at everything I "said" I believed. Did I really believe in God, in Salvation, in Heaven? Most everything was answered with Yes! I came to the true realization of the scripture in Matthew 5 "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." I think I expected to lead a charmed, pain-free life because so much of our lives were dedicated to God's work. My family was not exempt from bad things happening. My relationship with God changed during those months. I've learned to depend on Him in ways that I never did before Terry died. I will admit that I still yearn for my husband and I continually ask God to fill that void with His presence. There are still days that I mourn what my children have missed by missing their Dad in their teen years. I am reminded that God's plan is bigger than anything that I can imagine. It's a day to day (and sometimes minute to minute) journey in the world of the "new" normal. Praying for you and your girls as you make your own journey.

"I will remain Confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the Living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14 NIV


Your courage to be real is admirable. I am praying for your family--I can't begin to imagine how discouraging things can be for all of you. I am praying Ephesians 3:16-21 for you, Joanne and your girls.

"I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May be be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen." (NLT)

Praying that you will be encouraged and blessed today.

Melissa S.

I DO like your post! It is honest and real. It is healthy to share. I get how you feel. No, I have not had the same tragic life experience as you, but as I have gone on my journey in life and have had unbelievable amounts of pain and grief, I too would question God's goodness. I use to wonder if God created mankind just to watch us have one trainwreck after another and sit back and chuckle. And yes, I was a Christian. Eventually, I would kick Satan's butt out and choose to believe God's word and denounce those other thoughts despite how I felt. This life on earth is such a snippet of our eternity. I don't get it, but I do choose to trust (most of the time) that our experiences on earth will not be wasted and will be used for our eternal mission, whatever that may be. The following scripture, sometimes hard to swallow and Paul seems like a super human, but still I hope it can give you a glimpse of hope today. Blessings, Phil. 3:10-16, 20-21.

Heather B.

Love your honesty. My family has encountered some unexplained tragedy. I am also a cancer survivor, and one of the most important things that anyone ever told me during my treatment was from a good friend of mine. She said "You know, it's ok to think that this sucks." God can handle and actually encourages our honesty to him. It helps us somehow. And Psalms is full of verses where David is simply telling God how it is. And he is still considered a man after God's own heart. Of course we aren't meant to wallow in our discontent, and I can for sure say that is not where you are at from your posts. Guess I'm just saying it's ok that you think it sucks sometimes :-) Your faith is still strong and an encouragement to all who encounter it. Blessings to your family.

Julie Reynolds

This is probably one of my favorite posts so far, other than when Joanne was released from hospital and the girl school tuition came through! Your honesty is so encouraging and the way you & Joanne share the ups and downs of the new normal in your life is very inspirational.

Take it from someone who has also had to move from spouse to caregiver and back to spouse/carehelper. It is not easy this journey called marriage but as hard as it is - It is so worth it! The relationship we have and the valleys that God has walked us through have given us more faith, more love, and more hope than ever before! I pray the same for you & Joanne.

God bless you both Toben on your continued journey

Child of God

I hear you and stand with you in understanding of your heart questions. These are normal and no reason for you to fear them but only to fear the Lord.

I believe this is a deep spiritual warfare and only serious warfare prayers to our amazing God can defeat.

Lifting you up in prayer to our God who hears and answers.



I hardly think I have anything to offer here that hasn't already been said. I read faithfully, but comment rarely. Not because I don't care, but because I ususally read you on my phone and commenting there is just maddening, and I don't really have much to offer other than my prayers. I have prayed faithfully for you and feel such a kinship to you all… the weirdness that is the internet and blogging, I suppose.
My next door neighbor had a TBI and was forever altered, and his wife has carried the burden of being married to someone who was not the person she walked down the aisle to marry, but she stayed. And served. 10 years after his accident, he is leaving her. Not the caregiver walking away, but the other. Yeah. It sucks. I think the road you are on is hard, but I love how you are journeying through this suckky road. Like a Navy Seal. Like a man. Like a human. Totally understandable how you would wonder and question. Know that there are so many who love you and are holding you up in prayer.
I have a friend who blogged about thankfulness that you might find interesting. She wasn't feeling particularly thankful, and was unapologetic about it. Good stuff.


This is my struggle exactly, for many years now. My struggle is mental illness and it has ripped apart everything I've ever been taught about God. I wish I had answers for you...but I did want to let you know that you are NOT alone with the questions, doubts, and confusion.

Ruthy :o)

When you can't trace his hand on your lives Trust His loving Father heart.

He nourishes and loves you SO MUCH

He's always on your side .....My mum used to tell me (as she is in Heaven now) Life can sometimes be like a tug of war BUT GOD is ALWAYS on YOUR side wether you feel /beleive it or not He is ALWAYS pulling for you.


We are fortunate, to have a God so secure in His love for us that he lets us wrestle through things with Him. Just as Jacob wrestled with God, you may need to do so too. Faith doesn't make things easier, but it makes them doable.

One of my favorite sayings is:
"God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain; but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way."

I sometimes gain perspective in dark hours by reminding myself that this life here on earthy is so small, so inconsequential; it is not the reward or the measure of our faith. It is a place where we get to choose to be in relationship with a heavenly Father. That choice matters most, not how pleasant or successful or satisfying this world is. Our satisfaction and contentment awaits us, an eternity of it. And that is so much grander and more significant than the day-to-day misery this world can dish out, or that our bodies can endure. Even the most joyous wonderful things here will pale in comparison to the eternity with God.


Thank you for being real. Sending a hug for all of you.


Two years is a long time. Who wouldn't be tired? Who wouldn't question? Who wouldn't feel lonely? Who wouldn't wish otherwise? You can still love Joanne madly (and she, you) while feeling these things. You've surrendered to His will the best you can--obedience doesn't mean you have to like every bit of the journey. It's an act which can be mutually exclusive of how we feel about something.

I guess I'm trying to say that what you've gone through as a spouse, stroke survivor and family is immense. Unfathomable to many of us, and certainly, to you, I'm guessing. I'm incredibly inspired and amazed at the grace God has shown through your and Joanne's godly, fighting spirits. Even Jesus asked for God to take the cup, if He was willing.

Bless you both and your family. Will pray for His gentle yoke upon you, and for a lightened spirit. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Toben.



Thank you for being real. I haven't experienced anything like what your family has been through in the past couple of years, and yet I still question things about God from time to time. I think it's something we all do and it doesn't necessarily mean anything. Just some of us more readily admit to doing it than others.

Your girls are so lucky to have you as father/husband. I can't even begin to imagine how my husband would handle such a hardship or how I'd handle it if the roles were reversed.

We pray for you all daily and will continue to do so.


I've followed your journey in snatches over the past couple of years, and have to tell you how much I admire you both for being able to lock pinkies at the end of a long day and still be moving forward, to face whatever comes, together. Not every couple who weathers a crisis or storm in this life can say speaks volumes about the Lord's work in your lives. This work that He's begun in you...He will be faithful to complete.

My family went through a nightmarish ordeal a year ago, that after 14 years of ministry caused us to question the Lord like we never had before. My husband and I ran the gamut, questioning, feeling forsaken and abandoned, nearly throwing in the towel on the ministry, and very nearly uprooting our family and running away from it.

The ordeal is not something I am comfortable sharing in an online format, but let me say, it caused us anguish of soul for months. Depression. Feeling like we couldn't even get up and go to church, because we'd have to face people who had wronged us.

It's been rough, but I believe we have finally gotten through the worst of it. And by God's magnificent Grace, we have stayed the course (instead of abandoning it, which suddenly appealed like it never had before) marked out for us, have forgiven those who wronged us, seeing them through a lens of grace and forgiveness that only the Lord could have accomplished in us...and I daresay probably wouldn't have happened without having been forced to learn what we did through our ordeal. It was a proving ground. A refining fire. A testing of our faith. It taught us more in the past year that we ever would have learned during the rest of our lifetimes had we kept on in the same well-worn groove.

It has been the single most difficult experience in my life, and I would never want to relive it ever...but can, as of about a week ago, say that I am grateful for the growth that has occurred during that time. The Lord showed me things about myself and ruts I'd fallen into without even realizing it. Things that needed to be corrected. Character that was lacking.

Psalm 40 has been particularly meaninful to me recently. He has put a NEW song in my I would not have known had I not spent time in the miry clay.

God is sovereign, and there are matters about Him that I simply cannot fathom. And I'm good with that, because if He were small enough for me, in my puny finite mind to comprehend completely...He wouldn't be big enough to worship. But He is SO much bigger than I can ever comprehend...His ways so much higher than mine...and I'm grateful for it!

I may be the last one to the party in this regard, but I have recently come to realize something else about how the Lord works in general, and about how we're not supposed to get too 'comfortable' here on this earth, because this world is not our home: just being an American has shielded me from 90% of the kinds of problems that the vast majority of people living in other, poorer or oppressed countries have had to suffer for their entire lives. I've had it so easy. But in many ways, that ease has stunted my growth.

In much the same way that being born into the lap of luxury can 'shield' the wealthy person from ever being able to truly understand the plight of the homeless or the poor, the naked, the hungry...I have never before understood the kinds of things others around me have suffered in this life, and have not been as compassionate as I now understand that the Lord would like me to be. I had been a 'snob' of sorts, not making the effort to truly understand what needy people I was working alongside in ministry were going through, and doing whatever was in my power to help them in their journey. I was terribly insensitive.

We found ourselves suddenly jerked out of our comfortable 'norm', and thought somehow the Lord has abandoned us, when what had happened was that we needed to go through a crash course which was meant to grow us to a place that would not have occured during the rest of our lives had we not had to go though the ordeal we did. There are lyrics to a song on Christian radio right now that say, "Sometime's pain's the only way that we can learn." I find that has been very true in our situation.

I would never want to have to re-live what we went through again, but I can now say I am glad of what we went through because of the growth that occured. He has indeed "given me a firm place to stand, and has put a NEW song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God".

Hang in there. Stay the course. The Lord is faithful, and will bring this work in you to completion. There is an ending point to every storm in life. He will give you a firm place to stand, and put a new song in your mouth, too. A hymn of praise to our God. Many will see, and fear and put their trust in the Lord. -Ps. 40:1-3

Marla Taviano

I don't have any answers either. All I know is that I love you guys. And I so get dealing with hard stuff in a crappy way (me).

And I have a confession too. I feel like I haven't been a very good long-distance friend to Joanne this year. Sometimes I just feel so powerless, like there's nothing at all I could do to make it better, so I pray and then leave it at that. But I'll bet a card in the mail would be a tiny bit of an encouragement at least, right?

If you're reading this, Jo, I love you and think of you so often. I'm gonna tell you more in 2013 (actually starting right now).


Thank you for your honesty. Your thoughts were so poignant they have been churning around in my head all day long. Please keep posting. Your authenticity alone is inspirational.


Good Post - thanks for your honesty. Praying for you all here in Zurich.


i like it because it's the truth. and it's honest. you might not always make good decisions but you're a good man.


Like many others, I have been a silent reader and prayer. And like many others, I have, because of stuff going on in my own life, the lives of my sons, and the lives of friends, doubted the goodness of God so many times, in the last few years. And as someone else said, I've been so sad and so hurt by what feels like God's silence, and the feeling that he just ins't there. Recently came across this quote:
God does ten thousand things in every deed. Perhaps we know a dozen. Maybe two.But not enough to judge before He’s through.
It doesn't make everything better. It doesn't make life easier. But I have thought about it a lot.
Wishing you peace, joy, strength, and most of all, an overwhelming sense of His presence and love.

Karen Booker Schelhaas

Love this.


I can so relate to this post. Same stuff I struggle with - I thought I was coming out of the hardest chapter of my life to date only to have something overwhelmingly tragic happen a few weeks ago within my immediate family.

Sometimes honesty is exactly what we need. I needed this tonight to know I'm not alone. Thanks, Toben!

Meisha H.

Thank you!! You don't know me, but I am a devout reader of this blog here in Yonkers, NY! I am so blessed by all that you have said in this post. You've given us constant access to the ups and downs of this journey. Just as we support and praise (as you say) for all the ups, I am blessed to sit behind my computer screen and grapple with the reality you detailed today. I have no response to hoe you feel, just know that you have a sister who is now seeking God on a new level; seeking whatever understanding that can be revealed in regards to our not so peachy keen realities. Love you all to LIFE!! Keep seeking!!


stay honest and true. it matters.

Patti M

Noah spent a looong time waiting to hear from God after the flood. Imagine the utter "aloneness" they must have felt after disembarking. Abram waited a looong time to hear God's instructions and plans for his future after being told to leave his behind his whole culture. Waiting is key here. Know that you are not exempt from God's promises too! We are long time friends of the Friedenstein family and we send our love :) I also identify with you and Joanne and the urge to bang our heads on the walls as we raise children of the same ages!!


Your complete honesty and refusal to sugar coat things is exactly why I read. I actually like this post very much. What makes you guys inspiring is you choose to do things despite circumstances. You are an amazing family to me. I find inspiration in one post of yours than a 1000 sermons. Thanks.


Toben, you'd be amazed at how many ppl DO like your post--- and are applauding your courage and guts in publishing it! Much better than the perpetually smiling, saccharine-sweet face masks that some believers feel obligated to wear. Your honesty will bring you the encouragement and prayers that you need from others.
As I currently work through/process some curve balls that life has thrown at me, the books that are helping me now in a practical way are:
TOTALLY FORGIVING GOD by R.T. Kendall (when it seems He has betrayed you)
GOD LOVES YOU by Dr. David Jeremiah
A GRIEF OBSERVED by C.S. Lewis (written upon the death of his wife Joy Lewis)

And, remember also Dr. Dobson's book, WHEN GOD DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.
Most of us wouldn't choose to be called apart in a special way, to endure trials more severe than average. We'd prefer to experience the blessings of the vast majority, and live an ordinary life. I know I would! These books are helping me to understand faith from the perspective of the extraordinary few who have to learn to trust Him at a higher level, just to make it through the circumstances they've been dealt. I pray that in the midst of the "new normal", that God will make available to you & Joanne these books or similarly- themed ones, whatever will meet you at your point of need, and minister to you right where you are now! At times when you may feel you've been abandoned by God and can't sense His nearness, you are greatly loved (and remember that there will still be GOOD days, too!)

P.S: The REAL STORY of the couple portrayed in the movie "THE VOW" is actually much more inspiring than the movie script that was written.

Sherryl Hale

I saw a link to your site on a friends FB page when Joanne first had her stroke. Like many others, I have been a silent reader and prayer partner. I DO like this post. You're honest, transparent and encouraging. No one wants to go through difficult times. In Mark 14 even Jesus prayed for the cup to be removed, and he knew the Father's reason. So why should you feel guilty for wishing the same? Like Jesus, in the end through faith you say, but your will be done, even NOT knowing why.
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba,Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Keep the Faith Joanne and Toben!

Pam Houston

You are incredible and incredibly real! God bless both you and Joanne for your "in sickness and health, for better or worse, so help me God" vow! We've learned so much from you both...about love, vows, faith, reality, the sanctity of life and God.
May God continue to bless you my beloved...I'm cheering you on in your move to Colorado Springs. Awesome!
A So. Cal "Siesta"
Pam Houston><>


I once heard you say( I think it was your Aunt who told you) you can yell and scream at God he can take it what he can't take is you ignoring him. I probably quoted that wrong but you get the idea. This struck me because I was raised in a home where we were thought if you whine cry or your prayers lack faith or the right words God hates them and will not listen. Do I believe in God YES do I believe in Jesus Yes. Is praying to him impossible for me Yes. Most of the time it frustrating worrying am I saying the right words with enough faith? But it has gotten easier since I heard you say that. I have often felt my salvation was in question because I' m not good at praying. But I guess that's where our faith in Him comes in ... It's not about anything we have done or can do . It's all about what he did on the cross. Or at least I hope so because its what I cling to . Thanks for being so honest.

Ali Em

I always rea, don't comment much but thank you for your honest post! :)


Your honesty, your real struggles, your response and choices, are a true example of faith in action, and indeed more inspiring than any number of sermons. Thank you and thank God for you and Joanne. With you in prayers from Singapore.

Lady Jennie

I have suffered a lot of grief in my life - some of it was my fault (addiction, immorality, etc) and some of it wasn't (too much to list here). I just started publishing my memoire on my blog, a chapter at a time. I don't write a Christian blog, but my memoire is about coming to faith and walking steady through grief. So that's a big step for me to publish it. Writing has caused me to rejoice in God for everything I have suffered years after the fact, and I can't entirely explain why.

I loved your post. Oh gosh - who wants a lukewarm faith full of platitudes? That is nothing like the great men and women of the Bible. And I love how God deals with people who are suffering, discouraged, losing vision, lost in darkness - Jonah, Elijah (1 Kings 19), Jacob when he wrestled with God, Job ... The world is full of God's mercy and he can handle our rants as we struggle through the veil of incomprehension.

But I think your wrestling with the good and evil in you is interesting. There is a balance between Genesis 6:5 (EVERY inclination of man's heart was ONLY evil ALL the time) and 2 Timothy 3:17 - through the living word, we are capable of every good work. So we are both inherently evil and capable of good. True, we don't deserve our salvation, and even Jesus said, "No one is good except God alone" and yet, God is so optimistic about us and about what we are capable of. Jesus said we will do even greater things than what he has been doing (John 14), and he stood up as Stephen was being stoned. That just takes my breath away - to be able to have such faith as to make Jesus stand up and watch.

Anyway, I know, I'm preaching a sermon. :-) I'm not a regular reader, but I did read and pray when the stroke happened and was inspired to check back in. Hugs.

Lori Rathbun

When God allowed Job to be tested by Satan, he allowed it because he knew Jobs faith would not fail and that he would not give in or give up. Toben, Job's trials and strengths are still talked about today and have helped many, many people.

God obviously has trust in you Toben, that in spite of the unanswered questions you have and inspite of the anger or lack of understanding you recieve you continue to trudge fourth serving our Almighty God. Your example, your story, your faith, your trials, your tender bitternes and your transparency are reaching people and building bridges to the faithless. I am praying for you.

I have been following your story since Joannes stroke. Stay strong
Toben, when in doubt pray more, trust more, God will reveal himself to you. I just want to encourage you to dwell on what you have not on what you don't have.. Please dont misread that as a judgemental statement that is certainly not the intention.. I just want to encourage you.

I know it doesnt help you to hear this at the place you are right now, but God will reveal himself to you. Keep trusting Toben, Keep the faith and sometimes just LISTEN... for His still small voice. It is there!!

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