she was everything to Him: a reflection on motherhood

When I was driving my cousin around town (and while my mom was babysitting my son),  I told my cousin that it couldn’t be long because I was basically my son’s source of food since I am nursing him. I then jokingly mumbled a bunch of other roles that I play for my son: teacher, console-r and soother, playmate, snuggle buddy, psychologist (to figure out what all those cries mean, of course!).

And I realized: Wow. I am everything to my son.

It made me think: Mother Mary must’ve been everything to Jesus. Yes, at least for a time, she was everything to Him.

I further pondered how, just how, my mission “to change the world with the grace of God” is indeed being lived out in my “hidden life” as a mother.

How? Well, MY heart is being changed by God’s grace day by day, moment by moment. So technically, isn’t the world changing? God is changing me through tiny little him (my son) by showing me who He (my God) is.

In fact, God’s grace is the only thing that is sustaining me right now!

Yes, my mission is feeding my son, burping him, changing his diaper, keeping the house clean, and maybe, possibly cooking– just getting through the day.

My mission is praying fervently that my baby takes his naps– and doesn’t cry from having gas!

My mission is working on my marriage 110% now more than ever, because the happiness and holiness of my son depends on my husband and I being an “us.” My husband and I are to make a very important foundation, which itself must be rooted in Christ.

Yes, this mission is motherhood. And motherhood is changing me through the grace of Christ.

Motherhood is teaching me patience… gentleness… to love the little things. To love this tiny person’s personhood.

To stay strong.

To have Faith.

Many days, motherhood doesn’t seem glamorous at all. Spit up everywhere. Poopy diaper blowouts. Your son pulling all of your hairs out. Oh, and not getting a bite to eat for a while (that one’s tough on me!).

But by the grace of God, what could be more noble? 🙂

Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death

Evening Prayer (“Magnificat” version) this evening included James 1:15: “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”

This reminded me of Blessed John Paul II’s term, “culture of death,” which includes sins of concupiscence / the flesh.

Such sins in particular destroy the human individual, marriages, families, and society at large. Via unchastity, the using and abuse of others, inordinate and excessive emphasis on worldly pleasures, a plethora of addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography, masturbation), self-deprecation and mutilation, hatred, murder… the list goes on… the human soul no longer teems with life, but is blackened by death.

Even when it might “feel good” at first, the soul is slowly… being killed… dying. One day, it’s dead. It’s over.

And like James 1:15 says, it all starts in small, subtle ways. Very lovely-seeming ways. Our inordinate desires can deceive us. Satan uses them to steer us off course from the Giver of LIFE… from a Culture of LIFE.

But you know what is so beautiful?

Jesus Christ has already won the battle! By His Passion and His Resurrection.

Jesus assures us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).

The question is: will I let Him conquer my heart?

O, if I but let the thorns of his crown pierce my hardened heart… it will become flesh again. It will become alive again.

I must think this over and over in Lent! How can I continually let Him give me life as He is wanting? More and more abundantly?

As Jesus said “no” three times to Satan, who was tempting Him in the desert (when He was famished from fasting), I too can say “no” to Satan.

I have nothing to fear! Only my mediocrity, my own lack of courage.

By saying no to my (inordinate) desires this Lent (with which Satan so subtly plays), I can let the Culture of LIFE triumph in this battle in the world of LIFE vs. death.

LIFE will win. Christ Jesus assures me of that!

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JESUS: in others, and alone with just me!

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Jesus.

Name above all names.

Worthy of all praise.

The above is one of the classrooms at the school at which I am a counselor. Saw these window decorations  and I just smiled big.  Jesus. That is the most important thing… er, Person… these kids will ever learn… er, meet!

I honestly believe that I have come to know this this Son of God Made Man, JESUS, primarily through relationships. And yes, starting at a very young age. My grandmother once told me that one day when she was praying the Rosary, when I was three years old, I just joined in with her. I knew every word to a tee. My grandmother was absolutely shocked.

My grandmother should not have been shocked, however. To this day, I remember how she would constantly pray to Jesus… and also, constantly praise Him in her deeds and actions. Yes… I knew Jesus from the fresh age of three because of my grandmother’s vivid WITNESS to Him!

My grandmother had a relationship with Jesus. He was her answer. He was her purpose. He was her love. I could tell this, and I wanted to be a part of it, even as a toddler. I wanted to know Him, too.

Granted, my faith has grown tremendously since then (and thank the LORD! it is all His doing!). Especially in my teenage and young adult years, I have questioned things, and gone astray at times. But I have always come back.

I ardently believe my constant “coming back” to Jesus– and rediscovery of who He is and how He loves me, throughout my life– is a result of purely A) God’s grace and B) my grandmother’s prayers. And not only that: most likely my great grandmother’s prayers as well.

According to legend (or, actual truth!), just like my grandmother, my great grandmother was also a woman of great faith. After my great grandmother raised nine kids and her husband died, she became a third order Carmelite!

I have no doubt that my faith (which I am still ardently working on day by day) is a gift from God (not earned) and a fruit of the intercessory prayers of my grandmother and my great grandmother. Moreover, I have no doubt that I have come to know Jesus through relationships with others who have borne witness to Him! As a kid, I knew who He was; and yes, I loved Him. But it wasn’t until college that I really met Him in a deep, personal way and realized that He loved me far better than I could ever love Him.

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Fast forward to today, and I believe that I am coming to know Jesus– Who He is, and also how to follow Him– in my courtship with my dear boyfriend, or “Saint Joseph,” as well. My boyfriend is teaching me Who Love is; and our relationship is teaching both of us how to love with Jesus’s love– side by side.  🙂

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What’s beautiful, however, is that although Jesus has met me through all of those relationships, it is ultimately those intimate moments, with just He and I, that shine the most! However, I truly believe that you need both type of experiences to meet Jesus: through His image and likeness in others’ and their love stemming from Love, and through encountering Love Himself, Jesus, one on one.

Jesus.

I am still trying to wrap my head around Who Jesus is. I am still growing in my faith tremendously. Our relationship will forever be “forming” one way or another! Deeper and deeper, I will meet Him, every day that I live.

Yeah… It’s You and me… and all of the people… with nothing to do, nothing to lose.

Yeah… It’s You and me… and all of the people… and I don’t know why. But I can’t keep my eyes off of You.

–Lifehouse

Jesus. 🙂

my crew: the God Squad

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“The Communion of Saints” (c) John Nava/The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

You become who you are around.

I was blessed to make friends filled with the light of Christ in middle school (and beyond). I saw a genuine goodness in my friends; they were different from my friends who just seemed like they wanted to be “popular.” I saw my new friends… living for a meaning and a purpose outside of the realm of self.

Moreover, even at such a young age, many of my friends lived as young disciples of Christ. I wanted that joy and peace in my heart, too! I soon saw that it stemmed from selflessness, not selfishness.

Fast forward two and a half decades later, and I’d like to say that my “crew” now consists of six of my (many) cousins, ages 18 to 27. I suppose we are the cousins closest in age and that’s why we kind of formed our own group. Anyway… just a confession… I like to think of this “crew” as “the God Squad.”

I honestly would like to say that none of my cousin’s or my parents “forced” religion onto us (my own dad: agnostic); but I do think we were all lead to God by God in various ways. Yes, our parents helped us to be lead to Him (and so did our Rosary-praying Lola grandma!) by taking us to church, praying with us, showing us a good example of faithfulness, etc.

But really, all I can do is smile huge and think about how God planned this all from the very beginning– how God planned each and every one of us’s personal journeys to Him on our own timetable! It just so happens that now, at least today, we all seem to be journeying into life together…. united in Him.

Back then, we bonded over Big Foot Pizza and rollerblades. Who would have known our deepest bond… would turn into Christ?

My cousins in this “God squad” all feel like my best friends, even if we don’t always keep up with each other on a daily basis.

I really believe that you become who you are around. I am so blessed to be surrounded by my “crew”– this “God squad.” They don’t even know that this is what I call them in my mind (and have been for a couple years now).

My cousins are Kingdom seekers. Just like Matthew 6:33 says, they seek first God’s Kingdom. Then they try to build. And they believe that God will provide so long as they first seek Him. I’ve seen my cousin crew members do  amazing things in their lives so far. My cousins inspire me to pick up my cross, too– and to live for God and for others in His name.

Moreover, my cousins also teach me that Faith and grace cannot be earned. It can be prayed for. But it is freely given by God; Faith and grace are our gifts from Him. I have merely seen my cousins say “yes” to receiving and to using those gifts. And I pray moment by moment that I can do the same.

Who are you around most of the time? Make sure you surround yourself with people who have virtues you would like to emulate. Chances are you’ll likely rub off on one another, in both the good and the not-so-admirable.

“Make me a channel!”

In light of the new pope, Pope Francis, I’d like to share a “Culture of Life-ism.” As coined by my youth minister friend, a “Culture of Life-ism” is a short catchy saying that someone can use to promote, you guessed it, the Culture of Life.

Culture of Life-ism for today: “Make me a channel!” A short, handy-dandy saying that you can pray all throughout YOUR day so that you can be fully alive.

So when can you use “make me a channel!”? Why, any time!

In the morning, when you wake up and don’t want to get out of bed. Hop out of bed, and onto the floor on bended knee. Clasp your hands together, and pray: “Make me a channel!”

When you’re talking to someone who’s challenging your Faith and your beliefs, and you’re about to loose your cool, or you’re just at a complete loss for words. Smile at that person and silently pray: “Make me a channel!”

When you’re sitting in front of a pile of textbooks that you have been dreading cracking open. On the top of that juxtaposed pile of lined paper, write: “Make me a channel!”

When you’re on the job, filling out some tedious paperwork, get out the sticky notes and write: “Make me a channel!”

When you find yourself at your wit’s end with either your significant other, or a parent, or a child. Whisper under your breath: “Make me a channel!”

When you’re having a bad, bad day, and someone does something that really irritates you, like cut you in line or cut you off on the road. Start to hum: “Make me a channel!”

Sanctity is not about doing great things. Sanctity is about letting Our LORD use you as His channel in the smallest things imaginable, and in your every day life happenings!

Sanctity is everyday discipleship.

Grace is the life of Christ in us. We can only be fully alive in Christ (as St. Irenaeus says) if we first let Him use us in the littlest of ways. Only then can He use us in big ways! Let us always let Our LORD make us a channel of not only His peace, but moreover His eternal life!

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord,
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness only light,
And where there’s sadness ever joy.

O Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled, as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love, with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving of ourselves that we receive,
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

–The Prayer of Saint Francis (song version)

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This one is mad that Pope Francis is in the Chair of Saint Peter.

no sins to be sorry for?: the great deception

There’s a girl in the corner
With tear stains in her eyes
From the places she’s wandered
And the shame she can’t hide

She says, “How did I get here?”
I’m not who I once was
And I’m crippled by the fear
That I’ve fallen too far to love”

But don’t you know who you are,
What has been done for you?
Don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

Well, she tries to believe it
That she’s been given new life
Oh, but she can’t shake the feeling
That it’s not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she’s rehearsed all the lines
And so she’ll try to do better
But then she’s too weak to try, oh

But don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done
But what’s been done for you

This is not about where you’ve been
But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel
But what He felt to forgive you
And what He felt to make you loved

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade

–“You are More,” Tenth Avenue North

What I love the most about Christianity, besides Christ Himself, is the freedom and the joy that Christ bestows on His disciples.

Christ gives us freedom and joy with His endless mercy.

What scares me about humanity (myself included) is our pride and our thinking that there is “nothing wrong” with us and that we do not need mercy from God!

We think: “Well, there’s nothing wrong with me. Why do I need God’s mercy? What am I even sorry about? Nothing. To each his own. I’m going to do what I want. I’ve been doing it all along. I know what’s best for me.”

How can people feel guilty about their mistakes, when they don’t even think they’ve made any mistakes?

And who are we really kidding? Only ourselves.

We are being greatly deceived. Myself included. It is with this prideful attitude that darkness and lies will slowly become our gods. Only with a humble attitude can we be set free, in joy, when we find out “who we are” (as Tenth Avenue North asks: “don’t you know who you are?”): people made for Light and Truth!

In her “Diary,” Saint Faustina wrote about the Infinite, Endless Mercy of Christ! This young woman saint was nearly swept away by Christ’s unbelievable statements regarding His immense ocean of mercy, forgiveness, and love!

We can only receive mercy, forgiveness, and love, however, after we say sorry. We shouldn’t find things to unnecessarily feel guilty about, but we should ask: How can I improve in loving God, myself, and others? In a healthy way, do I feel sorry about the ways I could have or can do better?

This Lent, I want to really purify my heart, and discover in what areas I am filled with pride. I am in denial of many of my sins. How can I empty these areas out, and fill them with grace, the very “life of Christ within me” (the Catechism’s definition of “grace”)?

Here are a couple of excerpts I stumbled across in Saint Faustina’s Diary and immediately loved. They are from the end of “Notebook V” (there are six altogether):

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+ God’s Infinite Goodness in Adorning the Whole World with Beauty
in Order to Make Man’s Stay on Earth Pleasant.

O God, how generously Your mercy is spread everywhere, and You have done all this for
man. Oh, how much You must love him, since Your love is so active on his behalf. O my
Creator and Lord, I see on all sides the trace of Your hand and the seal of Your mercy,
which embraces all created things. O my most compassionate Creator, I want to give You
worship on behalf of all creatures and all inanimate creation; I call on the whole universe to
glorify Your mercy. Oh, how great is Your goodness, O God!

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Be adored, O our Creator and Lord.
O universe, humbly glorify your God;
Thank your Creator to the best of your powers
And praise God’s incomprehensible mercy.

Come, O earth, in all your fine greenery;
Come, you too, O fathomless sea.
Let your gratitude become a loving song ,
And sing the greatness of God’s mercy.

Come, beautiful, radiant sun.
Come, bright dawn which precedes it.
Join in one hymn, and let your clear voices
Sing in one accord God’s great mercy.

Come, hills and valleys, sighing woods and thickets,
Come, lovely flowers of morningtide;
Let your unique scent
Adore and glorify God’s mercy.

Come, all you lovely things of earth,
Which man does not cease to wonder at.
Come, adore God in your harmony,
Glorifying God’s inconceivable mercy.

Come, indelible beauty of all the earth,
And, with great humility, adore your Creator,
For all things are locked in His mercy,
With one mighty voice all things cry out; how great is the mercy of God.

But above all these beauties,
A more pleasing praise to God
Is a soul innocent and filled with childlike trust,
Which, through grace, is closely bound to Him.

If you want to download and read Saint Faustina’s entire “Diary” for free, click here: Pray Divine Mercy.

Freedom, joy, and rest?: LORD Jesus Christ, You are who my heart has been looking for all this time! What goodness you offer to me, o LORD! You ARE Mercy. You ARE Love. And I am Yours. I know who I am.

am I just the girl he’s looking for?

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Some awesome young adult Dominican sisters at WYD 2011 Madrid. (c) WordOnFire

Warning: #CatholicNerdingOut.

And the more she ignores me
The more I adore her
What can I do?
I’d do anything for her…

‘Cause she’s bittersweet
She knocks me off of my feet
And I can’t help myself
I don’t want anyone else
She’s a mystery
She’s too much for me
But I keep coming back for more
‘Cause she’s just the girl I’m looking for”

–from “Just the Girl” by the Click Five

I randomly happened to listen to this song tonight. Brought me back to my college days when I’d plug into my iPod while walking to and from class, as it was a favorite.

The lyrics got me thinking… Is this how God feels about me? The more I ignore Him… the more He adores me? How lovely, how enamoring. That He would pine for me that much.

I also got to thinking about vocations in the sense of married life versus consecrated life. I know, I know. I have a boyfriend. But sometimes I wonder. Though I have met someone who I could envision marrying, I am still trying to be open. After all, it ain’t a thing till there ain’t no ring! 😛

I bolded the lyrics that especially struck me as translatable about how God really pursues me and wants my heart.

I really admire sisters and nuns and consecrated religious. Their love for Our LORD must be so strong, so pure, so deep, so eternal.

I admire friends who are married too– and heck, those married in my family. I know the LORD is present in their lives too, strongly and beautifully so! And working with kids, teens, and families, I can see how married life truly is a vocation filled with grace.

Yet I can also see how religious life truly sets one apart for the LORD in a very special, unique way. As a consecrated religious, you are already living like you would in Heaven, like the angels who are already fully consecrated to our LORD. For instance, if a sister, you ARE the bride of Christ… or, if a priest, you ARE the bridegroom of the Church.

Does God want me to marry? Does God want me all to Himself? These are questions all Catholic teens and young adults should ask themselves. I know that my boyfriend and I ask ourselves these questions occasionally still.

If God does will me to marry, I know He’s still pursuing me. I feel that every day. But how in tune am I to that? And what should my response be? Am I doing enough? I want to love Him to the best of my capacity! Receiving and resting in His love, yes. But giving back my entire self to Him: I’d like to do that too!

It’s truly a beautiful gift to be a daughter of God, to be one of God’s creatures– but still to be  pursued as a complete “mystery” to Him, whom He would like to unveil!

Like the song says… no matter what God has in store for me…

God adores me, He’d do anything for me, He doesn’t want anyone else, He thinks I’m a mystery, and I’m just the girl He’s looking for.

Well, now.

I’m completely flattered.

Eucharistic LORD: You never change!

It’s so awesome to know that no matter where you are in the world, if you go to Mass, you can expect to see and to receive the very same LORD Jesus Christ: present there before you, body, blood, soul, and divinity… and to enter into you wholly.

Hebrews 13:8-9 reads: “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever. Be not led away with various and strange doctrines. For it is best that the heart be established with grace….”.

Truly, Our LORD is always the same. In the light and in the dark, in the ups and in the downs, in the certainty and in the confusion… may we not only know, but believe and feel that He is LORD of Heaven and Earth, for all eternity.

Jesus, You never change. I at times feel like I change with the wind. But let me know that I am always your beloved daughter, no matter what. In the light and in the goodness (that I can only do through Your grace)… in the dark and in the sin… I am always loved by You, Love Himself.

May You, in the Eucharist, be the source and the summit of my life! Until we meet alas face to face.

You never change. Give me the grace to have a faith as true as Yours to me.

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“giving up chocolate for Lent” = finding grace in the wilderness?!

“The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness…. I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:2,3

Finding grace in the wilderness… now that’s what Lent is about.

What’s that “wilderness”? It’s that emptiness, that wild place that you’re left when you’ve said no to your desires and will and you’ve said yes to that vast unknown called “God’s Will”: what He desires for your life.

How do we find grace in the wilderness? By abandoning ourselves. How can we do this? Well, yes, even by little things such as “giving up chocolate” for Lent. I know everyone beats up on that idea, but there indeed can be deep meaning behind such a simple sacrifice. So, speaking of chocolate…

Last night, my professor passed around Hershey kisses. I grabbed a few, only to realize: Hey, it’s Lent… maybe I should put these down. Then I gave myself an excuse: Well, I’ve already got them here in front of me… it’s too late. I just couldn’t handle the temptation. I then proceeded to enjoy all three chocolate kisses within a couple minutes.

Nope, I didn’t “give up chocolate” for Lent. In fact, I gave up a plethora of other things (and added in some new things I’d like to do, too).  But still…. it was so hard to say no to those three little pieces of chocolate. And after I ate them, I knew that I had missed an opportunity to tell our Lord “I love You.”

Tonight, I face a similar battle. Yes, as I write this post!

The Valentine’s Day cookies that my nephew and I made are beckoning me. However, I realize that my saying no to having a cookie can be a simple “yes” to God.

“Yes, Lord, I love you more than this cookie.”

“Yes, Lord, I love you more than these three Hershey kisses.”

Eventually, with an attitude like this, in which we gladly die to ourselves in the little things, we can find strength say no to the big things– including the big sins.

When we practice saying no to little harmless desires, we will one day find ourselves being able to say no to bigger harmful temptations. It is then that we can say: “Yes, Lord, I love you more than this sin, which I know is not good for my soul, or anyone else’s…. and which I know hurts You.”

As we detach from ourselves this Lent, may we find grace in the wilderness, and attach our hearts to Our Lord!

May we be able to say no to the chocolate, and via such little ways, come to love Him with an everlasting love, just as He loves us!

After all, love works and builds bit by bit… struggle by struggle… kiss by kiss. 😉

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I would be straight up lying…

…If I were tell you that being a saint in the making is easy.

…If I were to tell you that being 20-something, that being young and in a world that screams, “WEALTH! PLEASURE! POWER! HONOR!” (as Fr. Robert Barron says) was easy.

…If I were to tell you that trying to: embrace a life of virtue, work to my full capacity as God’s handmaiden, overcome daily insecurities and anxieties, be chaste with my boyfriend, be patient with my family members, trust the LORD with all my heart, and smile through the trials in life… was a simple walk in the park.

These are all challenges for me. Yet this is why God has given me grace. God’s grace makes us holy; yes, it sanctifies us. But grace comes at a cost. We don’t earn it, but we have to say YES to it. That is the cost. Are we willing to let grace work in us?

Jesus requires change. He requires discipline. He requires sacrifice. And He accomplishes it through grace.

Does grace always simply float into you, like a nice breeze? No. Sometimes, grace cuts into you, strikes you like a bolt of lightning, shakes you up and to the core.

But even in the latter, we have to remember: ALL the time, grace will pulse straight to the heart, and do it Eternal Goodness, not eternal harm.

Living in the world and OF the world– following it, just doing “whatever”: now that harms your soul.

But living in the world and NOT of the world, with Christ within you, with GRACE in your soul– either in a calm way, or in that aforementioned crazy-making way: now THAT leads you to eternal joy.

So why settle for excitement that fades, for the promises from our world that will always be broken?

I am set for a greatness that will last. I am bound to a God who will keep His promises, even after the darkest of hours.

His Light WILL shine! His Kingdom WILL prevail! And how blinding, how radiant, how glorious it is!

I am a twenty-something in this world, and it’s incredibly hard not to listen to it sometimes. It’s incredibly hard not to listen to my own weakened nature sometimes. But I have grace: I have Christ within me!

I am a saint in the making, and I am nothing less.

…Now, THAT is the truth.

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