Saturday, December 30, 2017

At the End of the Year...

When I look back at 2017, our family sure had its share of difficult days, weeks, and months. On paper, 2017 dealt us several harder blows than 2016. That is why, when I think back to 2017, I am amazed—because, for me, it was a much better year.

In 2016, I was a rebel fighter. I fought change. I fought schedule conflicts. I fought my little circle being turned inside out. I clung desperately to the way things had been and blamed people for changing everything that I was comfortable with.

Then 2017 came along. Our family faced far more changes (in 2017 alone, our family singing group changed its main singers and repertoire three times completely—that usually happens about once every four years). We faced a magnitude of heartache and trials like never before. But somewhere in between ‘16 and ‘17, the fight left me. The God Who continually works in me (Psalm 138:8, Philippians 1:6) didn’t give up on the “me” of 2016. Instead, He was patient. He never stopped speaking to me from His Word. He never stopped giving me “just the sermon I needed to hear.” He never took away godly family and friends who prayed for and counseled me. Over and over again, He would point me in the direction I should walk. He extended to me grace like I refused to extend to those around me. Oh yes, there were days in 2017 when I audibly declared, “I give up! I just give up!” The pressure was too hard. The change was too close. The hurt was too real. But you know what? No matter what God allowed our way, He held me close. He gave me the comfort I needed. He convicted me where I needed to be convicted. And He has used it all to continually mold, shape, grow, and mature me.

So when I examine my life, the biggest difference I see from 2016 and 2017 is me. In 2016 I was on the verge of being bitter, crushed, and critical. God’s grace opened my eyes to that and helped me to forgive, heal, refocus, and surrender.

I’m not saying all of this to at all exalt myself, but to exalt my Savior. My family can testify that there were many days this year where my attitude was pathetic, my focus awry, and my time mismanaged. But at the end of the year, the Lord and Savior I serve brought me through another year of ups and downs. Yes, we go through hard days. Yes, life is difficult. Yes, some years are more trying than others. Our God never changes. And, if we will let Him, He will use the merciless storms of life to show us a broader measure of His grace and mercy.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Coffee Shop Christmas | First Line Friday, Book Review

Happy Friday-after-Christmas! How many of you got new books this month? I know that I added several nice books to my shelves and added yet more book to my towering TBR pile!

I know it's technically past Christmas, but I'll still feature a Christmas book today by one of my author friends, Ryana. It was a good-hearted Christmas book.

The jingling of keys reached the ears of Deputy Ellis Wright.

How many Christmas books did you read this year? Any favorites?
Feel free to share a first line from your current read!
Connecting with Hoarding Books for First Line Friday! Hop over and connect with your first line!

My Review

I loved the premise of this novella: the widow of a police officer who has opened a coffee shop. And in that coffee shop, she has a solid platform on which to reach all sorts of people who need the love of Jesus Christ shown to them.

Katherine Shannon is a very likeable character—a strong Christian, a woman who refuses to hold onto bitterness. The other characters were also neat to meet as well. I really did like Sgt. Piper. I also appreciate the realistic view into a police officer’s life in a real world.

There was a lot of Scriptural content in this. At least twice the Gospel was shared, church was mentioned. It definitely had a strong spiritual thread.

Definitely no romance. Which I liked (I mean, more than just because romance isn’t my strong favorite), because it explored different problems that people have apart from relationship issues.

There did seem to be a ton of characters, situations, problems, and solutions presented for just a novella. The author in me thinks this would have seemed more believable had it been written as a novel, and the characters had more time to ponder the way their beliefs and lives were challenged. Because it was a novella, the characters made rush-choices in about an 8-hour span that took the “real-life” aspect out for me. But, just as a story, it was a pleasant read.

*I received this book from the author and happily provided my honest review*

Purchase here.
Add to your Goodreads here.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Scripture Graphics #71

I started to skip today with sharing Scripture graphics, since it's Christmas... but then, why? The best thing about Christmas is that it's a reflection of God sending His Son to us. And the more Bible I can get on Christmas, the better!

It’s not that God is silent or unwilling to show us His ways—how often does He point us to the right direction, yet we refuse to acknowledge it or change? We are responsible for every time we answer or do not answer His calling; every time we hear or refuse to hear His voice; every time we choose evil over His ways. And this applies as much in the “small areas” of life as in the “big areas.”

We are still able to stand by the words and epistles—the Scriptures which have been preserved for us. The question is, are we standing fast? Or do we listen more to what the world has to say than God’s Word does?

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9)
This is written of the examples of church leaders/ministers, but how is our example? Are we living our lives so that others can follow? Though Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were leaders, they did not abuse their position because they realized it would affect their testimony. Whatever stage of life we’re in…are we living with a thought of the testimony we’re leaving behind?

"Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land." Job 1:9-10
When Job's livelihood and family were taken away, it proved that his security was God, not possessions; his master was God, not things; his worship was God, not that which fades away. Do we view things in life above God?

Merry Christmas!
Today, instead of just commenting here, today makes a great opportunity to share Scripture with someone else, pointing them to Jesus Christ!

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Sound of Rain | First Line Friday

Happy first line Friday!!! I get to share another first line with you, as well as a newly-released book. Sarah Loudin Thomas is a new-for-me author, and one that I'd like to revisit!

Now... I couldn't just stop at the first line. You get the whole first paragraph here, because her first chapter really was amazing!

Judd wanted to take a deep breath more than anything. But the weight on his chest, combined with the dust-laden air, made it impossible. He closed his eyes and opened them again, finding it made no difference. Either he was blind or the cave-in had erased any hint of light. He coughed and spit.

Have you read any books with coal miners?
(Gotta throw this in: or have you watched "When Calls the Heart"?! I love the coal mining parts!!!)
What is a first line (or paragraph ;) ) from a book you're reading?

Connecting with Hoarding Books for First Line Friday! Hop over and connect with your first line!

My Review
This book opens with a heartrending tragedy and continues as Judd attempts to pick up the pieces of his life and lives the dream his brother desired to live. Meanwhile, Larkin lives life full speed ahead, trying to follow what she believes God has called her to do.

The story seems to follow a realistic pattern more than a fiction pattern. It very much felt the era of the 1950’s. I did find it to be slow moving and without a real thrust of tension that moved the story forward—even during tragedies (which this book had a fair share of). That could likely be me, though.

Romance wasn’t highly prominent until the latter half of the book. I’ve just gotta say: I was impressed. Larkin actually prayed about whether or not “he is the one.” Usually it’s all “follow your heart,” so that little bit surprised and delighted me. There were kisses mentioned, but it didn’t feel sensual at all, just mentioned. And through it all, Judd showed honor to Larkin’s dad, even though he was difficult to deal with. I can admire the romance portrayed in this book.

Spiritual content had its ups and downs. Ben was very knowledgeable in the Bible and quoted several verses. The other characters seemed to have a nominal understanding of the Bible and what was right to do. At the same time, Larkin’s blatant dishonoring of her dad and going behind his back somewhat disturbed me. It definitely fits her personality, and was halfway dealt with, but it was more of a “things changed, so thus what she did wasn’t exactly wrong.” And I still never got where Judd stood with his relationship with God. He didn’t go to church until it was to impress/be with a girl. He had good morals, but it wasn’t because of his relationship with God. Also, the only mention that went anywhere near salvation was when a granny was asking about “Do you think I’ll see them again?” and Larkin assured her that she was certain she would, but there was nothing mentioned about whether or not she had received Jesus Christ as her personal Savior (and the only way to Heaven). So, there seemed to be spiritual content in this book, it was just somewhat vague and shallow with some dips at leaning toward strong.

*I received this book from Bethany House and happily provided my honest review*

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Goals Completed and Upcoming

Last Tuesday, I listed out my writing goals for the week. I'll start with the uncompleted goal: research. I managed to get about three chapters and three pages in. So, not my five chapters like I intended. Whoopsie!

However, the Lord gave me a great writing week! My goal was to write 150 words each day. In fact, there was only one day that I only wrote 150 words. The other days surpassed that goal and I finished the week with a grand total of 3,170 words!

This week's goals:

  • Average 150 words per day
  • Read 10 pages of research book each day
Yeah, yeah... so I may be cheating on the research book and lowering my goal, but it's the week before Christmas and now that I'm finished with teaching this semester (i.e. vacation time), I'm going to strive to spend a ton of family time.

How did you do with your goals last week? I loved hearing them all!!
What are your goals for this upcoming week?
Oh yeah, and I likely will not be posting next Tuesday, as it's the day after Christmas, and we'll be out of town. ;) But if I can average 150 words per day until the end of the year and finish that research book that'd be fantastic (there are 90 pages left, which doesn't sound like much, but it's a research book...a little hard to whiz through)!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Scripture Graphics #70

And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any. (Isaiah 44:7-8)
Isaiah is the book that reveals so much of God, Who He is, what He has done, and how that proves He is God. It contrasts pagan idols to the living God and reveals to us portions of the character of God. For the believer, Isaiah is a book that is a blessing to read. Have you considered rereading it recently?

What we believe will directly influence our view of Scripture. If I believed that life didn’t exist until actual birth, verses like this wouldn’t make sense. I would discredit the many verses that mention life after conception, but before birth. What we believe directly affects how we read God’s Word.

Only the spotless Lamb of God could do this on our behalf. Reflecting on it should lead us to humble gratitude.

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
When we take part in distributing God’s Word, do we leave the results completely up to Him, or do we define what a “successful harvest” looks like? God’s Word accomplishes what He pleases; it prospers in the thing where He sent it. Not us.

What is your favorite verse from Isaiah?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Books I Read | November 2017

Once again, I'm late in posting this. :P But it's here! My November reading in review! And now that I'm doing this, I realize that I skipped October!! Whoopsie!!

Books of October
I really read a bit in October (especially compared to November). I had a lot of review books plus a few borrowed books that I wanted to get back to people.

Since there are so many books to catch up on (and I honestly don't have time to write a detailed post :P ), I'll just share covers and my stars. Click on the star rating to be taken to my Goodreads review.

5 Stars

4 stars

3 stars

3 stars

5 stars

4 stars

4 stars

4 stars

4 stars

4 stars

5 stars

Books of November
5 stars

4 stars

3.5 stars

3 stars

3 stars

Some questions
With the New Year right around the corner, I'm considering things to cut out of my schedule. Because yes... as you read a few days ago, I'm trying to simplify some things and find a better balance. So. Book reading recaps are in the danger of being discontinued. How many of you are interested in reading them? I realize if you already follow me on Goodreads, you see my reviews. And, I already put about 50% of what I read up on First Line Fridays. What are your thoughts with me continuing or discontinuing this portion?

And, it's the last month of the year!! What was your favorite book that you read this year??

Friday, December 15, 2017

So Great a Love | First Line Fridays, Book Review

Happy Friday with another children's book (I know, I know, this may be considered "cheating" but I fully believe that you've got to start kids off with good books too!)!! You may remember me featuring Kristie's other book, Made for a Purpose, several months ago (if not, check it out now ;) ). I'm honored to present you book two! This series is adorable and wonderful.

First Line
Higher than the mountains, and wider than the desert...
so great is God's love for you!

Honestly, what better type of book to give your kid? 

Connecting with Hoarding Books for First Line Friday!
What's the first line of a book you're reading?
Who is your favorite artists?

My Review
Kristie has done it again: created an adorable, sweet, and doctrinally sound children’s book. Every page features a truth directly from God’s Word—covering God’s love, care, protection, help, cleansing, watch-care, and delight. Each of these attributes of God are likened to how one of the animals in the wild does the same for its child (e.g. protection like a mama bear protecting her young), ending with the call to run to God because He always loves us. I did find it interesting that the entire book focuses on God, without mentioning Jesus, even though I assume it was Jesus pictured.  Not saying this in a negative way; it’s just something that I observed.

The art is colorful and fun, depicting the various animals (bear, koala, lions, chickens, to name a few) in their environments and sometimes their danger. There are a couple of pictures of God (or Jesus?) in which he has long hair; I personally don’t believe that depiction is true, but that’s just my Biblical opinion. ;) It does not prevent me from enjoying the book.

At the conclusion of the book is a whole page of Scripture from which the phrases were taken. I love this idea! It takes the child directly to God’s Word to say, “See? This is what the Bible says.” I do prefer the KJV and these references are from various other translations, but I would just look them up in my Bible for my child.

*I received this book from Book Crash and happily provided my honest review*

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

O Holy Night | Violin and Piano

If there was to be one song that is considered THE Christmas classic, "O Holy Night" fits the bill perfectly. One of my students requested this for recital this year, and I was happy to oblige her.

What is one of the standard "Christmas classics" to you?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Getting Back into Goals

Praising the Lord, cause last week was better getting back into the niche of writing. Last week, I was able to...

  • Read 2 chapters of a research book
  • Brainstorm for a few hours
  • Write 1,909 words
I wasn't able to fully kick back into full gear of doing it everyday, but I was able to make progress, and for that I'm excited.

This week, my goals are to...
  • Average writing 150 words each day
  • Read five chapters of research book
  • Reply to beta readers' emails about Nat
Yes, I realize that, in my good ol' days, this doesn't seem like a huge goal. But, Lord willing, that will mean 1,050 more words than I had last week, plus being almost finished with my current research book.

Will you hold me to these goals?
Also, what are your goals this week?

Before I leave, a couple of posts from Instagram--inspired by researching. ;) Researching... oh, researching... :) 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Scripture Graphics #69

What a beautiful promise we can claim as adopted children of the one true God!

There is so much beauty in this story of Assyria’s threat and Hezekiah’s prayer
- He didn’t let others’ view of God warp his focus on the truth of God (Isaiah 36:7, 10, 18-20; 37:10-13)
- His first response was not worry and agonizing over a plan. He read the letter then immediately brought it to God (vs. 14-15)
- His concerns did not diminish his praise to God (vs. 16-17)
- He didn’t ask for victory to secure his own life, but so that the surrounding nations would see the proof of the living God (vs. 20)

If salvation was our only reason to praise God every day, it is reason enough. Yet every day, our lives are overflowing with Christ’s blessings. So why do we not praise Him more?

I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. (Isaiah 43:11)
I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. (Isaiah 43:25)
God alone is our Savior; He alone forgives and sanctifies us.

What is your favorite verse on God's forgiveness?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Heart of an Agent | Blog Tour, Review, Giveaway

About the Book
Name of book: The Heart of an Agent
Author: Tracey J. Lyons
Genre: Inspirational historical romance
Release Date: November 7, 2017

Tracey J. Lyons, the author of A Changed Agent, returns to the Adirondack Mountains of the 1890s in a novel of love, faith, and secrets…
Former Pinkerton spy Lily Handland has always dreamed of a quiet, safe life, free from chasing criminals and putting herself at risk. So when the opportunity to invest in a failing Great Camp in the Adirondacks comes to her attention, she quickly jumps at the chance.
Filled with grief, widower Owen Murphy wants to run away from it all. Though he’s worked hard to forge a future for himself, his guilt has kept him mired in the past. But all that changes when a headstrong, mysterious woman shows up at Owen’s door. Together, as Lily and Owen restore the beauty of the Great Camp, he begins to finally see a future. But will learning about Lily’s past destroy it all?

My Review

Overall, this was a sweet story. Lily wants to change her lifestyle from that of a Pinkerton detective—and her desire gets a new meaning when her paths cross with Owen, the widowed and broken owner of a mountain retreat. In essence, this was a romance with some plot woven through. I found Lily’s backstory intriguing and Owen’s journey to move forward believable. I really enjoyed the whole rebuilding of the camp, and, in essence, rebuilding of lives.

It didn’t strike me as a very deep Christian book. There were a lot of mentions of God’s hand in nature (at the same time, one reference to Mother Nature), and a few prayers for direction, but mainly only when a character was over their head in a problem.

The romance overall was sweet and not rushed. The kisses were semi-detailed. There were a few mentions of suspicion for impure lifestyle, but nothing was out-and-out said, and it was just suspicions/accusations.

A few things I didn’t care for: several uses of “heck” and similar words. Taking God’s Name in vain twice. Mention of Mother Nature. Lily talking to a grave/dead person, asking for advice.

So in essence, it’s a book for romance lovers (which you all know isn’t me ;) ), but still enjoyable!

*I received this book from Celebrate Lit and happily provided my honest review*

To celebrate her tour, Tracey is giving away a Grand Prize Package of a tea-time themed gift box (Valued at over $75) and a $25 Visa Gift Card!!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

About the Author

 An Amazon Top Ten bestselling historical romance author of the Adirondack Pinkertons and the Women of Surprise series, Tracey was a 2017 National Excellence Romance Fiction Award finalist. She sold her first book on 9/9/99! Her books have been translated into several languages and are available in print, digital and audio formats. A true upstate New Yorker, Tracey believes you should write what you know. Her historical romances are all set in the New York State area. Tracey considers herself a small town gal who writes small town romances. You can learn more about Tracey and her books by visiting her website at

Blog Stops

Just the Write Escape, November 30
Texas Book-aholic, December 1
A Greater Yes, December 2
Multifarious, December 3
Carpe Diem, December 6
Bibliophile ReviewsDecember 7
Pause for Tales, December 8
With a Joyful Noise, December 9
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, December 10
Daysong ReflectionsDecember 10
Mary Hake, December 11
My Writer’s Life, December 12
Books n Baubles, December 12
Jeanette’s Thoughts, December 13

Friday, December 8, 2017

God Bless My Family | First Line Friday and Review

Happy Friday! For this Friday's first line, I'll just show you the first page. Then you get to read it and see the adorable art!

As usual, connecting with Hoarding Books for First Line Friday!
What is your favorite children's book?
What are you reading this weekend?

My Review
I have a thing for children's books. I have to think harder than to say "It's truly adorable." But this one IS. After I received it in the mail, I had laid it out and at least four family members picked it up, read it, and proclaimed, "This is the cutest book ever!" I'm from a big family, so I appreciate the positive focus on family. It covers daddy, mommy, brother, sister, grandma, grandpa, cousins, uncles, and aunts, and how God has placed each in the family for a special reason. 

The illustrations are adorable. Soft pencil drawings of dogs--who wouldn't like that? I did think that some of them were questionable as far as two dogs walking hand-in-hand (paw-in-paw). I just know some of my siblings and their curious minds ("How can the dog climb the tree?" for instance). That would be the only critical aspect I would have to say of this book. It doesn't really bother me. Just if you're going to have a very literal child, they may be puzzled about some of the art.

*I received this book from BookLook Bloggers and happily provided my honest review*

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Go Tell it on the Mountain | Violin Solo

I have loved the bounciness of "Go Tell it on the Mountain" ever since I can remember. Last year, I arranged this variation for one of my violin students, and this year, another of my students is enjoying it. Most of my violin pieces have an accompaniment, but not this one: violin solo all the way!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

November: No NaNo

Writing... what's that again? ;) 
Just kidding. Though honestly, November was one of those months where writing definitely was pushed to the back burner. In exchange, a lot of wonderful things happened. My friend Kenzi came down and spent about two weeks, we had a Bible conference (with more friends!), did our annual sibling Christmas-shopping trip, my niece was born (yep, second time being an aunt in less than two months!), we had a make-shift Thanksgiving (due to my niece being born that week), and about a hundred other smaller things filled the month. So November wasn't much of a writing month for me.

However, I did get to do some brainstorming on a writing project and make wonderful progress with character development and ideas.

And the last week of November, when I was "just getting back on track" with normal-life stuff, God allowed me to put in a few thousand words in another project! This one was a completely an unexpected blessing. Our family went two nights to sing at a revival service over an hour away. I usually don't write in the van, because I sit in the back seat and have ruined two laptops with the jostling (just trust me on that one ;) ), but since our family has diminished in size, I was a front-seater, which isn't nearly as bumpy as the back seat. Added to that, I was writing while my writing-sister, Rachel, was nearby. So we did a ton of brainstorming as well.

So writing hasn't been as much overall since last writing update, but what has been done has felt very productive.

Nat is still in the hands of beta readers. I have gotten helpful feedback from a couple of them, and the remainder are hopefully going to get my their notes by the end of December so I can start the New Year off with editing his story.

How you can be praying
I'd appreciate prayers for wisdom. As many of you know, I teach around 30 music students, run WAJN (arranging and publishing music books and CDs), and assist with our family's singing group, as well as write. Many times, it is hard to know the balance of what I am to do when--when am I to be fully available to my family, when am I to set apart writing time or arranging time, etc.? I am beginning to see that it's a day-by-day need for direction. Yes, there are dozens of stories that are just begging to be written, but I don't want to write at the expense of being available to others and following God. So, many times, I just need wisdom with how to balance my schedule.

How can I be praying?
I wouldn't want to leave off without asking how I can pray for you. Whether it is in writing or something completely different, I'd love to pray for you. If you want to keep a comment private, please say so at the beginning of the comment and I will not publish it or you may email me at amandaterobooks {at} gmail {dot} com.

How many of you did NaNo? What were your goals and did you meet them? Tell me a little about your story, too. ;)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Scripture Graphics #68

Reflecting on God’s faithfulness and truth will lead us to more genuine and frequent exaltation and praise. The rest of the passage gives points of God’s faithfulness and truth:
- He is victorious (vs. 2)
- He is strength to the poor and needy (vs. 4)
- He is a refuge from the storm, shadow from the heat (vs. 5)
- He makes His people to feast on good things (vs. 6)
- He has swallowed up death in victory, will wipe all tears off all faces (vs. 8)
- He has saved us (vs. 9)

Rebellion is not always open and blatant. On the outside, those were taking counsel and making the right appearance—but it was their heart that was rebellious. We might fool those around us, but a rebellious heart never passes God’s notice.

Not only does God provide us armor for spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-18), He also teaches us how we are to fight.

And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure. (Isaiah 33:6)
What is the stability of our times? Our strength? Our treasure? If the answers are not God alone (His wisdom, His knowledge), then we will be sorely disappointed, and we are setting ourselves up for a fall.

What is a verse you turn to in times of fear or trouble?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Operation Christmas Spirit | First Line Friday and Review

My love for Christmas books is established. I will now be looking for Christmas books every November-December (eh... August-December?? ;) ;) )! When Operation Christmas Spirit came across my desk to read, I was eager to try it, and I was not disappointed. 

But first things first. ;) First line!

As usual, connecting with Hoarding Books for First Line Friday!
Do you have a favorite children's Christmas book?

My Review
This is an adorable children's book with such a beautiful message. The children at Sonrise Stables begin talking about the Christmas story and wondering what the Bible actually says, and what has just been accepted by tradition. So, they explore the Bible to find answers. Added to that, they get the idea to use Christmas to bless others--not to gift themselves. Around these two themes is the excitement of living on a horse farm and putting together a special Christmas presentation. This book is packed with Scripture and character lessons. The perfect book to hand to my younger siblings, and the absolute perfect book for Christmastime!

*I received this book from the author and happily provided my honest review*

To Get the Books
Check out Vicki's whole series on her website or get it on Amazon. If you want to save it to read later, add it to your Goodreads list.

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