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Bethany G. Paget

Midwife of words

Month

December 2013

It is Written – Part 6, Natalie’s Story

I first met Natalie on Twitter.  As I started reading her blog I fell in love with her words and her along the way.  The way she inspires hope through her story, her words and captures her audience is beautiful.

Her willingness to speak truth despite the sometimes adverse affects is also what draws me to her.

This is her story and it is incredibly powerful.

Natalie….

The iris of my eye is the color of broken. My eardrums are lined with the sounds of broken. My legs are toned with the pain of broken. The breath that fills my lungs is spun with air that is broken.

I’m broken.

Are you?

I’ve come to believe there’s something sacred about recognizing and accepting the shattered pieces within me and around me; it’s sacred because it points me to wholeness.

Look at your body, run your fingers through your mind, touch your soul; where are the fractures?

I remember the day in the kitchen, the day I claimed my brokenness. It was years after the original wounds and the unspeakable devastation. The severing of innocence, the seemingly never ending betrayals that marched from the mouth which I loved were things in the past, but I could still see them in the distance, daring me to look them in the face. And so I stood, feet planted on the tile floor, my mind muddled, and eyes red, as the words tripped from my lips.

“I wish I could love you with abandon, with all of myself, with a whole heart, but I don’t have a whole heart to give you.” My voice didn’t waver as I finished speaking these words to the man leaning against the counter, arms wrapped around me.

“I know. It’s okay,” his response was even and calm.

In that moment, a kind of peace washed over me. I gave up the dream of wholeness for the reality of it.

I know that might not make sense at first read, but that’s exactly how it happened. It was when I told my truth that I felt like I wasn’t broken anymore; it was in the acceptance, the acceptance exchanged for my vulnerability, that I felt myself become whole.

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The man in the kitchen? He’s my husband now, my second husband, and he accepts every shattered thing I bring to our relationship. It isn’t always easy for him; he doesn’t always understand why I need to have certain routines, why I get depressed when seasons turn, or why I cling to particular words as if my very life hangs on the strands of their beauty. And yet, there’s a kind of love between us that gives birth to vulnerability and makes a way for serenity.  

What I realized, on that vulnerable day, is that we all have the ability to give the gift of wholeness to one another by the way we see, the way we touch, and the way we listen. We do not have to journey along, feeling as though God is the only one who accepts us; we can be Jesus to one another.

In Christ, I am whole. Through His eyes, I lack nothing. Through His words, I am created, good. Through His life, I see the cycle of birth, death and resurrection; He has walked the path of brokenness to wholeness in all its glorious perfection. 

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When I share out of my brokenness, it is an offering, and when my offering is accepted that’s when I am reminded of the beauty of life. When brokenness and wholeness are allowed to collide, a peace is born.

One of my favorite Rumi poems speaks to this idea,

Inside this new love, die.

Your way begins on the other side.

…Die,

and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign

that you’ve died.

Your old life was a frantic running

from silence.

The speechless full moon

comes out now.

I know what it feels like, what it looks like when the moon comes out, and I want to the moon to come out again and again and again.

I write brokenness on one hand and wholeness on the other so that as I reach out into the world, I may practice life-giving acceptance. Living in the tension of the falling apart and the putting-back-together is stretching, often painful, and yes, it takes time to arrive in the place where the two meet. But when you land in that place, when you meet another person in that place? Nothing compares to the beauty which lives there.  

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Natalie is a lover of Chinese food, independent films, mystics, and toffee flavored lattes. She lives in the Portland area with her husband and son. Her evenings are spent working on her memoir and blogging at natalietrust.com.

Dependence, Reclaiming and Shattering

At the end of 2012 everything was falling apart in my life.

Literally.

On New Years Eve I had an eight hour long Neuro-Psych evaluation to see if I was going to be able to handle the after effects of the inevitable brain surgery that I was going to have.

In October I had been diagnosed with Chiari Malformation .  From that point on things just went downhill, well escalated I suppose.  Life had blown to shit after my return from Africa at the end of June.  It only seemed fitting (pessimistically) that it would continue to fall apart.

The pain, both physically and emotionally were just too much to handle.  My faith was hitting a wall as well.  It seemed that everything I thought I knew about God was also falling apart.  Who I understood Him to be did not seem to line up with where my life was heading.

As each blow came against me I would look up and say “REALLY God, really.”  It started to feel like I was living in some kind of sick Job like year.  I was angry, tired and truthfully starting to get a little bit bitter.

I know that the people around me were trying to help with their comments.  When you are sick, like SICK and the only thing you hear is “just trust God” or “you have to just depend on God alone” or my personal favorite “I just know that God is going to do something big with this” your own thoughts become strangely convoluted.

As the New Year was coming up I started to hear about this OneWord365 and though I really didn’t understand what it meant I thought I would give it a go and see where it took me.

With everything where it was and the truths I was hearing and trying to believe I chose Dependence as my word for 2013.  It seemed fitting based on where I was and what I knew I was facing.  I wanted to depend on God more and let learn to let go of my tight control on everything.

January rolled in with news that yes the surgeon wanted to see me ASAP, February hit with the news that yes I needed surgery.

February 21, 2013 I went under and four hours later came out able to say that I’ve had brain surgery.  I joke, I laugh about my missing pieces and the chunks of time I don’t remember because pain killers and being stoned for well a better part of 2013.

Off and on I would think about this word dependence and what it meant as I was learning to reframe my faith and what a relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit meant, what I wanted it to look like in my life and what religion really meant to me.

I could look at dependence from the aspect of provision.  There was not a single month that went by during this whole time that we did not have groceries, that our rent was not paid or that my truck was not filled with gas.  Learning to depend on God for provision was a big part of this year, it still is.  As I write this I don’t know if I can pay rent for January.  Things are still tough.  I’m still sick, I still struggle.  I’ve been in withdrawal from the pain medicine for the last two weeks and it’s BEEN A BITCH.

Do I believe God will come through, honestly?  I don’t know.  Am I scared?  Hell yeah.

I don’t understand how to live a life where I trust anyone or anything other than myself to get things done.

Why?

Because since I was a child (think 4) I have taken care of and parented myself.  It’s always been me to do it and get it done and if I don’t well it doesn’t happen.

I am raising my daughter alone, working, loving her, parenting her AND learning how to re-parent myself at the same time.  I have a hard time re-framing the lens I look through when I think about all of the things I have had to do by myself since I was a child.

Yet when I look back over 2013 and really reframe it I can see where dependence took a turn that I wasn’t expecting and yes it was God but not outright like I, in my old lens of faith expected it to look.

In June I joined this amazing group of women, artists and creators that have accepted, loved and BLESSED me beyond anything I ever thought was possible.

I have been heard.  Seen and known.  Even in my ugly, my rage and my pure, raw vulnerable moments.

These women put together money for my daughter and I to go to Austin for Thanksgiving so that we wouldn’t be alone and when our suitcase was stolen when returned they sent money and replacement items.

It was so much overwhelming love that I couldn’t even respond.

I didn’t see that as dependence until someone in the community mentioned it.  The old me never would have let that happen.  I would have brushed off the help as “Oh its ok I can take care of it”

Instead I allowed myself to depend; to let love flow from a completely unexpected avenue.

And it did.  Not just to me but to my baby girl.  This by extension is me, and fills my heart to the brim to see her experience such love.

2013 was a BAD year in so many ways.  I had to set huge boundaries with people, lost relationships with family and friends that I thought were for me but really weren’t.  I spent the majority of the year sick and in pain.  I am ready to kick this years ass out the fucking door.

This is why my word for 2014 is Reclaim.

I am ready to reframe and reclaim the shattered pieces of my life, of my faith and my heart.

I started the process this year but it got muddled in with everything else and it’s hard to sort out what is what.

There is so much I have to reclaim.  Anniversaries (shit-aversaries) hard times, scary things and trauma that I haven’t been willing to face for the 32 years I have been walking this planet.

Yet it’s time and I am more ready than I have ever been; because I don’t walk this earth for just me.  I have a precious 7 ½ year old baby girl who depends on me to be healthy, strong and loving.  She depends on me.

So maybe this year I can reclaim dependence and what it means to be dependent on the God that I am still learning to follow?

Because my faith was shattered this year.

But sometimes shattering is the best thing that can happen to a girl.

As Always,

Bethany

It is Written – Part 5, Jennifer’s Story

I say each time I put up a post for this series how honored I am that each person is pouring their words, their hearts and souls yet more importantly their skin into this series.

This vulnerablity is beautiful.  I think often we forget that our words come from so much more than just our souls but bleed out from our pores.  Some of us have them etched on our skin permantly in tattoos, some use sharpies.

That is why this series is so important to me.

To bring our words, my friends words to LIFE.

On Skin.

Today I bring you Jennifer.  Without her I would be loco, okay I may still be loco but far less because of her.  She is a beautiful soul.  A gifted writer, photographer and sister.

Here she is.

Jennifer…..

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Profound awareness
Rises to the surface
As truth is brushed across my skin
By the one whose artful expression
I make pleasure in
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I roar and wrestle
Capture and claim
Truth no longer denied
But now proclaimed
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I am Haunting and Holy
Vulnerable and Free
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A gypsy wanderer mapping out places
Sometimes only my prophetic eyes can see
Jennifer Upton is a storyteller, an excavator of the sacred, exploring the world with an open and listening heart, diving deep into the jungled areas of life to uncover the stories hidden there. She writes as an act of faith, sharing the gritty truth and beauty of life on the pages of her blog, Spiritualglasses.me and Asharedlens.smugmug.com
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Photo Credit Belongs To: KathrynNeePhotography.com

It is Written – Part 4, Rachel’s Story

This is part four of a series I am hosting through December and January.  Having one of my dearest soul sisters share her heart felt words here in my corner is a huge honor and I am excited for this post to go live.  Her words pack a punch.  One of grace, truth, beauty and reverence for Him.

The one who calls her beautiful.

Rachel…….

Sometimes you have to write what they say you are, even if you don’t believe it yourself. by they, I mean the ones who have the knowing, the ones that speak Life into your soul. they’re the ones that camp out and hold vigil for your spirit.

Sometimes you have to scream louder than the lies in your head. sometimes you need to suffocate them in the scent of Sharpie and the realization that you are better than you let yourself believe.

The human skin is the largest organ of the body. it’s the most exposed, the most vulnerable, the most visible. and somehow, in this strange upside-down world, it’s the most loathed and despised, especially by those who claim to live in the shadow of the Cross.

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I was always told, He makes no bad thing, and then was told to cover myself as much as possible. I learned early on what parts of my body were “bad,” what parts held mighty power to cause those of the opposite gender to be swayed deeply into sin. and the blame fell solely on my skin.

But I’m learning, this etching of ink on my skin. I already have tattoos, four of them, with plans for more. each one of them tells a story, a reminder that my body is a canvas, art and beautiful with a rich roaring power.

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He made it, woven with sacred thread and fabric by the Hand of the Unseen. He made this tapestry and slipped it over bones and structure. He Himself became God cloaked in this same material, wrapped around Himself, using it to touch and heal and love.

He does not hate my skin.

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It’s the perfect place to write love and speak of forgiveness. it’s the most visible. it’s the most bare. and so I’m writing truth about myself on this largest organ, this canvas woven by He Who Sees Me.

Beautiful. lioness. wild.

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Rachel blogs over at www.dramaticelegance.com 

It is Written – Part 3, Aaron’s Story

I am incredibly honored that my friend Aaron is sharing his words here. He has an amazing story, one I think we all grapple with to some extent.

But I’ll let him tell you in his words.

Aaron’s Story:

I often wonder who I am.

There are too many voices in my heart and in my head trying to tell me what it is to be me. Some are shouting “You are meaningful because of the work you do, what you accomplish, what you spend your time doing.” Other voices tell me to be better at family, be a better husband and father, then I will discover the meaning of my life. Still other voices tell me to chase my dreams, to be a quirky kind of life that others can only dream of being.
The cacophony of these voices leaves me wondering who I really am.
My identity is something I am always insecure about. This insecurity has dogged me more and more the older I have gotten. I worry about not fitting in, about not really having a place to define me. I worry about what kind of man other people see me as. I spend hours working the personality tests and reading about what they tell me about myself, trying to unlock some secret door that will let me understand who the hell I really am.

As if I didn’t have enough existential angst about this whole thing, I now have to listen to the well-meaning church try and tell me who I am in Christ, as if that was so black and white. I’m not saying I’m not a child of God, but what does that even mean? Especially on days where I’m grumpy, pissy, and generally a horrible person to be around. What does it mean to be loved by God when there are days I can’t love myself? How am I supposed to be a disciple when I can just barley hold on to hope for weeks at a time? I don’t know what it means to be myself, let alone some mystical “who I am in Christ.”

And what about my mental illness? How much of that is me and how much is my disease?  Do I struggle with depression, or am I depressed? Am I bi-polar, or is that just the label for my condition? How much of my illness is really just character flaws and shitty excuses?

 Am I a husband? Am I a father? Am I a believer? Am I a crazy person?

These are the voices and the thoughts that haunt me. They chip away at my self-worth, self-confidence, and even my sense of self till all I am left with is a husk that is so unsure about my identity I scramble to emulate anything that people seem to like. Why can’t I be a bearded tattooed rugged man? Why can’t I be a professor academic type? Why can’t I be…
Why can’t I be?
Into this chaos, a small statement sheds truth.  I am; you are.
The name of God, and the pronouncement that I simply exist. The reality that I am here, and that God exists with me. The truth that eludes me just is.
I am. You are.
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Sometimes life isn’t about world shattering meaning and life altering definitions. Sometimes it’s not about declaring myself a writer, a dreamer, a believer. Sometimes it’s about simply being here, being now, and realizing that you are existing as you are. Full of flaws, full of unfinished stories of fatherhood and married life. Full of methodical days and bursts of joy. Everything that I am bound up into a little human shaped ball and simply allowed to be. No definitions other than what I happen to be in the moment. No pronouncement of identity other than the fact that I exist, I find this breath in Christ, and that I get to be whomever and whatever I want to be.
 My struggles with identity, self-worth, and feeling adequate as myself can never change the reality that life, my life, continues to move on and that I get to live it. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” No one, no voice, no doubt can steal that away from me.
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And so what if I don’t know who I am in Christ yet! I’m discovering new things about myself every day. I’m finding how to be a better father, a better husband, a better believer and dreamer. This self-discovery is part of my verse, part of my story, part of the identity I am building for myself. I don’t have to have my personhood all figured out in a nice little bow. I get to be messy, rough around the edges, doubtful, and unsure because I am still growing, still discovering.
 I don’t have to answer “Who are you?” except to say let’s wait and see.
Aaron Smith; Husband, father, believer, writer, nerd, coffee chugger. Just a typical Jesus obsessed, question everything, bipolar, poet-punk.
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It is Written – Part 2, Beth’s Story

I am honored to introduce you to my first writer to open her heart and display her skin for this series. Beth has experienced grief I am unable to imagine, yet her BRAVERY and warring spirit leave me breathless. I love her heart, her transparency and her willingness to bare her soul and story here, with us.- Bethany 

When Words Heal Body & Soul

I didn’t expect life’s next betrayal to come from the inside.  A trusted shelter, the most sacred space, its curtain rent by death and rife with treachery.

Thirty one weeks we had walked in the world as parents, ripening with expectation.  Eleven weeks since we saw her via ultrasound, ten since I felt her move within me.

And then –

No kicks, none of the rolling in my belly that filled my blood and skin and synapses with joy.  A midnight drive to the hospital, calmly checking in at the labor and delivery desk when all I want to do was scream something’s wrong, help us, help her instead of smiling thinly and filling out the form the receptionist slid toward me, scribbling my signature with fingers weighted with fear.

And finally, in a gown and in a bed, a nurse tracing gel over my abdomen, listening to the whoosh of the guts and fluid within, but no heartbeat, no heartbeat.  She might be hiding, as babies do, the nurse says, and I nod and hop, but my doctor steps into the room gray-faced and the smile that fluttered up my face as she entered falters.

Somehow an ultrasound machine materializes at my bedside, and my husband stands silent on the other side and we can see, I can see on the screen before the words are spoken that she’s gone, oh God, she’s gone.

My doctor flicks the screen off, settles her weight on my bed, takes my hand in hers and her face feels too close to mine, too large, and I want to laugh, because how can she be telling me that my baby, my daughter, our first, is dead, dead before she breathed, dead inside my body and please, can I die, too?

And then the doctor tells me, as if her death is not enough, that I have to birth this baby, that they will not knock me out or knock me dead and just take her, take all this pain away (if only it were so easy), but I have to birth her, labor her limp body out of mine.

I want to want to but don’t.

And of course I do birth her, because I have to.  All these months of anticipation, and the only sound in the birthing room at my daughter’s arrival is that of my own sobs, my soul screaming at her silence.

I cannot shake it, this sense of betrayal, of my body turning against me, of my soft uterus grown teeth that devoured my daughter.  We gave her over to be cut up, autopsied, before they burned her to ash, but they never found a reason.  Two years later and I still can’t decide which I’d prefer, to know or not.

But I did know, that snow-bright day my husband and I drove away from the hospital, my belly sagging empty and my mother heart howling at the sky’s garish beauty and the people and the world around us going on and on and didn’t they know that our baby was dead – as we drove home to our new grief-kissed lives, I knew that I had lost more than a child.

I had lost my self, my sense of belonging.  I felt suddenly other.  Alien, a stranger in a strange land.  There were so many questions.  Who was I now that my body had failed to successfully complete one of its most basic functions, one that so, so many women and couples seem to be able to do effortlessly?  Was I a mother?  Was I still a woman, now that my uterus had produced death?  Was I even still human?

My body, it had failed, and someone had died as a result.

I felt like a monster.

My body healed from lifeless birth and my period returned, a cramping and bloody reminder of the daughter we had and didn’t have, and I still did not know the answers to these questions of identity.  I did not know as we tried to conceive once more, did not know when we succeeded.

I hated the not-knowing, the wondering of if I was worth anything anymore.

I knew what others might say, though, the ones that loved me and would take the grief and pain of loss from me if they could.  They would say that her death was no one’s fault, that my body was not a condemned zone, that my body was not broken, not a turncoat, that I was still a mother and a woman and a person.

I let them believe these things for me.

And then, two months and ten days after our daughter’s stillbirth, I started to practice owning those words myself.  One morning, the empty crib still standing sentinel in the spare bedroom, I peeled the clothes from my shy skin and tip toed to the bathroom.  And –

the mirror showed me the padded abdomen that had been my daughter’s one and only home on this earth, the arms I had used to rock her to sleep, the skin through which I pressed my fingers against her extended sole.  The mirror showed me the line running down from my belly button, evidence that I had held life.  The mirror showed me the breasts that had faithfully produced sustenance for our girl, the breasts that had ached with confusion when there was no baby to drink from them.  The mirror showed me the sacred depth of sorrow in my eyes, showed me the truth that I was a mother, I am a mother, that my body is just as stricken at the loss as my soul, that it was a safe home for her and might be a safe home again.

My heart ached but I decided.  I decided to believe what the mirror showed me.

I plucked the eyeliner pencil from my medicine cabinet and wrote the birth of this belief into my skin, trailing truth across the belly I had so scorned and hated.

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This did not take away the pain.  It did not undo her death (if only).

But – the writing of my faith on my flesh, it was powerful.  It was healing.  Not fully healing, but the next step.  A vital step.  One that I was so grateful to be able to take, just as I am now grateful for the body that carried our daughter, and then our son who was born ten months after her.

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My body is my children’s temple, a safe home to grow in.  I trail my fingertips over my belly and love it, for all its failures, its holy imperfections.  And when I forget who I am or what I am or any of this excruciating and beautiful truth, I write again across my skin.

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Bio: Beth Morey has stopped running from the questions, and all the old adjectives don’t quite seem to fit  anymore.  You can find her throwing her soul into the mess of not-knowing and Divine-seeking at her blog. behind Epiphany Art Studio, and the rather dubious creator of the Made ecourse.  Beth lives in Montana with the Best Husband Ever, their rainbow son, and their three delightfully naughty dogs.

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*all photography by Beth Morey

It is Written – Part 1

Things being written, being spoken then being heard are hard.  I often don’t absorb them and take them in as truth because honestly truth is hard to believe.  When it’s from someone who loves me, my own soul or God Himself I struggle to take in the words and allow them to flow over my aching heart.

I have never heard truth before.  Only lies.

Truth is necessary though.  To moving forward, to letting pain fall away and to allow shame to hit the ground.  Allowing the words to take root in my soul and push out the roots of pain that have grownfor years has not been easy and so I have adopted a way of making it known to myself in in more, semi permanent way.

I write it on my skin, in bold, black Sharpie marker.

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I allow the words I have written to become truth.  To sink into my flesh, my spirit and my soul just as the Sharpie sits and sinks into my skin.

Last Friday (December 6) was a bad, shit-aversary for me.  I woke up wanting to run, to hate the day, crawl back under the covers and make it go away.  Somewhere in the silence though (and a prompt from the 40 days of poetry group) I found words and truth and from down inside I found the very things I have been looking for.

Truth.

Words.

Sinking in.

I wrote this based on the prompt.

::Sister Soul::

He took

She took

They took – all of it

You sceamed inside

Unheard

Pounding your bloodied fists against the door of your heart

“Hear me NOW”

“See me NOW”

Whispered words of shame, blame and fault for actions not of your consent.

“Death would be better”

I heard you whisper

Sister Soul – Daughter of God

I whisper to you now

Those doors are open

Though you still wail in grief and sorrow

No more Sister Soul do you have to scream to be heard

Heard – you ARE

Seen – you ARE

Soul naked – not in shame

Naked in rawness Sister Soul

Daughter of God

Naked to be seen

Brave to be heard

An incarnation of cervical, messy blood stained birth we are – my Sister, my Soul

Not born of shame

Born of truth

We are risen

Not DEAD

My Sister Soul – Daughter of God

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When the words started to flow out, through my fingers I felt healing come.  A reclaiming of a shitty day, horrible memories and things I haven’t wanted to let go of.  Another person’s shame that I have wanted to continue carrying as my own, but it’s not mine; it’s theirs.

As I took the Sharpie to my skin, in places that had been hurt and wrote words of love I was able to feel the shame drop.  The blame I have carried wash away and the ache of my soul for year’s old pain dim.

What I am doing now

I am hosting a blog series through December and into January called “It is Written”

I have several AMAZING bloggers, poets, artists and friends that are contributing and putting their hurt, words and skin on the screen for you all to read and absorb.

Tomorrow I’ll be kicking off the series with a post from one of my dearest heart friends.  She has seen grief that I can only try to imagine yet the way she walks through it marks BRAVERY on her heart.

So stay tuned, it’s going to be a beautiful month here.

As Always,

Bethany

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