The Illusion of Having It All Together

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith, identity, trials 1 Comment

The illusion of having it all together

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Early in our time overseas, I thought I had it all together. I was busy balancing raising two preschoolers, learning a second language, living overseas, and having a personal ministry, with joy. I looked like Super Mom, but it was an illusion. Then God, in His mercy, shattered it.

In the fall of 2004, we moved to Singapore. Both our kids stopped napping at the same time. I no longer had household help. The first time my husband traveled that fall, he returned to a house that looked like a tornado hit it.

“What did you do while I was gone?” he asked me.

“How about we decide right now that’s a question you don’t get to ask me,” I responded (not one of our finest marriage interactions).

I was never Super Mom; I was just an over-functioning, bone-weary mom (with a maid). Then I started homeschooling (Jesus, take the wheel). Soon after that, allergies took over my life, forcing me to spend most days in an itchy, sneezing fog. I couldn’t keep it together any more. Gina came undone.

What a blessing.

God led me to feel my desperate need for Him. I was confronted daily by my own inadequacy, lostness, pride, and self-sufficiency (God is so not impressed with that quality, unfortunately).

It was one of the hardest and most frustrating seasons of my life. Many times I sided with Rich Mullins when he sang, “I can’t see where you’re leading me, unless you’ve led me here, to where I’m lost enough to let myself be led.”

The illusion of having it all together was just that-an illusion.

But as my illusion fell away, to my surprise, others drew closer. They met me in my need. When I showed them my lack of togetherness, they were gracious. They gave me a new place to rest, and even (dare I hope?) seemed to love me more.

As my friend Holly Sheldon once said, “People don’t draw close to strength. They admire it, respect it, but don’t draw near to it.

Having it all together may impress, but it doesn’t invite.Twitter And we need to extend an invitation to others, an invitation in to what is true about us: we are messy, weak, needy humans. Not super human. Just human, like everyone else.

And when we extend the invitation to others to see that we are, in fact, undone, we give others the freedom to be undone as well. We can all step out from behind the curtain and own what is true. Together sigh a breath of relief that we can set the illusion aside.

Letting go of our illusion invites God in too. There, He can sort out our messy places. Be strength in our weakness. Fill our needs. Help us be human.

None of us really has it together. Oh, we can try to keep up that illusion. But why? There is freedom, love, and rest on the other side. Let yourself come undone.


Related posts:

Looking Scary (When We’re Scared)

The Soul Needs to Be Seen

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The Secret to Persevering in the Arena

Gina Butz courage, dependence on God, faith, trials 0 Comments

Developing a stronger theology for being in the arena

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Recently I had a week of awkward engagements, mostly in the form of writing emails telling people what they don’t want to hear, or pushing into uncomfortable topics with others.

Yuck. I thought, “Is there a hole I can go crawl into now?” But each of those interactions was necessary because of the tough arenas of life God has called me into for this season.

Brene Brown, in her book Rising Strong, says, “an arena is any moment when or place where we have risked showing up and being seen.” Inspired by the Teddy Roosevelt 1910 speech (below), those arenas are places of blood, sweat, and tears, where we fight for what we believe in. We hope for victory, but know that failing is always a possibility.

This is a “venture into tough new arenas” year for me. They ask more of me than I want to give sometimes. These arenas call me to risk, lead, take stands, and put myself out there.

Can I be honest? Making a difference, affecting change, living bravely, all sounds great in theory. But it’s tiring. A lot of the time, I want to quit. Stop writing. Step away from leading. Let things go rather than fight for a stance. Comfort seems more appealing than potential failure, regardless of what I or others might gain.

It’s hard to put yourself out there when there’s a risk of falling on your face. So much more appealing to stay on those safe shores. And yet, we must keep fighting.

When I am tempted to step out of the arena, wipe the blood, sweat and tears off my face, and throw in the towel, I feel a check in my spirit. A voice says,

“Stay. Stay and fight. You don’t need to stop. You just need more truth for this.”

We don’t need to quit.

We just need to get stronger. And where does that strength come from? It comes from the truth. Here’s the secret to not quitting when life is tough:

We need a stronger theology for the arena.

What does that look like? To begin with, it means more strength training out of the ring. We train our minds with the truth; that this is for His glory, not our ours; that there is no failure so great to put us out of His reach; that every second in the ring is only possible because of His power, not our own; that a knock down does not define our worth.

The more we are called to the arena, the more we need to feed our minds and hearts the truth about who He is and who we are. Then, when we are tempted to quit, instead we choose to double down on those truths.

Second, we need to train our hearts to hear our coach’s voice, even in the thick of the fight. He is with us, for us, in us. No one is more for us in the arena than He is. We can’t always step out of the ring, so we must learn the moment by moment Yahweh breathing to slow our hearts and call us back to depend on His voice.

Staying in the arena means growing the humility to admit when we need a minute in the corner to catch our breath. We take time in the corner to get toweled off and refreshed by His Presence, His Spirit, His words. The longer we’re there, the harder it is, but there’s always a place of rest.

It’s hard to win without anyone in your corner. We need cheerleaders, people who know why we’re in there and believe in what we’re doing. Those are the people who will shout at us to get back up when we fall.

And we need to remember why we stepped into the arena in the first place. If this is God’s call, He gives us what we need to fight. He never promised easy. Nor did He promise victory in every battle. But if we strengthen our theology, we can stay in it until it’s finished, no matter how many times we fall.

a stronger theology for the arenas of life

click on the picture to download this as a print!


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How to develop a stronger theology for staying in the fight

Finding Balance in the Seasons

Gina Butz peace, rest 0 Comments

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Years ago, I had a delightful life coach and mentor by the name of Dayle. She encouraged me to make a personal development plan for that season of my life. Being a planner by nature, I was excited to show her what I thought was a well-balanced plan. She took one look at it and said, “Gina, I’m exhausted just looking at this.”

“But I don’t know what I could cut out. All these things are important,” I insisted.

Dayle affirmed that yes, everything on my plan was important. But then, she suggested that maybe not all of them were equally important at this moment. That began a journey of understanding what it looks like to find balance, not in our days, but in the seasons of our lives. 

To read the rest of the story, join me at Redbud Writer’s Guild!


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Looking Scary (When We’re Scared)

Gina Butz courage, faith 0 Comments

Looking Scary (When We're Scared)

Photo by Donald Tong from Pexels

Do you know someone who is scary? You know, the kind of person who takes up a lot of space in the room. They’re intimidating. Their voices are loud. Words are strong.

Sometimes it’s the person you would least expect. It seems out of character. They aren’t like that in every day life, but something gets triggered and they suddenly look scary. What happened?

I wonder if it’s because they’re scared.

When we get scared, our behavior changes. Some of us hide, shrink back, disappear. But many of us get louder, stronger, and more controlling. We get big because we feel small.

I know I do it. It’s my way of covering what I fear.

It’s like the Wizard of Oz, crying, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” You know, the one furiously attempting to make himself look bigger than he is. The one projecting a scary image while in reality he is cowering where you can’t see him. Maybe then no one will notice that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He doesn’t have what it takes. He’s scared out of his wits. Fear keeps him hidden, afraid to lose the relationship, his reputation, a sense of control.

Scary might make us feel protected, but it actually isolates us. It keeps others from seeing what is going on inside, and blocks the doorway for them to help us address what we fear. Scary keeps us scared.

What’s our invitation instead?

It helps me to remember anger is a secondary emotion. Like I said, we get big when we don’t want to feel small. Anger makes us feel bigger than the fear. When we recognize a rage that’s driving us to look scary, it’s a good signal to stop and examine our hearts. What are we afraid of? What feels threatened? When we own what it is that makes us scared, we can confront it, instead of pretending than we are bigger or stronger than we are.

Often we can’t overcome that fear on our own. We need others to step in and walk with us.

So we need to set down the scary mask and invite others in. Pull back the curtain and admit what is true. “I don’t know what to do. This is overwhelming. I feel weak, exposed, needy. I’m afraid of what’s happening here.”

The irony of the Wizard is that when he pulls back the curtain, he can offer so much more. Intimacy increases as he steps out from behind the scary image. Solutions are found. Relationships strengthen. Fear dissipates. We don’t have to be scary.

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”


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Open the Door to Others

Gina Butz courage, relationships 0 Comments

Open the door to others

Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash


“To open yourself to another person, to stop lying about your loneliness and your fears, to be honest about your affections, and to tell others how much they mean to you-this openness is the triumph of the child of God over the Pharisee and a sign of the dynamic presence of the Spirit.” (Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child).

We lie about our loneliness and our fears.

They are hidden beneath smiles, activity, and bravado. We ignore aches and push down anxieties because we believe the people who present themselves to others without these trappings are more acceptable, desirable, and welcome.

And that’s how the loneliness and fears grow. They lie to us about our worth. Their grip on us tightens and reinforces our distance from those who would really know our hearts.

Those lies battle with the truth that we need others, and the truth that real strength lies not in hiding, but in vulnerability. Life is not found behind closed doors.

In an unguarded moment not long ago, I moved toward a friend. I clung to a glimmer of hope that maybe I wasn’t alone; maybe she felt it too. We began a hesitant companionship, marked with vulnerability hangovers from fear we overshared. Several times one or the other of us nearly canceled a lunch date because the thought of baring ourselves felt too heavy. But slowly, we pushed past our fears toward each other.

After a while, we thought maybe we weren’t alone. Maybe other women wanted, needed, a place to be raw, real, seen, and heard too. So we invited a few. And they came.

Four of us are on a journey of opening to each other. Between work and travel and family, we carve out times together where we simply ask, “how are you?” and make space for more than rote answers.

We have, each of us, wondered if we fit in with the others.

As we open doors into deeper recesses of our hearts, we navigate fear.

We brave disappointing one another with our honest selves.

Together, we invite each other’s childlike selves to show up, share wounds that need care, and receive the tenderness and empathy we need. We share where our hearts are in the process of being awkwardly awake and alive to the mess of life, parenting, friendship, and ministry.

One week, a flurry of text messages appeared about getting together. I chimed in that I couldn’t come, and received no response. With a sinking feeling in my gut, I watched as they excitedly planned time without me.

The loneliness and fear called back to me, telling me how foolish it was to believe I could leave them behind. They whispered of my lack. Told me I was dispensable. Noted how quickly I was passed over.

When our group sat down in our booth at Panera the next week, I swallowed hard and spoke my lies. These friends listened, understood, and opened the door for me to reclaim my space with them.

The triumph of the child over the Pharisee often feels less like victory and more like heart thumping hope as we bring our true selves to each other, vulnerable and exposed.

I need these women, and they need me. While the enemy conspires with a thousand little lies to keep us from being open with others, the Spirit whispers to us that it is worth it, this baring of our souls.

He bids us come with our childlike selves, and believe there is a place for us.

Needing others is not weakness. It is not something to be despised or masked, but rather something to be embraced and celebrated.

There is a place for each of us. Open the door.Twitter
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Finding True Strength: Thoughts on Raising Strong Daughters

Gina Butz Uncategorized 1 Comment

Finding True Strength: thoughts on raising strong daughters

photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When I was pregnant with our 2nd child, I prayed for a girl with red, curly hair. I got my wish, apart from the curls. Looking back, I see now I wanted so much more for her than that curly red hair.

I wanted her to live loved, to be confident in who she is, and to find her passion and live it well. I wanted her to love Jesus. I wanted her to be strong.

Even as she came into the world and grew, I was in a process myself of redefining what being a strong woman means . . .


Read the rest of this post about how God has led me to raise our daughter to have true strength at my friend Beth Bruno’s blog today! She is the author of the soon to be released A Voice Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living. 


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Why Do We Keep Ourselves from Grace?

Gina Butz grace, truth 0 Comments


why do we keep ourselves from receiving God's grace?

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

When you see your child’s number appear on your phone in the middle of a school day, it’s usually not a great sign. Worse when the voice on the other end is in tears. The first thought in my mind was, “Who’s hurt? What’s broken?” (thankfully no one and nothing). Instead, I heard the story of a foolish mistake that resulted in negative (but necessary) consequences, leaving a wake of regret and embarrassment.

Throughout the day, text messages came at me, asking if I was disappointed, convinced that others were disappointed, determined that we should be disappointed. The reality was, the disappointment came from within.

Finally the words came out, “I just can’t forgive myself.” Ah, there it is. It’s not that others hadn’t forgiven. In fact, grace was abundant. Yet there was a determination to continue to stand in judgment of himself, refusing grace.

Sometimes, we’re the only ones keeping us from the grace we need.Twitter


Why do we do this?

We are hard wired for justice. The world tells us we don’t get things for free. There should be punishment for our failure. It feels right somehow to call ourselves to task. Someone must pay.

We forget Someone already has.

So we don’t allow ourselves to grab hold of the grace offered to us in times of failure. It’s our own negative self-talk that keeps us in a place of condemnation instead of resting in grace. Judge and jury hold court in our own heads. While others hold out forgiveness, we hold ourselves just beyond its grasp.

We keep ourselves in chains, when we are called live freely.

If the voice in our heads says we are out of reach of grace, it’s not God talking.Twitter

So what do we do? We claim what’s true.

I reminded my son there is only one Person in the world who has the right to judge us, and He has already made the ruling on our sin, failure, and weakness. No condemnation. Free and forgiven. Nothing we do surprises Him because He saw it before it happened. He sees more failure in us than we see, and He still forgives. Therefore, nothing makes Him withdraw grace. If He has declared us free, then our job is to agree with Him, and let ourselves off the hook.

Where our pride keeps us from owning our humanity, and shame chains us as unworthy, we must humbly accept that we are who we are-fallen people in need of grace.

Humility. Acceptance. Agreement.

Repeat and repeat and repeat, until His becomes the truest voice in our heads, overpowering our lies. This is how we unchain ourselves, and walk freely the grace we need every day.


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Plan to Stay Where God Calls You

Gina Butz home, transition 7 Comments

Photo by christian koch on Unsplash

Leaving home is hard. Finding home is harder.

We live in southeast Orlando, in one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the country. Few of us are “from” here. It’s a transient community. Many of us never anticipated living in Florida, of all places. It feels like somewhere between where we were and where we plan to go, not home. We all face the challenge of how to carve out new life here in this place to which God has called us.

Like I said, it’s hard to find home. Sometimes, it’s because we’re looking elsewhere.

Maybe we can’t settle where we are because we are looking back on the life we had. We miss the community we left, our favorite coffee shop, our old job, or the life we had before kids.

Or we peer ahead to what is coming-the season when kids won’t be in diapers, or we’ll get that better job, when school will be over, or we’re finally married. It’s hard to dig in right where we are and live it fully.

But if we dwell on the past, we won’t see what God is doing in the here and now. If we focus on the future, we miss the blessings of today.

We will not find home until we plan to stay. Twitter

In Jeremiah 29:5-7, God told the exiled Israelites, Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters . . . Increase in number there; do not decrease.”

Strange words to give to people wholly displaced. The Israelites did not want to stay there. They wanted another, different life. 

The fact is, this world is not our true home and never will be. We are on a journey from where we were when God found us to where He will take us in the end. Where we are now is exactly where He wants us to be. So how do we make it home?

  1. Invest where you are

    God told the Israelites to build homes and settle down. Life is different when you own something. You put in time, money, and energy to make it a place you want to stay. Finding home means living like we aren’t renters but owners of this life, however long the season might be. Twitter We give fully of ourselves to the people and places in this season God’s given us, believing that it is worth this time.

    Investing is hard, because it means we pour pieces of our hearts into this season that we might not get back when we leave. Our last year overseas, when we knew we were nearing the end, a new family moved to the neighborhood. We instantly connected with them, but hesitated to invest because we knew it would mean a painful goodbye. In the end, we decided it was worth the investment, and we walked away with life long friends.

    So stay at that church, even if it’s not perfect. Get to know your neighbors. Drive the back streets of your new city until you navigate it by heart. Grab lunch with those new co-workers. Paint the walls. Hang pictures. Plan to stay.

  2. Be patient with the process

    God also told the Israelites to “plant gardens and eat what they produce.” You don’t plant a garden unless you’re willing to wait around for a harvest. Gardens take time, so as we make those new investments in relationships and situations, we patiently wait for new life.

    Oh, it’s hard. But when we believe God is good to us, we plant with faith that good will grow. New life won’t happen overnight, but it will come. So we hope. And in the hoping, we hold loosely to the way we believe He will provide. If we are too focused on how we think He will meet our needs, we are bound to miss what He is actually doing.

    Life will be different than the last season. What we plant here will not produce the same crop we had before, because this is a new place. But this is what we need right now. What grows is what God intends to use to sustain us.

  3. Enjoy the moment

    God also told the Israelites to “marry and have children.” Talk about planning to stay. God wanted them to savor the season. We stop looking back or looking forward and just rejoice in what is here and now. He wants us to soak in with gratitude all that He is giving us. The more we look, the more we see.

    These verses challenge me to consider my attitude toward this place I thought I would never be. Have I been pouring myself into life here like I’m never going to leave? Do I believe this is right where God wants me to be, and that He will do good to me? They call me to love deeply, hope wildly, and celebrate fully this life. Wherever you are, embrace the season. God has good in store for you.

“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” -Jim Elliot

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Are You an Extrovert or Introvert? Or Maybe That’s the Wrong Question

Gina Butz identity 3 Comments

Are you an extrovert or introvert? Or maybe that's the wrong question

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

My 2nd-grade report card tells me I was a friendly, socially active child, but it contains one criticism, “Gina needs to learn to not talk to peers during quiet times.” I was, in the beginning, an extrovert.

And so I believed for many years. After all, I am a verbal processor. I love talking. Public speaking is my jam. The bigger the crowd, the better. In groups, I easily jump in with stories. I’ve always left parties feeling energized.

Or so I thought. After a while, I wondered if what I was feeling wasn’t energized, but “unsettled.” Mixed in with that energy, often, was insecurity. What did people think of me? Did what I share make them like me more? At times I feel compelled to join in social interaction. The FOMO is strong.

God brought me through a season when I recognized the dark side of this drive to belong. The expectations and opinions of others held me captive. As I experienced deeper peace and rest in my identity in Him, I felt freer. In that freedom, I thought, “Perhaps I am actually an introvert.”

So I gave that introvert emotional space to exist. My soul desperately needs solitude and silence to be restored. As fun as it is to entertain others with stories, I prefer sitting in the depths with someone one on one. Small talk is loathsome to me. It was freeing to step away from that which drained me.

Ah, but what to make of all my words and love of people? To claim introvert leads others to assume things about me that are not true: I don’t want to engage with them, would rather be left alone, or need time to think (I probably should take more time to think, but if you need thoughts from me, they’re right there). It’s left me lonely when I didn’t want to be.

Lately, I’ve noticed an inclination to choose solitude when I actually need people. I use the excuse that I’m an introvert, but perhaps the real reason is I’m afraid or lazy.

Easier to say I’m an introvert than drum up the courage to initiate with someone who might not have time. Admitting need is hard for me. Engaging with others is easy when I dominate conversation-harder when I have to listen well.

Perhaps on this journey, I am neither and I am both.

My suspicion is, the majority of us are. More than that, I see is how easy it is for us to use either one as an excuse. We use them to justify seeking the satisfaction of something our soul needs apart from God.

Maybe our pull toward people sometimes isn’t because they energize us, but because we are afraid of being alone. We seek affirmation that we are loved. Our souls ache for belonging. We long to feel accepted. Being with others is both a way to affirm our worth and to avoid the loneliness we dread.

There are times when we choose to be alone because we don’t want to put forth the energy to engage with others. Or we believe others disinterested in our presence. We let inertia keep us at home. And rather than using that time to feed our souls, we distract them with YouTube, social media, and a million other shallow pursuits. Our souls stay lonely.

These days, whether I feel inclined to engage with others or not, I’ve been trying instead to ask myself: what is driving me?

Am I avoiding something my soul needs to address by filling my time with people? Am I hoarding my time because I’m afraid to need others, afraid of rejection?

We all need people, and we all need solitude.

And yes, we tend to be more naturally comfortable with one or the other. But these labels harm us if we use them as an excuse to avoid what our souls truly need at any given time.

Could I suggest instead we be more contemplative? Rather than labeling ourselves one or the other, let’s acknowledge that we were made for both, and ask God to help us engage in ways that feed our souls and others.

Related posts:

Drop the Hot Dog: Learning to Feed on What Truly Satisfies

What I’m Learning from Loneliness


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Why I Love Being Middle Aged

Gina Butz faith, growth, identity 3 Comments

Why I love being a middle aged woman

photo from

This summer I celebrated my 44th birthday. I’m officially just, “40 something.” I thought this was when I was supposed to have a midlife crisis, or pine for my youth, but as I reflect on it, I actually love being “middle aged.” Here’s why:

  1. I am more comfortable in my own skin.

    I’d love to say “completely comfortable” but I’m not quite there. It’s been a journey. I am more able to laugh at my foolishness (and less surprised by it). I’m learning to accept my limits rather than always pushing them. My physical body may not be exactly how I’d like, but I love that it is still healthy and strong.

  2. I can wear what I want.

    Sure, I’d like to still stay within the boundaries of looking socially acceptable (or at least not land myself squarely in “completely out of touch”). But more and more I take a look at what passes for “this season’s trends” and think, “Yeah, maybe next year.” Or maybe never. I’m aiming for “classic” these days. No one’s expecting me to be cool anymore, thank the Lord. Wearing what I like instead of what’s expected is awesome.

  3. I have wrinkles.

    Now, this is a “by faith” kind of love. Sure, I wish I didn’t have them, but the fact that I do is a reminder that I have lived. They are lines of experience, evidence that I have seen and done much. The sun has shined on my face in a dozen different countries. I have laughed. Hard. Those wrinkles are an accumulation of joy at the blessings I’ve been given.

  4. I have life long relationships.

    There’s something about being able to say, “I’ve known this person for decades, and they know me (and still like me).” What a blessing! My husband and I just hit 20 years of marriage. Soon we will have been married longer than we were single. One of my closest friends I have known for over 30 years. The amount of history wrapped up in those kinds of relationships is priceless, and there’s an aspect to it that only comes with a lot of time.

  5. I’m more at peace with the world.

    I get less worked up about most things and more passionate about what I feel really matters. There’s more gray in the world that I knew, and that makes it easier to major on the majors rather than every little thing that seems out of sorts. Along the way I’ve realized most of my attempts to control the world are futile (though don’t be surprised if you still catch me trying). What we think is huge is small in comparison to God’s sovereignty.

  6. My mess doesn’t bother me as much. 

    For so much of my life, I aimed for having it all together. Being messy felt like a one way ticket to being shunned from good society. But some time back, God started teaching me that not only can others love me in my mess, they often love me more when I let them into it. The more I own my depravity, the more I see that God’s grace is greater than anything I lack. He is leading me to rest in my flawed existence and know I am still loved.

    why I love being a middle aged woman

    my middle age self on a mountain in Colorado

  7. I have experienced God’s faithfulness.

    None of these things could be true of me apart from the relentless, tender grace and love of God that has pursued me every day of my life. I love that I can look back and trace the lines of His faithfulness to me through countless years, places, and experiences. He has been my most steadfast companion over all the mountains and through all the valleys. The more I live, the more I can attest to the truth of it, and it makes me love Him more. If I’ve learned anything, it is that He is good.

So there you have it-me enjoying my 40s. The best part is, these things I love will only continue, and I have hope that they will get even better with time.


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