Lara Casey Isaacson. A woman full of incredible joy and invaluable wisdom. Her story of motherhood is not unlike many of ours, one of sweet joys mixed with difficult heartaches. In today’s episode she shares with us her story of miscarriage, how she found hope amidst the pain, and what “fruits” she has experienced as a result of her loss and grief.
Hi! I’m Lara. I’m a mom to three–one through the gift of adoption—a grateful wife, and a believer in the impossible (we have quite the story!). I’m passionate about helping women get unstuck, unrushed, and living on purpose instead of by accident. To help with those things, I created the PowerSheets goal setting planner and the Write the Word Bible journals. I founded Southern Weddings magazine a decade ago and am now the CEO of Cultivate What Matters. You can read my story in Make It Happen, and my new book, Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life.
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A FEW OF MY FAVORITE MOMENTS FROM EPISODE 004[09:53] Moving forward is painful, especially through grief. You just feel like “I don’t want to go forward. I want to go backwards to when there was a baby in my belly.” [13:14] God knew. He knew. He knew that we would go through loss. He knew that He was going to grow community in our lives and He knew that we were about to step into the most difficult season ever… And I look back on that and I just think, good things grow out of hard things and His plans were far better than ours. [14:39] To me the biggest fruit is a steadfast faith in Him and a heavenward outlook, and that sounds like a casual way to say it, but it is a complete change of like you’re very molecules, even in like minor things that happen now because of those hard things that we’ve been through and there’ve been many more things than that. But because of that specific season, anytime something feels uncomfortable or I feel like I’m stretched in my faith, I have a reminder of His faithfulness. I look back, not at the joy, but at the hard that brought the joy, at the hard that brought the peace, the hard that brought the stronger faith. [15:31] But if you’re fresh in this grief it is really hard to see the light through the trees. And it is hard to imagine that any good could come out of that. And so to that, I say let yourself grieve because I think I in that season did not want to grieve. I did not want to feel because I felt like if I felt things I wouldn’t be able to control my emotions. And that is the place where God, not just in grief but in difficult things, God wants us to lose it with him. He wants us to come undone because that’s the place of total surrender. [17:46] even though it felt like an incredibly painful season, I felt wrapped in His love because I really had nothing else to turn to….[18:10] and it’s in those seasons of total reliance on him that God’s presence becomes very real [21:12] Even though I feel completely alone right now, my feelings tell me one thing, but I know that my faith can tell me another thing. [24:22] feelings are not the same as our faith and feelings don’t actually inform our knowing of who God is, but they do draw us nearer to Him if we allow them to.
Ashlee: 00:41 Hi friends and welcome to this week’s episode on The Joyful Mourning. This week’s guest is a woman who I’ve known for many years. She is full of such great joy; it’s contagious. Her story of motherhood is not unlike many of ours. One of sweet joys mixed with difficult heartaches. Her hope throughout loss has been so encouraging to me, and I’m sure it will be to you as well. I’m so excited to welcome my friend, Lara Casey to The Joyful Morning podcast. Hi Lara. Welcome.
Lara: 01:09 Hi. Thank you, Ashlee. I’m so grateful to be here.
Ashlee: 01:12 It’s a blessing to be able to talk to you this morning; to just talk through what it looks like to find joy amidst heartache. I have lots of questions I want to ask, but first, in case someone isn’t familiar with who you are, tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you spend your days doing?
Lara: 01:31 Yes, that’s a good question. All kinds of different things on every day. Mostly I am a mom of three. We have two, two and a half year olds. One through the gift of adoption, and I have a six and a half year old, so I work from home. I’ve always worked from home, have a small but mighty team here that works in my home too. So we have a lot of folks under this one roof. Um, but I’m the CEO of a company called Cultivate What Matters and we make products to help women do just that, to uncover what matters in their life and to do something about it.
Ashlee: 02:06 That’s awesome. I love Cultivate What Matters, it helps me cultivate what matters. I love it. For those of you who might just be meeting Lara and being introduced to Cultivate What Matters for the first time, I’m going to include links to their website and some of my favorite goodies from their shop in the show notes. So look forward to that. Lara, you have been an encouragement to me in regards to your journey to motherhood and then what it’s looked like as God has transformed you into this just amazing mother who loves her children’s so much. Amidst your mothering journey, you were really public or open about your pregnancy loss, your miscarriage, in case, this is their first time meeting you. Would you tell us your story?
Lara: 03:01 Yes, I’d be delighted to because it’s God’s story and because of how much I’ve learned and grown through all of this. And it’s funny as you were saying something about how I’m joyful, the first thing that came to mind is that so much of our joy comes through deep pain and I just was reflecting back as you were saying that of all of the ups and downs we’ve been through and I know everybody’s story is unique and hard as a different definition to different people. But for me the story is very rocky guess down and like you said, times of challenge and times of joy in between. And that’s just the way that God weaves our stories together. Um, it started with my husband and I having a very difficult marriage. Um, we started out having two different faiths. He grew up in a reformed Jewish household and I grew up what I would have considered Christian, although looking back, I don’t think my faith was very strong back then.
Lara: 04:05 or knew what it really meant to be a disciple. And so the first few years of our marriage were really rough and I think it was over the course of about four years or five years into our marriage that God broke us down to build us back up again. New. When I say new, I mean like from the inside out. God. And this is like a much longer story for another day, but God used his power to change my husband’s heart and changed my heart in my husband did become a believer, which is still crazy for me to say out loud. So amazing. I’m truly, truly amazing, truly amazing. And I think it was through that experience of seeing him, this man that said, I will never believe in Jesus like this is not for me. Seeing God opened his eyes, helped me to know that the impossible really is possible with God and we never really get the things we think we want.
Lara: 05:02 But God is always loving us no matter what, whether it’s harder, good. And so in the first year, first year of him being a disciple, we had our first child, grace and as I’m sure a lot of people experienced the first year with your first child is very challenging. I went through postpartum depression during that time and just learning how to let go and learning how to let go of my life to make room for her life and to make room for God to really change us. And um, as she grew and as we found joy in parenthood, we started to desire to have another child and to give her a sibling. And we had had a relatively easy time getting pregnant with Grace. And I think that we most definitely took that for granted because as we walked into the next season, it was a time of great waiting and challenge.
Lara: 05:58 And I think it was about almost a year and a half into us trying to get pregnant in — for anyone that’s listening — I realized that there are so many different stories out there of people waiting 10 years, you know, 15 years, forever almost. But still each person’s story, no matter how long it’s been, has its own unique pains in it. And so for us waiting a year and a half to get pregnant, um, it felt like, oh, finally, you know, we’ve, we’ve done it like God has blessed us with the child. And we felt so elated that we told people very early on. And I remember the night that we sat down and told our small group that we were pregnant. I think I must have been like, I don’t know, eight weeks along pretty early. Um, I started to get a bad headache and I just kept thinking to myself that night, this isn’t happening isn’t Lord, I’m not.
Lara: 06:52 No, I’m not even going to say that “m” word. This doesn’t happen to me. And there was a lot of denial. And I remember the next day, you know, finding some spotting and some blood and just kind of didn’t think too much of it. And then it just got heavier and worse and worse and like migraines started to get intense and you kind of fall into this alternate reality of is this really happening to me? And the grief just flooded in. Even before we got to the hospital, I did end up going to the hospital and I will never forget that nurse looking at me and saying, “I’m so sorry.” And she at the same time said to me, “I’m so sorry, but you will have another baby again.” And those are hard words to hear when you’re in the midst of grief because you just think we waited so long.
Lara: 07:39 How in the world could I have another baby? How do you know that? You know, I was just angry at the time, I didn’t say that to her, but it was very kind of her, her heart was totally in the right place. But at the same time I was very grateful for someone having hope where I didn’t. And that just started a painful season for us of not wanting to try again and yet having this longing to have a sibling for Grace and, you know, there’s so many emotions that go through your head at that time, just realizing I’m so grateful to have a child. I’m so grateful that Grace is here with us. And it gave us a deeper appreciation for her. But the grief was real. It was heavy. And I remember not wanting to go outside, not wanting to talk to friends.
Lara: 08:25 I remember wanting to isolate myself and my friend Amber Housley about a week after I had told my close friends that I had had a miscarriage, she sent me this basket of bulbs and it was in the middle of winter. We had just had that crazy snowstorm throughout the southeast. So it was just like all the things were making me feel pretty depressed. So I was inside, it was freezing cold, but my friend Amber sent me this basket of bulbs, like flower bulbs. And the card said something like “after winter always comes spring.” And it was, I mean, I have chills telling you this, it was the most beautiful picture of what God was doing in our lives. And slowly but surely those bulbs did start to bloom and it’s just, you know, that they look like they’re never going to do anything.
Lara: 09:17 They look like dead things there, but little by little they bloomed and they grew and they bloomed. And it was just a reminder to have hope in the midst of what feels bleak. And we started to pray, “God, please tell us what you want us to do next.” And rather symbolically, I sat in my kitchen one day with grace and I pulled out a big piece of scrap paper and I said, grace, I wasn’t planning on growing a garden in the spring because I thought I was going to have a baby and care for, but I’m going to step out on faith here. And it was painful, like moving forward, is painful, especially through grief. You just feel like I don’t want to go forward. I want to go backwards to when there was a baby in my belly. But I just came to that point of, okay, I need to make a decision here.
Lara: 10:08 I can’t keep wallowing in this and to everything. There is a season and I came into the season of wanting to move forward and so I got out the crayons with Grace and the seed packets and we started to dream up what it might look like to have a garden that year. And I think every little mark of waxy crayon on pigment just felt like a little bit of surrender for me of just thinking, all right, I had a plan. It was a perfect plan. I had cleared my schedule out to have a baby and had all these thoughts about that, God had a different plan and it ended up being a better plan. And that ushered us into a season of growing and community and growing deep roots with our church family. I’m leading a small group. I’m having women who had gone through loss and miscarriage before just rally around me and being able to talk to women about loss where I never would have been able to do that.
Lara: 11:07 And helping them walk through those seasons too, and I’ll fast forward, the crazy part of the story is that now I know in retrospect that God used that season to prepare us for what was next. We never could have had any idea that we would have needed that strong community that was built in that season after our loss, in our grief for having two babies at once. And I had just kind of, not given up hope, but just allowed God to work on my heart about adoption. And Ari and I had started to have a lot of conversations about adoption and little by little, step by step, we filled out our paperwork. And the day I finished filling out the paperwork, it was sometime in November, yep, it was like the day before Thanksgiving I finished filling out the paperwork. I was sitting there with Grace. Ari, my husband wasn’t home yet.
Lara: 11:59 And I said, alright, it’s done and I felt total peace and surrender about not having another biological child. And then I said, “Grace, you know what? I just realized, I don’t think I’ve had my period in the last two weeks.” So we got into the car and I went and I got a pregnancy test, which, you know, if you’ve gone through a long period of loss or anything like that, just going into the store to get a pregnancy test is not the most fun thing. But I just felt like, all right, I’ll just see. Let’s just see. I was just telling Grace this very story last night so funny, and I walked into the bathroom, took the test, it was positive and I just started bawling on the bathroom floor and I just said “Grace,” and I pointed to my stomach, “there’s a baby in there.” And Ari, he came home and I said, “so I finished our adoption paperwork” and then I showed him the pregnancy test, like tears in my eyes now.
Lara: 13:02 And it was just this unmistakable Holy Spirit flooding our house at that moment where we just looked at each other and I knew that I was thinking the same thing he was thinking, which was God knew. He knew, He knew that we would go through loss. He knew that He was going to grow community in our lives and He knew that we were about to step into the most difficult season ever, which is a story for another day of having our adoption happen within six months of having a newborn. So that’s my story. And I look back on that and I just think good things grow out of hard things and His plans were far better than ours.
Ashlee: 13:49 I’m so grateful for the story that God has written for you. Even the hard parts of it because, like you said, the good things grow from the hard. And you said, sort of at the beginning, you said great joy often comes from great pain. Can you identify, for women who are maybe in the new days of grief, are there any other fruits that you can see as a result of this hard pain? Like you said, this great joy is a result. Is there anything else that you think is a byproduct, a fruit of this season of loss and grief?
Lara: 14:33 Most definitely. I mean, I think of every fruit of the Holy Spirit has come from our grief, but to me the biggest fruit is a steadfast faith in him and a heavenward outlook and that sounds like kind of a casual way to say it, but it is a complete change of like you’re very molecules, even in like minor things that happen now because of those hard things that we’ve been through and there’ve been many more things than that. But because of that specific season, anytime something feels uncomfortable or I feel like I’m stretched in my faith, I have a reminder of His faithfulness. I look back, not at the joy, but at the hard that brought the joy, at the hard that brought the peace, the hard that brought the stronger faith. I mean I probably could list a million things that are good things that came out of that.
Lara: 15:31 But if you’re fresh in this grief it is really hard to see the light through the trees. And it is hard to imagine that any good could come out of that. And so to that, I say let yourself grieve because I think I in that season did not want to grieve. I did not want to feel because I felt like if I felt things I wouldn’t be able to control my emotions. And that is the place where God, not just in grief but in difficult things, God wants us to lose it with him. He wants us to come undone because that’s the place of total surrender. So yes, there have been many good things that came out of that.
Ashlee: 16:12 I love that you said the steadfast faith. When I think of women who are wise and women that I look up to in their faith, the women that I’m always drawn to are the ones who I describe as not panicky because I would say that is the opposite of steadfast faith. You know, the, the woman who’s faith– it’s not that it’s unwavering because our faith can experience doubts. We can look at God and say, I’m so confused by what you’re doing right now. And that doesn’t mean that our faith is not steadfast. But for me, I feel often like a panicky Christian daughter, even though I’ve seen God move and work and bring healing and bring beauty from the hardest things, I still doubt him in this real, needy type way. And so I just love that you said steadfast faith because I do see glimpses of that, of God growing that in me. Just this, “trust me, Ashlee, trust me with what I’m doing here, and stop being so panicky. How do you or do you see God differently now than before your miscarriage?
Lara: 17:44 That’s a good question. The first thing that comes to mind is, even though it felt like an incredibly painful season, I felt wrapped in His love because I really had nothing else to turn to. And it’s in those times when you have total reliance on Him, like just like it says in scripture, like ask and He is going to provide, you know, seek and you will find him and it’s in those seasons of total reliance on him that God’s presence becomes very real and you get a very real picture of, I don’t know how else to say this, but reality because reality is really God, God is reality. The things of this world are many times, you know, kind of a fake mask. But I think that’s how I have seen God differently is that I know how it feels to feel broken and yet carried and it’s not like we want bad things to happen to us so that we will rely on God. But I often think of those times and think I want my faith to be that reliant, that needy, that I’m connected all the time. And so that feeling of, I’m so known right now by him because I’m pouring myself out is what changed about my view of Him.
Ashlee: 19:14 Yeah I agree. I feel like God gave me this image of him the night, the morning after my son died of him just holding me and I just remember feeling very near to God, which felt confusing to explain to people because, you know, in this world we should experience this anger, you know, that’s what people would think or, or doubt or confusion. And I just felt, like you just said this brokenness, but being carried. I love that you said that. What would you tell a mom who is grieving this way and, but maybe she doesn’t feel God’s nearness? How would you encourage her?
Lara: 20:00 that it’s not about our feelings, that it happens to me all the time. It’s good. I feel his presence, but I can trust even in my head that he is here. I was actually having a conversation with my daughter, grace last night. She sometimes does not like the idea of praying and I am so grateful last night and she finally told me why that is. And she said, it’s because God feels so big. And so try to explain to her that even though he might feel big, we can know through scripture and through his truth, and obviously I’m explaining this in a six and a half year old way, but we can know through scripture and his truth, that he even takes care of the sparrows and we can look at these things, that we as adults have to fill our heads with those truths. So even when we’re not feeling it, we have to re. We have to be our best advocate in those times. And, and I’m, I’m saying this, having many times in my life have I have to remind myself to soak myself in scripture, even to sit one verse and just say over and over like God is my refuge and my strength. God is my refuge and my strength. Even though I feel completely alone right now, my feelings tell me one thing, but I know that my faith can tell me another thing. Um, yeah.
Ashlee: 21:19 Yeah. That’s, that’s a good, a really good reminder. I think our pastor this past Sunday was actually talking about three ways that you can hear from God. And one was through his word. I think we just forget. We forget that we have God’s words are available to us and I also think that when our feelings are communicating one thing to us, we forget that we need that objective discipline to just open God’s word. That’s when we probably need it the most to say, I’m feeling like you are very distant. I’m feeling like you have forgotten me. I’m feeling hurt by you. God. That’s probably when we should open God’s word at the moment.
Lara: 22:06 Yeah, I agree with you. And having said that, you know, our faith and our feelings are not two contrasting enemies. Like God gave us feelings and it just makes me remember too that a mentor of mine told me once, feel the fear and do it anyway. And that’s not like jump out of a plane and skydive statement. It’s first you have to feel it. You have to allow yourself to feel things. And then we get the opportunity to give them to God and say, I’m feeling like you were just not close to me right now. I don’t feel anything right now. I feel angry, feel hurt. I feel like so much grief, Lord, help me in these feelings and those doubts that we have, those times of conflict with God, those things are doorways. Many times we push them away and we think I should not be feeling this way, I should not. And we just need to throw the shoulds out the window because that allows us to have a deeper faith where we tackle those things head on and say, God, I’m angry. What do I do with this?
Ashlee: 23:07 I’ve, I’ve said a lot that to women who are grieving, a lot of those shoulds just heap extra guilt and shame on someone who’s already feeling an abundant amount of guilt and shame. And so I agree the should and should nots are probably not helpful. Um, and you know, I’m so encouraged by the psalms, you know, you read through psalms and you see just a beautiful real life explanation of feeling and emotion, but what it looks like to bring it before the Lord. And so, um, you see through David when he’s, he’s crying out to God. I think it’s in psalms 70. I could be wrong, but he says, have you forgotten me? He literally cries out to God in his. He said, have you forgotten to be gracious, have you forgotten to be merciful. Um, and I think there’s encouragement there to say even when we feel this way, even that doesn’t make it true, but what’s helpful is to bring it to God and allow God to minister to us in those moments. But that is a good. I’m just like circling back. That is a good word for, for these women who are very new in this grief, that feeling, um, is, is not the same as our faith and it doesn’t actually inform our knowing of who God is, but it does draw us nearer to him if we allow it.
Lara: 24:33 Yeah, absolutely. It’s like a pathway, like God created our feelings for a reason and we should listen to them, but in listening to them, we have to give them to God too.
Ashlee: 24:43 Yeah. The podcast is called The Joyful mourning and I always want to be really clear about the fact that joy amidst grief doesn’t mean that we’re walking around giggling, you know. So I’m curious to ask you: What do you think joy or finding hope amidst the grief and loss, what does that mean to you? Or maybe it’s helpful to say, what isn’t it?
Lara: 25:25 I love this name, the joyful morning in your explanation of it, because I think about the literal mornings that I woke up and I was faced with the reality again. Oh yeah. That wasn’t a dream I did. I did lose a child. I have a child and have it now. And just the, the pretty constant reminder when you woke up have, there is a story that’s been written in your life that’s not perfect, that’s painful. I also remember the other side of it though of when I woke up and I thought those things, it allowed me to talk to God about them. And I had to actively practice cultivating contentment, and that’s not to say like I pushed all those thoughts away of grief and said, I’m grateful the sun is shining today, um, but truly to, to talk to God and say, God, I’m really grateful that you’re healing my body right now.
Lara: 26:26 God, I’m really grateful that my husband has been so giving in like helping me do more chores around the house during the season and to count the blessings in. It sounds like a very surface thing to do. But that to me is where you start to see little by little in the tiniest little glimmers of light, you start to see the good that he is working in your life. And I again, I know that’s like almost impossible to see in, nor do I expect anyone to see it in those first few days of grieving. But I do think that in grief, in hard times, we can see more clearly than the rest of the world can. We can see more clearly what really matters and what doesn’t.
Ashlee: 27:09 Yeah. I very much agree with that and I think God in His grace can allow us to see those good things and just like you said, in a deeper way. And I, I remember, um, I remember leaving the hospital without my son and I’m was just over wrought with guilt, guilt, shame, sorrow, just so many things, all the feelings that maybe I felt before, but this was just a whole new level. And at the same time I remember God, it was almost as if he was whispering to me all the things, the way that he was providing for me, even in those moments and in like very practical ways. Like my husband was supposed to have been out of town that weekend. There was all these little things that even from the moment I left the hospital, God was saying, I’m here and I’m providing for you and there is still much to be grateful for.
Ashlee: 28:07 But like you said, it is very hard in those early days, but maybe fighting for that. The first thing in the morning. Just one thing that, that God is doing, or one thing that you have seen him do the day before. One thing that we can just be grateful for does lead to joy. It does. It does something in our hearts. It reminds us that this life is a gift and that God bringing healing into our hearts as a gift and that he is working. You know, one thing you, you mentioned, um, and I know just what a beautiful story that God has of redemption that has taken place in your, in your marriage and also in your family, bringing two babies into your life after your miscarriage. And I think sometimes, especially within the Christian culture, we want to, we want to see the, the good that comes out of the bad, like a specific.
Ashlee: 29:03 Like, oh, now I see why God did this. And there was a lot of times that I, you know, there were specific things that I could say God did this as a result of my son’s death. But you know, I was challenged at the, towards the end of last year, I was reading a book called “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” by Tim Keller. And he talked about how God doesn’t always work that way and we see that even in Job, God did restore Job’s family, but Job never knew why God allowed that to happen, to make it an inside peek into it because we get to read the Bible. But Job never knew, God never told Job. He never explained to him what happened or why it happened or why he allowed it to happen. He never said, you know, you were so faithful job.
Ashlee: 29:52 I wanted to test you. And he never had that picture. And I think there are a lot of women who might not on this side of eternity see what God’s doing in regards to, um, you know, some, there might not be some grand big thing that happens after their loss that says, this is, I’m validating your loss with this thing. Almost searching for. We can search for the silver lining. And sometimes there isn’t a silver lining here. What would you say, how would you encourage a woman who might not be able to see that right now or on this side of heaven? Does that even make, is that, does that question make sense?
Lara: 30:34 Makes perfect sense. And I, I always feel a little hesitant in sharing our story because at first, you know, when you have a loss or any type of grief, having a seemingly good outcome come from it can feel like, oh, like there’s an invitation for comparison there almost. And the truth of the matter though is that, and I’ve got a couple things here. The truth of the matter is that for us, adopting Sarah is not about our story. At first I thought it was, I thought, Lord, this is such an amazing thing. We’ve gone through this loss and now you’ve given us not one baby, but two. Um, but the truth of the matter is that it’s really not at all about us. It’s about her. And it’s even about things that we probably are never going to know about, about her birth mom and how beautiful that story has been in our lives.
Lara: 31:28 Um, but the other part of it is what you just said, which is that we don’t know the end of this story. Like we, we know the end of the story. We know the end of God’s story already. We know that the ending is really good, but we don’t know how our stories will intersect with other peoples. So for me specifically, when I have been able to talk to other women about grief or loss or hear their stories, I’m just reminded that you never know the impact that your story hasn’t somebody else’s life. So you may not see the fruit directly in your life. But I almost can guarantee you that when we share our suffering with other people, and not to say everybody needs to go share their suffering with other people, but even people that are close to you, it can have a domino effect.
Lara: 32:15 And really the, the only time that we’re going to know the profound impact that our pain and suffering had in a good way on people’s lives is when we reach heaven’s gates. And I, I so look forward to that. And I pray that the Lord allows people who are not feeling the fruit after grief or they’re not feeling there’s any hope. Pray that he gives them a window to that to say, you know what, you may not have felt it. You may not have seen it, but look what I was working in your life. Look what I was working through you to other people.
Ashlee: 32:52 Yeah.
Ashlee: 32:52 That’s good. That’s so good. Okay. I just want to finish up with just one, one last question. Um, if you were just, you know, looking at a mom who just is fresh in this grief and loss experience, what is one thing that you would tell her today?
Lara: 33:12 I would tell her what I wanted to hear, which was not have hope. Everything will be great in the future, but I’m so sorry. It’s okay. Degree like it is okay to feel exactly what you’re feeling right now. To feel broken, to feel sad, feel I’m totally destroyed. Uh, it, it’s okay to feel. And I accept you as you are right where you are.
Ashlee: 33:37 Yeah.
Ashlee: 33:38 Thank you. Are. That was just really sweet. And for those listening, just know that we are praying for you and God does love you. And even if he feels far away, he is near. And I pray that you would cling to that truth today. Until next time, friends, have a great week.
The full transcript is provided by an online app and while I do my best to catch any transcription mistakes it is highly possible that a few may have been missed. If something is not clear please refer back to the audio for reference.
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