My 500th post! -

So this is a very special post, ya'll. It's my 500th!!!!! Wow! :) What a record number! 

I think it's very fitting that I planned a special post to land on it, too. This is my 2011 Archive Post. I'll be posting a few different things (pictures, memories, Scripture, favorite post) per month, and interesting stats and such. I hope you enjoy it! :) I enjoyed preparing it, and at the end - a video from our family's New Years Eve of 2011. :)

Thank you for reading this year, and for all your comments and e-mails, I love you guys! :) 

~ Jean Marie's 2011 Photo and Blog Archive Review ~

January - 

On the blog: I wrote 18 posts. With 310 views over those 18 posts, and 47 comments! :)

Personal Favorite post: "Beautiful in His eyes" - I wrote this post to my friend Sadie Beth, after we had a particularly difficult chat that night, her in England, me in FL, and as I was thinking over what she had said, it struck me what the root of her sadness really hinged upon, and I knew I had to write her. I cried through writing the post, and she cried reading it. It's times like that that I love having a blog, and I love writing, because I know the Holy Spirit uses it to encourage others as it does me.

Favorite Scripture verse for January: {Psalm 90: 1-2} "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." 

Lucy Mae: At just 13 weeks old, I was wholly in love with my sweet puppy. I can safely say I spent more time with Lucy Mae than probably anyone else that month. She topped family and friends. ;)
Look how tiny and small she was! She's still not a fan of photoshoots in the cold. ;)

Photoshoot on the Savannah - This is one of my favorite memories from the year, actually. Joseph, Lauren, Emily(then Case, now Brower), and I walked over to some land across from the Hope's subdivision, in the extremely cold - non FL like weather to take sunset pictures. What resulted were images that would be our favorites for awhile. :) And lots of pictures have been taken there since, and blogposts to remember by. :) Emily's and Lauren's. Emily & Ben's engagement shoot ended there, and Six Angles shots have shown up from there as well. :)

Dear Lauren and I. With the sunset glory lighting up our curly hair. :)

and then. Lauren had the bright idea for us to sing on camera. Now, I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but I sound like a 3 year old that just had 14 lollipops and went on a Ferris Wheel for the first time when I sing on camera. Aka: really really pathetic and childishly squeaky. I'm not even posting the video of everyone singing nicely, because I just cringe at listening to me. Oh, the drama. 

But THIS. This makes me laugh hysterically. Seriously. When I have a bad day, I just trundle over to watch this and laugh my head off. In case you are wondering what on EARTH is going on? This is what happens when I'm with two of my best friends. And also - they insulted me right before this started, which was why I was crying. hahaha. And yes, I was a wild Savannah lion. They dubbed me the Jeanasaurus. ;) Anyways - this video makes me laugh a LOT. I love them. :)

Lauren: "Right." * EmilyCaseBrower and I die laughing. *

January Dance - Our friend Carrie had a dance for her 18th birthday, and a whole lot of the clan got together and Contra' Danced the night away. Here's Tricia (engaged to Cody, then!), Emily(Case then!) Brower, and Lauren. Please tell me how I got blessed by God with 3 such amazing and sweet girl friends.

The 24th we went Speed Kart Racing in Daytona Beach for EmilyCaseBrower's 19th birthday. We had a RIOTOUS time. Put together our clan, plus speed, plus cars, plus a whole ton of competition and let's just say we might have gotten whistled at a few times for being too rough with the whole "I'm winning, and you will never pass me" thing. We had an awesome time, that's for sure. :) EmilyCaseBrower's post is here.

Top to bottom: Darby (that orange car was FAST that night), Gabe, and Cody.

Baby Avery was born to my dear friends Audra and John on the 26th of January. After learning she was in labor earlier in the day, I stayed outside and prayed and prayed until my heart ached, not knowing what was going on, and then that evening, he was born. When I got the news, I was ecstatic, because Avery was perfectly fine. :) Then when I saw the first picture of his face from his daddy's cell phone, I stared at it for a solid 5 minutes, drinking in the realization that he was FINE and well.

A few minutes later, I was still sitting there staring, and I started weeping. Sobbing in relief and joy....Daddy came over and wondered if I was okay, put an arm around my shoulders. I choked out how relieved I was to see his face, just seeing his face, after months of waiting and fear - Daddy just chuckled a little and patted my shoulders and told me I was so wonderful. I sat there and sobbed and sobbed, my heart was overwhelmed with God's precious gift to my dear friend Audra and John.

A few days later, I wrote his name in the sand where I had prayed for him so much. The beach had been my silent prayer place, where I had begged God for a healthy little Avery. How special are God's ways! 

February - 

On the blog: I wrote 17 posts. With 162 views, and 48 comments! :)

Personal Favorite post: This is a hard pick, so I'll give two. :) "So Lord, Art Thou to Me" - this song had me in overwhelmed tears when the choir sang it at St.Andrews. I loved this post. And the birthday post to my Daddy was a very sweet one for both of us, I think. :) "He is my Daddy". When I look back at the month of February, I see how much I poured my heart out onto here. It brings me both joy and tears to see it. 

Favorite quote of February: John Piper ~ "O weary soul with waiting spent, Cease not to hope nor cries relent. Weep on for years; in Christ there are no wasted tears." 

Favorite Scripture verse for February: {Lamentations 3:22-24} ~ "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion", says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!".

Lucy Mae: This picture cracks me up. I think this is what she often thinks of pictures "Oh, bother!"

When Lucy Mae was 4 months old, she learned that she could jump off the sofa. And go places. So she'd scramble up there, just fine, like she always did, then she would back up, go forward, check the floor, back up, take a stance, and rush forward in what can only be described as a flying leap. You know when dachshunds bound with their front legs tucked up, and their back legs stretched out? EXACTLY.

Once I realized what was going on, I got my camera, and laid out under the Fly Zone. What she didn't know was that she could just drop off the edge, and land. Instead, she would have so much length and power, that she'd cross half the room, then crash and tumble and roll when she landed. IT WAS HYSTERICAL. I about died laughing the entire time. She didn't get hurt, mind you. ;) But it was hilarious!! I could almost hear her yelling "FFFLLLLLLYYYYYYY!!!!!" every time she jumped off the sofa. Oh mah lands. One of the best memories of her ever. On the right, you can see her trying to jump off and pounce on that sock. She overestimated...she landed about 2 feet away. HAHAAHA.

But she seemed pretty proud of her achievements, nonetheless. :) Sweet hysterical puppy.

Saint Andrews Picnic - One of the Sundays in February, the Hopes and my family went to St. Andrews in Sanford for church, and brought along a few quilts and chairs and a lovely picnic lunch. It was the sort of dreamy, cool, breezy, perfectly relaxed picnic day that you would dream up. :)

I adored this picture of Joseph's shoes and Lauren's Snapple. Apparently, no one touches Lauren's Snapple. Who knew? Well, now all of us. HAHA. ;)

Then we went tangerine picking, just a few, they were extremely sour but still addictingly good. :) Lauren, you are so cute. ;)

The 24th was Tricia (Bowen, now Case)'s wedding shower. What a sweet time. Sweet and hysterically funny, because I'd just met Becca Farewell (on the right), and we hit it off in 5 minutes. Apparently, EmilyCaseBrower thought that might happen, which is why she introduced me and then left me. When she returned, we were both laughing so hard, our sides were hurting, and she just grinned at us in love. ;) There was lots of hugging, and joy, because - duh. It's Tricia. :) We all love her to pieces.

On the 28th, everyone I knew was praying for rain. We were desperate for it. We were crying out for it. Every morning, I would get up and check the forecast, and Becs and I each would sit listening to the Forest Fire Radio Chatter online, for HOURS. With the fire within 7miles of our house, and threatening many homes and acres of land, it quickly became the worst fire since 1998. Which was a HUGE deal. It was all very scary, and our prayers were with all our firemen and service men and women. Here was the view that night, the sky literally glowed red for days.

March -  

On the blog: I wrote 19 posts in March. With 351 views and 51 comments! :) 

Of those posts: Strawberry Memories 2011 brought in 88 of those views. Wow! :)

Personal favorite post: "Away, Away" - I wrote this post out of pure dreaming of the New Earth. It gave me so much joy to know that what I could dream up - that it will all be even better than anything I could dream. :)

Favorite Scripture verse for March:  {Isaiah 35:10} "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." 

It rained March 1st - Tears matched the fresh water falling down, as they ran down my face. We were so grateful for the rain, as "we" had been struggling so much with the Ironhorse Fire. When we awoke to the sound of rain falling on the roof, I ran outside with the camera in utter thankful joy. :) 

March 2nd - One of my Mom's older brothers came to visit from up North. We took him to Cape Canaveral Beach, because that's what Floridians do. :) Here's my Uncle Veryl and my Mom. :) I couldn't even remember the last time he had been here to FL, so it was really special he came! We had such a wonderful time visiting and spending time together. :)  

March 5th - Cody and Tricia's wedding day! (We weren't there, though) One of my best friends, Laurie, and Mom and I went Garage Sale Shopping in Celebration, FL. Celebration is a town over by Disney. :) We went to the Columbia Restaurant, and it was SO GOOD. Mama didn't quite know what to do with her Plantain Chips though, she had such a funny/sweet look on her face when she bit into one, that Laurie and I were in hysterics!! :) Good memories. :D 

March 9th -  Discovery returns home to land! Becs, Momma Foster, Cam and I went down to the river to watch her come home. The sight of a shuttle flying in and landing is one of the most amazing things I have seen in my lifetime. It's truly a wonder that such a heavy, awkward vehicle can do that. :) 

The manatees watched too. :) We saw two, and Cam, Becs and I would be leaning over the rail, when one would pop up a few feet away, and blow a bunch of fishy-smelling air in the air, and Becs would scream, and we'd tell her to hush. hahahah. Rewind, repeat, rewind, repeat. ;) 

March 10th - Our tradition. Go to the Strawberry Festival. This year Becs and Cam came too! We had the best old time. :) And we actually had strawberry shortcake this year, it was soooo gooood. 

March 19th - One of Mom's other older brothers came to visit as well, bringing his wife with him. :) LtoR: Mama, Aunt Vange, Uncle Sam, and Daddy. :) Each year my Uncle Sam calls and says it is Santa Clause, and asks us if we have been good or not, and what we want. hahaha. :) They live in MI, and we don't get to see them very often, so it was a real treat having them at our home for a little bit!

March 24-26 was the Ligonier Conference in Orlando. We go every year, and love it so much. 

Plus, this year, I knew Darby, and pretty much thought she was one of the most wonderful, hysterical, sweet, crazy people I'd ever met. I love every second I spend with her. ;) So I was pretty happy when we got a picture together, even though we'd seen each other just a month ago at Speed Kart racing. :)
 I love you, Darbs!! :) 

March 26th was Tricia and Cody's wedding reception at Tricia's parents home. They have extensive acreage, and it was such a beautiful night for a BBQ and fellowship, and yes, I was shrieking when I saw Tricia and gave her a walloping hug, and Cody as well. :) Emily and I shot some pictures together, as the sun went down. I am so thankful to have a friend who loves to do that with me, just spend time doing "nothin'" but looking at what God has designed for that moment. :) She makes my heart happy. :) 

April - 

On the blog: I wrote 19 posts. With 506 views and 55 comments! :) 
Of those posts: "One of the best bros"  - the birthday post I wrote for GabeLynn has the highest view count of any post ever written on my blog. So out of 500 posts, THAT is the most looked at of it all. :) How neat is that?! It rings in at the high count of ..... wait for iiittt .... 136 views!!! Wow! :) 

Personal favorite post: Oh, I have to make it two again. :) "To My Lowie" - my birthday post to Lauren, I had the greatest time writing that one, I kept laughing, and writing and laughing some more. :) and then "Awaiting the Final Resurrection" - it's interesting, but usually the posts that mean the most to me are barely read. Barely read and barely commented upon. Isn't that the way it goes. ;) But that post meant so much to me, and still does. I find myself deeply moved, reading it over again. 

Favorite Scripture verse for April: {John 16:22} "Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you."   

April 11-13th - Some of our favorite cousins came to visit, my first cousin, Cheryl, and her husband Ivan. I know that's a huge age gap, but she is Kim and I's first cousin! :) We love them so much, and it was SUCH a huge treat to have them both at our house. Those few days were filled with so much laughter, games, more laughter, walks, pictures, and a trip to The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center. Daddy was able to meet us in the evening after work, and it has remained in my memory as one of the best all year. LtoR: Cheryl, Mama, Dad, and Ivan.

and Mama, myself, Ivan and Cheryl. We just love and adore them so much!!! :)

April 16 - 27 was, yes. The Spring Barberville Frolic. :) What a riot of a glorious time. With Molly added into the mix, plus Cody and Tricia now being married, and a whole bunch of other people that we just love hanging around - it was a great time! These pictures crack me up. 

*bursts out laughing* No, we don't know why she's making that face. ;) I like to caption it "Is this .... "Burger" BURGER?" Hahahahhaa! Top: Lacey, Emily, and bottom: Lauren and Joseph (slightly). 

Hysterical Tricia drinking Sprite and manning the Ambulance Kart, taking a much needed break from feeding scores of Barberville visitors. On the right: Bradford (and his amazing curls), Molly and Tori and I while chasing a scary fire that got out of control just down the road. 

My favorite picture of Barberville. Lauren looking more like Jane Austen than anything else. :) 
SO beautiful. 

The day after Barberville, April 18th, was one of my favorite days in the whole of 2011. Which is saying a lot, since I had lots of joy that year. :) I spent Sunday night at EmilyCase(Brower)'s, and then we spent the whole next day together. We started out at the beach (with Becca Farewell too), and spent the day in the cold weather and warm sun. ;) Then we had lunch at a place that only accepted cash, and I only had a credit card, yes, LONG story. And then we spent the rest of the day at the beach, driving back to her house, then driving to dinner and then me driving home. hahah. It was a lot of driving. And a TON of singing to every Country song that came on (see this post!). For someone who just loves 1 on 1 time, and thinks it's the best thing ever, I felt like the most special princess the whole day. ;) haha.

Beach babes/best friends/sweet sisters on our way to a really good lunch.  

At dinner at Aunt Catfish's, seriously one of the most YUMMY places to eat. Just don't order the gator tail. I freaked out when it didn't taste the same as the other 6 times I had eaten it. Instead, I think I ate my body weight in their cheese grits. I don't like cheese grits, but OH MAH LANDS THEY WERE SO GOOD. ;) They had this beautiful dock out into the river, and it was the perfect spring evening. 
Emily with Uncle John. :) I really need to write a whole post about this, since clearly, it was so wonderful. :)

After dinner we walked down the dock in the breeze and full moon, and played with the dock lights. :)
This is my favorite. So serenely peaceful, and also managing to look like a J.Crew ad. ;)

April 24th - Easter Sunday, one of my favorite days of any year. Our sunrise service down at the river was sweetly special like any year, and the Lord gave us a beautiful sunrise, complete with a heart in the cloud that made my own heart break and heal in His love for us. Surely showing me His grace in that moment, for that evening one of my dearest friends' brother would die and go to be with the Lord. 

May - 

On the blog: I wrote 9 posts. With 281 views and 36 comments! :)

Personal favorite post: "A Night of Pride"  - makes me teary with joy to think of that night. 

Favorite Scripture verse for May: {James 5:16} "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." 

When I look back on May, I see many very unexpected blessings from my Lord that became such richly sweet memories for me. Times were spent living every moment to its fullest, and enjoying those I was with to the utmost that I could, for that I look back on May as being very full. Full of thanks to God. :) 

May 1-10 Our family was in Tennnessee, and I hadn't told the blog. Some people (cough), we won't mention who, very nicely out of concern for me, freaked out because I wasn't blogging. This was somewhat of a hilarious thing to come home to. :) We had such a wonderful time at our Uncle and Aunt's cabin there, and then spent time with them at their part-time residence a few hours away. We helped them with their huge neighborhood garage sale, and generally had an all around great time together, laughing, playing games and just spending time together. :) 

Our family of 4 had a great time at "the river" like we always do. Taking lots of walks, crossing the river in one-too-many-dangerous places, freezing after falling into the too-cold river on the way back, taking hikes up the mountain and probably trespassing more than exploring, and enjoying each other. :)

In downtown Pigeon Forge, TN. It was so gorgeous (yet very cold that day). :)

Mom and her older sister LuAnn sharing a big hug. In case you couldn't tell from the other family pictures, Mama is the youngest. The baby. haha. :) Mom and LuAnn are the only 2 girls though. :) It was hard to say goodbye. Aunt LuAnn is Cheryl's mom (from up the post). :)

When we got home, our dear friends the LeVeilles came to visit on the 12-15th. They used to live in FL, and were some of my dearest childhood friends growing up. Then we got older, stayed friends, had a bit of a falling out a few years ago, and then made up and now we are closer than ever. In fact, uh. We are kind of inseparable. Sarah and I have always been twins. Twins in crime and in laughter and everything else. :) I pretty much love her to death, and our relationship has grown very deep this year. 

The post on why they came is here. So here we are trying on Flak vests and caps at the Police Hall of Fame here in my hometown. 

The next several days were filled with more talking than probably the whole month combined, beach time, laughing and making hilarious PhotoBooth video, catching up, encouraging one another, tons of hugs and "I love you's", teasing, and doting on Lucy Mae. :) It was such a perfect few days. 

Top: Sarah and Bottom: Miriam. 

The day they left. My dearest Sarah and I. I cried when they left. I love you all so much! 

the 26th -28th was FPEA. I hadn't been since I was little, but my dear friends Audra and John (yes, Avery's parents!) asked if I'd like to come help them at their booth, and help with Avery. My jaw dropped to the floor over their e-mail, and I about burst into tears. I was SO EXCITED. haha. Of course, the answer was "duh. YES.". hahahaha. It was SUCH a great time, I was kind of in heaven. I mean, carry around an adorable baby and run a cash register? Heh. Plus, I got some free time, and met some adorably sweet blogger friends. Holly and MaKenna -for the first time, and my sweet girl friends Jenna and Shannon. :) Plus the Bowens and Farewells were there, and there was this Starbucks Coffee Dispenser. Let's just say I was extremely happy. THE ENTIRE TIME. 

LtoR: Me, MaKenna, Jenna, Holly, and Shannon. :) By the waaay... today is Holly's birthday!! :) Happy birthday Holly!!!! :) I love you, my fellow swate-tae-and-all-things-hilarious loving friend!! :)

I got to spend five days with John, Audra and Avery, and let me please just tell you - I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness to be able to see Avery. I loved every second he smiled, and adored holding him and hugging Audra and sharing with her and talking to John, and avoiding his deep questions. ;) HAHAHa. Isn't he the most precious little boy? 

Oh, and something that will make you cry - we took him to the very same beach that I had prayed so hard for him, and where I wrote his name in the sand! Isn't that sweet? I know! *sniff* haha. 

Then on May 31st, God sent a huge present for our family. :) My Daddy won tickets in their work raffle to attend the rollout of the last shuttle to go to space, Atlantis. We were overjoyed and still are, I think. It was a very small number of people that were allowed to go, and we were able to go, plus, we had tickets for 3 others, and so our dearest launch-loving friends that we have: Momma Foster, Cameron and Becca got to go with us. It was definitely a once in a lifetime thing. It was a completely unexpected gift from God, and I am still so very thankful. 

The memories of that night stay with me, and sweeten all my memories over the years of growing up here in FL and my love for space and exploration and NASA. :) You would not believe how big the VAB is (the building that the shuttle was in), and how tall the shuttle is on the crawler. It just makes you laugh to look at it. haha. :) Daddy told stories about work and data on basically - all things NASA. 

and we watched as it slowly inched past us on its way to the pad. My favorite shuttle .... how great that night was!! And don't worry - that's Cam's camera, not mine. I haven't switched to Canon. ;) 

June - 

On the blog: I wrote 17 posts. With 394 views and 58 comments! Wow, thanks! :)

Personal favorite post: "Happy Father's Day 2011!" I just love writing about my Daddy. :)

Favorite Scripture verse for June: {Job 41:11} The Lord speaks - "Everything under heaven is Mine" 

June was my birthday month!! :) So I think my favorite part of the month was the huge sleepover/extravaganza on the 29-30th. haha. See EmilyC Brower's post on it here! :D 

This picture doesn't really have a date on it, because I'd been skyping with Tricia for a few months then, but this is a screenshot from when I was videotaping her making custard. It was like ... 11pm, and she had this huge desire to eat custard. ;) haha. Our Skype dates happened because we both were early morning sleepers, and so why not get some chat time in, since we didn't see each other that often? :) Those conversations have become so special to me, since lately they haven't had Skype! We shared a lot of laughs, and some tears too. :) 

the 17th we celebrated Mom's birthday by going and getting Dad and Mom's wedding rings re-done, and then having dinner at a Country Club with the Hope family. Mom snapped this one of Lauren and I. :) 

the 18th was Mom's birthday, but since we had just celebrated, she didn't mind if I went to the J. kids ballet recital. :) These kids are very dear to my heart (they are Laurie's), and I wanted to see their routines that they had been talking about for weeks. :) Tell me there is something cuter than a bunch of little girls running around in tutus and ballet shoes. :) Here's Miss. A in hers. 

The 28th was my birthday, and Daddy took me out to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, our tradition. :) 

The 29-30th was my birthday sleepover party/beach party/photoshoot. Take 6 best friends: Becs, Jean Marie, Kim, Lauren, EmilyCBrower, and Tricia, then add the worst skeeter attack since the scene in Lilo and Stitch, then add a photoshoot in that attack, then add Country music, coffee, sugar, and about 4 hours of sleep, shake it all up, and let it explode. Yes. BEST SLEEPOVER in YEARS. 

Not surprisingly, considering how crazy and busy we all were - this is the only group shot that everyone looks alive in. Alive and sane. Alive and sane and sweet. :) I love them all so much. How did I get blessed to have them as my dear friends? I really don't know. Thanks for making my birthday soo special, you 5!

Oh, and Tricia charmed the cows down at the end of our street. They know a farm girl when they see one. ;) 

.... and that was January through June  *deep breath*  Now for June through December! ....

I wrote Becs that "this is ridiculous.", and she wrote me back and said -
"This is going to be ginormous. 
The Titanic/Goliath/Wooly Mammoth/T-Rex/Blue Whale/Great White shark of posts." 

We love adjectives and parallels. Because why use one adjective if you can use six? haha.

July - 

On the blog: I wrote 14 posts. With 341 views and 25 comments! :)

Personal favorite post: "To my beloved piano teacher"  - I really really love her. :)

Favorite Scripture verse for July: {2 Corinthians 1:7} "And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation."

I look at July and ache a little. It was when Atlantis left and came back, for the last time. There were many tears over that. 

The 3rd - Our town did the fireworks at the river on Sunday, and we celebrated with the J. family, Miss. A. was delighted to show me her sock monkey doll - "Ruthie", which is from her middle name: Ruth. :) The fireworks display was gorgeous, with the breeze rustling the palm trees, and cheers sounding from the park along the river and from the houseboats out on the water. :)

The 8th was the launch of Atlantis, the final shuttle to go into space. Our town was flooded with people who came to see it, and the interstate was even closed at our exit. :)

Taking pictures of the Whiteout crew holding up signs. And yes, by the ending, I had tears running down my cheeks. Atlantis is on the left (in case you didn't know that).

It was a joy for our family to have friends down from Ormond and Flagler Beach and some people we didn't know, but welcomed! from Tampa. It was so special to see their joy in watching a live launch as well, although it made me a little sad that this was their only chance for an orbiter.

Lauren (top) and Tricia (with binoculars) :)

It was a beautiful launch. Gives me chills just thinking about it. Although it hid behind the clouds after the first 10 seconds, we were able to see it, and hear some rumbling. :) I came inside, went straight to my bedroom and sobbed for 20 minutes. It remains such a sadness to me that the Space Program was canceled. I was so sad that something I'd grown up with and loved so much had to be over.

That night we held a baby shower for Kimberly and I's best friend: Amanda, who had gotten married last October, and was expecting. We were also bridesmaids. ;) We held it at Laurie's house, and it was a Winnie the Pooh Shower. I'm not bragging (because I didn't think most of it up) when I say that the whole thing belongs on Pinterest. For REAL. It was amazing, mostly due to Laurie's hard work. :)

Here's the baby belly, holding little Theodore Blaise Raley, who was born November 23rd, 2011. :)
We got to meet him after Christmas, and oh my word - he's beautiful and adorable. They call him Teddy. :)

Lucy Mae at 9 months. Tangled up and chewing away at some yarn. :) haha.

Atlantis flew home and landed on the 21st, after a 13 day mission. Momma and I got up early and went to the river to hear her land, and see her a little too (I did see her), and what Momma thought would be us and the dolphins...actually turned out to be hundreds of people and us and the dolphins. ;) We got a spot though, and then ... why not? Stayed and watched the gorgeous sunrise and talked to people, and listened quietly to the soft lapping of the waves and the live NASA chatter stream on someone's iPhone. It was very very special for me. I'm so thankful we were able to go. :)

August - 

On the blog: I wrote 11 posts. With 516 views and 50 comments! Wowee! :)

Personal favorite post: "Oh. My. Word." - HAHAHAhaha. I laugh so much reading back through that. I really WAS all that and more, and still soooo ecstatic about it all. :) But I have to mention the one that really got me through some days, and that is "Stunned by Grief" - the last part of that post makes tears run down my face in joy. Because oh, all that and more that we cry, and it all is for His glory

Favorite Scripture verse for August: {Psalm 147:3-5} "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite." 

I look at August and mourn deeply. I look at August and rejoice greatly. I look at August and break and heal and break some more and heal in the cracked places. It hurts to remember so much grief, and it also lifts the spirit to remember mind-exploding joy. :) One thing repeated often - that joy and sorrow live together in the grieving heart. They do not need to be separate, they are not separate, they are intertwined in the knowledge that Jesus is near, that He is in control, that He comforts, and He gives good gifts always, and that those who love Jesus will only be separate from us here, but never from Him! I said goodbye to a friend from far away, and two of my best friends lost their grandfathers within two weeks of each other, there were many Sundays that tears streamed down my face while I sang.

the 3rd of August bore heartbreaking and devastating news to me from a dear family friend that a mutual friend of ours, Mrs. Young, was not long for this world. I was inconsolable in my grief. 
I took this picture the night that I got the news - a glorious sunset. 

Then just 10 days later, I received word that Mrs. Young had gained her glory in Heaven, much the same time as her little son Ethan had gained Heaven in the early hours of the morning. There had been a rain falling that day, and a huge rainbow filled the sky soon after. It was very bittersweet. 
You can read my letter to Mrs. Young here, and the video I put together after she left our world. 
The loss of her is so very great for her family and her friends ... I can't wait to see her again in Heaven. :)

So with all that great, unbounded sorrow, you can imagine the stark contrast with a huge surprise in the engagement of one of my best friends, EmilyCase to Benjamin Brower. Let's just say it was the shock of a lifetime. I was literally rendered speechless for at least 5 minutes. The next 5 minutes was me trying to explain and tell EmilyCase that she could not be engaged if she hadn't been courting. I actually told her she could not. HAHA. And I couldn't understand why she was laughing when I said that. ;) 

In contrast to bearing the news of dear Mrs. Young, this was unexpected JOY in the midst of GRIEF. I was completely overwhelmed and spent most of that night thanking the Lord Who loves so well. 

And it all started with this simple little picture she sent me while skyping, a few hours after she got engaged on August 6th. :) It was titled "LOOK", and while I was squealing, I was saying, "uh, who is it? Not Tricia, not....Molly's hand.....whose is that? Long fingers, and. OH. MY. WORD. IS THAT A PROMISE RING? IS THAT....." and then she looked right at me and held up her hand in front of the webcam and said "It's mine! I'm engaged!". My mouth dropped to the floor and I stared at her in disbelief. I think she actually got worried that I was going to be in approval, there for a bit. ;) Then I screamed so loud I'm sure it must have blown the sound on my webcam. Then I screamed again. Then I stared at her. 

Me: "to WHO?" - HAHA. I was totally clueless. EmilyC: "To Ben Brower!" Me: "WHAT?! OH MY WORD. OHHHH MYYY WORRRRRRRD. GAAAAAAH. *MORE SCREAMING* I think I'm gonna DIE. happy die." Haha. And you all know most of the rest of the story, and if you don't, find me sometime, and I'll tell you. :) 

Here's my first post on it all. :) and here's a post from when she asked me to be a bridesmaid. I still get tears in my eyes when I remember how sweet and perfect that skype moment was. Gah. *SNIFF* 
Man, it's kind of hard to come down off all that high on EmilyCaseBrower hooplah. haha. 

Here's Lucy Mae at 10 months old. Shot with my new Nikon d90. She loves sitting on my lap outside. 

August 28 -Literally one of the first hundred pictures I took with my d90. "The Train Mouse. With no ring." 
HAHAHAhahah. I got such a kick out of that, since we joked about it on Skype. Don't I look positively forlorn? (and yes, the picture was in a mirror, it's my left hand) 

Interestingly enough, the day I opened up my Nikon d90 from its box, and did a little photoshoot with it, I did my hair and braided my bangs to the side, and then went out that evening with my Mom and Laurie with my hair like that, and I've worn it back ever since. I love it. :) But I knew I would. :) 

The 30th I saw The Future Mrs. Brower for the first time since her engagement 24 days earlier. Believe me, the only reason I wasn't up there within the week was because Emily got sick and then she had to save her voice for skyping and talking on the phone with Ben. I know, because I was put on hold. Apparently, according to our 3 way skype chats, Baby Grapey Case, Cody, and Ben all take precedence over me. haha. Which is understandable. ;) 

Gotta' tell you about when I saw her. Believe me, I was telling myself "be calm, be calm, don't be loud, be calm", it all blew up the minute she peeked out the top window of their door to see if it was me. I could hear her shriek before the door was even open and my shrieking was matching hers. She opened the door and we both did the giddy dance, and not even moving. HAHAa. Then she rushed out, and we were screaming and hugging, and somewhere inside the house, someone said "that must be Jean." HAHA. I was sooooo happy. Haha. 

After Tricia's jewelry show, my Mom went crazy with the camera and took pictures of the three of us, at my request. These just crack me up. Obviously, in the first one, Tricia is her hysterical self, I'm talking, and EmilyCase(Brower) is adorable. Second, aaaaww. Third, laughing hysterically again. 
I love them sooooo much. 

September - 

On the blog: I wrote 18 posts. With 765 views and 60 comments! (yes, the views are correct, I tallied twice to see if that was right) WOW. :D

Personal favorite post: "A Gift"  - heh. I know. Big surprise there.

Favorite Scripture verse for September: {Hebrews 11:1} "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  

September was filled with working through grief and loss and what that really means for the Christian, when I look back, I see how great a blessing that seminar was, and how it still ministers to me in so many ways in the daily walk of grief and loss. September was also filled with ALL THINGS BEN AND EMILY, as evidenced by the pictures below. :)

September 17th was Emily & Ben's engagement photoshoot. Lauren and Emily very extremely graciously (I think that is love, right there, haha) allowed me to come along, and second shoot and video their session, and I was in .... Photographers Heaven and Bridesmaid Heaven, too. ;)

Here is one that I adore, and wasn't published with this post. God made them so perfect for each other!

the 24th was a bowling day up in Ormond Beach, and afterwards we went to the beach to walk....Emily, Ben, Tricia, Cam, Becs and I. Becs was also in total Emily & Ben Giddy Photographer Mode. She was starting to understand how I took hundreds of pictures a couple weeks before, haha. ;) 

Tricia and her adorable baby bump holding Baby Case. 

Completely unposed, but Ben was laughing at something ... or someone? ;) so sweet. 

the 27th there was this gorgeous late summer/early fall (in FL only!) sunset, and the light was incredible. I played around with D-lighting and silhouettes, and loved many of the shots, like this one. :)

October - 

On the blog: I wrote 18 posts. With 475 views and 49 comments! :) The Engagement Photoshoot Video post garnered the most views - 92! I can understand that. ;) 

Personal favorite post: "Far down enough" was poured out of a heart longing to understand, and to listen. I listened, He spoke, and I wrote. I am not saying I am glorified because He whispered Truth, I am saying He is glorified for speaking at all to me, a peasant sinner. I reach for the hem of His robe with hope. and "Tears in the Lion's Eyes"  - this equally impacted me, and still does. I love this story, and love how this post all fell together just right. 

Favorite Scripture verse for October: {Psalm 27:13-14} "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, Yes, wait for the Lord." 

October was mainly wedding shower preparation, then wedding shower, then I got sick and couldn't fly to SC, and then we left for North Carolina along with the Hopes, Cases, and Smiths for the NCFIC conference in Black Mountain. :) 

the 5th was Mama and I and Mrs. Hope and Lauren's wedding shower preparation shopping day. Phew! I get tired just thinking about it! We shopped ALL day, and spent hours at Sam's, and then BJ's, and then uh. Wal-Mart? I don't even remember. Oh, and Michael's, and.....somewhere else too. Mrs. Hope and Lauren and my Mom put so much time and energy into planning and making it perfect! 

I think I contributed....but I also found myself in the Wal-Mart flower aisle going absolutely stir-crazy. I mean, look at my eyes. They just say "CAFFIIIIIEEENNNNEEEE" because I was high on Swate Tae. Which was why I was posing with silk flowers and taking pictures of yarn. 

Let's just say by the time the day was over, we were all OVER IT ALL, and sick of shopping, it was pouring down rain, and we were ready to just take down a rifle and kill a fresh cheesecake to avoid the exorbitant prices. Haha. But it all worked out, and we had a good time doing it. I think. Not that I'd want to do it again soon. Lauren, don't you DARE get married. Hahhaa. jk jk ;) You can. :) 

the 8th was the wedding shower, and it was a royal treat - literally. It was a massive tea party/delicious food extravaganza. EmilyCase was clearly ecstatic about the mini-eclairs that we also thought about hunting down and shooting off some mini-eclair tree because REALLY, who puts 8 in a box? *ok, enough ranting* hahaha.

Dear Lauren. Dear, dear Lauren. Her post on the wedding shower is HERE, and really, she should have the medal for All Photos Wonderful, because clearly she is an amazing photographer. :)

Provy, bringing a gift to be unwrapped. I'm not kidding when I say that all the little girls looked at Emily like she was Santa at Christmas. They didn't even care that none of the gifts were theirs! The minute she would open something, they would gasp and go "ooooh", as if it was magical. It was hilarious! hahaa. I love Provy's happy little tongue sticking out. ;)

The Mommas, minus Mrs. Hope! (how did that happen?) Momma Foster, my Momma, and Momma Case.

then the Marriage Conference in NC was the 27-30th of October 

I think I equally enjoyed hiking the mountain and exploring the glorious part of NC we were in and the fellowship as much as I did the conference and teaching! There were some amazing messages, and I found myself very encouraged and challenged! We had a wonderful time meeting many new friends, meeting friends we knew, but had never visited with, and being with our dear friends from FL.

I did spend more time with EmilyCase than a lot of other people, but don't worry. I was my very social self, and loved hanging out with everyone, and singing in the evenings!

I must say that I really soaked up any small amount of time I could with EmilyCase, because she was getting married in 3 weeks, haha, and I knew that this was special and treasured time. I think we packed enough laughter, teasing, and pictures into that time, as evidenced by my photo archive.
 God sure blessed me. :)

We hiked a mountain. We may or may not have survived without Ben's helpful texting on how to take on a Bear. Emily may or may not have been thankful for said advice and been freaking out, and I may or may not have said 20 times while climbing said mountain that "I am going to DIE.". It was freakin' steep. haha. But we made it, and made a hysterical video on the way down. A great memory for sure. :D

Saying goodbye when they left on Saturday night .... one of my favorite pics of us.

November - 

On the blog: I wrote 12 posts. With 393 views and 32 comments! :) The post before Ben & Emily's wedding day of their engagement photoshoot garnered 107 of those views. ;) They are popular people. 

Personal favorite post: "Sunday Reflections (Week 6)" - I have loved doing these Sunday Reflection posts, and also not keeping a schedule with it. :) This one was very sweet to me. 

Favorite Scripture verse for November: {John 16:22} "Therefore now you have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you." 

Oh November .... November held the great joy and sweetness of Fall Barberville, the Rehearsal dinner at Ben's parent's home, and Ben & Emily's wedding day, and one of the best Thanksgivings in years. It also brought the devastating news to us that our dear family friend was dying....I barely made it through the week before Emily's wedding, my heart was so broken and I spent nearly every night crying myself to sleep. The Lord brought us through it all, but my heart was very tender since we heard the day of the 14th. 

the 1st of November we were traveling home from the NC conference and stopped in Savannah on our way home. It was one of Daddy's old "haunts" from when he was a young musician, and a city that I had longed to see again since some years ago. I loved it, but it also hurt to see a city so fading away. So abandoned in its oldness, something heartbreaking in the way the moss waved from the thick oaks of our Southern heritage. It didn't help that Daddy's place where he had played was gone. Replaced by a condos. But it was still very sweet to walk with him, to hear his stories again, and to see where he had been. :) 

It didn't help that Daddy's place where he had played was gone. Replaced by a condos. But it was still very sweet to walk with him, to hear his stories again, and to see where he had been. :) We had some fun times walking around and finding little shops and eating stuff. :) 

We came home from Savannah a few days before Barberville, and really enjoyed that time. It was the 5th and 6th, and you can see the 2 posts here and here. I still laugh when I watch that Courtesy Cart video with Becca and see Uncle John's truck. baaHAHAhaaha.

Our presents for Ben and Emily. I got the wrapping paper and ribbon, and was so happy, because they were the wedding colors, to the t. :) And I thought it looked exactly like EmilyCase wrapping paper. :)

The Wedding Day! the 19th (My Daddy took all the pictures, since I was too busy being a bridesmaid and being IN pictures. It was really weird to be without my camera, but also a relief. :) )

Sweet Becs and Brittany Bach .... Brittany and two of her friends came to our house for the Atlantis launch! It was really fun getting to know them. :) Also, you get a taste of the huge oaks and gorgeous Spanish moss that was dripping everywhere. It was just a perfect location, minus some ants and skeeters. heh. ;)

and look who showed up, and drove the whole way by herself. :) We were overjoyed. Apparently, she and Molly hit it off right away when Darby came out with the best 2nd liner ever of "Wow, you're shorter than I thought you would be." And then Molly died laughing, and they hit it off. :) HAha.

Lauren and I with sweet Gracie Smith.

Tricia and I, and with Becca Farewell, who pretty much made sure the entire wedding ran smoothly. She was excellent at it, and we were all a lot calmer knowing Becca would tell us when to do stuff. ;)

I almost had as much fun watching Tricia and Cody as I did watching Emily and Ben. Tricia would send me this "I'm about to burst into tears right NOW." trembly look, and I would send her back a smile that said "me too, dear.", and then she'd just hug Cody. It was the sweetest thing to all be "sisters" that day with Brittany, Tricia, and Lauren. :) We are like that in real life anyway.

It was honestly one of the sweetest days of my life. I was so blessed and knew it! Thankful to be friends with someone so dear as EmilyCase and see her marry the love of her life, and become Mrs. Brower! She was beautiful in her gorgeous dress, and I loved every minute of being a bridesmaid. :)
I continue to pray for them both so much, and love knowing they are so joyfully married. :)

And yes, I'm adjusting to calling her EmilyBrower. ;) Right now it comes out EmilyCaseBrower....then people look at my dizzy-eyed! I can't help it....5 years takes a long time to get over and change. :)

Thanksgiving was on the 24th and we spent it with our dearest friends, the Drobnicks, and their extended family and the Jarvis', plus my adopted grandfather, who gave the prayer of thanks for our meal. It had been a long time since I heard him pray so long and brought tears to my eyes.

The food was SO GOOD. Not kidding, it beat anything I'd be able to find at any hoity-toity restaurant. It was delicious Southern comfort food, and I ate my fill. and more. ;)

It was one of the best Thanksgivings in years. We ate, fellowshipped, played tag in the woods with the uncles and cousins and played games and did puzzles and ate pie, and sat and talked and shared and cried and laughed and sang and acted like family.

and I met Meredith. She helps out with the Drobnick family in NC, and Mrs. D. really wanted me to meet her. I kind of dreaded it, because I thought "it's going to be SO awkward if she hates me. What if she hates me? oh man, this is going to be bad.". I think I can hear God laughing.

What turned out was I found another heart-sister/twin/bosom friend. :) In fact, we spent the whole day together, I held her as she shared some things and some tears, and then she came back to my house that night and spent the night (I invited a total stranger over), and we talked into the wee hours of the morning, and then she got up and made frosting for a cake she had made the night before, and we spent the day together again. To the beach, and then later that day for a birthday party, and then a tearful goodbye on Sunday after church. I can only say that God intertwined our hearts before we knew, and put a special spot in my heart for her before I knew I loved her.

We marveled at His goodness, and shared laughter and tears. And she didn't hate me. And I love her. :)

December - 

On the blog: I wrote 10 posts. With 208 views and 24 comments! :)

Personal Favorite post: "The One Who goes with you"  - this has been a comfort to me, knowing Christ goes before us in all things, before us in death, before us in grief, before us in pain. 

Favorite Scripture verse for December: {1 Thessalonians 4:17-18} "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words."

December held many sorrows for me, my family personally, and our close friends. And as it has been only a few weeks since it was December, the pain is very close. I am still unable to write or express any feelings or thoughts, so this will be a short post. Many of you prayed for us and the families we have been trying to minister to, best we can, thank you so very much. 

On the 8th we got up our Christmas tree (from Lowe's - our tradition), and Dad started to string lights on it. Since we put colored lights on it plus white, I took the chance to get a white bokeh picture before. 

the 9th was my Christmas piano recital at my teacher's house. These are two of her ornaments hanging on their living room Christmas tree. I say it that way because they also had a Family Christmas tree on their porch. :) I loved her piano ornament.

their beautiful Christmas tree made up of strings of white lights outside their home. I focused it out manually, to get the bokeh. Because as you know, I love bokeh. :)

I got home from my piano recital, checked my e-mail and learned that our dear friend in Colorado had died of the cancer she had struggled with for 5 years. My Mom had just been up there a few months earlier to help out, and we had known since the week before Emily&Ben's wedding that we probably wouldn't see her healed here on this earth. But I still was begging for more time anyway. I thought she would have one more Christmas. I went to find my Mom and sobbed in her arms for a long time. 

It broke my heart to know she was gone. 

My Christmas present was a ticket to CO to attend her funeral and be with her family. :) Yes. How very heartbreakingly bittersweet it was. Sweet because she is with the Lord, sad because she is not here. 

Mom and I were there from the 14th to the 19th of December. It was perfect and right that we were there, and I knew nothing but the Lord's presence and knowing that I could rest in Him. This was the result of many prayers, I'm sure, from back home! I knew I was being comforted by the Most High, but I can say it was very very hard. I had to say goodbye to my friend, and oh, I was not ready. 

I grieve with and for my dear friends who have lost their daughter, their sister, his wife. 

Sunday morning, the 18th, I rose early to catch the morning sun, with the words of Steven Curtis Chapman's song ringing in my head "This night of weeping seems to have no end, but when the morning's light breaks through, we'll open up our eyes and we will SEE! It's everything He said that it would be! And even better than we would believe!" I took the most beautiful sunrise/sunflare pictures. I was out there in my flannel Christmas pj's and NASA hoodie, standing on the cement surrounded by snow and ice, and this is what came straight out of the camera. No editing at all. Amazing.

I would get home from church and that afternoon, I would check my mail, and see that Lauren had written me and told me that Mrs. Sproul had gone to be with the Lord that morning. I could not have been more shocked or grieved. I felt sick with grief. My dear friends .... Oh Lord, be near. 

I walked around the rest of the day in somewhat of a franticness to capture everything and live in the joy of it fully. I stayed out in the cold and below freezing temps at Garden of the Gods to get some pictures,(The video with some of those pictures is here) and I hugged everyone extra hard, knowing I was leaving tomorrow, heading home for another funeral. When I headed back to the car, I looked down, and someone had made a heart in the snow. Tears filled my eyes as I thought of God's deep love for us, over everything. He is so loving. 

We came home the 19th, and the next two days were filled with loving on the Sprouls as much as possible, and grieving Mrs. Sproul with their family and friends. How sad and sweet sorrow is, when the one you love is dwelling with Christ!

Poor Mama got a very bad migraine and so she was very sick the 20th -22nd, so Kimberly and I took care of her the best we could, and lots more prayer. :) Prayer availed much that month. So thankfully, she recovered in time to enjoy Christmas Eve and Christmas. We were so very thankful.

Christmas Day, the 25th. My Christmas present last year and this year and the next year too. :)

and this is from January, but I wanted to end on a joyful note, this was my Christmas present from Becs. It's a Beaker hat.  :D I ADORE IT. I looked for one for months after Emily got engaged (inside joke), and Momma Foster found one and bought it for me. It's incredibly warm, it is fleece on the inside...I wore it ice skating, and my head was toasty. I also wore it on January 4th (when I started this post, believe it or not, haha), when I went out from 3:30 to 5am in 30 degree weather to watch the Quadrantids Meteor Shower, I counted 25, and they were beeeaaauuutiful!! A wondrous sight. :)

and here is the New Years Eve 2011 video like I promised! :) It was a special time, and a sweet way to end out a very hard, sad and yet still sweet month. Christ was so very near, and we know that we will see our loved ones again, because they live with Christ!! Praise God for the gift of Christ!

Man. If I had known how emotionally taxing this would have been, I never ever would have started it. I thought I'd put up 15 pictures, and write a few stats, and viola! A New Year's post! Instead, I found myself sharing my heart even when I didn't want to, but God nudged me on, remembering that others are blessed when the body of Christ grieves and rejoices together, and in remembering both the joyful and the sad of the year.

My favorite part was looking back at the Scripture verse that meant the most to me that month, and also tallying up the views, since I hadn't done that before! :) And remembering all the ways God has blessed me!

In the end of the end of last year... Christ is all and more and everything to me. I have hated and loved His will, run away from His love, and collapsed in overwhelmed worship at His feet. I have slammed my fists in anger and raised them trembling into the air at His holiness.

I am so unworthy, and He is so kind. He is Jesus, the Savior, Emmanuel - God with us always.
I praise Him with all of my heart .... and I thank you all for all the views and comments, and the e-mails.
With so much love,
~ Jean Marie ~ 
*gasps for air* *faint* Thanks, Becs, for keeping me sane while I wrote it. haha. 

You aren't going to believe this, but I wondered how long this blog post really was .... so I put it in Word document, and without pictures it is - 29 pages long, with a total of 10, 391 words (not counting these). WOW. :) hahaha!


  1. WOW JEAN! That was one epically long blog post. Thanks for posting the year in review.... Lots of memories! I can't wait to see what God has in store for 2012. Looking forward to making hundreds more memories with you!


  2. *squeals with delight*
    That was so much fun to read! I'm also planning on doing a review (mainly pictures, since I'm not as good at writing as you are, haha) of 2011. So much fun to look back through my photo archives.
    This was one crazy year, and I'm so glad I got to spend so much of it with you!

    And I have to say, I think the wrapping on your gift was our favorite. We just kept looking at it every time we passed it before we unwrapped it.

    Love you dearest,
    Mrs. Brower ♥

  3. P.S.
    And wow. Longest. Jean. Post. Ever. Love it.

  4. Aw. :) I especially loved the part about Avery. :) Thanks for sharing such a long post! :) Love you.

  5. Wow Jean!! That was an incredibly long post! But I soooo enjoyed reading it!!!! :D I sooo enjoy reading your beautiful blog!!! Wish I knew you in person! :D You have such sweet and beautiful friends!!!!


  6. Jean, what a long year it has been... filled with times of joy and sadness, but through it all the Lord has been teaching us. I smile at the joys in your life, and sympathize with your grief at the hard times...

    May the Lord fill you and bless you.

    In Christ,

  7. Wow, Jean. It was a splendid review. Love you, mcd

  8. I love Emily's wedding dress!!! :)


  9. Congratulations on 500 posts! I am so encouraged by your sweet words, and hope to see many more posts in the future! :)

    Your Sister In Christ,

  10. I LOVED the first video. It made me laugh. Very funny.

    Your puppy is very cute!

    Trusting His Grace,


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