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    Jorge Acevedo
    devotionals

    Today is halloween!
     
    I want to tell you a story about overcoming worry by using our home's pumpkin creations for 2017. By the way, pumpkin carving goes back many years to Ireland. According to the folk-tale, the carving was called Jack-O-Lantern and it was first done on vegetables rather than a pumpkin. The purpose of it was to ward off bad spirits. Of course here in America, long before it was associated with Halloween, it had to do with celebrating the harvest season. Today, pumpkin carving has become nothing more than a fun time at home between parents and kids.
     
    Now to my story... many years ago, while I was in seminary at New Orleans, I had been studying for monster test (hence my daughter's carving of Frankenstein). I was so concerned about passing that it showed.
     
    By the way, I was never an 'A' student in high school; studying and retaining was very hard work. Nothing changed in college. I also bounced from major to major to major until I finally graduated 7 years later with a 2.7 GPA. Earning a master's degree was no different. Maybe you can relate to my learning struggles.
     
    One of my best friends in Seminary was Tim. Today he is a very successful pastor in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Tim and I took many classes together. Sometimes after a test, and on our walk back to our respective apartments, he would say, "I bombed that one", and I would say, "I think I aced it!" But strangely, when the test grades were revealed, it was usually Tim who aced the thing while I bombed out. People like Tim make me sick...
     
    One particular day, after I had been studying really hard for a test I went to the student center for something. My concern about the test must have been evident because a student I barely knew asked me why I looked so worried (hence the carving of a concerned pumpkin below).
     

     
    I answered the guy that I had been studying hard for a test but I was afraid to fail. Without hesitation, he quoted a verse to me and walked away. Those words made such a difference in my life at that moment that I later committed them to memory. They were a direct message from the Lord to me! Jesus' right hand man Peter, wrote them.
    In other words, God is saying, "Hey, its going to be cool; I got you. I'm aware and interested in what's happening to you. Chill... and trust Me."
     
    I can't tell you today whether I made an 'A' or a 'C' on that test. I may have made a 'D', I honestly don't remember but it doesn't matter. I passed the course went went on to earn the degree.
     
    Now, isn't it true that the things we often worry about most never come to pass?
     
    And, isn't it true that most of our blunders never create permanent damage?
     
    Things happen, good and bad. Life throws us all kinds of curves that leave us on edge. But the greatest thing about knowing the Lord is that He knows us and loves in spite of all.   Please allow me to share another verse with you from an old prophet by the name of Isaiah,
    Because of God's love we can be like cool cats (hence the image below), even when under pressure.
     

     
    The End!
    Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment.

    totallylovedbyGOD
    devotionals

    GEM 1   PASTOR CECIL   “OUR COMFORT!” “我们的慰藉!” John 14:1  约翰福音14章1节 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” “你们心里不要忧愁,你们信上帝,也当信我。”   There have been many occasions in my life when I was almost overcome with grief. The death of beloved family members caused overwhelming feelings of loss to surge to the surface. I am told that the rejection of a husband or wife sometimes is the cause of greater pangs of emotional pain and dismay. 生活中,我有很多次几乎不能胜过悲痛。挚爱的家人的逝去令人肝肠寸断。我也曾听说丈夫或妻子的离弃令人悲痛欲绝。   For the Believer, we are comforted with the realization that we are never alone during these times. Jesus knew His disciples would struggle with troubled hearts when He returned to heaven. He gave them (and us) words of comfort and assurance. 对我们信徒而言,我们是得着安慰的,因我们知晓在痛苦悲伤时我们并不孤单。耶稣深知他荣归天堂时,他的信徒会在忧愁中苦苦挣扎。他便给予他们(同样我们)安慰和信实的话语。   His command is to stay clear of a troubled heart. How do we do that? The answer Jesus gives is to focus our attention on the unchangeable and all powerful God who is the creator of all things and the One who loves us supremely. 他嘱咐我们远离忧愁的心。我们如何做到这一点?耶稣的回答是要求我们专注于永恒全能的上帝万物的造主,深爱我们的那一位神。     Are you experiencing a troubled heart right now? Are you trying to cope with the pressures of life by positive thinking in a nebulous concept of God? Jesus invites us to come to Him -- the One who knows us inside and out and is always there for us. He wants to be OUR COMFORT!  此刻你心忧虑吗?你正在试图通过带着对神的模糊概念积极思考,以应付生活压力吗?耶稣邀我们寻求他——那位对我们熟谙于心并且一直守候我们的神。他愿成为我们的慰藉!     May God richly bless you as you bless others by your words and actions! 愿上帝大大祝福你,正如你用言语和行为祝福他人一样!   - - - Pastor Cecil ——牧师Cecil     GEM 2   CHARLES SPURGEON
    查尔斯·司布真   "Your heavenly Father." Matthew 6:26 “你们在天上的父”。 马太福音 6:26   God's people are doubly His children, they are His offspring by creation, and they are His sons by adoption in Christ. Hence they are privileged to call Him, "Our Father in heaven." 神的子民在双重意义上是神的儿女。他们即是神所造的,又是透过基督认领的。所以,他们有特权称上帝为“我们在天上的父”。   Father! Oh, what precious word is that! 父!噢,多么宝贵的称呼!   Here is authority: "If I am a Father—where is my honor?" If you are sons, where is your obedience? 这是关乎权威的:“如果我是一个父亲,我的尊荣在哪里?” 如果你是儿子,你的顺服在哪里?   Here is affection mingled with authority; an authority which does not provoke rebellion; an obedience demanded which is most cheerfully rendered—which would not be withheld, even if it might. The obedience which God's children yield to Him, must be loving obedience. Do not go about the service of God as slaves to their taskmaster's toil—but run in the way of His commands, because it is your Father's way. Yield your bodies as instruments of righteousness, because righteousness is your Father's will, and His will should be the will of His child. 这是饱含情感的权威;这权威不会挑动反抗;这权威所要求的顺服是让人由衷摆上的,即使可以反悔也没人反悔。神的儿女们对神的顺服必须是充满爱意的顺服。这顺服不像一个奴隶对奴隶主的辛劳付出,而是顺应神的旨意,因为这是你父的意愿。让你的身体成为公义的器皿,因为公义是你父的意愿,他的意愿也应该成为他儿女的意愿。   Father! Here is a kingly attribute so sweetly veiled in love, that the King's crown is forgotten in the King's face, and His scepter becomes, not a rod of iron—but a silver scepter of mercy—the scepter indeed seems to be forgotten in the tender hand of Him who wields it! 父!这是被爱覆盖的权威。天父的慈眉善目让人忘记他的威严。他的权杖不再是冰冷的铁杖而是仁慈的银杖。这握着权杖的温柔的手也让人忘记了他的威严!   Father! Here is honor and love. How great is a Father's love to his children! That which friendship cannot do, and mere benevolence will not attempt—a father's heart and hand must do for his sons. They are his offspring—he must bless them; they are his children—he must show himself strong in their defense. If an earthly father watches over his children with unceasing love and care—how much more does our heavenly Father? Abba, Father! He who can say this, has uttered better music than cherubim or seraphim can reach! There is heaven in the depth of that word—Father! There is all I can ask; all my necessities can demand; all my wishes can desire. I have all in all to all eternity when I can say, Father! 父!这是爱和尊荣。父亲对儿女的爱多么伟大!父亲必定会为儿女所做的却不是朋友能给的,也不是行善所能比拟的。父亲一定会赐福给他的后代。父亲一定会强有力的保护他的儿女。地上的父亲用不止息的关爱看顾儿女,而我们在天上的父只会做得更多。阿爸、父!能够如此称呼神的人,他的声音比天使的声音更美!父——多么美好的字眼!父是所有我能求的,是我所需的,是我想要的。当我能称呼神一声父,我就得到了所有,直到永恒。   GEM 3   Coffee Break 茶歇时间   "Get To Pray" “去祷告”   "And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."  Luke 11:1 “耶稣在一个地方祷告。祷告完了,有个门徒对他说:“求主教导我们祷告,像约翰教导他的门徒。”(路加福音11:1)   In having a conversation with people about prayer, one of the things you hear most is-- I don't get to pray.  What do you mean by- you don't get to pray?  They mean they don't get time to pray because they are too busy, have too many other demands on their life and time, they just aren't able to pray.  Newsflash:  it isn't about "getting to pray", it is about "making time to pray". Another newsflash:  the enemy of your soul will make sure you don't get to pray.  He will send every distraction and every excuse as to why you can't pray.  在与人谈论祷告的时候,你最常听到的是:我没法祷告。你说你没法祈祷,是什么意思?这意思是说没有时间祷告,因为太忙,生活中有太多别的事要花时间去做,没法祷告。 我们都知道:重点不是“去祈祷”,而是“挤出时间来祷告”。我们又都知道:你的属灵敌人将阻止你去祷告。他会派出一切让你分心的东西,给你不祷告的所有借口。   When you say that you don't get to pray, it sounds like you are helpless to do anything about it.  It sounds like you have no control over the situations that hinder your prayer life and prayer time.  This isn't true.  You have to make the time.  You make time for everything else, why is prayer (your communion with God) any different?  If you want to go somewhere, you schedule everything else around it.  If you need to leave earlier than usual, you set your clock for an earlier time.  If you want to stay up and watch a movie you force yourself to stay awake.  If you want to go to an event out of town, you will make the hour or two drive.    当你说你没法祷告的时候,听起来你如此无助,以至于做不了什么。听起来你对妨碍你祷告的境况没有办法。这不是真的。你必须挤出时间。你有时间做别的事,为什么祷告(你与神的交通)就没时间了?如果你想去某个地方,你会安排好一切事情。如果您需要比平常走得更早,你会将你的闹钟提早。如果你想熬夜看电影,你会强迫自己不睡觉。如果你想去城外参加活动,你会拿出一两个小时开车。   We do the things we really want to do and we don't let anything stand in the way.  You made time to read this.  You made time to go to your job.  You made time to go on a trip.  You made time to go to the grocery store.  You made time for a hobby.  Why can't we make time for prayer?  It is because it is not a priority in our lives!!  If it were, we would do it.  We would make sure we "get to pray".  We wouldn't let anything stop us.  We would reschedule whatever we had to do to include it.  We would get up earlier if need be.  We would do whatever it took to make sure we got the time. 我们做我们真正想要做的事时,我们不会被任何事情妨碍。你拿出时间阅读这篇短文。你拿出时间去上班。你拿出时间去旅行。你拿出时间去买东西。你拿出时间在自己的爱好上。为什么不拿出时间祷告?这是因为祷告还不是我们生活中的重中之重!如果是,我们会祷告的。我们会确保我们拿出时间“去祈祷”。我们不会让任何事情阻止我们。我们将重新安排我们必须做的事情好有时间来祷告。如果有必要,我们会早点起床。我们会做任何事情,以确保我们有时间祷告。   Have a great day.  If you aren't "getting to pray" it may be because it isn't a priority in your life.    祝你有美好的一天。如果你还没有“祷告”,可能是因为祷告还不是你生活中的重中之重。   GEM 4   MILES MCKEE       The Wednesday Word:  Redemption through His Blood     星期三灵修的话: 通过耶稣的宝血才能被救赎 Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 以弗所书1:7 因为他满满的恩典,我们才能通过他的宝血而被救赎; 也因为他的恩典,我们的罪才 能得着赦免。 Redemption in the ancient world was not a religious idea, but rather a commercial one. Redemption was a term that specifically dealt with the act of buying a slave from the slave market in order to give him freedom. The term used for ‘redemption’ in our text is ‘apolytrōsis’, which carries with it a notion of liberation by the paying of a price. Christ’s amazing blood was the price paid, and it liberated us from the destruction of guilt and wrath.  在古代,救赎并不是一个宗教信仰的概念,而是一个商业性的概念。在当时,救赎这个名词是用在奴隶买卖市场,  代表奴隶已得到自由。    在我们的正文里, 用来代表救赎的字是'apolytrosis' (阿波立特罗思):它意味着通过支付赎金去换取自由。耶稣的宝血就是'救赎金'; 它让我们从罪和愤 怒中得到释放。 To further understand biblical redemption, we should look at three other words associated with it in the New Testament. These words show us 3 distinct aspects of this great truth. The three words are,  要对圣经所说的救赎有更深一层的理解,我们应该注意跟新约有关的三个I 字。这些字显示了三个关于这个真理的独特部分。这三个字是: 1) Agorazo 阿哥拉所 This is a word which describes a purchase made. The Lord Jesus Christ went into the slave market of this world and bought and paid for us. Someone asks, “What did He use for currency?” That’s an excellent question. It finds its answer in 1 Peter 1:18-19 which says, "Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:"  这个字是购买的意思。主耶稣基督去到奴隶买卖市场买了我们,并付了款。有人问,"他用什么货币?"   那是一个非常好的问题。我们可以在彼得前书1:18-19中找到答案。这段经文说道,"你们并不是以易腐败的东西如金银救赎的;而是以耶稣的宝血, 因为他犹如无瑕疵、污点的羔羊般。 " Furthermore, in Hebrews 9:12 we read, "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Again in 1 Corinthians 7:23 we read, "You are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." What wonderful news this is for all of God’s children. We have been bought by saving blood. Christ’s blood is the currency of redemption. It has never suffered devaluation, and it never will.  此外,在希伯来书9:12, 我们读到,"不是通过山羊和牛的血,而是通过他自己的血, 他才能进入 圣殿; 他已为我们获得永久的救赎。"      还有在哥林多前书7:23, 我们读到,"你们被救赎是有代价  的,所以你们不再是人的仆人。"   对上帝的子女而言,这是一个非常好的消息。我们因耶稣的宝 血而被救赎了,而耶稣的宝血就是救赎的货币。它不曾贬值、永远都不会贬值。 2) Exagorazo 伊萨哥拉所 Our second word is Exagorazo. Notice how this is basically the same word as ‘Agorazo‘. It’s agorazo with an ‘ex’ in front of it. ‘Ex’ means ‘out of’ or ‘out from’. So when this term Exagorazo is used, it means that not only were we purchased by blood but that we have been taken out of circulation and are no longer for sale. This is excellent. Such is the power of the blood that it has purchased us and taken out of the marketplace. We are bought with a price and thus removed from the control of both Satan and Sin. "(Galatians 3:13, Galatians 4:5).  这是我们第二个字。基本上,这个字跟之前的字是一样的。它只是加多了'ex'在前面。'Ex'的意思是'出自' 或 '出于'。所以,这个字意味着我们不只是通过耶稣的宝血而被救赎,它也意味着我们已 经不再被售卖。这是极好的。耶稣的宝血有极大的能力救赎我们、把我们带出奴隶买卖市场。我们的救赎是有代价的;  因此,我们不再被撒旦和罪恶控制。" (加拉太书3:13; 加拉太书4:5) 3) Lutroo 路特乌 This third word means to ransom, loose or to set free by paying a price. We have been bought---that’s good news, we have been brought out of the slave market of sin and death … that’s better. But now we discover that the blood has ransomed and freed us to live unto Christ. That’s the best! We read in Titus 2:14 "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem (lutroo) us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (See also 1 Peter 1:18, Ephesians 1:7).  这第三个字是赎回的意思; 它也可以指通过给赎金而被释放。我们已被赎回了 - 那是好消息。我们 已从罪恶和死亡的奴隶买卖市场被带出 -这是更好消息。我们现在知道耶稣的宝血已将我们赎回、  释放,我们才能为他而活。这是最好的消息!我们在提多书2:14读到 "他将自己给了我们,才能从  邪恶中将我们救赎。也因为这样,他才能净化我们,好让我们能够热衷于行善。" (请阅读彼得前 书1: 18 以及以弗所书1:7) What a wonderful Saviour! What a mighty redemption! The term ‘Saved’ has become outmoded in many Christian circles. We are told it is an old fashioned word that puts people off. Not in my book! When we consider the redemption in Christ Jesus and see that it was His own blood that bought and paid for us, and see that He has taken us out of the market place of death and then see that he has set us free, we begin to realise that there is no better word to describe all of this than ‘Saved’. Here’s a hymn that sums it all up:  何等了不起的救世主! 何等伟大的救赎! '救'这个词在很多基督教圈子里已成为过时了。有人告诉我  们这是一个古板的字,会让人反感。  但是,在我的书里并不会不提这个字!  当我们思想在耶稣基督里的救赎,是他自己的血为我们完成的,是他已将我们带出死亡的市场, 并将我们释放了。这一切让我们意识到其实没有一个字比'救'更为贴切地形容耶稣是如何拯救了我们。以下的赞美诗算是做了一个总结: “Thank God I am free, free, free  "感谢上帝! 因为我自由了、我自由了。 From this world of sin,  从这个罪恶的世界中, I’ve been bought by the blood of Jesus,  我因耶稣的宝血而被救赎了, And I’ve been born again  我因此重生了。 Hallelujah I’m saved, saved, saved  哈利路亚! 我已得救了、已得救了 By His wonderful grace  只因他奇妙的恩典。 The blood has been poured out,  他的宝血已倾覆, He has brought me out  他已将我带出 And shown me the way.”  并且指引了我的路。" And that’s the Gospel Truth 这就是福音的真理。

    Walter Kahler
    devotionals

    Do you ever struggle with the small everyday challenges? Try to solve problems alone without reaching out for help. Forget to remember Christ is available.
    I do. 
     
    Often, willpower to overcome a shortcoming causes troubles.
     
    The big life events are easy to accept but the little day-to-day matters life’s terms throw out is a challenge to respond in a spiritual reaction.
    For example, when impatience emerges, frustration ensues. Here controlling the outcome becomes useless. And this makes finding peace unreachable.
    Likewise, anger oozes out my inner-being, especially in bumper to bumper traffic. I don’t reach the point of rage, but anger’s effect is subtle and makes me lash out in unacceptable behavior.
     
    This self-centered tendency spills over into my family, work and social outlets. I can’t escape it, and the more one relies on self, the deeper I fall into the hole of despair.   
    Forgetting other people don’t react to life as me is easy.  
     
    As a Christian, I must remember, Christ is my equilibrium when the scales of temptation tip me into sin. God is my spiritual balance in times of injustice. Nothing equalizes life’s terms than for me to anchor my life in Christ. And as the result of reliance on Jesus, my ability to live peaceful in times of distress increases.
     
    God never fails me. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is always available to guide me in living a saved life. When I struggle, it’s a reminder for me to ask Christ for the solutions. Once I take action with Jesus and continue to rely on His perfect vision, then I’m able to see the path of rightful living.
     
    The fruitlessness from living a unsaved life is familiar. Before God rescued me from the black hole of agnosticism, my existence comprised drugs, alcohol, and egoism. My problems with life never got better, in fact, they got worse. This led me to the road of suicide, but the Lord had other plans and spared me from self-destruction.
     
    My past helps me to remember the outcome of living apart from God. It is a useless and lonely existence. But His grace and mercy coupled with Christ’s redemption show me a future with eternal consequences. I’m grateful for the Lord’s impact on my life.
     
    I hope your experience with God is profound and life-changing awareness.

    Jorge Acevedo
    devotionals

    My buddy Dave took this great picture behind our church property yesterday. Now, I don't know about you but when I see an eagle, a few quick thoughts hit my mind: majestic; top of the food chain; soaring at high altitudes; oh, yeah; proud American; strength! Isn't it amazing how the image or thought of a bird can flood our minds with ideas of greatness?
     
    When others see you or your name comes up in a conversation, what ideas about you do you think come to their minds? What words do you think pop into people's minds when your picture appears on Facebook? I know, I know...we shouldn't pay much attention to what others think about us but let's go beyond the surface here, shouldn't positive words like trusted, helpful, listener, comforting, come to their mind?
     
    Have you ever been in a conversation and you mention someone's name and the other person blurts out the word, 'Obnoxious'! We want to be the exact opposite of that annoying and disgusting guy.
     
    People with great reputations are known to empower others. I think that's why the wise man wrote,
    In spanish there's a word for the smell that hits you when someone that hasn't showered in a while and is not wearing deodorant passes you by, 'Tufo'. Taking a whiff of serious toxic tufo makes one hold breath and walk away. We'd rather be around those who smell good.
     
    I know a gentleman who is known for smelling good. You shake his hand or give him a hug and the cologne he is wearing is always pleasant and soothing. Sadly, I don't know of much more that can be said for him.
     
    King Solomon wrote the first part of the above verse to remind us to make the effort of going beyond the mere externals of smelling good. Yes, you and I don't want to have no tufo (sorry about the double negative) but we want others to be at ease around us and feel like the can gain something from being with us.
     
    There are some folks that have such wisdom and valuable experience that I just want to be around them so I can try to absorb as much as I can from them.
     
    Hands down, to build the best reputation you and I want to first focus inward so we can recognize the gifts, talents, experiences, and wisdom God has given us and then use those to invest ourselves in the lives of others so they can feel better about themselves.
     
    Ask yourself about someone you know, "How can I make him/her succeed?" or "What can I do so him/her can overcome
    or feel better about something or look ahead with hope or reach for their dreams?"
     
    In a 'dog eat dog' business world that may not sound like the smart thing to do but genuinely loving and helping people is key to reputation building.
     
    Always keep your wits about you, though, so others don't try to take advantage of you, but do what you can for others.
     
    We've all been guilty of reaching for someone's hand so we can benefit. How about reaching for someone's heart before you reach for their hand?
     
    One more thing, did you catch the seeming 'weirdness' in the second part of what wise king Solomon wrote? He told us that the day we die is better than the day we're born. WHAT??? That kind of statement messes with one's cerebellum and chicken fries our medulla oblongata.
    The point is that when we're born we're just beginning to live. We haven't made any kind of contribution or positive impact on anyone or on society. On the other hand, at the end of our lives we, hopefully, will have a sense of accomplishment because of the powerful legacy we've left behind that others want to follow. This all may take a lifetime to accomplish but it's worth it for those we love.
     
    Time to soar! Who can you influence today? Who can you bring a smile to? What can you do today to make someone's world better? It's how the best reputations are built. Thanks for reading and please leave me a comment!

    Rebecca Lynn
    other

    "It's a long story." I sighed, brushing my bangs from my eyes and adjusting my glasses.
     
    "And we have time, so start." He stood taller and held the pen firmer.
     
    "Where should I start?" Feeling uncomfortable with slouching, I sat straighter.
     
    "From the beginning would be a good place, but if you want to go ahead and start at the end I'm sure the readers will understand perfectly." He rolled his eyes and smirked. I stuck out my tongue and took a deep breath.
     
     
    "It's amazing how easily we judge books by their covers. Just like we judge people, just like they judged me. They saw my cover and never looked beyond that. Then they would move on to another shelf, another person. Until someone opened my book and read my story, and helped me write a new chapter. 
     
     That's my story. That's where my adventure began."
     
    "I have to say, this 'someone' who helped you seems like a great guy." He smirked. 
     
    "And very modest too." I huffed and rolled my eyes. "This is my chapter, now be quiet." I glared at him. he raised his hands up in surrender, though I knew he would never surrender.
     
    "Okay, Miss. BossyPants." His smirk grew wider. I crossed my arms and raised an eyebrow. He chuckled at the memory. I held my glare. 
     
    "Fine! I'll be quiet." his shoulders bounced up and down as if he were laughing, but he didn't make a sound. I uncrossed my arms and took a deep breath.
     
    "The soft pounding of rain awakened me from my normal nightmares. I wasn't prepared, the tears started to flow. Three years. It's been a year now. A soft moan made me reach for my glasses, making me see I wasn't by the empty casket, I was in my room. I forced my eyes to blink away the tears. I looked at the window, the rain and the wind twirled and danced with the colorful yellow and red leaves.
     
    A small smile spread on my lips as memories of my parents dancing in our kitchen play like a movie in my mind. The tears were threatening to break through my walls, but before they had the chance, I jumped out of bed. Thinking only of the plaid shirt and blue jeans. That's how you stay strong, you focus on a subject. You don't move your eyes, or your broken mind. You stay on target until the task is complete and then you move on to another target. This way you will never fade.
     
    My new target was the stairs that creaked with every shift of a toe. My eyes traced the darkened brown lines that spread across the wood. 
     
    Focus. 
     
    Lines. 
     
    Dark brown.
     
    Focus.
     
    Twenty-three steps later, I met the sweet smell of vanilla coffee. I looked up and saw my mom at the counter swinging her arms everywhere, reaching for the milk and the grounded coffee. I forced a smile. I no longer thought I was the only early bird in the town. Mom's pale, blue eyes woke up before the sun ever since the men arrived to tell us the news. She also had to focus to keep from breaking. That's why she moved us into the retired, old building and opened the coffee shop.
     
    As soon as I took a step closer to the counter, she turned around and met me with comforting arms and a warm cup of hot chocolate. I didn't need to see that she was holding back tears, she was torn to pieces when the men came. Her husband, my father went missing in action on the field. Who knows how he died, I forced myself to not imagine him bleeding, or suffering. Wondering how he would get home to his beautiful wife and daughter. She continued to hug me, telling me everything I needed to hear without using words.
     
    She let go, I could tell she was focusing on my face. The face that had her similar round eyes, slim nose, and high cheek bones. Her eyes studied my thick mouth and deep brown eyes that my father had. She then started focusing on my hair. The soft waves of dark chestnut flowed down to my waist. I smiled the brightest one I could manage and took a step back. She nodded and smiled. We both were comforting each other even without words, sometimes without touch. We both knew what we needed to keep strong. Focus.
     
    We moved on in silence. I grabbed five coffee cups and set them down on the counter. She took the grinds of the coffee and set them by the cups. I signed a thank you and she nodded. I turned toward the boiling hot water. I flipped the switch and poured the water onto the grinds stirring it around and around. I poured more hot water as the bell rang signaling the first customer has arrived. 
     Mr. Don, the mayor, seemed to hold a piece of sunshine in his pocket, his eyes traced the room merrily. When his eyes rested on my mom, he melted into a puddle. It was no secret he thought Momma was beautiful, every man in town thought so, but the mayor seemed to see her beauty farther than her skin. I tensed when I saw him fix his hair. I reached up and brushed my bangs away, trying not to get mad. There could never be a man as great for my mom as my dad was. I turned, focusing on my breaths. Turning back to Mayor Don, I put on my best smile.
     
     "Good morning Mayor, can I get you your usual?" I asked biting my lip so I wouldn't laugh at my fake southern accent.
     "Yes please miss. And by the way, I think your accent is getting better." He winked and I chuckled. 
     "It's not good for a mayor to lie, is it?" I asked innocently while brewing his coffee. I focused on his deep chuckle. Momma walked into the back, she wasn't going to talk to him today and the mayor seemed to notice. I caught a hint of disappointment flash in his eyes but he quickly went back to his normal merry self. I poured him a cup, watching carefully for any unwanted grains. Satisfied, I brought the hot cup to him. He held out the exact amount, I suddenly smiled for real this time. Exact, was one of my favorite words. 
     "Thank you, Mayor, have a great day!" I considered his eyes, he was still hurt from Momma's rejection. 
     "Thank you, tell your Mother I said my hello." He turned and walked off, not wanting to hear another word about how I would do so, since he knew she could hear him.
     
    I heaved a deep breath and rolled my eyes. The bell rang again and I rushed in front of the counter. In walked my best friend since second grade, Emily Porter. She looked at me with her bright green eyes that held so much compassion and mercy. I immediately started to cry, she knew what today was. She held out her arms and I hobbled into them. She mumbled and clicked her tongue, signaling me to look at what she would sign. Emily was deaf, I met her in second grade. No one could communicate with her and so I set out to make her my best friend. I had made my dad drive me to the bookstore after school so I could pick out a book on sign language. Ever since, we have been the best of friends. 
     "I know this is going to be a hard day for you, but remember, your dad wouldn't want you to mope. He would want you to spend the day remembering the happy moments." She signed with a reassuring smile on her face. My lip quivered. I nodded and hugged her again. She was my rock when I lost my dad. She had loved him like a father since he too learned sign language for her. I let go and signed her a thank you. She nodded and wiped away a tear on my cheek. 
     "How are you feeling today?" I asked.
     "Fine, I am just remembering the first sleepover at your house and how your parents were so sure about how they were fluent signers and when I asked where's the restroom they freaked out and were confused." We both laughed for a minute, reminiscing on the memory. 
     "Thank you, I needed that." I signed back, she nodded. 
     "I have to go to speech therapy, I'll see you at six." She waited for my nod and hugged me. Emily was an inspiration, though she was deaf, she was working on being able to perform on stage for theater. I watched her turned to wave at my mom who apparently was watching us. My mom jogged up to us and hugged her so tightly. When she let go, Emily put a hand on my mom's cheek. Momma nodded and Emily out her hand down. We watched Emily leave and I turned to my mom. 
     She freely let the tears come. I hugged her as if I was the glue that held her together. She let go and took a deep breath. 
     "It's time to remember the happy times, to remember all the lives he touched. I know this is going to be a hard day, so I'll be in the back making brownies if you need anything." Brownies were my dad's favorite, I nodded and took her hand before she walked away. 
     "And I'm here if you need anything." She nodded slowly and smiled. I let her go and I walked back to the counter.
     
    The bell rang again. 
     
     I glanced up, and had to bit my lip to stop myself from gasping. A guy, who seemed to be about my age, walked in. The stranger was tall, with broad shoulders and had a muscular shape. His black rain coat reached down to the middle of his black boots. He shook off the coat to reveal a tight fitted black shirt and dusted blue jeans. I looked up to his face. I traced his long nose and big lips in my mind. I was drawing him with my eyes. His eyes struck me, I couldn't look away. They were teal blue with hints of gold pecks that could be seen from miles away. He held my stare, a small smirk played on his face. 
     
    I turned my back, hiding the heat that creeped up on my cheeks. I bent down, reaching the cans of coffee beans. I turned my head just in time to see my mom had walked up behind the counter to get something and smile politely at the stranger and leave the room. Leaving me to help Mr. Handsome. I cast a glare to her but she wouldn't notice, she was in the back.  I turned to face the stranger, his face showed that he was amused. I smiled and bit my tongue, I couldn't find the words to say. I silently argued with myself. He was just a guy, yes, he was handsome but still a human being.
     
    "Welcome to The Coffee House, what can I get you today?" I broke eye contact to look at the blank screen computer, pretending to read something more important. My ears perked up when I heard the stranger's deep voice echoing through the silent coffee shop. 
     
    "Hello, I need whatever is the best drink you got please." then he turned and walked away. my mouth was left in a shape of an O. I turned to the machine that creates the best coffee in the world. The Chai Lover Coffee Monster was our number one seller. It is chai that has spice and love all in one sip while still having coffee that could keep you sane for the rest of the day. And of course, always a unique design on the top.
     
    Unlike what most girls would've done, I did a mountain view instead of my phone number. I set it down on the counter by the cash register, I waited for him to get up and pay for his drink. but he didn't. I crossed my arms. He watched me, drumming his fingers. I have no clue why this made me so mad, but it did.
     
    "Come on 'princess', we aren't bringing it to you!" Confidence seemed to control me, I never yelled at strangers. He smirked. It made the hairs on my arms stand up, I clenched my hands under the counter. I tried to not think about what I just did, instead I thought about the smell of the brownie batter that started to rise in the air. He got up and walk casually toward me. I focused on my heart beat, it was going faster than I wanted it to. Surprisingly my cheeks weren't red with embarrassment.
     
    "Yes, Miss. Bossy," He threw a ten-dollar bill on the counter. 'Have a good day." and he turned his back to me and walked out the door like he owned he place."
     
    "And that was when my life turned into a crazy rollercoaster." I smiled.
     
    "Yes, I did bring fun and adventure to your life, your welcome from Mr. Handsome." He winked. 
     
    "That's not how I remember it. I remember you bringing me problems and pain." I motioned towards my leg. He rolled his eyes, but I could see the guilt and regret in his eyes. 
     
    "Hey, You really did turn my world into a beautiful place. Now, it's your chapter." I stood up and leaned forward him. As I locked eyes with him, I took the pen and paper out of his hands and sat back down. 
     
    "Annnnd, go!"

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