The following is an excerpt from Awakened by Grace by Darlene West. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.
FRANKLIN HURRIED TO THE FRONT DOOR.
“Who is that? It’s late? Go to bed.”
When he peeked through the peephole, he couldn’t believe his eyes. “Mrs. Hamilton? What in the world?”
He opened the door. Shivering, she held a square Tupperware container near her chest.
“Frank,” her teeth chattered, “I’m sorry for coming by so late, but I wanted to wait until the kids were in bed.”
“Sue, did you leave the kids alone in bed?”
“No. They’re with a sitter. I would never do that. I know you’re the one who gave it to me.”
“What? Gave you what?”
“You gave me the Ford Explorer.”
She swung around and pointed at the SUV in his driveway, “That one, right there.”
She lifted an eyebrow. “Don’t deny it.”
He dropped his head. “I won’t.”
“I came by to thank you, and I made you brownies. It’s my secret recipe,” her chin quivered, “How did you know the red Ford Explorer was my dream car?”
Franklin looked heavenward. It had to have been Jesus’ plan. “Sue, please come in. It’s freezing out there.”
When she stepped inside, she took off her snow boots. Standing in white stocking feet, her eyes were red and swollen. “May I take your jacket for you?”
“No, thank you, I can’t stay long. My friend’s teenage daughter is watching the kids. I promised I wouldn’t be long.”
“I understand, but please allow me to at least make you a cup of tea.”
“That does sound good. I can use something to warm me up.”
“So, is that a yes?”
“It’s a yes, thank you.”
Franklin hung her jacket on the coat rack. She scanned the room as she walked along side him. “You have a beautiful home. It’s very cozy.”
“Thank you,” he pulled a chair out for her. “Please Sue, have a seat.”
“If I had a kitchen like this, I’d bake everyday,” she placed the container on the table top.
He helped her scoot in. “You like to bake?”
“Yes, it’s relaxing. It’s like therapy for me,” she hung her purse on the back of the chair. “And the kids love it when I make them goodies.”
“I bet they do.” He put the teakettle on the fire.
“I’ve been baking ever since I was little girl. My father passed away when I was twelve. My little brother, Larry, he was only eight. I watched my little brother for my mom, so she could go to work at the factory. She worked second shift. So, I had to cook dinner for me and him.”
It amazed Franklin how talkative and friendly she was. From his previous encounters with her, he had pegged her as an insecure introvert.
“We didn’t have much food, but it taught me how to create recipes and how to substitute items for other items. I’d experiment with different ingredients to create meals. I wish he didn’t live so far away. I really miss him.”
He leaned against the counter with his arms across his chest. “Where does he live?”
“He lives near Branson, Missouri. He and his wife go to some mega church there. He preaches to me a lot, but I don’t mind. He’s my brother, and I love him. When I told him about the car, he said it was from God. The man that delivered it to me told me the same thing. He told me that Jesus loved me too. He had quite a story about his own experience with Jesus. I think God could have something to do with it, because nothing good like that ever happened to me before. But I know that you’re the one who gave it to me.”
The kettle whistle blew. Harry moseyed into the kitchen. “Is that your dog?”
“Yes, his name is Harry.”
As though the dog would understand her better, she exaggerated her voice like a little girl’s. “Hello Harry. You’re such a pretty puppy,” she threw him kisses, “Yes, you’re so pretty.”
That voice went through him like a piece of chalk screeching against a black-board. “Come over here. Come on.”
Harry looked at her, turned around, moseyed back to his bed, and conked out. “He passed out fast. He must have been tuckered out.”
“Yes he must have.” He placed a mug of brewing tea and a dessert plate in front of her. Before he sat down, Franklin lifted the lid off the Tupperware container.
“These brownies look like a professional baked them.”
“Thank you. I’m very detailed.”
“I can tell,” he picked one up and examined it. “Wow, look at all the pecans in there, and they look fudgy.” He picked at it. “You put chocolate chips in there too?”
“Yes, I did.” When he sat down, he wiped the crumbs off his fingertips. “How did you know I gave you the Explorer?”
“Frank, your name was on the title. I assume Dr. B. Francis Franklyn is your legal name,
For a plain woman, she had a sweet smile. “The Lord did lay it on my heart to give it to you.” Swallowing down a sip of tea, she looked him in the eye. “But its two years old. It only had forty-three miles on it. Why is it still brand new?”
Lord, help me.
Sue set the mug down. “I’m so sorry. I—um—you have a lot of pain in your face. You don’t have to answer that.”
“Don’t be sorry, it’s okay. I bought it for my wife two years ago for a Christmas present…three days before she had passed away.”
She sucked in her breath as she placed her hand over her mouth. “I’m so very sorry. I shouldn’t have pried.”
“You did not pry. You asked a perfectly normal question.” It struck Franklin. Since Sue had come by, she had made eye contact with him. He rubbed his lips. “I would like to ask you a question. It’s a nosey one. That is, if you don’t mind?”
“A nosey one,” she giggled, “No, I don’t mind.”
“Until tonight, you never made eye contact with me. Why not?”
Her smile fell off her face. “Sometimes it takes me a while to feel comfortable around someone. Well—and—you’re a wealthy, highly educated man. I’m just ordinary Sue. I’m nothing to write home about.”
Franklin never thought himself more special than others, in fact, quite the contrary. But she had
such low expectations of herself. That seemed odd.
“Sue, Jesus loves you.” Without much thought, the words flowed out of his mouth. “He loves you so much that He laid it on my heart to give you the Explorer. When I bought it, I parked it in my brother-in-law’s garage to hide it, and it has sat idle in there ever since.”
Sniffling, she pressed the back of her hand against her mouth.
“Sue, think about it. The Lord didn’t just give you a vehicle. He gave you your dream vehicle. How could I have known that? I bought it for my Katie. But God held it for you. Just think about that. You’re special in Jesus’ eyes. He loves you.”
Franklin found it remarkable that he sounded like Pastor Mark.
Silent tears rolled down Sue’s cheeks. “In all my fifty-seven years, I have never had anyone make me feel special. I never felt loved, either.”
It fascinated him how the words kept flowing out of his mouth like a river flowing over a waterfall. “Yes. God loves you so much that He picked me to help you get your dream vehicle. Think about it, nobody else came by when you were broke down in the ditch before I did. And then I met Charlie’s nephew, Tommy, and Charlie happened to have his wrecker at Tommy’s house. That’s not all coincidence. I’m about to tell you something that you may not have known. I parked in front of your Subaru at Christmas Town, and that was the only available parking space in the parking lot. Maggie prayed that we would meet up with you, and God told her that we would before the end of the day. We did, didn’t we? It was all part of His plan.”
“Sue, the moment I gave my life to Jesus, it was like a veil was lifted off my eyes. It was something spiritual that I can’t explain, but I see things now, like never before.”
“But how could I ever thank God?”
He responded, “All you have to do is repent, and ask Jesus into your heart.”
Sniffling, she asked, “Can you help me?” Uh-oh! Now what do I do? With droopy eyes, Sue stared into Franklin’s. “Well, can you?”
Lord, help me do this. “Yes. I will.” She bowed her head and folded her hands in front of her. “Repeat after me, Father in the name of Jesus, I repent for all my sins. I ask you to come into my heart. Amen!”
The prayer seemed too short, but he hoped it was good enough.
Her head popped up. “Am I a Christian now?” “Yes, you’re a Christian.”
“I understand what you meant by the veil. I can see Jesus is real, now. It feels so good, I can’t stop crying.”
“It’s a beautiful feeling, isn’t it?”
She nodded, “It is.”
Exuberant, he bit into a brownie. The delectable flavor burst into his taste buds. “Sue, this is fantastic! It’s the best brownie I’ve ever had.”
“Thank you,” she blushed.
“I’m serious. If you sold these, you’d be a millionaire.”
“I’ve been told that I should open a bakery, but I don’t know how to do that.”
He had no right to advise her. For years, his insecurities kept him from opening a diner. Only because of Katie’s encouragement, had he considered doing so.
“You know how to bake, right?”
“Yes, but I don’t have a clue how to run a business.”
“The community college offers continuing education courses to help you start a business, or you can take a course or two online.”
“I can’t right now. I have to juggle my time between work and the kids. I just don’t have the time.” She had a point, but it was a shame she had a talent that she couldn’t utilize, especially when she needed the money. “Frank, I need to get home. I can’t thank you enough for all you have done for me.”
“No problem. Thank you for these fantastic brownies. I’ll get your jacket for you.”
As he helped her slip on her jacket, she asked, “Do you like Hermit cookies? I’ve developed a recipe for those.”
“Hermit cookies are my favorite.” “Sometime I’ll make you a batch.”
“Thank you, Sue. I’d appreciate that.” Franklin walked her to the car.
After she drove away, he raised his arms heavenward. With the snow hitting him in the face, he hollered out, “Jesus, being used by you was the best thing that ever happened to me. Let’s do this more often.”
He bounced up the porch steps. He grabbed the doorknob. The reality hit him. “Kitty is coming home tomorrow.” He closed the door, and leaned his forehead against it. “Lord, what am I going to do when they leave?”
Praise for Awakened By Grace
“Awakened by Grace is a touching story of a man whose wife was killed. … His granddaughter, Maggie, opens the heart of her grandfather and teaches him to look outward instead of inward. … It is a wonderful story of overcoming adversity.”
—Susan Osborn, author of over thirty books
“You will love Awakened by Grace and never want it to end. If you’re looking for a book that portrays love, hope, forgiveness, and redemption, this is it. You can’t help but root for Maggie. Her faith is unending and her tenacity is infectious. I highly recommend you grab a cup of coffee and snuggle in for a good read. It will be hard to put down.”
—Veronica Dixon, Christian, wife, mom, legal assistant
“In my opinion, Darlene West’s book Awakened by Grace is very well-written and engaging. Through the trials of the characters in her book, I love how Darlene has used her faith in the Lord to illustrate how she believes that God can bring light to situations that are very dark.”
—Ron Wells, music aficionado, Seattle, Washington
About the Author
Darlene West has a bachelor’s degree in English with a writing minor in the concentration of fiction, as well as a master’s in adult education. Darlene is a retired corporate developer, program designer, evaluator, training needs assessor, and curriculum specialist. Though she grew up in and loved the restaurant business, her favorite regular job was being a Christian radio disc jockey in Champlain, New York. She loves being a wife, mother, and especially a granny.
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