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Kinda Like Grace: A Homeless Man, a Broken Woman, and the Decision That Made Them Family
by Ginger Sprouse
Learn More | Meet Ginger Sprouse
It’s 2017, and I’m hiding out in my garage “office” in suburban Houston. I don’t mean a pretty garage-turned-office from the TV show Fixer Upper. I’m referring to a garage office where my desk is my second husband’s dusty worktable, and the light is a bare bulb hanging from a cord in the ceiling somewhere above my head. An old Folgers coffee can has found a new purpose as my pencil holder, and my view is of my black Jeep and a colorful multitude of dried-up spray paint cans lining the shelves like soldiers. My giant hulk of a dog, Max, sits under my feet, regarding me solemnly as he idly gnaws on his favorite tattered blue Frisbee. He, too, is lost in thought, likely wondering how much longer he has to wait until playtime, while I’m thinking about the last few years and how it came to be that I’m here, hiding out in my dusty garage with a meditative dog for a companion.
I’m reflecting on all the bad decisions piled up high like the boxes and baskets on the shelves surrounding me. I can say that I possess no self-hatred or condemnation. I’m neither angry nor bitter. I don’t need to go to therapy to work on self-esteem issues. I have come to accept who I am: a sinner, saved by nothing else other than the grace of God, and forgiven; imperfect and flawed but loved. I still have a lot of metaphorical boxes and bags I need to sift through, from before my friend Victor turned my life upside down, but all in all, I like this person. I know things could have turned out much, much worse.
My reflection is interrupted by the sudden slam of the back-porch door. I sigh. I’ve been found. I shake my head ruefully, knowing the locked door serves no purpose other than to pretend I can spend some uninterrupted time alone in my own world. Privacy these days is a rare commodity I treasure. I set my coffee cup gently down on the desk and listen: footsteps crunching through the leaves that have blown across the porch, a shuffle of feet, a light tapping on the door frame, then a firm knob rattle.
“You in there?” a deep bass voice calls loudly through the wooden door.
I laugh to myself and think, Where else in the world would I be? I don’t have anywhere else to hide. “I don’t know, who is it?” I call back.
“It’s Victor,” he says, with slight consternation in his voice. I could almost see his forehead wrinkle.
“Victor? I don’t know any Victor. Are you someone selling Girl Scout cookies?” I ask. Then I say loudly, “I don’t want any. I don’t have any money. Go away and leave me alone. I don’t even like cookies.” This is our private joke.
Silence, then a loud laugh and more knob rattling. “You so crazy, you love cookies! What you doing in there with the door locked?”
Max jumps up and runs to the door, whining to be let outside. I slide off my wobbly barstool, walk the short distance, and turn the knob. Victor jumps out of the way as Max runs out looking for his ball. I lean against the door jamb, blocking his path.
“What brings you to my office this evening, Mr. Hubbard?” I needle him. I consider it my duty as his self-appointed big sister, even though in reality I’m not so big next to his hulking six-foot-three frame. But there he is, in all his glory, this sweet, dark-skinned child in a man’s body.
“I just want to get some snacks out of the refrigerator,” he says.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hubbard, we don’t have any snacks here at Sprouse Enterprises, and we’re just swamped here in our corporate office.”
“What you mean ‘office’? This is a garage. You so goofy sometimes.” He shakes his head at my seeming confusion and proceeds to brush past me to the rusty fridge for his favorite V-8 juice. The fridge has become his official domain. It’s where he keeps all his treats, his special convenience foods that I cannot in good conscience buy for him without shaking my head at the sugar and calorie count. The professional chef in me cringes at the microwave taquitos and the fish sticks served with white bread and ranch dressing. So we compromise, and Victor “shops” in his fridge happily several times a day.
“What you up to out here anyway? Why you out here all alone?” His voice is muffled, as he is headfirst in the fridge. Victor is the most social person I know; it ruffles his feathers when I need a little space in my crowded days.
“Well, little brother, just trying to get some work done,” I retort. “But between you and the Girl Scouts, I can’t get anything accomplished this evening.” My mild sarcasm flies past him unnoticed as usual.
“You need any help?” he asks sincerely, as his head comes out of the fridge, hands full of juice, fruit, and fish sticks. He is clutching them to his chest like a twelve-year-old boy, and my heart softens as it always does, no matter how irritated I get with him.
“No homie, no help. Just give me about an hour and I’ll be inside.” I walk with him to the back door and open it wide for him to enter the living room.
“Just an hour, right?” he questions. “Then we can do Bible study time?”
“Yes, sir. I’ll be there at eight thirty.”
“Okay, don’t be late. You know you go to bed at nine fifteen,” he reminds me.
“Yes, I know. I go to bed promptly at nine fifteen. You know I’m early to bed and early to rise. I’ll make sure I’m on time.” This is our conversation. We have it every day without fail. He finds comfort in routine, and I can respect that.
As Victor enters the living room, I poke my head inside and lock eyes with my husband, Dean, who is sitting on the couch with the remote in his hand and our other dog, scruffy little Henry, by his side. He shrugs his shoulders and says sagely, “I told him not to go outside.”
I watch Victor lumber across the living room to the kitchen, a solitary peach rolling across the floor behind him.
“I have no doubt, babe.” I smile and step across the threshold to give Dean a quick kiss. “Entertain him for a bit, would you?”
He smiles back knowingly and laughs. “It’s not my attention he wants.”
“I know, I know, it’s just an hour,” I retort as I begin closing the door. I call out across the room to Victor, “Okay, homie, I’m headed back outside. See you in a little while.”
“Alright, alright, see you then, yeah,” he responds.
He is completely adsorbed with his fish stick sandwich assembly for the moment. I’m relieved, because experience tells me that it will take him at least forty-five minutes to assemble, eat, and clean up afterward.
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