Introduction to Book 1

Fall 1993

Layton Brooks stood in the doorway of his man cave. Years ago, he’d playfully posted a commercial Keep Out sign on the door. However, a mischievous nine-year-old had scratched through it with a big red X. With large letters, she’d carefully printed, Come on In.

Now the little girl was grown and away at college. However, the invitation stood. Inside, friends and family had taken their places around the imposing trophy case on the back wall between two windows. The glass shelves contained memories that would outlive him.

On the top shelves stood his most prized possessions. Each trophy had been engraved with a person’s name, date, and quality he or she represented. He’d presented the trophies in person or, in one case, in absentia. These heroes of faith had been his spiritual mentors. People such as Myra Norwell, who demonstrated peace in her illness. How about Brianne’s endurance when she’d received a similar diagnosis?

Layton ambled toward his recliner, coffee cup in hand, eyes still on the trophy case. When the time came to unveil a new trophy, he’d presented it to those gathered to “build faith muscles,” as he put it. Always tears and hugs followed the brief ceremony.

The idea had come from Meme Dyer, his daughter Brianne’s grandmother. Once, as they were saying their goodbyes at the Nashville airport, Meme had affirmed that God’s good purposes in Brianne’s illness would be a trophy of His grace.

Back home from the airport, Layton had looked again at the wooden cabinet poised against the wall of his man cave. Hmm, he’d mused, a trophy of God’s grace. A trophy case to display God’s grace! Suddenly, the piece of furniture took on a whole new meaning:

Grace is God’s way of treating us as though we are deserving of His blessings—although, of course, we’re not.

Meme’s optimism had been the inspiration for the trophy Layton had awarded her—a trophy for hope. Her daughter Amy had been the one to label her mother a beam of hope in their darkest hours.

Layton let out a long, satisfied sigh. Settling his lanky frame into his well-worn recliner, he placed the coffee cup on the end table. Memories flooded him. True, life would have been very different if Brianne’s illness had led to another conclusion. Maybe life would have been less complicated. But so much less rewarding. That had been many years ago.

Too bad the story of how it all came about had begun on such a dismal note. He frowned, recalling that foggy morning in 1979 when he’d set out for Nashville—the last place on earth he wanted to be.