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When I was born, I grew up knowing and loving Jesus. In fact I didn't have very many friends to play with in the neighborhood, so Jesus was my playmate. We would sing together, laugh together, tell stories. He told me many stories. He always told me how He loved me, and nothing I ever did would make Him hate me. He would hate the things I did, but never hate me. See Jesus and His Father loved me so unconditionally. They knew before I was born, how I would live my life, the choices I'd make, and how I would return to them that one special day. That day would change my life here on earth forever.

When I was seven years old, in fact I had just turned seven, my Grandma went to live with the Lord. I was only seven, but because Jesus and I were so close, He told me she was leaving. I was going to Christian school at the time, and I went and told my principal, who happened to be my Pastor too, that God was taking my Grandma to live with Him. Oh well my Pastor thought I was playing games, and thought I was being silly, and assured me she was getting better. He came to my house and told my parents what I said, and they too told me I was being silly. We had just seen my Grandma on Nov. 30th, my seventh birthday, and she was fine. Sure enough, on Dec. 4th 1979 she passed away from a heart attack. The last memories I have of my Grandma was showing her all the new toys I got for my birthday. My Grandma was and is still considered one of my best friends. I know I will see her again someday.

My Dad didnít take her death too well. He began drinking heavily, and becoming abusive towards my Mom. He was always running around with a bad crowd of people. I remember being taken to bars with him starting at the age of 9. He met a woman named Karen, who was 19 years younger than him. She was only 13 years older than me. He left my Mom for her when I was 11, and married her. Karen and I never really got along well. I was her little slave. When Iíd come to visit my Dad, she had all this house cleaning for me to do, so she could drink herself into oblivion. I remember having to make drinks for her, and she would get so drunk. I guess she never noticed that when she got really trashed, I would not put any alcohol in her drink. My Dad stopped drinking, because he was too busy baby sitting her.

My Mom stopped taking us to church, because they told her that she was no good, because she didnít save her marriage, and we were very poor, so we were looked down upon. Snubbed by so called Christians.

When I turned 16, I guess I was in that rebellion stage. I too started drinking, smoking cigarettes, and even smoking pot. I was running around with the wrong crowd of people, always skipping school. Then my depression hit me. I felt like I was in a black hole being swallowed up, and the harder I tried to climb out, the farther I fell. I figured that the only way to make it better was to commit suicide. In fact, I was so down that my Mom was afraid Iíd just leave the house and walk out in front of cars. I remember sitting at home one day and thinking of all the ways to kill myself. I figured the easiest, harmless way was to just swallow a bunch of pills and never wake up. I stood in front of my mirror. Sitting beside me was a tall glass of water. I poured every pill I could find, in my hands. They were shaking so bad. As I began to put them in my mouth, I looked in the mirror and saw a horrible monster. What was I doing? I was taking the easy way out. Or was it the easy way out?

So the years passed, and one day Karen up and left my Dad for a mutual friend of theirs. 10 years of marriage she left behind. My Dad was so sad, but you see it was a blessing in disguise. I didnít know the real man he was. I never got close enough or was allowed to get close enough. Then the day my Step-mother Stephanie came into his life, was not only a blessing to him, but to the whole family as well. She has been nothing but wonderful to all of us. They have been married for almost three years now, and I am so thankful to God that she is here in our lives. She is a wonderful friend, and second mother to me. As for my Dad, we are very close now.

Right after Dad and Stephanie married, I met Brian. He was so sweet and loving. I practically moved in with him. Once we fell in love, I was trapped. I met the real Brian. The abusive one who was addicted to crack, and pot. I was so afraid of him, but I didnít leave him, because I loved him. He shot my self worth down to nothing and made me feel like he was the only one I could ever get. I truly believed that, and I didnít want to be alone forever. I blamed everything he did to me on God. God wasnít abusing me. Brian was and I allowed it. I hid all my bruises he gave me from everyone. I wanted everyone to think I was just perfect and happy. These two ladies I met one night in Sept. of Ď96, saw right through it all. They asked me if I wanted to know about God. I needed God desperately again. I had left Him so long ago. I told them yes, and I started attending their religious meetings. They were in this organization called "The Way International". The main Reverend was located in Ohio, and we would just listen to his sermons on tape. I started feeling really good about myself. I got my self esteem back up, and in Jan. of í97 I was able to leave Brian for good. I was seeing so many blessings in my life. Then I realized "The Way International" was not for me. See I started getting sick in February. Not really sick, but weak. I would be walking one minute and the next I was on the ground. My friends from The Way told me not to tell my Mom, or friends what the doctors said to me, because everyone not in the Way was going to Hell. The Way was the only way to get to heaven. I started thinking, if God is so wonderful, why do I feel so bad? I finally realized after my Mom and brother were trying to tell me for 6 months, that the Way was a cult. I left the Way in Feb. of í97. My momís Pastor invited me to come to his church. My Mom started going there right at the time I joined the Way. I took him up on the offer of coming to his church, and that is the day I truly found God again. My friend Jesus was waiting for me with open arms. Everything made me cry. Tears of joy. I was so happy, and felt so different inside. I felt safe, and calm. I knew that no one like Brian or my Dadís ex wife Karen, could ever hurt me again. I was finally safe in His arms of love.

Soon after I became born again, I fell really hard and twisted my ankle. This happened in mid April í97. I went through all kinds of testing and was to the point I had to hang onto my Mom, because I could not walk at all. I went through MRIís, and a spinal tap, and was diagnosed in the beginning of May, with Multiple Sclerosis. I wasnít scared at all. I knew that whatever God had planned for me, that someday I would be healed. Today, I see my MS as a gift. Sometimes God uses people to be special witnesses for Him. I truly believe, that I will be healed, if not on earth, I will be in heaven. My life has been nothing but full of blessings since I returned to my Father. I donít regret anything that has happened to me in my life. It has all been a lesson to me, to show me how devious the devil can be. Oh and he can still attack me, but now I have Godís protection. God is on my side, and He loves me unconditionally. That is the greatest feeling to ever have.

----Deborah Hartzell aka LilAngel

----February 18, 1998