Living in Paradise

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” — Psalm 51:10-12, The Holy Bible, New International Version

By Laura Abel
The Flame Volunteer Writer

I thought I lived in paradise!  That is, until the age of 9, when my mother left our family.  My identical-twin, autistic brothers were 3 and our dad was a “functioning” alcoholic.  From that day on, we went from being kids who had a stay-at-home mom, to being essentially on our own.

When I was 11, my father remarried a woman who was not kind to us.  At the age of 16, I begged my dad, an attorney, to emancipate me in court so that I could live on my own, and that was completed by the time I was 17.  The next few years brought many jobs, underage drinking and promiscuity; looking for love in all the wrong places (and ways).

Eventually I went through cosmetology and barbering school. Then, at the age of 20, I got pregnant with my oldest son, Nick. Many people of my mother’s extended family tried their best to convince me that I couldn’t raise and support a child on my own. However, during  this time, I realized something or someone was speaking into me and encouraging me. Looking back, I realize this was God trying to get my attention.

When Nick was very little, I was married in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, my husband received a promotion and we had to relocate to Anaheim Hills, California. I became pregnant before we left, and shortly after our arrival, he became distant, began drinking and was going to Las Vegas on the weekends to bet on horses. In time, he became angry and abusive. After a couple frightening episodes, I loaded up my two-year-old son, my pregnant belly and everything we could fit in the car and drove back “home” to Chicago.

When Rob, my youngest, was about 18 months old, he craftily removed himself from his car seat, opened the door of our moving vehicle, fell out and was run over by the back wheel of the car. David, the man in our lives, told me upon arriving at the hospital, “don’t put any limitations on your beliefs,”  as the hospital chaplain began praying with us. As it turned out, Rob was completely uninjured, except for some “road rash” on his face and we left with Neosporin!  Another God moment gone almost unnoticed by me — but not completely!

Fast forward to 9/11.  I remember standing in my kitchen hearing the news and feeling completely catatonic, scared to death — I couldn’t fix this on my own. I couldn’t protect my sons from the evil of the world. I heard about a service going on at a St. Louis church the next evening for those who felt like they needed help understanding what was going on. I loaded my sons, then 13 and 10, into the car, and we went. There were two seats available in one pew and one in front of them where I sat. The pastor asked us to bow our heads and to raise our hands if we wanted to know Jesus and I did. Then he asked for those who wanted to give their lives to him to come forward.  I was hesitant, but my son Rob touched me on the back and encouraged me to go forward. So I did. At the altar, I opened my heart and mind completely to God and have never looked back.

The thing I learned that day is that I no longer had to carry the world on my shoulders. I had a heavenly Father who would take my worry and fear, and give me peace, comfort and a home in Him forever without fail. I truly now live in an eternal paradise! Who wouldn’t want that? People may not even realize something is missing in their lives, so what do they have to lose with the possibility of a God that may fulfill every need?

In 2006, my sons and I lost David to cancer, but have the reassurance that he began a relationship with Jesus before his death. In June 2015, I married Jeff, an amazing, Godly man who I will spend the rest of my life with. I have been incredibly blessed! I get great comfort from Psalm 51;  It not only reminds me to be humble and surrender totally to God, but to ask Him to renew and sustain me all the days of my life. God is a God of abundant life and second chances for us all. And I am eternally thankful.

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