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Finding grace is enough for anyone

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"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28)

Maylo Upton tells her story in the book "Grace Is Enough."

When I was an infant, my father left my mother for a homosexual lifestyle.

As an entertainer, he traveled and worked with Oscar-winning actors and performers. As a little girl, he would treat me like a princess for a few days when he was in town, but he stopped coming to get me when I was still young.

My mother was an apostle in an underground cult in Los Angeles. She spent most days in a trance, totally neglecting me, my brother and my sister.

After school, I would change the soiled diapers my brother and sister had been in all day and make dinner out of whatever I could find such as ketchup and sunflower seeds.

I don’t remember a time when drugs were not on the coffee table. My mother would engage in sex with various lovers with her door wide open.

Violent and bloody fighting often followed these grotesque displays. To drown out the frightening sounds, I would take my brother and sister to my room, turn up the soundtrack to Snow White and sing and dance with them.

One day, mother brought a prophet from her cult into our home. It wasn’t long before Bernie was sexually abusing me. I was only 11-years-old.

Each time he told me, "This is what love is," and by the time I was 15, he was giving me marijuana joints to help me calm down after the abuse. I hated my mother because she knew about it and did nothing to stop him.

I had to get out.

I agonized over what would happen to my brother and sister without my protection, but with the help of a trusted friend I finally escaped.

I spent a year and a half on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard, using every drug I could find. I finally moved in with a boyfriend who also used drugs.

Things began to change when I was chosen from a group of applicants to receive a scholarship for underprivileged teens at a reputable dance school.

At 17, I was approached by an agent who said he believed in me and he soon got me a role in the soap opera Santa Barbara.

When I met my husband, Willie Aames, he was six months sober and encouraged me to pursue help for my addiction. Kicking drugs was surprisingly easy for me, but once I got sober, I suffered night terrors and couldn’t stop crying.

When I had my first OB exam, the doctor asked how long I was abused as a child. He easily spotted the damage. A biopsy revealed cervical cancer and I was told I would never have children.

I was livid with anger. I had escaped Bernie’s abuse, yet he was still robbing me! Before my surgery, the doctor leaned close and told me.

"I am going to do more than a conization. I’m going to cut out every part of you that was used and violated—every part of you that the man touched."

Though I didn’t yet know Jesus Christ, I woke up from the surgery feeling clean.

A 12-step program stirred my interest in a "higher power." One day I paused to listen to a man on the radio in my car.

He turned out to be a pastor in a church three miles from our house. Willie and I visited the church and met caring people who were in the middle of their own storms but pointed us to Jesus.

Week after week, I came home from church feeling softer and more hopeful. Still, Willie lost sleep because of my continued nightmares and suggested I get help.

"I’m loving you as hard as I can," he said, "but you’re not getting any better. You need a love that’s bigger than me." That bigger love was Jesus Christ.

I see now God had been pursuing me my whole life. When I gave my life to Him, everything changed. Willie and I were baptized and married on the same day.

Later, God blessed us with a miracle: our daughter Harleigh Jean. During the pregnancy, I felt God calling me to forgive as I had been forgiven, but turning my anger over to Him was monumental.

He showed me the only way I could forgive Bernie and my mother was to pray for them—consistently.

It was a slow process, but I found myself weeping for them and I was released from the bondage of my past. I was free to discover who God created me to be.

God knows where we have been—physically, privately and emotionally. Every tear we shed is in His hands. We are a trophy of His grace and He wants to give back to us what was taken.

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