“I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:1-3
I count it a privilege and a joy to hear and share the stories of so many women that I know, love, and respect. Listening to their stories unfold changes me every single time. My prayer is that each story changes you as well. As I heard her story for the first time through, tears streamed down my face – all that she had been through, all that she had been forced to overcome…I couldn’t help but hear a common theme shouting out of the details: Redemption. She was redeemed. She was pulled up out of the pit. God rescued her. He healed her. Grab a tissue. This is Her Story.
Her story really begins at conception. Her mother conceived her when she was 16 years old. Living in poverty with parents who were addicted to numerous substances, she was strongly encouraged to have an abortion. Her mother was literally sitting in the abortion clinic, ready to go through with it, but decided against all odds to make the very difficult choice to walk out of the clinic and keep her child. Everyone told her that her life was over, that she wouldn’t be able to support this child, but she pressed on. When she was two months pregnant, her mother moved in with her father. Life was not easy, but together, they made it work. Her dad was a little older than her mom, so he was able to work and support them. Even though life was still hard, her dad really rescued her mom from poverty and from her parents, whose lives were falling apart.
Her dad was amazing. On the night they brought her home from the hospital, he told her mom to make sure he didn’t sleep through the night. He wanted to get up to help feed and change their new baby girl. He wanted to be completely involved. And he was. The first nine years of her life were filled with love and the knowledge that her parents adored her.
Although she knew she was loved, once her sister was born 2 ½ years later, both of her parents became heavy drug users. By the tender age of five, she knew how to roll a joint and a dollar bill. Drugs were the culture in their home. This was in the early 1970s. She always would say that her parents were hippies. Not the make-love-not-war-protesting-hippies, but the let’s-grow-pot-in-the-backyard type of hippies. And still, even immersed in this drug culture, she never felt neglected or unloved. She was taken care of and never questioned her parents’ love for her. They always had food on the table. Her mom was a stay at home mom. They looked like a typical American family. They even had a 1968 Volkswagen Van.
During these early years however, she experienced things a child never should. She was molested by her grandfather. She witnessed numerous drug deals and watched her mom overdose on valium. She knew how to separate the seeds from the marijuana and use a razor blade to cut lines of cocaine. At six years old, she also witnessed her mother praying. When she first saw it, she thought her mom had fallen asleep. With her head in her hands leaning on the kitchen table, she very well could’ve been. She asked, “Mom, are you asleep?” Her mother replied, “No honey, I’m praying.” She had no idea what that meant as they did not attend church, and she doesn’t remember if the conversation went any further, but she knew that this was her first conscience encounter with God.
The years of drug abuse definitely took a toll on her parents’ marriage. When she was nine, they divorced. She and her sister lived with her dad because her mom had to learn how to be an adult. Her mom had only been 17 when they got married, and she needed to learn how to work and support herself.
By the time she was 10, her dad was remarried, she had three new stepsiblings, and she was in complete culture shock. Her new step-mom was a single mom; she owned a home and had a full-time job. Her lifestyle was completely different than what she was used to. All three of her kids were on soccer teams. Her new stepsisters used curling irons and wore makeup, and she was just a scraggly little hippie girl. She and her sister went from hippie to yuppie overnight, and they were both living in survival mode. Her dad felt it too. He went from father of two to father of five.
These years were very difficult as she pined for attention from her dad. She knew he loved her, but between work and all of the kids, her time with him decreased significantly. Her two new older sisters were beautiful and for the first time in her life, she felt inadequate. She had scraggly hair and holes in her jeans. They were active, had friends and exuded confidence. They were in their own home, and she was made to feel like an intruder.
Once her mom was stable and back on her feet, her little sister moved in with her, and she followed four years later. She was 14 years old, and leaving her dad’s house was the hardest thing she had done to date. It was very hard living there feeling like she was inadequate, but her dad was her constant. When she left, all she could think was, “Oh dad I’m so sorry I am leaving you with them.” But she had to go. She had no problem with her dad, but he traveled a lot for work, and she was left in a house with four people whom she couldn’t understand or relate to.
Her mom and her new husband had been led to church by her little sister and were believers in Christ by the time she came to live with them. At 14 years old, she began going to church for the very first time in her life. She had heard her oldest stepsister talk about God, and she knew she sang at church, but it was not something they did as a family. So, now church became a part of her new reality. She went to church to sing in the choir and became saved when the pastor offered an invitation. It was not a life-altering experience; it was more like, oh, I didn’t know we were supposed to get saved. If that is what God wants, well, I’m game.
It would be wonderful if she could say that being saved was the thing that changed her life, but unfortunately it wasn’t. Her home life was far from nurturing. She had a new stepfather who had no idea how to relate to teenage girls. Rather than try to connect, he used the Bible and God to lay heavy guilt trips on them until they believed that they could do nothing right in the eyes of God. Her home was very judgmental and spiritually broken. They looked like church going Christians on the outside, but they were a mess within the four walls of their home.
Her lack of a healthy father figure left her longing for attention, and her high school years were filled with many inappropriate relationships. One night, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and became a victim of rape before she even knew what was happening to her. By the time she graduated from high school, she was nine weeks pregnant and promptly married the father of her baby. She was seven months pregnant the first time he hit her. It was the day before her dad’s birthday, and her biggest concern was “how am I supposed to call my dad tomorrow and tell him this?” She didn’t want to disappoint him. Naturally, her new husband encouraged her to keep it between the two of them and promised her that it would never happen again.
It happened again. Seven months after the abuse began, she left him with her infant son. She jumped on a train and went to see her dad. She was a mess. She was 18, no job, no money, and now had a baby. Her dad embraced her and helped her figure out what she should do. She had built a relationship with her step-mom over the years and for the first time, it felt good to be back there with them. When she returned home to her mom’s house, she went through 16 weeks of battered women support group therapy that changed her life. She met women who had been stabbed, shot, beaten beyond recognition, and nearly killed. This experience formed a passion in her to help girls realize their worth so that they never have to experience abuse at the hand of someone who claims to love them.
At this point in her life, she was aware of God and prayed when she felt like she needed Him. In no way was she searching for Him, but she knew He was there. In fact, she did not search for God again until her children were in elementary school and she was in her late 20s. She had remarried, and her and her husband had a daughter. Through the wise words of a friend, she realized that she wasn’t teaching her children about Jesus at all. She immediately began looking for a church. She felt terrible that she knew this great truth and had failed to teach her children about God. She found a small church, and started to grow in her understanding of who God was. This led to a growing relationship with Jesus, and she began talking with God and telling Him how much she wanted Him in her life. More than anything else, she knew she needed God, so she recommitted her life to Him. And within one month, her world was turned upside down.
Her mom came to visit her unexpectedly, and she immediately thought something was wrong. Her mom had just had some medical tests done, and now, a few weeks later, here she was at her house asking her how strong she was and if she could handle some tough news. She told her mom that she was strong enough and could handle whatever it was that she needed to tell her. Then she dropped the biggest bombshell, the most unexpected news she could have received. Her mom told her that her dad was not her biological father, the man that had loved her and raised her. She was stunned and devastated. She wanted him to be her dad. She loved him so much, but now had an immediate fear that she was no different than her stepsiblings in his eyes. Her fear of him not loving her the same way that she thought he did overpowered her, and for the first time in her life, she found herself leaning on Jesus. She literally breathed His name. She said His name in her head as she breathed in “Je” and out “sus”. Je-sus was her mantra.
Her dad showed up the next day to make sure she was okay, and she ran out to meet him at the curb in front of her house. She wrapped herself around him and cried. He held her for a moment and pulled away. Looking into her eyes, he said, “This doesn’t change anything.” That was all she needed to hear.
God’s word says that He will never leave us nor forsake us. She loves to look back on the many things that she has experienced and see His protection over her. Nearly aborted, molested, raped, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, drug induced parents, a broken home, you name it. She falls into many statistics that could’ve broken her, but somehow, she is able to walk in joy. The joy of the Lord seeps out of her pours, and she attributes that to Jesus. He blessed her with resilience and redeemed her when she didn’t even know He was there. He has restored her crushed spirit and lifted her out of many pits. No matter what she has done in this life, she knows that His love never changes. He was there with her at conception, and He will be there with her when her faith finally becomes sight, in Heaven.
Her story is truly one of redemption. Every wrong path, every injustice, every hurt, God redeemed and made righteous by His blood. If you met her today, you would never know that these details are her past. She radiates such a joy and a passion for life that it astounds me. Her love for the Lord and her desire to know Him more and understand His Word keep me running after Jesus with all of my heart. She is a reflection of Jesus to me, and I hope to you as well. Carrie, thank you for opening up your life to me and to so many others. Your impact for God’s Kingdom here on this earth has only just begun. Keep pressing on to know Him more.