You might say that my passion for the family today is surprising, considering where I've come from. When I was a teenager I didn't even like kids. It was all about me and what made me happy.
At that time, I couldn't have imagined my life today: a mom with three children. Never in a million years would I have dreamed that some day my husband and I would be reaching out to help other couples become passionate about marriage and family.
My life seemed okay until I was 15 years old and my family moved from Arizona to South Dakota. I guess you could have described me as a social butterfly back then. Lunch was the most important part of my school day because I got to see all of my friends. I had just made the dance team … and then my dad got transferred.
I was so angry about moving that I became an unruly, disrespectful teen. I was downright mean to my parents. They tried to make it up to me by having a going-away party, but on that last night at home, unbeknownst to them, I was date-raped. I didn't know what to do. I didn't tell anyone except for one girlfriend, and she didn't understand.
I never wanted a boy to take advantage of me again, so I decided that I had to be in control. I became aggressive sexually and had many immoral relationships. When my folks found out what my boyfriend and I were doing they became angry and told us to stop. But anything they told me not to do was just an invitation for me to do it.
On my own
When I was a senior in high school, I had had enough and moved out of the house. I knew that it was up to me to take care of myself. Somehow I managed to barely graduate, and I earned enough money working at the mall to pay bills.
Things went from bad to worse. I had roommate after roommate and relationship after relationship. Then some strange guy sent me a card at work and said he'd seen me and wanted to go out with me. He even gave me his phone number.
I was living in an abusive relationship at the time. My boyfriend called me some really degrading names and said that he didn't want anything to do with me. I was devastated. All I ever wanted was to belong … for someone to love me.
It seemed like my only real friends in life were Fred and Abraham, my goldfish. They were very forgiving, and kept living even if I forgot to feed them for a day or two. I still had them.
"This is not the plan … "
Valentine's Day was approaching, and I had no boyfriend. I couldn't bear the thought of not having a date, so I did the unthinkable: I called the strange guy who had sent me the note. He said that we could go out—after he went to church, of all things!
But before we were able to meet, I got some more bad news: I got kicked out of the house where I rented a room. I just couldn't take life any more and swallowed a bottle of pills, wanting desperately to end it all. My roommate came in and saw the pills. She took me to the hospital where they pumped my stomach … and called my parents.
During eight days of intensive therapy, never-ending tears seemed to flow from my eyes. God seemed to say to me, "Carrie, this is not the plan that I have for you."
My parents said that I could move back home. Since I had no place else to go, that's what I did.
When that strange guy called to find out why I hadn't made our date, I apologized and explained that there had been a family emergency. Then I thought, "Hey, I've got to be real." So, I told him what happened—how I had tried to commit suicide. I thought, "That'll scare him off!" But it didn't.
Bryan King was the first real date I ever had. We talked for three hours and he explained how I could have a personal relationship with God. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
The emptiness was gone. God seemed to say to me, "You are valuable because I value you."
Bryan said that he never intended to date me; he had just wanted to share the hope of Jesus Christ with me. But I guess God had other plans, because we were engaged six weeks later and married eight months after our first date. I'm sure people were making wagers at the wedding on how long our marriage would last, but we've been married now for over 10 years. We have three wonderful children.
A welcome break
After we had been married three years, a good friend of Bryan's invited us to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. "You guys are going to love it! It's a fun getaway, and you'll get a night in a hotel with your wife."
At the time, it seemed that all we talked about was when Samantha (our oldest) needed her diaper changed, or what time Brady (our second child) needed to eat. A night away from the kids with me was all Bryan had to hear. And a weekend getaway sounded pretty good to me, too.
Although we learned a lot at that first getaway, we found ourselves right back in the world's pattern of 50/50—you do your part, and I'll do mine. It was so easy to get into the rut of, "I got up with the baby last night, it's your turn."
But the principles that we learned helped us identify that we were heading down the wrong path. We were able to make adjustments and look to God's way instead of the world's way. Instead of looking at circumstances and claiming our individual rights, we started looking for ways to serve one another and stopped keeping track of who did what.
After that weekend, Bryan and I started setting bi-weekly date nights and became intentional about our time together. We found it very important to stay "checked into" each other's thoughts, feelings, and ideas … even when everything around us screamed, "Check out."
Volunteers with FamilyLife
After attending our first Weekend to Remember, Bryan's good friend (the one who invited us) said, "Isn't this something to be passionate about?" He encouraged us to volunteer on the city ministry team that helped promote the conference in Sioux Falls, S.D., and we've been on it ever since.
Being FamilyLife volunteers has given us a ministry that we can do together. We've grown so close to one another and to the others on the city ministry team. Sometimes we ask ourselves, "If we don't fight for these marriages, who's going to?"
When you look around a conference ballroom and see the happy faces, you can't even imagine anyone having marital problems. And then you read the prayer requests, where couples indicate that a husband has committed adultery, or a wife is pregnant with somebody else's child, or they are struggling with alcoholism or abuse … there are so many deep-rooted problems.
And then you read an evaluation that says, "My husband accepted Christ today. I don't know what this means for our marriage but praise God that his heart is softening." It's so exciting to see people not only opening up their hearts at a Weekend to Remember, but also learning Who to turn to. And that's God—Jesus Christ.
God used FamilyLife in Bryan's and my marriage to bring His Word to life, and we want to help other couples experience the same thing. We are passionate about battling to preserve God's families. FamilyLife presents the tools. They give the practical application of God's Word. A Weekend to Remember just puts God's blueprints for the family into real life words with the speakers and the projects. The conference is all biblically based; that's why it works.
God's plans for my life
If you had known me 11 years ago, I doubt that you would have believed that anything good would've come out of my life. I was even named Mrs. South Dakota in 2005 and my platform was the family. Who would have imagined that?
Who would have guessed 11 years ago that I would have a strong marriage and three wonderful children?
Who would have guessed that I would be a volunteer for a ministry to marriages and families—that God would use me to help strengthen homes?
We are told in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Even when I couldn't see it, God had great plans for my life!
Copyright © 2008 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Read more remarkable stories of changed lives and legacies. Or read stories of HomeBuilders (how God is working through ordinary people to change lives for eternity).
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.