Kymberlee had it all figured out. Step one was a prestigious university somewhere on the East Coast, preferably in New York — followed by a jet-setting career in international finance, preferably in Europe.
She was going to do it, too. Don't discount Kym as another hopeless dreamer from a broken home. Just ask anyone from her Los Angeles high school. She had the grades, the drive, the talent and the achievements.
Classically trained pianist.
Drum major in the marching band.
Student council vice president.
But pregnant teenagers don't always get the life of their dreams — especially when they don't listen to adults who just want the problem to go away.
Her earliest memories are scattered and bittersweet. Kym was her mother's seventh child, and — depending on whom you ask — her father's first or third. Dad raised her by himself from 3 weeks of age ("Long story," she says), but traumatic events at home eventually led to an extended stay with her aunt's family.
"I had been rejected by my mother and abused by my stepmother," Kym says. "At 6 years of age, I was scared, confused and unable to protect myself."
Aunt Ruby was a church pianist who played old hymns around the house. Kym listened and told her aunt she wanted to be saved — to be part of God's family.
At 10 Kym moved back to L.A., back with her father. It was for the best, she says. Dad had his own business now, and he'd bought a house next door to the Hemphills. Mrs. Hemphill's daughter Marjorie was like another aunt to Kym, and Marjorie's daughter was like a sister.
By senior year, Kym's "goal list" was set. She was busier than ever with school, marching band and her new boyfriend.
Courage to carry on
"Once his parents got involved," Kym says, "I was told to have an abortion and not inform my dad. They threatened to expose my pregnancy if I refused."
Kym knew she'd made a mistake and wasn't about to make another. "Ending my child's life was not an option. I told them it was murder."
She mustered up some courage and broke the news to Dad. It was as if he aged on the spot, she says — a piece of fruit turning brown before her eyes.
Dad offered her a deal: Get the abortion and you can stay.
Kym chose door No. 2. Dad kicked her out; Marjorie's family took her in. "I treated her as if she was my own," Marjorie says.
She got her diploma, but her goal list was in tatters. When her classmates headed off to college that fall, Kym was giving birth. Daughter Amber arrived two months premature, sickly and asthmatic.
Kym took her grants and her scholarship money and her New York dreams, and she enrolled at Long Beach State. The daily commute was enervating, as were the pressures of parenting. Kym had no idea what she was doing and was too ashamed to ask for help.
"I'm driving on the 405 heading to Long Beach," Kym recalls, "bawling like a baby."
First she cried. Then she prayed.
Lord, I don't know how to raise this child . . . I'm sorry . . . Do You hear me? Can You help me be a good mother?
Surfing the radio that morning, Kym landed on 99.5 FM. Focus on the Family was on the air, and the program immediately drew her in.
"In the span of 25 minutes, God answered many of my questions — even ones I hadn't voiced out loud. I was hooked."
Listening and learningKym cried some more that day — this time because God had answered her prayer. She listened to Focus every chance she could, even scheduling her classes around the broadcast. Sometimes she just sat in her car on campus, listening to the radio and taking notes.
It took Kym six years to earn her business degree, and for six years she listened and learned how to raise her child. She got a job with the city of L.A. and kept on listening. She bought a house, married a pastor, had two more children and even reconciled with her father — and she kept on listening.
Kym's been married for 21 years now, and her oldest daughter has two children of her own. Whenever she can, Kym assists pregnant teenage girls just like her, sharing the love of Christ and encouraging them to persevere with their own goal lists.
"Never would I have guessed that accidentally turning to a broadcast while heading to college would change my life forever."