Author Sheri Rose Shepherd tells her story of vowing to attain physical beauty and worldly success after suffering emotional wounds as an overweight teen, and how she only overcame her heartache and low self-esteem when she discovered how much God loves and values her. (Part 1 of 2)
Sheri Rose Shepherd: So, I went and earned two degrees. I earned my Master’s degree in acting and I earned my Doctorate degree in denial. (Laughter) See we women, especially us Christians, we’ve mastered acting. “How you doing?” “Great!” “Me too. I’ve never had a problem in my life. I don’t even need a Savior.” “Me neither.” (Laughter) “
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John Fuller: Sheri Rose Shepherd is our guest on Focus on the Family and she’s sharing her story of overcoming major challenges in life and how to admit when you need help from others and from God.
Your host is Focus president Jim Daly, thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, as we continue to celebrate Focus on the Family’s 40th anniversary uh... we wanted to share a very powerful message from one of our most popular guests. Sheri Rose Shepherd is a former beauty queen who made it all the way to Mrs. United States 1994. But by the time she achieved that honor she had learned that only Jesus Christ could give her the affirmation that she so desperately craved.
So, let’s get it rollin’. I know each one of you are really gonna be encouraged today.
John: Here, now - Sheri Rose Shepherd. She’s the author of the book, His Princess, speaking to a group of over 2,000 women on today’s Focus on the Family.
Sheri: Well, I am honored to be in the room with so much royalty; with so many daughters of the King, so many of His princesses in one place. I think we forget who we are don’t we? We forget that we’re royalty. We forget that God says: “You did not choose me. I chose you.” We forget that, don’t we?
Well, I’m a former Mrs. United States, but my real title is Misunderstood. (Laughter) I am a Jewish-American princess that goes around the country telling people Jesus is my King. That’s misunderstood, especially by my Jewish family. And for those of you that don’t know the difference between Miss America and Mrs. America –its cellulite. (Laughter)
When I first won the crown of Mrs. United States, my son was in kindergarten. And in kindergarten the big deal is “Show and Tell”. So, he couldn’t wait to go to school and he says: “Everybody, my mommy’s the new queen of the country.” (Laughter) And I came to pick Jacob up that day; no makeup on, my hair in a bun and gray sweats and when I don’t wear makeup I don’t have a face. And I went to pick him up and his teacher comes running down and goes: “This is so cute. Your little boy loves you so much that he actually believes you’re Mrs. America. (Laughter) I said: “I am.” She said: “You’re kidding.” (Laughter) Then I was asked if I was Miss America’s mother. (Laughter)
But you know what’s sad is when someone looks at us–the daughters of the King, His princess--and says: “You’re kidding. You’re kidding; you’re a Christian?” And they don’t see who Christ is. And tonight, I’m gonna talk about being His princess. And I’d like to pray for you, because I have learned it is not the house we live in, the accomplishments that we have, the way that we look, the possessions that we have, the job title that we wear that defines who we really are. It’s the power of Christ in us that give us purpose and gives us power and gives hope to a dying world. And I would like to pray for you Ephesians 3:19 and 20: “I pray that you would know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God. And now to Him, who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we would ever dare to ask, hope or dream for.”
See, I didn’t become a Christian till I was 24. And as I toured the country, I have seen many Christians that love the Lord, but have never experienced “exceedingly abundantly more.” At best, many of us are just hanging on to our faith for dear life, saying: “God, please get me through this.”
Now, I grew up in a very dysfunctional Hollywood home. My father was a disc jockey in Hollywood. My mother was an actress and a beauty queen. My parents married and divorced three times each. I’ve been a part of five blended families.
I know what it’s like to have your foundation shaken. And every time I settled into a situation, there was another divorce, another affair, another thing changed and I grew up very angry and I made a lot of poor choices when I was a young girl. And those poor choices turned me into a person that I didn’t want to be.
When I was 16, I was 60 pounds overweight. I was addicted to drugs. I was angry and I was depressed. And if one of you had walked up to me when I was in my high school field smoking pot; hating life and looked at me as a Christian and said: “Guess what? He is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than you would ever dare to dream, hope or ask for. Guess what? Someday when you give your life to the Lord, God is going to use your pain for a purpose”; I would have not believed you.
See, the reason why we don’t live exceedingly, abundantly more than we’d ever hoped or dreamed for is we don’t really recognize who we are in Christ. We don’t really understand that we really are His princess. That we really are daughters of the Most High King and that everything we do and say can affect future generations.
My motivation [is] to not allow history to repeat itself. My motivation [is] to say I don’t have to be my parents. I didn’t have to come from the perfect family, because I have the perfect heavenly Father and I can look to older godly wise women. I can study their lives. I can ask them questions and I can be the mom and wife that God called me to be regardless of my foundation. I don’t have to lose.
When I six... 17, when was a junior in high school, 16 and 17; I wanted to go to the prom. And I … no one asked me and I paid my best friend’s brother to take me. (Groans) And while I was there, the homecoming king came and asked me if I was going to the beach party after the prom. Well, I had a crush on him and I thought he was the most adorable thing I’d ever saw [sic] and that excited me. And I said: “Yes, I am. Why do you ask?” He goes: “‘Cause you look like a whale and you look like you belong on the beach.” (Groans)
And I ran into the bathroom and I looked in the mirror and I made a promise to myself that I would never be fat or ugly or made fun of again. And I went on a mission to perfect myself physically. But that particular night I was so broken by the things that this young man had said, that when I was on the beach at the party trying to impress my friends and bury my pain, I almost OD’d on a drug overdose.
I was brought home from the hospital and I went into my bathroom. And I was laying on the floor and I was crying. And my stepmother came in and she got on the floor with me and she put her arms around me and she said: “Sheri Rose, how long ... how long are you gonna use your past as an excuse for the choices that you’re making today? Sheri Rose, you can’t change your mom. Sheri Rose, you can’t change your dad. You can’t change your friends. You can’t change the things that you’ve already done, but if you will make the right choices from this day forward, you can change the rest of your life.
In Deuteronomy 30:19 God’s Word says: “Today I have given you a choice between life and death, between blessing and cursing, I call on heaven and earth as a witness. Oh, that you would choose life.”
I went to school for the first time, knowing from the wonderful words of my stepmom, that I had a choice, that I could change. I think many of our young people in this nation, the reason why they’re involved in gangs and drugs and alcohol and premarital sex, they’re looking for love. They’re looking for acceptance and they think they don’t have a choice. They think that, that’s their destiny in life because of the wrong parents or the wrong crowd or the wrong choices. They have bought the lie, there’s no hope and that they are stuck.
Now I went to school the next day after my stepmother encouraged me with these words and as I went into my English class, my teacher walked up to me, hearing of my drug overdose and walked up to me, frustrated in front of my friends and said: “Sheri Rose you were born to be a loser. You will never amount to anything in life.” In defense of my English teacher, I was a troublemaker in school and I don’t blame her for being frustrated. And if I had continued on my self-destruction road, choice after choice, she’s right. I would have been born to lose.
Ironically, 20 years from her comment, later, I was invited to address 4,500 teachers in Sacramento in the state capitol of California. And of course, teachers were my greatest fear. And I asked the man that invited me; on what basis are you asking me to be your keynote speaker, because by the way, I’m dyslexic. I didn’t go to college and I barely got out of high school. (Laughter) He said: “Well, I happened to see your testimony on TV and heard that you were quite the teacher’s nightmare and I thought you could come and give us some hope. (Laughter) I said: “Is that what my bio is going to say?”
And as I was sitting there on the stage - me, “Barbie with a bible,” and nine educated men saying “What am I doing here?” and I’m freaking out that they’re all going to hate me. They’re teachers. My experience with teachers wasn’t a good thing. And I’m looking around the building and I go: “This building, it looks so familiar.”
And the Lord said: “You were here 20 years ago smoking pot, worshiping a rock band. You’re standing now in front of 4,500 teachers to tell them the power of life and death is in their tongue and they may not get paid what they deserve, but they’re educating our future.” And God filled my mouth with a 15-minute inspirational, encouraging message that got me a standing ovation from my greatest fear. (Laughter and Applause)
John: Sheri Rose Shepherd on Focus on the Family. And you can get a CD of this program for a gift of any amount when you call 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or donate and request that CD at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Let’s go ahead and get back now to Sheri Rose Shepherd on Focus on the Family.
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Sheri: (Applause) See my English teacher didn’t teach God’s grammar lesson, because God’s grammar lesson is this: “Don’t put a period where I have a comma, because I have a plan for every life I create.” Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘plans to prospers you, not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’“ Don’t put a period in your life where God has a comma, because He has plans for us. And don’t let someone’s hurtful words define you.
I minister to over 50,000 women a year and I am telling you, when I’m at altars with women and praying with women, they can go back to one moment in time where someone said something hurtful to them and they put it on as their identity and they lived the rest of their life under that word curse. But they won’t put on who they are in Christ--a new creation, light to a dark world, called for purpose.
I pray if you if you’ve been hindered by someone’s word curse that tonight, in Jesus’ name, that that would be broken and that you would leave knowing that you’re His princess. And that your life matters.
And most of the time you know what I have found? Hurting people hurt people. And usually those people that hurt us, we don’t even want to grow up and be like. We don’t respect them. We don’t respect their life, but we’ll take their word curses and put ‘em on. What is wrong with that picture?
When I was asked to write my first book, I have to tell you it’s quite surreal having a book table for someone like myself. Being that I am dyslexic, which means that you see things backwards, so if you buy any of my books tonight you will have to read them backwards, but they’re still anointed. (Laughter)
However, there was a time when dyslexia was of great benefit to me. Once I tried to take my life and I jumped behind the bus. (Laughter) God showed me. He’s strong in my weakness and that He can take anyone of us that He chooses and He chooses every one of us. He has great things for every one of us, but we’re busy with our list of all our insecurities, telling everybody. You know, we women can’t even say thank you. Have you noticed that about us? “Oh, that was wonderful that you did that.” “Oh no, let me tell you all the horrible things about me.” (Laughter) We can’t just say thank you even, because we don’t see ourselves the way God sees us.
You know, there’s a big difference between who we think we are and who we can become. And the Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” And there’s a big difference.
You know when I was a young girl after that comment of that homecoming king, I’ll be honest, I wanted to be thin and pretty. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t know the Lord growing up. I didn’t have anybody telling me about a relationship with God. I was raised in a Jewish home, but I was raised in a Jewish home that wasn’t even committed to the temple. But I was told if I ever accepted Jesus as my Savior, I’d be disowned from my family. So, Jesus was the last place that I was looking for a makeover.
But my stepmother told me I had some choices and she helped me lose 60 pounds and she helped me get off drugs and she helped me change friends. And Proverbs says that real pleasure comes from making good choices and it does. When we have victory over temptation and we make that good choice, that pleasure is far greater than any temptation that could come our way. And all of us as Christians at one time or another, have made one of those good choices and experienced the fruits of that, even when we don’t feel like it.
And she helped me. And I did have a complete makeover, but I didn’t have the makeover–the ultimate spiritual makeover that I needed from the Lord. But when we first made me over, since my mother was a beauty queen and my father was a disc jockey from Hollywood that hosted beauty pageants, I wanted to experience being in one of those beauty pageants.
So, I was 19-years-old and in a beauty pageant for my very first time. I want you all to raise your right hand and do the figure-eight wave. Okay, real fake smile. (Laughter) Okay, if you have big hair, whip your neighbor. (Laughter) Okay, you get the picture.
So here I am all excited, okay. I’m 19-years-old and I’m just... just sittin’ there and they told me to just walk and wave and smile at the judges. And I was so excited to be there and so into me. I walked off the end of the runway. (Laughter) And as I was down there on the floor, this is what I was thinking, honest–I still want to win.
Now we all fall down. The Bible says a righteous man will fall seven times, but he will get back up again. So, even if someone’s pushed us down or we fall down and blow it ourselves, we can be a righteous woman and we can get up and we can win; can’t we? How many of you have fallen down and gotten back up again? We all fall down. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. None of us are perfect.
So, I’m laying there and I still want to win. So, I pop back up on the runway and I look at the judges with my ripped-up gown and bruised up body and said: “I just wanted you to remember me.” (Laughter) They did. I won. (Laughter and applause) The moral to that story is, it’s not how we act, but how we react that makes the difference. How we act is important, because we’re representing the King. That is important. But how we react is what really gives us the opportunity to glorify who God is. When adversity hits us and we react in a way that God would have us react, that’s when people go: “She’s a Christian.” She’s a daughter of the King. I see Christ in her,” because we make a choice to react.
Well I didn’t know the Lord and I won that pageant and those judges said: “We figure if you could react to that situation, you could handle anything that pageant had to han ... handle that year.” And I learn some great lessons from you know, jumping off a runway. (Laughter) But I still wanted to feel good about my life.
You know, and even though I lost the weight and even though I finally had the attention of boys and even though I’d improved my grades and I’d gotten off drugs and those were all good choices, but I still didn’t feel good about my life. It was that, “I’ll be happy when …” syndrome. But I didn’t want to admit it, because I should have been happy. From the world’s perspective, I should have been happy about my life. I didn’t know how to tell someone I wasn’t happy. And I desperately wanted to feel good about who I was and my place in this world.
So, I went and earned two degrees. I earned my Master’s degree in acting and I earned my Doctorate degree in denial. (Laughter) See we women, especially us Christians, we’ve mastered acting. “How you doing?” “Great!” “Me too. I’ve never had a problem in my life. I don’t even need a Savior.” “Me neither.” (Laughter) “I don’t know why Satan’s taking me down behind closed doors. No one ever prays for me or cares for me in the church, because I’m great.” (Laughter)
Proverbs 14:12: “There’s a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to destruction.” It seems right even to not burden God with your prayers, because everybody else has it worse than we do. It seems right to ignore your marriage problems and just think God will fix it, instead of us doing something about it. It seems right to not burden anybody in your Bible study group that you have a prayer need. It seems right, but in the end it leads to destruction.
That’s exactly what the devil wants. He doesn’t want us to confess our sins to one another. He doesn’t want us to carry each other’s burdens. He doesn’t want us to pray for each other. He wants that prayer covering lifted and while we are busy being perfect, that’s what he’s getting, victory behind closed doors.
Now, I’m not saying that we need to be a bunch of whiners, because Jesus turned the water into wine, and he can’t turn our whining into a thing. (Chuckling) And I’m not saying we should dominate every single bible study and make it our therapy session. Because do you know in one sentence you can get yourself covered in prayer? We don’t even have to spend an hour doing that. We can say, “You know what? I need prayer covering in this area” in one sentence, cover ‘em in prayer, and go on to the next person in the bible study. It doesn’t take a whole lot. God knows what’s going on. But a prayer changes everything. A prayer changes everything.
I found a Martha Stewart card. Now, I have nothing against Martha Stewart, but this card does make fun of her and I thought it was kind of a little bit representative of us women, pretending we can do everything and everything’s perfect.
Martha Stewart would be so proud of me. I made this card myself. I planted the tree, cut it down and milled the paper. I planted the garden, pressed the flowers and I made the ink. I engraved the stamp, dyed the envelope and boiled the glue, all while preparing a chocolate soufflé and a dinner party for eight. (Laughter) I am now resting under Prozac I made myself. (Laughter and Applause)
Have you ever done that? Piled 5,000 things on your plate that you are not even gifted to do? We all have different gifts. Everybody say it: “I have a different gift.”
Audience: I have a different gift.
Sheri Rose: Take the gift that you have and use it to bless others. Don’t try to be something you’re not and don’t overextend yourself. Better you would take your one gift and do it well than burn yourself out. Right?
So, if we don’t deal truthfully [with] what’s inside of us, I have found that it deals with us. I have found that every exhaustion, illness, food addiction, depression is rooted in something God’s saying: “You have something and I need you to give it to Me.” See if you’re the mother of a toddler, many of us in this room have been the mothers of a toddler before, and they’re a holding a knife from the wrong end and it’s sharp; you’re not gonna rip it out of their hands, because you know that it’s gonna hurt their hands. What you’re gonna say as a loving parent, is you’re gonna say: “Honey, you’re holding on to something that’s gonna hurt you and I need you to open your hand and hand it to Me.”
See God uses our emotions as warning signs and He’s saying: “Honey, you’re holding onto something. Please open your hand and give it to Me.” And our Doctorate in denial is not going to cover up our pain. And decorating our pain is not going to help us deal with it. And if we do not deal truthfully with God--’cause the Word of God says truth sets us free and He’s the only one that can deal with us--it will deal with us. It does deal with us.
It dealt with me. I had the top of the world experience...from the outside. And I started out weight loss with wonderful healthy eating habits and exercising and got to experience the fruits of taking care of God’s temple. But I didn’t know the Lord at the time. And all of a sudden, four years into this healthy lifestyle I became severely bulimic. I was throwing up my food six to eight times a day. But when I was bulimic no one had a word for it, so I didn’t know how to go to someone and go, “I eat and throw up. Is that normal?” And I was in bondage. I was in what I call Barbie Bondage. Plastic Perfectionism. Something that doesn’t exist. We fall in [to] that. Well as soon as this happens here then I’ll do this: Five more pounds, the new house, the new car, the new job. That plastic perfectionism.
I couldn’t stop and I didn’t want to tell anybody I failed. And I wanted people to approve of me. I wanted people to think I was an accomplished person in life. I’m not gonna lie - I wanted that. I was a people-pleasing approval addict. I wanted the approval of man. I was addicted to praise. I loved that people noticed my weight loss. I loved winning pageants. I was addicted to it. And I was severely bulimic and I began to cry myself to sleep every night just like I did when I was a little girl and my parents were fighting in the other room.
John: Sheri Rose Shepherd on Focus on the Family. And Jim, there is so much truth in what she’s sharing for both women and men.
Jim: You’re right, John. And I believe the Lord has really given Sheri Rose a lot of wisdom. In fact, the scripture that she referred to a minute ago is found in John, chapter eight. Jesus was speaking to a group of Jewish believers and he said, “If you abide in my word you are truly my disciples. And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
And as we have heard today Sheri Rose carried so much hurt in her heart through her teen years and into her adult years. And she learned the hard way that external appearances and success just don’t satisfy. But the truth of Christ is what will set you free.
And we’ll hear how that happened for Sheri next time.
John: And you know, Jim, as I was listening I was especially mindful of my girls. I’ve got three girls, they’re late teens, early twenties and there’s so much pressure on them. From all the air-brushed models they see, to the academic achievements of friends and even escaping from pressure through drugs and alcohol. I know my girls have had to face that down a bit. And it’s really on my heart as a Christian parent to pass on my faith to those girls so they can experience the freedom in Christ that Sheri’s been talking about.
Jim: It’s true! And not only that, if you uh... you know teen boys. I’m noticing my guys are checking their hair out in the mirror a lot more. (Laughter) Looking at their muscles a little bit, so...
John: Yeah, they’re starting to check out the teen girls, too... (Laughter) ...aren’t they?
Jim: Yeah. That is true. And that’s one of the reasons, you mentioned about teen girls, we have brought BRIO magazine back. And in each issue we encourage teen girls, particularly, to grow in their faith with daily bible readings, to develop healthy relationships with friends and parents and their siblings. Even their brothers. And then boys. And to embrace healthy Christ-honoring choices in the areas of fashion and media.
Ask about how to subscribe to BRIO magazine when you get in touch with us.
And as summer comes to a close I want to remind our listeners that we need to hear from you if you believe that what we do is important. So please pray for us and pray about how you can help us financially as we help your family, and many other families, thrive in Christ. That is our passion. When you make a donation of any amount today I want to say thank-you by sending you a CD of the entire presentation from Sheri Rose Shepherd so you can share it with someone who would be blessed by it, as well.
John: It really is a great message to pass along. And so call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And if you enjoyed today’s program please tell a friend to tune in next time when Sheri offers encouragement for your life.
Sheri Rose Shepherd: If no one ever affirms you, if you never get the things that you think you want, you have it all if you know Christ. You have been chosen by the God of the universe to represent Him as His princess.End of Teaser
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Sheri Rose ShepherdView Bio
Sheri Rose Shepherd is a popular speaker at churches, women's retreats and conferences. She is also a bible life coach and a best-selling author whose books have sold more than a million copies in 17 languages. Sheri Rose's titles include Fit for My King, My Prince Will Come and the His Princess series of books. Learn more about Sheri Rose and her work at HisPrincess.com.