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 2 of 2)
Sheri Rose Shepherd: 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 out 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?!”
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John Fuller: (chuckling) And she really was! And, that’s Sheri Rose Shepherd—you’re going to hear more from her on today’s Focus on the Family. Your host is Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Well, I guess it’s fair to say Sheri Rose has come a long way, John, from an angry, depressed, overweight teenager to Mrs. United States 1994. And now she’s a Bible-life coach and a best-selling author; in fact, Sheri’s “His Princess” series has sold over one million copies in seventeen languages!
John: That’s incredible!
Jim: That’s gotta bless her even more than being a beauty pageant winner, I would think.
John: And it talks to the hunger that women have for her message.
Jim: Yes, and bottom line is, she is an amazing woman and if you missed Part One of Sheri Rose’s story yesterday, get in touch with us; we can send you the entire message on CD or audio download or you can download on your Smartphone the Focus on the Family broadcast app.
John: And those’ll be at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us 800-a-family. Alright, we’re going to start today with a brief recap to get you caught up; here’s Sheri Rose Shepherd on Focus on the Family.
Sheri: Now I grew up in a very dysfunctional Hollywood home. My father was a disk 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. 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 thought he was the most adorable thing I ever saw and that excited me and I said, “Yes! I am. Why’d you ask?” And he goes, “Cuz you look like a whale and you look like you belong on the beach.” 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 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, 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 you’ve already done. But if you make the right choices from this day forward, you can change the rest of your life.”
But when we first made me over, since my mother was a beauty queen and my father was a disk jockey from Hollywood that hosted beauty pageants, I wanted to experience being in one of those beauty pageants.
You know even though I lost the weight and even though I finally had the attention of boys and even though I improved my grades and I had 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. And I was in bondage. I was in what I call “Barbie bondage.” Plastic perfectionism – something that doesn’t exist.
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.
And I checked myself into a hotel room with a bottle of sleeping pills with the intentions of taking my life, to be honest with you. And I held those pills and I cried at the top of my lungs: “God, do you exist?” You know what the Word of God says? if you seek Him with all your heart that you will find Him. I was a desperate girl with a bottle of sleeping pills; bulimic saying: “God, do you exist?” And I fell asleep that night holding those sleeping pills. And the Lord brought back a memory to me.
The drug dealer that gave me the LSD that almost took my life on my prom night; a Christian invited him to a youth camp and he gave his life to Christ. He came back the next weekend and started handing out Bible tracts and he spent all of his junior and senior year telling everybody in the whole campus that Jesus was The Way and he started a Bible study on our campus. When I went to high school, there was no problem having a Bible study on campuses. And it grew. And often this young man, from this wretched angry drug dealer to this sweet face would come up to me and he’d get in my face and he would say: “Sheri Rose, I’m praying for you and Jesus is your answer.”
And I remembered that in that dream when I was holding those sleeping pills sleeping and the next morning I got up and I wondered a little bit about Jesus. And God didn’t waste any time because a boyfriend of mine that wasn’t even a Christian said: “Would you like to go over tonight to my grandparents’ house for dinner?”
Well his grandparents were missionaries to Albania and when missionaries pray you for you – you just get saved because they wreck your sinful life and all the joy that’s in it.
And their lives changed mine. And their lives caused me to thirst for righteousness. And they asked me, “What do you want more than anything?” I said: “I want to be Miss USA.” They said, “let me tell you about the greatest crown of all. It’s not a crown appointed by man. It’s the crown of life appointed by God and if you will accept Jesus as your Savior He will do exceedingly, abundantly more than you ever dare to dream, hope or ask for – way better than any worldly crown.”
I said: “I can’t. I’m a Jew.” They said: “When you’re ready, you call on the name of Jesus and He’ll answer.” And I’m sure they faithfully prayed for me because 30 days later in a hotel room again with a bottle of sleeping pills; this Jewish American princess said: “Jesus, if You’re the Son of God; if You’re the Savior; if You can transform my life like You transformed my friend-the-drug-dealer’s life I pray that You come into my life and that You would transform me.” Not in a church – by myself, in a hotel room – me and God.
The next day I went to work out at a health club and two girls walked up to me obviously God-ordained and said: “Are you a Christian?” I said: “I have no idea. I think so.” (Laughter) And I told them what happened and they said: “You’re a Christian.” And they discipled me for two years. And in two years of discipling me they would say to me: “Some day you’re going to speak and share this story across the nation. You are now a daughter of the King. Your name is now has been written in the Book of Life.
And praise God that God interceded those people to teach me the Word and I stand before you tonight as a former drug addict, bulimic from a dysfunctional home. He who the Son has set free is free indeed. (weeping) He who the Son has set free is free indeed.
See we don’t need to impress each other with how perfect we are. We don’t… we need to bless each other. Do you know that if you will pray that God will use you to be a blessing; you won’t care about impressing each other anymore and you will find those intimate friendships that you’re longing for.
We weren’t created to fit into an image of this world. We were created to stand out. We really do need to be that salt because our world right now has lost its craving for God because we are not seeing ourselves the way God does so we’re not causing them to thirst for righteousness.
My pastor says you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink but he said you can feed him salty peanuts. (Laughter) And our life is the salty peanuts. And our choices. And if we don’t get a grip on who we are in Christ – ‘cuz, I think, for me, the greatest deliverance is from myself. How many of you can say amen to that? [Amen!]
I cause most of my own problems. We are His Princesses. Daughters of the Most High King. I was in New York with my husband. I had never been to the big city and I really wanted to see it. So the pastor and wife after we ministered were nice enough to take us into the city. And before we went in the four of us prayed for a divine appointment and while we were there in this wonderful little bakery, two girls walked up to me and said: “Are you a celebrity?” I said: “I am. My Father created the heavens and the earth. He’s the King of kings.” (Laughter) “Excuse me?” I said: “My Father is the King – the King of kings. Do you know who God is?” They said: “Well, yes, we know who God is. We’re Jewish.” I said: “What a coincidence – so is my Savior.” And I began to share…well we…and they said: “Well, we went to….you know, we just got out of drug rehab. You know, only perfect people go to church.” I said: “Well, let me share with you a story.” And as we began to share one girl was talking and the other girl was listening; she began to cry uncontrollably.
And she said: “Are you guys angels?” (Laughter) I said: “We are far from angels.” (laughter) I said: “But this morning believe it or not the four of us got together and we said: “God, we know that there is someone is this city that needs to know that You love them and needs to know how special they are to You. And God ordained this moment at 10:00 pm in this restaurant in New York City so you could have your name written in the Book of Life and become His princess. “Will you pray with us?” We prayed for them. This should not be an exceptional story for a Christian. This should be a daily occurrence.
Now many of us don’t have the gift to talk. Praise God we have some that have the gift of listening. (Laughter) And you may say: “Well I don’t feel comfortable talking to a stranger.” You can walk by and pray for a stranger. You can show grace. You can do an act of service. It’s amazing how God can use us. We all have different gifts. He’s going to use us in different ways. It that: “Do we desire to be used by Him?
What is abundant – exceedingly, abundantly? You know from experience if you have been used by the Lord you gain great God-confidence and it’s an awesome feeling and it’s better than any make over – isn’t it? That feeling of knowing that your life made a difference in someone else’s is the most awesome high that you could ever imagine. Better than any shopping spree. Better than any spa day. Better than any new house. Better than anything is knowing “my life mattered.” “My life changed that person’s life because of the power of God working in me.” That’s the exciting thing.
See, weight loss could change my body but it couldn’t change my life. It couldn’t change my life. It could only change my body, and make-up could cover up my blemishes but they couldn’t cover up my insecurities. Clothes could make me feel cool but they couldn’t make me content. And attention, which I was addicted to, could make me feel popular but it could not give me purpose. It couldn’t fill me up. Boys could make me feel pretty but they couldn’t take away my pain.
John: Insights from Sheri Rose Shepherd on Focus on the Family. And you can get a CD of this program, the entire two-day presentation, when you make a generous gift of any amount to this ministry by calling 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or donate and get that CD at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
End of Program Note
Sheri: See I think it’s great to become the best version of you. I really do. I think that God wants us to become the best version of ourselves physically, spiritually and emotionally. I truly do. And we feel great when we are the best version of ourselves but when, who God has made us to be, we’re saying is not enough because we are in the comparison game – “if I was like her;” “if I was talented like her then I could be used of God, too” instead of just becoming the best version of who God has called us to be and walking in that God’s confidence.
See I use to think that the best version of my hair wasn’t enough because I only have four pieces. And I wanted big hair really bad. Hey -- being raised in southern and northern California, there’s lots of big hair there. So, and I never had the big hair. So I happened to see an infomercial that said I could have big hair. So I bought a pound of it that went down to my bottom. I speak all over the country so if I walked in here with hair extensions you don’t know that I don’t have big hair. So I couldn’t wait to get to my next booking with my big hair. OK?
I’m whipping it all over the place because I’m so into the hair that doesn’t even belong to me. So I’m just like, you know. So I just want to speak like this. (Laughter) You know? And I went to get ready to do my second session and the woman hugs me and says “You’ve been such a blessing to us” and she’s like eight inches taller than me and unclips tons of it. But I had it so teased up, I used to tease my hair so much it finally attacked me. You know, I had it so teased up and I had all these clips that I didn’t notice that she unclipped it. So I’m up here speaking and my hair is falling out all around me and women are going like this. (Laughter) And I could hear the Lord say to me: “Even the numbers of hair on your head I know and I don’t recognize any of those.” (Laughter) That’s what I could hear Him say. (laughter)
See we just need to become the best version of ourselves. My obvious deliverance was from hair bondage. (laughter) You know, when I became a mom I began to think about my relationship with my mother. And even though I had a wonderful relationship with my stepmother who invested great things in my life, when I was pregnant with my son, I truly began to think about “I need a relationship with my mom. I just don’t want to pass any generational curses over to the next generation by my own unforgiveness.” And, I pretended pretty well because I had a great step mom. It doesn’t bother me that I haven’t talked to my mom since I was 14. You know.
Of course it did, but I had my doctorate in denial so I had convinced myself it did not. And so I had written my mom a letter to let her know that she was going to be a grandmother and I wanted her to meet her grandson and to be back in my life and it had been a lot of years since my parents’ divorce. They divorced when I was 13. And I got a box in the mail from my mom that I was very excited about. I thought it was a gift and it had my baby shoes in it; my birth certificate and it had my baby clothes and pictures and it had a “stick-um” on my birth certificate: “I wish you had never been born. No one caused me greater pain than you.” (crowd groans) See when we don’t deal with our pain in our past – we do, whether we want to or not, pass it on to the next generation.
My mom loved me but she was paralyzed by pain. She longed to love me. She wanted a daughter all of her life just like I wanted a daughter all my life. But she was paralyzed by the pain of her past and wasn’t free by God to love me the way that she wanted to. I cried out to God. I said: “God, I don’t feel like it’s my fault that my parents divorced. I don’t feel like it’s my fault that I had to make a choice who to live with. I don’t feel like I did anything wrong, God.” And I felt the Lord just say to me: “Neither did I but I went to a cross for you.” And through a bucket of tears, I wrote a letter to my mom asking her to forgive me for whatever I had done to cause her to regret giving birth to me. Never once bringing up anything that she or my father had ever done. Today my mother is a born again.
God has restored everything that’s been lost. I want to tell you something tonight. You want to have the abundant life – “the exceedingly abundantly more than you ever dream;” it comes from obedience. Obedience brings a breakthrough. As my dad would say: “Lose the battle and win the war.” God’s amazing. He does exceedingly abundantly more than we ever dare to ask, dream or hope for. I never dreamed that I would be in the ministry either. I had no idea the plans that God had for me.
I know that He says that He has plans to give us a hope and a future and God opened up a gift inside of me that I didn’t even know that I had at through a very embarrassing moment. My husband went to seminary at Talbot University and I was sitting at a dinner with him with several university professors and their wives. One of the women in front of everybody said that “I heard that you were fat, Jewish and on drugs.What happened?”
I began to share my story and when I left that dinner I said to my husband “I’m glad that I never have to do that again” and a few weeks later that same woman called me at my home. And she said, “I’m the director of a Christian Leadership organization. We have 400 leaders from across the nation coming to Arizona and I was wondering, you know that story that you so graciously shared with us at dinner – I was wondering if you can come and share your story for these leaders.”
I said: “First of all Lady, I am not coming and sharing my story with 400 Christian leaders that have never sinned before.” And she said: “Sheri Rose, God didn’t pull you out of that dark place for you to keep it to yourself. He pulled you out so that you can pull others out also.” A few weeks later Steve said: “We have a few messages on our voice mail from women from different parts of the country that would you to come and share at their women’s conferences. I said: “What is it with these Christian women? I’m not a speaker.”
And they... I will never forget when I returned the first phone call they asked me what I charged to come and speak. And I said: “Let me get this right – you want to pay me to come talk about myself. That’s a job I could do. (Laughter) All my life there’s only two things I love to do – and that’s eating and talking. I had no idea that God was going to take the one gift which I didn’t even realize was a gift and use it for Him. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we would ever dare, dream or hope for. I want to share with you something.
When God closes a door in your life, get your face out of the way and it wouldn’t hurt so bad. (Laughter) I want to share with you a final story about a princess that I knew. Her name was Rachel and she was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was 13. And her mother asked if I would call and encourage her, and to my surprise her encouragement changed the rest of my life. She said to me: “If God doesn’t heal me, will you pray that I can win my junior high school to Christ before I die?”
I said: “I will pray that for you Rachel. That’s amazing.” And she was given eight weeks to live and God gave her three years and she went on to high school. And I had the privilege of attending her 16th birthday. And she made this announcement to each one of us. “I’m ready to go home to be with the Lord. I’ve done here on earth what I’ve been called here to do.” She wrote a letter to her high school; and her family and friends. She died a few days later. Her last request is that her high school classmates could come to her funeral. And because Rachel had been such an inspiration in West Phoenix where we have a lot drug and gang problems in her school that they made buses available.
And three buses were full of students that came to her funeral. And as they walked in there was all black choir singing “Soon and very soon we are going to see the King” because death is celebration for Christians. It’s graduation. See we’re just representing Him for a little bit and that’s all that matters that we represented Him well. And the letter that was read to her classmates said: “Dear friends and family and classmates, do not cry for me today for I am in a place where there is no more sickness, no more tears, and no more death and my Savior Jesus Christ made a way for you to get there. And my only prayer is that I get to see you one day in eternity.”
The pastor said: “How many of you want to know that when you die you are going to go to heaven?” And hundreds of kids came forward and gave their life to Jesus Christ. I write about this young girl in every one of my books and I talk about her every time I speak. It’s in 1st Corinthians 2:9: “As it is written eyes have not seen; nor have ears heard; nor have entered into the heart of man the things in which God has prepared for those who love Him.
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. Our character – our character is what’s going to carve out the future. Our choices is what’s going to rebuild America. Our character, our choices, the way we see ourselves. The Bible says we have the power of life and death in our tongue. Do you realize that we can use our words to change the course of lives – by one timely word.
John: We’ve certainly heard a timely word today from our speaker on Focus on the Family; that’s Sheri Rose Shepherd reminding each and every one of us that we’ve got to reach out to those who are hurting and who need encouragement. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
Jim: That’s so true, John, and I’ve gotta tell the listeners, Sheri Rose can use our encouragement as well—2 ½ years ago she received a serious cancer diagnosis, but she’s been fighting back and that sounds like something she would do. She is giving God the glory and now, we’re excited to say, that she is beating the cancer and stepping back out into ministry. So, please, pray for her as she begins to travel and speak again. That’s gotta be a little bit intimidating for her but lift her up in your prayers. The Lord works powerfully through her and so the enemy is not going to be happy about that; in fact, the last time we aired this message, we had an avalanche of positive response, including notes from two women who said her story (Sheri’s story) had saved them from suicide.
John: Oh my.
Jim: Let me say it again—saved them from suicide!! And I am excited that Focus, along with Sheri Rose, her testimony, could be a conduit for the Lord to help those two women particularly, and who knows how many others, pull back from the brink of literally taking their lives.
That is where Focus wants to be; to stand in the gap for people—for you! We want to help. If you are at the end of your rope and you don’t know where to turn—that’s why we have a Counseling Department here, that’s why we have resources and tools to provide to you so that you can get on a better pathway, that you can feel God’s peace in your life. Don’t hesitate—call and express your pain and then we can provide, hopefully, that biblical wisdom and Scripture and, if needed, introduce you to the author of who you are, Jesus Christ, and He will begin making the crooked things in your life straight.
I want to mention, John, another caller who was responding to this program who said, “My ex-husband was abusive and in the midst of my deep suffering, I gave up on God. But today, by accident, (always love that) I heard your program with Sheri Rose and I felt like it was God’s gift to me. I called your 800 number and received prayer and some resources to help me reconnect with the Lord. I have a sense of peace for the first time in years. Thank you, Focus on the Family!” And let me say, thank you to those who support the ministry! You are equally sharing in this harvest!
John: Yeah, and these are just three illustrations of how God uses this ministry. Jim, it’s one of the reasons that I have loved working here and as we celebrate 40 years, with this program in particular, it’s just a reminder of all the pain that’s out there and the wonderful people Focus has given to work on staff here that reach out; our counseling team and those that do resources, there’s so much here to help people in their struggle.
Jim: That’s well said, John, and I love hearing that “accidental” point—
John: -- Air quotes; accidental--
Jim: -- you know, we know, as believers, that it’s never an accident. The Lord has had that planned from the beginning of the universe—think of that! That in that moment, that woman would hit that dial or that man would come across the radio program and hear exactly what they needed to hear. He’s the one that orchestrates that divine appointments and we’re just happy to play a role in it.
And I want to invite you to take part of this ministry, too, as we impact the lives of people who need us. As we celebrate 40 years here at Focus on the Family, let me remind you that we are supported by friends like you. We can’t do this alone and together, we are touching lives and making a difference. And I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that you would consider making a gift to Focus.
I hope this testimony of Sheri Rose and the others who were touched by the program last time it aired motivates you enough to stand with us. And when you make a donation of any amount today, I’d like to express our appreciation by sending you a CD of the entire presentation from Sheri Rose Shepherd so that you can share it with someone who needs it.John: That’s a great idea, Jim—and you can just give us a call at 1-800-a-family; that’s 800-232-6459. Or make your donation and request the CD online at focusonthefamily.com/radio. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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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.