|Fat, Jewish and On Drugs
By Terri Nighswonger
Fat, Jewish and on drugs.
That statement by a stranger turned Sheri Rose Shepherds into a full-time
motivational speaker almost overnight.
The blunt statement prompted Shepherd to share her testimony for the
first time about eight years ago at her husbands seminary reunion dinner.
"I was sitting at the table with 24 strangers when a woman at the
table said, I heard you were fat, Jewish and on drugs, in those words,"
she said. "Everyone at the table stopped crunching their croutons, and all eyes were
"Thats the first time I shared my testimony. I shared how
Id come from a dysfunctional family. My parents were married and divorced three
Shepherd also shared how she was severely overweight in high school and
addicted to drugs. It was a time when she didnt know the Lord yet.
"When I was 16, I almost lost my life to a drug overdose
LSD. I shared that at the table. Sharing that scared me," she said.
Shepherds step mom, her dads second wife, was instrumental
in helping her get her life together and challenged her to make changes.
"She asked me how long I was going to blame my past for the
choices I was going to make for today," Shepherd said. "I started building a
foundation for myself from the outside in, unfortunately. I did lose over 60 pounds and
got off drugs, improved my grades, started my own production company, started winning
beauty pageants and ended up falling apart inside because I didnt have a foundation
based on Gods foundation." When Shepherd was 24 years old, she contemplated
suicide with sleeping pills.
"I didnt take them. I held them in my hand and cried out to
God, and said, God, if you exist, show me. The next day, two Romanian
missionaries led me to Christ. They were the grandparents of a boyfriend of mine, and I
had been invited to their home. Their lives changed mine."
A week after Shepherd shared her testimony, the woman who made the
blunt comment about her at the dinner called Shepherd with an invitation. She was the
director of a large Christian organization, and the conference speaker had canceled. She
asked if Shepherd could share her testimony with 400 Christian leaders in Phoenix.
"I said, No, Im not a speaker, and people like me
dont speak in front of Christian leaders, " she said. "Back then, I
thought Christian leaders never sinned. I thought they must be perfect or they
wouldnt be Christian leaders."
The woman told Shepherd, "Sheri Rose, God didnt pull you out
of that dark place for you to keep it to yourself. He pulled you out so you could pull
others out also."
"Being Jewish, you can manipulate me with guilt pretty
easily," Shepherd said. "I said that I would share that story. I shared my
testimony, and the next thing I knew, I was getting all these phone calls at our house.
People were saying, Would you come speak at my retreat? Would you speak
at my church? Would you speak at a luncheon? People wouldnt stop
Once Shepherd saw the demand for her testimony and decided to go on the
speaking circuit. Before long, she was speaking to between 50,000 and 100,000 women a
year, and publishers started to ask her to write books. She also was asked to be the
national spokesperson for Teen Challenge.
Shepherds first book, "Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal,"
is her testimony written in a comedy form. It takes a funny, touching and sometimes sad
and honest look at her past and the things that new and "mature" Christians
alike fall into, literally in her case.
It was during Shepherds first beauty pageant when she fell off
the runway and into the judges laps. As she jumped up and brushed herself off, she
told them, "I just wanted you to remember me." They did, because she won the
Shepherd continued writing, with an article for a family magazine
entitled, "Do you love your family enough to take care of you." From that
article came a book for women with eating disorders: "Fit for Excellence: Gods
Design for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Health." More than 50,000 copies were
sold in seven months, with about 5,000 a month still being sold, she said.
Shepherd also wrote a cookbook for women who are tired: "Eating
for Excellence." The book is designed to help women get back their energy.
"The first four chapters talk about how I lost over 60 pounds and
conquered chronic fatigue syndrome," she said. "There are over 100 original
recipes in the book. Its a real fun book."
A new project in the works is a video series based on the "Seven
Ways to Build a Better You" workshop and seminar. Shepherds ministry,
Foundation for Excellence, is also in the process of publishing a seven-week Bible study
with a workbook program that incorporates the "seven ways" message.
Shepherd recently was in Cleveland to do the workshop that
"crosses ages and generations," she said, adding participants have ranged in age
from 7 to 70.
Shepherd also is keynote speaker for the Women of Virtue tour.
"I dont know how I got that position, but God trusted me to
have it, so Im thankful for that," she said. "I feel very intimidated when
Im the keynote speaker with people like Florence Littaur and people like that.
Im thinking, Who in the world am I. "
Shepherd not only has the opportunity to share her testimony with
Christians and Christian leaders, but God has placed her in front of secular audiences. In
1994, she won the crown of Mrs. United States.
Shepherds production company was supposed to produce the Mrs.
Arizona United States Pageant, but after two miscarriages and being diagnosed with chronic
fatigue syndrome, an exhausted Shepherd felt unable to fulfill her duties.
"I had called the director of the Mrs. United States pageant and
told her shed have to get a new director for the state of Arizona," Shepherd
said. "She said, No way. You have a contract with me. You have to stand in for
your state. "
Shepherds argument fell on deaf ears, so she ended up
representing the state of Arizona as a contestant. She was tired and depressed by what she
perceived to be failures in her life and was in no shape physically or emotionally to
continue with the pageant, she said. She had 20 pounds of "Twinkies and potato
chips" to get rid of in a hurry and a pageant wardrobe to buy with no money.
God opened the doors because He had other things in mind.
"I thought God was just giving me divine appointments to witness
to people. I ended up winning the crown. That took me from witnessing to the church to
witnessing to the world," Shepherd said.
Because of the miscarriages and the chronic fatigue, thats how
Shepherd got such a passion for eating for excellence.
"One nice thing about the Mrs. United States title, the drug
problem and the weight is it got me on secular television, and I can talk about the
Lord," she said.
In addition to being on Christian programs such as "The 700
Club," Shepherd has appeared on "Inside Edition," NBC, ABC and CBS News.
Shes also been featured in publications such as The National Enquirer, First
magazine, TV Talk Weekly and Role Model magazine.
Shepherd wants people to know its not where you start in life,
but where you finish that counts and that God has a plan for every life He creates.
"Dont ever put a period where He has a comma, because
its never too late to turn your life around," she said. "Think about
Joseph, who started out hated, rejected and thrown into prison and finished his life in a
palace, or Queen Esther, who started as an orphan and finished as queen and was used to
rescue her people.
"I feel that you can finish your life strong if youll take
the time to build a foundation on Gods foundation. From 1 Timothy 6:19, we know that
Gods solid foundation stands firm." C
Shepherd, her husband and 10-year-old son recently moved to Sisters, Oregon. She
recently learned she is expecting her second child.