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Cheryl Karpen: A Broken Heart and A Mother’s Love

Your desire to be close to me is a delight to my heart - Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 41.

Cheryl Karpen is best known as the author of the “Eat Your Peas” Collection, a series of books dedicated to helping others communicate love, hope, and encouragement when they can’t find the words themselves. “Eat Your Peas for Mothers is a special title in the series that was inspired by Cheryl’s own mother. Cheryl recalls her early years and the moment she recognizes as her “beautiful broken heart” season and how her mom encouraged her all along the way.

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Cheryl Karpen: My mom always believed in me. She would always say “follow your dreams.” My mom would listen without judgment and lots and lots of compassion. Now my mom will turn 96 years young this May, and she really is my hero and a role model; not just to me, but to many others.

Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Cheryl Karpen is best known as the author of the “Eat Your Peas” Collection, a series of books dedicated to helping others communicate love, hope, and encouragement when they can’t find the words themselves. Cheryl is also a gifted speaker who inspires others to recognize and celebrate their unique gifts in life. Cheryl recalls her early years and the moment she recognizes as her “beautiful broken heart” season and how her mom encouraged her all along the way.

Cheryl Karpen: A Broken Heart and A Mother’s Love – Jesus Calling Podcast 41

Cheryl: My name is Cheryl Karpen and I’m a wife, a bonus mom; I’m a very proud grandmother, an entrepreneur and an author.

I grew up in a rural township called Johnsville, Minnesota. I had a wonderful childhood.

My father was a farmer and a fireman, and whether on the job or off the job, he always seemed to be putting out someone’s fire; like pulling over to help a stranded motorist or visiting the elderly, or helping a neighbor rebuild their car transmission. My dad was always rescuing people, and as kids we knew that he had our back too.

Cheryl Karpen with her mother.My mom; she was a stay at home mom, but she was a great seeker of faith and wisdom, whether it was through books or church. If one of our neighborhood kids had a crisis, they would most likely end up at the Karpen table.

I grew up in this family where my parents were always serving in one way or another. As a child, my parents gave me a lot of free rein to dream, imagine and explore. I was the youngest, and I got used to get in a lot of trouble, so it’s kind of a miracle that I survived those early years. By the grace of God. I’m here.

Becoming A Big City Girl

My two favorite activities when I was younger were playing store and directing and hosting childhood talent shows; which was probably an early indication of where I was headed professionally in life. It was probably where I got my first love of being up on stage and having a microphone in my hand (even though it was a plastic microphone).

I was a dreamer and I loved imagining and scheming about living a large life. Because of that, when I was 16 years old, I told my dad my big, hairy dream that I was going to move to New York and become a fashion coordinator.

I landed a job in New York City. What I loved about that, is that working in the fashion world taught me many lessons about the world of commerce and how products were actually brought to market; which led me down another path.

I said I would never return home to a small town. I’d never move back to Johnsville and the Anoka, Minnesota area because I was a big city girl. But it was probably 10-15 years later, I ended up moving back home. My mother gave me a thousand dollars and I had a fifteen-hundred dollar credit limit on my Visa card.

I opened up a very small gift and home decor store called “Something Different” downtown, which was just eight miles from where I grew up.

This was one of the best times of my life because I loved the creativity and freedom of being an entrepreneur and I thrived–I literally thrived on connecting with people and hearing their stories.

Dying Of A Broken Heart

Yet one year later, I personally hit rock bottom. I thought I was going to die of a broken heart and I really thought I was literally going to die. At the age of 32, I couldn’t understand why no one would love me.

When I look back at that time, I literally flat-lined and devastated. I just felt so unloved. I remember two things; One is my customers and my retail store noticed that I didn’t have that kind of unbridled enthusiasm that I was so well-known for.

“…don’t worry, Cheryl. God just has a different plan for you.”

One morning I was sitting in the chair in my mother’s living room and I was sobbing. I just couldn’t understand why life was, had just gone so wrong. My dreams were broken and I remember my mom coming over to me and hugging me, and she held me in her arms and said, “don’t worry, Cheryl. God just has a different plan for you.”

It was hard for me to believe then, but wow! Did he ever have a different plan for me! I am so grateful and I call that time in my life “my beautiful broken heart.”

I rededicated my little store called “Something Different” to celebrating and inspiring women. I filled the store shelves with messages like “you’re beautiful just the way you are,” “believe in the power of your dreams,” and “have faith,” and “you are loved.”

I believe every person that crosses our path is there to teach us or we are there to teach them. Sometimes those experiences are wonderful and filled with joy, and sometimes those experiences are filled with heartache and sorrow.

The Blessing Of Jesus Calling

When I hit rock bottom, I knew that I could no longer rely on a human’s love for me, I could only rely on God’s love for me and if He loved me that much, why couldn’t I love myself?

I wake up each morning grateful for my breath; for my life; for my ability to move my limbs; for my chance to serve and to love another day. I’m also a little bit obsessive about taking walks in nature, because that’s when God often speaks to me. It’s not like I hear a voice, but I receive a feeling; a nudge; an inspiration. When this happens, I just always wonder how can anyone doubt the Lord. Which is why Jesus Calling is such a blessing; here are these words on these pages that just speak into the life of us as a human being.

I remember the first time someone gave me the book. I sat down and I read about half of it in one sitting because I couldn’t wait for the next day. I was so thirsty for the wisdom that seemed to flow off of those pages.

Cheryl Karpen poses with family in front of a waterfall.I love July 14th. It says, “Keep walking with me along the path I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to My heart. I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you. Together we will forge a pathway up the high mountain. The journey is arduous at times; and you are weak. Some day, you will dance light-footed on the high peaks; but for now your walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step; clinging to My hand for strength and direction. Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend. Stay on the the path I have selected for you. It truly is the path of life.” That’s one of my favorites.

I’ve got to tell you something. I finally downloaded the Jesus Calling app so that I could receive the daily word because I keep giving all my books away, and when I need them I can’t find them.

To Let You Know I Care

Narrator: Cheryl’s life in the aftermath of her “beautiful broken heart” season, led her to a wonderful new place. She never forgot the wisdom she received from her mother and support of family and friends who spoke lovingly into that tough time of her life. Eager to give back what she had been given, Cheryl was inspired to write encouraging thoughts around what she had learned and was passionate about taking these messages to people who might find hope and strength in their own times of need.

Cheryl: One Saturday morning, it was rare that I would ever take a Saturday morning off from my stores, but I was exhausted. That morning, although I had slept all night, I woke up with this heavy, heavy heart. I just laid there and thought about all the individuals in my life; whether it was a customer or a friend or a neighbor or my sister. People that I deeply cared about; they were just dealing with so many issues; whether it be marital issues, health issues, family issues or work issues.

It was as if I took all of their combined pain and heartache as my own, and the next thing I knew, my pen was hitting the paper and words were just flowing out of me.

In that moment, this little book called “To Let You Know I Care” was born. This is really funny, but I remember writing it and then I called my neighbor and my sisters and all these people to come over. They read it, and it was just going to be a little gift book, but it had so much heart and soul in it.

My customers started to read it and they were like, “I want 12 copies!” So the next thing you know, I was sitting in front of my banker. Now, 15 minutes before that, I wrote a business plan on a napkin and I went into my bank and I asked him for a $10,000 loan. I thought about that today, because that was crazy; and it was crazy that he even agreed to give me this money!

I had to take that first step which really wasn’t a step. It was a leap!

But my passion and my enthusiasm must have been contagious because my banker, Tom, said, “When do you need the money, Cheryl?” I said, “today, because I gave my illustrator a check three days ago; and I suspect she’ll cash it soon.” So, what faith I had—I mean really; that was pure faith.

Within months, “To Let You Know I Care” was going into a second printing after we first published it. I only tell you this story, because without the fearlessness and that “God thing” of feeling like I had to get this message to the world, I don’t think the “Eat Your Peas” collection would have come to be, which has many more far reaching tendrils. Today, I think we’ve touched over a million lives with the words in our “Eat Your Peas” books. I don’t think that would have ever come to fruition. I had to take that first step which really wasn’t a step. It was a leap!

That’s where my heart and my passion is today; in the “Eat Your Peas” collection.

Standing In The Gap And Eating Your Peas

My mom always said when I was growing up; “eat your peas.” I don’t really like my peas, but I knew they were good for me.

My husband and I have this thing; we call it “standing in the gap.” Sometimes people are brought into our lives so that we can stand in the gap and be there for them when a family member can’t be, or to help someone get through chemotherapy or be there for when someone just needs a place to rest their head. I think that this is a lesson I learned not only with my books, but also with my stores. We all need one another to navigate this life and we all have that opportunity to reach out and dare to be a resting place for someone.

Titles like “Eat Your Peas” for sisters, and girlfriends and grandkids and sons and daughters, in tough times, and someone special. We have so many titles, because there are so many opportunities to stand in the gap and to give that promise to someone to say, “I care.”

“Eat your Peas for Mothers” was one of my favorites.

The cover of Eat Your Peas for Mothers.

I wasn’t always kind to my mother when I was young. When I was a teen, I was disrespectful, and I was sometimes really, really mean. When I speak in high schools, I always tell the kids, “go home and be nice to your mom or you’ll spend the next 40 years making up for it like I did.”

“I’m so glad I’ve lived long enough to hear these words.”

There’s little pages in the book like, “I’m so sorry for all the years I thought the world revolved around me,” and “when did you become so wise? Why did it take me so long to notice?”

The day I gave it to her, I remember she was sitting, in that same chair where she hugged me years before, saying that God had a different plan for me. She was sitting in that chair, and I watched as she read page after page of this little book. She was 88 years of age then. Tears were streaming down her cheek; this is a woman that I rarely saw cry. She looked up at me and she said, “I’m so glad I’ve lived long enough to hear these words.”

I’m so glad I’ve lived long enough to hear these words. I know I’ve said, “I’m sorry for the heartache that I put you through.” I know I’ve told her I loved her a million times, but there was something about having it written on a piece of paper; something that she could go back to and refer to; something that she could keep on her nightstand or her coffee table. It was a reminder that all the sacrifices that she made; all the love that she gave; no matter how hard it was, that it was worth it.

She deserves every bit of love, respect and admiration I can give her. An amazing woman.

Narrator: To learn more about “Eat Your Peas for Mothers,” and the entire “Eat Your Peas” collection, visit CherylKarpen.com.


Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we speak to Emmy nominated comedienne, author and actress Chonda Pierce. Chonda has been making audiences laugh for more than two decades, even while privately dealing with a struggle to overcome depression and multiple tragedies, including the loss of her husband to alcoholism. 

Chonda Pierce: When sadness came to our home, and you can’t be married for 31 years and not have the ups and downs, I would just cry out to God, and I would lean on girlfriends and I would get busy and work. “Let me just go work and tell people about Jesus.” David secretly spiraled into alcohol.

Narrator: Our featured passage today comes from the July 14th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook.

Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to My heart. I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you. Together we will forge a pathway up the high mountain. The journey is arduous at times, and you are weak. Someday you will dance light- footed on the high peaks; but for now, your walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction. Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend. Stay on the path I have selected for you. It is truly the path of Life.

Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.

One thought on “Cheryl Karpen: A Broken Heart and A Mother’s Love

  1. I just wanted you to know that I read the Jesus Calling book, every morning. It is so inspirational to me. I am a widow, who also lost my husband to alcoholism. We had two wonderful sons together. It is so hard, sometimes. But, after I read Jesus Calling, it’s like, things fall into place. I will always believe in GOD, and I will never, ever give up. I am just here on a journey. And I want GOD’S will to be done, not my. GOD is so amazing, awesome, kind, wonderful, and love. I just pray for his guidance, along life way. I know that he has me by his right hand, & he is guiding me along the way. I would be so lost, without him, in my life. So, I am so very, very thankful, grateful, and so blessed to have GOD in my life. There’s no way, that I could go on without GOD. And I wouldn’t want too. I am so very proud ti be a christian. Because, I do know that there is absolutely nothing that GOD cannot do. I just want GOD’S will to be done, not mine.

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