Embracing God-Given Second Chances: Lori Allen & Raleigh Keegan
Lori Allen: There’s nothing to me more important than women, supporting other women. I mean, I just feel like that’s my mission now to spread the fact that I did it and it wasn’t easy. And I don’t want anybody to think my life has been a bed of roses. But you can do it too.
Embracing God-Given Second Chances: Lori Allen & Raleigh Keegan – Episode #214
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Every day the sun rises means God gives us another chance, if we just pause and take a look. For our guest entrepreneur Lori Allen, her chance was to say yes to the things she said no to before. And for country singer Raleigh Keegan, he found a chance to embrace a long-lost person he held dear.
Lori Allen is the founder of the shop Bridals by Lori,, and star of the TLC reality show Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta. As an entrepreneur, Lori has stepped out in faith many times in order to serve her clients and grow her business. Along the way, she’s faced some trying times—but credits God with getting her through it all.
Lori: Hi, I’m Lori Allen from Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta. I own Bridals by Lori, and recently I’ve written my very first book, Say Yes to What’s Next.
Getting to where I am today has been a very long journey. Not easy. Nothing was ever handed to me. But I’ve always had my faith, and I’ve always had a very strong will and conviction that I would succeed.
“I’ve always had my faith, and I’ve always had a very strong will and conviction that I would succeed.” – Lori Allen
Say Yes to New Opportunities
This December marks my fortieth year in the bridal industry. And to be honest, for many, many years I made no money, I put it all right back into my business. And then TLC called, and we got Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.
And I was so excited, because I knew for a small business owner to have that kind of exposure, something so fun, and to showcase my store and all my dreams—I had always prayed about having my own television show. I mean, I just always said, “God, if it’s meant to be, please allow it to be.”
So, last year I turned sixty, and I had a bride come in with her mother. And they’re like, “Oh my gosh, Lori, you look so great. Congratulations!” And then the mom turns to me and says, “When are you going to retire now?”
And it just went all over me. I’m like, What? Why would you expect me to retire? Why would you ask me that question?
And then I got to thinking about it. You know, what for women after age forty-five motivates us? We are very smart women that have a lot of life ahead of us. And I’d look at life as a cookie. And this cookie, after you’re in your late forties, early fifties. You’ve got about a quarter of it left. And are you going to savor every bite down to the last crumb? Or are you just going to let it wither away? I plan to savor every last crumb, and I want to motivate other women to do the same.
“What for women after age forty-five motivates us? We are very smart women that have a lot of life ahead of us . . . I plan to savor every last crumb, and I want to motivate other women to do the same.“ – Lori Allen
Say Yes to What’s Next in Your Life
My new book is Say Yes to What’s Next. And I want to inspire and motivate women, particularly women over forty-five. All of my life I have been the cheerleader for women, whether it be the bride, the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom, the grandmother. I’m always motivating women. “You look great. Let’s put you in this.” And I’m trying to make them feel and look their best. I not only want them to feel and look their best on the outside, but also on the inside.
The book is specifically geared for women over forty-five years old. And we discuss things like parenting our parents, how to be a mother of the bride, the mother of the groom, self-care is the new black, I discuss finances. I mean, just a multitude of things. Marriage is a big chapter in the book.
I want us to think about ourselves. I want us to realize our passion. I want us to just take a minute and figure out what we want to do with the remainder of our life here on this earth, and to make it meaningful. I think that God wants us to live ‘till our very last day with meaning and hope.
“I think that God wants us to live ‘till our very last day with meaning and hope.” – Lori Allen
Say Yes to What Scares You
You know, saying yes can be terrifying. I mean, to me, to continue on in a business that wasn’t really producing—but I had my faith, and I knew what was right in my heart. That kind of motivation only comes from your faith. And I feel like that if you are not on a path or in a career that makes you happy, now is the time to step out. It totally can be terrifying, but it is worth it. Totally worth it.
Every day, I see brides stepping out on faith. They have faith that this marriage and this man is going to be wonderful, that this marriage is going to work out perfectly, and the families are going to blend, and they just go forward with blind faith. And I think that’s how we have to live our lives. We have to trust in God and we have to move forward.
There’s been many times I’ve had to move forward and say yes, just by my faith. I had to say yes to opening a business. Yes to being a working mom, and that my children would turn out wonderfully—and they did. Yes, to the fact that I’m a great grandmother and I’m not there every second. I’m still working. But I say yes to being a grandmother. I say yes to breast cancer, to moving on, to living your life after breast cancer. Breast cancer is not an easy thing. It took a year out of my life and it was very difficult. But I never let that self-doubt in my head. I said yes to my faith. Yes. And I was going to get better. And yes, that I was going to survive.
Say Yes to Your Faith
How do we make the most of the time that we’re given on this earth? I feel like we have to embrace every day, and I get up out of bed every day, and I have my little routine—exercise, devotional, and off to work. I feel focused and energized, and I love what I do.
And then I also feel like we have to mentor others. We have to set an example for other women that you can have a good life. You can have a great life. Is it going to be easy working and owning your own business and having a television show? Life’s never easy, but with your attitude and showing your faith and your fortitude, you can make it a wonderful life. And I did like it either.
“Life’s never easy, but with your attitude and showing your faith and your fortitude, you can make it a wonderful life.” – Lori Allen
I think that is going to be hard for people to relate to. We should talk more about, you know, no matter if you’re going through something tough or you’re sick or you’ve had a death of a spouse or a divorce or you’re an exhausted, busy, working mom. We can find joy and hope in all our challenges, and it is up to us as women to empower each other, and that is totally okay.
Here is one of my favorite passages from Jesus Calling from February 29th. I hope it will encourage you to say yes to God’s plans for your life.
YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT PATH. Listen more to Me and less to your doubts. I am leading you along the way I designed just for you. Therefore, it is a lonely way, humanly speaking. But I go before you as well as alongside you, so you are never alone. Do not expect anyone to understand fully My ways with you, any more than you can comprehend My dealings with others. I am revealing to you the path of Life, day by day and moment by moment. As I said to My disciple Peter, so I repeat to you: Follow Me.
I feel like as women, it is up to us to empower each other. I mean, we all have our difficulties, whether it be divorce, loss of a child, loss of parents. You may have lost your job during this COVID. I mean, there’s been so many crazy things coming at us right and left, but we have to find joy in our life and we have to have faith.
Narrator: You can find Lori Allen’s book, Say Yes to What’s Next, wherever you buy books.
Stay tuned for country music artist Raleigh Keegan’s story after a brief message about a brand-new Jesus Calling journal that invites you to experience a life in God’s presence.
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Narrator: Raleigh Keegan has lived his entire life knowing someone had given him a chance: his birth mom. After he was born inside the walls of a prison, Raleigh was adopted when he was a few days old, but never stopped thinking about the woman whose selfless choice allowed him to play in the jazz band, land a spot on the college football team, get married, and begin a country music career of his own.
Raleigh Keegan: My name is Raleigh Keegan. I’m a country singer here in Nashville, Tennessee. And I’m here to share my story with Jesus Calling.
Getting a Chance from a Birth Mom
My birth mom, she was in prison when she was pregnant with me. She was in for drug charges, but she was clean when she had me, so that was amazing. But she had me in the prison, and then I was adopted a couple days later by my parents.
I grew up with two amazing parents who gave me every opportunity in the world. So I was on the swim team. I was in Boy Scouts—a lot of people don’t know that I’m an Eagle Scout, which is hilarious, because I was an awful Eagle Scout. They started me on piano super, super early, I played trombone, I played everything. And I had dreams of being a professional basketball player because when I was little, I was like five-foot-nine in fifth grade, and I was projected to be like six-foot-ten. And then I stopped growing after like six-foot-four, so then you can no longer go to the NBA if you’re me.
I grew up in the church, and I can remember my parents, when I was little, saying prayers around the table. And then what’s funny—they’re my first memories, they’re kind of intertwined—my dad used to sing me James Taylor songs before bed so I could fall asleep. And then my parents would say our prayers with us. So that’s probably like some of my very first memories ever.
I don’t think the fact that I was adopted and came from a really hard start ever made me question God’s love for me, that specific thing, because I always viewed it as, I had a chance. So I always viewed it as like It could have been bad, honestly, had God not intervened. I didn’t understand that until I was like twenty or twenty-one, because I didn’t become a Christian, I don’t think, until I was twenty or twenty-one. Even before I was a Christian, I always viewed it as like, Man, I’m just this lucky guy who has had this amazing life and amazing parents.
“I don’t think the fact that I was adopted and came from a really hard start ever made me question God’s love for me, that specific thing, because I always viewed it as, I had a chance.” – Raleigh Keegan
Jesus Loves Us on Our Worst & Best Days
So my whole life, I basically thought that Christianity and religion was basically a way for us to get to God by being good, or because you’re a pretty decently moral person. And in college, I went through an extremely hard week where I almost got kicked off the football team, I lost the girl that I was dating at the time, and my friend got in a fight. He got a knife to his throat. But he made it, he’s fine. But all that happened in a week, and I woke up from that week and thought, I’ve gotta change my life. Like, I’ve got to change. So much of what I am is causing destruction in my life.
So I went on this kind of quest to change. I started reading a Psalm a day. I started trying to go to church. I would, like, go to the back row of a church in a muscle shirt, and no one would know I was there, and I would sneak out so no one could talk to me. I was like, really investigating, trying to figure this thing out.
And during this religious quest to kind of become a better person, it led me to more and more and more guilt, because the more I tried, the more I fell short. And I couldn’t measure up. This friend of mine named Tony, who was a minister at our college, gave me this book. And I read this book and it explained Romans 8:1, which is, “Therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” And he explained that on my worst day and on my best day, because of what Jesus did for me, I’m viewed the same. That just changed me.
“On my worst day and on my best day, because of what Jesus did for me, I’m viewed the same. That just changed me.” – Raleigh Keegan
Carrying a Mission into Music
So I think songwriting’s always been in me, and I didn’t know it. It’s really funny, when I was in second grade, my teacher called my mom one time and said, “He writes these really creative stories, and I don’t know where they’re coming from. Does he do this at home?” So I always have been bent towards the creation process, I think even as a kid.
I was a weird kid, right? Because, like, I was like the star of the football team, but I would leave lunch early so I didn’t have to talk to people so I could write songs on a trombone or a piano. And no one knew I would leave lunch early to do that. I was in the jazz band. I was in the concert band. I loved that. I got offered a scholarship to go to University of Cincinnati to play jazz trombone. I didn’t do that, because at the time my goal was to get the girls to like me. So I thought playing football in college would work better, so that’s what I did. I think songwriting has always been in me, but it didn’t flesh itself out until the past four or five years I guess.
The reason I started music was to make people feel what I felt when I listened to certain music. And that caused me to quit my job, to go from the comforts of my home to touring every weekend and not seeing my family as much. A good friend of mine said, “Only say the things and sing the things that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”
I think that anyone—if they’re a Christian—doing whatever they want to do is powerful to me, regardless of what field they’re in. So for me, like, my life’s mission is just to be a Christian in whatever I’m doing. For me personally, I’m only grounded when I am spending time in the scriptures and going to church. If I’m not spending time with God, I find that I tend to find myself overworking, finding all of my identity in my career, and not who God says I am.
“My life’s mission is just to be a Christian in whatever I’m doing.” – Raleigh Keegan
My mother-in-law, three years ago, had a Jesus Calling book on her desk, and so I would just read a few, and then she didn’t know it. But I would read them, at least for a couple of months, every day. And I love them because it’s so accessible to get a very good devotional in a short period of time. And I think that that’s what I loved and what was so great for me with Jesus Calling.
April 9th (Jesus Calling):
You are Mine for all time; nothing can separate you from My Love. Since I have invested My very Life in you, be well assured that I will also take care of you. When your mind goes into neutral and your thoughts flow freely, you tend to feel anxious and alone. Your focus becomes problem solving. To get your mind back into gear, just turn toward Me, bringing yourself and your problems into My Presence.
Many problems vanish instantly in the Light of My Love because you realize you are never alone. Other problems may remain, but they become secondary to knowing Me and rejoicing in the relationship I so freely offer you. Each moment you can choose to practice My Presence or to practice the presence of problems.
“Look What You Did for Me. Thank You.”
My birth mom—what’s funny is that the adoption agency messed up, and it was like the guy’s first day. It was supposed to be a closed adoption. And they told my parents her name. So I always knew my birth mom’s name. And I was sitting around with friends, and they told me I should look her up on Facebook. So I looked her up on Facebook, and like three days later, she was in my life.
And she just told me so many things about my life. Like, if you Google my grandfather, he was in federal prison for robbing banks. I found out that I have a stepbrother—or a half brother, I guess—who is a professional poker player in Vegas. There are just so many crazy things about my family. And now I have a great relationship with that side of the family, and the reason I wanted to meet my birth mom was to thank her, really, because of all the things I’ve already shared with you. I mean, she gave me a chance at life.
I saw my mom for the first time, and she saw me, and we look just like each other. So it’s like this immediate connection. She starts crying. I start crying. It’s just a weird, immediate crazy thing. It’s not like I needed her to replace my parents. It’s just this strange feeling of, Oh, that’s my blood, and this is crazy. Thank you. Look what you did for me, you know? So that was pretty powerful.
Narrator: You can follow Raleigh on social media to keep up with his latest music.
If you’d like to hear more stories about finding new chapters and second chances, check out our interview with author and activist Cyntoia Brown-Long and designer Liz Marie Galvan.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk with country music superstar Sara Evans. Growing up on a farm in Missouri, Sara remembers receiving many lessons that she’d carry throughout her career. And no one was more influential on Sara’s life than her very own mother.
Sara Evans: My mom’s the hardest working human that I know. So I just really believe in going the extra mile, especially for other people. So if it’s something that you think would make somebody comfortable or, you know, meet a need, that’s what I was taught growing up.
Narrator: Want to hear more inspirational stories of people who have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then subscribe today to the Jesus Calling Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And please be sure to leave a review, which helps us reach and inspire others with these stories. Plus, if you like seeing our guests as well as hearing them, you can find video interviews available on our Youtube channel at youtube.com/jesuscallingbook, on Facebook, and on the Jesus Calling Instagram page.