Hope—God’s Unbreakable Lifeline: Ali Landry & Carley Summers
Content Warning: This episode mentions suicide and depression and may not be suitable for all listeners.
Ali Landry: If an area of your life shows up and it’s really not serving you, it’s never too late to reshape it. I realized, I know that His plan is greater, better than any plan that I could have for myself. So, I try to listen to that. I try to listen to what He wants from me in my life instead of myself making the decisions.
Hope—God’s Unbreakable Lifeline: Ali Landry & Carley Summers – Episode #357
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling podcast. We’ve all experienced situations that might seem hopeless—and the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to turn when things look bleak. Our guests this week have experienced traumatic situations that found them at the ends of their own means, when all they could do was breathe a prayer to God in desperation—searching for a glimmer of hope to cling to.
Our guests this week vulnerably share about finding that grain of hope as they faced seemingly hopeless situations. Author and TV host Ali Landry shares her moving story of overcoming a heartbreaking betrayal in her marriage, and on top of that, finding herself facing health issues that made her feel like she was living half a life. Interior designer Carley Summers battled addiction for several years in her young adult life, and at her darkest moment, felt the presence of God guiding her to ask for one more chance—opening the door to a brand-new world.
Let’s start with Ali’s story.
Ali Landry: Hi, everybody. My name is Ali Landry. I am an actress and host. Now, I’m an author of my new book, Reshape Your Life. I’m a mom of three beautiful children. I’m a wife. I’ve been in the entertainment business for over twenty years, doing a little bit of everything.
I am from a very small town in southwest Louisiana. It’s called Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. It’s better known as the Crawfish Capital of the World. I had a beautiful childhood. There were ten children on my father’s side and eight children on my mother’s side, and both sides of the family lived on two large pieces of land with an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, all living sort of in a row.
It’s a very tight knit community. Everyone pretty much still lives there. I’m maybe one of the only family members that moved away. I would definitely say that growing up with a big family grounded me in a way that I’ve carried throughout my life. I’ve done a lot of pretty amazing things with my job, but it was never the most important thing.
Small Town Girl to Miss USA
I always knew that there was more for me than just staying in my small town. I am an adventurer. I love change. I love to explore. I love to grow. I consider myself a student of life. And I knew that there was a big world out there, and I knew that I would probably have to leave my beloved small town to go on my personal journey.
I was in college at University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana, I had the opportunity to compete for Miss Louisiana and my mom did not want me to. And I said, “Mom, listen. I’m a junior in college and this is going to be a really great opportunity for me to travel around the state, possibly meet some people, and secure a job.”
And I was honestly just trying to figure out a way to skip a few steps on that job ladder. So I thought that opportunity in Miss Louisiana was going to allow me to travel around the state and, again, maybe secure a job where I wouldn’t have to bring the coffee to someone or start as an intern. And I did. I competed and I won.
I was such a young girl, nineteen/twenty, and on national television live, and I remember the night before—my prayer has always been, Lord, let them see Your light in me. And at that age, being on that stage in front of millions of people on television—so young, so nervous, scared, all of it—I knew that it was an amazing opportunity, and right before I’d walk on that stage, every time, that was my prayer.
“My prayer has always been, Lord, let them see Your light in me.” – Ali Landry
And then I had to go on to Miss USA, and after Miss USA, I signed with a big agency and I got a Doritos commercial, which aired during the Super Bowl and it was a huge success.
Ali Prays Through a Time of Betrayal
I was in a relationship, and I found out that I had been betrayed in this relationship for many, many years. I was devastated. I felt like it was a death. It was a very public relationship, and Oprah Winfrey filmed the wedding, and then the world came crashing down when I found out everything that had happened and I knew nothing about it. I was heartbroken. I didn’t understand how this could happen.
I remember my mom saying, “Why aren’t you angry?” And I thought to myself, Because I need to move forward in my life with my heart fully healed.
I feel like during that relationship there were many times where God was putting up those red flags for me and I didn’t want to listen. I ignored Him. And then finally, in the end, it took me [marriage] to this person. He grabbed me and took me out of that. And as difficult as it was and as much as it hurt, I knew that I had to heal. This is when I was like, I have failed. I’ve been doing things on my own, but I’m now giving everything to You because I don’t want to make the same mistake again.
So I’ve done a lot of things over the years and always the grounding force for me has been my relationship with God, 100%. And as difficult as that was, I journaled during that time and I remember I had Jesus Calling. So every day I wrote in my journal, I would read a passage from the Bible, and then I would journal on that passage based on what was happening to me and how I was feeling that specific day. And on the top of each journal page, I was writing very specifically what I wanted in a partner. I wanted somebody that was equally yoked.
“I’ve done a lot of things over the years and always the grounding force for me has been my relationship with God, 100%.” – Ali Landry
Also, I was auditioning for a film at the time, and the lead actor invited me to go to a theology class, like a Bible study, and I immediately said, “Yes.” And so this guy comes in and invites me to this Bible study. And I immediately said, “Yes.” And I go, and that is where I actually met my husband. And I feel like all those days that I wrote specifically what I wanted in a partner and a husband, my husband showed up as that.
Ali Reshapes Her Life
I was on a daily talk show and I was having a lot of brain fog and wasn’t really connecting the dots. At the time I considered this my dream job, it was a panel talk show with multiple hosts. I was the new kid on the block. I’d go in, I’d wake up at five. I was on set by six. I was in hair and makeup, and the producers were coming to you talking about the guest, prepping you for the show. You’re on set and it’s five, four, three, two, one, lights on, all the cameras, and you are live. So every cell in your body needs to be awake, alive, and firing for live television.
And, you know, I was excited. I was nervous. I wanted to impress. Questions were coming up when we were talking about different topics, and I would get my answer ready. And as soon as I was about to say it, it would not come out of my mouth the way I sort of had it in my mind. And I thought, Oh my gosh, what’s happening? It happened more than once. I thought I was going to lose this job.
I would get home from that job, I’d come straight upstairs to my bedroom. I’d put my pajamas on, I’d climb into bed with probably a bag of Baked Cheetos and brownie brittle, and my brain felt like it was going to explode because of the adrenaline from the show. And I just felt really overwhelmed. And then I pass out and I’d fall asleep for the rest of the day because I was so tired, and then wake up at pickup time for the kids. And this is why I say I felt mildly depressed, because I felt like I’m living half a life.
Here I am with this job that I’m supposed to love and it’s supposed to serve me and my life and my family, and I feel like I’m sitting on the sidelines in my life and I feel like I’m kind of having half a life because I’m not a player in my own game. And that’s when I decided I deserve more than this. This is not serving me.
“Here I am with this job that I’m supposed to love and it’s supposed to serve me and my life and my family, and I feel like I’m sitting on the sidelines in my life and I feel like I’m kind of having half a life because I’m not a player in my own game. And that’s when I decided I deserve more than this.” – Ali Landry
The best way I could describe the way I was feeling, I was feeling really off, but I wasn’t sick enough—in my opinion—to go to a traditional doctor. So I knew that a naturopath or a functional medical doctor was the answer for me. I took my very first blood panel, a complete blood panel, and for me that was a huge aha moment because I felt it was validation for me that I wasn’t crazy, that these things were actually really happening.
When I looked at my health, I just sort of looked at everything—poor digestion, I had slight depression if I’m completely honest, I had incredibly low energy, I was losing my hair—a multitude of things showed up. But when I saw those numbers on that panel, I was like, Well, now it all makes sense.
I got on supplementation specifically for what was going on with me, and very shortly after that I experienced the next level of health. I felt better than I did before, and I didn’t know that that was possible.
I knew that I had to share this with other women. And again, going back to my greatest prayer, if God was going to give me this platform, I always knew that I had to use the platform and my voice to help others. And like I mentioned, there’s been things that have happened in my life, and I feel like a lot of people maybe keep these things close to their pocket. It’s not pretty, but I always knew that if I was able to lean on God and He was able to pull me through these situations in my life, that it was my responsibility to share it, to help someone else get through theirs, get through their reshape, if we want to call it that.
“I always knew that if I was able to lean on God and He was able to pull me through these situations in my life, that it was my responsibility to share it.” – Ali Landry
Recognizing God’s Daily Gifts
I will say my relationship with God 100% is the foundation, and I really try to share as best as I can how my relationship with Him—Him walking alongside me, or even my deepest prayer—got me through to the other side many times every time. And how I bring God into my day—I mean, my relationship with Him is absolutely everything. And I think that one thing that I do want to share with people, just to show you how simple it is so you’re not overwhelmed with the idea of reshape your life—I always like to give a quick take away. And one is to start your day with gratitude. When you put gratitude in your life, it really shifts everything. It completely shifts your mindset. It completely puts you in a different mood. So I always like to start my day with gratitude.
“I will say my relationship with God 100% is the foundation, it got me through to the other side every time. When you put gratitude in your life, it really shifts everything. It completely shifts your mindset. It completely puts you in a different mood.” – Ali Landry
Something else that I do that I also like to share with people is it’s also about walking through your life in awareness. I was on a walk one day and I looked at a tree, it was an oak tree, and I remember there was a knot in the tree and it was in the shape of a heart. And this ivy from the tree grew around it, and it also followed the pattern of the heart, and I was just amazed. I took an image of it and I sent it to a girlfriend. And she’s like, “Yeah, that’s God’s daily gifts.” And I was like, “What? What are you talking about?” She said, “Yeah, God gives you a gift every day, but it’s up to us to recognize that.” And for me, that was a very profound statement. It’s sort of the idea of stopping and smelling the roses, right? We’re so busy with our lives that sometimes we forget to stop and recognize God working in our lives.
“We’re so busy with our lives that sometimes we forget to stop and recognize God working in our lives.” – Ali Landry
I am so grateful that I’ve had Jesus Calling in my life all of these years, because I can’t tell you how many days or hard times I’ve had where the words have just pulled me through. The message has just pulled me through.
Jesus Listens, February 3rd:
I bring You my weakness—seeking to receive Your Peace. Help me to accept myself and my circumstances just as they are, remembering that You are sovereign over everything. Please protect me from wearing myself out with analyzing and planning. Instead, I want to let thankfulness and trust be my guides through this day—keeping me close to You.
As I live in the radiance of Your Presence, Your Peace shines upon me and I stop thinking so much about how weak I am. While I continue this intimate journey with You, I’m blessed and strengthened by Your promise that the path I’m following is headed for heaven.
In Your radiant Name,
Narrator: To learn more about Ali Landry, be sure to check her out on social media, and you can find her new book, Reshape Your Life, at your favorite retailer.
Stay tuned to Carley Summers’ story after a brief message.
When We’re Looking for Hope, Jesus Listens
Life can be overwhelming at times. Whether there are global issues that leave you feeling helpless or the day-to-day struggles that make you feel hopeless, God is still there for you—ready to hear your prayer at any time.
That’s why Sarah Young wrote the book Jesus Listens. She wanted to deliver a message of peace, love, and hope to her readers every day. Jesus Listens is a 365-day prayer devotional with short, heartfelt prayers based on Scripture, written to deepen your relationship with God and change your heart.
Learn more about Jesus Listens and download a free sample at www.jesuscalling.com/jesuslistens.
Our next guest is internationally-renowned designer and photographer Carley Summers, who vulnerably shares her story of grappling with alcoholism and addiction, which led to stints in jail, emergency rooms, and rehab. Now, as a celebration of her recovery, Carley helps create welcoming, warm, and inviting spaces in her clients’ homes where they can do their own healing and restoration.
Carley Summers: My name is Carley Summers. I am an interior designer and photographer, and I am blessed to be able to create curated and sacred spaces for my clients and they eventually become my friends. I’m also able to travel around the world and photograph different spaces for different people and to tell their story as well. So I am one blessed woman.
When I grew up, I had a traditional family. My parents love each other very much. They did the best they could in the sense of raising me to be a believer.
I was a wild child. I was diagnosed with ADHD at a very young age, and I just was extremely creative. Ever since I was little, I can remember even creating little quiet corners for myself within my room. I was always painting. I was extremely artistic. And so just growing up, my parents really tried to foster that in the best way possible.
I remember growing up my mom said, “I know that you feel weird, and that’s okay. Like, I want you to be weird because one day you’ll be grateful I didn’t want you or dress you to be cool. I allowed you to be fully yourself.” And so I think my mom really played into raising me to be childlike, and that’s something that stuck with me until now.
Feelings of Worthlessness Turned Into Addiction
I went through a lot during a seven-year period of my life when I struggled with alcoholism and addiction. I was extremely impulsive and being able to find those things—doing drugs and alcohol became something that was easily accessible, which it shouldn’t be, but it was something that started to play a part of my life at an early age.
But it did not become severe until I went through a traumatic event at the age of eighteen where I was a victim of assault. And from that, the enemy placed in me a feeling of worthlessness. And I feel that when you feel worthless, you act worthless. I carried that demeanor and that feeling for a period of seven years.
I went into rehab for the first time at twenty years old after falling thirty-two feet from a window ledge, ending up in the ER. I can remember my dad standing over me in the emergency room cleaning me off with baby wipes and just weeping and putting my parents through so much.
That first time in rehab did not work out. I was still very young and was not ready to give up those addictions, and I was not ready to surrender my life over to God. So I continued to go through really hell and high water to get to where I am now.
Carley Surrenders Her Life to Christ
It was not until my second DUI when I was at the age of twenty-two, when I finally realized that I needed some help and I was ready to surrender my life over to Jesus.
“It was not until my second DUI when I was at the age of twenty-two, when I finally realized that I needed some help and I was ready to surrender my life over to Jesus.” – Carley Summers
It’s a very distinct moment in my life, I remember I had been partying and I had been kicked out of every place that I was living in so I was crashing at my parent’s house, and that was a temporary solution. And I had been placed in the scenario of either going to rehab after my second DUI, or going to prison. And at that point I was so low that I thought, Well, rehab didn’t work the first time, so I might as well go to prison.
And I remember waking up one morning at my parent’s house, I was hungover, and they brought me down into the kitchen and they said, “We need to talk to you.” And at that point they had scheduled me to go to a Christian Faith Rehab down in Florida. And I remember just sitting on their kitchen floor because I was just so hungover, I could barely even sit up. My parents were looking at me and saying, “You know, rehab is a luxury, and this is not something that we feel like you deserve right now. So we’re going to cancel your rehab, and we have come to the decision that we are not going to enable you anymore, and that we’re done. We love you, we’ll always love you, but we’re not going to carry this anymore.” And they were done. And they said, “We need you to pack up your things and we need you to go.”
And at that moment, I just felt completely alone. I remember sitting on the floor of their kitchen and hearing two different voices echoing in my head. And I remember one of them was saying, “Take your life. No one needs you here anymore. You’re a burden to everyone around you. It’s time for you to go. It’ll make your life easier for you to just go.” And I remember also hearing this faint voice trying to overcome it, “You are my child. I have a plan for you. Ask for one more chance. Don’t give up. I have a plan. I have a purpose for your life.”
Taking Hold of Hope
And I remember wanting to take hold of hope instead of losing hope and taking my own life. I remember looking up at my parents and asking, “Can I have one more chance?” There was just this shift in the room, and I remember them looking at me and saying, “One more chance, and that’s it.”
And at that moment, I realized that something was going to have to change. Jesus tried to reach me in that moment because He had a plan and a destiny for me to use my story to give Him glory.
“I realized that something was going to have to change. Jesus tried to reach me in that moment because He had a plan and a destiny for me to use my story to give Him glory.” – Carley Summers
And so at the age of twenty-two, I went into rehab for my second time, and that is where I met Jesus in a real relationship. I got on a plane by myself, flew to Delray Beach, Florida, where I was picked up and I was taken to a detox center, which is where you go before you enter into a rehab facility. And I’m surrounded by people who are withdrawing. And I remember just sitting in my room by myself and I put the sheets over my head, like, How am I going to get through this? God, I want you, but I don’t know how to serve you. I don’t know what to do.
I remember all I had was a couple pairs of clothes, a Bible, and Jesus Calling. My dad gave it to me and there’s a note written in it and I’ll never forget it. And it was that he was proud of me and he knew that God had a plan and a purpose for my life. And he thought this devotional would be so helpful for me. Little did he know that that Jesus Calling would impact me so hugely.
And I remember God just saying, “Just start here.” And I knew the Bible and I kind of knew how to read it, and I knew a couple of Scriptures from when I was younger, but Jesus Calling—I started to read it and read the scriptures at the bottom, and it began to take root in my life. And I can remember even while I was going through rehab, people saying, “Wow, you’re encouraging, this is a really hard place to be in and you’re so positive.” And I can remember it’s because I let the root of Scripture take a hold of my life, and it gave me this unexplainable joy, even though I was in one of the lowest circumstances you can be in, having to walk through shame and guilt. And it was because I was able to open up in that treatment and I was able to allow God to start to work in my life.
“I let the root of Scripture take a hold of my life, and it gave me this unexplainable joy, even though I was in one of the lowest circumstances you can be in.” – Carley Summers
And because of my faith, my recovery started to grow. I realized that I can actually do this. There is hope at the end of this road. And that’s when I got sober. And now, this year will be twelve years. It still makes me tear up—twelve years of sobriety from drug and alcohol addiction. I like to say recovered from alcoholism and addiction, because I think that my life verse is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If I am a new creation and Christ, all those things that have been are now gone, let the new come.” And so I have to wake up every day and recognize that I am healed from those things.
“I think that my life verse is 2 Corinthians 5:17, ‘If I am a new creation and Christ, all those things that have been are now gone, let the new come.’ And so I have to wake up every day and recognize that I am healed from those things.” – Carley Summers
Creating Spaces to Share Our Deepest Stories
Interior design has been a huge tool for my life and healing and I think also for other people. After I got sober, I can remember creating spaces for myself, where when the outside world I didn’t have any control over, it was that interior I was able to create and curate to give myself peace. I was able to artistically create something to wear when my butt hit the seat, it’s where I met Jesus there, and it was because of the environment that I had created for myself. It was something sacred. And so that was a tool that I was able to create for myself in interior design. And when I realized that that was something I could help create for other people, it became this really interesting, activated area of my life.
I always thought that I had to work in the church to do ministry, but I realized that through stewarding people’s money well and creating homes where people walked in that they could do life with and have Bible studies and host and work as a family together, I realized that I could create something sacred for other people.
“I always thought that I had to work in the church to do ministry, but I realized that through stewarding people’s money well and creating homes where people walked in that they could do life with and have Bible studies and host and work as a family together, I realized that I could create something sacred for other people.” – Carley Summers
I know that my home tells my story. I mean, even just little odds and ends. After I got out of rehab, I immediately moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and served for half of a year as a missionary. And that’s where God completely just started to restore my heart by working with other women who had also gone through similar experiences with the sexual assault and how God started to use my story to help set other people free. And I have little mementos from Haiti all around my house that are just sweet, triggering moments reminding me of how far I’ve come.
“God started to use my story to help set other people free.” – Carley Summers
I lead a Bible study every Wednesday night of college women, I’ve done that for the past eleven years. And it’s just so neat how when those women walk into the house, they say, “This house does something to me.” And it’s where we’re all able to sit around and share our stories and be vulnerable. I’ve created something—me and my husband—as a sacred space to be able for those women to be open and to be vulnerable. And when they walk out of the space, they feel renewed and changed and refreshed. And I think that when we’ve curated a space—and it doesn’t have to be expensive things, but when we’ve curated a space to help people feel safe, I think that’s how our homes can impact us and help tell our stories.
“We’ve curated a space to help people feel safe, I think that’s how our homes can impact us and help tell our stories.” – Carley Summers
It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be top of the line—it could be a couch from Goodwill, it can be an old heirloom of something—but it’s something that when we sit there and we cherish it, and it’s something that we love, it helps us feel peace.
I think that if you intentionally design one quiet corner in your space, that when the whole world feels hectic, when the whole world feels clamoring and you can’t find peace, you go to that chair, you go to that cushion, you go to that side of your bed where there’s a candle, there’s a sprig of flower or a branch or greenery or something there that sparks joy in you. I think that’s where we can create that sacred space, that intimate, quiet corner.
Jesus Calling still today sits in my sacred space in my sunroom where I read it. So I’m going to read from Jesus Listens, April 8th.
Radiant Lord Jesus,
You are the Light that shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it—and it never will! Yet when multiple problems are closing in on me, the Light of Your Presence sometimes seems like a dim memory. Whenever I’m feeling distant from You, I need to stop everything and pour out my heart to You. Help me to carve out time and space to talk with You about my problems and feelings. As I unburden myself to You, please show me the way forward.
No matter how much darkness I see in the world around me, Your Light continues to shine on, for it is infinitely more powerful! Because I belong to You, this Light shines not only upon me but within me.
In Your glorious Name,
Narrator: To learn more about Carley, please visit www.carleysummers.com, and be sure to check out her new book, Sacred Spaces, at your favorite retailer.
If you’d like to hear more stories about depending on God to bear our burdens, check out our interview with Jon Gordon.
Next week: Tara-Leigh Cobble
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from Bible teacher and host of The Bible Recap Podcast, Tara-Leigh Cobble. Tara opens up about her quest to understand the Bible and see it through a lens that made sense to her, and she shares what resonated with her to others who seek to understand as well.
Tara-Leigh Cobble: The most important thing I learned about how to read the Bible was to read it and look for God. This really changed my day to day life in ways that I didn’t expect.