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Anne Beiler: Your shame tells you you are unlovable, unforgivable, and unchangeable. I mean, it just [tells you that] you are such a shame. And so you begin to self-destruct because you don’t deserve anything good. And that’s because it’s a lie straight out of hell. I mean, that is the biggest lie, because God values us who we are. And you know what? This was not a new revelation, maybe a new truth. That just grabbed me not even a year ago. And, you know, every preacher, every evangelist, every pastor will say this to you every Sunday in some way: that Jesus died for your sins. Well, hallelujah. He did die for my sins. I knew that. But He also died for my shame.
Life Is Hard, But God Is Good: Anne Belier and Nancy Hicks – Episode #190
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. This week’s guests have learned that God can take us to places we’re meant to go, and move us out of places we were never meant to be: Founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels Anne Beiler and former QVC host Nancy Hicks.
First up, Anne Beiler grew up thinking if she did everything right, she would be loved by her family and God. She went about her life being the good girl, marrying the right man, and all seemed to be going according to plan until a fateful Sunday morning when her daughter was killed in an accident on her family farm. Anne’s formula for a perfect living didn’t translate to this situation, and she descended into a pit of despair. But instead of letting others see her pain, she threw herself into pretending everything was okay, which began a cycle of secrets that would nearly destroy her marriage and her life.
Anne: Hello, my name is Anne Beiler. First and foremost, I love being a mom, and I love being a wife and a grandma to four kids. I grew up in an Amish home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
The other part of my life that is significant is that I’m the founder of Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels. And when that began to formulate for us, we had no idea that we would go from one little farmer’s market store to selling Auntie Anne’s Pretzels around the world in twenty-four countries, in forty-eight states, with about eighteen or nineteen hundred locations today.
A Black and White Faith
Growing up in the Amish and Mennonite culture, everything back in the day for me was black and white. They wore black clothing. The women wore black, and the men wore black suits and white shirts. So it’s literally black and white. It’s really a culture of [black and white]; there are no gray areas, particularly in the outward appearance of the culture.
So as a little girl, I remember clearly if you did something wrong in the church, you were asked to make a public confession in front of the whole church. And typically, it was something against the order of the church, or it could have been what they would have seen as a big enough biblical sin to make that kind of confession. But I remember as a little girl that that was always ingrained in my mind, and I decided that I would never do a thing too bad that I would have to stand up in front of the whole congregation to confess it.
And my theology, by the time I was a teenager and into my young married life, was that life is good and God is harsh, meaning that if I keep all The Ten Commandments to the best that I can and really be a good girl, then God would be pleased with me. And certainly, my parents would be pleased with me as well. That was a subliminal message that I had in my heart, my mind.
I grew up with the idea—as a little Amish girl, you grow up wanting to have your very own family. That was my goal. I never thought about a career or owning a business or that there was a way out. I would never have thought about that. So marrying at the age of nineteen, my husband was twenty-one, and by then we were introduced to the charismatic phenomenon that was going on in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. And out of that, we built a church in the middle of nowhere called Victory Chapel. Within a few years, we had about a thousand people going to that little church, so life was exciting. Life is good. God is pleased. And I’m on my way to win the whole world.
And so it was intentional on my part, but it was also what I wanted to be. I wasn’t pretending. It’s just what I wanted to be. I had pretty much accomplished that and understood God’s grace and God’s love. And, you know, we’re not perfect, and all those things. I’ve got that.
The Loss of a Daughter, The Secrets That Bind Us
My daughter, Angela Joy, was killed on a Monday morning, a beautiful fall, September morning. My sister, who was working for my dad, was driving a Bobcat. We all lived on the same farm, so we were always out and about, the kids were always running into grandma’s house. And that particular morning, when my sister was driving the Bobcat, she didn’t see Angie behind her. And then she turned the Bobcat to go forward again, and she saw Angie’s body in front of the Bobcat.
As Angie made her quick descent into the arms of Jesus, I began my very slow and gradual descent into a life of emotional confusion, this spiritual, emotional pain and spiritual confusion.
Early on in my pain, I was struggling for the answers, like, Where do I go from here? In my moments of deep grief and sadness, I just wanted to see Angie again. I just wanted to hold her. I just wanted to be a happy family again. I wanted it to be the way it was—impossible. So what do I do with that? Well, we don’t understand, so we ask questions. And in my desperation, and deep grief, I began to really fall apart emotionally.
My husband’s very quiet, and I’m pretty verbal. But after a month or two of deep grief, both of us were quiet, and I found myself just crying alone in my bedroom. I was embarrassed that I was feeling bad. I’m still feeling sad. You know, if you were a really good Christian, you’d be victorious. You’d be overcoming. You’d be over this by now. But instead, I was not over it, and I began to pretend like everything was all right. And by the end of about five months, Jonah [and I were] totally disconnected. Of course, we stayed together, but [we had] no communication.
I went to see my pastor at that time, desperate for help. I’d never gone for counseling of any kind, ever, because remember, my life was pretty good and I never needed any extra help. When I went to see my pastor, that day before I left his office, he took advantage of me physically.
I didn’t know anything about pastoral sexual abuse. I didn’t know anything about the abuse of power. I didn’t even know anything about abuse. That sounds silly, but I didn’t. I didn’t understand. But what I knew when I walked away was that he did something that was very wrong. And instead of blaming him, I just assumed that I did something wrong. So my response to all of that, which I take complete responsibility for, is that I made a decision. I made a choice that day that I was going to keep a secret. I will never tell anyone what he did to me.
And that secret held me hostage to him for six years.
I was in an abusive relationship in every way, manipulated in every way. For six long, silent years, a little over six years, I never said anything to anyone, and I found myself believing that God truly is harsh. I must have done something wrong.
I was falling apart from the inside out. And the reason is because that I was keeping a secret. Secrets leave you powerless, they keep you in a place of darkness, keep you defeated. You will never rise above the secret completely. You will never be free, even though you are a believer and you are free in Christ. These secrets that talk to us inside do not allow us to live in freedom.
“Secrets leave you powerless, they keep you in a place of darkness, keep you defeated. These secrets that talk to us inside do not allow us to live in freedom.” – Anne Beiler
Three Forms of Confession
During those six years of silence, there were three forms of confession that I realized I began to understand. Number one was the power of bedside prayers. One form of confession is what all of us do as believers, it’s our privilege. It is what we do because we can. It’s our connection to God.
The second form of confession is journaling, which I began to do. When I began to journal, the inside of me scared me, like, Is this really the way I feel? But I wasn’t making it up. It was all inside of me, flowing out of my pen onto the paper, and I’m like, Wow.
The third form of confession is found in James 5:16. It’s what I call the one to another confession. “Confess your faults, one to another, and pray for one another, and you will be healed.” That’s not bedside prayer. That’s not journaling. That’s from one person to the other. If you do that, you’ll be healed relationally.
My problem was not a spiritual connection with Jesus, although that was waning. It was weakening. But my problem was relational problems between my husband, my children, my family, my friends, my business partners. I was not okay, and that was my problem. I was not able to be open and honest about my life.
So when Jesus said to me, “Get up off your knees and go tell your husband what your life is all about right now,” I’d rather keep praying. I just wanted to keep praying.
“Lord, I’ll just keep journaling. Please, I cannot tell him.”
[Jesus said] “You’ve got to get up off your knees, and go tell your husband what you’re involved in.”
I had no idea what the result would be because when you do the “one to another” confession, it’s not about predicting an outcome. It’s simply about confessing the wrongdoing, and that was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life.
God gave me courage that day. Without that one single confession, there would be no Auntie Anne’s today. That sounds silly, but I know that that’s how dark it was for me. That’s how desperate I was. That’s how sick I was. We don’t know the difference between truth and lies in our heads. I knew that Jonas would leave me. But the power of confession, when I say that to you, it’s a powerful truth.
Let me tell you, that’s where it starts. That’s where it started for me, to be able to tell someone what was going on in my life. Jonas was my confession guy. I had to confess to him. But then God brought other people to me that I was able to unload all of it onto. And over time, the one to another confession set me free. Confession can change the trajectory of your entire life and your family.
“Confession can change the trajectory of your entire life and your family.” – Anne Beiler
Wisdom for Secret Keepers
And that’s the reason I wrote this book because I understand the power of secrets and the path that you find yourself on in secrets. I had to experience all this pain so that I could be compassionate with those who are suffering in our world today. God gave me a pretzel first, and then He gave me a platform to share my story for His glory. I would encourage people to get outside your box, outside of your little community, outside of the way you’ve always thought.
“I had to experience all this pain so that I could be compassionate with those who are suffering in our world today. “ – Anne Beiler
Twenty years after Angie was killed, I finally ended up going for counseling. I was in the middle of the success of Auntie Anne’s. The abuse led me to affairs and crazy behavior, and the guilt and shame of all of that. Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” Shame says, “I am something wrong.” So in our pain, we believe lies. It was all my fault, the way my kids behaved, the way my husband treated me. It was all my fault.
“Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” Shame says, “I am something wrong.” So in our pain, we believe lies.” – Anne Beiler
But we need to go to someone that can speak truth to us. And as they speak truth to us, we begin to have new thoughts. There is somebody, I promise you, that will help you, that will listen to you. Go to someone that will listen.
When our pain is too deep and it’s too dark, we cannot sex it away. We can’t drug it away. We can’t take up with pharmaceutical drugs that make the pain go away. We can’t work it away. We can’t exercise it away. We can’t eat it away. We can’t even ministry it away. I mean, we do all of these things to be busy, to numb our pain.
The best part of my day is just me spending time with Jesus. I’m older now, [so] I can—I’m not saying that young moms and busy executives can do this every day. But the point is, I like who I am. I love the fact that Jesus—He loves me. It’s as if I’d never done anything wrong.
[I can have] my Jesus Calling and my Bible, or just have silence and let Him love on me. That’s the best part of my day. And that’s where He wants us to be. The world has robbed us of being in connection with God by doing works for God. Culturally, it’s hard for us to be [in connection]. But we can be.
What I know today, with seven decades of life, real life’s experiences is that life is hard. God is good. And I’m not confused about that anymore. That is the very center of what I believe. Life is hard. God is good. I am not confused.
So when there are tragedies, when there’s pain, even in my own life, when things don’t make sense when I feel decisions are tough, and things don’t always turn out the way I prayed for or believed that they should turn out, that’s my go-to: Life is hard, God is good.
“When I feel decisions are tough, and things don’t always turn out the way I prayed for or believed that they should turn out, that’s my go to: Life is hard, God is good.” – Anne Beiler
Narrator: You can find Anne’s book, The Secret Lies Within, wherever books are sold.
Stay tuned to hear Nancy Hicks’ story after a brief message about a beautiful new edition of Jesus Calling that’s a perfect way to celebrate the Easter season.
Narrator: The Easter season is filled with joy and hope. Now, there’s a new way to focus on the holiday with the new book, Jesus Calling® for Easter. With 50 Jesus Calling devotions selected just for the Lent and Easter season, Jesus Calling for Easter includes Scripture verses alongside breathtaking imagery and exquisite design. Jesus Calling for Easter makes a stunning gift for those who love Jesus Calling and would like a new way to observe the Easter season. To learn more about this beautiful new edition of Jesus Calling, please visit jesuscalling.com/books.
Narrator: Nancy Hicks was a spokesperson at the on-air retailer QVC, where she inspired millions of viewers—and folks behind the camera—to embrace simple beauty and joys in life. Yet the road that took Nancy to this place was filled with twists and turns and ultimately led her to obedience as to where God wanted her to be—and it wasn’t exactly where she had planned to go. Today Nancy is grateful for that journey, and now she is an inspirational communicator who wants to share how we can all learn to hear God’s call on our life—as she describes in her book, Meant to Live.
Nancy Hicks: My name is Nancy Hicks, and I started a ministry called Nancy Hicks Live. I’m from Canada, which is kind of fun. I’ve lived in the US for twenty years, and I have two sons who are grown. I’ve been married for twenty-nine years to my incredible husband Cam.
I’ve been in communication all my life. I started as a singer on the stage, moved into television with QVC for over a decade, and then started this ministry. I’ve always been a leader in the church, then I started this ministry, Nancy Hicks Live, to raise up women all around the world.
The Life-Changing Power of Finding Your Passion
I grew up in a Christian family, sort of, at least nominal. My father said he was a believer, but he certainly didn’t act like one. There was no fruit. My mother was a nonbeliever. One day, my dad said—there were three girls and I’m the littlest of three—” I want to take the children to church.”
And my mum said, “Fine, but don’t bring that garbage home to me.”
Another part of the story that’s really important is that my mom remembers thinking, and in fact, told me my whole life, “This poor little thing, Nancy. She’s slow.” In addition, I was nonverbal, which is hilarious if you know me, I’ve gotten paid to speak my whole life. But the story is that the day my father took the three girls to church, took me to church, I came home—this is my mum’s testimony—not just speaking, but singing about Jesus, like, lit up. My mum said, “Nancy, you were lit up like a Christmas tree.” And my mum remembers thinking, What’s gotten into my little girl? She was so intrigued by that, she followed me to church, and there she learned that God was not mad at her—which she had thought He was—but in fact, loved her, and she gave her life to Christ.
“God’s Up to Something”
By the time I was three, I was already singing. I mean, my heart was full of joy. And I loved Jesus. My mother would put me on a little chair in a nursing home, and take me out to serve and sing to the grandmas and grandpas.
By the time I was around ten or so, I remember winning my first vocal competition, and there were people coming around me in the church and in the community and at my school, just kind of moving me along. I was singing. I sang for Queen Elizabeth when I was a teenager. I studied voice performance when I was a teenager, had private lessons. And then I went and got my degree in voice performance from the University of Toronto. In my mind, all I wanted to do was sing. I sang professional musical theater and did a lot of concert work all across Canada.
I had my children, and I remember traveling to the theater— matinee, evening, matinee, evening, [and even] on the weekends—and feeling like, How can this be? I would cry all the way to the theater. I remember thinking, How can it be that I am doing the very thing I’ve always wanted professionally and I’m crying about this because I’m leaving my two boys and my husband at home? I think there was also this desire, though. I always had this desire to have a family that was really whole.
When we moved, we actually ended up moving to the US I really sensed that it was too difficult for me to continue the eight shows a week of theater. Plus, frankly, when I moved to the US, I couldn’t work. You know, visa things and my husband was working.
I came to realize that God was having me turn right. This is a whole other story in and of itself. QVC had heard, and there were a couple of key QVC people at an event I was singing at. And I was sensing God was moving me out of my music. But I was like, Where am I going here? At the end of this one event that I was singing at, I sensed the Lord saying, “Continue to use the gift to honor me. You may not be auditioning and doing these things, just continue to honor me with the gift.”
“I was like, Where am I going here? At the end of this one event that I was singing at, I sensed the Lord saying, “Continue to use the gift to honor me.” – Nancy Hicks
I remember at the end of the evening, a couple of QVC people came up to me and said, “You need to be on QVC.” Now, QVC is the world’s largest multi-platform retailer. I did apply, and I did have this long, drawn-out process of becoming an on-air spokesperson and style expert for them. It happened. I loved it. Day one at QVC, I said to my husband, “God’s up to something. I know it.” He’s like, “Honey, just enjoy the process.” I said, “I will, but I am telling you, God is up to something. I know Him, and He’s doing something.”
God Can Use You Anywhere
If you call yourself a follower of Christ, you don’t get to pick whether or not you get to be a minister of the gospel, or whether you’re in ministry. Everything is ministry. Everything. We do volunteer work. You know, you’re hanging out with your neighbors, you’re hanging out at the pool this summer, whatever, working for pay. You’re a lawyer, you’re a doctor, you’re a teacher, you’re a pastor, whatever. It’s all ministry for the kingdom of God. Every resource we have. So, when the Lord moved me to QVC, I knew He was honing my craft. Not for one moment did I forget why I was there.
“If you call yourself a follower of Christ, you don’t get to pick whether or not you get to be a minister of the gospel, or whether you’re in ministry. Everything is ministry.” – Nancy Hicks
I watched so many celebrities and on-air talent kind of get a big head, and start thinking, “You’re something.” For me, it didn’t matter what time of the day or night [I was on] because we’re on air 24/7. Now, they have other channels, so it’s not always live, but the main channel is live. And I would pray at three a.m. It didn’t matter what time, I was in my car, I’d be praying and saying, “Abba, use me today. Use me in the green room. Use me in the makeup chair. God, use me as light and salt. Genuinely show me how to speak into this industry with great love, not being weird, not pushing Jesus, but loving people where they are and meeting them where they are for you.”
“It didn’t matter what time, I was in my car, I’d be praying and saying, “Abba, use me today. Use me in the green room. Use me in the makeup chair. God, use me as light and salt.“ – Nancy Hicks, on ministering while she was at QVC
I prayed with models over my tenure—in fact, I still have people in my life, online especially, who are there. One very well-known host came to me one day, for example, at the operations desk, and said, “Hey, I hear you’re a Christian.”
I said, “Yes, I am.”
“I hear you go to this church. This particular Church of the Savior.”
I said, “I do.”
She said, “Can you help me learn to walk with God?”
I said, “I can.”
And that woman I mentored for years. She had actually prayed to receive Christ, but no one had then discipled her. She was around my table for many meals, and [so were] many other people that people know, those on-air spokespeople and celebrities. I still am sort of their pastor, you know, in many ways. I’ve shown up at the hospital for their sick children, and they’ve come to Bible studies that I’ve taught. It’s just things like that over the years [that make a difference].
Finding the Next Chapter
I was doing all of that while I was working at QVC, and when our younger son Aaron was a senior in high school, I knew that I was going to have more time on my hands because I’d be an empty nester. I remember there were three times in that year I was looking to go back to school, grad school, but I wasn’t sure [what to do]. Do I stay in style? I was looking at the Parsons Institute and FIT in New York. Do I do a master’s degree in fashion? There were people I was talking to about really blowing up the career now because I would have this extra time. I remember this one time we were at Wheaton College in Chicago, my son was looking at Wheaton, and I remember going into the vestibule and just holding my arms. I was reading like a Jim Elliott quote, and I don’t remember what the quote is, but it was something about using your whole life for God, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do.
“I remember holding my arms wide out, tears streaming down my face, and just saying, ‘God, what are we gonna do with the next chapter of this one life? I am all in for the kingdom, and I don’t have anything holding me back.’ I just begged God, ‘Spend me. Just spend me.’” – Nancy Hicks
I stood there, and I sensed God saying, “Child, you are a preacher. You are a speaker. I have trained you in communication. Go.” I checked in with our dearest friends, my one girlfriend, who’s amazing, wrote it like this. She was like, “Are you ready to receive what we have all been seeing and we affirm?” And I said, “What do I do?” with tears in my eyes. “Go to seminary,” which, of course, you don’t need to do. But I knew for the rest of my life all I wanted to do was communicate the love of God to the world.
And so I started this ministry, went to seminary, and graduated about four years ago with my master’s in theology. And my eye was on starting this ministry, which I call Nancy Hicks Live. The live part is for many reasons. All I do now is speak, teach.
What I do is all the money that I get from anything I do in North America, I pour back into the ministry to get me to the majority world church because when I was in seminary, all the recent textbooks are telling us about what’s happening around the world in terms of Asia and in Africa and South America and the gospel burgeoning like never before in history. So I said, “God help me. I want to get me there to raise up the women.” When I go to these places, though they’re the workhorses in the church in many situations, women are still not getting the biblical and leadership training. So I get to go to these different nations. I’ve been to India and Haiti and the Philippines and other countries. I’ve got some on the docket for next year. I go there to target the female leaders and raise them up for the kingdom.
What We’re Meant to Live For
With the book Meant to Live, you know, I sent a call to the church in North America to snap out of it, like, “Come on. Let’s wake up and let’s stop being divisive and picking at each other and majoring in the minors. Let’s get back to the core of the gospel.” I think there is no substitute for an authentic relationship, which takes time with God.
“I think there is no substitute for an authentic relationship which takes time with God.” – Nancy Hicks
And even right now, I’m going through a hard time in my life, I adore my boys, and my son David, who’s twenty-six, was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. The life God calls us to is either true in the darkness and true in the hard places for me and for others. I want to help others with this, or it’s not true at all. The only way I know to get back to life in the core of the gospel through all of it is there is no substitute. It’s going back to: “Wait a minute. What again is the gospel? Who’s Jesus? Who is God? The father, the son, and the spirit? Who is this God who calls us to life?” There is no substitute. There’s no shortcut. So I think you go back to the basics, you go back to what my prayer life looks like. I’m not checking a list or checking a box. I’m sitting before the living God, who is my counselor and my everything, my leader.
I think really being able to sit with God in quietness [is important]. In fact, as I read Sarah’s devotional, her original [Jesus Calling devotional], which was given to me, by the way, by a good friend who was working on the ministry with me—she was one of the leaders that was raised in one of my Bible classes. She gave this as a gift to me. One of the things that strikes me, and I think why it’s been so incredibly popular and well received, is because it’s personal. It’s a gentle, caring, loving voice that comes through the text.
This is the one from April seventeenth, and it says this:
I AM TRAINING YOU IN STEADINESS. Too many things interrupt your awareness of Me. I know that you live in a world of sight and sound, but you must not be a slave to those stimuli. Awareness of Me can continue in all circumstances, no matter what happens. This is the steadiness I desire for you. Don’t let unexpected events throw you off course. Rather, respond calmly and confidently, remembering that I am with you. As soon as something grabs your attention, talk with Me about it. Thus I share your joys and your problems; I help you cope with whatever is before you. This is how I live in you and work through you. This is the way of Peace.
I tell you, it makes me think of a couple of passages. Exodus 33, where Moses is speaking to God, like, “How do I know you’re gonna be with me?” And God says to Moses, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” That’s not rest like a good night’s sleep, it’s stability and a confidence in who God is and who we are in light of who God is.
I am fierce about the name of the Lord, I am fierce about people coming alive, so when I see people wounded on the sidelines or walking away, that doesn’t make me feel like, Yeah, let’s just pack it in. It makes me go, No! This is not the living God. This is not the message of the scriptures. This is a battle. What did we think it was going to look like when Jesus said, “It’s gonna be tough? Take heart. I’ve overcome the world.” What exactly were we thinking that we should look like? I’m not in any way saying I don’t sob on the floor at times. But I get up in power, in resurrection power. And the word of the Lord says be strong and do the work.
Narrator: To learn more about Nancy’s ministry or her book, Meant to Live, visit nancyhickslive.com.
If you’d like to hear more stories about how God can move us into new places, check out our interview with Nona Jones at JesusCalling.com/Podcast.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with the husband and wife ministry team John and Stasi Eldredge. Over the years in their ministry, John and Stasi have heard countless people come to them, confused about the purpose of their Christian journey, which Stasi talks about here.
Stasi Eldredge: The invitation of Christianity is not to be a moral person. Jesus did not move heaven and earth so that we would be good boys and girls. The goal of Christianity is restoration. That’s why Jesus came to give us back our hearts and then to release us to be the men and women that He created us to be.
Narrator: Do you love hearing these stories of faith weekly from people like you whose lives have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, leave us a review so that we can reach others with these inspirational stories. And, you can also see these interviews on video as part of our original web series with a new interview premiering every other Sunday on Facebook Live. Find previously broadcasted interviews on our Youtube channel, on IGTV, or on jesuscalling.com/media/video.