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My life was picture-perfect until divorce brought it crashing down

Mary Anne Lewis’s dream life ended in financial turmoil. At rock bottom, she found what she was looking for all along.

Mary Anne Lewis' story is proof that you can't go back, but you can start over. Watch her short video above, and read the story behind the story ...

Mary Anne Lewis’ picture-perfect life was what she dreamed about as a girl.

She was married to a good-looking, popular guy who graduated with her from the University of Georgia. She was mom to four beautiful children attending private Christian schools. She worked a job as an advertising executive. She owned a $1.2 million Atlanta home in a gated community, and she drove a luxury car.

“That was the lifestyle I knew. That was the lifestyle that I wanted, and that's lifestyle that I felt I deserved,” she says.

But 16 years of trying to keep up appearances eventually took its toll.

Mary Anne’s surface-level success was masking marriage problems, financial turmoil, and deep personal insecurity and brokenness, which she was treating with anti-depressants and alcohol.

“Our marriage appeared to be perfect, and people always told us how awesome our family was. I always loved to hear that, but on the inside, I was crying,” she said. “I felt like we were trying to portray an image of perfection and, through that, living a complete lie.”

I was more alone than I ever felt in my entire life.

Dream Over

Finally, the divorce brought everything crashing down.

The struggle over her identity as a woman and a wife suddenly became an intensely practical one — of dollars and cents.

The big house was foreclosed on. The trust fund, savings, and 401(k) were drained. She walked away with nothing except a little child support.

“I was more alone than I ever felt in my entire life,” she says.

For years, she did her best to juggle a corporate job with a 90-minute commute and the demands of raising four children — two of which had special needs requiring expensive medicines and continual doctor visits.

“Corporate America frowns upon lots of time off for sick children,” Mary Anne says.

To make ends meet, she put plastic on the windows in the winter so she didn't have to turn up the heat in the rented home. She opted for a $20 TV antenna instead of cable. She shopped at Goodwill. She found herself relying often on the generosity of friends and family.

“It was up to me to make sure that there was food on the table for my children, and the struggle was real,” she says. “I was a frequent person at the Coinstar trying to get together enough money to put gas in my car to take my children to school.”​

I felt hopeless. I felt alone. I felt scared.

Looking Up

Eventually, she was forced to admit that life in Atlanta just wasn’t working.

In 2012, Mary Anne decided to move to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where her best friend lived, and where the cost of living was lower.

But times got even tougher.

As she worked to get a marketing consulting business off the ground, she took several part-time jobs, including house cleaning and retail work at the mall, so she could make enough money and keep a flexible schedule for her family.

When her ex-husband stopped paying child-support for a season, she resorted to food stamps and Medicaid. Amid everything, the IRS was calling in past marriage debts, and bill collectors were hunting her down.

“I definitely was a coupon-cutting, generic brand, sales-shopping, spaghetti-eating, peanut butter-and-jelly family,” Mary Anne says. “The first time that I used the food stamp card. I tried so hard just to make sure who was around me. Did anybody see me? I was embarrassed to ask for directions on how to use it.”

I thought I would try to give God a chance again. I had been so angry at him for so long.

Surrendering Control

That’s when Mary Anne threw her hands up — literally.

She felt like she was trapped, with no way out and no hope of getting ahead.

“I felt hopeless. I felt alone. I felt scared,” she says. “I hadn't slept through the night in years.”

Desperate, Mary Anne decided to go back to church. She took up a friend’s offer to go to NewSpring.

“Maybe there's something there that will help me,” she says she thought. “I had grown up in a Christian home. I thought I would try to give God a chance again. I had been so angry at him for so long.”

Six months after she began attending NewSpring, she found herself on her knees in her home, pleading with Jesus to take control.

“And I heard Jesus say, ‘Surrender it. I am here for you. You're not alone. You don't have to do this by yourself.’”

That night, a good friend prayed with her over the phone as she asked Jesus into her life.

And in that moment, Jesus gave her faith that she could start over.

“I knew that everything was going to be OK,” she says. “I had a peace around me and a hope which had been lost for so long.”

I have gone from a broken, controlling, weighted mess to freedom with Jesus’ love and grace for me.

Healing Comes Home

Things didn’t get easier overnight. Money did not fall from the sky, she says.

Instead of focusing on her struggles, she focused on the joy and hope of knowing “that Jesus had me exactly where I needed to be, and he was right there with me no matter what.”

With what little money she did have, she also made it a priority to give back to God.

All the while, the volunteers she served with on Sundays in the care room and the friends she’d made in a small group surrounded her with God’s love.

The spiritual healing that had begun gave her the confidence to remarry in 2013, this time centering the relationship on Jesus.

A little less than a year later, God used her best friend, Kendra, to bring her a business opportunity that restored her financial independence.

Along with that, came a platform to use her story to inspire her clients to know who Jesus says they are versus what the world tells them.

Jesus gave her the opportunity to start over — but the instability of her finances was just the means to address the vulnerability in her soul.

“Jesus was not about fixing my finances, but he was about fixing my heart,” she says. “I have gone from a broken, controlling, weighted mess to freedom with Jesus’ love and grace for me.”

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