Shari Rigby lives the glamour life of a Los Angeles-based author, speaker, and movie director. She is a former model, who represented brands like Mercedes Benz, and American West Airlines, and is an accomplished actress.
However, Shari's life has not been all high-flying and success – she has experienced relationship pain, drug abuse, and an unwanted pregnancy that led to abortion.
She grew up in Cooperstown, North Dakota and was introduced to God and the good news of Jesus as a child.
"[At church] the pastor was speaking about heaven and hell and that if you didn't want to go to hell you needed to accept Jesus," she remembers. "So, I raised my hand. I did accept Him at that point in my life but I really didn't know who Jesus was and I definitely did not start a personal relationship with Him nor was I walking as a believer. I didn't know what I was really getting into, but He knew me."
After that, Shari's life took a crazy turn and went down a dark path of drugs and promiscuous sex.
At sixteen, she fell in love and got married to a man who turned out to be a "manipulative, controlling drug addict".
At seventeen, Shari became pregnant. "I graduated from high school when my son was five weeks old," she says.
Several years later, she divorced her husband, went to college and worked two jobs to make ends meet.
"During that time, I definitely wasn't walking the right walk—I was very much in and out of relationships—and just trying to get by," she shares. "My desire to be needed was an addiction far greater than any drug. It began to eat me alive."
Then, Shari became pregnant again. This time, she decided to have an abortion – a secret that she kept hidden for twenty years.
She says this poor choice broke her and caused her much pain, shame and regret. "It held me captive for so long."
Finally, at twenty-five years old, Shari's life came full circle to her first prayer to God. "As time went on, I started to know who I was," she says. "When I began dating my husband after going through a lot of difficult things over many years, he was really the first person who said, 'I want you to come to church with me. I want to introduce you to my church.'"
Then Shari remembered her commitment to God as a young child and realised her need for a Saviour. In a wonderful moment of surrender, she rededicated her life to Jesus Christ.
"As I walked through life with all of those pains and struggles, the beautiful thing is that I kept getting picked up," she smiles._"I would continue choosing things that weren't good for my life, but ultimately God kept giving me other choices."
Even though Shari knew that she had been forgiven and set free by Jesus, it took her a long time to overcome the pain that resulted from her abortion.
Later, God made a way for Shari to begin an acting career at an age most women are retiring from the industry. She moved to Los Angeles in 2009 and was involved in faith-based feature films that received numerous awards and impressive box office rankings.
However, the one film that stands out to Shari is October Baby – a movie where she plays the mother of an abortion survivor who is put up for adoption.
Shari reveals that she started crying when she read the script for the first time: "God started a work in my life the moment I started reading the script. He knew that I still needed to be healed, even though He had forgiven me.
"When filming got underway, Jesus met me on the set and walked me through each one of those scenes. That wasn't me up there. It was His message."
There is a particular scene in the movie where Shari's character's daughter tracks her down and leaves a note on her desk that says: "I forgive you."
"That was my moment with God," she tells. "I felt Him speaking to me, saying, 'It's OK. It's over. You've been forgiven.' I received forgiveness in my life and then started to see what this movie was going to do."
For the next two and a half years, Shari travelled to pregnancy care centres and maternity homes to support and encourage men and women and to hear how her story had impacted them.
She has also given her testimony at various events and conferences, written many books, including her biography, Beautifully Flawed, and founded a group called The Women in My World.
Shari has been married for nearly twenty years and has two boys, Donnie and Levi.•