Q: You were a body builder and deeply involved in that culture. Tell me about what you were like back then.
When I began to body build I was so disciplined that...and..and in the early years of body building and I say the early years because it was a ten year period. The first year one and a half or two years I was just, and I say just, using steroids. It was early 90's and wasn't classified the way it is classified now as almost a narcotic drug now. That's the way it was classified in legalities which is no excuse but it was very openly used in that sport. And I really wanted to compete and do well competing. And I've always been the type that when I do something I'm going to do it to my best and I'm going to do everything possible to achieve my goals. And I wasn't going to go to a contest, a body building contest and lose. I had descent genetics but I didn't have the muscle mass I needed so that began that whole drug using arena. Once I started using steroids, its like I told you earlier, the moral walls of my life fell. It was like these walls fell and everything just no big deal. I'm doing it for the right reasons. I'm going to compete and I want to win. And little did I know a couple of years later that was going to lead into marijuana usage, cocaine usage other recreational drugs. And once I got involved in that sport and got around other guys involved in that sport it was like openly used. Marijuana, at that point GHP it was a drug choice by body builders because it didn't put weight on you and it allowed you to sleep well at night.
Q: You call it a "dark world."
It was very dark. It was full of drugs. Literally drugs, sex and alcohol. Vanity, vanity, very full of self. I could care less about people in my life at that point. I mean I would literally go home for Christmas and Thanksgiving and be so miserable that I was dieting that I wouldn't even enjoy the holidays with my family. And they understood because they didn't see behind the scenes. But, it consumed me.
Q: Did you consider yourself a Christian or a person of faith at that time?
I think I feared the Lord. But being raised in the denomination I was raised I didn't understand relationship and what it meant to have Christ in your life. I knew of Christ, I knew of the Father I just didn't know what all that meant. I was baptized as a child. I prayed, I had as I called it my religious prayers. My regiment of prayers. But I didn't pray like I pray now. I didn't pray for other people. I didn't pray for...I mean literally my prayers were Lord let me win this contest. Let me do what I'm doing so I can win this contest. I mean I literally prayed that every night, Lord let me win this contest. Whether I was getting ready for one or leading to the time to get ready for a contest... I think I was a religious person. I don't think I was a person of faith.
Q: You were on the right "track" to win major championships. You were winning one after another and then came the contest you thought you should win but did not. When you look back was that a major turning point in your life?
I speak to our friends and my employees about God nudging us. And God chasing us. And I think up until that point I was ignoring the Lord. And even though I wasn't a Christian and there are a lot of non-Christians out there He's still chasing them and I believe He was chasing me. He allowed success in my life. He allowed it to happen. Because He thought it would cause me to call upon His name. And I believe always have I had favor of the Lord in my life but I don't think if it hadn't been for that moment had I not lost that contest I think I would have continued. I think the Lord was telling me for the first time of many more to come, I'm tired of calling on you I need you begin to listen to Me at least a little bit. And I did think I should have won that it just brought me to a point...this is not worth it. This is not worth it. I need to concentrate on school. I was still in school at the time and in business. I was personal training. And then I met my wife. About a year and a half after that I met her.
Q: When you look back today where do you see your life turning around?
After meeting my wife...I literally met her a year before that contest that I lost. And it wasn't like an introduction. She stepped into the gym where I was working. I looked across the room and our eyes met. But I didn't speak to her for three years. But I remember exactly what she was wearing that day. And I tell this story all the time. I remember exactly what she was wearing. And I think the Lord was telling me something, this is the one for you. But I didn't speak to her for three years. Once we met and began to form a relationship and then got married. We were pregnant when we got married. The good religious boy I was I had gotten her pregnant and we were going to get married. We went through 20 weeks of pregnancy and... I went to every doctor's appointment. I was so excited to have a baby. I went to every doctors appointment and even though I wasn't a Christian I had picked a name for this baby. Cross was his name. Cross. I think...it had to mean something and I'll as the Lord about that but we went to that doctors appointment on the 20th week, it was like a day before the 20th week. And she was in nursing school at the time and the doctor began to speak in terms I didn't understand and it turned out this baby had a disease where your chromosomes...there are more of one that the other, it was like triple. And the very first thought was all that stuff, all those drugs I did. And I began to blame myself. And I asked the doctor and he said it had nothing to do with what you did. It happens in like 1 in 1,000,000. And I believe it was another one of those milestones. One of those turning points. And it was the literal turning point for my wife and then later me. So we found out this baby was fixing to die in her womb. And we were going to have to go through a delivery because it was past the time when we could do...I don't know what they could do... So they had to deliver this baby And we went through that and it was probably the most, for her the most excruciating time in her life. And for me to watch it was so hard.
And when I began to understand I was not in control of my life...and up to that point I was sharing with you earlier, I had the bulls by the horn I thought. I was successful in business. I had a wonderful wife. We were going to have a baby at that point. Literally the day after I think and she can share more, but we came home after that pregnancy, that birth when the baby was obviously born dead, she came and spoke to childhood pastor's wife and accepted Christ and began to grow in the Lord.
I got to a bad place in my life. I started using drugs even more, recreational, it was marijuana. Along with other things occasionally but marijuana was an everyday thing. And no one knew, no one knew I was doing that. She knew. But I literally would use it through out the day when I had breaks, I would go home and use it then go back to work. She had been privately praying, cause I think if she would have said anything to me it would have taken a little longer to hear the Lord's voice. It was one late morning, early morning 3am I think it was. I woke up and I literally didn't know what I was doing. I was sleep walking but I was awake. I was awake and I walked to where I kept my drug. Marijuana. Grabbed it. Went to my downstairs bathroom and flushed it all down the toilet. And it was still like I didn't know what I was doing. And I literally fell to my knees and its hard to explain because I was never taught, this is what happens when you accept Christ. This is what you say. This is what you do. I literally, and I say this in all truth, I literally had a supernatural encounter with the Lord. And it wasn't like I saw him or saw lights or anything like that, but it was like I was hearing Him say to me enough. I have called you to a higher place. And this is the day I enter into your life. As I'm telling this story its like I'm going back to that point and I was on my knees and I was crying and I don't know if I even said the right things other than Lord I want you to be in my life. Cause I no longer have control of this. You showed me that by allowing our child to be taken. And I know He didn't cause it but I know the Lord allowed it to happen because He knew I would turn to Him.
It's like we are all walking around this earth as Jobs. And the devil is sitting there with the Lord and saying I'm going to go and attack your servant Cune or your servant Clint or Michelle. And I believe that day he said that to Him and that baby when that baby was taken he said I'm going to go attack your servant Cune and your servant Michelle. And the Lord said go ahead cause they are going to turn to Me. And he was right. And praise Him He was right. Because it was literally the turning point in my life. And shortly after my wife was involved in Bible studies and I began to see a change in her and through that change in her it gave me a hunger, cause I really didn't know what I did other than telling her and basically knowing I accepted Christ, that was it. She began to pray for me to have men come into my life to mentor me. I didn't know that, but it began to happen. It began to happen. We ended up at a Bible Church here in town with some great men of God. And I honor them to this day. The Lord doesn't have us there any more but we grew tremendously at that place. They were men that the Lord...they were angels the Lord put in my life to grow me in Him. And here we are today.
Q: Let's talk a little about today. From the outside looking in, it appears there came a point somewhere when you decided to dedicate not just yourself but your business to the Lord.
Through circumstances that allowed us to expand the business, to buy this property and have a new beginning a new start. The finances. We didn't have any money. We literally had I think 10 thousand dollars when we purchased this property. And the Lord ten years before that had put a family in my life. And it was during that period He began to show me I've orchestrated all this stuff. And they were my last resort because up to that point most banks had turned me down. This is not a business most banks want to invest in, although we have a wonderful bank now. This family was my last resort and they had mentioned...because I had always told them about my dreams and aspirations, and they are really close to us. What people say, come to me the next time you need a hand a financial hand, you blow that off. And you don't want to go there. And it was my last resort and if it didn't happen I said Lord if this is not Your will... So we went to them and they agreed. And this was actually the second loan they had given us. When we originally purchased the building for my founding partner to buy him out they loaned us some money at that time as well. But this was a few million dollars as a bridge note and people just don't do that. But when we came to them and asked them and they said yes. I knew it was the Lord. I mean why would someone do that? I mean it was the Lord. And I know they are blessed by it, just to do it and they were blessed through it and they are still being blessed.
At that moment we began to understand what God was doing in our lives. Like a year and a half later the Lord moved us to another fellowship and we began to understand what our call was. And our call was to be ministers. This to me is a ministry. And it doesn't have a steeple and I think that is the beauty of it. It doesn't have a steeple and people aren't frightened and intimidated and they walk here uninhibited and willing to share, not knowing what the Lord is going to do. I kind of describe it as camouflage. The Lord has put us in camouflage. He has put us in a hiding place. So when His children come broken He is able to speak to them through us and through prayer. A lot of prayer. This is who we are. I've told people in recent years that when I walk in the door on Monday morning Jesus does not stay outside He comes in with us. As my wife said we are the church. He comes in with me. He has called us to be the church, He has called us to be bold, He said go forth and go to all nations and make disciples of men. And when I read that He is talking to every one of us. And I think the numbness of our reality as Christians has allowed us to forget about that. That we have all be called to be disciples. We've all be called to do greater things than Him. I believe that is all that his happening here. I can't separate my faith, I can't explain it to people who don't understand it. God has given me that revelation and I have to go forth because I don't want to be disobedient to my Father. Because I know His wrath and I know His blessing. And Michelle and I make decisions not for blessing but make decisions out of our love for Christ. And in that comes the blessing.
Q: You made some significant decisions, public decisions concerning your business especially in the past year or two. They are not always popular, even with your own customers. I'm sure you've been told you will go out of business because of some of your decisions. How difficult is it to make those kinds of decisions and do you ever have some of those "why me" moments?
You know Michelle and I, and I want her to speak because her heart is to allow people to understand, and she can actually display that. But I think... We've all felt that nudging, that nudging when the Lord says I need you to this. I need you to pray for that person. I need you to make the decision this way not not the way you want to make it. We did, we made a decision this year to do away with one of our programs. And it wasn't about the people doing it, it wasn't about the people teaching it, it wasn't about any of those things. It was about my personal convictions. Along with prayer, when I began to hear why people would do that program it pointed back at me. Because its under your roof and when I begin to hear those things, because its under your roof, the Lord said your being a stumbling block. Not everyone as grounded as the next in their faith. And when those words began to come across out of His word to me and Michelle and I were in agreement it didn't matter at that point what the public thought. And that is what people don't understand, it didn't matter. I was being obedient. And you know if I was wrong there will be a day He will speak to me about that. And I can live with that. But I think the fruit speaks for itself from that point forward in our business the fruit speaks for itself. And where there is fruit I believe the Lord's will has come. And I told you earlier Clint when we began to pray about making decisions and we talked about how King David how when he by calling out on the Lord they all went as planned and the plan was God's will. And I think one of the things King David sought out was peace. The fruits of the spirit have to be involved in prayer. If you fell peace joy... And for me peace is what me and Michelle go for. When we're praying about making decisions if there is peace that comes with that we feel it is the will of the Father. Again if it is not He will speak to us about that on that day.
Q: I've noticed recently on a T-V spot its not really about coming and buying a membership. With each decision you make like that does your faith grow? Does you boldness grow? I know you don't beat your customers over the head with a Bible when they come in how do you handle that?
Every employee that works here Christian or non-Christian knows what we stand for. Every employee that's Christian knows that the door is open to them if the person they are speaking to allows them to speak into their life. We don't have our sales process include now would you like us to lead you to the Lord. That doesn't happen.l I think it is in who we are and our overflow of our love for Christ that things happen. And we have had people saved here. And we have had people delivered from drugs here. And I think all that is is the atmosphere we have created and the love for God's people. I love to see people free from the bondage the enemy has allowed them to come into. And its not necessarily their choices its their lack of hearing the Lords will. And I think just in who we are people understand more so now than before about some of the decisions we make. Our television advertisement. That is just who we are. How could I not put myself in their with a Bible study that we do here. How cannot put scriptures throughout our advertisement. That's what we do here. I'm not a pastor from a seminary college. But I'm a pastor, because I believe the Lord has called all of us to be.
Q: How do you explain to someone who doesn't understand how all this works in your life?
I begin to share my testimony with them. I share I am not a college graduate. That if you look deep within my spirit you see faith. That every decision we make comes through prayer and the Lord is tangible and the Lord is faithful. Most people walk into this door because they are empty. Or they are at the place in their life they are overweight or in a place that all they are seeking is vanity and there is a reason for that. And I had that reason at one time. And again it goes back to our testimony.
Q: From a business view is it all worth it? I mean I walked in the door this morning and there someone jamming you up right there about a prayer event in your workout room. I imagine that doesn't happen everyday but you have to take a lot of criticism for what you do. Is it all worth it?
At the end of the day when I go home and see my son Chance and Jacob and Reagan and my wife and the time He, the Lord allows me to spend with them because of the sacrifices we've made and because of those sacrifices and that obedience comes success I believe in my life personally...yeah its worth it. Its worth it to be at home at 3pm or pick up my kids up or take them to school. And I don't know if that could have happened if I would have continued on the path that I was on. The only explanation for the success of this business is the Lord.
Q: Tell me about you before all this began, before you met Cune
I was raised in the area. I went to school in Arp. So I graduated Arp and went to school at TJC and UT-Tyler. While I was finishing my nursing degree at UT-Tyler I began personal training. So I began training at Woodcreek and Cune and I met there.
I was raised in church, we went to church every time the doors were open. And I think a lot of people can probably relate to this...it was never truly infiltrated into my home life. It just wasn't something that was part of our everyday life. The intimacy and the relationship. And nothing against my parents I just don't think they understood that themselves or even know life didn't have to be that complicated or difficult that prayer does work. That if you were struggling with school or something come let me know instead of hiding it from me and lets pray about it as a family. I think I had experiences with the Lord growing up as far as being in church but I did not accept Jesus as Savior until I was 26 when we lost the baby. I just remember being in a place of desperation. Some people choose drugs and alcohol and some choose to go to the Lord and I choose to go to the Lord because of that foundation. In the Bible it says to raise a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. That foundation I had paved the path for me to accept the Lord at that desperate time in my life. And its sad that it does take desperation at times to bring people to the Lord, but that is what it took for me.
Q: So you weren't involved in the "dark world" of body building?
I don't think I was involved in the dark world. No I was a good girl. I was just drifting through life with emptiness and depression and I didn't have a lot of joy in my life, know I didn't. People who know me today and knew me back then would see a different person.
Q: I'm hearing that the really turning point in your life was the lost of your first child. What was that like for you?
The thing that stands out the most to me was when we were in the hospital delivering a still born baby. It was very traumatic and I was very sick because of the medication they had to give me and the trauma my body had to go through.
There was a lady that stood at my ear, at my side and I didn't want anybody to touch me, mom, Cune, anybody. But she was standing at my side and the whole time, seems like she did it for hours I don't know I can't even remember, but I can still recall what her voice sounds like to this day and she said the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, Psalms 23 over and over and over. It was like I didn't want anybody else to talk to me but there was something about her voice and about the spirit, about God's presence being there with me at that point that that was so tangible at that point and gave me so much peace at that point that was just the turning point for me. I just knew. And when we came home from the hospital we tried to go out with our old friends and I remember trying to go to a local bar and I tried to drink, have a drink and I couldn't. And I just said I'm just not that old Michelle anymore. And that was just a turning point for me. I got involved in Bible studies. I did Beth Moore's breaking free Bible study and that was all she wrote...
Q: You both work together, are partners in this business. Everything done well is usually a process. How has the process here been for you to go through where you started to where you are today.
It has been a challenging process. It has not been easy. But we have so much joy I wouldn't trade one thing for the joy that I have in my heart and my life and my family. The obstacles we have come up against and whenever you take a stand for the Lord its not if the enemy is going to come and attack you its when. I don't look over my shoulder thinking okay when is the next thing going to come because God says He has plans to prosper me and not to harm me. So I'm not going to give the enemy attention I'm going to focus on the Lord. And its just been a process. And the things we have been through, its like the stepping stones. I step on one stone, I got past that, God's given me the faith and encouragement to move to the net stone. And I believe we are just climbing higher and higher up that mountain. It hasn't been easy because I used to struggle and I still do with fear of what other people are going to think. And I still struggle with that but you know what I get in God's word and I have people pray with me and my fear of the Lord is greater than my fear of man. So no matter what, hopefully, I'm going to follow the Lord's will in my life.
Q: Was there ever a point for you that it was time take take a bold step out... Whether in you t-shirts, the music you play in the gym or the way you conduct the business?
There was never a specific point. I think it was a process. Its almost as a child that and they are little and growing up and they see there mom or dad and they learn things from their mother and dad. They learn how to walk, they learn how to talk. They eat the same foods their mom and dad eat, they talk like their mom and dad talk that's how we are with the Lord. I mean He's our daddy. Its like the more intimate I grew with my father the more I wanted to be like Him. Its nothing I sat out to do, that Cune sat out to do, this is just who we are. For me to deny who we are would be for me to turn my back on the Lord. And I don't want to do that. I get on a roll. We don't life the life that live for people to say oh look at Michelle and Cune they think they are better than us or they are holy rollers or this or that. Its not that by no means. The Bible says, God says that people will know that we are Christians by our love. And if anyone would spend time with us I know they would see that love coming through us. And I don't care if you never choose to change an ounce of who you are God still loves you. And its not about Michelle loving you, God the Father created you and He loves you no matter what. Even if you murdered people, committed the deepest, darkest sin He still looks at my child and says this is My child.
Q: Has this been a particularly tough year with the decisions you've made?
2006 was a tough year. 2007 is going to be a great year.
Q: Why was '06 such a tough year.
Like Cune said, we choose to take a program (Yoga) out of our facility. I have never, we have never come up against anything that difficult. I think that was even more difficult than losing the baby. I mean honestly, because there was so much fear. Losing the baby, I knew I was going to get through this and we're going to be okay and we had a lot of compassion from people because we lost a baby. In this situation we didn't. Yes we had major support but you know the enemy wants to come and put thoughts in your head and say your crazy. What do you think your doing, people are going to think you are crazy. Your going to lose you business. So, yes '06 was a difficult year. But after we made that decision and got through...we didn't really set up camp in that pity party. We didn't say okay we are going to stay here, poor Cune and Michelle, we made a decision and we moved on. We addressed the needs of the members as they came to us. We felt we did everything that we did with integrity. I would not change one thing about how we handled ourselves. I feel like we really sought the Lord and we sought council as well. We just didn't go through this blazing on our own. God wants us to seek the council of other people. And we did that and we felt like we...it was time to move forward. Now if God would have put that in our heart to do that in 2005 we wouldn't have done it. I don't think we were strong enough in our faith and had the courage to make a decision like that. But we didn't get stuck in the pity party. It was we just made a decision and moved on.
Q: Did you use prayer to get to that point or prayer to get past that point?
Prayer is everything. And I used to think, I was telling someone earlier, I really used to think why pray. If God's got it all worked out why do I need to pray? What's little ol Michelle going to do in the heavens? How am I going to make God's will be brought here to earth. But He gives us the ability...I mean the Bible says My Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. God already has eternity written from start to the end. So what He has allowed us to do, when we pray God's will that opens up the door for His will to be done here on earth. And He wants us to do it because as His children, when we see God answering prayer that increases our faith. Then that is contagious. And we can say guess what God did for me today. And its just all about the Lord. Its all about God's will being done here on earth and prayer I know today that prayer does work. I've seen it over and over again. And the times I do doubt, when I say what is all this about, in those times the enemy is still going to come to us and say your crazy, he is never going to stop. But the times that he does that I can go back to my journals, I can call my friends and they can say now Michelle remember when God did this. Or I can look in my journal and remember and see the tangible of what God did in my life. So prayer is the answer.