As a Plan for the Fullness of Time: Leanne Vogel, Part 3
“He was saved two weeks ago,” Leanne says of her husband, holding it closely the entire time we’ve been talking. She met Kevin at her job in Canada in 2008. In the beginning they were friends who just enjoyed one another’s company, laughing and sharing life. “It was great because I’d never had a healthy relationship with a man. He just came over to my house and we just had dinner together.” From the beginning she was open with him about her eating disorder, which she had no desire to change or be relieved from. He accepted her and her condition.
A few months later, they were serving at the local Humane Society and met a dog that was scheduled to be put down later that day. But when Kevin locked eyes with her, Louise, he knew he’d have to adopt her, but knew he couldn’t keep her at his house because of the apartment rules. Leanne offered the solution that both Kevin and Louise, renamed Lexy, could move into her house. “And that’s how Kevin and I started dating,” she says, with a sly smile.
“Two weeks into living with us, [Lexy] ate all my shoes… and we decided to get her a sister, so we got Pebbles.” Lexy and Pebbles traveled the world with them in their RV and boat, along with another pup Coconut. Sadly the original fur babies were put down in spring 2020. God certainly used these puppies to bring Leanne and Kevin together!
When they began sharing a life, Leanne was faced with the long-term consequences of her bingeing and purging. Although he did not approve of her binge-purge routine and became frustrated about it, Kevin was supportive and loving as she struggled. “He played a beautiful dance of being pissed that it was happening and really trying to understand, even when I had a lot of anger and rage at being found out.” Mirroring her other wrestles, bulimia became about finding that thing that would satisfy, but immediately wanting it gone as soon as possible. “How do I fill myself up and then push it away, light it on fire, get it out? Because it hurts too bad to have that hole filled. And…it wasn’t filling. It didn’t satiate at all.”
Leanne completed nutrition school in 2008 and launched her nutrition business, Healthful Pursuit, in 2010. Healthful Pursuit provides nutrition counseling and coaching, a podcast, meal plans, and recipes. They married in 2014, which is also when Leanne discovered the keto style of eating and nutrition. The keto philosophy relies heavily on fat to sustain a person’s metabolism, not carbohydrates. It’s historically been used for those managing epilepsy and even Type 2 diabetes, but has come into the light recently as a way to manage one’s health and weight without the “traditional” restrictive portion-control diet.
It was when Kevin and Leanne had been living in Canada, relocating to Montreal and then back to Airdrie, north of Calgary, Alberta, that Leanne started to write her first bestselling book, The Keto Diet. While balancing a full-time job for Kevin and Leanne’s nutrition practice during the week, they would venture in an RV on the weekends. “Kevin would drive, and I would write. Kevin would set up the camp and I would write. And Kevin would set up the fire and I would write. It was a way we could still interact while [I was working on the book].” When the book began to take off, they purchased and renovated a bigger RV and took to the road with their three dogs and promoted the book for a year, a whirlwind for sure! Their spirit of adventure took them to further and further places, eventually to Florida where they discovered the fun of living on a boat. Since 2018 they’ve lived on a boat in various ports in the Bahamas and Florida. “I fell in love. I thought it was the coolest thing! The boat was rocking this way and that, Kevin was puking off the side, and I thought it was so awesome!”
Aside from the initial adventure, the boat has been a headache. “It’s been a nightmare, that’s the only way to describe it.” Being taken advantage of in the sale and repair of the boat, tending to their sick dogs, navigating insurance and lawsuits with an accident, and general upkeep of the boat. With Healthful Pursuit as their primary income, Kevin’s role is to maintain their home on the sea and help with the technology for their business. It was around April 2020 that things started to push a breaking point, and it had very little to do with the global COVID-19 situation. “All of that just led me to realize how incredibly empty I am. I can’t do life alone.”
“I was not happy. I was so empty and so tired. Instead of [going to God]…I guess it just wasn’t my time or something…I just got deeper and deeper into New Age [Spirituality].”
The practices of meditation, yoga, crystals, and energy healing that, in some ways, had helped Leanne work through her drug use and eating disorder in the past, really didn’t sustain a change. As a child, she was encouraged to pray while holding a little crystal before heading to school, and it was something that stuck with her. “White light shield guardian angel,” she’d recite, trying to fit it into the faith modeled at school and mass. The sage burning and incense, the crystals, and meditation were all tools to better oneself, but she had stopped benefiting from them, and was lost and frustrated. She had a bustling business, three bestselling books, and a weekly podcast that garnered thousands of views. But, taking the advice from a friend, Leanne became convinced she wasn’t a writer anymore, but a spiritual healer.
Soon she started a new business of healing through reiki, channeling with clients over the phone, and experimenting with drugs again in order to get closer with God. “God wants me to do this! [I thought.] Wait, no he doesn’t,” she corrects her former self. Despite the many rituals she was practicing, Leanne felt emptier than ever.
It was September 13, 2020 when Leanne was participating in another New Age class, a sangha on non-dualism, that changed her life forever. Non-dualism, literally “not two,” is a belief with so many definitions, honestly it’s difficult to define! (Such a contrast to the plainness of God.) A recurring theme in non-dualism is that this world is a projection of each of us, and that we can become God. Of the philosophy, Leanne comments in her original testimony video on Youtube, “I really struggled with this but I found so much satisfaction in it…this makes no sense because non-dualism itself is dualism because you’re saying everything outside of non-dualism is not right. But it was tempting. I could do whatever I wanted because nothing mattered.” During a meditative moment in the class that morning, Leanne’s leader in the class said, “Look inside to your god-self…”
Even though she had heard this leading many times before, it didn’t sit well in her soul on this day. In that moment as her classmates contemplated their god-selves, Leanne heard the one true God, Jesus Christ in her mind as she refuted the idea of being capable of a god-self. “There’s no god in here,” she thought, “I’m a mess. I have to know Jesus.” In an instant, the scales which had covered and blurred her vision for decades, began to fall. Overwhelmed by her sin, but not crushed, she turned to Jesus and He took it all. As she reflects through tears in her testimony, “God has a plan for us and God is always there for us. He heals when He needs to and He doesn’t when He doesn’t, and that choice is His. All the healing that I thought that I’d done for myself was not me, it was God. I had my back against Him for so many years.”
She closed her laptop, having abandoned the online sangha, got on Amazon and bought a Bible and excitedly shared with her husband, “I have this hunger to know Jesus and I don’t know where this is coming from.” Kevin thought it was a phase. A few days later she announced to him, “I’m going to church!” He accompanied her after a few weeks.
The Biblical model for conversion always includes baptism, even during Paul’s conversion. (Acts 9:18-19 “Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”) The same was true for Leanne. When they found a friendly Bible-preaching church in their area of Florida she told Pastor David McCaman, “I need to be baptized.” She was baptized on December 20, 2020 at First Baptist Church of Boynton Beach.
A few months later, after attending church with his wife, Kevin also accepted Christ and will be baptized soon. “Kevin is a really logical human,” Leanne shares. It was largely through reading Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ and meeting with their pastor that Kevin was saved.
“Literally, I felt like I was picked up and dropped somewhere else [when I met Jesus].”
What pushed you (or what is pushing you) to your breaking point, and what does that look like for you? How did or how is Jesus speaking to you as you search for the “one thing”?
Verses for meditation: Acts 9:18-19