Photo courtesy of Cherie Stewart.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Gadsden native Cherie Stewart is no stranger to miraculous moments. In fact, spectacular and extraordinary events characterize her life – instances she treasures as hopeful and powerful illustrations of God’s outworking.
Coined the “female Forrest Gump” by her publisher, Stewart emphasizes these events in her recent book, Go Tell, a collection of stories ranging from adolescence to adulthood that reinforce a verse found in James 4:8 Stewart values as the book’s mission: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Born to Frances Morgan and Earle Williams, Stewart hails from a lineage of intelligent and creative minds that mirror her own. Her mother served as an educator and doubled as a performer, mesmerizing audiences with her lovely operatic voice. Her father studied aeronautical engineering in California, later working for the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and NASA, where he collaborated with rocket architect Wernher von Braun.
Stewart treasures fond memories of Williams, who played with she and her brother on the floor, making them giggle and laugh. Mornings were filled with joy, as Williams picked Stewart up and carried her down the stairs on his shoulders to begin the day. Yet despite the love between the four of them, when circumstances arose that required Williams to work outside of Gadsden, Morgan refused to leave town. Unable to reach a compromise, the couple decided to divorce, and Morgan moved herself and her two children to her parent’s home. She later remarried Joseph Bellinger.
Growing up in her grandparent’s house on Argyle Circle, Stewart (pictured above) attended Striplin Elementary School and Gadsden High School. She attended Stephens College in Missouri for one year before majoring in English and Elementary Education at The University of Alabama. Throughout the years, Stewart’s innovative skillset and cleverness manifested in a broad spectrum of positions, yielding to success at each corner.
In addition to teaching, Stewart purchased outdated homes in nice neighborhoods and renovated them – painting walls, ripping out carpet and freshening up the place entirely on her own. She returned to academia to study art at UAB, learning how to paint as she always wanted. Her imaginative eye and exceptional talent drifted from abstract art trends and channeled impressionist classics such as Claude Monet, captivating critics and generating admiring audiences.
Stewart’s paintings flourished in acclaim, earning her three galleries in New York City and a show in Paris. Often painting from personal photographs, Stewart even received a call from the CEO of Kodak hoping to purchase some of her photos. When Stewart respectfully declined, the CEO discovered her paintings for sale in New York and gave them as Christmas gifts, buying one for his own office.
Sold underneath the name C. Stewart, corporations thought a man’s hand produced Stewart’s work, assuming the “C” referred to Charles rather than Cherie. Since several major corporations were disinterested in purchasing paintings from female artists, Stewart visited her own galleries as a guest, blending into the crowd who observed her creations.
“I could go to my own gallery shows and I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody I was the artist,” said Stewart. “I could stand in the room and people would ask if I could help them. I couldn’t say I painted them, but I was able to hear what they had to say about me.”
Stewart highlights all these moments in her autobiographical book Go Tell, which details significant occurrences she experienced and believe emerge as evident representations of her relationship with God. During each season of Stewart’s life – from education to artistry and authorship – incredible moments prove reminders of God’s presence and influence guiding her.
One incredible instance ensued during Stewart’s years in Tuscaloosa when traveling home from college. Stewart and her roommate piled into a brand-new Volkswagen Beetle with her friend and his roommate, the four of them making their way to Etowah County. An unsettling discomfort soon shadowed Stewart and she heard a voice audibly encouraging her to get out of the car. Though she swatted the thought from her mind, the voice only grew louder and increasingly urgent.
Finally submitting, Stewart apologized to her friend and pulled herself and her roommate from the car. She called for another ride at a phone booth in downtown Birmingham, and her father picked the pair up and took them to Gadsden. The following day, Stewart’s friend (and Volkswagen driver) gave her a call, with the first words spilling from his mouth were, “How did you know?”
Stewart’s friend told her if she and her roommate had stayed in the car, they would not be alive. After the girls switched transportation, Stewart’s friend and his roommate were in a horrific wreck that crushed the Volkswagen’s entire backseat, ejecting them from the car.
“I have story after story, and a lot of people don’t believe me,” said Stewart. “To those people I say, ‘Don’t worry about it. You don’t have to read it.’ The truth is I wrote the book for God. This is about God. It’s really not about me.”
Stewart’s story does not end on the final page of Go Tell. The reminders continued after Stewart completed her book, with God’s favor shining on her following its publication. While grocery shopping one day, Stewart realized she lost her keys, only for the cashier to inform her the keys were waiting for her at the customer service desk. When an employee returned Stewart’s keys to her, he said she had an angel looking out for her. The employee explained a man handed him the keys after they slipped out of Stewart’s purse, but in the brief moment the employee glanced away to put the keys in a cabinet, the man vanished.
“To my knowledge, I’ve never seen an angel,” said Stewart. “But I’ve been blessed by hearing their voice.”
In December of 2019, Stewart developed an issue walking. As her balance continued to worsen, a report from her neurologist discovered 10 mini strokes in the white matter (subcortical) of her brain, alongside a 30-year-old scar on the left side of her brain. When Stewart began experiencing muscle spasms, she scheduled a CT scan. Just before her appointment, a discussion on The 700 Club ministered to her as host Gordon Robertson encouraged those seeking a healing miracle to place their hands on the ailment as they prayed. Stewart laid her hands on her hand and asked God to renew her brain.
As Stewart’s doctor assessed her most recent CT scan with her initial test results, he found no trace of the mini strokes that once appeared. Perplexed, he claimed no medicine, procedure, surgery or man on earth knows how to clean a brain, asking Stewart her secret. She told him she simply prayed, and he congratulated her on her miracle – conceding that as the only explanation, for the 30-year-old scar still appeared on the left side.
Stewart hopes that these moments minister to others, inspiring them to pursue a deeper relationship with God and include Him in all aspects of their lives. After a lifetime of locking her experiences inside a vault, silencing herself for fear of misunderstanding or judgement, Stewart reached a pivotal place of realization. Her brother served as the catalyst for Go Tell, encouraging Stewart to share her stories with the world, as a vessel of influence to affect people in a positive way.
Stewart left audiences with a glimpse of what she learned while writing Go Tell and what she hopes they gain from her words.
“I’ve learned the power of positive thinking,” said Stewart, noting that the tragic moments in her book served as lessons for her, and were necessary to emphasize the joyous events. “I’m a big believer in a happy attitude. At the first thought of anything negative, you’ve got to turn it off and turn on what is good. If someone has treated you badly, and you harp on it too long, you’re enslaving yourself to evil. If you can forgive them and put it at the feet of Jesus and stop picking it up, you will overcome it. You can’t keep coming back to what is bad, because who you’re hurting is yourself.”
“I want people to see that through my life, God keeps showing up. There are things you can’t explain. People can read the book to learn how to have a closer relationship with God. I’m just telling them how I did it. The closer you draw to God, the closer He comes to you.”