The Lord is my strength and my song. And he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, this is my Father’s God, and I will exalt him.
I have actually been working on a much longer version of my story. To obey Psalms 78: 6-7 in a literal sense which says:
They were to rise up and tell their children so they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep his commands.
I have truly been thinking about my story for a solid year and in detail. I’m still not finished because of all that I’m combing through. I am pulling out buckets of letters and journals and copying numerous documents.
I am not a detail person naturally, and I’ll be honest I like to skim over a certain three year period in my life. But Charles de Lint puts it perfectly when he says “Don’t forget- NO one else see’s the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.”
I truly believe that. I believe that stories connect people and they make God’s bigger story come to life right before your eyes.
When I first started sharing my “testimony” I would glaze over and feel even sad that I didn’t have a bigger redemptive/come to Jesus, “clouds parting” experience in life. What I have come to realize is that my story is about protection, conservation, and about generational blessing’s. Its about second chances, choices, and God’s grace. Its about love in all its forms and its about redemption in all its facets. Heartache and pain. Growth and accomplishment. A normal life can actually be pretty incredible.
I was born the oldest child to a young devoted christian couple still finishing college and making ends meet with their very first jobs in Gainesville, Florida. GO GATORS!
I ended up being the oldest of five children and Mother chose to homeschool us because we were going to move my 1st grade year. She didn’t want to put me in school to pull me out mid-year. They didn’t have $ for private school and the week we moved to Orlando, a little girl brought a gun to school and shot someone. I became a life long homeschooler at that point.
I had a pretty idyllic childhood with three brother’s and then finally 10 years later my baby sister and mini-me. I was raised in the south and in a Baptist church. There is a verse in 2 Timothy that says…. “and how from infancy you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” This was my family. We prayed together at night and Mother literally had bible lessons for school. I would do bible drills when I got older where I (literally) could quote the fastest books of the Bible in the entire state. We were at church Sunday morning, Sunday Night, Wednesday night, VBS, and all church social’s. My parents had both been raised the exact same way. I even knew My Great-grandparents were people of faith in Christ.
The heritage I have is one of the most humbling and proud things all at once. I can’t take credit for it but I am so deeply grateful. And also overwhelmed. Because to whom much is given much is required.
We were poor middle class. And more on the poor side but as a kid I didn’t notice as much. I would find out years later that the time in Orlando my parents could have gotten over 750 dollars a month in food stamps.
I accepted Christ at our dining room table at 8 years old. My grandfather who was a pastor at the time came down to baptize me. We had a birthday party where we got cake and people bought me study Bibles, kid devotionals, and cross-shaped book marks.
Like a lot of children who grow up in faith, I dealt with a “crisis” personally later on in life. Its the point in life where you choose Christ again – not just because you were raised that way but because you choose it personally.
We moved to a small town in the middle of middle school and even though It sheltered me from many things it was a very hard transition for me. It could have been just middle school, or the fact that it was smallville where everybody knew everybody and I was very much an outsider or the fact that just a few years in my father would uproot his entire career for his dream job but this season was a start to what I call “the 1st big collision” section of my story. I really didn’t do well with the move.
This is where dance entered the picture for me. I fell in love with ballet classes and the discipline not just because I had great talent but because I was super late starting. I had to work double just to be on the same playing field with the other girls and It was an outlet for my emotions. For a girl who wasn’t very emotional, it was perfect. I found my space. In just a few short years I had climbed the ladder of the entire small dance studio in that town and made it as a company dancer to an elite group in another town an hour away from where we lived. That same year was also the year I went on my first foreign mission trip, first two-week intensive dance camp and the boys really started to notice. The little “Rockwell kid” suddenly had a ballerina body.
My mom drove me an hour each way four days a week and then Sunday’s I started having to go to a different church because I couldn’t make company classes if I went with my family to the small community church in town. Our home town church starting having major problems around this time (like really bad) and so my whole family shifted eventually as well, so we could worship together. To this day worshiping as a family unit is still one of my favorite things because I missed it for a season.
I met my first boyfriend at 15. ( I couldn’t call him my boyfriend because my dad wouldn’t let me date but we were in separable.) He was my best friend at the time, and a solid Christian. I was head over heels. He gave me security, and attention that I so desperately wanted.
He was older than me by a year and 1/2 and so when he was close to graduating we broke it off. I was devastated.
My parents were running the start of a business and managing two boys coming up in their tween years. Raising five kids was a feet and my parents are the most amazing people. They sacrificed and worked and put us first, even to this day. They were fantastic really. But you can only have so much band width and some things just fall through the cracks. I felt, at the time, that I was one of those things. I believed that you just couldn’t give that detailed attention to so many all at once. I didn’t feel very understood or important enough to demand the attention. So I just stepped up and kept my broken heart to myself. All of this was probably the stage of teen hood I was in but this is where I was at. One day I was talking on the phone, writing letters, going to conferences and and praying with this boy and his family. The next I wasn’t. One day I felt I had a stable environment. The next day I didn’t. My Dad had started his flight business and My mom had gone back to work. Homeschooling was out as an option for the younger kids and I felt the pressure to pull my own weight.
I got to this place where I asked, “What was the point?” They would all walk away eventually – Everyone seemed to just disappear over time. I had moved around so much and my dance career had even inhibited close relationships in my home town. Whether by a move, or a choice, or demanding pressing matters that took front and center I just felt alone.
All of this happened and I derailed on all relationships. I was going to be independent. I wouldn’t be heart-broken again. I wouldn’t rely on anyone. I became a tough person. Emotionally a wall went up, for everyone and anyone in my life.
I started working 2 jobs, I moved out at 17 so I could duel in role in a community college, and I was a shameless flirt. One of my very good friends (who helped me over my pain with the boyfriend drama) died in a car accident from drunk driving literally three days after I had been partying with him. I spent part of a summer in NYC off broadway competing and dancing and I held my best friend in the shower fully clothed while she dealt with the withdrawal shakes from drugs. I would date a guy on Thursday and go out with someone else on Saturday, telling them both I would not be their girlfriend. In that same year I got in a really bad wreck where I flipped my mom’s van. Things were just colliding for me.
That winter I decided a 180 for my life. Not because of my family, not because of one event, not because I had a “come to Jesus” meeting. It was just a slow stirring. Like when you flip the spoon the other way in a pot of gravy, very slowly. I didn’t like who I was or the life I was creating. I decided to not just believe in Jesus but, to trust Him and delight in Him.
I got a scholarship to a private art school in Jackson, MS. I was going to teach the next generation how to “Dance as unto the Lord.” I worked multiple jobs to make it work and I focused on seeing my family more. I swore off guys…..
I wouldn’t know the details till years later but the same year I was under fire My husband was also going through the worst spots in his own life.
I met the love of my life, travel companion, and father to my children at 19 years old, and on the beach! We dated long distance for two years. We graduated, married, had our honeymoon on the beach and moved to Atlanta. We started our first real jobs and we did it all in three weeks. He is a true gift, and makes me the very best version of myself.
It wasn’t all sunshine and flowers. Almost but….we married in 2007. In the first few years of our marriage we literally went through everything. It was Bliss and Hell all in one. Before we were married we hadn’t spent more than a long weekend together consecutively. In ’08 the financial crash hit us. My job was fine but in four years time my husband would lose and hold over five job positions. We also were paying off student loans and doing the Dave Ramsey method so we lived in one bedroom apartments for 4 1/2 years – where we had to share the same sink!!!!! Lol.
The hardest challenge was having a baby. I looked into hundreds of little girls’ faces weekly and the natural thoughts of my own daughter “one day” evolved into wanting to make it a reality. Six months turned into a year, which turned into a year-and-a-half, and the little protégés that I saw daily in the classes I taught became a constant reminder of what I was unable to create. Dancers create; it is what drew me into that first ballet class and for an unknown reason I could not create a baby. Dancing became a living dichotomy: my prison and my passion.
The struggle in my heart was something you cannot explain or describe, unless you have been there. The simple fact you cannot have a baby through any amount of willpower and the fear that life-long dreams of motherhood may be unfulfilled causes an insurmountable dilemma in the mind. Despite what people tell you or say, getting pregnant can be hard. The question that shook me to my core was “What if I could never have children?”
It turned out my problem was not just that I was a teeny, tiny athlete that danced all the time, but that I had a rare autoimmune disease as well. This condition would give me problems trying to conceive and it was something they could not fix. On Christmas Eve almost two years later we received the greatest gift: The second little pink line showed up. I was finally pregnant and one month before seeing the specialists. We were at the beach.
I was monitored throughout my pregnancy and deemed high-risk. I held my breath the whole way through and had nightmares, too. And yet, I not only got my very own tiny Ballerina, but a little Muscle Man followed her 19 months later. I received two beautiful miracles in fewer than three years.
The verse I hold in my heart from this season is
Psalms 113: 9 – He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord.
Amberly means “precious jewel”. Amber is a stone. Carson in the Gaelic means ”rock”. To us they are our stones like when Joshua was told by God to set up monuments to remember what He had done for his people.
They are our representations that God has been with us, and He will be with us. Amen!!!
I am what almost every little girl dreams of being. I’m a ballerina. I’m a teacher. I’m married to my prince charming. But most of all I get to be a mom. My life verse I picked up in early middle school and its something I held on to and something I have had the privilege to live out.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalms 37:3-4