A Life Changed: Amanda Rowell

001, Amanda White,

My parents divorced when I was young, and my mother was granted full custody. She married an alcoholic who physically abused her and began sexually molesting me. Even after I told my mother, she chose to stay with him. Fortunately, my kindergarten teacher noticed the signs of abuse, took me into the hallway and gently asked if I was being hurt. I trusted her enough to be honest. DHR was called, and I was immediately placed in my father's custody. Then came lawyers, my first court hearing and meeting with a judge. During this, my stepfather was also in a drunk driving incident that took the life of a young lady. Those charges were added to what was pending from my case. He took a deal and plead guilty for a lighter sentence, which spared me from having to testify against him in open court. I was five years old.

In the beginning, living with my dad was great, and I felt safe. He remarried, and together they made sacrifices to accommodate me. My father worked a lot to provide for us, so the day-to-day responsibility of the home, including my care, primarily fell to my stepmother. Over the years, bitter ongoing conflicts with my mother took their toll. In middle school, my father's job moved us 45 minutes away. It gave us distance from my mother, but also took me away from my friends, my school system, and my grandmother - my only consistent safe space in life. Homesickness caused me to struggle socially at my new school. At home, things with my stepmother were rapidly deteriorating. She became pregnant and suffered a late- term miscarriage. She couldn’t even look at me afterwards. In hindsight, I can’t imagine the grief she struggled to express. "Hurt people hurt people,” and disagreements between us eventually led to a physical altercation that prompted me to ask my dad to leave.

The weight and gravity of my question had enough impact on my dad that he called Big Oak Ranch. A few days later, my stepmother drove me to the Girls' Ranch and dropped me off. Seeing her drive away, I felt instant relief from the long burden of living in the midst of her mental health crisis.B01D24B9-36E0-4EA4-BAE0-65DF8DFE9078_1_201_a

The years at the Ranch healed me one day at a time. I developed close bonds with my houseparents and genuine “forever” relationships with my Ranch siblings. I thrived at Westbrook and made friendships I keep to this day. I excelled at sports and loved being part of the youth group at our church. The stability of having a Christ-centered family showed me that forgiveness is possible even in the deepest of hurts. The Ranch salvaged what was left of my childhood and taught me that the generational curses that wounded me didn’t have to be left unhealed to bleed onto my future children.

I would love to say I did everything correctly after leaving the Ranch, but I made some decisions that went against what I had learned there. I had a daughter out of wedlock and then entered an unhealthy relationship with an alcoholic who exhibited abusive behaviors. One particularly hard night, I felt the sweet voice of the Holy Spirit say “You are repeating the very things I delivered you from.” And I was. So I prayed, “If you free me one more time, I will put in the work to heal and not do to my baby what was done to me.”

As He always is, He was faithful. I left that relationship, with His guidance every step. I started all over again as a single mom until I met the man that came in like warm sunshine after a long rain. Lance loved my little girl as his own from the day he laid eyes on her. My greatest and most unexpected blessing, she deserved every drop of love he could give her and more. She was happy to tuck herself safely in his heart as his daughter, and seeing their relationship grow allowed me to begin to forgive my own early mistakes as her mother.

Amanda and Lance Rowell, Family Picture, Wedding, February, 2023Lance and I are married and have also added two more daughters to our growing family with our fourth child due any day. Our girls, Gracelyn (15), August (3) and Junah (2) have parents that have committed to being spiritually and emotionally healthy and consistently present in their lives. We are firmly rooted at Victory Church in Pell City, where we also live. Lance works for the Anniston Army Depot and serves as an assistant baseball coach at Victory Christian, where Gracelyn attends high school. I primarily stay home with the littles but also freelance as a writer for Big Oak.

I kept my promise to God. I have actively sought to immerse myself in relationships and resources that benefit my personal growth and spiritual maturity as a wife, mother and friend.

Big Oak was the vessel Jesus used to show me what He could do through a healthy family that served and loved Him. While I have come a long way, my legacy, the Ranch’s legacy through me, is my deep unyielding heart for Jesus, my beautiful marriage and my precious babies. The greatest “thank you” that I can ever hope to give to Big Oak in return for what it has given me is to raise a generation that will never need the Ranch for themselves, but will have hearts and hands to maybe one day serve it in some capacity for those, like their mama, that find Home through its gates.

- Amanda