The most important things in my life are 1) my faith and 2) my people. Even as a child, I loved Jesus and collected friends. In traveling as a singer before having a husband and kids of our own, I loved being with children, and with those who sought the Lord like a child, to grow together in loving Jesus more.
I grew up adjusting to new moves, new people, and new places. I even skipped out on my own high school graduation because I was off singing instead. Recently, I passed through that small valley town where we lived at that time. Surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, it’s no wonder that I always felt the need to travel UP from the valley and OUT into the great big unknown world around. My free spirit needed expanse… to breathe.
When I met Mike, he had always lived at home, commuted to college. Same town. Same surrounding. But he fell in love with camp ministry, and he fell in love with me. Our story was a beautiful match of opposite strengths with the same driving passions to make a difference for eternal things. He and I both were writers, but our styles were as different as could be. He brought structure to my creativity, and I brought spunk to his methodical ways!
It didn’t only work — it fit together and played like a soundtrack! I was safe, and I was loved. Then, adding in our two enormously loved children? Well it made me wonder sometimes if it was just… too… much… happiness.
I loved supporting Michael as he found his ministry passions. He became brave enough to step OUT from behind a church desk job, in order to live his calling in the most personal, difference-making ways. Our kids began to see bible stories come alive – right off the pages – with the names and faces of those we were serving! And we believed that God would not only impact the families in our lives, but that Mike would be able to help other leaders out there who were begging to know that there IS more to ministry than the Americanized versions that we seem to only get to choose from today.
He left his salary. God kept providing.
For the next years, we lived.
Then came the year 2015.
My doTERRA business was providing for our family, and at the rate the business was growing, we had plans for it to provide for the ministry growth, too. I traveled in the spring for Diamond Club, speaking and teaching about health and holistic modalities. I began to gather certifications as a Holistic Health Coach and an Aroma Touch trainer, looking into more education in nutrition and herbs. I was beginning to provide more helpful one-on-one assessments than ever before, and it was gratifying!
Combining what I was doing with the free counseling that Mike was providing for families (his educational background was in psychology and mental health), we were dreaming more specifically of a Family Wholeness Center — committing ourselves, our time, and our resources toward those “someday” goals, while Cre8ing with local families, writing words in our computers, and focusing on the everyday moments and daily steps of obedience. So much hope. Plans. Promise.
The kids went CRAZY when they found out we were going to add another little Shroyer to our Happiness! And then in a short amount of time, everything changed. I had a miscarriage and we had a memorial service. Mike developed a breathing struggle from an obstruction breathed in while preparing the land for a wedding, and we began to fight for his life. We wrote a check and signed papers to secure the purchase of the property, and instead of closing in the next few weeks, Mike was gone.
Just like that. Mike. Was. Gone.
December 2, 2015. 5:11 a.m.
I stood stunned, watching through the glass (my brother holding me up from behind), as the I.C.U. room cleared out, leaving just a bed with the body of the man who brought all of the calm to my chaos, and all of the balance to our everything. Too much happy immediately turned into too many questions to answer and too much grief to handle. I sat on the bed with his empty body for over three hours (it felt like 15 minutes) until they wheeled mine away – legs and arms trembling out of control, and making sounds of weeping that I didn’t know could ever come out of me.
Then… Telling the kids. Telling friends and family. Learning to live. Learning to sleep again.
“To rise” became our mantra.
Now, in this present season of hospital conversations, deep questions surrounding the bridges BROKEN of the basic needs of the human body, and more… I am catapulted forward in this pursuit of helping others toward wholeness. It is not a gimmick, a slight suggestion, or a small concern. It is a necessity. There are messages that need to be delivered. I plan on doing so, and pray that I do so well.
With unanswered questions amidst unquestionable faith, songs are being written. With prayers unanswered in light of the expectations of those who prayed, promises well up from within me that need to be shared in safe conversations. As I stare at computer screens full of content written over our 20 years of “together,” every word I read begs to be released.
Where I am today is not where I dreamed that I would be. However, the purposes for which we have poured out our lives remain quite the same – the same, but with incredibly MORE insistence and drive than ever before imagined!
So what do I want to do with the rest of my life?
I want to create!
I want to write of the Goodness of God in the Land of the Living… and of His Loving-kindness through the pain of the dying.
I want to raise champions, and home-school them well. I hope to inspire others in their own learning.
I want to see an awakened local church rise up to fight FOR one another and bring Light to the community.
I want to help people rise up from bitterness and despair to find freedom and life.
And Someday, I want to meet my Maker knowing full well that I lived. Truly lived.
To the fullest.
This is my story. This is our song.
And this is the time to rise.
Ami the Recording Artist:
In the past, we’ve had to provide impressive-sounding bios for publishing company executives, newspapers, and blips in church bulletins. I’m kind of over that, so in keeping it real, allow me to share with you what I actually want you to know about my singing and songwriting:
I, much like my daughter, was ALWAYS writing songs on the fly. If I had written down every song that I have sung in a dream or in my car, there would be thousands (not all good, I’m certain, but that’s not the point!). I quite sincerely dedicated my music to the Lord beside my bed in my room alone when I was in the 5th grade. At that point, I remember saying, “I will sing any time I am asked,” and I viewed music as a tool for something much more important, just as a surgeon would view a scalpel in the grand scheme of the greater good.
Because of that statement I prayed to God that night, I’ve had some musical highs: singing with Darlene Zschech, writer of “Shout to the Lord” and hearing her call me “Ames” in her lovely Australian accent! Another high was when a compilation disc was nominated for a Dove award and one of my songs, “Trust in the Lord” was included! Traveling to all of the continental U.S. states and 14 other countries has been among the highs! But my greatest highs were when I was asked to sing to a man dying of cancer by his surrounding family, and found out later that after I left, he slipped away peacefully, knowing that his family had heard of the Love of Jesus. And of course, seeing the way Mike looked at me while I sang, and knowing that even though there are a million other more talented musicians in the world, I was doing what I was called to do with what I have been given.
Then there have been some musical lows: the lowest low was when I traveled a few hours to set up in a small building to find that I was the opening act for a couple who were cranking an organ grinder while creating the same balloon animal over and over for kids at a Christmas shindig, “It’s a flower! No, it’s a sword!” and I was almost in tears thinking, “What. Is. This. That. I am. Doing. With. My. Life???”
Whether high or low, I have kept to those words in that prayer all the same, and for that, I take delight!
My favorite compliments have been:
“When you sing, it is like David playing his harp for Saul; all of the demons in me are silenced, and I feel peace.” (A pastor who was struggling to lead his own family)
“I love your music! It is so real. You express worship, and you tell stories. I can hear how much you love your family, and when I was going through the hardest season of my life, I couldn’t listen to the radio or to popular Christian songs, but I could listen to your CD. I played it over and over in my car and at home, and your songs helped me find hope again. Thank you for just being real.” (A woman whose son died tragically, and she began to question everything she’d ever believed.)
I would be lying to you if I told you that I know what I’m doing! Most true artists feel the exact same way! We just live to walk into those Divine moments when something that we were part of creating is given Life and Breath, and makes a difference in someone’s heart. And we keep writing…
I am thrilled that I have two kids who desire to use their gifts in such a way, and as we grow together in Writer House, I will do all I can to encourage them to Become. As I learn, so will they. As they learn, so will I. As we learn, perhaps something we are part of creating will make a difference in you.
Michael used to say I needed a slogan, “For a good cry, go hear Ami.”
I used to have mixed feelings over that comment, because I want to be a joy-giver… but I consider it a high compliment, knowing that joy comes in the morning. And morning is best just after the darkness. Perhaps we will write music that carries the light to inside places in that way.
Finally, more than anything, I hope it’s always real.
Ami Sandstrom Shroyer graduated from FHS quite a few years ago, but she was a musical powerhouse even then. Since those days she and her husband have embarked on a career in ministry, which includes (but is not limited to) her recent CD release 40,000 Days.
This disc collects unabashedly Christian music that showcases both Ami’s singing and songwriting skills (recordings of one of her previous songs garnered a prestigious Dove award). Her voice is bright and light, clear and clean as a bell. Several of the songs have a nice pop sound, and many use a piano-guitar blend familiar to fans of early seventies folky pop.
Some of the songs here (“I Lift My Hands,” “Holy God”) are ready for prime time as praise songs, easily sung along with by a congregation. That’s no small feat; it’s not easy to write a song that is both effectively moving and approachably simple.
The top song of the disc is “Home,” a song with sophisticated changes that are not only clever songwriting, but also powerfully evoke longing, release and strength.
While a few of the songs are peppy and upbeat (the title track is cheerily, gracefully optimistic, and “Your Secret Place” wants to be a 1971 radio hit, in a good way), the majority of the disc is soft, slow and meditative. Taken together, these performances give a picture of a loving and uplifting God who walks with the singer through marriage, parenthood and even death.
Ami the Ministry Director:
Now that Michael is with the Lord, I see my role as a gatherer of people. I want to meet and intermix other passionate ministry leaders from within and around our surrounding areas, and serve as a sort of cheerleader for connecting people in creative ways to make a collective difference. In laying differences and hierarchy aside to focus on the simplest directives in Scripture, together we can heal. Together we can rise.