As I sit here at my desk, having just written this entire article from my laptop, hitting send, and it literally disappearing somehow, I am seeking to re-write it. Starting completely over. From scratch. Something we have to choose to do in life quite often. As frustrating as it is, we choose to press in and press on. So here goes again.
As I sit here this morning after watching my family's story "The Smith Sisters" on the season premiere of "I, Witness" on The Investigation Discovery Channel last night, there are no words. There were tears, as I sat next to my Aunt Sue on her couch in her home, as together we re-remembered what we had lived through all those years ago. And there are more tears today. However, they are not tears of sadness. I am humbled and grateful that my Faithful Father has taken what was meant for evil, and used it for goodand for His glory. Only He can do that. Isaiah 46:9-10 says, "Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say; My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please."
As the airing of the program neared this week, the posts and comments on my social media pages were overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. However, there were those that were not. One in particular I read and deleted immediately. It was from someone I do not know, commenting on how all everyone has heard about all these years is my sister, how there was another precious little girl whose life was also taken by Shari's murderer, and that both lives mattered. He continued to say that my family had gotten all of the attention because we had more money, a bigger house, and didn't live in a trailer park. A literal knife in my heart as I read those crushing words. Because I can assure him and you, that the attention my family has received over the last 32+ years is not anything we would have ever sought. Given a choice, we would much prefer to have Shari here with us today. Yet while we did not choose the story that has continued to unfold in the public eye through the years, we chose to seek to walk it out in faith as God has called us to.
Over Christmas I was visiting in a dear friend's home, in-between services at a local church in her town where I had just sung Christmas music that morning, and would be returning that evening to do the same. I had literally just expressed to her how the month of December is always like a breath of fresh air to me, simply enjoying singing Christmas music, celebrating Jesus, and not being called upon to tell the story of my sister's tragic murder and kidnapping. No sooner had I said those words, a few of her children and their friends dropped by during the visit, and I was delighted to see them. One young woman whom I know and love suddenly turned the light-hearted visit to questions about my story. "How was it to talk on the phone to a murderer?" she began. And as concisely as I could answer, the next question came. Hard questions. Painful questions to have to answer unexpectedly...
While serving in the parking lot at my home church, welcoming guests to our Christmas service, a gentleman walked over to me and said, "You are Dawn Smith, aren't you?" He then proceeded to tell me how he had been one of the first officers to arrive at my home the day Shari went missing, recounting difficult details of the case as I stood there in my Christmas sweater, smile on my face, continuing to greet guests. He meant well, he had a very real connection to my family, and I am and always will be grateful for the many law enforcement officers who worked tirelessly on my family's case, the largest manhunt in SC's history. Yet, as I listened, I thought of how I just wanted to greet people and celebrate Jesus at that moment...
This happens just about everywhere I go, and I have come to accept that it is a very real part of my life. Not just years ago, but today. Mine is a story I cannot get away from, and if I may be so honest, yes, there are days I wish I could. So many of you have compassionately expressed how you can only imagine how difficult it would have to be to re-live the details of this chapter of the story of my life, and you have stated correctly. It is quite painful to revisit the things I no longer think about in my everyday life. And yet that Scripture reminds us that we do need to remember, and remember well.
When I first spoke with the producer of "I, Witness" over the phone at his initial invitation for me to share my story on this new and upcoming program, the title grabbed me right away. "I, Witness." How appropriate. That is truly what the Lord has called me to do, both on and off of a ministry platform. It is what He has called you to do, as well. He has entrusted a life story to each of us, and there is purpose in them.
As my computer continues to ding non-stop with the overwhelming flow of Facebook posts, comments, and emails pouring in, it will take me days to attempt to read and respond to all of them. And I am overwhelmingly grateful. I'm thankful my Father wastes nothing. As people have watched and will watch our story yet again, I am keenly aware that this world is drawn to the drama of a story such as mine. When I post a Scripture or a regular status, I may get 100 likes or so, and a few comments. But when I post a picture of my murdered sister, or a link to an upcoming TV program surrounding the tragic events of 1985, thousands upon thousands are reached, like, and comment. However, my prayer is that though initially drawn to the drama, they will ultimately be drawn to Jesus in the watching. That the people who follow me on social media and in life, will find hope for their own journeys, and ultimately follow Jesus when all is said and done.
Today I am grateful to the producers for taking our story and telling it with integrity, staying true to the underlying theme: faith. Oh how the Father has answered the cry of my heart concerning that. As the producers chose to end the program with me sharing these words, I pray they take root in your own heart and life: Every day of our lives is a gift that God has given us and we have to choose what we are going to do with it. I choose faith. Shari could have so easily, and understandably chosen fear in such incomprehensible, horrific circumstances. And yet in her Last Will and Testament letter, she chose faith. She told us not to let her death ruin our lives, to keep living one day at a time for Jesus, and to know she was going to be with her Father, but that we had to carry on believing that all things would work together for good. Never could I have imagined in 1985 that I would be sitting here writing such words to you. I thought our lives were over, shattered. And yet, God took what was broken, and turned it into something beautiful to use for good in the lives of countless many, and for His glory alone. The woman sitting here today is no longer that 21-year-old girl. I am a 52-year-old woman who is no longer a victim, but a victor. For today, I choose faith. Faith in a Father whose grace has carried me this far, and will lead me home. To join Shari and my mama. But for today, as my precious mama said before her last speaking engagement, not long after that joining Shari in eternity, I too will say: As long as I have breath left in this body of mine, I will be about the business of telling the story God has entrusted me to tell. I choose faith. Won't you join me?
Blessings to you today,
*SPECIAL NOTE* If you missed the first two airings of "The Smith Sisters" on the season premiere of the brand new program "I, Witness," you can catch it again this Sunday, January 8th, on the ID Channel (Investigation Discovery) at 1:00 p.m. EST.
Click here to see a sneak peek of the episode.
Ministry at a Glance:
2016 has come and gone, and here we are heading into a new year. As I took a moment to look back over where the Lord allowed me to sing/speak, I was privileged to share in 68 ministry events that kept me closer to home traveling across SC, NC and GA, with 2 trips to NYC to film the “I, Witness” program airing on the Investigation Discovery Channel this month. The month of December was full of Christmas events and concerts, and I loved every minute of it.
I started out on Sunday, December 4th in Florence, SC for both a morning and evening concert. I spent the morning at Ebenezer Baptist Church. During my sound check, I asked their accomplished pianist if she would want to spur-of-the-moment join me on a piano duet, and she agreed! What fun it was, thanks again, Dawn Tolson.
The evening of the 4th I shared in a concert at Mizpah Baptist Church where my Aunt Barbara Lawrimore is the pianist, and she joined me on a piano duet, as well. What a blast! It was a pleasant surprise to have my friend and former Miss South Caroline, Bree Boyce, whose wedding I will be attending Saturday, and her family join me as well.
On Thursday, December 8th I was delighted to speak at Carmel Baptist Church in Matthews, NC for their Senior Adult Christmas luncheon, and got to wish this delightful little lady a happy 90th birthday. I especially love the crown.
It was also such a sweet surprise to have some of the ladies from Ebenezer Baptist in Indian Trail, NC come over and join us.
On Saturday, December 10th I was happy to be a part of the Women’s Christmas Coffeehouse hosted by New Heights Church in Columbia, SC. It is always fun to reconnect with people I have met years before. These darling sisters brought this picture we took together back in the 90’s, and we couldn’t resist taking a new up-to-date one. What beautiful young women of God they have become.
On Sunday, December 11th I was with Eastlan Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. For the morning service I shared special music, and that evening I was joined by their wonderful choir and orchestra under the direction of their equally wonderful Minister of Music Jerry Stepp for their Christmas program.
Monday, December 12th I was with St. Andrews Baptist in Columbia, SC for their Deacons’ Christmas banquet and had such a sweet time sharing the evening with my dear friends Beth and William Tolar.
Closing out the month, season and year on Sunday, December 18th I was hosted by Cool Branch Baptist Church in Blair, SC to share in a Community Wide Christmas Concert, and found a new friend in Peggy Swearingen. Thank you to each of you for inviting and welcoming me into your church to celebrate Christmas together.
Looking to 2017 I have 3 events coming up in January. On Sunday, January 22nd I will be sharing at West Columbia First Nazarene in West Columbia, SC for their church homecoming service at 10:45 a.m. On Thursday, January 26th I am looking forward to ministering at the First Presbyterian Church Greenwood in Greenwood, SC for their ladies dinner at 6:00 p.m. Sunday, January 29th I am excited to be both speaking and sharing in a concert at First United Methodist Church in Myrtle Beach, SC. I will be speaking at their 8:45 a.m. service and then sharing in a concert at 10:00 a.m.
*For my Myrtle Beach, SC area friends, or those on the way back home to Columbia, I am available to share a concert at your church the evening of the 29th simply on a love-offering basis. Let us hear from you!
A very special thank-you to each and every church that hosted me as a part of your ministry in 2016. I am both grateful and privileged to have served alongside you in Kingdom work, and look forward to what the Lord has for us to do in this new year together as the body of Christ. May He strengthen you, anoint you, and do above and beyond what we could ever ask or imagine, for His glory alone!
On the Homefront:
I love December. It's full of celebrations, extra time with family and friends, less alarm clocks and commitments once the holidays begin. I love how everything is brighter...the lights, our spirits, our outlooks. Lights at the zoo with dear friends, an annual tradition. Spending an afternoon with my friends in the upstate between concerts. Having family and friends over for Christmas cookies, gifts, smiles, visits.
My amazing music students presented two beautiful Christmas recitals to two separate assisted living facilities and I was so proud to see them share their gifts so generously to those who soaked them in. Hannah, Clayton, Blue and Shadow came through for lunch and gifts on their way to Asheville, NC where they spent their first married Christmas break this year with Clayton's family.
The trip to Denver to spend Christmas with Ross and Brianna was the highlight of the season for me this year. We enjoyed 3 days of hiking in the snow-covered mountains, me cooking some of their favorites on Christmas Day, baking, shopping, watching Christmas movies, exchanging gifts, going out to eat, ice skating. The best part of it was simply being with them. I thought about how much God loves us, so much so that He sent His Son to be with us, and He came such a long way for us. All the way from heaven to earth. It is out of my love for my precious son and his sweet girlfriend that I chose to make the trip to Denver. Jesus came for relationship. Emmanuel. God with us. There is no greater joy as a mom than getting to be with my children, and I am so grateful to have celebrated the birth of my Savior with my son. And yes, it was my first white Christmas!
I enjoyed getting to spend New Year's weekend with Robert, Elizabeth, and James Michael in their home and at Dollywood. Quality time, my love language. There is no greater gift to my heart.
As we start this new year of 2017 Allison and I are excited about the possibilities, opportunities and new things this year will bring. Especially a sweet baby boy for Allison and her family. 2016 was a great year for Jordan Ministries and we would like to thank you all for that.
Funnies From the Road:
As I stood in my carport fully decked out in sequins, high heels and red lipstick, on my way to share a Christmas concert that morning in Charlotte, NC, my car would not start. I called Robert to ask him what to do, and he said his car would not start that morning either. He had an appointment out of town that day as well. My wonderful neighbor came over and jump-started my car for me, and just as I arrived at the church, they had a fire drill and we had to evacuate the building. Once back inside, we did an abbreviated, almost non-existent sound check, and it was then I realized I had left my music for the piano songs at home on my piano. Some days are just like that.
As I was posting on social media how much I was looking forward to my Aunt Barbara joining me on a piano duet in her church that evening where she serves as pianist, I wrote, "Looking so forward to my Aunt Barbara Lawrimore joining me on a Christmas diet tonight." HA! No, we didn't start a Christmas diet that night, but I did start my after-Christmas diet as of yesterday.
The entire story that was featured on
"I, Witness" is depicted in Dawn's first book, "Grace So Amazing" and is available
on her website here.
In it she writes of her journey from fear to faith, and ultimately extending forgiveness to her sister's murderer. It can also be seen on the CBS made-for-television movie now on Netflix, "Victim of Beauty."
Dawn's Blog Amazing Grace Notes
My new blog is entitled "Amazing Grace Notes," and I would love to invite you to join me at http://dawnsmithjordan.blogspot.com/
for regular updates.
Follow me on my DAWN SMITH JORDAN Musician/Band Facebook page to be eligible for the monthly prize give-away trivia contest!
Sunday, January 22nd
West Columbia First Nazarene
West Columbia, SC
Thursday, January 26th
First Presbyterian Church Greenwood
Ladies Dinner 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 29th
First United Methodist Church
Myrtle Beach, SC
Speaking 8:45 a.m./ Concert 10:00 a.m.
Follow Dawn on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where we post regular updates and prayer requests.
A Note from Allison
I couldn't decide which direction to go with my "note" this time, so I am including something a little practical and something a little spiritual. I am a very organized person and I often get asked how I stay organized or what are my tips. As the new year starts lots of people have resolutions to become more organized or purge so here are my top 3 favorite things that help me. 1. Constantly have a "get rid of" box. Don't feel like you have to tackle a whole room or your whole house at one time. If you see one thing that you don't need/want take it right then and put it in the box. Do this all the time! 2. Turn your hangers backwards. Every time you hang something back up after wearing it, turn it the right way. After a year everything still turned backwards you know you didn't wear. Get rid of it! 3. Have a place for everything. When you know where something is supposed to go it's easier to put it back, keep things clean, and to know where it is when you need it. Now regardless of whether you have a new years resolution or not, most people look at January as a blank slate, a clean canvas for the year. And while that is true, I think we should also remember that God has already written every day and step we will take. The canvas is not blank to Him, it is ordained, and it is our choice to walk in that. So pray and ask God to show you the steps to take and how to walk perfectly through the beautiful picture He has painted for your year.