Singing a New Song
By Jennifer Dale
Can I trust God in the midst of life’s darkest hours, facing the very things I feared the most? Can He still use me for His glory even when everything around me seems to be caving in? What does walking by faith look like when those we love the most are taken from us, or even worse, decide to leave on their own? Dawn Smith Jordan is no stranger to pain. She has had to walk in the valley with her Shepherd many times and in different ways. In 1985, her sister Shari was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The search for the killer resulted in the largest manhunt in South Carolina history, drawing national attention. CBS produced a made for TV movie based on Shari’s life entitled “Nightmare in Columbia County.”
A former Miss South Carolina and second runner-up to Miss America, a recording artist with Urgent Records, author, and sought-after keynote speaker for Christian women’s retreats and conferences across the United States, Dawn has had the privilege of sharing her giftedness and love for Christ, as well as the depths of His great love, mercy, and grace with thousands of women over the past 20 years of ministry.
JBU recently sat down with Dawn about how she has followed hard after Christ, seeking Him and His Word despite the painful valleys in her life.
JBU: Of all the things you have had to face, which circumstance was the most difficult, and how did you make it through?
Dawn: I have faced some very difficult circumstances in my life so far, ranging from my younger sister’s tragic kidnapping and murder in 1985, to my pastor husband choosing to leave in 1997, eventually marrying someone else, to learning how to be the best single mother I can be, to losing my own mother to ovarian cancer in 2003.
After a long struggle in my heart and mind, the Lord led me to forgive my sister’s murderer, but I would have to say the most difficult thing to let go of was the choice my husband made that completely affects each day of my life, and my two children’s. I had to once again choose forgiveness, but it wasn’t toward someone I didn’t know like my sister’s killer. This was the one person I had loved with all of my heart, had committed my life to, and completely trusted, who broke my heart, broke my family apart, and betrayed me. That was a work that only the Lord could do in and through me. To be honest now, a decade later of walking with the Lord as my Husband and Faithful One, that forgiveness sometimes has to be a continual choice, on a daily basis at certain times. Yet, I am grateful that the Lord brought me to the place of seeing that forgiveness brings healing and wholeness to the one willing to forgive, and He sets the prisoner free. In that choice, He truly healed my broken-heartedness and I am able to be the mother my children need me to be, by His grace.
JBU: God has obviously brought you through some excruciatingly painful times. What passages of Scripture have you held on to and how has God specifically used His Word to minister to you during those times?
Dawn: Proverbs 3:5-6 is my lifeline, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
My other life Scriptures are:
Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Hebrews 13:5: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
Psalm 40:1-4: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust.”
When we choose to stand on the truth of God’s Word instead of the shifting sand of our life’s circumstances, we will actually “flesh out” those truths, but it’s a choice that we have to make. Fear or faith. Sink or stand. I don't want to be found still singing my “Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” 20 years from now. I believe the Lord has given me a new message in my ministry, one that has been very personal in my walk with Him, that it is time to “Get Out of the Mire and Get into the Choir!” He has allowed my past circumstances to influence who I am, but He has begun to show me that I am responsible for who I become. Either we control our attitude or it has the potential to control us. The mire is always going to be there in one way or another, and so many of us choose to continue to wallow around in it. When we do, we cannot move forward. We may not have chosen many of the circumstances of our lives, but I am convinced that we always have a choice in how we respond. We can choose to be victims, or we can choose to be victorious.
JBU: Was there ever a time when you just wanted to give up on Christian ministry?
Dawn: When my sister was murdered, I remember wondering how I would ever sing again. She had been my singing partner and we were always a duo. I had never sung alone, but the Lord gave me the courage to sing again for Him. When my husband left, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to give up on Christian ministry as much as I wondered if others would give up on me, no longer want me, or invite me ? a divorced woman. However now, ten years later, I have seen how the Lord has taken the broken pieces of my life and used those things to speak hope and healing to other people, especially women facing similar circumstances. The Lord can and will take the broken places of our lives if we simply will be willing to open our hands and give them to Him. Then, we will be amazed at what He has done through our brokenness. Psalm 40 says, “Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord,” because of what they see He has done in our own lives.
JBU: How do you walk with God in the hard places?
Dawn: Right now is a “hard place” for various reasons. Each place has its hard parts, and it’s a daily choice to see the good and not the bad. It’s a focus thing - focusing not on what we have “lost” or maybe don’t have in the way of how we think our circumstances should be, but seeing what we have “left” and allowing that to be what we live for. “This is the day the Lord has made, we WILL (emphasis mine) rejoice and be glad in it” - even when it is a choice for us to bring to Him our “sacrifice of praise.” Lately, the Lord has been showing me that even when it might feel like a sacrifice for me to stand, sing, and speak of the hope I know to be real in Him - when I may not feel like it - it really is no sacrifice when I stop to think of the sacrifice He willingly made for me. I am able not only to sing about the hope He gives, but I have that hope on a daily basis for all eternity. It is my privilege to have God walk with me in the hard places.
JBU: What daily maintenance habits have you developed over the years to stay close to Jesus throughout the day?
Dawn: Daily maintenance for me has become an attitude of living out Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Daily I make time to commit each day to Him and all that I hope to accomplish, asking Him to keep me in tune with what He desires that I do. Daily time in the Word, in one way or another – for example, by keeping a flip Scripture calendar by my kitchen sink I can meditate on that truth throughout the day. I may read a Bible study, or a devotional, but most importantly, I stay in the Word. The world will faithfully speak its lies to us, so we have to be faithful to replace those lies with the Truth. Otherwise, we will lose sight of what IS truth. I start and end my day in prayer. I pray with my children every morning and night, and all throughout my day it is a daily conversation that never really stops. I know, as I go about my day, the Lord is with me. He is my lifeline.
JBU: How has your ministry changed over the years?
Dawn: My ministry began 20 years ago when I was a young woman and received the Miss South Carolina crown. People knew my family’s story, and they asked me to come and sing and share my testimony. Over 20 years later, the Lord has opened doors for me to record albums and write. What started out as a music/concert ministry has evolved into a speaking ministry as well. I have had the privilege of sharing my life and music all over the United States and even overseas. It is only something God could have done and I stand, today, amazed at His work in and through me.
JBU: How have you personally grown and changed over the past 20 years of ministry?
Dawn: As a 44-year old woman, I now see each day as a gift. I am at the so-called “half-way mark” and I want to live each day to the fullest, “milking it for what it’s worth.” I have two great children to continue to raise. I pray that they will see their mom as someone who faced many difficulties, but who was the same person at home as I portrayed on a ministry platform. I want them to see that my faith in Jesus Christ is what makes me the person I am. The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything. It’s just that by God’s grace, they make the most of everything that comes their way. I have learned that when I respond to the difficulties I face by trusting in God’s promises, then He will give me a new song, right out of the mire and into the choir, for His glory.
JBU: What is it that you most want to share with the women you speak to these days?
Dawn: It comes straight from Psalm 40. We need to stop waiting on life to become “livable.” We only have one shot at this thing and there are no do-overs. It’s time to get serious about being the people God wants us to be. It’s time to get serious, right now, today, about how we are going to respond to our circumstances. By God’s grace, He has provided everything we need for life and godliness. So, we can trust Him, and we can stand up and walk with Him, and He will give us that new song to sing.