In the arms of love
by Jennifer Cohron
May 15, 2011 | 2485 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jennifer Smith gets a hug from her daughter, Brylee, before speaking at the United Methodist Women’s spring luncheon at First United Methodist Church in Jasper on Monday. - Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
Jennifer Smith gets a hug from her daughter, Brylee, before speaking at the United Methodist Women’s spring luncheon at First United Methodist Church in Jasper on Monday. - Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
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Jennifer Williams Smith has often been asked how she manages to get out of bed.

Several years ago, Smith lost her husband and both of her parents within 14 months of each other.

More recently, she has had her own health scares and has stood by the side of her 10-year-old daughter, Brylee, who was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease last fall.

Smith told a group of United Methodist Women at their spring luncheon last week that contrary to expectations, she greets the sun each morning with a smile.

She said her attitude is not in spite of her past but because of it.

"I have more joy right now than I have ever had in my life," Smith said. "I am so excited about how I feel now compared to where I was. I didn't see the miracles going on around me then. Now I am able to see every little thing that God does."

Before the luncheon, Smith had spoken to students at Cordova High School.

Smith said that although they have experienced much suffering because of an April 27 tornado that struck their town, they are also blessed to have an opportunity to see God's hand at work in their lives at an early age.

"They have a chance to experience a joy beyond belief that only God can give you and that you can only understand when you've been to the bottom and you've lost everything and He has pulled you out of it," Smith said.

Smith said she didn't have the inner peace she has today when her cousin John Ed was killed in a boating accident in July 2002.

Two weeks later, her Uncle Buzz died.

Smith said she went hysterical when she heard the news. She angrily asked God "Why would you do this?" and repeatedly asked herself "What am I going to do?"

A year after that, Smith's grandmother grieved herself to death over the loss of her son.

Next came the news that Smith's father, Donald "Coach B.B." Williams, had melanoma cancer.

The family was told they would have several months with him. They got a few weeks.

When they realized the end was near in July 2005, they gathered around him and sang "Jesus Loves Me."

As the song ended, Smith's father said one word -- "Mother."

One of her brothers told him that his wife, Mary Buck Williams, was next to him.

"I said, 'No, he calls her Mama.' He was looking at his mother. And Daddy passed away," Smith said.

Smith, overcome with anxiety about what was happening to her family, followed her mother to their house on the river.

Williams asked Smith to sing "Arms of Love" by Amy Grant.

Smith said that although the lyrics were not new to her, she never understood them until that moment.

The words that affected her the most were "Storms will come and storms will go, wonder just how many storms it takes until I finally know You're here always."

There were stronger storms to come.

Smith's husband of 10 years, Lee, was killed in a car accident in February 2006, seven months after her father's death. Her mother died of cancer seven months later.

Smith doesn't pretend that losing them was not painful. However, today she is thankful they were here for a while rather than being upset that they had to go so soon.

"How could I suddenly be so mad at God and say, 'How could you take them' when so many people go through a lifetime without having the parents and soul mate that I had?" Smith said.

Smith said she wants to teach her own children to see God's grace in the midst of tragedy.

For example, Brylee recently received a letter from the Cure JM Foundation thanking her for bringing more attention to juvenile dermatomyositis in the five months since her diagnosis than the rare disorder has received in Alabama in the previous five years.

Smith said that although she has plenty of bad days, she can't be bitter when she considers her blessings.

"I'm sorry, but I can't be down. There are so many blessings that I have been given and so many more that are yet to come," Smith said.