Family Finds Healing in an 1800s Farmhouse

 
All Photographs by Leanne Vice

All Photographs by Leanne Vice

Life undeniably presents unexpected challenges, and illness was one of the most difficult to face for Courtney and Luke Smallbone. Luke’s colitis brought their family rocky lows, but not without unmistakable highs full of grace and learning.

The running list of prescriptions and less-than-hopeful doctor visits put Courtney and Luke in a place where Luke’s colitis was the dictator of his health and his life. Luke’s fast-paced musician’s lifestyle and continually declining health left the Smallbone family burnt out and seeking renewal.

Their oldest son, Jude, was just an infant at the time when Luke’s disease controlled each aspect of the family’s decisions and details. Courtney’s challenge of giving herself to her new child and caring for her critically ill husband created an invitation for anxiety and fear to grow in her own life. She struggled to fight a rare disease when she was eighteen, and emotions she thought she had left in the past meddled their way back into her heart.

Because Courtney had gone through a similar experience, she could extend grace and compassion to her husband in a way that was bonding and unifying for them. It was a very raw time in their relationship. “Raw can be fantastic, and raw can be very gut-wrenching. It was all mixed up into one,” Courtney explained.

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When the anxiety and doubt were crippling, when Luke was bed-ridden and weak, they pressed into prayer. At a time when they were powerless to change their circumstances, Courtney saw Luke accept grace for himself and understand that his being loved and accepted had absolutely nothing to do with what he was able to do. Embracing the depth of grace at their fingertips radically changed the way they viewed themselves and the way they expressed vulnerability with the people in their lives. In hard times, the truths they were learning gave them something to cling to.

Each time his condition worsened, the more they craved healing. Physical healing was not the only thing they needed. This sickness had taken its toll on their family emotionally and spiritually as well.

While looking for some balance in the chaos, Courtney found an 1800s farmhouse that drew her in. She quickly learned of families who had lived there before, and she saw a common thread among them. Each family had its own set of struggles and difficulties, but for each family, this house served as a place for healing and rest. She knew that her own family would fit so beautifully in this lineage, and that it should be the place for them to pursue rest of their own.

The Smallbones moved from Nashville to this historic farmhouse in rural Tennessee, determined to beat colitis and to have more balance. They desired a life where they could retreat from Luke’s life on the road with For King & Country and spend time investing in health and grow deeper in a community. They wanted to feel more connected with each other and those around them.

When they moved to a place where they felt they could choose rest, they noticed a big shift in Luke’s health. “The best thing about this place is that it has felt like a really healing place. It’s felt like space to breathe. You’re getting out in the sunshine; you’re getting in the dirt; you’re in more of nature; you can get away from your phone. You can get away from some things that feel super heavy that you don’t realize are heavy until you get away from them,” Courtney explained. It was their move that marked the beginning of recovery for their family.

The darkest parts of Luke’s illness taught them lessons that grew them in ways they never anticipated. They learned that allowing community into messy parts of life allows for deep and lasting joy. They experienced the truth that the hardest times are often the most fruitful.

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These lessons in compassion, bravery, and grace prompted Courtney and Luke to write a song about the pain they felt and the challenges they experienced. They recorded it together as a key part of their healing process. “I really felt like it was something I needed to do, and it was for myself, really,” said Courtney.

When Luke was well enough to tour, he would take time to tell the story of their song, and then he and Courtney would sing it together on stage. Using creativity, specifically music, to share what they had learned through their season of illness opened the door to vulnerability with other people who related to their story. Stories of broken marriages, sick loved ones, and personal trials were given back to Courtney and Luke as an encouragement that they were not alone in their pain, and that they never had been.

Having the humility to tell people “come get in my mess with me” and show the difficult parts of their life gave them strength to overcome. “We are made for community and connection, and vulnerability is really the only way we can change and grow,” explained Courtney.

Today, Courtney and Luke celebrate the fact that their lives are no longer led and controlled by colitis. They, along with their two boys, Jude and Phoenix, are welcoming in another son to this next season of life and are continuing to learn what it looks like to pursue balance, connection, and healing. They are embracing the path of restoration in their own lives and using what they have learned to help others in their own healing journeys at every possible turn.