Welcome to Godly Girls For God
Glorifying God and Encouraging Others.
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Interview with Tiffany Dawn, Author and Musician
Hi! I'm Hillary Beth, Manager of Godly Girls For God - as you know, we are a Webzine for Christian girls. One of the best things about GGFG has a very awesome group of pre-teen, teenage, and young adult writers from all around the world - so these questions are based on our common interest of sharing the Good News about God's saving grace through our writing!
I have been looking at your Web site, (http://www.tiffany-dawn.net) and I've found it very relevant and inspiring! I know you shared about this some in your article - When did you decide to share your story? (Also, would you tell us in what ways you have chosen to share it, and why you chose to express yourself these ways?)
Absolutely! My first opportunity to share this story was actually in Costa Rica. I was on a missions trip during my senior year of college, working at a rehabilitation center for girls who had lived on the streets in drug addiction and prostitution. When I was asked to share my testimony with the girls at the center, I immediately thought, "What do I have to share? I've grown up in such a sheltered and 'easy' world comparatively!" As I prayed about it, God pointed to my struggles with beauty and body image, and how I'd found confidence through knowing His love. The next day I shared that story with the girls, and they were riveted. Afterwards, with the help of a translator, several shared their own struggles with eating disorders and poor body image.
That was just the beginning. A few months later, I was playing music at a Christian coffee house. A lady attending the event heard my story, and asked me to share it with teen moms attending an inner city ministry she ran. I decided to incorporate music into the storytelling. Music played such a critical role in processing my emotions and expressing myself during the journey, that it only made sense to share some of the songs I'd written. Over the next few months, I began to have opportunities to present at conferences, colleges, youth groups, and summer camps.
The rest is history, as they say. I now present what I call a "multimedia seminar," which incorporates a mixture of storytelling and live performances of songs I wrote along my journey. Sometimes music just puts words to things I couldn't express without the music.
How did God lead you to accomplish this goal? What was your first step? What was the hardest part(s)?
Those first times I shared "The Insatiable Quest for Beauty Seminar," I didn't know what the future held. I had no idea that in 2012 (five years after Costa Rica) I'd be traveling full-time across the country with this seminar, book, and CD.
Whenever God has opened up the next place He wants me to be, He brings me through a period in which everything in my life - all my goals and dreams - seems to fall through. Just after graduating and moving back to my parents' house, I interviewed for a job in Japan. My whole life I dreamed of being a missionary to Asia, and I was sure this was the job for me! Come to find out...they hired someone else. I couldn't believe it! I had no clue what to do next. I remember one night asking God, "Why New York? Why not Asia?" And He said, "Tiffany, the whole world is Mine." It was all I needed to hear. I knew I was where He wanted me to be, and I knew there was no greater joy than to be in the center of His will for my life.
I got a job working full-time at a college in Rochester, NY, where I simultaneously took courses toward my master's degree in music therapy. I also shared the seminar about once a month, and every time I did so, I felt like I was doing what I'd been created to do. Maybe this was the reason I was still in New York, and not in Asia. I started to think that traveling around the world and speaking sounded like a pretty good option, but I didn't know how that would actually work in real life. I worked at the college and on my master's degree for four years. It felt like a lot of waiting.
I think the hardest part was trusting that God knew what He was doing in the meantime. Things weren't working out the way I expected in my life's calling or in the realm of relationships, which was frustrating. I didn't want to be single; I wanted to get married. But every time a great guy showed up, God made it very clear that He had something else for me. In fact, last year I was dating a truly wonderful young man, but God made it very clear that I was to break up with him. I couldn't understand why, but I did.
I've realized that the greatest surrenders lead to the greatest rewards. When I'm willing to give up my plans and dreams, He exchanges them with something so much more beautiful. But you have to surrender before you know what's coming. You have to trust Him before you see how He's going to work it out. That's why it's called walking by faith, and not by sight. I've learned that when I have a hard time trusting God, it's because I've forgotten who He is. He is faithful, and even when things don't work out the way I think they should, or when I have no idea what He's doing, He knows.
If I hadn't obeyed, hadn't surrendered that relationship, hadn't moved to Rochester instead of Japan, I wouldn't be here today. I wouldn't be doing what I was created to do. I had to step out in faith and take the risk, trusting that God knew what He was doing. And those huge surrenders of my dreams led to the most incredible reward: having the opportunity to travel with this message. There's nothing like living the adventure God created just for you. I wouldn't trade this for the world.
What is the biggest thing God has taught you as you composed your songs and wrote your book? Were you ever surprised by the things He showed you about yourself as you chose to follow Him in this journey? Were you ever worried about sharing very personal thoughts and feelings?
Oh man, I'll tell you Hillary - as I was preparing to release "The Insatiable Quest for Beauty" book, I'd get regular, nauseating reality checks of: "What on earth do I think I'm doing?? I'm putting my life out there for anyone to read!" The honesty and vulnerability is most definitely hard sometimes. But the best part of this whole journey - both during my insatiable quest for beauty, and now on this tour - the best part is the closeness to His heart. Every step of the way, He's shown me a new piece of who He is and drawn me closer to Him. That's my favorite part. Just before I started traveling for the year, God spoke to me: "I'm more concerned with what I'm going to do in your heart than I am with how 'successful' this year is as far as your speaking goes." And that's been the most surprising and precious piece to me - is how much more concerned He is with my staying close to Him than with anything else on this adventure.
I would say the biggest thing He's taught me throughout everything is this: "It's not about being good enough; it's about staying close enough." God isn't so concerned with my perfection; He's concerned with my proximity to Himself. My idea of "success" is being re-defined from a former perfectionist to someone who's now realizing that it's all about the relationship we share. Through that relationship He transforms my life and makes me more like Himself, while I rest in His love.
How can a girl who feels anything but confident about herself start re-building her thinking? What advice do you have for girls who have deep struggles with their thoughts? What are some things they can do, starting right now?
Great question! Finding confidence and changing our thought patterns is most definitely a journey. It's not a quick fix; it's difficult and time-consuming, but so worth it. I've heard it said this way: "I'm not saying it'll be easy; I'm saying it'll be worth it." Here are a few steps that helped me along my own journey to re-building the way I thought about myself:
1) Share your struggles with a trusted adult. When we hold these struggles inside (as it's so tempting to do), they have incredible power over us, but when we bring them into the light, that breaks a little bit of their power. Find a woman of God to walk this journey with you, encourage you, speak truth into areas where you can't see truth, and pray with you. You may also need to talk with a counselor and/or medical professional. It takes great courage to share this struggle, but it's such an important step to find freedom. Over my life I've met with professional counselors as well as with mentors, and those meetings have been an enormous part of what brought me into freedom.
2) Fill your mind with truth. I fought this battle on my knees. I'd say, "God, what do you have to say about me? Who am I and who are You?" You can't know who you are until you know Whose you are. So I had to renew my mind and fill it with truth constantly - the truth of God's word, and what He spoke to me during my times with Him. I had to begin to believe His truth, and replace the lies in my head with the truth of His word. That was hard. It meant recognizing the lies and kicking them out of my head. It meant choosing to believe things that I didn't feel. Sometimes I was fighting that battle from the second I woke up to the second I fell asleep. But over time the negative and lying thoughts lessened, to where I hardly ever experience them anymore, and when I do they have much less power over me.
3) Ask for a personal revelation of the love of Christ. As I spent time with Him, He began to show me how deeply He loved me. He didn't love me because I was good enough; He loved me because I was His daughter. Even though I didn't like myself and didn't see how He could love me, He did. So I let Him speak that truth over me, washing away the negative things I thought about myself.
4) Live for the One Who loves you with His life. I realized that as long as I was focusing on myself, my insecurities blinded me. Beauty and perfection continued to be critical, and what other people thought about me was what defined me. But I realized that we serve the God of heaven and earth, and in eternity, His opinion is all that matters. When I started living only for His opinion, my insecurities began to fade away. The less I focused on "me," the more freedom I found. The more I realized that my life was not my own, and it was not for my glory, the more I found confidence.
Those were a few steps that helped me along my journey. I have many more practical steps in my book ("The Insatiable Quest for Beauty"). In addition, two books (both by Joyce Meyer) that were life-savers for me in learning how to re-build my thinking were "Battlefield of the Mind" and "Approval Addiction."
On your Web site, you talk about about using your gifts and training to start a center - Can you tell us a little more about this?
Sure! I obtained my master's degree in music therapy, and completed my graduate internship at a children's hospital, where I had the opportunity to work with young people with eating disorders. It is absolutely amazing how powerful music can be as a form of therapy. One day I hope to use that training to open a residential facility for people with eating disorders, a center that is grant-funded and free of charge. I hope that income generated from this book and speaking can someday help fund that ministry.
Do you feel that God is leading you to compose/write more? What are you current projects? Where will you be speaking in the near future?
Most definitely! I am currently in Pennsylvania speaking, and then will be heading back to Albany and Rochester, NY for the holidays. I'll be speaking at some ministries there, before I head to the west coast in January. I'll make my way down the south coast and back up the east coast, which should bring me back to NY by the end of May. You can find my speaking engagements listed on my website (www.tiffany-dawn.net - click on the "Coffeehouse Tour" link). All of you are more than welcome to attend these events (I'd love to meet you!), or you can email me to schedule an event with your church/school.
As far as writing, I'm currently working on three books - one is about music therapy in the treatment of eating disorders. It's more clinical and academic, but also keeps that storytelling feel for the general public. The second is about relationships and is written like an autobiographical novel, I guess you could say. The third is about walking into your dreams, and the things God is teaching me along this journey.
And I am continuing to compose songs, as always :). I hope to record a second CD within the next couple years. The stylistic feel of the songs I'm currently writing is very different from my first CD, and the themes seem to center on the safety and security I find when I stay close to His heart. I'm also prepping to teach an online "Intro to Songwriting" course in 2013. Very exciting!
GGFG's motto is, "Glorifying God and Encouraging Others" - so, I have to ask, do you have any advice for other writers or aspiring artists? Or anything you would like to say specifically to the girls here at GGFG?
Wow, this question brings so many things to mind, but the most important piece of advice I could ever give is this:
A few years ago during a prayer walk, God asked me, "Tiffany, if I called you to be a stay-at-home mom in the middle of nowhere and have no influence outside your own family, would you be okay with that?" While that is a beautiful calling (my mom is a stay-at-home mom), it is so different than what I picture for my life that I said, "No way, God!" He whispered to me, "But you need to be. Because I need to be enough for you." After a pause to let that settle in, He said, "Your calling isn't to be a missionary or speaker or singer or mother; Your calling is to love Me (which by definition includes loving others). Yes there will be times when I call you to do each of those things (mom, singer, speaker, etc.), but they are never your calling. Your calling is always to love Me."
God has repeatedly reminded me of this. It's so easy to find myself looking for identity in the number of gigs I get, or in how many copies of my book sell, or in being a speaker or singer or writer. But God keeps reminding me: "Tiffany, your number one priority is Me. And you can serve Me and love Me no matter what you are doing, whether you are working a 9-5 desk job or speaking from a stage."
The title track of my CD ("This Is Who I Am") is actually based on that conversation with God. This is who I am: simply His. And that is all I want to be. My identity is not found in what I'm doing. All that I am is wrapped up in Him. All I strive to be is His.
So my number one piece of advice would be just that. Wherever God puts you, whatever He calls you to do, remember that your greatest calling, your most important priority, is to love Him and love others, to know Him and make Him known. Everything else flows out of that place of humility before Him.
Thank you so much for your time - and for using your gifts to serve the Lord!
And thank you for having me! :)
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