Tia Brown is a musician and she teaches piano. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri. She is happily married and a blogger, and worships God dearly. She also describes herself as “coffee fanatic.”
Tell us about yourself?
I love to see the shock in my students face when they realize their dreams of playing the piano are actually achievable. Many had given up hope before they found me, or I found them. Usually, it just takes an hour or two to awaken their dreams again. There are so many potential musicians out there who think they have “zero talent.” That’s where I come in. The piano has been my life since I was 5. I’ve always had a natural gift for it that many people envy. The best part is that I also have a natural gift for teaching. I’ve played on stage for 15 years and can do both sight reading and playing by ear. I love to learn, love to embrace a challenge, and love to bring out the best in people. I simply search for their hidden potential and bring it out. I’m a homeschooled pastor’s kid from the back of the desert, now married to my best friend, Chris. I started my piano teaching blog because I’ve met so many people who think they can never play the piano. I bring them in, show them the ropes for cheap, encourage them, and show them just how easy it really is. I want to make sure that anyone who wants to play has the resources they need readily available.
So you basically change people’s lives with your art. People have to love you and look up to you. You are probably very happy?
Yeah, I am happy, which is saying something. I used to have depression pretty bad.
So you have recovered. You are really strong. When you had depression, how did you feel about music?
It was a great way to process my feelings and encourage myself. I used to put hope into a song so I could remember it better. It’s easier to sing when life gets rough. You never forget a lullaby. The best thing that music did for me was to give me a voice. I’ve always had trouble communicating and connecting, so music gave me a language to speak that people could finally understand. That sense of connection is precious to me.
Beautiful. Why did you have trouble with communication?
- We were isolated, sheltered, homeschooled. I’ve only been living in this world for 3 years. Literally, every detail about life, except for music and pets, is brand new for me. I feel like a foreigner in my own country. My best friends are often foreigners themselves because they understand that in a way most people don’t.
- I had grand mal epilepsy as a child. I don’t have the big ones anymore but I’ve had to deal with the side effects of having had them, such as trouble verbally communicating.
I see. But now you are happily married and fully adapted. How did you manage to do this?
It haven’t, not really. I still deal with people who give me odd looks, still have trouble connecting and making friends, still struggle at my job, still deal with loneliness from the forced isolation. My husband helps a lot. Honestly, my approach to it has been just that I may have to work harder and endure more pain than normal people in order to make up for lost time, but I’ll do it. I can’t ever give up. I want to live life to its fullest while I have it.
That’s brave and self-affirming. Tell me a bit about your relationship, if I am not prying?
What about my husband and I do you want to know?
Why he pleases your soul so well?
I had a list of what I was looking for, with blue eyes at the top of the list. I also need a soft gentle voice, because I tend to be noise sensitive especially when I’m tired. Taller than me, older than me…Grown up with both parents. Chris has ADD, so he can relate to what I go through more than most. He was sheltered as well but in a different way. He’s a classic nerd (I have the same taste as my mom, apparently). I love his heart the most. He never gets harsh, he’s always honest, he doesn’t give up, he’s humble enough to accept correction, he deeply cares about everyone, he’s passionate about having fun and enjoying life, he’s super smart. I knew he was the one before we even met. I’d been praying about meeting the right person for a long time, and I could feel that God was super excited about finally letting us meet. Chris lived 40 minutes away though and I can’t drive. We had to have a very long distance relationship, but that was okay because for some reason God told me everything about Chris’s deepest secrets before Chris even told me himself. We married almost exactly a year after we met. Chris drove about 6 hours a week just to pick me up and drop me off. I calculated that he drove 4 times to the moon and back before we married.
Well, it seems you are blessed. Would you like to tell me about your relationship with God?
I was sitting by myself one day as a young kid and suddenly felt an intense aching, a burning curiosity, to know who Jesus was. I ran and told my dad “I want to know Jesus!” That was literally all I understood at the time. God’s just been there for me, always. Although there are many loving and understanding people in the world, no one can ever feel what I feel and hear my thoughts. I have to communicate with them first. But, with God, he does know what I feel and think. Not because he’s mean, but because he’s just my biggest fan. He delights in me. That fact alone is what got me out of depression and keeps me out. When you’re depressed, you feel trapped inside a cell with chains, unable to live life. God stayed with me, chained with me, aching for me. I love that He is always ready to listen. I can throw my fists and scream and he doesn’t flinch. He still loves me and helps me through it. What he wants most from me is not some point in a grand agenda. He just enjoys me. He’s willing to pay any price for my life.
So you are in an immaculate relationship with upstairs. How does one know God? How does he manifest in your life?
I’ve had many people ask me where I get my joy and purity from, how I know God so well. Is it from reading the bible a lot? Praying a certain way? Being more spiritual? It’s none of those things, although they are very good things. If I were to be completely honest, the only reason I got to where I am is that… I asked. It’s really that simple. I wanted it, I knew Jesus was the answer I needed, I was honest about my needs, so I asked. God did it in me. I would say that to anyone who wants to know God better: just ask. Reading the bible will tell you more about who he is so you can ask for more things, like being in a candy store. When I was depressed, I wanted to ask God for a flower. Three days later someone handed me a lily, which means purity. I still have that picture. Many times people will tell me things from God that I needed to hear, and only I knew what it meant. And of course, God gave me Christ! I can sense what’s on God’s heart from spending time with him. He tells me things about people so I can cheer them up or encourage them. He warns me about dangers in the future. He provides for us when we need it. He gives me unexplainable peace when I want to panic. He keeps me safe from depression and fear. He has healed a deep wound in my heart so I can see color again (it really felt like the whole world was grey before he healed my heart wound).
It sounds lovely and not preachy at all!
Thanks! I don’t like preachy…
Tell me what does your husband do to make you smile?
He tells me every single day he loves me, we flirt a lot like honeymooners. He puts God and our marriage first, even if it means making the whole world stop turning. He is super loyal to his friends, no matter what their beliefs. He helps me pursue my dreams. When I’m down, he will take me out for ice cream to cheer me up.
How do you return the gestures?
I give him affirmation, say I love you, I give him gifts to let him know I’m thinking of him. I like to write love notes on his sandwich bag for work. I encourage him to pursue his dreams. When he feels down, I’ll be there listening and encouraging him. Sometimes the best gift is a listening ear.
So true! What is your advice to people who are not so happy in a relationship?
- Stay safe. Recognize if your relationship is abusive and do the right thing to take care of yourself. Abuse is never okay. 3. Do not try to change them and don’t rely on them to fulfill all your emotional needs. That encourages co-dependency–which is the leading cause of divorce. If you or your spouse has co-dependency issues, get counseling and help. Do not tolerate it. Co-dependency WILL kill you both on the inside and your relationship. It has even led to really ugly cases of abuse. 3. Learn compassion. Many people do have a good heart, but that doesn’t mean they will have good actions. Sometimes they mean to do well, but are unable to. If the heart is broken from their past–abusive parents, childhood trauma, parental mistakes that scared them for life–they need to seek counseling and get those heart issue dealt with. It’s not always a matter of “just do it.” Be honest and open with each other, explain what hurt in the past and why you think you act the way you do, then face it together as a team. Again–do NOT try to fix them! Support them, encourage them. But you can’t fix them. 4. Learn to sow. Sow into yourself. Be everything you can be! Get counseling, read books, dream, listen to advice. Marriage is not two halves making a whole. Marriage is two wholes becoming one flesh. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your spouse is to take care of you. 5. Make goals. When I lived with roommates, I quickly learned that just because you share the same bathroom does not automatically mean you’re friends. Far from it! Friendship is much deeper. One of the best things that bring us together is having goals together. The best goal you can set is seeking God. My husband and I will even talk about what we would do if we suddenly got rich. Beware of getting a too busy living life that you neglect the things that build a true friendship.
Thank you. And your advice to people who undergo depression?
I’ll speak mainly to my younger self, since I don’t know every situation to give the best advice for everyone. 1. it’s not your fault. Some high-schoolers came to me randomly for an assignment. They said to write a message to your younger self on their marker board. They took a picture of me holding the board. It felt so significant. I was surprised by what I ended up writing: It’s not your fault. Everyone, whether with good intentions or bad, ended up telling me the same message: I should change. I’m not doing enough. I’m doing this to myself. I’m the one at fault. But I can see the whole picture now. There are many healthy ways I fight against depression, but the courage to fight starts with forgiving myself first. I have to start seeing depression itself as the enemy, not me. I would beat myself up so much because I believed it was all my fault. I hated myself for it. Be careful when someone tells you “you just need to…” or “start doing…” Don’t take it the wrong way. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Life sucks. People make mistakes. People hurt on the inside too. Circumstances won’t line up. It happens to everyone. 2. Stay safe. Keep friends close who understand you. Find a friend, or a counselor, whom you can be brutally honest with and who can help you. Get healing from past trauma or hurts. Don’t stay isolated. Get a pet to cheer you up. Anything that will keep you in the community and not fighting alone. 3. Meet Brant Hansen. You can listen to his podcast called “The Brant and Sherri Podcast.” He has Asperger’s and deals with depression. He’s said that it’s just the way his body is, even though he’s tried everything to fight it. You can’t tell that he deals with it. His encouragement and advice is so amazing to hear. He’s married, has kids, and is loving life even in the midst of it. 4. Take vitamins or medication. Ask your doctor first, of course. My depression is somewhat physical. My body just needs a little help. There’s nothing wrong with that! I feel so much better when I’m taking the right vitamins my body needs. Also, be sure to get lots of sunshine! It stimulates your body to wake up and produce its natural “happy hormone” (so does coffee and chocolate actually). If you think you’d feel embarrassed about having to take medication, don’t be! 5. Read Ken Davis’ book “Fully Alive.” He fought through a very deep depression and this book is all the encouragement and advice that brought him to the other side. 6. Christians: I have three things to say to you, specifically. One, out of all the “advice” the church gave me, there were only 3 words that actually did something. It wasn’t “read your bible” or “pray some more” or “memorize more scripture.” Those things might have helped for about 5 minutes, but they did not ever solve the problem. The ONE thing that brought me out was simply, “Jesus loves you.” Two, God’s listening. Don’t be afraid to be brutally honest, even to pound your fists and wash his feet with tears. He hears your heart. You don’t always need words. When you pray, you don’t need to say anything more than, “Jesus help me.” If it works for Superman, how much more your Father in Heaven? Three, don’t be ashamed of where you’re at, be proud of who you’re becoming. Have you ever watched a baby bird learning to fly? I think the process of growth is very precious to God. He delights in every step. Are you less than other Christians because you have depression? Are you doing something wrong? No. It’s NEVER wrong to need God desperately.
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