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TaRanda Greene, Redeemed and Restored
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Homecoming friend TaRanda Greene has enjoyed a year of new beginnings. January marked the official launch of the Cana's Voice trio, which she formed with friends Doug Anderson and Jody McBrayer. Then in March, TaRanda married her sweetheart, Landon Beene, president of IMC Concerts.

Yet things have not always looked so bright for this talented vocalist. Just a few short years ago, TaRanda was walking a much darker, lonelier path and it seemed as if her whole world had fallen apart. Here, she shares what she learned during that process and how God brought her through the darkness....

Tell us about your background, how you began in Southern Gospel music, and the challenges you have faced.
I was 18 when I started singing Southern Gospel professionally in a group from Boone, North Carolina, called the Greenes. I started dating Tony, the lead singer of the group. We got engaged in 2000 and were married in 2001.

Six months into our marriage we found out Tony was in end stage renal disease. One of his kidneys was not functioning at all, and the other one was failing. Because of his health issues, they said it would be unlikely for us to have kids. We prayed about it, and God blessed us with Isabella, who was born in 2004, and Josie, who was born in 2008. Four months after Josie was born, Tony went on dialysis. He did peritoneal dialysis for a year. Then he got an infection in his stomach, and they had to remove all the tubing from his stomach for the dialysis. He started hemo dialysis and they told him, "If you have someone that would like to donate a kidney, now's the time." 

I was tested and within two weeks, I was lying on the operating table giving Tony a kidney. They did the operation in August of 2009, and he did really well. He was able to swim with the girls and do things with them that he was not physically able to do on dialysis. We had a great year as a family. Then, in August of 2010, we were in concert and he couldn't finish the set. We went to a hospital in Texas and stayed there for a week. His lungs were messed up from an infection and it was causing the kidney to fluctuate, but they finally got it under control.

Instead of going home like we probably should have, we went back on the road. On a Wednesday in September, he looked at me and said, "I'm going to go check myself into the ER. Something's not right. I don't know what's going on but I need to go check myself in." In all of the 10 years that I was with him, he had never said to me, "I need to go to the hospital," even on his sickest days. For him, that was a big statement. We went to the hospital on Wednesday, then he had me go sing and take the group, and we hired a guy to fill in for him. Saturday, we were supposed to perform in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and his mom called me and said, "You have to come back. His lungs are filling up again." By the time I got there on Saturday, his lungs had collapsed and they were tubing him. 

I was able to talk with him, and he just shook his head or squeezed my hand. He was getting progressively worse, and on Sunday they moved him to isolation. Then on Tuesday, he passed away. He was 41 years old. Those past 10 years of my life, I had grown to have not only a best friend, but a confidante, husband, father to my children ... not to mention, he was my boss. Everything in my life was wrapped up in Tony. When he passed, I had to make the call to leave him on life support or unplug. He had already signed a paper, but I was fighting it until the end. Between making that call and all the other stress, everything that was wrapped up in that moment ... I think something in my head just switched. I didn't necessarily become bitter about him dying ... I just became angry with the entire situation, all of it.

All the prayers that had been prayed for many years, all the days that we spent trying to do the right thing, and in and out of the hospital, the money that had been spent getting him well, me risking my life to save his. I think in that moment, a trigger just switched in my head. I didn't want to sing. Honestly, I was numb. I did what I absolutely had to do. Then, otherwise, I think I just drifted into this hole of my new reality ... it was so foreign from everything my life had been. A few months after Tony passed, I moved in with my parents so they could help me with the kids.

I wasn't whole; I hadn't come to the place where I accepted that God was my husband and provider, because I had always looked to Tony to be those things. When he was gone, I felt lost and alone. I fell in with some people that were probably not the right crowd. and we did things we shouldn't have done. I went completely opposite of anything I was raised. My red flag signal was not working at that point. 

I'm wondering if that was partly because.... When you were performing, maybe you felt that you had to encourage other people and to have the appearance of being all together. So after that tragedy, then you pursued the kinds of people and situations where you could feel free from that.
Right. I wanted to be free from performance, I wanted to be free from pressure, I wanted to be free from guilt, I wanted to be free from anything.

From having to be strong....
Yeah, any kind of strength. I think subconsciously, maybe there was something in me that wanted to fail so that somebody could take care of me. I think I had taken care of everything for so long.... I had taken care of Tony; I had been a nurse to him. Then, my kids and then the road. I think every single pressure in my life had fallen so heavy totally on my shoulders that I wanted to be in a place where somebody had to take care of me. I didn't look to God for that, unfortunately. I felt like all the prayers that we had prayed ... why did He not answer them? Why did He not heal my husband? Why was the kidney not good enough? Why would he get a lung infection after we had gone through all that?

I went through that for a while. The whole time, my spirit's battling within me, but I wasn't paying attention to my spirit. I didn't want to fix myself, I wanted everybody else to fix me. Mom sent me to the doctor and, I was diagnosed with severe OCD and depression. They gave me four different medications to take every day. I took those medications and they numbed my mind, but my spirit was still at war. Then one day, I looked in the mirror and didn't even recognize myself. When I looked into my eyes, I think what I was seeing is that my spirit was not right. I wasn't right with God, I wasn't right with my family, I wasn't right with my children. That day, it changed because finally, for the first time, I was completely broken. 

I started praying and I remembered a hymn that my mom taught me, "Great is Thy Faithfulness." I started singing that hymn and for the first time, I really listened to the lyric "There is no shadow of turning with thee." That line really got me because I was living in the shadows, living somewhere that I thought even God wouldn't see me. I was bawling and just said, "God, I know this is not what you created me to be. I'm not living the life you created me to live." I was honest with Him and admitted, "I can't do this on my own. I can't do these things. I don't know how to be a single mom. I don't know how to sing by myself. I don't know how to make a living for my family. I don't understand anything that's going on in my life, and I'm scared and I don't know what to do." I asked for His forgiveness, protection and guidance. What I found is that God had never left me. He protected me from so much even when I was making stupid mistakes. I look back now and go, that should have killed me ... I should be dead. But God never left me. 

Like the prodigal son, He was running down the road after you with his arms open.
That's right, that's right. Even in that scripture, it says that the prodigal came to himself. That's what I did. I realized, oh my gosh, what have I done? During that whole time, of course I was lying about who I was to people who I thought would be ashamed of me. The one person that I could open up to was Pastor Jim Cymbala from the Brooklyn Tabernacle. He would call me and he would check up and he would talk to the girls.

You knew him from performing at Brooklyn Tabernacle, right?
Yeah. In 2007 when we went there for the first time, it was an immediate connection. We stayed in touch. He actually preached Tony's funeral. And after Tony's death, he would call almost every week. If I wasn't in the right frame of mind or if I was feeling guilt, I would literally ignore his calls, which is crazy. Why would you ever ignore someone's call that's trying to help you? 

I feel like God laid me on his heart to stay in contact. His message was basically, "You know I'm here. I love you. When you're ready to talk, we can talk." Now, I consider him my pastor and my spiritual father. I consider him to be a great source of strength, and now he's pouring into my children's lives. He'll still call me to say something funny or just check in.
 
Kind of a touchstone….
Yeah. I'm so grateful for him and his wife Carol for just being there. If nothing else, just letting me know, "You're going through it, but we're here." I had a handful of people that just were there, that didn't give up on me. And my mom was such a vital part of helping me with my children.

So, after I really surrendered my life to God, I went back to the doctor, and we figured out how I could wean off the medicines. Now, I'm completely medication free. In saying that, I also want to say I thank God for that medication, because there are people who do need it every day. I feel like the mind is the same as your heart, or your liver, or your kidney. Just as Tony had taken medicine for his kidneys, a lot of people need medication to make their brain well, to make it function the way it needs to function. 

Anyway, as I was trying to come out of this, more people would call me to come sing. I know that was God providing for me, because it was at that point that I had no money left. My car had been repossessed ... everything was gone, except for my kids and me. I know that when people started calling, it was God providing for me.

Was it scary to step back into that, or were you excited? How did you feel about that?
I was not excited. I was terrified. I could sing songs, that was fine, but it was the talking to people. It was always the devil climbing on my shoulder saying, "Do you know who you are? Do you know what you've done? Do you realize you have no right to stand here?" It was that constantly. I fought that demon every time I stood up to sing. Again, Pastor Cymbala was a huge helper in that, helping me to realize that no one's worthy.

That's what I was thinking. We never were.
Yeah, we never were. What about me before was good? Just because I was doing things I thought were right? No. None of us are worthy to sing the gospel; it's a gift that God has given us. Today, I'm in a place where I know I would be dead without God's grace, literally. I still have days where those things creep back on me, because the devil's going to attack any time you try doing anything good. I still have those days, but now I'm equipped to fight him, whereas before I didn't realize what I was equipped with. God healed me through all of that.

And now, God has put Landon in my life. If we had time to even go into that story of how he and I got married, it doesn't make sense that it would happen without God having his hand in it.

Thinking about the ministry of Cana's Voice now.... How has this experience changed how you relate to your audience?
I've found that when I share the things that I'm so ashamed of or so afraid of telling, that's when God helps more people. 

I'm guessing that it's freeing to you, too, to be open about that time. 
Absolutely. There is a release and a burden lifted with every secret told. I think that our ministry to the church is to say look, none of us have it together. You may love the songs we sing about Jesus, and they encourage you, and that's great. But let it go a little deeper because none of us have it together. Even the prettiest, most put together person you know on the outside could be fighting the demons of hell inside. 

Even if we've done everything we think is right, our righteousness is filthy rags. We all come to Him unclean. God wants fellowship with us and longs to be close to us and hates when we make wrong choices, but He still loves us.
 
I still have struggles. I'm not perfect by any means, so I don't stand and say I'm perfect. There was only one perfect human, and it was Jesus. I'm not proud of all that I've been through, but I'm grateful to be where I am in my life now. I'm grateful that God didn't give up on me, that He gave me a platform, a different platform that I didn't even see coming, and He continues to do things that overwhelm me everyday. I certainly don't deserve it, but I'm going to use every opportunity I have to share the goodness of God and Jesus and just tell people there's hope. 

Related articles:
A Spring Wedding for TaRanda Greene and Landon Beene
Cana's Voice: All Things Made New
An Interview with Jody McBrayer of Cana's Voice