When Ginny Owens shared, “Each of us is an unfolding story,” during our interview, I knew the wisdom she’s gained from her struggles would encourage many.
As an avid admirer and follower of Ginny’s music for many years, it was an honor to interview her and discuss her life as an overcomer.
Most Ginny Owens’ fans know she lost her eyesight when she was three years old due to a degenerative eye condition. My interest was to learn how it affected her childhood.
Knowing her parents could have sheltered her or pushed her to engage in life, I asked which route they followed.
She said, “My parents encouraged me to be a regular kid, even challenging me to do whatever the other kids were doing. I was fearless as a kid – climbing trees, roller skating down steep driveways, and prancing on the balance beam in gymnastics class. When I wasn’t outside, I was sitting at our piano, playing songs I learned by ear. I didn’t think much about being blind.”
When Ginny entered Kindergarten, her fearless attitude about life changed as she encountered kids who were awkward around her and frightened of her. “Not until I started school did I realize there was something wrong or different about me.”
Ginny’s foray into song writing began by emulating Amy Grant’s music. She remembers writing her first song, “The Bathtub Song,” which had an Amy Grant feel when she was just seven years old.
“I was picked on during most of elementary school, but fifth grade was the worst. I learned some kids are mean just for the sake of being mean. I was their target. I felt alone and left out,” Ginny shared.
Ginny remembers one of her mom’s friends from church pulling her mom aside and saying, “You have to understand, our kids aren’t going to want to play with Ginny. She’s just going to be different than other kids.”
Hearing those words from a friend was devastating, especially since her mom worked so hard to teach Ginny how to navigate everyday tasks like ironing, putting on makeup, and looking at people’s faces when they spoke specifically so she wouldn’t be different.
“My mom made it clear people were going to hold me to a lower standard. I’d have to work harder and be more on the ball than the next person. She’d tell me it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. ”
Ginny discovered her mom was right and is very thankful for her wisdom and encouragement. “My parents were instrumental in helping me to be an overcomer.”
Ginny shared she decided the way to overcome was to overcompensate. She became super involved in middle and high school by serving on student council, playing in the band, singing in the choir, and taking Honors classes.
“Even though I was involved, there still was a sense of awkwardness with my peers. When other visually impaired students started taking classes at my high school, it helped me feel like I was a part of the regular world.”
Pursuing her passion for music and song writing made her years at Belmont University go by quickly; however, earning a degree in music education didn’t open the doors to becoming a high school choir director as she dreamed it would.
Rejections came from many schools because of her blindness. Their concern about how she could manage a classroom might have been valid, but it was also hurtful.
Feeling defeated, Ginny turned to writing songs for other musicians. Before long, her talent as a singer/song writer caught the attention of Rocketown Records.
Her debut album, “Without Condition,” earned her two Dove Awards in 2000 for New Artist of the Year and Enhanced CD of the Year. The following year, she earned the Inspirational Song of the Year Dove Award for her song “Blessed.”
When I asked Ginny to describe her song writing process, she said, “It’s a way of journaling for me – a way to sort out my thoughts and feelings. I can sort out what I’m learning about life, about God, and what my experiences with other people are like.”
She went on to say, “I pour my heart into my songs. Every song has a purpose. Sharing what I’ve learned may give listeners something intangible – like hope, inspiration, or encouragement.”
It’s not surprising such a talented singer/song writer loves Zephaniah 3:17. It says, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Even though she admits it’s hard to say she loves one kid (song) more than another, her well-known song “If You Want Me To” (1999) is the song which has impacted her the most.
“Every time I sing that song, it means something different in my own life. That song is about surrendering, and I find it’s always a struggle to surrender to God.”
“Hearing stories from my fans about how “If You Want Me To” has impacted their lives is humbling and profound,” Ginny shared.
The song “The Fire” on her recent album Love Be the Loudest (2017) has a similar message of facing life’s tough challenges and learning from them.
When I asked Ginny about the inspiration for the song, she said, “I wrote it during a season of fire. I lost my voice around Christmas of 2015, and it brought me to my knees. It was terrifying. A dark and scary time. What I thought I valued most – my voice – I learned is something I cannot control. But God is in control, and I took comfort in trusting Him.”
Please view “The Fire” video to get a glimpse into the depths of Ginny’s lyrics.
In 2015, Ginny branched out and co-wrote the book Transcending Mysteries with Andrew Greer. Their dialogue back and forth seeks to answer the question: is the God of the Old Testament the same God we relate to and worship today?
Even in this book, the reader can experience the overcomer attitude Ginny possesses.
When an interviewer asked her about being so open and vulnerable about herself in the book, she said, “I am convinced the weak, broken parts of me have the most potential to encourage and relate to others in the ways the put-together me simply cannot.”
During my research I uncovered many references to Ginny feeling she’s called to speak to the underdog, to the person who doesn’t have a purpose, to the person who’s gone through lots of challenges. I asked her to describe her calling to the underdog:
“When you grow up an underdog – not that I considered my blindness a challenge but others did- people dismiss you or have preconceived notions about how you can’t do things. When you grow up with that pretext, you have compassion for others who live in that same place.”
“I want to encourage those people. The greatest lie the devil tells us is we don’t have a purpose or our purpose is somewhere way down the road. I think each of us is an unfolding story. The things that matter in our stories are happening now – today – and in this moment. If we live like that, it changes everything. It changes our perspectives and our actions, too.”
When I asked Ginny about the purpose of challenges, she said, “Know your darkness has a purpose. Your trials have a purpose. A purpose to strengthen and deepen you as you write your colorful story. It all means something.”
And her advice from one underdog to another:
“When you have a challenge of any sort, it’s easy to isolate yourself. You want to hide from the world. You feel there aren’t people you can be yourself with. But I’ve learned the power of community when you are going through struggles. It’s important to reach out to your community.”
At the end of my interviews, I ask each overcomer to describe what overcoming is. Surprisingly, I’ve yet to have two overcomers share exactly the same answer.
Ginny said, “Overcoming is largely about letting go.”
After years of growing spiritually from the lyrics Ginny writes, I’d have to say we all benefit from what she’s learned about letting go. She has overcome much and turns those challenges into songs of hope.
Check out Ginny’s music at ginnyowens.com.