"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (Colossians 3:17, NASB) Although Tara Dawn Christensen has not always been called to what other people would consider "ministry," she has attempted to do whatever she does in the name of Jesus. At the age of five, she accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord.
Throughout middle school, high school, and college, God gave her the strength to reject some of the temptations of society, such as alcohol, drugs, and premarital sex. Many times, Tara felt that because she did not have a "story," like so many who share in the church or school settings, that God could not minister through her. After all, Tara had been a pretty "good girl." She never rebelled against God or her parents. She didn't have a radical story of God's saving grace from alcoholism, drug addiction, or a gang lifestyle.
This is not to say that Tara and her parents did not have their share of disagreements, but she never turned her back on them or on God. One day, as she and her mom had one of their "girl talks," Tara told her mom she was concerned about whether she could be used by God. Her mother said, "Tara, your story is about God's faithfulness and keeping power. There are many people with a different story to tell, which reaches out to others in similar situations, but your testimony is important as well because it encourages youth who may think they are the only ones in the world trying to live for Christ. You can challenge them to take a bold stand for Jesus and not to succumb to the pressures of the world." From that day on, Tara's perspective changed, and she realized that God has a special calling not only on her life, but also on the lives of every person who seeks Him. Whatever God calls us to do and whatever life we have lived to this point, it can and will be used for Christ, if we let Him.
When Tara was in the seventh grade, she was assigned to do a book report on an autobiography. Because of her interest in the Miss America Pageant since she was a small child, she decided to read A Bright Shining Place by Miss America 1980, Cheryl Prewitt. Reflecting on that time, Tara said, "I knew then that I wanted to become Miss America." God had called her to do quite a strange ministry, but He wanted her to do pageants "in the name of the Lord" and give Him the glory and praise. When she became a senior in high school, she began to compete in pageants. On September 14, 1996, after four attempts at the state level in seven years in two states, 23-year-old Tara Dawn Holland became Miss America 1997. It was only after Tara laid down every bit of her own personal interests and ambitions at the foot of the cross that God blessed her with the title of Miss America. Like the Old Testament story of Abraham, she had to lay down her Isaac.
In 1995, Tara adopted Psalm 139:16 as her "life verse" because it is a reminder that God knew there would be good and bad days, health and sickness, wins and losses, in each person's life before "time" began. "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139:16, NIV) Tara quoted this verse repeatedly during the days, months, and years leading up to the Miss America Pageant. It provided the "peace that passes all understanding" when it would have been easy to question God's call on her life. The importance of this verse to Tara does not end there, however. Her mother, Dianne Holland, wrote the powerful song, "All the Days Ordained for Me," from that same passage of Scripture to complete Tara's debut CD. The song reaches deep into Psalm 139 to draw upon God's Word for the beautiful chorus and verses.
God's faithfulness has been demonstrated in yet another way in Tara's life. Tara made a choice in junior high school to abstain from drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex. Although it was not a very popular choice among her friends and classmates ("True Love Waits" pledges and rallies did not exist yet!), God gave her the strength to resist the temptations she faced. The ridicule and isolation she felt many times were finally worth it when she met Jon Christensen on a Valentine's Day flight during her year as Miss America. On November 21, 1998, Tara and Jon took their relationship from the airplane aisle to the wedding aisle and were married in Mobile, Alabama. One of Tara's greatest joys is to encourage young people by telling them that on her wedding day, she was a 26-year-old virgin, and now her favorite title is "Mrs."!
Since traveling the country as Miss America 1997, Tara Dawn Christensen has continued to use the title of "Miss America" for God's purposes by speaking and singing in public and private middle schools, high schools, and colleges, youth rallies, "True Love Waits" rallies, women's and teenage girl programs, and concerts for people of all ages. When asked the reason for her recording and concert ministry, Tara's heart is obvious. "My goal is not to be famous, make a lot of money, or be a household name. All I know is that I have to do what He has called me to do. However He wants to use me is my only desire. I don't know what God has planned for me, but I will continue to proclaim His truth wherever there is an opportunity."