I always wanted to be a singer, a popstar...for Jesus. Sounds cringe but it’s entirely true. The dream I had since being a little girl was about to come true. But I couldn’t imagine what would happen next…
After spending many years chasing opportunities, making sacrifices, and working hard, things suddenly took off for me. In 2013 I was scouted for a TV show called The Voice UK. I had my doubts about going on a reality talent show, but I decided to give it a go.
And before I knew it, I was secretly working with will.i.am in the studio most nights and was a signed artist to Universal Records before my second live show. I flew to LA shortly after the show ended and spent most of a year working in the famous Record Plant recording studio with Will and the top songwriters of the industry.
I toured with will.i.am around Europe in massive arenas. I toured with Jessie J in front of thousands in the UK and sang on stage with her. I performed for Carole King alongside Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and Pink at a Grammy event. I was living the dreams I had for myself, and they were incredible, amazing, and... so unbelievably lonely.
Truth be told, it didn’t feel as good living the dream as back when I was just dreaming it! I was in hotel rooms on my own for weeks waiting for people to become available to work with me. I found it all so hard to enjoy because I knew things weren’t going well between the people working on my project and my label.
Eventually, I discovered I had been ‘dropped’ from my deal and that my entire album was ‘shelved’ (meaning it wouldn’t be released, and I had no legal power to do so myself). I had to spend years not singing and waiting out my contracts. It was devastating! And threw me into a season where I moved from being disappointed to living in disappointment.
I had spent my entire time on The Voice, in the studio and on tour with worship music in my ears and scripture on my knees. So why had God taken me so far to let it all slip through my fingers? Why did we not keep going when we were so close? We were so close to getting everything I wanted and felt fully equipped for. In fact, it was the only thing I felt I was made for...
God didn’t agree. He didn’t see me fit for only one calling. Perhaps he sees us all fit for many. Recently I have started to reflect on how much of my singing dream had been grounded in my culture and how much of it was grounded in God.
I truly had the desire to honour God with my music, and I still believe he gave me this voice, and it belongs to him, but perhaps I viewed the success of that dream as the world does - my own sold-out shows, songs on main radio stations, travelling the world to perform for millions.
But in serving a God who would leave the 99 to go after the 1, it would make perfect sense that a performance in front of 200 people would bring just as much joy to him as a performance in front of 20,000.
I had done so many incredible things, and many of them, I believe, were for His glory.
I had conversations about God in recording studios with industry leaders, I had said no to singing certain lyrics and explained why, and I had seen what that world can look like at times and had my eyes opened to the need there. There was so much gold I had been allowed to find and be a part of within those years, but maybe I didn’t realise I had it at the time because I was hoping for a different currency.
Perhaps when it came to trusting God with my dream of singing, I had allowed the world's view of success to come in with a big black marker and draw strong lines surrounding, containing, and reducing the chance of joy overflowing at every small win. Had this caused me to restrict God from ever colouring with his heavenly palate outside the lines of the picture I had drawn for myself?
Think about it. We give children crayons and colouring books, and they rarely stay inside the lines. They colour squiggles all over the page. And as they get older, we praise them for becoming neater and restricting their creativity to something we can humanly understand and recognise. But is that what our heavenly Father does?
God calls us to have childlike faith (Matthew 18:2-4) not to be childish, but to bask in the freedom and joy of a life lived in closeness with him and outside the lines of normal.
Like Peter (and myself), in the past, you may have stepped out of the boat onto the edge of your dreams, found yourself walking on water only to then sink down into the waves. Perhaps now you are sitting back in the boat wondering what just happened, feeling a little embarrassed you put yourself out there and asking God why the miracle and excitement came before the drowning.
Perhaps there was treasure in the waves that you were too heartbroken to notice. But for now, reflect back to see the gold floating in the water you once saw as wreckage from a storm, and then ask Christ, who is in the boat with you, to steer it elsewhere.
Pray for new open doors, and don’t close the ones that you feel you are not qualified for and so have believed that they must have accidentally creaked open. They may be strange, but our God is the creator of the universe. Every pattern we have ever come up with is an imitation of something he has already done on the wings of a bird or the scales of a fish. His artistry is much higher and heavenly than ours, and he knows YOU and your gifting much better than you know yourself.
Allow God to colour outside the lines of the picture you have drawn for yourself. Dream with the dream giver. Dream with the only original dreamer there is. Dream with the almighty God who cannot and will not be restricted to our colouring books of pictures of animals and landscapes that he made in real life with his own hands from his own design. He is still the inventor! Allow him to reinvent you! Allow him to breathe new colours into your life you don’t even know the name of. Open your heart up for a new and fresh direction for your little boat that’s been drifting on the blue and mourning the past storm for far too long.
‘For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.’
Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)
Leah will be at both Skegness and Minehead this April at Spring Harvest 2023.
If you want to read more about Leah's story check her book out!