It all started in 2013
It's amazing how the past is so often the key to the future
A friend recently asked me, if I had the opportunity to see into my future, would I?
It never occurred to me that by looking back over the last few years of my singing journey, I might be getting a glimpse into what lies ahead.
There’s quite a story to tell since it all began in 2013, so last week I started telling it – on camera. However, truthfully that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Over those years I decided to keep a ‘God Encouragement Journal’. Along with starting singing lessons and beginning to blog my singing journey, one of the ways I could act on this definite new purpose in those early days was to take note of every prompting, every odd coincidence and every oh-my-goodness moment that felt like an affirmation of this calling into some sort of singing-related future.
Every now and then, perhaps if I feel discouraged or directionless again, I take out the little notebook and pour through the scores of encouragements.
Last week, I took it out again. I had arranged to meet with business coach Robin Waite and chat with him about my plans with singing. The world of business is something I know very little about, and although I certainly see my singing as more of a ministry than a company, I thought it would be helpful to have the insight of a professional as I started the New Year full of aspirations.
The bus journey to the meeting was an hour long, and I thought it would provide a distraction-free opportunity for some good ol’ encouragement-reading. I wanted to make sure I was taking God into the meeting too, and my aim was to pray around what I read and hopefully align myself with God’s plans for me through the breadcrumb trail of encouragements.
Flippin’ heck. I had forgotten how powerful that little book could be.
In 2013, God started elbowing me.
On the radio, in conversation, in the books I was reading, in the TV I was watching – everywhere I turned, two words were challenging me:
“Talents and passions.”
I asked God for many months what this meant, wondering what my talents and passions were and if I was using them. It wasn’t until the New Year that the penny finally dropped.
I wasn’t keeping the journal at this stage, and it hadn’t occurred to me yet that anything out of the ordinary was going on, so I didn’t write down what I’d heard or seen. I just remember those words were everywhere.
A few months had passed since I had realised the ‘Talent and Passion’ God had been prodding me about was singing.
I felt excited and eager to get started (with no idea what ‘getting started’ looked like), and the more time that passed with seemingly no change the more frustrated I became.
In 2014, God said, “Wait.”
- The UCB ‘Word 4 U Today’ Bible study on 24th April 2014 was titled “The Waiting Game“, and was bursting with promises for me like “Hold on, your change is coming.“
- Through friends and Bible studies, two Bible verses made their way into my life:
– Habakkuk 2:2: “Write it down, for it may be a while.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1: “There is a right time for everything, and everything on Earth will happen at the right time.”
- A friend prayed for me after church as I grumbled about feeling restless and frustrated. She had a picture of a gold cup being held high above a crowd – it represented my goal, and was far more valuable than all the opinions of the people represented below. The word was, “Keep your eyes on the prize”.
- Whilst at work in late 2014, feeling miserable and directionless, I plugged my earphones into my computer and played UCB radio to cheer me up. A short podcast was playing during a break between songs. The voice spoke about how frustrating it can feel when God tells us to wait, using the analogy of sitting on a bus, waiting for your bus stop. He gently pointed out that if you get off the bus too early, you’ll miss your intended destination – or it’ll take you twice as long to get there. His voice spoke clearly to me as he concluded, “Don’t get off the bus yet.”
He also told me I was good enough. (Something I didn’t believe then and still wonder at times now – he’s getting there slowly!)
- At a Christian retreat, two leaders offered private prayer time to anybody who wanted it. I, of course, did. I told them about my journey this far and that I felt I was being called to use my voice, but didn’t know how or when or what that would look like. As they prayed, they had SO many pictures and words and Bible verses for me:
– “Take my voice and let me sing, always, only, for my King.”
– Healing and ministry would come through my singing.
– Sing a new song to the Lord!
(In these three things, God answered my question about what kind of singing he wanted me to do.)
- A speaker at the retreat led with a phrase that struck me right between the self-doubt: “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”
- A stranger encouraged me, “My voice is like a flame. It’s beautiful and blesses others. Letting the light be seen is not arrogant, it’s allowing God’s creation to fulfil its potential.”
- At a Youth Work Conference, a speaker told the story about stepping out of the boat onto the water and keeping our eyes on Jesus. I had a picture that I was in Peter’s place, Jesus had his arms outstretched and was calling me forward. Only, I wasn’t on water, I was on a stage. And he wasn’t calling me to walk, he was calling me to sing. I knew that I have to trust the gift God has given me and his calling to use it. I have to trust that when I open my mouth, a beautiful sound will come out that will be pleasing to him.
- Throughout the year, I was encouraged by countless friends and mentors around singing and worship leading.
In 2015, God started giving me opportunities to sing.
Things started to pick up pace as I started receiving opportunities to sing publicly, giving me valuable experience and confidence. I learnt LOADS in this time, improving my techniques through singing lessons and band performances, and continued to write new songs.
Gradually, my self-belief started to grow. And throughout the year, he kept sending encouragement:
- A friend prayed with me and felt Isaiah 60 was right for me: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you… And His glory will be seen on you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
- A stranger prayed for me at a worship evening where I had shared my testimony and told me, “Do not give in to nightmares; do not make decisions based on the fear of the ‘what ifs’. Trust in the gift God has given you, and pray that he would open the right doors and close the wrong ones.”
- Another stranger at a prayer meeting spoke from the front over me and a few others. About me she said, “You are losing your ground because you feel you are not worthy enough. Your position has been moved back, even in your career strategy. But today God says, ‘I’m moving you forwards. I’m going to announce who you are.'”
In 2015, I sang everywhere from pubs to conferences, paid and unpaid, and got loads of chances to share my testimony. God absolutely moved me forwards that year.
In 2016, I overcame a big challenge of self-confidence by recording and releasing my music, and leading worship for the first time in years. I started having to market and sell my music – that was WEIRD. And yet, everything I sent to the press was published, everything I sent out publicly was blessed. Through all this, I learnt about the cost of making music, and saw the business side of it for the first time.
The encouragements I recorded in my little journal seemed more and more certain that now was the time to step out into ministry – and suggested that God would make sure I could afford to.
- Having a rare Bible time at home, I prayed before opening the Bible randomly. I found myself at Nehemiah 12-13, where worship leaders are described very clearly as paid positions in the church. This was eye-opening for me, and I felt that God was showing me that he would provide a living through singing for him.
- At a Ross Baptist Church event, we were all invited to close our eyes while the speaker talked us through the scenario of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. We were to imagine that we were one of the disciples in the group, and that eventually Jesus would reach our feet and wash them. As I pictured Jesus reaching my feet and looking up at me, I felt our eyes meet and like I was speaking to him in the silence. I was asking him how I could repay him, could I wash his feet in return? His eyes replied that I could wash the feet of others, that that would bless him. Then he moved on to the next person in the room. The lasting thought or prayer was, “Lord, let worship leading be my foot-washing.”
- At the Youth Revive Day in Churchdown (which I attended as a leader, jut FYI), the messages throughout the day seemed to combine into one common theme for me: Don’t compare yourself to others, don’t try to be the best, just be you.
A New Chapter
I had just read through all these when I arrived at my business meeting. Brushing the tears off my cheeks, I made it to the café in time to thank God for showing me how he has been leading me on a journey that has spanned several years.
The meeting was wonderfully inspiring and full of excellent ideas for me to try out as I push forward this year into whatever God has planned for this one. So if, like me, you may not feel ready or even good enough to accomplish God’s plan for you this year, look at the trend in your life. He gives us exactly what we need, at exactly the right time, for exactly the right purpose.
In December 2016, I made the decision to leave my job and give myself more time to focus on singing. Life was becoming stressfully hectic, and it was time for something to give. I think God was even speaking to me through the stress.
I’m just wondering what comes next in the sequence after wait, go and launch?! And I’m slightly nervous it isn’t snooze for 5 more minutes…