Beware this is a long testimony!
For the past few years, I had wanted to be in the fashion industry. Designing and styling, using my creativity to produce something beautiful. I continued art and textiles into 6th form and hoped for the best. I was proactive; I started UCAS long before anyone else, I booked open days and some of the top universities, recieved their prospectus' and read them cover to cover; without fault, I booked workshops and courses to further my skills and I did 2 weeks work experience at a design and sample company in London. I did everything I could think of to get a head start. After all, the Fashion industry is one of the most competitive.
I did my AS level, a little disapointed in my work, and vowed to do better the next year. I left my teacher for Summer, excited about hearing of my stories from the said workshops and courses I'd booked.
But it all really started to change in August 2010 at the Soul Survivor festival. I had hit a brick wall with God before then, I couldn't pray without feeling like I was talking to thin air, I couldn't worship without feeling self-conscious and I certainly couldn't openly call myself a Christian without feeling slightly ashamed. In the build up to the festival, I started to realise what I was feeling wasn't at all alien, I wasn't the only one and I knew I had to do something about it. I started to pray, battling through the embarrassment of talking to thin air and asked God that he would change me, that he would show himself to me in such a way that my faith wouldn't falter again. After that, I found myself eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first service in the Big Top. My faith didn't change, I didn't get out of the rut I was in or miraculously transform in to an 'all-singing, all-dancing' testimony. I simply knew that God was going to do something. To clarify, I didn't have an issue with disbelief, I knew God was real, I just felt that I wasn't seeing the amazing God that people were talking about. I didn't hear him, experience him or know him. I had just heard of him.
I think it was on the fifth service when God came, he showed himself, and just like I had heard, he blew me away. I don't remember much about the worship or the talk, but I remember the alter call; it was for the gift of tongues. A year and a bit before then, God had given me this gift but it just ran dry; I didn't feel like it was real, I felt like I was talking jibberish and ended up not using it. So I tought, 'Alright God, is there such a thing as asking you to re-annoint?'. I stood up after debating with myself for about 5 minutes, and instantly felt peaceful, I walked to the front, one of my friends behind me coming to pray for me and I could just feel my heart beating. Excitement or nerves, whatever it was, I knew it was God, saying 'I'm here'.
For the next 45 minutes, God did some amazing things in me; the barrier I had built between me and him just crumbled and I surrendered. I remember feeling like God was standing right infront of me, holding my tingly hands, and saying, 'Leah, you're so silly! You haven't realised just HOW much I love you. I love you Leah, and you didn't know. I love you.' I heard the songs the worship leader was playing, they were all about Gods love. God had changed me; he softened my heart, showed me how much he loved me and given me, a second chance. I walked away, understanding Gods unconditional love. I didnt recieve any re-annointing of tongues, but I didn't care! God was showing himself, just as I'd asked.
From then, every service that passed, God did something little in me, and somewhere among them God said, 'I don't want you to do fashion Leah... I have an even better plan for you', and immedietly I had no want or desire to persue it. I prayed into it, and asked others to pray with me; it was a huge thing, everyone knew how massively important my career had been. I asked what God did want me to do, and I got nothing. But over the course of the next few weeks, God gave me verses and words to people, for me, all of which where about patience, and God's plan for me.
So I was patient... for all of about two months.
I went back to school, with this huge adrenaline rush. Telling my main teacher that I wasn't doing fashion design anymore, or even applying to university was quite funny; she really didn't get it. But my second teacher understood, she was Christian and sent her sons off to Soul Survivor every year. She couldn't wait to book a meeting with me in her office, to hear all the details. She fully supported me even though I was ditching her subject! Telling my UCAS coordinator would be difficult, usually they'd tell you to apply anyway, as a back up, but funnily enough, she was also Christian! Isn't it amazing how God works? She also was excited, always asking how my wait was going, linking me to different gap year ideas, one being Soul61, and checking up on me.
Then, after a lot of people heard news of my not applying to university, questions came at me and I didn't have any answers. I didn't know what I was going to do, I didn't have a back up plan and the deadline for UCAS was drawing closer. I quickly lost faith, started to doubt and took charge; I began looking in to gap year opportunities and even set up a UCAS account. I got so worried, I did a day of prayer and fasting just for God to tell me what he wanted me to do.
About midday, a friend approached me and asked why I was asking God to reveal his plans to me, she said surely, if God wanted me to be patient, my fasting wasn't going to speed the process up. I'd just go hungry for a day. I didn't need a back up plan if I had Gods plan.
I realised that I wasn't being very patient, I gave it all up to God again and soon enough, I started worrying again. But rather than giving in to it, I just kept praying that God would give me strength.
I went away for a weekend, to visit my old youth leaders with a friend and soon enough we got talking about God's plans. One of the afternoons we were there, I was sitting and chatting to Louise, one of the youth workers and she just looked at me and said, 'Leah, you have leadership on you, you've just been overshadowed and never been given any opportunity'. In both shock and excitement, we looked at some gap year ideas; theology degrees, ministry school and missions.
Soul61 jumped out, my heart was pounding and it sounded as if it was written for me. Which was funny, because I looked at it five or so months before and it looked like any other - not for me. God was really trying to tell me something. I printed the form and filled it in.
For a few weeks leading up to then, a cell group I was attending received dustings of Gold Dust a multitude of times. Then, as I was hand writing the application form, I looked and my hands and they were covered in Gold Dust.
Other little signs along the journey encouraged me a lot. Lifting my spirit and reminding me God was good. I started to see myself come out of this shell, I grew more confident and have grown in faith even more. People have prophesied over me and given me words and scripture, which is really encouraging.
It's been a waiting game; anticipating emails from Soul Survivor about receiving my application, asking for references, requesting an interview and finally saying I had been given a place.
The whole process was scary and overwhelming, but it felt so right. God has finally told me what he wanted me to do. So now, I have the massive task of getting £9000 together to pay for the course!
But I have a lot of faith. I've grown it, I've fed and watered it. I feel that I'm now at a place where I'm constantly tested.
People call me an optimist, I say it's 'having faith'. Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
I'm not old enough to really be wise yet, but of course I know, I've not gone through the trials of life, which will consist of faith builders and breakers.
After all, my journey of faith has only just begun...