Monday, November 28, 2011
Finding Her Way Back Part II: Gospel Singer Leszia Renee
In the following portion of our interview, gospel singer Leszia Renee talks in depth about a ten-year period in her life in which she said she was alienated from the Lord.
Giving herself to Jesus Christ at age seven, she let the influences of the world turn her away from Him at age 24. Shopping was more important to her than spirituality then, she said, and any singing she did was more for an American-Idol style pursuit of fame than any celebration of God. All of this eventually brought on a despair that intensified after she married (she has been married to Adolphus Holcomb, an electrical engineer, for seven years) and found she could not conceive a child.
The despair was pushing her to thoughts of suicide, she said. But gently, she said, God was pushing her back to Him:
BBP: You’ve been exposed to music all of your life. But tell me when you first thought “Well, maybe I can make this music, maybe I can sing.” You said you used to listen to your mother when you were in the cradle.
Renee: I was listening to my mom, but again. I remember being a small child in the bathtub making up songs…I can remember as far back as four or five years old doing that, you know, just singing songs. And of course there were always talent shows at schools that (as if reminiscing of the time) “of course I’ll sing! I don’t mind getting up there and singing!” I’m a little bit frightened to stand in front of people to sing because again, it’s my gift; it’s what God has anointed me to do. It wasn’t again until I had decided that I want that whole American Idol dream and I want to be this superstar and let me have at it this way, there’s just so many different turns and twists that will lead you down a road of destruction and I’m not knocking anyone as far as where they have so chosen to walk. But as far as the path that God has placed me on, it’s never been that. And we can either do what the will of God says for our lives or we can do what our own will says. Okay, well I tried it my way…and I was so empty inside. There was nothing, and you get so confident and you say “Oh my Gosh, you can just sing so good and girl you know you can really kill that song,” and you’re like ”yeah.” It’s empty. It’s empty praise coming from people that are looking to be filled with whatever light you have…And I remember the very first song that I wrote, the very first song that I wrote furiously for real was “Can You Hear the Spirit Call?” And that’s one of the songs on my CD and it came from the standpoint of me doing and trying what I wanted to do and not what God wanted me to do and just feeling empty, or feeling like I’m in a roomful of people but I just want to be in the background, just quiet somewhere because no one actually really hears me. And I’m talking to God and I’mangry and I’m saying: “God where were You when I needed You and how come You didn’t answer me when I called you?” And it was through me writing to God and—isn’t God wonderful enough to allow us to always be truthful? Because He always knows what’s always going on in our hearts anyway? But it wasn’t until He allowed me and I allowed myself to get out of the way to where I was able to write up the pain in my life. Write out the experiences that I should not have taken and offer them up and literally to sing for forgiveness to my Heavenly Father, because those were the first songs. I mean I’ve got notebooks full of songs that are “Oh let’s shake it” and “Let’s Do This” but no, it’s not what He wanted for me. And I desired what He desired for me which was righteousness.
BBP: Right. I did read that you found God at the age of seven but that you kind of turned away from Him at 24 and that you were kind of on a different course for ten years…
BBP: Tell me a little about that.
Renee: (Sighs) The loneliness. You know, the loneliness brought me back. The impatience took me away. It wasn’t moving fast enough. I’m a microwave society type of person. I can push a button, I can get my meal in 30 seconds or less. “Ok God I’m expecting you to do the exact same thing for me.” “No God, I don’t want to wait. I want this now. If you’re not going to give this to me now, I’m going to go out and I’m going to make this happen.” And it was that thought pattern that got me to the place where “Oh, My God” this is empty. I’m not satisfied, you know. There’s something in me, there’s a hole, there’s a longing, God that—I’m singing, I think this is what I want to do, you know. But I’m not being filled, I’m empty as I’m singing. So again, it’s wasn’t until God allowed to hit me what I considered in my life rock-bottom, which is I could no longer hear God. I didn’t hear him talk to me anymore. I didn’t hear him guiding me anymore. I don’t ever want to ever be where I can’t hear that small voice going “Leszia, I want you to go this way. Leszia, no I don’t want you to do that. Leszia, I need you to stop. Leszia, I need you to go over here and do this.” I donot want to be where I cannot hear God’s voice speaking to me, and I had gotten myself that way. He never moved away from me. He of course was always standing there. Always waiting for this, His Prodigal Daughter, to return. But yet His Prodigal Daughter was just out there doing her own thing, thinking I was having fun. But like I said, it was empty, I really could be at a family gathering or in a room full of people, and I feel like crying, and would often sit back and cry. And there was nothing wrong with me physically, there was nothing wrong with me mentally, but it was my soul that was crying out, my empty spirit that was crying and it was crying out for God. And it wasn’t until I literally—I stepped back, and I stopped singing for a while. Everything was just iffy, it was just all plain, it was all dull, and I shut off.
BBP: You shut off?
Renee: I shut up. I shut down. I let not a vowel come out of my mouth! It wasn’t until I stopped singing that I reached that point and then of course when you stop doing what God has given you to do, oh that’s when the enemy comes. That’s when the devil comes. And there’s the devil trying to tell me “Nobody’s going to miss you if you’re gone. You’re really not doing anything with your life. Why don’t you just go ahead and drive off of that cliff? Who’s going to care?” At that point in my life I was so empty, I was so lonely, I was so lost, and I thank God for His spirit. Because even when I held up my hand and let go, God did not allow me to be loose from his hand. And it was his love for me that brought me out of that depression. I have journals and I found one of my journals a couple of months ago, and I was in a dark place when I wrote it…and me again, having thoughts of suicide and nobody in my family knew, because, having seen me you would just think that my world was fine.
BBP: I read something in here, Song Vault, it’s a little biography of you that says (reading): Gospel Recording artist Leszia was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She gave her life to Jesus Christ at the tender age of seven. But the influences of the world got the best of her, and by the time Leszia had reached the tender age of 24 she turned away from the teachings of God. For ten long years Leszia walked in the temporary pleasures of the flesh doing whatever she felt right to her. And when I saw that I thought I’d better ask you about that, just so I can get a read on where you are now.
Renee: Oh, no, it doesn’t necessarily mean contaminating your body. My body is a temple. But selfish. Self-centered? Are you kidding? Shopaholic? Okay. Buying whatever I want. Not caring if my brother was okay. I didn’t care that you had a bill that was due. My bills were paid but yet I’m sitting up here and I’m going to Nordstrom and I’m getting ready to spend $500 on some shoes. You know? But yet you’re ready to get evicted, but I’d rather have those shoes than help you out with your bills. Seeing people on the side of the road who truly look and need to be helped and turn my face away! Are you kidding? Everybody can be there for their family, because they love their family, but you know I’m going to go ahead and cast the bigger net. Let’s cast the net beyond your family. Let’s cast the net beyond your friends. Let’s go ahead and cast that net beyond your community and let’s cast the net that encompasses your whole world. That wasn’t me. I was selfish. I was very selfish. Oh I went to clubs. I danced. Are you kidding? Come on now! God no, I did not sleep around, but I had a bunch of boyfriends. I had them doing whatever I wanted them to do under the pretense that you’re going to get what you think you’re going to get. But you’re not going to get it. By no stretch of the imagination am I an ugly person!
BBP: Right. I saw your picture. You’re very attractive.
Renee: And with that being said…you know but my father told me something a long time ago that I treasured as a child. That a man will do anything that you want him to do, so long as he thinks he’s going to get your body. The minute you give him your body, then he’ll stop doing for you, if he decides to do so. If he loves you, he’ll continue to do it. Okay, I took all of that to heart. “I know what you want from me. Yeah, you got to do this for me. I have that.” Again, it was just wrong! I knew what I was doing! I chose to do it. Again, I chose not to go to church on Sunday. I chose to completely turn away from God. Are you kidding? I’m out on Friday. I’m having a good time. Me and my girlfriends, we’re at the club. We’re just out doing our thing. We’re having a good time. But it wasn’t a good time. You know that life…being in the limelight with men really throwing money at you…it’s so empty. It is empty. Because it’s not (hesitates) love. It’s lust, it’s not love from God. It’s love from the world. And the world…it will abandon you. So I wasn’t out there on the corner selling my body. I wasn’t out there doing drugs, sniffing cocaine, smoking it.. but what I was doing was just as bad because no one sin is really greater than another, they’re all the same. So yeah sure, go ahead! I might as well have been doing it. Because in the eyes of God, what I was doing was just as bad. It was equal.
BBP: What was happening to you musically? I mean what kinds of songs were you singing? Were you singing secular songs, more or less?
Renee: Oh, yeah! (laughs heartily). Oh definitely I was! Are you kidding? Yes I was! “I can show you a real good time?” I’m like wow, “Is this what you’re doing with what God has given you?” Wow! How is that glorifying God? And again, it wasn’t until the enemy started talking to me and telling me “Leszia just go drive off the cliff. Go ‘head. Nobody’s going to miss you. You’re not doing anything really with your life. It’s not working out.” But it wasn’t supposed to work out. Not like that. Because that was not what God had planned for me.
BBP: And you really were at the point of suicide?
Renee: Yeah, I was. Yeah I was. Yeah I was. Yeah I was.
BBP: Wow. Tell me about what happened, just..
Renee: (Sighs) Just a very, very dark place. Feelings, lonely. Lonely. Lonely, lonely as all get-out. Again, not feeling my self-worth, okay? You know here I am, and I want children. The biggest desire for a woman beyond—in our flesh—beyond wanting to get married, you know is you want to have that child. You want to see a “mini-me” you know. You want to see your mirror image, your reflection, running around because then, everything that you’ve done or not done in life, you do vicariously through your child. And so when that did not happen, it just, I mean it put me into such a state of depression…it consumed my every thought. My every thought was to achieve this child. Went through everything possibly within my flesh. Went through the fertility treatments, spent thousands of dollars, you know, for it to not work. You know the first time you have this hope and it doesn’t work…in my actions, in my anger I will not sin, and I didn’t sin against the Father. But then the second time it didn’t work, it broke me down so and the pain was so intense that out of my mouth that no, I didn’t sin, but I also didn’t cry out. And it was in that silence that the devil got really loud. (laughs). And I mean really, really, really loud! And that’s when the thoughts of suicide, the feeling of worthlessness, set in. And that’s why I said, Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days for me, if not the hardest day of the year for me, every year.
(Tomorrow, we will present the third and last part of our interview with Leszia Renee. Then, she will talk extensively about her music career and particularly about "What About Me," her current CD.