Finding Home at the Duluth Vineyard

“The morning that I first came to the Vineyard, I almost turned around. It was 9:10, and where I grew up going to church, if you came late you were met with judgmental stares. As I continued driving towards the church, I was just about to drive past, but noticed 2 cars with their blinkers on ahead of me that were turning into the parking lot too. I was at a point in my life where I was searching for God.. I was sad, lonely, paralyzed with anxiety and shame. I was also a newer mom to an amazing little boy who I knew was a blessing from God. My husband had been gone for 4 months on a deployment and I was tired, needing badly to be filled. I don’t know how I made it through the doors, but once I did I was so relieved and just amazed at how welcoming everyone was. My anxiety left immediately. I met Casey first thing, and with my 18month old in my arms, she was eager to show me downstairs where all of the kids were. We walked down to the 1 year old room together and my son was wiggling to get out of my arms to join in the fun with the toddlers in the room. As I stepped upstairs and grabbed a really good cup of coffee, I followed the music into the sanctuary and quickly found a seat. I immediately could tell that these people around me were really into worshipping. There was a peaceful feeling that came over me, it felt like I was breathing for the first time.

As I sat through the sermon I felt like Michael was talking only to me. I sat there as tears bubbled up and fell away. This felt like home. As worship started again I felt a hand on my back and a wonderful woman sat down next to me and asked if she could pray for me. I was crying and quickly had to explain that I wasn’t sad, I was just extremely happy to be here and feel like this was a huge piece that I had been missing. I left with the biggest smile on my face, and hope in my heart. I was excited to go back, and for the first time ever, was wishing to fast forward the week to attend service there the following Sunday. Every time I did I felt like God was breaking down walls and just inviting me into his presence, into his arms. He was shaking me off and holding me close. I had bad relationships in the past, and made some choices in my life that I really regretted. I had pretty much convinced myself that I was going to be punished by God for what I had done. I was so embarrassed and shameful, and I lived in constant anxiety that the important things in my life would be ripped away to teach me a lesson. Boy was I wrong! Each week I learned more and more about God’s love and how I didn’t have to be perfect to be loved, and that I didn’t need to have all these pieces put back together before he would accept me. He loved me and he wanted to make me new! Today He continues to shape me and remake me. These last 5 years I have grown into a very loving community of people that I can be real with. They help me to see what God is doing in my life, and I can say that I don’t live with the anxiety that I once had. I have this picture of a gentle, loving, incredibly generous God in my heart now, and I want that for others!”

-Jessie Ries