“I did not grow up in a Christian home, but my parents became Christians when I was living out west pursuing my dream of living the “free-life” of snowboarding & skateboarding everyday. At that point in my life, that was all I cared about. I lived & breathed skateboarding and snowboarding. I wanted to go pro as I used to compete and such, but when I moved out west, I realized I didn’t like all of the hype and enjoyed the solitude of backcountry riding much more. It was so peaceful and I felt this connection to God, although at the time I wasn’t sure if it was God, mother nature, or what have you. I had no idea what I believed. I just always felt peaceful in nature. After I got the “free-life/mountain fix” out of my system, I began to feel empty inside because I felt my life didn’t have much of a purpose at that point. That kind of lifestyle led to a lot of partying. I had so many false idols and just plain felt depressed and empty inside. I moved back to MN in search of some kind of groundedness. But, I found myself in the same hole, same lifestyle, only it felt like it got worse. I opened up so many doors to darkness in my life through the music I listened to, the movies I watched, the things I filled my mind with, the books I read, relationships,etc. I was having the worst panic attacks every day. My self-esteem was at it’s lowest point. I was a depressed mess. I worked at a bar and found myself joining all of my co-workers after our shifts to party. I found a new community and it seemed fun at the time, until the next day, or when I was alone.
I heard so many lies all the time telling me that I wasn’t not good enough and that I should just move back out west and escape again. I wanted to run away from my struggles. I was filled with fear, so much that it strangled me at night when I would awake, barely able to breathe. I had to move back in with my parents. One night I awoke in panic. I felt this dark presence in the room and I yelled for my mom. All I could say through the tears was, “I’m so scared.” She began to pray and the Holy Spirit showed up. Immediately, I felt the most incredible peace I’ve ever felt in my life. My mom talked about salvation and gave me a bible. I began to read it and meditated on certain scriptures when I felt fearful. It helped. But, I was not so excited about Christianity. I just felt it wasn’t for me. How could I maintain my cool image and still be a Christian? In my mind, Christians were dorky and their lives seemed so fake and boring. I didn’t want to have to change who I was to fit in. Those were all of the thoughts running through my head. They were lies of course. So, it was a very drawn out, gradual process for me. I hid my relationship with God and continued living the same way.
I met my husband months later at the bar I worked at. He came in almost every night. I remembered him from junior high. He was a country boy and I was a snowboard chick. In those days, you did not date someone who wasn’t in your so-called “group.” But, I always thought he was cute. Anyway, he was still very shy. I went up and talked to him and we went on our first date a few weeks later. It was still totally weird for me to date someone that was so different then me, even 13 years later. His mom was a Christian and he grew up with the bible, going to church, etc. But, he strayed away filled his void with other unhealthy things. We partied a lot the first few years we dated. We found it to be an empty well, but it was what we knew. Finally, we started going to church together. We soon got married, but we couldn’t seem to find a good fit for church. My mom kept mentioning The Vineyard. She had heard it was great! She told me they had coffee bar, they threw snowboard rail jams, and you could dress as you wanted. That sounded pretty good to me! We checked it out. We both loved it. It felt so real, so welcoming and authentic. I felt something when I walked in the door. It was the Holy Spirit. We started going regularly.
We began to pray for Christian friends. A couple reached out to us and invited us to some fun gatherings. Everyone was so fun and so nice! But, I still heard a lot of lies and didn’t really know how to be myself. I felt like I had lost my identity. I had always found my identity in the way I dressed, through snowboarding and skateboarding, the music I listened to and the people I hung out with. But, It was all changing. My heart began to soften. As soon as we got invited to a small group, I really began to experience God. WOW! Getting real hands on prayer, learning how to be transparent, and reading scripture started to change me from the inside out. I loved these new people. They were filled with real joy and peace, but they were not perfect and didn’t pretend to be. It was something I craved for so long. I began to shed layers of my old self and really started to learn about identity and that my identity was rooted in Jesus. It was completely refreshing. Mind you, I still absolutely love snowboarding and skateboarding! As well, my non-christian friends see this new light in me. It’s awesome.
Time has flown by and we’ve been attending the Vineyard for 6 years already. We now have children and they are becoming little desciples themselves. I’ve been changed by this community. All of the small groups, workshops, The Gospel of Wholeness, etc. has all helped me to grow and allow Jesus to peel back layers of my self and my past. I’ve experienced so much healing. I love knowing who I am through Jesus. The word identity has a whole new meaning to me. I’ve learned how to arm myself when I feel attacked and I can reach out to friends and family for prayer support. My kids are even little prayer warriors! Our prayer for new friends, well, that has been answered in abundance! In fact, sometimes I feel like we have so many friends we can’t seem to keep up with everyone. I always get this picture of those crab nets on a fishing boat, that’s how the friends have come in! It’s amazing. This community has changed my life and now I get to be a part of helping change other people’s lives as I point them to Jesus by telling them my story and by just being me. My mind has been blown by all the changed lives I’ve seen.
Many of my friends have come to Christ over the years. With that, I want nothing more than to point people to truth and freedom.”