“I was born and raised in Duluth. My mom is Catholic and my dad is agnostic. My mom raised us as Catholic until we grew old enough to make our own choices. When I was 18, I joined an Apostolic Gospel church, but didn’t like that it seemed like I had to speak in tongues in order to be really accepted. With all the rules, I lost sight of God and didn’t stay long.
In my young adulthood I experienced 2 separate rapes and my mental illness spiraled out of control. My 20s are a blur of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and self harm, blurred because of many ECT treatments. When I finally escaped that cycle, an adult foster home showed me God in a new light. In spite of being able to pull out of the worst of my symptoms, I still didn’t really know God. Reading the Bible put me to sleep so I really only used it as a sleep aid. Church was okay, but I had never really experienced God.
I ended up walking away from it all in order to pursue what I can only call an ungodly relationship with a man I met online. He convinced me to move to Eau Claire to live with him. I had to walk away from God to do this because God was telling me not to and I didn’t want to listen. After 3 years in Eau Claire I was finally rescued and brought home by my sister and mom. I spent the next few years believing I was the most shameful person in the world and didn’t deserve to be loved by anyone especially God.
Then after a particularly difficult argument with my sister in May of 2017, a friend gave me some beautiful words of wisdom and hope from God and I knew I needed to return to him. I just wasn’t sure how. In August another friend started to attend the vineyard church with me. It was so different from any church I had ever gone to. I felt so much love from everyone, in all my shame I thought it was undeserved but I kept going because it felt so good.
In September 2017, I attended an Unchained worship service, when I got there I felt awkward, I didn’t know any of the songs and had no singing voice. Then I saw the table off to the side with lamps and art supplies. I was overjoyed that I could worship God through my art. It was a language that I speak well. By the end of the service I felt such an urge to go for prayer and recommit my life to Jesus. When I got up front I found Brian but I could barely speak all I could say was John 3:16 and he understood. My hands were full of chalk so I went to wash them quick. When I got back both Brian and Jazz helped me pray and recommit my life to Jesus. This was my first experience of the holy spirit. Even though I didn’t know what it was at the time, I did know it was God and it was so good; I wanted more.
In October 2017, I was baptized. It has been such a wonderful blessed year full of ups and downs. From being homeless through the winter and being ill through the summer. My faith has only grown. It has been such a wonderful journey, learning to pray, learning who the Holy Spirit is, learning how the enemy works, and learning to let go of shame. I have taken just about every class available at the Vineyard this year. I have learned how to read the Bible, I have read most of the New Testament, many parts more than once. I have started to read pieces of the Old Testament. I now read the Bible with energy and hunger. Often I will set out to read 1 chapter for the day but find I have read 4 or 5 chapters and still don’t want to put it down.
I even got the chance to attend two different conferences. The Creativity in the Kingdom conference opened up my artistic world all over again, showing me how to love God in every way possible. The women’s conference, Engaging in the Kingdom, showed me that I am lovable and got me to explore singing and give God my first hesitant yes in taking a singing class.
I have grown a lot this year. From letting go of shame, to quitting smoking, and even praying with a stranger. More than anything this year I have learned about God’s love and His grace. I never really saw God’s love before. And it took a lot of hard work before I could even begin to see how big his love is for us. I think the biggest hurdle I had was the invalidation of my past. I have learned that I am worthy of God’s love and forgiveness, and not only that but I am a valued member of God’s community. I have started creating artwork and writing again and I began to call myself an artist. I turned 40 this year but you’re never to old to make God your Abba and never too old to start a new life with God.
I still don’t know exactly where this journey is taking me, but I’m okay with that. God will show me what I need to see when I need to see it.
This winter I am going to Arizona, I feel like there is something Abba needs me to do there. I still don’t know what exactly but I know I can tell my story and share God’s love. God wouldn’t send me to do more than He’s prepared me for.
I still feel like a young child just learning to walk with God for the first time. Sometimes my footsteps waiver like I’m about to fall but Abba is right there to catch me. ”