God Handpicked This Community For Me!

“I’ve been at the Duluth Vineyard for over ten years and I believe God handpicked this community for me even when after my first visit, I thought the people and the music were too loud! They walk around getting coffee, going to the bathroom during the service and I can’t concentrate. I didn’t get anything out of that first message. We got back out in the car and my husband said, ‘I think this is it; I think we’ve found our church.’ So I thought, ok, I need to give this church another shot. Now I’m the person that’s walking around getting coffee going to the bathroom, I love loud worship music and the Holy Spirit speaks to me through who ever is sharing a message.

Here’s what I know. We all have a very beautiful, unique, messy, God planned story to tell. I spent a tremendous amount of energy hiding my story from everyone in my life because it felt too messy and not beautiful at all. I’ve since learned, that stories can be messy and beautiful at the same time.

I grew up in a very fragmented, alcohol functioning, angry, explosive name calling family. I met my dad when I was five, he moved in with my mom, ½ brother, and I when I was about seven. Just shy of my 15th birthday my parents married. There were very few average conversations or tender moments in our house. I didn’t feel safe or nurtured. It was within this family system that I was subject to sexual abuse and assault. Because I experienced this, I made some promises to myself so that I would feel safe. One of them was that I have to take care of myself because no one else will. Another was I have to prove that I wasn’t a mistake. I brought these promises into every relationship I had especially with my husband. For me it looked like angry outbursts and controlling behavior. This kept everyone at least arm lengths away, some even further.

In one of our quiet times Jesus gave me a picture of dandelions in my yard. He reminded me the many times I’ve mowed over those dandelions only to have them grow right back the next day and bring all their friends. The only way to permanently remove them is to get at the root and get it all out. The roots can’t survive exposure to the sunlight. So I’m letting Jesus get at my roots, my messy, entangled, shame, and fear roots. That means me being transparent and vulnerable and telling my story. Shame and fear cannot survive being spoken. They can only survive in my silent and secret places.

Jesus recently helped me rewrite one of the promises I made to myself into, ‘I will take care of myself as I surrender control of my life to Jesus. He loves me and will protect me.’ The more I let him in, he fills those empty places where shame and fear used to live with his hope, truth and healing. And my relationships? They’re looking a little different and getting better.  They look more like his love, his grace and his compassion. I’m so excited about that!”

—Denise Coleman Lyng