We all have a life story. Christians often refer to it as a testimony. It’s sort of our before-and-after-Jesus story. Have you ever wondered why your story matters? We often feel insignificant, believing that our life doesn’t matter to others. Christians who grew up in church often feel that their testimony is boring and so they don’t share it. But, telling your personal story is very necessary for you and others.
Why Stories Matter
Stories are hugely important in our lives. For most of history, stories were the only way to preserve heritage and history itself! Today, stories help us to know and understand each other. As Christians, our testimonies are the best way to share why we are Christians.
There is no such thing as a boring life story or testimony. Each story is important because you are important. Stories tell us how to live, how to be wise, how to overcome, how to be and not be. So, I am going to share my story with you. This is my testimony.
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My Personal Life
You know me as Fleda Bennie. I was born in a tiny town in Idaho as Fleda Gay Jim. Pretty strange name and one I struggled with for many years. I am an only child. My parents loved me, each in their own way. My father adored me and I don’t think he ever disciplined me. My mother was a whole different story. As far as I knew, my life was pretty normal.
When I was around 5, we moved from Idaho to California – Long Beach to be exact. We lived in several different places. In fact, I have lived in about 40 different places in my life. Yes, we moved a lot! The place I remember most in Long Beach was an old hotel on Ocean Boulevard. We lived on the cliffs above the beach near some old wooden stairs going down to the beach and I spent hours on the beach alone and talking with the bums who lived under the stairs!
When you’re an only child, you spend lots of time alone. So, for me, I remember loneliness very distinctly. I also remember fear from as far back as my mind can reach. I never understood why until I was an adult. My Mother, who took very good care of me, was a narcissist. She had a picture of me as being her doll she could dress up, admire, and make me do whatever she wanted. Hence, I had to be perfect. That equals fear because, how do you measure perfect when you are a child?
Sorrows fill my heart as I feel helpless, mistreated—I’m all alone and in misery!
Come closer to me now, Lord, for I need your mercy. Psalm 25:16 TPT
We moved to Belmont Shore, near Long Beach, and when I was eleven, my parents separated. My Dad got a job in Santa Barbara and we just didn’t go with him. One thing in my Mother’s life had changed – she had become an alcoholic. He left. There was no explanation. She didn’t let me see or communicate with him. She went to work full time. This meant that the loneliness was greatly increased.
Big Life Changes
She began dating – even though there was no divorce yet. My Dad would not divorce her and she didn’t have the money. But, the stream of men through my Mom’s life began to flow. This led to us moving to Reno so she could get a divorce, which she did. She met a man and married him. He molested me. I told her about it and she didn’t believe me. In retrospect, I’m sure she was probably drunk at the time.
My life was on a downhill spiral. I had friends but no family around me at all – just my Mom. I began drinking and doing all the things I hated in my Mother! I was suicidal, depressed, confused, afraid, and lonely and didn’t know of anyone I could turn to.
“God, my God, come and save me! These floods of trouble have risen higher and higher.
The water is up to my neck!
I’m sinking into the mud with no place to stand, and I’m about to drown in this storm.
I’m weary, exhausted with weeping. My throat is dry, my voice is gone, my eyes are swollen with sorrow, and I’m waiting for you, God, to come through for me.” Psalm 69:1-3 TPT
As a child, my family had gone to church and I had a very strong belief in God. I really didn’t know much about Jesus. I would pray and ask God to get me out of this hell and when He didn’t, I would scream at Him. Then, I would get so scared that He was going to strike me with lightning that I would beg Him to forgive me. I didn’t realize He was with me the whole time!
In Reno, I decided to visit a church one Sunday by myself. I walked in, sat down, listened, and walked out. Not one person even said hello to me. That was the end of that for me. I truly had nowhere to turn. My friends were all in pretty much the same situation I was in – broken homes, alcoholic parents.
“Rescue me, Lord, for you’re my only hero. Sorrows fill my heart as I feel helpless, mistreated—
I’m all alone and in misery! Come closer to me now, Lord, for I need your mercy.”
Psalm 25:15-16 TPT
Needless to say, my self-esteem was zero. My mother had told me one day that she wished I was a doll she could dress up every day, sit me on the couch, and I would never cause any problems which, to me, meant that she really didn’t want me. Somehow, in the midst of all this, I had a very strong will and was rebellious. I had been forced to be independent, yet self-loathing. I wanted to die but, thankfully, never succeeded at any of my attempts. I was sure I would not live to be twenty. I had no future plans and no one encouraging me to do anything productive.
Finding My Dad Again
One day, a friend and I had been drinking and we decided to run away. We did. I won’t go into all the ugly details, but we hitchhiked from Reno to Sacramento, San Francisco, and finally Los Angeles where we were promptly arrested for curfew violation. One night in jail and a partial day at a juvenile detention center led me to reunite with my Dad. He came to pick me up.
It was wonderful for several months. For some reason, however, I wanted to go back to Reno where I had friends. I went and only stayed for about two months. I called my Dad, asked to come back and found out he was in the process of moving back to Idaho. He came through Reno, picked me up, and my life took a definite turn for the better. I was 14 – almost 15.
Life in Idaho was very different. I was still doing things I shouldn’t simply because that was the only way I knew how to function in life. I loved my Dad. We lived with my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins which was a completely new experience for me.
“Love empowers us to fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles.”
Galatians 6:2 TPT
Meeting a Stranger
Near the end of my Junior year of High School, I went to a dance and a guy came up and asked to dance with me. I didn’t know him and had never seen him at school. We talked and he asked me out the next day. We were never apart again (except for Army related absences) until 2015.
He had already enlisted in the Army when we met but we spent the last few weeks of school together every second we could. I met his family. He had a real, normal family. The kind I had always dreamed of. They took me in immediately as if they had always known me. They had horses, dogs, cows, and all the animals I had always wanted and I haven’t been without a dog since that time! I had found the family I had dreamed of.
We got married when we were 16 and 17. I couldn’t drive so I went with another lady and we drove to Alabama where our husbands were stationed. Got married the next morning, and one month later he received orders for Korea. I couldn’t go with him.
I got pregnant the very first month. I went home and lived with his parents. He got to come home for the birth of our son and went back when the baby was 3 days old. That was July of 1967. He came home in December. In January we headed to Colorado Springs for 3 months and then to Killeen, Texas for 3 months and then he went to Viet Nam in June of 1968.
I lived with his parents for a while, then moved into a little house down the street and went to work. I had learned to drive! He came home in May 1969. We had both changed but not in the same ways.
“There is no one else who has the power to save us, for there is only one name to whom God has given authority by which we must experience salvation, the name of Jesus.” Acts 4:12 TPT
My big change was being saved! One night after my son was asleep, I sat down to watch TV and a Billy Graham Crusade came on. I was still struggling with all the demons of my childhood even though, on the outside, I looked fine. The invitation came accompanied by the song – Just As I Am. I cried, knelt by the couch and repeated the prayer. I did the same thing for the next two nights because I had no idea if it took more than once for this to work!
I knew my neighbor went to church so I finally went and talked to her. She invited me to church with her and I have been in one from then until now! The prayer worked! I had always known God was real, but I finally found His Son, His grace, His mercy, and His forgiveness.
It took many years to find complete healing. My self-esteem stayed very low for a long time. I didn’t tell anyone about the sexual abuse until I was 25! I finally told my husband and began to find healing in that part of my life as well.
A large part of my healing came through forgiveness. As a child, I hated my Mother. As an adult, I forgave and I genuinely love her. Our relationship, or lack of, is another story. I love her and know that God used everything for my good when I finally allowed Him to.
I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.
Philippians 4:12-13 TPT
However, things weren’t going well in my marriage. We loved each other deeply but he had been permanently changed by the war. We were struggling. He was drinking and came to church and slept with his feet on the pew in front of him. He was a good man – just a lost one.
One day, the pastor of our church made an unannounced visit. Don, my husband, put out his cigarette, turned off the TV and let him in. He didn’t stay long. Don was polite but didn’t say much. The pastor put his hand on the doorknob, then stopped, turned to Don and said, “Don, I think you need to pray and accept Jesus as your Savior tonight.” I thought that bad things were about to happen! I thought Don might just throw him out. To my complete shock, Don began crying, knelt by at the couch with the pastor, repeated a prayer of salvation, and then the Pastor left!
The Holy Spirit
Things did not magically change. He started staying awake through church and cut back on his drinking. He finally quit. We moved, went to another church and more changes took place. I was baptized in the Spirit and he almost left me over that one! He thought I had lost my mind but, saw such peace and joy in me, that he ended up being baptized in the Spirit as well, This was what really turned our lives upside down.
“If imperfect parents know how to lovingly take care of their children and give them what they need, how much more will the perfect heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit’s fullness when his children ask him.” Luke 11:13 TPT
We had 3 sons by then and Don was working at an excellent job. I was a stay-at-home Mom. We met so many wonderful Christians and both of us felt God’s call on our lives. We moved to another city for his work and eventually started a church with another couple. Then Don went into full-time ministry.
The church split due to some things that happened with the other pastor and we ended up jobless with 5 kids. We also had two foster daughters at the time. I tell you this so that you know I understand what it is to have bills, children, no job, no food, and a broken life. Our ministry was gone along with our strength. Our faith was at an all-time low. We still loved God but didn’t understand why this had happened when we thought we were in God’s will for our lives.
That was just the beginning of learning that being in God’s will does not mean life is smooth, easy, and wonderful! Just the opposite. We moved back to Boise, Idaho, Don got a job, we were in church, and serving in our church. Lots of things happened – mostly good. We ended up on staff at a large church in the area and stayed there for several years before moving to a nearby small town and starting another church. We did well but after a few years, the church was declining and we knew it was time to quit. We did.
If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God! True happiness comes as you pass the test with faith, and receive the victorious crown of life promised to every lover of God! James 1:12 TPT
Healing for Don
Don had realized several years before that he had a terrible issue with anger. He was not physically violent but came close. His anger was rage and he wasn’t able to control it. He refused to talk about Viet Nam. His sons finally had a family meeting with him and he broke, as did they. This was the beginning of his healing. He finally got counseling for PTSD.
Overall, we had a wonderful life and loved each other deeply. We went through lots of hard times but God always brought us through and our faith was strong. Don became a realtor, as did I and I also started an outreach for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I worked in 2 counties, ran the center, worked for a prosecutor, and helped with real estate.
By 2014, I was emotionally exhausted and had to quit all my jobs. I nearly had a breakdown but came through and found restoration, In the meantime, Don’s health was rapidly declining due to diabetes and something else which was never identified. He was in constant pain, telling me and others he just wanted to go home. He was unhappy and depressed, and there was nothing I could do.
Losing my Husband
We had begun riding motorcycles in 2010 and had a new neighbor who also rode. He and Don hit it off as did his wife and I. I won’t go into the details, but on July 26, 2015, while on a ride with our friends, Don was killed instantly in an accident which was his fault. He lost control and crossed the center line. I was there. I rode my own motorcycle or I would have died too.
“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. Death cannot kill what never dies.” – William Penn
It was the most horrible and painful time I have ever endured. But, all that we had been through gave me the strength and faith I needed to get through this awful time. All the years of faith bore fruit. Eleven months later, I was diagnosed with stage 2-3 colorectal cancer and started treatment just a few days after the 1-year anniversary of his death.
Lots of chemo and surgery later, I am cancer-free and living a life I would never have imagined. I have remarried, live on a beautiful farm with a kind and wonderful husband. My faith is stronger than ever and so is my peace and joy. It did not come easily.
This is Who I Am
While this is a lot of facts about my life, and not so much about the spiritual side of me, I hope you see through what I write, the depth of God in my life. I am no one special. I’m not famous or rich. I’m just a plain and simple woman who hung on to her faith through the worst of times and the best. I found the beauty in the Valley of the Shadow of Death and I learned to believe and trust fully in what I cannot see.
“Let the inner movement of your heart always be to love one another, and never play the role of an actor wearing a mask. Despise evil and embrace everything that is good and virtuous.Be devoted to tenderly loving your fellow believers as members of one family. Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another.” Romans 12:9-10 TPT
I wanted you to hear my story so that, when I write, you would know that my words come from experience and compassion learned through pain. I wanted you to know why I am so excited to Inspire you to Flourish. My feelings are genuine. I earned the right to say these things because I believe them. I know the truth of finding light in the darkest places and holding on to a thread of hope knowing that a new day would dawn.
My words are not just words – they are my heart and I pray that you know that. I understand loneliness, fear, loss, rejection, and more. I also recognize that there are others who have gone through far worse things than I have and I am not saying that I know everything. Far from it.
When I write to you about achieving your dreams or changing the world, or anything else, the foundation of my words is my story in Jesus. That’s your foundation too. I learned that life isn’t about what I don’t have, it consists of gratitude for what I do have. And even though the things I don’t have would be wonderful, what I do have is even better because I choose to see it that way. I’m not living in denial of the facts. I am living in acknowledgment of God’s love and grace and that the fullness of God dwells inside of me. That can’t be taken away.When I write to you about achieving your dreams or changing the world, or anything else, the foundation of my words is my story in Jesus. That's your foundation too. I learned that life isn't about what I don't have, it consists of… Click To Tweet
Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen. Hebrews 11:1 The Voice
A Reason for The Hope That is in Me
I do know that I need to give a reason for the hope that is in me and that reason is born of my relationship with Jesus and my life story. If I made it – you can! You and I may be different but Jesus isn’t. He’s always the same. His grace is always free and His love is always pure, holy, and extravagant.
But give reverent honor in your hearts to the Anointed One and treat him as the holy Master of your lives. And if anyone asks about the hope living within you, always be ready to explain your faith. 1 Peter 3:15 TPT
Of course, there is far more detail in my life, but I hope this overview helps you to know me better and to understand the heart I have to see women flourish in every part of their lives – especially their relationship to Jesus. My story is all about Him!
**We use verses from different Bible translations.
To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit our Scripture Citations.
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