A living testimony
Last night was the launch of a new women’s ministry at my church. I am super excited about this for several reasons-
- My girlfriend Tricia is the main speaker and organizer
- I LOVE my girlies and can’t get enough time with them
- I would love to develop relationships with more women at my church
- I need to get out for the evening and laugh and talk and eat dessert once in a while
- What a great way to invite pre-believers to a low key event where they can hear about Jesus and meet other women in a non-threatening way
For this first meeting we needed a woman to give her testimony. I volunteered. I was chosen. Now I knew this was coming up for at least 3 weeks. I literally did not start thinking about it until the night before. That’s how I deal with public speaking- I pretend that it’s not going to happen until the last moment possible! Lucky for me I have given my testimony a few times in the past year, so I had it all in a Word doc and just needed to review it and tweak it a little bit for my audience.
Last night as I was laying in bed it occurred to me that those of you out there in the world wide web might like to hear how God redeemed my life almost 20 years ago and some of the things He’s done with me since then. So here it is- out there- for the whole world to see. Me. (and more importantly, God)
Hi, my name is Melody Benschoter. I’m married to Chris and have the two most adorable children in the world, JT who is 2 years old and Kate who is 7 months old. I’ve been attending South Fellowship since we moved to Colorado 3 years ago. Tonight I want to share my testimony of how God has redeemed my life and how He’s spoken to me over the years.
My mom would tell you that even as a very young child I never seemed to get enough attention or affection, and I was the type of kid who always had to learn each lesson the hard way. Although I grew up in a Christian home and I knew better, I began to look to boyfriends to find my approval and to get my fill of acceptance. I became very rebellious- especially through middle and high school. I became sexually active at 14, experimented with alcohol and drugs, cut school frequently, lied to my parents constantly, and generally did whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to do it. During my sophomore year in college my boyfriend of 2 1/2 years (and the guy I thought I would marry) broke up with me and moved in with my best friend. At that point I was about as miserable and empty as possible. As I was praying one night in desperation I heard God clearly say to me “You have chosen to fill your life with the wrong people and activities for all these years, and now you have nothing left. You can either choose the same type of people to fill your life with again or you can choose ME.” Starting that night I chose to cling to God and try things His way. My sister had been urging me to attend a college bible study at our church and it just so happened that I was suddenly free on Wednesday nights. On a whim I decided to go and found myself crying in a room full of casual acquaintances! These girls welcomed me and were willing to walk with me on my new path and encourage me as I began my Christian faith. Over those first few years I developed deep friendships and mentoring relationships that helped me find value in who I am in Christ and showed me that true joy can be found in Him.
One of the things I started doing was praying and journaling my prayers. I used these journals as a way to keep my prayer time focused- to prevent my mind from wandering- and to give me a way to look back and see how God was answering my prayers. I was coming from a place of real bitterness and heartache, and I also recognized how foolish I had been for the first 19 years of my life. One of the things I prayed for daily was that God would bless me with inner peace and wisdom. I knew that God had honored Solomon’s prayers for wisdom and hoped that He would honor mine as well. I also claimed Philippians 2:14-16 as my life verse.
14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
I really liked the reminder to become someone who does things pleasantly… without complaining or arguing and that it would lead to me being a child of God who is blameless and pure! I also loved the picture of shining like a star in the universe while holding out the word of life. I felt that this was the person I should aspire to be in my new faith and prayed these verses for myself often.
During this period I also spent some time thinking about who I wanted to be someday as a woman and as a wife. I recognized that my old character was unhealthy and that I was not who I wanted to be. I began to study what the bible had to say about Godly character and to pray over the characteristics that I wanted to embrace. I also used scripture to develop a list of attributes I was looking for in my future husband. I really thought and prayed a lot about this and came up with a list of about 20 character traits and values that were important for my husband to possess. Now I need to say… because of the types of sin I was struggling with and the changes that I was trying to make in myself I didn’t date for quite some time after dedicating my life to Christ. In fact when I met my husband I had been single for 10 years to the month. Although I went on a handful of dates during those years, I was careful to avoid getting involved with any man who did not meet the criteria on my list or who I did not clearly feel God was bringing me to. In fact after my first date with my future husband I told him that we should just be friends. It was during this period of friendship that my eyes were opened to see that God was drawing me to him as my husband. I pulled out that old piece of paper and was amazed to see that he met EVERY SINGLE CRITERIA that I had written over 9 years before.
Speaking of my husband actually brings me to the second time that God clearly spoke to me. I had been involved in a women’s bible study for 5 years when my mentor encouraged me to transfer to the young adult class. I had reached a point in my life where most of my girl friends had gotten married and were having children and I was lonely for good female friends. At the same time I was happy with the bible study I was attending and didn’t want to transfer to the other class for fear of looking like I was going just to meet guys. My mentor really challenged me on my stubbornness and unwillingness to change, and after some prayer and consideration I agreed to try the other class. When I transferred my membership, the leader of the new class asked me to join the leadership team. I had been asked to join the leadership at my previous class 4 years in a row, and each year I declined because leadership meetings were held at 6:55am on Saturday mornings. If you know me, you know I love to sleep. So when the new class leader asked, I told her that I didn’t think I could do it, but that I would pray about it. Now when I said I would pray about it, I have to admit, I didn’t really think it would change anything. I had no intention of getting up so early every Saturday morning for the next year. But when I prayed, God said yes. I said no and God said yes again. And again. He and I really had it out for several days before I finally gave in to Him and agreed to do it. I can remember telling my coworker that this was going to ruin my life. And I meant it! 2 days later I showed up to my first meeting and met the rest of the leadership team. There happened to be a young man there who I had heard quite a bit about from my sister who had wanted to set me up on a date with him the year before. I had never met him, but I recognized his name and knew a lot about him through her and through a girlfriend of mine who was good friends with him. Being on leadership threw us together quite a bit, and within a month we went out on a date. Then I told him we should just be friends, and then I realized that he was the man I was going to marry! I quickly told Chris that he could ask me out again and 3 months after that we were engaged. I really believe that by obeying God’s call to that leadership team- which also built my leadership skills and taught me discipline and many other good things, God brought me to my husband.
And that brings me to the third and final time God has clearly spoken to me. I was raised in California and Chris and I lived about 20 minutes from the town where I grew up. For our first anniversary Chris and I came out here to Highlands Ranch to visit my brother and sister in law. One day in the car Chris said to me “Wouldn’t this be a great place to live?” to which I replied “Absolutely not!” A few days later we were flying home when I heard God say to me “If I asked you to move you wouldn’t go.” I knew in my heart that that was true. I loved my hometown- I had lived in the same zip code for my entire life until I married and Chris dragged me 20 minutes away. My parents still live in the same house where they brought me home from the hospital. I had never wanted to leave the Bay Area or my family and friends and never planned to. God and I really wrestled with this over the course of several months before I finally told my husband what was going on. At that point I still didn’t want to ever move, but I was finally able to tell God that if He ever called me someplace else, I would go. Sure enough, about a year later my husband completed his Master’s degree and was looking for a new job. We were also ready to start our family and knew that financially we were going to have to make some major changes to afford children. After months of discussion we decided that he would send out resumes both in California and in Colorado. And don’t you know the only job offer he got was here in Highlands Ranch! I held out hope for a CA job and resisted committing to the move until 2 weeks before we put the house on the market (which left me scurrying to get things packed, let me tell you!). But once the decision was made, I knew that I had to embrace it wholeheartedly. I never looked back, but instead decided to make the best of the situation and love my new home. And I do! I can’t imagine how we would have made ends meet if we had stayed where we were. But God provided my husband with a job he absolutely loves, and I am able to work one day a week and stay home with JT and Kate the rest of the time. God has put us in a home that is far nicer and less expensive than what we had in California, has placed us in a wonderful church, and has given us the opportunity to grow closer to my brother and his family. I wouldn’t trade where we are for anything. But I do hope I never move again!
I want to close by making sure that you know- I am by no means perfect in my prayer life. God hasn’t spoken to me because I’m extra holy or prayerful. I want you to know that God can and will speak to us- it may be with a clear voice, or He may use someone else’s voice to speak into our lives. Clarity has come to me through scripture and through my own conscience. Being open to hearing Him is the key- even if you have to wrestle with Him before you find acceptance!
Oh- and in case you’re wondering we had a great TIME (pun intended- our new name is It’s about Time… True, Meaningful, Inviting Encounters) last night! We had about 35 women, a wonderful talk by Tricia, lots of yummy dessert, and plenty of TIME (pun intended again!) to talk and laugh and get to know each other. What a blessing it is to live in community. Come and join us in October!