Saturday, September 26, 2020

Our Identity


Photo Credit: Bazemore Photography
Photo Credit: Bazemore Photography

What is in a title? Most people, myself included, place a lot of importance on who we are and our identities by our titles. But what is in a title? I have been thinking about this and trying to figure out how I feel about my titles.  Originally, it came up because I was not able to volunteer in two different capacities within the last 6 months.  I missed the activities and they both meant a lot to me… I placed value in these titles.  I liked being associated with these volunteer opportunities.

But then I lost those titles. I was sad about losing them because I really enjoyed volunteering in these separate roles.

Then more recently I started to think about titles more in-depth. I realized all the titles we have are essentially temporary. I realized that during our lifetime, potentially all our titles will be lost.  It a sobering thought and morbid at the same time.  That realization did not feel too good.

Then. God.

There have only been a handful of times I truly felt the Holy Spirit nudge my heart in a very simple and specific, yet profound way at three major crossroads in my life.  The Holy Spirit in these moments changed my outlook and course of major decisions. 

Here are the three major moments from the last 11 years, in this order:

Photo Credit: Bazemore Photography

When I realized I wanted to date my now husband, Kyle.  We had been friends for 1.5 years at the time and were very close friends through our church community- the Buckhead Church, part of North Point Ministries. I had dated other people and none of the relationships had worked out.  I was discouraged and was starting to doubt if I would find someone whom I could share my life. Then God. It was a simple nudge of insight from the Holy Spirit, “Kyle would be perfect for you.” It was profound and I remember thinking back to that nudge, “He is!”

Photo Credit: Bazemore Photography

The second time was about a year and a half after our son, James, was born.  If you look at my previous blog post about my health struggles, it was clearly a very hard season for me and my whole family. At this time, things were looking up and Kyle and I started going back and forth thinking maybe we should consider having another child.  Boy, was that a hard season. We have so much love to give but the cons greatly outweighed the benefit of me personally having more children. Then. God. The Holy Spirit then gave me a nudge of comfort, “One is enough.”  It was the comfort I needed and the confirmation we were looking for at the time.  I tear up just thinking about that time because it was that emotional.

Jen & Kyle Behnke with their first three tractors

The third time the Holy Spirit nudged me was when we were at another major crossroad. We were thinking about starting a trucking company. Let’s just say deciding for both of us to quit our good paying jobs, put all of our livelihood on the line, with a one and a half year old, the same year my mom died, was a huge decision. Then. God. The Holy Spirit nudged my heart to take action, “The Lord can’t do big things in your life unless you put yourself out there. Just start with taking one step in faith.” So, we did take one step in faith at a time, then another, and then another.  Over 5 years, God has blessed us, United Federal Logistics Inc., to go from 3 tractors and 6 drivers, to now we have 23 tractors and over 45 people on staff. Our goal is still to be a trucking company people want to work for and provide a great opportunity for success for our staff.

Okay, back to last week and this new nudge from the Holy Spirit. I was thinking about the different titles I have and the sobering thought that they all at one point may be lost or change.  Maybe for the better, maybe not. Then the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge of comfort, “There is one title you will always have: Child of God and Daughter of God.” Wow talk about my mind blown.  I have heard these phrases many times. I have sung these words, read them in books and blogs, heard them from pastors or friends, but never like this.  It totally changed my whole outlook on my identity. Whatever title I have, lose, or will have, one title will remain, “Child of God, loved, forgiven, and redeemed through Jesus.”
This is also true for you!!!
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:3-5 NIV
Stay safe and hug your loved ones.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

This Was Not Our Plan

I have wanted to write a blog post about how I feel about everything going on in the “new normal” with the pandemic: homeschooling with Digital Learning days, running our business, not being around friends and family like normal, and feeling isolated. With this post, I’d like to share my struggles, relate to other people’s struggles, and,  in the end, offer encouragement about how myself and my family are coping and finding joy amid all the uncertainty.  So… stick with me to the end!

First off, our world, and we, will never be the same…  We will never go back to the way things were before all this happened.  We are all forever changed, together. Change is typically gradual, but these are the most dramatic changes anyone in this lifetime has ever experienced.  This was not our plan.

Our mindset, our lives, our businesses, the way we work, our children and their perspectives, our healthcare, the way we shop, and the way we think about our personal health... They all will continue to change. This was not our plan.

It’s all stressful, and sometimes it’s even overwhelming. My personal struggles are unique and yours are too, but we all have challenges. We must find new ways to connect, communicate, work, educate our kids and ourselves, travel (for work or pleasure), attend faith gatherings, and nourish our souls. This was not our plan.

During all of this we still have celebrations and life events that we would love to share with our family and friends.  I have a few friends who are pregnant and are unable to have baby showers. Babies being born and limited people able to be in the delivery rooms. Then families can’t physically share the joy of their new baby with their loved ones.  I know people who have recently gotten married with only 10 people present, or over Skype.  Graduations that are on hold and hopefully rescheduled. Birthday parties that can’t be celebrated as they normally would (I have seen people have a drive by/parade birthday party). But this was not our plan.

On the other side of that, we have sad events that must be faced without support. For those who pass away, there are all the people who can’t physically show support for families in mourning.  We have people in hospitals, treatment facilities, and nursing homes who can’t have any visitors and must face their trials alone.  This was not our plan.

Then there is everything going on with the economy, our personal lives, work lives, and the way it affects us and our families.  So many people are out of work and many businesses may not survive. There is the government stimulus package with all the programs to help businesses and sole proprietors, but it may not be enough or in time, before everything is devastated. It may all be too little too late. This was not our plan.

Then we have “essential businesses” that have workers who are on the front lines, who are at risk of getting sick, but who put the public ahead of themselves. All these people are the heroes to Keep America Moving, fed, and cared for during this time of struggle, and safe in cases of danger. We are forever grateful for all these heroes. They chose these fields, but this was not their plan.

So many people are now working from home.  While there are advantages to this, working from home can be extremely isolating when you are used to having coworkers and your whole business together day to day.  Couples that are not used to being around each other 24/7 but now are because they are both home.  This can be a huge challenge to a relationship and can easily put added stress on any family. A lot of people also have the added pressure and stress of kids being at home... all the time... without any help.  They are having to help their children with digital learning possibly without the tools or technology to help them succeed. This can add an enormous stress to any family. So, we are working full time, homeschooling, and being a stay at home parent, all at the same time. This was not our plan.

Frankly it is just all too much… It is too much, without Jesus. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” I think that is a bunch of BS. God gives us more than we can handle, so we lean into and turn to Him. Give it to God.  Give all of it and all of your struggles to God.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

God will take care of us. This is one of my favorite illustrations when Jesus talks about not worrying:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?... 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-27, 34 NIV

God has a plan for you! This is not our plan, but it is God’s.  He can use everything for His good.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

We all are navigating various hardships but there is hope! We all have a choice on how we react, what we do, how we find comfort, and our self-care during all the uncertainty.

We can also try our best to appreciate this time and be thankful for what we do have. Family time. Time to enjoy nature. Time to finally clean out that closet, or room, or attic that we’ve been talking about cleaning out for years. Time to love on our pets. Time to find new hobbies, or delve into old ones that have been taken a back-burner to life. Teach our kids new hobbies or life skills: cook, clean, sew, quilt, knit, garden, paint, puzzles, build, draw, write, run, etc. Call that childhood friend who you’ve been meaning to catch up with. Call distant relatives, check-in, see how they are doing. Those who can give/donate/create can help those who are struggling. It’s time to relearn what being neighborly is. It’s time to look out for each other. Be there when we can be, even if it’s at a distance. This was not our plan, but let’s come out of this together as a better community.

Here are some practical things I am doing to stay encouraged and positive:
1. Getting outside for exercise: walking trails and hiking, walking around our neighborhood with a friend socially distant, 6 feet apart.

2. Virtual conversations: video calls with friends, for work, and our Church Small Group. I also watch online church services through North Point Ministries and Woodstock City Church

3. Eating nutritious meals and taking vitamins: I have started having a fruit smoothie with almond milk and spinach. I really like a prenatal vitamin (No, I am not currently nor am I trying to get pregnant!!), vitamin D (we all probably have a deficiency), and vitamin C.  I also sometimes take fish oil and a great probiotic as well.

5. Praying! Praying alone. Praying with my family. Praying with my husband. Praying with our son. Praying with my friends. Reading my Bible every day.  Finding things to thank God for and appreciating the blessings we do have.

We will get through this, together. Let’s pray to God about a new plan and then accept what happens by moving forward as best we can. This is God’s plan.

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference. 
-Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)

Here are websites to organizations doing great work:
Atlanta Mission, Ending Homelessness

Contributing writer Chrissie G. Thank you!!

Monday, November 11, 2019

General is in "Dog Heaven"

General and Frankie

There is the sweetest book called "Dog Heaven" by Cynthia Rylant . It is a book about what Heaven is like for "angel dogs". It begins with how angel dogs don't have angel wings because "God knows they like to run best." It talks about all the things they do in Dog Heaven: God makes funny shaped dog biscuits. He makes squirrel biscuits, kitty cat biscuits, and ham sandwich biscuits. When it is time to sleep, they turn the clouds upside down and walk around and around until they find the perfect place to curl up to sleep. All dogs are good dogs in Dog Heaven and sit when angels say 'sit'. All dogs have a home in Dog Heaven, even if they didn't have a home on Earth.

The book ends with how every once in a while, an angel will take them for a walk invisibly around their own home and back yard. Checking everything out to make sure all is well, even checking on the cat next door. It finishes by saying how they will be waiting for their old friends to get to Heaven.

A dear friend bought us this precious book when our dog Ruby Leigh passed away in 2016. It was a great way to help our son, James, process the loss since he was only two.

Unfortunately, about a month ago we had to bring out our "Dog Heaven" book because our sweet old General died of cancer. Watching him deteriorate as he lost the battle with cancer, was one of the hardest things I have ever witnessed. Every day he lost more weight and slowed down a little more. He had the strongest will to live that I could have imagined.

By the end of his life he looked like a skeleton. I'm sure he was suffering but he was so brave. I don't know if he was holding out for me because I wasn't ready. Or if he was worried about Frankie, our Vizsla puppy we got a few months ago, who is still learning the ropes. . But he was such a fighter. He got so skinny, I actually put his pumpkin costume on him because it broke my heart seeing him like that...

James had such a sweet reaction as we read the book after General passed away.  He said, “This is a magical book because now General is in it.”  Then he wanted to “find General” as one of the dogs pictured in the book.  We did find a dog that looked like General and it gave us both some comfort. I love seeing things from his point of view.

It gives us all a little bit of comfort knowing he is no longer in pain. He is now in Dog Heaven swimming in the lakes and barking at the fish and birds. He was the best dog and will always be missed and remembered. We love you General!!

Please say "hi" to my mom too. I miss her every day...

Saturday, September 14, 2019

My Postpartum Struggle

I recently read a truly heartbreaking story about a new mom who was silently and secretly struggling with postpartum depression. It got so bad that when her baby was only 4.5 months old, she took her own life. Click Here

This blog post is the first time I am opening up on social media about my own personal postpartum mental health struggles. Postpartum depression and women's mental health struggles, especially after pregnancy, definitely need to be talked about. I hope opening up about my own experiences will show that these struggles are real and more common than people think.
I pray if you are dealing with something big and "don't feel like yourself", "just feel kind of sad" (and you don't know why), "don't want to get out of bed and unmotivated", "don't enjoy the things you use to", "just want to be alone" (and normally you are so social), that you please seek help. Don't struggle alone! There are a lot of ways to start feeling like yourself again.
I had postpartum mental health issues and luckily sought treatment right away. My symptoms and condition were acute and very, very bad within days of giving birth. The pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep put me into a tailspin. Within a couple days after giving birth, I checked myself into a mental health hospital- the first time. We spent the next year trying to get me healthy and back on track. It took a lot of time for my recovery. I really wasn't back to myself until after our son was a year old.
I still feel like I missed out so much being in and out of the mental health hospitals that first year of James' life. I still have mom guilt about the whole thing. It came down to this: The best thing I could do for my son was to take care of myself first. My husband Kyle fought like hell to keep everything together on the home front. We moved into my in-laws home for 3 months so they could help us out with James, while I was recovering. We had so many friends that showed up for us in our time of need. To you all, we're forever grateful. All glory to God and I hope He uses these trials and experiences for good.
I have been told by my Dr. that I am pretty much at 100% probability I would have to go through it all over again if I carried another child. After years of thinking and praying, we have decided the risks are too high and we will not have another biological child. We are incredibly grateful that we are lucky enough to have ONE healthy, beautiful son. I know so many women struggle with infertility, which is an entirely different conversation of trials and heartbreaks.

I do wish people wouldn't keep telling me we should have another kid, "You need two!!" I know they mean well but I just want to say emphatically, "Mind your own business!" It's hard enough explaining this to my son. "I wish I could have another baby and give you a brother or sister, but I can't. I got very sick and I had to go to the hospital multiple times." That's a conversation I don't like having with him. (Yes, adoption would potentially on the table, but we are not there yet.)
But most importantly, I wish and pray that we, as a culture, could be more open with and accepting towards people struggling with mental health issues. I wish women wouldn't feel ashamed to ask for help and not struggle on their own. I wish people would seek out a friend, a counselor/therapist, and a psychiatrist if necessary. I think if we talked about it more, women wouldn't feel so alone. We all struggle!! We shouldn't struggle alone though. We need to support each other and new moms especially.
Sometimes we are not okay and we need to ask for help.

I am so glad I did...