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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Looking back on the last 7 years

 

Jen and Kyle Behnke, Cody Jinks concert

Written by Kyle Behnke

Music has always been a sort of therapy for me. I’ve had trouble in the past expressing my emotions in a way that made sense, but I’ve always been able to relate to a songwriter during various seasons of my life. Right now, that songwriter and performer is Cody Jinks. He’s an independent country artist from Texas who’s always done things his own way and has become very successful without the support of a major record label. When I first heard the albums (After the Fire & The Wanting) he released at the end of 2019, I couldn’t believe how much I could relate to some of the songs. The song “Never Alone Always Lonely” immediately struck me and helped me unpack the emotions I’d kept bottled up over the past 6 years. It helped me understand what I’d went through personally, the toll that the prior years had taken on me, and take steps to get out of a rut that I’ve been stuck in recently. I finally was able to put pen to paper on these emotions and wanted to share them with everyone, along with this song.

 

Take a listen to the song, click here, then read what I was inspired to write. I hope you can see the connection I have with this song.

 

“Never Alone Always Lonely”

Backside of thirty came fast, but what’s more

I can’t remember younger days like before and it’s a shame

I’ve done more runnin’ than most any age

Whole lot of prayin’ on the backside of a stage, scared to death

Wonderin’ what’s next

 

And I take the long way around every time

As fast as I can through the comfort of night and it’s a fight

People who love me they suffer the most

See me on TV and all they see’s a ghost of someone they knew

They’re tellin’ the truth

 

Never alone always lonely

Easy to find seldom seen

Never alone always lonely

On a fast train

Through a slow moving dream

 

At this point of my life, I feel as if I’ve just gotten off a really intense roller coaster ride. It’s one of those record-breaking roller coasters that turns you upside down a bunch of times at breakneck speed, takes you through some dark tunnels, all scary and exciting at the same time. It wasn’t a gentle ride at all. When the coaster arrived back at the platform, the brakes slammed you to a stop and the seat belt popped open. You hear some excited screams and some crying from other people on the ride. I know I liked the ride, but it pushed me to my limits. I started to get up to go to the coaster platform exit, but I’m dizzy from the ride and it took me a minute to stand up and walk straight.

 

Damn, that was a crazy ride. There were definitely a couple times where I wanted to get off the roller coaster. At those moments, jumping out of the car at full speed and inverted seemed like a better alternative than staying on the ride. I mean, we were going so fast and it didn’t seem like the ride was going to end. Remember though, I willingly rode this coaster. I got in the line for the coaster, waited the 2 hours to get on and read all the warning signs along the way. I thought I had done my preparation and would understand and be ready for all the twists and turns. I walked off the platform and looked at the photos the ride took of me. You know, there’s always 3 or 4 photos along the ride that show your face through the experience. The photos don’t lie – there were times I was definitely scared out of my mind and times I loved what I was doing. Now, here I stand at the platform with my newly purchased photos (you always have to get the photos), trying to catch my breath and get my legs back under me.

 

Jen and Kyle Behnke, Mack Trucks Customer Center

I feel like I’ve been trying to catch my breath and stand back up for about the past year now. I hit 40 years old last year and I really only remember the last 7 vividly – the roller coaster. My family has hit some amazing highs along the way. Our son was born in 2014, and what a wonderful boy he is. He has the best laugh and it’s hard not to smile when he’s letting out a big, belly laugh. Our son is also the most thoughtful boy there is and tries his best to make his family happy. Jen and I started a trucking company and we’ve grown that to the thriving business it is today, where over 40 people now work. We’ve bought a new house, new cars, and other stuff that used to be things I’d only dreamed about.

 

James at Buc-ee's, Temple, TX

We also had some incredible lows that seemed so insurmountable. The joy of having our son was shadowed by events that felt like machine-gun fire over the next 2 years. Jen’s post-partum struggles, which included multiple hospitalizations for her over the next year, left me wondering if a normal life would ever be possible again. An unfortunate accident when our son was 2 months old caused our son to have burns on his leg, requiring emergency surgery in a town 3 hours away from our home. That was one of the events that caused my wife to go back into the hospital. As she was getting back on her feet again, here came the family strife. Instead of coming together and helping us get through these tough times, blame was being assigned and those family members wanted me to pay for it. People who I thought cared for us and wanted to help us were instead trying to break our family apart. I couldn’t believe or understand what was happening.

 

Things did slow down some, but we still suffered some serious blows. Suicide took away a family member. Two grandparents died. About 2 years into our business, we were close to going under because we had very little cash left. It was so bad that our son (3 years old at the time) heard my wife crying, wondering where we would get some cash to pay for truck repairs and other bills. He came into the office with his piggy bank said, “You can have this to pay for it.”

 

That’s the part of the roller coaster where you want to jump off because its scary and it’s all happening in slow motion, with incredible intensity that seems never-ending. You’re also moving at 200 MPH and you’re so disoriented from the G-forces of the ride that you can’t even hit the eject button if you wanted to. Sometimes, that chaos can be a blessing in disguise. Had I stopped the ride at that point, I would have missed out on all the rewards and blessings that were to come from staying on.


 

Kyle and James Behnke, Iron Mt. ATV Park

 

At some point you realize that you’re not the first person who has ridden that roller coaster. Other people have survived and even gotten back in line to ride it again. You learn to draw strength from those facts. Adrenaline kicks in and you start to fight back against everything that’s being fired at you. I fought like hell and then I kept fighting. I took care of our son every night for almost 3 years, allowing my wife to get the sleep she needed to get well again. I stood up to the family members who were trying to tear us apart. I worked a second job while our business was getting its financial footing established. I fought against other people and businesses who were trying to harm what we had built. I believe God gave me the strength and perseverance to keep going.

 

And then finally, things got quiet. This roller coaster ride finally ended.

 

Kyle Behnke and Dale Moore, Mack Trucks Customer Center

As I reflect back on the last 7 years, I’m starting to see the effects of the ride. I’ve achieved a lot of goals I had set out for myself. Our family is on good financial footing. Our business is strong. I’ve grown tremendously as a business leader, learning how to navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. The 40+ employees that depend on our business for work can provide a good living for their families. My wife is healthy and getting the recognition she deserves, both for being a mother and a business woman. Our son is thriving, both in school and in sports. I’m truly able to say I’m living the American dream right now.

 

Although, the success of overcoming all these struggles has come at a cost. It’s been more than just regular wear and tear on my body over the last 7 years. Between taking care of our son in the middle of the night and taking phones calls for a 24/7 business, I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I could easily say I did not get a full night of uninterrupted sleep for about 4 years straight. The 4+ years of constant stress were hard on my body too. I didn’t cope with things in the healthiest of ways, mainly suppressing my emotions and leaning on my vices to get me through the tough days. I didn’t let my family see weakness, as I thought they needed to see that I wasn’t buckling under the pressure. I certainly did not let anyone in the business world see our struggles. I always wanted to lead people to believe we were doing just fine. Those coping methods led to me gaining weight. I had begun getting angry at people for no reason. Many times, it was my family members who took the brunt of that. I finally sought help help from my doctor, which led to me being diagnosed with depression. Getting older doesn’t help either and I think I’m starting to understand I don’t have the limits of a 25-year-old anymore.

 

So, here I am. I’m off the roller coaster and the dizziness is fading. I’ve realized that the ride was all-inclusive, meaning one can’t just experience the joys and thrills of the ride without going through the scary and fast parts that push you to your limits. There’s no question that the thrills of success and building my life outweigh the struggles we went through. I’m definitely going to ride another roller coaster. But, I’m going to need to do some maintenance on myself first, and then I’m ready to start that journey.

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!!