Thursday, September 1, 2016

My Calling

My Calling

I have found my calling here in this wonderful world.   God has put me through many life lessons 
and many jobs, but only to be a better servant today.  My past has been full of ups and downs, dead 
ends and wrong turns.  Today I can tell you all those roads have put me where I am today, and for that I am thankful.  Many of you may wake up every day dreading what you have to tackle, whether that be job, family, or just daily routine.  I can honestly say that there are days I don’t want to go to the office and do the work that keeps this wonderful place (Bennie’s Barn) going.  I would rather stay at the barn and watch the smiling faces of the clients that bless the entrance to the barn with their presence every day.  With that being said, I would not change my life one bit. God gave me this amazing opportunity to touch the lives of so many.  I no longer get up and dread my day (except the office part) because no matter what is going on in the world it only takes that one moment, that one smile, and that one high five or hug, to let me know God led me to the place I would love to spend eternity.  Every day I wake and look out the back porch of the property and see the doors God has opened for us, I am humbled beyond belief.   The support of this community has been nothing short of amazing.  This community has accepted Bennie’s Barn and first hand seen the benefits of what we are doing every day.  Some days I wake up and I feel guilty because for the first time in my life, I don’t feel like I wake up to work, but wake up to change the lives of those in this wonderful community who have accepted us so kindly.  
I remember in high school when some of my friends knew what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives; or even college when people were picking their majors, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  All I knew was that I wanted to help change the world and change the lives of those who lived in it.   As I worked day to day, job to job I never felt that I was doing the best of my God given ability.  Now I am.  It took many years to get where I am today. Not monetarily, because I have never taken a paycheck for what we do, but spiritually I feel like I am where I was meant to be.  Now I am not saying I don’t have bad days, though I am saying my bad days are the days where I still feel like the most blessed person in the room.  How many people can truly say that? 
If you are a client or a parent of a client at Bennie’s Barn you get what I am talking about.  Every day you walk into that barn your life is changed for the better.  To watch a person put in the work and take back control of their life, and you get to watch that first hand…..  There is no man, woman, or human who is strong enough to hold that emotion inside.   I have cried tears of joy and happiness.  At first, Keith Siragusa and I would stop a lesson, just walk to separate corners, or hide our faces from our clients and each other.   “Because real men don’t cry.”   Well out here at Bennie’s Barn I challenge any person to volunteer a day and see if you don’t shed a tear of joy.

To each and every client we have I say, “Thank YOU”….. From the bottom of my heart, and the staff, and volunteers’ hearts- that you touch daily.  You have changed our lives in ways we could never repay.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

Bennie's Blog the foundation

As I type my first words, I remember the day God called me to open an equine assisted therapy program.  I was so excited at the idea of changing the lives of so many in our community.  I started the process in 2014.  By the end of 2014 we secured a place to conduct our first lesson.  We started remolding a barn that was built in the 1930’s; these renovations started on Thanksgiving Day 2014 (we were moving fast), so fast that not many people in this community had any idea what we were doing.  We worked day and night until December 21st. This was the day we would hold our first annual Sleigh Rides with Santa.  The event was to be thrown on the day that was dedicated to the one and only Bennie Mullins.   

Now let me back up just a minute and let those of you who don’t know anything about Bennie understand why we chose to name our non-profit after such a wonderful woman.   Bennie Mullins was one of the kindest, funniest, honest, loving, spirited, and helping women I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  Now did I list everything about Bennie? No, but these are just a few of the things I loved about Bennie. 

Bennie was always rescuing animals and humans alike.  The thing about Bennie’s animals were she named all of them after her close friends, it was quite endearing. Bennie would always try and help those less fortunate or those just in need.  Bennie’s heart was always so big, and this was why she was loved and is missed by so many.  Bennie left a hole in the heart of the community that she worked so hard to keep beating.   I remember when my now wife and I moved to Texas, we were living great- had what at the time we thought was all we needed.  We never wanted for anything, we thought we made it. Then one day it was all gone. The company I managed was slowing down due to the economy, and then I received the dreaded call from my wife that she had lost her job.  I told her to stop playing jokes on me, and this was when a co-worker of hers got on the phone and began to tell me they fired the entire company. As we met at home that night we had no idea what we were going to do.  We prayed for an answer, and about two months later God answered our prayer.   Now when I say God answered our prayer, it may not be in the way you think.  We had now depleted all our income and lost our home.  I remember the day very well I was crushed and felt like I failed my family.   

I remember going to get a U-Haul. I had just enough in the bank to rent the vehicle but as we were loading this big truck with literally everything we had, we realized we did not have the money to pay for gas so we could get back to the community we swore we would never go back to .    I began pulling items off the truck and selling them in my front yard.  Now mind you I have already felt like everything was already stripped from me.  So to look at your wife, and begin taking things from the truck; the only things you still have to your name and sell them just for gas was heartbreaking.   As we sat in the truck on our way back to Enid America we swore this was only temporary.  We lived in my mother’s basement with no job and no income.   As we began looking for jobs, one of the first interviews for my wife was with a good family friend - The Bennie Mullins.  I remember my wife getting back to my mom’s and I couldn’t wait to hear that she got the job. As she came in I remember the look on her face; you know the one of sadness or disappointment, that’s the one I was greeted with.  As I hugged my wife I told her we will be fine, that I will find a temporary job so at least we will have something. My wife began to tell me that Bennie told her she was too over qualified, with her response being, “I will clean your toilets wash your windows, or do whatever it takes”.  At this point my wife began to tell her, “No matter what you think, I am not too qualified to do any job you may have.  I have the perfect qualification for whatever job you may have.”

This must have struck a chord with Bennie because the next day she was offered the job.   Bennie began grooming my wife to understand the needs of the community and the elderly within this community.  At this time Bennie also offered me another part time job feeding animals and doing small repairs at her property.

Bennie taught my wife and I that life may be hard, but Your life is a result of the many choices you make; if you don’t like your life then it is time to make better choices.  Bennie had many sayings one that I still use to this day is “I would rather hold a horse out in the rain”.  As I mentioned earlier Bennie was a rescuer of those less fortunate.  My wife and I were those people.  Bennie would help us by being an ear to listen, or one to give us good criticism.  Bennie more than anything was a Friend; that friend who always met you with a smile, a kind word, or a glass of wine. Bennie became such an integral part of our family that she was in the delivery room with me and my wife when our beautiful boy was born.  She also allowed my wife to bring our child to work for 9 months. I am not sure it was a set time as much as this was when our child began grabbing brochures off the display and throwing them on the floor, either way shortly after, he was introduced into day care.  I can truly say I love Bennie Mullins to this day. She had no idea how she truly brought my family from its lowest point to what I would like to call the happiness that we feel today.  I wish before she passed I could have just told her how much I truly appreciated what she did for me and my family and how much like the community heart she kept beating she kept our family heart beating as well.  She is truly missed.

Now you remember how I told you earlier that God answered our prayer, I guess it was twofold.   First, answered prayer came in the way of after losing our jobs and most of our possessions we wound up back around family.  Looking back on this, I can say that through the journey of being humbled and losing everything we were better prepared to help those who are now going through what we went through.  I know and Believe God has a plan; you just have to be willing to listing and walk through the doors he opens and knock (pray) the closes the doors that need to be closed.  While my wife and I had lived in Texas we had tried for over 2 years to have a child.  Shortly after getting back on our feet and realizing how to humble ourselves and love our neighbors, as the Bible says; God blessed us with our loving Child we waited so long to have.  I guess you could say God thought we had some lessons to learn and we just were not ready for parenthood for the last 2 years, because our life was headed for a change and needed to understand what His path was for us.

At this time in our life I was working for the Enid Police Department, we had a new baby, and I was working nights.  I loved this job because I felt as if this was my way to make a difference in our community.  I remember walking into houses and seeing children that may never get the chance to prosper.  It broke my heart daily.  After a period of doing what I thought was “my part”, my heart became hard once again; not because of life’s struggles, but because being a police officer nobody calls you - and I mean NOBODY calls you when they are happy!  This began to take a toll on me and my family.  We had come too far and had too many blessings to be acting this way. The hardest thing I had to do is quit my job where I believed I was helping so many; but hurting my immediate family at the same time.  I guess you could say I felt lost again and was not sure of what direction I should go.  I worked a couple of odd and in jobs but nothing was filling my heart.  All I wanted to do was make a difference in the wonderful community I grew to love. 

By this time we had lived here in beautiful Enid, OK for 7 years.  Bennie has had a battle with cancer for the second time, and passed away.  I remember the day my wife looked at me and told me Bennie had passed away.  I remember holding my wife as her tears soaked the right shoulder of my shirt; as I was trying to be strong but I knew it was coming; I felt the tears working their way out of the small pools that had filled my eyes.  This was the women who brought us up from the gutter; who was there when our child we waited so long for was born, and I felt as if a piece of our beating family heart was taken from us, and for a short moment I was so angry that God would take such a wonderful friend and mentor from us. 

At this point my wife was preparing to fill the shoes of Bennie.  I remember walking into what was once Bennie’s office and nothing had changed; every picture was the same, trinkets in the same place, papers where she last left them; and as I looked over at the desk, I noticed my wife sitting in her chair with her feet propped up on the desk with a newspaper in front of her face, exactly as Bennie did every morning.  As I walked around the desk to hopefully hear a funny joke about Bennie I was met with the tears running down my wife’s face, she was not reading the paper, she was hiding behind it.  Though Bennie was not blood family she was our family and was missed. 

I can remember the day I looked at my wife and said “I am done being sad if we are going to live in this community, we are going to make it a better community for all that live in it and our family”.  And this was the beginning of Bennie’s Barn!  Bennie’s Barn is a facility that would use rescue horses whether it be from neglect, slaughter bound, or just horses who could not be cared for anymore.  We were going to take these horses and use them in an Equine assisted Therapy for children and adults who have different abilities. At Bennie’s Barn nobody has a disability, we believe that God gave us all different abilities and our goal is to show you how to use those abilities, just like Bennie showed us our true Grace.