Candace Nassar 

Well, good morning. Today I have with me my friend Amy Benchener. I have known Amy since she was in high school and it’s been a privilege to watch her blossom into a successful, godly woman. She’s a wonderful mom and wife and truly a pillar of her community as you’re going to see. Of course, as is often God’s way to mature our faith, Amy has been through some pretty significant challenges in her life. But as she’s leaned into God for strength and courage, she emerged to be a bright light for Jesus. She’s going to share a bit of her story with us and I know you’re going to be encouraged by her faith. So welcome, Amy. 

Amy Benchener 

Thank you. Good to see you, Candace. 

Candace Nassar 

It’s great to have you here. So Amy, let’s let our listeners get to know you just a little bit. So why don’t you tell us about yourself, what you do, your family, that sort of thing. 

Amy Benchener 

Absolutely. So I have been married for 15 years as of a couple of weeks ago to my college sweetheart. We have two kids, one eleven year old son and an eight year old daughter. So they keep us quite busy between sports and activities and all the things. But it’s fun-busy. We’re just loving every moment of it. So that is my home life. I also work at Villanova University. I teach marketing and nonprofit classes. So it’s just the joy of my life to get to encourage young leaders to be impactful in their communities. So that’s a wonderful piece of my life. And then the other hat that I wear is that I am involved in a lot of nonprofit organizations. I sit on a couple of boards from a trafficking rehabilitation organization and our local PTO and also a missionary organization as well. So I like to keep a lot of plates spinning. Sometimes they fall, but I love to be involved in a lot of different projects. 

Candace Nassar 

That’s so exciting. Yeah, I understand you are a type A and you can handle a lot and God has called you to these, clearly called you to these roles and so that’s awesome. Okay, so we’re in the midst of summer. It is our series or continuing our summer series on practicing the presence of God in the chaos of summer. And I don’t know about you, but I just got back from vacation and it was hard to practice the presence of God and I don’t even have kids at home. So what do you find challenging in the summer to stay connected with God and how do you overcome that? 

Amy Benchener 

So I am a routine person. I do appreciate a routine and I think that being close to God and taking time with him. I’m in a better space with a routine where you wake up in the morning and it’s your routine for

the day. I also am working on the summer, though, just allowing grace room for grace in my life. So finding the joy in the lack of schedule and the conversations about God on the way to basketball camp, like I had this morning with my daughter, finding those organic opportunities within this space that you don’t normally have during the very scheduled school days during the year. So trying to be open, trying to keep those conversations flowing and allowing questions to pop up. We had a lot of questions last yesterday about what do our houses look like in heaven? And that’ll just come up as we’re driving. So I just love those opportunities, but definitely crave routine, but just trying to allow God to work in the space in the summer, that’s so good. 

Candace Nassar 

I love you’re talking about organic opportunities. That was something that was really precious to me, too. It’s just being able to converse with our kids and have that relationship and we’re discipling them. That’s what you’re doing as you’re having those conversations and making time, having margin for those and that you’re right, the summer is a good time for that. So that’s very encouraging. So is there anything else you guys do in the summer to have some time for God and continue that discipleship? 

Amy Benchener 

Absolutely. So my kids are a part of the Awana program, which is a program that’s worldwide that encourages Bible memorization. So we find that due to our kids’ sports schedules, they don’t always finish their book during the school year. So we use the summertime to finish memorizing those verses for each grade to catch up to get to grade level within Awana. I grew up going to Awana, and so many verses will come to mind from the first three words because I learned them at age eight. So I always appreciate the opportunity for my kids to do that as well. So we do that. We pray regularly and just try to seek these little moments together as well. 

Candace Nassar 

And I’m sure you do Vacation Bible school, take advantage of those types of things as well. Amy Benchener 

Oh absolutely, we’re almost ready for sleepaway camp with church and all of those good things next summer. 

Candace Nassar 

That’ll be exciting. I really like you talking about the Awana program and the importance of scripture memorization and how those verses will come back to you throughout your life in those situations. And that is such a great segue into our verse of the week, which is Psalm 73, 23-24. Yet I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand, you guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into your glory. So that verse is so great about just being close to God and what he can do for us when we seek

him and have that relationship. What would you share with our listeners about what this verse means to you? 

Amy Benchener 

Absolutely. I love this verse. I think I’m a person who loves a different translation and just looking at what words mean across different contexts and things like that. So as I look at this verse, I just see the tenderness of God. You see how he is with us through hard times and holding us by our right hand., as if mother would with a little child as you cross the street. I just think of that tenderness, especially in times of difficulty. I love that word counsel. In the second piece, you guide me with your counsel. I think we think of counsel when spelled that way as a legal term. And when I looked it up in my Greek Hebrew Bible, counsel is talking about leading wisely and tenderly. So really the difference between leading from a ruling or from a legalistic perspective, but leading to love, to tenderness, and then getting into the blessing. Leading us to blessing, really, splendor and glory and honor. And I just love that image of a father guiding us by the hand through good and hard times and bringing us to that blessing, the honor, the splendor. 

Candace Nassar 

That’s so good. That’s so good. Yeah. It’s amazing. Even when we go through hard times, sometimes we don’t feel God right away, and sometimes we get upset or we want to know why. But this verse is a promise, right? It’s a promise that he’s going to get us through it, and we need to just trust him and lean on him. I know you’ve been through some tough situations. Amy, I walked with you in the time when you lost your father many, many years ago when you were still quite young. How old were you? 

Amy Benchener 

22. 

Candace Nassar 

Yeah. That’s a really tough time. Were you graduated from college or are still in college? 

Amy Benchener 

I graduated, and he saw me get my first job offer at Johnson and Johnson. He was so proud. And my brother was 18, was moving into college, and he got sick in August of 2005 and was in heaven by November, 2005 of pancreatic cancer. So that was a very formative, challenging time. I saw God’s hand in the grace with which he walked us through that time. And I’m always eternally grateful. Though, it was terrible. He was 49. He was too young. It’s a vicious disease. God woke me up the morning that he died, and I was restless, couldn’t sleep. I’m a great sleeper, so I knew that there was a reason. And I went for a walk that morning and was just praying for my dad’s health. We had had some good news a couple of days prior that looked promising, and I felt like God said the words to me. The Holy Spirit said, he’s done.

And 3 hours later, he passed away. And I felt, I knew in my heart that he had just completed his race here on earth, that God was accepting him with open arms. 

Amy Benchener 

And I have always appreciated the calm of that morning, walking through our beautiful, historic town, where God, the Holy Spirit, made me feel at peace about what was to come later that day. So there was just so much grace from your husband, Jaime, coming to the funeral in South Carolina, and just so many family members and church family coming together. Our friend was being ordained that morning, and they stopped the service in that ordination ceremony to pray my dad into heaven. So just a beautiful example of the Holy Spirit and God guiding us by the hand and the family of Christ wrapping around our family as we went through that traumatic time. 

Candace Nassar 

That’s such an amazing example. I mean, the verse says, you will guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into your glory. And I think about your dad because I knew him for about ten years and watched him walk with Jesus, what an amazing man of faith he was. And God chose to take him young, but like you said, he was welcoming him in and you felt that peace, and that’s what it’s all about. And I just love that so much. So thanks for sharing that. I love how you’re talking about how people came around you because there’s so many blessings in hard times and tragedies that we can sort of see in the moment, but really it’s when you look back, right? 

Amy Benchener 

Yeah. 

Candace Nassar 

You were able to see it in the moment, though, but a lot of times it’s when you look back. So that’s really good. So that wasn’t the only difficult situation that you went through, although that was a pretty tough one. You also went, your daughter Addie was struggling health wise, really. It was from birth, right? 

Amy Benchener 

Yeah, absolutely. She was born. And as they check out your baby, make sure we have ten toes, ten fingers, all those good things. They had heard a murmur in her heartbeat, and some murmurs are normal at birth and resolve on their own, but her’s did not resolve when I was getting checked out from my c-section. We were ready to go home, and I asked them to keep her for a couple of hours and try to figure out what was going on. My soul was at unrest with the situation, leaving with a baby with a possible heart condition. So a couple of hours later, they came back and said, we can’t rule out that she does not have a heart issue. It’s not an emergency thing, but we want you to go home, get set up with a cardiologist, and review and see what needs to be done. So I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal, so my husband

went to work that day. I went to the cardiologist with this baby myself. Nothing better than trying to get a one week old to sit for an ultrasound or an echocardiogram. Oh, my gosh. 

We did an EKG, all that good stuff. We made it through. And the wonderful cardiologist came in and said, your daughter has two conditions. She has a hole in her heart, an atrial septal defect, and she has something called a partially anomalous venous return. He said, your daughter will need heart surgery as she grows somewhere between two and four years old, as her heart’s a little bigger. He said, it’s not an emergency, but if she doesn’t get the surgery by the time she’s 40, she’ll have a cardiac event and she’ll be unable to keep up with normal exercise and physical exertion. 

Candace Nassar 

Let me stop you for a second. So how did you feel at that moment when he told you that? 

Amy Benchener 

Devastated. It was so hard to hear this sweet little love have an issue like that and not feel semi-responsible. Could I have eaten more spinach during my pregnancy, something like that, and wonder why we were given this and think about how hard it would be to give over our little baby to be operated on. And what was interesting is my husband and I grieved it at different times, which I thought was interesting, and then have come to learn that’s very common in marriages, that you’ll feel emotions at different times. So I grieved it immediately for several weeks while postpartum, all the hormones and just really would pray and hold her and cry and just realize that God has this. There’s nothing I can do for her except find her the best heart surgeon we can find and the best hospital in the country. And then it still is up to God to heal her and to have this procedure heal her. I had been praying for her heart since she was a baby, initially in my stomach, because they initially didn’t hear a heartbeat on her first ultrasound. 

Candace Nassar 

Wow. 

Amy Benchener 

So I had the chance to pray for her heart in utero, which I think God gave me the opportunity to again feel that there might be an issue with her heart to be praying for it. Heartbeat had come online in the pregnancy, but her heart had been prayed over since week five of the pregnancy. So I’m just so grateful. And through that praying, I felt a peace in my heart about her being fine, ultimately, and that carried me through that time. And I’d only heard that voice as strongly when my dad had passed, that he was done. And now I was hearing that she feeling that she was going to be okay, and what a comfort that was in that time. 

Candace Nassar

So that’s really a great example of just practicing the presence of God because you sat with it. What a beautiful story that he led you to pray for your daughter’s heart from the beginning, and you participated in that and being prepared, and then Him just guiding you through as you sought him. I guess that’s basically how God revealed himself to you during that time. 

Amy Benchener 

Yes, absolutely. Just comfort and a peace that she’ll be fine. She’s fine. Words just echoing through my heart at that time. And so, yes, that was a huge comfort as it got closer and closer to her surgery date. 

Candace Nassar 

So tell us about going through the surgery. 

Amy Benchener 

What was that like before surgery? She had a pre-op check in, did a lot of blood work, found out that she had a condition that would make it difficult for her blood to recover from such a surgery. 

Candace Nassar 

Oh, my goodness. 

Amy Benchener 

We found out three days before, then we prayed, prayed. We found a hematologist that had seen her case call us up and say, I have a medicine I can give her for three days that I give to my cancer patients. And it’ll stabilize her white blood cells before surgery, and she should be able to have the surgery after all. 

Candace Nassar 

That’s a miracle, right? 

Amy Benchener 

Yes. Yes. And we had to drive every day and get a shot and get blood work for a two year old. So that was not her favorite time, but we were so grateful it was successful, and she had taken Addie’s case so that we could do this. We had lined up the best surgeon in the world for the surgery, who was about to retire. 

Candace Nassar 

Oh, my goodness.

Amy Benchener 

So we did not want to push him out for that surgery. So she was finally cleared, blood wise and everywhere else wise. All good to go. So the night before the surgery, we tried to give her the best night. She’s eating cake. We rented a bounce, you know, just trying to make fun with sweet grandparents and, all the people there celebrating her. So she went in, just having a great night. So that morning we drive to children’s hospital Philadelphia, we’re so lucky to have in our backyard. And we drove down, admitted she, my sweet little love is allergic to just about everything. So turned out to be allergic to the calm medicine that they give kids before surgery. Of course, rather than a sweet, tearful, hugging goodbye, she had to be rushed back very quickly to surgery. So that was a hard moment because they had to reverse that medicine that they’d given her. The hardest part was that when she was on the bypass machine, the heart and lung machine, that was breathing for her. So we had all been sitting in a room just praying as a family with my brother and the grandparents and my husband and I, and we prayed for the twelve minutes that she was on bypass. 

Amy Benchener 

I felt like I was not breathing those twelve minutes. And we got a call from the nurse that said, she’s off of bypass. She did great. And now for the next little bit, we’re just going to close her back up and you’ll be able to see her in a couple of hours. And what a relief that was. 

Candace Nassar 

Yeah, that’s a huge example of just trusting God in the really deep, hard places when you just release your daughter, her actual breath of life, right to him. To Him. That’s amazing. And I even think I’ve heard people talk about when they send their child off to some kind of surgery, and that experience of just, you can’t do anything from then until, while they’re gone, they’re completely out of your hands. You can do two things. You can lean in and trust God, or you can just live in fear, and that’s not a good place to be. So I love what you guys did. The example of all of you sitting in that waiting room and just praying and just trusting God, that’s just a beautiful visual. So how would you say your family grew from this experience? 

Amy Benchener 

I would say that, first of all, the reliance on God was probably the most at that moment in our lives versus any other moment in our lives. Just fully trusting these people and God to work together to heal her through a really challenging time. We were just being able to be fully reliant on him, especially when the chips are down. And as a person who can generally solve a lot of challenges, I couldn’t do anything about this one. So the need for control had to be fully yielded with open hands. So that was a huge piece of growth there. We also were asking for prayer for her from our community. We don’t tend to be very public with health things or challenges in our lives. I think that’s an area of growth. And it was the first time that we had reached out in a place of asking for help for prayer and what a blessing it was to receive that. So

we had asked for prayer, all of our networks, prayer chains, aunts and uncles and grandmas, and were able to, when she had needed the blood help before her surgery. And so, so many people are following her story and watching her go from the blood issue to the surgery to coming home and running around the hospital where I was trying to calm her down at two days post op two. 

Amy Benchener 

So it was being able to share that glory with others that had been so invested in her plan. And her story was really wonderful to be a part of. And I highly recommend bringing people into hard times, good times, because they want to share in life’s blessings, too. 

Candace Nassar 

That’s kind of a theme through this whole interview that you and I have been talking about. I’m just hearing so much about prayer in your life and the power of prayer and just connecting with God and hearing from Him as he comforted you with his words and both those difficult experiences, and I’m sure others are just relying on that and trusting. I know I was praying for your family, and so many people were praying and then just watching God do his thing. And then to see Addie come on, the videos that you would put on social media, it was just precious. So precious. So, yes, I love the fact that you brought people in to pray for you and that we could see God’s glory through that. It was really nice. 

Amy Benchener 

Absolutely. I thank you for the prayers. It’s just been amazing. And I know with preemies and with heart kids, they say that going through that battle really makes them fighters. And so she’s a fighter, and I’m interested to see what she does. She’s a feisty mega athlete. She’s always running and just so grateful for her energy and spirit. And I just thank God, through the moments of strong willedness that she has the opportunity to be that way. 

Candace Nassar 

Yes, it is ironic, isn’t it? Yes, it’s so. Yeah. So, knowing what you know now, is there anything that you would say to that Amy, years ago, as she was maybe going through, whether it was your dad or your experience with Addie, is there anything that you would say to encourage or what would you encourage yourself with? 

Amy Benchener 

I think I would give myself a hug or anyone a hug. Whoever is going through these challenges, it is one of the more difficult things to go through. I would allow myself grace, to feel the emotions and allow God to be present through the anger that this is the current situation, the grieving of the emotions, of feeling worried and sad and concerned and all of these things. So just allowing those, and not trying to be strong in a situation, but allowing the spectrum of emotions to be felt alongside God and community is very

important. I would say a second thing is really to be in prayer, be listening, and then trying to be aware of stirrings in your heart as you’re praying. And that small, still voice that we’re all listening for, I would love to hear it more, but I have heard it in the really important times in life, clearly. 

Candace Nassar 

Yeah. 

Amy Benchener 

So I’m grateful. And along that line, when going through times of suffering or challenges in life, I always tell people, now, look for God. Look for God’s fingerprints, listen for his voice, because he is all around you right now. He’s always all around you. But I sometimes feel like the hold on the hug is stronger during those times as he holds us up, as we walk. So those three things, really, it would be the community, the prayer, and listening for his voice and looking for him in all the small things as you’re going through challenging times. 

Candace Nassar 

That’s so good. We all need those reminders. And then I’m sure that now if you’re struggling through something, you can look back and remember how God has taken you through those other times, too. And that’s really encouraging. 

Amy Benchener 

Absolutely. 

Candace Nassar 

Yeah. And I love how you talked about how it’s an area of growth for you guys to reach out and share your struggles. I think that it is such a common thing today, especially as women. We want to put on this face like it’s social media, that everything’s great and we can handle it all. We’re good. And that’s really not the way God intended us to live. 

Amy Benchener 

Right, right. 

Candace Nassar 

It’s so good that you’re learning to include others in your journey through prayer and other ways and just knowing that I love you. You used the word community, and that’s such an important word in MomQ that we’re all about community and authentically sharing our struggles and our victories and coming around

and surrounding each other through whatever the hard times and also celebrating the good times. And so I celebrate with you that Addie is doing so well and God has healed her and made her this feisty, strong willed person that is ready to just take on the World. That’s a great celebration. And then I just encourage you and others, as you’re walking through anything difficult, don’t isolate yourself. Don’t feel like you’re struggling alone. Like you said, God is there with you. He’s surrounding you. He’s put people in your life. Reach out and feel his love, right? 

Amy Benchener 

Absolutely. Yes. We’re not meant to go through these things alone. And God can bless us through others with their hands and feet, coming to the door with casseroles or hugs or tissues and a shoulder to cry on. Take that opportunity and lean into that community. 

Candace Nassar 

That’s great. Well, Amy, I really appreciate this. Love your story. And just watching you go through these things and just the woman that you’ve become, it’s pretty amazing. So thank you, dear. I appreciate it so much. 

Amy Benchener 

Thank you, Candice. Appreciate you. 

Candace Nassar 

Yeah. Loved having you. And we’ll catch up again. 

Amy Benchener 

Sounds good. Thank you. 

Candace Nassar 

All right, have a good one.

What's your mom superpower? Take our short quiz and find out your greatest strength as a mom.

X