Observations of a Blown Mind – Who’d a Thunk?

Observations of a Blown Mind – Who’d a Thunk? | By Sonya Finley
A Freedom Challenge Story

This past June, I had the opportunity to participate in the Bryce/Zion Freedom Challenge 2018. I was unprepared for the unexpectedly awesome experience it would be. Who’d a thunk hanging with a bunch of women in the canyons of Utah would be so mind blowing? I walked away with quite a few profound observations.

Who’d a thunk. . .?

. . .a great love could be displayed in so many small ways?From the very beginning, I felt like God was reminding He loved me in very small, special ways. From being upgraded to Premium Class on our departing flight, to the “I got you” attitude of the young lady working the counter at the car rental office, to the sweet ride (Nissan Armada, fully loaded, leather seats, sunroof…you get the idea) I drove in to Utah, to the women who supportively listen to my story without judgement, to Ms. Barbara whose prayers reminded me that “the who” that I am has purpose, to finding the perfect cluster of trees with a wooden “bench” that made it easy for me to “take care of much needed business” on my first hike, to the surprising connections made, to the leader who sought me out because she had not seen me all day, to the care shown by the prayer team as they prayerfully massaged the aches and pains from our feet after each hike. And even though I felt a wee bit discombobulated (well a lot discombobulated), my Beauty for Ashes painting presentation was well received and gave the ladies a much needed “lightness” after a very heavy day. I gotta say, I left feeling very loved indeed.

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. . .A single word could be so powerful?This year the prayer warriors gave each hiker a word. One word prayerfully considered and totally applicable to the woman who received it. These words resonated with the women all week long and for some, was the difference between giving up and finding strengthto keep pushing.  There were also quite a few ladies who latched on to an “unexpected” word spoken in a manner of power and joy. Hallelujah!I do not recall the context in which I was asked to say it, but I did. And while the women responded in kind, I thought that was the end of it. But for the next few days, I was told several stories of how that word was spoken from the “mountain top” and how it inspired songs of praise. I saw it being intoned at the beginning of prayers and I, myself, used it before my presentation to bring focus in a moment of perceived chaos. A simple word, so full of power, praise and joy. (Of course, I have now been dubbed the “hallelujah hiker”.)

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. . .that challenging yourself for someone else’s freedom would lead to your own?We were there to fight for others who were in no position to fight for themselves, but much was said about how we are all overcome with our own versions of enslavement. Issues that hold our identities hostage filtering everything we believe about ourselves through a lens so dense we lose sight of our purpose, our power, our possibilities. The challenge of the hikes provided an opportunity to put a very physical action to a very spiritual deliverance. The act of pushing oneself beyond your comfort put the women (including myself) in a venerable place open to healing and deliverance. For the Level 1 group, the “Sassy Silver Sistahs”, we picked up a burden at the beginning of our second hike. We named it and then literally through it away, an action that symbolized a burden being released and given to God. There were tears and the released burdens were weighty. We all came down the mountain a little lighter that day.

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. . .stories of enslavement can be found in our back yard?We were blessed to hear the story of an American woman’s journey from being enslaved by her mother and stepfather to finding a life of freedom that included a long-lasting marriage, children, and a passion to help others out of where she used to be. Her strength to endure being locked in a room where she was practically starved and sexually abused daily and her courage to share her story was powerful. It reminded us what we were there for.

. . .a professed non-athlete can stand proudly and call herself a hiker? So, shortly after I said yes to this challenge, I realized the magnitude of what I agreed to. I agreed to hike for three days in a row?! Not one, but three?! Say what now? But I’m good, right? I walk 5k’s, 10k’s and half marathons, so I should be okay. I thought, until I began training. I felt well out of my depth—unqualified and unable to complete the challenge. I professed this lack—often! I’m pretty sure I annoyed my teammates to no end. My anxiety around this event was high. But I’m no quitter, so I showed up and faced my fears. Fears, which, I must be honest, did not abate until I sat with our Sherpa (Roxy Hicks—she’s awesome!) and she let us know what to expect. I will even admit I got a little excited …what?! I hiked three days! Three very different types of hikes! It was not a walk in the park (literally), but I got through it and I actually enjoyed it. Our leaders’ approach went far to make all of us feel less self-conscious about our level of abilities and kept our focus on enjoying the journey (and taking pictures!). On the last day of the conference I proudly proclaimed, “I am a hiker”. This declaration received a round of applause, a standing ovation from my dear Sherpa, and I became the proud recipient of the proverbial (and literal) “big girl panties”!

. . .that I am capable of far more than I think?What I didn’t think I could do, God should me I could. Simple as that.

Who’d a thunk indeed…

A Freedom Challenge hiker, that’s


20180625_171510Sonya A. Finley has been living the single life for 24 years. In that time she has raised four awesome young men (James – 26, Kevin – 23, Joshua and Johnathan – 18), graduated from college with a BFA, and began a huge step in her professional career. She is on the verge of a new season in her single life that now focuses on a journey not centered around child-rearing. She has made many mis-steps, learned quite a few bits of wisdom along the way and is happy to share with women who find themselves in the same place.

Guest Blog – Building Your Own House

Building Your Own House – Chapter Two of Chop Wood, Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf

Author gave permission to use his work here. As we embark into July; discussing freedoms, having hot dogs & hamburgers, let’s remember with each action, motivation of our heart, every syllable, and even our unspoken communication – WE, are, building, our, own, house. 

 

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Summer Lovin’

Summer Lovin’ | By Bethany Sousa
Creatively speaking, I always-seem-to-never be able to focus during the summer. I’m always distracted. When I think about summer, I immediately picture being at the beach with my siblings, parents, and sometimes friends, sitting on boogie boards with salty hair, sandy feet, eating a tuna fish sandwich and sipping on capri-sun. I can remember as if it were yesterday. There was such a freedom in summer vacation as an adolescent. Those precious few months of pure bliss of having no expectations from a day-to-day routine of mundane class-work and constant battles of friends being mean and being embarrassed by my unique and different qualities. Oh how I loved those summer days of letting my cares be as free as my hair was while jumping on the trampoline and riding our bikes around the neighborhood. As I got older, more responsibilities piled up which made summer vacation more of a mindset and less of a gift. 
Do you remember when you realized you no longer had “summer vacation”? I was fresh out of high school and taking classes at a community college, working full time at a restaurant, interning, and trying to keep friendships. I remember thinking, “I will never have a free summer vacation ever again”. It was the first taste of a little dish called ‘adulting’, and I was forever changed. I realized I had to work if I wanted to have that ‘first kind’ of summer ever again. Summer went from being a euphoric freedom to being just a season of the year where it was very hot and I had to work a lot because my job was always understaffed and, well, it’s tourist season. However, once I realized that summer could be a state of mind, I noticed a maturing in my heart working itself out.
Summer was becoming about self-love, taking the time to rest, allowing my hair to fly like it would as a kid. Instead of being stuck in the past of summer being about rest and adventure and being mad about having to work, I noticed I had a choice to be able to see this season in an old way again. 
Each year I forget about this summer mindset of liberation. I will get caught up in focusing on so many details of my life and what is happening around me to schedule and keep up with, that I forget to love myself. I always admired watching mom’s in the summer-time.
How you keep your kiddos entertained 24/7, I don’t think I’ll ever understand! You’re epic goddesses! As I watch my family members and friends battle balancing mommy hood with activities, and scheduling playdates, and dinners, all while working being daughters, wives, sisters, friends, etc. How in the world do you ever find time for your summer love?!
Talking with a few close friends who seem to “look like they have it all together”, I realized they don’t! They just never NEVER give up on what brings them joy. One friend is an artist, she teaches it thats how much she loves it! Mommy of two kiddos under the age of three, a kick-booty-wife and friend. And not to down play her incredible heart for praying and taking care of her family, I constantly think to myself “I could never do what she does… I’d loose my mind!”. However, she has taught me over and over again that she finds her balance in never forgetting what she loves to do. Gardening, cooking a new recipe, painting for her friends, going to new coffee shops, simply being spontaneous. Does it look different now in her late 20’s? ABSOLUTELY!
Why should life growth and changes keep her from having that trampoline hair, or even a tunafish sandwich on the beach, moment? It shouldn’t! Self-love is such a gorgeous and delicate vase that we have. Keeping fresh, vibrant flowers in it is a hard task to achieve with all the chaos, yes. But just pause to imagine what life would be like if we could take the same time it takes us to fold a load of laundry, that never seems to end, and do something for ourselves every couple days! Oh, what peace we would find. God has given us unique and fantastic skills and passions. Imagine if we took time to invest in those skills and passions. Maybe a Jesus moment is waiting to be found! Rest is a gift we need to learn to receive from ourselves, lets help each other find it. Lord knows we need it 😉

 


IMG_3304BETHANY is a singer/songwriter currently living in Nashville, TN. Her dream and desire is to partner with other artists collaboratively to help bring awareness to the audience an awakening of purpose. In today’s western culture, we have focused too music on selfish ego and not enough on the bigger picture–we’re all here for a purpose, and we all play an important role in achieving that goal in each other  Art is such an intense expression and tool to use to help awaken peoples minds and souls of their own existence. Music heals us mentally and spiritually, and one of her main goals is to help bring that healing, one song at a time.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

What’s Love Got to Do With It? | By Sonya Finley

Featured image from: (https://www.walsallcollege.ac.uk)

A couple of weeks ago, my “blogger in crime”ended her post with the question, “What if we considered how we loved our children as a measurement of success?” Well, I ask you, “What if we considered how we loved people (all people) as a measurement of success?”

These days, there is a lot of discussions centered on diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias. The responses range from defensive anger, to candid conversations, to denying its importance. Even you, as you read this may have a polarizing reaction based on what you have read, heard, or experienced. But have we really taken the time to see what those words truly mean? And what does it have to do with loving others?

As a person of color, my default meaning of diversity and inclusion is the never-ending fight to belong, to be included, to be seen, heard, and accepted for being me. Understanding bias is accepting the fact that when I go shopping I will be followed by a sales clerk who tries to hide it by surreptitiously fixing a rack of clothes that don’t need fixing at all because she believes I will steal (yeah, that happens a lot). This vision is based on my own experiences, yet they are certainly not the only way these concepts can be experienced.  Diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias encompass so much more than just race relations.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. Aaron Bruce, Chief Diversity Officer at SDSU, present on this topic. He was African-American and has experienced marginalization because of his race, but his presentation was not race-centered. It was presented in a way that greatly expanded the attendees’ understanding of what those big ol’ words mean on a much larger scale. He pointed out how all humans have biases against a variety of characteristics—gender, race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, background, education, physical abilities, politics—the list is endless.

Here are a few highlights from what I found to be a powerful and enlightened presentation:

  • “Equality is about ensuring everybody has an equal opportunity, and is not treated differently or discriminated against because of their characteristics. Diversity is about taking account of the differences between people and groups of people, and placing a positive value on those differences.”Equality is not enough. The goal is diversity or in this case equity. Dr. Bruce explained this concept using the illustration of three different people, one tall, one short, and one in a wheel chair,all trying to see over a fence to watch a game. Equality says give them all the same crate to stand on—which is fair but still does not enable everyone to
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    Original image concept Craig Froehle

    see over the fence. Equity considers their differences and gives them what they need to achieve the same goal. One person (the tall one) needs nothing, the other (the short one) needs double crates and the third one (in the wheel chair) needs something totally different. This reminds me of what parents do when they have more than one child. Each child is different and so, understanding this, they may employ different methods to raise a healthy, happy, successful adult. Equity is giving everyone what theyneed to be successful and understanding that it may not look the same for all.

  • “If you are not intentionally including, you are unintentionally excluding.”This was kind of my “aha” moment. He proved his point by engaging us in an exercise where we listed our top ten “ride or die” friends (your “go to” homies that know you best). Then asked us to note which ones matched us in characteristics such as, gender, race, age, social class, and sexual orientation. Not surprisingly, for most, our friends looked very much like us. Dr. Bruce let us know this was not a negative, it just highlighted the fact that people are naturally drawn to other people who are like them. Because of this, we may find ourselves within an exclusive community—unintentional, but exclusive all the same. So, since it is not our natural inclination to engage with those who are different, in order to achieve diversity and inclusion, we have to intentionally step out of our comfort zone and seek out those that are different.

 

  • Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own consciousawareness. Racial prejudice is pretty straight forward and needs no definition. Implicit or unconscious biases, not so much. Biases are those generalities we apply to whole groups of people even though we have only experienced it with a few. They are those unconscious feelings we have that influence our judgement of certain people and how we may treat or react to them. These biases can be determined by a number of things; lifestyle, media, environment, experiences, or how we were raised. For example, the media constantly bombards us with the stereotype that fat/overweight people are lazy, ugly, and unhealthy. And while you may not purposely be mean to people like that, you may find yourself judging their eating habits, changing yours, and vowing to lose weight so you never find yourself in their place. Your conscious mind says you would never treat a fluffyperson differently, but your reaction to them is different than your reaction to a slender person would be.

So what does love got to do with this? Dr. Bruce ended his presentation with the concept of empathy (which is a key component of love). “When it comes to the inability to practice empathy/love, lack of exposure to or an understanding of other people or cultures is the primary culprit.” We are called to love one another in the way Jesus loved us—with unmerited grace, mercy, and without boundaries or conditions. To do this, we must intentionally step outside of our own likenesses and like-minded communities. We must be authenticand seek to understand our own identities—what are our triggers and fears. We must practice active listening, turning off our inner voices and focusing on the other person. We must get curious, assume a learning mindset and find out what has shaped the other person’s life. We must respect and connectby being more open and respectful of one another. Doing all this leads to empathy and understanding of the world around us. Only then will we be able to say we truly love people as we have been called to do.

Yeah, that’s what lovegot’sto do with it.


20170113_074913-1-1Sonya A. Finley has been living the single life for 24 years. In that time she has raised four awesome young men (James – 26, Kevin – 23, Joshua and Johnathan – 18), graduated from college with a BFA, and began a huge step in her professional career. She is on the verge of a new season in her single life that now focuses on a journey not centered around child-rearing. She has made many mis-steps, learned quite a few bits of wisdom along the way and is happy to share with women who find themselves in the same place.

The Man, the Myth, The Legend

The Man, the Myth, The Legend | By Bethany Luchetta

Father’s Day is this weekend. Our blog community chose the theme for June to be ‘Summer Love’. I know it’s supposed to be about the things we love, and not the people we love.  But I want to take some time and write about the things I love about the Father to my daughters for Fathers’ Day. My hope: You would take some time this week and also write to the Father of your children.

Disclaimer: With the understanding that Fathers Day can be tough, and so are the intricacies of relationships, this blog may not apply to you for a myriad of reasons. We try to apply blogs to everyone across the board, but sometimes the shoe doesn’t fit every time.

 

Today I will gush about Vincent John Luchetta. Who? Haha… We’ve been married now for over 7 years and it hasn’t always been okay. Today is okay, and is in the process of growth, which I hope continues forever. He had two beautiful daughters and another life before me. Vince and I met when he was ‘separated’ from his wife. Vince lived on the road with Jimmy Buffet and got lost in the touring roadie life. In 2010, a year after we met, we got married, it was a rough start to turbulent skies. It wasn’t until our own marriage tanked in the summer of 2012 that we both decided we didn’t want to have another divorce on our hands. This meant that we both had to face our pain, each look into our own soul and figure out how to clean house. Vince has taken this path to a whole new level. He isn’t the man I married, God took a few bones and made a new man. I am forever thankful for Vince’s determination to himself, his daughters, and me!

A few fun (mostly) unknown facts about Vince. He was in the Navy for 4 years. He has been a Sound Engineer at Sound Image for 10 years. He has Deuteronomy 6:4-6 tattooed on his forearm. He owned his own communications business. He went to Seminary.  He was a youth pastor and helped physically build a church. He found his love of ‘sound’ putting on concerts for his youth group. He went to Sound Engineer school in Arizona and worked at a club and a church while going to school. He graduated from Palomar College the year Livvy was born as an Honor Student. He worked part time after Livvy was born so he could stay home with her part-time until she was one years old. His first born is Makayla, who just graduated High School. His second born, Paige, is currently Rodeo Princess. And his surprise child, Livvy Lou, just turned 4 years old. He is currently starting a company called “Eat it Up’ as an urban personal farm-to-table Chef.

 

Vince,

I want to take this Father’s Day and tell you, “I am proud to be your wife”. You have embraced community and vulnerability. You have journeyed into your wilderness and explored your own hurts and fractured parts, and you have owned your part in many wrongs. You have stayed long into friendships where you may have given up in the past. I have seen you eat humble pie with people  you know, and even strangers. From harsh words to kindness; you are quick to apologize and repent. I actually cannot recall the last time I heard a harsh word from your mouth. You never gossip or backbite. You recognize when you’ve been disconnected and always come back and work on the hard task of being authentic and intimate with your important relationships. I’ve watched you lower your shield and open your heart to many things that used to scare you; spirituality, meekness, and openness. You have set on the path to search below the surface and inspect the health of your own roots. You are working diligently on finding forgiveness for things not-so-easy to cut loose. I am inspired by your desire to work alongside other Godly men to grow-up and have broad shoulders for your children and your wife (me). As you call it, coming home so we can plug into you. You always ask me how I am doing, what I am feeling, and even though I hate those questions, you really do want to know. You push to wake early and fill yourself in the mornings with inspiration. I see you reading to grow, listening to learn, and speaking to understand.

You make your daughter breakfast and pack her lunch every day. I hear you praying for her and singing to her when you lay her down for bed. You answer her softly and compassionately. You do our laundry, take out the trash, and do the grocery shopping. You work diligently in being a sounding board for your older girls; which isn’t easy since they are so far away. You never control, guilt, manipulate, or try and ‘fix’. You are so patient. You are a giver, a tither, a provider. You work harder than any man I have ever known, and never complain. You embrace the challenges your work puts before you. You’ve even reached out to be a mentor and friend to many of the guys you work with; you’re a respected leader and friend to them. You’re a confidant to many of our friends. You always show yourself friendly and kind and teach your children to do the same (like always asking the waitress or waiter’s name so you can call them by first name, even if we never see them again). You are stronger and kinder than this Alpha Female running alongside you. You let me be me, even when I am still figuring out who that is!

I’ve watched you confront tough conversations with a new grace, judge less and breathe more. Even lately digging deep into your own expectations and searching for proper motivation and realistic goals. You’re facing the pain of rejection and fear. You are allowing your anger to soften into sadness and making the choice to grow through it.

Have I told you that you’re an amazing chef!? You have taken your new endeavor of personal chef to a new level of greatness. You think I am bias, and I may be a tinge, but your food is amazing. Mr. 5-star review! You are my new “slashy” man. Sound Engineer / Personal Chef. You are both, and much more!

I can go on and on… Vince, I love you. Happy Father’s Day.


IMG_2727Bethany Luchetta is a writer of life and reality. In hopes to connect with the humanity around her, she writes from her heart. Bethany just celebrated 7 years of marriage with her love, Vince Luchetta. They are both on their second marriage. Life has not been without challenge in their personal lives and career lives, yet they strive for growth in love and tragedy. They share three beautiful daughters, Makayla (17), Paige (14), and Livvy Lou (4). If you see them, reach out and say hi!