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.

A Story of Overcoming

Putting One Foot In Front of the Other A Story of Overcoming | By Sonya Finley

So there I was again, all decked out in my walker’s finest gear. Braids up in a pony, sun visor on to protect my face, moisture wicking jacket and top, cute little running capris with cut outs on the sides (you couldn’t really see them because of the compression socks I had to wear to keep my shins from splinting into a thousand bits of pain), and the cool Nike running shoes my youngest so graciously purchased for his momma. Oh and do not forget the waist pouch that dutifully carried my bottle of water (complete with a hydration tablet) and the, oh so yummy, energy giving snacks. Yup, there I was again, at the base of a “hill” (Double Peak, San Marcos, Ca. 2.1 miles straight up) about to embark upon yet another physically challenging endeavor, all because someone told me I could do it. Really?!

SF Running 2018In the past two years I have begun a physical fitness journey that, I promise you, I could not have foreseen myself doing. I am not and have never considered myself an athlete and in fact, I have adamantly denied any athletic tendency whatsoever. So the idea that I would be participating in 5K’s, 10K’s, Half Marathon Relays, Half Marathons and even a brief 17 day “run a mile a day” streak, is in a word, SHOCKING . . . but apparently only to me.

When I started; I was just looking for a way to get healthy. Having been blessed with a lovely (not really) hypo-thyroid condition losing weight is extremely difficult so that was not really the goal. Finding myself of a certain age, I realized the need to “move it or lose it” and so I began walking. Of course, my big sis, the quintessential greatness coach and a person who can make you believe you can do almost anything (try her), would not, could not, leave me there. She decided I needed a “goal” to keep me consistent.  First goal, prepare for and complete a 5K (3 miles).  I rose to the challenge and did my first 5K (it was not pretty), but I did it and oddly enough, I did not stop there.  Fast forward to about 2 years later and I find myself training for my second half marathon scheduled in June!

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I will not tell you that I love it or that I even like it. In fact, there are times during these races where I “hate” my sister with a passion for talking me into whatever event I have the “misfortune” of participating in. You see, I am a walker, not a runner, and an extremely slow walker at that. When I do these things, old people pass me by. Kids pass me by. People with crutches and walking sticks pass me by.  And it does not matter where in the wave I start, I always end up near the last when I finish. My pride takes a beating. My ego becomes non-existent. I feel so awkward. It would be so easy to quit. And really, who would blame me? Would you?

Temecula Run 2016But something happens on those 3, 6, and 13.1 mile stretches when everyone has passed me by and it is just me, walking, slowly but surely putting one foot in front of the other. I remind myself of who I am. How strong I am. How I can, in fact, do this. I remind myself that there have been times in my life that were much harder than just trying to make it to the finish line of a grueling course. I remember the times in my life when I truly felt I had been left behind and was making the journey alone.  I remind myself of how I overcame those struggles simply by putting one foot in front of the other–taking it step by step, day by day, head down, pressing forward, trusting God until miraculously I reached the end.

On the occasions that I looked up, I check out the folks running past me. I then remind myself that everyone running the race has their own challenges to overcome. Oftentimes the struggles are intensely personal and have nothing to do with competing with the person running next to them. The goal is to simply make it to the end–to be victorious, to overcome. To walk (or hobble) away with the pride that comes from completing the race on your feet. Understanding this keeps me from making senseless comparisons and helps me stay focused on my goal to keep moving forward, never quitting, no matter how my body protests the abuse. LOL!

Hot choco 2016To date, I have never quit. I have finished every race I have challenged myself with. And believe me, every race is a challenge to finish.  And while I never come first (or even close to it), in the end, it does not matter where in the line I finish, just as long as I finish. Every finisher receives the same medal whether they crossed the line first or came in long after the event sponsors have packed up and left.

SonyaSo yes, there I was again, at the foot of the mountain, not really understanding why I was there, geared up, but not quite ready to go, and yet…slowly but surely, putting one foot in front of the other, I made it up that mountain. Dead last, but I celebrated the win right along with everyone else.


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Sonya 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.