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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…Bring May Flowers

Last week I left off with the following in my ‘April Showers…’ Blog.

Last month I asked my bio-dad if he could do a DNA test with me to end my questioning once and for all; start a clean slate and work on the rest internally. He agreed. There are other stories to go along with this that make it more emotional and challenging. I got the results last week.


April Showers Bring May Flowers | By Bethany Luchetta

99.9999 positive match. Chad Barkley is my father. I smiled. I sighed and I teared up. I emailed the results to my father and his replied brought tears pouring from my eyes, ‘Welcome to the Family, babygirl!’ My mom said he only met me twice; at one month and then again when I was 3 years old, as he drove through Kansas. I felt like when he said “Welcome to the Family, babygirl” it was as if I was hearing that for the first time, and maybe I was. My soul needed that; to be welcomed by him, accepted, valued as a new member of the family, wanted and loved.

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I’ve been thinking on all these details for a very long time. And there is an essence of knowing the truth that puts my body to ease. But that is just part of the journey. The other part of the journey is obtaining an unconditional knowing that I am truly loved and accepted, created and woven together by a Magnificent God. Here’s the kicker folks: I could be loved and accepted and admired, cherished by every human on the planet, but if I do not know my identity in the Creator, then I am only partially found.

IMG_0466This year I had been chewing on the reality of going the distance with the DNA test, I started wavering immensely in my relationship with God. If you were at the last women’s event, Cultivating What Matters, Miracles in the Mess, you may have saw my tearful outburst when Tracy was praying for me. I had this DNA test pending and then my landlord said he wanted to sell our home. Vince and I decided we would pray and fast a week and try and get unified direction; move-out or buy the house. Here is where the cracks in my relationship with God surfaced. By the end of the week I sat in the living room, Livvy sound asleep in her room, and Vince at my side. Neither one of us had a set direction of what to do next. I first thought; God sucks. He is never there when I need Him. Isn’t He supposed to answer our questions, hear our cry? Isn’t He supposed to be our ‘very present help’!? He is never there! He is a liar. He always leaves me. He’s rejected and abandoned me again.

My rant went on-and-on as Vince listened to my words, thoughts, and feelings towards God. Vince calmly said, “Did you expect God to come hold-your-hand and show you what to do?!” Without a doubt that is what I wanted, expected, needed! “Yes”, I retorted. “God doesn’t need you Bethany. He doesn’t need you to be anything, but you. He is God, you don’t fill a need by being what He wants you to be, or how He wants you to be. He values and approves you, as you. Nothing else. He doesn’t need you.” REVELATION. I may have cussed God out at this point. As my rant continued, I realized all this anger was towards my earthly fathers. I was projecting the anger I had towards my fathers onto the God of the Universe.

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Road trip photo going to Fresno for DNA test

I was angry with God. But surprisingly after I quieted, I felt a calmness come over me that reassured me, ‘Now we can start fresh. Now that you are being honest, we can have a relationship based on truth’. I still wasn’t happy, and as I put it, God and I weren’t on talking terms. I was going into my own ‘unknown’.

The next few days people wanted to assure me by stating who I was to God. Apple of His Eye. Victorious. Wonderfully Created. The Daughter of the King… But this couldn’t resonate. I realized my problem. If I saw God as unfair. God abandons His children to destitution. If I kept projecting the fathers of this world onto the God of the Universe, Love Himself, I would never understand Him. In return, I couldn’t see myself as valuable or worthwhile. Here started my work. I had to find out who God was. Who is this God I have been ‘believing-in’ for the sum of my life? Where have I gone wrong? So, I started exploring what the Bible says about His character. I only chose the ones I needed to hear. I made a list. It was long, and each attribute spoke to the places of hurt in my own heart.

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This is my own work. We all have to take our April Showers and find the May Flowers. Because there are also weeds in May, barren lands, and dry bones. It is our job to find the way out of the darkness. Thankfully we have access to loving community of friends, mentors, and a Faithful God who will reveal truth to our heart when we need it the most. I am grateful for this journey. I am not through it; it will be my life’s work. But I am happy now to be doing the work. I want to learn the strategy and apply it, even when it’s painful. I want to grow, become wise, and know Gods abiding validation, truth, love and acceptance. Maybe you do too?!

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Road trip photo coming home from Fresno for my DNA test

 

I leave you with two writings that are not my own. One is for May Flowers, and the other came to me during this journey. They may add something to your own journey:

May 1 “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young

You are on the path of My choosing. There is no randomness about your life. Here and Now comprise the coordinates of your daily life. Most people let their moments slip through their fingers, half-lived. They avoid the present by worrying about the future or longing for a better time and place. They forget that they are creatures who are subject to the limitations of time and space. They forget their Creator, who walks with them only in the present.

Every moment is alive with My Glorious Presence, to those whose hearts are intimately connected with Mine. As you give yourself more and more to a life of constant communion with Me, you will find that you simply have not time for worry. Thus, you are freed to let My Spirit direct your steps, enabling you to walk along the path of Peace. (Luke 12:25-26 English Standard Version)

 

A Parable: The Prisoner in The Dark Cave “Healing the Shame that Binds You” by John Bradshaw

There once was a man who was sentenced to die. He was blindfolded and put in a pitch-dark cave. The cave was 100 yards by 100 yards. He was told that there was a way out of the cave, and if he could find it, he was a free man.

After a rock was secured at the entrance of the cave, the prisoner was allowed to take his blindfold off and roam freely in the darkness. He was to be fed only bread and water for the first 30 days and nothing thereafter. The bread and water were lowered from a small hole in the roof at the south end of the cave. The ceiling was about 18 feet high. The opening was about one foot in diameter. The prisoner could see a faint light up above, but no light came into the cave.

As the prisoner roamed and crawled around the cave, he bumped into rocks. Some were rather large. He thought that if he could build a mound of rocks and dirt that was high enough, he could reach the opening and enlarge it enough to crawl through and escape. Since he was 5’9″, and his reach was two feet, the mound had to be at least 10 feet high.

So the prisoner spent his waking hours picking up rocks and digging up dirt. At the end of two weeks, he had built a mound of about six feet. He thought that if he could duplicate that in the next two weeks, he could make it before his food ran out. But as he had already used most of the rocks in the cave, he had to dig harder and harder. He had to do the digging with his bare hands. After a month had passed, the mound was nine and half feet high and he could almost reach the opening if he jumped. He was almost exhausted and extremely weak.

One day just as he thought he could touch the opening, he fell. He was simply too weak to get up, and in two days he died. His captors came to get his body. They rolled away the huge rock that covered the entrance. As the light flooded into the cave, it illuminated an opening in the wall of the cave about three feet in circumference.

The opening was the opening to a tunnel which led to the other side of the mountain. This was the passage to freedom the prisoner had been told about. It was in the south wall directly under the opening in the ceiling. All the prisoner would have had to do was crawl about 200 feet and he would have found freedom. He had so completely focused on the opening of light that it never occurred to him to look for freedom in the darkness. Liberation was there all the time right next to the mound he was building, but it was in the darkness.


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 (3). If you see them, reach out and say hi!

 

 

Coffeehouse Conversations

Coffeehouse Conversations | By Sonya Finley

Hey girl, good morning! Give me a hug. Good to see you. Oh yeah, I already got my coffee. Yes a Venti! Ha ha! You got me out early. I needed something to wake me up. Go on and get yours. I’ll grab us a table outside in the sun.

How am I doing? Me? Girl, I’m fine. Putting one foot in front of the other. Keeping it moving.  You know me, that’s how I roll.

What? Be honest?  Yeah, I hear ya.

So, well, if I am completely honest, I am having a bit of a struggle these days. Oh, you knew that, huh? Okay. Well anyway, for most of my life I have fought with an identity crisis. Whether it was from things spoken into me, experiences that left wounds, or unfairly comparing myself to others—I just never quite felt “enough”. I know who I am now, having gone through an incredible season of God defining my identity and showing who He has called me to be. And yet, and yet. . . .

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And yet, one word of criticism couched in the guise of “mentorship” from a person in authority over me takes me all the way back to feeling inadequate. One word subtly suggesting that a change be made to a core personality trait that will make me more appealing to a minor minority who “doesn’t’ get me”.  It leaves me helpless, defensive and not a little angry. And sister, that is not a good look on me.

So, I began, again, the cycle of questioning myself, my actions, my perspective, my “me”. I began, again, to wonder, is there something wrong with me? Should I change certain things about me to suit someone else’s ideals because maybe they see things from their vantage point that I can’t see? So I began, again, to retreat inside myself. And again, I am lost, struggling to find me, the “who” that I am deep down inside. Sigh….

identityWhat’s that? I am who God says I am? Girl, I have that taped to my bathroom wall as a daily affirmation!  It is there with a list of others and my eye lands on it just when I need it. No greater truth needed and such a timely reminder. I am who God says I am! Regardless of what man says or how he criticizes. I have been created for a purpose and for such a time as this. The “me” that He created, the “me” that I have grown to be, is okay. This doesn’t mean I am perfect. It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes, say the wrong thing or be misunderstood. It doesn’t mean that I will always be accepted by everyone I meet. But it does mean that who I am is okay and because of who I am, I am totally useable in God’s plan.

I will probably still struggle with that. Thorn in the flesh and all that, but yeah, you’re right. When the thoughts arise, I can use that statement to remind myself of who I really am. My identity is not dependent on what people think or say about me or even how I feel about myself. I am who God says I am. And that’s that. . .

So how are things with you?

Oh I’m sorry to hear things are not falling into place as you hoped. That can make moving forward or even staying encouraged extremely difficult. I totally get that. Many of us find ourselves right there. It’s the waiting for something to happen and not feeling like it will, that discourages you.

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Yeah, I know that place. Praying and praying for God to intervene in a situation and not seeing it happen as soon as we’d like. It is discouraging and it is easy to lose faith. That’s how it is for me with my son. I have been praying for years through his drug usage, bouts of homelessness, attempted suicides, and brushes with law.  And to me, it seems as though change is coming slowly—oh so slowly. And there are times when something happens and it seems that the situation goes right back to the beginning.  I just want my son to be okay.

But as I sit here with you, thinking on your situation and mine, I am reminded of yet another statement of affirmation on my bathroom wall: God can do what He says He can do.

‘Nuff said! Oh but I know. It gets hard on a sister. All this waiting and anticipating and feeling like the nothing could possibly fix the situation. But hey, just like you told me, when those thoughts began to come, just remind yourself that God can (and will) do just what He said. Keep telling yourself that till it overrides anything else that may want to set up shop in your mind. God’s got this. You just keep living life expecting it.

And yes, my son is doing better these days. But you know us momma’s, we want the best for our children, right?

Oh, you heard about me doing the Freedom Challenge? Yeah. Women joining together to raise money and awareness for human trafficking by climbing mountains. Yes, you heard me, mountains.

You’re amazed I’m doing it? So am I. And if I am being completely honest, I am more than a little afraid. I admit it. I be “scurred”.

What am I scared of?  Not meeting the fundraising goals. Not being able to keep up on with the other ladies. Not being able to complete the challenge.

Oh you got jokes? My bad, you got another quote? I can do all things through Christ?  Wow, another statement from my wall of affirmations! We are three for three!

But you are right. I got this! As long as I look up for my strength and not rely on what I see or feel like—cuz you know a sister can get in her feelings—I can complete this challenge. I will complete this challenge. Any challenge. And when I think I can’t, I will use that statement to remind me that I can.

Well, girl. I gotta get out of here. The boys are wanting to go to a movie. What’s that? Where did I get the statements from?  Beth Moore’s book, Believing God….

God is who He says He is. God can do what He says He can do. I am who God says I am. I can do all things through Christ. God’s Word is alive and active in me.” 
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Beth MooreBelieving God

Asian Women Chatting over CoffeeLord, thank you for sister-friends who allow and compel us to be transparent, authentic, and venerable. Bless us to understand the need to reach out for and allow ourselves to receive the love and support being offered to us so that we may know that we are not alone on this journey. As we allow ourselves to reach out and admit our need, send those who will walk with us, stand with us, and pray with us in sisterhood and in love. Amen.


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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.

The Power of Saying Yes

March Madness – The Power of Saying Yes | By Sonya Finley

As women we can all attest to a certain amount of crazy in our lives. It comes naturally from all the things we find ourselves doing. Growing up, growing older, raising children, caring for parents, working a job, building a business, embracing our singleness, embracing a relationship –*whew*, we have a lot going on in any given season. Most of time, we have enough to juggle just from living a woman’s kind of life. Why on earth would we add something else? Why would we say yes to more? Where is the wisdom in all of that?


Yeah, tell me about it. Have you seen my life?

For me, any given season of my life can be described as chaotic in the most normal of times. Heck, I am a woman (now of a certain age dealing with all that change–yeah, y’all know what I am talking about), I raised four, now adult, men—2 of which still reside at home. I have always worked–full time and/or part time and sometimes more than one job (I’ve worked up to 3 at one time).  I have also been known to pursue educational goals, participate in ministry, and lend a bit of creativity to projects here and there (all while raising four sons!). I have done a lot, I do a lot, and a lot do me.

Adding a different kind of madness. . .

I admit it, there are a lot of things I am pretty good at, but I am usually not that person who will insert myself into a situation to use or showcase my “special” skills. I have never felt that was necessary. I am a firm believer in Proverbs 18:16, “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” So while I may not seek out a special spot on the team, I will say yes to “divine” appointments/requests for the very reason the scripture indicates. It is because of that thinking I find myself where I am, with quite a lot on my plate and saying yes to adding more.

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Quite a bit more in fact. . .

I have begun saying yes—and saying it in a big way! I said yes to stretching myself physically, committing to keep moving down a path that would find me completing a half marathon on my feet. I said yes to a unique kind of ministry with a defined message and yes to the opportunities it presented. I said yes to building a business that is, let’s face it, so me. And in saying yes, this business has not only brought in much needed income, but it has allowed me to minister and connect to women in a very unique and profound way. I said yes, much to my surprise, to participating in the Freedom Challenge (a hiking event that raises funds and awareness to fight human trafficking). I will be participating not only as a ministry leader but as a hiker and a fund raiser as well. If you know anything about me, you know all of those items bring quite a bit of “opportunities for stretching”.

Sounds like a lot of additional stuff, right?

It is a lot. It is a lot on many different levels. Nevertheless, I am learning that God’s math is not ours. We think more is just more—more trouble, more concerns, more stuff. What He adds to us does not multiply our troubles or add to the weight we carry in the way our ordinary minds think it would. That idea is extremely difficult for a natural thinker to comprehend. The idea of doing something new, adding something else, comes with quite a bit of fear, large amounts of uncertainty and a heck of a lot of questions. “How am I supposed to do all this? Where will I find the time to do it? What do you mean I have to raise $5000?!” Saying yes to God’s requests and divine appointments takes quite a bit of faith—especially when I’m already knowing I have a great deal of crazy in my life (have I told you about my job?). But when God asks us to add something to our lives and we answer in the affirmative, we must know that He has already prepared a way. He has already lined up resources and support. He has already formulated the plan. All we have to do is take that first step and in doing so we say “Yes to the Bless”.

Yes to the Bless?

Yes. By saying yes to God we do take on “more stuff”—quite a bit more actually, but we also open ourselves up to the benefits of trying new things, stretching ourselves and doing His will. Those benefits include, but are certainly not limited to; higher heights and deeper depths (to quote a cliché), a profound repositioning of ourselves, greater influence, expanded borders, renewed identity, and stronger connections.

All this yes-ing has left me with a great sense of awe. I am amazed at how God has moved and is still moving in my life. How He keeps opening unexpected doors in unexpected ways. Each door leads to the next new yes and the next new opportunity for growth. I am a woman of limited energy, so it is amazing to me that I am able to keep up with all the new tasks, to get things done and get them done on time. I am amazed at how I am able to balance all of it and in the balancing find a certain measure of peace and assurance that it’s all good (or to quote the song, “it’s all God”). I look back at what I have done and look forward to what I still have to do and know I would fail “But God”.

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It is a good madness. . .

I have spent quite a bit of time these days reflecting on the current “crazy” of my life.  As I reminisce on how things are unfolding and my talents that are being tapped into, I realize I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have said “Yes to the Bless” and I stand blessed indeed.

**For information about Freedom Challenge or to make a donation: https://impact.thefreedomchallenge.com/fundraiser/1303218


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.