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.

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.” 
― 
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.

Love & Tragedy

Love & Tragedy | by Bethany Luchetta

My heart starts to race. I am angry. I let it linger, fester, grow into outright rage. We are human; all susceptible to whims of fleeting emotions. But, where is my trust during tragedy? Do I fire-off political unrest, race induced beliefs, religious anger, conspiracy theories, or lobbyist topics? Where do I put my energy? How can I bring my elevated heart rate back down to a trusting place and learn from what I am feeling? How can I learn about myself from my own thought patterns and feelings? After all, they are my own. I stop to consider this, but I come to the conclusion that it’s easier to banter about someone else’s thoughts and feelings and actions and words, than consider my own. So, I fire off a social media post attempting to relieve myself of my own fear on a public platform hoping for validation. I achieve momentary satisfaction from people who agree with me, but am again quickly angered by those who do not agree. The cycle is addicting because it takes me away from the issue; my own heart.

We are only responsible for our own elevated heart rate that could indicate fear, insecurity or anger in the recesses of our heart and mind. Once we feel this elevated emotion ignite, it gives us the ability to locate where we confide our trust. We can change the world one heart at a time if we begin inside our chest.

170907-st-martin-irma-mn-1140_16097ca5c5bf8814cb38d752367c5636.nbcnews-fp-1240-520Grieving people may take offense to this topic being submitted in the twilight of their loss. I am not writing to hurt anyone, but to offer peace. It takes my breath away in deep sorrow for the three people I know who lost someone last week at the hand of evil. There are people grieving today from the loss of their homes from fires, and still others in dire straights from recent disasters. Every person has a different vantage point. People are passion inspired from original stories of their own. It’s helpful to stop and listen; to build relationships while we are here, where you can. You love me and we bond over our similarities, but we can disagree and yet respect our differences. It’s respect of differences that makes us the same.

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We thank God for the ones who were spared
from fire, flood, and gunshot. We thank God when we are spared. And we should be thankful. I struggle with thinking someone was spared only because they had Faith in God. Many who have faith in God are not spared. The Bible speaks loudly to the fact that those who believe are still exposed. So, yes, be thankful for being spared, and for those spared around you. But we already know those who believe will fall along with those who do not believe. Destruction and death leaves us grieving. It hurts, I am not denying that. It seems so cliché to quote the Bible when people are hurting.

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So, we blame God for those who are not spared
. Have you ever been in a relationship where you were forced to love the other person? Sounds toxic and suffocating, doesn’t it? Not much of a relationship if you ask me. Well, if you believe in God, aren’t you glad you aren’t forced to engage, or agree, with Him? From what was etched about the philosophy of God, we are created to act in ‘Free Will’. A ‘Will’ to believe in Him, or not to believe. We have a capacity for good or evil; for thinking. Case-in-point; people choosing to be evil. We are capable of great and wonderful feats of amazement! Just look into the eyes of your child (if you have one), the proof is right in front of you. It may be too much and you decide there is no God. If you don’t believe in God, you may also be glad no one can force you to believe otherwise. At any rate, you may agree that life is precious. We want to point blame when tragedy happens. History is full of sorrowful, sensual, thoughtful and profound acts created by ‘humankind’, and nature alike. The question may forever be asked, ‘why’? This question may never be answered, or then again, the answer may resonate inside of you. The God I know begs you to ask this question, if not to tear down walls and become vulnerable, maybe to find His heart in an answer to your own soul.

vessels-ministry-the-heart-of-god-lightSo, if God is real, then who serves a God who made a human race capable of horrid things? How can nature destroy senselessly? This is a deep conversation; possibly the one that divides faith, religions and belief systems so severely. Who am I to argue with your conviction? I can only tell you what I believe, you may shake your fist indicating, ‘she’s an ignorant believer’. I am a believer. I am a believer in a God who made my Universe; the Divine. I am not a believer in religion, or church, or a denomination. I am a believer in Love. I believe I was made to love. I believe this little light of mine was made to shine. I believe in a God who loves bigger than I can ever express and who granted us faith to trust that His eternal plan is greater than the temporary physical life we sensationalize (literally experiencing with just our 5 senses). I believe that believers die too; sometimes horrid deaths. God is not here to be a magic potion for our human problems. We can’t pray away the Earth’s pangs. We all are subject to physical decay and death, accidents, misuse, abuse, bad choices and so on. I believe when we trust God, we are able to have a solid knowing that life is eternal. We are here to grow with each other, to experience relationship with other humans; to grow our forever spirit. I believe that when evil takes lives, life doesn’t cease to exist. I believe we are far more than physical beings, we are spirits beings. I believe spirits live forever… And in this truth, I hold my hope and trust.

In moments of heighten emotions during tragedies take note of your own heart, breathe and refocus to the most important thing: souls. Take the time to locate your pain, offer compassion to yourself and others. And most importantly, remember that LOVE is still greater.


IMG_2727Bethany Luchetta is a writer of life and love and tragedy. 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 (13), and Livvy Lou (3). If you see them, reach out and say hi!

First World Problems

First World Problems | by Sally Smith

 
It is a line, drawn over dirt, that creates a division. A line that makes this side the United States, and that side Mexico. What a powerful line that is. We all live by the laws of that line, people die by the laws of that line, and lives are drastically different because of that line, and so many other lines like it. Agencies are created to preserve the laws of divisive nature of that line, to protect one side of the line from the infiltration of the other side… the side of the third world country, where poverty is a major issue, education is inconsistent, sanitation is spotty, law enforcement is corrupt, and frankly, the struggle is real. But I am not here to discuss the pleas of the hungry and the myriad of problems that occur on the other side of that line. I am here to illustrate the unfortunate and ridiculous quality of the fortuitous hoards of people that fall north of the line. I lump myself into that category, as I am not above the silliness; I am sure I do at least 10 things a day that tightly stitch me into that fabric. I am speaking in regards to the “First-World Population”.

It has become a catch phrase; a humorous little saying, “First World Problems”.

Me – “My Amazon Prime does not apply to this order and I will have to pay for shipping!”
My Friend – “Oh, haha, first world problems!”

Me – “My $105 Lululemon pants have been in for free alterations for 2 days! I really want to wear them; when are they going to be done?!”
My Friend – “First world problems, for sure.”

Me – “I really need the new pool key so that I can use the jacuzzi!”
My Friend – “Poor you! First world problems.”

Here are tons of reasons why I do not get to complain about life: I have a car (not just any car, it is an economical, nice looking, newish car, with a keyless ignition, bluetooth, cruise control, and it LIVES in a garage), I have running water (for two bathrooms and one kitchen sink), I have a washer and dryer, a heater, a gas fireplace with ceramic logs, blankets, towels, cupboards full of food, a closet and drawers full of clothes and shoes… All of this because I also am blessed with a good job, platforms for personal growth, and lots of friends and family that provide direction and influence in this here first world. I should never, ever complain. But, inevitably, I do!

binge-eating-full-body-fridge-confession-ecards-someecardsOf course, I have illustrated the humor in this because in this privileged city, inside of this prosperous country, it is a playful way of saying that we know how lucky we truly are, and that we should not lose sight of that. I know full well that the fact that I am buying $105 leggings means that my priorities, such as bills, food, medical, etc… have been paid for. That I have surplus for luxury items with absurd price tags. It is as though the proclamation of humorous fact absolves me from feeling any guilt regarding that line in the dirt, that separates the haves from the have-nots. It makes me feel that my proclivity for nice things has been earned by my hard work. Maybe it has… a little.

i-love-hearing-you-complain-about-the-first-world-problems-you-just-bought-said-no-one-ever--fb593My point is simply this: though it is a funny saying, as it evokes a visual of how outrageous some statements are, I hope that we never grow too comfortable in our “first world”. I hope that we take moments to issue gratitude to the Lord for our comfortable circumstances, for food on the table, for our modern American health. I hope that we consider giving back, and how to give back. I hope we never do forget that there are millions on the other side of the line that is drawn in the dirt, that would cry tears of joy to sleep in my garage, next to my economical, newish car. So when you are having a “first world moment”, and you find yourself grumbling over something that is truly a non-issue in the scheme of things, remember this: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” (William Arthur Ward)

Colossians 3:15 –(NIV)15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.


Sally Smith is a 40-something Mother of two daughters, both whom are loving, talented, and independent. Lila, 19, just started her 2nd year at GCU, and Rubi, 13, just began attending the Orange County School of the Arts. When Sally is not busy driving to the train station, to dance, or selling two way radios (no, really, that is her job!), she can be found shakin’ it at Zumba, or cooking/surfing/chilling with her main squeeze. Life is Beautiful…

Light in the Darkness

How God the Father, Protector and Provider, battles for his daughters | By Micaela Krumweide

A couple of months ago, I finished a nine-month discipleship program through my church, during which God revealed my calling. There were three things God explained my calling involved: women, being abroad and fighting spiritually for those in bondage and chaos.

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Toward the end of the program, my pastor announced our church’s partnership with Freedom Challenge and the mission trip to Moldova for a “vulnerable girls’ camp.” This was an exciting opportunity to start working in this calling; however, a worldly reality settled over me—I was already raising money to finance another mission trip in May, so how in the world was I going to raise funds for an even more expensive trip one month later? But that’s just it, isn’t it? It seems quite impossible to raise this money according to the world’s standard, but we do not live according to the world.

So one night I was lying in my bed pondering this possibility, and I heard God’s voice so clearly saying, “Do you trust Me? Do you trust Me financially? Do you trust what I can do? Do you trust Me?” I did not answer, so repeatedly He asked me. I am not quite sure how long it took before I could even answer, until finally I answered “yes.” So I signed up and began the process of raising money, and of course, it all came in—and then some!

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There I was, already seeing God’s hand in this trip. Realizing that this was right, this was what I needed to do, this is where He wants me. So now, it was time to pray for the trip. Somehow, I came across 1 Peter 1:3–9. I kept coming back to this verse, and every time, the words “hope,” “inheritance,” “suffering” and “salvation” remained, fixed in my heart and mind.

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The realization of darkness. When we arrived in Moldova, it was easy to feel the darkness that surrounds this country. There is a lot of corruption, very few jobs and many broken families. People have little money and are not living—merely surviving. Parents and children are abroad making money in other countries, so there’s no money and no family or community. What a terrible tactic of the enemy. We all felt the darkness, and as we began to feel it harder to smile and harder to laugh, we arrived at the girls’ camp. Understandably, the girls were very stoic and hardened, and very few smiled.

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The camp began and games were played, messages were heard and prayers were essential. I could see a covering of that camp, and lightness began to illuminate from the girls. Smiles were everywhere, and laughter was amounting while the Spirit guarded this camp and the fight for victory commenced. The battle that had started within these girls became evident.

One night, we planned to have a time to pray over the girls. They told us about their situations—some had parents abroad or a parent who was an alcoholic, they were taking care of themselves and they grew up too fast. It was clear what the enemy was trying to accomplish—he was robbing their hope, hiding their inheritance, making it hard to see anything but suffering and fighting against their salvation.

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However drained I felt did not matter because I was humbled recognizing that this was not my fight; this was the battle for the Spirit inside me, and it was ready to fight these tactics of the enemy. There was a very clear prayer that kept arising, and I spoke it over every girl I touched. This prayer left my mouth countless times: “May this girl know that she is the daughter of the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, that this is her inheritance, and it cannot be taken away from her. Cover and protect her as she leaves this camp back into her situation.” It was evident that God wanted to defeat the enemy’s strongholds and bring life to these girls.

The final night was the time to deliver the message of salvation. More than ever, it was clear how badly the enemy was fighting to keep these girls in pain and suffering. More than ever, it was clear how badly God wanted to give them freedom, truth and life. At the end of the message there was an altar call. Victories. Hope. Salvation. Peace. Life. Joy. Value. Identity. Love. All of these accomplished!

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The victory! God called me and provided for me so that I could partner with Him and see Him overcome. It’s scary to think of these girls back in their situations after being protected and loved at this camp. But I trust God, and my hope is in God. I saw firsthand the extent to which He fights for these girls. I have no doubt that because of the battle fought at that camp, there have been seeds planted. In these girls, there is a newfound hope, a recognized inheritance, a new perspective of suffering, and the gift of salvation!

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I had the honor of being used to fight and cover these girls (learning lessons of trust and humility along the way), and I trust that God continues to fight and cover them right now as well as all of us. God the Father, Protector and Provider constantly battles for His daughters! Oh how amazing He is!


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Micaela Krumweide is a college student at the University of La Verne who took a year off to do a nine-month Discipleship Program at The Father’s House church in San Marcos, Calif. She is excited to continue missions and partnering with God to fight spiritually for those around her and is awaiting the next step after graduating in two years.