Zikorah: Show the World

What’s your excuse?

Johnnetta McSwain was born to an alcoholic mother and an absent father. While in the custody of her grandparents at the age of 5, she was persistently abused, sexually, physically and mentally by her three uncles. At the age of 8, she contracted syphilis.

She eventually moved in with her mother but the abuse continued from the men her mother brought home. Johnnetta started shoplifting at 12 and dropped out of high school at 17. She had 2 sons out of wedlock, one at the age of 19 and the other at the age of 26; all the while relying on government welfare.

On her 30th birthday, she reviewed her life and decided that for her sons’ sake, she needed to make changes. Nobody in her family had ever amounted to anything but she was determined to make something of herself so her sons can have a future.

Johnetta enrolled for and obtained her GED (similar to WAEC), after 2 tries. At age 33, she returned to school and got her bachelor’s degree. She acquired a masters’ degree shortly after and is currently pursuing her Ph.D!!!

So what’s your own excuse? Busy life, kids, no money, no support, not enough education, too tall, too short, no time, not fine enough, no connections etc. There is always a reason why we do not move from where we are to where we want to be. We have big dreams in our hearts, great places we want to go and an amazing future ahead of us. We also have the potential, gifts and ability to make it happen but there is always SOMETHING that is stopping us from taking that first step.

When I read Johnnetta’s story for the first time, my thought was “I haven’t gone through half of what this woman went through but look where she is .” It wasn’t easy for her but she did it and today, who really cares that she went to school late. I am sure she has advanced further faster than those who were probably working before she got her GED.

Johnnetta turned her life around and you can too if you can:

  1. Renew your mind

    People underestimate the effect our minds have on what happens around us so I will share my experience on this. There was a time I could barely sleep at night because of nightmares! The nightmares were so bad that I would wake up screaming!! During the day, I was always depressed, angry and generally dissatisfied with life. My life was not going anywhere at the time and I would sometimes entertain thoughts of dying. I finally decided to discuss the situation with one of my mentors and the first thing she asked me was “what do you read and watch?” She reminded me of Mark 4:24 and pointed out that our lives usually mirror what we feed our minds with. I took stock of what I was feeding my mind with. At the time, I was watching lots of horror movies, reading horror books and some other books that generally diminished a person’s self worth. It never dawned on me that such things could have a negative impact on my life.

    I wish I could say the nightmares stopped and my outlook on life transformed immediately I changed what I fed my mind with but with time, the nightmares faded completely. I have learned from experience that our thoughts influence our actions, emotions, attitude and how we see ourselves so I took some sayings that I really love and pasted them all over my wardrobe door. They are the first things I see when I get up and the last things I see before I go to bed. I also changed the kind of music I listen to and the kind of books I read. Whenever I feel down or start thinking the wrong thoughts, a song, a verse of the bible or portion of a book I read just comes to mind to counter what I am thinking at that moment. I can fall back on those encouraging words because they are already there in my mind. I am not where I want to be but every day that passes, I am taking control of my mind and taking another step closer to my destination.

  2. Accept responsibility:

    Holding ourselves responsible for our circumstances removes any crutch we may want to lean on. Stephen Covey calls it response ability, which is the ability to choose our responses to things that happen to or around us. We cannot change other people, the economy, the weather or our jobs but we can change ourselves. Casting blame comes naturally when things go wrong. We blame our bosses, our parents, nationality, skin color, spouse, colleagues etc for any aspect of our lives we do not like when in reality, we should be looking at where the real problem is – ourselves. It is only when we hold ourselves responsible that we can make changes, but as long as we keep looking outside of ourselves and keep pointing fingers, nothing will change. Accepting responsibility is not easy, but it is the first step to freedom.

  3. Have Faith:

    It is so easy to get discouraged when we focus on just what our eyes can see; “ the economy is bad, my job is a dead end, things should have changed by now”. We dwell on these kind of thoughts and keep asking Why? Why? Why? Faith neutralizes fear in incredible ways because it keeps our eyes not on our situations but on the one person who can make things right, even when we don’t understand. There are so many places in the bible where Jesus Christ talked about us getting things as we have believed. I wish to point out here that faith is consistent. If you stay in fear today and faith tomorrow, the cycle continues but if you remain consistent in faith, great things happen. I am looking forward to sharing my story on this page once the big miracle I am currently expecting comes through. I also look forward to sharing yours. So keep strong in the faith no matter what!!!

  4. Encourage yourself:

    Don’t wait for people to encourage you. In 1 Samuel 30:6, David encouraged himself in The Lord and got the strength to take action in spite of his miserable circumstances at the time. I am of the opinion that if he had waited for the men with him to encourage him, he wouldn’t have risen up, pursued, overtaken those that stole from him and recovered ALL they stole. You may be in for some big disappointment if you keep waiting for people to encourage you. Misery loves company and when people who were in your league or slightly better than you, see you moving ahead, please don’t expect them to cheer you on. Sometimes, it may even be the voice inside, reminding you of your past and how you lack what it takes to make it, you need to learn to tell that little voice to shut up.

Excuses, no matter how small, require deep thought, creativity, initiative and negotiation skills (to convince yourself and to get others to let you off the hook). Why not channel all these skills to actually making something happen? You can’t stand on the fence anymore because every day that passes without you taking action is a day you cannot get back again. It is never too late to start afresh, the only thing that matters is getting to your destination.

You can read more of Johnnetta’s story on her website www.johnnettamcswain.com or in her book titled Rising above the Scars.

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Go ahead and Just do it! Can you stand not making a single excuse for the next 30 days?


Umeakunne Teresa

Teresa Beluchi Umeakunne loves to teach and encourage people. She is an avid reader with a deep passion for music, good movies and GREAT food.

Teresa currently lives in Lagos with her husband and 4 children.

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