By Jana M. Fraley
Brave Women Series - Jana's Story
Growing up as a ranch kid in Wyoming and later becoming a ranchwife and mom, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to have courage. So many times in my life, I’ve had to dig down deep to find bravery inside myself I didn’t believe I had. Situations when I faced the risk of being uncomfortable, out of my element, and pushed to the limit of what I possessed physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
One of the character qualities I’m drawn to the most is courage, both in myself and those around me. I think it’s because I’ve realized over the years that I’m not instinctively courageous. I believe God has wired some women to have a natural bent and tendency towards bravery, but for some of us, He has chosen to use our fears to mold, strengthen, and refine our faith and trust in Him.
"Doing what is brave requires me to trust the Father completely."
One of my all-time favorite John Wayne quotes is, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” This quote is an excellent description of the code of the west that many ranching families live by. The idea is that sometimes courage is necessary for the job; we might be scared to death, but we put that saddle on and ride anyway!
"Sometimes courage is necessary for the job; we might be scared to death, but we put that saddle on and ride anyway!"
I didn’t know there would come a day when these words would be more than a great quote on the wall but a reality for my loved ones and me.
As a ranching family, we are no strangers to accidents on the ranch that have resulted in numerous broken bones, stitches, and concussions, all of which made my poor mother cringe and left us kids a little wiser but none the worse for wear. These accidents included: a grain auger and fingers that got too close, two little cowboys training a pony to pull a runner sled, loose saddles on racing horses, bucking horses in the springtime, runaway 4-H steers, and just wild cowkids living their best lives. The list could go on and on.
We would quickly recover from most of these injuries and move on to the next daring exploit until the day it wasn’t a little accident and quick trip to the ER we were facing but very serious and completely life-altering tragedies.
The first accident that changed our lives happened when my youngest brother was involved in an accident with a piece of hay equipment and lost his right hand as a teenager. This accident tested us as a family, but looking back, I can see how God used it to refine, strengthen, and prepare us for the day when an accident on the ranch would become even more tragic and life-changing.
"This accident tested us as a family, but looking back, I can see how God used it to refine, strengthen, and prepare us for the day when an accident on the ranch would become even more tragic and life-changing."
One beautiful, bright Wyoming June day, my mother got up early, had her quiet time, fixed breakfast for she and my dad, and then went out to catch her horse and gather cattle to put on cattle trucks that would take them to summer pasture. It was a day that started like hundreds of other days before but would soon turn to heartbreak when Mom’s horse reared over backward, landing on and instantly killing her.
Over the next several months, as we faced all the ranch work we had to accomplish, that John Wayne quote haunted me. “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” For the first time in my life, I faced the reality of the fear of being on top of a horse. Even more so, I was terrified as I watched my kids climb up in the saddle to help with cattle work.
This was just the beginning of an overall fear and uncertainty I faced that threatened to paralyze me. Along with the fear of another horse wreck, I was overwhelmed with concerns about my family and the ranch's future.
The unexpected death of my mother brought the realization that I hold very little control over life, death, relationships, or the decisions made by others. In this hard season of grief and fear, I had to find true courage because I only wanted to crawl back into bed and disappear from the pain facing me.
"The unexpected death of my mother brought the realization that I hold very little control over life, death, relationships, or the decisions made by others."
As much as that John Wayne quote has meant to me, God’s Word means even more. The One who is the Word Himself commands me to meet every day with courage.
“Have I not commanded you? BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
When our courage is found in the loving and sovereign Lord, we realize our biggest fears are nothing in light of eternity. We are given a holy boldness that allows us to endure tragedy.
"When our courage is found in the loving and sovereign Lord, we realize our biggest fears are nothing in light of eternity. We are given a holy boldness that allows us to endure tragedy."
Ultimately, we rest in a Savior that fills us with genuine God-confidence, not self-confidence that will only disappoint and lead to disaster and discouragement.
Over the years since Mom’s death, I have found true courage lies in giving up the control I thought I had and giving it entirely over to God.
"I have found true courage lies in giving up the control I thought I had and giving it entirely over to God."
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story. And by the way...
You are Brave!
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Jana MacCarrie Fraley is a Christian writer and speaker, as well as a ranch wife and mom. Her heart’s passion is discipling & encouraging women as they pursue faith in Jesus by seeking God’s truth through His Word, developing a Biblical Worldview, and finding contentment through their hope in Christ.
She has written and created The Truth Journal, collaborated on one devotional book, Tapestry of Grace, and has written for various other print and online publications, including Living By Design, The Joyful Life Magazine, and Faith Storytellers. She does all this with her family’s Wyoming ranch as the backdrop, where she and her husband, Mike, have made a life together raising kids and cattle.