Being Brave

Being Brave is Scary

Have you ever heard the song “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel? You may recognize it from its anthem bridge- “You make me brave, you call me out beyond the shores into the waves.” Never have these lyrics become as real to me as when I was asked to lead others in singing them for our recent women’s event, Beautiful Stories.

When I was first asked to lead this song, I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I’ve never been in an elevator that shuts down and plummets ten stories, but I imagine it’s a similar feeling. “No way, God. My voice can’t hit those notes!” I found myself on my bedroom floor, explaining the situation to God, when suddenly, He brought to memory a request I’d made only a week beforehand for Him to stretch me in my worship.

I think that so often in my life, I wish the stretch could be comfortable. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply grow in our relationship with God from the safety of the shores? Venturing into the waves seem so uncharted and so unsure. And yet, I’ve found that it’s in these times that God grows our faith the most, because we can no longer rely on our own abilities. Suddenly, we just have to trust that God’s got us.

In Deuteronomy 31:7-8, Moses encourages a rising leader, Joshua, who also had to face daunting circumstances as he took on the responsibility of leading the nation of Israel: “Be strong and courageous…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (NIV).

Let these words wash over you today. Declare them. Pray them over yourself daily. Join me in making this your battle cry every time fear tries to hold you back from stepping out in faith, knowing that whatever your story might be, God is forever faithful!

As for my story, I sang the song. I’m pretty sure that my voice cracked towards the end, but I sang the song. And you know what? God showed up. The Holy Spirit moved that night, and my faith was stretched.

So, here’s what I’ve determined- being brave can be scary, but the God who calls me out on the waters if faithful to help me walk on them.

xoxo Victoria

IMG_4649Victoria Baca grew up in northern California and is overjoyed to now call Ventura home! She graduated from California Coast Bible College in 2017 and is spending a third year as the college’s Resident and Housing Director. Victoria is passionate about worship, youth ministry, and missions. Find her small group for college girls here, and join to do life together!

Letting Go

A WILD Devotional

I remember when I was 18, it was 1984.  I wanted so badly to experience life and all God had for me and couldn’t even fathom it, though I tried.  I remember imagining myself in each decade to come, how old would I be? Who would I marry? How many kids might I have?  My desire was to always be pleasing in God’s sight and a valuable member of God’s family, always contributing to society.  Somewhere in my early childhood there was a tormenting voice that constantly told me I never would.  It was the liar’s voice, Satan’s.  I wasn’t aware there was a liar whose main role was to kill, steal, and destroy; I had no clue that I could or should give him a verbal tongue lashing with the truths found in the Bible.  Often I would cry out to God declaring what I wanted for my life, almost in a desperate plea, like a peasant begging a king for mercy.  And so, my focus became my own performance and that began to define my worth.

I am now 51, amazed at the journey, wiser, stronger, braver and secure in my hope because of my walk with the Spirit of God who is my comforter, shepherd, counselor, teacher, confidant, refuge and friend.  My ears are better receivers of his voice and I want to hear it more than ever before. At times I still wrestle with old lies.

For the last few days I have wrestled with anxiety over this blog. It would be public.  What should I say? Would my story impact the lives of others? What if my grammar is incorrect?  In sharing with a friend today, she “took me to church” as she reminded me that performance is not worship.  God is so good to use other believers as His gentle reminder to refocus.  Lord, forgive me for getting it twisted!  My highest calling is not in what I do. It’s about who I am becoming. His first commandment (Exodus 20)  is that I should have no other gods but him.  He loves me unselfishly, unconditionally and all he asks of me is to love him and believe Him.  If I’m in Him, nothing else can shake me. If He is my main obsession, everything else will fall into place.

Join me in this prayer:

Jesus, today I’m letting go of performance. Just as 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says, “I give all of my worries and cares to You, because You care about me.”

13A8B514-7562-4D8C-A9F4-79DD61A4BED8Sara is mom of three amazing, adult children, and one son-in-love,  Brooke, age 27 (and Zack), Moriah, 25 and Landon, 22.  Sara has been married to John for 31 adventurous and miraculous years.  It is their desire to use their history, milestones and miracles to encourage young adults and married couples in their journey with each other and Jesus. Sara grew up in a relatively conservative background as a pastor’s daughter.  In the last six years Jesus and the Spirit of God have blown her away with new revelations and surprises.  Look for Sara (and John) at the Agoura/Oak Park campus where you’ll usually find them greeting at the door.

I Don’t Believe in Coincidence

I don’t believe in coincidence.  I believe everything in my life is and was mapped out by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Not to say He doesn’t allow for free will and choice.  He just knows ahead what choices we finite humans will make, since He lives in all time and space.  God is everywhere at once, and is the greatest chess player in the universe!   

I won’t waste your time with fancy words.  I’ll tell you the facts of life.  Well, of my life.  

Why?  The only reason for me to open my book, called “life,” for you to read, is to give you hope.  The same hope that I have. Not just fleeting, momentary, feel good, positive vibes.  Eternal hope.  

We all go through mud at some point in this life.  I have a blessed life.  God has planted so many beautiful flowers in the mud of my garden that I no longer see the mud, except through the lens of how it has helped an amazing array of flowers bloom.  

I was 2 years old when my dad beat me so bad I had to be put in a hospital.  Now, your mind can go in all sorts of directions.  The main one, I suppose, being, “What a monster of a dad.”  I’m not in denial, believe me, but my dad was no monster.  He was a young father who lost control in a horrible fit of rage, in one moment.  He never lost control, physically, again with me.  Ever.  When I was 35 years old, my dad called me up and told me just that. “Katherine, I need you to know when you were a toddler I put you in the hospital because I beat you so bad.  I never touched you again after that.  Ever kid.”   He carried that huge, torturous, bad father moment, knowledge for all those years.  It was a great relief to both of us when he spoke it out.

Unbeknownst to dad, my mom had told me what happened when I was 18.  I never said a word to my tough, larger than life, John Wayne, construction working father.  Nope.  That was not going to happen.

He was too closed-minded, in my view, for me to bring up such a sensitive, wound-opening subject.  

Do I remember any of it?   I remember getting into mom’s makeup.  I remember dad asking me if I got into mom’s makeup.  I don’t remember telling him no.  I also have no recollection of him beating me.  Completely blocked it from my mind.  Too painful.  

I had a psychiatrist do some role play with me over my dad when I was 21. Yes, I had to see a psych doctor for evaluation after trying to kill myself. That was my life.  I don’t know that I really wanted to die.  I just didn’t want to hurt.  So much pain was bottled up inside that I had no clue how to release it,  how to deal with it.  For the first time, a light came on.  I began to understand the affects that pivotal moment had on young, naive Kathy.  By getting into my mom’s makeup, I was getting in touch with my femininity.  I was trying to be a woman, like mom was, and “pretty myself up.”   When I was beaten for that, it spun my young, unmolded mind into a whirlwind of doubt and shame over who I am.  Am I ugly?  Is that why I was beaten?  Am I shameful? Pitiful? Bad?  Since a 2-year old doesn’t have the capacity of mind to understand, it all gets bottled up to deal with later on in life, when our brains can function well enough to take it in and analyze it rationally.

The first time I walked into the church, I felt the spirit of Jesus immediately.  He captured my heart in a moment!  I knew!  This was it!  This was what I was searching all those empty years for.   My best friend had called me earlier that day and excitedly yelled through the phone, “Kath! You’re not gonna believe what happened to me!!”  My mind autoed on what guy she would tell me all about next.  Instead she land-blasted my thinking with, “I went to church and was filled with the Holy Ghost, Kath!  You have to come check it out with me tonight!!”  I was intrigued.  I was also put off.  ‘Shrug.  Another “Christian” story.  Boring.’  But there was that something in her voice.  What was it?  It peaked my curiosity.  “I have to tell you, I’ve been to every church in the area, and I’m turned off by churches.” I dryly replied.  She was persistent.  I went.

My husband, Dean, was sitting at the coffee table, cutting a line of ‘coke’, with his good buddy, Bob, who had served in the military with him just months before.  Dean looked up at me in surprise as I came downstairs all dressed up.   “Where you goin’?”  he asked me.  “I’m going to the church down the road.  Ruth invited me and I told her I’d check it out.”  I quickly replied, to end the conversation.  He shot back, “Don’t come home preaching to me!”  His buddy asked me what church I was going to, and I dismissively replied, “I think it’s some Pentecostal church,” (with no clue what the word even meant).  He said something so profound in that moment, something we wouldn’t comprehend fully until later.  “If she goes to that church, it will change your lives forever.”  Then they went back to their lines as if he never said it.  I found out later Bob was a Pentecostal pastor’s son.  God grows us all through many expressions of church but thinking about it makes me laugh, because there are no coincidences in life.

There is another Bob I have to give credence to.  He’s another of Dean’s buds from the military.  Bob came over one day, long before the day I stepped in that church, and while waiting for Dean to get home, he and I casually sat across from each other, snorting cocaine, smoking and drinking and chatting about nothingness.  Then Bob brought up the big taboo.  Religion.  He asked me what I believed, and I easily told him, while doing a line, “I’m Christian.”  Bob laughed, and somberly injected some truth into my stubborn mind that I would never forget.  It would haunt me for a long time.  I kicked Bob out of my house immediately over what he spoke, and told him never to come back.  I told my husband not to let his sorry friend back in, ever.  Bob simply and with ease said, “I would never sit here doing what we’re doing and call myself a Christian.”  ‘HOW DARE HE!!  Who the {expletive deleted} did he think he was? (side note:  my husband was a sailor, and I cussed worse than he did) Coming in my house and thrashing my belief like that.  I checked the Christian box on any and all documents, (back then you had questionnaires on pretty much any form you filled out, that asked your religious belief), and I was just that, Christian!’  

Like I said, Bob’s words stuck with me.  ‘I’m a Christian, right?  Of course, I have to be a Christian.  I’ve received the Lord in my heart at just about every church around here.  So I have to be!’  It was Bob that helped me begin to break down the walls of pride and ask serious questions of myself for the first time.  If you’re out there, Bob, thank you.

Another serious incident happened to me when I was a 2 year old.  Those “terrible two’s,” man!  The rubella measles went inside and swelled my brain, which put me into a coma.  On the seventh day, the doctors told my parents I wasn’t going to make it, and to come say last rites over me.  My Grams flew in from Illinois.  I was sprinkled by a Lutheran minister (Grams faith), and left there to die.  I still have the bald spot from that time to prove it.  Mom said they didn’t move me due to the sensitivity of the illness.  I also have dystonia from that brief, nine day, period of life.  Dystonia sucks.  But dystonia does not have me.  It makes my head jerk “no” when I don’t want to say NO.  The positive is, I’m not saying “yes” to everyone.   

When my dad called to tell me about the beating, he also told me this,  “Kid, when the doctors told me you were going to die, I went and prayed all night long with the Pastor across the street from us on Nyeland Acres.”  Mom had already told me that cool happening also, but I didn’t share with dad how I already knew.  I gave him the honor of the moment, and thanked him for loving me so much to do that.  I always knew that was the reason I came out of the coma.  My dad, who died of liver failure from alcoholism, my larger than life father, who tossed profanity around like it was candy, prayed for his baby girl, and God heard.  There are no coincidences.

I don’t know where you are reading this today, or what you believe about life and Jesus, but I do know that He loves you just as much as He loves me. You are not reading this post by coincidence. He wants you to know that He chose to go through the unthinkable by dying on the cross so that He could welcome you into an amazing relationship and life with Him. If you want to be in a relationship with Him and know what this is all about, all you have to do is ask.

Prayer:

God, I realize now that you love me and I believe in You. I want to have a real relationship and life with you. Please help me know what it means to be a Christian and to actually follow you. Show me how you’ve been working in my life even up to this point and help me to become the person you created me to be. Amen.

 
Kathy's picKathy Hageman, by God’s grace, is a mom of four amazing sons, two daughter in loves, and grandma to two precious granddaughters. She and Dean have been married for 33 wonderful years   She’s passionate about teaching and helping women to realize their full potential in Christ.  She has been involved in women’s ministries for many years and leads the “Breakfast & Bibles” City Group with Pastor Becky.  This post is an excerpt from the memoir she’s writing, titled, “I Don’t Believe In Coincidence”.

A New Story

The photograph above sits on my fireplace mantel. In it I am laughing, head back, delight and joy in every line across my face as I dance in my father’s arms. I love this photo. It was taken on my wedding day, nearly 7 years ago. It was a day filled with quiet confidence, pure love, overwhelming gratitude and confident expectation of the future.

My Father and I stood behind two large closed doors, waiting. Waiting for that song, a beautiful melody of piano and guitar that would beckon us to walk…his hand in mine…only to give me away. We look at each other smiling, nervously he squeezes my hand, tears welling in his eyes, his lip quivering, fighting back the tears he whispers, “I remember when you were just a little girl…” Deep breath in as if to pause time and stop the tears from falling… “I have always loved you”. I squeeze his hand tight, look into his big brown eyes and know it is true. He loves me. We stay still, waiting and I know I have to pray now…I have to thank God…I speak calmly and certain, declaring the faithful love of God for me, my dad, my husband to be, the joy that we have in Christ, the power to love well, forgive and find ourselves more grateful today then we ever could have imagined …and then the music fills the space, the doors open…we take another deep breath, look at each other one more time, the unspoken words linger between us, we smile… Yes, my father loves me.

That day in 2010, my wedding day, was a day of redemption. A day all about second chances and new beginnings, about grace and love, hope and fulfilled promises.

Eleven years prior to this day, I had walked down another aisle, wore a different white dress, dreamed of a different future and prayed a different prayer. My father would not walk me down that aisle. He would not hold my hand and give me away at that ceremony. I didn’t ask him to.

My heart was filled with hurt, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. In my experiences and encounters with my father as a child, I was left longing. Longing for the affection, attention, and intimacy that any and every young girl desires. I wanted to be “daddy’s little girl”. In my mind, and in my feelings, I was not loved. I was not valued. I remember broken promises and in their wake I was left with a broken heart.

My dad had his fair share of hurt, anger and disappointment as well. I now know more about his story…and yet, at that time, I only had eyes and ears for my own story. I did not know the depth of his pain. His longing. His story. And it is not mine to tell here. All I know is that I spent my life, over 30 years, carrying around the weight of the pain and I had to blame someone…so I blamed him. With an unrelenting spirit to defend my brokenness and in an effort to find restitution, I made him pay for his brokenness. The brokenness that ripped into my heart and created in me a defensive, disrespectful, spiteful attitude. An attitude that cut into his broken heart and deeply wounded both of us in the process.

So, that day, in 1999, I decided he had not earned the right to walk me down the aisle. He had failed me. He had hurt me. He had not loved me the way I longed to be loved. So I put up my walls. I chose to hate. I gave ultimatums and spoke harsh words. I did not care about his feelings, only my own.

The reception was no different. I don’t know if I said 2 words to my father. Not sure if I looked him in his eyes. I certainly did not dance with him. As we prepared to leave that evening for the honeymoon, I saw him. Waiting to the side, his body tense and uncertain, I knew he wanted to say goodbye, maybe even hug me. I avoided his gaze and slipped into the car leaving him there, wanting him to know, “You don’t deserve my love.”

Writing a New Story

In order to hear new words and write new chapters in my story I had to be willing to let go of the stories I was clinging to, the stories and the words they spoke that were defining me. In letting go and telling the truth about where I had been, what I had done, what I had believed, and ultimately confessing that these stories were defining me…only then could I be carried away to a new truth. To a new story.

Being swept away in the river that was my story was frightening. My irrational fears told me that if I let go of my “truths”, those branches on the side of the river that I was clinging to for dear life, I would surely drown. The truth is, by holding on to those branches, those faulty thoughts and twisted truths, I was slowly drowning myself. And the fight was exhausting.

These “truths”, as faulty as they were, were my identity. As broken as I was, it was all I knew. And I just knew that if I let go, I’d die. The familiarity of those stories and my feelings about them were my reality. In them I found a strange sort of comfort, an unrealistic sense of control and a certain responsibility to hold them close. I felt unloved. I felt rejected. I felt unknown. I felt alone. And if I let go, the massive weight of these words and their perceived power were sure to drag me under and suck the life out of me. So I clung to the shore, grasping for air, fighting the current, my strength to hold on being challenged with every wave that washed over me. My will to live, slowly eroding.

I called out to God. Over and over. I called out, “Save me! Rescue me! Help me!” All the while clinging to those little branches. It never occurred to me to let go.  It never crossed my mind that if I let go of the story I was telling myself I would be carried away to a different place. That maybe the river of His grace, like my story, could hold more than turbulent waters and crashing waves. That maybe the river, like my story, could carry me to calm waters and resting places.

His promises came to me. Timely words in the middle of my mess. Words that would redefine the story I was telling myself about my future, my worth, my purpose.

I will lead you beside quiet waters and when you pass through the waters I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. Psalm 23:2 and Isaiah 43:2

In the midst of my hurt and brokenness I was not going anywhere. I was stuck. I wasn’t moving. I was clinging, holding tight to the truths that I had named, blaming God for not rescuing me. Blaming God for the pain, the hurt and the haunting words that filled my mind. And as I wrestled those waves, he was patiently waiting for me to let go. Through his word He reminded me that when I pass through the rivers I will not be swept away but rather I will be held and led to quiet waters, calm waters, restoring waters.

Letting go, it’s more than just loosening your grasp. It’s trusting that when you do, God’s going to hold fast to you because of who He is. Usually when we hold on to our past, it’s stories and voices, it is because we are not really sure about the character of God. We are not altogether certain He is good, loving, kind, and forgiving.

You can only trust God as much as you know you are loved by God. -Brennan Manning

The journey of letting go of your old stories must be accompanied with a new reality. A new truth. A new journey.  The journey of embracing and becoming your truest self is directly linked to your response to God’s offer of grace. The gift of life with Him. He took the first step by sending His son, Jesus, to the cross and accepting you exactly as you are. He is good and can be trusted with the decisions of your life. He is loving. He will sustain you, hold you, help you, protect you, grow and empower you. He will never leave you. You can let go now. His plans are for your good. When you trust Him, He fills, satisfies, leads and provides.

And the hard stuff, He will use it for your good.

And the voices of shame and condemnation, He will replace them with words of kindness, compassion and love.

And the determination to protect yourself, He will be your rear guard and your front guard, protecting you with his mighty hand.

And the uncertainty of the future, He will lead you and guide you in all your ways.

But we have to let go.

Once we determine that we are going to let go, we are also admitting that we are not in control. The future is unknown. The twists, bends, and turns on the river ahead are uncharted territory. To us. But not to God.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. -Corrie ten Boom

There is no need to be afraid. We have a guide, a captain, Jesus.

His promises are certain. A solid place for us to land. Bedrock under our feet. Steady and sure.

He will never leave us or forsake us. He will lead us by his righteous right hand and no matter where we turn, whether to the right or the left, we will hear a voice behind us, saying this is the way, walk in it.

IMG_0662Nicole Edgmond is a mother to two daughters, and a wife to Jason. She has counseling experience working in both the church and clinical setting. She holds a Master’s in Education (Southwest Baptist University) and a Master’s in Clinical Counseling (Liberty University). She is the director of Embraced Ministries and has worked with clients in her private practice since 2011. Her passion is to meet individual needs for authentic connection, intimacy with Christ, emotional healing & to help people in the pursuit of their God-given purpose. Nicole leads a City Group on Tuesday nights called, Stories, and hosts “Gather,” a time for women to come together and grow together in Jesus. To find out more about her City Group and many others, click here.