For Girls

A Girl’s Guide to Gratitude

Thanksgiving was just last week, but another holiday happened even more recently: Black Friday! Although Black Friday may on the surface be “the official start of holiday shopping,” let’s be honest—how many of those deal were we really trying to score for ourselves?

Maybe you didn’t participate in the Black Friday frenzy. But even if you didn’t go shopping, you might have been thinking about your Christmas wish list. Does Thanksgiving even matter? If we rush into a season of wish lists and shopping the day after, it sure doesn’t seem like it.

The truth is, even though Thanksgiving is just one day, being thankful is important all the time. It shapes the way we see people and things in our lives—having a grateful attitude can actually make us happier. (Check out Harvard Health and Psychology Today.) But our own happiness isn’t the only thing on the line. God also tells us to be thankful.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sometimes it can be hard to feel thankful. One of the best ways to have a thankful attitude is to take the focus off yourself and look around you.

What people around you might be in need? Serving your community is a great way to see how other people around you live. A couple at my church started a ministry called Bright Spot, which takes meals to a local park on weekends to serve families that are tight on money. Bright Spot also regularly collects clothing and other items to hand out at the park. Ask your pastor or a leader at your church if there are any similar ministries connected to your church and find out if they have a way you can volunteer.

When you see how other people are in need, you begin to realize just how much you have! When you realize just how much you have, you can begin to think about how you can use what you have to bless others.

Being grateful helps you serve those around you and also makes the things in your life more special because you have a greater appreciation for them.

Another great way to feel thankful is to go through your room or your closet and see how much you can give away. Most of us own far more than we need, but we don’t even think about it. As you spend time deciding what to give away, you end up thinking about each individual item you own. Why do you have some of the things you have? Is that necklace special because someone gave it to you? Or maybe you have a souvenir you got on a special trip? Be thankful for the experiences and people those items represent! As you realize which things are actually important and special to you, you can remove the stuff that gets in the way. Not only can you give things away to people in need, but the things you choose to keep have meaning.

Of course, stuff you own shouldn’t be the only thing you are thankful for. That’s the focus of this blog today, but as you learn to be more grateful for the things you have, also start to think about how you can be grateful for less tangible areas of your life. Think about the ways your parents, other family members, friends, teachers, and others in your life support you every day. Appreciating the ways people bless you with their time or kindness is another way to boost your sense of gratitude.

Being thankful helps us appreciate what we have, makes us kinder and more empathetic to those around us, and ultimately, makes us feel more joy because we are living with what God wants for us: a thankful heart.

For Adults

Three Steps to Thankfulness

by Ana Batts

“In fifteen years of marriage, this is the busiest that we have ever been. If I can just make it to Thanksgiving, I think I can survive.”

I heard the words come out of my mouth before I could stop myself. Then the voice of conviction pierced my heart: “If you do thanksgiving first, the rest will work itself out.”

The busyness of my life had begun to quench my gratitude for the amazing gifts, tasks, and opportunities that God has blessed me with. I am working on creating a culture of gratitude in my heart and my home so that we can “do thanksgiving first” this year.

Here are three goals that I have set for myself in my ongoing journey toward thankfulness.

1. Clear the Clutter

With 6 kids and 2 adults in a 3-bedroom house there is always clutter in our house. The fight against the stacks of papers and things that want to clutter our counters and take up our space is nonstop. Clearing the physical clutter helps me focus less on “stuff” around me and more on the moments of our life.

But there is a much more dangerous kind of clutter that creeps in and takes our mental energy—the clutter in our schedule. Charles Hummel aptly called it the “tyranny of the urgent.” There is a nonstop parade of “good” things that are happy to take our time. Creating space in our schedule by saying “no” to good things so we can say “yes” to the best things will give us the mental space to make gratitude a priority.

2. Change the Narrative

The things we talk about are the things that we focus on. If we focus on the negative, we will always find the cloud instead of the silver lining, and our hearts will find it easier to complain than to be thankful. Shifting the focus by changing the narrative in our minds will help our hearts be more grateful no matter the circumstance.

3. Center the Gratitude

One thing I enjoy about November is seeing all the posts on social media as friends share the things that they are thankful for. But #blessed #grateful #thankful is not a substitution for actually thanking the One who is the giver of all good gifts. Taking time to privately and publicly address our thankfulness to God is important part of a healthy spiritual life.

As you travel through the busy seasons of this life, my prayer for you is that you find time for thankfulness in the everyday and that the culture of your home will be one of gratitude all year long.


James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 2:6-7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

For Adults

Busy, Busy, Busy

by Diana Bryant

If you talked to a dozen women today, no matter their age or occupation, I can guarantee one word would come up in every conversation – BUSY. Young mothers, career women, retired grandmothers, church volunteers, and even young teens who go to school, play sports, and take dance lessons give the same answer. “Busy!” is the common reply to the question, “How are you?”

As parents, we have the responsibility to teach our children many things. From the mundane – how to brush their teeth – to the eternally significant – how to recognize right and wrong. We discover early on that some things are taught by instruction and some things are caught by daily observing our lives in the privacy of our own homes and in public before others.

“Busy” is not in itself a bad thing. Persistent idleness is not good stewardship of our time, resources, or abilities. But neither is the “busyness” that saps our joy, skews our priorities, and causes us to place more emphasis on the superficial than the significant.
What are your children learning from your mastery – or slavery – to your schedule?

Consider these opposing messages:

  1. We teach our children the importance of learning God’s Word, of reading their Bibles. Do they see you modeling that? If our busy day keeps us from God’s Word, regardless of what parents and Sunday School teachers have said, we are teaching, “It’s not that important, there are other things that really need to be done.” Priorities are caught, and when they don’t match our spoken words, children will notice and draw their own conclusions.
  2. We work hard to make our daughters understand that their value comes from who they ARE, a child of God, not what they can DO. When we have a relentless schedule, involve ourselves with too many commitments, and use an inordinate amount of our energy to make every event we are involved in as perfect as we can get it, we are really teaching our daughters that our successes and accomplishments define our self worth. If we are constantly talking about how busy we are, wearing that phrase as a badge of honor, it speaks loudly to girls who desperately want to be valuable in this world.
  3. Are we using our busy schedules to avoid something else? Are there issues in our relationships that need to be dealt with? Perhaps making sure every minute is filled with some kind of activity gives us the excuse we need to sweep those concerns under the rug? Busyness can become addictive, but real connections with our families and friends cannot thrive without the time and attention they need. “You can always talk to me!” won’t ring true with our daughters if they can’t find a time that we are available and not distracted by activity.

These words are easy, but dealing with this issue in real life is not. Being needed, appreciated, and admired feels good. The lure of being sought after feeds our self-esteem. But seeking God’s direction for our schedules is more reliable than doing things just because we want to – or feel like we have to. Our relationship with God cannot be nurtured by busyness – even if we are busy with good things.

Think about these things as you consider your priorities in scheduling and modeling time management for your daughters and other young women in your life:

  • Remember that there are seasons in life. There may be a particular activity or cause you really want to be involved in, but waiting until a different season in your life may be better for everyone. Important causes will still be there long after your window of everyday influence in your daughter’s life closes.
  • Understand the difference between a good work ethic and being a workaholic. One glorifies God, the other glorifies ourselves.
  • If you are feeling burdened, harried, frustrated, and exhausted by your schedule, honestly ask God if you are following His leading or your own. This requires honesty on our part, but God has promised wisdom when we ask. Take Him up on that promise!

Check out our companion blog post for girls: So Much to Do, So Little Time

For Girls

So Much to Do, So Little Time

by Rachel Bryant

Homework. Dance class. Soccer practice. Part-time job. Youth group activities. Piano lessons. After-school clubs. Hanging out with friends. Dinner with family. It’s enough to make any girl feel totally overwhelmed.

There are so many great opportunities out there to learn, to create, to grow… but how do you decide which ones are best? Sometimes we find ourselves trying to pursue every opportunity in front of us, but we just don’t have enough time—or energy. We end up exhausted, burned out, and not really enjoying any of it.

Honestly, finding a balance and prioritizing your life is an ongoing struggle, even as you grow up. The good news is, I’ve been dealing with it for longer, so I’ve got plenty of tips to help you figure out your priorities!

Tip 1: Whatever you do, put God first.

I know this sounds like the church answer and kind of a vague tip, but this is honestly the most important (that’s why it’s #1). The Bible tells us to “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Putting God first puts the rest of our life in perspective and allows Him to help guide our life and choices. What does that actually look like in real life? Well, “have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) means not putting all of our activities in front of God. I know it’s hard when maybe your team has games Sunday morning or you’d rather peruse Instagram instead of doing your personal devotions or Bible reading. It can be hard to stick with it, but when you read the Bible and spend consistent time with God in prayer, all other decisions you make will naturally be filtered through what God has to say. God promises us that if we “in all ways acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths” (Proverbs 3:6).

Tip 2: Try to be well-rounded.

Sometimes we find a hobby, sport, or other activity that we really like or are really good at and we commit to it 110%. While it’s great to find what you like, try to remember there are a whole lot of opportunities out there. Try new and different things—you never know what you might discover, and even if you end up not liking it and you don’t do it again, at least you tried something new. That helps make you a more flexible and well-rounded person, which can only help you as you grow into adulthood and make decisions about college, career, and life.

Tip 3: Don’t overcommit.

BONUS TIP: It’s okay to say “no” sometimes! Or simply, “not right now.” Like we talked about in Tip #2, it’s great to try a variety of new things, but that doesn’t mean you have to do them all at once. There are so many opportunities, but learning what you can handle and when it becomes too much is an important learning process. Pay attention to when you start to feel like everything is “too much”—feeling like you are overwhelmed and stressed can be signs. Remember, just because something is a good thing or a fun thing doesn’t mean you have to do it. There are so many good things out there, but it’s just not possible to do all of them, especially at the same time.

Tip 4: Listen to advice.

Sometimes it’s hard to realize when we’re maxed out. It seems like everything is important and fun, and we don’t want to miss out on anything. Once you add up all the things you have to do, like homework and school, and all the things you want to do, like hang out with friends, sometimes it seems like there’s nothing you can cut from your schedule. Talk to your parents, a trusted adult friend or relative, or youth group leader about your schedule. Listen to them if they tell you it’s too much. Listen to them if they suggest giving up something or postponing something. Ask for help prioritizing your activities and ask for advice. Hearing from a different perspective can prove helpful.

Tip 5: Somethings are non-negotiable.

Take care of yourself! Make sure you’re not sacrificing your health for all these activities. We’re talking the basics here: get enough sleep, eat healthy meals, drink lots of water, get some exercise. Make sure your school work is not being neglected; that is your job right now, so don’t let your education suffer. Make sure to spend time with family or friends just relaxing and not worrying about the next thing on your schedule. And finally, once again, make sure you make time for God. Go to church, go to youth group or Bible Study, and have your own personal Bible study time.

So much to do, so little time, right? Finding balance is not always easy, but figuring out your priorities allows you to “make the best use of your time” (Ephesians 5:16a).

For Adults

Decoding Girl Politics: The Issues Behind It, and How You Can Help Your Girl Rise Above It

by Beth Bryant

If you have a daughter, student, or mentee in 5th grade or higher, you might have noticed that in the stormy midst of all the other changes adolescence brings, there is a definite shift toward the importance of peer relationships (and away from the parents) and the role they play in her life. This is a normal, healthy, important shift toward independence as girls learn how to be a functional part of society.

But, if a girl does not have strong sense of her identity and self-worth built up by the time she enters adolescence, this shift can be negative, as she will define herself by the opinions of her peers and the way they treat her and accept her or don’t accept her.

Between 5th and 10th grades (and sometimes longer), many girl-girl peer relationships are all about status, power, approval, and affirmation.

Adults in the girl’s support system (parents, teachers, youth leaders, mentors) should recognize that relational aggression (the psychological term for “mean girl” drama) occurs frequently. The chances that your girl will deal with some aspect of relational aggression is very likely. This aggression occurs when there is a power struggle within a girl’s peer group or when any girl of the group acts physically, mentally, or emotionally aggressive toward another to protect or promote her own status.

Actions can be physical or mental, from threatening or isolating/excluding others, to spreading rumors and insults, online or in person. It’s important to note that girls tend to bully differently than boys do. Girl bullies tend to have plenty of friends, good social skills, do well in school, and know the girls they are bullying. With a group of friends, girls can act in packs to isolate and exclude “outsiders.”

Peer group structure is important to understanding your daughter’s or your student’s needs: The hierarchy breakdown below from Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes is incredibly helpful in decoding the social world of girls.

  • Queen Bee: operates through some combination of charm, power, money, looks, strong will and manipulation. The ruler of the social group—others will obey her commands because they’re afraid of her or they want to be associated with her to promote themselves socially.
  • Sidekick: second in command—copies the QB and carries out her commands when the QB is not around. She does everything QB wants her to and usually gangs up on other girls with QB. The sidekick can sometimes change for the better if she is separated from the QB.
  • Banker: gathers information about other girls and stores it up to use for her own agenda or to give herself more social power. This girl often appears to be trustworthy and friendly (otherwise she wouldn’t get the info in the first place.)
  • Torn Bystander: senses the QB is wrong, has a conscience and wants to do what’s right but feels powerless to help because of fear of the QB or because she’s devoted to the group.
  • Wannabe/Pleaser: grovels at the feet of the QB and will do anything to gain her approval and acceptance. She doesn’t realize that while the QB is using her to do her dirty work, she is also mocking her.
  • Floater: This girl floats easily between peer groups and doesn’t give them too much power over her because she is confident about who she is. She’s friendly to other girls, likeable, and doesn’t feel the need to have the QB’s approval, so she mostly stays out of the Girl Drama game. HINT:: these are the girls we are trying to build.
  • Target: She can be inside or outside the peer group, but she is the victim of the group’s humiliation for many possible reasons (guys, how she looks, what she wears, challenging the power structure of the group, holding different beliefs, etc.) The Target will rarely tell her parents about the abuse she suffers and she will often just withdraw—physically, emotionally, or even both.

(Here’s a handy printable version of that social hierarchy list!)

So what can you do to help your girl navigate the rocky waters of adolescent peer relationships?

  1. Teach her to build her relationships to be less about competition, comparison, and approval based on arbitrary cultural trends to build them around acceptance, common goals, support, and sharing and loving Christ. (Bible studies, all-girl small groups, discipleships, exercises in encouragement, church attendance that is an integral part of the student’s life– not just casual attendance—are all great ways to foster those relationships.
  2. If you’re a youth worker or ministering to girls, understand who the QB and Targets are in your group. Look for the girl others emulate and look out for the ones others isolate. Some will also isolate themselves in protection if they think they won’t be accepted.
  3. Don’t be deceived. Even pre-pubescent girls are very capable of manipulation. Even if a girl knows all the right Bible answers and plays the role of a good Christian, she can still perpetuate Relational Aggression. Our social media driven culture with its easy access and permanent nature (once online, always online!) make it very easy to do this behind the protection of a screen (even for less courageous girls).
  4. Know when to remove your girl from a bad peer group. Sometimes it’s best to stick it out and keep training her. Sometimes it’s necessary to take action and change schools or even churches.
  5. Teach girls from an early age that their value comes from God and His approval is what they really need.  Teach them outward focus and help them to see the real needs of the world outside their “bubbles” or cliques. Remind them that this season may FEEL permanent, but it’s not forever!
  6. Watch for deeper signs of stress, anxiety, isolation and depression. Remember Targets tend to internalize it or just try to “deal with” the aggression rather than letting any adults know about it.
For Girls

Dump the Drama: How to Survive Girl Politics in a Mean Girl World

by Beth Bryant

We all need somebody to lean on…..at least—that’s what the song says. And for the most part, it’s true. We need friendships with other girls to help us navigate the stormy and sometimes epically disastrous waters of middle and high school. But making friends and maintaining those friendships can be hard! Dealing with people who mistreat you or act like you don’t even exist is harder. What’s a God’s Girl do??

First of all, be kind to everyone (even people you might not like!)

Do you ever feel belittled, gossiped about, unaccepted, isolated, or maybe even targeted by other girls? You are not alone. Studies show that teen girls are twice as likely as guys to suffer from anxiety and depression, and drama and girl politics can certainly have a heavy hand in that. In Luke 6:27, Jesus commands us to “Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you.” Simply loving people who are mean to you might not make that mean person act better, but you will be in the right.

Even Paul seemed to understand how crazy girl world can be. In Galatians, he wrote, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Sometimes it seems like girls are all biting and devouring one another! It’s not easy to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us or even victimize us—but it’s an important part of being God’s girl—doing the complete opposite of what we might feel like doing.

Loving your neighbors and enemies means praying for those who mistreat you. Why? Because God commands us to, and He has our best interest at heart. When His girls have different reactions than other girls would, people start to pay attention. And when you reflect Jesus, they see Him in you.

You don’t only have to spend time with people who are exactly like you.

When it comes to building friendships, it’s important to understand that the best ones take plenty of time to develop. We tend to gravitate toward people who are like us, whether we like the same hobbies, share personality traits and preferences, or have similar life situations. That’s not a bad place to start!

But you should also be willing to get to know and accept people who are different from you. If you only spend time with friends who are exactly like you, you could inadvertently end up in a clique or exclude girls who could turn out to be wonderful friends! Spending time with lots of different people is a great way to help others feel included and a good way to learn more about the world around you!

Be on guard against your own “mean girl” tendencies. Deep down inside, do you sometimes feel so insecure that putting someone else down seems like it will make you feel better? Sometimes we trivialize other girls’ successes because they make us feel like a failure. Or we are tempted to use deception or other manipulative tactics to try to get what we want. When your inner Regina George starts to come out, take note! Make a point to choose Christ-like attitudes and behaviors instead. Just because everyone else is sucked into the drama, gossip, jealousy, and cliques, doesn’t mean you have to be.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Lastly, God’s girls also need to know that no person deserves to carry the weight of making you feel valuable or worthy. Sure, it would be nice if the cool girls at school would notice you. Sure, it would be great if your BFF was always completely and totally reliable. But people are just people—messed up and sometimes hurtful even when they have good intentions. It’s who we are. Only having a right relationship with God—one where we know we are His: redeemed, loved, with a future full of His GOOD plans—can provide us with everything we really need. Only God will ever truly “get” us. He designed us this way so we would seek Him first and know Him better.

Some Practical Tips for Surviving Girl Politics

  1. Avoid settling into a clique. Switch up your friend groups and sit with different people at lunch when you can (maybe even that girl who sits by herself a lot??).
  2. Build up other girls. God knows we all need the support, so be the one to write encouraging notes, share compliments freely, and look for ways to make other girls feel special.
  3. Change the subject. If someone’s not around and they’re being spoken about negatively, pick a new topic, walk away, or remind others that they can talk to that person directly if there is an issue.
  4. Apologize to other girls you might have treated badly. It’s always God’s will for you to make things right. Not clearing things up can also affect your relationship with Him. (Matthew 5:23-24)
  5. If someone you know is a target of bullying, take action by telling an adult you trust. It may seem like the opposite of what you want to do, but things can escalate out of hand quickly. A trusted adult can help you come up with a management plan or notify those who can step into the situation.
  6. Keep your focus outside your circle. Pray for missionaries, volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry, serve at your church, or find other ways to reach out to others in compassion.
  7. Use social media responsibly. Don’t type anything on a screen you wouldn’t say to the person you’re typing it about.
  8. Get help if you need it. Be on alert for signs of anxiety or depression in yourself that might be caused by friend/frenemy drama such as…. suicidal thoughts, not being able to sleep, sleeping too much, isolating yourself from friends or family, struggling to control emotions, lack of appetite, over-eating, etc…… These are serious concerns and a licensed counselor might be needed to help you process what you’re going through. Be honest with the adults in your life about what you’re dealing with.
For Adults

My Kid Can Do What On Her Phone??

by Sarah Sargent

Would you ever drop your teenage daughter off in a foreign city you know nothing about, and expect her to navigate her way home—safely—alone?

Of course not!

However, we often do that every day. Even if you’re not familiar with much more on the Internet beyond Facebook and Yahoo, your kids are familiar with a lot more. You may know little to nothing about what your daughter browses on the Internet or what she does on the apps she downloads on her smartphone. Yet you expect she will make all the right choices, possibly without any guidance. You know how corrupt our world can be, and the online world is no different. Don’t leave your daughter unexposed. Take a look at these parental control software and apps to protect your children while they are online.

uKnowKids

uKnowKids is a service that helps parents monitor their kids’ digital activities, including social media, texting, call & FaceTime monitoring, photos, and app usage.

Comparitech, a site that researches and compares tech products, recommended uKnowKids, saying its “ability to reach into every single aspect of a social media account is unheard of among any of its competitors, and so from that standpoint we’d have to give it a 10/10 with extra flourish on top.”

Pros

  • Exceptionally designed web dashboard
  • Simple setup procedure
  • Extensive social network monitoring features
  • The only iOS app with complete monitoring
  • 7-day free trial

Cons

  • No web filtering options
  • No internet blocking
  • Support options are limited

Qustodio

Qustodio is a parental control app that allows you to set limits, block certain sites, and monitor activity on your child’s phone. PCMag notes that parental control tools need to be able to work on mobile devices, which Qustodio does.

Pros

  • Location tracking
  • Schedule internet, device, and app usage
    Supports secure browsing

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Social monitoring only tracks Facebook
  • Some iOS limitations

My personal recommendation is to use these two software options simultaneously. uKnowKids is better for monitoring social media, but that’s not the only danger available to your children, and Qustodio is a great option for filtering websites. Neither of these options are cheap–but if you are financially able to utilize these resources, they will be well worth it.

Internet and technology are part of our everyday lives. But please understand that as useful as technology is, it can still be dangerous. If you have decided to allow your child access to the Internet or to have a smartphone, please know that this decision can have both lifelong and eternal repercussions.

Talk frequently with your kids about how they are using technology and their phones. What apps are their favorite? What sites are their friends on? What’s the newest game kids are playing on their phones? Actually listen to what they say during these discussions.

Then, do your research. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask Google it! Like “the sex talk,” this shouldn’t be a one time conversation. Make tech talks with your kids a regular topics of your conversations at home.

Our companion blog post, written specifically for your daughter, contains information about the ways your smartphone can track and store data about her photos, browsing habits, and more. Read and share the blog post here.

My last tip for you is to seek a Christian perspective on all things related to your tween or teen child’s culture. Stay in the loop on trends, apps, and the latest topics your teen might come home with. I highly recommend the Axis weekly e-newsletter, which offers a current list of trends and changes in teen culture each week. From the music video your daughter’s friend just showed her last night, to the app all the kids at school are downloading, stay on top of trends so you can be prepared to deal with potential issues.

Conversation Starters

With all of these apps and software options, don’t forget that it’s also incredibly important to talk to your daughter. Don’t hide her away in her room under lock and key just because the world is a dangerous place. Start conversations with your kids to help them learn how to navigate the digital world they live in.

  • Would Jesus follow you on Instagram?
  • Have you ever experienced Cyberbullying? (And if you haven’t, has any of your friends?)
  • Have you read the Shine! girl’s tech blog? Have you made sure to off those settings on your devices?

For additional software options to monitor screens and block and filter websites, check out this list of PC Magazine’s Best Parental Control Software of 2018.