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For Girls

Through the Fog

By: Claire Ryan

One morning, when I still lived with my grandparents, I woke up to a thick layer of fog. Pawpaw pointed outside.

“You’ll need to be extra careful today.” He said

I nodded and sat across from Pawpaw. Sometimes we’d sit quietly, sometimes we’d converse. But he always sent me off to work with a prayer.

“When we pray, we don’t inform You of anything You don’t already know.” Pawpaw said gently. “You already know about the fog.”

Immediately, my throat tightened and I got that growing pressure behind my eyes that can only mean one thing: the waterworks were knocking at the door.

Lord, You know about the fog.

Figuratively speaking, if I have come across one layer of fog in my life, I’ve barreled through hundreds more. Sometimes, it’s so thick, I can hardly see my feet hitting the ground in front of me. A head on collision occurs, and I’m left feeling broken, bruised, lonely, and forgotten.

This fog can appear in several different forms: the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, fear, a broken heart, a lonely spirit, self-doubt, bullying, a secret sin, etc. My fog is most often ‘worry’; but as the staircase rises higher, it can become as condoning as ‘fear.’

How do I get past this break-up? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why don’t they like me? I’m fat, I’ll stop eating. No one cares about me. I am worthless. I should just give up.

These are questions and thoughts that penetrate the mind and continue to enforce the false belief that we lead meaningless lives in a meaningless world where no one cares.

The fog thickens.

Too often, I attempt to force myself through this unforgiving fog. A natural instinct is to hurry out of it as fast as I can, using my own strength.

This is not what the Lord has called us to. I imagine Him looking down at me with overwhelming love and grace saying, “What are you doing, child? Don’t you know that I am your eyesight? I cause the blind to see. Is it not enough that I be your strength? My power is made perfect in your weakness.” With an undying, incomprehensible love, He proclaims, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Oh, but being still is hard; especially when I find myself in the fog.

What does it mean to be still? Consider the beginning verses of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very presenthelp in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (vs 1-3). Though the fog becomes too thick for us to breathe, though we can’t see daylight on the other side, though our hearts are heavy with sorrow, though our joy be threatened by this life. Being still in the presence of our Lord means that although we find ourselves in the midst of all of life’s frantic activity, we stand firm and still, trusting that the God of all comfort has gone before us. We should not fear, we should not cower, we should not run and hide.

“Know that I am God.” In this, He is loudly proclaiming, “I am omniscient! Omnipotent! Omnipresent! I am Love, I am Justice, and I am undefiled! I am strong enough to carry your burdens, holy enough to pay for your sins, and merciful enough to forgive your humanity! I. Am. God. You can know this; you can trust me!”

Wow. The Great I Am says all of that to me and to you.

Whatever it is in your fog, it cannot stand against the love of our Savior. Fear has no place, heartbreak self-destructs, and death cannot prevail. Despite our poor vision and the fact we can’t see what’s coming next, we are not alone. Take a breath, slow your walk, and take it one step at a time.

Most importantly: be still.

Because He already knows about the fog.

For Girls

Suicide Survivor

By: Sarah Sargent

Suicide and self-harm are more than just a topic for a popular Netflix show. For this Shine blog, I decided to do a Q & A with a suicide attempt survivor. Because if statistics are right, you or at least one of your closest five friends has self-harmed in the last twelve months.

Ashley is in her mid 20’s and just recently graduated with her degree in childhood education. When she was in high school, she attempted to take her life. God intervened and made a miraculous change in her life. Now she is an advocate for mental health issues and warrior for Jesus Christ.  

What have you learned from surviving a suicide attempt?

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It was such a dark place and I felt so alone. Immediately after, my family took me to church. I met people who loved me with no expectations. They loved me because God’s love lived in and poured out of them. Through them I learned God loved me.

What’s one thing you would tell a teen girl that was struggling with suicidal thoughts?

The biggest thing I would say is seek help immediately. I know you feel so alone, and it feels so dark. You may feel like you’ll be judged because of your thoughts but the reality is there is hope. There is an end to that, and you just have to seek help to find that hope.

To girls struggling with anxiety, stress, depression and loneliness, where can she look in the Bible for people struggling and comfort?

Elijah, Job, Naomi and David are a few. I think you first should understand that struggling with these mental illnesses doesn’t mean you are a bad Christian. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). There is a difference in being depressed and not having joy. I can be depressed but still have joy, because I have Jesus and He comforts me.

If they have concerns about a friend or family member’s safety, what should they do?

I know you will think you are breaking someone’s trust, but you should tell someone immediately. This is someone’s life. Someone you care about and love. It’s better to have them mad at you and get them help than to do nothing so you don’t hurt their feelings. Confronting them yourself may not be the best. However, telling an adult that could get them help could save their life.

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
(Ashley’s favorite Bible verse)

For Adults

Suicide Survivor

By: Sarah Sargent

If you have ever attended a Shine event you know we don’t shy away from difficult topics. This month’s blog is no different. Before we get started take a couple deep breaths and try to lower your blood pressure as much as possible. For the next few minutes, we will be talking about a topic that is a parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, it is too often a parent’s reality. Childrenshospital.org reports that “according to 2019 statistics from the CDC, 8.9 percent of high school students surveyed attempted suicide and 18.8 percent of high school students ‘seriously considered’ attempting suicide.”

My friend, Ashley, is in her mid 20’s and recently graduated with her degree in childhood education. When she was in high school, she attempted to take her life. God intervened and made a miraculous change in her life. Now she is an advocate for mental health issues and warrior for Jesus Christ. For this blog I wanted to let you hear about this hard topic from her.

What have you learned from surviving a suicide attempt?

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It was such a dark place and I felt so alone. Immediately after, my family took me to church. I met people who loved me with no expectations. They loved me because God’s love lived in and poured out of them. Through them I learned God loved me.

What’s one thing you would tell a parent or a youth leader who believes they have a kid struggling with suicidal thoughts?

You have to do something!. The risk of losing them out ways any kind of broken relationship or anything like that. So certainly, pray about the right way to as,k but confront it immediately. Look for warning signs.

What are some of these warning signs?

  1. Changes to their sleep patterns.
  2. If they don’t like the things, they used to like to do.
  3. Nothing seems to bring them joy.
  4. They stop hanging out with their friends.
  5. Another big one is how they wear their clothes.

How do you think social media and all of that contributes to mental illness, depression and suicide?

It has a major impact! Adults need to be very careful what their kids are viewing. What content they are seeing? Not just social media, Tik Tok, or Instagram, but tv shows, movies, videos, etc. It puts those ideas in their heads. Things are almost amplified.

Also, people can just be mean. On social media people are worse. There are bullies everywhere hiding behind the screen and some of them are adults. That makes this very scary.

How can a parent really help a child press into God during their dark times?

It starts by living the example. Seeing your parents press into God during their dark times will teach you to do it as well. It also helps if you are vulnerable with them. Let them know you also struggle with things, but this is what God has done in your life.

You can share what Bible stories and verses have brought you encouragement during your rough times. Everyone struggles with deep sadness. It may not be on the same level as your teen, but show them this is okay and normal. Reassure your teen that you will do whatever is possible to help them. It starts with a conversation. Get them around people who will pray with and for them. Get them involved in activities where they can open up. Be around people who can help them on a mental health level as well as a spiritual levell.

If I had to guess you feel a bit overwhelmed and you desperately want more information. You want to get into to minds of your teens and you want resources to help. I want to end this blog with things to help you do both.

Discussion Questions

• What’s something you wish I knew about your mental health?

• How can you better help those who have mental health struggles? Do you know what to do if a friend tells you they’re considering self-harm or suicide?

• How do your friends talk about mental health issues? Do you have someone besides me that you can talk to if you’re struggling?

• How can I best help you press into God during your dark times?

Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-800-273-TALK
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) or 1-800-SUICIDE
  • Mentalhealthministries.net
  • Christianity Today’s “Top 10 Resources for Mental Health Ministry”
  • Axis.org
    • A parent’s guide to Suicide and Self Harm
    • A parent’s guide to Depression & Anxiety
    • Suicide Video Kit
For Girls

Church Family

Destinee Payne

Life can be tough. I remember many times as a young woman I asked God “Why?” Why would he allow such terrible things to happen? I wrestled with these questions as a teenager, but again and again God would reveal his presence and guidance in my life. I began to realize that I may not have all the answers, but God has equipped me with the things I need to make it through. Sin has entered the world and we may not understand God’s perfect plan, but we can have assurance in the fact that God will equip us with what we need to make it through.

For example, in my life,

Tragedies – church burning and pastor leaving

Love and support- we continued meeting

Everyone helped each other

Trust

Someone to Ask for advice

Support even now later in life

1 Corinthians 12: 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Romans 12:9-13 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient[c] in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given[d] to hospitality.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 11 Therefore [b]comfort each other and [c]edify one another, just as you also are doing.

People who have wisdom and love for you are the best to have for support

For Girls, Uncategorized

Lonely But Not Alone

By: Lainey and Ansley Batts

2020 was a lonely year. Social distancing and cancelled events meant building friendships was a challenge. It was a reminder that relationships take time and effort. We recognize all of this when we talk about growing friendships with the people around us, but those same principles apply when we talk about growing in our relationship with God and His word. So how do we grow in our relationship with God? How do we make His word familiar to us?

1.Build your Scripture Streak –

Make it a habit to read one verse (or more) every day. Keep a record of your reading streak. Most Bible apps will do this for you automatically! No one wants to break thier streaks on social media or games, so use that motivation to help you build your faith. Setting aside a specific time each day to read a verse can help you build the habit of studying scripture.

2. Get some good tools

Some passages of Scripture can be hard to understand so get some help. A good study Bible will have notes to help you understand what the verses mean. There are also great free online resources. Bible apps you can highlight passages of Scripture to help you remember what you are studying. But don’t get so caught up in the study helpers that you forget to read what the actual Bible says.

3. Plan an action step.

When you study a verse take time to consider how it applies in your life.

Does this verse challenge you do change your behavior? Does it encourage you? Is it something that you want to share with someone else? Writing out a verse on an index card and posting it where you will see it is a great want to keep it in your mind. Writing your action plan on the back of the card can help hold yourself accountable for applying the verse in your life.

4. Take time for prayer. Building a friendship takes time for talking and listening. Building a relationship with God is the same. Taking time to read His word. And taking time to share your heart with Him.

2020 may have been lonely but 2021 can be the year when we start building a relationship with the One who will always be with us.

For Adults, Uncategorized

Filling Our Spiritual Cup

By: Ana Batts

I opened the drawer that sits under my coffee maker.

Nothing. An empty drawer. The coffee pods were gone. My cup was empty.

Panic set in. How could I face my day with an empty cup?!? That quiet moment standing there contemplating the possibility of a $5 coffee run gave me a change to pause and reflect.

When it comes to spiritual things, how many days do I start with an empty cup? As a woman, mom, wife, mentor and friend I want pour into those around me. But when my cup is empty it is impossible to pour into those around me.

So how do we fill our spiritual cup?

1 Start where you are. Has it been a week since you lasted opened your Bible on a day that isn’t a Sunday? Or maybe a month? Or a year? Be honest with yourself about where you are and go from there. Don’t let the guilt of not being in the Word keep you from being in the Word.

2. Take time to reflect. Reading the Word is a powerful thing. However, taking the time to reflect on what it says and how it applies to your life is an important part that is often skipped. Copying down the scripture that we are studying is a great way to memorize it. Journaling what we are learning and how it applies in our lives is a great tool.

(My girls share about how they use writing in their personal Bible Study over here.)

3. Find someone to share with. Talking about spiritual things is a great way to pour into those around us. Making spiritual things part of our daily conversations also helps us hold one another accountable. Knowing that a friend will ask, “what have you been reading about in God’s Word lately?” can motivate us to build the consistent habit of being in the Word. Sharing spiritual struggles as well as personal discoveries of God’s Word can help us continue to fill our spiritual cup and to pour into those around us.

On the days when we feel spiritual empty, let us go do the One that always keeps His word.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

For Girls

Always Growing

By: Hannah Gorrell

In Matthew 7, we are cautioned to observe the fruits grown by all people. Matthew writes we should beware of those who come graciously disguised but are deceitful having intentions to harm.  We should know these imposters, he says, based on their fruit.

This concept seems abstract, but actually it is true that every person has a fruitful life in some way. Thankfully, we do not have fruit growing from our arms and legs. Instead, Jesus uses this analogy to explain that our lives show the products (fruits) of our decisions. For example, those who practice their sport for hours and hours may produce winning scores for their teams. Thus, the fruit they bear from their hard work would be a win.

Interestingly the passage never suggests that our lives bear no fruit, but only that our fruit will either be good or bad. This challenges us to always be aware of what we grow and cultivate with our time, thoughts, and actions.

John 15 gives further explanation reminding us that we, as branches, are to be rooted in the Vine, who is Jesus. It’s interesting to note the trunk nor vine is where the fruit grows. Instead the trunk feeds and supports the branches. John tells us when we rely on Jesus, the True Vine, we will bear much good fruit. Others will know this by observing our fruit.

Combining these parables reminds us we are to practice what we wish to bear. This practice requires us to be rooted in the One we want to resemble, our True Vine, Jesus Christ.

For Adults

Equipping the Next Generation

By: Casey Pontious

We teach them to use utensils, cushion their falls when they’re learning to walk, help them as they develop social skills, practice driving before taking their license test, and help them prepare for adulthood. These are just a few of the things we, as parents and caretakers, do for our children. The list is quite honestly endless. We would never let their first bites of food be a jawbreaker nor would we get them behind the wheel of a car without making sure they know which pedal is gas and which is the brake. Every milestone moment for our children is surrounded by our instruction and influence. 

Why is it, though, that studying scripture is a facet we miss? Now, not every parent misses this. However, I would argue that the vast majority of church-going, faithful Christian parents feel they do an inadequate job of discipling their children by showing them how to study the word of God. The result of not doing so is staggering by the throngs of students who walk out on their faith after leaving home, post high school. Another result is a generation of biblical illiterate young adults who are still infants in their faith. I would argue that most parents, if not all, do NOT want that for our children. 

If you are a student of the Word, wonderful! Pass that gift on to your children. Teach them to not just read the Bible, but to dig in and study it, then to apply it to their lives. Start small – one verse or passage at a time. Walk through it with them. It will be a sweet time with you and your child(ren). 

I truly believe, though, that parents discipling their children does not happen because the parents themselves have never been discipled. They have never been taught how to study the word of God, so how can they possibly teach their children what they do not know themselves? We do not want to send our children into this world and society without equipping them for the spiritual battle they will face and are facing. Just like we want to equip our children for the everyday life of society and adulthood, it is imperative that we teach our children how to study and apply God’s Word. 

When our kids are learning to ride a bike, there are steps we show them. They typically start with training wheels to learn how to make the bike move. When the training wheels come off, parents will push them along, holding on to help them balance. Then, they let go and watch them put those things to practice as they peddle away. Learning to study God’s word is much the same. Let’s take a moment to look to scripture and see how we, as parents, are to guide and instruct our children. 

Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 6-9

1These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 

6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

To apply these verses, we must realize the purpose of the Word, the practice of the Word, and the power of the Word. The purpose is so that you and the generations to come will both know and fear the Lord. The practice is literally as you go about your day. What are you doing right now? Turn it into a discipleship moment. This is you holding onto that bike as they learn to balance and peddle. What do you do when you first wake up or right before you lay your head down at night? How about all of the moments in between? Discipleship moment after discipleship moment. The power of the Word? Eternal impact for generations. Who doesn’t want that? Here, we let go of the bike and cheer them on as they make their faith their own. What a beautiful gift we can give our children!

One last thing – if you’ve never been discipled, don’t fret. It’s never too late to grow in your walk with Christ. Don’t let your pride and what other people may believe about you (even if you’re a leader in the church) stand in the way of a close relationship with God and discipling the generations to come. It’s never ever too late. 

For Girls

Preparing For Battle

By: Casey Pontious

I was minding my own business putting laundry away when all of a sudden I felt the hit. Then another and another. I was taking on rapid fire and had nowhere to hide. Folded clothes in my hands were hardly shielding me. Nerf bullets came zooming at me from behind closet doors and under beds. With four boys in my house, I should know to always be prepared for anything. However, I was not prepared. 

That is a silly story, but it definitely relates to people of all ages. You see, there is a spiritual battle going on all around us. Some of us are armed, ready, and on alert while many others are “minding their own business” and ill prepared as I. 

A Nerf war is one thing, but a spiritual war is another. There is MUCH at stake in the spiritual world; eternity. We would never go into a Nerf war or a real war unarmed, not prepared, would we? So why do we go into battle, every day, spiritually not equipped for the war around us? 

I want to encourage you to study God’s Word. Ask a parent, pastor, or spiritual mentor to help equip you to study the Bible. It can certainly be intimidating, but with the right tools, you can confidently study the Word of God, grow in your relationship with Him, and prepare your heart and mind for the fiery darts of the devil. The Bible will provide encouragement, instruction, ways of protection, and much more. 

Listen, I know it can be intimidating. I also know that many of you have been in church for most of your life and don’t feel equipped to open the Bible and study it for yourself. Study it. Not just read it. Don’t miss that. Start now. Don’t wait. Your future self will thank you for investing in her. Never have I had a conversation with someone when they’ve said “man, I wish I had learned to study scripture later in life than I did.” But I’ve had dozens of conversations with men and women alike who regret not starting when they were young. Dig in. Ask for help. Look for tools to help you and someone to help teach you. You never know when a dart is coming your way!

For Girls

Mental Health

By: Caitlin Hayes

Mental health is a topic familiar to many of us. Maybe you yourself or someone you know deals with depression and/or anxiety. The more that life goes on, the more depression and anxiety seem to exist in people. It is important to remember that there are two classifications: clinical and situational.

Clinical depression/anxiety is when your brain chemistry is such that you physically and emotionally cannot control your depression/anxiety. This often requires medications and therapies to properly manage the condition.

Situational depression is when a certain situation in life produces a mindset of depression causing anxiety or nerves. The good thing is that there is an approach to combat this type of mental illness and it is so super easy! The one downfall to mental health is that it makes us focus on our problems and our lives and we tend to forget about others.

Someone once told me when I was in a time of deep situational depression that I needed to stop focusing on myself and look at how I could help others. It sounded harsh, but I knew the person telling me this truly cared about me and was not trying to minimize what I was going through. They were trying to help me realize that the world goes on and there are others around me in whom I needed to invest my time and energy.

I took this advice and started to looking for ways to help others. I found a few younger girls in my family and church to mentor and try to encourage. I began to volunteer more at church in the nursey and with the children.

Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (ESV). I encourage you to read all of Philippians 2. I challenge you, if you are struggling and cannot seem to get out of a rut, find places where you can serve and give your time. It will not take long for you to see an improvement!