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For Adults

Fearfully Made

by Jen Thomsen

Do you have a daughter who struggles with her self-image? Are you at a loss on how to help her? You may have told her she is beautiful until you are blue in the face, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. This generation is no different than yours and mine. The teen years are still difficult.

It’s not a new phenomenon for girls to compare themselves to thin and beautiful models and actresses, or to measure themselves against peers who they believe are prettier or more athletic.

With competing voices from media and peers, how do we as parents and youth workers help our girls understand that their worth does not spring from how they view themselves or how others view them? How do we help them recognize and tune out the subtle thoughts that the devil plants in their minds?

The simple truth is that God made everyone. Every person is beautifully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:13-16 is straightforward: For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (ESV)

God made each person exactly who they are. Before anyone saw or even knew about us, God put thought into who we would become. No one is made by accident—this is an amazing truth. We are created exactly the way that God wants us.

Your teen might not jump for joy when you share these verses with them. If your child is longing to be a bit taller or shorter, to have straighter or curlier hair, to have clearer skin or a different nose, reading that they are made that way on purpose might not sound ideal. Social media and TV are so full of seemingly perfect people that it can be easy to wish for something unattainable.

How do we help our girls see themselves as beautifully and wonderfully made? It’s our job to continually remind them they are beautifully and wonderfully made.

This is not a conversation that only needs to happen once. You will need to reiterate this over and over and over again. Teens aren’t always the kindest to each other and Satan’s lies can easily become ingrained, so we must continually remind them they don’t have to compare themselves to other people. They don’t have to look like everyone else at their school.

They need to be reminded that when they look at their reflection in the mirror that they are beautifully and wonderfully made. You can leave post-it notes on a mirror or other visible place that will remind them of this fact. In my house we have a wall decal proclaiming that we are beautifully and wonderfully made. Simple reminders in everyday life can help reinforce this truth.

Because we are beautifully and wonderfully made, we also must take care of our human bodies. 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” As we remind our girls that God created them beautifully, we must also teach them to honor the body God created by eating well, exercising, and going to the doctor regularly.

It’s worth noting that for some girls, a simple decoration or reminder that they are beautiful will not be enough. Some girls who struggle with self-image may need additional support or professional help. If you suspect depression, anxiety, or another form of emotional or mental illness, please seek medical advice. There is no shame in seeking medical help.

Finally, we must remember to practice what we preach. As we teach girls they do not need to compare themselves to others, remind them they are beautiful, and teach them to honor their bodies, ask yourself if you are doing the same. Are you comparing yourself to the women you see in magazines or on TV, or even your peers? Do you celebrate the way God created you, or does your daughter hear you complain about the way you look? Our children are watching and listening, even when we don’t think we are teaching. Let us teach them in actions and in words that they are wonderfully and fearfully made.

Talking to a girl in your life about her self-worth? Share this blog with her!

For Girls

You Are Fearfully Made

by Jen Thomsen

My life is far perfect. I’m shorter than anyone else and my eyes are bad. My sister is extremely intelligent, and compared to her I’m “the dumb one.” At school, I get free lunch because my family is poor, and everyone knows it. I dress differently than everyone else because of my parent’s religious beliefs. My family has moved so much, I don’t have any friends. Plus, since we moved from the north to the south and then back again, my accent sounds really strange. No one understands me.

Any of that sound familiar? That was my life when I was a teenager… until someone told me something that rocked my world.

Now I have something to tell you that will affect the rest of your life and how you view yourself, if you let it. This may not be the first time that you have heard this, but maybe you are in the place in your life where you can soak it up.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

You may be thinking, “Those are some really nice words, but so what?” Or you might even be thinking, “Well that’s nice, but you haven’t seen me. You have no clue what I look like.” Or maybe you are thinking I am writing to your gorgeous friends or classmates. No! I am talking to you.

It doesn’t matter what others have told you or even what you see in the mirror. God put in a lot of work to make you exactly who you are today. Before anyone saw or even knew about you, God put much thought into who you would become. You are not who you are by accident. You are who God wants you to be. This is an amazing truth. You were created exactly the way God wants you.

Teen girls can be so mean. They sometimes say things that are not true but have just enough truth that you start to believe them. Satan knows we struggle with our self-image, and he also plants thoughts and ideas into our heads that are false and untrue. We need to ignore these thoughts—no matter where they come from—and concentrate on how God feels about us.

We also must be careful not to use this beautiful truth as an excuse to do whatever we want to our bodies or to neglect them. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” We need to take care of our bodies. We do this through healthy eating, exercise, and going to the doctor regularly. God has trusted us with our bodies, and we need to take care of them.

I hope you grasp this concept earlier in your life than I did. I heard this truth for the first time when I was 18. It took a lady headed to China to be a missionary to share this truth with me in a way that it took root in my life. But even though this is a truth I know deep down, I still need to be reminded that I am fearfully and wonderfully made every day.

Do I still have bad hair days? Absolutely. Do I sometimes make poor fashion choices? Um…guilty on that one too! Do I still dislike some things about myself? Sure. But I know God thinks I’m beautiful, and that is all that matters.

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.