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For Girls

Present in the Present

by Hannah Goucher

As Christians, we often view God’s will as something off in the distant future. We fantasize about the things we will do for God then, often forgetting He is working in the here and now. We must not think of God’s will for our lives as something we are waiting to do, but rather as something happening in the present. One may ask, “How can we do God’s will in the present?” We do this by loving God and being obedient to Him. This is the very thing God calls all Christians to do. It is not something in the distance we’re striving to attain. Instead, it is daily dying to ourselves and our fleshly desires, then choosing to walk in the Spirit.

If we want to do those big things for God, we must be willing to be obedient in the small things of everyday life. Luke 16:10a says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” I often find myself wanting to do big things for God. But if I’m not willing to be obedient in the small stuff, I won’t be obedient in the big.

What are the things we can know about God’s will?

1. It is not distant or a mystery.
We can be sure of the things God has called us to do right now. We can also be sure they will be the same in the future.

2. It requires obedience from the believer.
We must be obedient to what God has called us to do now in order to do big things for Him in the future. (How beautiful it is that He allows us to be a part of that!)

3. There is mercy and grace when we disobey and repent.
We can rest and be encouraged that God does not leave us when we fall short and make mistakes. He is faithful and just to forgive, helping us along the way.

What are some ways we can be obedient in the small things?

  1. Choosing not to gossip and changing the conversation when the topic arises.
  2. Being a friend to someone in need when you’d rather go hang out with your friends.
  3. Putting in the work for your homework/test rather than slacking.
  4. Helping your friends through drama rather than adding fuel to the fire.

Dear Lord, thank You that Your will is not something unattainable but present in the here and now. Help us be obedient in the small things and rely on You to do big things.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

For Adults

Fighting Your Battles

by Melinda Walker

There are many issues we face as an adult and as a parent. Sometimes they come all at once, and we don’t know how to handle them, making us vulnerable. Given the task of separating our battles into two categories, major and minor, could you? How would you determine if they were major or minor?

Being an adult is not always the easiest. My 24-year-old daughter has a “big girl job” and lives in a different state but will tell you she does not enjoy adulting. It’s hard! It doesn’t get any easier as you get older. Jobs, family, church, school, technology, health issues, anything can affect us negatively at some point. We often feel we are in a constant battle. Do you ever wonder if some of these battles are even worth it? Do we need to be in this battle?

There are times that we don’t back down from a battle because we let pride get in the way. We rush into a decision instead of thinking it through and then make the wrong decision. Did we want to prove a point or make a statement? Proverbs 16:18 (NLT) says, “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.” 

Over the years, I have learned from some wise men and women to pick my battles. At my workplace, I have to decide which problems to battle and which ones to let go and let God handle. For example, at times, I receive emails that upset me. After reading them, I would like to fire back in a “nasty-gram.” But I have learned to push away from the computer, walk around for a bit, and pray; then I can think about the email. Maybe I can get more information regarding the reason for the email. I usually realize my “nasty-gram” wouldn’t help the situation and would probably make it worse. I have also learned that sometimes the person on the other end doesn’t always have all the facts. They are speaking from what they know or have heard. They might need to be educated on the subject or hear another side of the story, or they are having a bad day and fighting battles of their own. The fact is, God needs to be involved in all of your battles, large or small.

Whatever battle you are facing, major or minor, the only real way to handle any battle is to involve God in all of them. Some battles require immediate action, knowing God is there to help you fight, some you may be able to push aside for a while and fight another day. Others you can just give to God and walk away, knowing He is in control and will take care of the whole situation.

We have come through a year of fighting many battles, some more than others. Know that in 2021, God is with you through each one, major or minor. He promises to see you through. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT).

Through this New Year, I pray that you allow God to help you through all of your battles and relieve any stress or anxiety that comes with the fight. He is there for you and wants to fight your battles if you let Him.

For Girls

Priorities

by Melinda Walker

Going into the new year, people make many resolutions and do not keep them past the first week. People want to lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, and so on. 2020 has been an emotional roller coaster full of stress, heartache, anxiety, confusion, sadness, but for some happiness, joy, and excitement. When you look back at 2020, what were your plans and resolutions going into that year? How did they change? What were your priorities?

Entering 2021, what do you want to see? What are your priorities for this year? As a teenager, there are so many things that you can set your mind on at the beginning of the year and then forget about because of other events in your life. No matter what happens in your life, there is always someone who should be a constant, a priority, in your life. And that is Jesus Christ. Jesus should be your priority every day.

There are 3 simple steps to help keep Him a priority in your life.

  1. Go to Him every day in the word. In other words, read your Bible, get a study guide, or devotional to help.
  2. Be active in your church and youth group. If you do not have a youth group, start one.
  3. Turn all of your worries, cares, crazy thoughts, and concerns over to Him.

Once you do these things, the struggles will seem far less. Am I saying your struggles will be gone? Absolutely not! Some days can get pretty bad. (God never said that Christian lives are perfect.) But when you continually prioritize keeping Jesus in your life EVERY DAY, those struggles do not seem as bad. Why? You are leaning on and giving it all to Him. Matthew 6:33 (NLT) says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Life is a struggle, especially with all the chaos of the pandemic and politics. Make Jesus a priority in your life. He will help you with whatever you are dealing with every day.

For Girls

Conflict: Sailing Through the Storm

by Beth Bryant

God’s Word is filled with Scriptures that show us conflict (AKA drama) —handled both the right and wrong way. In fact, one parable Jesus taught in Matthew 18:23-34 represents both kinds of conflict management.

A king wanted to settle accounts with a servant who owed him what would amount to millions of dollars. The servant could never pay off this immense debt and begged for mercy so he and his whole family wouldn’t be sold as slaves. The king felt compassion and canceled the debt of the servant in full. Later in the day, the same servant came upon another who owed him hundreds of dollars. He grabbed him and choked him saying, “Pay what you owe!” He refused mercy and had that servant put into debtor’s prison.

Other servants of the king saw what had happened and told their master. The king sent for him, irate at his lack of empathy, handed him over to the prison until he repaid his entire debt. Jesus ended the story saying, “That is what my Father in heaven will do to you if each of you does not sincerely forgive other believers” (verse 35).

The very same person shown compassion over a much greater debt showed very little compassion over a much smaller debt. We can be quick to throw stones here, but God’s girls must confess that often we are not quick to show compassion when someone’s offended us.

No matter how much we hate conflict, it’s always going to exist because conflict has its roots in human nature’s pride and selfishness. In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul reminds believers that terrible actions come from our sinful, human nature, or works of the flesh. “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factionsand envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Drama Remedy 1

It’s impossible to avoid all forms of drama, so God’s girls need to learn how to deal with it in a healthy, God-honoring way. In the same chapter of Galatians (5:22-23), the fruit of the Spirit are the character qualities Paul suggests God’s girls should utilize inhandling conflict. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

When we constantly involve ourselves in conflict, we aren’t displaying the fruits of the Spirit—the qualities or “markers” showing a real, growing ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­relationship with Jesus Christ. When the fruit of the Spirit isn’t being produced in our lives, then nothing else will be quite right. We reap the wrong kinds of qualities and behaviors and become frustrated and dissatisfied, which only adds fuel to the fires of conflict in our lives.

Drama Remedy 2

Note the circumstances in which you’re most likely to initiate or engage in conflict so you can practice prevention. These are some common drama scenarios:

  • When I’m not getting the attention I need from parents, friends, or others
  • When my hormones are crazy
  • When I feel like I’ve been hurt or disrespected by someone
  • When I start feeling bored
  • When I’m under a lot of stress
  • When I’m not getting enough sleep

Sometimes it seems like conflict is easier to ignore than to resolve. We might be tempted to pretend like nothing’s going on. Or we might react in a defensive way and retaliate. Either way, God is pretty serious about making things right. So serious, in fact that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells His followers conflict with others affects our worship—it comes between us and God (Matthew 5:24).

Drama Remedy 3:

Resolve conflict by putting away our pride to make peace. Drama doesn’t often resolve unless both parties humble themselves, listen to each other, admit to any wrong-doing (even if unintentional), seek forgiveness, and grant grace and forgiveness.

Practical tips for navigating the rocky waters of conflict:

  1. Choose your closest friends carefully. Some people are drama magnets. Be friends, but don’t make the drama magnets your go-to BFF.
  2. Stay away from cliques, groups, or squads. Conflict always ruminates somewhere in a closed or exclusive group of friends. Do your best to mingle. Change up whom you sit with at lunch every so often. Hang out with different people.
  3. Be the same person across the board. You are much more likely to see less conflict
    when people know you present the same “face” to all and don’t play favorites.
  4. Read God’s Word. Spend time in prayer. Learn what it means to grow in Christ and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. This way, when conflict pops up, you’ll be much more in tune with God. He can reveal the best way to handle the issue(s) and display the right attitude as you trust in Him.
  5. Commit to a gossip-free mouth! Don’t let anything untrue, unkind, or unsure of be said about another person. If it can’t be said in their presence, forget about saying it to anyone else.
  6. Bring a mediator. When you find yourself in a sticky conflict that might be difficult to resolve, try to find someone both of you trust to mediate and help you resolve the conflict. A third-party, godly adult, teacher, or pastor are always good options.
  7. Manage stress in healthy ways and get enough sleep!  Stress puts our emotions on edge and we’re more likely to lash out at someone. Well-rested people can think more clearly to avoid conflict AND manage it more wisely.
  8. Realize it’s just not worth it. Your teen-girl’s brain may not be able to foresee the stress and pain caused by stirring up drama over an offense. When something starts a conflict, work it out as peaceably as possible before it turns ugly and you do or say something you’ll regret.
For Adults

Drama-Buster Tool Belt

by Beth Bryant

It’s often a struggle for moms, mentors, and youth workers to help their girls navigate the choppy waters of adolescent conflict (AKA drama). Here are a few tools for your drama-buster tool belt:

1. Be careful not to take your girl’s side in a conflict right away without investigating the facts. If possible, ask other involved parties what’s been going on. Believe it or not, even your precious God’s girl can be tempted to hyperbolize (what teen or pre-teen doesn’t??) a situation, fudge some details, or leave something out if she feels ashamed or fearful of punishment.

2. Once you know the facts, step in as a coach instead of a referee. Teach her what to do when a conflict arises. Help her process her steps and let her handle the situation while you support her. Obviously, if a situation becomes serious or dangerous more intervention is necessary. Let her handle what she can now so she can be confident in her abilities in the future.

3. It’s important to teach your girl biblical conflict resolution.  Go to the other person first, have a neutral third party to mediate if necessary, then follow up with stronger steps depending on the situation. God’s girls should speak the truth, but speak it with love, grace, and humility. Help her develop a plan for resolution and walk her through these steps.

4. Encourage her mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being as a preventive plan. Girls who have had proper nutrition, plenty of sleep, structure throughout the day, someone they trust with whom they can talk about their problems, and a strong relationship with Christ are much less likely to constantly be involved in conflict.

5. Give your girl a “time-out” when needed. Encourage her to take some alone or quiet time and enjoy a hobby or a movie. When she’s suffering from stress caused by conflict, enable her to lighten her load.

6. Help her understand conflict is not always a bad thing. God often uses conflicts, disagreements, and the broken people involved to grow His girls and further the Kingdom. Just look at the example of Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark. God knows we’re not perfect.

7. Model forgiveness and proper conflict resolution in your own life. Forgiveness is letting go of the need to adjudicate the person/offense and leaving it in the hands of a just God. Your girl will be much more equipped to handle what comes her way by watching you resolve conflict, make peace, and forgive.

For Girls

A Christian’s Approach to Race

by Caitlyn Hayes

Recently I was having a conversation with someone about all the things going on in our world, and they said, “Have you noticed that we know how adults feel about race, but no one has asked kids and teens what their experiences are?” That stuck with me because we always encourage teenagers to learn about life and how to handle it. However, when tough times come, we do not ask them about their experience or point of view.

While many teens do not see division based solely on skin color today, there still are cases in the world where young people experience racism. Recently, I sat down with two girls who dealt with racism at school. They have been called names and targeted by other students all because of the color of their skin.

As young, strong, Christian women, I asked them how racism has impacted them. To sum up their answers, it has been a constant punch in the gut over something they have no control over. This made me think of 1 Corinthians 15:49: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (ESV).  Each person has been made by the same Creator in His image.

When we focus on our differences and allow them to divide us, that is all there will be: division. However, if we adopt the old saying “W.W.J.D.” (What would Jesus do), we would see more of God’s children coming together and spreading the gospel. We would be examples of the true, open love and grace of Jesus Christ. When you or one of your friends is being picked on, remember to Whom you belong. Remind them, and yourself, that people do not define you! You are defined by who you are in Him!

For Adults

Dealing With the Storms

by Rachel Bryant

If you could go back and give your teenage self some advice, what would it be? I have been asked that question many times.

My first thought is always something along the lines of don’t sweat the small stuff. That basically defines the things that felt like “my life is over” as a teenager but weren’t all that serious. Remember that questionable haircut?  Then I remind myself at that time in my life, it wasn’t “small stuff.” I wonder if when I’m 20 years older than I am now, I’ll still have the same feelings if someone asks me about my advice to my middle-aged self? (Ouch, middle-aged! Ugh!) Despite how situations or disasters feel 20 years down the road, in the here and now, they are real!

Whether our own children or those we have influence over, our girls are dealing with real storms of life. Do you remember your tween/teen years?! Those storms were real to you then, and today’s girls are dealing with so much more than we ever did! We all are dealing with storms of life and crisis moments, but as “grown-ups,” we have more experience dealing with them and navigate through them a little smoother (or so we like to think!).

In recent months, all of us have experienced unprecedented “crisis-mode” situations. Yours probably looked different from mine, which looked different from hers, hers, and hers, but we can all agree that this has not been normal! We are trying to keep our heads above water while at the same time presenting to our girls and those around us how we, as Christians, deal with a crisis.  

When you learn CPR, you’re taught to “look, listen, and feel” to determine if someone is breathing. Using this same mantra, we can find our source of strength and peace in crisis or storm, and we can show others how to find it as well.

Look – Look to God! Simple as that. Read His Word noticing all the times He promises peace and shelter in the time of storm. During storms, increase how much time you spend in the Scripture. Focus on Scriptures about His protection, His peace, His love, whatever it is you need at that time. Search the Scriptures, use commentaries to focus on one subject, listen to praise music or hymns, do everything you can to keep your focus on God.

Listen – Listen to God! I suppose you can listen to someone you aren’t talking to, but that seems more like eavesdropping. Talk to God and listen to His response. Tell Him everything and anything you are thinking about, worried about, wondering about, etc. He knows already, but He longs for us to talk to Him. “Praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is the constant and open line of communication with our Father. As we pour out our hearts to Him, He will give us His peace and speak truth and love back to us.

Feel – Feel His peace! This is a tricky one. The Bible warns us that the “heart is deceitful” (Jeremiah 17:9), so we know our feelings are not always the best barometer of truth. However, when we lean into Him and have His peace, it is evident in those around us. This includes the girls we are trying to help as they navigate their storms. We know as believers that ultimately, this world is not our home. That takes the “scary” power from this world and the dominions at work here. We also know God promises He is with us and will watch over us (Genesis 28:15) and promises to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), though sometimes that looks different than what we think. If we yield to the Lord’s plans, we can have His peace, no matter the storm.

Challenge: You can also use the idea of “look, listen, and feel” to see how our girls deal with their crises.  

Look at them—see how they are acting and reacting to life. Sometimes it’s the little signs we have to pick up on to realize they are in a crisis. Help them assess situations, answer questions, problem-solve, most importantly, point them to God.

Listen to them—sometimes just let them talk, ask questions (open-ended) and really listen to them. Ask follow-up questions. Ask about all various aspects of their life. Make it conversational. Be careful not to sound like an interrogation. Doing activities together provides great talk-time without it feeling like an interview.

Feel for them—have sympathy (or empathy) for the storms they are experiencing. It may not seem like a big deal to you. But if it is important to them, make it important to you. Offer advice carefully and thoughtfully. But most of all, remind them they are loved, by you and by God.

For Girls

Remaining Calm in the Storm

by Rachel Bryant

Have you ever been outside and suddenly caught in a huge thunderstorm? My family was on vacation, walking around in a downtown area, when a scary thunderstorm suddenly started out of nowhere. In the deluge of rain, thunder clapping, and lightning flashing, my whole family ran down the sidewalk trying to find shelter. As we were crossing a street, my youngest cousin couldn’t take it anymore. She stopped in the middle of the crosswalk, planted her feet, and started crying and screaming, refusing to move! We all felt the same way but had to keep moving to find refuge from the storm.

Do you know the story of the disciples in the boat during a big storm? (Read Mark 4:35–41) Basically, they were in the middle of a storm that could overturn their boat and kill them. They were terrified! They probably wanted to cry and scream too. But Jesus was there! He commanded the storm, “Peace, be still,” and instantly, the storm calmed. Amazing!

During the storms in our life, which sometimes feel terrifying, wouldn’t this be nice?! Jesus may not literally be in our boat and may not always make our storms disappear instantly, but He has given us His power to make it through the storms and remain calm.

When I am dealing with crises or storms of life, I try to focus on the Scriptures and God’s truths. I want to give you two of the most helpful Scriptures for me. What are some Scriptures you cling to? If you don’t know any, start reading His Word, and He will show you some, I promise!

2 Timothy 1:7: “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind” reminds me first and foremost that God does not want us to give in to our fears. He doesn’t want them to control us. Having a “spirit of fear” indicates more than just a fleeting worry but feels more like a “dwelling” on the fears. This is so easy to do – you know how this feels – always running the fears and worries through our minds, a constant play-by-play of the dreaded “what ifs” of all the bad possibilities.

Stop! God did not create us to be in constant worry and fear! But the last part of this verse is super helpful in these spiraling out of control fearful thoughts – God gave us a sound mind! God gave us the mind to be rational and reasonable and put a stop to the thoughts from the Devil of the fears that he loves to pound us with. This sound mind gives us the ability to say, “Stop!”

So then, if we can get ourselves to stop the fear and worries, then what? That’s where my second verse comes in. Philippians 4:8: Finally, “Sisters,” whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Once you can put a stop to the crisis-mode thinking, fill your thoughts with these things.

Sometimes I focus on just the first one – what. is. true. When you are in a storm of life, it can be hard to find things that are “honorable” or “lovely,” so focus on the truth, which comes from God. If you can’t find any other good truth in life, here’s one: the God of the universe loves YOU and wants to help you through this crisis!

Putting this formula together, we can stop the spirit of fear in its tracks and then use our sound mind to focus our thoughts on truth. This clarity allows us to think through the crisis in front of us and remain calm to determine what needs to be done. Our storm may not immediately calm as it did for the disciples, but we can clearly see how to find refuge. Ultimately, our shelter is in God, and He will help you and offer His peace during your storm, whatever it is.

Challenge: If you are new to Bible reading, or even if you have read it “all your life,” – read through the book of Psalms. The men who wrote the Psalms were going through crises and storms. But they were praising God for the peace He offers and that He is always our refuge, a shelter in the time of storm!

For Girls, Uncategorized

Always Growing

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 it is true, 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 is either 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 Girls

Making Good Choices

by Diana Bryant

Have you ever thought about how many decisions you make each day? It starts with “do I get up when my alarm goes off or hit snooze?” Then you decide what to wear, how to do your hair, what to eat for breakfast. It continues throughout the day. Many decisions have no real significant consequences, but other choices can have much farther reaching effects. You know what happens when you choose to watch one more episode of your favorite show instead of studying for your math test. But do you realize what it can mean to your future when you choose one group of friends over another? Or when you choose to make time each day to read your Bible?

The truth is, life is really a series of choices and consequences.  All choices have outcomes, ranging from insignificant to life changing. Choices can complicate your life or make it easier. Choices can affect your health and your relationships, and some choices can have spiritual and eternal significance.

How do we grow in our ability to make good choices? What guidelines can we use to make the best choices more often?

**Be intentional about spending time in God’s Word. Every day, even if it’s only a few verses a day. The principles and wisdom in Scripture will take root and make good choices easier to recognize. Packed full of wisdom, the book of Proverbs tells us that God wants us to delight in truth and knowledge. Reading a Proverb each day will go a long way towards building up a storehouse of wisdom to help you make good choices.

**Learn to think past the present choice to the probable outcome of the choice. “If I choose to go where friends want me to go, will it be a good environment, or can I imagine problems that might come up?” “If I send this text, what reaction will it cause when it’s read?” “How will I feel if my parents or others find out about this possible action?”

**Learn from other godly examples in your life. Watch their lives and habits, pay attention to how they spend their time. See the choices they make. Ask for their advice when you’re not sure which way to go. Believe it or not, your Mom, Sunday school teacher, and even your Grandma has made some of the very same choices that give you trouble. They’ve learned a thing or two by the outcomes of their choices.  They would be glad to share some of that wisdom with you. You might even hear some good stories!

**Learn the difference between choices that only seem important—like which pair of jeans to buy, and choices that really are important—like choosing friends who encourage you and help you grow instead of causing you to go in directions you know are not right. Give more thought to making decisions that have bigger consequences than the choices that are not as significant.

**Make your own choices, don’t be manipulated or forced to make decisions based on pressure from someone else. Many times, uncomfortable feelings of pressure from someone is an indication you need to think twice or seek advice.

**Learn from choices you make—both good and bad, and apply those lessons to situations you find yourself in. Remember how certain choices made you feel. Think about how decisions you’ve made affected your life. You’ll notice good choices most often result in better relationships, better health, less trouble and drama in your life, and more progress in whatever you happen to be working toward.

Proverbs 3:13-14 says, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom and the one who gets understanding. For the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold”. You’ll be making choices all your life. Learn now to make good ones!