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 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 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.

For Adults

Heart vs. Mirror

By Diana Bryant

One of the first things we realize as parents is that our children watch every move we make. They learn by imitating us. It’s how they learn to talk and walk. Eventually, they even pick up our attitudes and habits, both good and not-so-good.

What we actually do speaks much louder to our daughters than anything we say.

Many of us have a love-hate relationship with the mirror or the scale. If you’re a mom, your daughter is watching you very closely, even when you think she can’t see. Our culture tells your daughter that her body was made to be admired and pampered and that beauty is the guarantee to popularity and success.

We may quote verses about “being fearfully and wonderfully made” from Psalm 139:14 and remind her that “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart” from I Samuel 16:7 … but what she will memorize is how we approach our own relationship with our bodies.

Here are a few things to think about:

1. We must decide whether we really believe that physical beauty will never really fulfill us.
We tell ourselves this, but do we believe it deep down? We have to be convinced that “feeling pretty” is really just that – a feeling. Both our feelings and our physical appearance will change, and neither are as steadfast as God’s unwavering regard. KNOWING that we are valuable to God is a fact. Facts are dependable, feelings are not.

2. Be careful of the things you say about yourself.
How you judge yourself – your criticisms of your size, your features, your complexion – is how your daughter will think you judge her looks. Your expectations of yourself will become her measuring stick, only probably more exaggerated.
We are created in God’s image and He called His creation “good.” To be overly critical of our appearance to is to be critical of how God knit us together in our mother’s womb.

3. Time and money is an indicator of the importance we place on our looks.
We tell our daughters that they are valuable because they belong to God, but then we can spend an awful lot of money enhancing those looks, often based on the culture around us! To put so much emphasis on appearance and to be overly proud of our appearance is not “walking humbly with God” or giving Him the glory for His creation. It’s good to look our best, but there must be a balance.
We do need to take care of ourselves for our health, to put our best foot forward, and ultimately, to honor God’s creation. Sometimes it does cost money to stay well groomed, but it can get out of hand pretty quickly. Stewardship comes in to play in every area of our lives and our children see it all.

4. Avoid reality TV—in all forms.
Celebrities get attention from their looks, which our daughters do not realize is greatly enhanced by lighting, camera angles, and the biggie: hours of work by professional makeup artists. We understand that “reality TV” is anything but reality, but nowadays, reality TV spills beyond the television and into Instagram stories, Snapchat videos, YouTube, and more. Girls may not realize just how much time and money these stars spend to build carefully manicured public appearances–even in so-called “behind the scenes” Instagram videos.

5. Encourage attributes beyond looks — focus on doing rather than appearing.
Admire strength, manners, kindness, determination, or creativity. “I love it when you help your sister!” is still encouraging, but also emphasizes valuable traits like cooperation. “Tell me about your day” invites sharing information and feelings. Look for ways to take the focus off of self.

Give your girls opportunities to serve. Does your church or youth group have activities that focus on community service? Maybe a food pantry ministry or elderly who could use help or even a friendly visit? Fill their hearts with good and positive things. Teach your girls we were made for God’s glory, not our own.

Helpful Resources:

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Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

For Adults

Tips for Making the Most of Your Family’s Summer

Summer! Ice cream and cook outs. Staying up late and sleeping in. No homework and no alarm clocks. With all of the fun and freedom of the summer season, it will pass in the blink of an eye. How can we make this summer count in the lives of our teens and the story of our family?

1. Talk about it.

Set a goal for something you want to achieve this summer. Would you like to learn a skill? Explore a strength your teen has? Find a new way to serve as a family? Build on a relationship? Go on an adventure? Try something new? Take time to talk about it as a family and brainstorm your ideas for goals you can set as a family. (Bonus Handout: Check out our list of summer activities for inspiration.)

2. Schedule it.

Set realistic goals and mark it on the calendar. For most teens, summer is only 11 or 12 weeks long. That means there are only 12 Saturdays to make the most of! When you add in summer camps, family vacations, and church events, much of the summer is already planned out.
Choose one thing to focus on this summer with your teen or family, then put it on the calendar. Scheduling it gives you the best chance that it will actually happen. If your schedule is tight, you may only have one or two Saturdays this summer to set aside for your goal. If you have more open time, you might be able to spend one day each week or month focused on your goal. If you are a parent, you may still work full time, or if you are a youth leader, you may be seeing your students even less frequently in the summer. Don’t be discouraged if you only have a small amount of time with your teen! Even a small amount of time is powerful if we invest it wisely.

3. Look to the future.

Go ahead and start planning a fall schedule for your family. Make sure your your calendar reflects your priorities. Whether is it serving together, learning together, or spending time together, block out a time every month to continue to grow with your teen.

We only get 5 summers with our teenagers. Let’s invest these days, not just spend them.

Start a Conversation with Your Teen

  • What do you think is the most important thing on our schedule this summer?
  • Is there something you have always wanted to try, but never gotten the chance?
  • If you had $100 to do something new, what would you spend it on?
  • What is something that you could spend time doing this summer that you would be proud of?

Need help with coming up with a goal for your family? Check out our list for inspiration!

We also have a blog post on making the most of the summer geared for teens! Share this post with your teen daughter or a teen girl in your life.

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For Adults

6 Steps to Triumph Over Stress

by Elizabeth Hodges

Stress is a familiar part of life for all of us. We may express stress in different ways, but we are all know the familiar tense reaction to the tough or busy parts of our days and weeks. When you feel that stress pressing in on you, do you deal with the root of your stress or just the symptoms? Do you try to alleviate stress at its cause, or just delay dealing with it?

One of the tools Satan uses to keep us defeated is STRESS. So how do we overcome stress? As believers, we are meant to depend on God—His Word and His strength. We must be able to admit that we are weak, vulnerable, and not self sufficient in order to accept God’s help with our stress.

1. Sit at Jesus’ feet — Study the Word

Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll once described an anecdote about his friend, Bob. One day, Chuck went to visit Bob at Bob’s office. As Chuck approached the office, he heard the melody, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” When Chuck looked in the office window, what he saw made an indelible impression on the young Chuck. Bob was on his knees, in his office, with his open Bible. Seeing Bob, Chuck felt as if he was standing on “holy ground.” Bob never knew he was being observed, but what an impact he had on the young Chuck Swindoll—who in turn has had such an impact on the Christian community.

Susanna Wesley, mother of 17, would throw her apron over her head when she needed time with her Lord. I’m sure we have all felt moments like that! Her children knew not to disturb her at those moments she spent with God. Wonder what impact that made on John and Charles? Just read the lyrics of the many hymns penned by these brothers.

In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus contrasts the choices of Mary and Martha. Do you ever find yourself “cumbered about”—juggling way too many balls at one time? A friend once shared with me, “If I must be a Martha, please give me a Mary heart.”

Being busy seems to be my lot in life, like Martha. But I want to know when to be quiet. To kneel in solitude, throw an apron over my head, or simply sit, like Mary, at my Savior’s feet.

2. Trust in the Lord

Have you seen the saying, Sometimes the Lord calms the storm; sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child?

We will have stress in our lives because we live on this earth. There’s no way around it! The good news is, we know the ONE who is in control (John 16:33). How often do we come boldly to the throne of God with our problems and petitions, only to pick them right back up when we walk away? Yet we know God clothes the lilies of the field, feeds the birds, and has our hairs numbered….will He not be concerned about the things that trouble us? Are we not more valuable than the flowers or birds? (Matthew 6:25-34)

Paul challenges us in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. How much of our “thinking time” is invested in these categories, and how much is devoted to worry?

3. Rest

REST: Sleep is a gift from God. How often do we thank Him for this everyday, yet priceless, gift? Sleep does for our bodies what nothing else can do. When we are sick or have surgery, we sleep to heal! But when you are in distress, troubled, stressed, do you find yourself spending more hours fretting than sleeping? Do you let stress keep you awake at night? Lying in bed only to roll and tumble with your mind going 90-to-nothing? Amy Carmichael said, “In acceptance lieth peace.” This may be easy to say… but oh so hard to practice in our daily lives!

Jesus drew away from others to spend time with HIS Father as HE ministered here on earth. If even He, being God, needed to be refreshed, how much more do we need rest and refreshment? We must rest knowing God is in control and does all things well. Deuteronomy 33:27 tells us no matter how heavy the load, there is always room UNDERNEATH for the everlasting arms of God.

4. Encourage others

Philemon 7 tells us that Philemon ministered to Paul, and Paul has in turn ministered to us through his pen. Who could say that you refreshed their heart and spirit?

Share what God is teaching you with others. They may be in desperate need of what you have learned or are learning. Do you have an accountability friend who will love you regardless of anything you may bring into discussion? A close friend who can see more clearly than you when you are IN the forest, a friend who will guard your confidences? Thank God for such a friend, then express your gratefulness to that person. Are you such a friend to others?

Romans 16:1-2 tell us briefly of Phoebe. She was a sister, a servant, and a succourer, or a great help. Who can you serve and minister to?

Take a moment to reflect: Do I encourage others in tangible ways in their love language?

5. Strengthen the “inner woman”

REFOCUS: Step back from your normal routine and refocus your priorities. Are you spending time and effort on things that ultimately do not matter? Or are you spending time on things that will strengthen you, build up your family, or encourage others?

RECREATE: What brings you relief, enjoyment, and pleasure? How many hours of your time are devoted to this pursuit? Make some of these activities, including relaxation, a priority.

Balance is key. Work hard when it is time to work and then enjoy your relaxation and recreation time. It’s easy to feel guilty when there is more to be done. But we will never get it all done! So we must do our BEST, then TRUST God with the rest.

6. Serve others

When you are serving others, you cannot be self-centered. Selfishness and service do NOT occupy the same “heart space.” If we model Jesus’ servant heart, we will develop a sensitive spirit. We will listen… not always talk. We will be available when needed. When we are “others-focused,” our own problems do not seem quite so overwhelming. Isaiah 40:31 is God’s promise to us.

Triumph over stress in this fast-paced world where we live and serve is found in a quiet heart. We must pursue and develop a quiet heart that is stayed on/focused on God. This heart must then be housed in a vessel fit for the Master’s use. May God help each of us as we develop such a heart.

Sit at Jesus’ feet — Study the Word
Trust in the Lord
Rest
Encourage others
Strengthen the “inner man/woman”
Serve others

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