For Girls

Battling the Image Beast

By Beth Bryant

Today’s “artificial” culture, preoccupied with outer beauty, aesthetic, and trying to make things look better than they generally are, can be pretty tough to navigate.

And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with paying attention to the outside, scripture warns against focusing too much on outward appearances. We have to know what we’re dealing with. Two of the main areas of image obsession currently plaguing adolescent girls are physical appearance and social media.

Beauty and the Image Beast

It’s hard to battle the image beast when there are so many voices telling us to feed it.

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Here, two truths are revealed: Humans tend to see the outside, and God sees our hearts. Often, when we look in the mirror, we have more negative thoughts than positive. We spend a lot of time comparing the reflective glass version of ourselves to other individuals, from models on magazines to the girls at school. These physical comparisons make it nearly impossible for us to have a healthy view of ourselves.
Outside pressures from advertisements, celebrities, shows, movies, social media, or even from trying to win affirmation from people at school or guys can all tempt us to make outer beauty our focus. Again, there’s nothing wrong with a new outfit, a manicure, or haircut. But it is of utmost importance to make our heart the focus—what God sees, and where true beauty lies!

…the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

All the best that physical appearance has to offer can’t compete with the beauty of holiness. Real beauty is not dependent on image—real beauty comes from a gentle and quiet spirit that honors, obeys, and worships God.

Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! 1 Chronicles 16:29

Social Media and the Façade

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

While Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, and other social media platforms have done good things, like increase our connection to friends and family far away and give us new outlets for self expression, one of the downsides is revealed in our natural human tendency for competition. Selfish pride motivates girls and women of all ages to try to present something that appears better than reality.

Filters can be fun, but it’s important to remember that edited images do not represent reality. When we see women who appear to be perfect on social media, remember that images rarely—if ever—tell the whole truth. When we feel a compulsion to edit and layer every single photo we post with filters just to create an “acceptable” image, maybe it’s time to take a step back.

Social Media Use Is Best When….

  1. We honor God with it. Post wisely, follow others wisely, and apply the principles found in scripture to your social media activity.
  2. We avoid the pride and comparison pitfalls. Don’t post to brag or self-promote. Don’t allow envy or comparisons to creep in when you see posts.
  3. We realize that it’s not usually the most honest picture. Remember that images are photoshopped and the person posting the photo took tons of pictures to get just the right shot. People mostly only post the good and leave out the bad, so social media doesn’t show the whole picture.
  4. We use it with moderation. Like many good thing, excessive use of social media can lead to image obsession and causes us to lose our focus on what’s most important—who we are inside.

Remember, it’s okay to care about how you look on the outside. Scripture warns against focusing too much on outward appearances. Jesus doesn’t mince words. What’s inside is most important.

Bonus! Check out this handy list of tips for battling the image beast.

For Girls

How to Have the Best Summer EVER

By Rachel Bryant

“I’m so bored!”

We have all muttered that at some time or another, especially in summertime. The summer becomes an easy time to feel this way – your friends are out of town, you’re stuck at the house all day, your phone battery died… It’s easy to forget summer is actually a pretty great time! Not to sound too much like a grown-up, but, seriously, summers are AWESOME! All that free time to do whatever you like, see your friends at camp, sleep in, go on family vacations—the list goes on! (#alittlejealous)

BUT.

You have to decide: Are you going to waste the whole summer? Or make it count?
Summers are so full of opportunities that you will only have in your teenage years; don’t miss out on them! The Bible tells us over and over again to “make the most of our time,” to not waste our days, and to be “good stewards” of the time we are given (Ephesians 5:15-16, Colossians 4:5, Proverbs).

Now, I give you full permission to spend the first week or two sleeping in, catching up on Netflix, eating junk food, and just taking a mental break from the brain-melting cramming for exams. But don’t let one or two weeks turn into the whole summer—before you know it, you’ll be saying “I’m so bored!”

So, what is there to do? To answer that, you have to figure out what you want out of your summer and what resources are available to you.

Some activities require planning far in the future. Being a part of E-TEAM or Truth & Peace Leadership Conference are really great experiences that can have a big impact on your life, future, and friendships—or even your college and career path decisions! However, to participate in these, you have to plan months in advance. (I highly recommend both of these opportunities. Plan now and you can apply for 2019!)

Other summer plans don’t take as much planning, but still require some effort. What kinds of things are you are really interested in? Maybe there are internship or volunteer opportunities related to your interests in your community.

  • Do you like animals? Call around to local veterinary clinics to see if they need to hire a part-time kennel assistant, or maybe the zoo in your city has a volunteer program.
  • Are you interested in medicine? Most hospitals have student volunteer programs.
  • If you like clothes or fashion, look for opportunities to blog or write about products you enjoy, or get a summer job at a store where you like to shop.
  • Love to read or help others learn? Plenty of libraries have summer reading programs for teens to help tutor kids.
  • Does your church have a VBS? They might need teen volunteers to work with the kids.

You never know what can turn into a paid job or get you connected to new opportunities. No matter what kind of opportunity you pursue, you are sure to learn a lot of new skills and ideas that can help you in the future as you apply for colleges, trades schools, and jobs. Plus, any jobs, volunteer positions, or internships will look great on a resume or college application!

Lastly, there will be some activities this summer that all you have to do is show up for!

  • What is your church youth group doing this summer? Are they planning a mission trip or a ministry opportunity? Make sure to attend these things and help out where you can.
  • Is your family going on a vacation? Google the destination so you can suggest a cool place to eat or visit to while you’re there.
  • Are there things you would love to learn? I know, I know, you’re on summer break! But I don’t mean like school—things you want to learn because you’re actually interested! Thanks to the amazing Internet, you can stay home and learn a new language, learn photography or how to cook, or learn all kinds of DIY things. (Maybe you can even sell some cool DIY projects and make $$!) Check out Pinterest for summer activity ideas and DIY tutorials.

Summer is here and it will be gone before you know it. Think about all the possibilities! What are you going do with the time you are given?

A Few Things to Think About

  • If you could do anything in the world you wanted to, if money, time, and logistics were all possible, what would you do? Where would you go?
  • Have you thought about what you want to do when you grow up? Or what your dream job would be?
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reminds us there is a “season for everything.” What do you think this “season” is in your life? What is God’s purpose in this “season”? How are you seeking Him and His plans for this season of your life?
For Girls

Stressed Out: A God’s Girl’s Guide to Streamlining Stress

By Beth Bryant

Let’s be clear about one thing: stress is a part of life.

It affects every human, and teen girls are certainly no exception. With so many different activities, commitments, and social pressures, girls are susceptible to plenty of stressors—especially when you add in hormones, technology, and relationships! It’s important for God’s Girls to learn how to manage everyday stress in order to be healthy and focused—and better serve the Kingdom of God.

Unmanaged, chronic stress can lead to depression or anxiety. Stress can come from many directions, and it can be helpful to figure out where the greatest amount of stress is coming from so that you can better deal with it. For teen girls, stress can come from a demanding schedule, physical health and hormones, relationships with family, friends, and boys, or even from a sudden transition, like starting a new school or moving to a new place.

Once the source of stress is identified, you can take practical steps to get it under control:

Managing Your Schedule

  • Prioritize your activities. Even if an activity is good, it might not be a wise idea to add it to an already overflowing schedule. Prayerfully and critically consider what can be cut from your schedule to give you more free time.
  • Make time to relax. Spend a small amount of time each day, even just 20 minutes, on something you enjoy. Do you like to read? Ride a bike? Color, draw, or crochet? Low-key activities you can put down and pick back up easily are great for getting some “you” time.
  • Sync a family calendar. If you can see everyone else’s commitments in the same place, it will help you be more prepared for things like meals and rides, and cut down on stress.

Staying on Top of School

  • Keep a planner that contains due dates and reminders to keep track of tests and projects. (And actually USE IT!)
  • Plan your day. Make sure you schedule time to study—if you can, the same time each day.
  • Ask for help. If you’re struggling with algebra or writing a paper, ask a teacher who can help you or give you pointers.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute.

A Healthy You

  • Track your periods. You might not be completely regular, but that’s okay. If you can figure out when they’re coming, you can prepare emotionally and otherwise.
  • Get the right amount of sleep. Both too much and too little sleep can be damaging physically and emotionally. Studies show 9-10 hours is about the right amount for middle and high school age girls.
  • Get some sunshine! Take a walk, sit by a window.
  • Eat for nutrition. Toss the junk food (most of the time!) and opt for nutrient-packed foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grain.

Real Relationships

  • Communicate with your parents/guardians. It may seem annoying, but lack of communication causes stress and plenty of arguments. Let them know what’s going on at school and how you’re feeling emotionally. Make sure you’re clear on what’s expected of you and do your best to honor them.
  • Steer clear of “friends” who make you feel bad about yourself or pressure you into acting different from who you really are.
  • Limit time with any one particular friend. It’s great to have a BFF, but even besties need space. Try to spend time with different people.
  • Limit time on Instagram, Facebook, and other virtual social networks. Remember, people only share their highlights. Everything on social media isn’t real life!
  • Focus on friendships with guys instead of intense romantic relationships—at least in this stage of your life. This will keep the stress level down and allow you room to figure out who you are and what you want in a guy when the time is right.

Big Changes

  • Find a project to focus on. In the middle of big change like moving, starting a new school, family changes, or another life event, keeping up with a reading list or a creative project can help you stay centered.
  • Talk to a trusted adult who can help you sort through your stress or hurt.

So, what now? Even after taking these practical steps, we aren’t guaranteed that everything will be easy. Life is still tough! Sin in the world messes up God’s perfect plan, so we have to deal with stuff like stress. But God loves us and promises in Hebrews 13:5 that He will NEVER leave us alone. Jesus understands what you’re dealing with, and in Hebrews 4:16, He tells us how to respond to our stress:

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God tells us to ask for His help when we need it! The result?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

When we take practical steps to manage our stress and rely on our relationship with God to give us the strength we need to respond to it properly, we can face stress with peace and confidence.

For a printable version of this list, check out the Resources page.

For Adults, For Girls

The eXit Strategy

By Rachel Bryant

The eXit strategy is a pre-planned strategy that gives teens a way out of uncomfortable or unsafe situations without the fear of being made fun of for wanting to leave.

So what’s the plan?

If a teen is at a friend’s house, a party, or anywhere else, and wisely decides, for whatever reason, that she needs to not be there anymore, this prearranged agreement can help her exit the uncomfortable situation. When the teen realizes she needs to leave, she sends a text with a pre-planned code to a parent or trusted adult. This can be one word, number, or even just one letter (example: X).

When the parent or adult receives the “code word” text, they immediately call the teen and tell them there is an emergency at home and that the teen either needs to come home now or the adult will come get her right now.

Once the teen is safe at home, the parent or adult allows the teen some time to think over the situation. After a period of time, such as the next morning, the adult and teen sit down together to discuss the situation calmly. They discuss what happened, the teen’s good decision to leave the uncomfortable situation, and how to make good choices in the future.

And how does the plan work?

In order for this strategy to be effective, both you and the teen must commit to stick to the plan. When you and the teen discuss this strategy beforehand, you both must make agreements:

Parent/Adult Agrees To:

  • Quickly call teen back with “emergency”
  • Don’t ask questions on the phone
  • Be calm when you pick them up or when they arrive home
  • Validate the teen’s decision to use the exit strategy and text an adult
  • Give teen time to think about situation and be ready to listen calmly during discussion

Teen Agrees To:

  • Text adult as soon as you feel uncomfortable
  • Answer your phone when they call back
  • Listen and be honest during discussion
  • Think about ways to better handle or avoid similar situations in the future

For a printable version of this, check out the Resources page.