For Adults, For Girls

The Lies Girls Believe

In an anti-moralistic world, the lies our girls hear and believe are abundant. Our friends at D6 recently invited Shine-recommended author Dannah Gresh to join a podcast and share about some of the lies girls believe.

Many of the lies girls believe about their self-worth and confidence are shaped by social media, which girls can spend up to 9 hours a day looking at. Dannah encourages moms to “take the mask off of social media” and remind girls that social media isn’t always real life.

Listen to the rest of the podcast with Dannah here.

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 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 Girls

Dump the Drama: How to Survive Girl Politics in a Mean Girl World

by Beth Bryant

We all need somebody to lean on…..at least—that’s what the song says. And for the most part, it’s true. We need friendships with other girls to help us navigate the stormy and sometimes epically disastrous waters of middle and high school. But making friends and maintaining those friendships can be hard! Dealing with people who mistreat you or act like you don’t even exist is harder. What’s a God’s Girl do??

First of all, be kind to everyone (even people you might not like!)

Do you ever feel belittled, gossiped about, unaccepted, isolated, or maybe even targeted by other girls? You are not alone. Studies show that teen girls are twice as likely as guys to suffer from anxiety and depression, and drama and girl politics can certainly have a heavy hand in that. In Luke 6:27, Jesus commands us to “Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you.” Simply loving people who are mean to you might not make that mean person act better, but you will be in the right.

Even Paul seemed to understand how crazy girl world can be. In Galatians, he wrote, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Sometimes it seems like girls are all biting and devouring one another! It’s not easy to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us or even victimize us—but it’s an important part of being God’s girl—doing the complete opposite of what we might feel like doing.

Loving your neighbors and enemies means praying for those who mistreat you. Why? Because God commands us to, and He has our best interest at heart. When His girls have different reactions than other girls would, people start to pay attention. And when you reflect Jesus, they see Him in you.

You don’t only have to spend time with people who are exactly like you.

When it comes to building friendships, it’s important to understand that the best ones take plenty of time to develop. We tend to gravitate toward people who are like us, whether we like the same hobbies, share personality traits and preferences, or have similar life situations. That’s not a bad place to start!

But you should also be willing to get to know and accept people who are different from you. If you only spend time with friends who are exactly like you, you could inadvertently end up in a clique or exclude girls who could turn out to be wonderful friends! Spending time with lots of different people is a great way to help others feel included and a good way to learn more about the world around you!

Be on guard against your own “mean girl” tendencies. Deep down inside, do you sometimes feel so insecure that putting someone else down seems like it will make you feel better? Sometimes we trivialize other girls’ successes because they make us feel like a failure. Or we are tempted to use deception or other manipulative tactics to try to get what we want. When your inner Regina George starts to come out, take note! Make a point to choose Christ-like attitudes and behaviors instead. Just because everyone else is sucked into the drama, gossip, jealousy, and cliques, doesn’t mean you have to be.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Lastly, God’s girls also need to know that no person deserves to carry the weight of making you feel valuable or worthy. Sure, it would be nice if the cool girls at school would notice you. Sure, it would be great if your BFF was always completely and totally reliable. But people are just people—messed up and sometimes hurtful even when they have good intentions. It’s who we are. Only having a right relationship with God—one where we know we are His: redeemed, loved, with a future full of His GOOD plans—can provide us with everything we really need. Only God will ever truly “get” us. He designed us this way so we would seek Him first and know Him better.

Some Practical Tips for Surviving Girl Politics

  1. Avoid settling into a clique. Switch up your friend groups and sit with different people at lunch when you can (maybe even that girl who sits by herself a lot??).
  2. Build up other girls. God knows we all need the support, so be the one to write encouraging notes, share compliments freely, and look for ways to make other girls feel special.
  3. Change the subject. If someone’s not around and they’re being spoken about negatively, pick a new topic, walk away, or remind others that they can talk to that person directly if there is an issue.
  4. Apologize to other girls you might have treated badly. It’s always God’s will for you to make things right. Not clearing things up can also affect your relationship with Him. (Matthew 5:23-24)
  5. If someone you know is a target of bullying, take action by telling an adult you trust. It may seem like the opposite of what you want to do, but things can escalate out of hand quickly. A trusted adult can help you come up with a management plan or notify those who can step into the situation.
  6. Keep your focus outside your circle. Pray for missionaries, volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry, serve at your church, or find other ways to reach out to others in compassion.
  7. Use social media responsibly. Don’t type anything on a screen you wouldn’t say to the person you’re typing it about.
  8. Get help if you need it. Be on alert for signs of anxiety or depression in yourself that might be caused by friend/frenemy drama such as…. suicidal thoughts, not being able to sleep, sleeping too much, isolating yourself from friends or family, struggling to control emotions, lack of appetite, over-eating, etc…… These are serious concerns and a licensed counselor might be needed to help you process what you’re going through. Be honest with the adults in your life about what you’re dealing with.
For Girls

My Phone Is Doing What??

by Sarah Sargent

Girls, I admit it. I might be 15+ years older than most of you reading this, but I know we have at least one thing in common. We both LOVE our smartphones. Just a couple of years ago, I tried to convince my dad, who is also my pastor, to let me drive my whole Sunday School class in the church van back to my house because I forgot my phone. Did I mention I was the Sunday School teacher?? (I still can’t believe he said no.)

Our phones are great, but they can also be very dangerous. They can be dangerous to you because of what you are able to access, but they are also dangerous because of what you can share. The biggest dangers with smartphones lie in the information you are inadvertently sharing. In an ideal world, each of you reading this blog wouldn’t need any of the tips I’m about to share, because that means you are already safe. Unfortunately, many of the settings on smartphones are already set before you even turn on your screen, so you might not even be aware of all the different types of information you are sharing! Let’s explore some changes you can make to ensure your safety in the smartphone world.

The two worst privacy offenders on your phone are geotagging and analytics. What?? If you’ve never even heard of those two things, you’re not the only one. These two options, both in the settings on your phone, enable others to gain information about you, including where you live, go to school, and your habits.

Luckily, there are some simple changes you can make to keep you safe from sexual predators, stalkers, and anyone seeking to gain private information about you.

Geotagging

Geotagging is a typically automatic setting that tracks the location and time of every photo you take on your phone. When enabled, your phone will attach this information, and more, to every picture you take.

Before we get too far, let me say that disabling this feature does not prevent you from tagging your location on social media. You can still tag locations on Instagram and Facebook! Disabling geotagging will just stop your phone or tablet camera from tracking location information automatically. You might be thinking, why is this relevant and why should I disable this feature on my phone?

Information saved with geotagging will be accessible to anyone you send the photo to, or anyone who views it on social media. Here’s the brutal reality: without geotagging disabled, that cute selfie you took of you and your bestie on your bed? The one gaining likes by the hundreds from your Instagram followers? That same image has allowed the sexual predator who lives in your neighborhood to not only see the address where the photo was taken, but they can use the EXIF data from the geotag to find the exact location in the house where your bedroom is located. A stalker could spend time watching your daily patterns through your photos and learn your patterns, and use those habits to figure out the best time to approach you alone. I know I have painted a worst-case scenario for you, but this could easily become reality when you allow your phone to track your photos through geotagging.

To disable geotagging:

iPhones/iPads:

  • Go into the settings section
  • Choose Privacy, then choose Location Services.
  • Scroll down and select the camera app. You will then have two options, never and while using the app. Choose the option marked never.

Androids:

  • Open the Camera app on your phone.
  • Tap on Settings.
  • Scroll down to the “Geo tags or Location tag” option and disable it.

If neither of these options work for your phone: Google “how do I turn geotagging off on a [insert phone model]” and you should be able to find instructions for your specific phone.

Advertising Trackers and Analytics

In addition to geotagging, your phone also automatically tracks other personal information, which can even be sold to developers and technology companies. Although Apple has recently cracked down on privacy rules for ads and advertisers, you need to do your part to protect your information.

A celebrity I follow on Instagram recently shared her own story of her personal cell phone number being leaked online after an app developer/advertiser bought a list of cell phone users. Unfortunately, many seemingly harmless apps on your phone can gather data from your phone, like your photos and contacts, and then sell it to advertisers or other companies. We live in a digital world, and we need to be just as cautious online as we are in “real” life. You don’t want your images and information to fall into the wrong hands simply because you didn’t do your part to prevent it. Like geotagging, you can also turn off your phone’s ability to track and share information you don’t give it permission to. Turning off these settings will also stop your phone from selling your information to businesses.

To disable ad tracking and information sharing:

iPhones/iPads:

  • Go into the settings section
  • Choose Privacy, then scroll down and choose Analytics.
  • Turn off the option that says Share iPhone Analytics. (Green is on, off is not green.)
  • Go back to Privacy and choose the next option: Advertising
  • Turn off (not green) the option that says Limit Ad Tracking.

Androids:

  • Go to the settings section of your phone.
  • Choose the option that says “Google Settings.”
  • Every Android has it, but it is often labeled differently for different models. It could be called “Google,” “Google Settings,” or “Google Services.”
  • Once you’ve found the right one, choose the “Ads” menu.
  • Choose the option that says “Opt out of Ads personalization.”
  • Choose OK when the confirmation box appears.

If neither of these options work for your phone: Google “how do I turn off data sharing through apps and ads on a [insert phone model]” and you should be able to find instructions for your specific phone.

The Internet, smartphones, and technology can be incredible blessings. They can also be the starting point for nightmare scenarios. Your family is working hard to keep you safe. Do your part and disable these features in your devices.

Share this blog post with your friends to help them disable these features on their phones, too!

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.