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Dear Mighty Strong Girls, Our world needs you. I believe that with all that I am. You are special and were masterfully created for a purpose. God has gifted you with talents that are as unique as you are. All you have to do is listen for His voice and be obedient to His call for you. Then you — yes, YOU! — can change the world! Sounds easy enough, but we all know better! Our world is so cluttered with distractions and noises that threaten to drown out God's voice. The first step is to look inside, to see what needs to be changed about you. Yes, God absolutely loves you right now, exactly where you are — even if it's really messy. But a Mighty Strong Girl is in perpetual prayer about self improvement. That's key! We want to help you find the right tools to grow mighty in faith, strong in obedience, and blossom into the girl God designed you to be. Then He can use you to be the change you want to see in our world! How exciting is that? We want you to have fun and be encouraged along the way, too. Within our pages and website, you'll find stories that illustrate girls listening to and following God's call. You will

read about fears and troubles, hopes and dreams, fashion and art, fun and humor. Always we will be authentic; because the truth is even the girls you think have it all together aren't without problems and challenges. We can all learn from sharing our experiences. We invite you to come and connect with one another. Find a sister here in your community — or maybe even halfway around the world — who shares something in common with you. Know you're not alone. Know that at Mighty Strong Girls, we will give girls a voice and help you lift up your voices! God has always used girls in mighty ways, and He wants to do the same with you! Just like He did with a virgin (Mary), a queen (Esther) and a prostitute (Rahab). He has an amazing ability to take our sinful pasts and redeem them for His glory. When you are in sync with Him, there's no limit to what you can do! Proverbs 3:3-5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." And then in Proverbs 16:3, He tells us that when we commit to Him, He will establish our plans. What does your role look like in this world? That's what we 3

want you to discover. Along the way, we also want to armor you to stand strong against a growing and powerful mass media that is forcing a negative, distorted, unhealthy and sexualized message of girlhood on you. More than ever, you need survival skills. As 2 Peter 1:4 (NLV) says, "Through His shining-greatness and perfect life, He has given us promises. These promises are of great worth and no amount of money can buy them. Through these promises you can have God’s own life in you now that you have gotten away from the sinful things of the world which came from wrong desires of the flesh." It's so liberating when God lives within you! It brings you a strength and beauty you could never imagine, a worth you cannot put a pricetag on! If you like this issue, be sure to invite your friends to be Mighty Strong Girls, too! Get involved, share and encourage. Together, we can reach even more girls with this life-giving message! {Much love}


in this issue 49 Get your craftt on Learn how to recycle two shirts and make an accessory in an afternoon.

28 A legacy of leadership Learn how Mighty Strong Girl Hannah Hansen developed her confidence and style.

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MORE Online with Mighty Strong Girls ...........................5 Being a teenager in Sierra Leone .........................8 Holiday shopping ideas........................................11 Quick tips on healthy weight...............................12 Open a book .......................................................13 Art & Faith ...........................................................14 Face your fears and find yourself ........................18 Fix the winter blahs .............................................23 Reaching college campuses.................................24 Cute boots! ..........................................................34 Be strong! A photo essay of the Demi Lovoto concert ........44 Fiction Casting aside crowns...........................................52 My Mission Trip Discovering beauty in a Kenyan slum..................58 Scripture Art ........................................................62

Trash or treasure? Goodwill isn't just for your old junk; it's kinda like raiding your friend's closet for gems she no longer wants. See what two girls found on a quick trip.

COLUMNS Mirror, mirror: How do you see yourself..............22 The Dad who is always there ...............................26 Beautiful, handcrafted you ..................................16 Love yourself .......................................................60

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42 Challenge your faith

Fast, fun fiction 4


contributors November/December Volume 1, issue 1

Publisher/Editor Amy Denney Editor-in-chief

Hi! I'm Haley Rae, and I'm 15 years old, and a sophomore in high school. I sing, dance, act, and play musical instruments all the time! It's my life.... Pretty much! I love to eat cookie dough and I love any kind of snack food, especially brownies, cookies, cake, ice cream, and cupcakes!!!

Amanda Hamilton Board members

Maribeth Ward is a native of Alabama and a graduate of Auburn University, where she earned a degree in Early Childhood Education. She has worked with orphans and at-risk children in India, Thailand, Mexico and most recently in Atlanta, as the Director of Prevention Programming for NightLight International. She is now serving in Sierra Leone, at the Children’s Redemption Orphanage Home, in addition to working with schools, slums and other ministries.

Jan Koch Adrienne McCaherty Paula Miller Linda O'Toole Lisa Rigoni Amanda Hamilton Amy Denney Salvation questionns? Email Amy at amydenney@mightystronggirls.com Advertising questions? Email Sarah at sarahturner@mightystronggirls.com Have a story idea, want to join the teen-led editorial board, submit your artwork, write for us or learn more? Email Amanda at editor@mightystronggirls.com Want to donate to this cause? Tax-deductible donations can be made online at mightystronggirls.com. The Mighty Strong Girls magazine is published six times per year. Mighty Strong Girls is a not-for-profit ministry in partnership with Ripe For Harvest. All costs associate with its mission are raised by donors through advertising partnerships, monthly support or one-time investments. Contribution are solicited with the understanding that Ripe For Harvest has complete discretion and control over the use of all donated funds. Ripe for Harvest is a member of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which is committed to helping Christ-centered organizations earn the public's trust through developing and maintaining standards of accountability that convey God-honoring ethical practices.

My name is Haley Allurah Wilson. I am 22 years old and a full-time student at Benedictine University. I am also a cake decorator at Baskin Robbins.

Wife of one. Mother of one. Daughter and servant of THE One. Ginger Newingham currently lives in central Illinois, but will be moving to serve in Sierra Leone, Africa with her family soon to work in an orphanage. Ginger and her husband, Chance, have a crazy-insane 6-year-old adopted son from Bulgaria. Nasko has taught Chance and Ginger about God's love for orphans. When Ginger is not chasing Nasko, she loves to read, write, craft, cook, and take naps. Ginger regularly writes on her blog about her family and life: momentsdefined.wordpress.com

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I’m a busy person. After classes, homework, orchestra rehearsal, violin practice, editing, and eating have taken their share of my day, there’s usually just enough time to get some sleep so I have the energy to do it all again the next day. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. There are days when I look at my to-do list and realize it’s impossible to finish everything on time. Then I freak out. This happened a few weeks ago. What needed done and what I had time for just wasn’t adding up. Then something remarkable and rare happened: a teacher cancelled class. A whole

hour I didn’t expect to have, plus the postponement of homework due for that class. God always provides exactly what I need when I need it. I hope you find Mighty Strong Girls is a cancelled class for you. I pray it is exactly what you need when you need it. Whether you need something fun to read for down time, or you need inspiration, encouragement, or fashion ideas, Mighty Strong Girls can help you out! Check out Linda’s column for some great ideas on ways to grow closer to God. Whether or not your Dad is around, Travis wants you to know how much you delight your heavenly Father. Take a quick trip to Africa and hear

how Esther lives her Christianity in Sierra Leone. Revolutionize your view of beauty with Sarah’s column on page 56. Dressing fashionably doesn’t have to be expensive! See page 35 to see how you can get a whole winter wardrobe for the cost of a pair of designer jeans. Also, be sure to read Bianca’s story on page 18. She has some great things to say about you and your relationship with God. Are you ready? Here it is! You are reading the very first issue of Mighty Strong Girls magazine. Go ahead, turn the page. It may be exactly what you need right now.

Get involved 1. Apply to sit on the editorial

board. The next meeting is Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Or, send a story idea for the editorial board to consider for a future issue. Email editor@mightstronggirls.com

2. Participate! Follow along

with Linda O'Toole's Come Away With Me on page 42 "ways to grow" list. Start your own accountability group to grow together! Create Scripture Art as described on page 62. Submit via Facebook. 6

3. Write. Submit a story or

essay about your mission trip (500 words plus photos) or pen a poem or short story or become a blogger. Email submissions to editor@mightystronggirls.com Apply to complete a photo essay.


Meet our blog writers God will pick you up. He will save you from the whirlpools of your life. He can do anything if you give your trust to him 100 percent. I felt comfortable with my relationship with God, until He said, “If you feel comfortable, you’re doing something wrong.”

from our readers "I have to say that your magazine is already doing its job. I have been keeping updated on the blogs. These girls that write for you are amazing. They make me think of my faith, and how I can improve it or change it. This has certainly made an impact on my life...for the better!" ~ Sarah Kline, 16

SURVEY SAYS 42.9 percent of you will count your blessings on Thanksiving. 14.3 percent say they will volunteer for the holidays

The thing is, when God throws you a curveball, you can either stand there and let it hit you in the face, or you can catch it.

28.6 percent will worship on Christmas 87.5 percent will pray during the Christmas season

Read more from teen bloggers at mightystronggirls.com or apply to blog!

* Results via Survey Monkey; Find us on Facebook for the next survey!

We help orphans in Sierra Leone, Africa get the food they need just by cashing in aluminum cans. Visit www.orphan13.org to learn how you can help.


interview by maribeth ward photos by amy denney | chance newingham

Girls in our World

Esther:

A girl who answers to God from an orphanage in Sierra Leone Have you ever wondered how your life might be different if you had been born somewhere else? What kinds of difficulties would you have? What would you eat? How would you worship? Welcome to Girls in our World, a regular feature in Mighty Strong Girls that will introduce you to a teenage Christian living on another part of our vast globe.

Meet Esther Fala. She is

a Mighty Strong Girl living in Sierra Leone. Esther is 16 and is in the 10th grade at Jefferson Baptist Secondary School in Waterloo, located on the peninsula of Sierra Leone -- a small country about the size of South Carolina located on the Western coast of Africa. Oh, and by the way, she lives at Children's Redemption Orphanage Home with nine other children. Esther is an orphan. Her father died in the brutal civil war that ravaged neighboring Liberia, and her mother fled to Sierra Leone with her. Later, Esther's mother ran away, but she was too small to remember it. From ages 9 to 12, she

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lived on the streets. It is estimated that there are more than 320,000 orphans in Sierra Leone, which has a population of 5.6 million. At age 12, an "auntie" (a generic term that refers to someone who cares for you, and not necessarily a relative) took her in, but there were too many children to provide for them all. So Esther's foster parents threw her out to live on the streets. That's where Frank Williams found her. Frank was following God's call on his life to start an orphanage when he found Esther and many other children living in filth and starving in the sewers and streets around Waterloo. It is here at CROH, a simple three-room house shared with nine other children, where Esther finally feels a sense of family again. “They love me and I love them," she says. "We share things in common with others here.” This is where short-term missionary Maribeth

Ward of Atlanta caught up with her to ask her what it is like to live in Sierra Leone.

A quick look at Sierra Leone

Question: What do you study in school? Answer: I am studying language arts, business, math, religious moral education, home economics, social studies, agriculture and science, as well as integrated science -- the study of plants and animals. I like this class because it is easy for me. In the future, I want to go into banking.

Population: 5.6 million Capital: Freetown Size: 27,699 square miles Official language: English Tribes: At least 17 Religions: Muslim, Christian, Indigenous tribal religions Number of hospitals: 26 Number of physicians: 308 Infant mortality: 115 deaths per 1,000 live births Under age 5 mortality: 204 deaths per 1,000 Maternal mortality: 1,800 deaths per 100,000 births Number of primary schools: 4,295 Number of secondary schools: 282 Number of technical/trade schools: 192 Access to water supply: 29 percent Poverty: 78.9 percent in rural areas, 54.3 percent in urban areas Food poor: 32.8 percent in rural areas, 14.7 percent in urban areas

Q: What is a typical day like for you at CROH? A: A typical day at CROH includes fetching water, cleaning rooms, preparing clothes for the next day. In the evening we have fun and make fun of each other. I’m a comedian! Q: What was a typical day like for you before you came to live at CROH? A: A typical day before I lived at CROH included

Source: 2008 Annual Statistical Digest for Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Embassy


Esther sings with her orphan brothers and sisters. The children learn singing and skits to educate others about the plight of orphans, who are considered second-class citizens in their culture. helping people get fresh water, washing pans for different people, helping to make clay and different work for different people. For some of these jobs, I would get money and then use it to buy food. Q: What is your favorite meal? A: Stewed snail and rice with sauce that includes pepper, onions, salt, bouillon. Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? A: I enjoy reading, watching movies, laughing and having fun with friends. Q: What are your special talents? A: Singing, dancing, braiding hair.

Q: What is good about being a girl in Sierra Leone? A: I like being popular with my neighbors and friends at school. Whenever people have problems, they come and share with me. I tell them, "God is with you. Don’t worry. Keep praying.� Q: What is hard about being a girl in Sierra Leone? A: Working hard is hard for women. We have weaker bodies (than men), and we get exhausted too much. Q: What would you like to change about your culture? A: The secret societies. God makes you clean. In secret societies, they pull off one part of your body (Female genital mutilation is

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performed on as many as 95 percent of the girls in Sierra Leone. Multiple attempts to ban it in the law have failed.), and when you die, God will wonder where that part of your body is that He made. God doesn’t like it. The solution would be to tell the government that secret societies are not good. Secret societies need to be stopped, because it is not good for the girls. Q: How is beauty defined in Sierra Leone? A: People here think that the face is what makes someone beautiful. That is ok. God makes people beautiful because He made them in His likeness. I think all women in this country are beautiful.


compiled by amanda hamilton

Ideas for everyone on your shopping list

shopping

And you don't have to leave downtown Springfield Take advantage of Downtown Springfield Inc.'s Old State Capitol Holiday Walks on Dec. 5, 6, 12, 19 for unique shopping and dining, Santa House, horse-drawn trolley, gingerbread houses, gift certificate raffle, lighted holiday tree and free entertainment. 5-8 p.m. Drop earrings by Theresa Law, $24-$25, The Blue Door

Felted purses by Sue Schwartz, $16-$20, Studio on 6th These cheerful purses would be a great gift for a sister, friend, or even your mom.

Measuring spoons, $14-$22, The Spice of Life Creative metal measuring spoons come in a variety of designs including cupcakes, bees, and shovel-shaped spoons.

Popcorn on a cob, $3.99, Tinsley Dry Goods A fun gift for younger siblings or cousins.

Glitter headbands by Abby and Jacki Ralph, $5, Studio on 6th For your girlfriends and maybe one for yourself!

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Embroidered bibs and felt embroidered hair clips, $7-$9, The Spice of Life A little something for your wee loved ones..


health

compiled by haley wilson

zzzzzzzzzzz.............. Tips for teens

Are you getting nine hours of sleep nightly? Are you eating omega-3 fatty acids? Do you know how to safely pop a pimple? How can you get rid of bad breath, body odor and dandruff? From dark circles under the eyes to lack of sleep, Drs. Oz and Roizen offers suggestions to problems that teens face on ABC News' Schoolhouse Call.

Exercise has many functions Tons of magazines offer unrealistic "drop-your-weightin-a-week� exercise plans. However, exercise is not just an outlet for losing weight, it is an activity to sustain a healthy lifestyle and keep you stressfree. WebMD helps you spot these fitness traps and helps you create a workout plan that will make you feel good in your own skin. Read the entire article at teens.webmd.com/girls-puberty-10/exercise-beauty

Skinny Minnie is stirring up a debate Petitions are sprouting up everywhere to protest the Barney's holiday window display. In its short animation, Minnie fantasizes about modeling a designer dress. In order for it to "work," the creators decided her body needed to be transformed before she could hit the runway. So animators designed new versions of beloved characters to reflect the daydream imagery. Protesters argue that it's another depiction of

the impossible-to-achieve body image that girls are already bombarded with daily. What's your opinion? Is this unhealthy for girls? Drop a letter to the editor at editor@mightystronggirls.com.

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If you want to go on a diet, go on THIS diet! When most girls think of a diet, they think of small portions, skipping meals and staying away from carbs and fats. Creating a healthy balance is important to avoid the extremes — obesity on the one hand and eating disorders on the other. What a "diet" really means is simply eating healthier and consuming a healthy balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, according to Livestrong. A healthy choice for breakfast might be toast with peanut butter, a smoothie or string cheese and a banana. For lunch, pass up the burger and fries and opt for the grilled chicken, baked potato or turkey sandwich. Supplement with yogurt or fruit. At dinner, prepare pasta with marinara sauce and a side salad. Healthy snacks to curb off hunger are fruits and vegetables, air-popped popcorn, trail mix or an energy bar.


compiled by amy denney

books

"People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I've noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren't determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they're satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world." — Katie Davis Kisses from Kate

For adults as well as children, 55 Waverly Street is a universal fable about finding again the place where we do what God made, meant and molded us to do, despite a world designed to keep us from our calling. Its simple words and full-page illustrations will captivate young imaginations, and its wise and moving message will speak eloquently to adult hearts. 13


Sarah Kisly is an artist. Like many kids, she

liked to draw in kindergarten. The summer before first grade she found herself spending a lot of time playing outside. She also found herself inside — drawing. This love of art continued as she grew older. In high school she took some art classes and found she wanted to pursue an art-related degree in college.

inside of you. Even if you don’t feel like creating sometimes, if you’re discouraged, it’s important to do it anyway.” But expression is not the only reason art is important to her. She considers James 1:17 her motto verse: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Art is a gift from God. “God gave me the talent and I want to glorify Him with that,” says Sarah. Talking about James 1:17, Sarah described the gift of art. “Every good and perfect gift” applies to a gift or talent, but also the objects she paints as they are given to others. The subject matter is a gift from God as well. “I like to paint good and happy things,” she says, “I hope my art makes other people feel good.” Much of her inspiration comes from her faith. “Especially if I don’t have any inspiration, I can draw from my faith and from my spiritual journey.” She often draws crosses, doves, or

'Every good

Developing a Style Now at 19, Sarah is an art therapy major at Millikin University. She is primarily a 2-D artist, favoring graphite, pen and ink, charcoal, watercolor, oil paint, and contecrayon (a hard chalk pastel). She describes her art as fantastical, an imitation of what is real. It may not be a photo of reality, but her work, with its vibrant colors and flowing lines, has a life of its own. Flipping through pictures of her art, Sarah pointed out her love of nature. A glowing green English landscape. A brilliant sunflower. A rainbow of birds around a cross. She also likes to draw simple things, like household objects with sentimental value. Sarah commented on how her style develops. “There are things that will show up on your art,” she says, pointing out that she draws in layers, bright colors, undulating lines, and organic motifs. She also experiments with lines that reach from the middle to the outer bounds of the page, such as stretching roots or tree branches. “If there’s a particular style you want, you will work on that.” Like a musician, Sarah practices to develop her technique. She says, “There are different ways to begin a drawing to work on a particular effect. You need to expand your abilities to keep from getting rusty.”

&

perfect gift'

Inspiration To Sarah, art is a form of expression. “It’s important to express yourself in some way and not keep your creativity or your ability locked up

Sarah's art illustrates her influences: faith, fantastical and color.

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by amanda hamilton Jesus’ face. “To some it may be lacking in subtlety,” says Sarah, “but it doesn’t matter to me. God is so important to me it’s meant to stand out.” While she does find inspiration in other Christian artwork, she says, "The challenge is to do something and make it your own and not just copy.” Sarah tries to bring originality through her presentation and color choices. Life Beyond Art Although Sarah loves being an artist, she didn’t want to deal with the demands of being a studio artist, which requires pleasing a certain cliental. “Art is a passion of mine, but it’s not what I’m most passionate about. It’s not something I want to do every day.” Sarah is more passionate about helping people. So she became an art therapy major. “Art therapy is a way for people to express or draw what might be difficult to articulate. The way they draw and what they draw can help diagnose certain mental conditions and disorders, help illuminate what is inside them that they aren’t able to speak freely about,” she says. Art allows a person to expand another facet of his or her personality. “It’s good for the soul,” Sarah adds. Her goal is to work with the elderly. This summer she had an opportunity to shadow an art therapist as she worked with groups in a local hospice center, nursing homes, assisted living, and memory care facilities. Although it was not formal art therapy, Sarah says it was a chance for residents to relax and unwind, doing something they hadn’t done since they were children. The art often brought back memories. Many opened up and started talking.

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Adding Spice to Life This career choice is no surprise, considering how Sarah defines art. “Art is a life enhancer,” she says. “Is it essential to life? I’m not going to go philosophical on you. Positive art has a positive effect on people. It can brighten a room when it’s given as a gift and it means something. It can be thought-provoking. Different ways of art can mean different ways of thinking. "When you see something unexpected, it gives you more knowledge about what the rules of art are and what they aren’t. Art can be almost anything. For me, it adds spice to life.”


! l u f i t u a e b e r a u o y Girl, Who are you listening to?

Who are you watching? Who defines beauty for you? Magazines? Films? Media? That kind of beauty comes and goes with fads. Today it is cool to wear your hair this way, tomorrow it will be different. It can be exhausting to keep up with it all. The people around you are watching the same messages as well and it seems their appreciation only comes if you look like the magazine pages, the movies. There is someone who loves you just as you are. He thinks you are just as beautiful when you get up, before you have brushed your teeth -- you know what I mean. Your God calls you beautiful. He says in Song of Solomon 4:9 about you: “You have captured my heart, my treasure, my

bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes.” Song of Solomon 1:15 says “How beautiful you are my darling, how beautiful!” Wow, my God says that about me? You betcha! You are beautiful! On the day that your

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“mother” Eve was made, He declared the day VERY good, as opposed to all the other days. In Psalm 139, He says in verse 14, “Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex, your workmanship is marvelous-how well I know it!” (NLT) You are unique -- there is no one on earth like you, never has been, and never will be. You are one in more than a million. He handcrafted you. It is good to know this. So many times we compare ourselves to others, saying, "If only I had hair like hers," or "If only my nose was small like hers," or … (fill in the blank). You are a one of a kind. Once you know you are beautiful and handcrafted, there will be no need for comparison. You will be free to enjoy who you are and appreciate others in the special and unique way that God made them. No need, no room for jealousy, or insecurity, just appreciation. Ok, I am handcrafted and beautiful -- what next? Glad you asked. You are handcrafted with a purpose. Let’s look at Ephesians 2:10,


“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Oh, I can already hear you thinking, Great, He has created me to help little old ladies across the street and be a good Girl Scout kind of girl. Well, yes and no. He has handcrafted you to be part of his temple. What? 1 Peter 2:5 says, “And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple. What’s more you are His holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.” Whoa! So not only are you

beautiful, YOU ARE with PURPOSE! You are created for good works that God is pleased with already that will shine His glory through this world. The glory of God -- His brilliance, His beauty, his power, His strength, His awesomeness -- it needs desperately to be seen in this world. The beauty He has put inside you will build up the Church as a whole, and will bring and draw people to Him. That, my friend, is beauty with PURPOSE! There is NO ONE like you. So, if you don’t shine the beauty God has put inside you, the world will miss it. Period. Can God and His work go on without it? Sure, of course, but

imagine a stained glass window with a piece missing. It is just not the same. So, ask the Lord what talents and abilities has He put inside you that are beautiful with a purpose? Where can you shine for Him ? Listen, and just watch and see what He has to say to you. He knows you and He has been waiting for you to ask! Paula Miller is a missionary homeschooling mom to two girls who wants to receive more and more of the Lord and pour Him out. She is addicted to dark roast coffee, dark chocolate, free Kindle books and God's grace.


story and photos by amy denney

your

Facing

FEARS

Group 1 Crew's Blanca talks about finding your identity in a messy world

Fear.

One word. A small word. But an enormous roadblock between Blanca Reyes and her true identity. "My father left when I was very young. I dealt with abuse from a family member," Blanca, 26, says. "I had a lot of fear in stepping out and standing up for what I believed in." Blanca, singer and songwriter with Group 1 Crew, spent some time with Mighty Strong Girls before taking the stage as headline group for the Powerlite Tour in Springfield in late summer. Snuggled up with husband and Group 1 Crew drummer Ben Callahan in a backstage trailer, Blanca talked openly about her childhood and

influences in her life that helped her sort through her own identity. Stories that have influenced Group 1 Crew's music. "When you're trying to figure out who you are and your identity, there's times you compare yourself to other girls, like 'If my hair wasn't this big and I didn't have this afro….'" she says, recounting how she used to measure her worth by comparing herself to other girls. "I can constantly bring myself down, but that's not going to do anything but hurt me in the end." That's one reason she loves the lyrics to Group 1 Crew's song Beautiful so much, because it's a reminder to girls that the

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frustrations they experience are rooted in a very wrong perspective of themselves. (From Beautiful) I’ve been thinking bout the way I see myself and I just can’t understand why I say All those hurtful things about myself, my insecurities, they don’t seem to just go away And it's hard for me to understand, you loving me, through every mistake that I make I’m so glad that you will never leave, keep reminding me, how you see me every day that I wake "It's easy to switch and get into that (self criticizing) mindset," Blanca concedes.


Opposite page: Blanca performs with Group 1 Crew headlining the Powerlight Fest at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in August. Below: Posing for photos before the concert, Blanca showed she knows how to have fun! "You have to be positive and constantly be reminding yourself of God's viewpoint. Pressures and fearfulness, they can stop you from reaching your full potential. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am unique in my own way. We're all made so different because that's how God created each and every one of us." One of her favorite scriptures is Joshua 1:9, which says "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.� Blanca says God has given her a heart for teenage girls. And because of that, she wants to bring an authentic message to them. That means being


totally honesty and never being a "fake." "My dad was into drugs and alcohol and that whole scene and left my family when I was 6 years old," she says. "When you don't have a strong father figure in your life, it's hard to think there's this father-figure in heaven who's supposed to fill this similar role in your life. I didn't know what that was supposed to look like." Instead of seeking God, she chased that fulfillment in boys

Blanca talks about the importance of humor Before meeting with Blanca, I watched some of her videos on You Tube. So there was some beautiful imagery and choreography, but one stuck out. A homemade video of Blanca and Ben in the car lip syncing a Mark Schultz song. It is hysterical and adorable, and it was a great reminder that we really ought to "let our hair down" and not take ourselves so seriously all the time! "It's good to let things slide off your back and have a good time," Blanca says. "I just love laughing. I think it's so good for your soul." Check it out here: www.youtube.com/watch? v=y465dWOh2ek -- Amy Denney

-- bad relationships, seeking approval and just wanting to be loved. What she learned and what she wants girls to know is that you shouldn't be consumed by boyfriend relationships, make one person your whole world or let someone else define who you are. By the time she met her husband, Blanca was done letting other people chip away at her identity, and she didn't want to give away any more of herself that would belong to her future husband. Part of the reason: she had found Christ. Blanca's dad returned when she was 17, clean and sober. He had found the Lord, and because she knew how far away he was from faith, she desired to know this Jesus so she could have that same peace in her life. She also found a peace with Ben when she discovered she could trust him, and that's how she knew he was the one she should marry. They met on a blind date in December 2008 and were engaged May 12, 2009. Her willingness to be open

about her life is one of Ben's favorite qualities in his wife. "She's extremely genuine, which impressed me," he says. "She believes we're all just people in this race together." Ben believes girls and even guys can identify with her story, and that's what makes her so effective in reaching out to teen girls. "There's always a story behind everyone, some struggles in life. Some stories are out of reach," he says. "Her's is relatable, and I think that gives people hope." Blanca acknowledges that the world is getting tougher for girls and that you don't have to look far to see a 15year-old is not only showing off her body, she's using it to get things she wants. That message is not lost on other girls, who feel they need to do the same. All it leads to, she says, is insecurities. "Everywhere you look you're getting things thrown at you about how you're supposed to look," Blanca says. "It's definitely important to set boundaries, ask yourself hard questions." Not only does this apply to relationships with boys but

"Don't be so accessible. Guard your heart and your purity. As hard as it sounds...you have your whole life ahead of you."

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even with how girls present themselves to the world, particularly in a world where social media rules. Like so many other influences, Blanca says it persuades girls to grow up too fast. Her suggestion: Enjoy being young and don't be in a hurry to grow up so fast. "Don't be so accessible," she says. "Guard your heart and your purity. As hard as it seems or sounds‌you have your whole life ahead of you." Blanca's advice when it come to faith: Don't be ashamed to come to God even if you still have some issues to work out, that the cool thing about God is he will meet you where you are at with grace and love. "The past doesn't define who they are, the future is up for grabs and God is waiting for them to believe it," she says. "Don't plan out your life so much that you don't leave God any room to work."


Beautiful (just the way you are) “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." –1 Samuel 16:7b

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ave you ever found yourself thinking you weren’t quite pretty enough? Have you ever compared yourself to the airbrushed photos in the magazines and felt like somehow you didn’t measure up? Have you ever wanted your hair to be straight instead of curly, or curly instead of straight, or just simply to do what you told it to? Have you ever spent an extended amount of time looking in the mirror assessing your perceived flaws and wishing this was different or that would change or if only this, then maybe… Well, if you have, then I can assure you that this seems to be normal American girl behavior; but, I would like to offer a different point of view. You are beautiful! You are! And, not only that, you are beautiful just the way you are. I recently had the chance to talk to a 20-year-old girl. The question we were asking that morning on A Positive Start to

Your Day was “What do you wish you could tell your 14year-old self?” Her answer resonated with my heart. She said, “I know it hasn’t been so long ago for me because I’m only 20 now but I feel like I would tell my 14-year-old self that my beauty isn’t worth what people think of me, it’s worth what God thinks of me and I needed to be more confident in God. Because when I was

probably like 14 around then, I definitely put my worth in what boys thought of me and if they thought I was pretty and if other girls thought I was pretty and stuff like that. So, I would probably just tell myself that I need to be confident that God made me beautiful the way I am, and I know that I’m still learning that now and it’s just a process but it’s gotten a lot


better but I would definitely encourage myself in that.” I asked her what she sees when she looks in the mirror now and she told me that she sees a beautiful servant for God. Our culture sends us messages every single day that challenge our thinking regarding our worth; and, daily we have to choose who we are going to listen to and what we are going to believe. Today you will be confronted with messages attempting to tell you that if only you buy this designer brand then you will get noticed or if only you use this moisturizer then your skin will be radiant or if only you lose 10 pounds then life will be better. After a while, it all becomes noise that erodes our self-worth and makes us feel inadequate. Do you ever want to scream and make it stop? I feel that way sometimes, too. We have to choose daily to focus our thoughts and to embrace what is true about God and about ourselves. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Philippians 4:8 tells us what we should think about, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble,

Fight off the blahs

whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, compiled by amanda hamilton whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or Wait for a beautiful sunset—the kind that makes the whole sky pink or has streaks of praiseworthy — think orange clouds. about such things.” We were made in His Have an early mother’s or father’s day. Write a image and we are letter to one or both of your parents telling them beautiful the way we are. what you love most about them. Write a letter to Can you imagine how God telling Him what you love most about Him. our lives would be Write a poem about the beauty of winter. different if we walked Plan a winter out the door today party with embracing that we are friends. Go on beautiful just the way we Pinterest to are, living our lives as find recipes beautiful servants for and decorating God? That’s my ideas. challenge for all of us today to recognize the Borrow your younger cousins or neighbor marketing noise for what kids and play in the snow. it is, to say goodbye to Go to the library and browse for a new book. insecurity, and to Visit yours or someone else's grandparents. Ask embrace who God says about their childhood. What was their favorite we are. He loves you so food as a kid? Where/how did they grow up? much and He thinks What was their first job? What was high you’re beautiful! school like? What historical events do they remember? What did they do with friends? Melody Miller serves as

the Operations Manager and Morning Show Host for “A Positive Start to Your Day” on WIBI. She is also a writer, a life coach, and does shows for radio stations on the central California coast and Bangor. She has a deep desire to see people recognize their true identity in Christ and is passionate about encouraging others to find what it is that they are supposed to be doing with their lives and enabling them to live those dreams.

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Get a kit to make a miniature houseplant garden. Check a hardware or home and garden store; sometimes they have different types of cacti you can plant in a larger pot.

Write a story. Get some modeling clay and create something. Get the kind you can bake and make birthday or Christmas gifts for your family and friends. Move the furniture in your room.

Write a play or movie. Perform and film it with your friends and family.


ministry profile Ministry on campus: Evangelism with a global reach One Saturday in September, 16 college students gathered in a church kitchen to make more than 100 boxes of jello. The students were preparing for Jello Olympics, an event hosted by Christian Student Fellowship UIS/LLCC at the University of Illinois Springfield. CSF is a church- and alumni- supported ministry to students on campuses at University of Illinois Springfield and Lincoln Land Community College. Jello Olympics is only a small part of what CSF does. Bridging the Gap “Seven out of 10 students who grow up in the church never return after they leave for college,” says Gretchen Magruder, a long-time staff member of CSF. “Campus ministry is

a way to bridge that gap. It helps remind Christian students of their spiritual purpose while at college.” David and Lindsey Lasley, CSF staff, point out that many students come to campus knowing something about the church, but CSF encourages them to own their faith. Every Friday night students gather for “The Edge,” where a free meal is provided by a local church group followed by a worship service. Small groups for prayer, Bible study and support are held at various locations and times throughout the week. Haley, a junior at UIS, says they recently had a “‘Stache Bash”— a mustache-themed party where students could get to know each other. Alex

says the Jello Olympics serves a similar role, bringing in more students as well as building the community of current CSF members. Other activities include fall and spring retreats, Creativity Night, helping freshman move into dorms, doing homework together, carpooling to church and generally hanging out. Community Many students value the community they gain through CSF. Lyssa, now a junior at UIS, sums up her experience with CSF as a freshman, “They didn’t bash Jesus over my head.” This, she says, made her want to come back. “They’re real,” she adds. Ryan, a junior at UIS, said the Jello Olympics was his first event with CSF as a freshman. He came to a small group, and during CSF’s fall retreat, Ryan decided to be baptized.


Christian Student Fellowship UIS/LLCC Haley says when she came to CSF, “I felt like I belonged.” David Lasley says that a college campus can be a training ground for students to learn how to share their faith. After graduating, they take this experience with them into their careers. Students’ outreach goes beyond just the local campus. Gretchen says, “College students share Jesus with international students in their classes, those international students eventually return to their homeland and take Jesus with them!” The Future The long-term impact of campus ministry continues past graduation for many students. Gretchen describes the preparation students receive for future ministry off campus: “Students in campus ministry are trained in evangelism, leading

story by amanda hamilton

• Planted in 1993 by Todd and Gretchen are serving on the Magruder at Sangamon State University mission field or in • Mission statement: We exist to provide vocational ministry an environment where students can of some sort, all encounter God and become fully using the training transformed believers. they received while • 5 staff members in college.” • Supported by: Churches and alumni These students, • For more information check out their Gretchen says, “are blog: www.uiscsf.blogspot.com or the future of the facebook page: church.” www.facebook.com/uiscsf Bible studies, doing mission trips and service projects, and all of that makes them wellequipped to serve in the local church as Sunday school teachers, elders, worship leaders, board members, and small group leaders. “In addition to that, there are many alumni of CSF who

Advice from Gretchen to college freshman: “Decide before you leave home that you will find a Christian community on campus the first week on campus. It's so easy to think, 'I'll find something later....,' and then your priorities get set on other things and it's easy to just drift away.” Her advice to the Church: “We need to help prepare our college students to see the secular university as an incredible mission field and help students prepare themselves to look at it in that way." There are campus ministries at most state schools and many private institutions. For a complete list of Independent Christian Church campus ministries, check out www.aofcm.org At left, photos from the Jello Olympics. Check out the Facebook page for more.


Capture the delight of your perfect daddy! We have an epidemic in the

excuses for out-of-whack priorities. Maybe your dad United States. does not desire to put God It is subtle, but if we are first and then family. Maybe honest, it is causing more your dad is more concerned problems than we would like to with what the world says is believe. More girls come from important rather than what a home where their father and God says is important. mother are divorced, leaving a And maybe that means you generation of girls to grow up are among a large percentage without a strong father figure. of girls across the nation who A few weeks ago, my wife are not able to spend a and I went on a weekend substantial amount vacation to go hiking of time with your and just enjoy each other’s company. We ...statistics have shown that girls father as you've grown up. Maybe stumbled upon a find the majority of their you are struggling festival in a small with selftown. After spending self worth from the way their confidence, as a couple of hours riding rides, listening fathers interact with them in their statistics have shown that girls find to music, and walking childhood and young adulthood. the majority of their around, we decided it self-worth from the was time to head back way their fathers to the hotel. interact with them in their Apparently, it was working As we turned down a dark childhood and young for them. While neither was street about 10:30 p.m., I adulthood. doing wrong, I could not help noticed a boy with two much In his book, Wild at Heart, but notice neither of them younger girls behind him. My John Eldredge provides a looked truly happy. first thought was that it wasn't deeper look into what girls It's hard to say whether safe or OK for these girls to be need from their fathers. “Most are among the these girls out this late without some sort little girls will remember shrinking number of families of adult supervision. playing dress up, or wedding with dads living at home. But Both of these girls were very day, or twirling skirts, those it's safe to say that even girls beautiful, but it was also clear flowing dresses that are who live with their dads can they were trying to appear perfect for spinning around in. lack a father figure. much older than they were. She will put her pretty dress Many fathers are burdened They both had on revealing on, come into the living room with 70-hour work weeks and tank tops even though it was and twirl. What she longs for is distracted by the stress of only about 70 degrees out. to capture her daddy’s making ends meet. They also had on a lot of delight.” Maybe your dad is making makeup, which made me second guess what age they actually were. The worst was they were wearing shorts that were so short that I could see their pockets coming out the front. While I am certainly not a fashion expert, the message it sent to me is that they were manipulating their appearances to get the attention of older boys at the festival.

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With such absenteeism among fathers, some girls -maybe you or your friends -are looking for self-worth in boys. The girls I saw trying to act older and get the attention of boys were more than likely desperate for approval. It is not a coincidence that girls in junior high and high school are typically attracted to older men. Many of them are looking to replace what they do not have at home. As a father of two young girls, this is something that is on my mind constantly. Even if your earthly father isn’t living with you, or he is just busy trying to provide for his you family, you d e lov still have e a av

h

you fit into the mold the world tries to set for you. Through your Heavenly Father, you are accepted (Eph 1:6) and loved (Jer 31:3). Your Father in Heaven is captivated by your twirling dresses and beautiful dances in the living room. He is, and always will be, your true source of self-worth. Travis McCaherty has been married to his wife Adrienne for nine years. They have two daughters, Arin, 9, and Madelyn, 3. He is attending Lincoln Christian University and majoring in Christian ministries.

with an everlasting lov e… ( Je r3 1:

3)

I

Father who loves you for who you are. He will give you the approval you seek, and you don't have to resort to beauty or fashion to obtain it. This Father loves you unconditionally and does not want you to hide behind lots of makeup and revealing clothes. He does not look at your outward appearance but what is inside you. Psalm 17:18 states, “I am the apple of my Father’s eye.” This depicts a Father in heaven who loves you for who you are, regardless how well


story and photos by amy denney

Called to

LEAD Main photo: Hannah leading worship alongside her dad, Eric Hansen, at her church. Inset at right: Hannah relaxes on the stage at iWorship Center.


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he is creative, talented and intelligent, not to mention confident. She exudes a beauty that defies this world, because it originates from within -- a glimpse you might get when she laughs or smiles. She does both a lot. You will certainly witness it unfolding when she talks about her faith. Hannah Hansen is 20, but her spirit fills up a room. She is an effective and accomplished leader. Head of Fivefold International's new School of Ministry and director of missions at iWorship Center in Springfield. "In everything (growing up) I always did my all," she says. "My parents were very positive and affirming. They always encouraged me to learn more. They raised me to know I was a leader. They affirmed to me who God called me to be." If it seems a paradox that a girl who didn't go to a traditional university can head up a school and lead large teams on mission trips, open up your Bible to 2 Kings and read about Josiah. He was just 8 years old when he became king, and his age wasn't the only thing he had going against him. He was a Christian ruling a society that worshipped idols. Like Josiah, Hannah is undeterred. She extracts lessons from mistakes and talks to her God, intimately and often, letting Him guide her along the way. 31

It's a skill she's had for as long as she can remember. In fourth grade, a new student at a public school for the first time, she attempted to evangelize by dropping notes in other kids' lockers. "I didn't realize that just shuns people," she said. "I decided being who I am was enough (of a witness). I loved everybody where they were at. By me not judging and giving everybody the benefit of the doubt, I was making it about the relationship, not the rules. I purposely accepted everybody where they were at. I didn't have to give God's name to


give Him credit. When I'm just being who I am, that's giving Him the glory." It was certainly not lost on Laura Penrod. She first met Hannah in sixth grade, but Hannah's reputation preceded their meeting. "Her personality is very bubbly, she's kind to everyone she comes in contact with and she leads by example," Laura says. "She really lived up to that first impression and still does today." Laura appreciated being friends with someone who was also involved in church and mission trips. She even inspired Laura to get more involved in serving at her own church. "I can honestly say becoming best friends with Hannah impacted my faith in big ways," Laura says. "I've always been told that you become the average of your five best friends, so to find a friend like Hannah really helped my walk with the Lord. Having Hannah as my friend today means I can talk seriously about issues I have in my life, and she will give me her nononsense, Godly advice. It's so important to have girlfriends, and finding

friends that will always love God more than they love you is the best gift anyone could ask for." Many of Hannah's skills came easily. She grew up in the church, daughter of pastors Eric and Cheryl, who parent intentionally, and held accountable by a congregation who are more like extended family. And so, with all the right ingredients, Hannah thrived. "Because we loved her, we had such high expectations for her," Eric says. "From the very beginning, we told her, "You're beautiful. You're a genius. You're going to change the world.'" Today, Hannah and Eric are best friends. He acknowledges that parenting isn't easy but bringing up children in an atmosphere of faith and setting a good example can make a huge difference. And while it's important for children to know they will be held accountable, talking through issues instead of talking over your children matters. "I'm here to not beat you down, but lift you up," he says. After graduating from Athens High School in 30

2010, she headed off to California to attend Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. As she was finishing up her second year, Hannah had a decision to make. Should she return for a third year, the internship year that could lead to an exciting experience on another continent, or accept her dad's offer to return to Springfield and head up the new school, his vision to help others get training to achieve their Godly visions? It was a difficult decision. When she was a girl, Hannah dreamed of being a missionary in China, and she loved


travel. But she had also met someone at school, and was dating for the first time in her life. Plus, she desired to work for iWorship, the church her dad leads that has expanded to four campuses. She was more than OK being a tool in Eric Hansen's vision, but she also craved her own vision and didn't feel like she had a calling yet. However, at that time fellow students were speaking prophetic words to her that they had visions of her doing something with leadership training or directing of a school. She took it to God in prayer, and began to

look back over her journals from the last two years. Her own words were affirming the call on her to be involved in teaching and leading. "I was like, 'OK God, I get this is where you want me,'" Hannah says, smiling broadly. "Now it's not just (my dad's) vision. I've taken it upon me as mine, and I'm very excited about it." The School of Ministry is an intensive learning experience for students who might want to get ministerial degrees in two years without quitting their full-time jobs. Classes are held in the evenings over an eight-week period to

train Christian workers, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. God also provided an opportunity for Hannah's boyfriend, Ryan Schafer, to move to central Illinois and take a position at iWorship Center. A native of Minnesota, he attended Bethel with Hannah. His pastors back home were friends with Eric and Cheryl; they had met when the Hansens lived in Minnesota -- where Eric was called to his first preaching position. That connection led to a deeper friendship between Hannah and Ryan. Then a romantic

Far left: Hannah relaxes in her new office at iWorship Center.

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Left: Hannah leading worship at services, with her dad and best friend, Eric Hansen in the backround.


spark. "I had waited 20 years to date someone, so I was super nervous," she says. He wanted to visit her over the holiday break, but Hannah knew that his coming to church would lead to a lot of questions from congregation members. "I told him, 'If you come down here, I expect you to talk to my dad about us dating,'" she recalls. "We started dating New Year's Eve. We were each other's first kiss."

She has no regrets that she didn't have her first kiss until she was 20. In fact, Hannah seems to thrive on being set apart -as Christians often have been from the beginning. Hannah has found that being different isn't as lonely as it seems. She tends to believe that most people want to do what's right and good, they're just waiting for a leader to show them the way. She saw that scenario play out in high school when two

girls were rumored to be planning a fist fight at school. "I was like, 'God, I know you don't want to see this,'" she remembers. So when the girls got face-toface to fight, she stepped in between them, and when she did, others joined her. "Everybody wants an excuse to stand up…but they need somebody to do it first. Nobody wants to do it first, because what if nobody backs us up?"

Hannah talks about body image and boys Is it really possible to keep a purity commitment in high school? For Hannah, it was desirable, Biblical and helped her discover her true identity. "Girls have enough problems trying to figure out who they are in high school," she says. "I feel like high school was better because of this. All the girls who had all the problems (with each other) in high school ... it all comes from guys. Hannah had her first boyfriend and first kiss at age 20. It's a decision she'll never regret -- even though she did have to sit through some events and dances as "third wheel." The key was to be fully prepared to do whatever it took to protect the decision to remain pure, she says. It also meant drawing closer to God and knowing He sees her as beautiful, despite her parents' daily reminders.

"Even if you get if from your parents, it can be iffy sometimes. You have to find your value in Christ," Hannah says. It doesn't come without its struggles. Hannah remembers lying in bed as a teen and conversing with God about her body size. "I'm not the smallest girl in the world, and sometimes I'm like 'What the heck? What were you thinking," she says. In those moments, she turns doubt into wonder by viewing herself from God's perspective and showering on herself the value He gives her, which emcompasses also the impact we make on our world. "It's believing the truth and making declarations over yourself that you have value," Hannah says. "I think some people are scared to ask God what He thinks. "He chooses to see you as your truest intentions. He is a good dad. He's not trying to harm you. He doesn't call out the negative. He always sees the positive."


Hannah says. "But when you are stepping up in faith, when you do it, people will come up behind you." That's exactly why Hannah is so accomplished in leadership -- she has the ability to see the potential in everyone. Being a leader, she believes, is something anyone can do. What it entails, she says, is this: empowering others, paving the way by supporting others, calling out the greatness in others and being willing to be led by other leaders around you. The most effective leaders lead one another as an unselfish investment in the other person, she says. "We're continuing to learn from one another," Hannah says. "Somebody can be strong but trying to do something by yourself‌you're not going to make it. The power of people working together brings you so much further. I'm leading with so many people, and it's a powerhouse." Her ability to so effortlessly take risks is one of many reasons Hannah's friend Laura admires her. Everyone

struggles with being obedient to God, Laura says, but Hannah so often illustrates the benefits of stepping out in faith. "When she told me that this past summer she led a mission trip to Guatemala, I wasn't really surprised because I know missions hold a special place in her heart, but I was impressed with her boldness and raw desire to go where Hannah ministering to children on her most the Lord recent mission trip to Guatemala. wants her to go," Laura says. they've been all along!). "Obedience is very Doing what God asks of important for teen girls, you is an essential part of and not just doing what your parents tell you to do the Christian walk‌ sometimes you just have (which is important, by the to take leaps of faith." way. The older I get the more I realize how right 33


fashion Counter-clockwise starting at left: Shiekh women's sally, $39.97; Wet Seal fringe short cowboy, $29.50; Bamboo Womens Liberate, $39.99; leather boots by gojane.com, $30.80; Quipid Miley bootie, $29.99; Buckled riding boots gojane.com, $30.80; Bearpaw Abigail, $69; Steven Inspire flat boots, $170; Minnetonka women's calf-hi three-layer fringe, $89.99; Wet Seal slouch animal printed boot, $26.90

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Always risk-takers, we at Mighty Strong Girls wanted to know...what can you buy at Goodwill for the price of a nice pair of jeans? So Christian, at right, and her friend Rebekah spent an afternoon scouring the racks at Goodwill in Springfield and filled a cart with $77.55 worth of clothing and accessories. They model some of what they found in our pages.

Salmon shirt and black skirt: $5.98


Grey shirt and black and grey scarf: $4.28


Blue sparkly dress: $9.99

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Blue shirt and pleated skirt: $7.98


Pink button-up shirt: $2.99

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Grey sweater dress: $4.99

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Black dresses: $8.97 and $14.97

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Get to know God He's been waiting just for you Life is a series of paradoxes. I want to be healthy, but I don't want to eat healthy food. I would like to be a musician, but I don't like to rehearse. I dream of being an athlete, but I don't like to practice. I want to go to college, but I hate doing homework. I want to have a relationship with the Lord, but I can't find the time to spend alone with Him. Eating healthy, becoming a musician, athlete, or college student are all worthy goals, but growing a relationship with the Lord is a matter of life or death. Why? The Bible tells us we have an enemy seeking to devour us. Our help comes from the Creator of the universe. God is always present, but tapping into His presence will require a personal relationship built on faith, trust and an assurance of His great love for us. This only comes from spending time with Him. It is easy for us to be out of

touch with our Heavenly Father's deep desire to be with us. He longs for our presence even more than we long for His. If only we could grasp how long and wide and deep His love for us truly is. We get some idea when we read the love story of the bride (us) and the bridegroom (Jesus) in the Song of Solomon. Song of Songs 2:13 (GW) The green figs ripen. The grapevines bloom and give off a fragrance. Get up, my true love, my beautiful one, and come with me. Every day our Lord invites us to come away with Him. He desires to draw us from the functions of life so that we can encounter the Giver of Life. We resist His invitation for many reasons, but perhaps the greatest one is that we don't understand how beautiful and desirable we are to Him. Song of Solomon 1:5 says: I am dark and lovely... We are sinners saved by grace through repentance. We still have a heart prone to evil, but when we accept what

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Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, God sees us as lovely. We are more beautiful in His eyes than we can possibly imagine. While He sometimes helps us uncover the evil lurking in our hearts so we can be set free from the pain of sin, more often His desire is to speak words of love and encouragement to us. We must spend time with the Lord on a regular basis to hear and believe His words of love. Our tendency is to discount them, yet He is the only one who can fill and satisfy that empty place in us that cries out for attention, relief, and fulfillment. So how do we spend time with the Lord? There are many possibilities, but several years ago the Lord gave me this model: www.God.com. The way to come to God is through Worship, Waiting, and the Word. Worship CDs work well for me. Singing out loud as you worship will increase your worship experience.


Being quiet before the Lord to give Him time to speak those words of love to you is essential. Acquire a journal of some kind so you can record your longings and His responses. This is very important. It becomes a record of your interactions with Him, like a love story written in a book. As you read the Bible look for passages that describe how

the Lord feels about you and that express your heart towards Him. Read these out loud for greater impact. Growing your relationship with the Lord will require some effort and discipline, but over time the rewards will far exceed the investment. He will even help you accomplish those other goals you are having difficulty achieving. Begin your journey with the Lord today. I promise you will never regret it. Ways to Grow Try some or all of these. There is one for each week if you like. Don't let the enemy discourage you. Each time you do any of these, God is blessed. He focuses on what you do, not on what you don't do. As you express your love for Him, you will begin to experience His love for you. 1. Buy a worship CD or DVD that focuses on speaking words of love to the Lord. Sing to Him daily. You can get some starting at $11 at integritymusicdirect.com. 2. Take a walk and thank God for everything you can think of around you and inside your heart. 3. Read slowly many times Song of Solomon 1:15 and let His words of love sink into your heart. (This is called meditation.) 4. Write your own love letter to your Heavenly Father in your journal. 5. Record in your journal whatever comes to your mind when you are quiet before the Lord after worshiping Him. Over time it will get easier to 43

tell your own voice from the voice of God. (Identifying the enemy's voice is simpler...he usually makes you feel yuck.) 6. Read one of the following books that tells the Song of Solomon story in a way that increases understanding: With an Everlasting Love by Kay Arthur or The Shulamite's Cry by Mike Brumback. 7. Find scriptures that describe what is in your heart and speak them out loud to the Lord. You may want to use a Bible that is written in modern, easy-to-read language. The book of Psalms is a good place to begin. 8. Set aside a certain time and place where you go to be alone with the Lord each day and use the model www.God.com as you spend time with Him. Begin with 10-15 min. and increase as you are able. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, I must admit that much of the time I do not feel beautiful, especially to You. Help me to seek You in such a way that I permit myself to hear and receive Your deep, compassionate words of love for me. I know that I need You at the center of my life. In Jesus' precious name. Amen. Linda O'Toole has been a reading specialist for most of her 40-year teaching career. Her other passions include prayer, writing, and directing a family-owned nonprofit tutoring center called Set-Free Reading. She is blessed with a 41-year marriage and two married sons.


photo essay by Haley Rae Muller

Stay Strong!

Demi Lovato is a big inspiration to a lot

of teenagers because she suffered through many of the same problems teen girls face. She is bipolar and had an eating disorder and lots of self-harm issues. She has said, “I cannot tell you that I have not thrown up since treatment. I cannot tell you that I have not cut myself since treatment. I’m not perfect. It’s a daily battle.” I love this quote because it's honest and shows that normal recovery is a process. I understand what these problems are like because I have a close friend who is going through them. I can tell she still has problems, and I can tell she still needs help sometimes, and that’s what I'm here for.


It hurts me to see teenage girls thinking they're not good enough, or trying to please everybody. Life...it’s complicated. I didn’t know at first what to do when my friend told me about her problems. I basically said, you know, listen to WIBI on the radio, go to church and just try to get over it. That probably made things worse. Now it’s been a while, and I’m much better at helping her. It's just SO important to understand you don’t have to please everyone. It’s impossible. If someone wants you to change, that's ridiculous. You can’t change who you are, because deep down, you will always be who you are, and people who matter in life won’t


judge you for it. I have never experienced eating disorders or self harming, but that does not mean that I haven’t had people bash on me. A couple years ago, I expressed myself by not dressing like everyone else. I wore suspenders, said what I felt -- and unlike a lot of other people -- was nice to everyone. I stood up for others. This made me...different. People didn’t like that. We’ve gotten over it now, but my “best friends” from a while ago used to be mean to me about what I wore and how I acted. Sometimes, they still do. Now that I’m older, I stick up for myself and don’t let it bother me. But when I was younger, I didn’t say anything. I allowed it to hurt my feelings. That’s why Demi Lovato means so much to me. She used to keep herself bottled up, and she didn’t want help. She was in denial that she needed it. Now she knows that isn’t true. She got help and feels much better. Because others helped her, she knows how much her testimony impacts girls everywhere. That must be inspiring. Demi said: “I realized I don’t want any young girl out there right now having to go through this alone. If I can share my story and help her out, whoever she is… maybe it’s my own little sister one day, you know, I just wanna be that example, and so I decided to share my story.” Girls, we can get through this together. With God’s help, anything is possible. Just like Demi always says, “Stay strong."


Because they said so

Who are you supposed to listen to? The social-status gurus? The celebrities? Your parents? Friends? Classmates? Co-workers, if you have a job? It can be confusing, for sure. It’s hard enough to know on a daily basis, what to do. As we approach the holiday season it can seem impossible. How should we look? How should we think? Keep in mind that physical isn’t simply how your body looks, but also how it feels, and along with that, how you feel in your own skin. It’s the combination of the interior and exterior, plus your own mindset. Let’s cut to the chase. It’s the holidays, and you want to know how to enjoy all of the holiday treats AND still look good in that special Christmas dress or in those fabulous jeans. You can do BOTH! Crazy, right? In our society it’s not uncommon for us to immediately think that to be healthy and look good we have to be skinny. This, you will be happy to hear, is not the whole truth. There is much more to it than that. What? Life can balance? “Healthy” is actually more of a life balance. There are different areas in which our health is a factor … physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It’s possible to be healthy in one or more of these areas and not in others. That healthy balance is what we strive for, and the younger we

are when we learn that the better. Women, especially, often give up that balance, trying to ensure everyone else is taken care of first. Whether you are a 10 or 21 or somewhere in between, it’s important to strive for healthy. Let’s talk mental and physical in this issue. My mind is made up Much of what we hear, what we say and what sticks in our mind is based on our perception. It’s an issue, right? Whether what we see and think is real or perceived, or we latch on to what others tell us, it becomes a part of our thoughts. Have you ever uttered any phrases like these? • “I’ll exercise tomorrow.” • “I’m young. I’ll worry about what I eat when I am older.” • “I’ll get in shape in January come New Year’s.” • “My friends and family are eating what they want, so I’m joining them. They will give me a hard time if I don’t. It’s not worth it.” • “My friends and family make me feel guilty if I even look at a cookie.” So, you put on weight, beat yourself up for it, and feed the guilt with more comfort food. It’s a bad cycle … I know, I’ve been there, done that. Or worse, you eat what you want or what you think others expect you to eat, and then you purge or throw it up

afterwards. Scary stuff! (If this is something that you can relate to, please talk to someone – a parent, mentor, friend, doctor, nurse, teacher or guidance counselor.) Get help. Thin can be unhealthy, and even deadly, just as obesity can. Remember, there is a balance. We go from one extreme to the other. It’s pretty normal, actually. But it doesn’t have to be your normal. So, where do you find the balance? Love your unique self First of all, healthy starts with positive self-talk. That’s different than being egotistical, arrogant or self-centered. And, no more trash-talking or putting yourself down, either! Instead, love yourself! In Matthew 22:37-39 there is a clue about life balance. It says, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Isn’t that cool? Right there, Jesus tells us how important it is to use our heart, soul and mind together. The passage continues in verse 39: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Wow! It’s a reminder that to give love, to share love with others, you first have to love, well, you … not worship yourself, not obsess over yourself, but to love yourself. Maybe this will help – give yourself the gift of loving yourself this holiday season. Be thankful for the body that God


crafts

text and photos by ginger newingham

Recycle old T-shirts and transform them into a scarf!

1 Collect two similar-sized t-shirts that

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2 4

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you no longer wear. These shirts can be any color, but they’ll be worn together as the scarf, so you may want them to coordinate. Or at least not clash. Heavens to Betsy, don’t walk around with a clashing scarf. The shirts in the photo were old youth group shirts that had a couple stains on them. You’ll also need some sharp scissors. Fabric scissors are best, but any sharp craft scissors will do.

2 Cut the bottom hem off of both t-

shirts. The hem is the little line of stitches along the bottom of your shirts. Go ahead. Look at the shirt you have on. It’s there. I’ll wait...

3Cut across both shirts directly below the armpits. 4 After your two cuts, you’ll be left with two strips of fabric with the side hems still in place. And hopefully you’ll be left with ten intact fingers. If not, this would be the time to dial 911. Although, that would prove difficult if you are missing fingers...

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5 Line up the fabric pieces. Then, using your sharp scissors, cut strips that are one-half inch wide. The length of these strips will vary depending on your t-shirt size. When the entire scarf in finished though, there should be three inches in the center that were not cut.

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6 Cut those strips all along one side. Then turn your t-shirts around and start cutting again. Just keep cutting... just keep cutting.... just keep swimming...

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7 This is what your t-shirts should look like after they have been cut on both sides.

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8 Now comes the fun -- but tedious -part. Every single strip of t-shirt needs to be pulled tight. When they’ve been pulled, they will begin to roll and curl.

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strand has to be pulled. 9 Every This would be a good activity on

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10 12

one of those days where your sister borrowed your favorite sweater and stretched it out. You probably want to pull her hair out, but instead, you can pull on a t-shirt. And your dad can’t yell at you. Unless you took one of his shirts to cut up and make a scarf...

every strand has been 10 After pulled, this is what the scarf should look like.

11 At this point, the t-shirts are

still two separate pieces. In order to make sure the scarf doesn’t fall apart while you are wearing it, pick four different places to tie the two tshirts together.

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12 You can even tie random knots throughout the scarf for some added flair and excitement.

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13 After all the pulling, cutting and tying, here’s the finished product.

Do It Yourself - Donate It Yourself Because it is not all about us, make a bunch of these and sell them at a local Christmas market or fair. Ask a member from church to let you set up a card table inside their booth. Then, use any money made from your first Mighty Strong Girls craft to throw a small party at a local nursing home. Bring in pizzas, decorations, and oldies music. What other ideas do you have for using this project to benefit others? Share them on our Facebook page!

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but also take an interest in others.” -Paul (Philippians 2:4 NLT)

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story by sarah powell

fiction Casting out her mound of crowns flawless. stare at my reflection in Leaning forward, my arms the mirror. bearing the weight of me so My chestnut hair is I can look deep into my own shined to perfection, eyes, I try to see who I really whipped around the back of am. my head to form a spiral “Nevada,” mom says. bun. My clear blue eyes are “Don’t lean on that counter like that. You’re gonna carefully lined in black, but wrinkle your gown.” only on the top; never the Now wouldn’t that be a bottom. Mom says it’ll make tragedy? my eyes look too small. My “Sorry,” I mutter without lashes are fake, nearing two feeling. I straighten my inches in length. My posture and smooth the complexion: fresh lilac-colored gown. Mom is and in front of me, inspecting every aspect of my face used to get a rush for the hundredth time. from being on stage, This is my taking in the admiring gazes third pageant this year. It’s of the audience. I used to only February. It was fun hope I’d win. Like really, when I was, like, 4. Now I’m 15. really hope. I used to cry if I’m over it. I’m over being I didn’t place. commended for my looks. I’m over being the one with the perfect smile. I’m over having girls jealous of me. I’m over having all this attention. What does it really matter that I was blessed with physical beauty? I tried to tell mom this. Let’s just say it didn’t go

I

"I

"

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well. She was super quick to point out how lucky I am, and, of course, all the prizes and money I’ve won; and how now that I’m getting closer to college age, there may be college scholarships to win. Yeah, because I want to win a scholarship for being pretty. How does being pretty qualify me for a college scholarship? Bottom line: mom was not letting me quit. These pageants were ruining my life. I just wanted to be a normal 15-year-old girl who hangs out with her friends on the weekends instead of this freak who has to either: A) Practice for a pageant, or B) Be at a pageant. Heck, I’d even enjoy studying on the weekend. Then maybe I’d be able to take college prep courses and qualify for a real scholarship. Or maybe I’d meet a guy who’d want to get to know the real me, not just the me he can see. “Get ready, Nevada,” Mom said. “You’re next.” I take my place and wait for contestant No. 5 to return back stage. When she passes me, her glowing smile fades immediately, and I recognize the hollow look in her eyes. It’s the same look I saw in my


reflection just moments ago. “Next up is Nevada Kelley,” the announcer bellows as I step onto stage. I turn on my smile and walk pointedly to the first X. “Nevada is 15 years old. She resides in Thomas City, Illinois, where she is a sophomore at Thomas County High School. She is the daughter of Stone and Nicole Kelley, and has two older brothers.” I wave at the crowd, scanning the room of

strangers with my sparkling eyes. Then I make eye contact with each judge. As I move off the X and make my way to the far end of the stage, the announcer continues. “Nevada’s favorite subject is biology and she hopes to become a doctor someday so she can be a medical missionary.” Mom didn’t want me to say that. She thought it would sound better if I said I like English because I like to read. It’s a girlier activity she

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said. Whatever. Why lie? At the far end of the stage, I pause, and wave again, sharing my hundredwatt smile with anyone who would have it. “In her spare time, Nevada volunteers at her church’s food pantry. She regularly spends time at a local retirement home to visit with senior citizens.” The parts he leaves out are that my mom is in charge of the food pantry, not because she really cares about needy people, but because it makes her look good. And the retirement home? Yeah, my grandma lives there. I used to get a rush from being on stage, taking in the admiring gazes of the audience. I used to hope I’d win. Like really, really hope. I used to cry if I didn’t place. Then there came a point when I would cry if I was anything less then Grand Supreme: The one with the biggest crown and the best prizes. Tonight, I want to lose. I want to mean more to my mom than this. I want our relationship to be about something more than pageant life. I want her to ask me about school and friends, find out if there’s a boy I like. When I get back to the original X, I am handed a microphone. Speech time. I know it by heart. Mom would have nothing less. I smile and open my mouth to begin, but the words that come out are not mom-


approved. “I have been competing in pageants since I was 3 years old. My first crown was for Cutest Little Miss Farmer. My mom dressed me in cowboy boots and a denim skirt and sent me up on stage. I smiled my smile and waved my wave, and I won. It was that easy.” I take a deep breath, and for a brief moment wonder if my mom had thrown up yet. “I used to love being in pageants. The thrill of everyone knowing I was the fairest of them all validated me. It made me think I was someone just because I was pretty. No one at a pageant cared what my grades looked like. I was never asked what book I was reading. All that mattered was my dress, my hair, and my makeup. Everything on the outside mattered. No one cared what was on the inside.” I place my hand over my heart and take a few steps forward, peering down at

the stone-faced judges. “What’s on the outside doesn’t make me who I am.” I walk to the right a few paces. “Right now, I know I look breathtaking. I look perfect. I could be on a magazine cover, or in a commercial. But who am I? Who is Nevada Kelley? Nevada Kelley has one friend because all her time is devoted to pageants. Nevada Kelley has never had a real boyfriend.

should look and act. We are expected to look like,” I

"My spirit soared like it used to when I enjoyed this. I felt renewed. I was appreciated for being me!"

Sure, boys like me, but it’s because of my looks. They don’t know me.” I take a deep breath and try to fight the pain that comes every time I think about the one boy I thought might actually like me. “Society today has their set of ideas for how a girl

pause and look down at my size-zero body, “Well, like me. Girls who don’t fit the mold are shunned and exiled in their schools, in their families, even in their church youth groups. The pressure girls feel today to belong is agonizing. No one cares about your intelligence or if you want to be a medical missionary. People care about what you’re wearing and how you’ve fixed your hair. A heart and a mind carry no value today.” I take a few steps to the left and scan the audience. This was not your typical pageant speech, and they were captivated. “But tell me this: What does this physical beauty matter if no one knows me? I would much rather have 78 crowns at home for my character than for my looks.


My looks mean nothing to me.” I pause, debating if I should really take this where it needed to go. Yes, yes I should. “If God appeared here on stage beside me now and said, ‘Nevada? You can have one or the other: Your physical beauty or the beauty inside you,’ I would gladly give up my looks. "But you know what? Most girls will tell you they would give up just about anything to be attractive. People look at your appearance. God looks at your heart. And I’ll take God’s approval over yours any day.” My smile had long since faded. I turn and hand the mic over and head offstage. After a moment of stunned silence, I hear applause. Shocked, I look back. People were standing! I was getting a standing ovation! Really? My spirit soared like it used to when I enjoyed this. I felt renewed. I was appreciated for being me! “What was that?” mom snaps when I reached her. The scowl on her face tells me she wasn’t planning on commending my heartfelt speech. “It’s what I wanted to say, Mom.” “It’s not what we practiced.” Tempted to retort in a way I’d regret later, I choose my words carefully. “Not everything in life has to be

practiced.” She snorts. “It does if you want to win!” I shake my head. “Don’t you get it? I don’t want to win. I’m tired of being this fake person. I just want to be me. I want to be normal.” “Nevada, why on earth would you want to be normal?” She said it like it was a bad word. “You are beautiful! God has blessed you with this and you should use it to your advantage.” “No, Mom. You’re wrong. God may have blessed me with looks that are pleasing to the eye, but He never intended for me to use them to my own advantage. Anything God has blessed me with I should use to benefit others. And my real gifts are in here,” I point to my head, “and in here,” I spread my palm across my chest. “I am done with pageants, Mom. Sorry.” I turn on my three-inch heels and leave my mom to ponder what I’d said. No matter her wrath, I had already won. My true crown comes from above and it’s the only one I’ll ever need.

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Now it's your turn! Stretch your wings and try your hand at writing! We know Mighty Strong Girls have stories of their own. If you would like to see your short story or poetry in the magazine or blog, email it for consideration to

editor@ mightystronggirls .com

All submissions will be considered for publication, but special attention will be given to entries that show the realities of being a teen girl in today's world.


Beauty is not a product

beauty is a verb

distorted when you see them. be attractive. They tell you that Women of all ages spend And they have their own set of if your hair is smooth and shiny an estimated $160 billion problems, too. Just. Like. You. you are desirable. worldwide to make themselves You’ve heard it a million What they don’t tell you is: beautiful according to The times: Real beauty comes from The Truth. Economist. This includes makeinside. Exactly, what does that Truth No. 1: No amount of up, body sprays, perfumes, mean? make-up can cover up who you lotions, hair and skin products, How are you supposed to are. Make-up was invented to and plastic surgery. feel beautiful when you don’t cover up flaws; a zit, a blemish. SmartMoney.com reported fit the image society has of Something that will likely go that American women alone ‘beautiful?' How can you let away on its own. spent more than $33 billion on yourself shine from the inside Truth No. 2: Shiny hair cosmetics in 2010. out when you feel dull and doesn’t mean you have a shiny Additionally, they cited that tarnished? personality. Your hair may be girls between ages 8 and 12 Being a teen girl today is the envy of your friends, but spend about $40 million a arguably more difficult than it’s are they your friends because month on beauty, and girls ever been. The pressure you your hair is shiny? Didn’t think thirteen to seventeen spend feel to be and to look a certain so. roughly $100 billion a month. There are advertisements way is coming at you from all Truth No. 3: Smelling delish on Facebook and gaming sites directions. Everywhere you might attract the attention of a geared to tweens and teens look there are expectations boy, but it won’t keep it. And if it does, well, that’s just weird, that tell you in order to be and standards that are set in and he’s probably not a boy beautiful, you have to use places you can’t reach. But you you want to keep around long these products and look like keep trying and striving; if you term. their models. just had that color hair, or lost Truth No. 4: Those girls on In fact, The Economist also five more pounds, or had skin like so-and so, then you would TV and in magazines, the ones tells us the beauty industry be beautiful. you wish you could be, are not spends 20 to 25 percent of Truth No. 5: You are real. They might be human, their profit on advertising. already beautiful, just the way but they are airbrushed and They tell you the way to be you are. God "Easy, Breezy, and Isn’t that what the beauty products made you Beautiful" and that are for? To make you blend in? perfectly in His "You’re Worth It." They tell you if To make you look like everyone else? image. If He made us all the same, your lips look slick To make you insignificant? how boring would and pouty, you will

Un-special?


that be? Heard that one before, too? Don’t believe it? God says, through the apostle Peter, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within; the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (1Peter 3:3,4) God says don’t worry. Man says worry. Don’t we know the ways of man are not the ways of God? Don’t we know that God is good? Don’t we know that humans were created as sinful beings and that the paths they would have you follow are not straight? Oh, if only it were that easy. You know, to just be the one to say ‘no’ to what your peers expect of you and be the godly girl God designed you to be. But it’s hard, isn’t it? It’s hard to be the odd one, to stand out. After all, isn’t that what the beauty products are for? To make you blend in? To make you look like everyone else? To make you insignificant? Un-special?

God made you wonderfully, beautifully you. He knew the color of your eyes and hair, and how many hairs you would have. He wanted you the height you are, the weight you are. What breaks your heart is what breaks His. When you are agonizing over your appearance, He cries for you, wondering, "Why can’t you see I made you just the way I wanted you? Why don’t you see the beauty I see?" On average, teen girls spend 42 minutes a day on their appearance; make-up, hair and choosing outfits reports MailOnline.com. That’s nearly five hours a week! And that’s only the average. Some girls spend more; some, less. Imagine if you spent half the time on your appearance and used the other half to do something meaningful, something that will have a lasting effect.

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Maybe you could use that time to study a little more. Or send a friend an encouraging message. Maybe you could use the time to pray for strength to stand strong against peer pressure. Make a note to yourself, highlighting all that is good about you, tuck it away and pull it out when you’re having one of those days. Be the one to shine like the stars in the universe. Be known not for what’s on your outside, but what’s on your inside. That’s what you want people to remember about you, anyway. You were kind, said nice things, were encouraging, thought of others before yourself, willing to lend a hand, stood up for what’s right. Let your beauty shine where everyone can see.

Sarah Dawson Powell lives in Greenview with her family. She is currently working on her Master's degree in ministry at Lincoln Christian Seminary. Her loves include reading, writing, music, family, a cup of hot tea, and her Savior. Sarah's hit a lot if bumps in the road of life. It's taught her that nothing is too big for God.


Frightening but beautiful: My mission trip to a slum in Kenya by leighann wolle

Words alone cannot

describe the Mathare Valley slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The valley is the most frightening yet most beautiful place I have ever been. God took me on the journey of my life this past summer. I was blessed to be able to work with Missions of Hope International (MoHI) in the slum. I was part of a group of 56 people from West Side Christian Church in Springfield. The Mathare Valley is two miles long and a half mile wide. More than 1 million people live in this tiny area. I worked with a group of people who taught Vacation Bible School to elementary students in the area of the slum named Bondeni. One of the Bible verses we focused on was the first part of Psalm 139:12, "Even in darkness, I cannot hide from you Lord." This verse is a perfect representation of these kids. They are some of the most genuine Christ followers I have, or ever will, see. I struggled with this a lot, both while over there and since arriving home. Their lives are filled with so much pain and darkness, yet they have complete trust in God. We in America seem to be so preoccupied with getting the latest “thing” — iPhones,

clothing, video games — but they have nothing and still trust God more. If we don't get what we want, we question God, even though we know He will give us everything we need. My

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conclusion to my wandering heart and mind is that these kids don't know anything but God, so they don't need anything else to make them happy. This is what makes the valley so


beautiful. Out of the darkness and pain, the children are rising and singing to God. I will never forget that part of my trip. Another part of the trip that I will not forget is visiting with girls my age. If I lived in the slum and was part of the MoHI system, as a current sophomore in high school, I would be in form two at Joska. Joska is a boarding school about an hour outside of Nairobi. Joska is for students in junior high and high school. We were able to visit Joska on the day we arrived in Nairobi, following 24 hours of travelling. We arrived to students leading a church service for us. They planned out different songs and skits. After church, while our dental team was doing checkups and fluoride, I was able to spend time with some of the girls. The girls I visited were in seventh grade. They were curious about life in America. One thing they continually said was how beautiful they thought I was. I hadn't slept for more than four hours of the previous 24, nor had I showered. It was so touching that they didn't care what I looked like; they were just so excited someone close to their age was really there to see them. I had a large case of culture shock. In some ways, the shock came from little knowledge of the city atmosphere of Nairobi. Nairobi is a business center. I was presumed Africa was completely disconnected. I was totally off. Downtown Nairobi had skyscrapers and many large businesses. The hotel I stayed at was just like an American hotel,

minus a few small details. There was even a shopping mall we could walk to from the hotel. The slum, on the other hand, wasn't what I expected at all. I knew it would be dirty and there would be a lot of people. I didn't expect all the kids just playing in the street. My favorite story is from our first day there. It was time to get on the buses to go back to the hotel. We were walking out the school gates and a bunch of younger kids ran up to us. They wanted their pictures taken. Most of the kids don't know what they look like because they do not have mirrors or cameras. One little girl reached up for me to hold her. I couldn't walk away so I picked her up to give her a hug, and she wouldn't let go. I tried to set her down and she held on tighter. My dad eventually had to come over and pull her off. It was so precious. The next day, when I was sitting in the bus, she tried to give me her toy car through the window. This little girl was so happy to have a mzungu friend, which is Swahili for white people, she was willing to give me her only toy. As I reflect, I realize how much this trip has completely changed my life. I have since decided I would like to go into missions and go back to work in Mathare. I am so thankful God allowed me to experience this.

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Love yourself this holiday season Because they said so

Who are you supposed to listen to? The social-status gurus? The celebrities? Your parents? Friends? Classmates? Co-workers, if you have a job? It can be confusing, for sure. It’s hard enough to know on a daily basis, what to do. As we approach the holiday season it can seem impossible. How should we look? How should we think? Keep in mind that physical isn’t simply how your body looks, but also how it feels, and along with that, how you feel in your own skin. It’s the combination of the interior and exterior, plus your own mindset. Let’s cut to the chase. It’s the holidays, and you want to know how to enjoy all of the holiday treats AND still look good in that special Christmas dress or in those fabulous jeans. You can do BOTH! Crazy, right? In our society it’s not uncommon for us to immediately think that to be healthy and look good we have to be skinny. This, you will be happy to hear, is not the whole truth. There is much

more to it than that. What? Life can balance? “Healthy” is actually more of a life balance. There are different areas in which our health is a factor … physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It’s possible to be healthy in one or more of these

No more trash-talking or putting yourself down, either! Instead, love yourself! areas and not in others. That healthy balance is what we strive for, and the younger we are when we learn that the better. Women, especially, often give up that balance, trying to

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ensure everyone else is taken care of first. Whether you are a 10 or 21 or somewhere in between, it’s important to strive for healthy. Let’s talk mental and physical in this issue. My mind is made up Much of what we hear, what we say and what sticks in our mind is based on our perception. It’s an issue, right? Whether what we see and think is real or perceived, or we latch on to what others tell us, it becomes a part of our thoughts. Have you ever uttered any phrases like these? • “I’ll exercise tomorrow.” • “I’m young. I’ll worry about what I eat when I am older.” • “I’ll get in shape in January come New Year’s.” • “My friends and family are eating what they want, so I’m joining them. They will give me a hard time if I don’t. It’s not worth it.” • “My friends and family make me feel guilty if I even look at a cookie.” So, you put on weight, beat


yourself up for it, and feed the guilt with more comfort food. It’s a bad cycle … I know, I’ve been there, done that. Or worse, you eat what you want or what you think others expect you to eat, and then you purge or throw it up afterwards. Scary stuff! (If this is something that you can relate to, please talk to someone – a parent, mentor, friend, doctor, nurse, teacher or guidance counselor.) Get help. Thin can be unhealthy, and even deadly, just as obesity can. Remember, there is a balance. We go from one extreme to the other. It’s pretty normal, actually. But it doesn’t have to be your normal. So, where do you find the balance? Love your unique self First of all, healthy starts

with positive self-talk. That’s different than being egotistical, arrogant or self-centered. And, no more trash-talking or putting yourself down, either! Instead, love yourself! In Matthew 22:37-39 there is a clue about life balance. It says, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Isn’t that cool? Right there, Jesus tells us how important it is to use our heart, soul and mind together. The passage continues in verse 39: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Wow! It’s a reminder that to give love, to share love with others, you first have to love, well, you … not worship yourself, not obsess over

yourself, but to love yourself. Maybe this will help – give yourself the gift of loving yourself this holiday season. Be thankful for the body that God gave you. It is uniquely yours, after all. Focus on the positives. Could be those beautiful eyes that help you see life every day, that allow you to read, to see the colors of the fall leaves or that cool sweater you just got. Maybe it is your ears, the ones that allow you to hear music, to hear your family and friends talk and laugh. Maybe it’s your hands, the ones that help you e-mail and text. Maybe it’s your feet, the ones that allow you to jump into puddles and make a splash, take a walk or dance. Be thankful for the mind you have, that you can think for yourself and make positive decisions. Be thankful you are a Mighty Strong Girl! Lisa Rigoni lives with her husband, Mike, in Chatham and is proud Mama/StepMama of three grown children, two of which are Mighty Strong Girls. She is a creative communicator - experienced writer/editor/pr professional and motivational speaker. She is passionate about helping people find life balance. She is president/creative communicator of PR with Purpose and PR/Business Development Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.

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scripture art

TAKE THE CHALLENGE: Create art (photo, painting, digital drawing, 3D from the scripture below and post it on the Mighty Strong Girls Facebook page by Dec. 1. The artists whose creation is chosen in the next issue will get a Mighty Strong Girls T-shirt. Proverbs 22:1 Choose a good reputation over great riches. 62


Mighty Strong Girls Nov/Dec 2012  

The inaugural issue of Mighty Strong Girls, an alternative magazine for teen girls that doesn't objectify or sexualize girls.

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