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4

quick & easy

breakfast

recipes

LAUREN

SCRUGGS

KENNEDY

redefining

beautiful

Battle

of the

sexes

page 26

Spiritual

Rhythms

SPENDING TIME

WITH GOD

AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

BrioMagazine.ca

08

Journaling

* PRAYER

* CREATING CALM

* WOMEN IN THE WORD

* YOUR SQUAD MATTERS

* BACK TO SCHOOL


August September 2020

TABLE OF CONTENTS

10

faith

24 PRAYER JOURNAL

Where Do You Run?

39 INSPIRATIONAL LETTERING

48 ‘GRACE AND PEACE TO YOU’

Accepting God’s gift and living

in freedom

57 AUGUST BIBLE READING PLAN

Women in the Word—Deborah

58 SEPTEMBER BIBLE READING PLAN

Women in the Word—Tabitha

relationships

31 TEAMWORK, PLAYFULNESS

AND LOVE

Contributing to a healthy

family dynamic during the

school year

on the cover

22 SPIRITUAL RHYTHMS

Spending time with God,

even when life is busy

36 YOUR SQUAD MATTERS

Don’t wait to invest in true

friendships

46 FICTION: A FACE IN THE MURAL

59 DO GUYS STRUGGLE WITH

THEIR BODY IMAGE?

Insights into the bro code and how

it affects the guys you know

real life

18 BE INSPIRED:

ONE STRONG WOMAN

Paralympian Marissa Arndt

Retzlaff talks judo, faith and

overcoming the odds

26 MOVE BEYOND THE BATTLE

OF THE SEXES

Following Jesus’ commands

to ditch pride, love God and

serve others

40 REDEFINING BEAUTIFUL

Lauren Scruggs Kennedy finds

purpose in helping girls embrace

their own beauty

51 CREATING CALM

Tips to minimize stress in your

new school year

62 CAREER: MILITARY CHAPLAIN

Lindsey Moser, Second

Lieutenant, United States

Air Force

66 AN INVITATION TO GROW

Being honest with God and

ourselves about our struggles

health & beauty

9 ASK THE DOCTOR

Can you talk about swallowing

pills and body image?

10 BENEFITS OF BREAKFAST

Choosing foods that energize

and fuel you for success

12 MAKE A STATEMENT!

entertainment

14 LIVING IN THE MOMENT

Are you missing face-to-face

connection in a screen-to-screen

world?

17 GET PLUGGED IN

What about Dua Lipa and

“Never Have I Ever”?

just for fun

3 MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE

7 AUGUST CALENDAR

Organize

8 SEPTEMBER CALENDAR

Endurance

34 QUIZ: WHAT’S YOUR

PLANNING PERSONALITY?

68 QUICK & EASY

BREAKFASTS

70 INTERACTIVE DRAWING

Coloring pages

72 CREATIVE CORNER

Featuring the artistic talent

of Brio readers like you

let’s talk

5 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

6 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

74 ASK BRIO

Get answers to real-life questions

39

ESSI KIMPIMÄKI / CANDICE AND DANIEL LANNING /

FELICIA LASALA PHOTOGRAPHY / LORI DANELLE

4 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 BRIOMAGAZINE.CA


letters

Follow us on

Instagram!

40

@BrioMagazine

Want to sign up a

friend for Brio?

BrioMagazine.ca

It’s hard to believe that summer is already coming to a close. It

seems like “just the other day” you were finishing classes at home.

And wasn’t it “just the other day” that springtime was blooming

while the world shut down to shelter in place? How about “just

the other day” when we all welcomed 2020 with no thought of

coronavirus or social distancing? How quickly life has changed

around us.

I hope you’ve found opportunities to reconnect with those

you love. And I hope the warmth of summer has brought you

some comfort.

Now that a new school year is right around the corner, you may

be wondering what classrooms and calendars will look like. Will

you have to chat with friends from behind a mask? Maybe you

changed schools, or you opted to home-school for a season. Or

maybe the whole spring 2020 experience confirmed for you and

your parents that a little personal space during the work week is a

good thing. Whatever the uncertainties this fall, we can all expect

change to be inevitable. So, we hold to the hope that as we make

our plans, God will direct our steps (Proverbs 16:9).

“Just the other day,” before COVID-19 came to our country, the

Brio team was already developing the mag you’re now holding. We

were talking about strengthening your body with better breakfasts

(page 10). We were editing articles about pursuing grace and peace

(page 48), creating calm (page 51) and running to God in times

of trouble (page 24). Our goal was to create content that would

strengthen you—spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally and

socially. And now, here we are. We’re cheering for you as you take

yet another courageous step into the unknown.

Whatever this back-to-school season might look like for you,

we’re praying that “the God of hope [will] fill you with all joy and

peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may

abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

Pam

You are beautifully designed for a unique purpose and desperately loved by a faithful Savior. Here

at Brio you belong to a community that will encourage you to own your faith, be confident in your

body and discover who you are as a child of God. As you navigate these years, know that you are not

alone. We’re here to listen, to speak truth, to offer hope. So, let’s talk about the issues that matter to

you. Remember, you are God’s good work created with a purpose and loved beyond measure.

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

5


letters

Enjoying Summer Smoothies

Dear Brio, I loved the article “Summer

Smoothies” by Bethany Hamilton (June/July

2020)! I would love to see more healthy and

delicious recipes in the upcoming issues.

—Lillian, California

Inspired by Michelle Carter

Dear Brio, I was really glad to read your article about goldmedal

Olympian Michelle Carter (June/July 2020). Seeing

how God used her weight and height for her benefit was

really uplifting. I like how her body type was used to help her

accomplish such an important achievement.

—Isabella, Nevada

feed

n to unfollow

deciding whether to unfollow

one, I pause to consider the

s why I am doing so. The

m line is that I want to bring

it of the Spirit into my life—

oy, peace, patience, kindness,

ess, faithfulness, gentleness

lf-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

t’s obvious that someone isn’t

ying those traits through his or

sts, then it’s an easy unfollow.

it’s not that obvious, here are a

her questions to consider:

this person’s posts consistently

ative?

e I found myself comparing

life to this person’s life?

mparison isn’t healthy, whether

uggle with envy or I feel that

better than someone else.)

this person’s posts stress me

?

e answer is “yes” to any of

questions, then that’s a pretty

reason to consider unfollowing

r her.

what if someone’s posts are

noying? I admit that I’ve

owed people because I felt they

d too often. I’ve also unfollowed

We’d love to

hear from you!

Email us at

askbrio@briomagazine.com

with the subject line

“letters to the editor.”

Anger and Apologies

Dear Brio, My favorite article in the June/July

2020 magazine was “When Emotions Run High.”

This article helped me figure out how I should

handle my anger and apologize. It also gave me

some helpful tips on how to apologize sincerely.

—Ellie, Ohio

More from Brio’s featured authors.

@BRIOMAGAZINE JUNE / JULY 2020 15

A Healthy Social Media

Feed

Dear Brio, I really enjoyed the article

in the June/July 2020 magazine

about creating a healthy social media

feed (“When to Unfollow”). I recently

got Instagram, and I’ve already had

issues with negativity coming through

my feed. This article really helped.

—Brooke, Rhode Island

Jessie Minassian

PAGE 26

Jonathan McKee

PAGE 14

Jamie Ivey

PAGE 36

These books and more can be found at

FocusOnTheFamily.ca/store

6 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 BRIOMAGAZINE.CA


It’s time to plan for the

upcoming school year!

Purchase a planner, calendar

or bullet journal to keep track of

events and deadlines. Be sure

to add the following details:

• holidays and birthdays

• school breaks

• assignment due dates

• test dates

• club and activity meetings

BY MEGAN ALMS / ILLUSTRATION BY KARLA ALCAZAR

Lighten your load by cleaning out your backpack.

Organize your locker so that everything is easy to find.

Create a homework space where you can work

without distractions.

List three activities, classes or

hobbies that you’d like to try

this semester.

What do you want your life to look like at the end of this school year?

Consider ways you’d like to grow and goals you’d like to accomplish.

Create a step-by-step plan to reach those goals, and write those steps

in your planner.

Mark your first day of school.

International Youth Day is Wednesday, Aug. 12.

Monday, Aug. 24, is National Waffle Day.

What other dates are you recognizing this month?

Megan Alms is a freelance writer from Indianapolis.

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

7


BY MEGAN ALMS / ILLUSTRATION BY KARLA ALCAZAR

As your schedule grows busier, what habits, goals and values

do you want to be sure to keep in focus?

Reach out to your community.

List three ways you can serve those around you.

List three ways you can allow your friends

to support you.

Seek God’s guidance as

you organize your time.

Ask God to show you

opportunities for rest.

List three people you

can pray for this month.

Commit to a day of rest

and relaxation each week.

Take a quick break after

every hour spent on

homework.

Create space at the end of

each day for a pause from

all forms of screen time.

Labor Day is Monday, Sept. 7.

Sunday, Sept. 13, is National Grandparents’ Day.

The first day of fall is Tuesday, Sept. 22.

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

What other dates are you recognizing this month?

8

AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

BRIOMAGAZINE.CA

Megan Alms is a freelance writer from Indianapolis.


ask the doctor

BY DR. PATRICIA LANDRY

DEAR DOCTOR: I have trouble

taking pills. I only take them if I

absolutely have to, but most of

the time, I can’t swallow them.

Am I doing something wrong?

DEAR DOCTOR: I try to lose weight by going to the gym and exercising

and lowering my sugar intake, but I just seem to be fatter than other

girls. What should I do?

The first thing I would recommend is that you be kind to yourself. Resist the

temptation to compare yourself to others because healthy looks different on

every individual body.

Remember that during puberty your body is changing in shape. It’s normal

to gain weight at this age and stage, so please focus on fitness—not fatness.

That means eating healthy foods and being active regularly. Pause each day to

appreciate your healthy body and how it functions. Then to help you learn new

skills, consider participating in sports and pursuing hobbies.

It’s always good to celebrate what you like about your body. How you choose

to see yourself (your body image) will impact your confidence and self-respect.

So don’t be swayed by images on social media that insist all girls should look a

certain way.

No body is perfect. Avoid being critical of your own body and never tease

about someone else’s appearance. Replace negative comments that run

through your mind with positive thoughts, focusing on your good qualities—your

artistic talent, your sense of humor, your favorite body feature, your sensitivity

toward others.

Remember that we are all a work in progress. Love the body that you have.

Keep it fit and healthy. Enjoy being you. You are a one and only, and there’s no

need for comparison.

Submit your own questions to askbrio@briomagazine.com

with the subject line “Doctor.”

You are not alone. Many people find

it challenging to take pills, fearing they

may choke on them or get them stuck

in their throat. And seriously, some of

the pills out there look gigantic!

If it takes too long for you to swallow,

pills that come in tablet form may start

dissolving in your mouth. Using a pill

splitter can reduce a large tablet to

smaller pieces, making it easier for you

to swallow.

To help patients take pills, some

medications are formulated as

capsules. These are designed with a

protective covering that is slippery,

allowing the medicine to more easily

slide down your throat.

Try taking a drink of water and letting

the capsule float on the liquid in your

mouth. Then you can think more about

swallowing the water than the pill. The

goal is to simply let the pill “go along

for the ride”—kind of like an inner tube

floating down a river.

A couple of final thoughts: Some

medications may be available in liquid

form and others are designed to melt

in your mouth. Whenever your doctor

writes a prescription for you, consider

asking if one of these options may be

available.

ADOBESTOCK–MARIDAV

Dr. Patricia Landry is a family doctor in Easley, South Carolina. She is a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians

Resource Council and has been a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians for more than 25 years.

These are the opinions of one physician and not necessarily those of Focus on the Family. In similar cases you should consult your own physician.

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

9


Benefits of Breakfast

Choosing foods that energize

and fuel you for success

BY AMANDA MODER / ILLUSTRATION BY ESSI KIMPIMÄKI

As a child, one of my favorite ways to celebrate family birthdays

was to turn our kitchen into an imaginary restaurant for breakfast. I

enjoyed the creative process and added colors and embellishments

to all that I did. Typically, I would try to persuade one of my two

younger brothers to serve as a waiter for the meal. I still remember

how making breakfast gave me a spark of joy and creativity.

10 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 BRIOMAGAZINE.CA


Food for focus

Working with food provides opportunities

to express ourselves, get creative

and show love to those around us. In

addition to self-expression, the foods

we choose to eat will impact how we

feel, act and focus throughout the

day—and it all starts with breakfast.

Just like a car needs gas to run,

our body needs food to get moving.

Have you ever noticed that the word

breakfast breaks down into two words:

“break” and “fast”? The word literally

means to break the fast (or time

without food) that your body has been

in throughout the night. So, how do we

best break that evening fast?

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains,

protein and healthy fats are all key

food categories that help the body feel

its best. So for breakfast, it’s good if we

aim to include at least three of these

five categories, with one of the categories

being a vegetable or fruit. For

example, one morning we may choose

a whole grain, protein and a fruit. The

next, we may decide to eat protein,

veggies and healthy fats. Including all

five categories in the same breakfast

meal would be even better!

If a food doesn’t fit into one of

these “everyday” food categories, that

doesn’t mean we can’t eat it. It just

means that it’s probably not going to

fuel us for success. Where “everyday”

foods leave the body feeling energized,

“sometimes” foods (doughnuts, sugary

cereals, toaster pastries), can leave us

feeling drained and tired.

“Everyday” foods

Making veggies, fruits, whole grains,

protein and healthy fats a part of our

morning routine can help fuel our body

for the day. Here are a few examples of

each category:

Vegetables and fruits come in a

variety of colors that provide different

types of antioxidants to help the body

function well. They also provide fiber,

keep us hydrated with their highwater

content and supply important

vitamins and minerals.

Whole grains provide long-lasting

energy through complex carbs. Veggies

and fruits pair well with whole grains

such as oats, whole-grain bread, brown

rice, quinoa or whole-grain cereals.

Protein helps the body repair tissues

and promotes a healthy metabolism.

Protein can include eggs, seafood,

meat, peanut butter or Greek yogurt.

Healthy omega-3 fats are a type

of unsaturated fat that promotes

brain health and keeps skin, hair and

nails strong. This includes almonds,

walnuts, flaxseed or chia seeds.

Other unsaturated fats, such as nut

butters, fish, nuts and seeds, are

going to benefit our body more than

saturated fats that are found in foods

such as cheese, butter, coconut oil

and red meat. Our body needs both

types of fat, but it’s best if we include

unsaturated fats on our plate.

Breakfast habits

Now that you understand a few

breakfast basics, you may be asking

yourself, What if I don’t have time for

breakfast? Or, What if I’m not hungry

in the morning? I know it can be

tough to wake up early enough to pull

together breakfast, especially since it’s

important to get a good night’s rest. It

also can be challenging to know what

foods are best for fueling your body

from day to day. But planning ahead

can help you avoid morning stress and

make breakfast a habit. (Check out a

few quick and easy breakfast recipes

on page 68!)

And remember, breakfast will look

different for everyone. Maybe you

prefer to drink your breakfast, so you

choose to blend a balanced smoothie.

Or maybe it’s most realistic for you to

eat breakfast as a midmorning snack.

Or maybe breakfast looks different for

you in different seasons. However you

decide to fuel your body, know that it

has an impact on your day.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be the

focus of your day, but it can play a

big role in helping you to focus for the

day. And you might not remember the

details of each meal, just like I don’t

remember all the details of those

birthday breakfast restaurants. But

even if the food isn’t memorable, it

can be impactful! So get creative, and

start your day with a well-balanced

breakfast, choosing foods that inspire

you to live colorfully—energized and

fueled for success.

Amanda Moder is a registered, licensed

dietitian, practicing in the Kansas City

metro-area. She is also a dance instructor

who performs professionally. She loves how

balanced eating can help us be our best.

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

11


Living

in the

Moment

Are you missing

face-to-face

connection in a

screen-to-screen

world?

BY JONATHAN MCKEE

ILLUSTRATIONS BY ORIOL VIDAL

14 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 BRIOMAGAZINE.CA


Ashley had been looking forward to this day for weeks.

Hanging out with her friends at the lake, then

heading to her favorite pizza place for dinner, and

then spending the evening by the pool and hot tub at her

best friend, Christine’s, house. The perfect day!

If only.

Halfway through the day, Ashley began wondering why

they even bothered coming to the lake. Everyone seemed

more interested in taking perfect pictures of the moment

rather than actually enjoying the moment.

“Anyone wanna swim out to the diving raft?” Ashley asked.

Silence.

Everyone was buried in their phones.

“Hey,” Ashley’s friend Megan said, “let’s grab a pic of us all

here climbing on the rocks!” Everyone gathered together,

and Megan took a group selfie.

Click.

“Wait, let me see.” Megan checked the pic, zooming in on

herself. “No way. My arm fat is showing. Let’s take another

one!”

Click. Click. Click.

She checked again. “OK, this one will work. I’m sending it

to you all now.”

Everyone disappeared into their phones again.

Open, save image, post, caption, tag, tag, tag, tag, hashtag,

hashtag, share . . .

Pizza was no different. Several friends all together with

good music and great food, but no one was talking to each

other. Sure, there was a bit of conversation, but Ashley

noticed how everyone stayed buried in their phones.

Two hours later, Ashley was lying on the floor of

Christine’s bedroom while Christine scrolled through her

Insta feed.

“I can’t believe Taylor is going out with Kendra now,”

Christine said. “What does he see in her?”

“Hey, should we go outside and hang by the pool?” Ashley

finally suggested.

“Nah.” Christine said, not even looking up from her phone.

“Pool’s boring. Hey, did you see the pic Megan posted of

Brianna? Hilarious!”

Eventually they both faded off to sleep . . . phones by

their bedsides.

It’s not like Ashley doesn’t like her phone. She uses her

phone all the time. But Ashley sees her phone as a great

way to connect with people outside the room, when it

doesn’t interfere with people inside the room. >

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

15


HOW CAN YOU

INCREASE YOUR FACE-TO-

FACE CONNECTIONS?

HOW CAN YOU LIMIT YOUR

SCREEN TIME?

What about those screens?

Ashley isn’t alone. A growing number

of teenagers are becoming frustrated

with exactly how much screens are

beginning to distract them from

what’s truly important. In fact,

researchers recently asked teens their

opinions about their own screen time.

And this is what researchers found:

• Nine in 10 teenagers view spending

too much time online as a problem

facing people their age, including

60% who say it is a major problem.

• 54% of teenagers think they

actually spend too much time on

their phone.

• Almost 70% of teenagers surveyed

admitted that they wished they

could spend more time “socializing

face to face” than online.

Based on these findings, many

teens seem to feel that devices

designed to help us connect actually

cause a disconnect. What about

you? Do you ever find your screens

disconnecting you from the people

around you?

Here are two habits you can

practice to help you find fulfillment:

Seek face-to-face connection in an

otherwise screen-to-screen world.

Whenever your friend or family

member walks in the room, pause

what you’re doing, and put your

phone to the side, screen down. Many

people your age actually enjoy faceto-face

connections more than online

ones, but they just don’t know how to

keep their screens from getting in the

way. The simple practice of putting

your phone down or in your pocket

helps you focus on the relationships

that matter. It keeps you from

ignoring the people in the room.

rates have been spiking at unprecedented

levels—ever since 2012 when

the majority of young people began

carrying smartphones. Most experts

now see an indisputable link between

screen time and depression. In fact,

countless studies reveal that happiness

and mental wellness are highest

when young people spend no more

than two hours of “extracurricular

digital media use” each day, especially

on social media. Would you agree that

the more hours teens spend on their

devices, the more their mental wellbeing

could steadily decrease?

Could you put your

phone away?

No, screens aren’t bad. But like

many things, if and when we let

them distract us from what and

who are important in life, we’ll

see the consequences—in our

relationships and our mental health.

It’s like the apostle Paul says in the

New Testament: “ ‘I have the right

to do anything,’ you say—but not

everything is beneficial. ‘I have the

right to do anything’—but I will not

be mastered by anything”

(1 Corinthians 6:12, NIV).

Who wants to be enslaved to their

phone?

Not me.

Not Ashley.

And not the 70% of teens who

would rather put their phones away

and focus on the face-to-face connections

in front of them.

So, try it. Put your phone down and

you just might be surprised by how

fulfilling it is. After all, you really don’t

need a phone to connect with the

people right in front of you.

Limit your screen time. Mental

health experts are discovering that

screen time matters big time! Here’s

the simple reality: In the last decade,

anxiety, depression and teen suicide

Jonathan McKee is currently working with

Focus on the Family’s Plugged In team. He’s

also a sought after public speaker and the

author of more than 20 books, including The

Teen’s Guide to Social Media . . . & Mobile

Devices.

16 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 BRIOMAGAZINE.CA


get plugged in

BY ADAM HOLZ

Submit your own questions

to askbrio@briomagazine.com

with the subject line “Plugged In.”

IMDB.COM

DEAR PLUGGED IN: Some of my friends are watching

the Netflix show “Never Have I Ever,” but I’m not

sure it’s OK. What do you think about it?

—Camila, Texas

Great question. And your friends aren’t the only ones

watching Netflix’s buzzy new teen show. This comedy-drama

from creator Mindy Kaling (from “The Office” and “The

Mindy Show”) focuses on Devi Vishwakumar, a 15-year-old

Indian-American girl growing up in Southern California. And

Devi’s got problems. You see, last year, her dad died—at

school—which left her temporarily paralyzed. Now she’s

mostly known as “the girl whose dad died at school and got

paralyzed,” an image she’s hoping to shake by embracing a

wild, partying lifestyle. It doesn’t help that her relationship

with her mother isn’t great either.

Then there are boys. Actually, there’s one that Devi’s really

lusting after: Paxton Hall-Yoshida. She and her two besties

(one of whom is same-sex attracted) constantly imagine

hooking up with their crushes. Apart from some kissing, that

hasn’t happened yet. But Devi is praying to her family’s Hindu

gods that it does—soon. Toss in a lot of language and other

risky choices, and “Never Have I Ever”—despite some sweet

moments as Devi tries to work through her grief about her

dad—has plenty of problems for teen viewers.

DEAR PLUGGED IN: What do you think of Dua Lipa’s

music?

—Charlotte, Iowa

I’m glad you asked about Dua Lipa. This rising British singer

has been around for a couple of years, but she’s really broken

through with her second album, Future Nostalgia.

Plugged In has reviewed several of Dua’s songs and

albums, and we’ve found a consistent tension between

her positive and problematic messages. On the plus side,

she frequently sings about trying to set healthy boundaries

when romantic relationships get unhealthy. She’s willing

to walk away from things when a guy treats her badly, and

her self-esteem isn’t wrapped up in pleasing self-centered

boyfriends. On her single “Don’t Start Now,” for instance, she

says that she’s moved on from “the guy who tried to/Hurt me

with the word ‘goodbye.’ ” Looking back, she now realizes that

she’s “better on the other side.”

But then we got to those problems I mentioned earlier.

Sometimes she knows a relationship is bad news, but

that self-awareness doesn’t stop her from making reckless

choices. Still, it’s pretty clear that a big part of Dua’s

approach to romance has to do with the physical aspect of

her relationships. Her many sensual songs focus primarily on

sex. On the track “Hallucinate,” for instance, she compares

a guy’s effect on her to an addictive drug: “No, I could

never have too much/I’ll breathe you in, forever and ever/

Hallucinate.”

At times, then, Dua Lipa strives to make good decisions.

But more often, she embraces bad ones, ignoring long-term

consequences and wise boundaries for the sake of an

intense sensual feeling in the moment.

Our team from Focus on the Family’s Plugged In

media review and discernment website is eager to

read your pop-culture questions. Find out what’s

in movies, music, TV shows and books by visiting

PluggedIn.ca .

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

17


18 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 BRIOMAGAZINE.CA


e inspired

One Strong Woman

Paralympian Marissa Arndt Retzlaff

talks judo, faith and overcoming the odds

BY GAYLEEN GARDNER / PHOTOS BY CARY BATES

Marissa leans in, greets her friend

Priscilla and quietly whispers, “Sorry.”

She grabs hold of Priscilla’s collar

and tries to throw her to the ground!

Priscilla grasps Marissa’s elbow,

returns the “sorry” and attempts to

sweep Marissa’s feet out from under

her. No, it’s not a script for a bad TV

show. It’s the true story of an international

judo match between two blind

friends.

Twenty-seven-year-old Marissa

Arndt Retzlaff may be blind, but her

vision is clear. “I don’t want my story

to be one of missed opportunities,”

she says. So she takes her experience

of being different and uses it as a

strength, fueling her accomplishments

through her faith in God. “We

are stronger than we think,” she says.

No doubt, this Paralympian from

Wisconsin is one strong woman.

No kid wants to be different

As a 3-year-old, Marissa was diagnosed

with retinitis pigmentosa, a

disease that would slowly leave her

with the ability to see only light and

dark shadows. At first, Marissa admits

it wasn’t so bad. She had night blindness

and no peripheral vision; if she

sat in the front row in class she could

see well enough. She hid her disability

from everyone but her closest friends.

But by fourth grade things got more

challenging. PE class in a new school

was especially painful. There were no

accommodations for her lack of side

vision, so Marissa played baseball and

volleyball without the ability to see

the ball—until it hit her. “I broke more

glasses than I could count,” she recalls.

By sixth grade Marissa had tunnel

vision. She could only see four letters

on a page at a time. Just as classes got

harder, her ability to read got slower.

The less Marissa could see, the

more she could hear kids’ cruel

comments. Teasing that started in

kindergarten with “four eyes” had

escalated to “Marissa is as blind

as a bat.” Middle school girls were

particularly cruel. One terrible day

on the seventh-grade field trip to a

water park, a group of girls formed

a circle around Marissa and pelted

her with ice. Not too much later her

best friend decided it was better to be

popular than be friends with Marissa.

Although Marissa knew she could be

strong, she also knew she needed a

friend to help her.

Marissa’s friend and companion for

taking her mind off the bullies came

with dirty fur—an abandoned dog

rescued by Marissa’s family. “Holly

became my best friend. Even though

Life Verse

“Rejoice in hope,

be patient in tribulation,

be constant in prayer.”

—Romans 12:12

I hated school I could come home

and love life because of her.” Marissa

also loved to write music, stories

and poetry. She would try to finish

her schoolwork quickly so she could

escape into writing. She found life in

what she loved.

Marissa also found life in the

love of her family. Corey, Marissa’s

older brother, constantly kept his

protective eye on his little sister.

Everyone knew Corey was watching

out for Marissa, whether they were at

school, riding in rodeos or on family

camping trips. Marissa’s parents filled

their lives with family time and all the

special resources Marissa needed to

be independent.

Marissa’s parents also made sure

Marissa spent summers at “blind

camps” with other kids who could

not see. At camp she made lifelong

friends who understood her. Her

camp friends were not only blind, but

many of them also had cancer or had

lost their sight because of terrible

accidents. They all learned skills for

living without their sight.

One fabulous summer day at blind

camp, when Marissa was 14 and

her vision was down to a pinhole,

Marissa’s world expanded with the

introduction of several sports she

could play, including judo. “I loved

the feeling of being thrown and

especially of throwing someone else.”

Fearing that judo was dangerous,

Marissa’s parents decided it should

be a “camp-only” activity. >

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

19


Newlyweds

Marissa met Brady Retzlaff

when he came to work as an

intern at her church in Colorado.

They bonded over their work

with kids and their love for the

Green Bay Packers. Her friends

looked up Brady online so they

could tell Marissa what he

looked like.

They married in August 2019

in Wisconsin, and then swam

with manatees, dolphins and

sea lions on their honeymoon

in Mexico. Marissa and Brady

now live in St. Louis, where he

is finishing seminary and she is

training for the Paralympics.

Finding a new focus

One day in high school Marissa found

herself surrounded by a group of girls

in the cafeteria. But these sophomores

came with a different message than

the water park posse: “High school

is so much better if you participate

in things.” Heeding their advice and

the advice of her vision teacher (“You

have to give a little to get a little”),

Marissa took off—running track. She

could see just enough to stay in her

lane. Finally, she was part of a team.

That same year Marissa got great

news. She was going to receive a

Seeing Eye dog. The bad news? She

would have to master and use a white

cane for two years before she could

take possession of her dog. That put

an end to any “disability hiding” she

was still pulling off. It turned out to

be a blessing she didn’t expect. The

cane actually helped people understand

she really couldn’t see.

The summer before her senior year,

Marissa spent a month in New Jersey

learning how to care for and depend

on her guide dog. The glorious day

finally came: Marissa and her dog

Fray stepped out into the world

together.

“Let me try!”

With Fray constantly at her side,

Marissa made the move to college

to study interpersonal and organizational

communication. She was

now three hours from home. It was

challenging and wonderful. Everyone

wanted to meet Fray and Marissa.

Even though her vision became a

“shaky, blurry mess,” her life actually

came into focus. She signed up for

a wellness course in judo. And she

found the rough and tumble activity

made her so happy. When the course

ended, she joined a local judo club.

Judo is a Japanese martial art called

“The Gentle Way.” In “The Gentle

Way,” the judoka wins by throwing her

opponent and then landing on her

opponent’s back, pinning her, choking

her or getting points from an “arm bar”

(basically bending her opponent’s

arm until it would break if the ref

didn’t stop the play). Such a gentle

way! No wonder Marissa and Priscilla

regularly apologize to each other.

Marissa has a gentle spirit, yet she

is a fierce competitor. In fact, she

fought sighted athletes for three years

before she even heard about blind

para judo. “There is a lot of respect

in judo. Respecting your opponent,

yourself, your sport. When you are on

the mat, you are there to fight so you

have to just be as tough as you can.”

A deeper source

Just as she was throwing herself into

judo, Marissa threw herself into

growing deep roots of faith. Early

on in college a friend invited her to

dinner and a Bible study. Although

Marissa had been raised going to

church, it was in a pastor’s living

room that Marissa began to understand

the God she had been talking to

every night since she was a little girl.

She began listening to and studying

her Bible. By 2016, when she had

earned her communication degree,

she had also earned a double master’s

in theology and deaconess studies.

Making the most of every

opportunity

Although many things did not come

easily to Marissa, she continues to

challenge herself. While training

to compete with the 2021 USA

Paralympic Team in Tokyo, she is also

pursuing her dream of becoming a

hospital chaplain.

“You have to have a good work ethic.

. . . A lot of things take a lot of work,

and you can’t just give up because

you don’t get it. Not everything comes

easy!”

Being different and being bullied

were challenging, but Marissa’s life

and faith have given her a message

she really wants young women to

hear—whether they are struggling

at school or striving to become the

very best in the world at their sport.

“Know that you are beautifully and

wonderfully made by God, and you

are so much stronger than you think!

Don’t let your history be one of

missed opportunities.”

Gayleen Gardner is a Colorado native, author,

playwright and master chocolate chip cookie

baker. A mother to sons, she loves spending

time with the amazing young women in her

life, including her granddaughter, Olivia.

20 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 BRIOMAGAZINE.CA


TOP LEFT DOWN: Training at the

U.S. Olympic Training Center (OTC) in

Colorado Springs, Colorado / walking

on the OTC campus / Marissa with Fray /

horse riding at 14 / competing

CANDID PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARISSA

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

21


Spiritual Rhythms

Spending time with God, even when life is busy

BY ASHERITAH CIUCIU / PHOTO BY CANDICE AND DANIEL LANNING

Beep! Beep! Beep!

I fumbled in the dark to snooze

my alarm. Whose idea was it to start

school at such a dreadful hour? I

thought, returning to the warmth of my

covers.

Five minutes later, the alarm blared

again. After several snoozes and my

mom’s menacing call through the door,

I dragged myself out of bed. I threw on

an outfit, pulled my hair into a ponytail

and grabbed a quick bite as I ran out

the door to the school bus.

Only after I climbed the steps into

the warm bus did I realize that I had

missed my morning devotions. Again.

Too busy for God

That scene was more than a decade

ago, but I vividly remember the chaos—

and the disappointment. Actually, I still

have days like that. How about you?

Even if you have good intentions to

spend time with God, it’s easy to feel

like you just don’t have time. Between

early morning alarms, daily commutes

to school and practice, after-school

homework and activities, how’s a girl

to get a few moments with God? Add

to that the constant noise from your

earbuds, your friends’ TikTok videos

and your favorite TV show. You may

even struggle with feelings of failure

because you’ve been taught to spend

more time with God.

Be encouraged—it doesn’t have to

be that way. God doesn’t want us to

meet with Him just to check something

off a to-do list or to impress Him with

our devotion. He wants us to get to

know Him, love Him and find joy in Him

(Psalm 16:11).

Spiritual habits for busy girls

There is no one-size-fits-all “quiet time”

formula in the Bible because God

created each of us one of a kind. Our

time with Him isn’t limited to morning

devotions. We can form our own

spiritual habits that will create rhythms

to help us enjoy time with God every

day. Even when life is busy.

One recent scientific study

confirmed that individuals are more

likely to stick with a new habit if it’s

easy to do. So instead of trying to read

three chapters of the Bible every day,

you could start with reading just three

verses a day. Become consistent with

three verses, and over time you can

add more to your readings.

Here’s another idea to consider: Link

your new spiritual habit to something

you’re already doing. If it’s a part of

your daily routine, you won’t have as

much trouble remembering to do it.

Here are some habits you may want

to try:

• Listen to a chapter of an audio Bible

while you eat breakfast.

• Enjoy some worship music on your

way to school.

• Pray for the people you see in the

hallway as you walk to class.

• Write a verse you want to memorize

at the top of your weekly planner,

then recite it each time you check

your schedule.

• Journal one or two sentences of

gratitude before you get into bed.

Create your spiritual rhythm

Each of these recommendations is

a spiritual habit—a practice we can

repeat day after day to focus on God.

When we stack these spiritual habits

throughout our day, we develop

spiritual rhythms in our life. So, no

more waiting for the perfect time or

place—let’s craft a spiritual rhythm!

Step one. Start with one

spiritual habit and practice it until

it becomes an automatic part of your

daily routine. Try to make it enjoyable

by using colored pencils in your Bible

or writing what you learn in a journal.

Step two. Talk with God and a

trusted adult about your spiritual

habit. Tell God what you’re learning

in your Bible reading or what you’re

enjoying most about your new spiritual

habit. Consider talking to a trusted

adult about what’s working and what

you might need to change.

Step three. Stack your habits to

develop a spiritual rhythm. After

you master this first spiritual habit, add

a second habit and then a third. Over

time, you’ll develop a daily spiritual

rhythm that is as unique as you are.

The Bible assures us that God is

available to us anytime, day or night:

“You will seek me and find me, when you

seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah

29:13). So, whether you’re new to

reading the Bible or you’ve grown up

going to church, you can develop a

spiritual rhythm that helps you get to

know and love your Creator more.

Asheritah Ciuciu is a bestselling author and

speaker, wife to her high school sweetheart

and mama to three spunky kiddos. Her

passion is to help women enjoy God through

creative Bible study habits.

22 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 BRIOMAGAZINE.CA


Developing

spiritual habits

There are a variety of spiritual habits

to practice. Consider the following:

Attend church regularly.

Participate in a youth group.

Fellowship with other believers.

Serve in your community.

Worship the Lord through

music, dance, art, writing, etc.

Read the Bible.

Pray regularly.

Memorize Scripture.

Give thanks.

Practice generosity.

Share the Good News

of the Gospel with others.

WHAT ARE SOME OTHER SPIRITUAL HABITS

YOU COULD PRACTICE AS YOU DEVELOP

SPIRITUAL RHYTHMS?

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

23


Prayer Journal

As you talk with God about all that’s in your heart, feel free to

journal your prayers, doodle Scriptures and save lyrics or quotes

that encourage or inspire you.

Where Do You Run?

BY KIRSTIN LEIGH

Growing up, there were days when

I wanted to hide under the covers

until circumstances changed. Until

the rumors died. Until I was older—or

at least until the pimples on my face

disappeared.

Jesus affirms that we all will have

trouble in this life (John 16:33). So, no

matter our age, when circumstances

change and times get difficult, the

question remains the same. Where do

we run?

Oftentimes, instead of running to

God with our problems, we try to run

away from them. We seek comfort and

refuge in everything but God. We run to

the refrigerator, TV or social media to

try to “escape.” But those temporary

fixes are just that—temporary.

Jesus tells us, in Matthew 11:28, to

come to Him when we are weary and

burdened. He will give us rest, and His

comfort won’t be temporary. But first,

we need to choose to run to Him.

Let’s take a look at the psalmist

David. In 1 Samuel 17, David volunteers

to fight a large and strong Philistine

champion named Goliath. Although

David may not have known exactly

how he was going to defeat the giant,

he knew the God he served. God had

already delivered him from a lion and

a bear (verse 37), so David chose to

remember God’s faithfulness and

trusted Him despite the circumstances.

You and I can do the same. As we

face difficult situations in life, we can

take comfort in verses like Psalm 18:2

and Proverbs 18:10. When we run to

God we are safe.

Where do you feel the need for

rescue? Jot down a few verses that

speak into your situation, and then

pause to reflect on God’s faithfulness

in your life. Then, choose to run to

Him.

Kirstin Leigh is a Christian speaker, author,

singer and screenwriter.

24 AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020 BRIOMAGAZINE.CA


Prayer Journal

" The L ord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom

I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

—Psalm 18:2

@BRIOMAGAZINE AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2020

25

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