True Beauty Initiative – Introducing Valerie

Introducing our True Beauty Candidate for the month of March…

Miss Valerie Harder!

Valerie (13)She’s a girl who doesn’t usually wear make-up (aren’t we all jealous that she doesn’t even need it?).

A social person at school, but really an introvert at heart.

Her friends would describe her as dedicated, sweet, caring, responsible and funny.Crossroads Photography, El Dorado, KSHer superpower is listening to others and she hates getting up early.

She loves coffee, the color purple, organizing and cleaning, and grammar (call her the grammar Nazi).

One of the ways she shows her beauty is by being DEDICATED.It's who you are that makes you beautifulShe’s a dedicated friend, student, and classmate

who lets her love for Jesus shine through her quiet spirit and giving heart.

Valerie enjoys languages—especially sign language and Spanish.American Sign Language HOPE(Can you guess what word she is spelling out here?)

HINT: Hope. ;)

She also loves traveling as well as math and English.

Valerie is a junior at Berean Academy where she enjoys participating in volleyball, scholar’s bowl, and youth group.

I’m so excited to share some of Valerie’s heart with you today here on the blog!  In the story below, Valerie explains how a difficult situation gives her opportunity for growth and a new outlook on life.

On True Beauty, an interview with Valerie

Are there lies about beauty that you feel society tries to feed us? What do you feel is harmful about this? Society tells us that working out, eating healthy, having no physical blemishes, wearing size zero, and feeling confident all the time is beautiful. And it can be. But that expectation is COMPLETELY unrealistic. Having the greatest body and best hair and makeup does not define a person; the prettiest girl can be the biggest jerk. I believe that society’s view of beauty projects completely unnecessary and basically unattainable expectations on young girls and even young women. Society places worth on physical appearance, when in reality, physical looks will fade with time, no matter what. Girls, teens, and women should focus on living life instead of constantly trying to measure up to society’s standard of beauty. Besides, our identity shouldn’t be in what we look like.

(Preach it, Valerie!)  I love this!

Okay, so what’s your definition of beauty? It’s easy to say that beauty is just looks—and sometimes, that’s all I think of when I define beauty. Other times, I find that the most beautiful people may be pretty, but they are also life-loving people. Their character defines who they are, and often, their personality radiates from their face.Beautiful on the insideHave you ever struggled with believing you are beautiful? Oh, my, YES—it is still a daily struggle sometimes.

Why do you think other girls often struggle with this? They can’t accept themselves, no matter what shape, size, skin tone, hair color, or eye color they are/have. We can always be smaller, skinnier, tanner, or blonder than we are. Mostly, though, I believe that many girls/women find their identity in their looks and society’s accepting them based on appearance; in reality, if a girl is confident in who she is in Christ and the fact that He will never leave her no matter what she looks like (she is always loved!), she can blossom into a confident woman of God unrestrained by the world’s ever-changing standards. Only then will she rest in the fact that God made her how she is and she IS beautiful—the Creator of beauty also created her!Beauty is from withinWhy is it even important for girls to realize they are beautiful? If a young lady constantly worries about what she looks like/how society sees her, she will always be in a trap and never truly live life. When she realizes she is beautiful because God made her and her heart matters more than her looks, she will grow confident in Him and rock the world with a true purpose…one other than looking “good.”

“7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, and relationships with friends and family members.” (

What message would you like to send to girls a little younger than yourself? The only opinion that truly matters is the LORD’s. He made you just how He wanted and you ARE beautiful because you’re made in His image! The Creator of the universe formed every part of you, and He makes no mistakes. If you are a Daughter of the King, you can have all confidence in your identity in Him. Just be you!El Dorado KS PhotographerThe Move

By Valerie Harder

My family and I moved to Missouri in the fall of 2004, and we lived in Missouri for almost eleven years. While we were there, we became very involved in our communities. While we homeschooled, all of us kids were involved in homeschool groups, homeschool field trips, various church activities, music or sign language lessons, sports, and Awana.Valerie Harder - True BeautyIn November of 2014, I found out that we were moving. While Dad and Mom had occasionally thrown around the idea of moving back to Kansas, the fact that it was actually happening hit me like a ton of bricks. Telling my best friend that we were leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever done. All I had known for most of my life (what I could remember, anyway) was going to change. In fact, it already had been changing; eight months before moving, we internationally adopted a teenager. (While adoption has its blessings, it is incredibly difficult!) Starting then, the challenge was on: finish our last year of homeschool and begin the packing! Taking down fall decorations for the last time and having our last Christmas there was SO HARD. Everything we did was a last: last Christmas, last birthdays there, last youth group party or conference, last Sunday in church, last parties with friends, last time spending the night at my best friend’s, last time seeing our house, last time sleeping in MY room….the list is forever long. The last time we left was SO hard and painful. I cried most of the way to Kansas.

Don’t get me wrong; I was excited to be close to family and friends in Kansas! My last great-grandparent was losing health, so we were able to see him so many more times before he passed away than if we were still in MO; most of my uncles, aunts, and cousins are here; all of my remaining grandparents are within thirty minutes now; I knew I would be able to go to Berean Academy, where my parents graduated from; many dear, life-long friends are here, and being close to them is awesome….so many good things! Yet, at the time, all I could see was what I was leaving.

For a time right after we moved, it hadn’t really hit me that this was permanent. While we unpacked and prepared for school, I had plenty of breakdowns. Sometimes, my heart literally hurt because I missed (miss) Missouri SO MUCH. Hearing about what my bestie was up to or happenings in Missouri in general was/is hard because I felt/feel like I should be there, in the middle of what our life used to be! I miss seeing my best friend at least once a week, taking sign language lessons, coaching gymnastics, hanging out in youth group, and seeing friends in Missouri in general (just to name a few things I miss). The loss still hurts; we haven’t been here for a year yet, so the eleven years we had out there is still fresh in my mind.Journey - ChangeNow for the good.  Yes, moving was one of the hardest things I have gone through. Yet, there is SO much good! Once I finally learned to trust that God has everything planned the BEST way, I realized (am realizing, sometimes, still!) that I need to be content! I absolutely love living so close to my grandparents and family; we weren’t always able to attend family Christmases or Thanksgivings or birthday parties, and now, we can! Also, I get to visit dear friends from here so much more often; we can go shopping, see a movie, or just chill together at the drop of a hat. Moreover, I love going to Berean! Although going to school outside of home was a tough transition at first, I have learned to enjoy it so much! My class at school is full of awesome, sweet people! I have also gotten to grow closer with friends from other classes and teachers that I have heard so much about from my parents. ;) The students and faculty are SO nice and welcoming; I have never felt like I stood out as the newbie.  Going to school has pushed me out of my comfort zone; learning how to balance class schedules, new teachers, new friends, bells and tardies ;), multiple projects at a time, and extra-curricular activities like volleyball and scholars’ bowl has grown me SO much! Overall, I really enjoy life here in Kansas!Redefine BeautyIf I were to give advice to a young lady who is preparing to be uprooted, I would say… 1) Trust God. He knows exactly what is happening and will happen, even if your life seems to be spinning out of your control. 2) Yes, cry over what you miss! Cry lots—don’t bottle it up inside! Grieve the life you once had. 3) But, once you finish crying, look around and thank God for what you’ve gained. Blessings are all around us if we just look for them! (And I tend to be a pessimist, so this lesson has really hit home.) See the wonderful past as just that—a wonderful life you had, but now, see the future and your new home as a blessing just waiting to unfold! 4) Your new home is that—YOUR HOME now. Missouri is home, definitely—but it’s the home of my past, my childhood. Kansas is my home now. It’s the home of my future. Both places feel like home, and that’s perfectly OK. When we go back to visit, I still see it as home, since my friends-who-might-as-well-be-family are there; since we live here now, though, I see this as home because my family-by-blood lives all around me!  Embrace the future, but never forget the past.

Change is tough. Very tough. Yet, in spite of the difficulty, God gives so many blessings in the future… in my new home.True Beauty March 2016Thank you, Valerie, for the amazing example you set for young women!!  I know that you have truly blessed me through this True Beauty Initiative and I’m sure your story will be an encouragement to others!

Learn more about the True Beauty Initiative and nominate a truly beautiful girl here.

4 thoughts on “True Beauty Initiative – Introducing Valerie

  1. Your True Beauty sessions are just wonderful! The photography is superb and the subjects delightful! How could one pick a single girl out of these three? All are vibrant, beautiful and thoughtful…a fabulous combination, whether in front of the lens or elsewhere…they display hope and offer wisdom that all women can benefit from. Thank you for taking on this project…it could change the world, one woman at a time…

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