My four-year-old snuck a beaded glass bracelet from my jewelry display. I discovered her theft when she approached me with a downcast fast, hand outstretched, broken bracelet in her upturned palm.
“Can you fix it, Mommy?”
Thankfully, I was able to piece it back together. But my daughter learned a few lessons that day. She has to take care of Mommy’s things. And she has to wait to receive the things she’s ready for.
I swapped out the glass bracelet for a bracelet made of stretchy elastic and square plastic beads. I encouraged her to keep it safely on her wrist, and return it when she was done.
If she could show me she could be responsible with that bracelet, maybe she would be able to borrow other bracelets someday, too.
Her face alight with joy, she skipped off, proud of being entrusted with “Mommy’s special jewelry,” and ready to show me how well she could take care of it.
What is the virtue of stewardship?
Stewardship is “the management of whatever a person is entrusted with” (Hardon, 520).
In our lives, there are two things to remember about stewardship – things that I have learned through the task of teaching this virtue to my children.
First, “that a human being is not owner but only custodian of God’s gifts in this world” (Hardon, 520). All the things that we “have” are really not our own. Everything is a gift from God, entrusted to us “to use them and produce with them the fruits of eternal life” (Hardon, 520).
The body we live in. Our gifts and talents. Our money, our food, our home, our children, our neighbor, our earth.
Our time. This very life itself.
It’s all a gift from God. And, like the plastic bracelet I entrusted to my daughter, he desires us to cherish them and use them for good.
Second, we are not all given the same gifts at the same time.
My 4 year-old wasn’t ready for the glass bracelet. She was ambitious, tried to reach beyond her limits, and ended up sad, holding something broken that should be beautiful. She needed the plastic jewelry for now.
When she embraced that, she felt cherished – as she was created to feel.
She felt honored with the gift she was given.
She felt proud of herself for taking care of it.
She learned the value of waiting patiently to be given the gifts that she was ready to receive.
Let’s learn about and grow in stewardship
I’m so excited to dive into learning and practicing the virtue of stewardship with you in this Virtue Challenge!
There are many different areas to practice this virtue in our lives. If you’re ready for it, this series of posts will stretch you and inspire you to grow.
But at the same time, keep in mind: God calls each of us to practice virtue in a unique way. I will present you with an array of advice on practicing good stewardship – from self-care, to budgeting, to homemaking, to eco-friendly solutions, and so much more.
You can’t do it all at once, right now.
You will end up broken and burned out.
So, please proceed with discernment. Take each idea to prayer, asking God to reveal to you how he’s calling you to be a good steward right now.
Reflect on what you’re doing well, and what you know you need to work on. Stretch yourself in a few ways you know God’s calling you to.
But don’t feel the pressure to do everything.
God has a plan he wants to entrust to you. Embrace that plan – whether it’s the “elastic + plastic” plan, or the shiny “glass bead” plan.
It’s a beautiful plan, if you’re willing to receive it.
Virtue takes a lifetime to cultivate. Good stewardship is a task that remains with us until we return to God at the end of our lives.
This isn’t a checklist of things you must be doing to be a “good” Catholic, but an opportunity to open your eyes to God’s gifts in your life, cherish those gifts a little bit more, and use them for his good.
For this Virtue Challenge, we will cover Stewardship over a series of posts, with topics grouped by category.
- Take Care of Your Self
- Take Care of Your Things
- Take Care of the World
- Take Care of Your Faith
Take Care of Your Self
The very first gift God gives each of us is the gift of ourselves.
We come into this world with nothing other than our body and soul – and when we enter eternity, these are the only two things we will take with us.
So today, we’ll dive into ideas about how to take care of this beautiful gift of self God has given us – cherishing it, and using it to produce eternal fruits.
Your Body is Worth it
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
God looks at you and calls you beautiful. He loves you with an infinite love.
He gave you your body as a gift. Your body is worth taking care of – it’s worth loving as God loves.
You are worth the effort it takes to eat well, get enough exercise, take a shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed. Don’t ever feel guilty about giving your body the care it needs.
Your first task of good stewardship: establish a routine that honors the body God has given you. Often, as a busy mom, this is the first thing I let slide.
If the kids wake up early, I skip breakfast in my rush to feed them. When they go to bed, I stay up late scrolling social media in an attempt to get some “alone time,” sacrificing precious sleep. In the morning, I throw on sweats and a messy bun, too lazy to take the time to pull myself together, especially if I’m not going anywhere.
But the truth is, I always feel so much worse when I let these things slide.
I know that when I have a routine – breakfast first, phones off after I brush my teeth at night, pull on a quick pair of jeans and a favorite T-shirt in the morning, braid my hair instead of a messy bun – I feel better about myself. I feel better about my day.
When I take care of myself, I’m more confident, more productive, and even more joyful.
That’s part of God’s plan for us.
He wants us to honor our bodies with self-care.
Before you can take care of anyone or anything else, you need to take care of your greatest gift and resource: yourself!
So if you’ve been putting basic care of your body on the back burner, it’s time to reestablish a routine to bring that back. Identify the things that you need most to function well on a daily basis, and make those things a priority.
Here are some great reads on taking care of your self on the daily:
- Making a SAHM Wardrobe
- Finding Confidence Through Working Out
- You’re Allowed to Take Care of Yourself
- Catholic Women Run Mission
- Self Care for Moms in Survival Mode
- 6 Saint Inspired Ways Catholic Moms can Practice Self Care
Mental Health Counts
As you may know by now, I had a run-in with depression several years back. During that time, I had let go of not only my physical self-care, but also my mental and emotional self-care.
In counseling, along with many other amazing strategies, I learned about the Healthy Mind Platter.
The Healthy Mind Platter is an array of 7 daily activities that help promote mental health. They work together to promote balance and emotional wellness.
The seven daily tasks are:
Along with the Healthy Mind Platter, I learned to monitor my “emotional temperature,” to keep track of when I started feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or out of control.
I learned that mental and emotional care are an important part of good stewardship. I couldn’t function properly when my mind and emotions were running amuck.
What I discovered is that mental and emotional care were not only important in overcoming depression, but important to maintain in my daily life.
If you’ve been experiencing overwhelm, a sense of frenzy, anxiety, or the feeling of being out of control, start practicing good stewardship by taking care of your mental and emotional health by using the Healthy Mind platter and Emotional Thermometer daily (free printable).
Here are some more resources about mental health:
- The Truth About Postpartum Depression from Someone who Lived it
- Stress, Depression, Anger: a Mental Health Q&A
- Carrying the Cross of Depression
- The Small Changes that Lead to Greater Happiness
- Increase Your Happiness in Less than 20 Minutes
Guard Your Self-Image
One thing we can be sure about in the culture we live in, is encountering daily threats to our self-image. billboards, advertising, beauty products, and a general overall cultural attitude try to tell us that we’re not good enough.
They try to sell their products by encouraging self-loathing, self-deprecation, and fear.
We’re bombarded with the message that we’re not good enough, and that we need to be fixed.
In the Bible, we read:
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”–Psalm 139:14
We need to remember this, in the way we look at ourselves, think about ourselves, and talk about ourselves.
At one point in my marriage, my husband confronted my deprecating views about myself in a way I’ll never forget.
I had gotten into the habit of complaining about my body.
Admittedly, it can be hard. With four kids, my body is constantly changing. My clothes don’t ever fit just right, my weight is never the same two months in a row, I can be toned and strong one season, exhausted and carrying extra pounds another season.
One day my husband cut me off, mid-complaint, and said,
“It hurts me when you talk about yourself like that.”
I had never thought about it affecting him. I was just venting about myself.
“You’re beautiful to me,” he continued, “I love everything about you, just the way you are. And when you complain about yourself like that, it makes me sad.”
He was wounded that I didn’t love myself the way he loved me.
He saw me as this beautiful vessel: strong, lovely, desirable. And all I could see were my faults, imperfections, and things I wanted to change.
But if my husband loved this body so much – even with postpartum baby fat, even with hormonal acne, even with signs of sleeplessness under my eyes – how much more must God love this body! God who made me, who gave me my body as a gift, a gift that I had begun to habitually despise.
When my husband shared his hurt at my self-talk, I realized how much more hurt God must be when I talk (or think) about myself that way.
From that day on, I made it a habit to look at myself in the mirror each morning and pray:
“I praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I’ve worked hard to give up complaining about myself (I’m not perfect at it), and begin talking about myself in a way that shows gratitude for God’s gift for me, his great design for me, and his infinite love for me.
If you’ve fallen into a habit of despising yourself, it’s time to reevaluate your self-image. Dive into God’s point of view. Reflect on how he sees you, how he created you, how much he loves you, and how hurt he is when your language rejects his gift of self to you.
Start seeing yourself as the beautiful image of God he created you to be.
Here are a few amazing reads on self-image to help you begin this journey:
- 3 Reasons to Stop Photoshopping Your Face
- Body Image, Self-Image, and the Price of Instagram
- You are Beautiful
- How Marilyn Monroe Taught Me Beauty Isn’t Everything
Embracing Your Gifts and Talents
I used to think I had to deny my gifts and talents. That somehow it would be proud to acknowledge that I *am* good at writing, *do* have a natural talent for teaching, and *can* bake pizza better than the pizza shop down the street.
But something clicked when I took a Spiritual Gifts (charisms) inventory.
Even though I knew it with my brain, I discovered deep down in my heart that my gifts and talents are given to me by God, for my good and the good of others.
They aren’t something to dismiss in a guise of false humility.
Our gifts and talents are something to embrace, cultivate, find fulfillment in, and share with others.
It’s not selfish to make time in my busy day to sit down and write, or sketch, or pray.
It’s not selfish to arrange babysitting for my kids so I can organize a prayer party or Ladies night with my friends.
If teaching, hospitality, and writing are gifts from God, then God wants me to use these. Of course, these gifts have to fit into the mold of my life, placing my primary vocation first.
But if we are wise in our discernment, then these gifts can actually be used to the benefit of our primary vocations, rather than serve as a distraction for them.
And these gifts and talents we have can make a real spiritual impact on others.
They are the way God gives us to touch the hearts of the people around us, and extend God’s grace and goodness to them, through the gifts he’s given us.
If you’ve never done a Spiritual Inventory (or haven’t done one recently – things can change!) I encourage you to take this online Spiritual Gifts quiz. Enter your answers honestly; don’t overthink it, and don’t answer what you think you “should” feel – but rather what you honestly feel.
Once you discover your spiritual gifts, find ways to cultivate them and use them, combining them with your talents, and using it all for God’s glory.
Don’t be surprised if you find life more fulfilling once you start seeing your gifts and talents this way!
It’s okay to celebrate your talents and hobbies for the glory of God.
Here are some further resources to explore your gifts and talents:
- Branded Beauty: A course for Catholics interested in sharing their gifts through entrepreneurship or ministry
- Check out Under thy Roof – Kirby is a Catholic mom who continues to pursue her passion and talent for theater after having children.
- Is it a Sin to Spend Time on a Hobby Instead of Praying?
- These 7 Unusual Hobbies Will Help You Be Your Best Self
- Acting Boldly: Why We Need it for Catholic Parishes
Prioritize Your Relationships
God is a relational being. He exists in the unity of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And he made us in his image.
We are created for relationships. We need community. When we don’t have these things, we begin to lose site of our purpose, of who we are and who we’ve been created to be.
We live in such a digital age, it can be so tempting and so easy to trade real relationships for internet or social media relationships. We have to battle that temptation.
Who’s closest to you in this life?
Make time for the person closest to you in your state of life, whether it’s a spouse, family member, or best friend. And when you get that time with them, spend it intentionally.
Give your spouse and kids your full attention. Call or text your mom daily. Listen to your friend’s story without interruption.
Show the people in your life that they mean a lot to you, and seek the companionship of people who value relationships similarly.
At the same time, take care to remember: God comes before any earthly relationship. We are created for fulfillment in him alone, to be loved by his perfect love, and to spend eternity returning that love.
Our earthly love and earthly relationships are good – a reflection of God’s love, but the most important thing is that these human relationships lead us closer to God.
Husbands and wives are meant to help each other on the path to heaven.
Parents’ first priority is to pass the faith on to their kids.
Friendships are meant for the spiritual and temporal good they bring.
If any of these distracts us from God, then they have become a “false god,” – yes, even our marriage can do that! – and we need to realign, we need to put God first again.
I know, such a trendy word to be throwing around.
Sometimes, relationships that were working for our good turn out to not be working for our good any more.
Maybe you feel used, manipulated, abused, taken for granted, drained, tempted, or just unsettled every time (or even just often) when you interact with this person.
Remember your inherent dignity. God values you so much, and he wants your relationships to reflect the Trinity: a relationship of perfect love, working towards each other’s good.
If a relationship is not working for your good, then it needs to be adjusted. It’s okay to put boundaries on your interactions with other people so that you can have more healthy, holy, wholesome relationships.
For more on prioritizing and setting boundaries in relationships, try these articles:
- Spend Time, Waste Time, Do More as a Family
- 8 Habits of Healthy Couples
- How to Create and Maintain Boundaries in a Relationship (and Why!)
- 5 Signs You’re Dealing with Toxic People
- Motherhood Isn’t a Primary Vocation
- Should You Prioritize Your Marriage Over Your Children?
- Detachment and Your Vocation
- Presence: What Does This Mean as Parents in the New Millenium?
- The Importance of Boundaries
- How to Forgive Anyone
It’s Okay to Seek Healing
One of the things we know as Catholics, is that the Cross is a part of our lives. There’s no getting around it. And even more, we are to embrace our crosses.
Sometimes, we translate this as: healing is bad.
But the reality of the Cross isn’t incompatible with God’s gift of healing.
He wants us to be healed from our hurts. He desires us to be well and whole. And it’s okay to seek that.
Whether the healing is spiritual, physical, emotional, or psychological, it’s part of God’s will for us. Though, we must remember, God’s timing isn’t always our timing. Yes, God wants our healing, but some things may not be healed this side of heaven.
It’s okay to pursue it, though, knowing that ultimately this is God’s will for us.
God has given us powerful tools to help us on our journey to healing:
and so much more.
Read my story of healing, plus a wealth of information on the Catholic view of healing on this post: What Do You Know About Healing in the Catholic Faith?
If you’re in need of healing, one of my favorite Catholic bloggers has a portion of her site devoted to healing. Check out Melody, The Essential Mother. Here are a few articles to get started:
- The Simple Path to Healing in a Complicated World
- Life with Chronic Illness
- A Catholic Perspective on Essential Oils
- Her Facebook Group: Making Sunshine: Catholic Natural Healing
Here are some articles from around the internet about various aspects of healing:
- Do You Give Yourself Time to Heal?
- Healing the Wounds of Emotional Abuse
- My 10 Children I’ve Never Met
- If I Could Have Met Christ in Gethsemane
- Suffering, Healing, and Returning to God
Take Care of Your Fertility (NFP)
When I first learned NFP, I thought it was all about helping me figure out when to get pregnant (or not).
But the more I practiced it, the more I realized that charting my fertility is about more than having or not having babies. My cycle tells me so much about my body, about my health, about who I am.
I am made for life.
I am made for life-giving love.
As a teen, I used to despise my cycle. I was also deathly afraid of being attracted to boys. I didn’t like being hugged, touched, kissed, or holding hands (not even family members).
Looking back, I realize that I didn’t understand that my body was made for love. I was afraid to let my body into the act of loving.
Learning about my cycle, and practicing NFP throughout our marriage, has helped me grow in love – for my husband, my children, and even myself.
Now, I love to see my body working the way God made it to work. I cherish the information NFP gives me.
My chart told me when I was destroying my body (depression again) through poor eating, stress, and lack of sleep and exercise. It told me when I had an iron deficiency. It alerted me that I was struggling with secondary infertility only a few months after unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy.
And the practice of charting tells me about God’s plan for me. It teaches me about love and sacrifice. About health and illness and healing and how my entire body and soul works as one.
I believe that fertility awareness is a good for all women – teens, adults, single, or married – to help them understand they were created for love, and that’s reflected in their body and soul.
It has helped me love and care for myself, and learn how to give love, and I know it can do that for others.
If you’re interested in learning more about fertility awareness, and the use of Natural Family Planning in different life circumstances, check out these articles:
- Talking to Your Kids about NFP and NFP as Self-Care
- Charting Your Fertility May Be the Best Self-Care You Can Give Yourself
- Melissa’s Journey with NFP and Infertility
- Hyper-Fertility and NFP
- How Fertility Awareness Helped Me Diagnose PCOS and Get Pregnant
- How Charting Your Fertility Can Improve Your Health
Begin the Good Stewardship Virtue Challenge Today!
Remember, you don’t have to do it all.
Take these ideas to prayerful discernment. Identify one, or maybe two, that are tugging on your heart. Ask God to show him how you can grow closer to him and to your destination in heaven by practicing good stewardship, and taking better care of yourself this month.
Stay tuned for more posts coming this month, where we will dive into the other aspects of good stewardship:
- Take Care of Your Things
- Take Care of the World
- Take Care of Your Faith
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