The ABCs of being a young Catholic woman...I have been imagining the best way to compile some of my main teaching points for young women into a list. These are some of the highlights from my talks that I felt I needed to put into a small list to encourage, inspire, and help young women on their journey of faith.
Always be kind to other women. There is not one woman in the world who has ever been made happier by being unkind or speaking unkind words about another woman to her face or behind her back. Uplift other women and you will be uplifted yourself.
Be brave. There is great bravery required in being a counter-cultural woman in 2016. It takes courage to uphold a high set of values, share your faith, and to go against the flow. Don't be afraid to be an example of a strong, faithful, loving, self-respecting woman - you can be a role model for the woman around you, and it is no secret that we need great female role models in a world with very few of them.
Choose chastity. The only man who deserves to have you give your body to him is the man who stands at the end of the aisle and professes his vows to you. Our culture is trying with all its' might to teach us that our bodies are not sacred, but because God dwells within each of us, we are indeed sacred places. The right man will respect your choosing of chastity. Walk away from the men who don't.
Depend on the Lord in everything. Psalm 37:5 reads "Depend on the Lord; trust Him, and He will take care of you." He promises to never let us go and the Lord does not make promises He cannot keep. He may make us wait to teach us patience, allow suffering in our lives to help us grow in greater faith and perseverance, or speak to us in ways we don't expect, but He is the One in this life we know we can always trust.
Everything is temporary except for eternal life. Make your life decisions with the permanence of eternity in mind. Life goes by in a blink, and we each get the opportunity to make every day count in light of eternity with Christ.
Find friends who support the core of who you are. Life is far too short to waste time with friends who help you stray from your values, friends who put you down, or in surface friendships with people who don't care very much about your well-being. You are never stuck in any certain group of friends. Be purposeful and intentional in who you choose to surround yourself with. Your friends will impact your life in very negative or very positive ways.
Go to Mass. It is easy to get off track when busy with schoolwork, college activities, work, etc. There is not anything more important that you could do with your week other than partake in the Eucharist. The body and blood of our Savior is the food that sustains...what could possibly be more important than receiving it?
Have fun. Don't take things too seriously. Nobody wants to be around the girl who is complaining or bringing everyone down all the time! Be cheerful, positive, and in good spirits and you will find life much more enjoyable.
Imagine where you want to go in your life and put in the hard work to get there. Realizing your dreams takes a lot of effort and energy. Defy our generation's abysmal lack of drive and ambition and work hard - you will find yourself in incredible places doing incredible things.
Joy is something we must keep choosing. It is not often the case that we will "feel" happy in life. Don't mull around wishing you felt happier...joy and happiness come when we really choose to see the good that surrounds us in our life and when we take the time to really see God's glory in every day.
Keep swimming. Dory said it best. We will all make mistakes, especially as we navigate being a young woman growing into adulthood. Some mistakes will be small and some may be huge. The important part of life's journey is to get up and keep going, no matter how many times you fall, and to remember - God's love and mercy never has and never will run out.
Love yourself. It is hard to love others if you don't know how to first love yourself, flaws and all. Learning to love ourselves as women can be a long and difficult journey, but it is a journey Christ wants to accompany us on to bring us to see ourselves the way He sees us. He wants to walk with you on the journey - open your heart to allow Him to do just that.
Make time for your parents or your primary caretaker. These people have poured out more for you in life than you will ever know. Spending time with them, loving them, and being present to them are a huge gift but small way to thank them for all they have done for you. Never undervalue the power of it.
Nobody's opinion of you matters except for God's. People will say all different kinds of things about you throughout your life - nice things, mean things, beautiful things, untrue things. People will decide what they think about you, and the truth of God is the only truth that will stand among all the noise - you are loved, worthy, and set apart for His great purpose for your life. He delights in who you are and created you to take part in His divine plan for the world. Do not let what anyone else says or thinks convince you otherwise.
Open your mind to new things. Go on that retreat, that adventure, or take that photography class you've been thinking about. Life becomes fulfilling when we open our hearts to new possibilities - new adventures and openness to the new make life more dynamic and exciting.
Pick clothes that reflect your dignity and your value as a woman. You have the opportunity to tell the world by the way you dress that you are so much more than an object to be looked at but a mind and heart to be known.
Quickness to forgive will benefit your life in unimaginable ways. Holding on to grudges and hurts weighs us down and makes it challenging to live a life of total freedom and joy. When you struggle to forgive, ask for God's help - He was indeed the one who forgave even while He was on the cross.
Reach out to those in need. There is a great deal of fulfillment that comes in life when we step outside of thinking about ourselves and realize the needs of the people around us. Those people might be in your family, your group of friends, in your community, or in your city - they will take on all different forms. It is in learning to give and in giving of ourselves that we truly receive.
Speak Up. For yourself and for others. Learn to use your voice because what you have to say is important. Do not ever let anyone put you down - stand up for yourself in every moment of your life. Use your voice to speak for the voiceless - the unborn, the abandoned, the poor. Spread the message of the Gospel with your actions and words. Your voice is a powerful tool that can be used to change your community and the world.
Take time to pray every day. Each day is a gift; each day is an opportunity to connect and walk with our Creator, and to keep God at the center of our lives. If we are putting God in 2nd and 3rd place on our priorities list, things have fallen out of place. Praying daily helps keep God at the center and fills our lives with love, patience, charity, and selflessness.
Use your gifts to build the Kingdom on Earth. If you don't know what your gifts are, ask God to help you see what they are. He gives us each gifts that we can contribute to the Body of Christ - some of those could be listening, hospitality, teaching, cooking, or music - the list is very long and every person is born with different gifts. When we offer these gifts back to God, in the same way that he multiplied the small offering from the boy of 5 loves and 2 fish, he will do great things.
Vanity is overtaking our selfie-saturated culture. Be wary of our culture's focus on narcissism, self-love, and egotism. This attitude is a poison that can creep slowly into your heart. Life is about more than likes on Instagram or any regard on social media. Struggling with your desire of online praise too much? Give up social media for a week and notice how much happier you feel.
When a guy sends you an inappropriate message, stop talking to him. You don't owe him anything - a response, a photo, or a conversation. Demand respect from men and don't spend any time around men who refuse to respect you.
eXercise regularly, and exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it. Exercise is so good for women's bodies and the power of it cannot be underestimated. Exercise does not have to be going to the gym every day - get outside and go on walks, lift some weights, take a dance class. Getting moving and working up a sweat regularly is a wonderful habit to have and can make a powerful difference in your life.
You have control over the decisions in your life. You have the power to say yes and no. No one can make decisions for you and we each must live in the consequences of our decisions - both our positive ones and our negative ones. Be aware of that in each day of your life and carve your life's decisions with the loving direction from God the Father.
Zeal. Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause. Have zeal in your heart for what you are passionate about. I have come to find that passionate people are the people enjoying life the most. They are doing things they love, promoting things they love, or working toward a goal they believe in with all their heart. They are living out their purpose in the world. It's hard to find your purpose if you aren't passionate about your existence in God's masterpiece of creation.
Never forget that - you play a role in God's masterpiece of creation. What truth will ever be more astounding?
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