Lisa Hendey, Catholic mom, author and speaker, recently released a most timely and prudent book with a classic message: The Grace of Yes maps eight virtues (belief, generativity, creativity, integrity, humility, vulnerability, no, and rebirth) as a blueprint for centering our daily decisions around God’s will for our lives. As the founder of CatholicMom.com, I was familiar with Lisa as a person and yet admittedly unfamiliar with her literary works. This was my first encounter with Lisa-the-author, and I was blown away by her raw and real honesty.
I admit I was expecting more of a self-help book and yet was pleasantly delighted by the memoir feel of her story. She doesn’t sugar coat her advice by portraying a phony personal facade of what her interior life looks like; instead, she is quite affable to those of us who consider ourselves perfect failures and imperfect moms. She admits her innermost struggles and more visible quirks and foibles.
Though found about midway through the book, this quote seemed most fitting to summarize the crux of her message; it is one she discovered from beloved St. Augustine of Hippo:
Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Hendey doesn’t proselytize or advise; she simply shares her life experience as it relates to what she has learned and gained from the “yes” of her faith (belief), mentoring other moms and authors (generativity), using her spiritual gifts for God’s glory (creativity), living an authentic life both visibly and when no one is watching (integrity), recognizing the fundamental virtue of self-focus and more on the focus of others (humility), permitting herself to be real and raw to everyone in her life (vulnerability), knowing when to decline something so as to grow in the ministry to which God has called her (no), and recognizing the beauty of redemptive suffering to bring forth new life and hope (rebirth).
Each chapter is filled with anecdotes from Hendey’s personal journey, which makes the lessons far more potent than if they were presented as purely theological or as the results of clinical research. From a spiritual perspective, one could take each chapter as a catalyst for meditation or inspired prayer; this is made easier with the rhetorical questions and prayers offered at the conclusion of each chapter. In this way, the book is not merely a book, but it metamorphoses into the reader’s story, which makes it more of a necessary, personal guide than merely a modern piece of literature.
Consider some excerpts from Hendey’s book that recounts the wisdom she has gained from her own life experience:
A generous believer…needs to focus more on the art of hearing than on the delivery of a monologue (p.16).
Being successful is not a sin. Being vain is (p.44).
Yes happens best and most authentically in my work when I remember first and foremost why I do what I do and through whom I do it (p.53).
This book generated a deeper self-awareness for where my spiritual life currently resides and in what ways I need to grow. The eyes of my heart widened to the maxim “live in the present moment,” an unspoken-yet-fervent theme woven throughout this book. I couldn’t help but wonder what my “yes” looks like to God – in the here and now – in this moment, as I share my gift of writing. When I think of it again, I will most likely be changing a toddler’s diaper or wiping up dirty faces and hands. Yet my “yes” resounds in these moments, as your “yes” does each time we abandon ourselves to the often mundane and ordinary tasks of our days.
Sometimes our “yes” means we must say “no” to a good, holy purpose (like volunteering for yet another ministry at church). Always our “yes” requires prudent discernment and self-reflection. We must never say “yes” in haste out of a pretense that we are doing God’s will. A dear friend of mine (who is now a religious sister) once wrote to me in a letter, “Doing God’s will doesn’t necessarily mean doing God’s work.” I have never forgotten that pertinent adage. Hendey’s book delivers a similar, more subtle message.
Her main point is this: God exists in the monotony as well as the extraordinary. This is the essence of The Grace of Yes.
Join other bloggers and social media gurus in publicly proclaiming your “yes” to God in the Grace of Yes Day on Tuesday, November 18th. Find resources and post your photos with the hashtag #graceofyesday.
Copyright 2014 Jeannie Ewing