It’s an honor to have the chance to interview Lisa Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com and author of the brand-new book The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues to Generous Living. It’s a book I know I’ll be rereading, and one that I’m sharing far and wide.
It’s not that it’s an easy read; it’s that it’s compelling and wrenching and it keeps your attention. What Hendey has done is craft a book that taps into everything I love most about her writing.
This book took courage to write, and it takes a measure of grit to do more than just read it like it’s an enjoyable read (which it is). I’m well acquainted with Hendey’s writing: she’s written three other books and she’s a well-known blogger, writer, speaker, and new media personality. I follow her closely. I listen to what she has to say. Whether I agree with her or not, I do always take note, because her sincerity, humility, and wisdom always shine through the deep faith she nurtures.
In the body of work Hendey has produced, I rank this as the best of her writing. The Grace of Yes book is nothing short of amazing. This is a book that will get you thinking and make you want to talk and discuss or, at the very least, ponder and reflect.
So let’s hear what Hendey has to say about it, shall we?
So we’ve heard all about your new book and that the fish now has a name. What do you want people to know about The Grace of Yes?
First and foremost, I want to thank all of those family members, friends, and readers who have already so generously supported this project. The Grace of Yes represents a “pivot” in my writing in many ways. Just as our home life is evolving in new ways as Greg and I experience life in the “empty nest”, my writing life is experiencing some new developments as well.
I hope that readers will approach The Grace of Yes with an open heart. I hope that men and women of any faith background will see this book as an opportunity to come into a deeper understanding of their own “Grace of Yes”—their own generous giving of themselves both to God’s will for their lives and to the world around them. I’ve been telling folks that this book is not only a book for anyone of any age, but I also feel in a sense that it is for any person of faith. This represents both an opportunity for our Catholic friends to see their vocations in perhaps a different light, and for non-Catholic friends to gain a renewed insight into not only our faith, but maybe their own as well.
In other words, I see not only this book but all of the work that I will do on this topic as a wide open door that I can’t wait to run through. I hope as many friends as possible will run through it with me!
I know (because I worked with you at CM while you were writing this) that this book was not easy to write. What gave you the strength you needed to get past the difficulties and the tenderness of yourself you had to bare to the world? Why did you write this book when it obviously took a lot out of you to do it?
This is a huge question! I undertook this book project shortly after Adam, our second son, left us to begin attending college. For someone who has been referred to four the past decade and a half as the “Catholic Mom,” you can imagine that I was asking myself what this new phase of my life would bring.
Writing this book was challenging for a few reasons. First and perhaps most practically, our work on the website and my speaking opportunities have kept me busier than ever. Writing a book is a solitary process, and one that I love. But I don’t have the luxury of locking myself in the library for long hours to write anymore. These days, my paragraphs are written on the go, between a full day of work on CatholicMom.com and often in transit to different places around the country. And honestly there is so much joy packed into my days that I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that finding time to write has become interesting.
But maybe even more so than the logistical challenges of finding the time was finding the courage to write this book. As our readers are about to discover when they dive in, this is a very personal work. I was encouraged by my amazing publisher Ave Maria Press and my dear friend and editor Eileen Ponder to let my voice and my heart show through. Honestly, this can be frightening. As any writer will tell you, it’s often easier to tell others’ stories than your own.
But the message that I have to share here is one that has been nurtured in my heart over the past several years. When I began work on the book, I also could not have anticipated how my travels with Catholic Relief Services to Rwanda last year would impact this book and, really, my whole life. Revisiting some of what I learned and experienced there was both a great gift and a time of pain. I hope that the stories that brought my nightmares and so many tears will turn into a blessing for those who read this book.
Lisa, when I picked up this book, I really expected to enjoy it. I did not, however, expect to have my world rocked by it. What part of the book rocked YOU? What’s your favorite part of the the book?
Wow, that is a hard question isn’t it?! Even though it took me several takes and much encouragement from Eileen (super editor!) to get it right, I am very fond of Chapter Five, The Grace of Humility. That chapter really touches on some themes that have been continual challenges for me in my own life, and also on my experiences in Rwanda visiting with genocide survivors. For anyone who struggles with issues of forgiveness (especially forgiving oneself), I think they will relate to this chapter.
Selfishly, I also love the fact that my somewhat outlandish life goal (which you’ll have to read on page 132 of the book) made it into this work. The more ensconced I become in “Grace of Yes” thinking, the more potential I see for each of us to live out our dreams in ways that are creative, amazing, and yes sometimes outlandish too.
You’ve been an important mentor and example to many Catholics out there over the years, from your work in new media, to your speaking, to your writing. How do you hope The Grace of Yes impacts those of us who know and love you?
I hope that those who know me through my previous work—and honestly my loved ones too—might better come to know my heart by reading what I’ve written here. It’s very transparent, very me, with very little held back.
But more importantly, I hope they will use this book to truly begin to relate to their own personal “Grace of Yes.” I hope that friends like you, Sarah, will be encouraged to pause in prayer, to consider the unique and special ways in which God wants to love YOU, and that this will embolden them to give their own special “Yes” to a world so greatly in need of love, kindness, compassion, and generosity.
The Grace of Yes is, at its heart, about generous living. What about generous living resonates so deeply with you? How do you see that as an essential part of who we are as Christians and Catholics?
Honestly, these days I have my eyes constantly open for examples of generous living. My notebooks are overflowing with “yes stories” just waiting to be shared. When you begin to want to live this way, you tune yourself in to the countless times each day when love is offered and received generously. Too often, I believe we equate the word “generosity” to financial support of a cause or a person.
This is important, and I don’t in any way intend to discount the need for each of us to be generous stewards of our financial gifts. But I believe that as Christians we are called to go deeper. Every Christian is called in a unique way to see Christ in the people he or she serves, and to be the love of God to that person. Our creed compels us to give the best parts of ourselves to loving our God and loving our neighbor. When we see this for the gift it truly is, we can’t stop yearning to live out the “grace of yes” in our lives, right where God places us.
Any closing thoughts on the book, your experience with it, or what you hope for your readers?
I’d simply close by thanking readers for taking chance on this funny book with a fish (and perhaps also a martini glass!) on the cover. Fiat (my goldfish buddy) and I greatly appreciate your support! I hope that you will read this book, that it will challenge you to ponder your own “Yes” to God and to our world, and that you will experience the same joy and grace I’ve known in living this life to its fullest. For readers who would like to share their own “Yes” stories, I would love to hear from you. For groups who would like to pray and ponder this book together, I am happy to meet with you by Skype for prayer and conversation.
For each of you, I ask you to consider how beautifully God fashioned you to love the world around you—including loving yourself! I pray that The Grace of Yes will simply be a blessing for you. I thank you Sarah for being a “Yes Mentor” for me and for the chance to have this wonderful conversation about a project that is very close to my heart.
May God continually bless your “Yes!”