I have known Lisa Hendey for many years. Her site, CatholicMom.com, hosts over 150 contributors and has won accolades and awards from grateful Catholics around the world. The site is all about the reader, a rarity on the internet today. A vibrant community thrives there as a result. I am honored to be one of CatholicMom.com's contributors.
I am pleased today to review her latest book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living, published by Ave Maria Press.
Quick read; buried treasure
Lisa Hendey is the neighbor next door, the friend you confide in over a lingering cup of coffee. The Grace of Yes reads in this friendly voice but don't be deceived--although this book is a quick read, there is much treasure to be found between the lines.
The Grace of Yes is a departure from Hendey's other books, employing a memoir style. It is a story her legion of fans have longed to hear. She is authentic and honest in sharing her struggle to live a deeper life of faith, stemming from the goal to live generously for others, and for herself.
It is a life of the bolder "Yes, I will!" as opposed to the safer "No, I won't." It's a life lived in full partnership with her Creator; it's a life that any of us can live if we desire it.
She lives this grace of yes through eight different virtues:
- discerning the right time to say "no," and
Digging out the deeper meaning
The Grace of Yes is a book that calls you back for a second, more thorough reading. Having a sense that God was trying to tell me something, I journaled through the book on my second go-around. The result was 16 pages of notes constituting an extensive examination of conscience. Hardly the outcome I would have expected from such a seemingly simple book! It was a rich, exhilarating and thought-provoking experience.
Those dreaded words!
In exploring the eight virtues, Hendey is advocating several things which Catholics especially have seen as rather onerous:
And a new way of looking at them
I no longer view these words as oppressive negatives, forbidding a life of excitement, adventure and yes, even fun. I now look upon these words as the necessary tools to achieve all of that and more: a fulfilling, meaningful existence where I can make a difference in the lives of others around me.
Through Hendey's stories of her own life and others who have inspired her, I have developed new definitions for these words:
- Fidelity simply means being faithful, giving our best effort to everything we do.
- Obedience is another word for "yes," agreeing to go along with whatever God has in mind for us while trusting that he always has our best interests in mind.
- Discipline is a tool, a means of creating healthy new habits which lead us closer to our real selves and to God.
- Confession is the unloading of our failures, dumped into the lap of God who will wipe them away while granting us his kiss of peace and forgiveness.
Yeses that stretch
Hendey explores the various "yeses" in her life that have propelled her in a most unexpected direction. From claiming her Catholic faith as her own, to marrying, having children and sacrificing a career she loved, to finding a new path in her life that led her to become a noted blogger, best-selling author and journalist traveling to Rwanda for Catholic Relief Services, Hendey is at times painfully honest about her motivations, ambitions and failures. She also acknowledges her triumphs in a spirit of gratitude, attributing them to the lifelong working partnership she has with God. With every experience she is stretched, sometimes to the breaking point, as she experiences the rich growth that comes when you give yourself away unabashedly.
The little things that get in the way
The sense I got from reading this book was that the details of life really do matter. Hendey seeks to live a life of fidelity, keenly aware of how those little details can either help her to lead more generous life or grind that life to a halt.
There are those little sins, the ones committed without a thought, the ones that fall through the cracks, straight out of our memory, brushing by the conscience on the way out. We don't like to talk about sin today; it's another one of those "onerous" words; strictly out of vogue. Yet an authentic life where yes means "Yes!" and no means "No!" hinges on those details. Hendey's stories of self-discovery gave me the means by which I could examine my own life with honesty and humility.
An honest examination
In journaling The Grace of Yes, I came up with an extensive list of questions that I intend to compile into an examination of conscience. It is a honest examination but one that promises growth and renewed life rather than an oppressive burden of guilt. I have maintained privately for a long time that a new examination of conscience is badly needed, one that invites repentance (which simply means turning back to our loving God). One that helps us catch those sins that fall through the cracks. One that will motivate me to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often. One that inspires hope.
A new spiritual discipline
I have since added a new spiritual discipline of examining myself twice daily; already I am becoming aware of those pesky little sins. I am beginning to catch them and confess them; I expect one day soon I will even stop committing them. And that will be a day of celebration!
The Grace of Yes is a simple book with simple truths. Do yourself a favor: read it once for fun and then sit down and read it again prayerfully with pen in hand.
It's time to dig for buried treasure.
Be sure to check out our Book Notes archive.
Copyright 2014, Susan Bailey
About the Author
Susan Bailey is the author of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (Ave Maria Press), and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message (ACTA Publications), part of their Literary Portals to Prayer series. Along with her blogs Be as One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion, Susan writes for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press.