Grace of Yes Book Club: An Interview with Author Lisa Hendey
Welcome to the first-annual Read Between the WINEs Summer Book Club! We’re reading The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living by Lisa Hendey. We are so happy you are reading with us this summer! We pray this book will touch your heart, as you discover your unique “yes” to God! We look forward to hearing from you in the comments section throughout our time together.
It is my pleasure to introduce you to the author of our book club selection, Lisa Hendey. Lisa is a bestselling author and the founder of CatholicMom.com. She writes for several other online and print publications. Lisa also is the host of Catholic Moments on Radio Maria. I have had the pleasure of working with Lisa at CatholicMom.com, and I have always been impressed with Lisa’s genuine approach to her faith. She also is welcoming and encouraging of others. You will see this as you read The Grace of Yes. As she shares her personal faith journey with us, she will gently guide us into the conversation. Lisa joins us virtually for this interview from sunny California, where she resides with her family. —Sarah, WINE Book Club Specialist
Q: Welcome, Lisa! Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our book club participants.
A: Sarah, thank you and all of the women of WINE for this amazing invitation. I’m Lisa – a wife and mom! My husband Greg and I were married at our alma mater, University of Notre Dame, a year after our graduation. We will celebrate our 29th year of marriage this year. Our wonderful sons Eric and Adam are now young adults, and we find ourselves “empty nesters,” learning to understand and enjoy this new phase of our Domestic Church. I love reading, writing, listening to my sons play music, and being at church!
Q: How did you first begin your work with CatholicMom.com as well as your career as an author?
A: CatholicMom.com began as a whim in 2000, when Eric was a second grader preparing for First Communion. Around the same time, I volunteered as web-master at our boys’ Catholic school, despite my lack of expertise in anything technology related. Helping Eric to prepare for his sacraments made me realize the vast responsibility of being his primary faith formation teacher. Although I am a “cradle Catholic,” there was so much about the faith to learn and share. I didn’t start the site thinking that I had the answers to being a great “Catholic mom.” I started it to begin finding answers and sharing what I learned. Although that was well before today’s social media era, we still—even in those early days—found ways to involve others in our conversation. And today, having the voices of so many amazing women (and men too!) is at the heart and soul of what we do at CatholicMom.com.
As for writing books, this came as a complete and unexpected gift. I was actively sharing the work of other Catholic authors through the website and my Catholic Moments podcast. My work came to the attention of Tom Grady, who invited me to consider doing a writing project with Ave Maria Press. Since Ave is part of the same Holy Cross family at Notre Dame, the partnership felt like “home” for me. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to write books and connect with new readers in that way.
Q: Please share with us how you first heard about WINE and your participation in it.
A: I’m tremendously blessed to call Kelly Wahlquist, founder of WINE, a dear friend. Kelly shared with me her early plans for WINE and kindly invited me to have a role on the board of directors. We prayed with many other amazing women in those early days, as plans and a foundation were laid for the apostolate. I’m firmly committed to the mission of WINE to be about the work of “empowering women to work within their God-given gifts as women to nurture, heal and build up the body of Christ.” I was in Tanzania at the time of the very first WINE conference, but I was with the 1,000 attendees in spirit and prayer. I’ve been thrilled to watch this dynamic new ministry grow and prosper so quickly!
Q: Let’s talk about the book that we’ll be reading this summer! How did you develop the idea for The Grace of Yes?
A: I should rightly credit my mom and dad, Anne and Pat, for instilling the spirit of The Grace of Yes in my siblings and me from an early age! Their constant reminders to “always err on the side of generosity” have been a precept that I honestly believe is at the heart of any successes I’ve had in my own life. With two books for mothers under my belt, when my publisher invited me to write a new project with them, I wanted to focus both on a broader audience and on this theme of giving God our best “yes” in all we do.
I’m so blessed that Ave was willing to take a bit of a risk on this book, since it was somewhat of a departure for me. The book was written as my Adam was leaving us to go to college. I found myself in a new situation—a new phase of mothering and also a period of reassessing what my own “yes” was going to be now that my life was changing somewhat. It felt natural and very comforting to spend an extended amount of time pondering what my own “yes” would be in the years ahead.
Q: And how did you decide on these specific virtues to delve into?
A: This was a big part of the discernment process. We wanted to dwell in equal parts on the idea of giving God our own fiat and on the fact that as Christians, we are also called to be of service to the world around us. The ideas for each of the eight virtues came from prayer and from conversations with my amazing editor Eileen Ponder, who always manages to get me to go above and beyond what I think I can do in my writing. I think we chose eight virtues that are at the heart of “yes” for any person, despite age, vocation or station in life.
Q: As you were writing The Grace of Yes, what virtue did you feel closest to? And what virtue challenged you the most?
A: The opening chapter of the book deals with “belief” and is at the heart of the rest of the book. As a woman, a family member, and even in my work, a heartfelt “yes” to my faith is the fuel that enables me to give my best to my loved ones and to God. In that chapter of the book, I share some of what has inspired my own faith journey and also how that poured its way into my work. I believe that our family’s story, as shared through the prism of Greg’s conversion process, is one that many other families can relate to in their own lives. If we don’t get that particular “yes to belief” right—if we don’t make loving God our greatest priority—all of the other virtues will be impacted. Although saying “yes” to believing has been a lifelong joy for me, it was a true pleasure to ponder how my own faith has grown and blossomed. I also considered the many challenges that still lie ahead of me, if I’m truly going to call myself a follower of Christ.
Without a doubt, the chapter dealing with “humility and forgiveness” was the most challenging for me to write. Some of my most frequent sins relate to the virtue of humility … I’m a slow learner apparently! But this chapter was also written on the heels of my journey to Rwanda with Catholic Relief Services. Some of that amazing experience is shared in the chapter. Considering the deep connection between forgiveness, humility and understanding how God forgives me for my many transgressions flipped a virtual “light switch” on in my head. While the words were hard (very hard!) to write and I was pushed out of my comfort zone by some of what I shared so publicly, that chapter has been one that has struck a chord with many readers. The work we did on “the grace of no,” also not one of my strong suits, seems to truly connect with readers, too.
Q: As our WINE friends get ready to read The Grace of Yes, what do you hope they will take away from it?
A: I honestly hope that our WINE friends will find in this book a deep and enjoyable journey toward understanding their own “yes” to God in their lives. For me, seeing the world through this “grace of yes” perspective has been both greatly enjoyable and deeply challenging. Believing in the “grace of yes”—the idea that the choices we make have a lasting impact on the world around us—holds us to a higher level of faith and commitment. We can’t simply call ourselves faithful and stop at attending Mass on Sundays. Our “yes” to living as Christ did demands that we begin to see the world around us through a fresh, and frankly sometimes frightening, prism. When we stop to see the face of Christ in those we are called to serve, especially in our own homes, and we give an intentional “yes,” our lives and our world will be revolutionized.
I also hope that for the women of WINE, this book club experience will provide the chance to find new “soul sisters,” who will be of support to you as you live out your call to the New Evangelization! What an amazing chance it will be for those who gather together to share their thoughts and to lay roots for the beautiful “vintage” that is being born in these groups!
Q: What’s next for you personally and professionally?
A: Personally, I’m preparing for a family trip to Paris and a pilgrimage to Poland to walk in the footsteps of Saint John Paul II. As many of my friends know, I’m always very happy to be on the go, discovering God’s bounty in new places. Professionally, I’m pretty thrilled about the July launch of my brand new Chime Travelers project. This fiction series for elementary and middle school readers based upon the lives of the saints has been an amazing adventure for me! I hope the kids who read The Secret of the Shamrock and The Sign of the Carved Cross will discover a new friendship with the saints that will last a lifetime!
Q: Are there any additional thoughts you would like to share with our WINE friends?
A: I simply want to thank WINE and all of the women who will break open The Grace of Yes for the great privilege of taking this journey with you! I hope to be a big part of the online conversations that will take place in the comboxes and on social media. I thank you for the beautiful “yes” you give every day!
Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 1: The Grace of Belief. For the complete reading schedule and information about our online book club, visit the Read Between the WINEs Summer Book Club page.
WINE thanks Ave Maria Press for supporting our Read Between the WINEs Summer Book Club. Specifically, thank you to Heather Glenn and her team for their marketing expertise.
Order your copy of The Grace of Yes, at St. George’s Books & Gifts. Free shipping on orders of $30 or more, and WINE will receive 10% of your order to support our evangelization efforts.
Written by Sarah Damm
Sarah Damm is a Catholic wife and mom to six children. She spends her days like many moms—running errands, helping with homework, and cooking meals. She publishes her own blog, sarahdamm.com, and she is a columnist for CatholicMom.com and WINE: Women In the New Evangelization. Sarah is a contributing author to two books: As Morning Breaks: Daily Gospel Reflections and The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion.