Welcome back to the book club! Grab a scone and a cup of coffee and have a seat while we talk about Lisa Hendey’s terrific new book, The Grace of Yes. In this week’s chapter, Lisa talks about the winding road that led her from her major in French at Notre Dame to being an author and speaker, which grew from her ministry at CatholicMom.com.
Lisa also shared her experiences of her entry into motherhood, how she had defined herself through her work and struggled to find out who she was when that job was gone and motherhood was squarely in its place. (Of course, I’m deeply grateful this all happened! If not for that, there would be no CatholicMom.com!)
But this grace is about giving ourselves generously to whatever work God has for us at this point in our lives. It’s about saying “Yes!” to God through our work, whether it’s changing diapers or writing blog posts and books or going out into the world to a “regular” job as a doctor or cashier or secretary or teacher. We should be grateful for the opportunity to do that work, pray that what we do gives God glory and accomplishes His will, and ask for help when we need it.
Let’s take a look at a few of the questions at the end of the chapter.
° When someone asks you about your work, how do you respond? Does your work or your career define who you are?
This is kind of tough for me. When I went to the doctor last week because I suspected I had shingles, at the end of the appointment the urgent care doctor asked, “What kind of work do you do?” It’s a question I rarely get any more.
“I’m a homemaker,” I answered. “And I homeschool my children.”
I do define myself by this, and never thought much about it until I pondered Lisa’s difficulty with figuring out who she was without her job. When my girls are grown and gone, who will I be? I’ll still be Nathan’s wife, but the question here for me is how much do I define who I am by how I relate to the people in my life?
° What do you love and how is your work — even remotely — related to that?
Well, I love my family, and they are my main work! Tah-dah!
Honestly, I have my dream “job.” When I was a little girl, I was encouraged to think about what I wanted to be when I grew up, and while I thought about lots of different careers I might want to have, the main thing was that I wanted to be a wife and mother. After a very brief stint of thinking I’d be a nun, I realized with great certainty that I was meant to be someone’s wife. I was meant to have a family.
Even when things are hard, like The Great Lice Battle of 2014, there is never a doubt that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do in life. My vocation is my work, and I love it that way.
° Does your prayer life shape the manner in which you do your work? In what ways?
Prayer really does make a difference in how my day goes. When I begin my day with Morning Prayer — and especially when the girls pray with me — everything seems to go more smoothly. Our homeschool day is better, our attitudes are better. When we start with prayer, our day begins centered on God, and even if we don’t stop to pray again until evening (before meals grace excluded), we have at least begun on the right foot and dedicated our day to the Lord.
I remember having a really rough day, and with exasperation I glared at my older daughter and said, “I just don’t know what is wrong with us today!!!”
“I do,” she said. “We didn’t pray Lauds.”
And she was right. It always makes a difference.
What is your standard for perfection in your work?
I really set the bar too high sometimes, and it shows when I get stressed out about my life. I worry all the time about not being good enough for what I do: homeschooling, being a homemaker, being a mother in general, being a good wife… I constantly worry about whether or not what I’m doing is helping to sanctify my family. I worry, too, if I do enough as a homeschooler to give my children a wide variety of experiences.
But if I take an honest look at what we do, especially in the area of homeschooling, I can see that the girls have gotten to experience some pretty amazing things. We’ve taken them to California when we were able to travel with Nathan on a business trip. We’ve gone to the Black Hills of South Dakota with their grandmother. We went to Boston and walked the Freedom Trail. They’ve been on vacations with my parents to Williamsburg; Washington, DC; the Smoky Mountains. We’ve taken road trips to family functions all over the eastern half of the United States. They’ve gotten to play sports and dance and sing in the church choir.
And we’ve been to visit my Nana in a nursing home, so they’ve learned that it’s important (even if it’s not comfortable or even convenient) to perform that Corporal Work of Mercy.
But in spite of it all, I too often beat myself up about how I rate as a mother. I take the admonition to Raise Saints so seriously that I get myself tied in knots over it. When this happens, I have to remember something that I very recently heard Dr. Ray say on the radio. He’d gotten a call from a woman whose grown children were not all practicing Catholics any more. She was distraught over it, and cried about how she had tried so hard to raise them as good Catholics. And Dr. Ray told her that of his ten children, not all of them were practicing Catholics any more, either. When I heard that, I just cried. I’m always sorry to hear when someone leaves the Church, but there’s a lot of comfort in knowing that even the Expert Catholics struggle with the same things I fear.
What I have to remember in all of this is that God asks me to do my best, and then I have to let Him handle the rest. I can’t control everything, and I have to let my best be enough.