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.
By Sarah Christmyer
Careers have growth cycles just like families do, and I found myself completing a phase in mine at the same time as our youngest left for college. The empty nest was matched by an emptiness of mind and purpose that I found very hard to take. Instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment and completion, I felt drained. The temptation to feel useless was overwhelming.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been on one sort of mission or another. I don’t know how to be without a focus, a reason for being. I considered throwing myself into church or volunteer work, but what? I needed to create and had nothing to do. I became fixated on the “empty nest” that my soul had become, and cried out to God.
Little did I know, God has a special use for empty nests. Worn and softened by love, shaped by past experience and compromise, they tell a story. They are evidence in a hard world of the possibility and triumph of love. They proclaim hope based on a life lived in service to others. They provide a refuge for lost and hurting souls. They are “generative” precisely because they can give from the rich well of experience. Because they have “been there,” they can “be there” for others.
Thank God for the grace of generativity—and thanks to Lisa Hendey for putting into words what it is!
Generativity is “a concern for people besides self and family that usually develops during middle age,” Lisa writes; “especially: a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation.”
Lisa beautifully explains the maturing of love from self-interest to selfless, generous love. Over time, through our families and other relationships, we learn the art of compromise. We learn to see with those around us, not just look at them. We learn to cultivate love not just to receive it, but for the purpose of giving to others.
“At its most genuine, generativity plants a pay-it-forward seed,” Lisa writes.
It involves taking that which you’ve received; making something of it; and passing it on to another.
No special training is required; simply that receptivity that is such an important part of being a woman. We allow what is planted in us, to shape us … and we give out of that. It may come most naturally as a grace later in life, but there’s no reason for younger women not to strive for it too. We all can “pay forward” what we get. Lisa closes her chapter with a poignant regret of not learning earlier to practice generativity. The joy she’s found in selfless giving serves as a challenge and inspiration to all of us, at any age, to set aside self-interest and give generously of ourselves and all we have received.
To Ponder, Reflect and Discuss:
- Early in chapter 2, Lisa describes the importance of “bending so we don’t break” and what she’s learned from that. Similarly, a nest that’s built of straight sticks becomes, with work and use, a soft cradle for baby birds. Creativity passes into generativity over time. How have you experienced that process and transformation in your own life?
- “There is a fine line we traverse when we endeavor to give the very best of ourselves … without losing ourselves in the process,” Lisa writes on page 28. Have you struggled with this? How might the concept of generativity help you through it?
- Generativity is not just for spouses and parents. Are you single? Consecrated celibate? Married but childless? Widowed? How have you seen generativity blossom in your life—or how does knowing of this grace encourage you?
Below, please comment on your thoughts from Chapter 2, your inspirations and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
About the Author:
Sarah Christmyer is a Catholic author, Bible teacher and speaker with a special love for lectio divina and journaling as ways to draw close to Christ in Scripture. She is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program, and author or co-author of many of the studies. Sarah is an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where she teaches Scripture to men in their Spiritual Year. Sarah blogs at Come Into the Word.
Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 3: The Grace of Creativity. 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.