November 18, 2014

#GraceOfYesDay: Saying "Yes" to God

#GraceOfYesDay: Saying "Yes" to God

My wife and I met in a bar.

True, the bar was inside of a seafood restaurant, but it was still a bar.

Drusilla Seafood in Baton Rouge. She was a waitress and I was a bartender. And I fell in love with her the moment I saw her.

I can’t say the same for her. When you hear her tell the story, you might get the idea that I grew on her over time. We started out as friends and quickly became “best friends” who spent LOTS of time together. But we were not dating.

This was back in 1992-93.

If I were telling you the full story right now, you would hear all the intriguing details of Char’s year in Italy teaching English to Italian business people, and how I followed her over to Milan and spent a month there because I couldn’t stand not being near her. You would hear about our subsequent “break-up” [But we were just friends, right?] when she returned from Italy, and how some intense soul-searching after that “break-up” led me back into the seminary. You would hear about the unfortunate events that brought us back together in 1996, and how – through each other – God caused faith to bloom and to take root in each of us in ways that were totally unexpected. And you would hear how that work of God in our lives led us to stand face-to-face at the altar and to say “no” and “yes” before God and the Church.

The No and Yes of Marriage

Jeff and Char Young Wedding 1998 at St. Patrick Catholic Church, New Orleans.
Our Wedding.

My wife and I just celebrated 16 years of marriage last Friday (November 14).

I remember hearing something a speaker said at a church event sometime during our engagement. He said that saying yes to the woman that I marry necessarily means saying no to all the other women in the world. The heart of this idea is one of freedom and boundaries. It is only in making a commitment to one thing – one person – and limiting my options (saying no) that I can truly have the freedom to grow. This is certainly true in marriage.

The yes I uttered 16 years ago has allowed God to take me down a road I never could have envisioned, and, as a result, I have grown in ways that I never thought possible.

I guess I should probably point out the obvious: that yes 16 years ago was only the first yes. I utter that same yes every morning – and sometimes every hour – as I live out this adventure called Marriage with my lovely bride Charlene. And every yes still carries with it a plethora of no’s. The primary no is to my own selfishness.

Scan 2012 14 11 - 17h 14m
Post-Wedding Horse-Drawn Carriage... in the rain!

I have often referred to entering the Sacrament of Marriage as being matriculated into the school of love. Love naturally gravitates toward the other, so growing in love often means struggling to get free of the chains of selfishness. It’s not always easy. But it is always good. As I look back over the last 16 years, I stand amazed at what God has done in my life – in my heart – through this woman named Charlene. All because of the grace of Yes.


Today we are celebrating the grace of saying Yes to God, and we get to see story after story of how that yes plays out in a myriad of ways great and small in individual lives. I’m loving Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living. There have been so many gems for me throughout the book, but the chapters called “The Grace of Generativity” and “The Grace of No” have spoken to me in particular.

I want to thank Lisa for this new book. I think it’s message is so much needed today. It’s one of those keystone works… something you can really build on.

And I want to invite you to join in the celebration! Do you have a story of God blessing you through your yes, no matter how small your yes might have been? Join in the celebration! Simply share your “yes” stories on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #graceofyesday. Special resources, including printable “I said yes to…” signs, are available at You are to personalize your signs with your “yes” and post a photo on social media.

Find out more about The Grace of Yes and Lisa Hendey at and at Ave Maria Press.


Scan 2012 14 11 - 17h 33m
The "Picking Grape Leaves" Dance.