Trading Hustle for Happy
About the Guest
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Ashley HalesAshley Hales (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is a writer, speaker, and host of the Finding Holy podcast. She is the author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs and her writing has been featured in Christianity Today, Books and Culture, and The Gospel Coalition. Ashley is married to a pastor and the mother to four children.
The good life is not found in unfettered options or accomplished by our hustle and hurry. Podcaster Ashley Hales shows how the life we crave is found within the confines of God’s loving limits.
Trading Hustle for Happy
Ann: I think every marriage has a gap.
Ann: Yes, the gap between what we expect and what we get.
Dave: Right; right.
Ann: I thought you would be having your Bible out all the time, and we’d be talking about God’s Word.
Dave: —which I did.
Ann: For a while. [Laughter] Then, in replacement of that, it was this remote control and ESPN.
Dave: Okay; I thought we’d have kids that would be obedient and sleep through the night.
Ann: Oh, man! That didn’t happen. I was like, “What happened? They are defiant.” They are not what we expected!
Dave: Yes; and honestly, we could do this for—
Ann: —all day.
Dave: —the whole program,—
Ann: —every couple.
Dave: —because there are so many expectations—
Ann: You could do that with work.
Dave: —that don’t match up with reality.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: So the question is: “What do you do—
Ann: —“with the gap?”
Dave: —“with the gap when life doesn’t match your expectations?”
We don’t know what to do. [Laughter] So we asked Ashley Hales to come back in and tell us; because she’s lived this life and wrote a book about it. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Ashley: Thank you; it’s so fun to be here.
Dave: Yes, you are over there, laughing every time we start something.
Ashley: I know. It’s just your stories just hit very close to home; I get it. [Laughter]
Ann: Well, probably because you are a pastor’s wife. You have your doctorate, and you have four kids.
Dave: —which means you’re so much smarter than we are.
Ann: I know! It’s like she’s going to solve our problems. [Laughter]
Dave: And in English of all things. Let me ask you this, though, before we get into it—because I know you are a mom; you’ve got four kids; your husband is a church planter—we did the church-planting thing, so we know a little bit of your life.
In the book, A Spacious Life: Trading Hustle and Hurry for the Goodness of Limits—but here is what I know about you a little bit; I did a little research—I’m supposed to ask you this: “How do you do your laundry?
Ashley: Ha! I love it!
Dave: “What’s your laundry routine?”
Ashley: Yes; so I always ask my guests on the Finding Holy podcast what their laundry routine is.
Dave: Yes, I saw that; and I am like, “What is that about?”
Ashley: Why do I ask that question?—or what is my laundry routine?
Dave: No, why do you ask it?
Ashley: I love asking people about their laundry routines because I’m convinced we meet God in our everydayness, too—not just the retreats, or the vacation, or the business trip—but that we actually meet Him in our chores.
Dave: Now, as you heard us talk about the gap, what’s your gap? What do you remember? What do you even experience now in the gap between what you thought and what reality is?
Ashley: Yes; you know, I would say there was definitely the gap of expectation after graduate school. We thought we would change the world, that we would be kind of headed towards this really significant gospel ministry. Yet, we found ourselves, at various times—jobless, or interning, or moving to a place we didn’t expect—so all of those kind of moves and different chapters of our lives just felt like gaps, like, “When is life really going to start?”
Ann: And we are disappointed in the gap.
Ashley: Exactly; we are. I think it is okay to be disappointed if we are going to bring that disappointment to Jesus; right?—if we are going to press in and say: “You are still better,” and “You are still life,” and “I’m still going to practice these kind of household tasks of faith,”—or if we are just going to say, “Eh, You haven’t given me what I want, God”; I’m really treating [Him] like a genie.
Some of those gaps, I think, really evidence, in those desert spaces, “Are we going to press in? Are we actually going to choose to find Jesus as our oasis, or are we just going to throw up our hands and expect Him to serve us?”
Dave: “What do we do in the wait?” I know you wrote about the waiting period—like the waiting room, I guess—it’s like we are good for a while: “Okay, my reality is not matching up with my expectation; and here we are.” Life sort of feels like that; it’s never/it’s rarely immediate. “How do we deal with the wait?”—because it is a long wait sometimes.
Ashley: It’s a good question to continually ask ourselves: “Are we serving and loving Jesus for what He will do for us?”, or “…what He might give us?” or “…what we might feel?” or “Are we serving and loving Jesus for Him alone?”
When I talk about the spiritual life is not an Instant Pot®, I think—I don’t have one because I would probably think it was awesome and then not use it—it would just sit. [Laughter]
Ann: That’s what I’ve done; that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Ashley: But the idea about the Instant Pot is you can put everything in; and then, all of a sudden, something that should take five hours takes forty-five minutes. I think we think our spiritual life is a little bit/should be like an Instant Pot, like all of a sudden,—
Ashley: —I should put it in; and it should all come out like Rosey on The Jetsons. Instead, it’s slow; and it’s circular; and it meanders. We’re like, “God, why are You taking so long? I don’t understand,” or “Why am I still struggling with this sin?” or “How come You feel so far away?” We can’t conjure up change.
Ann: Do you think, culturally speaking, that’s happening more?—
Ashley: I think so.
Ann: —because we do have instant gratification.
Dave: I’ve stood in front my microwave, going, “Hurry up!”—a microwave!—I mean, we used to cook.
Ann: That’s what I mean—we used to wait for things—and now, we don’t wait for things. I think of our kids, who so often now want to be influencers; because we have instant fame. We can do that through our posts on YouTube that suddenly went viral.
Ashley: Right; we don’t realize to the extent that all of these things—of course, they make life convenient and easy—but how much they form us, spiritually, as well; because then we get used to that speed of asking Siri® a question when we don’t know—[Laughter]
Ashley: —or using our microwaves—those form us too.
So when we have to wait on God, we ultimately are out of control. That makes us feel nervous, and scared, and worried. So a lot of us choose to punt on Jesus and His church instead of travelling through that hard space with God.
Ann: So Ashley, how do you do it as a mom of four? How are you raising kids?
Dave: And you just moved again.
Ashley: Yes, we did.
Ann: So how are you teaching this to your kids? And how do you not give up on Jesus when it’s been so long or, maybe, you’ve prayed the same prayer for so long?
Ashley: I think I’m just learning, continually, that the point of life is not some yellow brick road to some beautiful place and experience; but the point of life is Jesus Himself. So in those days—if we are not where we want to be financially; or we are dealing with parenting struggles; or the job situation isn’t what we expected it to be; whatever it is—given we’ve all had those desert years, where we have learned to press into Jesus, that that is the point: so really, He gets to tell me what my life is about; and I don’t get to be the one to fashion it and curate it.
That looks like—for parenting—a lot of that looks like we are trying to practice Sabbath as a family discipline, even though it is a work day for my husband when he is preaching. We do stuff like we watch a family show together; we go on a hike; or we choose to eat dessert first, because I love how the Hebrew children were woken up with honey on their tongues so they would know that the Lord’s Day is sweet. We want our kids—especially as pastor’s kids—to not resent the church; and that this was actually something beautiful. It was a moment where time kind of stopped, and we could savor the good gifts that God has given to us. We practice waiting instead of like returning the email, and keep working harder and harder on a Sunday. Those are some things we hope will shape our family life.
For me, personally, a lot of it looks just like rhythms of prayer throughout the day; because I still don’t have loads of time to spend—but to say, “Okay, I’m going to pause a few times a day and pray,” or “…read the Psalms,”—to reorient my vision on what is actually the point—instead of: “Okay, if I can actually check everything off my to-do list, then I’ve had a successful day.”
Dave: How have you found, because you were saying earlier—I’m going to say it different than you said it, but I think this is what you were saying—
Dave: —like: “Jesus is enough.” We agree; and I think a lot of the listeners would say, “Oh, yes; that is theological true. He is all we need.”
But I’ve often felt, and even heard from other men: “Jesus is enough, but I don’t know Him well enough for Him to be enough.” It’s like: “Why do I keep going to these other things—success/whatever—even my marriage if Jesus is enough? I don’t really know Him intimately in such a way that He is all I need.”
Talk about that; because as I’m listening to you, I’m like, “Man, you’ve sensed a depth of relationship with Christ that satisfies and fulfills you. How does that happen?”
Ashley: You know, I don’t think it happens with just us by ourselves either. I think it really happens in our local churches with people. We are the hands and feet of the church of Christ, and I love the idea that God calls His people salt. I was watching this Netflix® documentary by Samin Nosrat, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat—she goes, and she travels around; she eats amazing tacos and soy sauce—she has a whole episode on salt. She talks about how salt makes food taste how it should taste.
I love that, because that’s one of Jesus’s words He used to talk about the church—like we can help make the world taste like it should taste—I think that is just such a beautiful mission. You need lots of salt to make a difference—like one little salt crystal by itself isn’t going to do anything—and you can’t have too much salt; you’re just going to overpower your dish. I just think that is such a beautiful image for us to remember, like we do need each other.
As much as we can experience, individually, the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit working in our lives—it’s like, as we gather for worship, as we’re encouraging one another, as we are eating around tables together—that actually, we begin to hear, “Oh, what is God doing in your life?” “That is amazing.” You know, and you are reaching out to this person: “Can you bring me with you?—because that feels scary to me.” We actually are the hands and feet of Christ, not only to a watching world, but also to each other.
Dave: I mean, that is an interesting answer.
Dave: Because I/you sort of expect that question is going to be answered with: “Well, you get alone; solitude with God,”—
Dave: —which, obviously,—
Ann: —we should.
Dave: —is a discipline and a practice. But there are some of us, who are wired like the way you answered that: “Oh, that’s how I often hear God/see God is in community.”
COVID has really hurt that—
Ashley: It has.
Dave: —because we’ve been pulled away from it. We’re watching church, even on a screen;—
Dave: —we’re not sitting in a room with people.
Dave: You can feel God made us for community, but what we often don’t understand is we experience God in community. Now, I’m not saying solitude is a bad thing—it’s a beautiful thing; it’s awesome; [for] some people, that is really powerful—but others are wired this way; it’s like, “Wow; I can experience Jesus is enough in the people of God, who are discovering that as well.”
Ann: Well, just two nights ago, I was with probably 120 women, where God’s Word was spoken. We worshipped together; we prayed together. And then we prayed over each other. We told our stories—just a few women told their stories—women were crying so hard, because there is something about: “Oh, I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who feels like this. I’m not the only one struggling. There is hope in Jesus and the gospel, and He is enough; but I also need my sisters who are locking arms with me.”
I love that that is necessary, because I can’t do it alone. When I’m in my own thoughts, I can go to places where I’m just feeling so sorry for myself; or I’m belittling myself, and I’m in shame; but there is something—when you’re with Jesus and a friend, where they both lift up your head if you center on Christ.
I thought it was interesting, too; because as I was thinking about this—you talked about how we go into this cycle of production and escape—I was reading this, and I was so convicted. [Laughter] I thought, “This is exactly what we do.” We’re overscheduled and over-worked, and then we collapse in exhaustion.
Dave: —and we want chocolate.
Ann: —and a Netflix movie.
Ashley: Yes; for sure.
Ann: I feel like that’s what most of us do. We have this crazy schedule, and then we’re just going to fall apart.
Ann: Are you saying that’s not healthy? [Laughter]
Ashley: I’m not saying you have to give up Netflix. [Laughter] But I am saying: “Where do we actually go [for] comfort?” and “Where do we go to rest?”
I think what is so beautiful about the Hebrew Scriptures is that the day actually starts in the night; right? We start numbering the hours in the middle of the night. What that means then is we don’t start into like the production of the day and then rest, which is what we tend to do—or not even rest probably—we’re just falling into exhaustion.
But if, actually, rest is the first word—
Ann: And that’s like the Sabbath;—
Ann: —it starts in the evening.
Ashley: Yes; if rest—when we’re vulnerable, and it’s dark, and we can’t control things—is how the world starts and how grace starts, how revolutionary would that be for us to feel like, “I’m going to rest first, because I know God is in control,” and “I don’t hold the world up; I don’t need to keep it spinning”? Then my work can be a response to that rest that Jesus has given to me.
Dave: In a sense, when I hear that, I think our most natural response is: “I don’t have time to rest.”
Ann: And young moms are like, “Who has time for that?”
Ashley: Right; right.
Dave: Part of that—at least, from a non-mom guy, me—[Laughter]—not thinking about the kids even part—I’m thinking, “I don’t have time to rest, because I need to work to provide.”
Ashley: Right; right.
Dave: What I’m really saying is: “I can’t trust God enough to take a day,—
Dave: —“or take an hour, or an evening and say: ‘I don’t have to make a phone call.’ ‘I don’t have to work,’ ‘I don’t have to make money right now. I’m going to trust God and obey.’”
We know this—one of the Ten Commandments!—that’s how big it was to God: rest. I think He’s saying what you did: “Productive work comes out of rest,”—not rest should be after work—it is: “Rest sets you up to work in a productive way, and He’ll take care of the rest”; right?
Ashley: I think that is exactly right, that we can easily confuse the order. When we confuse the order, we set ourselves up to be little gods instead of under God’s authority.
Dave: I’ll just add this for one last thought—and this is the pastor in me coming out, probably; and your husband would say the same thing—is we do the same thing with money.
Dave: It’s like: “I can’t give to God until I know all the bills are paid; and whatever is left over, maybe, I’ll give Him a little bit,”—rather than—“You know what? I’m going to give a tithe,”—what?!—“ten percent at the beginning and trust that God will make it work. He does; because we’ve done that; but it’s hard because it comes back to: “Is Jesus enough?”—
Dave: —what we talked about earlier.
Well, you know, it’s interesting. All through your book, every chapter is an invitation, too; because limits in your life can be restricting or an invitation.
Ashley: Yes, yes.
Dave: One of them we haven’t talked about—that I think we have time to talk about—an invitation to delight. What is that all about?
Ashley: What is so great, as we consider a spacious life, is that it’s really helping us remember, in our bodies and our bones: “What does it look like to be a child of God?” As self-made individuals, it can be really hard to return to that kind of sense of childlike faith.
What is so beautiful about delight and play is that is something that children do. If we are children of God, that means we have the invitation to practice things like delight and play—instead of saying, basically: “Our real identity is like working machines”; you know? Thinking of ourselves like our iPhones®; that we plug in every night to recharge so we can keep working—but really, it’s [confident] children, who can risk, and play, and delight.
Dave: It is interesting. I don’t know exactly if I am getting the stat right—but the average child laughs—do you know?
Ashley: I don’t know!
Dave: It’s over 100 times a day.
Dave: The average adult laughs less than 15—
Ashley: Oh, wow!
Dave: —a day. It’s interesting; you often hear adults, saying, “Hey, grow up!”
Dave: Guess what happens when you grow up? You lose delight; you tend to become more serious. I mean, obviously, there are some benefits to that.
But I think there is something that would help almost every marriage. This woman/my wife brings it into our marriage—play. Just play is something that brings life back to a marriage when you say, “You know what? We’re just going to play,”—whatever that looks like. Just enjoy one another in a moment of laughter; it changes a marriage.
Ann: Totally. I think, when you bring joy into your home and laughter—and I am going to say, too—“There are certain times that I don’t feel like, ‘Hey, let’s play.’” [Laughter]
Ashley: Yes; right.
Ann: I can remember thinking, “Do you know how much I have to do?” because that’s/we all have so much to do.
I think it’s a choice. We have to be intentional of creating moments and memories, where we are just going to relax: we’re going to play; we’re going to laugh; we’re going to play games.
Dave: What’s that one time—I’m trying to remember if I am getting this right, where you said you were doing the dishes—and Cody or somebody/one of the boys wanted you to come out and see the sunset?
Ann: No, they wanted me to come out and play with them. Dave was out of town; and I’m doing the dishes, thinking, “I just want them to get in the house, get their baths, and get in bed so that I can rest and recharge to get all my work done,”—it’s the cell phone!
Ashley: Right; yes!
Ann: When he came—“Please, Mom! Please come out. We’re playing capture the flag,”—I remember saying, “Guys, you know, I’ve got so much to do.”
They left; and I remember thinking, “How many more times will they come and ask me to play with them?” I put the towel down—I did not want to; I just wanted you to know—sometimes, I have to choose it. I went out there. We laughed so hard—I fell down; my shoe came off—we won the game. They thought it was amazing; it was this great memory.
I thought, “Man, that is what our life is about. We have to choose to walk with Jesus at times. We have to choose to engage and create joy and laughter in our homes.” That creates this setting of this spacious life.
Ashley: Yes; yes, I love that.
Dave: I was going to say it is your metaphor of the spacious life—really, from Scripture/the Psalms—the spacious life. That son, coming in, was an invitation. Often, we don’t realize God is in that invitation—that was the son, running in the kitchen—you don’t realize He invited you.
Guess what? Every invitation is a “Yes,” or a “No.” If you say, “No,” sometimes, you miss the spacious life. Then there are sometimes you have to say, “No”; but often, if we say, “You know what? I don’t realize what I’m saying, ‘Yes,’ to right now; but this is the life God has called us to live.”
Ashley: Right; right. “So are you going to live in your given life?” or “Are you going to pine for what you haven’t had?” Are you going to say, “Oh, that good life is way off in the future”?
Dave: Yes; so I would just say, as we close: “Open your eyes today. Open your ears today. Look for the invitation.” I think I can say, “There is going to be one today—maybe, several—
Ann: Every day, God is calling us and inviting us.
Dave: —“from God to the spacious life.” You can say, “Yes.” I’m telling you: it is worth taking that; a “Yes,” has consequences that are good.
Bob: I had to think, listening to Dave and Ann Wilson and their conversation with Ashley Hales, about the Apostle Paul, who spent a lot of time in prison—you talk about the opposite of a spacious life—being in the Mamertine Prison in Rome was completely different; and yet, he said, in Philippians, Chapter 4, “I’ve learned the secret of being content.” He had found the spacious life, even in a prison cell.
Ashley’s book, A Spacious Life, is all about how we can find God’s goodness in the midst of whatever circumstance we’re in. It’s a book we’ve got copies of in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online to order, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the book is called A Spacious Life. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Order the book from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we talked about this already this week; but I wanted to make sure you are all aware. Next week, as you listen to FamilyLife Today, things will sound a little different at the end of the program. That is because my friend, Shelby Abbott, is going to be stepping in to take over the responsibilities of being here each day and wrapping up the program.
Shelby is here with us today, and I’m excited Shelby about this new role you are stepping into and the assignment that God has for you here.
Shelby: Yes, I’m excited too. I don’t have too much experience with radio; but I have been doing stage emceeing for over 20 years, and I am excited to see how God is going to translate that into this.
Bob: You have started a new podcast; tell our listeners about that.
Shelby: It is a podcast called Real Life Loading for 18- to 28-year-olds. It’s coming out very, very soon from FamilyLife.
Bob: You’re an author; tell our listeners about the books you have written.
Shelby: I’ve written a couple books for the campus ministry of Cru®—a dating book and a devotional on evangelism—but the latest two books that I have written: one was about doubt—the subject of doubt—seeing so many of these de-construction stories handled poorly amongst many, many Christians. I wanted to write about that. Then I also wrote about cohabitation versus marriage for FamilyLife.
Bob: Yes, and how long have you been married?
Shelby: I’ve been married for 15 years, and my wife is on staff with the campus ministry of Cru. She’s a graphic designer.
Shelby: Yes, we have two daughters: a ten-year-old about entering into sixth grade—God, help me—a second grader/an eight-year-old. They are delightful.
Bob: Well, I’m excited that our listeners are going to get an opportunity to get to know you in the weeks ahead and am glad to have you stepping into this assignment.
Shelby: Yes, me too. And we hope that our listeners have a great weekend. Hope that you are able to worship at your local church—
Bob: Wait; wait; wait; wait; wait. I really ought to—I mean, I don’t want to step on your toes—but I should do this one last time.
Shelby: Sure; it’s your last one. Go ahead; take it. [Laughter] Roll with it.
Bob: We do hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. David and Meg Robbins are going to be here to talk about the steps necessary to get ready for the big day—the day you say, “I do,”—what does it look like to really prepare for marriage? That comes up Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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