Ashley Hales

Books + Stories
Start, Love, Repeat: A Book for Entrepreneurs!
February 6, 2018 at 6:00 am 0
    You met one of my writer friends, Beth Bruno, author of A Voice Becoming. Today, I can't wait to introduce you to Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, author of Start, Love, Repeat   Dorcas Cheng-Tozun's book, Start, Love, Repeat, is a practical, empathetic, smart look at the life of entrepreneurs and their families.      

How do we combine what we love to do and those whom we love without sacrificing either?

Start, Love, Repeat is specifically for couples in which one or both partners are entrepreneurs, but don't worry if you're not an entrepreneur -- the research and advice are applicable for any couple who struggles to balance the work they love with the people they love. And who has got this thing called "balance" figured out?
  Dorcas wrote Start, Love, Repeat because there weren't any books out there that dealt with what it looks like to nurture both a demanding career that can eclipse life outside of work as well as family life. Start, Love, Repeat is organized by the phases of start-up life and it's a smart book that combines research, personal stories, and helpful information for entrepreneurial couples. We tend to stereotype entrepreneurs as uniformly young and single, but the truth is that nearly 70 percent of business founders have spouses, life partners, or children—all of whom, whether they like it or not, are living the start-up life.1 Those who choose to be with entrepreneurs invite things into their lives they may never have wanted: financial instability, uncertainty, stress, and the nagging sense that they are always playing second fiddle to the greater lure of their partner’s business. You need a guide to making it and Dorcas Cheng-Tozun is just that.       

Let me tell you one little secret...

Start, Love, Repeat isn't just a book for entrepreneurs. It's a book for adults. For anyone who lives a real life and is trying to figure out what and how to prioritize personal lives with work lives. It's a fabulous resource for ministry families. I've felt the dearth of good books to help a pastor and their spouse weather the challenges of always being available for ministry. Starting a church is a whole lot like starting a business. We need good resources to help give us language to know what's going on, that we're not alone, and some tips to keep moving forward. This should definitely be on your to-read list for 2018.

Dorcas was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book, Start, Love, Repeat:

  Why is the start-up journey so difficult for couples and families? There is nothing quite like starting a business from nothing. It requires entrepreneurs to lay almost all of what they have and who they are on the line: financially, professionally, but also emotionally. They’re signing up for a heavy load of uncertainty, stress, and responsibility. Significant others, whether or not they are entrepreneurial themselves, are inevitably pulled into these risks. Being with an entrepreneur forces you to confront your own issues around security, money, quality of life, self-confidence, control, and more—all at the same time. Unsurprisingly, such couples almost always have challenges around conflict, communication, and decision-making, even while neither partner is operating at their best because they’re so stressed. In addition, spouses often feel like they’ve been demoted or replaced because running a company is such an all-consuming vocation. Imagine: the person you considered your life partner has entirely dedicated him- or herself to another entity. More than one therapist I interviewed said it was comparable to your spouse having an affair. That feeling of betrayal can lead to deep, longstanding wounds if not proactively addressed.   How did writing this book change your perspective on your own marriage? As a perpetual pessimist, it’s easy for me to get caught up in the hardships of my marriage. I find myself counting the sacrifices, the inconveniences, and the ways in which I have been hurt. But as I reflected on our last twelve years together, I saw how—even though there were plenty of ugly episodes along the way—our relationship has matured and been positively transformed because of all that we’ve been through. Ned and I were forced to confront personal weaknesses, mismatched expectations, and conflict early on in our relationship. Thankfully, we were both willing to make adjustments along the way, and we have been able to move closer toward a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. I also saw how profoundly Ned cared for me each step of the way, even when I felt isolated and neglected. I realized how he had done so many things, big and small, to try to make things easier for me or to respect my wishes. He has made plenty of sacrifices as well, like booking crazy flight itineraries so he could get home twelve hours earlier, or saying no to amazing business opportunities so he would have more time to spend with our kids and me. Being married to Ned has also pushed me to live with more boldness and courage, and to take more risks. I don’t think I would have been able to write this book without Ned encouraging me and cheering me on along the way.   What are some of the most important things that an entrepreneur can do for his or her significant other? Many entrepreneurs’ spouses live with an underlying worry that their partner loves the business more than him or her. Anything an entrepreneur can do to counter that belief, to communicate, “I love you and I appreciate you” is important. This could come in the form of choosing to leave work and turn off your phone at a decent hour so you can spend the evening with your family. Or perhaps you intentionally seek advice from your significant other on aspects of the business to show that you respect his or her opinion. It could be intentionally helping around the house or demonstrating your affection through words and actions. One therapist I interviewed used the word loyalty, which I love.  Loyalty, to me, means that you are committed to this relationship now, as opposed to some distant future when you think you’ll have more time. Loyalty means that you, my spouse, are essential in my life, and I am willing to take the necessary steps to make sure you know that.

Pick up a copy of Dorcas Cheng-Tozun's book, Start, Love, Repeat, today! 

At other places
Perhaps this is its own letting go
February 5, 2018 at 6:00 am 0
  There are times in your life where all the good that you've taught your children may come  home to roost. Where you realize you've been caught by the one or two good things you've imparted to your kids. These are the times when you see the tendency in your own self -- in this case, to be right -- as a joint failing. It's hard seeing sin passed down. And yet on the other side of needing to be right -- or whatever your particular issue is -- there is, we pray, a pathway made. A path for us to walk as we both mature and grow. You're making the routes for the future you and the future child to walk alongside together. And for that to happen you have to say I'm sorry. You have to learn to let go.   Here's a bit of that story that's up today at The Mudroom:   

We were walking in to church: my brood of children and I. I’d actually managed the impossible trifecta: hair done, makeup done, dressed appropriately (usually only one or two gets checked off the list daily). My three younger children were already hanging by their fingernails off of the plastic slide, but my eldest walked away in front of me, a bit sullen.

“You’re not owning up to it! You yelled at me,” he said, stomping off a few paces ahead of me.

He was, of course, referencing the time not five minutes previous where I’d deepened my voice to let him know his behavior was not on point. Reader, I hadn’t yelled, instead I’d deepened my voice — and he wasn’t praising me for the way I had my anger in check and my emotions under control.

  Read the rest here.
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Books + Stories
Win a Copy of Beth Bruno’s New Book: A Voice Becoming!
January 31, 2018 at 6:00 am 0
Friends! I'm so excited to introduce you to Beth Bruno, author of A Voice Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living. Her book is a beautiful introduction to how we help our daughters grow up to be passionate, purposeful women.   You'll get to hear more from Beth and enter to win her book!  

What does it mean to be a woman? How do we help our daughters past the tween and teen years where everyone else says obsess with boys or create drama with your girlfriends?

  If you're looking for some big ideas and practical wisdom (and a ton of practical how-to's) about raising women to love God and love others, this book is for you.  

Here's a bit about the book and why I can't wait for you to read it:

  A Voice Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living is a year-long exploration of what a womanly rite of passage might mean. It's not meant as a cheesy way to talk about the birds and bees, but rather an intentional message of hope, agency, beauty, truth, and extending the goodness of the gospel to all corners of the earth as we work out justice on behalf of women. Even if you're not a mom to a daughter, this is an important book to consider if you care about half of humanity. As a mom to four (one of whom is a daughter), I'm desperate to have some intentional, life-giving parenting resources to help my children through the tween and teen years. This book, along with Beth's husband's book (Man Maker Project: Boys are Born. Men are Made.), will be a terrific start.  

Can you imagine how beautiful a legacy we could give to the next generation if we could help our children answer: Where have you come from? And where are you going?


Beth was so generous to answer a few questions about A Voice Becoming:

  1. Why did you decide to write this book?   I did not set out to write a book like this. While my husband researched and designed the year that became the Man Maker Project: Boys are Born, Men are Made, I did my own research. Even less had been written about rites of passage for girls. And what I found felt insufficient given current culture and the realities youth face. My girls did not fit the archetype described in many existing books and I knew I would miss their heart if I employed those models. That, paired with the enormous expectations they had after my son’s “man year,” meant creation of our own journey was inevitable. 2. Tell us a little bit about you and your girls. What is your relationship like? We are some pretty independent women! Once we got over the initial toddler Sunday school tears, my girls marched confidently away from me toward every new adventure. The youngest started overnight camp at age 7 (which I still can’t believe we did!) I’d say we’re close, but not intertwined. As in, I never struggled with being a helicopter mom. We share the passion gene and get fired up about strong women doing cool things. They play along with my quirky interests, but the older they get, the fiercer their sarcasm and teasing gets. I give them a lot of fodder, but down deep, I sense they love it. 3. Can you share about a difficult time parenting your tween daughter? How to choose one? Lest you think all is easy and swell all the time in our household, believe me when I tell you I have been called “dictator of the universe.” My kids are still kids and I am still a very human and fallen parent. The biggest challenge for me is sustained empathy. There are a few themes on repeat in each child’s life and I tend to go through cycles of mercy and exasperation. In the Appendix, I write about Ella’s theme with friends and I have to tell you, this is one of those cycles for me. Deciphering between truth and perception, emotion and reason, makes it difficult to navigate problems with tweens. My challenge was to show up every time she needed me to. To be present in the pain and not checked out in fatigue. I did not always succeed. 4. How did your daughter feel about the year during the year? After? Ella ate up my intention toward her. Honestly, it made me realize how much she needed my attention. She understood it was a big deal to “become a woman” and knew to take serious each thing we did together. I even think she was proud to tell her English teacher the books she brought to class were “assigned” by me. Since completing the year, I’ve noticed a beautiful, albeit difficult, by product: She is more mature than peers. Recently, she articulated this by saying “I’m going to run for President and make it mandatory that all girls have a Becoming year.” 5. How does your work to prevent human trafficking intersect with raising strong girls?   I spend most of my time addressing two different types of girls: “at-risk” and overly active. With community service providers, I am working on intervention models with vulnerable kids, response protocols, and prevention tools for those most at risk of being exploited. In high schools, I speak to the whole student body, but it is often the overly involved, good students who want to take on leadership. These two groups have something in common however: girls who live small stories are often more vulnerable to traffickers. It doesn’t matter if she comes from a chaotic home or a church-going family, if a girl has a gaping hole in her heart and she fills it with whatever feels good at the time, she is easier to manipulate. My passion to cast a vision for a bigger story, to lift girls’ eyes out of the daily obsession with bodies, boys, and besties, to a life of purpose and passion is my antidote to exploitation and ultimately, human trafficking.  
  I'm sure you can't wait to read A Voice Becoming. Scurry on over to purchase it or enter to win a copy right here. (Or better yet, buy a copy for a friend and win one for yourself!)


All you need to do is enter your email address here.

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Finding Holy in the Suburbs Coming At You in 2018!
Finding Holy in the Suburbs Coming At You in 2018!
January 23, 2018 at 1:27 pm 0
Hi friends! You guys, it's 2018 and I'm finally back from dreaded flu! My book, Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much, comes out with IVP this fall, and I can't wait to share more about it with you! In the meantime, I wanted to start some conversations in my minivan where you can listen in to how I'm #findingholyinthesuburbs. You'll find those videos coming up on my Facebook page so make sure you "like" it to follow along. (I'm also super keen on Instagram stories!)

Here's a little minivan chronicle to get you started -- a little about me, my book, and how you can get involved!

Some links to know:

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Subscribe below for newsletters and chance to win free books:

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At other places
How Not to Lose Your Footing
January 10, 2018 at 6:00 am 0
Perhaps you're out of routine and haven't grabbed 2018 by the horns yet, like me? Maybe you got some version of the dreaded flu? Or maybe you just found yourself a bit dizzy at the end of 2017 and into 2018. If that's the case, I'd love for you to read my latest for the Mudroom -- all about how to not lose your footing on a tilt-a-whirl. But really it's about marriage and excess and stability.  
I admit to being a bit spoiled: my husband hardly travels much for work anymore. Now, as a church planter, we practice staying put, putting down roots, being placed. (How else, can we plant an outpost for God's kingdom if we're always moving on?) But over the holidays, I sent him off on a plane for a three-day ski trip. Back to the mountains of Utah: to ski the "greatest snow on earth." Out of practice of solo parenting or sleeping alone, I kept his pocketknife on my bedside table and my phone plugged in to the wall (to, of course, call the police when an inevitable imaginary intruder came through my front door. I'd call and then use the pocket knife if need be.) It was a silly garrison, little things piled up to keep away all the unstable fears that came falling out when my husband, that most stable of people, left for a few days.
And when that most stable of men -- the one I've vowed to love, honor, and cherish till death do us part -- left for a few days, I unravelled a bit. Not so much by making my bedroom a garrison, but I had I lost the ordinary boundaries on my consumption. I didn't cook. I ate junk. I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning obsessed with whatever was happening on Twitter. I began fruitless job searches on LinkedIn. I even re-did my LinkedIn profile. I took everything from the wrong angle -- glutting myself on sugar, information, possibilities -- rather than learning how to step back, practice self-control and patience, and make goals and plans to help me make decisions, from everything from what to eat and where to work. I became a black hole for whatever promised to satisfy at the moment -- the glass of wine, the rest of the English toffee, the scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, the job openings that I didn't even want.
  I'm back to some storytelling and The Mudroom. I'd love for you to read the rest.