At other places, Faith + Vulnerability
Deliver Us from Christmas Cookies, We Pray (for The Mudroom)
December 7, 2016 0




It’s the season of sweets. As much as I want to indulge, there’s often a tug-a-war on what to eat and what not to eat going on under the surface. Or, most likely, I chuck it all and indulge and vow to eat healthily later. I’m finding that eating (like most things) isn’t often about eating at all. It goes much deeper.

Today, I’m at The Mudroom writing about food, deliverance, and prayer.


The problem isn’t the food or my inability to eat healthily, to say “no” to what is bad for me and hunger after what is good. The problem isn’t food at all.

Like so much else — relationships, sex, church, houses — food is a gift. It is sustenance and grace and provision. Like good gifts it is meant to be received and enjoyed. But when we obsess over it, Gollum-like, through our indulgence or abstention, we’re simply using the gift of good food to say something about ourselves.

That I don’t measure up unless I measure up.

That I use food to feel my feelings because I’m too scared to feel them. Swallowing them is much easier.

That I feel productive when I eat healthily so I’ll beat myself up when I deviate from my plan.

That I deserve this coffee or cocktail or this cookie because somehow it’ll make up for hard decisions, tired mornings, and feeling unseen and unappreciated.

As if food could solve soul problems. Food is the safest drug we have.

Read the rest here. 

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Leaning in to the Weight of Waiting (for Kris Camealy)
At other places
Leaning in to the Weight of Waiting (for Kris Camealy)
November 30, 2016 0


Perhaps the snow this year has already lost its luster. Or instead of snow, you just have wind that goes right through your bones. Or if you’re in a sunny spot, you long for what you do not have: the snow boots, the snowmen, the glint of sunlight on icicles. We’re always waiting, aren’t we?

I live in the midst of wait-ers. We wait for the bonus, the promotion, the sale, that will put us over some financial edge that will allow us to finally attain the good life. But the edge keeps moving back. The houses and the cars don’t satisfy. If we do get what we want, we’re on a walkway that moves so quickly we don’t have eyes to see anymore. It takes more shopping, more stuff, more alcohol, more fancy vacations to quell the ache.

Or, we have a particular Jesus-y version of the suburban gods of accumulation: we reason if we had a better quiet time, more “authentic” worship experience, a different (bigger, better) church down the road, followed through on a Bible reading plan,  a mentor/counselor/spiritual director/therapist who really saw me, then we’d arrive.

But we still wait.

What if the waiting was actually how God comes near? Maybe waiting is (at least part of) the whole point? Maybe we need to lean into the pain of waiting and offer up our broken hearts. That’s all we have to give.

I’m thrilled to be over at my friend Kris Camealy’s blog today writing on these themes. Here’s an excerpt:

The world is heavy these days. Every day we have an onslaught of news — of hate winning, of earthquakes and air strikes, of just feeling buried under the grind of the mundane. In our world, all that has been broken for a very long time has reached the surface. It’s as if all the things that were cheap, easy, and horribly bad for it, we’ve been feeding to our collective body and they have made our skin green and our insides twisted. We just now see it. It’s hard to pull away from online chatter, it’s hard to do the good, hard, next step: show up, make dinner, seek forgiveness (not just across party lines, or racial and class lines, but even in your own family). It’s hard to be present when you find yourself weighed down with the weight of waiting.

When all you have is a broken heart, you wonder if that’s enough. Can your brokenness be more than a defect? Can it even help heal a nation, a community, a soul?

I’d be honored if you’d read the rest here. 

Ashley Hales

Image courtesy of Kris Camealy

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Books + Stories
Kindle Deals on Some of my Favorites! Just today!
November 28, 2016 2

It’s cold out and who couldn’t use a lovely book to curl up with in front of the fire?

These are some of my favorite reads (or on my to-read list) and wanted you to know about them! From what I can tell the crazy Kindle deals are only good today.


Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted by Shannan Martin

$2.99 Kindle // $12.67 Paperback

Shannan is the real deal. She laughs like she can’t hold it back. She’s thoughtful, smart, and deeply broken (like all good people are) and I’m encouraged to see how God has shaped her life’s path. Great prose.

Perfect for: Those who don’t want to live “normal” lives but aren’t sure how to step out in faith.


The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

$4.99 on Kindle // $13.79 Hardback

I listened to a wonderful podcast with Ann Voskamp all about her book and brokenness and being connected to her land. I really think that the type of leadership Ann offers could help center a lot of the messiness of evangelical celebrity. This is one I’m snagging!

Perfect for: Fans of Voskamp, women who need to know that not being perfect is how God uses us.


Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Isolation, Judgment and Fear by Scott Sauls

$8.57 Kindle // $9.02 Paperback (not a huge Kindle deal, but a great price on the paperback!)

I reviewed Sauls’ book for The Englewood Review of Books. Quite simply it’s such an important for people of faith in this moment in time. Grab a few copies and read it with your friends (and make some friends who are different from you). The format is great to digest in smaller chunks.

Perfect for: The Christian who is tempted to live in polarized spheres but wants to change.


The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

$4.99 Kindle // $15.87 Hardback (40% off!)

If you haven’t already fallen in love with this HGTV designer duo, then this will clinch it. This is totally on my list. I’m such a sucker for design, a love story, and the story of underdogs.


The Best American Essays 2016, edited by Jonathan Franzen

$9.99 Kindle // $8.79 Paperback (Look at that paperback discount!)

This is on my list because I love a compilation book full of good writing. That’s like less than a dollar for an essay. Cheaper than coffee and lasts longer! Add it to your list.

Perfect for: the person who loves good writing but can’t be nailed down.


There’s bunches and bunches more like: Where’d you go, Bernadette? ($2.99), the latest Pat Conroy novel ($1.99) and Nicholas Sparks‘ latest, Two by Two ($3.99); Amy Poehler’s hysterical memoir ($3.99), and Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect ($4.99).


I’ll be back later this season with some other favorites, but for now, take note and grab these deals before they leave!


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We run toward what others run from: A book to give you hope
We run toward what others run from: A book to give you hope
November 23, 2016 1

American friends, as we come to Thanksgiving tables tomorrow it’s easy to feel despondent about the state of the world. When systems seem so broken — not to mention our own lives — where do we go to find hope? And how do we get out of this mess?

How do we have hard conversations when our views differ dramatically from one another? Is there hope for communities — is there hope for the church — to learn how to be a bridge? Could we actually be known for how well we love, in both grace and truth?

Will there be grace when we fail miserably in those attempts?

Will we be able to hold grace and truth in glorious tension?

Will people be willing to reach across the aisle to do so?

How do we know when and how to speak?


Enter a lovely book by Scott Sauls, a Presbyterian pastor in Nashville: Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation and Fear. I was cranky at first reading it because I wanted something longer, meatier about such issues — not something that felt like short, pithy articles in the book’s twenty-one chapters. But as I warmed to the format, I saw its immense value to speak into our American culture right now, right in this tenuous space of American history. Sometimes, too, we need small doses of how to live out of love when the stakes are so high.

We need to learn how to be civil. We need people who are willing to be guinea pigs to have hard conversations. We need places where we can learn to listen and then how critique sharpens each person, each organization, each party.

We need to see that we are all human and we have much to learn from one another.


After America’s recent election, we’ve discovered (again) how divided we are. It is not simply that one-half of the nation disagrees with the other, but that each half is afraid of the other, as noted by ABC News. In a climate of fear, Scott Sauls’ Befriend is a timely book. Its subtitle, “create belonging in an age of judgment, isolation, and fear,” speaks to a human desire for community that transcends divisions based on race, class, socio-economics, politics, and sexual orientation. It plots a way forward for the church.

May it be true of the church that we ask more questions, we learn and practice empathy, and we fight for justice for the oppressed. May it be true that we seek to grow in compassion for those who voted against us. May we seek to love not only the marginalized but also not vilify the rich and powerful, the bullies and perpetrators (who are also subjects of Sauls’ essays). How else could a watching world see that we are Christians, except by our love?


Read the rest of the review here. 

Purchase the book by clicking below:

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Books + Stories
Are you tired of waiting? Win a FREE copy of this Advent devotional!
November 20, 2016 0

You guys! It’s getting all Christmassy up in here! Below, there’s a giveaway and a video interview and it makes me want to just curl up under some blankets by a fire and chat. Wouldn’t that be great to do? Well, in lieu of that option, come on over to my cozy online space, watch our fun video, and enter to win a book you can curl up with…

My good friend, Kris Camealy (who is an all-around wonderful mama-writer and curator of GraceTable), wrote the prettiest book for Advent called Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting.


There are a ton of products and companies and books vying for your dollar this season. I’ll tell you why I recommend Kris’ book:

  • It’s not fluffy. Her words sit with you with the itchiness of the waiting season;
  • She always points me back to the gospel: that there is a blessed Redeemer who is coming;
  • It’s manageable. It isn’t too short or too long on any given day so you feel like you have just enough to chew on — just one reflection question that helps center you even with kids running around;
  • It’ll refocus your season. I promise.

I even had the immense pleasure of holding a bit of Kris’s story in this interview that I cannot wait for you to watch!! (Plus you get to see my totally excitable hand movements, so, bonus!)

In this interview you’ll hear:

  • How this Advent project surprised Kris herself;
  • How a busy mom of 4 carves out time to wait and to write;
  • How to carry the weight of waiting well and see waiting as opportunity;
  • What the work of waiting is for Kris;
  • How “feeding people is what brings [her] back in” and helps her practice presence; and
  • Kris’ hopes for the book and how to not get sucked into feeling everything this season needs to be perfect or meaningful.


But, wait! There’s more!

Make sure you enter to win a FREE COPY of Come, Lord Jesus below. (Tell ALL your friends! For real! Can you tell I’m so excited to partner with Kris to give a reader a copy?!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway ends midnight on Wednesday, so enter soon!

And if you don’t win (or even if you do, it’d make a terrific hostess gift as you travel for Thanksgiving!), pick up a copy by clicking the cover below:


Read more from Kris at her blog, at GraceTable, and see her gorgeous photos on Instagram

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Faith + Vulnerability
A Prayer for Election Day
November 8, 2016 2

Prayer for Election Day -- aahales.com

Father in Heaven,

You know all things. Nothing surprises you. Today, the world watches as America chooses her next President. Our land is rife with battle cries, with despair, with so many people anxious, worried, afraid about the election’s outcome.

We confess we have but little power — over the affairs of countries or even over our own lives. Perhaps this election shows us how very little is within our control. Father, we know that you are good. We know that you are loving. And we know that America is not synonymous with your Kingdom. 

God, we praise you that your Kingdom is where the last shall be first. Your Kingdom is equitable, just, kind and compassionate. Your economy is not one where the rich get off and the poor must deal with injustice. Your Kingdom is full of miraculous hope.

Forgive us, we pray, for our condescension. For seeing “the other side” as not fully human. For blanketing people made in your image with stereotypes that denigrate the divine spark. Forgive us for seeing only our way as right. Forgive us for not listening, not seeing, not loving those who are different from us.

Forgive us for our hard hearts. Forgive us, most of all, for thinking a nation or its leader will calm our fears, perfectly champion justice, and make our lives (or our wallets) have meaning.

Only Jesus, who died, suffered, and rose again, can provide us with a narrative that makes this messed-up world make sense. Thank you for Jesus, the King who gave up power so that we can be reconciled to God. I pray that those who claim your Kingdom would find their primary allegiance today: not to a political party but to God himself. I pray for your church worldwide, that we would see how love covers sin. How grace and mercy triumph — for they are all that will move a hard heart. How goodness — even amidst great disagreement between persons and platforms — can make our Jesus look attractive to a watching world.

May your people be unified in faith, hope, love and charity today.

Amen. And Amen. And Amen.

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At other places
A Lament for Books & Culture
October 19, 2016 2

Lament for Books & Culture -- Ashley Hales

Do you ever have something that viscerally brings back you in what feels like a former life? For me, that’s Books & Culture, a Christian review periodical. I know it sounds weird. But I guess that’s what you get when you’ve been steeped in literature your entire life.

As a student at Westmont College, I would wait for professors in the small common area in the English building. Among the leather couches, creaking floorboards, and wardrobe items from C. S. Lewis’ estate were always copies of Books & Culture: A Christian Review. The magazine’s articles, including some by my professors, would flit from book reviews to cultural commentary to personal stories. The magazine was like a dance and the editor, John Wilson, was the choreographer. Inspired by all the ideas at play, I’d tuck my own burgeoning binder of poetry under my arm and get to work editing the college literary magazine.

To have a review there last year really felt like I was living into my calling. I may not be teaching in the academy, but I was still a part of it. Even better, at Books & Culture the conversation was wider than the narrow academic halls of esoteric banter.

I was gutted when I heard it was announced it was closing last week. It’s sort of like what happens when you realize you’ve grown up — not that we’ve left Books & Culture behind like it was childish because it was by no means, quite the opposite — but because we’ve somehow turned a corner and lost something magical that we can’t get back.

I think I may have more to say about the development of the Christian imagination and why we can’t seem to support great artists (or often even to raise them up in a day of flinging words like weapons). But for now, I have a piece up at ThinkChristian about my own lament for Books & Culture.

In it, I ask some hard questions about what we lose when we neglect good critique and why it’s needed. Plus any essay with something from film critic Alissa Wilkinson, C.S. Lewis, and philosopher Jamie Smith has got to be good, right? At any rate, I hope you’ll read the rest.

Most of us are not creators or critics; we are consumers. We consume our music, our movies, our books, even our churches. We gulp down content without chewing. Too often, we settle for anything to fill us up, rather than seek out food (actual, intellectual, or spiritual) that is full of sustenance, care, creativity, planning, and presentation, food that makes us feel loved, seen, and cared for. And so we need artists-as-critics who can point us to this food and teach us how to chew it, who can show us again how to delight and what to love.

Read the rest at ThinkChristian.


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At other places
Spaghetti and Social Justice (for The Mudroom)
October 12, 2016 0



America feels so divided and polarized. So much so that we don’t know how to talk to each other. We don’t know how to fight for justice in ways that are life-giving, that allows space for fumbling, poor attempts. Because we’re all at the ready to fight back. Like my friend Heather Caliri said, social justice is awkward. Well, at least it is for those of us born into privilege. For others it is the song of the caged bird; sadly many of us are just know hearing it for the first time.

I’m over at The Mudroom stretching my writing muscles on the topic. I’d love if you went and had a read and shared your own best practices of doing justly and loving mercy.



I didn’t want to write a post on social justice.

It feels fake sitting on my couch in my largely white, affluent, suburban neighborhood. What do I have to say? As a white woman, I feel like my steps at connection across lines — even on Facebook — feel privileged, bumbling, and awkward. I say the wrong things. I’m patronizing when I don’t mean to be. I’m not sure what to do. The problems seems so big and the distance between people so very wide and I don’t know how to help others find their common humanity. That being made in the image of God means something out on the streets.

I don’t want to use people as props in stories. To swirl a narrative around in a glass so you’ll drink it down, intoxicated, but the euphoria is fake and short-lived. I want to learn the quiet way of attention to the flesh and bone in front of me. I want to see “God with us” in the face of everyone I meet. Especially as we “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly,” we can’t flatten those who are different from us into supporting characters — where we often are the hero of the story. Where we write all the time about us, us, us. It’s why I didn’t want to write about social justice in the first place. Yet we need word enfleshed. We need stories. We need faltering stories like this one…


Cliff-hanger!! Read the rest here.



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We create
Writing to Save Your Life
October 10, 2016 10

A few Octobers ago, I wrote to save my life. I’d become angsty, entitled, and was flailing to find my place with four kids age 7 and under. I found out about a blogging challenge Write 31 Days (where you, surprise!, write for 31 days) and I decided to try to find beauty in my mundane. I spent my nights writing and finding pictures and reading and commenting on other blogs. I felt like I was a part of something. I felt like all my pent-up creativity finally had an outlet.

I felt like I was alive again.

Writing was like that for awhile, something like oxygen to gulp down when you’ve just realized you’ve been holding your breath. It was full of play and twirls and spins and twists. It was full of little squeals when a “real live author” would comment on something I said on Twitter. It felt like life itself.

Then I realized that artists are people, too — complete with laundry, to-do lists, and the hard work of creating not just their prose but also all the marketing to go along with it. That authors are just people who do their thing — just like CEOs and attorneys, stay-at-home moms and those in the service industry. We’re all just doing our thing. One foot in front of the other. Some tasks are delightful and others a slog, but isn’t that a bit how life is?

I think I’d expected the writing life to be the answer to all the angst inside, because it was for awhile. I still write to find my way home. I still write to give my words away. I write because storytelling is the best way I know how to chase beauty and practice sustained attention. I write because it helps me to stay curious about my own life and stop pressing all the easy buttons.

But writing — or creating or making enough money or buying that new dress — will not actually solve the angst inside. It comes out sideways when we push it into new containers that we expect will fill us up. I’m learning to hold those emotions with open hands. To not push away those negative feelings of resentment when my insides itch. After all, they’re little warning flags asking me to pay attention, to show up boldly in my own life. They’re flags that tell us something is rotten in Denmark. So it behooves us to pay attention.

Yes, I’ll keep creating because that is just what I do. It’s how I’m wired. But I can’t ask it to save me. So even though I know that I’d get some terrific content out of Write 31 Days, that I’d get some more blog readers, and be encouraged, I’m in a season of “no” right now. I’m trying to realize I need to match my output with what I’m actually capable of in my real life. That means right now, lots more time outside, driving my kids to soccer, reading with them, and trying to keep my room clean. It means long walks and good food. It means I work towards longer writing projects in early morning hours that no one will see. It means I can breathe.

For I’m finding, without margin there is not much room for the Spirit or my spirit to move.

Of course, there on the edge, the wide expanse feels scary. It’s hard to know what I’m falling into. But I’m convinced that only there — when I intentionally make room — will writing make me come alive again not because it scratched an emotional itch, but because it is what I’m created for. It is my glory song back to the one who hovered over the expanse. Who called all of it good.



More: My friend Mary Hill interviewed me for her Write 31 Days theme: 31 Days of Christian Women Bloggers. I’d love for you to read more about the writers who inspire me, and how apparently I’m really reticent to have a “favorite” of anything (song, bible verse, etc.) here. Read on for other women writers to inspire you, too.


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At other places
The Year I Lost Fall (for (in)courage)
October 8, 2016 0

There’s a bit of cool on the edge of the breeze here in southern California, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve retired our flip flops and are reaching for the jackets. It feels different still, yet so much the same. The seasons shift slightly here so you have to be extra attentive to see and feel.

You have to pay attention. When we moved a year ago, it felt like I’d lost fall. I’d lost that season of change that shows me that there is rebirth on the other side. That there is a glory to the letting go. Instead I was stuck with what felt like endless summer. Stuck like Groundhog Day into living the same thing, the same feelings, the same thoughts because the weather didn’t change much.



This is the story of the year I lost fall.

Fall was about seeing the world magically change before my eyes. Fall was about seeing the earth begin to die as, before each leaf dropped, it turned to a blaze of glory. Even when leaves were dead they was raked into piles and the source of delighted squeals from little boys who jumped in again and again. Fall showed me most clearly what I’m scared of: That dying is never the end — whether that’s when we’re approaching the end of life, or when we’re dying to ourselves day-in and day-out. There is something mysterious in the golden color change. That to drop and fall is a gift, too. It is not the end.


Ashley Hales at incourage


I’m at (in)courage today writing about fall, the year I lost it, and the lessons of the trees teach us about giving up, letting go, and showing us the way. I’d be pleased if you’d read it. 

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