The Ordinariness Of Grace (Guest Post by Ashley Hales)

Book openingToday I’m honoured to host Ashley Hales on the blog. Ashley is a blogger, author and mum who loves talking about story, and believes deeply in the power of story to shape us. She’s an excellent writer & become a good friend. I’m delighted to host her here, talking today about grace. So without further ado, over to Ashley:

This post was going to be about how grace is violent, how it knocks us down and changes our categories and realigns our desires. Something akin to how Flannery O’Connor unites grace with the grotesque in daily ways. Grace does do that – it rushes in and knocks you down.

But it’s the quietness of grace, its small and ordinariness, that I want to tell you about.

You see, I grew up on a diet of “you can be anything you want to be” and “the world is your oyster.” And as an entire generation who is coming to age now knows, such statements just don’t hold water anymore.

You can’t be anything you want. You can’t just live an exotic life and get rich quick. You can no longer simply work your way up the corporate ladder and arrive at the pinnacle of success.

Because of these economic shifts and the choices that we’ve made as a family, I find myself living a rather ordinary life, having once thought of myself with vast potential to be a world changer with large spheres of influence.

I no longer live overseas; in fact, we’re moving back “home” this summer, whatever that fraught word means. My days are filled with mundane tasks like sweeping and picking up after children and making dinner. Little tasks that no one particularly sees or notices, but tasks that provide both the order of our days, and their melody. These are tasks that when accumulated, I hope will change the world through a generational rippling of sustained attention.

But for now, I monitor homework, shuttle our children around the city, and try to squeeze a writing life in-between times. As I’ve made space for writing, grace has rushed in – but not in the knock-you-down variety; instead its come through this daily discipline, in stillness. It’s come in as a wave of peace and rest. It’s come through daily moments, through the daily and ordinary practices of reading and writing.

Every afternoon when my youngest two children are resting or napping, I type away or turn my eyes to books I know will feed my soul. Sometimes the going is slippery and awkward and nothing much comes. Other days I can’t type fast enough to keep up. I’ll often turn to someone else’s words and I feel like I’m literally feeding on words for sustenance, like the body and the blood.

This life force of reading and writing brings me back to myself amidst the mundane, necessary and glory-filled life of the present – the present where I am “Mom”. I feast on soul words in small slivers of quiet. Those moments are grace; they are in fact, unmerited favor.  And like all transactions of grace, they utterly transform me; but sometimes this transformation happens bit by bit, morsel by morsel.

Grace comes when I’m reading Flannery O’Connor, Wendell Berry, Madeleine L’Engle and Kathleen Norris. It is not simply the power of fiction or these authors’ finely tuned phrases that nourish my soul. No, it is something much larger. What is communicated perhaps between the words and the phrases is the smile of delight.

When they said I could change the world here's what they forgot Ashley Hales

Feasting on words and writing my own puts me square into the category of a “creative.” It means that my life is fashioned by words. When I stop to think about my own sense of calling as a writer, it almost makes me laugh to think that my own work gets to mimic the creative energy of God. It’s made me realize in tangible ways that part of what it means to be made in God’s image is to be a creator – to create fictional worlds or bring ideas together in pleasing and new ways.

My life at my laptop, or with a book across my lap in those rare moments of quiet, reframe my mundane. They are delight enfleshed. They give me power to keep going and bring joy so that even in my writing failures, I’m participating in a wider story of redemption. I take frail and feeble words and by knitting them together, I can point to a glorious coming day full of grace and truth.

That day may be tomorrow as I’m mopping the floor and calming childhood fears. That day may be when I get my first book published, or I help another person tell their story bravely. Or that day may be my final day when I get to see all things being made new.

Whenever the day, the simple act of reading and writing has been grace to me. (you can tweet that).It has been unmerited favour from a God who gets a kick out of his children and is absolutely delighted with them. It’s a picture of a Father who runs ahead to play chase with his kids, lost in the wonder and rapture of the present, and of their shared delight.

That’s a type of God who can get me through the daily hard, through those moments when I lose it and cling to my own agenda instead of serving those around me. That is a God who endears me to Him, who invites me to experience rest and asks me to participate with him through the process of creation.

Most of all, that is a God who abounds in pouring out grace even in – and perhaps especially in – the ordinary.




Ashley Hales is a mama to 4 littles, wife to her pastor husband, and holds a PhD in English from the University of Edinburgh. She loves to help others tell their scary brave story.

Ashley writes at Circling the Story and is a regular contributor at The Mudroom. Be sure to get her free ebook on The Power of Story and How to Tell Yours and follow her on Twitter at @aahales.




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(Picture Sources: Creative Commons / Ashley Hales)

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  1. Paul Horne on March 30, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Good Job Ashley!
    I could feel your story in a very vivid way. You told it in such a manner as though one were sitting next to you sharing a cup of coffee or tea (for those poor souls who don’t drink coffee, lol). Keep up the good work.

    • Ashley Hales on March 30, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks so much Paul. That is such a lovely thing to say; I’m glad to hear my writing is conversational. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  2. mnicholeh on March 30, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Sometimes grace does come about in the smaller things in life. And as a mom I will say, taking care of children, cooking, and cleaning is just as important as any other job. Great post Ashley!

    • Ashley Hales on March 30, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      You’re right, the ordinary daily mothering tasks are just as important and perhaps more important than any other calling. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing! It’s so important to find those things that bring us life and can fuel our ordinary.

  3. Scott Bury on March 30, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    The grace of the ordinary – we forget what an accomplishment it is to reach what we blithely call “ordinary.” Raising children and keeping a roof over your head is something remarkable, if you think about it. And to be able to squeeze writing and reading in between the myriad tasks required just to get from one day to the next is something to be proud of.

    • Ashley Hales on March 30, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      Thank you so much Scott for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it. I like how you reframe the ordinary — that is such a daily discipline, to remember the remarkable in the routine. I’m finding reading and writing (even in very small chunks) to be something that fuels those daily tasks. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Mari Howard on March 30, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    So interesting to those of us who grew up not to the ‘you can do/be anything you want’ but as still-post-war kids who were assumed to be heading for life in an office, and if ‘creative” (though the word was never used to describe a personality type!) would naturally paint, write, whatever in little local ways, maybe the Bank art club or for the Parish Magazine. “Don’t go to art school: you have to earn your living.” etc. Whatever, I am now an indie author and also a painter: but I’m actually in many ways thankful that we weren’t given ‘illusions’ to have ‘shattered’, that’s possibly harder than accepting most of us will live ordinary lives … or would you disagree?

    • Ashley Hales on March 30, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      Thanks for commenting and interacting Mari, I so appreciate it. I do agree — I think having reasonable aspirations but still being able to fulfill them in daily creative ways is hugely important. Obviously we all want our children to “be all they can be” but I think giving them the tools (or having them ourselves!) for living out their calling in ordinary ways is a great gift. I didn’t quite feel prepared for the very mundane tasks involved in mothering that I spend most of my time doing.

  5. James Prescott on March 30, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    This is such a beautiful, simple, yet challenging post Ashley. Love your natural, informal style combined with powerful truths. Great to host you & thanks for sharing this post.

    • Ashley Hales on March 30, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      So happy to be here James. Thanks for generously opening up your space to my words today! And thanks for your kind comment on my writing voice.

  6. Bob Nailor on March 30, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    My parents pushed the “you can be anything you want” on me as a child and were adamant that I would not be a common factory laborer. They wanted me to amount to something and with God’s Grace, I accomplished many things I didn’t realize would be more important. I’m a husband, father, grandfather and soon-to-be great-grandfather. Too often we forget the wonder of the so-called “mundane” life and its great accomplishments. My wife frets that she’s not accomplished anything with her life and I point out the home she has made for our family, the children and grandchildren she has lovingly cherished and brought so much joy to. God’s Grace is everywhere. Great post and thanks for sharing such a wonderful insight.

    • Ashley Hales on March 30, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      Thank you so much Bob, for sharing your own beautiful story (and your wife’s). There is so much important in the mundane — so much to celebrate! Creating a home is a wonderful gift. Be sure to tell your wife that. Home is such a powerful word. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  7. Nancy Kay Grace on April 6, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    Thanks for sharing on the ordinariness of grace. So true! We have to learn to open our eyes to see God’s grace everyday.

    • Ashley Hales on April 7, 2015 at 12:25 am

      Hi Nancy, thanks for reading and commenting. It’s so encouraging to me. The everyday beauty can make all the difference between my selfishness and receiving grace.

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