When You Forget What Having Fun Looks Like: Annie F. Downs
Have you given up on having fun? Did you know Jesus modeled fun as a bridge to God? Annie F. Downs, bestselling author of Chase the Fun: 100 Days to Discover Fun Right Where You Are, has big ideas on why and how to have fun again.
About the Guest
- Annie's website can be found at anniefdowns.com
- Read Annie's testimony from WSJ
- Purchase Annie's new book here: Chase the Fun: 100 Days to Discover Fun Right Where You Are
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Have you given up on having fun? Did you know Jesus modeled fun as a bridge to God? Author Annie F. Downs has big ideas on why and how to have fun again.
When You Forget What Having Fun Looks Like: Annie F. Downs
David: Hey friends, David Robbins, President of FamilyLife®, here. Before Dave and Ann get started here with this episode, I wanted to thank you for helping us work toward our vision that every home would be a godly home. We are here every day coming alongside you, equipping you with biblical truth in your marriage, and with your kids and neighbors. We’re about helping you make wise decisions about life and relationships. Or as we like to say at FamilyLife, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most. If you agree with this mission and thought about partnering with us financially to impact more homes, there is no better time than the month of May to partner with us. As a donor supported ministry here’s the goal that we’ve set this month. We are hoping that 350 new FamilyLife partners will join us in giving monthly to FamilyLife Today. Some generous people have come alongside this vision and have set up an incredible matching gift to double your commitment, your monthly giving for 12 months. So now is truly the best time to join as a FamilyLife partner. Our partners help provide all the resources we share here every day. This is a vital part of our mission. Thank you for listening to FamilyLife Today and participating with us. Alright, now on to today’s show.
Annie: Fun. Between believers and non-believers it’s very natural, it should be, I mean my gracious, please have fun with everyone you know. But also, it’s a real deposit into a bank account the Lord can pull from later.
Annie: –with people that don’t believe everything that you believe.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® App.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: The thing that I love about you the most-
Dave: -and there’s, seriously after 42 years of marriage-
Ann: –I’m intrigued. I have no idea of what you’re going to say. What is it?
Dave: It’s right now what you’re doing. Your joy, your smile, [Laughter] your positivity, I know it’s one of your top StrengthsFinders, lights up my life.
Ann: You’re so nice.
Dave: I am married to the queen of fun.
Ann: You’re so nice.
Dave: You’re and enneagram seven, and so am I
Ann: – but not really
Annie: –So am I.
Dave: –which is fun.
Ann: –We are all sevens.
Dave: –We have three ‘sevens’ in the room.
Ann: –but we really have the queen of fun with us.
Annie: No, it sounds like it’s you. I’ll take princess all day long [Laughter]
Ann: –no, no
Dave: There are people listening right now going, “I know that voice [Laughter], I know that voice.” Yes, it is. It’s Annie F. Downs [Laughter]. I didn’t know what ‘F’ stands for, but I think it’s ‘fun’.
Annie: It’s fun that’s it. It’s fun or fancy, either one. [Laughter]
Dave: It’s your first time on FamilyLife Today so welcome.
Annie: Ahh, thanks for having me. I am so, so glad to be here. I mean sitting down with two other sevens. Everybody buckle up.
Ann: I know. Annie that was the first time I heard you my friends sent me like, “You need to listen to Annie F. Downs,”-
Ann: –this podcast on the enneagram, and she said, ‘This is you and Dave.’”
Ann: And so that’s when I first started listening and you’re amazing.
Annie: Oh, you’re kind. Those Indian summers have been so fun, so good to–I mean you were talking about StrengthsFinders. It’s so good there are all these tools that come alongside our humanity.
Annie: The tools are not the gospel, but the tools are tools.
Ann: And they’re fun.
Annie: –and they’re fun and they get to help us go like, “Man, now I understand why I do the things I do, and I can correct my behavior,” you know.
Dave: And you really are known for joy and for fun. I mean we’re going to talk a little today-
Ann: –and Jesus
Dave: Chase the Fun: 100 Days to Discover Fun Right Where You Are. So, it’s like a 100 day devotional.
Dave: –so if you’re really an ornery, angry, grumpy person-
Annie: –mmm hmm
Dave: –can you be fun in 100 days?
Annie: I think so. [Laughter] I mean if you put your mind at anything for 100 days you’re going to change.
Annie: But my real goal, and this is hanging up in my office, we have a very clear mission statement and I’m a bridge. I don’t ever want to be the end point. And so my hope with things like Chase the Fun, it’s at Target, it’s at Walmart, it’s at all these places where our friends that don’t believe everything we believe shop. And if they pick it up thinking, “You know what, my life has been really hard the last couple of years,” because everybody’s has.
Annie: Or if you’re trying to find a gift for somebody and you go, “I need something light that will also tell them that Jesus is who He says He is.” That’s the stuff that I try to write. I’m not trying to be the end point. I want Jesus and my friends who write about Jesus to be the end point. I want to be the bridge. There’s a quote that I love, and I’m sorry I can’t remember who said it, but it’s somebody long gone that said, “Preach the gospel, die and be forgotten.”
So, when people say, “What do you want to be remembered for?” I’m like, “I’ll tell you my first goal. Let’s preach the gospel and die and be forgotten because I want people to remember Jesus.” But secondly I want people to remember that I love them.
Annie: And that I bridged them to someone else or something else that they would love. I love when my friends become friends with my friends. That’s what we did for 10 minutes before we started is talk about all the real-life friends we share.
Annie: Because mutual friends are the best, and so anyway I can introduce my friends on the listening side or the reading side or the audience side of what I do to the people that I think are doing really fine work that lead them to Jesus, that’s–I want to be the bridge. I don’t want them to stop with me.
Ann: And joy and fun is a bridge-
Ann: –because everyone’s attracted to it.
Ann: It’s like a magnet.
Annie: It is. And people, adults more so, kind have given up on fun in a lot of ways. When you were eight you rushed home from school and ate your snack and finished your homework because you wanted to play and now because of spouses, and kids, and mortgages and yards to mow and-
Annie: –We just don’t prioritize it anymore. And what we’ve actually lost is a lot of connection and a lot of vulnerability when we’ve lost fun as a part of our daily lives. One of the things I say is I genuinely think we all make time in our calendar for the things that make us healthiest and the happiest. I don’t think pursuing happiness is a real long-term goal. But we make time for that stuff on our calendar. We need to move fun from our ‘to-do’ list to our actual calendar,-
Annie: -because it actually makes us healthier people.
Dave: Put it in there.
Annie: Oh yes.
Dave: Schedule it.
Annie: Oh yes, schedule it.
Ann: What does that look like? What does that look like on your calendar?
Annie: For starters, for new ‘fun people’, I mean I’m a big believer in Sabbath. It’s part of how God made us. I think it’s how God made the world, right? He modeled it. We need a day away from our phones and away from the internet and off of social media and not purchasing things. We don’t need to be part of the world having to run 24/7.
I say to friends a lot, “Just put a 30 minute block on your Saturday or your Sunday calendar and call it ‘fun’. Then what happens is everybody panics, because what are we going to do? [Laughter] What are we going to do? That calendar just says ‘fun’. So then you’re sitting around a table like this or you’re eating lunch or dinner with your family or your roommates or your friends and your spouse or your partner and you’re going, “So what sounds fun to you?” I’m going to let you in on our secret. If you ask people, “What sounds fun to you?” and then you ask them, “Why?” three times, you are going to get to the heart of what really matters.
Ann: Oh good. Ask Dave.
Annie: Okay Dave, you ready?
Annie: Here we go. [Laughter] I should have just done it Ann. Sorry. I should have just done it rather than explain it. So Dave, tell me what sounds fun to you. I might not have to do three because he may be too honest.
Dave: What sounds fun right now?
Dave: Anything? Pickleball,
Dave: –uh, golf.
Annie: Why is it sports things?
Dave: It’s energetic. It’s moving my body. It’s with people. It’s laughter. It’s-
Dave: -And you know what my number one StrengthsFinder is? Competition.
Annie: Ahhh, interesting.
Dave: People hear that and are like, “All you want to do is win,” and the guy that taught me that said, “It’s not all you want to do is win. You want to do better than yesterday.”
Annie: Yeah, you’re your own biggest competitor.
Dave: So, I think all those things-
Annie: –where’d you learn that?
Dave: Where’d I learn it?
Dave: Playing sports growing up, I guess.
Ann: Oh, go deeper, that’s good.
Dave: Me being in rock bands, you know it’s just like I–what do you mean go deeper? [Laughter] You can’t get any deeper.
Ann: No, my deeper was, “What are you trying to escape from?” [Laughter]
Annie: No, my true direction, though we are seven so our escape hatch is at our fingertips literally at all times, the deeper thing is you’ll almost always, and you’ll find this true when you ask this to your friends and family is it comes down to childhood or your grandparents.
Annie: It is because what we actually are always looking for is to reconnect with the version of ourselves that didn’t know that the world was this hard.
Ann: Whoa, okay.
Dave: There’s mine because I ran away from the home to play sports and play music, because of two alcoholic parents and abuse and divorce. And I was good at it so I’m like, “Hey–see you later,” and it was fun.
Annie: And it’s still fun for you.
Annie: –because your inner-Dave, your Dave that’s always been has this connection that’s says, “When I am playing sports, I’m safe. When I am playing sports, I’m good and I’m good enough, and when I am playing sports my physiological self knows that I’m getting things out that make me feel stress.”
Ann: Welcome to Dave Wilson’s life that is--
Dave: –wait, wait
Dave: –I didn’t want to be psychoanalyzed
Ann: –so good.
Dave: –let’s move on to one of you guys.
Ann: What about you Annie? [Laughter]
Annie: What sounds fun to me, what does sound fun to me?
Dave: Wait, you’re the girl who wrote this.
Annie: I know I just have so many options. [Laughter] I think I am tired and so what sounds fun to me is a vacation at the beach. So, what I’m actually hearing myself say if I do the process on myself about what sounds fun to me, what it means like for me to chase fun, is I need to say to myself. “Why does getting away from everything feel good?” That’s escape hatchy.
Annie: “And what would feel good about that?” Well, the things I get to leave behind that feel scary right now or stressful right now or not safe right now or things I’m digging into right now with my therapist that I can’t get away from because they’re in my mind.” Do you know what I mean?
Annie: We’re opening some new doors and getting some new healing. But revealing comes before healing.
Ann: And it’s heavy.
Annie: And I’m sitting there-
Annie: -and so I’m going like, “I wish I was at the beach watching dolphins swim.” But what I actually need is to be reminded that Jesus has already set us free. I am free. I don’t need more freedom. I am free. So, it’s that and no one thinks, “What sounds fun to you?” “Watching dolphins,” no one is going to go, “I bet it’s because you feel trapped.”
Ann: See, that’s what I love. It’s way deeper.
Annie: It’s so much deeper.
Dave: There’s one more person to analyze yet.
Annie: I know what sounds fun to you.
Ann: Walking with a friend, a long walk talking about deep things. Relator is one of my top five in my StrengthsFinders too. But then playing, like pickleball with friends, laughing
Annie: All your fun things are connected with other people.
Ann: Hmm. I need time alone, but I guess yes, because I’m a extrovert I’m energized by people
Annie: Was your house full when you were little? Were there a lot of people?
Annie: hmm. Was it
Ann: She’s like a co–like she’s actually a therapist.
Dave: We didn’t know why you really came.
Annie: We call it fun coaching.
Dave: fun coaching
Ann: That’s good.
Annie: We get to talk through some–so people say that to me. They say, “What sounds fun to me is going on long walks with friends. But I have three little kids, and my husband travels and the laundry always piles up and I haven’t seen a friend in six weeks.” Then what we get to do is go, “So we see the big dream, my big dream is watching dolphins in the ocean.” I live in Tennessee so we’re landlocked. We’re not eating great sushi in Tennessee. [Laughter] So much less am I going to see dolphins swimming around.
So, then you go, “How can God meet you in a way in the fun and in the life that you already have?” Someone is saying to us, “I wish I could go on a walk, a long walk with a friend, but our kids, and the time and…” I go, “Okay, the solution today is can you text someone and you all get on a 20-minute phone call once the kids are down? Can we find a small solution for your big dream until there’s time for that bigger thing?”
Dave: So can a husband and a chase the fun together?
Annie: Yes, I think so. I think it’s one of the servant ways of doing it is listening to each other and saying like tomorrow, so you know every Saturday you put 30 minutes on your calendar and then you get good at it, and you put an hour on your calendar.
Ann: This is huge because couples do not do this.
Dave: Every Saturday I put, I put three hours on the calendar. It’s called watching college football. [Laughter]
Annie: I know that. You only watch three hours?
Annie: No I can’t imagine- [Laughter]
Ann: It’s like the whole day.
Dave: No, I don’t, sometimes
Annie: The TV can be on all day-
Ann: But it’s so funny because he’s like, “Ann, come in and watch with me.” As women what we say is, “Oh, are we going to talk?” Because we think that will draw us closer.
Dave: I can’t get her to sit down. She’s just doing stuff.
Annie: Yes. There’s stuff to do.
Ann: I think it’s good for us as women to know what would be fun for my spouse.
Dave: Give us your theology of fun because I remember years ago I designed a series for our weekends called Four Things God Loves.
Dave: Called Four Surprising Things and the first one is laughter. Our teaching team is like, “We’re going to do a weekend on laughter–that’s not a thing that God loves.”
Dave: Dude, it is. But you get this. You wrote the book on it. What’s the theology on fun?
Annie: Well part of it is sometimes I get a little chirp about this. People chirping back at me, so I apologize if you get emails about this. But I actually think Jesus was incredibly fun.
Annie: Kids loved Him, and kids do not love people that are not fun. And so, you go there’s something about His personality that so many kids wanted to be near Him that the disciples were pushing them off. That doesn’t mean there were two. I mean there were seventeen. All the non-believers invited Him to parties, people wanted Him around. That’s why He had to say, “I’m not here for the well, I’m here for the sick,”
Ann: Yes, and even the broken, the lost, the sad, they were so drawn to Him.
Annie: He was winsome.
Annie: He is winsome.
Dave: Hey you know what I just thought? I just thought, how many Christians are invited to parties?
Dave: That’s a sad thing if you’re not getting invited to parties, you’re not a joy-bringer. People don’t want you there because you’re going to judge and say, “Hey you shouldn’t–whatever.” I get it. I understand. There’s things at parties that we don’t agree with.
Ann: People are going, “Have we been invited to any parties lately?”
Annie: [Laughter] If you haven’t, start throwing them.
Dave: Yeah, exactly.
Ann: There you go.
Annie: If you haven’t been invited to a party lately start throwing them and don’t invite your friends, invite your neighbors. I’ve been really impressed watching one of my couple friends really invest in their neighborhood and go on trips with their neighbors. They come back and they say to me, “Well we didn’t have the deepest talks because they don’t believe everything, we believe but we had a great time.”
And I go, yeah. That’s not their only friend group, but that’s a friend group that they are on mission with and having fun with so that when something goes sideways those friends go, “Well, I mean we had the best time in Cabo and we love watching Georgia-Tennessee at their house, but now that we’ve had a miscarriage or now that we have had a money problem come up, or now that I’ve lost my parents, that’s who I’m going to call.” It’s almost like fun between believers and non-believers is very natural. It should be, I mean oh my gracious. [Laughter] Please have fun with everyone you know, but also it’s a real deposit into a bank account that the Lord can pull from later with people who don’t believe everything you believe.
Dave: Yeah, that’s good.
Annie: My theology of fun is Jesus modeled it. I think there are more times where God is humorous in Scripture than we realize. There’s just a level of vulnerability between people when they’re, even if they’re fishing together or watching sports together. The vulnerability of explaining who you are to people around you happens in fun and connection. I just think it’s beautiful. Eternity set in our hearts. I also think those moments like when you’re playing sports or when you’re walking with friends, I think those moments might be God going like, “Do you want to know what the whole thing is going to feel like? It’s going to feel like this.”
Dave: So you know you’re like the girl fun.
Annie: Yes. The princess at this table [Laughter] not the queen.
Dave: Princess Fun. You’re the princess.
Annie: Oh, you’re going to play us a song?
Ann: No, he wrote you a song.
Annie: I can’t believe this.
Dave: I was sitting at home and I’m like, “You know we’ve got Annie coming in what could I do? And this sort of hit me.” It’s not rehearsed or anything so who knows.
Annie: Oh, I’m so happy.
Dave: But you know I grew up in the 60’s so the Beatles were my band so…[guitar strumming] Annie is a girl from Nashville, Tennessee. She makes us all chase the fun. Annie’s laugh and joy is simply contagious and God wants to give us some. Chase the fun. Chase the fun. Follow Annie right to the Son. Chase the fun, chase the fun. Follow Annie right to the Son. Anyway something like that.
Annie: That is awesome [Laughter] Now if I’d gotten here, if I’d gotten here and you didn’t like me, were you not going to sing the song?
Dave: Ah, probably not.
Annie: Were you like-
Ann: –we knew
Annie: –such an honor then.
Ann: –we knew we would love you.
Annie: –I feel like I earned-
Dave: –We knew we were going to like you.
Annie: That is so sweet.
Dave: –It’s terrible it was a five-minute little thing.
Annie: –It’s fantastic.
Dave: –Ann’s looking at me, “What are you doing over there?”
Annie: It’s been a long time since anyone has written me a song, so I’ll take it. That’s so sweet. Thank you. I loved it. Follow her to the Son.
Dave: What you just explained though about the theology of fun. I think the church has missed.
Dave: I don’t think we are known to be joy bringing people.
Dave: We’re known for hypocrisy and judgment, and I mean what if our neighborhood, anybody–it was just like I want her at my party. I want her at my party because they, that’s what–they wanted Jesus there.
Annie: Yes, yes.
Ann: You are that though too.
Annie: Yes, I bet.
Ann: When our kids were little. All the neighbor kids are knocking on the door asking, “Can Mr. Wilson come out and play?” [Laughter] It was amazing because they all congregated in our yard because you were so fun. You’re laughing, your’re messing around and encouraging.
Dave: Well I mean, honestly, we’re enneagram sevens. We didn’t know what we were then. It’s like fun is an overflow.
Annie: That’s beautiful.
Dave: I’ve said this. Is it a choice? Joy is a choice.
Annie: Yes, I think it is.
Dave: When you say put it on your calendar [Laughter]
Annie: Suffering’s not a choice. Pain is not a choice. Those are going to be gifted to us.
Ann: And we all walk in that.
Annie: That’s right. You know laughter isn’t always a choice. It catches you off guard, right? But the beauty of it is how it catches you off guard. I do think fun can be a choice, but you can also be surprised by it. Like, “That was so much more fun than I ever predicted.”
Annie: Or man, that was so fun, I did not know-
Ann: –I needed that.
Annie: -How many times have you gone, “I needed to laugh?” I was so tickled. I was in Israel a couple of weeks ago, we were doing a tour and they have these things in the tours use called Whispers. Have you used them before?
Annie: -Where the guy is in your ear. So, one of our pastors at the church, you know the guy is doing the normal tour, his name is Avi, he’s wonderful, doing the normal tour on channel 45 of the Whispers. Well one of our pastors says, “Hey, I’m going to get channel 35 to work,” and then he just starts saying to me–so there’s this big container that they found and they’re like, “They stored food in here for three years,” and pastor Chris says, “It was all soft cheeses.” [Laughter] and I am, I am in tears I’m laughing so hard at the idea of the whole container full of soft cheeses for three years in 200 AD. I was like, “This feels so good. I didn’t even know I needed this.” We explained it to Avi later.
What a gift when fun surprises you. I think if we will pursue it, if we will chase it, three out of four times you’re going after it. Because of those three to four times, the fourth time, it comes after you.
Dave: What if a listener right now is really hurting?
Dave: They’re listening to this going, “This is really frivolous. You don’t get it. I can’t respond right now.”
Dave: What do you say to them?
Annie: I have very personal experience with this because this summer I decided to do the best summer ever. I made a list of everything I wanted to try that I have never tried, of every wedding I was going to, of every concert I had tickets to.
The reason I made that list was because we knew my sister was going to have a baby that wouldn’t live. We knew grief was coming so I thought that one of the ways I can partner with the grief, not combat it. We don’t try to beat grief, we hold hands with it, but I thought at the same time that our family is going to grieve deeper than we ever have so far. Is if I also have my eyes on what brings me joy and laughter.
I would say to any of our friends suffering, make a list. If you love a milkshake from McDonalds, if you love going to the park, if there’s a wedding coming up that you’re going to–a friend of mine gave me an inflatable kayak. Now the dumb thing I did [Laughter] is I blew it up and put it in the water and then I got in it without testing anything and so you need to blow it up on land and one time. But I really believe that fun and joy, laughter, those are not meant to be at war with grief or sadness. They are meant to be partners. It’s what we learned from Inside Out that movie is that joy and sadness actually coexist better together than if you’re trying to lean on one and not the other. If you are really suffering right now, make one step toward fun, joy, laughter.
Ann: Put it on your calendar, put it on your calendar.
Annie: Put it on your calendar. It can be as simple as a milkshake. It can be as simple as a walk. It can be as simple as waking up early. My soccer team that I cheer for in the UK is Arsenal. They played at 5 am on Sunday. Sometimes fun looks like I just want to get up early and watch my team and eat an apple fritter. I’d gotten an apple fritter the day before so that I could have an apple fritter while I was watching Arsenal play on Sunday morning.
Dave: Good for you.
Annie: It can be little things. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to buy a ticket to an amusement park or go on vacation while you’re suffering. You can just find something today that will bring you a little bit of joy to remind you that God is with you.
Shelby: Hi I’m Shelby Abbott and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Annie F. Downs on FamilyLife Today. I love that she’s been talking about the practicalities of chasing fun.
The other day I was you know, a little bit down and I decided to just grab a handful of chocolate chips from our baking container. That was fun. It made me happy when I did that. I stopped with one handful, but it was great. I love the ways that Annie talks about chasing fun. She’s written a book called Chase the Fun: 100 Days to Discover Fun Right Where You Are. It doesn't have to be extravagant. It doesn’t have to be crazy. You can have fun right where God has placed you. You can chase that joy and fun as a bridge to understanding and connecting with Jesus even more. You can pick up a copy of her book at FamilyLifeToday.com. Now this month is a very unique month. Isn’t that right Dave and Ann?
Dave: It’s the first day of our May Match Campaign for FamilyLIfe.
Ann: Which is pretty great.
Dave: Yes, I mean it means if you give a gift, a financial gift to FamilyLife it will be doubled and we’re really looking for FamilyLife partners, which means they’re monthly givers.
Ann: And we’re really longing for you to partner with us in this ministry.
Dave: Yes, and so when you jump in and say, “You know what, I believe in FamilyLife. It’s changed my life. I want to help it change other people’s lives and I want to jump in, jump in and become a partner,” which again is monthly. You become a part of our family. I don’t know if you understand, we live, we thrive because of partnerships. It’s amazing that we have a $200,000 matching donor gift and so anything you give will be doubled-
Ann: –for the rest of the year.
Dave: Yes. So, jump in right now and help us out. And by the way, you also get a Weekend to Remember® gift card which is amazing because you get to go to the Weekend to Remember free or give it to somebody else. We just want to say thank you for jumping in with us. We need partners. Partners make this ministry go. We’re asking you to jump in and now’s the best time, May 1st. Do it today.
Shelby: Yes. You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com or you can give us a call with your donation to become a partner at 800-358-6329. Now that can be a one-time gift to become a partner or a recurring monthly gift as well. Again, the number is 800, ‘F’ as in family ‘L’ as in life and then the word TODAY.
Now tomorrow what do we need to do to stop allowing fear to hold us back. What does it mean to be brave? What does it mean to build your faith by trusting and taking steps of faith, listening to God’s whispers and following His voice? Well Annie F. Downs is going to be back again tomorrow with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about stepping out in faith and allowing God to usher us into more. That’s tomorrow.
Shelby: On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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