Sunday, May 29, 2016

Looking for Lovely- a challenge we could all use

It has been a hard, life shifting month for our family and the pivot point came at a time of year that is usually filled with lots of joy and things to look forward to. But this year- right on the precipice of our favorite season, summer, we very unexpectedly lost my husband's dear father and suddenly nothing felt worth doing and it felt wrong to be enjoying much about life. Instead of finding all the little pockets of joy and blessing in my days, I was seeing the multitude of big and small ways life would never be the same way. There were no rose colored glasses, just the darkened lense of grief that my days were filtered thru. Life was just sad and hard for awhile in our house and, in a way, we were ok with that. It seems right to have a season of mourning for someone who lived and loved so well. And then there came a night when my husband said, "there is still so much to live for and enjoy- and Dad would want life to be good again." And since then, we've been on a journey of processing this new normal with the tragedy of no Ben in it, but finding the joy- Looking for Lovely. 

 Books are the perfect companion when entering  a season of uncharted territory. A well written book can speak into your life so powerfully- I am so thankful for those brave enough to become authors and share their souls with the world in the hopes of being an encouragement to someone. And what an encouragement it is to have a story resonate so deeply with you that you feel like the author must be reading your mind. Annie F. Downs with her book, Looking for Lovely, has been that author for me in this chapter of life. 

Looking for Lovely is Annie's account of running into many hard things in life and how she could have just focused on that (it would have been easiest) and she would have been...miserable. But that's not what Annie wanted from her life, and that's not what she wants for her readers either. I really appreciate that Annie doesn't just give the pat, easy answers we've kind of become accustomed to hearing (and giving)- Find the silver lining, there's always something to be thankful for, God works all things for our good. All these things are noble aspirations but sometimes, they just don't feel true or helpful. Sometimes life just feels straight up hard and painful and ugly. Annie gets that and first gets down on the level of the hurting and says "I see you- I know it hurts. it's ok to admit it." But she doesn't leave us there, she helps us to our feet and says "But there's beauty here too. Let's look for the Lovely, together." 

The book starts with a look into Annie's life and the "Absence of Lovely"- all the hard, ugly places we find ourselves. I really resonated with her words here- 
"Whatever tragedy you have experienced or are currently living through, the most beautiful thing you can do is LIVE. Keep walking. Keep weeping. Keep eating. Don't ignore the hurt. Don't attempt to avoid it and just move on with your life. Feel it all, and invite people in to feel it with you." I feel like these are the perfect words to share with my husband's family right now- a gift I can pass on. In the second part of the book, Annie takes us on a "search for lovely" and shows us how God wants us to be brave and how much better life is when we can see all the good interwoven with the hard. Also, we see that it is worth it to surround ourselves with our people- those that know us best and can be a faithful witness who both sees the deep hurt but can point us to God's faithfulness too. I like how in this section Annie ends each chapter with a little specific challenge to look for lovely. Annie ends the book with "When I found lovely." I think it can be perfectly summed up with Annie's words- "And as I'm collecting these moments that matter, I'm actually just seeing more of Him. Because in the end that's what it's all about. When you find Jesus, you have found lovely. He is everything we need." 

I received this book from B&H Publishing in exchange for my honest review. 

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