First of all, it feels weird to tell you anything other than that I read this book in like two days, because that is my typical fashion for a book by Annie; but as many of you know, the last month of my life took many twists and turns that not only prevented me from reading, but seemed to create the space in my heart to so desperately need every single word Annie wrote in this book.
I was a little scared to begin this book right after losing my Dad very suddenly. Nothing felt “lovely”. Absolutely nothing. But I’m ever so thankful I did, because in these pages I didn’t find statements about how I should focus on God being good or knowing that He works all things together for good or any of these things that feel so hard to believe right now; instead, I found Annie’s very really and raw journey which so perfectly met me where I was.
Let me take a few steps back here and disclaim to you that I absolutely love Annie. I have met her a few times at conferences in Nashville and attended her sessions and I honestly have to remind myself that we aren’t friends that hang out and talk on a regular basis, because to read her books is to truly feel like you know her. And seeing her talk in person is exactly the same as how she writes and I love that.
Not only do I feel like I know her, I identify with her on an almost creepy amount of things- Gilmore Girls, loud laugh, having way too many friends and loving them deep, struggling with body image, a propensity to listen to “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel over and over again and cry, and the list goes on, trust me. I will share that I found the very first way I differ with Annie in this book, she is a morning person. But I chose to work through that and fight for our author-reader friendship, so enough about me. Let’s talk about this beautiful book.
I love Annie’s style of communication. She starts with a story that either provokes me to be like, “Girl, I feel you.” Or has me laughing so hard tears are streaming down my face and then all of a sudden she has connected it to this truth that has me looking around to see who is staring at me because I know that is just for me.
Looking for Lovely kind of kicked me in the gut in ways that I needed it over and over again. Annie shared about walking into the brokenness in her own life and oh how I desperately needed someone to stop saying life was beautiful and truly talk about the hard parts.
“If you want to be full of hope, you have to suffer a bit.”
She shared about overcoming the lies and broken pieces of her life and how the Lord so intimately met her there. This journey is hard and heartbreaking. Both from experience and from walking girls through it, I know that you feel alone, broken, and like giving up, and I love that Annie illuminated both how real and how trying of a journey this is but most importantly how fruitful and life giving it is. (Also, I love how she addressed just how helpful going to counseling can be, as it can be a scary and stigmatized step for many.)
“I started to turn toward the whispered lies and look them in the face, giving my soul a voice to stand up for the truth.”
But amidst this hard and trying journey of a broken world full of pain and heartache, Annie emphasizes that there are beautiful little reminders of hope. She speaks about the small things that remind her life is good like sushi and friends, and I can attest to these little sprinkles of grace in dark times, like a friend who brings Starbucks to the hospital and just massages your back and doesn’t say a word, a best friend that brings you a birthday present the day your Dad dies in the hospital, or coworkers that throw you a birthday party a week late so you could still be celebrated. (Can I get on my soap box here for just a second and scream to you to never separate yourself from the body of Christ. Can I just tell you from the depths of my soul how desperately you need them when you are in these dark places?)
I was listening to a sermon last night as a I was driving into Atlanta, because sometimes I need room to be myself and cry in response to sermons. John Piper talked about how Jesus taught us to rejoice. This wasn’t a rejoicing that was naïve or oblivious to pain and hurt, but this was a rejoicing with tears streaming down his face in pain and fear to the point of death, but He “rejoiced in the hope of the glory of God”. Similarly, Paul is in chains, in prison in a deep hole, truly suffering and writes to the Church how he rejoices for them.
And as I have been so thankful and so blessed amidst feeling so much pain I actually feel it in my chest, God has taught me so much about this. We rejoice that somehow, someday this will all make sense, but right now it doesn’t and it hurts and God invites us to feel that and invite Him into it.
And I think Annie emphasizes this so well that when we walk into our rainy days and lonely nights and painful thoughts, we somehow walk into allowing hope and love to abound in us in deeper ways that we ever thought possible.
“If you aren’t experiencing pain, you aren’t experiencing beauty. Darkness makes us appreciate the beauty of light. If you aren’t allowing yourself to feel the hurt, sadness, loneliness, and disappointment this fallen world has to offer, you probably aren’t feeling the fullness of the joy and beauty the redeemed moments have to offer.”
To sum all of this up, I loved this book and amidst reading it bought 3 copies for other people. You can meet my friend Annie by clicking the photo of the book above.
What were your favorite quotes from Looking for Lovely?