Review of “Looking for Lovely” by Annie F. Downs

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.

lfl


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?

15 books I read in 2015

So I am not really a reader.  It feels really weird for me to review books or to recommend them.  But for those of you who are and are much more faithful to read books even when you aren’t forced to, here are 15 books I read this past year!

(All titles are links to purchase the books on Amazon.  Books sorted in alphabetic order.)

  1. Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected ; Kayla Aimee
    Find my review of Anchored here.Anchored
  2. Cinderella Ate My Daughter ; Peggy Orenstein
    I will admit, I had to read this for a class or probably never would have unless I somehow came across the sparkly cover.  There were parts of this book I hated and a few when I was really discouraged, but seeing this book through the eyes of a mom who  is concerned about the world her daughter is growing up in is so beneficial.  Great book for anyone interested in thinking about “girlhood” in a new light. Cinderella Ate my daughter
  3. Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer ; Priscilla Shirer

    Find my review of Fervent here.
    Fervent

  4. Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls–Sexual Identity, the Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental Toxins ; Leonard Sax
    This book also falls into the category of books I had to read for class, but I am so thankful I did.  Dr. Sax writes this book both for parents and for any helping professionals who work with girls (e.g. teachers, pastors, counselors, etc.).  What I love about this book is that Dr. Sax not only elaborates on problems in girl world, he also offers solutions.
    girls on the edge
  5. Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have; Annie Downs
    (Taken from my RESOURCES page)
    So I kind of had a girl crush on Annie when I listened to a sermon by her on singleness and found her at a conference in Nashville, TN. We talked about nail polish and she was super cool so I bought her book.  I am not the type to read a book all the way through in anything shorter than a couple years (if I ever finish), but I read this one in a month.  I felt like I was sitting and having coffee with Annie throughout every chapter.  It’s great. Read it.
    LABB
  6. Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World ; Bob Goff
    Where do I begin? I had this book for a long time and knew I needed to read it then finally did and I only wished I had read it sooner.  Bob Goff’s story is so cool, but hearing the lessons that he has learned throughout his life was both fun and inspiring.  Just read it, okay?
    Love Does
  7. Popular: Boys, Booze, and Jesus ; Tindell Baldwin
    I’ll admit, I was skeptical about this one, as I am about any thing with the subtitle “Boys, Booze, and Jesus”.  Tindell Baldwin is Kristian Stanfill’s (Vocalist and Guitarist, Passion Band) sister, who had a hard time growing up in his shadow or her family’s shadow in general.  In this book, she shares her experience of choosing boys, choosing booze, and eventually choosing Jesus.  We used this book for my high school girls’ small group and while they weren’t the best about reading it (surprise, surprise ;), Tindell’s vulnerability in this book lead to great and authentic discussions.  Also, she’s agreed to meet with us in March so STAY TUNED!
    POPULAR
  8. Salvaging My Identity ; Jennifer Mills & Rachel Lovingood
    My focus this summer was on Identity in Christ so I was on the lookout for any and all resources.  I loved the simplicity of this book that spoke to me at a 8th grade girl level (I feel so understood there). I also loved the format that was only 2-4 pages and an easy yet encouraging way to start my day! I sent this to all my middle school girl small group moms as a good read for middle school girls over the summer!
    Salvaging my identity
  9. So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids ; Diane Levin
    This also falls in the category of a book for class, but don’t lose sight there!  This book was extremely eye-opening but also frightening as I saw the rampant effects of hyper sexualization in children, 7 years ago, not to mention the rampant effects today. If you have a kid, work with kids, or know a kid, I would read this. But, be aware, you will get weird looks in coffee shops.
    SSSS
  10. The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance ; John Trent & Gary Smalley 
    I was a little hesitant to share this one, but the message and understanding of the importance of unconditional love from parents is so good. If you work with anyone who tells you about things they’re struggling with, this book provides a great lens of understanding the roles parents sometimes play in those scars.
    The blessing
  11. The Elements of Counseling ; Scott Meier & Susan Davis
    Good bookshelf book for anyone working in the counseling realm.
    Counseling
  12. The Four Loves ; C.S. Lewis
    C. S. Lewis unpacks the 4 types of love in Greek that are used in the New Testament.  He simplifies huge ideas with lots of fun stories along the way.
    4 loves
  13. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming ; Henri Nouwen
    I think the Prodigal Son is a story I could read every day and get something new out of it every time.  This narrative is all about Nowen’s interaction with Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and highlights so many perspectives through which to interact with the grace of the Father in this parable.
    Prodigal
  14. The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls from Today’s Pressures and Conflicting Expectations ; Stephen Hinshaw 
    This book explains and summarizes so well the challenges of girl world, but is written like a Psychology paper and can be kind of hard to get through.
    triple bind
  15. Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ ; Mark Driscoll
    As far as Identity in Christ resources go, I really enjoyed how this book and sermon series discuss Identity in Christ based on the book of Ephesians.
    WYTYA


    What’s your favorite book you read this year?