Just in time for spring retreats and summer vacations, Annie Downs’ “Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter” is the perfect travel companion.
I am not traveling with it this week, purely by luck of the draw as I’ve been traveling practically every other weekend, but I know my travel-worthy books. Trust me on this. You want this with you if you’re going to be on an airplane, in a terminal, on the beach, in the car, on a comfy sofa, on a porch swing, or at a cafe somewhere (the kind where they don’t mind if you stay awhile).
“Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter” is personal, and brings genuine emotions to the surface, but Annie’s free and funny writing style keeps it light and refreshing, even when she goes deep on self-image, quitting being a quitter, relational pain, and mental health.
This is equally true of her in-person talks at conferences and her previous books (Speak Love: Making Your Words Matter, Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have, and Perfectly Unique: Praising God from Head to Foot), but especially with a book dedicated to finding the silver linings in life’s hardships, Annie is exactly the writer you want to handle these topics.
This book is such a perfect example of why Annie’s readers and audiences walk away feeling like they are really friends with her: she is just so gosh-darn likable, even when she’s confessing her (literal and metaphorical) messes. And she doesn’t shy away from getting real with her readers.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Some chapters might be more difficult to read than others, depending on your issues. If you struggle to find real friendships, for example, the “My People” chapter might be hard to read without a bit of jealousy. Maybe your bitterness stings at self-acceptance, travel opportunities, the freedom of self-employment, living in such a cool city as Nashville… Pause a moment. Take those thoughts captive. Don’t give into it, dear reader. I feel like Annie would say that’s not what this book is about at all. She tells of her victories and blessings because she’s been through the messy stuff to get there. Those relationships took a long time to build; the gym she loves was preceded by years of struggle with fitness; the purpose with which she writes took much wandering in uncertainty – and on and on.
I feel like she would say to read her story as encouragement that it’s still worth pursuing “lovely” even if it takes far longer than you wanted. Don’t let comparison blind you to your own version of lovely in your own life.
In fact, that’s the point of the whole shebang. Or at least, a large part of it.
Look for it. Search, find, seek the beauty in your own pain, in the midst of the drudgery of life, in the storm of unexpected trouble, in the long anxious night.
“If you aren’t experiencing pain, you aren’t experiencing beauty. Darkness makes us appreciate the beauty of the 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.” (p. 76)
Later on she confesses how this was true in her own story, summing up the book nicely:
“I had to be broken to be rebuilt, but breakdowns seem to often come before breakthroughs.” (p. 180)
The idea behind memoir is that it is a look back at a very personal past. Looking back in your past, what are your unexpected “lovelies” – places of victory you never thought would come, places where the divine overwhelmed you with the beauty of nature and taught you something through it, joy that came despite the threat of never-ending darkness?
Feel free to leave your answer as an encouragement to others in the comments below or post them on social media!
“Beauty is what makes it possible to keep going. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? It’s not just in the things everyone sees, but it is what YOU see, what sticks out to you, the unique moments God gives you to collect up and hold and draw strength from.” (p. 50)