Friday, April 8, 2016

Book Review: Looking for Lovely

***This post originally appeared on my blog Ruminations and Reflections***

Early this year, I applied to be on a launch team for a new Lifeway Book releasing by Annie F. Downs - Looking for Lovely.  I'd never participated in a launch team before and figured I'd have little chance to make it...but I did!  And there began my journey of lovely. 

I'd followed Annie on the socials and knew she'd written other books (of which I haven't read...yet), and that she was single, which is always something that endears me to a godly woman.  Those of us never marrieds that follow Christ have a desire to marry.  But, we're not going to settle for Mr. Maybe.  Some choose singleness.  Others follow God's choice for a season, however long that season lasts. 

I anxiously awaited my advance copy and it came with all the pomp and circumstance of a glorious royal entry full of glittery confetti!  Party started!

I paced my reading of this book because it would be a little over two months before it hit the market on April 5 and I wanted to savor every word.  And it didn't disappoint.  

Annie shared (quite vulnerably, I might add) about a season of life when she dealt with her "broken crazy."  A time in her life when her resilience was non-existent and she struggled to focus on the good in things; lovely was not a word in her vocabulary.  

The journey through this book of Annie's search for lovely takes you so many places - to the Holy Land, the Ryman Auditorium, a beautiful sunrise, a farmer's market and Monet's House.  Each chapter unveils the lovely Annie found in the midst of the ordinary things of life and packaging it up like putting lightning bugs in a jar in hopes they would blink forever.  At the end of each chapter after Annie had visually walked us through her lovely experience, she challenged us with our own assignment.  Get up early and watch a sunrise.  Paint your nails.  Whatever that challenge was, Annie encouraged us to find lovely in our lives.  

When I ruminated over this blog post review of the book, I wanted to share a lovely in my life.  There are so many in my life that I often overlook.  Earlier this week I was at dinner with a longtime friend.  As we ate, a man who was in the restaurant making balloon animals in return for donations for a mission trip walked up and gave us each our own animal.  I got a turtle that is cute as a button.  He said they'd probably last about two weeks.  Now I have a "lovely" sitting in my home to remind me of that dinner with a cherished friend.

To pick a lovely I could really share in depth, I wanted something that, even to this day, I recall and smile.  It was last May, the first Saturday in May, which for us in Louisville, Kentucky, is Derby Day.  I have a standing date with a sweet lady from my church, Martha, the first Saturday of every month.  Martha has known me since before I was born.  She and my Mom were dear friends.  She is a pillar of our church and when you look up hospitality in the dictionary her picture is there.  Recently, her two best friends have slipped from her life - one has gone on to Heaven and the other one is trapped in a world of dementia.  We started this standing date when I realized how I would feel in her shoes.  And, selfishly, because she is a connection to my Mom and Dad, who are both now gone.  Even more than that, she is so wise and special to me.

On every other first Saturday we would head somewhere for brunch or lunch in town, with Cracker Barrel as one of our favorite places (talk about lovely!)  But on that first Saturday in May, Derby Day, I suggested someplace special.  I made reservations at the Science Hill Inn just outside of Louisville in Shelbyville, Kentucky.  This historic building was a preparatory school for girls from 1825 to 1939.  It still stands today and houses a quaint dining room serving Kentucky delicacies.  For Derby Day, there was a lovely brunch and we headed there for our special day.

As we entered the building, you could feel the historic presence of girls who had dreams of being anything they wanted to be.  We made our way to the dining room and it felt like I walked into the 1800s.  The tables were colonial style and draped with bright, white tablecloths.  The serving staff was all adorned with tuxes or black and white attire and you could tell all of them had worked there for years and knew the regulars by name.  We were seated by a lovely window overlooking the gardens.  It was perfect.  It was lovely.  

We talked and shared and didn't feel rushed to leave. (Unlike the time they threw us out of Cracker Barrel...but I digress)  While sitting there, a sweet teenager came to our table and asked if she could pray for us.  Simply lovely.  Our server shared her Dad was a pastor in the area and they were a great family.  If the day wasn't lovely enough, this made it lovelier.  The weather was picture perfect and the company even better.  

As I mentioned, Martha and I do this every month, never fail, save one month when it just didn't work out.  And I look forward to it every month.  But this Derby Day 2015 will be a lovely I'll never forget.

If you are expecting an exegetical thesis on the book of Ezekial, it's not this book.  But, if you've ever had a problem finding lovely in your this world....and tired of being the strong one or adulting, this is a must read.  All of the lovely points to the One who is the Loveliest of all.  

"This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." - Romans 5:5

"Hope is an expensive commodity, not easily fought for, and the result of a process that will take some time." - Annie F. Downs

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