Rejoice, bookworms! We get to welcome a bouncing new book to the world today!
I kinda feel like I should be writing a birth announcement, except it isn't a book I birthed and, really, is it my place to announce it? On the other hand, books aren't birthed solely by their authors. Readers have a role in the birthing process, too. Beside, I got the honor of being on this book's launch team so, here goes!
I'm pleased to announce the arrival of Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs! *cue the party horns*
I received my copy of LFL in February, and quickly consumed it: which means I dog-eared pages, underlined, and starred the heck out of it. And then I did what I normally do after I read a book that connected with me.
I collected all my favorite quotes from the book and jotted them down. This time, I added the notes to the back pages of the book so I'll always have them.
This is the second book I've read of Annie's. [Sidebar: through her book Let's All Be Brave, I found out we are from the same hometown in Georgia. I loved her already!] I love her writing style because it flows and doesn't force me to work at comprehending. When I read her words, I feel like she's having a conversation in my head. I like authors who feel like friends (even though the moment I raise my head from the book, reality pummels me and I remember - sadly - that I really don't know this person in real life).
The premise of Looking for Lovely requires language that doesn't force its way into your head: the point of the book is we all have the God-given ability to find lovely even in the starkest circumstances. Annie tells the stories of her life and doesn't shy away from the painful parts. In the foreword, she spends the the very first 88 words of the book unpacking her "massive breakdown" and ends it with seven words of wisdom that came with a price, as most wisdom does:
Transformation and suffering came in a pair.
When Annie throws down a gauntlet by starting the book like that? Whoa, baby. Get your waders on because it's gonna get deep in here.
Annie continued to captivate me in the Introduction when she went just a bit further into the story of her breakdown, and explained the hard place she found herself in the summer of 2012. And then, she went and brought up her white tattoo. And THAT was the hook that pulled me into the boat of Annie's book.
I've been wanting a white tattoo for a while. A few days before my 40th birthday, I even went to the tattoo parlor to discuss the one I wanted with the tattoo artist. When I explained I wanted a white one because I wanted it to be faint so only I could see it, the artist and his buddies argued tattoos are meant to be visible art - so why make it barely visible? Seeing how pale my skin is, he and his buddies advised me NOT to get a white tattoo. I walked away and shelved my idea... until I read Annie's words:
So grace. I needed it. I really wanted it permanently tattooed on my wrist. But, because I didn't want it to be distracting every day for the rest of my existence, I wanted it to be white. I am as pale a shade of human as people come, and I cannot tan. I'm either white or red. Pale or sunburned. So a black ink tattoo would be seen a mile away, while a white tattoo on me doesn't stand out at all. I imagined it would almost look like a brand. And that is the feel I wanted. I wanted it literally burned into my skin because I wanted to BE grace. I wanted those five letters to be stuck to me. And I wanted it, then in August 2012, to mark some important shifts of season.
Annie asked a lifelong friend to write the word "grace" with her great penmanship, and the tattoo artist inked it in the friend's handwriting. My word isn't grace. It's something else I've written on myself countless times already, using pens and Sharpies and tubes of henna. It's a word that defines who I am because it reminds me WHOSE I am. After reading Looking for Lovely, I haven't bolted out to get my tattoo quite yet. However, it's something I'm still pondering.
I turned the page and moved from the white tattoo story into the next topic on Annie's mind: fitted sheets. Yep... fitted sheets!
Aaaannndd... this is where I stop. I'm not going to unpack the book blow by blow for you. You don't need a "helicopter parent" book review! You need to go pick up the book yourself, and dive in. You're going to love the short chapters and the way Annie ends some of them with a tip on looking for your own lovely.
But before you do that, I'll leave you with two things:
First, I know it's hard to find lovely in the shattered pieces of your life. I've lived days full of such grief and loss when I couldn't get out of bed, much less look for something worth finding. There are still days I feel looking is a waste of time. If you relate to this, would you consider reaching out to me or someone you trust? And as a way to encourage you (and myself), I'm going to post photo art for the next few Mondays (because Mondays can be hard days, which means looking for lovely can be a hard task). I'll use my photos or art, plus and Annie's Looking for Lovely words in hopes of reminding you to keep looking.
Second, I thought it best to end this post where Annie's book ends (and I promise this isn't a spoiler). In the last chapter, she talks about her love for God and music and wanting to sing a song for Him. It's a lovely tune! Wanna sing along with us?
I would sing that He is a miracle worker, even when you aren't seeing it. I'd sing that His love is unmatched, and you can see that best in the darkness. I'd sing that my life is only because of Jesus and only for Jesus and the mess of an Annie I would be without Him is almost too painful for me to imagine. I'd sing over and over again that He knows me better than I know myself, and for all the hard days and all the confusing moments and all the pain I have faced, I wouldn't trade a minute of it because of how I know Him now. I'd share a verse about how He can be trusted, how God is your Father and Jesus is your best Friend and the Holy Spirit is here to comfort you.
I would sing that I know no greater joy than living life with Jesus, and I lack absolutely nothing because I have Him.