I met Annie F. Downs almost exactly one year ago at a women’s retreat in Denton, TX. Annie is an author, speaker and blogger from Nashville and last year she was invited to speak at the IBC Women’s Retreat. As a retreat committee team member, I helped organize/plan/decorate for the retreat so the women who attended would feel pampered and refreshed. I was also assigned to work the book table and sell Annie’s books between her speaking sessions on Friday through Sunday. However Annie brought a fabulous assistant/intern who was a pro at setting up and selling her books, so my fabulous book-selling skills were not actually needed. After awkwardly hanging out near the table a few times, I just started chatting with Annie. We compared our wrist tattoos and talked about my upcoming marathon, then I learned she was in the middle of writing her next book.
The book, which is titled “Looking For Lovely, Collecting the Moments that Matter,” is on sale TODAY!
A few months ago, I signed up to receive an advance copy of Annie’s new book, the very same book she was writing last March when I met her! Although the book arrived a few weeks ago, until last week I had only picked it up a few times to read (and re-read) the first chapter. Finally last Sunday, I headed to my favorite spot on the back patio to really dive into the book.
In Looking For Lovely, Annie shares come very personal stories about the broken moments in her life. In the midst of these broken moments, she learned to look for the lovely that God was putting around her and to collect those moments. The sunrise, brightly painted fingernails, concerts at The Ryman Auditorium, the farmers market, sushi, Zumba class and Radnor Lake were lovely for Annie.
But what stood out to me the most was how Annie encourages us to embrace the tough times, the weakness and the uncertainty we all feel in our lives. To recognize that God is pushing us to embrace the brokenness in our lives and to persevere through it. As we learn to persevere, we learn to look for lovely.
Again, I met Annie while she was writing this book. She is loud, funny and very engaging. Although I know that is her job, I still felt like I met and made a friend that weekend in Denton. On the surface, I could not tell she was working through the “broken crazy” and weakness in her life. But do any of us let others see our brokenness? Our weaknesses?
I read Looking For Lovely in just two days, finishing right before we left for a family vacation in West Virginia. It was perfect timing because, even though I love my family, vacations that involve luggage, flying, rental cars, driving, hotels and spending every minute together for five days can be a little challenging. I went into this vacation with the reminder to collect those moments that matter and I returned with wonderful memories.
We flew to Columbus, OH then drove to my hometown of Huntington, WV to stay with my sister for a few days. Then we drove back to Columbus and stayed in a hotel for two nights, so we could watch my niece perform in a cheerleading competition. During our trip, I found lovely in the following places…
- Walking up to my mom’s house at 8:30 PM the night we arrived and hearing laughter coming through the open windows. My mom, sister, niece, aunts and cousins were waiting on us inside, with dinner on the stove. I was immediately reminded of the weekly Sunday family dinners at this house and how much laughter that house has collected over the years.
- Sleeping late, then drinking coffee from my sister’s favorite Disney World mug, while snuggling with the cat. Sometimes I miss having a cat.
- Discussing sleeping arrangements for the three youngest kids and deciding they would all sleep together in one bed. Which meant staying up late, playing video games, watching movies and giggling until midnight we finally told them to go to sleep.
- Letting my sister dye the tips of the girls’ hair purple for the cheerleading competition that weekend. She dyed their hair, rinsed it out in the kitchen sink and I brushed out their hair and blow dried it for them.
- Watching the three youngest kids jump on the trampoline. They would come inside with the bottoms of their feet dirty and ask for Popsicles because they were sweaty from jumping.
- Eating my favorite hometown donuts, pizza and ice cream all in one day (I was on vacation)! When my sister and I took the kids to Austin’s for ice cream, we each ordered separately then realized we both ordered the EXACT same thing, (butterscotch sundaes with whipped cream, without nuts).
- Standing side by side with my sister at the stove in my grandmother’s kitchen, cooking bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy for our five kids. They would reach around us, grabbing biscuits to eat fresh out of the oven. Ten of us were there for breakfast and there is not enough room to eat around the table so we just eat in shifts as the food is ready.
- When I asked the kids to sit together on the couch for a picture that morning, they all agreed and NO ONE complained!
- Leaving the three youngest kids with my mom at the hotel in Columbus to go swimming while my sister, her husband, my husband and I went to World of Beer for dinner and drinks. (Yes, a kid-free night on vacation).
- Taking the kids to COSI, a kid-friendly science museum in Columbus and watching Tallen play in the LEGO exhibit, then learn about gears in the Gadgets exhibit. My engineering, nerdy brain loved every minute!!!
- Watching my niece perform with two different squads at the competition, then staying late with all the girls to watch the elite squads. Cheerleading was a HUGE part of my life growing up, so I loved watching the teams tumble, stunt and dance!
- Indoor trampoline parks are an awesome way to burn off energy before getting on a three-hour flight.
It was a wonderful, memorable family vacation and I was so happy that I was reminded to look for lovely in every situation. Even walking through a crowded convention center packed with 600 cheerleading squads sporting sparkly eye makeup and ginormous cheer bows!