Are you a reader? I sure am. I don't ever a remember a time in my life when I didn't have a stack of books on my nightstand. The problem for me with books is that I don't just read them, I DEVOUR them. I struggle to get focused on anything else other than a good book. However, I'm trying to train myself to enjoy books a little at a time and not to let my stack get so high because I've been waiting for all that "time off" to read.
Recently, I read a book that I loved so much, I actually sat down and immediately needed to write down all of my thoughts I gleaned from the experience. Its called Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie F. Downs. It felt (and still feels) like a significant touch point in the journey I've been on the last eighteen months or so for the Lord to help me re-name and re-identify so many parts of my life through a filter of Truth, not what I had pieced together to be true about myself with the scraps of various opinions and experiences of my life.
From the use of caps locks when she speaks when she's trying to make a point, to the poignant ache I feel from her brutal honesty, I felt at the end of this book that someone I knew had just caught me up on a season of their life.
She put words on thoughts I've had my whole life and didn't even know they mattered. Particularly when it comes to embracing what happened to us as girls in a world where Satan hates our beauty and went after it before we even knew it was something that was ours. Then later in life as we hit 30 and things significantly begin to shift, we have no idea what to do but cling to the belief that maybe I'm lovable, maybe I'm tolerable, but definitely not beautiful. What crap. The Truth is (and always has been) "The King is enthralled by your beauty." (Psalm 45:11). We were created to be His crowning glory. Maybe part of the perseverance is believing in such a way where we can take away the maybes and the justs. That I'm just Emily. Just a Mom. Just a woman who is maybe tolerably pretty or unique or lovable sometimes. Maybe it's about declarations that the Lord says it's true, bigger and more, and that is more than enough. This book left me wanting to dive deep into something that at first I found myself saying "oh this is what I was in the thick of last year!" It helped me to see that there's more. That its a journey woven between the every day steps and not just the hills and valleys.
"If you don't believe the way you are is God-made and God-loved, the good and the bad, the tight and the flabby, the old and the new, the strengths and the weaknesses, you are missing out on connecting with God on a level that only comes to those who embrace and love His creations. (And that includes you.)" -AFD (p43)
It also reminded me that it's OK to feel. I know that, but I think I needed a reminder that it's OK for ME to feel. I feel big things. When a woman shushes me in a restaurant because she believes I'm talking too loudly for her taste in a public place, I feel that in a big way. But big feelings also need big truth from a big God. Who is not confused about how He made me, who my family is made up of,
Who I married or what I do for a living. The more deeply I allow myself to feel, the more Truth I weigh against my feelings, the more I get to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.
"Darkness makes us appreciate the beauty of the light. If you aren't allowing yourself to feel the hurt, sadness, loneliness, and disappointments this fallen world has to offer, you probably aren't feeling the fullness of the joy and beauty the redeemed moments have to offer." -(p76)
"Maybe that's what it means to rejoice in our sufferings as Paul says in Romans 5? Maybe when we make our hearts available to the hard moments and allow ourselves to experience God's love in new ways, we are also increasing our capacity to love others." (P148)
More than anything, this book left me feeling spurred on to the work I know Jesus is doing in me. She shares that she's unfinished and her struggle to finish a book while she feels unfinished. I wish I could hug her and high five to that. We are not finished and by golly we won't be until we look Jesus face to face and begin to walk with Him in the life we were made for on eternity. So I want to walk in my unfinished, not become paralyzed by it. I want to do the work in order to grow and reap the harvest I have sewn with tears, and I want to continue to do the work to unearth the lies that have taken root in my life and sew in more truth.
"What God will do with my seeds, when I return with songs of joy, is grow them into somethingfull of color and health and variety and joy and blessing for others.." (P84)
So why post about this book on my blog?
1) I cannot recommend this book enough. It was fun and I laughed out loud a ton, but it also was filled with such tenderness that I wanted to call all of my people and tell them all about it right then.
2) I think this is a new thing I want to explore. I want to share about what I read so that I can retain it better, but also look back and see how it touched me in the future.
3) I think this book is timely for women. It is filled with such honesty and truth during a time about what it means to be a woman feels like it changes DAILY. One minute we are angry because of how someone in the public eye talks about women (and rightfully so), the next a million people (literally)have liked another half naked photo of a reality star on Instagram. If that's not one heck of a confusing message for a gender to wade through, I don't know what is.
4) All of us go through really dark and hard seasons of our life; maybe you're even in one right now. This book shares Annie's process of how she walked through that season for her and its a really precious (and practical) concept for all of us no matter where we are.
You are so loved, friend. I hope you feel encouraged and that your Thursday can only get better from here. Remember: This is not how the story ends.