I have begun this thing of creating my own hashtags to reflect seasons in my life. I don’t know why, but I LOVE hashtags. I think I love the way they can give names to moments. I started this last fall when I did a lot of traveling and aptly #followingfall2015 to all my photos.
And so, in April, which had become blurry and heavy with the tough stuff of life, as I read Annie F. Down’s newest book Looking for Lovely a new # emerged. I almost didn’t read it. But one late, sleepless night it caught my eye in the kindle store and I thought, “well, why not check it out.” I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did. Looking for Lovely taught me to lean into some words I truly needed to lean into – perseverance and hope – when I was feeling wrung dry. Her words, inspired by Romans 5:3-5, “pressing into the hard on behalf of the hope” wound up on post-its on my laptop and my mirror. And the post-its soon became #’s.
#allthesummerlovely grew out of #allthelovely. It helps me actively pay attention to the lovely in my life. It disciplines me to focus beyond myself to where God is showing up and asking me to go. And the lovely hit a new level this month when I spent the weekend in Nashville. Nashville is #allthesummerlovely if a city ever needed to be.
When I signed up on a whim to visit Nashville, just me, without knowing anyone in the place I was going, I was understandably nervous. But everything went smoother that I could ever imagined. And the smoother it went, the braver I got, and the more lovely I saw everywhere. It was in the “tiny house” Air BnB I stayed in (which I am convinced was designed with me in mind with its loft bed, copper finishes, giant tub, and aqua paint accents). I found it in new friends who had also bravely come alone and happened to be the first people I talked to. I heard it in music from artists large and small – Post Monroe, Meridith Andrews, The Shadowboxers, Luci Silvas, and Dave Barnes. I felt it at Radnor Lake followed by a dance party and again on 12 South with cool rosemary mint coffee, sweet lavender and whiskey ice cream, and brightly colored walls perfect for photo taking. Even in the craziness of walking down Broadway at midnight, it was lovely. There was lovely in small details too – like getting through security and to my gate in under 10 minutes both ways and in no issues with the rental car.
I could go on and on about my weekend in Nashville that felt like 5 days instead of 2.5. About Annie’s talk Friday night, challenging us to “leave the table,” we are comfortable at in order to follow Jesus. About the crystal clear voice and wonderful nature of Meredith Andrews, whose small stature like mine doesn’t stop her from having a large presence when she leads worship on stage. About strawberry lemonade donuts at the Golden Sound and the view of the city from the Cumberland Park pedestrian bridge. If you see me in person, I’d be more than thrilled to grab coffee and tell you all about it. There was so. much. lovely.
And in all this lovely, God once again proved to me that I can trust Him. As I write this, I think, in all this summer lovely, that was the goal — the rebuilding of spirit and trust. In Looking for Lovely, Annie also writes:
“So looking for lovely is not some sort of cheerleader chant. I’m not waving pom-poms at you or dressing like Pollyanna and trying to convince you that things shouldn’t hurt if you are “doing this right.” In fact, I’d say it’s the other way around. It’s not about pretending everything is beautiful and nothing is ugly and you have no questions or doubts and picking out the beautiful in your everyday is going to protect you from anything hurting ever. It’s about feeling pain, letting the sufferings be part of your life, embracing Romans 5:3 moments so you can process through the Romans 5:4 days so you can live a Romans 5:5 hope-filled life.”
Here’s to more summer and all year lovely. I hope you keep seeing it too.
Most of the lovely places I went in Nashville:
And some of the lovely people: