Start Small & Celebrate Progress (Plus a Party Invite for You)

Think big! Aim high! Grab the gold! Go for the gusto! Have I annoyed you yet? Are these even motivational anymore? Were they ever?

the bench

It’s even worse when Christians say it. Aren’t you tired of being told that if you don’t go after it then your faith must not be big enough? That your quiet life is incriminating evidence that you aren’t being faithful to your calling?

What if a quiet life is your calling? What if being faithful in the small things is exactly what is required of you?

It’s true, sometimes we’re called to step out and do big things. This can be beautiful, right, and holy.

But staying in and doing small things can be beautiful, right, and holy as well.

I’ve grown weary of dream bigger and do more and so I spent a year writing a book about celebrating my smallness instead.

Maybe that seems ironic.

It’s funny that the often perceived big life of being a published author has been the catalyst for teaching me the importance of small beginnings and slow starts.


There are so many little weird, twisty things that come up in this business that remind me over and over again that the only place where my soul will find true rest in my work and in my life is in celebrating my smallness in the presence of Christ.

Celebrating my smallness does not mean hanging my head down low and not saying any words and being quiet all the time. It doesn’t mean hiding out or holding my tongue.

Instead, it means knowing my true home is Jesus and anything good the world has to offer is just a shadow. It means getting all my accolades from my Father, laying down ladders and picking up crosses. It means sitting down on the inside.

It looks like playing cars on the floor, pushing a cart through the grocery store aisle, studying on the weekend when everyone else goes out.

It might also look like standing on a stage in a spot of bright light or having my words bound on a bookstore shelf knowing all the while that my worth is bound up in the life of Christ alone and my life is hidden in him no matter what.

And so celebrating our smallness looks different depending on the day, the event, the season. For me right now, celebrating my smallness looks like having a party. Does that sound weird? I’m learning it isn’t.

photo 1

My fourth book, Simply Tuesday, will release four weeks from today and I want to celebrate it with people like you because having a party is a way to celebrate progress. I think that’s important and also, it’s fun!

If you want to be there, I want you to be there. That’s as simple as I can say it.

The only draw-back is the capacity. We wish we could say come one come all! But then we might have a fire marshal situation on our hands.

So here’s what we’ve decided: if you would like to come to the barn party to celebrate the release of Simply Tuesday, enter you name in the hat by filling out this form below.

UPDATE: The entry period has closed – if you signed up for the party, look for an email in your inbox by the end of the day Saturday July 25. Thank you!

We’ll introduce a few other simple, pre-order bonuses in the days to come so if you sign up here and your name isn’t randomly selected for the Barn event, you will already be signed up for the bonuses.

Thank you for your support, for being part of this lovely community and the kind of reader who makes launch parties worth it. I hope to see you soon!

Have you signed up for my free video series yet? Visit to receive the first of four videos today, practical ways to create space for your soul to breathe even in the midst of your busy life.


Seeing Beyond What is to What Could Be

For about a week now, I’ve been teary. It isn’t because something bad has happened or anything is wrong. More, it’s because in the midst of a world of heartbreak, sorrow, pain, and anxiety, there is still hope.

This past week, I’ve seen that hope with my own two eyes and it’s made them leak. A lot.

the hope

We don’t always get to see the hope that floats around us, but over the past few days I did. John officiated a wedding for a precious young couple we’ve known since they were in high school, was honored to remind them just before they made their covenant vows that they already have everything they need in Christ – to love, to serve, and to make a life together.

And then yesterday I sat in a cozy living room with a group of women celebrating our friend who is pregnant with her fourth baby – a baby girl who will have three older brothers. I didn’t make a scene, but the joy took over my face and hijacked my eyes. I’m getting good at wiping away tears without anyone noticing.

Another reason for the joy is this – after years of praying, waiting, and longing for a family dream to come true, it finally has. Remember that event we had last year in November, the one we hosted in a borrowed barn, the one were I got to work with my whole family to encourage people and tell stories and poke-awake the art living inside them?

Well we are having another similar event, this time for writers. And before I had a chance to write a post about it, that event sold out in just a few days. I’ll be doing that with Christa Wells this Saturday.

But this time, we won’t be using a borrowed barn. This time, we’ll be in The World’s Worst Barn on my sister’s property.

Allow me to give you a quick tour:

DSC_5883-550x385Here is the barn when they bought the property. And when I say “barn” you know I mean “exaggerated shed” right?


Here it is from the inside looking towards the front – dark, utilitarian, kind of mannish. Nothing special, but maybe a bit of potential? Can you see it?


Ahhh! Windows make all the difference. Now we’re getting somewhere.

It was at this point in the barn renovation a few weeks ago that we decided to host a second event here this fall, one for anyone who wants to slow down, connect, and tackle chronic discouragement that seems to creep it’s way into our homes, families, and souls during the holiday season.

We’re calling it Hope*ologie Live: At the Barn but you don’t have to be a member of Hope*ologie to come. We aren’t interested in hosting a conference or a seminar. We won’t sit in rows or fill in blanks from a screen.

Instead, we’ve saved a seat for you in the living room, to join our family and a group of friends you’ve just met who are sharing the same journey.

So here’s a short little video, courtesy of Dad and his ukelele, inviting YOU to join us on November 15 (email subscribers may need to click over to view):

When you come up the gravel driveway, here’s what you can expect to find included with your ticket price:

  • Hands-on hope for your home: craft-making with The Nester
  • Encouragement toward building a family legacy of hope: conversation with Dad
  • Space to breathe in a breathless world: small group soul-talk with Emily and John
  • Mom’s beans and cornbread dinner (and S’mores of course)
  • Signed copy of Myquillyn’s book, The Nesting Place
  • Signed copy of Emily’s book, A Million Little Ways
  • A digital copy of Gary’s ebook, Scary Hope

Tickets are available now. But before you get too worried that you’ll have to sit on a dusty barrel with only wires and darkness for company, here’s proof that we’re ready for you.


And one more . . .


Thankful tears come again, because sometimes my soul feels a lot like that first barn photo – tired, forgotten, and overwhelmed with all that has yet to happen, all the longings that have yet been realized.

But this little building with the new white walls reminds me how there is hope for even the most run-down and tired among us and that sometimes all we need is a little reminder to look beyond what is to what could be.

We are thrilled to finally have a place to gather and offer those reminders. It isn’t perfect but it feels like home. We hope you’ll feel that way, too.

You do not have to be a member of Hope*ologie to attend. Here are the details one last time:

Hope*ologie Live: At the Barn
Saturday November 15, 2014
Midland, NC
2 – 7 pm, bonfire 7 – 8 pm

Designed especially for you – to chase away chronic discouragement
and offer hope for your right-now home, family, and soul.

Hope*ologie Live

I swiped all barn photos from my seestor. She and her husband and their good friend Sean are the miracle workers behind this barn renovation.

Photos From Our Afternoon At the Barn 2013

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It’s been nearly two weeks since our gathering At the Barn and today is the day I finally get to share with you a peek into our time together. We were a small group on purpose, to keep intimidation low and eye-contact high. We wanted to gather for an afternoon of storytelling, music, conversation, and art. So that is what we did.

All of the photos in this post were taken by Mary Anne Morgan, a kind, thoughtful artist who offered to come document the day for us in what is one of the most generous gifts I have ever received.

Photos might be my love language, and to have her there allowed me to be fully present in the day without feeling like I was missing something. Be kind to photographers, friends. They tell the stories we can’t afford to forget. And Mary Anne? Thank you is too small, but I say it anyway.

View More: friends and family behind the day: Stacey, Kendra (The Sugar Box baker), Caroline, Jen, Randy, Melissa, John, me, Dad, Mom, Chad, Myquillyn, Reeve, and Jason. Ok. Ready to scroll? Go!

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View More: View More: View More: View More: generous artist who donated her time and talent: Annie Barnett of Be Small Studios did the hand lettering for this quote and I printed them out for the barn friends.

View More: View More: sister did every stitch of the decorations. I love the way she had lovely voice in the room without ever picking up a microphone – her design and creativity spoke whimsy and generosity over everyone who came.

View More: More: View More: View More: View More: View More: View More: View More: View More: View More: View More: More: View More: View More: View More: View More:

View More: View More: View More: View More: at the barn View More: View More: View More: View More:

View More: View More: View More: View More: View More: View More: View More: it weren’t for Mary Anne, the following four photos taken on my phone would have been about the extent of the barn documentation:

my photos at the barnOh, and of course, this one:

The Sugar Box

If you want another peek into the day from some of the people who came, here are a few posts they’ve written so far:

Lori Harris: Ramblings From a Day At the Barn

Emily Gilmore: At the Barn 2013

Rachel Franklin: In Which We Made Art

Jenny Call: Art and Vulnerability

Theresa Hardymon: Grace Came Down in a Barn

And two women who started their own blogs after the Barn event (!!):

Shawna Anderson: At the Barn

Yuko: Now Let’s Talk About Fear

If you would like to see more photos from the barn (yes, there’s more. I know!) you can visit my Facebook page where I will post them all. And if you have no idea what this barn thing is but would like to know more, it’s basically a gathering my family and I hosted to have a way to talk about the concepts in my book, A Million Little Ways.

Here are  my first thoughts about our gathering last week: Reflections From the Barn. And here are all the post I’ve written about the Barn so far. We hope to do it again in 2014, this time at my sister’s house! Stay tuned for details on that.

Reflections From the Barn

The GranaryI haven’t checked my email in two days.

After the barn, I needed to be still in my soul and checking my email tends to stir things up on the inside for me. So I’ve avoided it and I’m trusting there are no emergencies in my inbox.

The real emergencies never show up that way anyway.

On Friday I wrote a post called This Might Not Work where I shared with you how excitement and risk were doing their work within me  on the eve of doing something I’ve never done before. Today I want to offer you some initial reflections from the Barn, but remember I’m a slow processor so there may be more coming in a later post. You’ve been warned.


“One who really wishes to know oneself has to be a restless, fanatical collector of disappointments.”

Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

I haven’t read this novel, but I have been thinking for the past week or so about this line I saw quoted from it. I can’t get it out of my mind because I think I completely agree with it.

When I wrote A Million Little Ways it was an attempt to remind myself and hopefully the reader how we have been created in the spectacular image of God, how Christ lives within us, and how he wants to come out through the unique filter of our personality. When we move toward what makes us come alive, when we dare to be who we really are (not who we wish we were instead), art comes out.

I set out to somehow poke-awake the sleeping soul and I know, at least for some, that is what has happened.

When my family and I sat together in my sister’s living room last May and talked about hosting a small gathering around the subject of my book, I told them I wanted it to simply feel like a living, breathing chapter one.

I knew better than to expect one afternoon event could cover all I wished to talk about, but I hoped it would at least be another layer of inspiration for those who came – to stir up questions, longing, and life.

As I sat in front of the 80 gathered in that small barn, I watched as desire welled up from the depths, watched and listened as the image bearers brought glory to God simply by being themselves.

But I also saw furrowed brows and tears and heartache because when desire is touched, it releases longing as well as something else.


The reason this quote from Mercier comes back to me this morning is because whenever you open yourself up to desire, you must also realize you are now vulnerable to deep disappointment.

Our deepest desires often hold hands with our most profound disappointments. And this can be terrifying.

Which is perhaps why a lot of people choose to avoid desire in the first place.

It takes courage to honestly consider desire in the presence of Jesus. Am I brave enough to acknowledge what I most long for? Am I willing to expose my desires in the light of the love of God? As we begin to uncover the desires we may be reluctant to face, remember the Gospel makes it possible for us to confront whatever we see.

A Million Little Ways

There are many things I’m thankful for in regards to The Barn on Saturday, the first among them being the fact that people came. Kind, gracious, artists came – from close to home (Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem) as well as from far away (Colorado, Texas, New York).  I still can’t believe they came. They came!

And I tear up thinking about what a privilege and honor it was to sit among those who showed up, to serve with my family, to stand with my husband all day long.

So many made the day possible – my sister, my parents, friends, volunteers – and I will share them with you in my next barn post, complete with the most beautiful photos from the day, captured so generously by Mary Anne Morgan (I seriously can’t wait to show you her photos – here’s one:)

john and emily

But for now, I simply leave you with this small, partial thought on what is happening within me and within John as a result of our time at The Barn:

We are building our lives at the intersection of desire and disappointment. We are setting up camp here on the corner, waking up to our own deepest longings as well as our most profound fears. The life of Christ was one of divine courage as well as undeniable weakness. It’s true, He experienced victory over death, but first he had to die alone, enduring the most profound disappointment the earth has ever seen.

As we celebrate our smallness in the presence of Christ, we realize together there is no place else for us to go. And so we simply stay here on the corner, awake to desire as well as fear, inviting others to join us here. At the Barn, they did just that.

This Might Not Work

“At some level, this might not work is at the heart of all important projects, of everything new and worth doing. And it can paralyze us into inaction, into watering down our art and into failing to ship.”

Seth Godin, from his post Out on a Limb

Since my family and I first started talking about working together to host a gathering of people this fall, the first thing that popped in my head was that this might not work.

We wanted to host an intentional time of story-telling, music, and conversation; a time to poke-awake the art inside you that may be hidden under layers of doubt, discouragement and distraction; a time to connect on a more personal level with one another in a way a larger venue wouldn’t allow.

When we picked a date and began to give details and times to what had  formerly only been thoughts and ideas, it came up again – this might not work.

But you get to a point where having the thing work is less important to you than giving it a try. For me, not trying it at all was a worse fate than trying it and having it not work.

If you could follow that.

emily p freeman books

When people start things, they don’t do it because they are necessarily ready. They don’t do it because they have all the answers to every question or because they have some guarantee of success from an invisible authority.

People who do stuff haven’t figured out the secret to doing stuff. They have simply decided to stop letting the fear of this might not work control their lives.

This might not work is either a curse, something that you labor under, or it’s a blessing, a chance to fly and do work you never thought possible.” – Seth Godin

at the barn prepAfter years of praying, months of planning, and lots of help, tomorrow we will host our very first gathering At the Barn.

It’s true, it might not work – it might not go as planned, it might not be what I hope it will be, it might not turn out exactly like I want it to.

But we’re doing it anyway. I’ve never been more excited about an event.

December 1 Book Signing

After an extremely busy fall, At the Barn is my last official event of 2013. But I’m pleased to announce I will be doing an informal book signing on Sunday December 1, joining a group of local artisans at their annual Handmade at Home gathering. It’s a great way to support local artists and find unique gifts for friends and family. We would love to have you join us!

  • Sunday December 1
  • 2011 Medhurst Drive Greensboro, NC 27410
  • Drop in 4 – 7 pm (the event starts at 1 pm, but I won’t be there until 4)

Check out the Facebook event page and join if you can come!