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.


  1. Briane Kearns says

    For me, that” intersection of desire and disappointment” is alluring and dangerous at the same time. For someone who has lived her entire life- 54 years- being the responsible one, the one that did the “right thing” even when no one else would, even when dreams died because of it, even when the soul was stifled and stilled- this intersection is the bulls eye of pain and longing and “perhaps never”s and “but maybe someday”s……
    And maybe that means that doing the “right thing” wasn’t even the right thing after all, which is also really scary. I sacrificed so much for “the right thing.” If I made all the sacrifices and compromises and experienced the heartbreak for something that wasn’t even the “right thing” then where am I really? Where?
    And that was my perspective for all of that emotion in the barn on Saturday. I saw young women with dreams but fear, and I wanted to stand up and scream JUST GO DO IT- not in the Nike sort of way, but- “Oh sweet daughter of the one true God- Please go be the person that you were meant to be and don’t look back.”
    How I wish someone had said that to me.
    Thank you for saying it now.
    Keep speaking.

  2. says

    Oh Emily. My heart began to beat a little faster as I read this – about deep desire meeting together with profound disappointment. I blink back hot tears as I think about facing fears on the way to living out who I most fully am.

    I look forward to continue watching how all of this unfolds in your life.

  3. says

    I am so sure it was a most beautiful day for you and your family as you watched a hope, a dream, a desire come true. So wish I could have joined you this time, but maybe I will be able to next time. And I hope there is a next time : ) Excited to see more pictures and hear more about your first barn event. I’m smiling as I write this. Can you feel it? : ) : ) : ) : )

    On this week of Thanksgiving, I want to thank you, Emily, for what you share here in this space. I have truly found it to be a place where I can breathe and learn how to be myself. Thank you for sharing your vulnerabilities, so that I, too, may learn how.

    You and your family are a blessing to me even if it is only through this cyber-world!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. says

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


    That’s exactly why I started crying after chapter one. I’m several more in and plan to pick it up for a plane trip tomorrow but fear I’ll have to switch over to InStyle cuz I don’t love to cry on planes!

    Thank you, Emily.

  5. says

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

    yes. exactly this.

    and to sit there in that place without wavering about the truth that God loves me deeply?

    oh the gift and the grace!

    and for the record, this colorado girl returned from the Barn Event a little more free.

    what happened there was beautiful.

  6. kristie says

    Emily, thanks for sharing… This echo ‘ s the stuff that’s been stirring in me as well. I’ve spent the last year meditating and reflecting on Genesis 12: 1-10. Realizing for the first time really; there is this living space called a “threshold.”
    God has something… A promise, a way of being and living for me that is more authentic, closer and truer to who He has created me to be… where I am more fully living the art I was meant to be… The questions that rise up for me are, “Do I really trust Him?” “What keeps me from letting go and really trusting Him in this journey He’s inviting me to take with him? “What am I afraid of; afraid to let go of?” “Can I really trust Him as I let go with one hand to my comforts, and take Him by the other; allowing Him lead me on?” I’m living in the threshold of something… I’ve taken some baby steps in my heart and mind… but I’m aware that I haven’t given full consent for these next steps yet but, so much of me wants to… wants to see what’s up ahead. Closer to what He desires for me. Closer to my own hearts desire.
    Also, thanks for putting it out there a couple of times now that you’re a slow processor. Me too. So, of course it’s nice to know I’m not alone in that and that someone I admire even shares in that with me :) Thank you. I’m so appreciative of your stirrings and writings; blogs and books.

  7. says

    1) I would have loved to participate at the Barn, it sounds amazing.
    2) I feel silly asking this but… I love your black lace cardigan, can you share where it came from? :)

  8. says

    This post brought tears to my eyes. I nod along with all that you say, especially the fear part. But then, you already know that.

    I am SO glad it was a beautiful event. I thought about you all day. And that picture? Ten shades of lovely, my friend.

  9. says

    I love this. Totally reminds me of this quote by Marianne Williamson:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    This is my biggest fear—not just of failure, but of success. Maybe it’s a fear of the unknown, of how it would look to actually DO what my heart dreams of. Emily—by letting your light shine? You are giving this Minnesota girl courage to let my light shine too, bringing glory to God by living life fully alive, and doing what I was created to do. Crazy proud and impressed and motivated by the putting on of the Barn event. Soooo wish MN wasn’t so far from NC! Next time I will find a way to be there. :) xoxo

  10. says

    I reached that intersection just this very weekend Emily. I always thank you for sharing your heart, but honestly, you manage to reach over and touch my own heart every single time.
    So thankful it all went so beautifully. Looking forward to more!

  11. says

    Hi. Yes…I love your post (I always gravitate to your words, thank you) and no…I wasn’t there at The Barn (my loss). But I want to encourage you. Every Farmer knows nourishment, life, birth, safety and security all thrive under the confines of the barn. It holds the harvest of last years bounty, it grasps the hay for winter’s hard blow, it lays the groundwork for birthing foal or calf, it protects against the bitter cold of winter and the warmth of its walls protect beyond measure. You have chosen well in bringing everyone together under the Sovereign Hand of the Owner of the Barn. Good job and thank you.

  12. says

    Emily, you have touched something very deep in my soul. It’s the only way I can explain the tears in my eyes. Of all the terrible things that the enemy does to our spirits, I’d have to say that being a dream-killer is one of the worst.

    I have enjoyed C.S. Lewis’ take on desire in his book, “Surprised By Joy.” And I liked John Eldredge’s book, “Journey of Desire.”

    But you have profoundly spoken of how dreaming/desiring is so closely intertwined with disappointment. How our desires are laced with wistful longing. But, if we never reach, we’ll never have a chance of realizing.

    God calls us to our dreams and our desires – because, I believe, His are even bigger.


  13. says

    Oh Em, I would have given anything to be right there. I will look forward to more of your processing of the special time that was “The Barn”. I am bedazzled and deeply stirred by the book. But then, you already know that. Thank you again for your bending the ear and the pen to write it.

  14. says

    you’ve done it again, dear emily. taken an arrow and pointed it directly at my heart as i sit here on that very corner. last week. today. i wait. the intersection of desire and disappointment….refusing to give up, choosing to believe in the grace and perfection of His timing. His goodness for the desire planted in us from the very beginning. it is His, right? not mine. surely not. and so we wait. camped out on the corner. thank you for having eyes to see, and the heart to hear the starving artists on the corners of your life. thank you for being voice and truth and hope and grace. thank you for being.

  15. Lynn Jordan says

    I am not a blogger but a reader! Your books are on my waiting list! So much to read for this busy pastor’s wife and teacher in Texas, but… I used to pass THE BARN when living in NC, Davie Co. each day of my life. How exciting to see it again at for a great use! Love reading your outlook on the things going on in your life! Be blessed!

  16. says

    I thought of you on Thursday and again on Friday…and prayed. That this weekend would be good and the things you wanted to accomplished would be. What a pretty picture you describe as the intersection of desire and disappointment. I’m there too. I’m not sure what the next move is, so I wait. Wait for God to reveal the next phase. It’s not a bad place to be. In my moments of impatience God holds my hand reminding me He is still here, but I need to wait. So I reverently sit in the presence of the Lord in this corner you so eloquently described. In the meantime, I’ll be praying for you….

  17. says

    “whenever you open yourself up to desire, you must also realize you are now vulnerable to deep disappointment.”

    I love this. I’ve been living it out in my right now life, learning about living with bravery and love and courage and deep desire in the midst of a broken world and hopes that might not work out just here.

    God is here.

    Thank you for these words, this reminder to come further in.

  18. says

    “As we celebrate our smallness in the presence of Christ, we realize together there is no place else for us to go.”

    Cov.Ered. in goose bumps.

    I wish I could sit down and talk to you. Like, right now.

    ps – That picture!

  19. says

    You’ve captured my own heart so well here. Thank you! We’ve been living at the intersection of desire and disappointment ever since we moved from the big city of Houston to a small farm in Franklin. We’re learning to find the beauty in the brokenness…to hold the joy and the pain. I’ve decided the abundant life is learning to hold both. Thanks for using your words so well. xo, Linsey

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