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Some people, when they see an old barn, think it is an eyesore.  The old siding is warped, the paint is chipping away, the roof looks saggy and is very sun damaged.  

Some people, when they see an old barn, think it is beautiful.  The old siding has a rich rustic feel, the paint flaking off is the desired look, the imperfect and wavy roof lines add interest and texture and the faded color is appealing.

Which person are you? Do you see the mess or the beautiful. I see both.

I adore barns.  I have never been a farmer, nor am I saying I want to be one!  Never.  EVER.  Oh my no!  But, I have always been drawn to old barns.  I plead with my husband to pull the car over on road trips just so I can take pictures of them...usually unsuccessfully because we have a destination and ETA folks!   I am “that person”  who wants to run up to the random farmhouse door and ask if I can RIP barn boards off of THEIR barns and take them home.  Seriously?  Oh, for the LOVE!  I am sure I would need to be bailed out after the farmer called the police on me.  I am a bit of a freak about barns.  They are gorgeous and I adore them.  I feel like they are ONLY beautiful BECAUSE they are messy.  And oh, how beautiful they are!! 


SO the question I have been asking myself lately is this...
Why can’t I see myself as an old barn?

When looking at a barn I see all the imperfections as beautiful.  But when I look at myself I see my imperfections as messy... and bad... and shameful... and unappealing... and unworthy of love and belonging.  I have struggled with this my whole life.  Don’t get me wrong. I love WHO I am.  I love WHAT I am.  I love WHERE I am.  I just don’t love what I LOOK like.  

Years of dieting, over-eating, going through drive-thrus and ordering for 2 (like the gal at McDonalds believed me?  Really?!), taking pills to suppress my appetite, comforting myself with food, hating the gym because I did not... in NO WAY... at all... look like the other women in their workout gear.  All of this just fed my dislike of my body... literally and figuratively. 

Soooo what’s a gal to do?

Well, recently I decided to start down the long road of changing this mindset.  It is not easy and, frankly, I would rather poke my eye out with a fork, watch episodes of Dora The Explorer, help my son with 7th grade math homework, or read the LONGEST bedtime story to my 9 year old before I try this hair-brained idea!!  I hate all these things...and I hate the hard work of trying to love myself truly.  But.... start I did.

Where to start though?  Do I start with looking at my skin folds (from large weight loss that I thought would make me love myself more...but didn’t.) in the mirror and chanting “I love my skin folds” like self help books tell me to do?  Ugh.  Do I gaze at my double (and sometimes depending on the angle, TRIPLE) chin and think “That chin is amazing!”?  Sheesh!  Like that is EVER going to help!

Since I can’t seem to look at my body and see the beauty that I see with an old barn I thought maybe I was looking at it from the wrong angle.  I decided to focus on the inside of the “barn”.  

When the farmer enters the barn, early in the morning, he puts his weathered, callused hand on the wooden handle he made himself, and pushes the hefty sliding barn door open easily.  The oversized door, that was made large to allow for livestock and big farm equipment to get it, glides smoothly on the track that it is housed on.

Once the farmer is on the inside he is hit by the morning light streaming through the cracks in the siding and can look around and see the structure of the building.  If he has one of those century old barns... that is falling down that I think are beautiful... he can see the trusses, beams and rafters that serve as the support system. 






These old trusses are usually created by piecing together, by hand, hand-hewn timbers that were locked together with hand-carved pegs while paying careful attention to detail and design for strength and longevity.

These old beams were hand carved with an ax out of trees from the farmer’s land and great consideration was given to the precise placement to help hold the structure up forever.

These rafters are connected to each other with thoughtfulness to what storms may lie ahead for this barn.

Without these things that old barn would fall.
Without these things that old barn would not last over a century.
Without these things that old barn would.......not exist.
And people... on the outside acting ALL CRAZY making their husband’s stop the car so they could try and get some good pictures... wouldn’t be able to see it.  
Because it wouldn’t be there.  


This is me folks...
I am the barn.


I need to place my painted stained, freckled hand on the handle and slide open the sliding door and look at what is on the inside.  I need to view what my heart & soul look like.  I need to be brave enough to look at the structure and support system of my body and learn to love it... just like I love an old barn.  I need to show myself the same grace I bestow on the falling down building in the middle of the gorgeous Midwestern field.

When I do this I am hit with the Light that streams in and is life-giving and I can see my own inner structure & support system.  I can see exactly what went into the building of myself.  I can close my eyes and see the images that tell the story of who I am.  I can calm my breathing and hear the voices of those who spoke into my life along the way.  

My trusses are crafted by the hand of God.  He made me with care and knowledge of who He wanted me to become.  They span from one side of my soul to the other with heavenly-hewn bones that are joined with my brain and heart in a way I will never understand but always marvel at.  The planks cross over each other to make the structure stronger... like the events and stories in my life that have reinforced who I am.

My beams are the people in my life that came alongside me and provided support, guidance and strength.  They are my parents, siblings, husband, friends, children, and more.  Each was placed in my story in the precise moment they needed to be for me to become the woman I am today.

My rafters are the beautiful “little things” that aren’t truly little at all.
They are the small moments like...
My childrens’ freckled noses.
My husband’s generous spirit.
My Gram’s double chin.  (I loved her and thought her to be beautiful...even with the chin!)
My studio, in the morning, with sunlight streaming in much like the farmer sees in his barn.
My life group of amazing high school students whom I LOVE and the co-leaders I am grateful for.
My warm bed.
My Mom’s kindness.
My Dad’s goofy jokes.
My God.

These things unite delightfully to frame me.  To shape me.  To become me. 

My old trusses are divinely created in an incomprehensible way that makes my body stand. 
My old beams are the community of people that sustain my heart.
My old rafters are the normally unnoticed soulful moments that are created by the Holy Spirit who dwells in me and prepares me for the storms ahead.

Without these things I would fall down.
Without these things I will not truly live a peaceful life for even a half of a century.
Without these things I do not significantly exist.
And people...on the outside wanting to see the real me...will not be able to see it.
Because I won’t truly be there.

But... I must admit my own barn door seems too big and impossible to open most days.  I don’t feel strong enough to push the massive weight of the door that is large enough to let the messy junk of my life in and be housed... or hid.  But thankfully, my door has a handcrafted handle where the Creator carved out 4 little holes that fit my fingers perfectly.  It was like I set my fingers on a piece of oak and someone chiseled the wood away around them till they laid down in the custom crevices perfectly.  All I need to do is be brave enough to insert my short, chubby, freckled Irish fingers into those holes and gently draw back the door.  When I use that handle it isn’t heavy anymore.  I don’t even need to be feeling my strongest.  The door just rolls open.  

You see... Seeing the beauty on the inside of myself COULD BE JUST LIKE seeing the beauty of the old barn.  


I just struggle with choosing to open the door. 



May you see that old barn and recognize its beauty.
May you be willing to look at yourself with that same lens.
May you understand and BELIEVE you are worthy of love and belonging...from yourself.
May you take a peek inside of yourself to see the exquisite structure that makes up YOU.
May you glide open your door to see the messy & the beautiful....
The soul-centered beautiful mess that you are.



The photos above were taken by my own crazy talented Mom... and the incredible artistry of a generous friend, Julie Fix.  You can find out more about Julie here: www.jfixfotoworx.com.  

April 11, 2014 — Sarah Stevens



Andrea said:

Thank you for this wonderful metaphor, i recognize your love for barns and for me also little shacks in the field. For me i tend to fantasize to hide in it and never come out…! Or create a lilltle magic place for me to live in, the barn might look plane outside and than opening the door shows the beauty of my unique personality inside. I hear you, when you talk about asking for willingness to open the door and trust that it wont be only one big mess, there will be so many valuable things too. My personality also likes the barn as a metaphor for a hiding place, when the world tends to overwhelm me, i can go inside and be with all the stuff going over it with some sanity, just me and God. I love the photo’s too, gorgeous. Thanks for this gift, for me to lift up my spirit on a Tuesday afternoon in Holland..! Light & Love


Maureen said:

Wow. Thank you Sara. I just read this post today (it is Aug 4), but how timely it is for me on my journey with the Lord and my unraveling of the self “knots” of life. Thank you so much for putting into words what I think about on a non stop basis. How we view ourselves is so important, and even more important than that is that we know HOW OUR LORD views us…always.

Blessed through your writing, again!


Bonnie said:

Sarah, how beautiful! I am in awe of your beautiful insight of the barn to life I I love it and I love barns !! I love the barn on the farm where I grew up too.


Justine said:

I LOVE this metaphor! Thank you for sharing! Justine (www.everupward.org)

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