Barn Doors

by Emma Broch Stuart

Hearing God’s voice in my life isn’t always easy. Sometimes He gives me a blank canvas and lets me paint to my heart’s content—as long as I stay within the boundaries of the canvas. When I feel Him leading me down a certain road, I immediately ask for barn doors to swing wide open and neon lights to flash “This way! This way!”

God delights in pulling open those barn doors that creak on rusty hinges and plugging in the neon lights that guide me down the right path. As my spiritual roots grow, He doesn’t open those barn doors as wide, nor does He always plug in the neon lights. But He never fails to show me His goodness—I just need eyes to see and ears to hear. He delights in me when my spiritual eyes and ears can spot His goodness no matter how it arrives, whether flashing and stampeding through a barn door, or fluttering on a butterfly wing.

Barn Doors is a collection of short stories about seeing and hearing God. It’s a collection of rusty hinges creaking open, butterfly wings fluttering on breezes, and a harvest of God’s goodness in my life.

Barn Doors and Neon Lights

It wasn’t so long ago that I turned my life over to God. During the last ten years, He’s proven to be better equipped than I at leading—and showing me that I was created to follow. For some people, that moment of relinquishing control is like throwing God the car keys and jumping in the passenger seat and letting Him drive. For me, it was more like turning the machete over to God so He could hack through a past made up of thick jungle vines, suffocating vegetation, and a maze of gnarled tree roots. Over time, the jungle chaos that was my life transformed into a path of righteousness where fruit and flower blossoms replaced tangled roots and branches of thorns. I have followed behind for ten years, humbled by the beauty that springs up before my eyes.

Those blossoms only scent my path through a lifestyle of seeking God’s will and enjoying the peace that comes from a harvest of obedience and gratitude. Barn Doors uncovers the beauty springing up before my eyes as I journey with Him. Rusty hinges creak as God swings Barn Doors wide and invites you to join Him and me at the table. A table spread with a decade of bounty—beautiful gifts, astounding joy, pure goodness, and overflowing love. I have reaped a harvest of obedience and deep gratitude, not to keep for myself but to share with all of you.

As I walk with Him, knowing His clear direction for my life isn’t always easy. Sometimes He gives me a blank canvas and lets me paint to my heart’s content—as long as I stay within the boundaries of the canvas. When I feel Him leading me down a certain road, I immediately ask for confirmation. And not subtle confirmation. Not a whisper on a breeze. No, I need barn doors to swing wide open and neon lights to flash “This way! This way!” That is my confirmation style. I desire more than anything to be obediently in His will at all times.

God delights in pulling open those creaking doors and plugging in the lights that guide me down the right path. As my spiritual roots grow, He doesn’t always open those barn doors as wide, nor does He always plug in the neon. But He never fails to confirm no matter how many times I ask. He delights in showing me His goodness. And He delights in me when my spiritual eyes can spot His confirmation no matter how it arrives, whether flashing and stampeding through a wide-open door or fluttering on a butterfly wing.

Barn Doors is a collection of those butterfly wings fluttering on breezes, a harvest of God’s goodness in my life, and rusty hinges on barn doors that creak when God swings them wide.

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Love Stains

Love does a lot of things, but we don’t usually associate love with stains. I have three lovely examples of when love stains. Groups of three are a delight to me, since I have three children. As luck would have it, my three examples are about each of my three children. They have been little love stains in action!

In 2012, ten months before returning to the states, my daughter and I moved in with a friend as a way to save money and purge our belongings. The first purge was easy because not much fit into our attic bedroom with its low ceilings and steep flight of stairs. This love stain didn’t happen in the attic, so we’ll have to go down those steep stairs and wander into the unusually narrow hallway between the toilet room and the bathroom. There was no wiggle room in that hallway.

My daughter (whose middle name is Emma—get it? Emma Broch Stuart) bonded instantly with my French friend. She was glued to her side almost every moment from the time school let out until bedtime. After a few months, my friend noticed that every time I spoke to my daughter, I used a different pet name—sometimes more than one in a short conversation. Established pet names blended in with made-in-the-moment pet names. My daughter had gotten so used to it, she didn’t even notice. But my friend did, and I told her I didn’t know why pet names flowed naturally as I conversed with her. Names like Baby Flower, Little Love, Pork Chop, Sweetness, Lovebug, and Buttercup. Even names from books we read together like Petunia May—who was a dreamer—and Daisy Dawson, a dawdler. Every time my daughter dawdled, I called her Daisy Dawson.

A few weeks went by, and my friend was hugging Little Love in the kitchen one day, asking her about school. As they conversed in French, several pet names were spoken over my Baby Flower. Names like Ma Puce, Mon Cœur, Chèrie. Even made-in-the-moment names like Chouchou and Woogie. Suddenly my friend gasped. “I see what you mean! Calling her pet names just comes out of your mouth.”

That love stain didn’t happen in the kitchen, I know, but you have to pass through the kitchen to get to the hallway where it did happen. Sweetness saw my friend coming out of the bathroom one day and ran to her in the doorway of the narrow hall and threw her little Buttercup arms around her, sloshing my friend’s coffee so that it spilled down the wall. My Petunia May did not get burned; the wallpaper soaked the coffee right up. And left the biggest stain. Pork Chop felt really bad for making my friend spill her coffee, but my friend shrugged it off and squealed, “Woogie, your love stains!”

And so it does. Goodness, she makes me smile.

My oldest son (whose middle name is Broch—where the Broch in my writing name comes from) had a couple of close French friends who came to his fourteenth birthday party. His birthday is in December, but we celebrated it during the summer with an outdoor BBQ. I pulled his two close friends aside and conned them into picking up my son’s birthday cake and throwing it in his face. I didn’t waste sugar on this cake, or frosting; cheap whipped topping covered it instead. The plan was to stand on either side of him and wait until we sang “Happy Birthday”; after, I would pull out the candles so those didn’t get jabbed into an eye, and then they were to go for it! There my son sat, grinning with that teenager grin of his while we sang. As soon as he blew out the candles, the two friends stuck their hands into the sides of the cake and paused. They both realized they’d forgotten to wait for me to take out the candles. That teenager grin changed to a scowl. Why on earth he didn’t run, I’ll never know. But his friends kept their hands in the cake while the candles were removed with my son scowling back and forth at the two of them. How dare they touch his cake. He never understood their intent until it was smashed in his face.

That was one of my favorite days of love staining ever! The funniest moment was his brother howling at the other end of the table because the cake was ruined. At eight years old, he was not a good secret keeper, so he was never let in on the plan. We fetched the real cake from the fridge but not before my son chased everyone down and stained them with fake cake and fake frosting.

That howling little brother hated stains. Of any kind. This son is represented by the name Stuart in my writing name and therefore comes at the end of my love staining chapter. When he was two, he would eat oatmeal like this: take a bite, stiffen up, and squeal until I wiped the tiniest hint of oatmeal from his mouth. He would chew, swallow, and start the process all over again. His best two-year-old friend was a heathen. There’s no other way to describe her, bless her little heathen heart. She’d sit at that plastic picnic table and watch her friend go berserk over a speck of oatmeal stuck to his chin. She’d let him do this a few times before picking up her bowl of runny oatmeal and turning it upside down over her head.

This sent my little stain hater into hysterics. He’d fuss and fume for me to “wipe it off,” to which I would declare, “Honey, there is no wiping her off.”

He grew up to be a stain-hating teenager too. Every hair had to be in place, every microscopic fiber of lint rolled off his wrinkle-free clothes. Until he moved back to the States when he was fifteen to finish high school. I warned him that the Midwest was muddy, and he was going to the country. He didn’t even own a pair of mud boots. He lived with Grandma and Grandpa, and while he may have started out as a stain-hating teenager, his grandpa is quite the opposite, and my son got over his OCD of stains quick, fast, and in a hurry.

My three Little Loves aren’t so little anymore. That’s okay; there’s not an age limit when it comes to love stains. If they’d hold still long enough, I’d slosh them real good with some of my own love stains. They don’t dawdle much anymore, and they run faster than me. But I put puddles of love in their path that trip them as they run. There’s more than one way to make a love stain stick.

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