When the Dream Comes True But the Reality is Slow & Ugly

white barn

Remember the World’s Worst Barn?

It was one of the reasons we bought this property…because of the dream.

It’s starting to look much better. Ish. And I wanted to show you what’s been done so far, grab your coffee, I’ve got a ton of photos.

And if you are like me and spoiled by beautiful finished reveals that sparkle and shine and scream “TA DA!!!”, then today will be a rude awakening.

It’s not pretty. But it’s progress.

This is how most projects happen. It would be so nice if we could all have a bunch of HGTV moments with dramatic sheet lifting to reveal a perfectly staged finished product. But that’s not normal life. This barn is a metaphor for my life. Maybe yours too.

Three steps forward. Two steps back where I trip over myself on that last step and then look around to see if anyone is looking.

Can you handle the truth?

the barn august 2013august 2013

the barn june 2014june 2014

DSC_6729august 2014

We hope this barn will be a place for you to come and hang out with us. For craft days, swap meets, imperfection camp, & beauty hunting classes. My sister already has a writing gathering planned for the end of September (it sold out in 48 hours)(please let this barn be finished enough) and Chad is planning a Men’s (thing?) as our test event before that ( to make sure we don’t burn down the place while people are here. We’re planning a hope*ologie event for November and other things to come after that. This barn isn’t for looks (thankfully). It’s for all of us to use in whatever way we want. It’s imperfection at it’s finest, a study in Lovely Limitations.


barn porch

So it’s been a year and in some ways it looks worse!! I should be so embarrassed to show you what we’ve done a year. But truly, this is a huge improvement. Stay with me now…

favorite barnHammersky Vineyard

For the record, here’s my dream barn. Ugh. It’s so beautiful. And mine will never have a vineyard or those expensive sofas. But mine can be white…


last year



I’m considering a sweet shade of pink for my office door. My office is attached to the back of the barn. And today it’s a complete wreck holding things that can’t sit outside while the inside of the barn is being worked on. Can you see it? Do you see the pretty barely showing through?

Sometimes I see it. Sometimes I want to eat a chocolate cake and flush my computer down the toilet.


Here’s the barn pre-windows back in the pre-spring. It’s just a humble, beat up, metal tractor barn that sits next to our house. It’s only 20′ x 40′ so it’s not a big place. Just big enough.

window test

The view from my front yard in the spring. See the blue tape on the barn? That’s how we decided on what size windows to order. We just ordered windows from Lowe’s.

window frames

Chad (my husband) and Sean (our friend/hired hard-working/can build anything-man who we highly recommend– but I’m not giving out his info until we are done with our projects because he is that good) built frames for six windows. Four windows went on one side, two on the other because of the heating thing we need to use, and the side barn door that opens up.


They took all the metal off to install the frames and windows.

windows in the barn

barn window



Inside the barn you can look out to our house. See how close they are?

windows in



Then summer came.

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 10.06.04 AM

The barn had four lightweight metal doors that were super high and sort of weird.  We wanted wood doors so we lowered the door hardware to accommodate their weight.


Then it was time to paint. Chad and his dad and the boys put plastic on the windows. This is the view as you pull up our driveway. Sadly, the driveway spits everyone out at the ugliest part of the property. Lovely Limitation.


paint the barn

Sean loaned us his paint sprayer. Painting a metal barn was one of those things we didn’t want to mess up. The thought of it peeling in a year made me cringe. So we asked the paint fellas at Sherwin-Williams to tell us exactly what we needed to use to do it right. It took 6 gallons of multi-purpose latex primer and 10 gallons of Emerald paint–which is the top of the line fancy, blow your mind because this stuff is gonna last. Honestly, I wouldn’t buy the top of the line paint for every single paint project in my life. But for the exterior of the barn, absolutely. If they sold paint that used holy water infused with feathers from heaven I’d probably get that.

Chad said it sprayed on like a dream and the actually spraying of the paint went really fast.

pure white barn

The paint color is “Pure White”. Which is slightly off white if you ask me. But I’m still happy with it.


It took a few weeks to get it all finished just because we kept leaving town and playing in the yard and needing to get more paint.

painted barn



But finally I had a pure white barn with wood doors. No time to enjoy it because we had to move everything out of the barn so we could start work on the inside. Cue Sanford & Son music!

barn doors

That seam in the metal above the door drives me so close to insanity I can’t even tell you. Dear Lord please help me to be blind to that because of how beautiful this will be one day. It would be so easy to cry myself to sleep every night for the mess that this all is. At times it’s completely overwhelming. What have we done?! We bought the most expensive home we’ve ever purchased and it’s a holy mess along with 12 acres of land that needs major attention not to mention dumpsters.



Sean had to brace up the rafters so they could hold all the lighting and fans. They pulled out all the old wiring and then put in miles of new wiring. I had big ideas for all sorts of different lighting. I can’t wait to show you when it’s all done. Notice that crazy heater on the left? Lovely. At least we’ll be warm? I hope.






electrical plan


Here’s the pretty outdoor light I just ordered from Barnlight Electric. For some reason this was the most difficult decision for me to make, worse than the paint color, window sizes or anything.


The ceiling is getting the white paint treatment. So far it has a coat of primer and I’m already feeling this was one of the best design decisions I’ve ever made. The first day Chad sprayed the primer on the ceiling he didn’t wear a beard net and he pulled paint out of his beard for hours. This is love after a 20 year marriage people. The next day he wore a full body suit in 150 degree heat with the windows taped up standing 15 feet up on scaffolding spraying primer on the ceiling of the barn. He’s my dream man.


I needed the extra push to choose white for the ceiling since I knew it’d be such a pain to paint, Caroline came to the rescue and wrote a little ode to the white ceiling-ed barn and why she believed the white would make a huge difference. Chad and I were both sold after that.



The barn now has insulation! And ‘walls’ are going in as I type. I’ll tell you more about that in the next barn update.

sean & chad


The gorgeous awe-inspiring view from the open barn doors. Can we just take a moment and accept the fact that this is not the view I had in mind years ago as I dreamed about our future barn? Sometimes dreams and reality don’t match up. But I’d still take this over living in the subdivision sans metal tractor barn. We’re getting closer to the dream. Even if it’s slightly hideous and majorly overwhelming.


I can’t over exaggerate how rough/Sanford & Son/honky tonk it is out here. This will take YEARS of work. Come at your own risk. Keep your expectations low, and your heels lower. I’ve tripped multiple times trying to look cute in my wedges.

DSC_6747 2




I have to fight daily to not focus on the wires, the car getting the oil change (or whatever family vehicle is currently getting worked on) the falling apart greenhouse that we haven’t had time to take down, the overgrown trees we had time to kill but not cut, the trash, the metal, the wires. The mess.

20140703_EmilyFreeman_Hope(this photo? that’s our pavilion with lights to the World’s Worst Barn)

But it’s forward. It’s better than last year.

And the one thing that keeps us going is the encouragement, hand-holding, accountability, and support from our family and friends that THIS is worth it. Family and friends believe in this place so much that they’ve helped support this barn renovation financially. I think it’s important for you to know that we aren’t putting this all on a credit card and neither are we dishing out a bunch of cold hard cash–because we simply don’t have it.

Our family and friends have come and encouraged, prayed, worked, moved furniture and helped us believe this truly can happen. This project is too big for us to do alone. I’ve even had companies email and ask how they can be a part of this barn. Just this past weekend at the Lowe’s Style Saturday, two long time Nesting Place readers turned friends shocked me when they said they’d come out and help have a clean up day if we need it.

We aren’t doing this alone.

But we are doing this with purpose.

And I’m okay inviting you out under the power lines, with all the imperfections in plain sight, before it’s “done” if you are okay coming.

Invitation coming soon.

Until then, I’ll take three steps forward.

Two steps back.

Trip over myself.

Look down at my feet and see a feather.

And carry on.


let's carry on


  1. There’s nothing ugly about creation. Carry on….looks lovely!

  2. I love this post!! What a great reminder for me!! :) Looking forward to more updates and hopefully seeing it in person one day!! :)

  3. It looks so awesome!!!! And it’s only going to keep getting awesomer!!!

    We’re all in process — whether it’s our homes, our marriages, or our squashed and rebuilt dreams. Everything we see in these pictures? It represents all of us. All of us in various stages of ugly and better and not yet…and it gives us gratitude and acceptance for what it is and hope for what is to come.

    I can’t wait to see it in person in about a month. {Yep, I’m coming to Emily’s writers event. So crazy excited about it!}

  4. As I read and fell in love with the windows and got a glimpse at an amazing chandelier and was wowed by the primer painted ceiling (which looks perfect just the way it is to me), tears started streaming down my face. I sensed the emotion, your “all” that has gone into this, the risk of vulnerability, and your whole body and soul wrenching forward…outstretched to grasp your dream and my heart was touched…especially to know that you have others holding up those arms outstretched. And please don’t judge that crazy sentence because it best expresses my heart touched by your heart and every lovely limitation and I see incredible life and joy and beauty and love and yes, dancing in that beautiful barn.

    Maybe someday the planets will align and I’ll be able to attend one of your events. Until then…you are extraordinary, friend!

    And….every time you look out the window and see that lovely barn…be reminded of God’s faithfulness and how he not only birthed those dreams in your heart….he’s bringing them to life. Yay!

  5. your barn rocks. big time. very dreamy. thanks for sharing this journey. my husband and i found our dream house and although it hasn’t hit market yet, there are so many projects that i fear we will be living at our nearest lowes. scary for me. you and yours inspire♥

  6. I love everything about this barn. And your property. Personally, I had never thought about power lines. lol. If I were able, I would gladly come and help with the de-cluttering of your property. And there will most likely be little gems that you will actually keep. Keep showing us the progress. It is a LOT of work and it’s coming along fine. I love Gina’s idea for “THE BARN” sign and the wind chimes.

  7. Definitely can relate to what you are saying about patience in the process. The reality is that DIY really is often 3 steps forward 2 steps back. But if you have faith and hope in your planned final product it really helps to focus on that. We recently got through a big undertaking of installing new floors throughout our main level. Here is our final product but there were definitely bumps in the road– http://providenthomedesign.com/2014/08/22/5-ways-save-big-hardwoods-floors-new-floor-reveal/

  8. I’m sitting here tearing up and listening to those tears (as Emily would encourage me to;), and I think I’m just in awe because I see you doing it. You’re living out your dream and your art right where you’re at, with what you have, in the moment God’s given you. It’s not being handed to you on a shiny silver platter, and that’s why it isn’t all perfect and shiny right now. But you’re putting one step in front of the other for kingdom purposes. And I think that last part is what got me tear-eyed. It’s easy for me to down play my part in the ginormous picture of God’s kingdom purposes, (“what difference is my calling really making?”), but this was a gentle reminder and example of you playing your part, being who you arewired to be, and putting your piece of the puzzle in. Thanks for showing the imperfect progress of it, for THAT is the most beautiful take away of it all. (Sheesh. I never leave comments and all of a sudden I’m writing a hallmark card here. Sorry! But thank you for the post!)

  9. I see the vision – it is a beautiful work in progress! Can’t wait to see it in person at the Writers Circle.

  10. Oh – it’s all so beautiful!!!! I’m excited for all you will have the privilege of being part of because you obeyed God & were faithful in the small. Your property is wonderful and I’m so happy you have friends & family helping you get everything done. I hope someday I can come see it ‘for real’. And to top it all off, to think after all your stumbling and tripping – you had a beautiful blue feather delivered before your feet, your Father loves you greatly! :-)

  11. Oh, my darling friend. I’m so glad you didn’t move out to the country into a perfect house with perfect barn. Because even though you deserve it, your soul would’ve lost something by not having the lovely limitations–and then we would have lost something, too. We’re all so much richer when we share, aren’t we? I’ll share my birthmark with you; you share your Sanford and Son piles with me. We’ll take these imperfections and we’ll build something beautiful together.

    Your barn is tangible evidence of what Dallas Willard calls “the divine conspiracy.” You’ve brought your kingdom into God’s Kingdom and you’re using your influence for good. This is how the world is changed into the way it should be. What you’re doing with your barn is “on earth as it is in heaven,” I think, and I’m so proud of you and so glad to know. And I’m especially glad that I got one of those sold-out-in-48-hours tickets. Will I see you on September 27 or just the part of your heart that’s in the barn?

    Love you!

  12. You’re the only home blogger that lives in the middle of what looks like home to me. When we bought our not perfect but full of potential homestead I would show it off to people like it was the Taj Mahal. Some would respond with such hope and enthusiasm, and others would obviously be trying to hide their confusion about why we left a beauty big home in the city for…this?? Four years later and it might actually look worse in some places, but it’s moving in the direction in my head and I love it even more. Your barn is lovely, but your vision is BEAUTIFUL. Don’t give up. :)

  13. You have a goal…a dream if you will. It is exciting to see it developing! ;)

  14. So much truth here. You are a gift.
    Love you sister.

  15. Sylvia Marie says

    What an awesome transformation,such dilegent workers, hard work does pay off. Thanks for sharing it all with me. Sending a bundle of hugs today.

  16. Looks great Nester! Your hard work and dedication are going to pay off big time on this one! Keep on keepin’ on.

  17. So happy to see the progress! I think of you and the blog often as feathers have begun presenting themselves to me…just at a time when they are so needed! I love the lettered print at the end of post. Is that for sale somewhere or did you make it?? Would love to have one!

  18. This isn’t related to this post, I just wanted to tell you some stuff.

    I found your book at Barnes and Noble and have been reading it in chunks every time I go there with my 2yo son–so like twice a week. They have a Thomas the Train table. :)

    I LOVED your book. Everything resonated with me–I am the “think too hard about it” so my house is bare. I have moved 7 times in the 5 years we have been married (Iowa (rental house-1 year), California (dorm room with hubby-1 month), two places in Vietnam (hotel room-1 month, then 1 room per floor, 5 story row house (8 months), back to Iowa (with in-laws-2 months), to Missouri (apt-9 months), to Sioux Falls (apt 1 year) and then 15 months ago we bought a house in Sioux Falls.

    You talked about taking risk. I bought spray paint. I plan to paint our bedroom’s night stands (which totally don’t match in style or height), a lamp AND the handrail for our stairs. Myquillyn, I LOVED that idea! I’m going to paint it a bright pink. I am SO excited! Thank you for this idea.

    I finished your book and then… I BOUGHT it. I rarely buy books. And I just suggested it for my MOPS book club. And to my sisters. And one by one my friends are hearing about it. It was JUST what I needed to hear.

    I absolutely LOVED your story about window treatments and cutting up the fabric before you friend came over to pick it up. I went to Hobby Lobby and picked out some fabric. It won’t be perfect, but it will be more me (and more purple, less dull blue/grey).

    Your book inspired me. Thank you so much for writing it and sharing what you’ve learned.

  19. It’s such a work in progress but every picture shows a change. I am currently living my own dream come true in renovating a 90+ year old home and everything is snail slow and I just want to scream because I can’t see changes and then my screened in patio gets original bead board from the home installed and I can see the vision coming true. So slow, but worth savoring.
    Thanks for all the updates.

  20. Rose Keller says

    I am going to be really honest, because I’m saddened at how much this post bothered me.
    From a single-mom who lives in a city and can only dream of having your “problems” to the fact that you are word cursing your blessing, this all just sounded whiney and unappreciative to me.
    To be driven insane by a seem in metal?
    To care that someone sees your gorgeous property as Sanford and Son?
    Come on.

    • We all have things that bother us–and it’s OK to acknowledge that. A few years back, my dh and I added on to our house ourselves–a process that took 5 years because we had to learn how to wire and plumb and cut tile, etc, and then did the work ourselves. Having a project that is so large was so very difficult mentally for us–but it was not the learning how to do each step that was the problem. We saw vividly in our minds what our place would look like but each day for years, our vision was so far from the reality we were working toward. And other things will suffer because you pour your energy and time into the big project–so our grass didn’t get mowed and we would go to bed too exhausted to wash the dishes–things that bugged us but that we had no energy for.
      Perhaps the closest analogy I can think of is child birth. At first, I was so very excited to be pregnant, but after being pregnant for months and months, toward the end, I disliked feeling out of energy and plain uncomfortable. It’s OK to say that and it doesn’t mean I am cursing my blessings.

  21. It is BEAUTIFUL!. The barn looks great. Everything else just fads into the background. You are so blessed to have a husband who shares and supports your vision. Can’t wait to see more.

  22. You are such a delight. Thank you for the reality of life, hope and joy you share with us. I am always so very much blessed and I loved and laughed through your honest account of the barn renos. I wish I lived closer than Sydney, Australia so that we could check it out! Keep up the stories/ We can’t wait to see more and may the Lord bless you as it continues. xx

  23. It looks amazing. White was a great choice. Way to go !

  24. Thank you for this lovely post and for sharing the TRUE nature of DIY projects! I love how you share hope and peace by showing reality and telling the truth that it’s OK that life is messy.

  25. This comes at a good time! My husband want to buy a property like yours and build a log house…. I am sure this is what our speed would be too! A 10 year project.

  26. It’s wonderful! “Keep your expectations low and your heels lower.” I die.

  27. When I look at these pictures, I see beauty and hope and purpose and love and dreams and talent in action. That is the personification of beauty in my opinion. I think the reveal is really each step of the renovation, not the final product. Each step reveals its own beauty and earns respect from us for what it brings to the project. Just look at the effect of that beautiful white paint as a stand alone reveal. Congratulations to you and your family for this wonderful house and property.

  28. Not sure if someone suggested this, but if you name your barn, you could put some sort of awesome sign to hide the seam in the metal siding above the doors (which are just lovely). I love seeing the progress, not just the before and afters! It makes my own big jobs seem more obtainable, somehow…

  29. Wowee! It’s really coming together. I can totally relate to overwhelming projects but you guys are getting it done!

  30. It looks great to me because it’s real. Those spaces always make me feel most at home. Take a breath and avoid Pintrest for awhile! Exert one gets down and discouraged when they have inspiration that is so hard to achieve . Keep the faith, you are blessed.

  31. Okay you might think I have completely lost it but I see so much loveliness here. But my husband likes to tease me about seeing through rose colored glasses (which I can tell you make the gloomiest skies look incredible… seriously! my favorite sunglasses had just a hint of rose in the shading and the colors in everything simply popped all the time!) I see the potential here. It will far exceed your “dream” barn! REally, it will! and I squealed when I saw your greenhouse! Oh how fun would that frame be covered in old windows filled with herbs and flowers that love the heat! An oasis! And twinkling lights with the strings of lights you have strung already. Oh I can hardly wait to visit one day!

    p.s. just a quick question as a side note… do you have a place that will buy all of your salvage? stuff like the old wires and all the bits and pieces of metal commonly left on acreages. The reason I ask is just cleaning out our garage and the two small storage buildings on our property we made a little… they even took old bent nails. Just thought I would throw it out there. Have a truly wonderful day and week!

  32. Jamie McGarity says

    Wow!!! The barn looks unbelievable already and you’re not even finished. Such a big project to take on but you definitely have the heart and design skill to make it amazing. Such an inspiration!!! Keep up the fabulous work and let me know if you need me to throw my boots on and come help!!!

  33. I can’t stop thinking that the metal seam over the door would look so pretty with a piece of wood – like a beam – covering it. You could run exterior lights through it or hang garlands, it’s a lovely limitation for sure!

  34. I already can’t believe that’s the same barn.

    Big ol hearts!

    November Hope*ologie??? Oh, I hope I can go this year. Last year’s barn event was the weekend I have a conference every November and have for 20 years. But it’s not all about me…. :-)

  35. you had me at the title!
    seriously! i feel like you are a long lost twin that has/is going through every step of the process of renovating that i have/am. sigh….
    i read this whole post to my husband and we laughed and related with everything!
    i love your honesty even if it isn’t sugar coated and pretty. it’s real and that is even better!
    i’m giddy for you guys and your adventures! it has been a longtime dream of mine to have a barn too. can’t wait to see the progress! even if it takes year and low heels. ;)

  36. The barn is beautiful already and even more your story and prayers that circle it and fill it. You’re giving God the glory with every wire hung, nail hammered, wood painted and dreams become reality! I’m looking forward to being in it at the end of September! Thank you for pursuing your passion and using the gift God’s given you and your family so others can enjoy, grow and become rejuvenated while there!

  37. I have a metal shed that I have been wanting to make into a get away. I am thinking maybe I can now that I have seen this. Thank you for sharing the hope and inspiration. ! Loved your book and made a slip cover this summer. Maybe I’ll will make a mini barn this fall!

  38. I love this post and I love your vision and hard work! It’s REAL. And it inspires me. Thank you for sharing all of the pictures! :)

  39. I love the transformation & just having a barn is amazing! Keep plugging away,every barn has it’s quirks & that’s what makes it amazing &mysterious!


  40. Wonderful post and I can only be another voice cheering you on to say it is worth it! What you shared in this post is such a great metaphor for life; things never move as fast as you want nor turn on the way you expect, but often times it eventually leads to something better. Keep after it, one day the dream will come true!

  41. A word of encouragement: Those expensive couches in front of that other white barn? My cousin bought one almost identical to it off of Craigslist for $150. Be on the lookout!!!

  42. Love all the photos!! Looks great –can’t wait to see more progress. Will you share more on your feathers? My mother raised me to believe feathers were the dirtiest most disease-ful items on the planet. But I’m noticing around me now that I’m an adult that maybe feathers aren’t to be feared. I’ve been tempted twice in the last month to pick up a gorgeous feather but thought that I better ask The Nester first after all my mom said I could get sick and die. Do you just pick them up and immediately use them? Please share.

  43. Don’t you feel awesome looking at your progress though? Even though it’s not finished, it’s still a huge step in the right direction and something to take encouragement from.

  44. “should be embarrassed……are u kidding me? You sound like a VERY LUCKY LADY w/the world’s BEST husband, BEST family, BEST friends EVER. not using credit cards either; good for you. Look back at the progress you posted here. BE PROUD AND REJOICE MORE. JENNIFER @BRAVE NEW HOME SAID IT BEST.

  45. Lynne in NC says

    I love, love, love these types of posts. It is wonderful to see a glimpse of your God-given talents being realized through projects such as The Barn. It is so beautiful to know that the main purpose in making beauty out of the seemingly unlovely (before and after photos) is to share a space with others: Community!
    Thank you for sharing your ideas, your dreams and yourself with all of us.

  46. I feel like this is one of the biggest Emperor’s New Clothes things on the whole internet.

  47. So happy for you for the progress that has been made, albeit slowly. The space is wonderful!

  48. I see it! The potential. It’s beautiful. And you can still eat that chocolate cake, I say.

  49. You. Are. Amazing.
    Seriously, you are so inspiring and I really truly enjoy cheering for you and your new home, ugly barn and all!

  50. I can see where you’re going, and it’s going to be so worth it! Like, your grandkids will be playing in there. And I have to say for someone in SoCal where it’s either desert or pre-planned concrete and planters, the lush natural greenness of where you are is so refreshing. As are your real words. :)

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