I love old barns. I love to paint pictures. I love to paint pictures of old barns. 

With the arrival of fall weather, my husband and I have been going on drives along nearby country roads. The leaves are changing color, the sky’s blue is deeper and richer, the hay has been cut and baled, and the barns seem to be showing off their character just before a winter hibernation. 

On a Saturday morning or evening, I’ll put on my hiking boots and grab the Nikon and jump in the passenger seat. My husband has a great sense of direction and I have an eye for photography. The goal is to find the perfect barn that is worn down but not fallen down. I frame the photo with hay bales, fence posts, trees, and hopefully the bonus of a pond. Sometimes the barns are so dilapidated it’s hard to find the beauty in them. I take the photos with the intent of using artistic license to rebuild falling walls and caving roofs. A crystal clear pond, however, is a backcountry enchantment.  It always seems the barn’s blemishes fall under the spell of reflection correction. You just can’t see the broken parts in the pond. It’s like a magic mirror that only shows what was seen in youth.

My sister-in-law has a favorite barn deep in the Ozarks and I was challenged to capture a photo. She and my brother-in-law knew just where to view it from a distance but had failed to find a way to get close to it. I told her I had a zoom lens, let’s give it a try. It was a perfect excuse to have a long overdue date with the in-laws so we got an early morning start and headed North. An hour and a half later we were taking switchback curves along the mountain roads of Newton County. Just in the elbow of one of those curves, the barn appeared with a light shining straight from Heaven onto it. It was a three level white barn deep in the valley and haloed by a perfect Ozark Mountain backdrop. Hairpin curves carved into bluffs are not ideal situations for a roadside photo. We had nowhere to stop or pull over and before we got to the next curve, the barn was out of sight. Mission: get close to the barn.

Part of our planned outing included a stop at the Ozark Cafe in Jasper, Arkansas. This is not for the faint of heart… as a matter of fact, you better have a healthy heart because the food I slammed back for breakfast was anything but heart healthy. The appropriate fuel for behemoth barn hunting consisted of big fluffy biscuits with sausage or chocolate gravy, hashbrowns drowned in ketchup and salt, and a sausage and cheese omelet that was hanging off the plate. We decided to ask the waitress if she knew anything about the barn and hoped she’d be able to give us directions. Thank you small town Arkansas! Of course she knew the exact spot.

Along the road outside of town the white tip of the barn caught the corner of our eye. We made the next turn to get a closer view. What we had a close view of at that point was a huge locked gate and two warning signs. I don’t want to incriminate myself, so I won’t type out the words that were on the signs, but if we were following rules we probably shouldn’t have squeezed through the side post of the gate and trotted up the dirt road. A two hour drive and carb heavy breakfast were all the incentive we needed to… “trespass.” I’m not gonna lie, I was panicky as I imagined my photo shot being met with a gunshot. But my sister-in-law’s delight was worth our death-defying entry and I got busy getting snap happy.

Up close, the barn wasn’t as bright white as it had earlier appeared. There were slabs of wood missing and the paint was weathered. But there in front of it was a pond. Perfect. The wind was blowing and there wasn’t a clear reflection in the ripples of the pond, but I told my fellow trespassers that I could change that in a painting. I grabbed as many shots from as many angles as I safely could since I was certain that mountain militia would soon descend upon us. I snapped a picture of my fellow criminals by their beloved barn and hightailed it back to the fencepost escape.

As I browsed through the photos, I stopped and gasped at one in particular. The big, aging barn reflected in what appeared to be still water. The barn’s blemishes sank below the surface and only its youth shone above. That pond, which wasn’t visible from the high hairpin curve, was laying right in front of an old building that had served its purpose well. That pond reflected the years of hay bales and cows. That pond reflected cold winter feedings and lazy summer evenings. That pond added charisma to the character of its barn. That pond healed the barn’s wounds and restored its youth.

I am so thankful we found that barn. I’m thankful I’m alive to tell about it! I’m thankful for that curious little pond that gave such a great gift to the giant barn; the gift of restoration. 

I’m feeling a little weathered. I’m missing slabs of enthusiasm about God’s goodness. My youthful joy sometimes feels more like dilapidated depression. I’m thankful for a God who loves me and heals me and restores me. I’m thankful that when I’m seen in the reflection of my salvation, I am unblemished and there is charisma to my character.

If you’re feeling worn down, look at your reflection in the glory of God. You’ve done well dear servant, you’ve provided shelter and held the harvest. Your character isn’t what is seen on your weathered walls, it’s what is seen in the reflection of the still waters. You are perfect in His eyes.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

Psalm 51:12

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