Brief Reviews, Volume 9

Christie Purifoy – Roots & Sky [Review]

[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”B019JZRCKC” locale=”US” src=”https://englewoodreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/51Q5ck8oTpL.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”216″]A Slow-unfolding, Meditative Walk

A Review of

Roots & Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons
Christie Purifoy

Paperback: Revell, 2016
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Reviewed by Shari Dragovich

 

I have spent the majority of my adult life journeying home. In 1997, I married my high-school sweetheart. Neither of us were finished with school. We lived in two different apartments by the time my husband graduated medical school in 2000 and was launched into active duty service with the U.S. Army. Over the next thirteen years we lived in five more houses across the country. With each move, I tried my best to thrive where God planted me. Yet, during all those years I held deep within the longing for arrival; the hope of a land I could call home. A place I might grow deep roots rather than the shallow ones easily pulled free. I wondered, though, as a Christian were my thoughts sinful? Hadn’t I been taught this world is not my home? Was it possible my longings were just that—my own—and never God’s intention for me this side of eternity?

This wondering of mine is one of many reasons Christie Purifoy’s book, Roots & Sky, A Journey Home in Four Seasons has resonated so profoundly with me. In it, Purifoy invites readers to travel alongside her through four season of her own journey home; a home here on earth. Purifoy starts at a point of both ending and beginning. She tells the story of her family moving to Maplehurst, a farmhouse built in 1880, located in Quaker country Pennsylvania. Maplehurst was the realization of the Purifoys’ “farmhouse dream,” a dream that manifest itself while they were living in what she describes as a wilderness place—a place where “God meets with us as we wander…where new dreams are born and old promises are renewed.” The Purifoys saw a vision of “growing roots, cultivating beauty, and opening the doors to neighbors, wanderers, and pilgrims…a vision of home.”

Purifoy’s story is a slow-unfolding meditative walk through the seasons—of both time and her soul—as she journeys toward making Maplehurst home. She tells of outward happenings marking each of the four seasons, but always through a contemplative lens that, like Elisha who saw the battle angels, makes visible the holy despite outward appearances.

The book is divided into four sections, beginning with autumn. Within each section are chapters of even more sections, each one written like a journal entry. Purifoy’s writing is a literary feast. Through the power of metaphor, illustration, and story, she illuminates deep truth. She is honest in her daily struggles: with depression, with disillusionment, with holding onto a promise of home amidst basement puddles, cracked plaster, and a limited budget. And then there is the battle with her own doubt: What if there is nothing special about Maplehurst? It is, after all, a farmhouse now without a farm, with ever-creeping suburbia around it. Purifoy leaves no part of her journey unexamined, and in doing so, offers her readers an ever-greater view of what God’s kingdom come truly means.

Roots & Sky can be read through in a few sittings, though this would do great injustice to both book and reader. This is a story for the savoring. In almost every chapter I discovered truth worth underlining, re-writing, and committing to memory. There is one section in particular, that made the eternal well up within me and sing praise. It is Purifoy’s re-telling of the neighborhood Easter egg hunt she and her husband—after some fear and indecision—planned and hosted:

 

“I don’t know what the kingdom of God looks like in every neighborhood. It might look like a pearl. It might look like a lamp. It might look like a wedding banquet. But it is possible that it looks like a child’s swing set covered in so many kids you can no longer see the swings at all. It might look like neighbors introducing themselves and discovering they live only a few houses apart.”

 

Like my own long journey home, Purifoy’s dream and journey are truly about recognizing heaven here on earth. She calls this “audacious”. Yet, she also reminds us it is a common dream and prayer among humankind for thousands of years now. And it was Jesus who taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Roots & Sky contains much truth and beauty within its pages. But the most beautiful truth it reveals is that the line between heaven and earth is not drawn in permanent marker. Purifoy, in sharing her journey through the seasons, reveals that by “tending to a year by planting ourselves in its days” we make space for God’s glory to shine here on earth.
 



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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com


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