Remember This: There is Glory in the Dirt

Feb 19, 2014

Last week, it snowed here at Maplehurst. Even after ten years lived in Chicago, I don’t think I have ever seen so much snow fall all at once. Granted, I left Chicago for Florida the winter before the once-in-a-decade, cars-stranded-on-Lakeshore Drive monster storm.

I remember that winter well. It was my first in Florida. Everyone I knew – neighbors at the bus stop, new friends at church – kept saying the same thing. Aren’t you glad you don’t live there anymore?

Which only made me want to cry. Because, no. The answer was no. I did wish I was there. In the snow. With my friends. In a place that felt like home.

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chill

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But now I feel at home again, although in a new place, and there is snow, and I am grateful. Crazy-eyed from the pileup of canceled-school days and disruptions to my cherished daily routines, but still grateful.

The evening after our Pennsylvania nor’easter, I looked out the window just after sunset. I saw what looked like a deep and rising sea of snow. I could even point out small windblown waves. As darkness blurred the edges of everything, those waves began to rise and fall. And creep higher. Deeper. Or, they seemed to. I felt the irrational worry that seawater would soon be seeping in around the window frames.

It was strange and startling. It was also beautiful.

Twenty-four hours later, our long driveway had finally been cleared. I walked the length of it, from front porch to mailbox, and decided the scene looked just like a wedding cake. Thick white frosting smoothed to perfection, and a driveway sliced cleanly away.

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I tend to see the world in layered images like these. The result of a lifetime of reading, I suppose. The trick, I’m discovering, is holding on to both. Acknowledging the truth of both.

Snow-covered field and rising floodwaters. A freshly-plowed driveway and a slice of wedding cake.

Maplehurst is like this, too. It is an old, gracious, crumbling-a-bit-around-the-edges house. It is the scene of our daily happiness and daily headaches. The place where children laugh, and I yell at them to take their fun outside. Outside! I say. You can scream at your brother all you like just please don’t do it under my feet while I’m cooking dinner!

Yes, I’m afraid you’ll hear exactly that every day at 5 pm.

Maplehurst is also our dream-come-true. In spiritual terms, it is a fountain. A blessing. The one place on earth that, for me, is nearest to the throneroom of God. There is a river and it flows straight through an avenue of old maple trees.

It is both, and I must see both.

The spiritual reality is likely the most important, the most real, but I can’t let it crowd out the rest. If I’m going to write honestly and live honestly, I can’t forget the ground beneath my feet. I can’t forget what 5 pm feels like.

And it isn’t only honesty at stake. It is also love. If I am going to love my neighbor well, I can’t stop seeing the dirtiness of my own patch of dirt. I can’t forget that we are all together in this land of muddy snow and headaches and 5 pm yelling.

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5 pm is still quite a few hours away. In the freshness of a quiet morning (the children have finally returned to school, the baby is happy and miraculously occupied with toys too big to be a choking hazard), something new occurs to me. Maybe, the trick is not learning to hold on to two true things. Maybe, there aren’t two realities: one spiritual, the other temporal. Maybe there is only the one. Maybe I must learn to see without splitting everything in two.

Maybe, there is glory in the dirt.

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“I am mountain, I am dust

Constellations made of us

There’s glory in the dirt

A universe within the sand

Eternity within a man

We are ocean, we are mist

Brilliant fools who wound and kiss

There’s beauty in the dirt

Wandering in skin and soul

Searching, longing for a home.”

–          from “I am Mountain,” by Michael Gungor and Lisa Gungor

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melt

 

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23 Comments

  1. Summer

    Yes, my friend, how very incarnational. If He chose to have both humanity and the Godhead within Him indivisible, I believe He calls us to find His fingers in the stuff of earth. There is glory in the dirt indeed!

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      “His fingers in the stuff of earth.” Yes! Thank you, Summer.

      Reply
  2. Larry Ebaugh

    Yes, I agree with both you and the comment before mine. Jesus did some of his best thinking when he was writing in the dirt.

    Consider when the religious leaders brought to him the woman caught in adultery. While he was thinking of a good answer for them, what did he do? He knelt down and wrote in the dirt. Maybe not very spiritual, but he was certainly more than a one-dimensional man. He appreciated all aspects of his Father’s creation.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Larry, I hadn’t even thought of that moment – Jesus writing in the dirt – beautiful.

      Reply
  3. Danielle

    I’m so glad you’re finally at Maplehurst. I felt like I labored through Florida with you and just couldn’t understand why God would send such a poetic soul to live in Florida (no offense, Florida…). I appreciate the care you take with words. You write so perfectly, and could so easily hide behind your words, but you choose to live and write honestly about the the beautiful and the mundane.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      I feel the same, Danielle. This blog was my lifeline in Florida. I can’t imagine how I would have survived without it. Of course, I never would have started blogging in the first place. I would have gone on writing essays on obscure poets for obscure academic journals, if Florida hadn’t intervened. So, I’m grateful. And very glad that time is over.

      Reply
  4. Kris Camealy

    Always stunning to read your words, Christie. Your Maplehurst sounds like a bit of a dream, even with it’s cracking edges and bits of crumbling. There’s a history there and your building your own, adding on, how many rumpus 5PM’s has that kitchen floor endured, how many children have flung themselves around that yard, and how God has seen it all, and SEES it all still. You cling to both, the imagery and the reality, the beauty IN the dirt, the mystery in the manifest.

    It’s all glory under His feet.

    Love to you, sweet friend, praying for an easy melt, and rivers that run smooth enough.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      “An easy melt.” Oh, yes, exactly that. Thank you, my friend.

      Reply
  5. Dan McDonald

    I read this article twice, and after the second time I thought I must have read it only once because the first time I read the words from “I am Mountain” but they never sank in as anything more than words, and this last time they sank in with their message. Snow and poems sort of go together, if we are too hurried they simply seem an inconvenience and a clutter, but if we have the time to enjoy them for what they are and for their eloquence of form, a poem not prose, snow not plain water then they speak comfort to us. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Snow and poems! Yes, how have I never seen that similarity before? Thank you, Dan.

      Reply
  6. Tresta

    Yes. One reality – dirt and Spirit wrapped up in one. I’m learning to see it all as one, too; not separating my quiet morning from my not-so-quiet afternoon. Beauty is all around!

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Tresta, you’ve pointed out the two things that are hardest for me to integrate – quiet mornings and noisy afternoons. I feel like an entirely different person depending on where I am in the day. But I’m grateful – both are blessings in their different ways.

      Reply
  7. elizabeth marshall

    I am taking in your words of kindred spirit friend again. There are words stuck in me of the duality of both and in everything. Here again you speak for me and too me and it is so very much about perspective. Beautiful as always.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Elizabeth, I love having you here! Grateful for your encouraging words. Hope we can share stories and poems in person one day …

      Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Thank you, Katie. I know you are neck-deep in snow. Praying for fresh eyes for you to see its beauty (a difficult thing in late winter, I know).

      Reply
  8. Annie Barnett

    I can so deeply relate to what you’ve written here: all the snow, and the 5pm and the crumbling 100 year old house, and the seeing in layers. I love this, and I love your voice, Christie.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Thank you so much, Annie. Your words mean a great deal (also, I bet we could swap a few old house tips between us!).

      Reply
  9. Diana Trautwein

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. THIS is what I’m trying to formulate for this week’s Q & A – I’d love it if you’d link this tomorrow. Life is of a piece – the extraordinary and the mundane, the deep and the not-so-deep, the gritty and the surreal. Learning to hold it together with love and freedom, that’s the key. Thanks for this loveliness, Christie.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Diana, I will! Thanks for the invitation. I’ve regretted that these past extra-busy weeks have kept me from contributing to the great conversations happening at your place. I’m grateful that this post lines up. See you there …

      Reply
  10. Juliet

    This is so beautifully written and such a pleasure to read. Thank you for linking it up at Diana’s site where I was able to find it. One of my aims for this second part of my life ( my just begun, wonderful second half-century) is to seek transparency. I want to see everything in everything – the meaning in hopelessness, the beauty in ugliness, the lost love in hatred. I want to be whole myself, not different faces at different times or for different people and that is hard. Perhaps one day I will also be able to see without splitting things in two!

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Thank you, for taking the time to leave these beautiful words, Juliet. I have a few years left on my first half-century, but I feel this same urgency. With God’s help we can see truly, we can see the whole.

      Reply
  11. Diana Trautwein

    Love this even more the second time through – thank you so much for linking it up this week. I love all the threads of this, the different times of day, different geographies, the spiritual/physical – and the resolution — that it’s all LIFE and all, in it’s own way, a ‘teachable moment.’ Grateful for you and your wonderful, mad skillz.

    Reply

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