We All Want to Go Home

I didn’t plan to talk to my children about terrorism or the Syrian refugees, but my children are older now and I have less control. Sometimes, I thank God I have less control.

When my daughter said her school had held a moment of silence to remember or pray for Paris, my older son asked why.

I spoke a few words about the terrorists and those who died at their hands. I mentioned the millions of children who have lost their homes and are searching for new ones.

My younger son interrupted us, impatient and eager to clear away this heavy conversation.

Sweeping his arm toward the rest of our house, he asked, “Why can’t they just stay here?”

We only stared at him.

For a moment, it was completely silent in my kitchen.

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I wrote Roots and Sky because I wanted to explore questions I had been asking for years. I wrote it because I knew I wasn’t the only one asking them.

Why do I feel such longing for a home?

Is that desire a distraction from my commitment to follow the One who had no place to lay his head?

Is it even possible to feel at home this side of heaven? 

As I wrote, I discovered the answer to this last question is yes.

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With all the recent talk of immigrants and refugees, I have had a few terrible words lodged in my mind.

Go home! Go back to where you came from!

That has been the taunt for generations, hasn’t it? I imagine a few of my own ancestors may have heard it. Perhaps a few of yours, too.

But today, in my imagination, I hear a refugee voice crying, If only, if only, if only I could.

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As I wrote my bookI encountered my own refugee roots.

In the beginning, our spiritual father and mother called paradise home. That home slipped from their grasp and there was no going back. Whether we call that ancient story myth or history or wisdom poetry, we all know the shadow of that loss.

Soon we will celebrate the good news that while we still wandered, heaven came to us. God’s message of peace and goodwill to all men was once a refugee baby in Egypt. The message wasn’t some spiritual abstraction. It was flesh and blood. Mary sheltered good news in her arms.

The story of Roots and Sky is the story of Jesus’s promise to come to us and make his home with us (John 14:23). In my life, that promise has been fulfilled in the old bricks and crumbling plaster of a farmhouse called Maplehurst. If his banner over us is love, my own particular banner is three stories high and a bit ragged around the edges.

No wonder my heart breaks for the homeless.

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I have two spare beds in my house. There is a big bed in our guestroom and a little bed tucked against the wall in my office. Those extra beds are often full but not always. We are grateful for the young woman who lives in another spare bedroom. When we began looking for an old house, it was always because we wanted room for others to live with us. Her presence here is another of God’s promises kept.

Maybe if I lived on the front lines of this humanitarian crisis, I could invite homeless families to share my home. Like this man did. For now, I am seeking out other ways to help.

That incredible man and his family remind me that doing good is not complicated nor is it abstract. Rather, it is very hard and very simple.

The good news is also very simple. It might be food. It might be medicine. It might even be a large chest of drawers, hauled up too many flights of steps. All of it given, with no strings attached, in the name of Jesus.

It is in Jesus that I have found my way home to God. That is why I will leave the door of this old house open. That is why I will say what’s mine is yours.

It isn’t safe. It isn’t smart. But it is the right thing to do.

Because I am not the only one who wants to come home.

 

Open Door

The Only Way To Live

In Alaska, there are many ways to die.

You can die in the air: bush plane, float plane, an airliner in wind and fog. You can die in the sea: barge, skiff, a ferry plunging in the trough. (If you are a sea lion, you can die in the jaws of an orca halfway between your rock and the waves. I have a picture of blood and frenzied sea lions if you are the sort who needs proof.)

You can also die with your feet planted firmly on the ground: bear, cliff, swiftly-shifting weather.

You have come to the edge of the world. The sun is lower. The shadows are longer. Death lurks out in the open here.

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Bush Plane  Harvester from the floatplane

Alaska Beach Picnic

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When you become a mother, you count all the ways there are to die: babies sleep but do not wake, daughters fall on the stairs, sons are diagnosed and named incurable.

Later, the ways are counted for you, but they are not the deaths you have already met in your imagination.

One day, you do not recognize how much your boy struggles to breathe, but the pediatrician does. She calls an ambulance from the exam room.

Another day, you forget your child’s epi-pen. Thank God, that stranger in the corner of the shop had one in her purse. You learn, to your sorrow, that death is folded within each moment.

Silent. Hidden. Utterly inseparable from love.

/

In Alaska, there are so many ways to live. 

You live in the air: bush planes and float planes fly low. You soar like an eagle, skim mountaintops, explore islands empty except of bears.

You live on the water: the taste of salt spray on your lips, a diving fin whale almost at your fingertips, sea otters like floating teddy bears.

You live on the land: black-tailed deer who are not afraid of you, tide pools filled with sun stars and blood stars and the deep breathing of anemones.

You have come to the edge of the world. The sun is lower. It is a dazzle in your eyes all day long.

Of what consequence is death when the air is like glittering glass?

/

Fin Whale in Alaska

Alaska Sun on the Water  Alaska Jellyfish

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If you are a writer, you are often alone. You retreat from family and friends seeking the quiet you need to write.

But one day you step on an airliner. One day you step on a bush plane. One day you wade through the water and heave yourself into a skiff. One day you taste salt spray all the way to Harvester, an island like a boulder tossed across the sea.

You journey to the edge of the world, and you discover you are not alone. The world is as full with stories and with storytellers as it is full with the glory of God.

/

The stories you find on Harvester Island are intimate with death.

There is the story of the old man and the young boy. They vanished on the water, leaving behind only a dog in a skiff and so many broken hearts.

There is the story of the unhappy wife standing on the edge of the island rock with a small suitcase in her fist. She has arrived at the end of her road. She is alive, but she has already died.

There are so many ways to die, but in Alaska, you learn what is true in every place on earth: there is only one way to live.

The only way to live is to die.

/

The only way to live is to arrive at the end of yourself and then to keep going (you can do this via bush plane, you can do this via motherhood or marriage or any great attempt at love).

Love is what remains, at the end of yourself, at the end of every beautiful story, at the end of every terrible one, too.

Love is our home. It is the place where death is only a fading legend. A tale we will tell again and again until, like glass smoothed and polished by the waves, it loses every sharp edge.

One day, we will let that old story go; we will drop it there, on the black gravel of the beach. For we have traveled 10,000 years, and we are ready for new stories.

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Alaska Low Tide  Harvester Guestroom View

Misty Alaska Morning

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Written in the airport in Anchorage, Alaska. With love for all the writers who traveled to that boulder in the sea. I am glad to have met you, there on that line between rock and water, life and death, stranger and friend.

A Book For You

It’s Saturday morning. High time for another installment in my occasional book recommendation series. But there is one very important book I haven’t yet told you much about.

My book.

Since that first announcement, you have been so supportive. So excited for me. So eager to read this book I have told you almost nothing about. I am grateful.

I want to tell you more.

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Let’s begin with the details, as if this were one of those announcements I once mailed after the birth of my four babies. Those easy statistics that tell you so much and so little.

Title: Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons

Cover:

Roots and Sky_cover

Release date: February 2, 2016

Available for pre-order here:

Amazon                    Barnes & Noble                   ChristianBook.com

Pre-ordering is convenient for you but critical for the success of new books. Pre-orders tell the booksellers there is interest, and they will stock more copies before the release date. More copies on shelves and in-warehouse translates to more sales in those critical early days.

Thank you for every one of your pre-orders!

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What is Roots and Sky about?

This book is about our first year in an old farmhouse called Maplehurst. It begins when we came home to a house, but it describes a journey home.

This is a journey through autumn, winter, spring, and summer toward the home first made for us. The home that is in the process of being remade for us.

This dear, beautiful earth.

This dirt. These trees. Those flowers. And faces. And loves. And stars.

Jesus echoed the Psalms when he said that the meek shall inherit the earth. Roots and Sky is about seeking and receiving that inheritance.

It is for anyone who longs for home but worries we can never come home on this side of heaven.

Roots and Sky is about all the ways heaven comes to us.

Today.

In this place.

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Searching For a Spacious Place

Visiting from Ann Voskamp’s place today? I am glad you are here. My name is Christie Purifoy, and I live in a Pennsylvania farmhouse with my husband, four kids, thirteen chickens, two cats, and rather too many woodchucks. I am always watching for beauty, wonder, and mystery, and I write dispatches from the golden hour.  Welcome to Maplehurst.

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Slice of Heaven in the Flower Garden

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What a pleasure it is to have my words and images hosted today by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. This is the first in her new photographic blog series “Unwrapping Summer.”

I’ve never considered myself a photographer, but I have come home to such a beautiful place. Next to such beauty, words feel inadequate. My photographs always feel inadequate, and yet, together? Well, sometimes, words and photos together help me crawl just a little bit closer to the source of everything good. Everything beautiful.

I hope you’ll join me over at Ann’s place to unwrap the great gift, always beautiful but not always easy to receive, of summer at Maplehurst.

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Making Room For Peace (A Series On Simplicity)

He stood, leaning on a shovel, taking a break from digging out tree roots in my neighbor’s yard. He was on one side of the split-rail fence. I was on the other. He looked past my shoulder, watching the chickens scratch and peck.

He said, “I like your chickens. Your home. It is like my country. It is like my home in Mexico.”

*

He’d been in our home for days. He and his team. Drilling holes. Snaking pipes behind plaster walls. Jonathan told me later what he said as they stood, talking, out in the yard.

He said, “Your home is so peaceful. It reminds me of my country. It reminds me of Vietnam.”

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I doubt that a red-brick farmhouse in Pennsylvania looks like Mexico. It seems unlikely to me that it looks anything like Vietnam. But there is something about this house on a hilltop. This old house with its gardens and chickens and songbirds. Something about it whispers Peace. Something about it sings Home.

Most miraculous of all, to me at least, is that the whispers are louder than the noise of my four children (or my own responses to those children). Louder than brothers fighting or toddlers tantrum-ing.

Whispers so loud, so insistent, they make grown men pause. And remember.

And dream of home.

*

As long as Jonathan and I have been making homes together (whether a tiny apartment, a city high rise, a suburban split-level, or a century-old farmhouse) visitors have said the same thing:

Your home is so peaceful.

I have heard those words with gratitude but also with detachment. Because surely that peace had nothing to do with me?  It wasn’t something I created or controlled.

It was a gift. Always and only a gift.

*

Thad

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Peace is not merely the absence of conflict or violence. It is a presence. It is a place.

It has a prince.

It is a gift. But like so many good gifts, it can also be cultivated. Like soil.

We can slap down some concrete and rid ourselves of all that bothersome dust. Or we can grow tomatoes. Or flowers. We can sow peace. We can water it. We can watch it flourish.

Like gardening, it is hard work. It is a daily discipline.

*

How do we cultivate peace? In our hearts, our homes, our communities?

I think we begin by making room for it.

So many of us, myself included, live with too much. Too much in our closets and too much in our day planners. We see an empty shelf, and we fill it. We stumble on an empty moment, and we pounce on our to-do list. We feel some hunger and we rush … to the pantry, to the television, to the computer.

And then we wonder why our lives, why our world, is saturated with conflict and worry. Loneliness and hurry.

*

Peace begins with simplicity. Is simplicity the soil, the water, the sun? I don’t know. My understanding is limited, my metaphor possibly faulty. I don’t yet fully grasp the relationship between the two, but they are related.

I think they may be more deeply related than I have ever known.

I used to think that simplicity was a lifestyle choice. I am beginning to think it is the only way to follow Jesus.

Simplicity is the way of the child. The way of a rich young ruler who says yes and gives everything away. Simplicity just may be the door to the kingdom of God.

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I have in mind a series of posts. Not because I have learned “Ten Lessons” or “Five Secrets.” It is only that I am noticing patterns in my past.  Patterns that suggest it is possible to practice simplicity and cultivate peace with more deliberateness and passion.

And I want to talk about that here. With you.

I am more than a little bit afraid. Afraid of the price I must pay to walk this way. Afraid of sounding preachy if I talk about it.

But I am also hopeful. Excited, even. Simplicity is as heavy as a cross on my shoulder. But the kingdom of Jesus, the kingdom of the prince of peace, is an upside-down kingdom. And that heavy burden?

It is the light yoke, the easy burden of freedom.

*

A Small, Silly Thing

I am a creature of habit. I thrive on routine and ritual.

In our home, if something happens twice, it’s a tradition. And it will keep on and keep on and keep on.

Sometimes, this is how I create heavy burdens and too-high expectations. I’ve had to teach myself how to let things go. I’ve had to learn to find the humor in the fact that a child will hold tightly to some ritual they never liked all that much simply because you’ve canceled it.

DSC_7848_1

But the rhythm of daily life changes. Rituals come and go and, yes, sometimes they come back.

I’m writing about one such family ritual for a Tuesday blog series hosted by the wonderful Cara Meredith. Every Tuesday you’ll find a new story inspired by this thought: “The boring rituals make the story deeper.”

Because they do, don’t they? Life is composed almost entirely of small, boring things. Silly things. Inconsequential things. But if we take the time to stop, to look, to trace the pattern of just one or two of these very small things … well, we may see how a bubble of water becomes a spring becomes a river.

I’m sharing the story of one of our own silly, little things. It’s a very small thing. But I know that if my parents or siblings are reading, if my children were reading, they would feel something very real, and deep, and powerful when they read these words:

Shake the love around.

I hope you’ll read my story. And while you’re there, I hope you’ll explore Cara’s website, and I hope you’ll read through all her Tuesday guest posts. It’s a treasure trove.

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