Nearly ten years ago we set up our first home together in a freshly-built basement studio apartment, newlyweds with barely a dime to our name. After our first year of marriage, we followed the Lord’s leading out to Colorado and had quite an adventure, then followed His leading back to the quiet mountains of North Carolina. We’ve moved a number of times since then, always from rental to rental, and we’ve experienced many financial set backs over the course of our marriage. Today we are in a bigger home than that tiny studio apartment, and we have three children now, instead of two dogs, but we are still on borrowed ground.
We’ve always longed for a home of our own. We’ve always dreamed about the day when we can put down roots. This year we’ve been quietly dreaming and hoping we could possibly buy our first home. We don’t know yet if God will open those doors for us and provide a place, and we are content with our sweet little rental in the meantime. So it has been interesting reading Christie Purifoy’s book, Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons. Of course this book would find its way into my hands as my heart aches with its own dream and hopes to find “home.” I found myself so often in her words, my heart so often nodding its “yes.”
“Wandering taught me to desire rootedness. In the wilderness, I began to long for a place where my heart and body could settle, free of striving, free of restlessness. A place where my feet could touch ground. A place where I could grow. Like a tree.
I do not think this is my dream only. Not everyone longs for life in the country. Not everyone feels affection for old houses. But whether we are homebodies or world travelers, we all long for the moment of arrival. We all dream of the rest and peace we imagine waits for us at the end of a long journey.” (Purifoy, 19)
Purifoy writes the story of Maplehurst, the name of their old brick farmhouse sitting at the end of maple-lined lane. It is the story of their first year at “home” after years of “wandering in the wilderness,” as Purifoy calls it, the story of their homecoming and home-finding in those four unlikely walls.
“This is the story of my journey home. This is the story of a kingdom come. It begins with a full moon, the birth of a baby, and a September breeze that told us our years of wandering were finally at an end.” (Purifoy, 14)
It begins in Autumn, with the joyous arrival and acquisition of this beautiful plot of land, a place to tend the soil, to cultivate the hearts and souls of the three children + baby on the way, a place to put down roots and reach out wide to neighbors. It begins with the fulfillment of a dream and the anticipation of a new baby, born only weeks after moving in. Autumn gives way to winter, and Purifoy beautifully weaves the story of their family into the story the seasons tell us. Winter descended with both aching beauty and hardship, a barrenness that cried out for the thaw of spring.
“Gardens are born in winter. Not only in fireside dreams, but also in the messy work of tending small pots on sunny windowsills. And in the harsh work of planting early seeds in cold soil…
I long to see the glory of God in this place, to taste it even, but for everything there is a season. These are still planting days. These are the early days of small beginnings. Days to sow, quite often in tears, hoping, believing, that we may one day reap in joy.” (Purifoy, 95, 96)
Winter gives way to Spring, to budding branches and budding relationships with neighbors finding their way through the gap in their split-rail fence. Spring brings new life, both in the soil and in Purifoy’s own heart, tumbling into Summer’s bounty and abundance.
“The ache of winter and of early spring is the ache of exile. The ache Adam and Eve knew so well. Yet it was different once. Adam and Eve knew what they had lost. Their beautiful garden. Their meeting place with God. Their innocence. It is not the same for us. We are born into exile and must learn to recognize what we are missing.
It isn’t enough to know that we yearn for God. Somewhere along the way we must also learn that creation is God’s good gift. Its true identity is not the chaos and horror we observe on the nightly news. We must learn how to walk with God on the ground of our own lives, how to meet with him in our kitchens and neighborhood sidewalks and backyards. We must become acquainted with the righteousness Christ has made available again. To recognize and release the nails of our sins.
Only then can we begin to receive the life that is to come, the world that is to come. Our hunger is the exile’s hunger, but it is also the first step in our homecoming. We hunger and in doing so learn the shape of our emptiness and the world’s great emptiness in order to prepare room for God’s presence. We imagine we are cultivating food or friendship or beauty. But we are, in all of these ways, cultivating God’s glory in our midst. We spread our tables and fill our plates with glory.” (Purifoy, 165-166)
More than just the story of finding “home” at Maplehurst, Purifoy teaches us about our longing for heaven, really, for our return to Eden. She helps to uncover within us the haunt of exile and the longing for Home, showing that this desire is not just about buying a home or owning a plot of ground, but a desire for God’s kingdom come. A desire to redeem the land, a desire to see God build His kingdom here, yes, even here on this broken sod. This cursed ground that eagerly waits for the redemption of the sons of God, for its own redemption from corruption. This terrestrial sod? He will renew and restore it because what He makes is good, yes indeed, very good.
If you long for home, if you hunger for God’s kingdom come, if you love metaphor and looking for all the ways of God revealed in the moments and the things He has made, in the turning of seasons and the turning of hearts, you will so treasure this book. Purifoy’s Maplehurst has stirred up my longing for my own “Maplehurst,” but not in a discontented or envious way. It has reminded me that our longing for a place to cultivate and to redeem is a part of our makeup, a part of God’s design in us. It is a good thing, a thing of glory. It is kingdom work.
For my husband and I, and now our three children, these are still-wintry planting days. These are still days of “farmhouse dreaming.” These are days of finding home even in the unlikely and often impersonal soil of a borrowed house. These days are still an important part of the journey Home, not to be missed or grumbled about. These are days that stir up our anticipation and eagerness over what is to come.
“It is true that we do not yet possess an enduring home, but we are looking for it. We are watching and waiting and straining to catch a glimpse of the coming of that which John saw: ‘The Holy City. . . coming down out of heaven from God’ (Rev. 21:2). And I am beginning to see. Perhaps because it is spring, or because we are still singing Easter hymns each Sunday, but I am beginning to see small glimpses of my forever home.” (Purifoy, 150)
Thanks to Revell Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.