When it comes to finding God in ordinary places, no one does it better than Christie Purifoy. The first time I read her writing, it felt like coming home. I found her book, Roots and Sky, during a time when I felt stuck and unable to read any other writing. Somehow her personal journey to find home turned into a spiritually informative pilgrimage for my own soul. I’m thrilled to welcome her here today.
I have always been a follow-the-rules, keep-it-under-control, anxious-to-please kind of girl. Which means I am, more often than not, anxious.
The hum of impending disaster is the white noise of my day. Whether weeding my garden or reading a bedtime book, I am on high alert: for the cough that might be asthma, the rose bush harboring some soon-to-multiply pest, the crock pot I must remember to fill and start at 11 am exactly. And woven in and out of these small, weedy worries are the invasive vines of my anxiety: the writing deadline, the big decision, the older child who seems, unusually and inexplicably, sad.
If the moment is without crisis, then it is up to me to keep it so.
I have been given a spacious place, but my eyes are always scanning the horizon. The sky over my home is a clear blue dome, yet I struggle for the air to breathe.
Because the whole world rests on my shoulders, I am enormous. The place where I am is always crowded.
Jesus says, Give me the world from your shoulders! Take my yoke instead! My burden is easy. My burden is light.
But how? For all my effort, I cannot budge this boulder from my back.
Yet I remember moments of grace. I can recall seasons of freedom and rest.
Almost thirteen years ago I became a mother. Having crossed that threshold with a textbook “difficult” baby in my arms, I was overwhelmed by an experience that was entirely beyond my ability to control or determine. The weight of one small daughter was enough to pull the world from my shoulders, and the sign of my new brokenness came in tears.
For three or four years I was always just on the edge of tears.
Those years were hard but how good it was to be weak, needy, and helpless. I accepted that I was in control of none of it, and so there was room within each day for so many tiny wonders.
Her first smile.
The way she fit, just so, in the crook of my arm.
That little streak of white-blonde hair on her otherwise dark head.
She and I both grew, and my tears dried. Three more babies joined their older sister, and every year I harvested another crop of worries. I grew large again, and the shadow cast by that world on my shoulders obliterated all the tiny, wonderful things.
In January, a great loss knocked the breath right out of me. I am sure I am not the only one in my family who would say I’ve been breathing borrowed air ever since.
Now, even breathing feels outside my control. This is good news. The only job I have to do, my one responsibility, is to whisper thank you.
For four months I have been on the verge of tears. I do not even realize they are there, but I step into the shower or I close myself into the silence of my car, and I find them. Just there. Waiting for me.
Once again, I am small. I cannot change or determine the big, important things.
But here again are the tiny wonders.
Here are the moments of pure beauty and grace: a silly text from my niece, the first peony in the garden, the grass-green taste of asparagus I grew myself.
It hurts to be sifted by sorrow, and I can glimpse no end to the hurt, and yet I find myself grateful. To be sifted by suffering is to find that all your usual worries have settled down into their proper places. Large uncertainties land in your prayers, plans for the future edge your daydreams, and the small anxieties that once loomed so large on your shoulders float down and far away where they look like just what they are: the dust beneath your feet.
Now lift your eyes and look around you.
Here, at last, is room for each given breath. The doorway is wet with tears, yet this is a spacious place and a land of small wonders.
Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English Literature at the University of Chicago before trading the classroom for a farmhouse, a garden, and a blog.