placemaker: a review
“I have always longed for a place of deeply rooted peace…”
Christie Purifoy’s words have sung to me for years. Her first book, Roots & Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, met me in a season of wandering and longing. I read it hungrily, underlining and meditating on phrases. It was story that touched a strong desire I had for hearth and home. It’s a book I buy extra copies of and give to friends.
And now? Now that we have Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace?
It’s homecoming and celebration, wonder and hope. The publisher says that “Placemaker is … a call to tend the soul, the land, and the places we share with one another. A reminder that we are always headed home.” And we are. I’m a homebody, through and through, and having lived in eight houses since my husband and I were married just over 11 years ago has reiterated this to me. I love going home, I love being home, I love making our home. Each time we’ve moved, before all the clothes and toys and furniture are even sorted out, I’m hanging photos on the walls and curating our bookshelves. Making our space a home has always been of deep value to me and Placemaker was a beautiful affirmation of this work.
Christie is such a thoughtful, lyrical writer. Her vivid imagery and storytelling drew me into Placemaker the same way it did with Roots & Sky. I took such delight in stories of farmers and gardens and trees — things that I feel I only admire from a distance and wasn’t sure I would connect with — only to discover that suddenly I was facing a compelling, poetic truth about my very life.
“Like winter,” she writes in the third chapter, “the wilderness is always a promise. God leads us in and, one way or another, he leads us out again. Or, if he doesn’t lead us out, he does something almost more miraculous: he plants trees in the desert, and causes rivers to flow there. […] The wilderness is not necessarily a desolate place. It has its own unique beauty, and that beauty is enough. It does not need us. It does not ask for our participation. This may be one reason why wilderness wandering is such a harsh experience, but this is certainly one reason why time in the wilderness is a gift. Our cultivation and our care are not required. God himself plans trees in that place; God himself draws water from dry rocks. The gift of the wilderness is that this is the place we go simply to receive.”
Having recently emerged from a long season of wintry wilderness, I was brought to my knees by the reminder (discovery?) that God is doing in the wilderness what he cannot (does not?) in the land of promise. We find ourselves changed in those arid places, whether we asked for it or not, and the God of the wilderness is also the God of the garden. In Him we find that tending to our souls and to our heart’s home is a necessary and holy pursuit. Christie’s words throughout this book call us to remembrance of this.
Chapter titles in this book are their own sort of poetry: “Penn’s Woods: The Abundance of Empty Places” and “Pine Tree: Choosing to Want” were very nearly a sermon of themselves, or perhaps preludes to a glorious song. I long for a similar gift: to say the beautiful things and the painful things with such gracious candor as Christie does. In a world of fightin’ words and calls to arms, hers is a kind, quiet, persistent voice. When she says she believes “beauty reflects the truth of who God is and what this world is all about”, my heart leaps in agreement. My soul whispers, Yes - the good and the beautiful, the quiet spaces of home and around the table - the peace we can cultivate in our community as we offer our place, however meager, to those we love - this is the work of making a home.
I am reminded that loving my home is never wasted, because the God who indwells me invites me to join Him in the beautiful work of cultivating. I am reminded that I need not fear painful loss, because even those seasons have the potential “to bear exquisite fruit”. I’ve always been a homebody and now I have words for it in a new way. I want to come home “by giving our home away”, as Christie writes, even if our home doesn’t match my ideal and future vision. My dearest wish has long been that those who walk through our front doors would find a place of peace — and we who dwell here get to be the makers and tenders of peace, the hopeful gardeners of restoration. I may not sow vegetables seeds in season, I may not be able to name the exact oaks in my yard, and I’ve never grown wheatgrass in a yogurt pot on my windowsill. But after reading Placemaker, I’m more sure of my home and my hopes for it than ever.
My hope is that you’d pick up a copy of this beautiful book - take a long, slow read, and remember what it means to be a placemaker in your own spaces, however large or small, however much you’ve longed for it (or perhaps merely tolerate it). This is a holy pursuit and I know you’ll be encouraged.
I was delighted to participate as part of Christie’s book launch team for Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace. I received a book at no cost, but I’d already pre-ordered three copies for my own and to share, so my reflections are are my own and genuine as can be!
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You can follow Christie’s work and words here: