#TellHisStory Storytellers Series
Story has the power to change the world, one paragraph at a time. I share this space, once a week, to spread the message of great storytellers in our midst.
This week’s featured storyteller is the beautiful Christie Purifoy, who I met through blogging in 2013. She has a delightful writing voice.
Be sure to come back Wednesday to link your own stories or photos with us in the #TellHisStory community.
Praying for Happiness (Or, Why My Prayers are Full of Holes)
By Christie Purifoy
y prayers tend to be intangible and vague, but God surprises me with the realness of his answers.
I pray with words like blessing, provision, and plain old help. God responds with rain, bread, and a neighbor with a snow shovel.
I am beginning to understand that my vague prayers are not inadequate. I am even beginning to call them my very best prayers. They are so full of holes, of all I don’t know and cannot quite see, there is plenty of room for God to come and live in them.
I know this because I once prayed for happiness.
* * *
Here is a confession: most days, I don’t believe in happiness.
Of course, happiness isn’t exactly equivalent to Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Perhaps I should say I am skeptical of happiness.
Growing up in the church, I was taught to distinguish happiness from joy. Joy was the real prize. Joy, I became convinced, was what I would earn for doing the right thing, for picking up my cross, for denying myself as thoroughly as possible. Somewhere along the way, I decided I couldn’t have both.
This explains why it took so long for me to pray the prayer God was whispering in my ear. It took two years of desert-living and wilderness-wandering. It took two years of losing, of letting go, of watching dream after dream blow away like so many tumbleweeds.
For two years, God waited for me to remember moments of happiness. For two years, he waited for me to see those moments as gifts and to recognize him as the giver. And when I did, I prayed. My prayer was a question; my prayer was a cry: Lord, will I ever know happiness again?
* * *
Back then, if you had told me I was praying for another child, I would have looked at you bewildered. I would have reminded you that I was done with infertility. Done with doctors and drugs and desperate waiting. I had thanked God for my three miracle children, given away all the baby things, and turned my face to the future.
My unhappiness wasn’t anything to do with the size of our family. My unhappiness came from peering toward tomorrow and finding only emptiness. I had no new dreams to replace the ones I’d lost to the wind.
I was Dorothy in a black-and-white world, and I was desperate for color.
* * *
God gave me that prayer for happiness, and he answered it, too. The full story of his answer is probably best told across a table, steaming cups in hand.
If we sat down together, I would spin out the difficult memories first. I would begin with those particular stories so that you might know this: the answer to your prayers, your dream come true, could look … at least at first … like disaster.
I would tell you about a job offer that fell through. I would tell you about giving birth six weeks after a cross-country move. I would tell you how, confronted with those first labor pains, we called our realtor and asked her to stay overnight with the kids. She was the only person we knew in this town. I would tell you more about the pregnancy-induced asthma that left me struggling to breathe. I would tell you about post-partum depression. Recalling that, I still feel weak in the knees.
But my story would end with pictures of this little girl. I would show you her flashing smile, and you would exclaim, “She’s so happy! Her smile is so big! Is she always this happy?”
I would say, “Yes. I’ve known her now for more than a year, and I am convinced: she is the happiest baby in the world.”
And I would tell you this: how every single day I climb these old farmhouse stairs and open one particular door. I reach over the side of a spindly, black-painted crib, and I feel again the satisfying weight of answered prayer.
I never asked for a child, but she is the sweet answer to that desperate prayer.
And every day, I hold happiness in my arms.
Christie Purifoy writes her stories in the parlor of a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst. After earning a PhD in English literature from the University of Chicago, she traded the university classroom for a large kitchen garden and a henhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania. When the noise of her four young children makes writing impossible, she tends zucchini and tomatoes her children will later refuse to eat. The zucchini-loving chickens are perfectly happy with this arrangement. The chickens move fast and the baby even faster, but Christie is always watching for the beauty, mystery and wonder that lie beneath it all. When she finds it, she writes about it at There is a River (www.christiepurifoy.com).
Christie invites you to connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.