Featured #TellHisStory Writer: Christie Purifoy

January 7, 2014 | 23 comments

#TellHisStory Storytellers Series

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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

My prayers tend to be intangible and vague, but God surprises me with the realness of his answers.

I pray with words like blessingprovision, 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.

 

by | January 7, 2014 | 23 comments

23 Comments

  1. Shelly Miller

    Well, in your usual fashion, you have spun gold here with your words. Just wonderfully told Christie. *sigh*

    Reply
  2. Dorette Skinner

    I love how God answers even the prayers we do not pray. Beautiful story! And that picture will make me smile for the rest of the day 🙂

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Dorette, I’m glad! It’s impossible not to smile back with this little one.

      Reply
  3. MsLorretty

    Loveliness. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth Stewart

    What a beautiful post!

    Reply
  5. Sandra Heska King

    “The answer to your prayers, your dream come true, could look…at least at first…like disaster.”

    I get this. I’ve lived this. You’ve shared this well.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      It changes how we confront new “disasters,” doesn’t it, Sandra? I can still feel afraid, but I tend to be a little more ready to wait and see how God brings out the good.

      Reply
  6. Rachael

    I LOVE how God meets our needs in ways we couldn’t even imagine for ourselves. Thanks for sharing your story and for the reminder that God really does know what is best for us.

    Reply
  7. Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    “I was Dorothy in a black-and-white world, and I was desperate for color.” Totally get this. Thankfully, the Lord is a phenomenal Artist who paints our world with color and joy {and happiness} by answering even the prayers with holes in them. Thanks for sharing a picture of your bundle of happiness…What a doll!

    Reply
  8. Michelle DeRusha

    So beautiful and so true, Christie. Thank you for sharing a slice of your story here today.

    Reply
  9. Laura Brown

    Joy and happiness: You CAN have both.

    Reply
  10. dukeslee

    Christie,

    I can’t tell you how much it means to have you here on the blog, with your beautiful prose. I’ve been a “fan” of your writing for a while now, and you’ve always felt like a friend — even before I knew you. I appreciate your message here about prayer — how God is working in the midst of our vague words and desperate prayers. And how His answers can be far more stunning than we ever dared imagine. I am certain that I’m not the only one who needs to hear that today.

    Thank you for sharing such a tender part of your story with us.

    With admiration,
    Jennifer

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Jennifer, God gave me a story, but, through you, he also gave me a place to share it and a community to share it with. I am so grateful.

      Reply
  11. Elizabeth

    On one very cold day even here in the South, this warms every every fiber of my body and soul.

    Reply
  12. Amy Hunt

    I read this with tears. True tears. Because I’m afraid to pray the prayer I most feel led to pray. I’m afraid of the “okay, just ask” and the bitterness and angst and frustration of seven years lived wanting, and the lessons of surrender and the fear that I’m not surrendering enough . . . but realizing that HE led me here to where it’s true and full and where I’m free. And yet I still wait and wonder and anticipate and reach for hope with a timidity. My story, too, is best talked about with a cup in hand and with your eyes staring back at me. For now, I trust that He’s crossed our paths — weaved our stories — and that this is, indeed, enough.

    Know this, Christie — so pure-of-joy (that’s what I hear when I see your name, what He calls you “pure of joy”) . . . know this right here is purposed and He’s used you to reach deep into my heart. You farmed today . . . your words cultivated the soil of hope within me. And for this I am grateful.

    Reply
    • Christie Purifoy

      Dear Amy, my prayer just this morning was that these words I’ve shared would be a seed and that they would indeed grow. Reading your comment, I know that prayer was answered, and I am awed. Grateful. Many blessings to you. The waiting is long and hard, but His plans for us are good.

      Reply
  13. pastordt

    Just plain fabulous, Christie. And one look at that baby tells me everything. Such a good gift, these unexpected, unplanned little ones, no? My youngest was a huge surprise and I cannot imagine our lives without him.

    Reply
  14. Kris Camealy

    nodding here in agreement. he honors all of the cries of our hearts, even the ones we think are half-hearted and shallow, even the vague ones we can’t find the words for–even the ones we don’t even know are there. I love this, Christie. It’s JOY to see Him in your story.

    Reply
  15. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    Oh, Christie. Wow. Happiness in your arms…ahhh. And what a beautiful light she is! Thank you for helping me to distinguish the good of happiness from joy in a new way here and for this encouragement to pray more specifically. Speaking of which, I am praying right now for a day I can meet you face to face. Love to you, friend.

    Reply
  16. amy

    so wonderful. “spun gold with your words” is a lovely and true way to put what you’ve done here.

    Reply
  17. Carol Kuniholm

    I love everything about this. The great photo of your daughter, the reminder that God’s answers often look very different from what we had imagined, and the encouragement to reclaim happiness as a gift God wants to give his children. Thank you!

    Reply

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