She boarded a plane headed to Hawaii to visit her sister, nieces, and nephews. It was just weeks before her own book was due to arrive on bookshelves. A book called Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons. However, there was no time for her to celebrate with the reality of heartbreak waiting for her.
Christie Purifoy was there to be with her sister as the she coped with the sudden loss of her brother-in-law, Shawn Campbell. He was one of 12 Marines who was missing at sea last month after a double helicopter crash off the coast of Oahu.
It was there she saw a woman without her husband, children without their daddy, and loved ones hurting.
It was there she got the news that the Coast Guard suspended the active search for those Marines and realized the answer to her prayers could be different from the one she anticipated.
And it was there she witnessed the military memorial service held in honor of those Marines and had to start wrestling with what life would be like without a brother.
I imagine that, from the moment Christie set foot off that plane to Hawaii, grief and hopelessness filled the air like a heavy fog on a chilly fall morning.
It all became too real.
When hope wanes and we long for a different reality, it’s hard. Yet, Christie said she still found hope. She found it in her book, calling it an anchor outside the grief. I think it’s because the words stilled her and held her tethered to God’s truth and goodness.
In the book, she described a yearning to make Maplehurst, her Victorian farmhouse, her work of art–her creation. And it became her “material form of hope” (Roots & Sky). Now, as she feels the weight of grief, the stories within that book are offering her hope.
I’m sure she had no idea that, after the work was done and the pages were written, she would find so much to cling to in this season of life. That she would really come to know the truth within them.
I think that happens to all of us at one time or another.
We take steps. We count them. But we don’t see the fluidity of our movements and how our bodies just keep gliding through the changes and missteps with the leading of our Partner. And how it’s all a part of something beautiful.
Maybe it’s good for us that way–to do this dance of leaning and waiting and learning to let go and move forward, without knowing how it all comes together.
Maybe it’s so we can create our own art and be a testimony to an Ultimate Truth.
Sometimes we may think art is just something we make. But as Christie uses Roots & Sky to weave a beautiful story of planting and persevering at that farmhouse, she also dares us to think of art as something more: an extension of our Creator and an offering to Him, spread through emptiness and brokenness.
“Art begins when someone recognizes that things are not as they should be. Our art is born in the ache between death and resurrection, and we make art in the empty hours between Friday and Sunday. Whether we speak of poems or paintings or places, all art acknowledges an absence and dreams of something other, something more” (Christie Purifoy, Roots & Sky)
God gave Christie the words and a dream, rooted in Him, that would show the world His truth and goodness in all seasons. And now, she’s starting to see the beauty of those words as she faces another winter in her life.
Over the past two weeks, I read–in brief posts on Christie’s blog and on her Facebook page–that through her grief and despair she continued to draw near God. I read about how she found peace in Him, and how she saw goodness through Him.
Then I became connected to it all, seeing a dream of community, with neighbors loving those who are hurting and in need of support. Not only did writers and friends offer tangible gifts so she and her family could make it through the days without having to worry about what was for dinner, they also offered their art. They offered the words and prayers and spaces they’ve created to help carry the message of her book–the words God gave her– into the world.
And it’s been so beautiful to see.
With the birth of this little book, I am learning how–with a dream and offerings rooted in love–hope can be born out of heartbreak.