by Christie Purifoy
We moved to this old farmhouse nine months ago. For the first time in my life, I am keeping chickens, starting seeds, and planting trees. Indoors, I am baking sourdough, brewing kombucha tea, and making chicken stock like clockwork each Friday.
If you could see me with my baby on my hip (the last of my precious four), a book in my hand (because always there are books), and a giant pot of something bubbling on my stove, you might marvel at everything I have added to my life these past months.
I too see more (more love, more beauty, more work), but when I look back over my recent past I also see so much less.
I see everything I let go. Everything I stopped doing. Everything I set down by the road on our journey to this new place.
There are small things: I never make it to storytime at the library, I don’t volunteer in the church nursery, I only rarely sweep my kitchen floor.
There are big things: I am not teaching college students, I am not turning my dissertation into a book manuscript, I am not pursuing tenure at a university.
Those are all good things. If weighed on a scale, I’m quite sure teaching college students how to read poetry matters more than pulling weeds and feeding them to the chickens.
But I only have one life, there are only twenty-four hours in each day of that life, and I am chasing beauty with everything I have (which means, I think, that I am chasing God, and I am chasing the life he long ago dreamed for me).
The chase hasn’t been straightforward or easy. I felt prompted to let go of certain dreams and plans before I ever understood what would be given in their place. But I don’t think this is a simple story of obedience rewarded. Life is more complicated than that.
I am a gardener as well as a Jesus follower, and I know that seeds must die. I know that “those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:5). Today, I have a new song to sing, and it is good.
There are seasons when living well requires stretching ourselves uncomfortably, following our fears (rather than heading in the other direction), and adding more things to our calendars than we think we can handle. The right choice might not always feel like something beautiful. It might just feel like extra work. It takes wisdom to discover what is enough for us in each day in each season.
But mostly, I think a well lived life is a narrow thing. It is deep rather than wide.
My life has contracted to the space of one old farmhouse and a bit of land. But the life I am making here feels wide open. It is as if somehow the losing and the letting go have opened a door.
I have only just begun to cross the threshold, but I can see that I have arrived in a spacious place.
Christie Purifoy is a wife and mother of four who lives in southeastern PA. A PhD in English lit., she recently traded the university classroom for an old farmhouse and a writing desk. She blogs atwww.christiepurifoy.com.