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Inspire: Women Who Create | Christie Purifoy Interview

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I first discovered Christie Purifoy’s writing when we were both contributors to Pick Your Portion. From there I discovered her blog and started following her Instagram feed. It was from Instagram I discovered that she actually lived a mere hour away from me.

One Friday night last autumn I drove to Christie’s Victorian farmhouse for pizza and conversation. Kindred spirits from the start, there were no conversational lapses as we discussed gardening, writing, favorite books, and theology.

Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English literature at the University of Chicago before trading the classroom for an old farmhouse and a garden. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and four children and writes regularly at www.christiepurifoy.com. Her first book is forthcoming from Revell. Connect with her and discover more about life in a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst on Instagram, facebook, and twitter. It is with great pleasure I introduce Christie as inspirational “woman who creates” and interview her here on the blog today.

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and introduce us to your family?

I grew up in Texas, married my high-school sweetheart at 19, and moved to northern Virginia a year later. We lived in Chicago and Florida before moving to southeastern Pennsylvania almost three years ago.

Our road to parenthood was a little slow and bumpy, but, today, we have two sons and two daughters, ages 11 on down to 2. My firstborn and older daughter prayed for a sister for many years. Our youngest, Elsa Spring, was the answer to her sister’s prayers. She has brought the sweetness of spring into our family.

Can you share about your journey from a literature and composition professor to a blog writer?

I spent almost a decade earning my PhD in English Literature at the University of Chicago (along with birthing three babies!). My dream had always been to become a university professor, but the closer I came to realizing my dream the less suited I felt for it. However, I never, not once, imagined becoming a (non-academic) writer, let alone a writer of Christian spirituality. Now I know that the deepest desires of our hearts can sometimes remain hidden even from ourselves.

God set me on a new path through a painful process of pruning and purging. Old dreams died before I could quite glimpse new ones, but, today, I am living a dream-come-true. I only needed God to show me what my dream truly was.

You have a book coming out next February! Can you tell us a bit about how the book came about, its inspiration, and the process to becoming a signed author?

I began blogging four years ago. I had taken what I thought was a short break from teaching at the University of North Florida in order to write a memoir about meeting God through infertility. I was very hesitant about blogging but felt I had to do it if I were ever going to be published. The surprise was that blogging became a great blessing in my life even as my interest in publishing that first manuscript faded. Through blogging, I became a better writer, I gained the friendship of other writers and creatives, and, eventually, I wrote myself to a new book idea.

When the timing was right, the door to publication opened quite quickly. A friend introduced me and my book proposal to her literary agent, I chose a publisher and began writing in earnest last September, and the book will be released by Revell next winter.

Inspired by the first four seasons we spent in our Victorian farmhouse here in Pennsylvania, the book is for anyone who aches to feel at home in the place where they are. Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth, and this book is about seeking and finding that inheritance.

You’re a mom of four with a two-year-old still at home. What practical encouragement can you offer other inspiring writer mamas about juggling writing with young children? What has the writing process looked like in your family?

It’s hard. I won’t sugarcoat that. At the same time, God is faithful. If he calls us to a task, he will equip us to complete it. The key is to trust him for that, even when schedules and circumstances feel impossible. And when some quiet space for writing opens up – seize it.

More practically, I have always used babysitters. Also, my husband’s work schedule is flexible. If I have a looming deadline, he can often rearrange his day to give me more time alone in which to work.

I look forward to having all four of my children in school so that I can devote every morning to writing, but I also know that when that day comes I will miss my babies. Fiercely. Having such a large age gap between my oldest and my youngest has taught me what we all know is true: they grow up in a flash. I will have years for writing and while writing is a priority even now, it is not my only priority. For now, I am incredibly grateful that on some mornings I can leave writing behind in order to take my little girl somewhere fun.  

I know from reading your blog that you are an avid gardener and nature lover. How does nature inspire you personally, spiritually, and/or as a writer?

Growing up in Texas, I hated being outside. Too hot, too sticky, too many bugs. But I also longed for it. Mostly, I satisfied that longing through books. The Secret Garden was a favorite. One reason why I feel so at home here in Pennsylvania is because the climate is more hospitable. Perhaps not in January, but I do love long walks in the snow.

Nature – and a garden, especially – is restorative for me. Cutting flowers or listening to the wind in the branches of a tree is almost like a baptism. I feel the old, dead things being washed away (fear, worry, busyness, noise) and I am filled with quiet, with peace, with beauty.

Gardening is hard work, but it is a different kind of work. It seems to use all of me – body, mind, heart – and it feels more like worship. I think it comes closest to the way God always intended work to be. According to Genesis, our first job, after all, was to care for the garden God had made.

What do you enjoy when you have down time? Favorite family activities? Favorite authors?

When I’m not gardening, I’m reading. I read gardening books, but I also love classic literature, cozy mystery novels (Louise Penny’s books set in Quebec are favorites), nature writing (Orion journal is excellent), and Christian spirituality (I adore Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks journals). And I love sharing books with friends. You can find lots and lots of my book recommendations on my blog.

Anything else you want to share?

I always prefer poetry books to advice books, so, with tongue firmly in cheek, I would love to offer your readers this advice on growing the garden of your dreams (which is also everything I know about how our dreams come true):

http://www.christiepurifoy.com/2014/06/10/how-to-grow-the-garden-of-your-dreams-in-six-easy-steps/

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Thank you for sharing with us today, Christie!

For other posts in the “Inspire: Women Who Create” series check out:

Ainsley Arment Interview
Ruth Simons Interview
Ashleigh Slater Guest Post

Christie Purifoy - May 19, 2015 - 8:14 am

What a privilege and a pleasure to be here with you! Thank you.

[…] If you have any interest in my personal and creative journey, in my upcoming book, or just want to see a photo of my cute kids (they are cute, even if we never do manage to capture all four smiling at once), I very much hope you’ll read all about it. […]

Amy L. Sullivan - May 20, 2015 - 8:38 am

So nice to meet you, Christie! As someone who has moved often, home is always a topic I struggle with…you books sounds fab.

Cindy Camp - May 20, 2015 - 9:08 am

I have followed Christie for about three years, and adore her writing. The simplicity and grace of her writing style, plus the quiet spiritual overtones make her a very unique and special voice! I look forward to her book. Like L’Engle’s Crosswick journals (some of my favorites, too), Christie’s book will be cherished.

Diana Trautwein - May 20, 2015 - 7:35 pm

Great interview, great photo!! Thanks to both of you.

A Day in the Life

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Back at the end of March I thought it would be fun to do a little “day in the life” post. I used to use my full frame DSLR to capture daily life so much more than I do now. I love my iphone and the ease of taking pictures and sharing them on social media, but this year I’d like to make an effort to use my camera a bit more. So, I kept my camera out all day to capture the daily moments of a run-of-the-mill day at home. Finally–almost a month and a half later–I’m sharing them with all of you.

First breakfast. Usually oatmeal or yogurt with fruit and granola. Ava hangs out in her bouncer while we eat and I read a chapter from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Singone of my favorite devotional books for children, ever.

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After breakfast it’s time for school. Reading, writing, math, grammarspelling and memory work fill our mornings. The school room is bright and cheerful and one of my favorite rooms in the house.

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Sophia plays or hangs with us in the school room doing her own “school work” while we do ours. She draws, plays with her wiki stix alphabet, plays with her kitchen set, or practices writing numbers in her notebook. She joins in with memory work (songs to memorize history and science facts, among other things) and practices each weeks’ presentation for our weekly class time at Classical Conversations.

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I can’t get over how much bigger Ava has gotten since I’ve taken these pictures! In just a month and a half she looks so different already!

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I also can’t get over how GREEN it’s gotten over the month of April. Wow, what a difference a month makes. Winter hats and jackets are definitely packed away now! After a morning doing lessons we usually have lunch and head outside on days we’re home. Time for fresh air and some exercise! Then after an hour or so it’s back inside. That’s when I read aloud to the kids. We read chapter books and picture books on all sorts of subjects: history, science, and fun stories.

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Then it’s time for some quiet down. The kids go to their rooms for one hour of quiet play while the baby naps and I do my work. This is the time I write, blog, edit photos, and the like. The day I took these pictures it was very unexciting. I worked on backing up all the pictures from 2014 both onto my external hard drive and on cds and cleaned off the hard drive of my laptop. Necessary maintenance that just needed to get done.

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Before I know it everyone is up and the hustle of dinner time is upon me. Cheesy Tex-Mex Roll-Ups was on the menu, yum!

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So this is pretty much a normal school day when we’re home for the whole day, which is actually only a couple of days a week. We have Classical Conversations once a week during the school year, and for two years we also had a science co-op once a week as well. Not to mention errands, playdates, field trips, and sports in different seasons.

But these unassuming days at home are some of my favorite times. I soak them up and they are just as worthy of documentation as the more exciting days.

Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake - May 14, 2015 - 10:49 am

I’m reaching for the “real” camera more often too. I didn’t have an iPhone (or any phone with a decent camera) until Micah, so not only is the poor dude being deprived of his fair share of photos as the second-born, he’s also getting photographed more often on the phone. :( I’m definitely trying to rectify that! And after 14 months, he finally has a framed photograph of himself hanging on the wall.

I love days at home too, possibly too much. :)

From the Inside Out

Sanctification.

The word may conjure up lists of dos and don’ts. In some Christian subcultures it may mean not watching rated-R movies, only listening to Christian music, not dancing, not drinking alcohol, or voting Republican. Maybe you have your own list that equals sanctification in your mind. We probably all do.

During Jesus’ last earthly Feast of the Passover — the night of his arrest — Jesus prays for our sanctification. And in doing so, he reveals something about how sanctification occurs. Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet. He has indicated that one of them will betray him and Peter will deny him. Then, Jesus encourages his disciples with what has become some of the most beautiful and beloved scripture in the Bible. In the Gospel of John he ends this encouragement with what is now called the High Priestly Prayer. He even prays for future believers: you and me. In this prayer he prays:

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17, ESV)

This verse indicates that we are sanctified not by creating a list of dos and don’ts but by the truth.

To finish reading click over to Ungrind.

(Image credit: Ungrind.org)

» From the Inside Out - May 5, 2015 - 12:24 pm

[…] From the Inside Out […]

Guilt-Free Motherhood

May is the month for Mother’s Day. A day to celebrate the hard work of motherhood and show our appreciation to mothers everywhere.

Or, it’s a day to feel guilty.

I’ve known women who’d rather skip celebrating Mother’s Day due to babies that have died, strained relationships with their own mothers, or because they suffer from an acute feeling of failure in their own mothering.

Mother-guilt can come in many forms. Do I breast feed or bottle feed? Continue to work my full-time job or stay home? Parenting choices and options are endless. Add to that the constant stream of social media that can lead me to compare my lifestyle choices to those of others and I can soon be questioning if my choices are the “right” ones.

Thankfully, there’s a way to be set free from guilt-induced motherhood.

Continue reading over at For the Family

Five Spring-Inspired Meals

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The days are growing longer and the air warmer here on the east coast. Yards are full of spring flowers: daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths. The air has a fresh earthy smell. Kids are outside playing after school with bubbles and sidewalk chalk.

Spring is here.

As I menu plan the seasonal change is apparent in the list of meals I’m making. Gone are the hearty stews and slow cooker soups. I want lighter—yet still filling—meals that are full of seasonal vegetables yet easy to prepare. Here are some of my spring favorites:

Spring Couscous Salad

I love this couscous salad bursting with bright flavor, despite the rather simple ingredients. It’s a perfectly easy one-pot weeknight meal that tastes like spring to me.

The Ultimate Club Sandwich

Sandwiches are an often-overlooked dinnertime choice. But pared with some tortilla chips, hummus, and fruit, it makes for a deliciously easy and simple dinner. Joy the Baker’s Ultimate Club Sandwich really hits the spot. Creamy brie cheese, crisp bacon, ripe tomato, silky avocado, and roasted turkey—what’s not to love?

Lemony Salmon and Dill Toss

My kids don’t like asparagus, but they do like pasta and salmon, so there’s enough in this tasty meal to make them happy and full. I love the flavor combinations of salmon, dill, and lemon.

Classic Cobb Salad

We love hearty salads around here and the Smitten Kitchen’s cobb salad is certainly that. Loaded with protein (bacon, chicken, hard boiled egg) this salad will leave you full. If you’re short on time, you could always buy salad dressing instead of making it.

Chive Risotto Cakes

I love risotto but it’s not really doable on weeknights. It’s more of a special occasion type of thing. But Ina Garten’s Chive Risotto Cakes are soooo good. You can also make up the mixture ahead of time and let it refrigerate overnight! The cakes are fried crispy on the outside and yet are creamy on the inside. They are hearty yet taste of spring with the fresh chopped herbs. Even my kids like them! (What kids won’t eat anything fried?) We adults eat them over a bed of spring greens with a drizzle of olive oil and splash of lemon.

What spring-inspired recipes do you enjoy?

Bethany - April 25, 2015 - 9:32 am

Oh my goodness! These all sound amazing, especially the club sandwich and risotto cakes. Thank you for sharing!