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.
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):
Thank you for sharing with us today, Christie!
For other posts in the “Inspire: Women Who Create” series check out: