What is placemaking? It is deliberately sending your roots deep into a place, like a tree. It means allowing yourself to be nourished by a place even as you shape it for the better.
This is a book about my longing for peace and my instinct that peace and place are indistinguishable. But it is also a book about God’s longing, a longing that weaves in and out and through the whole story the Bible tells. God longs for the place he has chosen as a dwelling for his Name.Placemaker by Christie Purifoy
I was blessed by being included in the launch team for Christie Purifoy’s new book, Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace.
I feel so much connection to Christie. Both of us were an English Lit majors. We have moved a few times looking for a place to put down roots and have found ourselves in an old farmhouse that requires so much work to keep (although not as beautiful as hers). We have found ourselves in a wilderness season where so much of what we thought was our path turned out not to be so. All along the way trees have anchored me and connected me to the place we were.
The first tree we chose at our first house was an Australian Bottle Tree. It is a fast growing evergreen tree that flourishes in Arizona. We lived in that home for 5 years and started our family there. It had a tiny yard but big vaulted ceilings. The house was a new build and it was so fun getting to pick out the carpet and counter top. It was a beautiful home. But it was a long commute to my husband’s job and so we decided it was time to move on.
Our next house was a beautiful home. In fact to this day I wish I could have just picked that house up and transported it with us to Montana. Our neighborhood was lined with Elm trees. We planted 3 citrus trees our first year there: an orange, a tangelo and a lemon tree. The orange tree didn’t make it but the other two thrived and we got to enjoy fresh citrus for several years.
A funny story: Do you see that huge palm tree growing in the backyard? A palm frond blew into our yard one day and our oldest daughter decided to plant it! Lo and behold it took root and grew into that tree!
We lived in that house for 8 years. Although we loved the house itself we never felt at peace there. We tried to sell it for years to no avail. A dream grew in our hearts for a homestead. A place where we could work together as a family to raise good, healthy food. A place where our children could play outside. A place that wasn’t so hot or so full of people. And then God did a miracle in our lives. One day we received a phone call from our old realtor. He wondered, “Are you still interested in selling your house? I have someone who is interested in buying it.” And so just like that we were released from that house and decided to pursue our dream of moving to Montana.
Many of us long to put down roots in some particular place, but we guard ourselves against heartbreak by waiting for a perfect place.
In the wilderness, we are given the opportunity to lay down the burden of our desire to make or remake so that when some other place invites our participation and our creative efforts, we are ready to offer those things with humilityPlacemaker by Christie Purifoy
That was the rental house for us! It was tiny! 1200 square feet housing 8 people. Our front room served as the dining room, school room, library, and sitting area. We knew this was a temporary place but we were there longer than we expected. Finding our place in Montana was much harder than we thought it would be. But we found freedom in our wilderness. We got to experience seasons for the first time as a family and we loved it! We got to experience small town life with neighbors to talk to and kids to play with and a park close by. The older kids could ride their bikes to the library without fear. Such a difference from Arizona.
Sometimes, placemakers make new. Build fresh. Start from scratch. But most of the time, they repair. They restore. They protect. Sometimes, placemaking is nothing more than the refusal to unmake.
After much searching we found our home in the country. Instead of the brand new houses we had lived in before we have a crazy old house originally built in 1949 with several additions over the years. But it came with old trees including a giant Cottonwood, a pine tree, a mature apple tree and several plum trees. This was a place we could put our roots down (and several of our children have told us we can never move).
An orchard is not a forest, though. Most forests arise naturally over time, but an orchard is a collaboration — an intentional partnership between us and the creator-God in whose image we are made….We do not make the trees, but we make a place for them. Like the God to whom we belong, we are placemakers.Placemaker by Christie Purifoy
One of best things we did our first year at this place was to plant an orchard. We planted four kinds of apples, 2 pear trees and a cherry tree. A tree for each child plus an extra one. We have been here for 9 years now and are starting to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Each year we can jars upon jars of applesauce, apple butter and apple slices almost every fall that we enjoy all year long. We are starting to get enough cherries for a couple of pies every summer. Maybe next year the pears will be bountiful. Every fruit we get to enjoy is such a gift. We never know what will come. But God is gracious.
Our life here hasn’t been all that we had hoped for. We have stumbled and fallen. But we have gotten back up. We have been refined (and continue to be). Life is messy. But God is at work and I pray that we are collaborating with him to cultivate this place for his glory, whatever that looks like.
I want to be a placemaker, how about you?