We Are Placemakers

How do you define your role in your community? Read on as Christine Purifoy paints a picture of placemaking.


We Are Placemakers

By Christie Purifoy

For years, I was a woman in search of a word.

I wanted a word spacious enough to hold all of the beautiful things I loved to cultivate, from conversations around the table to potted geraniums on the window sill. Homemaker? Hostess? Gardener? Artist? Not one was an exact good fit.

Dear readers, I finally found the word.

And when I found the word, I found, not only a name for my calling, a name that made sense of my past, present and future, but also a name for the God who reveals more of himself in every season of our walk with him.

The word I found was placemaker.

I wore the label gardener easily enough. Hostess seemed to fit, though a little less comfortably. After all, as an introvert, I sometimes enjoyed the preparations for a gathering more than the gathering itself. I tried the word homemaker but it didn't always fit me well, and it never fit my husband.

But placemaker is just the right shape and size for both of us.

Our Creator has always carved out special places for his people, from gardens to promised lands, and every time we prepare a place for others, we are following in the footsteps of our placemaker God.

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. Placemaking is the holy work of tending a patch of earth (be it houseplant or home, community garden or neighborhood school) with others in mind.

It is the care and keeping of places and all those who dwell in them.

Before I found the word, I would have said that we excelled at the care and keeping of places. My friends asked for my help when choosing paint colors for their walls. My husband was a weekend warrior with anything DIY. But an old red brick farmhouse called Maplehurst unmade us.

We watched it crumble around our heads, while we tried and mostly failed to make it better. Then God gave us a community of helpers - from Bill whose skilled hands have touched every single brick to Julie who moved into an attic bedroom and gave that unused space new purpose. As we embrace this community, I remember the lessons I had begun to learn in city apartments and on suburban streets: it is right and good to love my neighbor as myself.

This red brick farmhouse called Maplehurst has remade us.

Now I know that if we are to be placemakers in God's image, we will do it in humility, and we will do it in community.

True forest trees communicate and cooperate through the beautiful web of their roots. They sing songs, but they sing them in harmony.

Placemaking is always communal. Like the God who made us, we are not alone in our making or our abiding. "Let us make human beings in our image," God said in the beginning.

Some of us grow flowers, and some of us grow children. Some of us plant churches, and some of us plant corn. There are those of us who heal and those of us who fix. There are those of us who build.

Together, we cultivate orchards and communities. We care for forests and tend city streets.

Like the God to whom we belong, we are placemakers.

Christie Purifoy has called the city, the suburbs, and the countryside home, but it was an old red brick farmhouse in Pennsylvania that finally convinced her the trees really do sing songs of joy, and we are - always and in every place - invited to join in. Christie is a wife, mother of four, and the author of two books: Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons and the just-released Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace.

Note: Maplehurst (her old red brick farmhouse) is pictured above.

© Elisa Morgan 2020

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