The Gifts of a Cold Sandwich and a Book Released in Tragedy


During the first day of the 2012 Festival of Faith and Writing, I picked up my disappointing boxed lunch in a mostly deserted lobby at the arts building of Calvin College and regretted my decision. While everyone else I knew was going out for lunch, I was going to sit on a step and eat a cold sandwich by myself.

Way to network, champ!

Just as I was about to give up, I noticed an empty seat in a sitting area where five women were eating their equally cold and disappointing boxed lunches. I fought through my social anxiety and struggles with small talk, took the empty seat, and immediately introduced myself to the woman next to me.

Things started to look up immediately.

“Are you the Ed Cyzewski who runs the Women in Ministry series?” a woman across from me asked.

“That’s me,” I replied, relieved that the ice had been broken so fast.

It turned out that this woman, Angie Mabry-Nauta, is a pastor and had really appreciated the series on my blog where I hosted stories of women serving in ministry—a way that I hoped to outflank the tiring “women in ministry” debate. The woman sitting next to her was Christie Purifoy, a blogger and, at that time, aspiring author who had a freaky number of things in common with me.

  • Christie has a PhD in English Literature, the very degree that my wife has been working on.
  • Christie was pregnant and had a nearly identical due date as my own wife, who was pregnant with our first son at the time.
  • Christie also had plans to buy a house in the Philadelphia area, which happens to be my home town.

I exchanged business cards with Angie and Christie, found them on social media, and have since stayed in touch. Christie and I further connected as fellow writers on the Deeper Story website, which is no longer active.

Around two years ago Christie contacted me with some big news. She was finally sending out a book proposal to a literary agent. I enthusiastically read through her proposal and was completely riveted with her prose and story telling.

I’m terrible at endorsements and reviews, especially when I enjoy the book. Do I say it’s a TOUR DE FORCE!? A majestic triumph for the ages!!!!?? I can’t quite figure out the right tone and word choice for these things. It’s MUCH eaiser to be critical, right?

Truth be told, I’m picky, oh so terribly picky, about memoir. 80% of the memoirs that I pick up, I put down before the half way point. I don’t need simple, every day events imbued with embellished life-altering meaning. You ate a piece of bread and you thought some deep thoughts. Get over it and tell me something worth reading.

I’m the ultimate “get off my lawn” memoir reader.

Having said that, when I love a memoir, I really love it. For just a small sample:

When We Were on Fire? Amazing.

Any Day a Beautiful Change? Perfect.

Girl Meets God? Beautiful.

Tables in the Wilderness? I hate you, Preston.

Coming Clean? Breaks my brain.

So when I picked up Christie’s sample chapters for her new book, Roots & Sky, I found artful prose and engaging description of the everyday without unnecessary embellishment. She opens up about the simple longings and desires we all experience and invites us to sit with her over tea or to take a stroll in her garden to talk it over. It’s perhaps cliché these days to say that a book “helps you find God in the everyday events of life,” but this book takes a very unique, artful spin on that concept that I found engaging and enjoyable.

I could not be more enthusiastic about this book, but just as Christie should be celebrating this beautiful book, tragedy struck her family. Christie’s brother-in-law, the husband of her sister, was one of the 12 Marines who appears to have perished in a helicopter crash off the coast of Hawaii. Christie has set off to Hawaii in order to comfort her sister and her four nieces and nephews.

I can’t imagine what Christie, her sister, and the rest of the family are going through during this time of tremendous loss. Perhaps as you read this post, which is being posted on Friday, January 22, 2016, the families will be attending a memorial service for the Marines.

Would you like to help Christie and her family at this time?

First of all, I know that they would all deeply covet your prayers—prayers for God to be near those who are grieving so deeply, prayers for God’s provision for this family, prayers for these children who have lost their father at so young an age, and prayers that God will sustain Christie at this time as she comforts and grieves.

Secondly, as Christie has stepped back to serve her family, a group of authors, bloggers, and friends have stepped up to help get the word out about this book. While there is undeniable tragedy and pain in this world, authors and artists like Christie are creating beauty, and we don’t want to lose sight of that. Here are some ways you can help:

Order your own copy of Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons. (pre-orders are especially helpful)

Post a brief review on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Reviews are critical since so many people buy books online.

Share this book with your network: Check out this new memoir: Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons by @ChristiePurifoy

I’m trusting that God is going to bless a lot of folks through this book, and I can’t wait for you to read it for yourself!

6 thoughts on “The Gifts of a Cold Sandwich and a Book Released in Tragedy

  1. Ed, I had my own “first time at FFW” experience in 2014. I’m in a whole new place with my writing now and am looking forward to this year’s conference. A great article here. I haven’t read a few of the memoirs you’ve mentioned, so I’m off to look them up now.


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