West Virginia Morning: How to Be Washed Clean


This morning, the fog settles in over the meadow, skimming the blanket of Queen Anne’s Lace with white until it becomes a sea of flowery ghosts. I go out in the yard in my bare feet, let the same moisture that kisses their upturned faces be my foundation. I want to walk in beauty today.

It feels like we have miles to go before we sleep. So much work to do to get ready for the next season.

In the Russian tale “Vasalisa the Wise” the sweet girl Vasalisa is sent into the woods by her jealous stepmother to retrieve a coal to reignite the fire in their hearth. In the forest, Vasalisa encounters Baba Yaga—a witch who represents the wild old mother in each of us (just as Vasalisa represents the innocent, too-nice, naïve part of our psyche). Baba Yaga makes the child perform certain tasks to earn the coal she will give her: wash her clothes, sweep her yard, prepare her food, separate mildewed corn from good corn, and see that everything is “in order.” Vasalisa performs all the tasks successfully with the help of a little doll given to her by her mother when she was on her deathbed (the doll represents the intuition handed down through the ages).

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés says that these tasks Baba Yaga puts before Vasalisa teach her “how to take care of the psychic house of the wild feminine.” Washing the old hag’s laundry, in particular, is a beautiful symbol for “cleansing and purification of the entire bearing of the psyche.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this cleansing ritual lately. As we sort through Teddy’s things, making lists and deciding what he needs to take with him to school, it feels like a fine comb is being run over my spirit. I wash his new towels and sheets, take inventory of underwear and socks, cast aside the outgrown or unworn … and something inside of me is being scrubbed down, rubbed hard up against the washboard.

 … to wash her laundry is a metaphor through which we learn to witness and take on this combination of qualities [strength, endurance], and also to know how to sort, mend, renew these qualities by the purificatio, the washing of the fibers of being.”

It is a strange truth that saying goodbye to one part of myself means welcoming in another. Always, always, there is another skin growing over this scaffold of bones and blood, this limping heart. This is the way of God—to continue conforming me to the image of his son. These seasons I move through edge me closer and closer to the holy. Oh, how far I have to go.

Still, the moments creep up on me lately, and I am often surprised by an unexpected and sudden flow of tears.

Another kind of washing.

When You Don’t Know Where to Start

The kids are off to school and the coffee’s gone cold. There is a load of laundry churning in the washer, the bird feeders are filled, Lucy Mae is fed. I’ve swept the kitchen floor and picked a basket of tomatoes from the garden. The calendar looms large with its list of deadlines and all the words I need are frozen on the tips of these fingers. 
Some days the to-do list is so heavy I just can’t lift it. Too many things call my name and I don’t know where to start. 
So I light the candle. I pause to listen. And when I can’t find the words I read slow from this book—sit still with the anxiety. And let the ancient words soothe. There is no magic between those pages, but power is there. It’s the power of a conversation that has been going on since the beginning of time, the power of a living, breathing love. 
And it is the best place to begin.

Playdates with God: Beginnings

This morning, the super moon is hovering over the sound but the ocean pulls me like a wave. I sit in the sand and wait for the sun to show her fire. The earth has a briny scent here on the rim; I pick through a heap of shells that tinkle like glass when the tide passes through.  
The water is a living thing—writhing and undulating to its own music. I stare into the deep wells of blue. The sky above me yawns and in its open mouth I see the first tongue of flame. Hold out your hands, I hear her say, and I will spill this glory. But I know I cannot hold onto this…it is too wild.
Instead, I pick up a Jackknife Clam shell and write the names of ones I love in the sand. They are whisper-prayers over the churning waters but it is enough. And when the lover-sun spills her glory and the water catches on fire I begin to sing.
And this new day has begun. 
How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

The Playdates button:

House of Bread


I am three years old and I am hungry. I sit in a honey-colored wooden chair and press the small of my back up against its hard slats. My two brothers, my sister, and I are in the kitchen…waiting.
There is a crusty loaf of homemade bread on the counter, and my mother stands in front of the stove, stirring flour in a cast-iron skillet. Four hungry faces watch her every move. Flour and water—it’s all she has. And this crusty loaf of bread. Soon, the acrid smell of scorched flour permeates the kitchen, and she adds water, making a pasty gravy that will bind pieces of bread to our stomachs, gluing down the hunger pangs.
I still remember the thick roll of that meal on my tongue—how the taste of burnt flour and disappointment clung to the air around me. My hunger was not satisfied when the bread was gone.
This would become my very first memory—my beginning. 
Would you join me over at The High Calling for the rest of the story? I’m grateful to be sharing over there today.

Image by Marty Hadding. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.