"You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home..." Ephesians 2:19-22

I was thinking and praying today over the troubles of a struggling friend and as I thought on the words to share with her over this season, I was led to think of this month and what it means for me...what's been done for me in these times.

November is a beautiful month that I love. I get to celebrate Fall, my sweet sister's birthday and the birthday of my late Momma. It is a month I enjoy fuzzy sweaters and the gruff of my husband's new beard.  It is a warm your hands by the fire pit month, a grab the s'mores and a good cuddle month, but it is also the start to a grieving season for me, for my sisters, for our families. One that I make my way through without a ton of thought, but one that will eek its way into my mind in that occasional moment where a scent will take me back, a word will ignite a memory or a song will tug on the strings on my heart.  It is a bittersweetness that can only be met with the knowledge of eternity to me, with the awareness of what Christ has done for me.  As I thought to this season today, I thought to something that would confirm a peace in it for me, that would give me the anchor anytime my eyes might water and the best thing that comes to mind is the scripture above.  I'll explain here ...

Four of the people I was closest to in life passed away in Winter months. The anniversaries of their death spanning 45 days of one another. Their deaths being a result of old age, accident and bad health.  Each of those persons buried on a hill in a small town in Pennsylvania. Each funeral with snow on the ground. Each time, I stood shivering as the wind whipped across that tall place. The last funeral there, the snow fell deep and wet and my children clung tightly to my husband and me as we all stood, coats zipped tightly, winter boots secured and the literal Jack Frost nipping our noses. What felt like an eternity there was over in a blink and my family laid rest on that frozen slope. We maneuvered our way back to the line of cars quietly and before I stepped into my door, I looked out over the car. When I was little, I would stay at my grandparent's over the summers, I could see that cemetery hill in the distance from a nearby place at their home. I was always enamored with how perfectly I could make out that hill and yet when there, I could never see the house. The angle and placement were always just so that I could only figure it's approximate location and I'd shrug it off and move on. But that last day there, I tried again. I stood, looking into the distance recalling the many times there, the many memories with those amazing loved ones, a town more home than any other. I peered through the thick flakes of falling snow, but to no avail, I could not see the house. It was different this time, I had no reason to come back. It hurt. I teared up as I leaned into my seat because the reality of that winter was harsh. The pain stung like the bitter cold biting at my well-covered toes and fingers, but I did smile as we pulled away, awaking to the realization that this physical pain would end. It would lessen and that neither my life nor that of my people, ended on that hill. That although I couldn't see that house or those folks, the memories and lives weren't contained in those four walls. That those memories of warm summers, fresh applesauce, and perfect climbing trees would keep my heart warm and that my viewing place would be available in my heart anytime I sought it. I remembered what Christ did what God is building, and that because they each knew Christ too, I would rest with those loved ones again and that is a great peace to know.

I realized that Winter stings, just like trudging the deep snow to pay my respects, we walk through seasons of deep hurt and sin as if we are plodding into heavy places. But in all our plodding and striving and doing and seeking, we need to remember, that though we can't see through the bitter air, God sees us. He can make out our hills and He knows our journeys over them. Though we deserved death, He pulled us from a permanent winter. We don't have to stand in those dark places and look for home, HE is home and He can use us.  Keeping our eyes on HIM, will carry us through our burdened winters or our grieving seasons.

Jesus is my warm winter place, my grace upon grace place and with Him I am free from the bitter and biting cold and no memory or sting of this season can counter that! ~ B

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