I spent this past weekend in the mountains with my husband and his siblings. It was our second sibling retreat weekend at my uncle's cabin. Our first was in the Fall, when the mountains were bursting with color. But this one was still clearly in the Winter. When we left home on Wednesday, it was still cold and gray here. They have had a hard winter in the mountains, so there was still plenty of snow on the ground and some coming down on our drive. In fact, the boys and I woke up to snow at my mom's house on Thursday morning, and our view from the lake that weekend was of a bare mountain still covered with a dusting of snow.
We have had a hard winter here, too, in the TwoSquare house, and Lent has been a time of wrestling with the sin that mars relationships, the impatience and anger and selfishness and pride that keep us from really loving one another and fulfilling the mission God has called us to as a family. The rain and snow and cold and gray of the world outside has matched perfectly with our lives inside. We came to the mountains weary and still very much in the midst of struggle.
On Saturday, we ventured to the top of the Roan, tramping over the snow covered bald mountain, with drifts so deep that my husband and his brother found themselves buried up to their waists (and once to my brother-in-law's shoulders). The view was breathtaking. I had never been up there when there was so much snow and so much clear sky and warmth all at the same time. Winter was still very much in control, but there was a hint of something new. The deepest drifts were covering rhododendron, waiting patiently for the sun and warmth to come, pink buds hiding inside waiting to push their way out. When they bloom in June, there is no greater sight in the mountains.* But there is a lot of snow that needs to melt first.
When we got home late last night, life was no better here than we had left it. We walked in to a house needing much work and to piles of laundry and to lives upside down and searching for healing and purity and goodness. So when I walked out this morning and saw the crocuses blooming in our weedy, rocky, overgrown front flower bed, I was shocked by their beauty. So much beauty in the midst of so much mess. A promise.
Winter is not all bad. The cold and gray and mud and mess can be overwhelming. The snow can be cold and the wind piercing. But that blanket of white is a promise, too, a promise that God takes the mess and slowly purifies and makes clean. It is painful, being buried under all of that snow, but He is working. Resurrection day is coming and, with it, those beautiful pink blossoms that will make the top of the Roan blush in newness of life. And in the meantime, He gives us small promises. Little purple blossoms in the midst of the mess.
*I had trouble finding a photo that I could use freely, but if you look up "Roan Mountain Rhododendron" on Google images, you will see what I mean. (Oh, and the snowy photo of the Roan is courtesy of my youngest sister-in-law.)