On 2017 : Unexpected Littering

 Erika Spitler - On 2017

I started making my way through a set of year-end questions on January 1st like many of you introspective folk did, but never finished. Sitting with my Pilot G2 pens and thinking through 2017's life lessons sounds less appealing than it did that first, fresh day of the year. It's mid-month now and I'm wondering, how are we already here? 

The new year always has a charm of its own. I do like getting to jot a different digit in the corner of journals and imagining the possibilities of what I might record in them. Sometimes, though, I forget pain is no respecter of new calendars. We still feel remnants of the year prior and it'll be there for us to work through come January 1st, when "yesterday" and "last year" are synonymous. For me, this is helpful to remember.

2017 was littered with unexpected change. To recap, it went a little like this: gained employment after 15 months without, dad left the family, grandmother died, clinical depression hit, returned to formal studies, Lyme flared up, parents' pending divorce, best friend got married, moved out of state, changed jobs, began learning a new city, found a church, started dating again. To separate significant transitions with mere commas seems detached and almost wrong—like they're items on a grocery or honey-do list. Maybe that's revealing of where I'm at in this grief process?

In the fall, I was told it was good and admirable to hear me talking so level-headed about my family's recent dysfunction. Especially since it hadn't even been nine months. There it is. It's not that I was far enough along in my healing to talk openly or calmly about it. No, I was still up close. Too shocked. Afraid to examine the emotional carnage around me. Then life sped by, and God plucked me out of Florida with almost no planning on my part. For nine weeks I've been zipping on more layers, going on more walks, and spending more time in solitude than ever before. (God is so funny. I thought I was moving near Atlanta for the rush of a city and I end up on the outskirts, in a smaller town than where I came from.)

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years here were all wonderful but it hardly feels like real life when you're blazing through the holidays and the house rotates with guests. The celebrations were a sweet reprieve from reality, but they have since settled and so have I. I can't stuff myself busy for long before my INFJ kicks in and reminds me to slow waaaaaay down. Starting a 21 day fast with my church has helped create space to seek, gaze upon, and hear from God. There's clarity that didn't exist before the holidays, and guess what I see? I kind of hate it. I see pain. Like gum to the sole of a shoe, it clings to anything. I could probably ignore it awhile longer, but it'll keep sticking and eventually harden into a black, nasty blob. No one likes nasty gum blobs.

Dating at the tail-end of 2017 falls under the "Totally Unexpected" and "What Just Happened" categories. God so, so graciously allowed me to meet someone whose friendship changed me and whose compassion and grace I won't forget. It was sweet, joyful, and a whirlwind of a gift. Although laying aside the hopes of romance and handing over a good thing hurts, (and not what I wanted), I think the decision was right. There is a healthier version of Erika out there and while I understand I'll always be in process, I desperately want to stay focused on the path to healing God has placed me on. My love will be truer, deeper, and freer because of it.

Jesus has been delivering me out of darkness and I know he will continue that work in 2018. It has taken time to familiarize myself with my current surroundings, but his nearness I know anywhere. If only I'd open my eyes! The walking trails across my street have become like a refuge—a place where I regularly retreat to. While I walk and pray, I imagine all my pain and adoration being hurled heavenward. It sounds violent, but it's a "I have nowhere else to turn but you" kind of way. He meets me in the woods and in the early mornings stuffed under three blankets and as I drive my rattling Camry through potholes and one-way streets and on Sundays as I stand among a transcultural group of believers where we, like King Jehoshaphat pray, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." He is the way to my healing and yours. I'm sure of it.