Kristina Abbott is a member of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Abbott)

Kristina Abbott is a member of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Abbott)

Living and Growing: Struggles with this dark, wintry season will pass

January is my least favorite month of the year, it feels like an eternity of darkness, snow, and ice. I don’t particularly appreciate feeling cold, and I equate shoveling to brushing your teeth after eating Oreos…it never really gets perfectly cleaned up.

As much as I despise winter, I am learning how to embrace the cold and bitter season beyond the holidays. I journal and read more, I try to get outside daily for at least 30 minutes forcing myself to enjoy fresh air, and I’m trying to learn how to ski after living in Alaska for over 30 years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind cold winter nights and fluffy snow from Thanksgiving until Christmas, but after the holiday magic wears off – I am over it and ready for a break from layers, shoveling, smashing through snow berms and carefully making my way to the car over ice by hanging on to random objects so I don’t slip.

Similarly, I could also say the same for my life right now. I have been in a season of intense growth as I go on my seventh year of never-ending life events and it feels comparable to an endless winter snowstorm. As much as I curse out to the heavens while I’m shoveling away both the snow and my life, I know God created seasons for a reason. Each season holds a purpose in making the world go ‘round just as each season in our lives has a purpose. I tell this to myself repeatedly for comfort to ward off images of Satan in a fire pit with a voodoo doll that looks like me, poking at my heart hoping I’ll fall apart.

Through this season in my life, I have watched loved ones die and struggle with varying mental illnesses. Up until recently, I didn’t understand the severity of internal suffering someone goes through as they struggle with emotions, self-regulation, and identity. As someone who loves life, being social with people, and helping individuals…I didn’t understand how people struggled to get out of bed or could not muster the willpower to live on the earth anymore. I feel blessed that God bestowed a constant buzz of joy in my heart that typically keeps me on the up and up. Living alongside those with a mental illness or a physical illness and assuming the role of a caretaker can be a soul-crushing journey sometimes. I have learned that if I’m not consistent with my faith, my little joyful heart that burns so passionately slowly starts to turn into a flicker. My faith, my God, and hope keeps the fire alive within me.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. While the growing pains of life have felt like an eternity these last seven years, I know that where I am now is completely different than when this journey started. I know that the losses of loved ones from mental illness and addiction have equipped me to help those struggling in my life currently. I have been able to connect with people in the community through shared experiences in grief- both in loss of life and through shared living grief experiences as well. I am emotionally, and mentally exhausted but I know in my heart that seasons change. Winter doesn’t last forever. Even though January feels like an eternity – February will come eventually, and then March, and I feel home-free in April once Spring starts to make her appearance.

There is much growth through discomfort. God is always with me, and I know that. Whenever I am in a particularly challenging time in my life, I think of Job. He lost everything in his life. He could have rejected God and walked away, but he remained steadfast. He weathered horrible seasons in his life and God never left his side.

Whatever season you are in your life, it will pass. If you’re in a good season and enjoying everything that life has to offer, savor it. If you’re struggling to get out of bed and wondering why you’re in a hard spot, just know you are not alone and in God’s time, you will get through it.

• Kristina Abbott is a member of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Saturday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

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