I can feel it trying to settle in. An old friend that’s been around as long as I remember. Even as I typed that last sentence, I wondered, is that true? Has it really been this way as long as I can remember? And yes, it sure has always been this way. 

My birthday is mid-month. And the beginning of August is always the tipping point of a downhill slide for me. An underlying bubbling that sometimes just simmers and sometimes boils over. It depends really on how much attention I can pay to it or not and how the world around me is going. The steepness of the hill depends nothing on who loves me or doesn’t. Neither does it depend on on who calls me a friend and who calls me an enemy. The boiling point can come from a benign event that would have anyone scratching their head or a major upheaval of a wound I’ve been tending to.

The issue? August ushers in my birthday, then school begins and holidays follow. All things that remind me of the short stick I was dealt in the family circle outside of my husband and children. And beyond that, the deep and cavernous scars that were left behind because of them. This time of year always makes me keenly aware of anything left unhealed. A burr hiding somewhere or an ache that’s been causing a flinch. I’m more sensitive to slights and more keenly aware of those around me gushing over motherly attention or adorable moments with their fathers. 

I’ve learned to be a steadfast ship in a sea without the network of family stretched out before me to navigate my way. While those around me are anchored to this boat or that before them. With strong ropes they are tied to vast ships and massive vessels, I string behind me two boys and a husband. That is all and everything I can depend on. 

Some days it feels like I’m setting forth into a night sky that’s navy dark and barely speckled with stars. Other days the sun is bright and blinding me. 

Sometimes it feels as though I’m forging a new path through a meadow lined with wild flowers and other days I’m picking my way through a battlefield of fallen participants. 

Either way, the battle settles in here, this time year. This time of year for family. Where people who say “you’re like family” no longer mean it because their actual family is present. Kind words that turn into hurtful weapons. It's lonely and overwhelming at times. I grieve not for the fact that I don't have an extended family.  I grieve for the fact that others do. I don't miss my parents or extended family, I worked hard to untangle that unhealthy mess, I miss what I *could* have had.  Once I get settled into heaven, the Lord and I will discuss it at length I am sure.  

This kind of life, planting a new family tree, is not an easy one in any way.  You have to stand up to so much judgment and comments ignorant of true understanding.  Your spouse can only do so much for you.  They are meant to fill the spouse sized holes and nothing more.  Your kids are the same, meant to fill the voids they are destined to.  

That's what people don't understand.  You can "just look at what you have and be so grateful", but it doesn't fill the vast caverns that are beyond.  They can echo hollow with pain every time you recall them while simultaneously your "what you do have" caverns bubble over with Joy.  You can grieve and be filled with Joy at the same time.  It's a wonder of the human heart. 

Why do I share all of this? One simple reason: solidarity.  I know I'm not the only ship in sea that feels alone and charting a whole new course.  I know there are others out there searching the horizons, too.  I know others need to see a flare shot into the night sky to know they aren't alone and to remind them that because we are taking this route, our kids won't have to.  Our kids will be able to look back and see steadfast ships tethered behind them and one day know the pains we endured to anchor them there. 

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