The things we carry.

In the middle of Iowa on this Monday afternoon, we carry baggage for a week.

We carry snacks for an army.

We carry two family members who are along for the ride, ready to offer emotional and physical support as needed this week.

We carry medicine, supplies, technology for work, and a small stack of books to continue learning about healthy eating and alternative cancer therapies.

We carry text messages from co-workers and friends, offering prayers of support and messages of encouragement.

We carry anxiety and worry.

We carry stress and sleepless exhaustion from an unexpected beginning to this week.

We carry a dented left front fender and a bug-spattered windshield.

We carry laughter and stories as we converse and reminisce about all the things.

But we also carry hope for a great week at Mayo and positive results.

We carry pictures of grandchildren, “hanitizer” for the sticky and the germy, and a hidden bag of M&Ms because be real.

We carry enjoyment of road trips and each other’s company.

We carry prayer for loved ones who need it, and prayer for the driver in the hospital.

And we carry gratitude for God’s protection last night, along with some ibuprofen for a stiff neck.

The big one.

Sam’s typical morning

I thought I was going to die this morning. It wasn’t a “life flashing before you” kind of moment when a semi truck is seconds away or anything.

It was a big honkin’ “this is going to make me healthy” pill.

I am no nada not joking.

Life is a comedy act but not a laughing matter, ya know. Sam had just left for work and Tate the cat wasn’t even around to witness – he was out guarding the compound from the evil stray cat and enjoying his laid back life pouncing on grasshoppers, while I was inside thinking “this is the big one.”

My day begins at my desk in front of three big monitors. My devotions are done, I peruse Facebook for a few minutes, and I gather 15 supplements in the palm of my hand and swallow them all in two batches before diving into research and email sending for my job.

I USED to think supplements would counteract all the junk food and picky proclivity and I would be graced into good health. My former herb-and-vitamin-loving mom-in-law begged to differ, but one thing I DID learn from her was how to swallow a massive amount of supplements all at once. There might have been a few stupid challenges many years ago to see who in the family could down the most at one time…I digress.

Today was like every other morning at this stay-at-home job. I had finished my egg, cut a few apple slices, and got to swallowing my nutrients. Every once in a while, one will go down wrong, and it takes a bite of something or a swig of water to help it go down the pipe. But today was a different story altogether.

This particular swallow brought that deep down in the pipe pain that doesn’t go away with extra swallows – it was past the point of swallowing. I am typing the word “swallow” too much. But I was swallowing and swallowing and the pain just got worse. I drank my water. Swallowed. Several times. Swallowed. I sliced a couple of apple slices and downed those. Swallow swallow. Still major crying out pain quietly to myself. And I began to have a hard time breathing to the point of minor panic and no breathing.

To make a long story a little shorter, I thought I was going to die this morning and I am grateful I did not.

I am grateful that Sam didn’t come home to find me unconscious in my apple and horse pill spittle.

I am grateful I didn’t fall down the stairs as I was desperately trying to figure out how to dislodge and breathe.

I am grateful Tate the Potato wasn’t panicked and stayed calm albeit with his unsympathetic, annoyed stare.

I am grateful I wasn’t on a video call with the office co-workers who would have laughed at my distress while calling 9-1-1 which would do no good out here where the town siren is the distress call of choice.

I am grateful I had enough sense about me to watch myself suffocating to near death in the bathroom mirror, looking at my horrified face with the thought, “THIS is not how I was supposed to go.”

And I am grateful that God had the same thought.

False alarm, Tater. Sorry to interrupt your morning hopper hunt.

Rhonda’s typical morning

Still the mama, loving hard.

How many times did I cause my parents pain after I grew up and was no longer “theirs?” What were the choices I made that made my mama’s heart hurt?

I can think of so many…but at the time, I was too engrossed in my own life and my own selfish world to even comprehend the silent impact my choices had on the ones who raised me.

I have a friend who is grieving a decision her child has made, and it has stirred a flood of emotions for me, as well. I watch her hurt and love hard, quietly being a mom who cannot change a mind, who has lived a life full of experience but is helpless to advise one who is determined to proceed down a path.

It is difficult mothering an adult child. Our duties to shelter and protect and train that we once took for granted in the middle of physical exhaustion and living life with littles now comes to the forefront of our mind after our duty to shelter and protect and train is long gone.

Parenting an adult child now shifts to quietly listening, showing up when asked, only offering advice when requested, welcoming with open arms, and showing that unconditional love, even when the love is not always returned.

Today, I am grateful for wisdom that comes with age. 54 years in, I know now how Mom and Dad felt.

Today, I am grateful for the pain, the tears, the loneliness. These emotions are reminders that God blessed me with the responsibility of motherhood and gave me two beautiful and priceless gifts, and even though they are now gifts from a distance, they are still my responsibility to uphold in prayer and mine to love hard.

Today, I am grateful for the reminder that I am not perfect. Just because I am a mom does not mean I am perfect. I am human. I have feelings. I have good days, and I have not-so-good days. I made and still make choices and decisions in my adult life that make others cringe, and I must learn to show grace, give space, and forgive, just as others have done for me.

Today, I am grateful for the beauty of a mother’s love, for my friend’s wounded heart that shows she loves hard and is the best mama for her adult child.

Today, I am grateful to still be the mom of the most wonderful girls in the world.

Katydids are didding.

Today, I am grateful for the opportunity, once again, to be in Overland Park for the week, working in my office office, not my home office.

I am grateful for Dad’s couch.

I am grateful for a really cool movie that made me need tissues last night – Overcomer. Great story.

I am grateful for work friends.

I am grateful for dawn pink clouds before they change to white with the sun and everyone else wakes up.

I am grateful for road construction when it is done.

I am grateful for the “er-er-er-er-er” sounds of these amplified katydids all the stinkin’ night because they remind me how peaceful small town USA is without them.

I am grateful for an hour and a half of solitude in the office before the rest of the crew arrives.

I am grateful for Tate the Potato, Chief, Pistol, Topo, Panther, Katie, and Sneakers – cats have the funniest names.

I am grateful for a space heater even in summer – office air and sitting for hours requires one in my books.

I am grateful for dental cleanings and routine maintenance.

I am grateful for car washes that I don’t have to do myself.

I am grateful for meandering out of my comfort zone. It’s good for me.

And I am grateful for Psalm 46.

Gratitude = showing appreciation.

…for the simple message of “I love you, buddy. I am right here.” – Rain, 001

…for soft Tater fur and the calming of the purr.

…for the carbonation of a ginger ale.

…for his understanding and ear when my overwhelm overwhelms and I just can’t keep the caregiver stress under the rug.

…for the smell of a clean t-shirt.

…for a kind chemo nurse who takes time to visit.

…for the peace of watching Sam sleep through his treatment.

…for a purse large enough to carry all the things.

…for best number in the world 11 grandchildren, thanks to a new grandson.

…for quiet devotions as we travel down the road with a beautiful sunrise.

…for timeliness of Geri’s encouragement.

…for prairie grass.

…for Parker, Reilly, and Tatum’s first day of school pictures sent in a text.

…for my husband who loves me and tells me.

…for an oncologist who speaks reality mixed with compassion.

…for the anticipation of autumn.

…for a relationship with God who whispers in our devotions, “I love you, buddy. I am right here.”