Thursday, August 23, 2018

First Milestone: Chemo is OVER!

Almost a month has gone by since my last post. In some ways it's been easier (fewer, less intense side effects after chemo #5) and more difficult in other ways (smoke from the California wild fires blew this way, settled over the Vegas valley and that triggered my asthma which turned into bronchitis).

Ivan loves to figure out how things work, so after my Neulasta had done its thing last time, and he peeled it off my arm (FYI: Goo Be Gone is great for getting those things off! Made it a lot less painful.) so he could figure out how the mechanism worked. He was intrigued and still not completely clear on how it works, but he sure had fun trying to figure it out!

With chemo #5, for the first time, I did NOT get the dreaded Taxotere rash, for which I'm very, very thankful! The mouth infection I get every time wasn't as severe either. Double score! Exhaustion and diarrhea, however, continued to keep me down. My oncologist agrees that having celiac disease probably doesn't help; my intestinal system was already compromised and chemo really does a number on it. Glad that in a month that will (hopefully) be all behind me. Insomnia, an ongoing issue for years, continues to be a problem. I'm not sure how much is just same old, same old, and how much is due to chemo. It doesn't help when you have to get up multiple times in the night to run to the bathroom...after a while you just can't get back to sleep, no matter how hard you try. Es lo que hay. Really hoping that chemo #6 mirrors #5, with fewer, less intense side effects!

I was a little nervous about whether the oncologist would push chemo out a week again, because up through Tuesday, the diarrhea continued (and that's why it got pushed out last time). But, Hallelujah!, I woke up yesterday and did not have to start the day with an Imodium. Thank you Jesus! So we packed up like we always do for chemo day (you'd swear we were moving in!) and off we went, fairly confident things would proceed as planned. And they did!
Last chemo!!!!

The clinic was the busiest I've ever seen so yesterday I waited 45 minutes to see the doctor, and then more than half an hour for a chair in the chemo room. No kidding, I was the last patient out the door last evening at 6:15. I get a LOT of drugs: two immunotherapy and two chemo along with three drugs that mitigate side effects; that adds up to a lot of time, since they can't be done simultaneously and the main drugs take an hour each while the mitigating drugs take 1/2 or so each, and then they have to put on the Neulasta patch. Made for a long day!

And it wasn't over yet, because I'd placed an online order at the grocery store to be picked up between 6-7, so we headed straight there since it's 1/2 hour from the clinic. On the way home we also had to stop at CVS to pick up the antibiotics for the bronchitis. I was so tired by the time we got home, I ate supper and crawled into bed! 

But let's back up. Yesterday I found out that it's a tradition to get pink balloons on your last day of chemo. What a fun surprise! I knew about ringing the bell when you finish radiation, but not about the balloons after chemo. Even though I'll still be going back every three weeks for Herceptin, yesterday marked the end of official chemo. Woot!
Yes, I dress this way for chemo day! Comfortable, lightweight sweat pants rule the day!

I did manage to lose one of the balloons on the way to the car, but that left two which is just enough for the grandkids 😀 Simon and Betsy were here this morning and they had fun playing with the balloons for a while, and it was fun to see the games they thought up!

Monday I saw the surgeon. She's totally on board with my decision to go for a bilateral mastectomy, given my family history and the fact that I can't have MRIs (that would help give a clearer picture of what's going on). She was also totally on board with waiting six weeks, to give me time to fully recover from this last chemo and hopefully gain a little energy first. So that puts surgery probably some time the first week of October.

I was surprised to find out it's an outpatient surgery! But she explained hospitals are not a good place because the chances of getting an infection are higher in, than out, of a hospital. That was something I was concerned about, given my body is so physically depleted (and was before we even started on this cancer journey). There are scenarios where they'd admit me, but I'm hoping we won't run into those. She explained surgery will begin with her placing a radioactive seed under the nipple of the affected breast and they wait to see what, if anything, lights up. The PET scan last month showed a lot less cancer activity in the lymph nodes (none in the breasts) so hopefully the last two chemo treatments will help bring that activity to a complete halt.

I'm glad Ivan was with me, because he was able to clear up some confusion for me later. From what I understood, she either takes no lymph nodes (if nothing lights up) or she takes out the whole axillary cluster. But Ivan said she told us that if the radioactive seed works, it will show which (if any) nodes need to be removed. However, it may not work well, if chemo has damaged the ducts, and if that's the case, the radioactive material won't be able to travel to the lymph nodes, and then she'd have to remove the whole axillary cluster. If she has to take them all out, I'll be facing issues with lymphedema down the road. Sharon had lympedema pretty badly on the affected side, and I'd wrap her arm with Ace bandages at night (not comfortable!) but later her insurance paid for a special machine she could use daily.

The surgeon was patient in answering all my questions... Healing will take about 6 weeks, the drains should be out in 2-3 weeks, I'll have a scar all the way across my chest (not going for any type of reconstruction), and she'll determine when I can start radiation. That last is especially a relief, because I was nervous about starting radiation while still healing from surgery.

Because I'm choosing to wait six weeks for surgery, and it will likely be six weeks after that before I begin radiation, I'm letting go of the expectation that I'll be done with the worst of treatment by the end of the year. I'm just going to plan on radiation continuing into January. If I actually manage to make it through without having to pause, and do get done by the end of the year, then I'll be happily surprised! But if I don't, I won't be surprised or too sad. Ivan tells me I'm too pessimistic, but I say I'm just being realistic 😉 

Actually I'm learning it's just the way I'm made. I've been reading up on the Enneagram, and taken the test which confirmed I'm totally a 6. Early in August I read "Reading People" by Anne Bogel, who delves into the various ways we determine personality. Fascinating book! I read it and then started reading it aloud to Ivan before my voice gave out from the smoke induced asthma. I've just finished reading the sections on 6s in both "The Road Back to You" and its companion "The Path Between Us" and although I'm not a 'perfect' six, I do match 95% of the description. It can be rather disconcerting because most of what's written is about the negative aspects of each number. But in "The Road Back to You", the author explains that's because it's easier for people to see the negatives in themselves than the positives, so it's a lot easier to determine your number. They do talk about the positive aspects, which helps, but I'm thankful for them shining the spotlight on the negatives and giving concrete suggestions on how to change those parts of yourself that make you cringe. (And believe me, I cringed a lot while reading about 6s!)

I've had a hard time reading this summer because chemo brain (yes, it's a real thing!) has made it hard to focus or concentrate. I only managed to read two books each in May, June and July. But this month I'm picking up the pace -- albiet a slower pace -- that's allowing me to get back to reading more often. I've actually read 9 books this month! Well, 7 whole books and parts of the two I mentioned. I do want to go back and read about the other Enneagram numbers, but all in due time.

I binged read the trilogy by Marisa de los Santos featuring the same characters: "Love Walked In", followed by "Belong to Me" and then ""I'll Be Your Blue Sky". I have to admit I started with the last first, because I didn't know it was the last of three! I enjoyed it so much, I didn't mind going back to read the beginning. And they really are stand alone books, but so much more delicious together! They're not typical romance novels at all; each is imbued with a mystery that slowly unfolds, as do the characters. I also enjoyed the newest book by Linda Castillo whose protagonist is the chief of police in a small town with a heavy Amish and Mennonite presence, who herself grew up Amish. Her books can be rather dark, but aren't heavy on the blood and gore, so I can handle them. What I like is how the main characters have developed throughout the series, and that I rarely figure out "who done it" ahead of time. Is there anything more frustrating than figuring out the end at the beginning of a book?! I think not! I also read a couple of books that I put in the "well, I'll never get those hours back again" category. Not absolutely horrible -- I give books 2-3 chapters and then I'm outta there if they don't keep my interest -- but also not worth mentioning by name.

Summer here is starting to wind down. We've gone from an average of 108 down to the low 100s, and everyone tells us in a month it will start to get bearable again. I'm all for that! I'm hopeful that as the weather cools down, I'll start feeling better and be up to exploring the area. Ivan's done a bit on his own and with Tina and family, but I've pretty much been a hermit since we moved here. Anyone been to Vegas or Nevada and have suggestions of places we should visit?   

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Three Months In

Three months ago yesterday I had my first chemo treatment. It's been a rocky ride ever since...

The good news is the PET scan I had last week showed the cancer has not spread!

The bad news is I've had such a rough time since the last round of chemo that my oncologist has pushed the next treatment out for a week to give me more time to recover. On the one hand I'm grateful for the additional time because I truly feel miserable, but I'm slightly bummed because this just means it'll take longer to finish. My hope of getting through the worst of the treatment plan before the end of the year is starting to fade.

The good news is my sister came to visit! I wish I'd felt better and been able to do more, but I'm just so grateful she came to be with me for a few days. One night we had dinner at Tina's and the grands enjoyed having her read to them.

The bad news is the engine light in the car came on again. It was in the shop for 8 days, and the light came on within an hour of picking it up so back it went. They adjusted something and the light went off... and now it's back on. It's probably an easy adjustment but a pain that I have to take it back. It ain't happening today though; maybe I'll feel up to driving it over tomorrow.

The good news is Ivan's in Indiana celebrating his mom's 97th birthday! Her birthday is actually Sunday but the family is gathering today. I'm sad to be missing the party, but thankful Ivan could be there for it.

The bad news is...

Oh, let's just forget the bad news!

My sister and I watched Temple Grandin while she was here. I'd seen the movie years ago, but it's a favorite and I enjoyed watching it again. Beth's an occupational therapist in the school system, so she works regularly with autistic kids and she found the movie to be as inspiring as I did. Have you ever seen it? Highly recommend it! I've seen the real Temple Grandin interviewed on a news magazine show (can't remember which one) and she's an amazing woman. FYI, the movie is free on amazon prime video.

I found out from my sister that my favorite television series is also available on amazon prime video!!! The Closer featuring Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson of the LAPD. I'd just finished re-watching all 15 seasons of NCIS so perfect timing! I just want to say to amazon, "Thank you! Thank you so much!"

Our grandkids continue to bring such joy to our lives. We get to see Simon and Betsy often, and we FaceTime multiple times a week (and Marco Polo!) with the California grands (and their parents of course 😉).

I've had the chance to spend time with just my daughter, and with my daughter and sister... do I even need to say how precious that has been?! Had so much fun with those two last evening, trying on some of the pretty Noonday pieces Tina has bought for herself and when she does trunk shows as an Ambassador for the company. I've never been big on jewelry but Noonday has changed my thinking; not only is their stuff absolutely gorgeous, but I love knowing that when I buy something, I'm helping another woman somewhere else in the world to provide for her family. These women are using their ingenuity to produce stunning jewelry and accessories. Women helping women pursue their passion and creativity: what's not to love?! And it has made gift buying sooooo much easier, because they have so many diverse pieces in their collection that I'm bound to find something for everyone, from teens to those my age and older.

After so much trouble and grief with our health insurance company in May and June, things are finally turning around and we've had some really helpful people start to get things straightened out both here and back in Indiana. Things are not completely resolved yet, but the end is in sight.

I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for Willis Carrier, the father of modern air conditioning, as well as all those curious minds from before who kept looking for efficient ways of cooling the air. The low last night was 90 degrees. It's 113 degrees right now. Need I say more?

In three more months, hopefully it will be significantly cooler and I'll be that much closer to being done with treatment. Bring it on!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Small Life

I was talking to my sister yesterday and mentioned I felt my life had become very small. I'm glad it's only for a season that the walls in my (small) apartment encompass 99% of my life. I'd probably go crazy if I thought this was a situation that went on indefinitely. So I'm focusing on getting through the next two months, after which chemo will end, and life will go back to "normal". Until surgery that is...and then radiation. Pretty sure recovering from surgery will involve more of this small life as I heal from a bilateral mastectomy. I've heard radiation can be exhausting (and painful) but with both surgery and radiation, I should have far fewer side effects that I'm struggling with now.

I might be having fewer side effects even sooner. Despite the tweaks this last time, I was still slammed with chronic diarrhea and the Taxotere rash. Because of that, it's highly likely that my oncologist will eliminate Taxotere from my regime entirely. Since Taxotere is responsible for the majority of my side effects (we think), the final two rounds of chemo might be much more manageable. I'm on board with that!

From what I understand, the oncologist will be making a decision about the Taxotere based on two things: the way my body has been reacting to it (badly), and the results of the PET scan I'll be having next Monday. Praying the scan shows the chemo has been effective in minimizing both the cancer activity and area!

We were pretty shocked that the PET scan was approved...and so quickly! Definitely a first with this insurance company. What's funny is that such an expensive procedure was approved in less than a week, while approval for a simple prescription drug to help with the chronic diarrhea took 10 days. Go figure.  I'll be going in tomorrow for that injection.

I've pretty much lived in my pajamas for a week (not the same ones. ha!), only getting dressed to go for blood work the other day and when Tina and the grands came over for supper last night. Tina and Kyle are doing the Whole 30 this month so she made supper: a yummy zoodle dish with chicken sausage and a red sauce. We also had a delicious caprese salad made with heirloom tomatoes, basil Ivan's growing on our tiny patio, and goat cheese (well, Tina didn't get the goat cheese because no dairy on the Whole 30). I'm doing very little cooking these days, so that meal was a real treat!

I've heard a lot about Whole 30 but I'm pretty sure I could not live without cheese for a month. I've had an internal debate about which would be harder to give up: chocolate or cheese, and although they run neck and neck, I think I'd give up chocolate before I gave up cheese. So glad I don't have to give up either!

Back in March I wrote about grieving all the small losses, and that still holds true. I'd like to say I've risen above that, but the truth is I haven't and probably won't. And I'm okay with that, because hey!, I'm human. Right now I'm feeling a little blue about what I consider my small life: being limited in what I can eat (my body doesn't seem to like a lot of things these days), or do (because of side effects and serious lack of energy), and spending 99% of my time in a small apartment. But that's offset by the fact that I really love my small apartment. Ivan and Tina have helped me make it a home, and for the first time in years we have art on our walls. And while it's small, it's the perfect size for us right now.

Our art is very personal. We decided years ago to collect art prints whenever we traveled. Prints weigh practically nothing and can be packed flat in a suitcase. And early on we decided we'd focus on what I'd call architectural art, because we both really love that kind of thing. So we have prints of buildings and structures from Uruguay, Ireland, Argentina, and various places here in the U.S. We just bought cheap white frames from IKEA and Walmart, so although they're different sizes and styles, somehow they work together. I did notice after we'd put them up, they all have a little red in them; in some it's a bright red, others more muted, but I think that helps too. Each print carries with it a memory of a place and time, a story...part of our story.

I can sit on my couch and see our only original oil paintings directly opposite, all by a dear friend, Juan Colle, who was an artist and pastor in Argentina. He died the year after we moved to Argentina and we still feel his loss. I'm so grateful we have these paintings. They remind us not only of him and his family, but also our life in Argentina.  Two of the paintings are of the Plaza San Martin in Córdoba capital, one in summer and one in late fall/winter...a place we walked through numerous times over the years. Another is the lane going to the camp Ivan attended every year growing up, and visited a few times while we lived in Argentina. And finally, a church in the province of Córdoba, that we gave to friends many years ago and they just re-gifted back to us to fill the blank spot on our wall. It goes so perfectly with the others!

Also from my couch, if I look left to the built-in shelves, I can enjoy the original acrylic painting done by our precious friend, Magdalena, who used a photo we'd taken of the river by our house to create a landscape that never ceases to cause my heart to constrict just a little.

Hanging beside is a metal sign we had commissioned for our little casita. We met the sign maker at the big artisan feria in Córdoba our very first year in Argentina, and loved his work so much we ended up buying signs to give as gifts to a lot of our family and friends back in the states. His style is very traditional Argentine. Before we returned to the states we bought another one: "Buen Provecho" ("may it profit you", meaning the meal) that I knew I wanted to hang in our dining area. Below it we put one of the few non-architectural art prints we have, of a man drinking máte because that seemed to fit the space so well.

Across from that is a print that Ivan's mom owned for many years, and I told her I wanted it when she was done with it. That happened when she moved into medical care after breaking her hip. I think she likes knowing it's well loved and used by someone in the family. Betsy calls it "the food picture".

Although I love all our art, my favorite wall is the one in our bedroom where Tina helped me create a whole gallery of family photos. I have space for one more frame in the upper left corner. My plan is to have large prints of Jon's family, Tina's family, the grands all together, along with the canvas print from the family photo shoot the kids gifted us in 2016, and then 8x10s of the grands. I'd like to always keep one of their baby pictures on display (there's an empty one waiting for Eisley's picture), along with a current one.

Still to be hung are three original pen and inks, which I plan to put over the bed... but not until we finish making a fabric headboard (partially done) and get that in place. Once those are up, I'll be sure to take a photo of that wall. Two of the pictures are by a friend we've known for many years. The other is by the brother of another friend, and has a funny story to go with it (but I'll wait to share that when I share a picture of them hanging above our new headboard). 

So while my life may seem small right now, confined by the walls of my apartment, those same walls bring great joy as I gaze at dear faces, or pictures that bring back precious memories. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Family Time

(And what I'm learning on this journey)

We had the best visit recently when Jon, Natalie and the girls flew in from California and we had all the family together for four glorious days! And this Nina got to hold baby Eisley to her heart's content 💕 She's so tiny and adorable and precious! All my grandchildren are adorable and precious, but I'd never had the privilege of holding one so tiny because we were overseas when all the others were born. Eisley was 7 weeks old while they were here and I just soaked up all that baby goodness! She and I became great buddies, and as my cousin predicted, she'll be my "partner in mischief" in years to come.

I did, on occasion, allow others to hold her, especially Papa who is as smitten with her as I am.

We didn't have an agenda except to hang out and enjoy one another. Lots of pool time in the mornings when one end of the pool was shaded. One morning was spent visiting the very cool children's museum and the container park. Lots of good food was shared, we had a fun evening with the cousins, and we just enjoyed watching the kids play together. We weren't sure how well they'd do, since 2, 3 and 4 year olds are not known for sharing or playing well together, but overall they did great! Betsy was fascinated by "Baby Eisley" as she called her, and Tina took so many great photos during the visit, including this one of Betsy helping Papa feed her. Betsy loves her baby dolls, and having a live one was a dream come true.

Betsy also really enjoyed having another girl to do girly things with, like put on pretend "meekup".

Simon and Adalyn had a different dynamic, much more active and at times frenetic, like when they started twirling around and around. I'm not sure how many pictures Tina had to take to get this one. They were perpetual motion!

I got a big kick out of Simon, who on day two of the visit arrived at our door with his face shining with joy and said, "Nina! You know my friends who were here yesterday? They are here today too!"

Their arrival on a Sunday worked out great to get together that evening with the cousins. Simon was so happy to see "Aunt" Kathy. Since they spent over a month with Paul and Kathy when they first arrived in Vegas, the kids got to know and love them like the rest of us do, but Simon especially became quite attached to his special buddy. He absolutely loved helping Kathy with chores; give the boy a job and he's in heaven!

It was so sweet to see Lizzie and Willys together too. Aren't they the cutest?!

Our sister-in-law was in North Carolina with family so we didn't get to see her that evening. Ivan will be seeing the whole clan again this Sunday when they gather to celebrate a milestone birthday for Lizzie but I'll miss that, seeing as how I just had chemo and I know from experience I won't feel like going anywhere or doing anything. I have to say, it's been a HUGE blessing having other family here who know the ropes, where to find things, how to go about getting things done...

But back to the visit.

I was dealing with some chemo side effects that prevented me from doing the museum and park on their last day, but I received photos throughout the morning so I didn't feel left out. This has to be one of the best children's museum in the country! The kids could pretend to work on cars...

...go shopping, and so much else. They have costumes and a stage, a "water" room, so many hands-on activities!

Then they stopped for a bit at the container park where the kids could play with these enormous blocks (among other things). Didn't stay too long, though, because it was HOT that day. We've been experiencing temps above 100 consistently, and that day I think it got up to 108.

Then it was back to our place for the final few hours of their visit. After lunch the kids were running around and playing and, at one point, all piled into our bed to pretend to sleep. Haha! That wasn't going to happen! They were way too wound up!

Occasionally one of the kids would find their way to me (always holding the baby!) to admire Eisley and elicit one of her breathtakingly beautiful smiles.

Papa got his share of attention too. All our grands absolutely adore their Papa!

Tina had Ivan use her camera to get this shot of her and Jon with their two youngest. I'm so grateful for her making it a priority to get lots of pictures! This is just a handful, and I keep going back and looking at all the photos and reliving the memories we made.

Two of my favorite pictures are these last two: us with all the grands, and just the grands.

Can I just say: Too precious for words!!!

Health Updates:

I've been absent from the blog this past month because chemo has been kicking my bum. Along with the extreme fatigue, chronic diarrhea, mouth infection, constantly watering eyes, change in taste buds, interrupted sleep patterns, and those occasions where I'm just shaky all day... the infamous Taxotere rash just won't leave me alone. Even though they lowered my Taxotere by 25% on round three of chemo, I had the rash not once, but twice! As a preventative measure they'd prescribed a six-day steroid pack, so I was prepared when the rash popped up on my hands again and I immediately started taking the meds. It stopped it from progressing but, even so, my hands are now at the peeling stage. And on the day I took the last dose from that pack, the rash began appearing on my arms, legs and knees and bottom of my feet 😢 I called the doctor's office and they called in another prescription for a six-day steroid pack. I was on steroids almost the entire three weeks between round 3 and 4. *sigh*

I had my fourth chemo treatment July 3rd, and Dr. Parikh tweaked a number of things, as he's trying to address not only the rash, but the chronic diarrhea. He lowered both the Taxotere and Carboplatin, removed the anti-nausea meds I'd been getting intravenously during treatment, and also the Neulasta patch, which boosts your white blood cell count to reduce infection risk. I'll be getting blood work done weekly now, so they can monitor that white blood cell count in particular and make sure it doesn't get too out of whack and prevent me from staying on track with the chemo schedule.

Normally things go sideways 3-4 days after treatment. Last night I was up and down coughing a lot, and some intestinal discomfort, but nothing like it's been the last three times, so I'm hopeful the tweaks are working. But we'll have to see how the next few days go before we can say for sure. I've been dealing with more nausea since he removed the anti-nausea piece from treatment, but I'd personally rather have nausea than diarrhea, so I'm okay with that.

As for Ivan, things are proceeding but slowly. He met with a primary care physician last month who we both really like. He gave him a thorough examination and took time to talk through a number of issues Ivan's been having, and ordered several tests. And then things kind of ground to a halt. The order for the CT scan was approved, which Ivan has to have every six months for two years to follow-up on the cancer he had removed last year. But the scheduler in the doctor's office totally dropped the ball on the other things: endoscopy/colonoscopy (yep, he's going to get them both done in one shot), and hernia repair.

A big problem we're encountering is -- shocker! -- due to our insurance. Ambetter is new in Nevada and while a lot of doctor's signed on initially, they quickly dropped out when Ambetter was less than accommodating on approvals, payments, etc. So finding specialists who will accept the insurance has been like finding a needle in a haystack. Ivan played phone tag with the schedule for 10 days, with us finally looking up who was in network, and then never hearing back from her.

Ivan had a follow-up appointment yesterday afternoon to go over his CT scan. Almost did the happy dance right there in the doctor's office when we heard there's still no sign of any cancer! But the scan showed he has two inguinal hernias, not just one. The doctor was pretty disgusted to hear the scheduler hadn't followed through on getting those other things lined up, so today Ivan will be calling a scheduler in a different office (this practice has several locations around the city) who the doctor says will get things handled. Sure hope so!

Ivan's been having some pretty severe back pain recently. This has been an ongoing problem throughout the years, and periodically it flares up. The doctor printed out some exercises for him to try, told him to keep doing his nightly cardio on the treadmill, and use the pool as often as he can. His sedentary job does not help. I'm really proud of him for starting an exercise regime recently and sticking to it faithfully!


2018 has sure turned out to be a year of big changes. The move out west has been good, but we could have done without all the health issues. Or maybe not. Still not sure of all God is trying to teach us through this, but glimmers of His plan shine through on occasion. In my devotional this morning, it says: "You tend to feel guilty about pushing back the boundaries of your life to make space for time alone with me. The world is waiting to squeeze you into its mold and to crowd out time devoted to Me. The ways of the world have also warped your conscience, which punishes you for doing the very thing that pleases Me most: seeking My Face." When God brings you to a screeching halt physically, you suddenly find that time.

Last fall when I began counseling one-on-one with my spiritual director, she asked me what I felt God was saying to me. The first word that popped into my head was "Rest". I was so tired, but had no time to stop or even slow down. The remainder of 2017 went by in a blur of one family crisis after another. It's no wonder I got so sick at the very end of the year; I was exhausted on every level. But getting so sick also led to the cancer diagnosis that, otherwise, might have taken much longer and proven much more serious. (Not to say this isn't serious, but stage three is better than stage four!) I'm certainly getting that rest's all I can do.

Over the past few years I've been learning (and re-learning) that what God wants most of me is not what I can do, but who I can be. He wants me to focus on being His beloved child, not on rushing about "doing" all the time. Yes, we are called to "do" His will, but I think as believers we too often get caught up in the doing, and miss out on simply being in His presence. Finding balance seems to be a big message He's sending me. I've spent my whole life caring for others, in what I might call "maternal mode", but too often to the detriment of my relationship with Him. After all, He doesn't need mothering! It's a radical shift to go from that "maternal mode" to "child mode" where we can rest in His presence, in His plans for us, and simply trust.