Tuesday, May 23, 2017

7 Simple Yoga Stretches for Pregnancy

This is the yoga that saved my life (or at least my back) this pregnancy, so I'm sharing it in hopes that it can help someone else, too.

I'm not a yoga expert, by any means. I've taken a few classes, but I'm not sure I'm using all the right terms here, or if my positions are technically correct. What I do know is that doing these stretches every night before bed helps me relax and fall asleep faster with so much less pain. (I mentioned in my last post about this pregnancy that I've dealt with some pretty bad back pain.) I also try to start my morning with at least a couple of these stretches, which has an amazing way of calming and energizing me at the same time. 

I'm sharing just 7 simple yoga-inspired stretches, so they're easy to remember, and you can do them all in about 5 minutes. If you want to spend more time, you can take as long as you like on each stretch, or go back and repeat any or all of the stretches. 

But first, here are a few tips that have helped me make the most of my routine:

Tips for Stretching

Don't count to 10. Instead, concentrate on inhaling and exhaling deeply, and count your breaths. It helps me to close my eyes and breath through my nose. I try to hold each stretch for at least 3 slow breaths, or sometimes longer. 

Observe every sensation. Think about where you feel the stretch, and this will help calm your mind, too. Are your joints aching? Try straightening your spine and relaxing your body as much as possible. You should feel a gentle, deep stretch, not burning or aching. If it hurts, stop right away, or adjust your position. 

Stretch on a soft surface like carpet, or on a yoga mat or blanket if you have a hard floor. You can even sit on a pillow if you need extra cushioning.

Experiment. You don't have to be a yoga expert, and you don't have to do these positions exactly the same way every time. You might want to roll your shoulders or neck, or move your arms around more. If it helps you relax and relieves some of your stress and pain, then it's working. I'd definitely suggest Googling images of prenatal yoga poses or YouTube videos with simple routines you can try at home. A class is great if you can get out of the house for one! I took a class at my local hospital during my other pregnancies and loved it. 

But I've also learned not to wait until I can make it to a class or turn on a half-hour-long video. I still try to do that when I can, but spending just 5 or 10 minutes a day has made a huge difference. If you try out this routine, let me know how it goes! Happy stretching!

7 Simple Yoga Stretches for Pregnancy

#1: Stand/Salute the Sun
In yoga, "sun salutation" can be an entire sequence of poses, but for our purposes, simply stand with your hands together at your heart and inhale deeply. Then reach up with your arms and face as you exhale, like you're looking up at sun. Repeat for 3 or more breaths.

#2: Lunge/Warrior Pose
As you reach up to "salute the sun," step out with one leg (making sure your knee doesn't extend over your toes), and stretch your arms out horizontally. Relax your shoulders, straighten your spine over your hips, and sit back into your tailbone. Feel the stretch as you inhale and exhale deeply. Hold for 3 or more breaths, then switch legs and repeat.

#3: Down Dog
From warrior pose, reach down over your knee to touch the ground with both hands, then step back with that leg so that both feet are behind you. (Sometimes I have to get on my hands and knees first, and then push up to this pose.) Let your head hang between your arms, and push your tailbone back and up, so that your wrists aren't supporting your entire weight. You should feel a stretch from your lower back through your backside and legs. Breath slowly and deeply, then try slightly bending each knee in rhythm with your breaths, for as long as it's comfortable. 

#4: Cat Stretch
Bend both knees so that you're in a crawling position on the floor. As you inhale, let your belly drop and look up. As you exhale, pull your belly up toward your spine and tuck your chin to your chest. Repeat with slow, deep breaths at least 3 times. You can also try stretching your hips by drawing a big letter "o" with your tailbone.

#5: Child's Pose
Still in crawling position, spread your knees and drop your chest toward the floor. You can fold your arms and rest your forehead there, or stretch your arms out in front of you and tuck your chin. Relax your body and feel the stretch. Breath deeply and hold for at least 3 breaths or as long as it's comfortable.

#6: Seated Side Stretch 
Sit up and stretch your legs out in front of you. Bring one foot in toward and bend over the leg that's still outstretched. Inhale and exhale slowly for 3 or more breaths, then switch and stretch the opposite side.

#7: Lotus
Sit with both feet tucked in and relax your body. You can hold your hands at your heart or rest them on your knees. Try to keep your mind clear as you breath deeply and slowly.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Just Another Day as a Stay at Home Mom

I get up and shower while my 3-year-old watches Bob the Builder. I wonder to myself if it's good for him to watch TV first thing in the morning, but I know it's the only calm time I'll have all day long, so I finish up and kneel to pray for strength and kindness today. I get dressed and consider putting on shorts, but I didn't have time to shave my legs, and apparently it's winter again. Jeans and a cardigan it is.

My 1-year-old is crying in her crib, so I lift her out and snuggle her. Then I pin her down with all of my upper body strength and change her diaper while she screams "noooo!" I tape it for good measure like always. My two toddlers sit on the counter and push the buttons on the blender while I make smoothies for breakfast. Fifteen minutes later, we finish; I congratulate myself on not losing it and text my husband to suggest getting me a new blender for Mother's Day. While I try to come to terms with the fact that my gift of choice is a small kitchen appliance, I grab a tissue to stop a gushing bloody nose. She must have been picking it again.

Before I sit down to my own breakfast, I see bibs and spilled smoothie on the floor, and I know if I don't get that purple stain out of her pajamas right now, it's there to stay. So I stop and scrub, and it still doesn't come out. I set it by the sink to dry when my 3-year-old runs into the bathroom screaming for help. I try to calm him down and reassure him that he can do this. Sit and wait, I tell him, and I'll be sitting just a few feet away at the table. I wash my hands before I eat my toast, because I always feel germy after being in the bathroom. Before I can finish my toast, he starts screaming again and I go in and pray with him. We clasp our hands and ask God for help going potty. Pooping is hard work.

While I finish eating and start on the breakfast dishes, he decides to try again later. She decides to take off her diaper (apparently the tape didn't stop her), and I chase her down to tape on a new one. I'm going to need more tape, I think to myself. I go back to the sink to give the pitcher full of sticky smoothie a quick rinse, and then abandon the rest of the dishes to dress my nearly naked children.

My mom texts me to ask if we can Facetime; I realize it's almost 10, and I'm late for a FaceTime call with a friend. I see the open note on my phone, too--a blog post I'm working on called "Positive Affirmations for Christian Moms" and laugh to myself. I finish getting everyone dressed and put my 1-year-old's wild hair in pigtails while she plays with the closed bag of hair bands. Her sweet big brother wants to help her, and approximately 400 tiny clear hair bands spill onto the carpet. We make a game of cleaning them up as fast as we can, then I coach him through the process of making his bed while I finish his sister's hair. I decide to ignore my own unmade bed for the moment, and I talk to my friend for the few minutes she has left while I change a poopy diaper.

My kids settle down to watch Leap Frog Phonics Farm, and I leave to tackle my bed...and because I can't stand to listen to that show. My mom and I Facetime while I straighten the sheets, but before I can get the pillows on, I hear shrieks and have to run to break up a hugging fight. I decide to start on the laundry and finish the dishes while I FaceTime so I can keep a closer eye on those two. We say goodbye right as my phone dies, then I throw some sandwiches, fruit and cheese on the table for lunch because we have to leave in a few minutes for a meet-and-greet with my 3-year-old's preschool teacher. I briefly consider the possibility of lunch for myself other than half-eaten PB and J. The breakfast dishes are still in the sink, and my phone is barely charged. 

We get shoes on, and I realize my 1-year-old has a new stain on her shirt and grapefruit in her hair, but there's no time do anything about it. Five minutes later, everyone is buckled into their seats for our two-minute drive to the school. I was going to walk, but it's raining.

It's fun meeting his teacher and exploring the school. She has no problem with the kids dragging out all the blocks and books and puzzles. I sit down and we chat about my new baby coming and how she remembers being a mom with little ones. 

When we get back to the car, my 3-year-old asks to go the library for the twentieth time this week. I always have a reason to say no, but today I think, why not? I try not to think about herding two toddlers around the library and parking lot with a pregnant belly and an armful of books. It will be fun for them, I tell myself. And it is fun, even though we spend half the time in the bathroom, trying to go again. Still no luck. As we get ready to leave, I use a generous amount of hand sanitizer on all of our hands and try not to cry when my 3-year-old drops all the books on my toes. 

It's raining, and I'm wet and cold and tired when we get back to the car. It doesn't feel like summer, but I know they both need summer clothes, and I might not have another chance to go shopping before the baby comes. We head to the consignment store, vowing to make it a quick trip. 

They play in the play area (thank goodness for the play area) while I shop, until my 3-year-old starts screaming. He runs--I waddle with his little sister in my arms--across the store to the bathroom. The toilet's too tall for him. He asks, why don't they have kid-size toilets here? Good question. It's another false alarm, so we all wash our hands and head back to the play area and my abandoned shopping cart. 

I'm almost done when he starts screaming again, so I follow him to the bathroom for probably the tenth time today, but this time he manages to climb on the potty and go before I even get there. I'm bursting with pride and relief. We all wash our hands (for probably the tenth time today), and get ready to check out. She starts crying because she wants to wear the jelly sandals we're buying right now

All of us are exhausted when we get home, and I wonder, why am I bringing more stuff into my already messy house? I see the breakfast dishes still in the sink. The wet laundry still in the washer. My bed still half-made. I unload the car with the books and clothes while the kids eat a snack at the table. We pick out a couple of our new library books to read and snuggle together on the couch. When they're both finally asleep in their beds, I collapse on the couch and try to decide if I should finish the dishes and laundry or take a nap.

I choose a nap.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Baby #3 is Almost Here + 5 Ways I'm Getting Ready

I'm 9 months pregnant, so I guess now is a good time for an update, right? I feel like I've been pregnant FOREVER, and yet it's flown by so fast...I can hardly believe I'll be holding my new baby in my arms in less than 3 weeks! With every pregnancy, I like to write down a few things to remember and look back on later (like I did with Caleb here and Lydia here).

at 7 months pregnant

I've learned a lot about myself this pregnancy. The thing is, I find myself waiting to see what God has in store for us next, when maybe now is the time for ME to decide that.

For almost 6 years, I couldn't get pregnant and stay pregnant no matter what I tried. Now suddenly (it seems), I'm up to my eyeballs in dirty diapers and laundry. We've moved houses or changed jobs every year for the last 8 years, and even though Ben seems to finally be in a permanent position, his work schedule is still pretty hectic. I feel like we're still trying to catch our breaths and "figure things out."

at 8 months...plus a typical day with two toddlers

I guess that's what I've learned though, is that I'm never really going to "figure things out," and all I can do is my best every day.  And I can be happy with that. Now don't get me wrong. It's not that I would change anything, either. It's true that most of our plans haven't worked out like we thought, BUT things have worked out for us. We've been SO incredibly blessed--it's miraculous. And I needed to learn to put God's plans before my own, especially when I felt like I was stepping into the dark.

And I'm where I am now because of the choices I've made, too. I could've never come to Idaho, or refused to stay here, or quit that tough job that kept us out of so much student debt, or given up after 3 or 4 bad experiences with doctors, and never found the one who knew what caused my 3 miscarriages. But I didn't, and through the grace of God, I'm living an amazing life with my beautiful family and my best friend.

I'm learning to embrace the endless messes and crying right along with all the simple joys and laughter. So with that, here's the latest on this pregnancy (...as in, it doesn't get any later than this #37weekspregnant)!

But first, here are 5 things on my to-do list right now before our baby girl arrives.

5 Ways I'm Getting Ready for a New Baby

#1: Stock up on staples. 
I've been buying extra of almost everything lately--toilet paper, hair gel, laundry detergent, dry pasta, tortilla chips--anything we might run out of in the next month or two. I'm also planning one last Costco trip this week, and I'll be doubling up on some items so that they'll last us as long as possible. Stocking up like this almost doubles our grocery bill for the month, but we'll be doing a lot less shopping the month after the baby comes, so it balances out. I've already got a few boxes of (tiny!) diapers and wipes ready to go, too!

#2: Store a few freezer meals. 
Along with stocking up, I'm adding a few frozen pizzas and lasagnas to our freezer, especially for when family comes to visit. We don't usually keep paper plates and cups on hand either, but I've got that on my list for my next trip to the store. I'll probably spend an evening making a few homemade freezer meals, too. My quick-and-easy favorites in the past have been enchiladas, chicken divan (I use frozen broccoli to save time and chicken broth instead of sherry) and this creamy noodle bake

#3: Clean the house. 
There's nothing like a bringing a newborn home to a clean house. That way I can relax without having to even think about scrubbing a toilet or mopping a floor for at least a few days (...or live with the mess....or ask someone else to clean it for me...). Of course, what passes for a clean house around here has changed quite a bit since my last baby. Two years ago, with an 18-month-old, I could clean my house once a week or so and it would stay pretty tidy. Now, with a 3-year-old and almost-2-year-old, I could clean all day every day, and my house would STILL be messy. So we're giving everything a good top-to-bottom cleaning, and hoping at least our house won't smell bad by the time we bring the baby home. 

#4: Make some special memories with family and friends. 
I've been soaking up all the baby snuggles I can and making it a point to do fun things with my kids--simple things, like going on walks and eating lunch outside. This weekend, we're planning either a drive to Shoshone Falls or a day at the zoo as a fun family date. Later this week, my friend planned a night out with our girlfriends, instead of a baby shower. And Ben and I are hoping to squeeze in a special date night, or maybe an overnight "staycation" when my parents get here...I'm thinking sleeping in and room service!

#5: Relax
In between all the deep-cleaning and memory-making, I'm trying to put my feet up and take as many power naps as possible. Especially on rainy days, we put on a good movie and snuggle on the couch together. On other days, we sit and read books or swing in the hammock. And I don't have to feel guilty about it one bit, because I have the best excuse for taking it easy!

relaxing (at 5 months) with my babies, my bump and a good book

All About This Pregnancy

How far along?
I'm 37 weeks, so I'm officially 9 months pregnant! I'm delivering in less than 3 weeks on May 25th. My due date is June 1, but my doctor always induces me a week early to lower the risk of hemorrhaging from my blood clotting deficiency. I don't love being induced, but it's nice to have a "deadline."

It's another girl!

Any names?
We're pretty set on Claire.

That profile (at 20 weeks)! She looks like a Claire, don't you think?

Maternity clothes
I raid Ben's t-shirt drawer daily! I'm pretty much always wearing leggings and a cardigan over a loose, stretchy t-shirt. I'm all about casual comfort, so I'm loving these slip-on sneakers from Target--they seriously feel like slippers on my feet, but the best part is that I don't have to bend over to tie the laces! And I've really been missing the t-shirt dress my friend Rachel let me borrow my last pregnancy, but I haven't been able to find one like it that doesn't ride up and show too much thigh for me. Anyone?

THE shoes!

She's slowed down lately, but she gets hiccups about 10 times a day! A couple of weeks ago though, she was kicking me in the sternum. I have no idea how she got her feet up there, but she kept me awake for over an hour that night.  

Excited! I'm feeling only slightly crazy about getting everything "ready" for the baby, but surprisingly, not too much. I'm just trying to relax and enjoy these last few weeks with my family of 4. Like always, I started out this pregnancy feeling pretty anxious and nervous, but I think I've learned to cope with it better this pregnancy.

YES. I sleep like a log...I always have. But instead of waking up every 2 hours to pee, I wake up in the morning in massive pain because my bladder is about to explode. I've had some back pain with this pregnancy too, so that's made falling asleep and waking up more uncomfortable. But I've been fighting my night owl habit, trying to get myself in bed earlier and get as much sleep as possible. I've also been doing 5-10 minutes of yoga at night before bed, plus 5 minutes of meditation using the Calm app while I fall asleep, and that's seriously improved my sleep quality! I can't recommend it enough. 

Weight change
I've gained just under 30 lbs., and it's ALL in front. I was the same way with my last pregnancy--also a girl--but with my little boy, I was pregnant all over. I think I gained almost 50 lbs. with him!

She's ALL in front!

To name a few: breakfast sandwiches, ice cream (I'm usually more of a brownie girl), Chic-fil-A, peanut butter, and carrot sticks. My cravings have been so random this pregnancy. With my first (that I miscarried), I craved seafood. With my little boy, I craved hot dogs, ham sandwiches and savory soups, and with my daughter I craved sugar cookies, donuts and pop-tarts. I guess this baby likes variety!

Any aversions?
Eggs (except on breakfast sandwiches, apparently). I usually love eggs, but I can't ever eat them when I'm pregnant without getting sick.

The best part so far
Gotta love that nesting energy! In the last few weeks, I've been motivated to tackle projects that I've been putting off for years. (But then I have to take extra naps to recover from all that "nesting.") As for the rest of my pregnancy, it sounds silly, but the best part was learning to let things go. I just don't have as much time as I did with my other pregnancies to be either excited or stressed, and the end result has been that I'm more laid back. It's taken a while to get there, though. 

The worst part so far
The back pain. It's been almost unbearable sometimes. I didn't deal with much back pain with my other pregnancies (except at the very end last time), so I have a whole new appreciation for people who deal with this all the time! Some days I couldn't walk or sit or lie down without being in pain, but I started going to a chiropractor a couple of months ago, and WOW. I feel better at 9 months pregnant than I did at 7 months! Between my weekly adjustments and daily yoga routine, my back pain is half what it was.

I wasn't at this stage (7 months), but now I'm feeling pretty good!

Looking forward to...
Feeling "ready." It's an elusive feeling, I know, but I'm not quite ready for this baby to come yet. I am ready to have the house put together and the hospital bag packed and all those last-minute projects checked off, but I'm still getting there. I'm excited for my family to visit, too! And imagining that moment when I'll hold her for the first time is what keeps me going every day.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

An Unsponsored Review of Blue Apron

When my husband signed us up for Blue Apron meals for a week, I was shocked. Who are you, and what have you done with my husband? He's a pretty frugal guy, but he loves a good deal too--and a good meal!--so I guess he couldn't resist food at 50% off. (FYI: You can go to https://www.blueapron.com/users/sign_up to try it out).

Or maybe he was just desperate for a decent dinner: between his hectic work schedule and my "morning sickness" (I always put that in quotations, because let's be honest, what pregnant woman only feels sick in the morning?), we were so over grilled cheese sandwiches and scrambled eggs. 

Or maybe, being the sweet, thoughtful man he is, he just wanted to make my Valentine's Day special. Well, he certainly did, so let's go with that!

Yes, that's right, Valentine's Day. Yes, it's April. I'm not a professional blogger, and I'm not being paid to write this review for Blue Apron. I guess I should be sorry for taking so long to write this, but why? I'm choosing to be a full-time mom right now. And it's definitely full-time. I enjoy blogging too, and I'm slowly carving more time out of my schedule to do it, but right now my kids are small--3 and 1--and it's all me, all day every day. (I'm officially putting in a plug for Boise, if any family members are thinking of moving across the state/country!) My kids need me, and I want to be there for them. I waited a long time to be a mom, so I've decided blogging can wait for now. 

But back to my unsponsored, uncompensated review of Blue Apron. As it happens, my 3-year-old is zoned out in front of a Disney movie right now, and my 1-year-old is crying in her crib (please, just take a nap), but I'm calling it "quiet time," because I WANT to do this review. You wanted to know what we really thought, so I'm here to tell you. 

Honestly, I was not expecting to give a positive review. But I was pleasantly surprised--impressed, even--with the quality of food for the price. Every meal was completely satisfying--the flavor, the size of the servings--and they were amazingly quick and simple to make (about half an hour for each meal). It was the perfect Valentine's Day gift; we felt like we were having a "fancy dinner," plus Ben did the cooking!

But is it worth it? That's the question everyone wanted to know the answer to. And I think it really depends on you. It's similar to the cost of eating out--we only paid half-price to try it, but at full price, it's about $10 a plate, or $20 for 2 people. And of course, you still have to do the cooking and the dishes yourself. That's the biggest disadvantage to me, because in a way it defeats the purpose of eating out. It's definitely not as convenient. 

On the other hand, it's a lot healthier than eating out. And we thought it was fun to make such tasty gourmet dishes ourselves, especially since we'd never used some of the ingredients before!

That's the other cost to consider: if we'd gone to the grocery store and bought the exact same gourmet ingredients, we probably would've spent about the same as what it costs for Blue Apron to pick everything out for us, plus they send the recipes with step-by-step instructions. And anyone who cooks can tell you that meal planning and shopping is half the work! It's SO nice to have everything delivered to your door, perfectly packaged, portioned, and ready to go.

All in all, it makes day-to-day dinner prep simpler and more convenient, and it's a relatively affordable way to eat gourmet (vs. eating out or buying gourmet ingredients yourself). And did I mention it's healthy? So here are a few reasons I thought you might or might not like to order Blue Apron:

You might like to order Blue Apron when:

  • You're just getting back from a long trip and your refrigerator is empty. Order ahead of time, and everything you need to make an amazing dinner will be waiting on your doorstep. If only they'd drop off milk, eggs and bread, too...
  • You're in the habit of eating or ordering out a lot, but you want to start eating healthier. It would be a great way to ease back into cooking healthy meals for yourself. 
  • You're interested in learning how to cook new dishes and make healthy, gourmet meals yourself. It's a good way to try different spices and flavors, too. Think of it as a DIY cooking class!
  • You want to make it a special gift/surprise for your friend, roommate or spouse.
  • You've got a lot on your plate and need to simplify dinner (even just temporarily--you can pause and resume shipments at any time).
  • You just want to try it for fun or to change things up every once in a while!

You might not like to order Blue Apron when:

  • You're trying to save money and slim down your budget.
  • You like to bargain shop and use coupons to get the best deals on groceries.
  • You've already decided not to eat out/order out because of the expense--you won't like paying the money AND still having to cook.
  • You prefer to make dinner ahead of time (i.e. you like do your dinner prep earlier in the day, make freezer meals, or use your crock pot so you don't have to spend half an hour making dinner in the evenings). You might be able to prep some Blue Apron items ahead of time, but they're really designed to be made fresh. 
  • You don't like "gourmet" meals. This might sound silly, but not everyone enjoys eating kale and fig sauce. If you prefer homestyle meals, like pot roast and chicken pot pie, Blue Apron might not be for you. (Although they do have a variety of options, so check them out and see if anything strikes your fancy...It couldn't hurt to try something new!)

To end with, here's my review of each meal we tried, so you can get a sense of what some of the meals are like and what we personally thought about them. (I'm sorry I couldn't get better pictures--I had zero natural light, because we were eating in the evenings.)

Meal 1: Crispy Barramundi (Fish) with Melted Leek and Roasted Vegetables

We decided to make this meal first, because I thought it would be my least favorite, and I wanted to get it over with. It ended up being my favorite! The fish tasted so fresh and wasn't "fishy" at all. And the fried leeks and roasted veggies were so flavorful and tender, I loved every bite! I would've wanted to eat more, but I was surprisingly full when I finished my plate. 

Meal 2: Cumin-Crusted Pork with Fig and Blood Orange Pan Sauce

Like the fish, I didn't expect to like this meal as much as I did. It was really different though--it wasn't like anything I'd ever tasted. It kind of reminded me of the pork you dip in mustard at Chinese restaurants, but MUCH tastier. The fig sauce and farro (similar to rice) had great flavor and texture too. This one definitely expanded my palate the most of all 3 meals. 

Meal 3: Seared Chicken with Apple, Kale and Golden Potato Hash

This is the meal I thought would be my favorite, but I'd say it was probably my least favorite. I still loved it, especially the potato hash, although I felt like the kale-to-potato ratio was a little off. I would've preferred more potatoes and less kale. It was A LOT of kale. Also, the cooked apples looked the same as the potatoes, so that threw me off a bit when I was expecting a forkful of potatoes and instead got a forkful of slightly mushy (but tasty) apples. The chicken was a little dry too, but that was probably our fault.

So there you have it: my unsponsored review of Blue Apron! I'll be honest, I've never read a review of a meal service--sponsored or unsponsored--so I have absolutely no idea how this compares. I'd love to hear what you think! Would you try a meal service like Blue Apron? Have you tried one before, and what did you think?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Six Weeks of Sunday Sisterhood

Life is full of beautiful moments, but also painful ones. It's been an amazing 6 weeks of talking with you and hearing your stories through our Sunday Sisterhood chat series on Instagram. We received hundreds of comments--I've learned so much more than I thought possible about grieving, faith, pain and loss, and I was amazed by your strength over and over. You inspired me, brought me to tears and helped me refocus on what really matters most in life.

If this chat series did the same for even just one person, then all the time and effort that my hosts and I put into this would be worth it a hundred times over. When I started this chat series, I knew I wanted to capture all of your responses so that you (or anyone) could go back and read them anytime. That turned out to be the most powerful part for me, because reading it in this format really gave me a sense of the incredible love and support we shared through each chat. And that's what this was really all about: women supporting women through life's most painful moments.

Here's a list of all our chats with links to each recap. I hope you'll share them with others and comment if you have any feedback or thoughts to add! I would love to hear more from you anytime. God bless, sisters!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Cancer: Sunday Sisterhood Week 6

This was our last Sunday Sisterhood chat, and I think this one surprised me the most out of all of them. I was amazed how many women had been touched personally by cancer, who had either been diagnosed themselves or had a close family member—a parent or sibling—who’d suffered from cancer. I was also amazed at their strength and perspective, which are so inspiring and applicable in whatever pain you’re passing through.

Read all the comments from our Instagram chat on cancer below. And to read recaps of our earlier chats, click here: divorceinfertilitydepressionlosing a loved one and losing a childPlease comment if you have any feedback or thoughts to add!

UPDATE 4/3/17: Now that our series is complete, find the links to recaps on all 6 chats here

What's the hardest part about battling cancer, and what are some things you and your family can do (or that you did) to stay strong through the cancer treatments?

(Host) peachesandpotatoes I've never had cancer, so I can't say from personal experience what the hardest part is. I think the unknown would be the hardest, the treatments, the outcome, always waiting for test results. That's what so scary to me now about cancer! I think to stay strong I would really have to cling to my family and to God. It's not in my nature to reach out and ask for help, but I think I'd have to learn to do that. What do you think? 🍑

thesimplemama I think the hardest part about cancer is that it is all consuming. In your time, your finances, your energy. And there are always lots of unknowns (and reasons to worry). So thankful for our Lord who provides comfort and others to walk beside us when we face earthly struggles like cancer. 🙏🏼

lifeofaministermom I can't speak from the perspective of having had cancer and Lord willing I never will, but one of the biggest challenges I saw those close to me face was the lack of control that you feel. Being able to lean on your faith is imperative and trusting that God is greater than what the doctor says and having His peace even when things are difficult. My sister-in-law really struggled with not being able to do the simple things she could once do easily but I also saw her faith grow so much.

theshaulisfamily I think emotionally it's so so tough. I was lucky and my treatment didn't involve chemo. I do remember late nights in pain after my son was born and I had received treatment. I couldn't sleep, even tho my new baby was, bc my eye hurt so bad from the swelling treatment caused. So that was tough. But more than that was the all encompassing emotional burden. Not knowing the future, trying not to question God, struggling to enjoy each moment instead of worrying about what might happen.

tanacastleberry Honestly, I'm not afraid of cancer. And if you think about it, most people aren't...they are afraid of the treatments. The chemo and radiation. Which makes sense, watching Paul's brother dying...not because of cancer, but because the treatments were killing him. It was spreading and they kept doing chemo. It was frustrating to see them not look into alternative ways when chemo obviously wasn't working. I hear more of people healing themselves with alternative, natural ways than by chemo. Heavenly Father created our bodies to heal themselves. Don't get me wrong..doctors have their place, but cancer isn't really a scary thing and our bodies can heal. Check out Chris Wark on Facebook. He's very inspirational and healed himself when he had cancer and doctors gave him a few years to live. He created a program to help other in their healing.

graceshared@peachesandpotatoes I'm the same way about asking for help. I'm getting better at asking though. I totally agree that family & God would have to be my strength!

graceshared@theshaulisfamily I cannot imagine having to deal with that at the same time as having a newborn.

theshaulisfamily@tanacastleberry I did a lot of natural stuff when I was in treatment. I've slacked off, but I was trying to make my. Dog more alkaline. I definitely think natural healing is wise. I also had laser surgery. Not sure what I would have done is they wanted to do chemo too.
theshaulisfamily@graceshared it was rough for sure. He was a pretty easy baby, but that time of my life was full of MRIs, blood work, appointments, etc. I think God gave him to me during that time so I'd have something to focus on other than myself. I look at him as my special blessing who helped me be thankful.

graceshared@theshaulisfamily Awesome perspective! I feel that way about my oldest. All of my kids are blessings but he was born at a time when things were difficult. He gave me hope, joy, and love. I totally understand what you're saying. Thankful our paths have crossed! You're inspirational.

sayeambe I got acute leukemia when I was in college. The hardest part was that I couldn't do the things that I used to do and I felt like a burden to my family, who had to help me. I was weaker than a kitten, I didn't want to eat, and it was painful. Luckily, I found a holistic doctor who treated me and I didn't have to go through chemo. But I was too ill to drive to get my treatments myself. Once per week, my dear, dear mom would drive an hour and 45 mins to where I lived, then drive me 45 minutes to my appointments, and then travel that distance back home (a 5-hour round trip). The help, love, and continual prayers of my family helped so much. But my faith also helped me through. I knew that if the treatments didn't work, it would be ok. I would see my family again. I think that knowledge helped me avoid depression and have a more positive attitude, which I believe aids in healing.

lenae_hamman@peachesandpotatoes I think your answer is exactly what I would say. I think it would be so hard not knowing what the future held.

peachesandpotatoes@thesimplemama yes, so true! One day your life is about kids and report cards and work and dishes and what color to paint the living room, then the next day life is totally different and it's all about cancer and doing everything you can to beat it. You'd have to put so many things on hold.

peachesandpotatoes@lifeofaministermom I'm so sorry. That would be so hard not to be able to take care of your home or family or do things on your own the way you used to--to need help with everything. Your SIL had angels all around her to help her, but it would be hard to let it all go and put your life in the hands of others and God.

peachesandpotatoes@theshaulisfamily my heart goes out to you! That would be so hard, all of that with a newborn. My biggest worry would definitely be how my kids would be if something happened to me, I totally get that. You are one brave mama!

peachesandpotatoes@theshaulisfamily that's a beautiful perspective too, that God gave him to you to keep you going!

peachesandpotatoes@tanacastleberry that's amazing! I totally agree, my friend. There are so many ways God made for us to heal our bodies.

peachesandpotatoes@sayeambe wow I didn't know that about you! I'm so sorry and I'm glad you're okay now! That is some of the simplest and best advice I've heard! I totally agree a positive attitude can help heal us. Easier said than done, especially with cancer! Our inner voice is so deeply connected to our bodies.

What was it like when you [or your loved one] was diagnosed with cancer?

(Host) theshaulisfamily Have you ever felt absolutely dead inside? Like a numb, hopeless feeling? Knowing your life will never be the same, if you have a life at all? Waking up and praying that this was just a bad dream, but remembering that it wasn't? That's just a small glimpse into what it's like to receive a cancer diagnosis. I was 8 months pregnant when I got the news, surrounded by about 12 underling doctors and the top eye doctor in the world. My cancer, choroidal melanoma, is very rare. So to them I was an interesting specimen. A walking science experiment. They didn't cry, or even shed one tear. But my life was forever changed with the news they gave me. I got in the car with my husband. I texted my sister because I couldn't face talking to her on the phone. Nathan called some people but I couldn't talk. I was in shock. I had such a heavy feeling those next few months I can't even really explain it. My heart was burdened. I was worried. Every minute was a battle. The only thing that helped me was my faith in Jesus. It didn't make everything easy. But I prayed, I chose to be thankful and joyful for what I did have, and I sang through my tears, even though I didn't feel like it. I was diagnosed in October, and I had my son Josiah in November. His name [which we had already picked out before everything happened] means Jehovah Heals. And He has healed me so far. But the life of a cancer patient is always one of uncertainty. Really everyone's future is uncertain...we just have a constant reminder of it. A reminder to enjoy the time we do have, to love our people, and to give thanks to God for all His blessings.

thesimplemama Wow. How scary! Thank you for bravely sharing your story with us. May the Father continue to heal you!!!

thesimplemama I was 17 when I found out my mom had uterine cancer. I remember walking into youth group and getting "the call" from my mom. My youth minister had been given a heads up and was there to talk through it with my sister and me. I think in my brain I thought, "This can't be that serious. She's only 38." It took awhile for me to grasp what was happening and how our lives were going to temporarily change. And in all my teenage selfishness, the way I coped was by running. I never wanted to be home or around my mom. If I could turn back time I would've handled that differently.

lifeofaministermom Josiah...wow. That's the Lord! Reading this just broke my heart gave me chills all at once. I wish that no one ever had to experience this. With both my dad and SIL they had fought cancer before so although the news was devastating I tried to remain optimistic and really took on the role of caregiver and wanting to stay strong for the family. It was hard because I didn't feel like I could ever let my guard down and tried my best to be there for everyone else, but I know it's what the Lord wanted me to do in the situation.

theshaulisfamily@thesimplemama that would be so hard as a 17 year old! Having had cancer, I doubt your Mom wanted to be babied either. I always hated it when people acted like I was dying. I wanted them to act supportive and mostly normal. So maybe your reaction wasn't all bad? 😉 Anyways...glad she's ok. I love hearing happy endings. And now you can help minister to other people who have gone through this.

theshaulisfamily@lifeofaministermom I'm sure you were of invaluable help. You didn't get the happy ending. Didn't your SIL leave behind kids? That is what's hard for me. Understanding the "why" behind the unhappy endings. I have come to the conclusion that we will never understand why God does what he does. And we need to trust Him despite our feelings, based on what we know is true about God....that He is good. I'm curious what your thoughts are?

thesimplemama@theshaulisfamily I love your perspective! Maybe my reaction was just what the Lord intended and my mom needed. Now that I'm the age she was when she had cancer I don't think I would want to be babied either! 😜 I love your son's name and the story along with it. I love how the promises of the Father are shown to us in just the perfect ways!!!

theshaulisfamily@thesimplemama I know. It was such a sweet reminder to me during that tough time. And I still think about it sometimes when I call his name.

lifeofaministermom@theshaulisfamily Trusting Him in spite of our feelings is really where it's at. I've had to really believe that all things do work together for the good.... Even when it doesn't work out the way that we hope or think it will. In my father's case, he wasn't living for Christ but the Lord allowed me to help lead him to salvation just about six weeks before he died. So for me that was an answer to prayer. The answer that mattered most. It was the first time in my life that I truly experienced the peace which surpasses all understanding knowing that he received his healing although it wasn't here on earth like I prayed for. Similarly to my SIL, there was a lot of drama between our family and going through this hard time helped reconcile so much. Our relationship was stronger than ever which doesn't make it hurt any less but at the same time her faith was also in a place I never saw before and that blessed me tremendously. I wish that we could see all these results without them having to leave us but God knows our end from our beginning and I have to keep trusting in His sovereignty.

theshaulisfamily@lifeofaministermom wow! What a testimony. You have that eternal perspective...your Dad was healed in heaven. I especially love a song during my cancer journey...it always seemed to be playing when I needed a reminder. I think it's called Before the Morning. Such a sweet reminder of what you said.

lifeofaministermom@theshaulisfamily I will look that song up. Thank you for sharing your very personal experience with us.

thesimplemama@lifeofaministermom I just teared up reading this part of your story.

theshaulisfamily@lifeofaministermom you too! There is a common bond with those of us who have been affected by cancer.

livewellplaytogetherWhat a beautiful testimony! Thank you for sharing this!

theshaulisfamily@livewellplaytogether you're welcome! Glad I can share with others what God has done.

peachesandpotatoes I can't imagine @theshaulisfamily what a nightmare that would've been, getting that news when you're expecting. 💔 I love your testimony--and everyone's. This chat is...wow. 😮 As a mom you want to always be there for your kids @thesimplemama, so your mom was probably way more worried about you than herself. You are amazing! It seriously breaks my heart to think of God taking me from my family, but I think the people on the other side are closer than we know, and sometimes I think we can do more for Him and our families after we pass on than we can here on earth. That's God's judgement call, and He knows this life is really very short...maybe only minutes in His time. Thinking of it that way has really helped me put all my trials into perspective, like when I was struggling with infertility and recurrent miscarriages. When we're suffering, it feels like it's never ending, but again, life is short, and our joy with Him is what really lasts forever. 🍑

peachesandpotatoes@lifeofaministermom I don't even have words. That's amazing how God used you to bring your dad to Him, and how He used those experiences with your dad and SIL to bring you all closer and make you stronger. I'm so so sorry for your losses. Just completely in awe. 🍑

theshaulisfamily@peachesandpotatoes that's true!! It says somewhere in the Bible that a thousand years is like a day to God.

evagreco@thesimplemama can't imagine how difficult it was for you. Your growing years dealing with your own uncertainties then having to face your mom’s diagnosis. Tough stuff.

evagreco@theshaulisfamily I felt every word of your testimony. Thank you for sharing. God bless you!

theshaulisfamily@evagreco I'm thankful I can help people understand what it's like. Thanks for reading!

evagrecoLove hearing your testimonies. Thank you for sharing your heart and encouragement. Love this sisterhood - dislike the big "C"!

lenae_hammanOh my goodness. This gives me chills. I am so inspired by your strength and your F A I T H! 💙 Prayers for you friend!

thesimplemama@peachesandpotatoes I just adore you and your perspective on things!!

theshaulisfamily@lenae_hamman thank you! I appreciate all the prayers I can get.

How has cancer changed your life? If you're a cancer survivor, what's different about you and the way you live your life now?

thesimplemama I was a high school junior when my sweet mama was diagnosed with uterine cancer at the young age of 38. It was a difficult battle, but our story ends happily: she has been in remission for over 20 years now. #thankyoujesus ðŸ™ðŸ¼ Seeing my mom survive an aggressive cancer reconfirmed to me that the Father is the ultimate physician. We are so lucky to have her here with us as a mom and now a Grammy 💗

theshaulisfamily Cancer survivor here. Glad your mom had a happy ending!! I think that's always in. The back of my mind....what if I don't have a happy ending? Nothing is guaranteed. So I find myself constantly battling worry and fighting to trust God despite my emotions. I make a more conscious effort of enjoy the time I do have. And sometimes I feel disgusted with myself when I'm having a "hard day" because I remember how truly blessed I am to have been given an extra 3 years so far cancer free. ❤

lifeofaministermom I talk often about my dad and SIL that I lost to cancer, but there are so many others that I know who have experienced this terrible disease. For me, it's made me want to be less inhibited and live more freely for the Lord. I'm constantly reminded that no day is guaranteed and I don't want to hold back.

graceshared I've lost two grandparents to cancer. I still struggle with losing them. This past year two aunts battled cancer. Thanking God daily they've both survived and are in remission. My co-worker was also diagnosed with cancer last year. I watch helplessly as I see her struggle day to day. Last but not least a dear friend who has been fighting cancer for many years just had treatment for yet another round with this ugly sickness. Needless to say Cancer is leaving scars on my heart!

thesimplemama@theshaulisfamily A wise friend once told me to remember to give myself grace on the bad days (bc we all have them). And as strange as it sounds, sometimes the bad days help me appreciate the good days even more. I completely struggle with trusting God despite my emotions (I'm actually doing a bible study about that very thing right now!). Praying for your continued health tonight, friend!! 🙏🏼❤

theshaulisfamily@thesimplemama you are so right. Without the bad times we wouldn't appreciate the good as much. ❤

thesimplemama@lifeofaministermom Yes!!! Living each day to the fullest and to further the kingdom is such a good "take-away"...doesn't mean that I'm very good at doing that consistently though. Thank you for sharing your story about your dad and SIL tonight. ❤

lifeofaministermom@thesimplemama I need to be reminded of this too. Even with what our family has experienced . Part of it is having such close encounters with death and knowing that salvation really is a life and death decision. The other part of it is wanting to know that I left it all on the table when it's my time to join them in Heaven.

thesimplemama@graceshared Cancer definitely leaves scars on your heart!! And it sounds like you have faced many a battle with loved ones. I am so sorry that you have walked that road numerous times.

evagreco@thesimplemama in remission for 20 years!! Praise God! Such a horrible disease that I am all to familiar with. I've lost a brother and sister to cancer and currently have another brother and sister battling it as well. When I lost my sister I made the decision to live a holistic life. Constantly learning and passing along information to my family and friends.

thesimplemama@evagreco Oh sweet lady!! I had no idea about your losses. And that your family is walking that road once again. I am so sorry to hear that. 😢 I think it's wonderful that you are able to pass along your knowledge (I probably need to get some wisdom from you about living more clean). You've turned such an ugly thing into something beautiful by helping others. You inspire me ❤

thesimplemama@evagreco Quick topic change-Are you for sure going to the DR this summer???
evagreco@thesimplemama would love to share what I know. And YES! I am for sure going to the DR with my kids!!!

peachesandpotatoes@lifeofaministermom wow, so beautifully said. ❤

peachesandpotatoes@thesimplemama oh I just love that. ❤ That's what His grace is for...the days we don't "have it together" or when we wonder how we can go on.

peachesandpotatoes@evagreco I'm so so sorry for your losses. ❤ You can't catch a break! Praying for you. It's so hard to watch the people you love suffer.

thesimplemama@evagreco Hooray!!!!! I'm glad you're going!! Can't wait to serve with you pretty lady!!! 😘

evagreco@thesimplemama same here! Btw I love this #sundaysisterhood thank you for bringing women together to share their journeys! 😘💛

evagreco@peachesandpotatoes thank you for your prayers! God is good all the time!!

lenae_hamman So glad that your mama is in remission and doing well!! What a completely terrifying situation!

thesimplemama@evagreco Thank you for sharing your stories sweet friend!! My new bloggy friend @peachesandpotatoes organized all these chats and invited me to participate. She is a doll!!!! ❤ Women supporting other women has been so uplifting to me the past 6 weeks 😊

thesimplemama@lenae_hamman Thank you sweet friend! ❤

thesimplemama@peachesandpotatoes YES! So grateful for His grace ❤❤❤

amysalwayslips You know cancer has completely changed my life but I will share a little here too😘 Cancer runs rampant on my mom’s side of our family & out of her 8 brothers & sisters we've lost 6 as well as one of their daughters (a cousin who was more like a sister to me) all who've had cancer & have passed because of it or were fighting it but lost their lives to something else...my mom being one of the 6 is one of the hardest things I've ever walked through...she was my best friend & I'm positive God made sure we became crazy close early in my life knowing I would lose her at 27 (she was only 50)...my girls know her well though through stories & have talked of her often recently which somehow keeps her feeling close😍 Cancer is awful but God has held me close through each fight & I've experienced His peace & comfort in ways I otherwise wouldn't know exist!!!

thesimplemama@amysalwayslips I love you precious friend!! You are my person!! Thank you for sharing your story. Your mama would be so proud of your testimony, faith in the Father, and continued legacy you are leaving with your own darling girls. 💗💗💗💗

Sadly cancer impacts not only the person diagnosed, but the entire family, too. What are some ways to support the individual who has been diagnosed AND the family as a whole when one of their loved ones is facing cancer?

(Host) lifeofaministermom Just over 7 years ago my dad died from non-hodgkins lymphoma, and just over 7 months ago I lost my sister-in-love to breast cancer that had spread to her bones. One of the major things that helped our family was having assistance with the practical needs. Rides for my nieces and nephews. Rides for my family members to and from the treatments. Cleaning. Organizing a meal train, and in general being available with your time. We know that's a challenge for everyone these days but sometimes just being present is what the family needs the most.

hooverandgraceThis is amazing.

theshaulisfamily So sorry for your loss. I hate everything about cancer. I guess everything except how I saw my church family come around me in prayer. I had older ladies give me $20 to get a meal so I didn't have to cook. Someone watched my daughter while I had appointments. I'm with you....physical help, as well as spiritual support goes a long way.

thesimplemama My mom was diagnosed with aggressive uterine cancer when I was a high school junior. She had a full hysterectomy the day before my Jr/Sr Prom. She was unable to be there while I was getting ready and taking pre-Prom pics. But my precious friends went with me to the hospital so she could see us all dressed up...which of course made her day...and I think ultimately made her fight harder for survival. Most of these special friends continue to be in my life today (20 years later) and I still get chills thinking about how they really walked alongside us during that time.

purejoyfromme My heart goes out to you and your family Patricia. We unfortunately lost my father in law 6 yrs ago to NHL and have seen cancer effect so many others, family and friends. Physical support along with emotional and constant love in such a helpless time is so amazingly important. I just wish cancer wasn't a reality.

thesimplemama Those are hard losses. I am so very sorry. 😢 Having assistance with the "practical" needs is such a great suggestion. And sometimes just doing instead of asking what to do is what is really needed. Lifting your family up tonight as you share about your dad and sister-in-law. 🙏🏼

serendipite.ny ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

lifeofaministermom@theshaulisfamily Community is everything and it's a blessing to have that kind of support during these difficult times. ❤❤❤

thekinndproject❤❤❤ thanks for sharing

lifeofaministermom@thesimplemama What remarkable friends!! That's truly a blessing!!!💗💗💗

lifeofaministermom@purejoyfromme same here Susan. Same here. I'm so sorry for your loss as well. 💗
lifeofaministermom@thesimplemama That is a good point. Sometimes people don't want to interfere or be in the way, but volunteering to help really take a lot of the pressure off. Thank you for your kind words too!

evagreco Great point about not asking just doing. The one thing I know has really ministered to my siblings is a simple phone call. A phone call that is not overtaken by talk of cancer. They deal with it 24/7 so anytime they can get a snippet of normal helps!

peachesandpotatoes@evagreco wow that's so powerful! A phone call just to be a friend. I love that.

lenae_hammanI'm so so sorry for your losses. I'm sure it's the small kind gestures that mean the most! 💙💙

lifeofaministermom@evagreco That's so true!! A great suggestion!!!

lifeofaministermom@lenae_hamman Thank you❤❤❤

onedeterminedlifeI think that the practical things are amazing. I think to, it's not just about when they are sick, but when that person is gone. Being there for the family and continuing to be a blessing.

lifeofaministermom@onedeterminedlife That's a very good point. It's so important for that support to continue. 💜