A few days ago I discovered horrible tooth decay while brushing one of the kid’s teeth. I’m not sure how it developed so quickly and without loud complaint, but it was quite disturbing. If a dentist’s office would have been open then, I would have made an appointment immediately.

Instead, I fretted and tossed and turned in bed that night until the hymn fragment “everything to God in prayer” ran through my mind. I committed the dental problem (and my guilt at not discovering it sooner) to God and drifted off to a peaceful sleep.

The next morning we got an appointment with a great dentist who took care of the problem immediately. On the way home, I began thinking about the brand new baby chicks we’d bought the day before. My sister was baby-and-chick-sitting, but I couldn’t reach her to make sure she’d given them fresh water.

Once again, the temptation to worry arose. Once again the words “everything to God in prayer” combatted them.

God cares about the details of our lives and wants us to talk to Him about them, as we would to our father or brother or friend.

As Christians we should pray earnestly and fervently for the many great and pressing needs around us. But as Corrie ten Boom so beautifully said, “There is nothing too great for God’s power, nothing too small for His love.”

Even though the hearts of kings are in His hands and He decrees the destinies of nations, He is not offended when we bring our children’s dental problems or even our baby chicks before His throne.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

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Our Backyard Flock

Last week the kids and I went to a local hatchery and became proud owners of six adorable baby chicks. Now the soft chirp of baby chicks mingles with the morning songs of the numerous wild birds that flit about our backyard. 

I haven’t owned a pet since I was ten, so the fact that we have pet chickens is taking a little while to sink in. But after months of the children begging us to get a pet (and ruling out a dog because I don’t want to train one and/or have one ruin my garden) we decided to buy baby chicks, raise them, and hope to have chickens that double as pets and egg-layers.

Joshua spent two Saturdays building the most adorable chicken coop ever. My in-laws and friend Elissa have graciously answered the dozens of questions I’ve pestered them with. All the chicks have survived so far [insert deep sigh of relief] and have provided many giggles already.

Isn’t the coop ADORABLE?! Two of Joshua’s brothers stayed up late working on it with him. Don’t you love the chicken cut-out Jay made? (Thanks Jay and Sam!)

When the chicks were just two days old, a moth made the misfortunate decision to fly in front of their brooder lamp. Instantly the chicks scrambled over their feeder and around the waterer trying to grasp a hold of it. Three times the silly moth escaped but flew right back into the chick’s home. Finally, one of the Barred Rocks grabbed it in her beak. 

Now the real struggle commenced. The moth tried frantically to escape her grip while the other chicks chased her around the pen trying to grab the moth from her. The Barred Rock raced with all her might while trying to swallow the poor moth and fend off the others with her tail feathers.

It was quite the spectacle. Finally the Barred Rock succeeded in swallowing her snack and the chicks settled peacefully down for the night.

Despite a bit of nervousness, given my lack of animal experience, I am so excited to have our own little chicken flock and have spent hours and hours researching how to care for and raise our backyard flock naturally and frugally. It’s going to be a fun adventure!

Ending the day with clean counters is a little like going to bed with a clear conscience. Clean counters certainly pale in comparison, but they make the day feel finished and walking into the kitchen in the morning a treat.

The problem is, at least in my house, that the kitchen counters are the perfect place for papers to pile up, Lego creations to accumulate, and half-finished projects to gather dust.

Homes are to be lived in. Love, not cleanliness, is next to Godliness. That said, when I walk into a tidy kitchen in the morning it jumpstarts the day, makes breakfast more enjoyable, and helps even an exhausted Mama be much more happy to be around.

Clearing the counter’s accumulated mess usually only takes a few minutes. Even though I know it will be worth it in the morning, I often don’t get around to it after I wash the dinner dishes.

So after a very long break from focusing on developing new habits, in the month of April my challenge is to have the kitchen counters completely cleared each night before I go to bed.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be thanking myself every morning.

Anyone else want to join me? (With this challenge or your own!)

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

Photo credit

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With the Obamacare penalty-tax scheduled to go into effect and private insurance rate hikes, many are looking for an alternative: consider Samaritan Ministries. Thanks to the dedicated work of a handful of people and God’s goodness, health sharing ministries like Samaritan meet the requirements to avoid the penalty. That’s only one of many reasons why I’m glad we have Samaritan Ministries….

Nearly in tears from frustration, I picked up the phone to call Samaritan Ministries.

The problem? They require that you provide an itemized bill when you submit a medical need to get reimbursed. It seemed so simple. How hard can it be to get a bill with exactly what it you’re being charged for?

Apparently, pretty difficult sometimes.

Despite an amazing OB and wonderful nurses, I could not get an itemized bill from the hospital I’d visited during my pregnancy with Meg. I called numerous times. Waited for weeks for an itemized bill to be mailed. It never showed up. I trekked to different offices with two little kids in tow trying to get someone to give me an actual real bill. Just a bill. All to no avail.

Then I called Samaritan Ministries.

As I explained the situation, frustration clearly evident in my voice, our team leader said, “Anna, don’t worry about this anymore. God loves babies. So do we. Stop worrying about getting an itemized bill and let us take care of it for you. You’ve tried but now it’s time to just focus on the baby that’s about to enter the world and let us take over.”

I got off the phone and did the only logical thing a pregnant mama would do. Cried. For joy.

It’s not every day that you call to get a medical need covered and get such a clear reminder of God’s love for you and for new life: but that’s only one of the many reasons why I love Samaritan Ministries (SMI).

Biblical model of care of Christians for Christians

Christians are supposed to care for the needy and hurt everywhere, but we have a special duty toward fellow Christians. The Bible is pretty clear on that. (Gal. 6:10)

SMI is set up on that foundation. Christians send money and encouragement to fellow Christians with medical needs. Small needs (under $300) that a family cannot afford, are assumed to be the responsibility of the local church. Needs larger than $300 get shared around the globe.

Isn’t that exciting? It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it because it seems like this is how it should be.

(SMI leaders are also heading up an exciting new ministry to provide free top-notch maternity care to women in the inner city called the Morning Center.)

Low monthly cost and good “coverage”

The cost of insurance is high and getting higher. According to Kaiser, the average cost of insurance for a family in 2012 was $15,745. Even if the employer paid the bulk of the cost, the out-of-pocket premium was still $4,316 on average.

That’s a lot of money. Especially for young healthy growing families.

When Joshua started his job as a Federal Judicial Clerk almost three years ago, we had a choice: regular insurance or stay with Samaritan. It didn’t take long to decide.

Our portion of the insurance premiums was still more than our monthly share at Samaritan… even though the tax-payers would have covered 75% of the premium. Plus, the plan only covered 80% of costs until a fairly high threshold was met.

On the other hand, Samaritan covers 100% of medical needs over $300, assuming needs aren’t prorated. (The company operates on a cash basis. If more needs come in than money from members, needs are pro-rated. As far as I know, every time that this has happened in the past, God has provided through lower needs being submitted the next month, negotiations with hospitals, or extra donations from members. It happened with our bill from Meg and it’s so FUN seeing God work!)

Not only did we want to save tax-payers money (you’re welcome), I’d way rather send our monthly check to pay for fellow Christians’ medical needs than pay into a system that covers things I don’t believe in and has incredibly high overhead costs.

Incentive to pursue a healthy lifestyle (plus flexibility of treatment)

When you know your health decisions affects won’t just affect yourself, they’ll affect the pocketbooks of Christians around the globe, choosing a healthy lifestyle becomes even more worthwhile.

And, when you do need treatment, SMI offers way more flexibility than insurance companies. A friend from church was recently diagnosed with cancer. Rather undergo chemotherapy here in the States, he asked if SMI would pay for him to travel abroad for alternative treatment that has a good track record of efficacy. SMI agreed.

Excellent maternity coverage

As I’ve already said, SMI adopts God’s attitude toward children: they love them. This is reflected in their maternity coverage.

Plus, if you choose to use a midwife or have a VBAC, they waive the initial $300 you normally would be responsible for covering since your choice saves SMI members a considerable amount of money.

(There are, understandably, some restrictions if you become a member while pregnant. Read about them here-page 28.)

Tired of regular insurance? Make the switch.

If you are sick of health insurance, I encourage you to consider switching to Samaritan Ministries It has been a huge blessing to our family.

[If you decide to use Samaritan Ministries and would like to bless our family, you can put down "Feminine Adventures" as a referral and we will get a discount on upcoming "shares". If you prefer not doing that, I totally understand! I share about them here because they have been a genuine blessing to me and my family and I hope to see the ministry continue to grow.]

 If you use SMI, I’d love to hear what you think! Have you had as wonderful an experience as we have? 

  Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

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After the coldest winter I remember since moving from Greenland at the age of six, the buds are swelling on the trees and the birds are singing a noisy welcome to spring. Before waving a happy farewell to winter myself, I thought I’d highlight a few memories because I forget so easily and have had requests for baby pictures.

1-2-3 Go! Cheesy faces everyone! 

We welcomed in the new year with debilitating fevers, lingering coughs, and a stomach flu. When I wasn’t sick in bed or snowed in, I spent most of my spare hours in January painting, scrubbing, and fixing up the home we bought when we where first married [and rented out to family when we moved for law school].

I naively thought that we could knock out the house in a day or two. For most of January we spent our Saturdays and free evenings over at the house as a family.

During the week, I went with the kids. I’m not sure why, but the kiddos thought hanging out in the empty house was a blast. They packed school books and a few favorite toys and spent many happy hours playing in bare rooms and building houses in empty closets while I scrubbed and painted.

By the time February rolled around, we were finally ready to list the home. We decided to try the For Sale By Owner route first. We advertised an open house on Zillow and Craigslist, stuck signs in the yard, and then we waited. A grand total of zero people showed up for the open house.

It was kind of discouraging. And funny. We decided a realtor was worth the expense. (As of St. Patrick’s Day, the house is under contract! Hurray!)

Rose, Will, and my sister Kathryn helping my Mom and me scrub the tile. Despite having her own huge projects, she spent hours helping us! <3

Teeth have also played an important part in the lives of our oldest and youngest this winter. For months, Rose has given us excited updates on the wigglyness of her teeth and has looked forward to losing her very first tooth. She finally attained this badge of growing up. The next day Edmund began cutting his first teeth. Rose was definitely more excited about losing her tooth than he is about gaining his.

Not only did Rose lose her first tooth this winter, after weeks of begging me to teach her how to make something all by herself, I let her make pancakes one evening for dinner with a little supervision. Last weekend we were treated to a delicious pile of pancakes she made all by herself (with Will’s help).

Legos made their way into our home at Christmas. Since then the Legos have provided dozens of hours of entertainment. William especially loves designing. His space ships, airplanes and hospitals are the center of many creative stories.

All the kids would love for us to get a dog, but I’ve told them that though I absolutely love having four children to care for and train, I don’t want to have to train a dog too. A few weeks later the kids were talking and Will said, “When I grow up I want to be a farmer and have lots and lots of animals,” he continued a bit sadly, “so I can’t get married and have kids.” I assured him that animals and families go very well together. just don’t have the energy or desire to train a dog right now.

(I did just find out that our city allows SIX chickens per household, not four like I thought. For some reason that makes raising them seem so much more worthwhile, since, ahem, I know it would be so much easier than having a dog. Right?)

Partly because she’s so tall and partly because she’s very independent, strangers regularly assume Meg is at least three. Sometimes even I forget she’s only two. She loves trying everything the big kids do…with varied degrees of success. Her latest obsession is puzzles and she spends hours each week building and rebuilding them.

Except when he’s teething, Edmund is one of the cheerfullest fellows around and loves the attention his big sisters and brother lavish on him. He giggles and coos and constantly thumps everything around him. He’s perfecting the art of rolling around, scooting in circles, and trapping himself in awkward positions.

There are few things like watching your children grow up to make the fleetingness sink in! I find myself forgetting things so quickly and am making a conscious effort to stop and enjoy.

How has your winter been?