Gentle, Natural Foaming Hand Soap {In Less Than Two Minutes}

Make your own gentle, natural foaming hand soap with just three simple ingredients! A few months ago my hands started getting super sensitive. Every time I washed my hands, they stung. I had to rinse and rinse and rinse them until not even a faint scent of soap lingered. Clearly, my skin wasn’t very happy with the regular soap I was using.

I’m not sure whether it was the dyes, scents, unpronounceable chemicals, or maybe triclosan (the active ingredient in most anti-bacterial soaps) that was giving my skin such grief. Whatever it was, I knew I had to find a more natural alternative. (Even the FDA has questioned the effectiveness and safety of anti-bacterial soaps for normal use– read more here, here, and here.)

When I read Katie’s post about the easiest foaming hand soap ever and then Kristen at Smithspirations success, I knew I had to give it a try. It is so easy, so frugal, and an excellent natural alternative to regular soap.

Natural Foaming Hand Soap {In Less Than Two Minutes}

With just three simple ingredients, you can make amazing (soothing) all-natural foaming soap!

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

What you’ll need

  • Empty foaming soap bottle (reusing empty foaming soap bottles works great too, as long as they’re decent quality. That’s what I did. )
  • Castile soap, or your favorite liquid hand soap (this is the castile soap I bought and LOVE)
  • Water
  • Sweet almond oil, optional (Since my hands get so dry in the winter, I love having this non-greasy oil in the soap. My hands are much less chafed than they used to be. The oil is totally optional though.)
  • Peppermint essential oil, optional

(Oh, I just was browsing Amazon and found a castile soap with peppermint oil and a castile soap that already has sweet almond oil in it! Mountain Rose Herbs has a great price on sweet almond oil, but their shipping is more expensive.)

Instructions

  1. Pour 2 T. of soap into the bottle (or just dump a little bit in!)
  2. Add 2 T. of sweet almond oil (or just dump a little bit in!)
  3. Add a few drops of peppermint oil.
  4. Slowly fill the bottle the rest of the way with water. Screw the lid on and that’s it. All-natural DIY foaming hand soap in less than two minutes, for a fraction of the cost of normal soap!

In less than two minutes, you can make your own gentle, natural foaming hand soap... for pennies!

Make your own foaming hand soap

Not only is it incredibly easy to make your own foaming hand soap, it’s a very frugal way to go green… and avoid stinging hands!

January Goal Update

Goals don’t do much good if you write them down and promptly shove them to the back of your mind. So each month I want to review my goals for the year and share my progress (or lack of progress) with you. I’d love to hear how you are doing on your goals!

Having goals is great, but if you don't regularly review them and keep working on them, they probably won't be reached. Here is an update to my goals for this year.

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Grow a perfect tomato plant

With the absolutely gorgeous spring-like weather we’ve enjoyed already, garden fever has definitely set in. But the unseasonably warm snap came to a snowy end this morning. It may be “cheating”, but since I only want a few tomatoes of each variety, I’m not planning to grow them from seed. It just isn’t worth the time investment. So it’s not quite time to start on this goal yet! 

Finish my poetry curriculum

I’m still tweaking the organization and adding more ideas and teaching tips. I have worked on it though and hope to be done by April! (Look for a post soon with the very first poem I had my children learn and simple hands-on ideas for teaching poetry.) Slow, but steady, progress on this goal. 

Read through the Bible as a family

(We’re continuing through the New Testament in the morning as we follow along with the Church calendar, and are reading from the Old Testament in the evenings as a family.)

We’ve had some very busy days when we didn’t have a chance to read, but have been able to stay mostly on track reading through the Bible with this plan. 

Learn how to take beautiful photos

We are getting a new camera this month! I haven’t made much progress yet, but can hardly wait to really buckle down and attack this goal when our camera arrives! 

Make intentional family memories

This year I want to be more intentional about making memories and tying heart strings. The kids and I made some fun, icy memories on my parent’s frozen creek bed, Josh and I taught Rose how to play Settlers of Catan, and we’ve spent countless hours reading and playing games together.

This may seem like a very little thing, but it’s a little thing that had been gnawing at my selfishness. Almost every night, Will asks me if I’ll rub his feet. Oftentimes I really don’t want to. All the kids are tucked in bed, we’ve given goodnight kisses, and I feel like I deserve to go kick my own feet up. Instead of groaning inwardly at his request, I’m trying to grasp it as an opportunity to show him love, talk over the day, and tie heartstrings.

So even if it’s just in baby steps, I am making progress in this goal. 

Master the art of whole grain sourdough bread

I’ve still got a long way to go on this one! 

Reach 100,000 visitors per month

And on this one! 

Write 300+ words every day

I’ve had a few good stretches but there have been plenty of days I just don’t have time or inclination to write. Of course, being a homemaker should trump writing about homemaking, but often it’s just a lack of discipline on my part.

Crystal, from Money Saving Mom, shared a really handy idea for sticking with goals like this one: print off a mini calendar and mark each day. Long-time readers now I’m a huge list fan, so this should really help me stay disciplined and keep track of progress. I have a calendar printed off and taped to my laptop. A bit of progress, but hopefully February will be better! 

Habit update: get dressed before breakfast

I also have one habit that I’m working on: getting dressed before breakfast. (Lofty, isn’t it?!) Those of you who always get dressed first thing when you hop out of bed, are probably shaking your head in wonder at how someone could not get dressed right away, but when a morning starts out full-speed with hungry kids and urgent little needs, I find it really hard. Now that I’ve made getting dressed first a priority, it’s amazing how much smoother the morning goes! A sixty second wait for breakfast is definitely worth it.

There have still been days when I’ve forgotten/given in to the rush of the morning, but I’ve almost made it every day. Hopefully by the end of next month, this will be an ingrained life-long habit and I can join the camp of those who *always * get dressed first thing. Hopefully… 

January’s Goal Update

Now it’s your turn. How are you doing on your current goals?

Goals for 2015

I can scarcely believe that January is more than half over and we’re celebrating Martin Luther King Day, not New Years. It’s kind of embarrassing to just now be getting my goals for this year down on paper, but late is better than never, right?

goals-2015

World travel is not one of this year’s goals, but this beautiful photo made me think of reaching for our goals. 

Goals for 2015

Grow a perfect tomato plant

This may seem a bit silly, but one of my lifelong goals is to become a master gardener. There is something about playing in the dirt and watching life spring from the ground that amazes and calms and invigorates me, all at the same time. Human history began in a garden and will end in an even more spectacular one, so I think gardens are special to our Creator too!

Though I’ve had a garden for years, I have yet to master the art of growing a perfect tomato plant. My tomatoes usually do great for a while, and then succumb to disease or pests. This year I want to learn all I can about tomato horticulture in hopes of growing a tomato plant that thrives right up till the first frost.

Finish my poetry curriculum

Last summer I combed through thousands of poems and picked over 75 of the most beautiful, funny, and inspiring poems. I’ve spent weeks arranging and rearranging them into five levels for my children to memorize during the grammar stage of school. We used the first two levels at the weekly classical academy our children attend. I’ve been blown away with how well the children have memorized, recited, and retained the poems and how genuinely they seem to enjoy poetry.

This year I want to finish making audio recordings of the poems, compile teaching tips, and have the entire set ready to sell.

Read through the Bible as a family

This year our pastor challenged each of us to spend more time in the Word and encouraged us to join along in reading through the Bible with this  plan. We’re continuing through the New Testament in the morning as we follow along with the Church calendar, but have started reading from the Old Testament in the evenings as a family.

I’m loving the way it’s broken up into Old and New Testament readings with portions from Psalms and Proverbs each day. So far it’s been going well, but personally I’ve always had a hard time keeping up once we hit Leviticus.

Learn how to take beautiful photos

I’m so grateful you’ve put up with my poorly-lit, unfocused camera pictures for so long. This year I want to make your viewing a bit more pleasurable.

The Elite Blog Academy has some great starting tips, and my sisters have let me play around with their camera. But Joshua spilled the secret of what he’s getting me soon (any guesses?!) and I cannot wait to learn how to capture beautiful photos with it.

Make intentional family memories

As the lateness of this post proves to me, time slips away so quickly. This year I want to be more intentional about making memories with my family and savoring the little things.

I want to intentionally tie heartstrings with each child each week and go on at least one weekend getaway with Joshua (his sister lives in Alaska….)

Master the art of whole grain sourdough bread

I’ve been making whole wheat bread since I was twelve. Sourdough bread is a completely different adventure. I tried finding the perfect sourdough bread recipe a few years ago, but couldn’t. Just recently, my friend Aneysa gave me a beautiful new starter and some great tips.

I’ve made a few decent loaves, but want to perfect the art of sourdough bread. Not only because it’s yummy, but because it’s so much easier for our bodies to digest than regular bread.

Reach 100,000 visitors per month

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the different aspects there are to blogging: writing, editing, photography, optimization, social media…  But I love blogging. I love writing and connecting with you. I love journaling this delightful chaos of everyday adventures.

Reach 100,000 visitors per month seems crazy and a bit scary, but it’s a goal I’ve wanted to reach for a long time. This year I’m going to aim for it.

Write 300+ words every day

This totally ties in with my last goal. I love writing, but am pretty slow at it. Like any skill, becoming a good and not-really-slow writer takes lots and lots and lots of practice.

I love this quote my sis-in-law Jenny shared on Pinterest “Write fearlessly. Edit mercilessly.” That’s what I want to practice a little of each day, except Sunday.

2015 Goals

So there are my big goals for the year. What are your goals for this year (which you probably had written down weeks ago!)? Do you have any tomato-growing tips for me?

Savoring This Mommy Adventure

On Saturday, Joshua took the three older kids to his parents house so they could play while he worked on bookshelves for his study (he’s almost done—happy squeal!) Ned had a cold and I had a pounding headache so we stayed home for naps.

Savoring-your-children

Just looking for something mischievous to do. (thanks Lydia for the photo) 

Three hours later, Ned woke up with a grin. For the rest of the afternoon, we had a quiet home all to ourselves. It was like having an only child again. I had a few things to do (like conquer my disgustingly dirty kitchen floor), but most of the time I just soaked in the quiet moments with him.

With a grin, he would look at me, take a couple steps, then turn to see if I was following him. When he saw me coming, he’d burst into a laugh and take a few more steps. We traipsed upstairs and into the girls’ bedroom. He found his favorite chair and plopped himself down. Then burst into stomach rippling giggles.

Then the game changed. Whatever I did, he tried to copy with a grunt or baby babble. It was adorably hilarious.

As I savored the time watching him, laughing with him, and simply enjoying his sweet, funny personality, I realized how much better I want to be about intentionally enjoying my children. Not just on days when I get special one-on-one time, but every single day.

The days and years seem to slip by so quickly. Before we know it, our little ones will be grown and gone. Take time to savor this mommy adventure with them.

Savoring this mommy adventure

I want to laugh with my children more. That good, roaring kind of laughing that sends tears down your face and leaves you a bit breathless.

I want to play with my children more, and not just teach them to play happily with each other.

I want to take time to look into their eyes, and press “pause” for just a moment.

I want to savor each unique personality more, even though it’s sometimes hard to do in the midst of the chaos.

I want to invite them into the kitchen or garden with me every day, even when it makes whatever I’m working on take twice as long.

I want to make more happy memories together as we build our family culture.

I want to ask them more questions, and listen better to their answers.

I want to fully embrace this adventure of motherhood, and never lose sight of the fact that I wouldn’t trade this messy, exhausting, delightful job for any in the world.

Because before I know it, these little ones will be all grown up. I’m hoping they’ll overlook the fact that my kitchen floor was rarely spotless, because their memories are full of laughter, and cuddles, and love.

You Can Reach Any Goal

“You can reach any goal if you’re willing to work on it every day and not give up.” So said a college football commercial. We would all be in a heap of trouble if we believed every commercial, but these words were so encouraging to me as I struggled with complete lack of motivation.

Despite trying to say “no” more, we’ve been on the go a lot this season. In the past three and a half weeks, we’ve had exactly one day at home without anything going on. Way too many late nights and too many holiday treats definitely took their toll on me.

I hardly opened my laptop all Christmas break, and when I did, a blank screen with a blinking cursor kept staring me in the face. My words got all jumbled up in my mind. I felt physically exhausted and emotionally and spiritually drained.

The bad news is that actually reaching our goals doesn't happen without lots of hard work and a bit of stubbornness. The good news is that you can reach almost any goal if you work at it faithfully each day and refuse to give up.

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Despite a complete lack of motivation lately, I love blogging. One of my major goals for this year is to grow this little blog. I have some big dreams, and honestly, I’m more than a little scared. I’m afraid of offending someone, or loosing motivation, or getting writer’s block. I’m afraid because I know how inconsistent I can be when it comes to blogging. In short, I’m afraid of failing.

But sometimes God gives us just the encouragement we need in the craziest places, like in a football commercial.

I want to grow this blog. I’ve wanted to for a long time. But it’s not going to happen if I’m paralyzed by fear of failure. It’s not going to happen if I neglect writing day after day. It’s not going to happen unless I work on this little blog faithfully and don’t give up.

Whatever your New Year’s goals are, remember that if you work on them faithfully and refuse to give up, you can reach them.

P.S. Looking for a fun way to stay motivated? Check out this simple trick to stick with your goals from Money Saving Mom.

Do you have any big, scary goals for this year?

Habit Challenge: Get Dressed Before Breakfast

Two steps forward. One and a half steps backward. Anyone else feel this way when you think about the habits you want to develop? I sure do. But with the dawn of the new year, I’ve been thinking about what habits would help me become a better wife, mom, and woman.

Getting dressed before breakfast stood out as one that would really influence my daily life. The bad thing is, I vaguely remembered working on getting dressed before breakfast eons ago. After a bit of digging around, I realized I tried to develop this habit exactly three years ago. I even shared how much more cheerful and productive I felt.

Are you looking to develop good new habits this year? Join me for the Habit Challenge.

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Huh. Something has happened in the three years since then. I might get all the kids dressed early, but finding three minutes of quiet to get dressed myself seems infinitely harder. I can count the number of times I’ve been dressed before breakfast in recent memory on one hand.

So, because I believe my younger self that it would make a huge difference in my day, I’m going to try to re-learn this habit. Anyone else want to join me?

Supposedly it takes about a month to develop a habit. Most things take longer when you’re a mom of littles, so I’m going to give myself two months, just to make sure I really get the habit ingrained this time.

It may not seem very ambitious to spend two months working on something as simple as getting dressed before breakfast, but if I can develop this habit (plus five others this year!), I will be one happy Mama. (And really, since it can take me hours just to get my bed made, getting dressed before breakfast will actually be a decently hard challenge!)

Want to join me in developing new habits this year? What are you working on? 

Fall Reading Report

Committing to post what I’ve read has been an incredible motivator to practice what I preach and actually make more time for reading!

Life has been too busy to get sucked into any novels (because I have the hardest time putting them down once started) but I’m hoping to cuddle up by the fire during this Christmas break with a can’t-put-it-down book or two.

Fall Reading

Fit to Burst

Fit to Burst: excellent encouragement for moms! Rachel Jancovic’s first book,Loving the Little Years, is one of the most encouraging books for moms I’ve read, so I had great expectations for this sequel. Fit to Burst lived up to my expectations.

It’s not a simple how-to book for moms. Instead, it’s brimming with practical Scriptural encouragement on discipline, sacrifice, LAUGHTER, and embracing our job as a noble and worthwhile way to glorify God and redeem our culture. Purchase here

Blogging for Profit (Without Selling Your Soul)

Blogging for Profit, Without Selling Your SoulWritten by Ruth Soukop (the talented woman behind the EBA blogging course I’m taking) this book is a condensed step-by-step guide to building a blog, growing your platform, and eventually earning a profit.

So far the changes I’ve implemented have helped with the first two. I’ve yet to make more than I’ve put into the blog, but thoroughly enjoyed this book (and the course!) Purchase here

Eat That Frog!

Eat that Frog! 21 steps to increase productivity. Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Brian Tracy takes this quote and applies it to our work habits. He point out that we waste so much time on trifling things because we’re dreading the really important “frog” in our day that we ought to be “eating” first. Eat That Frog! is a short book packed with 21 strategies for redeeming the time. Purchase here

Climbing

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a missionary memoir. This one by Rosalind Goforth was excellent. At times it felt a bit disjointed, but it was a beautiful and inspiring look at life in early 1900s China from the perspective of a wife, mother, and missionary. (She had 11 children!) Purchase here. 

 Memory: How to Develop, Train, and Use It

I started listening to this book on Librivox and found it really helpful. [My memory can be pretty horrid.] I’ve got a confession to make though: I’m not planning to finish it. Not because it’s bad or anything, but it seems to be getting redundant and I have so much to put into practice from the first 14 chapters, that continuing to cram more information into my head doesn’t seem helpful. (After all, not finishing every book, is one good way to find time-and motivation- to read more.

Family Reading

We’re laughing our way through Farmer Boy (again) and finished listening to The Jungle Book.

I’ve been blown away with how much the children have been loving reading through the stories of the Old Testament (straight from the Bible!) After reading stories from the Old Testament almost every single day since Pentecost, I find myself longing to read about Jesus in a way I didn’t think possible before. It’s made this season of Advent all the more real to me. (Here’s how, and why, we’re reading through the Bible with the Church calendar.)

On the Bookshelf for this Winter

(I’m hoping to actually finish more of the books from my summer bookshelf read!)

 What have you read lately? Any suggestions for the perfect can’t-put-it-down-book? 

[Full disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links.]

How to Make Time for Reading

Does your stack of books to read keep growing, but you can’t seem to make any progress through them?

That’s how I felt when I looked over my booklist at the beginning on the summer: I had only finished reading two books in the first six months of the year (unless children’s literature counts!) The list of books on my want-to-read list kept growing, but even though I’d read lots of articles and blog posts and snippets here and there, I simply couldn’t seem to make my way through whole books.

How to make time to read, even when you're a busy homemaker.

Although I love articles and blog posts (and hope you do to), my ratio of books to blog posts was way off. My brain felt like it was constantly hopping from one thought to another without adequately digesting the information and allowing myself time to reflect and learn from what I read.

So one of my personal goals over the summer was to make time to read good books. I doubt I’ll ever read a dozen books a month like Money Saving Mom, but at least now I’m reading more than one per season!

If you also find yourself in a reading rut, here are a few simple strategies that helped me make time to read.

How to Make Time for Reading

View Reading as Worth the Time

“We all have 24 hours in a day…. what we make of that time is up to us.” As Andrea Dekker elaborates in her excellent post: We Have the Time, once we stop saying “I don’t have time for _______” and instead saying, “I’ve chosen not to make time for _______” we will begin to take responsibility for our time.

Maybe at this stage in your life, reading is not a priority. That’s okay. But if you do want to read more, you need to view it as worth the time.

Eliminate Time-Wasting Distractions

Although I hadn’t “found” time to read many books on my booklist, I had found time to browse Facebook daily. Something had to change. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with checking Facebook regularly, but we only have 24 hours in a day and have to choose how best to redeem them.

For me, that meant making Facebook hard to access on my phone. The Kindle App replaced it. Now, when I have a few minutes, instead of scrolling through my feed, I spend a few minutes reading a book.

Although these fragments of time on my Kindle app haven’t amounted to an incredible amount, I find myself more refreshed and rested than if I hopped all over the place on social media.

Conveniently Place Books

If your books constantly end up at the bottom of a stack of junk mail, chances are they won’t get read. Place books were you can easily reach them when you might have a chance to read: on your nightstand, next to the couch, in your purse, etc.

Don’t Finish Every Book

Some people have a tendency to start half a dozen books and never finish them. My tendency is to start a book and then feel guilty if I don’t finish it. Which made me put off reading to avoid the book on top of my pile that I didn’t really want to finish but felt like I ought to finish before starting another.

That’s silly.

Time is limited. Finishing a book  just to say we’ve finished it is silly and stubborn. As John Irving said, “Grown-ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying.” (Thanks Modern Mrs. Darcy for sharing this awesome quote!)

Pick Good Books to Begin With

“You’ll be the same person in five years as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

Ideas challenge and change us. Our book selections should inspire us to the good, the true, and the beautiful. (One of many reasons we should seek to be women of the Word.)

It’s also why we should be picky about what books we read. Although I have given myself grace to not finish books, picking good books to begin with is even better: read a snippet, get a trusted review, or skim through the contents before making a selection.

Use Books to Fight Insomnia

When my head hits the pillow, my mind likes to start racing. Sometimes I lie awake for hours. Reading the right type of book can help. I have a selection of books I fondly call my “insomnia books” by my bed just for nights I can’t sleep.

Looking for the perfect insomnia-fighting book? Avoid fast-paced novels, thrilling biographies, or any book that you find too engrossing to put down. Choose books that are calming and uplifting like the Psalms, devotionals, and non-fiction texts.

Listen to Audiobooks

Make monotonous jobs pleasurable by listening to books while you work. It’s amazing how much faster the ironing seems to go when you’re listening to a story.

A few favorite sources are Librivox (whose goal is to record–for free– all works in the Public Domain), Christian Audio (which offers a free selection each month), the library, and Audible (which offers a free credit to new members and high quality work— thanks Natalie!).

Ponder What You’ve Read

This may not help you zoom through more books. It is worth it though.

Once you’ve finished a book, don’t instantly jump into the next one. Take a few minutes, or hours, or days to soak in what you read. To digest it. To savor it. To become changed by it. Because reading a book without gleaning from it is just a waste of time.

Reading good books helps us grow as women, wives, and mothers. *Finding* time to read as busy moms is hard though. Here are a few simple strategies that helped me!

Make Time to Read as a Busy Mom

Good books help make us better wives, moms, teachers, and Christians. Finding time to read is worth the effort! By placing books strategically throughout your home, eliminating time-wasting distractions, listening to audiobooks, and using books to fight insomnia, even busy Moms can carve out a little time each day to read.

(If you struggle to find time to read the Bible, here are a few ways that I’ve found help me get to spend time in God’s Word, even when my days are crazy.) 

 What are your best time-management tips for reading more? Any awesome books I need to add to my booklist? 

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For those curious, the two books I read the first half of the year were Good-Bye is Not Forever and I’m No Angel, both excellent autobiographies!

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post may be my referral links. Photo credit/photo credit.]

How to Make Meals for Others (When the Thought is Totally Overwhelming)

A few months ago, I stood in my kitchen feeling totally overwhelmed.

I had offered to bring a meal to a friend, but couldn’t come up with a good dinner idea. All morning I’d stewed over what to make, and still hadn’t pinned down an idea.

Something needed to change.

That’s when I realized I was going about the whole thing wrong. Instead of focusing on the reason for making a meal in the first place (to bless a friend with dinner) I was stressed out because I just knew it wouldn’t be good enough.

Over the course of the afternoon, I realized that my heart needed to change.

  • I needed to STOP worrying that my friend might think I wasn’t a good cook.
  • I needed to STOP stressing over having it look like the meal from Pinterest.
  • I needed to START seeking to serve my friend in love.

If you have ever stood in the middle of your kitchen wishing you hadn’t signed up to bring that meal because the thought it totally overwhelming, here are a few things that helped me.

Embrace the WHY

Why did you sign up to bring that meal in the first place?

Jesus serves His church with food: by making food spring from the earth & giving us of His body at the Lord’s supper. Sharing food is one way we can serve others too.

This is why we bring one another meals: to serve, to love, and to support. When serving others as we’ve been served by Jesus is the focus, a lot of the stress melts away.

Select Go-To Meals

The hard part for me isn’t actually making the meal, its’s deciding what to make in the first place. Select a handful of meals that you like to prepare, get generally good reviews, and freeze well as your go-to meals. Think back on the meals that you’ve received. Which ones did your family love the most?

Since many of our friends prefer gluten-free, two of my options cater to that. These are my meal options:

  • Creamy Spinach & Chicken Alfredo
  • GF Southwestern Chicken & Black Beans (it’s one of my favorite meals ever. Recipe coming soon!)
  • GF Lentil Rice Casserole (this one was a favorite from our law school days. I like to dress it up now by cooking it in beef broth and adding shredded beef. My kids and I still love it as a vegetarian dish too though.)
  • Lasagna

Preparing breakfast is always a challenge for me when we’re sick or have a new baby, and the breakfast foods we’ve been given were such a huge blessing. When I can, I try to include a breakfast-y food, like hearty protein barswhole wheat pumpkin muffins, or a jar of homemade granola.

Work the Go-To Meals into your Menu

I use a revolving monthly menu. It has made life SO much easier for me. Each week’s menu includes one of my go-to meals that I can easily double to bring to a new mom or sick friend.

I highly recommend working out a revolving menu, but even if you don’t have one, you can still incorporate one of your go-to meals into what you have planned for your family to eat that week.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed after offering to make a meal for a friend? Here are a few simple ways to make it a blessing (to both of you!)

Let Go of Perfectionism

A perfect meal for a friend includes a delicious main course, healthy green side, homemade bread of some sort, and a tasty dessert, delivered with a darling Pinterest-inspired presentation. Right?

Sometimes.

And sometimes the “perfect” meal is a simple pasta dish thrown into a foil pan with the heating instructions scrawled on the top.

The point is serving a friend. Sometimes that might mean pouring your creativity into making it beautiful. Sometimes that might mean cheerfully welcoming a toddler’s help and smiling when your last egg cracks on the floor and all hope of dessert is lost.

Go Make Those Meals

As my heart has changed, making meals for others ceased to be a cause of stress and anxiety. Many of my friends are also young moms with lots of little ones in their homes. You know what I’ve realized? They’re not expecting perfection.

Making meals for each other is simply one more way of sharing this journey of life together. So stop stressing, make a plan,and serve your sisters.

What’s your favorite meal to share with a friend? Or that a friend has shared with you? 

 photo credit 

Why I Love Samaritan Ministries

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