Saturday, October 27, 2012

Our Experience With Samaritan Ministries

With the birth of Noah, our sixth child, we were able to experience something we had never experienced before. We received checks from others around the country to completely pay for our midwife assisted home birth. With prior births, we had to pay for the midwife out of pocket since no insurance plan we have ever had actually covered that. We'd like to share what we have learned with you and invite you to check it out for yourself.

About a year ago we decided to finally check out some of the medical expense sharing organizations we had heard about for a few years. We were intrigued with the idea of helping others with their medical bills, and then if we needed help, we could share our needs with others too. When we looked into the details, we were astonished to learn that what we were paying for high deductible (like $5K and $10K) medical insurance was more than we would need to share every month through most of these plans. We also learned that those who participate in a medical expense sharing plan are exempted from the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." Encouraged by these discoveries, we went about researching the various options out there.

Samaritan Ministries LogoAfter researching several options we chose to go with Samaritan Ministries and it has been a real blessing. As of June 2012, we are one of about 21,000 families sharing medical expenses around the world. Our total sharing amount is $355 a month (for a family of 8), and we can share any medical expense (there are some limitations) over $300. This encourages us to consider what we choose to spend our medical dollars on, while helping to cover us when we have a larger need.

Here are some other things we really like about Samaritan Ministries:
  • We send our checks directly to someone who has a need every month
  • There are no hidden administrative costs - only one check for $175 a year covers all administrative costs
  • Prayer requests and non-covered needs (like pre-existing conditions, oral surgery, etc) are shared for all to consider
  • Samaritan Ministries is a non-profit charitable organization
  • Their staff has been very helpful and servant-minded every time we have interacted with them
~ Mark

If you would like to learn more you can fill out this very simple form and they will send you a packet of information about the plan. If you do, there is a spot to mention how you heard about them. We kindly ask that you mention us in that spot: Mark & Rebecca Miller.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Noah's Birth Photos


Thank you, Lauren, for taking pictures for us - you have a natural gift!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Naming Noah John

On Wednesday, October 3rd at 3:14 PM, our Noah John was born.  The plan was for Mark to share what his name would be after he was born, but we had a funny thing happen earlier in the week that changed that!  People kept asking me what the name would be, and I kept telling them I didn’t know – Mark would decide.  Mark and I have been joking for a while that the birth would be like when Elizabeth had Jesus’ cousin and Zechariah, the father, asked for a writing tablet and wrote his name after his birth. 

Noah, moments after birth
In the past, I'd come up with names, and Mark would let me know if he didn't like something.  But he didn't typically come up with ideas for names, so one of the names I'd brainstormed would be what we went with.  Based on that pattern, I’d been pondering names for many months.  For most of the pregnancy, the name Levi was at the top of my list.  But as time went on, I felt in my spirit that he was really Noah, which means “rest.”  About the time that transition happened, Mark communicated a new kind of leading in choosing our son's name, which was certainly welcome to me.  Mark wanted to take some time to figure out what the name should be.  In an email, I forwarded my 'list,' comprised of about a dozen names and meanings for him to take into consideration.  Some of my favorite middle names were Shiloh, meaning “tranquil, peaceful” and Jeremiah, meaning “God will set free.”

Sweet joy and relief!
In general, the birth of our children have been good experiences, though never easy for me.  Throughout Noah’s pregnancy, if I started thinking about the birth and the pain involved, I would simply push the thought away.  But, about a month before his birth, the Lord poured out a special peace and expectancy over me that was clearly supernatural.  When thoughts of birth came up, there was nothing to push away – there was just peace.

Unbeknownst to me, Mark didn’t want to be influenced by my list, but rather he just wanted to hear from the Lord what the name should be.  When looking over names that had to do with peace or rest, Mark felt his name was to be Noah..  Looking up names that had to do with ‘grace’ – with the idea of resting in the Lord’s grace – Mark felt that the middle name should be John.  We’ve always tried to avoid common names, however, since our last name is very common.  Mark felt sure that I wouldn’t be happy about going with ‘John.’ 

Sunday, Mark mentioned that he knew what the name would be, but he wasn’t sure I’d be pleased with the middle name because it is common.  I immediately heard from the Lord, ‘John.’  This name had never been one we considered in the past, but I did remember reading the meaning of it before and thinking how great the meaning was.

Monday night after Mark returned home from the church men’s meeting, he mentioned a friend joking that the baby should be named “Steven Mark” (because the friend’s name is Steve  : )  I joked with Mark and said, “or Mark John.”  Now I knew the name "Mark" was not a consideration in Mark’s mind, but I was feeling playful and wanted to see his reaction regarding the middle name.  He was really taken aback and asked how I knew.  He kept laughing and couldn’t get over how cool it was that the Lord spoke the same name to me.  So he shared then that the first name would be Noah, which I was thrilled with – and I was of course thrilled with “John” as well.  Though it's common, how could I not be pleased with a name the Lord led Mark to, which is the name of a disciple Jesus dearly loved, as well as his cousin John the Baptist who lived and died so passionately for him.

It occurred to us at the end of our conversation that the name that Zechariah wrote on his writing tablet was “John!”  How neat that our little joking comments regarding Zechariah actually tied in to this middle name that the Lord gave us for our sweet new baby.  So, we pray that our Noah John will rest in the Lord – rest in His grace.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Gospel Hidden in the Torah

Currently Mark and I are working our way through a DVD set that we’re borrowing from a friend (thanks, Chris!).  It’s Chuck Missler’s “Learn the Bible in 24 Hours.  It’s certainly not your typical study.  Chuck enjoys digging deep and can be pretty technical.

I wanted to share something profound from Genesis 5 that he shared.  Now, Genesis 1 – 4 is packed with exciting topics, such as the creation of the world (Chuck delves into scientific topics here that can blow you away).  And of course after Genesis 5, you get into the flood.  But Genesis 5 is a genealogy that most people skim past.  But Chuck brought up the fact that Hebrew words all have specific meaning – even these proper names.  Of course, the names were not translated into their English meanings.  But if you take the ten names listed (Adam through Noah), what do you get?  For example, Adam means “man.”  Seth means “appointed.”  Enosh – “miserable/mortal.”  Kenan – “sorrow.”  Mahalalel – “the Blessed God.”  Jared – “shall come down.”  Enoch – “teaching/commencement.”  Methusaleh – “his death shall bring.”  Lamech – “despairing.”  Noah – “comfort/rest.”

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing comfort.

Right there – hidden in the Jewish Torah – is the Christian gospel.  It’s always amazing to find a fingerprint of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, knowing that the human who penned it could only have been ignorant of the authentication stamp God was putting in His scriptures.  From the beginning, God had his plan to redeem us - it's part of a beautiful love story.

I found this clip if you’d like to listen for yourself.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Silent Loss

Between our second and third sons, in the spring of 2004, we experienced our first miscarriage.  The emotional pain – and the length of that mourning - caught me by surprise.  I knew, through friends, that miscarriage was hard.  But of course there’s nothing like going through something yourself to truly bring it from your head to your heart.

Once again we find ourselves in a season of hardship, having gone through three miscarriages starting in July 2011.  Mark and I have had several conversations throughout this time, and we desire to communicate from our heart on this issue that touches so many.  One thing that comes to mind is how miscarriage underscores how precious the gift of children is.  Pain and loss emphasize the fragility of life and help us to experience gratitude.

Another thing I’ve longed to communicate is quite raw, so forgive me if this is awkward.  Of my four miscarriages, three have been quite early, so that the physical experience wasn’t very different from a regular cycle.  One occurred a bit later, at 8 weeks.  The day after the miscarriage began, Mark and I had a date night scheduled.  I decided to go forward with that, thinking that a night away may be helpful.  As it turned out, the miscarriage really ‘kicked in’ and as I sat in the movie theater, I could feel something passing through me.  It was a strange, surreal time as I stood in the bathroom stall afterward, trying to process what to do.  I was clueless about the reality of a later miscarriage (and 8 weeks is still quite early), so I was caught off-guard.  After all, the ultrasound tech said there was no longer any sac, yet here it was.  The medical world may simply deem this as ‘tissue’ to be discarded, but my heart told me to gently wrap this little one that we mourned so that we could have a time of memorial together.  When I came out, I was in a numb emotional place and shared with Mark what had happened.  He cried and hugged me, and we headed home.  

We were able to place our itty bitty baby in a little box and have a memorial in the backyard as a family.  We each shared the things we mourned about this baby.  The children shared their hearts that they were sad to not get to hold this baby, to not watch this baby grow up.  We were able to express the reality that we would meet the baby one day in heaven, and how exciting that would be.  It was a sweet, healing time that I’m thankful for.

Shortly after that miscarriage, my neighbor experienced a miscarriage at 11 weeks and we spoke on the phone.  She hadn’t started bleeding yet, and I shared with her my experience to give her an idea of what to expect.  She was able to avoid the medication often prescribed to ‘hurry things along’ and was able to avoid a D & C.  Later, she shared how glad she was that we got to talk.  She was able to pass the baby naturally and was able to see her little one – perfect little nose, ears, mouth – the sweet reality of this person she was carrying.  She expressed that seeing her baby actually helped to bring closure and was healthy for her emotional healing.  Without expecting what would naturally occur, she may have chosen a different route which would have emotionally separated her from the physical experience and would have left her in a numb emotional place.

After speaking with her, I felt anger regarding how miscarriage is dealt with in our society.  This silent, painful process is often treated in such a dry, medical manner, so that women are left in an emotionally numb state – unable to walk through the mourning process in a healthy way.  I encourage us, especially as women, to share our experiences with one another and to embrace the grieving that is very real regarding losing a child – whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, or a child that was born, lived, and then passed.  Ignorant words can be spoken, resulting in mothers feeling frustrated and hurt.  A future baby cannot replace the baby that was lost.  Minimizing the reality of a baby (for example, with a very early miscarriage) does not minimize the pain, but rather leaves mothers feeling invalidated.

There were a couple of books that were uplifting to me through these miscarriages.  While they are not specifically on miscarriage, they were very timely.  One is “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  This beautifully written book (truly – a piece of art) expresses how to experience joy in life amidst the raw pain that we are sure to walk through.  It’s a real life-changer, whether your pain is monumental or whether your pain is regarding the dullness of life – dishes, diapers and all.  Another wonderful piece of encouragement is “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo.  This amazing non-fiction captures a four year old’s experience with heaven that occurred when he died during an operation.  One aspect of it included his meeting his miscarried sister, whom he’d never been told about.  He shared impossible-to-know details regarding her and many other things.  We know that we will meet our miscarried children in heaven, and this book was a beautiful reminder of that fact.  It was healing not only for me as a mother, but also for my two oldest sons who read it.

My hope in sharing our experience is simply that by bringing it to light, it will be an encouragement to some of you who have walked this same journey.  Our culture is often silent and confused regarding miscarriage.  Mark pondered this after a conversation with a customer over the register, as tears came to her eyes over her recent miscarriage.  Sometimes it helps just to know that you’re not alone in your pain, and that your pain is certainly very real.