Family Time and the Gospel

The air was fresh. The leaves on the giant cottonwood trees were rustling with the breeze. My sister, brother and I were sitting at a picnic table at the botanic garden.

We had fresh apple cider and hamburgers. We enjoyed our lunch as we absorbed the joy of nature. We watched a blue heron standing in a nearby pond. I felt blessed with this interlude of rest from stressful thoughts.

My brother’s health is declining and as his guardian I have been asked to look into possible care situations. For a time the weight of concern was lifted.

My brother has a mental illness and his thoughts about God, about relationships, is tangled up. He has had a difficult life. But I believe that God loves him and can heal his emotional wounds.

My attempts to share my faith with him have varied responses. I feel like I am stumbling along. Conversations with my brother can be calm or erupt suddenly in an angry outburst. During one visit to his group home I asked if he reads his Bible.

He said, “No.”

I said, “The Bible is God’s love letter to us.”

He scowled and yelled, “It is not!” Then he stared at me daring me to say any more. I retreated—for the time being.

But on this day, after spending time in nature, he responded differently. On the way home, in the car, I asked my brother, “What do you think about Jesus?”

His answer came quickly, “He was the most hated man.”

Then I asked, “Why did he come to earth?”

After a long pause my brother said, “I don’t know.”

I said, “I think he came to show us God’s love.”

This time there was no angry outburst, only thoughtful silence.

I want the Bible to infuse my daily life and my conversations. God’s word is the source of our hope. I am still learning about putting this in practice. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul writes:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1: 16

Prayer: Lord God, thank-you for your Word and the example Paul sets for us. As I trust you day by day, may I be a witness of the Gospel.

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Healthy Homemade Applesauce

Apples, fresh from the orchard, are one of the blessings in September. I enjoy making applesauce for the grandchildren. Each year I get a little more efficient.

Healthy Homemade Applesauce

Two appliances have simplified the process of making applesauce for me: a crock pot and a victorio strainer. What is a victorio strainer? For a complete description of this wonderful tool, click here.

I have access to unsprayed wild apples on the old family farm.   The     apples are not so great for eating fresh, but they make a good applesauce. I sort them and cut out the bad parts. Then I simply cut them in four pieces, leaving the skin on, leaving the core intact.   (If I am using   apples that have been sprayed I do remove the skin.)

Healthy Homemade Applesauce

I fill up the crock pot with apple sections turn it on high for a couple hours. Them I turn it down to low, stir and mash the apples, continuing to cook until completely soft.

Healthy Homemade Applesauce

The soft, mashed apples are put through the victorio strainer,  which    removes the apple skin and seeds.  I have nicely pureed and strained    applesauce.

I add honey and Ceylon cinnamon to taste. (Ceylon cinnamon has a milder, sweeter flavor than cassia cinnamon, as well as increased health benefits.) The sauce is then ready to be canned.

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Thanks for visiting. Enjoy this season of harvest!

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Medications: Why I am a Minimalist

If you watch very much TV you will notice that a great proportion of    advertisements are for medications. A medical problem is presented with the solution—a pill. Then a long list of side effects and risks are    recited.

Every medication and medical intervention has side effects and risks. So, should medication be the first resort to an illness? My experiences as a teen, a mom and a nurse have led me to believe otherwise.

When I was sixteen or seventeen my periods were very irregular. My mother was worried and took me to a gynecologist who prescribed     hormonal pills— better known as birth control pills. I began bleeding so heavily that I stopped using the pills and never touched them again. Today we know that hormonal contraception, pills or injections can cause abnormal bleeding, blood clots and increases the risk of breast cancer.

When my first three children were babies antibiotics were prescribed quickly and frequently. We went through a spiral of declining health. With my fourth child we tried supportive care—rest, fluids, chicken soup—along with a wait and see approach. This fourth child hardly ever needed an antibiotic. Eventually the medical field acknowledged that    antibiotics were being used too frequently.

I graduated from the University of Michigan Nursing program, well versed in the science of medicine. I appreciate the marvels of modern medicine. When our son was being treated for leukemia we pursued the latest research and treatment. Modern medicine has great interventions when we need them. The question is when do we need intervention?

When I worked in hospital labor/delivery units I saw many interventions taking place. Some necessary, some not, some causing complications. I don’t think we even know the long term effects of the increasing use of pitocin, a synthetic hormone used to induce or stimulate labor.

When I began attending homebirths it became clear to me. Many of the interventions in childbirth are unnecessary.  Women are equipped to give birth. My oldest daughter has given birth five times without medication or intervention.

At the same time I will admit that intervention is sometimes necessary. After beginning labor at home, my second daughter went to the hospital and needed intervention to assist the delivery of a healthy baby. But first she learned ways to support a natural birth and asked questions of her health provider.

When do we need intervention? It is a question that we should be asking when 22 vaccines are recommended for children within the first 15 months of life. What is the risk of getting the disease? Could this vaccine be deferred? How serious is the disease? What are the side effects and risks posed by the vaccine? Is there a family history of vaccine reactions or allergies?

Like antibiotics, I believe the day is coming when the medical field will acknowledge that we are giving too many vaccines.   But before that   happens parents and voters will have to respond to the huge push by lawmakers (funded by pharmaceutical companies)  to make all these    vaccines mandatory. California is making news that is unsettling. Read about the doctor who is under review for giving a vaccine exemption. Click here.

With time I have learned to trust the body and do the practical things. It is important to evaluate diet and make healthy changes. Sometimes we need to slow the pace of life and rest.

I have also learned that God has given us some tools for health in nature. I keep garlic in my kitchen. I grow herbs in my garden. I have learned about the benefits of elderberries and the cheerful calendula flower.

Our diet has improved over the years, and I am a minimalist when it comes to medication.

calendula-flowers

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Pregnant Creation: We Have Much to Anticipate!

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Romans 8: 19 ESV

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.
Romans 8: 19-25 The Message

This statement by the apostle Paul is both striking and encouraging. And it fits the time we are living in.

Over the summer I have been studying the epistle of 1 Peter.   Peter      describes Christians as sojourners and provides instruction for how we are to live. This fall our Pastor will be teaching from Romans and my precept Bible study is on the book of Romans. I am excited to be spending time learning from Paul the essentials of faith in a culture that is    hostile.

We need grounding from the Word of God and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Then we can shine the light of truth, pointing to Jesus.

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Scenes from the Keweenaw Peninsula

We just returned from a trip to the Keweenaw peninsula of northern Michigan. Calumet (the town where my father grew up) is now a part of the Keweenaw National Historic Park.

Copper World is on the main street of Calumet. The shop still sells my novel.

Copper World

The Rosetta Cafe is a favorite stop for great soup at lunch time–and good coffee all the time.

Cafe Rosetta

Lake Superior is not far from Calumet.

U.P. 7:2015_4728

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Fear, Hype and the Zika Virus

If you look up fear in a Bible concordance you will find hundreds of     entries. Mentions of fear can be divided into two categories: things we should not fear and the instruction to fear God.

Recently the zika virus has been in the news. Photos of babies born with microcephaly are being shown on TV and social media. Pregnant women are being urged to avoid mosquito bites.

It is helpful to get a little perspective on microcephaly. Many people are unaware but the cytomegalovirus has been linked to microcephaly for decades. Because of my nursing knowledge I looked for recent articles about cytomegalovirus. This article was published in February of this year. You can read the complete article here.

In the US, about 1% of the 4 million babies born every year are infected with CMV, per the Congenital CMV Disease Research Clinic and Registry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. While most of them—about 90%—won’t show any symptoms, the rest may have at least one of a variety of abnormalities, including hearing loss and microcephaly. That’s around 4,000 affected babies.

For perspective, only 17 of the roughly 400 microcephaly cases confirmed by Brazilian health officials so far have conclusively tested positive for Zika infection, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

So what about all the media attention on zika and mosquitoes?

zika and mosquitoes

It makes sense to use mosquito repellent and to get rid of standing water around our homes. But we don’t need to live in fear. We still do not have a complete understanding of the zika virus and its role in birth defects. An article in the Tech Times suggests that the outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil could have been caused by the use of a neurotoxic pesticide that got into the water supply. Read the article here.

Suggestions are being made in the media that microcephaly is a reason to support late term abortion.

We live at a time when we value individual autonomy and complete control over the events in our life. The truth is that we don’t have absolute control. The Bible gives guidance for sanitary and dietary measures that support health. At the same time it teaches us that we don’t have absolute control.

We should be informed and wise in the actions we choose.   For the     Christian, security is found in God. We fear and trust God. If we are touched by disease or crisis, God will help us.

Here are the words of Isaiah:

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold your God will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Isaiah 35: 4-6

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World Breastfeeding Week and Learning from History

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Since 1992 the benefits of breastfeeding, for women and their infants, have been promoted during the first week of August. I admit that I was fortunate. My mother breastfed all of her babies, even though formula feeding had become popular by the 1950s. So, I was on track to breastfeed my babies, too.

In the June 12, 2016 issue of the Wall Street Journal, an obituary for one of the founding members of the La Leche League appeared. Here is a quote from Mary White’s obituary.

In the 1950s, breastfeeding was widely considered backward and unsanitary. Around 80% of U.S. mothers chose formula instead, according to the league. Views gradually changed as researchers piled up evidence of the health benefits of natural feeding. As of 2012, about 80% of mothers were at least attempting to breastfeed, according to the latest government     survey results.

I am thankful that my mother persisted in breastfeeding, even though she was discouraged in doing so by hospital staff. I am thankful for Mary White, and the six other women that joined her, in forming the La Leche League.

The women pressed forward, learning and supporting each other. They were persistent when the medical field did not realize the benefits of breast milk. Eventually Mary White helped write The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

Mother Rose Nursing Her Child

As a nurse I can attest to the challenge it has been to recover from the trend of offering formula to infants.   Marketing and financial gain is    involved.

In the years 1929 to 1932, formula companies were limited to advertising their product to doctors. A doctor needed to have a medical reason to substitute formula for breastfeeding.    After 1932 advertising to          consumers was permitted. The market grew and breastfeeding declined.

Before long formula companies were stocking hospitals with gift packs containing sample formula. According to an article in the American     Journal of Diseases in Children(1991) the U.S. formula industry had      developed into a $1.6 billion market.   According to data collected by the  Centers for Disease Control only 33.5% of babies born in 2007 were      exclusively breast-fed for the first three months of life.

We have had to relearn trust in a woman’s body. We are still learning about the negative effects on breastfeeding caused by interventions in childbirth.  Epidural anesthesia and cesarean section may have an         impact.

Breastfeeding
engraving courtesy of wellcome images via creative commons

Women need support and guidance in the days following birth. Here are some guidelines for successful breastfeeding:

  1. Placing the baby skin to skin with mom in the first hour after birth is helpful in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
  2. Feeding the infant on demand (8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period) builds a mom’s milk supply.
  3. Positioning the baby tummy to tummy with mom, facing the breast, allows the baby to achieve a good latch on the breast.
  4. Good nutrition, plenty of oral fluids and adequate rest support a woman’s milk supply.
  5. Encouragement and support from family members enhances a woman’s efforts.
  6. When difficulties arise a lactation consultant can help.

Medical practice can never be static. It is both a science and an art. In health care, our medical system needs to assess current practice, change where necessary and continue to do research. Economic gain should never be the driving force of medical advice.

Photo by Carin Araujo: courtesy of free images.com
Photo by Carin Araujo: courtesy of free images.com

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Lacy Loveliness of the Elderberry Bush

Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are familiar. We see them in the grocery store. God has created a multitude of other berries. I feel blessed to have elderberry bushes in my backyard. After reading about the benefits of elderberries I ordered bushes from nursery catalogues. Now I have four bushes and enjoy the different phases as these bushes produce fruit.

In June white lace flowers appear on the branches.

Elderberry flower

In July the berries begin to form.

Elderberries developing

The berry clusters ripen at a staggered pace.  This bush has berries in     different shades of ripeness.

Elderberry Bush

When fully ripe the berries are a deep purple color—almost black.

Elderberries

When the berries are used for jelly or juice, all of the little stems must be removed first.

Harvested Elderberries
Harvested Elderberries

I pick the berries, remove the stems and freeze them until I have enough quantity to make a juice/syrup for the winter.   My recipe for canning       elderberry juice is here.

Linking with A Little R & RHealthy, Happy, Green & NaturalTuesdays with a TwistSue’s Wordless Wednesday, Nature Notes and Seasons

Lost! I Need a Map

The traffic on the expressway was light and I was enjoying the book on tape.  Suddenly a road sign for a town that was past my destination      appeared. I had missed my exit. I had to keep driving until another exit came up. Then I pulled over to a small shopping center to figure out where I was.

My husband has reminded me many times that my i-phone has a map application. So I pulled out my phone and typed in the address of my destination.  I had two choices:  turn around and back track on the       expressway or reduce the mileage by taking county roads. I chose the county roads.

The scenery was nicer than the expressway. The road wound through farm country and trees that made an archway across the two-lane road. I became anxious when the weather changed. Dark clouds rolled across the sky and a sudden down pour obscured my vision.

I had to check the map periodically. I am directionally challenged and can easily turn left when I should turn right or vice versa. So I went along with periodic pauses, pulling over when it was safe to verify my route. I breathed a sigh of relief when I began to recognize the street signs. I was so glad to reach my sister’s house safely.

Isn’t this like the believer’s life? Events in life can take us to a confusing place. We don’t know what is true or how to respond. We feel like God is far away. We need to take out God’s word and spend some time in prayer. We need direction from the Lord. The Psalmist expresses this for us.

Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map,
So I can find my way to the sacred mountain,
To the place of your presence,
To enter the place of worship, meet my exuberant God,
Sing my thanks with a harp, magnificent God, my God.

Psalm 43: 3-4   The Message

Send out you light and your truth,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
And I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Psalm 43: 3-4 ESV

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Favorite Gluten-free Muffins (and they are easy to make!)

Why are so many people choosing to eat gluten-free? What is the problem with gluten? People with celiac disease experience a change in the intestinal lining as their body tries to digest gluten. Other people have a gluten sensitivity.

A number of theories suggest the reason for the increasing number of people experiencing a gluten sensitivity. Research studies show that children born by cesarean section have an increased rate of allergy.

Parents in Europe sought the advice of Dr. Wakefield (a gastroenterologist) when their children had changes in their digestion following the MMR vaccine.

Another theory is that the biotechnology involved in producing large crops may be changing the quality of wheat.

My family began pursuing a gluten-free diet when our twins (born by cesarean section) had food intolerances. Their problems increased after the MMR vaccine.

I have experimented with gluten-free baking over the years. These muffins are a favorite with the grandchildren.

½ C. melted butter
2 eggs beaten
1 C. almond milk or rice milk
1 Tblsp. lemon juice
1 + ½ C. gluten free flour
(A gluten free flour blend by Namaste Foods is available at Cosco)
½ C. sugar
½ C. almond meal (available at Trader Joe’s)
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 C. raspberries or blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375° Grease the muffin cups—preparing for 16 muffins (eighteen if you stretch the batter for smaller muffins). I like to put the muffin tins in the oven about 5 minutes before I add the batter. This procedure (melted grease in hot muffin cups) seems to make it easy to remove the muffins after baking.

In a medium size bowl combine the melted butter, eggs and milk. Add the tablespoon of lemon juice.

In a large bowl combine the flour, almond meal, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Mix in the berries, coating them with the flour mixture. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just to combine. Then spoon the batter into the hot muffin cups. Bake at 375° for 20 – 25 minutes.

Linking with A Little R & R,  Tuesdays with a Twist, the Art of Homemaking and Mom to Mom Mondays